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U.S. Secretary of Education Announces $12 Million Grant Competition to Develop Blueprints for Increasing Diversity in Schools

U.S. Secretary of Education Announces $12 Million Grant Competition to Develop Blueprints for Increasing Diversity in Schools

U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr. announced yesterday a $12 million grant competition that will provide funding to 20 districts or groups of districts to create "blueprints for increasing socioeconomic diversity in schools and complete pre-implementation activities focused on student diversity," the Department of Education said in a prepared statement.

Aside from just socioeconomic diversity, the Opening Doors, Expanding Opportunities program also allows for districts to consider ways to diversify respective student bodies both racially and ethnically.

"The benefits of diversity extend beyond academics. In today’s world, your boss may not look like you, your office-mate may not worship like you, your neighbor may not speak the same language as you, and your customer may not live on the same continent as you," King said.

The Department of Education points to research that shows diversity in schools boosts achievement—and research that shows America’s schools are becoming increasingly less diverse.

"More than sixty years after Brown v. Board of Education, public schools continue to be separate and unequal, with recent research showing that America’s schools are more segregated, not only by students’ race, but also socioeconomic status, than they were in the late 1960s," the Department said.

"Multiple studies indicate that increasing student diversity, through socioeconomic diversity and other means, is one strategy that holds promise for supporting efforts to improve low-performing schools," it continues.

The Department outlined several ways grant competitors can work to increase diversity.

Bolstering strategies such as "attendance zone boundaries, district-wide choice policies, magnet school opportunities, and transfer policies" are ways the Department says districts have found success in the past.

When considering diversifying schools based on race and ethnicity, the Department advises that districts employ generalized race-based approaches. It also refers to a 2011 guidance from the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) that recommends race-based approaches be taken only after race-neutral approaches are considered.

"Generalized race-based approaches employ expressly racial criteria, such as the overall racial composition of neighborhoods, but do not involve decision-making on the basis of any individual student’s race," the guidance says.

For the full list of rules and recommendations, see here.

The Opening Doors, Expanding Opportunities program is funded partly by FY 2016 School Improvement Grants (SIG) national activities funds.

 

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor

12/14/2016

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