America's Most Radical Integration Experiment


T74 Documentary: A School Integration Breakthrough in Texas — Built Around Income, Choice & Community

September 25, 2018

San Antonio is the nation’s seventh-largest city in population, has its third-fastest-growing economy, but ranks 35th in wealth. It’s a vibrant, culturally and historically rich boomtown that also happens to be the most economically segregated city in America. Nowhere are these stark disparities more evident than in the 78207, the Mexican-American community that has been systematically and geographically isolated from the larger city’s prosperity for decades.

The 78207 is also the heart of the San Antonio Independent School District, whose 50,000 students and 90 schools Superintendent Pedro Martinez took charge of three years ago. A Mexican-American immigrant himself who grew up in Chicago, Martinez thought he knew poverty, both personally and professionally as an educator committed to eradicating it, but what he found in the 78207 was shocking. The poverty here was so pervasive, so dense, and so depriving of opportunities for kids and families that Martinez knew he had to do something different.

Here is the story of what he did and how it transformed San Antonio ISD: from creating one-of-a-kind maps that broke down the data behind each of his school’s poverty levels, to opening specialized schools of choice that attracted affluent families from outside the district for the first time, and designing a sophisticated enrollment system that made sure the district’s neediest students got their share of the seats.

First and foremost, Martinez fought to change the conversation around academic achievement and college graduation for the 78207 and all his students. Since then, the district had its highest high school graduation rate ever in 2017, more than 55 percent of those students attend college, the percentage attending top-tier colleges doubled, and the percentage of students who scored college-ready on the SAT soared by 150 percent.

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“Our first goal,” Martinez said, “was to redefine excellence.” Read more about the city, its schools, and the leaders behind a revolutionary integration experiment. (Click here to read the full 74 Special Report)

Video Produced by Heather Martino; Edited and Directed by James Fields