Friday, September 16, 2011

Beyond Teachers

Steve Perry, CNN education contributor and principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet School, pillories teachers’ unions as the major culprit for schools failing poor kids. Teachers’ unions are the system. Controlling everything from the length of the school day to the salaries paid. “Education is the antidote, and great teachers are the syringe through which the antidote is delivered.”

This interview is worth a read. It comes from a place of sincerity –getting the students most in need the best education possible. But Perry ultimately misses the mark. Perry is overly selective in his facts. Choosing to see only those that point the villainous dagger at teachers while excusing a host of other realities. He denies disparities in spending. Though your naked eye might be enough to allow you to see the difference in spending from a wealthy suburban district to a poor urban district, you can also depend on significant data. The OECD’s study on brick and mortar spending in public education to within district disparities in spending to inter-state spending – money matters.
Perry illuminates the problem we face in “fixing” education. He’s in the schools and fed-up. He advocates for vouchers because he sees parents and kids stuck in bad schools. He knocks teacher unions because they may be the main force he encounters day to day when trying to “fix” his school. This is not how good public policy should be made. It’s akin to having victims of violence set death penalty policy. They know a great deal about violence, but may not see the big picture. That’s where federal policy must have a broader view. One that can take Perry’s passion to fix schools and channel it beyond vouchers to a system designed to meet the needs of all students. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Tavis Smiley on Education Outcomes for Black Boys

A longtime advocate for public policy to meet the disproportionate needs of the African American community, Tavis Smiley has turned his focus to Black boys in public education. He cites the ironic fact of that America now has its first Black president, meanwhile the graduation rate for Black boys hovers around 50%. He's taking his message to the public via an upcoming PBS special, "Too Important to Fail". For the most part he sounds right on target when defining the problem. We look forward to seeing what solutions his special may pose. Here's a good interview he did with TheGrio.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

School’s Back in Session…Is Congress?

Although Congress is back in session, very little business is likely to take place on ESEA. What looms before the education community is the prospect of budgetary cuts as the Congressional Super-committee commences its work. Education Week’s Allyson Klein gives a great overview of the issues at hand. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Battling Re-Segregation (and the Koch Brothers) in North Carolina

An excellent piece by Trymaine Lee posted today in the Huffington Post chronicles recent moves by the Wake County, North Carolina school board to end a long-standing, successful integration program. The story reveals just how far ultra-conservative groups (i.e. Americans for Prosperity) are willing to go to turn back the clock on all forms of social progress in the United States.

Behind the Curtain
As Lee reports, Americans for Prosperity – funded by the multibillionaire Koch brothers who brought us the Tea Party movement – fueled a campaign to pack the Raleigh-area school board with right-wing activists. As their first order of business, the board members pushed through a proposal to establish a "neighborhood schools" program in the district, effectively re-segregating Wake County.

Standing Up to Racism
While parents, community members, Department of Education, and the NAACP admirably fought back and postponed the implementation of the plan, it could still be put into effect in the coming school year. However, what's clear is that the "neighborhood schools" plan is nothing but a thinly-veiled attempt at returning to a schooling system that embraces de facto segregation.

It's also painfully obvious that this ultra-conservative movement backed by big money isn't afraid to openly pursue a racist policy agenda.

It's just up to us to have the courage to call them out.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Bad Idea Blooms

The New Republic reports today that the Department of Education's new NCLB compliance waivers program may very well be illegal. It's unclear whether the Secretary of Education has the authority to bypass Congress completely and his own set of new requirements for states to adhere to if they still want to receive federal dollars.

Something just feels wrong about this approach. It seems like it's destined to raise at least a few eyebrows among Congressional Republicans and might end up stymieing the Obama Administration during an election year. Strategically, it's a big risk. On one hand, something must be done to nix the ridiculous 2014 proficiency deadline. On the other, forcing states to implement largely untested reforms in exchange for coveted waivers might tempt a protracted court battle at a very bad time in the political cycle.

Is it legal? We don't know. Is it going to be fair to students and teachers? Probably not. Were these reform policies forged democratically and informed by the low-income communities of color they most directly affect? Not by a long shot.

There. It's got all the makings of a bad idea.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Waive to the Top (Yes, That's the Best DC Can Do.)

So here we are in August 2011. It's been half a year since the Republican-led Education & Workforce Committee took their seats on Capitol Hill, nineteen months since the Obama Administration's A Blueprint for Reform hit the presses, and nine years and seven months since the Elementary & Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was last reauthorized by Congress.

Nine years and seven months and counting. That means we're about to enter the fifth school year that an ESEA reauthorization has been woefully overdue. Yet, as we've stumbled past watermarks and sign posts with No Child Left Behind's bad policies still hanging over us, Washington lawmakers – Democratic and Republican alike – have made no serious attempts to redesign and reauthorize this critical legislation.

Waiving Away Failed Policies
However, with the Department of Education moving to issue compliance waivers, we have at least an attempt to address the nightmarish effects of NCLB. Just how serious or effective this action will be remains to be seen.

Monty Neill of Fair Test argues in today's Washington Post that these waivers could compel states to exchange one basket of failed policies for another, with the same punitive approach that has proved disastrous over the past nine years. Fair Test's Neill suspects that the Obama Administration will use the NCLB waivers as an incentives for getting states to implement Race to the Top (RttT) style reforms.

Here We Go Again...
As we've seen it played out in two nationwide installments, the RttT approach uses students' standardized test scores to make critical staffing decisions. In other words, rather than directly punishing students for their poor performance on bogus tests, the Administration's best idea was to simply redirect the punishment toward teachers and school communities. It's spelled out pretty clearly in the four turnaround models featured in A Blueprint for Reform.

School closures and comprehensive staff shake-ups are disruptive. They are expensive, sloppy, and (worst of all) they hurt students. If Monty Neill is right – and there's no reason to think that anything innovative and truly community-powered will come out of the Department of Education – this NCLB waiver program will prove just as half-baked as policies it's attempting to fix.

Boycott the Tests?
Neill suggest that we can solve this problem by embracing other forms of school and teacher accountability while simultaneously boycotting test-and-punish regimes across the country. Launching such a national movement seems daunting, but it could be the only reasonable course of action given Washington's unresponsiveness and the increasing severity of the problem. If there's enough energy and coordination, this simple strategy could work in the Administration sticks to the test-and-punish approach in transitioning away from NCLB.

So, let Arne Duncan issue his waivers. Let him dismantle NCLB, but also keep him from putting the same punitive policies in its place.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Degrees We Earn and The People We Value

Today Georgetown University's Center for Education and the Workforce released their report, The College Payoff: Education, Occupations and Lifetime Earnings. For a nice overview, check-out Education Week's Guest Blogger Nora Fleming's post, More Education Leads to Higher Pay, But Not For All. Here are a few sobering highlights for those of us interested in equity and students of color.
*College degrees are increasing in value relative to high school diplomas. A college degree will earn you 84% higher earnings over  your lifetime than a high school diploma. That's up from 75% in 1999. -- When drop-out rates can exceed 50% in schools with majority students of color, we can quickly see the chilling reality behind these numbers.
*A degree can earn significantly less for African Americans and Latinos than for whites. For example, the lifetime earnings of African Americans with Masters degrees doesn't exceed the lifetime earnings of whites with Bachelor's degrees.
*Occupation matters. Depending on your professional choice an associates degree can earn more than a bachelor's degree, this is true on average 28% of the time.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

ESEA Update: Why Reauthorize When You Can Just Waive It Away?

As we mentioned last week, it looks increasingly likely that the Department of Education will soon be issuing waivers to states for selected No Child Left Behind (NCLB) provisions. Such waivers would exempt states and districts that receive them from having to comply with particular provisions of NCLB – the Bush era incarnation of the 1965 Elementary & Secondary Education Act (ESEA) – while still receiving federal funding under the law.

Save the Champagne
But before you start celebrating the long-awaited demise of NCLB, consider the good stuff that's in the original ESEA law that states might try to have waived. What one state might see as "regulatory relief," students and teachers might see as programming cuts. For instance, Title I contains numerous provisions requiring schools that receive such aid to spend it on programs that help specific groups of students (typically low-income students of color). A percentage of Title I funds must be spent on parental engagement or after school tutoring, for instance.

We don't know what types of regulatory waivers Secretary Duncan is going to issue in light of Congressional failure to reauthorize, rethink, and rework ESEA. Yet, that point in itself seems pretty illuminating. A single public official – Arne Duncan – is preparing to tell the states that certain parts of federal law can simply be ignored. Wow.

Living With Uncertainty
To be fair, the Administration will likely waive the bad stuff in NCLB; the AYP requirements that states seemincreasingly incapable of meeting. The old test-based regime that results in school closures and disruptive punitive measures is something that should be ignored, but what we really need is a workable reauthorization of ESEA so the Dept. of Education no longer needs to ride a fine legal line. It's not going to happen, but one can dream...

In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for the first waivers. Several states, including Michigan and Tennessee (of Race to the Top fame), have already applied. Georgia's getting ready to follow suit. Whatever waiver packages Duncan doles out and whatever its terms might be will give us a heads up regarding funding and programming cuts. Then, depending on the fallout, we'll see how Congress reacts as the new school year begins.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Lost Ideological Battle

Who won?...Ultra Conservatives
We can haggle about the cuts. What's going to be cut and when and how many dollars we'll shave from the deficit. But ultimately, in the wake of the debt ceiling, the ideological war about the role of government was won by the far right wing. What should government do when the country’s in economic distress? Cut. Cut. Cut spending…and protect the rich from paying their fair share. Obama has adopted some of this conservative framework, frankly remarking that the latest debt ceiling deal would be “the lowest level of annual domestic spending since Dwight D. Eisenhower”. That Obama seeks a stamp of fiscal austerity at a moment of national crisis is enough to say that conservative economic lunacy rules the day.
            In real terms this will mean a contraction in federal government spending that will likely mean shortfalls and cuts to a public education system with increasing needs. What form those cuts will take is still unclear.

What will this ideology mean for public education?
Fresh from battle, ultra conservatism emerges with a new swagger. They’ve swayed the national economic debate. They even had Rep. Boehner on his heels. We know that emboldened ultra conservatives are bad for pubic education. During the debt ceiling debate, Tea Party members were willing to walk away from Majority Leader Boehner’s plan because it increased Pell Grant assistance. Yes, aid to poor students was a deal breaker! Rep. Denny Rehberg, Republican from Montana, characterized Pell Grants as the “welfare of the 21st Century” “you can go to school, collect your Pell Grants, get food stamps, low-income energy assistance, section 8 housing, and all of a sudden we find ourselves subsidizing people who don’t have to graduate from college”. Thankfully, this is one of the few things the emerged pretty well from debt ceiling negotiations.

With this new climate, the future of federal education policy may no longer be one of benign neglect or misguided policy ideas. At least you can argue that Ted Kennedy sincerely believed NCLB would help public education. With these ultra conservatives at the wheel, it could mean progressives fighting cruel outright attacks on poor children of color and a concerted effort to end the very presence of the federal government in public education. We thought the Obama Blueprint for Reform was bad. Well, they’ll make the Blueprint look like a Christmas present.

At the moment ESEA legislation is at a grinding halt. But really, after what we've witnessed the past few months, forward movement on ESEA may give one pause. What would an Obama debt ceiling style compromise look like in education? It makes me shudder to think of it.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Hitting the Ceiling: What the Debt Limit Deal Means for Public Education

President Obama and Speaker Boehner hit the links on Jun. 21 to discuss a solution to the debt ceiling crisis. Seven weeks later, we have a deal that may spell big cuts for public education programs. (Source: Charles Dharapak/AP Photo)
While Washington might be rejoicing over the fact that Congress was able to reach a compromise before the global economy imploded, we don't yet have a solid understanding of what the debt ceiling deal might mean for public education programming at the state level (where the vast majority of education funding is allocated and originates).

Today, the Washington Post shed some light on education's prospects in the budget-cutting deal. The details remain sketchy, but it seems pretty likely that federal spending cuts will put states in a position where spending cuts can be easily justified. After all, while Social Security and Medicare funds are immune from budget trimming, education remains vulnerable.

From the perspective of a state, education budget cuts make perfect sense. After all, we've been told that an extraordinary teacher can handle just about anything – from class size increases to pay cuts. With states facing tremendous budget crises of their own, it seems logical to "trim the fat" in educational programs.

So, in the end, this big compromise that ostensibly preserved the economy will inflict more pain on communities that need the educational programs that are susceptible to cuts. These programs, like Head Start and after school tutoring for low-income students, coud likely be cut in the name of efficiency, in the name of a compromise that saved the very rich the burden of a modest tax increase. That said, nothing's certain yet. We'll have to wait and see what and how much each state decides to cut from K-12 budgets.

What can be said of such a deal other than, "Watch out!"? Watch out, a critical education program that you value or even rely upon may be vanishing soon. That's the way compromise works these days – trading uncertainty for... even more uncertainty.

Monday, August 1, 2011

SOS March, Teachers Fight Back!

According to organizers some 5,000 teachers and allies descended on Washington DC, Saturday. Flanked by the White House at one far end and the Washington Monument at the other, attendees demanded that Washington end NCLB! The subtext of the march was clear, stop blaming teachers for failures in education. Was  it a success? Well, teachers were certainly energized. But what longterm effects it will have on our education policy discourse is as yet unknown. A multitude of voices were certainly present, but what message did they communicate and what might they have missed?

  Here is some food for thought: 
A. Who? What? When? Where? and Why?, The teacher's argument about school conditions is compelling but they're missing a key ingredient. A substantive discussion about "why" the most prosperous nation in the world has produced such substandard public education. They are great at explaining the "who". Conservatives, Republicans, Obama. Hence the popular "Hey Hey Ho Ho, Arne Duncan has got to go" chant. They can even explain the "what", "when" and "where" about the problem.  Our urban schools, deteriorating over time, under resourced, over tested. But the missing part in the rally was the "why". Why are things the way the are? Why has nothing been done? Why are all the wrong things done? Why doesn't anyone seem to care that we're basically killing public schools? This missing x factor diminishes the power of all the rest. The "why" may be the ugly anchor we need to awaken the American public. We hesitate with the "why" because it must include a legacy of racism; both institutionalized and individual. Not all children are being thrown away. Our best public schools rank nicely against those around the world. White and upper class children, have and still do fare far better than their student of color counterparts. It's children of color we've quietly decided are expendable. The inconvenient truth and reality is that the nation's shifting demographic has made this racist foundation impractical. 
B. The second missing piece was answering "what needs to be done to truly improve teaching in America's public schools". Merit pay and high stakes testing accountability don't work. But let's concede that there are teachers in the system who need better support and training. What fundamental structures should be put in place to improve teaching? Let's define what a healthy national teaching system might contain. What are other countries doing in the name of great teaching and teaching professionalism? To ignore that the teaching profession isn't in great need of local, state and national assistance to improve the product they offer is to leave your argument vulnerable for others to fill in the blank with bad ideas. 
SOS marchers braved the heat to call attention to their cause. 

An NCLB graveyard. May imagination, creativity, and critical thinking RIP.

Matt Damon addresses SOS marchers. 

The march to the White House

Friday, July 29, 2011

Diane "The Jackhammer" Ravitch!

Diane "The Jackhammer" Ravitch
It's Day 2 of the SOS conference! Day 1 with Jonathan Kozol was a thrill. Well Day 2 with author Diane Ravitch felt like the rush you get after knocking down a stubborn brick wall. She was clear, tough and methodical, as she drilled into the very foundation of misguided education reform strategies currently so well cemented in public discourse and policy making. One by one she hammered at all the policy proposals this administration and localities around the country have just accepted as good ideas regardless of evidence to the contrary.

Merit pay for teachers, an Obama favorite. There's no compelling evidence to say this works. The teachers say it doesn't work! BANG- went the Ravitch hammer! Even still, New York City who had a failed attempt at merit pay, persists on trying to make it happen. Evaluating teachers based on test scores; another loser. Ravitch was clear. At best it leads to teaching to the test, or in increasing incidences, it leads to cheating and gaming the test to boost scores. WHAMO! Charter schools, this is the real prom queen at the policy ballroom. Everyone seems to want them. Meanwhile at the end of the day, this prom queen's true dance partner seems to be big business. Overall their results are no better than traditional public schools, yet they introduce a profit motive, where only the easiest to serve may benefit, while the hardest to serve youth are left to languish in increasingly under resourced schools. BOOYAH! Teachers don't get fired. Nonsense, Ravitch blasted! Teachers have an attrition rate of 50% in the first five years! With these numbers, surely some are getting fired.

Ravtich cited study after study, expert after expert. She carefully chiseled away at the very foundation of what makes up the nation's current approach to education. It was both cathartic and dismal to hear. But she ended with hope. Fear not, says this Jackhammer of Policy! These misguided reformers may have all the money and power, but things change. This story is not over, we live in a democracy, she argued. "There are more of us than there are of them!" Well said!

Van Jones & Rebuilding the American Dream

For nearly a year now, Van Jones – Ella Baker Center Founder, environmental advocate, Civil Right champion, and former Obama Administration adviser – has been championing a movement to motivate and organize progressives into action. And, if media coverage is any indicator, Jones' work seems to be paying off.

The American Dream Movement is backed by an impressive array of progressive-minded organizations and action groups, but perhaps more impressive is the fact that the nascent movement boasts a rapidly-growing membership of 127,000. Even more compelling is the Dream movement's premise that most Americans actually support progressive solutions to our most daunting challenges, even if they might not know it themselves.

In a recent NPR interview, Jones is quick to point out that sixty to seventy percent of Americans think the jobs crisis is more important than the on-going debt ceiling debacle. Most even agree that tax rates on wealthy individuals and corporations should be raised in light of the failed recovery. This stands in sharp contrast to the arguments of the Tea Party (to which the Dream Movement has been compared with) that has argued over the past two years that a majority wants to protect "job creators" (AKA The Very Rich) from a modest tax increase.

The American Dream Movement is convincing. It supports strategic investment in our society over clumsy budget cuts. It works to invest in communities of color and to resolve the persistent dilemmas facing the working poor. It stands for a responsible conclusion to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Finally, it recognizes that to get our economy movement again and to effectively invest in our joint future, all members of society must pitch in their fair share.

Again, check them out!


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Kozol Speaks on Segregation in Public Education

Kozol in the center, speaking with SOS attendees.

Acclaimed author Jonathan Kozol giving the introductory remarks at the SOS conference today. Jonathan Kozol’s race analysis of public education is compelling! First, it’s just great to hear a thoughtful approach on race in education. Too often we simply ignore the elephant in the clearly racially stratified room. But moreover, Kozol’s argument strikes at the heart of a major problem; our schools are more separate and unequal today than at any time since the 1960’s. Kozol recounted visiting school after school; each filled with black and brown students, and abysmally under-resourced. The numbers he gave are still startling. Per pupil spending for an inner city child is around $6,000-$7,000, while the wealthiest school are spending up to $30,000. He lamented how time and again we refuse to discuss persistent racial segregation. Whatever happened to Brown v. Board of Ed? His argument is old school but a picture of public education today can make you feel like we live in an Eyes on the Prize rerun. The re-segregation of public education is happening around the country, in the South in particular. As a society we seem quite willing to quietly surrender the idea of integration. It was just too hard. And Kozol rightly points out, that this administration has been mum on the subject.

SOS Comes to DC!

Just as the a political wave of teacher blame seemed certain to drown out their voices, the teacher backed SOS movement has come Washington DC to say, “NO!” Well not just no, but to also shine a light on a new path for education. For the next four days Save Our Schools March and National Call to Action (SOS) have descended on Washington DC, to connect education reform efforts happening around the nation and let policymakers know teachers also have a political voice. Days 1 and 2 are a conference hosted at American University. Then on Saturday, June 30th , SOS takes to the streets for a rally and march to the White House. It ends on Sunday, with a congress to plan next steps.  

On the opening day, the audience was filled with educators and their allies from across the nation. Among the capacity 450 crowd a healthy contingent came from California. They were present and energized. The event co-chair Rick Meyer, may have summed the event up best when he rallied “This is not an academic conference, we are here about action!” The workshops also fit this mold, with discussion ranging from using art for protest, to getting Congress to transform NCLB, to student/teacher organizing to change education. No one could have started things off better than the opening speaker Jonathan Kozol. See more of my blogs for more details. 

What do they demand? Well check-out their website. To sum it up, they have four things: equity in funding, end high stakes testing, inclusion of teachers and community in developing public education policy and locally developed curriculum. These demands push against the current popular policy tide stressing charter school expansion, competition for funding and connecting teacher evaluation and pay to test scores.  The event rings of teachers saying they’ve had enough of being at the center of what’s wrong with public education. To their credit, they’ve attempted to move beyond the reactionary (even though there’s much to react to) to create a proactive (albeit broad) agenda.

Could you feel Justice Matters’ racial justice platform at work? Well, somewhat. This was a majority white and female crowd, among participants and organizers. Yes, this reflects the teaching profession, but it does present an SOS challenge for making sure the voices, vision and concerns of those most effected (poor Black and Brown folks) gets into the process and outcomes of their activism. But to their credit, some of the workshops and Kozol’s rousing analysis of our “separate and unequal” education system, did show that some of our racial justice message is still in the room.

Budget Cut Fever Sweeps Detroit

For yet another example of how budgeting crises are affecting schools across the country, see Detroit. The Detroit Public Schools board decided Thursday to cut the wages of its teachers by a dramatic ten percent, saving $82 million to make up for a budget shortfall of over $300 million. Sadly, Detroit's approach seems almost light-handed when compared to recent actions on the parts of districts to close schools and even indefinitely postpone the school year.

Indeed, such evasive maneuvers are becoming commonplace during a phantom economic recovery. For all but the staunchest Keynesians, the  cut-rather-than-invest approach seems not just an acceptable, but a necessary way to adjust to a stagnant economy. Yet our failure to invest in public education at this time will have definite consequences down the line. Most tragically, the damage already extends beyond the quantifiable realm of macroeconomic policy. 

When a struggling student doesn't have a quality teacher to turn to, when a classroom is left with out of date materials and learning tools, and when whole schools are closed because of the failure of punitive, assessment-obsessed policies, investments in our communities and society are destroyed outright.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Census Report Finds Recession Widened Racial Divide

The U.S. Census Bureau released alarming data yesterday verifying something we've known all too well for the past three years: Black and Latino communities have been disproportionately hurt by the Great Recession. However, the Bureau's report reveals the extent of the damage, demonstrating that the median wealth of white households is now 18 times that of Latino families and 20 times that of black families.

These numbers are jarring and illustrate a widening income gap (the largest since the Bureau's been collecting income data) between whites and communities of color in the United States. Consider that while the median wealth of white households dropped by 16% during the recession, black households saw their median wealth drop by 53% and Latinos lost nearly 66% of their wealth. These statistics are dismal, to say the least.

Money isn't everything, as they say, but disparity and inequity levy incredibly corrosive effects upon the broader society. As the late historian Tony Judt argued, the levels of income inequality in the United States are uncommon among other wealthy nations. Such enormous income gaps, Judt noted, breed animosity, insecurity, and – most strikingly – unhappiness.

So, in a nation where we're all endowed with the right to pursue happiness, our policies and our economic attitudes are making that happiness harder and harder to find. Whole could and have been written about the causes of the recession, but what caused it is less important than how we responded to it. We didn't take steps to ensure that those who would be most financially devastated by an economic downturn (say Latino mortgage-holders in California and Florida or Blacks employed in manufacturing or the service industry) had some sort of safety net beyond a meager tax refund.

We didn't take those critical steps and now rather than building up our social safety nets, we're tearing them down. Among those social safety nets – perhaps the most critical of them all – is the promise of a quality public education to all children, free of charge. Every time we close a struggling school rather than coming to its aid,  every time we cut an after school program to "protect our job creators," and every time we push out a high school student we destroy a  safety net and widen the disparity. And yet, this is exactly how we have responded to the Great Recession.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Feds Eye Cuts to Black & Latino Programs in Absence of ESEA Reauth

As the 112th Congress seals its disastrous legacy this month, the once simmering discussion of a reauthorization of the Elementary & Secondary Education Act (ESEA) has evaporated in the summer heat.While it's all but certain that this session of Congress will not seriously address our nation's pressing public education concerns, the Department of Education is hard at work.Unfortunately, the plan that's taking shape in Washington appears to be based on strategy that could hurt countless Black and Latino students as the new school year gets underway.

If It Ain't Broke, Defund It
Two days ago, Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) released an urgent plea, published by The Hill. Hastings' piece focused on a Dept. of Ed. plan to grant waivers to school districts that want to circumvent certain No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requirements and programs. One such requirement that districts could apply to ignore is a stipulation that they spend a small percentage of the federal funds they receive on tutoring programs for low-income students.

The program, called Supplementary Education Services (SES), serves about 650,000 mainly Black and Latino students each year by providing them with free tutoring to supplement their classroom instructions. What's worse is that the Dept. of Ed.'s own research (confirmed by studies by the right-leaning Rand Corporation) shows that free tutoring for low income students actually works! It improves their test scores, brings up their grades, and, most importantly, it gives them the extra attention that they simply can't get in overcrowded classroom.

Save This Program!
If you've already read Hastings' letter, go back and check out the comments sections. It's a sad display of deep antipathy, and indeed hatred, toward students stuck in low performing schools. While many who've been fixated with the debt ceiling issue are eager to dismiss any federal programs as "hand-outs" and cut them away with relish, again THIS PROGRAM WORKS.

It's cheap, too – only a small percentage of the federal cash distributed to low-income districts. No taxpayer will feel any financial pain if SES stays in place, but at least 650,000 students and their families will certainly feel the difference if this essential provision is waived away.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Bronx Charter Punished for Questionable Practices

A charter school in the Bronx has been placed on probation for breaking New York state laws that require charter admissions to be random. The Academic Leadership Charter School serves students from Pre-K through second grade and has been charged with selectively choosing applicants who are more likely to out-perform their peers.

"Weeding Out" Students
Anna Phillips of The New York Times, reports that students were quietly admitted to the school on the basis of their previous report cards and disciplinary history and not through a lottery process required in charter schools receiving public funding. Such lotteries are typically overseen by an independent third party and are blind to student demographics and previous academic performance. An anonymous teacher at the school has even accused administrators of testing students prior to entry, a practice clearly prohibited by law.

These allegations get right to the heart of the charter schools debate. The school in question appears to have violated a number of laws designed to keep access to publicly-funded charters open and fair. Yet, this is only one case in which unethical activity has occurred. How many other schools are employing similar practices to boost their test scores and disciplinary records? How many other students are being brought into charter schools, not because the school wants to do good for them, but because their performance will do good for the school?

Clearly No Cure-All
Such questions are unanswerable, and perhaps that's the most troubling aspect of the situation in the Bronx. We can't know how many other publicly-funded charter schools are engaged in exactly the same practices, because our states and local education agencies have thus far been ineffective in ensuring compliance with the law. We have been too quick to hand resources and legitimacy over to charter schools in general, hailing them as a panacea for public education. 

We can't wait for intrepid reporters to break such stories. Instead, the education reform community must do the mature work of recognizing that not all charters are created equal. It must also ensure that all charters –independent though they may be – must have their admissions processes and practices rigorously monitored by higher legal authorities. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

In Memphis: School's Out Forever!

It’s not just a line in an Alice Cooper song anymore. This August, Memphis, TN students will not return to classrooms, at least not until a funding dispute between Memphis City Schools (MCS) and the city council. The MCS school board voted last Tuesday to delay the start of the school year until the city of Memphis pays the $78 million it owes to fund the upcoming school year.

President Obama attends graduation ceremonies at Memphis' historically black Booker T. Washington H.S. in May. The high performing school will not be opening in August unless a city-wide funding dispute is resolved. Source: AFP/Getty Images
Playing Games With Education
The day following the vote, the city scrounged up  $3 million of the $8 million it owes the school district from last school year (2010-2011). However, all signs from the city council indicate that the MCS will not receive an upfront payment for coming school year anytime soon. The mayor and council members have insisted that Memphis simply doesn’t have the cash on hand and will pay up after September 1st when tax revenues are due.
The dispute comes as a result of the city of Memphis consistently failing to meet its financial obligations to its schools over the past three years. School board members have justified their decision, citing that the city has delayed its payment of legally required funds each year since 2008. Furthermore, the city came up short when it did pay, accumulating over $150 million in IOU’s over the years.
Attacking Public Schools
City officials are calling out the school board’s move as unnecessarily dramatic, but consider the debt the city owes its school system. Also consider the fact that school board members have been quietly telling reporters that they fear a pending court decision to merge the city of Memphis with Shelby County would essentially cancel the city’s obligation to pay its debts to the school system.
So we have a city that might be trying to wait out its financial obligations to public education after having cut property taxes in 2008, depriving schools of $57 million in funding. Exactly how is this not a concerted effort to defund and kill a public school system? What’s more criminal about these fiscals games is that these delays will be hurting an extremely successful school system serving a Black community that makes up two-thirds of the city’s population.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Students Protest Chicago's Police Approach to Education

"What is wrong with Chicago’s public school system?"
It’s a question that perplexes policy commentators and school administrators alike. Yet, students and parents know the answer. Yesterday, they made their voices heard at Chicago Public Schools (CPS) headquarters in a protest headed by Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE). Their message: Stop suspending and arresting students for minor offenses and invest more heavily in college and career preparation rather than in security and police forces. They’re policy failures in school districts across the country, but the problem is particularly acute in Chicago.

Money for Career-Training, Not Policing
CPS currently spends a whopping fifteen times as much on campus security guards than on college and career coaches ($51 million vs. $3.5 million). VOYCE reports that students have arrested for relatively innocuous offenses such as scribbling graffiti on school desks and suspended for crimes like carrying cell phones or wearing jeans. Parents and students rightly argue that such a heavy-handed approach to discipline matters is both counterproductive and expensive.

Not only do such practices derail the educational progress of already struggling students, they also divert vast resources from teaching and learning toward policing. And that’s just it – Chicago runs its school system the same way it polices its streets. CPS maintains an archaic school bureaucracy that’s essentially managed out of the mayor’s office and not directly by the communities it serves.

A Community-Led Solution
Simply consider the fact that the former CEO of the CPS was a career police officer appointed to the position by Mayor Daley. Chicago’s new mayor, Rahm Emanuel, was been quick to put a career educator in the role of CEO, but Chicago shouldn’t have to rely on the off chance of good mayoral judgment to ensure that its school system is focused on educating and not policing its students. Beyond failed draconian policies, the system itself is the cause of many of Chicago’s woes.

Poverty is inevitably a problem and tensions within the community itself certainly aggravate the situation, but – to borrow a phrase – there’s nothing wrong with Chicago that can’t be fixed by what’s right with Chicago. Parents and students are making their voices heard, now CPS needs to get out of the way and give the communities served by the school system the greater role they deserve in shaping effective policies. 

Students and parents already have the right answers and only they can reverse the policies, practices, and attitudes that have kept too many of Chicago’s students of color from thriving.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Justice Matters Receives $500K Grant for Racial Justice

Justice Matters, has received a $500,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to fund their work over the next two years in building a national racial justice movement to transform education for students of color.

This funding will enable Justice Matters to define and set the movement-level building blocks for developing and advancing a racial justice agenda to transform public school education locally in Richmond, CA through parent-led organizing; in Oakland, CA, by supporting teacher training in developing parent leadership and engagement capacities; and, nationally through cutting edge policy analysis and a network of racial and social justice schools serving communities of color.

“It is great news that the Kellogg Foundation is committed to our work during this critical time for education policy in the U.S. We believe that the key to racially just schools begins with engaging parents and communities of color as active participants in school decision-making, offering their cultural knowledge and experience as an integrated part of their children’s education, “says Olivia E. Araiza, Executive Director of Justice Matters.

With a parent leadership academy, teacher trainings, campaigns and community arts programs, Justice Matters works locally to develop a people of color-led perspective to bring about systemic change and impact the learning experiences of students and families. This grassroots local organizing works hand-in-hand to develop the voice and analysis for racial justice policy on the national level.

Justice Matters works nationally to develop a network of schools committed to racial and social justice, and promote a visionary values-driven racial justice agenda related to the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and its impacts on communities of color. With commentary, analysis and interviews on education policy, Justice Matters provides a unique and cutting-edge voice in the national debate.

With this grant, Justice Matters will focus on two major projects:
Next Generation Leadership:
o Partner with local East Bay organizations to develop leadership programs, support mechanisms and teacher effectiveness tools for teachers in the classroom around parent leadership.
o Outreach and present case studies, tools and outcomes at community organizing and education conferences.
o Provide policy analysis and commentary through opinion pieces, publications and online, to help shape future policy. Participate in convenings, interviews and speaking engagements to further advocate for transformation of schools for communities of color.
Real Schools Now Campaign:
o Identify key issues and create an active campaign for policy change in the West Contra Costa Unified School District of California.
o Recruit a membership base, create community workshops, parent leadership, trainings and arts workshops.

About Justice Matters: Based in Oakland CA, Richmond, CA and Washington D.C., Justice Matters is a national people of color-led racial justice education policy movement building organization. Justice Matters’ research, policy agendas and organizing efforts are rooted in the values and vision communities of color hold for our children. For more information, visit

About the Foundation: The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, established in 1930, supports children, families and communities as they strengthen and create conditions that propel vulnerable children to achieve success asindividuals and as contributors to the larger community and society. Grants are concentrated in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean, and southern Africa. For further information on the foundation, please visit

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Hammond Speaks!

This is a short but must read Washington Post piece

by Stanford's Linda Darling Hammond . Her insightful take on the International Summit on Teaching calls America to task. She exposes how America’s teaching system is light years apart from those of the highest performing nations. Where we talk about firing teachers, Singapore pays a salary to teaching students during their training.

Why not in the US? Why can’t we find the political will to make vast changes and transform our education? President Obama can’t speak about education without mentioning America’s receding place internationally in educational outcomes. Yet, amazingly, our policies in no way emulate what’s working abroad. It calls into question his, and the country’s real intentions and commitment to educating us all. But really that may be the elephant in the room. Educating us all. What’s the big difference between the United States and the rest of these high performing countries? Well, they actually care about the outcomes of ALL their children.

We’re so busy Racing to the Top, we haven’t taken a moment to question the very fundamentals of our educational system. Why don’t we have a federal funding system for education (as the highest performing countries do)? Why don’t we have a national system to train teachers and equitably distribute them around the nation?

For years America’s latent social, economic and institutional racism have survived in the realm of education. It’s been perfectly OK for full swaths of Black and Brown children to go underserved. We could throw them away and still outperform other countries. Well, now the chicken has come home to roost. If only for selfish economic reasons we can no longer tolerate the status quo. Yet, even with that reality shinning before us, old habits die hard. We still have no political will (or heart) to start caring for children we once deemed insignificant.

As a nation we often define the Civil War as America’s great race test. African slavery was ultimately determined to be incompatible with American ideals. Well, sadly, and perhaps more subtly education may be our true watershed issue on racism in America. To successfully solve our educational inequities may be our national savior. And conversely, our heartlessness and underlying racism in educating our children may well be the undoing of the nation.

Monday, March 21, 2011

What you Need to Know

Check-out this provocative episode of PBS’s Need to Know (Ahead of the Class)

. The episode discusses successful strategies developed by high schools to improve learning. There’s Brockton High in Massachusetts where they’ve implemented a school wide literacy program that’s greatly improved student writing. The program’s focus is a little too testing focused for my taste, however, their work to turnaround a low performing school using teacher collaboration may be an important model in this “fire teachers” climate. There’s the University of Maryland at Baltimore efforts to increase students of color graduating with degrees in science. A really great effort! Then there’s using a fitness curriculum to improve student outcomes. As it turns out exercise can make you think better. It’s working in Naperville, IL.

Informative Webinar on National Education Efforts

An informative webinar Building a Grad Nation

from the Alliance for Excellent Education. Learn about the latest federal budget cut proposals in education. Also hear about upcoming events: Grad Nation by the America’s Promise Alliance and the United Way. It’s not from the signature Justice Matters racial justice perspective. But if you want to keep up the work being done by major education org, this will get you up to speed.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Will the stars align for ESEA?

Obama’s speech before students at a Virginia middle school heartened all those hoping for movement on ESEA. Alyson Klein of Education Week reported on Obama’s call to have ESEA finished in time for the next school year. He says this as NCLB guidelines promise to label the majority of the nation’s schools failing; in accordance with the 2014 AYP deadline for achievement. He’s seizing this political moment to highlight the shortcomings of the current law and emphasize the need for a comprehensive replacement.

The president also showed a commitment to protect education from slashes now threatening a host of social services and other federal government programs. He seal this commitment with a promise of vetoing anything to the contrary.

It’s good to see that the president is steadfast in his commitment to education. That commitment to ESEA, mixed an with interest from key lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and an Obama education proposal replete conservative hallmarks may make ESEA the best (and only) hope for major legislative passage this session. Yet, the president may be throwing all of his eggs into a hole ridden basket. He's going to the mat for an agenda that may rearrange deck chairs while never opening a debate that questions fundamental inequities in education. In the end he may get his legislation yet it may not be political energy well spent.

Friday, March 4, 2011

More Budget Woes

Education fell victim to cuts as Congress works to pass a stop gap budget and avert a government shut down. Teach for America, The Writing Project, and others took a serious hit. Sadly, students of color in low income areas are most likely to feel the pain. Teach for America will now be able to serve 25,000 fewer students, a program to train principals for America's most underserved schools has been eliminated. True to past cuts, those most vulnerable suffer the greatest. Prospects don't look great for the next budget. Read more…

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Detroit Schools: A Reflection of Racial Inequity and Injustice

Amina writes about cuts to Detroit Public Schools

Detroit’s Spiral
This week Detroit Public Schools announced that it would make major cuts to eliminate its enormous $327 million budget deficit. The proposal will close half of its schools, leaving marked overcrowding in the surviving half. The shortfall is in part because of the declining public school population. Over the last 10 years the public school population has declined by 50%. The students have gone and taken their government funding with them. There is no upside to this story. No hopeful conclusion. Schools for closure are now being selected.

A Reservoir of Racial Inequity
If you want to see the health of a community look at its schools. They are the reservoirs of our racial injustice and inequity. The two are inextricably connected. Understand this reality and what’s happening in Detroit Public Schools is awful, but not shocking. Let’s be clear. Detroit Public Schools serve a Black population (upwards of 95%!). If you want clarity about racial inequity in public schools, Detroit is a newly cleaned window. Peer through that window and Detroit gives an unobstructed view of how America treats Black children. It shows how little we value them, how expendable they are.

Super Flight
Let’s start with some of the broader forces of racial inequity at work in Detroit. Detroit is a lesson in extremes. Sure things happen everywhere, but they really explode in Detroit. White flight happened all over the nation. But in the case of Detroit, its white super flight. Since it’s peak number in 1950, Detroit has lost 50% of its population. In the 1950s the population of whites in Detroit hovered around 1.5 million, by 2000 it had declined to below 200,000. Ironically in that same time period the population of African Americans grew. That fleeing white population took their resources with them and the schools tell the tale.

The Plummet
More extremes. With the decline of the auto industry and movement of jobs overseas, the country’s old steel and motor towns have gone through an economic downturn. Well in Detroit it was a plummet, or more like a mammoth explosion. Detroit has an unemployment rate of 15.1, the highest rate among America’s 50 largest metropolitan cities. For Blacks in Detroit the unemployment rate hovers around 20.9% versus 13.8 % for whites!

Detroit’s Schools Tell The Tale
And these broader racial inequities are revealed in the schools. Yes, foremost we see this in the absolute disarray of the Detroit Public School system. The cavalier way they announce the plan to close half the schools. The way it’s accepted by the mainstream American audience. The story made national news, so we could show our shallow dismayed, and now it’s quietly gone away.

But we also see it in the schools themselves. In the 2009-10 school year Detroit Public Schools recommended 29,000 suspensions and expulsions, with over 700 of those being expulsions! This is in a district of 90,000 students! The dropout rate for black males is some 80%! You’ve gotta call that a push-out rate. Detroit Public Schools may be the definition the school-to-prison pipeline.

Sure we may be able to escape the ugliness of racial inequity in much of our daily lives; with our highway commutes, our gated communities and our Facebook pages. This may be partly why education has suffered from inattention. Because to look at these schools we are reminded that with all our “progress” our past is still very much our present when it comes to racial injustice. 

Friday, February 18, 2011

Republican Budget Butcher

Amina writes on the Republican education budget proposal.

Education Slashed
I can only imagine the cognitive dissonance needed to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans then turn around and recommend some $5 billion in cuts to education programs for some of our most underserved.  Little was spared in this budget bloodbath.  Headstart--cut by 1 billion, Even Start Family Literacy Program and a host of other literacy programs--eliminated, the Pell Grant slashed by $845 per-student grant, $180 million for math and science partnerships—eliminated. Those are just a few highlights. 

…and climate change is real
Republicans argue that they’ve looked at these programs carefully and made hard choices. Programs of little to questionable value were the worst hit. It’s amazing what they still consider questionable! Study after study show benefits to children from Head Start…oh but these guys are still arguing that climate change isn't real.  Literacy programs (which took a wholesale hit) have proven benefits. For families, these programs exponentially increase the chances a child is read to, they reduce recidivism rates for the incarcerated, they increase productivity in the workplace. Cuts to an already inadequate Pell Grant (particularly in light of rising tuition costs) are hard to swallow. It’s already difficult to be poor in higher education, this guarantees it will get harder.

Relative to President Obama
If Obama planned his budget in hopes of appearing reasonable next to the craziness of the Republican proposal, it almost works. Their complete disregard for students of color in low income communities place a nice red bow on the Obama proposal. But let’s not allow the absurd to make what’s less than adequate into good budget policy.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

State Boards of Education Prove They Don't Know Much About History

Jack writes on Fordham's findings that State Boards of Education have lost touch with the past... and reality:

While teachers, parents, and even students often find themselves taking the blame for the nation's failings on the education front, the Fordham Institute released the findings today of a review that scolds state boards of education for their shortcomings. 

Targeted at evaluating History education standards in all fifty states, the Fordham analysis conducted by professional historians concluded that 28 states deserve a grade of 'D' or 'F' in the content of their K-12 history curricula. Only one state, South Carolina – with its critical analysis of its controversial past and its staunch emphasis on the histories of communities of color – received an 'A'. Notably, Illinois and Texas' history standards mustered 'D's', with the evaluators noting the bland disjointedness of the former and the politicized inaccuracies of the latter. Who knew Abe Lincoln fought at the Alamo?!

These standards, set by state boards of education, are the bread and butter of history instruction in K-12 education. While much attention has been given to student performance on standardized examinations and the quality of teaching that such results ostensibly demonstrate, Fordham's findings seriously call into question the design and accuracy of the very material being taught in schools.

With the help of a board of scientists, Fordham has also conducted an evaluation of Science standards in all fifty states with similarly disconcerting results. History and Science are particularly important for the critical thinking skills that they can cultivate and the objective knowledge about our society that they can cultivate. It seems that with the discussion heating up over the common core standards initiative, it's also essential to take a serious look a what those standards are and how they can be brought into step with reality.  

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Budget Valentine: More Bitter Than Sweet

Amina writes on President Obama’s budget proposal and what it means for students of color.

February 14, 2011

Well, President Obama’s Valentine budget seems pretty faithful to his program for K-12. If you were hoping for some transformation in education for students of color via this proposal, well, you got a clear V-Day message that he’s just not that into you.

More Racing
More Racing to the Top. Now we’re competing between districts, one district competing against its neighbor. Great. If you thought there were local rivalries in the past, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Forget football and basketball throwdowns, now we’ve got real dollars at stake; well resourced districts against poor ones. Meanwhile, the jury is still out on whether the state-based Race to the Top competition will create great outcomes for students. Yes, Duncan and Obama have already taken victory laps. Yet, we don’t know if the winning states can fulfill the promises they’ve made to get the dollars. And for the losers (the cash strapped and dumped), their grant writing promises may be forgotten, undone, ignored or tossed away like Valentines from an ex.

Bittersweet for Teachers
There is a touch of sweet in this budget. Money to recruit and train teachers. But there may be an icky cherry at the center of this sweet treat. A great deal is being accomplished through consolidating existing programs, not necessarily new money. Also, some proposals may be working in opposition to others; like recruiting and training new teachers versus turnaround schools. Under the turnaround model teaching in the most underserved and underperforming schools could be a hazard to your professional health. A new climate is being instituted. Show some results and fast, or you could find yourself a casualty of a turnaround firing. So with the new incentives we may get more teachers, yet its not clear that they will offer the longterm teaching commitment we need in our most underserved schools.

Parents Still Scorned
And for parents awaiting a budget Valentine to seriously fund their engagement in schools; well, call it a night, it’s a no show. Though we can find community on the fringes of this budget; adult literacy, charter school choice, etc. It’s not going to get parents trained, informed and empowered as full partners in determining how their schools are run.

A Shift
What’s unfortunate is how our expectations have shifted. We are in a warped world; where tax cuts for the rich have been extended while extensive budget cuts are on the table. In this twisted environment, you just want to breathe a sigh of relief that education for K-12 didn’t get placed on the chopping block. (The same can’t be said for higher ed). Meanwhile, this shift right may dull the sharp eye we need to understand and improve what actually is being funded. In this game the new radical right has won because real transformative conversations will never take place. We’ll have to save that Valentine wish for another year.

Friday, February 11, 2011

On Your Marks, Get Set, Reauthorize!

Jack writes on the first rumblings on Capitol Hill of a move toward ESEA reauthorization in 2011:

The House Education and Workforce Committee held its first hearing of the new year on ESEA reauthorization yesterday. Entitled "Education in the Nation: Examining the Challenges and Opportunities Facing America's Classrooms," the hearing featured expert testimony from former Arizona Superintendent and GOP policy consultant Lisa Graham Keegan, Indiana's Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Tony Bennett, Andrew Coulson of the Cato Institute, and Dr.Ted Mitchell of the New Schools Venture Fund.

"Government is the Problem"
As noted in the Washington Post's Answer Sheet, these experts have a whopping nine years of teaching experience between them and generally pushed for a conservative approach to education reform. In particular, Mr. Coulson’s testimony centered on an argument that Federal spending on education has done virtually nothing to improve math and science test scores or close the achievement gap over the past fifty years. His data is interesting, but the conclusion that the Federal role in education should be axed comes off as quaint. 

Ms. Keegan and Dr. Mitchell forwarded a similar approach of just “getting out of the way” of local and state authorities. They both argued for more charter schools and greater local control. They also applauded the Obama Administration’s Race to the Top scramble for cash, as well as parent trigger laws. Finally, Dr. Bennett laid out a strategy for reform based on three ideas: 1) Identify and reward excellent teachers and principals, 2) Enforce school accountability but allow flexibility for low-performing schools, 3) Give families a “voice” in education through school choice and trigger laws.

No Silver Bullet
At the end of the day, that’s the picture of education reform under the new Republican House: less Federal “meddling” and more innovation through school choice and local control. Again, these things don’t sound particularly nefarious at first, but they conceal a deeper thesis that we can solve the problems of the public education system in this country by gradually dismantling it. 

I admit it, I’m skeptical of the push for more charter schools. I know it's not the cool thing to say right now, but I’m just not sure we have enough information yet to determine that a charterization of the American public education system is the silver bullet it's marketed to be. I also think that government, when operating transparently and concertedly, can do and has done some very important things in education. Red flags go up for me when I hear folks say, “Let’s just get government out of our way.” That usually means we’re going to deregulate and defund and let the market decide who gets shiny new schools and who gets the dregs. 

Curious Tensions
On that note, this was just the first of many hearings that will be taking place over the next few months. Steam does seem to be gathering for a 2011 reauthorization of ESEA, but it’s clear this will be the kind of “dialogue” we’ll be hearing on Capitol Hill. It’s also clear there’s some definite tension between the Republican and Democratic wings of the committee that might hamper the process. 

Finally, it’s worth noting that as in 1994, the Republicans have renamed the committee from “Education and Labor” to “Education and Workforce.” The L-word never sat well with the GOP for some reason. Also, check out the revamped committee website complete with an anti-Obama news feed (the Dems have kept their own separate website). It’s good for a chuckle if you’re into the whole partisan thing.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Integration, ending with a national whimper.

Amina writes on the re-segregation vote in Wake County, NC public schools:

Wake County, NC’s school board voted to end their integration scheme. Their income -based approach was targeted to keep students from low income households to below 40% in a school. Students were bused to achieve greater diversity.  Though the 40% mark was not always met, it’s been viewed as a success in increasing racial and income diversity.

It Spreads
Backtracking on integration is a trending upward. Raleigh, NC, Charlotte, NC, have also turned and the efforts continue. The funny thing is that proponents aren’t really arguing that Black and Brown children will fare better with re-segregation. Given outcomes for students of color in high poverty school – not even Republicans (who’ve tended to vote for re-segregation) can argue that with a straight face. In Raleigh, NC, where integration efforts were put to an end by a Republican school board, the chair said, “we’ve diluted the problem so we can ignore it.” Re-segregation was the solution. Yes, let’s isolate the most underserved. It’ll make us serve them better. Sure thing.

The basic message is we just don’t want to be bothered anymore. It’s unnecessary. It costs too much and we’re tired of it. The results will soon follow. In Charlotte, NC, after reversal of its integration efforts in 2002, has found concentrations of poor black students mounting.

So Old School
Integration. It sounds so old school. Like afro puffs and roller skates. As districts end concerted efforts for diversity, we see that old terms have present day value. In our post-race, post-racist, post-reality era, we’ve left the integration hen house unattended. With protests, sit-ins, boycotts, Supreme Court cases, and historic legislation; integration came in with a national bang. Well, it’s going out with a whimper. With residents protesting at school board meetings, and local NAACP chapters trying to get traction in the courts--but without national debate.