"Stronger Together" is not the name of the latest social-media fitness app. It's a grant proposed in President Obama's new budget, reviving an idea that hasn't gotten much policy attention in decades: diversity in public schools. If the request is approved, $120 million will go to school districts for programs intended to make their schools more diverse.
As a new pair of reports from the progressive Century Foundation shows, integration policies have seen a resurgence: In 2007, 40 districts pursued integration. Today that number has more than doubled, to 83, plus nine charter schools or networks. That adds up to a total of 4 million students in classrooms that are more diverse than they'd otherwise be.
This new wave of integration has come with one big difference that sets it apart from the busing battles of the past. These programs rely on family income, not race, as the driver.
To be clear, there's evidence that socially as well as racially integrated schools benefit all students. When a school reaches a stable level of about 30 percent middle-class students, the lower-income students achieve at higher levels and the privileged students do no worse, says Halley Potter, the author of one of the Century Foundation reports. Similarly, the racial achievement gap shrinks in schools that have less than a "supermajority" of 60 percent of any one race.
But the real case for diverse schools is a lot bigger than test scores, says Amy Stuart Wells, who teaches at Teachers College, Columbia University, and is the author of the second report. "The qualitative and quantitative evidence is powerful enough to say, 'We should do this.' "