Essential Practices of District Leaders in Advancing Equity Through School Integration

Geoffroy, Jennifer, Administration and Supervision - School of Education and Human Development, University of Virginia
Mitchell, Sandra, ED-EDLF, University of Virginia

Schools in the US reached their height of integration in 1988 and since then, segregation by socioeconomic status has increased by 47% in US schools (Johnson & Nazaryan, 2019; Stanford University, 2022). This is even though studies of integrated K-12 schools show that there are short and long-term benefits to students from all racial and socioeconomic backgrounds who attend racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse schools. Social benefits include a reduction in racial and ethnic prejudice, a greater number of cross-race peer friendships and an acceptance of differences, a decline in engagement with the criminal justice system, higher civic engagement, and a higher likelihood of living in an integrated neighborhood as an adult (Diem & Pinto, 2017; Mickelson, 2016; Mickelson & Nkomo, 2012; Orfield, 2014). The academic benefits of attending integrated schools include higher achievement levels and graduation rates, increased participation in post-secondary education, and higher educational attainment levels, as well as lower dropout rates (Mickelson, 2016).
Research also exists to explain the varying models that can be used to integrate schools (Diem & Pinto, 2017; Siegel-Hawley, 2016), but there is little existing research that delves into how district leaders have initiated, implemented, and sustained school integration programs (Diem et al., 2014). The purpose of this study then was to examine the leadership practices and organizational structures that leaders in four districts engaged in to initiate, implement, and sustain integration programs in their districts for a minimum of ten years. Interviews with two leaders from each district and document reviews of relevant policies, research, district publications, and new articles were conducted, and these findings were then used to make recommendations to district leaders in DC Public Schools on how to expand and sustain a district-wide socioeconomic integration program that expands beyond the current pilot program.

EDD (Doctor of Education)
school integration, school desegregation, district leadership practices, socioeconomic integration
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