Written by Patricia Hawke for

You know that racial gap that’s getting so much attention? Well, I’m thrilled that it’s on the minds of politicians, because it’s a problem. Unfortunately, it’s a problem with some pretty deep roots. In 1971, San Jose Public Schools had a dilemma. It seemed to parents that the schools were knowingly and purposely segregating students. Hispanics were the group most targeted in this segregation. So some parents filed a class action suit with the intention of forcing the district to remedy the situation.
San Jose Schools began to address and remedy the problem. For 18 years – from 1985 when the Federal Court Order was settled, to 2003 when they were able to demonstrate that they had complied with it, the district has implemented the changes required by the court order.
A large urban school district, San Jose Schools serve approximately 32,000 students. San Jose Schools are located fifty miles south of San Francisco, in the heart of the Silicon Valley. This is a geographic area of over fifty square miles. The eleventh largest urban school district in California, it has thirty-one elementary schools, seven middle schools, and seven high schools.
The student population is:
31% Anglo      49% Hispanic             13% Asian
3% Black          4% other.
From 1985 to 2003, San Jose Schools followed the plan to desegregate all of its schools in accordance with a Federal Court Order signed on behalf of the Hispanic student population. The decision is based primarily on making school choices available in the San Jose Schools.  School choice is another hot topic. Frankly, I think that choice pushes all schools to improve. But not everyone aggress.
The court order was modified in 1998 to allow elementary age students to attend their neighborhood schools. As a result of the Federal Court Order, the San Jose School offers parents and students a wide variety of middle and high school program and school choices.
In 1971, when segregation of schools in San Jose Schools was examined, San Jose Schools were the only schools in California to have been found guilty of intentional discrimination. The Court Order consisted of two main goals: 1) to minimize racial isolation by allowing parents to choose their schools; and, 2) to enhance academic achievement of all Latino students.
In 2003, San Jose Schools were found to be in compliance with the order, and were released for Federal Court Oversight. The decision is of historical and national significance, as San Jose Schools are one of the only districts approaching agreement in partnership with plaintiffs rather than through contentious litigation.
But here we are in 2007, and all the desegregation effort find San Jose Schools, and the nations, still struggling with a racial achievement gap. Perhaps the answer doesn’t lie in is desegregation. Perhaps it lies in the quality of each school
Patricia Hawke is a staff writer for Schools K-12, providing free, in-depth reports on all U.S. public and private K-12 schools. For more information please visit San Jose Public Schools