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School Integration: Refocusing on a Multi-dimensional Approach

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July 07, 2014 05:09 pm

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The following blog was written by Donique Reid, a Spring 2014 policy and advocacy intern for the Alliance.


Consider two schools in the same city: one school, predominantly low-income students and students of color, and the second, a generous integration of race, ethnicity, and income. What scholars have found is that students placed in the latter school will perform better than the former. According to a report by The Century Foundation, a few schools have successfully integrated their previously homogenous student bodies by race and income, increasing student performance by about 27% for economically disadvantaged students and outperforming comparable student groups across the nation. Understandably so, wide-scale efforts to integrate schools by income rather than by race have been unsuccessful. Policy has focused more on how to draw low-income students into high-performing schools rather than the other way around. This has been the case for decades.

Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel at NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, shares the negative impact of forced integration following the Brown decision stating that, “It created neighborhoods in which students and families did not feel invested (n)or desire to stay”. Communities were stripped of their resources. This is where we are now and the conversation should focus on how to rebuild these communities, bring back resources, and instill a hope for a brighter future.

The panelists and audience at the GMMB event echoed the concerns of many activists who fought the civil rights battles of the 1970s, arguing that districts, in response to Brown, tackled a complex social problem with a one-dimensional approach. Simply reorganizing students by race or income is not enough. Yes, we need to reignite the opinion of Justice Warren, emphasizing the notion that having students learn in ethnic and racial silos depreciates the quality of their educational experience.  But we also should make a concerted effort to distribute resources effectively and equitably across all neighborhood schools, invest in the most effective and knowledgeable teaching force, encourage more competitive standards of instruction, and as a nation provide the necessary resources and support structures to serve all students.

We have yet to find an effective way to achieve successful racial integration while elevating academic performance for all. In the meantime, what we do know is what works – emphasizing and implementing the broad range of strategies that will help to increase achievement for all students.

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