I found a very interesting article from the Minneapolis Post about voluntary segregation in schools that have created programs catering to a particular culture or race (The Rise of Voluntarily Segregated Schools: New Trend, Familiar Problems). In this article, authors Beth Hawkins and Cynthia Boyd discuss the various advancements and gains that ethnocentric programs in the Minneapolis school district have created for students’ education. While minority students who attend these programs with a curriculum tailored around their cultural background are given more opportunities to embrace and celebrate their culture, they are also more apt to have lower test scores than students in fully integrated schools. With these issues in mind, school district leaders hope to find a solution for keeping minority students in the district as well as a way to foster students’ cultural knowledge and awareness in an academic setting.
Ethnocentric programs such as the ones in Minneapolis, including programs designed specifically for Asian, African American, and Muslim students, are permissible because they allow students of any race to attend, but their curriculums are designed for students of a particular race and cultural background. These programs in Minneapolis were created in response to charter schools, which drew away about one-third of minority students from the main school district. Because of these charter schools, the Minneapolis school district created culturally specific programs to entice more minority students to remain in the district.
One of the major reasons that ethnocentric programs have flourished in Minneapolis is because parents have endorsed their dedication to an environment focused on academics, not sports or extra-curricular activities. In addition, parents of minority families embrace culturally specific curriculums because they give their children a chance to experience and appreciate their culture in a safe, constructive environment. The Hmong International Academy, designed particularly for Asian students, even has several African American and white children whose parents also approved of the school’s goals and curriculum.
Despite these advantages for minorities in ethnocentric programs, studies show that the academics in these schools do not always measure up to those of charter schools. For example, only 20% of students were proficient in math in 2007-2008 at the Afrocentric Educational Academy in Minneapolis. With many other ethnocentric programs showing similarly low test scores, there are some changes that need to be made to the implementation of the curriculum to better reflect the goals of these schools.
In the article, many of the Minneapolis school district leaders comment on the issue of culturally specific schools and the difficulties in choosing whether to completely integrate these schools or to try to modify them in order to improve test scores. With more minority students choosing to attend charter schools, the district must choose which is more important: a fully integrated school system or programs that celebrate the cultural niche of a particular race of people. Which do you think is more important? Do you think it is possible to combine both of these goals in public schools and do away with ethnocentric programs? Furthermore, are these voluntarily segregated school programs as beneficial as they attempt to be or are they just contributing to the isolation and separation of races?