Wednesday Reading List: Segregating School Borders, Universal Pre-K, and Corporal Punishment

On yesterday's Reading List I made an unfair joke about John Oliver, in the course of half-heartedly addressing his rant about charter schools. My Facebook page swiftly repudiated me:

I rushed to make a snarky joke, and in doing so missed an opportunity to construct an actual argument. Later today I will post a more substantive response to John Oliver.

Now THAT's out of the way ... Melinda D. Anderson is in the Atlantic taking a close look at segregation in the city of Chicago, through an interview with a local journalist:

The stain of segregation bleeds into the most basic elements of black lives—from housing and health to food equality and educational opportunity—and no area exemplifies this like the neighborhoods that make up the South Side of Chicago. Natalie Y. Moore, a South Side native and public-radio journalist who covers the region, explores the systems and sentiments that keep Chicago segregation intact in The South Side: A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation, a newly published combination of personal memoir and historical narrative. She recently shared some thoughts and reflections on her hometown.

Chicago is one of the most dramatically segregated cities in the country, but the city is not alone. NPR reports on a new Ed Build study that examines the most "segregating" school district borders in the United States:

In Grosse Pointe, a narrow stretch of real estate nestled between Detroit and Lake St. Clair, just 7 percent of students live at or below the poverty line. To recap, that's 49 percent vs. 7 percent. Neighbors. Which is why a new report from the nonprofit EdBuild ranks the Detroit-Grosse Pointe boundary as "the most segregating school district border in the country." The report, called "Fault Lines," doesn't stop there. "What we did is built an algorithm that identified all 33,500 school district borders in the country ... and compared their school-aged child poverty rates," says Rebecca Sibilia, the founder and CEO of EdBuild. From this comparison Sibilia's team compiled a list of the 50 most segregating school boundaries in the nation — in short, the district borders with the largest difference in child poverty rates from one side to the other.

Before I say anything else, I should tell you that I recently agreed to join Ed Build's advisory board, so I obviously appreciate the work they're doing. The image of Birmingham, AL below is illustrative; the blue section is the wealthy Vestavia Hills community, where the median income is twice that of Birmingham City, which is in red:

The shocking thing is just how common gerrymandered borders like these are in schooling. Until we decouple property taxes and zip codes from school finance, we're going to continue to create privileged enclaves that deprive vulnerable families of opportunities.

In other news, Lillian Mongeau at the Hechinger Report looks at pre-school in England:

In England, the country at large is instead investing in the education of young children right from the start. As a result, these children — from different families, different neighborhoods and different ethnic backgrounds — will reach the age at which most American children start kindergarten with at least a year and a half of state-funded education under their little belts. “Like the U.S., we have big inequalities,” said Sally Jaeckle, head of early years services for the city of Bristol. “What gets me up in the morning is trying to get those kids the same opportunities as their middle class peers.” Leaders of government-funded preschool programs in the U.S. express a similar sentiment. The difference in England is that the British have taken a completely different approach to improving outcomes for poor children. They’ve made preschool available to everyone.

There are reasons to think twice about providing "universal public pre-k" in the United States, as policymakers will tell you that we don't need to create a new entitlement for wealthier families that already spend money on early childhood. That said, in other instances wherein the United States public sector provides a social good that also is provided by the private sector, the flight of wealth and privilege to the private sector seems to drive down the quality of the public good. In other words, there's no simple answer here!

Finally, Sarah D. Sparks and Alex Harwin have a piece in Ed Week examining the use of corporal punishment in public schools. Spoiler alert: it's WAY more than you think:

... more than 109,000 students were paddled, swatted, or otherwise physically punished in U.S. classrooms in 2013-14, according to Education Week Research Center analyses of the most recent wave of federal civil rights data. Corporal punishment is often seen by proponents as a good alternative to suspending students. But in a field that requires specialized certification for all manner of programs and subjects, corporal punishment stands out for the virtual nonexistence of training or detailed procedures on how to paddle children of different sizes, ages, or psychological profiles ... Even within the states where it was most common, paddling was far from evenly distributed. Nationwide, students eligible for school meal programs—a proxy for low-income status—were more likely to attend schools that use corporal punishment than students who don't qualify.

While I hesitate to weigh in on what families do in their own homes, there is zero evidence that corporal punishment is an effective means of eliciting appropriate behavior from children, and there is plenty of evidence that it exacts a lasting, negative psychological effect. It's 2016, and we're still talking about paddling in schools ...

Have a great day!