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Educational Policy Studies News

UW-Madison's Turner authors, 'Suddenly Diverse: How School Districts Manage Race and Inequality'

February 27, 2020

UW-Madison’s Erica Turner, an associate professor with the School of Education’s Department of Educational Policy Studies, recently wrote a new book, “Suddenly Diverse: How School Districts Manage Race and Inequality.”

Turner’s work notes that American public schools have been enrolling more students identified as black, Latinx, American Indian, and Asian than white students over the past five years. Additionally, more than half of U.S. students qualify for federally subsidized meals, a marker of poverty.

Suddenly Diverse book coverIndeed, the makeup of schools is changing quickly, and many districts and school boards are struggling with how best to effectively and equitably handle these shifts.

A preview of the book explains how “Suddenly Diverse” is an ethnographic account of two school districts in the Midwest — one predominantly working class and conservative, while the other is more affluent and liberal — responding to these rapidly changing demographics at their schools.

Turner's work is based on observations and in-depth interviews with school board members and superintendents, as well as staff, community members, and other stakeholders in each district.

Turner finds that, despite good intentions from district leaders, they often adopted policies and practices that perpetuated existing inequalities and advanced forms of racism.

Suggesting ways forward, Turner shows that changes need to be made. Without transformations to the system, she argues, even the best efforts of district members will undermine the promise of equity for students.

Learn more about Turner's book here.

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