Definitions and Goals
What is School Integration?
School integration intentionally brings students from different racial and socioeconomic backgrounds together as a means to achieving well-resourced, inclusive, and financially stable schools. A large part of our work is defining and offering solutions to counter school segregation - the separation of students by race and class. When we say "integrate", however, we are focused on the ultimate goal of creating schools where all students can thrive.
Why pursue it?
School integration may be one of the most effective, yet underutilized, policies to achieve quality schools. Ample research supports its effectiveness compared to other education policies and yet, in Oakland, it has never been tried on a system-wide level. Instead, school segregation has persistently driven racial inequities in academic, socioemotional, and health resources.
Here are 2 big reasons it should be pursued:
#1 Equitable Learning Opportunities
School districts that avoid concentrating students of color in high-poverty schools and White students in low-poverty schools are much more likely to overcome racial gaps in learning opportunities.
As Sean Reardon at Stanford has demonstrated, racial segregation is "harmful because it concentrates minority students in high-poverty schools, which are, on average, less effective than lower-poverty schools."
Why that is varies but high-poverty schools, compared to integrated settings, tend to focus more on narrow, remedial curriculum; see higher rates of student mobility; higher teacher turnover; and less financial investment and social capital from the school community.
#2 Diversity of Thought
Integrated schools increase opportunities for both students and teachers to learn from and empower a diverse set of backgrounds and perspectives.
More diverse school settings lead to increased levels of empathy in students, reduced levels of prejudice, as well as a greater likelihood of being part of integrated communities as an adult. More broadly, integrated schools help counter dangerous racial attitude in both children and adults which assign superior status to schools that concentrate White students.
As the former Education Secretary John King said, "Students who attend diverse schools will be better prepared to live and work, and be active citizens in today’s world.”
For more information on the benefits of integrated schools (or the cost of segregated ones), see:
Johnson, R. C. (2011). Long-run impacts of school desegregation & school quality on adult attainments. Cambridge, MA. National Bureau of Economic Research. Available at: https://www.nber.org/papers/w16664
Reardon, S.F., Weathers, E.S., Fahle, E.M., Jang, H., & Kalogrides, D. (2019). Is Separate Still Unequal? New Evidence on School Segregation and Racial Academic Achievement Gaps. Stanford, CA. Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis. Available at: https://cepa.stanford.edu/content/separate-still-unequal-new-evidence-school-segregation-and-racial-academic-achievement-gaps
Rothstein, R (2014). The Racial Achievement Gap, Segregated Schools, and Segregated Neighborhoods – A Constitutional Insult. Washington: Economic Policy Institute. Available at: https://www.epi.org/publication/the-racial-achievement-gap-segregated-schools-and-segregated-neighborhoods-a-constitutional-insult/