In the contemporary movement for school integration, there’s an important core principle: that integration is so much more than desegregation. While battles about race and student enrollment are still extremely critical, the impact of school integration would not nearly be the same if it was limited just to the demographic composition of districts/schools. Many, many groups talk about this, and there’s an especially helpful guide (and teach-in) for this conception of integration, developed by student activists at IntegrateNYC – the 5 R’s of real integration.
I bring this up as a way of organizing stories from the last few months. As I’ve been reading school diversity news, what’s struck me is that the effects of segregation have surfaced in very different ways in this crop of stories, including everything from school funding disparities to running routes in Baltimore. (Of course, for something as multifaceted as racial segregation, this general idea is probably true of any crop of stories, but it seemed to especially work this time around.) So, below I’ve organized recent stories according to the “face” of segregation that is the centerpiece of the coverage. As always, I hope you find something useful and encourage any thoughts in comments or via twitter.
In case you’ve missed it, EdBuild just recently came out with a new report on racial disparities in school funding. I won’t say too much here, because this has gotten a lot of great coverage elsewhere, including the New York Times, NPR, Ed Week and Jezebel even. I definitely recommend checking out the report itself at EdBuild’s website. Their layout is really nice – very easy to read/navigate with interactive maps and a drop-down menu that allows you to dig into the data for each state. The main point from the report: we may normally think of funding inequity along the affluent/low-income divide, but funding is clearly divided by race, over and above differences in socio-economic status. Here are the key excerpts:
- Well, their main finding and indeed the title of the report is that majority non-white school districts get $23 billion less than majority white districts, even though they serve the same number of students. Take a minute to think about the size of that number.
- “On the whole, nonwhite districts receive significantly less funding than white districts. Because our system relies so heavily on community wealth, this gap reflects both the prosperity divide in our country and the fragmented nature of school district borders, designed to exclude outside students and protect internal advantage.”
- “For every student enrolled, the average nonwhite school district receives $2,226 less than a white school district.” (See below.)
As reflected in twitter threads from Nikole Hannah-Jones and Sherrilyn Ifill, these findings have understandably added support to a long-standing argument: that separate will never be equal in American public education.
- “What is frequently overlooked in these disparities is that race is a stronger predictor of wealth than class itself. The 2017 Survey of Consumer Finance s indicates that the typical black family has about $17,600 in wealth (inclusive of home equity); in contrast, the typical white family has about $171,000. This amounts to an absolute racial wealth gap where the typical black family owns only ten cents for every dollar owned by the typical white family!” and
- “High-achieving black Americans, as measured by education, still exhibit large economic and health disparities relative to their white peers. Blacks who live in families where the head graduated from college typically have less wealth than whites where the head-of-household dropped out of high school.”
So, back to the argument for equalization (e.g., Malcolm Gladwell) – what does this even look like? Even if we were to magically erase the $23 billion gap noted by EdBuild, that would only equalize things today. How would we begin to make up for this historic deficit that fuels the wealth gap noted by Hamilton?
Of course, another major front in the struggle for school integration is the push for identity affirming and culturally relevant curriculum. According to the IntegrateNYC framework, this would be the third R – Relationships. Along these lines, a recent analysis by the NYC Coalition for Educational Justice and NYU’s Metro Center found that black and Latinx authors account for just 12% of the writers in common NYC reading lists. For example, a recommended reading list compiled by the city includes 118 titles by white authors with just 22 by people of color. This NY Daily News story quotes a student activist from IntegrateNYC who asks: “How are students supposed to feel when they don’t see their experiences reflected in the reading list?” In response, there was a rally at the NYC education department last Wednesday, and Chancellor Carranza has set aside $23 million for anti-bias and culturally responsive training for school staff.
The NYC report complements a few other recent pieces about culturally responsive curriculum. This short op-ed cites recent research from the Southern Poverty Law Center that found only 8 percent of high school seniors recognize slavery as the central cause of the Civil War. The author, Noelle Hurd, then lists three things that schools should teach about white supremacy. And, this Chiefs for Change report also came out this month. It talks about the importance of cultural relevance in curriculum, provides short examples from three cities (Baltimore, Palm Beach, and Philadelphia) and then offers a few concrete recommendations, including:
- “Districts should involve school leaders, teachers, parents, and community members in reviewing instructional materials.”
- “Districts should consider the creation of professional learning communities focused on culturally relevant content and pedagogy”
I wanted to end this section on a bit of an uplifting note. Along with the report cited above, the NYC Coalition for Educational Justice also released this short video about culturally responsive education. It’s only 8 minutes, and it’s great – it centers student voice throughout and offers a number of concrete strategies for schools/districts. I couldn’t figure out a good way to embed this in the text, so I included it at the end of this post.
Lastly, in case you missed it, this topic also got a lot of attention from major school integration advocates on twitter. Indeed, Nikole Hannah-Jones put together a list of books/resources on Black history that were transformative for her. It’s a twitter thread that is 350 tweets-long, and it’s organized under #BHMSyllabus.
There are just a few stories in the last two categories here – school climate and housing – but I found them all pretty compelling, so wanted to briefly note some key points from each. This op-ed from a Baltimore city teacher was jarring, to put it mildly. It starts with a student asking about how to assemble a homemade bullet proof vest and ends with facing armed guardsman during the 2015 state of emergency in Baltimore. There are several extremely powerful observations along the way, including:
- “Standards do matter. But, they are totally worthless if children are so exhausted by their efforts to survive that they are basically hyperventilating through each school day.”
- “If this were happening in white, suburban schools, a state of emergency would already be well underway. Instead, we slash budgets and tell the teachers to just make do.”
Of course, these kinds of stories lead some to advocate for more guns and police presence in schools; however, recent studies add to a growing list of concerns about this approach (see here and here). Notably, these new studies “are among the first research to directly link more police to worse academic outcomes.” Matt Barnum published a review of this research at Chalkbeat. His summaries are always great, so I’d encourage you to check out the full article. Here’s what I found most compelling:
- “Already, 71 percent of U.S. public high schools have at least one law enforcement officer who carries a gun.”
- “In one case, adding police to Texas schools led to declines in high school graduation rates and college enrollment rates. Another found that more police in New York City neighborhoods hurt the test scores of black male students.”
- “The increased police presence did decrease violent crime in targeted neighborhoods — something that might be expected to help students do better in schools. But black boys were more frequently absent from school, by nearly 1.5 days a year, due to the policing program.”
Lastly, two recent articles look at segregation in our lives outside of school. Alvin Chang has another great piece at Vox.com where he uses research data to create interactive/adjustable graphs of segregation. In this recent piece, he maps commuting patterns from home to work according to race from 2000-2010. Based on your IP address, the article automatically populates a map for your city/county – if you click through that, you can get to a drop-down menu that includes metro areas across the country. The article also includes a highly engaging 7-min documentary that covers historical background on housing segregation and then gives an overview of the data/graphs in the article. Among some interesting findings:
- “When white people go to work, they are around only slightly more people of color than when they’re in their home neighborhoods. But for everyone else, going to work means being exposed to many more white people — and far fewer people of their own race.”
Although it may sound like workplaces offer an escape from segregation, Chang notes that the research also found that “neighborhood segregation is actually increasing,” making workplace segregation seem relatively better by comparison. You can clearly see the extent of residential segregation when you click through the maps on the site. Also, although workplaces may be slightly more diverse, high level positions are still primarily occupied by white people, while black and Latinx workers in the same place are more commonly limited to low-wage work.
The last article I want to highlight is an exploration of segregation in, of all places, Runnersworld.com. It’s an interesting read that focuses on two running clubs in Baltimore – one predominantly white, the other predominantly Black. Using Strava (which, I guess is a social networking app for runners), the article maps segregation in running routes (see above). For example,
- “The most-run routes of the city meld to form the outline of a letter “L” that glows like neon. It begins in the north and runs straight down the city’s spine, before diverting east along the Inner Harbor and the promenade. This area of Baltimore is also a demographic phenomenon known as “the white L.” It’s the area where resources are directed, where prospective homebuyers are guided and luxury apartment complexes are erected. Its lines are as obvious in real life as they are on the Strava heatmap, and most people who live inside of it stay inside of it.”
- Meanwhile: “Just as obvious are two areas outside of it, segregated to the left and the right. They’re Strava deserts where running seems nonexistent, or if there are runners, they don’t use GPS. These stretch around the Patapsco River and out to the county lines, forming a rough shape of wings. These areas are pocked with vacant rowhomes, soaring poverty levels, and generational despair. Another phenomenon, “the black butterfly.”
Running culture in Baltimore is aware of this issue and is working to integrate various running groups. For example, Under Armour has organized/provided free gear for several “all Baltimore” runs and asked clubs to host runs throughout the city. That article ended with a nice, sort of poetic line that that I thought was as good as any for closing out this post: “It may be in five years, or it may 50, but runners like Clapp and Olufemi hope that in time, the L will lose its edges, and the butterfly wings will fold into themselves.”