As racial separation in education steadily grows, California now leads the nation in children going to school with their own kind, a UCLA study released Wednesday contends.
On the 60th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court Brown vs. Board of Education ruling intended to dismantle segregation, the report by UCLA's Civil Rights Project says that California students are more likely than ever to attend racially isolated schools.
In the Bay Area, most schools followed the same pattern, though were more integrated than schools in Southern California.
The report analyzes data on all the state's school districts and a few charter schools. It shows segregation both at school and state levels has come to be widely accepted. The average white student in Union Elementary District in San Jose attends classes that are 19 percent black and Latino, while across town the average Latino student in the Alum Rock Union district attends a school that is 82 percent black and Latino.
Even within school districts, racial divides persist. In Oakland Unified, the average Latino child attends a school where 83 percent of the students are black and Latino, compared with the average white child who attends a school where 45 percent of students are black and Latino.
Those results, study co-author Gary Orfield said, are "disappointingly predictable." But the surprise is the racial separation unfolding in the suburbs, including the South Bay and East Bay. "The sheer scope of the Latino transformation is more than what anybody expected," Orfield said.
School districts contend that they are indeed battling for equity. San Jose Unified spokeswoman Traci Cook said the district offers choices in enrollment, free busing and magnet schools to lure students out of their neighborhoods, all part of a voluntary integration plan.
But 30 years after the district was sued for segregating Latino students, the average black or Latino student goes to a school that is 69 percent black and Latino, while the average white or Asian student goes to a school that is only 39 percent black and Latino.
Similarly, in Contra Costa County's Mount Diablo Unified School District, the average Latino student attends a school that is 60 percent black and Latino, while the average white student attend a school that is 30 percent black and Latino.
The most segregated schools are in those communities that are overwhelmingly poor or wealthy. The average West Contra Costa black student attends a school that is 80 percent black or Latino; the average Hillsborough white student attends a school that is 92 percent white and Asian.
The highest incidence of segregation is in Los Angeles and the Inland Empire, according to the report. Some of the most integrated schools are in the Fresno and Sacramento areas. Locally, the most integrated districts include Newark, Milpitas, San Mateo Union High and Castro Valley.
Statewide, by the report's measures, Latinos and African-Americans are among the most racially isolated in the nation, which the report says "calls into question the state's racially progressive image."
The average black student in California attends a school that is 82 percent students of color. The average Latino student attends a school that is 84 percent students of color. While historically Texas was more segregated than California, the report says the Golden State has moved backward faster. In fact, 7.3 percent of California's 10,000 schools are 99 percent nonwhite.
Overwhelmingly, low-income students are concentrated in schools with black and Latino students.
The risk of such separation, the report warns, is that Latinos, the fastest growing segment of California's population, attend schools of poorer quality and fewer opportunities, and have the least success in higher education. The report warns that when "the group with the most severe educational problems replaces the groups that have greater educational success, the pattern of schooling deserves and demands urgent attention."
The UCLA report contrasts today with just 20 years ago when no racial or ethnic group attended schools of overwhelming poverty, and all schools had substantial middle-class enrollment.
Among remedies the authors suggest are coordinating housing and education policy, improving teacher training in diversity, collaborating regionally and across districts, placing the strongest teachers with the most needy students and giving students from segregated schools priority in college admission.
But overall the report's tone is dismal. Noting that California lacks initiatives or even discussion of the goals of Brown vs. Board, the report says, "Segregation is again being accepted as normal, and its spread into suburbia is not being addressed, although people are leaving communities because of it."
Contact Sharon Noguchi at 408-271-3775. Follow her at Twitter.com/NoguchiOnK12.