Thursday, June 28, 2007

Segregation Marches On: Supreme Court Decides in Favor of Status Quo

PARENTS INVOLVED IN COMMUNITY SCHOOLS v. SEATTLE SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 1 ET AL. has been decided. I'll need to get to the bottom of it all but the Supreme Court has made a landmark decision. AP suggests Justice Kennedy's dissent may leave the door cracked for more elaborate methodologies for achieving diversity. Otherwise, it looks like a setback for Civil Rights. Strict scrutiny may have been applied (we'll here lots of those arguments), but there are real world consequences that legal scrutiny could give a rats ass about. Judicial hardlining isn't always humane or in our best interests. It is our Court and we need them to make tough decisions, but we also need them to make conscionable decisions and not act like robots. Look for fewer creative challenges to promoting diversity as school systems will want to avoid press, time, money, and being labeled obstructionist.

My response to a strict scrutiny friend who believes the Court did right: "The only question that matters for much is what the real world fallout will be. Will schools actually trouble themselves with creative ways to engineer diversity, or will they go with the flow and embrace schools as mirror reflections of segregated communites?"

I like Hillary Clinton's response to the Court's ruling; it shows concern for actual effects of law: "These decisions take away the right of local communities to ensure that all students benefit from racially diverse classrooms. Recent evidence shows that integrated schools promote minority academic achievement and can help close the achievement gap."

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Nasty Race Cards in DC Suggested in Nasty USA Today Editorial

“But if she fails, Rhee almost certainly will be viewed through the prism of the fractured relations between blacks and Koreans.”

Above is the ultimate line in a USA Today piece by DeWayne Wickham. Wickham’s op-ed title “A chance to mend fences for new D.C. schools chief” suggests it’s D.C.’s fences in disrepair, but the closer, the SHOCKING closer, suggests newly appointed DC Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s successes or failures are indeed an indication of America’s Black on Korean and Korean on Black hatred. That’s quite a burden! Maybe the most unfair burden I’ve read in an opinion or otherwise in a long time. To suggest that Michelle Rhee is somehow responsible for or a product of race relations is unconscionably unfair. Wickham’s very public race card play here is a sign of far we have to go to be better to one another. I’m ashamed.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Bloodlust for changes to NCLB; But a Major Break, I don't Think So

When an article title reads “Ex-Aides Break With Bush on 'No Child': Conservatives Giving Vent to Doubts; Support for Opt-Out Proposals Grows” I expect a story about once-smitten twice-bitten loyalists sounding an alarm on the federal role in education. Instead we get treated to a few salty lines from two, count em, two ex-aides willing to go on record. These aides don’t scream defiance. They’d rather tweak or consider something else than the current law prescribes. The Bush admin itself wants changes. Changes like superseding union contracts in low performing schools and converting schools designated failing under NCLB into charters. We all want changes. I’ve been to several events this summer primed with reauthorization bloodlust.

The Post presents a creative angle but doesn’t deliver. And the tidbit about 9-11, the president’s sweeping mandate to do whatever and whenever, and NCLB passage is an interesting bit, but smacks of historical revisionism. Who knows, might make a worthy chapter in a book one day, but right now, knowing what I know about the education players at the time, I'm not buying it.

I didn’t know that Spellings was pushing for private school vouchers to be included in the renewal of No Child Left Behind. The Post reports that Katherine McLane, a department spokeswoman, said so.

Challenging the Index in the Blogosphere

I make a quick reply to Jay Matthews (re)defense of his challenge index (cough, cash cow) under the name umbriell here. The back and forth banter between EdSector and Matthews is getting slightly livelier. These guys have too much respect for each other to throw smelly mud, even in the blogosphere. Much respect.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

EdTrust "Going On" FEA

The Education Trust has released a statement in reaction to last Thursday’s Forum on Educational Accountability (FEA) NCLB guidelines release saying that the guidelines “represent a giant step backward in the effort to both raise achievement and close longstanding gaps.” Furthermore EdTrust claims that by issuing these guidelines FEA has offended any American who is interested in equity and mocked the idea of high standards for all.

For the record FEA published some lofty and admirable goals in their Assessment and Accountability for Improving Schools and Learning. The panel presentation I attended was solid. Long overdue for implementation, but long in the tooth as ideas, the panel advocated for things like more formative assessments, appropriate tests for ELL students, locally constructed assessments for accountability, and further disaggregation of data by socio-economic as well as racial subgroups.

This response from EdTrust doesn't surprise me one bit. Of course one might say EdTrust are reacting to hypothetical tests since the tests FEA are arguing for don't yet exist. It would be prudent of EdTrust to see what these tests would look like, how teachers respond, how students perform, before they cast "dumbing-down" aspersions. Contrary to popular belief, rigor isn't something we can measure with a measuring cup. We espouse and advocate and legislate individual education plans (it's a civil right for heaven's sake), but the world must stop if we decide to extend that same right to evaluation.

EdTrust takes a hard line and they have kid's interests at heart which is good. I just always picture the kids they try to help. These kids, if they were exposed to any of these behind-the-scenes policy shenanigans would think they are getting hurt not helped by EdTrust’s decisions.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Safety by Practicing School Shootings?

News 4 in Washington, DC ran a segment yesterday about a school simulation designed to mimic a violent shooter on campus. The simulation took place at Alice Deal Jr. High School and featured a scenario where an enraged parent comes to campus to inflict as much horror as possible. The video speaks for itself, but this is some scary stuff. Two questions?

  • How effective is a drill like this?;
  • Do students become desensitized to violence when we make it as inevitable as a fire or a storm?;
  • Did anyone in the drill run at or throw objects like desks or anything heavy and blunt at the police officer who was acting as the shooter, because that’s what you are actually supposed to do in a situation like this?

DCist community comments here.


An Old Flame

I came across this little diddy recently and it rekindled an old flame with adolescent literature--a term that gets a bad rap. I've read several of the best sellers in this category (Holes, Speak, Life of Pi, Bridge to Terabithia, and others) and they are well written, provocative works of fiction. Anyhow check out EdWeek'$ story.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Houston, Dallas... Charters? We have a problem.

High Schoolers cheat. They cheat their faces off in fact. I know this because I’ve given tests and I’ve substitute taught enough as the “cool-enough” young guy to get candid answers to ethical improprieties. Guess what, not only do high schoolers cheat, but school systems collude and cheat for them, at least that’s what a recent series of reports coming out of the Dallas Morning News shows. 50,000 high school cheaters on TAKS, or Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills. Third world news outlet or not, that’s a lot of cheating.

According to the study Houston, Dallas, and charters have the highest incidence of cheating. I can hear some of the union faithful now. Charters! I knew it was them! Even when it was the bears, I knew it was them.

-- Moe Szyslak, Adapted from "Much Apu About Nothing"

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