Century Reads

Education, Improving Access to Quality Public Schools

The Future of School Integration: Socioeconomic Diversity as an Education Reform Strategy

By Richard D. Kahlenberg, editor

Almost fifty years ago the Coleman Report, widely regarded as the most important educational study of the twentieth century, found that the most powerful predictor of academic achievement is the socioeconomic status of a child's family. The second most important predictor is the socioeconomic status of the classmates in his or her school. Until very recently, the importance of this second finding has been consciously ignored by policymakers, and the national education debate has centered on trying to "fix" high-poverty schools by pouring greater resources into them, paying educators more to teach in them, or turning them into charter schools. At the local level, however, eighty school districts educating four million students now consciously seek to integrate schools by socioeconomic status.

The Future of School Integration looks at how socioeconomic school integration has been pursued as a strategy to reduce the proportion of high-poverty schools and therefore to improve the performance of students overall. It examines whether students learn more in socioeconomically integrated schools—and pre-K programs—than in high-poverty institutions and explores the costs and benefits of integration programs. The book also investigates whether such integration is logistically and politically feasible, looking at the promises and pitfalls of both intradistrict and interdistrict integration programs. Finally, it examines the relevance of socioeconomic integration strategies being pursued by states and localities to the ongoing policy debates in Washington over efforts to turn around the nation's lowest-performing schools and to improve the quality of charter schools.

Contributors include Stephanie Aberger (Expeditionary Learning), Marco Basile (Harvard University), Jennifer Jellison Holme (University of Texas—Austin), Ann Mantil (Harvard), Anne G. Perkins, Jeanne L. Reid (Teachers College), Meredith P. Richards (University of Texas—Austin), Heather Schwartz (RAND), Kori J. Stroub (University of Texas—Austin), and Sheneka M. Williams (University of Georgia).

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