Wednesday, April 30, 2014

National Graduation Rate Reaches Historical High of 80 Percent

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reported this week that the percentage of U.S. high school graduates who received a regular high school diploma within four years hit a historical high of 80 percent in the 2011 school year, up one percent from 2010. Nearly 4 out of 5 students receive a regular high school diploma within 4 years of starting 9th grade for the first time, the NCES reported. The four-year graduation rate for American Indian/Alaska Native, Black, and Hispanic students also rose between 2010 and 2011, but remained below the national average at 67, 69, and 73 percent, respectively. White students and Asian/Pacific Islander students had 4-year  Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rates (ACGR) above the national average at 86 and 88 percent, respectively. Economically disadvantaged students, students with limited English proficiency, and students with disabilities all had 4-year ACGR rates below the national average for all students at 72, 59, and 61 percent, respectively. The latests ACGR results are being hailed as a predictor for the national graduation rate reaching 90 percent by 2020. There is still some work to do to as fourteen states have over a third of economically disadvantaged students dropout of high school. Read the Public High School Four-Year On-Time Graduation Rates and Event Dropout Rates report here.

April 30, 2014 in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Federal Guidance on Addressing Sexual Assault and Discrimination

This from the Office for Civil Rights:

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) today released new guidance describing the responsibilities of colleges, universities and public schools to address sexual violence and other forms of sex discrimination under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. 

The guidelines, highlighted by the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault’s new report released earlier Tuesday, provide greater clarity about the requirements of Title IX around this critical issue – as requested by institutions and students.

“For far too long, the incentives to prevent and respond to sexual violence have gone in the wrong direction at schools and on college campuses,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “As interpreted and enforced by the department, Title IX and other federal laws are changing these incentives to put an end to rape-permissive cultures and campus cultures that tolerate sexual assault.”

Included in today’s document are examples of proactive efforts schools can take to prevent sexual violence and remedies schools may use to end such conduct, prevent its recurrence, and address its effects. The frequently asked questions examine critical issues, including when schools should respect students’ request for confidentiality, when schools should take immediate steps to protect students who complain about sexual violence from the alleged perpetrator and potential retaliation, and how to determine whether sexual violence occurred and the appropriate remedies for such violence.  The guidance also clarifies that its terms apply to all students, including lesbian and gay students, transgender students, and undocumented students. 

“Our federal civil rights laws demand that all students – women and men; gay and straight; transgender or not; citizens and foreign students – be allowed to learn and participate in all parts of college life without sexual assault and harassment limiting their opportunities,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, assistant secretary for civil rights.  “The Office for Civil Rights stands ready to enforce this core principle to ensure all students’ safety in schools.”

OCR issued groundbreaking guidance on the issue of sexual violence and Title IX in 2011, and today’s guidance - “Questions and Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence” – further clarifies and expands on that work. The guidance can also be found at

A related “Know Your Rights” document is available in English here and Spanish here.


April 30, 2014 in Gender | Permalink | Comments (0)

Louisiana Charter School Suspends 70 Percent of Students, Advocates File Compliaints

According to a complaint filed by Anna Lellelid and Bill Quigley, Carver Collegiate charter school in New Orleans operates a demerit system, whereby students are cited for everything from not walking in a straight line to wearing too many bracelets and not smiling when shaking hands.  Accumulating too many demerits leads to suspension.  Under this system, the school suspends 68.85 percent of its students at least once a year.

Lellelid and Quigley allege the discipline system and environment is physically and emotionally abusive.  “I’ve heard from students who say they feel so depressed to be treated this way, but they feel they can’t speak out because they will get in trouble,” said Anna Lellelid.  The complaint also alleges that that the discipline system fails to follow the proper processes mandated by law, including the general notice and opportunity to respond process required by Goss v. Lopez and the more specific process required for students with disabilities under the IDEA.  Two additional schools were named in the complaint.

This school seems to typify the type of irrational and unjustified discipline system that I argue violates substantive due process here.  In short,  I develop the argument that the constitutional precludes schools from excluding students for certain relatively innocuous or innocent behavior.

For the longer story on Carver Collegiate, see here.


April 30, 2014 in Discipline | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

California Community Pushes Back Against Punitive Discipline and Policing of Students

When the Santa Ana Unified School District's Board met last week, it faced a hostile crowd. Families and students were reacting to recent events in which a police officer had placed a 14 year old boy in a headlock at school.  The boy had just defaced school property and the officer was arresting him.  The arrest was caught on tape and horrified many residents and students.  

This aggressive show of force provided the platform for the community to raise concerns about the punitive nature of discipline in the district and the routine involvement of police in school discipline matters.  Those present at the board meeting called for strict limits on the punishment imposed for "willful defiance," as well the circumstances in which police would become involved in addressing student misbehavior.  The rationales offered by students themselves were impressive and read as though they come straight out of the social science literature: 

  • the school's discipline fosters "'huge amount of distrust' between youth and authorities"
  • "students are “'losing their right to education'"
  • “They undermine student achievement and graduate rates”

It is unfortunate that extreme events must occur before these concerns can take center stage, but it is encouraging, nonetheless, that they are taking center stage.  Ironically enough, the district's "misbehavior" has given these students the opportunity to eptimoze democracy in action and the virtues of student free speech (for those who would doubt the virtue of student speech in school).

More on the story here.

April 29, 2014 in Discipline | Permalink | Comments (0)

Washington Is First State To Lose NCLB Waiver

As previously forecast, the Department of Education announced last week that it was withdrawing the State of Washington’s No Child Left Behind waiver. Washington state’s NCLB renewal has been on high-risk status since last August. Teacher evaluation assessments were the sticking point between Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Washington officials. While Washington State’s teacher evaluations use students' scores as measures of effectiveness in district-level assessments, the ED wanted the state legislature to mandate using student performances on statewide tests for teacher accountability. When Washington’s legislature failed to pass a bill to incorporate students’ statewide test scores in teacher evaluations, the state could not hold on to its NCLB waiver. Since efforts to pass such a law failed, Washington will have to set aside 20 percent of its Title I funds (an estimated $38 million) for “public school choice and supplemental educational services rather than having the flexibility to use those funds for other activities to improve student achievement in low-achieving schools,” Secretary Duncan said in his letter to Washington. The implications for school district budgets after Washington’s loss of flexibility to use the Title I funds are uncertain. School districts under the waiver had more flexibility to simply add Title I funds to their overall budgets, but without the NCLB waiver, that spending will be directed where the federal government says the money must go. As for Washington state’s response, a spokesperson for Governor Jay Inslee says “[t]here is no Plan B.”

April 29, 2014 in ESEA/NCLB | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Wake-Up Call within the Supreme Court’s Affirmative Action Decisions by Kimberly Robinson

The Supreme Court’s recent decision in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action affirmed the ability of states to ban the use of racial preferences in state institutions of higher education. Although those committed to diversity in higher education view this decision as further evidence of the erosion and eventual demise of affirmative action, this decision also should serve as a wake-up call that the nation must undertake a renewed effort to close the opportunity gap in elementary and secondary education. 

The Supreme Court has been tolling the death knell for affirmative action for many years. The Schuette decision is merely further evidence that the end is not far off. In the 2003 decision in Grutter v. Bollinger, the court approved the consideration of race as one factor among many in creating a diverse class at the University of Michigan Law School. However, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s majority opinion noted that given the growing number of minority applicants who had earned high test scores and grades, “[w]e expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today.”

In the 2013 decision in Fisher v. University of Texas, the Supreme Court permitted colleges and universities to prove their continued need to sometimes consider the race of students to admit a diverse student body. Yet, the court’s constitutional analysis can trap many institutions between the Scylla of insufficient evidence on the racial composition needed to reap the benefits of diversity, and the Charybdis of specific evidence regarding how much diversity they seek, which the court is likely to label a quota.

Undoubtedly, Schuette’s approval of state bans on racial preferences will advance the eventual demise of affirmative action by removing all constitutional barriers to such bans. Schuette also will embolden supporters of those bans to seek similar bans in other states.

The erosion and impending demise of affirmative action must serve as a reminder that the continued need to use affirmative action is caused in substantial part by the nation’s failure to remedy the opportunity gap that continues to plague our nation’s elementary and secondary schools. Far too many minority students and poor students of all races continue to attend schools with the least effective teachers, inadequate resources and poorly maintained facilities when compared to their more affluent peers, as President Obama’s Equity and Excellence Commission report confirmed last year.

The need to end this deeply entrenched opportunity gap is a moral imperative for the foundation of a just and equitable society. Justice Anthony Kennedy acknowledged this when he stated that “[t]his Nation has a moral and ethical obligation to fulfill its historic commitment to creating an integrated society that ensures equal opportunity for all of its children” in his 2007 opinion in Parents Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District.

Moreover, both those who support affirmative action and those who seek to abolish it bear the heavy costs of the educational opportunity gap. Research establishes that the current failure to provide an adequate education to all schoolchildren costs the nation billions in lost taxes, public assistance, criminal justice support and health care costs. For instance, the nation forfeits $156 billion in income and tax revenues during the life span of each cohort of students who do not graduate from high school. (“The Price We Pay: Economic And Social Consequences Of Inadequate Education,” Clive R. Belfield & Henry M. Levin, eds. 2007). Furthermore, the cost of the opportunity gap will increasingly weaken our economy as the changing economy demands more workers with higher-level skills and the number of Hispanic and African-American children becomes an increasingly larger share of the school-age population.

Affirmative action is in part a bandage that seeks to reduce the hemorrhaging from our broken elementary and secondary school system. It is important to keep this bandage in place as long as possible or the hemorrhaging will increase. Therefore, those committed to diverse institutions of higher education and a diverse workforce must continue to push for race-sensitive approaches as well as race-neutral means to achieve diversity in higher education.

In addition to these critical efforts, the United States must wake up to the need for comprehensive reforms that close the educational opportunity gap. Scholars, activists, business leaders and ultimately the public must call on leaders in Congress and the White House, as well as in state legislatures and local school boards, to take action to close this gap. Ultimately, if the nation fails to take on this challenge now, it does so at its own peril.

Kimberly Jenkins Robinson is a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law and a senior fellow at the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School. Contact her at

April 28, 2014 in Higher education, Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 25, 2014

In Defense of IDEA Due Process

Mark Weber's new article, In Defense of IDEA Due Process, is now available here on ssrn.  The abstract indicates:

Due Process hearing rights under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act are under attack. A major professional group and several academic commentators charge that the hearings system advantages middle class parents, that it is expensive, that it is futile, and that it is unmanageable. Some critics would abandon individual rights to a hearing and review in favor of bureaucratic enforcement or administrative mechanisms that do not include the right to an individual hearing before a neutral decision maker.

This Article defends the right to a due process hearing. It contends that some criticisms of hearing rights are simply erroneous, and that others are overstated. The system is generally fair to the various classes of parents, even if some parents are better able than others to use it effectively. Costs are remarkably low given the number of children receiving special education, and hearings and hearing requests have been in decline for years. Far from being futile, the due process hearing system is one in which parents win a significant percentage of cases. And far from being out of control, hearings are generally being managed effectively. The system could be rendered still more efficient with a few modest reforms of the special education statute and its interpretation.

The call for minimizing IDEA process has been around for a while, but I suspect it will only gain more steam in coming years, as it fits "nicely" with the overarching theme of flexibility and deregulation that has driven charter school and voucher growth.  Whatever one thinks of charter schools and vouchers, Mark offers the rationale for why the current rules in IDEA work.

April 25, 2014 in Special Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Benefits of Early Childhood Education: Beyond Standardized Test Scores

Back in the fall when the prospect of new federal funds for pre-k education was heating up, there was a significant amount of discussion regarding the academic effects of pre-k education.  I offered some analysis of a report that synthesized the research and focused on the long-term effects of pre-k education.  The report acknowledged that, while pre-k education shows a positive academic effect as measured by standardized tests in the early school years, those positive effects fade over time, potentially to a point of non-existence.  More important, the report found, were the long term effects on graduation rates and the like.  Those opposed to spending more on pre-k focus on the former and ignore the latter.

A new article in the National Journal offers further explanation of what the research means and why it reveals this disparate result (loss of academic achievement effect, but retention of other effects).  The Journal, speaking of University of Chicago economist James Heckman, explained:

Once Heckman started looking into early childhood interventions, he realized that assessments needed to include noncognitive outcomes—the ability to self-motivate, exhibit self-control, and work toward long-term goals. Those social and emotional skills could influence whether a child later got involved in crime, stayed in high school, or was responsible for a teen pregnancy.

This insight—that teaching children how to learn can be just as important as the content of what they learn—has been one of two key developments in the area of early interventions. The other is a recognition that children are only part of the equation. As a National Academy of Sciences committee recounted in its report, "From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development," "the field of early childhood intervention evolved from its original focus on children to a growing appreciation of the extent to which family, community, and broader societal factors affect child health and development." The more recent interest in home visit programs that can improve parenting skills and potentially alter home environments reflects this more holistic approach to improving children's opportunities.


Over the past two decades, Heckman has developed a case for investing in early interventions focused on low-income children and their families—and he has called for "a major refocus of policy … to capitalize on knowledge about the importance of the early years in creating inequality and in producing skills for the workforce." His research has been hailed, particularly by Democratic policymakers, in large part because Heckman makes the argument that money spent on early childhood intervention produces much higher economic returns than any later efforts in secondary education, job training, and certainly convict rehabilitation.

April 24, 2014 in Pre-K Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Court Upholds Michigan Ban on Consideration of Race in Admissions

Yesterday, the Court held in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action that the Michigan referendum, which amended the state constitution to prohibit the consideration of race in admissions following Grutter v. Bollinger, was constitutional.  The plaintiffs had alleged that the Michigan amendment violated equal protection under the Court's political process theory, most recently articulated in Washington v. Seattle Schools, 458 U.S. 457 (1982).  In Washington, the state had banned integrative busing (except that required by court order), which invalidated the Seattle School District's voluntary desegregation plan.  

The plaintiffs in Schuette argued that the Michigan amendment put minorities and minority interests at a distinct disadvantage in securing favorable laws, just as the state had in Washington. An alum of the University of Michigan could, for instance, petition for favorable admissions policies and considerations for children of alums without needing to resort to a consitutional amendment, but after Michigan's referendum, those advocating for racial diversity considerations would be precluded from securing favorable legislation or policies without first passing a constitutional amendment.  This, they say, violates equal protection in the political process.

The Court rejected their claim by a vote of 6-2 (Kagan recused herself), but there was no majority opinion agreeing on the rationale.  Three justices (led by Kennedy) distinguished the Washington line of cases as being about states changing the political process in such a way that made it more difficult to remedy discrimination and/disadvantage.  In other words, those three justices read the political process theory to preclude states from locking in a political process that made it more difficult to remedy discrimination.  They reasoned that Shuette did not involve limits on remedying discrimination, but limits on using racial preferences.  The latter is distinct and, thus, the political process theory does not apply to Michigan's actions here.

In a separate opinion, Justice Scalia, joined by Thomas, reasoned that the political process theory would apply here and that the facts of Schuette are not distinct.  He, however, argued that the political process theory was itself a flawed doctrine and should be overturned.  The proper standard would be the intentional discrimination standard, which the plaintiffs could not meet here.

Justice Breyer, writing alone, reasoned that this case did not involve a change in the political process, but simply a constitutional amendment, which was permissible.  The U.S. Constitution permits race conscious admissions, but does not require them.  Thus, voters are free to reject them.

Justice Ginsberg and Sotomayor argued that the Washington line of cases applied and this amendment violates that precedent, per the plaintiffs' rationale discussed above.

In most respects, the case does not change much (at least not yet).  It did not change the holding in Grutter.  The issue of whether diversity is a compelling interest was simply not before it, which the Court emphasized.  The only issue before it was that of altering the political process by which a state or locality makes decisions about race.  In other words, at what level of government should issues of integration, diversity, busing, and discrimination be made and when can those decision-making rules be changed so as to make certain racially progressive policies more difficult.  Cases premised on this precise contextual question have only come before the Court a few times in the past and do not involve a rich doctrinal development.  So while the Court did appear to limit that doctrine, it was never a widely used doctrine.

The case does sanction anti-affirmative action legislation, but the fervor for that legislation was greatest following Grutter, not now.  There is nothing in Schuette to incite or upset anti-affirmative action advocates.  With that said, I will leave further discussion to others who have spent more time thinking seriously about this case.  A few have already contacted me and I hope to have their thoughts soon.

April 23, 2014 in Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

SCOTUSBlog on Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action

A great deal will be written about the future of racial diversity in higher education following yesterday's decision in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, but here is a recap from Mark Walsh at SCOTUSBlog on the opinion's announcement by Justice Kennedy, writing for the court in a plurality opinion joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito:

“[This opinion] is not about the constitutionality, or the merits, of race-conscious admissions policies in higher education,” [Justice Kennedy] says. “This case is not about how the debate about racial preferences should be resolved. It is about who may resolve it. There is no authority in the Constitution of the United States or in this Court’s precedents for the Judiciary to set aside Michigan laws that commit this policy determination to the voters.”

“Here Michigan voters acted in concert and statewide to seek consensus and adopt a policy on a difficult subject against a historical background of race in America that has been a source of tragedy and persisting injustice.”

“Perhaps, when enacting policies as an exercise of democratic self-government, voters will determine that race-based preferences should be adopted,” he says. “The constitutional validity of some of those choices regarding racial preferences is not at issue here. The holding in the instant case is simply that the courts may not disempower the voters from choosing which path to follow.”

Justices Bryer, Scalia, and Thomas filed opinions concurring in the judment.

April 23, 2014 in Cases | Permalink | Comments (0)

New School Prayer Lawsuit

Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District in New Jersey is being sued over the Pledge of Allegiance.  Anonymous parents and the American Humanist Association are bringing the suit. They argue that the the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance discriminates against atheists.  The pledge

publicly disparages plaintiffs' religious beliefs, calls plaintiffs' patriotism into question, portrays plaintiffs as outsiders and second-class citizens, and forces (the child) to choose between nonparticipation in a patriotic exercise or participation in a patriotic exercise that is invidious to him and his religious class.

. . .

While plaintiffs recognize that (the child) has the right to refuse participation in the flag-salute exercise and pledge recitation, the child does not wish to be excluded from it, and in fact wants to be able to participate in an exercise that does not portray other religious groups as first-class citizens and his own as second-class.

To bolster their claim that the Pledge reinforces prejudice against atheists and Humanists, they cite to studies showing atheists are the most disliked and distrusted group in the country.

Unlike prior claims brought and rejected under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, this claim proceeds under the New Jersey Constitution, which may make a difference.

In Newdow v. Rio Linda Union School District, 597 F.3d 1007 (9th Cir. 2010), the Ninth Circuit held that the Pledge in school did not violate the establishment clause.  It reasoned that the words "under God" cannot be read alone, but must be read in the context of the entire pledge.  Based on this context, the court held that the pledge and this phrase were patriotic not religious.  It also pointed out that 

The Supreme Court has agreed the Pledge is a “patriotic exercise designed to foster national unity and pride.” Elk Grove Unified Sch. Dist. v. Newdow, 542 U.S. 1, 6, 124 S.Ct. 2301, 159 L.Ed.2d 98 (2004). Even the dissent agrees on this determinative point. Dissent at 4040 (“[T]he recitation of the Pledge both as originally written and as amended is a patriotic exercise....”). The question about which we disagree is whether this patriotic activity is turned into a religious activity because it includes words with religious meaning.

The 2010 decision by the 9th Circuit, however, was a shift in course, as some earlier decisions in the circuit had found the pledge to violate the Establishment Clause.  The past history, as described by the court in Newdow, follows the jump.

Continue reading

April 23, 2014 in First Amendment | Permalink | Comments (0)

Two Funding Inequity Lawsuits Filed Against New Mexico

Two funding inequity lawsuits were recently filed challenging New Mexico's education system. The first alleges that ELL and economically disadvantaged students are receiving a substandard education under the state's funding scheme and A-F grading system. In State v. Martinez, filed by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the plaintiffs assert that New Mexico's underfunding of public education and its school rating system violates the state's education clause, due process, and equal protection. The state's education funding formula, the plaintiffs allege, fails to allocate sufficient supplemental funds for areas were the needs are greatest for at-risk and special needs students. In spending per pupil, New Mexico reportedly spends $9,070 per student, ranking 37th in the nation. The suit also targets "unfair and non-transparent school accountability grading and teacher evaluation systems that drive quality teachers and leaders from schools disproportionately enrolling English Learner ("EL") and low-income students." The funding inequity, combined with the teacher evaluation system, results in experienced teachers avoiding lower-ranked schools. The MALDEF suit is here.

The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty (NMCLP)  is also challenging the state's funding scheme for families of New Mexican students. The CLP suit notes that New Mexico's student standardized test performance has fallen to the bottom of the nation. On standardized tests given in the last two years, New Mexico's students ranked at bottom of the country in 4th grade reading and are just ahead of the bottom -- Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana -- in math. Contributing to the problem is the state's high child poverty rate, which is the second highest in the nation. Given those factors, the CLP suit argues, New Mexico's education system is severely underfunded. The CLP suit is here

April 23, 2014 in Cases, News, School Funding | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Cost of Compassion: How the Government Supports Special Needs Children’s Programs

Idea CaptureSpecial Education Degrees asked me to share their new infographic with you this morning. It breaks down the cost of delivering education to students with special needs and what the government is and is not doing to address it.  It is also followed by a list of resources for parents and advocates.  The full infographic is available here.  I must note that while my reading of their materials and links is that it intends to be supportive of families of students with special needs, some of the language used (along with the title) could be read to frame the cost of special education in a negative light.  It labels it a "burden" on the federal government, states, and families.  I hope it was not their intent to suggest these children are burdens.  To the extent it does, this post is not an endorsement.

April 22, 2014 in Special Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Reflecting on Brown v. Board of Education

As many of you know, the 60th Anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education is just a couple weeks away.  In advance of the anniversary, numerous organizations, media outlets, and individuals have been reflecting on and updating our history of school desegregation and resegregation.   ProPublica, in particular, has released an extensive report, Segregation Now, which chronicles the story of desegregation in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and tells the story of students attending schools today that strongly resemble those of the pre-Brown era. Below is a sampling of other articles and commentary.

From NPR, Six Words: 'Segregation Should Not Determine Our Future'.

From Jose Vilson, Racism without Racists: The School Resegregation Edition.

From the Star-Leger, Six Decades after Brown v. Board of Education, NJ's Schools Are Still Segregated.

From The Grio, Brown v. Board of Education 60 Years Later: Are U.S. Schools Becoming More Segregated Again?

From my perspective, the conversation this time around--as opposed to the 50th Anniversary--is less alarmist in tone.  The story last time was more shocking and came at a time when the possibility of stemming the tide of resegregation seemed more  important (to more more people) and potentially within reach.  This time, unfortunately, some commentaries seem to lament the loss of integration but accept it.  After all, the national conversation regarding education policy and improvement now tends only to turn to segregation on anniversaries.   In fact, I posit that it still remains to be seen whether it will be part of the national conversation this time around.  We have three weeks to see.

April 22, 2014 in Racial Integration and Diversity | Permalink | Comments (0)

My Apologies

For those who follow the blog more regularly, I apoligize for the lack of content over the past few days.  LaJuana and I, along with everyone else on the Law Prof Blog Network, were locked out of the posting system due to a cyber-attack.

April 22, 2014 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, April 18, 2014

Study Examines Education for "Invisible" Students Incarcerated in Juvenile Detention

291The Southern Education Foundation (SEF) released its report yesterday concluding that the “young people placed in the juvenile justice system-predominately minority males incarcerated for minor offenses-are receiving a substandard education.” The report, Just Learning: The Imperative to Transform Juvenile Justice Systems into Effective Educational Systems, Steve Suitts, SEF vice president and author of the study, says that the 70,000 students in the juvenile justice system leave “in worse shape than when they entered, struggling to return to school or get their lives back on track." The report makes the recommendations listed below. Read Just Learning here.


To ensure that youth leaving the juvenile justice system have the skills and education they need to reenter school, find jobs, and become productive members of society, the report urges that states: 

  • Re-organize programs so that they are designed and operated to advance the teaching and learning of students. 
  • Set and apply the same educational standards that exist for all students in a state to the schools and educational programs in the juvenile justice system. 
  • Establish effective and timely methods of testing and reporting on the educational status and progress of every child and youth in the juvenile justice system. 
  • Develop and implement an individual educational plan and learning strategy-including special education, developmental services, academic motivation and persistence, and meta-cognition-to guide the instruction and services of every student in the juvenile justice system. 
  • Establish systems of coordination and cooperation to provide a seamless transition of students from and back into public schools. 
  • Create and maintain data systems to measure institutional and system-wide educational progress and identify areas in need of improvement.

April 18, 2014 in Studies and Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Behind the Numbers in Camden--NJ's Highest-Cost Per Pupil School District

In a recent article, (Philadelphia Inquirer) goes behind the numbers about recent comparisons of the amount of per-pupil spending in New Jersey’s Camden school district. Camden’s per pupil spending is the highest in New Jersey, but only 49 percent of its students graduate from high school. The story quotes David Sciarra of the Education Law Center, who points out that per-pupil figures are misleading because school districts must spend more per student in high poverty districts (43% of Camden residents live below the poverty line) on special needs costs. While there differing views about the impact of education budgets for student learning (see the recent  report from the Cato Institute, Academic Performance and Spending over the Past 40 Years) and 2013’s Pew Center report showing unprecedented decreases in state education budgets), the article reminds of the complications of tracking money through education budgets and that per pupil school spending is not always what it seems.

April 17, 2014 in News | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

New York Legislation Expands Pre-K and Charter Protections

Late last month, New York reached a budget deal that included a huge victory for pre-k education. New York City will receive $300 million to offer full day pre-k to 4 year olds.  Included in the deal were also significant changes for charter schools.  Per the New York Times, the new legislation requires the city to

find space for charter schools inside public school buildings or pay much of the cost to house them in private space. The legislation would also prohibit the city from charging rent to charter schools. . . . Under the budget agreement, charter schools would receive more money per student. The schools, previously barred from operating early education programs, would also be eligible for grants for prekindergarten.

Some are citing the legislation as providing charters the greatest protections of any state in the country.

April 16, 2014 in Charters and Vouchers, Pre-K Education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

American Statistical Association Cautions Use of Student Test Scores in Evaluating Teachers

Last week, the American Statistical Society released a report on "Value Added Models" that attempt to assess the effectiveness of teachers.  The report would appear to be a word of caution to current policies that rely heavily on students' standardized test scores to evaluate teachers.  Rather than misstate the report, I offer its own bullet point summary:

The ASA endorses wise use of data, statistical models, and designed experiments for
improving the quality of education.
• VAMs are complex statistical models, and high-level statistical expertise is needed to
develop the models and interpret their results.
• Estimates from VAMs should always be accompanied by measures of precision and a
discussion of the assumptions and possible limitations of the model. These limitations are
particularly relevant if VAMs are used for high-stakes purposes.

o VAMs are generally based on standardized test scores, and do not directly measure
potential teacher contributions toward other student outcomes.
o VAMs typically measure correlation, not causation: Effects – positive or negative –
attributed to a teacher may actually be caused by other factors that are not captured in
the model.
o Under some conditions, VAM scores and rankings can change substantially when a
different model or test is used, and a thorough analysis should be undertaken to
evaluate the sensitivity of estimates to different models.

• VAMs should be viewed within the context of quality improvement, which distinguishes
aspects of quality that can be attributed to the system from those that can be attributed to
individual teachers, teacher preparation programs, or schools. Most VAM studies find
that teachers account for about 1% to 14% of the variability in test scores, and that the
majority of opportunities for quality improvement are found in the system-level
conditions. Ranking teachers by their VAM scores can have unintended consequences
that reduce quality.

April 15, 2014 in Federal policy, Studies and Reports, Teachers | Permalink | Comments (0)

Philadelphia School District Reduces Role of Police in School

Philadelphia has added itself to the short but growing list of major school districts that are trying to draw sharper lines between school officials and the police to reduce arrests in school.  Last fall, I posted on a similar move in Broward County, Florida.  According to a local Philadelphia paper:

Philadelphia School District has directed school police officers to stop responding to calls related to Level 1 student conduct offenses. The proscribed violations range from "failure to follow classroom rules" to "truancy" to "verbal altercations" to "inappropriate touching/public displays of affection."

"These infractions are not criminal offenses; they are classroom/student management issues," wrote District Chief Inspector Carl W. Holmes to school administrators and school police in a memo dated March 10.

The memo states that school police should "respond to all calls that are criminal in nature, or where persons involved are violent or threatening."

In the event that they are called to other incidents, officers should "request the presence of an administrator, counselor, or administrative designee," the memo explains.

Some teachers, including the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, are not happy with the policy, indicating that there are not resources in the school to deal with discipline and it is not just a classroom management issue.  

"It is say that someone else should deal with it. There is no 'someone else,'" said Amy Roat, . . . teacher at Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences.

"We don't have anyone in our building most of the time that is 'qualified' to deal with these issues," she said. "We all just have to jump in and deal with it."

While I sympathize with overworked teachers in overworked schools, school discipline is an educational issue, not a law enforcement issue.  They may be correct that the schools currently are not fully equipped to deal with the problem, but that is due to the fact the state has been starving these schools of resources, not that the state has asked them to do the police force's job.  See the full story here.

April 15, 2014 in Discipline | Permalink | Comments (0)