The Century Foundation Releases Report - Here Is What School Integration in America Looks Like Today

Thursday, December 2, 2021

The Century Foundation Releases Report - Here Is What School Integration in America Looks Like Today

As the COVID-19 pandemic rolls into its ninth month, a rising death toll and pronounced racial and socioeconomic inequities are devastating the lives of millions of Americans. Sadly, America’s children are not shielded from these ongoing dark developments. From a lack of internet access for virtual learning,1 to heightened food insecurities due to the nationwide closures of school buildings (on which many children rely for regular meals),2 to Black children disproportionately being traumatized by incidents of violence against Black people,3 our nation’s young people have faced significant hardship in recent months. The COVID-19 pandemic and racism have created a nationwide outcry on a scale that our nation hasn’t seen in decades, and exposed the deep inequities that permeate our healthcare, governmental, and educational systems.

The many crises we are now undergoing are layered atop of an existing public education landscape that was already highly unequal and segregated. Sixty-six years after Brown v. Board of Education, Black and Latinx students across the nation are still disproportionately confined to racially and economically segregated, underfunded schools.4 Nationwide, two out of five Black and Latinx students attend schools where more than 90 percent of their classmates are non-White, while one in five White students attends a school where more than 90 percent of students are also White.5

Unlike a virus, school segregation and education inequality are not products of nature: they are the result of racist school and housing policies—conscious decisions by lawmakers—combined with individual choices that families make. Through deliberate policies and practices, however, it is possible to counter these trends, and, in the process, build a better education system that gives students access to diverse learning environments, equitable resources, and school cultures that affirm their identities.

One source of hope for the nation and especially the futures of our children are the examples of school districts and charter schools that are taking active steps to integrate their schools racially and socioeconomically. To that end, The Century Foundation has compiled the most comprehensive inventory to date of school integration efforts across the country. Combining new research with federal datasets, we identify school districts and charter schools that consider racial and/or socioeconomic diversity in their student assignment or admissions policies, as well as those with legal instruments in place to address segregation (meaning that they are subject to a desegregation order or voluntary agreement with a federal or state court or agency, which may or may not have translated into changes in student assignment).

Our research identified:

  • In total, 907 school districts and charter schools or networks, including
    • 185 districts and charters that consider race and/or socioeconomic status in their student assignment or admissions policies; and
    • an additional 722 districts and charters that are subject to a legal desegregation order or voluntary agreement.

The inventory can be found below, along with an interactive map including information from all 907 districts and charter schools included. In the text that precedes it, we offer a peek into the range of integration opportunities we found from across the country, discuss the key findings from our research, and outline the most important policy implications of our findings. A full dataset with additional information is available here. Details on the methodology are available in an appendix below.

A Sample from the Inventory

With 907 charters, districts, and networks from all corners of the United States, there is a wealth of practices, policies, and approaches to consider. Below we offer a sample of the agencies and legal circumstances included in the inventory. It is worth noting that our research did not include an analysis of how integrated the districts or charter schools are, whether these policies or legal instruments are being enforced, or how effective they have been at achieving their integration goals. This list is not intended as a record of school integration success stories—although there are certainly many promising examples among them—but rather as a list of places where the work of integration has begun because some policy or legal tools are at the very least available.

Active Integration Policies

Though a minority among the 907 agencies, the 185 instances of active integration policies, codified in school districts and charter schools’ admissions procedures, deserve special mention. In these districts and charters, socioeconomic status and/or race are factored into how students are assigned to schools or chosen through an application process...

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