Group To Highlight Impact of Tracking on Minorities
A new coalition of education and civil-rights groups has launched a campaign to overcome racial and ethnic divisions in American society.
The group, called the Common Destiny Alliance, has received a $100,000 grant from the Lilly Endowment to undertake its first project, an attempt to draw attention to the ways in which minority students are affected by tracking and ability grouping in schools.
The coalition's members include research organizations, higher-education groups, and the two national teachers' unions. The coalition will focus its efforts on encouraging the nation to regard its diversity as an asset rather than a liability, leaders said last week.
"We assert that diversity is an unrealized opportunity and that racial and ethnic isolation negatively affects the nation's social and economic welfare," says a "concept paper" issued by the coalition to outline its structure and purpose.
"This alliance," the concept paper explains, "is an ongoing national effort to generate and sustain collective action that will result in organizations, practitioners, and experts working toward the goals of racial and ethnic understanding and the end of separatist policies and practices."
The concept paper indicates that the organization will seek to be "a highly visible advocate" for using the nation's diversity "to enrich our social, political, and economic lives."
The coalition also hopes to encourage and assist child advocates, policymakers, local school officials, businesses, and others to take advantage of society's diversity in their efforts to attain other national goals, "such as academic achievement and increased productivity."
Concern Over Tracking
The Center for Education and Human Development Policy at the Institute for Public Policy Studies at Vanderbilt University organized the coalition last winter and continues to coordinate its activities.
Willis D. Hawley, director of the center, last week said the coalition will seek out other organizations concerned with race relations and network them to disseminate research on the resolution of conflicts between various groups.
In the field of education, the coalition is concerned that children of color are segregated by tracking and ability grouping. The concept paper also warns that low academic expectations of minorities are perpetuated by a "benign but naive emphasis on learning style and cultural differences."
During the last decade, the concept paper contends, the desegregation of schools has been slowed or setback, while "so-called get-tough academic policies" have harmed African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans by adding to their already-disproportional vulnerability to grade retention, disciplinary action, and assignment to special education.
The coalition so far includes the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education, the American Association of School Administrators, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, the Southern Education Foundation, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the School Restructuring Project of the Panasonic Foundation.
Vol. 11, Issue 08, Page 5