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When 'Equity' Is Used to Increase Segregation


Dear Diane,

It would have chilled Martin Luther King’s blood to see how the struggle for equality has been narrowed into a race for higher test scores in a society that abandoned Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty.” We are now one of the least equal and least mobile modem societies. Less racist than we once were, but no less disdainful of “losers.” Our individualistic modes of thought have gotten badly skewed to just mean “it’s your own fault.” Or if blame must be placed, it’s the fault of those on the next rung up the ladder.

Imagine, in 2009—the year that the business and finance worlds have exposed themselves and their shoddy notions of accountability to worldwide shame. Not a day passes without another financial scam hitting the news. Yet they still dare to preach to public school teachers about working in the interests of children vs. adults!!!!!

The poorly attended, but well-covered “civil rights” rally in D.C. led by Gingrich/Sharpton/Klein last week has nothing to say about poverty or the “gap” in black/white incarceration, or income, or health data, not to mention housing and access to paid leisure, or lobbyists.

In a speech made by David Berliner to AERA a few years ago, he opined the following: “School reform…really involves relatively little money and, perhaps more importantly, asks practically nothing of the non-poor, who often control a society’s resources,” and is accompanied by the “good feelings that come from our collective expression of faith in the capacity of the poor to overcome disadvantage on their own.”

When the War on Poverty ended we not only forgot poverty existed with its unequal impact on people of color, but we also soon lost the battle against de facto segregation of schools and communities. It’s no surprise then that the recent recession has hit hardest upon the already poor, and next hardest upon recently middle-class people of color.

I became a teacher in the midst of the Civil Rights movement in the '60s. The current gross distortion of that movement’s message by these masters of Orwellian doublespeak chills and outrages me.

I have spent 45 years demonstrating that schools can do a lot if we focus on challenging the intellectual and social imaginations of the young. But I never had the chutzpa to claim that I could strip away the impact of being a despised loser in a nation that claims all can be winners (if they but will it), nor that we can unlink the relationship between money and schooling. Bah humbug. I never pretended that the advantages we garnered for our own children were of no serious account in the successes they have had in their lives. Neither President Obama nor Arne Duncan can be faulted for giving their own children the best and the most expensive educations. It’s what we can do when we have advantages.

It makes me wince that such a high proportion of Obama’s current team are Harvard graduates. I suspect their secondary schooling was equally segregated, for the “best and brightest”—those born assured in their right to rule. This sense of entitlement, which should be the birthright of all children, is not easy to teach didactically. It early on suggests to some that the larger world is “their world,” one which they (or their powerful friends) can influence. The “others,” children who enter our schools with the comparable skill, savvy, perseverance, and native ability to read the world, are equally busy using their skills to influence the world—the one they were born into. Doing double-work is not easy.

We need to more equally share the same world while also honoring each child’s own special one. When I started teaching kindergarten in Chicago in 1965, the prescribed curriculum for the fall semester was: Los Angeles and Tokyo. I was “caught” in an act of subversion by teaching my 33 kindergarteners about Chicago and Tokyo instead. (I also made the mistake of not just saying, “Oops, I’m sorry.”) The prescribed view of poor and “minority” children in 1965 was similar to one we hold today: they lack “language,” “concepts,” useful families, and Culture. Not true. But there is, indeed, another kind of gap, one that we can take advantage of or view merely as an obstacle. To do so, we’d need very different kinds of schools, different relationships between families and their schools, and far greater respect for those who know the children best. That’s why control needs to be closer to “them”—those most affected by the judgments made. NAEP samples, Diane, should be mandated: to provide information. But the “data” about “Dick" or "Jane” still must be compiled from the bottom up.

My old friend Michael Harrington wrote an influential book in 1962, "The Other America." We still have such an America, and until we confront it, the Sharptons and Gingriches will continue to cover over what needs to be uncovered.

The idea that the terms “civil rights” and “equity” are being used by school reformers to increase segregation, to attack the mothers who struggle with their unchosen poverty and the teachers who work with poor children day in and day out is painful. The public middle school across the street from my apartment in NYC (which my children attended) is being “closed” this fall, replaced by a program for children who score in the top 3 percent on IQ tests: in the name of equity! The gentrification of the West Side that began in the '60s (called urban renewal) has finally reached IS 44. A school that has for more than 40 years been predominantly black and Latino will become virtually all white on the whim of the mayor. We long ago lost the battle to make it a fully integrated school. Now the latest wave of reformers is solving it the 2lst Century way.

NYC has just inaugurated an expansion of “gifted kindergartens” open to all who score above the 90th percentile on IQ tests. To the chancellor’s “surprise,” it’s mostly white. He proclaims, however, big increases in the number of underprivileged accepted into such programs. Yes, indeed, by “reaching out” the numbers have gone from one to three (300 percent increase) in some poor neighborhoods. We’re officially tracking at age 5—along lines of race and class—in the name of “equity.”

You must all read a new study published by the Alliance for Childhood on where we’re heading in the 2lst Century, unless….It’s a shocker. More next week.



Whoa! The War on Poverty is over! No one told me.

With an additional 4 million children added to the roles of the SCHIP this winter (bringing the total to some 10 million), I still thought in some obscure quarters someone cared about poverty.

With $19 billion in federal funds expended last year from TANF, one would think there was just a smidgen of tactical operations left in the War.

With 1500 Habitat chapters nationwide building housing, food pantries in every community, clothing centers, aid with utility bills, public and private health clinics, legal services, access to hospital and statcare services, 0-3 infant support programs, and even subsidized television converter programs, you'll perhaps excuse me for not noting the exact date our nation stopped caring a whit about those in need.

And, perhaps, for returning to the subject of education:

Teachers, please don't take the criticisms of Newt, Rev. Al, or myself even, personally. That's not what this is about. We're fully aware of the individuality, the committment, the highly varied talents and occaisional lapses of any community of 4-6 million people, none the less the caring persons we all know as teachers.

Where we part ways--Newt, Al, and myself--with educators concerns the structures they work within. The archaic institutions and rules; the dilapidated procedures which resemble not a modern knowledge-worker organization, but rather mimic those once practiced in the crumbling remains along I77 in Cleveland, the once-prosperous but now decimated HQ of Republic Steel.

Someone will always be poor. We needn't, however, tolerate and prolong 80% dropout rates.

There's nothing caring in that.

Hi All... hope this finds you well.

Just so we are all very clear about Newt
and i guess Ed's positions about school transformation....

the following may help clarify positions:


Newt Gingrich on Education

America’s high schools are obsolete
America’s high schools are obsolete and cannot teach kids what they need to know to succeed today.

Winning the challenge of China and India will require profound domestic transformations, especially in math and science education, for America to continue to be the most successful economy in the world.

The collapse of math and science education in the US and the relative decline of investment in basic research is an enormous strategic threat to American national security.

There is a grave danger that the US will find itself collapsing in scientific and technological capabilities in our lifetime.

For the last twenty years, we have tried to improve education while accepting the fundamental principles of a failed system, guarded by the education bureaucrats and teachers unions.

We must now transform math and science education or fall behind. It really is that simple.

Pay kids as incentive to learn math and science.

Keeping America competitive in the twenty-first century is dependent upon having increasing number of students studying math and science.

Getting students to study math and science may be done through incentives. We should experiment with paying students for taking difficult subjects in math and science.

Removing God from Pledge of Allegiance assaults our identity

There is no attack on American culture more destructive and more historically dishonest than the relentless effort to drive God out of America’s public square.

Source: Rediscovering God in America, by Newt Gingrich, p. 6 Dec 31, 2006

Replace multiculturalism with patriotic education

In the classroom, the very concept of America is under assault. The traditional notion of our country as a union of one people, the American people, has been assaulted by multiculturalism, situational ethics, and a values-neutral model in which Western values and American history are ignored or ridiculed.

Unless we act to reverse this trend, our next generation will grow up with no understanding of core American values. This will destroy America as we know it, as surely as if a foreign conqueror had overwhelmed us.

Introduce competition among schools and teachers

We should apply the free enterprise system to our education system by introducing competition among schools, administrators, and teachers. Our educators should be paid based on their performance and held accountable based on clear standards with real consequences.

These ideas are designed to stimulate thinking beyond the timid “let’s do more of the same” that has greeted every call for rethinking math and science education.

Waive interest on student loans for math & science grads

The inability of our system to produce mathematicians & scientists posed a threat to our national security in the highest order.

It is an objective reality that we are not producing enough educated 18-year olds capable of sustaining this society in the 21st century.

Support charters; insist on change for failing schools

We should encourage the spread of public charter schools--one of the happiest new developments on the education scene--so parents, educators, & students working together can enjoy the maximum freedom to explore options and innovations until every child has a genuine opportunity to learn.

As a corollary of this, we must identify the worst schools. We should insist on immediate change for bad schools. To start with, there should be no tenure and no binding contracts in the worst 20% of schools.

Private scholarships for students at hopeless schools

If there were families left without an acceptable public school, scholarships should be available for them to find a private one.

I am a graduate of a public school, as are my wife and two daughters. All of us remain committed to the idea of public education. However, if the available public school is one that gives parents legitimate worry for their children’s future, there ought to be alternative to having to stand helplessly watching an incompetent bureaucracy destroy their children’s lives.

Voted YES on giving federal aid only to schools allowing voluntary prayer.

Motion to add language to the "Goals 2000: Educate America Act" to give federal aid only to schools allowing voluntary prayer.
Bill HR 1804 ; vote number 1994-85 on Mar 23, 1994

Supports a Constitutional Amendment for school prayer.

Gingrich co-sponsored a resolution for a School Prayer Amendment:
H.J.RES.52 (2001), H.J.RES.66 (1999), S.J.RES. 1, H.J.RES.12, H. J. RES. 108, & H. J. RES. 55:
Nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to prohibit individual or group prayer in public schools or other public institutions.

Discontinue affirmative action programs

Indicate which principles you support regarding affirmative action and discrimination.
•The federal government should discontinue affirmative action programs.

ACLU has become eccentric and destructive

The ACLU is an organization with a long and distinguished history of fighting to protect freedom of speech. On the other hand, in recent years, it has carried its mandate to ever more eccentric and often highly destructive lengths.

NEA includes most bizarre & extreme misuse of tax funds

One big disappointment for conservatives was our failure immediately to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts.

So...this is the vision for schools of the 21st Century from Newt!!!

Count me out!!!!

Be well... mike


Groupenfurher Gingrich is an extreme right wing nut job who isn't fooling anyone sane. I doubt the GOP is going to follow his lead. If they do they're in for an even longer hiatus from power than is currently predicted.


Hi All...

Just clarifying positions Paul.

Rev. Al Sharpton's $500G link to education reform
Wednesday, April 1st 2009
Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/2009/04/01/2009-04-01_rev_al_sharptons_500g_link_to_education_.html#ixzz0GBIEQo7n&B

The Rev. Al Sharpton and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein stunned the education world last June when they joined forces to reform the nation's public schools.

They called their ambitious venture the Education Equality Project, and they vowed in a Washington press conference to lead a campaign to close the decades-old achievement gap between white and black students.

What Klein and Sharpton never revealed is that the National Action Network, Sharpton's organization, immediately received a $500,000 donation for its involvement in the new effort.

The odd pairing will be on display this week at the annual convention of the National Action Network, where Mayor Bloomberg, Klein, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and several mayors are expected to speak.

Levy says his firm came up with the idea to make the contribution, and neither Klein nor Bloomberg asked him to aid Sharpton.

At the time, Plainfield Asset Management, a major investor in gaming operations, was pressing city and state officials for approval of two deals worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually.

Ed Jones.....
"Teachers, please don't take the criticisms of Newt, Rev. Al, or myself even, personally. That's not what this is about. We're fully aware of the individuality, the committment, the highly varied talents and occaisional lapses of any community of 4-6 million people, none the less the caring persons we all know as teachers."

So glad to hear that Ed.
Gotta love it...following these guys to transform american education!

Very glad to part ways with this group.

be well... mike


Consider the following facts:

One in eight Americans now lives in poverty. A family of four is considered poor if the family’s income is below $19,971—a bar far below what most people believe a family needs to get by. Still, using this measure, 12.6 percent of all Americans were poor in 2005, and more than 90 million people (31 percent of all Americans) had incomes below 200 percent of federal poverty thresholds.

Millions of Americans will spend at least one year in poverty at some point in their lives. One third of all Americans will experience poverty within a 13-year period. In that period, one in 10 Americans are poor for most of the time, and one in 20 are poor for 10 or more years.

Poverty in the United States is far higher than in many other developed nations. At the turn of the 21st century, the United States ranked 24th among 25 countries when measuring the share of the population below 50 percent of median income.

Inequality has reached record highs. The richest 1 percent of Americans in 2005 held the largest share of the nation’s income (19 percent) since 1929. At the same time, the poorest 20 percent of Americans held only 3.4 percent of the nation’s income.

Please, O Lord, please... let Dick Cheney give a speech on the success of No Child Left Behind.

Please, Lord, let Dick Cheney be overcome with the urge to speak out everyday on how he fought against the "soft bigotry of low expectations" using the mighty sword of multiple-choice tests.

Please, Lord, give the American Enterprise Institute enough money to fund an hour-long primetime speech during which Cheney could talk about how he erased the achievement gap. Let him speak at length about his concern for poor children of color and the miracles of charter schools and merit pay. Let him look up from his notes and flash that wicked grin.

Please, Lord, fill Dick Cheney with the belief that test-based accountability was his own idea and, in doing so, overwhelm him with the desire to defend it.

This is all I am asking, Lord. Please let Dick Cheney start talking about education.

I'm counting on you, Lord. Please don't let me down.

Your Humble Servant

@Your Humble Servant

Bless you, my child. Thanks for the grin.

Mike & Paul,

As many as 220,000 nursing positions may be unfilled at this moment. Some estimates say the shortage will rise to half a million in the coming decade.

If the shortage of scientists and engineers doesn't bother you, nor the gap in Black American participation in those fields, nor the shortage of highly qualified teachers, perhaps you will at least give some thought to who will not be there nursing you in your aged infirmity.

Imagine many of those kids dropping out (usually due to boredom). Might they be interested in challenging, well paying jobs like these?

The idea that the terms “civil rights” and “equity” are being used by school reformers to increase segregation, to attack the mothers who struggle with their unchosen poverty and the teachers who work with poor children day in and day out is painful.

This is an absurd caricature. Please stop poisoning the well if you want anyone to listen to what you're saying.


you correctly wrote:

“Imagine, in 2009—the year that the business and finance worlds have exposed themselves and their shoddy notions of accountability to worldwide shame. Not a day passes without another financial scam hitting the news. Yet they still dare to preach to public school teachers ...”

And that is why I am hopeful. The financial engineering that gave us the economic collapse is not much different from the data engineering of the EEP, which was subsidized by the hedge fund industry and other Wall Streeters. They shared each others' values and their preachiness.

And their message seemed reasonable, or at least not absurd, because of “the Big Sort,” our new segregation by choice. To people with no first hand knowledge of generational poverty, the EEPs recommendations may not seem unreasonable. Similarly, recall the “triangulation” of the 90's where liberals had to compromise on issues ranging from welfare reform to expanding NATO to prove we were tough and thus avoid political oblivion. And these “reformers” were as good as the Republicans in branding their model.

A year and a half ago, after helping in Iowa, I realized that Obama could win, but I never anticipated his success to this degree.

Two decades ago, I understood the news accounts of the Hubble Space Telescope fiasco, but I couldn’t understand that it would be fixed and it would produce so much understanding. I always try to figure out a layman’s understanding of why technological breakthroughs work, but I still can’t comprehend what happens every time I use google.

But last week watching C Span I understood why an author described Yahoo (from the 90s) as the old economic model (assuming shortages) but that google with its unlimited horizons is the new model.

At a time when we humans are producing so many miraculous discoveries, why would we even contemplate a vision as constricted as NCLB-type accountability?

And Deb, your quote of David Berliner was timely as well as profund. It is consistent with William Julius Wilson's writings on race, and the way thay everyone jockeys for the position of "innocence." While I haven't read it, the reviews of Wilson's new book indicate that his latest work continues his brilliant research and provides more hope.

And Your Humble Servant, thanks. And when we drive a stake through the hearts of the petty substitute vision that was NCLB, it will be parody and humor that will play a crucial role in the victory.

Re John Doe's remarks. (Alas, I tried writing him back, but he's nonexistent.)
It is impressive isn't it? It's the poisoning of the well by precisely such practices and language that I'm protesting. But John Doe sees my protesting as poisoning the well. A good lesson for us both. The notion that tracking 4 and 5 year olds into separate classes in the name of "equity", or describing children's parents as bad influences, and teachers in urban schools as "subpar" is a language that I see as undermining precisely those who are on the front lines of civil rights, who have not put making millions ahead of doing good. There may be reasons to want to separate "the gifted"--but to do so in the name of "civil rights"??? John D.--if you write again, please include a reply site that's operational.

John T. Yes, occasionally I lose it! Parady and humor that is.

The "hype" given charters--which "in principle" I don't oppose (I imagined them creative mom-and-pop stores not WalMarts) contrasts to the hype offered regular public experiments of similar sorts--like Boston's pilot schools, or NYC's earlier vast experiment in small schools under the Alternative High School division, or the amazing work of Tony Alvarado in District 4 30+ years ago.


"It makes me wince that such a high proportion of Obama’s current team are Harvard graduates. I suspect their secondary schooling was equally segregated, for the 'best and brightest'—those born assured in their right to rule."

This makes me laugh. My best friends at Harvard were the son of a washing machine salesman and a refugee from the Bosnian Conflict.

Born assured in our right to rule... yeah, about that...

Assumptions go every which way.

Hi All....

"When the War on Poverty ended we not only forgot poverty existed with its unequal impact on people of color, but we also soon lost the battle against de facto segregation of schools and communities." ( Deb )

Certainly am in agreement with you Deb. The entire idea of de facto segregation has disapeared from the moral conciousness of America. Seems that we think that seperate schooling for the poor is OK in America. The idea of mostly white americans wanting to help out the trapped poor children in our urban school systems rather then deal with the larger issues of housing, jobs and school district boundaries... says much about our culture.


"If the shortage of scientists and engineers doesn't bother you, nor the gap in Black American participation in those fields, nor the shortage of highly qualified teachers, perhaps you will at least give some thought to who will not be there nursing you in your aged infirmity." Ed

I think you are asking the wrong questions.
I would ask: What are our brightest students...whether in our urban schools or our suburban schools choosing to study instead of these area's and why?

I would also ask.... what is causing the shortage of students entering nursing? Would it have something to do with the current culture in our hospital systems?

Certainly preparing students for the world of work is part of schools mission Ed...but it is not the only mission.

I think we may get to the boredom that you refer to, and i agree with ....if we actually created schools that would ignite the personal passions, interests and abilities of the students sitting before us. Those areas may be in many areas Ed....

Lastly..."nursing you in your aged infirmity."

Who ever this may be.... i am hoping they have a passion and a heart to truely care about human beings and have not just taken the job to make a living.

be well... mike

Shelly. Check the data on the percentage of Harvard freshman who are low-income. It's very very low. Check the specialized public high schools in Chicago, Boston, Sa frncisco and New York--ditto. Check out the correlation between SAT scores and family's income.
Why so touchy about a simple fact of life?
Explanations can abound, but it's precisely your response--your anecdote--that I wince at from "the best and brightest". They so truly believe they are where they are because they "belong" there. That's precisely the skewed world view--which doesn't mean it isn't also often true (I'm sure you deserve it)--which affects policy. Amd it affects the low-income kids who squeeze in--the exceptions. They too begin to believe that anyone could.......
We need a wider and broader view, including some rethinking about what w mean by intelligence, and thus by "highly intelligent."
In a former historical period--not so very long ago--there were alternate routes to being powerful--but the number and weight of those alternates are becoming fewer. That's why it's so reasonable-sounding to say tht education is the "civil rights" issue of our time. Schooling is more and more critical--as a credential, if nothing else. At the very least it's an "old boy's club"--the place where men and women of power meet. The same is true for graduate programs in education. My colleagues don't go to Harvard because they hear its a better program than Michigan State--but the name Harvard offers something.
More on this, Shelly, for a later column.


"As many as 220,000 nursing positions may be unfilled at this moment." Ed, what planet is that? Hospitals and nursing homes in Massachusetts are laying off nurses and new graduates can't find a nursing job anywhere. There's currently a glut of nurses around these parts.

I'm also confused by your statement about the shortage of scientist and engineers. It bothers me that US industries have to fill many of these positions with foreign students.

Was it my comment about Newt that bothered you? Does the anti-GOP insinuation imply some sort of evil or weakness? Heck, I'm not even a Democrat. Here in Massachusetts I'm registered as "unenrolled." In the last four gubernatorial elections I voted Republican. Now I can't be all that bad Ed just for dumping on a has-been like Gingrich.

Ed: As I understood it, the reason for the nursing shortage a few years ago was that nursing programs were expensive for colleges to set up and operate. Also, clinical instructors were in extremely short supply.

Nursing programs had far more applicants than there were spaces available. The lack of nurses had nothing to do with public K-12 education, or the number of qualified people who are applying to nursing programs.

Just so you won't be mad, I'm using a real email address now . . . but I don't like getting spam.

I could go through your essay line and line and point out the caricatures and the exaggerations.

"a society that abandoned Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty.”"

As another commenter already pointed out, there are still many billions of dollars spent on anti-poverty programs. Just because they're not as lavishly funded as you might like doesn't mean they've been "abandoned." Verdict: caricature.

Imagine, in 2009—the year that the business and finance worlds have exposed themselves and their shoddy notions of accountability to worldwide shame. Not a day passes without another financial scam hitting the news. Yet they still dare to preach to public school teachers about working in the interests of children vs. adults!!!!!

While I appreciate the many exclamation points here, this is a classic example of poisoning the well by stereotyping everyone who opposes you as a financial scammer. Maybe you are too prejudiced from your New York experience, but out here in the rest of the world, the overwhelming majority of education reformers (up to and including Bill Gates) have absolutely nothing to do with the financial industry. Verdict: wild exaggeration and stereotyping.

The idea that the terms “civil rights” and “equity” are being used by school reformers to increase segregation, to attack the mothers who struggle with their unchosen poverty and the teachers who work with poor children day in and day out is painful.

Who's trying to "increase segregation"? Are you merely referring to the fact that some people are trying to improve educational options in black neighborhoods in which public schools are ALREADY mostly or all-black? Verdict: Not proven in the least.

"Attack the mothers" -- who is attacking mothers and how? Citations please. If you're merely referring to the fact that, as shown in numerous studies, disadvantaged families tend to provide much less academically stimulating environments at home, well that's not an "attack" -- it's just reality-based. How are schools ever supposed to improve education for the most disadvantaged youngsters if they can't look at the fact that some of those kids aren't getting read to at home, have never visited a zoo or museum, rarely have conversations about abstract ideas, etc.? Verdict: caricature at best.

"Attack . . . the teachers who work with poor children"

It's an unfortunate fact that the teachers who work in inner cities do tend to be academically weaker and less qualified than teachers in rich suburbs. Someone truly interested in civil rights and equity would want to figure out ways to help raise teacher quality for inner city schools.

An analogy might help: Poor inner city communities often tend to have low-quality grocery stores or no real grocery stores at all, leaving them to cope with relatively high-priced and low-selection convenience stores for their food. Someone who's interested in actually helping those communities would say, "Those convenience stores aren't the best option, and they're certainly not as good as the grocery stores in the suburbs. Let's think about how to bring good grocery stores to the city."

But imagine someone who said, "The idea that the terms “civil rights” and “equity” are being used by urban reformers to attack the convenience stores who work with poor communities day in and day out is painful."

By the way, what's your evidence that gifted children are being helped in the name of "civil rights"? I'd be surprised if anyone has made such a defense. I could see someone talking about "equity," though, given that we as a nation spend so much more time and energy and money talking about how to help the lowest achievers than we do about helping gifted children (who often struggle with isolation in normal classrooms).

The increasing income inequality in the United States since 1970 is a widely accepted fact. The wide range of conditions described here, including the problems with the assignment of inexperienced teachers, higher priced grocery stores, etc., are caused by this poverty, not the other way around. I think the point of Deb's posting is that if you address the root causes of poverty, and these other issues will begin to take care of themselves. If you don't address such issues, you will create longer term problems whose costs are disproportionately borne by the poor in the form of lack of educational achievement, integration into society, low rates of family formation, high rates of incarceration, etc.

And it is a well-established fact that rates of segregation by race are increasing, not decreasing in the last 20 years or so. See book/writings by Jonathan Kozol...

As for Ed's comment that the poor will always be with us, this is true. But the poor do not need to be with us in the rates they are in the United States. There are several decent wealthy countries in Europe, Asia, and elsewhere who also have poor people, but not nearly as high a proportion of the population. Some of these countries even have gross domestic products per capita which are higher than the United States.

The fact that the poor will always be with us is not an excuse to ignore the poor, blame the poor for their condition, or to seek to create a system in which the fruits of society are more justly shared.

I also appreciated Deb's point about the concentration of power within the Obama administration in the Harvard elite. But this is another subject for another day...

One more point on the financial industry comparison: Even if there was total overlap (i.e., all education reformers were from the financial industry), your argument would still be completely baseless and ad hominem.

The fact is, there is no parallel whatsoever between the following ideas:

1) Giving poor people more choice in their schooling; trying to improve teacher quality in impoverished areas; and occasionally giving kids tests to see if the schools are actually managing to teach them to read and do fractions.

2) Banks highly leveraging their investments based on quantitive risk models that overvalued mortgage-backed securities by assuming that the housing market would continue to rise.

Trying to discredit the idea of giving good teachers and educational choice to poor students in this way would be exactly like me trying to discredit your educational ideas by sneering at your socialist and Trotskyite associations.

Hi John Doe:
I think the point is that poor people are held accountable for their "choices" by the school system, criminal justice system, and the capital marketplace. When the poor lose, they quite often bear the consequences of their "choices." Highly leveraged investment bankers who developed the quantitative mortgage backed security models rooted in the assumption that the housing market would continue to rise get massive government bailouts, and are only rarely prosecuted.

I don't think anyone is trying to discredit the idea of giving good teachers and students educational choice. Rather they are concerned about systems where one group has the capacity to exercise choices is unequally spread around. Deb's example from New York of the "honors" kindergarten is a good illustration: In the United States where inequality is so stark, it is the upper and upper middle classes who disproportionately benefit, and by process of elimination, the poor do less so.

Hi All... some highlights from an intersting study... seems to me America needs to look at this.

The Socioeconomic Composition of The Public Schools:
A Crucial Consideration in Student Assignment Policy
UNC Center for Civil Rights January 7, 2005

Who attends high poverty schools?

Income in our society is closely tied to race. Nationally, about 50 percent of all black and Latino students attend schools in which 75 percent or more of the students are low-income as measured by eligibility for free and reduced price lunch (FRPL). Only 5 percent of white students do. In fact, over half of all white students attend schools in which 25 percent or fewer of the students are eligible for FRPL.

1. To what extent does a school’s overall poverty rate affect student achievement?

Student achievement—on which the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools appropriately place a great deal of emphasis—has been clearly shown to fall as the poverty level of a school rises. A consistent, forty-year body of scientific studies confirms that children who attend high-poverty schools face considerably higher risks of lower academic performance, whatever their individual academic potential. In fact, middle-income students who attend high-poverty schools earn lower average test scores than do low-income students who attend middle class schools.2

Since the publication of the Coleman Report in 1966, social scientists have reported that the socioeconomic composition of a school makes a difference in the achievement levels of individual students.

In 1982, Professor Karl White evaluated 101 previous studies and concluded that overall, the socioeconomic composition of schools seems more predictive of future academic achievement than does a student's individual socioeconomic status.

Can compensatory measures overcome the effects of concentrated poverty?

Unfortunately, in most cases, compensatory measures do not appear readily able to counter these strong trends in high-poverty schools. The means adopted in Charlotte's Equity Plus II schools plainly have not yet succeeded, despite well-intended plans to provide safeguards to assist students in Charlotte’s high-poverty schools. Indeed, many of the finest experts agree that although educators know a great deal about how to reach individual students from disadvantaged backgrounds, far too little is currently known about what is needed to make high-poverty schools, full of disadvantaged students, really effective.12

be well.... mike

Hi all... some more food for thought.

Test scores, poverty are entwined
Chicago Tribune; July 4, 2005
Jodi S. Cohen and Darnell Little, Tribune staff reporters
(Copyright 2005 by the Chicago Tribune)

More than any other group, middle-class black students show the greatest academic improvement when they aren't trapped in high- poverty schools, according to a Tribune analysis of Illinois test scores.

In elementary schools where fewer than half the students are low- income, nearly 62 percent of middle-class black students passed last year's state reading test. That's nearly 12 percentage points higher than how they fared in predominantly poor schools.

No other group of students -- whites, Hispanics or low-income blacks -- posted as great an improvement, the analysis showed.

But few black children have the option of attending a low- poverty school. In Illinois, three out of every four black students are enrolled in schools where most children are poor.

Educators say the high concentration of black students in poor schools is one of the biggest barriers to closing the stubborn gap in test scores between white and African-American students, an issue at the forefront of national education reforms.

Achieving that goal could require changing rigidly segregated housing patterns or school-district boundaries that isolate black students in poor schools, where they often are taught by less- experienced teachers, encounter lower expectations and watch many peers drop out.

There are few middle-class black neighborhoods large enough to support an entire school, leaving most black families in the state, regardless of income, in schools with high percentages of low- income students.

About 73 percent of the state's black students last year attended predominantly low-income schools, compared with 10 percent of white students.

Not surprisingly, the trend extends beyond Illinois. Nationwide, more than 60 percent of black and Hispanic students attend high- poverty schools -- where more than 50 percent of students qualify for a free or reduced-price lunch -- compared with 30 percent of Asians and 18 percent of whites, according to the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University.

be well... mike

Magnet schools (public schools with specialized programs of study for which students must apply and meet MINIMAL criteria) are proof that "school choice" is STILL NOT going to solve the problem.

Our district has several of these schools with free busing to school, home afterward, and even later if the students want to participate in after school programs/sports/clubs/activities. It was an attempt to desegregate without calling it such. The school's demographics are: 35% African American, 35% Haitian, 20% Latino, and about 10% White of European heritage

Here is an excerpt from a "research" paper one of my Civics darlings attempted to turn in for credit (we're a Magnet school for Pre-Law/Public Affairs).

The assignment was to choose one of the socially contractual agreements found in the Preamble of the Constitution. The child chose "to promote the general welfare" as the topic. A member of this child's family is actually well-connected to our U.S. Congressperson

"The government claims its programs help the neediest of our society. However, our leaders make it too hard to get the help. There are too many forms to fill out. Then, even if you do go to all the trouble, they do not give you enough money to make someone's family at least "middle-class."

For Rory--in my local district, a judge ruled that "magnet schools" were an inappropriate cure for intentional practices (on the part of the Board and administration) that resulted in segregated schools. The problem is that it places the onus for remedy on individual student, rather than the adults who are/were responsible for the institution of segregated schools.

I have been trying hard to think how to respond to Deb's post. I have been feeling, more than understanding, the message. I have absolutely watched (and lost fights) to maintain desegregated (or integrated) schools in my local district. To be sure, the first blow was the loss of white families who fled to the suburbs. The district as a whole became poorer and more minority.

But, following release from court supervision, there was a redistricting effort that resulted in a number of nearly 100% minority. A few schools on the fringes are far whiter, and some of the existing magnets offer a more representative mix--although there is no long any attempt to ensure this. And while the district overall pretty much ignores the "gifted" population (we know that we have one--the state requires identification of "gifted" kids but no particular response to that status). I am as distruaght, Deb, as you are at the early tracking. Personally, I was in a tracked system, in an upper middle class system years ago. I got a certain self-esteem boost from knowing this--and my sense has always been that I was spared a certain amount of "drill and kill" kind of learning. But, I also observed my brothers--likely equivalent in intelligence--in other parts of the tracking system. My older brother probably enjoyed learning, and hated tedium, as much as I, but had real problems with things like turning in homework--particularly if he didn't see any point to it. My younger brother may have had a diagnosable learning disability--but state of the art at the time was really about the "special" room for the kids who all looked different. Instead, he was held back, we changed districts, all kinds of things. As an adult, I am very much aware that the district really played up to certain kinds of kids, to the detriment of others. I don't know that this is at all helpful. Certainly my experience in working with kids across ages and abilities convinces me that the kind of separations fostered by use of IQ scores (particularly at kindergarten level), have very little justification. And, as Deb points out, primarily are resulting in de facto racial segregation.

Where I am puzzled is in trying to figure out who in God's name is linking this to efforts towards "equity?" I am not a big Sharpton fan--but I do agree with him that school improvement is a Civil Rights issue. I don't see on the EEP website any indication that they are advocating tracking--but I could be wrong.

What I do think that we need to relearn from King is the institutional dimension of racism. Without speaking for the motives of any "reformers," I would like to suggest that "reform" aims at institutional, rather than personal, change. The Montgomery bus boycott was not aimed at individual racism by individual bus drivers--it was aimed at a system that relegated a segment of the population to a lesser place. That lesser place may have been as much symbolic as it was physical. There is not an enormous qualitative difference between a seat in the front and a seat in the back. But it communicates over and over and over again that certain human beings are less than others. And it crushes the spirit. It is a powerful wrong.

Individual drivers may have been individually culpable for their actions--and they certainly stood in line to be economically affected by the boycott. But, make no mistake, the target was an institution.

Likewise, education is an institution, and it is one in which certain classes of citizens are relegated to the rear. Those citizens live in urban areas, they are black and hispanic, they speak another language, or they have disabilities. And these students are institutionally expected to complete (or not complete) their years of schooling with less.

Are individual teachers the mediators of this institutional expectation? Perhaps at times. But the target of reform--at least to my mind as someone who does not shun the reform label--is the institution as a whole. Will reform affect individual teachers? Absolutely. Does this mean that they are at fault? Not necessarily, although some may be.

On the one hand, I think that it is a credit to the profession as a whole that teachers are taking the need for reform very personally. This speaks to a tendancy to care in very deep and personal ways about their students. But, this sense of personal affront takes the focus away from the failings of the instition of education as a whole: the ways in which it is funded, the ways in which it is evaluated, the means by which change is or is not possible.

We simply cannot continue to dole out education based on color, income and address (or IQ tests). I cannot see any perspective to justify this, whether it is the needs of individual students, or a national need for workers or an ability to be a significant presence globally--whether for business purposes or the dissemination of democratic ideals.

I agree with Margo... this is such a tough matter. How do we resolve the conflicts between our compassion, empathy, and sense of reality. I look at my kids everyday and wish I had a miracle to pull out of a hat.... instead I keep plugging away, trying new things, testing new strategies, hoping with each attempt I reach a few more.

Everyone is entitled to the opportunity for an education. Because one breathes, does not entitle him to ANY guarantees. Particularly if he chooses disengagement from what is being offered. Being white is no promise of anythng.

My grandparents did not get to ATTEND school in the 1920's. My grandfather worked in a coal mine starting at age 15, had to live in a house owned by the company and was paid in "scrip." He was SHOT by a company marshal for trying to organize a labor union. My grandmother worked for Owens-Illinois making Coca-Cola bottles for 50 years... brething in asbestos all the time and her hands gnarled by arthritis acquired from handling the hot glass. If nothing else, such experiences made them more determined that their children would have better opportunity.

The poor receive more from the govenment than the middle class who pay for it. My grandparents were POOR... their poverty was never an excuse for poor value judgments, nor did they expect ENTITLEMENT.

There comes a time when the training wheels MUST come off and people who find themselves in an undesireable place in society have to WORK their way out of it.... no 'government instiution' is designed to fix it..... and not for themselves.... for their next generation... "To secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity"

That being written... I DO believe school's are responsible for being relevant.

The students you mention, who live in urban areas, who are likely black and/or latino, who possibly have disabilities, and who possibly speak a language other than English ARE FIRST, AND FOREMOST, the PRODUCTS of THEIR PARENTS. They were not created by and are not the responsibility of the school system before the age of 5 or 6. How many studies have been mentioned on this very website suggesting that by this age, a potentially destructive path may already be set into motion... and not by the child.

1. It is not a school's responsibility to ensure the children receive proper nutrition.
2. It is not a school's responsibility to ensure the children have regular bed times.
3. It is not a school's responsibility to read to the children at home.
4. It is not a school's responsibility to provide secure and permanent residences.
5. It is not a school's responsibility to pay the electric bills in the winter.
6. It is not a school's responsibility to prevent the birth of a child whose parents can't take care of themselves.
7. It is not a school's responsibility to provide proper healthcare.
8. It is not a school's responsibility to elect the proper governmental leadership.
9. It is not a school's responsibility to prevent drug/alcohol abuse.
10. It is not a school's responsibility to prevent parents, nor their children, from violating the law.
11. It is not a school's responsiility to deliver the children to the school at the appropriate times.

This list could go on and on. But one thing DOES hold true. The school must deal with the affects these CULTURAL INSTUTIONS have on the children. They come to school tired and cranky, they slap and hit each other and consider it normal, they assault teachers, they abuse drugs, they belong to violent gangs, they bring weapons to school, they think "Grand Theft Auto" is cool..... etc.

The only way for police to control a crowd of 2000 teenagers is with the threat of violence, physical restraint, weaponry, and incarceration.

So.... unless society is ready to enforce some sort of checklist for good vs. bad parenting..... these problems cannot be overcome by the "INSTITUTION" that is responsible for what happens during 16% of the children's lives between the ages of 6 - 18. The other 84% is of their parents' making.

"Underclasses" are definately a cultural institution, but they were not created soley by the schools. How hypocritical is it for the community to lose its moral compass and yet hold its teachers to a higher standard?

Margo is right. The Jim Crow seating plan on Montgomery buses went beyond a powerful wrong. It was a wrong sanctioned by law and it did indeed send the message that certain human beings were less than others. The system was perpetuated from generation to generation leaving black parents the unenviable task of trying to explain this injustice to their children many of whom were then scarred for life.

The de facto segregation in many urban schools today is only semantically different than the Montgomery bus policy and almost as pejorative. The primary difference; today, many urban school boards are comprised of minority members. Unfortunately they’re left with little or no control over what to do with their students. Do we go with neighborhood schools or move kids around on buses under the pretext of attempting to address the problem?

Margo correctly points out that white flight has effectively foreclosed any legal possibility of integrated schools or even desegregated schools and thus the institution of racism is enduring in our schools 55 years after Brown. “With all deliberate speed.”

Hi All....hope this finds you well.

The de facto segregation in many urban schools today is only semantically different than the Montgomery bus policy and almost as pejorative. (Paul)

Across District Lines -
"School choice" does not have to be code speak for privatizing public education.

Dana Goldstein | May 18, 2009

In recent years, advocating for school integration was seen as impossibly retro, but now there is pretty decisive evidence that integration matters. The most recent National Assessment of Education Progress -- a test often referred to as "the nation's report card" -- shows that between 2004 and 2008, the achievement gap between white children and black and Latino children did not shrink at all. In other words, No Child Left Behind is not working. In fact, an analysis of the data since the 1970s shows that the achievement gap shrunk most during the period prior to the Reagan Revolution, when courts nationwide were still enforcing strict desegregation orders.

As Secretary Duncan surely realizes, "school choice" does not have to be conservative code speak for privatizing public education. He chose to send his children to a public school in Arlington, Virginia, instead of one five miles away in downtown D.C. The question is, will he and the Obama administration work actively to allow all parents to share in the fruits of suburbia? Or are white picket fences and decent schools just for the few?

Time to re-think and expand school refrom.

be well..mike

The de facto segregation in many urban schools today is only semantically different than the Montgomery bus policy and almost as pejorative.

You seem to be trying to say that current racial mixtures are really bad, but it comes across more as an insult to the people who had to withstand the oppression of segregation (i.e., you're saying that forced segregation wasn't really any worse than the fact that people today often choose to live in racially identifiable neighborhoods).

Johnny We Hardly Knew Ye Doe,

I'm saying the public bus seating arrangement in Montgomery, Alabama prior to the Supreme Court ruling that found it unconstitutional in 1955 was appalling and that today's school de facto segregation is ALMOST as bad. Never mind what I seem to be "trying" to say.

Am curious as to why someone hiding behind a pseudonym on a public education blog needs to be so contentious.


Is it racism that allows for Title I(i.e. urban/poor) schools to receive more federal resources than non-Title I (i.e. suburban)schools?

Is it racism that the middle class pays for the poor children to eat breakfast and lunch 185 days per year? .... and a good portion of these same children put $5 a day in the junk-food machines.

Is it really racist to want to send your daughter to a school where, on her way to class, she does not have to check around every corner to make sure no one is going to "jump" her?

It is not illegal to be racist. It IS illegal to intentionally cause direct harm to another person because of racist feelings. White flight did not occur because their was intentional malice.

The Venezuelan-American community here is certainly a minority, but are far from poor. They CHOOSE to live in wealthy suburbs here, because they "work their behinds off" to do so. In fact, they have chosen to segregate themselves into gated communities.

Our entire school district, the 6th largest in the nation, is now a "Minority-Majority" District... NO SCHOOL has a white majority.... White teachers are not even in the majority.... We have built 7 brand new high schools, 7 new middle schools, and countless new elementary schools in the last 4 years... with all the bells and whistles...

Mandatory in EVERY classroom: teacher- controlled climate system with remote, interactive "smart" boards, state of the art DVD players, brand new 30-computer laptop carts with WiFi, 2 full color printers in each classroom (1 for the teacher, 1 for the kids - allowed to use at no charge), textbooks on CD-Rom so the kids do not have to carry them plus a classroom set, teachers are given a cell phone with weather tracking system - MANDATORY.... and on and on..... we even have cafeterias outfitted with dumb-waiters so the kids don't have to carry their trays too far. They are decked out like the food court at the local mall - Subway, Pappa John's, China Wok, and what's behind door number 3???? ... why its a complete set of 12 wall-mouned, big- screen, plasma TV's for the kids to watch during breakfast and lunch !!

Administrators have their own, individualized golf carts.
Athletes do not have to fundraise a penny for equipment, uniforms, or transportation
My school, alone, sends 25% or more of the faculty to some AP, or reading endorsement training every summer... with a spa plan included.

Results so far.... going down hill with a full head of steam

Talk about racial/cultural equality.... lets make EVERY institution in America perfectly reflective of the nation's demographics....

How many NBA stars would that put outta work, eh?

Funny.... my high school in the backwoods, impoverished, hollers of West "by Gawd" Virginia.....from which I was a member of the 101st graduating class.... STILL, TO THIS DAY, has the exact same main building that was built in 1882. With roughly 1700 students.... averages 10 National Merit Finalists per year.

Poverty is not an excuse to ruin everything with which a culture comes into contact.

True story: My Irish Catholic mother of al eleven of us had pictures of JFK framed and hung all over our great big house in Chicago (just like many black families probably have Obama's picture hung on their walls today). She was a lifelong Democrat to be sure. But she had no time for LBJ's war on poverty when they started building Cabrini Green and the Robert Taylor Housing Projects in Chicago. She called them "modern time plantations" and predicted that we would be sorry to round up all the poor people and force them to live on welfare in these massive projects. She predicted back in the 1060's that so many of the War on Poverty initiatives would end up creating a victim society that would never learn the benefits of education and vocational preparation (what my Mom called secretarial school, the convent and the seminary back in those days :-)

I wish she was here to see how so many of her hunches played out as they have torn those awful sulture traps down. So what was so good about LBJ's War on Poverty anyway? Major government solutions that forced an awful lot of folks to stay trapped in a cycle of dependence that robbed them of a chance for a better life.

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