Politico speculates that the Trump administration will get rid of the Office of Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education. This would satisfy the hard-right, which has always objected to federal enforcement of civil rights laws. If it is not abolished outright, it might be handed over to someone who is opposed to civil rights enforcement, which seems to be an emerging pattern in Trump’s hires. The Office then might exist to cancel out existing federal enforcement activities.
THE OFFICE FOR CIVIL RIGHTS’ LAST HURRAH? The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, which could be on the chopping block once Donald Trump takes office, is celebrating its work over the last eight years – a period in which it became significantly more aggressive than ever before. The office has cracked down on colleges that mishandle sexual assault allegations and used Title IX, a federal law that prohibits discrimination based on sex, to protect the right of transgender students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice – an issue now headed to the Supreme Court. The department this morning is releasing two new reports highlighting its work under the Obama administration at a celebration in D.C.
– The highlights: The office has been flooded with complaints during the Obama administration – more than 76,000 in all, with each year seeing more than the last. It has settled 66,000 of them. That work has been done with a near record-low staff of 563 full-time employees. The office had about 1,100 staff in 1981, according to the report. “Much progress has been made in the past eight years, but much work remains to ensure all children enjoy equitable access to excellence in American education,” U.S. Education Secretary John B. King Jr. said in a statement. “These two reports highlight the ongoing vital necessity of OCR’s work to eliminate discriminatory barriers to educational opportunity so our nation’s students may realize their full potential.”
– But the office faces an uncertain future. Civil rights groups say they’re “deeply concerned” that the extension of civil rights protections to gay and transgender students by the Obama administration will be dismantled by Betsy DeVos, who Trump has tapped to lead the Education Department. DeVos’ family has a long history of supporting anti-gay causes, POLITICO previously reported. Trump’s surrogates, meanwhile, have said there’s no need to have an Office for Civil Rights, period.
– Schools remain hostile environments for LGBT students, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch, a group that advocates for LGBT rights. The group conducted in-depth interviews with students, parents, teachers and administrators in Alabama, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas and Utah and found that in many schools “discriminatory policies and practices exacerbate the sense of exclusion students face.” Teachers still fear for their jobs if they identify as gay or support LGBT students, according to the report. Students in same-sex couples said they were discouraged – or even prohibited – from attending events as a couple. Many schools censor discussions about LGBT topics, and eight states restrict discussions of LGBT topics in schools, according to the report.
– The Office for Civil Rights has also become a watchdog over colleges that mishandle investigations of sexual assault on campus. This week alone, the office opened four new investigations, bringing the list of schools currently under investigation to 219. OCR is also currently investigating some high-profile cases, such as the sexual assault cover-up by coaches and administrators at Baylor University that led the Texas school to demote its president and fire its star football coach.
Politico also reports on the latest from two rightwing groups that have established themselves as gatekeepers of the teaching profession, although they themselves have no credentials or authority, other than wealth:
REPORT: TEACHER PREP PROGRAMS MAKE PROGRESS: Nearly 900 programs preparing elementary school teachers are showing “significant progress,” particularly when it comes to how reading instruction is taught. That’s according to a new National Council on Teacher Quality review. But programs aren’t selective – a little more than a quarter of programs draw aspiring teachers from the top half of college-goers based on GPA or SAT/ACT scores, the report says. Still, programs have improved their selectivity over the years, and programs that are selective have also shown they’re diverse. More.
– Speaking of teachers, the Fordham Institute finds that it’s still really difficult to remove an ineffective teacher from the classroom after a decade of teacher evaluation reform. In 17 out of 25 districts studied, “state law still allows teachers to earn tenure and keep it regardless of performance.” And in most districts, an ineffective teacher’s dismissal is “extremely vulnerable” to appeal, the report says.
Comment: NCTQ’s standards of quality for teacher education programs is whether they are faithfully teaching the Common Core standards. Wonder if they will stick to that criterion in the age of Trump? Their definition of good reading instruction is phonics. Their judgments are not based on campus visits, but on reading catalogs and websites.
TBF, of course, judges teacher “effectiveness” by test scores, or value-added measurement, a method that has been debunked by scholarly associations like the American Statistical Association.