A reader writes:
This may run a little long since I have intimate experience with Bill Gates` program for small schools within schools.
In 200X or so, my daughter was attending XYZ High School in the VAPAC program (Visual and Performing Arts Center), a magnet school for the city that rivaled the best FAME programs in the country in terms of great teachers and motivated students.
VAPAC was a school within a school at XYZ High. It had about 500 kids among a greater student body of 2000. The program`s classes were open to all the students for plays, choir, band, etc.
XYZ High was broken up at 25% white, 25% black (ghetto) 25% Asian (Hmong, Vietnamese) and 25% Hispanic. The VAPAC program had a majority of whites who helped raise the test scores for the entire school.
Then The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation raised their head. XYZ High was offered millions to transform into small learning communities where it would be broken up into groups of 500 kids or so who would matriculate together as helping and bonded communities since large schools were impersonal and made kids feel lost and adrift.
When this proposal was made to the parents of Vapac students, we protested. They were going to dissolve the small community that already was working and effective.
What came about was a lesson in racial politics. VAPAC had to be destroyed because it was too white (60% or so). The black (female) Principal and others complained that not enough black students were in the plays, musicals, choir, jazz dance, etc.
It was explained that everyone in the school was eligible to participate and win roles based on ability, but that wasn`t good enough. So they set out to ruin the program.
The school district then transferred the school to the retired Phoenix Suns basketball player Kevin Johnson (now mayor), who promised to make his charter school a beacon of great test scores to send ghetto blacks to college. It hasn`t happened of course. Vapac was destroyed (one of the best high school programs in the country and world), and XYZ High is now a school everyone but a few blacks avoid.
My daughter was able to graduate in the last year of VAPAC, fortunately for her.
Of course, my wife and I tried to tell others at the various "community" meetings that Gates` ideas were crackpot social engineering that wouldn`t work either since improvement always depends more on discipline and parents` involvement than schemes and grant money.
We were looked on as racists, though.