The word “bricolage” means something “created from a variety of available things.” It seems appropriate then that Bricolage Academy in New Orleans seeks to benefit its students by creating a socio-economically diverse population. Guided by the philosophy that the world is constantly changing and will look very different in 20 years, Bricolage, which opens this fall,* seeks to prepare its students for greatness in this world as adults. This is just one example of a group of new charter schools that are intentionally setting out to create a diverse population of students.
In a recently released Education Next study, Alexander Russo examines charter schools, like Bricolage, that are cropping up with the explicit mission of creating a mix of black, Latino, and white families. This is a sharp contrast to the typical urban charter school that serves often homogeneous groups of mostly low-income and minority students.
Diversity in schools is important. Research has demonstrated that students who learn how to work and play with peers from other backgrounds are more likely to work, hire, and interact with people who are socio-economically different from them as adults. As the world becomes more of a melting pot, these are necessary 21st-century skills. Russo points out that other research has shown that diverse schools can also help low-income students improve their academic skills.
The challenge? Creating successful diverse charter schools.
To do so, Russo says diverse charters need a combination of careful design, highly skilled teachers, and strong relationships between teachers and parents from different cultures and professional backgrounds. Russo observes that classes in unsuccessful diverse charters are disjointed and unable to teach to all levels of student capabilities. Careful structure and planning is necessary so advanced students are not bored and struggling students are not overwhelmed. Some strategies include: conducting frequent online diagnostic assessments, assigning open-ended tasks to engage students of all skill levels, and co-teaching. Perhaps blended learning may be part of the solution to creating successful diverse charters, as schools use technology to facilitate teaching students at varying performance levels and with different educational needs.
Bricolage Academy predicts an uncertain and changing economy and a world that is more interconnected than ever before and promises to prepare students to compete in that world. When successfully implemented, diverse charters have the ability to equip students with problem-solving abilities, creativity, and an understanding of different cultures and backgrounds—skills needed to compete in the 21st century.
*updated for clarification.
Photo Credit: Open Education Database