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What We Took Away from New York Times Magazine’s Expansive Education Issue

Subscribers to the weekend edition of The New York Times have now had a few days to comb through the newspaper’s magazine which dedicated its most recent issue to the state of the country’s education system.

If you’re not yet a subscriber, you’re urged to pick up a copy or set aside some time online to read through the issue’s expansive coverage with a driving narrative that focuses on race and inequality in the country’s schools.

The issue’s cover story highlights a news story that we’ve touched on, diving deep into a small Alabama community's effort to separate from its school district.

You may have heard about the case involving Gardendale, a predominantly white community, that pushed to secede from its more diverse school district. Gardendale’s population of 14,000 is 88 percent white, though the city lies in Jefferson County, which has a population of 658,000 and is roughly 53 percent white and 42 percent black.

The author of The Resegregation of Jefferson County, Nikole Hannah-Jones takes a magnifying look at the historical complexity of the case and federal judge Madeline Haikalal's begrudging ruling in favor of the community's motion to secede from the Jefferson County school system. The judge cited that if she didn’t grant the school permission she feared its black students would bear the backlash and be made to feel even more unwelcome.

“Evidence shows that Haikalal has reason to be concerned,” wrote Hannah-Jones. “A 2011 Stanford University study showed that a wave of resegregation has flowed across the South as courts have released school districts from the desegregation orders.” Hannah-Jones goes on to point out that nearby Tuscaloosa is among the “most rapidly segregated school systems in the country.”

The shift in the racial makeup of the nation’s schools becomes even more highlighted in the magazine’s feature, Education By The Numbers.

It’s been 60 years since the Supreme Court passed the ruling of Brown v The Board of Education, and while things have changed, they haven’t changed at the same time.

It’s expected that by 2025 students of color will be the majority of high school graduates, though they could be graduating from a school that’s lacking in diversity.

School integration following Brown v The Board of Education peaked in 1988 and since then certain schools throughout the country have begun to see student body populations increasingly be made up of predominantly one race. Author Alice Yin points out that since 1988, the enrollment of black students in majority white schools in the South has fallen from 43 percent to 23 percent in 2011.

It’s also a statistic that isn’t limited strictly to the South. In New York City, nearly 82 percent of black students attend segregated schools where white students make up less than 10 percent of the population.

This trickles down to inequality in resources as well. Schools that have majority black or Latino students were found to receive less funding and have twice as many first-year teachers as schools without significant black and Latino populations.

Addressing these issues will be a difficult fix in the current political climate, but the articles provide further proof that fulfilling the goals of Brown v The Board of Education and making a good education equally accessible to all is an ongoing process.


Article by Joel Stice, Education World Contributor

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