When it comes to the segregation of students in the District, a new study suggests private schools play a significant role in the issue.
According to an Albert Shanker Institute research brief, “Public and Private School Segregation in the District of Columbia,” released Wednesday, Nov. 1, they found that segregation is more pronounced when both sectors are considered together than when either the public or private sector is considered alone.
“This is because a substantial proportion of total citywide segregation is due to the separation of students between sectors, particularly the fact that private schools enroll just 15 percent of D.C. students, but about 57 percent of its white students,” wrote Matthew Di Carlo and Kinga Wysienska-Di Carlo, the report’s authors.
The report said that total segregation in D.C. may be even greater than previously thought, since virtually no analysis included private school students.
“It also means that, even if public schools were perfectly integrated, citywide segregation would remain quite extensive, since over half of the city’s white students would still be separated from public school students, who constitute about 85 percent of the city’s students,” the authors said. “In a very loose sense, D.C.’s private schools serve as the segregation equivalent of a suburb within the city.”
The Shanker Institute said that they used traditional public, charter and private schools to provide a comprehensive portrait of student segregation in the nation’s capital.
The report also found that in the private school sector, the separation of white students from African-American and Latino students remains the primary driver of segregation of those three groups.
In public schools, however, the separation of African-American and Latino students from each other contributes as much to total segregation as does the separation of white students from African-American and Latino students.
“This analysis shows that private schools are a big factor in the overall segregation picture,” said Elizabeth Davis, president of Washington Teachers Union. “But that doesn’t mean that we don’t need to do more to promote integration within the public school sector. It’s the right thing to do, for the benefit of all our students.”
The report also said that citywide, 60.5 percent of the typical white student’s peers are also white, though only 15 percent of the city’s students are white.
“Even in a city where the vast majority of students are minorities, the average white student still attends a mostly white school,” the authors said. “This is rather striking and is indicative of the concentration of white students in certain schools in both public and private school sectors.”
In the public sector, the typical white student attends a school in which roughly 42 percent of their peers are also white, despite the fact that less than eight percent of public school students are white.
Conversely, in the private sector, about 65 percent of the typical African-American student’s peers are also African-American, even though only 28 percent of private school students are African-American, the report said.
“Overall, students in D.C. attend schools in which their own races or ethnicities are strongly overrepresented,” the authors wrote.