Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Success Story's Last Chapter?

Dana Goldstein reports on going-ons in Northern Virginia, where shifts in student population may cause district lines to be redrawn, moving a largely White and wealthy subdivision (Wakefield Chapter) from Annandale High School (49 percent low-income and about one-third Latino, 29 percent white, 23 percent Asian, and 15 percent black) to Woodson High School (Two-thirds white and 6 percent low-income).

The interesting part of the debate is how it is shaking out within Wakefield Chapter. Parents of younger students support the move, believing that their students will benefit from it. But parents of students already in Annandale High -- and those students itself -- are stridently opposing it, pointing out to the immense benefits they've received from attending a diverse (and academically very successful high school).
This decision has opened up an interesting rift in the neighborhood. Parents of younger kids --those currently attending whiter, wealthier elementary and middle schools--are in favor of the switch to Woodson. They assume that their own already-privileged children will get more out of a high school experience learning alongside similar peers. But current Annandale High students and parents who live in Wakefield Chapel oppose the move, saying Annandale's diversity, school spirit, and challenging curriculum have shaped their lives in positive ways. In an online petition, they also mention that Wakefield Chapel parents are active volunteers at Annandale, and that rezoning those families to another high school would negatively impact the entire Annandale student body, especially low-income kids whose own parents aren't able to get involved at school.

Dozens of Annandale High families are actively opposing this rezoning, even though current students would all be allowed to finish their high school careers at the school. These parents and teens believe that keeping Annadale integrated is the right civic decision, the best policy for future generations.

This tracks findings common amongst scholars who study integrated schools (something becoming rarer and rarer as resegregation accelerates) -- products of these schools are consistently laudatory of their experience and how it helped enable them to be at ease in multi-racial settings (or where they themselves are in the minority), preparing them for an increasingly globalized and multi-cultural workforce. The major blight on such schools was that minority students were dispirited by the contrast between their integrated educational lives and their lives outside the school doors which remained largely separate and unequal.

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