All Articles Tagged "public school"
Christian Science Monitor recently asked the question: “School suspensions: Does racial bias feed the school-to-prison pipeline?” According to the magazine, the sharp increase in school suspensions may increase the likelihood of more minority youth entering then prison system – and even violate civil rights.
According to a recent study, there is a racial discrepancy between suspensions. Christian Science Monitor cited the example of two students—an African-American kindergarten student and a white ninth grader– who set off fire alarms in the same school district. The black student was suspended for five days; the other for one day.
According to data gathered nationally by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), while African Americans make up 18 percent of students, they account for 46 percent of students suspended more than once, 39 percent of students expelled, and 36 percent of students arrested on campus. The data was taken from 72,000 American public schools in the 2009-10 school year.
Looking at the white student population however, the stats are remarkably different. White students make up 29 percent of multiple suspensions and 33 percent of expulsions – but 51 percent of the students.
On the whole, school suspension have been on the rise. In 1976, nearly 1.8 million students were suspended – four percent of all public school students; by 2006, the number of students suspended had nearly doubled to 3.3 million, about seven percent of all students, found the Department of Education.
And the racial divide has sharpened as well. “Nearly two decades of a ‘zero tolerance’ mentality has contributed dramatically to a spike in exclusionary discipline that involves racial disparities, youth and civil rights advocates say,” reports the magazine.
This affects college applicants and then, further down the line, job opportunities for minorities. According to a groundbreaking 2011 Texas study that tracked more than one million students for six years called “Breaking Schools’ Rules” by the Council of State Governments Justice Center in New York, of the 15 percent of students suspended or expelled 11 or more times in Texas, only four in 10 graduated within one to three years of their expected graduation date.
And with a lack of opportunities, this could lead some to the prison system. The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights recently considered testimony about the school-to-prison pipeline – and how some communities are trying to reverse it.
Critics say there is no connection. Mo Canady, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers, said at the Senate hearing that in the past two decades school crime as well as juvenile arrests have declined at the same time that schools have expanded the use of resource officers – typically armed police who are trained to work with students.
Still, some school districts are changing the way they practice discipline. Last year, Colorado passed the Smart School Discipline Bill, which eliminates mandatory suspensions and expulsions for anything except carrying a firearm reports the Christian Science Monitor. And, a new law in Massachusetts says students can no longer be permanently excluded from school, and gives them the right to alternative education if they are suspended for more than 10 days and also requires schools to work with students to try to improve their behavior before excluding them from school. Other states have passed or are looking at similar laws.
As we move into the fifth day of the strike involving Chicago’s public school teachers, an end may be in sight. Chicago Public Schools and the city’s teachers union say they have some “number crunching” to do, but so much progress has been made that teachers and students could be back in classrooms on Monday. The Chicago Tribune reports that the union has asked supporters to come out for a final protest tomorrow at noon.
There is a proposal for resolving the big issue — how teachers will be evaluated — that will put a tiered system in place, in addition to weighing student test scores. Those exam results will count for 30 to 35 percent of the evaluation process with student surveys and principal observations also put into consideration. Tenured teachers won’t be fired during the first year as the new system works itself out. All teachers will be given a chance to improve if they receive an unsatisfactory evaluation.
As we reported the other day, the strike has wide-reaching implications for the black community. The number of minority teachers in Chicago has dropped. Parents and students have been inconvenienced by the strike, with some parents having to change their work schedules or pay for other child care arrangements. There was concern that the relationship between President Obama and unions could be negatively impacted if the strike dragged on. And the questions of education reform came to the forefront.
This resolution will by no means resolve the public education issues that the country faces. But trying a new system could put us one step closer to improving a system that’s responsible for educating millions of kids, our next generation of leaders and thinkers.
*Update: A tentative deal has been reached.
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Viola Davis is no stranger to playing controversial roles.
While it was her role as Aibileen Clark in The Help that garnered her an Oscar nomination, her role, as well as the film in general, caused quite a stir in the black community for its Disney like portrayal of race relations in the 1960s, particularly that belonging to black maids and their white employers. Now, Davis now finds herself under scrutiny again for a her role in a new film called Won’t Back Down, which also stars Maggie Gyllenhaal, Holly Hunter and Ving Rhames.
In the film, which has a release date of September 28th, Davis stars as school teacher/single mom, who teams up with a bartender/single mom, to tackle the monumental challenges of fixing a crumbling inner city school. In the trailer for the film, we see Gyllenhaal angrily pontificating over the need for change after her daughter, who we learn can’t read, is seen crying in the school’s broom closet after being punched in the face by a teacher. Not sure what Viola’s plot points are, as the trailer doesn’t focus much on her grievances, other than being sidekick to a feisty, motivated white woman. But this film is said to have been inspired by a true events and we get to watch as these two lead the charge against an entrenched bureaucracy to takeover a school through a fictionalized version of a parent trigger law. These laws, passed in 2010, give parents the option to petition to overhaul the staff in an underperforming public school and turn it into a charter school.
The film has the same sort of David versus Goliath feel good education stories we come to be fond of over the years. Movies like Lean on Me, Stand and Deliver and Dangerous Minds largely appeal to us because it gives us hope that the answer to poverty and rampant violence in some of our poorest urban communities comes solely in the form of high educational standards and tough as nails, overly-devoted teachers, who are not only willing to buck the system but stand in as absentee parents to these wayward children as well. As such, it should be hit. However, despite the feel good nature, the film is also being heavily criticized for allegedly pushing an anti-union, pro-charter school agenda.
Some critics have complained that the film is a cloak its anti-teacher, anti-union slate, particularly highlight the films focus on “parent trigger” laws, which has been used to replaced unionized teachers with non-union charter schools. Such laws have been passed in several states, including California, Texas, Mississippi and Louisiana with more states considering their adoption. Moreover, the film itself is produced through partnership between 20th Century Fox and Walden Media, a subsidiary of Anschutz Entertainment Group, which in turn is a subsidiary of the Anschutz Company. The Anschutz company is owned by Philip Anschutz, an oil-and-gas billionaire, who has donated money to Americans for Prosperity, a right wing, anti- union, anti-environment regulations, anti-Obamacare (among other things), political advocacy group founded by the Koch Brothers. Besides Won’t Back Down, Anschutz is also behind the 2010 film Waiting for ‘Superman,’ a documentary called by many educators as inaccurate propaganda meant to push a pro-charter school agenda.
According to Parents Across America, a pro-public school education group, these parent trigger legislations are part of a larger pro-school privatization model legislation, written and promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). For those unaware, ALEC is federalist and conservative lobbying group, which pairs corporations with legislators for the creation of model bills. Portions, if not all, of these model bills have found themselves the basis of actual state and federal laws including various school privatization acts, voter ID laws and Stand Your Ground/Castle Doctrine laws, which were hotly debated in the Trayvon Martin killing.
If other inner-city school districts are anything like the one I witness several days out of the week, it’s understandable why many parents are opting out of the education system completely for an opportunity to educate their children a variety of curriculum in the safety of their own home. More students are in the hallways than in the classroom nowadays (and that’s if they even bother coming to school at all). Political power plays leave educators and supporting staff who are actually invested in students unmotivated, powerless and in the worst case, jobless. Confusion and competition at the top of the education chain leads to a chaotic learning environment where students often fall at the losing end.
In my own childhood I had the chance to be both a student of a catholic school for 10 years (grades Pre-K to eight) and a high school student at a small magnet school in Philadelphia whose curriculum focused on college preparation and world relations. I often take for granted the advantage that having a solid, well-rounded basic education gave me. As a parent, you’d like to believe that everyday you’re sending your child to a place where for seven to eight hours a day they’re gaining the skills necessary to be critical thinkers and competitive players in the real world. Unfortunately, with all of the stories of sexual assault and molestation, violence and bullying, I often wonder how much learning is actually being achieved. We all know that children thrive on routine and structure, so I’m also troubled by the idea that many children who are already coming from unstable family situations can no longer find security and safety in the “typical school day.”
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(Washington Examiner) — Two-thirds go for private schools D.C. Council members are sending their kids to pricey private schools instead of putting them in the city’s troubled public system that they urge other parents to invest in. Just one councilman sends his child to a neighborhood public school — in upper-middle-class Cleveland Park. Council Chairman Kwame Brown sends his kids to the same top-performing elementary school instead of his neighborhood school in Anacostia. The other four with school-age children send them to private schools.
The public school system has been forced to a new low, requiring students to pay to participate in extracurricular activities and even some basic classes. With new “pay to play” rules being implemented in schools across the country, an invisible line is being drawn in classrooms separating the have’s from the have not’s – those whose parents can afford for them to take Spanish and play basketball, and those who can’t. Kids from poor or working class families will now be unable to enjoy school the way their wealthier peers do, on top of receiving a one-sided and decidedly lesser education. This sounds like the perfect way to lose the president’s “race to the top” initiative.
“Public schools across the country, struggling with cuts in state funding, rising personnel costs and lower tax revenues, are shifting costs to students and their parents by imposing or boosting fees for everything from enrolling in honors English to riding the bus,” The Wall Street Journal reports. “At high schools in several states, it can cost more than $200 just to walk in the door, thanks to registration fees, technology fees and unspecified ‘instructional fees.’”
What a sad day in the nation’s history. Grade school is the place people decide their college majors or dream about a future career or nourish a penchant for debate or earn sports scholarships for college. The pay to play method effectively strips all of those opportunities from the children who need them most, providing an even more narrow window for them to climb through for success. This sounds like an attack on the middle and lower class – and it’s always dirty to get children involved.
According to Karen Dombi, a parent profiled in the Journal article, the total cost for a year of Spanish I and Earth Sciences, band, cross-country and tack for her children was $4,446.50. “I’m wondering, am I going to be paying for my parking spot at the school? Because you’re making me pay for just about everything else,” Dombi told the Journal.
With school so hard up that companies are paying to advertise on school buses and in text books, you just may have to pay for that parking spot Ms. Dombi. And while parents are deciding if they can afford the parking space fee to attend their kid’s parent-teacher conference, the school system is making an even bigger decision for them: Children who can’t afford to compete in enriching school activities simply won’t be able to compete in the real world. It’s decided.
(AP) — The House has voted to cut Texas public school funding by $4 billion. Voting largely along party lines, lawmakers approved the cuts Sunday on a 84-63 vote in the Republican-controlled House. The Senate was still debating the bill late Sunday night.
(New York Times) — In a city where so many public schools are segregated by race and wealth, Public School 9 in Brooklyn is an exception. It has a substantial number of poor children, with about 75 percent receiving subsidized lunches. And because it is in a gentrifying neighborhood, Prospect Heights, the school also has a sizable number of yuppie children. The co-presidents of the parent-teacher organization are Nelly Heredia, a single mother with two children who is out of work, and Penelope Mahot, a married mother with two children who owns a product design company and a gift store. The mothers like the same things about P.S. 9: the principal, Sandra D’Avilar, makes herself available to parents; the school is full of experienced teachers; the parents’ groups are thriving; the children are learning; there are classes in art, music, theater and dance. The parents also share a concern: P.S. 9 ends at fifth grade, and the district’s middle schools are weak. “The middle school my older daughter goes to is nothing like this,” Ms. Heredia said. There is a middle school in the P.S. 9 building, M.S. 571, but it is low-performing, and on Dec. 6, the Department of Education announced plans to phase it out. That got P.S. 9 parents thinking. Why not use the soon-to-be-vacant space in their building to expand to eighth grade? “I talked to several people about the idea,” said Christina LaBrie, a lawyer who has two children at P.S. 9.