"It's very hard to peel apart the race piece and the poor piece," said Barbara Tye, wife of Ken Tye and a fellow professor emeritus at Chapman University in Orange.
Also the former head of the university's education program, she has researched Orange County schools for decades.
Barbara Tye and other researchers say students from low-income households benefit greatly — in academics and more intangible social skills — by attending school with middle- or upper-class students. And kids from neighborhoods like Mesa Verde can reap rewards — such as learning Spanish and expanding their worldview — from attending classes with working-class students.
For these reasons, and others, some Mesa Verde families have stayed. Adams' mothers have hosted coffee klatches and knocked on doors, trying to recruit parents and break preconceptions. Now, with the help of reform-minded principals and the economic recession, they and some Estancia parents have made small gains toward improving Mesa Verde's representation in neighborhood schools.