Race: On June 28, 2007 the Supreme Court struck down two voluntary desegregation plans in Seattle and Louisville with a majority of the justices holding that, although diversity and avoiding racial isolation in schools is important, individual students may not be assigned or denied a school assignment on the basis of race even if the intent is to achieve integrated schools. Following upon this ruling and the earlier Grutter v. Bolinger case at the University of Michigan, race may be considered as a plus factor along with other individualized factors in the pursuit of diversity in the student body. Nonetheless, U.S. public schools today have re-segregated to greater extents than in the years before Brown (Orfield, 2007).
Gender: Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments states that “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” Although Title IX prohibits sexual harassment, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in Gesber v. Lago Vista Independent School District, 524 U.S. 274 (1998), and Davis v. Monroe, County, 526 U.S. 629 (1999) made it far more difficult for individual students to bring lawsuits for monetary damages against school districts for the behavior of teachers.
In terms of student achievement, research shows that in states where girls do well on standardized tests, boys also do well, and in states where girls score lower, so do boys (Corbett, Hill, & St. Rose, 2008). And, although the widest and most persistent gaps in student achievement are between low- and high-income students and between racial/ethnic groups, gender gaps in educational outcome are a matter of concern. Girls consistently outscore boys on National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) reading tests, especially at upper grade levels, while boys tend to outperform girls in math and science. At all grade levels, African American males score lower than African American females and white students. They’re also the most likely to be suspended or expelled from school; to be underrepresented in gifted programs/advanced placement courses; to underachieve or disengage academically; and to experience the most challenges in higher education settings (Holzman, 2010; Jackson & Moore, 2006; 2008).
One response to patterns of gender inequity, which may vary from region to region, has been a renewed push for single-sex schools and/or classrooms. As of January 2011, at least 524 public schools in the United States offer single-sex education opportunities, mostly in single-sex classrooms in coed schools (National Association for Single Sex Public Education, 2011).
National Origin: In recent years, the majority of people immigrating to the U.S. have been from Mexico, South America, Asia, the West Indies, and Africa. The largest growth has been in the Latino immigrant population (U.S. Department of Homeland Security, 2010). One in five students in public schools today is Latino (Planty, et al., 2008). Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 require equal access of LEP/ELL students to standard curriculum programs in public schools. Title III of the 2002 NCLB Act mandates that schools must ensure that LEP/ELL students, including immigrant children and youth, “attain English proficiency, develop high levels of academic attainment in English, and meet the same challenging State academic content and student academic achievement standards as all children are expected to meet.”
Working toward the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the current administration proposes to establish new criteria to ensure consistent statewide identification of students as English learners, and to determine eligibility, placement, and duration of services based on a state’s valid and reliable English language proficiency assessment. Also proposed is a system to evaluate the effectiveness of language instruction programs and to provide information on the achievement of subgroups of English learners so as to drive better decisions by school districts for program improvement (USDE, 2010).