Sarah Brodsky

The Post-Dispatch usually publishes balanced articles about education issues, but this is really disturbing. The article reports on "white flight" from the Hazelwood School District and predicts the district's decline, all because of the skin color of the students:

The problem is that whites are leaving the district in droves as blacks are moving into it. They are leaving despite schools that are meeting most state performance standards, despite that the blacks moving in are mostly middle- and upper-middle-class, and despite attempts by Clark-Jackson and other administrators to talk them into staying.

And historically in this region, when white flight has occurred, school districts have failed.

Well, there could be many factors at play here. The whites may be moving to districts that do better than Hazelwood on the state tests. It's true that "white flight" has often preceded (or coincided with) districts' declines, but if there's any causal relationship it must have something to do with socioeconomic composition. The article states that the new residents are "mostly middle- and upper-middle-class," so why is this case of "white flight" a problem? Surely no one thinks white people improve school districts with some magical property of their skin color!

The aspect of this article that is most offensive is its labeling of nearly everyone quoted as black or white (in some cases even specifying whether one parent is black), as though people's opinions about school district quality can only be understood in the context of their race.

The article is so fixated on race that it overlooks other reasons residents might want to leave. For example, it mentions as an aside that Hazelwood still doesn't meet state standards in graduation rates and college entrance exam scores, two crucially important indicators of district performance. Maybe Hazelwood's poor academics, rather than racial animosity, drive long-time residents away. The district should focus on improving instruction and graduating more students, instead of counting students by skin color.

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Sarah Brodsky

Sarah Brodsky