This is a guest blog written by West HS Student Voice & Leadership team member Briana Renteria, a program that is led by social studies teachers Dan Walter and Sarah Kennedy.
Did you know that more than half of schools in Denver are segregated? It’s been more than 60 years since the Brown vs Board and look how far we haven’t come. Integration in schools is not only important for all students but will break a cycle of hostility in our education system and in our society where typically people of color are the ones most affected. The integration will cause positive long-term effects and will have the redemptive power to heal the division that we see in our country today.
Why are schools still segregated?
There has been research done about the data that parents are receiving from the School Performance Framework, which is what helps many families choose schools. The data includes PSAT and CMAS scores, growth on CMAS, WIDA ACCESS test, along with SAT scores, dropout rates, matriculation rates, and graduation rates. When students live in poverty they tend to have lower test scores and students that don’t live in poverty have higher test scores as mentioned in the article “How Do Students’ Backgrounds Affect Their School Performance?”
When students who come from lower-income backgrounds face the problem of being in an environment that doesn’t support or help them due to not having money for extra resources, it can lead to the student not showing the highest test results. This leads to more segregation because parents who have access, knowledge of the system, and resources would place their child into schools that have higher school performance scores. Parents with low income are more likely to place their children in schools that are more accessible to them which means those schools are more likely to have lower school performance scores. The system rewards white and wealthy families since they received a higher education and have more knowledge of the system. This leads to them placing their child in a high-performance school that has mostly white and wealthy students. On the other hand, it harms low-income and people of color since most families did not receive a higher education and don’t have knowledge of the system. They are more likely to place their child in a low-performing school that has mostly students of color. That causes a separation between the two groups and students should not face the consequences of their parent’s income.
This can lead to difficulty for low-income students that are in segregated schools to extend their potential due to the fact that they never grew up in a diverse environment. In the future, they will notice different people and feel a sense of dismay since they face discomfort due to not being introduced to diversity at an early age. Look at the news and notice how much segregation has impacted and divided our country. We didn’t solve this years ago and now we are all suffering the consequences.
My team at West High School is working on pushing to solve this problem. Growing up in public schools we came to question why there was discrimination used towards other ethnicities or why the system felt like it was never made for us. When being in a segregated school it affected me when I went into the “real world”. I felt very uncomfortable and felt like people who didn’t look like me were looking down on me. It’s a feeling that my team has talked about and would agree that with integration we would have not felt that way. We also noticed that it had to do with the fact that most of the schools we went to were segregated (over 90% non-white), we all went to school and we all learned that same material but why weren’t we learning together with other races, ethnicities or nationalities? There are so many questions and only one solution.
There has been extensive research about the benefits of integrating schools. Rucker C. Jonson explains in his book Children of the Dream that it decreases incarceration rates for low income students and increases chances of receiving a higher education. Low-income students in integrated schools also have higher lifetime earnings and better health as adults. Johnson proved that white students in integrated schools were not negatively affected in these categories. It doesn’t mean that students of color will show better results because of white students. This is not the case, rather integration will help students feel included and supported in society because students will learn tolerance of others at a younger age. This will help make the school an environment that will not only benefit students academically and emotionally but it will build a society that will be beneficial to everyone. These are not the only benefits; others will come to show up in the future in surprising ways. It will create more open doors and will unleash the capacity of one’s potential.
The integration will save us from a continuing pattern of separation not only in schools but in this country. The article “The Benefits of Socio Economically and Racially Integration Schools and Classrooms” conveys that being in a diverse school can help diminish racial bias and stereotypes. When students are in a setting where they are being exposed to diversity, students become more comfortable causing a significant decrease in discriminatory attitudes and prejudices. It can also improve students’ intellectual self-confidence that can make students secure in themselves academically and emotionally. When there is the integration it increases the likelihood of having higher test scores. It also reduces anxiety when resolving social injustices. There seems to be a sense of nervousness when attacking these injustices because so many people grew up in segregated schools and so they don’t know how to build community with different people. Having diversity present in the lives of our children will make uniting our country substantially easier and lead us to a better future for all. Integration can solve negative feelings towards other races because we will see that we are all alike which will help this country be more inclusive of one another.
Although the integration process is painful and requires a lot of patience, it does ignite change which is definitely worth it. It’s time for all of us to feel comfortable with the uncomfortableness of this issue and play our part to have integration not only in our schools but in this country. We can’t stay quiet and we can’t wait until someone else solves it.
We have nothing but opportunities to take and if we don’t do it, who will?
Read A+’s 2018 report “Learn Together, Live Together: A Call to Integrate Denver’s Schools”.