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Why Segregation Matters Poverty and Educational Inequality By Gary Orfield and Chungmei Lee January 2005 1 Acknowledgements The authors would like to thank Nancy Mcardle John Yun at the University of California Santa Barbara Stella Flores and Al Kauffman for their important insights and contributions We would also like to thank Lori Kelley for her invaluable assistance with this report A special thanks to Jerry Monde Jennifer Blatz and Sofia Jarrin Thomas for their technical contributions Finally we would also like to acknowledge Christopher Swanson at the Urban Institute for his help in this project 2 Table of Contents Page Introduction 4 Poverty Segregation and Racial Inequality 10 The Poverty Dimension in Segregation 14 a National Trends b Regional Trends i ii iii iv v Western Schools Southern Schools Northeast Midwestern Border States 17 22 22 25 27 30 33 Dropouts 36 Case for Desegragation 40 Policy Recommendations 43 Appendix 44 3 Introduction Much of the discussion about school reform in the U S in the past two decades has been about racial inequality President Bush has promised that the No Child Left Behind Act and the forthcoming expansion of high stakes testing to high schools can end the soft racism of low expectations Yet a disproportionate number of the schools being officially labeled as persistent failures and facing sanctions under this program are segregated minority schools Large city school systems are engaged in massive efforts to break large segregated high poverty high schools into small schools hoping that it will create a setting better able to reduce inequality while others claim that market forces operating through charter schools and private schools could end racial inequalities even though both of these are even more segregated than public schools and there is no convincing evidence for either of these claims More and more of the still standing court orders and plans for desegregated schools are being terminated or challenged in court and

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