Integration by class

Integrating schools by economic and social class raises achievement, argues a New York Times Magazine story, which looks at “the new integration” in Wake County (Raleigh), North Carolina and Jefferson County (Louisville), Kentucky.

But it can’t be done in large cities, writes Kevin Drum. Matt Yglesias also is dubious. There aren’t enough middle-class students to go around.

Yes, it can, counters Richard Kahlenberg on Taking Note. It’s possible to expand urban school district boundaries and bus kids to the suburbs. Progress is possible even if total integration is not.

Even if class integration is possible, it’s not the best way to improve achievement, argues Liam Julian in Gadfly. “Is it not eminently more sensible to devote resources to, say, attracting knowledgeable teachers and building solid curricula?”

He fears “diversity creep.” The diverse school can’t segregate students by achievement.

If increasing academic achievement is the goal, then muddying course rosters by amalgamating pupils of all different academic abilities is foolhardy. It disserves the high-achievers, who must patiently wait while the material they’ve already mastered is repeatedly explained to the low-achievers and who must watch the level of their classroom discourse plunge. And it disserves the low-achievers, who may simply be unable to keep up with the curriculum, no matter how much their teacher waters it down. Teachers know this.

On Flypaper he adds:

The push for socially engineered ratios of white to black, poor to middle-class in schools manages to detract from parents’ wishes and to distract from a focus on academic achievement and improving the schools that currently exist.

In some cases, social integration is doable and worth doing. But I think many disadvantaged children would benefit more from well-organized schools designed to meet their learning needs. The children of poorly educated parents and the children of educated, middle-class parents come to school with different challenges. What works for one group may not work well for the other.

About Joanne


  1. Doesn’t this sound a lot like the early arguments about busing kids to achieve somebody’s idea of racial balance? The idea was that if you’d put black kids into classrooms with white kids, the differences between them would just fade away. That really worked well, didn’t it?

  2. Mrs. Davis says:

    I’m in favor of anything that will destroy public education. This seems like just the ticket.

  3. superdestroyer says:

    What all of the social engineering arugments really are is: If the school district limits the number of black students to below 50%, then black culture will not be the dominate culture of the school. that will create enough of a positive environment to help black and hispanic children learn.

    Of course, as pointed out, it does nothing but punish the white and Asian children for being good students.

    And last, If the elite of the country want to do this, then please do it with their own children first. The other day, I leanred tha Congressman Wexler (D-Florida) send his own children to a $20K per year private jewish school. Somehow I doubt if his children are in school school with any poor, Hispanic, blacks, or Asian students.

  4. The “critical mass” for any behavior or culture to take hold is well under 50%. I’ve heard under 30% but I don’t have access to research to back that up.

    But think about it for a minute. It takes far fewer than 30% of the kids in a class to be disruptive for no learning to take place.

  5. Mrs. Davis, said, “I’m in favor of anything that will destroy public education. This seems like just the ticket.”

    Yes, if they succeed with so-called “integration through class,” the public school monopoly has just had its ticket punched again on its way to oblivion. The problem is that as public education takes the ride, the bulk of our kids go along with it.

    Superdestroyer, the elite politicans don’t care about other people’s children. They care about their campaign contributions and the power that the contributions bring to control others’ lives. Nothing else. They’ve got theirs. Country be damned.

  6. Andy Freeman says:

    Why are parents who moved to get their kids out of bad schools going to let their kids be bussed to those bad schools?

    Very few parents think that their kid should be used to improve someone else’s education, especially at the cost of their kid’s education.

  7. Andy, parents MIGHT not have a choice if they want to stay in public schools. If this catches on and laws are passed to force it (or if some court steps in to claim that it MUST happen to end “vestiges of discrimination” or some such), it WILL happen. Remember the violence in Boston in the early or mid-’70s when busing started there? And the uproar over it all over the South when it was forced on school districts by courts? We could go through that all over again if a court decrees it or if the Lefist educrats get to dictate policy in too many legislatures. What parents think has little to do with what happens in most schools, you know. 😉

  8. Andy Freeman says:

    Yes, I remember. While the bus-burning got the headlines, no one noticed that parents were taking kids out of bused-districts.

    Parents will choose the least-cost (to them) method of avoiding such disasters. If moving won’t work this time, they’ll do something else.

  9. > I’m in favor of anything that will destroy public education. This seems like just the ticket.

    Nah, too much of a built-in counter-reaction.

    Andy’s right about parental response and the forceful reaction of effected parents will deter other school districts from following suit.

    There’ll still be elective officials and professionals who think this is a peachy idea but there’ll be lots more who aren’t convinced it’s necessarily as good an idea as it’s touted to be. Those latter will be that much less willing to weather the parental backlash then the derision of the high-minded but politically-distant proponents of the scheme.

  10. Roger Sweeny says:

    Whatever the politics of “integration by class,” it doesn’t seem to do much to actually increase the learning of poor kids.

    Stuart Buck just had an excellent (short) post on what the research shows and how some people misinterpret it.

  11. Andy, I agree that the parents who care and who have the money to move their kids to another school will do so. It’s the ones who don’t care as much or who can’t afford to move or who just don’t understand the impact of what’s going on who would do nothing and allow their kids to be used for this social engineering experiment.

  12. There are probably a number of schools in California that already demonstrate that racial integration is not an answer to achieving academic proficiency for poor children or children of races that historically do not achieve academic proficiency. The school that my son attends is roughly 33/33/33 split between asian/caucasion/hispanic. On average the asian and caucasion children score proficient on state standardized tests. On average the hispanic children score below proficient on state standardized tests. These racial mixes and test score trends have held steady for the last five years. So if there is any benefit to diversity in this school it is below the level of proficiency.

    I suspect that the kinds of habits that create academic proficiency aren’t just going to rub off from child to child. I think its quite clear even from the difference between Asian and Caucasion students that parents set the early expectations and that those tend to stick with a child through his life.

  13. Mrs. Davis says:

    Most parents could care less what other children by class, race, religion, national origin, you name it, are in their child’s class as long as their child is safe and their child is receiving an education that allows them to maximize their academic, athletic, artistic and social potential to have a fulfilling and successful life. Those things are rarely provided by today’s public schools.

    In fact, I suspect most parents want a reasonable level of integration because that is the world in which their children will be living. What they don’t want is government dictating to them where their child will go to school or what disruptive students need to be tolerated or what burnt out teacher drones on uselessly boring their child to death. They want choice and the right to change schools whenever they choose, and can get another school to accept their child.

    Mr. McElroy, do you remember Southie? Every parent knew what was going down and they cared. But the majority of society thought it was the right thing to do. We’ve learned that mistake. I don’t think the American people are going to put up with this again. And if you start messing with the parents in affluent suburbs, the result won’t be just violence, it will be a breakdown in the political support for public education as an ideal. I want to see what happens when the first Palo Alto kid is forced to attend Ravenswood. The voucher referendum will qualify before the bus crosses the county line.

  14. Mrs. D. You are right again, as usual.

  15. Mrs. Davis for President!

  16. I had to laugh when I read the bit in the Brazelton piece about how the government-run schools in San Francisco and Berkeley have been doing class-based integration for years. Anyone who is familiar with the Bay Area knows that those cities have among the highest percentage of students attending private schools (around 1 in 3 compared with 1 in 10 nationwide). Any family who cares about their children’s education and can afford the tuition goes the private school route.