George Lucas Educational Foundation

Report: Public schools more segregated now than 40 years ago

Report: Public schools more segregated now than 40 years ago

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Wow...just read this and wanted to get some thoughts. Does this ruling ring true for you? Do you agree?

From the Washington Post:

"Today, African American students are more isolated than they were 40 years ago, while most education policymakers and reformers have abandoned integration as a cause. That reality is explained in a new report called “For Public Schools, Segregation Then, Segregation Since: Education and the Unfinished March” by Richard Rothstein of the nonprofit Economic Policy Institute, which looks at the reasons and the implications of continued school segregation."

Link to article: "

Link to report:

Poverty and race tend to not to get mentioned as much in conversations about education reform. Would love to hear your thoughts and experiences about this.

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Samer Rabadi's picture
Samer Rabadi
Online Community Engagement Manager

A good resource for this topic is "The Shame of the Nation."

Taken from the book:

"One of the most disheartening experiences for those who grew up in the years when Martin Luther King and Thurgood Marshall were alive is to visit public schools today that bear their names...and to find how many of these schools are bastions of contemporary segregation."
-- Jonathan Kozol

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal, Author of Facilitating Authentic Learning, Director of the Antioch Critical Skills Program; Elementary Library Media Specialist

I've always thought that if we really want to improve schools, we have to be willing to face up to the unholy trinity of poverty, racism, and early childhood education. Unfortunately, talking about race and class requires those of us in the dominant culture to name the "backpack" of privilege that Peggy McIntosh described ( and Paul Gorski has dedicated his energy to exploring and understanding alongside poverty (

As a white woman, I do my best to be an ally for my colleagues and students of color, but I would by no means attempt to speak for them on issues of race. I *would* encourage anyone who wanted to examine their own perspectives and experience to check out Paul's work and the work of the School Reform Initiative ( as they have dedicated their efforts to building communities that are "fiercely committed to to educational equity and justice."

José Vilson's picture
José Vilson
Middle school math teacher and coach

As someone who's had to talk about race in education reform more often than not, I find it scary that, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Dream Speech and the push for integration, our schools reflect the mass segregation efforts supported by redlining, property taxes, and gentrification. The added effect of charter schools has also seemed to make it OK to get the most motivated children of color into schools where almost all the students look like them. Our busing efforts have been defunded and our curriculum has been stripped of civics and cultural richness in certain respects in favor of skills and standardized test prep. Alas.

It's heady for sure. In the meantime, we need to be proactive in engaging as many voices on this issue as possible. Thanks for posting this!

TwinsMom's picture
parent of 2 high schoolers in Texas

I'm not an educator, just a mom and very involved parent [PTA, classroom volunteer, booster clubs, etc].. In my experience my kids' school is not more segregated than the one I grew up in, about 35 years ago -- my school was very white but it was the only school in the District so there was no other school to integrate with. My kids' school is much more racially diverse -- white, hispanic, African-American, and a large population of Asian students. My high school class of just under 300 had maybe 15 African Americans, one hispanic and everybody else was white. I would guess, though, that things today are much different in a more urban area [I live on the outskirts of a city of about 800,000. in a school district that covers part of my city plus a smaller city [100k] adjacent to it]. I'm sure the major urban district of my city is much more segregated.

Jill Davidson's picture
Jill Davidson
Director of Publications & Communications, ESR

I speak to this as a parent of three white children in a public school district in which they are a minority. Segregation by default is a very real thing with neighborhood schools; though my own kids' elementary and middle schools are fairly diverse, many schools in the district are not. The neighborhood assignment plan is in place due to financial constraints, and there is little or no conversation about the effects. So my kids' day to day reality very much reflect the research that schools are more segregated than previously.

Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

We live in a suburban/semi-rural community with a large hispanic population, as well as many white professional families, making it a district that can have stark racial and economic disparities. Some of the students are fully biligual and many are ESL students, but often, there are students who no longer qualify for ESL support but still are not fully fluent enough to do as well as they otherwise might if they were taught in their native language in the classroom. They are in full immersion, but may be missing a lot of what's happening, and as a result, begin to tune out of school, which is very unfair and helps perpetuate the skills gap.

One day, my son was talking to another kid, who happened to be hispanic, and one of the other hispanic kids said to him "Why are you talking to that white boy?" The prejudices and assumptions seem to flow both ways, from adults and kids, and it's only by trying to bridge those gaps kid by kid, parent by parent, that we'll get a better result.

I love the diversity in our district, but it causes tension from time to time as well, as much driven by language and economics as anything else. We made an active choice to send our kids to public school so they were more a part of the real world than in many of the local private schools that are largely like the prototypical "Country Day School" environments.
Segregation happens when people choose to live in an area, often dictated by economics and education. As long as schools serve their local communities, they will (and should) reflect their communities and values. That doesn't necessarily mean "less affluent" means "worse school"- but if we only fund schools through the local property tax base, there will continue to be have and have nots based on the "gerrymandering" of school districts, political municipalities and the like, where education funding and opportunities continue to be decided based on the general or average income of your school district residents, and not based on the need of kids in that district.
The question is, at its core, as much about school funding as segregation, isn't it?

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