Academic journal article Educational Research Quarterly

Gentrification, Schooling and Social Inequality

Academic journal article Educational Research Quarterly

Gentrification, Schooling and Social Inequality

Article excerpt

Tracking or the separation of students by ability and curriculum is pervasive in American schooling despite the fact that contemporary research has associated this educational structure with negative student outcomes. Opponents of tracking contend that it deprives underprivileged children of excellence and equityin education and separates them along racial and socio-economic lines. In so doing, it underscores the claims of social conflirt theorists who contend that education is not always a meritocratic strategy for developing students' abilities and often serves to perpetuate societal inequality. In spite of this, tracking remains a common managerial strategy and little research has explored the mechanisms that account for its popularity. This study explores the role of gentrification in the perpetuation of school tracking. By means of interviews, it investigates the dynamics of gentrifícation in the Greenpoint- Williamsburg area of Brooklyn and documents the strategies employed by gentry families to gain admission for their children to ''better" public schools outside of their neighborhood, thus creating a unique type of between- school tracking.

Introduction

Schooling in America has always been identified and extolled as an avenue of upward mobility. This belief continues in spite of recent research, which suggests that education is inherentiy segregated and clearly not a meritocratic strategy for developing student ability or economic potential (Orefield & Lee, 2004). Proponents of this less optimistic view contend that schools provide students with a differential access to knowledge, which facilitates a transition to social class according to the social and economic backgrounds of their parents. In so doing, schools perpetuate the existing status hierarchy and reinforce social inequality. Proponents of this perspective also identify tracking or the separation of students by ability and curricula, as a factor responsible for this disparity.

Tracking is pervasive in American education and for the most part, the research has associated it with negative outcomes especially for children of disadvantaged families who are more often assigned to lower tracks. Opponents of tracking contend that tracking limits a student's opportunity to learn and separates students along socio-economic and racial lines. In so doing it provides a unique means of segregating minority students in desegregated schools (Oakes & Lipton, 1994). But in spite of the research underscoring its negative impact on student outcomes, tracking remains a common managerial strategy in schools and little research has explored the mechanisms that account for its popularity.

This study investigates the dynamics of gentrification, the transformation of socially marginal areas of the central cities to middle class residential use, and the role it may play in perpetuating school tracking. Tracking represents a unique form of segregated schooling and recent trends in urban areas may be creating hundreds of segregated and unequal schools and frustrating the dream of minority families for access to education that is equal and excellent. The research documents the strategies employed by gentry families to gain admission of their children to "better" public schools outside the neighborhood thereby, creating a unique type of between - school tracking. This behavior is in sharp contrast to that of low-income residents within the gentrified areas who register their children in the local public schools. Findings suggest that by choosing schools outside the local community, gentry families are "doing" social class (through the course of their everyday actions demonstrating their social class) and perpetuating the educational structure of tracking. Accordingly, social class segregates the local schools in that they are reserved for lowincome children, many of whom are immigrants and members of minority groups. This increased stratification ultimately produces greater social inequality between the schools and underscores the claim of social conflict theorists who contend that schooling is not a meritocratic strategy for developing students' abilities. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.