Friday Reading List: Red States, Blue Cities, School Enrollment, and Science Education

David A. Graham has a fascinating piece in the new issue of The Atlantic, wherein he examines the relative political and economic power of states versus cities in this country:

American cities seem to be cleaving from the rest of the country, and the temptation for liberals is to try to embrace that trend ... But if liberal advocates are clinging to the hope that federalism will allow them to create progressive havens, they’re overlooking a big problem: Power may be decentralized in the American system, but it devolves to the state, not the city ... Even the reddest states contain liberal cities: Half of the U.S. metro areas with the biggest recent population gains are in the South, and they are Democratic. Texas alone is home to four such cities; Clinton carried each of them. Increasingly, the most important political and cultural divisions are not between red and blue states but between red states and the blue cities within ... the economic reality that underpinned rural-urban distrust in the 19th century is now inverted: In most states, agriculture is no longer king. Rural areas are struggling, while densely packed areas with highly educated workforces and socially liberal lifestyles flourish.

It's a long piece, and you should read the whole thing. As cities have grown more economically powerful, political power still defaults back to state entities. Graham captures this disequilibrium, which doesn't seem tenable in the long-term ... unless you think we're on the brink of returning to a 19th-century-style economy.

There's an interesting implication for schools, too, which Graham doesn't discuss. Many state constitutions explicitly delegate educational authority to local school boards, which can mean that local school boards are more powerful than municipal governments.

Strained relationships among state and local authorities have been a defining feature of reimagining the city of Detroit. Erin Einhorn of Chalkbeat looks at the failure of a common school enrollment system in that city, which was supposed to deescalate the tension:

Proponents say common enrollments are more equitable because most applicants have the same shot at sought-after schools. The systems also remove some of the guesswork for administrators by preventing parents from enrolling in multiple schools, then waiting until September to make their final decisions ... Here, in a city where roughly equal numbers of students attend district and charter schools, and where thousands of students travel out of town to attend suburban schools, what happened to Detroit’s common enrollment shows how difficult it can be for competing factions to come together. The tensions exposed by the issue are the same ones that make it difficult to solve other serious challenges in Detroit, such as student transportation and teacher recruitment, that would be easier to address if competing schools worked together.

One problem to which Einhorn alludes: privileged parents don't like this system, because it democratizes the process through which students are assigned to schools. You know what I'm talking about. People with political power have always found the backdoor into the fancy magnet school ...

In other news, Sarah Sparks at Education Week looks at the role of scientists in K-12 science education:

As schools work to implement the Next Generation Science Standards, practicing scientists are also rethinking how they work with schools to advance understanding of their field. The National Board on Science Education, part of the National Academies of Science, brought together science educators and members of professional science groups like the American Chemical Society last month to discuss guidance for developing partnerships between scientists and teachers.

The first-person accounts in this piece are worth digesting, particularly for educators who are looking for ways to forge partnerships with scientists.

Finally, the latest edition of the The Atlantic series, "Question Your Answers," features Michael K. Williams. It's deep:

Have a great weekend!