How School Choice Is Increasing Racial Segregation in Public Education

A study by researchers at Pennsylvania State University examines the impact of school choice policies on racial segregation in schools. Researchers examined the records of 8,000 students who transferred from public schools to charter schools. Only students who had more than one charter school in their immediate area were included in the study. This allowed researchers to analyze if the racial makeup of a particular charter school had any impact on who enrolled.

Erika Frankenberg, an associate professor of education and an associate of the Population Research Institute at Penn State, was the lead author of the study. She notes that “Black and Latino students tended to move into charter schools that were more racially isolated than the public schools they left.” This is a cause for concern, according to the authors. Dr. Frankenberg states that “minority students in more diverse school settings have higher short-term and long-term academic outcomes than those who attend racially isolated minority schools.

White students in Philadelphia area schools tended to go to charter schools that had a greater percentage of White students than the public school they had attended. But in the rest of the state, White students tended to opt for charter schools that were more diverse than the public schools.

The research was published in the journal Education Policy Analysis Archives.

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