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Dan ForestAdd the Wilmington Star News and Raleigh’s News & Observer to the list of community voices that are rejecting Lt. Gov. Dan Forest’s absurd and revealing attempt to squelch the truth about charter schools.

Here’s the Star News from over the weekend:

“The theory is that, let loose from red tape, charters can experiment and try new teaching techniques, revitalizing education. Some charter schools do, in fact, live up to that lofty goal.

Like a lot of theories, however, that formula doesn’t always work in practice. In Southeastern North Carolina, for example, we’ve seen that charters run by private, for-profit companies have been remarkably secretive about how they spend taxpayer money. It’s hard to tell, but it appears that some of them have been paying headmasters and administrators bloated salaries while doling out peanuts to the front-line teachers….

Some Republicans, it seems, don’t want to hear anything bad about charters – or any inconvenient facts.

We are not anti-charter school. Some are excellent. We simply want thorough transparency and a complete accounting of how the schools are performing. We don’t need politicians asking us to use rose-colored glasses.”

And this is from the lead editorial in this morning’s N&O:

“Charters began about 20 years ago with the idea that they would be free of some rules governing regular schools. They didn’t have to adhere to the regular teacher pay scale, and they could alter their school calendars. They could experimen, and successes could be integrated into regular public schools.

Unfortunately, conservatives have crusaded for charters, which are funded by taxpayers, almost with the attitude that they represent a private school system within the public one. That’s not good, and critics have warned that the expansion of charters could indeed lead to these exact problems of economic and racial imbalance.

Forest and other state officials need to face the fact that there are problems with charters that may require some serious changes in structure and rules. Otherwise, charters will become exactly what some advocates appear to want: a publicly funded private school system with little accountability.

The charter school mission needs to be refocused on its original intent. And weak charters, or those with dramatic racial and economic imbalances, should be shuttered.”

Let’s hope other voices continue to speak out in opposition to Forest and his twisted efforts to undermine public education.

Commentary

Be sure to check out the #1 trending story on the Washington Post this morning — it’s entitled “White parents in North Carolina are using charter schools to secede from the education system.”

After detailing the battle over charters and the promise that even many progressives see in them, the article notes:

“The most recent cautionary tale comes from North Carolina, where professors at Duke have traced a troubling trend of resegregation since the first charters opened in 1997. They contend that North Carolina’s charter schools have become a way for white parents to secede from the public school system, as they once did to escape racial integration orders.

‘They appear pretty clearly to be a way for white students to get out of more racially integrated schools,’ said economics professor Helen Ladd, one of the authors of the draft report released Monday.

Charter schools in North Carolina tend to be either overwhelmingly black or overwhelmingly white—in contrast to traditional public schools, which are more evenly mixed.”

And this is the summary from the new report that Ladd authored along with Professors Charles Clotfelter and John Holbein, “The Growing Segmentation of the Charter School Sector in North Carolina”: Read More

Commentary

School testsYesterday, North Carolina took the latest in an series of steps cooked up by conservative advocates and ideologues to demoralize and depopulate our public education system (what they call “government schools”) — the release of the  much ballyhooed A-F grades for individual schools. As we’ve quickly learned — surprise!! — schools with lots of poor kids tend to fare poorly on standardized tests. Who could have guessed?

Notably absent from the review, of course, is the long list of private and religious schools eligible for public funds which teach that humans and dinosaurs once shared the planet, but that’s a discussion for another time and place.

Thankfully, a lot of what one needs to know about the A-F idea — aside from the obvious fact that it is sheer folly to try and sum up the collective actions of hundreds (or even thousands) of students, teachers and administrators in a single letter grade — is detailed in this new report from the good folks at the National Education Policy Center: “Why School Report Cards Merit a Failing Grade.”

After explaining why it’s impossible and counter-productive to try and assign a single letter grade to an entire school — especially one based on standardized tests of a population over which the school has no control and that completely ignores important parts of the school’s mission like developing citizens — the authors go on to recommend, among other things:

  • Eliminating the single grade, which cannot be composed without adding together unlike elements and promoting confusion and misunderstanding.
  • Developing a report card format that uses multiple school indicators that more adequately reflect a school performance profile.
  • Enlisting the services of assessment and evaluation experts in designing school accountability systems.

Click here to read the entire report. Let’s hope state lawmakers do. And let’s also hope that the new grades set in motion a chain of occurrences not intended by their conservative designers — namely, that North Carolina gets serious about attacking the two main causes of our educational system problems: poverty and segregation.

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Eva Justin from the Racial Hygiene and Demographic Biology Research Unit measures the skull of a Romani woman.

You would think that living in the twenty-first century, we would have progressed beyond the barbarity of eugenics programs in the U.S. in previous centuries. That assumption would be false.

Eugenics–the systematic implementation of social Darwinian procedures such as sterilization and segregation in order to “purify” the human gene pool–complemented the ideology behind the Nazi Holocaust. Meanwhile in the U.S., medical professionals were sterilizing those deemed genetically “inferior” while legislators and police were enforcing racial segregation. We have now moved forward to a point in which science, cultural consciousness, and law are in agreement that eugenics is destructive and ethically reprehensible.

Nevertheless, a recent investigation into California prisons reveals that some Americans remain behind the times. It has been confirmed that 39 female inmates were illegally sterilized over the last eight years at Folsom Women’s Facility, Central California Women’s Facility, Valley State Prison for Women, and the California Institution for Women. Such women were not given proper consent. The procedure, in effect, was coerced on them. Consequently, the health committee at the California legislature has moved to pass a bill banning all future sterilizations of inmates unless required in a medical emergency.

North Carolina isn’t faring much better. With a sketchy past regarding eugenics programs, the state has yet to compensate its past victims of sterilization despite promises. This past Monday was the deadline for victims to file claims and apply for compensation. The NAACP believes that the state is still doing an insufficient job, requesting that the deadline be extended as only 630 out of 1,800 victims who may still be alive have submitted proper claims and paperwork to the state Office of Justice for Sterilization Victims. Let’s hope this request meets with a favorable response and that our nation can move further forward and “not one step back” as the Moral Monday mantra states. Because in California and North Carolina, we remain more than one step back.

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During these past few busy months you may have missed the launch of ProPublica‘s “Segregation Now,” which takes a deep look at how how America’s schools have steadily resegregated since the Brown v. Board of Education federal ruling that was handed down sixty years ago.

The ProPublica series begins with Nikole Hannah-Jones’ investigation of Tuscaloosa’s city schools, which are among the most rapidly resegregating in the country. Not only is the story enriched with a beautiful visual layout and great interactive graphics, Hannah-Jones compels readers to put themselves into the shoes of the Dent family.

The Dents are a multi-generational family that has lived through it all in Tuscaloosa: Jim Crow-era public school segregation, the eventual efforts to desegregate after Brown, and today’s reality: public schools are moving back toward resegregation, and what that means for today’s Tuscaloosan youth.

Alabama is not alone in this trajectory. For example, here in North Carolina’s Pitt County, the issue of public school segregation has been front and center.

Pitt County has been under desegregation orders since 1965, when the federal court found that the district was operating racially-segregated, dual and unconstitutional school systems.

Pitt’s African American population stands today around 34 percent — but in its 35 public schools, African-American students make up the majority, according to district records. In 2012-13, close to 48 percent of its students were black, 38 percent white, and 10 percent Latino.

Last fall, a U.S. District Court judge lifted desegregation orders, finding the school district to have fully complied and achieved “unitary status,” or had fully desegregated its public school system.

An appeal of that decision will be heard in September the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Until then, check out the entire ProPublica series, “Segregation Now,” while you cool off by the pool this weekend.