Monday Reading List: More Shenanigans on the Upper West Side

Kate Taylor of The New York Times has an entry in the ongoing saga of the challenges of integration in New York City:

The issue causing so much anger and consternation: where children will go to elementary school in a section of the Upper West Side. New York City has proposed to move some blocks out of the zone of a popular school, Public School 199, which is mostly white and well off, into that of a lower-performing nearby school, Public School 191, where the students are largely poor and black or Hispanic. The city hopes to achieve a more diverse racial and economic mix at the schools, as well as relieve overcrowding at P.S. 199. The debate is now stretching into its second year — the city dropped its effort last year amid protests. It has grown, if anything, more rancorous, with local elected officials castigating City Hall for not listening to parents’ concerns.

Where have I heard a story like this before? Oh that's right, literally the exact same place, the Upper West Side of New York City, where parents in a condo complex couched their fears of integration in diminishing property values, which is exactly how segregationists of the early 20th century defended their perspectives. Emma Whitford at Gothamist has more coverage, including these gems from white parents and politicians:

But State Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal predicted the Lincoln Towers community would accept nothing less than PS 199, particularly in the absence of detailed demographic data to back up the rezoning lines. "You know this is one of the most educated, active parent bodies in the entire city," she said, adding, "You know what, DOE, you work for them" ... "We were up in Harlem and the local school was not doing so well," said Ziv Arazi, a parent of two. Arazi moved to Trump Place at 200 Riverside Boulevard this year, one of the buildings now in zone-limbo, along with Lincoln Towers. "We bought our apartment specifically because it was zoned to 199 ... It seems that the people living closest to 199 are being punished by being sent to another school just because they want to somehow diversify the student body," he added.

Ah yes, the old "diversity as punishment for white kids" chestnut. I don't even know where to start with all of this, except to say that I'm afraid that the White people at P.S. 199 have no idea how dreadful their stance is, not to mention the ugliness of the beliefs that may undergird their rhetoric. Moreover, the wealthy, heavily Jewish Upper West Side of New York City constitutes one of the most reliably liberal voting blocs in America. Keep that fact in mind the next time someone suggests to you that the most pressing anti-racism work needs to be conducted with poorer White folks.

By the way, L'Shana Tova to my Jewish brothers and sisters!

I am a big believer in the idea that change starts in one's own community, which is why I'm harder on White, liberal, Jewish people than any other group!

Moving to a place in America about as culturally far from NYC as possible, Lynnell Hancock of The Hechinger Report looks at the promise and failure of desegregation in a Mississippi town:

What happened next in Greenville, a de-evolution of sorts, is a lesson for another Mississippi town, Cleveland, now wrestling with a federal court order to merge its historically black and white schools — and a warning siren for the rest of the nation ... years of research underscore what the Coleman Report pointed to 50 years ago, a real correlation between segregation and an educational achievement gap along lines of class and race. In fact, a 2006 re-analysis of the original data, using more sophisticated statistical techniques, found that schools with concentrated levels of black and poor students do even more harm to black students’ achievement than Coleman originally conceived. The collapse of Greenville’s integrated school system not only shows how fragile racially balanced schools are, but also why they’re surely worth protecting.

Read the whole piece, as it sheds light on the various personal and political machinations that can either sustain or undo integration efforts. I wish there was greater racial and socioeconomic integration in this country, but I have no illusions about how hard and political the work of desegregation is.

Speaking of politics, Erik Robelen at The Atlantic looks down the November ballot to find places where education is a factor in the election:

State-level elections take on extra weight for education this year given that the fresh rewrite of the main federal K-12 education law—called the Every Student Succeeds Act—hands substantial authority back to states. “The federal government has loosened the reins on testing issues, on state accountability systems,” said Andy Smarick, an education expert at the American Enterprise Institute ... “Who’s going to be making these calls over the next several years?” asked Smarick, who was an education official under President George W. Bush and is now president of the Maryland state board of education. “Well, it’s going to be state boards of education, governors, state superintendents, state legislatures.”

Given the magnitude of education initiatives under the last two presidents, I wouldn't be surprised if we don't see another major federal education push for at least a decade. In the meantime, keep an eye on states for not just innovations, but also for evidence of rolling back accountability and progress.

Finally, Kate Walsh of the National Center on Teacher Quality says that focusing on "teacher shortages" ignore our real problems with educator supply:

For 30 years nearly every district in the nation has struggled to find enough secondary science and math teachers. Also and for just as long, rural and urban districts have been unable to tap into a reliable and stable source of new teachers ... One of the answers is to pay such teachers more than other teachers are paid, but most districts continue to reject that solution because it is untenable with their unions. For STEM teachers we could ramp up the availability of part-time teaching positions, but again few districts and states embrace this option—also because unions worry that districts will begin replacing full-time employees and their costly benefits with part-timers. For even longer than those shortages have been so problematic, school districts have been awash with applicants for elementary teaching positions ... The problem is that higher education accepts no responsibility for aligning teacher production with district demand.

Have a great week!