Archives for category: Segregation

Richard Rothstein has written brilliantly for years about the importance of equity in education. He has written brilliantly about the interaction of race, class, and poverty, and its effects on educational outcomes. His book Class and Schools is a classic in the study of poverty and education. Recently, he has studied federal policy and segregation. In this post, he describes a new study that he has completed about how Ferguson, Missouri, became what it is today.

 

He writes:

 

  I’ve spent several years studying the evolution of residential segregation nationwide, motivated in part by a conviction that the black-white achievement gap cannot be closed while low-income black children are isolated in segregated schools, that schools cannot be integrated unless neighborhoods are integrated, and that neighborhoods cannot be integrated unless we remedy the public policies that have created and support neighborhood segregation.

 

When Ferguson, Missouri, erupted in August, I suspected that federal, state and local policy had purposefully segregated St. Louis County, because this had occurred in so many other metropolises. After looking into the history of Ferguson, St. Louis, and the city’s other suburbs, I confirmed these were no different. The Economic Policy Institute has now published a report documenting the basis for this conclusion, and the American Prospect has published a summary of the report in an article in the current issue.

 

Since a Ferguson policeman shot and killed an unarmed black teenager, we’ve paid considerable attention to that town. If we’ve not been looking closely at our evolving demographic patterns, we were surprised to see ghetto conditions we had come to associate with inner cities now duplicated in almost every respect in a formerly white suburban community: racially segregated neighborhoods with high poverty and unemployment, poor student achievement in overwhelmingly black schools, oppressive policing, abandoned homes, and community powerlessness.

 

         Media accounts of how Ferguson became Ferguson have typically explained that when African Americans moved to this suburb (and others like it), “white flight” followed, abandoning the town to African Americans who were trying to escape poor schools in the city. The conventional explanation adds that African Americans moved to a few places like Ferguson, not the suburbs generally, because prejudiced realtors steered black homebuyers away from other white suburbs. And in any event, those other suburbs were able to preserve their middle class environments by enacting zoning rules that required only expensive single family homes.

 

         No doubt, private prejudice and suburbanites’ desire for homogenous middle-class environments contributed to segregation in St. Louis and other metropolitan areas. But these explanations are too partial, and too conveniently excuse public policy from responsibility. A more powerful cause of metropolitan segregation in St. Louis and nationwide has been the explicit intents of federal, state, and local governments to create racially segregated metropolises.

 

         Many of these explicitly segregationist governmental actions ended in the late 20th century but continue to determine today’s racial segregation patterns; ongoing segregation is not the unintended by-product of race-neutral policies. In St. Louis these actions included zoning rules that classified white neighborhoods as residential and black neighborhoods as commercial or industrial; segregated public housing projects to replace integrated low-income areas; federal subsidies for suburban development conditioned on African American exclusion; federal and local requirements for and enforcement of property deeds and neighborhood agreements that prohibited re-sale of white-owned property to or occupancy by African Americans; tax favoritism for private institutions that enforced segregation; municipal boundary lines designed to separate black neighborhoods from white ones and to deny necessary services to the former; real estate, insurance, and banking regulators who tolerated and sometimes required racial segregation; and urban renewal plans whose purpose was to shift black populations from central cities like St. Louis to inner-ring suburbs like Ferguson.

 

         Governmental actions in support of a segregated labor market supplemented these racial housing policies and prevented most African Americans from acquiring the economic strength to move to middle class communities, even if they had been permitted to do so.

 

         White flight certainly existed, and racial prejudice was certainly behind it, but not racial prejudice alone. Government turned black neighborhoods into overcrowded slums and then white families came to associate African Americans with slum characteristics. White homeowners then fled when African Americans moved nearby, fearing their new neighbors would bring slum conditions with them.

 

That government, not mere private prejudice, was responsible for segregating greater St. Louis was once conventional informed opinion. A federal appeals court declared 40 years ago that “segregated housing in the St. Louis metropolitan area was … in large measure the result of deliberate racial discrimination in the housing market by the real estate industry and by agencies of the federal, state, and local governments.” Similar observations accurately describe every other large metropolitan area. This history, however, has now largely been forgotten.

 

When we blame private prejudice and snobbishness for contemporary segregation, we not only whitewash our own history but avoid considering whether new policies might instead promote an integrated community. The federal government’s response to the Ferguson “Troubles” has been to treat the town as an isolated embarrassment, not a reflection of the nation in which it is embedded. The Department of Justice is investigating the killing of teenager Michael Brown and the practices of the Ferguson police department, but aside from the president’s concern that perhaps we have militarized all police forces too much, no broader inferences from the August events are being drawn.

 

The conditions that created Ferguson cannot be addressed without remedying a century of public policy that segregated our metropolitan landscape. Remedies are unlikely if we fail to recognize these policies and how their effects have endured.

Jeannie Kaplan reports here on Jonathan Kozol’s recent visit to Denver. Denver is a city that has become totally devoted to corporate style “reform” for a decade. Now the corporate reformers own the entire school board plus they have a U.S. Senator Michael Bennett.

Kaplan shows how Kozol’s message explains corporate reform, now deeply embedded in Denver:

“THE SHAME OF THE NATION shows how the business model has become the blueprint for education “reform.” Education “reformers” use business jargon to describe their activities: “rewards and sanctions,” “return on investment,” “time management,” “college and career ready,” “maximizing proficiency,” “outcomes,” “rigorous,” “managers and officers,” “evaluation,” “accountability,” “portfolios of schools” (like a portfolio of stocks – get rid of the losers, keep the winners).

“Mr. Kozol describes the infiltration of business into education this way:

“Business leaders tell urban school officials…that what they need the schools to give them are “team players.”…Team players may well be of great importance to the operation of a business corporation and are obviously essential in the military services; but a healthy nation needs it future poets, prophets, ribald satirists, and maddening iconoclasts at least as much as it needs people who will file in a perfect line to an objective they are told they cannot question.” (p. 106)

“Here is how Denver Public Schools has adopted this business tenet. Every email sent by a DPS employee is signed and sent with the statement at the bottom, My name is Jeannie Kaplan, I’m from Youngstown, Ohio… and I play for DPS!

“Further business verbiage: In DPS principals are no longer principals but building CEOs or building managers. At the district level there is a chief executive officer, a chief financial officer, a chief operating officer, a chief academic officer, a chief strategic officer, and within the school buildings themselves there are managers for everything under the sun. You get the picture. And with all of these managers and officers DPS has witnessed increases in facility and resource imbalances and increases in segregation while academics have remained stagnant. Corporate reform is a failure in the United States. But politics, money and lies will not allow it to go quietly into the night, and Denver’s students and communities are paying the price.”

Kozol’s message is the opposite if corporate reform:

“We now have an apartheid curriculum . Because teachers and principals in the inner city are so test driven, inner city children who are mostly students of color are not allowed to have their voices heard through stories and questions, while white students are given that flexibility, opportunity and creativity.

“Test preparation is driving out child centered learning. Testing mania has become a national psychosis, driven by business.

“Racial isolation/segregation which does terrible damage to young people, is on the rise. In SHAME, education analyst Richard Rothstein points out how important it is for children of color to become comfortable in the majority culture and how devastating this new segregation is in the long term: “It is foolhardy to think black children can be taught no matter how well, in isolation and then have the skills and confidence as adults to succeed in a white world where they have no experience.” (p. 229). That Tuesday night Mr. Kozol referred to the new segregation as a “theological abomination.”

“And finally, of course, Mr. Kozol believes small class size, enriched curricula, and equitable resources and facilities would offer an equitable education for all children. This recent article in the Huffington Post clearly and disturbingly describes the safety and health hazards brought into Chicago public schools because business has invaded public schools. Bugs, moldy bread, trash left for days, leaks left unfixed. You can bet the East coast decision makers who are driving this “reform” did not attend schools under these conditions.”

The Forward Institute completed a study of school finance in Wisconsin and concluded that the state does not provide equality of opportunity to the neediest children.

The study is called “Segregation of Opportunity.”

“The study concluded the following:

1. The school funding system is depriving many Wisconsin children and communities the resources they need to provide equal educational opportunities; these same communities are being forced to increase property taxes just to provide the basics. The situation has gotten worse over time.

2. Because of the unfair funding formula, the more high needs students (poverty, special needs, English language learners) a school district has, the less educational opportunities that are available to all children in that district.

3. The inequality of opportunity between different types of school districts with different student populations and community wealth has been getting worse over time – leaving more of our children and communities behind.

4. High poverty schools have significantly lower revenue limits, which deprive them of critical funding for educational opportunities. This negative effect is getting worse over time.

“The Heart of the Matter

“The final conclusion is that the system is not meeting its obligations, as shown between gaps in per pupil
funding and spending, resulting in a child’s educational opportunities being determined by where he/she lives.

“Ultimately what the study reveals is that Wisconsin’s funding formula no longer adequately funds all school
districts,” stated AEF President John Gaier. “This has resulted in widening gaps of opportunities for students
and communities. Low property value communities are shouldering a greater burden for funding local
school districts. A better funding system is needed for Wisconsin school students to have the opportunities
needed for them to be college and career ready, regardless of life circumstances or the community in which
they live.”

Inda Schaenen is an eighth grade English language arts teacher at Normandy Middle School in Ferguson, Missouri. She writes in Education Week about how students were affected by the death of Michael Brown and how she as a teacher was affected.

School started nine days after the shooting.

“Even before the shooting and the dramatic aftermath broadcast around the world, our district was accustomed to being and bearing bad news. Normandy is a poor, predominantly African-American community beset by challenges in housing, employment, and access to social, emotional, and physical health care.

“In January 2013, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education stripped the Normandy school system of its accreditation. The district consequently lost close to 25 percent of its students (and related education funding) to a transfer program that was upheld by the Missouri Supreme Court. Then, on July 1 of this year, the state board of education officially took over the Normandy district; meanwhile, the transfer program’s fate continues to play out in the state courts….

“I was assigned to teach 8th grade language arts; I now work in circumstances that daily, even hourly, challenge the most seasoned of the seasoned veterans. Middle school teaching is a new experience for me, and my learning curve is beyond steep; it’s a cliff. In rock-climbing terms, I am “crack climbing”-locating available seams, trying any grip, using all of who I am to gain purchase during my ascent. I am working 18 hours a day.”

The tragedy is the background and often in the foreground of school.

She writes:

“Will I be able to make what happens in my classroom so compelling that these children will feel it’s worth their time to come in and take a seat alongside the 32 others in my classroom?

“Now, factor in the shooting, followed by the protests, the looting, the hyper-militarized reaction to the protests and looting, and the local reaction to the reaction. Many of our students showed up at school traumatized; teachers, too. The granddaughter of one of my colleagues was related to Michael Brown. Another staff member was his great-aunt. In many ways, north St. Louis County is one community….

“Since Aug. 9, there is the unspoken but ever-present awareness, especially among the boys, that life can end in a flash, even for the kids-like Michael Brown-who manage to navigate the system and graduate…..

“Over and over, I assure my students that I will not leave. That I am here for them. That principals and teachers are working together to figure out how to get our school right, or at least more right…..

Are we as a society willing to address the needs of these children, these communities? The answer seems to be no. We want them to have higher scores, and the state will punish their teachers if they don’t get higher scores. But we refuse to address or acknowledge the conditions in which they live, or our obligation to change them.”

Paul Horton, who teaches history at the University of Chicago Lab School, took his son on a visit to the Delta.

There they went to historical exhibits that were reminders if a brutal past. Reminders of slavery, the Ku Klux Klan, racial subjugation, and resistance to oppression. You won’t read this in the textbooks.

The Chicago choice system works exactly as every choice system works: It segregates students by ability.

“But a new WBEZ analysis shows an unintended consequence of the choice system: students of different achievement levels are being sorted into separate high schools.

“WBEZ analyzed incoming test scores for freshmen from the fall of 2012, the most recent year data is available. That year, the district mandated that every high school give students an “EXPLORE” exam about a month into the school year.

“The 26,340 scores range from painfully low to perfect.

“WBEZ found few schools in the city enroll the full span of students. Instead, low-scoring students and high-scoring students in particular are attending completely different high schools. Other schools enroll a glut of average kids.”

And more:

“The findings raise some of the same long-running questions educators have debated about the academic and social implications of in-school tracking. But they also raise questions about whether the city’s school choice system is actually creating better schools, or whether it’s simply sorting certain students out and leaving the weakest learners in separate, struggling schools.

WBEZ’s analysis shows:

Serious brain drain. The city’s selective “test-in” high schools — among the best in the state — capture nearly all the top students in the school system. There were 104 kids who scored a perfect 25 on the EXPLORE exam. One hundred of them — 96 percent — enrolled in just six of the city’s 130 high schools (Northside, Whitney Young, Payton, Lane, Lincoln Park, and Jones). In fact, 80 percent of perfect scorers went to just three schools. Among the city’s top 2 percent of test takers (those scoring a 23, 24, or 25 on their exam), 87 percent are at those same six schools. Chicago has proposed creating an 11th selective enrollment high school, Barack Obama College Prep, to be located in the same area as the schools already attracting the city’s top performers.

“Clustering of low-performing students. Fifteen percent of the city’s high schools are populated with vastly disproportionate numbers of low-performing students. More than 80 percent of incoming students at these schools score below the district average. The schools enroll 10 percent of all Chicago high school students.
Black students are most likely to be affected by sorting. WBEZ’s analysis shows African American students are doubly segregated, first by race, then by achievement. Of the 40 most academically narrow schools in Chicago, 34 of them are predominantly black. Even though just 40 percent of students in the public schools are African American, Chicago has black high schools for low achievers, black high schools for average kids, black test-in high schools for high achievers.
Within neighborhoods, more sorting. Schools within a particular community may appear to be attracting the same students demographically, but WBEZ finds significant sorting by achievement. Especially in neighborhoods on the South and West sides, the comprehensive neighborhood high school has become a repository for low performers; nearby charters or other new schools are attracting far greater percentages of above-average kids.”

Some reform.

Courtney Bowie is a senior staff attorney with the ACLU Racial Justice Program. In this article, she describes the ACLU’s efforts to stop discrimination against students with disabilities in Wisconsin’s voucher program. Privatization, she says, is promoting segregation and rolling back decades of legal advances for students of color and students with disabilities.

 

In Wisconsin and elsewhere, voucher supporters have fought efforts by the U.S. Department of Justice to oversee their voucher programs.

 

Bowie writes:

 

There are now over 20 states and the District of Columbia that use public funds to subsidize private school enrollment, whether it’s a tax credit for parents of students attending private schools or voucher programs, like the one in Wisconsin, that give a student a taxpayer-funded voucher worth a certain amount to pay private school tuition. These programs are touted as giving poor students, often in so-called “failing districts,” the same “choice” that wealthy students have. In Wisconsin and Indiana, these programs are springing up statewide and in public school districts that are not failing. The argument that these programs are an escape from failing school districts is rapidly falling apart as more and more programs are statewide and aimed at decreasing the tuition costs of students’ families who already can afford private schools.

 

As these public subsidies for private schools expand throughout the country, the civil rights umbrella available to public school students is at risk of folding. In some states like Georgia and Alabama, private schools benefiting from voucher or tax credit programs were founded as segregation academies to thwart federal integration efforts. While the program in Milwaukee and its school district serve almost entirely students of color, as “school choice” spreads around the country, the stage is set for these programs to become even more exclusionary and segregated. If states and local communities permit this to continue, they will cement the public funding of separate schools for only select groups of students, which evidence shows will disproportionately exclude racial minorities, students with disabilities, religious minorities, and LGBT students. This flies in the face of what we have known for the 60 years since Brown v. Board of Education — separate is not equal….

 

Voucher supporters in Wisconsin say Washington has declared war on them when it’s clear the Justice Department only wants to ensure school privatization doesn’t undermine the hard-fought gains of educational equity in the places most historically resistant to it. The only logical conclusion from this response is that voucher supporters fear oversight and want to continue to operate in a civil rights vacuum.

 

If that is their fear, then we know what the true purpose of Wisconsin’s voucher program is. It is to create segregated school systems, both in terms of race and in terms of disability. The result is a public school district deprived of the resources to educate its students and left with those most difficult to educate.

 

Stopping this from getting even worse would be a war worth fighting.

 

 

 

 

[I am reposting this because the original post earlier today seems to have disappeared.]

Sixty years after the landmark Brown decision, school segregation is on the rise. The nation marks the anniversary of the decision every ten years but neglects its promise to end racial segregation. One of the most egregious examples of malign neglect occurred recently in the Normandy school district in Missouri. That district had been a high-achieving all-white district in the 1950s. After years of white flight, the district became all-African-American. As its test scores fell, the state of Missouri put the district on provisional accreditation. Help was definitely not on the way. After 18 years of provisional accreditation, the state merged the struggling Normandy district with another struggling, all-black district that had been under state supervision for five years. After the merger, the new district was stripped of accreditation.

Dr. Stanton Lawrence, who wrote the post below, was appointed superintendent of the Normandy school district in 2008. At that time, it was the second lowest-performing district in the state of Missouri (98% African American students/94.5% poverty) and had been provisionally accredited for 15 years. Two years later, the State Board of Education merged Normandy with the only lower performing school district (100% African American students/98% poverty) in the state, Wellston School District and stripped Normandy of its accreditation two years later. Dr. Lawrence wrote me to say, “My understanding is that this has never happened anywhere else in the country. There was a much higher performing district adjoining Wellston, but there would have been an atomic explosion if the African American students had been sent to University City School District.” The new district, like the old one, will be nearly 100% African American.

Stanton Lawrence asks in this post, “Has the Brown v. Board of Education Decision Been Institutionally Annulled?” He describes the actions of the state of Missouri as “punitive disparity.” Did any civil rights organization sue the state of Missouri? No. Did the U.S. Department of Education intervene? No. Did Secretary of Education Arne Duncan use his bully pulpit to demand desegregation and support for the children in the Normandy School District? No. The children in this district were essentially written off by the state of Missouri, and no one cares. Where is the Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, Democrats for Education Reform, StudentsFirst, and Students Matter? Why aren’t the billionaires saving these children?

Stanton Lawrence writes:

On May 17, 1954, the United State Supreme Court handed down its historic decision in the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas, lawsuit. This landmark ruling stipulated that “de jure” segregation, racial separation that is required by law, could no longer exist in public schools. Further, the high court ruled that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal”. The reluctance of many southern school districts to enforce this new law resulted in many school districts receiving federal desegregation court orders mandating that they desegregate their schools. In recent years, despite Brown v. Board, many of these school districts have once again become more segregated than they were prior to 1965.

Nearly fifty-eight and one-half years later, on September 18, 2012, the Missouri State Board of Education decided to reclassify the Normandy School District as unaccredited. On its face, there was nothing unusual about the decision. The school district had been provisionally accredited for nearly eighteen years, and the dismal academic performance of its students was largely to blame. One could certainly make a strong case that the time had arrived for the state board of education to take meaningful action and send a clear message that a change was imperative if Normandy students were indeed deserving of a high quality educational experience.

But what was kept strangely quiet during the two hours of deliberations preceding the Missouri State Board of Education’s vote was the fact that only two years earlier, this same Board decided to merge a failed school district into the Normandy School District. That fact was never mentioned even once, almost as though it had never happened. The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education had exercised oversight of the Wellston School District for five years. When the state determined that there was insufficient progress in Wellston, they decided to lapse the school district and merge it into the similarly struggling Normandy School District.

Again, the decision would have been considered unremarkable, however, with a couple of critical exceptions. Every student in the Wellston School District was African American, and ninety-eight percent of those students received free or reduced price lunch, the federal threshold for determining poverty. In fact, Wellston was the only school district in the state of Missouri that was 100% African-American. Ninety-eight percent of Normandy’s students were African-American, and ninety-four and one-half percent of those students were from impoverished families. In essence, both communities were experiencing concentrated poverty and racial segregation. Was this decision made to effectively segregate the students in both school districts?

Not surprisingly, a trend line of longitudinal academic data of all school districts in the state of Missouri, when juxtaposed on a trend line reflecting the percentage of African American students from impoverished families in each school district, offers some distressing reflections. There is a near perfect match which reflects that the school districts with the highest percentage of impoverished African American students were performing least well on the state assessment. One can easily make a relatively compelling argument that the state could have easily projected that the Normandy-Wellston merger would, in essence, be disastrous from the outset and that it would not turn out well for any of the students involved.

The decision of the Missouri State Board of Education becomes problematic at best when one considers that no state board of education in any state has ever made a decision to attach two failing school districts (both characterized by concentrated poverty) as a remedy for poor performance. Routinely, such a decision would involve merging the failed school district with one that is performing quite well academically and, at the same time, a school district that is fiscally viable. A fitting example is the recent merger of the North Forest Independent School District (Texas) into the Houston Independent School District. In September, 2013, the Houston system received the $1 million Broad Prize for Urban Education, which implies that it is the best urban school district in the nation. It would have been nearly impossible for the poor academic performance of 5,500 students from North Forest to adversely impact the progress of Houston’s 203,000 students.

In essence, what has occurred is indeed a disturbing political precedent. In the 1950s, Normandy School District was one of the preeminent school districts in the state of Missouri. Concentrated poverty was not on the horizon, and not one African American learner attended school in the district. However, the white flight trend that occurred in the seventies in suburban communities across the country signaled dramatic residential shifts in the racial makeup of the school district. Normandy alumni who graduated prior to the 1950s have an extremely difficult time identifying with the circumstances that prevail in the district today. A front page headline in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on May 5, 2013 proclaimed in two inch-high letters, Normandy High: The Most Dangerous School in the Area. The school reform of punitive disparity in the form of the Missouri State Board of Education proclaimed that the Normandy School District would be closed, effective June 30, 2014.

In this article, veteran journalist Dale Mezzacappa reviews the tumult in Philadelphia and interviews people who have known the issues for 20 years or more. Given the high poverty in the district and the state’s neglect, not much has changed for the better.

Mezzacappa says there are more choices than ever. But the district is in terrible trouble:

“The state took over the District’s governance. Charter schools proliferated. Dozens of neighborhood schools were closed, including such landmarks as the 99-year-old Germantown High.

“Despite the state takeover, the District’s financial condition has only become more desperate.

“State and federal pressure to intervene in schools with consistently subpar performance mounted; standardized testing became the major driver of school rankings. “

“All these changes have happened within larger shifts – demographic, political, social, and economic. Philadelphia has become the country’s most impoverished big city, with 13 percent of residents – an astonishing 200,000 people – living in deep poverty, or on less than $9,700 for a household of three.”

“As income and wealth inequality have worsened, the dividing lines in this region by race and income are starker than ever. Philadelphia school enrollment is mostly Black and Hispanic and low-income, while the surrounding districts are mostly White and middle- or high-income. Spending gaps between wealthier and poorer districts have never been bigger. Philadelphia schools struggle harder to overcome the effects of concentrated poverty – all while the District’s funding base has crumbled.”

Now charters and district schools compete for limited funds. Schools are stripped to bare essentials.

Read what the veterans say.

Lots of reform. Not much progress.

The Chicago Teachers Union reacts to the Vergara decision in California. Here is the key quote:

“If we really want to improve public education, let’s provide all children the financial and social resources that children in David Welch’s home of Atherton, CA, the most expensive zip code in the US, have. Then we need to let teachers, the real experts in curriculum and instruction, do their work without fear that they could lose their jobs at any time for any reason.”

CTU Statement on California Tenure Decision

It must be nice to be a wealthy tech mogul like David Welch. When you want to “prove” a theory, you just go get someone else’s kids to be the guinea pigs. When you want to “prove” a theory, you conveniently omit the most relevant and direct causes of harm. Such was the case in this week’s California lawsuit decision against tenure for teachers. Fortunately, our Constitution and legal system have clear protections for speech and structured processes for appeal so that we non-billionaires have an opportunity to air the facts.

Teacher laws vary from state to state, and so the ruling in California is not automatically a blueprint for changes in states like Illinois. Despite a recent law that makes tenure much more difficult to acquire in Illinois, the myth that tenure equals a permanent job persists. In fact, teacher tenure is not a guarantee of lifetime employment. Tenure provides protection from capricious dismissal and a process for improving unsatisfactory practice, but as in any job, teachers can be dismissed for serious misconduct. Further, as we have seen in California and Illinois, persistent budget “crises” stemming from insufficient revenue generation have decimated the teaching profession.

Contrary to popular belief, the school boards routinely dismiss teachers. Deep budget cuts have savaged the teaching corps, either through probationary teacher non-renewals or tenured teacher lay-offs. Fully half of all teachers leave the profession within their first five years, either because of the difficulty of the work or job insecurity. And for those who do stay, lay-offs are a constant threat, even to the most highly decorated, talented, and dedicated teachers. One Chicago Public School teacher was laid-off three times in a little more than a year. A holder of National Board Certification, the highest certification a teacher can have, he left the profession because of the tumult, and his students at multiple South Side high schools lost out on the opportunity to work with a highly qualified and dedicated public servant. Far from “obtaining and retaining permanent employment”, in the words of Judge Rolf Treu, tenure provided my colleague with no long-term job protection.

Judge Treu also misinterpreted the real causes of discrimination against low-income students of color. Teacher tenure does not cause low student achievement. Rather, the root causes of differences in student performance have to do with structural differences in schools. Omitted from his decision are the impacts of concentrated poverty, intense segregation, skeletal budgets, and so-called “disruptive innovation” that have been at the heart of urban school districts for decades. Scripted curricula, overuse and misuse of standardized testing, school closures and school turnarounds, and the calculated deprivation of resources are the real reasons low-income students of color face discrimination. So-called reformers like David Welch and Arne Duncan push those policies. In other words, the new “reform” status quo has made worse the problem it purports to fix.

If we really want to improve public education, let’s provide all children the financial and social resources that children in David Welch’s home of Atherton, CA, the most expensive zip code in the US, have. Then we need to let teachers, the real experts in curriculum and instruction, do their work without fear that they could lose their jobs at any time for any reason.

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