To the Editor:
I applaud Education Week for keeping the essential issue of increasing teacher diversity—particularly ensuring more black men are leading classrooms—in the spotlight. I read “Black Male Teachers a Rarity” with much agreement. However, the statement that “America’s K-12 schools have never been more diverse” struck me as potentially misleading to readers and worth clearing up.
Your article is correct in stating that, as a whole, America’s K-12 education system has never educated more nonwhite students, who now outnumber white students. Our schools are more homogeneous and racially segregated from one another, however, than they were in the 1970s.
As outlined in a recent report from the Century Foundation, this economic and racial separation is a tremendous loss for our children and for the future of our society. Children who learn in schools with peers of mixed socioeconomic and racial backgrounds “experience academic, cognitive, and social benefits that are not available to students in racially isolated, high-poverty environments,” to quote the report.
Beyond that, in a country rocked by racial tensions,we should doubly embrace diverse schools because research shows that when students of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds learn together side by side, prejudice and stereotyping among those students diminishes, according to the National Coalition on School Diversity.
I encourage readers to delve into the Century Foundation’s report, which explores 91 school districts and charter schools across the country that actively promote socioeconomic and racial integration. If America’s schools are truly to get to a point of being called “never more diverse,” inclusion, integration, and diversity must exist from the bottom to the top of the schoolhouse.
The author was formerly a communications officer at a publicly funded charter school system in Rhode Island.
A version of this article appeared in the March 30, 2016 edition of Education Week as Schoolhouse Diversity Offers Broad Benefits to All Students