School Segregation Is Increasingly Socioeconomic In Nature
New research from Duke University documents a trend in North Carolina schools that is also unfolding nationwide: the increasing segregation of public school students by socioeconomic status. From the university’s website:
“According to a study conducted by the Sanford School of Public Policy, the economic imbalance in North Carolina’s schools is rising, even as racial inequity and de facto segregation have begun to level off after years of growth. Both types of disparity, however, prove detrimental to the educational experience, negatively affecting quality and creating disparate curriculums in the state. ‘The biggest concern that you have is that schools serving disadvantaged kids have difficulty recruiting and retaining great teachers,’ said study co-author Jacob Vigdor, professor of public policy and economics.
The study found that schools with high proportions of non-white or low-income students are more likely to have teachers with fewer years of experience and lower scores on teaching exams, and less likely to employ teachers who are National Board certified or graduates of competitive colleges. An additional weakness of economically and racially unequal schools stems from the social environment, said co-author Charles Clotfelter, professor of public policy.
‘Someone who is in a school that is drastically different from the norm will have an experience that is separate from that of most people their age,’ Clotfelter says. ‘They’ll be isolated from the mainstream.'”
In another news article reporting on this study, Clotfelter further elaborates on this point: “When you have schools that are very different, you have children who are getting different educational experiences,” he said. “Race is important, but economic disparities are looming to become of supreme importance.” (Read more here.)
This study reminded me of a conversation I had recently with two friends who’d gone to public schools. Although they both acknowledged that they were “tracked” into a demanding, college-preparatory curriculum that was different from what most of their classmates were studying, they felt that it was nonetheless important that their schools had racial and socioeconomic diversity, that they were all “in the same building” even if not in the same classes. Do you agree? Please share your thoughts.