Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Talking Integration

Dana Goldstein:

For example, yesterday the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, at Harvard Law School, released a short paper noting that research on charter schools has found, on aggregate, that they are no better and no worse than traditional public schools. Of course, a handful of elite charters have extraordinary success teaching poor kids, and are national models. But the majority of charter schools are mediocre and racially and socioeconomically segregated. Research shows such isolation is bad for kids, bad for society, and bad for getting good teachers in front of struggling kids. If we're going to expand the charter sector, the Institute suggests, why not also commit to integrating some charter schools?

Incentives to create charter schools that enroll students from several racially and economically distinct school districts – say, one city and several suburbs – could result in better schools that, as research suggests, are better equipped to reduce inequalities. Why not take what we have learned from the well-functioning charter schools and attempt to replicate that in desegregated settings?

Existing regional cross-enrollment programs between cities and suburbs are popular and have long waiting lists. Hartford, St. Louis, and Milwaukee offer good examples. And yet, Bill Gates never talks about integration.

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