Exclusion keeps suburban schools on top

U. KANSAS (US) — By hoarding opportunity and keeping a tight grip on gained advantages, suburban schools have remained superior—at the expense of their urban counterparts, according to a new study.

“Basically, it’s rules of exclusion,” says John Rury, professor of education leadership and policy studies at the University of Kansas.

“Many suburbs are almost a textbook case of people doing that. They are often marketed as ‘exclusive neighborhoods’.”

Suburban schools have not always had advantages over their urban counterparts, according to the study that includes US Census data from 1940, 1960, and 1980.

“In the ’40s, urban schools were it. They were the best schools,” Rury says. “Forty years later, it was just the opposite.”

For the study, published in the American Journal of Education, researchers studied samples of 17-year-old students in grade 11 or higher in each census year in the northeast United States. The data linked the students to their parents and gave indications of their family status including income, place of residence, whether they lived in a single family home, and other social indicators.

Previous research studying the suburbanization of America, cites factors including white flight, declines of urban tax base, and the loss of jobs as factors that lead people to move to suburban neighborhoods.

Competitive neighborhoods by nature, suburbs started using schools to market themselves to potential residents in the decades after World War II. Suburban neighborhoods were able to exclude certain populations from moving in through exclusionary tactics such as higher home prices.

“The historical organization of suburban school districts, distinct from their urban counterparts, permitted exclusion of children without requisite social and economic resources, creating the conditions for educational inequality across community lines,” the researchers write.

Social factors play heavily in the improvement of suburban schools as well. Largely affluent neighborhoods saw positive benefits to their school multiply, while city center schools, often more burdened by poverty and single parent homes showed the opposite.

Those factors prevent urban dwellers from moving to the suburbs and their associated better schools, perpetuating the cycle, the study finds.

Surprisingly, Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark Supreme Court case outlawing racial segregation of schools, and following cases did not make an immediate impact in the north and west United States.

Milliken v. Bradley, a 1974 Supreme Court case dealing with school integration, stated suburban schools did not have to be integrated unless it could be proven that they contributed to the segregation of urban schools. Southern schools were primarily organized in countywide school districts, which resulted in earlier integration.

A change in federal education policy is necessary to combat the education disparities, the study argues. Title 1, a program established in the 1960s to fight school inequality, has done little to bridge the educational gap. Federal policy similar to Title 1 should focus on cities at the core of the nation¹s metropolitan areas.

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chat6 Comments


  1. Dr. O'

    I do not see how higher home prices can be seen as an exclusionary tactic. The process of giving loans to people who could not repay them leads to economic chaos, as we see now. Ambition and desire to achieve are necessary before you can get most material things. The attitude ‘I’m smarter than you idiots’ doesn’t hurt either.

  2. Mick Alonso

    I have never heard of such a bigoted study in my life. The assumption that one group can only get better results than another by some implied evil means is simply the green monster at work.

    Grow up. Hard work , luck and ambition make “better” neighbourhoods. They simply can’t all be equal: or is that the undercurrent I detect. Better to have every school mediocre, so one group doesn’t feel left out, than allow one group to strive to be better.

  3. e green

    Neither entire neighborhoods, nor individual homeowners, get to magically sell a house at any price it/they wish – with the intent to “exclude” people – or any other anthropomorphic emotion that might be ascribed to a “neighborhood”. (The concept is as ridiculous as saying a virus makes its host sick because it “hates” the host.)

    Homeowners can ask anything they want for their house – a million bucks, let’s say. But they can only sell it for what a willing buyer will pay. And what a buyer is willing to pay is based on what benefits the neighborhood can provided (which, unsurprisingly, might include a good school). This is not “exclusion” on the part of the neighborhood. Quite the opposite – it represents free choice on the part of homebuyers.

    If a home were offered for less than what buyers are willing to pay, would this study characterize it, not as mistake, but as an attempt by the neighborhood to be non-exclusionary? And, if the home then receives multiple “overbids”, would this study cite this as the “exclusionary intent” of his anthropomorphic neighborhood? Jeez. The theory works great! All we need is a government-mandated “appreciating diversity” program to train all these mean neighborhoods to quit using the word “exclusive” and become more sensitive!

    OR the writer and author could watch the movie “Superman”. It explains some of the problems with education, neighborhoods, and our “failure factories” called schools that destroy neighborhoods (not the other way around), in a simple animated cartoon-style format they might understand. A little real-world experience, perhaps as an assistant in a real estate office, might also do some good.

  4. Mrs J

    I’m sorry, are we all reading the same article here. What is being discussed in this article is the residual effect of systemic racism on current federal education policy. If you can understand what happened during the suburbanization of America then what is being implied in this article will be clear as day. This a lot deeper than home owners and loans. Come on folks lets keep it real.

  5. Mick Alonso

    Stop at your second sentence: “systematic racism” . Is making such a dagger filled referance supposed to make you feel like an enlightened one? Who are you trying to impress?

    Trying to create controvesy, in the hope of getting more federal funds to prove nothing, is a worthy occupation-NOT.

  6. Chris Dowell

    As I read this post and the comments, I have come to the conclusion that until rich people give up everything they have, there will be inequality in education. Hmm . . . another approach is if all public schools get the same amount of money per pupil to educate their students, why do the rich students get smarter?

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