We are non-commercial, all volunteer and supported by our readers. Please help sustain the Dew by making a donation.
In North Carolina, school resegregation by charter?
North Carolina could soon see a dramatic increase in the number of charter schools, with as many as 150 of the public-private hybrids opening across the state next year.
But new research from Duke University suggests the charter school boom will result in greater racial imbalance in the state’s public education system — and that can have negative educational consequences for students.
North Carolina limited the number of charter schools that could operate in the state to 100 until 2011. That’s when the General Assembly — with Republicans controlling both the House and Senate for the first time since Reconstruction and embracing a school-choice agenda — lifted the cap.
Charter schools are K-12 schools that are publicly funded but privately run, are exempt from some regulations that traditional public institutions must follow, and are attended by choice rather than by assignment. Though operated as nonprofits, some are managed by for-profit corporations.
Since North Carolina lifted its cap, applications for new charter schools have soared, with one charter advocate recently telling The News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C. that the cap removal was “sort of like seeing a dam break.”
Charter school advocates, whose ranks include President Obama as well as North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R), tout them as bastions of educational innovation and excellence. But research raises questions about those claims.
An authoritative 2009 study by Stanford University researchers found that 37 percent of charter school students showed poorer academic gains than their counterparts in traditional public schools. Only 17 percent of charter school students experienced academic gains that were significantly better than their traditional public school students, while 46 percent showed no difference.
That study, which looked at charters in 16 states including North Carolina, also found that the learning gains of African-American and Latino charter school students were significantly worse than their counterparts in traditional public schools.
Students with disabilities have also experienced problems in charter schools. In New Orleans — the only place in the country where a majority of students attend charter schools as a result of policy changes made in the wake of Hurricane Katrina — some charters have failed to adequately serve special-needs students, which sparked the filing of a federal lawsuit against the school system.
Now new research suggests another problem with charters: They increase racial isolation, which can harm educational quality.
Last week, researchers at Duke University in Durham, N.C. released an update of their earlier study on racial and economic disparities in the state’s public school system. They found that the racial balance in North Carolina’s public schools has remained steady over the past seven years, ending the previous decade’s trend of growing racial disparity.
However, they also found that charter schools are much more likely than traditional public schools to be racially unbalanced. According to a an announcement about the study from Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy:
Whereas 30 percent of regular public school students attended a racially unbalanced school (one with less than 20 percent or more than 80 percent minority enrollment), more than 60 percent of charter school students attended a racially unbalanced school.
Mecklenburg County, N.C., whose single public school system has the highest number of students enrolled in charter schools of any county the state, is also among the counties with the greatest racial imbalance in their schools, according to the Duke researchers.
The Duke study also found that students in North Carolina schools — both charters and traditional public institutions — are increasingly separated by family income. Looking at the percentage of students eligible for free lunch in schools within each of the state’s 100 counties, the researchers discovered that imbalance by economic status has increased steadily since 1994-95.
“These disparities are important because research shows they can have negative educational consequences for students,” said Helen Ladd, a Sanford School professor and one of the study’s authors.
Schools serving a disproportionately African-American, Latino or low-income student body tend to have teachers with weaker credentials in terms of teaching experience, degrees from competitive colleges, and regular teaching licenses or National Board Certification, the Duke researchers note. In addition, students who attend racially isolated schools miss out on opportunities to interact and learn from with students from different backgrounds.
Charles Clodfelter, a co-author of the Duke study, called the disparities “among the most pressing civil rights issues of our time.”
What’s happening in North Carolina is taking place in a national context of growing school segregation. A study released last year by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA found that while residential segregation was declining nationwide, school segregation for black students remains very high across the United States.
That research also found that segregation is increasing most dramatically in the South, which in the past has led the nation in school desegregation efforts. The changes now underway in North Carolina’s public schools suggest that — without a concerted effort toward integration — that trend won’t be reversing any time soon.
- Editor's note: This story originally published at SouthernStudies.org and used under the creative commons license. If you appreciate these stories, please support their work by making a donation at SouthernStudies.org. Feature image via Google Earth.
Worthy of Comment
Also on the Dew
The outcome of Christie's recent auction of General Robert E. Lee's precious navel lint left even the most jaded “Lost Cause” memorabilia mavens gobsmacked and whistling Dixie. Not to mention afflicting many frustrated, heart-broken losing bidders with a temporary paralysis that baffled emergency physicians compared to the old-timey Southern Belle "vapors." This dream-crushing auction loss brutalized their very star and barred souls. The awestruck winner of General Lee’s coveted navel detritus, said that he did not consider himself to be the “owner” of the singular holy Rebel artifact; only its humble and devoted caretaker until the treasure is passed on to the next wors Read on →
Richard Rose, President of Atlanta's NAACP, advocates that we sandblast the bas-relief of Confederates Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, and Robert E. Lee from the face of Stone Mountain. Months before the havoc wreaked on September 11, 2001, many of us cringed as the Taliban government of Afghanistan destroyed multiple Buddhas. How can destroying icons of another group increase respect and appreciation for your own icons? In March 2001, the government sent envoy Rahmatullah Hashimi to Washington to contextualize the destruction: "The Islamic government made its decision in a rage after a foreign delegation offered money to preserve the ancient works while a Read on →
On this Americans agree: There's too much money in politics, and it's eroding our democracy. A recent poll (New York Times, June 2, 2015) reveals 85 percent of Americans believe we must either make "fundamental changes" or "completely rebuild" how campaigns are financed. The United States can no longer claim to be democracy. Instead of one person, one vote, it's now one dollar, one vote. A 2014 Princeton University study concludes: "Multivariate [statistical] analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or Read on →
At the beginning of 1997 I bought a new car. It was modest in price and style, but automatic and practical for a woman living in London. It was easy to park, small enough to fit in the narrowest spaces and comfortable to drive: a navy blue Daihatsu Charade that would not attract thieves or envy. I got it at a bargain price because one of my sons worked for a dealership. It was zippy in traffic, when traffic allowed. British roads are narrower and more congested than American ones, this small island being packed with a population of 63 million. Read on →