The repeated practice of racially segregating schools in the U.S. has increased in recent years. And a new report concluded that segregating schools has negative effects on the education minority students receive. Overall, students who attend racially segregated schools are considerably less likely to be put on track to excel in college and, eventually, their careers.
The study came out around the same time a judge ordered a Cleveland, Mississippi, school districtfinally be desegregated.
“The delay in desegregation has deprived generations of students of the constitutionally-guaranteed right of an integrated education,” U.S. District Judge Debra M. Brown wrote in her May 13 opinion. “Although no court order can right these wrongs, it is the duty of the District to ensure that not one more student suffers under this burden.”
But the schools in this district are hardly the only ones in the country that remain segregated. According to the study released by the Government Accountability Office, the percentage of high poverty K-12 schools with mostly Black and Hispanic students (H/PBH) went from 9 percent in 2000-01 to 16 percent in 2013-14. These schools all have student bodies that are 75 to 100 percent Black and Hispanic, and 75 to 100 percent of the students are eligible to receive free or discounted lunch which the report notes is frequently an indicator of poverty. And the number of K-12 students attending these schools more than doubled, going from 10 percent to 17 percent.
“This research reflects a sad reality: the color of your skin is more likely to determine whether you have access to a high-quality, well-resourced and diverse public school,” said Judith Browne Dianis, executive director of Advancement Project, in a statement.The Advancement Project is a multi-racial civil rights organization that seeks to promote racial justice using community solutions.
The study compared H/PBH schools to low poverty schools comprised of fewer Black or Hispanic students (L/PBH) and, in some instances, all other schools that do not fall into either category. The results showed that H/PBH schools have fewer resources, fewer advanced and college-prep classes and disproportionate disciplinary rates when compared to L/PBH schools.
Students attending H/PBH schools are less likely to be successful educationally than students who attend other schools, the report found: “Research shows that lower levels of income were generally associated with worse student educational outcomes. Our analysis of [Department of] Education data also showed that schools that were highly isolated by poverty and race generally had fewer resources and disproportionately more disciplinary actions than other schools.”
In addition to having access to fewer resources, H/PBH schools also offer a limited course selection compared to other schools, which can affect these students all the way at the college level. Restricted access to certain math classes in 7th and 8th grades (notably algebra and calculus) leaves students at a disadvantage when entering high school, “which is critical to preparing students for college and careers,” the study explains. H/PBH middle and high schools also offer fewer science, particularly physics, classes.
Advanced Placement (AP) classes are also offered at significantly lower rates at H/PBH schools 48 percent of which offer AP courses than L/PBH schools 72 percent of which offer them. This takes away certain opportunities for these students when it comes time for college. According to CollegeBoard, taking AP courses in high school allow students to stand out in the admissions process, get ahead by earning course credits early and build college skills ahead of their classmates.
Disciplinary action also differs greatly at H/PBH schools when compared to L/PBH schools. In 2011-12, ninth graders from L/PBH schools made up 20 percent of all ninth grade students but only represented 7 percent of the total that were left back. In contrast, H/PBH students constituted 7 percent of the total ninth-graders but 17 percent of the total ninth-graders left back.
Students at H/PBH, L/PBH and all other remaining schools received out-of-school suspensions at disproportionate rates in 2011-12. L/PBH students represented 19 percent of all students, compared to H/PBH students at just 12 percent and all remaining students at 69 percent. However, L/PBH students only accounted for 5 percent of students who received more than one out-of-school suspension, while H/PBH students made up 22 percent of this category. The remaining students accounted for 72 percent.
Such disproportionate disciplinary statistics among minority and low-income students which begin as early as preschool, the study reveals could be a cause for concern, in part because suspensions are not considered an effective form of punishment:
“According to the Department of Education, discipline policies and practices that remove students from engaging instruction such as suspensions, expulsions, and referrals to law enforcement generally fail to help students improve their behavior and fail to improve school safety. Specifically, students who receive out-of-school suspensions are excluded from school for disciplinary reasons for one school day or longer and lose important instructional time, and suspended students are less likely to graduate on time and more likely to repeat a grade, drop out of school, and become involved in the juvenile justice system.”
The report made recommendations to the Departments of Education and Justice:
“We recommend that the Secretary of Education direct Education’s Office for Civil Rights to more routinely analyze its Civil Rights Data Collection by school groupings and types of schools across key elements to further explore and understand issues and patterns of disparities. For example, Education could use this more detailed information to help identify issues and patterns among school types and groups in conjunction with its analyses of student groups.”
In response, DoEsaid, “OCR already does analyze our Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) this way, both internally and for external consumption, and, in light of your recommendation, we will consider whether additional analysis could augment OCR’s core civil rights enforcement mission.”
To the Department of Justice, the report stated:
“We recommend that the Attorney General of the United States direct the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division to systematically track key summary information across its portfolio of open desegregation cases and use this data to inform its monitoring of these cases. Such information could include, for example, dates significant actions were taken or reports received.”
Justice also said its office already practices the recommendation and questioned the report’s knowledge of the department’s procedures:
“Additionally, the report reflects a lack of understanding about the Division’s document management procedures. The Department carefully monitors each open segregation case to which the United States is a party on a case-by-case basis, recognizing that each case is unique. The Department believes its procedures for tracking case-related data is adequate. Nevertheless, consistent with GAO’s recommendation, the Division is currently developing an electronic document management system that may allow more case-related information to be stored in an electronic format.”