New Era of Integration: The proof is in the punch
I was sad and frustrated last year at the Supreme Court decision to declare race-based integration unconstitutional. It seems an absurdity that the validity of the process of bringing students from diverse backgrounds and experiences together to enhance learning and opportunity for all would be called into question. But that was then, and this is now.
I was so pleased to find this article from the July 20th NY Times, via my NCTE Inbox this week. Class/SES-based integration seems like the next logical step towards creating schools that value and honor the need for students to be provided with equitable facilities, instruction and resources.
As the article points out, and as I myself believe, it is of course possible for schools comprised of a majority of students from low-income homes to thrive under the appropriate set of circumstances. But the evidence of years of research strongly suggests that when poor students--of any racial background--are given the opportunity to learn amidst the same circumstances as their middle-class peers, the gains are consistently observable and statistically quantifiable.
Of course, no one answer will be universally applicable. As long as poverty reigns in cities like Detroit, Boston, New York, L.A., etc.--cities in which 70%+ live below the poverty line--integration of school populations based on socioeconomic status becomes severely impeded. And the necessity of maintaining race as a factor in the integration of some areas of the country is essential. Though there are no absolutes, there are some very promising solutions being pursued by thoughtful administrators, lawyers and parents all over the U.S.
Please take the time to read the article! It's not short, but it is so worthwhile.
Here are a few excerpts:
"The chief justice didn’t address the idea of class-based integration in his opinion. But Justice Anthony Kennedy did, in a separate concurrence. And because Kennedy cast the fifth vote for the majority, his view controls the law. Though he agreed with Roberts that public school districts should not make school assignments based on the race of individual students, he added that the court’s ruling 'should not prevent school districts from continuing the important work of bringing together students of different racial, ethnic and economic backgrounds.'
. . .
Wake County adopted class-based integration with the hard-nosed goal of raising test scores. The strategy was simple: no poor schools, no bad schools. And indeed, the district has posted striking improvements in the test scores of black and low-income students: in 1995, only 40 percent of the black students in Wake County in the third through eighth grades scored at grade level in state reading tests; by last year, the rate had almostdoubled, to 82.5 percent. Statewide scores for black students also got better over the same time period, but not by as much. Wake County’s numbers improve as students get older: 92 percent of all eighth graders read at or above grade level, including about 85 percent of black students and about 80 percent of low-income students. (Math scores are lower, following a statewide trend that reflects a change in the grading scale.) The district has achieved these results even as the share of low-income students over all has increased from about 30 percent a decade ago to about 40 percent today.
. . .
If Congress were to revise No Child Left Behind to encourage more transfers of poor students to middle-class schools, would poor students drag down their better-off peers? In the end, the prospects of class-based integration will probably rise or fall on the answer to this question. Socioeconomic integration may be good for the have-nots, but if the haves think their kids are paying too great a price, they will kill it off at the polls."
My italicization. Pic nytimes.com