Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Separate is Not Equal

In class, we've been thinking about the context of the photo The Soiling of Old Glory. While some people may think that desegregation ended with the decision in Brown v. Board of Education, educational segregation persisted. According to Isabel Wilkerson, author of The Warmth of Other Suns, rather than embrace integration,"much of the South translated" the phrase with all deliberate speed "loosely to mean whenever they got around to it." Shockingly, "one county in Virginia closed its entire system for five years, from 1959 to 1964, rather than integrate." Chickasaw, MS, she reports, "didn't integrate until 1970. Private schools sprouted up all over the country to create a de facto segregation that complied with the de jure integration the Court had endorsed.

Sadly, such responses were not limited to the the 60's or the 70's or even to the South. In fact, we may see similar battles being fought right here in Chicago today.

In an article in last year's Reader, Steve Bogira argues that " the vast majority of CPS students are still in schools that are highly segregated, racially and economically." Incredibly, "85% of all CPS students are [classified to be] low income" and "nearly one-third of [CPS]schools have enrollments that are at least 95 percent low-income...[those schools] are also 97 percent Hispanic and African-American." In part this segregation is attributable "to middle- and upper-class families enrolling their kids in private schools or moving to the suburbs once their children reach school age." Sound familiar?

Since the link between low income and low test scores is well documented, Bogira offers a bold proposal: "Rather than concentrating on raising test scores, school and city officials should focus on sharply reducing CPS's low-income proportion. Do that, and test scores and graduation rates will take care of themselves." Low income students would not be the only winners in an integrated school system. Middle and upper-class white students would benefit, according to an education analyst in the article, since "it's good for their children to be in a more diverse environment."

How possible, how plausible, is Bogira's proposal?  To what extent can we say we've made progress as a nation on this issue of education?


10 comments:

Josh Sussman said...

I have been thinking about school segregation a lot after discussing various elements of the CRM. As I walk around New Trier, there seems to be very little diversity and that begs the question, has segregation really ended?

I agree with Bogira in that better schools (with better test scores) will usually have higher-income students. I think it is very difficult, however, to integrate socioeconomic classes in schools. I think most people who have enough money want to reap the most benefits out of their money and send their children to the best school possible. People with more money usually end up sending their kids to a less diverse school because well-off people like to be with other well-off people (though most aren't willing to admit it). Also, some may feel that their hard-earned money should be spent only on their kids and when someone of a low-income invades, they are paying for them too.

One way I do see there being some possibility of changing the socioeconomic and racial segregation in the CPS is by offering more scholarships for people from lower-income schools to attend better-funded schools in the area. But, I think many people would oppose scholarships because they want do not want to lower their property value or something unreasonable like that.

Billy M said...

I agree with Josh that her proposal is not very plausible- because people want to get the best education they can afford. Despite the fact that we go to a public school, New Trier is as good as it is because the taxes that residents of New Trier Township are able to pay. New Trier can spend $19000 per student because only 3% are low income. Kelvyn Park High School, for example, is 96% low income. I think it would be hard to even these numbers out because high income parents don't want to send their kids to schools like Kelvyn Park (where 13% meet or exceed standards on test scores) when they can afford not to.

I got statistics from this http://newtrier.k12.il.us/uploadedfiles/files/content/New_Trier_Web_Site/Academic_Resources/Service_Learning/SchoolFunding.pdf

Audrey K. said...

I agree with Josh and Billy. I don't think that Bogira's proposal is plausible. Mixing students from different classes also means that students from different neighborhoods would attend the same school. This experiment may diversify the schools but does not guarantee better test scores for the low-income CPS students. Most students at New Trier are part of the middle and upper economic group, but not all students have high test scores. To assume that by mixing students from various economic classes, test scores would increase, oversimplifies the problem.

One of my best friends is a CPS student who attends Lane Tech, and she tells me about how students in Chicago have assumptions about Northshore schools, specifically New Trier. They feel that we have tension with each other because of the differences of economic statuses and social settings. With de facto segregation already present, students would socially divide within the school.

Alex Wyse said...

I agree with you guys – Bogira’s proposal has flaws. People with higher incomes are naturally going to want to send their kids to the best school that they can afford, and that would require moving out of the lower – income neighborhoods with poor educational systems. The only way her theory would work is if the average income of the entire neighborhood could be raised significantly, because that is the only way that the educational system could improve; it would need a significant amount of money pumped into it. As this is highly unlikely to happen, it is probably more beneficial to focus on raising test scores rather than low-income proportion.

Alex Wyse said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A said...

I do not think test scores and graduation rates can take care of themselves simply because of the low-income proportion. Test scores can only be increased when each individual child is considered, not a mass or a class or a gender or a race. Motivation is key in success and graduation rates as well as life at home and what a child experiences in and out school. However, the low income proportion needs to be fixed and all students are entitled to good teachers and good schools. Not ALL students at NT or other great schools have better test scores on their own, they are able to afford tutors and extra help to be able to conquer certain tests. This would prove an obstacle for low-income families, and is unfair for students who want to succeed but perhaps cannot financially.

Erik L. said...
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Erik L. said...

I think that Bogira's proposal would definitely work if implemented (although I'm curious as to how she would implement it). The school's average test scores would most certainly improve. The real question is, whether or not the test scores of those low-income students would improve. Billy argued that funding through taxes due to the area's income levels was the main reason why some schools score higher than others. I would agree with this, and if this is true than I'm not sure if moving kids who are already living in the city from private schools to public schools would have a direct impact. They are already paying taxes, so their contribution to CPS's budget has already been made. Indirectly though, their attendance would cause test scores to go up and therefore cause more families to want to move to/stay in that area for their child's education rather than going to the suburbs. This would then provide more funding for the schools which could help low income kids' test scores, to some extent. In conclusion, I think that while an economically integrated (and therefore racially integrated) school system would improve test scores for the school as a whole, I believe that it would take considerable time to see the test scores of children from low income families improve as well.

Leah L. said...

I agree with Bogira that the issue of poverty needs to be addressed if we want test scores to improve. But why focus on high test scores when they do not necessarily reflect how much a student is learning? Standardized test questions only have two possible answers: correct or incorrect. There is no way to know how a student has arrived at an answer or to what extent they understand a concept. On the North Shore, we have a very small low-income proportion, but simply increasing income will not solve the separate but unequal problem. Wealth alone does not produce good education. What low-income schools really need are good teachers. But how would you get good teachers to teach at these schools? You would need to guarantee that they would be payed more than they would at their suburban schools. They would need safety and resources for students that would allow them to teach to their full potential. The easiest way to do this would be for the school to get more money, which creates a conundrum. Schools need more money to get better teachers, but teachers won't want to go to a school if they are unable to teach the students.

Madi M said...

I agree with Leah with the fact that the quality of education in these schools cannot be measured only based off one test score because even with test scores neighborhood education and wealth comes into play. With standardized tests like the ACT students in higher income neighborhoods like New Trier's district can afford and many will use a tudor and many extra help practice techniques where kids in low income neighborhoods wouldn't even consider such a thing, so is the standardized test really fair? I think this is just another example of why Bogira's proposal would not be a success. However, respectfully disagreeing with Leah, I think that solving this issue does not require just changing the teaching staff, but actually I think the root of the problem lies in the makeup of the neighborhood itself. De facto segregation thrives in neighborhood and city and suburb settings because of things like "white flight" creating black ghettos like the South Side of Chicago. Until we figure out a way to desegregate these neighborhoods there will be no equal opportunity education.