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Diversity and Integration in Our Public Schools

The Washington Post has published an interesting article about diversity and integration in public schools across the nation. The article compares school districts across the country and has data on the San Juan Unified School District, which serves Arden Arcade. The Post says our district’s schools are “newly diverse” and “somewhat integrated” - meaning the data showed our schools to have become at least 25% non-white since 1995 but are a bit out of synch with the racial makeup of the broader community. The article points out that the U.S. Census expects the country will have more children of color than white children by 2020.

The findings are important because they compared the existence of increased diversity with the racial mix within a district’s schools. Research has shown that integration has led to student success at academic performance. According to the Post, racial demographics at San Juan Unified’s schools aren’t entirely in line with those of the broader community. Some explanations might be due to the District not restricting students to schools in their own neighborhoods - per state law, the District has open enrollment and a history of adjustments to school boundaries. Across the District, some schools are “fundamental” schools (focused on highly structured learning), still others are dedicated to specific learning methods (e.g. Montessori), and there are public charter schools that were not included in the Post’s analysis. Further, a 1-1 comparison of the District’s racial mix with that of Arden Arcade is inappropriate since the District is far bigger geographically than our community. U.S. Census data for 2017 shows the Arden Arcade Census Designated Place to have a slightly higher percentage of Whites, African Americans, and Multi-racial people than the San Juan Unified School District, with a bit lower percentage of Asians, Hispanics and Natives.

We all know that, like the rest of the country, our community has become more diverse over time. This is a leading indicator of our future, though there are people within and outside of our community who cling to our community's past. While the Post did not present detailed school-by-school data and did not address the variety of school types found in our District, the data suggest that the District has not quite caught up with the times. To be fair, the District has a strong commitment to non-discrimination, is plainly interested in student learning, and is upfront about valuing diversity. Still, the District’s Strategic Plan does not call out whether or how the District addresses integration as a tool for improving academic performance. So it’s just not clear if the characterization as “somewhat integrated” is accurate or is going to change.

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Arden Arcade is at the western (close to the City of Sacramento) end of the San Juan Unified School District, The Washington Post says our school district is highly diverse and somewhat integrated.
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