Diversity study finds economic disparities rising in North Carolina schools

February 1st, 2013 in Other Sciences / Social Sciences

The racial balance in North Carolina's public schools has remained steady since 2005-06, ending a trend of growing disparity from the previous decade, but students are increasingly separated by income. These are among the findings of a comprehensive report from three Duke University public policy professors who studied whether schools in each of the state's 100 counties mirror the racial and economic composition of that county as a whole.

"Although state-enforced school segregation is now a distant memory, significant disparities remain between schools, both racial and economic," said study co-author Charles Clotfelter. "These disparities are among the most pressing civil rights issues of our time."

"Racial and Economic Diversity in North Carolina's Schools: An Update" highlights the important role played by public policies in shaping the diversity of school populations. Local districts can reduce disparities by merging city and county school districts and adopting student assignment plans that minimize economic disparities between schools, while state policymakers can take steps to limit the number of or ensure they have diverse student bodies, the report states.

Clotfelter, Helen Ladd and Jacob Vigdor, professors in Duke's Sanford School of Public Policy and fellows at Duke's Center for Child and Family Policy, updated their earlier research on the topic that was published in the North Carolina Law Review (2003) and the Virginia Journal of Social Policy and the Law (2008). Their latest report uses data from the 2011-12 school year and is available online. Charts showing the economic and racial disparity rankings of the state's most populous counties are available in the executive summary.

"With the annual commemoration of Jr.'s birthday on the horizon, we wanted to re-examine progress toward one of King's goals—equal access to a high-quality education for all students," said Clotfelter, author of the 2004 book "After Brown: The Rise and Retreat of School Desegregation."

Ladd noted that across some North Carolina counties, racial and economic imbalances in schools are large. "These disparities are important because research shows they can have negative educational consequences for students," she said.

Schools serving a disproportionately black, Hispanic or low-income student body tend to have teachers with weaker credentials than schools serving more advantaged students, according to the report. Teachers in these schools tend to have fewer years of teaching experience, degrees from less competitive colleges, fewer regular teaching licenses or National Board certification and lower scores on tests taken by teachers.

Other report findings include:

More information: bit.ly/W7t04w

Provided by Duke University

"Diversity study finds economic disparities rising in North Carolina schools." February 1st, 2013. http://phys.org/news/2013-02-diversity-economic-disparities-north-carolina.html