Report about Segregation Falls Short in Tackling Complicated Relationship Between Schools and Housing

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Key New NEPC Review Takeaway: Shaky grounding in research, law, and methodology limits report’s usefulness when it comes to policy and practice.

Balancing Act: Schools, Neighborhoods, and Racial Imbalance, published by the Brookings Institution, takes up the important task of considering school and residential segregation by exploring the racial makeup of schools compared to their proximate neighborhoods.

Professors Genevieve Siegel-Hawley of Virginia Commonwealth University and Erica Frankenberg of Pennsylvania State University reviewed the brief and found that its shaky grounding in the research, law and methods that inform school desegregation limits its usefulness when it comes to policy and practice.

The report suggests that racially concentrated schools are the result of residential segregation and how school district boundaries are drawn in ways that separate populations. It also explores the possibility that charter schools, which are freed from the constraints of traditional boundaries, can interrupt the school-housing relationship. Yet it finds that charter schools are, on average, more racially imbalanced than other public schools.

Siegel-Hawley and Frankenberg found that the report’s methodological decisions, such as its treatment of metro areas as the same as rural ones and its definitions of neighborhoods, either are not fully explained or lack a research-based rationale. This weakness undermines the utility of the newly created database—which its authors view as a vital contribution of the report.

Though the reviewers believe that the report deserves credit for tackling the complicated relationship between school and housing segregation and for bringing renewed attention to issues that are often considered separately, they conclude that the report ultimately represents a missed opportunity to accurately explore the connection.

Find the review, by Genevieve Siegel-Hawley and Erica Frankenberg, at:

Find Balancing Act: Schools, Neighborhoods, and Racial Imbalance, by Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst, Richard V. Reeves, Nathan Joo, & Pete Rodrigue, and published by the Brookings Institution, at:

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William J. Mathis

Genevieve Siegel-Hawley
Virginia Commonwealth University
(804) 828-8213
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since: 09/2010
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