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School Integration Framing & Messaging: Toward a Transformative Conversation

School Integration Framing & Messaging: Toward a Transformative Conversation

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Despite a mounting body of evidence demonstrating the academic, social, psychological and democratic benefits of educating students in a diverse environment, integration has been a tough sell lately. One of the nation’s most lauded economic integration programs was disbanded in May 2010, and integration has largely been supplanted by choice programs and in‐place strategies under the Obama administration. Despite the tireless efforts of civil rights champions, legal and education advocates, parents, community groups and others, the fight for true integration remains an uphill battle, and ground is slipping beneath our feet daily across the nation. At the outset of this project we thought this may be due to some combination of a general lack of awareness of the benefits of diversity, the perceived costs to achieve it being greater than the benefits, integration exhaustion, or a lack of clarity about what integration means.

When receiving information, people generally have a tendency to boil it down as simply as possible in order to process it efficiently. Information gets distilled into sound bites and complex issues are reframed into pithy segments. Education is no exception and it certainly isn’t short on complexity. Newspapers and blogs across the country are daily addressing the achievement gap, schools’ and students’ academic performance, budget crises, teacher shortages, the role of unions, etc. The list of educational woes goes on and on, and integration is framed as just another drumbeat in the march of educational reform. It is often regarded as an impediment to and/or distraction from reform, rather than a solution to many of the education challenges we face today.