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By Kwok-Sze Wong, Ed.D., Executive Director, American School Counselor Association (ASCA)

My daughter, Tori, attended two high schools. Like most of her friends, she was very active. She was in the National Honor Society, the Chinese Honor Society, the marching band, the orchestra, drama productions. She was the class secretary and took Advanced Placement and honors classes. Tori went to a school of engaged, enthusiastic and energetic students.

There is another school, however, existing under the same roof. In this school, students don’t participate in any extracurricular activities. They don’t take a rigorous course load. Students in this school have attendance and disciplinary problems. This is a school of unmotivated, unchallenged and disenfranchised students.

Many students in the second school come from low-income, ethnically and culturally diverse populations. They don’t see themselves in the same world, much less the same school, as their more involved counterparts. The different socioeconomic populations may be physically desegregated, but they were never integrated into one cohesive student body.

Unfortunately, many schools across the country experience this same “one-roof, two-schools” issue. Every school has students who are engaged and those who are apathetic. Often, student involvement and performance is based on ...

By Jared Niemeyer

Jared is a Special Olympics Athlete and a member of the Project UNIFY National Youth Activation Committee, and for him, friendship is a blessing that he’ll never take for granted.

Friends are people who care about you, respect you, really listen to you, are thoughtful and do nice things because they want to see you smile, but most of all – you are important to them because you matter! I have some really great friends!

As a Special Olympic athlete I have a lot of friends with intellectual or developmental disabilities. We love doing things together; we care about what happens to each other, we encourage each other and look out for each other. We are friends and enjoy doing things together! Special Olympics has given us the opportunity to experience a lot that some of us would never have had the chance to do. We also play Unified Sports, so many of our teammates are also Unified partners and don’t have disabilities; we are friends and have a lot of fun working and playing together. ...

When I logged onto my Twitter account last Tuesday, an interesting string of comments/news scrolled across my screen.  As fate would have it, the National Education Association (NEA) annual meeting and the National Charter Schools Conference (NCSC) were both taking place, and their keynote speaker addresses filled my Twitter feed. 

The NEA speakers, former Montgomery County (Maryland) Public Schools (MCPS) district superintendent Jerry Weast and Stanford professor Linda Darling-Hammond offered perspectives on the roles teachers can and should play as successful practitioners in the classroom and beyond.  Dr. Weast profiled the MCPS Peer Assistance and Review Program (PAAR), designed in collaboration with the local unit of NEA and the district administration to institute a system of teacher evaluation led by teachers and predicated on ...

We know a great deal about the high school dropout problem. From the research of Robert Balfanz and others, we know where dropouts are likely to come from – the majority attends a small subset of high schools where the graduation rate is 60% or lower. We know who is likely to drop out – the warning signs start as early as first grade, and by middle school they can be defined as the ABCs (attendance problems, behavior problems, and course failure). And we know that there are effective interventions that help retain likely dropouts.

Where we have struggled is in putting together what we know and addressing the issue at scale. But that might be changing. At a May briefing at the US Department of Education on the progress of three Investing in Innovation (i3) grantees, I learned of a promising effort to do so: Diplomas Now. The innovation? Arranging what we know are effective education improvement strategies into a coherent whole.

Based on Balfanz’s research (and he is the program founder), Diplomas Now brings together three national networks – Talent Development, City Year and Communities in Schools – to deliver a comprehensive secondary school turnaround model in high schools where relatively few students graduate.  

Utilizing the evidence-based approaches taken by each of the partner organizations, Diplomas Now targets interventions at multiple levels – school, classroom and students. The model: Organize teachers into ...

By Jim Hull, Senior Policy Analyst, National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education (CPE)

Minority students have made significant gains over the past four decades in both math and reading, according to the 2012 long-term NAEP results. While most white students made significant gains as well, achievement gaps narrowed considerably since minority students made much larger gains than their white peers. However, large achievement gaps still remain.

Reading Results

9 Year Olds

  • U.S. 9 year old have made significant gains.
    • Since the first year of NAEP in 1971, student achievement in reading has increased significantly from 208 to 221 (13 points, or just over a year’s worth of
    ...

By Joellen Killion, Senior Advisor, Learning Forward

Across the nation, new state legislation is weaving together educator evaluation, student assessments, and continuous professional learning for educators. New evaluation systems for educators commonly define levels of effective performance, require preparation for those responsible for conducting the evaluations, and call for support systems for educators' continual professional growth and development. Too often these evaluation systems fail to include the essential policy components to support effective educator professional learning necessary for continuous growth, which reinforces an already deeply embedded practice of inequity in students' opportunity to learn.

Some educators are fortunate enough to work in school systems and states with sound professional learning policies that define effectiveness; hold school systems, third-party providers, and others accountable for effective professional learning practices; and make the necessary resources available for continuous learning. When other educators do not benefit from such policies, students' opportunities to ...

By Thomas J. Gentzel, Executive Director, National School Boards Association (NSBA)

No human enterprise is perfect, and we all are capable of improving. That’s especially true when an institution faces continuing challenges and new demands. Such is the case with public education, which has undergone many transformations since it was established -- from its early agrarian roots, through the Industrial Revolution, two world wars, the cold war, and the Technology Revolution.

We often forget that during most of our nation’s history, public schools were expected to provide basic instruction to all students while preparing some to move on to higher education and the professions. This system of sorting worked well when family-supporting jobs in factories and mills were plentiful. Today, lower skill jobs are hard to find, let alone capable of sustaining a middle class existence.

Now, public schools are expected to do something never asked of them before: educate all students to a very high level. This, of course, is a good and necessary development if our nation is to remain competitive in ...

By Dennis Van Roekel, President, National Education Association (NEA)

For weeks now, teachers, parents and community leaders have been protesting Chicago Public Schools' plan to close 50 schools in what will be the largest single wave of school closures in U.S. history.

The media coverage has been dramatic, but what you see in the eyes of educators who are so adamantly opposed to this plan is the same thing you see in the eyes of educators all across this nation -- the innate instinct to protect the children we care about.

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that Mayor Rahm Emanuel's plan to shutter 50 (yes, 50) schools won't be good for Chicago's children, especially children of color. The New York Times reports that "in the 100 schools that have closed in Chicago since 2001, 88 percent of the students affected were black."

Not only is there evidence that all class sizes in the city will increase -- some by as much as 40 percent -- but recent studies have concluded that only a very small minority of students will be placed into substantially better school environments. And worse: children will have to leave their neighborhoods and ...

By Daniel A. Domenech, Executive Director, American Association of School Administrators (AASA)

AASA has released a set of proposals intended to offer an alternative to the current, federally-mandated due process system by which parents and school personnel handle disputes about special education services.

The due process system as it exists today is expensive, unwieldy and inequitable. It was designed to provide access to education services for students with disabilities, but instead it causes deep divisions between schools and parents and often little else. Now we have the opportunity to begin a dialogue among all the people involved so that, as we approach the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), we can craft more effective options to use when parents and school administrators disagree.

Our report, Rethinking Special Education Due Process, recommends four dispute resolution processes, including a consultancy model similar to a voluntary dispute resolution system piloted in Massachusetts since 2009 called SpedEx. This model has shown promise in reducing the use of the due process hearing system. ...

While we live in a market-driven economy, where winning and wealth accumulation are desired outcomes, education advocates on all sides of the political aisle currently assert that public schools are failing our children, especially minorities and low-income students.  Education is a common good; it is the stepping-stone through which students can make something better of their futures. Therefore, we should not be setting up a system to create winners and losers. ...

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