Still Separate, Still Unequal: Teaching about School Segregation and Educational Inequality

Still Separate, Still Unequal: Teaching about School Segregation and Educational Inequality

For Further Exploration

Research your own school district. Then write an essay, create an oral presentation or make an annotated map on segregation and educational inequity in your community, using data from the Miseducation database.


Activity #2: Explore a case study: schools in Charlottesville, Va.

Railroad tracks divide Charlottesville into three predominantly white elementary school zones to the north, and three mostly black schools to the south.CreditSource: School zone boundaries from the City of Charlottesville, Black population from the Census Bureau | The New York Times

The New York Times and ProPublica investigated how segregation still plays a role in shaping students’ educational experiences in the small Virginia city of Charlottesville. The article begins:

Zyahna Bryant and Trinity Hughes, high school seniors, have been friends since they were 6, raised by blue-collar families in this affluent college town. They played on the same T-ball and softball teams, and were in the same church group.

But like many African-American children in Charlottesville, Trinity lived on the south side of town and went to a predominantly black neighborhood elementary school. Zyahna lived across the train tracks, on the north side, and was zoned to a mostly white school, near the University of Virginia campus, that boasts the city’s highest reading scores.

Before you read the rest of the article, and learn about the experiences of Zyahna and Trinity, answer the following questions based on your own knowledge, experience and opinions:

• What is the purpose of public education?
• Do all children in America receive the same quality of education?
• Is receiving a quality public education a right (for everyone) or a privilege (for some)?
• Is there a correlation between students’ race and the quality of education they receive?

Now read the entire article about lingering segregation in Charlottesville and answer the following questions:

1. How is Charlottesville’s school district geographically and racially segregated?
2. How is Charlottesville a microcosm of education in America?
3. How do white and black students in Charlottesville compare in terms of participation in gifted and talented programs; being held back a grade; being suspended from school?
4. How do black and white students in Charlottesville compare in terms of reading at grade level?
5. How do Charlottesville school officials explain the disparities between white and black students?
6. Why are achievement disparities so common in college towns?
7. In what ways do socioeconomics not fully explain the gap between white and black students?

After reading the article and answering the above questions, share your reactions using the following prompts:

• Did anything in the article surprise you? Shock you? Make you angry or sad? Why?
• On the other hand, did anything in the article strike you as unsurprising? Explain.
• How might education in Charlottesville be made more equitable?

For Further Exploration

Choose one or more of the following ideas to investigate school segregation in the United States and around the world.

1. Read and discuss “In a Divided Bosnia, Segregated Schools Persist.” Compare and contrast the situations in Bosnia and Charlottesville. How does this perspective confirm, challenge, or complicate your understanding of the topic?