Strong opinions, weakly held

School segregation, the ongoing issue

Dana Goldstein writes about school segregation in the modern era, on the occasion of Martin Luther King Day:

American schools are more segregated by race and class today than they were on the day Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed, 43 years ago.

What really drew me to her story is her simple explanation of how the soon to be dismantled school assignment program here in Wake County, North Carolina works. I’ve been following the story around this for years and never understood the nature of the program until I read this blog post:

The Wake County program located high-achieving, themed magnet schools within poor neighborhoods, and opened them up to any interested student. For each seat at the magnet school occupied by a middle class or affluent kid from across town, an inner city child was given the opportunity to bus to the neighborhood school the wealthier kid would have attended, if he hadn’t chosen the magnet instead.

In fact, given that participation in the program is completely voluntary, I’m not sure what’s at issue or what the goals of the new school board are.


  1. I believe the issue is that the “diversity” program is not helping anyone. Poor kids bussed to rich schools perform at the same level as their peers at their old school. It’s really all a sham to hide the failures of the Wake County school system. I would think anyone who values an education would welcome an effort to end the shell game of “diversity busing” and actually tackle the challenge of educating these kids, but obviously that’s not how it’s turning out.

    At the end of the day it comes down to whether you believe SAS’s EVAAS scores or WCPSS’s homegrown Effectiveness Index. The fact that the old board hid the results of the EVAAS really doomed them, imo. Trying to suppress information that makes you look bad isn’t really a winning strategy.

    I’m a big fan of our magnet/charter system that you describe and that won’t be going away as far as I know. The “diversity busing” affects far more than just kids that would attend magnet schools. It was to ensure that no school in the Wake System had >40% free and reduced lunches and had little to do with the magnet schools.

  2. I’d be more interested/accepting of policy adjustment if the board was actually interested in reviewing the problem vs. prescribing a solution, then trying to fit the problem to it.

    I honestly think much of the problem wasn’t the diversity policy as much as how capriciously the previous board shifted student assignments between schools, year-round tracks. Oh, and the Wake Wednesday thing. But, solving that scheduling BS got a political opening for ending the diversity policy.

  3. To be honest my sense is that the new board wants to give up on lower income students entirely.

  4. Rafe, it is a fact the old school board gave up on lower income students. Here is a great opinion article from two years ago highlighting WCPSS’ failure with reaching low income students.

    This is my biggest frustration with the entire debate. We are stuck on “diversity” and name calling when the focus should be the kids. Will the new board do any better? I have no idea, they can’t even change a failing policy without the NCAAP calling for civil disobedience bordering on riots.

    The four-year graduation rate for African American and Hispanic students is declining. For black students, it fell from 69.9 percent in 2006 to 63.4 percent in 2009. For Hispanics, the graduation rate dropped from 57.7 to 51.1 percent during the same time period.

    Male students continue to be the academic anchor for both groups. The 2009 graduation rate for black males was 57.4 percent and a paltry 45.5 for Hispanics.

    Wake’s diversity policy isn’t based on race but on socioeconomic class, as defined by students receiving free and reduced-price lunches. The news is grim on that front too. Such students’ graduation rate is on the decline as well, from a high of 63.3 percent in 2007 to 54.2 last year.

    Read more: http://www.newsobserver.com/2009/12/23/252756/diverse-graduation-rates.html#ixzz1BUtmhgIB

  5. You can trade op-ed for op-ed:


    Even if student achievement among poor and minority students is low (and it is), that doesn’t mean that we should discontinue the diversity policy. I haven’t seen anyone make a defensible argument that creating high poverty schools is going to somehow lead to higher achievement for the kids in those schools. Indeed, it seems like high poverty schools are pretty closely associated with low achievement everywhere.

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