Using a common calculation to measure diversity, Sanislo Elementary in West Seattle turns out to be the most racially mixed public school in the state.

Share story

While many regard Seattle’s 21-year experiment with school busing as a well-intentioned failure, it did achieve its goal of integrating the city’s public schools. After mandatory busing came to an end in 1999, it wasn’t long before schools resegregated along racial lines.

Today, 30 out of roughly 100 public schools in Seattle are whiter than the city itself (Seattle is 66 percent white, according to the most recent census data). In some other schools, more than half the kids are either Asian, black or Latino.

But those statistics don’t fit Sanislo Elementary, which is in the Delridge section of West Seattle. That school stands out for its remarkably even mix of Asian, black, Latino, multiracial and white students.

According to my analysis, Sanislo is not just the most racially mixed public school in Seattle — it’s the most racially mixed in the state.

I ranked every public school in the state by its “diversity index” — a commonly-used calculation which in this case measures, on a scale from 0 to 100, the probability that two randomly chosen students at a school are of a different race.

You can look up the diversity index score for any school in King or Snohomish County, and see how it compares with other schools, using our interactive tool:

Sanislo tops the rankings with an index score of 80.2. Another West Seattle school — Highland Park Elementary — is also among the most diverse public schools in Washington. Most of the others that rank highly are south of the city, in the Renton, Kent, Federal Way and Tukwila school districts.

With the era of busing far behind us, Seattle schools tend to be only as racially integrated as their surrounding neighborhoods. Diversity — when it happens — happens organically.

That’s the case at Sanislo.

The school reflects the diversity of the neighborhood, says Dave Flores, president of the Sanislo Parent Teachers Association. The retired marine has two boys in the school — one going into first grade, the other into third. Flores is there pretty much every day, assisting in the classroom or running PTA fundraisers.

For Flores, the diversity at Sanislo is a benefit for his kids: “It’s a great opportunity for learning about different customs and cultures, and about what’s going on in the world,” he said. “I use it as a teaching tool with my boys.”

And in the future, their experience at Sanislo could help them in an increasingly diverse society, he says.

“My son’s cousins — they’re from a small town in Oregon — they saw photos of his birthday party, with all his classmates,” Flores said. “And when they looked at the photos, they asked ‘Why is everybody different colors?’?” he said.

That question wouldn’t have occurred to Flores’ kids.