Thursday, July 24, 2014

Holliday Recognized By National School Boards Group

This from WFPL:
Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday is the 2014 Policy Leader of the Year by the National Association of State Boards of Education.

The association announced the award on Tuesday. The annual award recognizes a national or state policymaker in recognition of contributions to education.

Holliday has been Kentucky education commissioner since 2009. During that time, the state became the first to adopt the Common Core State Standards. Kentucky also implemented a new assessment and accountability system, which includes a new educator evaluation program that goes statewide this fall.

In 2013, Holliday also made headlines when referring to some schools in the state's largest school district, Jefferson County, as "academic genocide."

Holliday is scheduled to accept his award at National Association of State Boards of Education conference on Oct. 17, in Denver.

Previous winners of the Policy Leader of the Year Award include former First Lady Barbara Bush and Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Does anyone Graduate in 4 Years Anymore?

This from the Huffington Post:
Only spending four years in college is pretty rare these days.

An analysis by the data site FindTheBest of federal statistics housed in the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System finds there is no state where a majority of students graduate college in four years.

Virginia ranks at the top with 46 percent graduating in four years, and New Hampshire boasts 41 percent. A few other states like Iowa, Delaware and Washington aren't too far behind with close to two-fifths of students getting degrees in four years.

Nevada comes in dead last with just 8.75 percent graduating in four years, unless you count Washington, D.C., which posted a mere 3 percent 4-year graduation rate.

Things are a bit better if you look at the 6-year graduation rates, but the states' rankings are relatively unchanged.

Earlier this week, a report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center showed 68.7 percent of all first-time students who started in fall 2012 returned to college for the fall 2013 semester, down one point from fall 2009.

The Big Sort

How Chicago's school choice system is tracking kids 

into separate high schools based on achievement

This from WBEZ:
This spring, at grammar schools all across Chicago, thousands of eighth graders donned caps and gowns and walked across auditorium stages to receive their elementary school diplomas. This fall, the graduates from each of those schools will scatter—to more than 130 different Chicago public high schools, and counting.

But who goes where?

Over the past decade, Chicago has opened more than 50 new high schools, and will open more this fall. The school district is trying to expand the number of quality school options and offer students a choice of where to go to school. And in many ways, Chicago high schools seem to be improving. Graduation rates are inching up. The city now boasts five of the top ten high schools in the state.

But a new WBEZ analysis shows an unintended consequence of the choice system: students of different achievement levels are being sorted into separate high schools.

WBEZ analyzed incoming test scores for freshmen from the fall of 2012, the most recent year data is available. That year, the district mandated that every high school give students an “EXPLORE” exam about a month into the school year.

The 26,340 scores range from painfully low to perfect.

But WBEZ found few schools in the city enroll the full span of students. Instead, low-scoring students and high-scoring students in particular are attending completely different high schools. Other schools enroll a glut of average kids.

Think of it as academic tracking—not within schools, but between them.

See how student achievement relates to high school choice in an interactive chart linking each score in 2012 to a school. Sort schools by type, demographics or location, and explore and compare the distribution of scores at each school.

The findings raise some of the same long-running questions educators have debated about the academic and social implications of in-school tracking. But they also raise questions about whether the city’s school choice system is actually creating better schools, or whether it’s simply sorting certain students out and leaving the weakest learners in separate, struggling schools.
WBEZ’s analysis shows:
  • Serious brain drain. The city’s selective “test-in” high schools — among the best in the state — capture nearly all the top students in the school system. There were 104 kids who scored a perfect 25 on the EXPLORE exam. One hundred of them — 96 percent — enrolled in just six of the city’s 130 high schools (Northside, Whitney Young, Payton, Lane, Lincoln Park, and Jones). In fact, 80 percent of perfect scorers went to just three schools. Among the city’s top 2 percent of test takers (those scoring a 23, 24, or 25 on their exam), 87 percent are at those same six schools. Chicago has proposed creating an 11th selective enrollment high school, Barack Obama College Prep, to be located in the same area as the schools already attracting the city’s top performers.
  • Clustering of low-performing students. Fifteen percent of the city’s high schools are populated with vastly disproportionate numbers of low-performing students. More than 80 percent of incoming students at these schools score below the district average.  The schools enroll 10 percent of all Chicago high school students.
  • Black students are most likely to be affected by sorting.  WBEZ’s analysis shows African American students are doubly segregated, first by race, then by achievement. Of the 40 most academically narrow schools in Chicago, 34 of them are predominantly black. Even though just 40 percent of students in the public schools are African American, Chicago has black high schools for low achievers, black high schools for average kids, black test-in high schools for high achievers.  
  • Within neighborhoods, more sorting. Schools within a particular community may appear to be attracting the same students demographically, but WBEZ finds significant sorting by achievement. Especially in neighborhoods on the South and West sides, the comprehensive neighborhood high school has become a repository for low performers; nearby charters or other new schools are attracting far greater percentages of above-average kids.
  • The dozens of new high schools Chicago has opened since 2004 fall on both sides of the “sorting” spectrum. New schools with the widest range of incoming test performers include Ogden International IB on the Near North Side; Goode, a Southwest Side magnet school with preference for neighborhood students; and Chicago High School for the Arts, which admits students based on arts auditions. New schools showing the least amount of academic diversity include Daniel Hale Williams (where incoming students score at about the district average); also low-scoring  DuSable Leadership Academy Charter (in the same building as Williams, ordered in 2013 to begin phasing out), Ace Tech Charter, and Austin Business and Entrepreneurial High School.
The idea behind school choice is to to let families pick the type of school they want for their kids, something more affluent Americans can do by moving or by paying for private school. Choice is also seen as a way to improve all schools by injecting more market-based competition into the school system.

But the sorting of students by achievement into separate high schools seems to be an unintended consequence.

“It certainly wasn’t a goal,” says Paul Hill, the founder of the Center on Reinventing Public Education at the University of Washington, and the architect of the “portfolio” school choice model Chicago and other big cities are following. Hill says he and others were concerned about sorting based on race or class, but dramatic sorting by achievement level was not foreseen.

Chicago schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, who has been on the job for a year and a half, says she is aware that students are clustering in different high schools by achievement, and is concerned about any suggestion that that’s a good thing.

“There’s no research to support that,” said Byrd-Bennett, who said she, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the school board “come from a very different belief system,” one that does not rely on sorting students by achievement. “What we believe is you’ve got to elevate, raise the level and the quality of instruction at all of our schools, including our neighborhood (schools),” said Byrd-Bennett. However, she rejected the notion that sorting is an outcome of school choice or Chicago’s massive expansion in the number of high schools.

“This has got to be a district of choice. If I choose to go to my neighborhood school, it’s because it ought to be a great school as well,” said Byrd-Bennett.

New York City and New Orleans see a similar dynamic

Despite most New Orleans schools being open to students of all academic levels, “high performing students tend to go to high-performing schools, and low-performing students tend to go to low-performing schools,” says Andrew McEachin, a North Carolina State University professor who has studied school choice in the now all-charter city. “So even though it's a choice-based district, you see that there's kind of like a tiered system, where people are choosing schools similar to their background and achievement levels.”

The same thing is happening in New York City. Why? Researchers say “achievement” may be an indication of the resources students have at home. Higher performing students’ families are better at getting information about school quality, navigating the system, and securing things like transportation to school or test prep for entrance exams.

McEachin and others say the consequences of sorting could reverberate to other aspects of the school system. “What is the unintended consequence of this ability grouping on the teacher labor market?” asks McEachin. “Is it going to make it even harder to get good teachers to the lowest-achieving students?”

Sorting by performance isn’t new in Chicago Public Schools, and isn’t unique to choice systems. Some of the city’s toughest high schools have not attracted generally higher performing middle-class students for decades. But under choice and a dramatic expansion in the number of high schools, parents and counselors say sorting of students is becoming more pronounced.

Students know the hierarchy 

Chicago students can identify the hierarchy high schools fall into. Lane Tech is for 'A' students, they say.
“If you get straight As and you do really good on testing, the school you’ll probably get accepted into is Northside, Walter Payton, Whitney Young,” says freshman Amber Hunt.

What about the B students? “Schools with IB programs sometimes take solid Bs,” says Amber. “Charter schools are kind of like if you’re average, or slightly below average.”

Students know which high schools are for which students.
Lots of students give the same answers. Ninth grader Evelyn Almodovar says she knows “C” students who went to private high schools because “they didn’t want to be embarrassed about going to a school that’s known as having worse students.”

And what about the lowest performers, those who struggle in grammar school? They go to neighborhood schools, every student tells me. “Low-ranking schools,” says freshman Anais Roman, naming a neighborhood school and low-scoring charter in her area.

Many elementary school counselors describe a nearly identical hierarchy (one grammar school even posts its graduates’ “high school destinations” in the same basic A-to-F order).

In an indication of just how segmented high schools have become, a counselor said her elementary school sends “average” students to a nearby high school that’s seen as safe, admits no low performers, and scores at about the district average. But she said she would not recommend the school for her top students—even though they’re eligible to attend. “I don’t think they would offer the academic rigor,” she said of the school.

A number of counselors lamented the sorting.

“We look at the suburbs, and we look at much of the rest of the country—there’s one school to go to based on your address, and that neighborhood  high school would have all sorts of different programs available,” says Walsh Elementary counselor Kristy Brooks.

Brooks says she sees positive aspects to Chicago’s high school choice system—kids leave segregated neighborhoods and find new classmates and opportunities, students push themselves to get into top schools. But she says she sees neighborhood schools being left with low-performing students who didn’t have the academic performance or the help to get to another school.

“I think in the long run it would be better to have equity in all schools,” says Brooks.

But if all students were in a single comprehensive high school, wouldn’t they be tracked within that school anyway? Does it matter if they’re in separate schools?

“In part it doesn’t matter—it’s disastrous either way,” says Kevin Welner, director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder and an opponent of tracking.

“But in part it matters because once we get to that point of between-school tracking, it’s even harder to try to address. If we’re going to reform the system and make it more equitable, starting with the kids in the same schools is a good first step,” says Welner, who argues tracking cements current stratifications in society.

Top performers benefit from sorting

For many students at Lane Tech, this is the first time they’ve attended school with all high achievers.
“It raises the standards a lot,” says freshman Paradise Cosey.

Another freshman says she feels more “comfortable” at 4,000-student Lane Tech than she did at her elementary school; she says this is the first year since fifth grade that classmates haven’t asked to copy her work.

High performing students are like gold in a school. Everybody does better around them—including other high-performing students. And it’s not just about test scores. The biggest predictor of whether a school is safe, orderly, and set up for learning is students’ academic achievement. Having top performers makes an entire school easier to run.

Paul Hill says some stratification doesn’t bother him, “One thing that this just demonstrates yet again is that human beings just love status hierarchies and we’ll create them any way we can.” Hill says Americans believe in equality, but they also believe in elite schools.

“But when it trickles down to the lowest-performing kids are in the schools with the least of everything, then that’s not tolerable,” says Hill.

Marshall High, a school of “last resort”

At Marshall Metropolitan High School, 86 percent of students come in scoring below the district average. Some can’t read.

Marshall, the attendance-area high school for a big swath of Chicago’s West Side, is among the 15 percent of Chicago high schools enrolling vastly disproportionate numbers of low achievers.

“Well, I didn’t actually choose to come to Marshall,” says rising sophomore Kadeesha Williams. “My mom said because it was in the area.”

Kadeesha had wanted to go to Marine Military Academy down the street. “I wanted to be a Marine, so I wanted to get the type of education they get so I can get ready,” she said. But the family turned her application in late. “We went to take a test. But my mom, she lost the paperwork.”

Kadeesha’s mom says the paperwork was actually lost at the school—they had no record of Kadeesha taking the test, she says.

Kadeesha is liking Marshall. “Marshall’s a good school,” she says. “Because the teachers here, they’re very into you. They’re a lot of help.”

Other students say they came to Marshall because family went here. Some come to play for Marshall’s storied basketball team or, lately, the school’s budding chess team.

Teacher James Dorrell says for other students, “it’s sort of like a school of last resort. They try to enroll in charter schools or selective enrollments, and once they can’t get in, they would come here”—though he sees Marshall as much more than that. About half of the school's students come from the neighborhood, the other half from outside the attendance boundary.

Dorrell says after a re-staffing and infusion of money in 2010, Marshall is hugely improved. The entire school is set up to help the struggling kids who enroll here. Freshmen have double periods of English and math. Many take reading—a subject other high schools don’t even offer.

But more students still drop out than graduate from Marshall. And test scores have barely moved.
Marshall raises a question at the heart of tracking—and at the heart of Chicago’s system of school choice. Is it better to group low performers together? Better for whom?

“The pros are yes, we can have these interventions,” says Dorrell. “The cons would be—you would want some high achievers because they sort of raise the bar, and other kids could see what it takes to be successful. So I think having kids with higher test scores would benefit all of this group. But I also see the benefit of having these kids…tracked by ability.”

Marshall is open to all students in the neighborhood. But there are no freshman honors courses, no AP classes (the school is trying to change that). There’s little to attract higher achievers.
There are four new high schools within a mile of Marshall. Two are military schools with minimum test score requirements, keeping out low performers. The third is a Noble Street charter school, which requires much more effort to enroll than Marshall. (Parents need to come to an information session on a particular evening in order to obtain an application, for instance. Students must write an essay.)  At the two military schools, 48 percent and 64 percent of incoming students score above average. At the Noble Street charter, 41 percent of students enter above average. At Marshall, the figure is three times less—just 14 percent of incoming kids score above average.

That story is repeated in neighborhood after neighborhood in Chicago—and raises questions about whether the city’s school choice system is creating better schools, or simply pulling away better performing students, leaving the low achievers segregated into separate, failing schools.
Michael Milkie, the founder and CEO of the Noble Network of Charter Schools, Chicago’s largest high school charter network, sees the entire question of sorting as a “red herring.”

“I think the most important part by far are the adults in the building, their ability to deliver instruction, and the school culture. Those are the things that far outweigh whether you have a concentration of certain learners or a wide variety of learners,” says Milkie. All Noble schools attract far more high performers than neighborhood schools in the same communities; CPS recently told Noble Street that applications “must be available to all parents and students without limitations,” and that the charter network must indicate that the required student essay is actually optional.

Milkie believes his students are exactly the same as those in other schools. He says the Noble scores look higher because the incoming test is given 4-6 weeks into high school, enough time for his students to pull ahead, he says.

Welcome Relief

New Transylvania president plans to listen, 
make changes slowly at a campus in need of healing

This from Linda Blackford in the Herald-Leader:
Earlier this year, Seamus Carey received two job offers to become a college president — one from Transylvania University and one from a school closer to his home in New York.
Seamus Carey, Photo by MARK CORNELISON

Read more here:

In the end, Transy and its staunch adherence to a liberal arts education won the day.

"I really like the way they articulate the mission of the school," Carey, 48, said during his third week on the job. "The history of the place is pretty phenomenal, the size of the school is ideal, and the fact that it's a liberal arts school in a city is highly unusual. All those factors came into play as I started to look at the position."

As higher education struggles to find its place in a technology-driven world, liberal arts has come under increasing criticism from those who want to see students with more job-ready technical skills than deep knowledge of English or political science.

As Carey visited Lexington in anticipation of his July 1 start date, he began thinking about liberal arts and careers, especially in light of Transy's enthusiastic alumni base. He calls his new plan 100 Doors to Success: matching every freshman with a Transy alumnus who can guide each student from a liberal arts education to a career.

The mentors — many of whom work within a few miles of Transy — could introduce students to their networks and confer professional advice for whatever careers the students seek.

"They could work with a student over the course of four years," he said. "Not only does it help them prepare for professional life; it helps us preserve liberal arts education," because the faculty can focus more on teaching and less on career coaching.

That's one program Carey sees starting immediately, but he plans on more listening than action at first. He talks in a low, quiet voice, part of his role right now as soother-in-chief, repairing a fragile campus that has been through several years of tumult.

Carey replaces Owen Williams, a former Wall Street banker with a doctorate in history who brought an ambitious agenda to Transy, including a larger, more diverse student body and property acquisition, including new playing fields that recently opened on Fourth Street.

Williams, however, had problems interacting with faculty, who complained about his leadership style, calling it harsh and dismissive, particularly toward women. After he rejected a faculty recommendation for a professor's tenure in May 2013, the faculty voted 68-7 to express no confidence in Williams' leadership.

Williams agreed to leave the school, but he stayed on for the 2013-2014 school year.

Carey understands that the faculty, staff and students need to move forward, said Ben Hawkins, presiding officer of the faculty.

"We clearly need some healing, and he has said as much," Hawkins said. "He certainly has a long view, but he's not coming in with an agenda. I think he has good ideas and he's a listener. I couldn't be more optimistic."

Carey has an extensive background in liberal arts: He majored in economics at Vassar College, then was hired by Fordham University straight out of graduate school with a doctorate in philosophy. He taught at the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark and at Manhattan College before being named the dean of arts and science at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., in 2010. A Bronx native, he has never lived far from the New York metropolitan area.

Carey — with his wife, Noreen, and three children — arrives in Lexington at a time when schools such as Transylvania must stand out in a crowded and competitive field. Transy's enrollment this year will be flat at about 1,100 students, and the lack of growth hurts small, private schools that depend on tuition revenue.

"I think my first priority is to make sure there is a common sense of purpose, that everybody on campus is focused on why we're here, and around that building a really strong sense of community," he said. "The economic stressors are real, but the most effective way to combat that is to have a really strong spirit on campus."

Transy, which is building two more dorms, needs curriculum upgrades, Carey said, but it also needs to get more publicity about its relative affordability and generous financial aid compared with other small private schools.

He said the school could grow by 400 to 500 students, but much more growth than that might hurt the small student-teacher ratio that so many prize.

Change should be incremental rather than revolutionary, he said.

"Lasting and sustainable change has to be built on smaller changes along the way; you want that change to take root," he said. "If you try to change everything at once, a lot of that stuff doesn't take root, and you're fumbling around wondering what's the next step."

Most of all, Carey said, he wants to build on the school's strengths: assets such as the Center for Liberal Studies, which has become a national training center for liberal arts faculty, and the Henry Clay Center, which trains high school students in current events and diplomacy.

"That's a really good example of how you build what are central qualities of liberal arts education, but at the same time make it relevant and applicable for students," he said of the Henry Clay Center's summer program. "These students were debating real-world issues but learning about diplomacy and politics. That's taking what's central to a liberal arts education and showing them how they can use it when they get out of college."
d more here:

What Happens to the Kids Who Ruled Middle School?

This from Inside School Research:
The unrelenting drive to be older and more popular is a root of a great chunk of the misery in many students' middle school years. Now, a study in the Journal of Child Development suggests the kids at the top of the pecking order in junior high tend to fall behind their peers as they come into adulthood.

In the study, "Whatever Happened to the 'Cool' Kids?" lead author Joseph P. Allen, a psychologist at the University of Virginia at Charlottesville, and his colleagues tracked 184 adolescents from ages 13 to 23, not only interviewing the students but peers and classmates, who provided outside information on the students' popularity. In particular, the researchers studied how often they engaged in common, mildly risky teenage behaviors: "minor deviance, a focus on physical appearance in choosing friends, and precocious romantic activity." Translation: Smoking marijuana and doing mildly criminal things like vandalism, being cliquey and mean, and falling hopelessly in love with a new kid every week.

The urge to be seen as grown up long before they are really emotionally (or behaviorally) mature is nearly universal among children entering puberty, but Allen and his colleagues note normal "does not necessarily mean healthy or adaptive." The found that students who engaged in so-called "cool" behaviors did, in fact, move to the top of the middle school pecking order.

But then they languished there. Their social status slipped back to average in high school, and by their early 20s researchers found the middle school kids who engaged in more frequent "pseudomature" behaviors were seen as less socially mature by peers:

Above: The chart shows how students with frequent "psuedomature" behaviors like drinking or frequent hookups sank in popularity from middle school to high school. Source: Journal of Child Development.

Moreover, by early adulthood, the former cool kids were at higher risk of serious criminal activity and drug and alcohol use.

Interestingly, this follows on an earlier longitudinal analysis by Allen which found that the students who were very socially awkward at 13 and had difficulty creating and maintaining healthy friendships in middle school continued to struggle with adult relationships. Apparently in middle school, middle-of-the-pack is the way to go.

Check out a great National Institute of Child Health and Human Development podcast with Mr. Allen here.

This Is How Behind Low-Income Children Can Be When They Enter Kindergarten

This from the Huffington Post:
Certain life factors make a big difference for students as they start their first year of school.
A new analysis from Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit group behind Sesame Street, looked at how four risk factors impacted the abilities of kindergarten students right as they entered school. The risk factors included whether:
  • the child lived in a home where English was not the primary spoken language
  • the child lived in a single-parent household
  • the child's mother had less than a high school education
  • the child's family lived with an income below the federal poverty line
The analysis looked at data from The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, Kindergarten Class of 2010-11. The study, which was funded by the Department of Education, followed a nationally representative sample of 18,000 kindergarteners -- "both children in kindergarten for the first time and kindergarten repeaters" -- though fifth grade.

Of the 15,000 students who had entered kindergarten for the first time, Sesame Workshop found that 44 percent had one or more risk factor. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the more risk factors a child had, the worse he or she did in math and reading school readiness assessments, as shown in graphs from the report (see below).

IRT stands for item response theory scale score, which measured a students math and reading ability on the direct assessments.
math reading

Children with more risk factors also did worse on tasks that measured memory.


And finally, according to teacher reports, students with more risk factors were less ready for kindergarten.

The analysis found that students who had all four risk factors -- dubbed high-risk children -- were almost a year behind their risk factor-free peers in reading and math.

"To catch up, high-risk children would need to make almost twice as much progress during kindergarten as low-risk children," the study said.

Still, students with these risk factors are often concentrated in the same classrooms. Other reports that have analyzed the same data have noted that kindergarten classrooms are largely segregated by race and poverty.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The education-reform movement is too white to do any good

This from the Washington Post:
At this point, it seems like everyone agrees what “education reformer” means. The phrase conjures Teach for America: messianic, white Ivy Leaguers wearing thick-rimmed glasses and speaking in questions, or the Maggie Gyllenhaal vehicle “Won’t Back Down.” For some, the hallowed education reformer battles the forces that are reluctant to change — which, in too many minds, looks like black and brown families under the hallucinogenic spell of labor unions, unwittingly fighting against their own interests.

This is ludicrous. There’s not quite yet an internecine war within the current crusade, but black education reformers are beginning to revolt. A group of us convened on the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education this month to identify the most pressing challenges in the reform movement — and to reclaim the brand and identity of “reformer.”

Let’s stipulate that, yes, change is badly needed. Call it “reform” if you like: Charter schools, curriculum changes (Common Core), testing, and accountability are not inherently bad things. They can bring justice.

But let’s also stipulate that overwhelmingly white movements pursuing change for black and brown communities are inherently paternalistic. The great educator Benjamin E. Mays famously said, “I would rather go to hell by choice than to stumble into heaven.” Reform is being done to communities of color. That’s why saying you’re a black education reformer effectually elicits charges of “acting white” from black communities.

One of the meeting’s attendees, Sharhonda Bossier, co-Founder and chief fellowship officer of Families for Excellent Schools, believes black and brown communities want change, but those very communities are skeptical of tokenism and duplicity. She said parents essentially say, “Don’t think you can fool us just because you put a black face on a white agenda.” Bossier reacted, “Sometimes I have to look back and ask myself, ‘Am I causing damage to my communities?’”

It’s a legitimate question. Reforming through school closure has a disparate impact on communities of color. Even though African Americans make up only 43 percent of all Chicago Public School students, they represented 87 percent among the 50 schools that were closed last year. Why use it as a technique if it disproportionally harms the communities you endeavor to serve? In New Orleans, where I have worked, alumni and local community organizations struggled to get approvals for their charter applications. D.C. charter schools suspended students at much higher rates than their traditional counterparts (and that’s a bad thing).

Diversity removes doubt of racial bias, explicit or implicit. So when black and brown people are largely absent from positions of power, the entire reform movement loses credibility and accrues suspicion. Black education reformers struggle to connect with the very communities we’re members of. The overarching sentiment among attendees at the aforementioned meeting was that black leadership is missing from education reform. Consequently, “reform” has become a dirty word in some communities.

Again, parents of color want reform. Polls conducted by the Black Alliance for Educational Options demonstrate this. Nonetheless, the recent victories in mayoral races in Boston, New York and Newark appear to be referendums against education reform.  Still, I believe the branding of “reform” by heavily funded, predominately white organizations as a “takeover” movement reinforces the notion that it actually is a takeover. In addition, teachers unions have leveraged the movement’s penchant for paternalism to further demonize the term “reform.” Parents of color want change; they just don’t want white reform.

Erika McConduit, CEO of the Urban League of Greater New Orleans, says, “Unfortunately, what happens all too often is that white organizations are heavily funded to do community engagement, but since [white organizations] lack the ability to effectively implement, they then come to black organizations to discuss the work.” Black organizations join efforts after the die has been cast. But black communities and educational leaders understand when “community engagement” is merely a euphemism for how to deal with black folk.

More research is needed on who receives funding in terms of race and geography. We need data on who categorically is fired and hired. Who’s awarded charter schools? Nevertheless, to be effective, black educators must differentiate themselves from white reformers.

I’ve never fully embraced the moniker of reformer because the legacy of black educators has been to innovate, expand options and recruit the next generation of teachers. The label of black education reformer is somewhat an oxymoron. Particularly in the South, public education is a direct result of blacks’ struggle for control of their own schools, of which blacks worked with multiracial coalitions of faith-based organizations, white philanthropists and industrialists as well as progressive elected officials to create a portfolio of independent, faith-based and publicly funded institutions. Now that was reform!

Still, black educators always had to combat the paternalistic tendencies of our allies and antagonists. (The seminal reading on this topic comes from James D. Anderson’s “The Education of Blacks in the South 1860-1935.”) In fact, the large bureaucracies of giant urban school districts can be another variety of this phenomenon. Traditional urban districts make it difficult for teachers and leaders to develop intimate and responsive relationships with students, communities and parents of color. We need decentralization.

The status quo simply won’t suffice, but neither does the bombastic shouting of crusaders like Michele Rhee and Diane Ravitch. Between those two camps, black and brown families miss out on nuanced approaches for change. And, in the polarized debate, neither camp acknowledges its responsibility toward educational failure.

For example, no bloc owns the teacher racial gap problem. Woodrow Wilson reports that if current trends hold, the percentage of teachers of color will fall to an all-time low of five percent of the total teacher workforce by 2020. At the same time, the percentage of students of color will likely exceed 50 percent in the fall of 2014.

Union-based, Teach-for-America-led, and traditional as well as non-traditional districts proudly tout what they’re doing to address teacher-racial gap, but all have shown limited results. Teachers of color should not blindly support any one faction when racial privilege looks the same in every camp. Yet, if a person of color speaks out against injustice, he or she is branded as a defector or collaborator.
A teacher at a charter school revealed at our meeting that she was thoroughly ostracized by her mostly white organization for simply bringing up diversity issues that parents of her students expressed. Now this teacher feels she has to leave her organization on her own terms. This example is a metaphor. Speaking truth to power can have serious repercussions on funding, professional advancement and political appointment.

Herein lies the burden of the black educator. Black educators will continue to improve the craft of teaching and leadership, provide quality options, make more equitable systems and teach many of our white counterparts about privilege. Exclusivity, inequitable funding and bad public relations got us to our current state of education.

We need less “reform” and more social justice.
Dr. Andre Perry is the founding dean of urban education at Davenport University in Grand Rapids, Mich. He is the author of The Garden Path: The Miseducation of a City.

Bad Moon Rising?

Just as this week's Buck Moon was rising I happened to hear from yet another long-time Fayette County school administrator complaining about a lack of educational leadership from the top. The stories, if true, are disappointing. KSN&C readers may recall I opined that FCPS Superintendent Tom Shelton (and unsuccessful candidate Lu Young, who was later hired by Shelton) were both good candidates. I greatly respect the work of the Council for Better Education which Shelton also heads. 

But I have heard from a handful of FCPS Administrators now. (I know half of them to be very well-respected. While I am not personally familiar with the work of the other younger administrators, they seem like good folks who don't have a bone to pick with anyone.) Surprisingly, the most common complaint: a lack of communication, and therefore, leadership. "We're on our own," one principal said as she swirled her index finger in a downward spiral and shook her head in dismay. Down the drain. "I've never seen it this bad. It takes three weeks to get answers to important questions," she told me. Uh oh. Sounds like the Fayette County schools might be getting the old administrative swirlie?  

Superintendent Tom Shelton (who was hired in large part for his business acumen rather than education background) has been under a lot of pressure lately - awaiting the State Auditor's report on alleged irregularities within the school districts' finances; which may or may not have led to a budget deficit of nearly $20 million; just as a redistricting discussions are getting warmed up...

Then, there's today's Herald-Leader which reminded us all that there are rich schools and poor schools (same as it ever was). Bad timing. Ouch.

Redistricting is perhaps the most naturally divisive aspect of public schooling; but necessary. And even if done well you are guaranteed to have a bunch of hacked off people. Despite what the district tells parents, all schools are not equal. It is a political exercise comprised of winners and losers. The concern is always the same. I want my child in that school...not the one you're telling me I'm going to get. Nearly all parents will argue that they want the best for every child. But most of them want any equity solutions to be worked out in a different part of town. 
I see trouble on the way...

Rich schools/poor schools: 

Activity funds show growing divide among Fayette County schools

This from the Herald-Leader:
There's an economic divide among schools in Fayette County — and one of the most glaring examples is fundraising by parents and students.

The amount of money raised for trips, athletics and extra academic supplies varies widely — from Rosa Parks Elementary, which anticipates $445,700 in revenues in 2014-2015, to Harrison Elementary, which is forecasting revenues of $21,335.

In the tentative budgets for school activity funds, which were approved by the Fayette County School Board last month, "you can see dramatic increases between schools based on the ability of parents to do fundraising," said Superintendent Tom Shelton. "We've become a society of the haves and have-nots, and that's not good for anybody."

School officials say the activity funds highlight the economic divide in Fayette County schools, some of which have concentrations of wealthy students or poor students. That divide is under increased scrutiny as the district prepares to redraw attendance zones in a process that could balance out some of those differences.

District officials have decided that a primary goal of the redistricting process is achieving socioeconomic balance.

But some parents are balking. They want their children to go to the school nearest their homes, even if it means that schools are not diverse.

Rosa Parks, where 8.3 percent of students receive free and reduced lunch, had $535,666 in revenues in its school activity fund in 2013. The elementary school sits near half-million dollar homes in the Harrodsburg Road area.

This past year, Rosa Parks made about $27,000 on one 5K-run fundraiser, more than Harrison Elementary's anticipated revenues for all of 2014-15. At Harrison, where some surrounding homes sell for $60,000 to $80,000, 97.6 percent of students receive free and reduced lunch.A petition was posted last week on signed by parents upset that socioeconomic status is a primary consideration in redrawing Fayette schools attendance zones.

And this:

Parents sign petition supporting neighborhood schools 

as primary factor in Fayette redistricting

Read more here:
The petition had more than 500 signatures by Friday afternoon [636 by Saturday evening]. It said the district should "not force redistricting on any family."

The petition to the school board reflects comments made Thursday at a public redistricting forum at Lafayette High School.

Earlier this year, the school board adopted goals for a redistricting plan that will be proposed to the board in early 2015.

No one goal is weighted more heavily than others, Superintendent Tom Shelton said Friday.
But socioeconomic balance — having a mixture of students from varying social classes — "is a primary consideration identified by the school board because it is directly tied to student achievement," Shelton said.

"Education research demonstrates that all students achieve better in diverse settings — including those from high income families, middle income families and low income families," he said.

"We understand and respect that every person who has signed the petition wants what is best for kids, as do we."

In Fayette County, some elementary schools have less than 15 percent of students who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. Others have well over 90 percent.

Parents said having children go to the school closest to their home, not socioeconomic balance, should be the main goal.

Shelton said the school board "also recognizes the desire of some families to attend schools close to their homes, and has identified proximity as another desirable outcome."

The website did not indicate who is behind the group called Fayette County Citizens that posted the petition on June 6.

But the web page explaining the petition said, in part, "Although balancing socio-economic status in schools has been stated as a primary consideration in drawing school boundaries, it is widely documented that letting students go to the local school in their community, even if it means that most of the students would be the same race or socioeconomic status, is greatly preferred by a majority in the community."

Redistricting all of Lexington's public-school boundaries is being necessitated by a new high school on Winchester Road and two new elementary schools, one on Georgetown Road and another east of Interstate 75.

Officials said the elementary schools should open in fall 2016; the high school should open in fall 2017.

The petition said the Fayette County School Board should reach a resolution that improves academic achievement for all students. The resolution should be one that delivers "the resources necessary to improve the learning environment in schools with students of relatively lower socioeconomic status," the petition said.

Shelton said the school board also placed "the achievement of all students as the foundation for every decision related to new attendance boundaries."

The petition said district officials should "pursue as its primary consideration the principle of attending a school close to your home and with those that live in the same neighborhood rather than socioeconomic status."

At least 90 signatures were anonymous.

One woman who signed her name to the petition, Carrie Rudzik, said she had no problem with socio-economic balance being one factor, but she thought neighborhood schools should be the primary goal.

Rudzik said in an interview that she signed the petition because she lives across the street from Glendover Elementary and she does not want her children to be reassigned to another school.

"My husband and I just purchased a home with the primary factor being the school district," Rudzik said in comments attached to the online petition. "I'm sure there are many other families who have done the same."

Parent Lindsey Ingram, who spoke at Thursday's public forum, said he also signed the petition.
"We are very concerned about this process and how it's going to play out," he said.

Ingram said he thought that parents at all socio-economic levels want their children to finish at the elementary school where they started and attend a school that's close to where they live.

Meanwhile, school board member Amanda Ferguson said she wanted to make it clear to citizens that when the school board approved the goals, they were in no particular order of priority.

The committee that is developing a redistricting plan includes school board members, business leaders, Equity Council members, parents, Realtors, home builders, principals and city planning officials.

The last time redistricting was undertaken on a large scale was in 2002.

At this point, the redistricting committee is early in its work, Shelton said, and has not begun discussing any specific proposals.

Committee members "will grapple with how to achieve the very best solution for our entire community, using student achievement as the arbiter in decisions," Shelton said.
more here: