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."
Monday, May 2, 2016
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:
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.
Monday, April 25, 2016
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.
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
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
Thursday, April 14, 2016
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.
Wednesday, April 13, 2016
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.
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.
Wednesday, April 6, 2016
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
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
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.
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.