Slate Takes On Race and Education

WNYC’s “Integration 2.0” isn’t the only education series launched this week focusing on issues related to education and race. There are also a bunch of stories over at Slate as part of a series called “Tomorrow’s Test.” In both series, structural issues and white privilege are key issues

There are four more stories left to go, but of the eight that have published already the two that jump out include one about a Portland neighborhood that’s gentrifying — but the school is being left behind by white parents new to the neighborhood. This happens all too often, and yet frequently seems to catch communities and district planners by surprise.

“When neighborhoods gentrify, schools often don’t follow—at least not nearly as quickly. It’s a phenomenon playing out across America as middle-class white families move into urban neighborhoods that real estate agents might have once called ‘undesirable.’”

Another notable piece describes efforts to teach white teachers about bias and cultural competency, given that most teachers are white even as their classrooms are increasingly diverse:

“Teacher-training programs are increasingly trying to figure out how to bridge this divide. The goal is to help make teachers more aware of their own biases and enable them to understand more fully their students’ lives outside of the classroom.”

There’s also an animated slide show (below) showing large-scale demographic shifts in student enrollment and distribution across schools. Click through to see the entire series:

 

Perhaps the most interesting part of the slide show describes how much more white students are likely to go to private schools than black and brown kids, and how those decisions affect public school demographics. Here’s a GIF of that, thanks to Lovey Cooper:

Privateschool

This aspect of school demographics is especially important because it highlights the fears of many who would promote school integration which is that white parents will exit the system rather than send their children to schools they consider insufficient or risky.

This issue comes up in the Portland story, which depicts a school in a gentrifying neighborhood where white parents send their kids elsewhere (in this case a local charter school):

“White families often transfer their children to Trillium Charter, a high-achieving school that’s less than 10 minutes away and 82 percent white. They can also send their kids to Portland magnet schools if their test scores are high enough or use the petition system to transfer to schools closer to their jobs. According to district figures, only half of neighborhood children attend Boise.”

Alexander Russo

Alexander Russo is a freelance education writer who has created several long-running blogs such as the national news site This Week In Education, District 299 (about Chicago schools), and LA School Report. He can be reached on Twitter at @alexanderrusso, on Facebook, or directly at alexanderrusso@gmail.com.