How Mixed Neighborhoods Could Save America’s Schools
July 31, 2012 § Leave a comment
Efforts to rejuvenate urban neighborhoods and fix public schools have historically followed separate paths. As buses began rolling across color lines in the 1970s to desegregate public schools, they crisscrossed acutely segregated public housing projects and suburbs.
In the 1990s, education reformers began trying to lift the performance of public schools with racially homogenous, high-poverty populations. Charter schools — public schools run by private organizations — became the hallmark of this new approach. But because many charters concentrate on educating the poorest of the poor, they tended to exacerbate racial and economic separation in the public schools.
“There’s been little effort overall to link housing policy to education policy,” says Jonathan Rothwell, a senior research analyst at the Brookings Institution. “It’s a major missing component to any effort to solve this country’s education problem.”
Instead of attacking poverty, urban blight, and failing schools in isolated efforts, a group of community activists and philanthropists in Atlanta took on all of these issues as one big problem. “We know that concentrating poverty doesn’t work. We know you get bad outcomes when you do that,” says Carol Naughton, the former director of the East Lake Foundation, which orchestrated the area’s revitalization beginning in 1995.