The Integration Report, issue 11
June 26, 2008
Several issues of TIR have focused on Jefferson County/Louisville, Kentucky’s response to the June 2007 Seattle/Louisville Supreme Court decision limiting the use of race in student assignment plans. Though two school districts were involved in that case, TIR has not yet covered developments in Seattle Public Schools. This is in large part due to the very different approaches that Seattle and Jefferson County have taken in response to the Supreme Court decision. Jefferson County is actively pursuing voluntary integration measures, while Seattle school officials are willingly returning to neighborhood school assignment policies that tend to reinforce segregated housing patterns. Prior to the Supreme Court ruling, Seattle schools were operating under a very modest choice plan, a small effort to integrate some high schools in the system. The Seattle school district also suspended their desegregation plan in 2001-02 due to legal proceedings, setting up a very different political climate – compared to Jefferson County – in the aftermath of the decision. This edition of TIR will take a closer look at the history of desegregation in Seattle Public Schools, along with student enrollment trends and reactions in the community nearly one year after the Supreme Court ruling.
Brief History of Desegregation in Seattle Public Schools
In 1977, Seattle became the first school district in the nation to adopt a voluntary desegregation plan without prodding from a court order.1 After years of tinkering with token plans that did little to integrate students in the system, the voluntary plan mandating busing resulted in an almost completely desegregated school district in just over three years.2 Despite rapid progress, after a decade of busing marked by some complaints that students of color were being moved around disproportionately and that white flight was increasing, the school system backed away from the ’77 plan and moved to a system of managed choice in 1988.3
The choice plan grouped schools into clusters and allowed parents to rank choices within a given cluster, offering more predictability in student assignment. Yet under the direction of new Superintendent John Stanford, a divided School Board voted to end mandatory busing entirely in 1998-99, heralding a return to the small-scale desegregation efforts of the 60s and early 70s.4 A later version of this plan would become the subject of a lawsuit brought by a community group known as Parents Involved in Community Schools (PICS), which eventually made its way to the Supreme Court as one half of the Seattle/Louisville case. The plan called for open choice for ninth grade students, giving them the option of selecting one of ten area high schools. The district then employed a series of four “tiebreakers” to help ensure racial diversity at oversubscribed schools.5 The tiebreakers began with consideration of whether a sibling attended the given high school, followed by an analysis of whether the choice would facilitate racial imbalance measured by a plus or minus 15% range around the district’s racial composition. The final two tiebreakers, which were rarely used once sibling preference and race were accounted for, included a distance-from-school provision and a lottery system.6 This version of the choice plan resulted in a partially desegregated school system, as it was much less comprehensive than the earlier busing remedy and focused solely on diversity goals at the secondary level.7
Last June, the Supreme Court reversed two lower court decisions in favor of the school district and ruled that the Seattle plan was unconstitutional. Though the lower courts had found evidence that racial diversity provided important educational and social benefits for students, a majority of the Supreme Court justices reasoned that Seattle’s plan was inappropriately tied to the racial demographics of the district rather than to the diversity level at which educational and socialization benefits could be achieved.8 The majority also criticized the “binary” (i.e. white/nonwhite racial categories) nature of the Seattle plan and suggested that any argument for the necessity of racial classifications was undermined by the minimal impact of the Seattle plan on school demographics.9 The district chose to temporarily abandon its desegregation efforts in 2001 as it awaited the Supreme Court ruling and serious resegregation – underway since the implementation of controlled choice and further unraveled by the 1998 plan – has been the result.10
Resegregation in Seattle Schools
In 1977, the high point of desegregation in Seattle, only one school was out of racial balance. Ten years later, at the outset of the ’98 high school choice plan, 44% of the schools were not in compliance with the plus or minus 15% range around the district’s racial makeup.11
Today Seattle schools boast a diverse and multiracial student population. Black and Asian American students make up 22% of public school enrollment. The fastest growing group – Latino students – comprises 12% of the student population.12 However, nearly one-third of Seattle’s schools are considered racially imbalanced, with student populations that disproportionately reflect the district-wide racial/ethnic enrollment.13 Twenty schools are comprised of student populations that are over 90% nonwhite.14
These patterns reflect housing segregation fostered by restrictive covenants and discriminatory lending practices.15 The boundary lines of the Seattle school district yield a long, narrow geographic space dotted by several lakes and bordering a bay on the western side. Many of the predominately white schools are located in the northern and western portions of the district, while schools with majority nonwhite populations are clustered in eastern and downtown areas (for a graphical representation of resegregation in Seattle’s schools, please visit http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/flatpages/local/schoolresegregationmap.html).
The growing number of segregated schools has not gone unnoticed by school officials. Last summer, the School Board voted to pursue a neighborhood schools policy, though some members of the Board now favor a new assignment plan that would set aside a certain number of seats at district high schools for students from outside the neighborhood.16 The percentage of proposed set aside seats ranges from 5-15% depending on the version of the plan. Socioeconomic integration has also briefly come under consideration.17 Still, many school district leaders emphasize that overarching these modest proposals is a desire to assign more students to neighborhood schools, a policy that will continue to exacerbate racial isolation in the district given current segregated housing patterns. Quoted in the local paper, School Board Chairwoman Cheryl Chow said it pained her to think about sending kids to segregated neighborhood schools, but that she can tolerate such actions if the district is committed to “addressing issues of quality and leadership throughout the district.”18
Academic Achievement and the Future Directions
Social science researchers have struggled to produce a causal link between student achievement and segregation, but there is consistent evidence showing that integrated schools can produce positive academic – as well as social – results for children of all races.19 A brief glance at achievement data from the Washington State Department of Education indicates that some subgroups of students, including English Language Learners (ELLs) and African Americans, have not met all Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) goals over the past five years, corresponding with the rise in resegregation occurring in the district following the 2001-02 decision to halt the choice plan pending the 2007 Supreme Court ruling.20 These numbers hint at damaging academic consequences for children attending resegregated schools.
Seattle’s lack of policy response to resegregation trends in the district over the course of the past year is perhaps reflective of community ambivalence towards school integration. Busing ended in Seattle over 15 years ago, and school district leadership has failed to take a strong stand against resegregation patterns in the intervening time. While still a very limited attempt to combat residential segregation in the district, the current School Board proposal to set aside seats for non-neighborhood high school students at least acknowledges the important link between residential segregation and school segregation. As we approach the one year anniversary of the Seattle/Louisville decision, the resegregation occurring in Seattle underscores the challenge of creating or maintaining integrated schools against the backdrop of residential segregation and judicially imposed limitations on attempts to combat school segregation.
For next time…
The next issue of TIR will recognize the one-year anniversary of the Seattle/Louisville decision with an overview of important trends and policy responses to the ruling in school districts around the country.
The Integration Report
1 Parents Involved v. Seattle School District No. 01-35450 (2005), p. 7.
2 Shaw, Linda (1 June 2008). The Resegregation of Seattle’s Schools. Seattle Times. Retrieved on June 14, 2008 from http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/education/2004450677_reseg01m.html.
3 Parents Involved v. Seattle School District No. 01-35450 (2005), p. 9.
4 Ibid. See also, Seattle Schools and Race: A History. Retrieved on June 10, 2008 from http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/education/2004450688_segtimeline.html.
5 Ibid, p. 10.
6 Ibid., pp. 10-12.
9 Ibid., p. 27.
10 Shaw, Linda (1 June 2008). The Resegregation of Seattle’s Schools. Seattle Times. Retrieved on June 14, 2008 from http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/education/2004450677_reseg01m.html.
11 Common Core of Data, 1998-99. Author’s calculations.
16 Shaw, Linda (3 June 2008). Integration is no longer Seattle School District’s top priority. Seattle Times. Retrieved on June 10, 2008 from http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/education/2004453782_reseg03m.html.
17 Shaw, Linda (1 June 2008). The Resegregation of Seattle’s Schools. Seattle Times. Retrieved on June 14, 2008 from http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/education/2004450677_reseg01m.html.
18 Shaw, Linda (3 June 2008). Integration is no longer Seattle School District’s top priority. Seattle Times. Retrieved on June 10, 2008 from http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/education/2004453782_reseg03m.html.
19 Statement of 553 Social Scientists, Retrieved on June 10, 2008 from http://www.civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/research/deseg/amicus_parents_v_seatle.pdf.
Beyond the positive effects on academic achievement, integrated schools have also been shown to help children adopt multiple perspectives and to avoid making artificial assumptions. These skills are hugely important components of critical thinking processes. In addition, students of all backgrounds attending diverse schools benefit from enhanced classroom discussion, more advanced social and historical thinking, greater commitment to increasing racial understanding, improved racial and cultural awareness, and higher levels of student persistence.
20 Washington State Report Card, Seattle Public Schools, Retrieved on June 10, 2008 from http://reportcard.ospi.k12.wa.us/ayp.aspx?groupLevel=District&schoolId=100&reportLevel=District&orgLinkId=100&yrs=12&year=12.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Include web links if they are available.
|From Seattle. . .
Seattle Parent of 4 says something important is missing when diversity decreases
Seattle schools and race: a history
The resegregation of Seattle’s schools
Lost in the blind alley of busing
Integration is no longer Seattle school district’s top priority
In Virginia, a small town’s racial lessons
The small town of Farmville in Southside Virginia offers a rich case study in what Obama has called “the racial stalemate,” the failure of black and white people to openly discuss their mutual resentments (May 4, 2008).
Grants gone, but magnets continue
Federal grant money has run out, but the Rapides Parish School District’s (Louisiana) magnet programs aren’t going anywhere, district officials said Monday, highlighting that magnets schools are thriving in the area. (May 20, 2008).
Grading St. Louis’ desegregation program
On this 25th anniversary year of school desegregation in St. Louis, Bruce Ellerman, the executive director of the St. Louis Student Transfer Program, says the plan’s voluntary nature explains why the St. Louis experiment generally went off without a hitch. (May 23, 2008)
Drawing across lines at PS 201
An initiative that helped to desegregate white, urban schools after the civil-rights movement is now being used to add white students to a predominantly minority Flushing school, as federal grant money is being used to boost diversity. (May 20, 2008).
Durham schools rethink transfers
The Durham (North Carolina) school district that has long allowed students to choose their own schools took steps Thursday to narrow its broad student-transfer policy. (May 23, 2008).
Charter schools struggle for more diversity
Enrollment at many local charter schools in San Diego County is disproportionately white when compared with other schools in the region, according to enrollment numbers from the California Department of Education. (May 23, 2008).
7,000 pupils switching schools in Jefferson
Jefferson Parish (New Orleans) public school students who attend their current school on transfer permits will move back to their regular attendance zone to comply with the consent decree to fully desegregate the district. (May 23, 2008).
Magnet schools decision ahead for Burnsville-Eagan-Savage
The Burnsville-Eagan-Savage school board (Minneapolis-St. Paul) plans to decide next week whether to move forward with planning for a series of magnet schools. (May 24, 2008).
Tax part of parish’s desegregation plan
Tangipahoa Parish public school (Louisiana) officials announced Tuesday that they are working on a plan that will include putting a new parishwide tax before voters as a way to comply with its 50-year-old federal desegregation lawsuit. (May 28, 2008)
School board approves student assignment plan
Calling it a historic moment for Jefferson County Public Schools, the district’s board voted unanimously yesterday to approve an integration plan that will use race, income and education in assigning children to schools. (May 29, 2008).
Officials say busing tales false
Tangipahoa Parish (Louisiana) school officials attempted Thursday night to address and reject rumors of wholesale busing on the southwest side of the parish by giving some details of a still-developing plan to further desegregate the parish school system. (May 30, 2008).
In wake of ruling, Fort Wayne County Schools (Indiana) maintains commitment to racial balance
The FWCS school board, in intense discussions over the district’s goals late last summer and fall, strongly reaffirmed its commitment to the spirit of the agreement with a vision statement defining the district as “the school system of choice and a source of community pride.” Its stated core values include “equity in educational opportunities” and “diversity and uniqueness of our district and community.” (June 1, 2008).
Schools’ rezoning plan riles parents
Community comments at Davidson County (Tennessee) schools’ first — and so far only — scheduled public hearing to discuss the district’s major school reassignment plan ranged from what will happen to specific schools and communities to the fate of integration of city schools and neighborhoods. (June 4, 2008).
Survey: 96 percent of Lee parents satisfied with school choice
Lee County School District (Florida) parents don’t agree with the critics when it comes to the district’s choice-based bus program, a recent survey has found. (June 5, 2008).
GISD gathering info to reach unitary status
Galveston public school district (Texas) is working with the federal government and compiling the necessary information to try to reach unitary status — a formal declaration of desegregation — as soon as possible. (June 2, 2008).
Past memories, future worries dominate rezoning discussions
There are many arguments in favor of the proposed rezoning plan in Nashville, TN, and people from a wide variety of neighborhoods and backgrounds support it. At a recent public hearing, worries about proposed changes to the Pearl-Cohn cluster were among those dominating input from attendees. (June 9, 2008).
JCPS superintendent’s first year evaluated
Sheldon Berman, the new superintendent, took the responsibility after last year’s Supreme Court ruling and took over Kentucky’s largest public school district, with 98,000 students, he has turned skeptics into believers. (June 8, 2008).
It’s being sold to the public as a happy return to neighborhood schools. But critics see the proposed school rezoning plan as a ploy to re-segregate the races in Nashville, and business leaders are helping to prove that point. (June 12, 2008).
Judge approves agreement in school desegregation case
A Superior Court judge on Wednesday approved the latest settlement in the long-standing lawsuit over the racial isolation in Hartford’s schools, Connecticut’s attorney general said. (June 11, 2008).
Hundreds attend outdoor meeting about attendance rezoning
Several hundred residents turned out Tuesday at an outdoor community meeting to hear from organizers who oppose a rumored, still-developing public school desegregation plan that would split up the Loranger-area (Louisiana) attendance zone. (June 18, 2008).
N. Nashville parents resigned to zoning
There is frustration, distrust and resignation among many parents that feel Metro Nashville barrels toward what may be its largest set of school reassignments in a decade. Some civic organizations and even some board members have described the plan as a de facto roadmap for the resegregation of Nashville’s schools, only with promises of added resources for at-risk students. (June 18, 2008).
Legislature likely to revisit school choice law in 2009
Reworking Arkansas’ school choice law may be high on the state Legislature’s agenda when the 2009 regular session convenes in January, lawmakers said Tuesday. (June 18, 2008).
Gifted programs in the city are less diverse
When New York City set a uniform threshold for admission to public school gifted programs last fall, it was a crucial step in a prolonged effort to equalize access to programs that critics complained were dominated by white middle-class children whose parents knew how to navigate the system. Now, children from poorer areas were offered a smaller percentage than last year. (June 19, 2008).
Europeans eye U.S. models to ease school segregation
A diverse area in Amsterdam weighs assigning students based in part on race, class, and parents’ education level. With immigration rapidly changing the face of European and Dutch society, some leaders are looking to confront rising racial and class divisions through solutions rooted in the American civil rights movement (June 18, 2008).
Loranger parents rap school plan
Hundreds of Louisiana residents attended a community meeting Tuesday to hear from opponents of a yet to be announced school desegregation plan that would split up an existing attendance zones (June 18, 2008).
|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.
Additional Resources for School Integration
**NEW** Book: Everyday Antiracism: Getting Real About Race In School
The New Press announces the release of Everyday Antiracism: Getting Real About Race In School, edited by Mica Pollock.
How should teachers and parents respond when children ask challenging questions about race? How should teachers handle the use of the “N-word” or discuss “achievement gaps” with colleagues? How can teachers avoid unwittingly making children of color speak on behalf of their entire group? While numerous books exist about race and race theory, Everyday Antiracism puts theory into practice by offering specific strategies for combating racism in the classroom.
Mica Pollock, an expert on race and education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and author of Colormute, which discusses the issue of talking about people in racial terms, asked dozens of experts to speak directly to K-12 teachers and concerned parents about racism at school. In over fifty original pieces written especially for this groundbreaking book, leading educators—among them Beverly Daniel Tatum, author of Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria, Sonia Nieto, and Pedro Noguera—describe ways to analyze classroom interactions that may or may not be “racial,” deal with racial inequality and “diversity,” and teach to high standards across racial lines. Topics range from using racial incidents as teachable moments to valuing students’ home worlds and helping parents fight ethnic and racial misconceptions about their children. Questions following each essay prompt readers to examine the issues of race and opportunity that they regularly face.
This book is available to order through Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com.
BuildingChoice Web site
This Web site is designed to help implement and maintain public school choice programs. Included are promising practices from a range of programs, tools, and links to many additional resources to support your choice efforts.
Sheff Web site
For more information regarding the Sheff desegregation case in Connecticut, please visit
The School Law Blog
Visit the School Law Blog for 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. http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/school_law/
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
National Call for Research Papers and Notice of Upcoming Conference:
“Looking to the Future: Legal and Policy Options for Racially Integrated Education in the South”
Deadline for Proposals: September 2, 2008
Conference date: April 2, 2009 at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
The Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA (Gary Orfield & Patricia Gándara, co-directors), the University of North Carolina Center for Civil Rights at the UNC School of Law (Julius Chambers, director), and the University of Georgia Education Policy and Evaluation Center (Elizabeth DeBray-Pelot, interim director) will co-sponsor a national conference on April 2, 2009, in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
The conference will focus on the choices likely to shape the racial future of Southern education in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2007 Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 (PICS) decision. The goal of the conference is to heighten scholarly understanding about the meaning of the decision, as well as to enhance discussion about more immediate and longer-term policy options for the future of integration in the South.
For more details regarding the content and submission of proposals, please see http://www.civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/news/news_conf_looking_to_the_future_2008.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
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.