Archives for category: Segregation

This is quite a remarkable admission. Nicholas Kristof writes today in the New York Times that the “reform” efforts have “peaked.” I read that and the rest of the column to mean that they have failed to make a difference. Think of it: Bill Gates, the Walton family, Eli Broad, Wendy Kopp, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, Florida Governor Rick Scott, Ohio Governor John Kasich, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, President George W. Bush, President Barack Obama, Michelle Rhee, Campbell Brown, and a host of other luminaries have been singing the same song for the past 15 years: Our schools are broken, and we can fix them with charters, vouchers, high-stakes testing, merit pay, elimination of unions, elimination of tenure, and rigorous efforts to remove teachers who can’t produce ever-rising test scores.

Despite the billions of dollars that the federal government, the states, and philanthropies have poured into this formula, it hasn’t worked, says Kristof. It is time to admit it and to focus instead on the early years from birth to kindergarten.

He writes:

For the last dozen years, waves of idealistic Americans have campaigned to reform and improve K-12 education.

Armies of college graduates joined Teach for America. Zillionaires invested in charter schools. Liberals and conservatives, holding their noses and agreeing on nothing else, cooperated to proclaim education the civil rights issue of our time.

Yet I wonder if the education reform movement hasn’t peaked.

The zillionaires are bruised. The idealists are dispirited. The number of young people applying for Teach for America, after 15 years of growth, has droppedfor the last two years. The Common Core curriculum is now an orphan, with politicians vigorously denying paternity.

K-12 education is an exhausted, bloodsoaked battlefield. It’s Agincourt, the day after. So a suggestion: Refocus some reformist passions on early childhood.

Wow! That is exactly what I wrote in “Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools,” along with recommendations for reduced class sizes, a full curriculum, a de-emphasis on high-stakes testing, a revival of public policies to reduce poverty and segregation, and a recommitment to the importance of public education.

When I look at the Tea Party legislature in North Carolina or the hard-right politicians in the Midwest or the new for-profit education industry, I don’t think of them as idealistic but as ideologues. Aside from that, I think that Kristof gives hope to all those parents and teachers who have been working for years to stop these ideologues from destroying public education. Yes, it should be improved, it must be improved. There should be a good public school in every neighborhood, regardless of zip code. But that won’t happen unless our leaders dedicate themselves to changing the conditions in which families and children live so that all may have equal opportunity in education and in life.

This article is a brilliant essay by Bard College President Leon Botstein about the democratic and civic purposes of education.

 

It begins thus:

 

The initial motivations for the movement challenging the monopoly of public schools were ultimately ones of prejudice: White parents did not want their children to attend schools that were attended by blacks. This logic was then sanitized by appeals to religious liberty, insofar as parents fleeing integration attached themselves to religious movements. Evangelicals and observant Jews did not want their children to go to schools that idealized acculturation and assimilation into a secular society whose character promoted “godlessness.” The constituencies that wanted to circumvent integration allied themselves with those who resisted the separation of church and state. And no doubt, since school quality is dependent on local property taxes, the poorer the neighborhood, the worse the schools, making a mockery of the idea that public education was an instrument of social mobility for the disadvantaged. As the quality and extent of a person’s education increasingly determined his or her employment and income, the failures of public education became increasingly glaring, making the defense of public schools implausible.

 

The end result of these forces has been the elevation of privatization and the abandonment of the ideal of the common public school. Privatization and diversification have become the dominant objectives of school reform.

 

This is a bizarre turn of events. The nice way of looking at this development is to concede, “Well, privatization is a way we can actually confront the failings of the public schools.” I agree that American schools are not what they might be. But they never were. The reconciliation of excellence and equity was never achieved in the United States, and certainly not after the Second World War, when the rate of high school attendance climbed to 75 percent. But high academic standards had not been their primary purpose. Their purpose was basic literacy (essential for a now-extinct manufacturing economy) and the creation of a common national identity out of diverse groups. Following the glass-half-empty, half-full image, one could argue that the achievements of post-World War II public education were remarkable.

 

The standards of American schools haven’t fallen if one considers that only after the end of the Second World War did the rate of high school completion surpass 50 percent. Before that, only a minority earned a high school diploma. So the project of attempting to educate 70 percent, 80 percent, perhaps 100 percent of Americans in a single system was never really tried until the 1960s. And even then, when it was about to be actually tried, the public system came under attack, thereby proving that if one wished to make public schools really democratic and excellent, it was going to be very hard indeed.

 

No other large, heterogeneous industrial nation has ever attempted the American ideal of a unitary democratic school system for all. And now, as the demand for unskilled labor decreases, the minimum standards of education have become higher and more rigorous. But privatization is now popular because many are saying that we ought not attempt to create such a universal democratic system, and that it is a poorly conceived and implausible ideal. Not only that, but the argument goes that since government is widely believed to be notoriously terrible when it comes to providing public goods, it may be better to deliver education through the private sector in a context similar to market competition in commerce.

 

I happen to think that the privatization of American education and the abandonment of public education is a strike against the very idea of democracy. It favors the rich even more than the recalcitrant inequities created by neighborhoods. And the fact that there is so little opposition to it, particularly among the privileged, is frightening to me. Not surprisingly, if one surveys the philanthropy of hedge-fund owners and Internet millionaires, the favorite charity of the fabled 1 percent is the funding of alternatives to ordinary public schools. That’s the idea every newly minted possessor of great wealth loves: the reduction of taxes—particularly taxes for public education—and the privatization of the American school. It has therefore become fashionable to attack teachers in the public system. Union-bashing is popular. And the unions, in turn, have not distinguished themselves as advocates of educational excellence. But have we ever addressed the question, as a matter of public policy, of who in fact our teachers are? Who now goes into teaching? Who has actually tried to do something to improve the quality of those who take on teaching in public schools as a career? Have we as a nation ever sought to recruit, train, and retain gifted teachers properly?”

 

Please read it all.

A post yesterday reported that Florida is considering eliminating district lines so that students may choose to attend any public school, so long as there is space available and parents provide transportation. Michigan has such a system, and districts spend millions of dollars advertising to “poach” students from other districts because every new student means additional money.

 

As reader Chiara points out, Ohio has the same system, and it has intensified racial and economic segregation.

 

Open enrollment, which allows children to transfer from one school district to another, leads to widespread racial segregation and concentrates poverty in many of Ohio’s urban school districts, including Cleveland and Akron.
That’s one finding of a Beacon Journal study of more than 8,000 Ohio students who left city schools last year for an education in wealthier suburban communities.
The majority of students who participated in Ohio’s oldest school choice program are disproportionately white and middle class. Students attending the schools they left, however, are nearly twice as likely to be minority and seven times more likely to be poor.
The program gives parents the option to enroll children in nearby school districts without changing their home address. By doing so, parents must find their own transportation — an act that in itself narrows who is able to make the change.

 

Where is the NAACP, the Legal Defense Fund, the ACLU? If a state adopts a policy that demonstrably promotes segregation, shouldn’t someone sue them for knowingly enacting a program to segregate children by race and income?

New Jersey State Commissioner of Education David Hespe was appointed by Governor Chris Christie, which suggests that one should have low expectations for starters. But Jersey Jazzman decided to give him the benefit of the doubt, because at least he wasn’t Chris Cerf, who resigned to work for Joel Klein at Rupert Murdoch’s company.

 

But when Hespe approved the expansion of a charter school in Hoboken, claiming that it would have no segregative effect on the public schools, JJ couldn’t believe that Hespe could say this with a straight claim. JJ shows that the charter schools in Hoboken do not serve the same population as those in the public schools: they are whiter and more advantaged. Of course, the expansion of the Hoboken Dual Language School would have a segregative effect! JJ lays out the facts and figures.

 

JJ warns:

 

The charter school community’s claims to the moral high ground are null and void when Hoboken’s charter school expansion is based on the distortions found in Hespe’s letter. He and his department have turned a blind eye to the real and serious effects of the charters on the city’s school district.

 

In doing so, Hespe and his top brass at the NJDOE show they are ideologues, uninterested in a rational assessment of the consequences of their policies. And, again, it’s not just charter schools: PARCC, One Newark, the state superintendents, and all the other issues before this department are not being evaluated with rigorous, evidence-based methods.

 

I had high hopes for David Hespe; they have now been dashed. Hunker down, New Jersey: when it comes to the NJDOE, things won’t get better before they get worse.

 

 

Alabama became the 43rd state to endorse the creation of privately managed, publicly funded charter schools.

In average, charter schools do not get better academic results than public schools and are usually more segregated than public schools.

Dora Taylor, public education activist in Seattle, can’t understand why two elected officials want to split Seattle into two school districts that are likely to intensify racial segregation.

 

For Dora Taylor, this is personal:

 

“I feel very strongly about this bill because my dad had no other choice but to live in the Central District when he was growing up in Seattle because of a city covenant that did not allow African-Americans to live outside of a boundary determined by the city. That meant little opportunity for my dad to grow beyond that border. He was fortunate enough to have a high school coach, at Franklin High School, who saw his talent and with his coach’s help, my dad, Brice Taylor, was one of the first three African-American students to attend the University of Southern California even against the wishes of the college president, but that’s another story.

 

“My dad went on to become the First All American at USC in football and that opened doors for him. Not everyone had that kind of opportunity. That’s why, what I term the Apartheid Bill, hits home for me. Some people find fault in my use of the term “Apartheid” but that is how I perceive it, through my lens.

 

“The Seattle Public School system reverted back to neighborhood schools not long ago which re-segregated our schools. Then with transportation cuts, it became even more difficult for students to attend special programs outside of their neighborhoods.

 

“Now, Representatives Sharon Tomiko Santos and Eric Pettigrew want to split the city in half along racial lines again, through legislation, into two separate school districts, separate but not equal. This is why politicians should not determine education policy. Either they don’t know enough to make an informed decision or they are following through on a donor’s agenda.”

The National Education Policy Center regularly reviews reports from think tanks and advocacy groups. In this report, its scholars review an effort by charter school advocates to defend charter schools against critics. The conclusion: charters promote privatization and segregation.

“National Charter School Report Misleading and Superficial, Review Finds”

Contact:
Gary Miron, (269) 599-7965, gary.miron@wmich.edu
Daniel Quinn, (517) 203-2940, dquinn@greatlakescenter.org

EAST LANSING, Mich. (Feb. 23, 2015) — A report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) attempted to “separate fact from fiction” about charter schools. The report addressed 21 “myths” regarding charter schools, which were quickly rejected. However, an academic review of the report finds that it perpetuated its own myths and fictions about charter schools rather than adding to the discourse surrounding school choice.

The report, Separating Fact and Fiction: What You Need to Know about Charter Schools, was assembled by NAPCS with no author identified. Gary Miron, Western Michigan University, William J. Mathis, University of Colorado Boulder, and Kevin G. Welner, University of Colorado Boulder, reviewed the report for the Think Twice think tank review project of the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) with funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.

Succinctly, the original report addressed various claims about charter schools in such areas as financial equality of charter schools, lower teacher qualifications, student selection demographics, academic outcomes, segregation, and innovation.

Yet, the reviewers found that the report’s main purpose appears to be the “repetition or ‘spinning’ of claims voiced by advocacy groups and think tanks that promote privatization and school choice.” Furthermore, the reviewers found that it relied almost exclusively on advocacy documents rather than more careful and balanced empirical research, and provides only a superficial examination of any “criticisms” regarding charter schools.l

The review is organized in a format that lists each of the criticisms identified, and then provides a short commentary based on the extant research literature. Where the original document overlooked research evidence, the reviewers provide readers with a valuable tool to examine charter school criticisms.

Additionally, the reviewers find that the report fails to redirect the sector toward its original ideals, “Charter schools were originally designed to be a new form of public school. They were supposed to be small, locally run, innovative and highly accountable. They were supposed to be open to all and were expected to provide new freedoms to teachers to creatively innovate and serve their communities.”

Instead, the reviewers point out the most disappointing non-myth that comes out of the research: “In reality, the main outcomes of charter schools have been to promote privatization and accelerated the stratification and re-segregation of schools.”

The reviewers conclude, this report is unlikely to be of any use to “the discerning policy-maker” and fails to engage the important underlying issues.

Read the full review at:
http://www.greatlakescenter.org
Find Separating Fact and Fiction on the web:
http://www.publiccharters.org/publications/separating-fact-fiction-public-charter-schools/
Think Twice, a project of the National Education Policy Center, provides the public, policymakers and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. The project is made possible by funding from the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice.
The review can also be found on the NEPC website:
http://nepc.colorado.edu

Daniel S. Katz of Serin Hall University explains here why the New York Times is wrong about the value of annual standardized testing.

The editorial acknowled that there is too much testing, but failed to acknowledge that this condition is the result of federal mandates. It credits the high-stakes testing regime with higher achievement but doesn’t recognize that test scores increased faster before NCLB.

It is hard to believe that the Néw York Times editorial board is so out of touch with parents, students, teachers, and the realities of school.

This video, shown on PBS, documents a wonderful story: Two high schools in Birmingham, Alabama, collaborate to produce “To Kill a Mockingbird.” One high school is all-black, the other is all-white. We are reminded that desegregation peaked in the 1980s, according to the UCLA Civil Rights Project.

 

The video shows high school students working together to present the play. The video devotes more time to the historical setting of the book, the realities of life in Birmingham and the segregated South than to the production. This is not a disadvantage but a strength because the play and the novel are set in time. The video includes film footage of the segregated South in the 1930s (which the book portrays) and the 1950s (when the book was written and the civil rights movement was on the march). It includes film footage of civil rights protests in Birmingham, when the police loosed dogs on black demonstrators. It interviews black and white adults about life under segregation. It includes clips from the film that starred Gregory Peck and home-made films from local families. It interviews the actors who appeared in the 1962 film and the students who appear in the play today. It raises the irony of white families who trusted black servants to raise their children yet would not allow black children to attend the local schools or universities.

 

It is a must-see, partly for the ideas of the play, but mostly for its realistic portrayal of segregation then and now and for the reactions of today’s students. It is an important story about our history, our past and our present.

Yohuru Williams, a professor of history at Fairfield University, marks the 50th anniversary of the death of Malcolm X by revisiting the cultural and racial biases that robbed him of his dreams.

Williams argues that black students today are labeled and stigmatized by test scores as surely as Malcolm was labeled and disparaged because of his race.

Williams writes:

“It is the kind of racial determinism that many students of color have become accustomed to. Proponents of high stakes testing resurrect such determinism, presumably without the racial overtones, by reducing students, their hopes and dreams for the future, to test scores. Effectively, they close the door to the hope of achievement through hard work and academic engagement…..

“In shrinking students’ lives to test scores, the opportunity for them to dream and achieve beyond the arbitrary measures of intelligence offered by standardized tests will be lost. Coupled with punitive disciplinary policies, high stakes tests narrow the pathways to success for poor and minority youth even as they come neatly wrapped in the language of colorblind assessment.

“More significantly, testing will continue to feed, not eradicate the real great civil rights issue of our time; the growing school to prison pipeline, which like a malignant cancer, continues to eat away at the fabric of many inner cities by robbing students of their future…..”

“Rather than acknowledging the potential dangers posed by the adoption of high stakes assessments, testing’s proponents press forward heralding such evaluations as the best hope for a level playing field. In the same way that segregation laws limited opportunity under Jim Crow, high stakes testing has become one of the primary instruments of exclusion in support of what legal scholar Michelle Alexander has termed the New Jim Crow…..

“We are saddled with an education system that transforms believers in fairness and equality into staunch critics of a system that reduces the hopes and dreams of future generations to a score.”

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