Report: New York schools are most racially segregated

By Karen Matthews

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, March 26 2014 2:46 p.m. MDT

In this March 25, 2014 photo, students leave Stuyvesant High School, one of the nine specialized public high schools in New York City. New York state has the most segregated public schools in the nation, according to a report released Wednesday by the Civil Rights Project at the University of California at Los Angeles.

Bebeto Matthews, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

NEW YORK — New York state has the most segregated public schools in the nation, with many black and Latino students attending schools with virtually no white classmates, according to a report released Wednesday.

The report by the Civil Rights Project at the University of California at Los Angeles looks at enrollment trends from 1989 to 2010.

In New York City, the largest school system in the U.S. with 1.1 million pupils, the study notes that many of the charter schools created over the last dozen years are among the least diverse of all, with less than 1 percent white enrollment at 73 percent of charter schools.

"To create a whole new system that's even worse than what you've got really takes some effort," said Gary Orfield, co-director of the Civil Rights Project and an author of the report.

He and his fellow researchers say segregation has the effect of concentrating black and Latino students in schools with high ratios of poor students compared with the statewide average. Black and Latino students who attend schools that are integrated by race and income level perform significantly better than their peers in segregated schools, the authors note.

The study suggests that New York's segregation is largely due to housing patterns, because housing and school segregation are correlated, but that it could be mitigated through policies intended to promote diversity.

"In the 30 years I have been researching schools, New York state has consistently been one of the most segregated states in the nation — no Southern state comes close to New York," Orfield said.

Other states with highly segregated schools include Illinois, Michigan and California, according to the Civil Rights Project.

One way to measure segregation is the exposure of students to classmates from other racial groups. About half of New York state's public school students are white, but during the 2009-10 school year the average black student in New York went to a school where 17.7 percent of the students are white.

The corresponding number for Illinois was 18.8 percent, and for California it was 18.9 percent.

Orfield said the Civil Rights Project is preparing reports on several other states, including an in-depth look at California.

A report on nationwide trends in segregation is planned to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Brown vs. Board of Education ruling on May 17. The court ruled in that landmark case that establishing separate public schools for black and white students was unconstitutional.

The report released Wednesday noted that about half of New York state's public school students were from low-income families in 2010 but the typical black or Latino student attended a school where close to 70 percent of classmates were low-income. The typical white student went to a school where just 30 percent of classmates were low-income.

"For New York to have a favorable multiracial future both socially and economically, it is absolutely urgent that its leaders and citizens understand both the values of diversity and the harms of inequality," the study's authors say.

New York City Department of Education spokesman Devon Puglia did not address the findings of the report, but said, "We believe in diverse classrooms in which students interact and grow through personal relationships with those of different backgrounds." The district is roughly 40 percent Hispanic, 30 percent black, 15 percent white and 15 percent Asian.

State Education Commissioner John King called the findings troubling and added, "The department has supported over the years various initiatives aimed at improving school integration and school socioeconomic integration, but there's clearly a lot of work that needs to be done — not just in New York but around the country."

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