Two Thoughts Emerge In My Mind—On “Bad” Schools & “Race” [Reading Response]

Thought #1: What makes a “bad” school? The general answer might include schools with poor student test scores, school violence, dilapidated buildings and grounds, old textbooks, and unhealthy lunch programs. The unsaid, less politically correct answer is schools with lots of black and brown faces (obviously not because they are black and brown faces—though some of the theorists from last week might propose that it is because of those identities--but because, as this week’s readings amplify, segregated schools (bad) and high concentrations of students on free lunch (bad) are more likely to be the experiences of black and brown faces than white faces). Traits of “good schools” consist of the opposite features (perhaps explaining the teacher transfer trend in Georgia from Orfield and Lee, p. 17). And for the most part, our general solution has been to use money to transform the former into the latter. Yet, I find myself asking the same question asked by others: does one overcome the bad schools of the impoverished simply by having more money? I cautiously assert that the answer is “no” (though I make a sharp distinction between poverty being an aggregate condition that needs a large-scale remedy and “poor” as an individual status that might in fact benefit from a wealth transfer). So, I am left to choose amongst other model solutions to meet the challenge… but I am just not sure the importation of one particular model is the way to go.

Thought #2: In this week’s Washington Post, the conversation arose again about the inability of using race as a factor for diversifying schools as a result of Parents Involved v. Seattle School District (2007) ( It seems this article and this week’s readings illustrate the core connections between the identities of the education have-nots and the resources of the education haves, and how our decentralized system needs but struggles to disperse identities and resources within its populations. But this effort at social engineering is a huge undertaking. Perhaps I am simplistic—but I drink of the water that says the teacher-leader and student-parent relationships are the key levers for change. Systems have an obligation to diversify student experiences, but if we are to advance student outcomes, the solution requires far more teacher and administrator self-awareness and vulnerability that I think most are ready for. 

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