Thursday, August 8, 2013
Public Education Under Siege is a new compilation of essays edited by Michael B. Katz, Walter H. Annenberg Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania and Professor Mike Rose at UCLA's Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. The editors describe Public Education Under Siege as an examination of "why public schools are in such difficult straits, why the reigning ideology of school reform is ineffective, and what can be done about it." The book is broken into three sections, technocratic educational reform; the intersection of education, race, and poverty; and alternatives to modern school reform.
Ashleigh Barnes (Florida): The Docile Body – Disciplining the Category ‘Child’ Through the CRC’s Rights
Abstract excerpt: While the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) has been extensively analyzed since its inception and the category ‘child’ has been critiqued for even longer, it seems the critiques made about the category ‘child’ continue to have limited purchase regarding the CRC’s construction of the category ‘child’. This article critiques the CRC’s articulation of the category ‘child’, the taken for granted/self-evident assumption that children are fundamentally different from adults, and that this ‘difference’ justifies their differential and submissive positioning in relation to adults under the banner of children’s rights. It seeks to examine the vision of the ‘child’ articulated in the CRC by employing a postmodern deconstructionist analysis, which draws heavily on Michel Foucault and Judith Butler. This article argues that through its vision of the ‘child’ as developing and ‘in care’, the CRC makes possible the regulation and control of childhood. ... The islands of ‘care’ and ‘education’ become the means through which the CRC’s normative childhood characterized by vulnerability and dependency, is enforced and produced. Vulnerability and dependency not only become markers of childhood, but also become firmly rooted norms about childhood. As such, children’s rights remain firmly rooted in notions of paternalism and protectionism opposed to participation.
Kristi L. Bowman (Michigan State): State Takeovers of School Districts and Related Litigation: Michigan as a Case Study
Abstract: In 2011, Michigan changed its emergency financial manager statute drastically, extending the authority of an manager over the local government she or he manages and giving the governor substantially more autonomy when selecting the individuals whose new title, "emergency managers," reflected that their authority was no longer limited to financial matters. These changes gained national attention. Michigan citizens’ resistance and challenges to the state’s new emergency manager statute were substantial, sometimes taking place in courtrooms and, in November, 2012, at the ballot box. At the time of publication, Michigan enacted yet another emergency manager statute, and although that statue curtails emergency mangers’ authority in some respects, it retains many of its predecessor’s shortcomings. The question of the proper role of a state in school districts’ fiscal crises is an important one. Like Michigan, numerous states have been grappling with that question — Indiana, Missouri, and Rhode Island, for example. Accordingly, learning about what has been happening in Michigan provides an exceptional opportunity for legislators, attorneys, academics, and advocates from across the country to reflect on how their own states should assist school districts in fiscal crisis, and when state intervention goes too far.
Edward J. Larson (Pepperdine): Teaching Creation, Evolution, and the New Atheism in 21st Century America: Window on an Evolving Establishment Clause, 82 Miss. L.J. 997 (2013).
Excerpt from the introduction: The legal controversy over teaching creation and evolution in American public schools has generated a steady stream of ever-shifting fact patterns affecting the interpretation and application of the U.S. Constitution’s Establishment Clause. Decades before the Supreme Court faced such hot-button issues as religious instruction in public schools, release time for religious instruction, posting the Ten Commandments in classrooms, official school prayer, and moments of silence, courts grappled with the role of religion in public education in the context of restrictions on teaching evolution in public school. This Article explores [an] emerging third phase of the creation-evolution controversy, examining (1) how disclaimer lawsuits have impacted the interpretation of secular purpose; (2) the constitutionality of so-called academic freedom statutes; and (3) emerging limits on anti-creationist official acts.
Mariela Olivares (Howard): Renewing the Dream: Dream Act Redux and Immigration Reform (Harv. Latino L. Rev.)
Excerpt from the abstract: This Article explores two areas of current immigration reform — the DREAM Act and the employment-based visa system — and notes parallels between the two communities of targeted beneficiaries. Through this discussion linking the DREAM Act beneficiaries (or “DREAMers”) to areas of high-skilled employment and entrepreneurism immigration visa reform, this Article argues that supporters of the DREAM Act should adopt a new strategy in lobbying and passing the DREAM Act. Because relying on the innocence and good character of the DREAMers has not proven a successful strategy to get the DREAM Act passed into law despite eleven years of effort, this Article asserts that DREAM Act advocates should look to the ongoing employment-based visa reform movement and re-brand DREAM Act beneficiaries as highly-skilled and talented potential Americans who are already contributing to American society. Although scholars and commentators have done significant work in making compelling arguments for the DREAM Act’s passage, this Article provides a completely unique strategy to pass the DREAM Act.
A few weeks ago, I posted on the Missouri Supreme Court's decision upholding an interdistrict transfer program, which primarily would move students from St. Louis city schools to the suburbs, along with per pupil expenditures. Both districts were unhappy with the statute.
Yesterday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran an editorial titled "Some St. Louis County schools say it loud: 'No blacks allowed.'" Of course, I don't have a feel for the local pulse and may be missing something everyone else in St. Louis knows, but the text of the editorial did not match the title. It did not discuss any specifics regarding hostility toward minorities in the suburban schools (hence my sense that the title may have been potentially overstated), but it did focus on the closely related and general issue of transfer students finding belonging in their new schools and the importance of a welcoming environment. The editorial suggests that the city students would find more belonging in their current schools and that transfers may just increase both the school system and the students' demoralization.
I stand by my long held position that integrative interdistrict programs are very important and that the research and data behind integration show impressive academic gains for low income minorities and social gains for whites. Yet, even though this editorial out of St. Louis greatly discounts the value of integration and the harms of segregation, it reminds us that numbers, social science, and generalities are rarely good enough in real world situations. Local communities always have their own political and emotional challenges, and students must attend school in real buildings that may or may not feel welcoming to them. Unless these local issues are handled carefully, good policies like interdistrict integration can easily fail. Let's hope the families and schools of St. Louis find a way forward. They have history on their side, as this program--although smaller in scale and financial impact--has been popular in the past and an important example for other communities to follow.
In Leslie v. Hancock County Bd. of Educ., No. 12-13628 (11th Cir. Jul. 12, 2013), the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals held that because the law was not clearly established that a public employer can be held liable for retaliation against policymaking or confidential employees for speech about government policy, school board members sued in their individual capacity were entitled to qualified immunity. The Superintendent of the Hancock County School System, Awanna Leslie, and Assistant Superintendent Bettye Richardson, were fired and demoted, respectively, after complaining about local tax policy in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Leslie and Richardson sued under § 1983, alleging that the school board retaliated against them for exercising their First and Fourteenth Amendments rights to free speech. At trial, the Board argued that the plaintiffs' speech was not protected by the First Amendment under the balance of interests test outlined in Pickering v. Board of Education, 391 U.S. 563 (1968). Pickering's balancing test supported its position, the Board argued, because Leslie and Richardson were policymaking employees, and neither the U.S. or Georgia supreme courts have answered the question whether Pickering favors the government employer. Thus, the Board members argued, qualified immunity protected them because Leslie and Richardson's right to free speech in this context was not clearly established. Individual public officials acting within their discretionary authority have qualified immunity if their acts does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights. The 11th Circuit also found that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the Board's appeal of the denial of its motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The Court stated that the Board's claim was not "inextricably intertwined" with the individual members' appeal of the district court's qualified immunity ruling, and thus there was no pendent appellate jurisdiction.
Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Education Secretary Arne Duncan is cautioning parents and teachers not to panic about the new Common Core test results that are coming. Common Core standards are more rigorous, so big drops in proficiency scores are expected. New York's results came in yesterday, and as predicted, the scores are terrible. Statewide, NY students' proficiency scores dropped by about 30 points compared with last year, resulting in around 31 percent of students in grades 3-8 passing the English Language Arts (ELA) and math exams, according to the New York State Education Department. The gap for was wider with only 16.1% of African-American students and 17.7% of Hispanic students statewide meeting or exceeding the proficiency standard on the tests. In a statement today on NYSED.gov, Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch said, "The world has changed, the economy has changed, and what our students need to know has changed. These scores reflect a new baseline and a new beginning.... With the right tools, the right training, and continuous feedback and support, our teachers –the best teaching force in the country — will make sure all our students are prepared for college and career success in the 21st century." See the summary of New York's test results here.
Professor Christopher Bonastia has posted an essay about the roots of the contemporary charter school movement. Bonastia's message is important for charter school supporters and detractors. An excerpt from the essay relates the attempts in 1959 in Prince George's County, Virginia, to stall integration by directing taxpayer funds to segregated private schools. The overt justifications behind charter school expansion have changed since 1959, but the methodology is eerily familiar:
Two years before a federal court set a final desegregation deadline for fall 1959, local newspaper publisher J. Barrye Wall shared white county leaders' strategy of resistance with Congressman Watkins Abbitt: "We are working [on] a scheme in which we will abandon public schools, sell the buildings to our corporation, reopen as privately operated schools with tuition grants from [Virginia] and P.E. county as the basic financial program," he wrote. "Those wishing to go to integrated schools can take their tuition grants and operate their own schools. To hell with 'em."
Read the rest of this essay here.
In an earlier post about Teach for America, I mentioned the Dallas Independent School District's (DISD) urgently holding job fairs to hire 2,000 new teachers. The situation just got a bit more pressing. DISD reportedly needs about 700 more teachers, including replacing 200 Spanish-language teachers from other countries whose work visas have expired. According to the Dallas media, 1,700 teachers resigned, retired, or received contract non-renewal notification from the DISD this summer. The president of the Dallas chapter of the National Education Association, Angela Davis, told CBS's local station that teachers were leaving the DISD because "they feel like they’ve been bullied, because of the micromanagement from the head down.” DISD Superintendent Mike Miles responded to some of the resignations by writing letters to 150 Texas school districts asking them not to hire teachers who resigned without giving the DISD adequate notice.
Miles is currently under investigation by the DISD's Office of Professional Responsibility. Miles allegedly removed a winning vendor's contract bid from consideration at a school board trustees meeting because it was not the vendor he favored and then allegedly obstructed the subsequent investigation. Last month, DISD hired U.S. Attorney Paul Coggins as an independent investigator. Miles was criticized earlier this year for firing principals at failing schools while not having a superintendent certificate required by state law himself. Miles told the media yesterday that his wife and son are returning to Colorado Spring to avoid negative press about him. Miles was a school superintendent there before coming to Dallas.-ld
Tuesday, August 6, 2013
Among Julius Chambers’ notable cases include his advocacy at the U.S. Supreme Court:
Swann v. Charlotte–Mecklenburg Bd. of Ed., 402 U.S. 1 (1971) (holding that where dual school system had been maintained by school district, federal district court had broad powers to order remedies such as busing).
City of Riverside v. Rivera, 477 U.S. 561 (1986) (holding that there was no requirement under Civil Rights Attorney's Fees Awards Act that attorneys' fees be proportionate to civil rights plaintiffs' damages).
Thornburg v. Gingles, 478 U.S. 30 (1986) (holding that the legacy of official discrimination, along with multimember districting scheme, impaired minority groups to elect candidates of their choice).
Patterson v. McLean Credit Union, 491 U.S. 164 (1989) (holding that employee bypassed for promotion in racial discrimination suit under 42 U.S.C. 1981 does not have to show that promoted coworkers had lesser qualifications).
Missouri v. Jenkins, 491 U.S. 274 (1989) (Eleventh Amendment did not prohibit enhancement of fee award under Civil Rights Attorney's Fees Awards Act to compensate for delay in payment; separate compensation award for legal assistants in accord with Act).
Board of Educ. of Oklahoma City v. Dowell, 498 U.S. 237 (1991) (holding that federal court may permanently dissolve an injunction when a school system has shown that it is "being operated in compliance with the Equal Protection Clause, and that it was unlikely that the Board would return to its former ways.").
Houston Lawyers' Ass'n v. Texas Attorney Gen., 501 U.S. 419 (1991) (holding that prohibition of § 2 of the Voting Rights Act against vote dilution applies to the election of trial judges).
Shaw v. Hunt, 517 U.S. 899 (1996) (holding that only voters who resided in a congressional district alleged to have been created by racial gerrymandering had standing to challenge the constitutionality of that district's creation and districting plan was not narrowly tailored to serve compelling state interest, thus violating the equal protection clause).
Currently embattled Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell held his second education reform summit yesterday and you can watch some of the speakers on UStream here. The summit is a bellwether for Virginia's education reform laws and featured influential speakers such as Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Baltimore Superintendent S. Dallas Dance. (No Jane Pauley or Pitbull, though, who were at July's National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.) Looking over the Virginia summit's speakers list, it appears that few current public school teachers or administrators were invited to speak (and in fairness, perhaps no one wants to put public employees at risk losing their jobs by advocating educational reform). Gov. McDonnell credited last year's summit for inspiring several of the state's education laws this year, including the Educator Fairness Act (making student testing a part of teacher evaluations and extending the probationary window for public school teachers from 3 to 5 years) and the Strategic Compensation Grant Initiative (grants for performance and for teaching in high-need areas). In July, Gov. McDonnell signed the Teach for America Act (creating a two-year provisional license for participants in Teach For America); the Opportunity Educational Institution Act (school takeover); and A-F School Grading. Read more at the Washington Post.
Monday, August 5, 2013
Arne Duncan seems to see the current headlines on ESEA reauthorization the same way I do. In an interview with Ed Week, he explained that he has not been publically commenting on the current ESEA reathorizations in Congress because "You want to spend time where people are serious" and the current House Republican version of ESEA reauthorization is not "serious."
Duncan, however, has continued to push President Obama's state of the union address proposal to expand pre-k education. Even though there is no specific bill to push in either house, he belives passing legislation to expand pre-k is still possible. Again in his comments to Ed Week, he said there is "extraordinary bipartisan investment and support across the country that we're seeing from governors, Republican and Democrat. . . .And while it is not public yet, we have had many, many conversations with Republican leaders in the House and Senate that are frankly encouraging."
Let's hope he is right. I wouldn't place bets on the passage of a pre-k bill, as this current Congress doesn't seem interested in working with the President, even it agrees with him. But I do believe Duncan is right about bi-partisan support for pre-k. For instance, as noted on this blog, states like South Carolina and Utah have taken or are mulling steps to expand pre-k at the local and state level. Of course, they are not the only ones.
Sunday, August 4, 2013
Strategic Plan (2012-2018):
As to reading, the plan sets the expectation that 90% of Asian-American children and 88% of white children will read at grade level by 2018, alongside the expectation that only 81 % of Hispanic children and 74% of African-American children will do so. As to math, the plan sets the expectation that 92% of Asian-American children and 86% of white children will reach grade level by 2018; in contrast, Florida expects only 80% of Hispanic children and 74% of African-American children to do so. Rather than promote equal educational achievement for all, Florida set alarmingly different goals for children of different racial and ethnic backgrounds. Florida's scheme sets severely lower expectations for African-American and Hispanic students, instead of marshaling its resources to ensure educational equality.
Complaint at 4. The complaint argues that "Florida's plan will fail an entire generation of students of color, limiting their educational aspirations by their race or national origin." SPLC's complaint, filed jointly with the Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County, is available here.
An Idaho teen with Asperger's syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder, lost a federal jury trial last month on his ADA and Section 504 claims against the Boise and Meridian school districts. Matthew Abramowski, now 19, claimed that the districts failed to provide an appropriate education and did not protect him from bullying. Abramowski's school district terminated his IEP when he was in eighth-grade after deciding that he no longer needed services. In 2009, the then-15-year-old set his house on fire, an event that Abramowski's parents say arose from their son's frustruation with isolation and bullying in school. (After pleading guilty to arson, Abramowski was sentenced to six months detention and ten years probation.)
A federal jury deliberated about 6½ hours before finding in favor of the school boards. After the verdict, Abramowski's lawyer, Charlene Quade, said that the applicable law is complicated because 504 is "a discrimination statute, a civil rights statute, and it involves intentional discrimination or discrimination otherwise shown by deliberate indifference." U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge Candy Dale presided over the trial in D.A., et al. v. Meridian Joint School District No 2 et al., 1:11-cv-00119-CWD (D. Idaho). Read more at the Idaho Press-Tribune.