LAEP NewsBlast Week of 4/22/14

Why community schools are part of the answer 

by guest blogger & LAEP School Transformation Coach, Brock Cohen
“How’s Cincinnati so far?”My question was directed at Eddy Estrada, a 17-year-old high school senior from East L.A.’s Esteban E. Torres High School. We’d already begun chatting it up during the keynote of the Community Schools National Forum’s dinner plenary, which was enough time for me to: a) realize that it doesn’t take me long to set a bad example, b) learn that Eddy was slated to co-facilitate multiple presentations, and c) seriously question whether, in talking with Eddy, I was moving rapidly beyond my own intellectual depth. Read More. Comment

April 22, 2014 – In This Issue:
The resegregation of American schools
Juvenile justice: Part of the problem
60 years after Brown
Black students and corporal punishment
The money doesn’t even out in the end
What price turnarounds?
Hope and engagement aren’t frills

The resegregation of American schools

In a lengthy article for Pro Publica, Nikole Hannah-Jones writes that schools in the South, once the most segregated in the country, were by the 1970s the most integrated as a result of federal court orders. Yet since 2000, judges have released hundreds of districts from Mississippi to Virginia from court-enforced integration, and many have slid back into segregation. Black children across the South now attend majority-black schools at levels not seen in four decades. Nationally, the achievement gap between black and white students, which greatly narrowed during the era in which schools grew more integrated, has widened. Hannah-Jones compares the experience of James Dent, who attended “colored” schools in Tuscaloosa, Alabama in the 1950s and ’60s, with his daughter Melissa, who attended a successfully integrated Tuscaloosa Central High School in the ’80s, and then with his granddaughter D’Leisha, who has attended resegregated schools in Tuscaloosa since 2000. “Tuscaloosa’s school resegregation — among the most extensive in the country — is a story of city financial interests, secret meetings, and angry public votes,” Hannah-Jones writes. “It is a story shaped by racial politics and a consuming fear of white flight. It was facilitated, to some extent, by the city’s black elites. And it was blessed by a U.S. Department of Justice no longer committed to fighting for the civil-rights aims it had once championed.” More

Juvenile justice: Part of the problem
A new report from the Southern Education Foundation finds that youth in the U.S. juvenile-justice system — predominately minority males, incarcerated for minor offenses — are receiving a significantly worse education than non-incarcerated peers. Using the nation’s largest database on teaching and learning in juvenile-justice systems, the report finds the quality of learning programs for the 70,000 students in custody on any given day sets them further back in their ability to turn their lives around than if they hadn’t entered the system. In 2009, for example, most “longer-term” students (enrolled for 90 days or more) failed to make significant improvement in academic achievement. Incarcerated youth in smaller facilities, closer to their local communities, actually fared worse than students enrolled in state systems. That particularly held true in the 15 Southern states, where the proportion of students enrolled in local facilities increased from 21 percent of all incarcerated students in 2007 to almost 60 percent in 2011. A salient issue is that the programs, which serve youth with serious learning and emotional problems, provide limited supports. Taken as a whole, the report found the effects of juvenile-justice programs are “profound and crippling.”  More

60 years after Brown

A new report from the Economic Policy Institute finds that school segregation remains a central feature of American public education 60 years after Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education. Initial school integration gains have stalled, and low-income black children are more racially and socioeconomically isolated today than at any time since 1980. Though black student academic achievement has improved dramatically in recent decades, nationwide and in every state, racial achievement gaps remain huge. Per-pupil spending on black and white students is now roughly equal, but resource equality is not enough, since disadvantaged students require far greater resources to prepare them for school. This includes high-quality early childhood programs; high-quality after-school and summer programs; full-service school health clinics; more skilled teachers; and smaller classes. The typical black student now attends a school where only 29 percent of his or her fellow students are white, down from a high of 36 percent in 1980. And though black fourth-graders now have average math scores that are better than average white math scores only a generation ago, because average white achievement has also improved, the gap between black and white achievement remains. The average black student now performs better than only about 25 percent of white students, preventing equal labor market prospects. More

Black students and corporal punishment

Districts have recently come under heavy criticism for suspending and expelling black students at higher rates than whites, but our national conversation has neglected the brutal truth around physical discipline, writes Sarah Carr for The Nation. In 2012, black children made up 18 percent of the student population, but 35 percent of reported incidents of corporal punishment, which still occurs tens of thousands of times annually in states allowing the practice. In Mississippi, where half of all public school students are black, black children were 64 percent of those paddled in 2012, up from 60 percent in 2000. The issue is muted partly because paddling is limited predominantly to the South. Only 19 states (including a few in the West and Midwest) permit the practice, while students can (and do) get suspended in all states. But other, more complicated reasons temper the debate: In some communities, wielders of the paddle and its most vocal defenders are mostly black. Critiques of the practice have become conflated with attacks on the black community’s right to self-governance, even when those critiques are voiced by other African Americans. In addition to citing the Bible and the need to teach children boundaries, defenders of corporal punishment often cite the paddle’s crucial role in their own upbringing. More

The money doesn’t even out in the end

For as long as critics have questioned whether school foundations worsen inequities by raising millions for certain schools, school foundations have countered that they’re only balancing the equation, writes Mario Koran for Voice of San Diego. The argument goes that low-income schools get Title I and other state funds to meet the needs of disadvantaged students. In fact, Title I — federal money for students living in poverty — comes with strings attached, to be spent on activities like boosting student achievement rather than music, gym, or athletics. True, principals can push boundaries in Title I spending, but ultimately it must go for a narrow list of programs. Foundation money, on the other hand, goes for extras, and over the years has morphed into a budget staple at some schools. The two kinds of money don’t represent an apples-to-apples comparison, but raw totals show that schools that get public money do come out a little bit ahead — especially since they don’t have to raise it themselves. The losers are schools in the middle, with low-income students but insufficient numbers to trigger funding, and weak PTAs. It would be just as fair to blame foundations for causing disparities as it would to fault districts for unequal distribution of Title I funds. But this much is clear, Koran says: The money doesn’t even out in the end. More

What price turnarounds?

At 16 of the 17 Chicago public schools that underwent turnaround between 2007 and 2011, more than half the teachers hired in the first year had left by the third, reports Sarah Karp for Catalyst. In the 10 Chicago schools turned around last year, a third of the faculty had left by the start of the current school year. Chicago Public School (CPS) officials say most turnaround schools have higher-than-average student growth on standardized tests, but it has also been a rocky experience for schools experiencing the drastic measure in which an entire staff must reapply for their jobs and typically, most are not rehired. As Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis has pointed out, turnarounds result in a loss of veteran black teachers with experience of the African-American neighborhoods where most turnarounds are located. Prior to turnarounds, more than two-thirds of teachers at targeted schools were black; among black teachers, two-thirds had more than 10 years of experience, according to Catalyst’s analysis. One year after turnaround, less than half of teachers at targeted schools were black and just 20 percent had over a decade of experience. Michael Hansen of the American Institutes for Research says there is surprisingly little research about whether changing the majority of a school’s staff leads to a better school. “The strategies being prescribed under Arne Duncan are under-researched,” he says. More

Hope and engagement aren’t frills
Regarding the recent Gallup poll that asked teachers, principals, students, and other professionals about their hope, emotional engagement, and wellbeing at work or school, Anya Kamenetz writes in The Hechinger report that while these qualities may seem like frills, they powerfully correlate with harder metrics like a company’s profits or a school’s test scores. In 2009, Gallup studied 78,000 students in 160 schools in eight states, finding that a one-percentage-point uptick in a school’s average student engagement was connected to a six-point increase in reading achievement and eight points in math. Similarly, in peer-reviewed studies, Gallup’s “hope” measure was a better predictor of grades in college than SATs, ACTs, or high school GPA. In a third study, students’ hope accounted for almost half the variation in math achievement and at least a third the variation in reading and science scores. An intimate connection between the schoolroom engagement of students and the workplace engagement of teachers is unsurprising, Kamenetz says. Yet 70 percent of teachers are classified as disengaged. The structures teachers work in — which may include high-stakes testing and value-added rankings based on outside factors — seem to impede their happiness. Gallup’s research is a powerful indicator we need to better consider the full range of factors affecting school performance. More


No brainer

Most California voters think the state should increase the availability of preschool for the state’s 4-year-olds, according to a recent poll. More

No bueno

With a population more than twice as Hispanic as the national average, California has a lower-than-average proportion of Hispanics with college or university educations, and no institution among the top five for awarding them degrees. More

Rightly so

The Los Angeles Unified School District is reversing course on an unpopular proposal to reduce its elementary school orchestra program from a full year to just one semester. More

They can still Aspire

The Los Angeles County Board of Education has approved Aspire Public Schools’ petition to renew two charter schools, which the Los Angeles Unified school board had declined in February. More


From thousands of applicants across the country, three teachers — Leslie Schippert, Lauren Willard, and Derek Willard — from LAEP Partner Schools (Edison Middle School and Washington Prep High School) were selected by the Fund For Teachers for proposals that will bring relevant knowledge and skills back to their students and school community. More


Gettin’ SIG-y with it

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has announced that Alabama and California will receive more than $64 million to continue efforts to turn around their persistently lowest-achieving schools through new awards from the Department’s SIG program. More

An offer they could not refuse

Illinois lawmakers have approved Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposal for overhauling two city pension programs that officials say could otherwise be out of money in little more than a decade.More

Pay later

Facing another year of fiscal problems, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has changed the funding formula for the state’s pension contribution to cancel $93.7 million in previously budgeted pension payments, cut next year’s pension bill by $150 million, and put $900 million less into the underfunded pension system by the end of his term. More

Slight hitch

Kansas education officials are considering not releasing the results of new state computerized math and reading tests, since they’ve been plagued this year with computer problems and cyberattacks.More

Oh, for godsakes

South Carolina’s top education administrator has decided to withdraw the state from the consortium that would test Common Core standards in the coming school year, reversing the reversal of an earlier decision on the matter. More

Kicking it down the road

The Alaska House has voted to remove a plan to address the teachers’ retirement system from a broad-ranging education bill. More

New modalities

Kansas has gotten the go-ahead from the U.S. Department of Education to test-run alternate assessments for all of its students with severe disabilities, using tests developed by Dynamic Learning Maps. More

Corrective action

New York City is moving to narrow the pay gap between pre-kindergarten teachers at community-based organizations and public schools, a divide that advocates have warned could hobble the mayor’s pre-K plan by driving the best teachers to the higher-paying public schools. More

Jammed trigger

A Tennessee bill seeking to make it easier for parents to convert struggling public schools into charter schools failed in a state House subcommittee. More

Can’t vouch for that

A bill that would have allowed Tennessee parents to use vouchers to move their children from a “failing” public school to a private school has stalled in the state’s House of Representatives. More

Bake sale time

The Nevada Education Department lacks money to administer a new state-mandated exam to high school juniors next year, so it plans to raise the funds through private donations and grants. More

Compounding the bad news

A new analysis from the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia finds 49 percent of Pennsylvania public schools fail to meet the state’s overall proficiency expectations. More

SPED revolution

The Pinellas County, Florida School District intends to eliminate the gap between students with disabilities and their nondisabled peers, to streamline classroom lessons, and to re-evaluate special-education staffing. More

And bringing up the rear

The U.S. Department of Education has granted Illinois an NCLB waiver. More


State Farm/Youth Advisory Board

State Farm and the Youth Advisory Board are offering grants for service-learning projects that include K-12 students at public schools and focus on closing the achievement gap, arts and culture, or improving financial literacy. Maximum award: $100,000. Eligibility: public schools and districts, non-profits, colleges and universities, and governmental organizations. Deadline: May 2, 2014.

Captain Planet Foundation: Ecotech Grants

The Captain Planet Foundation, in partnership with the Ray C. Anderson Foundation, is offering grants for the purpose of engaging children in inquiry-based projects in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) using innovation, biomimicry/nature-based design, or new uses for technology to address environmental problems in their communities. Maximum award: $2,500. Eligibility: schools or non-profit organizations. Deadline: May 31, 2014.


“Anything that touches on immigration generates a level of attention and controversy. But for us, this is about finding the very best teachers for our kids.” — Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg, which has hired two illegal immigrants as teachers under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.