Reviews | Did we fail in suburban schools?

“A lot of our teachers went to middle class schools and learned that there was a certain way to be successful,” Polino said. “Few of our teachers have grown up facing poverty and its attendant socio-economic impacts. “

This, of course, doesn’t mean race doesn’t matter or matters less in the suburbs. Housing inequality, for example, has led to separate schools within districts and an internal decline in the idea that white schools are good schools and minority schools are bad. And even in various schools, there is still an issue of internal segregation and allocation of resources, as well as political resistance to integration or a curriculum that reflects the student body, which in some areas might even to be the trigger for struggles against critical race theory. .

This means that suburban teachers face a wide range of issues that can all coexist in the same public school. Teachers at Sweet Home, for example, may come across a traumatized Arabic-speaking child, a Burmese refugee, and a black student whose family recently moved to the neighborhood. Teachers may, as many do, rise to this challenge and see it as all that is right in the American public school system, but they could also go into their jobs with giant blind spots due to lack of research, support and field experience. .

Thousands of school districts across this country face a series of similar problems. In the excellent book “The Resegregation of Suburban Schools”, Erica Frankenberg and Gary Orfield argue that “suburban school districts do not feel supported and unable to formulate a coherent response to metropolitan demographic change.” They describe several problems that suburban schools face today, including a replication of “models of racial and economic segregation”, insufficiently trained teachers and political resistance.

They also offer something of a fix or, perhaps, an appeal to their colleagues. In 2013, when the book was published, there was almost no research done on the rapid changes underway in the suburbs. Today Frankenberg says more people seem interested in the suburbs, but any improvement presupposes a very low baseline. Part of what needed to be studied then and what needs to be considered today is how the binary ways Americans generally think about racial inequality in America – suburbs: rich and white; cities: poor and black – could be incomplete, especially when it comes to finding solutions in suburban school districts across the country.

They write:

The radical racial change in American cities from the 1950s to the 1970s was accompanied by major civil rights battles, most notably Brown v. Board of Education, the Federal War on Poverty, urban riots, and presidential commissions to study race issues. The result has been the creation of fair housing laws, urban school desegregation, magnetic school programs, and many other initiatives, primarily designed to integrate black students into majority white schools. This biracial dynamic which no longer holds for the central cities of our nation or its suburbs; demographics have been transformed by the enormous growth of Latin American communities, which were virtually invisible outside the Southwest and a few metropolitan areas in other states until the 1980s, as well as by the expansion of Asian populations – who often immigrated directly to the suburbs.

For years the academy and the media have focused on the issue of black-white equity in urban schools, which in turn has been the subject of think tanks, law firms. board and administrators who all approach this problem in almost every way. possible. The academy’s and media’s unbalanced emphasis on urban schools has reduced the conversation about education to fights over selective high schools, the achievement gaps, and the role white parents can play in inner city neighborhoods. This work is important and must continue, but it must be accompanied by a clearer look at what is happening a few kilometers away in the suburbs, where poor children all over the world go to school together, where Similar inequalities persist and where supports for these students often boil down to small school districts and cash-strapped local governments.

The pandemic has led to many theories on what exactly happens when schools go online and people start moving across the country. Whether or not you fear the effects of random openings, random closings, distance learning fatigue, or lack of distance learning, I’m sure someone argues that this absolutely happens.

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