Report Finds MA Schools “Regressing” on Diversity in Schools

A report by the UCLA Civil Rights Project finds that Massachusetts schools have regressed over the last two decades from leading the nation in integration to being some of the most highly segregated schools in terms of race, ethnicity and economics.

The time has come for Massachusetts to get serious about dealing more effectively with its diversity. Because the nonwhite populations have historically been small and there is a general white attitude that the state is progressive and has done enough, the issues are often ignored.

Losing Ground: School Segregation in Massachusetts

Report by: Jennifer B. Ayscue, Alyssa Greenberg, John Kucsera (Contributor), Genevieve Siegel-Hawley (Contributor), Gary Orfield

Executive Summary

Though once a leader in school integration, Massachusetts has regressed over the last two decades as its students of color have experienced intensifying school segregation. In 1965 Massachusetts passed the Racial Imbalance Act, becoming an emerging leader in school integration. In 1966, the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity (METCO) was established in Boston and Springfield to provide for inter-district transfers between city and suburban schools. In 1974, an amendment was signed into law that prohibited the state from enacting mandatory assignment for desegregation but that provided valuable incentives for local school districts to create voluntary school desegregation plans. In the 1980s and 1990s, 22 school districts adopted such plans. Meanwhile, choice options, such as magnet schools throughout the state, charter and pilot schools in Boston, and controlled choice in Cambridge, have had both positive and negative effects on achieving diverse schools in the state. Alongside multiple court decisions restricting the use of race in student assignment plans, districts in Massachusetts, including Boston and Cambridge, began to use other approaches, to achieve diversity in their schools during the late 1990s and early 2000s, such as socioeconomic status with a race-conscious backup factor in instances in which socioeconomic status resulted in segregation. In the late 1990s, the state’s Department of Education eliminated the Bureau of Equal Educational Opportunity, which had overseen desegregation efforts. In 2001, the state eliminated the incentives that had been previously provided to school districts that chose to adopt desegregation plans. The interdistrict transfer program METCO continues to operate in 2013, though funding is historically unstable and insufficient to meet demand for the program.

This report investigates trends in school segregation in Massachusetts over the last two decades by examining concentration, exposure, and evenness measures by both race and class. After exploring the overall enrollment patterns and segregation trends at the state level, this report turns to two main metropolitan areas within the state—Boston and Springfield—to analyze similar measures of segregation for each metropolitan area.

Major findings in the report include:

Massachusetts

  • The white share of Massachusetts’s public school enrollment decreased from 81.6% in 1989-1990 to 68.5% in 2010-2011, and during the same time period the Latino share of enrollment increased by 102.7%, a substantial increase from 7.4% to 15%.
  • The typical black student attends a school with 59.4% low-income students and the typical Latino student attends a school with 65.0% low-income students as compared to the typical white student who attends a school that is 23.3% low-income.
  • Relatively high and increasing percentages of low-income students are enrolled in intensely segregated schools; their share of the enrollment increased from 71.1% in 1999-2000 to 84.8% in 2010-2011.
  • Over the last two decades, the percentage of majority minority schools has more than doubled, intensely segregated schools have increased by more than seven times their original share, and in 2010-2011, a small share of apartheid schools existed that did not exist two decades earlier.
  • In 2010-2011, a large share of Massachusetts’s black students (69.4%) and Latino students (68.5%) were enrolled in majority minority schools.
  • In 2010-2011, the typical black student attended a school with 36% white students and the typical Latino attended a school with 35.6% white students despite the fact that white students made up 68.5% of the overall enrollment in the state. Conversely, the typical white student attended a school that was 80.6% white.

Metro Boston

  • The white share of Boston’s public school enrollment decreased from 81.4% in 1989- 1990 to 68.3% in 2010-2011, and the Latino share of enrollment increased by 107.3%, a notable increase from 6.9% to 14.3%.
  • The typical black student attends a school with 58.7% low-income students and the typical Latino student attends a school with 63.5% low-income students, which is two to three times the share of low-income students in schools attended by the typical white student (21.9%).
  • Very high and increasing percentages of low-income students are enrolled in majority minority schools; in 2010-2011, majority minority schools enrolled 72.3% low-income students, intensely segregated schools enrolled 83.7% low-income students, and apartheid schools enrolled 81.3% low-income students.
  • Over the last two decades, the percentage of majority minority schools has more than doubled, intensely segregated schools have more than quintupled their original share, and in 2010-2011, a small share of apartheid schools existed that did not exist two decades earlier.
  • In 2010-2011, a large share of Boston’s black students (69.9%) and Latino students (67.7%) were enrolled in majority minority schools.
  • In 2010-2011, even though the overall white student enrollment in Boston was 68.3%, the typical black student attended a school with 35.7% white students and the typical Latino attended a school with 36.4% white students while the typical white student attended a school that was 80.2% white.
  • In 2010-2011, the average school was 31% less diverse than the entire intrastate metropolitan area of Boston, and 90% of this difference in diversity between the average public school and the entire metro area was due to segregation across district boundaries rather than within districts.
  • All ten of the highest enrolling districts in the metro area that were opened in all time periods had a smaller proportion of white students enrolled in 2010-2011 than in 1989-1990, and in three of those districts the white proportion of students in 2010-2011 had dropped to half or less of what it had been two decades earlier.
  • In 1989-1990, three of the ten highest enrolling districts in the metro were predominantly white; however, by 2010-2011 all three of those districts were diverse. Of the five districts that were diverse in 1989, four of them were predominantly nonwhite in 2010-2011. The other two districts, which were predominantly nonwhite in 1989-1990, remained predominantly nonwhite in 2010-2011.

For more findings and details, read the complete report:

Losing Ground: School Segregation in Massachusetts

Metro Boston Area Findings

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