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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

It’s hard to create schools that ‘work for everybody’ 

Students walk through a commons area during lunchtime at Wheaton North High in a suburb of Chicago. Photo: Alyssa Schukar/Education Week

Creating schools that “work for everybody” is a challenge, writes Education Week‘s Catherine Gewertz.

When the bell rings at Wheaton North High School, a river of white students flows into Advanced Placement classrooms. A trickle of brown and black students joins them. But mostly, the Latino, African-American, and Asian teenagers file into lower-rung classes.

Six years ago, the school eliminated the remedial track. Low achievers, who primarily come from lower-income, minority families, are placed in intermediate-level college-prep classes. To provide extra support, “a teacher of special education or English-learners joins a regular teacher in all core I-level courses that include students with disabilities, those learning English, and those with weaker skills,” writes Gewertz.

The school provides “summer bridge” classes to prepare students to move up from intermediate to advanced classes or from advanced to AP. Counselors encourage students to aim higher.

But disparities persist in course-taking, grades and suspensions, writes Gewertz. Asked about “race- and income-based patterns,” most Wheaton North “teachers chose to recast the question, saying they prefer to be colorblind, tailoring support to students based on their academic or emotional needs, not their race or class,” she concludes.

Is that a problem?

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