HIGHLY publicized controversies centered on administrators of major school systems, like the recent firing of New York City Chancellor Joseph Fernandez, seem to indicate that 40 years after the late Justice Thurgood Marshall won the case that outlawed racial segregation in the schools, the United States is making little headway in providing effective desegregated education for American students at all levels.
This is at best only partially true. Four decades after the Brown v. Topeka Board of Education victory there are encouraging signs. More and more parents are getting involved. They are realizing what many teachers and school administrators have said all along: that school systems will only be reformed when whole families actively support them by, in a sense, "going to school" themselves, getting to know teachers and administrators, keeping aware of what their children are doing and learning in school.
One of the most heartening changes is increased involvement in school affairs on the part of minority parents. In many communities, blacks and others are making themselves heard. They have become aware of the importance of the elementary school years, and many want good schools to come to their neighborhoods rather than having their children in the primary grades bused outside of their familiar neighborhoods.
Two options being tried by public school systems: freedom to choose the school a child goes to, space being available; and voucher systems enabling families to "shop" for their schools, private or public - may prove impractical or even detrimental to school systems. Their chief value could be in arousing parents to get involved in the process. A growing number of parents and other residents in small and large cummunities are doing just that.
In order to claim the advantages of integration, minority children have had to be bused to schools in white neighborhoods. Now that circumstance may well be changing.