Report on segregation in D.C. schools

The Civil Rights Project at UCLA released this report in Febuary 2017

Our
A Segregated
A Capital
A
A
An
A Increasingly
A Diverse
A City
A
A
with
A Racially
A Polarized
A Schools
A

A


A
Gary
A Orfield
A &
A Jongyeon
A Ee
A
February
A 2017
A


A


A


A

2
Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles

Our Segregated Capital, February 2017

Table of Contents
LIST
A OF
A TABLES
A .......................................................................................................................................................
A 4
A
LIST
A OF
A FIGURES
A ......................................................................................................................................................
A 5
A
FOREWORD
A ...............................................................................................................................................................
A 6
A
EXECUTIVE
A
A SUMMARY
A .......................................................................................................................................
A 11
A
BACKGROUND
A AND
A CONTEXT
A ..........................................................................................................................
A 15
A
WHY
A IT
A MATTERS:
A RESEARCH
A SHOWS
A POWERFUL
A INTEGRATION
A EFFECTS
A ....................................................................
A 16
A
THE
A HISTORY
A OF
A THE
A ISSUE
A IN
A WASHINGTON
A ......................................................................................................................
A 19
A
CIVIL
A RIGHTS
A AND
A WASHINGTON
A SCHOOLS
A ..........................................................................................................................
A 21
A
THE
A JUDICIAL
A EFFORT:
A SERIOUS
A BUT
A TOO
A LATE
A ..................................................................................................................
A 24
A
DEMOGRAPHIC
A REALITIES:
A ..............................................................................................................................
A 27
A
POPULATION
A AND
A SCHOOL
A ENROLLMENT
A TRENDS
A IN
A WASHINGTON
A ..............................................
A 27
A
HOUSING
A SEGREGATION
A IS
A THE
A UNDERLYING
A REALITY
A .......................................................................................................
A 29
A
BLACK
A EXODUS,
A WHITE
A RETURN
A ............................................................................................................................................
A 30
A
SURPRISING
A WHITE
A GROWTH
A IN
A THE
A DC
A POPULATION
A ......................................................................................................
A 31
A
SMALL
A CHANGES
A IN
A SCHOOL
A DIVERSITY
A ................................................................................................................................
A 32
A
CHANGES
A IN
A SCHOOL
A POPULATION
A .........................................................................................................................................
A 33
A
TRYING
A EVERYTHING
A ELSE
A .......................................................................................................................................................
A 37
A
THE
A CHANGING
A CITY
A AND
A METRO
A POPULATION:
A HOUSING
A ISSUES
A ..................................................................................
A 41
A
SEGREGATION
A TRENDS
A IN
A WASHINGTON
A DC
A .............................................................................................
A 44
A
INTERGROUP
A CONTACT
A IN
A SCHOOLS
A IN
A THE
A DISTRICT
A OF
A COLUMBIA
A ...............................................................................
A 47
A
DOUBLE
A SEGREGATION:
A SEGREGATION
A BY
A RACE
A AND
A POVERTY
A .......................................................................................
A 52
A
WASHINGTON
A DC
A CHARTER
A SCHOOLS
A AND
A PUBLIC
A SCHOOLS
A .............................................................
A 53
A
INTERGROUP
A CONTACT
A IN
A PUBLIC
A AND
A CHARTER
A SCHOOLS
A IN
A DC
A ...................................................................................
A 56
A
SEGREGATION
A IS
A DOUBLE
A SEGREGATION
A IN
A DC
A PUBLIC
A AND
A CHARTER
A SCHOOLS
A ..........................................................
A 62
A
RELATIONSHIP
A BETWEEN
A ACADEMIC
A PERFORMANCE
A AND
A RACIAL
A COMPOSITION
A ........................................................
A 68
A
Mathematics
A results
A (Below
A basic
A and
A advanced
A levels)
A ....................................................................................
A 69
A
METROPOLITAN
A TRENDS
A ..................................................................................................................................
A 75
A
OVERALL
A TRENDS
A OF
A TOTAL
A SCHOOLS
A AND
A STUDENTS
A IN
A THE
A METROPOLITAN
A AREA
A ................................................
A 76
A
MULTIRACIAL
A AND
A MINORITY
A SEGREGATED
A SCHOOLS
A IN
A LARGE
A DISTRICTS
A OF
A DC
A METRO
A AREA
A .............................
A 78
A
INTERGROUP
A CONTACT
A IN
A LARGE
A DISTRICTS
A OF
A DCaS
A METRO
A AREA
A ...............................................................................
A 79
A
CONCLUSION
A AND
A RECOMMENDATIONS
A ......................................................................................................
A 83
A
APPENDIX
A A
A ...........................................................................................................................................................
A 87
A
APPENDIX
A B
A ...........................................................................................................................................................
A 94
A

3
Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles

Our Segregated Capital, February 2017

List of Tables
TABLE
A 1:
A SCHOOL
A ENROLLMENT
A BY
A RACE
A IN
A COMBINED
A PUBLIC
A AND
A CHARTER
A SCHOOLS,
A .............
A 44
A
TABLE
A 2:
A TOTAL
A NUMBER
A OF
A PRIVATE
A SCHOOLS
A AND
A STUDENTS
A IN
A THE
A UNITED
A STATES
A AND
A
WASHINGTON,
A DC,
A 2001-Aa02
A AND
A 2011-Aa12
A .........................................................................................................
A 45
A
TABLE
A 3:
A STUDENT
A ENROLLMENT
A BY
A RACE
A AND
A RACIAL
A PROPORTION
A IN
A DC
A PRIVATE
A SCHOOLS,

A .................................................................................................................................................................................................
A 45
A
TABLE
A 4:
A SCHOOLS
A CLASSIFIED
A BY
A PERCENT
A OF
A NONWHITE
A STUDENTS
A .....................................................
A 46
A
TABLE
A 5:
A EXPOSURE
A TO
A WHITES
A BY
A THE
A TYPICAL
A STUDENT
A OF
A EACH
A RACE
A AND
A THE
A
PERCENTAGE
A OF
A WHITES
A ..........................................................................................................................................
A 48
A
TABLE
A 6:
A EXPOSURE
A TO
A BLACKS
A BY
A TYPICAL
A STUDENT
A OF
A EACH
A RACE
A &
A PERCENTAGE
A OF
A BLACKS

A .................................................................................................................................................................................................
A 49
A
TABLE
A 7:
A EXPOSURE
A TO
A LATINOS
A BY
A THE
A TYPICAL
A STUDENT
A OF
A EACH
A RACE
A AND
A THE
A
PERCENTAGE
A OF
A LATINOS
A .........................................................................................................................................
A 49
A
TABLE
A 8:
A EXPOSURE
A TO
A ASIANS
A BY
A THE
A TYPICAL
A STUDENT
A OF
A EACH
A RACE
A AND
A THE
A PERCENTAGE
A
OF
A ASIANS
A ..........................................................................................................................................................................
A 50
A
TABLE
A 9:
A EXPOSURE
A TO
A WHITES
A AND
A ASIANS
A BY
A THE
A TYPICAL
A STUDENT
A OF
A EACH
A RACE
A AND
A THE
A
PERCENTAGE
A OF
A WHITES
A AND
A ASIANS
A ...............................................................................................................
A 51
A
TABLE
A 10:
A EXPOSURE
A TO
A LOW-AaINCOME
A STUDENTS
A BY
A THE
A TYPICAL
A STUDENT
A OF
A EACH
A RACE
A AND
A
THE
A PERCENTAGE
A OF
A STUDENTS
A LIVING
A IN
A POVERTY
A ...............................................................................
A 52
A
TABLE
A 11:
A SCHOOL
A ENROLLMENT
A BY
A RACE
A IN
A PUBLIC
A AND
A CHARTER
A SCHOOLS,
A 2002-Aa2014
A ...........
A 55
A
TABLE
A 12:
A SCHOOLS
A CLASSIFIED
A BY
A PERCENT
A OF
A NONWHITE
A STUDENTS
A IN
A WASHINGTON
A DC
A .....
A 55
A
TABLE
A 13:
A PERCENTAGE
A OF
A BLACK
A AND
A LATINO
A STUDENTS
A IN
A NONWHITE
A SCHOOLS
A IN
A
WASHINGTON
A DC
A SCHOOLS,
A 2002-Aa2013
A .............................................................................................................
A 56
A
TABLE
A 14:
A EXPOSURE
A TO
A WHITES
A BY
A THE
A TYPICAL
A STUDENT
A OF
A EACH
A RACE
A AND
A THE
A
PERCENTAGE
A OF
A WHITES
A ..........................................................................................................................................
A 57
A
TABLE
A 15:
A EXPOSURE
A TO
A BLACKS
A BY
A THE
A TYPICAL
A STUDENT
A OF
A EACH
A RACE
A AND
A THE
A
PERCENTAGE
A OF
A BLACKS
A ...........................................................................................................................................
A 58
A
TABLE
A 16:
A EXPOSURE
A TO
A LATINOS
A BY
A THE
A TYPICAL
A STUDENT
A OF
A EACH
A RACE
A AND
A THE
A
PERCENTAGE
A OF
A LATINOS
A .........................................................................................................................................
A 58
A
TABLE
A 17:
A EXPOSURE
A TO
A ASIANS
A BY
A THE
A TYPICAL
A STUDENT
A OF
A EACH
A RACE
A AND
A THE
A
PERCENTAGE
A OF
A ASIANS
A ............................................................................................................................................
A 59
A
TABLE
A 18:
A EXPOSURE
A TO
A BLACKS
A STUDENTS
A BY
A THE
A TYPICAL
A STUDENT
A OF
A EACH
A RACE
A AND
A THE
A
PERCENTAGE
A OF
A AFRICAN
A AMERICANS
A .............................................................................................................
A 61
A
TABLE
A 19:
A EXPOSURE
A TO
A LOW-AaINCOME
A STUDENTS
A BY
A THE
A TYPICAL
A STUDENT
A OF
A EACH
A RACE
A AND
A
THE
A PERCENTAGE
A OF
A STUDENTS
A LIVING
A IN
A POVERTY
A ...............................................................................
A 62
A
TABLE
A 20:
A PROPORTION
A OF
A PUBLIC
A AND
A CHARTER
A SCHOOLS,
A BY
A %
A WHITE
A 2002-Aa2012
A .....................
A 65
A
TABLE
A 21:
A PROPORTION
A OF
A WHITE
A STUDENTS
A IN
A WHITE
A DECILE
A SCHOOLS,
A 2002-Aa2012
A ....................
A 65
A
TABLE
A 22:
A PROPORTION
A OF
A BLACK
A STUDENTS
A IN
A SCHOOLS
A BY
A %
A OF
A WHITE,
A 2002-Aa2012
A ..................
A 66
A
TABLE
A 23:
A PROPORTION
A OF
A LATINO
A STUDENTS
A IN
A SCHOOLS
A BY
A %
A WHITE,
A 2002-Aa2012
A .......................
A 66
A
TABLE
A 24:
A PROPORTION
A OF
A ASIAN
A STUDENTS
A IN
A SCHOOLS
A BY
A %
A WHITE,
A 2002-Aa2012
A ..........................
A 67
A
TABLE
A 25:
A PROPORTION
A OF
A LOW-AaINCOME
A STUDENTS
A IN
A SCHOOLS
A BY
A %
A WHITE,
A 2002-Aa2012
A ..........
A 68
A
TABLE
A 26:
A PUBLIC
A SCHOOL
A ENROLLMENT
A BY
A RACE
A IN
A DC
A AND
A THE
A DC-AaVA-AaMD-AaWV
A METRO
A AREA
A 76
A
TABLE
A 27:
A SCHOOL
A ENROLLMENT
A OF
A THE
A DC-AaVA-AaMD-AaWV
A METRO
A AREA
A BY
A RACE
A AND
A STATE,
A
2012-Aa2013
A ..........................................................................................................................................................................
A 76
A
TABLE
A 28:
A PUBLIC
A SCHOOL
A ENROLLMENT
A BY
A RACE
A IN
A MAJOR
A DISTRICTS
A IN
A THE
A DC-AaVA-AaMD-AaWV
A
METRO
A AREA,
A 2012-Aa2013
A ...........................................................................................................................................
A 77
A
TABLE
A 29:
A PERCENTAGE
A OF
A SCHOOLS
A BY
A RACIAL
A COMPOSITION
A IN
A 2012-Aa2013
A ......................................
A 78
A
TABLE
A 30:
A PERCENTAGE
A OF
A ECONOMICALLY
A DISADVANTAGED
A STUDENTS
A AND
A THE
A LOW-AaINCOME
A
SHARE
A IN
A NONWHITE
A SCHOOLS
A IN
A 2012-Aa2013
A ...............................................................................................
A 79
A
TABLE
A 31:
A BLACK
A AND
A LATINO
A SHARES
A ATTENDING
A NONWHITE
A SCHOOLS
A IN
A 2012-Aa2013
A ................
A 79
A
TABLE
A 32:
A EXPOSURE
A RATES
A FOR
A EACH
A RACIAL
A GROUP
A .......................................................................................
A 80
A
TABLE
A 33:
A EXPOSURE
A RATES
A FOR
A COMBINED
A RACIAL
A GROUPS
A .........................................................................
A 81
A
4
Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles

Our Segregated Capital, February 2017

List of Figures
FIGURE
A 1:
A BLACK
A AND
A WHITE
A POPULATION
A CHANGES
A IN
A DC,
A 1930-Aa2014
A ...................................................
A 28
A
FIGURE
A 2:
A POPULATION
A CHANGE
A IN
A THE
A DISTRICT
A OF
A COLUMBIA,
A 2000-Aa2014
A ........................................
A 31
A
FIGURE
A 3:
A THE
A NATIONAL
A ASSESSMENT
A OF
A EDUCATIONAL
A PROGRESS,
A 8TH
A GRADE
A READING
A SACLE
A
SCORES
A DC
A PUBLIC
A SCHOOLS
A BY
A RACE/ETHNICITY
A .....................................................................................
A 37
A
FIGURE
A 4:
A CHANGES
A IN
A RACIAL
A PROPORTIONS
A IN
A PRIVATE
A SCHOOLS
A BETWEEN
A 2001-Aa2011
A ...........
A 46
A
FIGURE
A 5:
A BLACK
A AND
A LATINO
A STUDENTS
A IN
A MINORITY
A SEGREGATED
A SCHOOLS
A IN
A WASHINGTON
A
DC,
A 1992-Aa2013
A ..................................................................................................................................................................
A 47
A
FIGURE
A 6:
A BLACK
A STUDENTS
A IN
A SCHOOLS
A THAT
A THE
A TYPICAL
A BLACK
A STUDENTS
A ATTEND
A ...............
A 51
A
FIGURE
A 7:
A
A ENROLLMENT
A TREND
A OF
A DISTRICT
A OF
A COLUMBIA,
A 1967-Aa2015
A .................................................
A 54
A
FIGURE
A 8:
A PERCENTAGE
A OF
A WHITE/ASIAN
A AND
A BLACK/LATINO/AI
A STUDENTS
A IN
A PUBLIC
A SCHOOLS
A
THAT
A THE
A TYPICAL
A WHITE
A AND
A ASIAN
A STUDENTS
A ATTEND
A ..................................................................
A 59
A
FIGURE
A 9:
A PERCENTAGE
A OF
A WHITE/ASIAN
A AND
A BLACK
A STUDENTS
A IN
A PUBLIC
A SCHOOLS
A THAT
A THE
A
TYPICAL
A BLACK
A STUDENTS
A ATTEND
A ...................................................................................................................
A 60
A
FIGURE
A 10:
A PERCENTAGE
A OF
A WHITE/ASIAN
A AND
A BLACK
A STUDENTS
A IN
A CHARTER
A SCHOOLS
A THAT
A
THE
A TYPICAL
A WHITE
A AND
A ASIAN
A STUDENTS
A ATTEND
A ...............................................................................
A 60
A
FIGURE
A 11:
A PERCENTAGE
A OF
A WHITE/ASIAN
A AND
A BLACK
A STUDENTS
A IN
A CHARTER
A SCHOOLS
A THAT
A
THE
A TYPICAL
A BLACK
A STUDENTS
A ATTEND
A .........................................................................................................
A 60
A
FIGURE
A 12:
A RELATIONSHIP
A BETWEEN
A THE
A SHARE
A OF
A STUDENTS
A IN
A POVERTY
A AND
A THE
A SHARE
A OF
A
BLACK
A STUDENTS
A ..........................................................................................................................................................
A 63
A
FIGURE
A 13:
A RELATIONSHIP
A BETWEEN
A THE
A SHARE
A OF
A STUDENTS
A IN
A POVERTY
A AND
A THE
A SHARE
A OF
A
WHITE
A STUDENTS
A .........................................................................................................................................................
A 63
A
FIGURE
A 14:
A RELATIONSHIP
A BETWEEN
A THE
A SHARE
A OF
A STUDENTS
A AT
A LEVEL
A OF
A BELOW
A BASIC
A IN
A
MATH
A AND
A THE
A SHARE
A OF
A BLACK
A STUDENTS
A ................................................................................................
A 69
A
FIGURE
A 15:
A RELATIONSHIP
A BETWEEN
A THE
A SHARE
A OF
A STUDENTS
A AT
A LEVEL
A OF
A BELOW
A BASIC
A IN
A
MATH
A AND
A THE
A SHARE
A OF
A LOW-AaINCOME
A STUDENTS
A .................................................................................
A 70
A
FIGURE
A 16:
A RELATIONSHIP
A BETWEEN
A THE
A SHARE
A OF
A BLACK
A STUDENTS
A AND
A THE
A PROPORTION
A
OF
A LOW-AaINCOME
A STUDENTS
A ....................................................................................................................................
A 71
A
FIGURE
A 17:
A RELATIONSHIP
A BETWEEN
A THE
A SHARE
A OF
A STUDENTS
A AT
A LEVEL
A OF
A ADVANCED
A IN
A
MATH
A AND
A THE
A SHARE
A OF
A BLACK
A STUDENTS
A ................................................................................................
A 72
A
FIGURE
A 18:
A RELATIONSHIP
A BETWEEN
A THE
A SHARE
A OF
A STUDENTS
A AT
A LEVEL
A OF
A ADVANCED
A IN
A
MATH
A AND
A THE
A SHARE
A OF
A LOW-AaINCOME
A STUDENTS
A .................................................................................
A 73
A
FIGURE
A 19:
A CHANGES
A IN
A TOTAL
A SCHOOLS
A AND
A STUDENTS
A IN
A THE
A WASHINGTONaARLINGTONa
ALEXANDRIA
A METRO
A AREA,
A 2002-Aa2013.
A ............................................................................................................
A 75
A
FIGURE
A 20:
A RELATIONSHIP
A BETWEEN
A THE
A SHARE
A OF
A STUDENTS
A AT
A LEVEL
A OF
A BELOW
A BASIC
A IN
A
MATH
A AND
A THE
A SHARE
A OF
A WHITE
A STUDENTS
A ................................................................................................
A 87
A
FIGURE
A 21:
A RELATIONSHIP
A BETWEEN
A THE
A SHARE
A OF
A STUDENTS
A AT
A LEVEL
A OF
A BELOW
A BASIC
A IN
A
MATH
A AND
A THE
A SHARE
A OF
A LATINO
A STUDENTS
A ..............................................................................................
A 88
A
FIGURE
A 22:
A RELATIONSHIP
A BETWEEN
A THE
A SHARE
A OF
A STUDENTS
A AT
A LEVEL
A OF
A BELOW
A BASIC
A IN
A
MATH
A AND
A THE
A SHARE
A OF
A ASIAN
A STUDENTS
A .................................................................................................
A 89
A
FIGURE
A 23:
A RELATIONSHIP
A BETWEEN
A THE
A SHARE
A OF
A STUDENTS
A AT
A LEVEL
A OF
A ADVANCED
A IN
A
MATH
A AND
A THE
A SHARE
A OF
A WHITE
A STUDENTS
A ................................................................................................
A 90
A
FIGURE
A 24:
A RELATIONSHIP
A BETWEEN
A THE
A SHARE
A OF
A STUDENTS
A AT
A LEVEL
A OF
A ADVANCED
A IN
A
MATH
A AND
A THE
A SHARE
A OF
A LATINO
A STUDENTS
A ..............................................................................................
A 91
A
FIGURE
A 25:
A RELATIONSHIP
A BETWEEN
A THE
A SHARE
A OF
A STUDENTS
A AT
A LEVEL
A OF
A ADVANCED
A IN
A
MATH
A AND
A THE
A SHARE
A OF
A ASIAN
A STUDENTS
A .................................................................................................
A 92
A
FIGURE
A 26:
A RELATIONSHIP
A BETWEEN
A THE
A SHARE
A OF
A STUDENTS
A IN
A POVERTY
A AND
A THE
A SHARE
A OF
A
ASIAN
A STUDENTS
A ...........................................................................................................................................................
A 93
A

5
Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles

Our Segregated Capital, February 2017

Foreword
Washington, DC is a highly multiracial city with a population that is remarkably diverse
on many dimensions. It is a city with many thriving neighborhoods and remarkable
people. It is, however, a city with profoundly segregated and unequal schools, and it has
not done anything of significance to integrate them in a half century. Although once
impossible, it is now feasible to make important interracial progress through voluntary
methods, but there is little vision. The evidence from the last half-century that segregated
communities and schools are, as the Supreme Court said so long ago, ainherently
unequala is all around us in the statistics of the DC school district. Educators have
avoided the obvious while continually promising that they know some other way that
never seems to work to provide genuinely equal opportunity. We have been studying this
issue throughout the history of the Civil Rights Project. This report is the last of a series
on 13 states and districts. The report is intended to inform a slowly emerging discussion
in DC. It provides facts that people who care about the city need to consider. It offers no
simple answers but suggests ways in which the cityas schools could begin to turn in
another direction and offer the children of the black community, always highly
segregated in DC, opportunities civil rights laws and court decisions provided to many
communities decades ago.
I love Washington and have lived in DC several times. I wrote my dissertation in
Washington, was on the staff of Brookings and the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and
worked briefly on Capitol Hill. I could see the back of the Supreme Court from my study
at home when I lived in Washington. As a political scientist and a civil rights policy
researcher, I have been to the city regularly for forty years. I wrote a book about
Congress and like to read hearings and the Congressional Record. All of my children
began their schooling in the DC public schools. They attended Peabody, Brent,
Edmunds, Hobson, and Alice Deal schools. I was a PTA vice president of my daughtersa
school many years ago when a community group of parents organized an effort which
made a 99% poor school integrated and more educationally effective, bringing the
community together and helping to persuade young families to stay in the city rather than
move to suburban districts. The schoolas parents struggled with the school districtas
bureaucracy of the l970s in efforts to upgrade a poor segregated school with declining
enrollment while economic revival was beginning to take hold in the Northeast section of
Capitol Hill. The cost of the home I renovated was 20% lower than the same house
would have cost a block away, across East Capitol Street, in the attendance zone of what
was then a less poor and far more successful elementary school. Now I have a
granddaughter and grandson attending the DC public school where their mother began
her schooling.
As I have studied cities and schools across the country and worked on issues of school
and college diversity, I have often thought about Washington and its schools. I have
visited Washington every few months, often more frequently, for over half a century, and
I have watched the city change and neighborhoods revive, but seen far too little change in
the schools.
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This report is about a wasted opportunity. It describes the largely passive acceptance and
reinforcement of segregated education in a city with great resources and profound
economic and educational inequality. I know Washington could do much better but that
issues of race are a powder keg, too often played with and mismanaged by local
politicians. They and their congressional overseers pronounce sound bites and promise to
eliminate gaps, pretending they have some solution, and end up doing nothing of
consequence or making bad conditions worse. The divisions and inequality in the city
are deeply rooted and self-perpetuating if nothing is done. They are built into the
economy and the housing market.
There are no simple answers, but there are a number of things that could produce more
positive outcomes for a number of children and communities without coercing anyone,
and they are not that difficult. I hope that readers who are invested in these divisions or
simply accept them will come up with me for a helicopter view of the statistics and take a
look at the whole system and its cost. I hope that they will think about how Washington
could do what some parts of the city and the metro region and many other U.S.
communities have done. There are major resources and great human capital in
Washington that need to be engaged in an effort toward successful integration that is the
only long-term solution and has been virtually forgotten for a half century in local
education policy. This is not about immediate or system-wide change but about turning
in a different direction and building on new opportunities.
I do not live in Washington now and have no political connections there. I know our
work will be denounced by some merely for raising the issueathat is normal in civil
rights work. But decades of research on issues people often do not want to talk about has
accustomed me to looking beyond angry words. I have had the opportunity to see again
and again how positive change can happen when people put their heads and hearts
together and start building a healthier community.
I also encounter everywhere the delusional belief that segregation doesnat matter, in spite
of the fact that it is statistically linked to such different possibilities and outcomes in life.
Often critics of our reports say things like, aIt is racist to think that it is necessary for a
black child to sit next to a white child to learn.a Of course I do not believe that and have
never said it. But it is clearly harmful to be in a school where almost all the kids are
behind grade level and many are in trouble, where the teachers are waiting to get enough
seniority to transfer, where the level of instruction is not even near what happens in
middle class schools, where the teachers would not send their own children. Usually only
children of color end up in such schools where they never have a fair chance whatever
their real ability may be. There are, of course, a few schools segregated by race and
poverty that achieve high test scores at least for a time, especially in elementary grades,
but none that really train students to live and work and succeed in higher education in
institutions that are middle class and heavily white and Asian. I have no delusions that
desegregation is a cure all or that all schools are now ready to treat all students equally.
Integration is a work in progress, it is difficult, but it makes a clear difference in the life
chances of children and prepares students of all races to live and work more effectively in
a society where everyone will be a minority, whose success depends on developing all
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our talents and understanding each other and working successfully together. There is a
great deal of research knowledge about how to do this well and how to help educators
accustomed to segregation bring groups of children together in effective classrooms.
Teachers in diverse schools strongly prefer them and students are enriched by them.
Although a great many middle class parents fear that their children will be harmed by
being in schools with too many poor children or children of a different race, there is
powerful and consistent research evidence that this is untrue. Those more fortunate
childrenas outcomes are much more influenced by their homes, whereas poor children
depend more on their schools. The current situation where we give the least to those who
need the schools the most is unconscionable. Schooling is not about getting high test
scores, though tests are important. It is about preparing all our children for a society that
demands both good preparation and the asoft skillsa of positive human relationships in
multiracial institutions of work, service, faith, and governance.
Our goal is to give the community facts and ideas, to analyze costs and discuss
possibilities. I expect very little from the political and bureaucratic leaders or most of
those who run their own schools. They will usually be defensive, say it is unnecessary,
and imply that they have the solutions. But there are already a few and could be many
more who ask, aWhy canat our children grow up together and learn from each other?a It
will be up to the citizens and the institutions to think about what we present and decide to
make things move. If nothing happens, the next time someone takes a serious look, the
problems will be larger and more built-in and the costs ever greater.
My first visit to Washington came when I was ten, before Brown v. Board of Education,
when segregation was everywhere. I first moved to Washington the summer of the
March on Washington where I was an intern at the State Department before I went for
Ph.D. studies at the University of Chicago. I saw the stirring of major civil rights change
in what had long been a highly segregated southern city. I was there at the March on
Washington. On the day after Martin Luther Kingas assassination in l968, I looked down
from the hill by the Washington Monument and saw the great plumes of smoke rising
over the city as I walked past the soldiers guarding the White House from a city in fear. I
visited the sadness and disorganization of Resurrection City and the Poor Peopleas
Campaign, the movement King was planning when he was killed, that collapsed in a
muddy defeat on the Mall. I was living in Washington, rehabbing a home and working
with the local school as the black power movement swept over the city and African
American leaders took over the school system and the city promising to solve problems
they often said were caused by white domination and could be changed by changing the
race of the leaders. I watched the black middle class begin to rapidly leave the city,
especially for the Maryland suburbs in the l970s, even as young professionals, mostly
whites, began to redevelop one neighborhood after another. I saw the sad impacts of the
riots and the drug crises that slowed things down for a long time.
When I moved back to DC with very young children in the early l970s, I wanted to live
in a diverse neighborhood but there were very few. Sometimes realtors would tell me,
aThatas going to be an all-black neighborhood in ten years.a (And those self-fulfilling
predications usually turned out to be right). When I moved into the Northeast part of
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Capitol Hill a few years after the big riots, only two banks in the entire city would even
take a mortgage application from me, though I was working at Brookings. Now, of
course, it is a very costly neighborhood, but it is not far from very poor parts of the city.
In my many visits, I studied and wrote about the decline in civil rights under the Nixon,
Reagan and both Bush Administrations, and the Obama period. I could not help but be
disappointed both by the often uninspiring, sometimes corrupt, local officials and the
random and often misguided interventions of Congressional leaders who think they know
what is best for the people of DC. I have been very happy to see much of the city coming
back strongly since the l990s but always sad to visit areas of poverty and economic
stagnation with too many people of color hanging around street corners with nothing to
do, too much like what I first saw a half century ago. Although there are many
professionals of color, particularly in government, the great majority live in the suburbs,
and there is still stunning segregation and intense poverty in parts of the city. There are
huge income and education gaps strongly related to race.
DC and the greater Washington area have a limitless supply of talented and concerned
people, and it has always been a puzzle to me that it has been so limited in thinking about
race relations, social transformation and integration of communities and schools. During
my lifetime Washington has changed from a southern city with little distinction other
than its governmental facilities to a sophisticated world capital, and the metropolitan
complex has spread over vast areas that were farmland and small towns. After a civil
rights revolution and nearly a half-century of major black leaders in the city and racial
change in many suburbs, one would hope that segregation had been largely solved, or at
least that it has been made to work. Sadly, it has not. It has spread far into parts of
suburbia and it remains vicious and self-perpetuating even in the absence of current
discrimination.
Aside from this brief personal reflection, this report is very largely just about hard facts.
Whatever your values and your politics may be, I invite you to read the statistics and
tables that largely report undisputed facts from official data sets. How much segregation
there is, what kind it is, where it is, and what it is statistically related to, are facts; though
their causes and solutions are controversial, the facts are not. The data comes from
official counts of students, the Census, results on mandated educational tests, etc. If you
want to check it, the public data sets are readily available, and we will tell you more
about them if you ask.
After you look at these data, ask what local officials and educators say they are doing
about it. Ask them to tell you one city anywhere where schools segregated by race and
poverty are equal, apart from extremely poor places where only the most disadvantaged
whites remain and all schools are struggling. All the previous promises to solve
inequality in the city have failed. If there is no serious solution in sight, think about what
these statistics mean and whether you agree with the modest but important steps we
discuss in the conclusions.

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Much of the city of Washington now may be on the way to becoming, like Paris, a city of
elites (with substantial but ignored pockets of poverty), while the poor and nonwhite
people are increasingly moved out into the less desirable, less economically and
educationally successful parts of the suburbs where segregation is now more intense.
Removing a social crisis from the city while letting it fester just outside is no solution,
and there are still parts of Washington essentially unchanged, classic ghettos of race and
poverty with very weak schools. There has been a massive effort to open many charter
schools, based on the theory that the problem of the schools is a problem of bureaucracy
and unions, not of race and poverty, a theory that has not been sustained in the great bulk
of research and outcome data. In an extremely segregated city, this money and these
efforts have created an even more segregated sector which, of course, has a very wide
range of schools since charter status defines a management system, not an educational
program.
We need to think seriously about the city but also about the larger urban region. I see
Washington as a city of great possibilities and disappointing, unimaginative leadership,
as a city which has tried one nostrum after another in its schools but has never
successfully incorporated its multiracial population or the growing wealth and talent in
many of its neighborhoods or in its schools. It has been harmed by erratic congressional
interventions. It is at the center of a great, rich metropolitan region that has no regional
cooperation in its schools though it collaborates in transportation, energy, business and
many other areas of life. The city and the region could create new possibilities for more
equal education. The dramatic racial transformation in the nearby inner suburban
communities shows that broader thought and planning are urgently needed if middle class
families of any race are going take places accessible to the capital that provide the kinds
of neighborhoods and schools where they can settle and raise their families. Washington
need not be a city that is on a path to ever greater stratification in which the public
schools and the parallel system of charters function to perpetuate stratification, unequal
opportunity, and division but could become, step by step, places where the children of the
next generation learn to live and work much more successfully and equitably together
across the historic lines of division. I believe that most people who live in Washington
are not afraid of racial diversity and many children could trive in successfully integrated
schools which would help build lasting multiracial communities.
Gary Orfield
February 2017

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Executive Summary
Washington was one of the first districts ordered to desegregate by the Supreme Court in
l954 when segregation by law was ruled unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of
Education. The DC plan that was implemented was not busing or other mandatory
desegregation but neighborhood schools, and the city had almost completely resegregated
before the busing issue arose elsewhere in the l970s. For decades the city became more
and more African American and the school system had only a handful of white students.
Since 1980, however, the white population of Washington has climbed considerably, and
the black population has dropped sharply because of the exodus of the black middle class,
so there no longer is a black majority in DC. From 1980 to 2010 the cityas black
population fell 31% while the white population grew 35% and the Latino population
soared 210% from a small base. Shortly afterwards the city reached a non-black majority
for the first time in more than a half century.
The highly diverse population has not been reflected substantially in school enrollment.
The schools are much more segregated than the city or the metro area. Residential
segregation remains high in the city but isolation in schools is substantially greater. In
other words, many people who live in diverse communities are sending their children to
segregated schools.
The District of Columbia enrolls only about one-twelfth of the students in its huge
metropolitan area and it has two school systems: District of Columbia Public Schools
(called public schools, in this report) and District of Columbia Public Charter School
Board, which is not a system but a collection of widely varying publicly funded schools
independently run by non-public bodies (called charter schools). During the 2013-2014
school year the public schools served 43,307 students and the charters 32,416 students.
Both had large black majorities, but the public schools had more diversity with two-thirds
(67% ) blacks, one sixth (17%) Latinos, 13% whites, and 2% Asians. In contrast, African
American and Latino students comprised 93% of the total charter enrollment where the
combined whites and Asian students were slightly more than 5%.
The District of Columbiaas total enrollment in public and charter schools dropped less
than 3% from 1992 to 2013, but there was a major redistribution to the charter school
sector. In 2013 total enrollment was close to 76,000. The African American share of the
total school enrollment declined from 89% to 73% between 1992 and 2013. The
percentage of white students doubled over the last two decades from 4% to 9%. The
Latino proportion also increased by 8.7 percentage points, and one seventh of students in
DC were Latino in 2013. The Asian share remained unchanged as Asian numbers soared
in the suburbs.
Since the charter school movement started in DC in l996 the Districtas private school
enrollment has plummeted in spite of tuition vouchers, except for white students whose
private enrollment is basically unchanged. Many students of color left private schools for
charter schools, sometimes the same school converted to a charter. The city also has a
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small voucher program which helps pay the cost of participating private schools for a few
thousand students from low income families.
The charter schools overall have a less diverse and more segregated enrollment than the
public schools. Though they are much newer and developed in a period of rapidly
increasing diversity in the city, they have attracted few whites and Asians.
Black students are by far the most segregated group in the city and the region by race and
poverty. The historic extreme segregation of the public schools has modestly diminished
while the much newer charters have an even higher level of racial separation.
There has been some gradual and modest progress in reducing segregation. The overall
share of African American and Latino students who attended intensely segregated
schools (90-100% nonwhite schools) and apartheid schools (99-100% nonwhite schools)
decreased between 1992 and 2013 but remained very high. For African American
students, nearly 90% of Washington black students went to apartheid schools in 1992, but
the percentage dropped to 71% in 2013.
Schools segregated by race and class have, on average, clearly weaker educational
outcomes.
In 2013, the combined share of whites and Asians was approximately 10% in the District
of Columbia public schools, but these students, on average, attended schools where
nearly half of their classmates were white and Asian. In contrast, the combined share of
African American, Latino, and Native American students were 88% in 2013, but 93% of
the classmates of these students came from the same groups. The regionas growing Latino
enrollment is largely outside the District.
Latino students are a relatively small sector in the city and are significantly less
segregated in the city than black students and far less segregated than Latinos are at a
national level
The patterns of intense double segregation are by poverty as well as race. Racial
segregation is strongly related to segregation by concentrated poverty, and this double
segregation is strongly related to the highly unequal educational outcomes. There are
very intense economic and educational gaps by race in DC.
Students from poor families comprise 67% and 57% of black and Latino studentsa
classmates, respectively, in 2013 while white students in DC had less than one-fourth
poor classmates in their schools in the same year.
In Washington gentrification often involves predominantly white home buyers moving
into what had been an historic African American area creating diverse neighborhoods at
least for some time as the process unfolds. Gentrification as well as massive black
suburbanization have played a major role in changing the share of black and white
residents.
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In comparing public and charter schools of the District of Columbia, double segregation a
segregation by race and poverty -- was higher in the charter schools where nearly threefourths of the students were low income, and black and Latino students had far more poor
classmates than did their Asian and white counterparts. In public schools more than half
of students were poor, and black and Latino students tended to attend schools with a far
higher percentage of low-income classmates than white students. The percent of black
students in a school was highly correlated with the proportion of students living in
poverty. There was no significant relationship between the Latino share and the
proportion of low-income students, a very different pattern than is found in New York,
Chicago, Los Angeles and many cities with larger shares of Latino students.
The report examines both the whole vast metropolitan area and the immediate metro
regions comprising DC and the Montgomery, Prince Georgeas County, Alexandria,
Arlington, and Fairfax districts. Except the Prince Georgeas district, the other districts
differed remarkably from Washington DC in terms of student demographics with
substantially more white and Asian students. In the Arlington and Fairfax districts, in
particular, more than half of the total enrollments were from white and Asian groups. All
districts, however, showed significant patterns of school segregation.
There is no evidence that these patterns are self-curing. They are extending into large
sectors of suburbia, and the opportunities for diverse schools in the city are not being
realized.
Washington is not the most segregated district in the metro region for black students.
The segregation of the large suburban Prince Georgeas County is even more severe.
Prince Georgeas was one of the nationas first large suburban districts to experience
massive resegregation. (Our previous statewide studies of Maryland and Virginia schools
can be found at civilrightsproject.ucla.edu)
The relatively small Alexandria district showed positive potential by enrolling a balanced
number of each racial group: whites (27%), blacks (33%), and Latinos (32%). The
segregation level in the district was the lowest among the six immediate metro districts.
This report analyzes the magnitude and trend of racial segregation and its education
consequence among schools in the District of Columbia. The report draws on data
sources from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and the Office of the
State Superintendent of Education (OSSE). The principal data sources are the Public
Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey Data of 1992, 2002, and 2012 (NCES),
the Washington DCas Comprehensive Assessment Results of 2013 (OSSE), and the
Equity Report Data of 2013 (OSSE). These are all public data sets available for
independent analysis by other groups or interested residents.
This report is organized as follows. The first section reviews the social and historical
background and context of the District of Columbia. The second section analyzes
NCESas Public Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey Data to examine racial
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and ethnic changes in the nation, Border States, and Washington DC between 1992 and
2013. The third section, based on data sources from NCES as well as OSSE, explores
Washington DCas public schools and public charter schools that comprise the two
systems of the District of Columbia in order to investigate overall racial and ethnic
changes and relationships between racial segregation and academic achievement. The
final data section concerns metropolitan areas that surround the District of Columbia to
understand school segregation patterns in DC in a larger geographical and sociopolitical
context.
The report ends with the conclusions we draw from the data and a set of
recommendations for voluntary action about ways to begin to reverse these patterns based
on research and experience in communities across the U.S.

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Background and Context
Of all the districts directly involved in the historic 1954 Supreme Court decisions
overturning laws mandating racial segregation, Washington was the most visible but the
long-term impacts have been deeply disappointing. The legal revolution of the Brown
decision never had a large impact on the cityas African American students, most of whom
have always had highly segregated schooling. For Washington the decision came too late
in the process of the cityas racial transition and never accomplished significant lasting
integration. Within a few years, the city went from total segregation in a majority black
school district to a city with so few white students that little could be done within the
districtas boundaries, and the dream of Brown disappeared for generations. In the school
district surrounding the U.S. Supreme Court there has been pervasive segregation since
Brown. This segregation was often blamed on awhite flighta following the desegregation
order, but much of the white decline came before the Court acted, and it happened long
before busing would become a national issue in the l970s. The remedy in Washington in
the l950s was merely creation of neighborhood schools (with some special escape hatches
for whites) in a city where students from the same neighborhoods had always been
assigned to different schools on the basis of their race. The idea of city-wide mandatory
reassignment of students, which involved busing children across the city, had not yet
been embraced by the Supreme Court when Washington desegregated and was never
implemented in Washington. White children in the city were never bussed. Although the
idea of metropolitan wide desegregation would emerge in Richmond and Detroit in the
l970s and reach the Supreme Court, it was never seriously discussed in Washington,
where the suburbs were across state lines.
Residents and leaders in the Washington area commonly believe that desegregation was
tried once and failed, that the loss of the cityas white population was caused by it, and
that any effort to restore desegregation, which is commonly understood as busing
(mandatory reassignment of students who are transported to other communities) is what
desegregation would entail. The truth is that there was only limited desegregation and it
was in the form of making neighborhood schools which had always been segregated by
law, open to other students who lived in their attendance areas. The white flight from the
city had been going on for a long time before desegregation, and the district was already
predominantly black by the time that limited policy was implemented. Virtually all
desegregation plans and voluntary efforts for the last three decades have been about
creating or changing choice systems to foster integration, not forcing transfers of
students. (Choice plans without civil rights policies generally increase stratification and
are often highly segregated, so how it is done matters greatly.) A number of the efforts
elsewhere have produced excellent and popular schools and drawn into the schools
families who would not otherwise have been involved. In spite of the Supreme Courtas
flawed 2007 decision in the Parents Involved case, prohibiting some forms of voluntary
desegregation, there are a number of approaches that could work. These issues will be
discussed at the conclusion of the report but are mentioned briefly here to encourage
readers to explore the history and the data and keep an open mind about possibilities.

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Washington is especially interesting for many reasons. It became the first predominantly
black major U.S. city and had been a leading center of the black middle class for
generations. It is part of a very rich metropolitan region with many resources and deep
inequalities. And it is a city where the racial transition seemed so total and irreversible
that it was long considered useless to even discuss integration. So it is a city that stopped
trying integration but tried everything else. As the decades passed and the city became
more diverse, school integration was largely forgotten even as it became more possible
and the research evidence on the costs of segregation and the benefits of integration
became more powerful.
Why it Matters: Research Shows Powerful Integration Effects
The consensus of six decades of social science research on the harms of school
segregation is clear: separate remains extremely unequal. Racially and socioeconomically
isolated schools are strongly related to an array of factors that limit educational
opportunities and outcomes. In our racially and economically stratified society, nonwhite
schools are normally doubly segregated by both race/ethnicity and poverty, and such
schools are highly likely to be weaker in the factors most related to educational success
and to have the weakest peer groups and classroom competition for students. The factors
include less experienced and less qualified teachers, high levels of teacher turnover, less
educated peer groups, more untreated serious health problems, concentration of
nutritional and developmental problems, as well as inadequate facilities and learning
materials and much less stability in enrollment related to problems faced by impoverished
renter households.
Teachers are the most powerful influence on academic achievement in schools.1 One
recent longitudinal study showed that having a strong teacher in elementary grades had a
long-lasting, positive impact on studentsa lives, including reduced teenage pregnancy
rates, higher levels of college-going, and higher job earnings.2 Unfortunately, despite the
clear benefits of strong teaching, we also know that highly qualified3 and experienced4

1

Rivkin, S. G., Hanushek, E. A., & Kain, J. F. (2005). Teachers, schools, and academic achievement.
Econometrica, 73(2), 417-58.
2
Chetty, R., Friedman, J. N., & Rockoff, J. E. (2011). The long-term impacts of teachers: Teacher valueadded and student outcomes in adulthood (NBER Working Paper # 17699). Retrieved from: http://
obs.rc.fas.harvard.edu/chetty/value_added.pdf
3
Clotfelter, C., Ladd, H., & Vigdor, J. (2005). Who teaches whom? Race and the distribution of novice
teachers. Economics of Education Review, 24(4), 377-392; Rivkin, Hanushek, & Kain, (2005).
4
See, for example, Lankford, H., Loeb, S., & Wyckoff, J. (2002). Teacher sorting and the plight of urban
schools: A descriptive analysis. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 24(1), 37-62; Watson, S.
(2001), Recruiting and retaining teachers: Keys to improving the Philadelphia public schools.
Philadelphia: Consortium for Policy Research in Education. In addition, one research study found that in
California schools, the share of unqualified teachers is 6.75 times higher in high-minority schools (more
than 90% minority) than in low-minority schools (less than 30% minority). See Darling-Hammond, L.
(2001). Apartheid in American education: How opportunity is rationed to children of color in the United
States, In T. Johnson, J. E. Boyden, & W. J. Pittz (Eds.), Racial profiling and punishment in U.S. public
schools (pp. 39-44). Oakland, CA: Applied Research Center.
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teachers are spread very unevenly across schools, and are much less likely to remain in
segregated settings.5
Differences in schooling among low- and middle-to-high income students stem from a
variety of factors, including the difficulty level and relevance of the learning materials
that are provided to students in different school settings. Schools serving low-income and
segregated neighborhoods have been shown to provide less challenging curricula. 6
Teachers in schools with few students working at grade level tend to teach at a less
challenging level. The impact of the standards and accountability era has been more
harshly felt in segregated schools where a focus on rote skills, test taking skills, and
memorization, driven by pressure on test scores in many instances, takes the place of
creative, engaging teaching.7 By contrast, students in middle-class schools normally have
little trouble with high-stakes exams, so the schools and teachers are free to broaden the
curriculum, increasing its interest and challenge. Segregated school settings are also
significantly less likely to offer AP- or honors-level courses that garner early college
credits and teach key collegiate skills since they lack substantial groups of prepared
students to fill such classes.8
Findings on suspension and expulsion rates, dropout rates, success in college, test scores,
and graduation rates underscore the negative impact of segregation. Student discipline is
harsher and the rate of expulsion is much higher in minority-segregated schools than in
wealthier, whiter ones.9 Dropout rates are significantly higher (nearly all of the 2,000
adropout factoriesa are doubly segregated by race and poverty),10 and if students do
5

Clotfelter, C., Ladd, H., & Vigdor, J. (2010). Teacher mobility, school segregation, and pay-based
policies to level the playing field. Education, Finance, and Policy, 6(3), 399-438; Jackson, K. (2009).
Student demographics, teacher sorting, and teacher quality: Evidence from the end of school desegregation.
Journal of Labor Economics, 27(2), 213-256.
6
Rumberger, R. W., & Palardy, G. J. (2005). Does segregation still matter? The impact of student
composition on academic achievement in high school. Teachers College Record, 107(9), 1999-2045;
Hoxby, C. M. (2000). Peer effects in the classroom: Learning from gender and race variation (NBER
Working Paper No. 7867). Cambridge: National Bureau of Economic Research; Schofield, J. W. (2006).
Ability grouping, composition effects, and the achievement gap. In J. W. Schofield (Ed.), Migration
background, minority-group membership and academic achievement research evidence from social,
educational, and development psychology (pp. 67-95). Berlin: Social Science Research Center.
7
Knaus, C. (2007). Still segregated, still unequal: Analyzing the impact of No Child Left Behind on
African-American students. In The National Urban League (Ed.), The state of Black America: Portrait of
the Black male (pp. 105-121). Silver Spring, MD: Beckham Publications Group.
8
Orfield, G., & Lee, C. (2005). Why segregation matters: Poverty and educational inequality. Cambridge,
MA: Civil Rights Project.
9
Exposure to draconian, azero tolerancea discipline measures is linked to dropping out of school and
subsequent entanglement with the criminal justice system, a very different trajectory than attending college
and developing a career. Advancement Project & The Civil Rights Project (2000). Opportunities
suspended: The devastating consequences of zero tolerance and school discipline policies. Cambridge,
MA: Civil Rights Project. Retrieved from http://civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/research/k-12-education/schooldiscipline/opportunities-suspended-the-devastating-consequences-of-zero-tolerance-and-school-disciplinepolicies/.
10
Balfanz, R., & Legters, N. E. (2004). Locating the dropout crisis: Which high schools produce the
nationas dropouts? In G. Orfield (Ed.), Dropouts in America: Confronting the graduation rate crisis (pp.
57-84). Cambridge: Harvard Education Press, 2004; Swanson, C. (2004). Sketching a portrait of public
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graduate, research indicates that they are less likely to be successful in college, even after
controlling for test scores.11 Segregation, in short, has strong and lasting impacts on
studentsa success in school and later life.12
There is also a mounting body of evidence indicating that desegregated schools are linked
to profound benefits for all children. In terms of social outcomes, racially and
socioeconomically integrated educational contexts provide students of all races with the
opportunity to learn and work with children from a range of backgrounds. These settings
foster critical thinking skills that are increasingly important in our multiracial societya
skills that help students understand a variety of different perspectives.13 Integrated
schools are linked to reduction in studentsa willingness to accept stereotypes.14 Students
attending integrated schools also report a heightened ability to communicate and make
friends across racial lines.15

A
Studies have shown that desegregated settings are associated with heightened academic
achievement for minority students,16 with no corresponding detrimental impact for white
students.17 These trends later translate into loftier educational and career expectations,18
high school graduation: Who graduates? Who doesnat? In G. Orfield, (Ed.), Dropouts in America:
Confronting the graduation rate crisis (pp. 13-40). Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.
11
Camburn, E. (1990). College completion among students from high schools located in large metropolitan
areas. American Journal of Education, 98(4), 551-569.
12
Wells, A. S., & Crain, R. L. (1994). Perpetuation theory and the long-term effects of school
desegregation. Review of Educational Research, 64, 531-555; Braddock, J. H., & McPartland, J. (1989).
Social-psychological processes that perpetuate racial segregation: The relationship between school and
employment segregation. Journal of Black Studies, 19(3), 267-289.
13
Schofield, J. (1995). Review of research on school desegregation's impact on elementary and secondary
school students. In J. A. Banks & C. A. M. Banks (Eds.), Handbook of multicultural education (pp. 597a
616). New York: Macmillan Publishing.
14
Mickelson, R.A., & Nkomo, M. (2012). Integrated schooling, life-course outcomes, and social cohesion
in multiethnic democratic societies. Review of Research in Education, 36, 197-238; Pettigrew, T., & Tropp,
L. (2006). A meta-analytic test of intergroup contact theory. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,
90(5), 751-783; Ready, D., & Silander, M. (2011). School racial and ethnic composition and young
childrenas cognitive development: Isolating family, neighborhood and school influences. In E. Frankenberg
& E. DeBray (Eds.), Integrating schools in a changing society: New policies and legal options for a
multiracial generation (pp. 91-113). Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press.
15
Killen, M., Crystal, D., & Ruck, M (2007). The social developmental benefits of intergroup contact
among children and adolescents. In E. Frankenberg & G. Orfield (Eds.), Lessons in integration: Realizing
the promise of racial diversity in American schools (pp. 31-56). Charlottesville, VA: University of Virginia
Press.
16
Braddock, J. (2009). Looking back: The effects of court-ordered desegregation. In C. Smrekar & E.
Goldring (Eds.), From the courtroom to the classroom: The shifting landscape of school desegregation (pp.
3-18). Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press; Crain, R., & Mahard, R. (1983). The effect of research
methodology on desegregation-achievement studies: A meta-analysis. American Journal of Sociology,
88(5), 839-854; Schofield, J. (1995). Review of research on school desegregation's impact on elementary
and secondary school students. In J. A. Banks & C. A. M. Banks (Eds.), Handbook of multicultural
education (pp. 597a616). New York: Macmillan Publishing.
17
Hoschild, J., & Scrovronick, N. (2004). The American dream and the public schools. New York: Oxford
University Press.
18
Crain, R. L. (1970). School integration and occupational achievement of Negroes. American Journal of
Sociology, 75, 593-606; Dawkins, M. P. (1983). Black studentsa occupational expectations: A national
study of the impact of school desegregation. Urban Education, 18, 98-113; Kurlaender, M., & Yun, J.
18
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Our Segregated Capital, February 2017

and high levels of civic and communal responsibility.19 A recent study by a Berkeley
economist found that black students who attended desegregated schools for at least five
years earned 25% more than their counterparts in segregated settings. By middle age, the
same group was also in far better health.20 Professor Rucker Johnson carried out an
extraordinarily sophisticated analysis following a large sample of students born between
1945 and l968 through 2013 to analyze lifetime impacts, concluding that afor blacks,
school desegregation significantly increased both educational and occupational
attainments, college quality and adult earnings, reduced the probability of incarceration,
and improved adult health status.a Following whites in the same national dataset he
found no losses for desegregated whites in any of those outcomes.21 Connecting students
of color with a higher level of instruction, more prepared peer groups, the pathways to
college and the networks that benefit white students make a highly significant difference.
Perhaps most important of all, evidence indicates that school desegregation can have
perpetuating effects across generations. Black and Latino families start far behind. If their
children get clearly inferior schooling and do not connect to networks rich in
opportunities and knowledge of the system, how will they ever catch up? Students of all
races who attended integrated schools are more likely to seek out integrated colleges,
workplaces, and neighborhoods later in life, which may in turn provide integrated
educational opportunities for their own children.22 Successful integrated magnet schools
have been created in many central cities.
The History of the Issue in Washington
This report looks at segregated education in Washington since Brown v. Board of
Education, the continuity and changes in patterns of segregation by race and poverty, and
it briefly describes highlights of many changes in educational policy and leadership that
have swept over the school system. It analyzes the history and present nature of the
residential segregation that is a root cause of the segregated schools. It explores the
nature of the current school segregation and briefly describes conditions in the broader
metropolitan region in which the city is located. The report ends with a discussion of
possible steps to begin to draw the diversity of the city into its public schools and to
create schools that serve all parts of the community and can prepare all of their children
(2005). Fifty years after Brown: New evidence of the impact of school racial composition on student
outcomes. International Journal of Educational Policy, Research, and Practice, 6(1), 51-78.
19
Braddock, J. (2009). Looking back: The effects of court-ordered desegregation. In C. Smrekar & E.
Goldring (Eds.), From the courtroom to the classroom: The shifting landscape of school desegregation (pp.
3-18). Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.
20
Johnson, R. C., & Schoeni, R. (2011). The influence of early-life events on human capital, health status,
and labor market outcomes over the life course. The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy
Advances, 11(3), 1-55.
21
Rucker C. Johnson, aLong-Run Impacts of School Desegregation and School Quality on Adult
Attainments,a National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper 16664, revised Aug. 20145.
22
Mickelson, R. (2011). Exploring the school-housing nexus: A synthesis of social science evidence. In P.
Tegeler (Ed.), Finding common ground: Coordinating housing and education policy to promote integration
(pp. 5-8). Washington, DC: Poverty and Race Research Action Council; Wells, A.S., & Crain, R. L. (1994).
Perpetuation theory and the long-term effects of school desegregation. Review of Educational Research, 6,
531-555.
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for the post-secondary education that is now essential for any kind of mobility and middle
class success in the regionas economy. This needs to be incorporated in our understanding
about the future of our cities and the policies we devise as our cities continue to evolve.
Washington has had a large African American population for a very long time and was
known in black America as a center of the black elite. The Confederacy began in
Virginia, just across the Potomac from the District. Washington, just upstream from the
large slave plantation of George Washington, was deeply shaped by southern racial
practices. The U.S. Capitol and many of the cityas early buildings were constructed
largely with slave labor, and the greatest early Presidents, Washington and Jefferson, as
well as Madison and Monroe, were large-scale slave owners. A slave market once stood
where the Smithsonian Castle is today. From the time the city was created until the Civil
War it had a large population of slaves and a significant number of freedmen. Little
education was provided for either.
Beginning in 1818 there was one privately run school for some blacks, but the District
government provided no public school serving these students until 1862 in the midst of
the Civil War when it created a school to be paid for by the taxes on black residents.23 As
freed slaves poured into the city private groups created a number of other schools. From
the beginning there was a dominant reality of segregated and highly unequal schools.
A tidal wave of freed African Americans came to the city to work during the Civil War
and after the Emancipation Proclamation. Many were settled in the city by the Union
Army. The federal government, particularly during Reconstruction times, was much more
positive about black workers than the cities of the South, where the vast majority of
blacks have always lived. Though conditions in Washington were tough there were more
opportunities than in many other cities.
Public education in Washington after the Civil War was open to black students but was
segregated by law even as the Reconstructionas constitutional amendments proclaimed
equality before the law. Congress required segregated schools. The schools were treated
more equitably than those in the South but most were far from equal. The black schools
included the nationally famous Dunbar High School, where highly educated African
Americans who could not get college jobs taught in the high school serving the cityas
residentially segregated black middle class, creating a school famous in black America.
After the Civil War, at a time when many of the nationas cities, including virtually all of
cities in the North and West had only a very small share of black students, Washington
already had a substantial number. In 1870, The Board of Trustees reported that 6,233
white children and 2,689 black children attended public schools.24 Buildings were
gradually constructed across the city, including the nationas first high school for black
23

August Meier and Elliott Rudwick, From Plantation to Ghetto, Revised Edition, New York: Hill and
Wang, 1970, p. 95; John Hope Franklin, aJim Crow Goes to School: The Genesis of Legal Segregation in
the South,a in Charles E. Wynes, ed., The Negro in the South Since l865, New York: Harper Colophon
Books, l968, p. 140.
24
Annual Report of the Board of Trustees of the Public Schools from 1870.
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students, Dunbar High.25 The school system was organized with separate boards for white
and black schools which were merged early in the 20th century. The schools and school
staffs, however, were always segregated by law until the Supreme Court acted.
Early in the 20th century, as white supremacy ideology was sweeping the country,
segregation was imposed again on the federal government by President Woodrow
Wilson, a Virginian and the first Southern-born President after the Civil War.
Washington was, in many ways, a southern city, but a relatively educated and privileged
black middle class was an important difference. Until governmental segregation was
restored by President Woodrow Wilson, Washington was a rare place where blacks could
get some public jobs above the menial level. It became a powerful magnet during the
Great Depression and the New Deal. When the energy of the civil rights movement began
to surge in the mid-twentieth century, Washingtonas African Americans and their
institutions played a large role and some of the greatest events took place in the city.
The District was very important for black opportunity. It was home to one of the great
colleges founded to educate freedmen, Howard University, where brilliant African
American lawyers in the twentieth century did much of the key work that led to Brown
and the civil rights revolution. But their success did not reach into their own
neighborhoods. Washington was right under the nose of the Supreme Court but the
Courtas writ did not run there and the lessons about why it did not were never taken.
Civil Rights and Washington Schools
Washington had no local government of its own but was under direct federal control for
generations. In the arguments to the Supreme Court by both the Truman and Eisenhower
Administration the international scandal of Washingtonas racist public school system
following the Second World War against a racist dictatorship was often pointed out.
Nonwhite diplomats from newly independent nations driving from Washington to the
United Nations in New York confronted full-blown segregation, a pattern that was
exploited by Cold War enemies.
There was a great hope after Brown that desegregation would be swift and relatively easy
in the nationas Capital where federal authority was complete. Administrations of both
parties had supported school desegregation in their Supreme Court briefs. The day after
the Brown decision, President Eisenhower called in the federally appointed
Commissioners who ran the city and asked them to implement the Courtas order promptly
to create a model for the nation.26 Washington, together with St. Louis, Wilmington,
Delaware, and Louisville were seen by civil rights groups as models for rapidly

25

Dodge, William Castle. Schools in the District of Columbia: The Schools and the School Buildings in the
Nationas Capital a What They Are and How Obtained. Document No. 86. U.S. Senate. 61st Congress, 1st
Session, 1909.
26
Michael V. Namorato, Have We Overcome?: Race Relations Since Brown, 1954-1979, Oxford: Univ.
Press of Mississippi, 2008, p. 124.
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announcing that desegregation would be peacefully implemented while resistance was
very intense further South.27
Decided the same day as Brown v. Board of Education, a unanimous Supreme Court
ordered Washington to desegregate in Bolling v. Sharpe. For the school districts from
four states included in the Brown decision, the question was whether state action
requiring segregation violated the aequal protection of the lawsa guarantee of the 14th
Amendment passed after the Civil War to guarantee that the slave states would give equal
treatment to freedmen. Since the 14th Amendment was directed at the states and
Washington was under direct federal control, the Supreme Court had to examine the
Congressional mandate for the cityas segregation in the city separately. The Court
concluded that asegregation in public education is not reasonably related to any proper
governmental objective, and thus it imposes on Negro children of the District of
Columbia a burden that constitutes an arbitrary deprivation of their liberty in violation of
the Due Process Clause.a28 The decision relied, of course, on the conclusion in Brown
that segregated schools were ainherently unequala in America. The decision was
unanimous and it faced Washington educators with a huge challenge. In the immediate
aftermath of the decision President Eisenhower, never enthusiastic about Brown, pledged
that the law would be enforced in Washington even as the Southern states began to adopt
laws and policies to maintain segregation as long as possible. There was to be a decade of
Southern massive resistance beginning just across the Potomac in Virginia, one of the
most resistant states. Compared to the intransigence in the South, the response in
Washington was seen as strongly positive.
Though the dramatic racial change in Washington in the succeeding years has often been
blamed on school desegregation and cited as proof that busing failed, the plan
Washington implemented was exactly like what later anti-busing groups said would stop
awhite flight.a It was a neighborhood school plan in a residentially segregated city.
For the first year of Washingtonas original desegregation plan only newcomers to the city
or children changing schools were assigned to the new neighborhood schools serving
both races, and a3,000 Negro students were transferred from overcrowded schools into
former white schools in their neighborhoods which had empty seats.a29 [Across the
country minority students were often packed into overcrowded schools as school boards
refused to send them to half empty white schools nearby which were sometimes closer to
their home than, the black school as was the case with Linda Brown, whose exclusion
from her closest school led her father to give their name to Brown v. Board of Education.]
If those limits werenat enough, there were two special features for white families. It was
possible to transfer to another school, and there was a rigid system of tracking, designed
to assure people that there would be no decline in astandardsa, and the track placements
were strongly related to race. The plan created a neighborhood school system with some
special exits for whites. Washington allowed transfers for apsychological reasonsa which
27

Jack Greenberg, Race Relations and American Law, New York: Columbia Univ. Press, l959, p. 217
Bolling v. Sharpe, 347 U.S. 497 (l954)
29
Don Shoemaker, ed., With All Deliberate Speed: Segregation-Desegregation in Southern Schools, New
York: Harper and Brothers, 1957, p. 149.
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28

civil rights groups saw as a way to permit some whites to avoid integration.30 The school
system responded to desegregation by developing a track system, sorting out students by
ability level. Assistant Superintendent Carl F. Hansen developed the track system and
presided over the desegregation process when he became superintendent. There was only
one major incident. At a football showdown between the public schools and the Catholic
schools champs in l962 a destructive racial battle with hundreds of injuries broke out
after the Catholic school won, provoking major investigations. Although the authorities
promised to comply, white resistance surged. After a race riot in Washington whites filed
a lawsuit to prevent desegregation but it was rejected in Sabine v. Sharpe. There were
brief white protests at the white high schools receiving the most black students and many
adjustments to be made in bringing together what had been two separate school systems
with separate faculties and administrative staffs in the same space.31
In addition to the racial change, the district was dealing with poor school funding and
class sizes of up to 48 students and a lack of classrooms to accommodate growth in some
parts of a city suffering from control of the city by often hostile congressional
committees.32 In the first three years of integration the system of 104,000 students was
losing about 4,000 white students and gaining about 4,000 black students per year. A
contemporary study noted, athe trend began as far back as l945a when the school district
was still totally segregated, no one was even thinking about a desegregation possibility
and there was a 56% white district enrollment.33
In the decade after Brown the fierce resistance of the South meant that 98% of Southern
black students in the eleven states of the Old Confederacy were still in completely black
schools after a decade of struggle. Washington was surrounded by this legal and political
storm and all-white refuges were rapidly expanding across the suburban boundaries.
The desegregation of Washington was strongly attacked by segregationist members of
Congress who controlled a special subcommittee which held widely publicized
congressional hearings in l956. Southern members of Congress, who controlled much of
policy through various congressional committees, were eager to publicize problems in
Washington. They held hearings on white complaints and pictured the DC schools, in one
historianas words, as aa blackboard jungle in which all standards, academic and moral,
had collapsed because of race mixing.a34
The committee demanded district data on the new educational tracks and the data showed
that 86% of the students in the college prep track were white while 70% of the middle
track was black and in the abasica track designed to train students for unskilled jobs, 89%
of the students were African American.35 The committeeas sensational report claimed that
desegregation was producing white flight, was a threat to athe economic and cultural
30

Ibid., pp. 220-221.
Ibid., pp. 152-153.
32
Ibid., p. 154.
33
Ibid. p. 156.
34
Ibid., pp. 41-42.
35
Ibid., p. 159.
31

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foundations of the citya, was related to soaring juvenile delinquency and sex offenses,
and was raising costs and demoralizing educators.36 The subcommitteeas majority called
for a return to segregated schools.37 This was a period in which there were still many
high seniority southern Democrats controlling congressional committees affecting the
district. At this point the large majority of Southern congressmen signed the Southern
Manifesto attacking the Supreme Courtas decision and calling for resistance.
In 1968, a decade later, Supt. Hansen intensified the debate with his book, Danger in
Washington,38 in which he defended his efforts and expressed a critical view of racial
changes in the district. Hansen blamed the trouble on problems in the black family
structure in the city and social decay. A local investigating commission, however, pointed
to the tracking system and the placement of many black students in dead end tracks as an
underlying cause of the frustration and anger.39
The availability of rapidly expanding and affordable segregated white baby boom
suburbs with white schools in Virginia and Maryland only intensified the long-standing
decline in the DC white enrollment. Across the bridge in Virginia the schools were still
totally segregated and the stateas segregationist leaders pointed to what they saw as the
horror of Washington. Four years after the Brown decision, Virginia Governor J. Lindsay
Almond, Jr. seized control of schools which courts had ordered to integrate in three
Virginia districts and shut them down. The next year he pledged, aI will not permit white
and colored children to be taught together in the public schoolsa which would bring athe
livid stench of sadism, sex, immorality, and juvenile pregnancy infesting the mixed
schools of the District of Columbia and elsewhere.a40 Virginia adopted a set of amassive
resistancea policies that refused to recognize the authority of the Supreme Court,
provided for shutting down any school or school district that admitted black students to
white schools, attacked the NAACP, and offered to support private school vouchers if a
district shut its public schools to resist integration. Although much of this structure would
eventually be dismantled in federal courts and under the federal 1964 Civil Rights Act,
the Washington DC desegregation took place in a very difficult time.41
The Judicial Effort: Serious but Too Late
Although the initial desegregation of Washington schools came after the Supreme Court
found the cityas segregation law unconstitutional, neither the courts nor the federal office
for civil rights had to impose a plan on the city as they did in many of the Southas large
cities. Washingtonas very moderate plan was implemented without a court order by the
cityas school authorities. There was extended litigation in federal court over the DC
school desegregation effort responding to continuing patterns of segregation and
36

Ibid., p. 159.
Ibid., p. l60.
38
Carl F. Hansen, Danger in Washington (NY: Parker Publishing Co., 1968)
39
Raymond Wolters, Race and Education, 1964-2007, Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2008, pp.
72-74.
40
Reed Sarratt, The Ordeal of Desegregation: The First Decade, New York: Harper and Row, l964, p. 14.
41
Robbins L. Gates, The Making of Massive Resistance, Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press, 1964;
Benjamin Muse, Virginiaas Massive Resistance, Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1961;
24
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37

inequality in the city, leading to major federal court decisions in l967 and 1971 in the
Hobson v. Hansen case.42 Superintendent Hansen and the school district were sued by
Julius Hobson, a federal civil servant and local civil rights protest leader who had been
deeply involved in the local schools and analyzed school statistics, pointing to the
persistence of segregation and alleged discrimination in the tracking system, which
assigned students to separate educational programs based on elementary school tests.
The case was heard by Judge Skelly Wright, who had become famous for his heroic role
in insisting on integration of the New Orleans schools and other civil rights rulings in the
face of fierce resistance.43 The court ruled that that the tests for the tracks were not
actually measuring ability because they were biased and the system would perpetuate
racial inequality. Frustrated by an inability to significantly desegregate a district with few
white students, the court reached deeply into dimensions of educational inequality within
Washington and made far-reaching decisions. The court ordered the elimination of the
tracking system in 1967 and, in l971, the court ordered the district to equalize per pupil
spending on teachers in elementary schools across the district. White areas with more
senior teachers paid higher average salaries under the teacheras contract and that
produced higher average expenditures per student. The court ruled in favor of a more
equitable distribution of resources. The 1971 decision imposed a very strict financial
redistribution.44
The Court examined in detail the statistics on the segregation of the tracks and the
segregation of the remaining white students in the district in the more affluent area awest
of the parka, the Northwest part of the city beyond the Rock Creek Park. The court found
that athe neighborhood school policy a| segregates the Negro and the poor children from
the white and the more affluent children in most of the District's public schools.a It
condemned the districtas ause of optional zones for the purpose of allowing white
children, usually affluent white children, atrappeda in a Negro school, to aescapea to a
awhitea or more nearly white school, thus making the economic and racial segregation of
the public school children more complete.a It found that afaculties were segregated and
the white schools had more funds.a The Court concluded that school officials were not
only segregating at the school level but that in the schools which still had white children
in what was already a 90% black district, children were being placed at different track
levels based on ainappropriatea testing and that the students in the lower tract were
adenied equal opportunity to obtain white collar education available to the white and
more affluent children.a
The decision was far ahead of its time on several fronts. Experts in desegregation and
many community critics had long pointed to the fact that bringing students to diverse
schools and then segregating them inside the school gravely undermined the potential
benefits of diversity. The court also anticipated future scholarly research on the central
importance of teachers in creating unequal opportunity in schooling though it defined the
42

Hobson v. Hansen, 265 F. Supp. 902 (1967); Hobson v. Hansen, 327 F. Supp. 844 (1971);
William J. Brennan, Jr., Patricia M. Wald, Richard Parker and Bill Monroe, aIn Memoriam: J. Skelly
Wright,a Harvard Law Review, Vol. 102, No. 2 (Dec., 1988), pp. xvi+361-374
44
Donald L. Horowitz, The Courts and Social Policy, Washington: Brookings Inst., 1977, pp. 106-170.
25
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43

issue in terms of equalizing teacheras salary per student. Most desegregation plans called
for desegregating the teaching force and providing some training but they did not go
further. Though it was framed in terms of dollars, a consequence was to prevent the
concentration of all of the most experienced teachers in more affluent schools. It would
be years before researchers would define the issue more precisely with evidence that
showed that brand new teachers were substantially less effective and that a few years of
experience created a significant advantage for students. The decision was a sincere effort
to find some kind of a judicial control on serious inequality.
The court ordered these difficult changes in its two major decisions. Under the decisions,
the aoptional zonesa that allowed whites to transfer out of heavily black areas were
ended, and there was to be voluntary transfer for black students to remaining white
schools if they applied. Strong differences in the number of dollars per student in the
budgets of different schools in the city led to the courtas second major decision, which
ordered a radical equalization of funding. Since most funding in school districts is for
personnel and much of the inequality was caused by the fact that the white and higher
income schools tended to have teachers with more training and experience, which
produced higher salaries under the local teachers contract, the court ordered the
calculation of per student budgets at the beginning of every school year and the
immediate reassignment of teachers in elementary schools to approximately equalize
funding. Though far-reaching and well-intentioned, this reform resulted in the reassigning
of many teachers shortly after the school year began, which produced destructive
transfers and instability just as schools were getting organized for the year. Good school
reform requires building teams and capacity over time and this process broke up school
level teams in an arbitrary way. Eventually the difficulties caused by a rigid and often
disruptive approach gave way to a quiet settlement of the issue.
From a standpoint of achieving lasting and effective desegregation across the city, the
school district and the courts dealing with the city faced huge problems. First, much of
the city was already a residentially segregated black area before desegregation began, and
rapid white suburbanization was far advanced. Second, the burden fell on a weak school
district in a city with no self-government and a conservative tradition. Third, although the
plan was a neighborhood school plan the residential movement of white families to the
suburbs was very dramatic even before the plan. Fourth, there were some disruptive
incidents that received a great deal of attention and accelerated the polarization. Fifth, the
court intervened too late and tried to do too much. Some of the things the court ordered
had never been done in a big city before. Although some of the negative consequences of
tracking were obvious, how to eliminate it in a city where black and white students came
to school with, on average, very different preparation was not obvious. Furthermore,
teachers were used to tracked classes and lacked skills in the kind of individualized
instruction needed to cover a wide range of student preparation within a single classroom.
It was much easier to identify the inequities than to actually change processes. The city,
which retained some very desirable largely white neighborhoods, increasingly had a
pattern where the schools became almost all African American even in white
communities.
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Demographic Realities:
Population and School Enrollment Trends in Washington
The white and middle class population that could have sustained meaningful integration
by race and class was gone or going when the time came for desegregation, and nothing
effective was done to keep it over the following decades. The court clearly identified
some of the ways in which inequality was perpetuated at the classroom and financial
levels but it could not get black kids access to integrated middle class schools. Instead it
tried to quickly implement deep reforms with limited understanding and inadequate tools.
Later research on tracking and on serious classroom reforms in general showed that they
were only likely to work with the support of teachers and administrators, retraining, and
consistent implementation over time. Tracking reforms had proved to be very difficult in
spite of the fact that tracking clearly hurts low achieving students. With no model method
and little support among educators, the court could not implement this change and it was
widely ignored in practice. In terms of the financial changes, future research would show
that the quality and the experience of teachers were much more important than
increments of dollars, and the method the court had adopted of forced transfer of teachers
was often dysfunctional. The financing order was later modified by a consent decree
which focused on class size and teacher-student ratios.
The basic shift in this process as desegregation seemed to become impossible was to
implement the separate but equal principle, and to order changes the district was not
effective in implementing, while the court was not effective in monitoring and directing.
Separate but equal seems a much simpler idea, but when trying to equalize the things that
actually have the most impact on students, such as teacher quality and peer groups, it
becomes apparent that the theory of integration is conceptually much simpler: the basic
focus is simply on giving excluded students access to already more successful schools,
something that is much simpler for a court to manage. But in Washington, for a long
time, that goal simply seemed impossible.
The rapid suburbanization of middle class blacks that hit the city and its schools in the
l970s compounded the obstacles to an educationally beneficial form of diversity in which
students from inferior segregated schools would have access to clearly stronger
opportunities. In the aftermath of the l968 riots in the city though the crack cocaine crisis,
the city faced enormous obstacles. To understand the circumstances under which
desegregation took place and the limits and very negative trends it faced, it is necessary
to review the basic dynamics of population change and residential resegregation in
Washington.
In the history of Washington, the great surges of black population came after the Civil
War, during the Great Depression, and in the l950s and l960s. The cityas white
population surged during the Great Depression and World War II as government
dramatically expanded. During the l950s and l960s there was very substantial growth of
African American population. The critical unmet housing needs, the creation of large
affordable suburban developments, the FHA mortgage insurance lowering interest rates,
the enormous pressures of the post-war baby boom, and the interstate highway program
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greatly expanding access of rural tracts to the city all combined to create a vast suburban
expansion of housing choices for white families. Between 1930 and 1970 the cityas black
population more than quadrupled while the white reached its peak in l950 and was down
60% by 1970 (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Black and White Population Changes in DC, 1930-2014
600,000
500,000
400,000
300,000
200,000
100,000
-

1930

1940

1950

1960

1970

1980

1990

2000

2010

2014

Black 132,068 187,266 280,803 411,737 537,370 445,154 395,213 340,088 305,427 308,776
White 353,981 474,326 517,865 345,263 210,878 164,244 166,131 159,178 194,910 224,184
Black

White

Sources: Census Data for 1930-2000; 2010 5-Year Estimates; and ACS 2014 5-Year Estimates
Note: Data on non-Hispanic/Latino White alone and Black or African American alone populations started
to be collected in 1990. 1970 and 1980 Census Data used a Spanish origin category as a similar indicator.
Earlier data before 1970 did not specify race and Hispanic origin concepts.

The cityas largest losses of white population came in the l950s and l960s when suburban
developments produced what turned out to be some of the best highly affordable housing
investments in U.S. history, creating wealth in the form of housing equity for millions of
white families. Blacks, operating within segregated housing markets, expanded to
adjacent neighborhoods in the city as the whites left. They had no other choice and there
were many realtors specializing in highly profitable neighborhood transitions. The
construction of interstates spurred the movement of jobs out of the city, out to and
beyond the beltway, while the junctions of the freeways and the beltway created great
suburban shopping and office areas, increasing the incentives for whites to move near
new workplaces. Doubtlessly, the fear of racial change in neighborhoods and schools
played a significant role, but there were very large forces at play that influenced cities
across the country whether or not race or desegregation were issues.
Washington became a majority black city in the l950s, the first major city to experience
that change, and the black population reached its peak in 1970. The low point of white
residents came a decade later, in l980, after the riots of the late l960s and the crime and
drug scare of the 1970s. Black middle class families were already joining the suburban
rush in large numbers by the l970s as the boundaries of black communities expanded
more rapidly following the enactment of the federal fair housing law in l968.
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Housing Segregation is the Underlying Reality
Washingtonas Schools Reflect a Long History of Segregated Communities
The Washington areaas rapid population growth and rigid racial segregation created
overcrowding in the black areas and an intense demand for housing because of a
segregated real estate boundary, lasting for generations at the boundaries of existing
black areas because there was no fair housing law. In fact, until a Supreme Court decision
in the l948, Shelly v. Kraemer case, Washington enforced housing segregation by law.
Black areas were surrounded by white areas which had racially discriminatory covenants
written into housing deeds outlawing the sale of homes to blacks. These legal limitations
covering much of city housing meant that even if a white seller and his real estate agent
were willing to sell to a black family, the court would enforce the anti-black covenant
that could not be removed from the deed by the seller.45 During the severe housing
shortage of World War II Washingtonas highest court upheld the denial of a home to a
black federal worker on this ground, and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the judgment.46
Some of the racial boundaries in the city had been held for decades. Obviously, when the
Supreme Court outlawed enforcement of the covenants in l948 the boundaries became
much harder to defend but extensive overt discrimination continued. The decision did not
forbid private discrimination, that would only come much later with fair housing law in
the l960s, but it did accelerate black expansion and white departures.47 Housing
segregation meant for generations that the surging black population was confined to
limited areas often with weak and overcrowded schools.
The basic pattern of residential segregation in the city was long-standing. From 1940 to
the l960 Censuses it was very high, from 79 to 81 on a segregation index where l00 was
total apartheid and zero was random distribution of whites and blacks across the cityas
neighborhoods.48 Washingtonas index was still 79 in both 1970 and 1980, indicating
continuing severe segregation. Neither blacks nor whites had significant interracial
contact even after the federal fair housing law was enacted in l968.49 During this period
the enormous housing shortage that had developed during the Great Depression and the
rationing that prevented building homes for the surging urban population during the War
was followed by the development of mass produced tract suburban housing marketed
only to whites. These were especially the millions of Veterans Administration loans that
permitted vets to buy with low payments and no down payment, which produced an
enormous move to suburbia for young white couples. Almost all of the new
developments were completely segregated. Mass white suburbanization happened in
cities whether or not there was school desegregation, though desegregation cases may
have sped it up for a time.
45

W. H. Jones, The Housing of Negroes in Washington, 1929. Tom C. Clark and Philip B. Perlman,
Prejudice and Property, An Historic Brief Against Racial Covenants,a Washington: Public Affairs Press,
1948, p. 19.
46
Mays v. Burgess, l47 F. 2d, 869, l52 F. 2d 123 (D.C. Cir. 1945), cert. denied, 395 U.S. 858 (1945).
47
Shelly v. Kraemer, 334 U.S. 1 (l948).
48
Karl E. Taeuber and Alma F. Taeuber, Negroes in Cities: Residential Segregation and Neighborhood
Change, New York: Atheneum, l969, p. 41.
49
Karl Taeuber, aRacial Residential Segregation in 24 Cities, 1970-1980,a Univ. of Wisconsin, CDE
Working Paper 83-12, March l983.
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Even when taking economic differences into account, the great majority of the
segregation could not be explained by income levels.50 Black population in the city had
been growing faster than white for decades before desegregationaone-sixth faster in the
l930s, five times as fast in the l940s, and the l950s brought a 47% increase in black
population and a 33% decline in white population.51 In addition to different migration
patterns, shaped significantly by housing discrimination, the black birth rate was far
higher. By l960 the differences between Washington and the suburban ring had become
extreme. The city had 59% nonwhite population and the suburban population was 94%
white.52 More than a fourth of city residents but only about a tenth of suburban residents
were in the lowest income group.53 This was the basic reality perpetuating segregation.
Black Exodus, White Return
Washington seemed a city destined to become overwhelmingly black but, in fact, it began
to change in the opposite direction in spite of the severe segregation of the schools. Over
several Censuses it has become more white and Latino as a massive black migration to
sectors of the suburbs occurred and migration of young whites, Latinos and Asians into
the city made it increasingly multiracial. The jobs in the city, the historic locations, and
the very costly suburban housing markets fostered gentrification in more and more
neighborhoods. Many households who could not afford a suburban home found that they
could buy and fix up a home on the edge of gentrification. As the value of those
renovated homes soared, a dynamic of large scale demand. The white population had
increased more than a third from its 1980 low point by 2013. The Latino population had
grown to a tenth and there was a significant Asian population as well. By 2012, the cityas
black population had dropped to 305,000, a decline of 40% from the peak.54 Census
statistics released in late 2013 showed a continuing rapid population growth in
Washington, where the population grew by 6% between 2010 to 2013, much faster than
the national average. In 2013, the black population was almost exactly 50% of the total,
the white population was 35%, and the city had 10% Latinos, 4% Asians and 2% mixed
race (Figure 2).

50

Ibid., p. 84.
Ibid., p. 117.
52
U.S. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, Metropolitan Social and Economic
Disparities: Implication for Intergovernmental Relations in Central Cities and Suburbs, Washington, Govt.
Printing Office, 1965, p. 222.
53
Ibid., p. 223.
54
Ibid., p. 119.
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51

Figure 2: Population Change in the District of Columbia, 2000-2014
2014

35.4%

48.7%

9.9% 3.6% 2.0%

2013

35.1%

49.4%

9.6% 3.5%2.0%

2012

34.5%

50.4%

9.3% 3.6% 1.8%

2011

34.0%

51.3%

9.0% 3.5% 1.6%

2010

33.4%

52.3%

8.8% 3.5% 1.6%

2000

27.8%
0%

10%

59.4%
20%

30%

40%

50%

60%

7.9% 2.7% 1.7%
70%

80%

90%

White

2000
27.8%

2010
33.4%

2011
34.0%

2012
34.5%

2013
35.1%

2014
35.4%

Black

59.4%

52.3%

51.3%

50.4%

49.4%

48.7%

Latino

7.9%

8.8%

9.0%

9.3%

9.6%

9.9%

Asian

2.7%

3.5%

3.5%

3.6%

3.5%

3.6%

Two or more

1.7%

1.6%

1.6%

1.8%

2.0%

2.0%

White

Black

Latino

Asian

100%

Two or more

Source: 2014 ACS 5-Year estimates and 2010 Census data
Note: AI refers to American Indian

Surprising White Growth in the DC Population
Washington, in 2013, had a minority of family households and less than a fourth (22%)
of the households were husband-wife households. Of the total households, 58% were
non-family households; 43% were single people living alone. Only a fifth of the cityas
households had even one person under 18, so, obviously, schools were of no immediate
personal concern to the great bulk of residents. Many more families had at least one
resident over 60 years old.55 There were similar trends in a number of cities and a variety
of causesabirth rate declines, fewer marriages and later child bearing, longer lifespans,
lower cost housing in some sectors of the suburban edge, changing job locations, etc., but
the absence of viable schooling opportunities for middle class children, and the absence
of schools where white or middle class children would not be very small and isolated
minorities, as well as the high cost of private schools and the availability of higher quality
public schools in major sectors of suburbia all may have an impact.
A city unable to provide acceptable schooling for families with resources and choices
will tend to be a city with a higher proportion of elderly, a higher proportion of renters, a
lower proportion of people involved in and supporting the public schools, which are
55

U.S. Bureau of the Census, District of Columbia, Quick Facts, downloaded, Census.gov, Dec. 2, 2013.
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mostly composed of low income nonwhite families in low income neighborhoods,
schools in less stable and less empowered communities. In terms of families with school
age children using public schools, it will be more occupied by families who have no other
options for housing, disproportionately families with less schooling and fewer resources
or families without school age children and largely uninterested in the schools. That is
not a full and vibrant community. If the schooling options were different, the housing
decisions might change, neighborhoods could have more children, and the composition
and stability of neighborhoods and the value of the family housing in those communities
could well be affected. The communities and their housing markets could compete much
more effectively for middle class residents of all races. Like many other neighborhoods in
reviving neighborhoods in big cities as whites were returning to Washington, families
with school age children were greatly underrepresented.
As it once led the nation with a surging black population, which led people to think it was
becoming a ghetto city, almost all-poor and all-black, now Washington appears to be
leading in a very different direction. The cityas composition has changed dramatically in
the last three decades, but the schools have not. The city is now an increasingly white
multiracial city with about half blacks, a city with both very rich and very poor
neighborhoods. It is a city where gentrification is a massive and highly visible fact of life,
but with public schools that include very few white or middle class students. The great
majority of the regionas black middle class has been gone for a long time. Block by
block, neighborhood by neighborhood, revitalization has converted poor black areas into
affluent, multiracial, increasingly white, middle and upper class neighborhoods often
served by declining poor nonwhite schools and an entire parallel system of segregated
high-poverty charter schools, both irrelevant to newcomers. Somehow the transformation
of the city has not connected with the schools, except in a small, gradually increasing, set
of neighborhood public schools.
Small Changes in School Diversity
While white flight received intense attention, black flight was far less visible but deeply
important. White analysts and policy makers are often unaware of the large class
differences within the African American community. Washington schools lost middle
class students of both races. Because there is a large peer group effect on learning and
middle class students are typically better prepared and middle class parents have more
resources and political influence this is a major problem. In 1989 the regular public
schools enrolled 79,718 students, a great decline from its past peak, and the schools were
91% black, a decline from a peak of 96% in 1974.56 Less than one in twenty was Latino
and fewer than one in 25 was white. If all these students were spread equally across the
district, a classroom of 20 students might have had one white and one Latino and all the
rest African American.
Public school enrollment fell significantly from 1989 to 2010 in the District of Columbia
and the percentage of black students in the school district fell substantially, although
56

Orfield, G. (1983). Public School Desegregation in the United States, 1968- 1980, Joint Center for
Political Studies, Washington, DC and computations from the Common Core of Education Statistics.
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blacks remained the great majority of DC students. The public schools in the 2010-11
school year were down to 67,967, the black share of the smaller system was down to
77%. The white share was still very small but had doubled to 7.5%, and the Latino share
had nearly tripled to 13 percent. School integration was an empty discussion when the
system was virtually all black, but as the cityas and the school districtas demography was
changing there were new possibilities, particularly if the district could connect with the
growing white population in the city and persuade more white families with children to
stay in the city and be part of the public schools. There were not any charter schools in
the l980s because the first charter school was only created in Minnesota in l992 but the
idea quickly came to Washington.
Intense school segregation by both race and poverty reached a very high level four
decades ago and has been virtually untouched by the last three decades as the city reintegrated. A city that had long seemed on a path to become almost all black has been
becoming more white and multiracial decade after decade. There has been major white
flight into the city. As in gentrification in general, the availability of affordable housing
in very expensive markets, the convenience and access to jobs without long commutes,
the proximity to historic areas, the boredom of young people in aging suburbs, and the
density and excitement of new concentrations of young professionals creating something
together, all played a role as young people became much more attracted to city life. The
black flight out to parts of the suburbs has been strong since the l970s as fair housing
enabled black communities to rapidly expand into areas where they had been excluded,
but did not create substantial and stable integration. Some suburbs saw major
resegregation. Regular public schools, which were always highly segregated have been
partially displaced by a large system of new charter schools, actively supported by
successive national administrations, which are even more segregated.
Changes in School Population
The cityas schools have been subjected to wave after wave of reforms embodying ideas
ranging from rigid tracking, to Afrocentric education, to competency based learning, to
the test, drill and kill of the high stakes accountability movement, to the market based
theories of the charter school movement.
There have been many claims of breakthroughs, but few non-blacks or middle class
students of any race attend charter or voucher schools. In 2003 Congress and the Bush
Administration created the first voucher program in the nation using federal funds.57 The
law provided funds for about 1,700 students per year reaching a peak of l,900 students in
2007 before being closed to new students in 2009 following the Democratic victory in
Congress in 2008. Two years later, after the GOP victory in the 2010 midterms, the
program was restored in 2011. Mary Levy, a leading observer of DC schools, notes:

57

The District of Columbia School Incentive Act of 2003.
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aDC officials had asked that it be continued, no doubt because every year the city gets
an additional $20 million for DC public schools (DCPS) and another $20 million for
charters, as part of the program.a58
In evaluating charter or voucher schools, there were, of course, great problems in dealing
with the classic problem of selection bias (the differences measured and unmeasured
between students whose families chose such programs and those who do not). An
evaluation of vouchers was published in 2010 reporting that there were no significant
impacts on academic achievement but the studentsa chances of graduating from high
school improved.59 Another evaluation is due soon. Research showed that the program
served a very small fraction of DC school age children, that most of the schools
participating were in whiter, more affluent areas, that two-thirds charged more than the
vouchers requiring family or school funding beyond the vouchers, that the vouchers did
not cover required learning materials and equipment, and that the program underserved
black children in spite of its focus on low income families.60 Recently, it has been
enrolling more Latinos. Though the center of a good deal of controversy, vouchers had a
very modest overall impact on the schools in this rich, highly unequal, but increasingly
diverse city.61 Overall, in spite of a series of major experiments implementing leading
conservative reform theories, the differences in educational outcomes remain profound.
The city has recovered dramatically from the tough times of the post-riot and crack eras
and it is, in some parts, a great monumental city and a city of vibrant but costly
neighborhoods but it is, in many ways, a city where middle class people come when they
are young and leave when they have children, when they have to think about public
schooling that would meet their needs for the kinds of experienced teaching and
challenging classes with prepared classmates found in diverse schools. People who do not
raise their children in a city make at most a temporary commitment to the city and,
usually, none at all to its schools. The schools lose not only their potential support and
active contributions but also the possibility of preparing children of all backgrounds to
flourish in the neighborhoods and institutions of a highly diverse middle class society.
Washington schools have been assailed as failures for decades, partly because as an
independent federal district, its scores are always compared to state-wide averages
elsewhere. Yet it is actually only a central city, a very small part of a very large interstate
metropolitan area (serving only 8 percent of the overall regionas students now). Assailed,
also partly because national media and national politics are concentrated in the city and
many leaders of government and the professions live in the area, within the pattern of
metropolitan segregation by race and income, where many look down on the DC schools.
58

Personal communication to author
Patrick Wolf et al., Evaluation of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program, Final Report NCEE 20104018, Washington, National Center for Educational Evaluation and Regional Assistance, June 2010.
60
Jill Feldman, et. al., Evaluation of the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program An Early Look at
Applicants and Participating Schools Under the SOAR Act , U.S. Dept. of Education, 2014.
61
http://dcscholarships.org/elements/file/OSP/SY%201617%20Documents/DC%20OSP%20Program%20Fact%20Sheet%20-%20SY%202014-15%20%202014_11_19.pdf
59

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The schools reflect the fact that it is the only school district that Congress can control
directly. Political leaders often feel entitled to pass judgment and impose their ideas on
the city, which has been subjected to one reform after another, often accompanied by
disparaging comments about local educators. When conservatives won control of the
House of Representatives in l994 and the Bush Administration took office in 2000, the
DC schools were special targets for imposed policy and structural changes. The
conservative presidential and congressional election victories in 2016 featured a clear
GOP emphasis on choice as a central solutionacharters, vouchers, and magnets.
Conservatives and opponents of civil rights often played on what they saw as the failure
of black and liberal leaders and worked to impose their favorite policies, such as charters
and vouchers and high stakes accountability on the city. The DC schools were also an
irresistible target for advocates and foundations interested in demonstrating the power of
their preferred solutions in the bright light of the national capital and the national media.
Sometimes it was a case of white politicians from another part of the country whose
children are educated in Washingtonas affluent suburbs or in elite private schools
deciding what should be done to poor black children and their teachers in the city.
Sometimes it was national foundations or advocacy groups eager to put their favorite
reform in place in a very visible city.
Generations of reforms, both externally imposed and designed by city leaders have had
very little success, though they usually claim success in the short run. Some of the widely
publicized claimed successes have proved to be illusionary, such as those of Michelle
Rhee, who was nationally celebrated as a tough minded reformer but whose results were
products of misreported data, corruption, and wishful thinking by reform advocates and a
credulous press.62
Segregation by race and class endures, is directly related to educational problems, but
nothing significant has been done about it in spite of important new possibilities. There is
an extreme gap between outcomes for white and black children in the city. Some brief,
ill-designed, and ineffective efforts were made under the Rhee administration to attract
white students but faced suspicion and fierce criticism since they were connected with an
administration pushing harsh anti-teacher policies and threatening schools and teachers
with removal and closing, which would obviously hit many African American
professionals and institutions. In a city that still has enormous racial differences and a
troubled racial history, it is all too easy to conceptualize education as a zero-sum game in
which anything done for one group or community means things are being taken away
from others. Proposals to work on creating more diverse schools are sometimes seen as
diverting attention from the necessities of poor city schools and the professional
obligation to serve the largely black enrollment in the district.
Obviously, in a society with a deep history of discrimination and racial polarization,
suspicion is not surprising. It seems that if attention is given to more affluent and
62

John Merrow, aA Story About Michelle Rhee That No One Will Print,a Taking Note, July 31, 2 2013;
Greg Toppo, aMemo warns of rampant cheating in D.C. public schools.a USA Today, April 11, 2013.
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educated white and Asian populations and to educational offerings that would be
attractive to middle and upper class families of color, it must subtract from the energy
and resources devoted to the schools of poor black children. But this is a fundamental
misconception because education is not a zero sum game. Inviting more children and
their more affluent families into the schools can strengthen the schools and increase their
resources and opportunities. Students and families with resources can create benefits and
possibilities for other students, and students from privileged white and Asian
backgrounds can learn a great deal from the other students about how to succeed in a
truly diverse city and nation. It all depends on how it is done, including the essential
work to build trust, respect and equal status among the various racial and ethnic groups.
We have consistently found, in reading the surveys and research and in our work across
the country, that all families have the same dreams about their children, and that those
dreams include college. When there are more middle class families in a school who insist
on good college preparation and have the political power to make effective demands, it is
much more likely to happen. Then the challenge is to make sure that the less privileged
students get good access to the better opportunities.
Right now the DC public schools have suffered greatly from misguided policy and from
the departure of great numbers of students and families to charter schools of every shape
and educational approach and every level of success and failure. Unfortunately, the
charter schools have been even less effective in reflecting the cityas diversity than the
regular public schools. They look more like the Washington of several decades in the past
than the changing city of the present and future.
The racial achievement gap has been a goal of many of the reforms, but the gap remains
massive. NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress, often known as the
anationas report carda) scores show it has actually grown rather than declined as hoped
(Figure 3). That could reflect the continuing loss of more successful black families to the
suburbs and the affluence of many white families of DC school children. The only
objective external assessment of test scores in DC is from the National Assessment of
Educational Progress which shows in the following chart a significant recent increase in
the scores of white students, irregular changes in the small Hispanic enrollment, and
basically a flat line of achievement scores on reading for black students over an eight
year period.63 With whites gaining and blacks stuck at a low level, the gap has actually
widened. The chart shows a large racial gap that is still growing and relative stagnation of
black and Latino studentsa test scores.

63

Valerie Strauss aD.C. school systemas gaping achievement gaps a in seven graphsa Answer Sheet,
Washington Post March 12, 2014 https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2014/03/12/d-cschool systems-gaping-achievement-gaps-in-seven-graphs/
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Figure 3: The National Assessment of Educational Progress, 8th Grade Reading Sacle
Scores DC Public Schools by Race/Ethnicity

Trying Everything Else
Except for a few neighborhoods in Washington there was no mobilization to maintain
diversity in the city, and much of the cityas development of subsidized housing came
right in the midst of segregated black areas, building in segregation by both race and class
in the neighborhood and the school where the children were assigned. After the Hobson
v. Hansen experience there would be no significant effort to integrate the schools or to
sustain integration.
During the decades when white students shrank to a very tiny minority in an
overwhelmingly black district it seemed that nothing could be done, though there were a
handful of communities that organized their own local efforts and retained or recruited
white students from families living in gentrifying areas, creating diverse schools. Urban
school district offices typically lack the experience and skills or the desire to deal with
the demanding newcomers in gentrifying areas. The DC district virtually ignored the
issue. Typically districts serving cities with few remaining white or middle class students
have few leaders who are skilled in dealing with middle class communities and often do
not see such claims as legitimate because of their professed dedication to serving the
poor. Middle class parents already skeptical and very concerned about assuring that their
children are on the path to college can be challenging to deal with, and there is typically
little or no discussion about the values of integration (considered an issue in the distant
past) or knowledge about the conditions for successful intergroup relations in academic
and social terms.
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Washington became a playground for reforms, some of them imposed by Congress or the
White House, others growing out of community movements, some reflecting policy fads,
some strongly advocated by foundations and others fostering their favorite ideas, and
some the products of local leaders. Because Washington is so visible and the city schools
had long had a bad reputation, is was an important launching pad for reform proposals.
By the late l960s and early l970s the civil rights movement in many heavily black
communities, finding that whites were not willing to make deep changes, had turned
toward the Black Power movement fostered by Stokely Carmichael, Malcolm X and
many others. The educational expression of this movement was the Afrocentric
curriculum advocated by DC Superintendent Barbara Sizemore and others. The
Afrocentric curriculum became a major issue in the 1970s and early 1980s before being
watered down and largely ignored.64 The basic ideas were that black leadership and
teachers would end many of the problems caused by white racism, that featuring black
leaders would instill higher aspirations among students, that teaching about black history
and culture mattered, and, in some versions, that there were distinctive black learning
styles that required different educational approaches. But huge gaps remained
Washington schools were much more influenced by the Black Power movement, which
reached its peak by the early l970s, than by the Brown decision and its segregation
increased.65 As the city finally got a limited form of self-government under the Johnson
Administration, and African Americans took over virtually all the leadership positions in
the school district, there was great hope that black leadership would turn things around.
Even as this was happening, however, Washington was witnessing the largest suburban
migration of blacks from the central city to the suburbs. At the same time, major
gentrification was underway in a number of DC neighborhoods, but the newcomers rarely
enrolled in the many schools segregated by race and poverty in the neighborhoods where
they were buying up and fixing up old homes. So there was an increasingly polarized city
where the growing population was largely ignored in the schools, the existing population
was ill-served, and very little challenging education was available for middle class
families of any race.
In the mid-1980s the Reagan administration executed a fundamental change in education
policy beginning with the l983 A Nation at Risk report which mobilized change in
virtually all parts of the country with a diagnosis (later proved to be seriously flawed) that
the educational achievement of U.S. students was plummeting and that the crisis could be
deal with by greatly tightening up testing and accountability. The report blamed teachers,
administrators and teachersa organizations for accepting and protecting mediocrity and
argued that if the schools failed, even under new policies, then market based alternatives
should be supported. Spurred by the Reagan Administration, the focus changed from
issues of equity to issues of test-driven accountability and competition from schools
outside the public school system. When the House of Representatives was captured by
the Republican Party in l994 for the first time in decades, the conservatives took an
64

Amy Binder, Contentious Curricula: Afrocentrism and Creationism in American Public Schools.
Princeton, Princeton Univ. Press, 2002
65
Gary Orfield, Public School Desegregation in the United States, 1968-1980, Washington: Joint Center
for Political Studies, 1983.
38
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intense interest in changing DC school policy. While members of Congress have only
limited and very indirect effects on the schools in their own states and districts, they can
have radical impacts on Washington, which has no voting member of Congress and no
Senators to protect its interests.
This became the dominant policy perspective to the present, embraced by five successive
presidents of both parties, by Congress, by private foundations and, after charter schools
were first created in 1992, a fundamental justification for their expansion. The idea was
that social inequality and isolation did not matter and that any school properly sanctioned
or put under private management could do well with students regardless of development,
home and community problems. The basic idea was that there was some accountability
and sanctions scheme and/or some organizational change that could make the schools
equal if it were implemented forcefully. Washington tried them all. During the civil rights
era, racial and economic inequality had been defined as fundamental roots of educational
inequality. The new orthodoxy insisted that desegregation and poverty programs were
distractions and had led lax officials to accept aexcusesa for the inequality which was
defined as the fault of the urban public school systems and their teachers. Since the
responsibility was put on the teachers and the schools, schools serving well prepared
students from families with resources got very high ratings and schools serving poor
minority students often faced sanctions, demoralization, teacher firings and school
closings.
Congress and the President imposed a control board which took over the district for five
years and removed its school board. Congress authorized charter schools and vouchers
for private schools and fostered their expansion. The city council turned the schools over
to the mayor; the mayor appointed a young chancellor, Michelle Rhee, who became
famous with an extreme version of accountability and sanctions. Overall, attention was
almost wholly focused on various theories to improve the performance of the districtas
black studentsathe fact that the city was changing outside the schools was very largely
ignored in the policy process.
Financial problems, weak leadership, scandals, and poor educational results, and the
takeover of Congress by an aggressive conservative movement that wanted to foster
private and charter schools, meant that the DC schools would face one reform after
another in management, in creation of a vast charter school system, a financial control
board, harsh accountability processes embodied in the No Child Left Behind Act, a
budget squeeze, voucher systems and in increasingly intense efforts to radically change
local school governance. A young, inexperienced and deeply ideological Superintendent,
Michelle Rhee, brought the adoption of a forceful version of the dominant conservative
theories: that the educational inequality could be solved by firing teachers, breaking up
the unionas power, and shutting schools. As public schools closed, charters expanded. For
a time, Rhee was celebrated across the country, on the front cover of Time Magazine, and
as a relentless educational heroine in the film, Waiting for Superman. Rhee pursued
systematic firings of principals and teachers who did not deliver the test score gains she
demanded; the publicity increased her fame. Ultimately, however, there was powerful
evidence, as was found in some other cities reporting huge gains, that incredible pressure
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had produced massive cheating. Rhee and the deputy who succeeded her were the
nationally visible, foci of the ideas of high stakes accountability for schools and teachers
that were central to No Child Left Behind and Obamaas Race to the Top, ideas
discredited and rejected when Congress ended the NCLB, ended the hated aadequate
yearly progressa requirements and radically reduced federal power in education in the
Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015.
Washington was especially impacted by these fads since the city schools get a great deal
of attention from press that Congress actually reads, and both Congress and private
groups with school reform agendas are continuously promoting their favorite reforms.
One of the DC problems is that its performance is constantly compared with state
averages across the country, but it is not a state, in school population terms, it is the poor
inner city of a large metropolitan area. So it often appears to be at or near the bottom of
the list of states in reports of schooling outcomes, meaning that the schools are constantly
blamed and assumed to need a radical shake up.66 It would be much more appropriate to
compare DC schools with those of other central city school systems serving
overwhelmingly students from impoverished families.
Under Michelle Rhee, there was a modest, limited, short-lived effort to recruit white
families into the school district, but amid the storm of controversy related to the massive
displacement of black teachers and administrators and school closings, with her fierce
focus on high stakes testing outcomes and teacher firings, this effort produced suspicion
and racial controversy.67 As in many central cities with few white or middle class
families using public schools, a campaign aimed at recruiting middle class families of all
races and in all neighborhoods might well be received better and avoid controversy. But
recruitment is certainly necessary to overcome stereotypes about the system and to assure
middle class Washingtonians that their children will be welcome and receive the level of
education the parents demand. The problem in Washington is far more serious than white
flight; it is, except in limited sectors, flight of the middle class of all races. In fact, having
parents with the resources and skills to make effective demands of the bureaucracy and
contribute in many ways to the schools is one of the tools for creating better schools that
could come with more diverse schools whatever the race of the middle class parents.
Research has shown for a half century that studentsa school success is aided significantly
by being in classes with better prepared fellow students and better trained and more
experienced teachers, and that such teachers strongly prefer to teach and remain in
schools with students more prepared to learn.68 That means that integration creates
important possibilities for students of color as well as others, creating classes that are
academically much like those of the middle class suburbs. These conditions are rarely
found in schools segregated by race and poverty.

66

The Nationas Report Card: http://www.nationsreportcard.gov/
Jonetta Rose Barras, aRecruiting Diversity: Michelle Rheeas Campaign to Diversify DCPS Means
Wooing White Parents,a City Paper, Aug. 27, 2007.
68
Erica Frankenberg aAmericaas Diverse, Racially Changing Schools and their Teachersa EdD
Dissertation, Graduate School of Education, Harvard Univ., 2008.
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67

The Changing City and Metro Population: Housing Issues
Back in l965, as serious federal desegregation efforts began in the South, Washington had
99% of its black students in majority nonwhite schools and 90% in intensely segregated
schools with zero to 10 percent whites. More than a third of the small white enrollment,
however, still attended schools that were 90 to 100% white.69 A decade after the Brown
decision, the nationas capital was thoroughly segregated. After the Johnson
Administrationas enforcement the l964 Civil Rights Act, as the U.S. entered the most
decisive period of desegregation in U.S. history, 1965 to the early l970s, when the South
went from 98% of black students in totally segregated schools to become the least
segregated part of the U.S., it was too late for DC to develop such a plan. White and
middle class children were too few for any citywide success, and so there would only be
localized islands of diversity in the sea of segregation for many years. The issue largely
disappeared. In that period, racial change was widely thought to be irreversible.
There was a dramatic racial sorting out of population between city and suburbs across the
country in the mid-20th century as metropolitan areas became home for two thirds of
Americans by 1960. In l900 most metropolitan whites and blacks lived in central cities,
but by 1960 most whites were suburbanites and more than 80% of metropolitan blacks
lived in central cities, many of which were experiencing rapid resegregation. Between
l940 and l960 aeighty-four percent of the Negro increase occurred in central cities and 80
percent of the white increase occurred in the suburbs.a70 The changes were even more
dramatic in the largest metros.71 There were increasing education and income gaps
between the cities and the suburbs.72 More than a third of the remaining white students in
the largest metros were attending private and parochial schools.73 This all was before
there was any significant busing. The dominant force was the expansion of segregated
housing. That was the situation in Washington at the beginning of the l970s.
Washington became one of the first cities where there was an early and massive loss of
the black middle class. DC was an unusual city with a massive immovable concentration
of federal and related jobs and historic sites fixed in the central city, which gave it
different possibilities from many cities. Although there was a great deal of discussion
about awhite flighta from the cities, which was often blamed on school desegregation,
much less attention was paid to the equally important and sometime very rapid ablack
flighta that reached major proportions in the l970s. The large majority of black students
in the Washington metropolitan area have now long attended suburban schools, including
the huge Prince Georgeas County, MD system that was the center of the black suburban
surge in the l970s, and now has few white students, and where black children are now
even more segregated than those in Washington.
69

U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Racial Isolation in the Public Schools, Washington: Government
Printing Office, l967, p. 5
70
U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Racial Isolation in the Public Schools, Washington: Government
Printing Office, l967, p. 11
71
Ibid.
72
Ibid., pp. 19-20.
73
Ibid., p. 39.
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One of the ironic impacts of laws against housing discrimination was that they often were
not seriously enforced and did not produce lasting neighborhood integration but they did
greatly facilitate the desires of middle class blacks to live in suburban neighborhoods
with suburban schools. After these laws passed, racial boundaries could not be enforced
for sectors of suburbia, particularly those with relatively affordable housing near existing
urban black communities, which changed suburban areas (but often resegregated
afterwards). For the urban poor black children and their neighborhoods this meant the
loss of the better prepared fellow black students and their parents who had the power and
skills to navigate often complex bureaucracies to demand resources for their schools and
insist that they prepare children for higher education. Middle class black parents who
know that their children must have higher education if they are to remain in the middle
class are a very important resource for schools and communities. When they are gone the
school communities are dominated by families with very limited resources, few
professional skills, and little access to powerful authorities. Unfortunately after
communities receive an in-migration of black middle class families, they are usually cut
off from the much larger white middle class market and often transition to lower income
renters and households with subsidized housing vouchers and their schools become more
impoverished. Eventually there are new centers of concentrated poverty with troubled
schools. When the middle class of all races is gone few people in power of any race have
any direct connection with public schools.
When housing segregation was extremely intense and color lines extremely difficult to
cross, the middle class black families had no choice but to remain in neighborhoods with
many poor families. Now, although the real level of choice is still limited on several
dimensions, these families do have the opportunity to move to more middle class areas
and away from central city schools. They have been doing this now for at least a third of
a century. It leaves many individual schools and the DC school district without educated
parents with money and skills to demand that schools provide what middle class families
can demand and that all students need.
One of the things that is often lost in thinking about the era of official segregation is that
much of the storied success of the best black institutions of that era was based on the
involuntary concentration of the black middle class and professionals in inner city black
neighborhoods because of rigid housing segregation and job discrimination, so the black
schools had access to the most talented people in the community because almost all the
other major professional and higher education jobs were closed to them. This was the
basis of the storied Dunbar High School of the segregation era, fondly remembered as a
strong school with excellent teachers in spite of its subsequent decline. Sometimes
desegregation is blamed for undermining Dunbar and similar schools in other black
communities. It was changes in job and housing opportunities, not school integration,
which undermined those schools, but no one wants to take those choices away from the
black middle class, whose children experience more risk of downward mobility.
Nostalgia is no solution. The kind of people who once staffed Dunbar are now teaching in
excellent colleges and the kind of students and families who were once involved are now
overwhelmingly living in the more integrated suburbs. What Washington does have,
however, is many middle class and upper middle class residents of various races who do
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not use the schools as they are now configured or leave when they decide to have
children or when the children get to school age. If things are to change there has to be a
new, cross-racial way of thinking about strategies to tap into possibilities that were
impossible for decades but now may be available if skillfully pursued.
The metro Washington suburban housing market in the l970s was creating the conditions
for what would become an unprecedented transition in the city in the following decades.
White middle class families had left but the housing cost surge began to create active
interest among young urban professionals in rehabbing homes in historic areas like
Capitol Hill and others. At the same time there were very large areas of Prince Georgeas
County and some other suburban regions that were opening to black families seeking the
suburban dream (and some regions were already showing signs of residential and school
resegregation). Despite the virtual disappearance of whites from the cityas public schools
that reached its most extreme level in the early l970s, the housing market was beginning
to change conditions, but the changes did not revive integration efforts except in isolated
schools and communities.

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Segregation Trends in Washington DC
In this section, we explore Washington DCas public and charter schools. The total
enrollment in DC schools had fallen slightly between 1992 and 2002 but was up slightly,
7.5%, in the next decade. The white DC enrollment at its lowest level fell to about 3% of
the total in 1974.74 By 2014 when the city had only a slight black majority there still were
only 9% whites in the schools, a small increase from the low point. The basic growth was
in Latino students, who increased from less than a seventeenth of the enrollment in 1992
to a seventh by 2013. Black enrollment, which had once been 96% in 1974, was down to
73% in 2013. The district had been totally black and it was gaining some diversity, but
most of the diversity was between two groups afflicted with poverty and low family
educational levels. Whites and Asians together composed slightly more than a tenth of
students by 2013. That would begin to change more rapidly after 2010. The white and
Latino fractions of the DC school population have grown significantly from small bases
since 2000 (Table1).
Table 1: School Enrollment by Race in Combined Public and Charter Schools,
1992-2014
Total
Enrollment
District of Columbia
1992-1993
2002-2003
2013-2014
Border
1992-1993
2002-2003
2013-2014
Nation
1992-1993
2002-2003
2013-2014
*American Indian

White

Black

Percentage
Asian
Latino

AI*

Mixed

77,776
70,461
75,723

3.9%
4.3%
9.1%

89.0%
83.9%
73.1%

1.3%
1.6%
1.6%

5.8%
10.2%
14.5%

0.02%
0.1%
0.1%

1.6%

3,292,748
3,463,519
3,578,017

76.2%
69.9%
62.0%

18.2%
20.5%
18.9%

1.5%
2.1%
2.9%

1.7%
4.0%
9.4%

2.5%
3.5%
3.1%

3.8%

41,003,620
46,806,276
49,258,776

65.7%
58.7%
50.0%

15.7%
16.7%
15.3%

3.6%
4.4%
5.2%

13.9%
18.9%
25.4%

1.0%
1.3%
1.0%

3.0%

In order to better understand the overall context of DC schools, we also considered the
enrollment trend in DCas private schools and examined the changes in student
demographics between 2001 and 2011.

74

Gary Orfield, Public School Desegregation in the United States, 1968-1980, Washington: Joint Center
for Political Studies, 1983.
44
Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles
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Table 2: Total Number of Private Schools and Students in The United States and
Washington, DC, 2001-02 and 2011-12

A
A
United States
District of Columbia
By Religion
Catholic schools
Other religious schools
Nonsectarian schools

2001-2002
Number of
Total
Schools
Enrollment
29,273
5,341,513
147
30,276
45
35
67

2011-2012
Number of
Total
Schools
Enrollment
30,861
4,494,845
80
15,685

10,391
5,096
14,789

23
18
39

6,799
3,768
5,118

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Private School Universe Survey
(PSS), 2011a12 and 2001a02
Note: Details do not sum to total because private schools may belong to more than one association. The estimates for
the 2011-12 data include private schools which provide instruction for one or more of grades kindergarten through
twelve (or comparable ungraded levels); the 2001-2002 data encompass schools which provide instruction for grades
one through twelve only. The 2011 data is the most recent available federal data on private schools.

In SY 2001-2002, there were estimated to be 29,273 private schools in the United States,
and the number of private schools increased by 5% to 30,861 in SY 2011-2012.
However, the total enrollment in private schools declined by more than 846,000 during
the same period, and private school students numbered 4,494,845 in SY 2011-12. (For
the 2001-02 data, NCES included private schools at grades one through twelve while the
2011-12 data encompassed K-12 grade levels) (Table 2).
The decline of private schools in Washington DC was more rapid than the national trend.
In SY 2011-12, 15,685 students were enrolled in DCas private schools, a decrease of
14,591 from the 30,276 students enrolled in SY 2001-2002. Of the three primary types of
private schools in DCaCatholic, other religious, and nonsectariananonsectarian schools
were the most numerous, followed by Catholic schools and other religious schools,
representing 49%, 34%, and 17%, respectively, of all DCas private schools (Table 2).
Table 3: Student Enrollment by Race and Racial Proportion in DC Private Schools,
2001-02 and 2011-12
White
Black/African American
Hispanic/Latino
Asian/Pacific Islander
American Indian
Two or more
Total

2001-2002
Enrollment Proportion
9,730
32.1%
16,705
55.2%
3,103
10.2%
697
2.3%
41
0.1%
30,276

2011-2012
Enrollment Proportion
9,158
58.4%
4,126
26.3%
1,121
7.1%
560
3.6%
17
0.1%
702
4.5%
15,685

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Private School Universe Survey
(PSS), 2011a12 and 2001a02
Note: Details do not sum to total because private schools may belong to more than one association. The estimates for
the 2011-12 data include private schools which provide instruction for one or more of grades kindergarten through
twelve (or comparable ungraded levels); the 2001-2002 data encompass schools which provide instruction for grades
one through twelve only.

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In addition, private schools in DC show different student demographics compared to
DCas public schools, where the majority of student populations are African American.
Unlike public schools in DC, nearly 60% of DCas private school students were white in
SY 2011-12, and slightly more than one quarter (26%) of students attending DCas private
schools were African American; 7% were Hispanic; 4% were Asian and Pacific Islander
(Table 3). A comparison of racial proportions in private schools in SY 2011-12 with the
SY 2001-02 result also shows dramatic changes in student demographics. For the ten
years examined, the white share increased by 26 percentage points while the African
American proportion dropped by nearly 30 percentage points (Figure 4). The number of
white students remained relatively constant, but the sharp decline in nonwhite students
meant that the private schools were increasingly white. Obviously white parents had a
stronger capacity to enroll their children in private schools. The rapid decline in private
schools at the same time of a very rapid expansion of charter schools includes the impact
of some private schools converting to charters, which drew rapid increases in black
enrollment. Even with the voucher programs and gentrification the capacity of private
schools plummeted.
Figure 4: Changes in Racial Proportions in Private Schools between 2001-2011
70%
A

58%
A

60%
A

55%
A

50%
A
40%
A

32%
A

26%
A

30%
A
20%
A

10%
A

10%
A

7%
A

2%
A 4%
A

0%
A 0%
A

4%
A

0%
A
White
A

Black/African
A Hispanic/Latino
A Asian/Paci\ic
A
American
A
Islander
A
2001-Aa02
A

American
A
Indian
A

Two
A or
A more
A

2011-Aa12
A

Table 4: Schools Classified by Percent of Nonwhite Students
Total
Schools
1992-1993
2002-2003
2012-2013

162
182
208

% of
Multiracial
Schools
5.6%
7.7%
9.6%

% of 50-100%
Nonwhite
Schools
95.7%
95.6%
94.7%

% of 90-100%
Nonwhite
Schools
88.9%
89.0%
77.4%

% of 99-100%
Nonwhite
Schools
79.6%
80.2%
59.1%

Note: Nonwhite students represent Black, Latino, American Indian, and Asian students.
Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data
(CCD) Multiracial schools are defined here as schools that have at least 10% students from three or
more racial/ethnic groups.

Of the public schools in DC at the beginning of the 1990s and the 2000s, 96% had a
majority of nonwhite students, which hardly changed in 2012. The extreme nature of the
segregation was beginning to change, however. The percentage of students in intensely
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segregated schools with 0% to 10% white students fell from 89% to 77%, and the
percentage of apartheid schools with 0% to 1% white students dropped from 80% to 59%
between 1992 and 2012 (Table 4). But severe segregation remained.
Even though the overall share of extremely segregated schools decreased between 1992
and 2002, many Black and Latino students in DC still attend schools with virtually no
non-minority diversity. In 2012, almost three quarters Latinos and nearly 90% of blacks
were in intensely segregated schools. Moreover, over one-in-four Latinos and seven-inten blacks in the District went to apartheid schools. (Figure 5)
Figure 5: Black and Latino Students in Minority Segregated Schools in Washington DC,
1992-2013
100%
A
90%
A
80%
A
70%
A
60%
A
50%
A
40%
A
30%
A
20%
A
10%
A
0%
A

Latino
A

Black
A

50-Aa100%
A Minority
A School
A

Latino
A

Black
A

90-Aa100%
A Minority
A School
A

Latino
A

Black
A

99-Aa100%
A Minority
A School
A

1992-Aa1993
A

97.4%
A

99.6%
A

78.1%
A

95.6%
A

60.1%
A

88.1%
A

2002-Aa2003
A

98.4%
A

99.3%
A

85.1%
A

94.1%
A

60.9%
A

87.4%
A

2012-Aa2013
A

97.1%
A

99.2%
A

72.9%
A

88.2%
A

26.5%
A

70.9%
A

1992-Aa1993
A

2002-Aa2003
A

2012-Aa2013
A

Intergroup Contact in Schools in the District of Columbia
In terms of any theory about educational and social integration there has to be significant
real contact with significant numbers of students of other races or ethnicities under
positive conditions to expect substantial effects. Educational benefits for disadvantaged
groups of students depend largely on getting access to the more challenging classes and
peer groups and the different networks and support systems that exist in stronger schools,
most of which have substantial white middle class enrollment. This cannot happen, of
course, if there are very small shares of white students and middle class students in the
schools attended by black and Latino students. We calculate the exposure index by
looking at the racial composition of the school each student of any race attends and then
adding them all together and computing a statewide average exposure level between
groups.

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The exposure index demonstrates that white and Asian students in the combined DC
public and charter schools, on average, attend schools with a substantial share of white
classmates in spite of the very small fractions of whites in DC. The statistics for the past
20 years show that white students in DC are far more concentrated compared to their
peers of other races. For example, in 2012 a typical white student in DC attended schools
that are over four tenths white; a typical Asian student in DC was in an almost quarter
white school. In contrast, a typical black student went to a school with an average of only
4% white students, and less than an eleventh of the classmates of Latinos were white
students. Nationally, the average black or Latino student had six to seven times more
white classmates than DC blacks even though segregation was increasing across the U.S
(Table 5).
Table 5: Exposure to Whites by the Typical Student of Each Race and the Percentage of
Whites
District of Columbia
1992-1993
2002-2003
2012-2013
Border
1992-1993
2002-2003
2012-2013
Nation
1992-1993
2002-2003
2012-2013

White

Black

Asian

Latino

% White
Enrollment

49.6%
42.3%
42.7%

1.5%
2.0%
4.0%

17.1%
17.8%
24.4%

7.7%
5.3%
8.8%

3.9%
4.3%
8.7%

86.6%
83.5%
81.5%

37.1%
31.7%
29.3%

63.5%
58.2%
51.6%

55.0%
46.1%
42.0%

76.2%
69.9%
62.9%

82.4%
78.6%
71.9%

34.6%
30.4%
27.2%

47.5%
44.5%
38.9%

27.6%
26.1%
25.0%

65.7%
58.7%
50.8%

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data
(CCD), Public Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey Data

Given that 74% of DC students were black in 2012, the white and Asian groupsa
exposure to black students was remarkably low. Specifically, in 2012 a typical white
student in DC went to a school with an enrollment of one third black students. For the
typical Asian and Latino students, they had 42% black classmates. Blacks, however, were
in schools with an 86% enrollment of the same group of students in the same year
examined, and this percentage is 12 points higher than the overall black proportion in DC
(Table 6).

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Table 6: Exposure to Blacks by Typical Student of Each Race & Percentage of Blacks
District of Columbia
1992-1993
2002-2003
2012-2013
Border
1992-1993
2002-2003
2012-2013
Nation
1992-1993
2002-2003
2012-2013

White

Asian

Black

Latino

% Black
Enrollment

33.4%
38.4%
33.7%

51.9%
48.6%
41.7%

94.1%
91.1%
86.0%

56.6%
49.4%
42.1%

89.0%
83.9%
74.0%

8.8%
9.3%
8.4%

57.9%
60.0%
55.1%

22.7%
22.9%
20.0%

25.2%
24.9%
21.5%

18.2%
20.5%
18.9%

8.3%
8.7%
8.2%

11.0%
11.6%
10.7%

53.4%
53.5%
48.5%

10.1%
11.1%
10.9%

15.7%
16.7%
15.4%

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data
(CCD), Public Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey Data

As the Latino population in DC has grown for the past 20 years, exposure to Latino
students has increased for all groups. In 2012, the typical white student attended a school
with a seventh Latinos, and the typical Asian student was in a school with a nearly one
fourth Latino enrollment. Among all racial groups, however, blacks had the least Latino
schoolmates (8%). In contrast, Latino students who had been in schools with close to one
third Latino classmates in 1992 were in schools where approximately half of the students
were fellow Latinos in 2012 (Table 7).
Table 7: Exposure to Latinos by the Typical Student of Each Race and the Percentage of
Latinos
District of Columbia
1992-1993
2002-2003
2012-2013
Border
1992-1993
2002-2003
2012-2013
Nation
1992-1993
2002-2003
2012-2013

White

Black

Asian

Latino

% Latino
Enrollment

11.3%
12.6%
14.2%

3.7%
6.0%
8.0%

23.2%
25.8%
23.9%

30.4%
41.3%
44.6%

5.8%
10.2%
14.1%

1.2%
2.7%
5.6%

2.3%
4.9%
10.0%

5.2%
8.5%
12.2%

12.2%
20.7%
27.6%

1.7%
4.0%
8.8%

5.9%
8.4%
12.2%

9.0%
12.5%
17.6%

16.9%
19.7%
22.6%

57.2%
57.4%
56.7%

13.9%
18.9%
24.8%

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of
Data (CCD), Public Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey Data

The Asian share in DC schools and exposure to Asians by the typical white, black, and
Asian students have rarely changed. The typical Latino student, however, has
experienced the decreasing contact with Asians from 5.3% in 1992 to 2.6% in 2002. In
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2012, the typical white and Asian students, on average, had more Asian classmates (4.3%
for whites and 6.3% for Asians), and the typical black student had the least contact with
Asians (0.9%) among all racial groups (Table 8).
Table 8: Exposure to Asians by the Typical Student of Each Race and the Percentage of
Asians
District of Columbia
1992-1993
2002-2003
2012-2013
Border
1992-1993
2002-2003
2012-2013
Nation
1992-1993
2002-2003
2012-2013

White

Black

Asian

Latino

% Asian
Enrollment

5.7%
6.5%
4.3%

0.8%
0.9%
0.9%

7.8%
7.7%
6.3%

5.3%
4.0%
2.6%

1.3%
1.6%
1.6%

1.2%
1.7%
2.3%

1.9%
2.3%
3.0%

7.4%
8.8%
10.3%

4.7%
4.4%
4.0%

1.5%
2.1%
2.9%

2.6%
3.3%
3.9%

2.6%
3.1%
3.6%

23.9%
23.4%
23.5%

4.4%
4.6%
4.7%

3.6%
4.4%
5.1%

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data
(CCD), Public Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey Data

Black students comprise the great majority of the historically excluded groups of students
attending schools in DC. In 2012, nearly six-in-seven students of this group in DC were
African American, comprising a vast majority of DCas total enrollment. Second, unlike
many other U.S. Latino communities, the largest Latino group residing in DC was from
El Salvador.75 Specifically, as of 2014, one third of Latino populations in DC were of
Salvadorian decent, followed by Mexicans and Guatemalans.76 In regard to education
levels, Latino populations in DC also differ from overall Latinos in the United States. For
example, according to the 2014 American Community Survey, one-in-three Latinos in
the District of Columbia completed a bacheloras degree or higher, and this proportion was
far higher than the overall Hispanic rate in the United States (14.6%) and Hispanics in
California (12.4%).

75

Singer, A. (2012). aMetropolitan Washington: A New Immigrant Gateway.a In Hispanic Migration and
Urban Development: Studies from Washington, DC, edited by Enrique S. Pumar. Bingley, UK: Emerald
Publishing. Retrieved from http://www.brookings.edu/research/articles/2013/04/washington-dcimmigration-singer
76
Based on 2014 American Community Survey of 1-year estimate, the statistics for Hispanic/Latino
demographics in the District of Columbia by country of orgin is as follows: Salvadorian (32.9%), Mexican
(14.1%), Guatemalan (9.1%), Spaniard (5.8%), Peruvian (4.6%), Cuban (4.5%), Puerto Rican (4.3%),
Honduran (2.9%), Dominican (2.9%), Colombian (2.8%), Costa Rican (2.2%), Chilean (1.9%), Venezuelan
(1.9%), Nicaraguan (1.5%), Argentinean (1.2%), Panamanian (1.0%), Bolivian (0.9%), Ecuadorian (0.6%),
Paraguayan (0.2%), Urguayan (0.1%) and all other Spanish/Hispanic (4.3%).
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Figure 6: Black Students in Schools that the Typical Black Students Attend
86.0%
A
2012-Aa2013
A 4.8%
A
2.9%
A

91.1%
A

2002-Aa2003
A
2.2%
A

94.1%
A

1992-Aa1993
A
0%
A

10%
A

20%
A

30%
A

40%
A

50%
A

White/Asian
A

60%
A

70%
A

80%
A

90%
A

100%
A

Black
A

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD)
Note: AI = American Indian

In the District of Columbia in 2012, one tenth of all students were white or Asian, and
about three quarters of students were black. Black students, on average, attended schools
with only 5% white and Asian students, which is less than half the overall share of white
and Asian proportion in DC (Figure 6). In contrast, whites and Asians are in schools with
nearly half of fellow white and Asian students (Table 9).
Table 9: Exposure to Whites and Asians by the Typical Student of Each Race and the
Percentage of Whites and Asians
White
District of Columbia
1992-1993
55.3%
2002-2003
48.8%
2012-2013
47.0%
Border
1992-1993
87.9%
2002-2003
85.2%
2012-2013
80.4%
Nation
1992-1993
85.1%
2002-2003
81.9%
2012-2013
75.8%

Asian

White/
Asian

Black

Latino

% of White/Asian
Enrollment

24.8%
25.4%
30.7%

47.7%
42.5%
44.5%

2.2%
2.9%
4.8%

13.0%
9.3%
11.5%

5.3%
5.9%
10.3%

70.9%
67.0%
61.7%

87.6%
84.7%
79.6%

38.9%
34.0%
31.0%

59.7%
50.5%
44.0%

77.7%
72.0%
65.8%

71.5%
67.9%
62.4%

84.3%
81.0%
74.6%

37.2%
33.4%
30.7%

32.1%
30.7%
29.6%

69.3%
63.1%
55.9%

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data
(CCD), Public Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey Data
Note: AI refers to American Indian

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Double Segregation: Segregation by Race and Poverty
The segregation in DC as in the rest of the country was rarely segregation only by race. It
was usually by poverty as well. Since the percentage of children living in poverty was
increasing, particularly in the Great Recession that began in 2008, the poverty numbers
were extraordinary in many central city school systems. The District is not an exception.
Many children in the nationas capital in the midst of a rich and diverse metro region had
their education in schools almost totally isolated from both white and middle class
students. (Because federal policy permitted schools with more than 40% of aat riska
students eligible for various forms of federal assistance to be acommunity eligiblea and
provide 100% of students with free lunch, we report statistics from the 2011-12 school
year before the policy took force). Even in this overwhelmingly nonwhite
overwhelmingly poor school district, however, white and Asian students, on average,
experienced considerable diversity. In 2011, closely two-in-three students in DC were
from low-income families, and students of color and poverty, in particular, tended to have
more low-income classmates. For example, a typical black student attended a school with
over two thirds students of poverty, and more than half of the classmates of a typical
Latino student were poor students. Among all student groups, low-income students were
in schools with a 71% low-income enrollment. In contrast, less than a fourth of students
were poor in the school that a typical white student attended. typical Asian student had
less than 40% classmates living in poverty (Table 10).
Table 10: Exposure to Low-Income Students by the Typical Student of Each Race and
the Percentage of Students Living in Poverty

District of Columbia
1992-1993
2002-2003
2011-2012
Border
1992-1993
2002-2003
2011-2012
Nation
1992-1993
2002-2003
2011-2012

White

Black

Asian

Latino

LowIncome

% LowIncome
Enrollment

14.7%
19.7%
25.0%

60.7%
68.9%
67.6%

42.4%
44.2%
39.8%

60.6%
57.8%
51.3%

72.1%
73.4%
70.8%

58.7%
65.2%
61.1%

17.4%
41.9%
45.7%

31.9%
54.3%
59.6%

14.8%
28.7%
36.2%

29.9%
52.0%
59.7%

48.0%
62.6%
61.3%

20.6%
45.1%
50.0%

15.0%
28.3%
37.9%

32.2%
53.9%
64.1%

23.7%
32.6%
34.4%

44.9%
54.8%
52.9%

53.2%
59.4%
63.8%

22.6%
37.2%
45.8%

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD),
Public Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey Data
Note: With the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, the National School Lunch Program
(NSLP) started a new meal program, the aCommunity Eligibility Provision.a The new program provides meal
service to all students regardless of economic status. The U.S. Department of Agriculture added the District of
Columbia in the 2012-13 school year; thus, we used the 2011-12 data to reflect the data before the policy
change.

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Washington DC Charter Schools and Public Schools
Since the passage of DC School Reform Act of 1995, enacted shortly after the GOP
takeover of the House of Representatives, two systems of public schools have served
students in the District of Columbia: (1) District of Columbia Public Schools and (2)
District of Columbia Public Charter Schools. As traditional local public schools, public
schools have offered education for students in DC for over two centuries and reflected
changes in the city as well as in the nation in terms of student demographics and
educational policy. In contrast to traditional public schools, the history of public charters
is relatively short. The growth rate of charters, however, is phenomenal. After DC School
Reform Act was passed in 1995, charter schools a publicly funded but independently run
a emerged in DC. Charter schools served only 160 students in 1996, but as of 2013,
charter schools enrolled more than 30,000 students, accounting for over 40% of the total
enrollment in DC. The rapid enrollment growth of public charters has affected the
number of students attending traditional public schools, which has been declining over
years. The two school systems also differ in academic performance and the level of
school segregation. The shrinkage of public schools and achievement gaps between the
two educational systems have provoked conflicts between traditional public schools and
public charters.
In this section, we explore the two school systems in charge of education for students in
DC and compare public schools to charter schools. We focus on student enrollment, the
level of segregation, and the academic performance of the two school systems. Since
1996 public schools and charter schools have shown opposing growth trends. The
number of charter schools and students enrolled in the schools has rapidly grown, but
public school enrollment has sharply decreased. Enrollment trends of the two systems in
the past ten years we examined also confirm these trends (Figure 7). The number of
charter schools grew threefold between 2002 and 2012, and student enrollment increased
by at least 3.6 times. In contrast, student enrollment in public schools declined by 32
percentage points, and the number of public schools dropped by 25 percentage points. As
of 2012, 42% of students in DC attended charter schools, and the rest of district enrolled
students were in public schools (Tables 11 and 12). In 2015, 115 charter schools and 111
public schools serve students in the District, and the charter schools were up to 44.5% of
the total enrollment. After reaching a low point in 2009, the total enrollment of both
systems was growing year by year.77

77

http://osse.dc.gov/node/1143912
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Figure 7: Enrollment Trend of District of Columbia, 1967-2015
Student Enrollment, District of Columbia, 1967-2015
160,000

149150
A

140,000
120,000
100,000
47548
A
71889
A

80,000
60,000
40,000
20,000

37684
A

0

Public Charter Schools

DC Public Schools

Source: Charter and DC Public Schools Enrollment Data from the District of Columbia Public Charter School Board

Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles

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Our Segregated Capital, February 2017

In addition to the growth trends, public and charter schools are dissimilar in terms of
demographic and student diversity. In SY 2013-2014, charter schools enrolled over 80%
blacks and 12% Latinos, and the combined share of white and Asian students was less
than 5% (Table 11). Public schools, however, have more diversity. In public schools, the
proportion of each racial group except blacks increased between 2002 and 2013, but this
growing diversity could be a byproduct of the black shift to charter schools. In SY 20132014, black students were still a majority of the total public student population (67%),
followed by Latino students (17%) and white students (13%) (Table 11).
Table 11: School Enrollment by Race in Public and Charter Schools, 2002-2014
Total
Enrollment

White

Black

Percentage
Asian
Latino

AI
Mixed
Charter Schools
2002-2003
8,644
1.6%
81.3%
0.9%
16.2%
0.1%
2013-2014
32,416
4.5%
81.4%
0.8%
11.9%
0.1%
1.2%
DC Public Schools
2002-2003
61,817
4.7%
84.2%
1.7%
9.4%
0.1%
2013-2014
43,307
12.5%
66.8%
2.2%
16.5%
0.1%
1.9%
Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data
(CCD)
Note: AI = American Indian

Table 12: Schools Classified by Percent of Nonwhite Students in Washington DC

Charter Schools
2002-2003
2012-2013
Public Schools
2002-2003
2012-2013

Total
Schools

% of
Multiracial
Schools

% of 50-100%
Nonwhite
Schools

% of 90-100%
Nonwhite
Schools

% of 99-100%
Nonwhite
Schools

35
99

2.9%
10.1%

91.4%
99.0%

94.3%
79.8%

80.0%
68.7%

147
109

8.8%
9.2%

95.2%
90.8%

87.8%
75.2%

80.3%
50.5%

Note: Nonwhite students represent Black, Latino, American Indian, and Asian students.
Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data
(CCD)

The changing diversity in the student enrollment of charter and public schools also
affects studentsa everyday contact with different racial groups and overall school
segregation. For instance, the proportion of multiracial schools in the charter and public
systems was similar in 2012, but the shares of intensely segregated schools with a zero to
ten percent white enrollment and apartheid schools with a zero to one percent white
enrollment were far higher in charter schools compared to public schools. For example,
80% of charter schools were intensely segregated with over 90% students of color in

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2012, but three fourths public schools were 90-100% nonwhite schools. As for apartheid
schools with less than one percent white enrollment, over two-in-three charter schools
were apartheid schools, but public schools had 50% such schools in 2012. Again, the
increasing segregation in charter schools can be linked with the concentration of blacks
toward the charter school system (Table 12).
The level of segregation that black and Latino students experience is more intense than
the degree of segregation that white and Asian students encounter in both public and
charter schools. In 2012, more than 70% of Latinos attended intensely segregated schools
in the two systems. Over 90% blacks in charter schools and 86% blacks in public schools,
in particular, were in intensely segregated schools with little diversity. Moreover, 81%
blacks in the charter system attended apartheid schools, and closely two-in-three blacks
in public schools had less than one percent white classmates. Similar to blacks, a
significant proportion of Latinos in Washington DC do not experience diversity in
school. More than 70% of Latinos went to intensely segregated schools in both public
and charter schools. However, the Latino share in apartheid public schools was less than
half of the Latino share in apartheid charter schools (Table 13).
Table 13: Percentage of Black and Latino Students in Nonwhite schools in Washington
DC Schools, 2002-2013
50-100%
Nonwhite school
Latino
Black
Charter Schools
2002-2003
2012-2013
Public Schools
2002-2003
2012-2013

90-100%
Nonwhite school
Latino
Black

99-100%
Nonwhite school
Latino
Black

100%
100%

100%
100%

97.1%
71.6%

98.8%
91.1%

37.0%
42.0%

82.3%
80.8%

98.0%
95.7%

99.2%
98.5%

82.1%
73.5%

93.5%
85.5%

66.7%
19.2%

88.1%
62.0%

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data
(CCD)

Intergroup Contact in Public and Charter Schools in DC
Charter and public schools were different in studentsa everyday experiences of interacting
with various racial groups. As investigated earlier in this report, we also examined the
exposure index in order to explore studentsa intergroup contact in both public and charter
schools. In general, white and Asian students in both systems experience different contact
compared to their black and Latino counterparts.
In 2012, one-in-eight students in public schools were white; however, the typical white

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student in the public school district attended a school where close to 50% of his/her
classmates were white. The typical Asian student in a DC public school, too, experienced
a meaningful amount of contact with whites and went to a school with a one quarter
white enrollment. In contrast, the typical black student and the typical Latino student in
public schools had only 5% and 10% white classmates, respectively. On the other hand,
in 2012 charter schools enrolled only 4% white students. The typical white, Asian, and
Latino students in charter schools had 24%, 16%, and 7% white classmates, respectively.
The typical black student, however, went to a 2% white school (Table 14).
Table 14: Exposure to Whites by the Typical Student of Each Race and the Percentage of
Whites

2002-2003
2012-2013

Charter
Public
Charter
Public

White

Black

Asian

Latino

15.2%
43.6%
23.6%
47.3%

1.2%
2.1%
2.4%
5.4%

3.0%
18.8%
16.4%
26.4%

2.3%
6.0%
7.3%
9.6%

% White
Enrollment
1.6%
4.7%
4.1%
12.1%

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), Public
Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey Data

In 2002, the black share in public and charter schools was similar but changed
substantially in the ten years that we examined. In 2012, the black proportion in charter
schools was 16 percentage points higher than the black share in public schools.
Specifically, two-in-three students in public schools were black, but over 80% of the total
enrollment in charter schools were black (Table 11). Due to the high concentration of
black population in charter schools, the typical student of each race in charter schools
experiences more contact with blacks in comparison to their counterparts in public
schools. Nevertheless, white, Asian, and Latino students in both systems attend schools
that enroll fewer black students than the overall black proportion in DC schools. In 2012,
white and Latino students in charter schools went to 50% black schools, and Asians were
in schools with a 56% black enrollment. Among all student groups, blacks in charter
schools only experienced the most contact with their fellow black classmates (90%) in
2012. DC public schools in 2012 had more diversity than did charter schools, but black
segregation was a still a severe issue. Although two-in-three students in the public school
district,blacks had 83% black classmates. The typical Latino and Asian students attended
schools with less than 40% blacks, and the typical white student had the least contact
with blacks (30%) among all students in public schools (Table 15).

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Table 15: Exposure to Blacks by the Typical Student of Each Race and the Percentage of
Blacks

2002-2003
2012-2013

Charter
Public
Charter
Public

White

Asian

59.6%
37.3%
49.7%
29.8%

28.9%
50.1%
55.9%
38.2%

White/
Asian
48.8%
40.7%
50.6%
31.1%

Black

Latino

91.7%
91.0%
89.7%
82.8%

34.0%
53.1%
49.1%
38.8%

% Black
Enrollment
81.3%
84.2%
83.1%
67.3%

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD)

As examined earlier, the Latino population grew at a fast rate in Washington DC and
composed 11% and 17% of the total enrollment in charter and public schools,
respectively. In charter schools, the typical white and Asian students had the virtually
same level of contact with Latinos (18-19%) in 2012, and the typical Latino had two
fifths Latino classmates in the same year. The typical black student, however, had the
lowest Latino contact among all student groups, having only 6.3% Latino classmates. In
2012, one-in-six students in DCas public schools were Latino, and they experienced more
contact with fellow Latinos and Asians. For instance, the typical Asian student was in a
school where more than one quarter of classmates was Latinos. Latinos, in particular,
went to schools with an almost half Latino (47%) enrollment. By contrast, the typical
white and black student in public schools attended 13% Latino and 10% Latino schools,
respectively (Table 16).
Table 16: Exposure to Latinos by the Typical Student of Each Race and the Percentage of
Latinos

2002-2003
2012-2013

Charter
Public
Charter
Public

White

Black

Asian

Latino

23.5%
12.1%
19.1%
13.0%

6.8%
5.9%
6.3%
9.5%

63.2%
23.1%
18.2%
25.3%

60.0%
36.7%
40.4%
46.6%

% Latino
Enrollment
16.2%
9.4%
10.7%
16.5%

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), Public
Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey Data

Asians in DC schools compose a small percentage of total enrollment, accounting for less
than 1% in charter schools and 2% in public schools, since Asian students are very
disproportionately suburban. Despite this tiny proportion, however, Asians are more
exposed to fellow Asians, whites, and Latinos in both public and charter schools. The
typical black student in a charter school, in particular, experienced virtually no contact
with Asians (0.5%) in 2012 compared to their peers of other racial groups (Table 17).

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Table 17: Exposure to Asians by the Typical Student of Each Race and the Percentage of
Asians

2002-2003
2012-2013

Charter
Public
Charter
Public

White

Black

Asian

Latino

1.6%
6.7%
2.9%
4.7%

0.3%
1.0%
0.5%
1.2%

4.7%
7.9%
3.8%
6.9%

3.4%
4.1%
1.2%
3.3%

% Asian
Enrollment
0.9%
1.7%
0.7%
2.2%

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD),
Public Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey Data

The analysis of the combined groups (whites/Asians vs. blacks) also demonstrates a clear
segregation tendency in DC schools. In general, whites and Asians are more concentrated
in DC public schools whereas more blacks are enrolled in charter schools. Even within
public schools, in 2012 white and Asian students attended schools where half of students
were fellow white and Asian (Figure 8). By contrast, the typical black student in public
schools had merely 7% white/Asian classmates in the same year (Figure 9). In 2012,
charter schools enrolled less than 5% white and Asian students. In charter schools,
however, over one-in-four classmates that the typical white and Asian students met were
their fellow whites and Asians (Figure 10). Surprisingly, the typical black student had
less than 3% white and Asian classmates in the public charter school district (Figure 11).
Figure 8: Percentage of White/Asian and Black/Latino/AI Students in Public Schools
that the Typical White and Asian Students Attend
31.1%
A
2012-Aa2013
A

49.2%
A
40.7%
A

2002-Aa2003
A
0%
A

44.1%
A
10%
A

20%
A

30%
A

40%
A

50%
A

White/Asian
A

60%
A

70%
A

80%
A

90%
A

100%
A

Black
A

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD)
Note: AI = American Indian

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Figure 9: Percentage of White/Asian and Black Students in Public Schools that the
Typical Black Students Attend
2012-Aa2013
A

82.8%
A

6.6%
A

91.0%
A

2002-Aa2003
A 3.1%
A
0%
A

10%
A

20%
A

30%
A

40%
A

50%
A

White/Asian
A

60%
A

70%
A

80%
A

90%
A

100%
A

Black
A

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD)
Note: AI = American Indian

Figure 10: Percentage of White/Asian and Black Students in Charter Schools that the
Typical White and Asian students Attend
48.8%
A
2012-Aa2013
A

25.5%
A
50.6%
A

2002-Aa2003
A
0%
A

13.6%
A
10%
A

20%
A

30%
A

40%
A

50%
A

White/Asian
A

60%
A

70%
A

80%
A

90%
A

100%
A

Black
A

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD)
Note: AI = American Indian

Figure 11: Percentage of White/Asian and Black Students in Charter Schools that the
Typical Black Students Attend
89.7%
A

2012-Aa2013
A 2.9%
A
2002-Aa2003
A 1.5%
A
0%
A

91.7%
A
10%
A

20%
A

30%
A

40%
A

50%
A

White/Asian
A

60%
A

70%
A

80%
A

90%
A

100%
A

Black
A

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD)
Note: AI = American Indian

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Black students are the great majority in both public and charter systems. In charter
schools, in particular, more than 80% of students were black in 2012. Nevertheless, as
shown above, blacks tend to attend schools with a concentration of the same group of
students, and whites and Asians have a relatively smaller percentage of black classmates
in both charter and public schools. Given that the black share in charter schools was 83%,
the typical white and Asian students were in schools where slightly more than half of
their classmates were African American. White and Asian students in public schools, too,
were in schools with 31% black enrollment, and this figure was 36 percentage points
lower than the overall black share in the public school district (Table 18).
Table 18: Exposure to Blacks Students by the Typical Student of Each Race and the
Percentage of African Americans

2002-2003
2012-2013

Charter
Public
Charter
Public

White

Asian

59.6%
37.3%
49.7%
29.8%

28.9%
50.1%
55.9%
38.2%

White/A
sian
48.8%
40.7%
50.6%
31.1%

Black

Latino

91.7%
91.0%
89.7%
82.8%

34.0%
53.1%
49.1%
38.8%

% Black
Enrollment
81.3%
84.2%
83.1%
67.3%

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD)

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Segregation is Double Segregation in DC Public and Charter Schools
Segregated African American schools are highly segregated, on average, by both by race
and class across the country, and in DC that double segregation accounts for many of the
problems faced by the schools. If African American families had the same resources and
levels of education as whites on average and lived in the same kind of neighborhoods, the
inequality among the schools by race would be greatly diminished (and we would be a
different society). Persistent poverty in concentrated communities means families have
fewer educational resources at home and in the community, less stability and safety of
residence, more untreated serious health problems, greater likelihood of family instability,
and many differences outside the school. For those communities gaps tend to be
accentuated rather than overcome by differences of climate, level of instruction, teacher
expertise, curriculum, etc., within the schools in poor neighborhoods.78
Public and charter schools had different shares of low-income students in 2012, but the
two systems were similar in terms of double segregation a segregation by race and
poverty. In 2012, nearly three fourths students in the charter school system were poor,
and over half students in public schools were from low-income families (Table 19).
Students living in poverty in both systems, however, tend to experience more contact
with blacks and Latinos and to have fewer white and Asian classmates. Furthermore,
poor students attend high poverty schools. In 2012, eight in ten poor students in charter
schools went to school with classmates from similar backgrounds, and low income
students living in poverty attending DC public schools were in schools where two thirds
of the students were poor (Table 19).
Table 19: Exposure to Low-Income Students by the Typical Student of Each Race and
the Percentage of Students Living in Poverty

2002-2003
2012-2013

Charter
Public
Charter
Public

White

Black

Asian

Latino

LowIncome

51.0%
18.2%
35.5%
20.1%

78.6%
67.6%
75.9%
59.4%

21.3%
45.9%
47.7%
37.7%

37.9%
62.6%
64.8%
53.2%

82.3%
72.0%
79.8%
63.8%

% LowIncome
Enrollment
71.1%
64.4%
72.5%
52.6%

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), Public
Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey Data

To further explore double segregation, we then investigate relationships between the
percentage of poor students and the share of each racial group in charter and public
schools. In general, the share of low-income students is highly associated with the black
78

Gary Orfield and Chungmei Lee, Why Segregation Matters, Cambridge: Harvard Civil Rights Project,
2006.

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share in both public and charter schools. However, the link is even stronger in the public
district (r= 0.62) than in the charter system (r= 0.42), possibly because there are so few
non-blacks in the charter schools (Figure 12).
Figure 12: Relationship between the Share of Students in Poverty and the Share of Black
Students

Source: Office of the State Superintendent of Education, 2013-2014 Equity Report Demographics Data

Figure 13: Relationship between the Share of Students in Poverty and the Share of
White Students

Source: Office of the State Superintendent of Education, 2013-2014 Equity Report Demographics Data

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The relationship between the white proportion and the percentage of poor students is very
strong in both public and charter schools, but the correlation is more extreme in public
schools (r= a0.87) than in charter schools (r= a0.65). In other words, the whiter the
school the lower the poverty rate (Figure 13).
We did not find any significant relationship between the percentage of students living in
poverty and the Latino share, reflecting the lower poverty levels of DC Latinos. The
associations between the two groups in both public and charter schools are different, but
they are very weak and non-significant.
We found a somewhat similar pattern regarding Asians and whites in DC. In both public
and charter systems, schools with more Asian students tend to have a smaller number of
students in poverty. For public schools, there is a negative association (r= a0.42) between
the Asian share and the low-income proportion. In charter schools, the correlation was
negative 0.38 (Figure 26 in Appendix A). The higher the proportion of Asians the lower
the proportion of poor children, but the relation was not nearly as intense as it was for
whites.
We then explored the proportion of each racial group attending DC schools sorted by the
white percentage of total enrollment. This analysis of white decile schools allowed us to
examine to what extent nonwhite students interact with white students who compose a
small percentage of the entire population in the District. We also looked at racial
distributions in charter schools and public schools separately due to the noticeably
different white shares in the two systems. As shown earlier in this report, as of 2012, the
white proportions in public schools and charter schools were 13% and 5%, respectively
(Table 11).
A huge majority of charter and public schools in DC enroll less than ten percent whites.
In 2002, nearly nine tenths of public schools were zero-to-ten percent white, and 97% of
all charter schools. This extreme trend changed slightly in the ten years we examined. By
2012 over three quarters of public schools and more than 80% of charter schools enrolled
less than 10% whites. At the same time, over 13% of public schools had more than 40%
white students, but only 1% of charter schools were 40-50% white schools (Table 20).

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Table 20: Proportion of Public and Charter Schools, by % white 2002-2012
% White
Schools
0-10%
10-20%
20-30%
30-40%
40-50%
50-60%
60-70%
70-80%
80-90%
90-100%

Public Schools
2002-03
2012-13
2002-12 diff
N=147
N=107
87.8%
76.6%
-11.1%
2.7%
4.7%
2.0%
2.7%
3.7%
1.0%
1.4%
1.9%
0.5%
0.7%
5.6%
4.9%
2.0%
5.6%
3.6%
2.0%
1.9%
-0.2%
0.7%
0%
-0.7%
0%
0%
0%
0%
-

Charter Schools
2002-03
2012-13
2002-12 diff
N=34
N=98
97.1%
80.6%
-16.4%
0%
6.1%
6.1%
0%
10.2%
10.2%
2.9%
2.0%
-0.9%
0%
1.0%
1.0%
0%
0%
0%
0%
0%
0%
0%
0%
0%
0%
-

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), Public
Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey Data

In addition, we investigated the average distribution of each racial group among schools.
Not surprisingly, a majority of whites in DC tend to attend schools enrolling more whites,
but the trend is somewhat distinct between public and charter schools. In 2012, white
students in the public school district have quite distinctive experiences in terms of
interracial contact: 45% of whites were in 60-80% white schools, and by contrast, one
eighth white students went to schools with less than 20% white enrollment. In charter
schools, however, nearly three fourths whites were in 20-50% white schools, and more
than one quarter whites attended less than 20% white schools (Talbe 21).
Table 21: Proportion of White Students in White Decile Schools, 2002-2012
Public Schools
% White
Schools
0-10%
10-20%
20-30%
30-40%
40-50%
50-60%
60-70%
70-80%
80-90%
90-100%

Charter Schools

2002-03

2012-13

2002-12 diff

2002-03

2012-13

2002-12 diff

6.4%
5.6%
27.3%
8.9%
8.3%
9.2%
28.3%
6.1%
0%
0%

7.3%
4.4%
14.7%
5.5%
22.9%
0%
26.7%
18.5%
0%
0%

0.9%
-1.2%
-12.6%
-3.3%
14.6%
-9.2%
-1.6%
12.4%
-

60.4%
0%
0%
39.6%
0%
0%
0%
0%
0%
0%

13.4%
13.3%
53.0%
16.8%
3.5%
0%
0%
0%
0%
0%

-47.0%
13.3%
53.0%
-22.8%
3.5%
-

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD),
Public Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey Data

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A large percentage of blacks had been in schools with virtually no white students in 2002,
but black studentsa contact with whites grew slightly in the next ten years. Nonetheless,
86% of blacks in public schools and 91% of blacks in charter schools were in zero-to-ten
percent white schools in 2012. Only a handful of blacks went to schools with a 20-40%
white enrollment, and the black share enrolled in such public schools was slightly higher
in comparison to charter schools (Table 22).
Table 22: Proportion of Black Students in Schools by % of White, 2002-2012
Public Schools
% White
Schools
0-10%
10-20%
20-30%
30-40%
40-50%
50-60%
60-70%
70-80%
80-90%
90-100%

Charter Schools

2002-03

2012-13

2002-12 diff

2002-03

2012-13

2002-12 diff

93.5%
1.6%
3.5%
0.4%
0.3%
0.3%
0.4%
0%
0%
0%

85.5%
3.5%
5.0%
1.3%
3.3%
0%
1.1%
0.4%
0%
0%

-7.9%
1.9%
1.5%
0.8%
3.0%
-0.2%
0.6%
0.4%

98.8%
0%
0%
1.2%
0%
0%
0%
0%
0%
0%

91.1%
2.9%
4.7%
1.1%
0.1%
0%
0%
0%
0%
0%

-7.7%
2.9%
4.7%
-0.2%
0.1%

-

-

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD),
Public Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey Data

Table 23: Proportion of Latino Students in Schools by % White, 2002-2012
Public Schools
% White
Schools
0-10%
10-20%
20-30%
30-40%
40-50%
50-60%
60-70%
70-80%
80-90%
90-100%

Charter Schools

2002-03

2012-13

2002-12 diff

2002-03

2012-13

2002-12 diff

82.1%
1.1%
9.3%
4.9%
0.6%
0.7%
1.1%
0.2%
0%
0%

73.5%
6.7%
10.8%
0.8%
3.9%
0%
2.8%
1.5%
0%
0%

-8.6%
5.6%
1.6%
-4.1%
3.3%
-0.7%
1.7%
1.3%

97.1%
0.0%
0%
2.9%
0%
0%
0%
0%
0%
0%

71.6%
12.0%
14.6%
1.3%
0.5%
0%
0%
0%
0%
0%

-25.6%
12.0%
14.6%
-1.5%
0.5%
-

-

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD),
Public Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey Data

Like African American students, Latino students, too, had had extremely limited
experiences with white students in 2002, and over 70% of Latino students in both public
and charter schools were still in zero-to-ten percent white schools in 2012. Latinos in

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both public and charter schools tended to attend schools with a modest percentage of
whites in 2012, but very few Latinos (4%) in the public district were in majority white
schools enrolling more than 70% whites, and virtually none were so in charter schools
(Table 23).
Asian students in DC are only 1.6% of the total enrollment in the District. Like their
black and Latino peers, a significant proportion of Asians were in zero-to-ten percent
white schools (37% for public schools and 43% for charter schools). However, Asians, in
general, maintained meaningful contact with whites. For instance, nearly 40% of Asians
in public schools and almost half of Asians in charter schools were enrolled in schools
with a 20-50% white enrollment (Table 24).
Table 24: Proportion of Asian Students in Schools by % White, 2002-2012
Public Schools
% White
Schools
0-10%
10-20%
20-30%
30-40%
40-50%
50-60%
60-70%
70-80%
80-90%
90-100%

Charter Schools

2002-03

2012-13

2002-12 diff

2002-03

2012-13

2002-12 diff

53.0%
3.9%
19.6%
4.5%
6.4%
3.2%
6.7%
2.6%
0%
0%

37.0%
6.9%
18.3%
3.5%
16.6%
0%
13.3%
4.4%
0%
0%

-16.1%
3.0%
-1.4%
-1.0%
10.2%
-3.2%
6.6%
1.8%
-

98.7%
0%
0%
1.3%
0%
0%
0%
0%
0%
0%

42.5%
9.6%
36.5%
9.6%
1.8%
0%
0%
0%
0%
0%

-56.2%
9.6%
36.5%
8.3%
1.8%
-

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD),
Public Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey Data

For students living in poverty, their contact with white students was extremely limited,
especially in charter schools. In 2012, 87% of poor students in the public school district
and 93% of such students in the charter school district went to schools with virtually no
white students. Less than 4% of low-income students in public schools attended schools
with more than 40% white enrollment, and only a tiny handful of poverty level students
in charter schools. In a city with considerable and growing diversity, black students were
being socialized in severe racial and class isolation (Table 25).

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Table 25: Proportion of Low-Income Students in Schools by % White, 2002-2012
Public Schools
% White
Schools
0-10%
10-20%
20-30%
30-40%
40-50%
50-60%
60-70%
70-80%
80-90%
90-100%

2002-03

2012-13

96.1%
0.5%
2.7%
0.3%
0.2%
0.2%
0.1%
0%
0%
0%

86.9%
4.2%
4.4%
0.6%
2.7%
0%
0.9%
0.3%
0%
0%

Charter Schools
2002-2012
diff
-9.1%
3.7%
1.8%
0.3%
2.5%
-0.2%
0.8%
0.3%
-

2002-23

2012-13

2002-12 diff

98.6%
0%
0%
1.4%
0%
0%
0%
0%
0%
0%

92.9%
3.5%
3.0%
0.5%
0.2%
0%
0%
0%
0%
0%

-5.8%
3.5%
3.0%
-0.9%
0.2%
-

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD),
Public Elementary/Secondary School Universe Survey Data

Relationship between Academic Performance and Racial Composition
There is an extensive body of research on the effects of segregation and integration for
the lives of both minority and white students summarized very briefly in the appendix to
this report. There are effects on test scores, but the more important impacts are on life
chances measured by probability of high school graduation, college going and college
success, readiness to function effectively in diverse institutions, and a number of other
factors. In this brief study, we cannot follow students across time but we can look at and
compare the average achievement levels of the schools attended by various groups of
students, a reasonable proxy for the educational opportunity offered by various schools.
The District of Columbia has its own assessment system, referred to as Comprehensive
Assessment System (CAS). DC CAS measures studentsa performance based on the DC
content standards by adopting college and career readiness standards (Common Core
State Standards) starting in 2010. The CAS assessment includes four subject areas: Math,
Reading, Science, Composition, and students are scored at four levels of mastery in DC
CAS from Level 1 (Below Basic) to Level 4 (Advanced). In this report, we explore
mathematics assessment results among different test score levels and especially focus on
the relationships between the share of students performing at levels 1 and 4 and the
proportion of each racial group. In doing so, we seek to investigate to what degree the
proportion of each racial group is linked with the overall share of students who
underperform or outperform in schools. Mathematics is often used for such comparisons
because it is less skewed by non-school differences in language development.

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Mathematics results (Below basic and advanced levels)
The relationship between the proportion of students scoring at levels 1 and 4 and the
share of each racial group showed relatively significant associations in public schools for
every racial group. However, the links were moderate or weak in charter schools in
comparison to public schools in DC.
For public schools, there were strong relationships between the share of students at the
below basic level and the proportion of blacks (r= 0.62) and low-income students (r=
0.59) (Figures 14 and 15). In other words, schools with a larger percentage of blacks and
students living in poverty tended to have more students who performed at the below basic
level according to math assessment scores. There was a notable correlation between the
black share and the proportion of poor students in both public (r= 0.62) and charter
schools (r= 0.42); both were concentrated in schools with weak academic performance
(Figure 16).
Figure 14: Relationship between the Share of Students at Level of Below Basic in Math
and the Share of Black Students

Source: Office of the State Superintendent of Education, 2013-2014 Comprehensive Assessment System (CAS)
School Subgroup and Grade Proficiency and Equity Report Demographics Data

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Schools with more white, Asian and Latino students on average had fewer students
performing at below basic. In public schools, in particular, these correlations were
stronger than in charter schools, and the associations were more salient for white (r= a
0.54) and Asians students (r= a0.52) than for Hispanic students (r= a0.29) (Figures 20, 21,
and 22 in Appendix A).
Figure 15: Relationship between the Share of Students at Level of Below Basic in Math
and the Share of Low-Income Students

Source: Office of the State Superintendent of Education, 2013-2014 Comprehensive Assessment System (CAS)
School Subgroup and Grade Proficiency and Equity Report Demographics Data

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Figure 16: Relationship between the Share of Black Students and the Proportion of
Low-Income Students

Source: Office of the State Superintendent of Education, 2013-2014 Comprehensive Assessment System (CAS)
School Subgroup and Grade Proficiency and Equity Report Demographics Data

As for charter schools, the overall tendency of correlations was very similar to public
schools. However, the degree to which the share of students of each racial group was
associated with and the percentage of students performing at the below basic level on
math score results was relatively moderate or weak. For black students we found a 0.27
correlation, and there was a 0.30 correlation for low-income students (Figures 14 and 15).
For whites, Asians, and Latinos, the relationship between the share of each racial group
and the percentage of students at Level 1 ranged from 0.18 to 0.24, which was weak, in
general (Figures 20, 21, and 22 in Appendix A). These relationships were less clear, in
part because of the very limited numbers in these groups and the fact that they were not
in schools dominated by their group. Being a single white student in a virtually all black
classroom is a different experience from being in a majority white middle class
classroom.

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We then explore relationships between the share of each racial group and the proportion
of students scoring at Level 4 (Advanced) on the CAS mathematics assessment. The
results were exactly opposite to the results for Level 1 in both public and charter schools.
Figure 17: Relationship between the Share of students at Level of Advanced in Math and
the Share of Black Students

Source: Office of the State Superintendent of Education, 2013-2014 Comprehensive Assessment System (CAS) School
Subgroup and Grade Proficiency and Equity Report Demographics Data

First, for blacks and students in poverty attending public schools in DC, we found a
strong negative relationship between the share of such students and the percentage of
students at the advanced level. Regarding black students, the correlation was strong and
negative (r= a0.59), and the link was even more salient for economically disadvantaged
students (r= a0.65) (Figures 17 and 18). In other words, public schools enrolling more
blacks and poor students were less likely to have students performing at the advanced
level on the DC CAS mathematics test results.
DC public schools with more whites and Asians tended to have a larger percentage of
students performing at Level 4. For whites, we found a strong 0.69 correlation, and the
link was 0.49 for Asians (Figures 23 and 25 in Appendix A). For Hispanic students in
public schools, we found no significant association (r= 0.11) (Figure 24 in Appendix A).

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Figure 18: Relationship between the Share of Students at Level of Advanced in Math
and the Share of Low-Income Students

Source: Office of the State Superintendent of Education, 2013-2014 Comprehensive Assessment System (CAS)
School Subgroup and Grade Proficiency and Equity Report Demographics Data

Charter schools had a limited range of school racial proportions but showed moderate
links between each racial groupas proportion and the share of students performing at
Level 4 compared to DC public schools. However, the overall trends were very similar.
For African American students and students in poverty, associations between the share of
such students and the percentage of students at the advanced level on the CAS
mathematics assessment were modestly negative 0.23 and negative 0.36, respectively
(Figures 17 and 18). Like public schools, charter schools with more white and Asian
enrollments, too, were more likely to have students scoring at level 4, and the correlations
were 0.32 for whites and 0.29 for Asians (Figures 23 and 25 in Appendix A). Again, for
Latinos, there was no meaningful association (Figure 24 in Appendix A).
To sum up, analyses above demonstrated that schoolsa academic performance results
were negatively related to the share of African Americans and economically
disadvantaged students. In addition, the overall associations were more moderate in

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charter schools compared to public schools, but the greater segregation of the charters
and the much smaller white and middle class enrollments made it difficult to do strong
comparisons of the systems.

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Metropolitan Trends
Given Washington DCas situation as a small central city in a massive metropolitan area
with a huge housing market, it is impossible to understand school segregation in DC
without examining its neighboring counties within the metro region. In this section,
therefore, we explore DC schools in a larger context by exploring schools in metropolitan
areas that surround the District of Columbia. According to the U.S. Census Bureauas
definition, Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) comprise one or more counties that
include a city of 50,000 or more residents, or encompass a Census Bureau-defined
urbanized area (UA) and have total population of at least 100,000 inhabitants.79 Among
nearly 400 MSAs across the U.S., the District belongs to the Washington-ArlingtonAlexandria Metro Area that had total population of more than six million residents as of
2014.80
Figure 19: Changes in Total Schools and Students in the WashingtonaArlingtona
Alexandria Metro Area, 2002-2013.
1,300

920,000
900,000
880,000
860,000

1,200

840,000
1,150

820,000
800,000

1,100

TOTAL
A STUDENTS
A

TOTAL
A SCHOOLS
A

1,250

780,000
760,000

1,050

740,000
1,000

2002a03

2003a04

2004a05

2005a06

2006a07

2007a08

Total
A schools
A

2008a09

2009a10

2010a11

2012a13

720,000

Total
A students
A

Source: Data files for Common Core of Data, https://nces.ed.gov/ccd/data_tables.asp and U.S. Department of
Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD)
Note: 2012-2013 data were calculated separately by using 2012-2013 CCD data

79

See U.S. Census Bureauas geographic areas reference manual for more detailed informaton:
http://www.census.gov/geo/reference/garm.html
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U.S. Census Bureau 2014 Population Estimates:
http://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?src=bkmk

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Overall Trends of Total Schools and Students in the Metropolitan Area
Total schools and students in the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria (DC-VA-MD-WV)
metropolitan area grew remarkably in the last ten years examined. The number of schools
and total enrollment in the metro area reached almost 1,300 and 900,000, respectively in
2012 (Figure 19).
DCas student population comprises only 8% of the entire DC-VA-MD-WV metro areaas
student enrollment. More than nine-tenths of the regionas students are in the suburban
ring. However, the student demographics of this metro area differ from the Districtas
schools. The DC-VA-MD-WV metro area gained more diversity as the total population
increased from 2002 to 2012. The Latino share grew by 9 percentage points, whereas the
white and black shares declined by 10 and 6 percentage points, respectively. Unlike
Washington, the metro area maintains far more diversity (Table 26).
Table 26: Public School Enrollment by Race in DC and the DC-VA-MD-WV Metro Area
Total
White
Black
Asian
Latino
enrollment
District of Columbia
2002-2003
70,461
4.3%
83.9%
1.6%
10.2%
2012-2013
72,679
8.7%
74.0%
1.6%
14.1%
WashingtonaArlingtonaAlexandria, DCaVAaMDaWV Metro Area
2002-2003
790,143
46.1%
33.2%
8.1%
12.3%
2012-2013
894,776
36.8%
27.7%
9.8%
21.1%

AI

Two
or more

0.1%
0.1%

1.5%

0.4%
0.3%

4.3%

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD)
Note: AI = American Indian

Table 27: School Enrollment of the DC-VA-MD-WV Metro Area by Race and State,
2012-2013
Total
schools
District of Columbia
208
Maryland
501
Virginia
535
West Virginia
17

Total
enrollment

White

72,679

8.7%

74.0%

1.6%

14.1%

0.1%

1.5%

351,282

29.0%

37.3%

8.0%

21.6%

0.3%

3.8%

461,857

46.3%

13.5%

12.6%

22.0%

0.3%

5.2%

8,958

81.1%

8.0%

1.5%

6.6%

0.1%

2.7%

Black

Asian

Latino

AI

Two
or more

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD)
Note: AI = American Indian

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Compared to the metropolitan areaas overall results, student demographics vary from
state to state in the DCas metro area. As Table 27 demonstrates, the metropolitan area
segment of West Virginia, on the outer edge of the metro, is exactly opposite to the
District of Columbia in terms of white and black shares. West Virginiaas schools in the
metro area enroll 80% white students and only 8% black students. Schools in the
Marylandas metro area, however, are racially diverse, having 29% whites and 37% blacks
as well as 22% Latinos and 8% Asian students. Virginiaas metro area has a plurality of
white schools where nearly half (46%) of the students are white with one-seventh black
students, one-eighth Asians, and nearly one-fourth Latinos.
Table 28: Public School Enrollment by Race in Major Districts in the DC-VA-MD-WV
Metro Area, 2012-2013
District
District of Columbia
Maryland
Montgomery County
Prince George's County
Frederick County
Charles County
Calvert County
Virginia
Fairfax County
Prince William County
Loudoun County
Stafford County
Spotsylvania County
Arlington County
Alexandria City
Fauquier County
Culpeper County
Manassas City
Warren County
West Virginia
Jefferson County Schools

Total
students
41,900

White

Black

Asian

Latino

AI

12.1%

67.3%

2.2%

16.5%

0.1%

Two or
more
1.7%

148,021
120,066
40,355
26,596
16,244

33.0%
4.5%
66.6%
32.8%
74.3%

21.3%
65.8%
10.9%
52.2%
14.1%

14.4%
3.1%
5.0%
3.1%
1.6%

26.7%
24.5%
11.9%
5.7%
4.3%

0.2%
0.4%
0.4%
0.5%
0.2%

4.5%
1.7%
5.1%
5.7%
5.5%

179,586
83,865
68,205
27,463
23,768
22,438
13,105
11,065
7,854
7,276
5,498

42.7%
35.1%
56.0%
56.9%
62.4%
46.0%
27.3%
74.4%
61.9%
24.3%
82.3%

10.3%
20.6%
6.9%
18.4%
18.3%
10.9%
32.6%
9.3%
16.4%
13.8%
5.4%

19.6%
7.8%
16.3%
2.9%
2.9%
9.5%
4.9%
2.0%
1.6%
4.1%
1.1%

22.5%
29.5%
15.4%
14.6%
11.4%
28.3%
32.4%
10.6%
14.3%
53.1%
5.3%

0.2%
0.3%
0.6%
0.4%
0.3%
0.4%
0.6%
0.3%
0.4%
0.4%
0.5%

4.8%
6.7%
4.8%
6.7%
4.7%
4.8%
2.2%
3.4%
5.4%
4.3%
5.3%

8,958

81.1%

8.0%

1.5%

6.6%

0.1%

2.7%

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD)
Notes: AI = American Indian
The table above looks at public school districts only that enroll total students of more than 5,000.

We then looked closely at major districts in the metropolitan area, enrolling more than
5,000 students. As of 2012, there were eighteen large public school districts in the metro
area, including Washingtonas public school district: five in Maryland, eleven in Virginia,
and one in West Virginia. Among these public districts, some school districts (e.g.,
Warren County, Jefferson County, and Fauquier County) enrolled more than 75% whites.

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In contrast, DCas public school district, Prince Georgeas county, and Charles County
were majority black districts. Interestingly, the Latino share was over 50% in the
Manassas city district. The Asian share did not exceed over 20% of total student
population in any district, but Asian students in the Fairfax, Loudoun, and Montgomery
districts consisted of more than 15% of the total district enrollment. The white suburban
image of the mid-twentieth century is obsolete (Table 28).
Multiracial and Minority Segregated Schools in Large Districts of DC Metro Area
Among the largest districts in the metro area of Washington and its neighboring states,
we focus on school segregation of five public school districts which abut the District of
Columbia and account for 60 percent of the DCas metropolitan public school enrollment
in SY 2012-2013. Despite their close geographical relationships, the concentration of
minorities differs among these districts. As shown earlier in this report, more than half of
the DC public schools were apartheid schools with less than 1% white enrollment.
Closely 30% of public schools in the Prince Georgeas County district were such schools.
In addition to Washington and Prince Georgeas, more than 15% of public schools in the
Montgomery and Alexandria districts were intensely segregated schools with 90-100%
nonwhite student enrollment. Nevertheless, nearly 70% of public schools in the
Montgomery and Fairfax districts were multiracial schools, and more than half of the
Arlington districtas public schools were such schools (Table 29). These results show that
there is clear evidence of extreme segregation in particular districts, but at the same time,
DCas neighboring districts have a significant number of multiracial schools that have a
diverse student body.
Table 29: Percentage of Schools by Racial Composition in 2012-2013
District
District of Columbia
Montgomery, MD
Prince George, MD
Alexandria, VA
Arlington, VA
Fairfax, VA

Total
schools

Multiracial
schools

107
196
186
19
30
192

9.3%
69.9%
11.3%
63.2%
53.3%
68.2%

50-100%
nonwhite
schools
92.5%
76.5%
100.0%
73.7%
56.7%
63.5%

90-100%
nonwhite
schools
76.6%
18.4%
88.2%
15.8%
3.3%
4.7%

99-100%
nonwhite
schools
51.4%
0.5%
28.5%
0.0%
0.0%
0.0%

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD)

The intersection of poverty and race, however, tells a different story. In Montgomeryas
public schools, virtually all students attending apartheid schools were economically
disadvantaged students, as were two in three students in DC public schools and Prince
Georgeas schools (Table 30). For the Montgomery district, in particular, given that the
district had only 0.5% apartheid schools, this extreme segregation by race and poverty is

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remarkably striking (Tables 29 and 30). Regarding intensely segregated schools with over
90% nonwhite enrollment, all districts except the Fairfax school district included high
shares of students living in poverty, ranging from 63% to 86% (Table 30).
Table 30: Percentage of Economically Disadvantaged Students and the Low-Income
Share in Nonwhite Schools in 2012-2013

District
District of Columbia
Montgomery, MD
Prince George, MD
Alexandria, VA
Arlington, VA
Fairfax, VA

% lowincome
52.6%
33.1%
59.7%
53.6%
31.1%
26.4%

Lowincome in
multiracial
schools
28.2%
34.6%
49.6%
53.2%
39.3%
31.4%

Low-income
in 50-100%
nonwhite
schools
56.5%
40.9%
59.7%
59.0%
46.1%
37.0%

Low-income
in 90-100%
nonwhite
schools
63.6%
66.0%
62.5%
76.0%
85.5%

Low-income
in 99-100%
nonwhite
schools
66.7%
94.8%
62.0%

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD)

The segregation level that black and Latino students in DC public schools experienced
was the most extreme. Specifically, nearly one-in-three blacks and one-in-five Latinos in
the district attended apartheid schools, and 86% blacks and 74% Latinos were in
intensely segregated schools. In addition, over 90% of black and Latino students in the
Prince Georgeas district went to intensely segregated schools (Table 31).
Table 31: Black and Latino Shares Attending Nonwhite Schools in 2012-2013
District
District of Columbia
Montgomery, MD
Prince George, MD
Alexandria, VA
Arlington, VA
Fairfax, VA

50-100%
nonwhite schools
Latino
Black
95.7%
98.5%
89.6%
90.4%
100.0%
100.0%
89.6%
89.0%
81.0%
80.8%
80.7%
82.2%

90-100%
nonwhite schools
Latino
Black
73.5%
85.5%
28.6%
28.0%
90.4%
90.0%
13.4%
13.6%
6.6%
2.4%

99-100%
nonwhite schools
Latino
Black
19.2%
62.0%
1.3%
0.4%
11.6%
35.1%

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD)

Intergroup Contact in Large Districts of DCas Metro Area
Examining the diversity patterns of the large districts in the Washington metro, the trends
were very different between white/Asian students and black/Latino students. For all
districts except Fairfax, the percentage of white classmates that the typical white or Asian
student had was substantially higher than the overall white share in the district. However,
the typical black or Latino student had fewer white students compared to each districtas

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white proportion. For instance, although the Montgomery district had 33% whites, the
whites were, on average, in schools with 46% white students. In contrast, the typical
black student in the same district went to a school with only 23% white classmates (Table
32).
Table 32: Exposure Rates for Each Racial Group
Exposure to Whites by the Typical Student of Each Race and the Percentage of Whites
White
Black
Asian
Latino % White Enrollment
District of Columbia
47.3%
5.4%
26.4%
9.6%
12.1%
Montgomery, MD
46.2%
22.9%
34.6%
23.1%
33.0%
Prince George, MD
12.6%
3.8%
7.2%
4.2%
4.5%
Alexandria, VA
36.7%
23.2%
22.7%
24.0%
27.3%
Arlington, VA
56.9%
33.2%
43.0%
33.8%
46.0%
Fairfax, VA
49.7%
35.0%
41.5%
33.2%
42.7%
Exposure to Blacks by the Typical Student of Each Race and the Percentage of Blacks
White
Black
Asian
Latino % Black Enrollment
District of Columbia
29.8%
82.8%
38.2%
38.8%
67.3%
Montgomery, MD
14.8%
30.1%
19.2%
23.6%
21.3%
Prince George, MD
56.4%
75.0%
59.0%
43.8%
65.8%
Alexandria, VA
27.8%
37.1%
35.6%
31.6%
32.6%
Arlington, VA
7.9%
16.8%
12.4%
13.3%
10.9%
Fairfax, VA
8.5%
16.2%
9.0%
12.4%
10.3%
Exposure to Latinos by the Typical Student of Each Race and the Percentage of Latinos
White
Black
Asian
Latino % Latino Enrollment
District of Columbia
13.0%
9.5%
25.3%
46.6%
16.5%
Montgomery, MD
18.7%
29.6%
21.9%
37.3%
26.7%
Prince George, MD
22.8%
16.3%
25.6%
46.9%
24.5%
Alexandria, VA
28.5%
31.4%
32.5%
36.7%
32.4%
Arlington, VA
20.8%
34.4%
28.5%
38.6%
28.3%
Fairfax, VA
17.5%
26.9%
19.7%
32.8%
22.5%
Exposure to Asians by the Typical Student of Each Race and the Percentage of Asians
White
Black
Asian
Latino % Asian Enrollment
District of Columbia
4.7%
1.2%
6.9%
3.3%
2.2%
Montgomery, MD
15.1%
13.0%
19.4%
11.8%
14.4%
Prince George, MD
5.0%
2.8%
5.7%
3.3%
3.1%
Alexandria, VA
4.1%
5.4%
6.1%
5.0%
4.9%
Arlington, VA
8.9%
10.8%
10.9%
9.6%
9.5%
Fairfax, VA
19.0%
17.2%
24.9%
17.2%
19.6%
Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD)

The analysis showed that in spite of different levels in intergroup contact, the other
districts, too, showed similar trends of concentrations of white/Asian students versus
black/Latino students. In Montgomery, Arlington and Fairfax, whites and Asians tended
to be in schools with clear majorities of whites and Asians. Even in Washington, it was

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almost half. Only in Prince Georgeas County where very few remained, were whites and
Asians attending overwhelmingly black and Latino schools (Table 33).
Table 33: Exposure Rates for Combined Racial Groups
Exposure to Whites and Asians by the Typical Student of Each Race and the Percentage of
Combined Whites and Asians
Black/
% White/
White/
District
White Asian
Black
Latino
Latino/
Asian
Asian
AI
Enrollment
District of Columbia 52.1% 33.3%
49.2%
6.6%
12.9%
7.9%
14.3%
Montgomery, MD 61.3% 54.0%
59.1% 35.9%
34.9%
35.4%
47.4%
Prince George, MD 17.7% 12.9%
15.7%
6.6%
7.4%
6.8%
7.6%
Alexandria, VA 40.8% 28.8%
39.0% 28.6%
29.0%
28.8%
32.2%
Arlington, VA 65.8% 53.9%
63.8% 44.1%
43.3%
43.6%
55.5%
Fairfax, VA 68.7% 66.4%
68.0% 52.1%
50.4%
51.0%
62.2%
Exposure to Blacks, Latinos, and AIs by the Typical Student of Each Race and the Percentage of
Combined Blacks, Latinos, and AIs
Black/
% Black/
White/
White Asian
Black
Latino
Latino/
Latino/AI
Asian
AI
Enrollment
District of Columbia 43.0% 63.7%
46.1% 92.4%
85.5%
91.0%
84.0%
Montgomery, MD 33.6% 41.3%
35.9% 60.0%
61.1%
60.6%
48.1%
Prince George, MD 79.6% 85.0%
81.8% 91.6%
91.3%
91.5%
90.7%
Alexandria, VA 56.8% 68.8%
58.6% 69.1%
69.0%
69.1%
65.6%
Arlington, VA 29.0% 41.3%
31.1% 51.6%
52.4%
52.2%
39.7%
Fairfax, VA 26.1% 28.9%
27.0% 43.4%
45.5%
44.8%
33.0%
Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data
(CCD)

Across the area, except in Prince Georgeas County and Alexandria, white students
typically attended schools with a majority of white and Asian classmates, and it was very
close to half in DC. On the other hand, black and Latino students were in schools with a
large majority of black and Latino classmates except in Arlington and Fairfax.
The Alexandria public school district is a special case. In 2012, this district enrolled a
balanced number of whites (27%), blacks (33%), and Latinos (32%) (Table 28).
Moreover, the segregation level was not intense in comparison to the other districts in the
DC metropolitan area, though there surely was evidence of segregation in the district. For
example, the white/Asian shares of the district were 32%, and the typical white/Asian
student and the typical black/Latino student went to a school with 39% and 29% white
enrollments, respectively (Table 33). Additionally, the black/Latino shares in the
Alexandria school district were 66%, and the typical white/Asian student and the typical
black/Latino student had 59% and 69% black/Latino classmates, respectively (Table 33).

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Despite the differences in these intergroup contact experiences, the segregation levels
were not as high as the other districts.
It is important to realize that Washington is an important city but it is a small island in a
vast metro, and that the entire region is becoming far more diverse than anyone could
have imagined a half century ago. Although the city still has a largely black and white
population, there have been massive gains in Latino and Asian presence in the suburban
region which is moving toward the four-race society now common in the West.
Washington and Prince Georgeas County show the most extreme segregation, but there
are significant patterns of segregation and inequality across much of the metro region.
As Washington has become whiter in recent decades, the surrounding suburbs have
become less white and more diverse by race and income. Although some of the suburbs
have had their own integration strategies in the past, segregation is spreading and little is
being done in most areas. While this report focuses on the city, and the city offers
important possibilities for the small minority of metro children who live there, it is
important to understand the broader context and for school and housing officials and
citizens to examine the issues and possibilities in all parts of the metro.

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Conclusion and Recommendations
Washington, DC and its region have no plan about how to respond to the sweeping
changes in population that could produce either more equity or even more entrenched
stratification. Cities are about flows of people in and out of neighborhoods and
communities, and the changes are influenced by history, by policies, by public attitudes,
by racial fears and stereotypes, by market conditions, and, in the case of families with
children, by schooling opportunities. There are default mechanisms that are built over
the history of a region, and they tend to continue and spread segregation unless there is an
explicit effort to change them or new conditions that force changes. Residential and
school segregation are part of the historic pattern in most American cities, certainly
including Washington. Left to themselves they tend to perpetuate themselves.
American cities are in constant change as the demography of the society changes.
Washington is a leading example. The typical U.S. household moves every eight years,
and changes are more frequent for young families living in rental housing, the kind of
families that produce the great majority of students in DC elementary schools. Each
neighborhood is the current result of inflows and outflows of people. Schools are the
product of those flows and the decisions of the people who live there to attend the public
schools, the competing charter schools, the small private school sector, or to move away
in search of better schools. If neighborhoods and schools are to have a stable racial,
ethnic and socioeconomic composition, those who leave must be replaced by similar
families. If there is a systematic difference between entrants and those who are departing,
the neighborhood will be on a path of change to become more like the entering group.
Historically, this model was used to describe a process called racial succession as white
neighborhoods changed to black neighborhoods. This resegregation often took place in a
few years from the first significant presence of families of color to the creation of a
segregated African American neighborhood. This process was seen as virtually
irreversible.
Now we have a much more complex pattern with whites displacing blacks, with black
flight to parts of the suburbs, and quite a few Latinos and Asians moving in. Without any
public policy, some old urban sectors are becoming more diverse, at least for a time,
while substantial parts of suburbia are resegregating. A central question is whether this
will simply produce new forms of white resegregation and pushouts of blacks or
something better and lasting and whether it will produce dying public schools irrelevant
to the population changes or integrated schools and communities. That, of course, raises a
discussion about how policy might produce positive outcomes and not simply another
destructive cycle. From a civil rights standpoint, it raises the question of whether
Washingtonas African American households will be offered choices never provided so far
on any scale in a city with deep racial stratification and severe educational inequalities.

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Schools are one of the forces that draw families with children or keep people out of
communities and neighborhoods. There are many other factors that need to be thought of
in conjunction with the schools. Typically inner city schools do little or nothing positive
to increase the attachment of middle class families with children or attract other racial
and ethnic groups to the city, the neighborhood, or the public school system. It may be
more administratively and politically simple to operate schools almost exclusively for
poor blacks and Latinos, but it is very costly for those children and for the viability and
power of the neighborhoods. As gentrification lowers the number of such families in the
city, it also fosters decline of the school system if the school system does not adapt. For a
long time there seemed to be overwhelming and inexorable forces imposing segregation
on communities and schools so it seemed reasonable to ignore issues like integration that
nothing could be done about. But the city began to transform three decades ago. Now the
population of the city has changed substantially in race and class terms but attitudes and
policies have not. So the schools are increasingly out of touch with a changing city and
there is no housing policy to foster and sustain integration.
The study concludes that DC needs to create positive conditions for diversity in its
charter and choice schools and expand the opportunities for magnet and regional schools
within the city, developed with the collaboration of community residents. Segregated
African American students should be given special preference for integrated
opportunities. In a racially polarized city these efforts must involve all communities and
be opportunity expanding not a transfer of good schooling opportunity and resources
from one group to another. They must extend beyond the schools to embrace housing
and urban development policies. The school integration policies recommended here are
about different kinds of choice systems and policies not the kind of mandatory student
reassignments implemented in some cities in forty years ago. Both political parties favor
choice and this about creating more and better choices for schools that provide something
many Washingtonians would prefer but few now have the opportunity to attenda
academically attractive and substantially and stably integrated schools, diverse by both
race and class.
The ethnic transformation of Washington is profoundly affected by gentrification and
rising housing prices, and any real solution and lasting integration is going to require
sophisticated housing policies designed to increase access for families on housing
subsidies to better schools and to secure significant subsidized housing early in the
gentrification process in neighborhoods to forestall massive involuntary displacement.
Since housing is overwhelmingly in the private sector and gentrification is driven by
active demand from families with the desire and the means to purchase and improve
housing, government has limited tools to stop the changes but should use the leverage
and resources it has (and the gains in tax revenues it produces) to help long-time resident

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families who could be forced out. Vigorous fair housing enforcement and housing
diversity policy are essential elements in diminishing school segregation.
Educators, researchers, civic and business organizations and the general public need to
focus on the extent and costs of segregation. In this work journalists and university
research centers could play a very important role, since our research has consistently
found that most school officials do nothing about the problem and claim that they have
solutions, though the relationship between severe segregation and educational
achievement is rarely broken, and most of the current solutions do little or nothing to
close educational gaps.
Local officials and experts should look at the schools that have become more diverse and
more educationally successful and report the results to the community and discuss them
in staff development efforts. Teachers, administrators and school staff in schools that
have long been segregated need help in successfully incorporating new groups of students
and parents in school communities.
Where there are diverse communities with segregated schools, the schools should invite
residents in to discuss what kinds of changes would make them interested in enrolling.
Where there is significant interest a community organizer should be sent into the
neighborhood to create communication between the parents of the existing students and
potential newcomers and a planning team should be established. The district should
actively support these efforts.
All schools of choice, public and charter, should be required to observe basic civil rights
policies including active and serious recruitment of all groups, and preference for
students who will increase the racial and ethnic diversity of neighborhoods represented.
Schools can, of course, specialize in methods and curricula related to the culture or
history of particular groups but should never use public funds to implement policies
excluding other groups on the grounds of race or ethnicity, which is unconstitutional.
There has been a huge investment in the creation and operation of a parallel charter
school system that has, so far, only intensified the cityas severe educational segregation.
The positive integration of the growing immigrant communities with the black and white
communities of the city should be an important part of education planning giving the
demographic trends of the metro region. There should, for example, be a major focus on
dual language immersion schools, initially Spanish-English schools, operating at a high
academic level in conditions in which the native language of students from non-English
speaking homes is seen as a resource rather than a problem and brings together native
speakers of both languages in a way that produces much more progress toward real
fluency in the second language.

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A number of conscious efforts to pursue and support positive interracial learning and
communities are needed. There should be in-service training for teachers and staff in
techniques to improve race relations among students in their classes and to train the staff
in welcoming newcomers visiting the school. Housing counseling should provide
recipients of certificates and vouchers information about school quality at the addresses
under consideration and encourage people to consider moves to more integrated
neighborhoods and schools offering stronger educational opportunities.
More high quality city-wide magnet schools and schools collaborating with other metro
districts should be developed, opening opportunities for DC students, especially those
segregated by race and poverty. Schools should be required to develop diversity plans
for faculty and students. There should be an office of parent information and easy access
to school choice information on smartphones about schools in the city.
School transfers increasing diversity should be strongly encouraged and crossing racial
boundaries should be a positive factor in attendance polices as well as site selection for
new schools and programs.
Voluntary efforts to diversify schools would not create major changes in the short run but
would increase the scarce opportunities for integrated education. It would not be without
challenges and it would not be a panacea, but it would be an important turn toward an
objective that would foster equity and understanding in the city and prepare students to
live and work better in the cityas future. Almost two-thirds of a century after Brown
called for action against segregated and unequal schools, that goal might finally show
serious progress in the city where the great decision was handed down.

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Appendix A
Figure 20: Relationship between the Share of Students at level of Below Basic in Math
and the Share of White Students

Source: Office of the State Superintendent of Education, 2013-2014 Comprehensive Assessment System (CAS) School
Subgroup and Grade Proficiency and Equity Report Demographics Data

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Figure 21: Relationship between the Share of Students at level of Below Basic in Math
and the Share of Latino Students

Source: Office of the State Superintendent of Education, 2013-2014 Comprehensive Assessment System (CAS) School
Subgroup and Grade Proficiency and Equity Report Demographics Data

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Figure 22: Relationship between the Share of Students at level of Below Basic in Math
and the Share of Asian Students

Source: Office of the State Superintendent of Education, 2013-2014 Comprehensive Assessment System (CAS) School
Subgroup and Grade Proficiency and Equity Report Demographics Data

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Figure 23: Relationship between the Share of Students at Level of Advanced in Math and
the Share of White Students

Source: Office of the State Superintendent of Education, 2013-2014 Comprehensive Assessment System (CAS) School
Subgroup and Grade Proficiency and Equity Report Demographics Data

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Figure 24: Relationship between the Share of Students at Level of Advanced in Math and
the Share of Latino Students

Source: Office of the State Superintendent of Education, 2013-2014 Comprehensive Assessment System (CAS) School
Subgroup and Grade Proficiency and Equity Report Demographics Data

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Figure 25: Relationship between the Share of Students at Level of Advanced in Math and
the Share of Asian Students

Source: Office of the State Superintendent of Education, 2013-2014 Comprehensive Assessment System (CAS) School
Subgroup and Grade Proficiency and Equity Report Demographics Data

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Figure 26: Relationship between the Share of Students in Poverty and the Share of Asian
Students

Source: Office of the State Superintendent of Education, 2013-2014 Equity Report Demographics Data

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Appendix B
Segregation Statistics (Exposure Rates)
In this report we used exposure statistics to measure segregation and to capture
the experiences of segregation. Exposure of certain racial groups to one another or to
majority groups shows the distribution of racial groups among organizational units a
states in this report a and describes the average contact between different groups. It is
calculated by employing the percentage of a particular group of students of interest in a
small unit (e.g., school) with a certain group of students in a larger geographic or
organizational unit (e.g., state) to show an weighted average of the composition of a
particular racial group. The formula for calculating the exposure rates of a student in
racial group A to students in racial group B is:

aC/
aC/
aC/
aC/
aC/

where n is the number of small units (e.g., school) in a larger unit (e.g., state)
ai is the number of student in racial group A in the small unit i (school i)
A is the total number of students in racial group A in the larger unit (state)
bi is the number of students in racial group B in the small unit i (school i)
ti is the total number of students in all racial groups in the small unit i (school i)

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