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Better together: How school diversity makes a difference

Feb 1, 2017

Just look at the racial census makeup of school districts in Michigan. The numbers from the state Department of Education show districts in Michigan are deeply segregated.

In today’s State of Opportunity special Better Together: How School Diversity Makes a Difference, we look at schools, teachers and parents who are working to create, maintain or even boost diversity in the classroom.

But before we dive in, think back to your high school days. Just how diverse was your school?

In this special, we learn how we got to this point, where schools in our state are so segregated. And, we explore the benefits that come with less segregated, more diverse schools.

“This is a system that we created.” How segregated neighborhoods lead to segregated schools

"We decided as a country that we would segregate our neighborhoods ... that's the primary driver for school segregation all over the state."

Sixty-two years after the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown vs. Board of Education, many school districts in Michigan and throughout the country remain deeply segregated.  

In the Detroit City School District, for example, just 2.18% of students are white, while more than 80% are black. In many of the city’s suburbs, the numbers are reversed. In Utica Community Schools (which includes Sterling Heights), about 86% of students are white, while fewer than 5% are black.

So why are today’s schools so segregated?

According to one expert, the answer can be found in our neighborhoods. It's a phenomenon that many of us experience every day, even if we may not notice it: housing segregation.

Click on the link above for the full story.

Students build understanding between peers in diversifying school district

"You have all these different people to learn from, and just having them there without discussing your differences with them is not going to benefit you."

In 2014, for the first time in America, students of color made up over 50% of public school enrollment.

One district that’s seen those shifting demographics first hand is Plymouth-Canton Community Schools. The district has been intentional about creating an environment where students and families from all backgrounds feel welcome, and students too are playing a role in that effort.

Click on the link above for the full story.

Rural high schoolers cross the state to meet peers in Dearborn. The goal? “Humanize each other.”

As neighborhoods and schools become more segregated, there are teachers who have decided to confront that head-on. They're not waiting for a grand solution from our leaders to appear.  

"White people are not a monolith. Arabs are not a monolith. We all have more in common as human beings than we have differences."

Two Michigan teachers in particular know it's easy to get along with people who look like you, and think like you, but they want to prepare their students for a world that is increasingly diverse.

Together, they planned a unique field trip happening tomorrow:

Students from Hamilton High School, a rural school near Holland, will travel across the state to Fordson High School in Dearborn. They'll have the chance to sit down with, and get to know, students in Dearborn.

Click on the link above for the full story.

New Detroit charter school gets creative by curating “intentional diversity”

When we talk about segregated schools, we need to look no further than Detroit. Census figures from the Michigan Department of Education tell us Detroit is a city filled with segregated schools.

"Seeing the impact [diversity] has on our students now puts a fire in our belly to maintain that diversity."

A new charter school on Detroit's east side, in the Indian Village neighborhood, is working hard to change that.

Detroit Prep is a free public charter school authorized by Grand Valley State University. Right now, it teaches kindergarten and first grade students. 

Its founders were determined that Detroit Prep would be the city's first intentionally diverse charter school. So, they set out by casting a wide net in recruiting students and in offering strong academics.

Click on the link above for the full story.

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