Saturday, June 30, 2007


Between the iphone and the latest Supreme Court ruling on school integration, I can hardly scan the Internet without puking.

The hysteria is mind boggling. You would think from some of the articles posted that the Supreme Court just reinstated slavery.

As far as I can tell its only the fugly awkward racial integration plans that are going to be effected. There are plenty of options still available including socioeconomic integration, a subject that is going to become a lot more popular in the coming months and year.

The Century Foundation prepared well and already has the first post-supreme court paper out on socioeconomic integration. It's only 24 hours after the decision and they already have a 78 page report out.

Rescuing Brown v. Board of Education: Profiles of Twelve School Districts Pursuing Socioeconomic School Integration

Some of the key points made:

A large body of research has long shown that concentrations of poverty—even more than concentrations of minority students—can impede academic achievement, and that providing all students with the chance to attend mixed-income schools can raise overall levels of achievement. Breaking up concentrations of poverty is not, as one judge suggested, a "clumsier proxy device"3 for obtaining a certain racial result; it is a powerful educational strategy for raising student achievement.

Are middle-class children hurt by attending economically mixed schools? The research suggests that sprinkling a few middle-class children into a school of highly concentrated poverty may hurt their academic achievement, but so long as a critical mass of the students are middle class (not eligible for free and reduced price lunch), middle-class student achievement does not decline with the presence of some low-income students. Studies find that integration is not a zero-sum game, in which gains for low-income students are offset by declines in middle-class achievement. This is true in part because the majority is what sets the tone in a school, and because research finds that middle-class children are less affected by school influences (for good or ill) than low-income children.
I am a bit uncomfortable with the naked condescension that postulates that poor and minority students always need to be kept as minorities to succeed. For one thing it means that integration in many heavily minority cities will be useless and harmful (at least to the the middle class kids that are integrated). Of course, it's obvious from cities like Washington D.C. that just throwing money at the problem won't work.

My prediction is that we will start to see more and more talk about merging suburban districts with city districts to water down the overall concentration of low SES students.

It's a complicated problem and one that doesn't have an easy answer.

Of course given the hype about the new iphone, how long will it be before someone advocates giving an iphone to every inner city student, with the argument that they can listen to podcasts of lectures and then call their teacher if they have a problem.