By most analyses, schools across the country are as segregated today as they were during the Civil Rights era. Both racial and economic segregation are growing. And for many young people of color, when the two come together, it usually means less access to great teachers and challenging classes, and a greater likelihood of being held back or suspended. The percentage of public schools where between 75 to 100 percent of students are both poor and Black or Latino has nearly doubled since 2000, according to a 2016 report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
For district and school leaders, taking on segregation might seem like a daunting, if not impossible, task. After all, school integration efforts in the United States have had a winding and tortuous history. Policies have been tried and failed or abandoned; court mandates have been issued, and undone.
However, integration must be part of a leader’s plan to address inequities in her schools. Students who attend majority high-poverty schools are less likely to go to college and more likely to drop out of high school. I’m living proof of this. Growing up, I went to schools where almost all my classmates were children of color like me. I dropped out of college, completely unprepared for the academic rigor, and took years to muster the courage to make my way back to the university.
Contrast that with racially and socioeconomically integrated schools, where research has found smaller achievement gaps between students of color and their white classmates compared to similar more segregated schools.
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