Neighborhood schools will hinder learning for children in poverty-stricken, high-crime black sections of the city, according to an expert witness Thursday in the NAACP-backed lawsuit against the Metro Nashville school board.
"The literature overwhelmingly suggests that shifting to neighborhood schools disproportionately hurts minority students," said Leslie Zorwick, a psychology professor at Hendrix College in Arkansas.
Zorwick said children from poor neighborhoods do better in schools in middle-class settings, where educational aspirations are higher. In addition, she testfied, the children gain access to white social networks that lead to jobs later in life.
"The goal of neighborhood schools is to harness the power of the community to improve the achievement of students," Zorwick testified. "But those communities vastly differ in the resources they offer their students. It's very difficult for students in these racially isolated, predominantly minority communities to get the same benefit as students in more racially integrated areas receive."
The federal lawsuit asks Judge John Nixon to overturn Nashville's new student assignment plan and order the school board to develop a new one that's acceptable to both sides by next summer. The NAACP contends the rezoning plan resegregates schools and discriminates against black children by ending the busing of students from north Nashville to Hillwood.
"My opinion is that racially segregated schools are bad for both the social development and the education success of black and white students," Zorwick testified. "More segregated schooling tends to be associated with worse education outcomes for students and lower standardized test scores."