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Alex Zimmerman at Chalkbeat took an intensive look at who is driving the Opt Out movement, wherein parents pull their kids out of the standardized tests that allow districts and states to assess school performance:

The report from Teachers College at Columbia University surveyed 1,641 supporters of the opt-out movement across 47 states, including 588 from New York, in an attempt to answer fundamental questions about who they are and what they want. Some of those findings aren’t surprising. “The typical opt out activist is a highly educated, white, married, politically liberal parent whose children attend public school and whose household median income is well above the national average,” states the report. The median household income of respondents surveyed was $125,000, compared with the national median, which was $53,657 in 2014, the most recent year available.

Policymakers have long suspected that #OptOutSoWhite, and now there’s empirical proof. Knowing this is important. Folks who want to escape accountability in schools say that we’ve always known which schools are bad. That claim is at most part right. While there are some schools that are obviously weak, there are other schools – namely those in the same suburbs with high concentrations of Opt Out participants – where accountability identifies massive gaps between white students and non-White students. There are myriad schools with intra-school segregation, and it is impossible to identify the deleterious effects of these schools when a bunch of the privileged White families take their toys and go home. Only privileged people get to Opt Out of accountability, and don’t let anyone tell you that these parents are “actually” defending the interests of more vulnerable kids. That’s not what they were doing when they moved to the suburbs in the first place, and it’s not what they’re doing when they pull their kids out of tests for political reasons.

Glad I got that of my chest. In other news, Sharif El-Mekki, the principal of a neighborhood school that happens to be a charter, shares why he’s baffled at “either/or” discussions in education

Some public schools serve their neighborhoods, some don’t, whether they’re traditional or charter. I am proud to work in a charter school that serves the same neighborhood I grew up and live in. The vast majority of our students reside in the 19131 zip code, and Shoemaker is right up the street from my alma mater. In fact, I even went to Shoemaker for summer school one year. The chasm of difference between what it was then and what it is now is tremendous. Shoemaker was once the second-most violent school in the city, and likely the state. That is no longer the case. Same community. Same kids. Different adults with very different results. Today, it’s one of the top schools in Philly.

Emma Brown at The Washington Post covers a group of state lawmakers who just released a new report on what the United States can do to become more competitive on international education benchmarks:

The group examined 10 nations that fare well on international comparisons, including China, Canada, Singapore, Estonia, Japan, Poland and Korea, and discovered common elements: strong early childhood education, especially for disadvantaged children; more selective teacher preparation programs; better pay and professional working conditions for teachers; and time to help build curriculum linked to high standards. It also says that high-performing countries tend not to administer standardized tests annually, as the United States does, but instead at key transition points in a student’s career. The assessments emphasize essays over multiple-choice in an effort to gauge students’ complex thinking skills, according to the report. And the tests cost more than states are used to paying for standardized tests, but “these countries prioritize this investment as a small fraction of the total cost of their education system, knowing that cheaper, less effective, less rigorous assessments will not lead to world-class teaching or high student achievement.”

Sounds great, but we’ve seen reports with these exact findings before. It seems that the problem has less to do with technical know-how and more to do with mustering political will in a country that delegates education decision-making to thousands of localized education authorities. I’d love to see someone solve THAT problem.

Finally, David A. Graham, writing at The Atlantic, summarizes the horrifying findings in the Justice Department’s review of the Baltimore Police Department:

The document lays out, in often sickening detail, the many ways Baltimore police abused the law, the people they were meant to serve, the public trust, and their own brothers in arms. In the wake of the failed prosecution of six officers for the death of Freddie Gray, the report serves as a reminder that rather than an isolated crime, the Gray case was symptomatic of a force that regularly arrested people for insufficient reasons, or no reasons at all, and used excessive force against them—but particularly, and uniquely, black citizens of the city. The Justice Department makes clear that African Americans in Baltimore were targeted and abused by the police, making this report a twin to the department’s report on Ferguson, Missouri, which my colleague Conor Friedersdorf wrote indicated a “conspiracy against black citizens.”

Graham’s piece includes myriad excerpts from the report, which is worth reading in its entirety. While visual evidence of police violence justifiably points us towards expressing outrage at murdering unarmed citizens, this report brings into sharp relief the point that the entire policing system is broken.

 

Justin Cohen

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