Last week Jefferson County Public Schools issued a survey to gather stakeholder input that will inform potential changes to the JCPS student assignment plan. While JCPS embraces the idea of equity for every student as part of their vision statement (Vision 2020), the survey itself does not explicitly indicate that racial and socio-economic diversity are goals that we should all embrace in the next iteration of the student assignment plan. Read on to find out why it is important for every student that we build a better JCPS where race and/or household income level do not limit students’ potential to learn.
Diversity benefits students of all races and socio-economic backgrounds. Learning in a diverse classroom broadens students’ perspective on the world, allowing them to connect abstract concepts to concrete examples from a range of different experiences. Students experience improvements in cognitive skills, critical thinking, and problem-solving abilities. In addition, diverse learning environments decrease students’ sense of isolation and increase their empathy and understanding of people from backgrounds different than their own. Students who are educated in diverse classrooms are better prepared for employment in the global economy, they develop better leadership skills, and they are more democratically engaged citizens.
Minority students and students living in poverty who learn in diverse classrooms experience smaller learning gaps than students who learn in less diverse environments. Students living in poverty learn better and are more academically successful when they learn in a diverse school, with a lower percentage of students of low socio-economic status. Conversely, attending racially segregated or high poverty schools has a negative impact on students’ learning and academic success. Diverse schools have increased minority student achievement, lower drop-out rates, and smaller racial and socioeconomic gaps in standardized test scores.
Increased diversity means more equitable access to resources. Students in high poverty schools are more likely to be taught by inexperienced staff. Even districts that have relatively high per-pupil expenditure rate, there is often a struggle to maintain favorable class sizes while still providing supports such as behavior coaches and interventionists that students living in poverty typically need. More diversity across schools within a district means that high needs students aren’t concentrated in just a few schools, which allows for more equitable distribution of resources district-wide.
According to a 2015 study, Louisville is the fourth most segregated city in the United States. The current student assignment plan for JCPS is designed around the idea that strategically placed magnet schools will attract families to voluntarily bus their students to schools that they choose, creating more diversity throughout the district. In spite of that, there are still a number of JCPS schools that have more than 90% of students living at or below the poverty level. JCPS needs stakeholder input through the student assignment survey to determine the best way to proceed in order to assure that all of our schools are more diverse. As you respond to the survey, please thoughtfully consider the advantages for every student of learning in a diverse classroom.
Hallinan, M. (n.d.). Diversity Effects on Student Outcomes: Social Science Evidence. [online] Kb.osu.edu. Available at: https://kb.osu.edu/bitstream/handle/1811/64961/OSLJ_V59N3_0733.pdf [Accessed 4 Dec. 2018].
Jefferson.kyschools.us. (2015). Jefferson County Public Schools Vision 2020: Excellence with Equity. [online] Available at: https://www.jefferson.kyschools.us/sites/default/files/Vision-2020-Brochure.pdf [Accessed 4 Dec. 2018].
Kent, A. and Frohlich, T. (2018). America’s Most Segregated Cities. [online] 247wallst.com. Available at: https://247wallst.com/special-report/2015/08/19/americas-most-segregated-cities/3/ [Accessed 4 Dec. 2018].
Stuart Wells, Amy, Lauren Fox, and Diana Cordova-Cobo. “How Racially Diverse Schools and Classrooms Can Benefit All Students”. The Century Foundation, 2016. Online. Internet. 5 Dec. 2018. . Available: https://tcf.org/content/report/how-racially-diverse-schools-and-classrooms-can-benefit-all-students/?session=1.