Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Monroe County 2014: Academic Apartheid

a·part·heid
(əˈpärtˌ(h)āt,-ˌ(h)īt/)  noun,  historical: 

any system or practice that separates people according to race, caste, etc.                                                             
                                                        <http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/race>


We are living in the midst of Academic Apartheid.  These are strong words -- backed by fact. In our community there is a strong correlation between poverty and poor academic performance.

  • The graduation rate for African American males in RCSD 9%.[1]
  •  88% of the children in RCSD qualify for free or reduced-price lunch             (The number qualifying for FRPL is a measure of poverty).
  •  The surrounding 18 districts have much higher graduation rates and lower poverty rates.

If you have a warm bed to sleep in and food in the refrigerator, 
you are the 1% compared to 9 out of 10 children in Rochester City School District. 


How did Monroe County get this way?

It started in the 1950's and 1960's with housing apartheid. With the waves of migrant African American workers from the south and migrant Puerto Rican citizens, most of the affordable housing was and is now located within the city limits. These migrations expanded the number of folks hovering around the poverty line.

At the same time, half of Rochester's mostly white and mostly middle-class population moved to the suburbs. You can't blame people for wanting to come home after a hard day at work to a beautiful new house, manicured lawn, and 2-car garage. This was and is the “American” dream many of us aspire to. We built the structure of our community around this dream.

Decades of little to no low-cost housing built in the suburbs maintained this housing apartheid. Because jobs migrated to the suburbs, where buses rarely run, housing apartheid has led to economic apartheid. Truly, we are a community of haves and have-nots. Not only are there schools for the poor (RCSD) schools and for the rich (Pittsford and Mendon), there are nursing homes for the poor and nursing homes for the rich, medical care for the poor and medical care for the rich.

Educational researcher Gerald Grant describes the burden poverty places on schools. Monroe County's decades of economic apartheid, in the absence of meaningful change, has lead inevitably to academic apartheid. That's how we got here. Our journey is similar to Hartford and Buffalo and Syracuse.

We do not need to settle for academic apartheid. Two communities made significant changes decades ago to prevent this inevitability. Portland, Oregon nipped urban decline in the bud through “Livable Land Use Policy.”  In Portland, residents agreed not to build beyond the city limits, so significant investment went to transportation and housing in the city.  Portland prevented academic apartheid by preventing housing apartheid. However, it is difficult to imagine a scenario that would result in Rochester reversing decades of suburban sprawl. Dismantling the decades-old, fixed borders between city and suburbs in Rochester won't be our solution to apartheid.

Raleigh, North Carolina, while not under a direct court order to integrate, saw what was going on down the road when the court forced the city/county merger of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County in the 1970s.  Coming together as a community, city and suburban parents, teachers and school boards have work together in Raleigh, over the course of three decades, to eliminate Academic Apartheid. First, by merging the Wake County District with the Raleigh district, then by using magnet schools and an innovative assignment of where students learn, they succeeded in finally raising a very high bar of achievement, at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.

There are no bad schools in Raleigh, despite pre-existing economic apartheid.

Raleigh's secret? 


They found a method, countywide, to cap the number of impoverished students in each building to a maximum of 40%. 


Suburban parents in Wake County agreed to allow their children to ride the bus 10 minutes longer to go to a high quality school with a specialized academic focus for gifted and talented students. City parents agreed to allow their students to be assigned schools in the suburbs, sacrificing their excellent neighborhood school experience for the long term gain of better education for all Wake County children. In addition, city parents knew their children bore needed gifts -- resilience and tolerance. 


In Wake County, urban and suburban parents came together under the belief that 

our children are all our children.

Why should we in Monroe County begin to address academic apartheid by examining the Raleigh model?  

The pragmatist in me reminds you that those who don’t graduate inevitably become a burden on the backs of those suburbanites who pay for added social security and food subsidies and Medicare and national health insurance and bloated courts and prisons. 

The ethicist in me reminds you, “because it's the right thing to do and we all benefit.” 


© Elizabeth Laidlaw 2014



[1] The 2012 Schott Foundation report lists Rochester among the lowest cities for graduating black men and Wake county, NC, as having one of the highest graduation rates for this same group.

12 comments:

Patrick DeTraglia said...

Although i do agree the school district does have a large problem with the "Academic apartheid" the high drop out rate and low graduation rate is not because they cannot succeed. its because they don't WANT to succeed. We give them just as fair of a chance as everyone else in the world that rely's on financial aid. I think the biggest problem we are having in this day and age are the amount of dollars we are willing to dish out when the student will just sit in class till they get the financial aid check, then drop out. Make the financial aid a gift from the school, not a hand out. When the student decides to apply to college it should be meant solely to better their education and their lives to help their next generation. If the student drops out right after receiving financial aid launch an investigation to see if it is a pattern. if so cancel their financial aid if they want it back for their next semester make them complete a semester without it to prove they are in college for education purposes not financial purpose.

Cody Kirkey said...

As a person a received free or reduced lunch in high school, I can relate to many of these issues even though I have always lived in the suburbs. Its difficult growing up with little money but I think that's what makes people stronger. one argument you make is that it is the right thing to do to come together as a community and raise the bar for children at an academic level. the one objection I have is I don't think it matters where the child lives that affects their work ethic or grade. If they are truly determined they will accomplish their goals.

Ritti S. said...

In this article, you argue that in Monroe county, we should address our academic apartheid by examining (and presumably modifying and applying) the Raleigh model for our school district.

First, you argue that academic apartheid is occurring in Rochester, given that there are concentrated poverty and low graduation rates in the Rochester City School District, where there are much more students of color, while the suburbs have much less poverty and much higher graduation rates. Then, you write about how this happened: white flight to the suburbs as African American and Hispanic populations moved to the city led to housing apartheid, which in turn led to economic apartheid.

You then explain how two American cities addressed academic apartheid. Portland, Oregon addressed it by having residents not build outside of the city, thus funneling money back into transportation and housing within the city (addressing economic and housing apartheid then took care of the academic apartheid). The other city, Raleigh, North Carolina, capped the number of students in poverty of each building at 40%, and then bussed students from the suburbs to city schools and vice versa.

You propose that Rochester, due to its academic apartheid, implement the Raleigh system as reversing the suburban sprawl would be difficult at this point (making the Portland model impractical for Rochester). You argue this on both economic and moral grounds: a low graduation rate in the city means that suburbanites are paying more in their taxes for welfare for those who don't graduate, but also ending academic apartheid is simply the morally right thing to do.

One objection I would make is that the welfare cost argument is an insufficient economic incentive; the same suburbanites could very well work for (and vote for people who would work for) welfare cuts to save themselves from this added cost. We've been seeing this happen since the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act in the nineties: in the face of great economic (as well as academic and housing) inequality, Americans have actually cut welfare on those who need it.

Mallory Downey said...

I do believe that the argument about having a big problem with "Academic Apartheid" is true having a correlation with having money problems. People are trying to make ends meet with so little that they have to live. Coming from a poor family I do understand how much harder it is to work all the time and try to juggle great grades in school. But in order to fix the problem as a whole community, everyone one needs to be on the same page and start with themselves individually. The finical aid at MCC is there for people who need help affording an education, but I believe they are not keeping a close watch on the students who are getting the money and dropping out of the classes. MCC needs to maybe get more into the students personal life and figure out why they dropped out, if the student doesn't give a reason why they dropped out for that semester, don't be able to let them register until they communicate with them tell them a reason why they dropped out, maybe have some proof for it. Then let them register for next year, but if it happens again suspend them from getting finical aid. It is not a hand out, it is to help students who can't pay for an education themselves.

Jenna Swingle said...

In other words, poverty and race as well as academics play a large part in the separation of people. Realistically majority of African-American race and Spanish race live in urban areas. Naturally I feel as though there is an Academic Apartheid because it is " set-up " that way. Majority of urban families, in particular these races are living in poverty and most children around 15 years old or once age appropriate to work are helping provide for their families , especially a family of a single parent or broken family. This leads to teens dropping out of school early to be able to provide. It is very unfortunate, very real and very sad.

Valerie Jopek said...

What I'm getting out of this article is; students who go to city schools, and are living a life of poverty, do worse then students, who go to suburban schools and live a more middle-class life in education.
I feel that this is not entirely true, although may contribute, to those that do poorly. For whatever reason it maybe, children born into poverty, tend to not try in school, this maybe lack of parenting, or low expectations from the parents. Immigrants actually tend to do better in school, although the language barrier does cause some issues. I guess what I'm trying to say is, that money and possessions don't effect a child's education, it's the way the parent raises the child. The child makes the choice to drop out, the child also has the choice to go bk to school if they dropout, MCC is a college that will accept people with GEDs.

Valerie Jopek said...

What I'm getting out of this article is; students who go to city schools, and are living a life of poverty, do worse then students, who go to suburban schools and live a more middle-class life in education.
I feel that this is not entirely true, although may contribute, to those that do poorly. For whatever reason it maybe, children born into poverty, tend to not try in school, this maybe lack of parenting, or low expectations from the parents. Immigrants actually tend to do better in school, although the language barrier does cause some issues. I guess what I'm trying to say is, that money and possessions don't effect a child's education, it's the way the parent raises the child. The child makes the choice to drop out, the child also has the choice to go bk to school if they dropout, MCC is a college that will accept people with GEDs.

Joe Verni said...

The notion of academic apartheid is very much real in Monroe County. Starting long ago, the wheels have never really stopped turning. It started in the 50's and 60's with the housing apartheid which eventually led to the economic apartheid. Both of these you pin as the underlying cause of the academic apartheid. Cities like Raleigh and Portland have found ways around these things occurring. Though I agree these are major factors for the academic apartheid, many more factors come into play as well. Involvement in a child's life has a huge impact on who that child becomes. When the parents show they don't care about their child's academics or care at all what that child does, why would the child care? My uncle taught at Franklin for a few years, for parent-teacher conference day, only one parent showed of all his students. This is a big red flag and sign that parents involvement in not there. In most animal kingdoms, the parent(s) try to show their kids the way until they believe the child is matured enough to take care of itself. If you let it roam free, they will not last in that society/kingdom, because they will have no guidance or clue on how to take care of themselves. Though your argument is valid, there is just more to it than that, no matter how rich or poor, a parents involvement is essential in survival and life.

Anonymous said...

When I was in school I did received reduce lunches, I did not grow up in the suburbs but more in the city. I however went to private schools on scholarships and it was hard going to a school like that with kids who had money and my parents did not have much. Going through that did make me stronger as I feel certain challenges in life such as this would make any individual a much stronger person. I feel that when it comes down to a children’s academic level we should try to make programs to get children involved and more interested in learning. Maybe do more fun activities when teaching and coming together as parents and teachers and getting more involved in the school work. At the end of the day, when it comes down to it kids will make the effort if they truly want to do something and if their interested to get them interested. It does not matter the social class or anything of that nature it matters if they have the drive and the motivation behind them to go far.
-Juliza Wood

Amy Hughes said...

In this article, you are discussing academic apartheid. You mention that is currently causing numerous issues in the Rochester area as well as other places around the United States. You mention places such as Portland and Raleigh that have come up with and implemented action plans that have actually made a huge difference.

They have managed to diminish this academic apartheid in Raleigh by moving around all the students and putting a cap on students living in poverty per classroom. This has leveled the playing fields for many kids and has proven that it has diminished the academic apartheid significantly. You proposed that Rochester try to adopt this system to decrease the academic apartheid, but admit it will take a lot in order to turn back decades of this behavior.

I would argue that the system that Raleigh implemented would not work very well just because of the cost and lack of desire from people. In Raleigh it worked because that's what they really wanted to do, and there's no guarantee that would be the case here.

Moncef Mzibri said...

This argument makes a good point, that integrating school will be a benefit, not only to the city schools but the students themselves. The only issue with that is that racism is not dead and children can be mean. This might cause harm on students because they will be making fun of not just by the color of their skin, but because they are poor; something the children have no control over. Therefore, if the child is being bullying, being at a good school does not mean the child will get a proper education. What is better for the child is to be in an environment where they feel safe so they can grow educationally.

Aireanna Small said...

In this article, you are discussing the fact that here in Rochester, Housing Apartheid can be a direct link to academic challenges within high schools. Because minorities are being grouped together, they may be seeing family members or neighbors who have dropped out of school or may not strive to have a better life so they don't try in school because they assume that they will be fine.

I agree with this because if you don't have anyone around you who is striving to be better in life and or trying to do better, that could influence you to not try and slide by in life as well.