Friday, February 20, 2015

How Gentrification Is Leaving Public Schools Behind - US News

How Gentrification Is Leaving Public Schools Behind - US News:

How Gentrification Is Leaving Public Schools Behind

Urban neighborhoods are diversifying, but traditional schools are not reflecting the changes.

WASHINGTON – Ellington Turner and his mother, Marlece, began to cry.
The seventh-grader had just gotten word that his school, MacFarland Middle School in Washington, D.C.’s fast-gentrifying Petworth neighborhood, would be closed following the 2012-2013 school year.
That year, MacFarland, the only public middle school in Petworth, was one of 15 Washington public schools scheduled to be closed.
For the Turners, and for some of their fellow Petworth residents, the neighborhood school had been a comfort, even though the students’ test scores often lagged behind D.C. averages.
“We didn’t have a voice in the closings of the schools. [The city] said we had a voice, but I think in the long run they knew a year in advance they were closing the schools, and we were blindsided,” Marlece said while recounting her experiences in 2012 on a radio show last May.
Since 2008, about 40 public schools in the District of Columbia have closed or have been targeted for shutdowns, in many cases in favor of charter schools. The chief reason, according to the District, has been low enrollment.
But coinciding with closings, the city’s population has been changing.
Washington, D.C., had been the first American city to have a majority black population. That majority held for more than 50 years before the city’s black population fell below 50 percent in 2011.
Over the past 20 years or so, the nation’s capital, similar to many American cities, experienced the urban phenomenon of gentrification: the movement of largely middle-class, often white Americans back into cities, often choosing areas with low living costs, typically populated with minority residents.
Petworth is one such neighborhood undergoing these changes. Locally owned coffee shops and freshly paved bike lanes dot the landscape, which has seen the percentage of its once heavily black population plummet over the past decade.
One of the least understood impacts of gentrification is its role in a neighborhood’s education system. While proponents of gentrification cite a range of positive impacts, including decreased crime rates and increased property values, the impacts on traditional neighborhood schools are murkier.
“We believe [the school closings] are all part of the bigger picture of what’s happening here in the city and among cities around the country that have high populations of people of color where neighborhoods are rapidly gentrifying,” said Daniel del Pielago, the education organizer for a group called Empower DC that specializes in rallying residents around community causes. “To us, what we’re seeing is that a lot of these schools that are being closed are in areas where gentrification is How Gentrification Is Leaving Public Schools Behind - US News: