Last week, the News & Observer’s Linda Darnell Williams contextualized the prospect of resegregation in Wake County Schools—which, as media reports have recently noted, is an increasingly real proposition not only in Wake County but around the country as deliberate efforts to diversify student populations in the wake of Brown v. Board of Ed begin to wane.

The news that Wake County is backing away from its diversity policy is “very sad,” [New York Times magazine reporter Nicole] Hannah-Jones said in a recent conversation. She noted that Wake’s economic diversity policy was held up as a national model.

Any move toward resegregation is distressing, she said, because “the record is very clear that when districts resegregate, education plummets without exception.”

All Wake has to do, she said, is look at Charlotte, which rapidly saw more racial segregation in schools after it was released from court-ordered busing.

The N&O’s Keung Hui recently reported that Wake County has seen a doubling in the number of racially-isolated and high poverty schools, which have increased by more than 150 percent in the last seven years.

In 2010 and 2011, a Republican-dominated Wake school board made changes that undid parts of a decade-old busing system intended to make Wake’s schools more diverse. Previously the county assigned students to schools sometimes far away from home in an effort to limit high concentrations of low-income student populations inside one school building.  Citing parental frustration over children attending schools far from home, the board dropped the socioeconomic diversity requirement from the county’s school assignment policy and adopted a ‘choice model’ that continued to cause confusion and controversy.

Today, Wake’s school board is now dominated by Democrats — but its members appear to be unwilling to reverse the previous board’s decisions. Citing the tumult parents parents and students endured from the old school assignment policies, the board seems to favor pouring more money into low-performing schools—which, as Keung reports, typically have high numbers of students from low-income families.

Darnell Williams says she’s worried that efforts to redirect extra resources to these newly resegregated schools won’t ultimately be a promise that’s kept.

Instead of taking action to foster integration, lawmakers and many school leaders promise additional resources to schools with concentrations of poor and minority students. The evidence is not convincing that sufficient resources are forthcoming. Talk of volunteers reading to low-income students is laudable, but it won’t have the impact of smaller classes and highly qualified teachers – resources that cost money.

Within the context of resegregation, it’s important to highlight the fact that North Carolina has entered into a new phase of school accountability. Schools are now awarded letter grades ranging from A-F based largely on students’ performance on standardized tests. Schools that perform poorly don’t get extra resources in this new system; they just get a slap on the wrist by way of requiring them to send a letter to parents informing them of their failing grades.

There’s a distinct correlation between racially isolated, high poverty schools and the likelihood they’ll receive a D or F from the state. Countless studies document the fact that poorer students perform worse than their richer counterparts on standardized tests. As such, schools with greater concentrations of low-income students will have a hard time getting As or Bs, unless lawmakers decide to change the metric to favor how students grow over time, rather than their performance on a test on only one day.

And when talking resegregation, also worth flagging is this: while North Carolina sees more and more predominantly high poverty schools reenter the picture, Rep. Rob Bryan is working behind the scenes on a proposal to allow for-profit charter school operators to take over failing public schools. While some say new approaches are necessary to interrupt the cycle of schools failing poor kids, others are concerned that allowing charter operators with fewer accountability requirements could do more harm than good.

Could a lack of willingness to keep schools diverse give way to to the privatization of North Carolina’s worst-performing schools?

Stay tuned.


The Public School Forum of NC announced Wednesday it’s forming a new study group — and, possibly, a new center — to seek solutions to racial inequities and unfair funding formulas found in North Carolina’s schools.

Using the following question as the foundation for its work, “what would it take to provide every child in North Carolina with the opportunity to receive a sound basic education?” the group, comprising educators, government officials, business leaders and subject area experts, will develop policies and best practices to this end.

“There has been much more of an emphasis and a growing body of research on many things that have been affecting academic achievement, and one of the big ones is racial segregation and its impact on our schools today,” said the Public School Forum’s executive director, Keith Poston.

Poston said recent conversations and news stories around some of North Carolina’s school systems resegregating more than forty years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s integration orders prompted conversations at the Public School Forum focused on where schools are headed in terms of racial equity.

We were feeling that this is something that’s becoming a huge issue,” said Poston.

The study group will be helmed by former history teacher and NC Teacher of the Year James E. Ford, a recent hire of the Public School Forum who is now serving as its program director. Co-heading the study group will be the Forum’s Senior Director of Policy & Programs, Joe Ableidinger.

Members of the study group will hone in on the following three topic areas (listed below), with the hope of producing a report next spring that will provide the basis for the work of the proposed North Carolina Center for Educational Opportunity, housed within the Forum (contingent on funding):

  • Racial Equity – What obstacles stand in the way of ensuring that North Carolina children of all races have the opportunity to receive a sound basic education? How can these obstacles be overcome?
  • Trauma and Learning –What policies and practices can improve educators’ understanding of and responses to the impacts of traumatic childhood experiences on learning, such that even our most vulnerable children have the opportunity to receive a sound basic education?
  • School Funding – What school financing alternatives exist to efficiently target educational dollars where they are needed most? Are there alternatives to our current school finance system that may help boost long-term outcomes of all students, particularly those who are currently not well-served?

Focusing on ways to prepare teachers whose students are dealing with trauma is an especially important subject area, said Poston, as students in poverty (and the majority of NC students are poor) often have out-of-classroom experiences that provoke feelings of post-traumatic stress, leaving them unable to focus in school.

The Public School Forum has produced numerous reports looking at teacher recruitment and retention, digital learning, accountability and assessments, and other subject areas.

Back in 2005, the Forum addressed the issue of school finance and how best to respond to the Leandro ruling mandating that all children have the opportunity to receive a sound basic education.

Christine Kushner

Christine Kushner

A new letter to the editor from Wake County school board chair Christine Kushner does a nice job of debunking the typically off-base claims of former school board member John Tedesco that appeared in a recent Raleigh News & Observer article.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Tedesco is now claiming that he and his fellow conservative members who (along with former Superintendent and novelist A.J. Tata) tried so mightily to destroy Wake County’s longstanding and successful efforts to diversify its schools, have been vindicated by the current board’s decision not to institute yet another massive and disruptive reassignment of students since coming to power.

As Kushner writes:

“The current Wake County school board brought stability to a system that was in chaos under the leadership of former board member John Tedesco, who was widely quoted in your article.

Your piece did not highlight the resegregating effects of Tedesco’s 2011 countywide choice plan, which also broke the school system’s overextended transportation system. When the current board did away with Tedesco’s choice scheme, members did not uproot children from their school assignments the way Tedesco and his colleagues did in their 2010 and 2011 plans. Instead, the board instituted a ‘stay where you start’ policy to bring much-needed stability to families after several tumultuous years.

As for Tedesco’s embrace of community diversity, Read More


Be sure to check out the #1 trending story on the Washington Post this morning — it’s entitled “White parents in North Carolina are using charter schools to secede from the education system.”

After detailing the battle over charters and the promise that even many progressives see in them, the article notes:

“The most recent cautionary tale comes from North Carolina, where professors at Duke have traced a troubling trend of resegregation since the first charters opened in 1997. They contend that North Carolina’s charter schools have become a way for white parents to secede from the public school system, as they once did to escape racial integration orders.

‘They appear pretty clearly to be a way for white students to get out of more racially integrated schools,’ said economics professor Helen Ladd, one of the authors of the draft report released Monday.

Charter schools in North Carolina tend to be either overwhelmingly black or overwhelmingly white—in contrast to traditional public schools, which are more evenly mixed.”

And this is the summary from the new report that Ladd authored along with Professors Charles Clotfelter and John Holbein, “The Growing Segmentation of the Charter School Sector in North Carolina”: Read More


During these past few busy months you may have missed the launch of ProPublica‘s “Segregation Now,” which takes a deep look at how how America’s schools have steadily resegregated since the Brown v. Board of Education federal ruling that was handed down sixty years ago.

The ProPublica series begins with Nikole Hannah-Jones’ investigation of Tuscaloosa’s city schools, which are among the most rapidly resegregating in the country. Not only is the story enriched with a beautiful visual layout and great interactive graphics, Hannah-Jones compels readers to put themselves into the shoes of the Dent family.

The Dents are a multi-generational family that has lived through it all in Tuscaloosa: Jim Crow-era public school segregation, the eventual efforts to desegregate after Brown, and today’s reality: public schools are moving back toward resegregation, and what that means for today’s Tuscaloosan youth.

Alabama is not alone in this trajectory. For example, here in North Carolina’s Pitt County, the issue of public school segregation has been front and center.

Pitt County has been under desegregation orders since 1965, when the federal court found that the district was operating racially-segregated, dual and unconstitutional school systems.

Pitt’s African American population stands today around 34 percent — but in its 35 public schools, African-American students make up the majority, according to district records. In 2012-13, close to 48 percent of its students were black, 38 percent white, and 10 percent Latino.

Last fall, a U.S. District Court judge lifted desegregation orders, finding the school district to have fully complied and achieved “unitary status,” or had fully desegregated its public school system.

An appeal of that decision will be heard in September the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Until then, check out the entire ProPublica series, “Segregation Now,” while you cool off by the pool this weekend.