Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Kansas Funding System Unconstitutional by Molly Hunter

For those left wanting more after my quick post two weeks ago, Molly Hunter got her hands on the full opinion and offers the following summary:

On December 30, 2014, a three-judge District Court panel, in Gannon v. State, declared that the Kansas "approach to funding the K-12 school system" violates the Kansas Constitution because funding is "inadequate from any rational measure or perspective."

In March 2014, the Kansas Supreme Court, also in the Gannon case, reiterated the fact that the Kansas Constitution requires both equity and adequacy in school funding and set out clear definitions and tests to determine whether the state was complying with each requirement.

After the Supreme Court found the Kansas system was violating the equity standard in March, the Legislature adjusted state funding to remedy that finding.

On the adequacy requirement, also in its March decision, the Supreme Court remanded plaintiffs' claim of inadequacy to the panel of trial court judges. The Court instructed the District Court panel to determine whether the state's school funding system was providing sufficient funding, separate from the resolved issue of equitably distributing the funding, and whether that funding was sufficient using the "Rose factors," enumerated below.

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January 27, 2015 in School Funding | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 26, 2015

Race and Poverty in the Decline of Neighborhood Schools

Yesterday, the Washington Post ran Jay Mathews' commentary on changes in neighborhood schooling.  As the National Center for Education Statistics' chart shows below, the percentage of students attending a public school of choice has risen significantly since the 1990s.   Based on his personal experience, which he allows is biased, Mathews laments the decline in neighborhood schooling.  However, he notes that technology and other modern innovations make neighborhood schools less important than in prior eras.   He ultimately suggests the change may be a good thing.

Percentage distribution of students in grades 1–12, by type of school: 1993, 2003, and 2007

Type of school

1993 2003 2007
Public, assigned 79.9 73.9 73.2
Public, chosen 11.0 15.4 15.5
Private, church-related 7.5 8.4 8.7
Private, not church-related 1.6 2.4 2.6

Mathews' commentary, however, ignores the more important issues involved in neighborhood schools: racial and socio-economic politics and equality.  Mathews largely equates "assigned" school with "neighborhood" school and "chosen" school with "non-neighborhood.  Neither is necessarily true.  Districts operating voluntary desegregation plans often incorporate some form of choice, but the school a parent chooses is not necessarily  non-neighborhood.  The student assignment plan in Louisville that went to the Supreme Court in Parents Involved v. Seattle, for instance, drew larger neighborhood attendance zones and allowed parents the opportunity to choose among neighborhood schools.  Sometimes that was the school closest to a family, sometimes not.  As a general principle, choice plans fall into two categories: those designed to foster integration and those designed to allow parents to escape integration.

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January 26, 2015 in Charters and Vouchers, Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 23, 2015

N.C. Judge Questions State's Redefinition of Student Progress in Long-Running Equity Suit

In 1997, North Carolina Supreme Court recognized a state constitutional right to "the opportunity to obtain a sound basic education" in a long-running education equity lawsuit, Leandro v. State, 346 N.C. 336, 354 (1997).  The job of monitoring the state's compliance with Leandro fell to N.C. Superior Court Judge Howard Manning Jr. Yesterday, Judge Manning questioned whether the state was trying to lessen its responsibility to meet Leandro’s guidelines by redefining student achievement. In March 2014, the North Carolina Board of Education expanded its definition of student readiness to include students who still needed substantial remedial help in the classroom as ready to advance to the next grade. In an earlier order, Judge Manning questioned whether the added level was “academic double speak” that indicated improved student outcomes on paper that were not actually occurring. Yesterday, Deputy State Superintendent for Public Instruction Rebecca Garland explained that the changed definition is in line with higher proficiency requirements and more challenging courses. Nevertheless, Judge Manning concluded the hearing by observing,  “The system is not on track” and “is not producing any substantive gains whatsoever.” Read more at here and here.

January 23, 2015 in Cases, Equity in education, K-12 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Massive Resistance to New Teacher Evaluations or a Slow Transition?

Whether one supports state statutes that require schools to include student test scores in teacher evaluations or not, a new report detailing the extent to which some schools have failed to implement the pertinent California law is shocking.  The Ed Voice Institute's new report, Student Progress Ignored: An Examination of California School Districts' Compliance with the Stull Act, finds:

  • The majority of districts do not formally assess whether or not a student is actually learning when considering the job performance of that student’s teacher.
  • The San Ramon Valley and Upland Unified School Districts are in violation of the law by explicitly prohibiting the use of mandatory measures of pupil progress.
  • Overall, 86.5% of evaluations did not include a connection to pupil progress in their comments. Even in the best district, only 36% of district’s teachers had an evaluation that included any mention of pupil progress.
  • In one district, 100% of teachers received a rating of “meets standards”; however, the overwhelming majority of actual evaluations provided no evidence that students in the teacher’s classroom made any progress in reaching grade level expectations. 

A key policy question is whether this is akin to massive resistance or just another example of the slow uptake of new education policies.  My guess is that it is a little of both.

January 23, 2015 in Teachers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Office for Civil Rights Positioned to Make Equal Access for Transgendered Students National

Last year, the Maine Supreme Court upheld a legal challenge by a transgendered student who argued that her exclusion from the girl's bathroom violated Maine's Human Rights Act.  On remand, she was also awarded $75,000 in damages.  Earlier this month, the ACLU filed administrative complaints with the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights and the Department of Justice, alleging that a similar exclusion in the Gloucester County Public Schools in Virginia amounts to sex discrimination in violation of Title IX.  Because the Maine case was decided on state law, it had no direct impact elsewhere.  A positive finding by OCR, however, would prompt change across all states.  OCR has been aggressive in enforcing the law under Assistant Secretary Lhamon, but given the new ground this complaint might break, I would expect this complaint to proceed slowly to allow for careful investigation and deliberation. 


January 22, 2015 in Gender | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Continuing Importance of Classroom Observations in Improving Teacher Quality

Over the past few years, states have begun revamping their teacher evaluation systems and heavily relying on data driven assessment.  Prior to Illinois' new system, a pilot program in Chicago Public Schools relied on highly structured classroom observations in evaluating teachers.  A new study analyzes the impact those observations had on teacher and student performance, and emphasizes the continuing importance of those observations, notwithstanding the new rush to have data systems dominate teacher evaluations.  The study concludes:

The implementation of the EITP [ Excellence in Teaching Project] pilot in Chicago occurred prior to the nationwide shift toward more rigorous teacher-evaluation systems. These new teacher-evaluation systems incorporate multiple measures of teacher performance, including value-added metrics based on standardized tests or teacher-designed assessments and, in some cases, student feedback on teacher performance and peer evaluations. Unlike these systems, the EITP was focused solely on classroom observation. What is notable about the version of teacher evaluation systems currently evolving in districts throughout the nation, however, is the continued emphasis on classroom observations, with many systems employing the same observation tool used in CPS under the EITP initiative.

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January 21, 2015 in Teachers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Untenuring Tenure: Dan Subotnik on Indefinite Tenure

Ed. note: Professsor Dan Subotnik's short essay below calling for a reexamination of university tenure echoes themes heard in recent discussions of the role of tenure in K-12.

Untenuring Tenure by Dan Subotnik (Touro Law)

A specter haunting the academy today is of an intellectually wizened white male professoriate refusing to step aside for au courant, energetic, ambitious, and of course diverse younger faculty. Part of a larger concern with tenure itself, the fear in question is that tenured old-timers, of which I am one, are holding fast to financial and administrative perks, limiting institutional control and stifling institutional development in the process.    

Sometimes the fear is expressed openly.  Intractable seniors, according to a recent, widely debated Chronicle Review post (“The Forever Professors”) often “crush the young” through their “selfish[ness].” A law school colleague argues that, having enjoyed our share of university bounty, responsible seniors should facilitate succession by quickly and gracefully exiting the stage.  Such a development might be contrasted with what is actually happening today:  seniors in effect extorting rich buyouts to retire.

More of the time, of course, the critique is not explicit. Yet who among us seniors has not felt the sting of “what are you still doing here, gramps” looks from junior law faculty and deans?  

A visceral response to critics may be tempting here, but we must show our maturity. Beating up the young for impertinence would show both ignorance and hypocrisy.  Inter-generational, oedipal struggle, we have learned, is the way of the world, and, it must be admitted, many of us felt the same way 30 years ago about our predecessors in law.  They would never have gotten their jobs in the competitive environment of 1985, we self-righteously told ourselves, just like we would not get ours in today’s environment, when two good law review articles are required just for a job interview.    

We must also admit that the young are not wrong to be concerned about their future.  Well known is that law schools are experiencing budgetary upheaval.  Our schools are hurting badly. There are many more law school seats and 50 more law schools now for the same number of students as attended law school 40 years ago.  In this harsh setting, it is not surprising  that senior faculty make up an ever larger fraction of faculty, that raises are skimpy or nonexistent, and, above all, that the risks of dismissal fall most heavily on those with least seniority. Tenure may lie at the very heart of academic freedom, but the foregoing problems are fairly laid at its doorstep. Dismissal “for cause,” as is usually required, has proved an exceedingly heavy burden for academic institutions.    

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January 20, 2015 in Analysis | Permalink | Comments (1)

White Like Me: The Negative Impact of the Diversity Rationale on White Identity Formation

Osamudia James' new article, White Like Me: The Negative Impact of the Diversity Rationale on White Identity Formation, 89 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 425 (2014), is now available on westlaw.  She calls into serious question the diversity project that our education systems have pursued over the past decade or two.  In teaching Grutter v. Bollinger, I always press students to distinguish affirmative action from diversity, suggesting that what Grutter sanctioned is not affirmative action.  Rather, Grutter sanctioned the educational benefits of diversity that flow primarily to whites, in this instance. Ironically, however, I have failed to note that, in doing so, Grutter leaves the call for affirmative action completely unanswered, if not silenced.  Yet, Grutter left liberals and civil rights advocates with a strong sense of victory, and institutions pursuing diversity with a strong sense of righteousness.  In that respect, one could read Grutter as a sleight of hand.  For those who struggle with those and similar issues in their scholarship or want to take classroom discussions to the next level, Professor James' article is a must read.
Her abstract summarizes the article as follows:
In several cases addressing the constitutionality of affirmative action admissions policies, the Supreme Court has recognized a compelling state interest in schools with diverse student populations. According to the Court and affirmative action proponents, the pursuit of diversity does not only benefit minority students who gain expanded access to elite institutions through affirmative action. Rather, diversity also benefits white students who grow through encounters with minority students, it contributes to social and intellectual life on campus, and it serves society at large by aiding the development of citizens equipped for employment and citizenship in an increasingly diverse country.

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January 20, 2015 in Higher education, Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Professor Banks (Maryland) on The Unfinished Journey-Education, Equality, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Revisited

Although we have mentioned this article before, reposting part of Professor Taunya Lovell Banks's (Maryland) lecture at Villanova School of Law on King and education seemed appropriate on MLK Day.  Below is a short excerpt from The Unfinished Journey-Education, Equality, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Revisited, 58 Vill. L. Rev. 471, 484-85 (2013):

In 1994 I celebrated the King Holiday in Honolulu, Hawaii, and witnessed the first celebration I thought truly represented Dr. King's dream. This celebration bore little resemblance to the token ceremonies I witnessed on the mainland. Those ceremonies treat the King birthday as a “black” holiday. In Honolulu the audience was large, and given that state's multi-racial and multi-ethnic composition, diverse. There was singing by a black church choral group from the military base, music by the Royal Hawaiian Band and dancing by elderly Japanese-American women. Various groups representing other components of the Island's community also participated. The Honolulu celebration seemed to capture Dr. King's thoughts that “[a]n individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” ... This is why we must strive for equally resourced, racially and economically diverse public schools classrooms throughout America. We are naïve, however, if we believe that achieving educational equality is a simple task capable of easy fixes. Looking backward it becomes apparent that, like governance in general, with public education “[t]here is no equilibrium. [[Rather, t]here's just a process of critique and mobilization and activism that dynamically inches you toward something better."

January 19, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 16, 2015

DOJ Sues Chicago Bd. of Education Alleging that School Principal Terminated Pregnant Teachers

The Justice Department filed suit against the Chicago Board of Education in late December, alleging that an elementary school principal discriminated against pregnant teachers in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The complaint alleges that, from 2009 to 2012, a principal at a Chicago elementary school lowered the performance evaluations and moved to terminate eight teachers who announced their pregnancies. The principal also made negative comments to and about pregnant teachers at Scammon Elementary, including: “responding to a teacher's announcement of her pregnancy by saying, “I can't believe you are doing this to me. You are going to be out right before [mandatory] testing!;” asking a Scammon staff member if a teacher who had been pregnant was pregnant again; ignoring a teacher after the teacher announced her pregnancy; ignoring a teacher's request to meet regarding her upcoming maternity leave; repeatedly asking a teacher who was nursing and expressing breast milk questions such as, “That isn't over yet?” and “When will you be done with that?”; and stating that a teacher who requested an accommodation to express breast milk complained too much and was too high maintenance.” The complaint filed December 23, 2014, can be found at United States v. Chicago Board of Education, et. al, 2014 WL 7384980 (N.D.Ill.)

January 16, 2015 in Gender, News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 15, 2015

How Parents Choose Schools

NPR ran an interesting story this morning about how parents choose schools.  It was based on a new report on school choice in New Orleans, which is, of course, all charter now.  This unique characteristic, along with various other local circumstances, may or may not make the findings of national significance, but they are certainly surprising, if not controversial.  NPR offered this summary of the report's findings:

  • Parents care about academics, but not as much as they say they do. "The role of academics seemed somewhat lower [than in other studies]," says Douglas Harris, lead author on the report. And because of the nature of the study, which shows where families actually enroll, "we're actually able to quantify that in ways that other studies couldn't."
  • Distance matters. A lot. Schools in New Orleans are ranked by letter grades, depending mostly on their scores on state tests. What the researchers found was that three-quarters of a mile in distance was equal to a letter grade in terms of family preferences. In other words, a C-grade school across the street was slightly preferable to a B-grade school just a mile away.
  • Extended hours matter. Parents of younger children preferred extended school hours and after-school programs.
  • Extracurriculars matter. Especially for high school students. And perhaps, even more so in this city famous for its music and its love of the Saints. A C-grade school with a well-known football and band program could beat out a B-grade school without them. (Of note: In traditional public school systems, most high schools offer these extracurriculars; New Orleans has many smaller specialized schools that don't.)
  • Poorer families care more about other factors — and less about academics. The study split families up into thirds based on the median income in their census tract. What they found was that the lowest-income New Orleans families were even more likely to pick schools that were close by, that offered extended days, and had football and band in high school — and conversely, they had a weaker preference for schools based on test scores.

January 15, 2015 in Charters and Vouchers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

What to Make of a Year of Charter School Struggles

Over the past year, numerous posts on this blog have analyzed the highest profile charter scandals.  As one post emphasized, traditional public schools are not immune to scandal either.  Thus, the point of this post is not beat up on charters.  Rather, the relevant points and questions are whether the rate of scandal is any different in charter schools and whether the nature of the scandals in charters differs from public schools.  My general observation is that there seems to be a higher rate in charters, but the scandals in charters tend to be different in character than those in traditional public schools.  If this is so, the problem is potentially easier to fix, as there are aspects of charter school structure that may allow for or incentivize scandal, rather than the concept of a charter itself. Jeff Bryant, at Salon.com, offers a comprehensive rundown of charter school scandals and reports on them.  He catches far more than you would have read on this blog. 

January 14, 2015 in Charters and Vouchers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Penn Law Sponsors Debate Over the Common Core

Cary Coglianese, Professor of Law and Director of Penn Law's Program on Regulation, has brought together a series of commentators on the Common Core. Over the next two weeks, a series of commentators will publish essays here.  The topics and commentators include:

  • Common Core Creates Professional Possibilities, Maddie Fennell
  • The Common Core is a Remedy Worse than the Disease, Anthony Cody
  • Stay the Course, or Turn the Page?, Michael J. Petrilli
  • The Common Core is Passable in Theory but Problematic in Reality, Frederick Hess
  • Common Misperceptions, Annice Brave
  • The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of the Common Core, Josh Stumpenhorst
  • Testing is Destroying the Common Core, Anna Baldwin.

January 14, 2015 in ESEA/NCLB, Federal policy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Conference at UCLA Law: Engaging the Entire Class: Strategies for Enhancing Participation and Inclusion in Law School Classroom Learning

UCLA School of Law and the Institute for Law Teaching and Learning (ILTL) will present a one-day conference called "Engaging the Entire Class: Strategies for Enhancing Participation and Inclusion in Law School Classroom Learning" on February 28, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. The conference will include five workshop sessions presented by teachers featured in What the Best Law Teachers Do. Participants will learn concrete ideas for enhancing participation and inclusion in law school classrooms to take back to their students, colleagues, and institutions. Learn more about the conference here. Thanks to Emily Grant (Washburn Law) for the tip.

January 13, 2015 in Conferences | Permalink | Comments (0)

Republicans Place Federal Role in Education in Jeopardy

Since the start of the new year, discussions regarding the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) have become part of the daily news cycle.  This much substantive discussion of reauthorization has not occurred since the presidential election of 2008.  These signals are strengthening the possibility that Republicans can and will pass a reauthorization bill.  At least, they are clearly indicating they will.  Whether President Obama would veto the legislation is less clear, but based on yesterday's comments by Secretary Duncan, the likelihood of veto also seems likely, unless the two sides mediate their positions.  

Republicans are discussing legislation that would significantly unravel the current role of the federal government in education and turn education leadership back to the states.  While consistent with traditional Republican values, such a move is surprising on several levels.  First, No Child Left Behind was one of President George W. Bush's signature pieces of legislation.  John Beohner was also heavily involved in its drafting, and the bill passed with heavy bipartisan support.  Second, while NCLB significantly expanded the federal role in education, the federal role had been growing steadily over the previous decades.  Few seemed to mind.  Many, of course, disliked the substance of No Child Left Behind and the recent waivers issued under it, but the federal role in education (and the money it brought) was not normatively problematic to the mainstream.  As I pointed out in an article in 2012, NCLB was a smashing success in terms creating and cementing the accountability structures for federal leadership on education.  In short, the federal role in education was no longer new or controversial. 

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January 13, 2015 in ESEA/NCLB, Federal policy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, January 12, 2015

Has Integration Gone Mainstream?

I doubt it, but Friday the New York Times Editorial Board decried the segregation in the state, citing it as the nation's worst.  This, of course, is not news to most readers of this blog.  Back in March I posted on the Civil Rights Project's new report labeling New York as such.  And the Times itself has published various editorials over the past few years by the likes of Gary Orfield and john powell.  It has also done a few background stories.  But I cannot recall the Editorial Board taking an affirmative stance on integration itself.  Such a stance is important, and comes on the heels of an announcement the previous week by New York that it would offer pilot program grants to school districts seeking to promote socioeconomic integration in schools.  Let us hope that the pendulum is beginning to swing.  The full oped is here.

January 12, 2015 in Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

From Zero Tolerance to Weapons Instruction

South Carolina legislators have put forth two bills to require gun safety and Second Amendment curriculum in schools.  Putting aside the fact that South Carolina's school system was declared constitutionally inadequate this winter, these bills are hard to appreciate.  First, while it is important for state legislatures' to lead on education issues, rather than devolving all discretion to local school districts, anytime any one toys with the curriculum for political purposes it creates educational and legal problems.  See here, here, here, and here.  As I teach educational law each year, I often remind my students that we see so many religion and speech cases in education because adults cannot seem to help themselves from using education as their playground.

Second, one of the sponsors of the bill said he was prompted to write it after learning of a local student who was suspended and arrested over a story he wrote for class about shooting a dinosaur. This, says the legislature, was a travesty under both the First and Second Amendments. He is probably correct about the former.  (See here for my earlier post on the suspension.)  If there was any reason to believe that weapons curriculum might mitigate the use of zero tolerance policies against students, the bill might be innovative.  But the more obvious solution would seem to be to address zero tolerance policies themselves or train teachers on students' First Amendment rights.

January 12, 2015 in Discipline, First Amendment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, January 9, 2015

Kansas Funding Systems Ruled Unconstitutional, Again

Just before the end of the year, a three judge state district court panel held that Kansas public schools have been unconstitutionally underfunded. The court found insufficient "provision allowing localities to provide funding to equalize the gap between rich and poor districts . . . because it did not guarantee that the playing field would be leveled." This decision marks jut one more in a line of lower and supreme court opinions consistently finding that the Kansas legislature is failing to provide sufficient educational funding to meet the state constitution's requirement of "'suitable provision[s] for finance of the educational interests of the state.'"   The panel refrained from indicating what specific amount of additional funding would be sufficient, citing separation of powers concerns.  The panel did, however, suggest that somewhere between $4,654 - $4,980 per student would be constitutional. This suggestion also comes on top of 2013 ruling that an additional $440 million would be necessary statewide to meet constitutional requirements.  The state previously agreed gradually increase per pupil funding to $4,492 and nearly got there in 2008, but since then, let per pupil funding dwindle back down to $3,852 per student.  Recent tax cuts in the state, commitments to teachers' pension plans, and a projected $278 million shortfall in the state budget for 2015 will make reversing this trend a political challenge, but the constitution offers no quarter to such politics.

Unfortunately, I have been unable to read the opinion itself and have had to rely on media reports. I will update this post with a link to the opinion when it becomes available.  I did, however, find an excellent time line of school finance battles in the state here


January 9, 2015 in School Funding | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Justice and Education Release Streamlined Guidance on English Language Learners

The U.S. Departments of Education and Justice yesterday released joint guidance on schools' legal obligations to English Language Learners.  They also released some tools and resources to assist schools in carrying out their obligations.  Those tools and resources include:

  • A fact sheet in English and in other languages about schools’ obligations under federal law to ensure that English learner students can participate meaningfully and equally in school. 
  • A fact sheet in English and in other languages about schools’ obligations under federal law to communicate information to limited English proficient parents in a language they can understand.
  • A toolkit to help school districts identify English learner students, prepared by the Education Department’s Office of English Language Acquisition. This is the first chapter in a series of chapters to help state education agencies and school districts meet their obligations to English learner students. 

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January 8, 2015 in English Language Learners | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Connecting School Politics with Criminal Justice in Ferguson

Since the protests in Ferguson, Missouri first began, I have been burdened by the thought that it warranted discussion here, but never found a way to comment appropriately.  To comment here seemed opportunistic or too tangential to the issues within the normal scope of this blog.  Two weeks ago, the ACLU made a connection or, at least, decided to focus on the education issues in the local school district.

A new ACLU lawsuit challenges the school leadership in the Ferguson-Florissant School District, arguing that the white dominated school board and the electoral process that produces it are in violation of the Voting Rights Act. “African-American students accounted for 77.1% of total enrollment  in the 2011-2012 school year,” but only one of seven school board members are African American.  The press release explains:

"The current [voting] system locks out African-American voters. It dilutes the voting power of the African-American community and severely undermines their voice in the political process," said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU's Voting Rights Project.

The Ferguson-Florissant School District has a history fraught with discrimination against African-American citizens. The district, which spans several municipalities, was created by a 1975 desegregation order intended to remedy the effects of discrimination against African-American students. Yet, 40 years later, there is just one African-American member on the seven-member board in a district where African-Americans constitute 77 percent of the student body.

Plaintiffs attribute the District's “significant racial disparities in terms of enrollment in gifted programs, access to advanced classes, assignment to special education programs, and school discipline” to the racially inequitable political process.  

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January 7, 2015 in Discrimination, Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (2)