Mapping the K-12 Education System
Newsletter | April 2022 | Edition 11
How school boundaries and segregation impact student success
Many Americans are unaware that school segregation still exists.(1)(2) Seventy years ago, school segregation was deliberate and explicitly racist. Today, racism continues to play a role as parents protest integration plans and districts gerrymander school boundary lines.(3)(4)(5) But modern school segregation is also driven by systemic inequality and a lack of forethought. Existing residential segregation in U.S. neighborhoods spills over into schools, dividing school zones by race and socioeconomic status.(6) White non-Hispanic students often have greater access to high-performing, low-poverty schools, while students of color and other marginalized students are disproportionately assigned to high-poverty schools that lack the funding and resources to serve them.(7)(8)
Data shows similar trends in Las Cruces. Las Cruces public and charter schools are segregated by race, income, language, and disability status, which drives a local achievement gap.(9)(10)(11) Our local population is growing, and there is a projected need for more primary schools.(12)(13) Before we build new schools and draw school boundaries, we need to examine how segregation can inhibit student success in Las Cruces and how integration can promote equitable educational outcomes for our children. 
Residential segregation drives school segregation and disparate outcomes.
School catchment zones and the resulting student populations tend to mimic existing neighborhoods, which are segregated by race and socioeconomic class due to a legacy of racist housing policies and income inequality.(14) For most, finding housing in a preferred school zone is not a possibility or a consideration when selecting a home to rent or own. It can also be challenging to access alternative school options outside of designated school boundaries, such as charter, private, or early college high schools. These schools sometimes require a complicated application process, such as GPA minimums and parent interviews, and some do not offer transportation. High-income families have the social capital and financial flexibility to enroll their children in preferred school zones, and low-income families often do not. 
Residential segregation leads to school segregation.(15) This translates to better academic outcomes for White non-Hispanic students, who are more likely to come from high-income families, compared to students of color, English language learners, and those with disabilities.(7)(16) Research shows a strong correlation between academic achievement and poverty. Schools with lower poverty rates typically demonstrate better student outcomes.(17)(18) Low-poverty schools also attract teachers with more experience, offer more advanced or specialized coursework, and often set higher expectations for students.(19) At a local level, we know that economically disadvantaged (ED) students in Las Cruces Public Schools are less likely to graduate. We also know that Las Cruces schools with the highest proportions of ED students also serve the most students of color: 
Click the image below to open a larger version in a new tab.
A scatterplot depicting the relationship between the proportion of students who are economically disadvantaged and the proportion who are students of color.  The scatterplot shows that in Las Cruces elementary, middle, and high schools, there is a positive correlation between the two proportions.
Data shows that Las Cruces schools are segregated.
Although 56% of all elementary students in LCPS are economically disadvantaged, in some schools as many as 78% or as few as 13% of students are economically disadvantaged.
School segregation is often measured by how closely schools mirror the district’s demographics. Our school demographics dashboard highlights inconsistencies in demographic characteristics for public and charter schools in Las Cruces at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.
Most notable is the disparity in economically disadvantaged (ED) students between different schools. In Las Cruces Public Schools (LCPS), 56% of all elementary students are considered economically disadvantaged. In some schools, as many as 78% of students qualify as ED while in others, the number is as small as 13%. That is a sixfold difference between the highest-poverty elementary school and the lowest-poverty elementary school. Similar discrepancies exist for economically disadvantaged students in LCPS middle and high schools. Our new story map shows that the distribution of ED students parallels socioeconomic discrepancies in Las Cruces neighborhoods.
We can prevent achievement gaps associated with segregation. 
Fortunately, there are many ways to counteract the adverse academic outcomes of segregation. The first step is to promote school integration, inclusion, and equity. Careful consideration of socioeconomic neighborhood data can help to diversify school zones when drawing school boundary lines. We should also consider the intricacies of school choice policy. Research indicates that school choice without desegregation efforts often increases school segregation since "choice" is related to access to information, transportation, and resources that are not equally accessible to all families.(20) 
Beyond integrating and diversifying schools, we must also consider equity and inclusion within the schools. We can embrace multilingualism and decolonize curriculums and practices.(21) We can increase access to advanced placement and dual credit classes for marginalized populations. We can support community schools as Las Cruces continues to grow its community school model. Community schools offer a wide variety of community-based supports and services and high-quality learning opportunities. 
Final Thoughts
School districts can reverse the negative impact of modern segregation through data-informed rezoning, culturally relevant curricula, and community schools. Much evidence supports the benefits of attending diverse schools; higher graduation rates, test scores, and college participation rates.(20) Beyond academics, students exposed to multicultural backgrounds and perspectives tend to be more likely to practice empathy, demonstrate critical thinking, and collaborate in an increasingly global society.(22) However, school districts are not solely responsible for existing segregation and cannot tackle this problem alone. The community needs to take accountability as well. Parents and community members can participate in the rezoning process as new schools enter the district. Community members can also advocate for inclusionary housing policies. Finally, we must address inequality in society, including income inequality. In the United States, poverty exacerbates existing inequalities in education, employment, health, and beyond.
Get Involved!
Affordable housing is one of many projects currently being considered by the City of Las Cruces for the 2022 GO Bond cycle. Affordable housing can potentially increase integration in our schools.


The city is accepting community input about GO Bond projects through April 30th. You can email suggestions to, or contact the mayor or district councilors. Click here to learn more about the 2022 GO Bond.
You can also join the SUCCESS Partnership's K-Career Coalition. Comprised of educators, nonprofits, parents, elected officials, businesses, faith-based entities, and more, the K-Career Coalition is committed to improving education outcomes in Doña Ana County.
15. Housing policy is school policy: Economically integrative housing promotes academic success in Montgomery County, Maryland, Schwartz 2012
17. Is separate still unequal? New evidence on school segregation and racial academic achievement gaps, Reardon et al. 2021
18. Does the SES of the school matter? An examination of socioeconomic status and student achievement using PISA 2003, Perry et al. 2010
19. Differential school effects among low, middle, and high social class composition schools: A multiple group, multilevel latent growth curve analysis, Palardy 2008
Center for Community Analysis | 575-646-3352 |
SUCCESS Partnership
P.S. Have you heard? CCA is on the radio!
The Center for Community Analysis has partnered with KTAL radio to provide data-centered radio segments to the community, known as Data Deets. For the latest Data Deets tune in to KTAL Radio at 101.5 FM, and listen to previously aired Data Deets on our website.
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