Blogging Bayport Alameda

October 22, 2015

No better

Filed under: Alameda, School — Lauren Do @ 6:02 am

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.


  1. Lauren, can you prove that none of the author’s white neighbors have set foot in this school? If you don’t have evidence, you shouldn’t make these accusations. 😛

    My favorite line from the piece that captures the essence of so much of this issue: “The people … moving into my neighborhood want their children to have a diverse upbringing, but not too diverse.” This rings very true to me. The people who fit my demographic want it on their own terms, even if they (we) consider themselves incredibly progressive, inclusive, tolerant, etc.

    Comment by BMac — October 22, 2015 @ 12:14 pm

  2. Thanks for bringing up this interesting topic. First, I would never question a school choice made by another parent. I assume they made the right decision for their child.

    And I get the “chip on your shoulder” mentality of your daughter’s school and the other schools on the West End. and I like the diversity of our schools, but all schools are not the same regardless of data on “white achievement.” What you didn’t mention was academic culture, numbers of remedial classes, numbers of AP classes, violent incidents, sexual harassment, drugs, alcohol, experienced teaching staff, funding, money raised by PTAs, average SAT scores, graduation rates, dropout rates, percentages of graduates getting into 4 year colleges, parent education level, numbers of English language learners and special education students, numbers of suspensions, arrests, and expulsions, average number of students per counselor, amount of scholarships won by students, etc. What’s the attendance rate of the teachers? How often does the staff turn over? Is there a new principal every few years? The Common Core results were either very poor or mediocre at all schools except one in Alameda. All these numbers add up. Look at the measurable achievement gaps. If your 4th grade student reads at 6th grade level and her classmate reads at 2nd grade level guess who will get the attention?

    I am glad you like your staff so much, and I applaud you for walking the walk. But because you and your husband are college educated, your child will be too. And every once in a while extraordinary educators can overcome the odds, and some remarkable kids can and do overcome lots of roadblocks, but most do not. Racism and class consciousness do play a role, but even the federal and state governments allow parents to transfer children from underperforming schools.

    Comment by Captain Obvious — October 22, 2015 @ 8:09 pm

  3. But because you and your husband are college educated, your child will be too

    Precisely. So if college-educated people are not sending their children to their neighborhood schools like Ruby Bridges — which have nearly identical outcomes for students with the same background as other schools — then the real reason to not send their kid to those schools is not academics. But rather what the mom in Huffington Post wrote:

    When I am able to move past the anger, the frustration that people are talking about a school they know nothing about, I listen to what they say. Behind all the test score talk, the opportunity mumbo jumbo that people lead with, I feel like what is actually being said, and what is never being said is this: That school is too black.

    Anyway, I would imagine that if you measured all of the elementary schools against one another they could come up pretty equally in level of academics, experience of teaching staff and everything that you can judge the school itself on. Schools are supposed to take students as they are and provide support based on where they are in their academic career, whether they are english language learners, special education students, kids who were formerly homeless, kids who are homeless, students who have moved around every three years because of Coast Guard orders, 4th grade students that read at 6th grade levels and those that read at a 2nd grade level. The quality of the education that is offered to these students is not measured on any test, even this new test. The only benefit about this test is — at least — it breaks the information down by socio economics and parent education so we can all point to what we already instinctively know. Those are the real drivers of test score achievement which means that there is still too much inequity in our education system.

    Comment by Lauren Do — October 23, 2015 @ 5:49 am

  4. It would be interesting to compare results broken out by socio economics and parent education between AUSD and Oakland. I’ve always hypothesized that quality of education and achievement for individuals would not really fluctuate between different schools within Alameda because it is all the same organization, as these test results seem to show. The only real difference might be in quality and resources the PTAs provide. On the other hand, I am assuming that equivalent kids in a “good” district like Alameda would fare better than those in a “poor” district like Oakland. But, perhaps I’m wrong and parent status is the sole driver of absolute achievement, not just relative achievement. In that case, we’d have to re-evaluate everything we are doing.

    Comment by BMac — October 23, 2015 @ 9:53 am

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