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How Charter Schools Can Increase Equity

New research highlights the need for greater emphasis on underserved populations when authorizing new schools

Posted in: Education, Press Releases, Research

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A new study led by Montclair State University professor Katrina Bulkley shows the organizations overseeing America’s charter schools can make equity in education more of a priority – which can give underserved communities better school choices.

The research, which was done in partnership with Tulane University’s National Center for Research on Education Action and Choice (REACH), shows charter school authorizers – the entities responsible for determining which schools open, where they are based, and who they serve – place varying importance on equity when evaluating potential schools, setting the stage for an opportunity to dramatically change the landscape of charter schools for marginalized communities.

Bulkley presented the findings at the Annual REACH gathering at the Brookings Institution on January 11.

“School founders that anticipate serving underserved students and communities can design those schools to really address the challenges faced. This research shows that more can be done by authorizers to place an emphasis on equity in education,” says Bulkley. “We hope this study can provide an important foundation for future research that looks more deeply into the connections between authorizing and how schools meet the needs of historically underserved students.”

The study examined nine authorizers nationwide and found the requirements potential charter operators must meet to attend to the needs of historically underrepresented students vary widely depending on state policy and the mission of the authorizing organization. Authorizers also explicitly stated goals surrounding equity to varying degrees, with some showing no interest in it at all.

In 2020, over 3.3 million students were served by American charter schools, 70% of which were identified as students of color. This provides an opportunity to focus on creating equitable practices during the application and approval processes.

“Charter authorizers play a critical role in what charter schools operate, and this study shows that they can use that role to encourage the development of schools that meet equity goals,” says Bulkley.