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An Economically Diverse Educational System

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Autor:  anton  28 April 2011
Tags:  Economically,  Diverse,  Educational,  System
Words: 1134   |   Pages: 5
Views: 353

Socioeconomic Stratification of Public Schools

There have been many educational changes and reforms during America’s 350 year old education system. Although America’s educational system has climbed mountains since its inception in 1635, there are still many peaks to overcome. Why? The world around us is constantly changing. Faux pas of yesterday are the norms today and vise-versa. In order to keep up with society and the quality of education it demands there has to be constant reforms. The area of our educational system that needs the most change lies in our inner city schools.

Inner city schools consistently score lower on standardized tests then the rest of America. Low-income inner city schools are less likely to perform well because individual low income students have less access to healthcare, qualified teachers, adequate nutrition, and a quiet place to do homework. So why not provide the same educational experience to the inner-city students as the suburban students? To do this, there must be a centralized school that contains both inner-city and suburban students. According to a study conducted by Douglas Harris of Florida State University, mixed income schools are 22 times as likely to be consistently high performing as high poverty schools (Coleman). Mixed income schools have shown to be the best way to raise inner city students performance without hindering upon the middle-class, suburban students education.

The idea of bringing together students from different socioeconomic backgrounds isn’t anything new. In fact, the legendary Coleman Report of the 1960’s found that after the influence of the family, the socioeconomic status of a school is the single most important determinant of a student’s academic success (Kahlenber). Students that have a low socioeconomic status are less likely to have parents that are actively involved in their education. Many parents simply don’t have to time to meet with teachers to see how their child is doing in school. The parents are just too busy sometimes working two jobs just to keep food on the table. There needs to be some structure put in place that creates an economically diverse school system.

A program in Wake County (Raleigh) NC, attempts to do just that. Their program attempts to have less than 40% of low income schools in its district. Wake County’s plan is receiving considerable national attention because it is working to raise achievement of all students and narrow the gap between groups. In Wake County, only 40 percent of African American students in grades three through eight scored at grade level on state tests a decade ago. Last spring, 80 percent did. Hispanic students have made similar strides. Overall, 91 percent of students in those grades scored at grade level in the spring, up from 79 percent 10 years ago (Finder). That is an impressive set up statistics, something people against mixed income schools have a hard time overlooking.

Powerful evidence also comes from the “Gauntreaux” program in Chicago which allowed low-income African American families to move to middle-class neighborhoods as part of a housing discrimination remedy. According to Northwestern University researcher James Rosenbaum, students allowed to attend mixed-income schools fared far better than students who applied for suburban housing vouchers but instead were assigned to city neighborhoods and attended city schools. The students who moved to the suburbs were four times less likely to drop out (5 versus 20 percent), almost twice as likely to take college preparatory courses (40 versus 24 percent), twice as likely to attend college (54 versus 21 percent), and almost eight times as likely to attend a four-year college (27 versus 4 percent) (Rosenbaum).

Many schools across the nation and especially in North Carolina, are experimenting with a mixed-income school system. This touched home to me a year ago when I was living in North Carolina. My sister is in the third grade and attends a primarily middle-class school, outside of Wilmington, NC. Last election there was an issue on the ballot that, if passed, would economically integrate the school system. There were a lot of concerned parent worrying about the additional cost of busing and the effects that it would have on their children’s educational experience. They thought that integrating these “trouble makers” in the schools would instill bad qualities into their children. The issue came close, but didn’t pass, which proves that there is still much work needed to convince parents.

Some people, like the parents in Wilmington, NC, argue that to fix high poverty schools we should just invest more resources into them. But spending more money doesn’t necessarily lead to a higher or better education. In fact most cities spend more money per capita on inner city students than on suburban students, only to get a lower quality education.

Parents who have children that go to school in a suburban school district are also concerned that the integration of lower income students into their system would hurt the current students. In fact, the middle-class students were unaffected and continued to excel even with low income students doing better. The students also are learning to associate with people of different economic, social and ethnic backgrounds. A diverse school system creates equality for all races.

Most inner city students never fathom going to college because they don’t think that it is an option, while the majority of suburban students have at least considered college. In order for the American public school system to succeed and catch up with the rest of the industrialized nations, we need to enact a plan that will greatly improve the quality of education.

The American public school system is caught in a trap: to attract the middle class, the schools need to improve. To significantly improve, we need more middle-class students. While there are individual high poverty schools that beat the odds, there are no high poverty school districts anywhere in the nation that are high performing. To get out of this catch-22, we need to change the way are school system runs dramatically. An economically integrated school system has shown to increase the over-all educational experience for every socioeconomic class.

Works Cited

Coleman, James S. Equality of Educational Opportunity. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1966.

Finder, Alan. “As Test Scores Jump, Raleigh Credits Integration by Income.” 25 Sept. 2005. New York Times. 16 Jan. 2007.

Kahlenber, Richard D. All Together Now: Creating Middle-Class Schools through Public School Choice. Washington D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2001.

Rosenbaum, James. “Social Integration of Low-Income Adults in Middle-Class White Suburbs”. Social Problems. Vol. 38 (1991): pp. 48-61.

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