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May 2013 | Volume 70 | Number 8
Faces of Poverty
Michael J. Petrilli
How can diverse schools meet the academic needs of both poor and affluent students—and, at the same time, respond to conflicting parent preferences regarding schooling?
We're in the midst of "the Great Inversion," writes Alan Ehrenhalt (2012), a journalist and analyst at the Pew Center on the States. Put simply, in the United States, affluent people are moving back to the cities as lower-income people move out to the suburbs. The social ramifications of this flip-flop are far-reaching. One positive outcome is the potential for greater school integration along race and class lines as both cities and suburbs become more diverse.
There's little doubt that U.S. schools could stand to be better integrated. Eighty-seven percent of white students attend majority-white schools, even though such youngsters make up just over half of the public school population. Only 14 percent of white students attend "multicultural" schools (in which three racial groups each make up at least 10 percent of the pupil population). Meanwhile, about 40 percent of black and Hispanic students attend schools that are intensely segregated, serving few white students. This percentage has risen from about one-third in the late 1980s (Orfield, 2009).
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