INTERACTIVE: Tri-State schools struggle to keep a racial balance among students

Percentage of "balanced" schools dropped over time

The percentage of Tri-State schools with racially balanced populations is dwindling, creating more classroom isolation among white and non-white students.

A WCPO analysis of national education data found that 52 percent of Tri-State schools had a racial makeup that mirrored the student populations of all schools in their county in 2011.

But that percentage has dropped since 1998, when 64 percent of schools had student bodies that were representative of their countywide rates. See the chart below:

View racially-balanced Tri-State schools overall.

The result:  More districts now have a mix of schools that are overly white and overly non-white.

Researchers see the same patterns developing nationally. They say housing patterns within cities and suburban areas have created neighborhood schools that are becoming more and more segregated.

That type of isolation, particularly in urban areas, concerns some educators. The authors of a 2012 report by the University of California-Los Angeles Civil Rights Project noted that schools with concentrated poverty and segregated minority populations have higher dropout rates, higher teacher turnover rates and fewer classroom resources and experienced teachers.

Even in more affluent areas, schools with isolated populations have fewer successful peer groups, and students have less social interaction with friends of other cultures they may eventually live and work with.

The WCPO analysis focused on the racial makeup of student population over a 13-year period at districts and schools in 14 Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio counties in the Tri-State. The data were drawn from the National Center of Education Statistics’ Common Core Data files.

The percentage of non-white students at each school was compared to the overall percentage of non-white students at all schools in its county.

If the school’s non-white percentage was within 10 percentage points of the county rate, the school was considered racially balanced.

Generally, the analysis found that schools in Kentucky counties had the largest drop in racially balanced schools over the period. In 1999, 90 percent of Kentucky Tri-State schools were within the balance range; by 2011, only 66 percent were balanced.

The percent of balanced schools in Ohio counties also dropped from a high of 54 percent in 1998 to 45 percent by 2011.

Urban and larger suburban districts were among those experiencing a drop in their share of racially balanced schools.

Cincinnati Public Schools’ rate fell slightly from a high of 14.5 percent in 2003 to 13.8 percent in 2011. In 1998, only 9.6 percent of the district’s schools were within the racial balance range.

In Butler County Ohio’s Lakota Local district, all schools were racially balanced in 2003. By 2011, the balanced rate had dipped to 86 percent.

The visualization below shows which districts and schools fell within the balance range over the period.

Mouse over or click any dot to see student population details for a school and its district. Use the slider to see details for each year.


View Racial balance in Tri-State school districts


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