Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

From Equal Educational Opportunity to Diversity Advantaged Learning

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

From Equal Educational Opportunity to Diversity Advantaged Learning

Article excerpt

The case for desegregation has been based largely on research showing its contributions to the educational opportunities and life chances of students of color. However, this has led to remedies that have placed much of the burden of desegregation on people of color and has failed to develop awareness that there are substantial advantages to all students of learning with and from students of different races and ethnicities. The extent of these advantages depend on specified school processes and cultures and, especially, on the quality of instruction that students experience.

OVERVIEW

The research and rhetoric mat shaped the successful desegregation cases through the 1980s resulted, ironically, in a limited and limiting public discourse about the value of desegregation tiiat, in turn, left integration on the sidelines in die pursuit of policies and practices to improve schools in the last 15 years or so. In otiier words, die public rationale for desegregation, and for die implementation of desegregation orders and polices, did not provide a firm political or intellectual foundation for linking integrated and quality education. This failure to formulate fully and adequately the educational value of integration for all students resulted in ineffective implementation of desegregation plans in many cases, the loss of support among some minorities, a too-narrow research agenda, and the marginalization of integration as a school improvement strategy.

There is, however, a case to be made for die racial and etiinic integration of schools (with or without White students) tiiat might be called Diversity Advantaged Learning. This rationale speaks to the unique contributions that integration can make to social learning and cognitive development that provide benefits to both individuals and society-if we prepare educators, and develop school structures and cultures to take advantage of student diversity as a learning opportunity in and of itself.

WHAT DOES THE AVULABLE EVTOENCE SAY ABOUT THE CONSEQUENCES OF INTEGRATED SCHOOLS?

There are a number of reviews of research on desegregation mat conclude that its effects have been positive overall (Harris, 2006; Hawley, 2007; National Academy of Education, 2007; Schofield, 2004; Welner, 2006). In October 2006, 553 social scientists endorsed a review of research on the effects of desegregation prepared as an amicus curiae brief in the Supreme Court case involving voluntary desegregation plans in Louisville and Seattle (Amicus curiae brief, 2006). This extensive and autiioritative analysis of several decades of research concluded that:

Racially integrated schools prepare students to be effective citizens in our pluralistic society, further social cohesion, and reinforce democratic values. They promote cross-racial understanding, reduce prejudice, improve critical thinking skills and academic achievement, and enhance life chances for students of all races...Communities also benefit from a potential workforce that is better prepared for a global economy, reduced residential segregation, and increased parental involvement in schools-all of which increase the stability of communities. (Amicus curiae brief 2006, p. 2)

Of course, the effects of desegregation vary. In some schools, the benefits of integration have not been realized. However, it seems reasonable to argue that the generally positive findings of research on desegregation understate its actual and potential effects. Many schools that were nominally desegregated were, in fact, resegregated through tracking and inflexible "ability grouping" for instruction in which changes in school practices and policies that would have enhanced educational opportunities of all students were not adopted.

IF INTEGRATION HAS SO MUCH PROMISE, WHY ISN'T THERE MORE OF IT?

As noted earlier, in the contemporary discussions of school reform and ways to "narrow the achievement gap," school integration is seldom mentioned and is not part of any major school improvement initiative. …

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