While this weekend had plenty of noteworthy education news, today I would like to note the passing of a friend of mine, Staley Keith, who made me understand something about schools and racism. He died just after the Center for Civil Rights Remedies released a troubling study on race and school suspensions and would have nodded knowingly had he seen it. Writes Gary Orfield, head of the Civil Rights Project, which published the study,
The findings in this study are deeply disturbing. Students who are barely maintaining a connection with their school often are pushed out, as if suspension were a treatment. The statistics on the use of suspension for African American and special education students are cause for great concern. We already know that African American males are disproportionately placed into categories of special education that are associated with extremely poor outcomes. We now see that these same students face incredibly high rates of suspension. Every dropout costs society hundreds of thousands of dollars over the student’s lifetime in lost income, and removing a large number of students from school undermines a community’s future. In a society that is incarcerating a large number of African American young men, with terrible consequences for their families and communities, these results are simply unacceptable. We can and must do better for young people whose future is at stake.
As Mike pointed out the other day, the report, called
There has been a spate of “scathing” reports and comments lately about for-profit schools, which bring out the kissing-cousin questions of whether schools are “businesses,” whether it’s good to “privatize” them, and whether we need more “regulation.”
And all the words in quotation marks in that sentence are meant to draw attention to the fact that the field is littered with misunderstandings, misstatements, and just plain gobbledygook.
Our public-education system is failing too many children; why wouldn’t one consider doing something different?
But first, a word from Whitney Tilson, who summarized things rather succinctly in an August 8 email blast:
All of the fraud, sleaze, etc. that’s recently been uncovered in the for-profit ed sector warrants its own email. This is probably one of the few areas Ravitch and I would generally agree on, though I suspect I’m much more open to for-profit providers – but there needs to be VERY strong regulation, oversight, audits, etc. Otherwise it’s an invitation for disaster.”
You know that something is amiss if Tilson says he agrees with Diane Ravitch. But he has a shotgun list of bad news about private- and quasi-private-sector education. He calls attention to a recent New York Times story which noted that:
- “a federal judge upheld the Department of Education’s right to regulate unscrupulous for-profit schools that leave students with big debts and valueless credentials,”
- “a Senate committee released a blistering report showing that many of these
This is the fourth post in a series by guest bloggers who know first-hand the strengths and flaws of America's dominant form of education governance: the local school board. Each author will draw on their personal experiences to answer the question posed for the Board's Eye View Challenge: Can school boards improve schools?
Andrew Blumenfeld is a senior at Princeton University. He began serving a four-year term on the school board in La Cañada, California in December, 2011. Andrew is also a founding member of Students for Education Reform.
When I decided to run for a seat on the La Cañada Board of Education in Los Angeles, I needed to be aggressive. That I had graduated from this district was certainly a mark in my favor. I suspected that benefit would be overshadowed by two concerns: (1) that graduation happened only two years prior (I was twenty years old), and (2) I was a junior at Princeton University—as in, New Jersey.
Luckily, my passion could be characterized as “aggressive.” As a student, I had been frustrated by the uneven quality of the education in my district; I was tired of some standardized test scores blinding leadership to problems; and I had recently become a founding member of Students for Education Reform—an organization allying college students with the plight of student-focused education advocacy.
Considering the entrenched adult interests
Though two headlines yesterday about the just released Civil Rights Project study on school suspensions—“Suspensions Are Higher for Disabled Students, Federal Data Indicate” (New York Times) and “Researchers Sound Alarm Over Black Student Suspensions” (Education Week)—suggest our continued ambivalence about race (see Mike’s post here), I would like to take a moment to praise Chris Christie and his New Jersey education team for a watershed event on teacher evaluations and tenure that might just have some salubrious effect on student discipline.
On Monday, the Garden State governor upset a century-old teacher-tenure law, codifying a statute that creates a new teacher-rating scheme and also streamlines the process for firing both teachers and administrators.
As Heather Haddon noted in the Wall Street Journal, the Garden State is not the first to reform teacher evaluation and tenure rules—remember Wisconsin?—and Christie did not get the legislature to put an end to last-in-first-out seniority rules which a number of other states have managed to kill, but the law signed by Christie “was most significant for where it occurred: in a blue, East Coast state with a strong organized-labor movement and a Legislature controlled by Democrats.”
The New York Post called the new law a “coup.”
Yet Barbara Keshishian, head of the New Jersey’s teachers union said that the “legislation moves us in the right direction by making it harder to earn tenure, and less expensive and time-consuming to remove teachers who are
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About the Editor
Peter Meyer is an adjunct fellow with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Since 1991, Meyer has focused his attentions on education reform in the United States, an interest joined while writing a profile of education reformer E.D. Hirsch for Life. Meyer subsequently helped found a charter school, served on his local Board of Education (twice) and, for the last eight years, has been an editor at Education Next.
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