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WWL: Eaton on Education
Where We Live - with John Dankosky
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Exploring racial isolation in our schools


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48:53 minutes (23.47 MB)
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As the state struggles to find funding for education - some researchers say our money would be best spent on improving diversity in the classroom.

That's the goal of the long-standing Sheff v. O'Neill lawsuit in Connecticut - which reached a settlement last year over the racial and ethnic isolation of Hartford school children. It's also the thrust of Susan Eaton's book - The Children in Room E4. Eaton is a former Hartford Courant reporter, who spent years examining these issues inside one of the nation's poorest - and worst-performing school districts. Now, she's a researcher at Harvard's institute for Race and Justice. Eaton says the Sheff case sets Connecticut on the right path toward ending segregation - which will in turn increase performance. But what happens to big plans based on research, when school districts are struggling to just meet basic needs in a recession.

Today, Where We Live, a talk with Susan Eaton about school diversity initiatives in tough economic times - and what she thinks the Obama administration should do to improve the quality of education in America.

Join the conversation!  Add your questions, suggestions and comments below. 

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Listener Email from Lynn

Thanks for the interesting topic. I read your guest’s book and have three questions: 1) why do you say that the curriculum is better in the suburbs? My experience is that the suburbs use the same poor curriculum as Hartford. The balanced literacy and whole language curriculum are the same. The math (TERC and Everyday Math) are used in the suburbs as in Hartford. The difference is that parents in the suburbs are better equipped to compensate for the gaps and shortfalls their kids experience in public schools.
2) are we doing Hartford kids any favors by giving them a diverse environment to fail in? Setting aside a few anecdotes, the data for Hartford kids in the suburbs is very disappointing. I am all for diversity, but I feel your focus is misplaced. We need better trained educators that use research to advance learning in both the cities and the suburbs.

3) why aren’t we pushing for KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) schools that achieve real results far better than the Choice or Magnet schools in Connecticut?


Listener Email from Laura

1 - Has any research been done on the effects of economic, as opposed to racial, diversity in schools?

2 - A study of the Chicago public schools showed that students who attended magnet schools did NOT necessarily do better academically than their counterparts who stayed in their local schools. But that those who APPLIED to the magnet program did better than those who didn't apply. The theory is that the students whose families were motivated to try to get out of the local system had a built-in advantage, whether or not their names werea ctually drawn in the lottery. I am interested in your guest's reaction.

Thank you so much for your program! Laura, Hamden

Listener Email from Theresa

I'm a supporter of school diversity and my son attends the Greater Hartford Academy of Math and Science that's part of the Learning Corridor in Hartford. The school is very diverse racially. My son has friends of every race, which is great. But all his friends, whether Asian, Indian, African American, Hispanic or white, are from the suburbs. When we attend school events, whether college night or a night where families are encouraged to bring food representative of their cultural heritage, we meet teachers, students and parents of all races, but we don't see people from Hartford. I attended an event Wednesday and out of about 25 parents, they were all from communities outside of Hartford.

I support the goal of Sheff vs. O'Neill, and I'm happy for the magnet school system, but I don't know what can be done to get city kids and their families to become involved in the magnet schools within Hartford. GHAMAS is racially diverse, but it seems to be falling short of the goal of getting poor Hartford kids and their families fully engaged.