Exposure to school and classroom racial segregation in Charlotte-Mecklenburg high schools and students’ college achievement





social structure, segregation, second-generation segregation, achievement, tracking, North Carolina, longitudinal, multilevel modeling


In this study we investigate Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) high school graduates’ academic performance in the first year of college and test whether their exposure to racial segregation in high school at both the school and classroom levels affected their college freshman grade point averages. Utilizing administrative data from the Roots of STEM Success Project, we track the CMS class of 2004 from middle school through its first year of education in the University of North Carolina (UNC) system. Our findings show that segregation among schools and among classes within schools compromises college achievement for students of color while offering no significant benefits to white students’ college achievement.


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Author Biographies

Jason Giersch, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Jason Giersch is Assistant Professor of Political Science and Public Administration. His research interests include school accountability, school choice, school segregation, and teacher quality.

Martha Cecilia Bottia, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Martha Cecilia Bottia is Research Assistant Professor of Sociology. Her research interest includes the effects of school racial and socioeconomic demographic composition on various educational outcomes, the unequal impact of the curriculum on diverse students, and the role of structural characteristics of K-12 schools on the decision of students to major and graduate from a STEM major.

Roslyn Arlin Mickelson, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Roslyn Arlin Mickelson is Chancellor's Professor and Professor Sociology, Public Policy, and Women and Gender Studies. Her current research interests include pathways to STEM, minority educational issues, desegregation, social science and the law, gender and education, and educational policy. Her coedited book, Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. School Desegregation and Resegregation in Charlotte, was published by Harvard Education Press in 2015 (with Stephen Samuel Smith and Amy Hawn Nelson).

Elizabeth Stearns, University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Elizabeth Stearns is Associate Professor of Sociology and Public Policy. Her research interests include the interplay between structural characteristics of schools and student outcomes, including gender and racial disparities in achievement and attainment. Her current research is focusing on the gender and racial gaps in STEM education, including the declaration of STEM majors in college.




How to Cite

Giersch, J., Bottia, M. C., Mickelson, R. A., & Stearns, E. (2016). Exposure to school and classroom racial segregation in Charlotte-Mecklenburg high schools and students’ college achievement. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 24, 32. https://doi.org/10.14507/epaa.24.2123