Seattle’s Garfield High School is ranked in the top 3% of high schools in the nation, yet the superintendent of Seattle Public Schools, Denise Juneau, recently bought into a description of the school as a virtual “slave ship” where racial “redlining” is the operative academic policy. This is inflammatory, erroneous language and not what one expects from the city’s top educational leader.

The school district is grappling with the educational gap between the school district’s white and black students and their unbalanced representation in advanced academic programs, such as the one that has put Garfield in the top echelon of public schools. While white students make up a little less than half of the district’s students, 67% of participants in accelerated and gifted programs are white. Only 1.6% of black students are enrolled in those programs, while African Americans make up 15% of district students.

There are a number of social and educational factors that have created that disparity, but a new version of redlining – something akin to the intentional discrimination that once kept black people from buying homes in white neighborhoods – is not one of them.

Juneau seems to believe that the answer to this challenge is to eliminate those advanced educational programs. That seems like a counterproductive, ill-conceived idea that would not serve anyone especially well. Wouldn’t it be a lot smarter to redouble efforts to help a much greater number of black kids gain the skills needed to participate and succeed in enhanced educational offerings?

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