Duke University professor Atila Abdulkadiroglu is acknowledging that parental choice can lead to socioeconomically segregated schools but he argues that it can be controlled for in student assignment.
In a blog post today, Abdulkadiroglu points to the experiences in Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools, which he said "provided a good approximation to Wake." He said that racial resegregation in Charlotte-Mecklenburg can be partly explained to parents preferring schools with higher concentration of their own race.
"However, appropriate breaks and controls can be embedded into a choice system in order to avoid segregation while giving, for example, some priority in assignment to students at their neighborhood schools." Abdulkadiroglu writes. "It is important to note that guaranteed neighborhood assignment is also likely to yield segregation along the socioeconomic and racial lines of neighborhoods."
Abdulkadiroglu's views matter because he's helping Wake County school board member John Tedesco develop his vision of community-based schools.
Abdulkadiroglu lays out the three components of a public school choice plan:
1) Demand data: Parents rank schools in order of preferences during application.
2) Assignment priorities: Various priorities can be designed to meet different policy goals. Neighborhood priority for certain percentage of seats gives parents a fair chance at their neighborhood schools. Priority for the rest of the seats can be given to students from NCLB schools. Socioeconomic balance can be targeted through choice by giving priority to low-income students for certain percentage of available seats.
3) Assignment algorithm: A carefully designed assignment algorithm tries to assign as many parents as possible to one of their higher choices while implementing the assignment priorities set by the district.
Abdulkadiroglu cites how Boston Public Schools tries to achieve socioeconomic and racial diversity while providing parents with priority for 50% of available seats at their neighborhood school. He includes a link with more details.