Virtual School Meanderings

September 20, 2019

Neo-Segregation: Communities That Divorce Their School Districts

An item from the National Education Policy Center.

Neo-Segregation: Communities That Divorce Their School Districts

Thursday, September 19, 2019

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Neo-Segregation: Communities That Divorce Their School Districts

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In 2014, six suburban towns seceded from Shelby County Schools, the school district that includes the city of Memphis, Tennessee.

One year later, the rapidly growing, semirural suburb of Pike Road seceded from Alabama’s Montgomery Public Schools, building separation from the city that Martin Luther King, Jr. began calling home in 1954.

Meanwhile, in East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, three secessions occurred between 2000 and 2010, and a fourth is pending.

The secessions are part of a trend of neo-segregation in which predominantly White and relatively affluent areas divorce themselves from school districts that are majority-minority and have greater poverty. In total, 47 occurred between 2000 and 2017 in 13 counties, seven of which are located in the South.

In a study published this month in the peer-reviewed journal AERA Open, Kendra Taylor of Sanametrix, and National Education Policy Center Fellows Erica Frankenberg (Pennsylvania State University) and Genevieve Siegel-Hawley (Virginia Commonwealth University) examine how the secessions affected racial segregation in these seven counties.

They find that, on average, the secessions increased the proportion of racial segregation attributed to school district boundaries (as opposed to segregation between schools). For instance, in 2000, an average of 60 percent of Black-White segregation was attributable to school district boundaries. By 2015, this figure had grown to 70 percent.

During that same period, the school districts themselves grew less diverse than the counties in which they were located. This is notable in part because earlier desegregation efforts in the South had greatly benefitted from its large, countywide school districts. In contrast, desegregation efforts in the North—where district boundaries usually stopped at the city line and where designers of sprawl created White suburban enclaves—faced daunting legal barriers because court orders generally could not cross district lines.

In their new study, Taylor, Frankenberg and Siegel-Hawley also find that systems in which secessions occur enroll smaller shares of White students (33 percent) than does the average school district in the South (43 percent). The separations led to increasing rates of residential segregation in the counties with the most extensive patterns of secession.

Nationwide, more than 120 communities have attempted to secede from their school districts since 2000, as found in a 2017 report by the nonprofit EdBuild.

“If this trend continues, students of color increasingly will be sorted into schools with fewer resources, segregation will become more ingrained, and all students will have fewer opportunities to experience the educational benefits of a diverse learning environment,” Frankenberg told CBS News.

This newsletter is made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: http://www.greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu

Copyright 2019 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

September 18, 2019

The Saturday School Where Mexican American Children Learn About Their Heritage: A Q&A With NEPC Fellow Angela Valenzuela

An item from the National Education Policy Center.

The Saturday School Where Mexican American Children Learn About Their Heritage: A Q&A with NEPC Fellow Angela Valenzuela

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

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The Saturday School Where Mexican American Children Learn About Their Heritage: A Q&A with NEPC Fellow Angela Valenzuela

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There’s considerable evidence that ethnic studies courses are associated with a host of positive outcomes, from higher levels of student achievement to fewer student absences to increased rates of civic engagement. Although ethnic studies courses demonstrate benefits for all participants, they can be especially valuable to students of color, who too often find themselves marginalized by mainstream curricula. Yet if young people encounter this material at all, they must often wait until college. In fact, nine years ago, the state of Arizona passed a law, subsequently struck down, that banned a Mexican American studies program altogether in the Tucson schools. Although other states have since mandated that schools offer ethnic studies, it’s usually not available until high school.

At a community center in Austin, Texas, a group of parents, local leaders, K-12 educators, and university faculty members are challenging that status quo with Academia Cuauhtli, a weekly Saturday school that teaches local fourth graders about indigenous Mexican/Mexican culture, history, language and experiences, all through a social justice lens. The students are not only the children who attend the class but their families and their instructors, who receive professional development around a curriculum developed with input from faculty at the University of Texas at Austin. Unlike many other heritage schools that focus on students’ language and culture, Academia Cuauhtli is free to participants thanks to support from the local school district, the city of Austin, the university, and donations and grants.

National Education Policy Center Fellow Angela Valenzuela directs the academy. In the Q&A below, she describes its history, its approach, and the ways in which the school has become an oasis of empowerment in an era in which people of Mexican descent all too often find themselves under siege. She concludes with recommendations for those interested in replicating the model in their own communities.

Valenzuela is a professor in two UT-Austin program areas: Educational Policy and Planning, within the Department of Educational Administration, and Cultural Studies in Education, within the Department of Curriculum & Instruction. She also serves as the director of UT’s Center for Education Policy. Her research and teaching interests include the sociology of education, race and ethnic relations, education policy, school partnerships, urban education reform, and indigenous education.

Q: What is Academia Cuauhtli? Who founded it? When?

A: Academia Cuauhtli is a Saturday school physically located at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Culture Center (ESB-MACC) in Austin, Texas. “Cuauhtli” means “eagle” in Nahuatl [an Uto-Aztecan language] so our name means “Eagle Academy.” Founded during the 2013-14 school year, we are now entering our sixth year of operation. We are not a charter school; we are a formal legal partnership, involving the Austin Independent School District (AISD), the City of Austin’s ESB-MACC, and our community-based organization (CBO) named Nuestro Grupo. We serve fourth-grade children from five East Austin schools, namely, Sanchez, Metz, Zavala, Houston, and Perez elementaries.

Nuestro Grupo was formed after a September 20, 2013 meeting at the ESB-MACC to discuss literacy in East Austin. The ESB-MACC is located near our participating East Austin schools, and their eagerness to support us emanates from their desire to serve this same community. Nuestro Grupo is comprised of student volunteers, faculty from UT-Austin and Texas State University, community elders, parents, and AISD bilingual education teachers. 

An amazing detail is that this work has resulted in pathways for undergraduates to graduate school, or from masters students to the doctoral program Since we began our work in the community—where we hold weekly meetings at the ESB-MACC—we have created pathways for at least 13 students into the masters and doctoral programs at UT in Educational Leadership and Policy, as well as into the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. Hence, we are growing our own critically conscious, community-based, social justice-oriented, masters and doctoral students.

To the best of our knowledge, we are the only Ethnic Studies program at the elementary grade level in the state of Texas and one of only a few nationwide. The number gets smaller when taking into account that we also offer a curriculum in Spanish. We see ourselves as a culture and language revitalization project where we nurture a Spanish-speaking, Indigenous identity, and civil rights consciousness. Our curriculum is further place-based, social justice-oriented, community-centered, and parent-engaged.

Q: Why is Academia Cuauhtli important?

A: Academia Cuauhtli is important for many reasons. For starters, folks should know that Ethnic Studies is important because it instills students with knowledge of history, a deep sense of place and belonging, and thusly, pride and a positive sense of identity. For these reasons, it helps them to see themselves as part of the grand American narrative that they are. Our curriculum, which is aligned to state standards, teaches them that their ancestors never left the continent and so they should always feel at home anywhere they live, north or south of the border. This happens to be a major takeaway for our kids. 

Interestingly, last year’s cohort consisted of second-grade students because their teacher, Santa Yañez Montemayor, who had them in her regular bilingual education classroom, thought that they would benefit. Her second-grade classroom is the recipient of the Academia Cuauhtli curriculum: Specifically, “Who was this person named (in Spanish) Cristóbal Colón?” they asked her emphatically.

And why did he think that he could come and “discover” us? And who told him that he could go and “find” us? Was he lost? What was he doing, and who told him to go and “explore,” and who came with him and who were they anyway?

Consider that these questions are coming from second graders and also that we don’t teach Columbus. This means that children as young as seven to eight years old are thinking deeply about what they and their teachers are learning at Academia Cuauhtli. 

Another positive impact that we hear from principals is that the students are speaking more Spanish in their classrooms and on school grounds as a result of our Spanish language instruction that makes it cool to be a Spanish-speaker and to be bilingual. Add to this the basic Nahuatl that they get in the context of the danza [Aztec ceremonial movement] curriculum together with learning danza in the context of yet another “danza community” (also called, “kalpulli” in Nahuatl), and we can only surmise that they come to see school, education, and community differently—all working together to help them to feel safe, be cared for, have fun, and ultimately, succeed by reinforcing their own families’ values.

Many of our students are either first-generation immigrants themselves, or children of immigrants. They live in a community that is gentrifying. They are also the target of the federal government, with students and families over the past several years—including even before Trump became president—experiencing harassment by police and ICE officials. Families face crises, disappearing overnight because they have fled or faced deportation. Daily crises in the schools we serve have unfortunately become the norm. We therefore offer a modicum of equilibrium and a safe place to just “be” at Academia Cuauhtli.

Click here to read the rest of this Q&A.

This newsletter is made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: http://www.greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu

Copyright 2019 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

September 13, 2019

Bad And Better News About School Segregation

An item from the National Education Policy Center.

Bad and Better News about School Segregation

Thursday, January 12, 2019

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Bad and Better News about School Segregation

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First, the bad news.

Latino students are becoming more racially segregated, according to a study led by NEPC Fellow Bruce Fullera professor of education and public policy at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1998, the average Latinx child attended an elementary school in which nearly 40 percent of classmates were White. By 2010, that share of White classmates had declined to 30 percent.

Now, some news that is, possibly, better.

Fuller and his co-authors also found that children from lower income families are increasingly attending schools with middle-class peers. The average child from a low-income family attended a school that was 50 percent middle class in 2010, up from 40 percent 12 years earlier.

The study’s authors suggest that this could be due to more Latinx families moving up into the middle class. However, they also propose that more middle-class families overall may have ended up in poorer neighborhoods as a result of the 2008 recession.

Why does this matter? Research has consistently concluded that students benefit from economic and racial integration. A summary of that research is presented in a report from the National Academy of Education.

So, while an increased level of economic integration may be promising, higher rates of racial segregation are cause for concern. In fact, issues related to race-based school segregation recently played a role in the Democratic primary presidential debates.

So what can policymakers and educators do about school segregation?

Fuller and his colleagues offer several recommendations:

  • Expand dual-language and magnet program offerings that encourage integration;
  • Implement school choice programs that balance parental preferences with school integration objectives; and
  • At the very least, ensure that racially segregated schools that serve historically marginalized minorities do not receive fewer resources than majority-White schools.

This newsletter is made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: http://www.greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu

Copyright 2019 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

September 12, 2019

Young Adult Voting Skyrocketed In 2018. What Can We Do To Make It Happen Again?

An item from the National Education Policy Center.

Young Adult Voting Skyrocketed in 2018. What Can We Do To Make It Happen Again?

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Newsletter

Young Adult Voting Skyrocketed in 2018. What Can We Do To Make It Happen Again?

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In 2014, the voting rates for young adults plunged to their lowest point in close to 40 years, with less than 20 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds turning out at the polls.

Just four years later, an entirely different picture emerged as young adult voting rates jumped to 36 percent – a whopping 80 percent increase.

What happened? Why did these voting rates increase so much? Conversely, why have they historically been so low? To what extent does the young adult vote (also called the “youth vote”) matter and to whom? Who are today’s young voters, and how can we encourage more of them to participate in the electoral process?

In the Q&A below, National Education Policy Center Fellow John Rogersof UCLA and his collaborators, Joe Kahne and Erica Hodgin of the Civic Engagement Research Group (CERG) at the University of California, Riverside, address these and other questions about young people and voting. They conclude with practical ways that educators and policymakers can encourage more young people to vote.

Hodgin is the associate director of CERG. Her work focuses on the distribution, quality, and influence of youth civic learning and digital civic learning opportunities.

Kahne is the Ted and Jo Dutton Presidential Professor for Education Policy and Politics at the University of California, Riverside, and the director of CERG. His research and writing focuses on ways that education and digital media influence youth civic and political development.

Rogers is a professor in UCLA’s Graduate School of Education & Information Studies and the director of UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access. He also serves as the faculty co-director of UCLA’s Principal Leadership Institute. Rogers studies public engagement and community organizing as strategies for equity-focused school reform and democratic renewal.

Q: Is the “Youth Vote” a meaningful category? 

A: Sort of. The press and the public often talk about “youth” as though young people are quite similar. And, of course, in many ways they are. But when it comes to politics, different groups of young people are very different. Consider party affiliation. Many news stories have been written about the fact that young people are mostly supporting the Democratic Party. Overall, that’s true (those 18-29 years old went for Clinton over Trump by 18 percent). But this statistic masks huge differences by race. Lost in the 18 percent figure is the fact that White youth were 5 percent more likely to vote for Trump than for Clinton. The big Clinton/Trump difference was due to the fact that African American youth were 74 percent more likely to support Clinton than Trump, and Latinx youth were 46 percent more likely to support Clinton than Trump. Different groups of young people also hold different policy priorities. According to a May 2019 survey by GenForward, the issue that matters most to African American young people is racism. For Asian American youth it is health care, for Latinx young people it is immigration, and for White youth it isclimate change. So there is no single or simple answer to the question, “What do youth really care about?” It’s crucial to ask: “Which youth?”

Q: Are some youth more likely to vote than others? 

A: Not all young people are equally likely to turn out. For example, young people with college degrees or who are enrolled in college vote at far higher rates than their peers with less formal education. Data compiled by Circle show that in 2018, 21.1 percent of 18-24 year-olds with no experience in college voted in the election. By contrast, people in that age group were roughly twice as likely to vote that year if they had at least some college experience. This disparity underscores the importance of ensuring that all students have access to quality civic education during their K-12 schooling.

Q: What leads young people to vote (or not)? 

A: Like American adults of all ages, youth electoral participation turns on a variety of factors, including motivation, real and perceived barriers, and eligibility. By far the most common explanation among young people for why they did not vote in 2016 was that they didn’t like the candidates or the issues that were addressed during the campaign. Non-voting youth also cited time conflicts (due to work or school), difficulty getting to the polls, and challenges with registering to vote. Some barriers are more salient for certain groups of young people. Lower SES youth were more likely than their peers to cite lack of transportation as a barrier to voting. Youth of color were most likely to report that they had been deterred from voting by Voter ID laws.

Click here to read the rest of this Q&A.

This newsletter is made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: http://www.greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu

Copyright 2019 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

September 6, 2019

State Interventions In Local School District Finances: What Can States Do And What Should They Do?

An item from the National Education Policy Center.

Research provides a framework for understanding states’ regulation and oversight of local school districts’ finances.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Publication Announcement

State Interventions in Local School District Finances: What Can States

Do and What Should They Do?

KEY TAKEAWAY:

Research provides a framework for understanding states’ regulation and oversight of local school districts’ finances.

CONTACT:

William J. Mathis:

(802) 383-0058

wmathis@sover.net

Dirk F. Zuschlag:

(773) 562-4929

Kristine Bowman:

(773) 562-4929

klbowman@msu.edu

TwitterEmail Address

BOULDER, CO (September 5, 2019) – In recent years, state takeovers of local school districts have become both increasingly common and prominent. Districts including Newark, Detroit, and Harrisburg are among those that have met this fate. Each of these takeovers—as well as many state interventions of a more limited nature in districts across the country—occurs pursuant to state law.

In fact, each state has one or more laws that allow the state to intervene in the finances of its school districts. These laws influence the balance of state and local control over education, and they shape important governance relationships and how educational resources are allocated.

Yet we know relatively little about these potent laws. Accordingly, a research brief released today by the National Education Policy Center, States’ Intervention in School Districts’ Finances,investigates state fiscal powers over districts. The brief, authored by Michigan State University’s Dirk F. Zuschlag and Kristine L. Bowman, provides the needed foundation for policymakers and researchers to understand how states might best address districts’ financial conduct and difficulties going forward.

Zuschlag and Bowman first consider ways that the state statutes provide the bases and means for state intervention into local district finances. They then look for patterns among these state statutory provisions, and present a useful typology of system design across states. Based on that typology, they explore correlations between a state’s potential for fiscal intervention and other major areas of education policy. They conclude with the following four recommendations:

  1. The authors encourage national organizations such as the Education Commission of the States and the National Conference of State Legislatures should convene state policymakers and researchers to facilitate policy learning and policy transfer about these issues.
  2. They also encourage state governors or state legislatures’ education committees to evaluate their systems of potential interventions into districts’ finances and also implementation. In particular, these policymakers should ask how that system interacts with other statutory systems such as those regulating school funding and enabling charter schools, and how implementation could impact school districts with varying racial and ethnic composition.
  3. They ask researchers to make use of the brief’s data to explore connections between a state’s articulated power over school districts’ finances and other core aspects of a state’s fiscal power over education. These other aspects include school funding (de)centralization of school funding and adequacy, as well as charter school permissiveness. Exploring the existence of connections with states’ partisan politics also may help illustrate connections between or among these policies.
  4. Researchers, the authors note, should further investigate the connections suggested in the brief between potential fiscal interventions, students’ race, and charter permissiveness. Researchers also should examine correlation and causation between (a) the systems identified in the report and (b) racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity within and among districts.

Find States’ Intervention in School Districts’ Finances, by Dirk F. Zuschlag and Kristine L. Bowman, at:

http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/state-intervention

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu

Copyright 2018 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

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