The Bridges Collaborative, a first-of-its kind grassroots initiative to advance racial and socioeconomic integration and equity in America’s schools, officially launched this week. The inaugural cohort features 56 organizations—including 27 school districts, 17 charter schools, and 12 housing organizations—which together represent more than 3.5 million children nationwide. The collaborative spans more than 20 states and includes organizations of varying size, geographies, and student demographics. It includes representatives from three of the five largest school districts in the country as well as districts and organizations that are leaders in pioneering innovative integration strategies.

The collaborative, which was announced with an open call for applications earlier this year by The Century Foundation, a progressive think tank that has worked for decades on school integration, is unique in the world of K-12 education for its size, diversity, and mission. It comes at a pivotal moment for the cause of school integration, with growing support for desegregation efforts following decades of stalled progress, as well as heightened attention to the importance of educational equity in light of the disparate impacts of COVID-19 on students and schools.

Over the next two years, the collaborative will serve as a hub for practitioners from across the country, providing school and housing leaders the opportunity to learn from one another, build grassroots momentum, and develop successful approaches for integration. The initiative is led by Stefan Louis Lallinger, who most recently served as a Special Assistant to the Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education and is a former school principal in New Orleans. Lallinger’s grandfather, Louis Redding, was a lawyer who argued the landmark school desegregation case, Brown v. Board of Education, before the Supreme Court in 1954.

“Never before has there been an organization like the Bridges Collaborative. The sheer breadth and depth of knowledge and experience represented by the 56 groups in this cohort sends a clear message: we will deliver the high-quality, integrated school experience that the next generation deserves,” said Stefan Lallinger, Director of the Bridges Collaborative. “COVID-19 and the racial reckoning we’re experiencing underscore that the fight for racial and economic justice is far from over. To have any shot at winning that fight, we must first tackle the rampant inequities and segregation in our nation’s education system. That’s exactly what the Bridges Collaborative was built for.”

The inaugural cohort will meet virtually for the first time next week—Thurs, Oct. 15 and Fri, Oct. 16—for a series of panels and breakout sessions on topics ranging from effective messaging and communications, to student performance and classroom dialogue, to best practices and lessons learned from the ground. Members will have the chance to meet peer organizations from across the cohort, as well as strategize with groups based on similar practice areas and geographic characteristics. Two sessions will be open to the media and members of the public (registration available here):

  • Thursday, October 15, 12:00-12:45pm ET: Diversity and Integration Efforts in Education and Housing with John B. King, Jr.
    Former U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr., current president and CEO of The Education Trust, will engage in a fireside chat with Bridges Collaborative director Dr. Stefan Lallinger about diversity and integration in schools and housing, and answer questions from Bridges Collaborative members.
  • Friday, October 16, 12:00-12:45pm ET: The Digital Divide and School Segregation: Holistic Advocacy in K-12 Schools
    The Century Foundation’s senior policy associate Michelle Burris moderates a panel on the digital divide and segregation, featuring panelists Dr. Dia Bryant, deputy director of The Education Trust, New York, Mia Hall of Fort Worth Independent School District, Whitney Stephenson of Teens Take Charge, and Kim Mirabella, director public sector, Verizon.

The Century Foundation has been at the forefront of school integration research for decades, steering the national conversation on school diversity in both policy and advocacy circles. The launch of the Bridges Collaborative signals TCF’s continued role as a national leader on school integration and represents a unique opportunity to make research and expertise come to life for the benefit of thousands of schools and millions of children.

“With growing recognition of the need to address racial and economic inequality, a bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives recently voted in favor of new school integration funds for the first time in more than 30 years,” said Richard Kahlenberg, TCF senior fellow. “But the work of school integration is difficult, and individual districts often feel isolated. That’s where Bridges comes in.”

Decades of research demonstrate the myriad of positive benefits for students who attend diverse and integrated schools, including higher test scores, higher graduation rates, and a host of positive social and civic outcomes. Despite the clear benefits, however, progress on integration has been extremely limited in recent decades—although those trends are beginning to change.

“Despite the overwhelming evidence demonstrating the benefits of diverse classrooms, it’s often difficult to frame integration in a way that is compelling and moves people past the paradigms of a bygone era,” said Halley Potter, senior fellow at The Century Foundation and a leading expert on school integration. “The Bridges Collaborative is excited to tackle this challenge in collaboration with school leaders across the country, bringing together the best research and the best ideas to empower our partner members to make change in their own communities.”

A full list of the inaugural members of the Bridges Collaborative is below. For more background, see the following resources:

To stay informed of the Collaborative’s work, sign-up for updates here. For more information or questions, contact Stefan Lallinger at [email protected]

Inaugural Members of Bridges Collaborative (56 total)

Arizona

  • Tucson Unified School District

California

  • Citizens of the World Charter School
  • City Charter Schools
  • High Tech High
  • Larchmont Charter
  • Los Angeles Unified School District
  • Oakland Unified School District
  • Yu Ming Charter Schools

Colorado

  • Colorado Springs School District 11
  • DSST Public Schools
  • Roaring Fork School District

Connecticut

  • Capitol Region Education Council (CREC)
  • ELM City Communities (The Housing Authority of the City of New Haven)
  • New Haven Housing Authority (Elm City)
  • Elm City Montessori
  • Hamden School District
  • Hartford Public Schools
  • New Haven Public Schools

Florida

  • Miami-Dade County Public Schools–School Choice and Parental Options office

Illinois

  • Housing Choice Partners

Indiana

  • Enroll Indy

Kentucky

  • Jefferson County Public Schools

Louisiana

  • Housing NOLA
  • Lycee Francais de la Nouvelle Orléans

Maryland

  • Baltimore Regional Housing Partnership (BRHP)
  • City Neighbors
  • Howard County Public Schools
  • Montgomery County Public Schools

Massachusetts

  • Boston Collegiate Charter School
  • Cambridge Public Schools
  • The Metropolitan Council for Education Opportunity (METCO)
  • Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD)

Minnesota

  • HousingLink

Missouri

  • City Garden Montessori
  • Urban Strategies, Inc.

New York

  • Compass Charter School
  • KIPP Beyond Middle School
  • Prospect Charter Schools
  • The Renaissance Charter Schools
  • NYC Department of Education
  • NYC Community School District #1 (Manhattan)
  • NYC Community School District #13 (Brooklyn)

North Carolina

  • Central Park School for Children
  • Charlotte Mecklenburg Public Schools
  • Wake County Public Schools
  • Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School District
  • Inlivian (Charlotte Housing Authority)

Ohio

  • Shaker Heights Public School District

Pennsylvania

  • Philadelphia School District

Rhode Island

  • Blackstone Valley Prep

Texas

  • Dallas Independent School District
  • Fort Worth Independent School District
  • Dallas Housing Authority
  • Inclusive Communities Project (ICP)
  • NestQuest Houston

Virginia

  • Good Shepherd Housing and Family Services

Wisconsin

  • Milwaukee Public Schools