Education

N.A.A.C.P. Board Stands Behind School Desegregation

By Peter Schmidt — September 04, 1991 2 min read
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The leadership of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People has decided to continue the organization’s support for school desegregation, despite mounting doubts about the strategy’s effectiveness in improving the education of black children.

The policy position by the association’s board of directors is expected to be announced in a report this fall.

School desegregation has “too many positive outcomes in the form of a more open and accepting society for the strategy to be abandoned,” according to a draft of the report.

The N.A.A.C.P.'S decision comes at a time when many African-American leaders around the country say they have lost faith in school desegregation and are calling for alternatives such as parental-choice programs or all-black schools.

Acknowledging that the educational gains of school desegregation appear elusive, the education committee of the N.A.A.C.P. convened a summit in Little Rock, Ark., last spring to discuss whether desegregation was still feasible.

According to a synopsis of the conference, speakers described the goal of a quality, integrated education for urban black children as appearing “more remote than ever” as a result of white flight, suburbanization, and the exodus of the black middle class from many cities.

But the N.A.A.C.P.'s response should be to adopt new strategies for advancing desegregation, “based on the theory that America should not be let off the hook,” the draft report argues.

“Our struggles and successes over the past centuries, and particularly those of the last half century, should not be sacrificed because of the setbacks we have experienced over the past years,” the document contends.

The report calls on the association to “seek those measures of relief that are good for all children” and to overcome the problems of resegregation and inequity.

Unitary Status

New policy guidelines adopted in the draft report call on the association to stand by desegregation suits until districts achieve “unitary status,” and to reopen dormant desegregation suits to determine whether unitary status has been maintained.

Unitary status, the guidelines indicate, should be based on the requirement that the achievement gap between the races can be completely eliminated by the staff, faculty, facilities, student assignments, transportation, and extracurricular activities in place.

The U.S. Supreme Court will revisit the issue of unitary status this fall in its first case of the term, Freeman v. Pitts, concerning the DeKalb County, Ga., public schools. (See Education Week, Feb. 27, 1991.)

Along with pursuing desegregation goals, the N.A.A.C.P. should support “reality-based, multicultural education” that “celebrates diversity, yet acknowledges historical truths,” the draft report said.

The board also urged its membership to become involved with local coalitions of citizens who seek to improve public education.

The board embraced strategies for school reform advocated by James Comer and the late Ronald R. Edmonds. Mr. Edmonds theorized that all children could learn if schools carefully monitored student achievement, set clear goals and high expectations for performance, and created a safe and orderly climate. Mr. Comer, a professor of psychiatry at Yale University, has emphasized the importance of parental involvement and child-development principles in creating effective schools.

The schooling process, the board said, should be guided by a principal who is the chief instructional leader, as well as by strong parental involvement, clear goals, and the use of needs assessments and frequent testing.

A version of this article appeared in the September 04, 1991 edition of Education Week as N.A.A.C.P. Board Stands Behind School Desegregation

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