NEPC Review: The Integration Anomaly: Comparing the Effects of K-12 Education Delivery Models on Segregation in Schools (Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, October 2015)
The Integration Anomaly explores a “puzzling divergence” between changes in metropolitan residential and school segregation. Based on a review of existing literature, it argues that the best way to address rising school segregation is to decouple school assignment from neighborhoods through universal school choice. The report concludes with suggestions for how to structure school choice to achieve integration. On the surface, the report provides clear-cut, useful recommendations for addressing persistent school segregation. Yet the analysis of the empirical relationship between school and residential segregation relies on flawed methodological decisions concerning how to define segregation and divergent trends over time. Those problematic definitions, in turn, yield biased results and prompt the reader to incorrectly assume that housing integration policies will have little bearing on school segregation. Moreover, the report’s review of the literature on school choice is haphazard and incomplete, drawing conclusions beyond what the research supports. Perhaps most importantly, The Integration Anomaly ignores a growing body of literature finding that the very type of unregulated school choice it proposes has, in many instances, exacerbated racial segregation. The report presents arguments and solutions largely driven by ideology, not evidence, offering little value for policymakers or educators meaningfully engaged in the critical search for strategies to reduce school segregation.
A response from report author Benjamin Scafidi, and a further response from review authors Genevieve Siegel-Hawley and Erica Frankenberg follow.