Thursday, March 5, 2009

"Not as diverse as we'd like" is to "Separate" as "Equitable" is to "Equal"


Equitable...  Equitable is the new buzzword commonly creeping its way into conversations about education in our school district. Our School Board voted to end its desegregation program in 2007, and we now find ourselves continuing along a linear path from "predictable" to now "plausible" and towards "probable", though deeply undesirable outcomes:
  • a return to practically single race schools
  • a gradual migration of highly qualified and experienced teachers from the predominantly African American Schools to the predominantly White and suburban schools (which is a feature of teachers union contracts that allow them to move with seniority)
  • the replacement of those highly qualified and experienced teachers with newly minted and inexperienced teachers
  • a precipitous decline in test scores
Leading to:
  • adapted curriculums (more block hours on NCLB testable disciplines to the exclusion of civics, the humanities, and some science courses)
  • increased focus on basic proficiency and a decreased focus on high achievement
  • a 'hardening' of the achievement gap

Now several of our School Board members have been quite outspoken about the need to maintain some measure of diversity within our district and the board recently voted to strengthen its district policies in this regard. However, with USD259 having recently hired a new Superintendent and with diversity/equity conversations taking place throughout the district, we felt it would be a good idea for us to get in front of this and make our position clear about this new semantic trend.

Saying that neighborhood schools "may not be as diverse as we'd like", but they will be "equitable" is essentially no different than saying that the races of children will be "separated" into different, "but equal" schools. That battle has already been fought and the very notion discredited. The legal concept of separate but equal facilities was stricken down by the Supreme Court when it ruled in Brown Vs Board and simultaneously overturned Plessy Vs Fergussen. This was the reason why we abandoned the neighborhood school concept and instituted our desegregation program back in 1971.  A return to neighborhood schools without a substantial redrafting of district boundary lines would simply reestablish the old paradigm by calling it a 'choice'. And we simply can not allow that to happen...

If anyone is unclear as to why this is still important, please consider these 2007 replications of the 1950 Kenneth Clark Doll Tests:

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