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Wake : Why the Battle over Diverse Public Schools Still Matters - Karey Alison Harwood


Why the Battle over Diverse Public Schools Still Matters

By: Karey Alison Harwood

Hardcover | 17 May 2024

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The Wake County Public School System was once described as a beacon of hope for American school districts. It was both academically successful and successfully integrated. It accomplished these goals through the hard work of teachers and administrators, and through a student assignment policy that made sure no school in the countywide district became a high poverty school. Although most students attended their closest school, the "diversity policy" modified where some students were assigned to make sure no school had more than 40% of its students qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch or more than 25% performing below grade level. When the school board election of 2009 swept into office a majority who favored "neighborhood schools," the diversity policy that had governed student assignment for years was eliminated. Wake: Why the Battle Over Diverse Public Schools Still Matters tells the story of the aftermath of that election, including the fierce public debate that ensued during school board meetings and in the pages of the local newspaper, and the groundswell of community support that voted in a pro-diversity school board in 2011. What was at stake in those years was the fundamental direction of the largest school district in North Carolina and the 14th largest in the U.S. Would it maintain a commitment to diverse schools, and if so, how would it balance that commitment with various competing interests and demands? Through hundreds of published opinion articles and several in depth interviews with community leaders, Wake examines the substance of that debate and explores the community's vision for public education. Wake also explores the importance of knowing the history of a place, including the history of school segregation. Wake County's example still resonates, and the battle over diverse public schools still matters, because owning responsibility for the problem of segregated schools (or not) will shape the direction of America's future.
Industry Reviews
"Harwood tackles a fascinating story and imparts new insights that could help guide readers to imagine a better future for schoolchildren. Wake provides a powerful narrative as a major school integration program that has been sustained to this day."
-- Richard D. Kahlenberg * author of The Remedy: Class, Race, and Affirmative Action *
"Karey Harwood does a brilliant job of describing Wake County, North Carolina's struggles to create a more equitable and integrated school system. Most importantly, Harwood shows how "school choice" has seriously undermined those efforts, providing a cautionary tale of how charters and vouchers now facilitate the new white flight, forcing the reader to consider the consequences of viewing schooling as a marketplace commodity."
-- Carol Corbett Burris * author of On the Same Track: How Schools Can Join the Twenty-First-Century Struggle against Resegreg *

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