this project. This voluntary approach is
in strong contrast to early desegregation
attempts in the United States, in which
students were bused to schools outside
their neighborhoods in an attempt to
create more integrated schools. Such
a policy has often proved fruitless and
even detrimental to the achievement
of ethnic-minority students (Armor,
1995). Parent and school support for
such projects is much stronger when
the parties involved have learned about
the benefits of desegregation.
An important challenge for the
School in Sight project relates to what
happens after the desegregation process.
Some studies have pointed out that
immigrant students might experience
decreased education aspirations and
increased chances of peer victimization
in desegregated schools (Agirdag,
Demanet, Van Houtte, & Van Avermaet,
2010; Van Houtte & Stevens, 2010).
Moreover, middle-class parents might
also have more demanding expectations of teachers; they may, for example,
Parents do not choose a school
in a social vacuum, but consult
other parents and share experiences.
Collective action. The School in Sight
project aims to bring a group of middle-class parents into contact with a concentration school and thus does not
focus solely on individual parents. This
collective approach not only decreases
barriers, but also reflects a more natural
enrollment process. Indeed, under
normal circumstances parents do not
choose a school in a social vacuum,
but consult other parents and share
request more frequent feedback about
the progress of their child. It’s wise to
brief teachers on how to deal with a
more heterogeneous student body and
their parents. Such a briefing might
touch on cultural differences across
social class lines, plurilingual education,
or religious diversity (Agirdag, 2009).
Possible Pitfalls and Solutions
For the Bridge Person project to
succeed, the bridge person needs to
focus on the teacher- and student-focused activities that his or her job
entails. One danger is that in the
absence of available personnel, the
school may wish to use the bridge
person to handle day-to-day problems.
For instance, the bridge person is
not meant to accompany students on
school trips, track student absences,
correct tests, or monitor payments from
parents. It’s important to communicate
to the school that the bridge person has
a tightly mapped job description and
needs to work to some extent independently from the school team.
From Two Cities to the World
Both the School in Sight and Bridge
Person projects are good examples of
how to bridge families and schools.
However, they still operate as local
projects—that is, they are not yet
embedded in the regular national school
policy, nor do they serve schools
outside Ghent and Antwerp. With the
support of policymakers, similar
projects can be implemented elsewhere
in the world where schools and families
face similar challenges. EL
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Agirdag, O., Demanet, J., Van Houtte, M., &
Van Avermaet, P. (2010). Ethnic school
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desegregation and the law. New York:
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Desmedt, E. (2007). Beroepsprofiel Brug-figuur in het Basisonderwijs [Professional
profile of bridge-persons in primary education]. Leuven, Belgium: HIVA.
Ryabov, I., & Van Hook, J. (2007). School
segregation and academic achievement
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Orhan Agirdag ( orhan.agirdag@ugent
.be)isresearchofficerand Mieke Van
Houtte ( firstname.lastname@example.org)is