By Christian Leonard
Throughout my education in Spokane Public Schools, I have gotten the opportunity to interact with people that I normally may not have. Whether it be classmates, teammates, or even teachers, I’ve crossed paths with people from all kinds of backgrounds. Meeting diverse types of people in my classes and in other school programs has opened my eyes to not only how big Spokane is, but also the amount of people with completely different experiences than mine.
Unfortunately, in neighborhoods where there is not much racial or socioeconomic diversity, kids may have a hard time adjusting to the real world where no two people are alike.
Over the coming years, changes in test scores, college enrollment, and overall academic success should be monitored and analyzed. Then, further action should be discussed with not only the school board but also parents, teachers, and students.
For 40 years, the Spokane Public Schools’ boundaries stayed untouched – until summer of 2021. It was then decided that boundaries for elementary, middle, and high schools would be tweaked to maintain a solid feeder pattern from school to school, keeping kids in the same neighborhood together.
When it was announced that these changes would come into effect in 2022 and 2023, many people had concerns about equity among schools. Schools with already substantial amounts of low-income students would see even more in post-boundary changes.
At North Central High School, students who qualify for free and reduced lunch would see an increase of more than 10%. Lewis and Clark, before the changes, was the richest school in the district, and after will become even more so – further polarizing Spokane schools. The new middle schools proposed within the stated plan will also conform to these socioeconomic differences.
This is not to say that the changes offer no benefits. Decreased classroom sizes, better busing, and more opportunities for student “choice” of a preferred school are all great goals and a directional push for SPS. “Each SPS school should be a high-quality offering with attractive programming and support for high student achievement,” states Spokane Public Schools .
However, the current feeder pattern, or the way that kids advance from school to school, should be readjusted. The average socioeconomic status, or SES, of the student base becomes more skewed from school to school. Studies have found that when the average SES of the student base is higher, low-income students outperform their counterparts in higher poverty schools. In fact, higher SES diversity has been shown to improve test scores for all students and decrease the number of students that enter the criminal justice system. Low-income students in high-income schools also have higher graduation rates and college enrollment than if they were attending a low-income school. “The importance of ensuring within-school integration in order to attain benefits for students” is highlighted, as concluded in a Maryland high school study.
Changing the plans now would be difficult and is not the action that should be taken. Student survey data, academic success, and the quality of community that is created in the school setting, should be monitored and compared to the years before the boundary changes. The differences, if any, should be compared to the benefits of the new boundaries by not only the school board, but also the families that are affected by the decisions made by the school board.
Parent involvement in the education of their children is best for the future of our children and our community. Together, with open communication, we will prepare our youth for the rest of their lives. This is how we create community.
Only time will tell if the decision that was made by the school board will have a positive effect on our schools and youth. As a parent, as a teacher, or as a student, we all have a duty to be involved and voice our thoughts about changes being made. In the end, if an entire community works together to do what is best, students, like myself, will reap the rewards for a lifetime.