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Reflections on Brown to Understand Milliken v. Bradley: What if We are Focusing on the Wrong Policy Questions?


by H. Richard Milner IV, Lori A. Delale-O'Connor, Ira E. Murray & Abiola A. Farinde — 2016

Background/Context: Prior research on Milliken v. Bradley focuses on the failure of this case to implement interdistrict busing in the highly segregated Detroit schools. Much of this work focuses explicitly on desegregation, rather than on equity and addressing individual, systemic, institutional, and organizational challenges that may prevent the advancement and actualization of desegregation to benefit Black students, teachers, and communities.

Purpose/Objective: In this study, we shed light on the impacts of desegregation on Black students, teachers, and communities. We argue that Brown, Milliken, and associated policies that attempt to address segregation focus mostly on student assignment policies. Our focus instead is on highlighting the underconceptualized microlevel realities of desegregation, which include the losses of cultural and community connections, strong role models, and connections to school.

Population/Participants: This study draws from interview data collected from three experts in the field of education whose research focuses on school desegregation. The interview participants have written scholarly articles and/or book chapters about desegregation and related influences on/for Black teachers, Black students, and Black communities spanning the PreK–12 and higher education spectrum.

Research Design: This study employs in-depth qualitative interviewing.

Data Collection and Analysis: Interviews were conducted by phone and lasted approximately 45 minutes to an hour. Participants in the study were asked questions about the impact of desegregation and education on Black teachers’ experience, self-concept, dedication, and retention; Black students’ experience of schools and school-related success; experience and connection of Black communities; and “next steps” in educating Black students. An interpretive perspective was used to guide the interview analyses in this study.

Findings/Results: Analysis of the expert interviews reveals the underexplored microlevel losses and harmful effects of desegregation policies and politics on Black children, families, and communities.

Conclusions/Recommendations: Evidence from these researchers who have studied desegregation suggests that for many Black students and educators, desegregation was unsuccessful—even when there were superficial indicators of success. We suggest that both researchers and policy makers should consider drawing from the potential losses associated with desegregation and focusing on the equity, regardless of schooling location and population.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 118 Number 3, 2016, p. 1-32
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 18248, Date Accessed: 12/11/2017 2:30:10 AM

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About the Author
  • H. Richard Milner IV
    University of Pittsburgh
    H. RICHARD MILNER IV is Helen Faison Professor of Urban Education, Professor of Education, Professor of Sociology, Professor of Social Work, and Professor of Africana Studies as well as Director of the Center for Urban Education at the University of Pittsburgh. His research, teaching, and policy interests concern urban (teacher) education, African American literature, and the sociology of education. His recent book is Rac(e)ing to Class: Confronting Poverty and Race in Schools and Classrooms (Harvard Education Press, 2015).
  • Lori Delale-O'Connor
    University of Pittsburgh
    E-mail Author
    LORI A. DELALE-O’CONNOR is the Associate Director of Research and Development at the Center for Urban Education in the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Education and a Research Assistant Professor of Education. Her research interests include the social and cultural contexts of education, parent engagement, and youth development, all with a focus on urban schools and neighborhoods.
  • Ira Murray
    University of Pittsburgh
    E-mail Author
    IRA E. MURRAY is a K. Leroy Irvis fellow and graduate research and teaching associate at the Center for Urban Education in the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Education. His research interests focus on urban education, particularly out-of-school time supports for urban students and sociopolitical youth development.
  • Abiola Farinde
    University of Pittsburgh
    E-mail Author
    ABIOLA A. FARINDE is a post-doctoral research fellow at the Center for Urban Education in the School of Education at the University of Pittsburgh. Her research interests are the educational experiences of women and girls of color, teacher retention, the STEM pipeline, and urban teacher education.
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