New GS4A student survey results

The organizers of Great Schools for All have found their goal of establishing an inter-district, diverse-by-design magnet school elusive since first forming eight years ago. They have, however, produced some interesting survey data regarding the enthusiasm for various integration measures in the Rochester area. Most notably, a 2016 survey showed majorities of parents in the city and the suburbs would consider attending an inter-district magnet school (though the suburban parents also reported overwhelming satisfaction with their current schools).

The group has just released a new survey conducted earlier this year among students participating in a Roc 2 Change summit. Those summits draw students from across the region who are interested in anti-racism and associated ideas, including integration. Two hundred and thirty students filled out the survey, either online or in person later in their regular classrooms.

The top-level results:

  • About 90 percent of students said they value a diverse student body and faculty and a “curriculum embracing racial, ethnic and cultural themes.”
  • About 70 percent of students said they wished their current school was more diverse.
  • About 45 percent of students said they would consider enrolling in a cross-district magnet school outside their home district, even if they were a racial minority. Another 35 percent or so of students said they weren’t sure — a reasonable response, given the lack of detail provided.

To me, the most interesting aspect of the results is the difference between students in urban districts versus suburban or rural ones. On each question — the importance of a diverse student body and teaching corps, the desire for greater diversity in their current school, the likelihood of considering an inter-district magnet school — urban students showed less enthusiasm than their suburban and rural counterparts. For example, 80 percent of urban students said they would value “a culturally, socio-economically and racially diverse student body,” compared to 99 percent of suburban and rural students.

There are a number of possible explanations for this phenomenon. For one, students in the Rochester City School District already more diverse classmates and teachers than most of their peers outside the city, and they have seen that such diversity, on its own, is not a panacea.

It is important to note that this survey was conducted among a self-selected group of students with an interest in issues of race and education; those who don’t value the idea of racial diversity would likely not have attended the Roc 2 Change meeting where the survey was conducted. Still, together with the 2016 results, the data suggests continuing interest in the idea of inter-district solutions to racial and socio-economic segregation.

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