Education Week - January 22, 2014 - (Page 16)

WAR ON POVERTY: Progress & Persistent Inequity Still Segregated After 50 Years: A Visit to Cincinnati's West End Two schools illustrate benefits, pitfalls of anti-poverty efforts By Sarah D. Sparks Cincinnati Sitting on a stretch of the Ohio River that divides the North from the South, this city historically has been one of the nation's most racially and economically segregated metropolises, both at the time President Lyndon B. Johnson declared his 1964 War on Poverty and today. More than half the children here live in pov- erty, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, but the poverty rates for black children are more than double those for white children, 46.4 percent versus 23 percent in 2012. The Mixed Metro Project, which tracks neighborhood segregation, ranks Cincinnati as one of the 10 most segregated cities in the country. And, within this city, the West End neighborhood is historically one of the poorest and most racially isolated. This sort of persistent and isolated poverty is exactly what policymakers intended to eradicate with the range of education, housing, and social-services programs introduced during the War on Poverty (See story, Page 1.) The experiences of two public schools rooted in the West End illustrate both the potential and the limitations of school efforts to break decades of intergenerational poverty in communities like this. "When you call a school impoverished, expectations are really low," said Julie Doppler, the Cincinnati school district's coordinator of community learning centers, "and for socialservice agencies called in to 'fix it,' one of the really 'aha' moments was understanding that there were a lot of phenomenal things already going on in the community." Magnet for Achievement On Poplar Street at the north end of the neighborhood, just on the outskirts of downtown Cincinnati, sits the historic George F. Sands School, surrounded by public housing and derelict buildings. The 1912 building, with its terra cotta adornments and marble steps, is now an abandoned monument to turn-ofthe-20th-century boom times. In the 1950s, construction of an expressway which became Interstate 75 slashed through what had been a vibrant, middle-class black community and it became an enclave of mostly poor black families migrating from the South. In 1964, filmmakers from the federal office of economic opportunity portrayed the school as a "ray of hope" amidst deep poverty, with Sands 3rd grade teacher Sandra Lewis pressing her students to be civically engaged. "We do live in a slum, but everything is not slop in our neighborhood," wrote one student, Willie Grimes, in an essay Ms. Lewis read in the public-service film, "Poverty." "It is not bad to be poor, but it is bad not to try. ... Everybody in the West End is not a slum person." In response to school desegregation lawsuits in the late 1960s and 1970s, the district combined three Montessori schools into the Sands Montessori magnet program at the Poplar Street building in 1975. "I remember it being a very popular school; lots of people were interested in Montessori and trying to get their children into the school," recalled Amber C. Simpson, now an assistant principal at the Rees E. Price Academy in East Price Hill on the other side of In- terstate 75, who attended Sands Montessori as a magnet student in the 1980s. Sands' reputation and program drew fami- lies from higher-income neighborhoods that otherwise would not have considered sending their children to school in the West End. Sarah Fullen, a Sands Montessori teacher and the historian of the school, said it also enrolled neighborhood students, though former 1990s-era Principal Rita Swegman noted that, while the population was about 50-50 black and white, most of the black students did not come from the West End. The other neighborhood public school, on Cutter Street, is the bright, modern HaysPorter Elementary School, the last K-8 district school in a neighborhood once packed with them. Though its population has shrunk in recent years-down to 280 from more than 430 in 2007-Hays-Porter is one of the successes of Cincinnati Superintendent Mary Ronan's "elementary initiative" to turn around chronically struggling, high-poverty schools. In the past five years, the school has finally moved out of "academic emergency," the lowest state designation, to "effective," with aboveexpected achievement growth for its students, most of whom are poor and black. Principal Nedria N. McClain credits the recent turnaround in part to the district's academic initiatives-90-minute reading and mathematics blocks, student "data folders" used to track students' work and academic growth, and extra tutoring, among them-and in part to Hays-Porter's engagement with its community. It partners with local community groups to provide health and social services, adult education and career support for parents, college planning, and field trips. "The strengths in this community were obvi- ous: Generations of families were tied to this school, and it was the heart and center of their community," said Ms. Doppler, the learningcenters coordinator. Dispersing Families Yet city attempts to ease concentrated poverty repeatedly clashed with the schools' efforts to stabilize the communities they served. For example, in the 1993 book Race and the City, historian Henry Louis Taylor Jr. found that, of the more than 19,000 housing units demolished here in the early- to mid-1960s for highway construction and "slum clearance," two-thirds belonged to nonwhite families. The majority could not afford the new housing. A state fair-housing law passed in 1965, inspired by the federal Civil Rights Act and resulting housing-related litigation, allowed some wealthier black families to leave the West End. But it did little to encourage families of other races to move in, leaving the neighborhood just as racially isolated but considerably poorer. By 1970, Mr. Taylor wrote, the West End was the "densest ghetto" in one of the most segregated cities in the country, 97 percent black and almost entirely poor. Sands Montessori kept a strong academic reputation through the 1990s-though district resources became scarce. Several blocks away, the then-separate George W. Hays Elementary and Jennie D. Porter Junior High schools, which were starting to implement community services, sta- 16 | EDUCATION WEEK | January 22, 2014 | bilized and began to improve academically after years of problems. Hays even won a state award for academic progress. At the turn of this century, just as it had in the early 1960s, the city used federal urban-development grants to tear down dense high-poverty housing. In the early 2000s, it replaced two 1940s-era high-rise public-housing projects-which Hays, Porter, and other neighborhood schools had been built to serve-with mixed-income properties. "Many of the families who had been here for generations were dispersed," said Ms. Doppler. "Kids were walking through construction and seeing their homes being torn down." In the end, some of the amenities promised with what was dubbed the Hope VI urbanrenewal plan in the 2000s, such as the West End's first real supermarket, never materialized. Some families who wanted to stay in the community were able to buy or rent subsidized units in the new development, but, "we had a number of families we thought would come back, and who wanted to come back, but who couldn't," Ms. Doppler said. Yet neither came a big influx of wealthier students. Most of those moving into the new condominiums and town houses were retired or young professionals without children. Four neighborhood schools were consolidated into the Hays-Porter campus, and its attendance zone spread to cover the entire West End. But Principal McClain said none of the students attending Hays-Porter today lives in the $130,000 to $300,000 town houses and condominiums along its adjacent streets. They live in the older buildings behind and farther north, close to the empty Sands building. As Hays-Porter was condensing and digging in, Sands Montessori, the high-achieving magnet school intended to lure middle-income families, was moving out. The district decided it would be too expensive to update the 1912 building. Instead, the district PHOTOGRAPHY BY SWIKAR PATEL/EDUCATION WEEK View additional photographs from this story. Photography by Swikar Patel/Education Week

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - January 22, 2014

Education Week - January 22, 2014
50 Years Later, Verdicts Are Mixed On the Nation’s War on Poverty
A K-12 Titan in Congress to Move On
Fla. Pushes Longer Day With More Reading In Struggling Schools
Personal Danger of Data Breaches Prompts Action
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Funds to End For Little Rock Desegregation
Union, District Clash in Pittsburgh Over Teacher Evaluation
Revised GED Ushers in New Era With More Testing Competition
In Five States, Districts Bail Out on Race to the Top Grants
K-12 Publishing, Ed-Tech Markets Experiencing Rising Revenues
Blogs of the Week
Still Segregated After 50 Years: A Visit To Cincinnati’s West End
Among States, Spending Gaps Have Widened
Spending Plan Aims to Relieve Some K-12 ‘Sequester’ Pain
Calif. Transgender Law Takes Effect In Schools, Amid Efforts to Repeal It
State of the States
Wash. Governor Pledges School Aid Boost
BRUCE FULLER: Is Small Beautiful? New York’s tiny high schools lift kids, harden segregation
RUFINA HERNÁNDEZ: A Common Cause for the Common Core
JEFFREY D. WILHELM & MICHAEL W. SMITH: Don’t Underestimate the Power of Pleasure Reading
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
XU ZHAO, HELEN HASTE, & ROBERT L. SELMAN: Questionable Lessons From China’s Recent History of Education Reform

Education Week - January 22, 2014