How Should DC Schools Balance Diversity?

  • July 23rd 2012

by Shilpi Paul

This month, Greater Greater Washington’s David Alpert has been examining education issues in the District. Last week, Alpert considered the question of how long a school can be both diverse and high-quality; this morning, he looked at a few successful models in other states that do just that.

How Should DC Schools Balance Diversity?: Figure 1

Raleigh, NC, for example, consciously drew boundaries to include lower-income youth in every school, but such that these students comprised no more than 35 percent of the population.

From Greater Greater Washington:

“Raleigh found that the 35% threshold was a good one to include many kids from disadvantaged backgrounds who could benefit from being a part of a school with more privileged kids, but not so much as to create overconcentration and diminish the outcomes for the highest-performing students.”

Alpert considered various ways that DC schools could accomplish this. “There are essentially 2 ways to include out-of-boundary, poorer children in the most exclusive public schools: make the schools bigger, and entice some in-boundary families to go elsewhere,” said Alpert. He noted that Mary Cheh was pushing to expand the highly regarded Deal Middle School in Tenleytown, and he explored the option of putting magnet schools in poorer neighborhoods and allotting space for some number of local kids, noting precedents in New York and Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The Greater Greater Washington series is worth reading for the comments alone: judging by the number of GGW’s readers who have been chiming in with opinions, experiences and points of comparison on every post, it seems like DC residents are hungry to discuss the state of DC public schools.

On this issue, several point out that DC is far from being able to consider a policy like the one Alpert outlines: even some of the better schools have a much higher percentage of poor students than those in Raleigh.

As one commenter said “The only conceivable solution to the problem of DCPS is that poor kids as a percentage of all students has to come down. Either by increasing the number of middle-class kids, reducing the number of poor kids, or both.”

We look forward to Alpert’s next post.

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This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/how_should_dc_schools_balance_diversity/5805.

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