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New Study: Segregation Prominent in American Schools
posted by: Alix | September 20, 2012, 04:35 PM   

The United States is an increasingly multiracial society, with white students accounting for just over half of all students in public schools. According to data from the US Department of Education, while our demographics are shifting nationwide, white students are still largely concentrated in schools with little diversity. According to a new report by the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, minority students — particularly African American and Latino students — are isolated from their white counterparts in record numbers.

Forty three percent of Latinos and 38% of African Americans attend schools where fewer than 10% of their classmates are white. Further, more than one in seven African American and Latino students attend schools where less than 1% of their classmates are white. Segregation of Latino students is most pronounced in California, New York and Texas, while the most segregated cities for African Americans include Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

The overlap between schools with high minority populations and those with high levels of poverty was also significant. According to the report, the average African American or Latino student attends a school where almost two out of every three classmates come from low-income families. Report authors maintain that schools with mostly minority and poor students were likely to have fewer resources, less assertive parent groups and less experienced teachers.

The new study raises interesting questions about the potential for integrating schools and promoting diversity as an education reform priority. Authors criticized the Obama administration as failing to pursue specific integration policies as part of his education reform platform.

Charter advocates argue that public charter schools are the key to benefiting these communities, regardless of diversity. Todd Ziebarth, senior vice president for state advocacy and support of the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools, said he supported diversity and the expansion of charter schools into segregated communities. However, Ziebarth explained, "If a school is relatively homogeneous but is performing really well, we should be celebrating that school, not denigrating it."

Still, the absence of a multicultural community is not just about pure performance according to some minority advocates. "Is it possible to learn calculus in a segregated school? Of course it is," said Mark D. Rosenbaum, chief counsel to the American Civil Liberties Union in Los Angeles. "Is it possible to learn how the world operates and to think creatively about the rich diversity of cultures in this country? It is impossible."

What do you think about the results of the report? Should promoting diversity become a priority in education reform?

Comment below.

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