Giving Compass' Take:

· The Hechinger Report discusses the debate around segregation in schools raging among academics, journalists and policy advocates. Recent research conducted in Providence, R.I. shows the troubles that come from measuring this type of data and the variables that are constantly shifting.

· Are schools becoming more racially segregated? How has this happened? How can school segregation be addressed?

· Read how school district boundaries are creating more segregated schools.

Have U.S. schools become more racially segregated in the past two decades? It should seem a simple question to answer, based on the racial composition of schools then and now. But it’s a raging debate among academics, journalists and policy advocates. It turns out that there are different ways to measure segregation or racial diversity and the different measures can sometimes point in opposite directions.

Consider the city of Providence, R.I. In 2000, just over a third, or 36 percent of the district’s 55 public schools were at least 90 percent minority — black, Hispanic or Asian. Fifteen years later, almost three quarters, or 74 percent, of the schools were 90 percent or more non-white. At first glance, that might look like a dramatic resegregation. It was the biggest jump in non-white schools of any district in the nation, according to Meredith Richards, an expert in school segregation at Southern Methodist University, who calculated these figures for The Hechinger Report.

However, when Richards looked at how evenly the students of different races and ethnicities were spread throughout the city’s schools, she found an improvement in student diversity. An index of how evenly all the city’s races were distributed throughout the schools improved by 28 percent. Integration between black and white students improved by 27 percent. That is, the percentage of black, Hispanic, Asian and white students in each school better reflected the diversity of the school age population within Providence.

How can this be? How can you have more non-white schools, where blacks and Hispanics are less likely to interact with whites, while simultaneously have a better distribution of races throughout the schools?

The answer to the riddle has to do with demographic shifts: who moved in and out of Providence between 2000 and 2015.

Read the full article about school segregation by Jill Barshay at The Hechinger Report.