Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Socioeconomic School Integration

Kahlenberg, Richard (2001), Socioeconomic School Integration, PRRAC Newsletter,


Kahlenberg argues that as re-segregation continues as the result of court decisions that are becoming increasingly hostile to the premise of Brown vs. Board of Ed, class-based integration as a proxy for race.  Kahlenberg suggests that poverty is concentrated as a result of racial discrimination in the housing market and that racial integration will thus be a byproduct of integration that focuses on the economic status of families.  He asserts that class integrations will result in having middle-class families as the majority in every school, and that there is no better predictor of school success than having middle-class families as advocates for a school.  Kahlenberg offers ten specific reasons why socioeconomic integration “matters.”

10 reasons why socioeconomic integration matters

  1. Adequate financial base
  2. Orderly environment 
  3. Stable student teacher population 
  4. Solid principal and well qualified teachers 
  5. Meaty curriculum and high expectations 
  6. Active parental involvement 
  7. Motivated peers that value achievement and encourage classmates 
  8. High achieving peers that share knowledge 
  9. Well connected classmates 
  10. The one type of school that has been successfully replicated is the school with MAJORITY middle-class families (integrated, but must be MAJORITY middle-class)

He then suggests three specific advantages that socioeconomic integration has over race integration:

  1. Brown vs. Board of Ed has run its legal course…districts being released from responsibility and focus on race being ruled unconstitutional in some districts 
  2. Qualities that drive school success have more to do with class than race (ex. racially segregated schools are in high-poverty neighborhoods and thus under-resourced) 
  3. Focus on class is more politically savvy and will get more people on board

Kahlenberg offers his suggestions for how to make socioeconomic integration a reality: He believes that continuing to offer more and better quality school choice programs (as opposed to busing) will continue to be beneficial.; He believes the emphasis on selling such a program should be placed on its ability to raise student achievement; He believes that offering educational incentives to middle-class families will be essential as a motivating factor for change.

Important Quotations:

“The era of court-ordered racial de- segregation is coming to an end. But to give up on racial and economic integration altogether, pouring greater and greater resources into making separate but equal a little more equitable, is to concede almost all of the problem. Greater public school choice is in our future. The question is whether progressives can harness the choice movement to help overcome the massive inequalities inherent in a system that educates poor and middle-class children separately.”

“If integration matters, the new emphasis should be on socioeconomic status. Except where a district is rooting out the vestiges of discrimination, in which case the use of race is appropriate, even constitutionally required, leading with socioeconomic integration offers advantages.”

“…from a legal standpoint, Brown vs. Board of Education has largely run its course.”

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