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How the left's embrace of busing hurt the cause of integration

Tanner Colby

"There is no place in the movement for the white liberal. He is our affliction."--James Baldwin Five years ago, while fervently supporting the candidacy of the man who would become America's first black president, I came to the realization that I didn't actually know any black people. Most of the people I did know (i.e., other white people) didn't know many black people either. One, maybe two, was the norm. I asked one white guy I knew if he had any black friends, and he replied, "You mean ones that aren't on television?" I wanted to know why integration--actual, genuine integration--had failed so spectacularly. The result of that curiosity, published a little more than a year ago, was Some of My Best Friends Are Black: The Strange Story of Integration in America, which traced the history of the color line back through all the places I have lived and chronicled the various efforts to erase it: school busing, affirmative action, fair housing, etc. Recently, I celebrated my one-year anniversary as an official participant in the National Conversation About Race--writing bits for Slate, speaking at colleges, and sitting on panels moderated by Soledad O'Brien (which is how you really know you've made it). As good as liberal policies on race sound in speeches, many of them don't hold up in the real world. When I started the book, after eight miserable years of George W. Bush and the euphoria of the Yes We Can crusade, I'd been driven pretty far left on the political spectrum. Taking on the issue of race, you'd think I'd have kept heading in that direction. But the more I read and researched, the more I went out and talked to people, I found that a funny thing was happening: I was becoming more conservative.

Many States Show Shameful Records in Holding Schools Accountable for the Progress of Special Needs Students

Matthew Ladner:

The No Child Left Behind Act required student testing and reporting of data in return for continuing receipt of federal education dollars. The law however left granular details to the states, most of whom happily went about abusing them. This chart is from a new study about the inclusion of special needs children in state testing regimes. As you can see from the third column, states held a glorious 35.4% of schools accountable for the academic performance of special needs children during the 2009-10 school year. This ranged from a glorious 100% in Connecticut and Utah to a sickening 7% in Arizona. I have heard through the grapevine that addressing this national scandal has been a major point of emphasis in Arne Duncan's waiver process. As someone who views this process skeptically overall and suspects that it is creating a mess that will be difficult to unwind, let me say bully for Duncan on this score.

Boston Schools Drop Last Remnant of Forced Busing

Katherine Q. Seelye New York Times BOSTON -- The Boston School Committee, once synonymous with fierce resistance to racial integration, took a historic step Wednesday night and threw off the last remnants of a busing system first imposed in 1974 under a federal court desegregation order. Instead of busing children across town to achieve integration, the plan adopted by the committee is intended to allow more students to attend schools closer to home. That was the objective sought by Mayor Thomas Menino, who appointed a special advisory group last year to overhaul the system. He said that keeping students closer to home would encourage more parental involvement, develop neighborhood cohesion and ultimately improve the schools. "Tonight's historic vote marks a...

A Long Struggle for Equality in Schools

Fernanda Santos:

Looking back at the school desegregation case he took as a young lawyer, Rubin Salter Jr. sees a pile of wasted money and squandered opportunities. After almost four decades in court and nearly $1 billion in public spending, little has changed for the black children whose right to a good education he had labored to defend. They are still among the lowest-performing students in the Tucson Unified School District, still among the most likely to be suspended or to be assigned to special-education programs and still among the least likely to join groups for gifted students. They are, as Mr. Salter put it, "still getting the short end of the stick." A federal judge approved a plan on Wednesday intended to lift a longstanding desegregation order that has served as a reason and an excuse for a lot that has gone wrong in the district over the past decades: shrinking enrollment, sliding graduation rates and insistent dropout rates. After all these years, Mr. Salter, whose family left Mississippi in the 1950s to escape segregation, said he no longer harbors hope for integration. One reason is that the district, overwhelmingly white when he began working on the case in 1974, is now largely made up of Latino students, who are also a party in the litigation and perform just as poorly as their black counterparts. Another is that parameters set long ago by the Supreme Court prevent the busing of students beyond a school district's boundaries as a remedy for segregation.

Strategy for a post-neighborhood school Milwaukee

Alan Borsuk:

My wife grew up on the northwest side of Milwaukee and went to her neighborhood grade school, junior high and high school. The grade school is now a Montessori school. The junior high is a charter school serving almost 1,000 Hmong children. The high school is a "gifted and talented" sixth through 12th grade program. There's a lot of good going on in those buildings, but none is a neighborhood school in the way the term is usually used. The neighborhood school idea has just about died in Milwaukee. I believe the notion of the neighborhood school may be weaker in Milwaukee than anywhere else in the country. I tried unsuccessfully a few years ago to come up with data to prove that. But I do know that in recent years, only about a third of kindergarten through eighth grade students in Milwaukee Public Schools went to their "attendance area" school. In some cases, the children living in a specific attendance area were enrolled in more than 75 schools across the city. The figures may be a bit more neighborhood-oriented now. MPS officials couldn't come up with current numbers late last week, but the system has tried to rein in busing options (and costs). Nonetheless, there are few schools of any kind in Milwaukee that are genuine neighborhood schools.

MIT has plan for Boston school assignments

James Vaznis:

A new proposal for Boston school assignments presented Saturday by a Massachusetts Institute of Technology doctoral student was essentially pushed to front-runner status by an advisory committee, as five other proposals began to fall off the table, just one month after they were unveiled. The External Advisory Committee, appointed by the mayor, heard a presentation on the MIT proposal for the first time during a meeting Saturday morning at City Hall. Several members said it showed the greatest potential of providing equitable access to the city's limited number of quality schools, as the panel seeks to create a student-assignment system that allows more students to attend schools closer to their homes. A key challenge in overhauling the current system, which provides students a wide range of school choices, has been a troubling reality: Long after Boston's period of busing students, the system continues to be unfair, with many students attending schools that are lackluster or failing, typically located in impoverished areas, while others go to better ones.

How Many Kids Are Sexually Abused by Their Teachers?

Brian Palmer:

Los Angeles police are investigating a teacher aide at Miramonte Elementary School who allegedly sent love letters to an 11-year-old student. The student's mother discovered the letters in 2009, but she says police and school officials didn't take the matter seriously until last week, when two other teachers at the same school were arrested for sexually abusing students in separate cases. Is sexual abuse in schools really as common as these reports make it seem? Possibly. The best available study suggests that about 10 percent of students suffer some form of sexual abuse during their school careers. In the 2000 report, commissioned by the American Association of University Women, surveyors asked students between eighth and 11th grades whether they had ever experienced inappropriate sexual conduct at school. The list of such conduct included lewd comments, exposure to pornography, peeping in the locker room, and sexual touching or grabbing. Around one in 10 students said they had been the victim of one or more such things from a teacher or other school employee, and two-thirds of those reported the incident involved physical contact. If these numbers are representative of the student population nationwide, 4.5 million students currently in grades K-12 have suffered some form of sexual abuse by an educator, and more than 3 million have experienced sexual touching or assault. This number would include both inappropriate romantic relationships between teachers and upperclassmen, and outright pedophilia.
Reader Hazel asked for a link to the study. I added a link to the post above. That is all I could find.

Merger of Memphis and County School Districts Revives Race and Class Challenges

Sam Dillon:

When thousands of white students abandoned the Memphis schools 38 years ago rather than attend classes with blacks under a desegregation plan fueled by busing, Joseph A. Clayton went with them. He quit his job as a public school principal to head an all-white private school and later won election to the board of the mostly white suburban district next door. Now, as the overwhelmingly black Memphis school district is being dissolved into the majority-white Shelby County schools, Mr. Clayton is on the new combined 23-member school board overseeing the marriage. And he warns that the pattern of white flight could repeat itself, with the suburban towns trying to secede and start their own districts. "There's the same element of fear," said Mr. Clayton, 79. "In the 1970s, it was a physical, personal fear. Today the fear is about the academic decline of the Shelby schools."
Much more, here.

Hong Kong Eco-primary school considers a step up to secondary

Chloe Lai:

Sitting under a parasol to avoid the fierce summer sun, two teenagers at a summer camp in the New Territories debate the criteria for an ideal secondary school. Rosemary and White Cloud - adopting nature-related nicknames is a tradition at the camp - are responding to a Q&A session held earlier, when two secondary school principals were quizzed on topics ranging from the logic of school uniform design to how to prevent teachers from abusing their power. "The school must have strict rules so every student will behave and be polite," White Cloud says. Rosemary has very different ideas: "It is not going to work. Strict rules will only make the disobedient even more disobedient. My ideal school is one with no penalties." The two friends' contrasting views reflect their exposure to Gaia School, an alternative private primary school in Tuen Mun that emphasises personal responsibility and learning from nature.

A Study Looks at Massachusetts' Suburban Busing Program

Susan Eaton and Gina Chirichigno:

Massachusetts' METCO program (Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity) enables about 3,300 students who live in Boston and Springfield to attend opportunity-rich suburban schools. Since the vast majority of the students in METCO are either African American or Latino and most suburban districts remain overwhelmingly white, METCO fulfills two goals: it creates a degree of racial and ethnic diversity and provides students who'd otherwise attend challenged school districts the opportunity to attend schools with reputations for rigor and excellence. METCO is one of eight voluntary interdistrict school desegregation programs in the United States and the second longest-running program of its kind. This paper describes the structure and history of METCO and summarizes what is known about the academic achievement and experiences of students who participate in the program. We argue that given METCO's generally positive track record, its enduring popularity and the well-established benefits of racial and ethnic diversity in schools, educational leaders should seriously consider expanding METCO, should provide more incentives to suburban districts to participate and should conduct more rigorous, transparent analyses of the program.

School Board Vote Called 'Modern-Day Segregation'

NPR

In a controversial move, the Wake County School board in North Carolina voted to end its "busing-for-diversity" program in favor of sending children to schools in their own neighborhood. Host Liane Hansen talks with Superintendent Tony Tata, a military brigadier general and the former COO of the D.C. school system.

Memories on trial: Parents say therapists gave daughter false memories of abuse

In 1991, Charlotte Johnson dropped a bomb on her parents. She accused her father, Charles Johnson, of sexually abusing her. Two years later she accused her mother, Karen Johnson, of being complicit in the sexual abuse and of being physically abusive to her. The abuse, she believes to this day, happened when she was a young child. The painful memories, buried deep in Johnson's subconscious, surfaced in adulthood. Charles and Karen Johnson, of St. Louis, say the abuse never happened and that mental health treatment providers encouraged and fostered false memories of abuse. In 1996 the Johnsons sued Rogers Memorial Hospital, where their daughter was admitted for treatment. They also sued Heartland Counseling Services in Madison, Madison therapist Kay Phillips, Oconomowoc therapists Jeff Hollowell and Tim Reisenauer, and the defendants' insurers. The lawsuit has crept through the legal system for more than 14 years, including two trips to the state Supreme Court.

Some parents object to West Chester schools' plan to cut busing costs

Dan Hardy

To save the West Chester Area School District a million dollars a year on transportation, some students will have to start the school day earlier next fall and many will have to walk farther to bus stops. At one middle school, pupils will ride with high schoolers for the first time. School board members and administrators defend the changes, approved this week, as needed to conserve money for classroom services. Some parents wonder whether the district is putting financial considerations ahead of children's welfare. Let the belt-tightening - and the debate over what to cut - begin again. Even after cutting millions of dollars this school year, the 11,817-student district is projecting a $6 million budget gap for next fiscal year, which will start July 1. So the board voted unanimously Tuesday to eliminate some buses and fill others closer to capacity. School times were changed, more than 900 bus stops were tentatively eliminated, and some nonpublic-school routes that the district covers were merged with those of public school students. More than 950 children who walk less than a tenth of a mile to a bus stop would have a longer walk under the changes.
The West Chester School District plans to spend $203,848.400 for nearly 12,000 students during the 2010-2011 school year ($16,987.37 per student). Madison spent $15,241 per student during the 2009-2010 school year.

Oprah Winfrey says she's disappointed by school abuse case verdict

CNN

Talk show host Oprah Winfrey on Monday said she was not satisfied with the acquittal of a woman accused of abusing students at the her South African girls school. Tiny Virginia Makopo, 30, was found not guilty of allegations that she improperly touched several teenage girls when she was a matron at the campus near Johannesburg soon after it opened in 2007, the South African Press Association reported Monday. "We began this child molestation trial in July 2008," Winfrey said in a written statement. "More than two years later, I am profoundly disappointed at the outcome of the trial." Winfrey -- who has spoken publicly about abuse she suffered as a child -- became personally involved in the abuse investigation after a student reported the alleged abuse in October 2007.

Bay View students bringing history to life

Tom Tolan

In days gone by, before Milwaukee Public Schools undertook the busing of its students to promote racial integration, just about everybody in Bay View went to Bay View High School. Today, the school has students from all over town, and so for area old-timers, it's lost its identity with their neighborhood. "People who fondly remember Bay View High School have been in mourning that their school no longer exists," says Kathy Mulvey, president of the Bay View Historical Society. That's why she is so enthusiastic about a special course at the high school, created by staff from Discovery World science museum - a program that has four students this weekend collecting stories and artifacts from old Bay View at the Beulah Brinton House, the historical society's headquarters.

Reduced Grade 6-12 Class Time in the Madison School District?

Susan Troller:

What's one sure-fire way to stress out parents? Shorten the school day. And that's exactly what the Madison school district is proposing, starting next year, for grades six to 12. According to a letter recently sent to middle school staff by Pam Nash, the district's assistant superintendent of secondary schools, ending school early on Wednesdays would allow time for teachers to meet to discuss professional practices and share ideas for helping students succeed in school. "I am pleased to announce that as a result of your hard work, investment and commitment, as well as the support of central administration and Metro busing, together we will implement Professional Collaboration Time for the 10-11 school year!" Nash wrote enthusiastically. Despite Nash's letter, district administrators appeared to backpedal on Monday on whether the plan is actually a done deal. Thus far there has not been public discussion of the proposal, and some teachers are expressing reservations. Some middle school teachers, however, who also happen to be parents in the district, say they have some serious concerns about shortening the day for sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders. Not only will there be less time spent on academics each week, they say, but the additional unsupervised hours will pose a problem for parents already struggling to keep tabs on their adolescent kids.
This expenditure appears to continue the trend of increased adult to adult expenditures, which, in this case, is at the expense of classroom (adult to student) time. Related: Ripon Superintendent Richard Zimman:
"Beware of legacy practices (most of what we do every day is the maintenance of the status quo), @12:40 minutes into the talk - the very public institutions intended for student learning has become focused instead on adult employment. I say that as an employee. Adult practices and attitudes have become embedded in organizational culture governed by strict regulations and union contracts that dictate most of what occurs inside schools today. Any impetus to change direction or structure is met with swift and stiff resistance. It's as if we are stuck in a time warp keeping a 19th century school model on life support in an attempt to meet 21st century demands." Zimman went on to discuss the Wisconsin DPI's vigorous enforcement of teacher licensing practices and provided some unfortunate math & science teacher examples (including the "impossibility" of meeting the demand for such teachers (about 14 minutes)). He further cited exploding teacher salary, benefit and retiree costs eating instructional dollars ("Similar to GM"; "worry" about the children given this situation).

Houston Superintendent Grier dishes on magnet schools, names new chief

Ericka Mellon:

Houston ISD Superintendent Terry Grier has eliminated the position of manager of magnet programs. That means Dottie Bonner, who held the job since March 2002, is out. She submitted her letter of resignation effective Aug. 31, according to the district. Grier instead has created a higher-level position, an assistant superintendent over school choice. Lupita Hinojosa, the former executive principal over the Wheatley High School feeder pattern, has been named to the post. We know that changing anything related to magnets puts parents on edge, especially after former HISD Superintendent Abelardo Saavedra's failed attempt to reduce busing to the specialty schools. A quick Internet search shows that magnet transportation also was a hot topic in Grier's former district, San Diego Unified. The school board there voted in spring 2009 to eliminate busing to magnets to save money but reversed the decision after parent outcry, according to Voice of San Diego. I talked to Grier this morning about what happened in San Diego, and he said the decision to end busing to magnet schools was the school board's, not his. "(Deputy Superintendent) Chuck Morris and I counseled and advised and recommended that they not do this -- that it would destroy the magnet program -- but they did anyway."

Desegregation and schools: No easy answers

The Economist:

IN 1971, a young black lawyer brought up in rural North Carolina under Jim Crow laws argued on behalf of a boy from Charlotte called James Swann before the United States Supreme Court. In that case, Swann v Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, the court held that school districts may use busing, quotas and other such methods to ensure integration. Nearly 40 years later that same lawyer, Julius Chambers, stood once again before nine people, this time the Wake County board of education, and this time as a concerned citizen rather than an advocate, to plead a case: that the county ought to retain its programme of assigning pupils to schools based on levels of family income. His suit failed: on March 23rd the board voted 5-4 to abandon that policy. That vote ended a decade-long experiment. In 2000 Wake County's school board decided to integrate its schools by income level rather than race. No more than 40% of students at any one school should be receiving free or subsidised lunches (which are given to children from poor families). Evidence dating back more than 40 years shows that schools with too great a concentration of poor pupils are undesirable. Teachers do not stay, and poor pupils tend to perform worse when they are put with others who are poor.

District May End North Carolina Economic Busing Program

Robbie Brown:

When Rosemarie Wilson moved her family to a wealthy suburb of Raleigh a couple of years ago, the biggest attraction was the prestige of the local public schools. Then she started talking to neighbors. Don't believe the hype, they warned. Many were considering private schools. All pointed to an unusual desegregation policy, begun in 2000, in which some children from wealthy neighborhoods were bused to schools in poorer areas, and vice versa, to create economically diverse classrooms. "Children from the 450 houses in our subdivision were being bused all across the city," said Ms. Wilson, for whom the final affront was a proposal by the Wake County Board of Education to send her two daughters to schools 17 miles from home. So she vented her anger at the polls, helping elect four new Republican-backed education board members last fall. Now in the majority, those board members are trying to make good on campaign promises to end Wake's nationally recognized income-based busing policy.

The Real Issue Behind the Rhee Flap: Why Can't Schools Fire Bad Teachers?

Patrice Wingert:

Michelle Rhee, the tough-talking D.C. schools chancellor, is used to taking her lumps from the press, the teachers' unions, and city politicians as she tries to overhaul one of the nation's worst public-school systems. But this week she's been under siege after a controversial quote about teachers molesting students made it into print. Rhee is fighting back, but the whole episode highlights a bigger problem in districts all over the country: why can't a school system fire teachers who abuse kids or don't bother showing up for work? In D.C., as in many other cities with "progressive" employee discipline procedures, school officials can suspend such teachers but can't terminate them. The latest uproar began with the publication of a short "update" item in the Feb. 1 issue of Fast Company, in which Rhee seemed to say that the 266 teachers laid off last fall during the system's budget crunch had histories of abusing students, corporal punishment, and chronic absenteeism: "I got rid of teachers who had hit children, who had had sex with children, who had missed 78 days of school. Why wouldn't we take those things into consideration?" Rhee is quoted as saying.

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