Fascinating article in last Sunday's New York Times Magazine about new efforts to integrate school districts by class, now that the Supreme Court has outlawed assignments based on race.
While the issue is probably irrelevant in much of Baltimore City, where many white, middle class parents send their children to private schools, I could see it having legs in diverse suburban districts like Baltimore County and Anne Arundel County.
The article raises a host of interesting questions: How many poor students can a majority-affluent school accommodate without a perceived decline in quality? A significant number, the researchers quoted conclude. What conditions need to be in place for class-based integration to work? A Harvard economist says affluent and poor students must be together not only in the same building, but also in the same classes. If the poor kids are all put in low-level classes, it defeats the purpose. Will class-based integration lead to racial integration? In some cases yes, in others no.
The article mentions at least one school system where economics-based school assignments seem to be working. In Wake County, N.C., the system ensures that no more than 40 percent of students at a school come from a low-income area, and no more than 25 percent speak English as a second language. Test scores have improved among both black students and poor students. But in San Francisco, a diversity plan based on socioeconomics has resulted in racial resegregation of schools.