TC's Priscilla Wohlstetter on a New Solution to an Old Problem | Teachers College Columbia University

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Wohlstetter Op-ed: "Charter Schools are Champions of Diversity, Integration"

In an op-ed on The Huffington Post website, Distinguished Research Professor Priscilla Wohlstetter writes that a growing number of charter schools are integrating their student bodies to achieve socioeconomic diversity -- "not only as a matter of social justice and constitutional compliance, but also on the grounds that socioeconomic diversity and academic excellence go hand-in-hand."
In the past, charters were often criticized for not being diverse.  In fact, they were often criticized for exacerbating patterns of segregation by race, class and family background. Now, charter schools are increasingly using their autonomy from regular public school systems to reach for diversity, by giving some students preferences in their lotteries (by zip code), and by deciding how students are taught, and who teaches at the school.
According to a "landmark study done at Teachers College, the trend now is toward racial, ethnic and socioeconomic integration," Wohlstetter writes. Some charter founders believe diversity represents a broadly democratic ideal and is worth pursuing on its own merits. Others consider diversity as necessary to achieving higher student academic standards. "In all 21 schools we studied, SES diversity was front and center in the school mission," Wohlstetter writes.
Not only are they supporting academic success, diverse charter schools are enabling new social relationships. In surveys of charter school students, the majority across all SES levels agreed they had a diverse group of friends and socialized in and outside of school with kids from different socioeconomic backgrounds, Wohlstetter writes. 
Wohlstetter studies charter schools as a research professor in the Department of Education Policy and Social Analysis
The views expressed in the previous article are solely those of the speakers to whom they are attributed. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the faculty, administration, or staff either of Teachers College or of Columbia University.

Published Tuesday, Nov 24, 2015

Priscilla Wohlstetter
Priscilla Wohlstetter