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Saturday, June 25, 2022

Students are often segregated in the same school, not just because they are sent to different schools

Research Briefs are brief information about interesting academic work.

big idea

According to recent research I conducted with education policy scholar Dave E. Marcotte, children from lower-income families are being segregated into different classes from their peers from higher-income households.

From 2007 to 2014, we tracked all North Carolina public school students statewide, from third to eighth grade, looking at how each school grouped students in math and English language arts classes by each school’s process to create classroom groups. went.

We used course enrollment data to find out how many students in each class were from families whose incomes were 185% or less of the federal poverty threshold – and how many were not. We found that economically disadvantaged students were increasingly likely to be concentrated in a subset of classrooms rather than being relatively evenly dispersed throughout the school.

why it matters

School segregation is often thought of as a way of forcing black and white students to attend different schools. This makes sense given the history of Jim Crow—a 19th- and 20th-century legal system meant to give second-class status to black people in white society—and court orders to segregate schools.

Another aspect of the issue is how students are sorted into classes within schools. A 2021 study found that schools with more racial diversity are more likely to have classes that are more segregated than schools that are less diverse overall.

Researchers have recently begun to identify increasing levels of segregation between schools, not only on the basis of race, but also on household income.

Students from wealthy families are more likely than their less-affluent peers to have higher academic achievement, as measured by test scores, for attending and completing college.

Efforts to provide equal opportunities for all students often focus on comparing funding and staffing between schools. In fact, lower levels of school funding lead to lower educational attainment and lower wages into adulthood.

However, resources may be unevenly distributed on a class-by-class basis within schools. For example, more experienced teachers average higher student test scores than novice teachers. However, novice teachers are often assigned to classes with low-income students. Therefore, the more students are segregated on the basis of household income, the more likely poor students are to lag behind academically.

what is not yet known

We are not sure why the segregation of schools by household income is increasing. One possible reason may be an increase in “academic tracking”, which is the process of grouping students into classes based on their prior achievement, such as performance on standardized tests.

If low-income students perform worse on standardized tests than their peers, they may be placed on the lower track. However, standardized test scores may not accurately reflect the potential of low-income students, as students from marginalized groups perform disproportionately poorly on assessments.

If in fact test scores accurately reflect eligibility, there may be some educational benefit to tracking students in certain classes. However, researchers have long argued that tracking perpetuates disparities between low- and high-track students. For example, students who are placed on a lower track than their peers suffer from low self-esteem and are not as prepared for college success as high-track students with similar test scores.

The increase in charter school enrollment over the past two decades may also contribute to the increase in segregation within the school from the income we receive. Public school principals who fear their students may depart to charter, try to retain them by introducing specialized courses or expanding programs for the gifted and gifted. If these programs continue to primarily serve students from high-income families, this could lead to increased income segregation within schools. This is a possibility we are exploring.

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