Heather Harding and I approach the education reform movement using a similar lens: as parents. Sure, you’re probably thinking, “Darla, you don’t have kids. How can you view education through a parent’s eyes?” Well, first of all, I view my students as my children. When I contemplate just what solutions I support to create better schools, I think of the type of learning environment I want for my own children. Each education policy decision created now has a direct impact on the learning experiences of my future kids. So when I read Heather Harding’s piece posted on Teach For America’s Pass the Chalk Blog, I immediately could relate with her sentiments.
Heather wants her children to attend diverse schools that prepare them for a global world. Like Heather, we are not satisfied with schools that mostly educate low-income black and Latino youth. In our ideal world, our children would attend schools with children from varying socioeconomic levels and diverse backgrounds. However, we realize that accepting schools as segregated now–even if they are high-performing–is not the way to give our kids the best education.
In Heather’s piece, “Breaking Down the Persistence of Segregated Schools,” she calls out the elephant in the room of all education reform conversations. She forces us to have the difficult conversation about how important diversity, in many aspects, is an important part of the learning experience, and how so many people are sweeping it under the rug.
Every time I see a story about high-performing urban charter schools where 98% of the kids are black or Latino, I get queasy. I worry that while the academics at these schools are superior to their peer schools, they lack what most middle-class parents want in an education—world-class academics in an environment that provides the social capital necessary to be successful in an ever-more-diverse world.
When we relegate some kids to a singular racial and cultural experience but extol the virtues of our growing global society, we are decidedly not closing the achievement gap. As a parent who enthusiastically embraces school choice, I cannot accept that common response to calls for racial desegregation in our urban charter schools: “Well, should I turn these poor kids of color away in favor of non-poor white kids?” My answer is likely to be “Maybe.” I want it all: quality education and diversity. This is the only recipe for true excellence. We shouldn’t settle for less.
Is Heather asking for too much? I don’t think so. I’m glad someone is courageous enough to bring it up. How about you?
Read more of Heather’s piecehttp://www.teachforamerica.org/m/blog/breaking-down-persistence-segregated-schools.