The word is getting out there. Read today’s editorial on how the federal government has wasted over a billion dollars on charters that never opened or soon closed…1,000 charters representing false promises to children and their families. We need the public school system we can rely on. Read the editorial here.
Do out-of-school suspensions help or hurt school climate? Are student discipline problems getting worse or better? Betsy DeVos has eliminated the Obama era policies of federal oversight of discipline policies that may impact some student groups more than others. She charges that the Obama policies that are intended to reduce inequitable discipline practices have made problems worse. When teachers are afraid to refer students to the principal, and schools are afraid to suspend students acting in a dangerous way, are school classrooms becoming a ‘free for all zone’? Some teachers may think so. Others claim that minority students are often subjected to harsher penalties than white students for the same offenses. Suspending students, moreover, may simply make student problems worse. It is a conundrum.
There is a report: School-safety that addresses these concerns and the need for more attention to factors within and outside of schools that impact student safety. There are best practices identified from which states and local district are urged to select those that fit their circumstances.
One has to wonder if this data driven educational system based on student test scores and a ‘test and punish’ mentality is also at fault. Students’ schools are labeled as failing or near failing; so are the students themselves. Even students who are achieving at grade level may feel alienated when they do not qualify for a particular magnet program or other selective program. Students feeling tense, left out, and inadequate may well act out.
Some parents opt out of local schools only to find that they enter into a separate system of schools where take it or leave it policies prevail. What they are forced to put up with in many charter and private schools has little to do with student achievement. Discipline and discrimination, moreover, may be even more rigid and arbitrary. These schools have everything to do with which kids get in, which do not and who gets kicked out. There is a better way, a more equitable way, where students and parents from diverse backgrounds feel a sense of belonging. These schools exist. How can we create more of them?
Remember Florida’s exceptions to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)? They were denied by the U.S. Department of Education. Florida must respond to correct omissions to its ESSA plan. Florida exempted:
- Certain 8th grade students taking more advanced math courses would be exempt from the 8th grade FSA.
- FSA exams would not be available in languages other than English.
- School grades calculations by each demographic group; they would include gains by lowest 25th percentile instead.
- Baseline data to measure achievement gains and graduation rates by demographic groups are missing.
- FSA passing level is indicated by a score of ‘3’, but this is not defined as grade level achievement. Thus, there is no rational for raising or lowering a passing level.
- ESSA requires states to report progress on English Language Proficiency. Florida only reports scores for students enrolled in ESOL classes, not for all second language learners.
Several of these omissions were intended to reduce double testing e.g. 8th grade mathematics where students may be required to take the FSA and an End of Course exam. In some cases, such as measuring achievement gains for particular groups, the omissions may have stemmed from attempts to reduce the data processing load. Measuring gains by particular groups requires careful analysis and baseline measures.
These are valid concerns. If the nation is going to measure progress, all states should follow the same rules. What is even more important, however, is whether all of this testing and reporting is necessary and productive every year. Any parent who marks his child’s height on the wall each year sees that some years kids grow more than others.
What happens over time is what matters. Force feeding facts to giant data sets every year doesn’t change growth rates. Some companies may get fat, but the kids starve for the lack of real world learning.
Did the federal government end segregation of schools while at the same time promote segregation? How could this be?
In this Education Votes article, Sabrina Holcomb presents Rothstein’s arguments that federal housing policy created the current educational policy crisis. In ‘The Color of Law: A forgotten history of how our government segregated America’, Richard Rothstein is provocative. It is worth a minute to read the Education Votes summary. It focuses our attention on what needs to change to reduce the inequities that our schools are supposed to overcome.
It is clear that attempts to overcome the housing segregation that occurred due to federal housing loan policies dominate our school systems. School choice is one of the most dramatic examples. Charters that siphon off and divide minority neighborhoods are a direct result of trying to find an inexpensive alternative for families to ‘escape’ the low income, educationally disadvantaged schools that federal policy created. They are also a way for some higher income parents in other neighborhoods to maintain their advantage. The emphasis on magnet programs to fill under enrolled schools is also related. Wholesale tracking of students into advanced and gifted programs is another unintended consequence. So, what can be done?
You can’t pick up and move homes. Moving children around is sometimes so time consuming and expensive that it creates as many problems as it solves. Some localities are experimenting with incentives to promote more economically diverse housing options. Others suggest that schools must solve the inequities that communities produce. Online education advocates promote packaged instruction that does not create the student engaged, project based interdisciplinary instruction that motivates students. We do need some sort of learning networks, however. What could these be like both within and across schools and community partners? How can entire communities pull together to support a positive learning environment for all kids? How can real estate developers, local governments, education and social service systems work toward common goals?
Isn’t this what we should be talking about? The first learning network that comes to my mind is one where those communities that are working toward a collaborative vision can learn from one another. Hmmmm, the Integrative Communities blog. Know of one? Surely some exist in the city planning world.
We knew this was coming, and next week it will be here. According to the Washington Post, the education budget for public schools will be cut by $10.6 billion dollars. The cuts include:
- Work study cut in half; student loan programs revised
- End of public service loan forgiveness
- Mental health, advanced course work and other services cut
- After school programs gone
- Teacher training and class size reduction gone
- Childcare for low income college students gone
- Arts education gone
- Gifted students gone
- Career and technical education cut
- and on and on
A significant change in Title I funding will impact low income public schools. The new Title I program would allow $1 billion to go to choice schools. Thus, low income public schools would receive even less support than they now have. Money saved goes into charter schools and vouchers for private, religious schools. Some funds go to increased choice for public schools. Is this a recipe for quality schools or a disaster?
As Senator Lamar Alexander’s spokesperson said, ‘The Congress passes budgets”. We elect congressmen and women. Let them know what you think.
Parents of children with disabilities learn some lessons the hard way. When children leave public school with the McKay Scholarships, children lose their rights under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). Parents may have from $5,000 to $23,000 in tuition vouchers, but private schools are not accountable for the money provided. In today’s New York Times, Dana Goldstein explains.
IDEA rights lost for students in private schools include:
Are schools expected to do more than provide minimum educational standards for students with special needs. According to this report, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that students with disabilities must be given the opportunity to make ‘appropriately ambitious progress’ consistent with federal law.
Approximately thirteen percent of all children between 3-21 have some type of disability. Complaints that students are given minimal academic standards triggered the lawsuit. In this case, Endrew v. Douglas, Endrew was a fifth grade autistic boy whose IEP plan had not changed from one year to the next. The family withdrew him from public school and enrolled him in a private school where he did make progress. The family then sued for tuition reimbursement.
HR 899 This is a short bill. It would just abolish the U.S. Department of Education. No replacement, no explanation. The sponsors are: Massie, Amash, Biggs, Chaffetz, Gaetz, Hice, Jones, and Labrador. Draw your own conclusions.
Rep. King, R, IA filed H.R. 610, a bill which is a major assault on public education. The bill would repeal the Education and Secondary School Act of 1965. Instead, the U.S. DOE would award block grants to qualified states. States would then distribute block grants to local education agencies (districts) in a manner that apportions funds to families who elect to home school or send their children to private schools. In a word, it is a ‘voucher’ bill.
Curiously, the bill also revokes the nutrition standards for school breakfast and lunch programs.
Our public schools are the backbone of our democracy. This bill undermines an educational system that serves everyone, not just those that private schools chose to accept. This is just the beginning of an assault on public education. It is time to push back and keep pushing.
The Network for Public Education has an Action Alert to notify your representatives to oppose this bill. You can access their site here.