With each issue, Trib+Edu brings you an interview with experts on issues related to public education. Here is this week's subject:
Terrance Green is an assistant professor in the educational administration department at the University of Texas at Austin. Green’s research focuses on the crossroads of urban school reform and socially just community development and how policy in cities can improve educational outcomes in low-income neighborhoods.
Editor's note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Trib+Edu: What are you currently researching?
Terrance Green: My research, broadly, it’s focused on urban school reform and affordable community development with a particular focus on community and school leadership.
Right now I am working on two projects. ... I’m looking at this idea of how educational opportunity hoarding is reproduced within fast growing cities that are places of opportunity.
What I want to get at is how is it within a district, dynamics and policies perpetuate inequality within a context of so many opportunities.
What I’m starting to find with my team of researchers is that attendance boundaries, transfer policies — those policies all perpetuate the idea of educational opportunity hoarding.
We’ve been using a lot of (graduate student instructor) work to map who has access to what school, who doesn’t have access, where the boundaries end and what are the policies that could help a student potentially transfer to another school. But those policies actually perpetuate the inequality within a district.
Trib+Edu: You just mentioned educational opportunity hoarding. What does that mean?
Green: So Charles Tilly, a sociologist, came up with this term. First, he wanted to understand how is it that inequality is perpetuated from one generation to the next generation and it’s called durable inequality. ...
One of the ways he highlighted (this) is this idea he called opportunity hoarding. Opportunity hoarding has a unique network, there has to be a resource that can be monopolized but can also be reproduced and give great benefit.
There also has to be beliefs and practices that exclude certain individuals from partaking in that resource. With all of those things at play, a certain group is able to hoard opportunities perpetually.
Drawing on that idea, I’ve been interested in (it) because if you look at all of the maps from Austin from 1928 and you look at the educational statistics, some things have changed and things are happening. But there are a lot of things that have stayed the same. I’ve become interested in this whole idea of how is educational opportunity, how is that hoarding for a select group of people. And it seems to be constantly reproduced for them while others can’t access that. ...
So what we wanted to do is we went and highlighted and identified every school in Austin, particularly right now at the high school level, that met standards with distinction because we wanted to identify what we call in the paper high-quality schools. We looked at the location of those schools against the neighborhood or the attendance zones where those schools draw from.
We really wanted to see what access did low income African American and low income Latinos and Latinas have to these high quality schools by (the Texas Education Agency) standards.
What we found out at the high school level is that, one, African American students they weren’t zoned for any high quality schools, except for the LBJ LASA. The thing about that is that LASA is a selective enrollment school. Even though that’s available, everyone in the neighborhood cannot access that school.
So we started talking about how policies, like selective enrollment, becomes a mechanism — whether people are doing it consciously or unconsciously — by default to perpetuate who has access to that educational opportunity at that school. We also looked at the distance of the high quality schools in those neighborhoods and the other high quality schools, even though they weren’t located in these low income African American or Latino neighborhoods.
AISD has a transfer policy, but I think 85 percent of schools that you can transfer to that have a higher educational opportunity … are frozen. Even though there’s a policy on the books saying you can transfer to a higher quality school, those schools are over capacity and they were frozen so people could not access those schools.
So we mapped the distance between the next three high quality schools and what that means is the onus is on the parents to get there. Those all become mechanisms to perpetuate this idea of educational opportunity hoarding.
Trib+Edu: What is the second project you’re working on?
Green: My second project I’m working on is with school administrators, particularly aspiring school administrators, on developing a community-based equity audit, which simply helps current or aspiring school principals identify the community assets and strengths within their school’s local neighborhood. Also, to come up with a framework with those assets, organizations and people within that context to benefit, not only the school, but also the community.
Historically, school-community relations have been one way — mainly beneficial for the school. So the school traditionally drives school-community relations. ...
So what the community-based equity audit is it gives school leaders a framework, but also some steps on how to work in solidarity with, not on, community members and leveraging those assets to benefit the whole community, including the school in equitable ways.
Trib+Edu: What would you ultimately like to see changed in communities?
Green: Ultimately, I want a child no matter their racial background, income level, zip code, no matter the language they speak, be able to have the same access to educational opportunities that the wealthiest students have access to. When high educational opportunity is accessible for every single student born regardless of ability, regardless of language, regardless of race. That’s what I’m working towards.