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Study evaluates methods of US school desegregation

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The Reagan administration may be letting communities set up red lights to mandatory "busing" as a means to achieve school desegregation. But "regardless of what the administration does, there will be hundreds of school systems involving millions of students who will still be going about the business of school desegregation."

So says Willis D. Hawley, dean of Peabody College at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. Dr. Hawley released the findings of a significant seven-year study on the status of desegregation in the United States and the strategies to make it more effective at a news conference here Sept. 15. He chaired a panel that conducted the study.

The panel's findings, contained in a report entitled "Assessment of Current Knowledge about the Effectiveness of School Desegregation Strategies," were based on analyzing more than 1,000 previous desegregation studies and commentaries, reviewing 10 specific court cases, and evaluating the effectiveness of desegregation in 6 school districts "representing different geographic areas and cultures," Dr. Hawley said.

The report comes at a time when forced busing is under new attack. After three years, the Los Angeles board of Education, in the nation's second-largest school district, has dropped its busing program after the California State Supreme Court upheld a constitutional amendment that stops busing unless school segregation had been deliberate. And in Chicago last week, the Justice Department approved a plan that delays forced busing until at least 1983 while "voluntary" measures are tried.

But Dr. Hawley maintained that although the Reagan administration opposition to busing will certainly "slow down" some individual desegregation efforts, he doesn't believe there will be a wholesale "reversal" to the trend that began slowly and at times violently after the US Supreme Court ordered an end to segregated schools in 1954.

This study and subsequent report was funded by the Office for Civil Rights and the National Institute of Education of the US Department of Education. What the report tries to do is identify strategies that seem to be the most effective in moving toward the "goals" desegregation is meant to achieve, such as improving the academic performances of minority students and reducing the racial isolation of all students.

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