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In the South, many school districts encompass both a city and the surrounding area, he said. That has led to better-integrated schools.

Still, around the country, only 23 percent of black students attended white-majority schools in 2011. That’s the lowest number since 1968.

Advocates point to rulings by federal courts that have freed many of the schools from Brown-related desegregation orders since the 1990s. That, they say, is leading the country back toward more segregated schools.

At the same time, there’s been a demographic change in public schools. Between 1968 and 2011, the number of Hispanic students in the public school system rose 495 percent, while the number of black students increased by 19 percent and the number of white students dropped 28 percent, according to the Education Department.

Today, many Hispanic students are attending segregated schools, particularly in the West.

Chuck Brothers, a retired social studies and psychology teacher who taught in a low-income school in St. Lucie County, Florida, said the nation trips over how to solve these issues.

“I think we haven’t taken the time, and it’s across the board, politically and socially, to really understand what we really do want out of education and how are we really going to make it available for everyone,” Brothers said.