Race, class splinter a school

In a gentrifying neighborhood in Seattle, white middle-class parents started to enroll their children in the local K-8 school, which is 75 percent black and primarily low-income. But race and class conflicts have made it hard to integrate Madrona School.

The newer parents helped revive the Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA), started after-school programs and volunteered in classrooms. But in the end, some gave up, saying they didn’t feel welcome, and last fall, several withdrew their children.

The school focuses on raising the basic skills of low-income students. Middle-class white parents want more music art in the curriculum. The PTSA offered to raise money to lower class size and retain a Spanish class, but the principal said the union contract made that too difficult.

The school once had a program for gifted students that was meant to desegregate the school. Most students in gifted classes were white; most in regular classes were black. So, 10 years ago, the district moved the gifted program to another school. Madrona stopped trying to be integrated.

If most students need to master basic reading, writing and math skills, that should be the school’s focus, even if that doesn’t meet the needs or desires of middle-class parents.

“I’m not prepared to pull kids out of math and let them go out to do gardening,” (Principal Karen) Andrews said.

OK. But why make it so hard for volunteer dads to build the garden shed?

I blogged not too long ago about a Washington, D.C. school that faced very similar issues, but I can’t remember enough key words to find the post. Or maybe I’m just losing it.

Update: Some Seattle school board members want to find a new superintendent who will promise to close the achievement gap by ending institutional racism, even though they can’t agree what that means.

Update 2: A white parent who gave up on Madrona School says school district employees complained about whites “taking over” the school and the neighborhood.

About Joanne

Comments

  1. Miller Smith says:

    This story (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/08/01/AR2006080101480.html) is about my high school and school sytem.

    We can’t let any parent be a volunteer for anything anymore…unless the parent pays the $75 fingerprint and background check fee and goes through a vetting process at our local school board.

    We also are directing gifts and material donations from our local parents to the central school authority for distribution according to the needs of the school system. Parent may no longer target their child’s school for a donation of any type. We’ve had scandals over this issue as well.

    Each new scandal write a new rule.

  2. Mark Roulo says:

    Parent may no longer target their child’s school for a donation of any type.

    Of course they can 🙂 You just give the money to the teacher/principal/librarian of your choice and ask them to spend it on what they think best.

    I’ve done this.

    Since it is an individual->individual gift, the school can’t do anything to prevent it. The only downside is that you don’t get a tax writeoff.

    -Mark R.

  3. This also makes me think of the ‘recess’ debate in the elementary schools. This along with an increase in schools wanting to have their kids on ‘silent’ lunches makes me wonder when our students are able to let off steam and recharge their batteries?

  4. Joanne writes “If most students need to master basic reading, writing and math skills, that should be the school’s focus, even if that doesn’t meet the needs or desires of middle-class parents.”

    What happens if you reverse this attitude? At my majority white, middle-class school, most students are doing well. Is the school excused if it ignores the needs of a small number of low-income, minority, or non-English speaking children? After all, it is okay to ignore the needs of the middle class kids when they are in a high poverty school, right?