Through our publications and reports, we generate and disseminate research-based knowledge that deepens our understanding of the complex nature of racial and ethnic inequality.


Early Divisions: Racial and Economic Segregation in Virginia’s Public Pre-Kindergarten

Black and Latinx children attend high-quality pre-K at significantly lower rates than White children, a disparity that may be linked to segregation. We explore whether Black, Latinx, and White children are racially and economically segregated in Virginia’s public pre-K. Black and Latinx pre-K children were more racially isolated and more likely to attend Black/Latinx concentrated schools than their kindergarten peers. These patterns were starker for Black and Latinx economically-disadvantaged (ED) pre-K students compared to same-race non-ED and kindergarten peers. Meanwhile, many White non-ED pre-K students were enrolled in overwhelmingly White and economically-advantaged schools. These findings are concerning given negative associations between segregation and student outcomes, and the importance of early intergroup contact in disrupting the formation of racial prejudice. To remedy this extreme segregation, we recommend a universal pre-K design with supports for creating classroom environments that promote equal-status interactions among pre-kindergartners. 

Racial Disparities in Preschool Access: Differences in Enrollment and Quality Within and Between Two State Programs in Pennsylvania

States’ fragmented preschool delivery systems – where various programs funded at different levels are administered by different providers – mean children experience substantial variation in their preschool education, which can lead to inequalities. In this comparative study, we explored differences in preschool enrollment and quality within and between two large publicly-funded preschool programs in Pennsylvania. We found substantially more Black preschoolers were enrolled in Child Care Works (CCW), a subsidy program with minimal quality regulations, than in Pre-K Counts, Pennsylvania’s state-funded pre-k program that requires providers to meet high standards for quality. In contrast, White preschoolers made up a much larger share of program participants in PKC compared to CCW. Within CCW, White preschoolers were much more likely than Black preschoolers to be enrolled with a provider that met high quality standards, a pattern that persisted across community contexts. Patterns in access to quality preschool for Latinx children varied by geography and other community characteristics. Based on our findings, we recommend race-conscious policy alternatives that increase funding and incentivize providers to serve children from urban and high-poverty communities, along with broader policy changes that aim to unify child care and pre-k services.

Promoting Diversity in Preschool Initiative

There are important benefits when young children are exposed to racial and ethnic diversity. This project will help facilitate a discussion of the importance of diversity in early childhood and support professional development of early childhood educators for diverse settings.

Segregation at an Early AgeSegregation at an Early Age

Paying closer attention to preschool diversity could help to lay the foundation for students from all backgrounds to play and learn together across racial and economic lines, yet a new study reveals that many children in school-based preschool programs do not have the opportunity for such cross-racial learning experiences.

Erica Frankenberg shared findings about the extent to which preschool students are in racially diverse educational settings in a research report titled “Segregation at an Early Age,"  released through Penn State’s Center for Education and Civil Rights  (CECR) in conjunction with The National Coalition on School Diversity. The report drew on Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) from 2013-14, analyzing 27,957 public schools that enrolled 1.43 million preschool students. The report includes information about the extent of segregation nationally along with an appendix containing state-level analysis. Erica is co-director of CECR.


K-12 School Integration

Initial Equity Report: State College Area School District

The Center for Education and Civil Rights at Penn State University formed a partnership with State College Area School District (SCASD) in the summer of 2020 with the intention of assisting the district with collecting and analyzing data, particularly to investigate equity opportunity gaps. Knowing that accurate data collection and analysis processes are integral for districts to understand and effectively address inequities in their schools, this report offers district personnel research to inform its equity work while also supporting transparency about educational inequality in the community. Releasing this report in the spring of 2022 makes us especially mindful of the ways COVID-19 has further entrenched racial disparities in public schools. To help the district respond with intention, we analyze data (both publicly available and reported by SCASD) on the following: enrollment by race/ethnicity, free-and-reduced lunch, and qualification for special education classes; levels of teacher diversity compared to student diversity; opportunities for advanced learning, including gifted education in elementary, Algebra I in 8th grade, and AP courses in high school; frequency and severity of student discipline by race/ethnicity; and Keystone scores (for English/Language Arts and Algebra 1) and graduation rates for different races/ethnicities, students considered economically disadvantaged, and students enrolled in special education classes. Moving forward, we hope to continue partnering with the district in successive equity reports that provide the community with updates from this baseline year.

Race-conscious Educational Policies in the Post-Obama Era: Separation of Powers, Federalism, and Civil Society

CECR Director Erica Frankenberg (Principal Investigator), Genevieve Siegel-Hawley from Virginia Commonwealth University, and Kathryn McDermott from University of Massachusetts, Amherst were awarded a Spencer grant to examine whether and through what processes civil rights federal policies changed during the current administration.

Using Socioeconomic-Based Strategies to Further Racial Integration in K12 Schools

This literature review by CECR Director Erica Frankenberg is published by the Intercultural Development Research Association - Equity Assistance Center, Southern Region as one part of their web package on Using Socioeconomic-Based Strategies to Further Racial Integration, which also includes a summary of this literature review.  

School District Secessions: How Boundary Lines Stratify School and Neighborhood Populations in Jefferson County, Alabama, 1968-2014

This CECR publication by Penn State College of Education Professor Erica Frankenberg and PhD Candidate Kendra Taylor considers how the creation of  school district boundary lines may further separate neighborhoods and schools into homogenous subunits. 

Student Assignment Policies to Promote Voluntary Integration

This project is aimed at examining empirical evidence regarding the extent to which districts are implementing integration policies, and whether — and under what conditions — schools are diverse when districts use such policies.

Southern Schools More Than a Half-Century After the Civil Rights Revolution

Black and Latino students in the South are increasingly isolated in intensely segregated schools and are doubly segregated in schools serving low-income students, according to new research released May 24, 2017 by the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA and the Center for Education and Civil Rights at Penn State. This report shows reversal of civil rights era gains in the region and that charter schools are more segregated for Black and Latino students.

School Integration Matters

Published by Teachers College Press, the book brings together interdisciplinary perspectives from both education and legal scholars and considers curricular, political, and legal approaches to addressing civil rights issues in education. Edited by Erica Frankenberg, Liliana M. Garces, and Megan Hopkins.

Purchase the book here.


CECR Director Erica Frankenberg serves as advisor to the Pennsylvania Education Equity Project (PEEP) which has to date produced 10 conference papers from original research on educational equity in Pennsylvania and hosted events on educational equity on campus and for the community.

College Access and Equity

Affirmative Action and Racial Equity: Considering the Fisher Case to Forge the Path Ahead

Published by Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, the volume shares information documented for the Fisher case and provides empirical evidence to inform scholarly conversation and institutions’ decision-making regarding race-conscious practices in higher education. Co-edited by Liliana M. Garces, Uma M. Jayakumar and Frank Fernandez.

Purchase the book here.