“Reducing racial isolation in schools is also important because students who are not exposed to racial diversity..."
By MICHAEL H. COTTMAN
The U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Department of Education released two new guidance documents - one for school districts and one for colleges and universities - to promote racial diversity and, in the case of elementary and secondary schools, reduce racial isolation among African-Americans students.
“Reducing racial isolation in schools is also important because students who are not exposed to racial diversity in school often lack other opportunities to interact with students from different racial backgrounds,” according to administration officials.
The guidance, a result of flexibility by the U.S. Supreme Court, makes clear that educators may permissibly consider the race of students in carefully constructed plans to promote diversity or, in K-12 education, to reduce racial isolation. It recognizes the learning benefits to students when campuses and schools include African-American students and students of diverse backgrounds.
“Diverse learning environments promote development of analytical skills, dismantle stereotypes and prepare students to succeed in an increasingly interconnected world,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement. “The guidance announced… will aid educational institutions in their efforts to provide true equality of opportunity and fully realize the promise of Brown v. Board of Education.”
More than 50 years ago, Brown v. Board of Education recognized that “education is perhaps the most important function of state and local governments. It is the very foundation of good citizenship.”
Providing students with diverse, inclusive educational opportunities from an early age is crucial to achieving the nation’s educational and civic goals, education officials said.
“Racial isolation remains far too common in America’s classrooms today and it is increasing,” said Education Secretary Arne Duncan. “This denies our children the experiences they need to succeed in a global economy, where employers, co-workers and customers will be increasingly diverse. It also breeds educational inequity, which is inconsistent with America’s core values.”
Duncan is on a mission. He has toured several historically Black colleges and spoke directly with African-American male students about teaching in the nation’s public schools.
It’s a bold and unprecedented initiative – and comes at a critical time for Black America.
Consider this, only 1.7 percent of the nation’s 4.8 million public school teachers are Black men. Most Black boys may never be educated by someone who looks like them, and sadly, some African-American boys will never experience a Black male role model in their public school classrooms.
The graduation rate for African-American boys is abysmal. Many Black male students drop out early and they are expelled at a much higher rate than white students.
According to “Yes We Can: The 2010 Schott 50 State Report on Black Males in Public Education,” the overall 2007-2008 graduation rate for Black males in the U.S. was only 47 percent and half of the states have graduation rates for Black male students below the national average.
The report highlights concerns that New York’s graduation rate for its Regents diploma is only 25 percent for Black male students.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Justice Department and the Department of Education said the U.S. Supreme Court explained that elementary and secondary schools are “pivotal to sustaining our political and cultural heritage” and they teach “that our strength comes from people of different races, creeds, and cultures uniting in commitment to the freedom of all.”
Racially diverse schools provide incalculable educational and civic benefits by promoting cross-racial understanding, breaking down racial and other stereotypes, and eliminating bias and prejudice, officials said.
The “nation’s future depends upon leaders trained through wide exposure to the ideas and mores of students as diverse as this nation of many peoples,” according to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Conversely, administration officials said, where schools lack a diverse student body or are isolated, they may fail to provide the full educational benefits that K-12 schools can offer.
“The academic achievement of students at racially isolated schools often lags behind that of their peers at more diverse schools,” administration officials said. “Racially isolated schools often have fewer effective teachers, higher teacher turnover rates, less rigorous curricular resources and inferior facilities and other educational resources.”