Do parents drive past neighborhood schools for reasons other than race?

Patti Ghezzi is a former education journalist who now works in university communications. In this column, Ghezzi responds to DeKalb parent and writer Abby Norman who wrote a an essay for Huffington Post on why white parents in her gentrifying DeKalb neighborhood shun the local elementary school, which is majority African-American. Norman’s daughter attends the school and loves it.

Her piece —  Why White Parents Won’t Choose Black Schools” — has spurred a spirited debate in Atlanta. Parents in her neighborhood have been trying to win approval from DeKalb to start a charter school, but Norman questions why they haven’t given their local school a chance.

Norman writes:

When I am able to move past the anger, the frustration that people are talking about a school they know nothing about, I listen to what they say. Behind all the test score talk, the opportunity mumbo jumbo that people lead with, I feel like what is actually being said, and what is never being said is this: That school is too black.

The people who are moving into my neighborhood want their children to have a diverse upbringing, but not too diverse. They still want a white school, just with other non-white children also participating. They want to go to the Christmas pageant and not have their white sensibilities violated because the other parents are too loud and boisterous and it makes them uncomfortable, for really no good reason. They don’t want their kid to notice her whiteness in Pre-k and then find out while addressing that question, that while they already own great books about diversity, the only children’s books specifically about whiteness are published by the KKK. They don’t want their child to ask them why Quintavious’s sister says she doesn’t like white people. They don’t want to have to wonder when the teacher calls, if they are getting extra attention because white parents are often perceived as overbearing. They want diversity, just not too much.

Ghezzi’s piece continues the dialogue.

By Patti Ghezzi

I’m happy for the south DeKalb mom who sent her white child to her neighborhood elementary school where the vast majority of students are black. Her daughter loves her school, as do her parents. That is a win. Congratulations!

NO CAPTION

But I don’t see how accusing neighbors of eschewing the school because it’s too black advances efforts to integrate and improve our schools. It gets people talking, but in my experience parents already talk ad nauseam about the lengths we go to educate our children.

Dontae Andrews, principal at my neighborhood school, Avondale Elementary, has a better approach. Now in his second year, Andrews doesn’t lash out at those of us who don’t send our kids to his school, which is also mostly African-American. Instead, he and his staff work hard to connect with neighborhood families, most of whom are white, and improve the school so local parents will choose Avondale Elementary over charter schools, private schools and other schools offered through DeKalb’s school choice program.

Andrews smiles when neighbors come by to drop off cash, school supplies, uniforms and books. “We’re having STEM Day,” he told me recently when I stopped by unannounced. “Let me show you around.” He was wearing a tie emblazoned with science images. He led me by classrooms where kids were building bridges and vehicles out of Legos.

I live around the corner from the school, yet I drive past Avondale Elementary every day on my way to International Community School, a charter school my daughter has attended for three-and-a-half years.

I sent her to Avondale Elementary for pre-k, and she enjoyed the experience. But the playground was silent, except when the pre-k students were using it. Kids in kindergarten through fifth grades did not go out for recess. I didn’t understand why teachers expended energy yelling at kids to stand in a straight line.

Andrews brought back recess and created a warm learning environment. But three years earlier, Avondale Elementary wasn’t what I wanted for my child.

I applied to two charter schools and four DeKalb County public schools through the district’s public school choice program. My daughter did not get into our first choice, The Museum School, but she did get into International Community School and Fernbank Elementary. We chose the charter school for its mix of families from countries such as Bhutan, Somalia and Afghanistan.

I was grateful I had choices, which meant we didn’t have to move.

Yet many parents decry DeKalb’s school choice system for the stress it places on families, who must rely on lotteries to determine their child’s education. If we had only neighborhood schools, we would all send our kids there and we would exert our collective pressure on the administration to improve the quality.

This theory has held in a few schools in DeKalb and Atlanta over the years. Gwinnett County thrives without offering parents choices.

But school choice in DeKalb is a bell that cannot be unrung. Its roots are in court-ordered desegregation, which spawned majority-to-minority busing and magnet schools like Kittredge. Other choice schools, such as traditional theme, public Montessori and charters, came along later to accommodate parents who would otherwise move away. State law requires even more choices.

Even if we could shut down choice, how would schools in poor neighborhoods untouched by gentrification be better off?

Choice recognizes that parents value different things, in terms of structure, discipline and programs such as foreign language, arts and International Baccalaureate.

Parents have different ideas of how diverse they want their child’s school to be. I prefer no majority in terms of race, ethnic background and parents’ income and education. International Community School delivers on that front.

Yet many parents want most of their kids’ classmates to come from families similar to theirs. That does not mean kids have to have the same skin color, pedigree or economic status. I am not speaking in code when I say I mean similar in terms of a shared commitment to being active at school.

There are other less-charged issues that draw disagreements among parents. For example, I love International Community School’s recognition that loading kids up with homework does not a scholar make, yet other parents believe young kids need a lot of homework to develop a work ethic and compete in a global economy.

I would never pick a fight with a parent who wants something different than what I want. Instead I share what I know about International Community School, as well as Avondale Elementary School, where I am a volunteer, and The Museum School, where I am on the board.

Go through the lottery process – yes, the parent portal is a nightmare – and see what your options are. Then make the best choice for your family, whether it’s the neighborhood school, a charter school or a public school in another neighborhood.

And if your neighbor calls you out for rejecting a school because too many kids are black, by all means just tune her out.

 

 

Reader Comments 0

75 comments
LittleBug72
LittleBug72

I have to say in defense of myself, a white parent with white children who is planning to move to Dekalb County next year because it's beautiful and culturally excellent, and diverse, that the idea that white parents shun Avondale Elementary School because it's a predominantly black school is very negative assumption which perpetuates the stereotype that white people are bigots, and base their decisions in that bigotry. I, nor my family or peers are racists, we embody the opposite: integration and friendship. The obvious reason is overlooked, if you visit anyone of a number of state and private cites such as schooldigger.com, you'll see that Avondale Elementary it's an extremely poor performing school. I quote schooldigger.com "In 2016, Avondale Elementary School ranked worse than 89.7% of elementary schools in Georgia. It also ranked 57th among 79 ranked elementary schools in the Dekalb County School District." 


The real question we need to ask is: Why does Avondale Elementary have such poor performance? Poor education for all people, and the discrepancy in quality education, in a country as wealthy as ours is a crime and needs to be addressed more seriously.

popcornular
popcornular

Walk into a student cafeteria at one of the 'integrated' schools. Funny, that after all these years and a zillion dollars, folks just want to be with their own. Birds are the same way. It's kind of natural. 


straker
straker

Originalprof


The Supreme Court ordered busing to "achieve racial balance"


Google is your friend.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@straker 

Link, please? This was connected with the larger Supreme Court ruling of Brown vs. Bd. of Education about the "separate but equal" schools concept.

class80olddog
class80olddog

This column talks about fraud in charter schools - how about this:

"Albany State financial aid audit finds misconduct; four fired"

Lots of money "missing".

straker
straker

On Friday evenings, Atlanta TV stations preview the upcoming high school football games.


They usually have an announcer talking to the head coaches and show the cheerleaders.


The cheerleaders are usually all, or almost all White or all, or almost all Black, depending on what schools are featured.


When I think back to the 70's and 80's, when busing and other social experiments to "promote racial integration" were the norm, I want to puke thinking about all that wasted time and money.

bu2
bu2

@straker

I remember seeing liberal, integrated Decatur being the same way.  I went to one of their football games in the last couple of years and it really stood out.  Each group is virtually all one race.  Band or flag bearers or cheerleaders.

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@straker 

I remember the 70s and 80s too, and I don't think that busing was a "social experiment to promote racial integration." It was designed to equalize the education of black and white children. (There weren't many foreign-born Hispanics to consider then, with their different sort of educational problems). The schools then were "separate and unequal," and so were the neighborhoods in which they were located. And this was true for the Northern urban public schools as well as Southern schools. Your cynicism seems quite misplaced, for busing was not just window-dressing.

Carlos_Castillo
Carlos_Castillo

Many public schools present to parents a whole list "deal breakers"  that have nothing to do with race:


-- Enrollments so large that their child is likely to be lost in the crowd and unable to qualify for meaningful extracurricular activities;


-- Environments requiring long periods of sitting in one place that don't suit boys, in particular;


-- Too much reliance on memorization, standardized testing and conformity at the expense of teaching kids how to think critically and solve problems;


-- To little emphasis on character building, a disinclination to teach ethics and morality except where happens to fall under the umbrella of what's seen as politically correct, along with banishment of religion from the school in lieu of not establishing it;


-- School administrators who promote teachers and subordinates based on abililty to avoid any kind of conflict, no matter how necessary, leading to discipline meted out under bureaucratic  "no tolerance" rules so bone-headed that even the kids recognize their rediculousness;


-- Social promotion at the expense of upholding academic standards -- starting with the expectation that kids need to take notes in class and do a minimum of reading and homework away from class.


-- Failure to instill into kids that they must meet deadlines and look for instructions.


The sum total of this stuff has turned many public schools into glorified baby-sitting services or holding pens for kids who don't want to be there.


Personally, I think that this is more than just another adult's variation on "The next generation of headed straight to Hades."    Private schools beckon.








AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@class80olddog @Carlos_Castillo


I believe it happens on this blog. Maureen posts all the little poster's comments no matter how mundane, bereft of empathy, off topic, or lacking in logic, research or original thought(bless their hearts). She could create a remedial posting site for those not up to speed, but she chooses integration instead and depends sometimes on higher level posters to teach the slower ones.

class80olddog
class80olddog

Is this the Abby Normal who teaches at a Roswell school?  Why does she not teach in DeKalb county???

class80olddog
class80olddog

A quote  from a post on the Education site with this same subject:

"I don't blame her/them. I'm black and I wouldn't send my kids to majority black schools. facts are facts...and often hard to ignore. The crime rates, graduation rates, poor PTA parental involvement, etc....? Nope. My kids would go elsewhere. "

Is it racist when a black mom won't send her black children to a majority-black school that is a bad school?

class80olddog
class80olddog

Little Abby Normal's original piece was a total bunch of BS.  All of the truly racist people had left the area a long time ago and they won't move back in those neighborhoods.  The people who ARE "pioneering" in those neighborhoods are not the people who have issues with blacks.  Why is Miss Abnormal living in that neighborhood? 

Whenever I moved to a new house, we ALWAYS checked out the school system  - we looked at lots of different things, but "black" was not on the list.  When I took my son out of Cherokee county public school and enrolled him in a private school, it had absolutely nothing to do with race.

I think Miss Abnormal just wants to DENIGRATE her white neighbors and make herself look like some kind of saint for sending her daughter to a failing school system. 

If her daughter comes home after being bullied or gets hurt in a gang melee, I will laugh and say that she deserves what she gets.  Moms who really care don't send their kids into bad situations and HOPE they come out all right.

Point
Point

@class80olddog  Seriously, you would laugh?  You are commenting on a five year old child.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Point @class80olddog Certainly I would laugh.  I would feel bad for a five-year-old who had such a stupid mother, but I would laugh about the natural consequences of her mother's decision. 

BTW - why are you upset about my laughing but you have no problem with the mother putting her daughter in a bad situation? 

Point
Point

@class80olddog @Point  It disturbs me that any adult would laugh about a child being hurt.  I don't understand how anyone who has children could laugh about any child being harmed which is why  I double-checked to see if you really meant that. 

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Point @class80olddog If you really cared about children, you would worry about those children with single mothers who are meth-heads or crack-heads.

Point
Point

@class80olddog @Point  Because I care about every child, I volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club.  Because I will never be able to understand your view on this matter, I won't ever comment on your posts in the future.  I pray God continues to bless you.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

When I was in grad school in Tallahassee and Athens, what I selected based on was discipline, school size,  and a safe, caring atmosphere. When that was not found, I moved to another zone.


Where I live now, there isn't much choice--one high school, one middle school, 2 elementary schools.  I have noticed that many of the most active parents in my community, who are zoned for one school, take their kids to the other one, even though it means providing transportation.   Demographics are the same, but they have had bad experiences at the other, larger school.


Other choices in my county are three small private schools.  I have a problem with their brand of Christianity, but they do have excellent behavior--their problems are dismissed to the public school or to "home school."

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Wascatlady" their problems are dismissed to the public school or to "home school.""

Not to "Mountain Ed"?

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@class80olddog @Wascatlady If they are old enough.  Unfortunately, Mtn Ed does not go down to kindergarten (and only one of the private school goes through high school, I believe.)

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Wascatlady @class80olddog Yes, but racism can only apply to the minority - so if a black mom does not want her son to go to an all-white school because it is a bad school., that is not racism.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@Wascatlady "what I selected based on was discipline, school size,  and a safe, caring atmosphere. When that was not found, I moved to another zone."

So if you did not select the local nearly all black school, you are a "racist" according to Abby Normal.

Jag1000
Jag1000

Back in the early 70's, Dekalb County had one of the top-twenty school systems in the country-one publication had it at #17.  I have been wracking my brain trying to figure out what changed between then and now-how all that hard work was squandered.  Thinking, thinking-can anyone help?

bu2
bu2

@Jag1000

It was a good question.  I was hoping someone would have a better answer than, "They all moved to Gwinnett."

Astropig
Astropig

I took a little different lesson from this piece from Ms. Ghezzi. Speaking just for myself, it's very encouraging that a former AJC education writer is enthusiastically using her power to choose to choose...A charter school for her daughter. That means that the battle is really won for people that want reforms and change.It made my weekend.



Jag1000
Jag1000

On second thought, let me send my kid to McNair.

Jag1000
Jag1000

Actually, it's more about Religion.  You see, I don't want to be in a public school that cherishes non-religion.  I don't want to be concerned that they won't have a Christmas Pageant, that instead it will be a Holiday Pageant.  One of the things that I like about our Christian, private school is their willingness to try new things.  Just as important, they are nimble in being able to change back if it isn't working.  How long did the "Integrated Math" concept hang around, not working?  Dress codes, morality, etc.  I 'm not sure the list has an end.

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

"Do parents drive past neighborhood schools for reasons other than race?"


Of course they do.  Dysfunctional / incompetent administrators and faculty, history of violence at school, history of drug us at school, lack of academic opportunities, school ratings, hearsay and rumors.  All of these play a part in the decision making process of whether this is a school that you want to entrust the most important thing in you life - your child.

Simply put, the previous author Norman took a pile of chickensh*t and convinced herself it was chicken salad.  She then wonders why everyone doesn't share her same tastes.

popcornular
popcornular

@Lee_CPA2

' took a pile of chickensh*t and convinced herself it was chicken salad.'

As we read here daily, a highly valued skill/delusion in the education world. Essential for educators and retired educators, an absolute requirement for administrators.


DawginNY
DawginNY

Parents want what they perceive as best for their children.  I'm white but I want my children exposed to diversity.  I also want them in a school with involved parents and a culture of peers who value educational achievement. 

DawginNY
DawginNY

The unfortunate reality is that those are competing desires.  The facts are that African-American children are more likely to come from single-family households making it more difficult for parents to get involved, and they are less likely to have parents and neighbors that are college educated.  I believe this is the legacy of our racist past and 2 generations of welfare policy that discriminates against 2-parent households thereby encouraging single parenthood.  But as a parent, I want the best educational environment for my kids.

gactzn2
gactzn2

Districts have got to do a better job at vetting and prepping their leaders- while willingness and dependability are key considerations- they should not be the only criteria. At the same time- realize that changing the school culture and creating an academic centered climate requires a great deal of elbow grease, commitment, integrity,  and TIME.  This cannot be dictated from administrative offices. I would bet that browbeating is the method used to lead in many of these schools.  If you scale back the CCRPI scores- you might find that these schools are shockingly more dysfunctional than previously imagined.  At the same time, different strokes for different folks- if a parent wishes to attend another public school- allow them to. PR has become synonymous with being a good leader- they are not the same.

dsw2contributor
dsw2contributor

Here is the Dekalb County School System's (DCSS) Dirty Little Secret:  ALL of DCSS's REGION FIVE (South Dekalb) needs to be taken over by the state.


Currently, only two Region 5 schools have College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) scores above 60…. and those two are just barely about 60: Cedar Grove HS has a 61.6 while Columbia MS has a 62.0.


Here are the CCRPIs for all Dekalb County School System Region 5 schools:


Cedar Grove HS 61.6
Cedar Grove MS 54.3
Cedar Grove ES 57.5
Oak View ES 51.0


Columbia HS 55.8
Columbia MS 62
Columbia ES 49.1
Snapfinger ES 55.7
Toney ES 47.5


McNair HS 43.9
McNair MS 45.5
Clifton ES 46.2
Flat Shoals ES 49.5
Kelley Lake ES 55.4
Meadowview ES 52.9
McNair ES Dis. Ac. 42.2


Towers HS 55.8
Bethune MS 53.5
Canby Lane ES 47.4
Knollwood ES 53.8
Midway ES 47.4
Rowland ES 52.8


A list of the DCSS schools, grouped by region, is posted on this page:

http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/superintendent/assistants

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@CSpinks @dsw2contributor Or, perhaps, the CCRPI is a poor excuse for a measure of a school's work, like the CRCT and the GHSGT?  Who knows?  Given the previous gaffes, I have little faith in it as a measure of much of anything.

dsw2contributor
dsw2contributor

@Wascatlady @CSpinks @dsw2contributor


In her piece, Patti Ghezzi wrote: "I drive past Avondale Elementary every day on my way to International Community School, a charter school my daughter has attended for three-and-a-half years."


In 2014, Avondale ES earned a College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) score of 65.4 while the International Community ES earned a CCRPI of 63.5.... 1.9 points *LOWER* than Avondale ES.

CSpinks
CSpinks

@dsw2contributor Let the numbers speak for themselves. For too long, educrats have thrived believing that "they(parents and other taxpayers) won't check" and "that what The Public doesn't know can't hurt us." It's time for that to be stopped. Too many kids are being hurt and too many minds are being wasted.

PattiGhezzi
PattiGhezzi

@dsw2contributor @Wascatlady @CSpinks Hi, this is Patti. This is my point about choice. Some parents want a school with a high score on that index. I have other priorities for now, while my daughter is young. Fernbank, Evansdale and other DeKalb choice schools probably have high scores on the index, reflective of their many affluent, involved families. ICS is a choice, no one is forced to go there. It has been a wonderful environment for my daughter and an amazing learning experience for our family.

Broderick
Broderick

DeKalb finally got rid of that horrible principal who had ruined Avondale Elementary.  Now she's ruining another DeKalb school.