A report released this month by Halley Potter of The Century Foundation, Charters without Borders: Using Inter-district Charter Schools as a Tool for Regional School Integration, looks at the role public charter schools can play in racial and socioeconomic integration efforts. Specifically, the author focuses on how charter schools’ autonomy can overcome inter-district school segregation, since research has shown that individual districts are often more demographically homogenous than regions that encompass multiple school districts.
Two public charter schools which serve students from across the region—including urban and suburban centers with a mix of family incomes and racial backgrounds—are profiled in depth: Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy (BVP) and the Interdistrict School for Arts and Communication (ISAAC).
BVP serves students in grades K-10 from four Rhode Island school districts. BVP utilizes a weighted lottery to ensure an even mix of students from urban and suburban districts with at least 50 percent of students from low-income backgrounds. BVP’s academic successes include closing the low-income achievement gap within two percentage points on state exams, and there is only a one percentage point gap between Latino and White students.
ISAAC is an arts-integrated middle school serving students in grades 6-8 from more than 20 school districts in southeast Connecticut. Its weighted lottery results in a majority low-income, Black, and Latino student enrollment. A challenge for the school is differing transportation policies between sending districts—some districts provide transportation, while others do not.
The paper concludes that strong inter-district charter school policies include the ability to: draw students from multiple school districts; use a weighted lottery to promote student body diversity; provide transportation; and a mission to promote diversity and integration.
The National Alliance touched on the Century Foundation’s policy recommendations in a paper published a few years back that highlights high-performing charter schools charters with missions that drive the school to serve either homogenous or socioeconomically diverse communities—with parents choosing which school model best fits their student’s needs. More recently, the National Alliance released recommendations about weighted lotteries, a key tool for charter schools that strive to enroll a diverse student body, in our 2015 issue brief, State Laws on Weighted Lotteries and Enrollment Practices.