Friday, January 20, 2017

Edushyster Says DeVos Was Playing the Long Game in Michigan

Edushyster (Jennifer Berkshire) has a new story on DeVos in Michigan.  The story opens with this:

By the measures that are supposed to matter, Betsy DeVos’ experiment in disrupting public education in Michigan has been a colossal failure. In its 2016 report on the state of the state’s schools, Education Trust Midwest painted a picture of an education system in freefall. *Michigan is witnessing systematic decline across the K-12 spectrum…White, black, brown, higher-income, low-income—it doesn’t matter who they are or where they live.* But as I heard repeatedly during the week I recently spent crisscrossing the state, speaking with dozens of Michiganders, including state and local officials, the radical experiment that’s playing out here has little to do with education, and even less to do with kids. The real goal of the DeVos family is to crush the state’s teachers unions as a means of undermining the Democratic party, weakening Michigan’s democratic structures along the way. And on this front, our likely next Secretary of Education has enjoyed measurable, even dazzling success.

Get the full story here.

January 20, 2017 in Charters and Vouchers, ESEA/NCLB | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Betsy DeVos May Be in the Top One Percent in One Category, But She Is in the Bottom Half in Another and That Makes Her a Hard Sell

When I first read the exchange between Betsy Devos and two senators on the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA), I was speechless.  As a professor, this is a relatively rare occurrence.  Once I came to my senses, a few potentially poignant ideas came to me, but before I share them, I will give you an opportunity at speechlessness.  Here is the exchange:

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) asked DeVos if all schools that receive federal funding should meet the requirements of IDEA.

DeVos: “I think they already are.”

Kaine: “But I’m asking you a should question. Whether they are or not, we’ll get into that later.” He then repeated his question.

DeVos said: “I think that is a matter that is best left to the states.”

Kaine responded: “So some states might be good to kids with disabilities and other states might not be so good and, what then, people can just move around the country if they don’t like how kids are being treated?”

Devos repeated: “I think that’s an issue that’s best left to the states.”

Kaine said: “What about the federal requirement? It’s a federal law, the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act.”  He repeated his initial question again.

DeVos then offered an anecdote about a Florida voucher program for students with disabilities.

Kaine interrupted her: “Just yes or no. I think all schools that receive federal funding — public, public charter, private — should be required to meet the conditions” of IDEA. He asked if she agreed.

DeVos: “I think that is certainly worth discussion.”

Kaine: “So you cannot yet agree with me.”

[Later]

Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) explained that the IDEA is a federal civil rights law that must be followed. She asked DeVos if she stood by her statement that it was up to the states to follow it.

DeVos: “Federal law must be followed where federal dollars are in play.”

Hassan: “So were you unaware when I just asked you bout the IDEA that it was a federal law?”

Devos: “I may have confused it.”

My guess is that if you are reading this post, you already knew what the IDEA is and, if so, that makes you more qualified to serve as Secretary of Education than Betsy DeVos.  You may also know the following, but I offer it for the good of the order.  Students with disabilities typically make up roughly 10 or 11 percent of the public school population.  In some schools, it dips to around 8 percent.  In others, it is around 14 percent.  It is the second largest chunk of funding that the federal government spends on public education.  Title I funds, directed at low-income students, are the biggest chunk at around $14 billion.  IDEA funds are a close second at $12.5 billion.  Nothing else comes close.  

The Office for Civil Right at the Department of Education is charged with investigating discrimination complaints in education.  It protects against race, gender, disability, language status, and age.  Of all the complaints it receives, 39% are in regard to disability.

How any Senator could deem a person qualified who is not sure of, misunderstands, or thinks that the most (or second most) important law she will be charged with enforcing is voluntary is . . . .  Well, I just cannot find the word to finish that sentence.  Is it shocking, astonishing, unbelievable, or maybe just the new world order where basic knowledge and facts do not matter.

Then a snarky light went off.  Betsy DeVos may be part of the top one percent in terms of wealth and that may qualify her to do a lot of things.  It may have offered her a lot of skills. But on education, she may very well be in the bottom half in terms of knowledge.  Owning charter schools is a lot different than knowing something about education.  I own several stocks and I know very little about any of them.  I own a couple of cars--one for a decade and I still cannot manage to get the driver's seat to return to its original position as I am told it is supposed to when I get in.  Nor can I sync my garage door opener to my car.  And I have read the owner's manual on these topics a couple of times.  And I am generally a pretty hand person.

But, of course, no one is nominating you to be Secretary of Education and no one is asking me to fix their car or offer stock advice, so those are not really accurate points of comparison.  If we compared DeVos to those who actually follow public education, either closely or casually, I would venture to say she is, at best, in the bottom 25% in terms of knowledge.  Now, let's get serious.  Is this someone any Senator should confirm as the Secretary of Education?

January 19, 2017 in Discipline, ESEA/NCLB | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Will Obama's Last Act Be a Major Reform to Address School Funding Inequity?

CNN reports that the "Obama administration is considering a major last-minute policy shift that could force hundreds of school districts to cut spending at well-financed elementary and secondary schools and move nearly $1 billion dollars to schools with large numbers of low-income students."  The story does not dig into the details, but my assumption is that they are referencing Secretary of Education King's plan to use the supplement, not supplant provision as a mechanism to force intra-district funding equity.  While inequities between school districts tend to be much larger than inequities within school districts, the later is arguably more perverse.  Data shows that many school districts simply do not fund their own schools equally.  They use federal funds at low-income schools to replace local dollars and then move those local dollars to schools serving more affluent students.  The net result is to cancel out the added boost that federal dollars are supposed to have.

As a matter of basic fairness and protecting the integrity of federal dollars, the Obama policy is entirely reasonable.  Under prior law, I argued here that for the past several decades the Department should have been doing something along the lines of what Obama is proposing.  Prior administration simply failed to do their job and looked the other way.  

There is, unfortunately, a major problem with Obama's new proposal: the Department probably lacks the legal authority to impose it.  A year ago, when Congress reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in the form of the Every Student Succeeds Act, it severely limited the Department's overall authority, stripping the Secretary of several powers he/she had previously held.  On the hole, it reversed the federal role in education.  Recognizing as much, Secretary John King tried to find a loop-hole for exerting continued authority.  Supplement, not supplant was his chosen vehicle.  

As I argue here, however, I am afraid the funding equity regulation is a square peg that will not fit in this round hole.  If the Department makes this last minute move, it may not stand long.  The next administration would likely take steps to reverse it. And in the meantime, school districts would surely file suit in federal court challenging the validity of the regulation.  In fact, Senator Lamar Alexander has already urged them to do so if the regulation goes into effect.

January 18, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 13, 2017

Federal Support for School Integration: An Obama Administration Review

The National Coalition on School Diversity has issued an updated report of the Obama Administration's support for school integration.  It concludes that "while much remains to be done, the Obama Administration has made concrete progress on school integration policy."  The report focuses on four categorical areas in which the administration focused on integration: its 2011 Guidance on voluntary school integration; school diversity language and incentives in USDOE competitive grant programs for K-12 education; school diversity language and incentives in Early Childhood Education programs; and Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and “ESEA Flexibility.”  Get the full report here.

 

January 13, 2017 in Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Pipeline Programs to Increase Diversity: A Writing Competition

The Law School Admission Council's Diversity Committee Announces a Writing Competition on: WHY PIPELINE PROGRAMS TARGETING STUDENTS FROM UNDERREPRESENTED RACIAL AND ETHNIC BACKGROUNDS ARE ESSENTIAL TO THE FUTURE OF THE LEGAL PROFESSION


The Law School Admission Council (LSAC) is committed to fostering diversity in law schools and the legal profession. Currently, through its Diversity Committee, LSAC sponsors and funds a number of initiatives aimed at increasing the diversity of the legal profession. These initiatives include organizing national and regional pipeline workshops that promote the development of outreach and early educational programs for students from diverse backgrounds; offering grants to support diversity initiatives at LSACmember law schools; maintaining databases and websites such as DiscoverLaw.org with information, resources, and programs that encourage students of color, students living with a disability, and LGBTQ students to pursue a legal career and equip them with the tools for successful admission and graduation from law school; and engaging in ongoing collaborative programs and projects with prelaw advisors and students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACUs), and Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs).

For decades, studies consistently have shown that students of color, students living with a disability, and LGBTQ students are underrepresented in most law schools. As a consequence, smaller percentages of persons who represent these groups are graduating from law school and entering the legal profession. This writing competition is designed to reinvigorate the dialogue about the recruitment and retention strategies that law schools should deploy to yield a more diverse class of graduates who will enter the legal profession.

ENTRY PROCEDURES
Include a cover page with your submission. The cover should only contain the author's name, title of the paper, mailing address, law school affiliation, law school status (lL, 2L, 3L/4L), a telephone number where the author may easily be reached, and an email address.

To allow anonymous evaluations, please do not put your name on the actual paper. The title on the paper must precisely match the title on the cover page that contains the identifying information described above.

Email entries to DiversityOffice@LSAC.org. Only electronic files (PDF or Word) will be accepted.

JUDGING
A panel of law school faculty, legal writing instructors, and LSAC diversity committee members will evaluate each submission and select the winning papers. If no paper meets the standards set forth in this announcement, the panel may decide either not to issue an award or publish a paper. The panel's decision will be final.

DEADLINE
All papers must be sent no later than 5:00 PM EST on Friday, March 31, 2017. No extensions will be granted under any circumstances. Papers submitted after the deadline will not be eligible for an award. All submissions become the property of LSAC, and LSAC will retain the copyright of any winning papers selected for publication.

Topic: Why Pipeline Programs Targeting Students from Underrepresented Racial and Ethnic Backgrounds Are Essential to the Future of the Legal Profession.

Eligibility: Current JD candidates who are in good standing at LSAC -` member law schools

Length and Format: Up to 20 pages (5,000 words or less), 8½ by 11 inch paper, double spaced, 1-inch margins, Word format, 12-point font, with endnotes written in "A Uniform System" of Citation: (The Blue Book) format

Evaluation Criteria: Essays will be judged according to:


• Research and use of relevant sources and authorities (cases; law review articles; other secondary sources, including, but not limited to, books, newspapers, and magazines; and empirical and sociological studies)
• Quality and clarity of legal analysis, persuasion, and writing
• Understanding, interpretations, and conclusions regarding diversity and the implications of diversity in this context
• Full compliance with all competition procedures


Awards: One winning paper will be selected from each of the three (3) qualifying categories of eligible students (1L, 2L, 3L/4L). Each winner will receive a $5,000 cash prize and the winning essays will be posted at DiscoverLaw.org. In addition, one winning paper will be submitted for publication in the Journal of Legal Education or similar publication.

Questions: Please send your inquiries to the LSAC Diversity Initiatives
Office – DiversityOffice@LSAC.org.

January 12, 2017 in Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Betsy DeVos Will Not Bring the Disruption the Department of Education Sorely Needs

Betsy DeVos's lack of expertise has been cited as a point of opposition to her appointment, but as this morning's commentators remarked, DeVos was not appointed for her expertise. She was appointed to shake up the system.  She, in fact, describes herself as a disruptor.  This is her claim to fame.  If this is the basis for her appointment, however, she is still not a good choice for Secretary Education.  The problem with some disruptors is that they do not know enough about the thing they seek to disrupt to actually disrupt it.  They speak with bluster, but in the end, that is all it is.

Anyone who thinks the Department of Education has not been disruptive as of late and is just doing the same old things has not been watching closely.  Secretary of Education Arne Duncan shook up the education status quo like no one in a long time.  He went after teacher rights and public school monopolies.  Teacher unions and tenure have long been seen as immovable aspects of the status quo that prevented serious reform.  Likewise, traditional public schools' "monopoly" on education made competition and institutional reforms similarly difficult.  

Arne Dunce broke the backs of both of these pillars of education.  Through Race to the Top and No Child Left Behind waivers, he encouraged, cajoled, coerced, and compelled more than forty states to institute teacher evaluation systems that fundamentally altered the way teachers are hired, fired, retained, promoted, and tenured in many places. These changes were so radical that they generated a series of lawsuits in places like Texas, Florida, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and New York, alleging that teachers' constitutional rights had been violated.  

Likewise, when state education budgets were in free-fall during the recession, Duncan told states that if they did not lift their caps on the number of charter schools they would create, he would, in effect, kill their applications for new federal funding.  This move, combined with other factors, resulted in the number of students attending charter schools doubling during the recession.  Although Duncan did not compel it, while states were at it, several also drastically expanded their voucher programs.  Caps on who could apply for a voucher were lifted and voucher funding doubled, tripled, quadrupled, and septupled in some instances.

These are the same types of policies DeVos supports.  So the policies she wants to bring to Washington are already there.  In fairness, she would seek to significantly expand these policies, but this is not disruption; this is fueling the system.  If we look back at Duncan's tenure, would she say she wants to fuel much of his system?  If that is all she would do, is she really the leader she claims to be?  Would parents be excited about her ideas?

The one type of disruption we need and have not seen in Washington in decades is a serious commitment to equal access to learning opportunities.  The Every Student Succeeds Act is one of the worst examples of gutting this concept from federal policy.  And charters, vouchers, and other choice-like reforms are insulting substitutes for equal access to learning opportunities.  They espouse the premise that all students are entitled to equal learning opportunities and reason that since students are not getting those equal opportunities in public school, they should be allowed to go elsewhere.  The irony is that the people promoting these policies are so often unwilling to do much of anything to ensure students get equal access to learning in regular public schools.  Likewise, they are unwilling to place oversight on vouchers and charters to determine whether opportunities are equal there either.  In other words, they are pursuing choice for choice's sake, and the reasoning in support of choice is circular.

 

This leaves us in a tough place.  Those who want disruption through DeVos will not get it.  And if they understood enough about the system to know what real disruption is, they probably would not want it.

As a small update, DeVos's hearing has been postponed from today until next week so that she can complete her financial disclosures and other paperwork.

January 11, 2017 in Federal policy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 9, 2017

Are Pence and DeVos a One-Two Knock Out for Education Policy? Recent Reports Out of Indiana Suggest Yes

My recent posts have focused on DeVos and the problems she presents for public education, although I emphasize that without new legislation she does not have power to do too much.  Some new information out of Indiana regarding the education system Governor Pence has overseen suggests more trouble on the horizon and give me pause about assuming an incompetent education administration.  Pence actually has a track record of getting things done in Indiana and what he has accomplished should raise red flags for those invested in improving public education.  

Most notably is the state's teacher bonus system.  By law, the state mandated that $40 million in bonuses be handed out to the state's teachers.  I am all in favor of increasing teacher pay in ways that make the profession more attractive to new teachers and encourage others to stay.  Indiana's incentive pay, however, has two major problems.  First, it is having a very inequitable effect on teachers and driving most of the money to school systems that need it the least. Cory Doctorow offers this summary:

[The state gives] bonuses for teachers who preside over high-achieving classes. This year, the biggest payouts will go to schools teaching the richest kids in the state, while schools for poor kids will get little-to-none of the payouts.

The biggest winner in the giveaway are the Carmel Clay Schools, where 9% of kids qualify for free or subsidized lunches, where the teachers will get $2422 each. The Indianapolis district -- the largest in the state -- will give each teacher a $128.40 bonus.

Emanuel Felton adds:

Carmel Clay Schools, where just 9 percent of their 16,000 students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, will get the most— $2.4 million or roughly $2,422 per teacher. Another well-off Indianapolis suburban district, Zionsville Community Schools, where fewer than 5 percent of students qualify for the free and reduced-price lunch program, will receive about $2,240 per teacher. Meanwhile, Indianapolis, the state's largest district will receive just around $330,875, or $128.40 per educator. So teachers in those wealthy suburban districts will get bonuses nearly 20 times larger than effective and highly effective educators in Indianapolis.

Indiana State Teachers Association President Teresa Meredith calls it a "flawed" system.

"While educators at well-resourced schools performed well and received a much-deserved bonus, the educators teaching in some of the most challenging districts where socioeconomic factors can negatively impact student and school performance, were left out," she said in a statement. "We need high-quality educators to teach at our most-challenged schools, and this distribution of bonuses certainly won't compel them to do so."

Even if Indiana fixed this inequity, the performance pay has a second big problem: no evidence shows that these systems actually improve student performance.  Instead, they tend to frustrate teachers because the metrics that determine whether teachers receive a bonus are ones over which teachers have little control.  The distribution of bonuses appears random or keyed to who gets to teacher certain students.  More on these problems here.

Of course, the more obvious problem in Indiana is a voucher system on steroids that increasingly drives public funding to middle and upper income families in private schools while funding for public schools falls short.  Indiana was among the nation's worse offenders on that score in recent years.  More on that here.

All of this spells trouble.  While one could hope for an isolated and irrelevant Secretary of Education, this one, should she be confirmed, may have an ally in the White House who knows how to implement new education frameworks.

January 9, 2017 in Charters and Vouchers, Federal policy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 6, 2017

Addressing the Recent Increase in Bullying: A Webinar for Parents

On Wednesday, January 11, 2017, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law’s Parental Readiness and Empowerment Program (PREP) in partnership with the Center for Safe Schools and the Center for Education Equity will host a free webinar for parents and advocates on school bullying in response to a surge of recent hate crimes and acts of discrimination in schools nationwide.  During the webinar, participants will learn how to recognize and report school bullying as well as how to engage their community and what parents can do. The webinar will take place at 3 p.m. EST in English and at 6 p.m. EST in Spanish. Please RSVP here.  For more details, please see the attached flyer below or visit the website at www.prepparents.org.

Prep Capture

El miércoles, 11 de enero, El Programa de Preparación y Capacitación de Padres (PREP por sus siglas en inglés) de El Comité de Abogados Para Los Derechos Civiles Bajo la Ley en colaboración con el Centro para Escuelas Seguras y el Centro para Equidad Educativa ofrecerán un webinario gratuito para padres y defensores acerca del acoso escolar en respuesta a un aumento de recientes crimines de odio y actos de discriminación en las escuelas a nivel nacional. Durante el webinario, los participantes aprenderán cómo reconocer y reportar actos de acoso escolar y también cómo involucrar a su comunidad y lo que pueden hacer los padres. El webinario tendrá lugar a las 3 hora del este en inglés y a las 6 hora del este en español. Por favor inscríbanse aquí. Para más detalles, por favor vean el folleto adjunto o visiten nuestro sitio de web www.prepparents.org  

 

January 6, 2017 in Discipline, Discrimination | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Assessing the Effectiveness of Obama's Education Policies

Secretary of Education John King is set to give his final reflections on the work that the U.S. Department of Education has accomplished over the past eight years.  The Atlantic reports that he will release a 14 page exit memo titled "Giving Every Student a Fair Shot: Progress Under the Obama Administration’s Education Agenda.”  I would expect that it is largely a summary of the 60 page document the White House released back in May under the exact same title.  Get that report here.

The most notable accomplishments it will tout are Race to the Top, changes to the teaching profession, expansion of pre-kindergarten education, the Every Student Succeeds Act, and civil rights enforcement.  With the new administration that lies ahead,  many on both sides of the aisle will soon enough long for the one that just left and, thus, I hesitate to be critical. Nonetheless, I cannot count many of this administrations accomplishments as positives.  

An overarching theme of this administration is what I would call the econometrics and corporatization of education. I use econometrics to refer to the notion that we could precisely measure student growth and teacher effectiveness.  These notions became the basis for using extremely complicated mathematical analysis to compare one teacher to another, one school to another, and to take action against them when officials did not think the results were good enough.  

Intuitively, the approach made perfect sense--far more than No Child Left Behind's nonsensical assumption that it could force schools to make 100 percent of students proficient by 2014.  The problem is that the Obama administration's policies rested on the same fundamental flaw as No Child Left Behind.  They both assumed that standardized tests are an accurate measure of learning.  In many ways, the Obama administration made things worse because it upped the ante.  Not only would it rely on the test results, it would attempt to draw far more information and conclusions from them.  As I detail here, this approach is inherently unfair in a number of ways and produces random and unreliable results. What the Department should have done is the opposite.  Keep the tests but use them only for what they are good for: rough global measures of a slice of student learning that can serve as a trigger for further inquiry into a school (and maybe a teacher).  

Corporatization is somewhat of a rough characterization, but I use it as a proxy for the notion that schools can run like businesses and on the whole operate like markets. This notion led the Department to demand that states lift caps on the number of charter schools and resulted in an enormous expansion.  Charter school enrollments roughly doubled during the Obama administration.  While it is true that there are scores of very high performing and beat-the-odds charter schools across this nation, they are the exception, not the norm.  There is no evidence to show that a school, simply by virtue of being a charter, is likely to perform any better than a traditional public school.  Rather, the evidence shows quite the contrary.  

And even putting achievement results aside, the profit motives, potential corruption, lack of transparency, and lack of legal protection are, in fact, inherent risk in charters as currently structured.  Thus, these past several years saw a sharp spike in these problems.  What charter schools require and neither the federal nor state governments have been willing to impose are serious oversight and standards that align them with the core values of public education.  As I detail here, without that oversight and alignment, they can undermine public education itself.

Finally, the Department is quite proud of the fact that it got rid of No Child Left Behind.  I concede that is an accomplishment.  The problem is that the Department overreached so much through Race to the Top and the waivers of No Child Left Behind, that the final legislation that replaced No Child Left Behind was more about eliminating the federal role in education than it was improving it.  In that respect, the Every Student Succeeds Act is a major step backward for the students who need federal leadership the most.  That is no accomplishment at all. For a full explanation, see here.

Those critiques, however, do not mean that the Department was without success.  To be absolutely clear and reiterate what I wrote a few weeks ago, the Office for Civil Rights in the Department of Education has done an outstanding job, particularly in the past four years.  For the first time in a very long time, the Office for Civil Rights once again became an institution that families believed would take their claims of discrimination seriously.  The Office once again became an institution that would insist that districts comply with anti-discrimination law, regardless of the politics that surrounded doing so.  Thus, it is no surprise that the cases filed with the Department grew, so much so that the Department requested additional resources to do the work that the law demanded of it.

As we turn to the next administration, signals indicate that we will miss the Office for Civil Rights more than most appreciate now.  Whether we will miss the general Department of Education's substantive policies remains to be seen, but things can certainly get a lot worse.

January 5, 2017 in Charters and Vouchers, ESEA/NCLB, Teachers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Texas Special: Purge Students with Disabilities

Identifying students with a disability is not an exact science.  Scholars have long-since documented both the over- and under-identification of certain demographic groups with certain disabilities.  As Theresa Glennon argued in Race, Education and the Construction of a Disabled Class, educational disabilities can be a proxy for the perception that a student diverges from the cultural norm.  Thus, year-to-year variances in the number of students identified as having a disability that affects educational opportunity are to be expect.  Minor upward and downward shifts are not necessarily an indicator of negligence or ulterior motives.

With that said, the Houston Chronicle has made the case that the state of Texas has systematically reduced its special education population for no legitimate reason.  This chart shows that the state's special education population has shrunk by more than 25% in the past decade.  The numbers are even more drastic when the state is broken down by region.  A number have seen their special education population shrink by a third.  See here.

The reason, cites the Chronicle, is clear: the state mandated a cap on the number of students in special education.

Over a decade ago, the officials arbitrarily decided what percentage of students should get special education services — 8.5 percent — and since then they have forced school districts to comply by strictly auditing those serving too many kids.

Their efforts, which started in 2004 but have never been publicly announced or explained, have saved the Texas Education Agency billions of dollars but denied vital supports to children with autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, epilepsy, mental illnesses, speech impediments, traumatic brain injuries, even blindness and deafness, a Houston Chronicle investigation has found.

Once the message went out to districts, things moved quickly.

The Texas Education Agency had determined that they had too many students in special education, the administrators announced, and they had come up with a plan: Remove as many kids as possible.

The staffers did as they were told, and during that school year, the Laredo Independent School District purged its rolls, discharging nearly a third of its special education students, according to district data. More than 700 children were forced out of special education and moved back into regular education.  Only 78 new students entered services.

"We basically just picked kids and weeded them out," said Maricela Gonzalez, an elementary school speech therapist. "We thought it was unfair, but we did it."

Gonzalez's account, confirmed by two coworkers and district documents, illustrates how some schools across Texas have ousted children with disabilities from needed services in order to comply with an agency decree that no more than 8.5 percent of students should get specialized education.

The Chronicle did a multiple series and data collection.  See here.  

Given the costs of special education, I suppose it does not entirely surprise me that the state might give such a ploy a shot.  What does surprise me is that it was allowed to happen under the watch of the U.S. Department of Education or courts, if they were alerted.  Yet, given the individual nature of special education determinations, courts and agencies can often demand a showing that each individual student has been denied their rights.  As a result, larger trends can go unchecked until a number of individual cases are substantiated.  In any event, the Department announced this past fall that it was sending officials to the state to investigate the matter.

 

January 4, 2017 in Special Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 19, 2016

Obama's Head of Office for Civil Rights to Move to U.S. Commission on Civil Rights,

President Obama has appointed Catherine E. Lhamon to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.  Commissioners' terms do not end with the president who appointed them.  Thus, Lhamon would remain on the Commission during the Trump administration.  I am heartened by the opportunity for her legacy continue.  In my opinion, Lhamon has been the most effective head of the Office for Civil Rights of my adulthood by a good measure.  She has overseen and defended a much more aggressive approach to equality in school discipline, anti-bullying and harassment, and equality in access to school resources and facilities for all students regardless of race, ethnicity, language status, disability, or gender--and I do mean in each of these areas and for each of these groups.  Thanks goes out to her and all those at the Office for Civil Rights that have worked with her.

President Obama appointed her to the Commission along with Debo P. Adegbile, former Acting President and Directing Counsel of the NAACP LDF.

The full announcement is here.

December 19, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Appellate Court Denies School District's Claim That It Would Suffer Irreparable Harm by Granting Equal Restroom Access to Transgender Student

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of a transgender student's access to facilities consistent with her gender identity, bring the number of favorable circuit courts to two.  In Dodds v. U.S. Department of Education, the court refused to read too much into the Supreme Court's recent stay in Grimm v. Gloucester:

The crux of this case is whether transgender students are entitled to access restrooms for their identified gender rather than their biological gender at birth. To demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits, the movant must show, “at a minimum, serious questions going to the merits.” Mich. Coal., 945 F.2d at 153 (internal citation omitted). “It is not enough that the chance of success on the merits be better than negligible.” Nken, 556 U.S. at 435 (citation omitted). “[M]ore than a possibility of relief is required.” Id. While the Supreme Court has stayed a similar case from another Circuit, see G.G. ex rel. Grimm v. Gloucester Cty. Sch. Bd., 136 S. Ct. 2442 (Mem), that fact does not satisfy the test required of us here, and does nothing more than show a possibility of relief, which is not enough to grant a stay.

To be clear, however, this court did not rule on the merits of the issue of whether Title IX requires admission to the restroom. As an appeal of a preliminary junction, the court focused, appropriately so, on the irreparable harm the district would purported suffer, as well as that of the girl.  It wrote:

the record establishes that Doe, a vulnerable eleven year old with special needs, will suffer irreparable harm if prohibited from using the girls’ restroom. Her special education class, which previously used the nurse’s restroom to accommodate Doe, has started using the sex-separate multi-user restrooms now that Doe can use the girls’ restrooms. Highland’s exclusion of Doe from the girls’ restrooms has already had substantial and immediate adverse effects on the daily life and well-being of an eleven-year-old child (i.e. multiple suicide attempts prior to entry of the injunction). These are not distant or speculative injuries—staying the injunction would disrupt the significant improvement in Doe’s health and well-being that has resulted from the injunction, further confuse a young girl with special needs who would no longer be allowed to use the girls’ restroom, and subject her to further irreparable harm.

 

December 19, 2016 in Gender | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

New Study Finds That Money Has a Large Effect on Student Achievement, But It Is Not News--It Is a Sad Reminder of What We Must Do

The New York Times took note of a new school funding study Monday, titling the article It Turns Out Spending More Probably Does Improve Education.  The study by Julien Lafortune, Jesse Rothstein, and Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach found that school funding "reforms lead to sharp, immediate, and sustained increases in spending in low-income school districts. Using representative samples from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, we find that reforms cause increases in the achievement of students in these districts, phasing in gradually over the years following the reform. The implied effect of school resources on educational achievement is large."  To put it in perspective, they write "After desegregation, school finance reform is perhaps the most important education policy change in the United States in the last half century."

Our results thus show that money can and does matter in education . . .  School finance reforms are blunt tools, and some critics have argued that they will be offset by changes in district or voter choices over tax rates or that funds will be spent so inefficiently as to be wasted. Our results do not support these claims. Courts and legislatures can evidently force improvements in school quality for students in low-income districts. But there is an important caveat to this conclusion. As we discuss in Section VI, the average low-income student does not live in a particularly low-income district, so is not well targeted by a transfer of resources to the latter. Thus, we find that finance reforms reduced achievement gaps between high- and low-income school districts but did not have detectable effects on resource or achievement gaps between high- and low-income (or white and black) students. Attacking these gaps via school finance policies would require changing the allocation of resources within school districts, something that was not attempted by the reforms that we study. 

To be clear, I will be citing and relying on this study in my own work.  It is a good one, but those who have studied school funding for years will be a little miffed with the New York Times' framing of the study.  This new study, while high in quality and nuance, does not reveal something particular new.  It is incorrect to suggest the study's findings are a surprise-- that it "turn[s] out" that money improves education.  This has been the consensus of social science for decades.  See my discussion of the literature here.

The problem is that the issue has been so poorly reported and debated that the study seems like news to most.  Then again, maybe we have just conveniently ignored it.  Either way, education budgets have been decimated over the past decade with little more than a whimper from most national and local media.  During the Recession, every state cut education.  Most cut it with a hatchet, with cuts of twenty percent or more in several states and over ten percent in the largest chunk.  Equally disturbing is that most states have still yet to fully replace those funds.  The most recent report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities indicates that, in real dollar terms, thirty states are still funding education below their pre-recession level.

Things have been so bad that people simply stopped pursuing careers in education, so much so that when states finally began rehiring teachers last year, there were literally no applicants to fill those jobs.  School districts actually began using billboards on the highway to beg people to apply.  California told prospective applicants they jump right into the classroom if they would just enroll in a teacher preparation program--they could finish their degrees on the weekends.  It was only this tailing effect of school funding cuts that finally caught widespread attention.

The overall trend calls for intervention and a new approach by legislatures and courts.  For more, see Averting Educational Crisis: Funding Cuts, Teacher Shortages, and the Dwindling Commitment to Public Education.

December 14, 2016 in School Funding | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Key to Blocking the New Administration's Education Policies Moving Forward

Two big challenges will face advocates in dealing with the Department of Education in the coming years: 1) insisting that it enforces civil rights law and 2) stopping it from excesses of power.  Advocates will have relatively few tools in their bag to force the Department to do its civil rights job, but they will have clear statutory language and powerful precedent on its side to stop the Department from going beyond its job.  On this second point, one need look back no further than the recent controversies surrounding the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

In the process of writing Federalizing Education by Waiver?, I spent a good deal of time worrying about whether I was being fair in my assessment that Secretary Duncan had exceeded his power in imposing various conditions on the statutory waivers he began granted under NCLB.  To be honest, when he initially rolled the waiver process out in 2012, I paid almost no attention.  The process was bureaucratic, something had to be done to avoid the sanctions that NCLB would have required, and almost anything seemed better than the decade of high stakes testing our schools had endured.  I saw little need to crack open the statute and seriously consider the matter.

Common Core, as a matter of substance, did not pique my interest either.  Lesson plans and what is actually taught in K-12 curriculum goes beyond my expertise.  I found the new teacher evaluation systems curious primarily because they relied so heavily on the standardized tests everyone had railed against for years, but the systems were so complex that, again, I did not dig deeper.  It was really only the growing power of the Secretary between 2012 and 2014 and the sense that he might just do anything he wanted in elementary and secondary education that finally gave me pause.  And it was because I was generally neutral as to the substance of his policies that I reassured myself that my conclusions were sound and I was not simply crying foul because I disliked his policies.

My conclusions in Federalizing Education by Waiver? and proscriptions for the future seem all the more valid and important now.  The point of the article was to take executive power seriously, even when your friends are the ones exercising it, because some day some one other than your friends may exercise it.  And the best way to maintain credibility in calling out those with whom you disagree is to call out your friends for the same thing.  So while the NCLB waiver process and the legal issues it raised seemed to fade into nothing last year when Congress replaced NCLB with the Every Student Succeeds Act, I am glad I wrote the article (and later testified against the department).  And the importance of statutory text and the limits it places on executive power remain crucially important to those who may disagree with the privatization model that Trump administration intends to pursue.

As I wrote yesterday, it is not clear that Betsy DeVos really knows what her job is and what its limits will entail.  Should she secure the job, I hope that her general counsel will read the Every Student Succeeds Act carefully and advise her as to what it makes abundantly clear: the Secretary now has very limited power and will serve more as a figure head and paper pusher than anything else.  If she attempts more than this, Republicans should challenge her use of executive power as forcefully as they did that of the prior administration.  Surely, Democrats will be right beside them.  

This time around, I clearly disagree with the substance of the policies the administration is proposing.  But if DeVos, or any one else, seeks to impose or cajole them through the Every Student Succeeds Act, I will oppose them because they are beyond the Department's power.

 

December 13, 2016 in ESEA/NCLB, Federal policy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 12, 2016

Children's Legal Rights Journal - Call for Papers Extended to January 15

The Children’s Legal Rights Journal invites articles submitted by January 15, 2017 that address issues that impact children. The call for papers is below:

Submission Details. We invite you to submit articles that address any of the prominent and current issues that impact children. Articles should be received by January 15, 2017. Submissions should be previously unpublished pieces based on original work. All submissions should be between 15 and 60 pages (double­spaced) and in Bluebook format.

About the CLRJ. The Children’s Legal Rights Journal is a national journal sponsored by Loyola University Chicago School of Law in cooperation with the National Association of Counsel for Children. We publish articles on a variety of children’s legal issues and we are the only journal in the country specifically addressing legal needs of children.

Contact Information. All submissions and questions can be sent directly to CHILDLRJ@LUC.EDU. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions. You can also contact CLRJ via mail and facsimile:

Erika C. Weaver
Solicitations Editor
25 E. Pearson, 11th Floor
Chicago, IL 60611
Phone: 312.915.6481
Fax: 312.915.6485

The CLRJ will publish one additional issue by the end of the academic year and we will be soliciting articles for that publication early next year.

 

December 12, 2016 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Betsy DeVos Won't Be Doing Too Much As Secretary of Education, But It Is Not Clear She Knows That

It is not clear whether Betsy DeVos really knows what her job will be as Secretary of Education or if she is just blowing smoke like the person who nominated her.  She is telling news sources that she will put the brakes on the Common Core.  “It’s time to make education great again in this country. . . . This means letting states set their own high standards and finally putting an end to the federalized Common Core. . . . The answer isn’t bigger government — it’s local control, it’s listening to parents, and it’s giving more choices.”

The truth is that Congress has already gutted the Common Core and shifted enormous control back to states and districts.  The Every Student Succeeds Act bars the Department of Education from requiring or even suggesting that a state use the Common Core.  The Act is so anti-Common Core and anti-federal standards that I could imagine DeVos and her staffers getting in trouble if they even brought the subject up.  The Act prohibits the Department from engaging states on their academic standards altogether, allowing states to submit a self-attested letter to the Department that their standards are challenging. The point is to prevent the Secretary from monkeying with academic standards in any respect.

The limits on the Secretary and the Department, however, go much deeper than this.  As I write in the introduction to Abandoning the Federal Role in Education: The Every Student Succeeds Act, California Law Review (forthcoming),

On December 10, 2015, the [Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)] lost its historic way. Congress reauthorized the [ESEA] under the popularly titled bill the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). To the delight of most, the ESSA eliminated the punitive testing and accountability measures previously dictated by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). But in the fervor to end NCLB, few stopped to seriously consider the wisdom of what would replace it. The new Act, ESSA, moves education in a direction that would have been unthinkable just a few short years ago: no definite equity provisions, no demands for specific student achievement, and no enforcement mechanism to prompt states to consistently pursue equity or achievement themselves.

The ESSA reverses the federal role in education and returns nearly full discretion to states. Although state discretion in some contexts ensures an appropriate balance of state and federal power, state discretion on issues of educational equality for disadvantaged students has proven particularly corrosive in the past. Most prominently, states and local districts vigorously resisted school integration for two decades, and sometimes longer, following Brown v. Board of Education. In fact, it was this resistance that made passing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act necessary in 1965. State resistance to equality, however, is not limited to desegregation, nor a remnant of the past. Over the last decade, states have made large cuts to education funding and refused to reinstate funding even as their economies improved. The effects of these cuts have often hit low-income and minority school districts hardest. This regression marks a troubling new era in which states are willing to flaunt their state constitutional duties to deliver adequate and equal educational opportunities.

Although the ability for states to adapt solutions to local needs is important, complete discretion also opens the door to ignoring the Education Act’s historical mission of equal opportunity and supplemental resources for low-income students. The ESSA’s framework will, in effect, reduce equal educational opportunity to a random occurrence rather than a legal guarantee. First, the ESSA grants states near unfettered discretion in creating school performance systems and setting goals. States are free to assign almost any weight they see fit to test results, as well as consider any number of other soft variables to counterbalance the weight of tests. With this discretion, as many as fifty disparate state systems could follow. Second, even assuming states adopt reasonable performance systems, the ESSA does not specify the remedies or interventions that states must implement when districts and schools underperform. Third, the ESSA undermines several principles that have long stood at the center of the Act’s mission to ensure equal and adequate access to resources. In particular, the ESSA weakens two major equity standards and leaves a major loophole in a third one that, in effect, exempts 80 percent of school expenditures from equity analysis. To make matters worse, Congress left federal funding flat and afforded states more discretion in spending existing funds.

In other words, what DeVos and Trump claim they want to do in education has already been done.  And because the Secretary is so weakened under the Every Student Succeeds Act, all the other stuff they want to do is beyond their power.  Moreover, there with be no waiver process this time around that allows the Secretary to impose new conditions or policy items on states.  Congress made sure of that when it revised the Act.  So if DeVos and Trump want to push more charters and vouchers, they are going to have to get Congress to pay for it through new legislation.  That means selling an idea that works, not exercising the existing power of the Department.

Get my full analysis of the Act here.

December 12, 2016 in ESEA/NCLB, Federal policy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 9, 2016

Office for Civil Rights Releases Annual Report and Reflections on Past Eight Years, Citing Accomplishments and Lingering Challenges

This from the Department:

Protecting our students’ civil rights is fundamental to ensuring they receive a high-quality education. Two reports released today spotlight the challenges and achievements of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

According to OCR’s FY 2016 annual report, the number of complaints filed last fiscal year skyrocketed to a record 16,720 at a time when OCR’s staffing levels remained at a near all-time low. Still, OCR has resolved more than 66,000 civil rights cases during the Obama Administration, according to a second narrative describing progress made toward educational equity through strong civil rights enforcement from 2009-2016.

The Department released the new reports during an event with U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr., former Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon, as well as Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund.

“Much progress has been made in the past eight years, but much work remains to ensure all children enjoy equitable access to excellence in American education,” said U.S. Education Secretary John B. King Jr. “These two reports highlight the ongoing vital necessity of OCR’s work to eliminate discriminatory barriers to educational opportunity so our nation’s students may realize their full potential.”

Lhamon added, “We thank our school communities for palpable progress toward realizing the promises Congress has made decade after decade to our nation’s students that their educational experiences should be fundamentally equal.  Our investigations confirm ongoing need to safeguard those rights, as well as daily commitment from educators across the country to our core democratic value of fairness.  We celebrate student victories and continue to stand ready to safeguard rights of students who need us.”

Over the last eight years, one of the Obama Administration’s highest priorities has been to protect the access of all students to a world-class education. As a result, the Department and OCR have seen significant progress in increasing educational equity nationwide and reducing discriminatory barriers that students face.

From FY 2009 to 2016, OCR:

  • Received 76,022 complaints, with each year breaking the previous year’s record of complaint receipts;
  • Resolved 66,102 cases;
  • Proactively initiated 204 investigations known as compliance reviews;
  • Issued 34 policy guidance documents;
  • Monitored, on average, about 2,000 resolved cases per year to ensure compliance with resolution agreements; and,
  • Conducted three major national, state, school- and district-level Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) surveys.

The FY 2016 annual report details the work of OCR over the past year to secure equal educational opportunity by conducting investigations, monitoring schools under resolution agreements, providing technical assistance and administering the CRDC. In FY 2016, complaint vol­ume increased to a record-high 16,720 complaints – a jump of more than 10,000 over the 6,364 complaints in FY 2009. During this same period, OCR resolved 8,625 cases overall - including 1,116 resolutions that secured changes protective of students’ civil rights in schools around the nation – and initiated 13 proactive compliance reviews, despite a near record-low of 563 full-time employees. By contrast, OCR had about 1,100 staff in 1981.

Additionally, OCR released the latest Civil Rights Data Collection and, for the first time, made available the 2013-14 CRDC database for direct download by the public.

OCR also developed and released five policy guidance documents in FY 2016 and hosted 72 policy-related listening sessions with stakeholders on a variety of topics. Notable cases and their resolutions are described in both reports, including cases related to equitable access to courses and educational opportunities, racial harassment, equal opportunity for English learners, bullying and harassment, accessible technology for students with disabilities, and sexual harassment and violence.

For more information on the work of OCR, please visit the office’s home page or its Reading Room which features policy documents, case resolutions, manuals, reports, religious exemptions and other materials.

EDITOR'S NOTE: A video, "Office for Civil Rights: Eight Years of Accomplishments," is available here: https://youtu.be/baftPNOhuBA.

 Congressman Bobby Scott also added these thoughts:

The Office for Civil Rights reports released today shows much progress has been made during the Obama Administration to expand educational opportunity across the nation for all students. However, challenges do remain. The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) received a record number of complaints last year – yet it is at its lowest staffing level ever. I commend the staff at OCR for enforcing civil rights laws that eliminate discriminatory barriers for students, even when Congress has failed to provide the Office with adequate funding and resources. The Department of Education is tasked with a unique role in protecting and promoting the civil rights of students, a role bigger than any elected official or Administration. As we look ahead, I will continue to fight to ensure Congress provides the OCR with all the resources it needs to ensure every student has equal access to a quality education.

December 9, 2016 in Federal policy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Moody's Finds Overall Credit Quality of Charters Ranges from Investment Grade to Speculative, But Expects Sector Growth

For those who missed it, Moody's released a financial risk assessment of charter schools this fall.  The four passages jumped out at me:

  • The median rating of Moody’s-rated charter schools is Baa3, but the median credit quality of the broader charter school universe is decidedly lower.
  • [C]harter schools across the nation face unique credit challenges. Those challenges have translated into an above average incidence of defaults relative to other tax-exempt credits. The overall credit quality of this sector ranges from low investment-grade into low speculative-grade categories.
  • [W]e expect that the appetite for the education alternatives that this sector offers will continue to expand. Over time, we also expect that charter school credit quality will likely improve, with strengthening in several key areas including: academic performance reporting; the stability and predictability of per-pupil funding for operational and capital needs; available liquidity and reserve levels; transparent and timely disclosure; and leadership and management quality.

Moody's defines a Baa rating as " medium-grade and subject to moderate credit risk and as such may possess certain speculative characteristics."  The additional modifier of 3 "indicates a ranking in the lower end of that generic rating category."  The next step down from that would be a Ba rating which is defined as "speculative and are subject to substantial credit risk."

Read the full report here

December 8, 2016 in Charters and Vouchers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

What Betsy DeVos Does Not Know About Public Schools and Probably Assumes About Private Ones

Yesterday, Alyson Klein, pointed out that Betsy DeVos, the nominee for Secretary of Education, 

would be the first person to head the department in its more than 35-year history who hasn't either attended public schools or sent her own children to them. . . . And DeVos, a school choice and voucher advocate, sent each of her own children to private schools as well, Truscott said. . . . "She believes all parents should have access to the same choices her children had," said Matt Frendewey, a spokesman for the American Federation for Children, a school choice advocacy organization that DeVos chaired until recently. . . . She'd also be one of only a few secretaries entering the job without experience teaching in a K-12 school, or college; running a university, school system or state education agency, or overseeing public education as a governor, or governor's education aide. 

As a counter, some have pointed out that President Obama is primarily a product of private schools and has sent his daughters to private schools.  From my perspective, this counter does not help DeVos much.  First, Obama's two Secretary of Education appointment did have significant experience in public schools, which shaped their views tremendously.  Second, there are plenty of critiques of Obama's education policy to go around.  Obama's first term may have fractured support for traditional public schools more than any before, although I do not believe that was necessarily the intent.

Regardless, DeVos vision for education and her general operating principle of expanding choice are private market ideas.  These ideas, if not properly tailored to public values, are antithetical to public education itself.  As I argue here, these private ideas undermine the very justification for public education itself if pursued to their logical conclusions.  Public education is not a private commodity and it serves ends well beyond the interests of individual parents or students.  Public education, of course, would be of little good if it did not also produce significant benefits for individuals, but it also produces benefits for overall communities, states, and societies.  Hence,  we all pay taxes and all have a voice in the ends and values it should pursue.  If that balance shifts too far to individuals, it ceases to be public education and worthy of the same level of public support.  It begins to look more like housing, transportation, and other aspects of society.  In these areas, government support and regulation is more limited.  Public policy supporting them comes from a confluence of interests between the public and private, not from a public interest per se. 

DeVos' ideas threaten to move us in this direction.  Her lack of public school experience may, moreover, lead her to discount the distinction between private and public education, not out of malevolence but ignorance or naivete.  Because private choice has worked for her and those who can afford to carry its burdens, she may incorrectly assume that it will work just as well for those who are poorly positioned to carry its burdens.  Then again, maybe she is right and it is my own experience in public schools that breeds my skepticism.  I do, however, know one thing.  The educational opportunities that I received in public school and a few key decisions that made later educational success possible for me were not made by me or by my parents.  They were made by a few public school teachers who believed I could make something better of myself.  They never told me or my parents this.  They simply and quietly put me in an advanced placement class that gave me a shot and asked me to make the most of it.  In fact, on the first day of class, I raised my hand and said "I don't think I am supposed to be in here."  In this and several other ways, I credit public school for entirely altering the course of my life.  Due to my experience, I have to believe this is the ethos of public schools, when they are properly supported and structured.  

I admit that I know little of most private schools.  I do, however, place significant stock in Chris and Sarah Lubenski's nationwide study that found when comparing apples to apples, public schools actually outperform private schools.  This is not to deny the high average SAT scores in many private schools, but to recognize those high averages are a result of the high concentration of demographically advantaged students who attend those schools, not something special the private school is doing.  Students with those demographics do just as well in public schools.  They are just not as heavily concentrated there.

December 7, 2016 in Charters and Vouchers, Federal policy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Meditation Instead of Detention: Misbehavior As Learning Opportunity Rather Than a Punishment Trigger

Robert Coleman Elementary School's shift from detention to meditation has been creating a lot of buzz since the media covered the story early this fall.  In late September, the school reported that it had yet to suspend a single student, attributing the fact to the increased mindfulness of students.  James Gaines describes it this way:

Instead of punishing disruptive kids or sending them to the principal's office, the Baltimore school has something called the Mindful Moment Room instead. The room looks nothing like your standard windowless detention room. Instead, it's filled with lamps, decorations, and plush purple pillows. Misbehaving kids are encouraged to sit in the room and go through practices like breathing or meditation, helping them calm down and re-center. They are also asked to talk through what happened.

I have had a number of people approach me about the story with a glow in their eye and excitement in their voice.  The results themselves are palpable, but I think the story also strikes a cord for different reasons: the approach is intuitive, humane, and strikes at the heart of the hopelessness that we so often feels in regard to the challenges our schools face.  The notion that a low-cost and effective solution is at our fingertips is simply inspiring.

My interview with Patricia Raskin digs deeper into these issues, exploring why students misbehave, why programs like these work better than punishment, and proposes other policy approaches we should incorporate.  At the heart of this conversation is the reality that students are still developing, still making honest mistakes as the navigate their changing environments, and still need the opportunity to learn from their mistakes.  In short, discipline needs to be a learning opportunity first, not a basis for exclusion. Listen to the interview here.  Also, read more about the meditation program here.

December 6, 2016 in Discipline | Permalink | Comments (0)