What’s the Link Between School Choice and Segregation?

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Do charter schools “cream off” higher-performing students from more motivated familiesand, thus, harm traditional public schools? A new analysis from Matthew M. Chingos at the Brookings Institute, “Does Expanding School Choice Increase Segregation?”  finds that the evidence is, at best, murky.

Charter critics point to reports showing differences in the demographic characteristics of charter school students and their counterparts in traditional public schools as evidence that choice leads to segregation…But any comparison of the demographics of students in charter and traditional public schools provides at best an incomplete picture of segregation because segregation resulting from school choice policies would occur primarily across schools, not within schools.

In fact, concludes Chingos, there is “little relationship between these two factors, and a regression analysis confirms that this is the case. There is actually a slight positive (and statistically significant) relationship between choice and diversity, but it is very weak and is not also found in the free-lunch data.”

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