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Originally published Sunday, June 1, 2008 at 12:00 AM


Perspectives: Parents and students | "I don't care what color you are, nobody wants their kid to be the only one"

Every morning, three buses pass Laura Martin's driveway, carrying kids out of her neighborhood to other schools — including the one...

Every morning, three buses pass Laura Martin's driveway, carrying kids out of her neighborhood to other schools — including the one that takes her youngest to Kimball Elementary, about a mile away.

She feels a little guilty that her three children didn't go to Dearborn Park Elementary, just a few blocks away.

If all the students in the neighborhood went to Dearborn Park, it would have been a different story. But because that wasn't the case, she chose a school with more parent involvement, higher test scores, and a school where her daughter wouldn't be one of very few white children.

"I don't care what color you are," she says, "nobody wants their kid to be the only one."

Kimball at the time was about 25 percent white, while Dearborn Park was about 3 percent.

For middle school, however, Martin selected a school that, like Dearborn Park, didn't have very many white students, and had a lot of students from low-income families.

She says her daughter's experience at Kimball made her more comfortable about how her daughter would do at a largely minority school. And Mercer had an honors program where she was confident her daughter would find a like-minded group of high achievers.

The experience, she says, has been "terrific." Her daughters, she says, are "really engaged and challenged." They also know much more about different cultures than she ever did growing up. And one of the most important lessons they've learned, she says, is that there are "great, wonderful, ambitious people of all colors, and jerks of all colors."

Next year, her oldest daughter will go to Sealth High in West Seattle. Martin wishes she could have gone closer to home, but her daughter wanted the advanced courses that Sealth offered, and a school where those classes weren't filled with mostly white students.

That was part of what she and her daughter liked about Mercer Middle, Martin said. At Mercer, the honors classes "looked like the rest of the school."

Martin can't help but think that the school district could find a way to achieve much more racial and economic diversity at each school.

"I live within two miles of seven elementary schools. I just have to think there could be some plan so that no one school has a whole population of highly challenged kids," she says.


She doesn't think the student-assignment system that's in place serves families — or schools — very well.

"For one thing, I think it's created this polarization, where strong schools become the place everybody wants to go to ... while for schools that don't perform well, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy."

Linda Shaw,

Seattle Times education reporter

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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