The Century Foundation, a progressive think tank, today released three reports outlining a range of strategies to increase racial and socioeconomic diversity in K-12 public schools. The reports are designed as “toolkits” for school and district leaders nationwide, providing educators with concrete steps and best practices for diversifying their student body and integrating their classrooms.
For years, TCF experts have been leaders in the school integration movement, producing research demonstrating the many benefits of diverse classrooms, tracking the rise of intentionally diverse schools, and spotlighting educators making school diversity a priority. The toolkits released today build off this body of work, offering recommendations to schools of varying size, location, and demographics.
“Decades of research show that socioeconomically and racially diverse schools don’t just benefit students regardless of their individual backgrounds, but also strengthen communities and our society as a whole,” said Halley Potter, TCF senior fellow and author of two of the three toolkits. “With these toolkits as a starting point, we hope to provide the increasing number of teachers who want to integrate their classrooms with the tools and resources they need to do so successfully.”
Summaries of the three toolkits are available below. Each report covers a different aspect of school diversity efforts: 1) recruitment and enrollment; 2) classroom integration; and 3) intergroup relationships. In addition to the specific policy recommendations, the toolkits include various examples of schools that have pursued integration with success, as well as key considerations and common challenges faced when integrating.
TCF researchers have established an email address for teachers and school leaders who want to learn more about integrating their own schools, or would like to connect with one of the schools featured in the reports: [email protected]. In the coming months, TCF will also be releasing reports that outline public policies to promote equity in charter schools and highlight the benefits of school diversity, in addition to a 50-state policy “scorecard” on charter school diversity.
Strategies for Educators to Build Diverse Schools
Toolkit #1: Recruiting and Enrolling a Diverse Student Body
Authored by TCF senior fellow Halley Potter, this report focuses on ways to create and sustain a racially and socioeconomically diverse student body. It is intended for choice-based public schools, i.e. schools that build their student body using lottery-based enrollment rather than a defined attendance zone, such as charter and magnet schools. Strategies in this toolkit are divided into three sections:
- Setting diversity goals. Establishing clear targets to define what is meant by “integration” and measure progress against it, taking into account underlying community demographics and existing research on school diversity.
- Recruiting a diverse pool of applicants. Once diversity goals are in place, schools should conduct an equity audit of their application process, survey families to better understand community priorities, and be strategic in spreading the word (e.g. through holding community events, partnering with local groups, and advertising).
- Enrolling a diverse student body. Schools should monitor applicant pool diversity, implement a weighted lottery if possible, and follow-up with admitted families to ensure enrollment.
Toolkit #2: Integrating Classrooms and Reducing Academic Tracking
Authored by TCF senior fellow Halley Potter, this report focuses on ways to reduce segregation among classrooms in a school, and meet the needs of all students within integrated settings. Strategies in this toolkit are divided into three sections:
- Schoolwide enrichment programs (or “SEM”). Rethink who gets access to “gifted” education by creating opportunities for students with different achievement levels to engage in enrichment learning together around a shared interest.
- Open and/or embedded honors courses. Implement a system in which all students take a class together, but students can choose to take the class for honors by completing extra assignments.
- Diversify enrollment in AP or IB classes. Close existing gaps in participation in high-level courses, with the goal of having all student subgroups enroll in these classes at the same rate.
Toolkit #3: Fostering Intergroup Contact in Diverse Classrooms
Authored by TCF senior policy associate Kimberly Quick, this report focuses on ways to reduce segregation within classrooms in a school, and foster meaningful relationships between students across race and class. Strategies in this toolkit are divided into three sections:
- Supportive norms within schools. Build a culture that encourages relationships across lines of difference, through establishing a shared vision, equipping adults to lead by example, and involving the community in the life of the school.
- Cross-racial friendships among students. Promote non-academic diverse spaces such as student groups, encourage social activities and intergroup play, let children express themselves, and monitor and measure group interactions.
- Cooperative learning strategies. Facilitate intergroup contact within the classroom, such as intentionally pairing students of different backgrounds in detracked classrooms and incorporating project-based and experiential learning assignments.