Today's Supreme Court decision striking down Louisville's and Seattle's race-based student assignment plans will surely lead to much gnashing of teeth, recriminations, and accusations that America is slipping back to the era of Jim Crow. Politically-correct experts, educators and advocacy types will express outrage and declare their intent to find a way--any way--to ensure that the remaining handful of white students in urban districts attends schools otherwise populated by African-American and Hispanic children.

They're wrong. Not because we shouldn't feel guilty that so many of our urban schools are racially isolated. Of course we should. And not because Martin Luther King, Jr.'s vision of an integrated society isn't compelling. Of course it is. But the surest route to such a society is to help all children achieve academically, prepare for higher education as well as jobs with futures, and enter the great American middle class. Because here's the good news: middle class black children living in suburbs are much more likely to attend racially diverse schools than poor urban black children are. The way forward is through social and economic progress--which starts with academic progress. That means shaking up the urban school systems that produce such abysmal results.

So urban education--and community--leaders: If you really care about the future of black and brown students, here's your to-do list.

  1. Stop hiring poorly-educated individuals for teaching positions. Insist that teacher candidates score above the 50th percentile on a national exam such as Praxis or pass the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence.
  2. Open your classroom doors to instructors coming through bona fide non-traditional routes, such as Teach for America.
  3. Take control of the assignment system. Send your best teachers to your neediest schools.
  4. Pay those teachers extra if they are willing to take tough assignments and if they get great results.
  5. Remove ineffective administrators, principals, teachers, and aides from the payroll. (Everyone knows who they are.) Use the savings for higher teacher pay and a longer school day and year.
  6. Give principals real control over their school budgets and staff.
  7. Put in place a research-based reading program, even if teachers don't like it at first. Provide intensive training and support.
  8. Adopt the Core Knowledge curriculum for your elementary and middle schools. Immerse kids in the cultures of the world, with a heavy emphasis on Western culture and American history.
  9. Shut down your worst schools and turn those buildings over to charter school networks (such as KIPP) with a track record of success.
  10. Adopt a strict discipline policy and transfer chronically misbehaving children to alternative schools.

Gird yourselves. If you fight this fight, lots of people won't thank you. The teacher unions and some civil rights groups will come after you (representing, as they do, some of these incompetent individuals you will dismiss from the rolls). Academia will disparage you both because you're attacking their ed-school cash cows and because you're destroying the temple of cultural relativism. Many liberals will call you a sell-out (arguing, as they do, that "public" schools must be run by government and staffed by union members). You're in for a tough time.

But if you're truly outraged about the plight of disadvantaged minority students, if injustice really makes your blood boil, you'll be willing to wage this war anyway. It'll make more difference to those kids than the skin color of those in the adjoining desks.

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