Adverse Impact of Racial Isolation on Student Performance: A Study in North Carolina


  • Andy Sharma University of Denver Public Policy Institute Denver, CO 80208
  • Ann Moss Joyner Cedar Grove Institute
  • Ashley Osment University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill



student achievement gaps, improving Black student performance, North Carolina.


This study examines the impact of racial isolation on high school student performance in North Carolina, a state in the southeast United States. Our research goal is to investigate if increased isolation negatively impacts Black students’ academic performance. Employing the North Carolina State Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) dataset, we test for this using Algebra I and English I scores on End-of-Course exams for ninth graders (N = 134,646) during the 2007-2008 school year. We control for student-level characteristics, such as race and ethnicity, economic disadvantage (eligibility for free and reduced-price lunch), and designation as gifted. We also analyze the effect of school-level characteristics, such as teacher experience, teacher training (advanced degree), teacher accreditation (fully licensed), and the percentage of students who were Black or Latino. Our results suggest racial isolation adversely impacts student performance on Algebra I by as much as three points. With our restricted hierarchical dataset and multi-level modeling, we (a) contribute to the growing body of literature, which finds a negative association between racial isolation/segregation and student performance, and (b) find teacher attributes can moderate some of the adverse student outcomes.


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Author Biographies

Andy Sharma, University of Denver Public Policy Institute Denver, CO 80208

Andy Sharma, PhD, MS, MA is the senior economist/policy analyst at the University of Denver. His research interests relate to population studies (aging, health, and migration), policy analysis, quantitative methods, and spatial analysis. He is the co-author of Brave New World of Health Care Revisited, which discusses the importance of education in improving population health and potentially limiting increasing health care costs.

Ann Moss Joyner, Cedar Grove Institute

Ann Moss Joyner, MBA, is president of Cedar Grove Institute, a non-profit social science research firm.

Ashley Osment, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Ashley Osment, JD, was a staff attorney for the Center for Civil Rights. She was instrumental in bringing nationally prominent scholars of educational inequality with legal experts and activists across North Carolina. She was passionate about her work, which allowed her to engage with communities represented by low-income, African American, and Latino families across the state.




How to Cite

Sharma, A., Joyner, A. M., & Osment, A. (2014). Adverse Impact of Racial Isolation on Student Performance: A Study in North Carolina. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 22, 14.