Wake Ed

Raleigh and Charlotte part of new study on school diversity

Wake County and Charlotte-Mecklenburg will be a major part of a new study on why some school systems are able to maintain economic diversity and others have “effectively resegregated in recent decades.”

The National Science Foundation has awarded a two-year $482,000 grant to study five school systems: Wake County, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Rock Hill in South Carolina, Davidson County (Nashville) in Tennessee and Jefferson County (Louisville) in Kentucky. The research team is led by N.C. State Professor Toby Parcel, who co-wrote the book “The End of Consensus,” which looked at Wake County student assignment politics.

“We chose those areas because Rock Hill and Louisville, like Wake County, have been able to sustain desegregation over time, while Charlotte and Nashville have become significantly more resegregated in recent decades,” Parcel said in a N.C. State press release.

The team will survey adults to see if there are attitudes that are common between the areas that have sustained desegregation that are distinct from the counties which have seen significant resegregation.

“If we can chart what these differences are, and why, policy makers can make informed decisions on issues that affect diversity in schools,” Parcel said.

According to the abstract for the grant award, the team hopes to help school districts formulate policy that will better support socioeconomic mixing of students. Doing so, according to the abstract, will enhance diversity by promoting educational attainment and upward mobility in society, especially for at-risk students.

The study comes at a time when fewer Wake County students are being bused to make schools more economically diverse, contributing to a doubling of the number of high-poverty and racially isolated schools.

Instead of reassigning students to reduce concentrations of poverty, the school board has been adding more magnet schools, such as this week’s vote to give programs to Athens Drive High School in Raleigh and Reedy Creek Middle School in Cary. The board has added 11 magnet schools in the past four years.