Behind the Headline: As D.C. Gentrifies, Some Charter Schools Aim To Reach Broader Spectrum

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As D.C. Gentrifies, Some Charter Schools Aim To Reach Broader Spectrum
Washington Post | 12/4/15

Behind the Headline
Diverse Charter Schools
Education Next | Winter 2013

The Washington Post’s Michael Alison Chandler looks at how the growth of charter schooling and rapid gentrification in some areas are affecting school diversity in Washington, D.C.

As Chandler, notes, the charter school movement has focused on serving students with the greatest needs in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty. However, a growing number of charter schools aims to serve a more diverse student body.

Research on the impact of diversity in D.C.’s charter schools has found that

Some charter schools, such as KIPP DC, have been successful working in racially isolated schools in poor neighborhoods, developing specialized teaching strategies and support for students who come to school years behind. A recent analysis of standardized test performance and student academic growth by the D.C. Public Charter School Board shows that the city’s charter students performed better overall in more diverse schools, but there were some exceptions: African American students’ growth in reading actually declined as the percentage of white students increased. Scott Pearson, executive director of the D.C. Public Charter School Board, said the report shows diverse and non-diverse charter schools can be successful.

Chandler also notes that

By a measure of socioeconomic diversity, charter and traditional schools served about the same share of students who are considered “at risk,” a designation that includes those from families that receive welfare or food stamps, who are in foster care or are homeless, or who are performing at least a year behind in high school.

But those students were spread more evenly across charter schools. The portion of at-risk students was less than 10 percent at about 15 traditional schools in affluent neighborhoods and greater than 75 percent at more than two dozen schools, mostly in poor neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River. Among charter schools, just four schools had at-risk populations below 10 percent and three had at-risk populations above 75 percent.

The charter schools in D.C. that serve a highly diverse student body face a challenge in preserving their diversity, Chandler notes, as these schools become increasingly popular with the growing population of gentrifiers.


Alexander Russo wrote a feature article about the phenomenon of diverse charter schools in the Winter 2013 issue of Ed Next.

Mike Petrilli wrote about how to create diverse schools in gentrifying urban neighborhoods in this blog entry. He is also the author of The Diverse Schools Dilemma.

— Education Next

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