Charter schools segregated, UCLA report warns

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Public charter schools in the Southland and the rest of the country are increasingly segregated, UCLA researchers outline in a report released today. That’s leading, they contend, to unequal educational opportunities.

Half a century ago, the schools African-American and Mexican-American students attended were separate but far from equal. Researchers led by UCLA education researcher Gary Orfield found that most urban charter schools in this country serve black students – but that in western states, white students are a near-majority of charter school enrollment.

Orfield said that’s troubling because decades of research shows segregated schools aren’t equal. "Schools that are segregated by race or ethnicity are almost always segregated by poverty as well, and for Latino students often by language, which we call triple segregation. Those schools tend to have the least experienced teachers, lowest level of competition, fewest college-bound courses, lowest graduation rates, least success for students who go on into college."

A bulk of the publicly funded, autonomous charter campuses in the Southland are in black and Latino neighborhoods. The companies that run most of those campuses say they can offer higher graduation and college entrance rates compared to nearby public schools.

The UCLA researchers acknowledged the achievements of some charters but raised concern that mostly white campuses continue to outperform mostly black and Latino schools. Researchers recommended that charters increase their recruitment and outreach to promote social and racial diversity. State and national policymakers, researchers added, should also bump up funding for public magnet schools, where that kind of diversity is more typical.