By Jennifer Burns Stillman
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Extra resources for Gentrification and Schools: The Process of Integration When Whites Reverse Flight
Many of the GPs I interviewed still vividly remembered their crushingly long-shot wait-list numbers for their most desired schools, all in the high 100s. Getting a spot in a G&T program is also a strong possibility since gentry children tend to perform well on these tests, but G&T is not a preference for most GPs, nor a guarantee, and GPs never want this to be their only plan. It is at this point that the neighborhood circumstances force the consideration of a new school option. As long as GPs can still easily secure a spot at a school in their neighborhood that is already considered “good” by their peer group, it is very unlikely that a GP will consider a school not yet being talked about by other GPs.
This finding makes sense in light of JellisonHolme’s (2002) qualitative study of the school choice decision-making process of “high-status” parents in the suburbs. The “high-status” parents she interviewed seemed to rationalize their school choice almost entirely on the opinions of other “high-status” parents. What other parents of the same social stratum thought about a school was more important than whatever school data was available. The “high-status” parents, through conversation, reinforced each other’s beliefs about what was, and was not, an acceptable schooling option, primarily based on whether other “highstatus” children attended a school, even though they believed they were rationalizing their decisions as based on school quality.
They are typically the nonsegregated schools in the city that have both a large middleclass presence in the school, a substantial white and nonwhite student population, and an engaged, active parent body. When I talk about the goal of tipping in, the goal is for the zone school in a gentrifying neighborhood to become one of these diverse neighborhood schools. They need not have a majority of their students from the white, middle class; they simply need to have a strong enough white, middle-class presence that the schools are perceived to be diverse, middle-class schools, and are considered a desirable school option for a GP.