"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Economic Integration and the Achievement Gap

In an interview with Jonathan Kozol in Ed Week (9/21), he notes the pathological testing hysteria and the frenzy to demonstrate the failure of public schools, thus ushering in the Bush agenda to privatize education while rewarding the hacks and cronies and hucksters who have paid their way to the feeding trough. Of course, as we have noted repeatedly, this agenda is masked in the high rhetoric of helping to close the achievement gap and providing aid to the kind of people who didn't get any in New Orleans or in any poor urban school in America. From the Kozol interview:
Q: But the No Child Left Behind Act was a bipartisan effort to hold schools accountable for the performance of racial and ethnic subgroups that for years schools were able to ignore. Isn't that a sign that there is a growing national commitment to addressing the achievement gap and some of the inequalities in schools you have written about for years?

A: No. It's a preposterous claim that only with the advent of NCLB did we discover suddenly that segregated, minority children have never received the education white, middle-class children receive. Teachers don't need this sociopathic regime of nonstop testing to tell them these students are being cheated. The main function of the accountability regime is to humiliate inner-city principals by telling the public in graphic terms what all of us already knew. President Bush would do more good if he would save all the money wasted on these pathologically repetitive, high-stakes exams and give large financial incentives to good suburban school systems surrounding every major city that would provide powerful inducements to open up their doors to inner-city children.

Backing Kozol's insistence on ending the new apartheid schooling in America is a piece of news from the Sunday NY Times on an effort in North Carolina to do something there to integrate schools (again). As a sign of a time in our history when it is more acceptable to talk about economic rights than civil rights (another shame), Wake County, which includes Raleigh schools, has been carrying out an integration-by-income plan for years that has had significant impacts on really closing the achievement gap, instead of pretending to do so in order to disguise another agenda.

It is interesting, and sad, too, that some of the most vocal opponents of this kind of integration have been transplanted Northerners who would like to maintain the same lily-white schools that they left in New Jersey and Connecticut and other more "socially-advanced" parts of the world when they pulled up stakes to head south. See this CBS story from 2003 that lays out this problem, while reminding us that the most segregated schools in the U.S today are in NY, California, Illinois, and Michigan.

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