Education Reform Groups Decry Associated Press Analysis of Charter School Segregation
An article from the Associated Press discussing segregation in charter schools has received significant criticism from education advocates nationwide.
The article, titled "US charter schools put growing numbers in racial isolation," claims that charter schools are more likely than traditional district schools to have a student population that is 99 percent or higher minority. The article suggests that this racial isolation correlates with low achievement levels for students.
The article was widely distributed through the AP wire and appeared in major metropolitan newspapers, as well as Education Week, Esquire, and ABC News.
However, several education reform leaders and organizations quickly criticized the AP for conflating school quality with diversity. They emphasized that families often choose charter schools because they lack academically suitable options in their neighborhoods. Some education leaders also noted that the article seemed to be blaming charter schools for the long-standing segregation in surrounding communities.
Shavar Jeffries, president of Democrats for Education Reform, stated that the Associated Press missed an opportunity to explore the issue of segregation and racial achievement gaps.
Johnny C. Taylor Jr., president of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, which represents students attending historically black colleges and universities, expressed frustration with the article. He asked why criticism of charter schools’ isolation was an issue, while historically black colleges and universities were not criticized for having predominantly black students.
The article also faced pushback from individuals and organizations featured in the piece. Howard Fuller, an advocate of school choice and a board member of a charter school, tweeted a response. Fuller stated that the issue for low-income black children is how to receive an effective education, not integration.
Concept Schools, the charter management organization managing one of the schools featured in the article, the Milwaukee Math and Science Academy, released a statement criticizing the story. They argued that the article failed to recognize that charter schools often operate in socioeconomically segregated communities with failing district schools, and poverty is linked to lower student proficiency.
While some praised the AP’s reporting as an indictment of the charter school movement, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers union, called the article "damning" evidence against charter schools.
The Associated Press has confirmed that it stands by its reporting despite the criticism.
This is not the first time segregation in charter schools has been brought up. A 2016 report from the Brookings Institution indicated that although charter schools are more racially segregated than traditional district schools, the quality of the school is more important for educational outcomes than its racial makeup.
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