Sunday, February 07, 2010

James Forman blasts the UCLA report:


As y'all know, I believe in integration, and I have long wrestled with the tough question of how to operate in an environment where residential patterns and policy choices means that charter schools--even great ones--are not likely to be integrated.  As a parent of a 9month old who will be looking for a schools in a few years and assigns a high value to integration, I join Mike Petrilli who has argued that the charter movement should think about creative ways to create more high quality integrated schools for parents who want them. 

That said, the report from UCLA yesterday on charters and integration has lots of problems.  I won't go into the methodology stuff, others can do that.  Just a couple quick points.  (These probably have occurred to all of you, and for all I know, folks have been blogging on these points already.  If so, I'm thrilled and sorry to be redundant.) 

First, the report ignores the history--let's remember that the original critique of charter schools was that they would cream skim by attracting too many wealthy and white parents.  Some representative quotes from researchers making this claim are at pages 12-13 in an article I wrote a few years ago (

Even worse is the report's assertions that magnet schools are the answer, given that the researchers who argued that charters would lead to cream skimming typically relied on studies from the 1980s that evaluated magnet schools.  (For examples, see pages 15-16 of my article).  Not surprisingly, those magnet schools, many of which rely on admissions tests, did in fact show evidence of attracting wealthier and whiter and higher performing students. 

So now we've come full circle.  The original problem with charters was that they would exclude poor students and minorities, and the evidence for this assertion came from studies showing that magnet schools did so.  Now the claim is that charters attract a student body that is too disadvantaged, and magnet schools are offered as the civil rights oriented solution to this problem.  (In its defense, the report wants magnet schools that admit by lottery, but it is disingenuous to ignore the fact that magnets have a long history on non-lottery selective admission). 

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