Academic Magnet High School serves the Charleston school district on the coast of South Carolina. The school functions under a choice umbrella, but requires students to submit to an admissions process.
SC is relatively more diverse than the U.S. on average in terms of white (+/- 70%)/black (+/- 30%) demographics, while less diverse in Hispanic/Latino (although those groups are growing significantly). Charleston certainly is even more diverse racially and culturally than the state.
Those realities have now prompted students at Academic Magnet to challenge the lack of diversity at their school:
Calls for a change in the admissions process at Academic Magnet High School continued Monday, with students urging the Charleston County School Board to tackle diversity issues at their school.
“Is the system that has produced an overwhelmingly white, upper-middle-class school in place of an equal opportunity magnet school for all Charleston County students fair?” asked Academic Magnet student Natalie Davidson….
Davidson said that although the school’s admissions process is “in a vacuum unbiased,” it has produced a “homogeneous” student body that is only 2 percent black in a school district that is 42 percent black.
The 2014 SC school report card for Academic Magnet shows absolute and growth ratings of excellent, but tested students included no African American or Hispanic/Latino students:
Magnet and charter schools, however, are not the only choice mechanisms in SC since Greenville County school district offers (and aggressively markets) public school choice:
What has public school choice and charter choice produced in Greenville County?
Greenville Tech Charter High School, like Academic Magnet, has 2014 school report card ratings of excellent/excellent, but just over 80% of the students tested are white with no limit English proficiency students included:
Public school choice has also resulted in highly segregated schools within the same district.
As a result, Berea High’s 2014 school report card looks quite different when compared to Academic Magnet or Greenville Tech Charter—good (absolute) and below average (growth) ratings, and a much different tested demographic of students:
Choice, then, in a variety of forms such as public school choice, charter schools, and magnet schools/academies are isolating students by race and class within highly diverse regions of a highly diverse state.
No longer vouchers or tuition tax credits, choice is now masked behind the allure of misleading labels—public, charter, magnet, academy—but ultimately resulting in one disturbing fact: choice segregates by design.
More choice will result in greater segregation and more shuffling, but market forces will never address equity and will always create winners and losers instead of establishing opportunities for all—as Academic Magnet demonstrates.
The call for fairness and diversity by students at Academic Magnet should be a call among all in SC and across the U.S.