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Buttressing these arguments on the part of the universities is a growing body of evidence demonstrating several key academic and social outcomes related to student diversity on college campuses. The central takeaway from this scholarship is that students who attend colleges and universities with more racially and ethnically diverse student bodies are said to be exposed to a wider array of experiences, outlooks, and ideas that can potentially enhance the education of all students.

Supreme Court support, bolster, and enhance prior research findings demonstrating the educational benefits of racially and ethnically diverse college campuses. Several amicus briefs in the Fisher II case underscore that research more strongly than ever supports the benefits of college diversity and demonstrates that exposure to diversity enhances critical thinking and problem-solving ability, while also improving several other attributes related to academic success, including student satisfaction and motivation, general knowledge, and intellectual self-confidence.

Schools in transition ; : community experiences in

And improved learning actually occurs in these classrooms because abstract concepts are tied directly to concrete examples drawn from a range of experiences. Recent events across the country concerning policing and campus unrest have raised more awareness of implicit, subconscious biases and how they can produce discriminatory behavior. When white students are in racially homogeneous groups, no such cognitive stimulation occurs.

In addition to the robust social science evidence on the positive relationship between student body diversity and academic outcomes, there is a similarly impressive body of research supporting the correlation between campus and classroom diversity and an enhanced ability of students to exhibit interracial understanding, empathy, and an ability to live with and learn from people of diverse backgrounds. The takeaway for policy makers in the K—12 education context is that there is extensive and solid evidence that intergroup contact and cross-racial interaction improves interracial attitudes toward an entire group and reduces prejudice and the implicit biases discussed above.

Throughout the recent briefs in the Fisher II case, and building on an already rich body of social science evidence amassed for this and prior affirmative action cases, university officials and business leaders argue that diverse college campuses and classrooms prepare students for life, work, and leadership in a more global economy by fostering leaders who are creative, collaborative, and able to navigate deftly in dynamic, multicultural environments.

A workforce trained in a diverse environment is critical to their business success.

The Struggle of Desegregation in Schools

Such college graduates, companies argue, provide more creative approaches to problem-solving by integrating different perspectives and moving beyond linear, conventional thinking. Employees are :. One meta-analysis synthesized twenty-seven studies on the effects of diversity on civic engagement and concluded that college diversity experiences are, in fact, positively related to increased civic engagement. The four findings listed above are the most robust, but there is additional evidence of other positive results that flow from creating racially, ethnically, and culturally diverse learning environments for students.

Research clearly and strongly supports a legal or policy argument in favor of greater student diversity on college campuses as a mechanism to potentially enhance the educational experiences of all students. Drawing on decades of research from organizational scientists, psychologists, sociologists, economists, and demographers, an article in Scientific American argues that diversity even enhances creativity and actually encourages the search for novel information and perspectives, leading to better decision making and problem solving.

Therefore, diversity can improve the bottom line of companies and lead to unfettered discoveries and breakthrough innovations. As the list of benefits of diversity in higher education and in the workplace continue to accrue, diversity on college campuses is seen not just as an end in and of itself, but rather an educational process. In fact, some research in higher education has shifted away from questions about whether students benefit from diverse learning environments in their post-secondary institutions to questions about how universities can foster the best conditions to maximize that impact.

Hopefully, the question of how universities and their faculty can support the development of these educational benefits in classrooms and assignments will foster an examination of the level and nature of student engagement in the learning process. For instance, diverse student bodies in higher education classrooms are more likely to produce the above-noted outcomes when group discussions in classrooms are focused on an issue with generally different racial viewpoints—for example, the death penalty.

This shifts discourse from an emphasis on what students know to an additional focus on whether they know how to think and, more importantly, whether they are acquiring the skills needed to live and work in the twenty-first century. These new developments in higher educational research on how to foster the educational benefits of diversity are still evolving and in many ways actually pick up where the K—12 research left off in the s, during which the policy focus for elementary and secondary education shifted away from issues of racial and ethnic diversity.


In the following section we consider the evidence—old and new—within the K—12 research literature that we argue can be more tightly connected to and inspired by the important higher education work on diversity and learning. A robust body of research related to K—12 school desegregation and its positive outcomes was developed following the success of federal courts and officials in implementing more than three hundred school desegregation plans in the s and s. This included an examination of both the short- and long-term outcomes of attending racially and socioeconomically integrated schools.

The main focus of most of this research, however, has been on the short-term academic performance measured primarily by test scores of students attending racially diverse versus racially segregated schools. Indeed, state reading test scores in CREC regional magnet schools showed that the gap between black and white and between Latino and white students was eliminated in the third grade. Additionally, by tenth grade the gap in scores between students from low-income families and other students shrunk to just under 5 percentage points in reading in interdistrict magnet schools, compared to 28 percentage points at the state level.

Taken together, the achievement gaps between students of different races in these regional, interdistrict magnet schools are significantly smaller than the state overall.

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While there are a handful of studies that challenge the link between school desegregation policy and positive academic outcomes, they represent only a small slice of the literature. Furthermore, these positive academic outcomes, particularly the closing of the achievement gap, make sense given that integrating schools leads to more equitable access to important resources such as structural facilities, highly qualified teachers, challenging courses, private and public funding, and social and cultural capital.

The gap in SAT scores between black and white students is larger in segregated districts, and one study showed that change from complete segregation to complete integration in a district would reduce as much as one quarter of the SAT score disparity. For one thing, the educational expectations from school staff and performance of students who attend racially integrated schools are significantly higher than those of staff and students from racially segregated schools.

This can be largely connected to an overall improved school climate in racially integrated schools. There has been no distinction drawn as to how different student outcomes were related to the various ways in which students experienced desegregation in their schools and communities. Thus, the degree to which all students were treated equally or had teachers with high expectations for them was not a factor, despite the impact of such factors on student achievement data.

Further, this early literature failed to calculate the prevalence of segregation within individual schools via tracking, or the extent to which black and white students were exposed to the same curriculum. A growing body of research suggests that the benefits of K—12 school diversity indeed flow in all directions—to white and middle-class students as well as to minority and low-income pupils. For instance, we know that diverse classrooms, in which students learn cooperatively alongside those whose perspectives and backgrounds are different from their own, are beneficial to all students, including middle-class white students, because they promote creativity, motivation, deeper learning, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.

In addition, there is a pedagogical value inherent in having multiple vantage points represented in classrooms to help all students think critically about their own views and to develop greater tolerance for different ways of understanding issues. It allows for positive academic outcomes for all students exposed to these diverse viewpoints. For instance, evidence on how the persistence of implicit bias toward members of minority racial groups can interfere with the educational process by disrupting cognitive functioning for members of both the majority and minority could certainly apply to elementary and secondary students as well.

Similarly, since white students in particular have been shown to benefit from racially and ethnically diverse learning contexts because the presence of students of color stimulates an increase in the complexity with which white students approach a given issue through the inclusion of different and divergent perspectives, this would most likely hold true if tested in a high school, discussion-based classroom. In short, the better overall learning outcomes that take place in diverse classrooms—for example, critical thinking, perspective-taking—would no doubt apply in high schools as well.

It showed that while racial segregation and isolation can perpetuate racial fear, prejudice, and stereotypes, intergroup contact and critical cross-racial dialogue can help to ameliorate these problems. Still, as with the higher education research, we need to more fully explore not only the what of K—12 school diversity, but also the how —how do elementary and secondary school educators create classrooms that facilitate the development of these educational benefits of diversity for all students?

To answer this critical question, we need to look at yet another body of K—12 research from the desegregation era and beyond.

The Elementary School Journal

Perhaps the ultimate irony of the current lack of focus on the educational benefits of diversity within racially and ethnically diverse public schools is that prior to the rise of the accountability movement in K—12 education, there had been an intentional focus on multicultural education that explored curricular improvements and teaching issues within racially diverse schools. They raised important issues about how school desegregation policies should be implemented to create successful desegregated schools.

This research was also methodologically distinct—consisting mainly of qualitative, in-depth case studies that focused on the process of school desegregation and the context in which it unfolded.

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Perhaps the most prolific of the researchers on intergroup relations was Elizabeth Cohen, 72 who examined the experiences of students within desegregated schools and how educators could create learning conditions that would foster intergroup understanding and an equalization of academic status often otherwise correlated with racial background. Public schools, therefore, are the natural setting in which such contact can occur. Few other institutions have the potential to bring students together across racial, ethnic, and social class lines to facilitate active learning to reduce prejudice.

Other intergroup relations studies focused more on the psychological impact of school desegregation on students, particularly African American students. They tend to be inconclusive , because they imply a relationship between the particular conditions established within racially mixed schools and the ways in which children come to see themselves vis-a-vis students of other racial groups. Tracking and ability grouping in desegregated schools often perpetuated within-school segregation across race and class lines.

Again, identified as second-generation desegregation issues, this was starting to be addressed in schools across the country and drawing more attention from researchers by the s and early s. That came from yet another body of related work in the area of multicultural education. Critical work on the democratic goals of education echoes not only the concept of multicultural education, but also issues of democracy and pedagogy on racially diverse college campuses.

Research documents positive academic outcomes for students exposed to these diverse viewpoints. Meanwhile, multicultural education, much like the more qualitative research on desegregated schools and within-school segregation, has garnered less attention in recent years, as the larger policy context has shifted its gaze away from issues of racial and ethnic diversity toward accountability and narrowly defined student outcomes. Building on the groundwork of multicultural education research, CRP has also remained focused on the intersection between school and home-community cultures and how that intersection relates to the delivery of instruction in schools.

While CRP does focus on the importance of culture in schooling, it always focuses directly on race, in part, perhaps, because it is so often adapted in all-black, one-race schools and classrooms. Another critique of CRP is that its more recent application is far from what was theorized early at its inception. There are thus new linkages developing between CRP and a broader understanding of how culture and race interact in the educational system.

In fact, some scholars have advocated for different pedagogical models since the inception of CRP that seek to address social and cultural factors in classrooms. Many of these models focus on the home-to-school connection as CRP does, while others expand on the application of even earlier concepts of critical pedagogy aimed at promoting concepts such as civic consciousness and identity formation.

Most recently, a reflection on the misuse of CRP has called for the rethinking of original theory and welcomes a shift to the theory of Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy, which aims to foster cultural pluralism as part of the goals of a democratic society. Clearly, there is much rich information, conceptualization, and understanding in the K—12 literature on teaching and learning as it relates to issues of race and ethnicity more broadly.

The next step in utilizing these more culturally based understandings of schools and curricula is to apply this thinking to diverse schools and classrooms more specifically. Educators in schools across the country—some isolated in single classrooms and some working on a school-wide set of pedagogical reforms—are starting to grapple with these issues in racially and ethnically diverse classrooms. The fact that the educational benefits of racially and ethnically diverse campuses and classrooms has been a more central argument and defining theme of higher education jurisprudence, leadership, and research than it has in the area of K—12 research and policy is problematic, given the added attention generally to issues of teaching and learning in the K—12 literature.

But as we highlight in Figure 1, there are several reasons why issues related to the educational benefits of diversity appear to have fallen off the K—12 research radar screen in the last twenty-five years. This includes, most notably, a highly fragmented and segregated K—12 educational system of entrenched between-district segregation that cannot be easily addressed after Milliken v.

Meanwhile, this fragmented and segregated educational system is governed by accountability and legal mandates that give no credence to the educational benefits of learning in diverse contexts. As noted above, several areas of research on the sociocultural issues related to teaching students of different racial and ethnic backgrounds that could help inform our understanding of the pedagogical approaches that foster educational benefits of diversity in the K—12 system are disconnected, often designed to address the needs of students in the racially segregated school system they attend.

In this section, we highlight the demographic, educational, and political forces that we think may have the potential to shift the system in that direction. Much attention has been paid to the fact that the U. Even more notably, this transition is happening much more quickly amid our younger population. Department of Education. Rapid growth in the Hispanic and Asian populations, coupled with a black population that has remained constant and a decline in the percentage of whites, has led to a total K—12 enrollment of 49 percent white, 26 percent Hispanic, 15 percent black; and 5 percent Asian for the —15 school year. Coinciding with the changing racial makeup of the country and our public schools is a profound shift in who lives where.

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In many contexts, our post-World War II paradigm of all-white suburbs and cities as the places where blacks and Hispanics live has been turned on its head. Black suburbanization rates were even lower—about 12—15 percent—in the Northeast. But these racialized housing patterns are in the midst of another epic shift. Beginning slowly in the s and increasing in the s and s, when federal policies and regulations or lack thereof promoted home ownership among moderate-income families, growing numbers of black, Latino, and Asian families were moving to suburbs such as Ferguson, Missouri see Figure 5.

By , nearly 40 percent of blacks were living in the suburbs.