In Evanston, does a diverse neighborhood mean diverse public schools?

It's day 3 of our census tract series, where each of The Chicago Reporter's staff takes a break from examining other people's neighborhoods and reflects on their own. Today, reporter Jeff Kelly Lowenstein looks at where he lives in Evanston. Don't forget to check out day 1 and day 2 of this series and come back to read the rest through the week.

Jeff Kelly Lowenstein-thumb-220x220-7795.jpg

I love my neighborhood, but with a small twist.
We live in Evanston, just about a half mile north of Howard Street and Chicago.  Our house sits on a double lot, with a garden we tend to sporadically and a basketball hoop with a concrete court on which we play in the summers. Our front porch has a swing that we like to sit on when the weather permits, and our back porch has a gas grill where we barbecue.

Our neighbors are kind and gracious and seem to like it there, too. 
Very few of them have moved since we arrived in July 2003. Our community is racially and economically diverse, too.   White
folks make up the majority of the residents in our census tract, and we
also have about 30 percent black neighbors and more than 10 percent
Asian.  At 21 percent, we have a slightly higher percentage of people
making less than $30,000 than we do of people making more than $150,000.

We chose to live in south Evanston when we moved to the area in 2002
precisely because we value that diversity and wanted our son to grow up
in a heterogeneous neighborhood.

All in all, I feel very fortunate to be in our home, neighbors and community.

And yet here's the twist.

A number of Evanston folks, mostly white in my experience, extol the
virtues of the community's rich diversity.  This is a value often held
by people with high levels of education.  Our tract fits that bill, with
28 percent, or more than one in four, adults over 25 years old holding a
master's degree.

Yet these same people who tend to congratulate themselves on the
eclectic stew of people with which they live do not necessarily want
their children to attend those diverse schools for fear that that same
diversity might impair their children's future options.

We have that in our census tract.

Thumbnail image for JKL census.png

More than one third of the 366 children in our census tract attend private, rather than public, school.

And the performance of the black and Latino children in the public
schools lags far behind that of their white and Asian counterparts.

To be fair, I don't know the racial background of the kids in the
private schools.  More broadly, issues of disparate student achievement
are discussed openly in our town, which has recognized this problem and
allocated resources to try to meet it.

So, while our community's work at some of the challenges of
integration and diversity are another reason why I have positive feelings
about it, I sometimes find myself wishing that the self-congratulation
was in lower doses and the public school attendance levels were higher.

What's going on in your neighborhood? Take a look at your census tract with the New York Times' slick map
and tell us what you see. Check back the rest of this week to see more
about where we live and how our neighborhoods are changing.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Tags: Census


Leave a comment
  • I would bet that families don't send their children to the local elementary school because the achievement is low, not that the kids are minority. If the kids attending were working at or above grade level, all families would be clamoring to attend. This is the same in my neighborhood school, where only about half of the kids read at grade level and something like 10% of the kids exceed state standards. What in the world does a school like that do with kids who are ahead several grade levels in both reading and math, like my children?

  • So I notice your "highly educated" neighbors are all white by the way you wrote the artical. Man you are soooo racist!!!! And the proof is in the details of how you wrote that. Its unreal to me how "you" people all claim to be above being racist but in fact are the ones keeping it alive and in the headlines. Hypocritical liberal

  • Oh and another tell tale of you being a "racist". Why are you so hypersensitive to who lives around you? Shouldnt you see people as people and not lump them into groups so you can feel powerful when judging why anyone does anything???? Proof on that is how you jump to the conclusion that "one third of WHITE FAMILIES send their kids to private school!!!! And then you speak for them and why they send them to private school!!! Who are you to say why they send them? You and your liberal wisdom ever considered that public school education is not a good education? And people thatcan afford to send their children for a " better higher" education do so for their childs best chance for a good job in the future!!!!! Man "you" people are ruining this country!

Leave a comment