More than a few of my fellow Wake County residents bristled at our liberal friend Chris Fitzsimon’s response to Allison Backhouse’s N&O article ” The Changes Wake Schools Need” (Citizen comments to Fitzsimon article here). While I too have problems with much of what Fitzsimon says, my biggest problem concerns the the following statement:
Backhouse also forgets to cite the large body of research that shows poor students perform better in economically diverse classrooms, ideally ones with no more than 40 percent poor kids. Middle class student do at least as well in the the diverse classes , and many do much better.
In my view, that statement is a pretty big leap. There may be some research, but the methodology in many studies supporting economic diversity has been brought into question. Richard Kahlenberg of the Century Foundation is one of the biggest national proponents of economic diversity. Most of his studies only measure the benefits. His studies fail to account for the entire impact of economic diversity (i.e. busing, community divisions, student transfers, transfers on student performance, costs associated with high concentrations of low income students etc.). These are the very factors that have forced many communities across the country to abandon efforts to achieve economic diversity in the schools.
While Fitzsimon expresses an unfounded confidence in economic diversity, he conveniently ignores legitimate criticisms about the plan’s results. He also ignores the fact that when members of the school board have asked for an evaluation of Wake’s own economic diversity plan, the School Board has adamantly refused to do so (See here) .
Confident in the results of economic diversity? It doesn’t seem like Wake County School Board members share Fitzsimon’s confidence.