When urban neighborhoods gentrify, why don’t their public schools improve? asks Ester Bloom in The Atlantic
Gentrification usually “stops at the schoolhouse door,” writes Nikole Hannah-Jones in Grist. Newcomers often send their kids to private or charter schools, not to the low-performing local school.
The exceptions are schools that compete for middle-class students by becoming magnet schools or starting gifted-and-talented programs, writes Bloom. However, “money put toward enticing middle-class parents is money that can’t be put toward students who might need those resources more.”
Hartford, Connecticut has created dozens of urban magnet schools that attract students who live outside the city, reports This American Life. Nearly half of Hartford students now attend integrated schools, up from 11 percent before the magnet initiative.
How exactly did Hartford do it? The city persuaded patrons to buy in. It wooed children of diverse backgrounds. And instead of having students learn science through worksheets, the city gave students access to a planetarium, an outdoor garden, a butterfly vivarium, a trout pond, and a LEGO lab.
. . . A planetarium is not a cheap solution, but if you build it, they will come—and they might well stay.
That strategy didn’t work in Kansas City, which spent $2 billion over 12 years trying to lure white, middle-class, suburban kids to the inner city, reports Cato.
The money bought higher teachers’ salaries, 15 new schools, and such amenities as an Olympic-sized swimming pool with an underwater viewing room, television and animation studios, a robotics lab, a 25-acre wildlife sanctuary, a zoo, a model United Nations with simultaneous translation capability, and field trips to Mexico and Senegal. The student-teacher ratio was 12 or 13 to 1, the lowest of any major school district in the country.
The results were dismal. Test scores did not rise; the black-white gap did not diminish; and there was less, not greater, integration.
Perhaps Hartford will do a better job of creating magnet schools that provide a high-quality education — not just perks.
By the way, Hartford has two K-8 charters that are all black/Latino. A pre-K-2 charter is integrated.