A generation of experience with racial integration has taught a clear lesson: Sitting black kids next to white kids in school is not a silver bullet that zaps unequal achievement.
However, the faith that proximity leads to equal achievement remains the cargo cult of education. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court barred school assignments based on race to increase racial diversity. So school leaders immediately began considering economic integration plans instead.
Sit poor kids next to middle-class kids. That should work!
Presidential candidate John Edwards – Mr. Two Americas – has made this the core of his education proposals. He promises “a million housing vouchers” over five years to move poor kids to better schools in the `burbs plus $200 million to create magnet schools that will lure affluent kids to inner-city schools.
The magnet school scheme was tried from 1985 to 1997 in Kansas City, Mo., at a cost of $2billion. To lure suburban white students, Kansas City’s inner-city schools were equipped with lavish facilities: Indoor pools, gymnasia, high-tech science labs, computers, etc. But programs designed for the needs and interests of middle-class white suburbanites did not serve inner-city blacks. And few suburban students were willing to commute to city schools for a luxury athletic complex or a classics magnet. Test scores remained dreadful. By 1997, the district actually had a smaller percentage of white students than when the plan started.
Well, what about moving poor kids to better schools?
Much more on Kansas City here.