Professors: School choice policies can relieve or exacerbate segregation

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Erica Frankenberg, assistant professor of education policy studies in Penn State’s College of Education, has co-authored a new book that uses multiple research methods, including various case studies, to illustrate how various forms of school choice relieve or actually exacerbate segregation, depending on the design of the choice policy. The types of choice policies examined include magnet schools, charter schools, intradistrict choice (sometimes known as controlled choice) and between-district choice plans.

The book, “Educational Delusions? Why Choice Can Deepen Inequality and How to Make Schools Fair,” is co-authored with Gary Orfield, a professor of education, law, political science and urban planning at UCLA.

The book brings civil rights back into the center of the school choice debate and tries to move from doctrine to empirical research in exploring the many forms of choice and their very different consequences for equity in U.S. schools. The authors assert that choice has secured a permanent and prominent position in school reform and policy, yet until now, research has not comprehensively examined the effects of choice policies on school segregation.

As the authors write in the acknowledgment, “We concluded that as all states faced growing federal pressure to implement choice programs it was time to bring together the latest research and to reflect on where the country is going and what issues a variety of experiences show need to be considered in making decisions about choice strategies.”

Other features of the book include:

-- a historical and theoretical overview of the development of school choice,

-- a perspective that considers how choice policies can be designed to encourage integration,

-- multiple, mixed methods of research that provide a comprehensive picture,

-- and, examples of different aspects of choice policies in different communities around the country.

Frankenberg formerly worked at the Civil Rights Project and, as a student, attended a magnet school that was designed to remedy desegregation in her local school district. She is the co-editor of several recent books on K-12 school integration.

Last Updated March 22, 2013