Thursday, May 7, 2015

Student's Facebook Post that Teacher "Needs to Be Shot" Ruled Protected Speech

The U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon recently ruled that a school violated a student's free speech rights when it suspended him for posting on Facebook post that his teacher "needs to be shot." The eighth grade student was angry because his parents grounded him after he got a C in her class. The court wrote that the off-campus post post was unlikely to "materially and substantially interfere with the requirements of appropriate discipline in the operation of the school,” the required showing under Tinker v. Des Moines Indep. Cmty. Sch. Dist. The student's post did not announce a specific plan, and the school's choice of discipline, a three-day in school suspension, further convinced the district court that school officials did not take the comments seriously. Although the teacher was apprehensive about the student returning to school, she accepted the school's decision to let the student return. The district court distinguished a 2013 Ninth Circuit case, Wynar v. Douglas Co. Sch. Dist., which upheld a school suspension of a student for his threatening social media post because he detailed plans that targeted specific students. Read the district court's opinion in Burge v. Colton School Dist. 53 here.

May 7, 2015 in Cases, First Amendment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

New Study Busts Assumptions: New Teachers Are Not Fleeing the Profession

The Department of Education's new longitudinal study on teacher attrition indicates that the conventional wisdom is wrong.  Past research has indicated that new teachers leave the profession in droves.  The common refrain is that half of new teachers leave within five years.  Looking at five years of data (from 2007–08 through 2011–12), the Department found that 83% of the new teachers in the first year of the study were still teaching 5 years later.  The biggest hit was in the first year, after which 10 percent of teachers left the profession.  In subsequent years, however, attrition fell to only two to three percent.  The study also found that two factors appeared to play a role in those schools with the lowest attrition rates: salary and mentorship.

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May 6, 2015 in School Funding, Teachers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Detroit Schools Plan to Create "Old" and "New" Compared to General Motors' Bankruptcy Model

Last week, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder's plan to rescue the Detroit Public Schools (DPS) from its nearly $500 million debt prompted a walkout protest by the city's teachers. This week the plan is being examined more closely. The Governor's plan creates two school districts. The first will made up of the current elected DPS Board members that will exist only to retire debt, much like the General Motors bankruptcy model. The plan creates a new district that will absorb all of the city's students, employees, buildings, and labor contracts called the City of Detroit Education District (CDED). The CDED will be governed by a seven member board appointed by the Governor and Detroit's mayor. Currently, Detroit mayor Mike Duggan opposes the current plan, saying that he sees no reason to continue the state's longtime control of Detroit's schools when that control has failed over the last four years. School districts statewide also oppose the plan, worried that raising extra money will essentially require Michigan's school districts to pay $50 per pupil to avoid raising taxes. Interestingly, Detroit's newspapers on opposite sides of the political spectrum argue that Gov. Snyder's plan should given a chance. Read the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News' editorials here and here.

May 5, 2015 in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Study Says Education Reform in New Orleans May Have Served Whites' Interests, But Not African Americans'

Adrienne Dixson (University of Illinois), Kristen Buras (Georgia St.), and Elizabeth K. Jeffers (Georgia St.) have released their new paper, The Color of Reform: Race, Education Reform, and Charter Schools in Post-Katrina New Orleans, 21 (3) Qualitative Inquiry (2015).  They argue that

By most media accounts, education reform in post-Katrina New Orleans is a success. Test scores and graduation rates are up, and students once trapped in failing schools have their choice of charter schools throughout the city. But that's only what education reform looks like from the perspective of New Orleans' white minority -- the policymakers, school administrators and venture philanthropists orchestrating and profiting from these changes. . . 

From the perspectives of black students, parents and educators -- who have had no voice in the decision-making, and who have lost beloved neighborhood schools and jobs -- education reform in New Orleans has exacerbated economic and cultural inequities.

Get a summary of their research here and the full article here.

May 5, 2015 in Charters and Vouchers, Equity in education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 4, 2015

OECD Suggests "Regulated School Choice" Reform for Sweden

Sweden has been an enthusiastic model for school voucher and choice programs around the world. This week, a new report reopens the debate about Sweden's school choice reforms that may contain lessons for similar efforts in the United States. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published the report on Swedish education that in part faults school choice for Sweden's declining performance on international assessments. The OECD report was prompted when Sweden's student performance on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), dropped significantly from near the OECD average in 2000 to significantly below average in 2012-- the sharpest decline among the 65 participating countries and economies.  In Improving Schools in Sweden: An OECD Perspective, the OECD found that Sweden's school choice reforms were too loosely regulated and that education quality may have suffered from the lack of oversight. The report also points to school choice as a contributor to almost half of Sweden's children from immigrant backgrounds (48%) failing to make a passing grade in mathematics on the PISA. The OECD suggests that Sweden regulate private voucher programs and charters more closely to maintain education quality and improve how disadvantaged families receive information about schools, because the OECD is concerned that disadvantaged families may be overlooking better-ranked schools to stay in more familiar (and at times, more ethnically and socio-economically segregated) environments. When this debate started years ago, economists argued that no one could tell what prompted the decline in Sweden's PISA scores because the country started so many different reforms at once. One economist faulted that the country's largely unregulated entry and oversight in implementing charters and private school voucher programs; another argued that Sweden's schools were hampered in designing their own curriculum and teaching methods. In a Slate article a few years ago, the New Orleans Recovery District Superintendent acknowledged that part of that district's success came from district administrators (rather than market pressures) deciding which charters could stay open and from recruiting top quality teachers and administrators from around the country to start a new district nearly from the ground up, situations unlikely to be replicated in most districts in the nation. Read more about the OECD report and Sweden's response here.

May 4, 2015 in Charters and Vouchers, News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Indiana School Funding Going Regressive or Just Irrational in Its Assumptions?

Last week, the Indiana House and Senate approved a new school funding formula that local advocates say is regressive.  Of the 25 highest income districts in the state, all 25 will see increases under the new budget.  Of the 25 lowest income districts in the state, 13 will experience losses in either state or local funding.  Those facts are mind boggling if true, and Indiana's school funding practices are sufficiently complex that I could not easily sort out an absolutely clear explanation.  I did, however, discern what would appear to be a few important factors.

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May 4, 2015 in School Funding | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 1, 2015

Arkansas Law Review Symposium Issue - Education: The New Civil Right

The Arkansas Law Review's education symposium issue with articles discussing the theme “Education: The New Civil Right,” 68 Ark. L. Rev. 83, 100 (2015), is now available on Westlaw and Lexis. Excerpted from the symposium issue’s introduction:

Peter C. Alexander, Seeking Educational Equality in the North: The Integration of the Hillburn School System, describes his family's effort, alongside then-attorney Thurgood Marshall and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, to integrate a school system in the North before Brown.

Jose' Felipe' Anderson urges the federal courts to get more involved in ensuring educational equity through the equal protection clause in "Law Is Coercion": Revisiting Judicial Power to Provide Equality in Public Education.

Linda Sheryl Greene, The Battle for Brown, proposes that full citizenship includes the constitutional right to education.

Regina Ramsey James, How to Fulfill a Broken Promise: Revisiting and Reaffirming the Importance of Desegregated Equal Educational Access and Opportunity, contends that the Supreme Court must recognize education as a fundamental right in order to force states to provide equal educational access to minority children.

Bethany J. Peak, Militarization of School Police: One Route on the School-to-Prison Pipeline, analyzes the connection between school militarization and the school-to-prison pipeline. Peak compares the structure and duties of school police and describes the twenty-six school districts across the country that have acquired military equipment through the Department of Defense's 1033 Program. She concludes schools become militarized in three ways: (1) through the placement of permanent police officers in schools; (2) through the acquisition of military-grade weaponry by school police departments; and (3) through the performance of unannounced drills at schools using actual weapons.

Ellen Marrus, Education in Black America: Is It the New Jim Crow?, discusses the limited opportunities for African American youth educated from the foster care system, juvenile or adult locked prison institutions, or caught in the net of juvenile justice programs.

Janel A. George, Stereotype and School Pushout: Race, Gender, and Discipline Disparities, discussing how race and gender bias uniquely impact and undermine the educational experiences and outcomes of African American girls.

Tracie R. Porter, The School-to-Prison Pipeline: The Business Side of Incarcerating, Not Educating, Students in Public Schools, examines the incarceration of youth, discussing how the private prison industry and government organizations benefit and their disinterest in educating youth in public schools. 

May 1, 2015 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

Office for Civil Rights Releases Report to Congress: This Time It Is a Must Read

The Office for Civil Rights has released its 2013-2014 report to Congress and the President.  From my perspective, past reports have been dense and un-illuminating.  This current one strikes a very different approach.  First, it is very well written.  Second, it is very well framed and organized. Third, and maybe most important, it is incredibly informative.  Fourth, it is analytical.  Fifth, it is visually appealing.  Sixth, it implicitly suggests courses of action or concern.  Overall, it presents as a study in the state of civil rights and equity in our nation's schools, rather than a bureaucratic account of the beans counted in the past two years.  

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May 1, 2015 in Bullying and Harassment, Discipline, Discrimination, English Language Learners, Equity in education, Federal policy, Gender, Racial Integration and Diversity, Special Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Department of Education's New Special Education Funding Rule by Mark Weber

On Tuesday, April 28, the Department of Education issued a final rule covering maintenance of effort (sometimes called “nonsupplanting”) by school districts and other local education agencies in connection with Individuals with Disabilities Education Act funding. As is the case with many other federal programs, IDEA aims to supplement, not supplant, what states and localities would be doing on their own. Accordingly, LEAs are not permitted to reduce the level of expenditures from local funds below the level for the preceding fiscal year, except in specific circumstances, such as decreases in special education enrollment, the termination of services to a child with a particularly costly program, and the completion of construction or other expensive long-term projects. 

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April 30, 2015 in School Funding, Special Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Classroom Diversity in Early Education

The Century Foundation and Poverty & Race Research Action Council's new report A Better Start: Why Classroom Diversity Matters in Early Education is now available.  It describes racial, ethnic and economic disparities in preschool.  Halley Potter, a contributor to the report, remarks "As policymakers consider the best ways to set our nation's children on a path to success, we hope this report will encourage our leaders to enact creative policy solutions that increase the opportunities for children of different socioeconomic and racial backgrounds to learn together in the same classrooms."

April 30, 2015 in Pre-K Education, Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Judge Approves Consent Order Aimed at Achieving Unitary Status in Huntsville, Ala. Schools

Last week a federal court approved a consent order to put Huntsville, Ala. on the road to unitary status. The Huntsville schools must still comply with a decades-old federal desegregation order, but the consent order is a "plan to plan" to end the imbalances that led to federal oversight. In its order, the court wrote a message to the district's students in the district, urging them to show openness and patience as the school system rezoned them for new schools. Last year, the district court expressed skepticism about the district's progress toward unitary status, citing among other things, continued racial imbalance in the city's schools, discrepancies in disciplinary rates, and racial achievement gaps on measures of academic performance. Under the consent order, the school system is tasked with making progress in areas identified in the original desegregation order: (1) desegregation of faculty and staff; (2) majority to minority transfers; (3) equity in school construction and site selection; (4) interdistrict transfers; (5) equity in services, facilities, activities, and programs, including athletics and other extracurricular activities; and (6) equity in transportation. The consent order in  Hereford v. Huntsville Bd. of Educ. is here.

April 29, 2015 in Cases, Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Zero Tolerance's Impact on Student Bystanders

Social science demonstrating that zero tolerance and harsh discipline are ineffective in achieving their goals of improved student behavior and deterrence is not new, but what is new is a growing parade of research demonstrating that zero tolerance and harsh discipline are actually counterproductive.  In effect, they make student behavior and academic achievement worse.  Last month, I posted a study finding that punitive discipline is associated with increases in student drug use.  Another study by Brea Perry and Edward Morris, Suspending Progress: Collateral Consequences of Exclusionary Punishment in Public Schools, American Sociological Review, finds that punitive discipline negatively affects not only the student who is punished but his peers who are not.  Their abstract explains:

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April 29, 2015 in Discipline | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

When Integration and Charter Schools Collide: North Carolina's Troubling Trend

Helen Ladd, Charles Clotfelter, and  John Holbein have released a new study on North Carolina's charter schools that will only intensify the debate between charter school and civil rights advocates. A few reports, most notably those by the UCLA Civil Rights Project, have charged that charter schools are more segregated than traditional public schools.  Those reports have been criticized as overstating the matter and unfairly framing the evidence (by comparing charters to dissimilar public school systems).

Ladd's study addresses the issue with more precision by focusing only on North Carolina and looking at the change in charters and public schools over time.  By measuring change over time, Ladd is able to compare charters to themselves and public schools to themselves, mooting claims of unfair comparisons.  This analysis reveals an extremely troubling dynamic.  As the chart below shows, charter schools are becoming "whiter" and traditional public schools more heavily populated by students of color.  

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April 28, 2015 in Charters and Vouchers, Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Pennsylvania School Funding Heading to State Supreme Court by Molly Hunter

On April 21, 2015, the trial court in Pennsylvania, where petitioners filed a lawsuit claiming the state is failing to adequately and equitably fund its public schools, interpreted prior state supreme court precedent as eliminating the courts' role in such a case.

William Penn School District, et al., v. Department of Education, et al., was filed last November by six school districts, seven parents, the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools (PARSS) and the NAACP Pennsylvania State Conference. The lawsuit alleges that legislative leaders, state education officials, and the Governor violated their constitutional obligation to provide a system of public education that gives all children in Pennsylvania the opportunity to meet state-imposed academic standards and be prepared for life in today's world.

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April 28, 2015 in School Funding | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Child's Interest to Be Free From Homeschooling

Two years, ago Josh Powell caught national media attention with his attempts to enroll in Buckingham County Public Schools.  He had been homeschooled for years and, under the permissive homeschool rules in the state, had managed to learn relatively little.  The things he claimed to not know and the learning experiences he claimed to not have had were shocking.  
His story also struck a chord with a Georgetown law student, who reached out to him to learn more of his story.  That law student,  Carmen Green, has now published a thorough analysis of home school statutes from the prospect of the student and proposes solutions for students like Josh Powell.  See Educational Empowerment: A Child's Right to Attend Public School, 103 Geo. L.J. 1089, 1094 (2015).  Her roadmap of the article is as follows:

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April 27, 2015 in Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0)

OCR Reminds Districts and Universities to Designate Title IX Coordinators

On Friday, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights new Title IX guidance.  It emphasizes the responsibility of school districts, colleges and universities to designate a Title IX coordinator. It also offers an overview of Title IX's requirements in regard to single-sex education, sex-based harassment, and discipline.  The press release is as follows:

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April 27, 2015 in First Amendment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 24, 2015

School Suspends Sixth Grader for a Year for Possessing Leaf Found Not to Be Marijuana

Japanesemapleleaf_thumbnailLast month Derek cited a study correlating higher student marijuana use to schools in which administrators reported using out-of-school suspensions and students reported low policy enforcement. That has not slowed the use of such policies in some districts, however, as the Roanoke Times reports that an eleven year old student was disciplined under circumstances that seem excessive even under zero tolerance policies. Acting on a student tip, an assistant principal at Bedford Middle School (VA) found a green leaf and a lighter in a plastic baggie in a sixth grader's backpack at school last fall. School resource officers from the sheriff’s office field-tested the leaf, which tested negative for marijuana. The student was nevertheless arrested and charged as a juvenile for marijuana possession. Two further tests of the leaf confirmed that it was not marijuana. That confirmation that the bag contained an ordinary leaf was not the end of the matter, however. An administrator told the student's parents that the juvenile's charge dismissal did not resolve the school's zero tolerance policies, and the student was suspended for a year. After sixth months of online education and homeschooling, the student was permitted to return to school (albeit a different school) under strict probationary terms. The student's parents, a current and a retired teacher, have sued the district and the Sheriff's Office for due process violations and for malicious prosecution. The case reportedly has been sent to mediation. Read more about the case here.

April 24, 2015 in Discipline, News | Permalink | Comments (0)

How the Pending ESEA Bill Could Move Funding Equity Backward

Yesterday, Nora Gordon focused on one of the more technical aspects of the pending Senate bill to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act: the supplement not supplant standard. The standard requires that Title I funds for low income students only be used to supplement the resources that state and local entities were already providing those students, not supplant them. Gordon summarized the new revisions and her sense of their importance:

The larger legacy of the Every Child Achieves Act may well be how it cleans up supplement not supplant, a little discussed and often misunderstood fiscal rule with a big impact on how schools actually spend the $14 billion of NCLB Title I funds. The proposed legislation makes two important changes: (1) it requires districts to show they are distributing their state and local funds across schools without regard to the federal funds that each school receives; and (2) it increases local autonomy over how to spend Title I funds.

The problem she says is that:

Under current law, those Title I schools that do not operate schoolwide programs must demonstrate that every single thing they buy with Title I funds helps only the neediest students, and would not be purchased with other funds absent the federal aid. In my research, I’ve found this rule often has the unintended consequence of preventing districts from spending money on the things that might help those students most, pushing schools to work around the edges of their central instructional mission. They buy “interventionists” instead of teachers, or “supplemental” curricular materials rather than “core” ones, and are discouraged from investing Title I funds in technology.

Gordon is correct that the supplement not supplant has been a disaster.  As I wrote in The Congressional Failure to Enforce Equal Protection Through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, 90 B.U. L. Rev. 313 (2010),

Although well meaning, the prohibition on supplanting has not met its goal. In fact, in a recent report, the GAO recommended eliminating the supplement-not-supplant standard altogether. The GAO concluded that the standard has become almost impossible to enforce. Enforcing the standard requires too much speculation about what a school district would have spent on education and also requires extremely detailed tracking of spending in thousands of school districts. In short, the prohibition on supplanting funds relies on unreliable projections and unusually labor-intensive work. Possibly for these reasons, the Department of Education has effectively stopped attempting to enforce the standard, treating it as a non-priority. The standard, however, remains the law and a measure that well-intentioned schools may expend effort attempting to meet.

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April 24, 2015 in ESEA/NCLB, School Funding | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Mississippi and Tennessee Pass Special Education Voucher Bills

Last week, Mississippi enacted a special education voucher law (the Equal Opportunity for Students with Special Needs Act), and in Tennessee this week another special education voucher bill, the Individualized Education Act, is headed for Gov. Bill Haslam’s signature. Both bills are roughly modeled on Florida’s McKay Scholarship special education voucher program, which started under then-Gov. Jeb Bush. Mississippi’s pilot program provides $6,500 to parents for special needs services and private school tutoring and tuition when parents feel that the local public school cannot meet their child’s needs. In Tennessee, parents would receive $6,000 per student for special education expenses such as physical therapy, private schooling, home schooling, and textbooks. Tennessee’s state comptroller acknowledged that the special education voucher bill would be inaccessible for most special education students. The proposed voucher would not replace public school special education services unless students’ families were affluent enough to cover the additional cost of private school tuition or can homeschool their children. In both states, some legislators and special education advocates unsuccessfully opposed the bills, pointing out the financial limitations, the risk of segregating special education students from mainstream classrooms, and private schools’ lack of accountability under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Public education funding is also at issue, considering that public schools will still  have to provide special educational services with less money after students leave the public school system. Because of fixed costs such as such as facilities and special education  personnel, public schools' special education costs do not balance out simply because some students leave public schools, Professor Ron Zimmer (Vanderbilt) told Chalkbeat Tennessee.

April 23, 2015 in Charters and Vouchers, News, Special Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Experimental Study Shows Teachers' Interpretation of Student Misbehavior Depends on Race

Jason A. Okonofua and Jennifer L. Eberhardt of Stanford University have published Two Strikes: Race and the Disciplining of Young Students, confirming what statistical analysis has long suggested: that whether and how a student is disciplined is heavily influenced by subconscious racial biases.  Their abstract explains:

There are large racial disparities in school discipline in the United States, which, for Black students, not only contribute to school failure but also can lay a path toward incarceration. Although the disparities have been well documented, the psychological mechanisms underlying them are unclear. In two experiments, we tested the hypothesis that such disparities are, in part, driven by racial stereotypes that can lead teachers to escalate their negative responses to Black students over the course of multiple interpersonal (e.g., teacher-to-student) encounters. More generally, we argue that race not only can influence how perceivers interpret a specific behavior, but also can enhance perceivers’ detection of behavioral patterns across time. Finally, we discuss the theoretical and practical benefits of employing this novel approach to stereotyping across a range of real-world settings.

Read the full study here.

April 23, 2015 in Discipline, Discrimination | Permalink | Comments (0)