LAEP NewsBlast Week of 5/19/14

 

May 20, 2014 – In This Issue:
Brown at 60: Why we’re disappointed
The altered trajectory of Michelle Robinson
Brown’s unfinished business
Redistricting in education
When EL reclassification works
A damning look at VAM
Charter/traditional cross-fertilization proves elusive
Less pleasure in reading
BRIEFLY NOTED CALIFORNIA
BRIEFLY NOTED
GRANTS AND FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES

Brown at 60: Why we’re disappointed

An issue brief from the Economic Policy Institute highlights key elements of the American education system in the wake of Brown vs. Board of Education. While Brown prompted widespread desegregation of American society, it was least successful in its purported aim: Black children are more racially and socioeconomically isolated today than at any time since 1970. Black academic achievement has improved dramatically in recent decades, but so has that of whites, so huge achievement gaps remain. Resource inequalities for schools are fewer, but resource equality in itself insufficient, since disadvantaged students require greater resources for success in school: high-quality early childhood programs, birth to school age; high-quality after-school and summer programs; full-service school health clinics; skilled teachers; and smaller classes. Even given these, students rarely succeed in racially and economically isolated schools where remediation and discipline supplant instruction, excessive student mobility disrupts learning, involvement of more-educated parents is absent, and students lack adult and peer models of educational success. Raising achievement of low-income black children requires residential integration, and education policy is housing policy. Federal requirements for residential integration have been unenforced, and programs to subsidize movement of low-income families to middle-class communities have been weak and ineffective. Correcting these policy shortcomings is essential if the promise of Brown is to be fulfilled. More

The altered trajectory of Michelle Robinson

In 1975, under pressure from the Supreme Court decision desegregating public schools, Chicago opened a racially integrated high school for high achievers that changed young Michelle Robinson’s life, writes Sheryl Gay Stolberg for The New York Times. Her now husband, Barack Obama, attended a prep school in multicultural Hawaii, but Mrs. Obama was raised in a one-bedroom apartment and later a house in South Shore, a neighborhood experiencing rapid white flight. By 1980, the year she turned 16, it was 96 percent black, as were its schools. Yet the Whitney M. Young Magnet High School seems to have truly changed Mrs. Obama’s life, getting her out of her neighborhood and exposing her to a truly diverse educational environment. Mrs. Obama credits Whitney Young with setting her on a path to Princeton University and Harvard Law School. But even at Whitney Young, Mrs. Obama often recounts how adults insisted she was not Ivy League material. “Get this,” Mrs. Obama has told students, “some of my teachers straight up told me I was setting my sights too high.” Mrs. Obama has always cast such conversations in terms of achievement, not racial dynamics. To that, Charles Ogletree Jr., her law professor at Harvard, said, “And she never will.” But, he adds, “You can read between the lines.” More

Brown’s unfinished business
The legacy of Brown vs. Board of Education has been clouded by unintended consequences — the destruction of an entire class of African-American educators, for instance — and shifting demographics, writes Peg Tyre for Politico.com. Its intentions — to equalize access to educational opportunity for all — have proven no match for the unprecedented economic shift that has seen wealth and privilege centralized in the hands of relatively few. As social policy, desegregation paid immediate dividends, to be sure. The yawning achievement gap between white and black students narrowed, and high school graduation rates for African-American children rose. But 60 years after Brown v. Board of Education, the achievement gap between rich and poor students is wider than the gap between black and white students in 1950. One lasting, positive legacy was Brown’s opening the door for the 1965 Elementary & Secondary Education Act, which compelled communities to spend education dollars using race-blind formulas. Before Brown, African-American children learned lessons in overcrowded schoolhouses with outdoor plumbing and tattered textbooks, while white children from the same communities attended schools with low teacher-to-student ratios, generously funded extra-curricular activities, and brand-new textbooks. But relative resource parity now masks another truth. Currently, African-American children, and particularly low-income African American children, are as likely to attend majority non-white schools as they were in 1960. More

Redistricting in education

Splinter districts are a new secessionism anchored in the South, writes Susan Eaton in The Nation. Cities, towns — even unincorporated areas — are renouncing larger districts, breaking established education communities into more narrow and racially homogeneous ones. Breakaway districts exacerbate resource disparity and sweep away desegregation, and are centered in the South because its districts tend to enroll students from cities and towns throughout a county as opposed to a single municipality. Secessionist districts take resources with them, most obviously students on which tax-dollar distributions are based. Generally, these districts capture all taxable property within tightened boundaries, cutting off revenues previously shared. Rapidly developing or well-developed suburbs have an advantage over older communities that typically suffer population declines and shrinking tax revenue. And a desire for “good schools” drives decisions about where to live. As Professor Jennifer Holme of the University of Texas-Austin has shown, white presumptions about “good schools” are driven by “status ideologies” formed by race and class biases. Home values, tied to a district’s reputation, rise or fall accordingly, aiding a community’s ascension or decline. It may be power on school boards that secessionists prefer not to share, or perhaps they’re shunning lackluster test scores. Even if we assume nonracial motivation, secessionism is undermining whatever racial diversity still lingers in some schools. More

When EL reclassification works
A new report from the Public Policy Institute of California finds that English Learners (ELs) reclassified as proficient in English by the end of fifth grade perform as well or better academically than native speakers, and continue to do so through middle and high school. The report followed students from Los Angeles Unified and San Diego Unified over 10 years, from second grade through the twelfth. Reclassified students were as likely or more likely than native speakers to make on-time progress from one grade to the next, and were as likely or more likely to graduate from high school. There is no evidence that the removal of language support impedes student academic progress relative to that of native English speakers. The report notes that Los Angeles and San Diego have different criteria for reclassifying English Learners, but the factors that predict success are remarkably similar, despite the complexity of the process. The researchers conclude with a list of recommendations to help ease transition to new policies: Consider allowing districts to reclassify students on the basis of a single test; consider use of reclassification criteria that are rigorous; and consider a uniform standard for reclassification across a state’s districts. A standard set of criteria could improve fairness and make it much easier to evaluate district successes. More

A damning look at VAM

A new report from the University of Pennsylvania explores how teachers’ instructional alignment (content coverage) is associated with student learning and teacher effectiveness, as measured by composite evaluation measures including the value-added model (VAM). Researchers used a sub-sample of approximately 300 teachers from the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation’s Measures of Effective Teaching study and surveyed coverage of topics and levels of cognitive demand using the Surveys of Enacted Curriculum (SEC) content taxonomies. Based on the sample, the researchers found weak associations of content alignment with student achievement gains, and no associations with the composite measure of effective teaching. This could indicate that instructional alignment and pedagogical quality are not as important as the standards-based reform theory suggests, or that instructional alignment and pedagogical quality are as important as previously thought but that the SEC and Framework for Teaching (FTT) do not capture important elements of instruction. Alternatively, decades of research underlying the SEC and FTT (and the other instruments in the MET study) have not identified what really matters in instruction. A third interpretation is that tests for calculating VAM cannot detect differences in content or quality of classroom instruction. Low correlations raise questions about the validity of high-stakes (e.g., performance evaluation) or low-stakes (e.g., instructional improvement) inferences made on the basis of value-added assessment data. Taken together with the modest stability of VAM measures, the results challenge the effective use of VAM data. More

Charter/traditional cross-fertilization proves elusive
In the two decades since charter schools began, little of what has worked for them has found its way into traditional classrooms, reports Javier Hernández for The New York Times. Political battles over space and money have inhibited collaboration, and the sharing of buildings, which could foster communication, has frequently led to conflict. Some charters have veered so sharply from the standard model — with longer school years, nonunion workers, and flashy enrichment opportunities — that their ideas are considered unworkable in regular schools. Public and private attempts to spur collaboration have underscored the difficulty in getting to idea-sharing, which charters were intended to foster. Charter leaders have defended their efforts, pointing to strong academic results in the poorest neighborhoods. But movement tactics are partly to blame for the reluctance of district leaders to work with them, some concede. “I got into this to create R & D for regular schools,” says Steve Barr of Green Dot Public Schools, a charter network. “Sometimes we come off as if we’ve invented everything.” Despite backlash, a few districts have adopted practices embraced by charters, including longer school days, smaller high schools, and more autonomy for principals. Charters serve 5 percent of public-school students nationwide, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, up from one percent in 2003. More

Less pleasure in reading

A new report from Common Sense Media finds that though American children spend part of their days reading, they spend less time reading for pleasure than decades ago, and have significant gaps in proficiency, writes Andrew Seaman for Reuters. The report analyzes information from several national studies and finds the percentage of nine-year-old children reading for pleasure once or more per week dropped from 81 percent in 1984 to 76 percent in 2013. A third of 13-year-olds and half of 17-year-olds reported they read for pleasure less than twice a year. Of those who read or are read to, children now spend on average between 30 to 60 minutes daily. The report also found only a third of fourth grade students are proficient in reading, but another third scored below basic reading skills. Yet scores among young children have improved since the 1970s, according to one test that measures reading ability. Reading scores among 17-year-olds remained relatively unchanged. About 46 percent of white children are proficient in reading, compared with 18 percent of black children and 20 percent of Hispanic. These gaps are relatively unchanged over the past 20 years. The report highlights behaviors tied to children being more frequent readers, which include parents setting aside time to read with children and reading themselves. More

BRIEFLY NOTED CALIFORNIA

Even worse than elsewhere

As racial separation in education steadily grows, California now leads the nation in children going to school with their own kind, according to a new study. More

Backward momentum

California’s state-funded preschool program enrolled about 15,000 fewer children in 2012-13 than it had the year before, according to the State Preschool Yearbook by the National Institute for Early Education Research. More

Chipping away at the CalSTRS shortfall

Consistent with his philosophy of fiscal restraint and a commitment to pay down long-term debts, Gov. Jerry Brown is proposing in his revised budget to make a down payment on the $74 billion shortfall in the pension program for teachers and administrators. More

With district money

The financial contribution districts will make to help close an unfunded liability of $74 billion in teacher pensions will jump nearly 11 percent under Gov. Jerry Brown’s May budget proposal. More

Parched

Access to free drinking water at schools has improved, but California districts are not doing all they can, despite state and federal laws on the issue and evidence of the health benefits of drinking water.More

BRIEFLY NOTED 

Not particularly stringent

The Indiana State Board of Education has given initial approval to a proposal that would allow college graduates with a B- average in any subject to earn a K-12 teaching license by passing one test. More

So much for that

A money-saving experiment by a handful of Minnesota districts that switched to four-day weeks is winding down because of academic-performance concerns. More

Unmoved

The teachers union in Oregon wants the state to put off new statewide tests scheduled for next year because a majority of students are expected to fail, but Oregon Schools Chief Rob Saxton has refused. More

Solid

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has signed a law promising free community college tuition to every high school graduate in the state, to be paid for by the lottery. More

No slack

Wyoming will not receive a waiver that would ease consequences for schools under NCLB. More

Now what?

Bills to overhaul Florida’s school-grading system and respond to complaints about a move to the Common Core standards were among more than 50 pieces of legislation signed by Gov. Rick Scott.More

Stealth concessions

Tucked in a 291-page document related to the Fiscal Year 2015 budget that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled on May 8 are two increases to charter schools: $26.9 million for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, and an extra $219.7 million for next year. More

Bellwether, perhaps

As Newark woke up to a new mayor-elect, groups that backed him declared his victory part of a rising tide across the country of voters’ speaking out against charter schools and other incursions against labor unions and public education. More

That’s one method

One Chicago non-profit could become the first of its kind to use crowdfunding to open a preschool.More

GRANTS AND FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES

AASA: National Superintendent of the Year

The American Association of School Administrators National Superintendent of the Year Program pays tribute to the talent and vision of the men and women who lead the nation’s public schools. Maximum award: recognition; a $10,000 scholarship to a student in the high school from which the National Superintendent of the Year graduated. Eligibility: Any superintendent, chancellor, or top leader of a school system in the United States, Canada, or international school who plans to continue in the profession. Deadline: August 1, 2014.

Open Meadows Foundation: Grants for Women and Girls

The Open Meadows Foundation is a grant-making organization for projects that are led by and benefit women and girls. It funds projects that reflect the diversity of the community served by the project in both its leadership and organization; that build community power; that promote racial, social, economic, and environmental justice; and that have limited financial access or have encountered obstacles in their search for funding. Maximum award: $2,000. Eligibility: 501(c)3 organizations with an organizational budget no larger than $150,000. Projects must be designed and implemented by women and girls. Deadline: August 15, 2014.

Siemens/The College Board: Siemens Awards for Advanced Placement

Siemens Awards for Advanced Placement fosters intensive research that improves students’ understanding of the value of scientific study and informs their consideration of future careers in these disciplines. Maximum award: $100,000 college scholarship. Eligibility: students must enrolled in high school (grades 9-12) during the 2013-14 school year, individually or as a team. Deadline: September 30, 2014.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

“Today, by some measures, our schools are as segregated as they were back when Dr. King gave his final speech.” — First Lady Michelle Obama, speaking at a high school commencement in Topeka on the 60th Anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education.