Dissertations, Theses and Capstone Projects

Date of Award

Spring 2011

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Public Administration (MPA)

Department

Political Science

Abstract

The purpose of this study is to examine the impact that race and economic status have on middle school academic performance in the Fulton County School District. Descriptive statistics were used to critically analyze how these demographic variables affect middle school academic performance. The mean Criterion Reference Competency Test (CRCT) scores in mathematics and reading were recorded for each of the 22 middle schools in Fulton County from 2006 to 2009 and compared according to race and economic level. The results were grouped together by grade, year, and test subject in order to find trends that occurred over the past three school years.

The findings support previous research that indicates that African American and Hispanic students residing in lower socioeconomic neighborhoods produce lower math and reading proficiency scores on standardized tests. The concluding recommendations found in this paper aim to improve middle school academic achievement in Fulton County through the compensatory implementation of aggressive inclusionary zoning practices strategically targeting neighborhoods that feed into racially and economically homogeneous public schools in the district. However, in order for future housing reforms and education funding streams to be redirected in any meaningful way, educators, city planners, and real estate developers must collectively work together and plan on a regional level.

Conventional wisdom maintains that the economic and social value of a community is largely reflected in the quality of its schools. However, providing a quality education in urban school districts often proves to be a problematic undertaking; largely as a result of the negative consequences that result from urban sprawl. The Fulton County School District provides a clear depiction of how such side effects as urban core poverty, unemployment, limited mobility, economic disinvestment, social isolation, city/suburban school disparities, public health threats, and safety risks impact the political, cultural, legal, and economic vitality of a city. For instance, a great wave of ecological transplantation known as suburbanization occurred as a response to the exponential population growth that Atlanta experienced between the 1960s and 1990s. The resulting division between business and residential demographics cut the city and suburbs very deeply across racial and ethnic lines which promoted racially-biased urban development patterns and economically-exclusionary zoning practices.

In conclusion, the inadequate access to a quality education afforded to these marginalized student subgroups has yet to be controlled in Fulton County despite a recent rise in Caucasians migrating back to the city center. Ultimately, this paper acknowledges the deeply rooted institutional barriers associated with the interconnectedness of housing and education policies which perpetuate the egregious biases endemic to the American education system. The final discussion pulls the best practices utilized by other large, urban school districts in order to distinguish the key characteristics of a good school. This study identifies such a school as an educational institution governed by equitable principles and guided by economic platforms where learning is centered on effective practices and maximized through efficient preparation.