Additional Topics

What follows is an
edited transcript of my remarks at a Century Foundation panel held on
The Future
of School Integration
, about a new book by the same name. The speakers included the book’s editor, Richard
Kahlenberg, as well as contributors Stephanie Aberger, Marco Basile, and Sheneka
Williams, and fellow commenter Derek Black of Howard University’s Law School.

There are three points I want to make today.

  • It’s important that those of us who support
    socio-economic integration don’t oversell the evidence, and I’m worried that in
    the book and in today’s comments we’re doing some of that.
  • We shouldn’t pit controlled choice against other
    forms of school choice, especially charter schools.
  • We need to think of controlled choice not just
    as a means of integrating schools; we need to think of diverse schools as a
    choice in and of themselves.

Let me take each of these points in turn.

On not overselling
the evidence

I think it’s a mistake to say, as Marco did, that we’ve
known since the Coleman Report that integrated schools do better. We know that
there’s a relationship. Rick goes into this in his book, looking at NAEP scores
and other evidence, and you can see that in schools with more integration,
students perform better—especially poor and minority students. But that does
not necessary prove that school integration “works.”

Those of...


blogger  Lisa Gibes is a research intern at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

Should truant students be treated as criminals? Since the
1990s, states have been witnessing rising rates of truancy and tardiness at all
grade levels
. Tasked with getting students back in the
classroom, officials have tried everything from revoking driver’s licenses to
fining and arresting offenders (or their parents). While the point of these
laws is to promote good attendance, many argue that such policies are punitive
and disproportionately target minority students from high-poverty communities.
Something needs to be done to ensure students are in their desks where they
belong, but is slapping them with handcuffs and a $350 fine the solution?

Since the
1990s, states have been witnessing rising rates of truancy and tardiness at all grade levels.

For the past decade, Los
Angeles has been trying to fight truancy by enforcing
a daytime curfew, making it illegal for minors to be unaccompanied by an adult
during school hours. This law allows police officers to arrest offending
students and summon them to court where they face fines starting at $250. A
recent article
reports that an L.A. Community Rights Campaign got its hands on police reports
documenting 47,000 truancy tickets filed in the past five years. The majority
of the tickets were given to young Black and Latino males from high poverty


Here’s a quick review of what Fordham’s bloggers had to say
this week:

  • “How
    about creating a ‘virtual education ministry’ that school districts would
    choose to associate with voluntarily?” proposed
    Mike on Flypaper
    . “Think of it as a private-sector department of
    education, but run much more efficiently and with higher-quality staff
    than the government ever could”
  • “Increased
    density and the creative reuse of space can help ease the space crunch”
    for charter schools in expensive urban centers, advised
    Chris on Stretching the School Dollar
  • Terry
    Ryan welcomed Teach For America to Ohio
    on the Ohio
    Gadfly Daily
    , writing that it was “a good day for education and the
    children of the Buckeye
    State who will
    benefit from the passion, smarts, dedication and expertise of TFA corps
  • “In
    order to remain a sound and politically-viable policy option, special
    education vouchers need to demonstrate their effectiveness to the public,”
    Adam Emerson on Choice Words
  • On
    Board’s Eye View, Peter Meyer argued
    that “it is more important to air
    the opinions of the many than to sequester them behind closed doors
    monitored by the few.”
  • “I’m
    now fully convinced that great teaching is neither art nor science,” explained
    Kathleen on Common Core Watch
    . “It’s magic.”

Looking for more great Fordham commentary? Here’s a quick


Save the podcast!

Mike and Janie make the case for keeping the Education Gadfly Show going with witty analysis of Common Core critics, student discipline follies, and the GOP’s education conundrum. Amber delves into teacher dissatisfaction and Chris asks “What’s up with that?” one last time.

Amber's Research Minute

 The MetLife survey of The American Teacher - Download the PDF

What's Up With That?

Teacher's health insurance policy includes free plastic surgery.

The Education Department fired up civil rights advocates this week
with the release of new data showing that schools subject black and Latino
students to discipline at higher rates than their white peers. "The sad
fact is that minority students across America face much harsher discipline than
non-minorities, even within the same school,”
lamented Education Secretary Arne Duncan. The statistics are indeed troubling—black students made up 18 percent of students in ED’s sample, but were 35 percent of students suspended once, and 39
percent of students expelled—but so is Duncan’s spin, which was echoed even more starkly by sundry civil rights
groups and commentators. What we know: Minority students are disciplined more
often than non-minorities. This may be, as Duncan implies, because schools
punish them unfairly and undeservedly, perhaps the result of institutional
racism, inexperienced teachers who struggle with classroom management, or
countless other explanations. But that doesn’t mean
U.S. schools are run by racists. It may also be because black and Latino
students commit infractions more often than white students and are therefore
disciplined at a higher rate. It may be because teachers and principals are
appropriately attentive to the rights of well-behaved youngsters who are eager
to learn without disruption. The truth is probably a mix of these and more—but we just cant tell from ED’s data. Rather than pretending to have the answers on this crucial issue, the
Education Department...


I'm a
longtime supporter of the "DREAM
Act" and other measures to
make the American dream achievable for young people
whose parents brought them into the U.S. as babies or young children without
benefit of legal immigration papers. To qualify for such special handling,
these children would need to successfully complete school in this country, then
college or military service, while keeping their noses clean. This would create
for them a path to citizenship—as well as to Social Security
numbers, bona fide drivers' licenses, and the other paraphernalia of life in
the American mainstream, rather than in the shadows.

With Congress paralyzed or
hostile, however—the DREAM Act is decried on
Capitol Hill as a version of "amnesty for illegals," even though
these kids are wholly innocent of the wrongful immigration decision that their
parents made many years ago—a few states have quietly done
their part to help, such as allowing them to pay in-state rates in state
colleges and universities. (California, to its great credit, is one such.)
Others, despicably, have intentionally hiked the price for these young people
to discourage them from attending. (The argument, of course, is that "the
taxpayers should not subsidize such behavior," though that's the norm in
the K-12 system.) Now a group of wealthy Silicon Valley types (including Lauren
Powell Jobs and Intel's Andy Grove) are pooling private dollars...

  • Utah's
    superintendent of public instruction sent Arne Duncan
    a letter this week
    reminding the Secretary that as much as the state wants a
    waiver, it can't be forced to stick with the Common Core. Of course, he's
    right, and Mr. Duncan is to be commended for correctly (and astutely) agreeing
    in a letter
    of his own
  • From Wendy Kopp to Diane Ravitch, classroom
    the criticism of the release of New York City teacher ratings is piling up.
    Here’s hoping that rigorous teacher evaluations
    survive the storm.
  • On
    Tuesday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a new website
    that will track
    the progress of districts
    statewide as they hash out new teacher evaluation
    plans. Kudos to Cuomo for keeping the public’s
    eye on a process so susceptible to stagnation.
  • Teach For America will
    in Ohio
    this fall, and Fordham wants to be the first to welcome the new corps
    members to the Buckeye State; Gadfly is optimistic that it’s the start of a relationship that will pay big
    dividends for Ohio’s school children.

The Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights made headlines yesterday by releasing new data that showed, among other findings, that black and Hispanic students are more likely to be disciplined than white students. For an analysis of the news, watch Checker Finn's discussion with Jeffrey Brown and the University of California, Berkeley's Christopher Edley, Jr. on last night's PBS NewsHour. While Checker emphasized the value of collecting more data on this issue, he also cautioned that "it would be wrong to see a racist behind every tree in American education."

Watch Report: Minority Students Face Harsher Discipline on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour....


I cannot
improve upon George Will's eloquent
to James Q. Wilson, who died on Friday at the end of four score
years. As Will says, Wilson was the premier social scientist of the past half
century. He was a close friend and colleague of my own mentor, the late Daniel
P. Moynihan. (At Pat's funeral, it was Wilson's arm on which Liz M. leaned.)

(If you'd
like to read a second terrific tribute, read Pete

I never
actually took a course from Jim Wilson, but he was indisputably one of my most
influential teachers, whether over drinks at the Moynihans' or at any of a
hundred conferences or in the pages of his many books and innumerable articles,
very nearly every one of which was worth reading at the time and will endure
for a long time. These were not (like today's blog posts) "of the moment."
They were for the ages.

the two most formative journals of my life, Commentary
and The Public Interest, would not
have been the intellectual and policy powerhouses that they became—in many
lives and many places—without Wilson's frequent appearances in their pages.
(If you want to see an astounding oeuvre, check out
And that's just Commentary.)

His contributions to
America's vitality—and sanity—deserve to be celebrated. And his absence to be


Here’s a quick look around at what Fordham’s bloggers had to
say this week:

  • “Judges
    simply assume that poor performance implies inadequate funding, and that
    layering more money on top of failing systems will improve student
    outcomes,” wrote Stretching the School Dollar’s Chris Tessone in his analysis
    of a New Hampshire
    bill to limit the courts’ role in school funding decisions.
  • “Unlike
    many existing scholarship programs that award an attractive dollar tax
    credit for every dollar in contributions, Virginia would allow individuals
    and businesses to write off only 65 cents for every dollar they donate to
    a nonprofit scholarship organization,” noted Adam Emerson in his Choice
    Words critique
    of the Old Dominion State’s new tax credit scholarship program.
  • “The
    question is not whether student achievement data should be used
    as one of several measures of teacher effectiveness, but rather how those
    data should be used and who is ultimately in the driver’s seat,”
    argued Kathleen Porter-Magee in her Common Core Watch essay
    against “principal-proofing” schools.
  • “The
    idea behind gaming is to involve students in the learning process, which
    is probably teacher’s most difficult challenge,” explained Mike Lafferty
    on the Ohio Gadfly Daily, in his article
    on the use of computer games in math instruction.
  • “Would
    you rather
  • ...