Socioeconomic diversity — not just racial diversity — should be a priority for U.S. schools, said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr. in an Atlantic interview previewing his July 1 speech at the National PTA Convention in Orlando.
“A Puerto Rican and African American whose parents had both passed away by the time he was 12, King has repeatedly credited New York public schools for saving his life and shaping its trajectory,” writes Emily DeRuy. King attended integrated schools “that exposed him not only to high-quality curriculum, but to students and teachers from backgrounds and cultures wildly different from his own.”
“Like math and reading, like science, social studies, and the arts, diversity is no longer a luxury,” King told the PTA. “It’s essential for helping our students get ready for the world they will encounter after high school and, increasingly, throughout their lives.”
Schools integrated by social class raise disadvantaged students’ academic achievement, the Coleman Report concluded 50 years ago, writes the Century Foundation’s Richard Kahlenberg, also in The Atlantic.
Coleman found racial school integration helped black students because of “the better educational background and higher educational aspirations that are, on average, found among whites.”
Still, socioeconomic integration has been a low priority for nearly all school districts — until recently, writes Kahlenberg. Now, 91 school districts with 4 million students are trying to mix low-income and middle-class students.
Charlotte, for example, which led the nation in racial desegregation, then abandoned it, saw its school board vote in 2016 to take steps to integrate the schools by socioeconomic status.
. . . In Cambridge, Massachusetts, . . . a socioeconomic-integration program was adopted in 2001 and by 2014, 86 percent of low-income students graduated, compared to 65 percent of low-income students in Boston, whose schools are not socioeconomically integrated.
Whites are a plurality, but not a majority, in public schools, while Latinos, who come in all colors, outnumber blacks. I suspect this is driving the rising interest in socioeconomic diversity.