Research Cites Benefits Including Higher Academic Achievement, Improved Problem-Solving
WASHINGTON-Research compiled by the National Coalition on School Diversity demonstrates that white children in grades K-12 benefit significantly from integrated classrooms, a conclusion that mirrors many previous findings that diverse schools also produce beneficial outcomes for low- income students and children of color.
In a recent research brief, Dr. Genevieve Siegel-Hawley, a member of the Coalition’s research advisory panel, writes that diverse schools are linked to a series of positive learning outcomes for white students, including more robust classroom discussions, the promotion of critical thinking, improved problem-solving skills and higher academic achievement.
“This brief presents clear evidence that diverse schools do benefit white school children, that those advantages accrue along multiple important dimensions, and that the skills gained in diverse settings are becoming ever more important in a rapidly changing society,” writes Dr. Siegel-Hawley, who is an assistant professor at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Education.
Further, she adds that white families “wishing to maximize the academic and social benefits of education for their children can actively seek out diverse schools, assured that their own children will be strongly advantaged by the experience.”
The National Coalition on School Diversity is a network of civil rights and social justice organizations that advocate for a stronger commitment to racial and economic integration in Grades K-12. The coalition works closely with the Poverty & Race Research Action Council (PRRAC), a Washington policy organization that provides grassroots advocates with research on structural inequality issues and designs strategies to fight poverty and improve race relations.
“These are very significant findings by the National Coalition on School Diversity,” says Phil Tegeler, PRRAC’s executive director. “The research sends a strong message to parents, as well as local and federal education officials, that we should be taking steps to ensure that there are more diverse classrooms in our communities. We have known for a long time that diverse classrooms benefit minority students, but this research clearly shows the benefits for white students as well.”
In compiling the research paper, Dr. Siegel-Hawley reviewed decades of studies related to the performance of white students in diverse learning environments. Her conclusions, she writes, are based on the best evidence to date on the benefits of diverse K-12 experiences for white students.
Dr. Siegel-Hawley notes that the country’s changing demographics underscore the importance of advocating for diverse classrooms. Last year, the Census found that for the first time white infants accounted for less than half of all births in the U.S. Moreover, in 1970, white students were roughly 80 percent of the national public school enrollment, but today are less than 54 percent.
“As the global economy continues to transition from the industrial age to an era based on knowledge production, flexibility, innovation and risk, today’s students should be educated in learning environments that foster such characteristics,” she writes. “…Enrollment in racially integrated schools is also associated with important social and psychological advantages that improve productivity in an increasingly diverse workplace.”
Furthermore, Dr. Siegel-Hawley also cites these benefits, which are supported by the extensive research outlined in her paper:
•Wide-ranging and probing discussions occur in diverse classrooms that help generate creative, high-quality solutions to problems.
•Racially integrated schools are associated with reduced prejudice among students of different racial and ethnic backgrounds, a diminished likelihood of stereotyping, and more friendships across racial lines and higher levels of cultural competence.
•White graduates of diverse schools often seek out diverse colleges, work environments and neighborhoods. This cycle can also span generations, since living in a diverse neighborhood often means that the children of these white graduates will attend a diverse school setting.
•White students who attend well-designed diverse high schools are also more likely to have a concrete understanding of racial and social injustices, which in turn can help contribute to constructive civic engagement.
Citing the history of white resistance to school desegregation, Dr. Siegel-Hawley says that it is “important to specifically highlight” the ways that white students gain from diverse educational settings. She hopes her paper will help expand diversity in classrooms across the country.
“Sustained support for school diversity on the part of white families is central to the creation of stable, integrated schools,” Dr. Siegel-Hawley says.
(Dr. Siegel-Hawley is available for radio, television and print interviews. To schedule, please contact Michael K. Frisby at 202-625-4328 or Mike@Frisbyassociates.com.)
Contact:Michael K. Frisby