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Posts Tagged ‘social mobility’

In an Ideal Universe, Brooklyn’s Community Driven Integration Plans Would go Viral

April 17, 2019 Leave a comment

Earlier this week, Chalkbeat blogger Christine Viega wrote a post describing how the grassroots efforts of parents in Brooklyn District 15 and Manhattan’s District 3 resulted in a new method of assigning students to middle schools, a method that breaks through the economic and racial segregation that currently exists. Titled “Two NYC districts embarked on middle school integration plans. Early results show they may be making a difference,” the article describes how a team of open minded parents on district advisory committees made a difference in the way fifth grade students are assigned to schools. And that difference?

Families in both districts apply to middle schools rather than being assigned a neighborhood school based on where they live.

Encompassing brownstone neighborhoods such as Park Slope and immigrant enclaves such as Sunset Park, District 15 undertook what is probably the most dramatic integration plan approved yet by the city. This year, the district’s 11 middle schools eliminated screens — selective admissions criteria that allow schools to pick students based on factors such as test scores, report card grades, and interviews.

Instead, families applied to the schools of their choice and admissions were determined by a lottery, with preference for 52 percent of seats given to students who come from low-income families, are learning English as a new language, or are homeless.The aim is for all schools in the district to enroll a similar share of needy students. Since race and ethnicity are tightly tied to economic status, the hope is that the schools will become more diverse on a range of measures.

A lottery system is imperfect, but it greatly increases the probability that the schools in Districts 3 and 15 will reflect the composition of students who reside in ALL the neighborhoods that comprise those districts and not be based on the racial and economic segregation that results from gentrification of some neighborhoods while others remain economically challenged and racially segregated.

The article details how this change is playing out in the more desirable schools where the percentage of free and reduced lunch students and the percentage of minority students are increasing based on the assignments thus far. From my perspective, it is heartening to see those parents who seek diversity being heard over those who advance arguments that “merit” should determine placement… especially when “merit” is based on “…factors such as test scores, report card grades, and interviews”. When all children might be assigned to ANY school, it changes the thinking about how funds should be spent, as underscored by a quote from a District 3 parent that concludes the post:

“I’m really happy that we are moving closer to the district average (in terms of racial and economic demographics), which is part of the goal, and that we’re seeing movement at the high demand schools, and at the lower demand schools — which is crucial,” said Kristen Berger, a member of the District 3 Community Education Council who pushed for the admissions changes. “The point of this complex system is that we’re not just building one great school but we’re working as a system across the district.”

That is the kind of spirit needed in the 35+ states where lawsuits are pending because of inequitable funding formulas. In NH, as in NYC, the point is not to build “one great school” but to build a system of great schools… and to accomplish that funding will need to be equitable.

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LeBron James Supports Public Education by Supporting Teachers AND Parents

April 16, 2019 Leave a comment

Unlike most celebrities who claim to support public education in an effort to help disadvantaged children, NBA superstar LeBron James is different kind of education philanthropist. LeBron James is walking the talk by supporting a public school in his hometown of Akron OH called I Promise governed by a democratically elected local school school board, a school for designed for students who “...were identified as the worst performers in the Akron public schools and branded with behavioral problems. Some as young as 8 were considered at risk of not graduating.” And because Mr. James was once one of those poor performers himself, he realizes that schools who serve poor children need more time to learn and their parents need help as well. As a result, Mr. James is providing supplementary funding for before and after school programs, programs when schools are closed, free provisions for parents, and a training program for parents to earn their GEDs. After a year… the results are coming in and, while I am no fan of the metrics they are using, the school is showing promise.

The academic results are early, and at 240, the sample size of students is small, but the inaugural classes of third and fourth graders at I Promise posted extraordinary results in their first set of district assessments. Ninety percent met or exceeded individual growth goals in reading and math, outpacing their peers across the district.

“These kids are doing an unbelievable job, better than we all expected,” Mr. James said in a telephone interview hours before a game in Los Angeles for the Lakers. “When we first started, people knew I was opening a school for kids. Now people are going to really understand the lack of education they had before they came to our school. People are going to finally understand what goes on behind our doors.”

What distinguishes I Promise is it’s implicit acknowledgement that parent engagement is crucially important and poor parents have complications that exceed those of their affluent counterparts. Because of that, Mr. James offers funding to support the parents as fellas the teachers and children:

The school is unusual in the resources and attention it devotes to parents, which educators consider a key to its success. Mr. James’s foundation covers the cost of all expenses in the school’s family resource center, which provides parents with G.E.D. preparation, work advice, health and legal services, and even a quarterly barbershop.

Another distinguishing factor of I Promise is the pool of students it serves:

I Promise students were among those identified by the district as performing in the 10th to 25th percentile on their second-grade assessments. They were then admitted through a lottery.

“These were the children where you went and talked with their old teachers, and they said, ‘This will never work,’” Dr. Campbell said. “We said give them to us.”

They are called the “Chosen Ones,” an ode to the headline that donned Mr. James’s first Sports Illustrated cover when he was a junior in high school, and which he later had tattooed across his shoulder blades.

And the I Promise school DOES get more money, money that is used to underwrite the parent resource center noted above and a resource center for students and teachers as well:

But the I Promise School was a recognition that the foundation’s community services were not enough. They needed to reach students earlier. They secured an old district office building that served as a holding place for schools in transition, poured in $2 million and counting for improvements and reopened it in seven weeks. The school opened in July 2018 and is expected to serve 720 students in third through eighth grade by 2022.

The foundation’s support affords I Promise more resources than the average school, but Ms. Davis, a veteran principal in the district, said the school values things that no money could buy.

“It doesn’t take money to build relationships,” she said. “It doesn’t take money for you to teach students how to love.”

This past year some former teammates have criticized LeBron James for failing to give them the credit they deserve for contributing to championships he won and for pointing fingers at them when the team suffered losses. But LeBron James’ reaction to the success of his school counters that image:

While Mr. James called the school “the coolest thing that I’ve done in my life thus far,” he said he could take credit for only a small part of what was happening.

“I had the vision of wanting to give back to my community. The people around every day are helping that vision come to life,” he said. “Half the battle is trying to engage them and show that there’s always going to be somebody looking out for them.”

The article described a single parent who was disengaged and had given up but now felt that someone from her hometown was looking out for her. In an ideal democracy, that is the notion every parent should have… that her neighbors are looking out her well-being. Nowadays, though, disengaged parents have a different sense: that her neighbors are looking down on her and blaming her for the poor performance of her children.

The veteran principal in Akron is right in saying that “It doesn’t take money to build relationships (or) for you to teach students how to love.” But it does take money to provide the kinds of parent programs and expanded community services that LeBron James is providing his chosen ones, the children whose old teachers had projected as drop outs and troublemakers.

Has Privatization Benefitted the Public? | naked capitalism

April 9, 2019 Leave a comment

To ensure public acceptability, some benefits accrue to many in the early stages of privatization in order to minimize public resistance. However, in the longer term, privatization tends to enrich a few but typically fails to deliver on its ostensible aims.
— Read on www.nakedcapitalism.com/2019/04/has-privatization-benefitted-the-public.html

It is easy to see how this analysis applies to public schools… and sad to know how few people are aware of this…

An Argument to Reinstate the Draft Misses Two Points… But Makes Several That Need to be Considered

April 5, 2019 Leave a comment

Danny Sjursen, a young retired military officer, wrote a thought provoking post for Common Dreams titled “Was Ending the Draft a Grave Mistake?” He believes it was… and I tend to agree with him with a huge caveat.

Mr. Sjursen’s reasoning is that if we had the draft in place now politicians would be less likely to commit troops to unwindable wars in remote outposts and less likely to spend huge sums of money on military misadventures. His solution, “...a lottery system (with no college or other elite deferments) that gives draftees three options: serve two years on active duty right after high school, serve six years in the reserves or go straight to college and enroll in the ROTC program” is off the mark, though. Instead, I would prefer that all 18-year olds perform two years of community service in a milieu that would require them to come in contact with citizens outside of their typical orbit.

In sum, I see two major points Mr. Sjursen misses in his analysis:

First, the biggest obstacle to re-imposing the draft is the war profiteers lobby. Not only do we run the military like a business, we’ve outsourced a lot of the military functions to private corporations and those making a bundle by providing “support” are unlikely to buy into an expanded military.

And second, a universal service obligation does not require military service. It could take the form of community service. With a shredded safety net and crumbling infrastructure and a complete lack of opportunity for those raised in affluence or in segregated communities to ever cross paths with those raised in poverty or those of a different race or creed it is imperative that we find a way to restore that opportunity ASAP. A community service/military service mandate wold do that.

What Makes a Fair College Admissions Policy? JStor Invites Three Writers to Respond… And Their Responses Show What is UN-Fair

March 29, 2019 Comments off

I receive a weekly newsletter from JStor, a website that provides scholarly research on a host of timely topics. This past week’s edition included a reaction from three researchers on the question “What Makes a Fair College Admissions Policy?” In reading the responses, I found that all three writers concur on one issue: as long as their are gross inequities in the funding of public K-12 schools there will never be an admissions policy that could be deemed “fair”.

After recounting all of the potential “objective” means of determining qualifications, Julie Park’s essay on race-neutral admissions policies offers this insight:

Let’s remember what’s even more unfair: That low-income students and so many students of color are denied access to high-quality public schools. That many affluent, White, and East Asian American students experience tremendous advantage in college preparation. And of course, that there exist policies and practices that overtly favor the wealthy, from donor preferences to the incredible admissions scandal of recent months. These things are much, much more unfair than someone with a perfect SAT score—one of thousands of similar applicants in the pool—getting turned down by Harvard and then being able to attend some other fantastic college.

Christine Yano also laments efforts to objectify student assessment in an effort to be “fair”. She rather views the development of a cohort as an art based on the intuition of an admissions officer as opposed to a science based on cold hard data. She writes:

Fairness…requires admissions officers to look beyond numbers and conduct the screening process not as science, but as art. This is the art of human assessment, predicting the future from the past. Adding up test scores does not necessarily guarantee success within this ideal of a vibrant, richly diverse educational institution. Nor is GPA a pure predictor, if the successful life of a campus is also measured by unquantifiable elements such as leadership and creativity, both broadly conceived.

Nadirah Farah Foley advocates a move away from meritocracy asserting that “A truly fair system would reject meritocratic logics and instead operate on the principle that high-quality education is not a reward for the few, but a right of the many“. After reading the first two analyses, both of which implicitly accept the world as it is, I found myself nodding with complete agreement at Ms. Foley’s call for a total and complete overhaul of the current system:

I think we need to go a step further than asking what constitutes a fairadmissions process, and instead ask what constitutes a fair society. We should recognize that our college admissions process is merely holding a mirror up to our society, reflecting how competitive, individualistic, unequal, and unfair the United States is. A truly radical solution would require the reorganization of our entire class structure and the redistribution of resources,thus obviating the need for such a high-stakes college application process.

It seems that we cling to meritocracy as a way of clinging to some hope of a better life in an increasingly unequal world.But rather than investing our hope in a fairer admissions system, I think we should dream bigger, and invest our hope in a more just society—one in which we live in community rather than competition.That might look like taking up Harvard professor Lani Guinier’s call to emphasize “democratic merit,” or it might look like dispensing with merit—and its attendant acceptance of deserved inequality—entirely.

Everyone deserves access to education. A fair admissions system would have that as a core premise and reject ostensibly just, “meritocratic” inequalities.

How do we get from where we are now to where we want to be? We need to start by acknowledging that the opportunities offered to children raised in poverty are in no way comparable to those available to affluent children and that any pretense of “fairness” requires us to either spend more on K-12 education or open the doors to all higher education institutions to all students. While neither of these options is likely to occur in my lifetime, they could happen with a generation if we face the unfairness that exists today.

A Toxic Mix: Redlining, Wealth Disparity, and Supreme Court Rulings on Bussing

March 26, 2019 Comments off

The NYTimes recently ran two seemingly unrelated articles that underscored the underlying obstacles to achieving equal opportunity for all children in our country, especially given a set of Supreme Court rulings that effectively preclude opportunities for choice across district lines.

How Redlining’s Racist Effects Lasted for Decades“, a recently republished 2017 Upshot article by Emily Badger that fell under the heading “Self-Fulfilling Prophesies”, described the seamy history of redlining, a practice whereby real estate salespersons and banks conspired to limit the access of housing for blacks to certain neighborhoods through the use of color-coded maps. The result was de facto segregation and the creation of a vicious cycle:

The maps became self-fulfilling prophesies, as “hazardous” neighborhoods — “redlined” ones — were starved of investment and deteriorated further in ways that most likely also fed white flight and rising racial segregation. These neighborhood classifications were later used by the Veterans Administration and the Federal Housing Administration to decide who was worthy of home loans at a time when homeownership was rapidly expanding in postwar America.

A few days later the Times published Sarah Mervosh’s article “How Much Wealthier are White School Districts than Non-White Ones? $23,000,000,000 Report Says” The headline provides the cold hard facts about the funding disparity between affluent white school districts and property poor black districts. But the relationship between housing practices and wealth disparity jumps out:

The report took aim at school district borders, which it said can chop up communities and wall off wealthier districts to fund their schools with local property tax revenue, while poorer districts are unable to generate the same revenue.

“Because schools rely heavily on local taxes, drawing borders around small, wealthy communities benefits the few at the detriment of the many,” the report said.

Anyone who has examined school funding knows this is true not only on a racial basis but also on a socio-economic basis. The only way these disparities can be fixed is through increased funding at a higher level: either at the State level or through some kind of compensatory federal funding. Unfortunately neither of those mechanisms are working, and so children born into economically deprived neighborhoods or communities are stuck in underfunded schools.

And school choice is not the solution either. As the EdBuild report that was the basis for the NYTimes article notes, school choice only makes things worse:

Arizona also had one of the most drastic differences in funding among states listed in the report. Dr. López said that in her state, “boundary lines are a huge contributor because of gerrymandering, segregation and zoning.”

But she said the situation in Arizona was exacerbated by a new kind of “white flight” because of the popularity of charter schools and open enrollment, a policy that allows parents to request that their children attend schools outside the district. In Arizona, funding generally follows the student, rather than staying in the district.

It’s depleting even more funding from these districts that were already at a disadvantage to begin with,” Dr. López (associate dean of the College of Education at the University of Arizona) said.

Richie Taylor, a spokesman for the Arizona Department of Education, said the department was aware of disparities in the state but did not believe the gap was “as egregious” as the report suggested.

“Equity and fairness are a major concern for us and we are open to exploring a variety of options to address these problems,” he said in a statement.

But he said the State Legislature would need to take action to consolidate school districts, something school boards generally oppose.

“It is far from certain that consolidation would help here,” he said. “What will help is more funding for education across the board,” with a focus on addressing inequities.

The Arizona spokesman may not see the gap as being “as egregious” as the report indicated in his State, but anyone conversant with spreadsheets can verify EdBuild’s findings and, in so doing, demonstrate that there are significant disparities between the funding in property poor districts and affluent ones.

Everyone who studied history is aware of the Brown v. Board of Education case that overturned the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson case which determined that it was acceptable to offer “separate but equal” services for blacks. It has been over 60 years since Brown v. Board of Education became the law of the land, a longer time period than Plessy was the rule of law, but nothing has changed. Why? Because two successive court cases involving bussing that followed Brown v. Board of Education had the effect of making district boundaries impermeable unless it could be shown that the boundaries were drawn solely for the purpose of segregation. As a NYTimes article in 2012 reported, in Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg School district the court “upheld the use of busing as a “remedial technique” for achieving desegregation” based on the reasoning that it was not enough “for school officials to draw school attendance lines that appear to be racially neutral“, they had to “foster integration by such affirmative measures as gerrymandering school boundaries to include both races, pairing ‘white’ and ‘Negro’ schools, and drawing school zones that combine noncontiguous areas in racially diverse neighborhoods.”

But two years later, the court made it clear that such rules did not require cross district bussing, stating that “...students could only be bused across district lines if there was evidence that multiple districts had implemented deliberately discriminatory policies.

So the court ruled that intra-district “gerrymandering” is required, but inter-district solutions are not unless it could be shown that “multiple districts had implemented deliberately discriminatory policies”, a very high bar.

The result is a politically intractable moral problem. Our nation seems unwilling to raise the funds needed to create a level playing field, instead buying into the notion that children can pull themselves up by their bootstraps if they are born into poverty and are somehow deserving of more services if they have the good fortune to be born into affluence. The only solution to a moral problem is to appeal to the higher angels of voters. Here’s hoping that 2020 will bring forth a candidate who will do that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twitter Feed on Tests Offers Multiple Rationales for Abandoning High Stakes SHSAT

March 21, 2019 1 comment

As readers of this blog realize, NYC uses a single test, the SHSAT, to determine who qualifies for the “elite eight” high schools in the city. Students above a cut score are eligible for these schools, students below that cut score are not. My eighth grade grandson just went through this process and scored high enough to qualify for one of the “sub-elite” high schools— which was the one that he had at the top of his list— but not high enough for one of the elite schools, at least one of which was on his prioritized list.

My daughter who shares my antipathy for the use of a single exam as the sole basis for admissions to ANY school posted this Twitter Feed from Ida Bae Wells on Facebook this morning. Reading through this feed will offer far more insights than I could possibly provide. It is clear that Ms. Wells’ Twitter followers are also unalterably opposed to the way “elite” schools select the “best” students.