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The New Reality for Suburban Schools

How Suburban Schools Are Struggling with Low-Income Students and Students of Color in Their Schools


Jessica T. Shiller

Since the year 2000, the population of people of color and of poor families in the suburbs has been rapidly increasing, making these areas far more diverse than they were a generation ago. Along with the increase in diversity has come re-segregation, leaving some schools with very high concentrations of low-income students and students of color, while others remain mostly white. These re-segregated schools are often not well-prepared to deal with the issues their students face. In addition, they are often subject to strict accountability demands that focus on improving test scores. These conditions create a unique situation for schools serving high populations of students of color and low-income students, one that is strikingly similar to urban schools. The New Reality for Suburban Schools presents three case studies of inner-ring suburban middle schools coping with these issues. Although the principals and teachers were aware that students faced poverty and lived in increasingly racially and ethnically diverse communities, a variety of factors prevented them from using practices that would have addressed the students’ needs. As a result, these suburban schools did not provide much better educational opportunities to low-income students and students of color than their urban counterparts. Readers of this volume can learn how school leaders and teachers try to negotiate educational mandates while serving their students. The book concludes with suggestions for improving the ways these schools serve their students.
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Chapter 4. Goodwin Middle School: Cultural Gaps and Resistance to Facing Them


← 66 | 67 →Chapter Four

When you drive into Goodwin, you are struck by a few major landmarks. There is a large hospital complex with a well-known drug rehabilitation center, a community college campus, two parks, and a mall with big box stores such as Home Depot and Walmart. There is constant traffic, movement, and action in this community. There is also evidence of a burgeoning Latino/Latina community with some signs in front of stores and churches in Spanish. The Latino/Latina population is relatively small but growing rapidly.

Goodwin was first settled by German and Polish immigrants as a small farming community and remained rural until the 1950s and 1960s. It is still majority white, as recently as 2013, but in the last decade the population has shifted dramatically and now almost 40% of the residents are people of color. The 2010 Census data revealed that of the approximately 19,000 residents, over 60% were white, 33% were black, and 5% were Latino/Latina,1 up from 22% and 1%, respectively, the decade before (see Figure 4.1; U.S. Census Data, Community Factfinder 2000/2010).

Goodwin, dotted with small, single-family houses, had been a relatively stable working-class community, where most are employed in blue-collar jobs in construction or related fields. Yet over the past five years, those jobs started to dwindle. A nearby manufacturing plant that employed thousands of area residents closed its doors in 2013. While ← 67 | 68 →Goodwin’s median household income was still around the national...

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