Nearly 50 Years Post-Jim Crow: Persisting and Expansive School Segregration for African American, Latina/o, and ELL Students in Texas

Issue/Topic: English Language Learner/Bilingual; Desegregation
Author(s): Heilig, Julian; Holme, Jennifer
Organization(s): University of Texas at Austin
Publication: Education and Urban Society
Published On: 8/16/2013

Texas school districts have a history of using native language as a rationale for segregating students. Although the English language learner (ELL) population is growing, the extent to which students are affected by race, poverty, and language proficiency is not well understood.

To address segregation of English language learners (ELL) in Texas, and to examine the association between high stakes accountability ratings and segregation by race/ethnicity, economic disadvantage, and language proficiency

  • ELL students in Texas experience high levels of segregation in schools by race, poverty, and language status. Reasons for the growing segregation are less clear, but there are a number of potential causes indicated within the literature.

    • Growing residential segregation by race, language proficiency, and poverty - segregation that has, increasingly, been found in suburban school systems - is a factor.

    • Education policies contribute to high levels of triple segregation as well, such as those that have been adopted with the intent of improving language acquisition. For example, research has found that school systems that are racially diverse often adopt "clustered bilingual" programs in an effort to best serve the linguistic needs of ELL students.

    • School choice: due to differences in cultural and social capital, it is likely that students whose home language is not English are less likely to take advantage of choice.

    • Housing: ELL students, who are often Latina/o are increasingly residentially isolated in urban and, increasingly, suburban neighborhoods.

  • A majority of ELL students in Texas attend high-poverty and high-minority schools and are more likely to attend low performing middle schools and high schools.

  • Segregation by socioeconomic status, race and ethnicity is still highly significant for predicting whether schools will be low performing relative to high performing, which suggests that two decades of high-stakes testing and accountability as systemic reforms have not delivered as a cure-all in Texas.

Policy Implications/Recommendations:
  • Reasons for growing segregation are unclear and merit further research. These include policies like clustered bilingual programs which may have the effect of increasing linguistic isolation, open enrollment because if a student's native language isn't English he may be unfamiliar with the application process or, most importantly, housing segregation in urban and surburban areas.

Research Design:
Descriptive analyses, multivariate logistic regression

K-12 Texas students in public schools

Year data is from:


Data Collection and Analysis:
Authors first examine ELL segregation by using school-level data from the Public Education Information Management System. They consider how federal and state legal decisions affected segregation, descriptively examine levels of racial, economic and linguistic isolation experienced by ELLs, then conduct an inferential statistical analysis to understand the association between segregation by race/ethnicity, economic disadvantage and language proficiency with high-stakes accountability ratings.


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