Diversity

diversity

Diversity

As Rogers has grown, our local schools have attracted students from more than 40 different countries who have at least 32 different native languages. In Rogers, and in true American fashion, we have embraced every child. Our mission is very clear that we want to create an environment of educational excellence where all belong, all learn and all succeed. We know part of what has made our country great is that we are a melting pot of many people who have all contributed to making this country what it is.
 
Despite knowing this, every once in a while parents will wonder to themselves or to a friend, how does having students who are still in the process of learning English in the same classroom affect my child and his or her learning? In Rogers, we have committed to taking every child to his or her highest level of potential – whether they are gifted and talented students, English language learners, or have any number of special needs.
 
Focusing on each student's talents and challenges has only made us better. Teachers have taken a hard look at their work and received excellent training on instructional strategies that are great for all children – using more visual aids, developing vocabulary, tailoring instruction to each child’s needs and being a mentor for students.
 
All that hard work is paying off with high student achievement. Take a look at the numbers; all of our schools score above the national average on nationally norm-referenced tests like the SAT10, an in-depth assessment that measures students’ skills in reading, language arts and math and their critical thinking ability. Many of our schools rank in the 70thand 80th percentile, which means if you compare them to 100 other schools in the country, our students are outperforming 70 to 80 of those schools.
 
If you take a look at our Benchmark exams, gifted and talented students perform as you would expect with 98 to 100 percent being proficient or advanced for their grade, even those who are new to the English language.
 
As our schools have grown more diverse, we also have seen a tremendous growth in achievement. From 2001 to 2009 we saw double-digit gains in every Benchmark area tested for that length of time.
 
In Rogers, although it looks and feels like a smaller community, we have learned what the top universities and Fortune 500 companies know, and that is diversity makes us better.
 
A Washington Post article reported an important study by University of Illinois professor Cedric Herring which found a close relationship between diversity and business success.
 
“Those companies that have very low levels of racial and ethnic minorities have the lowest profits and the lowest market share and the lowest number of customers,” Herring said in the article. “Those that have medium levels do better, and those that have the highest levels do the best.”
 
Herring noted that having more diversity makes companies more responsive to customers and open to diverse ideas, attitudes and life experiences. Having that information makes companies more alert to threats and opportunities.
 
The CEO and chairman of Booz Allen Hamilton, a $4 billion strategic management firm, is keenly aware of this. Ralph Shrader told his associates that diverse groups accomplish great things. “Diversity makes us kinder and higher performing,” he said. “By contrast, cookie-cutter clicks that think and act alike have proven time and again – to be less bright, less than nice, and less than productive.”
 
Schrader highly recommended a book by New Yorker columnist James Suroweicki called "The Wisdom of Crowds" about economics, innovation, and culture. The book gives many examples of how large diverse groups of people are able to produce better decisions than an elite few, no matter how brilliant the few. “The diverse group is better at solving problems, fostering innovation, coming to wise decisions, even predicting the future,” according to Suroweicki.
 
In Rogers, our students who find themselves next to someone who may have moved into the area from another part of the United States or another country can consider themselves lucky. They will be prepared for the world they will enter after graduation.
 
A 2007 New York Times article noted that diversity is what makes teams click and that multicultural teams are becoming increasingly common in a range of industries.
 
“For one thing, companies now have more diverse work forces, so that even teams from a single office are more likely to include members with a range of cultural backgrounds. At the same time, companies are marketing, manufacturing and selling more products globally, and the teams in charge of those efforts are more likely to be multicultural.” The author, Kelley Holland, noted that managing the differences within the group can be tricky.
 
“The key to success,” she wrote, “is understanding and accepting differences on a multicultural team, and then using them to enhance the way the team analyzes situations and makes decisions.”
 
Wal-Mart, Starbucks, you name it, the top companies know that diversity is important.
 
“Embracing diversity is not only the right thing to do socially or ethically, it’s good for business,” said Orin Smith, Starbucks president and CEO, before his retirement. “As the world becomes more and more complex, having a diverse work team helps us be more adaptive as a company. This is especially critical because we are expanding internationally. Diversity helps us make better decisions. It is definitely a part of our value system.”
 
More so than in the past, Northwest Arkansas students are getting that opportunity to learn about people from different backgrounds at an early age and learning social skills that will benefit them in both their personal and professional lives.
 
Many of our top universities in the country try to give their students that same opportunity to be exposed to others that bring a different perspective to the classroom and prepare them for their future careers.
 
In a research project sponsored by the American Council on Education and the American Association of University Professors called “Does Diversity Make a Difference?,” a study of classrooms at three colleges found that diverse students in the classroom brought in more perspectives, generated more complex discussions and produced more sophisticated analysis. It is just what teachers aim for every day – helping students think at a higher level.
 
“Today, hundreds of colleges and universities recognize the educational value of diversity and view student and faculty diversity as an essential resource for optimizing teaching and learning,” the study noted.
 
For all those who wonder how diversity in the classroom affects their child, be encouraged that it is enriching their lives, keeping the teachers on the cutting edge, and preparing students for a great future ahead where they are able to succeed in a global economy.
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