What do zoning laws, progressive teachers unions and community organizing all have in common? They were all part of the conversation today during a WFPL education news special.
Many urban school districts with large student populations perform lower than their peers. Graduation rates and state test scores are dismal in areas like Chicago and Detroit where around 90 percent of students are low-income.
In Jefferson County Public Schools test scores and graduation rates are regularly below the state average.
As part of The Next Louisville education project, we put together a panel to discuss the challenges urban school district’s face and what some areas are doing to turn around student achievement. (Listen to the full show below).
Among the participants is University of California at Los Angeles professor Dr. Gary Orfield, who is co-director of the UCLA Civil Rights Project.
Orfield says there needs to be a much more rational way to reward good teachers and principals who take assignments in lower-performing schools.
“There’s a systematic movement of teachers, good teachers [moving] out of the most impoverished schools into the most advantaged schools because they’re punished if they stay in the disadvantaged schools and their rewarded as in thought to be great teachers if they go to the ones that need them the least.”
Panel member and JCPS school board chair Diane Porter says the district has a good working relationship with the Jefferson County Teachers Association and contract negotiations will be discussed later this year.
City University of New York professor Jean Anyon argues that local zoning laws need to be improved to prevent socio-economic disparities in communities, which she calls discrimination on the basis of social class.
“Local zoning laws prevent multi-unit dwellings and small lots in wealthy neighborhoods. So one of the things that needs to be done to de-concentrate poverty and to spread out the isolated population is to change these zoning laws so that lower-income people can have places to move to,” she says.
The panel also included University of Louisville’s Craig Hochbein.