While superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools, I once visited an elementary school that, on paper, was quite diverse. Fifteen years earlier, as part of an ongoing effort to stem white flight from the county, the district had created a magnet program within the school, and it had succeeded in attracting kids from a wide range of backgrounds.
As the principal led me on a tour of the school, I noticed that in one classroom after another, all of the students were Black and Latino, until, finally, we came to a room where almost every student was White.
“Oh, so this is where you keep the White kids,” I said to the principal, my New York sarcasm breaking through.
I shouldn’t have been surprised by what I saw. Across the country, numerous districts have tried to promote “integration” by using strategies that lead to diverse enrollments at the school level while providing separate and unequal educational opportunities within the building.
White, Black, and Latino kids may enter through the same schoolhouse door, but once inside, some turn down one hallway, and the rest go down another.