Are education reforms hurting the students who need the most help, poor and minority kids?

downeyart (Medium)In his blog “becoming radical,” Paul Thomas, a Furman University associate professor of education, contends that the education reform movement perpetuates inequity and increases segregation. Thomas draws on the findings of the Civil Rights Project, which has done extensive research on the resegregation of schools.

While the South once led the nation in integrating its schools, it’s now become a leader in the resegregation of America’s classrooms, largely as a result of housing trends.

In 1960, The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Only 7.8 percent of the Negro students in the South are attending integrated schools this year, a hundred years after our emancipation from slavery. At this pace it will take 92 more years to integrate the public schools of the South.”

King would likely revise his prediction dramatically upward if he observed his namesake schools in the Atlanta region, most of which are now attended by all black students. That’s because schools mirror the resegregation of neighborhoods.

Here is an excerpt of Thomas’ blog posting, but please read his full piece before commenting:

Changing standards ignores that children in poverty and children of color tend to experience test-prep courses regardless of the standards, and thus receive a reduced educational experience when compared to middle-class and affluent (and disproportionately white) students.If education reform were committed to equity, public schools would insure that all students, regardless of race or socio-economic status, would receive rich and engaging educations.

Increasing the amount of testing and the stakes associated with that testing (for both students and teachers) ignores that standardized testing remains more closely linked with the child’s home status than with the child’s learning or their teachers’ effectiveness.If education reform were committed to equity, high-stakes standardized testing and using test scores to label and rank students and teachers would be completely eliminated. Test-driven education stratifies students by race and socio-economic status, discourages teachers from seeking opportunities to work with high-needs students, and misrepresents school quality (see the historical failure of relying on the SAT, for example.)

Charter schools are not producing outcomes superior to public (or private) schools, but charter schools (such as KIPP) are stratifying (re-segregating) schools and focusing education for children of color and children from poverty more on authoritarian discipline policies and test-prep than rich experiences being experienced by their more affluent (and white) peers. If education reform were committed to equity, children of color and children from poverty would be provided public education that mirrors the education being experienced by affluent whites; instead, charter schools are segregated and “no excuses” environments designed for “other people’s children.”

Funding and expanding TFA candidates in high-poverty and high-minority schools ignores that the single greatest inequity experienced by children of color and children from poverty is being assigned un-/under-certified and inexperienced teachers. If education reform were committed to equity, education reform would abandon test-based teacher evaluations as well as supporting TFA, and instead would insure equity of teacher assignment for all students while also acknowledging the importance of experience and expertise for teachers.

Focusing on school-only reform (the tenet of “no excuses” school reform) ignores the corrosive power of poverty.

–from Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

127 comments Add your comment

Dr. John Trotter

February 26th, 2013
2:14 am

The so-called school reforms have been disastrous for well over a century, as Diane Ravitch pointed out so well in one of her scholarly tomes. If uniformity of curriculum and thought and standardized testing galore are so good as educational practices, then why aren’t the expensive and exclusive private schools whose graduates regularly attend Ivy League schools engaging in the same? It is ridiculous, but so many just mindlessly go along with this stupidity like obedient sheep. Now we have the likes of the non-educators like Bill Gates and Eli Broad exerting inordinate influence over the public schooling practices under the guise of inane slogans like “best practices.” It is similar to Honey Boo Boo running the charm schools.

Google "NEA" and "union"

February 26th, 2013
3:52 am

One might marvel at the creative duplicity of the anti-reform movement—if the stakes weren’t so high for inner-city youths and their parents.

And the results of 50 years of liberal education policy so dismal.

As for integration, if those who voted for Obama in two presidential elections schooled their own children in the racially integrated schools they prescribe for the rest of us … wouldn’t the “re-segregation” the author despairs of be remedied?

Instead, they largely choose to follow the Obamas (and Clintons) in seeking out private schooling for their kids. And the thought of other parents of lesser means exercising choice frightens them.

An education system in which all parents are able to evaluate local schools and choose the one, public or private, which best meets their child’s needs—might very well result in a mass exodus from traditional public schools. Or sweeping reforms which otherwise defenestrate the K-12 public education establishment.

An education establishment their own children are protected from.

Linda

February 26th, 2013
6:02 am

He’s right. I have often thought, “how great that children have the option of a KIPP,” while at the same time thinking, “not that I would never send my children there, that would be cruel to make them stay in school that long, etc.” The best thing about the KIPP type schools is that they get children away from bad influences at the neighborhood school.

Bertis Downs

February 26th, 2013
6:06 am

See also, http://edushyster.com/?p=2072. And from Florida, the way it plays out the further along the Ed Reform train goes: http://bit.ly/WbUsDC. Of course that sort of thing would never happen here, right?!

Meanwhile, here’s Former Texas State Commissioner of Education Robert Scott on education reform: “I had to turn in my reformer card because I looked at it as a flea circus,” he said. “They are selling two ideas and two ideas only: No. 1, your schools are failing, and No. 2, if you give us billions of dollars, we can convince you [of] the first thing we just told you.”

Melissa

February 26th, 2013
6:33 am

There is absolutely no simple answer. The issue at hand in this post seems to be the difference between academic rigor and enrichment. The reality is that wealthier neighborhoods have *both* rigor and enrichment.

How can poorer neighborhoods engage parents to provide something outside of school (perhaps educating everyone to some degree) while working to fill the academic and enrichment gaps. Boys and girls clubs seem like an excellent resource to help provide enriching activities for students. The YMCA is another avenue to consider. Encouraging small pilot programs, with seed based funding, etc. could help gather the necessary data on efficacy. We are plagued in Atlanta, and as we see Dekalb, with mismanagement that borders on criminality. Equity is not well-served in this environment.

But to somehow pretend that equity is not found solidly within rigor is a disastrous delusion for our most vulnerable population.

Private Citizen

February 26th, 2013
6:34 am

Only the small questions here. Hmmm I wonder what Nancy Jester would say.

Starik

February 26th, 2013
6:35 am

Totally wrong when applied to DeKalb County, where resegregation of the schools causes the segregation of neighborhoods,

Melissa

February 26th, 2013
6:39 am

“If uniformity of curriculum and thought and standardized testing galore are so good as educational practices, then why aren’t the expensive and exclusive private schools whose graduates regularly attend Ivy League schools engaging in the same?”

I suggest looking at the academic subjects engaged in by these students and the supplementary means by which parents in these communities prepare their students for College (e.g. number of AP courses, College test prep courses, etc.). Parents in these districts would be the first to remove anything that did not prepare their children for College.

Private Citizen

February 26th, 2013
6:39 am

After reading a smidgen of Frantz Fanon, I’d say forget the race “segregation” talk and replace that with economic caste and I think you’ve got it. In other words there is an economic caste system. For example, when a hedge fund manager makes more income in an hour than a working family makes in 47 years. I told this to someone and they replied, “I don’t know what a hedge fund is.”

Now, Let’s just say your hedge fun managers are active in foundations that direct or even regulate education, in other words, telling people what to do, let’s just say that maybe then there will be a whole lot of people who do not know what hedge funds are. And that’s how we lose the middle class, children, and no one knows any different of better. A happy peasant is a useful peasant. Better build up some self-esteem so that you have happy peasants, sort like free range fed cows and chickens.

bootney farnsworth

February 26th, 2013
6:45 am

yup. in social engineering, we’ve tossed out nearly everything which relates to actually teaching.

so long as its happy talk with stupid buzzwords full of cultural failure reinforcement…who cares about actually educating them

catlady

February 26th, 2013
6:52 am

I don’t know if it has hurt, but I don’t see it helping much. At my school, “at risk” kids (below grade level, failed the CRCT every year) get additional, small group instruction in math and reading by pull out or push in experienced teachers who try to make up for years of parental neglect/inaction/ignorance. The third graders also have available 4 1/2 hours per week of after school instruction. About half the parents agree (they have to provide transportation home.)

The truth of the matter is, few of these kids will pass the CRCT, a minimal test.

Personal story: I intensely worked with 6 second graders last year. I gathered RTI data like a maniac. Of the 6, I felt good about the progress of one, and she is doing at or above grade level work this year. Of the others, one has been admitted into sped, and at least 2 others should be tested.

Of the 8 3rd graders I worked with, none are doing on-level work this year.

Is 1 of 14 very good? No, but it is typical.

And, for our resident race-baiters, none are black, and 4 are Latino. That is 10 white kids, only one of whom has been successfully “helped.” I would think it is just me, but my fellow push ins have the same type of success rate. It is very discouraging.

HS Math Teacher

February 26th, 2013
6:54 am

NOTHING will significantly change for the better in education as long as you have schools that promote kids based on seat time. We wait until the kid gets to high school before we start giving “real grades”. It’s about too late once the bent twig gets to be a tree.

NOTHING will significantly change for the better in education if we focus too much on polical correctness and avoidance of greviences and lawsuits. Tell it like it really is, and do what it takes to fix the problem. Everyone in every aspect of professional life does this, except educators.

NOTHING will significantly change for the better in education with a centrally-planned, top-down, government organization that listens more to eggheads from universities than troops in the field who fight the day-to-day battles.

NOTHING will significantly change for the better if we allow influencial people (politicians & marketeers) who think they know how to teach to make, or guide policy decisions that affect the educational process.

reality check

February 26th, 2013
7:23 am

Public schools are doing a poor job with all students, not just poor ones.

Teachers are forced to spend excessive hours on standardized testing and paperwork, not meaningful instruction.

A child can get a good education if they attend a public school, but it is up to the parents – and the child- to make that happen. Some have more resources – and interest – to make that happen.

Bernie

February 26th, 2013
7:27 am

These so called reform success stories are far and in between. While the success has proven to be modest at best,. Overall the change further reduces available education dollars for the vast majority of the students.

This Rush to these new untested programs is a FOOLS game and is primairly designed to resegregate the public educational system as we know it.

AP Teacher

February 26th, 2013
7:36 am

Teach for America is pathetic.

Private Citizen

February 26th, 2013
7:54 am

AP Teacher, TFA is a feeder system for people who want to work use education for corporate exploit, Goes like this, the TFA’er spends a couple years in the school house to get come “cred” and then moves on to a corporate position doing training / curriculum / themes / testing / publishing, you name it. At least, that’s what the critics of TFA say.

Private Citizen

February 26th, 2013
8:00 am

Melissa, You’re onto something with the magic word curriculum, the actual content of what is taught for mastery. Private academies are actually really together with their curriculum. It is specific and sequential and there are support materials to go with the structure. For example, vocabulary is sequential and taught in groups of content that progressively build. Math is taught where one area is mastered before you proceed to the next. In the government school, there is no organised vocabulary instruction and math has been turned into a salad of mixed concepts, too many different things going on at once and then a mad pacing guide, to go with it, that must be followed in a regimented manner whether or not the kids are getting it. This is the very core of the dysfunction, and the function has been replaced by process and “how to teach” harassment.

indigo

February 26th, 2013
8:07 am

I lived thru all the marches, political turmoil, riots and busing that occured during the days of ending segregation.

Now, it looks like voluntary segregation is the rule.

All that blood, sweat, tears and bitterness over busing for nothing.

Only in America.

FlaTony

February 26th, 2013
8:08 am

“School reform” in America has become a code word for privatization of our schools. Yes, it will lead to a new kind of segregation based more on economics. The movement undermines democratic principles we have cherished for generations.

Atlanta Mom

February 26th, 2013
8:08 am

Catlady,
Are you saying those kids can’t be taught? Second grade is too late? You paint a pretty bleak picture.

BT

February 26th, 2013
8:11 am

The combination of so called school reform from the EXPERTS and the laziness of our society are the real issues. As a current administrator, when we encourage rigor in our classes, most students rebel because it is too much work involved. Dont get me started on the family dynamics, that is another issue unto itself. When education is not important to the parents, guess who else does not care!!!

Truth in Moderation

February 26th, 2013
8:13 am

All of these problems will be taken care of by 2023, when President Obama has promised us NEW BRAINS FOR ALL!

NO SYNAPSE WILL BE LEFT UNMAPPED! We will have the brain power of MILLIONS of students across America…..and the world!

I bet you think I’m crazy….just watch this video. The EU will put it all together for us (I guess Americans are too dumb).
ht tp://www.human brainproject.eu (remove spaces)
Read this:
ht tp://academic com mons.colu mbia.edu/item/ac:147966 (remove spaces)

John Friedricks

February 26th, 2013
8:15 am

HS Math Teacher is absolutely right. We have got to let the teachers have the majority of the input when it comes to teaching methodology. There are too many administrators and politicians that coerce policy. Most of them have either not been in the classroom since the use of the blackboard or have no classroom experience at all. Want to reform education? Get the administrators to support the teachers with what they need. We should also look at using our public schools to develop technical job skills for adults. Adult education in some communities would serve a great purpose.

jarvis

February 26th, 2013
8:18 am

@indigo, busing is alive and well in Chatham County. Has been since 1970.

Oh, but also since 1970, no white children have gone to public school. The end result is black children being bused all over Savannah to attend school with other black children.

It’s also one of the worst performing school systems in the state.

Under Funded

February 26th, 2013
8:19 am

Budget cuts are what is killing my child’s education. She only goes to school 160 days a year…being shorted 20 days a year for 9 years means she will have missed an entire year of school by the time she graduates. Thanks Guvna Sonny and Guvna Deal and your cronies.

catlady

February 26th, 2013
8:19 am

Atl Mom: No, not too late, but you have to remember by second grade they have had prek, k, and first to “catch up” and have not. It is hard to make up for years of deficit learning of the kind that most middle class kids come to school with.

MiltonMan

February 26th, 2013
8:25 am

““School reform” in America has become a code word for privatization of our schools. Yes, it will lead to a new kind of segregation based more on economics. The movement undermines democratic principles we have cherished for generations”

The poster has no clue about the democratic dream of improving your situation and being mobile & therefore the ability to move out of bad areas.

Eddie Hall

February 26th, 2013
8:28 am

The answer is simple. Let LOCAL people ( BOE’s, schools, etc) decide what is best for and the best way to teach children in THEIR community. Why have the lawmakers in Atlanta and DC become consumed with what’s best for YOUR children? As always, money. What works in Cook County may not be what works in Dade County. Local control and less outside interference would be the answer, but money gets in the way.

Aquagirl

February 26th, 2013
8:34 am

Atl Mom: No, not too late, but you have to remember by second grade they have had prek, k, and first to “catch up” and have not.

Out of curiosity Catlady, do you know how many of your at-risk kids attended pre-K or kindergarten?

williebkind

February 26th, 2013
8:36 am

My question to all of you is, “Is there a punishment for a teens who do not meet the standard?” Or would this be cruel and inhumane. Just blame the system and keep throwing money at it…right? I know continue writing elaborate pedant articles of how the system should be changed to accommodate not only the student but the teacher also. Make education voluntary and most of these problems go away.

jarvis

February 26th, 2013
8:38 am

“Make education voluntary and most of these problems go away.”

Voluntary for who? After they’re 16, it is voluntary.

Ronald Reagan Parkway

February 26th, 2013
8:42 am

Thank you for this article. You are on point. I believe that “ALL” kids are capable of learning. If given an opportunity with “adequate resources”, the sky would be the limit!

Truth in Moderation

February 26th, 2013
8:45 am

“Budget cuts are what is killing my child’s education. She only goes to school 160 days a year…being shorted 20 days a year for 9 years means she will have missed an entire year of school by the time she graduates. Thanks Guvna Sonny and Guvna Deal and your cronies.”

YOU HAVE NO EXCUSE! Home schoolers are required to go to school 180 days! (That’s why we are smarter)
Home school. End of discussion.

Dr. Proud Black Man

February 26th, 2013
8:46 am

I totally reject the premise that black students need to sit next to white students to learn. Kenneth Gibson’s experiments were flawed IMHO. Having said that instead of worrying about white flight we need to worry AND solve the problem on why OUR culture is OFTEN non-conducive to education.

skipper

February 26th, 2013
8:46 am

Many are missing the point. There are certain, tough to swallow facts. The inner city schools are what they are. Any attempt to sugar coat the situation with political correctness or glossing over merely exascerbates the situation. Somehow, the culture has to change. Barring a few “crusaders”, folks are not going to send their kids to one of these schools. Many serve more as warehouses than education facilities. Too many parents (not all, of course, but too many) could care less about true education. The home lives of many of these pooir kids suffering has less to do with poverty, and more to do with a culture (not everyone, again, but still too many.) This is not the typical “blame single moms” approach, but instead of stereotyping, lets get real stats on how many of these kids are fatherless, and how many siblings are fathered by different folks. Then, lets try to somehow look at that situation and see what approach to take. People, like it or not white folks are not going to flock to this situation. Yes, the problems mentioned above are factors in all communities. However, instead of dancing around the issues, how about opening up the dialogue and realizie that the inner city schools for the forseeable future are going to remain largely minority and poor. Like it or not, that is a fact none of the folks on this blog can challenge. If they do challenge it, they will be proven wrong when in ten years the demographics remain largely the same. Therefore, a different approach to education is going to have to be developed. The kids are teachable, but discipline and life lessons are needed here. Hard words, but check back in ten years…..

Progressive Humanist

February 26th, 2013
8:47 am

When I was teaching high school about 10 years ago the school where I taught had about a 50/50 White/Black ratio. The other high school in the county was about 60/40. The county was growing rapidly so they built and opened a third high school. When they redrew the lines in the district, my high school went to a 15/85 ratio, nearly all Black, and the other school that had previously been in existence went to about 85/15, nearly all White.

A couple years later the district office was looking at my high school and asking what was wrong and why hadn’t test scores increased. Well, literally overnight they had turned it into a high-poverty, all-minority school. We actually performed quite well considering the socioeconomic conditions and were always at the state average in test scores and graduation rates, something you wouldn’t expect given the demographics. But of course, we were considered the nappy-headed stepchild in the county because the other high school was miraculously performing much better after the forced economic and racial segregation. Go figure.

jarvis

February 26th, 2013
8:47 am

@RR Parkway, what are “adequate resources”?

Households that foster an environment of learning are not available for all.

My kids don’t have to worry about their next meal or if there is going to be heat in the house tonight. Mom isn’t doing meth in the kitchen with her abusive boyfriend either. They can concentrate on learning their spelling words, and we’ll help them discover a method for solving word problems.

It’s a cruel reality, but things aren’t equal in all homes.

olderandwiser49

February 26th, 2013
8:48 am

Once again with the “tests are racially biased” BS? Without testing, it’s almost impossible to measure progress. With the “No Child Left Behind” garbage, we have already seen the dumbing-down of our schools as teachers “teach” based on the lowest student’s ability. As a result, the more-intelligent students (or those who want to be) seek schools that can offer them a better education. I think that better results can be attained by pushing students to learn and achieve rather than by making excuses for their failure, while passing them on to the next grade. If a student knows there are no consequences for failure, where is his incentive to even try?

Ronald Reagan Parkway

February 26th, 2013
8:51 am

Too many parents (not all, of course, but too many) could care less about true education. The home lives of many of these pooir kids suffering has less to do with poverty, and more to do with a culture (not everyone, again, but still too many.) This is not the typical “blame single moms” approach, but instead of stereotyping, lets get real stats on how many of these kids are fatherless, and how many siblings are fathered by different folks.

_____

Would you speak the same of the rural areas where poor Whites somehow have the same problems and the drug of choice is Meth? Let’s look at the entire state of Georgia because we are “one” state.

indigo

February 26th, 2013
8:52 am

Dr. Proud Black Man – 8:46

Exactly what is it you’re proud of?

jarvis

February 26th, 2013
8:54 am

@Truth in Moderation, homeschooling is for Jesus Freaks, racists, scholastic hobbiests and over protective aholes that are scared for their children to see what the world is like.

jarvis

February 26th, 2013
8:56 am

@RR Parkway, I actually had a white family in mind when I typed my comment to you.

Ronald Reagan Parkway

February 26th, 2013
8:58 am

Yes, the problems mentioned above are factors in all communities. However, instead of dancing around the issues, how about opening up the dialogue and realizie that the inner city schools for the forseeable future are going to remain largely minority and poor. Like it or not, that is a fact none of the folks on this blog can challenge.

_____

Sorry, as I continued to read your entire comments, my perception was confused.

Jovan Miles

February 26th, 2013
8:58 am

The focus of education reform should always be on equity rather than equality. I have worked in schools where 4-8 weeks before standardized testing begins regular instruction is literally shut down to focus on test prep. This culture teaches our children that the point of school is The Test.

Truth in Moderation

February 26th, 2013
8:58 am

Hmmm. From all of these comments, it seems that you want the parents and students to have the moral character promoted by Jesus. Interesting.

Dr. Proud Black Man

February 26th, 2013
9:00 am

@indigo

Proud of the fact that a simple online screen name causes trolls like you to have apoplectic fits. Does this answer your question?

Don't Tread

February 26th, 2013
9:03 am

Are education reforms hurting the students who need the most help, poor and minority kids?

No, lack of parenting is.

Pluto

February 26th, 2013
9:09 am

Are students given the opportunity to learn and do they take advantage of that? Let’s face it we have gone overboard and bend over backwards to elevate those identified as at risk (predominantly students of color) to the detriment of the white kids because being white just ain’t politically correct. There is no guarantee of outcome in life and we best quit thwarting the development of the future producers in life.

Fed up

February 26th, 2013
9:12 am

Bottom line. Whether you believe in standardized testing or not, I can tell you that the problem with public education is that no matter how great the school is, there is simply no substitute for bad parenting. Period. Our teachers should not be expected to be parents, babysitters, and police. Schools like drew charter are trying to address this problem, although these days only a little more than half of their students are socioeconomically disadvantaged so im not sure if the model is working as intended.

southern opinion

February 26th, 2013
9:24 am

It was too easy for the lower functioning students to pull down the higher functioning students. “Dumbing down” became a rule rather than a helpful procedure. A sense of entitlement by all students has hurt academic success.