Something’s Happening Here . . .

In the span of a few weeks, all of DC seems to be abuzz with the prospect that our elected officials may actually try to ensure greater racial and socioeconomic equity in the city’s public schools — apple carts be damned.

First, there was the Op-Ed two colleagues and I published in the Washington Post, calling for the adoption of controlled-choice policies as part of the city’s current effort to reconsider neighborhood school boundary lines.

The next day, the Department of Education released new guidelines that would allow charter schools to employ weighted lotteries that gave preference to disadvantaged student populations.

Meanwhile, the latest edition of Washington City Paper features a cover story about Roosevelt High School that places the issue of integration and school boundaries squarely in context, by way of a crumbling beauty of a school building that is currently under renovation — and seriously under-enrolled. And listerves like this one are burning up with a mixture of interest, anxiety and vitriol at the idea of such a dramatic departure from the norm (does someone really think I should be tarred and feathered?).

What do you think? Is integration worthy of being prioritized as a policy goal in a city like Washington, DC? If cities have a responsibility to ensure greater equity in their public schools, are there other, better ways to do so? And, in the end, is there any way to strike the right balance between honoring people’s individual choices against a community’s shared sense of values and responsibilities?

Looking forward to hearing people’s ideas and concerns.

Categories: Equity

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6 Comments

  1. Eric J. Cooper
    Posted February 5, 2014 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    The question is often asked why integration — why do Black or Brown children need to be
    placed in White classrooms, or White students placed in classrooms of color? Longstanding social science research such as the Doll studies conducted by Kenneth and Mamie Clark in 1940-50, have indicated the negative impact on the self-concept of black children. These studies have been replicated for years and continue to find similar findings today.

    As an African American educator my personal experience speaks to the positive effects of learning in integrated K-12 schools. More broadly our research and experience at http://www.nuatc.org in thousands of schools across this nation suggests ALL children learn best in integrated circumstances. Data across K-12 schools where we have worked have seen two standard deviations of improvement (that is six times AYP) for children of color, while White students continued to make significant gains as well (both underperforming and high performing). Students learn at a higher level when engaged in diverse school communities and not separated by the pernicious effects of academic tracking.

    More importantly, America is a diverse nation. Whether now or in the near future when we become a majority-people of color nation, is it not better to break down social barriers, where ALL students learn to respect diverse cultures and gain the exposure which will enable them to succeed in a diverse nation and world? So I say emphatically, desegregate schools for the best and self-interest of our communities, students and citizens.

  2. Jay P. Goldman
    Posted February 5, 2014 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    Sam – Anyone interested in the subject of resegregation of public schools and the courageous attempts of some school superintendents to address that trend may want to take a look at the December ’13 issue of School Administrator magazine:
    http://www.pageturnpro.com/AASA/54884-School-Administrator-December-2013/index.html#/1.

    Jay P. Goldman, editor, School Administrator

  3. Guido Stempel
    Posted February 5, 2014 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    One reason to integrate is that it is more likely to achieve equitable distribution of funds
    to the various schools. There is all kinds of evidence of the bad performance of blacks
    and poor children. However, school funding is clearly related to this. It is not the only factor in performance, but it clearly is a major factor.

  4. Donald Thomas
    Posted February 5, 2014 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    We continue to waste time and effort as well as money, making the same mistake over and over. Attempting to reform our schools after children (age 5-6) enter school is much too late. The capacity to learn is already formed and no reform efforts can enlarge it. Higher and higher standards produce more and more failures. Unless and until we help children from birth to age 3, no reform will make it possible for disadvantaged children to have a “an equal opportunity to learn.” Those who work to save children prior to birth do not give a damn once they are born. Let’s get real. Help children and poor families with health care, economic opportunities, education in child rearing and nutrition. Why would one go to a physician trained by barbers (see middle ages)? Similarly, why do we implement reforms developed by ALEC? Pure nonsense. 801 573 2338

  5. Donald Thomas
    Posted February 5, 2014 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    As to the efforts to establish demographic equality in our schools, it has been a miserable failure. Concentration on student demographics has lessened more important need for financial equity. Very few of our schools have “financial adequacy.” (See SC court decision).
    We must produce financial equity, not equal support. The differential should be about $8,000.00. 801 573 2338

  6. Don Davies
    Posted February 13, 2014 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    7 decades of experience and study tell me that full service schools integrated by color and class usually work. Separate but equal has not ever really worked except for the elite. Too soon to give up on the promise of democratic integration.

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