Friday, August 23, 2013
The Goverment Accountability Office had been tasked with comparing the enrollment of English Language Learners (ELLs) in traditional public schools versus charter schools. Last month, it issued a report finding that it could not make the comparision because the "only available data on school-level ELL enrollment were unreliable and incomplete. Specifically, for over one-third of charter schools, the field for reporting the counts of ELLs enrolled in ELL programs was left blank. These blank fields cannot reliably be interpreted to mean that the charter schools did not have ELLs enrolled." This national number, however, grossly understates the problem in many states. Over 60% of charter schools in Idaho, Lousiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Wyoming, Kansas, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Ohio failed to provide ELL data. The GAO also emphasized that this data failure in regard to ELL, while significant in an of itself, is likely an indicator of overall problems in data collection and reporting for charter schools.
Thursday, August 22, 2013
Several pieces in this week's featured scholarship focuses on the reality of resegregation in American schools and the struggle to realize the equality envisioned in Brown v. Board of Education. We start with a study of English language learners in Texas schools by two UT-Austin professors that is making an impact in the media and educators as the new school year begins.
Heilig and Holme (UT Austin): Nearly 50 Years Post-Jim Crow: Persisting and Expansive School Segregation for African American, Latina/o and ELL students in Texas.
University of Texas at Austin Professors Julian Vasquez Heilig and Jennifer Jellison Holme's study of school segregation in Texas shows that ELL learners are being isolated by racial, economic, and linguistic factors, suffering what has been termed “triple segregation.” Their study finds that despite nearly two decades of accountability policies, their statistical analyses show that a majority of ELL students in Texas still attend high-poverty and high-minority schools. Segregation by socioeconomic status (SES) and race and ethnicity is highly significant for predicting whether schools will be low performing relative to high performing.
From the abstract and summary of their findings:
Many school districts in the state of Texas have adopted “open enrollment” policies that allow students to transfer between schools within the same district. These policies, as research has shown, tend to advantage more well-resourced students (particularly because transportation is not provided with most such policies). Due to differences in cultural and social capital, it is likely that students whose home language is not English are less likely to take advantage of choice (Vasquez Heilig, 2011a) due to lack of familiarity with the application process.
One of the most significant contributions to segregation in schools, however, is housing. ELL students, who are often Latina/o, are increasingly residentially isolated in urban and, increasingly, suburban neighborhoods. As Gandara and Contreras (2009) observed, “Housing segregation has particularly onerous effects on Latina/o students learning English. When students’ lack appropriate language models and individuals with whom to interact in English, their acquisition of academic English is delayed." This lack of opportunity is exacerbated when students residing in high-poverty and linguistically isolated neighborhoods attend schools isolated by race/ethnicity, poverty, and language.
In conclusion, nearly 50 years since Jim Crow, the intensity of segregation in Texas schools is still largely problematic. Our statistical analyses show that a majority of ELL students in Texas attend high-poverty and high-minority schools. One positive note is that elementary schools serving ELL students are more likely to be high performing than low performing schools. However, this finding is tempered by the fact that as ELL students progress in the education pipeline in Texas, they are more likely to attend low performing middle schools and high schools (results not shown). Furthermore, ELLs enrolled in secondary schools ultimately have the highest dropout rates and lowest tests scores and graduation rates in Texas. Surprisingly, after almost two decades of Texas-style accountability, the overall finding that segregation by SES and race and ethnicity is still highly significant for predicting whether schools will be low performing relative to high performing suggests that high-stakes testing and accountability as systemic reforms have still not delivered as a cure-all in Texas.
Read the study at Sage Publishing here.
DOE Guidance Letter: Schools’ Failure to Protect Students with Disabilities from Bullying Violates IDEA
The Department of Education's Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services sent a guidance letter to schools yesterday reminding them of their obligation to prevent and address bullying of students with disabilities. The letter states that any “bullying of a student with a disability that results in the student not receiving meaningful educational benefit” violates the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The letter also notes that changing an educational program of a student with a disability (e.g., placement in a more restricted “protected” setting to avoid bullying behavior) may constitute a denial of a free and appropriate education in the least restrictive environment possible. The letter also suggests that schools include a reminder in their antibullying policies that harassment against a student on the basis of disability and retaliation against any person are also prohibited under Section 504, Title II, and other Federal civil rights laws. Read the letter here.
I can't decide whether it counts as news, since data has shown us for some time that poor and minority students are exposed to unequal educational opportunities and conditions, but a new poll out confirms that minority and poor parents are well aware of the unequal conditions they suffer. Yet, minority parents are interestingly optimistic citing that their children are receiving a better education than they did. Cribbing from the AP story by Philip Elliot and Jennier Agiesta:
Minority and low-income parents are more likely to see serious problems in their schools—from low expectations to bullying to out-of-date technology and textbooks—than those who are affluent or white, according to an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research Poll.
Overall impressions of the nation's schools and teachers are similarly positive among all groups of parents, but deep demographic differences emerge in the details of how parents see teachers, schools and even their own roles in their children's education.
The divisions fall along the familiar fault lines of income, education and race that drive so much of American life. In many cases, it's as though parents are looking at two very different sets of schools in this country.
Most parents say the school their child attends is high-quality and rate their children's teachers positively. White parents are only slightly more likely than others to give their child's school high marks, and parents of all races give their local schools similar ratings for preparing students for college, the workforce, citizenship and life as an adult.
A majority of parents say their children are receiving a better education than the one they received, but blacks and Hispanics feel more strongly than whites that this is the case. The poll also shows minorities feel they have a greater influence over their children's education.
And the ways parents assess school quality and the problems they see as most deeply affecting their child's school vary greatly by parents' race, education and income level.
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
As a followup to my post yesterday on the lawsuit challenging the Alabama statute that provides a $3600 tax credit to those transferring out of failing schools, I wanted to share today's story by the Montgomery Advisor. The newspaper also made the above video of the news conference available. Included is the plaintiff telling her story, which we don't always get. Kudos to SPLC for stepping back and letting her speak in her own words. Unfortunately, the Montgomery Advisor cut the clip short while she was in the middle of her story.
Derek noted earlier this month that the congressional impasse in reauthorizing No Child Left Behind (the Elementary and Secondary Education Act) is unlikely to be resolved by the end of President Obama's second term. That is largely been because the Obama administration has effectively reformed NCLB by granting states waivers from complying with the federal standards. Yesterday, Pennsylvania joined the 40 states that have received a partial waiver from the requirements of No Child Left Behind. Without that waiver, Pennsylvania would have had to show next year that its students’ standardized test scores were at grade level proficiency in reading and math. With the waiver, Pennsylvania will not have to meet that standard in 2014. Instead, the state can now substitute its own system to measure student performance and teacher effectiveness, subject to the approval of the Department of education. As the Department of Education continues its NCLB flexibility program, the Obama administration has seemed less concerned pushing Congress for a replacement, even though reauthorization was a priority at the start of President Obama's second term. While Congress continues to tangle over how best to reform NCLB, the administration has persuaded states to implement the accountability measures that it wanted. Forty-five states have signed on for standardized testing under the Common Core State Standards Initiative.
A new article by Jared S. Buszin, Beyond School Finance: Refocusing Education Reform Litigation to Realize the Deferred Dream of Education Equality and Adequacy, 62 Emory L.J. 1613 (2013), applies state constitutional education rights to local district practices. His first premise is that school finance litigation and its focus on money has not made a significant difference in equalizing educational opportunities and certainly has not closed the achievement gap. His second premise is that school finance principles should apply to local district policies just as they do state wide policies. I would quible some with the breadth and implications of his first claim, but agree entirely with his second claim. In fact, I devoted significant time to the same premise in Middle Income Peers as Educational Resources and the Constitutional Right to Equal Access, 53 B.C. L. Rev. 373 (2012), because my entire legal argument that state constitutions placed limits on local student assignment policies hinged on it.
Buszin, however, puts the premise to a different task. He argues that access to quality teachers is the most important "skills based education input" available to schools and that the "last in first out" rule of teacher layoffs works to protect seniority and ignores teaching quality. He points to examples like a teacher of the year being layed off and analyzes a trial court decision in California that enjoined a district's teacher layoff policy as interfering with students' fundamental right to education. He then posits how the theory might apply in other states.
In the end, I believe Buszin is a little too dismissive of the importance of money and the impact of school finance litigation, and I am a little leary of pitting student rights against teacher rights given the attack by conservatives and some moderates on teachers over the past two or three years (even though I am sympathetic to his point about student rights coming first). Those concerns, however, are overshadowed by a strong and creative argument for extending school finance precedent to new contexts, and his ability to apply it to a very precise context. For those interested in analogous arguments, it is worth the read.
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Earlier this summer LaJuana posted on Alabama's voucher/tax credit program (here and here) that would allow students to transfer out of failing schools and give them a $3500 tax credits toward tuition at a private school or transfer costs to another public school. LaJuana pointed out the disparate impact and flaws in the law.
Her concerns must have also rang true with the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). SPLC filed a lawsuit against the state yesterday, alleging that the law created two classes of students: "those who can escape [failing schools] because of their parents’ income or where they live and those who cannot." SPLC argues that this violates equal protection. I was hoping to get some hint of SPLC's specific legal theory in the complaint, but couldn't entirely surmise it. Some of the facts suggest an intentional discrimination theory, while others seem premised on rational basis review (presumably rigourous rational basis under Plyler v. Doe).
SPLC's press release is after the break.
The Department of Education has warned Kansas, Oregon, and Washington that their methods of evaluating teachers place them at risk of losing their No Child Left Behind Act waivers. While all three states’ waivers have been approved for this school year, the ED sent the three states letters last Wednesday stating that their NCLB waivers are at “high risk” if they fail to meet federal compliance standards next year. Kansas, Oregon, and Washington are among 40 states, D.C., and eight California districts that have received waivers from NCLB’s most demanding requirements, particularly the Adequate Yearly Progress measurement. Kansas, Oregon, and Washington got in trouble by having teacher evaluation plans that did not meet federal NCLB waiver standards. The ED says that if it takes the unusual step of withholding money for noncompliance with NCLB waiver agreements, the cuts will likely be from administrative funds rather than Title I programmatic grants. Read more at Education Week here.
Monday, August 19, 2013
Last fall, the University of Missouri-Kansas City hosted a symposium that included various litigants and attorneys who were actually part of the Supreme Court's landmark student speech cases. It also included leading student free speech scholars. The articles from the the symposium are now available on westlaw. Below are abstracts.
Allen Rostron, INTELLECTUAL SERIOUSNESS AND THE FIRST AMENDMENT’S PROTECTION OF FREE SPEECH FOR STUDENTS, 81 UMKC L.Rev. 635 (Spring 2013)
Abstract: “Part I of this essay provides a basic review of the Supreme Court's significant rulings about the free speech rights of students. Part II looks at how the lower courts continue to be divided over difficult questions about the constitutional analysis required by Tinker and the Supreme Court's other key precedents on student speech. In particular, it illustrates the uncertain and disputed character of this area of First Amendment law by examining the varying approaches that lower courts have used in a line of cases about student displays of the Confederate flag. Part III
proposes that courts can make a small step forward by explicitly making intellectual seriousness a legitimate factor for school officials to consider in deciding what student expression to permit or prohibit.”
Emily Gold Waldman, No Jokes About Dope: Morse v. Frederick’s Educational Rationale, 81 UMKC L.Rev. 685 (Spring 2013)
Abstract: “This piece begins with a “protective” reading of Morse, showing how this rationale provides a good starting point in understanding Morse but is ultimately incomplete. Indeed, Justice Stevens' dissent is largely an argument that the protective rationale falls short here. I then re-examine Morse from the perspective of the educational rationale and conclude that the underlying, largely unstated premise of the Morse majority is that schools-as part of teaching students about the gravity of drug use- should be able to convey disapproval of messages suggesting that drug use is a joking or trivial matter. This helps to explain why Justice Stevens' argument-that Frederick's message was “stupid” and that he was just seeking attention-was wholly unconvincing to the majority, which was disturbed by those very aspects of Frederick's speech. It also helps to explain Justice Alito's concurrence, in which he distinguished between Frederick's speech and any speech that could “plausibly be interpreted as commenting on any political or social issue.” What harmed Frederick was that his speech minimized the seriousness of drug use while lacking the redeeming value of conveying a genuine message. In Justice Alito's eyes, a thoughtful argument for legalizing marijuana would deserve more protection than Frederick's banner, regardless of whether the former might actually have greater potential to persuade at least some students to experiment with it. I conclude with some reflections about why the Court left Morse's educational rationale in the subtext, rather than explicitly articulating it, and what this suggests for how the Supreme Court is approaching student speech cases.”
Andrew W. Kloster, Speech Codes Slipping Past the Schoolhouse Gate: Current Issues in Student’s Rights, 81 UMKC L.Rev. 617 (Spring 2013)
Abstract: “The areas outlined in this article are not the only active areas in the struggle for students' rights. Courts and school administrations are still grappling with the effects of disappointing Supreme Court decisions in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez and
Garcetti v. Ceballos. And, of course, even plainly unconstitutional speech policies exist at many
schools, requiring perpetual vigilance on the part of First Amendment advocates. But the areas outlined in this article are particularly unsettled. In Part II, this article will address the question of First Amendment limitations on off-campus, out-of-school speech. Part III examines the approaches to off-campus, out-of-school speech by the courts. In Part IV, this article will explore the ways in which uneven qualified immunity jurisprudence provides a patchwork of legal remedies across the nation. Part V will address some ways in which public schools, particularly at the college level, do an end-run around the First Amendment by outsourcing speech restriction to third parties. These three issues represent the cutting edge of today's students' rights advocacy. The
root of most of the problems is largely a lack of clear guidance by higher courts. American schools are the flowers of democracy; expression there must prosper if we are to have confidence in the legitimacy of our democratic institutions.”
Alabama Conservatives Push Cohorts to Support Common Core
Cotton State conservatives (self-described) scolded conservatives for critizing the Common Core standards in their Sunday al.com editorial, School choice plus higher standards: That's a recipe for academic success. Chester E. Finn Jr. and Michael J. Petrilli, respectively president and executive vice president of conservative think tank Thomas B. Fordham Institute, wrote that the Common Core standards promote educational progress, fiscal responsibility, and "traditional education values."
Alaska Releases School Ratings Under New Accountability System
Alaska revealed its new testing accountability system, the Alaska School Performance Index, on Friday. The Index ranks schools between five and one stars, with rankings partially based on students' performance on state proficiecy tests. For schools that educate up to 12th grade, graduation rates and college and career readiness were also factors in ranking. Schools receiving three or fewer stars and schools where graduation rates have dropped must implement improvement plans.
Indianapolis Schools Seek Information about Charter School Takeovers
Indianapolis Public Schools leaders filed a public records request Thursday for information about the takeover of its four schools ordered by former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett. In 2011, Bennett ordered that five schools in Indianapolis and Gary be turned over to charter school groups. The charter school companies that received contracts all contributed to Bennett's campaign for superintendent, helping him to raise nearly $1 million. (His oppenent for Indiana superintendent raised about $115,000.) One of charter schools operator, Charter Schools USA, later hired Bennett's wife as a regional director in Florida. The request follows recent revelations that Bennett raised grades for charter schools under the state's A-F school grading formula while branding existing schools as failing. Read more here.
Ohio District Bars Seventh-Grade Girl from Playing School Football
An Ohio school district has barred 12-year-old Makhaela Jenkins from playing football for her school even though she plays youth football outside of school. Liberty Union-Thurston District superintendent Paul Mathews says that the district is not violating Title IX because its sporting opportunities for female students do not include contact sports. Makhaela and her supporters say that gender should not be a barrier to school teams. Read more here.
Conservatives are lining up for and against Common Core, and Frederick Hess, writing for the National Review Online, is predicting that the testing standards may become a liability for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush if he runs for president. Gov. Bush is the face of the testing accountability reform movement, and as Chair of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, he has guided the GOP’s education reform platform since he left office in 2007. Now as a 2016 putative GOP nominee (should the party finally convince him to run), his support of Common Core might become a sticking point for conservatives as Massachusetts’ health care reform was for Mitt Romney in 2012. Gov. Bush finds himself in an awkward position as the star of accountability testing reform while having to fend off fellow conservatives who decry Common Core as an Obama administration scheme to control state education, even though Education Secretary Arne Duncan has dismissed such claims as coming from the “lunatic fringe.” Gov. Bush's education reform credibility was also dented a bit by the embarrassing scandal of one of his “Chiefs for Change,” Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett. Bennett resigned this summer from his Florida post after emails written while he was Indiana’s education superintendent contained orders to raise the grades of a charter school owned by a wealthy GOP donor. Gov. Bush was clearly annoyed by the grade-change incident but not at Bennett. In a defense of Bennett in the Miami Herald, Gov. Bush predictably blamed the far left—and somewhat unexpectedly—also criticized the “political right” for the controversy.
Hess says that Gov. Bush’s failure to convince far-right conservatives that the Common Core standards are worthwhile or to distance himself from the Obama administration’s support of them may cost him dearly should he vie for the 2016 candidacy. Gov. Bush doubtless pitched the Common Core standards last week at the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) education seminar and will again on September 3rd at his annual National Summit on Education Reform. A week later, as the chair of the Constitution Center, Gov. Bush will present the 2013 Liberty Medal to Hillary Clinton for her work as Secretary of State, an event that is sure to raise far-right conservatives’ fur again.