Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Brooklyn Prospect Charter School Increases Diversity

Now in its fourth year, Brooklyn Prospect Charter School is one of a small but growing group of schools that actively seeks to fill its seats with students from different racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups. Researchers say schools like it are getting a boost from urban middle-class parents who are quietly saying "No" to the typical suburban exodus once their kids reach kindergarten.

"Many of them express a deep attachment to the city," said University of Pennsylvania sociologist Annette Lareau. "They see the suburbs as sterile, as boring. They also see the suburbs as not a realistic preparation for their children for life."

These parents increasingly push local schools to accommodate them, a development that Lareau says is "good for cities and good for America."

Observers caution that the trend of white middle-class parents sticking with urban schools is still small and won't soon reverse the USA's decidedly mixed record on school integration since the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court Brown vs. Board of Education, which declared "separate but equal" schools unconstitutional.

At the moment, researchers say, the phenomenon seems limited to a handful of mostly East Coast cities: New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington. But it's also happening in New Orleans, Chicago, Denver and San Francisco.

"All we can say at this point is that this provides the best opportunity in a generation for us to integrate our urban schools," said Mike Petrilli, whose the new book The Diverse Schools Dilemma, appears in stores . 

Another, Jennifer Stillman'sGentrification and Schools: The Process of Integration When Whites Reverse Flight, appeared last August. A third book, MarketingSchools, Marketing Cities, by Temple University education researcher Maia Cucchiara, is due out this spring.

For activists who never gave up on the dream of integration, Petrilli said, the change is palpable. "For four decades now, the issue of urban schools has been one of predominantly poor and minority kids and how to serve them well," he said. "Suddenly we have this influx of middle-class kids."

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