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Old 07-03-2007, 08:14 AM
Professor Professor is offline
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Classrooms Tell the Tale

Classrooms tell the tale

Eric Johnson
CHAPEL HILL - School districts across the country will be scrambling in the months ahead to cope with the Supreme Court's ruling against race-based student assignment. The Wake County Public School System can rightfully be proud that it won't have to, thanks to the system's longstanding policy of using economic status as a factor in student assignments. Wake's magnet programs and careful balancing of student assignment -- meant to ensure that no school has too great a percentage of poorer students -- have been hailed as a national model. The success of those policies has landed the county on the front pages of national newspapers, and given former Superintendent Bill McNeal a full calendar of speaking engagements.

And it means that Wake students will, for the most part, continue to attend impressively diverse schools, no matter what the impact of the court's ruling.

But as the country once again plunges into a debate about the merits and methods of keeping schools fully integrated, it is worth remembering that getting a diverse group of students into the same building is actually the simplest part of the process. Diversity within a school doesn't always mean diversity in the classroom.

I spent 13 years in Wake County schools, and I'm grateful for the depth and intensity of the curriculum they provided. My high school, William G. Enloe in Raleigh, is consistently ranked one of the best in the nation, and it has exactly the kind of racial and economic diversity that educators strive for.

But in a school with a heavy minority population, my classmates were overwhelmingly white and Asian. On the day that we graduated, my friends and I looked around a packed auditorium at hundreds of black faces we hardly knew. We had been integrated in the hallways, but rarely in the classroom.

That didn't happen by design, but it also didn't happen by accident. The programs and policies that drew me and other suburban students to an inner-city high school also separated us from the kids who didn't need to commute.

We drove or were bused-in every morning and spent the day taking the challenging curriculum that we had come for. The kids who lived nearby -- for whom the school was not a choice but a given -- were largely absent from those classes.

My Government and Politics teacher at Enloe once began a lesson by asking all of us to look around the room. "There's not a single black student in this class," he said. "I want you to tell me why."

The answer to that question, we would find, does not lie in any policy of race-based busing or economic redistricting. It has to do with the advantages or disadvantages, both subtle and profound, that accrue long before students reach the schoolhouse door. It has to do with an impossibly complex web of family, society and culture, and the ways they either create or suppress a child's ability to learn. It has to do with a whole range of challenges that can't be solved by a fleet of buses.

Getting a diverse group of students into the same school is only the very first step. The much tougher and much worthier goal is to see that they walk out with the same opportunities. If Wake County is going to remain a national model, we can't lose sight of that.

(Eric Johnson (Enloe '04) is a senior writer at The Daily Tar Heel, the student newspaper at UNC-Chapel Hill.)
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Old 07-04-2007, 02:19 AM
AKA_Monet AKA_Monet is offline
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U.S. Supreme Court rejects Seattle's racial criteria

By Linda Shaw
Seattle Times education reporter

The parents who challenged Seattle Public Schools' use of race in assigning students to schools won their seven-year legal battle Thursday in the nation's highest court.

In a closely watched case that will affect hundreds of school districts across the nation, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that Seattle's racial tiebreaker and a similar policy in Jefferson County, Ky., violated the Constitution's right of equal protection.

The court's first ruling on race and education in many years was celebrated by those who favor race-blind policies, and sharply criticized by many civil-rights groups as a further erosion of Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark 1954 case that outlawed school segregation.

Kathleen Brose, one of the Seattle parents who filed the suit, said she was "relieved and vindicated" by the decision.

"It shouldn't matter what your skin color is, what your family income is, [or] if you have disabilities," she said. "If this nation is looking to move beyond race, we're going to have to stop using race as a decision on which school kids are going to get into."

But James Kelly, president of the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle, echoed the disappointment of many organizations and Democratic politicians such as presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

"It is a sad day for our Constitution, our country and our educational system," he said. "This kind of decision harkens back to the old law of separate but equal, which of course isn't equal."

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