To the Editor:
I was troubled by some of the survey results in your most recent Quality Counts report (Jan. 9, 2014)—in particular, by the survey regarding the merger of high- and low-poverty districts, where only about one-third of respondents indicated a belief that such a merger would likely reduce achievement gaps or raise student achievement.
The survey consisted only of school district administrators who are registered users of edweek.org, which indicates Education Week needs to do a better job reporting on the beneficial results of socioeconomic and racial integration in schools.
One excellent recent example of the impact of integration on schools comes from Montgomery County, Md. RAND researcher Heather Schwartz studied the progress of children in public housing who attended largely middle-class schools versus children in public housing who attended predominantly low-income schools.
Public-housing residents who attended lower-poverty schools in so-called “green zones” far outperformed their counterparts at higher-poverty schools. This occurred even though the county directs extra resources to its 60 neediest schools (known as “red zones”) to introduce full-day kindergarten, reduce class size, devote more time to literacy and math, and provide extra professional-development opportunities to teachers.
This research confirms the findings of the Coleman Report, published in 1966, which found student background and socioeconomic status to be more influential than variations in school resources, such as additional funding or smaller classes.
If the benefits of integration have been known for nearly 40 years, with modern research continually confirming earlier findings, why is it that district administrators and consumers of Education Week‘s media are unaware of this research?
While school integration may not be a “hot topic” on par with science, technology, engineering, and math education or the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, the benefits emanating from an integrated school setting are numerous and profound, and the topic deserves equal coverage by this newspaper.
Law and Policy Fellow
Poverty & Race Research Action Council
The author also provides volunteer support to the National Coalition on School Diversity.
A version of this article appeared in the February 26, 2014 edition of Education Week as Reader Questions Integration Findings in Quality Counts