Archives for category: Segregation

Valerie Strauss, veteran education writer at the Washington Post, interviewed me about my new book SLAYING GOLIATH. 

Her questions get to the heart of the book. I hope you will read the exchange.

Peter Greene writes that state officials in North Carolina keep getting embarrassed by the facts about their charter schools.

In 2016, when the first report came out, the state sent it back to have the data massaged because it turned out that charters were effectively resegregating the students in the state.

This year, a similar problem arose when it was time to release the annual report.

The charters are highly segregated, and their grades reflect which students enroll in them. (Surprise!)

It is a well-known fact that the demographics of a school predict its test scores.

Charter officials don’t like those facts. They want different facts. They are still trying to find a way to hide the reality of charters.

Greene writes:

North Carolina’s 2020 Annual Charter Schools Report has caused some consternation among members of the state’s Charter Schools Advisory Board (CSAB). They’ve seen the first draft and requested a rewrite, because, well, members of the public might become confused by the information that suggests Bad Things about North Carolina’s charter industry.

This is not the first time the issue has come up. Back in 2016 the Lt. Governor called the report “too negative” and pushed to have it made “more fair.” The report was not substantially changed– just more data added. But in 2016 it still showed that North Carolina’s charter schools mostly serve whiter, wealthier student bodies. This prompted a remarkable explanation:

Darrell Allison, president of Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, said that fact is simply a reflection of which families are applying to charters.

Well, yes. Education reform in North Carolina has been about crushing the teachers’ unions and teachers themselves,while also being aimed at enabling white flight and accelerating segregation. One might be inclined to deduce that they hope to set up a spiffy private system for whiter, wealthier folks (including a corporate reserve-your-own-seats policy) along with vouchers, while simultaneously cutting the public system to the bone so that wealthy taxpayers don’t have to spend so much educating Those People’s Children. North Carolina has done plenty to earn a spot in the education policy hall of shame, enabled by some of the worst gerrymandering in the country.

But while NC legislators don’t seem to experience much shame over what they do, they sometimes worry about how they look (remember the great bathroom bill boycott of 2017). So now the charter report is going to be carefully whitewashed.

For instance, the report included a section about the racial impact of charter schools. But amid concerns that it might contain “misleading” wording that could be “blown out of proportion,” that section will apparently be removed. Regarding the report, ” I think it doesn’t actually represent what I believe to be true,” said Alex Quigley, chairman of the CSAB. “And given the choice between facts and the stuff I choose to believe, well, my beliefs and our charter marketing should come first.” Okay, I made up the last part, but that first part he totally said.

What data said is that 75% of charter schools have a white student enrollment that is more than 10% “off” from the surrounding district. Well over 50% of charters were off by more than 10% on black enrollment numbers. State law says that charters have to “reasonably reflect” the makeup of the district’s where they are located…

 

 

Matt Barnum and Gabrielle LaMarr LeMee wrote a provocative article  about the way that a private school rating agency rates schools and steers patents toward white affluent schools and away from schools where children of color predominate. Larry Cuban reposted the article on his blog.

GreatSchools ratings effectively penalize schools that serve largely low-income students and those serving largely black and Hispanic students, generally giving them significantly lower ratings than schools serving more affluent and more white and Asian students, a Chalkbeat analysis found.

And yet, according to GreatSchools’ own data, many schools serving low-income, black, and Hispanic populations are doing a good job helping students learn math and English. But those schools still face long odds of getting an above-average rating on GreatSchools — likely because their students are arriving far behind.

The result is a ubiquitous, privately run school ratings system that is steering people toward whiter, more affluent schools. A recent preliminary study found that as the site rolled out an earlier version of its ratings, areas with highly rated schools saw increases in home prices and rises in the number of white, Asian, and better-educated families. After three years, the study found, property values in those areas increased by nearly $7,000, making it more difficult for low-income families to buy into the areas.

Readers of this blog will not be surprised to learn that this rating service is funded in part by rightwing foundations that want to promote school choice and destroy neighborhood schools.  Most notable among the funders is the Walton Family Foundation, which despises public schools and eagerly promote charter schools and vouchers.

Fred Klonsky writes with amazement that Mayor Pete Buttigieg just realized that there are segregated schools in his hometown of South Bend.

He acknowledges that he was slow to come to this realization.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg told Reverend William Barber that he didn’t notice South Bend’s public schools were segregated.

Buttigieg is the mayor of South Bend.

“I have to confess that I was slow to realize — I worked for years under the illusion that our schools in my city were integrated… But what I slowly realized… if you looked at the county, almost all of the diversity of our youths was in a single school district,” Buttigieg said in an interview with Rev. William Barber III.

Yes. “All the diversity of our youths was in a single school district,” is a weird formulation.

But that he didn’t realize that integration was an illusion in his city?

Buttigieg is either a liar or suffers from too common a white blindspot.

In Indiana, more than 70 percent of black students attend a non-white majority school,

In 2015, several South Bend schools showed concentrated black enrollment, inconsistent with county racial realities.

The problem of racial segregation is a statewide problem in Indiana. There is much that is wrong in the Hoosier state, and the legislature doesn’t care.

Indiana doesn’t have a plan to combat segregation but it has a robust school choice program of charters and vouchers.

 

The Century Foundation is supposed to be a liberal foundation. I had numerous contacts with it when it was previously known as The Twentieth Century Fund. My most memorable experience involved my membership on a task force in 1983 or so, which prepared a critique of American education and the need for reform. For that era, our task force report was fairly run-of-the-mill. What was remarkable was that our staff director disagreed with the task force. He wrote a ringing defense of our public schools and took issue with the conclusions of the report. His name was Paul Petersen. He is now one of the leading critics of public schools, now one of the most widely published advocates for vouchers and charters. Well, we switched sides.

Fast forward to the present.

The Twentieth Century Fund is now the Century Fund. My ex-husband served on its board for many years. It has a reputation for its careful research and sober findings.

But last year, the Century Fund released a report about how charter schools can promote “diversity by design,” identifying 125 charter schools that promote diversity.

This raised eyebrows because charters have frequently been criticized for promoting segregation, most notably by the UCLA Center on Civil Rights.

The report was remarkable because it was funded by the Walton Family Foundation, the anti-union, pro-privatization foundation of the billionaires who own Walmart. The Waltons say they have funded one-fourth of all charters in the nation. Since when does a liberal think tank take funding from a rightwing foundation and deliver a product that supports their charter crusade?

Last year, a parent activist complained about the bias of the report. She wrote her commentary on Leonie Haimson’s parent blog. Haimson, introducing her comments, pointed out a big flaw in the study. She wrote: This list of 125 schools was selected from 5,692 charter schools – only a tiny number.  The methodology is also questionable.  The authors identify these schools by analyzing their enrollment, websites and survey responses from school leaders.  Though the Century Foundation sent their survey about diversity to 971 charter schools, only 86 responded – which means that nearly 40 schools were put on the list even though the school leaders couldn’t be bothered to answer their survey.

This year, the Century Foundation recently accepted a grant of $407,053 from the Gates Foundation “to support the Century Foundation in addressing misconceptions that charter schools exacerbate racial and socioeconomic segregation.”

Read the wording again. TCF is not being funded to inquire whether charter schools exacerbate segregation but to “address misconceptions” that they do. This is not research. It is a contract to provide support for an opinion that challenges the scholarship of people like Gary Orfield at UCLA and Helen Ladd at Duke.

 

 

 

If you want to understand what is happening in the Little Rock school District today, read Eric Blanc’s article. 

Eric Blanc has covered every one of the teachers’ strikes since the West Virginia strike in the spring of 2018. Now he is in Little Rock, where he interviewed teachers who went on strike yesterday to protest the State Board of Education’s heavy-handed control of the district and its decision to strip school employees of collective bargaining rights.

Teachers are outraged that the State Board of Education, which took control of the district in 2015, utterly failed to improve student outcomes, yet refuses to relinquish control to a democratically elected board. Teachers believe that the state wants to resegregate the district.

Blanc writes:

Little Rock teachers today are not demanding raises for themselves, but an end to the state’s push to resegregate schools, its takeover of their district, its decertification of their union, and its disrespect for school support staff. As second grade teacher Jenni White explains, “this is literally about standing up for our kids and not dividing our community…

The immediate roots of this week’s action go back to January 2015 when the Arkansas State Board of Education announced that it was taking over Little Rock’s schools due to low standardized test scores. By all accounts, the ensuing state takeover failed to accomplish its nominal goal of improving stability and educational opportunities for the town’s low-performing schools. Yet rather than return Little Rock School District to local control in 2020 as promised, the state board instead proposed in September of this year that it would continue to oversee so-called “F”-rated schools, those with the lowest test scores.

Since all but one of the “F” schools were in black and brown neighborhoods south of I-630, teachers and parents saw this an attempt to create a two-tier school system. “The plan was blatantly racist, it separated the haves and the have notes,” Jenni White told me.

In a dramatic protest on the evening of October 9, thousands of teachers, support staff, students, and community members congregated on the steps of Central High, where the Little Rock Nine had famously confronted the National Guard decades earlier. Teresa Knapp Gordon, president of the Little Rock Education Association (LREA), closed the rally with the following declaration: “Either we accept segregation, or we stand and fight.”

This public outpouring forced the state board to change tactics. At the next evening’s contentious Arkansas Board of Education meeting, it dropped the proposal to split Little Rock’s school district. But surprisingly, the board then immediately proceeded to cease recognition of the LREA as the educators’ representative, thereby scrapping the last remaining collective bargaining agreement for school workers in Arkansas. The decision was blatant retaliation against not only teachers but also Little Rock’s school support staff, who were in the midst of negotiating a pay raise.

Next, the board issued a draft “Memorandum of Understanding” explaining that instead of returning full local control to the school board set to be elected in November 2020, the state would appoint a parallel “advisory board” that could veto local decisions. The Memorandum also insists on closing up to eleven neighborhood schools — which would thereby accelerate privatization, since state law gives charters first access to any vacant school. Stacey McAdoo, a teacher at Central High, told Labor Notes, “they are trying to charterize the [district] like what happened in New Orleans and disenfranchise people and make a separate school system out of the areas that are primarily Black and Latino.”

As in so many other states across the country, this offensive against the labor movement, public education, and working-class communities of color is being directly funded by billionaires. And it’s not just any billionaires: Little Rock teachers and students are up against the Arkansas-based Waltons, founders of Walmart and the richest familyin America.

The Walton family: the Death Star of Public Education. The ingrates who graduated from Arkansas public schools but now want to destroy them and public schools everywhere. Rich and shameless.

Back in the early days of school choice advocacy, it was often claimed that school choice would “force” the public schools to compete and they would get better because of the magic of the market.

Now we know that was a selling point, and it was not true.

Deborah Gordon Klehr, executive director of the civil rights group Education Law Center-PA, writes about the negative effects of “school choice” on the public schools of Philadelphia. 

The publics schools in that city have long been severely underfunded, and school choice has stripped them of both students and funding, leaving them even worse off.

Klehr writes:

A study of charter schools in Philadelphia published by the Education Law Center earlier this year is a stark reminder that many parents don’t get to choose and that ultimately it may be the school and not the parent doing the choosing. More charters and more slots haven’t cured an ailing school system.

This is not to discount the successes we know exist for students in many city charters. But Philadelphia’s 22-year history of rapid charter expansion coupled with inadequate oversight is entrenching new inequities in an already unequal landscape.

Sometimes the problem is blatant discrimination: For instance, a recurring pattern we see among families who contact us is charters telling students with disabilities, after they have been accepted, “We cannot serve you.” As public schools, charters are prohibited from discriminating against students with disabilities. And yet, we see this pattern persist.

Sometimes the obstacles to enrollment are more subtle; for example, enrollment documents may only be available in English. The results, however, are clear. The population of economically disadvantaged students is 14 percentage points lower in the traditional charter sector (56%) vs. the district sector (70%). And, the percentage of English learners in district schools (11%) is nearly three times higher than in traditional charters (4%), with nearly a third of traditional charters serving no English learners.

Few of the special education students in traditional charters are from the disability categories that typically are most expensive to serve. And, the vast majority of traditional charter schools serve student populations that are two-thirds or more of one racial group – a significantly higher degree of segregation than in district schools.

In short, the city’s traditional charter schools (excluding “Renaissance” charters charged with serving all students from a catchment area) disproportionately enroll a student population that is more advantaged than the students in district-run schools; as a sector, charters are shirking their responsibility of educating all students.

No independent observer could look at the Philadelphia schools—public, charters, and vouchers—and say that any problems have been solved by privatization.

 

 

Jan Resseger analyzes a new study by Sean Reardon of Stanford University that demonstrates what has been widely known for decades: Schools alone don’t cure poverty.

Those who insist that they do are either uninformed, selling something (TFA founder Wendy Kopp has claimed that inexperienced teachers can overcome poverty and close achievement gaps caused by poverty), or just don’t want to pay taxes to provide the resources schools need (think the Koch brothers, the Waltons, the DeVos Family, or other billionaires).

She begins:

Here is the succinct conclusion of a complex, technical, and nuanced report released on Monday by Stanford University’s Sean Reardon and a team of researchers, Is Separate Still Unequal? New Evidence on School Segregation and Racial Academic Achievement Gaps: “We use 8 years of data from all public school districts in the U.S.  We find that racial school segregation is strongly associated with the magnitude of achievement gaps in 3rd grade, and with the rate at which gaps grow from third to eighth grade. The association of racial segregation with achievement gaps is completely accounted for by racial differences in school poverty: racial segregation appears to be harmful because it concentrates minority students in high-poverty schools, which are, on average, less effective than lower poverty schools… We find that the effects of school poverty do not appear to be explained by differences in the set of measurable teacher or school characteristics available to us.”

In the report, Reardon defines academic test score gaps: “We examine racial test score gaps because they reflect racial differences in access to educational opportunities. By ‘educational opportunities,’ we mean all experiences in a child’s life, from birth onward, that provide opportunities for her to learn, including experiences in children’s homes, child care settings, neighborhoods, peer groups, and their schools. This implies that test score gaps may result from unequal opportunities either in or out of school; they are not necessarily the result of differences in school quality, resources, or experience. Moreover, in saying that test score gaps reflect differences in opportunities, we also mean that they are not the result of innate group differences in cognitive skills or other genetic endowments… (D)ifferences in average scores should be understood as reflecting opportunity gaps….”

“In sum, our analyses provide evidence that racial school segregation is closely linked to racial inequality in academic performance.  This implies that segregation creates unequal educational opportunities.  Although our analyses do not identify the specific mechanisms through which segregation leads to inequality, they make it clear that the mechanism is linked to differences in schools’ poverty rates, not differences in schools’ racial composition.”

In their review of the academic literature, Reardon and his colleagues emphasize the importance of studies which have demonstrated the importance of public policy that would invest more in schools serving poor children and in making state funding formulas more equitable.  But they conclude finally: “(W)e have no example of a school district where minority students disproportionately attend high poverty schools that does not have a large racial achievement gap. If it were possible to create equal educational opportunity under conditions of segregation and economic inequality, some community—among the thousands of districts in the country—would have done so… If we are serious about reducing racial inequality in educational opportunity, then, we must address racial segregation among schools.”

I am pleased to see Reardon so clearly describe the realities his research exposes, but I am frankly concerned that—in a society his own 2011 research demonstrates is rapidly resegregating economically as families with means move farther and farther into the exurbs—it will be politically difficult to address the concerns his research uncovers.

What is certain is that this new research confirms what many have believed is a catastrophic mistake in two-decades  of “accountability-based school reform.”  This is the test-and-punish regime imposed at the federal level by the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act, followed by programs like Race to the Top and policies adopted across the states to punish teachers who were supposed to work harder and smarter to close achievement gaps or their schools would be punished.

Steven Singer has written recently about the origins of charter schools. He insists that Albert Shanker, president of the AFT, was not their father.

The real fathers of this first big step towards privatization, he writes, were Ted Kolderie and Joe Nathan of Minnesota, who wrote the nation’s first charter school law and opened the door wide for entrepreneurs, grifters, and attacks on unions.

Singer is a flame-thrower in this post, because he has come to see that behind the “progressive” facade of charters lurks Betsy DeVos, the Walton Family, the Koch brothers, ALEC, and a galaxy of public school haters.

He begins:

If bad ideas can be said to have fathers, then charter schools have two.

And I’m not talking about greed and racism.

No, I mean two flesh and blood men who did more than any others to give this terrible idea life – Minnesota ideologues Ted Kolderie, 89, and Joe Nathan, 71.

In my article “Charter Schools Were Never a Good Idea. They Were a Corporate Plot All Along,” I wrote about Kolderie’s role but neglected to mention Nathan’s.

And of the two men, Nathan has actually commented on this blog.

He flamed on your humble narrator when I dared to say that charter schools and voucher schools are virtually identical.

I guess he didn’t like me connecting “liberal” charters with “conservative” vouchers. And in the years since, with Trump’s universally hated Billionaire Education Secretary Betsy Devos assuming the face of both regressive policies, he was right to fear the public relations nightmare for his brainchild, the charter school.

It’s kind of amazing that these two white men tried to convince scores of minorities that giving up self-governance of their children’s schools is in their own best interests, that children of color don’t need the same services white kids routinely get at their neighborhood public schools and that letting appointed bureaucrats decide whether your child actually gets to enroll in their school is somehow school choice!

But now that Nathan and Kolderie’s progeny policy initiative is waning in popularity, the NAACP and Black Lives Matter are calling for moratoriums on new charters and even progressive politicians are calling for legislative oversight, it’s important that people know exactly who is responsible for this monster.

And more than anyone else, that’s Kolderie and Nathan.

Over the last three decades, Nathan has made a career of sabotaging authentic public schools while pushing for school privatization.

He is director of the Center for School Change, a Minneapolis charter school cheerleading organization, that’s received at least $1,317,813 in grants to undermine neighborhood schools and replace them with fly-by-night privatized monstrosities.

He’s written extensively in newspapers around the country and nationwide magazines and Websites like the Huffington Post.

Read it all. Joe Nathan has frequently commented on this blog, defending charters as just a different kind of public school. I disagree vigorously because it is obvious by now that charters have become vehicles for busting unions (more than 90% are non-union), charters are more segregated than public schools (especially in Minnesota, where there are charters specifically for children of different ethnic and racial groups), and they remove democratic control in communities of color. The proliferation of corporate charter chains adds to their reputation as destroyers of democracy.

Bottom line is that Walton money, Koch money, DeVos money is not meant to advance public education but to eliminate it.

There is a reason that the Democratic candidates for president are distancing themselves from the charter idea. They understand that they can’t support the DeVos agenda. Betsy did us all a favor by removing the mask.

 

Every year since 2014, Democrats who fervently support the privatization of public schools have gathered at a conference they pretentiously call “Camp Philos.”

https://campphilos.org/

Check the agenda of meetings present and past.

There you will see the lineup of Democrats who sneer at public schools and look on public school teachers with contempt.

These are the Democrats who support the DeVos agenda of disrupting and privatizing public schools.

They are meeting again this year, and they will slap each other on the back for supporting school closures, charter schools, high-stakes testing, evaluating teachers by the test scores of their students, and hiring inexperienced teachers.

They have the chutzpah to call themselves “stakeholders,” although none of them are teachers, parents of public school students, or have any stake in the public schools that enroll 85-90% of all American students. Exactly what do they have a “stake” in?