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De Facto Segregation and Neighborhood Charter School (now ANCS)

Have ANCS's admissions policies resulted in de facto segregation?

If you have heard of charter schools, you have probably heard an explanation along these lines:

Charter schools are publicly funded, privately operated schools which are open to all public school students who apply. 

The order in which those applications are accepted, however, varies from school to school.  Some schools accept English Language Learners first, others set geographic preferences.  For example, the Success Academies in New York City first accept 20% English Language Learners, then give preference to students within the local school district.

In general, I do not find the use of geographic preferences problematic when the geographic boundaries are large enough to include a diverse community.  However, in the city of Atlanta, one charter school has drawn its geographic preferences narrowly, resulting in de facto segregation.  

The opened in August of 2001, moving into the closed Slaton Elementary School building.  The school's website states that the parents who founded the school "aspired to send their children to an urban public school with a diverse student population."  It also states that "ANCS is racially and economically diverse, serving a student population that is representative of the city of Atlanta."

Based on data collected by the State Department of Education, the second claim does not appear to be true.

The school is not economically diverse and its ethnic diversity has fallen year after year.  Last year, only 19% of Atlanta Public School's Kindergarteners were white, but 75% of ANCS's kindergarten class was white.  Last year, only 13% of the school's students qualified for free and reduced lunch programs while 75% of APS studnets qualified.  At the local traditional public school, , 67% of students qualified for free or reduced lunch programs and only 22% of it's kindergarteners were white. 

ANCS's rate of economic disadvantage is lower than all but two of APS's 107 schools.  The rate is lower than Brandon Elementary and Smith Elementary in Buckhead.  It is lower than Springdale Park which serves Midtown and Virginia Highland.  It is lower than which serves Inman Park, Candler Park, and Lake Claire.

This finding is particularly surprising when you consider that Neighborhood Charter School is located in a very diverse area of the city.  

Within a one-mile radius, homes are currently listed on GA MLS ranging in value from $16,900 to $425,000.  However, ANCS does not provide equal opportunities for entry to resident's in a radius of the school's campus.  Instead, it has drawn its own geographic boundaries, providing preference to the communities east of the school which are more affluent.

Ormewood Park residents drive two miles to reach the school.  Mechanicsville and Pittsburgh are closer to the school, but their children do not get a shot at the lottery until all of Ormewood Park's students have been accepted.  

In general, I am an unabashed supporter of charter schools and school choice.  However, when charter schools draw specific geographic preference lines, including affluent neighborhoods, but excluding equidistant poor communities, they result in de facto segregation.  That is unacceptable and regressive.

If ANCS wants to serve the neighborhood, I support that goal, but the "neighborhood" should include all the neighbors, not just those to the east who can afford expensive homes.

I urge the leaders of ANCS to amend the school's charter, expanding its geographic preference boundaries.  Without such a change the aspirations of school's founders to send their kids to a public school with a "diverse student population" will not be met.

For more local school analysis and commentary, vist my blog Grading Atlanta.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Andrea K-s July 12, 2012 at 08:28 PM
Jarod: again, I think it would be good to refine your language choices. If I read what you are saying, there are many parts where I can agree with what you are saying. But the language, especially the sensationalist headline, seems poorly chosen. In your blog entry on Inman, didn't you say you live in Midtown? SPARK has a lower percentage of black children than ANCS. Is SPARK's zone de facto segregation? Was the opposition to grade centering with Hill-Hope de facto racism? You also aren't including the history of this school and the way chartering works. Summerhill was invited to be a part of ANCS but refused - angrily. Peopelstown's neighborhood association actively opposes charter schools that would either prioritize or draw from the neighborhood. You have my email address - feel free to send me or others a note whenever you are thinking about writing an article on our neighborhoods to make sure you aren't missing some major facts. There are also a couple of student dissertations available online that document the history of the creation of the school.
Jarod Apperson July 12, 2012 at 09:47 PM
Hi Andrea, I do live in Midtown and I absolutely think zoned schools are de facto segregated.  How many of the APS schools are 90%+ single race in a diverse city where the largest race is 54% of the population?  How many have 90%+ ED students in a city with diverse incomes? I'm sure you know this, but in case some don't: When talking about segregation "de facto" is a term meaning segregation NOT by law.  It is used to discuss situations where factors other than a legal requirement result in segregation.  Not just in Atlanta, but throughout the nation, tons of zoned public schools either are or nearly are segregated, so this title could apply to a discussion of many schools. What is unique about ANCS (and why I chose to write an article) is that it is not a regular school.  It is a charter school with a narrowly defined admissions preference zone.  I think (I am about to share an opinion or an unconfirmed belief) that the public perception of charter schools is that they are open to all who apply and slots are given out randomly.  I think there are many in our city and the nation who don't realize that the tiered preferences can play such a big role.  I also don't think most realize that ANCS in particular has such a small area in it's first geographic preference zone, even smaller than the zoned traditional school. Continued...
Jarod Apperson July 12, 2012 at 09:48 PM
This issue is about a problem that has currently resulted from the ANCS charter, and why I think ANCS should consider amending that charter going forward.  I think the founders did want a diverse school.  At first they had some diversity.  At this point, a change has to be made to the charter if the school is going to go back to those roots.  If not, it will continue to operate like a wealthy zoned school (SPARK included), and I don't think that's what supporters of charters (including myself) expect from the charter schools. Clay, that's really interesting.  Do you have any more info on the GA DOE position? Andrea, I will send you any article/blog I write about Jackson cluster schools at least one day before posting.  If you want to review articles on any other schools, just shoot me an email saying which ones.
Meagan Ann Boeff July 12, 2012 at 10:05 PM
Choosing a title like "De Facto Segregation at ANCS" for a neighborhood a mere mile from the Martin Luther King Memorial could hardly have escaped your notice as inflammatory. If your intention truly was to discuss charters limiting to small geographic areas, then you should have included Drew, Wesley, Intown Academy and the myriad other charters using the same system to zone their schools rather than point a finger at ANCS only. If the intention was to discuss your opinion about unintentional segregation at ANCS then you should have included some basic context and history of the school and neighborhood it draws students from. Making statements like "In general, I do not find the use of geographic preferences problematic when the geographic boundaries are large enough to include a diverse community" are also more inflammatory than actually useful to make that point. You did neither, so all you have really managed to do here is denigrate a school and the neighborhood it serves.
Alice Jonsson July 12, 2012 at 10:25 PM
That small area is large enough to fill a small school, which is what ANCS is. Having said that, people from all tiers currently attend the school. And in the future, the permanent wait list will certainly help ensure that folks from all over Atlanta continue to have access even though the school is increasingly popular in it's first tier. I think it's fine to want all of the schools in the city to be as racially and economically diverse as all of Atlanta. Why you would single out ANCS and use a term like 'segregation' and then claim to be making a perfectly rational point is where things get muddy. Clearly, and you know this very well, that word conjures up horrible images of the bad-old-days. If you want for all of the schools in Atlanta to have a diverse economic and racial population, then let us discuss how we can make that happen, the pluses and minuses of what it will take to do that etc. That would actually be a good discussion.
Alice Jonsson July 12, 2012 at 10:25 PM
Sorry for the typos.
Jarod Apperson July 12, 2012 at 10:38 PM
Hey Alice, I would love to have that discussion and I have a couple of ideas. Maybe we could get together for lunch one day. If you want, send me an email at jarodapperson@gmail.com and we can set something up.
David Bottomley July 12, 2012 at 10:45 PM
Just to correct one thing...Peoplestown Neighborhood Association has never taken a position that "actively opposes charter schools that would either prioritize or draw from the neighborhood"
Andrea K-s July 13, 2012 at 01:33 AM
Hi Jarod, I do know the difference between de facto & de jure segregation, but what jumps out is the close association of the words Segregation & ANCS. That's why I'm focusing on your word choices, not the points. And hopefully my comment about input on articles wasn't too high handed, but everyone around here with kids spends a *lot* of time thinking about schools. I doubt anyone who has school aged children and lives near ANCS believes that all spots are given out at random. I must respond to your statements about the size of ANCS's zone because they are inaccurate. ANCS Tier 1 includes 684 K-5 children. Drew's Tier 1 includes 87 children. Drew Tier 1+Tier 2 has 162 children, so ANCS's Tier 1 is three times as big as Drew's. There are many zoned schools have much smaller attendance zones than ANCS Tier 1, including Whitefoord, Toomer, D.H. Stanton, & until redistricting Parkside. As to de facto segregation that has reoccurred in the public school system, I don't think it's the zoning typically that causes the problem. The City of Atlanta might be 54% African-American, but the children who attend City of Atlanta schools aren't. I think it's about 90%. Associating the word "segregation" with a school that is fairly diverse as schools go probably isn't going to be the best way of building more diverse schools. While I'm also concerned about regregation of schools, as a parent, I think there is a lot of value in having neighborhood schools.
Meagan Ann Boeff July 13, 2012 at 02:17 AM
They may have wanted a diverse school, but they also wanted a school which represented and served the neighborhood it was actually housed in. They didn't name the school Atlanta Diversity School. They named it Neighborhood Charter School. To remove the school's students from the neighborhood which it is located in would be to commit the very sin which forced the need for the charter school to be developed in the first place. Even a cursory review of the situation in Grant Park and Ormewood at the time of the charter would have revealed this fact to you. Until the redistricting that took place mere months ago, Grant Park and Ormewood have been split by APS between anywhere from 3-5 elementary schools, 2-3 middle schools and 3 high schools. The fact is, APS did not serve the community well, so the community did for itself. Despite this, the community continued to work with APS (often dragging it along) in a long and strenuous effort by many to finally unite the neighborhood into a single public school zone achieved only months ago. Until the 9th hour of redistricting, Grant Park was still zoned for more than one elementary, middle and high school. And many of those that worked the hardest to improve Grant Park's public schools were those which also founded the charter. So forgive me if I feel like someone from Midtown, who clearly hasn't done enough research, is raining on the parade of those who have fought long and hard but have ultimately found a way to succeed.
Anjin-san July 13, 2012 at 05:41 AM
Andrea, Can you clarify something for me about this post: "ANCS Tier 1 includes 684 K-5 children. Drew's Tier 1 includes 87 children. Drew Tier 1+Tier 2 has 162 children, so ANCS's Tier 1 is three times as big as Drew's." The Tier 2 for Drew with 162 children ==> is this current Tier 2 population attending Drew, or total Tier 2 population? Tier 2 is Eastlake & Kirkwood, and there has to be more than 162 school age children in those two neighborhoods? And the same question for Tier 1; The Villages only have 87 school age children? And being our local unofficial demographer, you would know : - )
Anjin-san July 13, 2012 at 05:44 AM
From what I have been told, only NEW charter schools must adhere to the non-tiered attendance rules. Existing charter schools (like Drew, and NCS) can continue to maintain their tiers as originally chartered.
Chris Murphy July 13, 2012 at 10:48 AM
@Meagan- thanks very much for your post. I don't know if it will have any effect on someone who has an agenda, but it's nice to see straight-forward history, truth and common sense in a discussion.
Andrea K-s July 13, 2012 at 12:10 PM
That's the number of elementary aged children who attend an APS school (regardless of what school they actually attend). So yes, Villages has 87 elementary aged children enrolled in APS schools, & there are 162 in non-Villages East Lake plus Kirkwood. This would not included home schooled or private school kids. & this is why Coan is empty. I wonder how many elementary aged children resided in East Lake Meadows? While I'm thrilled that East Lake is no longer Atlanta's Vietnam, these redevelopments of those housing projects resulted in a loss of children from the neighborhoods, including Villages. We need to remember this any time we're talking about the success of the redevelopments - they didn't just rehouse a segment of the population in better mixed income housing - they pushed people out. Englewood's former land sits open currently, & would love to see that redeveloped in a way that does actually act as a magnet for low income & working families with children. -Your resident demographer/historian.
Jarod Apperson July 13, 2012 at 12:15 PM
Andrea, you're right that Drew also has a small preference zone for its first two tiers.  I would like to see some changes to Drew's policy as well.  The situation is different and lends itself to a different argument.  I will be writing a separate article on the issue (which I will send to you before posting anywhere). As for this article, I am advocating that ANCS make a change in its charter going forward.  It seems like people are concerned that the emotive language used in that argument places ANCS in a bad light, but no one seems to be disagreeing that this preference zone should be reviewed/amended.
John M. July 13, 2012 at 01:43 PM
I think people our first concerned with your emotive language, but I also think those who have purchased property within ANCS Zone 1 with hopes of increasing their chances of getting into ANCS would very much disagree with your call for ANCS to review/amend its current zoning preference.
Chris Murphy July 13, 2012 at 02:10 PM
"It seems like people are concerned that the emotive language used in that argument places ANCS in a bad light, but no one seems to be disagreeing that this preference zone should be reviewed/amended." We've all disagreed with it. Satisfied?
JR Garcia July 13, 2012 at 04:40 PM
1. Jarod, when you say "The situation is defferent", how so? And, what is the basis of the 'different argument'? 2. Can you answer the question I posed previously to you? ... "Wait, so you must also be suggesting that Drew eliminate or expand it's tiered attendance zones? What is the basis and threshold where a school has to "eliminate or expand" an attendance zone?
RD July 13, 2012 at 05:09 PM
That really confused me also.
Andrea K-s July 13, 2012 at 05:57 PM
Some agreed, most disagreed. I personally would like to see the zone expand a bit, even as an owner of property in Tier 1. But good grief charter renewal is years away, & the boundaries were drawn as they were for good reasons.
Jarod Apperson July 13, 2012 at 11:44 PM
JR, expreasing my view on your first question is complicated, so I will wait and address it completely with an article. As for your second question, I don't have a rigid concept of what an appropriate geographic boundary should be. I am concerned about the current situation, but I am flexible on an appropriate solution. Here are three ideas. 1. A radius of x miles from the school. 2. A radius including x times the number of students served by the school. 3. All of APS. My gut is that all kids should have equal access to charter schools. At the same time, I appreciate Andrea's point that there's a benefit to neighborhood schools, owned by a local community. In that trade off between choice and local, I think I lean more toward choice with charters. To some extent, a chater without zoning preferences may still remain a local school as more applicants are likely to apply in the immediate region. The other two ideas try to compromise on the local vs. choice trade off, while ensuring a large community has access to the charter. The great thing about charter schools is that they're so flexible. You can try something, see how it goes and adjust if needed.
Anjin-san July 14, 2012 at 03:25 AM
Being a Drew parent, and a PTA officer, I would love to get a peek at that next Drew article as well. And since our resident demographer also takes great meeting notes, I have a question related to the last sentence in his opening remarks from last night's meeting: "Davis: Two issues to address before opening to questions. 1) What are you doing now that you redistricting is over? We are deeply engaged in a body of work to establish a culture of excellence across all schools. Our 3 year-round schools opened this week - great to be back in. I've made a number of staff appointments. We're focusing on professional development for teachers. We're rolling out the common core Georgia performance standards. We will start when our traditional schools open in the new cluster format - what does that mean? What's cluster planning? It's our vision every cluster will be a cluster of choice." (continued)
Anjin-san July 14, 2012 at 03:28 AM
(part 2) You are taking the charters to task for their attendance tiers, without knowing their histories or why the tiers were created that way. You want the charters to change their attendance policies because YOU don't like them. Are you also taking APS to task for the same thing? Although Davis says he wants the new clusters to be a "cluster of choice", at the same time he has eliminated/restricted many of the transfer policies that existed in APS. You mention that families should not be locked out of their school of choice because they can't afford a home in the attendance zone, but how is that any different from any family in our (Jackson) cluster wanting to attend SPARK, Morningside, or Jackson Elementaries? Do you think any of us could attend Grady High as our "choice" high school? (Not saying that any of us would...) Will you also be writing an article about traditional PUBLIC schools that everyone pays into with their tax dollars, and about how their attendance zones are restricted? Are will you just stick with charters?
Anjin-san July 14, 2012 at 03:42 AM
Jarod, I'm not trying to be combative, but I'm going to ask you something that could rub you the wrong way: Why should any of us in Southeast Atlanta care what you think (one way or the other) about our schools? I don't believe you are a parent, you don't live in our area, you are not an education expert. Frankly speaking, unless you are Daddy Warbucks offering large education enrichment grants to our schools, I can't think of a reason why any of us should get too wrapped up in anything you write. No offense, but you are a person just the like the rest of us, no better & no less. Your profession is as a forensic accountant, correct? If you REALLY wanted to improve the local schools, you would do some pro bono work down at Trinity Avenue and find out just how much money has been pissed away over the years, which department the next scandal will come from, why APS' administrative rate per student is almost twice as much as other school systems, the real reason why APS is reducing the per child amounts to the charter schools, or why the pension system has been grossly underfunded for years. If you find the answers to any of those questions, I think you'll garner enough accolades to be the next Mayor.
Chris Murphy July 14, 2012 at 11:03 AM
Funny- but true.
Jarod Apperson July 14, 2012 at 01:41 PM
Anjin-san, yes, I am just a person, no better than anyone else.  The only reason you should listen to me is if, after some consideration, you see the points I'm making as valid. Thankfully, we live in a nation and a city where de jure segregation ended a long time ago.  However, our school populations are still largely determined by how much house you can afford.  It's not that people living in the ANCS or SPARK zones are malicious.  It's just a natural effect of zoning that good schools create demand and increase real estate prices.  That ultimately results in exclusion of those without the means to pay the higher prices.   In my view, charter schools give us a great opportunity to recreate to world of education as it should be.  I think that world is one where children's opportunities are not limited by where their parents can afford to live. I am just a person trying to persuade you that ANCS has an opportunity to untie real estate prices from education access that that is an important action to take.
Gigi Conner July 14, 2012 at 08:58 PM
One question - how do you define diversity?
Kimberly July 15, 2012 at 01:04 PM
Charter schools are meant to be a lot of things not just schools of choice. One of the core values of ANCS is a community school that is geographically designed.
David November 04, 2012 at 02:58 AM
No school, public or private, is open to everybody. Boundaries of many types exist - financial, legislative, locational. The great thing about charter schools is that if a neighborhood, or district, or group, wants one, they can start one! Go for it - do the very hard work! Just don't contemptuously come knocking on another neighborhood's successful door. That smacks of resentment, or unbridled idealism. After you have lived in this world long enough, and held down a job, and have been fortunate enough to start a family, you realize that you have to work very very hard to get your family into a neighborhood with good schools. Once you do this, the last thing you want is open enrollment to squelch your chances. I speak this as someone who has chosen to live in SE Atlanta over other neighborhoods (like Candler Park, or Morningside). I want to raise my kids in Ormewood Park. And I want them to be in Tier 1 for enrollment. The beautiful thing about ANCS is that it is a small, local, and successful option for families who want to live in this part of the city. There is absolutely no reason that the charter needs to be changed, nor is it likely that it will. You have to do the work to get the access - whether you are founding the school or attending it.
James Palmer March 07, 2013 at 01:50 PM
Chris, you have just managed, in one single comment, to completely articulate a position entirely in opposition to everything ANCS stands for. If you have a child that attends ANCS--and if you are at all active in the ANCS community, you obviously still have a lot to learn about their values and philosophy.

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