Tackling School Discipline

On this episode of On the Road from May 2016, RiShawn Biddle joins Steven Evangelista of Harlem Link Charter School, Shawn Hardnett of NewSchools Venture Fund, University of Pennsylvania’s Matthew Steinberg,…

On this episode of On the Road from May 2016, RiShawn Biddle joins Steven Evangelista of Harlem Link Charter School, Shawn Hardnett of NewSchools Venture Fund, University of Pennsylvania’s Matthew Steinberg, and Mastery Charter School’s Scott Gordon in a discussion at NewSchools’ annual conference on the overuse of out-of-school suspensions and other harsh school discipline.

Watch the podcast on this page or download directly to your mobile or desktop device. Also, subscribe to the On the Road podcast series and the overall Dropout Nation Podcast series. You can also embed this podcast on your site. It is also available on iTunesBlubrry, Google Play, Stitcher, and PodBean.

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The Integration Question

On this edition of On the Road broadcast from Live Together, Learn Together’s conference in Washington, D.C., RiShawn Biddle joins with Bowie State University education scholar Treopia Green Washington, the…

On this edition of On the Road broadcast from Live Together, Learn Together’s conference in Washington, D.C., RiShawn Biddle joins with Bowie State University education scholar Treopia Green Washington, the Century Foundation’s Richard Kahlenberg and Laura Wilson Phelan of Kindred to discuss where do we go on integration seven decades after Brown v. Board of Education and the Little Rock Nine.

Listen to the Podcast at RiShawn Biddle Radio or download directly to your mobile or desktop device. Also, subscribe to the On the Road podcast series and the overall Dropout Nation Podcast series. You can also embed this podcast on your site. It is also available on iTunesBlubrry, Google Play, Stitcher, and PodBean.

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When Accountability Isn’t

There is little evidence that states will do a better job of holding districts and other school operators accountable under the Every Student Succeeds Act than they did under the…

There is little evidence that states will do a better job of holding districts and other school operators accountable under the Every Student Succeeds Act than they did under the Adequate Yearly Progress provision of the No Child Left Behind Act. If anything, based on what we are learning so far, states are more-likely than ever to let districts perpetuate harm to poor and minority children. And despite what some reformers want to say, there is way to sugar-coat this reality.

No one can blame you for thinking otherwise if you only pay attention to the Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s analysis of state rating systems proposed in ESSA implementation plans released this week. From where it sits, seven states (Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Washington) will implement rating systems that clearly label how well districts and schools are performing, requires a “focus on all students” by looking at test score growth data instead of proficiency levels, and, through growth measures, fairly assess how districts and schools are improving achievement regardless of the children they serve.

Two-thirds of the states reviewed all clearly label district and school performance to Fordham’s satisfaction, and 37 states focus on student growth instead of just on improvements in student proficiency, ensuring to the think tank’s satisfaction that the “high-achieving students” it cares most about are being served. Declares Fordham: “states, by and large, seized the ESSA opportunity to make their school accountability systems clearer and fairer.”

Your editor isn’t exactly shocked about Fordham’s happy talk. After all, the conservative think tank long opposed Adequately Yearly Progress because it focused states on improving achievement for the 64 percent of children (many of them poor and minority) who are poorly-served by American public education. This despite ample evidence that focusing on achievement gaps helps all children — including high performers — succeed academically. So it isn’t a shock that Fordham favors accountability systems that focus less on how well school operators are helping the most-vulnerable. Put simply, Fordham continues to embrace neo-eugenicist thinking long proven fallacious (as well as immoral) that fails to acknowledge that American public education’s legacy practices are not worth preserving.

The flawed thinking is more than enough to render Fordham’s analysis suspect. But there are other problems with the analysis that render it all but useless.

For poor and minority children, strong accountability tied to consequences and clear, high-quality data, matters a lot.

There’s the fact that the rating systems may not actually be as “clear” in identifying school and district performance as Fordham wants to think. This is because the think tank didn’t fully look at how the underlying formulas for measuring achievement will actually play out.

Consider Maryland, the home state of Dropout Nation (as well as that of Fordham President Michael Petrilli, his predecessor, Chester Finn, Jr., who now sits on the state board of education there, and former colleague Andy Smarick, who is president of that body). Fordham rates the Old Line State’s proposed rating system “strong” for being simple and clear with a five-star system that “model immediately conveys to all observers how well a given school is performing”.

But as Daria Hall of the Education Trust noted at a conference last month, a district or school in the state can still receive a five-star rating under the state’s ESSA plan despite doing poorly in improving achievement for Black or Latino children under its care. One reason: Because neither proficiency nor test score growth count towards more than 25 percent of a district’s rating, effectively hiding how districts are actually improving student achievement. Another lies in the fact that while the state will measure all subgroups, it doesn’t explain how it will account for each within the ratings.

Then there’s Maryland’s Plessy v. Ferguson-like proficiency and growth targets, which essentially allow districts to not work toward 100 percent proficiency for all children. The state only expects districts to improve Black student achievement from 23.9 percent in 2015-2016 to 61.9 percent by 2029-2030 (versus 52.9 percent to 76.5 percent over that period for White peers). This means that districts are allowed to subject Black and other minority children to the soft bigotry of low expectations. Add in the fact that the Maryland’s ratings don’t account for how districts and schools are preparing kids for success in traditional colleges, technical schools and apprenticeships that make up American higher education, and the rating system is not nearly as clear as Fordham declares.

This lack of clarity isn’t just a Maryland problem. As Bellwether Education Partners notes in its review of state ESSA plans, the addition of multiple measures of district and school performance (including chronic absenteeism indexes that aren’t broken down by subgroup) means that the rating systems will likely be a muddle that ends up hiding how well or poorly school operators are serving children. This muddle is likely the reason why only Tennessee and Louisiana were able to provide data showing how their ratings would identify failure mills, as well as improvements in student achievement for poor and minority children, in real time.

Another problem: Many states are using super-subgroups (now called supergroups under ESSA), a legacy of the Obama Administration’s shoddy No Child waiver gambit, that essentially lumps all poor and minority children into one category. Because super-subgroups lump children of different backgrounds into one category, the measure hides a district’s failure to help the worst-served children succeed and thus, allows it to not address its failures. Put simply, a state rating system can be simple and clear and yet still not tell the truth about how districts and schools are serving every child in their classrooms.

Accountability is more than just a school rating system. Consequences must be tied together with data and standards for children, families, and taxpayers to be served properly. [Image courtesy of the Education Trust.]

One state using super-subgroups is Florida, whose school rating system uses super-subgroups instead of thoroughly accounting for Black, Latino and other poor and minority children. Essentially, without accounting for either proficiency or growth for each group, the ratings will not fully inform anyone about how well districts are serving children.

The deliberate decision to ignore how districts and schools serve the most-vulnerable (along with the Sunshine State’s request to not use test data from its exams for English Language Learners in accountability) has led Leadership Council on Civil and Human Rights, along with a group that includes EdTrust, NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund, and UnidosUS, to ask U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to reject the entire proposal. By the way: Fordham ranked Florida’s school rating system as “strong” in two out of three categories it analyzed.

But the biggest problem with Fordham’s analysis is that continues to embrace a flawed theory of action: That mere transparency suffices as a tool for accountability and, ultimately, holding school operators (and ultimately, states) responsible for fulfilling their obligation to help children succeed.

This approach, which Fordham first embraced during the implementation of Common Core reading and math standards, is based on the idea that only high-quality data on district, school, and even teacher performance is needed for policymakers and others within states to hold bad actors accountable. Essentially, there will be no need for the federal government to force states to fulfill their responsibilities to children, as it did through No Child’s AYP provision.

But as seen with the failed effort to implement Common Core-aligned tests produced by the PARC and Smarter Balanced coalitions, transparency-as-accountability only works if the mechanics are in place. School rating systems aren’t useful if the underlying data doesn’t actually reflect what is actually happening in schools. This will clearly be problems in Maryland and Florida, and will be just as problematic in other states. California, for example, was dinged by Bellwether in its recent round of reviews for failing to longitudinally measure student achievement, a better way to account for changes in school populations over time. [This, in turn, is a result of Gov. Jerry Brown’s moves over his tenure to sabotage the state’s school data system.]

School rating systems and other forms of transparency are also insufficient in spurring accountability if there aren’t consequences for continuous failures to meet the grade. Accountability as Sandy Kress, the mastermind behind No Child, points out, is a three-pronged approach that includes consequences as well as high-quality standards on which school ratings (and the measuring of improvements in student achievement) are to be based. Few states have explained in their ESSA plans how they would force districts and other school operators to overhaul their schools or shut them down altogether and let children go to high-quality charter and district options.

The high cost of the rollback of accountability will be felt by the next generation of children — and even harm the beneficiaries of No Child’s now-abolished Adequately Yearly Progress regime who are now in our high schools.

Few states are going beyond the federal requirement to identify the lowest-performing five percent of schools. Louisiana, for example, plans to go above and beyond by identifying (and forcing the overhaul) of the 17 percent of schools that are failure mills, while New Mexico requires districts to use an array of approaches to turn around low-performing schools. California, on the other hand, hasn’t even submitted a plan on how it will identify failure mills much less hold them accountable. [It supposedly plans to do so by January.]

It gets even worse when it comes to how states will ensure that districts provide poor and minority children with high-quality teachers. As the National Council on Teacher Quality details in a series of reports released Tuesday, just seven states offer timelines on how it will improve the quality of teaching for Black, Latino, English Language Learners and other vulnerable children, as well as the rates by which it will improve teacher quality for them. Given that teacher quality isn’t even a measure in any of the proposed school rating systems, states have missed an important opportunity to bring transparency and consequences to their public school systems.

Given that so few states are being concrete about how it will help kids stuck in failure mills succeed, the school ratings will be little more than some stars and letters on computer screens.

Two decades of research have proven that accountability works best when there are real, hard consequences for districts and schools failing to improve student achievement. No Child’s Adequate Yearly Progress provision, which worked alongside accountability systems states either already developed or had put in place after the provision was enacted, spurred improvements in student achievement that have led to 172,078 fewer fourth-graders being illiterate in 2015 than in 2002, the year No Child became law.

Yet what ESSA has wrought so far are school rating systems that are likely to do little on behalf of children who deserve better. The benefits of clear data tied with real consequences have now been lost. If accountability is only toothless transparency, then it is neither sufficient nor necessary to help all of our children succeed in school and in life. There is no good news to be had. None at all.

Featured illustration courtesy of St. Louis Public Radio.

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Are Reformers Ready?

Certainly there is plenty of reason to celebrate the results of last Tuesday’s general elections. But the time for that is over. There’s an election coming next year, one that…

Certainly there is plenty of reason to celebrate the results of last Tuesday’s general elections. But the time for that is over. There’s an election coming next year, one that will have impact on the efforts of school reformers to build better lives for all children.

But will the movement be ready?

If you live in Maryland, as your editor does, the gubernatorial race could shape up to be a battle between two reform-minded candidates. One one hand, there’s incumbent Gov. Larry Hogan who, despite some high-profile setbacks courtesy of the Democrat-controlled legislature and White reformers unwilling to work with Black counterparts, has proven to be slightly better than your editor thought he would be three years ago. On the other side, there’s the equally reform-minded Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker, who took partial control of the traditional district and has made overhauling it a key priority. If reformers come out to support Baker (and rally others to do the same), it can work out for Maryland’s children.

But only if the movement is ready.

If you are in California, there’s the chance to end outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown’s deliberate rollback of systemic reform by backing former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to replace him. Unlike rival Gavin Newsom (who just gained the backing of the National Education Association’s California Teachers Association) Villaraigosa has proven effective in advancing systemic reform (and battling traditionalists) on behalf of children during his years as Los Angeles Mayor despite having no control over the traditional district there. Reformers also have a chance to put Marshall Tuck into the state superintendent’s office, effectively ending the state education department’s fealty to CTA and the AFT’s state affiliate there.

It can be done only if the movement is ready.

Marshall Tuck, who unsuccessfully ran for California Superintendent three years ago, is one of many reformers the movement must help put into office next year.

There are opportunities to continue systemic reform. There’s Georgia, where Nathan Deal’s successful expansion of school choice can be continued with the right candidate. There is also Colorado, where reformers can work with others to put Teach For America alum-turned-state senator Mike Johnston into the governor’s office. Meanwhile Florida has an opportunity to build on the reforms began under Jeb Bush that have continued in fits and starts under Rick Scott. This is all before you look at the other gubernatorial, chief state school officer, and state board races that will be on the ballot next year.

All of this can happen. But only if the movement is ready.

These days, the school reform movement can use all the political victories it can muster. On the national level, centrist Democrat, progressive, and civil rights-oriented reformers bet badly on Hillary Clinton’s unsuccessful presidential campaign,while the hopes conservative reformers had for Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of Education have proven to be as illusory as your editor said they would be. That the Trump Administration is effectively engaged in a war on the futures of poor and minority children (including the 760,000 covered under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and the native-born children of undocumented emigres) essentially proves beyond a doubt that the federal government is abandoning three decades of advancing reform.

Meanwhile the failures to win voter support expansion of charter schools and overhaul of traditional districts in Massachusetts and Georgia have only been slightly blunted with legislative victories for expanding choice in Colorado, Texas and Illinois. But as seen on Tuesday in Douglas County, Colo., and Denver, the success reformers make in working policymakers isn’t translating into political victories that can sustain those solutions for the long run. Even on the policy front, the evisceration of accountability in Maryland and California (where Gov. Brown signed legislation eliminating the state’s graduation exam), along with the weak plans submitted by most states for implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act, serve as reminders that past successes don’t last forever without eternal vigilance.

As you would expect, there are reformers who hope that the U.S. Supreme Court’s likely ruling against compulsory dues collections in Janus v. AFSCME will weaken NEA, AFT and their traditionalist allies and rally more progressive Democrats to their side. This is short-sighted thinking. Even if both unions lose as much as 30 percent of revenue, they still have the bodies and relationships on the ground necessary to oppose reformers at the ballot box. Just as importantly, because some of the nation’s foremost reformers (especially Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights and Center for American Progress) are dependent on funding from other public sector unions and even collect some cash from NEA and AFT, those groups will be weakened financially, hampering the school reform movement’s efforts to help all children succeed.

The school reform movement won’t sustain its solutions if it doesn’t win at the ballot box. This means changing how it does politics.

School reformers can’t simply count on legislative victories or on the weakening of traditionalist opponents. They must do more than simply stand still. As your editor has kept arguing for the better part of this decade, reformers must become politically savvier in order to sustain the systemic overhaul of American public education.

This begins by learning one of the most-important lessons of Tuesday’s success by Democrats in wining the Virginia gubernatorial campaign and other victories at the legislative and municipal levels throughout the nation: Rally support from poor and minority communities, including  immigrant households. As Center for American Progress noted last week in its post-mortem on the 2016 election, just increasing turnout among those communities would have made the difference between a Clinton victory and her ultimate defeat.

Considering that poor and minority households are the ones most-affected by the failures of American public education, reformers can make strong inroads by embracing the approaches used successfully by progressive groups this year (as well as by Green Dot Public Schools Founder Steve Barr and Parent Revolution over the past decade). This includes addressing the issues outside of education policy and practice that are of immediate concern to those communities, as well as taking a page from NEA and AFT locals by working with the churches and community organizations connected to the people who live in them. It also means recruiting those from Black, Latino, and other minority communities to run in school board races and other political campaigns, a point made by Democrats in their success this week.

The second step can also be gleaned from Tuesday’s election results: Build strong support for reform among suburban families, especially those from poor and minority households who make up an increasingly large share of the populations there as well as those that are White and college-educated. The lack of support from suburbia is one reason why the effort to expand charters in Massachusetts went down to defeat last year.

Particularly on expanding school choice, reformers can focus on how opening charter schools can help families gain new educational settings that suburban districts deliberately limit for their use in satisfying key constituencies. This includes explaining how families can launch language immersion charters that are now popular with upper middle class households (and are also needed for children from immigrant homes). It also includes helping Black and Latino families challenge Zip Code Education policies that lead to their children not receiving the high-quality teaching and curricula they need and deserve.

The third step lies in embracing tactics used by politicians and challengers in their campaigns. Holding voter registration drives, for example, will help bring new voters to the polls and even help reformers prove their value to the politicians they need to help pass legislation. Running political ads that bring attention to education issues in a simple-yet-comprehensive way is also important to do.

While reform groups have launched 501(c)4 political advocacy operations alongside traditional nonprofits, they must do more. This means starting independent expenditure groups similar to those run by NEA and AFT (as well as other political players) who can finance ads on behalf of (and against) candidates on the ballot.

Finally, and most-importantly, reformers must work together with activists outside of education, including those in the Black Lives Matter and criminal justice reform movements (whose leading lights include alumni of Teach For America) as well as those working against the Trump Administration’s war on undocumented emigres and their families. After all, you can only galvanize people to your side when you show that you care about the lives and futures of their communities as well as their children. More importantly, reformers can’t call themselves champions for children if they are not defending them at all times, addressing the issues outside of schools that affect how they learn within them, and dealing with the reality that American public education at the nexus of the ills that plague the nation today.

As Patrick Riccards noted last week, conservative and many centrist Democrat reformers erred when they criticized Teach For America (as well as other outfits) when it became more-explicit in its efforts to build brighter futures for poor and minority children inside and outside of schoolhouse doors. These reformers should correct the error of their ways. This doesn’t mean that reformers have to join protest rallies. But they can sign letters of support for legislation such as a path for DACA recipients gaining citizenship, as well as support political campaigns of those who want to reform law enforcement agencies that end up patrolling traditional district schools. Such support for those efforts, in turn, help reformers gain advocates on their behalf for transforming American public education.

Reformers can even take stands in elections that are far outside of these issues. The movement’s leading lights, for example, can call out former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice-turned-Republican Senatorial Nominee Roy Moore over allegations revealed this week that he conditioned and engaged in sexual misconduct with underage women. As champions for children, we cannot stand by anyone taking public office who has engaged in the kind of evil for which we would condemn rogue teachers and police officers. It doesn’t take much — and this can even be tied to the issues of protecting our children and youth inside and out of schools.

The coming year is an opportunity for the school reform movement to gain the political support needed to help all children succeed. The steps needed to be taken can be done. It can happen.

But are reformers ready? For the sake of our children, they need to be.

Featured photo: Prince George’s County, Md., Executive Rushern Baker, who is looking to challenge incumbent Larry Hogan, is one of many reform-minded politicians who may end up on the ballot next year.

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Missouri Fails All Children

These days, the Show Me State demonstrates a lot of things to people. Few of them any good. Yet none of the black eyes it has gotten compared to the…

These days, the Show Me State demonstrates a lot of things to people. Few of them any good. Yet none of the black eyes it has gotten compared to the damage its public education systems are doing to its children.

The latest stain on the states reputation can be seen in St. Louis, where protests against police brutality after Circuit Court Judge Timothy Wilson let former Police Officer Jason Stockley off the hook for murdering Anthony Lamar Smith is a reminder of the slaying of Michael Brown by another rogue cop in nearby Ferguson three years ago. The arrests of protestors and journalists by the Gateway City’s police department — as well as  arrogant chants ““Whose streets? Our streets” by those officers — has justified the NAACP’s move earlier this year to tell Black men and women to avoid the state like the plague.

But the biggest stain on Missouri’s present reputation has less to do with rogue cops and police misconduct and more with the low quality of its public education systems. Especially in St. Louis, where the (often state-controlled) districts within the city and county have become infamous for overusing harsh school discipline, providing few opportunities for high quality education, criminalizing the lives of youth, and restricting the ability of poor and minority children to escape the failure mills that litter the landscape. But as a Dropout Nation analysis shows, St. Louis merely mirrors the woeful lack of opportunities for the kind of college-preparatory courses children need for lifelong success.

Just 13.7 percent of the 292,558 children attending Missouri’s high schools took calculus, trigonometry and other forms of advanced mathematics in 2013-2104, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection. The woeful levels cut across nearly all socioeconomic backgrounds. Black children suffered the worst with just one out of every 10 taking calculus and advanced math that year. But White children did little better, with only 13.9 percent taking college-level mathematics; a mere 11.4 percent of Latino students, 13.5 percent of American Indian and Alaska Native peers, and 33.6 percent of Asian children taking those courses in the year surveyed.

The Show Me State does even worse in providing Advanced Placement courses that help prepare children for the rigors of higher education. Just 10.5 percent of all Missouri high-schoolers took AP courses in 2013-2104. This includes a mere 8.7 percent of Black students, 9.6 percent of Native peers, 10.3 percent of Latino high schoolers, and 10.4 percent of White students. Only Asian students were provided AP courses at high levels, with 26.7 percent of them taking those college-level classes that year. [Just six-tenths of one percent of all Show Me State high school students took International Baccalaureate courses, the other college preparatory coursework of choice for America’s students.]

Things get little better when it comes to physics, a science course that helps children gain preparation to take on higher ed classes that lead to high-paying careers in science and technology. Just 8.9 percent of high school students in Missouri took physics in 2013-2014. This is one area in which White students do worse than their minority counterparts. Just 7.8 percent of White high schoolers took physics versus 9.5 percent of Native students, 12 percent of Latino peers, 12.1 percent of Black students, and 17.4 percent of Asian peers.

The rationing of opportunity, of course begins long before children reach high school and can be seen in the middle school years in the numbers taking Algebra 1, a key course for college preparation. Just 11.8 percent of all Show Me State middle schoolers took Algebra 1 in 2013-2014. Again, Black children are failed miserably, with just 9.9 percent taking Algebra 1. But children from other backgrounds do little better. Only 10.4 percent of Latino middle school students, 11 percent of Native peers, 11.8 percent of White students, and 22.3 percent of Asian peers took Algebra 1 that year.

The path to denying opportunity begins in Missouri’s elementary schools, where children  (especially those from poor and minority households) are denied by teachers and guidance counselors into the gateways into what traditional districts consider to be higher levels of teaching and curricula.

Just 4.4 percent of Show Me State students are taking gifted-and-talented course. Certainly gifted-and-talented programs are questionable in their quality (as well as being a legacy of ability tracking, IQ testing frauds, and the other forms of racialism that began in the 20th century as a result of the belief that only some children are capable of learning at high levels). But they are also one of the few avenues children have for getting some semblance of high-quality education.

Oddly enough, Black children are twice as likely to gain entry into gifted-and-talented programs than White peers, with 10.4 percent of Black children in such pathways in 2013-2014 compared to just 4.6 percent of White students. This may be a result of the fact that Missouri’s rural and small town districts, which serve the bulk of the state’s White children, don’t provide such gateways. Meanwhile, just 34 percent of Latino students, 4.7 percent of Native peers, and 22.9 percent of Asian students were in gifted-and-talented programs.

An even bigger problem: That far too many children are far more likely to be condemned by districts into special ed ghettos. Thirteen-point-seven percent of Show Me State students are condemned to special ed in 2013-2014, all but guaranteeing that they will not get high-quality teaching and curricula. Black and White children are particularly prone to being condemned to special ed ghettos, with, respectively 14.7 percent and 14.5 percent being placed there compared to 3.3 percent of Asian students, five percent of Native peers, and 8.7 percent of Latino children.

There are plenty of reasons for people in St. Louis and the rest of Missouri to protest. Police brutality is one. Educational abuse is the other.

Put simply: Children in Missouri are far more-likely to end up in special ed than taking gifted-and-talented programs or any other opportunity for high-quality education. Latino and White children, for example are respectively, two and three times more likely to end up in special ed than in gifted-and-talented gateways.

One of the underlying culprits lie with the Show Me State’s failure to adequately finance college-preparatory opportunities within traditional districts. While the states provides some funds for offering AP courses, it is dwarfed by the sums spent on special education. In 2015-2016, for example, the state spent a mere $415,875 on AP (as well as dual enrollment) courses, while spending $411.5 million on special ed. An additional complication will come in the next few years thanks to the federal government’s move two years to consolidate funds used to finance AP courses for poor and minority students into a block grant, effectively making it harder for districts to offer high-quality opportunities to their most-vulnerable children.

Meanwhile the state has done little to expand the number of public charter schools serving children of all backgrounds. Just 52 charters operate in the Show Me State in 2015-2016, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, all of them in St. Louis and Kansas City because of their status as failure mills. Given that Missouri children attending charter schools gain an additional 22 days of learning in math and 14 additional days of learning in reading (according to Stanford University’s Center for Research on Educational Outcomes), the lack of high-quality charters hurts both children in big city and rural communities who need help. The efforts to

Making things even worse was the state’s decision three years ago to ditch Common Core’s reading and math standards. This move, a result of opposition from movement conservatives in the Show Me State, denied all children (including those who are poor and White as well as Black and Latino) the comprehensive knowledge they need to be prepared for college-preparatory coursework, and ultimately, for the rigors of coursework in the traditional colleges, technical schools, and apprenticeships that make up American higher education.

The Show Me State’s political and educational leaders — including current Gov. Eric Greitens and his predecessor, Jay Nixon — deserve to bow their heads in shame for the educational abuse and neglect they are perpetrating on all of the children in the state’s public education systems. More importantly, these officials need to expand opportunities for all of those children to gain the knowledge critical to their future success as well as that of the state. Until then, the rogue policing tolerated in Missouri will be merely its most-public embarrassment.

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On 529s and the Intent of Movements

The other problem with 529s for school choice: Yesterday, Dropout Nation explained why the plan by Congressional Republicans and the Trump Administration to transform 529 higher education savings vehicles to expand…

The other problem with 529s for school choice: Yesterday, Dropout Nation
explained why the plan by Congressional Republicans and the Trump Administration to transform 529 higher education savings vehicles to expand school choice does little for poor and minority communities who lack the incomes and wealth to use them. But the more your editor and others think through the plan itself, the more it becomes clear that it will even harm middle-class families as well as damage efforts to ensure that all children attain higher education they need for success in adulthood.

How is that possible? Start with how 529s currently work — and how the Congressional Republican proposal would pervert it.

When a family contributes to a 529 plan, they are looking to grow the dollars they put in so that at least a portion of higher ed tuition costs are covered. This is done over time by investing contributions of up to $14,000 a year (or $70,000 in one year to cover a five-year period) into mutual funds as well as money market accounts similar to certificates of deposit issued by banks. Over time, those initial dollars (as well as additional contributions over time) should grow thanks to investment growth and interest compounding.

But this isn’t possible if families start tapping 529 accounts to pay for private school tuition costs or even tutoring expenses. Why? Because the more money siphoned off from contributions to elementary and secondary education expenses, the less money will go towards college savings.

Say a family contributes to the full maximum of $14,000 a year. [Most never do.] They may be able to avoid cutting into long-term college savings if they limit K-12 expenses to around $4,000 a year. But the average private school tuition in the United States is $7,700, according to the U.S. Department of Education — and in many places such as Maryland, private-school tuition is even higher. Put simply, the more money spent out of the 529 on private school and tutoring costs, the less money will be saved for college. They also lose out on future investment gains and interest compounding in the process.

Some of these issues would have been avoided if Congressional Republicans chose instead to expand the use of Flexible Spending Accounts — which are used to pay for preschool and child care expenses as well as medical costs — for use to fund private-school tuition and other K-12 expenditures. That move would have been even better for families who already use those plans because those are funded through paycheck withholding and would be supported by the 20 percent federal child care tax credit already in place. But this wasn’t likely proposed.

One reason lies with Heritage Foundation and its education czar, Lindsey Burke, who have been the prime proponents of the 529 expansion. The other lies with the overall intent of Congressional Republicans to pay for the $1.5 trillion tax cut. The proposals in House Resolution 1, along with the 529 transformation, likely have the affect of decimating American higher education. If successful, those moves will damage the futures of children regardless of background to gain knowledge they need for lifelong success.

This effort against higher education includes the proposed elimination of the lifelong learning credit of $2,000 (which is used to by nontraditional collegians to offset the cost of tuition), the $5,250-per-person deduction given to companies that offer higher ed tuition assistance programs to their employees, and changes that would only reduce the percentage of taxpayers who can reduce their tax burdens by itemizing donations to universities and nonprofits from 30 percent to five percent.

Viewed against those other moves, the expansion of the use of 529s for use on K-12 costs would damage higher education by making it even harder for families to save for the tuition costs. Which means that this is an even worse plan for children than even I realized. When you add in all of the other proposed changes to the tax code that also harm families — including the elimination of deductions for medical savings accounts and adoption expenses — the Congressional Republicans and the Trump Administration can be accused of waging war on the efforts of middle-class and even poor families to help their children survive and succeed.

Intent Makes a Movement: One of the most-interesting questions this week was incidentally raised by Columbia University scholar and New Yorker writer Jelani Cobb in his response to an essay by University of Virginia Professor Fred Schauer on whether the White Supremacist protest that led to mayhem and carnage (including the murder of Heather Heyer) last August should lead cities to find ways to restrict the free speech and assembly rights of protestors. That question? How do you distinguish between movements and mobs.

In his piece, Cobb attempts to argue that the difference between a movement and a mob lies with whether the goals are primal or not. From where he sits, the Unite the Right protestors were the latter because their goals are driven by racial bigotry, which makes them primal (based on tribalism that is hard-set in all of us). On that front,  I would argue that he is incorrect. This is because what distinguishes movements from mobs isn’t their goals, but their organization and their intent.

All movements are primal in some way. Movements to end colonialism and oppression, such as Mahatma Gandhi’s effort to end British colonialism of India, are driven by the urge to be free. Those that oppress, such as the Nazis and other 20th-century Fascists (as well as the American White Supremacists off which they partly modeled themselves) appeal to authoritarian instincts.

Even the modern school reform movement, is driven in part by primal urges. In this case, the desire for learning as well as to protect the most-vulnerable, the latter being derivative of the maternal and paternal instincts most parents have for their children. Traditionalists, in turn, are also driven in part by the urge to protect the influence and power they have gained over time.

To dismiss the desire to act on primal instinct as either base or merely a province of mobs is to ignore the noble and ignoble feelings that drive both positive and negative social movements.

What differs a movement from a mob is organization and effort. They are intentional. Which is why what happened in Charlottesville (as well as the White Supremacist rally that happened last month in Shelbyville, Tenn.) are so troubling.

As Vice and other outlets have reported , the new-era White Supremacists behind Charlottesville spent months planning their protests before they finally descended on the Virginia college town. This included discussions on the Daily Stormer and other forums about logistics, messages, even what weapons to bring to the event. Given that they prepared for violence, White Supremacists such as Jason Kessler and Chris Cantwell expected Heyer’s murder, as well as the anticipated that their allies would brutally assault counter-protestors such as DeAndre Harris.

The Unite the Right players, in turn, are part of a larger White Supremacist movement that extends far beyond their numbers that day in Charlottesville. As Buzzfeed noted last month an investigative piece, those ideological and political ties extend to Breitbart, the media outlet controlled by Robert Mercer and Steve Bannon, both of which have played key roles in sustaining the presidential campaign of the current Occupant of the White House and his administration. It also extends to President Donald Trump himself, who put White Supremacists such as Bannon on his White House staff, as well as gave comfort to the Unite the Right crowd after the carnage and mayhem by claiming that that they were “good people”.

Trump and the White Supremacist protestors, in turn, share the same intent: Official state discrimination against Black, Latino, Asian and immigrant men, women, and children. The latter advances this intent through protests, violence, media campaigns, and their own interactions with people Black and Brown. The former and his administration do so through policy, legislation, and executive branch action, all of which has been documented by this publication. In fact, the Trump Administration is merely doing under the business of the White Supremacists that support it.

Mobs don’t have tax-exempt statuses and corporate filings. Movements do.

Put simply, the new-era White Supremacists  end up in Charlottesville and Shelbyville are as intentional as any positive social movement. Nothing they do is accidental or incidental; they intend on relegating poor and minority communities . They may be the opposite of the Black Lives Matter and school reform movements of today. But the new-age White Supremacists are still a movement, one that resembles the Klu Klux Klan during its golden age of 1920s (when it counted at least two million members — ncluding eventual U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black– and actually controlled Indiana’s state government) and the collection of White Citizens Councils, Klan groups, and Southern politicians who opposed the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s.

So all of us opposed to them, especially those within the school reform movement, must deal seriously with their intent and their organization. We must address the immorality of their beliefs and the anti-intellectualism of their ideas and proposals. Simply dismissing them as a mob, especially for the illiberal (and unacceptable) purpose of stamping out their liberty, will never work.

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