PlaceMatters

This blog post is part of a series called Place Matters. The other posts can be accessed here, here, here and here.

North Carolina’s education system is entering a new environment. The Common Core State Standards are in full effect providing for new curriculum. The Excellent Public Schools Act’s Read to Achieve section which ends social promotion in the third grade threatens to hold back many students. Proven measures like early childhood education programs that improve End of Grade test results have been cut.

Unfortunately, students who find themselves in environments of racial segregation and high poverty will feel the effects of the changes in education policy in this state worse than their more affluent peers. According to a 2013 report published by the UNC Center for Civil Rights called “The State of Exclusion”, North Carolina is rife with racially identifiable schools. In the report, these are schools where “the racial composition of the school was more than 10% different than the county average.” Their composition can reflect either a higher population of white students than the county average or more students of color than the county average. Using the methodology explained in the report, the research found that throughout the entire state, 63.44% of the population lives near an elementary school that is racially identifiable.

The literature is clear on the impacts of racially identifiable schools on students learning. In a research brief, UNC Charlotte Professor Roslyn Michelson, states that “[s]egregated schools are highly effective delivery systems for unequal educational opportunities.” This point is illustrated by research from the Cedar Grove Institute for Sustainable Communities which states that “[i]n North Carolina, segregated high-poverty schools have less experienced teachers, fewer fully-qualified teachers, and fewer teachers with advanced degrees…” Racial segregation in schools creates a system for student underachievement.

Racial segregation was not the only consideration in the UNC report. Research also addressed high-poverty schools. It comes as no surprise that, according to the report, high-poverty schools are also likely to be racially identifiable. The most impoverished counties in North Carolina also have higher rates of their populations living near failing schools.

These findings are highly correlated with other findings of the report around segregated housing patterns. Again, Michelson finds that assignment policies for schools necessarily are linked to housing policies.

Fortunately, there are solutions. Research shows that racial and socioeconomic integration is beneficial to all students and society.  Prof. Michelson’s research brief shows that where there is diversity, students of color are more likely to have higher grades, graduate high school and continue their education in college than students attending schools with a population of mostly disadvantaged students of color and students living in poverty.

A Century Foundation report called “Housing Policy is School Policy” studied Montgomery County, Maryland, which has one of the first inclusionary zoning programs in the United States. The policy allows low-income students to attend school with their more affluent peers. Low-income students with access to schools where there are students with more wealth outperformed poor students in the schools where there was not socioeconomic integration.

In places like Wake County, where housing is segregated but an “aggressive district-wide socioeconomic integration policies” has been used, there was less of an achievement gap than there would have been without the integration policy.

Of course, there are many places in the state where there is no racial or socioeconomic diversity. If inclusionary zoning or strong diversity policies are not available, there are still other solutions. The state can ensure that qualified, experienced teachers are in every classroom by making and paying teachers like the professionals they are. North Carolina could also restore the Teaching Fellows Program so that only people who know that they want to teach will enter the profession. There should also be restoration of funding for professional development programs. A joint publication between the North Carolina Justice Center’s Education and Law Project and Budget and Tax Center called “Smart Money: Investing in Student Achievement” highlight solutions where adequate and equitable funding can improve student outcomes.

Until North Carolina becomes serious about ensuring that students’ learning environments are not tied to their living environments, place will always matter.

This week should not pass without acknowledging that it is “National School Choice Week.” This is the week described by its proponents as a way to shine a “positive spotlight on the need for effective education options for all children.” By this, these folks usually mean charter schools and vouchers.

The truth, however, is that evidence shows that these are not effective options at all. Nationally, the majority of charters either perform about the same as or worse than traditional public schools. The news is no better with vouchers. In places that have had vouchers the longest, public school students actually outperform students who receive private school vouchers on proficiency exams.

Even more fascinating than the illusion of choice that is being celebrated is the fact that there are people without choices when it comes to public education. The North Carolina General Assembly is constitutionally mandated, meaning they have no choice but to support the traditional public schools.

Article I, Section 15 of the North Carolina Constitution states that Read More

First published on PolicyMic.com

A recent Gallup poll showed that the U.S. is losing its taste for capital punishment. Make no mistake: A majority of Americans are still in favor of state-sponsored homicide, but the 60% of people who claimed that they approve of capital punishment is an all-time low. Year after year, the death penalty is falling out of favor in this country. One segment of the population that is growing in opposition of the death penalty are those who have conservative values.

The poll stated that 81% of Republicans support capital punishment, but even that number was lower than it has been in the past. An important part of the change in the conservative and libertarian response to the death penalty is young people. The Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), an organization started by the youth coordinator of the presidential campaign of Ron Paul, the Republican Congressman from Texas, is a partner of Conservatives Concerned about the Death Penalty (CCATDP). In addition to the partnership with YAL, CCATDP attended the Young Republican National Federation’s Convention in Alabama.

Just last week, Kansas Republican Chase Blasi published an editorial explaining why capital punishment is counter to conservative positions. Read More

While there is much discussion about the Common Core State Standards being implemented in North Carolina’s K-12 public schools, there is not much talk about what Common Core means for our youngest students. Simply put, the Common Core State Standards are a set of guidelines used in 45 states which outline what a student should know in each grade.

In 2012, North Carolina passed the Excellent Public Schools Act and will retain students in the 3rd grade if they are not proficient in reading on the end-of-grade standardized test. It is essential for students to show up at the Kindergarten door ready to learn so they do not fall behind by the time they reach 3rd grade. Early Childhood Week is about ensuring that the programs provided to children help them succeed. Evidence shows that Pre-Kindergarten is one of those programs that help at-risk students become successful.

Since North Carolina has adopted the Common Core and has always had a thriving Pre-K program, the question becomes how do we ensure our preschoolers will be successful when they finally reach that Kindergarten door?

The Office of Early Learning (OEL), which is a part of the Department of Public Instruction, exists to make sure that Pre-K through 3rd grade students thrive academically. Even though, the North Carolina Pre-Kindergarten program (NCPK) is a part of the Division of Child Development and Early Education (DCDEE) in the Department of Health and Human Services, it is essential that NCPK remains an academic program.

To that end, the OEL gathered educators and child advocates to illustrate what alignment between Common Core and the state’s early learning standards would look like. It produced two documents showing how the English Language Arts section would work and the same for Mathematics.   

No matter how people feel about the Common Core, one thing is for sure; it is in North Carolina and we cannot afford to lose cohorts of students while debating the merits of the program. If our goal is truly to see every student reach his or her desk in Kindergarten ready to succeed, it is equally as important for us to prepare them for the Common Core while they are in Pre-K.

This post is part of a blog series on the crucial role of quality early childhood education and child care in caring for our youngest residents, creating thriving communities, and promoting a healthy economy. Learn more about the programs we are discussing this week and take action here.

This post is part of a blog series on the crucial role of quality early childhood education and child care in caring for our youngest residents, creating thriving communities, and promoting a healthy economy. Read the introduction to this blog series and learn more about the programs we’ll be discussing here.)
 
North Carolina is the home to several great early education programs. Unfortunately, some get confused as it is easy to conflate the programs, however; it is important to recognize that, while different, each program compliments the others and all are vital to the success of our youngest residents.

The most well-known early childhood program is Head Start. The Head Start program is one of the most successful initiatives of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. While it began as a summer program in 1965 to prepare low-income children for Kindergarten, it became a full-time and year-round program in 1998.

Head Start provides several services for children as well as their families. In addition to the literacy and education programs, Head Start also provides nutrition and health services for families. A key part of Head Start since its early days was the intentional support for cultural sensitivity and competence. Thus, providers keep the families’ linguistic and cultural needs as part of their program.

While Head Start is a federal program, there are offices in every state. The North Carolina Head Start Association is Read More