Education by the Numbers

There are as many American public school educations as there are students. One shared factor that affects a vast number of them, however, is race. Its impact drives the four narrative features in this week’s Education Issue. But numbers can tell their own stories too. The statistics here suggest how much has changed — and not changed — in the more than 60 years since the Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v. Board of Education was supposed to make education equally accessible to all Americans.

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The racial makeup of the U.S. school system is shifting. Public schools are seeing surges in the enrollment of students of color; Latinos are leading the increases, while the numbers of white students are shrinking. White families in cities like Washington are flocking to private schools, where fewer black students are in attendance.

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  • By2025students of color are expected to be a majority of high school graduates.
  • Latino enrollment in public schools increased by47%from 2001 to 2011.
  • Total U.S. white public-school enrollment decreased by12%between 2001 and 2011.
  • White enrollment in private schools in Washington went from 32% to58%from 2001 to 2011 …
  • … while black enrollment in private Washington schools decreased from 55% to26%in the same period.


Over the course of decades, court-ordered desegregation led to more diverse student bodies in Southern schools. But after integration peaked in 1988, courts began releasing schools from their mandates, and segregation began to take hold again. The trend extends beyond the South, too: Metropolitan districts from California to New York are seeing higher and higher concentrations of black and Latino students in certain schools.

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  • Enrollment of black students in majority-white Southern schools peaked at43.5%in 1988.
  • Enrollment of black students in majority-white Southern schools declined to23.2%in 2011.
  • Almost90%of black students in Washington, D.C., attend segregated (less than 10% white) schools.
  • 81.7%of black students in New York City attend segregated schools (less than 10% white).
  • In 2011-2012, three states had more than50%of their Latino students in segregated schools (less than 10% white): New York, California and Texas.


Schools filled with students of color receive less funding, but employ more inexperienced teachers. Accelerated programs and classes remain less accessible for black and Latino students — and their inability to tap these resources can lead to the further stratification of classes by race.

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  • Nationwide, districts with the most students of color receive15%less per student in state and local funding than the whitest districts.
  • Schools with high levels of black or Latino enrollment have nearly2Xas many first-year teachers as schools with low black or Latino enrollment.
  • Minority students are more likely to be taught by inexperienced teachers than experienced teachers in33states.
  • Just1/3of public high schools with high black and Latino enrollment offer calculus.
  • Fewer thanin 10students in gifted-and-talented programs are black or Latino.


New York City’s highest middle-school test scores in English come from a majority-white-and-Asian district; its lowest come from a nearly all black and Hispanic district. However, attendance at specialized high schools in New York almost always leads to on-time graduation, and pre-kindergarten programs have proven to be remarkably beneficial for black children.

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  • N.Y.C’s worst-performing middle-school district on the English Language Arts exam (E.L.A.) is95%black or Hispanic, 1% white, 2.5% Asian.
  • N.Y.C.’s best-performing middle-school district on the E.L.A. exam is47.9%black or Hispanic, 25% white, 22.8% Asian.
  • Over all, black students in New York City have a68.1%on-time graduation rate …
  • … but black students in the city’s top specialized public schools have a96.1%graduation rate.
  • On average, early childhood education reduces the kindergarten black-white achievement gap by nearly50%.