Virtual School Meanderings

January 11, 2019

U.S. Secretary Of Education Betsy DeVos Axed Guidance That Cracked Down On Unfair Punishments For Students Of Color. What Should Schools Do Next?

An item from the National Education Policy Center.

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos Axed Guidance That Cracked Down on Unfair Punishments for Students of Color. What Should Schools Do Next?

Thursday, January 10, 2019

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U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos Axed Guidance That Cracked Down on Unfair Punishments for Students of Color. What Should Schools Do Next?

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Black students are over three times more likely than whites to be suspended from school. Latinos are also punished at higher rates, according to a report co-authored by National Education Policy Center Fellow Daniel Losen. Yet as 2018 came to a close, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos tossed out 2014 federal guidance suggesting that schools could face federal sanctions for disproportionately punishing students of color. The guidance also recommended approaches such as restorative justice that have a track record of creating fairer and safer learning environments.

In rescinding the guidance, DeVos said that it “often led to school environments where discipline decisions were based on a student’s race and where statistics became more important than the safety of students and teachers.”

Yet a 2018 survey by AASA, the School Superintendents Association, found that less than one percent of the 950 administrators who responded reported that the guidance discipline has had a negative or very negative impact on school personnel’s ability to address student disciplinary issues or to remove students who are disruptive, aggressive, or abusive to other students or staff. The AASA survey also found that just 16 percent of respondents said their districts had actually modified discipline policies or practices in response to the guidance.

Even before DeVos rescinded the guidance, her administration’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) was already taking a very different approach to civil rights concerns than that of the previous administration. An investigationby the news outlet ProPublica found that, under DeVos, 35 percent of cases that took more than 180 days culminated in findings of civil rights violations of corrective changes. By contrast, 51 percent of cases resulted in violations or changes during the 15 months before she took office. The department also dropped more than 1,200 civil rights investigations begun under the previous administration.

That said, many of the practices recommended by the 2014 guidancehave already taken hold in schools. Nothing DeVos has done prevents them from continuing. Such practices are often preventative in nature in that they emphasize the underlying causes of discipline problems. They include reinforcement of positive behaviors, social and emotional learning, intensive psychological services for students who need them, and professional development on classroom management, conflict resolution, and de-escalation approaches.

NEPC’s Schools of Opportunity project recognizes high schools that emphasize equity and excellence in order to provide all students with the chance to succeed. “Creating and maintaining a healthy school culture, with attention to diversity and to reassessing student discipline policies” is one of the 10 criteria used to evaluate applicants. The honorees offer several examples of how schools might continue to implement fair and effective school discipline policies, long after the federal guidance is gone. For example:

  • Revere High School in Massachusetts was recognized for teaching anti-bullying lessons incorporated into subject area instruction.
  • Like multiple Schools of Opportunity honorees, Boulder Colorado’s New Vista High was lauded for using restorative justice approaches that require students who break the rules to take responsibility for their actions in a student-run dialogue in which students, staff, and members of the community devise ways to repair the harm caused by the infraction.
  • Quilcene School in Washington was singled out for handling disciplinary issues with a “response continuum” with consequences ranging from informal conferencing to justice circles for everybody involved. The school was also praised for employing a disciplinary specialist trained in restorative practices who works with staff to ensure that students don’t fall behind on academic work when punishments do include out-of-school time.

Approaches like these are designed to reduce the odds that students of color will face disciplinary sanctions by creating a school culture that is welcoming to all. And when rules are broken, the goal is to encourage students to learn from their mistakes rather than face punishments such as suspension that actually reduce educational opportunities by excluding them from the learning environment.

An NEPC policy brief entitled Law and Order in School and Society offers several recommendations for research-based approaches to student discipline that reduce the odds of unfairly targeting students of color. These recommendations include:

  • Redirecting funds currently spent on school police officers to expenditures that have demonstrated the ability to create a safer learning environment by increasing student engagement and social connectivity. Such expenditures include hiring more guidance counselors, implementing a social and emotional learning curriculum, and offering high-quality extracurriculars.
  • Training educators and school police/security staff on the causes of and remedies for trauma and racial inequality inside and outside schools.
  • Holding schools accountable for decreasing rates of suspensions, expulsions and other disciplinary referrals.

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 2018 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

January 9, 2019

The Lawsuit That Could Change the Face of Civics Education: A Q&A with NEPC Fellow Beth Rubin

An item from the National Education Policy Center.

The Lawsuit That Could Change the Face of Civics Education: A Q&A with NEPC Fellow Beth Rubin

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

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In November, 14 public school parents and students filed a unique federal lawsuit against the state of Rhode Island: They accused the state’s schools of “failing to carry out their responsibilities under the United States Constitution to provide all students a meaningful opportunity to obtain an education adequate to prepare them to be capable citizens.”

In its 1973 decision San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez, the Supreme Court ruled that children in our country do not have a right to education under the U.S. Constitution. As a result of this decision and because the constitutions of many states do guarantee the right to an education, the battle over student education rights has largely moved to the states. What makes Cook vs. Raimondo, filed in U.S. District Court in the District of Rhode Island, unique is that the plaintiffs do not argue that that children have a (U.S.) Constitutional right to education. Instead, the suit contends that the state’s schools fail to provide students with the education they need to vote, serve on a jury, make informed choices, and otherwise participate effectively in civic activities. The complaint argues that San Antonio v. Rodriguez did leave the door open to this argument by raising (but not responding to) the question of whether students have a right, under the 14th amendment, to the level of opportunity provided by an education that gives them the “basic minimal skills necessary for the enjoyment of the rights of speech and of full participation in the political process.”

In other words, the plaintiffs contend that the Rhode Island schools have violated students’ rights by failing to provide an adequate civics education.

What does research have to say about the outcomes of civics education and its role in our society? What does a high-quality civics education look like?

In the Q&A below, National Education Policy Center Fellow Beth Rubin addresses such questions. Rubin is a professor of education at Rutgers University Graduate School of Education. In her work, she uses a critical, sociocultural approach to investigate how young people develop, both as learners and as citizens, within the interwoven contexts of classroom, school, and community. Rubin is particularly interested in the ways that these settings are shaped by historical and structural inequalities.

Q: What role does effective civics education play in our democratic society?

A: Effective civics education is fundamental to a functioning democracy. Young people need opportunities to develop understandings of the complex forces that shape both our daily lives in this society and the choices being made at the national level, and to develop the skills and proclivity toward participation in the national conversation around these pressing issues. For young people from non-dominant communities, civics education that connects with young peoples’ experiences, draws on their cultural capital and unrecognized forms of civic participation, and helps them to develop critical understandings of society, can be a conduit to greater civic engagement.

Q: To what extent can K-12 education share the blame for the resurgence of tribalism, low public trust in government, and tendency to believe political lies?

A: K-12 education can play a key role in developing young peoples’ civic skills, knowledge and understanding. A relevant, meaningful civics education that connects to the concerns of youth and their communities and expands students’ understandings of the issues we face can counter the disempowerment and lack of contextual understanding that fosters tribalism, low public trust in government, and tendency to believe political lies.

Q: What skills/knowledge do students need in order to be able to effectively exercise their rights as citizens of our democracy?

A: To be able to effectively exercise their rights as citizens in a democracy, young people need to develop analytical, communication and collaboration skills and, over time, build deep understandings of the historical, social and political dimensions of U.S. history.

Q: How common/prevalent is civics instruction in schools? What form does such instruction usually take?

A: Civics instruction is variable in U.S. schools. While every state requires students to complete some coursework in civics to graduate, less than half the states include civics in their state accountability frameworks. One indication of the level and quality of civics instruction is that less than a quarter of U.S. eighth graders tested as proficient on the 2014 National Assessment of Educational Progress civics assessment. Civics instruction is often dominated by the transmission of facts rather than meaningful learning that focuses on developing the skills and understandings necessary for active citizenship.

Q: How, if at all, has civics education changed in recent years?

A: There has been a shift toward inclusion of a more active conception of citizenship in mainstream civics education in recent years. The revised curricular framework for social studies (https://www.socialstudies.org/c3), from the National Council for the Social Studies, includes a focus on “informed action.” Organizations such as CIRCLE and the Youth and Participatory Politics Research Network are helping to build new understandings of youth civic participation and learning. There are many new resources promoting more active forms of civic learning, such as the Mikva Challenge, Generation Citizen, Deep Dive: Educating for Democracy, and the YPAR Hub. Youth activism appears to be on the rise, and civics education can build on this desire for participation and change.

Q: What does high-quality civics education look like?

A: High-quality civics education looks like young people engaging with each other to explore issues of local, national and global significance. High-quality civics education focuses on deepening students’ understandings of the pressing issues of today, including how these concerns are connected to the larger political, economic, and historical context, and on invigorating their desires and abilities to engage civically. Student-centered activities, discussion, consideration of current events, and civic inquiry are some of the instructional practices we know work.

Q: What can research tell us about the outcomes of civics education?

A: Research indicates that more active forms of civic learning, such as discussion, debate, role-playing, and engagement with current issues, lead to more engaged youth citizenship. Research also indicates that young people from non-dominant communities – low-income, students of color – do not have the same opportunities to engage in this type of civics education as their more affluent, white peers. There is a growing body of research connecting youth civic experiences – experiences with the criminal justice system in particular – with civic attitudes and engagement.

Q: How do left-leaning and right-leaning conceptions of “good” civics education differ, if at all?

A: Left-leaning conceptions of “good” civics education focus more on the development of an informed citizen who can critically analyze the world and has the skills to participate actively, including in change-oriented activities; right-leaning conceptions of “good” civics education focus more on the transmission of knowledge about the state, its history and governance, and the development of patriotic sentiments.

Q: How might we improve the civics education provided by our K-12 schools?

A: Civics education needs to improve in five respects: it needs to be relevant to students, to develop critical understandings of history and politics, to be engaging and student-centered, to be oriented toward active civic participation, and to be available equitably to students from all communities and backgrounds.

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 2018 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

December 19, 2018

NEPC’s December Education Interview Of The Month Podcast Features Discussion Of School Privatization In Chile

An item from the National Education Policy Center.

NEPC Education Interview of the Month is a great teaching resource; engaging drive-time listening; and 30 minutes of high-quality policy information for educators, community members, policymakers, and anyone interested in education.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Publication Announcement

NEPC’s December Education Interview of the Month Podcast Features Discussion of School Privatization in Chile

KEY TAKEAWAY:

NEPC Education Interview of the Month is a great teaching resource; engaging drive-time listening; and 30 minutes of high-quality policy information for educators, community members, policymakers, and anyone interested in education.

CONTACT:

William J. Mathis:

(802) 383-0058

wmathis@sover.net

Rick Mintrop:

(510) 642-5334

mintrop@berkeley.edu

TwitterEmail Address

*Please note: NEPC will suspend publication of all briefs and newsletters for the winter break. Happy Holidays!

BOULDER, CO (December 18, 2018) – In this month’s NEPC Education Interview of the Month, Lewis and Clark College Emeritus Professor of Education Gregory A. Smith speaks with Drs. Rick Mintrop and Miguel Órdenes of the University of California Berkeley about their NEPC policy brief analyzing the effects of school privatization and vouchers in Chile.

At a time when both vouchers and privatization have the support of the U.S. Department of Education, it’s important to consider what their expansion from a reform at the margins to an increasingly dominant position might mean for education in this country.

Mintrop and Órdenes describe the origins of their research project in Chile. Observing the school choice debate in the U.S., they noticed that people were using evidence from fairly peripheral results of voucher experiments. Because the evidence from U.S. voucher programs was not strong enough to show what would happen if a whole state or country were to implement vouchers, they examined the impacts of Chile’s country-wide voucher program as a way of understanding what might be expected if voucher programs in the U.S. were widely adopted. They created a systematic review of several studies of Chile’s voucher program, guided by questions about its effect on the middle class, on disadvantaged groups, on professionalization of teachers, and on the impact on the nation as a whole.

Looking at how school choice played out once it became universal in Chile, Mintrop and Órdenes found pernicious effects on public education. Using the selection mechanisms of school choice does not lead to higher quality of education, but instead forces middle-class families into a yearly competition. While public education used to serve about 80% of students in the 1980s, it has now shrunk to 20% in Chilean cities. Despite government attempts to shore up education, once the competitive dynamics were put in place, Mintrop and Órdenes describe what resulted as a “bottom rung that is associated with the public option.”

By looking at the deepening divisions across socioeconomic groups in Chile and its impact on public life, we can imagine what might happen if the U.S. were to take the route of universal privatization and vouchers.

A new NEPC Education Interview of the Month, hosted by Gregory A. Smith, will be released each month from September through May.

Don’t worry if you miss a month. All NEPC Education Interview of the Month podcasts are archived on the NEPC website and can be found here.

Coming Next Month

In January, Greg’s guests will be Suzanne Eckes and Julie Mead, who will discuss how privatization may lead to increased discrimination in U.S. schools.

Stay tuned in to NEPC for smart, engaging conversations about education policy.

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.

December 13, 2018

The Backlash Against Personalized Learning

From the National Education Policy Center earlier this week.

The Backlash Against Personalized Learning

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

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The Backlash Against Personalized Learning

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Students at the Secondary School for Journalism in Brooklyn, New York walked out of class to protest it. Another New York City public school dumped it. And in Cheshire, Connecticut, the superintendent eliminated a “personalized learning” program after families complained that users received limited attention from teachers, gamed the system, faced data privacy violations, and experienced increased levels of anxiety.

These approaches rely on software to lead each student through lessons deemed appropriate for that student at that time, thus assisting or supplementing teachers who are feared to have a lesser capacity to individualize. “Individualized” instruction may be a better name for these approaches, but advocates have popularized the “personalized instruction” name, and we thus use it here.

All three of the above cases involved the Summit Learning Platform, which is currently used in more than 380 schools. Summit was built with assistance from Facebook engineers and promoted financial backing from company founder Mark Zuckerberg. As such, they are arguably impacted by the recent backlash against Facebook, which was sparked by revelations that the social media giant improperly shared data and permitted election meddling. (The National Education Policy Center deleted its Facebook account in March over these and other concerns.)

But is personalized learning more broadly facing a backlash?

Maybe. In October, for example, The New York Times ran a series of articles about efforts by affluent parents (including those in Silicon Valley) to limit students’ use of screens not only at home—where they are often used for entertainment—but at school. For example, the private Waldorf School of the Peninsula has attracted families of executives of tech companies such as eBay, Google, Apple and Yahoo with its computer-free approach.

In a policy brief for NEPC, Vanderbilt professor Noel Enyedy writes that “recent studies show little evidence for the effectiveness” of personalized learning programs that aim to use computers to tailor digital instruction to individual students. Such programs often merely translate problematic features of traditional learning into the digital context. For instance, Enyedy writes:

(T)he basic formula of both traditional and computerized instruction has been ‘I, we, you,’ where the teacher (or computer) tells the student something, followed by a worked-out example gone over together, and ending with independent student practice. Everything we know about teaching and learning tells us that this formula is flawed and not working.

Another challenge is that there’s no one standardized definition of, or approach to, personalized learning.

“The systems lumped together under the umbrella term of Personalized Instruction differ widely,” Enyedy writes:

In fact, there is so much variability in features and models for implementation that it is impossible to make reasonable claims about the efficacy of Personalized Instruction as a whole. Worse, when decision makers consider adopting a particular system, it is usually hard to tell whether available evidence applies to the specific system under consideration.

One major complaint about Summit Learning is that there is too much digital learning and not enough instructor intervention: One student told New York Magazine that she met with her math teacher for just a few minutes a month. Survey results suggest that teachers in schools that use personalized learning are less familiar with their students and their lives inside and outside of schools. Other complaints about Summit include:

Prof. Enyedy’s brief concludes with a series of seven recommendations, including the following four:

  • Education policymakers should continue to invest in technology but should be wary of advocacy promoting computerized instruction to an extent that oversteps the current research.
  • Policymakers should encourage more partnerships among developers, educational researchers and teachers. Such partnerships have great potential to produce systematic and rigorous evidence of what works and what doesn’t.
  • Administrators must ensure that investments in technological infrastructure and software licensing are accompanied by substantive professional development for teachers in order to provide them with skills that have not historically been in the teacher’s toolbox.
  • All stakeholders should refrain from assuming that Personalized Instruction is the only model for computers in the classroom and be open to investigating new models integrating technology into the learning process.

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.

December 10, 2018

When Publicly Funded Schools Exclude Segments Of The Public

An item from the National Education Policy Center that hit my inbox late last week.

Policy brief analyzes discriminatory practices and possible legal protections in an era of education privatization.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Publication Announcement

When Publicly Funded Schools Exclude Segments of the Public

KEY TAKEAWAY:

Policy brief analyzes discriminatory practices and possible legal protections in an era of education privatization.

CONTACT:

William J. Mathis:

(802) 383-0058

wmathis@sover.net

Julie F. Mead:

(608) 263-3405

jmead@education.wisc.edu

TwitterEmail Address

BOULDER, CO (December 6, 2018) – In Indiana, a private religious school receiving over $6.5 million in public funds via the state’s voucher program placed an LGBT counselor on leave because she had married her same-sex partner. In Milwaukee, where students with disabilities constitute 12-20% of public school enrollments, they constitute only 2% of enrollments in private schools participating in the city’s voucher program. Similarly, charter schools enroll a lower percentage of students with disabilities (particularly more severe disabilities) when compared to traditional public schools. In response to these and other issues of access and discrimination, some defenders of these schools have argued that the schools have broken no laws—and they are often correct. How can this be?

To answer that question, professors Julie F. Mead of the University of Wisconsin and Suzanne E. Eckes of Indiana University authored a policy brief, How School Privatization Opens the Door for Discrimination, which analyzes discrimination in an era of education privatization.

The brief’s review of relevant laws reveals that voucher and charter school programs open the door to discrimination because of three phenomena. First, federal law defines discrimination differently in public and private spaces. Second, state legislatures have largely neglected issues of discrimination while constructing voucher laws. Charter laws are better, but they fail to comprehensively address these issues. Third, because private and charter schools are free to determine what programs to offer, they can attract some populations while excluding others.

After briefly examining the history of discrimination in schools, the brief analyzes each of these three enabling factors and then outlines recent developments. Finally, based on its analysis, the brief offers the following recommendations to help address the issue of publicly funded programs currently failing to serve all segments of the public:

  1. Congress should amend federal anti-discrimination laws to clarify that states supporting charter schools and states directly or indirectly channeling public funds to private schools must ensure that those programs operate in non-discriminatory ways.
  2. Federal agencies should explore whether governmental benefits should be withheld from private schools failing to meet non-discrimination standards.
  3. State legislatures should include explicit anti-discrimination language in their state voucher laws to ensure that participating private schools do not discriminate against students and staff on the basis of race, color, sex, race, class, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity, national origin, or primary language.
  4. State legislatures should adopt or amend charter school laws to ensure that policies and practices are reviewed throughout the process of approval and renewal. Schools failing to attract and retain reasonably heterogeneous student populations should be directed to address the problem and should be considered for non-renewal if the problem is not corrected.

Find How School Privatization Opens the Door for Discrimination, by Julie F. Mead and Suzanne E. Eckes, at:

http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/privatization

This policy brief 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 2018 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

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