Academic Research

Many studies have shown that racially, culturally, and economically diverse school settings are strongly associated with a range of short and long term benefits for all racial groups. These benefits include gains in math, science, reading, and critical thinking skills, as well as improvements in graduation rates. Research also demonstrates that diverse schools are better equipped than high-poverty schools to counteract the negative effects of poverty. Over the long-term, students who attend diverse schools are more likely than students from homogeneous schools to choose diverse colleges, neighborhoods, and workplaces later in life. They possess better critical thinking skills and analytical ability and are more likely to form cross-racial friendships. Synthesized research on the benefits of diverse schools is available here.

Research informs NCSD’s efforts to strengthen school integration policy and support effective practice within diverse schools. Below you will find a sampling of such research:

  • In Good Intentions, Limited Impact: The Technical Assistance for Student Assignment Plans Program (July 2014) Kathryn A. McDermott, Elizabeth DeBray, Erica Frankenberg, Anna Fung-Morley, and Ann Elizabeth Blankenship examine the effectiveness of  the Technical Assistance for Student Assignment Plan (TASAP) grant, a small, one-time competitive grant intended help school districts navigate the legally uncertain environment following the PICS decision in 2007.  Authors find that “Federal management of the grant did not provide leverage on districts to ensure that the local work remained true to its initial goals,” and provide recommendations for future federal diversity policy.
  • Civil rights advocates have long recognized that housing segregation creates inequality in living conditions related to housing, like clean drinking water, the type and condition of homes, and exposure to pollution. Residential segregation also undermines equal access to education, public resources, and employment, and frustrates democracy at every level. Despite this understanding, most advocates address these issues piecemeal. Schools may desegregate for a time, but as segregated housing patterns persist they tend to resegregate. A community may successfully fight off one polluter but lack the political power to prevent the next. Few victories stay won. In The State of Exclusion: An Empirical Analysis of the Legacy of Segregated Communities in North Carolina (September 2013) the UNC Center for Civil Rights uses North Carolina as a case study of impacts tied to super-majority non-white neighborhoods called excluded communities. The report hypothesizes that super-majority non-white neighborhoods will face greater than average impacts of housing segregation suggestive of community exclusion based on race.
  • In Effects of School Racial Composition on K-12 Mathematics Outcomes: A Metaregression Analysis (Review of Educational Research, March 2013) Roslyn Arlin Mickelson, Martha Cecilia Bottia, and Richard Lambert review the social science literature published in the past 20 years on the relationship between mathematics outcomes and the racial composition of the K–12 schools students attend.  Finding that school racial isolation has a small, but statistically significant, negative effect on overall building-level mathematics outcomes, the authors discuss implications for educational policy and future research.
  • In Educational Delusions? Why Choice Can Deepen Inequality and How to Make Schools Fair (University of California Press, January 2013), authors Gary Orfield and Erica Frankenberg examine the history of school choice through a civil rights lens. While helping minority children remains a central justification for choice proponents, they argue, ignoring the essential civil rights dimensions of choice plans may compound, rather than remedy, racial inequality.
  • Through a series of case studies edited by Erica Frankenberg and Gary Orfield, The Resegregation of Suburban Schools: A Hidden Crisis in American Education (Harvard University Press, October 2012) highlights that the locus of racial and ethnic transformation has moved from the inner city to the suburbs. Authors offer strategies that school and community leaders can pursue to expand educational opportunity for low-income students and students of color in the suburbs.
  • In Long-run Impacts of School Desegregation and School Quality on Adult Attainments (National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 16664), NCSD Research Advisory Panel member Rucker Johnson concludes that earlier studies substantially underestimated both the returns to education and the benefits of school desegregation. He finds that although court-ordered school desegregation did not affect outcomes for whites, it significantly improved the adult attainment of blacks born between 1950 and 1975.
  • Chartering Equity: Using Charter School Legislation and Policy to Advance Equal Educational Opportunity (National Education Policy Center, February 2012) addresses the challenge of using charter school policy to enhance equal educational opportunity.  The brief provides an overview of the legal foundations of equal educational opportunity and offers a review of prior research documenting issues concerning the impact of charter schools on equity and diversity.  Last, it presents recommendations for charter school authorizers and policymakers for using charter schools to advance equal educational opportunity.
  • Reviving Magnet Schools: Strengthening a Successful School Choice Option (Civil Rights Project, February 2012) is based on a 2011 survey of magnet school leaders from over 50 school districts across the country. Amongst the findings of the research: magnet school leaders responding to the survey reported that student achievement rose during periods of federal magnet funding via the Magnet Schools Assistance Program (MSAP), and that parent demand for magnet school placements was high. Moreover, inclusive admissions processes and interdistrict transfer policies were increasing, both of which are particularly effective in reducing racial isolation in schools.
  • Co-authored by NCSD members Susan Eaton and Gina Chirichigno, METCO Merits More: The History and Status of METCO (The Pioneer Institute/The Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice, June 2011) is the first comprehensive review of Boston’s interdistrict school integration program in nearly a decade. It includes data on student enrollment, performance, demographics, graduation and college attainment rates, waiting list, and funding.
  • In Can NCLB Choice Work? (The Century Foundation, June 2011) Meredith Richards, Kori Stroub, and Jennifer Jellison Holme find that students in the vast majority of schools considered eligible “sending” schools under NCLB have little to no access to eligible higher-performing schools within their district. They conclude that interdistrict choice has the potential to increase students’ access to higher-performing schools meaningfully beyond intradistrict choice.