Sunday, March 6, 2011

Charter Schools: The New Jim Crow

The Civil Rights Project, at UCLA, has just released a new report documenting the intense segregation that occurs at charter schools. The organization has been studying charter schools for seven years and has found that students are substantially more isolated by race and class than at traditional public schools.

70% of black charter school students attend schools with 90-100% minority students, 75% of whom are also black, yet black students make up only one-third of all charter school students. Half of Latino charter students also attend racially isolated minority schools. This data is consistent with earlier data on charter school segregation (see here, here and here.)

25% of charter schools do not report socioeconomic data on its students, drawing into question whether they are providing subsidized lunches to their poor students. Likewise, data on English Language Learners (ELL) are also lacking. Data for California, for example, discuss only seven ELL students in all of its charter schools.

Another finding of the study was that many charter schools draw students from multiple school districts which would bias any comparisons with local traditional public schools which only draw from their own district.


  1. The charters schools in the region of Florida where I live, stack the odds in their favor. They pick and choose the students they WANT at their school by testing time. IF some of those are minority students, that's good, but most of the time, the minority students have been "shown the door" by the charter school administration. The reasons? Simply that the minority students come from low socio-economic backgrounds, have little or no parental support, and they have behavior issues, or learning disabilities. When you can choose your clientele, of course you can produce good test scores, but at what cost to the "undersirables?"

  2. Yes, this seems to be their standard M.O. There certainly are a few that target inner city youth, mostly low income black and Latino students, but these tend to have virtually entirely minority populations. And, by and large, most charters do tend to push out anyone who might lower test scores

  3. My question is, what's wrong with having a school with mostly "minorities"? Maybe Black students prefer to be with other Black students and Hispanic students prefer to be with other Hispanic students and White students prefer to be with other White students? I don't see anything inherently wrong with wanting to be around the familiar.

  4. Theoretically there isn't anything wrong. The reality on the ground, however, is that schools segregated by race are also generally segregated by wealth and, as a consequence, tend to have concentrations of low or high performing students.

    Also, students should not be assigned to schools based on their fears and prejudices or desire for familiarity. If we did, many kids would refuse to go to school at all because the culture of school is so different than that of their homes and communities.

    Of course we do deliberately try to keep members of rival gangs at different schools to reduce the chances of violence. However, we should be teaching kids to empathize and get along with a diversity of people since they will likely have to when they graduate. We do not get to choose to work only with people who are familiar to us or who we like.

  5. I don't believe in mandatory schooling so if kids want to stay home out of fear and their parents are OK with that, I say let 'em.

    I also don't think its a bad idea for low performing students to be grouped with other low performing students or high performing students to be grouped with high performing students.

    A high performing student is likely to get pulled down if she is surrounded by low performers more than a low performers is likely to get "pulled up" if surrounded by high performers.

    The high performing student will have to slow down her ability to learn in order to "keep pace" with the curriculum of the low performers. This will most likely result in boredom on her behalf and a slipping of her grades as a result.

    High performers should not be punished for their high performance and I see putting them in a low performing environment as a type of punishment.

    As far as "rival gangs" at school. They shouldn't even be in school. That goes back to my stance against mandatory schooling. Not everyone is cut out for academia. Kids who cannot conform to a scholastic environment should be put to work so that they can earn money and at least contribute to the economy, if nothing else.

    That would solve our nation's need for cheap labor as well. A 14 year old working for 5 bucks an hour, 5 hours per day, 5 days per week would be earning 125 per week and 500 per month.

    Pretty good money for a 14 year old!

    If he or she decides after lets say 10 months that s/he doesn't want to be the school janitor anymore but rather BEHAVE and apply her/himelf to scholastic work, s/he has the option of going back to the classroom with the added bonus of being $5,000 richer.

    But again, a social revolution that accepts moderate and regulated "child labor" would have to be put in place and we know that the United States prefers to coddle its kids and have a permanant lazy, disempowered underclass on hand-outs for some reason.

    Somebody must be getting rich (or votes) off of that system but it sure as heck ain't me!

    1. Yea. Life was so much better for poor urban kids in the 19th century. We need to get back to that golden era of labor and education inequality as fast as we can.

    2. Have you not read? Charter schools increase inequality! Inequality in schooling is reproduced as labor inequality.

  6. If a kid is scared to go to school, that is a problem and staying home is certainly one solution. However, wouldn't it be better to rid the school or society of the causes of these fears? If one kid is getting bullied, chances are that others are too.

    Grouping students together of similar abilities is one thing. Segregating them by class or race is quite another. You are right that it makes no sense to put a kid reading at the 2nd grade level in the same group as one who is reading college level material.

    If a gang banger wants to learn then they should be in school, but they need to follow the same rules as the other kids and leave the violence and other disruptions at home. By the way, a gang member who is not allowed to (or, as is often the case, who chooses not to) attend school is not likely to work for $5/hour when they can sell illegal products for thousands of bucks per week. Also, there is no such thing as "contributing to the economy." Either you're a boss, in which case others contribute to your wealth, or you are an employee, in which case you are a wage slave, working because you have to in order to survive and contributing to your boss' wealth.

    As far as mandatory schooling, we do a lousy job of it. We say that all kids must go to school, but do little to ensure that all kids are ready for school. Forcing a kid to be in a class for which they lack the skills, discipline and requisite knowledge is setting them up for failure. On the other hand, there is a public benefit in having an educated populace, even if just barely educated, as many of us are. The greater ones ignorance and lack of basic skills (including reading, writing and math) that more easily they are exploited by bosses and bamboozled by politicians and pundits.

  7. Basic skills like reading, writing and math can be learned at elementary school level. Once a child begins puberty and hence starts the road to becoming an adult, they can opt to work while continuing to get an academic education on the job or on the side, if they so desire. Not everyone is cut out for scholastic life. Especially poor, underclass kids who are victims of their parents' dysfunctional cultural patholgies, sometimes multi-generations long feel that a scholastic education will be of no use to them as they see their entire neighborhoods completely devastated by the tsunami of cultural pathology which has resulted in poverty and lack of options.

    What use is leaning about "dead white guys" to such kids? They cannot see how it will "pay off" for them in the longterm, nor do these kids have future-time-orientation enough to think, "ok, maybe it will payoff somehow".

    What these kids need is IMMEDIATE payoff that serves as a sort of positive reinforcement of disciplined and organized behaviour.

    By working and earning tax-free wages (I would propose 0 income tax for anyone working below the age of 16), getting paid weekly, if not daily, and being coached in how to save money, these kids would see a payoff that might motivate them to stay off the streets, stay off drugs or off selling drugs, and stay out of gangs.

    Every society needs a strong labor class and instead of importing them illegally from south of the border I say we employ our "lost youth" for whom a scholastic education ain't gonna make them no Einstein anyway.

    Simultaneously we can have "ethics and morals" classes for them on the weekend, as well as "anger management" and "functional relationships" so that they hopefully don't repeat the patholgies of their mamas and the daddies they don't even know.

    There is no shame in an honest day's labor and keepin' your pants zipped up.

  8. People are not poor because they have a pathology. People are poor because we as a society accept the coexistence of poverty and extreme wealth. We allow the rich to exploit our labor, pilfer our taxes, subsidize their businesses,and gut our schools and the social services that help poor people survive and work to improve their lot.

    Poor kids do not have sick parents. Their parents are not poor because of some psychological problem or negative attitude.

    Poverty creates a learning, knowledge, development and wealth gap because poor kids do not have the social, political and economic privileges of their middle and upper class peers. They are more likely to be born premature, with low birth weight, malnourished, and with toxins in their environment (e.g., lead poisoning) that can impair cognitive development and cause learning disabilities (See They are less likely to be able to afford the doctor, resulting in higher absenteeism, causing them to get further behind in school (see Their parents read less to them and use less complex vocabulary, creating a pre-literacy gap by the time they are 3 (see

    They read less and use less complex vocabulary because they have less time with their kids due to working longer hours at multiple jobs, or because they did not do well in school themselves (due to having grown up in poverty), or because they did not see this modeled for them as kids. None of these problems are resolved by letting poor kids drop out of school and go to work in the mines and sweatshops.

    And as long as we're talking about ethics and morals, perhaps we should talk about those of the ruling elite and the bosses, who see fit to break any laws and rules and morality they can get away with to increase their profits; or that of our government, that sees fit to murder innocent civilians, poor people, children, to maintain hegemony and ensure profits for the ruling elite; or the sexual "indiscretions" of the politicians and conservative religious leaders who tell our kids to behave, but seem incapable of modeling good behavior.

    And there is no shame in having sex or having children, either. But it is shameful and delusional to blame poor people for their poverty or to suggest that poor kids cannot succeed in school or would somehow be better off as wage slaves.