Educators soon may pay extra attention to income levels, home addresses and test scores when they decide which school a student should attend.
Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling rejecting integration programs that rely on race when placing students has left educators thinking about how to come up with new ways to achieve racial diversity.
Because neighborhoods often are segregated by race, and blacks and Hispanics are more likely to be poor than whites, school officials can use geography, income and othMacro running …..er criteria in making assignments and still achieve racial balance, said Gary Orfield, co-director of the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles.
“Race is the one thing that is subject to strict scrutiny,” he said. “They can look at other factors such as whether a person is a tuba player or is going to be in a gifted program or any number of other things.”
About 40 school districts use income levels to make school assignments and that number is expected to rise following the court’s ruling, said Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a liberal-leaning think tank in Washington.
He said using income levels to racially integrate schools works sometimes.
“By definition the best way to integrate by race is to use race, but now that that option is less available … socio-economic integration becomes a very good way of preserving racial diversity,’ Kahlenberg said.
In all, there are an estimated 1,000 school districts or one in 15 nationwide that have racial integration programs that are comprehensive and use race to make assignments like the ones ruled unconstitutional Thursday, said Amy Stuart Wells, a professor of sociology and education at Columbia University.
The court ruling appears to allow schools to try to bring about racial diversity by building new schools in racially and ethnically mixed neighborhoods or in areas that border several neighborhoods.
But Wells said neighborhoods change over time and white families tend to leave schools when they become the minority group. “The minute the white parents perceive a school is ‘too black,’ they move or they put their kids in private schools,” she said.
Legal experts say the ruling also allows school officials to try to recruit students from various neighborhoods for certain schools as a way to balance race. Wells said she did not think such efforts would lead to an integrated school system.
She said integration led to higher test scores for black students in the 1970s and into the 1980s, narrowing the achievement gap between black and white students. She said that gap then widened when integration efforts slowed.
Proponents of racially integrated schools say they are motivated for reasons beyond academics.
“We know that there are benefits of diversity. Those benefits are social and academic,” said Vanderbilt University education researcher Claire Smrekar. “We know kids who attend racially integrated schools are far more likely to live in integrated neighborhoods and be employed in integrated workplaces.”
BYLINE: By NANCY ZUCKERBROD, AP Education Writer
SECTION: WASHINGTON DATELINE
LENGTH: 509 words
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