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Nadra Kareem Nittle

U.S. Schools More Segregated Now Than Four Decades Ago

By February 22, 2010

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In 1954 the landmark Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education mandated desegregation of public schools. So, why are 21st century public schools more racially segregated than the schools of the late 1960s? In an article called "The New Racial Segregation at Public Schools," Teaching Tolerance writer Tim Lockette tries to answer this question.

In the piece, Lockette interviews Gary Orfield, director of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA. According to Orfield, growing numbers of black, Latino and Asian American students attend "intensely segregated" schools, or those where students of color make up more than 90 percent of the student body. School segregation, of course, is directly linked to residential segregation. For example, one-third of black students attend school in places where the black population is more than 90 percent. Class ties in as well, with one-third of all black and Latino students attending schools where more than 75 percent of students receive free or reduced lunch. In contrast, only 4% of white children do.

The trend not only plays out in regions one might expect--such as the South--but in the racially divided Midwest. A drastic reduction in the number of students being bused as well as the rise of charter schools all contribute to school segregation. To boot, the U.S. Supreme Court didn't help matters when in 2007 it determined that school districts can't consider racial diversity as a factor in assigning students to schools. Lastly, the fact that minority children make up more of America's students today than they did four decades ago also factors into the re-segregation of public schools.

In the mid-1960s, 80% of American students were white, Lockette reports. But now children of color make up nearly 40% of U.S. students. "While the student body as a whole has grown more much more diverse, many majority-white schools have seen only a slight bump in their minority enrollment," Lockette writes.

And lest one think that school segregation only affects "those people," research indicates that the fact that students in segregated schools are far less likely to graduate or attend college has far-reaching consequences for the entire nation. Civil Rights Project scholar Erica Frankenberg puts it this way: "If we don't start educating black and Latino students better than we are doing now, we are going to see an intergenerational decline in the percentage of high school graduates in the adult population for the first time ever."

Additionally, both Frankenberg and Orfield argue that evidence indicates that integration could help eliminate the oft-discussed "achievement gap" between white students and students of color. That's because this gap was lowest during the late 1980s and early 1990s. What was unique about this period? It was the point in time when schools were most integrated.


March 13, 2010 at 9:14 am
(1) Hans says:

I think this segregation in schools is a universal trend. In Holland for instance the number of “black” schools is rising. Black in Holland does not necessarely refer to people with a black skin, but to people with a not western backround, like Turkish or Moroccan descendants. Integration of those populations in the authentic Dutch people has failed. I think the gap between originally African and islamic people and western people was -and apparently still is- to big to overcome. A innate profound superiority complex as a psychological defense mechanism in white people is the mayor contributor to that. Asiatic people may even have a bigger such a complex.

October 2, 2011 at 4:04 am
(2) Glenn Robinson says:

There are two schools of thought in the U.S.
Those who believe in multiculturalism and integration; and those who are xenophobic and separatist. The move to integration and fairness is slow because U.S. courts are mostly conservative (slow to change). Change will arrive when the people demand it.

No child left behind data should be compared by zip code, not by ‘race’. When a zip code shows lower test scores, a tutoring center / homework center can be opened WITHIN that zip code. Single and low income parents (who may be working two jobs) don’t always have the time or energy to sit with their children to help them with their homework.

August 29, 2012 at 8:38 am
(3) Albert Simpson says:

Who cares? I think ugly people are dying to breed out their uglyness or they hate their own race so much they want to mix it all up. I went to school for 2 years with a 40% black population and it was horrible. The black kids were much slower and some couldn’t even write a sentence. Mixing whites and blacks together is nothing more than dumbing down schools.

February 18, 2013 at 5:05 pm
(4) Grand Duck says:

If this were a redneck/white trash party not an eyelid would be batted. This was an event organized by black entertainer jigga jones, not by students as this article falsely claims. It’s not only racism that’s tearing America apart, it’s race politics.

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