Education Week - January 22, 2014 - (Page 25)
schools, destinations to which just 6 percent of low-achieving
8th graders even apply.
It's not dastardly discrimination, but stratified routes of
market demand, that act to reinforce segregation. Black and
Latino parents rationally bid for schools displaying stronger
results than the campuses closest to home. Yet their
first-choice schools still perform far below the top picks of
their white and Asian-American counterparts, as detailed
by scholars Sean Corcoran and Henry Levin in a 2010 study.
Proximity and familiarity work against equitable demand
for robust schools. Almost a third of poor parents bid for high
schools receiving a C, D, or F on the city's quality ruler, compared
with one-sixth of better-off parents.
Persisting segregation then undercuts progress in closing
achievement gaps. One-half of the city's lowest-achieving
youths attend a racially isolated high school, where more
than 90 percent of enrollees are black or Latino. Just onefourth
of all other students do, according to Mr. Kemple of
the Research Alliance.
White and Asian-American youths remain one-third more
likely to earn a Regents diploma, compared with their black
and brown peers. So, while small schools lift the achievement
ladder a few inches, racially isolated youths remain at the
The segregating effects of local school markets beset other
cities as well. My research in Los Angeles found middle-class
enclaves, whether white or Latino, that convert their regular
campuses into charter schools, now free to rebuff any incursion
by low-income families. And it's the social class of
parents, not their race, that stratifies enrollment demand.
White students migrating to small charter schools generally
have higher reading scores and better-off parents, compared
with their poorer white peers left behind, segregating effects
observed across four cities in a 2009 RAND study.
The Obama administration turns a deaf ear to the isolating
effects of unchecked markets. The president has told the nation's
governors to lift caps on charter schools, whether they
boost achievement or not.
"Integration must be voluntary," U.S. Secretary of Educa-
tion Arne Duncan said last year in a radio interview. "You
can't force these kinds of things."
So, how can local leaders build from the success of small
schools, while inculcating poor youths with the rigorous
expectations that teachers press on middle-class students?
Otherwise, the isolation of low achievers from stronger
peers-no matter how shiny or inventive their small or
PAGE 26 >
BRUCE FULLER is a professor of education and public policy at the
University of California, Berkeley, and the author of the forthcoming
book, Beyond State and Market (University of Chicago Press).
A spate of recent
findings reveals a
dark side to Mr.
serve to calcify the
lines of race and
Don't Underestimate the
Power of Pleasure Reading
By Jeffrey D. Wilhelm & Michael W. Smith
unfortunate truth is that we still had states
with graduation rates in the 70 percent and
60 percent ranges for Latino and black
students, respectively, and even lower for
Native students. According to the NCES, in
2007-08, an estimated 1.7 million students
graduated from high school needing remedial
courses in basic math and English to
prepare them for college-level classes.
That's why we're committed at the Campaign
for High School Equity to pressing
for the common standards and the supporting
curricula, as well as advocating for the
teacher training and resources required to
close the achievement gap, once and for all.
We welcome the healthy debate that an
endeavor this large should spark in a democratic
society. But we can't allow narrow
special interests, or the politicians beholden
to them, to lower educational standards for
students already shortchanged by the system.
And we will not stand by while common-core
opponents spread myths or deliberate falsehoods
in order to defeat or delay them.
These standards are not a panacea. We
know that translating the common standards
into curricula, meaningful teaching, learning,
and accountability will take a lot of hard
work. This move to more rigorous standards
may mean we see lower student test scores
for a time as the curricula are implemented
for all grade levels. But if we are to make sure
every student is college- and career-ready,
this work is essential.
The anniversary of the Brown decision provides
us with an opportunity to measure our
progress in the subsequent decades and to
ensure this nation's continued commitment
to bring every student to a higher plane of
educational expectation and excellence.
This is our duty, in our time, yet it is rooted
in the same compelling truth that then-attorney
Thurgood Marshall voiced when he argued
before the U.S. Supreme Court, "There
is no way you can repay lost school years." n
RUFINA HERNÁNDEZ is the executive director of the
Washington-based Campaign for High School Equity.
recent study by
David Comer Kidd
and Emanuele Castano
of The New
School for Social Research
in New York
City argues that
reading literary fic-
tion (as compared with reading popular
fiction, or nothing at all) temporarily
enhances one's ability to understand
others' mental states and deepens empathy.
The study-published in the journal
Science in October-grabbed a lot of
attention, including a front-page article
in The New York Times.
What makes the claim noteworthy is
its scientific support. After all, the notion
that reading literature has a civilizing
impact has been with us at least
since Matthew Arnold wrote on literary
criticism in the late 1800s. And the
idea that literary fiction is superior to
popular fiction has been around for an
equally long time.
Indeed, the charge so often leveled at
mass-produced literature is that it is not
simply bad, nor even worthless, but that
it is "capable of degrading, indeed, of corrupting
those who enjoy it," as literary and
cultural studies scholar Janice A. Radway
sums up the critique in a 1986 essay.
That argument may be a long-standing
one, but our recent study of the secret
reading lives of young people convinces
us that it is wrong. The young
people who explained to us why they
read what they read recognized that
their parents and their teachers often
looked askance at their [the students']
reading choices. Yet the students were
remarkably articulate about the benefits
they derived from their reading.
Here's 18-year-old Kylie talking about
her reading love affair with romances:
"And you see the good [in romances], but
also the possibilities in others, despite
their shortcomings, because the hero has
to be helped, transformed in some way.
And you do, too, really, so the book helps
you think about this and consider it."
Here's Kennie, also 18, talking about
the impact of her vampire books: "Being
a teenager is partly about struggling
to be more adult and have more adult
relationships. ... I think a real struggle
of more adult relationships is making
sure they are life-giving in both directions.
I mean, we all have these needs so
you have to be careful about not being a
vampire and sucking someone else dry,
or hurting and discarding them. But you
have to be really careful not to let someone
do it to you, too, like dominate you,
just because you like being liked or feeling
attractive or whatever. I think it's a
And here's Helen, 14, on the fantasy
novels that she devoured: "Sometimes
when big stuff happens in my life, I'll
think about what my favorite characters
would have done, the ones I admire most.
... They all have different approaches, different
ways they approach things, and
then I try to apply that to my life, to see
which way works for me. Characters are
just ways of thinking, really."
We received similar testimonials from
readers of horror and dystopian fiction
as well, two genres that are characteristically
dismissed as "popular." We'd stack
the powerful and long-lasting benefits of
the reading our participants did against
the temporary impact found in the New
School study-any day!
But there is more at stake here. Kidd
and Castano report that their participants
enjoyed literature less than they
did popular fiction. Reading literature
then becomes something like taking codliver
oil: You might not like it, but it's
good for you. The danger is that dismissing
pleasure as unimportant runs afoul
of a remarkable new analysis done as
part of the British Cohort Study, which
is following the lives of more than 17,000
people born in England, Scotland, and
Wales in a single week of 1970.
Reading for pleasure
outside of school has real
and long-lasting benefits."
A recent report making use of the
data from that study found that children's
reading for pleasure outside
school had a significant impact on their
educational attainment and social
mobility. Moreover, it found that this
impact is a function of what the researchers
termed "increased cognitive
progress over time."
Reading for pleasure outside of school
has real and long-lasting benefits. The
research from the British Cohort Study
seems to us to create a policy imperative
to encourage students' out-of-school
reading-regardless of which genres
and authors they choose.
If teachers and parents are to pursue
a policy of supporting and encouraging
the pleasure reading of young people,
they must develop a deep understanding
of its nature and varieties. They
must avoid dismissing the reading kids
like to do in the hope that kids will read
Adults should listen hard to the wisdom
of young readers of marginalized
texts, who, as they read these texts, are
deepening their understanding of themselves
in the world and expanding the
possibilities of who they might become. n
JEFFREY D. WILHELM is a professor of
English education and the director of the
Boise State Writing Project at Boise State
University, in Idaho. MICHAEL W. SMITH is
associate dean of faculty development and
academic affairs in the college of education
at Temple University, in Philadelphia. They
are the authors, with Sharon Fransen, of
Reading Unbound: Why Kids Need to Read
What They Want-and Why We Should Let
Them (Scholastic Teaching Resources,
EDUCATION WEEK | January 22, 2014 | www.edweek.org/go/commentary | 25
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
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