Education

Billionaires Behind the Attack on Public Education in California Tenure Suit

AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes
AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Welch makes comments on the Vergara v. California lawsuit verdict in Los Angeles, Tuesday, June 10, 2014. Welch founded the anti-tenure organization Students Matter. A judge struck down tenure and other job protections for California's public school teachers as unconstitutional, saying such laws harm students, especially poor and minority ones, by saddling them with bad teachers. In a landmark decision that could influence the gathering debate over tenure across the country, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu cited the historic case of Brown v. Board of Education in ruling that students have a fundamental right to equal education. L ast week, something happened in a Los Angeles courtroom that rocked the education policy world. A judge declared due process rights for teachers—commonly known as "tenure" unconstitutional in the state of California in the case Vergara v. California , so named for one of the...

Photo Essay: Moral Mondays' Potent Symbols and Creative Actions

So far in the 2014 North Carolina legislative session, lawmakers have witnessed weekly actions: a silent protest, a sit-in in the Speaker's office, and prayerful bread-breaking by the activists of the Moral Monday movement, chronicled here in a photo essay.

©Jenny Warburg
N orth Carolina’s 2014 legislative session, which began May 14, is now in full swing. So is the Moral Monday movement, the NAACP-led, faith-based opposition to the state’s recent dismantling of voting rights, civil liberties, and the social safety net. The movement, now in its second year, has built a solid foundation of support from a wide array of churches and issue-based organizations, including labor, immigrant, and women’s groups. This spring, as legislators have tried to limit protests and sometimes even avoid the building on Mondays, organizers have grown adept at surprising lawmakers with unannounced, targeted, and sometimes colorful actions. These photographs by Jenny Warburg chronicle the action in and around the state legislative building. --Barry Yeoman Click here to read Barry Yeoman's full account of this year's Moral Monday protests. Yeoman also built the slideshow of Warburg's photographs and wrote the captions. North Carolina's Moral Monday Movement Holding Ground in...

Why The California Tenure Decision Is Wrong and Will Hurt Disadvantaged Students

AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes
AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes Silicon Valley entrepreneur and founder of Students Matter David Welch makes comments on the Vergara v. California lawsuit verdict in Los Angeles, Tuesday, June 10, 2014. A judge struck down tenure and other job protections for California's public school teachers as unconstitutional Tuesday, saying such laws harm students, especially poor and minority ones, by saddling them with bad teachers. In a landmark decision that could influence the gathering debate over tenure across the country, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu cited the historic case of Brown v. Board of Education in ruling that students have a fundamental right to equal education. E arlier this week, California Superior Court Judge Rolf Michael Treu held that California's teacher tenure system violated the state constitution. Treu's June 10 decision in Vergara v. California has been widely praised by education "reformers," up to and including President Barack Obama's worst cabinet...

Moral Mondays: Capitol Showdown

Fifteen protesters have a breakthrough night in North Carolina's long-running budget battles.

Kristin Beller, an elementary-school teacher from Raleigh, N.C., addresses her colleagues during this week’s Moral Monday teach-in. Beller must work a second job to pay off her student-loan debt. (Jenny Warburg)
©Jenny Warburg Kristin Beller, an elementary-school teacher from Raleigh, N.C., addresses her colleagues during this week’s Moral Monday teach-in. Beller must work a second job to pay off her student-loan debt. B ryan Proffitt knocked on the door of North Carolina Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger’s office. It was locked and no one responded, which seemed odd considering that the Senate was about to open its Monday night session. “Maybe nobody’s home,” said the lanky 35-year-old high-school history teacher from Durham. He turned to Joy Boothe, a soft-spoken former chamber of commerce board president from the mountain town of Burnsville. “Do you want to try?” he asked her. “Maybe I didn’t get it right.” Boothe, who is 62, leaned in toward the powerful Republican’s door. “Senator Berger, we’re here on behalf of the teachers. We’re here on behalf of the children of North Carolina,” she called. “We’re your constituents. We would like you to hear us, sir.” That call went unanswered...

Breaking the School-to-Prison Pipeline: Rethinking 'Zero Tolerance'

A new approach to discipline seeks to keep kids in school and, ultimately, out of prison. In one high school, the number of serious incidents of misbehavior plummeted 60 percent, after the start of a "restorative justice" program.

Photo illustration by Jesse Lenz
Photo illustration by Jesse Lenz B efore 2006, when Debora Borges-Carrera became the principal at Kensington Creative & Performing Arts High School (KCAPA) in north Philadelphia, the school was the scene of pandemonium. Not a day seemed to go by without a fight in the concrete stairwell. Kids sent to the principal’s office for disrupting class roamed the hallways. During one visit from the superintendent, a riot broke out in the cafeteria, with students climbing on tables and chucking their meal trays across the room. In Borges-Carrera’s first year on the job, the school—where about 90 percent of students are Latino or black and 100 percent are below the poverty line—reported 76 incidents of student misbehavior, more than four times the state average, including 13 aggravated assaults on staff members. Under KCAPA’s “zero tolerance” policy—since the late 1990s, the prevailing approach to discipline in schools across the country—the typical response to student misbehavior was harsh...

Meet the Doctor Who Went to Jail to Save North Carolina Lives

There is right, and there is wrong. And having to watch patients die because legislators refused the administration's Medicaid expansion—that's just wrong, says physician Charlie van der Horst.

@JennyWarburg
Next month in Raleigh, North Carolina, physician Charlie van der Horst is scheduled to appear before a Superior Court judge and jury to appeal his second-degree trespassing conviction stemming from his participation in the Moral Monday protests that filled the state legislature building last year. Van der Horst, an internationally recognized AIDS researcher and professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, joined 28 other activists who occupied the legislative building on May 6, 2013, disobeying a police order to disperse. They were among 945 people arrested last year during twelve demonstrations. North Carolina’s Republican legislative majority has cut education funding, curtailed abortion access, and created new barriers to voting. While all those measures have offended van der Horst, his deepest concern as a doctor has been the legislature’s refusal to expand Medicaid under President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. In this three-minute excerpt from...

Daily Meme: You Probably Should Check Your Privilege

Screen shot of Tal Fortgang via Fox News
Sometimes, in the wilds of the internet, all it takes to get people's blood boiling is a screed from one college freshman. Such is the saga of Tal Fortgang, a Princeton first-year who wrote an inflammatory essay in the campus conservative magazine about being told to "check his privilege."If you're not familiar with the phrase ( described by the New York Times as "conversational kryptonite"), it's often used to remind those who may not be aware of their elite status (including, but not limited to, white male Princeton students) of their personal social advantages. Fortgang wrote that "check your privilege" has become a kind of liberal policing mechanism. "The phrase, handed down by my moral superiors, descends recklessly, like an Obama-sanctioned drone, and aims laser-like at my pinkish-peach complexion, my maleness, and the nerve I displayed in offering an opinion rooted in a personal Weltanschauung." (Extra points here for his exceptional use of jargon.) In other words: This...

White House Action on Campus Sexual Violence: For Me, It's Personal

Photo: Aimee Lang
Aimee Lang At an April 2013 anti-rape protest, the author tells her story of surviving sexual assault at Tufts University. O ne of the biggest contributors to the perpetuation of sexual violence is silence. Time and time again, survivors have found themselves dealing with administrators who repeatedly opt to protect a school’s reputation rather than protect the students they are supposed to protect and serve. Universities have long been taking advantage of the silence of survivors to cover up the gross injustices they have been committing. Last week was pivotal moment in the movement to address the alarmingly high rates of campus sexual violence. On May 1, the Department of Education found Tufts University out of compliance with Title IX, the federal civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in education. This is the first time in the history of the 40-year-old law that a school has been found out of compliance by the federal government in regard to the way it addresses...

Daily Meme: The Court's Faux Colorblindness

"A blinkered view of race in America won out in the Supreme Court on Tuesday when six justices agreed, for various reasons, to allow Michigan voters to ban race-conscious admissions policies in higher education ... " So starts the New York Times 's righteous take-down of today's Supreme Court ruling in Schuette v. BAMN , in which the Justices upheld a Michigan law banning the consideration of race in admissions. The plurality's justification—six Justices in total agreed with the ruling, but differed in their reasons for doing so—for reversing the lower-court decision? As long as the voters want it, they get it . But the real news has been Justice Sonia Sotomayor's dissent, which the New York Times 's Adam Liptak called "the most passionate and most significant of her career." It is the first time Sotomayor—whose nomination conservatives bitterly opposed—has spoken up about race. "In my colleagues' view, examining the racial impact of legislation only perpetuates racial discrimination...

Race-Blind Admissions Are Affirmative Action for Whites

L-R: Brooke Kimbrough, Coach Sharon Hopkins and Rayvon Dean of the University Prep Debate team.
B rooke Kimbrough always dreamed of becoming a University of Michigan Wolverine. Her score on the ACT—a college-readiness test—dwarfs the scores of most of her classmates. Earlier this month, she was part of a winning team at the National Urban League Debate Championship in Washington, D.C. Last week, she became a powerful symbol for exactly how Michigan's race-blind college admissions policies have failed. In December, the University of Michigan informed Kimbrough that her application for admission had been wait-listed. Two months later, she received the letter that she had not been accepted. But instead of conceding defeat, Kimbrough decided to fight. Today she hopes that her story will highlight how Michigan's current approach to race in admissions fails exceptional students of color. Black students comprise just 4.6 percent of the 2012 freshman class; in 2008, the number was 6.8 percent. Over the course of this year, I had the honor of working with University Preparatory Academy...

Pencils Out

The Prospect speaks with an education-policy expert Linda Darling-Hammond about standardized testing in the implementation of Common Core, a national set of guidelines on math and reading.

Courtesy of Stanford University
Courtesy of Stanford University Linda Darling-Hammond O ne of the most contentious debates racking state houses this year isn't about Obamacare, inequality, or even jobs. It's the implementation of the Common Core State Standards, which set benchmarks for what students should know in math and language arts at each grade level. At the current count, 44 states and the District of Columbia have signed on. Some conservative legislators have objected to what they see as a step toward federalizing education; Indiana has withdrawn from the initiative and 11 states are considering bills to slow or derail Common Core implementation. Another source of friction is the adoption of standardized testing to measure students' knowledge of Common Core standards and, in some cases, evaluate teachers. The assessments have been designed by two state groups—the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium —but a growing number of...

The Conversation: Joshua Steckel and Andrew Delbanco

AP Images/Mel Evans
I n the fall of 2006, Joshua Steckel left his job as a college counselor at an elite private school in Manhattan for a public high school in Brooklyn. His new work, guiding low-income students, put him on the front lines in the effort to bring more socioeconomic diversity to the nation’s selective four-year campuses. Far from assuming that college was a choice, many of the students who entered Steckel’s cubicle had internalized the message that higher education was a world from which they were excluded. Steckel’s book, Hold Fast to Dreams ( New Press, March 25), folds his students’ stories into a larger social perspective on the barriers that exclude low-income teenagers from the nation’s colleges. The book, a collaboration between Steckel and his wife, the writer Beth Zasloff, follows ten of Steckel’s students as they apply to and then enter college. The students’ challenges are vast and varied. Mike lives in a homeless shelter, caring for his younger brothers while his mother,...

SXSWedu: How to Keep Friends and Influence No New People

AP Images/Erich Schlegel
AP Images/Erich Schlegel A nyone who survived high school knows just how much blood, sweat, and tears must come before someone gets voted “Best All-Around” in the school yearbook. Being liked is one thing, but to be liked by lots of groups often requires that one always stay on the safe side of every conversation, never fully engaging. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the same is true in education policy, where ideological differences rule the community. The cliques and lunchroom politics are serious business, and the jargon makes it all the worse. EdTech-ers sit at a table near EdReform-ers, while community-schools people sit beside the teachers’ unions. And because no one talks much to each other, it’s easy to affirm your beliefs and vilify your opponents without much challenge. So to its credit, the education-technology conference South by Southwest EDU—SXSWedu, as it’s known—is trying really hard to be friends with everyone. It’s trying to become a platform for serious policy debate, it’s...

Stress, Poverty, and the Childhood Reading Gap

AP Images/LYNN HERMOSA Most Americans think education is the key to upward mobility, that all we need to do to break the cycle is to help the next generation do well in school and rise into the middle class. A growing body of research, however, is showing that poverty and hunger can harm children’s cognitive development. The challenges of poverty, and the often-violent neighborhoods poor children live in, are impeding their progress in school. Late last month, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a Baltimore-based nonprofit that works to improve outcomes for disadvantaged children in the United States, released a report that added evidence to that idea. It showed only a fifth of low-income fourth-graders were reading at a proficient level, compared to more than half of high-income children. What’s alarming for researchers is the fact that every subject in every class after third grade requires a textbook and critical-reading skills for full engagement in the classroom. Children already need...

The Urban Poor Shall Inherit Poverty

Sociologist Patrick Sharkey proves a mother’s insecure upbringing harms her child as surely as a neighbor’s broken window.   

A n apparent conundrum bedevils our understanding of African American students’ inadequate school performance: Blacks from low-income families have worse academic outcomes—test scores and graduation rates, for example—than similarly low-income whites. To some, this suggests that socioeconomic disadvantage cannot cause black student failure; instead, poorly motivated and trained teachers must be to blame for failing to elicit achievement from blacks as they do from whites. This was the theory motivating the George W. Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind law and the Obama administration’s Race to the Top program. That flawed conclusion overlooks the fact that low-income blacks differ considerably from low-income whites in their social-class backgrounds. Conventional analyses consider students similarly disadvantaged when their families have incomes below 185 percent of the poverty line, making them eligible for lunch subsidies. Yet zero to 185 percent of poverty is a big span; it...

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