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Spring 2004
Diversity, Economics and Education
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Partnerships with local colleges and universities, such as that between Rousseau's District I and UCLA, are one way that some school districts have attempted to overcome their limitations. Rousseau, who taught as an adjunct in the UCLA education school, also has set up a credentialing center in partnership with Cal State Dominguez Hills.

Still, many school districts are not within proximity to local colleges or universities and don't have the advantage of such a connection. The pressure keeps growing to provide equal educational opportunities for all students and standardized testing by which schools can be held accountable for the performance of their students. But the attempts to equalize the educational experience for all students and to standardize testing are often among the roadblocks that prevent schools from making good use of their diversity.

Professor Furumoto cites the Open Court reading program, a highly scripted program with heavy emphasis on phonics and recitation exercises, as an example of how curricula sometimes are freighted with good intentions that lead to bad results. The program has been adapted by LAUSD and many other school districts around the country for use in elementary classrooms.

"The argument in favor of Open Court is that it treats all students identically. It doesn't permit any cultural bias or discrimination to rear its head," Furumoto says. "The problem is that it deters academic freedom and flexibility. It prevents teachers from tailoring their lessons to the needs of their particular pupils. For instance, in a classroom that is largely composed of immigrants and the children of immigrants, it makes sense to structure lessons to take advantage of that for studying cultures, society, history, geography, economy, etc. It can also help to bring the family and community into the classroom. But Open Court doesn't allow for that sort of thing."

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