Expert in schools rezoning case says black students being isolated

Wednesday, November 4, 2009 at 1:16pm

Metro Nashville’s new student assignment plan isolated hundreds more children by race and socioeconomic status and contradicted decades of social science on how to teach poor urban kids, according to an expert witness Wednesday in federal court.

"Clearly that's what's going on," said William Rock, a retired education professor at the State University of New York and national expert on school desegregation. He called it “the worst thing that can happen to a child.”

Rock testified on the second day of the trial of the NAACP-backed lawsuit aimed at overturning the rezoning plan that ended the busing of black children from north Nashville to Hillwood this school year. The NAACP contends the plan discriminates against black children by consigning them to substandard educations in poverty-stricken neighborhoods.

Rock testified the percentage of students attending racially isolated schools—those where at least 80 percent of the students are black—increased from 22 percent to 25 percent after the rezoning.

"What they did was they changed the [district’s] feeder pattern to remove black students from schools where they had a fairly integrated situation and moved them into schools that were over 90 percent black," he said.

Q: Is it your opinion that this segregative effect was an accident?

Rock: No.

Q: Well then what would you call it?

Rock: When the board of education takes an action, it’s not an accident; it’s deliberate. So they deliberately did it. … I really don’t understand why anyone would say there wasn’t a segregative effect. The segregative effect was predicted by the [rezoning plan’s community] task force and, according to the implementation plan data, it happened.

Rock cited 40 years of studies, including research in Nashville by Vanderbilt University’s Claire Smrekar and Ellen Goldring, showing that students learn less in schools where poverty is concentrated.

All the problems these children face—poor health, hunger, drugs, gangs and violence, and a culture that scorns education—it's all just too overwhelming for schools, this research shows. Poor children learn more in middle-class settings, Rock said.

The school board has promised to spend $6 million annually to improve north Nashville schools, but Rock testified:

“Everything we know about the education of children says the worst thing that can happen to a child is to place a child in a school that’s heavily isolated by socioeconomics, in which almost all the children are coming from families with very low incomes in which achievement levels are low.

“And also in addition to these other things, they are isolated by race. When you have isolated schools like this, we have not been able to overcome the effects of that isolation with compensatory education. Cities all over the country have tried all kinds of things, and there just never has been anything sustained happen to improve the achievement of children.”

17 Comments on this post:

By: localboy on 11/4/09 at 1:07

The isolation is further intensified by the lack of parental involvement in the child's school...

By: idgaf on 11/4/09 at 1:25

Does anyone have a brain in this city?

How can you isolate the majority?

Lets go to neighborhood schools and get back to teaching the basics and get rid of all those busses and the gas they burn for no logical reason.

Isolating them is busing them across town into foreign territory with foreigners rather then their neighbors.

Simple solution is to let the blacks pick what school they want to go to then the illegals and fill in the whites where there is room. Then they don't have a complaint do they?

By: jwilbanks on 11/4/09 at 2:16

I always thought "bussing" was ridiculous anyway and costs of lot of money .... if a student/parents don't like the school they are zoned in then just go to another school or maybe the citizens in the community they live in could put forth a little effort to clean it up themselves and stop waiting for city & state government to do it for them.

By: TITAN1 on 11/4/09 at 3:52

All busing does is keep parents from being more involved in their child's schools. If they are in a neighborhood school parents have more time to get involved and volunteering.

By: bfra on 11/5/09 at 7:18

What makes "ROCK", from New York, an expert?

By: Knofler on 11/5/09 at 7:33

How about we ask the parents of the students that are zoned for these schools, how they feel about the "poor disadvantaged" inner city kids being bused in. If the NAACP wants a better education for inner-city disadvantaged youths, MAYBE the should focus their efforts on improving conditions in the inner-city. MAYBE they should start with a "community" wide social resposibility class, instead of imposing their lack of values on the rest of working society. The suburban kids deserve an education without the inherent turmoil that comes with inner-city youths, just as the NAACP claims inner-city kids deserve. If Metros test scores and graduation rates don't prove that bussing doesn't work what further evidence do you need ? What's next ? Are we gonna have to let an inner-city family move in with us because they lack the financial fortitude to move out of the inner-city, after all they DESERVE a nice home right, Oh wait, they would destroy it too. Just like our schools !!!!! NAACP=Worthless

By: CSR on 11/5/09 at 7:48

"...and a culture that scorns education." That's the problem - until the black community embraces education, this rezoning discussion is time-wasting nonsense.

By: frank brown on 11/5/09 at 7:51

People of intelligence,please make the sacrfice and get your kids away from this thing called public education of the underclass. Get your kids into private schools as fast as you can. Isolate yourself and your family.

By: NewYorker1 on 11/5/09 at 7:52

I've said this a thousand times, education starts and ends at home. It shouldn't matter what school your child attends, it's the PARENTS responsibility to make sure their child is receiving the proper education.

By: NewYorker1 on 11/5/09 at 7:59

frank brown, my father is a doctor in New York City and so I went to private schools and what I've noticed is that privates schools does not mean you are going to turn out to be successful. I know several people that also went to the same private schools that are now working in grocery stores and fast food restaurants. I also know people that went to public schools that are now doctors, engineers, lawyers, etc. Again, Education starts and ends at home with the parent's involvement.

By: Dragon on 11/5/09 at 8:20

The schools are segregated because the neighborhoods are segregated. Busing children all over the city won't correct the cause.

By: xhexx on 11/5/09 at 8:50

"contradicted decades of social science on how to teach poor urban kids"

Yeah, well how's that been working out for us?

By: dogmrb on 11/5/09 at 9:06

The last 40 years has made vast progress in our attitudes toward each other, whether racial or ethnic. Look around you and see how many people of color and female gender are in positions of leadership and professionals. Almost every family has an inter-racial/cultural marriage or child/grandchild. It's hard to make your own "the other". And public education has been the place that children have learned that "the other" is more like me than different.

By: titansjoe on 11/5/09 at 11:15

If I had a child living in the Hillwood area, I might think It is just as unfair to bus my child to the bad school. It seems the white child is being punished for being white. Just a question or two. Is the white child any less important than the black child? Why would any school be 90% black if in the past 40 years we have equally bussed all of our children? Wouldn't all schools have a majority of whites since they are the majority? is it possible to let a child go to any school they choose as long as they pay there own transportation?
Maybe the problem isn't the school at all. It might just be the character of those attending. The problem in my opinion begins before school and after school. the parents are the problem! In an effort to right wrongs of the past we took the parents out of the school system. Black children were treated unfairly years ago because the schools they attended weren't properly equiped. The Idea was to have the same advantages as the white children so they wanted to go to the white schools where facilities were better and materials were better. That was a fair thing to ask. New schools were built in black neighborhoods and staffed and equiped at least equal if not better than the white neighborhoods. Slowly all schools became less and less effective. Gangs, shootings and drugs have become prevelant in all our schools.
I didn't go to a school in a black area during that time but I am friends of many that did. The black teachers were just as good as the white teachers if not better. There were no gangs and fighting was usually just a fist fight and usually over a member of the opposite sex. After the fight the two may turn out to be best friends but you can bet the parents were notified and the two were punished harshly for there fighting. Teachers knew the parents and the parents knew the teachers whether the child was a problem or at the top of the class. Parental involvement was the key! Behavioral problems should not have anything to do with color. So why are the problems in every school? Why is it worse in inner city schools? Why do we continue to purposely blind ourselves to the fact no matter how much money we spend to make inner city schools better, they will never be better until we change the attitudes of the people in those neighborhoods. Its not a matter of where you go to school if your not taught the basic manners, ethics, morals, values and the importance of an education at home. I say let each child go to the school they choose. Park the busses and let the parents take the children to school. Hold the parents accountable. That will force parents into doing the right thing. (maybe) Stop blaming everything on rascism when we all know in our hearts that race is only a small part of the problem. As long as we try to blind ouselves to the problem it will not go away. Get honest! The problems in inner city schools cannot be fixed by bussing. It only causes more people to be negatively effected.

By: frank brown on 11/5/09 at 12:13


I too went to public school. This was at a time when discipline & learning were at the forefront of education. I had an excellent education that led to a lot of success. Today you would have to be a giant among men to garner an education as good as I got in public school.

Private schools are not perfect. You can bet that the odds of someone stealing your lunch money is far greater in the public schools. I could go on and on about the culture of the underclass. The censors would not allow it.

The majority of the underclass do not want an education as I know it. They want the same things that their great great great grandparents had. Freedom to roam.

By: nashpar on 11/5/09 at 1:21

Why is no one stating the obvious facts that are missing here. Bussing is still there for families that want to continue going to Hillwood area schools, but now they also have the option to go close to home. The families chose where they wanted to go. Why is everyone wanting to make their decisions for them?

By: pswindle on 11/5/09 at 4:01

The schools started out equal, but they were destroyed and the behavor is so bad, and the teacher has no authority to discilpine. I went to the University of TN, downtown, and it was great. I went back , and you should see what they have done to that school since TN State took over. The students take no pride in that school and it looks it.