Rich districts get richer on Title I funds

Title I, the federal government’s largest K-12 program, is increasing the inequality it was created to stop, according to a U.S. News analysis. Due to multiple, convoluted funding formulas, rich school districts get millions meant for poor kids.

Twenty percent of Title I money for poor students – $2.6 billion – ends up in school districts with an above-average proportion of wealthy families.

Struggling Nottoway County, Virginia, where 30 percent of students come from low-income families, receives less Title 1 funding per poor student than wealthy Fairfax County.

Mobility? Non-profit colleges fall short

Upward mobility is a myth for many students who borrow to attend private non-profit colleges, a Third Way report, Incomplete: The Quality Crisis at America’s Private, Non-Profit Colleges.

New, full-time low- and moderate-income students who start at a four-year, nonprofit college have only a 50-50 shot at earning a degree, the report concludes.

Most low- and moderate-income students enroll in less selective colleges with low graduation rates. Looking at net price — what students pay after grants, scholarships and loans — the unselective colleges cost the most.

“Using our mobility metric, the average net tuition paid by low- and moderate-income students was lowest at top-quartile schools ($15,938) and highest at bottom-quartile schools ($18,776),” warns Third Way.

Six years after enrolling, nearly 40 percent of students who borrowed for college don’t earn any more than the average worker with only a high school diploma. On average, 19 percent of borrowers fall behind on repaying loans three years out of college.

Here’s what Third Way doesn’t quite say: College is an engine of upward mobility for students who have the academic preparation to get into a selective college and complete a degree. For those with weak academic skills or shaky motivation, college can lead to debt (that can’t be discharged by bankruptcy) without raising earning power.

“If we’re serious about promoting equality and removing barriers that keep the less fortunate from getting ahead,” we should ban the college box,” writes Glenn Reynolds in USA Today. “If you have to go to college to move up in the world, a lot of people aren’t going to move up.”

Clinton abandons ed reform

Hillary Clinton is abandoning education reform, writes Jonathan Chait in New York Magazine.

In New York’s affluent suburban districts, test-hating parents “have joined forces with teachers unions, who see standardized tests as a tool that subjects them to unwanted accountability,” he writes.

Facing Bernie Sanders in the state’s presidential primary, Clinton is courting the “opt-out” vote.

Giving a national test once a year makes no sense, said Bill Clinton last week. Instead, he called for  “investing the same amount of money in helping the teachers to be better teachers.”

How would we know whether teachers are getting better?

“Testing is an important tool to measure racial and economic equality,” writes Chait.

A report this year by Ulrich Boser and Catherine Brown at the Center for American Progress found that states that use standards-based reform have produced better outcomes for low-income children. . . .  Not surprisingly, civil-rights organizations representing African-Americans and Latinos have argued to keep in place annual national testing.

. . . Bill Clinton framed his wife’s position in remarkable terms: “She thinks [the tests] are just too much, that it’s national overreach,” he said, “and the most it could ever do is to help people at the very bottom levels of achievement.”

Is “helping people at the bottom . . .  so insignificant that it’s not worth doing?” asks Chait. “What a thing for a Democrat to say!”

“You can’t solve problems you don’t have information about,” says Derrell Bradford,  executive director at the New York Campaign for Achievement Now, in an Ed Week story on testing flip-flops. “Saying you don’t need test data to make decisions about how to improve schools is like saying we can solve wealth inequality without income data and job reports. It’s just not real.”

African-American parents are the strongest supporters of school testing, reports Education Post. Most think tests are “fair and necessary” and “should be used to help parents identify areas where their child needs extra help.”

Atlanta merges best, worst high schools

Atlanta has merged its highest-performing high school with one of its lowest-performing schools, reports Molly Bloom for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Dr. Thomas Gosha teaches his world geometry class at Early College High School At Carver on Wednesday, Jan. 20. Atlanta school superintendent Meria Carstarphen has combined one of the worst high schools in the city with the very best one. If Carver School of Technology doesn’t improve this year, it could be eligible for state takeover under Gov. Deal’s Opportunity School District plan, if voters authorize it in November. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Dr. Thomas Gosha teaches world geography at Early College High School. Photo: Hyosub Shin, AJC.com

In 2005, Carver High was split into an Early College school for motivated achievers and several open-enrollment schools, including Carver School of Technology, an F school at risk of takeover by the state.

“They’ve gotten rid of their top performing school by combining it with the lowest performing school,” says Sandra Bethea, who chose Early College High for her daughter two years ago. “They’ve set the school up for failure.”

There are more fights, she said. Her daughter’s teachers spend more time disciplining students and less time teaching. School staff have less time for extra help. And her daughter spent the first semester her English class reviewing last year’s material, so School of Technology students could catch up.

Suspension rates are down and attendance rates are up for School of Technology students this fall, writes Bloom. “Significantly fewer fights were reported.” But suspensions are up for Early College students and “three fights were reported, compared to none reported last fall.”

Early College students meet most high school requirements in their first two years, then take college classes at Georgia State University or Atlanta Metropolitan State College as juniors and seniors.

Is good parenting unfair?

Parents who provide love, guidance and bedtime stories are giving their children an unfair advantage, argued Adam Swift, a British philosopher, on Australian radio.

“The difference between those who get bedtime stories and those who don’t — the difference in their life chances — is bigger than the difference between those who get elite private schooling and those that don’t,” said Swift.

He’s toyed with the idea of “solving the social justice problem . . . by simply abolishing the family,” but given it up as impractical.

Nor does Swift want to ban bedtime stories, but he’d like story-reading parents to feel guilty “occasionally” for “unfairly disadvantaging other people’s children.”

I’ll give them my Goodnight Moon when they pry it from my cold deads.

Swift and colleague Harry Brighouse want to ban inheritance and private schooling, writes J.D. Tuccille on Reason’s Hit & Run.

In their book, Family Values: The Ethics of Family-Child Relationships, they argue “a child’s interest in autonomy severely limits parents’ right to shape their children’s values.”

In Kurt Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron, a Handicapper General makes sure that no American is any smarter, stronger or otherwise better than the average American. It was a cautionary tale, not a how-to manual, notes Tuccille.

My Little Pony vs. equality

My Little Pony is showing children the dangers of “enforced equality,” writes Brandon Morse on The Federalist.

In “The Cutie Map, Parts 1 and 2”, the main-character ponies visit a town where the smiling, ever-pleasant ponies bear a gray equal sign in place of the distinctive “cutie mark,” that shows a pony’s distinctive traits and powers.

. . . They have given up the things that make them unique, because uniqueness causes animosity between ponies, and thus discord. The main characters meet the leader of the town, Starlight Glimmer, who soon takes them all up to a cave that holds all the cutie marks of the village inhabitants.

Springing a trap, Starlight Glimmer steals the cutie marks from the main characters, replacing their marks with the black equal sign. The main characters are quickly thrown in jail until they have properly resocialized into the correct kind of thinking.

The hero ponies expose Starlight Glimmer as a phony who’s kept her own cutie mark.

After the leader has been exposed, the town revolts, reclaiming their cutie marks and thus their individuality. Using their reclaimed unique skills, they rescue the main characters’ marks and thus their powers, while chasing the villain into a mountain cave system, where they lose her. The show ends with the now-unique and fun-looking village having a party.

To children, this message is clear. It’s better to be yourself than to be the same as everyone else.

Morse sees the story as a blow at Marxism. It also could be seen as a stand in favor of diversity.

Liberal parenting gone wrong

A “diehard, bleeding-heart liberal,” Darlena Cunha has turned her twin daughters into tantrum-throwing brats, she writes in the Washington Post.

I’m sure there are plenty of liberal parents with more common sense and better behaved children. Surely, liberal need not mean wimp. But read on.

Cunha wants her girls, now 6, “to think critically, to fight for fairness and justice whenever they can. I want them to value equality above all else.”

Equality is the top value? Really? And what happens when one kid is fighting for fairness and justice, while the other is fighting for equality of results?

Cunha gave each girl the same number of gumballs, but one daughter lost some. She asked for more.

 “Now I have less and that’s not fair,” she moaned.

“But they’re my candy! It’s not my fault we lost some of hers!” the other one replied.

My solution — to put all the gumballs together in one bowl and  split them equally — was unacceptable to both. All afternoon, they threw tantrums, slammed doors, or tried to slyly outwit me, crumbling when I didn’t fall for it.

“How about we keep our own gumballs and I get an extra other kind of candy that she doesn’t get?” said one.

“Why am I being punished for her missing candy?” asked the other.

Three hours later, Cunha split the remaining gumballs equally, rewarding one daughter’s carelessness at the expense of the other.

Cunha wanted “strong, confident girls who are able to assess situations and logically thwart unequal systems.” At least for now, she has  “very dissatisfied girls who don’t know if their mother is their friend, their adversary or their keeper.”

My daughter wanted me to buy her candy but had not behaved well enough to warrant an extra treat.

“Mom,” my daughter said, “people without money need help, and people with money need to help them.”

“Yes, that’s right,” I said.

“Well, I don’t have money, and you do, so you need to help me and buy this.”

A perfectly well-reasoned, thought-out argument.

When the answer was still no, she tantrumed and screamed, and I had to drag her out of the store.

Cunha isn’t going to “go authoritarian,” but she plans to “teach the girls about priorities,” such as “why it’s more important to go to school than color in the mornings.”

I foresee more whining and tantrums ahead.

When my daughter was very young, I decided to raise her to be the sort of person I’d want to live with for 18 years. I did not want to live with a brat, so I made sure that whining, nagging and sulking would not work with me, ever. My daughter learned how to get a version of what she wanted — some of the time — by listening and proposing alternatives. She uses her excellent negotiating skills in her career.

Celebrating girls — or stereotypes?

“Empowering” girls can look a lot like enforcing gender stereotypes, writes Scott Richardson on Pacific Standard.

His daughter participates in Girls on the Run, a 5K run (or walk) for girls — no boys allowed — in third through eighth grade.
(Photo: Girls on the Run)Volunteer coaches lead their team through a pre-packaged curriculum designed to “encourage positive emotional, social, mental and physical development.” Girls discuss self-esteem, confidence, teamwork, healthy relationships, and “challenges girls face.”

Though boys are banned, older male relatives and friends run with girls as “sponsors.”

Men, women and girls are encouraged to “girl it up” with “skirts, tutus, big bows, bold patterned knee-high socks, tiaras, etc.), apply make-up or face paint, and spray color their hair,” writes Richardson.

There’s nothing for girls who might want to “butch it up.”

Richardson also questions “bombarding girls with ‘positive’ messages about themselves meant to counteract negative ones.” The program implies “that girls aren’t considered equal to boys.”

“What messages are girls really getting when special programs are aimed at trying to make them feel good about themselves as girls?” he asks.

The unfairness of education

Today (or, rather, within the next half-hour) I am going to take up the idea that education is at least somewhat unfair at the core. In the many discussions I have heard about “education for all,” those who say “education is never for all” end up playing the role of lone heretics. So my purpose here will be to take examine this claim and follow it where it might lead.

Let us define fairness as the principle of giving to each according to his or her deserts. Let us also assume that each student deserves a good education as much as the next. (Each of these assumptions could be contested, but let’s leave them for now.) Thus, fairness in education would consist of offering each student a good education.

Already, there is a complication: education is not only an offering; the student must also participate in it. More about that shortly.

Consider this basic truth (forgetting for the moment about qualifications): Any given lesson, no matter what it contains and how it’s taught, will be more helpful, appropriate, interesting, or accessible (physically or intellectually) for some than for others.

You can mitigate this unfairness by “differentiating” instruction or by dividing students into homogeneous groupings. Each of these solutions brings its own drawbacks, its own kind of unfairness. Differentiating can fragment instruction; tracking can result in limited opportunities for those in the lower tracks.

As a student, you can mitigate the situation by altering your own situation. For instance, if your class isn’t challenging enough, you can seek out additional challenge. If it’s too difficult, you can seek assistance.

None of these adjustments takes away the basic unfairness of the setup. This unfairness has a hidden good: although not all students receive the same thing from a lesson, it remains an offering; in other words, there is something to be received from it. In addition, quality and “reach” are not always at odds with each other; a course can begin by reaching only a few students and end by reaching the majority, simply because of the influence of the instruction.

So I will posit that the unfairness of education should not be eradicated across the board; to the contrary, educators should consider which aspects of the unfairness to preserve, and which to discard or mitigate.

Let us take the controversy over the “specialized” high schools (that is, elite public high schools such as Stuyvesant) in New York City. There is currently great pressure on these schools to increase their racial and ethnic diversity. This brings up a dilemma.

On the one hand, there’s good reason for them to retain their admissions standards. The entrance exam does test math and reading proficiency and mental stamina–prerequisites for the academic work that the schools require. Granted, any single test is an imperfect measure, for a variety of reasons–but once you get into “multiple measures,” you risk lowering the standards for admission. On the other hand, there are plenty of highly intelligent, competent, and focused African American and Hispanic students. It’s worth asking what could be done to admit more of them to the specialized schools.

(For instance, Brooklyn Latin had a practice–and maybe still does–of working with students who just barely fell short of the cut on the test. Another option would be to adopt a double measure: the test and a piece of academic work, for instance.)

In other words, there are several kinds of unfairness at work here. Some kinds are essential to the nature of the specialized schools; other kinds could be eradicated.

In short, certain kinds of unfairness in education are inevitable, even good, while other kinds are not. Making education completely fair will destroy its essence; complacency with all unfairness will make it brittle and cruel. One must sort out the different kinds of unfairness and decide which ones should stay and which should go.

Resegregation now

May 17 will be the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision striking down “separate but equal” public education, notes Ronald Brownstein in The Atlantic.  Another milestone will be reached in June: The end of the last school year in which a majority of K-12 public school students are white.

 That demographic transformation is both reinvigorating and reframing Brown’s fundamental goal of ensuring educational opportunity for all Americans. . . . the ruling provided irresistible moral authority to the drive for legal equality that culminated in the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts a decade later.

Yet many complain the decision didn’t really end school segregation, writes Brownstein. Inequality remains a problem.

Segregation Now looks at the resegregation of Tuscaloosa, Alabama schools after a court order was lifted.

The citywide integrated high school is gone, replaced by three smaller schools. Central retains the name of the old powerhouse, but nothing more. A struggling school serving the city’s poorest part of town, it is 99 percent black. . . .  Predominantly white neighborhoods adjacent to Central have been gerrymandered into the attendance zones of other, whiter schools.

No all-white schools exist anymore—the city’s white students generally attend schools with significant numbers of black students.  . . . (But)  nearly one in three black students attends a school that looks as if Brown v. Board of Education never happened.

When all the city’s public students attended Central, the school racked up academic and athletic honors, writes Nikole Hannah-Jones for ProPublica. The dropout rate was less than half the state’s average.

The school was hardly perfect. Black students were disproportionately funneled into vocational classes, and white students into honors classes. . . . the white flight that had begun when the courts first ordered the district to desegregate continued, slowly, after the formation of the mega-school. But despite these challenges, large numbers of black students studied the same robust curriculum as white students, and students of both races mixed peacefully and thrived.

Many whites moved to county schools which are predominantly white or to private schools: only 22 percent of Tuscaloosa’s public students are white. Surveys showed whites would leave if a school’s black enrollment hit 70 percent. So school officials — with some black support — concentrated a third of black students in all-black schools in hopes of keeping other schools integrated.

Hannah-Jones makes the case that Central offers less to its top students than the city’s integrated high schools. She focuses on an honor student — also a star athlete and student body president — whose low ACT scores put any selective college out of reach.

D’Leisha’s grandfather went through segregated schools, served in the Air Force, then worked a blue-collar job. Her mother went to Central High at the peak of integration, went to college, dropped out to have a baby but returned to earn a degree from the University of Alabama. She worked as a teacher’s aide, but now earns more on an auto factory assembly line. She’s supporting four children as a single parent.