Additional Topics

Fordham’s bloggers weighed in on education stories from around the country this week; here’s a quick look at what had them buzzing:

  • California: On Common Core Watch, Kathleen wondered whether critics like California teacher of the year and education blogger Alan Lawrence Sitomer are justified in questioning CCSS architect David Coleman’s credentials because he lacks teaching experience. “Perhaps,” Kathleen suggests, “what we need right now in education is not fewer outsiders, but many, many more.”
  • Colorado: Terry Ryan profiled the trailblazing pay-for-performance teacher compensation plan pioneered by Colorado Springs’ Harrison School District 2 on the Ohio Gadfly Daily.
  • Florida: On Choice Words, Adam highlighted a promising bill in the Sunshine State that would blur the lines between home schooling and public schooling.
  • Louisiana: Board’s Eye View hosted a guest blog post from New School’s for New Orleans’ Neerav Kingsland, who explained the lessons education reformers can learn from Europe's transition away from communism.
  • Washington, D.C.: Mike argues on Flypaper that Representative George Miller’s ESEA reauthorization bills currently being considered in the nation’s capital are actually “conservative” because they would essentially keep NCLB the same.

Also, be sure to watch Kathleen’s interview on the sorry state of state science standards and listen to Checker’s discussion of vocational education on yesterday’s edition of The Bill Bennett Show. You can have all of Fordham’s commentary delivered right to your inbox by subscribing...

March (ESEA) Madness?

Mike and the Heritage Foundation’s Lindsey Burke step outside to debate the place of climate science in standards and whether John Kline’s ESEA proposals stand a chance, while Amber looks at the relative merits of a four-day school week.

Amber's Research Minute

Does Shortening the School Week Impact Student Performance? Evidence from the Four-Day School Week - Download the PDF

Forest above Crafnant
 Is there a racist behind every tree in the American education forest?
Photo by Stuart 

Is there a racist behind every tree in the American education forest? That’s the spin a lot of people have given to last week’s massive trove of federal data on school discipline and sundry other topics. “Black students face more harsh discipline” headlined the New York Times. “Minority students face harsher punishments,” quoth the Associated Press. “An educational caste system” stormed the head of the country’s largest coalition of civil-rights groups.

The federal data (from 2009-10) cover a multitude of issues but what caught most eyes was the finding that black and Latino students are suspended or expelled from school in numbers greater than their shares of the overall pupil population. “The undeniable truth,” declared Education Secretary Arne Duncan, “is that the everyday educational experience for many students of color violates the principle of equity at the heart of the American promise.” Declaring that the new data paint “a very disturbing picture,” Assistant Secretary (for Civil Rights) Russlynn Ali proudly informed the media that her office has “launched 14 large-scale investigations into disparate discipline rates across...

The big news last week was the release
of data
by the U.S. Department of Education showing that, as the press
release stated,

Minority students across America face harsher discipline,
have less access to rigorous high school curricula, and are more often taught
by lower-paid and less experienced teachers, according to the U.S. Department
of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

The report, part of the annual Civil Rights Data Collection
(CRDC) survey, included data from 72,000 schools serving 85 percent of the
nation’s students and found, among other things, that black male students “are
far more likely to be suspended than their peers.” In fact, it reported, though
black students make up 18 percent of the students in the sample, they accounted
for 35 percent of the students suspended once and 39 percent of the students

When I read this, I yawned. 
It matches perfectly the statistics in my school district.

When I read this, I yawned. 
It matches perfectly the statistics in my school district.  But just as my district pays little attention
to the academic environment that these “bad” kids swim in, so too the ensuing national
melee over OCR data didn’t mention curricula and teachers.  Everyone wanted to talk about “discipline” practices,
school “safety” and “racism.” 

Wrote Jason Riley in the Wall
Street Journal

The Obama administration's sympathies are with the...

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...