Thursday, December 10, 2015

Why an Intentionally Diverse School Model Matters

It has been over sixty years since the Supreme Court concluded in Brown v. Board of Education “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal…” Today however, the promise of desegregated schools, and more broadly society, has been largely unrealized. Both nationally and locally, kids are regularly segregated by race and poverty via zip code and schools are as “inherently unequal” as the de jour segregation struck down in Brown. As a white man who attended New England public schools from Kindergarten through the twelfth grade this segregation is not surprising because public schools in the Northeast have been some of the most perniciously segregated in the country over the past thirty years. In contrast, Blackstone Valley Prep proactively addresses this segregation and brings rich, poor, black, white, and brown kids together in a public education setting where they can be even more successful because of our intentionally diverse model.

Recently Rhode Island released student achievement data that tells a story many could have predicted. The state’s urban districts that largely serve kids of color from lower socioeconomic means performed much lower than the state’s wealthiest and whitest districts. Blackstone Valley Prep was an exception to this. Our scholars exceeded statewide averages and those of our weighted sending districts, making BVP one of the highest achieving districts in the state. These results illustrate many benefits of an intentionally diverse school model, but two that are connected make it easy for me to work here.

First, the results highlight a fact largely ignored since the late 1980’s – concentrated poverty affects student outcomes. This is evident when comparing BVP’s scholars with peers from their traditional sending districts that sort kids by race and class. People typically ignore this because it is simpler to point to an individual kid’s family circumstances or an individual school rather than talk about the fact that our society is highly segregated by means. Second, but more importantly, these results prove that all kids can learn and be academically successful, regardless of zip code.

We must consider these facts and outcomes while reflecting on the broader landscape of education policy to develop appropriate, equal, and most importantly, inclusive education opportunities for all our kids. As a founding member of the National Coalition of Diverse Charter Schools Governing Board, I am excited about the opportunity to leverage lessons from BVP’s work while advocating for integrated public schools nationally. Ultimately, when more schools like BVP are truly successful, our kids can demonstrate that not only do they learn better together but also they can live better together too.

Michael DeMatteo is a resident of Pawtucket and the Chief Operations Officer for Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy. Mr. DeMatteo was recently named as a founding member of the National Coalition of Diverse Charter Schools Governing Board.

1 comment:

  1. Perhaps you can use your new position to advocate for diversity in Achievement First's mayoral academies. That would be a good place to start. Otherwise, this is just a pose.