The Integration Report, issue 8
May 8, 2008
The recent Jefferson County (Kentucky) School Board decision to discontinue the use of race in the district’s faculty hiring and transfer processes highlights one of the less frequently considered consequences of the Supreme Court’s decision in the Seattle/Louisville case. Faculty school assignment in the Jefferson County has long been guided by the Singleton Ratio, a numerical principle named for a 1960s desegregation case stating that school level faculty racial composition should closely approximate the district average.1 Since research suggests that faculty diversity – much like student body diversity – produces important benefits for school communities, it is important to understand both the background of the Jefferson County decision and its potential ramifications for other districts around the nation.
Teachers are the cornerstone of the education world. They bear the twin responsibilities of instructing their students in content matter while promoting social and emotional development in the classroom. Both the intellectual and social development of children heavily depends on a teacher’s ability to effectively communicate a broad array of information to all students. One of the leading experts in teacher education notes, “All teachers should learn how to cross cultural borders…recognize brilliance in children who differ from themselves, and build productive interpersonal and academic environments for diverse children.”2 The importance of faculty diversity is underscored by this comment, as teachers of color can help bridge cultural borders, serve as role models for minority students, and provide important exposure to other cultures for white students. Minority teachers comprise, however, only 15% of the entire teaching force. In addition to educational research suggesting that faculty composition matters a great deal to schools and students, the courts also recognized the central importance of faculty diversity during the era of desegregation, and decreeing that schools should strive to ensure that teachers were reflective of racial composition of a school districts teaching force.
Jefferson County, Kentucky, a metropolitan school district that includes the City of Louisville, has relied on the Singleton Ratio since the 1970s.3 The Ratio stems from a series of desegregation cases in the late 1960s successively outlining the specific requirements necessary for the courts to consider school districts desegregated. Beginning with Green v. New Kent County, the courts consistently recognized that the eradication of dual school systems had to occur along a number of dimensions, including the desegregation of facilities, faculty, staff, extracurricular activities and transportation.4 In a subsequent case, Singleton III, the Fifth Circuit Court ordered Jackson Municipal (Mississippi) school district to reassign faculty and staff “so that the ratio of Negro to white teachers in each school, and the ratio of other staff in each, are substantially the same as each such ratio is to the teachers and other staff, respectively, in the entire school system.”5 In other words, the circuit court required the school district to ensure that the proportion of faculty and staff of color in each school was for the most part reflective of the proportion of faculty and staff of color in the district.
The desegregation plan in Jefferson County interpreted the Singleton Goals as requiring the district’s schools to each maintain a proportion of minority faculty members between 7-22%, a range which accounts for the varying minority composition of the district teaching force at the elementary, middle and high school levels. In this fashion, the Singleton Ratio helped promote and spread faculty diversity across schools in a district where 84% of the teachers identify as white.6 In September of 2007, three months after the Seattle/Louisville decision was handed down, an African American teacher in Jefferson County filed a lawsuit claiming that the district’s denial of her request to interview with and transfer to another elementary school with a higher percentage of black faculty members amounted to a constitutional violation.7 Granting her the transfer would have violated the Singleton Ratio at the requested elementary school.
Jefferson County schools settled the matter out of court several weeks ago. Consultation with several legal experts led to a determination that the Seattle/Louisville decision would make it difficult to continue to enforce the Singleton Ratio, though the Supreme Court did not directly address the issue of faculty assignment in their recent decision about student integration.8 The most immediate resulting concern for the district is the potential for a spike in the number of transfer requests and either an increase or a decrease in the hiring of minority faculty members at various school sites. These actions could mark the beginning of a pattern of faculty resegregation in Jefferson County schools. A study from Georgia’s school systems illustrates how severe these trends can become: in schools where less than 7% of the student body identified as African American, 97% of the teaching force was white.9 Jefferson County district officials believe area principals will maintain their commitment to faculty diversity and most teachers will be content to remain at their current school, which may initially help to preserve current demographics.10 Still, teacher turnover is substantial and the long term consequences of the decision may move the county towards a more typical pattern of greater teacher segregation by race and experience.
The issue of faculty diversity extends beyond the borders of Jefferson County, Kentucky. Nationally, nearly 85% of teachers identify as white, a number that has remained consistent since the 1980s.11 Of paramount concern is the growing mismatch between student body diversity and teacher diversity, or lack thereof. Children of color make up an increasing number of the nation’s students, comprising nearly 45% of the population.12 Jefferson County has actively recruited minority teachers through targeted advertising, partnerships with local Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and by maintaining two magnet high schools with an emphasis on preparing students for future careers in teaching. The district also offers loan forgiveness programs and participates in far flung faculty recruitment fairs.13 Despite these efforts, the overall number of minority teachers in the district has remained steady at around 15%, while students of color comprise 29% of the district total.
Faculty diversity figures that are drastically disproportionate to the student population have important ramifications for the learning process of students and teachers. According to a report released by the Civil Rights Project/ Proyecto Derechos Civiles in January, white teachers have less preparation for racial diversity in the classroom and are less likely to be trained in practices that facilitate positive interracial outcomes ñ both academic and social (see the Additional Resources for School Integration section for a link to the full report).14 Additional research has shown that white teachers are more likely to unfairly discipline students of color and, in some cases, to set lower expectations for minority children.15 Importantly, while these trends suggest that integrated faculties have positive ramifications for students, racially integrated faculties also produce several benefits for teachers, including an increased willingness to seek out other faculty members for guidance and resources.16
In closing, Jefferson County school district’s recent decision to eliminate its historical reliance on the Singleton Ratio raises pressing concerns that the implications of the Seattle/Louisville case may extend beyond student assignment to potentially affect guidelines for faculty racial composition. Quoted in the March 26th edition of the Louisville Courier-Journal, the assistant general counsel for the National Education Association stated, “There are still arguments to be made that a Singleton-type plan would pass muster, but it’s whether you want to spend the time and money fighting it.”17 While faculty desegregation tends to be guided by court orders or plans, some speculate that school districts could fight the dismantling of such plans using the employment discrimination clause in Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The overlap that exists between employment laws and desegregation orders may provide some leeway for school districts interested in maintaining some form of a Singleton Ratio. For districts unwilling to legally tackle these issues, the best option may be to impress upon school principals the importance of faculty diversity, as well as increasing district-wide job incentives for minority educators and considering alternative certification programs. Yet, trends in the hiring and retention of faculty of color reach beyond the scope of a single district, and must therefore be addressed seriously at all levels of the education system.
Finally, the original theory put forth by the federal courts maintained that desegregated schools could not move towards true integration without desegregated faculties, who create role models and teach in ways that undermine the stereotypes of students. To the extent that faculty resegregation follows student resegregation, racial isolation and inequality will deepen. Thus, faculty assignment continues to be an important component of the nation’s quest for educational equity. Leaders and officials appointed by a new administration to the Department of Education, Department of Justice, and key civil rights agencies, may also play a crucial role in the not too distant future.
For next time…
A new report from Tennessee Advisory Committee to the US Commission on Civil Rights produced several newspaper articles focusing on segregation in the state. The next issue of TIR will highlight the report’s findings, in addition to providing background on an ongoing court case in Shelby County (Memphis), TN.
The Integration Report
1 Kenning, Chris (26 March 2008) Jefferson County schools drop racial ratio for teachers. Louisville Courier-Journal. Retrieved from http://www.courier-journal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080326/NEWS01/803260759/1060/NEWS0105 on April 20, 2008 and Singleton v. Jackson Municipal Separate School District, 419 F.2d 1211 (5th Cir. 1969).
2 Sleeter, Christine (2007). “Preparing Teachers for Multiracial and Historically Underserved Schools.” In Frankenberg and Orfield, eds. Lessons in Integration: Realizing the Promise of Racial Diversity in American Schools. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, p. 171.
3 Kenning, Chris (6 April 2008) Jefferson schools face new challenges in striking cultural balance. Louisville Courier-Journal. Retrieved from http://www.courier-journal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080406/NEWS01/804060509 on April 20, 2008.
4 Green v. County School Board of New Kent County, 391 U.S. 430 (1968).
5 Singleton v. Jackson Municipal Separate School District. 419F.2d 1211 (1970).
6 Ibid. These numbers closely approximate national averages.
7 Kenning, Chris (26 March 2008) Jefferson County schools drop racial ratio for teachers. Louisville Courier-Journal. Retrieved from http://www.courier-journal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080326/NEWS01/803260759/1060/NEWS0105 on April 20, 2008.
9 Figures from 2001. Freeman, Catherine, Benjamin Scafidi and David Sjoquist (2005). Racial Segregation in Georgia Public Schools, 1994-2001. In Boger and Orfield (eds). School Resegregation: Must the South Turn Back?.
10 Kenning, Chris (26 March 2008) Jefferson County schools drop racial ratio for teachers.
11 Frankenberg, Erica (2006). “The Segregation of American Teachers.” Retrieved from http://www.civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/research/deseg/segregation_american_teachers12-06.pdf on April 25, 2008.
12 Orfield, Gary and Chungmei Lee (2007). Historic Reversals Accelerating Segregation and the Need for New Integration Strategies. Retrieved from http://www.civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/research/deseg/reversals_reseg_need.pdf on April 27, 2008.
13 Kenning, Chris (26 March 2008) Jefferson County schools drop racial ratio for teachers.
14 Frankenberg, Erica with Genevieve Siegel-Hawley (2008) “Are Teachers Prepared for Racially Diverse Schools?” Retrieved from http://www.civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/research/deseg/teachersurveyreportfinal.pdf on April 25, 2008.
15 Skiba, Russell, Robert Michael, Abra Carroll Nardo and Reece Peterson (2000). “The Color of Discipline.” Retrieved from http://www.indiana.edu/~safeschl/cod.pdf on April 25, 2008. and Sleeter, Christine (2004) “How White Teachers Construct Race,” in Ladson Billings, G. and David Gilborn. The Routledge Farmer Reader in Multicultural Education. New York: Routledge.
16 Frankenberg (2008). “Are Teachers Prepared for Racially Diverse Schools?,” p. 33.
17 Kenning, Chris (26 March 2008) Jefferson County schools drop racial ratio for teachers.
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|Please send us your news
Please send reports, documents, and decisions from your community to The Integration Report, Editor Genevieve Siegel-Hawley, at email@example.com. Include web links if they are available.
This just in from “Inside Higher Ed”. . .
Sunday was the deadline for opponents of affirmative action in Missouri to submit petitions to qualify for a state referendum this fall to vote to ban affirmative action at public colleges and other state agencies — and the deadline passed without petitions being submitted. The Associated Press reported that organizers said that they had obtained the minimum number of required signatures, but that they lacked the extra signatures typically needed when many submitted signatures are found invalid. The critics of affirmative action vowed to continue their efforts in a future election, but the news was a major win for affirmative action. When proposed bans have reached ballots elsewhere, they have passed. This was to have been the year in which anti-affirmative action leaders pledged to win votes in five or six states. But Missouri is the second state — after Oklahoma — where plans to place bans on ballots have collapsed. For more information, see http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2008/05/06/affirm.
TUSD released from ’78 desegregation order
A U.S. District Court judge has released Tucson Unified School District from a decades-old desegregation order, pending acceptance by the court of a post-unitary plan.
Judge stamps school district’s rezoning plan
U.S. District Judge Sim Lake approved Galveston (Texas) public school district’s plan to redraw elementary school boundaries and urged the district to try to reach unitary status — a formal declaration of desegregation — by the end of next school year.
Benson is winner in KC school board race
The counting is done and Arthur Benson II – known for representing the plaintiff children in the federal desegregation litigation that lasted for 26 years – has won the write-in race for the final seat on the Kansas City school board.
Perspectives: The Diversity Project provides a different look at professional development
A New Jersey school district recently undertook an action research project. By the end of the project, teachers stated that they believed a humane, democratic teaching environment has a greater impact on learning than socio-economics. Moreover, each faculty member that was part of the project agreed that deliberate efforts must be taken to counter the negative effects of race and gender stereotypes.
Still a dream: Diversity an elusive goal as area schools remain largely segregated
During the 2006-07 school year, the student body at about 20 Memphis City Schools (Tennessee) was all black, as was the student body at four area private schools. There are three area private schools, but no public schools in Memphis, Shelby or DeSoto counties, that are all-white.
Racial mix differs for schools of choice
White students in Hamilton County are five times as likely as their black counterparts to attend private schools, according to a new report on Tennessee school desegregation. http://www.redorbit.com/news/education/1333628/racial_mix_differs_for_schools_of_choice/
Proposal to redraw school lines hits home
The board of the South Washington County Schools (Minnesota) this week will get its first look at the most ambitious remapping proposals in years.
Napa schools to include economic status in attendance boundaries
The Napa Valley Unified (California) school board has approved including socioeconomic status of students in studying high school attendance boundary options.
Claiborne, Louisiana’s all-black school targeted for closure – Pineview parents vow they will fight School Board’s plan
Many parents of Pineview High students believe for too long their children at the all-black school for prekindergarteners through 12th-graders have been treated like stepchildren.
The white students, and some black, who live in the attendance zone slowly have been allowed to transfer to other Claiborne public schools, helping push neighboring Summerfield School to a 70 percent white student population.
Desegregation ruling praised by Kostan, Coakley
One day after a U.S. District Court judge denied a request by attorneys to reopen a lawsuit brought by parents against the city for its voluntary school desegregation plan, Attorney General Martha Coakley and Superintendent Nicholas Kostan praised the judge’s ruling.
Effort on school ‘abysmal’ – Justice Department blasts Evangeline, LA
The Evangeline Parish School Board’s efforts to improve Ville Platte High School as part of a federal desegregation plan have been “abysmal,” Justice Department attorneys allege in court filings.
Educators call for major overhaul of California’s school finance system;
New report released by Berkeley Law’s Institute on Race, Ethnicity and Diversity
A new report calling for a major overhaul of the state’s K-12 school finance system was released today. The report, “Getting Beyond the Facts: Reforming California School Finance,” offers concrete suggestions for improving public education in California through a simplified, equitable, and transparent finance system.
Attorneys to watch decisions on hiring
Plaintiffs’ attorneys in desegregation litigation against the Tangipahoa Parish School Board will watch upcoming hiring decisions after a federal court order replaced Amite High School’s white head football coach with a passed-over black candidate for the job, one of the attorneys said.
New agreement is reached in Hartford desegregation
Schools in Hartford and 22 of its suburbs would be encouraged to open more classroom seats to children from outside their neighborhoods in order to increase racial diversity, under a tentative settlement reached Friday in a decades-old desegregation case.
Sheff plan passes legislative committee test
A key legislative committee Tuesday approved the latest plan to reduce racial isolation in Hartford schools, with some lawmakers grudgingly throwing their support behind a regional approach that could cost taxpayers more than $600 million over the next five years.
Desegregation mandates that principals swap schools
Five Principals in the Saint Landry School District (Louisiana) will be moved from majority white and black schools of their race, to schools where they are in the racial minority, as part of the ongoing desegregation case in the Parish.
Minneapolis: Is the choice worth funds?
Developed out of a 2000 lawsuit in which Minneapolis students were denied equal education, the Choice Is Yours program is being assessed to meet achievement standards.
D.M. schools allow fewer transfers
A new open enrollment policy based on family income rather than race has significantly decreased the number of Des Moines students who will be allowed to transfer out of the district, new data show.
Three decades later, busing is revered, resented and routine
The San Diego Unified District’s voluntary school integration program continues to provide southern neighborhoods and its students access to northern schools, serving nearly 7,000 students.
Inching toward desegregation
The Boulder Valley School District (Colorado) will update the school board on its efforts to destratify the district’s schools, which have become increasingly clumped into schools that serve low-income children of color — particularly Latinos — and schools that serve affluent white children.
MPS Board slashes busing
A unanimous Milwaukee School Board agreed Thursday night “to reduce massive busing” in Milwaukee Public Schools, but to soften a proposed timetable for achieving ambitious cuts.
|Please send us your news
Please send reports, documents, and decisions from your community to The Integration Report, Editor Genevieve Siegel-Hawley, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Include web links if they are available.
Additional Resources for School Integration
Sheff Web site
For more information regarding the Sheff desegregation case in Connecticut, please visit
Teacher Reports from the Civil Rights Project
To access Are Teachers Prepared for Racially Changing Schools?, a CRP/PDC research report incorporating teachers’ responses to a nationwide survey, go to http://www.civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/research/deseg/teachersurveyreportfinal.pdf.
For more information, see The Segregation of American Teachers at http://www.civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/research/deseg/segregation_american_teachers12-06.pdf.
The School Law Blog
An important discussion of news and analysis of legal developments affecting schools, educators, and parents. Mark Walsh has been covering legal issues in education for more than 15 years for Education Week. He writes about school-related cases in the U.S. Supreme Court and in lower courts.
The NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF) and the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles (CRP) have co-produced the 2nd edition of their K-12 school integration manual entitled 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 can be done to promote diversity and address the harms of racial isolation in schools.
To download the manual, visit www.civilrightsproject.ucla.edu or www.naacpldf.org.
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 email@example.com.
The Mexican American Legal Defense Fund (MALDEF) and the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles (CRP/PDC) are currently distributing their collaboratively-written manual, Preserving Integration Options for Latino Students, a guide 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 Web site at www.civilrightsproject.ucla.edu. To contact MALDEF, please visit www.maldef.org, or call 213-629-2512.
The Dropout Crisis in the Northwest: Confronting the Graduation Rate Crisis in all Communities with a Special Focus on American Indian and Alaska Native Students
University of Washington, Seattle
May 30, 2008
For more information, please visit http://www.civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/convenings/dropouts08/index.php.
The Integration Report – Staff Members
Editor – Genevieve Siegel-Hawley
Editorial Assistant – Jared Sanchez
Editorial Committee – Erica Frankenberg, Gary Orfield, Laurie Russman
Webmaster – John Khuu
|Seattle/Louisville decisions – decided by the Supreme Court in June 2007, the Seattle/Louisville decision limited the use of race in student assignment plans.|
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.