Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Following up on recent stories about racial isolation in San Francisco's public schools, Priceonomics.com put its statistical prowess to work on the issue and produced some interesting analysis and inferences. While at the district level white students are grossly underrepresented in the the public schools, there is a significant amount of uneveness across individual schools and grade levels. They found significant white enrollment in elementary school, but significant drop-offs there after. At the elementary school level, they found "
the spread of the distribution is astounding. Half of San Francisco’s elementary schools have a student population that is 13% white or less. A few elementary schools are over 50% white, while a quarter of elementary schools are under 3.3%.
. . .
So while elementary schools may appear to be more diverse than middle and high schools, this is deceptive: The white students in the district are clustered into a handful of elementary schools -- such Grattan (which is 56% white), New Traditions (52%), and Miraloma (52%.)
According to Public Press, more affluent families tend to be savvier at the admissions process, and also tend to have the luxury of more flexibility with their preferences. For example, they’re more likely to be willing and able to transport their kids across town every day, if it means attending a particular school. “We have options,” one parent told Public Press, about the kindergarten admissions process. “We can send our kids to private schools. We can travel across town. Not every parent can.”
Those options usually don’t go away as a student ages. If at any point the process doesn’t shake out the way an affluent parent wants, they can just drop out, and shell out for a private education for their child. And, the data suggests, that’s exactly what they do.
Tuesday, March 24, 2015
This American Life ran a story last night, Three Miles, on a program "that brings together kids from two schools. One school is public and in the country’s poorest congressional district. The other is private and costs $43,000/year. They are three miles apart. The hope is that kids connect, but some of the public school kids just can’t get over the divide." Chana Joffee-Walt tells the story and allows us to listen to what happens when students get to see the other side and it looks a lot better. She not only describes poor students’ immediate reaction to seeing the rich school (one spontaneously bursts into tears) but also follows up on them ten years later and reports on how that experience affected their going—or not going—to college (or going and failing out, as several unfortunately did).
Although not emotionally raw, this story also reminds me of James Ryan's similar lens of analysis in Five Miles Away, A World Apart, which describes segregation over time in Richmond, Virginia.
The Arkansas Law Review's symposium issue on education (presumably celebrating the 60th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education) is now available on westlaw. The essays and articles offer a historical narrative spanning from segregation to current policies that divert funds and attention away from the education of poor and minority students to incarceration. Each is summarized below.
Peter C. Alexander, Seeking Educational Equality in the North: The Integration of the Hillburn School System, 68 Ark. L. Rev. 13 (2015).
Peter Alexander, uses the example of his small hometown of Hillburn, NY to discuss the history of segregation and integration in the north. Alexander points out that "[m]uch attention has been paid to segregated schools in the South, but surprisingly little has been written about segregated schools that existed north of the Mason-Dixon Line." However, even racially-diverse, small northern towns like Hillburn, which has a population of only about 1000 people, had segregated schools. "Curiously, the local high school was in the neighboring village of Suffern, New York, and it was integrated; however, children in the Hillburn schools were divided by race until the ninth grade." Nevertheless, Hillburn was not unique in its decision to segregate. Alexander points out that neighboring counties in New York, as well as numerous districts in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and many more norther states had segregated school. "The reasons segregated schools existed outside of the South varied from community to community." For some districts, it made geographic sense to segregate, as was the case in Hillburn. Alexander also discusses how economic demographics came into play as a rationale for segregation. Throughout the article, Alexander uses Hillburn's journey from segregation to integration as an example of the challenges that many northern cities and towns faced when making that transition.
Ellen Marrus, Education in Black America: Is It the New Jim Crow?, 68 Ark. L. Rev. 27 (2015).
Monday, March 16, 2015
Zelma Henderson, the last surviving plaintiff in Brown v. Board (not the consolidated cases from Virginia, South Carolina, and Delaware), has died at the age of 88. She was one of 13 African American parents in Topeka, Kansas, who brought the case. Interestingly, she had attended integrated schools in Oakley, Kansas, in the 1920s and 30s and was shocked by the segregated and unequal schools her children were forced to attend in Topeka. More here.
Friday, March 13, 2015
Genevieve Siegel-Hawley's study, City Lines, County Lines, Color Lines: The Relationship between School and Housing Segregation in Four Southern Metro Areas, is free for download at Teacher College Record (for, at least, a little while longer). Her study compares the experiences of housing and school segregation in Louisville, Chattanooga, Charlotte and Richmond. While housing segregation is a primary driver of school segregation, she demonstrates that school thoughtful policies have the capacity to partially untangle that connection. She writes:
Perhaps most striking among the findings was the way that school desegregation plans encompassing the community writ large disrupted the traditional influence of residential patterns on school enrollments. In support of James Madison’s early Federalist philosophy, areas with strong school desegregation policy across city-suburban lines were able to significantly hasten declines in levels of Black-White housing segregation.
Wednesday, March 11, 2015
The Intricate Associations between Diversity and Law Student Engagement By Deirdre Bowen and Aaron Taylor
Diversity in higher education has long been known to enhance the educational process. The beneficial effects of diversity on student learning have provided the main justification for the continued, though increasingly attacked, consideration of race in higher education admissions. Despite these attacks, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that colleges and universities may pursue racial and ethnic diversity as part of their academic missions. The Court reasons that this diversity “serves values beyond race alone,” including “enhanced classroom dialogue and the lessening of racial isolation and stereotypes.”
Reams of studies confirm this viewpoint. Racial and ethnic diversity among students provides “the necessary conditions under which other educational policies can facilitate improved academic achievement, improved intergroup relations, and positive long-term outcomes.” Student diversity aids the exposure to diverse ideas and perspectives, whether in the classroom or through informal interactions. These experiences, in turn, promote the academic mission by fostering “learning outcomes, democratic values and civic engagement, and preparation for a diverse society and workforce.”
The research on the effects of racial and ethnic diversity on the undergraduate experience is very robust. Rarely, however, has there been a large-scale, multi-year study of the effects at the graduate or professional school level. This dearth of research is especially acute and consequential in legal education. Only a handful of school-specific studies have been conducted, in spite of the broad climate of assessment and soul-searching that has engulfed legal education over the last few years. These studies have tended to focus only on the most selective law schools, rendering the results less generalizable.
Tuesday, March 10, 2015
Corey Robin's new essay offers thoughtful insight into the new irony of integration: our students are being taught integration and anti-racism values far more than prior generations ever were, but they are also experiencing far less integration in their schools than prior generations (post 1960 generations). Robin writes:
In her public school this year, my first-grade daughter learned that Daisy Bates helped integrate the Little Rock schools. She knows that Ella Baker, someone I’d never heard of till I went to college, was part of the civil rights movement. Meanwhile, her school has a combined black and Latino population of 15 percent, down from nearly 30 percent just seven years ago.
In school, white children are taught to be conscious of race and racism in a way I never was when I was as a kid in the 1970s. Yet they go to schools that are in some respects more segregated now than they were in the 1970s. In 1972, under Richard Nixon, 36 percent of black students in the South attended white-majority schools. By 2011, under Barack Obama, that number had plummeted to 23 percent. In every region of the country, a higher percentage of black students go to nearly all-minority schools than was the case in 1988. The same is true of Latino students in the South, the West and the Midwest.
Robin labels this the "white privilege con," whereby elites can have “conversations” about race while, at the same time, resegregating schools. This notion also permeates Osamudia James' new article, White Like Me: The Negative Impact of Diversity Rationale on White Identity Formation, 89 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 425 (2014).
All this reminds me of my recent visit to one of the more privileged public high schools in South Carolina. I was asked to come spend the better part of two hours with a small group of seniors and facilitate a discussion about our state's school funding case. The first hour was filled with the students' thoughtful ideas, solutions and comments about the inequities in our public schools. They also recognized how demographically different our poorest schools are. I was honestly extremely impressed with these students. At one point, I told them "you are offering a powerful counterpoint to almost everything Washington, D.C. is doing in education today." I think everyone in the room was enjoying the experience, but I finally asked the group, which did not have a minority student in it, whether they suffered any disadvantage in their own school, whether there was anything that would make their school environment better. I hid the ball for some time before pointedly asking: "doesn't it strike you as odd that we have sit here having a conversation about how to fix the education in schools about which none of us really know anything, about student of whom we know so little?"
Monday, March 9, 2015
William Glenn's new paper, School Segregation in Jefferson County and Seattle: The Impact of the Parents Involved Ruling and District Actions, 63 Clev. St. L. Rev. 297 (2015), is now available on westlaw. The abstract offers this summary:
This paper focuses on the two districts directly involved in the Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District No. 1 (PICS) (2007) with regard to how their desegregation plans and levels of segregation changed over time. The study emphasizes how segregation levels changed in response to changes in the plans and, in particular, to the Supreme Court ruling in PICS. The results differed greatly between the two districts. The voluntary desegregation plan in Jefferson County, Kentucky, proved far more effective than its Seattle counterpart in terms of maintaining a relatively low level of segregation prior to the PICS ruling. Jefferson County also remained more committed to desegregation than Seattle over the timeframe of the study. For these reasons, the PICS decision had a greater impact in Jefferson County because the ruling abolished a successful desegregation plan, leading to increased segregation. By contrast, prior modifications of the Seattle desegregation plan had rendered it ineffective, which led to increased segregation prior to PICS. The ruling itself had little effect in Seattle because increased segregation already had occurred in that district.
His analysis of "white flight" and "white return" was particularly interesting. Speaking of Seattle, he wrote:
Wednesday, March 4, 2015
San Francisco Unified School District has been increasing school choice for parents in recent years. With it has also come an increase in racial and socioeconomic segregation. Kristin Decarr explains, "Although schools in the district are no longer as segregated as they were in 1966 when one-third of schools had 80% of their students represent one race, they are beginning to segregate once again. More than 25% of schools in the city count 60% of their students within one race." A district official cites two potential causal factors. First, the choice policies and procedures "may be difficult for low-income families to decipher and navigate. . . .[T]he application process is long and requires parents to not only have a good understanding of the English language but also access to technology." Second, the limited availability of free transportation within the district may deter low-income students from going to schools beyond their available bus routes. As a result, school choice in the district has come down to more affluent and highly educated parents competing for seats in the best schools, while low-income and minority families end up placed in under-performing schools. One member of the San Francisco Board of Education remarks, "Choice is inherently inequitable . . . . If you don't have resources, you don't have [a] choice."
This outcome, however, is ironic and unnecessary. The District's official student assignment policy from 2010 states the following as its number one priority:
Reverse the trend of racial isolation and the concentration of underserved students in the same school[.]
Friday, February 27, 2015
This week, the parties in Sheff v. O'Neill reached an agreement to expand the state's inter-district integration remedy. An additional one thousand seats will become available in Hartford's magnet school program, for which students from the suburbs may apply. An extra 325 seats will also become available in the suburban districts for Hartford city students to fill. This extended and expanded remedy flows from the Connecticut Supreme Court's seminal decision in 1996 in Sheff, holding that the extreme racial isolation in Hartford's schools, and the state-drawn district lines that locked those students in, deprived the students of the state constitution's guarantee of equal educational opportunity. This inter-district program is the one the New York Times has been referencing in recent weeks as a model for New York to consider in addressing its own extreme segregation.
The Sheff Movement coalition is organizing two briefings this coming Monday. It offers this primer:
The Sheff school integration plan is one of the best things happening in Connecticut right now. Tens of thousands of children are benefiting and many more could benefit if the state took a more ambitious approach. The Sheff Movement coalition is disappointed at the slow progress represented by this one-year plan - but we are encouraged that the parties are committed to a new mediation process to set long term goals. We hope the governor can bring the same kind of ambitious vision to quality integrated education as he has shown in his plans for the state's transportation future.
Tuesday, February 3, 2015
Two weeks ago, I commented on the significance of the New York Times editorial board's willingness to take a position on school integration. Two weeks later, the board is still pressing its case and making new important arguments. On Sunday, it again called out the state for its segregation and indicated it need look no further than Connecticut for solutions.
The fact that New York has the most segregated public schools in the nation does not bode well for the state’s future. It is a disaster for poor and minority children, who are disproportionately trapped in schools that will not prepare them for the new economy. And it is harming children of all races and economic levels who are in demographically homogeneous schools that do not reflect society or expose them to fresh perspectives.
New York’s political leaders need not look far for ideas. Connecticut has a desegregation program that has revitalized the once-dismal school system in Hartford. Created in response to a 1996 State Supreme Court ruling, it has relied on a voluntary school transfer plan and a vibrant system of magnet schools to improve opportunities for inner-city children and draw suburban families back to a city that was considered an educational dead zone.
They then point to the success of that program:
Racial isolation was the norm when the suit was first filed. Recent data show that 47.5 percent of Hartford children now attend integrated schools — defined under the Sheff agreement as schools in which fewer than three-fourths of the children are members of minority groups. This means that more than half of city students are still confined to segregated, often low-quality schools. But the agreement has shown many parents what public schooling can be and is creating demand for reform of the schools left behind.
The Hartford experience shows that it is possible to fight racial isolation and improve education at the same time.
The full editorial is here.
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
Suzanna E. Eckes, Aaron N. Butler, and Natasha M. Wilson's article, Brown v. Board of Education's 60th Anniversary: Still No Cause For a Celebration, 311 Ed. Law Rep. 1 (Jan. 15, 2015), is now on westlaw. The article discusses how far the United States has come in integrating students and how far it has have left to go to achieve the goal of Brown v. Board. The article begins by presenting a history of "civil rights legislation, constitutional protections, and Supreme Court decisions related to racial integration." Next, the authors turn to more recent court decisions signifying the end, or at least the slowing, of integration in schools. The last two sections discuss other types of segregation and the importance of broad diversity in public schools.
Regarding other types of segregation, the authors cite to cases in which schools had segregated students based on "gender, ability, language, religion, and sexual orientation." Since the 2006 amendments to the Title IX regulations "mak[ing] public single-sex educational programs more accessible in public school[,]" the number of single-sex classrooms and schools has been on the rise. As compared to only three single-sex public education programs in 1995, "[t]oday there are approximately 500 schools in 40 states that offer single-sex classes and 90 single-sex public schools in the U.S." In addition to the spread of single-sex schools across the country, public schools have opened to cater to LGBT students. "These schools are designed to serve as safe havens for LGBT students who have been bullied or harassed in their traditional public schools." However, some have argued that, while sparing LGBT students hurtful and damaging harassment, these separate schools may result in unnecessary segregation.
Finally, some school systems also separate students based on disabilities. An investigation conducted by the Office of Civil Rights recently found that one New Jersey school district had placed over 60% of its students with disabilities into "self-contained classrooms." And these instances of segregation are not limited to traditional public schools. Charter school and voucher programs face similar challenges, from "enthocentric or culturally-oriented niche charter schools" leading to greater racial segregation, to private/religious voucher-receiving schools discriminating against LGBT students, students with disabilities, or religious minorities. The authors conclude by presenting evidence of the harms segregation can cause and the need for integration in schools.
Monday, January 26, 2015
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
|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.
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Monday, January 12, 2015
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.
Wednesday, January 7, 2015
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.
Friday, December 5, 2014
Two years after the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD) ended its old Mexican-American Studies (MAS) curriculum, the district continues to be pulled between Arizona politicians’ disapproval of ethnic studies classes and TUSD’s efforts to show remedial progress in the federal desegregation case brought against the district in 1974. Arizona education officials increased the pressure on TUSD this Tuesday making a surprise visit to an ethnic studies class to determine if the district is violating a state law that prohibits any class that promotes “the overthrow of the United States government,” racial resentment, and “ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals” (HB 2281). After HB 2281 was passed and the state threatened to withhold ten percent of the district's funding, TUSD closed down the MAS program in 2012. TUSD’s school board subsequently began offering ethnic studies courses after a federal court ordered the district to develop a culturally responsive curriculum as a part of its remedial action in Fisher and Mendoza v. TUSD, the federal court desegregation case.
The state officials’ compliance visit was reportedly prompted by comments that a TUSD high school principal made at the National Association of Multicultural Educators that the district was once again offering culturally responsive classes. The Arizona education department wrote TUSD in late November, asking the district to turn over all assessments, assignments, lesson plans, student work, and materials used in classes that have a “culturally relevant” focus.
Coincidentally, the officials’ visit comes on the heels of a new study linking the MAS program to higher student achievement. The study, Missing the (Student Achievement) Forest for All the (Political) Trees: Empiricism and the Mexican American Studies Controversy in Tucson, links the defunct MAS program with increased graduation rates and standardized-testing results for students who participated in the program from 2006 to April 2012. The study by Nolan L. Cabrera, Jeffrey F. Milem, Ozan Jaquette, and Ronald W. Marx (Arizona) is available in the American Educational Research Journal here.
Meanwhile, Arizona seeks to intervene in the desegregation case in Fisher, arguing that the state has an interest in ensuring that TUSD’s current ethnic studies classes do not “foster resegregation along ethnic and racial lines.” A Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel heard Arizona’s request to intervene in Fisher this November. Counsel for the Department of Justice opposes Arizona’s intervention, arguing to the Ninth Circuit panel that “Arizona has no ‘protectable interest in this suit’” because the MAS program was ended. The video of Arizona’s oral argument before the Ninth Circuit in November is here. The Ninth Circuit is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the main case in January.
The Poverty and Race Research Action Council noted yesterday in its weekly update that
The Department of Education continues to take small but important steps toward embracing school diversity as a department-wide priority - most recently in its proposed priorities for charter school funding programs, which will add a school diversity priority to some of its future charter funding rounds, and which notes that "a critical component of serving all students, including educationally disadvantaged students, is consideration of student body diversity, including racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity. This proposed regulatory action encourages broad consideration of student body composition, consistent with applicable law, as charter schools are authorized and funded and as best practices are disseminated." 79 Fed. Reg. 68821 (November 19, 2014)
Thursday, December 4, 2014
ACLU and Community Legal Aid Society File Segregation Complaint Against Delaware Charters, Call for Moratorium
Yesterday, the ACLU of Delaware, ACLU Racial Justice Project and Community Legal Aid Society filed a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights asserting that Delaware’s charter school policies discriminate against students of color and students with disabilities. They also perpetuate segregation. “We hope that the Office of Civil Rights recognizes that any system of selection that has the effect of almost completely excluding children with disabilities from the ‘high-achieving’ charter schools is deeply disturbing and must constitute illegal discrimination,” says Dan Atkins, Legal Advocacy Director of the Disabilities Law Program of Community Legal Aid Society, Inc.
The complaint asserts that "over three-quarters of charter schools operating in Delaware are racially identifiable. High performing charter schools are almost entirely racially identifiable as White. Low income students and students with disabilities are disproportionately relegated to failing charter schools and charter schools that are racially identifiable as African American or Hispanic, none of which are high performing." They assert charter schools are also increasing segregation in traditional public schools.
They ask for the following solutions to the problem:
Tuesday, December 2, 2014
Forbes magazine commissioned a study of the cost and benefits of the five big ideas for reforming education. The five big ideas will cost $6.2 trillion over 20 years and produce $225 trillion in additional gross domestic product. So what is the plan? Universal pre-k, teacher efficacy (attract, retain, and measure good teachers), school leadership (raise their salaries and give them the power to act like any other division head, including hiring and firing), blended learning (delivering rote information through technology and relying on teachers for value added instruction, which requires increasing computer and internet access), and common core curriculum.
Reduced to those headlines, it sounds simple. Reduced to the impressive financial spreadsheet, it sounds like a no brainer. To make sure, Forbes convened the top leaders from the four key constituent groups to ask whether the five big ideas are doable. The leaders were Arne Duncan, Governor Andrew Cuomo, Randi Weingarten, and D.C. public schools chancellor Kaya Henderson. They generally agree that the plan is doable.