Everyone is focused on race, social class may be as or more important

15 May

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 http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/15/national/class/OVERVIEW-FINAL.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 and http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/15/national/class/OVERVIEW-FINAL.html

Sarah Garland wrote in the Atlantic article, When Class Became More Important to a Child’s Education Than Race:

On a weekday afternoon in July, Jessica Klaitman pulled her 16-month-old daughter Hannah out of a stroller in the lobby of the New York Kids Club, a “child-enrichment center” with four classrooms, a dance studio, and gym space in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y.

Hannah was sleepy after a nap, but her face lit up as she was let loose with several other toddlers and their nannies. She grabbed some blocks and then headed to a table stocked with piles of a pink, play-dough-like sculpting material. For 45 minutes, the children wandered around wielding dolls and blocks, grabbing at each others’ toys and taking turns on a miniature slide. When time was up, they sang along with the “Clean-Up Song” and helped put away the mess.

A drop-in class at the New York Kids Club costs about $47, according to an employee. Hannah’s playgroup that day was free, but only because Klaitman, 40, and her husband, Jordan Small, 39, have enrolled their three children in package deals for classes in karate and preschool–which run about $650 per child for 17 once-a-week sessions. Klaitman estimates she’s dropped thousands of dollars at the club over the years, not to mention what she spends on the private preschool her oldest son attends, additional classes in Spanish and music elsewhere, and the family’s museum memberships.

The Klaitman-Smalls’ considerable investment in their children is becoming the norm for families like theirs who are in the top tiers of the country’s income distribution. The resources the affluent are pouring into their children are also driving a growing divide between academic outcomes of the children of the well-to-do and those of everyone else’s kids. That widening academic divide means that kids who are born poor and kids who are born rich are increasingly likely to stay that way once they reach adulthood….

Researchers say the expanding class gap in education is likely a byproduct of the country’s widening income inequality. There’s been an explosion in spending by well-to-do parents on their children: The amount has more than doubled in the last 30 years, according to work by Columbia University School of Social Work researchers Neeraj Kaushal and Jane Waldfogel and Katherine Magnuson of the University of Wisconsin.

Parents in the top quintile of income in the U.S. (households earning at least $102,000 in 2011, according to census data compiled by the Tax Policy Institute, a nonprofit research group) now spend more than double what parents in the second quintile (earning at least $62,000) spend on trips for their children-about $2,000 per year compared with $800, the Kaushal study found. They also spend significantly more on childcare, computers, books, and private-school tuition than their non-wealthy peers…. http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/08/when-class-became-more-important-to-a-childs-education-than-race/279064/

See, How do upper-class parents prepare their kids for success in the world? http://sandiegoeducationreport.org/talkingtokids.html

Moi wrote about the intersection of race and class in Michael Petrilli’s decision: An ed reformer confronts race and class when choosing a school for his kids. It is worth reviewing that post. https://drwilda.com/tag/class-segregation/ Lindsey Layton wrote in 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.
He set out to learn as much as he could about the risks and benefits of socioeconomically diverse schools, where at least 20 percent of students are eligible for the federal free or reduced-price lunch program. And then he wrote about it….

Petrilli said he wanted his son to have friends from all backgrounds because he believes that cultural literacy will prepare him for success in a global society.

But he worried that his son might get lost in a classroom that has a high percentage of poor children, that teachers would be focused on the struggling children and have less time for their more privileged peers.
As Petrilli points out in the book, this dilemma doesn’t exist for most white, middle-class families. The vast majority — 87 percent — of white students attend majority white schools, Petrilli says, even though they make up just about 50 percent of the public school population.

And even in urban areas with significant African American and Latino populations, neighborhood schools still tend to be segregated by class, if not by race. In the Washington region, less than 3 percent of white public school students attend schools where poor children are the majority, according to Petrilli.

Gentrification poses new opportunities for policymakers to desegregate schools, Petrilli argues….

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. http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/schools-dilemma-for-urban-gentrifiers-keep-their-kids-urban-or-move-to-suburbia/2012/10/14/02083b6c-131b-11e2-a16b-2c110031514a_story.html

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.

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