Basic Skills Education in Community Colleges: Inside and Outside of Classrooms
The percentage of whites in Manhattan increased 28 percent between and , while it declined in nearby suburban Nassau County. During the same six-year period, the Hispanic population declined by 2 percent in Manhattan, but increased by 20 percent in Nassau. Meanwhile, a growing number of American suburbs where more than half of the U. In fact, today, in the fifty-largest metropolitan areas, 44 percent of residents live in racially and ethnically diverse suburbs, defined as between 20 and 60 percent non-white.
Indeed, it is increasingly clear that contemporary urban and suburban communities each contain pockets of both poverty and affluence, often functioning as racially and ethnically distinct spaces. In fact, by , one million more poor people lived in suburban compared to urban area s. In Brooklyn, New York, for instance, a growing number of communities that were, only ten years ago, almost entirely minority and low-income are now becoming or have already become predominantly white and affluent.
Ironically, in in-depth interviews we are conducting, white gentrifiers state that one reason they moved into the city was to live in neighborhoods more diverse than the homogeneous suburbs where many grew up. Similarly, they note that they want their children to attend public schools with other children of different backgrounds. There is much hard work to be done at the school level to assure that all students enrolled have the opportunity to achieve to high levels. In public schools with a growing population of more affluent students, educators often seek assistance in meeting the needs of a wide range of students.
In the last decade, a small but growing body of literature has documented the impact of urban gentrification on the enrollment and culture in public schools. There is also an emerging focus on the impact of changing demographics on suburban public schools. In other suburbs, further from the New York City boundary, the white, non-Hispanic population has stabilized at about 50 percent. In both contexts, educators and students are grappling with racial, ethnic, and cultural differences that many of them had not encountered before.
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When we think of education policies and practices to support and sustain the increasingly diverse public schools in both urban and suburban contexts, it is clear that K—12 educators and educational researchers have much to learn from the higher education research on the educational benefits of diversity in efforts to both close racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps while helping all students succeed. And just as fair-housing advocacy has increasingly prioritized the stabilization and sustainability of diverse communities, education policy needs to follow suit. Unfortunately, too few policy makers see the need for such programs, even as a growing number of educators in diverse schools are clamoring for help to close those gaps and teach diverse groups of students.
The current mismatch between the policies and the needs of an increasingly racially and ethnically diverse society inspire us to fill the void with compelling success stories of public schools working toward a greater public good by tapping into the possibility of changing neighborhoods to teach children how to thrive in a society of racial and cultural differences. One of the schools we are studying in a gentrifying area is helping build more cross-racial understanding across the Hispanic and white parent groups by trying to assure more equal voice in the decision-making processes—everything from the kind of food and music available at the fund raisers to the mix of various field trips to cultural institutions.
Schools and communities on the front lines of demographic change face significant obstacles to realizing the sort of educational benefits of diversity that can help us all understand and appreciate differences. Urban history suggests that when a racial group begins migrating to a new community, the existing population is likely either to be pushed out or to flee, setting into play a perpetual cycle of segregation and resegregation. The most disadvantaged students are the most negatively impacted by such a failure. Thus, as leaders in higher education have relied heavily on social science evidence to put forth a powerful legal and policy argument in support of the educational benefits of diverse campuses and classrooms, the policy priorities in K—12 public education have gone in the other direction, with a strong focus on narrow accountability measures within increasingly segregated schools.
Policymakers who ignore the rapid demographic changes within the K—12 population miss a critical opportunity to lead this increasingly diverse nation toward a more equal and cohesive future. In fact, many voters would welcome more leadership in this area.
Further, attitudes among whites have changed more , simply because they had further to go due to the fact that nonwhite respondents have favored diversity for longer and in larger numbers. Although diverse, integrated spaces are becoming more socially desirable, our society is still quite divided along racial lines in terms of perceptions of how far we still have to go to achieve racial equality. While nearly all whites dismiss at least publicly ideas that blacks in particular are less intelligent or hardworking, and fewer oppose interracial marriage, they are increasingly less likely to believe that blacks continue to experience racial discrimination as a result of structural inequality and a history of slavery and oppression.
These divergent perceptions point to the true educational benefits of diversity, particularly the democratic, deliberative goals of intercultural dialogue and understanding, and they are sorely needed—for students, parents, and community members. These racial divides on issues of past injustices and ongoing structural inequality are best addressed through cross-racial dialogue and understanding. The need to sustain racially and ethnically diverse communities is vital to our future as a diverse democracy.
A hopeful sign related to the last point above is that parallel to these shifts in racial attitudes is the growing desire for diverse schools and classrooms. Despite the many challenges and shortcomings of school desegregation that played out across the United States in the early phases of this policy, in the decades following the implementation of these policies, interracial contact slowly increased and racism among whites declined. As our society becomes more diverse racially and ethnically, support for integrated schools has only grown stronger.
A rise in support started in the late s and accelerated in the s. For instance, a review of public opinion on school desegregation found Americans increasingly in favor of desegregation. This was particularly true among people who have personal experience with desegregated schools. This included the agreement of the vast majority of African Americans—84 percent.
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A survey of more than three thousand adults found that nearly three-fifths of respondents—including 60 percent of white parents—said they believed integrated schools were better for their children. According to a Newsweek survey, 71 percent of all respondents felt that increasing diversity and integration in public schools is important to their improvement.
This number was higher among African American and Hispanic respondents than among whites, but is much higher among whites than in previous years. The wording of this question, which is the only one that has remained nearly identical, allows for a comparison in responses that would not have been possible otherwise. Again looking at a local context, Louisville, Kentucky provides a good microcosm of changing racial attitudes about diverse schools. In the s, when the school desegregation plan was first proposed, 98 percent of those polled in the Louisville area were opposed to the plan.
S Supreme Court ruling in that sharply curtailed the use of race in the Louisville student assignment plan, the school district actually tried different ways of promoting diversity. Similarly, a recent grassroots movement in Wake County, North Carolina is an example of the strong support that parents, students, and school leaders have for maintaining racially diverse public schools. For example, after the courts ruled to release the Charlotte Mecklenburg School District in North Carolina from their court-ordered desegregation plan, the district fought against the decision, arguing that they had a compelling interest in maintaining racially integrated schools.
The unfortunate reality is that even for parents who prefer diverse schools, these structural challenges make finding and choosing these schools very difficult. This parent, and millions like him, know intuitively that educating children in racially segregated schools does not prepare them for living and working in the increasingly diverse society in which they will become adults. As was well-documented in the amicus briefs in the Fisher II case, there is mounting evidence that universities and employers are seeking students and employees who can work with diverse groups of people and who have cross-cultural, group-work skills.
One has to wonder why, when so many parents, universities, and employers want to see our children attending less racially isolated public schools, our policy makers are not listening. The lack of attention to this matter on the part of our political leaders is all the more puzzling given the recent backlash against the policies they have recently supported, most notably, standardized tests.
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Over the last three decades, public schools in the United States have been required to measure student learning with greater frequency via state-mandated standardized tests. Since , the federal government has played a central role in the accountability movement, basically forcing each state to establish an accountability system or lose federal funding. If all we value about education can be illustrated in a few numbers, then these recent policy developments are acceptable—good even.
But if we want more than that, then this trajectory is problematic. The strong negative correlation between the percentage of black, Latino, and low-income children in a school and its average test scores has been persistent. But these understandings are too rarely discussed. Meanwhile, research on learning and pedagogy suggest that the best way to engage students is to build on their existing knowledge and then connect those understandings to more abstract and unfamiliar topics.
An approach to accountability that relies almost exclusively on standardized tests often has a negative impact on the educational experiences of all children, but particularly those of low-income black and Latino students. It also works directly against political incentives to create more racially and ethnically diverse schools. Such a system is anything but colorblind, and can only be addressed via a race-conscious and progressive agenda. Part of that agenda could potentially include several elements found in the newly implemented Common Core Standards reform.
In fact, many progressive educators celebrate the fact that the Common Core, if taught in a manner that does not put standardized tests at the center, provides students with the opportunity to engage in close critical readings of complex texts and to question and interrogate what they read. In theory, the Common Core provides teachers with more freedom for planning meaningful literacy experiences for students.
The Common Core guidelines even recommend some texts that reflect a departure from the traditional canon that has marginalized students from non-white and low-income backgrounds for many years. Such pedagogy is best used in culturally and racially diverse schools and classrooms. Historic civil rights organizations, such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, are embracing this progressive potential of the Common Core.
Such efforts can and should be shared and expanded. In racially and ethnically diverse schools, such experiences could easily tap into, strengthen, and augment the educational benefits of diversity in a manner similar to what the universities and some schools districts for example, Lynn, Massachusetts are arguing for in the courts. When good ideas that could help support racially and ethnically diverse schools and prepare all students for a more dynamic and diverse global economy are being thwarted by a testing regime, it is time to reevaluate the importance we have placed on narrow measures of student achievement.
Building on a groundswell of resistance to such approaches across the country , a more race-conscious and progressive policy agenda can unfold. The success of this approach will depend on using the knowledge researchers have gained over the past several decades in both the higher education literature and K—12 literature as discussed in previous sections.
This legislation not only grants more decision-making power to the states, but it also requires assessments to involve multiple measures of student achievement, including measures that assess higher-order thinking skills and understanding. In other words, student growth may be assessed in the form of portfolios, projects or extended performance tasks.
At the same time, higher education scholars and educators have much to learn from K—12 researchers and teachers about how to connect the sociocultural issues of diverse schools to teaching and learning.
- Culture Change for Learning.
- Until the Last Spike, the Journal of Sean Sullivan, a Transcontinental Railroad Worker, Nebraska and Points West, 1867 (My Name Is America);
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- La Corte costituzionale (Studi e ricerche) (Italian Edition)!
- How Racially Diverse Schools and Classrooms Can Benefit All Students?
All this can lead to a more thoughtful educational policy and practice from kindergarten through graduate school. As we have noted, despite the policy setbacks against racially diverse public schools, leaders, parents, and advocates at the local level have fought back in support of racial and ethnic diversity in public education. There are still school districts that continue to pursue racial integration in schools and exemplify the benefits integration has for all students regardless of the limits that federal courts have placed on such local decision making.
This led to a concerted effort to reduce racial segregation in and around the Hartford area. The result was a lottery-based magnet school system designed with the goal of achieving racial, ethnic, and economic integration. By the —14 school year, there were over forty interdistrict magnet schools with different curricular themes and teaching methods in the greater Hartford area serving over sixteen thousand students from multiple suburban communities in and around Hartford.
For these schools to maintain their magnet status, they must meet integration standards, which dictate that 25 percent of students must be white and half of the students must be from the suburbs. However, it is important to note that no student is admitted on the basis of their race or ethnicity to meet these requirements. Instead, the schools market to a wide variety of families to enter the lottery.
Over the years, the demand among both suburban and urban parents has grown so much that the schools no longer have enough seats for all the families who want to enroll their children. Additionally, there are no admissions requirements like standardized test scores or interviews, so students enter the schools with a wide variety of academic abilities.
The lack of admissions requirements is particularly important when the academic achievement of students outlined in previous sections is reviewed. Over the past several years, students in the interdistrict magnet schools have consistently outperformed their peers in both nonmagnet urban schools and nonmagnet suburban schools.
A study compared academic results between students who had applied to interdistrict magnets in the state and were not selected through the blind lottery and students who were selected for and attended a magnet school. The magnet school students who lived in urban areas, who were mostly black and Latino, made greater gains and did significantly better in math and reading in high school and on reading tests in middle school than students who were not selected.
Similarly, the suburban students who attended magnets also outperformed their peers at traditional suburban schools, which were generally more affluent and had a larger percentage of white students. Also, students of color in magnet schools were significantly more likely to say they felt close to white students and had white friends than did students of color who did not attend magnets.
Mirroring these results, white students in magnets were significantly more likely than students in nonmagnet schools to say they were close to students of color and had students of color as friends. This suggests that the interdistrict magnet schools in the Hartford region are designed to promote the educational benefits of diversity. Results like these from Hartford, coupled with other similar efforts in metro areas and small towns across the country, despite support from federal or many state leaders, suggest that where there is a will, there is a way to achieve the educational benefits of diverse schools and classrooms in a manner that will benefit all students.
We are at a critical crossroads in American history—a breaking point at which efforts to ignore racial and ethnic inequality will clash with the cultural complexity of our day-to-day lives. This support, however, must go beyond creating schools with diverse enrollments to curricular and accountability approaches that allow educators to tap into the multiple educational benefits of diversity.
Such diverse learning environments better prepare students for a global society by reducing racial stereotypes and fostering cross-racial understanding. These rulings were predicated in part on a growing body of research across several fields, including mathematics and science, that show people working in racially and ethnically diverse groups come up with better solutions to problems. Furthermore, we lack the leadership in public education to make studying, documenting, and promoting those educational practices a priority. Supreme Court do not provide policy makers with enough incentive to promote racial and ethnic diversity in our K—12 educational system, then changing racial attitudes should.
Opinion polls and interviews show that a growing number of white Americans, especially young adults, harbor less racial prejudice than whites of a prior generation. And again, the percentage of Americans who support students of different racial and ethnic backgrounds attending the same schools has increased dramatically—at least in terms of what people say since the s. Young adults, who are more likely to have attended diverse schools and have children in public schools today, express the most support for racially integrated schools and classrooms.
The current heavy emphasis on standardized tests is detrimental to good teaching that engages students in creative ways. For students who live and will work in a racially diverse and culturally complex society, this strong emphasis on discrete bits of standardized knowledge and information is even more problematic.
The current policy focus on standardized testing as the almost exclusive measure of high-achieving students and good schools and teachers does an educational disservice to students of all racial and ethnic backgrounds. Such understandings work against racially diverse schools in ways that are unfair and erroneous and often lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy via a downward spiral of diverse schools as students with more resources and higher test scores leave. Nearly twenty years ago, scholars predicted this downward spiral of more diverse schools measured by narrow, non-diverse measures.
Historical case studies of these schools, however, have also shown that school reputations are incredibly fragile and need to be bolstered—and not undercut—by federal and state policies intended to hold schools accountable. Given everything that racially diverse schools have working against them in a racially segregated and unequal society, such policies should support these schools and not contribute to their demise.
Ironically, yearbooks of these high schools circa late s present smiling, hopeful photos of a mix of students that resembles what we see on many college campuses today.
Who and what are preparing our adolescents for the racially, ethnically, and culturally diverse colleges and workplaces they will soon enter? How might educational researchers—those who study higher education and those who study K—12—help provide a good answer to that question; how might their voices be heard? If reams of social science evidence is correct in arguing that diversity makes us smarter, and if higher education researchers are correct about their findings related to college students, our elementary and secondary education students have much to learn and gain from public schools that are diverse and in which professional educators know how to build on that diversity to help all students learn deeper, better, and more creatively about themselves and others.
In sync with this research, this report argues that the twenty-first century increasingly vocal majority of parents, higher education officials, and employers are right about the educational benefits of diversity, and it is time for our federal and state policy makers to listen. She is also co-director of the Public Good, a nonprofit public school support organization for racially and ethnically diverse schools. She has previously worked as a consultant to the Department of Justice and the Ford Foundation. Her research focuses on school choice, racial attitudes, and school desegregation.
Knopf, Inc. Wells, D. Ready, A.
Strategies for Building a Productive and Positive Learning Environment
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Holme, A. Revilla, and A. Orfield and E. Benner and R. Sarah S. Christine Rossell and David J. Rossell, D. Armor, and H. Walberg New York: Praeger, Chiu and L. Raudenbush, R. Fotiu, and Y. Orfield and C. Wells, B. Baldridge, J. Duran, R. Lofton, A. Roda, M. Warner, T. White, and C. Kalmijn and G. Prager, D. Longshore, and M. Card and J. Massey and M. Balfanz and N. Where Are They Located? Who Attends Them? Eitle and D. Massey et al. Crain and R. Orfield and M. Chang et al. Jackman and M. Kurlaender and J.
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