Friday, August 2, 2013
On Wednesday, the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce released a study titled "Separate and Unequal: How Higher Education Reinforces the Intergenerational Reproduction of White Racial Privilege." The study begins with the bold finding that: "The postsecondary system mimics the racial inequality it inherits from the K-12 education system, then magnifies and projects that inequality into the labor market and society at large. In theory, the education system is colorblind; but, in fact, it is racially polarized and exacerbates the intergenerational reproduction of white racial privilege." It goes on to emphasize that there is good news, which is that access to higher education over the past 15 years has increased, particulary for minority students. The problem is that, "despite increasing access, there are two separate postsecondary pathways: one for whites and another for Hispanics and African Americans. Whites have captured most of the enrollment growth at the 468 most selective and well-funded four-year colleges, while African Americans and Hispanics have captured most of the enrollment growth at the increasingly overcrowded and under-resourced open-access two- and four-year colleges." Moreover, these different enrollment patterns are not fully explained by different college readiness. Rather, even highly qualified minorities disproportionately enroll in less selective or open access colleges, whereas whites, across the spectrum, disproportionately attend selective colleges. This differential enrollment is also troubling because graduation rates are much lower at less selective and open access colleges. In fact, highly qualified students graduate at a lower rate from these collleges than do less qualified students who attend highly selective colleges. In other words, this so-called "mismatch," whereby minorities attend colleges and universities that do not match their academic potential, decreases their chance of educational success and life opportunities.
Thursday, August 1, 2013
Scott Bauries (Kentucky) makes some excellent points on Wednesday's post Special Education Teacher Jobs Filled with Teach for America Recruits:
This is a shame, but it's an old story. Before TFA came along, it was newly-minted teachers and "long-term subs." It's not like a bunch of successful, highly qualified special education teachers were dismissed to make room for these recruits. The problem is in finding highly qualified teachers who both want to teach special education and want to do it in these districts for the pay being offered. I have long been a proponent of significant pay differentials for special education teachers, but I'm not sure that would even solve the problem.
Great points. I remain skeptical that freshly-minted college grads, albeit bright and enthusiastic, are the "highly qualified" teachers that IDEA requires for special needs kids. Assuming for the sake of argument that school districts do not have or cannot find special ed teachers, then schools might retrain general ed teachers to teach special education. But Scott is right that this is a long-standing problem. The solutions then weren't good; the new ones are no improvement.
Education (Grade) Change Agent Tony Bennett Resigns; Florida Looks for Its 6th Ed Commissioner in 31 Months
As we and everyone else predicted, Tony Bennett resigned today after the Associated Press published his emails about changing the rating of a charter school owned by a prominent GOP donor. Valerie Strauss at The Answer Sheet discusses another issue with Tony Bennett's resignation today:
via The Answer Sheet.
But there’s more to this story than the fall of Tony Bennett in Florida. For one thing, it shows continuous change in Florida in regard to public education under Scott; there have been five education commissioners and interim commissioners in Scott’s 31-month tenure in office. Change can be a good thing, but it can also wreak havoc. Why can’t Scott keep a commissioner? Said Nan Rich, a Democrat and former Florida Senate minority leader who is running for governor: “How can we hold students, teachers and schools accountable if the system’s leadership keeps changing? We need to stop the revolving door of leaders.” She makes a good point. The ousting of Bennett in Florida underscores a growing schism among Florida Republicans over the future of school reform. That split became clear last month when the state’s top Republican lawmakers asked Bennett to pull out of a group of states designing high-stakes standardized tests aligned with the Common Core State Standards and not to accept those assessments as a replacement for the state’s current exams. Bennett has been a big Common Core supporter, as well as a leading member of one of the two consortia designing the Core-aligned exams. Bush is a big Core supporter, too, but a growing number of Florida Republicans aren’t, including Sen. Marco Rubio.
by Michael A. Olivas (University of Houston). From the publisher:
Although much has been written about U.S. Supreme Court decisions involving higher education, little has been said about the foundational case law and litigation patterns emerging from the lower courts. As universities become increasingly legislated, regulated, and litigious, campuses have become testing grounds for a host of constitutional challenges. From faculty and student free speech to race- or religion-based admissions policies, Suing Alma Mater describes the key issues at play in higher education law. Michael A. Olivas considers higher education litigation in the latter half of the twentieth century and the rise of "purposive organizations," like the American Civil Liberties Union, that exist to advance litigation. He reviews more than 120 college cases brought before the Supreme Court in the past fifty years and then discusses six key cases in depth. Suing Alma Mater provides a clear-eyed perspective on the legal issues facing higher education today.
Below, I reprint an op-ed by John Merrow (Education Correspondent for PBS NewsHour) that never made it to the mass media, or more accurately, that newspapers declined. This is not an endorsement of the views in the editorial, because I do not know first-hand if the numbers reported are correct or fairly-presented. (Merrow goes through the stats school by school.) I reprint it here because Merrow's editorial illustrates a tragic flaw of the school accountability movement: the blame game. In every system under reform, the first attack is usually upon the people who are the least-powerful (and therefore most vulnerable) in that system--and the scenario in D.C. is no different. In the education system, the people with the least amount of power are the students and teachers. Teachers are easy and visible targets. The invisible victims are the students who are being educated in rigid, teach-to-the-test education accountability systems.
The U.S. Office of Special Education is holding its national conference right now, and Jim Gerl at the Special Education Law Blog is live blogging the OSEP conference. Solutions about shutting down the school to prison pipeline is being discussed at the conference, including restorative justice principles. OSEP is making the conference materials available here.
I just came across a new article by Kamina Aliya Pinder that synthesizes the past uses of structural injunctions in education reform and responds to the reluctance of many courts to intervene in education battles. Cribbing from her introduction, the article
examines the use and potential of the structural injunction in cases that implicate issues of education access, adequacy, and achievement in the paradoxical “post-racial” era. Originating in school desegregation cases, this powerful judicial remedy compelled public institutions to address constitutional wrongs through systematic reform. The structural injunction played an essential role in desegregation at the federal level and, albeit not typically referred to as “structural injunction” at the state level, an equally important remedial role in state school finance litigation. Yet, fears of judicial overstepping and pursuit of race-neutral remedies have greatly curtailed its use.
I have blogged on the Chicago school closings litigation a few times this summer. See here and here. As noted earlier, there are various different plaintiff groups. The city moved to dismiss two different special education groups, but the district court recently held that both special education lawsuits against the district can move forward. See McDaniel v. Bd. Of Edcu. Of City of Chicago, 2013 WL 3872807 (N.D. Ill. 2013), and Swan v. Bd. Of Educ. of City of Chicago, 2013 WL 3872799 (N.D. Ill. 2013). In short, these plaintiff groups allege that the school closings will disproportionately impact students with disabilities and interfere with the delivery of their individualized education plans.
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
Schools can expect to spend twice as much on providing special education than on general education, and there is growing evidence that districts have begun dealing with those costs by drafting farm team players—Teach for America recruits—to be special education teachers. The Network for Public Education reports that in many districts, “including NYC, raw TFA recruits are assigned to special education classrooms almost exclusively –because this is the biggest shortage area.” Eighty percent of TFA’s NYC recruits in 2010-11 were working as special education teachers. In Philadelphia, 46 of 213 corps members taught special education students in 2010. Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004 (IDEA), special education teachers must be “highly qualified,” which means having a bachelor’s degree and obtaining state certification or being licensed as a special education teacher. Given the number of schoolteachers out of work after education budget cuts in New York and Philadelphia (and all over the country), is TFA these school districts' best option for dealing with a shortage (assuming, for the sake of argument, that two major metropolitan centers could not train or recruit certified special ed teachers) or simply the cheapest? More importantly, are these districts acting legally without proof that special education teachers are otherwise unavailable?
While Eric Cantor may have backed away from unadulterated school choice, Rand Paul is ramping up his calls. Tuesday he hosted four fellow Republican senators — Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Mike Lee (Utah), Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and Tim Scott (S.C.) — at a school choice forum to highlight his proposal to expand school choice in the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind. This was part of a string of other similar forums he has held recently.
“I’m talking about opening up all of the lines, so that kids can go to public, to private, wherever,” said Paul. “Some of these schools are absolutely pitiful, absolutely. What I’m really proposing is helping these kids get out from the grind. . . . The people being hurt aren’t the rich white kids in the suburbs. It’s poor black and brown kids in the inner city.”
When asked about findings that voucher programs have not resulted in gains for poor kids but have cost the government enormous sums of money, Paul objected that this was the wrong question, arguing “It’s our money. We’re getting back some of the money taken from us. I think when you have choice, people choose the better product. I think it’s presumptuous of anyone to question parental authority.” He similarly rejected less than exemplary findings by Stanford's Center for Research on Education Outcomes about charter schools as "lies and lies. . . People can manipulate statistics all they want. Have you seen the movie ‘Waiting for Superman’?”
As noted in my earlier post on Cantor, the Republican Party seems to have backed away from Paul's position. Presumably, enough Republicans believe in statistics and question the ramifications of giving the education budget to individuals with no strings attached that the party is unwilling to support Paul. The interesting aspect of Paul's continued focus on this issue, however, is that his purpose may be to court minority voters rather than to change NCLB. Recall his recent visit to Howard University. Somehow, I doubt that minorities would vote for Paul simply because he supports choice. Also, when one digs a little deeper, it is not clear that he supports minorities communities. Rather, he supports privatization and libertarian principles, which minorities can see through if they are not being seriously respected. After all, implicit in Paul's current statements is the notion that he has no interest in improving minority schools or segregation. He just wants choice.
While libertarian interests can intersect with minority community interests, James Foreman's article, The Rise and Fall of School Vouchers: A Story of Religion, Race, and Politicals, 54 UCLA L. Rev. 547 (2007), analyzed how a coalition of this sort fell appart in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Tuesday, July 30, 2013
The Section on Education Law of the Association of American Law Schools issues this call for papers in connection with its program at the AALS annual meeting Jan. 2-5, 2014 in New York City. The program topic is “Law and the Education of Students with Disabilities,” and will be co-sponsored by the Section on Disability Law.
Law and the Education of Students with Disabilities
For generations, public schools excluded students with disabilities or shunted them into separate and inadequate programs. In the wake of Brown v. Board of Education, parents of students with disabilities began demanding full and equal educational opportunity for their children. Landmark court cases and legislation followed. In what is now a mature legal regime dominated by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and other statutory provisions, new challenges have emerged: insuring high achievement, preventing racially segregated placements, dealing with charter schools and other choice initiatives, optimizing inclusive education, and calibrating remedies for denials of appropriate education. A panel of distinguished experts in education and law, including Thomas Hehir of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Robert Garda of the Loyola University New Orleans School of Law, and Terry Jean Seligmann of the Drexel University School of Law, will address pressing legal issues in the schooling of students with disabilities. One additional speaker will be selected from a call for papers.
The Section on Education Law is now soliciting papers analyzing current legal problems regarding education of students with disabilities. The author of the paper that is selected will be invited to join the panel at the Education Law program in January and will also be offered publication of the paper in the DePaul Journal for Social Justice.
Deadline Date for Submission: September 1, 2013.
Proposal Requirements: Individuals wishing to be considered should submit an abstract of 200-350 words and a draft paper evidencing substantial work towards a final product. Preference will be given to scholarly contributions that offer a novel insight on issues that relate to the program topic. The expectation is that the paper will be completed by January 1, 2014. Submit by email to Prof. Mark C. Weber, DePaul Univ. College of Law, firstname.lastname@example.org
Eligibility: Only full-time faculty members of AALS member schools are eligible to submit papers. Faculty at fee-paid schools, foreign, visiting, and adjunct faculty members, and graduate students and fellows are not eligible to submit.
Selection: The paper will be selected by a committee consisting of members of the AALS Section on Education Law. The author of the accepted paper will be offered publication in the DePaul Journal for Social Justice, but the author may publish the paper elsewhere if he or she chooses. All law school panelists will be responsible for paying their annual meeting registration fee and expenses.
We are now just past half-way through a two week trial over school segregation in Pitt County, North Carolina. The case was brought five years ago by a group of African American parents to stop a student reassignment plan that they asserted increased racial segregation in in the district's schools. Plaintiffs' claims hinge on the fact that the school district was never declared unitary and is still under court order to desegregate. The plantiffs are represented by the UNC Center for Civil Rights. The school district counters that it is and has been unitary and, thus, is not prohibited from implementing assignment plans that increase racial imbalance (as long as they are not intentionally discriminatory).
A few hundred districts in the country are still under some sort of court order, but few are actively litigated and even fewer produce plaintiff victories. The rarity in the case arises from plaintiffs' recent victories. In 2009, the district court declined the opportunity to declare the schools unitary, but in an interesting turn did not demand any specific rase conscious remedial action by the district. Instead, it allowed that it would be sufficient if the district implemented race neutral measures. My reading was that the court was concerned that an appellate court would reverse its finding that the schools were unitary (or that the district court would soon find the schools unitary itself), in which case the best chance of the pre-unitary status student assignment plan complying with the post-unitary status requirements of Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle would be if the plan was race neutral to begin with.
The school district apparently took this as licence to do whatever it wanted and ignore the racial impact of its new student assignment plan. And when the plaintiffs' objected, the district court did nothing to stop the district, reasoning that the plaintiffs were seeking a preliminary injunction and the burden rested on plaintiffs. Plaintiffs appealed and the Fourth Circuit in Everett v. Pitt County Bd. of Educ., 678 F.3d 281 (4th Cir. 2012), gave them a rare school desegregation win, holding that, until a school district is declared unitary, the burden rests on the school district to demonstrate that it is carrying out its affirmative duty to desegregate and that racial imbalances are not a vestige of segregation. This, of course, has been the law for decades, but it is not often that we see courts hold schools to this standard.
For more on the case, see here.
Monday, July 29, 2013
Alabama Accountability Act May Have Little Beneficial Impact for Students in "Failing" Schools
Having branded 70 of its public schools as failing, Alabama is finding that there are even fewer opportunities for students in those schools to transfer to a better school. We already noted on this blog that students in 25 of the 70 schools on the state's failing school list may not be able to transfer because of federal desegregation orders. With the school year around the corner, only 7 of Alabama's private schools have agreed to take students from failing schools. Thus, most students in failing schools have nowhere to go. No private schools in Alabama's largest two cities, Birmingham and Mobile, have yet said that they will accept transfers. The Accountability Act was sold as helping students in troubled school districts. It seems that for now, the Act will mostly benefit families who can already afford private school tuition.
Former Indiana School Chief Raised Grade for Charter School Founded by Influential Donor
The Associated Press reports former Indiana education superintendent Dr. Tony Bennett ordered the rating for a charter school run by an influential donor to be raised from a "C" to an "A." Last September, Christel House Academy was going to receive a "C" for alegbra under Bennett's grading system. Indiana's Christel House Academy was founded by Christel DeHaan, who has given nearly $3 million to political candidates. Christel House was going to receive the "C" for alegbra under under the state's A-F grading system, which Bennett instituted. According to emails obtained by AP, Bennett wrote his then-chief of staff saying that “anything less than an A for Christel House compromises all of our accountability work." Bennett, who is now Florida's education commissioner, told AP, “This wasn’t just to give Christel House an A. It was to make sure the system was right to make sure the system was face valid.” Read more here. According to Professor Julian Vasquez Heilig (UT Austin) blogging at Cloaking Inequity, education accountability formulas at the Houston Independent School District were regularly changed in the '90s to have politically desirable outcomes.
North Carolina eliminates college IDs as acceptable form of identification for voters; ends preregistration for teens
North Carolina's General Assembly has been in the news this summer for a number of things, including cutting the state education budget, as Derek posted last week, placing abortion measures into a motorcycle safety law and repealing the Racial Justice Act. Last Thursday, in the legislative session's final hours, the General Assembly passed a voting law to exclude college ID cards as a form of acceptable photo identification to vote. The law also shortens early voting by a week, prohibits counties from extending voting hours for extraordinary circumstances, and eliminates straight-ticket voting, same-day voter registration, and pre-registration initiatives for high school students turning 18 by Election Day. The president of the North Carolina chapter of the NACCP, the Rev. William J. Barber II, says the voting law is "the most comprehensive attack on the right to vote that this state has enacted since the institution of Jim Crow laws." North Carolina was one of nine states that had to submit voting changes to the Justice Department for pre-approval under the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA). That requirement is now gone after the Supreme Court's decision in Shelby County v. Holder in June holding Section 4 of the VRA (containing the formula for identifying jurisdictions subject to preclearance) unconstitutional. Despite a frank admission by NC Governor Pat McCrory that he has not had time to read the bill, there is little doubt that he will sign it. There are several ways to look at North Carolina's new voting laws. One view is that the law is justified is to prevent voter fraud, as NC lieutenant governor Dan Forest told the Charlotte Observer in April. Another view is that North Carolina's legislative session, newly-freed from DOJ oversight, is the beginning of a nationwide effort by Republican-majority legislatures to disenfranchise segments of the voting population, particularly those that were part of President Obama's support in 2012. Others characterize this as a cynical move of one party to rid the state of undesirable (failing to vote for the right party) voters, particularly as the state's demographics are changing. We welcome comments from our North Carolina readers about the need and predicted effects of this law.
In Hill v. Madison County School Bd., 2013 WL 3712330 (N.D.Ala.,2013), a female student filed Title IX, Equal Protection, Substantive Due Process, and various state law claims against the school district and its employees for an alleged sexual assault/rape by one of her male classmates. The facts of the case are extensive. It suffices to say that the male student had been disciplined in some form or another for around a dozen different incidents. Most of the incidents were non-sexual in nature and were directed at different students. A few, however, were sexual in nature and disciplined by in-school suspension and a short term suspension.
Eventually, his sexual advances and harassment were directed at plaintiff. The first few times, she did not notify the school, but when he asked her to meet him in the bathroom for sex, she told two teachers. The teachers then concocted a plan whereby the girl would agree to meet him in the bathroom so that they could catch the boy in the act. They also informed a principal of this plan, who apparently did nothing to stop or prevent the plan. The plan, however, went awry because the teachers did not get to the correct bathroom in time When the arrived, the boy had already pulled down the girl's clothes and attempted to have sex with her against her will.