Education

Obama's Mixed Record on School Integration

While a handful of small programs have taken steps toward promoting diversity, desegregation has remained absent from Obama's signature education initiatives. 

AP Photo/Evan Vucci
AP Photo/Evan Vucci President Barack Obama, accompanied by Education Arne Duncan, speaks in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, April 29, 2015, during an event to honor the teachers of the year. A s Congress debates competing revisions of the No Child Left Behind Act over the next several weeks, lawmakers are unlikely to spend much time looking at the growing problem of segregated schools. Despite strong academic and civic benefits associated with integrated schooling , and a unanimous Supreme Court decision which ruled that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal,” American public schools have resegregated quickly by race and class over the past two and a half decades. Many advocates had hoped to see the Obama administration take steps to address rising school segregation, but so far its record has not been great. While the Department of Education has paid lip service to the need to promote integrated schools, and has included modest diversity...

Betrayers of the Dream

How sleazy for-profit colleges disproportionately targeted black students.

AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File
AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File In this October 10, 2013 file photo, California Attorney General Kamala Harris gestures while standing by a display showing an internal document showing the target demographic of Corinthian Colleges, during a news conference in San Francisco. This article appears in the Summer 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . O n April 26, an institution of higher education that as recently as 2010 employed more than 6,000 faculty members and another 4,000 in support staff announced that it would close its doors. Corinthian Colleges had enrolled more students than the Ohio State University and the University of Texas at Austin combined. For the giant for-profit chain founded just 20 years ago, the fall from grace was aided by lawsuits from several state attorneys general and the federal government, and investigations by the SEC. These found a broad pattern of deception in recruiting students, bogus reporting of job placement data, and a...

Columbia University Was Invested in Incarceration—Until Students Stopped It

Inside the nationwide campaign to keep university endowments out of the prison business. 

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren In this photo taken on Friday, Oct. 17, 2008 detainees are shown inside a holding cell at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washashington, a facility operated by The GEO Group Inc. under contract from U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. T he private prison industry is a growth industry—exploding by 350 percent in just 15 years. As the federal and state governments are facing slimming budgets, contracting out prison operations to private companies is seen as a convenient way to deal with ever-increasing rates of incarceration and detention. At the same time, such rapid growth has made the private prison industry an especially attractive investment for university endowments, prompting a nationwide, student-led divestment campaign that’s lately seen some notable success. Studies have shown that while private prison operations may help ease some budgetary strain, they perform worse than public prisons on a number of metrics: reducing prison violence;...

Sorry, Walmart: Charter Schools Won't Fix Poverty

The Walton Family Foundation may not want to raise wages or lose tax breaks, but education reform alone can't reduce income inequality.

(Photo: Mike Mozart/Creative Commons)
L ast week, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and In the Public Interest released a highly critical report on the Walton Family Foundation’s K-12 education philanthropy, which ended with a call for increased transparency and accountability in the charter sector. The gist of the report is that the Walton Family Foundation—which has kick-started about one in four charters around the country—“relentlessly presses for rapid growth of privatized education options” and has opposed serious efforts to regulate and monitor fraud and abuse. While the foundation supports rapidly scaling up charter networks that have produced promising results, the AFT and In the Public Interest cite a 2013 Moody’s Investment Services report which found that dramatically expanding charter schools in poor urban areas weakens the ability of traditional schools to serve their students, forcing them to lay off teachers, increase class sizes, and cut programs to make ends meet. A month earlier, Philamplify, an...

What Would a Sanders Administration Do on K-12 Education?

The most progressive candidate in 2016 has more work to do in terms of articulating his k-12 ideas on the campaign trail.

Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/AP Images
Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/AP Images Senator Bernie Sanders attends a news conference on May 19, 2015, with members of the National Nurses Association at the Senate swamp on legislation "to eliminate undergraduate tuition at public colleges and universities and to expand work-study programs. P residential candidate Bernie Sanders has excited his base with some bold ideas surrounding higher education. He’s said college should be a right , that public universities should have free tuition , and that public universities should employ tenured or tenure-track faculty for at least 75 percent of instruction , as a way to reduce the growing dependence on cheap adjunct labor. But Sanders’ stances on K-12 issues—arguably more contentious topics for politicians to engage with compared to higher ed and universal pre-K —have garnered far less attention. Here’s what we know so far: 1. He wants to roll back standardized testing, but still supports Common Core. Sanders opposes the expansion...

Real Diversity Is About Confronting Power

Names, barriers, and the politics of race in American education. 

AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File
AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File A tour group walks through the campus of Harvard University. I n 1973, my father emigrated from India to New York City with an engineering degree and a name that seemed complicated to the American ear. He was offered his first job on the condition that “Ratnaswamy” would become “Sam,” a name that followed him throughout his entire career. According to him, it was the 1970s, he didn’t have a choice, and he was grateful to get a job. Clearly much has changed since then, but perhaps not as much as we’d like to think. Not long after the 2015 Scripps National Spelling Bee crowned Indian American co-champions on May 28, a seemingly harmless joke began to circulate online. Unable to touch the spelling prowess of Vanya Shivashankar, Gokul Venkatachalam, and other talented finalists, observers like Todd Dewey of the Las Vegas Review-Journal remarked, “ Luckily, the kids didn’t have to spell each other’s last names .” That non-Anglo-Saxon names are still an...

The Tenure Conundrum

Higher education is under attack, but defending tenure is just half the battle. 

AP Photo/Gerry Broome
AP Photo/Gerry Broome Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker delivers remarks during the North Carolina Republican Party convention in Raleigh, Friday, June 5, 2015. This article orginally appeared at The Huffington Post . R epublican presidential hopeful Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, thinks he's hit political pay dirt with his proposal to gut faculty tenure protections at his state's public universities, notably the flagship University of Wisconsin, long one of the nation's best state universities. His idea is to remove tenure protection from state law, and leave the actual policy to the Board of Regents, his political appointees. For Walker, this is a three-fer. It's another attack on a public institution, in the wake of his successful campaign to weaken collective bargaining rights for Wisconsin public employees. It is a thinly disguised assault on a university perceived as a hotbed of liberals and liberalism. And it continues Walker's faux-populist theme by seemingly going...

Graduating to an Unequal Economy

The job market is improving, but prospects remain sharply divided by race. 

AP Photo/The Orange County Register, Mark Felix
AP Photo/The Orange County Register, Mark Felix T his is the time of year when thousands of college students receive their hard-won degrees after years of difficult work. What awaits them is commonly referred to as the “real world” where young people are expected to thrive and survive. But between high unemployment rates and the harsh reality of student loan debt, today’s graduate is still facing an uphill battle—especially the graduate of color. The economy is looking better today than in the dark days of 2009 when the overall unemployment rate reached a staggering 10.2 percent in the month of October. Job prospects for recent college graduates were dismal; the effects of the recession would reverberate through each graduating class for years to come. Today, the unemployment rate is a much lower 5.4 percent and the job market is looking better for college graduates—but only for some. According to a new report published by the Economic Policy Institute titled The Class of 2015 , the...

The Uphill Battle of Unionizing a Philly Charter School

How a Philadelphia charter operator can spend tens of thousands of public dollars to fight a union.

Sean Kitchen/ Raging Chicken Press
Sean Kitchen/ Raging Chicken Press Teachers from Olney Charter High School in Philadelphia rally at the Pennsylvania headquarters of ASPIRA, a national charter school operator, on April 30. O n April 30 th , faculty at North Philadelphia’s Olney Charter High School voted 104-38 in favor of forming a union, an NLRB election that Olney’s charter operator, ASPIRA, has since announced they’re challenging . Olney’s union campaign is only the latest in a small but rapidly growing wave of charter union drives nationwide. But few efforts have been as contentious, or as revealing, as this one. Ever since the campaign began three years ago, ASPIRA has pumped tens of thousands of dollars into an elaborate union-busting effort, even as the beleaguered district it’s funded by struggles with massive debt. Unionizing Olney also threatens to shine light on ASPIRA’s questionable finances, at a time when authorities at the state and district level have failed to act. More broadly, the union drive in...

It's All About the Money

How America became preoccupied with higher education’s bottom line.  

AP Photo/Orlin Wagner
AP Photo/Orlin Wagner A student in line for his diploma wears a cap decorated with the cost of his education during graduation ceremonies at the University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho, May 16, 2015. T his is a pivotal moment in American higher education—a crisis, you might say, if the term hadn’t been debased by overuse. The criticisms come from every corner and the bill of particulars is lengthy. The financial cost gets most of the attention. Since 1980, tuition has more than doubled at private universities and tripled at public institutions. Students have accumulated more than $1.2 trillion in debt, $300 million more than what Americans owe credit card companies. For-profit schools enroll about an eighth of all college students, many of whom end up saddled with mountainous debts and worthless degrees. Students from poor families have it especially rough. Half of all 25-year-olds from well-off families, but just a tenth of all 25-year-olds from poor families, have a bachelor’s degree...

How Big Money Lost in Philly’s Mayoral Race

Support from unions and public-education advocates won Jim Kenney the primary election, despite $7 million in outside spending for his opponent.

(Photo: AP/Matt Slocum)
(Photo: AP/Matt Slocum) Democratic mayoral candidate Jim Kenney, center, celebrates after winning Tuesday's primary election in Philadelphia. Broad union and progressive support gave the former city councilman more than half the votes in the six-candidate race. O n Tuesday, Philadelphia city council veteran Jim Kenney won the Democratic mayoral primary with 56 percent of the vote—a commanding victory in a crowded campaign of six candidates. Kenney’s win is not only a step in the right direction for the progressives who supported his candidacy; it’s also a refreshing reminder that heavy outside spending doesn’t always guarantee electoral success. Pennsylvania State Senator Anthony Hardy Williams, the runner-up with 26 percent, was backed by a trio of suburban Philadelphia hedge fund financiers with a strong interest in market-driven education reform. As Paul Blumenthal noted in The Huffington Post , the PAC’s $7 million support (as of the latest filing date) of Williams’s candidacy was...

Can 'Grit' Save American Education?

Grit, privilege, and American education's obsession with novelty. 

AP Photo/Pat Sullivan
Twice a week for thirty minutes, fifth graders at KIPP Washington Heights, a charter school in New York City, attend “character class.” Each lesson is divided into three parts, according to Ian Willey, the assistant principal who teaches it. First, students find out what specific skill they’ll be focusing on that day. “This morning we’re going to learn how to set a long-term goal,” Willey might tell them. Next, students are asked to practice the skill. In this case, students may imagine they have a long-term project to complete, and then work to construct a timeline with incremental deadlines. In the final part of the lesson, students would take time to collectively reflect. “What was hard about this exercise?” Wiley might ask. “What went well? Did anyone feel nervous? What did you do when you felt nervous?” And because part of KIPP’s mission is to help build character, the students would then classify their new skill as one or more of KIPP’s seven targeted character goals . In this...

Faculty Join Fast Food in the Fight for $15

On campuses across the country, adjunct professors are starting to organize against rock-bottom pay and tenuous job security. 

Faculty Forward USC
Faculty Forward USC Adjunct faculty march for better pay and working conditions at the University of Southern California on April 15, 2015. A s yesterday’s Fight for $15 protests wound to a close across the country, it’s become clear that this movement is not a fleeting effort—it’s here to stay. The focal point has primarily been on the most visible low-wage workers: fast food and retail workers whose pay perpetually hovers around minimum wage. And their employers seem to be taking a small, yet encouraging, step in the right direction as both McDonald’s and Wal-Mart recently announced increases to their respective minimum wages. However, another employment sector that’s not typically associated with low wages was prominent yesterday as well: the American professoriate. Higher education institutions in the United States employ more than a million adjunct professors. This new faculty majority, about 70 percent of the faculty workforce , is doing the heavy lifting of academic instruction...

When the Student Movement Was a CIA Front

Bob Wands
Bob Wands/AP Images Gloria Steinem went from willing CIA accomplice to feminist icon. This book review appears in the Winter 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . Patriotic Betrayal: The Inside Story of the CIA's Secret Campaign to Enroll American Students in the Crusade Against Communism By Karen M. Paget 552 pp. Yale University Press $35 I n its March 1967 issue, Ramparts, a glossy West Coast muckraking periodical that expired in 1975, and that strongly opposed American involvement in the war in Vietnam, published an exposé of the close relationship between the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Student Association. This other NSA—not to be confused with the National Security Agency—was then the leading American organization representing college students, with branches on about 400 campuses. Its ties with the CIA were formed in the early years of both institutions following World War II, as the Cold War was getting under way. According to Ramparts...

Why the Feds Can't Seem to Rein in For-Profit Colleges -- Or Stop Giving Them Money

For-profit colleges have mastered predatory lending while still relying heavily on federal dollars. 

(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) Makenzie Vasquez, from left, Pamala Hunt, Latonya Suggs, Ann Bowers, Nathan Hornes, Ashlee Schmidt, Natasha Hornes, Tasha Courtright, Michael Adorno and Sarah Dieffenbacher, pose for a picture in Washington, Monday, March 30, 2015. Former and current college students calling themselves the “Corinthian 100” say they are on a debt strike and refuse to pay back their student loans. The name comes from Corinthian Colleges Inc., which operated the for-profit Everest College, Heald College and WyoTech schools before agreeing last summer to sell or close its 100-plus campuses. This article was originally published by Demos . L ast week, after some dogged journalistic legwork by Inside Higher Ed ’s Michael Stratford, the Department of Education released a list of 560 colleges that have been placed under a level of extra scrutiny—known as “Heightened Cash Monitoring”—due to concerns about a college’s finances or administrative capacity, or as the result of an...

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