Does Multicultural Education Improve Students’ Racial Attitudes? Implications for Closing the Achievement Gap

The effects of multicultural education on the racial attitudes of students in prekindergarten through twelfth grade are examined in this meta-analysis. Multicultural education was operationalized for this study as programs and curricula dealing with racial and cultural diversity. The effect sizes of curricular intervention and reinforcement dimensions of multicultural education in suburban and urban settings among age groups 3-8 and 9-16 were compared to see the relative effectiveness of multicultural education on students’ racial attitudes. The mean effect size of 0.488 from a total of 60 effect sizes calculated using 30 studies shows that exposure to multicultural education led to a reduction in students’ racial attitudes. However, the mean effect size of 0.645 from curricular intervention studies was higher than the mean effect size of the reinforcement studies at 0.08, indicating that the curricular intervention dimension of multicultural education was more effective in reducing students’ racial attitudes. Multicultural education was more effective in reducing racial attitudes in urban areas with a mean effect size of 0.72, than in suburban areas with a mean effect size of 0.587. Multicultural education was also more effective in reducing racial attitudes among the 9-16 age group with a mean effect size of 0.751, than among the 3-8 age group with a mean effect size of 0.208. Implications for research and for practice with emphasis on closing the achievement gap that exists among the various student subgroups primarily in under achieving inner-city public schools are discussed.

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