April 2014

Choice Watch: Diversity and Access in Connecticut's School Choice Programs

Robert Cotto, Jr., Ed.M. & Kenneth Feder

This analysis of enrollment in Connecticut’s school choice programs raises concerns about their relative compliance with established goals of racial and ethnic integration and equal access for all students.  Many of Connecticut’s school choice programs fall short in advancing the goal of racial and ethnic integration.  In spite of state laws requiring charter and magnet schools to reduce racial and ethnic isolation of students, only interdistrict magnet schools are typically integrated, and a majority of the state’s charter schools are highly segregated.  The report also raises concerns about the underrepresentation in school choice programs of students who do not speak English as a first language and students with special education needs.

The analysis examines the demographics of students in Connecticut’s interdistrict school choice programs – programs that permit parents to enroll their children in schools outside their local school districts.  It focuses on magnet, charter, and technical schools.  Among the key findings:

  • While both charter and interdistrict magnet schools are required by state law to reduce racial and ethnic segregation of students, only magnet schools are held to a measurable standard – a student body between 25% and 75% students of color. A majority of interdistrict magnet schools (62%) meet this standard. By contrast, a majority of charter schools (65%) are highly segregated, enrolling over 90% students of color.  While technical schools have no measurable integration standard, a majority (56%) would meet the requirement for magnet schools.
  • Students who do not speak English as a first language are under-represented in Connecticut’s school choice programs, compared to the school districts of the towns in which the programs are located.  A majority of all interdistrict magnet, charter, and technical schools enroll students identified as being English Language Learners (ELL) at a substantially lower rate (five percentage points lower) than the local school districts of the towns in which they are located. 
  • Over one-third of magnet and charter schools and a majority of technical schools enroll students identified as requiring special education at a substantially lower rate (five percentage points lower) than the local school districts of the towns in which they are located.
Issue Area:
Education