Larchmont Charter School - Diverse by Design

Larchmont Charter School was founded by parents who had a vision for a different kind of school.  At the time of its founding, the neighborhood public schools were largely segregated and had a back to basics, stripped down, one-size fits all, scripted curriculum and very little parent involvement. They wanted a school that fully reflected the rich diversity of LA, a school with a more inspired approach to teaching and a school that would embrace parents as partners in strengthening the school and instilling in our kids a dedication to improving the world.

Larchmont is a constructivist school. Constructivism is a theory of learning which holds that each of us has a unique schema of the world based on our lived experience and that by interacting with our environment we make connections to what we already know and construct new meaning.  It is therefore essential that we know our students well to be able to meet them where they are and grow from there.  We do this through small class size, looping, longer periods of instruction, and a focus on social emotional development and community K-12. 

Learning is seen as an active process.  Diversity is core to our model because it is through ensuring a richly diverse environment – of both people and programming – that we create the setting for learning to occur.   The diversity of our community provides students the opportunities to interact and benefit from students and staff from disparate backgrounds often resulting in a variety of perspectives leading to diversity of thought and increasing critical and creative thinking.  The diversity in the program – both the interdisciplinary project based learning and the rich array of enrichment and elective offerings – music, art, movement, cooking, gardening, improvisation and more K-12 – tap into our students’ multiple intelligences and facilitate them making connections across the curriculum. This is the power of our model.

This Diverse by Design video highlights the power of integration how Larchmont is part of a national movement to realize the vision and promise of Brown v. Board of Education.  It was made possible through a generous benefactor and professional filmmaker in our community.  

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Investing in Integrated Schools

Research shows that racial and socioeconomic diversity in the classroom can provide students with a range of cognitive and social benefits. Here’s why the growing momentum in favor of diversity in schools is good news for all students:

Academic and Cognitive Benefits

  • Students in integrated schools have higher average test scores. On the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) given to fourth graders in math, low-income students attending more affluent schools scored roughly two years of learning ahead of low-income students in high-poverty schools. Another study found that students in mixed-income schools showed 30 percent more growth in test scores over their four years in high school than peers with similar socioeconomic backgrounds in schools with concentrated poverty.
  • Students in integrated schools are more likely to enroll in college. Students at more affluent schools are 68 percent more likely to enroll at a four-year college than their peers at high-poverty schools.
  • Students in integrated schools are less likely to drop out. Dropout rates are significantly higher for students in segregated, high-poverty schools than for students in integrated schools.
  • Integrated schools help to reduce racial achievement gaps. In fact, the racial achievement gap in K–12 education closed more rapidly during the peak years of school desegregation in the 1970s and 1980s than it has overall in the decades that followed—when many desegregation policies were dismantled. More recently, black and Latino students had smaller achievement gaps with white students on the 2007 and 2009 NAEP when they were less likely to be stuck in high-poverty school environments. The gap in SAT scores between black and white students continues to be larger in segregated districts.
  • Integrated classrooms encourage critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity. We know that diverse classrooms, in which students learn cooperatively alongside those whose perspectives and backgrounds are different from their own, are beneficial to all students—including middle-class white students—because these environments promote creativity, motivation, deeper learning, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.

Civic and Social-Emotional Benefits

  • Attending a diverse school can help reduce racial bias and counter stereotypes. Children are at risk of developing stereotypes about racial groups if they live in and are educated in racially isolated settings. By contrast, when school settings include students from multiple racial groups, students become more comfortable with people of other races, which leads to a dramatic decrease in discriminatory attitudes and prejudices.
  • Students who attend integrated schools are more likely to seek out integrated settings later in life. Integrated schools encourage relationships and friendships across group lines. According to one study, students who attend racially diverse high schools are more likely to live in diverse neighborhoods five years after graduation.
  • Integrated classrooms can improve students’ satisfaction and intellectual self-confidence. Research on diversity at the college level shows that when students have positive experiences interacting with students of other backgrounds and view the campus racial and cultural climate as affirming, they emerge with greater confidence in their own academic abilities.
  • Learning in integrated settings can enhance students’ leadership skills. A longitudinal study of college students found that the more often first-year students were exposed to diverse educational settings, the more their leadership skills improved.

 Economic Benefits

  • School integration efforts produce a high return on investment. According to one recent estimate, reducing socioeconomic segregation in our schools by half would produce a return on investment of 3-5 times the cost of the programs.
  • Attending an integrated school can be a more effective academic intervention than receiving extra funding in a higher-poverty school. One study of students in Montgomery County, Maryland, found that students living in public housing randomly assigned to lower-poverty neighborhoods and schools outperformed those assigned to higher-poverty neighborhoods and schools—even though the higher-poverty schools received extra funding per pupil.
  • School integration promotes more equitable access to resources. Integrating schools can help to reduce disparities in access to well-maintained facilities, highly qualified teachers, challenging courses, and private and public funding.
  • Diverse classrooms prepare students to succeed in a global economy. In higher education, university officials and business leaders argue that diverse college campuses and classrooms prepare students for life, work, and leadership in a more global economy by fostering leaders who are creative, collaborative, and able to navigate deftly in dynamic, multicultural environments.

Adapted from How Racially Diverse Schools and Classrooms Can Benefit All Students (2016) and A Smarter Charter: Finding What Works for Charter Schools and Public Education (2014).

 

For further reading and listening

http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/students-feel-safer-in-ethnically-diverse-middle-schools-ucla-researchers-report

https://tcf.org/assets/downloads/Diverse_Charter_Schools.pdf

https://www.thisamericanlife.org/page/the-case-for-school-desegregation-today-2016-peabody-award-winner

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-diversity-makes-us-smarter/

https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/02/promise-of-integrated-schools/462681/

http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2017/03/16/515788673/try-this-one-trick-to-improve-student-outcomes

https://tcf.org/content/report/how-racially-diverse-schools-and-classrooms-can-benefit-all-students/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/in-theory/wp/2016/06/07/to-really-integrate-schools-focus-on-wealth-not-race/?utm_term=.e9214156a59f