Monday, July 23, 2012

‘Why Don’t We Have Any White Kids?’

This cover story in last weekend's Metropolitan section of today's NYT raises a very serious and valid issue, the segregated schools (and world) many inner-city kids grow up in, but it does do in a way that is highly biased toward charter schools, which irritates me. More than half (!) of NYC public schools have student bodies that are at least 90% black and Latino, but of the 900+ schools the reporter could have profiled, he chose a charter school – and of course threw in this line: "The school's makeup is in line with charter schools nationally, which are over all less integrated than traditional public schools." I've addressed these issues at length – see below.

In the broad resegregation of the nation's schools that has transpired over recent decades, New York's public-school system looms as one of the most segregated. While the city's public-school population looks diverse — 40.3 percent Hispanic, 32 percent black, 14.9 percent white and 13.7 percent Asian — many of its schools are nothing of the sort.

About 650 of the nearly 1,700 schools in the system have populations that are 70 percent a single race, a New York Times analysis of schools data for the 2009-10 school year found; more than half the city's schools are at least 90 percent black and Hispanic. Explore Charter is one of them: of the school's 502 students from kindergarten through eighth grade this school year, 92.7 percent are black, 5.7 percent are Hispanic, and a scattering are of mixed race. None are white or Asian. There is a good deal of cultural diversity, with students, for instance, of Haitian, Guyanese and Nigerian heritage. But not of class. Nearly 80 percent of the students qualify for subsidized lunch, a mark of poverty. The school's makeup is in line with charter schools nationally, which are over all less integrated than traditional public schools.

At Explore, as at many schools in New York City, children trundle from segregated neighborhoods to segregated schools, living a hermetic reality.

The school's enrollment is even more racially lopsided than its catchment area. Students are chosen by lottery, with preference given to District 17, its community school district, which encompasses neighborhoods like Flatbush, East Flatbush, Crown Heights and Farragut. Census data for District 17 put the kindergarten-through-eighth-grade population at 75 percent black, 13 percent Hispanic, 12 percent white and 1 percent Asian. But the white students go elsewhere — many to yeshivas or other private schools.

Tim Thomas, a fund-raiser who is white and lives in Flatbush, writes a blog called The Q at Parkside, about the neighborhood. He has spoken to white parents trying to comprehend why the local schools aren't more integrated, even as white people move in. "They say things like they don't want to be guinea pigs," he said. "The other day, one said, 'I don't want to be the only drop of cream in the coffee.' "

Decades of academic studies point to the corroding effects of segregation on students, especially minorities, both in diminished academic performance and in the failure to equip them for the interracial world that awaits them.

"The preponderance of evidence shows that attending schools that are diverse has positive effects on children throughout the grades, and it grows over time," said Roslyn Mickelson, a professor of sociology and public policy at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, who has reviewed hundreds of studies of integrated schooling. "To put it another way, the problems of segregation are accentuated over time," she said.

Even if a segregated school provides a solid education, studies suggest, students are at a disadvantage. "What is a good education?" Dr. Mickelson said. "That you scored well on a test?"


A System Divided

'Why Don't We Have Any White Kids?'

Published: May 11, 2012

IN seventh-grade English class, sun leaked in through the windows. Horns bleated outside. The assignment was for the arrayed students to identify a turning point in their lives. Was it positive or negative? They hunched over and wrote fervidly.

A System Divided

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