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In Mississippi, an Unlikely Model for School Desegregation

Nearly five decades ago, this town on Jackson’s outskirts decided to send students to schools organized by grade level, rather than geography.

So all of the kindergartners and first-graders would go to one school, all of the children in second and third grades would be at another, and so forth, all the way through 12th grade. The approach in Clinton was rolled out in 1971 to little fanfare.

Today, the 5,300-student Clinton Public School District is being held up by researchers and educators as a success—and a possible solution as the number of “intensely segregated” minority public schools increases throughout the U.S. The UCLA Civil Rights Project, a research center, defines “intensely segregated” minority schools as those made up of at least 90% of nonwhite students.