Integrated Schools, Segregated Curriculum

Effects of Within-School Segregation on Adolescent Health Behaviors and Educational Aspirations

Black students in a 7th through 12th grade English curriculum were less interested in going to college if they attended schools with high levels of within-school segregation.

Within-school, or second-generation, segregation refers to situations where schools track their students based on race or ethnicity. Within-school segregation can demoralize minority students, leading them to believe that they are academically inferior. Recent studies suggest that inequalities within the education system affect students’ health and lead to a variety of negative health behaviors.

This article reports on a study that examined how segregation within an English curriculum affected student smoking, drinking and educational aspirations. The study analyzed data from a nationally representative sample of grades 7 through 12 for 1994-1995. The authors measured unevenness in the distribution of Black and White students in English classes. In-home interviews of parents and students provided data on smoking, drinking and levels of interest in attending college. The authors also analyzed questionnaires sent to school administrators and academic transcripts. Because research suggests that different factors affect the educational aspirations and behaviors of male and female students, the authors stratified their analyses by gender.

Key Findings:

  • Among Black students, the level of interest in attending college declined as within-school segregation increased.
  • At schools with high within-school segregation, it was twice as likely that White students had smoked or drank compared to black students.

This article presents an investigation of how within-school segregation affected the behavior and educational aspirations of 7th through 12th grade students. The findings suggest that within-school segregation has harmful consequences for both white and black students.

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