It is like having your feet in the oven and your head in the icebox, and saying that, on average, the temperature is just right.
Those are the words University of Arkansas education policy professor Gary Ritter used to describe the methodology that UCLA’s Civil Rights Project used in comparing charter school segregation. As a USC grad, I appreciate any time I can make fun of UCLA. Ritter ripped the CRP for a biased sample, comparing charter schools in predominantly segregated inner-cities with all public schools, both in segregated and non-segregated areas. The CRP concluded that charter schools are much more segregated than public schools based on national, state, and metropolitan averages, rather than comparing to schools serving the same populations. When those schools are compared, Ritter said, there is very little difference. For example, the study pointed out that students in the DC metro area have a 20% chance of being in a hyper-segregated school (more than 90% minority or more than 90% white), while those in charter schools in DC have a 91% chance. What they fail to mention is that the DC metro area includes Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia, whereas the majority of the charter schools in the DC metro area are within DC city limits which Ritter shows gives students an 86% chance of being in a hyper-segregated school. He says that what would be better than aggregated data like this is data showing students who switched and comparing their current schools to the ones they otherwise would have attended.
Ritter points to a study by the RAND corporation in 2009 that did this very thing. It found that:
Transfers to charter schools did not create dramatic shifts in the sorting of students by race or ethnicity in any of the sites included in the study. In most sites, the racial composition of the charter schools entered by transferring students was similar to that of the TPSs [traditional public schools] from which the students came.
In some places, charters tended to be slightly more segregated and in some places, they were slightly less segregated. Overall, the UCLA study seems flawed in that its focus was on the segregation specifically in charter schools, when the real segregation is in the cities themselves, regardless of whether the children are attending charter schools or not. To call the charter schools “apartheid” is not only incorrect, it spits in the face of those who had to actually live under forced segregation.