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Upstate schools showing high levels of segregation along race, class lines finds UCLA report

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New York’s school system is the most segregated in the nation and upstate metropolitan areas show Black and Latino students have been concentrated in increasingly segregated schools since 1989.

That's the outcome of a new report from UCLA's Civil rights Project, "New York state's Extreme School Segregation: Inequality, Inaction and a Damaged Future."

The report, which interpreted enrollment data a 20-year period leading up to 2010, also says there is a link between a lack of diversity in schools and the benefits to students.

This is despite the demographic changes bringing more Asian and Latino students into metropolitan areas.

The issue matters, the authors argue, because of evidence that more diverse schools also help address issues like racism and encourage higher levels of communication in the students.

Lead author of the report John Kuscera spoke with Innovation Trail on Wednesday and outlined the findings.

“Basically we saw persistent segregation, and in some areas we saw it increase. In terms of demographics obviously Latino and Asian proportions are increasing dramatically which is kind of lowering the whites and blacks. In terms of concentration that’s….also increasing, and exposure to Latinos and Asians is increasing especially for black students, and there’s a decrease in white students exposure to white students.”

The report found that while the majority of school districts were made of white students, around 25% of school district in the city of Rochester are in the process of integrating non-white students.

However, upstate metro communities are characterized by dramatic contrasts, often in adjoining school districts in the same city.

“We see in the upstate metros (which is obviously radically different to the downstate area), you have that urban/suburban divide and you also have it within and between districts, so for example we found the close to 90% or above of the segregation is occurring along, rather than within districts. So meaning that a district like Buffalo City, compared to some suburban district, that’s where you really see the segregation rather than just within Buffalo.”

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Buffalo-Niagara Falls enrollment trends

“Just to give you another example in Albany, 59 out of the 65 (school districts) in 2010 were either predominantly white, or predominantly not-white. There was hardly any in the middle.”

Kuscera says centralized planning is the primary reason for the results in the report.

“Mostly it comes down to policy in terms of what districts can and cannot do, you know in terms of legal ways. We also looked at class which a lot of people find interesting just because of the social science research in the pure sense, in terms of the lower the socio-economic status generally, reflects the achievement, the outcome, the opportunities of the next school. In Buffalo what was interesting was that the typical white student in 2010 attended school with only about a third of poor students, if you compare that to the typical black student who attends with about three-fourths (3/4) poor students. So you can see what we call this double segregation between race and class.”

“Right now we’re on the outcomes and achievement, but if we’re not focused on this it’s just going to slowly get into the suburbs and grow, especially as diversity in the community becoming more multi-racial so we just need a focus on diversity and pay attention to this.…we talk about it in the report, in terms of social science benefit; decrease in prejudice and improvement in communication for all students, and there are solutions.”

Kuscera says so-called 'magnets', hub schools which are able to draw on various communities for its student body have produced good results elsewhere.

“Not far away in the state of Connecticut which is known for its regional magnets, where you can go from whatever district you are to these schools, and they’re strategic in where they place the location (of the schools) in terms of neighborhood.”

Despite a lot of rhetoric about the value of diversity, Kuscera says there’s a substantial gap between the talk and the reality.

“There are some surveys that show that people want to get diversity into their school, and then when you get down to what do they actually do, so as humans there are things that we can say and there are things that we can do. I think it just needs to be part of that equation of ‘where you do want your kid to grow up?’ and it needs to be of those indicators so right next to the indicators like the API score or whatever it may be for that school in terms of class or by race just to give a sense of whether it’s going have diversity and that’s something that, as a parent, I would look for.”

The report is the fifth iteration of a study of school segregation in eastern states of the USA.

Executive Summary: New York state's Extreme School Segregation: Inequlaity, Inaction and a Damaged Fut...