Friday Reading List: Education Secession, Measuring Equity, and the Future of a Movement

(Note to Loyal Readers: due to both professional travel and family vacation plans, my posting during the second half of June will be sporadic. My apologies for the extent to which this causes severe lapses in your news and/or gif consumption.)

Denisa Superville of Education Week looks at the phenomenon of whiter, richer communities seceding from school districts:

Since 2000, 47 communities have broken away from their old school districts to form new ones—often creating school systems that are wealthier and less racially diverse. And nine others are in the process of seceding from their current school districts, according to a new report released Wednesday by EdBuild, a New Jersey-based nonprofit that focuses on school funding inequity. The secessions have been happening largely under the radar as some communities—with the help of state law and policies—seek to wall off their wealth and resources, said Rebecca Sibilia, EdBuild's founder and CEO. Thirty states have laws that allow communities to break away from their current school districts, according to the report.

You can read the entire EdBuild report here, which has great interactive visuals. I'm just gonna go ahead and say it: this is both racist and classist. I'm not making a value judgment, I'm making a statement of fact. In all of these instances, individuals and communities with more power and privilege have isolated their capital - real, social, and otherwise - from individuals with less power and privilege, in a way that amplifies racial wealth and opportunity disparities. That's racism. It's not "prejudice" or "racial hatred," which are personal phenomena. It IS, however, the systematic use of institutional power to hoard resources and reinforce racial divisions. Textbook racism.

On the other hand, some communities have prioritized serving students with less privilege. Mike Elsen-Rooney of The Hechinger Report looks at the leaders in that category:

Texas cities were top performers on a new measure designed to compare how well schools in the nation’s 300 largest cities are teaching their poorest students. The study’s authors surveyed a variety of test results from low-income students in those cities, and used them to create a measurement called the Educational Equality Index that assigns a score to each school and each city based on how effectively it teaches low-income students ... While schools in the 300 largest cities were surveyed to develop the index, only 213 cities provided complete enough data to receive a final score and ranking in this initial survey. Overall, the study confirmed that low-income students are still performing well below national averages.

One caveat here: this research has not appeared in a peer-reviewed journal, and the last iteration of this study had significant methodological flaws. That said, there are interesting things to glean from the data, and as with the EdBuild study above, Education Cities - the organization behind this research - offers rich tools for data analysis.

In other news, Darren Sands of BuzzFeed wants to know what's happening with the Movement for Black Lives (sometimes called "Black Lives Matter") which has had a lower profile since the election:

Outside Washington, the left has been revitalized; protesters have organized some of the biggest demonstrations in US history. Inside Black Lives Matter, some activists have argued that their lowered visibility on the national scene is because the movement is focused on policy ... Inside the larger movement, many of the movement’s young activists — some of whom had never organized before joining — lack experience in dealing with the realities and challenges of a national effort, and the tricky alliances and factions involved in many political movements. Some have also come up against the hard reality of full-time activism and don’t know what to do: There are no tactics for helping organizers feed themselves ... Black Lives Matter is still here. Its groups are still organizing. But Black Lives Matter is on the verge of losing the traction and momentum that sparked a national shift on criminal justice policy.

Sands did some deep reporting, and it's worth reading the whole thing to understanding the complexities of scaling, maintaining, and activating a movement for the long term. Whatever happens to the current iteration of Black Lives Matter, the need for an organized response to racism, inequity, and police violence is more necessary than ever. Jelani Cobb of The New Yorker reflects on this week's ruling in the trial of Jeronimo Yanez, the police officer who killed Philando Castile:

... there was some feeling that the verdict in Philando Castile’s death would be different from the decisions in similar cases that had preceded it. That thought hinged on a belief that his status as a lawfully licensed gun-owner, his long-standing employment as a cafeteria manager at an elementary school, and his general lack of serious missteps might exempt him from the idea that his death was his own fault ... In the end, however, the result was indistinguishable from those in previous cases. There were no appeals for a less vitriolic dialogue, no impermeable hope that this time things would change. There was simply the numb reckoning that we’ll all go down this road again.

Strong words to consider over the weekend ...