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Creating More Effective Multiethnic Schools


  • Portions of this manuscript were written while the author was a Visiting Fellow at the Research Institute of the Center for the Comparative Study of Race and Ethnicity at Stanford University, and through the additional support of the Rollo May Foundation at Saybrook Graduate School. I also gratefully acknowledge the thoughtful comments and discussions that informed this work with Diane Ketelle, Claude Steele, Dorothy Steele, Hazel Markus, Mary Murphy, Jim Banks, Cherry Banks, Victoria Esses, John Dovidio, and several reviewers along the way. I also wish to thank the students in my Issues of Race and Ethnicity in Education classes—too many to acknowledge individually, but too important to ignore—in helping me to develop my thinking in this area.

*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Sabrina Zirkel, School of Education, Mills College, 5000 MacArthur Blvd., Oakland, CA 94613 [e-mail:].


The empirical literature from education, psychology, and sociology is reviewed in order to identify strategies with demonstrated effectiveness in improving either the educational outcomes of students of color, interethnic relations in schools and colleges, or both. The conceptual framework for this review identifies eight core themes that can guide policy and change efforts in this area: (a) the need to explicitly and directly address issues of aversive and institutional racism, (b) the importance of conceiving of schools as agents of change, (c) the importance of leadership in setting a school or district tone, (d) the paradox that strategies for improving the educational outcomes for students of color can only be achieved by focusing on race and ethnicity, but the outcome of these efforts benefit all students, (e) the goals of improving interethnic relations and the educational outcomes of students of color are linked (in that improving one improves the other), (f) the need to explicitly affirm one's confidence in the abilities of students of color, (g) the importance of creating opportunities for the development of a strong, positive racial or ethnic identity, and (h) the need to create settings in which students feel connected to school through their relationships with peers and teachers.