Tag: Texas Education Agency


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Read: Special Ed Edition


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What’s happening in the dropout nation: There are children such as this child in this photo (a sufferer from Shaken Baby disorder and blind) who need special education. But why…

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What’s happening in the dropout nation:

  1. There are children such as this child in this photo (a sufferer from Shaken Baby disorder and blind) who need special education. But why is it that at least ten percent of black, white and Latino boys are routinely labeled as learning disabled and often landing in special ed? Especially when the nature of their “learning disability” is likely specious at best? I lay out the scope of the special ed crisis today in The American Spectator.
  2. By the way, let’s be real: Special ed, along with alternative schools, is the black hole of public education. It is also the black hole  for the school reform movement; it isn’t as sexy to talk about as charters or vouchers or as dry and yet seemingly meaningful as national standards. The inaction by both traditional public school supporters and many school reformers speaks volumes about what they really think about improving education for every child. Badly.
  3. The most-disappointing state competiting for Race to the Top funding? The dubious distinction goes to Maryland, according to Andy Smarick. But Texas — once a leading pioneer in school reform — may end up ranking a close second.
  4. Kevin Carey analyzes the NAEP urban math results and notes how far down Detroit has gone.
  5. Why the New York City Department of Education remains the gold standard for school reform: A willingness to shut down failing schools such as this one in Harlem, according to the New York Times (via EducationNews).
  6. Like stopped clocks, Heather Mac Donald gets one right every now and then. This time, it’s on the decades-old move by California to make full immersion in English the standard for bilingual education.

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The Read


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What is happening inside — and outside — the dropout nation. Updated throughout the day (new stories and updates marked by *): The revolving door: Some 1,352 freshmen in California’s…

These lockers should be filled by the kids who have dropped out. Let's find a way to bring them back.

These lockers should be filled by the kids who have dropped out. Let's find a way to bring them back.

What is happening inside — and outside — the dropout nation. Updated throughout the day (new stories and updates marked by *):

  • The revolving door: Some 1,352 freshmen in California’s San Bernardino school district dropped out of school at least once, according to WestEd in a study that included the district. Yet a third of those students returned to school at least once — even though a mere 77 of them would ever gain a diploma. Why? WestEd told the Press-Enterprise that the reasons were myriad. Some just returned in order to meet a condition of probation while others tried to avoid getting a General Educational Development certificate, which has less value for job seekers. And some wanted to bolster their chances of getting a job. One wonders what solutions can be extended to these returning dropouts so they can finally stay in school and get true diplomas.
  • Race and a poorly-run school district: Houston’s North Forest school district is a mess. It’s high schools is rated as one of the worst in the Lone Star State; charges of test cheating has haunted its other high school (now shuttered) were alleged int the pages of the Dallas Morning News last year. Its special education program has been accused of misconduct by parents, according to another news investigation. And it’s insolvent. So what happens when state education officials move to remove the school board? The board members hires a civil rights attorney to keep them ensconced in their seats. And, of course, being a majority-black school district run by an all-black board, the board members and their friends in the state legislature (along with Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee) are claiming the board is being removed due to racism. Fail children and then claim bigotry? How nice.
  • More Broader, Bolder: Kevin Carey wishes that the anti-No Child Left Behind group — which includes dropout crisis skeptic Lawrence Mishel of the NEA-funded Economic Policy Institute — would actually explain their positions and why they hold them. Alexander Russo gets a response from Mishel to some questions about the position of Broader, Bolder on testing.

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There is no public school choice


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The parents of some 260,000 Texas school students will not learn whether their child will be allowed to move from the poor-performing schools they currently attend to better ones as…

The parents of some 260,000 Texas school students will not learn whether their child will be allowed to move from the poor-performing schools they currently attend to better ones as allowed under the No Child Left Behind Act until, October, a month after the beginning of the school year, according to the Houston Chronicle. Not surprising, advocates for those parents are a tad steamed. They should be: The Texas Education Agency, for one, was fined by the federal government three years ago for failing to give parents timely notice about their school choice options.

The latest delayed notification once again spotlights one of the realities of public education: Public school choice doesn’t truly exist, especially for parents of children attending the worst of America’s traditional schools.

Opponents of public charter schools and other forms of school choice generally argue that there is plenty of choice within the traditional public school district in which one resides. At least, that is the theory, especially as magnet schools and other programs have sprouted up in response to those calls for options. No Child’s public choice provision is also cited by choice opponents as an example of public school options.

The choices, however, must be high-quality in order for parents to exercise them; the better-performing campuses can’t just be marginally better than the other dropout factories and academic failure assembly lines in the district. The reality, as I’ve noted over the years while covering the 11 school districts in Indianapolis, is that this isn’t the case. Considering that the label “dropout factory” can — and should — be applied to entire school districts such as Baltimore, Indianapolis Public Schools and Detroit, one can’t help but agree that few parents have little of quality from which to choose.

Even if there are high quality schools and programs,  parents and students must go through gatekeepers — in the form of teachers and guidance counselors — in order to get into them. And depending on the parent’s relationship with those gatekeepers — and more importantly, how that child is perceived by them — these kids may never get the chance to exercise their academic potential. This can be seen in the low numbers of black students participating in AP courses and in the very classes at the elementary- and middle-school levels that prepare them to get into them. As noted by Christopher McGinley, the former superintendent of Pennsylvania’s Cheltenham School district and now the head of the school district in Lower Merion, school districts don’t help middle-class black parents — many of whom are the first in their generation to reach such status –in getting the information they need to make the choices needed to get their kids on that path.

Just as important in the choice question is the ability to use the options in a timely manner with no delay. As seen in Texas (and in Indiana, where similar delays have ocurred), few parents get the information they need in a timely manner; this despite the fact that both district- and state-level officials know which laggard schools will land on the Adequate Yearly Progress list long before all the processing is completed. By the time parents get the information, it’s either summertime — when no one is thinking about schools — or at the beginning of the school year, when plans have already been made.

Before all this, they must know they have choices in the first place. Justin Bathon and Terry Spradlin of Indiana University’s Center for Evaluation and Education Policy reported in a study released last year that such lack of notice — the problem at the heart of the Texas imbroglio — is widespread. Fifty-eight of school districts failed to timely notify parents of their choice options during the 2005-06 school year, according to the General Accountability Office. No wonder why just one percent of the 3.9 million children eligible for school choice options under No Child actually exercised them.

This lack of real public school choice is especially galling when one realizes that state governments, on average, now provide nearly half of all school funding — and in cases such as California and Indiana, the percentage is even greater. State governments can, if they so choose, actually create public school options that stretch across an entire state, allowing parents and children to choose good schools that are still close to their neighborhoods — or, if they choose, make the commute to a better school in the next district. As school data systems become more longitudinal, the concept of dollars actually following the child can truly become a reality, ending the kind of segregation that limits choice.

But this will take a willingness on the part of reform-minded policymakers, school reform advocates and chambers of commerce to spar with suburban school districts and the parents who send their children to those schools. Although those districts can be just as academically inadequate as their urban peers, their problems aren’t as easy to see; public school choice could expose those flaws even more than No Child’s AYP provision already have. And from the perspective of suburban parents, they have already exercised school choice and thus, care little about those who cannot. Essentially the “I got mine, get yours” mentality at work.

This also means battling teachers unions, who don’t want their urban district rank-and-file to lose their jobs. Public school choice, if exercised widely, would also be a verdict on the instruction given by those teachers who are not as good at the jobs as others. And urban districts, of course, wouldn’t be too fond of this either.

Until real options are made a reality, public school choice is more of a fantasy in the minds of those defending the status quo than for the parents and children stuck with little option at all.

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The Read


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What’s happening inside — and outside — the dropout nation. Updated throughout the day: Losing track of the black kids, Texas style*: Black students account for 15 percent of school…

Two dropout factories later, Dontike Miller is now studying for a GED. And it isn't a Good Enough Diploma. Photo courtesy of AP

Two dropout factories later, Dontike Miller is now studying for a GED. And it isn't a Good Enough Diploma. Photo courtesy of AP

What’s happening inside — and outside — the dropout nation. Updated throughout the day:

  1. Losing track of the black kids, Texas style*: Black students account for 15 percent of school enrollment in the state, yet account for a quarter of the 13,100 or so 7th-through12th grade students for which the state’s traditional and public charter schools could not account, according to a report from the Texas Education Agency. Some districts and schools can’t account for as much as 12 percent of their middle-and-high school students. Nancy Smith of the Data Quality Campaign, which advocates for improving school data systems, tells the Austin American-Statesman that the fact that its a little odd that blacks account for so many of the unaccounted student population; it appears to be less a systemic data problem than possibly a racial issue.  Jimmy Kilpatrick, the Texan who runs EducationNews.org, on the other hand isn’t surprised at all (and neither am I). Says Kilpatrick: “Just look around crack houses and the jails and you will find all the “lost” blacks. These kids dropped out by 4th grade and few cared!”
  2. Wielding clout: As I’ve noted previously, teachers unions are well-placed to wield clout inside the nation’s 50 statehouses and at the local level. Not only do they have the bodies — through local affiliates and the teacher corps — to lobby legislators on behalf of their goals, there is also the warchests they build up thanks to dues collected from the rank-and-file. So it’s no surprise that the New York Public Interest Research Group finds that the New York State United Teachers — the largest affiliate of both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers — is spending $2.3 million on winning budget votes in local districts. Essentially, says NYPIRG’s Blair Horner to the Examiner, United Teachers is basically wielding its warchest the way one would use  “a Howitzer on a mosquito.”
  3. Meanwhile the United Teachers is also spending $2.8 million on lobbying and campaign donations this year, according to NYPIRG. Only Verizon, the phone giant, spent more lobbying and backing politicians.
  4. When a good premise goes bad: Former University of Kentucky Professor Martty Solomon asks a good question in his EducationNews piece: Why embark on reforms with no facts or research. But then, he delivers a mishmash of pseudohistory and rubbish: Bashing the No Child Left Behind Act for allegedly turning schools into “testing factories” even though, if anything, the tests are hardly high-stakes or even very difficult for those who are actually taught the curriculum. Before that, he takes shots at the concept of providing college-preparatory — rigorous, solid — curriculum to students, blaming the introduction of such high standards for the dropout crisis; this despite the fact that few students graduated from high school for most of this century, that graduation rates may have been low for decades and that high schools were originally developed as prep schools based on the concepts expoused by legendary Harvard University president Charles William Eliot. High schools only became comprehensive during the 20th Century, when educators — driven in part by the belief that immigrant children and blacks were incapable of receiving a college prep education, pushed for a diversity of choices (including shop classes) so that kids would stay in school, if not receive a high-quality education.
  5. Not that it’s worth the paper its printed on, but still: Just 54 percent of Wisconsin adult education students testing for the General Educational Development certificate — the not Good Enough Diploma as I call it around here — completed the battery of exams needed to gain it, according to the American Council on Education. That’s lower than the 86 percent average. Only 44 percent passed it. The real question that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel should have asked is how many dropouts taking adult education classes for the test actually completed the classes.
  6. The other question that should be asked? How many of those students are 16-to-18 year-olds who should be in high school in the first place. I’ll tell you this much: In Indiana, high school-participating teens accounted for 30 percent of the adult education enrollment. That was the third-highest percentage after Alabama and Vermont. The answer to the question would give some real insights into how poorly Wisconsin’s children are faring in school.
  7. How about just giving the teens a strong academic education they can use anywhere: Such a statement goes counter to the position of school superintendent Paul R. Hay in the Mercury News, who contends that dropouts should learn technical skills. Essentially, one can conclude from his piece that he is suggesting a typical educator line: That at-risk students and dropouts are too inept to learn Trigonometry, Algebra or pre-Calculus (the first two, by the way, are used in welding and machine tool-making, both of which can be considered high-skilled ‘technical’ jobs). My question: Why can’t a plumber know Chaucer too? In fact, I know plenty of bus drivers in Indianapolis and in my hometown of New York that are better-traveled (and read) than some reporters, teachers and stock brokers.
  8. Cutting out the shenanigans*: The New York Times actually calls for a smart improvement in the No Child Left Behind Act: Make states actually show that they are actually improving student learning instead of playing the gamesmanship of lowering standards, cut scores and other moves. One idea from the editorial board — or more likely Brent Staples, the resident education guru: “Congress needs to take the testing issue head-on. It should instruct the NAEP board, an independent body created by the government, to create a rigorous test that would be given free to states that agreed to use NAEP scoring standards.” Agreed.

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