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ASU research finds segregation in Arizona schools is on the rise

September 18, 2014

New research being conducted at Arizona State University is finding an increase in segregation of Arizona’s schools. Jeanne Powers, associate professor in Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, described her preliminary findings at the Arizona School Boards Association conference on Sept. 5. The panel on school segregation was highlighted in a Sept. 15 article by Lisa Irish of the Arizona Education News Service.

According to the news piece, the majority of students in Arizona’s public and charter schools attend school with peers of their same racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds – despite changing demographics of Arizona’s student population over the last 25 years.

In 1990, a majority of students in Arizona’s public schools were white, and by 2012 the majority was Latino. However, racial and ethnic diversity within Arizona’s public schools is not reflective of that student population.

“While the percentage of white students in Arizona has decreased since 1990, white students remain racially isolated so that in 2012, the typical white student attended a school that was 61 percent white, even though they comprised only 42 percent of the state’s public school students,” Powers said.

Powers noted the many ways researchers have documented the benefits of integrated schools. These include increasing students’ communication and social relationships across racial lines, and instilling in them a greater value for diversity in work and life.

“Attending desegregated schools often facilitates minority students’ access to social networks that provide information and opportunities that help them navigate the educational system,” she said.

The article also explores the relationship between increased segregation and poverty. Powers used the example of metropolitan Phoenix to highlight the association between school segregation and housing segregation.

“In the absence of public policies that address desegregation, the patterns will likely intensify,” said Powers.

“The 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. the Board of Education presents an opportunity to reflect on the ways that our schools still remain separate and unequal. These milestone anniversaries also challenge us to think creatively about how desegregation policies can work with other policies to improve minority students’ access to educational resources and opportunities.”

Article source: Arizona Education News Service

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