Gary, If we look back at the history of urban public schools we see very clearly that when schools were in socioeconomically integrated neighborhoods, you didn't have failing schools, you had failing kids within those schools. The higher the general income levels of those schools, the lower the failure rates. Thus we saw great gains in lowering the "achievement gap" in the 60s and 70s.
When those socioeconomically integrated (even though they may not have been ethniclly integrated) neighborhoods suffered from middle class and/or white flight we created huge pockets of poverty where a far greater percentage of students were failing, thus creating what we now call failing schools. We have all seen this.
William Julius Wilson in his book, "The Truly Disadvantaged" describes this phenomenon in detail. Elijah Anderson's book, "Code Of The Streets" describes the results as kids have to code switch between the values of the street and the school, usually failing to do so.
Thus the path is clear. The success of schools will depend more on housing patterns and less on education policy. We must do more of what is now being tried in Dallas where kids are not bussed from poor neighborhoods to schools in better neighborhoods but rather their families are found places to live in those neighborhoods so these children can reap the benefits of the values they sorely miss in the extreme poverty neighborhoods where they fight to survive.
We see those results here in Westchester when we look at various communities that were once socioeconomically integrated and now not, and where pockets of "integrated neighborhoods were built for low income folks in middle income areas.
Once upon a time there was a Federal Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Together, it and the Department of Housing and Urban Development tried to keep that delicate balance in neighborhoods. That ended in 1979.
Isnt it time we took a more holistic approach? All the research tells us that "It's the poverty, stupid."
The problem will, as usual, be prejudice and NIMBY...Not In My Back Yard.