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Does Inclusion Trump All Other Education Concerns?

One of the persistent criticisms of charter schools is that they perpetuate racial segregation ("How charter schools are prolonging segregation," Brookings, Dec. 11).  Even if they post impressive test scores for disadvantaged students who have been poorly served by traditional public schools, their racial imbalance remains the real issue in the minds of many reformers.

This argument assumes that such students are incapable of getting a quality education unless the charter schools they attend reflect a stipulated racial breakdown.  I don't agree.  As long as parents and students have chosen certain schools and are pleased with the education offered, why is this situation criticized?  In an ideal world, all schools would be fully integrated.  But anything less than that is not the catastrophe it is made out to be.

What about schools which are considered to be integrated?  Are students there assured of a quality education?  I think not.  Black and Hispanic parents are less concerned with inclusion than with the curriculum and instruction.  That's why they are on long wait lists for acceptance into charter schools, even though these schools are not models of integration.  In other words, black and Hispanic students do not need white students to receive a first-rate education.

Critics will retort that without total integration all students are being shortchanged.  Yes, students learn from each other.  But given the option of total integration or exemplary instruction, I believe most parents would choose the latter.  The years ahead will test my view.

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