Experts React: The Most Diverse High Schools in MA
Saturday, June 01, 2013
An opportunity for more diversity
The Metropolitan Council for Education Opportunity, Inc. (METCO) offers a voluntary program intended to expand educational opportunities, increase diversity, and reduce racial isolation, by permitting students in certain cities to attend public schools in other communities that have agreed to participate, and funded by grants from the Commonwealth.
The METCO program was established in 1966, following the passage of the state's racial imbalance law after a study by the Department of Education found greater benefits from having racially integrated rather than segregated schools.
"We use the term diversity in this day, but back then it was an attempt to make sure that school district's weren't all white, all poor kids, because it's not an environment that's optimal for learning," said John Shandorf, associate director at METCO, Inc.
More than 10,000 students have gone through the METCO program since its establishment, and roughly 3,300 students currently participate in 33 school districts in metropolitan Boston and at four school districts outside Springfield.
The program's participants experience a higher graduation rate and a higher go to college rate than their peers in their sending districts.
"You have very established success academically," said Shandorf, adding, "you also look at where the graduates have gone."
A number of the principals in Boston public schools are graduates of METCO programs, and other METCO alumni are in positions of influence through the Commonwealth and across the country.
Shandorf also noted the learning opportunities for students of the resident schools to learn more about their peers with different backgrounds from Boston and Springfield.
"Worcester tries to confront enormous challenges, the challenges to the diversity of the school population, the complexity of its makeup through educational sectors; that it has managed to preserve a space where lies opportunity to unite individuals with significant differences of caste, creed, costume, custom, cuisine, and culture," she said.
According to Pavlov, education is a way of containing diversity as it gives everyone a chance to learn and pursue objectives to find their own place in the world.
"With a multitude of languages completely different from each other, with different scripts, different vocabularies, and different grammatical rules this leads to need for necessary support services in this arena especially with translation services and beyond," she said. "In any school cafeteria in the city, you find diversities of cuisine and the kinds of attire. This creates opportunities to learn from our neighbors and community members and weave in global cultures in school based learning through an appreciation of all cultures."
The challenges of a multicultural population
However, despite the diversity of the city's population, minority students are still the most underserved in Worcester, said Pavlov.
"For example, with the recent wave of Nepali refugees in the city, in 2012 Ivy Child International was the only mental health service organization in the Commonwealth that provided all of our programs and services in Nepali," she said. "This is a single facet to many more challenges working with diverse communities pose. Education for not only the students but also the caregivers and providers remains imperative for sustaining and harmonious success in integration."
One of Ivy Child International's chief initiatives is helping teachers and administrators understand the nuances of serving multicultural families and students throughout Worcester.
"Unfortunately, often times families are misunderstood and mislabeled as a result of their inability to navigate the systems at hand," Pavlov said. "School officials are also at times ill-equipped to appropriately respond to the needs of these families, which further emphasizes the priority to focus on enhancing and expanding multicultural initiatives in the city."
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