Urban middle class tries public schools

In some cities, white middle-class parents are integrating public schools instead of moving to the suburbs, reports USA Today. They’re pushing for programs that serve their children’s needs, such as a ballet class at Brooklyn Prospect Charter School.

“Many of them express a deep attachment to the city,” said University of Pennsylvania sociologist Annette Lareau. “They see the suburbs as sterile, as boring. They also see the suburbs as not a realistic preparation for their children for life.”

Public schools integrated by race, income and class are popping up in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, New Orleans, Chicago, Denver and San Francisco, according to USA Today.

“True educational equity can only occur in socioeconomically diverse classrooms,” said Josh Densen, a former KIPP teacher in Harlem who’s now working to open an integrated charter school in post-Katrina New Orleans.  The city has several KIPP schools, but a model designed for disadvantaged students who lack basic skills isn’t a good fit for his daughter, Densen believes.

Brooklyn Prospect started four years ago with a sixth grade class and is adding a grade each year to become a middle-high school. It now occupies a former Catholic school building — with a convent on the fourth floor for eight nuns. The rigorous International Baccalaureate program attracts educationally ambitious parents. Students are admitted by lottery — with a preference for low-income students to keep the school diverse. Forty percent of students qualify for a free lunch, according to USA Today. Nearly half the students are white and Asian; the rest are Hispanic and black.

According to Inside Schools:

Advanced students may do “seeker” projects, taking on more in-depth assignments. Students who need extra help go to small group tutorials to “reinforce skills and close the skills gap,”  while others are in study hall . . . Teachers stay after school or come in early for study sessions or test review.

Ninth graders are separated into two English classes: literature (for stronger students) and composition (for struggling readers and writers).

Diversity won’t work without challenging work for high achievers and extra help for stragglers.

To take the-glass-is-nearly-empty view, suburban schools are resegregating, write Erica Frankenberg, a Penn State education professor, and Gary Orfield, co-director of UCLA’s Civil Rights Project.

About Joanne


  1. Florida resident says:

    Ron Unz:
    “No Quotas, No Elite Public High Schoo.
    How Los Angeles undercut its pathbreaking IHP (Individualized Honors Program) project”


  2. I find it difficult to believe that large numbers of middle-class parents will stick with public schools that try to force a mix of SES. Color/ethnicity isn’t the issue, academic levels and behavior are. Dividing by academic level usually does not produce the “right” amount of “diversity” in each classroom and it’s just as likely (in my experience, more likely) that the poorly socialized will be a negative influence on the well-behaved; instead of the reverse. Since peer influence tends to increase as kids age, I think that parents are likely to move their kids to situations where the peer group shares their values – well before middle school. Of course, specialized programs or (gentrified) neighborhood schools would tend to keep their kids in public schools, but they wouldn’t be SES-diverse. The other issue is academics; I have no faith whatsoever in “differentiated instruction” in a heterogeneous classroom (even if not full-inclusion); the bottom kids will be lost and the top kids will be bored. I just don’t see this happening on a large scale and my kids were raised in the DC area, where many parents left the city for just those reasons. Or, they sent their kids to private schools, where the kids were likely to be all colors and flavors, but the vast majority were upper-middle class or better. (same for private schools in the suburbs) I have never known any parents, of any race or ethnic group, who wanted their kids in significant contact with kids with problems; academic, behavior, drugs, crime, promiscuity/pregnancy. Povery doesn’t necessarily correlate with any of these, but in the cities it’s very likely to do just that.