Tuesday, June 03, 2008

MNPS Should Look Elsewhere For Its Re-Districting Inspiration

Some answers for navigating the briar patch of re-districting Metro Nashville Public Schools may lay in those communities who, like Louisville, KY, are striving toward economic status integration:

Today at least 45 school districts are pursuing plans that emphasize socioeconomic status, sometimes in combination with race, sometimes by itself. Just since the Supreme Court's decision last year, a number of communities -- including Des Moines, Iowa; Burlington, Vermont; Beaumont, Texas; Lafayette, Louisiana, and Napa Valley Unified School District in California -- have announced plans to use economic status as a factor in student integration.

These communities, like Jefferson County [KY], are not giving up on the goal of integration. To their enduring credit, they are tackling one of the greatest sources of inequality in American schools -- the separation of poor and middle class kids. It would have been easy for Jefferson County officials to throw up their hands and revert to economically and racially segregated neighborhood schools, joining the vast majority of districts in the uphill battle to make "separate but equal" work in practice. Instead, with their emphasis on socioeconomic integration, these school districts are seeking to reinvent Brown for the twenty-first century.

Mainstreaming the shrinking middle class in all of Nashville's classrooms would make a qualitative difference in overall school performance and would accomplish the broader social responsibilities of public education. There are neighborhoods in Nashville, like Salemtown, which still have class diversity and would be great places for class-integrated, neighborhood schools.

1 comment:

  1. Mike, there's not enough middle class left in our district to meaningfully mainstream anything. However, many urban areas are undergoing gentrification which does bring the middle class into the areas. If only school leadership could convince these parents that their children will receive a quality education then we can hope one day to have a substantial middle class presence in our schools. Though I think on the elementary school level this has largely happened. That being said, it is not incumbent on the middle class to do the heavy lifting for the district. There are many examples of inner city schools like Buena Vista with over whelming poverty that are doing a great job. So it's not necessarily the poverty but other key ingredients in the community that make a school successful. And ingredient number one may be keeping the kids in the community close to their parents and homes.