Giving Compass' Take:

• Mohammed Choudhury shares advice for successfully advancing school integration in the United States. 

• Schools must be attractive to all families, Choudhury writes. How can we ensure this is the case?

• Learn how local governments reinforce racial segregation in America

Here are some lessons I’ve learned as we’ve embarked on our work to improve schools and fight racial and economic segregation:

  • Choice without safeguards can make things worse. Districts must offer some kind of unified enrollment process that allows them to guide where students are assigned. Charter schools can be part of this by opting into the city’s diversity strategy as part of their approval process, but choice without equity can make things worse. Wealthier families are more likely to apply for spots and choose schools, while lower-income families are less likely to apply to schools beyond the one nearest home. Without providing bus transportation, reserving seats for less-affluent families, and other safeguards, this approach can exacerbate segregation.
  • Schools must be attractive to all kinds of families. Schools that focus on project-based learning and social-emotional development excite middle-class families and lower-income families alike and can serve them well. These models also rely on a high degree of student interaction, making the diversity even more powerful.
  • It’s not enough for a school to be integrated on paper. Districts also must focus on equity to create the conditions for success in integrated schools, so that all students get strong academic, social-emotional, and other support. For any school to be successful — diverse or not — it must make helping low-income students a central focus. In other words, integration needs to go deep. Classrooms need to be integrated, curriculum and instruction need to reinforce high expectations for all, and schools should not be allowed to academically track and segregate from within.

The bottom line is that segregation hurts kids, and fixing it helps. As many schools desegregated in the 1970s and 1980s, the nation made historic progress on the achievement gap: The difference in black and white 12th graders’ reading scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress narrowed from 53 points in the early 1970s to 20 points by the late 1980s. Researchers also have shown time and again that students benefit from interactions with children of other backgrounds and skill levels.

Read the full article about advancing school integration by Mohammed Choudhury at Chalkbeat.