Six decades after Brown v. Board of Education, the promise of equal education for all remains elusive. Despite overwhelming evidence that integrated schools are better for all students, far too many American children are still forced to attend schools separated from their peers of different social, economic, and racial backgrounds. More than one-third of students attend schools with student bodies that are almost entirely white or nonwhite, and the federal government has failed to take an active role in promoting integration. Since the 1950s, progress has stalled and, in some cases, reversed.
The Bridges Collaborative—a new, first-of-its-kind school integration initiative powered by The Century Foundation—aims to change that by reigniting a nationwide movement for integrated schools and diverse neighborhoods, and serving as a hub for practitioners from across the country.
To achieve this, The Century Foundation collaborated with Social Innovation Consultancy GOOD WORX. GOOD WORX’ task was to train educators nationwide, empower them to facilitate impactful conversations about school desegregation and support them in promoting equality in education both individually and as a collective.
GOOD WORX developed and facilitated live, virtual training sessions that provided attendees with education about the best ways to lead productive conversation about school integration, discussion and Q&A. The total training duration across both sessions was two and a half hours total, and multiple sessions were offered to accommodate educators’ schedules and availability. Office Hours sessions were also provided to help educators draft communications that fit their school, community and diversity goals.
Sessions had to be curated to overcome a range of challenges:
Inclusion of educators from different types of school structures, including public and charter schools.
Inclusion of educators from communities across the US with different levels of diversity, from all white and privileged student bodies, to schools that serve Black and brown students of color in low-income communities.
Inclusion of advocates within Housing Organizations who support families with school placement and registration.
With conversations about COVID/masking, book bans and more creating division within school communities, the training needed to demonstrate a clear need for focused attention on this issue.
The live training sessions translated complicated scientific data from The Century Foundation’s landmark research into actionable approaches proven to create enthusiasm for school integration. Each messaging training included lecture style education, breakout groups and guided work sessions, encouraging group discussion, exchange and peer learning.
The impact of the training was compelling, with attendees using the skills they learned almost immediately. 90+ attendees representing school districts in California, New York, Washington, DC, Colorado and more, participated in 2.5 hours of training,
An official School Integration Messaging Guide was created and distributed to support attendees in their continued efforts.
Participant responses to the training including the following:
“It was very helpful how the approaches were broken down and then being able to practice in our breakout groups. If there is another opportunity to practice, I welcome it.”
“I really liked the facilitation- it was active/productive without feeling rushed. In the end, I did not feel the weight/Zoom fatigue that I normally feel after 90 min meetings.”
“The breakout sessions were the most meaningful part of the training. It was helpful to learn about the challenges that different schools/programs are facing in terms of messaging and how they are addressing them. It was also helpful to be led through the step by step worksheets together as a group, with sharing along the way.”
Majority of participants surveyed post training strongly agreed they learned new information at the training that they will bring back to their organization. They also noted they left the training feeling more prepared to talk about and advance integration in my organization/community
Buzz about the impact of the training piqued the interest of the National Coalition on School Diversity in Washington, DC, a national network advocating for practices and policies that promote school diversity/integration and reduce racial and economic isolation in K-12 education. The session was offered on multiple dates to their nationwide network of scholars and advocates deeply involved in evidence-based policy making.
The Bridges Collaborative continues to offer the training to prepare their collective to drive equity and equality in the US school system.