Profs See Race Split Growing In Schools

Segregation is slowly creeping back into America's public school system, according to a study by researchers at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

The study, "Deepening Segregation in American Public Schools," reports that 1991-94 saw the largest movement toward segregation between racial groups since the 1954 school desegregation decision, Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education.

"In American race relations, the bridge from the twentieth century may be leading back into the nineteenth century," the study concludes.

Led by Gary A. Orfield, professor of education and social policy, the researchers analyzed the racial composition of U.S. public schools from 1968 to 1994.

They found that the nation's non-white population is concentrated in urban areas.

About 23 percent of Latino and 18 percent of black students were enrolled in the nation's 10 largest central city school districts, while only 2 percent of white students were.

In the South, the steady progress made toward desegregation during the last two decades is falling apart, the study shows.

The proportion of black students in desegregated schools with a white majority dropped from a high of 44 percent in 1988 to 39.2 percent in 1991 and 36.6 percent in 1994, according to the report.

The Northeast remained the most intensely segregated region, with about half of its back students in schools that are 90-100 percent non-white.

Discouraging news about the state of race relations between Latino students and whites was also reported in the study.

The researchers found that Latino students experience more isolation from whites and are more concentrated in high poverty schools than any other group of students.

"If the growing community of Latino students is increasingly isolated in inferior schools," the authors wrote, "there could be a vicious cycle of declining opportunity."

Calling the link between poverty concentrations and low achievement "very strong," the authors reported that segregated minority students are 16.3 percent more likely to attend concentrated poverty schools