Action Civics: School Segregation and Education Inequality
Grade level: 9 to 12
Activity type: Project
Period: Multiple class sessions
Related subjects: Government, U.S History
The Ten Questions framework is designed to help young people engage with political and ethical questions around civic participation in a developmental sequence. Our goal is to use the Ten Questions to encourage young people to reflect on possible actions and their consequences before making a decision, so as to maximize the benefit and minimize the risks involved. The following student action project provides an example of how to execute the Ten Questions in a civics class. This unit draws upon an action project conducted by a group of high school students in Brighton, MA about school segregation and education inequality.
- Why is it important that young people have equal opportunities to receive education?
- What does school segregation look like today, how does it occur, and how does it affect students’ lives?
- What is the relationship between how education is funded and how school segregation occurs today?
- What actions can students take to address this issue?
- Examine how the distribution of school funding produces inequality and segregation in education.
- Discuss how students see the education environment and how they think it can and should be improved.
- Outline strategies to influence local politicians and raise awareness around education inequality.
- Take action.
- Distribute copies of "Crossing the Gap" (Teaching Tolerance) to students. Discuss how students relate to the story themselves.
Have students form small groups. Provide them access to the Internet and have students search for funding inequality in their state. For example, students in Brighton looked up an interactive map produced by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center that showed funding gaps by district across the state. In absence of Internet access, provide copies of the Education Trust's report titled “Funding Gaps 2015.” Have students:
- Compare their district to other districts.
- Discuss why disparities might have occurred.
- Identify related local government bills.
- As a group, have students select one particular topic in education inequality and formulate potential solutions. Have students develop an action project about education inequality.
- Distribute the Ten Questions and have students discuss the topic and the action process using them.
- Have students clarify methods of investigation for their project, like interviews, additional statistical data, newspaper articles, and online research. Give students time to begin work on their project
After coming back to class, students share what they have investigated so far. Focusing on Questions 8, 9, and 10 in the Ten Questions, discuss what actions students can take to translate voice into change. Options might include
- Write the letter to local politicians.
- Use social media to contact local government
- Identify education advocacy groups, city-wide education affairs, or conferences. Present the projects for awareness raising.
- Bring your proposal to the real world and try them out. After action, have students reflect on the project as a whole class and have them write a reflection journal about their experience.