Study Shows Triple Segregation Persists in Texas Schools

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Last month I first shared Expansive School Segregation in Texas: Predicts Accountability Rating with Cloaking Inequity readers. Yesterday UT-Austin communications drafted a press release for the study (see below) so there was a flurry of media activity. Univision also profiled the study on their 5 p.m. news program.

Heilig headshotHolmes headshot
A first-of-its-kind study from researchers in the College of Education at The University of Texas at Austin shows that, in addition to being isolated by race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status, English language learners in Texas schools also are separated by language, suffering what has been termed “triple segregation.”

Education professors Julian Vasquez Heilig and Jennifer Jellison Holme analyzed school-level Texas Education Agency (TEA) data to determine the level of school segregation experienced by the rapidly growing English Language Learner (ELL) population in Texas, which is now the second largest in the nation. They were also interested in the relationship between levels of segregation and the performance of schools on the state accountability system.

Despite a 20-year-old accountability system that was designed to promote equality, the researchers found the majority of Texas ELL students remain in high poverty, high minority schools that are rated as low performing on the state accountability system.

“Our research revealed that schools where students are segregated by race/ethnicity, SES and language are overwhelmingly rated as low-performing,” said Heilig, associate professor in the Department of Educational Administration.

Those schools also are staffed with some of the lowest-skilled teachers, and teacher and principal turnover tends to be high, Heilig said.

“So, 50 years after the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, the data reveals that very little has actually changed when it comes to the segregation of African Americans and Latinos in our schools,” said Heilig. “Despite rhetoric to the contrary, demographics are still determining destiny in Texas.”

According to the TEA data that Heilig and Holme analyzed:

  • 51 percent of Texas schools are majority African American and Latino combined.
  • 46 percent of urban schools are designated as “intensely segregated,” which means that 90 percent or more of the students are African American and Latino combined.
  • 47 percent of suburban Texas schools are now majority African American and Latino.
  • 20 percent of suburban schools qualify as “intensely segregated.”
  • 15 percent of schools that are majority economically disadvantaged are also majority ELL.
  • Of majority ELL schools, 89 percent are also majority economically disadvantaged.
  • Two-thirds of the schools that are intensely poor — “vast majority” economically disadvantaged — are also majority ELL.
  • About 24 percent of Texas elementary schools are triply segregated with majorities of African American and Latina/o, Economically Disadvantaged and ELL students.
  • In triple segregated schools, majority African American and Latina/o schools are 48 percent less likely to be rated “exemplary.”

“This data analysis should be considered a starting point for further inquiry,” said Heilig. “Ideally, other researchers will use it to launch their own studies of segregation in other states. In the past decade, the Deep South has experienced the largest increase in the nation of ELL students and is facing many of the same challenges as Texas and California.”

“Nearly 50 Years Post-Jim Crow: Persisting and Expansive School Segregation for African American, Latina/o and ELL Students in Texas” was published in Education and Urban Society in May.

—Kay Randall, University Communications, 512-363-6520

Demography still matters.

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Categories: Accountability, English Language Learners, Latina/os

Author:Julian Vasquez Heilig

Julian Vasquez Heilig is currently an Associate Professor of Educational Policy and Planning and African and African Diaspora Studies (by courtesy) at the University of Texas at Austin.

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7 Comments on “Study Shows Triple Segregation Persists in Texas Schools”

  1. Monty J. Thornburg, Ph.D.
    August 15, 2013 at 7:32 am #

    Personally, I only wish this mattered to those in power in the TX state legislature and governorship. TX where you live and CA where I live are linked in some ways.

    Here in CA $dollars have shifted toward ELLs in the new budget to reflect educational need and we are working to improve health care too, and we don’t have any new voter suppression laws, yet. All good, right? If we had some of the money back that was raked out of CA by Enron and some of Bush families old friends, we’d be further along!

    With that said, there are plenty of places in CA where “racism” and real hatred exists. CA and TX politics and “racism” are just a different mix and there remains real violence and the existence of hate groups here in some parts. Here in CA as “christian identity” “Aryan nation” KKK, and other hate groups are countered by Sorenos and Norteneos and Crips, etc., especially in the war zones in our massive prisons, we as educators experience those wars. Those wars do spill out to the schools and communities through the children!

    Those who work in “Alternative Education” here in CA and I suspect TX too, must deal with these realities.

    Note: The “christian identity” group that started us, “The U.S.A.” on this path of prison war zones began right here in my home county, – e.g., the so called religious justification for racism, and hatred of Jews, -started right here in Mid-Pines with a publication called: ‘The Jubilee.’ It was sent out to prisons as a religious paper- and couldn’t be stopped because it was religious. The local chamber wouldn’t want this known, – bad for business- even though until a few years ago and into the new century, the son of the original hate monger author of the “Jubilee” who continued that “hate monger work” was a high official in the chamber here in Mariposa County.

    Segregation and fear operate here too, especially in LA and some of our massive agricultural areas. Drug cultures on all sides operate here too. The spill over from prison cultures operate here too. A gun culture and power of the NRA operates here too.

    My point about Enron is that the libertarian thinking that went into Ken Lay’s and Jeff’s schemes, ignore the monopolistic structure of utility companies. The same thinking ignores the need for government in other aspects of society- like in education.

    isn’t this really where the (new) political fault line is?

    Privatization, i.e., charters, vouchers, etc., are “structurally” a failed policy and manipulations under the guise of ‘accountability” i.e., NCLB, are really aimed at supporting privatization, in my view. And, starving public education of needed resources as seems to be happening in TX is a failed policy too.

    Good work in exposing this!

  2. Jane Cutter Ph.D.
    August 15, 2013 at 9:18 am #

    Wow, great research. I am curious about the part in the press release about how students in these triply segregated schools have the teachers with the lowest skills. It takes me back to Intro Stats, where in the data we were studying, low-quality teachers correlated with low SES schools, when low-quality teacher was, if I recall correctly, defined as teaching a subject without having a major in it (?)How did you define low quality teacher in your study?

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