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Posts Tagged ‘social mobility’

Opiod Epidemic Makes Life Even MORE Complicated… and MORE Costly for Schools

June 24, 2018 Leave a comment

Earlier this week, Politico published a post that described how the opiod crisis is impacting public education, and it isn’t a pretty picture:

SCHOOLS BLINDSIDED BY OPIOID EPIDEMIC: America’s biggest public health crisis since AIDS has seeped into cash-strapped schools. Educators are on the silent front lines of the epidemic at a time when many already feel overtaxed as a result of budget cuts and chronic shortages of school counselors, psychologists and social workers.

Here’s what our reporting found: Teachers console children whose parents have died, gone to jail or disappeared as foster care rates increase, often resulting from drug abuse. Sleep-deprived youngsters come to school hungry and dirty, describing drug busts in their homes. Sometimes, the abusers are the students themselves. Overloaded school counselors struggle to assist hundreds of kids and parents.

Adding to the stress,fights over scarce school funding and teacher pay mark many of the same states engulfed by opioid addiction.Overdose deaths from opioids and other drugs have risen significantly in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma — all states where teachers walked off the job this year. In Arizona, another state of teacher labor unrest where school funding dropped more than a third since the Great Recession, heroin overdose deaths are increasing.

“There’s a lot of talk about the opioid abuse and drug abuse in the state, but then we’re not funding the basic programs that would really help with our side, kids at school,” said Patrick Ballard, a school psychologist in Lexington, Ky.

Schools must educate children preoccupied by other things. “If you don’t feel safe and you can’t get a warm shelter and meal, how are you going to focus on a math test?” said Jan Rader, the fire chief of Huntington, W.Va., who regularly responds to 911 drug overdose calls to find children on the scene. “We spend a lot of time talking about getting people into treatment and into detox and all of that. But our kids, it’s our next generation, and they are suffering.”

Janine Menard, a high school counselor who serves as board chairwoman of the Arizona School Counselors Association, said prevention programming has become an afterthought in her home state as Arizona’s ratio of counselors to students has slipped to 1-to-924. She oversees about 1,600 students at two schools, where she’s seen engaged parents seemingly slip into what she said she assumes are the trenches of drug abuse.

“It’s like a Band-Aid. You just take care of the student with behavior problems and what’s happening at the moment,” said Menard, who watched in frustration in May at the state Capitol in Arizona as legislators voted down an amendment that would have sought to lower the ratio to 1 to 250.

— Speaking of drug prevention education, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said in an interview that he believes it should be mandatory for students of all ages, starting in kindergarten. He said he’s frequently approached by teachers and other school employees who describe opioid-related problems.

— “Thank God for the school system, the teachers, the teacher’s aides, service personnel. We’ve almost basically asked them to step in where parents, and communities and the social structure of an area hasn’t been able to do their job, and do it for them,” Manchin said. Read more from your host here.

It is heartening to see a Senator praising the public schools… but it would be even better to hear any political acknowledge the ultimate action needed to solve this problem: more money for public education and public health services. 

Teasing out the ides offered in this post underscores that reality. If voters want public schools and public health agencies to cope with the existing problems and prevent future problems they will need to hire more personnel for BOTH, and that will come at a cost to taxpayers… and from where I sit every dollar we spend on prevention and treatment is a dollar that we do not have to spend on prisons. But, alas, prisons are profitable and public school and public health personnel are a “drain on our tax dollars”.

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Full Court Press on Illegal Immigrants Has Schools, Children Living in Fear

June 19, 2018 Leave a comment

There is a large group of students who are very happy and relieved that school is ending… and a large number of school officials who are equally happy and relieved. According to a recent NYTimes article by Erica Green, immigrant students in many parts of the country have lived in a state of constant fear and vigilance for the past year. Why? Because in those states a referral to ICE by the SROs in the school could mean immediate arrest, imprisonment, and deportation. And in the uncertain political climate today, federal policy could put even more public schools in the crosshairs of this issue. As Ms. Green explains in her article that used the case of Dennis Rivera-Sarmiento as an example of how public schools with SROs and ICE can “team up”, an infraction by a student who is in the country illegally can result in imprisonment and potentially deportation:

The agency (ICE) still classifies schools as “sensitive locations” where enforcement actions are generally prohibited. But immigrant rights groups point out that the designation has not stopped ICE agents from picking up parents as they drop their children off at school, nor has it prevented school disciplinarians from helping to build ICE cases.

And Education Secretary Betsy DeVos seemed to open the door to more such referrals (in mid-May) when she initially told members of Congress that ICE enforcement decisions should be left to local officials, not established federal policy that prohibits it.

Though Ms. DeVos later corrected herself, assuring children that she “...expected schools to comply with a 1982 Supreme Court decision that held that schools cannot deny undocumented students an education“, her assurance rang hollow because her actions betrayed her words. Ms. Green writes:

But as she offered that reassurance, Ms. DeVos moved toward rescinding an Obama-era policy document on student discipline that could make undocumented students vulnerable. That 2014 policy encouraged schools to revise discipline policies that disproportionately kicked students of color out of school.

Data shows that students of color are disproportionately arrested at school, and advocates and educators contend that schools will increasingly rely on law enforcement to manage disciplinary issues if the guidance is rescinded.

And in some states where SROs are present and the laws mandate that arrested immigrant students get referred to ICE, a small infraction could conceivably lead to deportation.

School officials do not want to be tied to ICE because if they do so the immigrant students entering our country seeking political asylum or a better life will not attend… and if they are not in school their opportunities will be more limited setting up a vicious circle where a virtuous one might be in place.

From my perspective, legislators have this summer to figure out how they are going to deal with the immigration issue going forward. If the status quo is maintained, it appears that the current administration and the majority of GOP legislators will use the crackdown on “illegal immigrants”, many of whom are children, as political leverage to show their base that they mean business when it comes to sealing the borders. If that is the case, teachers, counselors, and administrators will be in a quandary when schools open in September.

NYC Tracking System in the Spotlight… and It Is NOT a Pretty Picture

June 18, 2018 Leave a comment

Over the past several days, numbers articles have appeared in the NY media praising or assailing Mayor Bill De Blasio’s call to expand the number of minority students in NYC’s elite schools by de-emphasizing the SHSAT tests that serve as the de facto sole metric for admission. Today’s NYTimes features an article by Winnie Hu and Elizabeth Harris that brings to light the fact that the kind of screening the exists to gain entry to the elite high schools permeates the entire city school system…. and that screening underpins the re-segregation that is taking place in that city and across the nation. Titled “A Shadow System of Tracking by School Feeds Segregation, Mss. Wu and Harris’ article opens with these startling paragraphs:

No other city in the country screens students for as many schools as New York— a startling fact all but lost in the furor that has erupted over Mayor Bill de Blasio’s recent proposal to change the admissions process for the city’s handful of elite high schools.

One in five middle and high schools in New York, the nation’s largest school district, now choose all of their students based on factors like grades or state test scores. That intensifies an already raw debate about equity, representation and opportunity that has raged since Mr. de Blasio proposed scrapping the one-day test now required to gain entry into New York’s eight elite high schools. Black and Hispanic students are underrepresented in many of the most selective screened middle and high schools, just as they are in the specialized high schools.

I’ve witnessed this screening mechanism as a grandparent of a NYC seventh grader. My grandson is one of the 20% of middle schoolers whose parents “chose” a school for him, a process that was arguably more daunting than applying for college since there is no common application form and one of the factors for admission to a de facto selective middle school is a parents willingness and ability to attend evening orientation sessions for each school a child is considering. This phenomenon is described in the article, using one parent’s experience as a proxy for thousands of parents cross the city:

Edwin Franco, a father of two girls who lives in the Bronx, said that too many selective schools cherry pick the best students — and deprive everyone else of opportunities. “They’re almost like a factory,” he said. “They’re churning out high-performing kids who are doing great while the rest of the kids are trying to figure it out on their own because they don’t have the same resources.”

….And now as many coveted middle schools screen, the competition has moved down to that level as well. Mr. Franco attended neighborhood schools in Washington Heights, and he only went through a selection process for high school. Both his daughters have already been through screening for middle schools.

“As a parent, I’m seeing the same level of intensity to get into middle school,” he said. “That’s what baffles me, middle schools are just as competitive as high schools.”

Mss. Wu and Harris provide a “history” of this tend toward screening, attributing its acceleration to the Bloomberg administration when all eighth grade students were compelled to “choose” their high school and the high schools marketed their programs in an effort to entice parents to select them:

Students rank up to 12 choices, and then get matched to one school by a special algorithm. The idea was to allow students to escape failing neighborhood schools and apply anywhere they chose.

…But as students increasingly chose their schools, the system evolved so that many schools became the ones choosing the students.

The number of high schools that admitted students only through academic screening — including the specialized high school exam, other tests and grades, or auditions — has more than tripled to 112 schools in 2017 from 29 schools in 1997, according to an analysis by Sean P. Corcoran, an associate professor of economics and education policy at New York University. Screening requirements vary from school to school, but the most sought-after schools often require at least a 90 average.

“You’ve set up a system of competition among high schools in which the easiest way for a principal to win is to select the students who are best prepared,” Richard D. Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, said. “Certainly having that market-based ideology — without guidelines for equity — appears to have accelerated the growth of screening.

From my perspective, even if Mayor De Blasio’s effort to limit the use of standardized test scores fails in the NYS legislature as appears to be the case for THIS session, by raising this topic now he could conceivably make the commodification of schools a campaign issue in 2018… and THAT would be a tremendous public service. The more parents understand the inter-relationship between choice and screening and the consequences of screening, the more likely it is that public schools might abandon the practice of sorting and selecting and replace it with funds to improve all public schools.

NY Times Upshot Analyses Show that Money Matters. Will the Editorial Board Wake Up to that Reality?

June 16, 2018 Leave a comment

I receive periodic updates from the NYTimes Upshot articles which provide interesting statistical analyses and visual presentations of various data points. Yesterday’s email included two posts that underscore the favorable impact that wealth has on opportunities.

The subtitle of the first post, “Money, Race and Success” provides a synopsis of the information illustrated in their scattergram: “Sixth graders in the richest school districts are four grade levels ahead of children in the poorest districts.” While this news is completely unsurprising given the persistent correlation between wealth and test scores, the accompanying article seems to be mystified as to why it persists. Worse, the analysis reinforces the notion that test scores should be the predominant metric for measuring “success” and the notion that all districts need to do is find a successful formula and replicate it and– voila– the gaps in test scores will disappear. Fortunately, some of the successful districts gently push back on that idea.

The second, post, “Where Boys Outperform Girls“, offers data showing that boys who attend schools in districts that spend more on schooling have better scores than there counterparts in other schools. As Claire Cain Miller and Kevin Quealy report in the opening paragraphs:

In much of the country, the stereotype that boys do better than girls at math isn’t true – on average, they perform about the same, at least through eighth grade. But there’s a notable exception.

In school districts that are mostly rich, white and suburban, boys are much more likely to outperform girls in math, according to a new study from Stanford researchers, one of the most comprehensive looks at the gender gap in test scores at the school district level.

Why is this so? Ms. Miller and Mr. Quealy offer these ideas:

High-income parents spend more time and money on their children, and invest in more stereotypical activities, researchers said, enrolling their daughters in ballet and their sons in engineering.

There is also a theory that high-earning families invest more in sons, because men in this socioeconomic group earn more than women, while low-earning families invest more in daughters, because working-class women have more job opportunities than men…

When boys think of academic achievement as desirable and tied to their future success, they do better. Boys who have fathers who are involved in their lives, and who are highly educated with white-collar jobs, are more likely to receive this message, according to research by Mr. DiPrete and Claudia Buchmann, a sociologist at Ohio State…

“We live in a society where there’s multiple models of successful masculinity,” Mr. DiPrete said. “One depends for its position on education, and the other doesn’t. It comes from physical strength.”

What’s good for boys, though, isn’t necessarily good for girls.

Although well-off districts encourage boys in math, they don’t seem to encourage girls in the same way. Researchers say it probably has to do with deeply ingrained stereotypes that boys are better at math.

Teachers often underestimate girls’ math abilities, according to research by Sarah Lubienski of Indiana University and Joseph Cimpian of New York University, who also found the gender gap in math was largest for students from high-income families. They found that as girls move through elementary school, they lose confidence in their math skills – more than they lose interest or achievement.

In the end, though, the bottom line is more resources help both genders. As Thomas DiPrete, a sociologist at Columbia who has studied gender and educational performance notes: “Both girls and boys benefit from being in more academic and more resource-rich environments. It’s just that boys benefit more.”

Researchers know that money matters. Will the NYTimes editorial board ever catch on? Will politicians? Will voters?

 

De Blasio’s Proposal to End Test-Based Admissions Generating Healthy— and Unhealthy Dialogue

June 14, 2018 Leave a comment

Over the past several days score of articles have appeared regarding NYC Mayor De Blasio’s proposal to end the test-based admissions policy that results in racial and socio-economic imbalances in NYC’s “elite” high schools. The articles range from impassioned pleas to move forward with the plan ASAP to impassioned pleas to maintain the status quo and they range from debates about the innate abilities that cannot be measured by standardized tests to assertions that the tests are crafted in a fashion that assures fairness and assurances that only the best and brightest will be admitted.

To get a sense of the range of debates, I recommend reading Diane Ravitch’s post yesterday titled “What to Do About NYC’s Exam for Admission to Three Elite HSs“. Her post features a lengthy excerpt from a NYPost article written by Danielle Eisenman, a recent graduate of one of the “elite” high schools who is currently enrolled at Harvard, which calls for the elimination of the tests. In the excerpt, Ms. Eisenman writes:

Defenders of the current system, hailing the test as establishing a level playing field, argue that if more black and Latino students truly wanted to attend specialized high schools, they could just study harder. I have repeatedly heard my classmates champion this mindset, implying that black and Latino students are not as hardworking, and, even more disturbingly, not as smart as their Asian counterparts.

“The SHSAT, however, does not measure work ethic or intelligence, but a student’s ability to answer over 100 tedious multiple choice questions in under three hours. It tests for access to tutors and cram schools that teach students the skills they need to answer the questions without thinking.

“I flunked my first practice tests. After a prep class and some tutoring sessions, however, I knew all the tricks. If I hadn’t had access to that class, I likely would not have gotten into Stuy.

“The exam only tests for reading comprehension and math skills — no critical thinking, ambition, creativity or other qualities that predict success at specialized high schools….”

I completely concur with Ms. Eisenman’s thinking, but as I read the comments on Diane Ravitch’s post it was clear that some of her readers did not. Some who were critics of Mr. De Blasio thought a more measured approach was needed while others placed their faith in standardized tests to measure intelligence. Many of the comments included links to articles and references to books that supported their arguments.

Yesterday’s NYTimes featured an opinion article by Minh-Ha T. Pham, a scholar of Asian-American studies whose child attends New York City public schools. Asians are among the groups most adamantly opposed to changing the status quo since they are highly over-represented at the “elite” schools. Ms. Pham, though, argues in favor of the mayor’s approach, calling the proposed change “not just a good thing (but also) right thing”. But Ms. Pham realizes her perspective is different from many of her Asian-American colleagues:

Unfortunately, some Asian-American parents in New York are protesting this proposal, arguing that it is anti-Asian because it would decrease the number of Asian children in elite schools. They are on the wrong side of this educational fight.

The mayor’s plan isn’t anti-Asian, it’s anti-racist. It would give working-class parents — including Asian-Americans — who can’t afford and shouldn’t have to find ways to afford expensive test prep programs a fairer chance that their child will be admitted into what’s known as a specialized high school. True, taking a test prep course doesn’t guarantee admission to such a school, but it does offer clear benefits and is widely understood to be essential to test-takers.

Nor is the plan a form of affirmative action. Affirmative-action admission policies — like those in place at some universities — require that race be one part of a host of measures considered. Mr. de Blasio’s plan doesn’t stipulate any racial criterion for admission, much less racial quotas (which the Supreme Court outlawed in 1978). The plan will simply give kids from a wider variety of backgrounds access to a public resource: an excellent public high school education. This is a public resource, something all New York City families contribute to with their taxes. Only about 5 percent of all New York City high school students are enrolled in a specialized high school and last year half of these kids came from just 21 middle schools.

Ms. Pham’s perspective on the mayor’s plan mirrors the one I posted earlier this week: the entire notion of “elite” schools should be called into question. How can there be only 5% of the children in NYC schools who are eligible for the kind of rigorous curriculum offered in the “elite schools”? She writes:

(if the plan is implemented) only five percent of kids are getting access to a valuable public resource. Frankly, Mr. de Blasio’s plan doesn’t fix this problem of inequality. Under his plan, even though the elite high schools would get a bigger range of students, the number of children getting access to this public resource will remain about the same — minuscule.

This is what critics of the plan should be outraged about. All kids deserve a top-rate education in schools with qualified teachers and ample support staff and a wealth of curriculum materials and supplies. All of our schools should be elite schools.

To be against Mr. de Blasio’s proposal is to be against a very limited attempt at giving more kids access to a limited resource. His plan doesn’t add more seats. It just allows more kids a shot at one of those seats — kids whose families can’t afford years of test prep classes and tutors, who live in under-resourced districts, and yet who still manage to excel in their own schools.

I doubt that it would be possible for the mayor to completely eliminate the “elite” schools that are so much a part of the NYC schools’ culture because many of the alumni of those schools would push back as would the pro-charter groups whose arguments for boutique schools would fall by the wayside of every NYC schools was as strong and comprehensive as the schools in, say, Scarsdale. Like Ms. Pham, though, I believe that until all of our schools are elite schools we will continue to see a widening gap between the haves and have-nots in our society.

An Obvious Solution to the Elite NYC High School Dilemma: Add More of Them! The Impediment? $$$$

June 11, 2018 Comments off

A recent City and State article by Tom Allon and Rafeal Espinal offers an obvious solution to the problem posed by having 30,000 applicants seeking placement in NYC’s so called “elite high schools”: Open more of them! Mr. Allon and Mr. Espinal open their article describing the problem:

Every year around 30,000 8th graders take the SHSAT, the high-stakes entrance exam for New York City’s eight coveted specialized high schools.

In March, 25,000 ambitious teenagers get the disappointing news that they will not be offered admission to any of those schools.

Recently, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s controversial plan to increase the paltry number of African-American and Latino students in the specialized schools has been met with much criticism, particularly from the city’s growing Asian-American community. Currently, the majority of students at Stuyvesant, Bronx Science and Brooklyn Tech are of Asian descent. At Stuyvesant 73 percent of the student body is Asian-American, compared to 1 percent African-American and 3 percent Latino. The citywide public school mix is much different: 26 percent African-American, 40 percent Latino and only 16 percent Asian-American.

In the zero-sum game of balancing the racial demographics at these schools, a win for one group results in a loss for another.

There solution is an obvious one. Add “…more educational jewels to the crown in the public high school system” by expanding the number of seats available! This solution would have the effect of increasing the buyer of opportunities for bright and motivated students to enroll in academically challenging programs without watering down the content and without compromising the application process.

If every child who took the test and completed the application process was assured admission to a rigorous program who would lose? The obvious answer is those who pay taxes for schools and those who believe that “choice” and “competition” are a pre-requisite for quality. Clearly the cost/pupil would increase for the 25,000 students now left out in the cold, but if the marginal cost/pupil was $1,000 the $25,000,000 increase would be pocket change for a district with a budget of $24,000,000,000 and when that cost is spread over the tax base it would be relatively inconsequential. The benefits, on the other hand, would be huge.

And Mr. Allon and Mr. Espinal offer the experience of the expansion of Bard’s High School Early College program as evidence that such an expansion would not water down the academics if more students were admitted. There are clearly more than 5,000 students who would benefit from an “elite” education…. and it’s clearly time to move forward with an expansion plan instead of perpetuating the zero-sum mentality that adds needless stress to the lives of thousands of NYC households.

 

Bad Metrics Not Limited to Education: Employment Rates Mis-measure Our Economy Too

June 9, 2018 Comments off

Earlier this week, President Trump effectively released the employment figures before the official announcement and, in so doing, reinforced the notion that low unemployment rates are a sign of economic well-being. But, as Paul Constant wrote in Civic Skunk Works immediately after the release of the employment figures, that is not necessarily the case and, of late, has increasingly NOT been the case. Here’s the nub of his argument:

…if you just report on numbers, it’s very easy to fall into a Trump-friendly video-game mindset, in which larger numbers are an unalloyed good to be accrued at all costs…all these… journalists didn’t ask the most important question of all: we know the quantity of jobs. But what about the quality of those jobs?

Mr. Constant then produces reams of evidence that the quality of jobs in the “new economy” is awful:

As Derek Thompson argued at The Atlantic back in 2012, America’s postwar economy has shifted dramatically. Since the 1950s, he reports, “The manufacturing/agriculture economy shrunk from 33% to 12%, and the services economy grew from 24% to 50%.” And as most anyone who’s worked in the service economy knows, there are an awful lot of awful jobs—low-wage, part-time, no-benefit kinds of jobs—in service.

But this is not just about Walmart. Service jobs don’t have to suck—and many don’t. But I could sit here and list stats all weekend long proving that quality jobs in America are disappearing:

And on and on and on.

The fact is, sometimes in the 1970s America made the switch from high-quality, high-wage employment to low-quality, low-wage employment—and the shift is getting progressively worse.It’s gotten so bad that Axios recently revealed that CEOs openly admitted that the American worker isn’t getting a cut of the economic prosperity anytime soon: “executives of big U.S. companies suggest that the days of most people getting a pay raise are over, and that they also plan to reduce their work forces further.”

The report that Donald Trump touted today only counted the number of jobs created, not the quality of those jobs.

The truth is, this isn’t a jobs story at all. It’s an inequality story.

Mr. Constant concludes his essay with this compelling insight:

By blindly promoting economics numbers as though the highest score is all that matters, we as Americans are agreeing that the most important thing, above all else, is being employed. Never mind if you have to work two or three part-time gigs to pay the rent. Never mind if none of your employers provide health insurance. Never mind that workers are too tired and stretched too thin to find a new job, or to get training that might improve their conditions. Never mind that jobs which were once considered good careers are now paid a pittance.

When we blare the news of a great new jobs report—no matter which party is in power—we are advancing the narrative that as long as we hit our marks, nothing else matters. A job is a job is a job is a job.

Except that’s not true. Gradually, over the last half-decade, and without our consent, the deal has changed. Eventually, no amount of deft media manipulation will be able to hide that fact.

What does this have to do with public education policy? A paraphrase of that first paragraph answers that question:

By blindly promoting standardized test scores as though the highest score is all that matters, we as Americans are agreeing that the most important thing, above all else, is doing well on those tests. Never mind if you forfeit art, music, PE, and play for test preparation. Never mind if none of your school excludes students who score poorly on tests. Never mind that students are taught only what can be tested and fail to learn the soft skills that are needed in a well functioning democracy. Never mind that in the quest for high test scores we sacrifice childhood completely. 

Gradually, over the last decade-and-a-half we have made a decision to conflate good schools with high test scores and no amount to deft media manipulation can hide that fact.