Warmth of Other Schools Report
American Federation for Children-Tennessee released a new report, “The Warmth of Other Schools: Supporting Underrepresented Students in Private Schools.” The report is a compilation of existing research and interviews with experts and practitioners who are already engaged in the work of creating the best learning environment possible for all students, regardless of socioeconomic status. The report is authored by Shaka Mitchell, AFC-TN’s state director; Trent Carlson, a 7th grade teacher at Nashville Classical Charter School; and Briana Falduti, a graduate student at Vanderbilt University pursuing a Master of Public Policy in education policy.
“Over the past few years, when topics of civil rights, social justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion have increasingly become part of the public consciousness, I was reminded that while school choice can be transformational for children, families, and communities, choice alone is not enough,” said Mitchell. “The schools that parents choose must also serve those students well. In surveying the existing resources, we felt additional tools were necessary to equip those who seek to foster inclusive, equitable, and mission-oriented environments for all students and families.”
The report also features a Road Map for school leaders and boards that want to improve their school community’s climate. Mitchell believes these practices benefit not only incoming students, but the whole school community, which will be richer for having supported new students.
A comment from one alumnus interviewed in the report illustrates the tension that thousands of students feel each year–that private schools can be a lifeline but navigating them is often fraught: “The [private school] prepared me better for college, so I’m actually happy that I went to that school, but I wish that I saw more people—students and faculty—that looked like me. I couldn’t relate to a lot of the students coming in (entering 9th grade). Their parents had money. If they had trouble, their parents got them tutors. Their problems in life were not similar to my problems in life.”
“As more families across the country are utilizing choice programs, and poll after poll shows their popularity, AFC-TN wants to ensure these students are supported after they step on campus for the first time. We hope this report will give school leaders the tools they need to do so,” Mitchell concluded.