Tag: Elementary and Secondary Education Act

Betsy DeVos’ School Discipline Problem

There were plenty of responses to Saturday’s piece on whether or not U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is a White Supremacist. As I have pointed out, the reality is…

There were plenty of responses to Saturday’s piece on whether or not U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is a White Supremacist. As I have pointed out, the reality is that while the education philanthropist-turned-education czar is no White Supremacist, she has continuously collaborated with a regime whose goal is to harm the communities of Black, Latino, and immigrant children as well as the people who love and care for them.

One of the ways she has done this lies with the moves by the U.S. Department of Education to ignore its civil rights obligations as written in the Every Student Succeeds Act as well as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, including stemming the overuse of out-of-school suspensions and other harsh traditional discipline that damages poor and minority kids. The move to bring in Hans Bader, who has dismissed decades of research on this issue, is the latest example of DeVos’ aiding and abetting of bigotry.

As Dropout Nation readers know by now, DeVos’ appointee to oversee the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, Candice Jackson, has already taken steps to end the Obama Administration’s efforts to push traditional districts and charter schools to use new approaches to discipline that actually help all children learn. This includes issuing guidance to regional directors to stop collecting three years of past complaints filed by against a district or charter when investigating a new complaint. Essentially this means investigators can no longer use previous complaints as evidence of a district systematically overusing suspensions, expulsions, spankings, and even restraints and seclusion (solitary confinement) against particular groups of kids.

Now with Bader, a former scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (and brother of its current president), on board as a member of the Department of Education’s legal staff, DeVos and Jackson are likely to take the next step in ending efforts on school discipline reform: Rescind the “Dear Colleague” guidance issued by the Obama Administration three years ago that reminded districts to stop overusing harsh school discipline against Black, Latino, and Native children because it violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. The guidance has been widely opposed by traditionalists and so-called conservative school reformers such as Michael Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute.

Hans Bader (right) will now have a role in shaping federal policy on school discipline. Those who care about the futures of children should shudder at the thought.

Despite having spent little time on studying school discipline and other civil rights issues, Bader has emerged as a go-to guy for movement conservatives and others opposed to federal efforts on school discipline reform (as well as on the effort to address how universities handle rape incidents on their campuses). His arguments against a federal role in school discipline reform can be summed up in two sentences. The first: That the Obama Administration’s guidance is overreach because the federal government has no right to address any form of overuse of school discipline, especially “disparate impact” in which policies can incidentally or deliberately discriminate against poor and minority children. The second: That there is no racial or ethnic bias in how districts and other school operators mete out such discipline in the first place.

There are plenty of problems with Bader’s first argument. On the legal merits, the ability of the federal government to weigh in on disparate impact was settled three years ago when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project that the federal government could address such matters. While the ruling focused on housing, the high court’s ruling effectively kibboshed a previous opinion, Alexander v. Sandoval, that Bader often uses in his arguments against federal oversight on school discipline matters. Put simply, disparate impact is now legally recognized as a form of racism, essentially accepting the reality that bigotry need not be overt to actually exist and harm the most-vulnerable. [More on that in a minute.]

As Dropout Nation noted three years ago in a critique of a similar argument made by Hoover Institution scholar Richard Epstein on the pages of Education Next, Bader fails to recognize that Title IV of the Civil Rights Act is actually fairly broad, giving the federal government plenty of leeway to address any denial of opportunities for equal education. This includes addressing complaints from families over any instance where their children are being denied high-quality learning. More importantly, Bader fails to consider other civil rights legislation, including the Every Student Succeeds Act (the latest version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act) and IDEA, which grants broad leeway on this front. Particularly with  Title IV of ESSA, which gives the federal government leeway to address and fund efforts to deal with school violence, the federal government is given an expansive role in addressing how districts and states use school discipline.

As for Bader’s second argument: Three decades of data and research demonstrate that it doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

As a team led by Daniel Losen of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA noted in their review of suspension and expulsion data, the out-of-school suspension rate of 23.2 percent for black middle- and high schoolers in 2013-2014 (based on data released by the U.S. Department of Education) is three times the 6.4 percent out-of-school suspension rate for white peers. This, too, has been consistent in analysis of data, this time that of state governments. This isn’t surprising because decades of data have shown this. A team led by University of Pittsburgh researcher John Wallace demonstrated in a 2008 study that young black men in 10th grade are 30 percent more-likely to be referred dean’s offices — and 330 percent more-likely to be suspended — for the same offenses than white peers.

The consequences of overusing harsh school discipline isn’t just limited to time out of classrooms.

As with the overlabeling of young men as special ed cases, a key reason why so many children black and brown have been suspended lies with the perceptions of adults in schools about the kids they are supposed to teach. Recent studies of the perceptions of children held by their teachers echo Vanderbilt University Professor Daniel J. Reschly’s longstanding point that adults in schools end up deeming kids as unworthy because they think they are destined to end up that way. These biases, which data has demonstrated to be clear when it comes to discipline, are often reflected in how White teachers view Black children in their care in other areas of instruction and school culture.

As I pointed out on Saturday, White Supremacy (along with other forms of bigotry) isn’t simply about overt acts and outright statements. It consists of a continuum of actions that are often divorced from personal and social intentions. Even if a person doesn’t intend on being bigoted, they can support, be indifferent to, or unwilling to change policies and practices that maliciously or incidentally damage the lives and futures of poor and minority people. In the case of school discipline, the consequences of policies and practices can be as racialist as overt acts by those engaged in explicit racial discrimination.

Even if teachers and school leaders aren’t explicitly targeting black and Latino children in meting out discipline, the decisions they make can result in educational neglect, malpractice and abuse. This isn’t just true for poor and minority children. Children regardless of background condemned to the nation’s special education ghettos are subjected to even harsher school discipline –including restraints and seclusion (also known as solitary confinement when done to adults) — because teachers perceive them to be unworthy of more-therapeutic treatment. The consequences of these failed practices can be seen in and out of schools, especially in how police officers brought into schoolhouses deal with Black and Brown children and even those who are White with special needs.

Given the voluminous evidence, the fact that Bader continually argues against school discipline reform demonstrates his intellectual sophistry and his lack of fitness for serving in any role that tangentially involves public education. That he has little in the way of experience in addressing civil rights issues, especially on the education front, makes him even less fit to serve.

Yet it isn’t shocking that he is in this role. This is because DeVos has long ago demonstrated her lack of knowledge and general incuriosity about the role the federal government can play in addressing the underlying causes of the nation’s education crisis and advancing systemic reform. More importantly, given her unwillingness to criticize Donald Trump’s bigotry and that of the administration before and after taking up space at L’Enfant Plaza, the Department of Education was bound to be as involved as the departments of Justice and Homeland Security in advancing the administration’s efforts against poor and minority people.

Certainly DeVos isn’t an active White Supremacist. Her past record supporting the expansion of school choice demonstrates that. But she is clearly a collaborator in the administration’s agenda. The hiring of Bader exemplifies this reality.

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Dropout Nation on Twitter for March 14th


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Check out the Dropout Nation Twitter feed for instant news and updates on the reform of American public education. Here are some select tweets from March 14th: RT @eriksyring: RT…

Check out the Dropout Nation Twitter feed for instant news and updates on the reform of American public education. Here are some select tweets from March 14th:

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Gutting Accountability: The Price of Hankering for Reauthorization


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Last month, I clearly stated some reasons why the Obama administration shouldn’t bother pursuing the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act — and why school reformers shouldn’t bother…

Two kids attending the Bronx Charter School for Better Living

Photo courtesy of the New York Daily News

Last month, I clearly stated some reasons why the Obama administration shouldn’t bother pursuing the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act — and why school reformers shouldn’t bother pushing it either. The most important reason of all had to do with the reality that there was ultimately more for the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers and other defenders of traditional public education to gain from reauthorization than for school reformers; the proceedings would give them opportunities to weaken the Adequate Yearly Progress accountability provisions within No Child that have helped shine light on the academic mistreatment of poor black, white and Latino children.

Since then, the Alliance for Excellent Education and other groups have pushed even further for reauthorization. And, depending on whether the Obama administration continues to sink into a political quagmire by pursuing health care reform and more-liberalized immigration (the latter of which I strongly support, but know is a tough sell even in good times), they may get reauthorization. But in the process, the Obama administration has shown far too much willingness to ditch AYP and turn the clock back on accountability altogether. President Obama formally announced yesterday his plans to do so — and to the virtual applause of defenders of traditional public education.

This is understandable in light of the administration’s political considerations. Having angered the NEA and AFT over Race to the Top (which has strongly encouraged states to link student test score performance with teacher evaluations, and is helping to lift restrictions on the expansion of charter schools), Obama and congressional Democrats must throw these important constituencies a bone; the NEA and AFT, after all, bring more than $66 million a year in much-needed campaign donations to the table at a time in which Democratic control of Congress is not only not assured, but may actually be lost by November. Considering that Obama has also been critical of AYP while on the campaign trail — and that Republicans post-G.W. Bush are divided about No Child (with many, notably the ranking Republican on the House education committee, strongly opposed to much of what No Child stands for altogether), the administration apparently thinks AYP is not worth keeping.

But by ditching AYP and leaving it up to states and school districts to decide how to remedy pervasive academic failure, the very progress the nation has made in improving the prospects of the nation’s poorest children and racial and ethnic minorities to gain high-quality education will be lost. States and school districts have proven that they will do little to address the achievement gap and improve teacher quality without federal intervention and activism. By gutting accountability, these children — the one’s most-neglected by traditional public education — will wind up back on public education’s proverbial short buses. Without strong accountability, without AYP, the efforts by Alliance and other groups on college readiness will be meaningless; you can’t be ready for college if you can’t read, write or multiply.

Common Core standards will also be meaningless without AYP accountability; so long as schools aren’t held accountable for implementing them in reality, the proposed standards will be little more than ink on paper. Anyone who thinks otherwise isn’t thinking. It doesn’t matter how much support Arne Duncan gives to Common Core (and honestly, NAEP offers a much-better way to bring states under one national standard than the admirable hodgepodge currently under consideration).

School reformers likely feel like they have been sold out. But this is the price they pay for not paying full attention to the politics driving Obama’s activities. Having overreached on far too many big reform efforts — almost all, save for education reform, aren’t embraced by the public — and failing to deliver on the Employee Free Choice Act, his administration is faced with the loss of congressional majorities and anger from labor unions and activists within the party who have expected more from him. He can no longer ignore teachers unions or other traditional defenders of public education, who bring more money to the political game than they do (even with the powerful dollars of Bill Gates and Eli Broad). They also bring the ground troops the Democrats will need to keep their seats. Why not some bad education policy in exchange for maintaining control of Congress?

The best solution for school reformers is to forget reauthorization this year. In fact, push against any decision until 2011, when Obama will need their support for his own re-election. After all, No Child’s provisions will remain in effect for this year. Which means the status quo remains ante. And for the millions of young children benefiting from AYP, this is the best possible scenario given the political climate.

By the Way (2:44 p.m. EST): Eduflack and Andy Smarick offer dueling and differing views on where accountability stands in the proposed reauthorization. Eduflack understates the impact of the changes, but notes that there is much for the NEA and AFT to dislike about the plan — even though without accountability, it is much harder to hold teachers or schools accountable in a meaningful way. Smarick says he’s conflicted; he wants the feds to play a much-smaller role in education reform and regulation, but realizes the damage that will come from the loss of the AYP provisions.

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Read: Reauthorization Edition


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What’s happening in the dropout nation these days: National Journal is hosting the latest of their weekly questions about education. This week, it is all about whether the No Child…

Young black males need the teaching so they can learn and succeed.

What’s happening in the dropout nation these days:

  1. National Journal is hosting the latest of their weekly questions about education. This week, it is all about whether the No Child Left Behind Act will be reauthorized this year. I have offered my thoughts in this week’s Dropout Nation Podcast.
  2. The president’s budget “freeze” doesn’t include education (of course). Education research also fairs well (according to EdWeek), alongside plans to fund charter schools that follow the Harlem Children’s Zone model (notes Tom Marshall). The Department of Education offers up its series of justifications for its spending priorities.
  3. What role does school choice play in housing prices. Eric Bruner and his colleagues say that choice-based enrollment policies across all school districts (inter-district) and within them can bring home price and income stability to surrounding neighborhoods. Which may prove the value of school choice of all kinds public and private.
  4. Meanwhile in D.C., schools boss Michelle Rhee isn’t exactly polling well, at least according to Bill Turque and Jon Cohen at the Washington Post. Some of it, of course, has to do with Rhee’s PR gaffes and general demeanor. But let’s get real: It is also about some more-unmentionable matters and also about the fact that Rhee is ending D.C. Public Schools’ role as the District’s jobs program and patronage system. This isn’t going to make the adults happy (even if it helps improve the educational opportunities of the kids who actually have to sit in the district’s classrooms).
  5. Jay Mathews, of course, makes no secret of his opinion of Rhee. Whether he thinks she’ll last beyond her current term? He’s not so sure. My opinion: It will depend on whether Adrian Fenty — just as unpopular as Rhee for reasons of his own creation — doesn’t draw strong primary and general election opposition. If he doesn’t, Rhee stays. But if he does…
  6. In Southern California, L.A. Unified’s school choice reform is mired in squabbling, with accusations of  favoritism being tossed around by the district’s AFT local, according to the L.A. Daily News. Meanwhile the L.A. Times editorial board is disappointed by all the other problems emerging from the districts handling of the bidding process for the 30 schools offered for the first round of reform.
  7. John Fensterwald notes a recent report on school district finances within the Golden State. Federal stimulus funds may have staved off fiscal belt-tightening for now, according to Fensterwald, but those funds are running out — which means more thoughtful approaches to operations.
  8. In New York City, the local NAACP sues the city’s Department of Education over its shutdown of failing schools, according to Gothamist. As usual, NAACP attempts to strike a blow over the wrong issue — and failing black children in the process.
  9. EducationNews re-runs one of Martin Haberman’s fine pieces on how to train teachers for urban school settings. Enjoy.
  10. In Education Leadership, Eric Sparks, Janet L. Johnson and Patrick Ackos discuss using data in determining which students are at risk for dropping out. They look at 9th-grade performance. But they fail to mention Robert Balfanz’s innovative work in the early dropout indicators arena.
  11. What is dropout nation: Tiny Schuylkill County, Pa., which has high levels of high school dropouts, according to a study cited in the Standard Speaker. The source of the data, Census sampling, may be unreliable for actually measuring the number of dropouts and graduates. But it gives some sense of the problems within Pennsylvania’s coal country.
  12. Kevin Carey takes shots at EdWeek for a report on a for-profit college industry study. Certainly, Carey is no fan of University of Phoenix’s of the world for reasons both good and specious. You go figure out where you stand.

And you can check out this week’s Dropout Nation Podcast, this on the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act. Enjoy.

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The Dropout Nation Podcast: Leave No Child Alone


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On this week’s Dropout Nation Podcast, I analyze President Barack Obama’s efforts to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act and argue why neither he — nor school reformers —…

Dropout Nation Podcast Cover

On this week’s Dropout Nation Podcast, I analyze President Barack Obama’s efforts to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act and argue why neither he — nor school reformers — should bother with reauthorization this year. Pursuing reauthorization may allow for Obama to put his finishing touches on the law, but not without exposing it — and himself — to battles between reformers and defenders of traditional public education that he isn’t likely to overcome.

You can listen to the Podcast at RiShawn Biddle’s radio page or download directly to your iPod or MP3 player. Also, subscribe to get the podcasts every week. It is also available on iTunes, Blubrry, Podcast Alley and the Education Podcast Network.

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