What happens when parents clash in their children’s schools, based on how the families view their cultural and socioeconomic differences?
That’s the intriguing question explored in a thought-provoking article, “When the Melting Pot Boils Over,” by Carol Lloyd, executive editor of the GreatSchools.org website, which posts profiles of 200,000 public and private schools and more than one million parent ratings and reviews.
Lloyd examines the “urban/suburban boomerang” that is occurring as demographics change with neighborhoods losing their homogeneity.
Parents from middle-class backgrounds sometimes find that they are being courted to send their children to inner city schools. Families for whom those are neighborhood schools sometimes see discrepancies in how they and their children are treated compared to how the “outsider” families with higher incomes are treated. Similarly, some of the incoming parents object to how they are made to feel like interlopers.
A mother Lloyd interviewed at one school said it was “like a Jerry Springer show” the way another mother approached her about perceived “equity issues” in the school.
GreatSchools also covered the turnaround story of Nettelhorst Elementary in Chicago—a transformation inspired by a mother who wanted to send her children to the school that was only two blocks away, which many of her neighbors thought was a crazy idea given the school’s failing status. In “Parent Power,” writer Connie Matthiessen explores how Jacqueline Edelberg “helped turn her neighborhood school from mediocre to marvelous.”
A parent review of that school on the GreatSchools site highlights the tensions and conflicts within the school community:
The school ... touts diversity yet is really about higher-income-bracket parents creating an elitist community where fundraising is the main concern. The fundraising also divides the school into the haves and have-nots, creates resentments on the part of those who feel they cannot join in. Unless your family makes a six-digit figure every year, stay away, you are not welcome."
In fact, Nettelhorst has a large number of reviews online, with a range of opinions about it. That diversity of opinion is likely to be found in many schools.
But what is one to think about the vitriol described in the GreatSchools article at some schools where cultures clash? I wonder how prevalent that is—and what you think about it.
A version of this news article first appeared in the K-12 Parents and the Public blog.