Segregation hinders student success
McCaskey East High School in Lancaster, Pa., is making an odd move in an attempt that is supposed to aid black students — they have decided to segregate them. After discovering that roughly one-third of the school's black students scored "proficient or advanced" in reading on the Pennsylvania System School of Assessment — compared to 60 percent of the school's white students — McCaskey East instructional coach Angela Tilghman suggested that the school separate students according to race and gender and place them in homeroom classes with a teacher of the same race and gender. For example, the school would place a group of black male students together in an all black male homeroom and assign a black male homeroom teacher to the group. Tilghman may have proposed the plan as a means of helping black students achieve more, but segregation is not the way to do that.
A far better plan would have been to separate the students according to how they scored on the assessment test and place them in homerooms accordingly. That way, all students — regardless of race or gender — would receive the mentoring they need in order to achieve more in school. In segregating the students according to race and gender, rather than academic need, the school is implying that the students' scholastic performance is a result of their innate physical attributes and that they must be treated differently because of these attributes. Essentially, in trying to give the black students the chance for success that the school feels they need, the school is actually hindering that success and reinforcing negative stereotypes. The students need liberation from such hurtful prejudices, not an educational system that supports them, no matter how inadvertently.
Maybe this development is the result of hypersensitivity to race and gender. While it is obviously a good thing to recognize the racial and gender identities of students so that those students may take pride in them, it is possible to go overboard. That is, it is possible to become so wrapped up in recognizing these qualities that they become overemphasized and result in a damaging "separate but equal" mentality — as is occurring at McCaskey.
We applaud the school's good intentions, but we thoroughly disagree with their chosen method of turning those intentions into practice. Since academic success is what the school wishes to promote, they should help the students according to their educational needs — not according to their biological qualities. The school is trying to push their students forwards but is only succeeding in sliding backwards into an outdated and damaging mentality.