How Hillary’s hometown keeps poor kids out

Hillary Clinton’s high-priced hometown of Chappaqua, New York has great schools for children from affluent, white families, writes Dana Goldstein in Politico. There are no poor kids.

Westchester County was supposed to become a model of integrating well-to-do, white communities, but residents have delayed or blocked plans to build affordable housing, writes Goldstein.

Affluent parents are fighting attempts to desegregate schools on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

A better school for my kid (not yours)

Lucinda Rosenfeld’s Class, a novel about a Brooklyn parents scheming to get their daughter in an out-of-neighborhood school, is a “guilty pleasure” read, writes Alexander Russo.

College-educated white liberals, Karen Kipple and her husband condo move into a gentrifying neighborhood where the local school is not as highly rated as the the school a few blocks away that’s already fully gentrified.

Karen can brag that her third-grader attends a racially mixed school. But the test scores are mediocre. Will her child succeed with a good-enough education?

“This is not a deep policy book, or even always entirely serious in terms of how it addresses education issues,” writes Russo. “But the issues it raises are serious underneath the satire, and the dynamics among parents, teachers, and children seem fairly realistic.”

Comedian Wyatt Cenac, who’s got a Netflix series called Brooklyn, talks about gentrification in Grist.

“If wealthier people move into a neighborhood and then use their clout to effect change,” the local school may improve, he says. But sometimes, the wealthy “don’t care about the school across street, because they’re going to put their kids in private school, miles away.” Without a sense of community, gentrification pushes out the people who were there before.

Chalkbeat reports on diversity success stories in New York City.

A model of integration is now 98% black


Coleman High was the black middle-high school in Greenville, Mississippi.

Greenville, Mississippi was a model of integregation in the 1970s, writes Lynnell Hancock on the Hechinger Report. The Delta town was lauded in the Coleman Report for its voluntary plan to desegregate schools.

Now, 98 percent of public school students are black and 94 percent live in poverty.

Greenville High, once a top high school in the state, struggled to pull itself up from the F status it received for many years from Mississippi’s state accounting system to the D it has now

Across town, the private Washington School charges up to almost $6,000 annual tuition and is 94 percent white. Eleven out of its nearly 700 students are black.

In 1977, the U.S. Civil Rights Commission declared Greenville’s desegregation to be a “near total success,” writes Hancock. “Good leadership and good will” had created a district where “not one school was left with an all-black student body,” the commission concluded.

But whites, who were 30 percent of enrollment, steadily left for private schools.

A slower approach to desegregation, such as “freedom of choice” transfers used by some blacks,”may very well have had a better outcome than we’ve got now,” says William Percy Jr., a former school board member.

Hodding Carter III, who ran the pro-integration Delta Democrat-Times, is more cynical. “There is no place in America in which there are truly integrated schools when the black numbers get higher than 60 percent,” he said.

Charlotte, North Carolina also was a model of desegregation, reports The New Yorker.  After the school district stopped assigning students by race, in response to a 1999 lawsuit, the schools resegregated.

 

As schools gentrify, PTA politics get tricky

When schools gentrify, educated, affluent, white parents often take over parent groups, writes Casey Quinlan in The Atlantic. Less-educated, lower-income parents feel their voices aren’t heard and their children’s needs aren’t the top priority.

Lower-income parents may want more access to computers, while affluent parents worry their kids get too much screen time.

Powell Elementary School in Washington, D.C. has separate parent meetings in English and Spanish. Photo: Cliff Owens/AP

Powell Bilingual Elementary School in Washington, D.C. has separate parent meetings in English and Spanish. Photo: Cliff Owens/AP

Double-immersion bilingual programs are proving popular with educated, English-speaking parents, which creates more integrated schools.

Advantaged parents are great at fund-raising, which gives them clout with the principal, said Alexandra Freidus, a New York University graduate student who analyzed a changing Brooklyn school. As the school population became whiter and more affluent, resources shifted to improving the playground “rather than efforts to get classroom computers and support for the student prom.”

Think Progress looks at a bilingual Spanish-English school in Washington, D.C. that’s drawing more students with educated, English-speaking “high-powered” parents.

The parent community used to feel like a “family,” said Percia Williams, an active parent for eight years. Now, some Spanish-speaking parents feel excluded.

Diversity: Does class trump race?

Socioeconomic diversity — not just racial diversity — should be a priority for U.S. schools, said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr. in an Atlantic interview previewing his July 1 speech at the National PTA Convention in Orlando.

Education Secretary John B. King Jr.

Education Secretary John B. King Jr.

“A Puerto Rican and African American whose parents had both passed away by the time he was 12, King has repeatedly credited New York public schools for saving his life and shaping its trajectory,” writes Emily DeRuy. King attended integrated schools “that exposed him not only to high-quality curriculum, but to students and teachers from backgrounds and cultures wildly different from his own.”

“Like math and reading, like science, social studies, and the arts, diversity is no longer a luxury,” King told the PTA. “It’s essential for helping our students get ready for the world they will encounter after high school and, increasingly, throughout their lives.”

Schools integrated by social class raise disadvantaged students’ academic achievement, the Coleman Report concluded 50 years ago, writes the Century Foundation’s Richard Kahlenberg, also in The Atlantic.

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Coleman found racial school integration helped black students because of “the better educational background and higher educational aspirations that are, on average, found among whites.”

Still, socioeconomic integration has been a low priority for nearly all school districts — until recently, writes Kahlenberg. Now, 91 school districts with 4 million students are trying to mix low-income and middle-class students.

Charlotte, for example, which led the nation in racial desegregation, then abandoned it, saw its school board vote in 2016 to take steps to integrate the schools by socioeconomic status.

. . . In Cambridge, Massachusetts, . . .  a socioeconomic-integration program was adopted in 2001 and by 2014, 86 percent of low-income students graduated, compared to 65 percent of low-income students in Boston, whose schools are not socioeconomically integrated.

Schools integrated by social class (and race) have benefits for all students, the Century Foundation argues.

Whites are a plurality, but not a majority, in public schools, while Latinos, who come in all colors, outnumber blacks. I suspect this is driving the rising interest in socioeconomic diversity.

Choosing segregation for a black child

Nikole Hannah-Jones’ black working-class parents sent her to the best — and whitest — school in town, thanks to an integration plan. Her husband, an Army brat, got an integrated education in military schools.

As educated and middle-class parents in a black but gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood, they struggled with choosing a school in a segregated city, writes Hannah-Jones in New York Times Magazine.

Najya??? Hannah-Jones

Najya Hannah-Jones Photo: Henry Leutwyler/New York Times

An education writer, she wanted to send her daughter to public school. All the local schools serve low-income black and Latino kids and have low test scores.

“I didn’t know any of our middle-class neighbors, black or white, who sent their children to one of these schools,” she writes. “They had managed to secure seats in the more diverse and economically advantaged magnet schools or gifted-and-talented programs outside our area, or opted to pay hefty tuition to progressive but largely white private institutions.”

Not wanting her daughter to be one of a handful of black students at a predominantly white school, she rolled the dice on a segregated school, P.S. 307, with a great principal and strong funding. Most students come from the housing project across the street.

But she worries the school will gentrify. Neighboring P.S. 8, serving well-to-do whites, is overcrowded while P.S. 307 has plenty of room. If the boundaries are shifted — over vociferous objections from P.S. 8 parents — will their daughter’s school become dominated by affluent white families?

Alexander Russo wonders how many other people in “educationland” have chosen a heavily minority public school for their own kids. So far, he’s got Ben Speicher and Eva Moskowitz, both charter school leaders.

Family Sport Night at Community Roots School in Brooklyn. Photo: Beth Fertig

A Brooklyn charter school works at integrating students and parents, reports Beth Fertig on WNYC’s SchoolBook.

Community Roots Charter School is 39 percent white, 33 percent black, 20 percent combined Hispanic and Asian, and 8 percent “other,” much like its district.

To encourage socializing, the school “stays open late for regular get-togethers like family sports or arts nights, cooking classes for parents, teacher-arranged ‘play dates’ for kids who don’t know each other well,” writes Fertig.

More than 700 students applied for 50 kindergarten seats this year, but “only 25 percent of its students qualify for free lunch, far less than in the surrounding public schools.” To create a socioeconomic mix, the school now requires that 40 percent of students must come from nearby housing projects.

Good schools matter 

Families matter a great deal and schools very little when it comes to education, concluded the famous Coleman report, Equality of Educational Opportunity, 50 years ago. Coleman mixed up cause and correlation, writes Stanford’s Caroline Hoxby as part of Education Next‘s look back on the influential report.

Coleman “did not consider the possibility that advantaged children might have had high achievement precisely because their parents could choose good schools and ditch bad schools,” she writes.

Coleman believed teacher quality didn’t matter because measurable teacher characteristics, such as experience, education and vocabulary score, explained little of the variation in students’ achievement.

Parents always knew some teachers were better than others, writes Hoxby. These days, “numerous rigorous analyses of value-added demonstrate that teachers matter a great deal.”

Coleman failed to see that “good” families might be those who could discern which teachers were effective and get their children into those teachers’ classes. Thus, part of the apparent family effect was really a choose-effective-teachers effect.

(Before my daughter started kindergarten, I visited the two teachers’ classrooms and requested the one I liked the most. In later years, I networked with other parents to determine which teachers had the best reputations.)
Looking back, it is obvious that this early and voluntary desegregation was dominated by selection, that is, families’ own choices.Coleman also concluded that minority children achieved more when they had white classmates, Hoxby writes. But his study didn’t look at students randomly assigned to an integrated or all-black classroom. The data, from an era before desegregation orders, reflected “the sort of black families who were motivated and able to live in integrated neighborhoods.”

Hoxby attended voluntarily integrated schools in Shaker Heights, Ohio.  “Often, the blacks were professionals who already spent most of their working lives among whites, had white friends, and participated in mixed-race church and social groups. ”

Her research has found that “when students are randomly assigned to schools, it is the achievement and not the race of their peers that matters.”

‘You can get smarter’

Evanston is a Chicago suburb with one very large high school. It enrolls the children of doctors, lawyers and Northwestern professors. It enrolls students from low-income and working-class families. Half are white or Asian-American and half are black or Latino. 

When Eric Witherspoon took over as superintendent of the district, he saw a very integrated school with segregated classrooms, reports Sophie Quinton in National Journal. “Our Advanced Placement classes were disproportionately white, and our classes for struggling students were disproportionately nonwhite,” says Witherspoon.

Team ASAP (Access and Success in Advanced Placement) tout AP classes at Evanston High

Team ASAP (Access and Success in Advanced Placement) members encourage Evanston students to choose AP classes.

Evanston High has expanded academic supports, such as AVID, study centers, early morning and Saturday study sessions. In 2010, honors humanities was opened to all ninth graders. Those who do well earn honors credit and prepare for Advanced Placement work. Other students earn credit for a regular class.

My daughter’s ninth-grade English class (aka “Critical Thinking”) was an honors class for students who chose to do extra work and a regular class for others. It worked well — because the spread wasn’t all that great between the two groups.

Honor students’ parents protested, fearing the courses would be watered down, but “earned honors’ has expanded to ninth-grade science.

The school, which is very well funded, has invested in training teachers how to teach mixed-level classes and how to have “constructive conversations” about race. Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck has talked to staff about cultivating a “growth mindset,” the belief that you can improve, if you work hard enough.

The belief that “intelligence is malleable” has taken root, says Witherspoon.

“You can get smarter,” he says, banging his hands on the table for emphasis.

. . . Nine years ago, about 38 percent of juniors and seniors had taken at least one AP exam, and 77 percent of tests earned a passing grade or higher. Last year, 64 percent of juniors and seniors took at least one AP exam, and 71 percent of tests earned a passing grade or higher.

In the class of 2014, 88 percent of white graduates, 82 percent of Asians, 60 percent of Latinos and 44 percent of African-Americans took at least one AP exam.

A Smarter Charter

image from tcf.org

Empowered teachers and integrated enrollments make for A Smarter Charter, argue Richard Kahlenberg and Halley Potter of The Century Foundation. That’s the original vision of teacher union leader Al Shanker, they write.

“The charter model still offers an exciting opportunity to “build new schools from scratch,” the authors write in a New York Times commentary. “A small but growing number are using their flexibility in governance and enrollment to increase the influence of teachers and to integrate their student bodies.”

Some charter teachers have unionized with “thin” collective bargaining agreements that provide flexibility.

Others asks teachers to share administrative responsibilities.

Kahlenberg and Potter praise charter schools that serve a racial, ethnic and socioeconomic mix of students. For example, San Diego’s High Tech High “employs a lottery weighted by ZIP code that capitalizes on the unfortunate reality of residential segregation” to achieve diversity.

“Different families want different things for their children,” writes Neerav Kingsland in response to the op-ed. “While socioeconomic diversity is a noble goal, it may not be the number one priority for all families.”

In addition, Kahlenberg and Potter dismiss “strong evidence of the benefits of charter schools for African-American students,” writes Kingsland. CREDO’s 27-state charter study found that African-American students in poverty who attended charter schools achieved nearly two months of extra learning per year. As yet, there’s “little rigorous research” backing the educational benefits of socioeconomically diverse schools.

The Prep School Negro

A scholarship took 14-year-old André Robert Lee from the Philadelphia ghetto to an elite private school. The Prep School Negro tells the cost of that opportunity.