Gentrification Provides an Opportunity to Diversify Urban Schools

Segregated schools are an enduring problem in urban America. But with young affluent (often white) professionals flocking to cities, and enrolling their children in public schools, a historic opportunity exists to create diverse schools.
April 18, 2013, 5am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Emily Badger examines how smart school placement policies could help improve educational outcomes for low-income and minority students in America's cities, and facilitate the integration of entire neighborhoods. 

As gentrification sweeps through some urban neighborhoods, "cities and school districts have a narrow window to figure out how to leverage the arrival of affluent families willing to bet on public schools before this newfound diversity in their classrooms disappears," says Badger. "The school districts in Seattle, San Francisco, Louisville, Raleigh, New York City and Boston have all been working on this question lately, rethinking how they assign children to schools and what 'school choice' should mean."

"If school systems could figure out how to create diverse schools amid gentrification, that might also enable what Jennifer Stillman, the author of Gentrification and Schools, calls the missing piece in most gentrifying neighborhoods: 'meaningful social interaction' between a neighborhood's new arrivals and its existing residents. These two groups are likely to go to different restaurants, different churches, even different grocery stores," adds Badger.

"'But schools, to me, are the one place in the community that really are the anchors of the neighborhoods where meaningful social interaction can happen,' Stillman says. Integrate schools, in other words, and that might help better integrate the neighborhoods around them."

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Published on Wednesday, April 17, 2013 in The Atlantic Cities
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