Comedic Relief? (also completely irrelevent)

I know all of you out there need something to laugh about to make it through the day.

The website for Kennedy-King in Gary, IN makes note that their first principal of the school was named Homer E. Simpson.  That made me giggle.


250-Word Abstract

A stereotype exists that schools named in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) should be avoided as they are under-performing institutions serving poor, minority children. The stereotype regarding MLK schools is an extension of a broader perception that all MLK eponymous places are undesirable and should be avoided.  This stereotype is pervasive in society and has been mentioned in scholarly research, newspapers, a radio interview with an education professional, and even a popular comedy routine. This paper analyzes the actual academic performance of more than 100 public MLK schools in situ as well as in comparison to similarly situated public schools within five miles of each MLK school to examine the validity of the stereotype in general and by neighborhood. Data is analyzed by several variables including degree of social disclosure of toponymic status on school’s website, year school was named in honor of MLK, percentage of socio-economic disadvantaged students, as well as percentage of minority students and English learners.  Academic data is gathered from standardized testing that is required by the No Child Left Behind Act. Researcher hypothesizes that the oldest MLK schools will have the worst academic performance and the newest schools will have the best academic performance and the lowest levels of poverty and minorities. Researcher postulates this is due to the mainstreaming of MLK as an American hero to be honored by all citizens, not just Black citizens, which results in increase of MLK schools in more affluent areas and improvements to existing MLK schools.

Criteria for Social Disclosure of Toponymic Status Rating

The Social Disclosure of Toponymic Status Scale is a 1-4 scale used to determine how open each MLK school is to the public (via its website) as to the fact that it is named for MLK and its evident level of incorporation of MLK-associated ideals in the mission or curriculum of the school.

1 – Website clearly denotes the school is named for MLK on the top level page, as well as includes a picture or short biography of MLK or announces incorporation of MLK’s associated ideals in mission statement or curriculum on top page or linked pages.

2 – Website clearly denotes the school is named for MLK on the top level page but any incorporation of MLK ideals is not evident on website.

3 – Website denotes the school is named for MLK in linked pages, but not evident on top level page.

4 – Website does not indicate whether or not the school is named for MLK and the researcher had to call the school directly or use other resources to determine toponymic status.

Trials and Tribulations

I may have vastly underestimated the difficulty of my summer research. After all, making a list of public schools named for MLK and comparing them to other area schools doesn’t really sound that hard. However, I have decisions ahead of me!

Magnet schools? Should I include them? The national stats consider them public schools but they aren’t a traditional school. However, it appears some of the newer MLK schools are in this category. I’m leaning towards including them (and the charter schools) as long as the assessment data is there.

What about MLK schools that have closed in the recent past? For instance, there is data available for MLK Elementary in Toledo, OH up to 2006 when they closed the school, but obviously this is not a currently-operating school. Toledo is reopening the school in a new building this Fall, however. Toledo also re-drew its school boundaries this year so the new MLK school will not be the old MLK school. There is also the matter of the MLK Elementary in New Orleans, LA. This school is listed as “temporarily closed” since Hurricane Katrina. I haven’t determined its future status or current condition beyond being currently non-operational. Data for MLK New Orleans is available up to 2005. I’m strongly leaning towards removing these schools from the sample since they are currently closed.

And what about schools named after two people? Oh yes, this exists! We have a set of King-Chavez schools in San Diego, CA and King-Kennedy schools in NY and MO. There is also a King-Elcan in GA that I am still trying to determine if it is named for MLK. I’m inclined to include these schools, but I’m completely uncertain what to do with these schools.

Making that list of MLK schools is definitely turning out to be a bit messier than I had anticipated.

On the upside, it appears that JSTOR is not the final word in scholarly sources because I actually found (quite randomly too) an article in Urban Geography written on MLK schools. It appears Dr. Derek H. Alderman used the same sources I’m looking at (yay!) in the 1997-1998 publishing by CCD. The first thing I noticed is that it appears that MLK schools have both come and gone since then and it will be interesting to have his starting point for some of the data. His research is a different direction than mine but the demographic parts are certainly the same tack. He also referenced a study on MLK schools in 1988 but I haven’t pulled that yet. I’m kind of excited that there may be something to build on when I (and Dr. Niemonen) thought it had never been done. In any case, JSTOR certainly didn’t list these articles so thank goodness for Google!