Published: Fri, 30 Sep 2016 00:00:00 -0400
Last Build Date: Fri, 30 Sep 2016 21:04:08 -0400
Wed, 07 Sep 2016 16:00:00 -0400For those who care to actually pay attention, the charter school movement and the school choice movement writ large is not some plot by either the wealthy or by conservatives to destroy the public school system. While there are certainly wealthy and conservative people who want to flee the public schools, there are—particularly in urban centers—a significant number of parents who are neither wealthy nor conservative who are demanding a greater number of education choices for their children. In California, major pushes to improve school choice for students came partly from the left, and former State Sen. Gloria Romero, a Democrat, was notable for her efforts to shepherd in policies that give parents more control over where and how their children would be schooled. She was motivated by seeing the stagnation of public school quality in areas that serve poor and minority students and the resistance by powerful education unions to reform. Romero has been involved in School Choice Week, and Reason interviewed her in 2013. After a lengthy political and activist career supporting school choice, Romero is now putting her money where her mouth is. This fall sees the launch of a charter school co-founded by Romero in the heart of Santa Ana, California. Scholarship Prep Charter School opened at the end of August with enrollment of more than 300, serving students from kindergarten through eighth grade. The launch of her school, with its emphasis on serving poor students and particularly kids from foster homes, drew positive attention from the Wall Street Journal in a piece noting the many challenges in trying to actually start a charter school in California. Romero spoke with Reason Wednesday morning about her shift from activist to school founder and the extraordinary difficulties in trying to open a charter school in an environment where public school defenders and union representative are arrayed against them. Romero says she had been thinking about the possibility of launching a school for quite some time, reaching back as far as when she was term-limited out of the state Senate in 2010. "People were telling me, 'You're always trying to reform schools; why not start your own?'" Romero says. "[The school] was probably years in the making." After seeing many charter schools launch in California and succeed, she decided to partner with Jason Watts of CharterBoost to help start her own. The process took months and required a 300-page petition and a hunt for a facility to house the school (a church). Rather than attempting to get approval from Santa Ana Unified School District, Romero went to Orange County's Department of Education to help bypass an approval process where local resistance by entrenched public school interests can very much influence school board votes. Scholarship Prep Charter School was approved unanimously. But that's just a small part of the challenge. Charter schools are publicly funded schools, but Romero notes they're "funded as though we really are the little stepchildren of the public education system." The school has been awarded a $500,000 start-up grant, but as of the start of the school year, they've only gotten one check for $84,000. Romero has been putting some expenses on her own credit card and says there's now a niche market developing for short-term loans for charter schools as they attempt to navigate a complicated process of getting the money the schools have been promised. "You get caught up in the bowels of the Sacramento educational bureaucracy," she says. "You have to try to navigate around a system that is set up financially to choke it until it fails. Those are issues that the traditional public schools will never have to face." The rather vague name of Scholarship Prep Charter School explains what its goals are, Romero says. The foundation for the school is not on the "three R's" but the "three A's"—academics, athletics, and arts. Those three pathways Romero identified as the primary ways the lower-income students they serve can earn scholarships to attend college. As the school year [...]
Fri, 02 Sep 2016 12:20:00 -0400Parents often resist when public schools close their doors, even when said schools are underperforming and/or underpopulated. In my former hometown of Barstow, out in the California desert, in the face of declining enrollment, citizens nevertheless resisted school districts' efforts to close a couple of schools and even used California's absurdly complicated environmental laws to try to block it (essentially arguing that the district hadn't adequately studied the environmental impact of moving students to other schools). But when privately operated charter schools perform poorly, school districts are often very quick to try to shut them down. Paperwork issues? Shut them down! Don't like how they're spending the money? Shut them down! Research highlighted by NPR suggests that the willingness to shut down bad or unneeded schools is good, public or private, and doing so is often a boon to students. This should not be a controversial issue, but it is. NPR notes that a full 84 percent of parents in a recent poll said they'd prefer to keep a poorly performing school open and try to fix it, rather than shut it down. It's pretty easy to understand the logic of parents here. Changing schools is a stressful, difficult experience for families, and there's a high level of resistance unless circumstances truly call for it. As NPR notes, it's tougher for parents to be involved with schools the further they are from the family's home. But perhaps the stress of being in a bad school is much worse. Some early research is showing that when underperforming and underenrolled schools are shut down, the closings benefited the students who were sent elsewhere. Contain your surprise: James Kemple at NYU's Steinhardt School took a look at New York City's shuttering of 29 high schools that were among the lowest-performing in the city. The phaseout took place over several years, allowing students to finish out their educations at the school where they began. At the same time, New York opened a group of small high schools offering open enrollment and personalized attention for students, and it instituted a citywide choice policy. Kemple followed a matched group of eighth-graders who, based on their middle schools and their neighborhoods, would have been expected to attend one of the closed schools. He studied where they went and what happened to them. The impacts were "quite strong," he says, in a positive direction. "They ended up attending high schools that were higher-performing, with higher attendance, better test scores, better graduation rates, and did much better than students we compared them to," he says. That included a 15-percentage-point increase in the students' high school graduation rate. Note that the story's a lot more complicated than just taking students from one school and shipping them off to another. It involves New York City treating school choice seriously and giving families much more power over where their students would attend. There a bit of an "It's too soon to be entirely certain" tone to the story. Students from closed schools in Chicago, NPR explains, have been shifted to schools with better ratings from the city, but it's too soon to evaluate the outcomes. That—in the year 2016−we don't have adequate research on the educational impacts of closing bad public schools says so much about how entrenched the public education system is. And yet, the power within the system has ultimately led us to a situation where the only way to actually "fix" public schools is to either threaten them with closure or allow parents to ship their kids elsewhere. The powerful education unions have made it next to impossible to fire bad teachers. They do everything within their power to even fight methods used to evaluate teacher performance or to tie pay or bonuses to educational outcomes. At this point, eliminating entire schools is one of just a handful of ways of bypassing that level of power. This study's results are not remotely shocking or controversial. The only thing shocking is that it has taken so[...]
Tue, 30 Aug 2016 15:10:00 -0400Charter schools are in the news, what with HBO's John Oliver slagging them on Last Week Tonight as hotbeds of criminal behavior and thievery (alas, he would have done better to turn his ironic gaze to principals in Detroit's traditional public-school system). One New York charter that's just opened is connected with music mogul P. Diddy, who cut the ribbon at East Harlem's Capital Prep this week: "I want Harlem to have the best schools," Diddy read. "The best of everything," he added, in an address about ten minutes long.... Diddy largely kept to a script, except when he told students directly from the lectern to do their homework and to get excited about work in class. The other off-script exception was when PIX11 was able to get close enough to him after the ceremony to ask how he really feels about six years of planning a school finally coming to fruition. "Instead of me complaining about education," he said, "I want to do something about it. So that's why I'm starting this school." Read more from WPIX here. The day-to-day operations of Capital Prep are handled by Steve Perry, a controversial educator whose schools in Hartford, Connecticut were both successful and highly criticized. Perry's Capital Prep in Hartford started as a charter and then morphed into a traditional magnet school. Critics say while it's true that Capital Prep sent 100 percent of its mostly lower-income graduates to college, there was an attrition rate of 35 percent between sixth grade and senior year. But perhaps it's Perry's outspoken views about teachers unions that really get under people's skin. Here he is, quoted disapprovingly in a 2013 Washington Post story: "I know in polite company, you're not supposed to talk about the unions," Perry said. "But I will. I know you're here. I hope you hear me, because I'm tired of you. Every time you fight to keep a failed teacher in a school, you're killing children, and that's not cool. "Every single time you make a job harder to remove someone who is simply not educating, and everybody in the building knows they're not educating, you're killing your profession, you're killing our community and you're making it harder on yourselves. "It's high time we call the roaches out and call them for what they are. I've been to too many cities where the excuses pile up, one on top of the other. You know what happens with those excuses? They kill our kids." Elsewhere, the Huffington Post says that both Diddy and Perry have anger issues, so they are perfect together. And yet, the New York school that just opened seems to be doing something right. WPIX reports that one of the school's new students is sixth grader Cameron Louis, whose mother is sending him there despite a long daily roundtrip: He has a commute of 20 miles a day from Queens Village, near the Nassau County line. Louis's mother said she's optimistic that the commute is worth it, as is the time she put in to deciding to come to Captial Prep Harlem in the first place. "I listed my pros and my cons," she said in an interview after the first day of classes, "and there were a lot of cons because of the distance, but I thought why not try it?" "I love my son, and would do anything that's best for him, so I thought, 'I'm gonna give it a shot.'" There is no question that charter schools, which operate with about one-third less public money per student than traditional public schools but are freed from many regulations and rules, fail on a regular basis. And so Capital Prep may well hit the skids. But failure isn't what defines charters vs. traditional public schools. After all, public schools fail all the time, too. The difference is that when charters fail, they close down. Students and their parents leave and go elsewhere. Traditional public schools, in contrast, often stay open indefinitely and even often get extra funding to address their deficiencies. Charters expand the choices of parents, especially lower-income parents in cities. And in strict, randomized control trials that compare similarly s[...]
Thu, 25 Aug 2016 11:28:00 -0400A federal judge denied an injunction Monday that would have temporarily blocked the implementation of Texas' campus carry law. The move was led by three University of Texas at Austin professors, who argue the law, which allows for the carrying of weapons on campus, infringes on their right to free speech under the First Amendment and violates the Due Process and the Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. The professors said guns could suppress class discussion, especially regarding sensitive topics like sexuality. Judge Lee Yeakel rejected these arguments, saying the professors "failed to establish a substantial likelihood of ultimate success on the merits of their asserted claims." The lawsuit filed by the professors to overturn the law, however, remains active. The campus carry law permits those who are at least 21 years old to carry a concealed handgun into most campus buildings if they have a license. License holders have been allowed to concealed carry on public university grounds (but not into the buildings) since 1995. The Texas Department of Public Safety reports less than 3 percent of the population in 2014 held a concealed handgun license. Additionally, UT Austin—the flagship school of the University of Texas system—estimates less than 1 percent of its students have a license to carry. "I am pleased, but not surprised, that the Court denied the request to block Texas' campus carry law," said Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton in a statement. "There is simply no legal justification to deny licensed, law-abiding citizens on campus the same measure of personal protection they are entitled to elsewhere in Texas." But System Chancellor Bill McRaven has previously said the law could be costly and dangerous for universities. Meanwhile, when classes at UT Austin began Wednesday, students were greeted by protesters carrying sex toys. Thousands pledged on Facebook to be part of an all-day event called "Cocks Not Glocks." Movement organizers said they distributed more than 5,000 dildos, all of which were donated by sex shops. The organization participated in a similar (but smaller) protest in March during Austin's tech, music, and film confab, South by Southwest. "The State of Texas has decided that it is not at all obnoxious to allow deadly concealed weapons in classrooms," the protesters' website states. "However it does have strict rules about free sexual expression, to protect your innocence." (Emphasis theirs.) For more on the protest and Texas' laws regarding obscenity, Elizabeth Nolan Brown has you covered.[...]
Wed, 24 Aug 2016 16:20:00 -0400The day after their California state lawsuit attempting to overturn various student-damaging rules regarding the firing of teachers, Vergara v. California, was declined by the California Supreme Court, the group Students Matter filed a federal lawsuit against aspects of the state of Connecticut's education practices. The suit is called Martinez v. Malloy. The suite challenges the legitimacy of the following state laws: Moratorium on New Magnet Schools: Connecticut has instituted a moratorium on new magnet schools (Public Act No. 09-6, 22; Public Act No. 15-177, § 1), despite the fact that Connecticut's magnet schools consistently outperform inner-city traditional district schools. Cap on Charter Public Schools: Connecticut's laws governing charter public schools (Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 10-66ee(c)-(d), 10-66bb(a), 10-66bb(g)) prevent high-performing schools from opening or expanding in the State, despite the fact that Connecticut's few charter public schools consistently outperform inner-city traditional district schools. Open-Choice Enrollment Penalties: Connecticut's inter-district Open Choice enrollment program ( Gen. Stat. §§ 10-266aa(c), 10-266aa(e), 10-266aa(f), 10-266aa(g), 10-266aa(h)) penalizes school districts that accept students from inner-city school districts, thus dooming the viability of the very program designed to provide Connecticut's students with quality public school options. It is the suit's contention that those laws: limit the educational opportunities available to Connecticut's students, forcing thousands of poor and minority students to attend traditional district schools that the State knows are consistently failing to provide students with a minimally acceptable education.... As a direct result of these Anti-Opportunity Laws, low-income and minority children in Connecticut's poorest communities are resigned to a devastating game of chance that effectively determines their odds of success in life, based on nothing more than the ZIP codes in which their parents reside..... Connecticut has no possible justification for intentionally subjecting poor and minority children to such unequal and unfair treatment. Where—as here—the State knows that it is not providing, and cannot provide, substantially equal educational opportunities to inner-city children, then it must not stand in the way of feasible options that would significantly improve the quality of their lives.... Through these pernicious laws and policies, Connecticut knowingly and without any rational justification "heavily burden[s]," Bullock v. Carter (1972), and "substantial[ly] . . . dilute[s]," Reynolds v. Sims (1964), the fundamental due process and equal protection rights of Connecticut students, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Plaintiffs ask this Court for a simple declaration that would have immeasurable benefits for many thousands of children: By forcing Plaintiffs and thousands of other students to attend public schools that it knows are failing, while impeding the availability of viable public educational alternatives through the Anti-Opportunity Laws, Connecticut is violating students' federal due process and equal protection rights.... As Students Matter's press release announcing the suit sums up: Plaintiffs describe the heartbreaking struggle they have endured trying to enroll their children in schools that provide an adequate education. Year after year, these parents have tried to avoid sending their children to failing public schools by trying to enroll them in magnet schools, charter public schools, or other adequate public school alternatives. But year after year, the children have been denied admission and forced to remain in failing schools, all because Connecticut's laws prevent high-quality public schools from scaling and meeting the need for high-quality schools demanded by Connecticut's student population. "Hardworking Connecticut families must not be fo[...]
Tue, 23 Aug 2016 11:50:00 -0400John Oliver's cleverly presented but only half-researched (as has become typical for the show) broadside against charter schools was appropriately dismantled yesterday here by Nick Gillespie. To further highlight how misguided Oliver is in believing education isn't improved by the introduction of competition, head westward to the other coast over here in Los Angeles. While the teacher's union in Los Angeles fights as it generally does against the expansion of charter programs and the loss of influence over the system, the school districts themselves have increasingly come to understand and accept that parental control and increased school choice is the future. What that means is that, in order to keep students and even win them back from charter schools, they're actually making changes to their curricula and even going so far as to engage in marketing. The schools are learning to compete. The Los Angeles Times notes that the public schools here have been losing students to charter programs. Given that a good chunk of money follows the students, the public schools can't simply do nothing, or else they'll go under. Public schools are changing to better reflect the educational needs and demands of a new generation of students, but they're so used to being the only choice, they are not prepared to sell themselves to parents. Imagine if the Department of Motor Vehicles actually had to convince us to go there. So Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has hired a marketing director and is planning a program to help schools better sell themselves. The natural inclination here is to want to blast the district for blowing tax dollars on non-educational programs. But if we consider a reality where we have a hybrid system of public schools and charter schools, making sure all parties have a competitive mindset is healthy for the students. The Times uses Richard Ramos, the principal of Haddon Avenue STEAM Academy in Pacoima to help explain: "I grew up in this community and there was no question about what schools we were going to go to," said Ramos, who learned the power of marketing in his previous job at a charter school. "Now things are being looked at through a different lens for sure. With a declining enrollment, you have no choice." Five years ago, Ramos' school had 890 students in grades kindergarten through fifth. By the start of last year, it was down to 785, a decrease that not only injured the school's pride but probably meant teachers would be cut. It didn't matter that the principal had expanded the school's mariachi classes or brought in a decorated speech-and-debate coach if none of the neighborhood's parents knew about it. What did better marketing do? It actually increased enrollment in Ramos' school in the midst of this decline, and the most important point here: He lured back 39 students who had previously been attending charter schools. Competition with the charters doesn't mean that the public schools have to be the losers. It means they have to actually up their game and not simply expect demands for more money to be accepted by the taxpayers. Parents are becoming increasingly aware that funding levels aren't the source of the problem. LAUSD Superintendent Michelle King is herself pushing hard to promote school choice for parents and students who stick with the public school system. King is planning an online portal as a "one-stop shop" to help parents browse the many specialized school options available to parents within LAUSD. Unsurprisingly, the current systems are not particularly accommodating to parents and are not unified. Each program has its own application process. As KPCC notes, the point of this effort is to make it simpler for parents understand what choices they have for their children within LAUSD and to be better positioned to take advantage of them: [T]he portal would feature one common application for L.A. Unified's disparate choice programs; currentl[...]
Mon, 22 Aug 2016 14:28:00 -0400On Last Week Tonight, John Oliver took aim at charter schools, which are publicly funded K-12 schools that are given more autonomy than conventional residential-assignment public schools to set their own curricula, make hiring decisions, and focus on particular sorts of instruction. In exchange for greater freedom, charters get significantly less per-pupil funding than traditional schools (about 30 percent or $3,000 less, according to one study) and typically no funds for buildings and other physical plant. Most importantly, unlike traditional schools, charters must voluntarily attract students; no one is assigned to them and they only keep their doors open if they keep students enrolled in them. Charters have received praise from both liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, and they represent the most popular type of K-12 education reform over the past quarter-century. Created in Minnesota in the early 1990s, there are now about 6,700 charters in 42 states and the District of Columbia. They educate about 3 million students out of the more than 55 million kids enrolled in public and private K-12 education and in some large urban school districts (such as New Orleans and Detroit), they educate a majority or students. Oliver's segment (watch below) was almost unrelieved in its criticism of charters. Echoing the talking points of major teachers unions and liberal interest group such as People for the American Way and the NAACP, the HBO host attacked charters for being unaccountable to local and state authorities (this is not true, as all state charter laws have various types of oversight rules built into them), "draining" resources from traditional public schools (which presumes tax dollars for education belong to existing power structures), and skimming students (in fact, charters teach a higher percentage of racial and ethnic minorities than traditional public schools; they also serve a higher percentage of economically disadvanataged kids). Which is not to say that Oliver is all wrong in his analysis. For instance, he ran through a series of charters that were criminally mismanaged and deserved to be shut down (even as he glossed over the fact that failing charters, unlike failing traditional schools, are more likely to be closed). And he's right to argue that, on average, charters perform about the same as regular public schools. However, such comparisons tell us very little about whether charters do help those at-risk students better than traditional schools. On this score, there is very little doubt that charters do more with less money and fewer resources. University of Arkansas education researcher Jay Greene summarizes the data on "randomized control trials" (RCTs), which compare students who enrolled in charters and other who wanted to but were not able to due to limited slots. Because most charters use lotteries to enroll students, it's possible to match the effect of attending a charter versus a traditional school. As Greene puts it: Students in urban areas do significantly better in school if they attend a charter schools than if they attend a traditional public school. These academic benefits of urban charter schools are quite large. In Boston, a team of researchers from MIT, Harvard, Duke, and the University of Michigan, conducted a RCT and found: "The charter school effects reported here are therefore large enough to reduce the black-white reading gap in middle school by two-thirds." A RCT of charter schools in New York City by a Stanford researcher found an even larger effect: "On average, a student who attended a charter school for all of grades kindergarten through eight would close about 86 percent of the 'Scarsdale-Harlem achievement gap' in math and 66 percent of the achievement gap in English." The same Stanford researcher conducted an RCT of charter schools in Chicago and found: "students in charter schools outperformed a c[...]
Tue, 16 Aug 2016 04:00:00 -0400
(image) Parents in Florida have sued the State Board of Education, the Florida education commissioner and several school districts after their children were held back in third grade because they opted out of statewide testing. The students all passed all their classes. Indeed, many were honors students, and the Florida Department of Education does not require that students be held back if their parents opt them out of tests.
Tue, 02 Aug 2016 00:01:00 -0400Donald Trump managed to sound at least one encouraging note at a Republican convention focused more on fueling fears then empowering individuals. "We will rescue kids from failing schools by helping their parents send them to a safe school of their choice," he boasted in his acceptance speech. Well, OK. The reference to "safe school" does put the emphasis on danger rather than education, but at least Trump called for parental choice. And Donald Trump Jr. compared public schools to "Soviet Era department stores that are run for the benefit of the clerks and not the customers, for the teachers and the administrators and not the students." He went on to call for choice and competition. That sounds great for those of us who like options, especially with a new school year looming. And Americans have been embracing education choices—we've seen high-profile growth in the number of children attending privately-managed, publicly-funded charter schools, from 800,000 kids in 2003-2004 to 2.5 million, or 5.1 percent of total public school enrollment, in 2013-2014. That's sparked a lot of debate about the effectiveness of charter schools and the desirability (yes, really) of letting motivated families flee faltering public institutions. More quietly, though, many American families have opted out of institutional education of any sort, taking on the responsibility of teaching their own children. From 1.1 million kids in 2003, the ranks of the homeschooled increased to 1.8 million in 2012—and an estimated 2.3 million this year, catching up quickly with the charter population. Homeschooled children outnumbered those enrolled in North Carolina's private schools as of 2014 after a whopping 27 percent increase in just two years. My son is part of the surge in the number of children learning at home. The reason for our choice is ably captured in a point made by John Taylor Gatto, a former New York State Teacher of the Year who became a critic of government-controlled education. In his 2008 book, Weapons of Mass Instruction, Gatto wrote about the difference between schooling and education. "Education is a matter of self-mastery, first; then self-enlargement, even self-transcendance—as all possibilities of the human spirit open themselves into zones for exploration and understanding. There are points where the two conditions inform one another, but in schooling, somebody else's agenda is always uppermost." You could say the same of any institution—that its interests overwhelm the individual concerns of the people within it. But that's why it's always a good idea to have alternatives and an exit strategy for when "somebody else's agenda" is incompatible with your own. Such incompatibility has become a serious concern even with popular charter schools. Aside from the fact that there's always a potential mismatch between a family's priorities and a school's, even in an independently operated institution, charter schools face growing regulatory burdens that push them to consolidate and homogenize. Controversial national education standards have added to that burden, since they fall on charter schools as well as traditional public schools. "Some 2 million families have decided that charter schools are the best place for their children," the Goldwater Institute's Jonathan Butcher warned. "But under Common Core, these schools' options for differentiating themselves could be limited." As of yet, homeschoolers face no comparable regulatory threats. Opposition to Common Core was part of the inspiration for the surge in homeschooling in North Carolina, according to the Charlotte Observer, and the same phenomenon is at work across the country. Rather than expend their time and energy battling to change a stubborn institution (North Carolina officials spent a year investigating a replacement for Common Core before deciding to keep t[...]
Mon, 01 Aug 2016 10:47:00 -0400
(image) The scene is Albuquerque's Cleveland Middle School, where a 13-year-old class clown is disrupting things by constantly burping during teaching time. So the teacher bounces him to the vice principal's office, who has a sneaking suspicion that the kid is involved in selling pot on school grounds. The boy is made to take his jeans and shoes off but no drugs are found.
The kid—a pain in the ass in all likelihood, let's be honest—is suspended for the rest of the school year. As over-the-top as that seems, there's worse yet to come. He's also criminally charged under an impossibly vague statute that reads in part:
No person shall willfully interfere with the educational process of any public or private school by committing, threatening to commit or inciting others to commit any act which would disrupt, impair, interfere with or obstruct the lawful mission, processes, procedures or functions of a public or private school.
And now, as George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley writes,
Teachers and administrators have been criminalizing juvenile conduct rather than dealing with such issues with the students and their teachers....the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit has issued an opinion upholding one of the most ridiculous examples of the criminalization of our schools. The Tenth Circuit said that Albuquerque school officials and police were justified in ordering the arrest of 13-year-old boy who was burping in class. The Tenth Circuit ruled that the school officials and police officer were entitled to immunity for their excessive response to what was at worst a class clown.
When you encounter this sort of ridiculous overreaction on the part of school officials—which is then certified by even-more-august authorities—it is no wonder why Americans are losing confidence in major institutions of political, commercial, and civic life. These are not the actions of authorities who have belief in themselves and the things they run. They are the behaviors of a society in decline, to be honest, that no longer feels as if it can exercise power at any level except via banishment and extreme action.
Tue, 26 Jul 2016 18:55:00 -0400
(image) The Common Core national education standards are deeply unpopular with conservatives and left-leaning teachers unions. But since it's not a wedge issue, the Democratic Party has no idea how to exploit it for political gain.
Instead, the party is simply ignoring Common Core altogether, according to internal emails recently leaked by Wikileaks. Eric Walker, a communications director for the DNC, explicitly told staffers that they "should not be touching it at all." Here's the relevant section of his email:
Common Core is a political third rail that we should not be touching at all. Get rid of it.
Most people want local control of education so having Cruz and Trump saying it on a DNC video is counterproductive. Would get rid of any references to that.
Common Core was a bipartisan reform first backed by the Bush administration and enthusiastically pushed by the Obama administration, which incentivized the states to adopt it. The standards themselves were birthed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The goal was to create a set of universal math and English standards, but critics contend that Common Core essentially creates a national curriculum—one that has been very poorly implemented.
Conservatives don't like to cede control over educational matters to the feds. But a lot of liberals don't like Common Core, either. That's because it requires teachers to prepare students for high-stakes standardized testing, which they claim undermines their autonomy within the classroom.
Donald Trump has promised to put an end to Common Core. Some states that have formally backed out of the standards actually continue to abide by them—they just don't refer to it as Common Core. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, supports Common Core, though it's clear we won't hear her talk about it anytime soon.
Thu, 21 Jul 2016 11:42:00 -0400
(image) North Carolina State University officials have changed the university's speech policy that previously forced student groups to get a permit from the school to pass out pamphlets, according to The News & Observer.
A student group called Grace Christian Life filed a federal lawsuit in April, arguing it was unfair for the university to require members to get permission before to handing out information about their organization. According to court documents, university staff told club representatives they were not allowed to engage with students without prior approval under N.C. State's Speech Permit Policy, a guideline issued in 1993.
The group maintained this policy was not only unconstitutional but also being unequally applied. The lawsuit noted that numerous student groups engaged in similar activities without receiving university permission.
The school eventually agreed to drop the policy. Students will no longer be required to reserve space if they are conducting "non-commercial solicitation." In other words, as long as a group is not selling a product, it can hand out information without approval from the administration.
The suit was settled as a result of these changes.
Attorneys with Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a conservative nonprofit law firm, represented Grace Christian Life. "Students of any religious, political, or ideological persuasion should be able to freely and peacefully speak with their fellow students about their views without interference from university officials who may prefer one view over another," Tyson Langhofer, senior counsel for ADF, said in a statement. "NC State did the right thing in revising its policy to reflect this instead of continuing to defend its previous policy, which was not constitutionally defensible."
Under the agreement, the university has to pay more than $70,000 to cover the student group's legal expenses. But in a statement, N.C. State Chancellor Randy Woodson noted that court costs would likely be much higher if the school opted to take the case to trial. Still, he denied that the university was guilty of abridging students' rights:
To be clear, NC State has never required students to get permits to engage and talk to other students – regardless of the subject matter...Individuals and groups have always been free to engage others in conversations about their faith on campus.
This is not the first time N.C. State has found itself in a battle over free speech. As Stephanie Keaveney mentioned in a piece for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, administrators last year encouraged students to paint over messages on the campus's "free expression tunnel" that they believed contained offensive language.
Wed, 20 Jul 2016 10:22:00 -0400
It will come as no surprise that Republicans favor giving parents more control over their children's education. But this year, the party took things to a new level by calling for a constitutional amendment to make sure they get their way.
The proposal comes from the 2016 GOP platform that was approved at the nominating convention on Monday. The relevant section reads:
Parents are a child's first and foremost educators, and have primary responsibility for the education of their children. Parents have a right to direct their children's education, care, and upbringing. We support a constitutional amendment to protect that right from interference by states, the federal government, or international bodies such as the United Nations.
The Republican Party has always been strongly in favor of keeping decision making as close to students as possible, favoring state and local policies over efforts based in Washington, D.C. Even in 2004 with No Child Left Behind in full swing, the GOP recognized education in its platform as "a state, local, and family responsibility, not a federal obligation."
The 2012 platform put even more focus on state and local control, calling on officials to make sure they're "providing broad education choices to parents and children at the State and local level."
But in the past, "state" and "local" have generally been lumped together. The new proposal to amend the Constitution departs from that trend by listing state governments alongside the U.S. Department of Education and the U.N. as forces that ought to be kept out of educational policy making.
As a whole, this year's GOP plank on K–12 education doesn't differ all that much from the past. Yet the fact that committee members felt strongly enough to call for formally altering the U.S. Constitution is noteworthy—especially coming from a party that as recently as four years ago seemed perfectly comfortable with having some state government involvement in public schools.
Fri, 15 Jul 2016 17:12:00 -0400When the Democratic Party platform committee met last weekend to discuss their party's principles, not everyone was happy with the draft K–12 education proposal that was presented. The problem, according to some public school activists? The plank was too positive toward privatization. According to The Washington Post, these activists criticized the party for using the same sort of language as corporate reformers, including offering limited support for school choice and test-based teacher accountability. Platform committee and party members responded by revising the plank to reflect the concerns of these activists, adding a proposal to let parents opt their children out of standardized tests. When it comes to academic performance, the party's position draws heavily from the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the bipartisan bill that replaced No Child Left Behind. While the ESSA does give local and state governments a bit more say in education matters, it also requires them to set high educational standards for their students. That might sound like a good thing—until you realize the federal government must approve of state accountability measures on student achievement. As Neal McCluskey of the Cato Institute has noted, this means there's little to stop the secretary of education from vetoing accountability plans until a state falls in line with what the administration wants. When it comes to school choice, the revised plank makes it clear that Democrats are in favor of limiting the types of schools that are available for students. The proposal states that public charter schools should be required to "accept and retain proportionate numbers of students of color, students with disabilities and English language learners in relation to their neighborhood public schools." In practice, this means a charter could be shut down simply because the kids who choose to apply there, or who happen to thrive after enrolling, don't end up being diverse enough. Moreover, the party is explicitly opposing for-profit charter schools, further eliminating opportunities for parents to move their kids out of a failing local school. The plank also calls for a national campaign to recruit and retain "high-quality teachers" by ensuring they have the materials needed to succeed in the classroom. How it plans to accomplish this lofty goal, however, is left to the imagination. To be fair, the proposals aren't all bad. The committee came out against punishments that unfairly affect minority and disabled students and approved of a passage advocating for reforming discipline procedures. (Reason has written extensively on the problems with zero-tolerance school discipline policies.) Nevertheless, it's obvious from the revised plank that the Democratic Party plans to continue to drag its feet when it comes to efforts to improve K–12 education through increased teacher accountability and school choice.[...]
Fri, 15 Jul 2016 16:15:00 -0400
(image) Special pleading or valuable knowledge about America's history? Or is that a false choice? Can we acknowledge that legal and cultural conflicts about how to treat gay and lesbian citizens are an important and teachable part of modern American history while still maybe rolling our eyes a little bit at the lobbying to force it into public schools?
On the one hand, public schools are struggling to teach the kinds of things students really need to make their way in the world. On the other hand, these issues are still heavily influencing the platforms for both the Democratic and Republican parties. To not teach about the history of current political movements that have shown lasting presence is itself a form of pandering to a particular mindset.
California has decided it's going to incorporate gay and lesbian issues into history and sociology education. Legislators already passed a law to mandate more inclusion in education all the way back in 2012. Now they're figuring out how. Ah, the speed of public education. The Los Angeles Times notes:
LGBT content will be included in some elementary, middle and high school grades. In fourth grade, for example, students would learn about "the emergence of the nation's first gay rights organizations in the 1950s," the framework states, as well as struggles in California from the 1970s to the present day to affirm the right of gay people to teach and to get married.
Equality California, an LGBT advocacy group, issued a statement praising the move, saying the new framework more accurately represents figures important to the LGBT movement.
The new guidelines, the group added, now better captures "essential moments in the struggle for equality, and the evolution of communities and identities." Equality California said a more inclusive curriculum will make LGBT students more comfortable in school.
That at the end from Equality California is where the feeling of special pleading comes in. The goal should be for students of all types to understand history and how it got them to where they are now. That it makes students "more comfortable" shouldn't be a goal of the education process. It's a positive outcome—a side effect. In fact, I would argue that truly accurate teaching of gay political history should at some points cause the opposite. It was not "comfortable" living through some of this stuff.
As an unintentionally amusing footnote, the L.A. Times notes that the new framework for adding more subjects to education includes "financial literacy," in a state school system that is hungrily devouring taxpayer dollars in order to pay for massively growing pension debts. On the fall ballot in November will be a vote to extend a temporary tax increase that was supposed to have fixed state budget issues.