Despite decades of effort to reverse such trends, disproportionate numbers of African American students continue to grow up in poverty, in single-parent households, raised by adults with limited education and skills - characteristics that are widely acknowledged as detrimental to academic success. The attempt to improve academic performance by merely rearranging the racial mix through desegregation has proven to be an overly simplistic and inadequate means of providing disadvantaged children with the skills and support they so desperately need. In fact, it appears that coercive desegregation efforts have actually caused school systems to re-segregate, by driving out large numbers of middle-class white students. Using extensive interviews and a wealth of statistical information, this text examines the failed desegregation efforts in Louisiana as a case study of how desegregation has followed the same unsuccessful pattern across the US. It shows that the practical difficulty with desegregation is that academic environments are created by all the students in a school from the the backgrounds that all the students bring with them.
Carl L. Bankston III is associate professor of sociology at Tulane University and co-author of the prize-winning Growing Up American: How Vietnamese Children Adapt to Life in the United States, Stephen J. Caldas has been a public school teacher and worked as the psychometrician for the Louisiana Department of Education. He has authored or co-authored numerous articles on school achievement and is currently associate professor in the Department of Educational Foundations and Leadership at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette.