Research by DeBray, others cited in 'American Prospect' magazine
A little-known federal program aimed at promoting school diversity ended up getting watered down at the local level, according to a study co-authored by a University of Georgia College of Education professor and featured in a new article in The American Prospect magazine.
The study looked at the effectiveness of the TASAP program, or Technical Assistance for Student Assignment Plans. Earmarked in 2009, the program offers technical assistance to districts seeking to promote student diversity and combat segregation. Although, as Elizabeth DeBray and the other researchers found, the program lacked a strategy, and the Department of Education, which administered the program, did not clearly define what "diversity" should mean and provided little oversight for the program.
DeBray is a professor in the department of lifelong education, administration and policy who specializes in educational administration and policy. She conducted the study with Kathryn A. McDermott from the University of Massachusetts, Erica Frankenberg from the Pennsylvania State University and Ann Elizabeth Blankenship from the University of Southern Mississippi.
The American Prospect article notes that while it seemed reasonable to defer to local districts to administer the program, the researchers found that other issues ended up "crowding out" diversity from the political agenda. The researchers found that "districts with current or past commitments to diversity could not necessarily sustain those commitments in the face of public indifference to diversity as a goal and of other pressing priorities, such as boosting test scores, implementing budget austerity and attempting to recruit or retain middle-class and white students."
The main problem with the "something beats nothing" TSAP approach, the researchers noted, was that several districts did not end up using their funds to promote diversity.