Friday Reading List: SUMMER READING!

{Please read all the way to the end of today's Reading List, because I'm announcing a new "SUMMER READING!" feature.}

Start your weekend right, by reading this terrific Chalkbeat article on the end of desegregation in Indianapolis. Spoiler alert: they didn't end busing because it worked, and as a consequence, now everything is totally fine:

The lawyers and advocates who fought for the city’s busing program believed it would give all Marion County kids the same access to quality schools. They aimed to reduce racial tension in a city that had a long history of official policies designed to keep people apart. But 35 years after students began being bused to township schools, it’s not clear what the program achieved. Indianapolis Public Schools elementary buildings are more segregated today than they were when the busing program began in 1981. Back then, just 4 percent of elementary schools had 75 percent or more students of one race — white or black. Today, after decades of departures by middle class families who’ve flocked to the suburbs, the percentage of segregated elementary schools in IPS is now up to 20 percent — five times more than when busing began.

Wow. This story is a must read, because it reveals the extraordinary local details and eccentricities that make it hard to tell a single story about desegregation in this country. This story also upends the narrative that White communities have to "sacrifice" something to become integrated:

By many accounts, black neighborhoods had to sacrifice more than white neighborhoods for integration. Only black students were bused out to the townships — white students were not ordered to come into IPS or to help remedy the divide. Neighborhood schools in Forest Manor and throughout the city have closed as students have left, leaving families confused about where to go and dissatisfied with the few options they have.

Despite lots of local variety, one consistent pattern in desegregation stories is the intransigence of White folks. Unlike the traditional "narrative," wherein desegregation alienates poor White folks so much that they violently turn against their Black socioeconomic peers, I'm looking at you, "relatively comfortable middle-class White folks in the suburbs." There's a history of nominally progressive suburban White folks laundering their guilt about living segregated lives by pointing the finger at the more overt actions of their less well-to-do White brethren. It's about time we started talking about THAT.

Ed Week's Politics K-12 blog has good coverage of the new federal education law's testing pilot:

States that want to participate in the pilot have to make sure that:
  • These tests are valid and reliable, for all students and for particular subgroups of students, including English-language learners and students in special education, two populations that aren't always easy to test.
  • The results of these tests are "comparable" across districts, so that a particular score or outcome means the same thing from one district to the next. New Hampshire does this by having students take the state assessment in certain grades.
  • By the end of the demonstration period, the districts include a representative sample of students from around the state. For instance, a state with a large ELL population (like, say, California) would need to ensure that there were plenty of ELLs taking the tests in the trial districts.
  • These systems have to be able to be scaled statewide, by the end of the pilot period.

I'm not an assessment expert, but the Center for American Progress has a decent overview of what the pilot means in practice. I'm open to interesting things happening here, but color me skeptical. I've curbed some of my technocratic tendencies over the years, but I cringe at the idea of tiny government entities building complex assessment instruments. Speaking of hyper-locality, here's a story of two principals in New York City who have made lemonade from their co-location:

Last year, [Success Academy] Bensonhurst students attended Seth Low’s productions of the musicals “Annie” and “Shrek.” Together, the two school communities have planned blood drives, canned food drives, and toy drives that help not just our schools, but the community at large. During Teacher Appreciation Week, SA Bensonhurst parents brought in breakfast for Seth Low staff and students hand-delivered cards to the classrooms of Seth Low teachers. We have found that there are opportunities for charter and district schools to work together to improve shared spaces and complement each other’s academic programming. A good example is how Seth Low spent the matching funds the school received for Success Academy’s renovation. (When a charter school spends more than $5,000 to renovate, state law requires the city to provide the same funding for every district school in the building.)

Ugh. There they go again, interrupting the convenient narrative that all co-locations are bad and that Success Academy was sent by dark forces to destroy our picayune notion of public schooling. Staying in NYC, Lavita Tuff covers a significant investment in getting more Black girls into coding:

Black Girls Code isn’t alone in this mission. This month, Morehouse College became one of the first HBCUs to launch a SMASH pathways pilot program. This provides 39 rising 9th graders the opportunity to get exposed to the STEM field and train them on math and science concepts. With HBCUs serving as 21 of the top 50 institutions that educate black graduates who go on to receive their doctorates in science and engineering, HBCUs also play an important part in this work. Their constant support and willingness to partner with STEM programs help to not only promote the legacy of HBCUs but helps to increase enrollment at our beloved institutions.

When I was in elementary school, I used to skip recess to write code for a robot made out of Legos, so I am here for this. Black Girls Code also has cool swag. Sergio Arroyos has a great first-person account of what it's like to be Latino in an American college:

I did everything you were supposed to do in high school. I took AP courses, studied hard for the SATs and applied to multiple colleges. What I wasn’t prepared for was how I would be treated and tokenized as a Latino in a predominately white college. I based my perception of what college would be like on pamphlets and college websites, not realizing in the moment that I was never the intended audience. Rather, these promotional items best described the experiences of my white peers. Being one of the only students of color in predominately white spaces did more to relieve “white guilt” than make me, as an individual, feel included.

Finally, today is the first day of July, and I'm introducing a new feature on the Reading List: SUMMER READING!

For each of the months of July and August, I'm going to pick a book and read it with the folks who enjoy this blog! For the month of July, I've picked Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. The Root has an interview with Gyasi today, which introduces her and the book thusly:

Ta-Nehisi Coates calls Gyasi “a gifted literary mind.” Homegoing, which begins with the story of two sisters—one married to a white slaver in Ghana and the other who is sold into American slavery—is an epic exploration of the successive generations of each branch of the family: one in Africa, one in America. The result is a timely, riveting portrayal of the global African Diaspora—and the aftereffects that linger on to this day.

Here's how this will work; I'm going to read the book according to this schedule:

  • Week of July 4 - first half of Part One, through and including the "Quey" chapter
  • Week of July 11 - second half of Part One
  • Week of July 18 - first half of Part Two, through and including the "Willie" chapter
  • Week of July 25 - second half of Part Two

If you want to join me, grab a copy of the book and follow along. I would like for this to be interactive, but I don't want to add undue pressure to your summer. I will post thoughts, discussion questions, and reader comments about Homegoing in each Friday's Reading List for the month of July. If you're interested in participating, email me at juscohen at gmail dot com, just so I have an idea of who's playing along at home!