A study of the importance of school integration to the improvement of prospects for black and Hispanic children.
With the goal of inspiring action among parents, educators, and policymakers, Johnson (Public Policy/Univ. of California, Berkeley; co-author: Mother’s Work and Children’s Lives: Low-Income Families after Welfare Reform, 2010) draws on persuasive longitudinal studies to advocate a three-tiered strategy to counter racism and social inequality: integrated schools, school finance reform, and high-quality preschool. “If mediocre education is a malign force threatening the nation,” he writes, then achieving integrated classrooms is nothing less than “a fight for our collective future that we can and must win.” Himself a “third-generation benefactor” of school reform policies, he has a personal as well as professional stake in reversing segregation. He warns, however, that no single reform offers a silver bullet for improving education, and none should be assessed too quickly. “We implement some new whiz-bang reform,” he writes, “let it run its course for a little while, but then become impatient because things haven’t improved as much as we wanted them to.” Johnson advises patience and a commitment to examining long-term impacts of such changes as equitable school funding and pre-kindergarten programs. Looking at data to determine children’s later-life success, the author asserts that Head Start, for example, when funded adequately, leads to positive educational outcomes for low-income children; but outcomes are poor when funding is low. Similarly, he correlates children’s access to health care as crucial when evaluating school reforms: “Healthier children,” he asserts, “are better learners,” underscoring “the interrelationship between early childhood investments in health and public school spending.” Integration, of course, has been at the center of much debate, and Johnson recounts the violent reaction to Brown v. Board of Education, efforts by school districts to undermine integration once their legislative mandate was lifted, and white communities’ creation of “charter districts” for their own residents. Racially and economically diverse neighborhoods, argues the author persuasively, are crucial to successful school reform.
A cogent and cleareyed analysis of a persistent problem.