Desegregate our schools

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By Matt Haney

OPINION

Sixty years after the landmark Supreme Court decision Brown v Board of Education, we face the shocking reality that our nation's schools are more racially and economically segregated today than they have been in more than four decades.

The vast majority of public school students attend schools where students look like them and share their socioeconomic background. Even areas where significant progress has been made are experiencing resegregation, including here in San Francisco.

For over 20 years, 1983-2005, San Francisco schools were under a federal court-ordered consent decree to eliminate segregation and accelerate racial equity, including a controversial assignment policy that limited enrollment of any ethnic group to no more than 45 percent in any school.

This policy ended after it was found unconstitutional in 2001. Since then, San Francisco schools have experienced a steady resegregation. A quarter of our schools have more than 60 percent of a single ethnic group, even though the district is highly diverse and lacks a majority group.

After three years of a new student assignment system, despite holding the reduction of racial isolation as a central goal, there has been little change. In the face of neighborhood segregation and displacement, family request patterns, language pathways, and elimination of school buses, our current student assignment system, absent additional interventions, may be outmatched in addressing this challenge.

Thus, 60 years after Brown, we must ask ourselves the question: Is racial and economic integration still a priority? And what does this mean for our ability to provide educational opportunity for all students, regardless of race or socioeconomic status?

While Brown is best known for helping end legalized segregation and sparking the Civil Rights Movement, Brown's foundational premise is that all students have a right to educational opportunity.

In San Francisco, as in other cities, racial isolation and concentration of underserved students in the same school are highly correlated with other school factors that define school quality, including average years of teacher service, teacher turnover, attendance, and suspension rates. San Francisco's most racially isolated and underserved schools are, thus, also those that are the most persistently low achieving.

As daunting as it may seem, there are things we can do now to restore the promise of Brown.

First, we should acknowledge that establishing racially and economically diverse schools still matters, and draw on creative and intentional tools at our disposal to work towards them. Segregated schools should not be accepted as a foregone conclusion, particularly in light of the well-documented challenges of ensuring educational opportunity in these contexts. We should look to diverse school models here in San Francisco, especially those where parental involvement is central.

Second, we must be honest about the resources needed to ensure equal opportunity for every student, particularly those in racially and economically segregated schools. This will take much more than small reforms or even equalizing funding; in fact, San Francisco has long had a system where schools with higher needs are given additional funding.

Ensuring true opportunity for every student in racially isolated schools requires transformation of what schools look like in these contexts, including longer school days, much smaller classes, high quality early childhood education and after school programs, experienced and highly paid teachers, and full-service school health clinics.

Comments

During deliberations of Brown versus Board of Education, how SCOTA could equate racial quota with equal access, I find irreconcilable. This has resulted in psychopathic mobsters empowering themselves, destroying our American public school system, while still, many queue-up for “the right to educational opportunity.”

Diversity of races is neither a solution, problem nor a work-around, related to equal educational access, but instead is used subversively to advance perverse self-interests. On the contrary, current Neoliberal monetarist policies challenging San Francisco Corporativism, threaten expulsion to Americans who choose not to comply with “winner take all” objectives. These expulsions are ongoing without social contract, neither government intervention. A final thought: Teachers are not baby sitters.

Posted by Awayneramsey on May. 21, 2014 @ 1:12 pm

always doomed, and SF's half-assed attempts to achieve that without transgressing the SCOTUS ruling on racial quota's is borderline racist itself.

Let every child go to either their closest school or the school their parents wish for, as much as possible, and then use other policies to try and make the worse schools better to the extent that that does not simply make the better schools worse.

Because in the end, we must aim for excellence and, by definition, not all schools and kids can get A's.

When the most powerful man and the richest woman in America are both black, it's time to start thinking post-racially.

Posted by Guest on May. 22, 2014 @ 4:46 pm

I would be willing to guess not, because I can near guarantee you that very few parents of children in SF like the idea of their kid being sent way across town to a school that feels alien and unfamiliar, and away from the children of his friends and neighbors.

Then add in all the fuel costs of needlessly moving tens of thousands of kids across town. Then add in the parents who take their kids out of SFUSD rather than attend a school they don't want or like, and you have a very expensive failure for social engineering.

SCOTUS rules race quotas as unconstitutional and rightly so. There is no way around that anyway, so the rest of what you write is moot unless you take a case to SCOTUS and do better.

If anything, we could abandon SF's "faux busing" system of having quotas based on economic drivers rather than race, which everyone knows is just a cheap second-hand way of putting race into the equation even though that is illegal.

It's time to simply stop focusing on race altogether, as it is the obsession with race that is holding us back.

Posted by Guest on May. 22, 2014 @ 12:07 pm

Unruly, misbehaving, trouble-making, disruptive, apathetic, bad students are the primary cause of bad schools. Busing them to other schools just ruins more students' education.

Average years of teacher service? Bad students make teaching hell. They drive away teachers.

Teacher turnover? See above.

Attendance? Bad parents don't enforce school attendance. Bad parents create students poor attendance records. How does busing fix this?

Suspension rates? Bad students get suspended more often. This is a surprise? How does busing fix this?

Want a real solution? Send disruptive students to work camps at the first sign of trouble to give other students a chance to learn.

"In San Francisco, as in other cities, racial isolation and concentration of underserved students in the same school are highly correlated with other school factors that define school quality, including average years of teacher service, teacher turnover, attendance, and suspension rates. San Francisco's most racially isolated and underserved schools are, thus, also those that are the most persistently low achieving."

Posted by Guest on May. 22, 2014 @ 12:43 pm

education, do you?

It's all about ideology and social engineering for them.

Posted by Guest on May. 22, 2014 @ 12:54 pm

It's sickening that they would rather coddle future criminals than give good kids in poor communities a chance to learn.

Posted by Guest on May. 22, 2014 @ 1:27 pm

Although sending one's child away to a school further than a local one for the sake of integration seems hyperbolic, the overall concept of intermingling students with other students across racial difference is sensible. Being surrounded by a diverse pool of thoughts and backgrounds, not only assists in placing an emphasis on elevating academically, but also in building interpersonal skills.

Posted by Esmer on May. 24, 2014 @ 9:23 pm

case-by-case basis, putting the child's needs first?

Rather than a one-size-fits-all over-arching ideology that causes massive distress and inconvenience to families?

You think?

Posted by Guest on May. 25, 2014 @ 8:10 am

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