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School Diversity, School District Fragmentation and Metropolitan Policy

by Jennifer Jellison Holme & Kara S. Finnigan - 2013

Background/Context: Over the past several decades, the structure of school segregation has changed significantly. In the past, students from different racial and ethnic backgrounds tended to be separated into different buildings within school districts; increasingly, however, students from different racial and ethnic backgrounds are likely to be separated into entirely separate districts (Clotfelter, 2004). This growing problem of between-district segregation poses a unique set of challenges for districts and policymakers seeking to advance integration, as districts have administrative authority only over policies that cover their own boundaries. The changing configuration of school segregation, therefore, requires a better understanding of, and more creative solutions aimed at, this policy problem.

Focus of Study: This article explores the dilemmas created by between-district segregation and school district fragmentation in terms of efforts to diversify schools. In our analysis, we examine four predominant approaches that have been used in city governance reform to address the problems of municipal fragmentation: annexation, consolidation, mobility programs, and metropolitan governance reform. Within each section, we examine the potential of each of these approaches as a solution to the problems associated with school district fragmentation.

Data Collection and Analysis: We first review existing research to examine what is known empirically about between-district segregation, and the role of school district fragmentation as a contributing factor. We then review literature about policy efforts to address problems caused by fragmentation in noneducational domains.

Conclusions: Each of the policy efforts discussed in this article offer insights as to potential policy directions to improve integration and address the costs of fragmentation. We conclude by considering the types of structures that could serve as potential vehicles for school districts to address the problems of fragmentation, and by discussing how regional cooperation between school districts can incentivized.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 115 Number 11, 2013, p. 1-29
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17205, Date Accessed: 9/6/2021 6:32:25 PM

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About the Author
  • Jennifer Holme
    University of Texas, Austin
    JENNIFER JELLISON HOLME is an Assistant Professor of Educational Policy and Planning in the Department of Educational Administration at the University of Texas, Austin. Holme’s research focuses on the politics and implementation of educational policy, with a particular focus on the relationship among school reform, equity, and diversity in schools. Dr. Holme’s work has been published in Teachers College Record, American Educational Research Journal, Review of Educational Research, and Harvard Educational Review. Dr. Holme is also co-author of Both Sides Now: The Story of Desegregation’s Graduates (University of California Press.)
  • Kara Finnigan
    University of Rochester
    E-mail Author
    KARA S. FINNIGAN is an Associate Professor of Educational Policy at the Warner School of Education of the University of Rochester. Finnigan has written extensively on the topics of school choice and accountability policies. Finnigan’s research blends perspectives in education, sociology, and political science; employs both qualitative and quantitative methods, including social network analyses and GIS mapping; and examines issues of equity and diversity, focusing on schools and districts serving low income students of color. She has published articles in the American Educational Research Journal, Journal of Educational Change, Educational Policy, Educational Administration Quarterly, Journal of School Leadership, Leadership and Policy in Schools, Journal of School Choice, Urban Review, and Education Policy Analysis Archives.
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