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In 1949, Black parents and children filed a law suit against the Board of Education in School District #22 in Clarendon County SC, noting the total inadequacy of facilities  which were "unprotected from the elements . .  .[with] no appropriate and necessary heating system, running water or adequate lights . . . and [with]an insufficient number of teachers and insufficent class spaces."  The white schools were of course more modern and better equipped.  That suit led to Briggs v Eliot, one of the cases eventually combined into the landmark Brown v Board of Education case that found schools segregated by race "inherently unequal" and thus unconstitutional even according to the perverse "separate but equal" doctrine of Plessy v Ferguson.  

If it sounds like all I am doing is retelling ancient history, consider this:  in 1999 the South Carolina Supreme Court remanded a case to trial "based on gross differences in resources in the same still-segregated Clarendon County schools - now serving the grandchildren of the original plaintiffs - and the predominantly White and wealthier districts."

I am quoting from a new book on education for which I will shortly provide a complete review.  But I decided this issue was so important I should address it separately. LET ME BE CLEAR: I am the one describing the results as racist, not the author of the book from which I draw the data.

The book is by Linda Darling-Hammond, the Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education at Stanford University, one of the most respected scholars of American education, and someone who many in the educational circles in which I run very much wanted to see as Secretary of Education.  She was an important adviser to the President while he was a candidate, but was strongly opposed by people such as the alumni of Teach for America because of the questions she has raised about the (lack of) long-term effectiveness of that program.  

The title of the book is The Flat World and Education:  How America's Committment to Equity Will Determine Our Future.   It is well documented, exhaustive in its coverage of material.   Darling-Hammond has herself appeared as an expert witness in a number of the more recent lawsuits on the question of equity in schools.  Let me briefly continue with the material on South Carolina from which i was drawing, and which appears beginning on p. 112:  

In 2005, when Abbeville v. State of South Carolina was heard, 88% of students in plaintiff districts were minority, 86% lived in poverty, and 75% of the schools were rated by the state as "unsatisfactory" or below on the state rating system."  Graduation rates rangted between only 33 and 56% across the state.
    The testimony was eerily similar to that heard in the same courthouse a half-century earlier, with plaintiffs describing crumbling and overcrowded facilities , lack of equipment, large numbers of uncertified teachers, and teacher turnover caused by salaries and benefits much lower than those in other districts.


The issue of inequity has if anything gotten even worse in recent years.  One main purpose of federal involvement in education has been to try to provide funds to somewhat offset the inequality of schooling for students in high poverty areas.  When the Reagan administration took office, the Federal government was providing 12% of the national spending on public K-12 education.  Druing Reagan's first term, when Terrell Bell was Secretary of Education (and A Nation at Risk was published) that dropped to 9.6%.   During the second term, when William Bennett ran the department, the percentage dropped to 6.2%.  

Meanwhile the inequity of spending within the states had been increasing.  And the problems were exacerbated by the Reagan administration's shifting the costs to states not only for education, but "for health care, employment training, housing supports, and other functions." (p. 105).  Only in the late 1980s did we see the accumulation of data to allow "tracking of of disparities in instructional resources - teachers, support staff, curriculum, facilities, and professional development" that allowed researches to document the severity and increase of the inequities of inputs.

Understand this -  on the conservative side of the educational divide there is an argument that inputs do not matter, that all that matters is results, hence the emphasis on test scores.  Yet consider this:  

In total, courts in 10 of the 31 states where suits were filed during the 1970s and early 1980s found their state's school finance system to be unconstitutional.

  Consider both of those numbers, that 62% of the nation's states saw lawsuits on the constitutionality of how public schools were funded, on grounds often of violation of equal protection, and of those 1/3 - and of the total states 20% - were found to be correct: there was a constitutional violation.   Yet, as Darling-Hammond notes, in most states there was little done to rectify the situation.  

It is not that money makes no difference.  Despite conservative scholars like Eric Hanushek (now at Hoover Institute which is located at but not truly part of Stanford) arguing that the monetary inputs are irrelevant, Ronald Ferguson found something very different:  that expenditures properly applied do make a difference.  

He found that the single most important measurable cause of increased student learning was teacher experience, measured by teacher performance on a statewide certification exam measuring academic skills and teaching knowledge, along with teacher experience and masters degree.  The effects were so strong, and the variations in teacher expertise so great, that after controlling for socioeconomic status, the large disparities in achievement between Blakc and White students were almost entirely accounted for by difference in the qualifications of the their teachers. . .  Ferguson found that when regional cost differentials are accounted for, school district operating expenditures exert a significant positive effect on student achievement - an effect that operates primarily through the influence of funding levels on salaries that attract and retain more qualified teachers.
                         (pp. 106-7)

We are now in a time when we see a push to prepare all students to be "college ready" upon graduation from high school.  What is interesting is that we have seen states -  South Carolina to be sure, but surprisingly also New York - argue that the state is not required to provide a minimally adequate education:  in the case in NY those defending against the law suit argued that the state standards only required an 8th grade education.  Lest you think this is ancient history, it took place during the Pataki administration, which actually won on those grounds in the first appellate review, although eventually New York's highest court upheld the the victory at trial that determined there was inequity and ordered the state to change its funding formula to make sure all students receive "a meaningful high school education."

Unfortunately, our current Supreme Court does not accept the arguments of those who seek greater equity of inputs.  In a case from Arizona, the Federal District Court and the 9th Circuit both found Arizona out of compliance with their obligation fo provide resources inder The Equal Education Opportunities Act of 1974 to address the educational needs of English language learners.  The case started in 1992 in Nogales, and reached SCOTUS in 2009.  The state presented the arguments of Hanushek and other conservatives to focus on outputs not inputs, arguments opposed by the 3o current and former presidents of the American Educational Research Association and the National Academy of Education, who argued that, especially with English language learners, that well-crafted considerations of inputs and outputs were mutually reinforcing.  In a 5-4 decision written by Justice Alito, the Court remanded for a further examination of whether cricumstances had changed sufficiently to allow the state relief from the original court decision.

Now consider for a moment:  1992 filing and 2009 SCOTUS decision.  The state has never complied with the original ruling.  The current Superintendent of Public Instruction (disclosure - who was my high school classmate) continues to fight this battle rather than meet the needs of the English Language Learners -  who of course are almost always Spanish speaking, and often as discriminated against a minority in parts of the American Southwest as Blacks still are parts of the American South.  The impact of the Supreme Court decision will at a minimum further delay addressing the inequity - and violation of law - that caused the original lawsuit.

It is not that the situation has to remain like this.  Darling-Hammond examines states that have taken a different approach than this kind of resistance to what is right.  Massachusetts had some success, although recent economic problems and periods of Republican governors (Romney) have led to fall backs.l  Connecticut has a strong record of meeting educational needs, although there are still some gaps in performance.  New Jersey has made major strides.  North Carolina, led by the two periods of two terms for Jim Hunt as Governor, very much lifted itself out of the poor educational performance in states of the Old Confederacy.

Simply put, the problem is that absent sufficient resources we cannot use our public schools to lift people up.  Schools without resources have less qualified teachers, higher turnover of teachers, less (if any) equipment, out of date books and other instructional material, and often physical plants that give students the clear impression that their education does not matter.  

Schools that serve economically distressed populations suffer worst of all, because having funding based on local property values creates even greater problems when property values drop due to loss of employment opportunities and the massive drop in property values caused by the greed and lack of regulation of mortgages in the last administration.   States cannot step in to help localities, because most of them are required to balance their budgets.  

And the composition of schools in such communities? They are almost always heavily minority, although there are some economically distressed rural communities and some in white ethnic parts of major rust-belt cities.  

The issue is not new.  Anyone who read Jonathan Kozol's Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools, a book written in 1991, understands how deep-seated the problem has been.

We are now approaching 56 years since Brown was decided.  We may not segregate our schools by law.  We certainly do by economics.  And in the process we perpetuate an inequality that is exceedingly racially discriminatory in its effects.

Darling-Hammond argues that we must have an appropriate commitment to educational equity if we are to meet the promise of this nation, perhaps even if we are to survive as a democracy.

As a teacher, I see that our current approach, with its emphasis on test scores at the expense of all else, only further exacerbates the inequality to which so many children of color are already subjected.  To meet the "standards' of performances on tests of reading and math, students who lack access to music and art and similar things outside of the school context find them eliminated from their curriculum, while students in middle class schools where such things are readily available through family and community resources have them reinforced in their curriculum.  

Something is wrong.  Something is out of balance.  And those being shortchanged are almost always children of color.  

People still argue that spending money on their education is wasted because of their lack of background, or similar such nonsense.  That is outright racism.

The inequity of opportunity created by the inequity of resources, whether or not its intention is racial discrimination, has the effect of perpetuating racial inequity.  Those who are unwilling to confront are at a minimum quiet accomplices of the continuation of racial discrimination.

American public schools are still unequal, and thus racist in impact, after all these years, after more than half a century since our nation recognized that separate public schools were inherently unequal.  It matters not that the separation now is by economic status rather than officially by race.  It is still unequal, and insofar as it falls so disproportionally upon children of color, call it by the appropriate adjective - racist.

Originally posted to teacherken on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 04:01 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  You will note the lack of my usual conclusion (45+ / 0-)

    I cannot end with the word "peace" because I cannot be at peace when I see the continuation of inequity, and what is at least acquiescence by too many in something clearly racially disparate, and to me almost certainly racist in intent.  We may not want to accept that conclusion, but when the effects are so disparate by race, then at a minimum we are accepting an outcome that appears racist.  And if we are unwilling to consider that possibility, then are we not also culpable?

    do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

    by teacherken on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 04:01:12 AM PST

    •  an apology in advance (7+ / 0-)

      I am shortly leaving for a breakfast with a candidate to run against Frank Wolf in VA-10.  He requested a meeting with several notable Virginia bloggers, and I am EIC of a major Virginia blog.

      I do not know whether I will be able to check on this at all while I am there.  I do promise to read all comments eventually - that is my regular practice - and to respond where appropriate.

      I have no idea how many people will even click on this - the title is admittedly provocative, perhaps some may even be offended by the R word.  I think it is appropriate.  

      As always, I hope that the diary proves useful for at least few.


      do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

      by teacherken on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 04:47:56 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  THE NEA (0+ / 0-)

       To what extent have you seen teachers associations, who seem to object to rigorous teacher qualifications, have an impact on the process?

      "America is ruled by the moral philosophy of the dollar."

      by runningdoglackey on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 06:05:28 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  depends where you are (4+ / 0-)

        there are examples of local associations negotiating merit pay agreements, which is what happened in Denver.

        And then, I was the building rep (and we have 2,800 students) and I was unwilling to blindly ack teachers whose behavior was inappropriate and got them into trouble.  I informed both them and the administration of what the grievance procedures required, and what the negotiated agreement required in terms of discipline.  All teachers, even those whose behavior is problematic, are entitled to that.

        Let me say that usually such teachers can fairly easily be identified.  But if they are certified, NCLB makes it harder on an administrator to move against them because of the requirement for "highly qualified" teachers.

        Some should never be certified, and if we required supervised in internships in actual teaching situations, many of the irretrievable ones would never receive a first certificate.  Then, while they can still be easily dimissed before receiving tenure, if they are not response to corrective assistance, get rid of them.  Most teachers I know have no trouble with that approach.

        But understand - many who are recoverable never receive assistance.  And too many administrators are unwilling to do the dismissal because it may then mean staffing a class with a substitute.  

        do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

        by teacherken on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 06:14:00 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  thanks very much for the info (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Virginia mom

          It appears that the entire structure, then, from funding, to organization, in some places (most? many?) is unsound.
            To what extent, given local control of school boards, is lack of adequate education a self-perpetuating phenomenon?

          "America is ruled by the moral philosophy of the dollar."

          by runningdoglackey on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 06:26:19 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  first you presume too much on local control (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            JanL, Orinoco, Virginia mom

            since in many states there are things very much centrally directed.

            There is an issue of the local level of spending, and I partially address that in the diary.  There is also the further issue, which I think is your point, of elected local school boards who are unwilling to put resources into public education, especially when most of the students are of color and/or poor.  

            We saw that after Brown and related decisions in the South.  Let's make a distinction.

            1.  Inequity within a school system. There, in theory, parents could go to Federal court if less funds/resources are provided schools with poorer children or a higher percentage of minorities.  But remember, there is a danger if the district were to devote MORE resources to such schools of an equal protection argument being made against that.  Right now it would help to simply get equal funding and resources, including quality of teachers and administrators.
            1.  Inequity between school systems within a state.  Should the state give MORE money to systems in greater need?  This has been done in some states, with some positive results.  Darling-Hammond explores some of this within her book.  But that can breed resentment from districts who receive a significantly lesser percentage of what they pay to the state in relevant taxes.  
            1.  Deliberate starving of resources of school systems that are made up primarily of poor/minority students.  Usually the only way to address that is by using the stick of federal or state funding to require changes as a condition of aid.

            The situation is probably most addressable through state requirements.  But then there is the problem of state legislatures that refuse to address or even hamstring or rollback attempts to address.

            It ain't easy.

            do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

            by teacherken on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 06:38:45 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  OK, so equal funding first? (0+ / 0-)

                any funding is as you point out a political process, but i have also been following the Texass School Board's textbook review process which apparently influences publishers across many states because the publishers don't want to increase their costs by printing books different from their largest target markets.
                this is at its core, once again, politico-economic, however, the people who staff the Texas School Board appear to be, in the majority, theocratic idiots and actually motivated for theo-political indoctrination, rather than any objective considerations of real education.
                That is why i ask these questions. There appears to be a diverse system of approaches which put equal education in jeopardy even beyond funding, and further, predict that a victory for a minority of morons is a slow motion disaster across generations.

              "America is ruled by the moral philosophy of the dollar."

              by runningdoglackey on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 06:55:34 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  depends upon how you define equal funding (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                JanL, runningdoglackey

                please note, many schools with lots of poor kids have much higher rates of special education needs, which are federally mandated, for which the Federal government has almost never (the stimulus money providing a temporary exception) met its 40% share of the average additional costs mandated by federal legislation.  

                In my remarks about not even having equal amounts was merely for the point of exploring the various dimensions of the equal protection argument.

                I will agree that money by itself does not solve the problem, but I will forcefully argue that lack of money almost always exacerbates the problem.

                do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

                by teacherken on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 06:59:37 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

          •  Afraid I agree. (0+ / 0-)

            And I would add that there seems to be major flaws in training and certification. Teachers who have been fired (D.C. has had quite a few) for incompetence, bad behavior, whatever, had many hours of classes in college and were certified. How teachers are taught to teach seems an area that needs changes, yet there is little discussion about this.

            Let tyrants fear.-Queen Elizabeth I

            by Virginia mom on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 07:45:18 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  ah ken you touched (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      teacherken, JanL

      a burn spot on my soul.

      But alas, I have a worst burn spot right now.

      Thanks for writing your diary.
      I hope to return to read it again.

  •  Very important diary teacherken. (13+ / 0-)

    Thank you.  Tipped and rec'ed and wish I could do it more than one each.

    "If you're in a coalition and you're comfortable, you know it's not a broad enough coalition" Bernice Johnson Reagon

    by Denise Oliver Velez on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 04:07:58 AM PST

  •  Yes, but what is the solution? (7+ / 0-)

    Our 7 year old is in public school here in NYC.  He is in one of the best such schools, because of the neighborhood we live in, and NYC makes some efforts to balance things out by having some kids come to the better schools from other neighborhoods.

    So, why is our PS good?
    Well, lots of teachers want to work there; teachers with seniority get more choice in which schools they want to work in, and many choose schools in neighborhoods like ours.

    Another reason is that many parents in our school spend a lot of time and money helping their kids.  Of course, that's a lot easier when you have a two parent family and when you have some disposable income after paying for necessities.

    Many of the parents in our school are highly educated, and that helps, too.

    Our school also has fundraisers, and, because of who the parents are, they raise more money than fundraisers where there are fewer, or no, wealthy or famous parents.

    None of the above four reasons has anything to do with standards, or tests, or anything like that; and none of them are easy to deal with.  Should we require senior teachers to work where they are told?  The union will not like that, and more teachers may quit.  Should we abolish school fundraisers? I don't think so.  And the other two problems are even harder to deal with.  

    I don't know the answers to these problems.  I don't even know if there ARE good answers.

    We all differ in ways that matter. But we're all the same in the ways that matter most.

    by plf515 on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 04:11:13 AM PST

    •  Darling-Hammond has a number of proposals (10+ / 0-)

      and I will explore some of them when I review the book.  Part of it is how we spend money, how we organize schools, how teachers are trained and supported.   In a sense there is nothing magical.  There is hard work.

      We know this -  there needs to be continuity of good teachers, the environment has to be conducive to teachers working together constructively, there has to be an approach that is not punitive either to the teachers or the students, there has to be sufficient educational resources, and for gosh sakes the building cannot be falling apart.

      do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

      by teacherken on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 04:14:31 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I agree with all of that (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        teacherken, kyril, banjolele, Dichro Gal

        and I think that will improve education; but I think it may well improve education for all, leaving the inequity in place.

        Of course, that would be better than what we have now, but it wouldn't be equal.

        We all differ in ways that matter. But we're all the same in the ways that matter most.

        by plf515 on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 04:18:54 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  actually, it would make a difference (9+ / 0-)

          because some of what you already have would become more available in schools serving children of lower SES, which as noted are primarily children of color.

          One can argue that MORE funds should be spent in schools dealing with kids of lesser circumstances.  You need smaller class sizes when dealing with English language learners, for example.

          And there is an argument to offer a higher stipend to draw good teachers to such schools to start providing a core of experienced teachers as models, and mentors, for other teachers.

          Instead we go through the stupidity of reconstitution, of dismissing the entire teaching staff, even though we know (1) instability of teaching staff hurts the learning of students; (2) the teachers you get in such a situation are often inexperienced; (3) the track record of such approaches, and that of turning them over to (usually for-proit) educational management organizations does NOT meet the needs of all the students.

          do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

          by teacherken on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 04:24:04 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Those are definitely good ideas (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            (although I dislike the phrase "English language learners" - to me, it lessens the impact that not speaking English has on kids, and is one of the attempts to make a problem go away by giving it a new name).

            Dismissing the entire teaching staff is, as you note, stupid.  But how do we decide WHICH teachers should stay and which should be dismissed?  

            The educational management organizations have an essential problem - they serve shareholders, not parents.  For profit education CAN be good - witness some private schools - but only when it serves the children and the parents, not when it serves the state and the shareholders.

            Some things do seem to be working - for instance, do you know about Townsend Harris HS in NYC?  I can dig up some info if you like.

            We all differ in ways that matter. But we're all the same in the ways that matter most.

            by plf515 on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 04:32:01 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  there are non-profit EMOs (4+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              JanL, plf515, JesseCW, Dichro Gal

              sometimes done by foundations, sometimes by universities

              I am open to exploring a number of different alternatives

              I will tell you that if you empowered teachers they might be the ones to be hardest on those teachers not carrying their weight.   And a principal who really does the right kind of leadership will inevitably know

              I am part of a group of teachers which is trying to address this particular issue. While we recognize the need for union protection in many situations, we also recognize our professional responsibility NOT to protect teachers who should not be in the classroom.

              Certainly we should first see if we can turn around their performance, because it is so expensive - literally, sometimes with a cost of over 30,000 - to replace a teacher.  And that does not include the cost of defending a law suit for improper dismissal.

              do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

              by teacherken on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 04:38:09 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

            •  A historical note about English Language Learners (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              JanL, Dichro Gal, miss SPED

              Inasmuch as it may sound like it's some sort of doublespeak or political correctness is a term that has come into favor for several reasons.

              Going back about 20 years, the generally accepted term was English as a Second Language student. This ran into the rather obvious problem that for many of the ESL students, English was not their second language but also quite possibly their third or fourth (and so on) language.

              The next term that was used was Limited English Proficient student and that too was problematic. First of all, the term limited, was considered somewhat offensive by some. Second of all, however, was the greater problem that there are many native speakers of English whose language is also limited. Is an illiterate high school student Limited English Proficient?

              The current term, English Language Learners, is also problematic for the same reason above, but most in our profession seem to be tolerating it well. I suspect that it, too, will eventually fall out of favor for the same reason the use of Limited English Proficient has declined.

              But don't forget that most men without property would rather protect the possibility of becoming rich, than face the reality of being poor. (1776)

              by banjolele on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 06:12:30 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

  •  Tipped and recced (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, JanL, kyril, soothsayer99

    and retweeted, as well.

    We all differ in ways that matter. But we're all the same in the ways that matter most.

    by plf515 on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 04:14:05 AM PST

  •  I will repeat it again... (8+ / 0-)

    Public schools are a proxy war for race, class, ethnicity, religion, and almost everything else that keeps the United States of America from being United.

    What children learn in school seems to be secondary to the politics of the above mentioned proxy wars. Spending more money and busing are about the only way to make schools uniform in the USA, but there is very little call for these remedies. The tricks of magnet schools and top x% college admissions help a little, but they are nowhere near a solution - neighborhoods are not going to integrate any time soon. Money and force are the only things that make all people cooperate.

    Note I retired to SE Asia, so it is pretty clear from a dozen time zones away.

    I voted with my feet. Good Bye and Good Luck America!!

    by shann on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 04:17:12 AM PST

  •  Ken - (0+ / 0-)

    you may wish to proofread the paragraph that starts with:

    It is not that money makes no difference.

    Also, the blockquote that follows includes several typos - I don't know if they exist in the source material.

    Every horror committed by man begins with the lie that some man is not a man. - Jyrinx

    by kyril on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 04:22:02 AM PST

  •   Home Videos Channels Shows Turn down the ligh (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    shanikka, JanL, 207wickedgood, elginblt

    Watch and learn.

    Practice tolerance, kindness and charity.

    by LWelsch on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 04:34:53 AM PST

  •  Great diary-- and thanks for mentioning (10+ / 0-)

    "Savage Inequalities".  That book is magic.  I've given it to a couple of Republicans who were all about not "throwing more money" at the problems in education.  It actually changed their minds-- one guy could not stop talking about how it impacted him. I keep a couple of copies ready to give to anyone who seems to be misguided but basically decent.
    And I'm gonna order "The Flat World and Education" right now-- thanks again.

  •  Kozol (7+ / 0-)

    I had the opportunity to listen to him speak and talk with him for a bit while he signed a book of his that I purchased.  He said in his speech "I am getting old, and I wonder who will continue this fight?"  It broke my heart to hear him say such a thing, but he is correct.
    He also used the word sociopathic to describe our current approach to teaching and testing in urban districts. I must concur - how is it fair to expect children who are hungry, tired, worried about what is happening at home (and they are very aware of adult problems) to be "proficient" when they are behind in so many ways from birth?!  
    I am so disappointed with Pres. Obama's choice for education secretary, what was he thinking?  Can Arnie Duncan be replaced?  Soon?
    Thanks for being blunt - it needs to be repeated over and over.  

    Think what you are doing today. -Fred Rogers

    by JanL on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 05:31:22 AM PST

    •  you are welcome (5+ / 0-)

      and Kozol took it personally enough to go and teach in an inner city school, first in 1964 and then returning to do so again in the South Bronx more recently.  He wrote about this last experience in  Amazing Grace: The Lives of Children and the Conscience of a Nation.

      Darling-Hammond, author of the book whose reading led me to write this diary, also has personally experience.  She student-taught in Camden NJ, taught high school, worked on issues of equity at the Education Law Center, has followed such issues during her entire professional career, both while at Teachers College, Columbia U and since going to Stanford, and  co-founded both a preschool/day care center and a charter public high school serving low-income students of color in East Palo Alto, the latter of which is sending I believe 90% of its students on to post-secondary education.

      I personally wanted her in charge of our national education policy, because she knows more about education than anyone who has served in the position since it became a cabinet post under Jimmy Carter.  One of her predecessors, former SC Governor Richard Riley, has greatly praised the book from which my ideas for this diary were drawn.

      do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

      by teacherken on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 05:50:22 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I am reading (5+ / 0-)

        Amazing Grace right now - but in short spurts as I am taking two grad school classes as well as my "real" job.  ;)
        Please continue to write and speak on this subject to any and all contacts you have in the administration or with congressional types.  This president, perhaps more than any we have or will have, should be working to correct these inequalities.  I doubt he would be willing to put his amazing daughters in such a profoundly unfair and unjust situation and I really feel as if he would/could "get" it - if only some of these Arne Duncan types would stay out of his way.  Perhaps I am wrong but I hope not, and I know his plate is overflowing.  Thanks Ken, you are just the best!

        Think what you are doing today. -Fred Rogers

        by JanL on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 06:13:22 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  in administration I am limited (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JanL, Dichro Gal

          my highest level contact does not deal directly with education.

          In Congress I am better able to communicate -  I have the ear of a number of electeds on the issue of education - either they and/or designated staff members will at least read what i send them.  One House member told me last week he ignores a lot of what comes into his private email account but he always reads what I send him.  And since he was buying me a beer at the time, I believe him  :-)

          do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

          by teacherken on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 06:16:26 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Good diary, important subject (4+ / 0-)

    I do tend to have another view on this subject however.

    A major problem is that black children enter school already significantly behind white children, and most of the study on this subject seems to indicate that there is a large gap even when controlled for economic factors.  In other words, I think that a lot of the conclusions that you have made here are inherently unfair to schools, in that they are in large part inheriting a racial gap, not creating it wholly on their own.

    The problem is exacerbated I think by the fact that most teachers tend to prefer to work with kids who are above average academically.  I think that this tendency is quite natural, is distinct from racism, and will be impossible to eliminate.  So, if there is equal pay in two schools, one in a school where the kids are above average academically and one where the kids are below average academically, the school with the above average students is going to have its pick of the labor pool, and it will get the high performing teachers.  Since black children on average enter school already behind, they will tend to get the worse teachers right from the start.

    The strong correlation of learning to teacher performance on exams presents another problem-- if you increase minimum requirements for teachers in terms of performance exams, you will eliminate black teachers in outsize proportion, since black teachers tend to score lower than average on these exams.  So, if we accept the fact that strong teachers as measured by performance exams tend to be strong teachers in terms of educational outcomes, we're left with the choice of reducing the percentage of black teachers in order to help black students.  It's ludicrous to think that this would be politically acceptable at any point.  It just points out the near-impossible situation that schools are in when we ask them to solve the racial education gap.


    •  Linda addresses this is the book (8+ / 0-)

      and as it happens, I had a conversation yesterday with someone who runs a chain of non-profit charter schools without additional outside funding who noted several of the same things.  It is quite possible to have students who start behind progress more than a year's worth of learning in one school year.  It requires additional resources, starting with more personal attention in the classroom, and additional support outside the normal school day.  

      But first we have to address our perpetuation and intensification of the gap.  It is economic in nature, and it happens to fall disproportionally on children of color.  We know when we make high-quality preschool available the kinds of gaps we have been seeing are significantly lessened.  But that requires more highly trained preschool teachers, and that costs more money.  

      I think you will find many of your concerns addressed in Darling-Hammond's book, which I highly recommend.

      do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

      by teacherken on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 05:54:01 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I ordered a copy from Books-a-million (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Orinoco, 207wickedgood

        Preschool sounds like a good place to put resources to me and I would definitely support more funding there.

        I am skeptical of unequal funding of schools being a primary focus for closing the gap, given the fact that there is a huge gap between black and white students who attend the same school, even when controlled for income.  I'm sure she will have some interesting things to say which touch on that.

        I do think that your idea of an outsize focus on kids who start behind has merit and should be considered, but I do not think that is should be considered racist to oppose them.  There are valid but competing interests here-- the interest in society to get kids caught up regardless of their circumstances that resulted in entering school behind academically, vs. the desire of parents whose kids aren't behind that their kids receive a fair and equal share of attention and resources.  

        •  I apply racist to a combination of conditions (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          JanL, 207wickedgood, Dichro Gal

          as exemplified by the continuing problem in Clarendon County SC, for example, and for the fact that schools with high levels of poverty and/or high levels of children of color get less experienced teachers, have higher turnover, often get starved for resources, etc.   The reasons can vary, depending upon whether you are talking about the cause being at the state level with respect to districts, or the district level with respect to schools.

          There is a further issue, which I did not address, that in many schools students of color are less likely to be in honors classes and more likely to be in remedial classes which in fact do little to remediate.  They are far more likely to be disciplined for offenses for which white students receive warnings.  They are disproprotionally among those held back.

          The results are racist, no matter what arguments we may use to justify what is often willful inaction.  

          To be clear, I am the one applying "racist" -  Darling-Hammond does not.  One may rationalize the continuation of the gaps that exist, just like one might rationalize the disproportionate sentences for crack versus powder campaign.

          I am white, of an upper middleclass background.  I have no trouble calling it racist.

          do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

          by teacherken on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 07:09:30 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  But is Clarendon County SC typical? (0+ / 0-)

            Your source mentioned that teacher "salaries and benefits much lower than those in other districts," clearly indicating hiighly unequal spending in those districts.   That's certainly a problem for the students in those South Carolina districts affected, and districts in other states similarly affected, but I believe it would be a mistake to extrapolate individual cases like this into a judgment of unequal spending nationwide.  The studies I have seen indicate relatively equal pay between teachers at predominantly black schools and predominantly white schools, when looked at from a nationwide perspective.  And the race gap strongly exists in districts where pay is equal.


            •  far more typical than you realize (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              JanL, Dichro Gal

              although they are something of an extreme case.  There are huge disparities with states, even after one accounts for differences in cost of living.  In Virginia the per pupil expenditure is 3 times as high at the top as it is at the bottom.

              do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

              by teacherken on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 08:10:43 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

    •  On teaching above average students (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      teacherken, JanL, skymutt, Dichro Gal

      most teachers tend to prefer to work with kids who are above average academically.  I think that this tendency is quite natural, is distinct from racism, and will be impossible to eliminate.

      While this has some truth to it, I don't think it has a major impact on decisions regarding where to teach. All schools have above and below average students. When faced with a class full of students, yes, there is a natural tendancy to interact more with the students who give speak thoughtfully, who have done the reading, who use classroom processes and procedures.

      But this affects only the students in that classroom, with that teacher. There is constant external and internal pressure to educate all students, limited mainly by the amount of time available. When there are 36 students in a classroom, it's much more likely that below average students will fall through the cracks than in a classroom of 16 to 20.

      It's a rare case, I think, when all things are equal except academic performance of students. Location and pay are probably larger influences in making decisions about where to apply for a teaching job, and working conditions such as class size, administrative support, available resources such as textbooks, equipment and physical plant are more influential in decisions whether to stay or move on.

      "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government is incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

      by Orinoco on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 08:02:57 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I've recc'ed on both sides of the issue. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JanL, Orinoco, Dichro Gal

        I teach sped at an urban/suburban magnet high school. More than half our students are of low SES, and the campus is minority majority. Our demographics are mostly Hispanic, then Caucasian, then African American. We teachers are all aware of how critical is is to keep magnet students coming into our school, to keep racial 'balance' and funds incoming.
        Speaking in generalities, our magnet teachers are happy (top students in their fields).  Our AP teachers are happy (top students on the campus). Our core class gen ed teachers are very stressed; they are pressured to elicit continuous student progress on state mandated tests, with minute numbers of dropouts.  And our special education teachers must reach, one way or another, more than ten percent of our campus' student population. Special education students who receive modified work  must have all their credits and 12 weeks of positively evaluated employment to 'graduate.'  That is a Sisyphusian task for their teachers.
        People come to our campus to see what a great job we are doing as a best practices school. They aren't coming, imho,  to tour the resource classes or the ESOL classes. They come to see success, and that is the AP and magnet programming (it's fantastic.)
        We lose teachers every year to suburban districts that pay the same or more, and have less needy students. Location and pay may drive initial employment decisions, but once you have taught, some teachers learn that a longer commute is worth greater respect and lesser energy drain.

        •  Greater respect... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          miss SPED

          What I see is that there isn't a lot of difference in motivating teachers and motivating students. If people feel they are successful, they will be motivated to do more, if they feel they are failing, they will act out or get out.

          Your core ed general ed teachers are stressed: not because their students aren't learning, not because the teachers aren't teaching, but because when they get a class full of students functioning at a sixth or seventh grade level in 10th grade, they are unable to bring those kids up to 11th grade level by the end of the year.

          Success is defined as passing a grade level test. Even an outstanding teacher who routinely brings the kids up two grade levels in a single year is counted a failure in this regime, since the students are still unable to pass the mandated grade level test.

          teacherken talks frequently about value added evaluations: testing at the beginning and end of the school year, semester, or course of study to discover how much the students learned based on where they were when they started.

          In Special Ed, I used to be able to specify a below grade level state test: if IEPs said some students were reading at the fourth grade level when they entered my class, I could get the district to give them a fifth grade test, whether they were in 6th, 7th or 8th grade. If they'd learned a years worth of material, they'd do well on the test. If they needed to learn how to multiply and divide, I could teach that, rather than try to teach prealgebra. No more.

          NCLB doesn't recognize out of grade level testing. So, even though it's still an option on the IEP forms, the parent has to know about it and fight for it, since I can't recommend it anymore, and the district special ed bureacracy is dead set against it, since it would mean a failing school. Better, I suppose, to have failing students and failing teachers, than failing schools. Students move on every year, and teachers can be replaced, driven out or retired, but the school soldiers on.

          "The problems of incompetent, corrupt, corporatist government is incompetence, corruption and corporatism, not government." Jerome a Paris

          by Orinoco on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 12:51:11 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Crucisl diary -- issues of racism in schools (6+ / 0-)

    remain a major challenge in the 21st century -- NCLB plus srict zero tolerance policies and lack of funding lead to drop-outs and push-outs via the the School to Prison Pipeline

    Kozol sums it up...

    "At issue are the values of a nation that writes off many of its poorest children in deficient urban schools starved of all the riches found in good suburban schools nearby, criminalizes those it has short-changed and cheated , and then willingly expends ten times as much to punish them as it ever sent to teach them when they were still innocent and clean." (Kozol 2005)

    Thanks for this diary-- yes we must do better

  •  Another good one tk. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, JanL, luckylizard

    You went to school with Tom Horne ? He's one of these Republicans who wanted to get into government in order to destroy it and he's pursued some truly crazy policy with regard to the ELL issue. The only reason he's in office is that the state Dems made a tactical error by running an openly gay candidate against him. Sad to say, but there's no way that's going to fly in a state like AZ.

    •  I have known Tom for more than 5 decades (5+ / 0-)

      since we were in cub scouts together, even though he was then a year ahead of me (I skipped 6th grade).  In HS he was a moderate Dem, and when he first got active in politics in AZ after moving there after law school, it was as a young Dem, as I have been told by one of the current Dem members of the House from AZ, who knew him fairly well them.

      He is at least something of an improvement over one of his earlier predecessors,Lisa Graham Keegan.  I do not think he is personally corrupt, and he does value the arts (he was a fairly decent musician growing up).  His other ideas on education are things that I and another classmate very active in education, Anne Wheelock, believe not to be in the best interests of students or of the longterm health of our public schools.

      do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

      by teacherken on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 06:41:50 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I agree, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        he's better for schools than "Voucher Queen" Lisa Keegan. AZ is a battle-ground state in education. We've had charters for years, they have a very spotty record here and are no panacea. Most Republican ideas seem to be about reseg and there's a not-so-subtle racism involved.

  •  This is an o;d worn out issue (0+ / 0-)

    Funding is only part of the issue.  Here in Illinois the worst schools in the state spend more money per student than the best schools in the state.

    Part of the issue is the education system itself.  Not every student should go to college.  Trade schools should be an option for some kids.

    The idea that all students should be mainstreamed and socially promoted to ensure self confidence is also part of the problem.  

    The education system is broken, and it has little to do with money.

    •  These are old worn-out talking points. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JanL, luckylizard

      Next you'll be telling me that the school's are full of incompetent teachers, that they are refusing to teach and must be held accountable, that these incompetents are being protected by the corrupt teacher's union and that we ought to turn the whole thing over to the private sector. Sheesh.

    •  I don't know about "worn out isse" (0+ / 0-)

      ...especially because even if you think that the diarist's point of view on the subject is wrong-headed, that only serves as an opportunity to argue for your own remedies for the broken system.

      But it is true studies on the subject have indicated that about the same amount per student is spent on black students as white students.  It's obvious that there's a lot more at play in the racial gap than just a lack of equal funding in schools, and I haven't come across any serious research that concludes that the racial gap is due solely to inequality in education spending per student.

  •  Thanks for this insightful diary. On the issues (0+ / 0-)

    regarding outcomes I believe in your dislike for test scores you end up contradicting yourself a bit. The intentions of "separate but equal" are not always inherently racist but their outcomes are; and you make this point quite succintly in the diary. You then correctly point out that it is inputs that we should focus on as they are responsible for these unequal outcomes. But interestingly you then seem to make a case that focusing on results is wrong and the reason is because you conflate results or outcomes with measurement methods such as test scores.Test scores are applicable to Maths and Science etc but are not necessarily the correct measure for other very important subjects and therefore I agree with you that focusing on them will result in killing other enriching subjects. But test scores are not outcomes, they are measures. Hence my charge that you contradict yourself since you have quoted this

    well-crafted considerations of inputs and outputs were mutually reinforcing

    In other words carefully and in a balanced way considering outcomes against inputs is the correct way of solving the problem. Focusing on inputs alone amounts to throwing money at a problem. One has to also think about what outcomes will result from those inputs. Asking the question 'Will children be more educated?' is not the same as asking whether they have passed a standardised test. But it is still imperative to ask the former question if we are to get equal quality education for all.

    If education authoriteis had to work to defined outcomes and were measured on those they would have to put more resources in order to achieve that. But your sentiment seems to be that Governments should just put in money and other resources without demanding desired outcomes.

    I hate test scores and continue to insist that outcomes should not be conflated with measurement methods like them and I am aware that this conflation of the two by those who are leading educational policy at the moment is what is currently irking us. But we can help by creating an enlightened understanding of the subject as you are doing.

    Otherwise I find the dairy most informative and agree with it. Thanks.

    •  I think you misinterpret my reaction to tests (5+ / 0-)

      basing everything on snapshots which are used for high stakes (a) distorts the teaching; (b) does little to inform instruction; (c) does not account for the unequal starting paoints; (d) tells us little about effectiveness of instruction.

      Value-added mesaurement can do a better job of measuring the actual learning, but only if it involves testing students at beginning and end of same year in same classroom setting, otherwise the results are conflating information that is not school-related and which has a large impact.

      What is interesting is that even using the flawed measurement of the kinds of tests to which I and many others raise objections, the points Darling-Hammond makes about inequity are reinforced.  And she makes a compelling argument that application of resources in the right fashion does make a difference in outcomes.

      do we still have a Republic and a Constitution if our elected officials will not stand up for them on our behalf?

      by teacherken on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 06:56:34 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I should add something more regarding (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      outcomes. Outcomes of education are broad and timeless. They cannot just be measured by tests scores. Outcomes could include in the short term whether students end up coping with further education; college or vocational. Often you can't measure such an outcome with a test which is why College entrance requirements are also part of the problem although a lot of US Colleges are now using more broad and sophisticated methods of entrance selection which give a lower weighting to test scores. Actually such outcomes can only be fairly measured with longitudinal studies of school alumni and feeding the results back to the school system. Such measures do not place emphasis on a superficial and unfair standard test system which places the responsibility for the outcome squarely on the shoulders of the teacher, the student  and the school. It places the responsibility for the outcome on the system itself and can expose the inadequacy of inputs and policies that create bad outcomes for students.
      There are other long term outcomes that should be measured and the results fed back to the system such as the success of alumni in life itself and the economic impacts of schools within their communities. These methods are used to inform educational policy in the Nordic Countires (Finland,Sweden, Denmark, Iceland , Norway) which explains why their education systems operate largely without standardised national testing. Their focus is on inputs and how produce desired outcomes and they have moved away from the ancient Anglo-Saxon methods of tests and exams which are predicated on Darwinian competition.
      I just thought I should amplify a bit to ensure I don't come off as a hit and run critic who loves test scores.

  •  There is no commitment to equity in the (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JanL, luckylizard

    United States.  There is a commitment to a stratified society in which achievement is supposed to replace the "natural" stratifiers such as gender, race, heritage, inheritance, religion, etc.  But, the commitment to stratification makes it possible to argue that the failure to achieve, especially material sufficiency, is merely proof positive that stratification is the natural state.

    And who's going to argue that the "melting pot" scenario was ever really attractive to anyone?

    That there are multiple systems in place to guarantee that material sufficiency is never achieved.  And, indeed, the total conversion of our economy to the use of money makes it possible to shield extractive and deprivative behaviors from charges that they discriminate against "protected classes."  Even worse, the designation of "protected classes"--not officially, but as a matter of shorthand--has installed segregation in reverse.

    The problem arises, IMHO, from the focus on the victims or objects of discriminatory behavior (absent any moral judgment), rather than the behavior (disregard intent) of the perpetrators--i.e. that the Constitution is addressed to the behavior of the agents of government and aims to restrain their use of power is conveniently overlooked.  Indeed, the people, who do refer to limitations, do so in the context of minimizing governmental obligations; not limiting our agents' coercive use of physical force.  In the process of worrying about the deprived, we overlook the failure of the agents we paid to prevent deprivation to do their jobs.

    What we have in the U.S. is a struggle between equality and the elite.  The elite are antagonistic towards equality because if all men are equal, they can't be elite.  Indeed, superior beings can't even treat their inferiors as equal because that would be demeaning.  Superiority needs to be constantly manifest and upheld, lest it appear to be subject to challenge.

    That Rep from South Caroline, Wilson, had to call out Obama during the joint session, if only to demonstrate, by getting away with it, his superiority.  Maintaining the stratification is a matter of honor.  In a world of superiors and inferiors, if you're not superior, you're inferior.  Equality is a threat to the moral order.  (Note that "order" implies a ranking).

    How do you tell a predator from a protector? The predator will eat you sooner rather than later.

    by hannah on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 07:57:40 AM PST

    •  I respectfully disagree. (0+ / 0-)

      I teach in a school dedicated to fairness and equity.

      The melting pot scenario is attractive to some - that is why we have magnet schools.

      •  Yes, individuals and groups are committed (0+ / 0-)

        to equity and equality.  Not the country as a whole.

        In a sense, the commitment to individual equality was stronger when those who were considered less were clearly identified as 3/5 of a person.  More recently, individuals born within the jurisdiction of the U.S. were to be deprived of education on the basis of their parents' lack of citizenship in the U.S.  The SCOTUS rejected that effort but their decision hasn't been accepted by a significant percentage of the population, as evidenced by the paucity of funding for those children whose primary language is not English.

        The effort to segregate goes on and magnet schools are an example.  A separate program is a segregated program, regardless of whether the components are of a higher quality or less.

        How do you tell a predator from a protector? The predator will eat you sooner rather than later.

        by hannah on Sun Jan 17, 2010 at 10:23:32 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Again (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    teacherken, JanL, luckylizard

    no time to read this with justice. But looking forward to giving this a long read along with your other piece after Tuesday.

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