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ERIC Number: ED531345
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2012-Apr-23
Pages: 60
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
Spaces of Inclusion? Teachers' Perceptions of School Communities with Differing Student Racial & Socioeconomic Contexts
Siegel-Hawley, Genevieve; Frankenberg, Erica
Civil Rights Project / Proyecto Derechos Civiles
American demographics are shifting, most notably among the student population (G. Orfield, 2009). The proportion of white student enrollment has steadily decreased since the 1960s, from approximately 80% of students to 56% today (G. Orfield, 2009). In the South and the West--two of the most populous regions in the country--schools report nonwhite majorities (G. Orfield, 2009). This growing diversity brings new opportunities and challenges for educators seeking to create healthy, inclusive learning environments in the 21st century. A generation ago Congress passed legislation, known as the Emergency School Aid Act, to help train teachers and administrators to adapt school practices and build community support for newly desegregated schools (G. Orfield, 2007; 1978). Evaluations of the legislation provided evidence of its success (G. Orfield, 2007), but few subsequent comprehensive policy efforts have been focused on understanding issues that confront diverse schools. Now, as districts experience racial transition, teachers and administrators with little training for diversity must make daily choices on matters like outreach to families and communities, school discipline and addressing the academic needs of racially diverse students (Sleeter, 2007; Frankenberg & Siegel-Hawley, 2008). These varied decisions work together to structure students' schooling experience. As such, it is increasingly vital to grasp how differing levels of student diversity and stability are associated with factors that promote inclusive educational environments. This report seeks to build on individuals' contemporary understanding of these issues by exploring relationships between school racial and socioeconomic contexts and teachers' perceptions of positive school community indicators. The authors' examine the following research questions in the study: (1) How do teachers perceive the fairness of internal school structures and procedures across different school contexts?; (2) How do teachers in schools of differing student racial and socioeconomic composition and stability perceive their relationship with school communities and families?; (3) How do teachers view student interracial outcomes in different racial and socioeconomic contexts, as well as in schools with varying levels of racial stability?; and (4) Do teacher perceptions of internal and external school community indicators vary by race?; The authors find that the racial diversity and stability of schools is significantly related to the way teachers view many features associated with inclusive school environments. Schools with high percentages of underrepresented students of color and low income students are perceived by teachers of all races as less likely to have family and community support. By contrast, teachers in diverse schools with a white student majority, along with teachers in stably diverse learning environments, report more positive student relations and school-community relationships. The authors also probe whether white and nonwhite teachers view factors related to the health of their school community in different ways. Nonwhite teachers in this sample are more likely than white teachers to perceive significant issues of discrimination on several key internal dimensions, including perceptions of racially disparate discipline practices and assignments to special education tracks. Heightened sensitivity to these critical elements could potentially push schools to reexamine their practices and shift policies towards more equitable communities, underscoring the importance of increasing the share of nonwhite teachers in the school systems. Further study of the way other key education stakeholders--parents, students, and community members--interpret these external and internal school dynamics is much needed. Still, the findings from this report have important implications for federal, state and local policymakers committed to fostering healthy school-community relationships, training teachers for racially diverse classrooms and designing student assignment policies to promote stable, healthy and diverse school settings. The first section of this paper describes the scope of the literature regarding the elements of inclusive school communities. It also explores the extent to which research documents the relationship between inclusivity and student body diversity. The authors then turn to a description of their findings, discussing both internal and external factors associated with inclusive educational environments. They close with a consideration of the implications of these findings for policy and practice. A bibliography is included. Additional tables are appended. (Contains 42 tables and 14 footnotes.)
Civil Rights Project / Proyecto Derechos Civiles. 8370 Math Sciences, P.O. Box 951521, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1521. Tel: 310-267-5562; Fax: 310-206-6293; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Numerical/Quantitative Data; Reports - Research
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: University of California, Los Angeles, Civil Rights Project / Proyecto Derechos Civiles
Identifiers - Laws, Policies, & Programs: Emergency School Aid Act 1972