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This latest “Kids Count” report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation delivers some depressing news: Youth employment is at its lowest level since World War II. Tracking data from the 2011 Current Population Survey, as well as recent Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the foundation reports that only half of people ages sixteen to twenty-four held jobs in 2011; among the teens in that group, 13 percent of sixteen to nineteen year olds and 20 percent of twenty to twenty-four year olds are both out of school and out of work (what the authors call “disconnected” youth). And still more striking, within this group of disconnected young adults, over a fifth are parents themselves. According to analysts, this stark trend is caused by stronger competition for increasingly scarce entry-level jobs—and may cause these disconnected youth to eventually become a cost to taxpayers. The report then breaks employment data down by state: For twenty- to twenty-four-year-olds, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, and Wisconsin have the highest employment rates. Mississippi and New York have the lowest. While the report’s message is bleak, it offers at least one redeeming data point: For young adults (ages twenty to twenty-four), college-enrollment rates rose from 31 percent in 2000 to 38 percent in 2011, with some who would have entered the workforce now seeking postsecondary education. (The quality of those programs is not discussed in the report.) The authors offer a host of recommendations, including...

Diverse Schools Dilemma

Both Brooklyn, NY, and Northwest D.C. are home to emotionally charged, racially tinged fights over neighborhood school boundaries. Urbanists beware: As the “great inversion” continues and our cities gentrify, this is a sign of things to come.

In Brooklyn, the fight is focused on two elementary schools in Park Slope. One of these, P.S. 321, is overcrowded, the result of a baby boom in its increasingly affluent community, as well as of a school-system policy that allows students to stay at the school even after their families move elsewhere in the city. To deal with the crowding, officials plan to shrink its attendance zone, which means redistricting some children into a new school to be opened a few blocks away.

That second school stirs anxieties among many middle-class parents because it will be more socioeconomically diverse. As Naomi Schaefer Riley opined in the New York Post,

Aren’t Park Slopers looking for diversity? Writing at Park Slope Patch last year, neighborhood resident Louise Crawford asked parents and leaders “What Matters to Park Slope.” From the president of the Park Slope Civic Council to the head of the advocacy group Park Slope Neighbors, diversity topped nearly everyone’s lists….
Matthew Didner, the acting chair of a group of parents whose kids are now zoned for the new school, tells me that diversity is very important...
Diverse Schools Dilemma

Modern urban parents face a quandary: Will the public schools in their walkable, socioeconomically diverse communities provide a strong education for their kids? Mike Petrilli shed light on this question in his book, The Diverse Schools Dilemma. Here’s a roundup of recent and forthcoming media attention that Petrilli’s book has garnered.

Reviews and articles

In his second review of the Diverse Schools Dilemma (you can read the first here),  the Washington Post’s Jay Mathews expounds on Petrilli’s insights into parenting-style variance: “If middle class and low-income parents have different methods with their kids and different expectations for their schools, how do principals and teachers serve both populations?” (11/29/12)

Rick Hess, writing for his Education Week blog Straight Up, calls Petrilli a “model of perpetual angst himself when it comes to [choosing schools for his kids]” and the book a terrific blend of “personal anecdotes, surprising evidence, and conversations with researchers and parents.” (12/7/12)

Mike Petrilli was quoted in a New York Post article on the school boundary controversy raging in Brooklyn’s Park Slope: “He says upper-class parents ‘like racial diversity because they want their kids to be comfortable in a multiracial society, but they are not excited about socioeconomic diversity’ because it will start to affect the quality of the education.” (12/6/12)

The Diverse Schools Dilemma is featured...

A widely-noted  Government Accountability Office (GAO) report back in June found that charter schools serve a disproportionately low number of special-education students, feeding concerns that these schools discriminate again special-needs (and ELL) youngsters. This latest from the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) adds much-needed nuance and should quell some of the concern. CRPE analysts examined 2011-12 special-education enrollments across 1,500 district and 170 charter schools in New York State, finding that aggregates in that state mask important differences across grade band, location, and authorizer. At the middle and high school levels, New York special-education enrollments are nearly identical in the district and charter sectors, with the only variance—albeit sizable—occurring at the elementary level. (The authors offer a few suggestions as to why, including that charter elementaries are less likely to label students special-needs as they have more effective behavior-management systems, smaller classes, or a general insistence on “individualized” education for every pupil.) From these findings, the researchers draw cautionary policy recommendations, urging against the adoption (or continuation) of blanket special-education-enrollment requirements. (New York has such a law; more on this on our Choice Words blog). Not a bad first step, considering that such requirements often lead to over-identification of students as disabled.  But let’s also recall the larger question: Why should a single school—charter or otherwise—be expected to appropriately serve all students?


Robin Lake, Betheny Gross, and Patrick Denice, New York State Special Education Enrollment...

Stefanie Sanford
Stefanie Sanford is moving to the College Board.

Twin announcements today by the College Board and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation brought the exciting news that veteran Gates "advocacy" chief Stefanie Sanford is moving along (on March 1, 2013) to join David Coleman as the College Board's new head of policy, advocacy, and government relations.  They are two of the smartest, widest-ranging, most imaginative, and (in a good way) relentless people in American education and together will make a formidable team. The College Board will re-appear as a lead actor on the ed-reform policy stage—Coleman outlined the new direction in a remarkable inaugural address—and we are apt to see it spearheading major developments in both K–12 and higher education. An energized and reformist  College Board—not visible in recent years—has the potential for perhaps even more promising actions in the intersection between the two sectors: getting more kids ready to succeed in college, then entered into the college that's right for them at a price they can afford, then persevering and succeeding once there. The College Board has permeated deeply into American education (think the SAT and AP exams, for starters), enjoys wide respect and legitimacy, and generates its own revenues. It’s got a great deal of potential in this realm. As for the Gates Foundation, Dr. Sanford is a major loss, but they have a...

Diane Ravitch
Diane Ravitch, the education-reform movement's "explosive turncoat."
Photo by OHSchoolBoards on Flickr.

Diane Ravitch, the education-reform movement’s explosive turncoat, has singled out Checker Finn’s recent dissent from for-profit school models for adulation with a blog entitled, “Checker Finn Opposes the For-Profit Model in Education.” We can quibble about whether Checker’s comment means he opposes the for-profit model (he is more than capable of defending himself on that score), but it is true that in Fordham’s recent report “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do: The Edison Story in Dayton,” Checker says, “Shareholder return ends up trumping the best interests of students…Most of the models I admire today are run by non-profit groups.”

I don’t find that quite so newsworthy as the fact that Ravitch extols the Fordham Institute, which she helped found, for “showing other advocacy groups what it means to be transparent and self-critical and honest.” That may be damning with faint praise, especially in the reformation-like context in which Diane has nailed her complaints to the church door, but it is worth pointing out that if Ms. Ravitch herself aimed to be self-critical and honest in the matter of “the best interest of students,” she would need to examine the public school model that she has, of late, been trumpeting. Here, honesty would require her to admit...

We’re choosy

Mike and Adam celebrate school-choice victories in New Jersey and Race to the Top and worry about the battles ahead. Amber ponders state-mandated special-ed enrollment targets.

Amber's Research Minute

New York State Special Education Enrollment Analysis by CRPE - Download PDF

Ten questions with Mike Petrilli about Mike's new book, The Diverse Schools Dilemma. This post was originally published on Education News.

1. Why did you write The Diverse Schools Dilemma: A Parent's Guide to Socioeconomically Mixed Public Schools?

Three years ago, when I started working on the book, I was struggling with the “diverse schools dilemma” myself. My wife, my young son, and I lived in Takoma Park, Maryland—a wonderful, urbanized city adjacent to the District of Columbia with walkable neighborhoods, a great sense of community…and socioeconomically diverse schools with lackluster test scores. I wanted to understand the pros and cons of such schools, and I decided to share what I learned with others.

2. You show that as cities change, middle-class families are returning to culturally vibrant urban neighborhoods for the first time in decades and considering sending their children to the diverse local public schools. What are the upsides of socioeconomically mixed public schools for middle-class children?

First of all, they get to become friends with kids with diverse backgrounds and experiences, with enriches their lives and, some research shows, will make them more comfortable in a multicultural America in the future. To be sure, getting to know people from different cultures or income levels can be stressful, but some amount of stress can be good for kids as they learn and grow. Second, living in the city can be great for kids, with less driving, more friends nearby, lots of...

Diverse schools

My colleague Mike Petrilli has written a fantastic book in The Diverse Schools Dilemma. It chronicles the struggles, tensions, and emotions that he and his wife experienced in trying to find diverse, yet high-performing, elementary schools for their two boys in the D.C. metro area.  Mike’s dilemma is one shared by many socially-conscious middle-class parents: How can we provide a great education for our own kids while at the same time supporting schools that serve a diverse (economically, socially, and racially) group of students? And the greatest show of support you can give a school is to deliberately entrust your own children to it.

As Mike documents, this is not an easy dilemma to resolve; sometimes the chosen path is filled with doubt, even regrets.

As I read Mike’s book, I kept thinking to myself how I wished all parents gave as much thought and concern to choosing where to send their kids to school as did he and his wife. If this were the case, there would be little need for education reformers—which brings me to the cognitive dissonance I have been feeling lately.

Mike’s book came out the same week that my colleagues and I in Ohio released a new report on Student Nomads: Mobility in Ohio’s Schools. For that report, researchers from the Columbus-based Community Research Partners (CRP) analyzed some...

Diverse Schools Dilemma
Buy the book!

Mike Petrilli took to the airwaves today to discuss his new book, The Diverse Schools Dilemma: A Parent's Guide to Socioeconomically Mixed Public Schools, on Kansas City Public Radio. Joining host Jabulani Lefall and Dr. Lawson Bush, an education professor at California State University, Los Angeles, Mike explained his personal experience with school diversity—as a student and a parent—and the merits of socioeconomically mixed schools. Want more? Listen to Mike’s interview with Southern California Public Radio on the topic from Tuesday or, best of all, buy the book!

Listen to the Kansas City Public Radio interview below.