Thursday Reading List: Segregation Starts Early and Services for Disabled College Students

Elizabeth Harris of The New York Times looks at a new report on the racial integration of New York City's new pre-k programs:

A report by the Century Foundation, a public policy research group, which will be released on Tuesday, found that in 2014-15, the first year of the major prekindergarten expansion pushed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, prekindergarten classrooms tended to be more racially homogeneous than even the city’s public kindergartens. In half of all prekindergarten classrooms, over 70 percent of students belonged to a single racial or ethnic group, despite the fact that the overall program was diverse, with no racial or ethnic majority. In one out of every six pre-K classrooms, more than 90 percent of the students were of the same race or ethnicity. In kindergarten, that is true in one out of every eight classrooms.

If we consider the fact that housing is quite segregated in most cities, including NYC, and that most families look for pre-k programs that are a convenient distance from home, this shouldn't surprise us. That said, it's important to see just how early and often in life racial segregation is reinforced by policy and infrastructure. This report also is a good reminder that we shouldn't be quick to point fingers at a particular kind of school for its failure to integrate. Whether pre-school, district, charter, or private, most of our kids's schools are segregated by race, even in 2016. This is about all of us.

One particular school community is grieving this week, as Sarah Darville and Philissa Cramer point out in Chalkbeat:

A national charter network is urging its schools to take action this week to show support for the family of Terence Crutcher, the black man shot and killed this week by a police officer in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Crutcher was the parent of a child at a KIPP charter school, the network’s leader told principals in a letter Wednesday morning ... a number of charter leaders have spoken publicly against the violence against black Americans that has fueled a wrenching national conversation about race in recent months. But since June, when multiple shootings heightened the conversation, both a coalition of Black Lives Matter groups and the NAACP came out against the publicly funded but privately managed schools.

KIPP is an institution with some political power, so it will be interesting to see how, and whether, they are willing to leverage that political power to affect actual change. That power extends nost just to the various institutional and individual philanthropists who provide support for their growth, but also to the families who attend their schools.

To that point about political power, Awesomely Luvvie has some advice for White people who want to be helpful in the struggle for racial justice, including one of my favorite pieces of permanent counsel:

Donate to anti-racism work. Give money to those who are doing anti-racist work. Organizations like Black Youth Project 100, Dream Defenders, Assata’s Daughters. Pay attention to platforms like Color of Change and Colorlines. And donate to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. Put your money where your heart is.

People, especially those of color, who do anti-racism work often struggle to find sustainable funding. Give them your money.

Your money alone won't solve the problems, but it will help to both support important work, and put your interests more closely in contact with those communities whose interests we should be supporting.

In other news, Iris Maria Chavez shares the story of a mother who advocated for her English language learning daughter:

Maria is a first generation Mexican-American, and when her daughter was a freshman at Reynolds High School, she discovered—unbeknownst to her—her child was in an English language-learner program for the last nine years. She stumbled upon this when she asked her daughter what classes she was taking, and saw mainly English language-learner classes—and very little in the way of college-prep classes—on her daughter’s schedule. Maria went immediately to the school and spoke directly with the principal. Although they discussed her desire that her daughter take college-prep classes and be removed from the English language-learner program, no change occurred.

The story has a happy ending, but it's important to see how a failure to individualize attention for students, both in terms of instruction and in communication with the home, can have a huge impact on academic trajectory.

Finally, Meredith Kolodner at The Hechinger Report looks at institutional barriers to providing a strong college education to students with disabilities, focusing on the primary federal mechanism through which these students receive services on campuses:

In Louisiana, 44 percent of people found eligible for services never received any in 2014. This year, statewide budget cuts forced an even worse crisis — the office ran out of money and stopped taking new clients on February 29. In addition, hundreds of people who had been found eligible but hadn’t gotten approval for their employment plan also had their cases put on hold. The office reopened its caseloads on June 1, and counselors are now wading through the backlog ... Similarly, in January 2015, Tennessee’s agency also temporarily stopped taking new clients. Although it has opened its doors again, a state report found that 100 of the 243 positions that provide direct services to clients were vacant last year. The result has been caseloads of up to 200 in Knoxville and elsewhere, and many dropped clients, advocates say.

The article shares research indicating that a college education has an even more significant economic net benefit for students with diabilities than it does for students without them. In other words, there are good moral, ethical, and practical reasons to fix this problem. So let's fix it.