The Effects of Spatial Community Design on the Quality of Education in Urban Schools: Research and Application to Two Elementary Schools in Atlanta with Large Latino and Low-Income Student Populations
McColley, Sarah M.
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This paper examines the link between spatial community design and the quality of neighborhood schools, with a particular focus on schools with high Latino student populations. Latinos are the fastest growing population, but Latino students have the lowest educational attainment levels. In Georgia, 44% of the Latino population did not complete high school in 2010, compared to 14% of the entire United States population. Latino students make up nearly the same share (23.4%) of the South’s school enrollment as Black students (25.9%) (Siegel-Hawley + Frankenberg, 2012). Additionally, the State of Georgia has one of the fastest growing Latino populations in the country, with a growth rate of 18% between 2000 and 2010 (Andes, 2012). This paper provides recommendations and plans for two schools, with considerations for the Latino student populations, in the Atlanta, Georgia, area - Benteen Elementary School on the southeast side and Garden Hills Elementary School on the northeast side of the city. Benteen Elementary has a 39% Latino student population, and 100% of the student population qualifies for free / reduced lunch; Garden Hills Elementary has a 70% Latino student population, and 81% qualify for free / reduced lunch (Georgia Department of Education [Georgia DOE], 2012b, 2012c). Background information is provided on the history of education in the South and Atlanta and current programs and organizations that accommodate the Latino population. Additionally, the following issues are addressed: barriers to education for Latino students, Latino cultural considerations, community revitalization techniques, school siting regulations and community design related to education, education policy methods, and how housing options affect the community and quality of education. The policy and curriculum recommendations presented focus on integrating cultural activities into the curriculum, adding active learning to classroom lessons, providing early and sustained English as a Second Language education, enforcing disciplinary action, and encouraging community residents’ and parents’ accountability to the students and schools. The spatial design recommendations include: providing adequate affordable housing options for teachers, staff, and families; integrating employment, retail, green space, and entertainment options into the surrounding context; making walkable or transit-accessible options for students and staff to travel to school; and encouraging culture-specific organizations to locate near the schools to address the needs of existing residents. The framework-, master-, and site-scale plans for Garden Hills and Benteen school districts illustrate the above recommendations (pages 89 to 111). Finally, a preliminary timeline for immediate-, middle-, and long-term changes provides a base for the implementation strategy for the recommendations.