Wednesday Reading List: Free Houses for Teachers, From Expulsion to School Board, & Multi-Racial Achievement Data

Erin Einhorn of Chalkbeat covers a new perk for Detroit teachers:

According to a press release that’s expected to be released at an event this morning, the mayor plans to announce that all Detroit school employees — whether they work for district, charter or parochial schools — will now get a 50 percent discount on houses auctioned through the Detroit Land Bank Authority. That discount is already available to city employees, retirees and their families. Now it will be available to full-time employees of schools located in the city.

Lots of cities offer perks like this to municipal employees. The Detroit context is somewhat unique, given both the magnitude of the distressed housing situation, and the extent to which speculators are acquiring land in the city. I wonder how this policy will interact with the complexities of gentrification in the Motor City.

In other news, John Elgion is in The New York Times profiling a new school board member in Georgia:

It was 1999 and the Decatur school board responded swiftly, expelling [Courtney] Carson and five classmates, all of them black, for two years. The punishment, which was eventually cut in half, polarized this central Illinois city, largely along racial lines, and drew thousands of civil rights activists to town. Suddenly, a thriving industrial mecca became a center of racial strife ... In the 18 years since the fight and its fallout, that sentiment has evolved as Mr. Carson, 35, has turned around his life. He took up work as an activist, minister and mentor to young people going through the same challenges he faced. Then this year, he added an improbable line to his résumé: Decatur school board member.

This story is a fascinating look at how racial dynamics animate school board politics, and how trends in student discipline mirror the disparities in the criminal justice system. I hope that Elgion and the Times continue to cover Carson's tenure as a local politician.

Elsewhere, Tanzi West Barbour of D.C. K12 was shocked by a story out of Tulsa, causing her to reflect on how schools make decisions:

I was reminded of the lack that school teachers face when it comes to school supplies when I read an article about a teacher in Tulsa, Oklahoma who stood on the corner of a busy street with a sign that read “Teachers Need School Supplies. Any Amount Helps!” It reminded me of how little most teachers have to ensure our children are receiving the best instruction possible while they are in their classrooms ... When I was worked in a public school system in Maryland, I was a part of the Superintendent’s leadership team. I remember the budget cut conversations and community meetings. I distinctly remember asking about affects to the classroom. The two Superintendents I worked for told me that all cuts will affect every classroom one way or the other. So how do you choose?

Read the whole thing, especially if you are unfamiliar with how school systems make budgeting decisions. Sometimes, what appears on the surface to be resource scarcity is really misallocation. Other times, what looks like abundance is just clever distribution.

Finally today, Andre Perry is in The Hechinger Report with his take on a new study finding that multiracial students perform as well as their white peers in schools:

A new study from The Brookings Institution offers insight into the complicated lives of multiracial families, institutional racism and the unique burdens of multiracial privilege. According to the study, 12th-grade students who identify as being multiracial scored, on average, the same as white students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress standardized test, and they outperformed other racial categories in reading ... The study’s findings tell the story of how race, class and privilege influence educational success ... Ironically, this new research from Brookings on multiracial families may just encourage the “diverse by design movement,” jargon for efforts to engineer diverse schools. Though the research is uneven, there is strong evidence that diversity is better both for reducing stereotyping and discrimination and for improving academic achievement. But just as it’s preposterous to copulate our way to academic success, it’s absurd to make black schools feel safer or better by making them whiter.

That last sentence makes a powerful point about the study's conclusions. More than anything, this study is further evidence that our public education system is unjust by design, and that we could be educating our students of color to a much higher level.

Have a great day!