Hope and Despair in the American City: Why there are no bad schools in Raleigh

Gerald Grant
Harvard University Press
2009

Amidst waning support for the decades-old effort to desegregate America’s schools, this book hails the achievements of Raleigh’s Wake County school system and its commitment to equalizing opportunity among its students. According to author Gerald Grant, the pivotal moment occurred in 1976, when city and county merged, an event which not only broke down barriers between white suburban students and inner-city minority students but also raised expectations of academic excellence for all children. Grant traces the development of an “invisible wall” between city and suburbia, contrasting Wake County’s solution to Syracuse, New York’s continued geographic segregation. In the former, twenty-seven magnet schools were established to attract suburban students to the inner-city; in the latter, rising poverty and failed attempts to desegregate resulted in what was effectively a racialized tracking system. As scores rose in Raleigh, so too did the belief that it was the system’s responsibility to ensure all children succeeded. That the combined inner-city-suburban model is a successful one makes sense but it’s hard to imagine suburban voters elsewhere agreeing to similar mergers anytime soon. You can purchase a copy here.

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