Alan Finder's article on integration by income
in Raleigh public schools is fascinating:Over the last decade, black and Hispanic students here in Wake County have made such dramatic strides in standardized reading and math tests that it has caught the attention of education experts around the country.
The main reason for the students' dramatic improvement, say officials and parents in the county, which includes Raleigh and its sprawling suburbs, is that the district has made a concerted effort to integrate the schools economically.
Since 2000, school officials have used income as a prime factor in assigning students to schools, with the goal of limiting the proportion of low-income students in any school to no more than 40 percent. . .
"Kids are bused all over creation, and they say it's for economic diversity, but really it's a proxy for race," said Cynthia Matson, who is white and middle class. She is the president and a founder of Assignment By Choice, an advocacy group promoting parental choice. . .
Many low-income children are bused to suburban schools. While some of their parents are unhappy with the length of the rides, some also said they were happy with their child's school.
"I think it's ridiculous," LaToya Mangum said of the 55 minutes that her son Gabriel, 7, spends riding a bus to the northern reaches of Wake County, where he is in second grade. On the other hand, she said, "So far, I do like the school." Melissa Wade asks
an important question:how do students take part in after school activities. I spent 7th and 8th grade at a private school some distance from my home and while my parents and later a Junior drove me to/from school, I couldn’t take part in anything extra beyond the football games in the Fall as my parents refused to drive me. While it wasn’t an income issue for us (although we were much lower-income than the majority) and more of a parental involvement one, if a parent is low income s/he is less likely to have the time or the means to foster such activities.
If children want to participate in after-school activities, there should be bussing or school-organized carpooling to accomodate them. Whether there is funding for this is, of course, the question. As we can only assume there isn't, I have a few things to say.
1) I think that the seven hours a day a student is in school are more important than the two or three hours a day that said student could be involved in extracurricular activies. This is not simply a consideration of time, but also of priorities. I think extracurricular activies are vitally important, but I think they are emphasized (often at "inner-city" schools) because they are easier to fund and organize (these activities and events are offered many times by volunteers and outside nonprofits, rather than dipping into school coffers) and they keep kids "off the streets" longer. However, that often leads to a bunch of kids who think they're going to be pro athletes or pop stars, rather than kids who know how to read and write. Academics should be prioritized.
2) Because bussing in shifts would be expensive, I think this emphasizes the role that community centers and groups need to play. If kids are being bussed into schools filled with affluent kids who have piano lessons and Sunday school and karate everyday, I would be willing to be that a number of lower-income kids will want to be involved in afterschool activities like their more monied peers and nonprofits and community groups can fill the void.
3)Bussing low-income kids into affluent areas seems less effective than bussing affluent kids into low-income neighborhood schools. The middle-class kids are more likely to have parents who will come pick them up from afterschool activities and less likely to be taking advantage of programs like Free Breakfast, which require that participating students arrive earlier. Also, the presence of more middle-class folks will raise the standards for the school facilities and will therefore effect the quality of life in the neighborhood generally.
4)Carpooling is great, but usually only encouraged among higher-income parents, though, with institutional contribution of gas money, could save the school in bus costs. Organizing carpools, afterschool programs, and other school participation could be a great way of knocking out welfare-to-work requirements and getting good non-vocational job experience for lower-income parents.
, rather counterintuitively in my opinion, sees the article as an argument for school vouchers.
What this whole situation is Raleigh speaks to is the strength of having affluent children (and therefore parents) involved and invested in public schools. Vouchers would not change much of anything; low income kids would still be in the schools that could be afforded, i.e. the schools that require the voucher only and no further funding on the family's part. These schools would still be in the lower-income areas and would put the same kids who would have been in the struggling public schools in struggling private schools. More effective would be educational tax pooling, which would redistribute taxes for public schools more equally. As it is, if you are an affluent kid growing up in Westchester County, you are able to attend their excellent public schools as the money pours in to finance them. If you grow up in Bed-Stuy, the taxes are only barely supportive of having a school at all. As such, in the way that the monied get access to better educations by buying them in private schools, the same happens through the allocation of tax monies for public schools via region. (The only difference is that the parents of students in top-notch public schools have ever more money to support their children's extracurricular activities, SAT prep classes, etc.) Each school should get the same amount per pupil and parents and other community members should get tax incentives for participation in local schools.Reality Speak
posts an angry open letter to Ms. Matson:Dear Cynthia,
I bet kids are actually bussed all over for economic diversity, and I agree with you that that might very often break out along racial lines… However, I really doubt that one is a cover for the other - they are probably just two things that are very closely related.
Which leads me to the question: Why might it be that "economic diversity" many times equals "race" in North Carolina?... Why the f* might those two things be related… hmm?...
Is there anything in North Carolina’s history or recent past that might explain how those two things got artificially linked to the point where they could be almost be used as synonyms?
You know what Cynthia? … I just thought of something that might explain it. Maybe 100, or 150 years or so of legal subjugation of people on one side of that racial line, maybe if that group was smaller than the other group, you know? Like what if the system wasn’t setup fairly and the one group was in the minority when it came to making decisions on how resource distribution would go for schools… Know what I’m saying?
Maybe that separation or segregation if you will, of school resources was a step up from when the people of the one race weren’t even considered people.
I share the anger at Ms. Matson. What I find funny is that good ole Cynthia seems to say this may be racial as if that would make it very controversial- income intergation is okay, but racially desegregating public schools? An outrage.Christopher's Windy City
, a blog written by a teacher on Chicago's South Side, says:Of course there are differences between black culture and white culture. One has only to look as far as conventions for naming children, a trend which Harvard economist Roland G. Fryer has studied as part of his examination of “where blacks went wrong,” as he puts it (and which Steven Levitt outlines in his fascinating book Freakonomics). But many, perhaps most, of these students have internalized the idea that D’Gray made explicit yesterday: black kids are unruly and don’t care much about school.
Here is a thesis that bears some research: where do these attitudes in back culture come from? It certainly doesn’t help that President George W. Bush’s slow response to Hurricane Katrina makes him look like a racist bastard (although I’m sure the oversight was more an issue of socioeconomic blindness than racism), and makes many blacks in this country feel marginalized, even if they’ve never been within 500 miles of New Orleans (all of my students are convinced that George W. Bush is unrepentantly racist).
But here is the thing that scares me the most, the thing that bears the most research (or maybe Fryer or others like him have already done it and I’m just not aware of it): to what extent are these attitudes being disseminated within black culture by other blacks? Research—and even casual observation—has shown that black audiences statistically prefer black music, black television shows, black movies, and anything else that somehow becomes associated with “black culture” (Levitt notes on page 182 of Freakonomics that Newport cigarettes enjoy a 75 percent market share among black teenagers, for example, while the same cigarettes have only 12 percent of the market share among white teens, who statistically prefer Marlboros).
Although it is illegal to create any kind of forced segregation in this country, de facto segregation does exist, the kind imposed from outside (group A moves out of the neighborhood as group B moves in, for example) and the kind imposed from within (group A flocks to see the opening of a new movie starring a member of their ethnicity, while group B statistically ignores it). This being the case, my very unscientific but extremely gut reaction is that blacks get most of their negative stereotypes about blacks from other blacks.
Something I learned when I started teaching here, for example, is that skin shade carries with it all kinds of social value: light-skinned blacks are often more high-status than dark-skinned blacks. Maybe I was just sheltered and naïve, but I found that truth rather shocking. Maybe I had just seen too many documentaries about the civil rights movement, films like Eyes on the Prize that made the “black cause” seem monolithic in its unity.
But again, the real issue isn’t race, it’s socioeconomics. Statistically speaking, poor kids go to poor schools and do poorly in school. The poor, regardless of their ethnicity, often have narrow views on things like ethnicity and politics and sexual orientation. The poor and disadvantaged usually see the world in stark black and white; they haven’t learned to recognize, appreciate, and savor the shades of gray that make up life. Only education will broaden their minds and their horizons, but the drop-out rate among blacks and Hispanics in this country is astronomically high.
It may be a bit off to characterize the views of the poor as "narrow" in any kind of comparison with people of means, but it's interesting to hear this from the mouth (or the fingers) of an inner-city public school teacher.
For further reading, check out these excerpts from Jonathan Kozol's