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

Friday, October 15, 2021

Education Reform Outcomes: Segregation and Child Punishment

One year after the Supreme Court's ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, Milton Friedman published The Role of Government in Education (1955), a screed in which Friedman laid out for the first time a case for school choice and government-funded school vouchers. Amazing timing, right?

That publication marked the beginning of the modern school reform movement, which has produced an impressive array of ideas and strategies whose primary effects have been to maintain segregation and to punish disenfranchised children.

But, you say, what about a good intentions of reformers like Bobby Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, and Barack Obama? And my response will always be, so what? 

How long will we continue to try to assess reformers' intentions, rather than focusing on the outcomes and the effects of reforms?

We know, in fact, what's the road to hell is paved with, and I gave up along time ago trying to determine what is in another person's heart. I am only interested in examining the outcomes of actions and/or inactions of actors whose unconscious motivations remain invisible to themselves and others. 

Meanwhile, here is a clip from the latest example of another upending of a reform idea that sounded good to some people at the time that it was implemented:

Idesha Fraser was proud to hear that a teacher at P.S. 282 in Park Slope had recognized her fourth-grade daughter’s academic potential and transferred her into the school’s Gifted and Talented program. Still, she had misgivings. Fraser’s daughter had been one of many Black students in a diverse classroom, but when she started in the Gifted and Talented program in September, she was one of only a few Black students in a predominantly white classroom.

“They’re drastically different. It’s very visible,” said Fraser. “My daughter hasn’t mentioned it to me — we haven’t talked about skin color — but she’s pretty intuitive. I’m pretty sure she notices it.”

Which is why Fraser cheered Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement last week that New York City would be ending its Gifted and Talented programs, acknowledging that they had exacerbated racial segregation in the city’s school system. The numbers are stark: While Black and Latino students make up nearly 60 percent of the city’s 65,000 kindergarteners, they fill just 14 percent of the 2,500 Gifted and Talented seats. About 75 percent of the seats go to Asian American and white students, who represent only 25 percent of the citywide population.

If you can think of an education reform from the past 65 years that is not 1) segregative, or 2) harmful to children, please let me know about it. 

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