Charter Pulse

Selected readings on US charter schools

Charter Schools and Diversity

diversityWe received a lot of comments on our twitter account in response to my blog about school diversity. Many of the comments mentioned charter schools and suggested that these schools, by their very nature, are not diverse.

In response, I’d like to highlight a few charter schools that are committed to school diversity.

The first is the Bricolage Academy in New Orleans, which opened this year with the two-part mission of advancing educational equity and creating innovators who change the world. Josh Densen, founder of Bricolage, told me in an email that,

“[W]e deliberately recruit and support a socio-economically diverse student population. We believe that the world our current students will inhabit as adults will be much more interconnected  – and our country much more diverse – than it is today. So the ability to practice empathy, and value, cooperate with and compete against others who do not share our background will be essential.”

Bricolage doesn’t have any admissions requirements, but because of its active recruiting strategies, 43 percent of its students are low-income and the rest are from middle-income and affluent families. Forty-five percent of students are white, 41 percent black, 7 percent Hispanic, 5 percent multi-ethnic and 1 percent Asian.

In Rhode Island, the Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy offers an example of how intentional location can create charter school diversity. Founders of Blackstone Valley Prep purposely located their four charter schools in an attendance zone with considerable socioeconomic and racial diversity. Blackstone Valley Prep now serves students from four Rhode Island communities – two higher-income suburban communities and two lower-income urban communities – and has lead its students to impressive academic success.

And there’s also Larchmont Charter Schools in Los Angeles, which were founded in 2005 by a group of parents who hoped to create schools that reflected the diversity of their community at large. Today, school leaders at each school examine census data for the school’s surrounding neighborhood and aim to have their student bodies mirror that diversity. Students are not chosen based on their individual race or ethnicity; rather, each school designs a recruitment plan at the beginning of the year outlining their strategies and the community groups with which they plan to partner.

These are just three examples; there are many, many more charter school organizations around the country that demonstrate that just because a school is a charter doesn’t mean that it can’t or shouldn’t educate all different types of students.

Of course, there are lots of schools that take a different approach. Many charter schools actively seek to serve the highest need students – often low-income and African-American or Latino students – and locate purposely in areas with these populations. Largely as a result of these strategies, students in charter schools, on average, tend to be more racially isolated than their traditional public school counterparts. Studies have repeatedly shown, however, that these schools typically achieve greater gains with underserved students than do traditional district schools.

So even though it is concerning that many charter schools lack ethnic and socioeconomic diversity, it is not a reason to oppose charters altogether.

Many charter schools are achieving amazing results for kids despite the fact that they lack diversity. And schools like Bricolage, Blackstone Valley Prep, and Larchmont are showing us that chartering can actually create opportunities for schools to breakdown the racial and socioeconomic barriers that have kept our kids apart for so long.

Source: StudentsFirst – by Halli Bayer

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This entry was posted on October 29, 2013 by in Charter Schools, NATIONWIDE and tagged , .

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