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Economic Segregation: Challenging Ohio’s Public Schools

Economic Segregation: Challenging Ohio’s Public Schools
2005Education

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Economic and racial segregation in Ohio’s schools threaten the educational outcomes for many of Ohio’s students. In the state’s six major urban counties, 40% of students attend high poverty schools. This report provides an overview of the racial and economic segregation in the six largest metropolitan areas of Ohio and the causes and consequences of this segregation. We look at those districts which are labeled high and extreme high poverty, and their school designation as determined by No Child Left Behind. The relationship between economic and racial segregation is discussed, using maps to illuminate the location of these schools. Most are located in inner-cities and communities of color. We also discuss factors in these impoverished schools which have proven to be detrimental to student achievement, including historical and present day factors which continue to perpetuate educational inequities, and we examine a remedy being increasingly implemented in districts such as Wake County, NC – socioeconomic desegregation. Finally, we offer a short set of broad-based recommendations that have the potential to redress the fundamental problems of economic segregation and stimulate meaningful dialogue on these issues. We feel that it is crucial to continue with efforts to racially integrate our schools, but as nationwide attempts at this have stalled, we also feel it is important to examine other areas that are showing promise in lifting up not only poor students and students of color, but all students, and consequently all Americas.

More than fifty years of research has documented the negative effects of racial segregation. More recently, it has become clear that economic segregation may be even more harmful than racial segregation. In urban America, they often go hand in hand. As racial desegregation plans have stalled and in some cases have even been reversed, a number of school districts are looking for an alternative to offset some of the injuries associated with racial segregation. One of the most promising is attacking economic segregation. Research shows that educational opportunity is depressed for students attending extremely high poverty schools (60% or more of the students eligible for free or reduced lunch). This is true for middle class students as well as low income students. A middle class student attending a high poverty school will, on average, fare less well than a low income student attending a low poverty school. This report suggests that Ohio should adopt policies that promote the elimination of segregated, high poverty schools throughout the state. Current policies have allowed and even contributed to the presence of high poverty schools in virtually all of Ohio’s major urban areas. With the gap between high performing schools and low performing schools widening, and the increasing pressures and threats from NCLB, school officials are seeking new ways to improve student performance and remedy their increasingly ailing schools. These challenges and opportunities have a led some school districts across the country to use income as a proxy to sort students through economic integration plans. While racial integration should continue to be pursued, socioeconomic integration has shown some promise as an additional way to remedy our flawed and failing public school system for all students.