Economic class integration is just as important as racial integration

5 Jan

Moi has consistently blogged about race and class and their impact on education outcomes for children. In Race, class, and education in America, moi said:

Many educators have long recognized that the impact of social class affects both education achievement and life chances after completion of education. There are two impacts from diversity, one is to broaden the life experience of the privileged and to raise the expectations of the disadvantaged. Social class matters in not only other societies, but this one as well.

A few years back, the New York Times did a series about social class in America. That series is still relevant. Janny Scott and David Leonhardt’s overview, Shadowy Lines That Still Divide describes the challenges faced by schools trying to overcome the disparity in education. The complete series can be found at Social Class                      

Jay Mathews reports in the Washington Post article, Discarded integration method sees new life about an American Educator article written by Richard D. Kahlenberg.

As Kahlenberg says in an illuminating new piece in American Educator magazine, research shows that poor kids transferred to schools with middle-class majorities do better academically, on average, than in schools with low-income majorities. Why? Kahlenberg offers three reasons: predominantly middle-class schools have student peers with better study habits and behavior, parents who are more involved in the school and more likely to complain about problems and stronger teachers with higher expectations for their students.

Since this is a mostly middle-class country, why can’t we adjust school boundaries and provide transportation to let all low-income students have these role models and protectors?

People who ask that question get quizzical looks from know-it-alls like me. Don’t you remember the seventies? We tried putting poor black kids into affluent white neighborhood schools and vice versa. It was a well-intentioned, disheartening failure. Voters rebelled against boundary changes and busing. Affluent parents abandoned socioeconomically integrated schools. Politicians local and national, Democratic and Republican, gave up on the idea.

But Kahlenberg hasn’t, and his point of view has made surprising headway.

In his new piece, “From All Walks of Life: New Hope for School Integration,” he describes a small but increasing number of successful experiments in socioeconomic balance. Skeptics like me should at least acknowledge that many affluent American parents want their children to mix with low-income students, so long as everyone is getting a challenging education.

I asked Kahlenberg how Washington area schools might move in this direction. In suburban districts such as Montgomery County, he said, “greater integration could be facilitated by creating whole school (as opposed to within-school) magnet programs to attract more affluent students into schools located in tougher neighborhoods. Likewise, money could be used to provide a financial bonus for wealthier schools to accept low-income student transfers.” School boundary adjustments could help. Local activists, and even D.C. school chancellor Kaya Henderson, have shown interest in such approaches.

With socioeconomic integration still difficult to arrange, conscientious educators have tried instead to bring the habits and expectations of rich schools to poor ones. They hire only principals and teachers with high expectations for inner-city kids. They make the school day and year longer to compensate for the lack of middle-class enrichment at home. They insist on students obeying the same attendance and classroom behavior rules found in affluent schools. They prepare all students for college, as private schools do.

They are, in essence, embracing Kahlenberg’s point, that middle-class values produce better students. So I think Kahlenberg is wrong to suggest such schools weaken support for socioeconomic integration. I also don’t accept his view that the KIPP charter school network, a favorite of mine, looks significantly better than it is because of attrition and better parents. KIPP is not perfect, but many researchers have verified its progress. Kahlenberg’s arguments are weakened by out-of-date data and unexamined assumptions.


American Educator
Winter 2012–2013

Table of Contents

From All Walks of Life (PDF) (HTML)
New Hope for School Integration
By Richard D. Kahlenberg

Integrating our schools is a goal that many of us share. But some seem to have given up on the idea, as plans to boost racial diversity have come under attack, and as the fixation on test scores has narrowed some people’s concept of a good education. There is, however, new hope: integration by socioeconomic status. It’s a cost-effective, legally sound strategy that can promote racial diversity while narrowing the achievement gap.

Moi, unlike Mathews, agrees with Kahlenberg’s premise.

Caralee Adams writes in the Education Week article, Why High School Students Drop Out and Efforts to Re-Engage:

Parenthood—either being a parent or missing out on parental support—is the leading reason cited by dropouts for leaving school, according to a new survey.

The 2012 High School Dropouts in America survey was released today by Harris/Decima, a division of Harris Interactive, on behalf of Everest College, a part of the for-profit Corinthian College Inc.

The poll was commissioned to help policymakers and educators understand why students drop out of high school and find effective ways to re-engage them in the hope of improving graduation rates.

The survey asked 513 adults, ages 19 to 35: “Which, if any, of the following reasons prevented you from finishing high school?” Here are the responses:

  1. Absence of parental support or encouragement (23 percent)
  2. Becoming a parent (21 percent)
  3. Lacking the credits needed to graduate (17 percent)
  4. Missing too many days of school (17 percent)
  5. Failing classes (15 percent)
  6. Uninteresting classes (15 percent)
  7. Experiencing a mental illness, such as depression (15 percent)
  8. Having to work to support by family (12 percent)
  9. Was bullied and didn’t want to return (12 percent)

In the survey, conducted online in October, 55 percent of the dropouts looked into, but had not started the process of getting their high school equivalency or GED. The likelihood of doing so is higher for those who are married (67 percent). The reasons for not getting a GED: “not having enough time” (34 percent) and “it costs too much” (26 percent).

One-third of high school dropouts say they are employed either full time, part time, or are self‐employed. Another 38 percent of the men and 26 percent of the women were unemployed.

Attracting young adults who have dropped out back for more education is a challenge.

Often students don’t want to return to the same school they left and are looking for flexible options. One approach that is showing promise is the Boston Public Re-Engagement Center. There, students can retake up to two courses they previously failed; try online credit recovery, or attend night school or summer school. Coming into the program, out-of-school youths are connected with an adult to discuss goals, finances, and enrollment options.

See, High School Dropouts Worsened By Lack Of Support, Becoming A Parent: Survey

Many of these issues are tied to the economic status of the student and their family.

In Michael Petrilli’s decision: An ed reformer confronts race and class when choosing a school for his kids, moi wrote:

Lindsey Layton wrote the Washington Post article, Schools dilemma for gentrifiers: Keep their kids urban, or move to suburbia?

When his oldest son reached school age, Michael Petrilli faced a dilemma known to many middle-class parents living in cities they helped gentrify: Should the family flee to the homogenous suburbs for excellent schools or stay urban for diverse but often struggling schools?

Petrilli, who lived in Takoma Park with his wife and two sons, was torn, but he knew more than most people about the choice before him. Petrilli is an education expert, a former official in the Education Department under George W. Bush and executive vice president at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a right-leaning education think tank…

In the end, Petrilli moved from his Takoma Park neighborhood school — diverse Piney Branch Elementary, which is 33 percent low-income — to Wood Acres Elementary in Bethesda, where 1 percent of the children are low-income, 2 percent are black and 5 percent are Hispanic.

Often, schools are segregated by both race and class. Class identification is very important in education because of class and peer support for education achievement and the value placed on education by social class groups. Moi does not condemn Mr. Petrilli for doing what is best for his family because when the rubber meets the road that is what parents are supposed to do. His family’s situation is just an example of the intersection of race and class in education.      


The role economic class plays in college success                                   

The ‘school-to-prison pipeline’                                                                         

Trying not to raise a bumper crop of morons: Hong Kong’s ‘tutor kings and queens’                                                            

Where information leads to Hope. ©                 Dr.

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