Monday Reading List: Segregation in Schools, Housing, and Everywhere Else

Ivan Moreno, Larry Fenn, and Michael Melia of the Associated Press did an analysis of the racial segregation of charter schools and found some unflattering results:

National enrollment data shows that charters are vastly over-represented among schools where minorities study in the most extreme racial isolation. As of school year 2014-2015, more than 1,000 of the nation's 6,747 charter schools had minority enrollment of at least 99 percent, and the number has been rising steadily. The problem: Those levels of segregation correspond with low achievement levels at schools of all kinds.

Expect to hear a lot of hand wringing - from all sides - about this article. Charter haters will say, "I told you so," while charter defenders will say, "Let's stop pretending as if charter schools invented segregation." Chalkbeat reporter Matt Barnum offered a more measured response via twitter yesterday:

This report is a problem for charter school boosters, just like similar data are problematic for traditional public schooling zealots. I don't think it's helpful for charter enthusiasts to pretend that segregation isn't a problem, and there are many charter schools tackling racial segregation in an explicit way. As always, it's important to remember that segregation is the product of both personal choice and policy. We could, and should, create policies that curb segregation, in both traditional public schools and charter schools. We shouldn't pretend, though, that charter schools - which account for less than 10% of all public schools nationally - are the primary driver of segregated schooling.

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Speaking of charter schools, Rebecca Mead is in The New Yorker with a long profile of the pedagogic vision of the Success Academy schools:

Success Academy began in 2006, with a single elementary school in Harlem, and now has forty-six schools, in every borough except Staten Island. The overwhelming majority of the students are black or Latino, and in most of the schools at least two-thirds of them come from poor families. More than fifteen thousand children are enrolled, from kindergarten to twelfth grade ... In the most recent available results, ninety-five per cent of Success Academy students achieved proficiency in math, and eighty-four per cent in English Language Arts; citywide, the respective rates were thirty-six and thirty-eight per cent.

Most writing about Success Academy tends to focus on the political maelstrom surrounding its founder, Eva Moscovitz, so it's refreshing to see an examination of the educational dimensions of the schools. In particular, Mead explores the tension between rigid structure and creative academic exploration. I'm not sure I agree with the entirety of her analysis, but I'm glad that folks are finally digging below the noxious surface of this particular debate.

Finally today, Jordy Yager of Cville turns in a long, fascinating look at gentrification in one Charlottesville, Virginia neighborhood:

Over the last decade, dozens of white middle- and upper-income people have bought homes and property in 10th and Page. Many erect fences around their yards, tack on expensive additions or tear down houses entirely and build anew, driving up property assessments and taxes. Longtime residents say the culture of 10th and Page is also changing, and that their new neighbors keep to themselves more, creating divisions where before there was a shared sense of community. And for some African-Americans who have lived most of their lives here, the echoes of a not-so-distant past, when white people told black residents where to live, are very present.

Much writing about gentrification treats the phenomenon as either an inevitability that needs to be accepted and managed, or a ravaging disease that must be stopped. This piece looks at the deeply human consequences of the displacement and marginalization of a community's long-time residents, and how that process is reinforced by our country's unique history with racism and statutory segregation. You'll be shocked to hear that there are no easy solutions. This piece is worth a long read, as you may recognize features of your own community, and as a result, be in a better position to understand the life circumstances of your neighbors.

Have a great week!