Administrators at McCaskey East High School believe that segregation may be a good thing.
The Pennsylvania high school is raising a huge, justified controversy by claiming that separating black students from the rest of their students, and black females from black males will lead to better results.
According to Angela Tilghman, an instructional coach at McCaskey East, about a third of McCaskey’s African American students scored proficient or advanced in reading on last year’s Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests, compared with 60% of white students. In mathematics, 27% of black students scored proficient or advanced.
To address this gap, East McCaskey has segregated its homeroom classes. For six minutes each day and 20 minutes twice a month, African American students are placed in homerooms with African American teachers, or mentors, to start the school day.
Despite much criticism, Principal Bill Jimenez defends his experimental policy. Jimenez said that research has shown that same-race classes with strong same-race role models lead to better academic results.
Interestingly, ONLY African American students are divided by race at the school. Jimenez claims this is because the academic data dictated the school needed a different approach with its black students.
Lancaster Online quotes several students who have found this “program” helpful. Junior Dominique Miller said that his new homeroom has helped address common stereotypes about black males. “Now…other people can see my brothers, the people I’m associated with in this homeroom, are hoping to better themselves, and the teachers are hoping to better themselves,” he said. “It’s about empowering who you really are.”
But is this really the best and only way to empower young people of all races and backgrounds? Promoting segregation is a dangerous way to reduce the achievement gap, and can be a slippery slope.
In Wake County, North Carolina, segregation is occurring for more than just six minutes a day. With the backing of their conservative school board and the Tea Party, the school system’s decade long diversity policy is ending. In the past, Wake County used the number of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches to assign students to schools. This meant that some of its best schools existed in low income neighborhoods of Raleigh and the suburban districts included low-income families who couldn’t afford to live in the neighborhood.
The new plan to employ a “neighborhood schools system” will concentrate poor children into just a few schools by only allowing them to attend their neighborhood school. So far, this has resulted in 700 initial student transfers which has already increased racial segregation.
“School boards across this country are rolling the clock back to the time before Brown vs. the Board of Education,” NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous said in a statement.
It appears that we are forgetting why we did away with segregation to begin with. What happened to the idea that diversity and equality are essential to education? That separate educational facilities are inherently unequal?
Segregation is not a new, innovative concept, but an approach that has proved detrimental to our school system, to low-income families, to African Americans, and to society at large.