The other day someone tweeted this link to me asking if I had seen it yet: Why White Parents Won’t Choose Black Schools. I hadn’t. And shortly after she had tweeted out the link it appeared on my Facebook page from someone I am friends with being tagged by someone who was moved by the piece. Some of the frustrations expressed by this parent are similar frustrations I have struggled with over the years being a parent of students at Ruby Bridges Elementary School. I look around my neighborhood and still get a little angry and sad that a large portion of families measure the school as lacking even though they’ve never even given it a try. In fact, the afternoon after I had read the piece I returned from a delightful afternoon at the Alameda Point Pumpkin Patch where our PTA presented an unified positive front to both fundraise for enrichment (thanks to everyone who stopped by) and show that Ruby Bridges has what other schools have: dedicated teachers and committed families. At the Pumpkin Patch a Bayport neighbor mentioned that she would be sending her child to Ruby Bridges in a few years but that a neighbor had warned her against the school because it was “too cultural.”
That’s why this piece resonates so strongly, from the post:
This summer, when I told the other moms at the pool where my kids went to school. I was repeatedly told to move them. This from women who had never ever set foot in my school. They had not had contact with our deeply passionate, and very responsive principal, had not met the pre-k teachers who my daughter loves more than Santa. They had not toured the various science labs, or listened as their child talked incessantly about robotics. They don’t know that every Tuesday Juliet comes home with a new Spanish song to sing and bothers me until I look up the colors in Spanish if I can’t remember them from High school. Juliet loves her school. Her mother, a teacher at a suburban school, and her father, a PhD candidate at the state university, both find the school completely acceptable, more than acceptable. We love it too.
But my neighbors will not send their kids there and my friends won’t even move into the neighborhood. They will whisper about it. They will tell their friends not to go there. They will even tell a stranger that she should move her kids immediately as they both wait for their children to come down the water slide. But they will not give the neighborhood school a chance. They will even go to great lengths to avoid the neighborhood school.
On that same topic came this piece from City Lab entitled: When Neighborhoods Gentrify, Why Don’t Their Public Schools Improve? because, let’s face it, Bayport did gentrify this part of the West End in a massive way, but the school that was born out of a consolidation of the existing three schools in the West End doesn’t look very much different than those schools did when they were three separate schools. From the City Lab piece:
But does an influx of children from wealthier families make a positive difference to local public schools?
Nikole Hannah-Jones, now an investigative reporter for The New York Times Magazine, says no. She makes the case in Grist that “gentrification, it turns out, usually stops at the schoolhouse door.” Because newcomers tend to send their kids outside of the local system, often to private or charter schools, gentrification tends to have a neutral or even negative effect on neighborhood schools, at least in the short term.
And then, what about that fear that has been expressed to me, that a high performing child would get pulled down by a low performing child, is there any validity to that argument. Even in Alameda, the new tests results show that cohorts of similar students don’t perform remarkably differently from elementary school to elementary school. But you don’t have to only use Alameda’s Asian students as an example, from an NPR story:
The federal government just released a report looking at the black-white achievement gap. It found something remarkable: “White student achievement in schools with the highest Black student density did not differ from White student achievement in schools with the lowest density.”
Translation: After controlling for socioeconomic status, white students essentially had the same test scores whether they went to a school that was overwhelmingly white or one that was overwhelmingly black.
This finding “confirms decades of research that white students’ achievement is not harmed” by the color of their classmates’ skin, says Genevieve Siegel-Hawley, an education professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, who researches race, stratification and inequality in American schools.
Is this enough to get parents to reconsider sending their kids to the neighborhood school that they’ve used every excuse to avoid? Doubtful. But at least it’s one more data point to reference if someone attempts to use that as an excuse for choosing to opt out of “under performing” school before even stepping foot on to the campus.