Friday, June 24, 2016

Harpalani On Fisher II: The Fishing Expedition is Over: Victory for Affirmative Action in Fisher v. Texas

Vinay Harpalani (Savannah) shared his take on Fisher II below, which he writes "was the clearest victory for affirmative action" since Grutter and now gives universities clearer guidance on how race may be evaluated in admissions policies. 

The Fishing Expedition is Over: Victory for Affirmative Action in Fisher v. Texas

Vinay Harpalani, J.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Law, Savannah Law School

 

Thursday’s decision in Fisher v. Texas II came down exactly 13 years to the day after the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2003 ruling in Grutter v. Bollinger—which created the basic legal framework for affirmative action in university admissions.  And more than eight years after Abigail Fisher filed her lawsuit against the University of Texas at Austin (UT), alleging that its race-conscious admissions policy was unconstitutional, the case is finally over—she lost.  Fisher was truly a fishing expedition: a weak case that went to the Supreme Court once before, only to be remanded to the Fifth Circuit and then reargued before the Court.  The one issue that Justice Anthony Kennedy’s majority opinion and Justice Samuel Alito’s dissent agreed upon was that there was no need for another remand.  While both Justices brought up that possibility during oral arguments in December, everyone now thought that it was time to end this fishing expedition.

Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion affirming UT’s use of race was surprising.  He had never before voted to allow a race-conscious policy, and he dissented in Grutter, which upheld the University of Michigan Law School’s holistic admissions plan.  I expected him to strike down UT’s plan on narrow grounds, and even in the event of an affirmance, I would have expected a ruling that further narrowed the scope of race-conscious university admissions.  But Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion did not do that.  It pretty much affirmed the current Grutter-Fisher I framework for race-conscious university admissions. 

In fact, the ruling today really helps universities—it gives them a more detailed blueprint on how to justify their race-conscious admissions policies.  The Court’s Fisher I decision in 2013 made it clear that in order to meet strict scrutiny, a university must demonstrate that its use of race is necessary: that no “workable race-neutral alternatives” would achieve the same educational benefits of diversity.  However, Fisher I did not give further guidance on how universities should do this: it merely remanded the case for proper application of this standard.

In Fisher II, however, Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion discusses how UT met this standard.  He notes that UT “‘conducted months of study and deliberation, including retreats, interviews, [and] review of data.’”  The majority opinion also referenced UT’s overall demographic data, its classroom data on minority enrollment, and its anecdotal evidence that minority students “experienced feelings of loneliness and isolation” on campus.  Everything UT did can serve as a template for justifying race-conscious admissions; universities can now surmise that if they gather and present data similar to UT’s evidence, their policies can survive a legal challenge.  Justice Kennedy did note that UT’s “program is sui generis” because of Texas’s Top Ten Percent Plan.  Nevertheless, this model will still be very helpful to universities across the nation.

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June 24, 2016 in Cases, Racial Integration and Diversity, Supreme Court | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Supreme Court Upholds Texas Admissions Plan, Turning an Important Corner in How It Assesses Race

This morning, the Supreme Court in Fisher v. Texas upheld the long contested admissions program at the University of Texas.  In an opinion by Justice Kennedy, the Court reasoned that the consideration of race was narrowly tailored, meaning that it was necessary, that without it a critical mass would not be achieved, and that the University had considered race neutral alternatives.  One of the most telling lines to me, however, was "[t]hat race consciousness played a role in only a small portion of admissions decisions should be a hallmark of narrow tailoring, not evidence of unconstitutionality."  As I have long emphasized, the very limited role that race plays in Texas admissions was the point that was getting lost.  In the overall scope of things, race plays a role across a very small number of applications and, within those applications where it does play it role, it is considered alongside several other factors.  In other words, it is a factor within a factor within a factor.  

Only by ignoring the larger scope and narrowing one's view down to the precise instance in which race plays a role can one offer a reasonable argument that Texas's use of race is inconsistent with what the Court previously sanctioned in Grutter v. Bollinger.  I argue here that race plays a smaller role in admission decisions at Texas than it did at Michigan in Grutter.  Thus, what Fisher was really about was an attempt to reverse Grutter itself.  But that could be achieved only by elevated form over function (i.e. making the question of whether race was considered more important than the question of how it was considered).  Unfortunately, form has consistently triumphed over function in most recent race cases, which is why many have been so concerned about the final outcome in Fisher over the past few years.  That form did not triumph in Fisher today is victory not just for Texas or diversity, but for the more realistic assessment of race cases before the Supreme Court in the future.  

The case may also signal a shift for Justice Kennedy. In the past, Justice Kennedy has held out the theoretical notion that he approved of race conscious action, but he had never upheld an actual plan.  This led many commentators and scholars to muse that he was toying with litigants, presenting himself as progressive in theory by staunchly conservative in practice.  Today, Justice Kennedy proved them wrong.  Then again, maybe this decision is just the productive of a perfect storm in which only 7 justices decided the case, Justice Scalia is no longer on the Court, and Justice Kennedy's role as the swing vote may be nearing its end.

Get the full opinion here.  See the pertinent parts of the Court's syllabus below:

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June 23, 2016 in Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

New Federal Study Finds Increase in School Segregation and Recommends More Aggressively Federal Action

Yesterday, on the 62nd anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Government Accountability Office released a report on school segregation titled Better Use of Information Could Help Agencies Identify Disparities and Address Racial Discrimination. The study found that 

The percentage of K-12 public schools in the United States with students who are poor and are mostly Black or Hispanic is growing and these schools share a number of challenging characteristics. From school years 2000-01 to 2013-14 (the most recent data available), the percentage of all K-12 public schools that had high percentages of poor and Black or Hispanic students grew from 9 to 16 percent, according to GAO's analysis of data from the Department of Education (Education). These schools were the most racially and economically concentrated: 75 to 100 percent of the students were Black or Hispanic and eligible for free or reduced-price lunch—a commonly used indicator of poverty. GAO's analysis of Education data also found that compared with other schools, these schools offered disproportionately fewer math, science, and college preparatory courses and had disproportionately higher rates of students who were held back in 9th grade, suspended, or expelled.

While detailing and commending the various efforts the Departments of Education and Justice have taken "to identify and address racial discrimination against students," the GAO recommends that the Department of Education "more routinely analyze its civil rights data to identify disparities among types and groups of schools and that Justice systematically track key information on open federal school desegregation cases to which it is a party to better inform its monitoring. In response, both agencies are considering actions in line with GAO's recommendations."

I might, however, note a more important recommendation that is beyond the purview of the GAO report: the Elementary and Secondary Education Act should require districts to track their own demographic data and report any year-to-year increases in racial isolation and hold them accountable for any increases that were the result of state or district policies.  This would eliminate the question of de jure versus de facto resegregation and instead make the question one of whether the district caused the resegregation. Resegregation caused by the state or district should come with consequences. Moreover, given the ESEA's original intent to give the federal government leverage to force desegregation and to address the needs of students in concentrated poverty, this  change to the ESEA is common sense, not radical.  For a full explanation of this proposal, see here.

May 18, 2016 in Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

After Fifty Years of Failed Policies, A Federal District Court Finally Orders District to Desegregate

Chalk one up to the principle that Constitution imposes an affirmative duty on school districts to dismantle segregation and that duty does to evaporate into the ether simply by the passing of years. A district that relies on evaporation can, at some point, finally be held to account.  This is what the new decision in Cowan v. Bolivar stands for. But to appreciate the opinion's significance and not think the new order to desegregate is not crazy, one most know something of the history in the district.

On July 24, 1965, African American students sued the Bolivar County Board of Education and numerous of its members, alleging that the defendants “have pursued and are presently pursuing a policy, custom, practice and usage of operating the public schools of Bolivar County, Mississippi, on a racially segregated basis.” The district court agreed in 1969, "permanently enjoin[ing the district] from discriminating on the basis of race or color" and directing the district to “take affirmative action to disestablish all school segregation and to eliminate the effects of the dual school system.” 

What followed was a long history of the district never taking that affirmative obligation seriously.  Sixteen years later in 1985, the United States felt compelled to enter the case to pursue further relief for students.  The United States alleged that  the district had "actively pursued the . . . policies and practices [to] frustrat[e] the implementation of the Court’s [July 22, 1969] Order." Among the most egregious practices were  allowing students to attend schools in zones outside of their residence, assigning faculty and staff to schools on the basis of race, and building new schools in locations designed to maintain those schools as 100% African American. The district court granted the United States intervention and another two and half decades of fighting with the district to desist from segregative practices and reverse their effect followed.

As late as 2011, the district court cited the district's “lack[ of] will to meaningfully integrate its schools.” To that day, according to the United States, the district continued to maintain schools that were all-black or nearly so, and assigned teachers to those schools that reinforced their racial identity.  The best that appears to be said of the district was that it had developed magnet school programs that simply did not work.  This is no surprise.  In a community where school officials had resisted desegregation, why would the district expect parents to voluntarily desegregate the schools for the district?

Thus, nearly fifty years after the United States Supreme Court held in Green v. New Kent County that districts have an obligation to come forward with plans that work and "work now" to eliminate the vestiges of segregation, and that freedom of choice plans that do not work are unconstitutional, the federal district court in Mississippi has ordered Bolivar to take affirmative steps to redraw its attendance zones and finally bring integration to the district.  More specifically, the district is to consolidate its high schools and middle schools. The court in Bolivar wrote:

In this case, the constitutional violation at issue is decades of state-sponsored segregation which existed at the point Judge Keady issued his initial order in 1969. The District has not cited, and this Court has not found, authority standing for the proposition that court-ordered desegregation plans that fail to achieve the desired desegregation absolve a school district of responsibility for remedying the effects of the initial state-sponsored segregation. To the contrary, the law is clear that, “[u]ntil [a school board] has achieved the greatest degree of desegregation possible under the circumstances the Board bears the continuing duty to do all in its power to eradicate the vestiges of the dual system.” Davis, 721 F.2d at 1435. Thus, where a court-ordered plan fails to achieve desegregation, a school district or board remains obligated “to come forth with a more effective plan.” Penick, 443 U.S. at 459–60. There is no dispute here that, in violation of the Constitution, the District has operated a dual system and that, as observed by Judge Davidson’s January 2013 order, the District has failed to achieve the greatest degree of desegregation possible under the circumstances. Accordingly, the District “bears the continuing duty to do all in its power to eradicate the vestiges of the dual system.” Davis, 721 F.2d at 1435. If the District fails to discharge this duty, this Court “has broad power to fashion a remedy that will assure a unitary school system.” Penick, 443 U.S. at 459. Put differently, Judge Keady’s implementation of attendance zones places no restriction on this Court in fashioning a desegregation remedy.

A tremendous amount of credit goes to the United States and this district court.  The last decade has seen  other desegregation cases dismissed under similar circumstances.  School districts had learned to run out the clock on desegregation.  After decades of never taking steps to eliminate segregation, they would argue that demographic shifts were now the cause of segregation. Even to the extent this claim might contain a nugget of truth, it is an odd thing to suggest a district's obligation to remedy segregation could vanish if the district stalled long enough for demographics in the district to change.  Yet, this is exactly what some district courts have permitted schools to do.  

I have always argued that the issue of taking affirmative steps to desegregate must precede any analysis of demographic shifts.  Demographic shifts should become logically relevant only at the point at which the shifts overcome the affirmative efforts of districts.  Both the U.S. Department of Justice and the federal district court firmly understood and appreciated this distinction. And from this perspective, the court really had no reasonable choice but to finally force Bolivar to desegregate.

Get the full opinion here.

 

 

May 17, 2016 in Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

U.S. Departments of Education and Housing Are on the Same Page: Desegregate If You Want to Cut Achievement and Opportunity Gaps

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has released a new report that comes out heavily in favor of coordinating housing and education policy to produce integration. The reasoning is simple and compelling: school and housing integration combined slash achievement gaps like nothing else. Speaking of such a policy in Montgomery, Maryland, the report emphasizes that "After 7 years, the public housing students at lower-poverty schools cut the math achievement gap with their higher-income peers in half, while the public housing students at higher poverty schools showed no relative improvement."

I am sure that I am beginning to sound like a broken record, but after decades of neglect, it feels like the stars are finally aligning around coordinated efforts and concerns to make a dent in segregation (or these are just the last hurrahs of an outgoing administration with nothing to lose). As discussed yesterday, segregation is coming under serious fire from the academic community, the Department of Education, and now HUD.

HUD's report is divided into five sections:

First, the report describes how school poverty is closely associated with children’s school performance, how neighborhoods relate, and how housing policies are an important complement to school choice programs. Second, the report details the current state of housing and school segregation, how the relationship between neighborhoods and schools creates a vicious circle, and how families choose homes and schools. Third, the report suggests how stronger institutional relationships and place-based initiatives could improve children’s school options. Fourth, the report proposes how affordable housing could be sited near opportunity schools. Fifth, the report describes housing mobility programs, including regional programs, and identifies how to help families with vouchers access opportunity schools as well as opportunity neighborhoods.

The report's major recommendations include:

• Coordinate school, housing, and transportation planning, including place-based programs. Sustainable, institutionalized processes could align related policies at all levels of government, providing a platform for coordinated strategies to support students attending low-quality, high-poverty schools.

• Build place-based housing-education partnerships. These partnerships can support low-income students and school improvement strategies. Also, school strategies such as magnet schools can complement place-based programs, enabling children in revitalizing areas to attend highquality, integrated schools.

• Encourage affordable housing development near high-quality schools. The Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) Program, for instance, could provide a bonus for development located near high-performing schools, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD’s) Section 8 Management Assessment Program could encourage PHAs to increase voucher use near high-quality schools.

• Support mobility at the regional level. Children often must move outside their current school district or PHA’s jurisdiction to attend higher-performing, lower-poverty schools and live in a lower-poverty neighborhood. Regional strategies can better match low-income families and opportunity areas. Promising regional strategies include regionally administered vouchers, regional project-based voucher pools, and regional waiting lists. The federal government could help with technical assistance, evaluation, waivers, and financial support.

• Consider schools when designating opportunity areas for housing voucher mobility programs, and be flexible when defining those areas. Only a subset of low-poverty neighborhoods provide access to low-poverty or highperforming schools; low-poverty neighborhoods do not guarantee access to high-quality schools. Communities could aim for high-performing elementary schools, such as those identified by local value-added performance measures. They could also avoid resegregating schools by considering schools’ economic and racial composition.

• Help families use housing assistance in opportunity neighborhoods and near opportunity schools. Mobility counseling can provide families with concise, understandable information on neighborhoods and their schools, including how those schools compare with the schools their children currently attend. The federal government can support more and higher-quality mobility counseling, better and simpler ways to provide families with their housing and school options, and more research on effective counseling. This support could include a voucher demonstration to provide access to both opportunity neighborhoods and opportunity schools. The federal government can also help communities encourage landlords in opportunity areas to participate.

May 4, 2016 in Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Rising Income Inequality Is Fueling School Segregation: Families with Resources Increasingly Buy Into Exclusive School Attendance Zones

It is shaping up as a bad month for school segregation--kind of.  Secretary John King has been pushing for new integration policies. Sean Reardon and his colleagues released a new study finding that money alone cannot close the achievement gaps that segregation creates. And now, Ann Owens has delved into the sociological aspects of segregation and found that economic inequality itself is a source of school segregation, at least, among families with children.  In Inequality in Children’s Contexts: Income Segregation of Households with and without Children, she finds that wealthier families without children are not so much of a problem for school segregation.  But wealthier families with children make housing choices based on schools that intensify school segregation.  In the current environment, they are predisposed to, in effect, buy their way into particular public schools.  In other words, for them, the public school system is not so different from the private school system.  The difference is that instead of paying tuition to the realtor, you pay it through your realtor.  

On one level, this makes perfect sense, and families buying homes in "good" neighborhoods so that their children will attend "good" schools is not new. Owens' study, however, points out that the ability and incentives to exercise this type of choice have increased over time, and the results have become more glaring.  With increasing income inequality, there are more clearly schools that some families do not want to send their kids to.  At the same time, those same families have the purchasing power to go elsewhere, and they know where to go. Her abstract explains:

Past research shows that income segregation between neighborhoods increased over the past several decades. In this article, I reexamine income segregation from 1990 to 2010 in the 100 largest metropolitan areas, and I find that income segregation increased only among families with children. Among childless households—two-thirds of the population—income segregation changed little and is half as large as among households with children. I examine two factors that may account for these differences by household composition. First, I find that increasing income inequality, identified by past research as a driver of income segregation, was a much more powerful predictor of income segregation among families with children, among whom income inequality has risen more. Second, I find that local school options, delineated by school district boundaries, contribute to higher segregation among households with children compared to households without. Rising income inequality provided high-income households more resources, and parents used these resources to purchase housing in particular neighborhoods, with residential decisions structured, in part, by school district boundaries. Overall, results indicate that children face greater and increasing stratification in neighborhood contexts than do all residents, and this has implications for growing inequalities in their future outcomes.

The text of the article offers these findings:

  • The increase in residential income segregation occurred entirely among families with children, for whom income segregation rose by about 20 percent. Among childless households—two-thirds of the population—income segregation did not change, on average. By 2010, income segregation between neighborhoods among families with children was twice as high as segregation among childless households. My findings reveal that the current narrative of an increasingly unequal metropolis in terms of income segregation is true only for families with children.
  • My findings show that the relationship between income inequality and income segregation is twice as large among households with children, for whom income inequality rose more. Income inequality changed little among childless households during this time period, and households without children may have different residential concerns and spending priorities, so that income inequality is a less powerful predictor of income segregation. Among families with children, high-income parents may have become increasingly concerned about their children’s well-being, or they may have prioritized expenditures on residence in neighborhoods seen as advantageous for their children, and rising income inequality provided the resources with which to achieve these residential goals.
  • [S]egregation is highest and has risen steadily between neighborhoods among affluent families with children. Growing income inequality and concerns about educational advantages for children may contribute to high segregation of affluent families. As the cultural norms around parenting and investments in children have intensified, spending on investments in children has risen among families at the top of the income distribution (Kornrich and Furstenberg 2013). My results indicate that real estate is another area where the class gap in investments in children has grown— income segregation between high- and low-income families with children has increased.

In her conclusions, she points out that school choice policies have done almost nothing "to overcome the role of neighborhood racial and income segregation in creating segregated schools [because] nearly all school choice plans operate within school districts." As a result, "they do not address the increasing economic homogeneity of school districts documented here." Her solution is to "consider new ideas in breaking the link between neighborhood residence and school attendance to thwart the increasing pace of segregation between neighborhoods, schools, and school districts among families with children."  More particularly,  policy makers should "redraw[] district boundaries to reduce the number and fragmentation of districts within [metropolitan areas]." She also points out that breaking the link between housing and schools may also have a positive effect on housing, as it could "reduce the capitalization of school quality into home prices, facilitating neighborhood income integration."

 

May 3, 2016 in Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 2, 2016

The Toxic Mix of Segregation and Achievement Gaps--A Problem That Money Alone Won't Fix

The past few weeks have included a bevy of data and new resources on school funding, segregation, and academic achievement.  NPR developed a multi-week story on school funding, slowly and methodically teasing out its complexities.  Last week, Sean Reardon and his colleagues released analysis of a new data set looking at academic achievement, school resources, and segregation.  Both go an extremely long way toward documenting educational inequality and making it easily accessible to the average person.  They come on top of a slow burning advocacy for integration at the state, local, and federal levels over the past few years.  Finally, educational inequality and segregation are back in the mainstream conversation.

Reardon's new research, which is now dominating the most recent news cycles, makes an extremely important nuanced point worth emphasizing--a point the media could easily miss with all the fancy info-graphics and interactive charts showing just how unequal achievement is. Reardon and his colleagues state the following major findings:

  • One sixth of all students attend public school in school districts where average test scores are more than a grade level below the national average; one sixth are in districts where test scores are more than a grade level above the national average.
  • The most and least socioeconomically advantaged districts have average performance levels more than four grade levels apart.
  • Average test scores of black students are, on average, roughly two grade levels lower than those of white students in the same district; the Hispanic-white difference is roughly one- and-a-half grade levels.
  • Achievement gaps are larger in districts where black and Hispanic students attend higher poverty schools than their white peers; where parents on average have high levels of educational attainment; and where large racial/ethnic gaps exist in parents’ educational attainment.
  • The size of the gaps has little or no association with average class size, a district’s per capita student spending or charter school enrollment.

This very last finding is a bombshell and could be used for good or bad.  Some would use it to say money does not matter to educational outcomes.  That simplistic conclusion overlooks two major points.  First, there is plenty of research to demonstrating that money matters a lot when spent on the right things.  Second, Reardon's point is not that money is irrelevant, it is that "racial segregation is inextricably linked to unequal allocation of resources among schools; and that policies that don’t address this will fail to remedy racial inequality. 'In sum, racial integration remains essential for reducing racial disparities in school poverty rates.'”  This reminds me of an argument James Ryan made 17 years ago:

[R]esidential segregation and the limited reach of school desegregation have helped to create and maintain schools that are isolated not simply by race but also by socioeconomic status. The effects of racial and socioeconomic isolation . . . cannot be adequately addressed by school finance reform, because students in schools with high concentrations of poverty need more than increased funding to improve their achievement. Increasing expenditures in racially isolated schools, moreover, cannot replicate the social benefits of racially integrated schools. By helping to isolate not simply minority students, but poor minority students, race has played a critical role in creating and maintaining schools that appear to be beyond the reach of school finance reform.
 
To put the argument simply: Although it is possible that school finance reform could have been a helpful supplement to desegregation, it is a poor substitute. Despite the hopes of early school finance advocates, we should not expect school finance reform to solve the problems created by the failure to desegregate many urban schools. Indeed, this Article suggests not only that school finance reform has done little to improve the academic performance of students in predominantly minority districts, but also that it may be a costly distraction from the more productive policy of racial and socioeconomic integration.


James E. Ryan, Schools, Race, and Money, 109 Yale L.J. 249, 255-56 (1999).  In other words, Reardon makes an extremely important point, but one that is not all that new.  It is one simply long ignored.  His concrete data analysis, however, might move a few policy makers in the middle who thought Ryan and other civil rights advocates were just spouting rhetoric. Secretary John King already appears to be on board.  See here.

May 2, 2016 in Racial Integration and Diversity, School Funding | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Parents Allege Money Earmarked for School Integration Was Diverted to Charter Schools; Now They Want It Back

Plaintiffs in St. Louis, Missouri, have filed a very interesting challenge to recent charter funding practices.  They allege that a local sales tax increase earmarked exclusively for desegregation remedies has been diverted to charter schools since 2006.  The tax was originally passed in 1999 as part of a consent agreement in school desegregation case.  The complaint alleges that the tax was properly spent from 1999 to 2006, but in 2006 it began being diverted to charter schools.  The complaint is now asking that those funds be reclaimed for the traditional public schools and desegregation.  As one might imagine, this is creating a huge division between families with students currently attending charters, as the remedy the plaintiffs seek would effectively bankrupt the charter system.

Whatever the merits of the complaint, it highlights another example of the ongoing tensions between creating new funding streams for charter schools at the same time that traditional public schools are being underfunded.  For instance, Pennsylvania's newest charter funding scheme during the recession required local school districts, rather than the state, to reimburse charters, and the state set unreasonably high reimbursement rates. This nearly bankrupted Chester public schools and it caused Philadelphia schools to run significant deficits.  In North Carolina, statutes allowed charter schools to tap into school districts rainy day funds.  This meant that the money that districts saved for long term budget shortfalls could be spent immediately by charters.  For more on the contrasting funding commitment to traditional public schools and charters, see here.

April 27, 2016 in Charters and Vouchers, Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 25, 2016

Major Federal Step to Promote and Fund School Integration

This year, the U.S. Department of Education's call for grant applications for the "Investing in Innovation Fund" returns the Department of Education to its roots and the original justifications for the federal role in education itself: school integration.  Integration and diversity have been sidelined as a reform policy at the federal level for at least two decades, but in just a few short months, Secretary John King has put them squarely on the table.  He recently asked Congress for new funding streams to promote education and, this week, has announced that applications that focus on "school diversity" will receive an "absolute priority" in this round of the Investing in Innovation Fund.  Oh what a difference a new Secretary of Education makes, which cannot help but make wish for a rewind to the beginning of the Obama Administration and an alternate universe in which Linda Darling-Hammond had been name Secretary or John King got started earlier.  Regardless, today is a good day for America's school children.  

For those unfamiliar with the Investing in Innovate Fund, the "program is designed to generate and validate solutions to persistent educational challenges and to support the expansion of effective solutions to serve substantially larger numbers of students. The central design element of the i3 program is its multi-tier structure that links the amount of funding that an applicant may receive to the quality of the evidence 3 supporting the efficacy of the proposed project." The new statement on funding priorities state:

First, we include an absolute priority that asks applicants to focus their projects on student diversity. In parts of the country, America's schools are more segregated than  they were in the late 1960s, including by students’ race and socioeconomic status. One-quarter of our nation’s public school students attend high-poverty schools where more than 75 percent of the student body is eligible for free and reduced-price lunch; in our cities, nearly half of all students attend schools where poverty is concentrated. In addition, almost half of all African-American and Latino public school students attend these economically segregated schools. Children raised in segregated communities have significantly lower social and economic mobility than children growing up in integrated communities, and States with socioeconomically segregated schools tend to have larger achievement gaps between students from low- and higher-income households.  There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that socioeconomic diversity in schools can lead to improved outcomes for students from low-income households (compared to students from low-income households who attend higher-poverty schools). Moreover, research shows that students educated in diverse settings have shown a higher level of critical thinking and life skills.

Therefore, through the invitational priority, the Department invites projects with ambitious strategies that improve outcomes for high-need students by increasing racial and socioeconomic diversity in classroom or school settings. These projects could leverage approaches at the school, district, or regional level that encourage racial or socioeconomic diversity within classroom or school environments. Proposed strategies may range from new instructional approaches that impact socioeconomic integration and student achievement within schools (e.g., schools could improve participation of students from low-income households in advanced placement or “honors” coursework) or through redesigning district recruitment and admissions strategies to support and foster such diversity in schools. The Department seeks to invest in projects that focus concurrently on increasing diversity and school quality in areas where schools are acutely impacted by segregation while closing gaps in academic performance between socioeconomic and racial groups. The Department also encourages all applicants to carefully consider their evaluation design as the Department is keenly interested in developing a body of evidence on how classrooms, schools, and districts can better integrate their student bodies across racial and socioeconomic lines and produce outstanding outcomes for all students.

Let's hope states and districts respond with applications to take advantage.

April 25, 2016 in Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

When the Fences Come Down: Twenty-First-Century Lessons from Metropolitan School Desegregation

Genevieve Siegel-Hawley's new book, When the Fences Come Down: Twenty-First-Century Lessons from Metropolitan School Desegregation.  It includes an afterword with Gary Orfield.  The promotional materials offer this summary of the book:

How we provide equal educational opportunity to an increasingly diverse, highly urbanized student population is one of the central concerns facing our nation. As Genevieve Siegel-Hawley argues in this thought-provoking book, within our metropolitan areas we are currently allowing a labyrinthine system of school-district boundaries to divide students--and opportunities--along racial and economic lines. Rather than confronting these realities, though, most contemporary educational policies focus on improving schools by raising academic standards, holding teachers and students accountable through test performance, and promoting private-sector competition. Siegel-Hawley takes us into the heart of the metropolitan South to explore what happens when communities instead focus squarely on overcoming the educational divide between city and suburb.

Based on evidence from metropolitan school desegregation efforts in Richmond, Virginia; Louisville, Kentucky; Charlotte-Mecklenburg, North Carolina; and Chattanooga, Tennessee, between 1990 and 2010, Siegel-Hawley uses quantitative methods and innovative mapping tools both to underscore the damages wrought by school-district boundary lines and to raise awareness about communities that have sought to counteract them. She shows that city-suburban school desegregation policy is related to clear, measurable progress on both school and housing desegregation. Revisiting educational policies that in many cases were abruptly halted--or never begun--this book will spur an open conversation about the creation of the healthy, integrated schools and communities critical to our multiracial future.

Others also offer these reviews:


"When the Fences Come Down is the book that I myself would have written about the housing-school linkage, but Genevieve Siegel-Hawley has done it so much better than I could have. She masterfully combines a comprehensive review of scholarly literature about the housing-school nexus with case studies that highlight the key value of county-wide school districts covering both a central city and its suburbs in promoting racial and economic integration."
--David Rusk, Founding President, Building One America, and author, Cities without Suburbs

"Professor Siegel-Hawley's book is a direct challenge to current education "reformers" who think we can close the achievement gap by keeping low income children in separate, segregated schools. She uses real life examples to demonstrate how state and local leaders can work together to make housing and school integration a reality."
--Philip Tegeler, National Coalition on School Diversity

"Genevieve Siegel-Hawley uses the experience of four southern metropolitan areas to evaluate regional approaches to school desegregation and how they relate to changing patterns in housing segregation. This book contributes significantly to an area clearly in need of further research--regional approaches to school desegregation."
--Thomas Luce, Institute on Metropolitan Opportunity, University of Minnesota Law School

"When the Fences Come Down is a timely and well-considered contribution to the literature on desegregation in American schools. It promises to reframe the discourse on the topic so that educators and policymakers can look broader than a school and more acutely than the entire nation and instead settle their focus on a more appropriate unit of analysis--a region. Genevieve Siegel-Hawley looks squarely at issues that have heretofore been identified as important but have not received the scrutiny they merit as factors that may help us fully understand the conflicted legacy of Brown v. Board. Each chapter is rich with data, subtlety, and complex problems and solutions."
--Jeffrey S. Brooks, Monash University

April 19, 2016 in Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 14, 2016

New Lawsuit Challenging Teacher Tenure Ignores Basic Facts about Teaching Quality and Segregation

Minnesota is now the third state to entertain the theory that teacher tenure and seniority protections violate students' state constitutional right to education.  Unable to locate the actual complaint, I have had to rely on the initial news reports of the claims, but three points seem pretty clear.  First, the case is modeled on the lawsuits from California and New York and is being funded/coordinated by the same policy and media advocates.  Second, according to the Star Tribune, it claims that "Minnesota laws protect teachers who should no longer be in classrooms, thus preventing thousands of students from getting a high-quality education." Or as one of the plaintiffs' attorneys in the case states, “This is a conversation about students’ fundamental right to an education and the laws that get in the way of that right.” Third, the lawsuit attributes achievement gaps between students to tenure.  “When we look throughout the country at places where there are harmful teacher employment statutes and significant achievement gaps, Minnesota was one of the first states that popped up as a place that could use this kind of help,” said Ralia Polechronis, executive director of Partnership for Educational Justice.

From what I can tell, it also falls victim to all the same simplistic assumptions about teacher quality and equal educational opportunities.  Unless plaintiffs unearthed new data and trends in Minnesota, the plaintiffs have no basis to believe that teacher tenure actually has a negative causal effect on educational opportunity.  As detailed in The Constitutional Challenge to Teacher Tenure, 104 California Law Review 79 (2016), numerous different factors affect teacher quality and educational opportunity.  Prior plaintiffs may marshaled almost no evidence that tenure has any causal effect on the quality of teachers who choose to teach and stay in a particular school, much less evidence that tenure is a significant factor in the quality of education a school offers.  If tenure does not have a significant causal effect, it cannot support a constitutional claim.  It is not enough to argue that tenure is bad policy.  Good or bad, policies of this sort fall within the discretion of the legislature.  

To be very clear, however, none of this is to say that quality teaching does not matter.  Of course, it does.  It matters immensely.  Plaintiffs, however, are either taking advantage of the public's sense of what that basic fact means or they are themselves confusing the notion that quality teachers produce better educational outcomes with the notion that tenure produces poor quality teachers.  First, our schools have been experiencing a national catastrophe in education over the past few years: there are simply not enough teachers to fill open vacancies.  As a result, large numbers of substitutes, uncertified teachers, and individuals simply interested in a new career have been thrown into the classroom.  And states and districts have fought vigorous for those few qualified individuals still on the market.  Getting rid of the so-called bad teachers in classrooms will do nothing to address the fact that there are not any certified teachers waiting in the wings to fill those positions.  In other words, get rid of tenure and fire all the teachers you want.  The quality of teaching in classrooms will not increase.
 
Second and more fundamentally, race and segregation drive unequal access to quality teachers and educational opportunity, not tenure.  For decades, predominantly poor and minority schools have struggled to build quality teaching staffs.  Their problem is not firing teachers.  It is hiring them in the first place.  Even when they succeed in hiring good teachers, they struggle to keep them for more than just a few years, as higher salaries and "more desirable" teaching environments drive them to other schools.  In short, turnover is extremely high in the neediest schools.  The notion that they have stable long-term, low-quality teaching staffs as a result of teacher is fanciful narrative.  They certainly have lower quality teaching staffs, but it has almost nothing to do with tenure. 
 
This focus on tenure is particularly troublesome in Minnesota.  Half a year ago, plaintiffs brought a lawsuit based on the same constitutional clauses that the tenure plaintiffs rely on.  That earlier lawsuit, however, focuses on the right issues.  Segregation and inequality in Minneapolis.  It details a pattern of rapidly expanding charter schools in the metropolitan area that are exacerbating segregation.  In other words, it attacks the real factor driving structural inequalities in teacher quality and various other educational resources. If the tenure advocates really want to help Minnesota's students, they should support that lawsuit and the pressing constitutional issues it raises.

April 14, 2016 in Racial Integration and Diversity, Teachers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Why Busing Failed: Race, Media, and the National Resistance to School Desegregation

Matthew Delmont's book, Why Busing Failed: Race, Media, and the National Resistance to School Desegregation, is now available in paperback.  The promotional materials offer this synopsis:

In the decades after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision, busing to achieve school desegregation became one of the nation’s most controversial civil rights issues. Why Busing Failed is the first book to examine the pitched battles over busing on a national scale, focusing on cities such as Boston, Chicago, New York, and Pontiac, Michigan. This groundbreaking book shows how school officials, politicians, the courts, and the media gave precedence to the desires of white parents who opposed school desegregation over the civil rights of black students.
 
This broad and incisive history of busing features a cast of characters that includes national political figures such as then-president Richard Nixon, Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley, and antibusing advocate Louise Day Hicks, as well as some lesser-known activists on both sides of the issue—Boston civil rights leaders Ruth Batson and Ellen Jackson, who opposed segregated schools, and Pontiac housewife and antibusing activist Irene McCabe, black conservative Clay Smothers, and Florida governor Claude Kirk, all supporters of school segregation. Why Busing Failed shows how antibusing parents and politicians ultimately succeeded in preventing full public school desegregation.

Slate.com recently published a nice interview with Delmont.  The following two exchanges were particularly insightful:

Jake Blumgart: Throughout the book you quote black activists or politicians who argue that busing is just a nice term for opposition to integrating our public schools. Why did the media fall so hard for the rhetoric of anti-integration activists in the 1960s and 1970s?

Matt Delmont: For two reasons. They had a very limited understanding of what was going on with civil rights in the North. Looking back at their coverage and how reporters talked about history afterward, they consistently thought of civil rights as a Southern story. They just couldn’t believe that school and neighborhood segregation could be intentional in cities like Chicago and Boston.

Desegregation is also really complex to get a handle on. To really get into the nitty-gritty reality of how these schools came to be segregated took a lot of research, more than most reporters or television journalists could do. Most places, especially television, would drop in for a day or two for the story and then fly back out. They were compelled by these anti-busing activists who were able to make really persuasive sound bites and visible protests that resonated powerfully. Anti-busing activists were really savvy in how they framed they story. The pro-busing side, the case they were trying to make, was much more complicated.

When we think of the relationship between TV and civil rights, almost everyone thinks of the 1950s and 1960s and the really positive role television played in bringing Little Rock, Selma, and Montgomery to a national audience. I think that’s largely a true story. Television news really forced Americans to confront what was going on in the Jim Crow South. But that same medium played almost the exact opposite role when it came to school segregation. It framed those anti-busing activists in a very positive light.

What was the nadir of school desegregation after Brown v. Board?

The 1964–1974 period is really what casts the die in terms of what’s possible for school desegregation. The reason I titled the book Why Busing Failed is because when I would tell people I was working on a book about the history of busing, most would shake their heads and say, “It’s too bad that policy failed.” I think after Boston it became very difficult to get people to think seriously about this as a politics that could succeed on a large-scale level. There were a number of school districts that had success with it, in part because they received less attention and things worked on a local level without it exploding the way that Boston did.

When asked about the future of school integration, Delmont's response is similar to the one voiced on this blog over the past two years: surprisingly, integration has returned as part of the national conversation.  He pays special homage to Nikole Hannah-Jones' story on This American Life.

April 13, 2016 in Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Do America's Schools Perpetuate a Racial Caste System?

Daniel Kiel's response to the question is yes.  In his new paper, No Caste Here? Toward a Structural Critique of American Education, Penn State Law Review, Vol. 119 (2015), he offers this perspective:

 In his famous dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson, Justice John Marshall Harlan argued that in the United States, there was “no caste here.” Justice Harlan was rejecting the idea that American society operated to assign preordained outcomes to individuals based upon classifications, including racial classifications. This Article questions whether Justice Harlan’s aspirational assertion accurately reflects contemporary American education. Identifying: (1) multiple classification mechanisms, all of which have disproportionate racial effects, and (2) structural legal, political, and practical impediments to reform, the Article argues that the American education system does more to maintain the nation’s historical racial hierarchy than to disrupt it. This is so, the Article suggests, despite popular agreement with the casteless ideal and popular belief that education can provide the opportunity to transcend social class. By building the framework for a broad structural critique, the Article suggests that a failure to acknowledge and address structural flaws will preclude successful comprehensive reform with more equitable outcomes.

Download the full article here on ssrn.

April 13, 2016 in Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Taking Action on School Diversity

Fifty years of research show that diverse schools can benefit all students. It's time to take action. Join the Century Foundation on April 19th at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C. for a conversation about the future of school integration and promising strategies for increasing diversity in public schools. The event's keynote address will be delivered by U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr.  Register here.

Education policies of recent decades have largely ignored the advantages of diversity, and socioeconomic and racial segregation in our schools has risen. But there may be reason to hope for a new wave of school integration.

According to new research from The Century Foundation, more than 90 school districts and charter schools across the country have begun efforts to increase socioeconomic integration in their schools. The U.S. Department of Education has also proposed a new federal program that would support voluntary efforts to increase socioeconomic diversity in schools.

This event will discuss these developments and ask the important questions about bolstering school diversity efforts.

Additional speakers include:


• Mohammed Choudhury, Director of the Office of Transformation and Innovation, Dallas Independent School District
• Tanya Clay House, Deputy Assistant Secretary for P-12 Education, U.S. Department of Education
• Donna Harris-Aikens, Director of Education Policy and Practice, National Education Association
• Richard D. Kahlenberg, Senior Fellow, The Century Foundation
• Monique Lin-Luse, Assistant Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund
• Halley Potter, Fellow, The Century Foundation
• Kimberly Quick, Policy Associate, The Century Foundation
• Amy Stuart Wells, Professor of Sociology and Education, Columbia University

April 6, 2016 in Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

New Study Suggests Voucher Programs May Fuel Segregation

The Southern Education Foundation has released a new report on private schools, race, and their rapid growth of vouchers in recent years.  The report demonstrates that new programs are concentrated in the South.  It also notes that there have been increased efforts at the federal level to use federal funds for vouchers.  Those efforts have only failed by narrow margins.  The point of the report is to signal the segregative threat that the expansion of these programs may pose.

In 2012, for instance, African American students were 15.8% of the public school population, but only 9.2% of the private school population.  Conversely, whites were 51.7% of the public school population but 72.1% of the private school population.  One might simply write this off to socio-economic disparities, but the report emphasizes that private schools in the south have historically been a reaction to integration and that over the past fifty years, the South's share of the nation's private school population has risen from less than 15% to over 30%.  And when we look at the demographics of private schools in southern states, the disparities between public and private schools is even more shocking.

In Mississippi, whites were a slim majority in public schools in 1998, but were 90.8% of the private school population.  In South Carolina, whites were 58.7% of the public school population, but 90.1% of the private school population.  The most telling data point, however, was the variation among states.  While the gap between white enrollment in public and private schools was significant in all but one southern state, the gap itself seemed to be a reflection of the how large the white majority was in public schools.  The higher the percentage of whites in public schools, the lower their percentage in private schools.  In other words, where whites were a stronger majority in public schools, there seemed to be less incentive to enroll in private school.  Similar trends existed in 2012, although not as obvious. The report also includes similar data analysis for Hispanic and Asian students.

The report also focused on individual schools and what it calls virtual segregation:

The third measurement of this study examines more deeply patterns of over- and under-representation of students by race and ethnicity within each school in 2012 by identifying the private schools in the 50 states where white students comprise 90 to 100 percent of total enrollment. These rates and patterns are compared with the numbers for virtual segregated public schools in the states and regions.

In 2012, white students were far more likely to be educated in virtual segregation in private schools than in public schools. Forty-three percent of the nation’s private school students attended virtually all-white schools in contrast to 26.9 percent of public school students. Among the 50 states, South Carolina’s private schools had the largest disparity in segregated education between private and public schools: 63 percent of white students in private schools in South Carolina in 2012 were taught in segregated schools in comparison with only five percent of the state’s public school students. Mississippi had almost as large a gap – a difference of 56 percentage points. Seventy-one percent of white students in Mississippi private schools attended segregated schools, while 15 percent of the public schools’ white students were attending segregated schools.

It also identified virtual exclusion:

The final measurement quantifying and comparing racial and ethnic patterns in private schools identifies the numbers of white students attending schools with only 10 percent or less of under-represented students of color – African American, Hispanic, and Native American students combined. In one sense, virtual segregation can be understood as a measure of the extent white students are extremely “packed” into schools, and virtual exclusion as a measure of the extent under-represented students of color are extremely absent or excluded from school enrollment. The analysis also compares rates of virtual exclusion between private and public schools by state and region.

Nearly two-thirds of white students attending private schools across the 50 states were in schools that virtually excluded African American, Hispanic, and Native American students. The rate was 41 percent in public schools. Racial exclusion in South Carolina’s private schools exceeded the rate among its public schools by the largest margin among the 50 states. Eighty-four percent of the white students in South Carolina’s private schools were in racially exclusionary schools in 2012. This rate compared to 11 percent in the state’s public schools – creating a private school disparity of 73 percentage points. Private schools in Delaware had the nation’s second largest disparity in exclusionary schooling: 72 percent of all white students in Delaware’s private schools were in virtually exclusionary schoolhouses, but only four percent of the state’s public schools’ white students were in such schools.

Seven of the ten states with the largest measures of racial exclusion in private schools were in the South. Six of those seven states were the Deep South’s “freedom of choice” states. The percentage of white students in private schools in the 15-state South exceeded the percentage in the public schools by 37 percentage points – close to twice the disparity in racially exclusionary schools for white students elsewhere in the nation in 2012. 

Get the full report here.

 

March 30, 2016 in Charters and Vouchers, Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 28, 2016

One of Nation's Most Successful Districts Acknowledges Shortfalls in Diversity and Inequality, Makes Plans to Consider Reforms

Earlier this month, Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland released a study of their school choice and special programs.  Montgomery County has long had one of the nation's strongest public schools.  Included in its strength has been its commitment to diversity and equal access.  Like most, its implementation is rarely perfect, but this new report and its response to it indicate it is continuing to strive to do better.  The report acknowledges that its current policies have not resulted in the integration and diversity the district seeks.  In fact, it names of some hot-button policies and targets them for reform: admissions criteria to special programs, sibling preferences, and feeder patterns.  Among the most poignant findings and recommendations are:

  • Key Finding 2: Information and communications about MCPS’s wide variety of choice and special academic programs are not filtering to all segments of the community equally, which is impacting equity of access to the programs. MCPS has developed and implemented a wide variety of communication tools to share information about the programs with parents and community members. These include printed materials that are mailed to MCPS households in seven languages; information on the district’s website and PTA listservs and webpages; informational meetings at local schools in English and Spanish; program-level Open Houses; and outreach through school-based counselors, staff, and principals. Despite these efforts, data on program applications and from focus groups indicate that information about these programs is not reaching some segments of the community, namely Hispanic/Latino, Black/African American, non-English-speaking, and low-income families as well as they are to other groups. . . .
    • Recommendation . . .: Develop and implement new strategies for communicating, outreach, recruitment, and sharing information with underrepresented or hard-to-reach families within MCPS. These strategies should include, but not be limited to: Streamlined communications in easily-understood language; Revision of existing communication tools for cultural validity; Outreach to families at community events or locations; More opportunities for one-on-one or in-person communications with and recruitment of families; and Additional materials and events held in languages other than English.
  • Key Finding 3: There are significant racial and socioeconomic disparities in the enrollment and acceptance rates to academically selective programs, which suggest a need to revise the criteria and process used to select students for these programs to eliminate barriers to access for highly able students of all backgrounds. Data on applications and acceptances to elementary centers and secondary magnet and application programs show that Hispanic/Latino, Black/African American, Limited English Proficient (LEP), special education, and low-income students are less likely than White, Asian, and higher income students to be selected and enroll in these programs. As a result, Hispanic/Latino, Black/African American, LEP, special education, vi and low-income students are underrepresented in academically selective programs when compared with districtwide enrollment data. These data are found despite direct efforts by MCPS to increase representation of all groups in the elementary centers and the secondary magnet and application programs. The district utilizes multiple indicators in the selection process that include, in addition to cognitive assessments, teacher recommendations and other school-based input, report card grades, unique student profiles, demographic data such as eligibility for free and reduced-price meals (FARMS), and the lack of an intellectual peer group at the home school. Yet, the lack of diversity and underrepresentation of some student subgroups in these programs suggests that the process may rely too heavily on one or more indicators or may need to consider additional measures of student ability. These indicators may include broadening the definition of gifted to include noncognitive measures such as motivation and persistence, using group-specific norms that benchmark student performance against school peers with comparable backgrounds, offering automatic admissions for students in the top 5-10% of sending elementary or middle schools in the district, or using other methods that are outlined in the report and utilized in other districts across the country. Furthermore, these data also suggest that the district should use additional programs or tools, such as expanding the existing MCPS’s Young Scholars Program to identify students from underrepresented groups in early grade levels for academically selective programs. These programs would serve to increase the applicant pool of underrepresented students and encourage greater levels of participation.
    • Recommendation 3a: Implement modifications to the selection process used for academically competitive programs in MCPS, comprising elementary centers for highly gifted students and secondary magnet programs, to focus these programs on selecting equitably from among those applicants that demonstrate a capacity to thrive in the program, that include use of non-cognitive criteria, group-specific norms that benchmark student performance against school peers with comparable backgrounds, and/or a process that offers automatic admissions to the programs for students in the top 5-10% of sending elementary or middle schools in the district.
    • Recommendation 3b: Invest resources to expand and enhance early talent development programs for students of underrepresented groups in order to bolster participation of a broader segment of the MCPS student population in academically selective programs.
  • Key Finding 4: The district’s implementation of some provisions in the current Board Policy JEE, Student Transfers, does not fully align with MCPS’s goal to provide equitable access to choice and special academic programs. Specifically, the Board’s current Policy includes two provisions that have been implemented in ways that do not fully support equitable access: 1) currently students are automatically admitted to an elementary language immersion program if they have an older sibling who currently attends the program; and 2) students who attend a vii particular middle school may continue in that school’s feeder pattern high school, without regard to programmatic reasons. . . .
    • Recommendation 4a: Consider revisions to Policy JEE, Student Transfers, to clarify that the sibling link for immersion and other choice programs is not automatic; while siblings of applicants should be able to attend the same school where the special academic program is located provided that there are available seats, those siblings should be required to participate in the application process, such as the lottery for immersion programs to earn a seat in the program.
    • Recommendation 4b: To the extent that the district considers revisions to Policy JEE, Student Transfers, to alter the automatic articulation from middle school to high school within the cluster feeder pattern or consider approvals for programmatic requests, MCPS should analyze the impact on both school capacity and its efforts to promote diversity and avoid racial isolation.
  • Key Finding 5: The placement of special academic programs within local schools has increased the diversity of those schools’ student populations; but, in the absence of targeted mechanisms to integrate the program participants and non-participants, it has created conditions of within-school separation. . .

March 28, 2016 in Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Federal Chickens Coming Home to Roost in Virginia Suburb's Plan to Resegregate

The past week has produced a spat of stories about the potential redrawing of school attendance boundaries in Loudon County Virginia, which rests in the exurbs of Washington, DC and in recent years has ranked as the wealthiest county in the nation.  Despite its wealth, Loudon has pockets of poverty.  One is a largely Hispanic neighborhood.  The neighborhood, however, is relatively small and, for the past several years, Loudon has assigned students from that neighborhood to several different elementary schools.  The purpose and effect has been to deconcentrate  poverty there and increase diversity elsewhere--exactly what decades of social science would implore districts to do.  Now Loudon is considering a plan to redraw attendance zones and assign all of those low-income Hispanic students to one of two elementary schools.  It would, as a result, create two new high poverty schools, where none previously existed, and eliminate economically diverse schools, where they previously existed.

The troubling question is why?  According to reports by the Washington Post, the district offers two rationales.  First, the new high poverty schools would qualify for more federal resources. Second, teachers would be better able to focus on the special needs of disadvantaged students.“When you have students that have common needs, you can direct your instructional methods in that manner and you have more resources because you have more students with that particular need,” said school board member Jill Turgeon, who is also a former teacher in the district. “When we’re balancing demographics . . . to me we’re watering down the focus we need to have on the students.”  Likewise, by removing students with special needs from diverse schools, teachers can better serve the needs of students from wealthier neighborhoods.  “I think there are a lot of benefits in allowing a natural grouping of the students according to their neighborhood,” school Turgeon.

One might question whether the first rational is just window dressing.  The difference in per-pupil funding that the district will receive from the federal government by concentrating poverty is not enormous.  With that said, the federal formulas do create perverse incentives on this score.  It is true that the de-concentration of poverty can reduce the per-pupil funding for a school.  In other words, schools who do the right thing can suffer financial consequences.  And schools who do the wrong thing--segregate--can be financially rewarded.  I analyze this absurdity at length here and point out that the federal government needs to reform its funding formulas to incentivize integration and penalize resegregation.  There are relatively straightforward ways to do this, but no one has bothered to try.  In fact, the recent reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act did not, to my knowledge, make a single change to Title I's funding formulas.
 
The second rationale similarly sounds like window dressing, although the proponents themselves may not even recognize it or the biases that may drive it.  These same exact rationales were trotted out at the beginning of school desegregation.  They were the justifications for ability grouping and harsher disciplinary policies.  Unless students were separated by ability, white students would purportedly be held back and African Americans not get the help they needed.  Without a strict approach to discipline, African Americans would disrupt the classroom and, again, interfere with the learning of whites.  These ideas, moreover, are not of a bygone era. Six years ago, the same rationale for meeting student needs, building community, etc., led Wake County, North Carolina, to dismantle what had been one of the most effective socio-economic integration plans in the nation.  That plan had also created a district with some of the highest performing low-income students in the country.  Its dismantling lead to a civil-rights complaint with the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, filed by the UNC Civil Rights Center.
 
Let's hope Loudon recants before it gets to that point and that the federal government takes this as a lesson and starts thinking about its funding formulas more seriously.

 

March 24, 2016 in Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 11, 2016

Louisiana to Take a Step in the Right Direction by Limiting Charter Schools in Districts Where They Are Not Needed?

The chair of Louisiana's Senate Education Committee has introduced a pretty common sense bill to limit the creation of new charters in the state.  Existing law in Louisiana provides that charter school applications shall be made to the local school district, but if the district denies the application or places conditions on the charter school that the applicant does not like, the applicant can appeal to the state board of education.   The state board can then freely grant the charter, notwithstanding the concerns of the local district.  The new proposed legislation would significantly limit that appeal process.  It indicates that in school districts that receive an "A" or "B" rating on their most recent state report card, there would be no right of appeal for charter applicants. Thus, those districts would be the final decision maker on charter school applications.   

Because charters are most likely to pop up in struggling districts and inner cities, one might assume this bill would have little practical impact.  But given the nature of southern school districts, this law covers a broad spectrum of school.  First, the state has less than 80 districts and over half of them received an A or B last year, so its general application is broad. Second, districts receiving an A or B are not a monolithic or demographic homogeneous group.  Many of these districts include schools that are seriously struggling, such as Jefferson Parish.  Jefferson Parish District is rated as a B, but includes 22 schools that received individual ratings of D or F.  Those schools are in communities where charters might otherwise believe they can find a market.  Third, given the foregoing and what I know of a few Louisiana districts, some of these districts likely have some level of integration in their schools.  This bill can help protect that integration.  As a study of North Carolina schools revealed last year, charters in that state where becoming "whiter" while the traditional public schools were becoming "browner."  As I argued here, charters schools can be dangerous in integrated school districts because they offer dissenters from integration an easy exit option.  In North Carolina--traditionally the most integrated school system in the country--new charter schools appear to have created a hot-bed for those looking to exercise this exit option on the public dime.  This Louisiana bill would limit that option there.

Peter Cook's summary of the bill follows the jump:

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March 11, 2016 in Charters and Vouchers, Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Federal Court Issues Consent Order To Consolidate Mississippi School Districts

Last week, a federal district court approved of a plan to consolidate a Mississippi school district that was under a 1970 desegregation order. In 1970, the Starkville Municipal Separate School and the Oktibbeha County School Districts were ordered to end their dual school system and to create a unitary school systems under Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education, 396 U.S. 19 (1969). In 2014, the Mississippi legislature voted to consolidate the two districts, but the Department of Justice objected to the consolidation plan, citing the 1970 desegregation order. In the recent case, Montgomery v. Starkville School District, the Northern District of Mississippi ordered Mississippi and DOJ to fashion a new desegregation order that would govern the consolidated district from the 2016-17 school year until it is declared unitary by the court. In approving the consent order, the court is requiring the district to set attendance zones, adhere to a majority-to-minority transfer policy, and submit various types of proof of the racial and ethnic composition of the schools in the consolidated district. The court also required the state to assign employees in such a way that "thatno school in the district could be considered a “white school” or “black school” by virtue of its administrator, faculty, or staff assignments." The court's opinion in Montgomery v. Starkville School District, No. 1:83-CV-00293-MPM (N.D. Miss. Mar. 3, 2016) can be found here.

March 8, 2016 in Cases, Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

The New School Segregation: School District Secessions

Erika Wilson's forthcoming article, The New School Segregation, has been accepted for publication in the Cornell Law Review.  I was lucky enough to get an advance look at it.  It warns that that the recent school district secessions in places like Memphis, Baton Rouge, and Jefferson County, Alabama, are not aberrational at all, but rather the current evolution of a long and sordid history of resistance to integration.  It is a must read for those concerned with the future of school integration, not just the past.  The current draft is here on ssrn.  She offers this abstract: 

The South has a long and sordid history of resisting school desegregation. Yet after a long and vigorous legal fight, by the mid-1980’s, schools in the South eventually became among the most desegregated in the country. An important but often under appreciated tool that aided in the fight to desegregate schools in the South was the strategic use of school district boundary lines. Many school systems in the South deliberately eschewed drawing school district boundary lines around municipalities, and instead drew them around counties. The resulting county-based system of school districts allowed for the introduction of school assignment plans that crossed racially- and economically-segregated municipal boundary lines.

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March 8, 2016 in Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)