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Home / News / Education / Study: Diverse charter schools may lead to better results for minorities

Study: Diverse charter schools may lead to better results for minorities

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Several San Diego-area charter schools were among the subjects of a study released Wednesday which found students attending diverse-by-design charter schools are 12% more likely to learn among peers of different racial or socio-economic backgrounds than students in other schools.

The study, “Moving the Needle on Desegregation: Performance Outcomes and Implementation Lessons from Diverse-by-Design Charter Schools,” was released by a research team based at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Researchers also found that, as compared with nearby traditional public and charter schools serving students in the same grades, intentionally diverse charter schools often have lower chronic absenteeism and suspension rates, particularly among students of color, and have mixed academic outcomes but generally do better in English language arts and have better graduation rates for students of color.

“This innovative school model creates the conditions for students from all types of backgrounds to not only learn, but truly thrive, under the same roof,” said Priscilla Wohlstetter, a professor who led the research team at Columbia University.

“By creating environments that are intentionally diverse across both racial and socio-economic lines, these schools are genuinely creating integration in what we know is a massively segregated public school system. Beyond that, the student experience in these diverse schools appears to be better than those surrounding them.”

The study examines the innovative practices and positive results connected to a sample of 46 charter schools across California  — including in Los Angeles and San Diego counties and the Bay Area — in Denver and New York City. The research was funded by the Walton Family Foundation.

The research team studied schools without a 70% majority of any race or ethnicity and with low-income students representing 30%-70% of the student body.

Across the five jurisdictions represented in the study, researchers found that these schools also often reported more positive outcomes than in comparable schools for Black and Latino students in the areas of attendance, suspension rates, graduation rates as well as English language arts scores.

The California schools, which include high schools that have existed long enough to have graduated students, experienced a statistically significant positive impact on suspension rates and graduation rates.

Across all three regions studied in California Black and Latino students are far more likely to graduate from high school — 4.9% more likely in Los Angeles and 15.2% more likely in San Diego.

“The outcomes achieved by these diverse-by-design charter schools are notable, but it is equally important to understand the innovative practices they’re using to achieve these results,” said study co-author Elisabeth Kim, a post-doctoral fellow at Rutgers University.

“Using restorative practices rather than traditional discipline or adopting more culturally responsive teaching not only improves student engagement but also student learning.”

In California, where sample schools are more mature than elsewhere in the study, students in the charter schools outperform comparison schools in reading by 11.3%, the researchers found.

“What we are seeing in this study is that intentionally building diverse schools — schools that cultivate diversity across race, ethnicity and income — can create positive outcomes for all students in both learning and behavior,” said co-author Sarah Cordes, an assistant professor of educational leadership and policy at Temple University.

“Educators across the country can gain valuable insights by looking at how these schools recruit, engage and educate their diverse student bodies.”

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