Saturday, March 13, 2010

Tom Dooher must be shot! III

As luck would have it — and it is often better to be lucky than to be good — there is an article about Professor Myron Orfield’s work in the Spring 2010 issue of the University of Minnesota Alumni Magazine. It reinforces a point I made in the original post in this series, Tom Dooher must be shot! That is, when complaining about the achievement gap between white and minority students, Don Samuels is barking up the wrong tree by trying to pin it on the teachers. [I just love mixed metaphors; don’t you?]

The title of the article, written by Kate Tyler, is Segregated . . . Again. According to the article:

Racial segregation is increasing in all of the 25 largest U.S. metros, Orfield says, but it’s happening at a much faster clip in the 16th largest, the Twin Cities. Neighborhoods and schools have remained more stubbornly segregated here, those once integrated have resegregated at alarming rates, and segregation is pushing steadily outward from cities to suburbs.

The causes of these trends are complex, says Orfield, a national authority on metropolitan growth. Segregation’s prime drivers include racial prejudice, housing-market discrimination, and misguided public planning and tax policies. And in the Twin Cities, Orfield says, segregation is exacerbated by mind-boggling government fragmentation that was once, but is no longer, well-managed by a muscular Metropolitan Council.

Professor Orfield is quoted in the article as saying:

It’s absolutely the wrong solution to hunker down within neighborhood boundaries. The idea that we can close the achievement gap without desegregating is simply wrong.

The statistics on resegregation are startling:

Orfield says the area’s growing diversity does not account for its nation-leading segregation spikes over the last decade. Resegregation has been especially fierce, he says: 56 percent of the neighborhoods that were integrated in 1980 became segregated in 2000 (compared with 43 percent in the 25 largest U.S. metropolitan areas). And of the region’s neighborhoods that were segregated in 1980, 83 percent were still segregated two decades later (compared to 69 percent nationally).

Yet if segregation in the Twin Cities today is worse than that of yesterday, “it also looks significantly different than it used to,” says Orfield. As racial diversity has expanded in the Twin Cities, fewer neighborhoods and schools qualify as “white segregated,” having more than 50 percent of students white, Orfield explains. At the same time, different communities of color are mixing with each other as never before. “But not with whites,” he says. “This is the new face of segregation: the mushrooming of multiethnic, nonwhite segregated schools and communities.”

According to Orfield, in 1992 the Twin Cities had nine nonwhite segregated schools, representing 1.5 percent of elementary students. By 2008, the metro area had 108 nonwhite segregated schools, representing 22 percent of the area’s elementary students.

The article draws some conclusion about the effects on schools:

Economist Samuel Myers, the University’s Roy Wilkins Professor of Human Relations and Social Justice, confirms that segregation is not the result of people choosing neighborhoods aligned with their incomes and preferences or of “bad credit.” It’s the result of racial disparities in lending, discrimination in housing, and little enforcement of fair housing laws.

Segregation is, Orfield emphasizes, “about a fundamental divide in who has access to opportunity—jobs, decent housing, safe streets, good schools. Where you live determines your basic prospects in life. It’s hard to overestimate how devastating it is for families and children to be trapped in failing communities and struggling schools. Or how much it undermines the quality of life, competitive edge, and vitality of the entire region.”

Segregated schools are particularly harmful, Orfield says. Research has proven that high-poverty schools are overwhelmingly low-performing ones and that an “achievement gap” exists between students from impoverished backgrounds and those from more middle-class ones. Children in poor communities start out with fewer of the assets that boost achievement (from high-literacy homes to good health care). And their schools usually suffer from limited resources and inexperienced teachers. [italics are mine]

Lowering the bar for entering the teaching profession is not going to improve that. It will exacerbate it.

It is ironic and sad that Samuels’ support for the charter school movement (and he does) actually makes the statistics on the racial segregation of schools worse; it is counterproductive for the very people he claims to champion.

Update: Rob Levine points out a better place to look for the “endless cycle of poverty and failure” that Don Samuels complains about:

Writing in the Spokeman-Reporter, a Black newspaper in the Twin Cities, Charles Hallman asserts that "Pawlenty budgets exhibit racial bias" :

The budget cuts “continue to operate in ways that continue [racial disparities]… They protect the status quo,” says Starstep Foundation President Alfred Babbington-Johnson.
Combined with the unallotment powers he used last year to slash health care and state aid to cities among other things, Pawlenty’s proposals have harmed Blacks, other persons of color, and low-income families the most, says the Minneapolis-based Organizing Apprenticeship Project (OAP) in a recent analysis of the governor’s budget cuts, including his initial decision to eliminate on April 1 the General Assistance Medical Care (GMAC) program. Almost 40 percent of over 70,000 Minnesotans served by GAMC are Blacks and Native Americans.
According to the OAP, 69 percent of clinic visits covered by GAMC at Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC) in 2009 were by people of color, compared to just 30 percent for White patients. “I know a lot of people who receive GMAC,” says Libby Osborne of Minneapolis.
...the governor also proposed a 27-percent cut in the state renters’ credit program. Under that proposal, approximately 274,000 renters will face a reduction, and 18,200 renters actually will lose their credit, the OAP estimates. This would disproportionately affect elderly renters, low income renters and the renters of color who make up 20 percent of all state renters.
The OAP’s analysis also included $300 million in state aid to local governments that Pawlenty either unalloted or cut. “We found that the counties with the highest [number of] people of color, with the highest unemployment, with the highest poverty, are the ones being hit the most by unallotment,” says OAP Lead Policy Analyst Jermaine Toney.

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