Re: Cambridge Schools Try Integration by Income
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- Subject: Re: Cambridge Schools Try Integration by Income
- From: "Art Burke" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Thu, 08 May 2003 08:30:16 -0700
What Thrernstrom actually said was that poor kids need good teachers.
She did not say that we should not spend more money to get that.
>>> email@example.com 05/08/03 06:28AM >>>
Front page article in the NY Times. Notice how quick is the
Thernstrom to dismiss the significance of social class inequity in
outcomes. Notice how she uses the No Excuses "data" from the
Heritage Foundation to argue that school funding levels do not
student test performance. This data on supposedly low income,
high performing schools has been exposed as flimsy and duplicitous by
researchers and educators, but the conservative idealogues control the
media so they control the message. The importance of class inequality
schooling, and the fact that no children can learn well in underfunded
schools, is the big secret that must be hidden from the US public.
May 8, 2003
Cambridge Schools Try Integration by Income
By SARA RIMER
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — This city has joined a small but growing movement
income, not race, as a primary factor in assigning students to
For 4-year-old Noah Chisholm, that has meant attending kindergarten at
Fletcher-Maynard Academy this year, a school where most children are
enough to receive free or discounted lunches. Noah, whose parents are
architects, is among a small group of middle-class children who school
officials hope will have a powerful impact on improving achievement for
the school's children.
Noah's assignment to Fletcher-Maynard was primarily driven by his
income, but it also helped the district meet another goal for the
greater racial balance. Noah is white. Fletcher-Maynard's 264 students
predominantly black or Hispanic.
Cambridge's goal in turning to economic integration is twofold: raising
academic performance of students and achieving racial balance, without
resorting to race-based formulas that are increasingly being rejected
In addition to Cambridge, school districts in Wake County and
Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C.; South Orange-Maplewood, N.J.; Manchester,
Conn.; St. Lucie County, Fla.; and San Francisco have adopted economic
integration plans in recent years.
In LaCrosse, Wis., the first district to endorse economic integration
it did so in the early 1990's, scores have risen, and the district has
very low dropout rate, despite a relatively high poverty rate.
Proponents of economic integration say there is ample evidence that all
children learn better at schools where middle-class students are in the
"While there are a handful of exceptions, in general high-poverty
don't work," said Richard D. Kahlenberg, an educational researcher at
Century Foundation who is a leading advocate for economic integration
the way to raise achievement among poor children.
But critics say that the way to help low-income students make
gains has to be more effective teaching — not moving children around.
"There's something wrong with the assumption that if you've got too
low-income kids in a classroom, you can't teach them," said Abigail
Thernstrom, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute who has
researched race and education. "My response to that is: No excuses.
to educate the kids."
Dr. Thernstrom and others also say that economic integration has no
relevance for large, predominantly poor urban school districts like
Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington. "What are you going to do
helicopter the kids in?" Dr. Thernstrom said. Supporters of economic
integration counter that children in poor urban areas should have the
opportunity to cross district lines and attend middle-class schools.
Just as racial integration
of schools was resisted by many whites,
and upper-income families may object to economic integration. Moreover,
some civil rights advocates say that economic integration does not go
enough in achieving racial integration.
In Cambridge, however, the idea gained momentum a few years ago. The
here is that if any place can make economic integration work, it is
mixed city, with its ultraliberal reputation and its 7,000 public
students — some the children of professors at Harvard and the
Institute of Technology and others born to single mothers receiving
Educators here point to the Morse School, where they said an influx of
middle-income students in the mid-1990's helped turn around what had
low-performing, unpopular school.
Cambridge has 15 elementary and middle schools and one high school.
the city spends $17,000 a year on each public-school student, the
quality is considered uneven. The student population, about 40 percent
whom qualify for a free or reduced-rate lunch, is 40 percent white, 23
percent African-American and 11 percent other black, 14 percent
11 percent Asian, and 1 percent American Indian.
For 20 years, Cambridge's voluntary approach to racial integration —
relied not on forced busing but on giving parents considerable choice
schools — was considered a model by educators. Many children did end
riding buses to schools, but with Cambridge only 6.2 square miles, no
had to travel very far.
Across the river in Boston and in Lynn, though, where parents were
contesting race-based integration plans, Cambridge school officials
concerned that their own plan was vulnerable to legal challenges.
Officials were also worried about a handful of schools — including
that became Fletcher-Maynard — that had high concentrations of
students and low state achievement test scores. Schools in Cambridge
fairly racially diverse and, in theory, open to everyone, but middle-
upper-middle-income parents tended to choose certain schools, and poor
Two years ago, persuaded by the work of Mr. Kahlenberg and others that
way to help the low-performing, high-poverty schools was to raise the
number of middle-class students attending them, the Cambridge school
committee adopted a plan that emphasized socioeconomic integration in
At the same time, it allocated extra resources to low-performing
like Fletcher-Maynard; officials hoped not only to improve achievement,
also to attract more middle-class parents to those schools. The plan,
will be phased in over three years, began with this year's kindergarten
Economic integration is turning out to be controversial in a city where
low-income and middle- and upper-income parents — and white and
parents — often have very different ideas about what makes a good
Noah Chisholm's parents, Scott Chisholm and Afshan Bokhari, were not
when they learned that he had been assigned to Fletcher-Maynard. It was
one of the three schools they had listed as preferences. Only about 10
percent of parents in Cambridge do not get one of their three choices.
In assigning students, the district uses a complicated lottery that
into account family income, siblings, proximity, and — as a last
a school falls out of racial balance — race. Under the new
diversity, the district classifies low-income students as those who
for free and reduced-price lunch, while those who pay are considered
Alex Ivan, whose father is a biotechnology scientist and whose mother
neurologist, was also assigned to Fletcher-Maynard. Noah and Alex are
the 4 children of the class of 13 who do not qualify for free or
reduced-price lunch. They are also the class's only two white
irst we were, sort of, `Hey, how do we get out of here?' " Ms.
recalled. She added that the school's racial or economic makeup did not
concern her but that she had known nothing about the school when Noah
Still, Noah and Alex's parents were won over by their sons' teacher,
Barr, and her assistant, Betty Snell. They were also impressed by the
kindergartners, and by the principal, Robin Harris.
Ms. Bokhari said she had tried to convince a friend to send her two
children to the school. But she said the friend, a computer programmer,
preferred a school with a lot of demanding upper-income parents. "She
`I want the rich moms to help me bring up my children,' " Ms. Bokhari
Her friend has a point. Middle- and upper-middle-income parents tend to
more aggressive about making sure their schools have everything, from
teachers to special arts programs, experts said. "Middle-class parents
provide quality control," said Nancy Walser, a member of the Cambridge
school committee and the author of a guide to the Cambridge public
"They're like canaries in a mine."
Some people fear that under the plan middle- and upper-income parents
flee the Cambridge system if they must contend with unqualified
and inadequate resources.
Ms. Bokhari, who has degrees from Wellesley and Harvard and is pursuing
Ph.D. in art history at Boston University, said that when it came to
three children's education, what mattered most was achievement. She
Noah would probably return to Fletcher-Maynard next year. After that,
is not sure. Her oldest son, Essah, a second grader at another public
school where, Ms. Bokhari said, he was not sufficiently challenged,
be attending Shady Hill, a high-achieving, $14,000-a-year priate
Noah may eventually follow, she said. Her third child, who is 2, is not
in the school system.
One of Noah's best friends is his polite, serious classmate, 6-year-old
Omar Maxwell. Omar's family lives in public housing two blocks from
Fletcher-Maynard. In contrast to Noah's parents, Omar's mother, Keyonna
Maxwell, said that the school's proximity to her home was one of its
important attributes. She is attending nursing school, and likes the
convenience — and safety — of having Omar close by.
Ms. Maxwell said she did not believe her son needed middle-income
classmates to succeed. "It all depends on the teachers," she said.
With all its benefits — classes capped at 17 students, experienced
teachers, the district's only full-time art teacher for kindergarten
through eighth grade, computers for all fifth graders and above —
Fletcher-Maynard still has 47 vacancies. There is a waiting list of
low-income children from the neighborhood. But under the plan the
slots must be held for middle-class families.
"The only way they're going to come is if we increase the test scores,"
Harris said, adding that she was not waiting for middle-class
"If we had 100 percent children of color and poor, we'd still get the
done," she said. "You set the bar high, and they excel."
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