Saturday, September 24, 2005

Raleigh's School Integration by Economics

From today's NY Times:

Over the last decade, black and Hispanic students here in Wake County have made such dramatic strides in standardized reading and math tests that it has caught the attention of education experts around the country. . . . School officials in Wake County, which includes Raleigh and its sprawling suburbs, have tried many tactics to improve student performance. . . .But the prime reason for the students' dramatic improvement, officials and parents say, is that the district has made a concerted effort to integrate the schools economically. Read the whole article.
Two questions: might this work in Guilford County (because what we're doing now doesn't seem to be working)? And why am I reading about this in the NY Times and not in a paper a little closer to home?

And let me make one "urbanist" observation: the long busrides that this program entails for the students might be a little less long if those "sprawling suburbs" were a little less sprawly: just something that future homebuyers in Raleigh might want to factor into their housing decisions.

The article also says that this strategy has supported urban real estate prices, along with suburban ones. That sounds like a good trend to me.


Sue said...

Way back when, I taught in a Greensboro City school; one that had very wealthy white students and extraordinarily poor black students. The numbers were right (those percentages for integration by race) but the antipathy for one group against another was palpable every day. If economic integration works, then damnit, do it. We talked about it in the late 70s (when I was the aforementioned teacher) but nothing has happened lo these many years. Who do we call?

Joe Guarino said...

David, I would reiterate what Sue is saying, but with one additional piece of information. We knew back in the 1970's that efforts at integration work mainly when the groups being integrated come from otherwise comparable groups from a socioeconomic standpoint. I remember learning this, and it being mentioned in a text in a class in social psychology I took at NYU circa 1979-1980. Other types of pressures were brought to bear on the school systems-- legal, political-- that led us down different paths.

Darkmoon said...

Hate to play the "other side" of things, but I never thought that economic integration worked based on a few facts after college:

1) I went to the public school that was ranked #1 in WA. It went back and forth between Mercer Island and Bellevue High for years on end. Big time rival schools in both academics and sports.

2) My sister also went to the same high school. By the time she graduated, there were plans for economic integration.

3) Economic integration was in place and kids were on buses to go to MIHS.

4) MIHS rankings dropped as did Bellevue High. Currently, I believe they can't even compete with the private schooling that many people that used to go to MIHS could actually compete against. Many are also pulling their kids out and opting for private school.

It sucks, but if that was the case, how will it be any different here? They tried to do that in California at several high schools and I know they were blocked by many Asian parents due to the competitive level of academics. I seriously doubt Wake is just about economic integration since I have yet to see it actually work. There must be some other piece of the puzzle that they have that is working. But don't hold your breath to have GCS lead the way.

David Wharton said...

I'm no expert at any of this. But if it's working in Raleigh, I think it deserves a close look from the Guilford Co. school board.