Today, fourteen charter schools and networks from across the country announced they are forming a new group to bring together like-minded charter schools that serve socioeconomically and racially integrated student bodies.
The creation of the National Coalition of Diverse Charter Schools (for which—full disclosure—I am an adviser) is an important milestone for integrated charter schools and their supporters, a group that has grown over the past decade, despite challenging the prevailing thinking within both school integration and charter school communities.
For the most part, school integration researchers and civil rights activists have cast charter schools as the enemy of school integration, arguing that charter schools nationwide are on average more segregated than district schools.
Mindful of these critiques, members of the charter school community often bristle at the mention of integration, defending high-poverty charter schools designed to serve the most disadvantaged students.
Standing in the middle of this divide between school integration activists and charter school supporters, a small but growing number of charter schools embrace socioeconomic and racial diversity as a central part of their mission.
My colleague Richard Kahlenberg and I conducted research on some of these diverse charter schools, highlighting the methods they developed for attracting, enrolling, and serving an integrated student body.
Media outlets such as USA TODAY, The Hechinger Report, and EducationNext have reported on the growing presence of charter schools committed to diversity.
This new coalition marks the first time, however, that different charter schools and networks have banded together around the shared mission of socioeconomic and racial diversity.
The coalition’s founding schools are scattered across the U.S., from New Orleans to New England. They include elementary, middle, and high schools; single schools and networks, but all believe in the educational benefits of diversity and are committed to helping integrate our public schools. Other charter schools that share this mission are invited to join the coalition as well.
The coalition is a valuable new tool for encouraging the creation of more socioeconomically and racially integrated charter schools and helping these diverse charter schools thrive. Through this network, existing schools will be able to share resources and strategies with each other and with others interested in starting diverse charter schools.
The coalition sends an important symbolic message as well. Integrated charter schools are growing in number and voice, and the old walls between the school integration and charter school communities are beginning to crack.
Charter schools need to be part of the struggle to integrate our public schools.