The Integration Report, issue 4

February 25, 2008

The news from Iowa over the past several weeks provides strong evidence that school districts around the country continue to grapple with the aftermath of the 2007 Seattle/Louisville decision. The State Department of Education in Iowa recently ordered five school districts – Des Moines, Davenport, Waterloo, West Liberty and Postville – to revise decades-old desegregation plans to ensure compliance with the Supreme Court’s June ruling that race cannot be the only factor considered in student assignments.1 Developments in all five of the Iowa school districts reveal a trend towards adopting new diversity plans that consider socio-economic status, academic skill levels, race and ethnicity, and language background. The alternative route for these districts would have been dismantling their desegregation plans altogether. Prior issues of The Integration Report (TIR) focused on research suggesting that a return to uncontrolled choice is strongly associated with increasing levels of racial segregation.2 Thus, the recent decisions in Iowa herald important developments in the continuation of efforts to voluntarily integrate school systems.

In addition to the five school districts in Iowa, the most recent plan emerging from Louisville, Kentucky, provides another example of how some localities have chosen to comply with the Seattle/Louisville decision. While Jefferson County, the metropolitan school district that encompasses the city of Louisville, has approved a plan assigning students to schools based on the racial and socio-economic composition of their neighborhoods (see TIR, issue 3 for further explanation), the demographic situations and political environments of the various districts in Iowa have dictated differently-designed student assignment plans. This highlights an important point for school districts interested in developing new voluntary integration plans: context matters. An in-depth analysis of the demographic patterns of the district should be conducted prior to the design and implementation of a new assignment policy.

Most of the Iowa plans combine several different diversity measures in an effort to maintain existing levels of school integration. Plans had to be submitted to the Iowa State Department of Education by March 1, 2008, but are subject to further revisions by the various school boards involved in the changes.

Highlights from the Iowa diversity plans include the following:

  • In Davenport, school officials approved a diversity plan that considers parents’ income level and students’ academic skills (i.e. standardized test scores) in the new assignment policy.3
  • The Waterloo school district has approved a similar strategy, with the significant addition of race as one of the factors considered when grouping schools into clusters based on test proficiency, socio-economic status and ethnicity. Students are allowed to transfer in and out of any school in the cluster, and they are also permitted to apply for open-enrollment in another school district. Open-enrollment transfer requests will now be granted on the basis of socio-economic status, a change from the district’s previous consideration of race.4
  • After much discussion, the Des Moines School Board voted overwhelmingly last week to approve a temporary plan that assigns students to schools based solely on their socio-economic status.5 The Board is in the process of setting up a committee to further research the issue, and may modify the plan in the future to include other diversity measures.6 According to a community survey conducted by the district, 61% of respondents thought the new plan should include race as well as socioeconomic status, compared to 11% who thought that socioeconomic status should be the only measure of diversity.7

For next time…
We have provided a brief glimpse here into the strategies that some school districts are considering as they respond to the Seattle/Louisville decision. Importantly, many of the recently approved plans from Iowa strongly emphasize the socioeconomic status of students in the assignment process. The next issue of TIR will include an analysis of the continued importance of race as one factor to consider in the struggle to maintain integrated school systems and equal educational opportunities for all public school children.

Genevieve Siegel-Hawley
The Integration Report

1 Hawkins, Megan, “D.M. schools face tough call on diversity” retrieved on February 18, 2008 at
2 Amy Stuart Wells (1991), Choice in Education: Examining the Evidence on Equity, retrieved from ; Fuller, B., R. Elmore & G. Orfield (Eds) Who chooses? Who loses? (NY, Teachers College Press).
3 “Davenport School Board: Diversity plan OK’d by single vote” retrieved on February 18, 2008 at
4 Open-Enrollment Factors Change in Iowa Schools, retrieved on February 18, 2008 at
5 Des Moines Public Schools report that 55% of their students receive free and reduced lunch and that 37% of their students identify as students of color (
6 Hopkins, Megan, “D.M. Schools to Judge Diversity by Income” retrieved on February 20, 2008 at
7 Press Release, Des Moines Public Schools, retrieved on February 22, 2008 at


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News Summary

Editor’s Note: Since quite a few of the summaries this week dealt with the stories from Iowa, we are designating a stand-alone news section for those articles.

From Iowa. . .

D.M. schools to judge diversity by income
Family income, rather than race, will decide whether students may enter or leave the Des Moines school district starting next year. Details will be outlined next week.

Most on D.M. school board back diversity effort
A majority of Des Moines school board members favor creating a diversity plan that controls which students can transfer in or out of the district and assigns students within the district to schools based on factors other than race.

D.M. schools face tough call on diversity
The issue confronting Des Moines school board members is simple yet tremendously complex: Should the board assign students to schools based on their families’ income, a move that could raise the academic skills of youngsters from poor families? Or, should it scrap its diversity efforts and allow youngsters and their families to choose the schools they want attend?

D.M. desegregation forum features heated debate
The conversation became muddled and the debate got heated Monday night at the first public forum on whether to replace the Des Moines school district’s desegregation plan.

Speakers back school diversity plan
Public opinion appears to be swaying in favor of writing a diversity plan to replace Des Moines schools’ former desegregation plan.

Davenport School Board: Diversity plan OK’d by single vote
A torn school board narrowly approved a new diversity plan that will allow Davenport, Iowa children to open enroll based on how much money their family earns and their academic performance, instead of race.

Open-Enrollment Factors Change in Iowa Schools
A new diversity plan would change the rules for open enrollment in and out of the Waterloo Community Schools (Iowa). The old policy was based on race as part of the school district’s desegregation plan.

From elsewhere. . .

Schools chancellor asks judge to overturn desegregation laws
New York City’s Schools Chancellor Joel Klein wants a federal judge to overturn the city’s first federal school desegregation case. He is asking the courts to terminate the order in an attempt to make race a non-issue in admissions.

Justice Dept., GISD work on desegregation
The U.S. Department of Justice has dropped its request to depose the superintendent of the Galveston, Texas public school district and a civil rights consultant hired by the district to help it achieve a declaration of racial desegregation, known as unitary status.

Schools seek to end federal control: Desegregation rules are unveiled in Jeff
Nearly one year after the Jefferson Parish school system officially resolved to update its decades-old desegregation order, officials on Tuesday unveiled a revised version of the long-awaited document, which aims to eradicate lingering racial inequalities throughout the district over the next few years, eventually allowing it to break free from federal oversight.

Jefferson board approves desegregation plan
After an hour of deliberation, the Jefferson Parish School Board unanimously approved a controversial federal desegregation order that could move 4,000 students to new schools to rid persistent racial inequalities.

Public view sought on desegregation plan
Community-wide forums are being held to discuss Jefferson County’s revised desegregation plan before the board is scheduled to vote on a new desegregation policy May 12.

Court frees Madison County School District from order
The Madison County School District (Mississippi) is no longer under a court order to end racial segregation, but federal judges agree the schools may never be fully integrated because of culture and geography.

Unitary status vote on School Board agenda for tonight
Members of the Jackson-Madison County School Board (Tennessee) will vote on several amendments to the 2000 desegregation agreement and on whether to apply for partial unitary status during tonight’s monthly meeting.

NAACP pleads for oversight as busing for integration ends
In the aftermath of he Wichita school district ending busing for integration, the president of the Wichita NAACP told the school board that much oversight is needed to ensure equity and diversity.

Corzine hosts integration panel
In a celebration of the 60th anniversary of the desegregation of New Jersey’s schools, students from high schools around the Garden State debated issues surrounding the racial integration of its public schools.

Cary talks of school secession: Spreading dissatisfaction with Wake’s reassignment policies fans breakaway sentiments in the town
Parents frustrated about student reassignments are expected to urge the Town Council tonight to look into breaking away from the Wake County, North Carolina school system.

Advocacy Group Supports Diversity in Wake Schools
An advocacy group is supporting a Wake County Public School System policy on diversity and socio-economic balance in schools.

Evangeline Parish School board disputes desegregation report
In a recent memorandum, the Evangeline Parish School Board (Louisiana) says a federal government’s motion to intervene in its school system is misleading and inaccurate. The board’s response comes after the U.S. Department of Justice filed a motion to force the board to build a new Ville Platte High School and reassign white students.

The new racial divide in Charlotte, N.C.
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg school system was once hailed as a model of peaceful integration – a delegation of Charlotte students even went to Boston at the height of that city’s 1970s desegregation turmoil to share the story of their success. But now it’s in full-throttle reversal.

Mulling court’s schools ruling: Experts divided whether diversity steps are needed
Seven months after the U.S. Supreme Court shot down the racial tiebreaker once used to help assign students to public schools in Seattle, educators and legal experts are still divided over how to interpret the ruling, and what steps — if any — districts could take to foster diversity in schools.

Schools’ interim desegregation plan challenged
The Louisville lawyer who successfully challenged Jefferson County’s school desegregation policy is now challenging the district’s interim plan, saying it illegally uses race to assign students.

Please send us your news
Please send reports, documents, and decisions from your community to The Integration Report, Editor Genevieve Siegel-Hawley, at Include web links if they are available.

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Additional Resources for School Integration

The Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF) and the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles (CRP/PDC) announce the release of Preserving Integration Options for Latino Students, a manual for parents, advocates and educators interested in promoting diversity and addressing the harms of Latino racial isolation in their schools.
To download the manual or for additional information, please visit CRP/PDF’s website at To contact MALDEF, please visit or call 213-629-2512.

For guidance on establishing positive relationships with your local media, please visit The Opportunity Agenda’s “talking points” at

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) and the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles (CRP) announce the release of Still Looking to the Future: Voluntary K-12 School Integration; A Manual for Parents, Educators and Advocates. The Manual addresses the practical questions of what parents, advocates and educators can now do to promote diversity and address the harms of racial isolation in their schools.
To download the manual or for additional information, please visit LDF’s School Integration website at or the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles website at
To request hard copies or CDs of the manual and supplemental materials, please send an e-mail with your contact information and the number of copies requested to

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The Integration Report – Staff Members

Editor – Genevieve Siegel-Hawley
Editorial Assistant – Jared Sanchez
Editorial Committee – Erica Frankenberg, Gary Orfield, Laurie Russman
Webmaster – John Khuu

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Key Terms

Seattle/Louisville decisionParents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No.1 and Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education was decided by the Supreme Court in June, 2007. The decision limited the use of race in student assignment plans.

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The Integration Report is produced by the Initiative on School Integration at The Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles, and is supported by a grant from the Open Society Institute.

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