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.
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.
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
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: