Students’ Rights, Charters and Segregation, Closing Schools, Racism, Testing
Have you ever noticed how important accountability-for-public-schools is to politicians and “reformers?” But where is the accountability for others?
- for religious and private schools taking public money through vouchers?
- for corporate run charter schools?
- for state and local school boards when certain schools are neglected over others?
- for state governments to provide full and adequate funding for public education (see FUNDING, below)?
Public education belongs to everyone. Accountability is for everyone.
Over the past 20 years, education policy has increasingly been enacted not to satisfy the needs of the students and their families, but the wants of the wealthy and powerful who are converting public education from a civic enterprise to a marketplace for edu-vendors: the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation has paid to expand charters and lobby for the use of Common Core standards in all 50 states; real estate and insurance mogul Eli Broad now leads a group of corporate funders pushing a plan to move half of all K-12 students in Los Angeles into charter schools; the Walton family has initiated a new $1 billion campaign to promote charters nationwide; Trump financier Carl Icahn has established a chain of charters in New York City.
No one elected these billionaires, and they are accountable to no one.
The current federal administration…the administrations of more than a few “Red” states…and a substantial number of American citizens…hate government and assume that everything the government does is bad. With the rise of Trump and his “hate-government-cabinet, we see a vacuum in governmental services (except for the military).
Republicans are still arguing that lower taxes for the wealthy will trickle down and improve the economy even though that “voodoo economics” hasn’t worked for the last 40 years, but the truth is, many Republicans are attempting to defund the government.
The U.S. has one of the lowest tax rates as a portion of our GDP in the developed world (32nd out of 35 OECD nations). If we don’t have tax revenue, then we can’t support necessary government services. I’m not a hater of government, and I believe that government services are important. Taxes are necessary to pay for those services. The government needs an income to keep things running…infrastructure, health care, defense, social services, and education. When we don’t invest in ourselves we sacrifice our future.
The world’s developed nations are placing a big bet on education investments, wagering that highly educated populaces will be needed to fill tomorrow’s jobs, drive healthy economies and generate enough tax receipts to support government services.
Bucking that trend is the United States.
U.S. spending on elementary and high school education declined 3 percent from 2010 to 2014 even as its economy prospered and its student population grew slightly by 1 percent, boiling down to a 4 percent decrease in spending per student. That’s according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s annual report of education indicators, released last week.
Over this same 2010 to 2014 period, education spending, on average, rose 5 percent per student across the 35 countries in the OECD. In some countries it rose at a much higher rate. For example, between 2008 and 2014, education spending rose 76 percent in Turkey, 36 percent in Israel, 32 percent in the United Kingdom and 27 percent in Portugal. For some countries, it’s been a difficult financial sacrifice as their economies stalled after the 2008 financial crisis. To boost education budgets, other areas were slashed. Meanwhile, U.S. local, state and federal governments chose to cut funding for the schoolhouse.
September 17th was Constitution Day in the U.S. The Constitution guarantees free speech and a teacher, as the agent of the local government, does not have the right to manhandle a student who, for whatever reason, chooses not to recite the pledge to the flag.
Students do not give up their first amendment rights when they enter the classroom.
A teacher here in Michigan is suspended pending an investigation for allegedly physically assaulting a 6th grade student by violently yanking him out of his chair for refusing to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, something that is the student’s absolutely protected right to do.
PRIVATIZATION: CHARTERS AND SEGREGATION
Race and ethnic relations in the United States is at a dangerous point. The recent reemergence of white supremacists, neo-nazis, and ultra-nationalists, along with a general willingness of many in white America to admit to their bigoted beliefs, has left those who hope for peaceful relations among racial groups, ethnic groups, and immigrants feeling disappointed.
As a reflection of our society, it’s probably no surprise that American schools are now more segregated than ever as tribal impulses cause people to separate. The American “melting pot,” if it ever actually existed, is fading.
Thus, one of the big problems with school choice is the peer-reviewed research demonstrating the finding that “Parents choose to leave more racially integrated district schools to attend more racially segregated charter schools.” Peer-reviewed research has also demonstrated that the choice of African American and white families for schools with homogenous racial compositions “helps to explain why there are so few racially balanced charter schools.”
The same study found that choice was also bad for achievement on average as, “the relatively large negative effects of charter schools on the achievement of African America students is driven by students who transfer into charter schools that are more racially isolated than the schools they have left.”
In contravention of Brown, charters are influencing and intensifying racial segregation across the nation. After several decades, the promise of charter schools to foster integration and a less balkanized society is clearly not being realized.
THE INEFFECTIVENESS OF CLOSING SCHOOLS
[Note: Just after I wrote this I read that Indianapolis has decided to close three high schools…ostensibly for enrollment reasons. I’m curious if we’ll see the addition of charter high schools soon. See It’s final: Indianapolis Public Schools Board approves plan to close high schools]
In 2013 Chicago Mayor, Rahm Emanuel, announced the closure of 50 public schools. Later that same year, the Chicago Public Schools posted a document requesting that charter schools open in the city during the following two years.
Recently, CREDO, a research group supportive of “reform” strategies, presented the results of a new study which showed that simply closing schools was ineffective. Furthermore, the students who needed school improvements the most, poor students and students of color, were the ones who were most negatively impacted by school closings.
The results of the CREDO study confirm that the most common cause of “low performing schools” is poverty and its impact on student achievement. Without addressing the out-of-school-factors which affect student performance or the general lack of support for public schools serving poor students and students of color, closing a school will do nothing but shuffle the problems around to other schools – or to the streets.
It doesn’t matter where a student attends school if he has been damaged by lead poisoning, traumatized by neighborhood violence, weakened by lack of health care, or disadvantaged by food and shelter insecurity. Out-of-school-factors which lower achievement will follow a student to whatever school he or she attends.
Instead of closing schools and hoping for a miracle, school systems ought to improve achievement through wraparound services for students who come to school exhibiting the effects of poverty. Support for services like social workers, instructional specialists, and increased teacher training should be included. Schools should provide whatever services are needed to support students. States and municipalities should support schools systems with funding necessary to deliver the services as well as support for the communities. Closing schools – essentially blaming them for the failures of society to deal with the problems of poverty – is unfair and counterproductive.
…a new study found that closing schools where students achieve low test scores doesn’t end up helping them learn. Moreover, such closures disproportionately affect students of color.
What’s surprising, however, is who conducted the study – corporate education reform cheerleaders, the Center for Research on EDucation Outcomes (CREDO).
Like their 2013 study that found little evidence charter schools outperform traditional public schools, this year’s research found little evidence for another key plank in the school privatization platform.
SUPERINTENDENTS SPEAK OUT
Todd Garza, Superintendent of Ludlow (MA) schools has a blog in which he speaks out on current education topics. This post discusses his personal obligation to speak out against bigotry and racism. It’s important, he believes, for educators to be role models for their students as well as teaching academics.
However, it is the duty and responsibility of every educator to loudly and with one unified voice state unequivocally that racism, hatred, and bigotry cannot be tolerated and have no place in our national dialogue. Failure to denounce such speech and actions every time we are confronted amounts to tacit approval and that is unacceptable.
…We have very little control over the battles being played out on the national stage. However, we can control what happens in our communities, our schools and our classrooms. As adults we can model the behaviors we want our children to exhibit. If we start small it will spread. There will always be a diversity of opinions in our communities and that is the beauty of our system. However, we must never give in to the fear that opens the door for hate, racism and bigotry to intrude. We are not perfect, but we are Americans with all that that stands for and we can be better than we have been in recent times. Remember, our children are watching.
Superintendent of Northwest Allen County Schools in Indiana, Chris Himsel, has written an op-ed letting parents know how useless and wasteful the Indiana ISTEP test is.
Yesterday, ISTEP scores were released to the public across the state. Compared to other districts, Northwest Allen County Schools performed well. However, the information is not relevant to us. Why? Because (1) the events that yielded these scores took place over four months ago and (2) the results provide zero information about why students passed or why students did not pass. Therefore, the recently released data do not offer useful information designed to help us meet the individual learning needs of our students. Why is it important to receive information designed to meet the individual learning needs of students? Because the test results themselves are not an indicator of school or teacher quality; school and teacher quality is a result of how learning data, including test results, are used to improve learning among individual students.