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. . .
Thursday, March 24, 2016
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.
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:
Tuesday, March 8, 2016
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.
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.
New Article Places Rachel Dolezal's Reverse Passing in the Context of Higher Education Diversity Debates
Khaled A. Beydoun and Erika K. Wilson's new article, Reverse Passing, has been accepted for publication in the UCLA Law Review. The current draft is here on ssrn. Based on downloads, it already seems to be generating significant attention. They offer this abstract:
Throughout American history untold numbers of people have concealed their true racial identities and assumed a white racial identity in order to reap the economic, political and social benefits associated with whiteness. This phenomenon is known as passing. While legal scholars have thoroughly investigated passing in its conventional form; the corollary process of reverse passing – the process in which whites conceal their true racial identity and present themselves as non-white – has not been closely investigated within legal scholarship.
Rachel Dolezal provides a timely study of the process of reverse passing. Dolezal – an Africana Studies Instructor and head of the Spokane, Washington NAACP – was outed as being white after years of phenotypically and culturally presenting herself as a Black woman. Dolezal’s “outing” generated much popular debate and scholarly discourse, most of which tended to frame her actions as a one-off occurrence by a deviant actor. This Article takes a contrary position.
Friday, March 4, 2016
New York Appleseed has released a new report New York City Elementary Schools: A Tale of Two Cities. The report finds that predominantly poor and minority elementary schools treated far differently than predominantly middle-income white schools. "This is particularly true when comparing the level of teacher experience and qualifications in each location." Cassie Schwerner, a member of the board of directors for New York Appleseed, says the report "completes a devastating body of evidence condemning our failure to prioritize reducing school segregation in New York City.” The report's major findings are as follows:
Tuesday, March 1, 2016
Early last month, I posted on claims of a racially hostile environment at Boston Latin School, a prestigious public magnet school with a long history of attempts to diversify--some of which were thwarted by the courts. As a new story in Ebony details, however, the problem is structural and runs deeper than the particular environment at Boston Latin School or another other prestigious magnet school. As the push for extremely high performing magnet schools in our nation's largest cities has grown, access for minority students appears to have shrunk. This has generated OCR and other complaints in places like Richmond, Virginia and New York City. Those complaints allege that the disparate access and disparate impact of these schools' enrollment practices and criteria violate the Department of Education's Title VI regulations.
Paula Rogo writes:
Throughout the country, there are examples of magnet high schools that struggle with diversifying their student ranks. New York City’s high schools are notorious for their lack of diversity. In 2014, only five percent of seats at the eight magnet schools were offered to Black students and seven percent to Latinos in a melting pot city where 70 percent of all public school students are either Black or Latino. At Stuyvesant High School, arguably the best in the city, just three percent of available seats in 2014 went to Black and Latino students.
New York City’s use of a test-only admission process for specialty high schools is said to be part of the problem since this gives White, Asian and male students a significant advantage, says New York University Professor Sean Corcoran who worked on a recent study that measured whether replacing the admission test would add more diversity (the study concluded that it has no significant effect). Corcoran says, however, that unless school admission officers take on a more “holistic approach” that considers more than just scores, they will continue to have issues adding diversity to their student body.
Boston Latin for example uses test scores and grades for entry into the school, not taking into consideration where the prospective students are from nor if they have done their elementary and middle school years in the Boston Public School system. Nearly half the school is White as compared to the nine percent who are Black.
Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Harvard brought together various professors from its different colleges and departments to talk about their research on social and economic inequality. The conclusion spanning the various disciplines was that educational inequality is at the center of the problem of inequality in general. Ronald Ferguson, for instance, explained:
Education may be the key to solving broader American inequality, but we have to solve educational inequality first. Ferguson says there is progress being made, there are encouraging examples to emulate, that an early start is critical, and that a lot of hard work lies ahead. But he also says, "There's nothing more important we can do."
"The position of U.S. black students is truly alarming," wrote Fryer, the Henry Lee Professor of Economics, who used the OECD rankings as a metaphor for minority standing educationally. "If they were to be considered a country, they would rank just below Mexico in last place."
He and others point out that enormous strides in closing education gaps occurred between 1970 and 1990, but then the nation hit a plateau and has been stuck ever since. The effects of this plateau reverberate in various life opportunities. The explanation for the plateau is, in large part, the nation's backtracking on segregation and inequality. The trend, however, can be reversed. Roland Fryer, an economist at Harvard,
Monday, February 15, 2016
This from the National Coalition on School Diversity:
The National Coalition on School Diversity (www.school-diversity.org) applauds Acting U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. for taking steps to address economic and racial isolation in American schools.
The Obama administration's 2017 budget, released yesterday, includes a $120 million request for “Stronger Together,” a new competitive funding program that would offer planning and implementation grants for voluntary, community-developed socioeconomic integration plans. According to the proposed budget, Stronger Together funds would support “comprehensive socioeconomic integration strategies,” to include: changes to attendance boundaries and student assignment policies; the establishment of schools that attract students from diverse backgrounds; community outreach and engagement efforts; faculty/staff recruitment, hiring, and training efforts; and activities designed to mitigate within-school segregation, etc.
We are also optimistic about the Administration’s requested budget increase for the Magnet Schools Assistance Program, which would be set aside to fund “a new competition giving priority to applicants proposing to make socioeconomic diversity a central factor in their efforts to increase racial integration.” Our coalition members have long advocated for funding increases for the Magnet Schools Assistance Program, and we continue to believe that efforts to promote racial and economic diversity should go hand in hand.
The Administration’s 2017 budget demonstrates a solid understanding of the research base that supports the use of integration strategies. Studies consistently show that racially, culturally, and socioeconomically diverse schools are strongly associated with a range of short and long term benefits for all racial groups. This includes gains in math, science, reading, and critical thinking skills and improvements in graduation rates. Research also demonstrates that diverse schools are better equipped than high-poverty schools to counteract the negative effects of poverty. Over the long-term, students who attend diverse schools are more likely than students from homogeneous schools to choose diverse colleges, neighborhoods, and workplaces later in life. They possess better critical thinking skills and analytical ability and are more likely to form cross-racial friendships.
Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Amy Stuart Wells, Lauren Fox, and Diana Cordova-Cobo have released a new report, How Racially Diverse Schools and Classrooms Can Benefit All Students, through The Century Foundation. Their introduction states:
A growing number of parents, university officials, and employers want our elementary and secondary schools to better prepare students for our increasingly racially and ethnically diverse society and the global economy. But for reasons we cannot explain, the demands of this large segment of Americans have yet to resonate with most of our federal, state, or local policymakers. Instead, over the past forty years, these policy makers have completely ignored issues of racial segregation while focusing almost exclusively on high-stakes accountability, even as our schools have become increasingly segregated and unequal.
This report argues that, as our K–12 student population becomes more racially and ethnically diverse, the time is right for our political leaders to pay more attention to the evidence, intuition, and common sense that supports the importance of racially and ethnically diverse educational settings to prepare the next generation. It highlights in particular the large body of research that demonstrates the importanteducational benefits—cognitive, social, and emotional—for all students who interact with classmates from different backgrounds, cultures, and orientations to the world. This research legitimizes the intuition of millions of Americans who recognize that, as the nation becomes more racially and ethnically complex, our schools should reflect that diversity and tap into the benefits of these more diverse schools to better educate all our students for the twenty-first century.
The advocates of racially integrated schools understand that much of the recent racial tension and unrest in this nation—from Ferguson to Baltimore to Staten Island—may well have been avoided if more children had attended schools that taught them to address implicit biases related to racial, ethnic, and cultural differences. This report supports this argument beyond any reasonable doubt.
In the forward to the report, Richard Kahlenberg emphasizes how timely and important the report is to moving forward an integration agenda:
Today, however, school integration—using new, more legally and politically palatable approaches—is getting a second look as an educational reform strategy.
For one thing, policymakers and scholars across the political spectrum are beginning to realize that ignoring the social science research on the negative effects of concentrated school poverty is not working to close large achievement gaps between races and economic groups. Diane Ravitch and Michelle Rhee—who represent opposite ends of our polarized debates over education reform—have both recently advocated new measures to promote school integration to raise the achievement of disadvantaged students.
What can give integration real political momentum, however, are not the documented benefits to low-income students, but the emerging recognition that middle- and upper-class students benefit in diverse classrooms.
Kahlenberg is not just blowing smoke. On Monday, Edweek reported that Secretary of Education, John King, and President Obama and proposing that Congress allocate new funding to help schools increase integration. Alyson Klein writes:
Monday, February 8, 2016
Celebrating the Brave Citizens of South Carolina Who Fought for Justice and Equality through the Briggs v. Elliott Litigation
On February 17, 2016, the historic Dock Street Theatre in Charleson will run a production of the play The Seat of Justice, which chronicles the story of Briggs v. Elliot, the South Carolina case that was consolidated as part of Brown v. Board of Education. This play will also count toward continuing legal education and feature a panel discussion led by SC Supreme Court Chief Justice Costa Pleicones and featuring US District Judge Richard Gergel and Circuit Court Judge Clifton Newman. The professional production features actors from New York and around the country.
For Information and to Reserve Your Seats, Contact Brian Porter, Director of Administration (843) 647-7373, email@example.com.
Friday, February 5, 2016
The United Nations’ Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent has released a statement regarding its recent visit to the United States. The visit heavily concentrated on the criminal justice system's treatment of African Americans, but it raised concerns regarding education several times. For instance, it wrote:
- The persistent gap in almost all the human development indicators, such as life expectancy, income and wealth, level of education and even food security, among African Americans and the rest of the US population, reflects the level of structural discrimination that creates de facto barriers for people of African descent to fully exercise their human rights.
- The cumulative impact of racially-motivated discrimination faced by African Americans in the enjoyment of their right to education, health, housing and employment, among other economic, social, cultural and environmental rights, has had serious consequences for their overall well-being. Racial discrimination continues to be systemic and rooted in an economic model that denies development to the poorest African American communities. More than ten million (26%) of African Americans remain mired in poverty and almost half of them (12%) live in what is known as “deep poverty”. The Working Group is particularly concerned about the fact that 48% of the households headed by African American women live under the poverty line.
- The zip code can determine to some extent the future development of young African Americans. People from Black poor neighbourhoods are more likely to face lower education achievements, more exposure to violence and crime, a tense interaction with the police, less employment opportunities, environmental degradation and low life expectancy rates as well.
OCR Finds Melrose Schools Failed to Adequately Respond to Teacher's Statement That a Student Should Not Act Like He Is on the "Plantation"
The Office for Civil Rights has completed its investigation of racial harassment in Melrose Public Schools in Massachusetts and entered into a settlement agreement with the school system. The investigation arose out of allegations that a teacher at Melrose Veterans Memorial Middle School had reprimanded an African American student and made a reference to "the plantation" or needing to "come back to the plantation." When meeting with the administration later, the teacher indicated she could not remember exactly what she said, but it was something to the effect of "don't talk to me like you're on a plantation." Of special note is also the fact that the student was attending Melrose as part of Boston's METCO program. The program allows students from the city to attend suburban schools, with the purpose being to increase diversity.
OCR investigated the matter and confirmed the incident. It found that the administration did not document the incident, but the did arrange a meeting in which the teacher would apologize to the student. In the meeting, the teacher "apologized for any misunderstanding that may have upset the Student, and she also told the Student that he should not feel subservient to her or demean himself, and described the Student's 'coming [teacher]' comment as akin to a remark that a 'slave' would make to a 'master.'"
Thursday, February 4, 2016
Boston Latin School is in the news again. Some of you may know it for its prestige, others for its tendency--good or bad--to be at the center of issues of race and education. The school's consideration of race in the 1990s led to the famed decision in Wessmann v. Gittens, 160 F.3d 790 (1st Cir. 1998). The court offered this background:
Tuesday, January 26, 2016
Chicago Schools with the Most Disadvantaged Students Have the Most "Ineffective" Teachers, According to New Study
As detailed here, new teacher evaluation systems that measure teaching effectiveness based on students' achievement test scores are riddled with serious flaws. One of the most obvious is the likelihood that those systems will simply rate teachers with the weakest/most challenged students as the most ineffective. The hope of some, however, is that one might be able to demonstrate that districts are assigning teachers who are, in fact, the least effective to disadvantaged schools--a serious equity concern under both federal and state law. It is hard to say definitely which of these two possibilities a new study of Chicago schools reveals, but it tends toward the later. Either way, it is bad for Chicago Schools. The new study by the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research finds that:
teachers with the lowest scores on the REACH Students teacher evaluation system are overrepresented in schools serving the most disadvantaged students, while teachers with the highest observation scores are underrepresented in these schools.
The study uses data from the 2013-14 school year, which represents the first comprehensive snapshot of evaluation scores for Chicago Public School teachers under the new REACH Students teacher evaluation system. This includes value-added scores based on students’ gains on tests, as well as scores from observations of teaching practices in classrooms.
In 2007, mandatory desegregation ended in Wichita public schools. Under mandatory desegregation, 688 minority students were assigned to schools outside of their immediate neighborhood. In just seven years of post-desegregation policies, the number has fallen to 138. The result is that one in four Wichita schools are one-race schools. In 2013, the district applied for and received a magnet school grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The grant, however, has been far too narrow in scope to make a dent in the problem, which belies another problem: districts want to diversify through magnets, but federal funds are few and far between. In 2013, the Secretary made only 27 magnet school grants in 12 states. In fact, magnet school grants have been held flat for over a decade while funds for charters have increased exponentially.
This has lead the superintendent in Wichita to, in effect, try to make separate equal. Unfortunately, he, like many other policymakers, does not frame it that way or recognize the folly. Instead, "the superintendent, points to millions invested in new or expanded school buildings in northeast Wichita [(the minority community]. . . . Updated facilities, combined with standardized curriculum and professional development across the district, help ensure equity even if the racial balance at some schools is skewed." More here.
Thursday, January 14, 2016
The Every Student Succeeds Act's Random Additions: Charter Schools, Data Collection, Testing Limits, and Discipline
My prior post detailed the Act’s new approaches toward academic standards and accountability, teachers, funding, and the federal role in education. The Act also included some other important changes and additions that do not fit into those categories. These changes are one-offs that look like bones thrown to various different and competing constituencies (which is probably true of a few of the progressive changes I noted last time). In other words, they are pet projects that helped the bill get passed. These changes include for charter schools, data, test validity, test opt outs, and school discipline
The act includes new competitive priorities for charter school grants. For those unfamiliar with the term competitive priority, it means that states or districts that include certain policies in their competitive charter school grant application will receive extra points in the assessment of their plan. As a practical matter, it makes it far more likely that they will receive a grant. It also makes it highly unlikely that states and districts that do not include those policies will receive a grant. In short, they are implicit mandates for those who want money.
So what are these special charter school policies? They are exactly what charter advocates have been lobbying states to do, often with little success. The priorities are for states that increase the number of entities in the state that can authorize new charters, states that give charters per pupil funding equivalent to that in traditional public schools, and states that give more robust support for charters in need of facilities.
Nothing really changed for magnet schools, and that is the point. Magnet school financial support and policy has been stuck in neutral for nearly two decades. By comparison, this means magnet schools are moving backward while charters rush forward. There is, however, one potentially explicit retrogressive addition for magnets. The Act seemingly requires or strongly prefers socio-economic integration over any other form of integration. Socio-economic integration is, of course, immensely important. The point here is the attempt to take race off the board—a position that the Bush Administration took, that the Obama Administration eventually retracted, and that has now resurfaced.
The Act requires states to collect and submit far more detailed data, and the new data it seeks is important: funding and teachers. This will be a boon to researchers attempting to drill deeper into problems of resource inequity.
Valid Tests (Potential Bombshell)
A provision of Title I indicates that states can only use the mandated tests for purposes for which they are valid. To most, this may read as no more than technical jargon, but it is potentially the single most powerful provision in the bill for those who would seek to block the misuse of tests. As I detail here, the tests on which states rely to run their teacher evaluation systems (value added models and student growth percentiles) are not valid for those purposes. Others have also long raised validity problems with certain states use of high stakes tests for student graduation and promotion as well. Who knows whether this was Congress’s intent, but the Act certainly would appear to have the effect of preventing states from using standardized tests for illegitimate purposes. The question that remains is whether individual teachers or students could rely on this provision in litigation or whether it is up to the Secretary to enforce this provision through the administrative process.
The Act gives parents the right to opt their children out of standardized tests. Opt-outs were big news last year, as large percentages of students refused to take tests in New York and New Jersey and the states scrambled not knowing whether the Department would hold this against the states. The Act now specifically indicates that these opt-outs will not count against the state in determining the percentage of students who took the tests.
Discipline: Bullying and Suspensions
Finally, the Act gives a big boost to progressive discipline policy. Previously, there was no such thing as general federal authority in regard to discipline. The only foothold had been in regard to racial disparities in discipline (pursuant to Title VI). The Act now specifies that states’ plans should include policies to reduce bullying, suspensions, and averse responses to student misbehavior. The bullying provision is, likewise, significant because it is not limited gender or race based bullying--a big stumbling blocking in past enforcement efforts. To be clear, however, this discipline provision operates within the larger structure that offers states’ enormous autonomy in their plans and severely limits the Secretary’s ability to reject a state plan.
Tuesday, January 5, 2016
Thomas Jefferson School of Law’s 16th Annual Women and the Law Conference, Pursuing Excellence: Diversity in Higher Education, will be held Friday, February 5, 2016 at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, California.
This conference brings together leading academics, educators, institutional leaders, and policy makers to examine how diversity in institutions of higher education affects and is inspired by students, faculty, and leaders. The conference will highlight a number of critically important topics including facilitating educational access for undocumented students, challenges to developing and nurturing a diverse educational environment, the importance of training students in professional programs (including medicine and law) to serve diverse populations, and challenges to affirmative action ranging from Prop 209 to the current U.S. Supreme Court case Fisher v. University of Texas.
Professor Bryant Garth, Professor at UC Irvine School of Law and former Dean of Southwestern Law School and Indiana University School of Law, will deliver the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lecture. He continues in a long line of illustrious speakers who have been honored as the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lecturer, a lecture series Justice Ginsburg generously established for Thomas Jefferson in 2003.
Other speakers include: Toni Atkins, Speaker of the California Assembly; Susan Bisom-Rapp, Professor of Law, Thomas Jefferson School of Law; Marisol Clark-Ibáñez, Professor of Sociology, Cal State University San Marcos; Youlonda Copeland-Morgan, Associate Vice Chancellor, Enrollment Management, UCLA; Meera E. Deo, Professor of Law, Thomas Jefferson School of Law; Adrian Gonzales, Interim Superintendent/President and Vice President of Student Services, Palomar Community College; Vallera Johnson, Administrative Law Judge; Catherine Lucey, Professor and Vice Dean for Education, UCSF School of Medicine; Mary Ann Mason, Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Center on Health, Economic, and Family Security, UC Berkeley; Linda Trinh Vo, Professor of Asian American Studies, UC Irvine; Shirley Weber, California Assemblywoman, Chair of the Assembly Select Committees on Higher Education and Campus Climate, former President of the San Diego Unified School District; and Susan Westerberg Prager, Dean, Southwestern Law School, former Dean UCLA School of Law, former Executive Director and CEO of AALS.
For additional information and registration, visit: http://www.tjsl.edu/conferences/wlc/2016.
Monday, January 4, 2016
The New York Times took up the call for integration in New York City after the Civil Rights Project released a report in 2014 finding that New York's schools were among the most segregated in the nation. Since then, the city has passed legislation to monitor segregation in its schools and outline steps to address it. The City also now has access to grant funds from the state, which can be used to facilitate integration. Moving in that direction, the chancellor of the school system, Carmen Fariña, recent authorized seven city schools to establish admissions policies that would foster more diverse student bodies. While the City is owed a lot of credit for acknowledging the problem and responding to it in some way, its steps thus far are just drops in a large bucket of segregation. The next step is to fundamentally change the way students are assigned to schools in the city. Two members of the City Council are proposing just that, calling for controlled choice. Controlled choice would still allow families the opportunity to play a large role in determining where their children attend schools, but student demographics would also play a large roll. As a result, schools formerly closed off to some families would now be open and limits would be placed on schools becoming too isolated by any single demographic factor. Whether they can muster the political support to enact such a policy remains to be seen, yet two years ago, I never imagined the City would even be having the conversation.
For more on the proposal, see here.