Education Week - October 24, 2012 - (Page 32)

32 EDUCATION WEEK n OCTOBER 24, 2012 n COMMENTARY n n n n n THE ELECTION: DEBATING EDUCATION 24 SCHOOLS CAN BE THE DIFFERENCE IN PREVENTING SUICIDE 24 FROM STEM TO ST2REAM 25 LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 26 FROM THE WEB 26 W By Erica Frankenberg & Gary Orfield e are a predominantly suburban nation, with suburbia considered the center of our society and politics for decades. Decades ago, suburbs resisted helping the cities in crafting solutions associated with racial change, but now suburban communities face similar challenges. Already, most students of color in many metropolitan areas attend school in the suburbs. Presidentialelection campaigns focus on residents of middle-class suburbs, but civil rights policy—such as the housing integration effort proposed by Mitt Romney’s father during the Nixon administration—directed at the suburbs and their schools has been long absent. As we write in a just-published book on the subject, millions of African-American and Latino families have moved to the suburbs, and neighborhood and school segregation by race and class is rapidly on the rise. This suburban racial transformation is multiracial: In the period from 1999-2000 to 2006-07, Latinos accounted for more than 70 percent of the growth of the nation’s suburban enrollment, while the percentage of suburban whites declined in most metropolitan areas. How suburban schools and communities handle demographic change will make a deep impact on the future of our children, the development of communities and, in the aggregate, race relations in America. Policy discussion has been so dominated by test scores and accountability issues that we are sleeping through these portentous changes, which are unlikely to work out well without a coherent response. In a society where race has always been profoundly linked to educational opportunity and a community’s future, we pretend that just raising the bar on student scores and teacher accountability will solve inequality. Thus it falls to suburban school districts to shape the destiny of America’s multiracial middle class and a growing segment of the poor of all races, but most of these communities remain unprepared to deal with the massive social changes occurring there. Press coverage and court action about segregation issues often focus on cities, which have long had few whites in their “ The reality is that when suburban schools resegregate, they usually move toward a poorer student population with lower levels of peer-group competition.” schools and little desegregation. There is scant research on how suburban districts are grappling with racial change. It is even difficult to find information on this topic in educational literature despite the fact that—based on urban districts’ experiences—it is likely such demographic transformation of suburbia will have major implications for schools, teachers, and students. This is why we decided to study suburbs across the country and look at how school districts were conceptualizing and responding to racial and economic change. In our study of seven suburban districts, we found little evidence of any comprehensive response, despite substantial resegregation. We did find, in every district, some helpful decisions or initiatives. They were, however, often carried out on a small scale, and sometimes other policies simultaneously contradicted these efforts. Most responses to change were focused on professional development for teachers and on classroom- ▲ Diversity or Resegregation? Why Suburban Schools Need a Plan Jeff Dekal level changes. Education and community leaders failed to conceptualize integration in a positive way or do much to mobilize for integration—which may explain the lack of a comprehensive response. In most districts, there was little pressure from community groups to create more integrated schools. In fact, what pressure that did exist was often from privileged communities wanting to be rezoned to avoid diversity, possibly violating civil rights law. School choice policies in some districts created more inequality and possibly increased resegregation. Yet, there was also a sense from school leaders that, by the time the issue became publicly visible, they had waited too long to address the change, limiting future policy options. They received little or no guidance or assistance from state and federal officials or professional associations. Schools alone cannot solve this demographic challenge. We believe it must be a collaboration between schools, municipalities, and, if possible, the federal government’s school, housing, and civil rights agencies. At the same time, recognition of the changes occurring, followed by serious responses from educational leaders, must happen in order to prevent replicating the segregation process of city districts in suburbia on a far larger scale. Unlike central-city districts, which were often the largest systems in the region at the time of racial transition, suburban districts in the path of racial change are, in many cases, just a small fraction of the overall suburban enrollment. This limits the ability of schools and small districts—particularly when not coordinated with housing efforts—to stabilize change before it goes beyond the reach of local initiatives. The reality is that when suburban schools resegregate, they usually move toward a poorer student population with lower levels of peer-group competition. They often lose their stronger teachers and administrators, who may not be prepared to deal with diversity and may not want to be blamed under accountability policies for the often less-prepared students moving in. In other work analyzing the survey responses of hundreds of teachers in diverse schools, we found that teachers in stably diverse schools reported more positive school environments as compared with their peers working in schools under rapid PAGE 27 > ERICA FRANKENBERG and GARY ORFIELD are the co-editors of The Resegregation of Suburban Schools: A Hidden Crisis in American Education, published this month by the Harvard Education Press. Ms. Frankenberg is an assistant professor in the department of education policy studies at Pennsylvania State University in University Park. Mr. Orfield is a professor of education, law, political science, and urban planning at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the co-director of the Civil Rights Project based there.

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - October 24, 2012

Education Week - October 24, 2012
‘Smart Pills’ Promising, Problematic
At S.C. School, Behavior Is One of the Basics
Obama Finding Teacher Support Secure, if Tepid
Focus On: Curriculum: Calif. Laws Shift Gears on Algebra, Textbooks
Table of Contents
News in Brief
Report Roundup
‘Value Added’ Use at Secondary Level Questioned
National Board Seeks to Revive Impact on Profession
Industry & Innovation
Blogs of the Week
Debates Push Fate of NCLB Waivers to Fore
Policy Menu Varies in State School Board Elections
Policy Brief
The Election: Debating Education
Genevieve LaFleur & Scott Poland: Schools Can Be the Difference in Preventing Suicide
Kenneth Wesson: From STEM to ST2REAM: Reassembling Our Disaggregated Curriculum
Top School Jobs Recruitment Marketplace
Erica Frankenberg & Gary Orfield: Diversity or Resegregation? Why Suburban Schools Need a Plan

Education Week - October 24, 2012