Archives for category: Segregation

You may recall the iconic painting of little Ruby Bridges, a first-grader, who was the first African American student to enroll in a previously all-white segregated school in New Orleans. If you don’t, be sure to read this article, which tells what happened to the William Franz Public School.

Three scholars–Connie L. Schaffer, Martha Graham Viator, and Meg White–tell the story. The three are also the co-authors of a book titled: William Frantz Public School: A Story of Race, Resistance, Resilience, and Recovery in New Orleans, which I am reading now and expect to review.

They write:

If that building’s walls could talk, they certainly would tell the well-known story of its desegregation. But those same walls could tell another story, too. That story is about continued racism as well as efforts to dismantle and privatize public education in America over the past six decades.

When little Ruby Bridges enrolled in November 1960, she was escorted by four federal marshalls. Crowds of angry whites jeered day after day. Parents of the white children in the school withdrew their children and sent them mostly to private segregated schools.

Racism drove many white families from the neighborhoods near the school and other areas of New Orleans to abandon the city. White enrollment steadily declined throughout New Orleans’ public schools, dropping more than 50% between 1960 and 1980.

By 2005, only 3% of the students enrolled in the city’s public schools were white – far below average for midsize American cities.

Racially segregated, underfunded William Frantz Public School suffered through the imposition of standards and accountability in the 1990s, which did nothing to help the school, but did result in its being labeled a “failing” school. By 2005, the school board voted to close it.

In 2013, the school reopened as Akili Academy, a charter school directed by a private corporation. The authors wonder whether the public school system that Ruby Bridges dared to desegregate, overseen by an elected board, is “a relic of the past.”

Derek Black, Jack Schneider, and Jennifer Berkshire wrote in the Philadelphia Inquirer that the future of public education is on the ballot on November 3 (for the record, I got a credit for doing some minor editing).

Should Trump be re-elected, you can count on him and Betsy DeVos to continue their brazen assault on public schools and to continue their demand to transfer public funds to private and religious schools as well as to pour hundreds of millions of federal dollars into charter school expansion. Draining public dollars away from public school has been Betsy DeVos’s life work and she would have four more years to staff the U.S. Department of Education with likeminded ideologues who hate public schools.

The authors write:

When Trump selected Betsy DeVos as secretary of education, many took it as a sign that he wasn’t serious. After all, DeVos seemed to know little about public schools. But that was a product of her extremism. Over the last four years, she has been crystal clear that her primary interest in the public education system lies in dismantling it. For evidence, look no further than her proposed Education Freedom Scholarships plan, which would redirect $5 billion in taxpayer dollars to private schools.

Unmaking public education is a long-standing goal of libertarians and the religious right. Conservative economist Milton Friedman conceived of private school vouchers in 1955, and four decades later was still making the case for “a transition from a government to a market system.” As they see it, public education is a tax burden on the wealthy, an obstacle to religious instruction, and a hotbed for unionism. Rather than a public system controlled by democratic values, they’d prefer a private one governed by the free market. If they had their way, schools would operate like a welfare program for the poor while the rich would get the best education money could buy. The result would be entrenched inequality and even more concentrated segregation than now exists.

This extreme view has never caught on, largely because public education is a bedrock American institution. Many states created public education systems before the nation even existed. Massachusetts, for instance, was educating children in public schools long before tea was dumped in Boston Harbor. In 1787, the federal government explicitly mandated that the center plot of land in every new town in the territories — land that would become states like Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois — be reserved for schools, and that other plots be used to support those schools. After the Civil War, Congress doubled down on that commitment, requiring readmitted Confederate states, and all new states, to guarantee access to public education in their constitutions. In each of these foundational periods, leaders positioned public education at the very center of our democratic project.

The founders and their successors recognized that public education is essential to citizens’ ability to govern themselves, not to mention protect themselves from charlatans and demagogues. Public education is the surest guarantee of individual liberty, the founders understood — no less essential than a well-trained army to the survival of the nation. That’s why they recognized that the education of American citizens couldn’t be left to chance...

We are here to sound an alarm to Republicans and Democrats. The future of our nation’s public schools is at stake. And insofar as that is the case, the democracy envisioned by our founders — one with universal, tax-supported schooling at its core — hangs in the balance.

Laura Chapman, intrepid researcher, writes here about the billionaire and corporate money supporting the rating system for schools called GreatSchools. It clearly exists to promote school choice, not community cohesion or civic responsibility. GreatSchools recently announced that it would use “growth scores” to measure school quality, not just test scores, but the difference is miniscule, and the outcome is the same: to promote segregation and school choice by linking “school quality” and test scores.

Laura Chapman writes:

Great Schools is supported by income from Scholastic, Zillow and other advertisers, who pay for packages that can push up their page views or allow them to license the school ratings. The whole website functions as a tool to perpetuate redlining, charter schools, and advocates forf school choice.

Here are the largest financial pushers of the dubious ratings:

Walton Family Foundation, Laura and John Arnold Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Einhorn Family Charitable Trust, Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Trust, and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

These big funders are offered a display of their logos. Other supporters are: America Achieves, The Charles Hayden Foundation, Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, EdChoice, Heising-Simons Foundation, Innovate Public Schools, The Joyce Foundation, Excellent Schools Detroit, The Kern Family Foundation, The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, and Startup: Education. These are not supporters of public schools.

This website is designed to market an ideology and a rating scheme. The Terms of use policy says: “Some information contained on the website may represent opinion or judgment… GreatSchools does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of any information on the website. As such, GreatSchools will not be responsible for any errors, inaccuracies, omissions or deficiencies in the information provided on the website. This information is provided “as is,” with no guarantees of completeness, non-infringement, accuracy or timeliness, and without warranties of any kind, express or implied.”

Great Schools also lists “Partners.” Sad to say, the Great Schools website, designed to steer parents away from most public schools has a partnership with the US Department of Education and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“Community Action Partners” are: Choice Matters Oklahoma, Colorado Succeeds, Community Foundation of Atlanta, Delaware Department of Education, Families Empowered, Innovate Public Schools, The Indianapolis Mayor’s Office, and United Way of Central Indiana.

“Partners for Content” include the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence featuring Yale’s RULER program, a system of direct instruction in: (a) managing emotions by naming them and (b) thinking out loud about degrees of emotional intensity (energy) and pleasantness. Students learn to Recognize, Understand, Label, and Regulate their emotions at about $7,500 per school team.

The second “Content Partner” (believe it or not) is PARCC Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career. As of the 2019-2020 school year, these tests were only used in Washington DC, Louisiana, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. New Jersey will stop using these tests in 2020-2021.

“Other Partners” are:
–Be a Learning Hero, offers parents a “roadmap” for school readiness and test prep. Key leaders worked for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

–Common Sense Media is a marketing website offering parents reviews and lists of kid-suitable videos, books, other media.

–Education Cities is a network promoting school choice in 24 cities in cooperation with 31 city based organizations. The network is funded by the Broad Foundation, Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Walton Family foundation.

–National PTA which claims not “to endorse any commercial product or service.” But also says “Companies making a financial contribution to PTA may be entitled to promotional consideration and, in some cases, may have limited use of PTA’s marks and assets.” Deals for members are offered by PTA’s 18 Corporate Alliances.” The National PTA also markets Common Core resources with outdated claims about these “being fully implemented.”

–Understood is devoted to serving families and children with disabilities. It is funded by15 non-profits, not counting these recent supporters: The New Teacher Center, Relay Graduate School of Education, the Achievement Network, and New Visions for Public schools,.

Great Schools also lists Bellwether Education Partners, the Center for Reinventing Public Education, Thomas B Fordham Institute, and Public Impact as “Partners. All promote charter schools as if these are “public.”

Great Schools generates and leases data to “leading real estate, technology and media websites.” Great Schools claims to be “the nation’s leading source of school performance information…. with “more than 55 million unique visitors” last year and “over half of American families with school-age children.”

Great Schools is designed to forward three real estate practices associated with parents seeking a school. The first is block busting—a process designed to promote fear among white home owners or prospective buyers that a neighborhood school brings too many low income racial minorities to the community and devalues its real estate. The second is redlining, illegal, but the practice of denying loans or property insurance to applicants based on the racial makeup of a neighborhood, including school demographics. The third and most common is steering, the real estate practice of directing homebuyers to or away from specific neighborhoods and schools based on the prospective homebuyer’s race color, religion, gender (sex), sexual orientation, disability (handicap), familial status, or national origin.

Great Schools rating schemes for “school quality” are a case study in what Cathy O’Neal has called mathematical intimidation. If you are mathematically inclined, see if you can make sense of the rating schemes available here. https://www.greatschools.org/gk/ratings-methodology/

The National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, recently released a major study of segregation and charter schools by Dr. Helen Ladd and Muvzana Turaeva of Duke University.

Dr. Samuel Abrams introduced it here.

The issue of school choice and segregation has been central to education policy debates for decades. In his initial argument for vouchers, published in 1955, Milton Friedman conceded that segregationists stood to employ vouchers to enroll their children in all-white private schools instead of public schools mandated to integrate a year earlier by Brown v. Board of Education. But to Friedman, the answer was not regulation but moral suasion. Friedman’s opinion was rendered technically moot in 1976 by Runyon v. McCrary, which barred private schools from making admissions decisions based on race, yet it nevertheless indicated a fundamental problem with systems of school choice.

With the introduction of charter schools in the early 1990s, commentators raised concerns about school location, inadequate transportation, contracts mandating significant parental involvement, and shared parental proclivities as implicit mechanisms or pathways to segregation. In “Parental Preferences for Charter Schools in North Carolina: Implications for Racial Segregation and Isolation,” Helen F. Ladd and Mavzuna Turaeva add substantially to the literature validating these concerns.

Using data for the nearly 11,000 North Carolina families who transferred their children from traditional public schools to charter schools in 2015-16, Ladd and Turaeva document that the migration of white, though not minority, switchers from traditional public schools to charter schools increased segregation. “We find that by switching to charter schools that are whiter than the traditional public schools they leave behind,” they write, “white switchers contribute to racial segregation across schools.” At the elementary level, 67 percent of white switchers enrolled in charter schools with lower shares of minority students; at the middle-school level, 72 percent of white switchers did so.

To buttress their analysis, Ladd and Turaeva employ a conditional logit model to estimate revealed preferences. To infer parental preferences by race as well as socioeconomic status, Ladd and Turaeva use five criteria to define the value of charter schools for parents: racial composition; proximity; academic achievement; availability of transportation and lunch; and mission. Ladd and Turaeva conclude that with these dimensions considered together, it is clear that white parents disproportionately favored white charter schools and exhibited a pronounced aversion to significantly minority charter schools.

With this working paper, Ladd, a professor emerita of public policy and economics at Duke University, and Turaeva, a doctoral candidate in public policy (with a specialization in economics) at Duke as well as a research associate at the Duke Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research, build on research Ladd did with Charles Clotfelter and John Holbein for an article published by Education Finance and Policy in 2017 on growing segregation across the charter sector in North Carolina from 1999 to 2012. In addition, Ladd and Turaeva’s analysis complements a 2019 NCSPE working paper on charter schools in Kansas City by Patrick Denice, Michael DeArmond, and Matthew Carr, who found a disproportionate number of white students transferring from traditional public schools to new charter schools from 2011 to 2015.

Lucid, rigorous, and supported with eight tables of telling data, this study advances our understanding of school choice and raises important questions about how choice systems should be designed.

Samuel E. Abrams
Director, NCSPE

Chalkbeat reports that the rating agency GreatSchools has revised the way it measures school quality. Critics have long complained that its reliance on test scores as the measure of school quality disadvantages schools that enroll children of color and encourages housing segregation by steering white parents to white neighborhoods.

In the future, GreatSchools will rely on test score growth, not just scores alone.

This, of course, puts pressure on teachers and schools to raise test scores. Test scores thus continue to be the single most important criterion of school quality, instead of school climate, experienced teachers, class size, a rich arts program, and other consequential elements.

Matt Barnum writes:

America’s most widely used school rating system is overhauling its approach with a series of changes that will weaken the link between race, poverty, and school scores.

The website GreatSchools is rolling out the changes nationwide Thursday after introducing them for schools in California and Michigan in August. They are part of an effort by the site to make its ratings better reflect how much schools help students learn, rather than things like students’ prior academic achievement and poverty levels that schools don’t control.

“The new system is better because there is more of a focus on learning and growth and what’s actually happening in schools,” GreatSchools CEO Jon Deane said. “We know that’s more important.”

The move comes amid growing scrutiny of GreatSchools’ system of judging schools, including a Chalkbeat investigation that found that its ratings effectively steered families away from schools serving more Black, Hispanic, and low-income students.

GreatSchools says the average school will see only a modest score change. Still, the shifts mean that the tens of millions of people who find the ratings on real estate sites like Zillow will now see a different measure of school quality, potentially affecting enrollment patterns that contribute to school segregation.

Notice how the rating agency conflates test scores with learning. The changes for schools’ rating will indeed be modest because they are still measuring schools by test scores, which are highly correlated with wealth and poverty, special education status, and LEP status.

*sorry about the error in the original headline. I write most posts on my cellphone so I did not see the last words in the heading. My error and my apologies.

Link corrected!

In case you missed our Zoom conversation, this is the link to my discussion with Steve Suitts about his new book about the segregationist origins of “school choice.”

His book is “Overturning Brown: The Segregationist Legacy of the Modern School Choice Movement.”

Please sign up and join the discussion between Steve Suitts and me on Zoom on Wednesday September 16. We will be talking about Steve’s new book Overturning Brown: The Segregationist Legacy of the Modern School Choice Movement. You will be amazed to learn of the true history of school choice. It is definitely not the “civil rights issue of our time,” as Trump and DeVos claim.

Steve has been involved in civil rights work throughout his career. He was founding director of the Alabama Civil Liberties Union; executive director of the Southern Regional Council; and vice president of the Southern Education Foundation. He is also the author of a biography of Hugo Black, a member of the U.S. Supreme Court Justice who played a large role in history.

You can sign up here.

Steve and I will talk for an hour, and then we will open the floor for your questions.

In this post, Thomas Ultican reviews Steve Suitts’ devastating new book about the origins of school choice.

Advocates of school choice like to claim economist Milton Friedman as their godfather but Suitts, who has spent his career working in civil rights activism, shows that the true originators of “freedom of choice” were Southern governors and legislatures who were determined to thwart the Brown decision of 1954. Suitts doesn’t ignore Friedman. He points out that his 1955 essay proposing freedom of choice proposed that in a choice system, there would be all-white schools, all-black schools, and mixed-race schools.

The segregationists loved Friedman’s ideas because it mirrored their own. They knew that in a free-choice regime, the status quo would be preserved by racism and intimidation.

So when you hear libertarians and right wingers talking about the glories of choice, think George Wallace. Think Bull Connor. Think James Eastland. Think White Citizens Councils. Read Steve Suitts’ book and be informed. Don’t be fooled by those who claim falsely that choice advances civil rights. It does not. It never has.

DFER (Democrats for Education Reform) is an organization founded by Wall Street hedge fund managers to support charter schools. They believe in privatization; they actively undermine public schools that belong to the community. They believe in high-stakes testing, and they strongly support evaluating teachers by the test scores of their students, although professional associations like the American Statistical Association does not. They love Teach for America, because they don’t like experienced professionals or teachers unions.

Their main function is to raise money for political candidates, which gives them immense leverage. Once a political candidate gets on the DFER recommended list, they can count on money flowing in from friends of DFER around the country. DFER does not have a large membership but it has a very rich following among hedge funders and venture capitalists.

In this publication, DFER tries to demonstrate that “school choice” is a Democratic idea. It lists the Democratic politicians who support charter schools. It trumpets the support of the late AFT leader Al Shanker for charter schools, but fails to mention that Shanker turned against charter schools as he saw them turn into a weapon of privatization to undermine public schools and teachers’ unions. Shanker was all for charters before they existed, but he recoiled when he saw what they were becoming. By 1994, he concluded that charter schools were no different than vouchers, and that both were intended to smash teachers’ unions and privatize public schools. PLEASE STOP CITING SHANKER AS A CHARTER SUPPORTER!

Charter schools today are 90% non-union. Real Democrats are not opposed to teachers’ unions.

Charter schools today are more segregated than real public schools. Real Democrats do not support racial segregation.

Everyone who thinks that charter schools are connected to Democratic Party ideals should read Steve Suitts’ powerful book “Undermining Brown,” which shows that the idea of school choice was created by Southern segregations who were fighting the Brown decision.

The DFER document fails to mention that charter schools enjoy the support of Charles Koch, Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump, ALEC, and every Republican governor. School choice diverts funding from genuine public schools. If DFER put out a publication of the governors and Senators and members of Congress who support charter schools, the Republicans would far outnumber the Democrats.

If, as DFER maintains, charters are “public schools,” why did so many of them apply for and receive millions from the federal Paycheck Protection Program, for which public schools were ineligible? Are they “public schools” or are they “small businesses” or “nonprofits” but not public schools?

The DFER report also fails to mention the staggering failure rate of charter schools. The document lauds the federal Charter School Program, created by the Clinton administration when there were few charter schools, but neglects to mention that about 35-40% of the new charters paid for by the CSP either never opened or closed soon after opening.

To be clear: School choice is not a Democratic Party idea, unless you mean the party of George Wallace and the Dixiecrats. School choice is beloved by libertarians who want to destroy public education (ALEC) and by Republicans who want to privatize public education (Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump, Mike Pence, Jeb Bush).

Peter Greene read Steve Suitts’ book about the origins of the modern school choice movement—Overturning Brown— and highly recommends it.

Suitts demonstrates beyond doubt that the school choice movement was launched by southern segregationists to fight the Brown decision.

Standards were also used to sort students by race.

Greene writes:

These segregationists developed strategies and language that are strikingly familiar. Seven Southern states developed voucher programs, aimed mostly at creating three parallel systems of white, black and segregated schools. Various school choice programs were promoted without ever discussing segregation or even race, but by focusing on “freedom” and the necessity for parents to choose their own child’s educational setting. South Carolina’s governor argued that competition would help schools improve. Georgia enacted tuition tax credits, an early version of Betsy DeVos’s Education Freedom vouchers, in 1958. In 1964, a Mississippi defender of segregation stopped talking about “states’ rights” to segregate and started speaking out against the “monopoly” of “government schools.”

An early version of the standards movement, allowing states to sort students by supposed academic, behavior and cultural criteria, became a mechanism for maintaining segregation without actually talking about race, substituting rhetoric about “quality education.” An Alabama school leader explained, “Our primary interest is educating people basically of like learning capacities. We adopt a school system to meet their needs.” In other words, we’re not segregating the races; we’re just helping students find a school that best meets their needs. That was in 1972.

To find the roots of our current policies and the rebirth of segregation, read Undermining Brown.