By Kim Bridges & Carole Learned-Miller
Last fall, at the start of our doctoral program in education leadership, a group within our cohort came together around an interest in school integration. Our research demonstrated that integration held great promise for closing many of the opportunity and achievement gaps seen in schools throughout our country. We also found that integrated K-12 schools offer unique experiences that prepare students to live and work in an increasingly multicultural society.
Despite a history which includes resistance to mandatory requirements, cultural competency challenges, and rising resegregation trends, a new era of voluntary integration, centered on equity and inclusion, could offer a myriad of benefits to all students. Renewed integration efforts can leverage our students’ diversity as one of our school system’s greatest strengths. We believe our nation must reconceive school integration as an effort worth pursuing because learning together in diverse and equitable schools makes students “future ready.”
Along with our colleague Reggie Johnson, we collaborated to create a policy paper which proposed federal grants to incentivize state, regional, and local integration efforts. We also designed a rubric to reflect the steps that schools, districts and states could take to move towards high quality integrated learning environments. We were thrilled when Dr. John King, a supporter of integration efforts in New York state, was confirmed as Secretary of Education. Soon after, the Department of Education proposed a new budget amendment, Stronger Together, to incentivize socioeconomic integration. The department has also released a number of major federal grants prioritizing diversity efforts in award criteria.
Since many of the goals of our policy paper have now been met, we have pivoted to focus on further developing our rubric with the input of practitioners, researchers, and advocates in the field.* We hope that the rubric will have a broader purpose. Beyond measuring school, district and state projects for financial rewards, the tool now offers teachers as well as school and system leaders a way to engage in reflection on areas of improvement towards the goal of future-ready integration. We hope it will prompt questions such as: “How can we improve our curriculum in order to become more equitable and inclusive in the coming school year?” Or, “As a state or district, how can our teacher workforce better reflect the experiences of our student body?”
Please click here to access the Future Ready Integrated Schools Continuum of Excellence (FRC). We invite you to try this tool and email us with questions and suggestions.
*We would like to thank Halley Potter and Rick Kahlenberg from The Century Foundation; Genevieve Siegel-Hawley from Virginia Commonwealth University; Gina Chirichigno from the National Coalition on School Diversity, participants at the Reimagining Integration convening, and members of the Harvard Graduate School of Education community, who offered input to inform the rubric’s development.