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Despite the Best Intentions: How Racial Inequality Thrives in Good Schools
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Despite the Best Intentions: How Racial Inequality Thrives in Good Schools

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  371 ratings  ·  58 reviews
On the surface, Riverview High School looks like the post-racial ideal. Serving an enviably affluent, diverse, and liberal district, the school is well-funded, its teachers are well-trained, and many of its students are high achieving. Yet Riverview has not escaped the same unrelenting question that plagues schools throughout America: why is it that even when all of the ci ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published September 2nd 2015 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published August 4th 2015)
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Anne Withane You're right and there's a couple of editions that need to be merged. I'll see if I can figure out how to do it or flag it or something.'…moreYou're right and there's a couple of editions that need to be merged. I'll see if I can figure out how to do it or flag it or something.'(less)

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Gary Anderson
May 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Even in excellent schools and progressive communities that say they value diversity, racial stratification persists. Upper-level classes tend to be predominantly white, while students of color tend to populate lower-level classes. In addition, discipline practices (not policies) vary according to skin color. Lewis and Diamond explore the research behind race-related dynamics in American schools with reputations for diversity and academic excellence. The ideas here are big and important, although ...more
Brittany (brittanymariereads) E.
The book focused one high school in particular and gathered all of their data and interviews from Riverview High School. They chose to study the one high school to show a snapshot of the nationwide problem but I felt that the book would have benefited from more nationwide statistics. There are many graphs placed throughout the book but unfortunately I was not able to see them in my copy of the book that I received from NetGalley. (So to be fair, there may have been more nationwide statistics tha ...more
Sometimes the academic tone of this book made it hard to get through. Some of its language seems very repetitive. The content, though not entirely new to me, is of the utmost importance and is worth reading and thinking about and discussing with colleagues in education. Chapter 5: Opportunity Hoarding and Chapter 6: Conclusion were especially powerful. This book reminds me to feel grateful to teach in a district that is trying to tackle racial inequity.
May 07, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: education
Really helpful, I'm glad i read this.

"Many of the hourly and daily practices and processes that are the substance of what we think of as 'school' are racially inflected. ... even as [they] are operating to create advantages for some groups and put others at a disadvantage, they appear to be 'race-neutral' [which] helps to provide legitimacy to the differential outcomes they help to produce."

Key takeaways:
• it's not enough to look at how policies are written, you also need to look at how they're
Mar 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Makes a clear case that behavior and discipline are ostensively race-neutral but performatively problematic--except that the ostensive aspect "this is how we do discipline" is then examined, "there is little room for confronting the different ways in which school personnel enact the rules in practice." The thought that past and present unspoken perceptions and biases are acting within every small daily encounter is hard to hold and mitigate. "Opportunity hoarding", "white flight" (and, to a less ...more
Vicky Lisle
Aug 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ed
This was a little repetitive and could have gone deeper into some of the issues, but the content is important and needs to be used to change policies.
Jul 13, 2020 rated it liked it
This isn’t a review as such but rather a place to record my thoughts linking this book to my own experiences and the questions it raised for me. I will certainly continue to read around this topic and want to record where the journey takes me.
Three main areas of racism in schools are identified:
- in tracking (streaming)
- discipline
- parent intervention and championing for their children

My first ‘work’ book in years - and I finished it!! For that alone I’m proud of myself.
This book raised
Aug 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2016
IQ "Therefore, to address the gaps in educational outcomes, it is important to challenge the in-group favoritism, opportunity hoarding, and racial apathy of parents and encourage them to serve as allies in the struggle for racial justice. It is not enough to possess a shallow commitment to liberalism and racial justice that embraces racial and economic diversity at the school level, for example, while accepting (even encouraging) resegregation at the classroom level" (178).

This was heavy on rese
Kayla Droese
Feb 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Lots of thinking with this one. Forces you to examine not only institutionalized, systemic racism in schools, but also how parents, teachers, and administrators on personal levels may exacerbate the issue "despite the best intentions" to fix it. ...more
Aug 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
While the research in this book is focused on a Midwestern suburban school system, it really sounded like it was describing any of the affluent towns of New England, many of which are predominantly white, but where the citizens of each town pride themselves on blue-state liberalism and where just beneath the surface is the "opportunity hoarding" of every white family hoping to get their own child ahead in life. The focus here on systemic and institutional racism that results in the proliferation ...more
Sage Kampitsis
This book is an amazing piece of sociological work. The ethnographic style the authors utilized is very well executed - the book tells as a captivating story, but includes the sort of data currently needed to establish scientific legitimacy in this society. Their narrative truly centers the children of the school they're studying, and highlights the numerous ways one's race can play into their educational experience. I would recommend this book to anyone working in education. ...more
Denise Lee
Apr 30, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I dislike when problem after problem is presented but no solution is offered. I liked the book until the end then was frustrated by the lack of ideas for changing school environments like Riverview.
Jan 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: teaching
I suggest that every educator read this book. Heck, every parent, too. I welcome the discussion that will surely follow.
Anne Marie
Sep 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
This book identified many contributors to educational outcome inequities but did little to point to solutions.
Feb 08, 2021 rated it really liked it
a good and educational book. read it on recommendation of the NYT's "Nice White Parents" podcast supplementary reading, and that recommendation was a good one. the question this book poses is: at this high school of roughly equal white and black/latinx students, why is it that the racial achievement gap persists and segregation continues at the tracking (basic vs. honors/AP) level? and i think the book answers its questions well-- it basically says 'it's NOT that black kids are resistant to scho ...more
Dec 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Every once in a while there are books that imprint within your mind after you read them; they alter how you perceive the world around you. They make you reconsider your interactions and thought processes. They change you. This book, Despite the best intentions: How racial inequality thrives in good schools, is one of those books. Diamond and Lewis write this profoundly insightful text in a creative, yet informative manner.

Thinking recently about the amazing phenomenon that is teaching in many A
Leanne Garten
Jun 10, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: college-books
** 3.5

I read this book for my Sociology class on Race and Ethnicity. I thought this research study was very interesting as it exposes racial inequality within the American education system, and particularly at this one high school. My only complaint is that Despite the Best Intentions repeated their points quite often - I guess it's good for cementing an idea, but some aspects were too repetitive. Still, this research study made me think about my own high school education at a private and majori
Nov 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: anti-racism
The authors make an excellent case study, selecting a strong test site and using valid methods. This book would be a must read to dispel encapsulated biases in pre-service teachers, and I’m sure this is a vital read for many educators.
But will they read it and will they believe it applies to them? And what should they do next? (Not that it’s necessarily the authors’ responsibility to answer those questions) Like many books and studies in this genre, the selected case (affluent AND diverse high s
Feb 16, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: skimmed
I mainly read chapter 5. What stood out
1) Hoarding of opportunity. More white in honors classes means less space for others.
2) tremendous pressure schools face to provide parents with strong classes for their kids.
3) honors and AP GPA inflation is pernicious
4) brown v board has not improved things for black kids? Integration meant white kids still boarded the better teachers and got more resources. This wasn’t their thought but rather consistent with other claims I have read.

Their conclusion
Lindsay Bolender
Oct 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book was incredible, and I will be recommending it to all of the educators that I know. I very much appreciated how such heavy research was communicated through a case study, which personalized and simplified the complex subject matter and gave it a storyline that was easy to follow. Covered in this book is research on how assumptions are made about intention and effort of racial-minority students, how discipline contributes to the racial achievement gap, how ostensibly unbiased policies ar ...more
Mar 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
The parts I enjoy most in the book are (1) how the perception of whiteness brings about benefit and privilege and (2) how self-claimed liberal white parents advocate for equality yet play the game that sustains the systemic and institutional racism.

I would like to see more details about how to tackle the problem and break the status quo. What kind of mechanism needs to be used to change the system at present? Moreover, what kind of specific incentives can this new mechanism provide to schools, t
Joy Weese Moll
Jun 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The district where I live, and have the most influence, is a “good school” district. But, it doesn’t serve our black students as well as it serves our white students. Despite the Best Intentions was a book that our administration read in the summer of 2016 and I finally got around to reading this year. It pretty well describes what is happening here, to a T.

More thoughts on my blog, including a description of each chapter and a couple of quotes: Despite the Best Intentions
Stephanie Luebbert
Not an easy read in a couple ways: If you are white (like myself) it challenges you to check your biases and ways you may be doing things that contribute to racial achievement gaps (opportunity hoarding, color-blind racism, etc). It is also academic writing, and that caused it to be a more difficult read as well and more difficult to get through (at least for me). Dr. Diamond did good work with this book!
Oct 11, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: education
This has the same theme as the Nice White Parents podcast, basically that white families hoard all the resources at integrated schools, even as they preach the virtues of diversity. I liked the quote from a school administrator when explaining how every white parent thinks their child is exceptional, "What happened to the dumb white kids?" It is very repetitive, though, and I thought it could have discussed other studies in more depth. ...more
Kellyn Eaddy
Jun 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was definitely very educational, but not at all uninteresting. I gave me really great perspective on the way race plays such a major factor in every day life. I think anyone wanting to better understand on a scientific level why even in the most "diverse" places race is such a big interactive factor, even in the form of "color-blind" racism. ...more
Joy Stark
Feb 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow. Lewis and Diamond unpack the ways in which racial inequality continues to be a major issue even in a diverse school where everyone intends to promote the success of all students. Highly recommend this read to anyone who works in education or has ever been to school, and I especially recommend it to parents of school-age children.
May 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Anyone who works in a school system, particularly in higher-achieving districts must read this book. A lot of what I have been thinking about racial equity in our schools was confirmed through the research presented, and I gained so many insights about what we could do better to ensure that ALL students achieve.
Jan 12, 2020 rated it did not like it
Bloated. One whole chapter on oppositional culture? And repetitive…everywhere.

Biased. Wow, that survey...

Contradictory. Socioeconomic classes. Use ‘em or lose ‘em.

Here’s another, more descriptive book title. “People who say they aren’t racist are really racist“. But with that title, who needs the book.
Brenda Morris
Jul 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
It does what it says on the label - the book makes clear how well-intentioned educators manage to perpetuate systemic racism in schools. By demonstrating these mechanisms, however, the book also provides a clear path forward to interrupting these systems and remaking our schools to offer equitable outcomes.
Ann Maeder
Jul 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
So well written. The authors do an excellent job articulating so many of the issues schools and students face in regards to equity and implicit bias. Every educator and administrative team should read the chapter on discipline and rules. Every white middle class parent should read the chapter on opportunity hoarding.
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