Public education or public segregation?

I’m reading The Shame of the Nation by Jonathan Kozol. Kozol was a big influence on my thinking about education reform and educational justice when I was working on my teaching credential in 1995. It was during my year of student-teaching that I read Savage Inequalities.

Savage Inequalities struck me like a mule-kick to my gut. With simplicity and agonizing detail, Kozol describes several pairs of schools in several cities. Each pair was separated by only a few miles. However, they were worlds apart socially and economically.

In the wealthy areas of town, the spacious, immaculate, and wired classrooms were populated with curious, healthy, and happy students.  These students were, in turn, taught by experienced, well-trained teachers and aides.

In the working-class and impoverished neighborhoods, the dark, damp, and crumbling classrooms were packed with bored, hungry, and angry kids. These kids were, in turn, taught by inexperienced, frazzled, but dedicated teachers with little or no help from any other adult.

Fifteen years later, American schools are not getting any better. If anything, writes Kozol in The Shame of a Nation, we’re getting worse. Many teachers interviewed in his book mention that while they marched for integration with heroes like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr., they now teach in nearly completely segregated schools that bear the names of those leaders.

I got to wondering: Are the schools in my community racially segregated? I’m working at Skyline High School in Oakland, California. I grew up in a largely white suburb of Oakland called Pleasanton.

I took a look at a couple of high schools in Oakland and a couple of high schools in my hometown.  I also did a quick look at a couple of high schools in Richmond, California, near where I live today.  I added a couple of schools in Concord and Hayward to create this table of nine high schools and one middle school all located within about 30 miles of one other.


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School Latino African-American       Asian            White
Oakland Tech HS, Oakland 19% 41% 19% 16%
Mandella HS, Oakland CA 52% 38% 4% 1%
Amador Valley HS, Pleasanton CA 7% 2% 22% 63%
Foothill High, Pleasanton CA 8% 1% 29% 55%
Tennyson High, Hayward CA 59% 11% 10% 5%
Martin Luther King Jr Middle, Hayward CA 55% 12% 10% 5%
Concord High, Concord CA 32% 3% 5% 50%
Clayton Valley High, Concord CA 20% 3% 8% 62%
De Anza High, Richmond CA 37% 20% 13% 10%
Richmond High, Richmond CA 81% 6% 5% 2%