Racial segregation declined over a 15-year period in D.C. schools in the most rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods, with traditional public schools seeing more of a change than charter schools, according to a report released Tuesday by the UCLA Civil Rights Project.
The study’s findings carry implications for the school choice experiment in the nation’s capital.
Although school segregation in the nation’s capital remains severe, the report says that “the trend of declining racial segregation in schools in some of the city’s most gentrifying areas is promising.” From 2000 to 2015, the white population in these areas jumped from 5 percent to just under 50 percent, and enrollment of white students in those neighborhoods increased from 1 percent to 8 percent, the report said.
It also found that from 2007 to 2014, the share of almost fully segregated traditional public schools in gentrifying areas fell from 67 percent to 41 percent. During that period, the share of hyper-segregated charters in gentrifying areas declined more modestly, from 77 percent to 70 percent.
The District has seen dramatic demographic changes, with the black population dropping from nearly 70 percent to less than 50 percent over the past 25 years and the Latino population increasing by a factor of more than three.
Since 2000, the white population has risen from 27 percent to more than 33 percent.
The report — titled “White Growth, Persistent Segregation: Could Gentrification Become Integration?” — shines a light on school choice in the District, which has a flourishing charter school sector and the only federally funded program that uses public funds for private school tuition.
Charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately operated, enrolled nearly 42,000 students in the District in the 2016-2017 school year, up from fewer than 30,000 in the 2011-2012 school year, and more charters are opening. Traditional public schools enrolled 48,500 students in 2016-2017 and for years have been fighting to maintain the lion’s share of enrollment.
While public schools nationwide have been resegregating by race and class in recent decades, according to a 2016 federal analysis, the latest study suggests the gentrification movement may be accelerating school integration in the District. Research has shown that children from low-income families who attend mixed-income schools get better academic results than those who attend high-poverty schools. It also indicates the academic performance of affluent students is not harmed by such integration.
The report was written by researchers Kfir Mordechay and Jennifer Ayscue for the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at the University of California at Los Angeles, which seeks to build a body of research in social science and law on civil rights and equal opportunity. It is the latest of several reports on segregation in D.C. schools published this year, including one in February, also by the Civil Rights Project, that found that 71 percent of black students in the D.C. public school system and the city’s charter sector attended schools in 2013 with virtually no white peers. But that was down from nearly 90 percent in 1992.
Here are other key findings from the latest report:
●Between 2000 and 2014, the black share of enrollment decreased while the Hispanic share almost doubled in schools located in gentrifying and non-gentrifying areas.
●In 2014, more than three-fourths of schools in gentrifying and non-gentrifying areas were intensely segregated, with students of color representing 90 to 100 percent of enrollment. That same year, a slightly larger share of schools were hyper-segregated — with students of color constituting 99 to 100 percent of enrollment — in neighborhoods that weren’t gentrifying (63 percent) than in gentrifying areas (55 percent).