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Schools in the Philadelphia area are some of the most segregated in the United States


Schools in the Philadelphia area are among the most segregated in the country, especially for Latin American students, the new report said.

According to an index used by the liberal think tank Century Foundation, the area, which includes Philadelphia and Delaware counties, is the most segregated in the country for Latin American students and ranks ninth for black and white segregation. As for white and non-white students in general, it ranked fourth in the severity of school segregation among the 403 metro areas surveyed.

In general, report found that school segregation is there most extreme in the northeast, and that much of this segregation is related to boundaries between districts. Statutes and attendance at private schools and intra-district models are smaller but significant factors.

In the report, segregation is measured on a scale from 0 to 1. A score of 0 means full integration, with each school reflecting the demographic composition of the study area. 1 point means complete segregation – that each racial group is completely isolated. Any score above 0.5 is considered severe segregation.

The national segregation index of whites and Latinos is 0.18. For the region’s four counties, including Philadelphia, Delaware, Bucks and Montgomery counties, it’s 0.48. For Philadelphia and Delaware counties alone it is 0.58.

The national white-black segregation index is 0.24; in the Philadelphia region it is 0.65. For Philadelphia and Delaware counties alone it is 0.64.

As in the country as a whole, much of the segregation in the area is due to the boundaries of school districts, according to the report. The city of Philadelphia is one large district, with more than 100,000 students and another 80,000 in statutes. But the surrounding counties have more than 60 small districts, most of which have several thousand students.

“Philadelphia is a symbol of many northeastern metropolitan areas in how the boundaries of school districts are incredibly segregated,” said Erica Frankenberg, a Pennsylvania professor of education and expert on desegregation.

The report was released 68 years after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Brown v. Board of Education, ruling that schools segregated by race were inherently unequal. But Brown is outlawed only de jure segregation – state laws that require segregation of schools. This did not prevent or stop the de facto segregation caused by housing patterns and other practices, such as when tracing school districts.

Although Brown’s decision is the most famous, Milliken v. Bradley’s decision, a 1974 decision involving Detroit and its suburbs, had a greater impact on what happened in the northern states. In it, the Supreme Court ruled that school districts are not required to carry out desegregation unless it is proven that the lines were drawn with racist intent.

These decisions concerned black and white segregation; since then Latinos have become the fastest growing ethnic student group in the country. Now they include 27% of students. And they remained largely separated from whites.

“This diversity does not always result in integration,” the report said. “The de facto division of students by race is still commonplace.”

Saved Stadler of the National Trust Center for Education, which studies desegregation, said Pennsylvania stands out among its many counties – 500 – and unfair funding among them because of greater dependence on property taxes to fund schools. than in most other states.

“Wealthier communities are always encouraged to keep walls around neighborhoods to keep local dollars, and there were no students with great needs,” Stadler said. “This is especially true in a state like Pennsylvania, where there is very little policy governing these local dollars.”

In Pennsylvania, she said, “school district boundaries are drawn around homogeneous communities,” which have largely grown because of a long history of racial discrimination in home ownership. There is a real racial element in the differences in wealth. ”

She noted that Philadelphia spends less per student than most surrounding neighborhoods, although her students – most colored students on low incomes – tend to have more needs.

“It’s really a coincidence of local wealth and local decisions, not so much government action to give children access to what they need, no matter where they live,” Stadler said.

That may change if the plaintiffs succeed in a case that challenges the state’s school funding system, which now arguing in the court of the Commonwealth.

“In the public debate on integration, the importance of integrated schools in better preparing students for democracy and building cohesion in increasingly diverse communities is being lost,” Frankenberg said. “Now more research is showing how important this is for psychological and sociological reasons.”

Research also shows that attending integrated schools is associated with greater opportunities for black and Hispanic students, she said.

“Civil Rights Movement Fails in Northeast”

In Philadelphia itself, the black-and-white segregation index is high at 0.579. Segregation in the district itself accounts for about a third of this figure, another 19% – between public and private schools. The division between charter schools is a bigger factor – just over 25%.

Similarly, Hispanic students are highly segregated in urban schools with an overall index of 0.53. As is the case with black students, segregation in district schools is the biggest factor.

Latin American educators in Philadelphia said the findings are not surprising.

“The segregation of Hispanics and whites in this city is the result of decades of federal, state and city politics,” said Julio Nunez, assistant principal at Sheridan Primary School. “Perhaps we fought racism on paper. We still need to solve this in our minds and hearts. ”

Nunez noted that the best schools are in areas with more expensive housing, which is often inaccessible to colored people.

“If the goal is school integration, the approach must be multilevel at all levels of government, and politicians must be prepared to make bold, destructive political decisions,” he said.

Adam Sanchez, who teaches history at Central High School, agreed.

“The growing population of Latinos in Philadelphia lives in cities and countries that have not had the freedom to confront the legacy of racist public policies and private practices that have created neighborhood and school segregation,” he said. “There is a myth that we were dealing with segregation in the 1950s and 60s – that the Civil Rights Movement managed to eliminate the last traces of racism in this country. But this is nothing but a myth. When it comes to school and domestic segregation, the civil rights movement has failed in the northeast. ”

Dale Mezzakopa is a senior writer at Chalkbeat Philadelphia, where she covers K-12 schools and preschool education in Philadelphia. Contact Dale at dmezzacappa@chalkbeat.org.

Johan Calhoun contributed to the report.

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