The Carrot or the Stick for School Desegregation Policy

Magnet Schools or Forced Busing

Christine H. Rossell
Book Cover

PB: $28.95
EAN: 978-0-87722-924-7
Publication: Oct 91

HC: $61.50
EAN: 978-0-87722-682-6
Publication: May 90

Ebook: $29.95
EAN: 978-1-4399-0356-8
Publication: May 90

272 pages

10 tables

The first study comparing the long-term effectiveness of voluntary desegregation plans with magnet programs to mandatory reassignment plans


This is the first study comparing the long-term effectiveness of voluntary desegregation plans with magnet programs to mandatory reassignment plans. In a survey of school personnel and parents in 119 school districts, Christine H. Rossell finds that the voluntary plans with incentives (magnets) ultimately produce more interracial exposure than the mandatory plans. Her conclusion contradicts three decades of research that judged mandatory reassignment plans more effective than voluntary plans in desegregating schools.

Rossell examines the evolution of school desegregation and addresses a number of issues with regard to public policy. She questions how to measure the effectiveness of school desegregation remedies, suggesting interracial exposure as a criterion because it reflects the white flight that threatens to minimize the effects of such programs. She analyzes the characteristics of magnet schools that are attractive to white and black parents and the effect of magnet schools on the quality of education.

The magnet plans studied here are qualitatively different from the old freedom-of-choice plans implemented in the South and majority-to-minority plans implemented in the North in the 1950s and 1960s. Rossell compares this public choice model of policy-making with previous mandatory efforts and examines court decisions that indicate a growing belief in the effectiveness of voluntary compliance for achieving school desegregation.


"An in-depth, carefully researched analysis.... The book is particularly useful for public policymakers, school administrators, and faculty and for graduate students in educational policy studies."

"A significant achievement.... Assembling the most comprehensive data base and the most persuasive analysis to date on relative effectiveness of voluntary versus mandatory desegregation plans, Rossell concludes not only that mandatory desegregation techniques cause long-term white flight, but also that the white loss is large enough to render 'mandatory magnet' plans less effective than 'voluntary magnet' plans."
Contemporary Sociology

"A very well-written analysis of...a topic of major policy policy researchers, educational policy-makers, lawyers and judges, sociologists, and members of the sophisticated public involved in school desegregation matters."
Jeffrey A. Raffel, University of Delaware

Table of Contents


1. The Past and the Future of School Desegregation Remedies
The Evolution of School Desegregation Remedies • Attitudes Toward Desegregation • Self-Interest and Compliance • The Public Choice Model • Magnet School Plans • Departures from Past Research • Outline of Chapters

2. Defining School Desegregation and Its Goal
The Effect of Interracial Exposure on Minority Children • The Measurement of Interracial Exposure

3. A Comparison of Voluntary and Mandatory Desegregation Plans
Sampling Criteria • Classifying Plans into Magnet-Voluntary and Magnet-Mandatory • Community Characteristics • Magnet Programs • White Flight • Interracial Exposure • Racial Imbalance • Racially Identifiable Schools • Matched Pairs • Net Benefit • Dismantling Mandatory Plans • Conclusions

4. What Is Attractive About Magnet Schools?
The Literature • Location and Percentage of Minority Pupils • Curriculum • Pupil-Teacher Ratios • Physical Appearance • Distance • Educational Benefits • Magnet Success in 20 School Districts • Indicators of Success • The Cost of Magnet Schools • Conclusions

5. What Have School Desegregation Plans Accomplished?
Enrollment Trends • Desegregation Assessment Measures • Interracial Exposure • Racial Imbalance: The Index of Dissimilarity • The Percentage of Students in Desegregated Schools • The Percentage of Minority Students in White and Minority Schools • Big City School Desegregation • Conclusions

6. Conclusions and Recommendations
Metropolitan Plans • Policy Recommendations • Controlled Choice • Costs • Equity, Efficiency, and Effectiveness • Ranking by Three Criteria • Models of Policymaking

Index of Court Cases

About the Author(s)

Christine H. Rossell is Professor of Political Science at Boston University and the co-editor of The Consequences of School Desegregation (Temple).