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Boosting Achievement by Pursuing Diversity

Abstract

"What's the best way to turn around a persistently low-performing school? Is it better to simply replace the principal and teachers, or is it necessary to reopen under new charter management? Maybe policymakers are asking the wrong question, writes Halley Potter. What if, instead of replacing the adults at the school, we changed the mix of students, rebalancing enrollment so that the school does not serve a concentration of the most disadvantaged students?

In the last decade, the number of public school districts in the United States pursuing such socioeconomic desegregation has grown from just a handful to more than 80. Adding to this list, a number of charter schools now seek socioeconomic diversity as part of their design. Research has found that this approach can raise the academic achievement of low-income students without lower the achievement of higher-income students, as well as giving all students the benefits of a diverse learning environment. Yet balancing student enrollment by socioeconomic status remains logistically, politically, and operationally difficult.

In this article, Potter examines strategies used by charter schools that can provide a model for other schools, both public and charter, that are looking for the most effective ways to enroll and serve a diverse student body."

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