DC school shows neighborhood integration could enhance Pre-K enrollment diversity

Dive Brief:

  • Along with Texas and California, Washington, DC, sees a majority of its preschool students in racially isolated schools, with 86% of black Pre-K students attending schools with 10% or fewer white students, according to a 2016 report from the Center for Education and Civil Rights
  • Despite this reality, DC's Van Ness Elementary School has become one of the more diverse public schools in the district for Pre-K, with enrollment of 84 preschoolers that are black, 60 that are white, and 14 that are Hispanic, along with a few dozen students that have an Asian background, writes The Hechinger Report. 
  • Van Ness Principal Cynthia Robinson-Rivers says the school has seen the influx of Pre-K students from young middle and upper-class families in the surrounding neighborhood and the state as an opportunity for change in diversity trends, with enrollment of white students increasing overall in the district from 11% in the 2013-14 school year to 15% in the current year.  

Dive Insight:

Though it has been over 60 years since Brown v. Board of Education, American public school systems are still heavily segregated, with more than 30% of black and Latino student populations attending over 90% non-white schools. One of the contributing factors to school segregation is lack of socioeconomic diversity and integration within neighborhoods, as parents often send their children to schools within attendance zone boundaries.

DC is an example of an area where neighborhood trends often relate to integration in schools. Families in the district must enter a lottery in order to enroll children in pre-school, with entries being prioritized on factors like school proximity, according to the Hechinger Report. The neighborhood surrounding Van Ness has seen an increase in gentrification, which has helped the school increase its diversity levels at the pre-K level, but which often displaces the native residents of the area. A recent report from the Century Foundation showed that first year of preschool expansion in New York City saw especially homogenous classrooms, in large part due to the make-up of zones. Meanwhile, the report found that affluent and gentrifying neighborhoods in Brooklyn saw overall kindergarten enrollment as being racially diverse. 

In order to target neighborhood integration in conjunction with diversity in schools, Halley Potter from the Century Foundation recently told Education Dive that schools can begin by creating a curriculum that offers affluent families something enticing they can’t receive at their current zone schools. Some strategies for both states and schools include altering attendance zone boundaries, implementing district-wide choice policies, and favoring diversity in admissions rates. 

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Filed Under: K12
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