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New report says high-poverty, racially-isolated schools on the rise nationwide

SchoolsIn March, we reported on the growing racial divisions in some of North Carolina’s largest school districts. It seems the problem is not limited to North Carolina.

A new report from a federal government agency says racially-polarized, economically segregated schools are on the rise nationwide.

As Education Week reported Tuesday, the percentage of schools primarily serving minority students and economically disadvantaged students has spiked in recent years.

The report, authored by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, a Congressional investigative office, also found major differences in comparisons of disciplinary measures between low-income, minority schools and their more affluent, predominantly white peer schools.

Indeed, the latter claim is reflected in North Carolina data as well. In March, N.C. Rep. Garland Pierce, a Democrat from Scotland County who chairs the state’s Legislative Black Caucus, told Policy Watch that it’s a “state of emergency” for black students in North Carolina schools today.

Pierce’s comments came after a report from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction marked startlingly high suspension rates for the state’s black students.

From Education Week‘s story on this week’s federal report, which covers the academic years between 2000-2001 and 2013-2014:

In addition to highlighting instances where states and districts attempted to address the issue, the report also recommends that the U.S. Department of Education track civil rights data more routinely to highlight disparities between different schools. It also says the U.S. Department of Justice should track data related to open school desegregation cases.

School integration and diversity, and the lack thereof in American public education, have become a more significant part of discussions about education policy and politics recently. President Barack Obama’s administration put a priority on economic integration in various parts of its recently proposed federal budget. And Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. has said that making schools more racially diverse and socioeconomically integrated is a powerful way to improve educational outcomes, especially for disadvantaged students.

That’s not the only fascinating data from this week’s GAO report. The federal agency also pointed to increased racial disparities in the nation’s magnet and charter schools.

“An extensive body of research over the past 10 years shows a clear link between schools’ socioeconomic (or income) composition and student academic outcomes,” the GAO report said.

As Education Week notes, the federal report was timed to coincide with the 62nd anniversary of the Supreme Court’s pivotal Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954, which found state-imposed segregation in schools to be unconstitutional.

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