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Educational Delusions?

Why Choice Can Deepen Inequality and How to Make Schools Fair

Gary Orfield

Publication Year: 2013

The first major battle over school choice came out of struggles over equalizing and integrating schools in the civil rights era, when it became apparent that choice could be either a serious barrier or a significant tool for reaching these goals. The second large and continuing movement for choice was part of the very different anti-government, individualistic, market-based movement of a more conservative period in which many of the lessons of that earlier period were forgotten, though choice was once again presented as the answer to racial inequality. This book brings civil rights back into the center of the 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. Leading researchers conclude that although helping minority children remains a central justification for choice proponents, ignoring the essential civil rights dimensions of choice plans risks compounding rather than remedying racial inequality.

Published by: University of California Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

...Choice has been a major theme in civil rights policy since the 1960s. One of us, Erica Frankenberg, is the product of a good desegregated magnet school in Mobile, Alabama; the other, Gary Orfield, had his children attend a magnet school in Illinois and was deeply involved in the creation of new magnet schools in St. Louis and San Francisco, where federal courts appointed him as special master in each district’s desegregation...

Part One. Introduction

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1. Choice and Civil Rights: Forgetting History, Facing Consequences

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pp. 3-36

...The idea of school choice has a tangled history. It is an idea that has taken many shapes, under the banner of the same hopeful word, one that seems to have a simple positive meaning but embodies many contradictory possibilities. Choice has a thousand different faces, some treacherous, some benign. It includes the creation of charter and magnet schools, voluntary...

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2. Choice Theories and the Schools

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pp. 37-66

...School choice has become so important in American educational policy discussions because it resonates strongly with the basic beliefs of many Americans and with important aspects of American social and political ideology. Wealthy business leaders who insist on data rather than theories in their own businesses pour money into charter schools based on a simple faith that markets relying on individual choice have transformative power...

Part Two. School Districts’ Use of Choice to Further Diversity

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3. The Promise of Choice: Berkeley’s Innovative Integration Plan

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pp. 69-88

...Since the 1960s, the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) in Berkeley, California, has voluntarily committed to integrating its schools. It provided the first major test of a city struggling to find a successful integration strategy that would survive court challenges after the Supreme Court forbade many kinds of voluntary desegregation plans in 2007.1 In contrast to many other districts, which either let their desegregation standards in choice...

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4. V aluing Diversity and Hoping for the Best: Choice in Metro Tampa

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pp. 89-106

...Serving Metro Tampa, the Hillsborough County Public Schools (HCPS) district has relied heavily on choice policies for the past two decades, and school leaders still express a significant commitment to using choice to promote school diversity even though the desegregation plan that led to the creation of many of the choice options has ended. After implementing a comprehensive desegregation plan following the Supreme Court’s...

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5. Designing Choice: Magnet School Structures and Racial Diversity

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pp. 107-126

...and other communities sought to create educationally distinctive schools that would produce significant voluntary desegregation. When magnets first emerged as a major model of choice, almost all were designed as part of desegregation plans. Most of the start-up costs were thus funded through desegregation court orders or special federal desegregation aid money. Today, the unique features of magnet programs (such as innovative curricula and...

Part Three. Charter Schools and Stratification

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6. A Segregating Choice? An Overview of Charter School Policy, Enrollment Trends, and Segregation

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pp. 129-144

...The expansion of charter schools has been championed by every presidential administration since that of George H. W. Bush, under whom the first such schools were founded. These administrations have supported charters by escalating financial allocations for them and using the presidential bully pulpit to promote their virtues.1 Given such high levels of federal support, it is not surprising that charter school numbers have exploded over...

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7. Failed Promises: Assessing Charter Schools in the Twin Cities

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pp. 145-158

...Minnesota passed the nation’s first charter school law and has been at the center of a debate over the possible contribution of the surging charter school movement to equalizing opportunity for students of color, who are increasingly isolated in low-performing schools that are segregated by ethnicity and poverty. Unfortunately, data from the Twin Cities, two decades after charters began, shows that these schools are more segregated and...

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8. The State of Public Schools in Post-Katrina New Orleans:The Challenge of Creating Equal Opportunity

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pp. 159-184

...Charter schools in New Orleans have been hailed as the silver lining from Hurricane Katrina. The state of Louisiana used the hurricane as an opportunity to rebuild the entire New Orleans public school system, considered among the worst in the country, and launched the nation’s most extensive charter school experiment. These rebuilding efforts focused on charter schools not only as the primary means of expanding school choice in the...

Part Four. Lessons about Conditions under Which ChoiceFurthers Integration

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9. The Story of Meaningful School Choice:Lessons from Interdistrict Transfer Plans

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pp. 187-218

...For the past twenty years, enthusiastic calls for more school choice — from both the political right and left — have eclipsed most other educational reform proposals. Wealthy philanthropists have eagerly poured money into charter schools in urban neighborhoods where regular public schools are struggling to overcome the impact of poverty on too many families’ lives. The popular film...

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10. School Information, Parental Decisions, and the Digital Divide:The SmartChoices Project in Hartford, Connecticut

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pp. 219-237

...Two rapidly expanding developments — public school choice and the World Wide Web — have dramatically altered U.S. elementary and secondary education during the past two decades. In many cities and states, traditional neighborhood school assignment patterns have given way to an increasing array of public sector options, such as magnet and charter schools. At the same time, we have witnessed a virtual explosion of school-level student achievement...

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11. Experiencing Integration in Louisville: Attitudes on Choice andDiversity in a Changing Legal Environment

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pp. 230-254

...approved limits on choice that were part of almost all desegregation plans, for example prohibiting transfers that would increase segregation. It forbade splitting up districts in ways that would foster segregation. In 2006, however, a group of parents from Louisville came into court claiming that their rights had been violated because the choice system was giving preference to the applications of parents whose children would increase integration in the...

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Conclusion: A Theory of Choice with Equity

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pp. 255-270

...Choice sounds good but can mean a myriad of very different things. There are choices that produce life-changing gains and bad choices that seem good but lead to disaster. The idea that any kind of choice will produce good results is something no parent or teacher would suggest. Similarly, there are markets that have powerful and creative results, like the computer market, and markets that are profitable but destructive, such as those for...


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pp. 271-294


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pp. 295-298


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pp. 299-317

E-ISBN-13: 9780520955103
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520274730

Page Count: 330
Publication Year: 2013