Tuesday Reading List: Integration, Honesty in Charter Advocacy, and Safety Pin Box

Kyle Spencer is in The New York Times with a deep look at the intentional socioeconomic integration of New Jersey's Morris Schools:

Many of the district’s white parents, mostly college-educated professionals whose children still account for a majority of the student body, say they are committed to these efforts. “I came here because I loved the diversity,” said Liz Szporn, the mother of third- and fifth-graders at Alexander Hamilton [Elementary School]. But the praise is not universal. Some parents — both black and white — complain that the district is too ready to help its struggling Spanish speakers at the expense of their English-speaking peers. Local taxpayers have grumbled that their money is increasingly going to students who are here illegally. And a disproportionate number of the district’s well-to-do families are sending their children to private schools.

I hope that more states and districts pursue significant integration efforts in the coming years. I grabbed this part of the article, because it's important to understand how that work will lead to the inevitable emergence of perceived conflicts, like those articulated above. I say perceived, because, from an educational standpoint, spending time and energy on English language learners does not have an adverse effect on native English speakers. This is the sort of argument that privileged parents tend to make to justify taking their children out of mixed-income and mixed-race environments, though.

Erika Sanzi at Good School Hunting looks at a fight over expanding a high performing charter school in Rhode Island and tries to understand the pushback:

Achievement First serves mostly low income children of color. According to data from [the Rhode Island Department of Education], 85 percent of students are low income and 95 percent are students of color. Most RI schools who serve a similar population are chronically under-performing but Achievement First is quite literally closing the achievement gap before our eyes. This school full of poor kids is giving the state’s most affluent schools a run for their money, particularly in math ... It is absolutely a fair critique that as more parents vote with their feet and opt for charter schools, money does leave the district ... Critics point out that there are fixed costs that don’t automatically drop just because a few students are no longer on the districts’ rosters. Both sides are right. Recent adjustments were made to mitigate some of the challenges faced by districts – and those adjustments absolutely hurt charters who saw significant funding cuts with very little time to prepare for them.

Most of the writing about charter schools and their impact on district finances either glosses over this significant political issue, or blows it way out of proportion. It's nice to see Sanzi starting a rational discussion here. Here's hoping her detractors follow suit.

Quibila Divine at Yo Philly! has similar concerns about her city's dealings with parents whose children attend struggling schools:

Wherever one stands in the traditional public versus public charter school debate, charters were created to provide a model of success to be emulated by district schools.  To date, there has been limited sharing of evidence-based practices between successful district (i.e., magnet schools), successful charter and under-performing schools (both district and charter).  Families in low-income communities want the best education for their children just like those in wealthier communities.  What is not discussed (hence, the elephant in the room) is that these black and brown families are usually told that they must wait, that they do not have a choice and that their voices do not matter.

Most policymakers have never experienced the powerlessness and trauma that come from not having any education options outside of a single struggling school. Even the district officials and legislators who understand the dilemma from an intellectual perspective are not making decisions from a position of real understanding. If you want to go even deeper down this rabbit hole, here's a debate between Peter Cunningham and Robert Pondiscio about the nuances and partisan politics of school choice:

Finally, Ijeoma Oluo of The Establishment interviews Leslie Mac, one of the creators of the Safety Pin Box. Mac's venture, which sends a monthly list of tasks to aspiring White allies, is rooted in the need to cultivate consistent solidarity: 

I’m a big proponent of transformation being an equation, with commitment and consistency on the other side. So the idea behind a subscription box and a monthly fee is really about consistency in allyship. Too often allyship means “I’m here when something pops off.” Or, “I’m here when something really big happens, and then I’m gone.” Part of the idea was: Give people something they can do, and put it in a model that makes them show up over and over again. We are integrating their lives with allyship. It’s not separate from them, it’s something they do regularly.

Read the whole interview; if you're anything like me, you'll learn things that challenge your current practices and mindsets. Have a great day!