How the nation’s growing racial diversity is changing our schools


Riverview Elementary School kindergarteners during a Spanish class in Glenwood Springs, Colo. (Nick Cote for The Washington Post)

More students attend schools with children of different races than ever before, a Washington Post analysis has found. Over the past couple of decades, integration took hold across the country in smaller school districts whose student bodies had been predominantly white.

But in many big cities and across the South, students remain in districts that are deeply segregated.

This comes as the nation reaches a demographic tipping point: In 2020, there will be more children of color than white children in America, according to Census Bureau projections.

[See how the changing face of school integration is playing out in two Colorado communities.]

To explore the changing makeup of the nation’s school districts, The Post measured diversity and integration using student race data from two years: 1995 and 2017.  Diversity is a measure of the overall racial makeup of a school district. A district is considered diverse when no one race constitutes more than 75 percent of the school system’s student body overall.

Integration determines how well that diversity is reflected across the individual schools. An integrated school leads to better academic performance for students of color without affecting white students’ performance, according to decades of research analyzing test scores and graduation rates. And it offers an array of cultural and social benefits to all students, regardless of race.

The Post looked at the racial makeup of each of the country’s public school districts in 1995 and 2017 to see how the growing diversity of children was reflected in their schools. Private and charter schools were excluded from this analysis.