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Experiencing Integration in Louisville: How Parents and Students See the Gains and Challenges

Authors: Gary Orfield and Erica Frankenberg
Date Published: January 27, 2011

In this first part of research assessing the new Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) student assignment plan, researchers surveyed samples of both parents and students across the county. Three years after the Supreme Court’s 2007 PICS decision ended Louisville's former plan, these surveys tried to get a sense of the community's experiences with school integration efforts after JCPS’s new student assignment plan was implemented in 2009.
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Despite the difficulties encountered in designing and implementing a new integration plan in Jefferson County, KY there is a deep and continuing commitment to the goal of diverse schools in Louisville among all groups of parents and students.

There are problems detailed in the survey responses, but they are not problems inherent in the goals or objectives of the plan. Instead, they are problems mostly associated with implementation of the new plan's changes in transportation.  In particular, these problems are significantly related to unreliable bus service and long bus rides experienced by a minority of families.


Some of the major findings from the survey of parents include:

  • 89% of parents think that the school district’s guidelines should “ensure that students learn with students from different races and economic backgrounds.”
  • There is very strong support for student assignment policy that allows for family choice (90% of parents), but, of course, parents would also like to have diverse schools options in their neighborhood too, if possible.
  • The survey revealed concerns about the reliability of bus transportation, and these concerns related to parents’ assessment of the success of the plan’s implementation. Yet, there was also a strong desire for additional transportation to allow students to stay for afterschool activities.
  • Finally, the survey revealed gaps in knowledge of the plan and of the choices available to parents. This indicates a major area for improvement as JCPS moves forward with implementing the new plan 

Students affirm the benefits and were very supportive of the district’s integration plan:

  • More than a fourth of students believe that the district should do more to improve diversity and equity in the schools.
  • 51% of black students and 27% of whites support continuing the plan as it is or strengthening it; less than a fifth of students favored ending the plan.
  • Students reported strong support for college aspirations; nine-tenths of students said they were encouraged by their teachers to go to college, and 58% of black students and 63% of white students said they received strong encouragement.
  • 64% of whites and 68% of blacks said they were “very comfortable” “discussing controversial issues related to race and even higher proportions felt very comfortable “working with students from different racial and ethnic backgrounds on group projects.”
  • In terms of their future, huge majorities of students felt very well prepared to work and live in diverse settings
  • There are also continuing problems of some gaps in schooling experience and outcomes for different groups of students that should be considered in the next stage of a plan.

The experiences and views of the district's parents and students will provide the central guideposts for the next stage of the assessment.33

See the attached .pdf for a full copy of the report.

To see the second part of this research, the proposed student assignment plan for the JCPS, see "Diversity and Educational Gains."
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