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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...

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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...

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  • 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
    teachers
    to
    mayoral
    candidates
    ,
    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
    (finally)
    debut
    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.
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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....

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I cannot
improve upon George Will's eloquent
tribute
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
Wehner's
.)

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.

Certainly
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 http://www.commentarymagazine.com/james-wilson-archive/.
And that's just Commentary.)

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

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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
  • ...
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Sounding off on "snobs" and Santorum

Mike and Rick break down the week’s news, from the prospects of John Kline’s ESEA reauthorization proposals to the college-for-all controversy. Amber analyzes the latest report on Milwaukee’s voucher program Chris wonders whether robbing a bank is enough to get a school bus driver fired.

Amber's Research Minute

The Comprehensive Longitudinal Evaluation of the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program

Amber's Weekly Poll

Tune in next week to find out the answer!

What's Up With That?

School bus dispatcher was bank robbery getaway driver - WFTV.com

My heart hurts for the community of Chardon, in northeast
Ohio. I know people who live there, and they are in deep shock and pain over
Monday’s shooting at Chardon High School. I send my deepest condolences to
everyone impacted by these events. As both a professional observer of Buckeye
State public education and as a mom, two things stand out from Monday’s
tragedy. First, there has been a tremendous
focus
here in Ohio
on anti-bullying
efforts. Many people initially assumed that bullying was the cause of Monday’s
shooting—an assumption that has been largely dispelled. The suspect told law
enforcement officials that he chose the victims randomly, and the prosecutor in
the case believes his story. We absolutely need to address bullying in (and out
of) school. But children, like all of us, can be deeply troubled and in need of
help, even when they are treated kindly by others. Second, it appears as if the
school, its staff, and its students did everything right when it came to
responding to the situation. It is a Fordham mantra that no school can be
everything to every student, but we all agree that all schools have a
major responsibility to keep students safe and sound when they are in their
charge. Emergency response drills and preparedness plans are important. Yes,
they take away from “time on task” and force us...

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This special edition of the Harvard Business Review explains America’s unready
state for competing in the global marketplace. And it points an accusatory
finger at our education system. U.S.
public education—according to HBR authors—is “neither world class nor
reflective of the large sums spent on [it].” It’s also a system that struggles
to “produce employable workers.” In short, it’s broken. Luckily, there are
solutions. In her education-specific article (the only one in the bunch), the
Gates Foundation’s Stacey Childress (formerly an HBS professor) promotes the
use of technology to improve and personalize content delivery. Suggestions from
other contributors include calling on the business community and business
schools to invest locally in schools (a call recently echoed by
Governor Jindal
) and to increase the number of apprenticeship and
internship-type programs for high schoolers. At the higher-education level,
authors pushed for curricula better aligned with the needs of employers. Those
seeking a primer on U.S.
competitiveness may wish to have a look. And to supporters of career-readiness
efforts: This issue provides much fodder for a revamped approach to vocational
and technical education as well.

Special report: Reinventing America,” Harvard Business Review 90,
no. 3 (March 2012)....

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Michael Casserly
Executive Director, Council of the Great City Schools

Dear Gadfly,

In her critique of “The School Improvement Grant
Roll Out in America’s
Great City Schools
”, Daniela Fairchild badly mangles our findings, and then compounds
the error by drawing a conclusion that cannot be supported by any information
in the report.

Ms. Fairchild says that one learns from the report “that districts seem to be less
aggressive with their turnaround efforts post ARRA.” She bases this claim on
the assertion that the number of transformation schools, the most flexible of
the reform models, jumped from 24 percent to 74 percent, pre- to post ARRA.
Conversely, she indicates that the number of schools undergoing tougher reforms
plummeted. But the route she took to arrive at a “pre-ARRA” figure of 24
percent was to take the total number of schools that were implementing some
sort of turnaround strategy in the five years prior to ARRA, add the number of
schools that were closed for academic reasons during this time, subtract the
number of these schools that subsequently reopened, and then take the total
number of schools that had only removed the principal and divide it by this
number.

Unfortunately, all of this
arithmetic does not result in a valid estimate of the number of schools
pursuing the transformation model prior to ARRA.  In terms of pre-ARRA turnaround efforts, we
only asked narrowly about the replacement of principals...

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