Children at Charles Drew, a charter school in a recently integrated Atlanta neighborhood (Photo by Sarah Garland)
During the half century that Theresa Cartwright has lived in the East Lake neighborhood of Atlanta, she has twice seen the area's schools undergo a complete transformation.
In the 1960s, black families like her own moved to the neighborhood's Craftsman bungalows and a new public housing project, driving out their white, middle-class neighbors. When she was in second grade, her elementary school was all black. By the time she was in sixth grade, the projects were so violent they had earned the name "Little Vietnam" and her mother refused to let her go to the failing local middle school.
Instead, she signed up to be bused to the white, upper-class neighborhood of Buckhead, in North Atlanta, where her mother knew the schools would be better.
Cartwright, now 51, went on to college, while many of her former classmates who remained in the struggling East Lake schools ended up on public assistance. She could have stayed away, but ultimately, her roots in the neighborhood drew her back. In the 1990s, Cartwright bought her own house in East Lake -- a decision that, in retrospect, seems surprisingly prescient.
By 2006, when Cartwright was ready to enroll her own son, Collin Wilson, now 16, in middle school, the neighborhood had changed so dramatically that Cartwright pulled him out of a private school to attend Charles Drew, a public school down the street. Drew had become one of the highest performing schools in the city, and Cartwright knew it well because she worked as an operations manager there.
Unlike most charters in urban areas, Drew Charter is not all black or Hispanic, nor is it all poor. It is, instead, a demonstration of a novel concept in the modern education reform movement: trying to close the achievement gap between the poor and affluent by bringing them together to share their neighborhoods and their classrooms.
Efforts to rejuvenate urban neighborhoods and fix public schools have historically followed separate paths. As buses began rolling across color lines in the 1970s to desegregate public schools, they crisscrossed acutely segregated public housing projects and suburbs.
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SOURCE: The Huffington Post
This piece comes to us courtesy of The Hechinger Report.