The Success of Integrating Schools with Rucker Johnson — In the Living Room with Henry E. Brady

The Success of Integrating Schools with Rucker Johnson — In the Living Room with Henry E. Brady


(upbeat music) (happy music) – Welcome to the living room at the Goldman School of Public Policy. We have here today
professor Rucker Johnson who’s a professor at the Goldman School. He’s just written an
extraordinary new book. It’s about segregation
it’s about integration and it’s about education in America and it’s about how to make
America a better place by improving its educational system and making everybody better off. Professor Johnson in your
book towards the end, you say your goal is not condemnation, it’s not to just diagnose an illness it’s to try to cure the illness. Exactly how are you trying to do that what do you want to do with this book. – Okay, Well thanks, thanks for engaging with me on the book. we’re really excited about it. I think one of the
animated features of it, is that generally Brown
v. Board is considered the beginning of this of
the civil rights movement – and that was in the 50s of course 53 and 54 the successor Brown
– Yes – and the question is, it’s
clearly that with all the laws that were changed, with all of the war on poverty initiatives and progress that as made. Today we still find ourselves facing many of the same problems and in groping in the dark
seemingly with you know, the average black-white
achievement gap big that for black children on average, roughly two garde levels
behind their white counterparts that children from the poorest districts, are estimated to be on average
four grade levels behind, the most affluent districts
children’s outcomes. So that kind of leaves us with
a question mark around maybe, with all of the things that we’re trying, why are we still here? – So so let me just stop so that… maybe everything failed, maybe Brown versus Board of Education although was morally the
right thing to desegregate the schools, maybe it just
didn’t have much impact on improving the schools
maybe school finance reform which was something we tried and the decades following didn’t succeed and maybe Head Start a
great great society program, maybe that failed too, But
your book claims otherwise. exactly and I think that’s
that’s the thing is that, a lot of our efforts, are kind of thinking about
inequality in a vacuum and just like, you know, people have
intergenerational lineages so do policies. When you
go to the doctor you… the first thing that they do when they are trying to
diagnose something is they’ll ask you not just
about your own blood pressure or your own blood pressure
reading but they’ll ask you about your own familial
history in areas of health. And in the same way, we had to take inventory of the three biggest key, equal education opportunity
policy initiatives that we pursued. School desegregation,
school finance reform as you say in Pre-K, expansions of public investments in Pre-K and really what we had to
do is be skeptical first of the conventional wisdom that none of those policies had worked and really look at it with a fresh eye with new sets of data and methods – So let’s take each one of those in turn but let’s start first
with just talking about, how could you even begin to figure out whether
those things would work or had worked what is
the technique you used and just give us a brief
overview of how that worked. – Yes, I mean I think that the
most important thing is that, these are age-old questions
but with the advent of big data with the advent of new research methods to really kind of isolate
and tease out causal effects and long term impacts we are able to say
something more definitive, around what works while not
focusing narrowly on test scores while not using just snapshots of what may happen at a point in time but rather following children’s lives from birth to adulthood. – So first you looked at
outcomes like employment, wages, health outcomes and other things that happen to people 20 30 40 years after they’d experienced
some of these programs, like school integration
or school finance reform, so that’s right? – That’s right so we’re trying to first, leverage longitudinal data, using the panel study of income dynamics that can bridge a nasty
representative portrait of how the childhood conditions, were shaped using data
matched with the kind of school reform timing,
of school desegregation, of school finance reforms,
of the timing of Head Start and the family backgrounds
of those children. So that we have the kind
of intersectional nature of the multiple factors
that affect life chances. – So you’ve got data over time of families that have been interviewed
since the late 60s? – That’s right. – All over the country
– For decades – a nationally representative sample and you can follow them all
the way up to the present day and you know all sorts of
things about these families, including the places where
they lived which is essential for what you’re trying to do because, how did you use the
places they lived as a way to get at with the results
of these programs were. – Yeah so what’s what’s key is you really want to kind of characterize how where people grow up, affects the set of
opportunities they had access to and so sometimes people
think of brown as something that happened 1954 and all of a sudden the
light switch was turned on and all of a sudden the
vestiges of Jim Crow were automatically overnight overturned and that’s just not how it happened. So it requires having a sustained picture and that’s how why we have
to kind of follow children over extended periods of time. – But actually turns out although it was probably not a good thing that it took so long to implement Brown versus Board of Education. From your perspective as a researcher, it gives you leverage
in trying to figure out what the impacts were because you look at young
people who were in districts that were desegregated, versus those who were in districts
that weren’t desegregated and compare them to see if school desegregation
actually had an impact. – Exactly and so that’s really the the kind of hallmark of having kind of laboratories of experimentation where you could take a child
that was born in say 1960 and they may have been born in 1960 but they lived in a district
where they were exposed to integrated schools
throughout their school ed years and you can contrast it with
the child that was born in maybe a similar area, in similar region but they weren’t exposed
to integration at all because of the timing of implementation of the desegregation court orders in their neighborhood and community of upbringing. – So it’s almost like a clinical trial, that the health care people use where you randomly assign
people to one treatment or the other that one treatment
being you get the medicine and the other one you don’t get anything but in this case it turns out people were more or less randomly because of the way these
programs were implemented. More or less randomly given the school desegregation treatment versus those who were continuing
in segregated schools. – Well that’s right because
partly what happened was that while Brown decision, gave a vision for what
a just system in society should look like with
regard to integration and said what segregation should not be, it did not really give the
the it left the details up to someone else to fill in. – So what did you find? let’s start with Brown
versus Board of Education and integration what did you find? was it helpful to these young people – Yes I mean
– who had the chance? – I think I think part
of what is is is key is understanding, what was integration itself and what kind of changes did it what kind of cascading
changes did it elicit and one of the things is that
most people think of it as how many black kids are going
into school with white kids but a big part of the changes
actually came through the way integration affected
access to school resources. The ways in which it
affect average class size for African-American
children in particular the way it affected
access to teacher quality and school facilities and after-school programs and activities
and a big piece is also, it integrated the teaching workforce in a way where now teachers were teaching, a kind of multi-ethnic set of classrooms and and and that took time it wasn’t something overnight. But so what we’re able to show is that, if we think of your example
of like a clinical trial, it’s a type of medicine, where we’re saying that
the medicine treatment call it desegregation. It works but it also depends on the dose, and the duration of exposure. So when we find children only exposed to integrated environments
only in their last two years of high school. We see much more muted impacts when we see that they were exposed to integrated environments but it didn’t significantly
affect their access to school resources or reduce class sizes in a significant way in the like we don’t see the same large impacts that we see when the integration both was something that happened earlier in the school career particularly in elementary school years and was sustained. – So what are some of those larger impacts in terms of wages say or employment or something like that
– Yeah – So I’ll say chronologically just to give you a sense
of the array of outcomes that we find impacts on, but beginning with high
school graduation rates, beginning with educational
attainment including college enrollment college completion rates as late as 1960, only about 20% of black males
graduate from high school as late as 1960. Compare with 50 percent of white males in that same by 1960 roughly, only 3% of black males
graduate from college 13% among white males as late as 1960. So those are vast educational differences when we look at outcomes like
education, health, earnings, the single area in which we saw the biggest racial
convergence in those outcomes black-white differences
narrowing substantially the only period in which we’ve seen that narrow so dramatically is this era of cohorts that were exposed differentially, to school integration. And we really are able to tie and connect the dots to that convergence
in educational attainment so that by the late 70s and early 80’s, the college enrollment rates of eight… of eighteen and nineteen year
old black folks’ children were around the same rates that were experienced for white for those cohorts. – So that’s an astonishing convergence. – In in in a 15-year window. – Of course the great complaint of white racists in the South, was that this was going
to ruin the white race and it was going to be terrible for whites to be integrated with
blacks. What do you find? – What we find is that
the beneficial impacts that we find for African Americans, did not come at the expense of whites and moreover we see no
negative impacts across earnings, wages, employment,
incarceration, health you name it. We don’t find any negative
impacts for whites and moreover we find significant
beneficial impacts, on aspects that have to do with racial
attitudes in adulthood that when they are exposed to
more integrated environments, their attitudes around
race, racial tolerance, their perspectives around racial diversity and you’re a scholar of
the political polarization, you’ve written a major book on the kind of the political polarization
that we’ve seen. We actually can kind of document how the early
experiences in diverse schools shape subsequent political
attitudes in adulthood. – And reduced polarization
– And reduce prejudice – Increased tolerance, understanding ability to have friends of another race
– Yes – And to work presumably
with folk who look different than you do. Which in course is increasingly important in many jobs in America, especially in big cities
where you’re going to be dealing with a diverse workforce. So what’s really wonderful about your book is you you not only talk about
how the integration mattered and you talk about the complexity of the treatment of integration what did integration really do? but then you start to unpack that, you say okay what was it that made integration work well and so you move to school finance reform and this the lessons you have
there are actually lessons not just for African Americans,
they’re for everybody because we find out that it turns out that school finance reform, actually is one way to make
our educational system better. So so talk about that. – Well I think one of the
things to even discuss the impacts of a reform is to kind of make sure we appreciate
what the status quo was. So historically the way we
have funded public schools in the United States is through
the local property tax base. And local property tax wealth differences because of segregation by income, in neighborhoods wealth differences create vast differences in
the ability to raise revenue, through the property tax base and that was creating
significant vast differences in where poor districts
would have to leverage much higher property tax rates, just to generate almost half of the level that very affluent areas were having. And that really I would say set the table in the stage following the school desegregation court rulings, for the school finance reform movement. To challenge the constitutionality of solely local systems of finance. And so what the state court
ordered school finance reforms began to do with
California being the first, it’s interesting because
California’s both the kind of first and actually now represents among the most recent and
bold progressive formulas in the most recent five years. But the first one was
done here in California and the idea is simply to
narrow the spending disparity to richen the … – On a on a moral grounds its very simple is that every child deserves
an equal opportunity in K through 12 and therefore that’s not equal if we’re
spending vastly different sums in Beverly Hills than we
are in East Los Angeles. There’s a literature out there that says additional school
spending isn’t worth it we don’t get anything
for it it’s just wasted. – Yes
– You don’t find that – Yes yes and so this is
again where the kind of conventional wisdom around integration being a
failed social experiment, school spending leading to great waste and not really boosting student outcomes. The reason why some of those, premature conclusions had been reached, enlist that what we find in our work is inadequate attention to accounting for a family
background, important but really isolating
how the school spending where the money flows to, what students are affected and what school districts at the time and when we isolate the school spending what we find is significant
improvements on a whole host of educational trajectory.
– And and I say another thing you do is you say that it’s not just about test scores that some other the problems
with some of this literature, is it’s focused on does school spending increased
test scores but it turns out that may not be the best
measure of what schools do and indeed if you think about it what we ultimately care
about is not test scores but whether people go on to get jobs and whether they stay out of prison and they don’t stay off
welfare and things like that and you find that when you
use those kinds of measures, you get significant positive effects – That’s right and we do actually
find it on test scores too like my colleague Jesse Rosting and his colleagues Jad-Diane… they certainly find
outcomes on test scores. But I would say if we
focus solely on test scores we would miss a huge and understate the potential
for school reforms like these to really break the
intergenerational cycle of poverty and so that’s a key piece. Now one thing I think that’s important about the
school spending piece is, one of the things because
people often come to me and they say haven’t we
already tried these things? and I think one of the things
you have to consider is that, all of these things were
tried one at a time, not and unevenly and consistently
not with sustained investment. What we find is that, the very nature of learning
beginning future learning, is that half of the achievement
gap among third graders is already apparent on the
first day of kindergarten. That footprint of these
early life experiences, has to be kind of part of
the investment strategy that would include Pre-K. – Ok so let’s talk about Pre-K so you… and then I want talk about
the interaction of Pre-K, with school funding Which I heard is one of the most interesting findings, you have but let’s first talk about Pre-K. So, Head Start was an attempt on the part of the Great
Society Lyndon Johnson to say that we’ve got to
really do a better job of providing education for young people, before they even get to kindergarten. And there’s been lots of people who said that never worked
– Right and this… – But again you don’t find that. – Right! and this goes back to, being too enamored with
easily measured overnight, kind of metrics like test scores that there have been evidence that have shown test score
improvements have faded out in the years following
Head Start attendance but the question is
that fade out reflective of the policies inadequacies or is it just a byproduct of
any great early investment is still dependent on the quality of subsequent investments. – So one of your most extraordinary
findings seems to me is that you find out that Pre-K is especially has an especially big impact when in fact subsequently
school districts, actually invest money to provide more help and service two students
who are getting Pre-K so in other words there’s
an interaction effect – Yes
– And then You’ve got a as you say keep going with the
treatment and if you do that, you find suddenly that
Pre-K actually has an impact and a long lasting impact. – That’s right we think of
this as kind of synergies that, when we combine these policies in a strategic investment
implementation way what happens is, you invest
early you cause children those are investments are not
investments in acquisition of knowledge but they
give greater ability for the acquisition of future knowledge and that enables them to be
more likely to be school ready as they enter kindergarten and then they can take more advantage of the k-12 educational opportunities, because they’re in a system
that’s not poorly funded in the k-12 years and so we
actually do find fade out. If you do the Pre-K and they subsequently attend
poorly funded schools in the k-12 years. We do find that the
effects do not last long when that happens and similarly even the
K12 spending investments, don’t yield the same return
if they’re not preceded, by high quality high
quality Pre-K investments. – I mean you would think of
an exercise regime for example if you thought that somehow well I used to exercise 30
years ago I should be fine today that’s rather foolish you know… we know they probably have
to keep it up at least at some level and that’s what you’re
really basically saying is that we it’s great that we have Pre-K but we’ve got to follow up with schools that actually capitalize on that Pre-K and so I think that’s an
extraordinarily important finding That we can’t just assume
there’s a magic bullet that one of these
programs all the problems – Exactly, exactly and
it’s very much like, going back to an initial
question you asked which is, what’s the frame of the book? and what the book is aimed to do, is to provide a blueprint, an educational opportunity
blueprint for what kind of investments are requisite what are the essential ingredients for kids opportunities
no matter their zip code, no matter their race, ethnicity to be insured no matter
their poverty status to be insured to have
opportunities to thrive. – So your book is very
hopeful it seems to me and that you say if we
just would be more intense about saying let’s keep up
our desegregation efforts, let’s keep up our efforts to fund schools in a responsible manner to
make sure that money gets to the places it’s got to get and
we add Pre-K that we’re gonna have a system that
actually does a lot better. The sad part of your book, is the second half when
you start talking about the fact that we’ve actually
pulled back on a lot of these policies especially desegregation and to some extent school finance reform – Yes so there is a kind of misnomer that we actually did a lot
of school finance reforms and so maybe the kind
of spending disparities are no longer there by
say income and actually that’s not true that we find
23 states as late as 2012 and those rates haven’t really changed in the last five years that among 23 states, average spending in
more affluent districts is significantly greater
than in poor districts so I think one of the key things is that we reached a peak level of integration in the late 80s. 1988 we’re at the peak
level of integration, in many ways we were seeing
a lot of the positive impacts but they weren’t actually well documented so while they were happening, in real time they weren’t being documented and that created a window for
some of the political backlash that would want to kind of move back to what is cast a school choice or local control or… what other words forced busing like these
are very loaded words but underneath them sometimes, the motivation has a little bit of a fear of race and integration. And so beginning in the early 90s there began to say be a kind of legal change in which basically court rulings lifted and made it easier
to lift court orders. – So there’s a court order that
said you had to desegregate – Then you’d have to have a
– and you have to work hard – desegregation plan to integrate and it was incumbent upon the district to ensure that there be racial balance, in those things. So that begins to be lifted – Let’s note that you give some examples where that was done extremely well that may be in Boston for example, mistakes were made so for example it as I read your book it looks like the poorer communities, bore the greater brunt
the poor white communities than the rich white communities in Boston and that that was a mistake
and that’s not the way to do it and then other communities realized, that everybody had to share equally if you’re going to do this, and then everybody would be better off. – That’s right.
– When you give examples of where that’s been been successfully. – So a big part of it is just that the, how matters as much as the what so when we say integration we have to kind of still think about you know what is it that’s making
things work together? and what is it that can make it unravel? and so it’s the combination
of they lifted the court order so half of the districts that
were ever under court order, have been lifted of
court order that led to significant resegregation. Another example is like
a place like charlotte that was like really
a model of integration and now is basically you
know backtrack to become, as segregated as they
were before busing began and the part of the rationale
and part of the reason, is not just you know without
policy playing a critical role. So in this case, I’ll give you an example with
the North Carolina legislature passed House bill 514 and what it did, was it authorized for, wealthy suburban districts
in the Mecklenburg County to secede and form their
own charter districts. – Apart from Charlotte
– Under the banner of like school choice but that would be their own charter districts and predominantly white suburban and that really enabled there to be a significant also
resegregation of schools that was furthered. And the reason that kind of
piece is important is because whereas before if you had
a set of racial prejudice to kind of avoid integration, you did have to like bear the
brunt of the financial cost. When it’s a charter school
it is the taxpayers money that’s actually subsidizing
the segregation. So there are aspects about
how the instruments of policy, can be used to further integration efforts but in some places are being used to further segregation and so that’s, one of the things I guess I should say that is part of the
second half of the book and I think it’s part of our the goal of the book in its entirety, which is that we had the
quantitative evidence, and nasty representative portrait but we needed to marry that like that provided an aerial view of how the reforms were working and whether there was long term impact but we had to marry that
with qualitative evidence around the stories of
people who were living these experience changes within
the schools by talking to superintendents and teachers and judges and policymakers to
really get that texture, to understand how this was
mirroring their lived experience both the challenges and the successes. – One of great things about the book are those stories and then the evidence that you bring from the
very careful econometric and statistical work that you’ve done and you marry that I think extremely well. To show how in fact these
programs can and do work and also to give us an idea
of why on the ground they work but also why on the ground
sometimes even though they work sometimes people reverse them
and don’t continue with them. And that’s as I say that
the sad part of the book but the hopeful part at the very end, is that there are a set
of policy prescriptions you put forth that will improve education for everyone and why don’t
you recount those again just so that we summary of them. – We cannot leave out school integration because throwing money
at the problem only, is insufficient to the task. And so it’s integrated
school environments, combined with early Pre-K investments and quality school finance
equalization policies that ensure access to opportunity and that includes teacher quality and ensuring the development
of those teachers. Now doing that in a kind of cohesive way, is not something that should
be left up to one district at a time but kind of really
requires some vision around how that needs to be connected. – Rucker Johnson you’ve
written an extraordinary book, children of the-dream. Why school integration works
but it’s much more than that, it’s how to make our
educational system work better. – For all children
– And better for everyone. Not just for one group but for everybody and how to solve a problem
that’s been an American dilemma for far too long and I thank
you for this very readable, very exciting very amazing book. – Can I just close with one quick thing, I have a number of colleagues that were instrumental in the work. Economists Kirabo Jackson at Northwestern, my colleague and former
PhD student Sean Tanner, my current PhD student Sean
Darling-Hammond was instrumental in research assistance and
other just insightful feedback, and Alexander Nazarian a former
senior writer for Newsweek also collaborated with
me on this on this work. So I want to definitely give shoutouts to a whole host of folks
that made this possible. – You put together a great team and I think the lesson of the team is, it helps to get people
together to work together to do things together
– Different perspectives. and of all sorts of different perspectives and backgrounds
– For sure. – And that’s that that’s
the message of the book in two ways. Just in terms of what we
should be doing in this country and in the way to write
one heck of a good book. Thank you very much.
– Thank You Dean Brady – Thanks (gentle music)

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