Tuesday, September 12, 2017
Posted by P. L. Thomas at 7:15 AM
Sunday, September 10, 2017
Thursday, September 7, 2017
Tuesday, September 5, 2017
The front page #OTD in 1957. Nine black students stopped from entering Little Rock Central High School. NYT
The front page #OTD in 1957. Nine black students stopped from entering Little Rock Central High School. #nytimes
Posted by P. L. Thomas at 5:09 AM
Saturday, September 2, 2017
Thursday, August 31, 2017
Fraudulent graduation practice give the false sense of progress
By Bernard Gassaway
August 29, 2017
In the age of accountability ushered in by the No Child Left Behind law in 2002 and continued under 2015's Every Student Succeeds Act, many school officials are using fraudulent methods to inflate graduation rates.
As a direct result of a public thirst for schools to show progress, boards of education pressure superintendents, superintendents squeeze principals, principals ride teachers, and teachers stress students. The ultimate measure of progress for schools nationwide is high school graduation rates.
Public school officials use a variety of schemes to give the appearance of progress.
Credit recovery is one strategy that school officials use to allow students to quickly make up for classes they have failed, without receiving formal instruction. Credit recovery is a national practice, though it may be called something else. In fact, "credit recovery" is a broad term that encompasses multiple strategies, some more effective than others. Blended learning, virtual learning, after-school programs, summer school, weekend school, and night school are all credit-recovery strategies.
I experienced the worst of this practice when I became principal of New York City's Boys and Girls High School in 2009. One student was told by his teacher to complete about five handouts to make up for a summer school art course. Instead of attending class, that student was allowed to participate in a basketball tournament in Las Vegas. (I denied the student credit and eliminated this abusive practice.)
Also, students with disabilities often have a lower threshold for meeting graduation requirements. Some school officials resort to reclassifying struggling students to increase their graduation rates. By reclassifying general education students, they become eligible for a lower graduation threshold. In the case of New York state, students with individualized education plans are currently required to pass a single English- and a single math-exit exam to meet graduation requirements, rather than the five such exams that are required for general education students.
In my experience, school officials entice parents to become complicit, as officials encourage them to request for their children a plan under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which includes a more expansive definition of disability than is protected under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. That 504 plan allows certain general education students to receive some of the same accommodations that students with IEPs receive: extended time; having the exam read to them; and, in select cases, even a lower score threshold to pass exit exams.
Lastly, when education officials cannot use any of the aforementioned tactics to get struggling students through high school, they transfer or push out students who are off-track for graduation—dropping the dead weight that is dragging down graduation statistics. Pushing students out is the most efficient way to increase a school's graduation rate. Principals transfer overage and undercredited students to alternative schools.
That, too, is an abusive practice I've observed firsthand. Here's how it works: Principals and guidance counselors tell students they must leave the school if they want to graduate. Students are persuaded to transfer to alternative schools under the guise that it is easier for them to earn credits and graduate. In some cases, those same school personnel even inform students that they are not allowed to return, thus rendering these schools no longer accountable for the students' performance indicators.
In New York, state education officials reported an increase in the 2015 high school graduation rate to 78 percent, a slight rise from the previous year's. In 2016, that number increased to 79.4 percent, coinciding with the introduction of the New York state regents' new graduation requirements. The state's standardized high school exam offers new graduation standards for students with disabilities by reducing the number of exit examinations from five to two. Once standards have been lowered and the rigor associated with the new requirements lessened, these seemingly better graduation numbers are no longer valid measures of students' achievement.
It is time for state education officials to act morally and provide specific guidance to local school districts to stop these known abusive and fraudulent practices, which ultimately harm the very children whom schools are supposed to serve.
Posted by P. L. Thomas at 5:55 AM
Wednesday, August 30, 2017
American education is rooted in inequity. Here’s what teachers can do about that
By David Sanon
August 22, 2017
As educators, we believe that all students deserve access to a high-quality education to promote future opportunities in life. However, if we do not embrace critical thought in our pedagogy, we will continue to perpetuate systems that advantage some students over others. My intention is not to have you read this as just another essay about race. Instead, I hope to provide an argument for educators to challenge the status quo of the classroom every day to achieve our desired goal of reaching all students.
As an African-American male, my first teaching assignment was in a predominantly white school. While I thoroughly enjoyed my time teaching there, I wondered why I never received training on how to teach white children. Certainly, the white children in my class did not look like me nor did they share my background. Still, I was expected to teach them and teach them well. There was no professional development on how to reach the white students I was then teaching, yet our profession is steeped in professional development on how to reach "culturally diverse" students.
Of course, I had no problem teaching them without additional training on diversity or cultural competence. After all, my experiences with the culturally dominant ideals in my own educational journey prepared me for that task. That is just one example of how schools operate to the advantage of some students and not others: Schools are built around American ideals—that is, the values and sensibilities of white culture.
Some may dispute the notion that white ideals—or hidden privilege—pervade our education system, but I have experienced it firsthand. As an elementary school teacher, I remember being annoyed with a social studies textbook that eloquently and painstakingly described the "triangle trade" and traders who sold people and goods in the New World, but was silent on the human realities of this brutal system. What was missing was the depravity of slavery, the lives lost on the journey, and the sting of the whip. What was missing was the devastation experienced by the people who lived in the Americas prior to Europeans ravaging their way of life. Even more troubling was the lack of humanity bestowed on these "others" in history.
I remember my students being awestruck that slaves even had names when I read excerpts from the autobiography of Olaudah Equiano, a formerly enslaved abolitionist from the 18th century. I was heartbroken when a student asked why slaves would continue to have children when they were treated so poorly. All students are able to think critically and challenge the white-centric narrative that is so inescapable in our schools and textbooks, but they must be given the opportunity.
I was myself recently confronted with how blinding hidden privilege can be. I wasn't able to understand why some people in our society refuse to acknowledge the concept of privilege until I was confronted with the recognition of my own male privilege.
During an adjunct teaching course, I encouraged my college students, most of whom were women, to share their life experiences. I was horrified by what they had to say. Students explained their struggles with their body image, their sense of feeling unsafe walking in public, and how they were constantly harassed. Some even spoke of being assaulted by men. My initial reaction was defensiveness, as I tried to explain away those painful events. I thought, if they didn't dress a certain way and if they were more modest, those things wouldn't have happened to them. Fortunately, I kept this to myself and instead reflected on what they said so I could get a better understanding of how they might have felt.
In the course of that private reflection, I was able to make meaningful connections to gender and race while reading the work of critical theorists who helped me develop my critical thinking, which I later used in my own instructional practices. Such luminaries of critical pedagogy as Paulo Freire, Henry Giroux, and Antonia Darder have something to offer every educator, not just those who teach in "culturally diverse" classrooms. As a man, I had to come to the realization that I enjoyed certain privileges at the expense of women being degraded, objectified, and exploited. That was not an easy revelation, but the truth often hurts. Upon this realization, I started to become more observant of the structures that serve to oppress women in society.
I continued to listen to my students, but with a more open mind. I tried my hardest to listen to understand instead of looking to explain away their stories and histories. After all, who would know more about the experience of women than women?
It is in this listening to understand that I believe holds promise for our profession and the future of our students. As educators, we must reflect on what we accept as truths without truly applying critical thinking. We must work to challenge those truths. Ask yourself how teachers in your school would answer these questions:
• Does your school recognize student differences or does your school treat everyone the same? In other words, does your school enforce equality at the expense of equity?
• Are students challenged to think critically about events in history or are they taught to embrace a romanticized version of historical events?
• Do the teachers reflect on their pedagogy and modify their pedagogy based on the learning styles of all their students?
• Are the teachers aware of their students' cultures beyond stereotypes and of their students on an individual level?
Now, ask yourself how the students in your school would answer those questions. It is not enough to host a culture day or incorporate "ethnic" music in the classroom. Before our students will understand us, we must first walk in their shoes to understand them, regardless of the racial, cultural, or gender barriers that divide us. We must shed our preconceived notions and embrace a willingness to listen, observe, embrace hard truths, and reflect before we can even start to make meaningful changes that will have a lasting impact on the lives of all our students. That is my goal for this year, and I hope you will join me on this journey.
Vol. 37, Issue 01, Page 27Published in Print: August 23, 2017, as This Is Not Just Another Essay About Race
Posted by P. L. Thomas at 5:50 AM
Tuesday, August 29, 2017
Friday, August 25, 2017
Closing Failing Schools Doesn't Help Most Students, Study Finds
—Jon Lowenstein/NOOR for Education Week-File
August 24, 2017 | Updated: August 24, 2017
Black students and low-income children are more likely to attend schools that get shut down for poor performance, and the majority of students who are displaced by closures do not end up in better schools.
But for those students who landed in better schools, their academic progress outpaced that of students in low-performing schools that remained open, according to new research released Thursday by the Center for Research and Education Outcomes, CREDO, at Stanford University. And the academic gains on test scores were particularly significant for black and Latino students who ended up in better schools. Most striking was the finding for Hispanic students: Those who ended up higher-performing schools gained the equivalent of 74 additional days of learning in math.
Those findings—from one of the largest studies to date on how shuttering schools affects student achievement—back up smaller, more localized research on the fraught and controversial practice of closing schools.
The study, which looked at both charter and regular public schools in 26 states between the 2006-07 and 2012-13 academic years, found that most school closures during that period—69 percent in both sectors—were in urban areas. Twenty percent of the schools that were shut down were in suburban areas. Both supporters and opponents of shutting down public schools are likely to see findings in the study to fortify their arguments.
Kaitlin Banner, the deputy director of the Advancement Project’s Ending the Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Track Project, said the findings on the disparate impact for black and Latino students were consistent with what the civil rights group has heard from communities in which it works.
“Our partners have found that school closings aren’t the answer,” Banner said. “They often do not have a say ... students are sent out into various communities, they have high transportation needs, and they are unable to really access the quality of education that school closures seem to promise to them.”
Most Students Don't End Up in Better Schools
In both the charter and regular public school sectors, black and Hispanic students were more likely to be in closed schools. Among regular public schools, low-performing schools with higher poverty rates were more likely to be closed than low-performing schools with fewer low-income students, according to the report.
Less than half of students from closed schools ended up in schools that were better than the ones they left behind as measured by their performance on state tests, according to the study. But a higher percentage of charter school students landed in better schools than their peers at regular public schools, an indication, researchers posited, that charter school parents are more experienced at seeking out different schooling options.
Students who left before the low-performing schools were closed had a better shot of landing in a better school, the study said.
Researchers said they hope that the report would provide evidence to help inform the often emotional and contentious debate around school closures as a means to improve achievement, particularly with the addition of data on the academic performance of students over time.
Closing low-performing schools seemed to be inevitable, given that other school improvement strategies have not had widespread success, the researchers wrote. But their findings show that the practice in and of itself does not lead to higher performance: students must have better schools to go to, and alternatives are often limited.
Advocates argue that closing low-performing schools gives students who would otherwise be stuck in those schools the opportunity to attend a higher-performing school. Students who moved to better schools did better academically than those in other low-performing schools that remained open, the study found. In regular public schools, for example, students who moved to higher-performing schools saw the equivalent of 11 extra days of learning in reading.
Greg Richmond, the president and CEO of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, said the report underscores the need for more quality charter schools.
“The fact remains that school closure is an essential part of the charter bargain that recognizes educating children is a privilege, one that every school should continually earn,” he said in a statement. “No school should have a perpetual right to exist, especially schools that consistently fail to educate children.”
The finding that closure patterns varied based on race and socio-economic status was troubling and should serve “as a wake-up call to examine our practices to ensure all schools and students are being treated equitably,” he said.
“Authorizers have a responsibility to give all students—especially underserved populations—equal access to quality charter schools,” he said.
On the other side of the debate, opponents and some civil rights groups argue that the burden of school closures falls disproportionately on poor, black, and Hispanic students. The study did bear that out—and researchers said such concerns about equity should be an integral part of the decision-making process. But it also found that schools that were closed displayed low-academic performance and low enrollment up to three years leading up to the closure and that they performed significantly worse in math and reading than those that stayed open.
—Jon Lowenstein/NOOR for Education Week-File
Most Low-Performing Schools Remain Open
Still, only a small fraction of the low-performing schools identified during the period studied were closed: 5.5 percent for charters compared to 3.2 percent for regular public schools. That means that thousands of students continued to go to schools where the average math and reading scores were in the bottom 20 percent on state assessments for two years—the definition the researchers used for low-performing.
Across the 26 states included in the study, researchers identified 1,522 low-performing schools. Seventy-nine percent were regular public schools; the rest were charters.
The study also found significant differences in how charter operators and regular public school districts or states dealt with their lowest-performing schools. While authorities who oversee charter schools shut down their lowest-performing schools at a higher rate than their counterparts in the regular public school sector, according to the report, the sector still allowed other low-performing charters to continue operating despite contracts that often contain language about specific achievement targets.
“In this sense, charter authorizers’ determination and practice of shutting down low-performing schools still fell short of the stipulation in their contract with charter schools, although they were more likely to close poor-performing schools relative to districts,” the researchers wrote. “Meanwhile, districts were evidently tolerant of low levels of, and deterioration in, performance and enrollment.”
In raw numbers, more elementary schools closed, but middle schools had the highest rate of closure in both sectors, according to the report.
The study also found that charter schools had a higher, though not statistically significant, rate of closure before the Obama administration’s $7 billion School Improvement Grant program, which provided several options, including closures, to turn around chronically low-performing schools. There was no significant change in the closure rate for traditional public schools before and after the implementation of the SIG program, the report said.
A January study by The Institute of Education Sciences found that the SIG program did not lead to significant gains in reading and math for students whose schools got the funds, when compared with low-performing schools that were not in the program.
School closings can be disruptive for students and communities. In this June 2017 video, reporter Denisa Superville shares data from the Urban Institute on where schools are closing and which students are likely to be affected:
Posted by P. L. Thomas at 5:47 AM