Education Opinion

We Can’t Integrate Our Way to Better School Performance

By Sara Mead — July 03, 2013 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Smart post from Matt Yglesias on school segregation and the basic math of our nation’s changing child demographics. Since the end of de jure racial segregation, analysis of progress (or, more frequently, lack thereof) in reducing de facto segregation has tended to focus on the percentage of racial and ethnic minority students attending “majority minority” schools. But as the demographic composition of our nation’s students has shifted, non-Hispanic white students make up a smaller percentage of children enrolled in our schools, and are in fact a minority of children under aged 5. This basic demographic math will lead to a situation where, as Yglesias puts it (emphasis added):

Most schools are majority-minority and the vast majority of minority kids are in majority-minority schools and there's not going to be anything you can do about it other than try to make those schools be really good schools.

In other words, if we want our growing population of Black and Hispanic youngsters to be successful in school and life, we need schools that are effective in educating a study body with a majority of Black and/or Hispanic kids. I’d add that the same calculation also applies to efforts to increase socio-economic school integration, which has superseded racial school integration as a focus of smart liberal school reformers in recent years. The problem here again is that there are a lot of low-income kids in the U.S. According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, fully 45 percent of children live in low-income families. It’s not reasonable to build school reform strategies based on dramatically increasing the percentages of low-income children attending predominantly middle class schools, because predominantly middle class schools are, themselves, a product of socio-economic segregation. If we want to improve the lives of the large percentage of our children from low-income homes, we’ve got to improve the performance of schools serving large percentages of low-income children.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that our approach to doing that shouldn’t include economic, social, and health supports beyond academic strategies. Nor does it mean that we can’t do a much better job of increasing both racial and socio-economic integration in places where a combination of housing and school assignment policies has led to school demographics that are much more polarized than those of the larger metropolitan areas and communities where they are located. But anyone working to improve education also needs to realize that our world is changing, and that a public dialogue about education that assumes predominantly white, middle-class schools and two-parent families as the norm--and predominantly low-income and minority schools as the exception to an overall acceptable pattern of school performance--is as outdated as a beta max--at likely to meet a similar fate.

The opinions expressed in Sara Mead’s Policy Notebook are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Schools Get the Brunt of Latest COVID Wave in South Carolina
In the past few weeks, South Carolina has set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations and new cases have approached peak levels of last winter.
4 min read
Two Camden Elementary School students in masks listen as South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster talks about steps the school is taking to fight COVID-19, Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, in Camden, S.C. McMaster has adamantly and repeatedly come out against requiring masks in schools even as the average number of daily COVID-19 cases in the state has risen since early June. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Collins)
Education More States Are Requiring Schools to Teach Native American History and Culture
Advocates say their efforts have gained some momentum with the nation’s reckoning over racial injustice since the killing of George Floyd.
3 min read
A dancer participates in an intertribal dance at Schemitzun on the Mashantucket Pequot Reservation in Mashantucket, Conn., Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021. Connecticut and a handful of other states have recently decided to mandate students be taught about Native American culture and history. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP