Study backs benefits of economic integration in schools

A new study released today presents evidence from Montgomery County that low-income children perform better when then attend schools in affluent neighborhoods. That may be obvious at first read, but the conventional wisdom in education reform over the past few decades has been to pump more funding, better teachers and more resources into schools in low-income areas to level the playing field. 

The study's findings suggest that we may see much greater results if we went back to busing students across town. It's sad to think that so many decades after school integration such a proposal would most likely go over in wealthier neighborhoods like a firebomb. But in the article in the Washington Post, reformers agree that charter schools, school choice/vouchers and citywide magnet programs are just a more palatable approach to the same end: economic integration. 

The fact is that true diversity in schools benefits all children in many tangible and less tangible ways, from test scores to attitudes, not only about race, but about poverty and wealth. We are learning more every day about how early experiences shape a child's brain -- quite literally -- as well as their socialization.

I can't help but think that if we had more diverse early learning environments, we would't be seeing so much tragic bullying behavior among children in kindergarten -- so often the "haves" picking on the "have-nots." Indeed, high-quality early learning is not only about academics, but about gaining the social and emotional skills to be able to get along with others and succeed not only in school, but in society. 

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