Divided by Design: Race, Neighborhoods, Wealth and Schools

Have You Heard sits down with Richard Rothstein, author of The Color of Law: The Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America. It’s a ground-breaking, mind-changing book, and you should read it, but in the meantime, we’ve helpfully distilled Rothstein’s 10 years of work down to 30+ minutes. He blows up the myth that our segregated cities and neighborhoods—and by extension our schools—are the product of millions of private choices. The legacy of the segregation created by federal housing policy remains with us today in the form of a stark racial wealth gap and what Rothstein describes as a “caste system.” And he has little patience for arguments that school choice is the solution to cities and neighborhoods segregated by design. “We’re not going to solve this problem by choosing schools were going to solve this problem by enforcing the neighborhood school concept in integrated neighborhoods.” Full transcript here.

Big Philanthropy, Small Change (and the same mistakes made again and again)

Have You Heard revisits Bill Gates’ efforts to *rethink* American high schools. Writer Michael Hobbes spent two weeks embedded at his former high school, Seattle’s Nathan Hale High School, chronicling the school’s transformation into small learning communities in this feature story. Inspired by what he saw at Hale High, and the role of teachers in re-imagining the school, Hobbes delved deep into what happened when Gates et al tried to scale up the small schools reforms. His story, recounted in episode #25, is a scathing indictment of big money reformers who think school improvement is simple work, requiring only the right *fix* and deep pockets. Did I mention that Hobbes wrote a great story? I recommend making this episode of Have You Heard a multimedia experience… Full transcript is available here.

The Next Generation of Math Whizzes is in Our Urban Schools

Meet BEAM: an experimental program for middle-school math whizzes—low income gifted students who get overlooked…

By Emil Friedman
Lynn Cartwright-Punnett looks at advanced, extracurricular math in the same way that David Brooks looks at Italian deli meats: cultural capital standing between lower-income folks and entrance to America’s elite – but for her, it’s the world of hyper-charged mathematicians and computer scientists, not soppressata and the New Yorker, she’s working to equalize access to.

Ms. Cartwright-Punnett is the Director of Programs and Development for Bridge to Enter Advanced Mathematics (known simply as “BEAM”), a three-week summer math camp held at private colleges in upstate New York, tuition-free, for lower-income public middle schoolers from the city. BEAM serves hundreds of students per summer, offering them a choice of elective college-level math classes (combinatorics, anyone?) alongside high school standardized test prep.

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Education Can’t Fix Poverty (So why do we keep insisting that it can?)

Have You Heard talks to historian Harvey Kantor, the author of this excellent history, about how education came to be seen as THE fix for poverty. Hint: it all starts in the 1960’s with the advent of the Great Society programs. Fast forward to the present and our belief that education can reduce poverty and narrow the nation’s yawning inequality chasm is stronger than ever. And yet education, argues Kantor, is actually exacerbating income inequality. In episode #24, Have You Heard welcomes back co-host Jack Schneider—well, sort of! 

The Mismeasure of Schools: Data, Real Estate and Segregation

Have You Heard Episode #23: The Mismeasure of Schools: Data, Real Estate and Segregation

In this episode, Jennifer Berkshire and Jack Schneider discuss how test scores and other current metrics distort our picture of school quality, often fostering segregation in the process. What would a better set of measures include? Our intrepid hosts venture inside an urban elementary school to find out. You can read the entire transcript here, and be sure to check out Jack’s new book, which is really the star of the latest episode.