A Study of Alternatives in American Education

Vol. V, Diversity in the Classroom

by Pierce Barker, Tora K. Bikson, Jackie Kimbrough, Carol Frost

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Using datasets generated by classroom observations and questionnaires, the authors construct a three-dimensional, spatial model with which to measure the educational diversity achieved in an educational voucher demonstration conducted in the Alum Rock Elementary School District, San Jose, California. The study sample comprised 34 nonvoucher and 40 voucher classrooms, the latter representing 19 mini-schools within eight elementary schools and offering nominally diverse curricular options for consideration by students and parents. With three striking and unexplained exceptions, the study found that the demonstration did not achieve an observable diversity of educational alternatives. Because diversity was at least possible and was encouraged, one can conclude that alternative programs permit diversity but are unable to ensure it. Perhaps the study's main contribution is the model and its methodological basis, which appears to be a valid means of detecting and portraying variation among educational alternatives.

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