Education

The nation’s public schools remain segregated more than 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education

It’s been more than six decades since the Supreme Court declared “separate but unequal” schools unconstitutional.

But despite the 1954 landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, the nation’s schools remain heavily segregated by race and ethnicity, according to an instructive brief published by Economic Policy Institute (EPI) to highlight education issues for Blach History Month.

Read EPI’s brief here.

EPI used data from the National Center for Education Statistics’ National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) to inform its research on school segregation and student performance.

The data showed that only one in eight white students, about 12.9 percent, attend a school where Black, Hispanic, Asian or American Indians students are the majority. Meanwhile, nearly seven in 10 black children, 69.2 percent, attend schools where children of color are the majority.

EPI concluded that segregated schools can have profound, negative consequences for black children.

  • It depresses education outcomes for black students; as shown in this report, it lowers their standardized test scores.
  • It widens performance gaps between white and black students.
  • It reflects and bolsters segregation by economic status, with black students being more likely than white students to attend high-poverty schools.
  • It means that the promise of integration and equal opportunities for all black students remains an ideal rather than a reality.

Educational outcomes for black children improve when they attend racially and economically diverse schools, EPI said.

“When black students have the opportunity to attend schools with lower concentrations of poverty and larger shares of white students they perform better, on average, on standardized tests,” EPI concluded.

In North Carolina, several reports in recent years have shown that the state’s schools are becoming more racially and economically isolated. That’s due, in part, to the growth of charter schools but also because of school assignments plans, district borders, parental choice and demographic shifts, as noted by Public School First NC.

Read Public Schools First NC’s comprehensive report on school segregation here.

Also, read the seminal report on school segregration in North Carolina by Kris Nordstrom, a policy analyst with the N.C. Justice Center. Policy Watch is a project of the N.C. Justice Center.

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