Law & Courts

Income-Based Diversity Plans Highlighted

By Andrew Trotter — July 02, 2007 3 min read

Now that school districts face new restrictions on using race in assigning students to schools, can they achieve some of the benefits of demographic diversity by considering family income?

That question has been getting a fresh look this week, as policymakers and members of the news media chew on the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 28 decision striking down race-based assignment plans in the Jefferson County, Ky., and Seattle school districts.

See Also

Read the related story,

Coinciding with the court decision, a new report by the Century Foundation, a center-left think tank in Washington, surveys the use of students’ socioeconomic status in pursuit of diverse and high-achieving school populations in a dozen school districts.

The prime example cited in the report, released June 28, is North Carolina’s Wake County school district, which includes the city of Raleigh. The 128,000-student district specifies that no school may enroll more than 40 percent of its students from families with incomes low enough to qualify for the federal free or reduced-price lunch programs, explained Walter Sherlin, a former associate superintendent of the Wake County district who was a chief architect of the socioeconomic-integration plan.

Mr. Sherwin, who retired from the school district in 2003, was the guest at a July 2 telephone conference with reporters hosted by Richard D. Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation and the author of the report, “Rescuing Brown v. Board of Education: Profiles of Twelve School Districts Pursuing Socioeconomic School Integration.”

The Wake County plan, which has been in place since 2000, also specifies that no school should have more than 20 percent of its students who perform below grade level. But that has not been an issue in the district, Mr. Sherlin said, because 75 percent or more of the students at each school perform at or better than grade level.

Choice a Factor

To help achieve student economic diversity, which in Wake County results in greater racial diversity, all of the schools in Raleigh, the district’s urban core, are magnet schools. The magnet schools offer special programs that aim to attract students from outer, wealthier areas, which have a greater proportion of white students.

Students are not identified and judged as eligible or ineligible for transfers individually, Mr. Sherlin said. Rather, the school district, which is growing rapidly, is subdivided into units that are analyzed as to their level of poverty using the school lunch data. Decisions on school boundaries and the siting of new schools are made that information in mind, he said.

The student population in Wake County is expanding by roughly 8,000 students annually, growth that requires continual redrawing of school boundary lines. Enrollment is expected to total 136,000 students in the 2007-08 school year.

The report notes that the ceiling of 40 percent of low-income enrollment at each school has not always been maintained, and that the Wake County school board has sometimes bowed to parents’ demands and drawn school boundaries in ways that result in the cap being exceeded.

Nonetheless, according to the report, low-income and minority students in Wake County have achieved better academic results than those in North Carolina districts that have failed to break up concentrations of poverty.

Mr. Kahlenberg, a proponent of mixing low-income students with those from the middle class to improve overall student achievement, said that not all socioeconomic assignment plans are successful, notably if they do not include student choice.

He cited the example of a Florida district that reassigned students from schools in affluent communities that got A’s under the state’s school accountability system to F schools in less-well-off areas. The result was a “big political backlash,” he said.

Mr. Kahlenberg said that he has identified a total of about 40 school districts with socioeconomic-integration plans. Based on the case studies discussed in the report, he said, school districts are better off having a systemwide goal for economic integration rather than a plan that works piecemeal.

Events

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.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
How Principals Can Support Student Well-Being During COVID
Join this webinar for tips on how to support and prioritize student health and wellbeing during COVID.
Content provided by Unruly Studios
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.
Sponsor
Professional Development Webinar
Building Leadership Excellence Through Instructional Coaching
Join this webinar for a discussion on instructional coaching and ways you can link your implement or build on your program.
Content provided by Whetstone Education/SchoolMint
Teaching Webinar Tips for Better Hybrid Learning: Ask the Experts What Works
Register and ask your questions about hybrid learning to our expert panel.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

CCLC Program Site Director
Thornton, CO, US
Adams 12 Five Star Schools
CCLC Program Site Director
Thornton, CO, US
Adams 12 Five Star Schools
Marketing Coordinator
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association
Sr Project Manager, Marketing (Temporary)
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association

Read Next

Law & Courts U.S. Supreme Court Is Asked to Take Up Harvard's Consideration of Race in Admissions
Lower courts rejected claims by Students for Fair Admissions that the Harvard policies discriminate against Asian-American applicants.
3 min read
Rowers paddle along the Charles River past the Harvard University campus in Cambridge, Mass. on March 7, 2017.
Rowers paddle along the Charles River past the Harvard University campus in Cambridge, Mass.
Charles Krupa/AP
Law & Courts Accused Texas School Shooter to Remain at State Hospital
Doctors say the student accused of fatally shooting 10 people at a Texas high school in 2018 remains incompetent to stand trial.
1 min read
Santa Fe High School freshman, Jai Gillard writes messages on each of the 10 crosses representing victims in front the school in Santa Fe, Texas on May 21, 2018.
Santa Fe High School freshman, Jai Gillard writes messages on each of the 10 crosses representing victims in front the school in Santa Fe, Texas on May 21, 2018.
Steve Gonzales/Houston Chronicle via AP
Law & Courts School District Asks U.S. Supreme Court to Decide Scope of Transgender Student Rights
A Virginia district appeals a ruling in the case involving Gavin Grimm's effort to use a restroom consistent with his gender identity.
3 min read
Transgender student Gavin Grimm challenged a policy of the Gloucester County, Va., school board that barred him from using the men's restroom. The school board has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case.
Transgender student Gavin Grimm challenged a policy of the Gloucester County, Va., school board that barred him from using the men's restroom. The school board has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case.
Kristen Zeis/The Daily Press via AP
Law & Courts 3 Years Later, Parkland School Shooting Trial Still in Limbo
It's been more than 1,000 days since a gunman with an AR-15 rifle burst into a Florida high school, killed 17 people, and wounded 17 others.
4 min read
Magaly Newcomb, right, comforts her daughter Haley Newcomb, 14, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, at a memorial outside the school in Parkland, Fla on Feb. 18, 2018. It’s been more than 1,000 days since a gunman with an AR-15 rifle burst into the school, killing 17 people and wounding 17 others.
Magaly Newcomb, right, comforts her daughter Haley Newcomb, 14, a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, at a memorial outside the school in Parkland, Fla on Feb. 18, 2018. It’s been more than 1,000 days since a gunman with an AR-15 rifle burst into the school, killing 17 people and wounding 17 others.
Gerald Herbert/AP