Right now, many public schools are at the center of a very important movement for change in America as a powerful trend toward racially, ethnically, and culturally diverse neighborhoods is taking place in both urban and suburban areas.
In a country that seeks strength through diversity, there is no greater asset than a public school. And when diversity within a school is meaningful and sustained, the impact can be life-changing for the entire school community. The research clearly shows that diversity brings both educational and social benefits for everyone—students, educators, and parents alike.
Unfortunately, this diversity is fragile (as this graphic shows). Much of the research on housing and segregation patterns concludes that for racial and ethnic diversity in demographically changing neighborhoods to stabilize, it requires not only public policies such as strong housing laws, but also a new level of openness to change and a deeper understanding of what racial integration means.
What if this time around we figured out how to truly come together, and stay there?
The opportunity, like the challenge, is enormous. However, with awareness, openness to community dialogue, and commitment to each other, there is real hope that something enduring can be built.
The Public Good – a Public School Support Organization (PSSO) -- uses research to map schools’ needs and assets while enabling educators to realize these educational and societal benefits. We take a systematic, qualitative, research-based approach to understanding a school community. This deep engagement allows meaningful dialogue with community members about their own positions on issues pertinent to diverse schools.
Our research can bring difficult issues inside a community to light in a neutral way, and amplify voices as needed to create a more inclusive and stable community overall through three key approaches:
To learn more about our work, watch the video below from Park Slope Collegiate. This is an example of the videos we help produce for schools that are part of our efforts around strategic communications when school communities decide this is a needed action step to move forward. For more examples, watch these videos from PS 307 and West Side Collaborative.
Amy Stuart Wells is the Director of The Public Good and the Center for Understanding Race and Education (CURE). She is also the Director of the Reimagining Education Summer Institute and a Professor of Sociology and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. In February, 2016, Wells and her colleagues published a Century Foundation report titled, "How Racially Diverse Schools and Classrooms Can Benefit All Students". For the last 25 years, her research and writing has focused broadly on issues of race and education and more specifically on educational policies such as school desegregation, school choice, charter schools, and tracking and how they shape and constrain opportunities for students of color. Wells’ on-going research project, “Metro Migrations, Racial Segregation and School Boundaries,” examines urban and suburban demographic change and the role that public schools and their boundaries play in who moves where. The final report from the suburban research phase of that project, "Divided We Fall: The Story of Separate and Unequal Suburban School Districts 60 years after Brown", was published in Spring 2014; related articles were published in the Washington Post Answer Sheet, The Atlantic CitiLab, and Long Island Newsday.
Leana Cabral is a Ph.D. student in the Sociology of Education program at Teachers College, Columbia University, and a research assistant at The Public Good. She is also affiliated with the Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE). Her research interests include school segregation, educational inequality and the racial politics of public education. Prior to attending Teachers College, Leana worked as a consultant for a large-scale education nonprofit, the Philadelphia Education Fund, and served as the Director of the City of Philadelphia's Mayor's Office of Education's college access initiative. Prior to those positions, Leana worked in the youth development field. She holds a B.A. in Comparative Women's Studies from Spelman College.
Diana Cordova-Cobo is a Ph.D. student in the Sociology and Education program and a research associate at The Public Good and the Center for Understanding Race and Education (CURE) at Teachers College, Columbia University. Her research interests center on the relationship between housing trends and school demographic change- particularly as it relates to racial/ethnic stratification and inequality amid gentrification and segregation trends. She previously worked as the Senior Research and Policy Analyst at the NYU Furman Center, where she led projects on New York City’s public housing and the racial/ethnic diversity of New York City’s neighborhoods and elementary schools. She has also served as a research consultant for the New York City Department of Education and the New York Civil Liberties Union, and as a research assistant for the NYU Research Alliance. Prior to starting in the Sociology and Education program, Diana was a middle school social studies teacher in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City. She holds a B.A. in Political Science and Women’s Studies from the University of Florida and an M.A. in Social Studies Education from Teachers College, Columbia University.
Abbey Keener is a Ph.D. student in the Sociology and Education program and a research assistant with The Public Good at Teachers College, Columbia University. She has also served as a research consultant for the New York Civil Liberties Union and the New York City Department of Education and as a research specialist at Princeton University. In her work she is interested in the relationship between changing neighborhoods, educational inequities, and school-and-neighborhood-based social networks. Her current research focuses on the geographic nature of schooling in the context of school choice and uses geospatial statistical methods to explore patterns of segregation and ties between neighborhoods and schools. She holds an M.A. in Sociology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Sociology and Anthropology from Wake Forest University.
Siettah Parks is a Ph.D. student in Sociology and Education and a research assistant at The Public Good at Teachers College, Columbia University. Previously, she has worked in schools in New Jersey and New York City, and served as a Program Manager at an education support nonprofit. Her research interests are related to teacher education and preparation, teacher-student relationships, and the educational experiences of Black students. She holds an M.A. in Sociology and Education from Teachers College and a B.A. in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin.
Cami Touloukian is a Ph.D. student in the Sociology and Education program and a research assistant at The Public Good at Teachers College, Columbia University. Prior to joining the TC community, Cami spent most of her career teaching in elementary and early childhood classrooms across the country and then moved into higher education to work as a teacher educator. Her work with classroom students, future teachers and school communities informs her current research interests which focus on illuminating the barriers to building a more just world through education. As such, Cami is particularly interested in researching the sociology of whiteness in schools, white supremacy as it relates to education, and the potential for social change that lies at the intersection of critical race theory and sociology. She holds a B.A. in General Studies with an emphasis on Sociology, History and Education and an M.S.Ed. in Elementary Education, both from Indiana University.
In addition to our work with school communities, our team works to disseminate research to the broader public and the academic community through multimodal pathways. Below are reports, articles, resource websites, teaching units, and films created by members of our team that can serve as additional resources to individuals and communities engaged in this work.