Smorgasbord: Collective Memory and Vouchers

“Diverse teste dal naturale.” by Denon, Vivant (1747-1825) is licensed under CC0 1.0

Social structure affects collective memory; or, why fake news is such a big problem

“memory convergence is more likely to occur within social groups than between them — an important finding in light of survey data suggesting that 62% of US adults get their news from social media, where group membership is often obvious and reinforced”

How Facebook fake news and friends are warping your memory

http://www.nature.com/news/how-facebook-fake-news-and-friends-are-warping-your-memory-1.21596?WT.mc_id=TWT_NatureNews

So we need to counter groupthink

“a certain amount of contrarianism can go a long way”

There really was a liberal media bubble https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/there-really-was-a-liberal-media-bubble/?utm_source=pocket&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=pockethits

Another method of fighting groupthink: When diverse groups interact, everybody ends up smarter and healthier

“The researchers conclude that society would be better off if governments promoted more interaction between groups. They point to public housing and school districting policies as ways to encourage such mixing.”

When diverse groups interact, everybody ends up smarter and healthier

https://qz.com/939404/economists-have-measured-the-benefits-of-diversity-to-education-health-and-public-investment/

People who don’t have regular interactions with others who are different are the most afraid of others who are different

How a Sleepy German Suburb Explains Europe’s Rising Far-Right Movements

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/20/world/europe/how-a-sleepy-german-suburb-explains-europes-rising-far-right-movements.html?_r=0

Does diversity strain—or develop—solidarity?

“You might argue that this just goes to show that diversity strains solidarity. Or you might argue that, because we need solidarity, we must learn to recognize America in other accents, other complexions, other kitchen aromas.”

Why does Donald Trump demonize cities?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2017/03/17/why-does-donald-trump-demonize-cities/?utm_term=.d7f92e837c62

Reading failure cuts across subgroups

“These staggering numbers of failed reading proficiency underscore our nation’s massive collective failure to effectively teach literacy and build verbal proficiency across all races. It also shatters the accepted truth that racism is the sole or even primary cause of low proficiency rates among all Americans.”

White kids can’t read, either (and other unacknowledged truths)
https://edexcellence.net/articles/white-kids-cant-read-either-and-other-unacknowledged-truths

Shakespeare received a classical education. Maybe that’s what fueled his creative mastery.

Daisy Christodoulou examines the type of curriculum and pedagogy Shakespeare would have been exposed to. Perhaps drilling and memorization centered on a core body of knowledge are not such horrifying things, after all.

Shakespeare and creative education
https://thewingtoheaven.wordpress.com/2017/03/11/shakespeare-and-creative-education/

Just as privatization has ensured that dentistry remains separate from a larger system that would better serve all students, privatizing schools. . .

“Private organized dentistry protects the marketplace for care and the power of private practitioners to provide it but that leaves a lot of people out.”

Why Dentistry Is Separate From Medicine

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2017/03/why-dentistry-is-separated-from-medicine/518979/?utm_source=atltw

Unreal. But oh so real

Corey Stewart advocates for Confederate flags, statues at Roanoke rally

Corey Stewart Advocates for Confederate Flags and Statues at Roanoke Rally

http://www.roanoke.com/news/politics/roanoke/corey-stewart-advocates-for-confederate-flags-statues-at-roanoke-rally/article_d1befc53-4d30-5f96-a754-8c1767e6c15a.html

Time to drop the term ‘microaggressions’?

“The scientific evidence for microaggressions is weak and we should drop the term, argues review author.”

“Lilienfeld also suggests we all consider putting aside the word microaggression in favour of “perceived racial slight’”

The scientific evidence for microaggressions is weak and we should drop the term, argues review author

https://digest.bps.org.uk/2017/03/16/the-scientific-evidence-for-microaggressions-is-weak-and-we-should-drop-the-term-argues-review-author/

Physical infrastructure requires long-term vision

“Basic physical infrastructure is like that. It requires long-term vision and patient capital — think horizons of 10 years or more, rather than two or three. In return, investments in basic infrastructure will pay steady, reliable returns until the sun explodes. And the spillovers from those investments in terms of economic growth and social justice for everyone in a community are routinely extraordinary.”

Google Fiber Was Doomed From the Start

https://backchannel.com/google-fiber-was-doomed-from-the-start-a5cdfacdd7f2#.4f3cndu4d

Empiricism and Vouchers

“Post Trump and De Vos, I see plenty of commentators and researchers reporting “vouchers don’t raise test scores” and virtually no “vouchers increase parental satisfaction.” Is that empiricism? In isolation, maybe. In terms of reflecting the broader spirit of science, not so much. It is also not humility.”

http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/03/empiricism-and-humility.html

Marilyn Rhames on why she wants vouchers as a parent

http://educationpost.org/when-the-only-real-choice-is-private-my-unlikely-attraction-to-school-vouchers/

School diversity as a means to build shared values and understanding

I’ve written here before about why I believe we need our schools to reflect the broader diversity of our society from the lens of fighting prejudice.

I also believe that nourishing diversity in our schools serves a civic purpose: building shared values and understanding. This is what can allow our democratic republic to flourish.

My attempt to voice is this has been published on The Hechinger Report; I would greatly appreciate it if you read it, and will be interested in your thoughts.

http://hechingerreport.org/opinion-diversity-schools-critical-democracy/

 

Smorgasbord: Albany, Policy, and Diversity

I went up to Albany on Tuesday with other America Achieves NY Policy Fellows and we spoke with assembly members and senators and were welcomed and introduced by Assemblymember Patricia Fahy on the assembly floor. If you’ve been wondering whether educators should really be involved in policy, I can’t think of a clearer example of the “win-win” when educators point to a clear problem and a clear solution, and they obtain bipartisan support now being written into state regulations.

Principal Elissa Smith (from upstate New York) and special education teacher Jennifer Chernis (from downstate) identified a significant problem in the field that policymakers were not aware of: certified teachers working as teacher assistants couldn’t maintain or advance their state teacher certification. Their solution? Just add the addendum they suggested to the regulations! This was such a clear fix and win for legislators and for educators that they swiftly earned support from both Republican and Democratic representatives and their proposed addendum is moving forward into law. This will benefit a significant number of teacher assistants across the entire state of NY.

This is what can happen when you empower and equip educators to bring policy solutions to problems in the field. If you’re a NY educator interested in being a part of this, you can apply here. Here’s the other viable policy problems and solutions proposed by fellows:

In other news:

There is clear evidence that integration works. NY Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/09/opinion/integration-works-can-it-survive-the-trump-era.html (Also review the evidence in my policy paper above.)

Yet the track record of Betsy Devos, the barely confirmed and heavily contested new Secretary of ED, does not bode well for efforts to increase diversity in schools. CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/05/opinions/devos-racism-public-school-opinion-wong

Furthermore, Devos’s inevitable focus on school choice will do little for rural schools—the very constituency that has swept Trump and his Republican cohort into office. USA Today: http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/02/02/devos-rural-america-school-reform-column/97362016/

Diversity is increasing in rural areas, not only in cities. If California is any indicator, there will be negative bluster around this diversity, but an eventual swing back to acceptance. While there are clear difficulties around an increase in diversity in any community, there is also a clear opportunity for starting by increasing exposure to a diversity of perspectives and backgrounds in our public schools. NY Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/01/upshot/strife-over-immigrants-can-california-foretell-nations-future.html

An important reminder that smart federal policy can have positive effects on education. The 74: https://www.the74million.org/article/marnie-kaplan-sometimes-government-is-the-solution-reauthorizing-head-start-10-years-later

And a reminder that education is important to long-term outcomes. “Educated people are generally healthier, have fewer comorbidities and live longer than people with less education.” BioRxiv: http://biorxiv.org/content/early/2016/09/13/074815

Some high schools are breaking out of the traditional school setting. Ozy: http://www.ozy.com/fast-forward/how-high-schools-are-demolishing-the-classroom/74603#.WJhZMNKDhIc.twitter

Teenagers who vandalized a historic black schoolhouse were ordered by a judge to educate themselves by reading some real literature. If only they had already been reading these books in school. . . NY Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/08/us/black-school-racist-sexist-graffiti.html?smid=tw-share

One researcher claims that there is little validity to Bloom’s taxonomy, the ubiquitous source of ranking “higher-order” questions and tasks. “The only distinction that is supported by research is the distinction
between declarative/conceptual knowledge (which enables recall,
comprehension or understanding), and procedural knowledge (which enables
application or task performance).” I, for one, would be more than happy to see these waste-of-time ranking taxonomies go the way of the Dodo. Teachers’ time will be much better spent actually developing educational tasks and resources. https://eppicinc.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/sugrue_bloom_critique_perfxprs.pdf

And here’s fish singing “in the coastal waters off Port Headland in Western Australia.” New Scientist: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2106331-fish-recorded-singing-dawn-chorus-on-reefs-just-like-birds/

 

 

Smorgasbord: Acclaim for Michaela, Cognitive Science, and a Movement for School Integration

img_20151108_125512

I’ve been moving apartments this week, so I haven’t been as closely attuned to all things ED, but here’s a few links worth reviewing when you take a break from admiring the swiftly changing color of the leaves on this lovely autumnal weekend.

Acclaiming Michaela

There’s a school entitled Michaela that has apparently been getting some guff in the UK reminiscent of the strong debate that Success Academy engenders here in NYC.

Tom Bennett, the founder of ResearchED (coming to a D.C. near you in a couple of weekends), writes a defense of the school, noting that while it’s intense structure and discipline are not for everyone, critics need to get off their high horses.

Doug Lemov has also taken a gander, and he challenges educators to learn from innovations that are worth emulating, rather than merely criticize from afar. In that spirit, he is exploring some of the practices he finds worthy of stealing in a series of blogs, beginning with this one on Michaela’s “maximum impact, minimum effort” grading policy. Schools renowned for sucking the pith out of young teachers (like, ahem, Success Academy) would do well to consider it. Teaching is a demanding profession, and the more we can reduce paperwork that bears little impact, the better.

I haven’t been much aware of any controversy around Michaela, but I have been very aware of it’s innovative and research-based approach to instruction and curriculum design, thanks to the consistently trenchant writing of Joe Kirby. This summer I switched to an out-of-classroom role designing professional development, and I’ve found myself continually revisiting some of his posts, as well as blogs of other UK educators such as Daisy Christodoulou, Alex Quigley, David Didau, David Fawcett, and many others. I don’t know what’s in the water over there, but UK educators seem to spend a lot more time blogging about practice and research, rather than politics, and it’s refreshing.

Speaking of Research

Deans for Impact founder Benjamin Riley penned a piece for Kappan presenting the case for educator practice to be informed by principles from cognitive science research. And if you haven’t read Deans for Impact’s The Science of Learning, you should probably make that priority number one. Another resource I’ve found myself continually revisiting when designing professional learning.

The Movement for Increasing School Diversity is Growing

I’ve written about the need for increasing school and neighborhood diversity before, and you’ll be hearing much more from me on this; it’s the focus I’ve selected for my NY policy fellowship with America Achieves this year. I’ve been really excited to see an increasing amount of media coverage, advocacy, and ground work taking place on this issue.

This week, NYC Councilmember Helen Rosenthal pushed back against the privileged Upper West Side parents who have been vocal opponents of school rezoning efforts.

The Hechinger Report took a deep dive in an analysis of the desegregation and resegregation of Greenville, Mississippi. Many insights and lessons to heed here.

The Century Foundation released a report on the increasing efforts at school integration, while highlighting the dinosaur progress occurring in NYC.

And Nautil.us magazine highlights research from MIT that “has shown that in both the U.S. and European Union, wealth is predicted by the diversity of face-to-face communication and that both poverty and crime levels are predicted by the isolation of a community.” This confirms my premise for increasing school and neighborhood diversity: we can only really fight discrimination and bias, and improve long-term outcomes, when we interact daily, face-to-face, with others who are different than us.

Sunday Smorgasbord

By Ernst Vikne (originally posted to Flickr as Lots of good food) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
I read a lot of random stuff over the course of a week, and I tweet out many of them (follow me @mandercorn), but I also know that roundups of links, ala Chalkbeat NY, Vox, Eduwonk, Marginal Revolution, and many others, are a really useful way to sharing items that are interesting.

I’m going to begin posting a weekly roundup of items that bear a connection to the themes and ideas that we explore on Schools & Ecosystems.

Please let me know if there’s a format I should consider that will make these more easily digestible and useful to you.

Schools that teach in two languages foster integration — so how come so many families can’t find programs?

There has been a long overdue discussion of integration and increasing diversity in our public schools. While those discussions typically refer to racial and socioeconomic diversity, and the subsequent resistance from well-off white parents, Catherine Brown and Conor Williams are forwarding a refreshing vision for increasing diversity: expanding Dual Language Immersion programs.

While no integration effort is ever simple —especially one that requires schools to implement a new instructional model — today’s conditions are encouraging. Schools have increasing numbers of linguistically diverse students, and greater flexibility for deciding how to meet their needs. Furthermore, families of varied backgrounds increasingly expect schools to offer unique academic themes that help students succeed. Dual immersion programs recognize and celebrate their diverse backgrounds, not as a side benefit, but as a core element of the model’s effectiveness. That’s an extraordinary opportunity for policymakers — and well worth their attention.

Hospitals Realize Their Own Noise Is a Health Issue All By Itself

Quartz reports on a study which found that ambient noise in hospitals is LOUD, which is unsurprising to anyone who has stayed in a hospital.

Hospital stays can be an ordeal all by themselves beyond the condition you’re there being treated for. As medicine becomes more holistic in its perspective, it only makes sense that hospitals are realizing what an important role sound can play in effective healthcare.

On Average

A podcast episode from 99% Invisible describes the tremendous influence that the science of averages, promulgated by Belgian astronomer and mathematician Adolphe Quetelet, has had on design.

Did you know that clothing sizes of Large, Medium, and Small were first created by the mass production for soldier uniforms required by the Civil War? Lincoln drew from the science of averages.

There’s a common discourse in the education world: we standardize tests and our education systems, but children aren’t standardized. It might sound trite, but it’s scientifically accurate, according to research by Gilbert S. Daniels. He discovered that there was a discrepancy between the averages of all soldier measurements and the actual individual sizes of each soldier. In other words, very few individual soldiers actually conformed to the average.

This problem manifested in the design of cockpits, which were based on average measurements of soldiers in the 1920s. By WWII, those averages no longer applied, and resulted not only in the exclusion and subsequent shortage of many pilots during a time of high need, but even many avoidable deaths.

It was again our military which then pioneered the concept of adjustment in its design to meet individual needs. That’s why we can adjust our car seats now.

Whether it’s the equipment, or the whole work environment, design must accommodate more people who are outside the average … because in reality no one is actually average.

Trudging the fields at Gettysburg to teach leadership in hospitals

Speaking of hospitals and the Civil War . . . Stat reports on a leadership program for hospital staff which brings them to the battlefield of Gettysburg and prompts them to consider the decision-making challenges that people working within large organizations can make while under stress.

“Communication can break down at every single level,” said David Ottati, chief executive of Florida Hospital Waterman. “As leaders, we need to make sure we understand the objectives and each others’ personalities and motivations.”

In the Age of De Blasio, A Bloomberg Era Small School Reunion

Andrea Gabor writes a thoughtful piece on an innovative small school, Global Technology Preparatory, that was created as part of Bloomberg/Klein’s “iZone” initiative. By explaining what makes this school a success, and examining how that success has been hampered by politics and bureaucracy, Gabor brings a critical lens to the new administration.

One of the buried ledes in this story is that an educator, David Baiz, had been rated Unsatisfactory in his first school in the South Bronx, but after moving to Global Tech, he became a “nationally recognized math teacher.”

New York City educators loved to hate the Bloomberg/Klein administration, with its penchant for serial reorganizations and its army of MBAs. At the same time, some of the city’s best principals conceded that the businessman-mayor’s school administration had made their lives easier. For principals who survived the New York City iZone’s many incarnations, or who had inherited the small-school mantel from Meier and Alvarado, the Bloomberg years were an opportunity to experiment with some relief from bureaucratic control.

When our dream school had no space for my son, I panicked. Then I confronted prejudice I didn’t know I had

A mother and educator describes how the experience of choosing a school for her son confronted her with her own prejudice and that of others.

The more I dug into my soul, the more I come back to the idea that choosing a school is essentially about choosing the class you want to belong to and not about education at all. The truth that nobody wants to talk about is they want their white child to go to a white school. They want to go to a school where everyone eats Pirate Booty instead of Cheetos, where parents send their kids to New York Kids Club instead of Chuck E. Cheese’s.

Diversity builds a student’s understanding of the world

“Schools are not just about whether you can read or calculate; they are about how robustly you perceive the world around you. Even if you go to high-performing schools, segregated white or segregated black schools, it can still be difficult for kids to understand the world they inhabit. They need to have some understanding of their community, and not just their immediate community, but in the broader sense.”

—Ansley Erickson, in an interview with Rachel Cohen on American Prospect, “Learning from History: The Prospects for School Desegregation

Diversity Mitigates Cognitive Bias

“When surrounded by people “like ourselves,” we are easily influenced, more likely to fall for wrong ideas. Diversity prompts better, critical thinking. It contributes to error detection. It keeps us from drifting toward miscalculation.

Our findings suggest that racial and ethnic diversity matter for learning, the core purpose of a university. Increasing diversity is not only a way to let the historically disadvantaged into college, but also to promote sharper thinking for everyone.”

–“Diversity Makes You Brighter” http://nzzl.us/yzjF6tR

Integrating NYC’s Public Schools

By Philip Kanellopoulos, http://www.deiwos.org (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Last Monday evening, I attended an interesting event at Brooklyn Law School, “Opportunities and Challenges in Integrating NYC’s Public Schools.”

On the panel were City Council members Ritchie Torres and Brad Lander, who co-wrote an op-ed on the issue, and worked to pass the School Diversity Accountability Act in the City Council earlier this year; Clarence Ellis, a Superintendent in Crown Heights; Jon Rosenberg, a former civil rights lawyer and a charter network CEO; Kevin Young, a PTA President at PS 133; and Todd Sutler, a cofounder of Compass charter school. The panel was facilitated by Arva Rice of NY Urban League (who I later also saw at the Common Core Task Force hearing).

Here’s a quick overview of what I found to be key takeaways:

  • Zoned schools are a barrier to integration
  • Some possible tools are weighted admissions (at a school-level) and controlled choice (at a district level)
  • Diversity is a necessity for quality at a systemic level
  • Lenses for viewing diversity at a school-level can be socioeconomic, racial, language-based, and cognitive
  • Advocacy needs to focus on changing legislation that prevents integration across districts
  • We must be persistent and aggressive in advocacy, recruitment, and admissions
  • Nurturing diversity within a school requires building a common language

Read on for further details.

Lander made the point that magnet schools are one important mechanism for integration, with a hat tip to This American Life episode 2. I agree — though let’s also be brutally honest — quality magnet schools cost money. And even with that money invested, as we can see with Hartford magnet schools, it continues to require a sustained and aggressive effort in recruitment and outreach.

After highlighting the work that PS 133 and 130 have done at a school-level (weighted admissions), and that BK Districts 1 and 13 have done at a district-level (controlled choice), Lander made the great point that we have a real need to “codify the tools” that can be used for achieving integration. The good news is that the School Diversity Act will begin measuring diversity in NYC, so starting this December 31st, we can more accurately begin talking about where and how tools (such as controlled choice and weighted admissions) should be applied.

Rosenberg highlighted the important point that when it comes to integration, “we need to be persistent.” He also highlighted, as did others at the panel throughout the evening, the fact that a major barrier to integration is that elementary schools are zoned.

Rosenberg delineated between a “blunt” method of integration: rezoning, and a softer method, which is either to create “something new” and to be “unburdened by history” (such as charter or magnet schools) to avoid battles such as those that playing out in Brooklyn and the Upper West Side, and to work to protect those few, “fragile” existing schools and areas that are already integrated. However, Rosenberg later presented a challenge that charter operators face, in that even when they wish to work to diversify, they are confined by state zoning legislation, and end up perpetuating segregation. He presented the example of a school in district 2 in Manhattan unable to integrate students and families from district 4 in East Harlem (or vice versa) due to this legislation.

Torres grounded the panel in the more dire reality of the Bronx, pointing out that in districts heavily poor and segregated, there is little opportunity nor will to integrate, either socio-economically or racially. He pointed out that there is a palpable lack of political will in our country and city to integrate, and that segregation has been a public policy choice and mindset (Rosenberg also echoed this sentiment as well — and why his reminder to “be persistent” is important to bear in mind).

I appreciate Torres’ directness in evaluating the situation — he called out Mayor De Blasio and Chancellor Farina’s deliberate inaction on this issue as “disheartening.” He had what I thought was the money quote for the evening when he pointed out that while you can have quality schools without diversity, the reality is that “if you want quality at a systemic level — then you need diversity.”

Young brought some interesting within-school perspective on integration, pointing out that it can be a challenge at first, and that a common language must be built. But this also, as he suggested, provides an opportunity for students and staff to look at what is the same in our human experience, rather than focusing on differences and deficits. He then threw some oblique shade on Success Academy when he suggested that we can better attract diversity at schools that are “progressive,” rather than “test factories,” like the “charters in the news.”

Sutler brought in another aspect of “diversity” that is rarely discussed but I agree is important to mention alongside socio-economic and racial diversity: cognitive diversity — and that this work to include and integrate is the work of our schools and classrooms. This is an issue close to my own heart, as I work in the field of special education, and inclusion is a fundamental principle for me. Sutler urged the audience to push our legislators on this issue, and he also highlighted the critical need for a school to conduct outreach to achieve better integration.

Sutler later made the case that in terms of increasing diversity in the teaching profession, we need to 1) raise the bar for education graduate programs, 2) elevate the craft and profession of teaching, and 3) make aggressive recruitment efforts to attract people of color.

I’m leaving out a lot of other key points made, but these were the ones that most stuck out for me.

A few of my posts on integration:

On Segregation: Forcing Integration

By Mariano Deheza (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
In my last post on segregation, we looked into distinguishing race and class when discussing race relations, while acknowledging both can be intertwined, and I also presented why I believe desegregation of white communities is critical.

Some seem to argue that if we can just get people to be less prejudiced, then we’ll become naturally more inclusive. It’s certainly critical to combat conscious and unconscious prejudice, but I also believe that we need mechanisms that “force” integration of some schools, workplaces, and housing to occur. In this post, I will present a few selections from various sources to begin the conversation of this case.

Even Polygons Only Integrate When They Have To

In the Parable of the Polygons by Vi Hart and Nicky Case, a wonderful open source set of interactives on segregation between triangles and squares, one scenario presents a world that is already segregated (as ours is), and when you lower the slider for “bias” . . . well, you’d expect that some squares and triangles would start intermixing. Except . . .

See what doesn’t happen? No change. No mixing back together. In a world where bias ever existed, being unbiased isn’t enough! We’re gonna need active measures. [Bold added]

But what happens when parameters for some level of diversity is set for squares and triangles? Very different scenario:

. . . all it takes is a change in the perception of what an acceptable environment looks like. So, fellow shapes, remember it’s not about triangles vs squares, it’s about deciding what we want the world to look like, and settling for no less. [Bold added]

Teen Cliques Are Tamed By Design, So Why Not Society?

In another article, Why Cliques Form at Some High Schools and Not Others by Derek Thompson on The Atlantic, the argument for deliberately cultivating diversity is also made:

. . . the natural instinct for teenagers to separate themselves into clusters and hierarchies is weakened when schools force kids to partner with peers they wouldn’t otherwise want to be around to see first-hand the benefits of unlikely friendships.

What’s behind the difference between schools, if the instinct to be around similar people is universal? McFarland says it’s not about the students. It’s about the schools, themselves. The way high schools are designed—their size, their level of diversity, and the way they treat students—can either drive students to segregate based on things like household income and race, or force them to build relationships that are more about their high school life than their socioeconomic backgrounds. [Bold added]

Notice that uncomfortable word repeated? Forced. Inclusion, integration, and diverse relationships don’t form organically, and we would be naïve to hope they would.

Anyone who has lived through middle school knows all about cliques. Cliques are the reason schools and certain organizations and communities sometimes suck. They’re the reason I argue for forced integration.

In smaller schools, and in smaller classrooms, you force people to interact, and they are less hierarchical, less cliquish, and less self-segregated.

School size wasn’t the only factor that affected cliques and hierarchies. Schools that grouped students by academics and created other ways to force kids with different backgrounds to cooperate (whether in clubs or on sports teams) were less ruled by segregation and hierarchy.

But By What Mechanisms?

In a report released by Education Pioneers, “From Intention to Action,” some recommendations for achieving diversity in organizations are well worth considering:

1. Customized vision and strategy for diversity and inclusion
2. Leadership and accountability
3. Talent recruitment and staff development practices
4. Intentional and strategic dialogue about diversity

Interviews revealed that these organization-wide conversations are not happening because of rapid growth or competing organizational priorities. Several study participants admitted that conversations about diversity are unsettling or tense, and thus they have avoided them. Diversity conversations rarely make the priority list, and when they do, they often are not implemented successfully.

All of these recommendations go well beyond intent. We must move beyond good intentions to actual mechanisms and strategies put in place and reinforced to create diversity.

Policies and Housing Are Key

Richard Rothstein has a long and good piece up at The Economic Policy Institute diving into the history of segregation that led to modern-day Ferguson, creating the divided sort of environment in which Michael Brown’s killing at the hands of a mostly white police force occurred.

Rothstein does a nice job of laying out the case for why policies, not simply private prejudice, led to this situation.

Many practical programs and regulatory strategies can address problems of Ferguson and similar communities nationwide. One example is to prohibit landlords from refusing to accept tenants whose rent is subsidized – a few states and municipalities currently do prohibit such refusal, but most do not. Another example is to require even outer-ring suburbs to repeal zoning ordinances that prohibit construction of housing that lower- or moderate-income residents – white or black – can afford. Going further, we could require every community to permit development of housing to accommodate a “fair share” of its region’s low-income and minority populations – New Jersey, for example, has taken a very modest step towards this requirement.97

But we won’t consider such remedies if we remain blind to how Ferguson became Ferguson. It is impractical to think that the public and policymakers will support remedies to problems whose causes they don’t understand. We flatter ourselves that the responsibility is only borne by rogue police officers, white flight, and suburbanites’ desire for economic homogeneity. Prosecuting the officer who shot Michael Brown, or investigating and integrating Ferguson’s police department, can’t address the deeper obstacles to racial progress. [Bold added]

There’s so much more to say on this, obviously. But I hope I’ve sparked some thought through this examination. There are folks out there, such as Richard D. Kahlenberg and Halley Potter at The Century Foundation, doing great work in examining and advocating mechanisms for achieving greater integration in schools.

I hope that in 2015, we can push into new frontiers in policy that can bring greater opportunities for inclusion and diversity.