Schooled on class

While the spike in oil prices is leading some school districts to cut back on busing (see Christmas in September, below), the New York Times has found one district that is busing more kids than ever. Wake County Public Schools, which serves Raleigh, has for five years embarked on a campaign to integrate its schools along economic lines. The goal is that no one school have more than 40 percent low income students, thereby creating learning environments dominated by a "middle class" culture. Advocates point to dramatic increases in minority test scores to suggest the policy's working. But as Paul E. Peterson explains in the New York Sun, there's no way to know whether the rise in student achievement can be attributed to this program, plus, Raleigh's gains are dwarfed by larger increases statewide. And "progress" in North Carolina doesn't mean much anyway, because the state has some of the country's most lenient proficiency standards. By the Tar Heel state's lights, 85 percent of its eighth graders are reading proficiently, while the more reliable National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) shows only 29 percent reading at that level. All this leaves little justification for Raleigh's social engineering, especially when high-achieving schools such as KIPP prove that it's possible to create a "middle class," achievement-oriented culture even in schools populated by poor children

 

"Erasing Inequality," by Paul E. Peterson, New York Sun, September 28, 2005

"As Test Scores Jump, Raleigh Credits Integration by Income," by Alan Finder, New York Times, September 25, 2005