"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Why is Urban Education Failing and Will Busing or Open Enrollment Solve the Problems?

Diversity in schools is one of the main goals in Race to the Top and Common Core standards. It's been a goal for several decades and one experiment to reach diversity was busing. It has been tried since the 1970's with limited success. A new plan, "open enrollment" is being tried in several states and is currently under judicial review in Missouri. Open enrollment, like voluntary transfer or busing, allows inner-city students to attend suburban schools.

Diversity is a goal in Louisville City Schools (Jefferson County). How's that diversity plan working out for the district? According to Education Voodoo, not so well (I've made a couple of editing changes regarding the name of the newspaper as the blogger has a tongue-in-cheek reference to the paper which makes it difficult to ascertain the correct name). Citizens are upset about the lack of success exhibited by bused students and resources being used to perpetuate a broken system. The writer takes on the Citizen-Journal for spinning the arguments against those not in favor of the student assessment plan put forth by the district:

School district attorney Byron Leet, who defended the value of diverse schools, acknowledged afterward that he got an unusually “good grilling” from the judges. But he warned against predicting a ruling before it was issued, which could take four to six weeks.
The case, which may ultimately wind up before the Kentucky Supreme Court, is the latest legal skirmish over the student assignment plan, which has become highly politicized and continues to upset some parents because of long bus rides. Next month, the school board is expected to consider recommendations on ways to improve the plan and reduce ride times.
Where’s the slant?
1). Leet, “who defended the value of diverse schools.”
In reality, Leet less defended the value of diverse schools than he defended the right of the school board to bus children. Time and again, judges in fact pointedly asked Leet to defend the value of busing, and time and again he did so by asserting the right of the board to bus them. On two occasions, he made vague references to “research” that demonstrates the value of busing children, but never produced any hard data in the courts. While Leet clearly defended diverse schools, he really did not defend the VALUE of diverse schools, as the C-J asserts. If anything, he wound up acknowledging that student achievement has declined under forced busing, while refusing to accept that busing is a factor.
2). The student assignment plan “has become highly politicized and continues to upset some parents because of long bus rides.”
First The Citizen-Journal marginalizes the opposition to “some parents.” Many who aren’t parents are upset by busing. Many feel community resources are being wasted, and many are upset because they believe busing is churning out a generation of students with inferior educations. As well, this phrasing reduces the complaints about busing to a single issue — length of bus rides. This implies that if you reduce ride time, people will be happy. But that is NOT the sum of the complaint against forced busing, but only a part. Yes, its opponents view it as an incredible waste of time. But they are JUST as upset that it is a waste of resources, and that it has not been demonstrated to improve education.
In two paragraphs, the C-J managed to misstate the nature of the JCPS defense, misstate the position of busing opponents, and mischaracterize the makeup of the group opposed to busing.
That’s some effective writing! No wonder Op-Ed pages are becoming obsolete!
Finally this. The C-J ran a companion photo gallery with this package called “THE LEGACY OF DESEGREGATION.”

Every photo in the collection was from the 1970s. A “legacy” is, by definition, a thing handed down. It is the thing from the past, as it exists now. The C-J’s tribute was a moving tribute to the origins of busing — but not to its legacy. Its legacy is what exists today. And by showing no current pictures, by sharing no current data, the C-J demonstrated that all it has to show as busing’s legacy is a collection of black and white photos and warm stories from the past which are nice, but which do little to address failing schools and students in crisis today.

Even if the C-J wants to advocate for busing, we would all be better served by pictures of the situation as it exists in 2011. That is the true legacy of busing.

Does the "open enrollment" currently supported by many Missouri legislators (students from failing schools will be able to attend suburban schools) create the same type of busing described in this article? Does the desire to create diversity by busing or open enrollment help or hinder the education of low-income students? Why aren't quality schools present in the urban areas? Is it for lack of money or something else? Why do suburban schools surpass the educational benchmarks of urban schools? How will busing "fix" the problems in urban schools? Why should students in failing schools have to be bused for a decent education?

If you believe it helps the students who are bused from their district into suburban districts, what do you do then with the students left behind? Will Common Core standards or some other governmental mandate be the magic bullet for them? Why can't the government save everyone? Isn't that what the DOE has been promising to taxpayers for the last four decades?

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