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Desegregation: METCO and the Nation

Page history last edited by Isidra Francis 12 years, 2 months ago

Desegregation: METCO and the Nation






"Clearly there is no magic in sitting next to a white child that suddenly transforms the non-white child into a better student. Rather, the assumptions have to do with styles of learning, reinforcement, level of expectations and modeling. In brief, the ghetto child enters school with a ‘style of learning’ which does not generally facilitate school success…In contrast, when the ghetto child is placed in a suburban school, his crystallized pattern is confronted with new situations and reactions…."


                                                            -Thomas W. Mahan, "The Busing of Students for Equal Opportunities"


"Nothing has really changed since 1954."


                              - Elicia R., Mother of a former METCO student


"We're still waiting for change, for equality in education."


                              - Nancy J., Academic Coordinator of Earthen Vessels Tutoring Program in Boston


In this section, we examine desegregation efforts in Massachusetts with an emphasis on METCO. 

Read the full paper


Policy Research

According to Guryan, there was not an organized, nation-wide campaign to desegregation public schools in the United States. Instead, private civil rights groups brought a series of court cases and the court cases led to the most effective desegregation efforts. All regional, cohort, and educational groups have increased tolerance for school desegregation in principle. As Cataldo points out, school desegregation has been one of America's most salient social and political problems: While achieving school desegregation in the South was largely a matter of enforcing the lawyers, outside the South, school segregation was long thought to be based on residential segregation and not legal action. Pettigrew argues there are three social factors behind the issue: Discontinuities of social change, altered nature of racial discrimination, racial discrimination in many forms, and racial attitude changes. Finally, according to Guryan, desegregation plans affect black dropout rates through three main channels. First, the reassignment of students within the school district affects the set of peers with which students attend school; second, desegregation plans move black students to better schools; third, there are other effects of desegregation plans on black educational outcomes.

Read the full paper


Contemporary Politics of Integration

Fifty-five years after the passing of Brown v. Board, and despite years of struggle for greater equity in education, America's schools remain starkly divided along racial lines.  Furthermore, with the average academic achievement of minority students still below that of their white peers, the premise of "separate but equal" is as much a fallacy today as it was in the era of Plessy v. Furguson.  Despite persistent racial segregation and inequality in the system, recent legal decisions have increasingly restricted school districts in their ability to enact desegregation policies.  Given the contemporary political climate, policy-makers may need to consider new options for improving the educational opportunities for students of color.  Already, in cities across the country, a shift is occurring from forced or voluntary integration policies to programs that focus on educating children in their home neighborhoods.

Read the full paper



Contemporary Politics of Metco

Based in Boston and Springfield, METCO is a voluntary busing program whose mission is to provide both educational and cultural opportunities to Boston’s urban and suburban students.  METCO allows parents from inside Boston to enroll their children in suburban schools, whose parents choose to accept students from Boston (METCO website).  In this Wiki, I will explore two contemporary views of METCO.  To the people who are focused on integration, METCO is seen as progress towards getting black and brown children in the same classrooms as white children, and thus ensuring that they receive the same education.  For people focused on educational quality, METCO is seen as a very small and problematic band-aid that is draining resources from the root problem, which is that minority children in Boston are not getting a good or fair education. While integration and quality may not seem to be at odds, because of political realities, integration and quality education at scale are essentially mutually exclusive.  I conclude that while METCO does provide a limited number of students with an opportunity to learn next to students of other races, and while it does significantly raise graduation rates and college-going rates and provide an academic experience that does not currently exist in the city (A Salute to METCO), it is not a solution.  The motives of the urban students and parents speak: it is good education that Boston needs, more than integration.  While ideally these would not be mutually exclusive, in Boston, in 2009, at scale, they essentially are.  METCO is a problematic yet worthwhile band-aid for a small percentage of students, but it is not a solution to the fundamental problem: lack of opportunity for low-income students of color in Boston.

Read the full paper.


Policy Recommendations

As mentioned above, policy makers should not scale up the METCO program due to the emotional toll it takes on students. Instead, policy makers should put resources into programs that seek to better serve students in their own community. One possibility for such a program would be a promise neighborhood modeled the Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ). A promise neighborhood would provide better opportunities for low income students of color as it would not have the emotional costs associated with METCO, better address the emotional needs of children, and broaden the scope of educational opportunities available to children of low-income neighborhood. Furthermore, a promise neighborhood would be able to serve all students in the neighborhood, whereas METCO would struggle to grow to scale to serve the entire neighborhood. One final benefit of a promise neighborhood as compared to METCO is that METCO sends the message to low-income communities that they are incapable of educating their children, whereas a promise neighborhood sends a far more positive message to these communities. Three major barriers to bring a promise neighborhood to Boston would be the availability of private funds as 64% of HCZ' funding is private, finding a charismatic leader to match HCZ founder Geoffrey Canada, and finding a way to keep bureaucracy out of any government-affiliated promise neighborhood. Nevertheless, the Harlem Children's Zone provides a better model for improving educational opportunities for low-income students of color. 

Read the full paper.

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