- Latino children in the U.S., especially those in immigrant families, are less likely than a generation ago to attend elementary schools with white peers, according to a study appearing Tuesday in Educational Researcher (ER). In 1998, K-5 Latino children attended schools in which 40% of their classmates were white. That percentage has declined nationally, falling to as low as 5% in major urban school districts — even as the overall population of Latino students in public schools has increased.
- A reverse and unexpected trend, however, has occurred among students from low-income households, regardless of their race or ethnicity. They are now more likely to enter economically integrated schools, according to the study, which looked at racial composition of the nation’s 53,000 elementary schools between 1998 and 2015. The chances a disadvantaged child would attend a school with middle-class peers increased from 40% in 1998 to 50% in 2010.
- The study authors, from the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Maryland and the University of California, Irvine, note past research points to benefits for disadvantaged students when they attend schools with more well-off classmates. They highlight efforts to create more diverse school enrollments, such as the expansion of magnet and dual-language immersion programs in Los Angeles and new policies regarding competitive-admissions high schools in New York City as “signs of progress."
The study comes as new data from the RAND Corp.’s American Educator Panels shows white principals and teachers are less likely than nonwhite educators to say their university pre-service training programs adequately prepared them to work with students of color and those from low-income families. The authors of the ER article note immigrant families often live in “traditional urban enclaves” where they seldom interact with white families, or they “move to new destinations in the Midwest or South, where school officials may be ill-prepared to welcome and serve low-income Latino families.”
RAND recommends preparation programs include a stronger focus on supporting a diverse student body and “anchor field experience in high-quality mentorship experiences.”
One effort to better support educators working in diverse schools is the Reimagining Education Summer Institute at Teachers College, Columbia University, held earlier this month. Professor Amy Stuart Wells launched the institute in 2016 as a professional development initiative focusing on racial and ethnic diversity. More than 450 participants attended this year, including educators, administrators, policymakers, school board members and parents.
In addition to white educators not always feeling prepared to work with students of color, a recent report said many books and instructional materials lack information about or feature people of color.
The findings on enrollment trends can inform national discussions about school desegregation, which has surfaced during the debates and forums featuring the Democratic presidential candidates, the authors of the ER paper say.
“It's essential that we consider hard evidence as the nation debates questions of fairness, segregation, and immigration,” Claudia Galindo, a sociologist at the University of Maryland and one of the authors of the study, said in a press release. “Our findings show increasing racial separation for Latino children, while many parts of the country are better integrating poor and middle-class youngsters, a sign that we can make progress.”
A 2016 Century Foundation report said roughly 100 school districts and charter schools are taking steps to become more socioeconomically diverse, and the number could be higher by now. A study released last week, however, showed charter schools can lead to increased racial segregation within school districts, but that there are “dramatic differences” across states.