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Segregation Report Sheds Light on Challenges in Diversifying U.S. Schools

Schools in the Northeast and West continue to be more segregated than those in the South, with California and New York maintaining schools that are the most segregated, according to a recent report from the Harvard University Civil Rights Project.

In California, 87 percent of the non-white students attend schools that are majority minority, and in New York, it’s 86 percent.
Further down the list, Mississippi has 77 percent; Georgia has 73 percent, and Alabama has 70 percent of minority students attending majority minority schools.

“What we show here is that if you are in a highly segregated black or Latino school, chances are you are in a low-income neighborhood,” Gary Orfield, co-author of the report, “Racial Transformation and the Changing Nature of Segregation,” told “There students tend to get less because their communities don’t have as much political power and the more experienced and credentialed teachers tend to leave.

Also, Orfield said, in those schools, there are fewer advanced courses, less academic challenges and lower graduation rates, “and it’s not because they are not sitting next to white kids.”

Orfield said America’s intensely segregated schools are the result of years of Supreme Court inaction regarding race in schools.

“The Supreme Court that used to be pushing us forward is undermining efforts to desegregate,” Orfield said.

“Anyone who thinks that the Supreme Court does not make a difference should look at the quarter century of decline in the segregation of Southern schools though the late l980s, the continual, year-by-year growth in segregation since the Court authorized ending desegregation plans in 1991, as well as the impact of the Court’s 5-4 decision against city-suburban desegregation in 1974,” he said.

The report also showed:

More than three quarters of intensely segregated schools are also high poverty schools.
Despite an increase in diversity, white students remain the most isolated group.
Since the 1990s, the percentage of students of every race in multiracial groups has increased. Segregation is no longer black and white but increasingly multiracial.
States where the largest shares of students attend multi-racial schools include the three largest states—California, Texas, and Florida—and one state in which the Latino population seems to be exploding—Nevada.
While South and Border regions are resegregating, black students in the South and Border states still have among the highest levels of exposure to white students.
Nationally, Asians are more likely than students of other races to attend multiracial schools. Conversely, white students are the least likely to attend these schools.
California, like many other school systems, made attempts to better mix its majority and minority populations, “but it didn’t work,” retired principal Genethia Hayes, who also served four years on board of the Los Angeles United School District, told

Los Angeles had to cope with a history that had in place as late as 1958, covenants that restricted people of particular races from living in certain areas, said Hayes. “We have to realize that integration is not what white people say that it is—60 percent white kids in a school and mix of other races,” she said.

Of the 800,000 school students in Los Angeles, only 110,000 are black; others are white, Asian and Latino.

“We need to re-invent the schools to serve the population we have. How do we make sure that when we have African-Americans and Latinos in school together, we are providing curriculum that will help them advance—and also culturally relevant experiences—to meet the needs of both populations?”

When races are isolated in separate schools, it affects the ability of students to function in an integrated society as adults, Orfield said.

“There’s one thing you can’t learn in a segregated school as a minority. You can’t learn to operate in an integrated society,” Orfield said. “The same is true for whites who grow up attending all white schools. When they get around people of other races, they are not comfortable, and they are not really effective.”

“People thought that after Dr. King’s (I Have a Dream) speech and some laws were passed, that we had won the battle,” he said. “But this is a battle that has to be won in every generation. There will be some breakthroughs, but there will also be some resistance and pushing back before we move forward.”

Orfield points to public schools in Louisville, Kentucky, and Raleigh, N.C. as examples of how school systems can find creative ways of improving and maintaining diversity. “No place is perfect,” he said, “but these two areas have done a good job.”

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund continues to monitor school desegregation, said Victor Bolden, general counsel. The climate in the courts presents more challenges for addressing the issues, Bolden told

Earl Ofari Hutchinson, a nationally known columnist and author, puts it like this: “The bitter truth is that 50 years after the Brown decision, segregated public schools—while no longer the law of the land—are the fact of the land.”

Hutchinson said that minorities excelled before court-mandated desegregation and can do the same in public schools today.

“Though racial segregation in schools has worsened, many black and Latino students in these schools have shown they can learn, master standard English and math and score high on performance tests if provided adequate resources and support,” Hutchinson told “Fifty years after Brown, racially separate schools are still a fact of life for many students, but they don’t have to be unequal.”

Posted by loni on 01/27 at 09:42 AM in Blogging

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