Friday, June 6, 2014

When Classrooms Segregate Within Integrated Buildings

Halley Potter, research associate at The Century Foundation and David Tipson, director of New York Appleseed, published an interesting editorial in the New York Times this week calling for the elimination of gifted and talented programs in the New York City Schools.   The editorial draws on a report published by Appleseed earlier this year: Segregation in NYC District Elementary Schools and What We Can Do About It: Addressing Internal Segregation and Harnessing the Educational Benefits of Diversity.  They argue the gifted and talented program has a

long history of exacerbating socioeconomic and racial segregation within city schools. As of 2011, roughly 70 percent of all New York City public school students were black and Latino, but more than 70 percent of kindergartners in G&T programs were white or Asian. Successive attempts to fix the problems associated with G&T admissions have in many cases only increased disparities. These trends show no sign of reversing in newly released New York City Department of Education data, which confirm that wealthier community school districts continue to dominate G&T placements.

After discussing the harms of segregation, they call for the

New York City schools [to] take a schoolwide approach to gifted education, eliminating separate G&T tracks and incorporating identified students into mixed-ability classrooms. A number of New York City public schools, such asBELL Academy and Veritas Academy in Queens, already use the Schoolwide Enrichment Model, which Chancellor Carmen Fariña favors, to offer “gifted education for all” through academic enrichment tailored to each student’s strengths. 

The link to the full article and the discussion board following it, see here.  As you will see, it has generated an unusual amount of conversation.

June 6, 2014 in Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Office for Civil Rights Goes After Tracking in New Hampshire and Language Access in Pennsylvania

Last month, OCR reached two significant settlement agreements.  The first was with New Hampshire’s Manchester School District, School Administrative Unit #37.  The settlement agreement was in response to tracking and unequal access to college and career preparatory courses for black and Latino students.  The most stark disparities were in the district’s AP courses. "Despite the enrollment of 381 black students and 596 Latino students at the high schools, only 17 seats in AP classes went to black students and only nine seats in AP classes went to Latino students, out of the total of 434 seats in AP courses. At two of the three high schools, there were no Latino students enrolled in the AP courses."  OCR found a number of structural barriers in the district's policies that lead to these disparities.  The district agreed to several steps to address the disparities, the most notable of which were:

  • Identify and implement strategies subject to OCR review and approval to increase student participation in its higher-level learning opportunities, particularly for underrepresented groups such as black, Latino and ELL students.
  • Consider increasing the numbers and types of courses, adding more teachers qualified to teacher higher-level courses and revising selection criteria for enrollment in higher level learning opportunities if these are barriers to increased participation.
  • Specifically assess the impact of assigning students to academic “levels” upon arrival at the high schools on their participation in higher-level learning opportunities, and consider eliminating the system of student assignment to levels or altering the current criteria or method of implementation.
  • Specifically consider eliminating the GPA and class rank penalties associated with withdrawing from higher-level courses.
  • Provide increased support for students enrolled in higher level learning opportunities through counseling, peer support groups and tutoring.

A copy of the resolution letter can be found here. A copy of the agreement can be found here.

The other settlement agreement was with the Hazleton, Pa., Area School District.  OCR found that English Language Learner (ELL) students in the district did not have access to equal educational opportunities and that the district was not adequately notifying their parents of information made available to other parents in English.  More than 10 percent of Hazleton's students are ELLs, which would suggest a scale that should have allowed the district to operate a more robust program, but OCR found that the district was inappropriately excusing students from the English language development program, not providing the required instructional time for over 240 elementary school ELL students, not evaluating the effectiveness of its program, and not using an effective system to identify and communication with limited English proficient parents.  The district agreed to take the following steps:

  • Ensuring that students whose primary home language is not English will be promptly assessed for English language proficiency to determine eligibility for placement in an English language development program and that students will not be improperly exempted from assessment;
  • Assessing students who were improperly exempted from language proficiency assessment to determine whether they may be eligible to receive English language development services;
  • Conducting a comprehensive evaluation of the English language development program at each school level to determine its effectiveness and making modifications to address areas where the program is not meeting the district’s goals;
  • Developing and implementing policies and procedures to ensure that LEP parents are notified, in a language they understand, of school activities that are called to the attention of other parents; and
  • Providing training to appropriate staff on procedures for identifying language-minority parents and on policies and procedures for serving language minority parents.

A copy of the resolution letter can be found here. A copy of the agreement can be found here.

May 27, 2014 in Discrimination, English Language Learners, Federal policy, Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 26, 2014

School Diversity and Workforce Preparedness

Eric Cooper, President of the National Urban Alliance for Effective Education, offered this take on school diversity and workforce preparedness at Huffington Post.  Given its interconnection with my recent essay at Ed Week, he agreed to cross-posting it here:

Students Who Encounter Diversity in School Are More Prepared for the Workforce

In May, we photograph high school students before the prom and marvel at these young adults, dressed in beautiful dresses and tuxes and posing against the green lawn and flowering trees of our yards. But what does the image we see through that lens tell us about education, racial progress and the march of history?

I had that thought this month as I watched my daughter and several of her friends being photographed at our house before the prom.

My wife and I listened to their banter. Like most high school seniors, they were comfortable, relaxed and talking excitedly about the prom and college in the fall. Yet in one very important respect, my daughter and her friends were atypical for high school students in many communities across this country. The young men and women being photographed were an unusually diverse group of black, white, Asian and Hispanic students.

Our daughter is lucky. She attends the Academy for Information, Technology & Engineering (AITE,) a regional magnet school in Stamford, Connecticut, that draws students from wealthy Greenwich to impoverished Bridgeport. The student body is as diverse as one finds on the streets of Broadway in nearby New York City. AITE students proudly identify themselves as black, white, Asian, Hispanic, mixed, gay, transgender, Native American, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, atheist or agnostic.

This embrace of multiplicity carries through virtually every aspect of the school. Walk into the cafeteria and you will find students fluidly socializing across tables, rather than choosing to segregate by race, as happens in so many American high schools. Bullying and teasing are, I am told, non-issues, and when they do infrequently occur, the students for the most part "police" themselves and challenge each other to embrace tolerance.

There is no academic tracking. Within the Common Core-required coursework, students can choose to take advanced-level courses such as pre-calculus, The College Board's Advanced Placement Program, and can select college-level courses with participating institutions of higher education. AITE has a 99.4 percent graduation rate. Our daughter will soon graduate to attend a college of her choice.

As the prom pictures were taken, I couldn't help but look at my daughter and her friends through the lens of the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. They represent the successes of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that desegregated public schools, and our community is so much richer for the example these children set for us today.

Continue reading

May 26, 2014 in Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 19, 2014

Brown at 60: The “Pay Later” Approach to U.S. Education by Kimberly Jenkins Robinson

In Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court declared unlawful the segregation of African American schoolchildren from others in the nation’s schools. The Court boldly proclaimed that “in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place.” Indeed, given the importance of education, the Court stated that a state opportunity to receive an education “is a right that must be available to all on equal terms.”

In many ways, the Brown decision represented a “pay now” approach to education. The Court recognized that relegating a substantial segment of the population to separate and inferior educational opportunities would prevent African Americans from effectively entering into the civic, economic and cultural life of the nation as equals. The Court was not blind to the hard work that school desegregation would require. Instead, it recognized that this work was necessary to ensure a strong democracy, economy and international reputation. It recognized that it must “pay now or pay later” and it chose to “pay now” to begin closing the educational opportunity gap.

Unfortunately, the Court and other branches of the federal government ultimately abandoned this “pay now” approach to education. In fact, all three branches pushed for effective school desegregation for only a short time. Through a series of Supreme Court decisions and the retreat of the executive branch from school desegregation, the federal government invited a return to racially isolated schools and rejected any federal constitutional protection of a right to equal educational opportunity. In addition, the citizenry of the United States has failed to consistently call on its leaders to end longstanding disparities in educational opportunity.

Sixty years after Brown, the United States has fully embraced a “pay later” approach to education. In the face of robust research that reveals that low-income school districts demand greater resources to effectively educate their children, only 17states provide these communities with greater funding, according to a 2012 report entitled “Is School Funding Fair?” Although racial isolation in schools is too often accompanied by inferior educational opportunities and outcomes as well as concentrated poverty, the nation is permitting, and sometimes inviting, a return to separate and unequal schools, as Gary Orfield’s Civil Rights Project at UCLA has documented in numerous reports.

As a result of these decisions, the United States is forging a path toward economic colonization. The U.S. tolerance for an entrenched achievement gap has imposed upon the United States “the economic equivalent of a permanent national recession,” as a 2009 report from McKinsey & Company found in “The Economic Impact of the Achievement Gap in America’s Schools.”

Continue reading

May 19, 2014 in Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 16, 2014

Distorting Brown v. Board of Education

Anniversaries always run the risk of distortion, as some attempt to recast past events in ways that further their own agenda.  Meagan Hatcher-Mays, of Media Matters, wrote an interesting article yesterday surveying "conservative" media's reporting on the anniversary of Brown.  She wrote:

On May 13The Wall Street Journal ran an op-ed by former National Review Online contributor Abigail Thernstrom and her husband, Stephan Thernstrom, who misrepresented both the importance and legacy ofBrown by declaring it "an American success story" and its promise "fulfilled," while pushing the myth that the U.S. Constitution is "colorblind." Because apartheid schools are now technically prohibited, the Thernstroms also dismissed statistics that show schools have been rapidly resegregating in recent years, called integration efforts "racist," and ignored the well-documented link between housing segregation and the growing separation of schools based on class and race. Instead, the Thernstroms blame "the differential fertility rates of immigrants and natives" for our separate and unequal schools.

This most recent attack is part of a larger right-wing pattern of denying the continuation of systemic racial discrimination and advocating for the rollback of half a century of civil rights precedent and legislation.

When conservative media discuss Brown at all, it is usually to misrepresent the case's condemnation of a racial caste system designed to maintain white supremacy in order to champion education policies like voucher programs and school choice, or take offensive shots at civil rights leaders. For example, when Louisiana's voucher program was scrutinized for violating several long-standing desegregation orders, outlets likeNational Review Online compared Attorney General Eric Holder to segregationist Alabama Governor George Wallace, famous for blocking the University of Alabama's doors to black students in the wake of theBrown decision.

She goes on to discuss Justice Roberts' simplistic treatment of Brown in his opinion in Parents Involved v. Seattle Schools.  

These mischaracterizations of Brown and its legacy pose serious dangers to our educational system.  First, Brown is misused in the service of educational policies that are in question like charter schools and vouchers.  Putting aside for the moment whether these are or are not good policies, these policies should stand on their own feet without distorting Brown.  Distorting Brown robs us of legitimate debates over these policies.  Second, distorting Brown distorts the problem of segregation, racial isolation, neighborhood schools or however one might phrase it.  No one can deny our schools are and have been sorely unequal.  No one can deny our schools contine to be racially isolated.  Only by distorting Brown can one even begin to disconnect and minimize the importance of these two intertwined, undisputed facts.

May 16, 2014 in Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Derek Black in Education Week: Why Integration Matters in Schools

Education Law Prof Blog co-editor Derek Black has written a commentary that is part of in Education Week's Brown at 60: New Diversity, Familiar Disparities series. In his piece, Black discusses why integration still matters for all students at a time when the Supreme Court and society are less inclined to support remedial solutions. In his commentary, Why Integration Matters in Schools, Black points out the benefits of integration for non-minorities:

Too often, the conversation around integration focuses exclusively on the benefits for poor and minority communities. However, integration holds substantial benefits for middle-income and white students as well. First, integrated schools improve critical thinking. In diverse environments, students are faced with new and varied perspectives and forced to think through their own or new positions more carefully, which improves their critical-thinking skills. Second, integrated schools better prepare students to navigate the multicultural world and global economy they will face upon graduation.

On these two metrics, whites are seriously disadvantaged. Data indicate that, to the surprise of many, whites are actually the most racially isolated student group in the nation (see charts, Page 31). Research demonstrates that this isolation ill prepares them for the future. Major corporations make this point even more concretely in briefs before the U.S. Supreme Court. They attest that they want graduates who are prepared to work in multicultural environments. Integrated schools produce these students.

In other words, white families who are concerned about long-term competitiveness need integrated schools as much as anyone.

Read more of Derek Black's commentary at Education Week here.

May 14, 2014 in News, Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (1)

Friday, May 9, 2014

U.S. Departments of Education and Justice Reaffirm Positions on Diversity and Integration

In the aftermath of the Supreme Court's decision upholding Michigan's ban on the consideration of race in admissions, the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice issued a dear colleague letter, reaffirming their earlier policy guidance in support of voluntary integration in K-12 and diversity in higher education.  The text of the letter is as follows:

We are writing to confirm that the decision of the United States Supreme Court issued on April 22, 2014 in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, et al., leaves intact the Court’s prior holdings recognizing that institutions of higher education and elementary and secondary schools may use all legally permissible methods to achieve their diversity goals. These include, absent any restrictions in state law, appropriately tailored programs that consider the race of individual applicants as one of several factors in an individualized process to achieve the educational benefits that flow from a diverse student body.

The Departments of Education and Justice strongly support diversity in elementary, secondary, and higher education, because racially diverse educational environments help to prepare students to succeed in our increasingly diverse nation. The educational benefits of diversity, long recognized by the Court and affirmed in research and practice, include cross-racial understanding and dialogue, the reduction of racial isolation, and the breaking down of racial stereotypes. Furthermore, to be successful, the future workforce of America should transcend the boundaries of race, language, and culture as our economy becomes more globally interconnected.

In 2011, the Departments issued “Guidance on the Voluntary Use of Race to Achieve Diversity in Postsecondary Education” and the related “Guidance on the Voluntary Use of Race to Achieve Diversity and Avoid Racial Isolation in Elementary and Secondary Schools.” Additionally, in 2013, after the Supreme Court issued its decision in the Fisher case, we issued further guidance in the form of “Questions and Answers about Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin.” All three guidance documents remain in effect after the Schuette decision and are available at www.ed.gov and www.usdoj.gov. In a State with a provision like the one in effect in Michigan, which was upheld in Schuette, you should consult with an appropriate legal official, such as your State’s attorney general, with regard to your institution’s or agency’s ability to take actions consistent with these guidance documents.

 We appreciate your interest in these matters and your commitment to help students succeed. Our offices stand ready to provide technical assistance should you or your colleagues need it on this important topic.

May 9, 2014 in Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 5, 2014

Teacher Diversity Falls Far Behind Students

A new report by the Center for American Progress analyzes the teacher and student diversity in all fifty states.  While nearly 1 out of 2 public school student are students of color, only 1 out of 5 teachers are.  The report's major findings include:

  • The gap between teachers and students of color continues to grow.
  • Almost every state has a significant diversity gap.
  • When we looked across racial and ethnic backgrounds, we found that the Hispanic teacher population had larger demographic gaps relative to students.
  • Diversity gaps are large within districts.

The full report is here.



May 5, 2014 in Racial Integration and Diversity, Teachers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 2, 2014

The Neglect of School Desegregation Orders: Benign or Gross?

Pro Publica has published a new in-depth story on the current state of school desegregation orders. Its research unearthed mass confusion.  Federal agencies were unable to accurately identify and verify all of the existing orders for which they are responsible.  School districts, including their attorneys, were unaware they were still under order.  Some incorrectly insisted they were never under order or had the order lifted recently.  When the issue has been raised with courts, they have also been less than receptive to the idea of enforcing their own orders.  Of course, all the while, school segregation has crept back up over the past two decades (although by some measures it has stabilized in recent years).  The story explores any number of causes for the neglect, but the bottom line, as Mark Dorosin of the University of North Carolina Center for Civil Rights puts it, is: "The promises that were made to these kids have never been fulfilled from 40 years ago." His colleague, Elizabeth Haddix, adds, "Communities get caught sort of unaware about what they have a right to challenge and what is going on."  The story also includes some nice commentary by Wendy Parker, Gary Orfield, and Brian Landsberg, all long-time school desegregation advocates and experts.  The full story is here

May 2, 2014 in Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Wake-Up Call within the Supreme Court’s Affirmative Action Decisions by Kimberly Robinson

The Supreme Court’s recent decision in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action affirmed the ability of states to ban the use of racial preferences in state institutions of higher education. Although those committed to diversity in higher education view this decision as further evidence of the erosion and eventual demise of affirmative action, this decision also should serve as a wake-up call that the nation must undertake a renewed effort to close the opportunity gap in elementary and secondary education. 

The Supreme Court has been tolling the death knell for affirmative action for many years. The Schuette decision is merely further evidence that the end is not far off. In the 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, the court approved the consideration of race as one factor among many in creating a diverse class at the University of Michigan Law School. However, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s majority opinion noted that given the growing number of minority applicants who had earned high test scores and grades, “[w]e expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today.”

In the 2013 decision in Fisher v. University of Texas, the Supreme Court permitted colleges and universities to prove their continued need to sometimes consider the race of students to admit a diverse student body. Yet, the court’s constitutional analysis can trap many institutions between the Scylla of insufficient evidence on the racial composition needed to reap the benefits of diversity, and the Charybdis of specific evidence regarding how much diversity they seek, which the court is likely to label a quota.

Undoubtedly, Schuette’s approval of state bans on racial preferences will advance the eventual demise of affirmative action by removing all constitutional barriers to such bans. Schuette also will embolden supporters of those bans to seek similar bans in other states.

The erosion and impending demise of affirmative action must serve as a reminder that the continued need to use affirmative action is caused in substantial part by the nation’s failure to remedy the opportunity gap that continues to plague our nation’s elementary and secondary schools. Far too many minority students and poor students of all races continue to attend schools with the least effective teachers, inadequate resources and poorly maintained facilities when compared to their more affluent peers, as President Obama’s Equity and Excellence Commission report confirmed last year.

The need to end this deeply entrenched opportunity gap is a moral imperative for the foundation of a just and equitable society. Justice Anthony Kennedy acknowledged this when he stated that “[t]his Nation has a moral and ethical obligation to fulfill its historic commitment to creating an integrated society that ensures equal opportunity for all of its children” in his 2007 opinion in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District.

Moreover, both those who support affirmative action and those who seek to abolish it bear the heavy costs of the educational opportunity gap. Research establishes that the current failure to provide an adequate education to all schoolchildren costs the nation billions in lost taxes, public assistance, criminal justice support and health care costs. For instance, the nation forfeits $156 billion in income and tax revenues during the life span of each cohort of students who do not graduate from high school. (“The Price We Pay: Economic And Social Consequences Of Inadequate Education,” Clive R. Belfield & Henry M. Levin, eds. 2007). Furthermore, the cost of the opportunity gap will increasingly weaken our economy as the changing economy demands more workers with higher-level skills and the number of Hispanic and African-American children becomes an increasingly larger share of the school-age population.

Affirmative action is in part a bandage that seeks to reduce the hemorrhaging from our broken elementary and secondary school system. It is important to keep this bandage in place as long as possible or the hemorrhaging will increase. Therefore, those committed to diverse institutions of higher education and a diverse workforce must continue to push for race-sensitive approaches as well as race-neutral means to achieve diversity in higher education.

In addition to these critical efforts, the United States must wake up to the need for comprehensive reforms that close the educational opportunity gap. Scholars, activists, business leaders and ultimately the public must call on leaders in Congress and the White House, as well as in state legislatures and local school boards, to take action to close this gap. Ultimately, if the nation fails to take on this challenge now, it does so at its own peril.

Kimberly Jenkins Robinson is a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law and a senior fellow at the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School. Contact her at krobins2@richmond.edu.

April 28, 2014 in Higher education, Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Court Upholds Michigan Ban on Consideration of Race in Admissions

Yesterday, the Court held in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action that the Michigan referendum, which amended the state constitution to prohibit the consideration of race in admissions following Grutter v. Bollinger, was constitutional.  The plaintiffs had alleged that the Michigan amendment violated equal protection under the Court's political process theory, most recently articulated in Washington v. Seattle Schools, 458 U.S. 457 (1982).  In Washington, the state had banned integrative busing (except that required by court order), which invalidated the Seattle School District's voluntary desegregation plan.  

The plaintiffs in Schuette argued that the Michigan amendment put minorities and minority interests at a distinct disadvantage in securing favorable laws, just as the state had in Washington. An alum of the University of Michigan could, for instance, petition for favorable admissions policies and considerations for children of alums without needing to resort to a consitutional amendment, but after Michigan's referendum, those advocating for racial diversity considerations would be precluded from securing favorable legislation or policies without first passing a constitutional amendment.  This, they say, violates equal protection in the political process.

The Court rejected their claim by a vote of 6-2 (Kagan recused herself), but there was no majority opinion agreeing on the rationale.  Three justices (led by Kennedy) distinguished the Washington line of cases as being about states changing the political process in such a way that made it more difficult to remedy discrimination and/disadvantage.  In other words, those three justices read the political process theory to preclude states from locking in a political process that made it more difficult to remedy discrimination.  They reasoned that Shuette did not involve limits on remedying discrimination, but limits on using racial preferences.  The latter is distinct and, thus, the political process theory does not apply to Michigan's actions here.

In a separate opinion, Justice Scalia, joined by Thomas, reasoned that the political process theory would apply here and that the facts of Schuette are not distinct.  He, however, argued that the political process theory was itself a flawed doctrine and should be overturned.  The proper standard would be the intentional discrimination standard, which the plaintiffs could not meet here.

Justice Breyer, writing alone, reasoned that this case did not involve a change in the political process, but simply a constitutional amendment, which was permissible.  The U.S. Constitution permits race conscious admissions, but does not require them.  Thus, voters are free to reject them.

Justice Ginsberg and Sotomayor argued that the Washington line of cases applied and this amendment violates that precedent, per the plaintiffs' rationale discussed above.

In most respects, the case does not change much (at least not yet).  It did not change the holding in Grutter.  The issue of whether diversity is a compelling interest was simply not before it, which the Court emphasized.  The only issue before it was that of altering the political process by which a state or locality makes decisions about race.  In other words, at what level of government should issues of integration, diversity, busing, and discrimination be made and when can those decision-making rules be changed so as to make certain racially progressive policies more difficult.  Cases premised on this precise contextual question have only come before the Court a few times in the past and do not involve a rich doctrinal development.  So while the Court did appear to limit that doctrine, it was never a widely used doctrine.

The case does sanction anti-affirmative action legislation, but the fervor for that legislation was greatest following Grutter, not now.  There is nothing in Schuette to incite or upset anti-affirmative action advocates.  With that said, I will leave further discussion to others who have spent more time thinking seriously about this case.  A few have already contacted me and I hope to have their thoughts soon.

April 23, 2014 in Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Reflecting on Brown v. Board of Education

As many of you know, the 60th Anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education is just a couple weeks away.  In advance of the anniversary, numerous organizations, media outlets, and individuals have been reflecting on and updating our history of school desegregation and resegregation.   ProPublica, in particular, has released an extensive report, Segregation Now, which chronicles the story of desegregation in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and tells the story of students attending schools today that strongly resemble those of the pre-Brown era. Below is a sampling of other articles and commentary.

From NPR, Six Words: 'Segregation Should Not Determine Our Future'.

From Jose Vilson, Racism without Racists: The School Resegregation Edition.

From the Star-Leger, Six Decades after Brown v. Board of Education, NJ's Schools Are Still Segregated.

From The Grio, Brown v. Board of Education 60 Years Later: Are U.S. Schools Becoming More Segregated Again?

From my perspective, the conversation this time around--as opposed to the 50th Anniversary--is less alarmist in tone.  The story last time was more shocking and came at a time when the possibility of stemming the tide of resegregation seemed more  important (to more more people) and potentially within reach.  This time, unfortunately, some commentaries seem to lament the loss of integration but accept it.  After all, the national conversation regarding education policy and improvement now tends only to turn to segregation on anniversaries.   In fact, I posit that it still remains to be seen whether it will be part of the national conversation this time around.  We have three weeks to see.

April 22, 2014 in Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Suburban Promise of Brown v. Board of Education

On Friday, May 2nd, Teachers College, Columbia University will host a one-day event for policy makers, educators, and activists to celebrate victories and identify major setbacks on the road to the suburban promise of Brown.  The title of the event is The Suburban Promise of Brown: Addressing Challenges to Sustaining Racially Diverse Schools and Communities.  The flyer summarizes the conference as follows:

Once seen as havens for middle-class whites fleeing the cities, the American suburbs have become far more diverse, putting them at the epicenter of the struggle for integration and equal opportunity. Much progress is being made around these issues, especially in the area of fair housing, but the crisis of separate and unequal schools is as salient in the suburbs as anywhere.

Registration and the full schedule are here.

April 2, 2014 in Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 28, 2014

New York Schools Most Segregated in Nation, But Do Not Have to Be

A new report by the Civil Rights Project finds that New York “has the most segregated schools in the country.” Weighing the state down is New York City, “home to the largest and one of the most segregated public school systems in the nation.” This was not always the case, says the report. “Forty years ago, school desegregation was a serious component of the state’s education policy, as a result of community pressure and legal cases.” But “[a]round the time of Reagan’s administration, the state moved away from desegregation efforts and instead focused on other practices and policies like accountability systems, school choice, and charter schools.” Today, those policies, particularly school choice, “are exacerbating racial isolation as demographics continue to change.”

The report takes an interesting new tactic on the question of high performing minority schools, the idea of which drives the charter school movement. The Civil Rights Project writes: “Can separate be equal, yes. If measured by test scores, a few resegregated schools show high performance."  This point is one that often breaks down discussions about integration, even within the minority community, because some believe that integration policy is a statement that minority schools cannot be successful.  Thus, the Civil Rights Project allows that they can (even if inconsistently) and moves on to more important points.  It writes, "even if equality can be reached between racially isolated schools, students may never achieve the skills and abilities required to navigate an increasingly diverse nation.” Moreover, 60 years of research demonstrates that integrated schools produce greater academic achievement, higher future earnings, better health outcomes for minority students, reduced racial prejudice, and greater interracial communication skills.

The report argues that school segregation is not inevitable in New York. In fact, the conditions are ripe for integration. There is “a growing diversity of student enrollment in schools and school districts across the state and main metropolitan areas, particularly in urban schools.” Education policy has simply failed to tap into it, instead allowing segregation to persist, if not increase.

March 28, 2014 in Racial Integration and Diversity, Studies and Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Utah’s Bilingual Boon: A Red State Embraces Linguistic Diversity

ONI_Utah-1

One Nation Indivisible has released its newest story, Utah's Bilingual Boon, which profiles Spanish two-way bilingual programs in which native English speaking and native Spanish speaking students share classrooms and learn together in both languages. These two way programs are part of a larger, state-supported language immersion effort. This story took One Nation Indivisible to rural, urban and suburban schools in Heber City, Park City and Kamas.  See the full story here.

March 20, 2014 in English Language Learners, Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

New Study Says School Segregation Stabilized Since 1990, But What Does That Mean?

Sean Reardon and Ann Owens have released 60 Years After Brown: Trends and Consequences of School Segregation, which is forthcoming in the Annual Review of Sociology.  The primary focus of the paper is whether segregation has increased since 1990.  Civil Rights Project reports and others have, of course, popularized the "resegregation" of public schools, finding a sharp upward trend over the last two decades.  Another smaller group of scholars (Vigdor and Glaeser) have claimed the opposite: that segregation is coming to an end.  Reardon and Owens attempt to mediate this disagreement, which they claim stems from different methodology between the two camps. Reardon and Owens  agree that minorities attend school with fewer whites today than they did 20 years ago.  In this respect, one could argue they are more segregated.  But Reardon and Owens stress that more minorities attend public school today than 20 years.  Thus, by necessity, they attend schools that are more populated by minorities than whites.  This change is not the equivalent of "resegregation."  To analyze resegregation, they say, one must factor in this growth in the percentage of minorities attending public schools.  Accounting for this growth, they find that segregation levels have remained relatively stable since the 1990s.  They point out, however, that this does not mean that schools are free of troubling trends.  For instance, there are still issues of socio-economic segregation and classroom segregation that have not been fully explored.

I would also emphasize a more important takeaway.  Our schools were never "integrated."  In the South, for instance, 4o percent of African Americans in the South attended integregated schools by the end of the 1980s, which was signficant progress, but far from full integration.  In the North, nowhere near as much progress was made.  Thus, to say they have not resegregated is not to say everything is fine or we can breath a sigh of relief.  Rather, it is to say that the work in progress from the 1980s remains unfinished.  Our only victory, if you want to call it that, is that we have not gone backward as far as we might have thought.

Reardon and Owens' abstract is as follows:

Since the Supreme Court’s 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, researchers and policymakers have paid close attention to trends in school segregation. While Brown focused on black-white segregation, here we review the evidence regarding trends and consequences of both racial and economic school segregation. In general, the evidence regarding trends in racial segregation suggests that the most significant declines in black-white school segregation occurred at the end of the 1960s and the start of the 1970s. Although there is disagreement about the direction of more recent trends in racial segregation, this disagreement is largely driven by different definitions of segregation and different ways of measuring it. We conclude that the changes in segregation in the last few decades are not large, regardless of what measure is used, though there are important differences in the trends across regions, racial groups, and institutional levels. Limited evidence on school economic segregation makes documenting trends difficult, but in general, students are more segregated by income across schools and districts today than in 1990. We also discuss the role of desegregation litigation, demographic changes, and residential segregation in shaping trends in both racial and economic segregation.

One of the reasons that scholars, policymakers, and citizens are concerned with school segregation is that segregation is hypothesized to exacerbate racial or socioeconomic disparities in educational success. The mechanisms that would link segregation to disparate outcomes have not often been spelled out clearly or tested explicitly. We develop a general conceptual model of how and why school segregation might affect students and review the relatively thin body of empirical evidence that explicitly assesses the consequences of school segregation. This literature suggests that racial desegregation in the 1960s and 1970s was beneficial to blacks; evidence of the effects of segregation in more recent decades, however, is mixed or inconclusive. We conclude with discussion of aspects of school segregation on which further research is needed.

 

March 18, 2014 in Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 17, 2014

Opt-Out Education: School Choice as Racial Subordination

Osamudia R. James' new article, Opt-Out Education: School Choice as Racial Subordination, is now available on westlaw at 99 Iowa L. Rev. 1083 (2014).  Her abstract summarizes the article as follows:

Despite failure to improve academic outcomes or close the achievement gap, school-choice policies, advanced by education legislation and doctrine, have come to dominate public discourse on public education reform in the United States, with students of color disproportionately enrolling in voucher programs and charter schools. This Article moves past the typical market-based critiques of school choice to analyze the particularly racialized constraints on choice for marginalized students and their families in the public school system. The Article unpacks the blame-placing that occurs when the individualism and independence that school choice and choice rhetoric promote fail to improve academic outcomes, and the ways in which choice merely masks racial subordination and the abdication of democratic values in the school system. Students of color and their families may be opting out, but their decisions to do so neither improve public education nor reflect genuine choice. This Article ultimately argues that the values underlining school choice and choice rhetoric?like privacy, competition, independence, and liberty?are inherently incompatible with the public school system. The Article concludes by suggesting an alternate legal and rhetorical framework acknowledging the vulnerability of minority students, as well as the interdependence between white students and non-white students in the system, and it advances strict limitations on school choice, even, if necessary, in the form of compulsory universal public school education.

March 17, 2014 in Charters and Vouchers, Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Obama's 2015 Equity Initiative: Quality Teachers, Funding Fairness, School Climate, and Concentrated Poverty

Notwithstanding all the claims that the President's budget is dead on arrival, his new budget is important in the policies and values it is putting forward, particularly since this President has shown his ability to push his policies administratively, even when Congress does not act. The 2015 budget includes "a new initiative called Race to the Top-Equity and Opportunity (RTT-Opportunity), which would create incentives for states and school districts to drive comprehensive change in how states and districts identify and close opportunity and achievement gaps."  The initiative focuses on the equitable distribution of school funding, hiring quality teachers, and improving school climate.  Tagged on at the end is a new message from the President:  "identify and carry out strategies that help break up and mitigate the effects of concentrated poverty."  It is unclear whether the President intends to promote integration strategies, try to make separate equal, or both.  The President's own description of his plan states:

 Grantees would enhance their data systems to place a sharp focus on the districts, schools, and student groups with the greatest disparities in opportunity and performance, while also being able to identify the most effective interventions. They would develop thoughtful, comprehensive strategies for addressing these gaps, and use the data to continuously evaluate progress. Grantees would invest in strong teaching and school leadership, using funds to develop, attract, and retain more effective teachers and leaders in high-need schools, through strategies such as individualized professional learning and career ladder opportunities.

States would collect data on school-level expenditures, make that data transparent and easily accessible, and use it to improve the effectiveness of resources and support continuous program improvement. Participating districts would be required to ensure that their state and local funds are distributed fairly by implementing a more meaningful comparability standard based on this school-level expenditure data.

RTT-Opportunity funds also would be used, for example, to provide rigorous coursework; improve school climate and safety; strengthen students’ non-cognitive skills; develop and implement fair and appropriate school discipline policies; expand learning time, provide mental, physical, and social emotional supports; expand college and career counseling; and identify and carry out strategies that help break up and mitigate the effects of concentrated poverty.

March 5, 2014 in Equity in education, Federal policy, Racial Integration and Diversity, School Funding | Permalink | Comments (0)

School Districts Secede, Increasing Finance Inequality and Segregation

The resegregation of public schools over the past two and a half decades is not news to most of the readers of this blog.  Numerous reports demonstrate that our public schools are now as racially and socioeconomically segregated as they were when mandatory desegregation began in earnest in the early 1970s.  What may be news is the new trend of "school district secession."  Historically, many of the most effective school desegregation plans covered large school districts in metropolitan areas. Now that those districts have been released from court ordered desegregation, smaller wealthier neighborhoods are attempting to secede from their districts to form their own independent and isolated schools.  Businesweek reports:

In Alabama, which makes it relatively easy to create districts, two Birmingham suburbs have left the countywide system in the past two years. After the majority-black Memphis schools merged last year with the majority-white county district, Tennessee's Republican-dominated legislature lifted a decades-old ban on creating new systems, and six suburbs seceded, approving sales tax increases to pay for their schools. Parent groups in Atlanta and Dallas are considering similar proposals.

A similar move is being pushed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where a parent leader of secession comments that "We are tired of basically being a cash cow for the rest of the parish."  If secession occurs, per pupil spending in the Baton Rouge district would drop from $9,635 to $8,870.  The new affluent district would have per pupil expenditures of  $11,686.  In other words, secession would create a $2,000 per pupil gap overnight.  In an average elementary school, this would be the difference of nearly a $1,000,000 a year.

This trend raises important causal questions.  Are these secession movements the lingering effects of school systems that never became substantively unitary?  Are they the result of the "invidious value" that Kevin Brown argues segregation fostered and integration never cured?  (See Has the Supreme Court Allowed the Cure for De Jure Segregation to Replicate the Disease?, 78 Cornell L. Rev. 1 (1992)).  Or are they the result of bringing market ideas to public schools and fomenting the idea that education, rather than a public good, is consumer resource?  I would suspect the trend stems from all three.  In so far as it is connected to the third, it also demonstrates my point in Charters Schools, Voucher, and the Public Good, where I argue that charters and vouchers are not inherently good or bad.  Rather, they are the policies through which good or bad values can flow (most often bad at the moment).  But laws permitting school district secession allow these same bad values to flow through traditional public schools.

For Jan Resseger's analysis of the trend, see here.

 

March 5, 2014 in Racial Integration and Diversity, School Funding | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Court Clarifies Post-Parents Involved Framework and Moves Segregation Case Toward Trial

The district court has issued a new opinion in Lewis v. Ascension Parish Sch. Bd., 2014 WL 556677 (M.D. La. 2014), a case involving allegations that the district discriminated in the rezoning of its schools.  Like Spurlock v. Fox, 716 F.3d 383 (6th Cir.2013) and Doe v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 665 F.3d 524 (3d Cir.2011), the court in Lewis had to navigate the complex post-Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle world, in which racial intent, racial classifications, and racial considerations all of different doctrinal relevance and potentially conflicted precedents.  

The district court in Lewis had previously issued a summary decision granting the school district's motion for summary judgement, which was summarily overturned by the Fifth Circuit and remanded.  The Fifth Circuit had intimated that the Third Circuit's holding in Lower Merion--that Justice Kennedy's opinion in Parents Involved was controlling and that assignment plans are subject to rational basis so long as they do not rely on individual racial classifications--was incorrect.  The Fifth Circuit, however, indicated it need not reach those doctrinal question because certain factual issues needed to be addressed first.

In its new decision on remand, the district court offers what may be the most cogent post-Parents Involved analysis to date.  Plaintiff's basic claim is that the district's new assignment plan segregates African Americans and provides them with unequal educational opportunities.  The district court analyzes his claim based on three distinct doctrines.  First, it asks whether a racial classification was employed in the assignment plan.  If so, Parents Involved's strict scrutiny applies.  Here, the court indicates there is no evidence of a racial classification.  Awareness or consideration of race, alone, are insufficient to trigger strict scrutiny.  Thus, the rational basis approach of Lower Merion would apply.  On the one hand, this holding is another validation of districts' ability to voluntarily desegregate.  On the other hand, the plaintiffs in Lewis were alleging segregation and, thus, this court makes clear that those claims still must meet the higher burden of Village of Arlington Heights v. Metro.

Second, the court analyzes the disparate impact of the plan and the extent to which it potentially gives rise to a claim of intentional discrimination per Arlington Heights.  It finds that the assignment plan does.

Third, the court analyzes the school district's consideration of racial demographics, etc., in drawing the assignment zones.  The court finds that these considerations, along with the impacts, create a triable issue of fact as to whether intent existed.  The Court elaborated:

Here, the School Board also does not contest that the majority of the non-white students in the District are in the East Ascension High School feeder zone and that the majority of the white students in the District are in the Dutchtown High School and St. Amant High School feeder zones. With regard to the factors considered by the School Board when it adopted Option 2f, the School Board does not contest that its members considered race and socioeconomic status when they developed, evaluated, and adopted Option 2f. Unlike the students in Lower Merion, non-white and white students in the District have each been affected by Option 2f (i.e. assigned to different schools). Indeed, the School Board does not contest this fact. Further, the School Board does not contest that Option 2f assigns all students to schools based on their geographic location.

Unlike the court in Lower Merion, this Court is unable to consider all of the evidence presented until after a full trial on the merits. See Lower Merion, 665 F.3d at 542. However, given the evidence presented here, context of this matter, and factors considered by the School Board when it adopted Option 2f, the Court concludes that Varando and Child B are, in fact, similarly situated to white students in the Dutchtown High School and St. Amant High School feeder zones. Accordingly, the School Board's request that the Court dismiss Lewis' remaining Equal Protection claim on this basis is DENIED.

In short, the district court agreed with Lower Merion (and rejected plaintiffs argument for applying strict scrutiny), but found there are sufficient facts on which discriminatory purpose could be inferred (which would trigger strict scrutiny) and set the case for trial.

February 26, 2014 in Discrimination, Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)