It’s a Friday morning at Community Roots Charter School in Brooklyn and fifth-grade students are giving presentations on topics like civil rights movement protests and school segregation. Parents gather around small groups of kids — whose skin colors span shades of ivory and tan and brown — to ask them about their projects and the ways in which these issues are still relevant today. One student, a fifth-grader, incredulously tells a group of parents that segregated schools still exist today. She even has a friend who attends one.
The fifth-grader may not know that her friend is not an exception, but rather the norm in the Big Apple. In New York City — one of the most segregated school districts in the country — schools are highly isolated by race. In the country as a whole, many public schools have become increasingly re-segregated in the past few decades. Charter schools — which are publicly funded but independently operated — are no exception, and researchers from Pennsylvania State University and University of California Los Angeles have found that in some states, these schools are more segregated than traditional public schools.