when combined, have enough diversity
to facilitate an interdistrict integration
plan. The availability of these geographic
opportunities varies widely in states
across the country (Mantil, Perkins, &
Some diverse charter schools were
started by first identifying a geographic
opportunity for integration that traditional public schools were neglecting.
For example, Blackstone Valley Prep
Mayoral Academy serves four adjacent
Rhode Island communities, drawing
students evenly from two higher-income
suburbs and two lower-income cities.
Larchmont Charter School in Los
Angeles, California, was started by a
group of parents from Hollywood who
were frustrated that the demographics
of their community, one of the most
diverse neighborhoods in L.A., were not
reflected in the area’s schools.
Political opposition to adjusting
attendance boundaries is another chal-
lenge. In Wake County, North Carolina,
frequent student reassignments created
controversy over the school district’s
long-standing socioeconomic integration
plan. Opposition culminated in 2010,
when a Tea Party–backed majority on
the school board voted to end the plan.
This group, however, was replaced in
the next election by a prointegration
majority. Similar backlash greeted a new
school-boundary plan in Eden Prairie,
Minnesota, that also balanced students
by socioeconomic status.
status is logistically,
income students; Blackstone Valley Prep
in Rhode Island reserves 60;percent of
seats. High Tech High weights admissions lotteries in its elementary, middle,
and high schools by students’ home zip
codes, which creates socioeconomically,
racially, and ethnically diverse student
bodies because of housing patterns.
Choice-based schools can also
maintain a diverse balance by inten-
tionally targeting underrepresented
groups of students when publicizing
their school. Capital City Public Charter
School and E. L. Haynes Public Charter
School are both located in Washington,
D.C., where weighted lotteries are
not permitted. Both schools maintain
socioeconomically diverse enrollment
through strategic recruitment for the
lottery pool. E. L. Haynes, for example,
receives many applications from middle-
class families who proactively seek
information because of the school’s
reputation, and it therefore directs all its
recruitment efforts—from distributing
information outside grocery stores to
speaking at neighborhood association
meetings—to low-income communities.
Serving a Diverse Student Body
Once an integration strategy is in place,
schools and teachers must also adapt
to serve a diverse group of students.
Mixed-income schools can draw criticism from both directions with respect
to how well the school community and
individual classrooms are integrated.
On the one hand, students in diverse
schools are sometimes separated into
tracked classes along lines that mirror
socioeconomic status, and students may
further self-segregate during free time.
In that situation, middle-income and
low-income students are cheated out
of some of the peer interactions and
access to broader social networks that
diversity can offer. On the other hand,
schools that intentionally maintain
heterogeneous classes must consider the
research suggesting that these classes
can negatively affect the academic
progress of higher achievers (Brewer,
Rees, & Argys, 1995).
Individual success stories and a
review of research suggest that it is possible, by offering all students a single
challenging curriculum, to reduce the
achievement gap without harming
the highest achievers (Burris, Wiley,
Welner, & Murphy, 2008; Rui, 2009).
However, ability grouping remains a
hotly debated topic that is particularly
relevant at socioeconomically diverse
schools, where students enter school
with a wide range of knowledge and
skills (see Petrilli, 2012). How can