Tuesday Reading List: Looking Back and Opportunity Gaps

A year ago, a student in the Dallas suburbs named Ahmed Mohamed was arrested when school officials apparently thought his science project was a bomb. Chris Stewart and I discussed the issue on our erstwhile podcast, and now the Mohamed family is suing:

The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified monetary damages, names the school district, the city of Irving and Daniel Cummings, the school principal. It accuses the school district and Mr. Cummings of discrimination, and said the Irving Police Department arrested him without probable cause. As a result, the lawsuit says, Ahmed has been vilified and subject to conspiracy theories, lies and hatred that “no kid in this country should have to endure.” “The only remedy, the only justice we have in the American legal system is money,” Susan Hutchison, Ahmed’s lawyer, said at a news conference in Dallas on Monday. “So we are suing for justice.”

First of all, Ahmed's school should have been celebrating his ingenuity, but they were too busy racially profiling him to notice his promise. I've heard that one before. I just hope his family finds some peace after this ordeal. Two years ago, Darren Wilson shot and killed Mike Brown in Ferguson, and Lawrence Ross at The Root looks at how the movement for Black lives has evolved since then:

... when three Baton Rouge police officers were killed by a Missouri man, it seemed like the big lie about Black Lives Matter being anti-police would destroy the organization. But it didn’t. Instead, those affiliated with Black Lives Matter gathered to create a comprehensive set of policy solutions first with Campaign Zero last year, and now the Movement for Black Lives. For every Black Lives Matter critic who asked, ‘What is the goal of Black Lives Matter?’ These campaigns lay out solutions from police brutality, demilitarizing police, the broken windows polices that create over policing in black and minority communities, to independent boards to investigate police shootings. It’s comprehensive, and also just the beginning. Future Black Lives Matter policy positions will take on issues like immigration reform and immigration rights.

It's important to remember that the movement is intentionally diffuse, with different organizations pushing different agenda at different speeds using different levers. For individuals who are used to partaking in public and private institutions that were built for them, and actually seem to work for them, this kind of structure might seem foreign. This is what it looks like when folks actively push back against powerful institutions that do not have their lives in mind.

Elsewhere, Meredith Kolodner at the Hechinger Report looks at improvements in Baltimore's summer school program:

Researchers estimate that low-income students lose two months’ progress in reading and math every summer. That means they can fall more than a year behind before high school, even if they are keeping pace with their wealthier peers during the school year. But in Baltimore’s middle school summer program last year, students gained three months in reading and two and a half in math, according to the nonprofit that ran it — all in the span of five weeks, with just 21 instructional days ... Middle- and upper-income students tend to have less summer learning loss, researchers say, because they take advantage of summer camps and informal learning opportunities, such as family vacations and books in the home.

There are other creative ways to extend the school year, and giving vulnerable students an opportunity to thrive during the summer is an issue of equity; if we fail to do that, we just exacerbate existing opportunity gaps. Caroline Bermudez looks at why those gaps are most severe in some of the country's wealthiest communities:

... if we dig into school data for these cities, even the most well-educated ones don’t fare well when it comes to educating low-income children and students of color. Furthermore, the top performers have more impoverished children in their public schools than we realize. One reason for this disconnect is obvious. Although expensive areas such as San Francisco, Chicago and New York are desirable and attract highly-educated people, many parents in these areas send their children to private schools. When parents with the most social capital and resources don’t invest in their public schools, the local schools struggle with concentrated poverty and underperformance.

Regular readers can predict where I stand on these issues; families with greater privilege should consider the ramifications of their decisions when they opt out of public systems. Some food for though as you embark on your day!