American Schools Still Heavily Segregated by Race, Income: Civil Rights Project Report

Huffington Post, September 20, 2012

Minorities account for nearly half of the student population in America, and will likely become the majority within the next decade or two, but recent studies show that students across the country are still largely learning in segregated environments—along both racial and economic lines.

According to a new analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Education, an overwhelming majority of Latino and black students study in racially isolated classrooms: 80 percent of Latino students and 74 percent of black students are in schools where the majority of students are not white. More specifically, 43 percent of Latinos and 38 percent of black attend “intensely segregated schools” where white students comprise 10 percent or less of the student body.

The report, released Wednesday by the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles, also found that the average black or Latino student now goes to schools where low-income students account for nearly double the proportion of poor students than the average white or Asian student. It also targets charter schools, which studies have shown to fall short of equal education promises, nearly six decades after Brown v. Board.

“These trends threaten the nation’s success as a multiracial society,” Civil Rights Project Co-Director Gary Orfield said in a statement Thursday. “We are disappointed to have heard nothing in the campaign about this issue from neither President Obama, who is the product of excellent integrated schools and colleges, nor from Governor Romney, whose father gave up his job in the Nixon Cabinet because of his fight for fair housing, which directly impacts school make-up.”

Increasing prevalence of school segregation is most dramatic in the south for black students. More northern states like New York, Illinois and Michigan tend to have the most segregated schools for black students while Washington, Nebraska and Kansas are most integrated. For Latino students, California, New York and Texas have the most segregated environments.

White students, on the other hand, tend to attend schools where about 75 percent of their peers are white.

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To reverse the trend of what researchers call resegregation, the report offers suggestions like implementing laws that encourage integration and reauthorizing regulations that support integration.

Thursday’s findings come at a time when the achievement gap between minority and white students continues to widen. A January report notes that minority high schoolers are performing at academic levels equal to or below those of three decades ago, attributable to differences in performance expectations, growing income inequality and diminishing resources as well as inadequate access to experience teachers.

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