RICHMOND (AP) — Although public schools nationwide have become more segregated during the past two decades, Virginia schools appear to be more integrated.
The Civil Rights Project of Harvard University said in a report released this week that schools nationwide have become nearly as segregated as they were before the civil rights movement.
But Gary Orfield, co-director of the Civil Rights Project and main author of the report, “Schools More Separate: Consequences of a Decade of Resegregation,” said Virginia appeared to be more integrated than many other states because of the growth of Northern Virginia’s diverse suburbs.
Mr. Orfield told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that Fairfax County “looks integrated right now. Whether that is transitional or stable, time will tell.”
Desegregation in the 11 Southern states running from Virginia to Texas peaked in 1988, when 43.5 percent of black students attended majority-white schools, the report said. But in 1998, the latest year for which data was available, it dropped to 32.7 percent, lower than it had been at any time since 1970.
In 1998, Virginia schools were second in integration in the South behind North Carolina.
The South, where only 55 percent of public school students are white, has higher concentrations of nonwhite students than the rest of the nation and is likely to have white minorities in schools overall within the next few years, the report said.
Mr. Orfield told the Times-Dispatch that several studies of diverse schools show they have higher achievement levels than homogenous schools. High-stakes testing programs that expect uniform results can punish minorities in rural schools that lack the resources of wealthy suburban schools, he said.
Virginia Board of Education President Kirk T. Schroder told the Times-Dispatch that school of thought doesn’t apply to Virginia because of its Standards of Learning testing program.
“If you look at schools like Chamberlayne Elementary [in Henrico County] or Fox Elementary in Richmond, you’ll see there are schools around the state that have high minority populations succeeding,” Mr. Schroder said. “One can easily say it can be done at other schools with high minority populations.”
The report found that Hispanic students in Virginia were more likely to integrate than Hispanics in 18 other states, including New York, California, Texas and Florida, which have the largest Hispanic populations in the nation.