I recently read a 2002 article from The Pitch that is a sobering history of segregation and desegregation efforts that failed in Kansas City. Articles like this and a recent one from The Brookings Institution have reminded me of the harsh reality that education and social justice advocates are still conflicted as to whether integration should still be the goal. Like the Brown v. Board decision, I believe integration is necessary to bring equity to our schools.
In Kansas City, it is the racially and socioeconomically isolated schools that produce lower Missouri AYP scores. It is poverty and the struggles that come with it that are being calculated by these scores. Yet these scores continue to warp the perception of these schools for politicians and parents who are caught up in school choice. Kansas City charter schools do not perform better than district schools. They perform roughly the same. There are charter schools and district schools here that earn the very highest scores possible. Many of these schools have put in place measures that boost their scores – not admitting students in all grades, admission tests, fundraising requests, separate applications. The schools that serve our neediest students will continue to score lower on these reports.
We must actively stop conversations when they begin about “good” or “bad” schools, or the need for more schools. First we must decide what we can do to help integrate our schools. What steps will reduce segregation and poverty isolation? This will bring equity. Talk to your neighbors and your children about our segregated schools. Because “separate but equal” is not good enough.
The Pitch: The Long Walk Home
The Brookings Institute: A Time for School Choice?