With the motivation to increase the country’s academic achievement levels and knowledge that diversity in education provides unwavering academic benefits, government leaders and education reform strategists are now focused on finding methods that can be taken to increase and encourage school integration. Methods that have been proposed or implemented include charter schools and school choice. Charter schools are public schools that are operated by independent organizations, such as non-profits. They differ from schools in traditional districts because while a number of high performing traditional schools can have competitive enrollment based on GPA and test scores, charter schools must take all interested applicants. If they receive too many applicants, they select students based on a lottery system. Charter schools, and the idea of school choice, offer great potential to integrate the country’s education system because traditional school models often lead to school demographics that reflect the racial segregation that exists in already segregated neighborhoods. By creating school enrollment systems that provide students with the opportunity to attend almost any school in the district, students and families are allowed to seek schools outside of their immediate neighborhoods. This system will contribute to decreasing the likelihood that schools will reflect the racial and socioeconomic demographic of their surrounding community. In 2011, Denver Public Schools tested this theory out and rolled out its common enrollment system, “SchoolChoice”. This program allowed parents to rank and apply to multiple schools without the need for numerous, complicated applications that disadvantaged many low-income and/or minority parents who did not have the time to fill out multiple forms or suffered from a language barrier making the process much more difficult to complete. The implementation of SchoolChoice proved to be successful as parents reacted positively to the new application system and it worked in diversifying the schools in the district. The enrollment system lead to an increase in the percentage of low-income students and English-language learners attending in-demand schools. Following the triumph of Denver’s SchoolChoice system, other states began to follow suit in creating controlled choice systems that would allow arbitrary geographic boundary lines to become permeable. By allowing families to have a choice in their public schools and implementing enrollment systems, like SchoolChoice, students will be able to attend schools outside of their neighborhood boundaries which increases the likelihood of diversifying classrooms. The Criticisms and Issues That the School Integration Movement FacesSkeptics of using integration as an education reform strategy often question the effects that diversifying schools, racially and socioeconomically, would have on middle- and upper- class, nonminority students. These skeptics refer to reports that in schools with high proportions of disadvantaged children, or children who come from lower-class families, teachers spend more time repeating lessons and focusing on discipline. If teachers are focusing on ensuring that these students are not falling behind and less time on ensuring that other students are progressing and learning, then how is pushing school integration fair for those students who are not disadvantaged? In response to this concern, the federal government released a report in 2015 analyzing the Black-White achievement gap. Their findings showed that “White student achievement in schools with the highest Black student density did not differ from White student achievement in schools with the lowest density”. Thus, further proving that White students are not harmed by attending diverse schools. On the contrary, White students are actually shown to prosper in such diverse settings. As it is the differences in racial and socioeconomic backgrounds that directly contribute to the positive impact that students experience, it is clear that the benefits are not exclusive to only low-income, minority students. In fact, middle- and upper- class students also improve academically. In one set of studies conducted on business students by a professor at Columbia Business School, it was concluded that “when you have people from the social majority in a diverse environment they work harder and focus on the task more”. It was also found that by being involved in discussions with diverse people who have differing viewpoints, due to their different experiences, forces people from the social majority to think critically and evaluate their opinions in order to either defend their thoughts or consider other perspectives. The interaction that White students have with students who are different from them will also positively impact them in the long run. New population projections for the United States suggest that the country will convert into a majority-minority nation in 2044, making it especially important that students now become comfortable with working and participating in a diverse environment. Other critics of using integrated schools as an education reform strategy point to the lack of evidence supporting that school integration is even helping the students it was designed to help, who are the low-income and minority students. In fact, the general consensus among experts today, seem to be that learning alongside White kids only has a modest positive effect on a Black student’s academic performance, including almost no effect on their performance in math. This criticism is often tied in with the argument that the movement and methods used to diversify classrooms, such as charter schools, school choice and school program incentives, while they work to increase school integration, they fail to boost the academic performance of the students they were meant to help. This is because while the country is so fixated on pushing for integration, they overlook the negative effects and growing concerns that still have not been addressed or worked upon. First, while charter schools and school choice systems do work to allow families the flexibility to choose their educational facility and permeate any geographical boundaries that might keep them from escaping impoverished schools, having children travel to schools that might be miles away puts a great strain on a family’s time and money. This prevailing issue dates back to the aftermath of Brown v. Board of Education, where Black families faced heavier burdens than White families to comply with the desegregation mandate, such as longer commutes to school. This shows that, even six decades later, rather than confronting the problems underlying the public system itself and helping to improve already existing schools, the government chooses to offer other solutions and alternatives that might be inconvenient. Not to mention, there are families who do not have the time and money to send their kids to farther, higher performing schools outside of their immediate neighborhood, and therefore, they don’t receive any solution or aide in seeking better education. To combat this issue, school reform strategies cannot ignore the improvements that can, and should be made, to low-performing schools. One method could be to incentivize districts with competitive government grants to encourage the development of magnet programs, dual-language schools, and curriculums that are attractive to colleges and universities. This was the basis of former Secretary of Education, John King Jr.’s, plan to improve the school integration rates of the country. He was adamant on not wanting to force students to attend schools that they did not want to attend, he wanted integration to happen naturally on its own with the creation of these voluntary programs. King believed that middle-class white kids would be attracted to schools with these programs even if the schools were situated in high poverty neighborhoods because of the benefits and advantages these programs could provide to the students. While King’s pursuit was ultimately ended under the current Trump Administration, his idea brought focus onto the theory that to improve low-performing schools, and make them more attractive to middle- and upper-class families, it was critical that they could provide resources, programs, and a curriculum that matched high-performing schools. While school integration has been the over encompassing idea of the education reform movement, others argue school integration, without more, is not enough to help the performance of the American education system and boost the academic achievement levels of its students. These critics refer to statistics that show that even in within the most integrated schools, de facto segregation still exists within the system. Research supports that Black students mostly attend public schools where they are less likely to be placed in honors classes, even if they meet the qualifications to do so. Howard County, the most integrated school district in the Maryland region, shows enrollment records that prove this to be true. There is a disproportionate number of White students in advanced classes, such as honors and advanced placement courses, while the regular and remedial classes are disproportionately Black. Researchers and experts in the field boast highly about the great benefits that integration can provide to all students. But it becomes clear that simply placing students in integrated schools and having them learn in diverse environments, is not enough to ensure the academic success and achievement of all students. A solution, that has been analyzed and proposed, to closing the achievement gap between lower-class, minority students, and middle- and upper-class, nonminority students, is that schools need to employ diverse teachers and administrators. The Center of American Progress reports that more than eighty percent of public school teachers are White. The disparity in diversity in the teaching field is a growing issue because the nation’s students are increasingly diverse. It has been the consensus of recent studies and anecdotal evidence that children often connect best with people who look and sound like them. This is especially important for diverse school students who are placed in diverse learning environments, but only have White authority figures to go to for mentorship and counsel. By placing diverse people into higher roles to lead and serve as role models, there is a higher likelihood that diverse students can have access to teachers and administrators who understand their family and cultural background, and socioeconomic situations. Numerous studies support this theory by showing that increasing teacher diversity has been shown to improve student performance by several percentage points.Additional benefits that come from increasing the diversity pool of teachers and administrators include the likelihood of decreasing racial biases that occurs within the school system. In a national study, done in 2016, there were reports that White teachers expected significantly less academic success from Black students than Black teachers did. This contributes to the de facto segregation that occurs within even integrated schools because teachers might devote more effort and attention to the students that they believe will be successful, whether or not that belief comes from any implicit biases. By placing more diverse figures in authoritative positions in schools, it would help decrease the likelihood of de facto segregation occurring. According to a recent study, that tracked the educational journey of more than 10,000 students, Black students are three times less likely to be assigned to gifted-and-talented reading courses when they are taught by non-Black teachers versus when they are taught by Black teachers. Given the racial makeup of the nation’s current teacher pool, improving diversity in this area is a great concern that must be addressed in order to push for school integration as an effective educational reform policy.Can School Integration Work As An Education Reform Strategy?The pursuit for school integration and increased diversity in education since Brown v. Board of Education has been a complicated and difficult journey. Within the past six decades, research on the positive implications of integrated schools have grown exponentially, with the strong consensus that racial and socioeconomic diversity is beneficial to all children. Despite this, the growing body of research and support for the importance of diversity in schools has not been reflected in what has been done to further progress and execute school integration. Schools are more segregated now than they have been in decades and there has been much debate on what can be done to bring back school integration as an education reform strategy. The conversation amongst the nation’s leaders and education reformists have been centered on promoting the great range of benefits that diverse classrooms can provide for students and giving families more control in deciding the school they want to attend. However, while school integration can serve as a great tool in helping improve the education system of the nation, it cannot be ignored that there are still students attending schools that desperately need the resources and help to increase their academic performance levels. While the promotion of school integration is extremely beneficial and critical to providing students with equal opportunities to quality education, integration without more is not particularly effective in combating issues of inconvenience and burden on families, and the existence of de facto segregation. Only until these problems are addressed can school integration be used as an effective education reform strategy to improve the academic achievement levels of the nation as a whole.