Beyond Brown: Pursuing the Promise Image Strip of Linda <i>Brown</i> walking to school, girl taking test at desk, Nettie Hunt and daughter with newspaper headline on steps of Supreme Court, present day children raising hands, children at computers
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Recognizing and Combating Segregation in U.S. Schools Today
Download the full Lesson Plan including the Student Activity Sheets here (PDF) Background: Fifty years after the Brown v. Board of Education decision outlawed segregated schools, many students today still find themselves attending segregated schools. Upon examining the statistics, it is safe to say that a major factor in today's segregation is poverty. According to statistics, "Only 15 percent of highly-segregated white schools have student bodies living in concentrated poverty. Some 88 percent of highly-segregated minority schools have student populations living in concentrated poverty." In addition to poverty, segregation also occurs inside integrated schools as well. Because of ability tracking, "You have Latino kids who go through their entire school day without seeing a white kid, and you have white kids who have almost no interaction with their Latino classmates, and it is all done within the same school," says North Hollywood High School teacher Randy Vail. Looking at these and other factors, we must examine ways to identify segregation within today's schools and make an active effort to combat against it in order for students to learn to work together.

Grade Levels: Grades 9 -12
Subject Areas: Civics, Government, Citizenship, Debate, Math, Language Arts
Estimated Time: Students will need 3-4 forty-five minute class periods to complete the lesson.

Learning Objectives
Students will:
1. Use decision making skills to cast ballots about school segregation and justify these decisions using their own examples and reasons in a class discussion.
2. Use basic computation skills to tabulate the results of class voting on school segregation as well as the results of their independent surveys about segregation in their school.
3. Utilize discussion skills and reinforce personal opinions through the use of reasons,facts, and examples.
4. Utilize critical viewing and/or reading skills to learn facts about school segregation in the U.S. today.
5. Conduct primary source research about segregation issues within their school.
6. Create, administer, and tabulate the results of a survey about segregation within their own school.
7. Create graphs, tables, or charts to represent the statistical data they have collected about segregation in their school through the form of research, interviews, or surveys.
8. Utilize group work skills when working with group members to conduct research and/or surveys and create group projects related to school segregation issues.
9. Use group presentation skills to showcase what they have learned about segregation in their school and ideas they have for addressing the school's segregation issues.

Relevant National Standards
This lesson correlates to the national McREL standards located online at

Standard 11: Understands the role of diversity in American life and the importance of shared values, political beliefs, and civic beliefs in an increasingly diverse American society

Behavioral Studies
Standard 4: Understands conflict, cooperation, and interdependence among individuals, groups, and institutions

Standard 2: Understands and applies basic and advanced properties of the concepts of numbers
Standard 3: Uses basic and advanced procedures while performing the processes of computation
Standard 6: Understand and applies basic and advanced concepts of statistics and data analysis

Language Arts
Standard 4: Gathers and uses information for research purposes
Standard 7: Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts
Listening and Speaking
Standard 8: Uses listening and speaking strategies to understand and interpret visual media
Standard 9: Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual media

Thinking and Reasoning
Standard 1: Understands and applies the basic principles of presenting an argument
Standard 5: Applies basic trouble-shooting and problem-solving techniques
Standard 6: Applies decision making techniques

Working with Others
Standard 1: Contributes to the overall effort of a group
Standard 4: Displays effective interpersonal communication skills

Materials Needed
  • red and green paper cut into strips for students to use as ballots
  • box/container to use when collecting ballots
  • television and vcr for viewing the film
  • computers with Internet access for viewing "Beyond Brown " web site content or photocopies of "Facts" section from the "Beyond Brown " web site (see plan)
  • Take Action Planning Guide (provided with plan - Download)
  • computers with word processing, multimedia, and desktop publishing capability
  • assorted art supplies such as poster board, paints, markers, stencils, glue, scissors

NOTE: To purchase "Beyond Brown: Pursuing the Promise" on video or DVD visit or call 1-800-343-5540 or write to
Firelight Media
P.O. Box 1084
Harriman, NY 10926

Part 1: Are American School Still Segregated?
1. As students are entering the classroom, hand each one a slip of red paper and a slip of green paper.

2. Once students are seated, have them write their first and last name on both the red and green slips of paper. Next, reveal the following question:
Do you believe that American schools today are still segregated (separated by race)? Yes or No. Explain to students that they will have to use their papers to vote on this question. If they think the answer is Yes, they should put their red paper slip in the box. If they think the answer is No, they should put their green paper slip in the box. Remind students that they should have at least one specific reason for why they voted the way they did and that they will need to be prepared to share it with the class. Begin circulating around the classroom and collecting student votes in your box. All students must vote.

3. When all votes have been collected, take a moment to review the term segregation. Explain to students that school used to be separated by race. Next, facilitate a short discussion about the question:
Do you believe that American schools today are still segregated (separated by race)? Yes or No. Randomly choose a vote from the box. Reveal whether it is a Yes or No vote. Then, reveal the name of the person who voted this way by reading it from the slip of paper. Ask this student to explain why he/she voted this way. Repeat this process until all votes have been taken out of the box. Throughout the discussion, use the overhead or board to record the reasons why students voted the way they did. Make an area for YES vote reasons and an area for NO vote reasons and record these reasons as each student explains why he/she voted the way he/she did.

4. Tabulate the results of the voting as a class. Count the total number of votes for Yes and No and complete the basic math computations necessary to determine the percentage of students in the class who voted each way.

5. Now that students have discussed the idea of school segregation today, view the following portions of the program "Beyond Brown: Pursuing the Promise"
• Watch from 14:36 to 23:20 to learn about how tracking has segregated students in North Hollywood High School • Watch from 34:39 to 43:16 to see how METCO, a voluntary desegregation program is being used to promote diversity within the Lincoln school system.

6. To get students to see that statistically school segregation still exists, have them visit the Beyond Brown web site "Do We Still Care About Integration" facts section at to see the numbers related to school segregation in the U.S. In addition, direct them to the "Are You Gifted" portion of the site to see more facts related to segregation at Go to the "For Educators" section of the site to see charts and graphs from the Ellis Cose report that illustrate the racial disparities in education today at Discuss a number of key facts from each of the resources so students can see the scope and effects of school segregation in the U.S today. Talk about how school segregation impacts:
• the economy • how communities and races have become segregated based on income • how economic segregation affects availability of jobs and future earnings of students living in poverty stricken areas • society • racial interaction among groups in communities • racial interaction among adults in college and work environments • politics • involvement of minorities in the political process • political representation for minority issues and agendas • policies related to education and minority rights

NOTE: Printed photocopies of these statistics and facts could also be distributed for review and discussion if Internet access is unavailable.

Part 2: Is Your School Segregated?
7. It is now time for students to make some generalizations about how their own school compares to others they have seen and heard about. This could be a statistical comparison using research data or it could be a more informal set of data gathered by students through the use of surveys given to peers. It could also be a combination of both types of data, depending on the interest of the groups. As groups work to form ideas for addressing the problem of school segregation, have them use the Take Action Planning Guide worksheet to develop their project and action plan.

8. Give students time to work in groups to conduct research/surveys and compile their information into a format for presentation. Be sure all students are contributing to the formal presentation by circulating among groups and checking progress frequently.

9. When all groups have completed their projects, have each group present what they have created to the class. In addition, have groups submit their projects to the appropriate school leaders (student council, principal, superintendent, other students, parent-teacher organizations, etc.) to call attention to the school segregation issues that exist within the school and make others aware of things they can do to address the situation. In addition, encourage the people seeing the project to respond in some way so that groups know their concerns have been heard.

10. To provide students with closure on the project, ask them to write a 1-2 paragraph response for each of the items below.
• As you completed the project, what surprised you about the data you were able to collect? Did you feel the data collected was an accurate reflection of the school?
• Did the data you collected match the type of school experience you have had at this school? Explain why or why not. • Do you feel that your presentation was effective and taken seriously by those it was presented to? Why or why not? • Do you think that by presenting your findings, you will be able to make a difference in the experiences of other students in the school?

Evaluation Ideas
1. Students could receive a participation grade for the class discussion activities.
2. Each student could earn an individual grade on his/her portion or contribution to the overall group project and presentation. This could be assigned using a scoring guide of through the use of teacher, peer, and individual evaluation checklists.
3. Each student should receive a grade for completing the written response questionsin Step 10 of the lesson.

Extension Activities
1. Help students work as a class to host a diversity fair for the student body. Invite other students in the school and community groups in to conduct short workshops about different cultures and cultural awareness, communication, and problem-solving. Have booths created by students and groups to showcase cultural identity. Utilize appropriate class projects created in the lesson above to get students thinking about segregation in the school and what each person can do to promote a more integrated school and sense of community within the building.
2. Have students arrange a panel discussion where they invite members of the school leadership, community, and legislators to answer questions related to their research findings and action plan ideas.

Online Resources

Beyond Brown: Pursuing the Promise
"Do We Still Care About Integration" facts section at to see the numbers related to school segregation in the U.S.
"Are You Gifted" portion of the site to see more facts related to school segregation at
"For Educators" section of the site to see charts and graphs from the Ellis Cose report that illustrate the racial disparities in education today at

U.S. Department of Education
Visit the site for statistics and data about achievement levels of students by race as well as students receiving special services by race

ENC Online
The article "Keeping Track, Part 1: The Policy and Practice of Curriculum Inequality" describe the tracking process and discusses how this negatively impacts poor and minority students

Applied Research Center
The report "No Exit? Testing, Tracking, and Students of Color in U.S Public Schools" discusses tracking and the use of high stakes testing and how it puts minority students at a disadvantage in U.S. schools. See the report at

Teaching Tolerance Magazine
Produced by the Southern Poverty Law Center, this site contains information about the impact of the Brown decision while addressing the resegregation of American schools because of factors such as poverty. It addresses what we can do to continue to fight segregation and offer equal educational opportunities to all students

About the Author:
Lisa Prososki is an independent educational consultant who taught middle school and high school English, social studies, reading, and technology courses for twelve years. Prososki has worked extensively with PBS authoring and editing many lesson plans for various PBS programs and Teacher - Source. In addition to conducting workshops for teachers at various state and national meetings, Prososki also works with many corporate clients creating training programs and materials, facilitating leadership and operations workshops, and providing instructional support for new program rollouts. Prososki has authored one book and also serves as an editor for other writers of instructional materials.

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