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.

Charter schools and segregation

Charter schools aren’t much more segregated than nearby schools students otherwise would attend, concludes an analysis by a team lead by Gary Ritter, a University of Arkansas education policy professor, in Education Next.

That contradicts the UCLA-based Civil Rights Project’s Choice without Equity: Charter School Segregation and the Need for Civil Rights Standards. That’s because the Civil Rights Project compared charter schools, often located in high-minority urban neighborhoods, with all traditional public schools, which are located in much more diverse areas. In inner cities, students in both charters and traditional public schools “attend school in intensely segregated settings,” write the Arkansas team.

Their findings jibe with a 2009 report by RAND, which followed students in five cities who moved from traditional public schools into charter schools: RAND found transfers have “surprisingly little effect on racial distributions across the sites.”

The Civil Rights Project’s report also complained of nearly all-white charter schools.

In some cases, like Idaho, charter school students across all races attend schools of white isolation: majorities of students of all races are in 90–100% white charter schools.

“No kidding!” responds the Arkansas team. “The state of Idaho is nearly 95 percent white.”

Public schools are segregation academies because students are forced to go to school where they live, writes Greg Forster (with Whitney Tilson quotes), looking at New York City.