Susan Eaton’s The Children in Room E4 is a heartbreaking account of a dedicated teacher and her black and Hispanic students in Hartford, Connecticut, says Teacher Magazine. It’s also the saga of Hartford’s decades-long desegregation lawsuit.
. . . most Hartford kids are worse than poor. They are â€œexperientially impoverishedâ€: clamped in such intense poverty, both in their neighborhoods and at school, that they are shut out from the rest of American life.
Eaton questions whether raising standards and test scores — the school is relatively successful — is enough given Hartford’s failure to integrate classrooms and provide the same opportunities as suburban schools, writes reviewer Steve Weinberg in the Seattle Times. The city’s schools are 95 percent black and Hispanic.
It’s an old story told better elsewhere, writes reviewer David Nicholson on Education Sector.
What’s most valuable if not entirely new about The Children in Room E4, is its reminder that people, unlike rats, will continue down the same tunnels long after it’s apparent there is no cheese. This is, I know, harsh, but it seems an apt characterization of superintendents, principals, and educational consultants who keep devising solutions that are only variations of old ways of failing.
Middle-class parents — white, black, brown or purple — rarely choose to send their children to low-performing or even improving schools with a large majority of very low-income students. Integration by color and social class is a fantasy in a school system as far gone as Hartford’s. Better to focus on the needs of the students you’ve got. If they don’t know Hartford has a river, show them the river. Teach them to read and give them books about the world they don’t know.
Joe Miller’s Cross X is the story of a winning debate team at an inner-city Kansas City high school that received millions of dollars in a vain attempt to attract white students. When the desegregation plan was abandoned, the buildings were better but the quality of education was just as poor.
Ninety percent of students at Downtown College Prep, the charter school in my book, Our School, come from Mexican-American families, many of whom are isolated from mainstream America. The school is designed to help its very needy students catch up so they can go on to college and succeed in the larger world. Educating these students is the mission. Trying to emulate a suburban school or attract middle-class students would not serve the needs of the students they’ve got.