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December 13, 2011

Ta-Nehisi Coates on the all White academies of the deep South

During the 60s when the government forced schools to desegregate, many schools in the South shut down. Just so they wouldn't have to give black kids the chance at an education. This is really recent, guys. These towns then opened up *private* schools--often paid for with tax dollars--and only let in white kids. This is part of the reason charter schools bug me. But now some of these schools--which are still around and still racially segregated--want to change their image by allowing one or two superstar black athletes to attend their schools. More below and of course at the link. The Past Ain't Even the Past - Ta-Nehisi Coates - National - The Atlantic This is actually a thing Coates is quoting from, but click through and stick around for his commentary;
Nearly 50 years after it opened as a sanctuary for white students in a county that resisted school desegregation to the very end, the Fuqua School wanted badly to prove its racist days were over. The private school in this town on the banks of the Appomattox River accepted its first black student in the late 1980s. But the black community here still knew Fuqua as central Virginia's most famous "segregation academy." It was still viewed, well into the 21st century, as a symbol of defiance to the Supreme Court's 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling that racial segregation in public schools is unconstitutional. It was still seen as a place where black students were unwelcome. To shed that image, Fuqua needed a black student ambassador. So in 2008 the school's president, Ruth Murphy, sat down with Charles Williams, a freshman from the local public high school. Football coaches had arranged the meeting. Williams happened to be a quarterback with a powerful throwing arm who could burst through tacklers. He was faster and stronger than boys years older. The two met in Murphy's office and considered each other. "All I'd heard was that this was the 'white school,' " Williams recalled. "I was from the 'black school.' I didn't really know what to do or how to act." Murphy, a sparrow of a woman, also felt a bit unsure. "Here was this big strong guy. He was only 14, but he looked like a 25-year-old drug dealer," she recalled in an interview. When asked later what she meant by that description, Murphy acknowledged that it was a poor choice of words but said that she meant to convey his "maturity and intensity." Murphy laid out her offer. Williams could receive Fuqua's first full minority scholarship, covering the $7,300 tuition. But there was a condition: He would have to promote Fuqua among Farmville's black residents. Farmville, population 8,200, the seat of Prince Edward County, is one of dozens of towns across the South where private schools sprang up in the 1950s and '60s to serve an all-white clientele after public schools were ordered to desegregate. Prince Edward closed its public schools from 1959 to 1964 rather than complying. It was among the last school systems in the country to give up the fight. In the period of "massive resistance" to Brown v. Board, the Prince Edward Academy was founded for white students in 1959. The private school, later renamed Fuqua, was subsidized by tax dollars. Black students in Prince Edward were forced to drop out or move.

December 12, 2011

The Unaddressed Link Between Poverty and Education

The Unaddressed Link Between Poverty and Education - NYTimes.com
No Child Left Behind required all schools to bring all students to high levels of achievement but took no note of the challenges that disadvantaged students face. The legislation did, to be sure, specify that subgroups — defined by income, minority status and proficiency in English — must meet the same achievement standard. But it did so only to make sure that schools did not ignore their disadvantaged students — not to help them address the challenges they carry with them into the classroom. So why do presumably well-intentioned policy makers ignore, or deny, the correlations of family background and student achievement? Some honestly believe that schools are capable of offsetting the effects of poverty. Others want to avoid the impression that they set lower expectations for some groups of students for fear that those expectations will be self-fulfilling. In both cases, simply wanting something to be true does not make it so. Another rationale for denial is to note that some schools, like the Knowledge Is Power Program charter schools, have managed to “beat the odds.” If some schools can succeed, the argument goes, then it is reasonable to expect all schools to. But close scrutiny of charter school performance has shown that many of the success stories have been limited to particular grades or subjects and may be attributable to substantial outside financing or extraordinarily long working hours on the part of teachers. The evidence does not support the view that the few success stories can be scaled up to address the needs of large populations of disadvantaged students. A final rationale for denying the correlation is more nefarious. As we are now seeing, requiring all schools to meet the same high standards for all students, regardless of family background, will inevitably lead either to large numbers of failing schools or to a dramatic lowering of state standards. Both serve to discredit the public education system and lend support to arguments that the system is failing and needs fundamental change, like privatization.