60 years after Brown v. Board of Education
Schools remain segregated today because neighborhoods in which they are located are segregated.
Education policy is housing policy. (Rothstein 2014)
Equality of educational opportunity was certainly an unrealized goal of many Americans since 1954 when the U. S. Supreme Court ruled the racist concept of "separate but equal" unconstitutional. But closing achievement gaps did not become an explicit policy goal of public school systems much before No Child Left Behind (2001). Granted, in Kentucky, the philosophical shift occurred a bit earlier. Driven by high-stakes testing and the public reporting of disaggregated student test score results, the Kentucky Education Reform Act made equality of educational outcomes among all subgroups of students the new policy goal in the commonwealth. It was not until 1992 or so...that it could truly be said that public school policy demanded the elimination of academic disparities between whites and students of color.
The "Great Society" programs of President Lyndon B. Johnson, during the mid 60s and 70s, were effectively dismantled by President Ronald Reagan. Achievement gaps that were closing (somewhat and slowly) began to expand once again.
As Bill Clinton had argued repeatedly in his 1992 campaign, cognitive skills were thought to be the most important determinants of personal success. But in 1994, when Charles Murray argued in The Bell Curve that cognitive inequality was largely explained by genetic inequality, a large resurgence of interest in "the cognitive hypothesis" was generated.
As Asa Hilliard observed, "Here we have the dangers of the misuse of one type of high-stakes standardized test exposed. The authors see IQ as intelligence, and they see intelligence as the causal factor for poverty and for affluence, or low- and high-class status. This means that the low class does not have the mental capacity to be improved, and therefore, charitably; they should be neglected."
In The Black-White Test Score Gap (1998) Jencks and Phillips found that "reducing the test score gap was probably both necessary and sufficient for reducing racial disparities in educational attainment and earnings.
The new philosophy of equitable outcomes became a federal goal with NCLB.
This new study is from the Economic Policy Institute:
Executive SummaryClosing achievement gaps—disparities in academic achievement between minority and white students, and between low-income and higher-income students—has long been an unrealized goal of U.S. education policy. It has now been 60 years since the Supreme Court declared “separate but equal” schools unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education. We experienced two decades of school desegregation, coupled with a “war on poverty,” that substantially narrowed race-based gaps during the 1970s and 1980s. However, subsequent shifts in policies that led to increased segregation and inequality have resulted in ballooning income-based gaps and a virtual halt to progress on closing race-based gaps.
With income inequality at record levels (Mishel et al. 2012), the interactions between poverty and race remain strong and troubling and continue to impede educational progress for many students. One result of such interactions is ongoing segregation—at both the neighborhood and school levels. Yet most education “reforms” focus on a narrow set of policy fixes that minimize the roles of poverty and of race and overlook the impact of segregation. As scholars document the connections between neighborhood- and school-level segregation, it is important that we better understand how both affect schools and students in order to more productively guide both future research and policymaking.
This paper uses data from a recent representative cohort of U.S. students entering kindergarten—the National Center for Education Statistics’ Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010-11 (ECLS-K:2011)—to begin to do that. We first describe how segregated schools are by both race and income, by comparing the racial and socioeconomic status (SES) composition of those kindergarten classes with what they would look like if they represented the characteristics of the U.S. student body overall. We then explore the differences in students’ other characteristics based on the racial makeup of their own classes. Finally, we analyze how their academic performance changes over that first year (as measured by their place on the score distribution in math, reading, and approaches to learning at entry in the fall and again in the spring) by level of segregation in the school.
The findings, though just descriptive, are often surprising and raise both serious concerns and many new questions:
- The vast majority of white students, even poor ones, are in classrooms with other students who are not poor. In contrast, most students of color, both black and Hispanic, go to school with many other students who are living in poverty.
- While the family characteristics of white children vary relatively little depending on the type of classroom they are in (unless that classroom is very heavily minority), family characteristics of black and Hispanic children vary substantially from heavily white to heavily minority schools.
- Academic performance varies greatly, depending on the school’s level of segregation across all races of students; the more heavily minority the school, the less prepared students are on average in the fall, and the smaller their relative gains by spring.
- Finally, the data appear to support more sophisticated analyses’ suggestions that income segregation underlies many apparent negative consequences of racial segregation.
Sixty years after the U.S. Supreme Court declared “separate but equal” unconstitutional in its seminal Brown vs. Board of Education decision, separate and unequal remains the reality for many black, brown, and white children in the United States. In other words, not only has Brown failed to fulfill its promise of integration, as Rothstein writes, but it was followed by decades of policy decisions at all levels of government that have solidified systems of segregation and severe inequality. These systems expand opportunity gaps between minority and white children and challenge the ideal of a socially cohesive nation...