Intro to School Integration: Top-12 Resources, Part 2

Last week, we published the first half of a top-12 list of resources for folks who are interested in learning more about school integration. We started with pieces that offer a broad introduction to school integration/diversity. This post presents the second half of the list – the pieces here were chosen as entry points into specific subtopics underneath the school integration umbrella. As with the first, feel free to add resources in comments!

Throughout the post, and especially in the last two sections, we try to link to relevant individuals and groups who work on school integration. Especially in recent years, the movement for school integration has expanded and groups have become more closely connected to each other. For me, this movement is a major source of hope amidst many troubling developments. The resegregation of America’s schools presents an enormous problem to our multicultural democracy, yet with it comes an opportunity to rethink school integration from the statistical desegregation of the post-Brown era to the richer and more meaningful forms of school integration that motivate many of the groups below. And, there’s always room for thoughtful and contentious folks to get involved!

7. Parental Choices: The problem with “Great Schools” from Medium.com

This article was written by a parent who is affiliated with a growing movement of folks who have chosen diverse or majority non-white schools for their white children. As indicated by the title, it includes a detailed breakdown of those school rating sites and the way they pressure parents to make choices that – regardless of intent – ultimately make segregation worse. (More about this here.) And, it includes reflections on the value of choosing a school that is integrated or in the process of become more integrated (e.g., all of the stuff that isn’t captured in the “great schools” rating). As a companion to this, I also want to link to this great video (7 min) from Integrated Schools (see their website and podcast below). The video talks about the ways that everyday sayings or ostensibly race-neutral actions can become barriers for meaningful school integration.  

8. School District Secession: Fractured, from EdBuild

In a significant portion of the country, especially in the South, school districts operate at the county level, as opposed to the municipal level. In theory, this is a nice setup for school integration – in counties that have a mix of urban, suburban and rural neighborhoods, you might find a diverse racial and socio-economic demographic mix of students. With the appropriate policies, schools in those counties could be designed to represent the county’s diversity.

Unfortunately, many policies promote the exact opposite, as majority white enclaves have been allowed to splinter off from their surrounding county schools to operate and fund their own schools. The Fractured report keeps track of these secession efforts – 71 across the country since 2000, and that number is growing. Their website also allows users to zoom in and learn more about each particular secession effort. If you are interested in reading more about this, we wanted to highlight a few fantastic pieces:

  • Co-authored by Erica Frankenberg, the Center for Education and Civil Rights published a research brief last year that looks at historical trends in various secessions within Jefferson County, leading up to the Gardendale secession (which was at least the 12th community to splinter off). It examines that policies that allowed this to happen, and ultimately argues that “rethinking the provision of public schooling as a collective good instead of thinking of it as an individual benefit for students and their families is a first step towards critically assessing how this new generation of local control, when overlaying existing stratification, will further inequality.”
  • Kimberly Quick, of The Century Foundation, wrote about a successful school secession effort in Charlotte, North Carolina. In addition to being a very recent example of school district secession (the law, HB514, was passed just last year), the case here is unique in that it uses charter schools as the vehicle for secession. So, instead of separating completely and forming a new public district, certain communities just walled themselves off via the creation of majority white charter schools. Of course, proponents said it had nothing to do with race. The piece here presents the counterpoint, using the pointed language that this issue deserves.

9. Housing and Voluntary School Integration: Will America’s schools ever be desegregated, from the Pacific Standard Magazine

In the first post, we included sources that provided an overview of the relationship between housing and school segregation. In the second half, we wanted to provide sources that discuss this relationship in a more complex way. Of course, there’s a lot out there, but I thought this piece was a good overview. It’s written by two folks who are very active and thoughtful writers about housing segregation, school segregation (and other topics as well) – Rachel Cohen, a freelance writer, and Will Stancil of the Institute for Metropolitan Opportunity. This article complicates the argument that there’s a one-way relationship between housing policy and school segregation, instead showing that the two are linked a more reciprocal relationship. It is also oriented towards policy solutions to contemporary school segregation. Specifically, it includes a lot about places – like Cambridge, MA and Louisville, KY – that have longstanding voluntary integration policies. And, for those who wanted to learn more about voluntary school integration, this report from the Center for Education and Civil Rights has a comprehensive look at the roughly 60 voluntary integration efforts currently in place across the country.   

10. Benefits of School Integration: The Complementary Benefits of Racial and Socioeconomic Diversity in Schools, from the National Coalition for School Diversity

Unlike many areas of educational research, there is a solid consensus pointing to many and diverse benefits for students who attend integrated schools. This research brief (7 pgs) has a great summary of benefits associated with racial integration and socioeconomic integration. (They overlap, but they’re NOT mutually exclusive.) I wrote about this when it was first released, noting benefits in the form of increased academic achievement and stronger inter-group relationships as well as a variety of benefits that extend past K-12 education, such has higher lifetime earnings, decreased rates of incarceration and even living longer!

And, for those who aren’t familiar, the National Coalition for School Diversity is a national network of researchers and advocates whose work is explicitly oriented towards school integration. It is the convener of the field, and, in full disclosure, members include the Center for Education and Civil Rights as well as this very blog. For those who want to learn more about the field, the NCSD website is a great place to become familiar with organizations involved in this work and to stay updated on new research and events. See below for their newsletter signup.

Along those lines, we wanted to conclude this list with links that can help folks to learn more about the issues here and to become connected to some of the groups that are most active. Especially with this administration, in this political climate, the stakes are high in the struggle for school diversity and major changes are coming at a startling pace. Here are the best ways to stay on top of this and to get involved-

11. Various Podcasts

  • Miseducation (@MiseducationPod)- In its second season, the Miseducation Podcast takes a close look at school segregation in New York City. One of many strengths, the podcast very deliberately centers student voice in every episode, including student co-hosts for the second season. I’ve learned a lot about student perspectives from this podcast, often finding inspiration in their work. A few of my favorite episodes are:
    • The Hearing, a short episode (21 mins) from season 1 that features student testimony at a City Council hearing about NYC’s 2017 Diversity Plan; and
    • Who gets to play? (30 mins) a profile of the effort to provide equitable access to school sports in majority non-white NYC public schools. This really is an incredible story – a major community organizing success for something that should not nearly have been this complicated in the first place, led by the NYC Fair Play Coalition (@FairPlayNYC) among others.  
  • Integrated Schools Podcast (@integratedschls)- As mentioned above, Integrated Schools is an coalition of parents who choose global majority schools, despite the social/political pressure to do otherwise. They recently launched a podcast that, in a short period of time, has tackled some major issues in an honest, thoughtful and even vulnerable way. A few of my favorite episodes are:
    • The Bordon Family (43 mins), which profiles a white family that made the decision many years ago to switch from a highly-rated majority white school to a more diverse school; and
    • Hagerman and the White Kids (51 mins), an interview with Dr. Margaret Hagerman who recently published a book about how affluent white children are socialized into thinking about race.

12. Various websites and newsletters

In the interest of space, I’m only going to include links here – I encourage you to click around and find something that resonates with you! In addition, I recommend following these groups on Twitter, looking at their profiles and seeing who they follow, and then following those people/groups. I’ve tried to link to all relevant Twitter profiles here, either connected to names or to specific handles.

Again, these are only samples – meant to start a list – not a completed list of all groups. In particular, there are many fantastic grassroots groups that do great work in cities like DC and Denver, but it would have been too much to include all names here. Please always feel free to email us at psu.cecr@gmail.com if you have questions about where to go to learn more or to take action.

Peter started the SD Notebook in January 2017, and he joined the Center for Education and Civil Rights (CECR) at Penn State University in October 2018. CECR helped manage content for this post.  

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