Wednesday Reading List: Tax Credits, Financing Graduate School, and a Broken Policing System

Matt Barnum of Chalkbeat looks at the proliferation of tax credits for schooling, which are not quite vouchers:

With its recent adoption of a tax credit scholarship program, Illinois became the 18th state to adopt an innocuously named — but highly controversial — policy that critics have described as a “backdoor voucher.” In some sense, the description is apt. But by injecting a middle layer into the government’s support of private school tuition, tax credits help avoid some of the legal and political obstacles that have dogged efforts by advocates, like Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, to promote school choice through vouchers. Perhaps as a result, more students now use tax incentive programs than vouchers to attend private schools in the U.S.

Barnum digs into the statutory and practical differences between voucher programs and tax credits. Perhaps the most troubling difference is that tax credits sound more appealing, but there's EVEN LESS accountability attached to them than there is to vouchers. These programs could create huge structural barriers to funding public schools, as they essentially allow wealthier tax payers to choose to only finance private schooling. That's bananas.

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In other news, Jon Marcus of The Hechinger Report looks at a new source of revenue for cash-strapped colleges:

... private universities and colleges are relying on the money they take in from their graduate offerings to stabilize increasingly wobbly budgets, and public institutions to make up for state cuts and undergraduate tuition freezes ordered by governors and legislatures. It’s an effective solution to a big problem faced by institutions often accused of being financially unimaginative; the president who put it into place at Simmons [College] is a former bank executive who inherited a school that could barely meet its payroll and has transformed it into one that now has tens of millions of dollars in annual surpluses. But it also means that higher education’s money problems are, in part, being balanced on the backs of graduate students who face escalating levels of debt.

I learned a lot from this article, including the fact that there are few guardrails on both what percentage of their tuition graduate students can borrow, and on how high interest rates can be for those loans. While this story doesn't necessarily evoke outrage - at least for me - it does illustrate the fragility of the finances of both borrowers and higher education institutions. I'm going to file this article under "Mounting Evidence That the Financial Model of Higher Education is Untenable."

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In other news, Monique Judge of The Root found a youth football team that is kneeling for the national anthem:

... the Cahokia Quarterback Club ... decided as a group to take a knee during the national anthem before the team’s football game Sunday in Belleville, Ill. The team consists of players who are 8 years old or younger, and ahead of their game Sunday, all 25 players kneeled during the national anthem, Fox 2 Now reports. Their coach, Orlando Gooden, told Fox 2 Now, “One of the kids asked me if I saw [people] protesting and rioting in St. Louis. I said yes. I said, ‘Do you know why they are doing it?’” According to Coach Gooden, the player responded, “Because black people are getting killed, and no one is going to jail.”

Children understand what is happening around them. This team's act of solidarity is heartening, but the subtext is striking: young children already know that the state, and its armed representatives, routinely kill people who look like them, without fear of accountability.

For instance, Dale Eisinger and Nancy Dillon of the New York Daily News looked at the case of Daniel Pantaleo, the New York City police officer who killed Eric Garner:

Eric Garner's still-grieving mom met with the city agency that investigates police misconduct Monday and called on local officials to stop taking a backseat to the White House and Department of Justice when it comes to disciplining the officer who used a banned chokehold on her son before his death on a Staten Island sidewalk three years ago. Gwen Carr lauded the Civilian Complaint Review Board for recently recommending the most severe department charges against Officer Daniel Pantaleo. But she said it means nothing if the NYPD and Mayor de Blasio fail to act in deference to a seemingly stalled federal investigation. "I thought I would have gotten justice a long time ago. But as of now, they're still stringing us along. So that's why we are asking, we are begging, the mayor to please go forward with this, and the police department," she said.

There has to be accountability when the state murders someone. Period. To date, local police departments have failed to police themselves; prosecutors abdicate their responsibility to prosecute murderous officers; unions prop up their worst members; and cities continue to pay the salaries of employees who kill civilians. The system is broken at every level.

Have a great day ...

Monday Reading List: Education at the Emmys, State Control, and Gaming Graduation

Char Adams of People has the big education story this morning ... for real:

Leave it to Dave Chappelle and John Oliver to get the Twittersphere talking. Chappelle, 44, inadvertently sparked the trending topic at Sunday’s Emmy Awards when he gave a shout out to Washington, D.C., public schools during an unrehearsed bit ... “Shout out to D.C. public schools. Here we go,” he said before going back to reading the monitor. Later in the show, John Oliver urged Twitter users to use the hashtag #DCpublicschools to make the slogan trend on the social media site. With that, the hashtag was soon in the site’s top ten trending topics.

And then DC Public Schools was like:

It's touching to see the spotlight turn to DC in such a positive way, given how hard that system has worked to improve in the last decade, often while inspiring vigorous critique. (Full disclosure: I used to work at DC Public Schools.)

In other news, as David Chen writes in The New York Times, the Newark, New Jersey school system is changing its governance structure after two decades of state control:

For more than 20 years, local administrators have had little leverage over the finances or operations of the state’s largest school district. Choices about curriculum and programs were made mostly by a state-appointed superintendent, often an outsider. The city could not override personnel decisions ... With the district improving slowly but steadily in recent years, the state board of education is expected on Wednesday to approve a plan that would ultimately give Newark control again over its public schools with their almost $1 billion budget and 55,000 students.

There are many micro-stories within the narrative of Newark: the lackluster results of state control nationally; the waning of the era of the hard-charging-outsider superintendent; the relationship between charters and districts at the local level; and more. For education insiders, however, the relationship between Mayor Ras Baraka and Superintendent Chris Cerf might be the most constructive thread to pull; their surprising partnership contains a multitude of lessons for would-be reformers on any side of the education debates.

Finally today, Alia Wong is in The Atlantic, examining the unintended consequences of Chicago's newest education dictum:

In April, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel laid down a mandate: Every public-school student in Chicago must have a destination in order to receive their high-school diploma. In other words, all Chicago Public Schools and public-charter-school students must have a postsecondary plan in order to graduate. The idea is to ensure not only that the estimated 40 percent of CPS students without a plan don’t end up on the streets once they leave high school but also that they’re equipped with the know-how to fulfill their goals ... To Emanuel, the mandate is urgently needed to address a grave problem in Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods, where unemployment is widespread and violence seems unavoidable. The mayor’s critics say the rule will make things much worse for people who are already struggling; the last thing Chicago’s students need is another hurdle in the way of a high-school diploma.
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Read the whole article, because Wong does a nice job of describing how large, bureaucratic systems react to the imposition of a new public metric. On the one hand, when it comes to accountability for significant public systems, fewer, clearer metrics are preferable to multiple, diffuse ones. On the other hand, it's easy to game - and consequently dampen the value of - the acquisition of a high school diploma. Spoiler alert: there's no easy answer.

Have a great week!

Friday Reading List: Real American History, Teacher Preparation, and Educational Redemption

I have a bunch of articles to share today, so hopefully you've cleared a significant portion of your weekend for reading.

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RiShawn Biddle of Dropout Nation wants our schools to teach actual history:

... what we need now, more than ever in this time, is an honest discussion of how America’s legacy of slavery, segregation, and oppression continue to shape our politics and society. That begins with providing all children with honest, unflinching knowledge about what people like Sampson went through, from slavery to Reconstruction to Jim Crow ... The consequences of this failure to fully educate children can now be seen everywhere, including a White House occupied by a historical illiterate embracing the kind of White Supremacy that would have been respectable in the 19th century. Even respectable discourse about matters such as reforming schools are clouded by the inability of some to fully understand why it is critical to transform systems that are living legacies of deliberate decisions by past generations of White people to deny liberty and freedom to enslaved and oppressed Black people.

Biddle's piece provides an example of what this sort of discourse might look like, through a long examination on one particular enslaved family. One of the most important things to keep in mind about American history is that oppression of Black people didn't end with slavery, and that EVEN slavery was not all that long ago. At the same time that many contemporary White American families were building generational wealth, Black families were excluded from economic opportunity.

For a more contemporary narrative of how our systems disenfranchise people of color, here's Eli Hager from The New York Times:

Michelle Jones was released last month after serving more than two decades in an Indiana prison for the murder of her 4-year-old son. The very next day, she arrived at New York University, a promising Ph.D. student in American studies. In a breathtaking feat of rehabilitation, Ms. Jones, now 45, became a published scholar of American history while behind bars, and presented her work by videoconference to historians’ conclaves and the Indiana General Assembly ... N.Y.U. was one of several top schools that recruited her for their doctoral programs. She was also among 18 selected from more than 300 applicants to Harvard University’s history program. But in a rare override of a department’s authority to choose its graduate students, Harvard’s top brass overturned Ms. Jones’s admission after some professors raised concerns that she played down her crime in the application process.

Jones's story is extraordinary, and it demonstrates the unforgiving nature of our criminal justice system. While other countries think of incarceration as way to administer justice and foster rehabilitation, this country continues to treat imprisonment as permanent retribution and punishment. 

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In other news, Matt Barnum of Chalkbeat looks at a potential tension in teacher preparation policy:

Education advocates and policymakers want to have it both ways: they want more teachers of color and to “raise the bar” for the profession with measures that disproportionately screen out certain groups. The two aims, both widely popular in the education policy circles, aren’t just on a collision course. They’ve already collided. In Baltimore, for instance, a highly-rated black teacher may lose her job because of a licensing exam. But there has been only limited discussion of the fact that these two objectives — diversifying the profession and making it harder to enter — are often at cross purposes, although certification rules are hardly the only reason for limited diversity among teachers.

Barnum is writing a series on teacher preparation, and you should read his other entries.

Elsewhere, Stephen Sawchuk of Education Week wants to eradicate the myth of "learning styles," which has no scientific grounding.

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Emily Hanford of American Public Media takes a long look at how classrooms deal with dyslexia.

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Ad finally this week, Erika Christakis is in this month's edition of The Atlantic, lamenting the "war" on public schools. Most of the article is unoriginal and repetitive, but I appreciated the conclusion:

We ignore public schools’ civic and integrative functions at our peril. To revive them will require good faith across the political spectrum. Those who are suspicious of public displays of national unity may need to rethink their aversion. When we neglect schools’ nation-binding role, it grows hard to explain why we need public schools at all. Liberals must also work to better understand the appeal of school choice, especially for families in poor areas where teacher quality and attrition are serious problems. Conservatives and libertarians, for their part, need to muster more generosity toward the institutions that have educated our workforce and fueled our success for centuries.

Christakis avoids the pitfalls of other education historians by acknowledging that there was never a golden age of American schooling. That said, the biggest problem with the analysis is that she doesn't address race and/or the history of social division. It's baffling to me that education historians continue to hand-wave the fact that this country was built on a racist caste system.

Our schools are an inevitable reflection of our original sins as a country; race isn't the only lens through which to view social change, but it's a pretty f'ing important one!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday Reading List: How White Families Integrate, College Fees, and an Interesting Interview with John King

Patrick Wall is in Mother Jones ,covering a new effort that organizes white families to pursue school integration:

In 2014, [Courtney] Mykytyn founded Integrated Schools, a grassroots organization that encourages white families to “deliberately and joyfully” take the first step toward making their local schools more racially and socioeconomically diverse. While organizations such as the Century Foundation and the National Coalition on School Diversity promote integration on the national level, Mykytyn’s group is focused on recruiting middle-class white parents—the very people who have historically resisted sending their kids to integrated schools. “We’re the ones who kind of made it all fail,” says Mykytyn, who has a doctorate in anthropology. “Really fixing it has to be on us.”

We should consider this organization's approach to local organizing in light of my interview with Josh Starr yesterday. Whereas integration and desegregation efforts in the second half of the 20th century relied on judicial remedies and policy, those efforts often lacked the significant political constituencies necessary to sustain the work. I'm hoping that contemporary efforts at racial integration take a "both/and" approach that incorporates both policy and intense organizing.

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In other news, James S. Murphy, writing in The Atlantic, examines a simple way to reduce college application costs:

The College Board and ACT cover the cost of sending scores to four institutions for any student as long as he designates the recipient colleges within nine and five days, respectively, of taking the exam. After that, the former charges students $12 per school, although College Board also covers the score-sending fees for an additional four schools for test-takers who took the SAT for free; these scores can be sent at any time ... Economists describe such fees as microbarriers, and they can overwhelm not just students but those trying to help them as well. Some organizations pick up the fees, often relying on limited resources.

Murphy talks to a range of experts and comes to the conclusion that allowing students to report their own scores is the simplest way to mitigate these fees. Predictably, The College Board and ACT don't want to see this happen, because they make lots of money on these fees. The article points out that the elimination of the fees would almost certainly lead to price increases for the tests themselves.

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Finally today, Alyson Klein of Education Week interviewed former United States Education Secretary John B. King. They talked about a range of issues, including the work of his successor administration:

King has some big concerns about some of the administration's recent moves when it comes to civil rights enforcement, which he sees as central to the department's mission. He specifically cited the administration's choice to rescind guidance allowing transgender kids to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity. He also noted DeVos' comments that historically black colleges were pioneers of school choice. (DeVos later clarified those remarks). And he brought up changes her department has proposed to the agency's system for vetting civil rights complaints. "All of those things suggest that there's not a full commitment to civil rights protection," King said.  "And to me the question would be, what is she going to do ensure that students' civil rights are protected."

He also shares thoughts on DACA, the federal education law, and Advanced Placement testing for low-income students. Check out the whole thing, and have a great day!

Interview: Joshua Starr, CEO of Phi Delta Kappan International

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Today on the blog I interview Joshua Starr, the CEO of Phi Delta Kappan (PDK) International. You may recognize Starr from an earlier guest post, wherein he shared guidance for how superintendents can cultivate anti-racism in their school districts. PDK is a professional association for educators, and they are best known for their annual poll on American attitudes towards schooling. In the interview Starr and I discuss the most recent poll results and what they might mean for public policy.

Me: What does this most recent polling data tell you about our national education conversation? Are we having the right discussion? Are we talking past each other?

Starr: There’s something missing both from how we talk about the classroom and from how we talk about policy. I’ve been encouraging people not to think of these two things as dichotomous.

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What we do in our poll is that we look at things broadly and try to anticipate what the issues might be. The results tell me that something is missing from our national discussion. Standardized testing is a big part of the landscape, and people understand that. But they want more from testing. They want to see career readiness embedded in schooling. In conversations I have had with people, they want to see an emphasis on both college and career. But right now, the conversation feels too binary: it’s either standardized testing or authentic learning.

People are pretty reasonable, and if they can see that the testing that their children are undertaking, or the curriculum they’re doing, increases their ability to navigate the world in the long term, they’ll be okay with it.

But overall, I think the results tell us that there’s something unsatisfying in the experience of today’s schools. It’s not that it’s bad, or that people reject it. They just want more.

Me: Do the results give you a clue as to what "more" might look like?

Starr: One big issue is career readiness. That looms large. Whether that’s certificate programs or job embedded skills. Huge.

The other piece is the interpersonal dimension. In the poll, we called that “respect, cooperation, and problem solving.” There is huge support for those things. That’s what people think is missing from today’s classrooms.

On the other hand, there are educators who think they’re doing those things everyday. That may be the case, but that’s not how people are feeling as they respond.

Me: Are people assuming that the presence of testing leads to a lack of these other things? Is that a fair assumption?

Starr: People are frustrated with the emphasis on testing, not the presence of it. It’s the notion that when I hear my principal or teacher or superintendent talk about kids passing tests, and that there are pep rallies for it, and that the most communication I get is when it’s testing time.

Again, this my interpretation based on my experience. So I think that it may just be that it’s conflation. Parents see the kinds of work that kids are getting, which tends to be worksheet driven; it’s work that is pretty rote and basic and not really helping them learn how to solve problems, which is much more important than passing tests. I think people see the disconnect.

Me: You asked more questions than usual about diversity, segregation, inclusion, and equity this year. Why did you do that?

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Starr: We have asked one-off questions about integration in the past. Most respondents said that they support it. Given the conversation we are having nationally, it felt important to ask about it. My own personal experience is as a superintendent of diverse systems. It’s an increasing part of the conversation. The re-segregation of white districts seems like a theme. We felt this was an area of interest.

One the one hand, when you look at the data, nothing really jumps out at you. On the other hand, on paper people prefer diverse schools, but they don’t really want to work for it. So it’s unclear whether it’s just a socially desirable answer.

That said, as a whole, white people don’t even say that. There’s an interesting divide between the perspectives of white people versus African-American people. White liberals tend to say that integration is good for society. African-Americans and Latinos are more like, “Yeah, that’s fine, but for me it means that there are better teachers and more resources for our kids, and why can’t you just provide that in my kids’ school regardless of the racial makeup?”

Me: From my perspective, there is a giant mismatch between the elite conversation about integration, and the presence of policy ideas that have a viable constituency. Do you see that?

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Starr: I think about this more on the local level than on the federal or state level. It’s a matter of value proposition. If you just talk about integration and diversity in terms of who sits next to whom, you aren’t giving parents anything, whose ultimate interest is self-interest. Even if you’re liberal and progressive, your interest is still your own kids. The mentality is, if I’m going to put my kid on a bus, or I’m going to send my kid to a school where there are diverse needs, what’s the value proposition? The value proposition of saying, “diversity is better” doesn’t really resonate. There’s a slight majority that thinks that racial diversity will improve things for black kids, but not so much for poor kids. In my mind it has to be framed around teaching and learning, and the improvement of what kids get in the classroom.

When I did this work in Stamford as superintendent, it was framed around teaching and learning. We created core science projects, core books in social studies. For the first time, we said all kids are going to have access to advanced work. The staunchest opponents of integration – always white folks – will come up with reasons for not doing it. But most folks are pretty reasonable. If the white folks on the soccer field are worried that they’re going to be sitting next to black kids and English language learners, they might get antsy. Their mentality is, "I won’t send my kid to a school JUST for diversity," but if a diverse environment also gives them more things that jive with their beliefs about transforming the learning experience for kids, maybe you win over more people over.

And that’s a local decision. You have to do that along with curriculum and instructional improvements, and resources for professional learning.

Me: I’m asking this sincerely, even though I have my own personal biases as to the answer: Why are white parents worried about their children sitting next to a black kid or an English language learner in a classroom?

Starr: In my experience, it’s two fold. One is just contact theory and this idea that the more contact I have with somebody who is different from me, the more likely I am to have a give-and-take relationship with them. And vice versa as well. As a consequence of that, as a parent, I might not believe that the needs of my child will be met. This relates to how parents conceive of teaching. The thought is, the more time a teacher spends with my kid, the better off she is. If all of a sudden one-third of the kids in the classroom have greater needs than my child, my child won’t get what she needs, and that's what I think my tax dollars are for. This ties into the idea that the school is a private commodity, not a public good. I bought a house, I pay taxes, and I expect that my kid will be the beneficiary of those tax dollars. This goes along with the belief that other parents didn’t pay for that experience.

And then I think there’s some straight up racism. There is a sense of entitlement, and the idea that the whiter something is, the better it is. There’s a sense that something is more valuable if I have it, and you don’t. There are white parents who believe that their child is getting a better off education because of the makeup of the school and the cost of the house they built. They have no idea that some of the best instruction happens in the schools with the most vulnerable kids. Honestly, sometimes teachers don’t have to work as hard in schools with privileged kids. But I think there’s a perception that, if it’s white, it’s good.

Me: What do you hope policymakers take away from this polling data?

Starr: You have to make decisions about resource allocation. But the work of educating kids today is so unbelievably complex, and we have to figure out how to embrace that complexity. How do we balance all of that stuff? I think the poll results shed some light on that. On the hardest stuff, you can act much more quickly at a local level. At a national level? Right now, it's very hard to see how you could act on any of this.

Monday Reading List: Educators Reflect on 9/11 and Measuring American Attitudes About Schooling

On the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, David McGuire of Indy/Ed looks to educators for reflection:

Tragedy teaches us that in unity there is strength. Tragedy has a way of making people forget about their differences in the pursuit of a common goal. It was Martin Luther King that said, “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.” Through tragedy we often see the very best in people ... On the 16th anniversary of September 11, 2001, this blog will share this day through the eyes of the educators who remember where they were and what they were doing.

Whether you're an educator or not, please feel free to share your own story in the comments section below.

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Terrell Starr, writing at The Root, looks at the particular challenges facing Black immigrants in the wake of the White House's DACA decision:

Mwewa Sumbwe ... came to America from Zambia with her parents when she was just 4 years old and settled in Silver Spring, Md ... Being black in America in general is a daily process of walking on the eggshells of white supremacy, but being undocumented adds another layer of racial aggression. As the Daily Beast reports, people who are stopped by cops are subject to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers being alerted to their arrest because the Department of Homeland Security has said that ICE can use DACA information to deport people under arrest. And, as we know, black people are much more likely than members of any other group to be stopped by police. For a black person who doesn’t have documentation issues, they just have to worry about an arrest. For Sumbwe, an arrest could mean deportation.

While the largest group of undocumented immigrants in this country comes from South and Central America, it's important to remember that there are many different immigrant stories. The intersection of race and immigration status is important to understand, particularly given the aggressive, racially-biased methods of American policing.

In other news, Halley Potter of The Century Foundation dissected the results of the most recent Phi Delta Kappan poll of Americans' education attitudes: 

The biggest takeaway from the poll’s results on school integration is that a majority of parents value racial and socioeconomic diversity in schools. Almost three-quarters of all parents say that it is somewhat or very important to them that their public schools are racially diverse, and a similar percentage say that economic diversity is important ... Moving beyond this general support, however, parents’ views of school integration were not always so rosy. More subtle results from the PDK poll point to some of the political stumbling blocks that can hold up school integration efforts. Being mindful of these potential obstacles could help to strengthen school integration outcomes overall.

At the risk of oversimplifying the results, while many parents profess to want more diverse schools, very few families - in particular, white ones - are willing to do anything to hasten greater integration. Last week I interviewed the president of PDK about the poll, and I will share that interview later this week.

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Finally today, Jonathan Chait is in New York comparing the data on public charter schools with the rhetoric about them:

The most striking thing about the coverage of charter schools is the contrast between the tone of data journalism and narrative journalism. In the New York Times, readers of the the Upshot, its data site, have absorbed a story of a movement producing clear successes. “A consistent pattern has emerged from this research,” wrote University of Michigan professor of education, public policy, and economics Sue Dynarski in 2015. “In urban areas, where students are overwhelmingly low-achieving, poor and nonwhite, charter schools tend to do better than other public schools in improving student achievement" ... But it is the anecdotes, not the data, that command the largest and most prestigious real estate in the Times. And the anecdotes tell a very different story.

Chait has a point here, and my hunch is that public charters are on the receiving end of a disproportionate number of the "man bites dog" style stories in education. There are great public charters and there are questionable ones, just like there are both great neighborhood traditional schools and dreadful ones. The mistakes of the most egregious actors shouldn't be a proxy for the viability of an entire sector. Critics of traditional public schooling should learn the same lesson.

Have a great week!

Friday Reading List: New TNC, BLM, and Bipartisan Support for DACA

Ta-Nehisi Coates has a new essay in The Atlantic, and it deserves your time:

To Trump, whiteness is neither notional nor symbolic but is the very core of his power. In this, Trump is not singular. But whereas his forebears carried whiteness like an ancestral talisman, Trump cracked the glowing amulet open, releasing its eldritch energies. The repercussions are striking: Trump is the first president to have served in no public capacity before ascending to his perch ... Barack Obama delivered to black people the hoary message that if they work twice as hard as white people, anything is possible. But Trump’s counter is persuasive: Work half as hard as black people, and even more is possible.

The whole piece is an examination of where whiteness, power, and politics intersect. Coates is ruthless on the topic of how pundits discuss the "white working class," which he argues is a willful evasion of the fact that all demographics of white people preferred Trump. Coates is particularly pointed in critiquing white liberal apologists for racism:

Again and again in the past year, [New York Times columnist] Nicholas Kristof could be found pleading with his fellow liberals not to dismiss his old comrades in the white working class as bigots—even when their bigotry was evidenced in his own reporting.

What Kristof sees as a compassionate effort to understand his former peers, Coates correctly identifies as casual acquiescence to white supremacy and racism. Many white Americans are uncomfortable with the idea that it might somehow be both. The "good people" in our lives are often "quite racist" in practice.

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In other news, Brandon Ellington Patterson of Mother Jones interviewed Alicia Garza, one of the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement:

MJ: So how can activists convince politicians to be more progressive on issues of race?
AG: We have to build stronger relationships. There’s a distrust of policymakers on the left because so much time is spent on politics rather than actually improving people’s quality of life. At the same time, policymakers don’t do enough to build relationships with organizers and often call on them in a transactional way that damages relationships that can produce better policy. Part of where the right has been successful is in building a movement that feels like home for those who are a part of it. Our strategies should learn from the right. It’s not effective to only interact with policymakers when they do the wrong thing. Relationships can be built on both ends, with different outcomes. Shifting political power in this country ultimately has to be rooted in getting out and talking to people outside our echo chambers. It means building the largest coalition possible. We need organizers in our political system, our criminal justice system, all throughout our economy. 

The idea of building a movement that "feels like home" is compelling, particularly given the level of trust that is necessary to conduct racial justice work across lines of difference.

Finally this week, in an act of unusual bipartisanship, five former United States secretaries of education sent a letter to Congress defending the DREAMers:

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The signatories include Arne Duncan and John King, who served under President Obama; Rod Paige and Margaret Spellings, who served in the George W. Bush administration; and Richard Riley, who worked for Bill Clinton.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday Reading List: Schools are Still Segregated

The annual New York Times Magazine education issue drops this week, and the big story therein is Nikole Hannah-Jones's deep look at school resegregation and secession in Alabama. She focuses on the community of Gardendale, which is part of the larger Jefferson County school system:

Jefferson County is one of a few hundred school systems in the country still bound by decades-old school desegregation court orders that came in the wake of the Supreme Court’s landmark 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision. Gardendale could not leave the district without the approval of the federal court in Birmingham. That court had been friendly to towns trying to secede, and the new school board apparently considered the desegregation order so inconsequential that it did not inform its new superintendent that it existed. So in February 2015, the Gardendale school board sent its lawyer to the federal court for what Gardendale secession supporters assumed would be a pro forma request to separate from the county schools. They were wrong.

Regular readers of this blog know that we have been following the Gardendale story (in fact, it was the star of the first edition of the nascent "Fifty Nifty United States" series)! Hannah-Jones provides a careful look at the legal history of segregation and secession, since the Brown decision, situating the current action in Alabama amidst its appropriate historical context.

Perhaps not-so-coincidentally, The Nation just released Emmanuel Felton's long piece on the same community. He covers similar ground, with additional data on the recent history of the federal enforcement of desegregation:

Former Justice Department lawyers defend the department’s work, saying that both Democratic and Republican administrations have failed to adequately invest in making desegregation real. While Obama’s Justice Department racked up wins in dozens of cases, including a high-profile case in Cleveland, Mississippi, officials in many districts with segregated schools report that they hadn’t heard from either the Justice Department or the courts during Obama’s tenure. Many of the 176 outstanding cases have been in a state of suspended animation for years, if not decades. While the original court-mandated desegregation plans usually required districts to provide reports on a semi-annual basis, many districts don’t bother. Officials in several districts contacted by The Hechinger Report said that they hadn’t heard from the Justice Department or the courts in 20 years.

If you have time, read both pieces, because you'll get different narrative texture from each. Hannah-Jones spends a lot of time with a civil rights lawyer who has argued against segregation for decades, whereas Felton profiles a Black woman whose own children are affected by the court's decisions.

As usual, it warrants repeating that the aggressors in the case of the resegregation of American schools are White people. Moreover, as is the case with other forms of institutional racism, it does not matter whether those parents' actions are motivated by racial hatred, because the consequence of their deeds is the maintenance of a system of racial advantage. In the Gardendale story, the White families are unabashed in their desire to isolate their children from non-White peers, and the reasoning for that separation is a presumed linkage between "Whiteness" and "quality of education."

That sounds an AWFUL lot like White supremacy to me.

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It's evident that race is still a factor in schooling, a point that Beverly Tatum reinforced in her 1997 book Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? Melinda A. Anderson of The Atlantic interviewed her, upon the release of a 20th anniversary edition of Tatum's classic text:

Beverly Daniel Tatum:  In 1997 my goal in writing my book was to help others move beyond fear, anger, and denial to a new understanding of what racism is, how it impacts all of us, and ultimately what we can do about it. … I still have that goal, but in 1997 we were a nation at peace and the economy was expanding. Today we are a nation at war, suffering from economic anxiety and the combination of “post-racial” rhetoric, simmering racial resentments, and an increasing 140-character culture of communication that has made productive conversation more difficult to have. That said, it is still the case that in a race-conscious society, we all have a racial identity that develops in predictable ways, shaped largely by the interactions we have with others. I still believe that an understanding of that identity-development process can help all of us begin to build bridges across lines of difference.

I am a total evangelist for this book. It changed my perspective on my own childhood, adolescence, and racial identity. I cannot recommend it highly enough, so if you haven't read it, buy the new version. If you're already a fan, buy a copy for a friend!

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Finally today, Darren Walker of the Ford Foundation wrote his annual letter to the public, and his focus is moral leadership:

A few weeks ago, the most insidious elements of our history—as much a part of our national character as the Constitution itself—announced themselves anew, and in the most disgusting and frightening ways. In Charlottesville, Virginia, racist, anti-Semitic white nationalists marched without hoods, shame, or stigma. As I watched the images emerging from Charlottesville, aghast, I worried that hate was being normalized in America.I was not alone, of course. In recent weeks, the American people affirmed, as they have so often, that from darkness comes light. By the thousands, and in cities across the country, they expressed that, in Fannie Lou Hamer’s perfect phrasing, “righteousness exalts a nation; hate just makes people miserable. ”To me, it seems clear, not just in this alarming episode, but in the deeper history it has laid bare: America has reached another defining moment. We face a crisis—the next battle for the soul of this country, one that will play out on the battlefield of our collective consciousness.

Walker subsequently makes a stirring case for moral leadership, which often ends up being subservient to other forms of leadership, institutional and otherwise. His take is sobering, yet optimistic, and I hope you find strength in it, as I did.

Have a great day.

Wednesday Reading List: Protect the DREAMers

As pundits predicted, President Donald Trump sent Attorney General Jeff Sessions to do his dirty work yesterday, when the White House announced its plans to eliminate the Obama administration's DACA program. Corey Mitchell at Education Week reviews the impact on school children:

The decision leaves the undocumented residents, an undetermined number of whom work and learn in the nation's K-12 schools, in a state of limbo. The Washington-based Migration Policy Institute estimates 250,000 school-age children have become DACA-eligible since President Barack Obama began the program in 2012. The Trump administration's decision could also affect the lives of children born in the United States. Millions of students in the nation's public and private schools are the children of undocumented immigrants, the Washington-based Pew Research Center estimates.

Carolyn Phenicie and Mark Keierleber of The 74 looked to education leaders for their reactions and found consistent condemnation:

Leaders at the Education Trust, currently helmed by former Obama Education Secretary John King, are “disappointed" ... Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said in a statement that with Tuesday’s announcement, Trump is “breaking the promise” to students and educators who thought the president would treat Dreamers with “great heart" ... JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, said in a statement that attention must now be turned to Congress for a legislative fix. “To the young people affected by today’s decision: You belong in school,” Bartoletti said. “Continue to learn and grow and become your best selves. This nation — your nation — needs every bit of the contribution you will make to our common future.”
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Education Leaders of Color, an organization that dedicates itself to elevating the voices of diverse leaders in public schooling, shared a strong statement:

"With today’s announcement, this White House is doubling down on its de facto anti-family policy,” said Layla Avila, CEO and Executive Director of Education Leaders of Color (EdLoC). “To be clear, ending DACA puts 780,000 young people at risk of deportation, whose families will be torn apart as a result of overly aggressive immigration enforcement policies. These changes will cost us morally and economically: the Center for American Progress estimates that ending DACA would result in a loss of $460.3 billion from the national GDP over the next decade ..."

As Philissa Cramer of Chalkbeat discovered, it's not just students who are affected by the president's cruel decision:

The morning after Donald Trump was elected president, a few teachers within Teach For America stayed home. The educators had secured the right to work through DACA, the Obama administration program that allows young adults who came to this country illegally as children to temporarily live and work without fear of deportation ... Teach For America is joining many other education organizations in continuing to lobby Congress to pass the DREAM Act, which would create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.

I do not usually use this space to advocate for direct action, but today I am making an exception. The lives of hundreds of thousands of young people - and millions more, when we include their families - depend upon Congress finding its conscience on this issue. Please call your representatives and tell them that you want DREAMers to have a pathway to citizenship. Remind Congress that the humanity of young people should not be used as a bargaining chip in negotiations around the president's idiotic border wall.

When you talk to your representatives, do your best to make your plea personal. If you know a student, teacher, or family affected by the rescinding of DACA, talk about them to your Congressperson. Administrations that enact racist, nativist policies - and make no mistake, this is most certainly both - use dehumanization as a tool to achieve divisive political ends. Just because the president and his attorney general are dyed-in-the-wool bigots doesn't mean that every member of Congress has to follow suit.

Have a constructive day ...

Tuesday Reading List: Protect the DREAMers

Besides the eerie sense of looming conflict with North Korea, the big news of the day is what President Trump plans to do with the "DACA" program. There are significant education implications. The New York Times reports:

For months, an anxious and uncertain President Trump was caught between opposing camps in the West Wing prodding him to either scrap or salvage an Obama-era program allowing undocumented immigrants brought to the country as minors to remain in the United States. Last week, with a key court deadline looming for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, Mr. Trump, exasperated, asked his aides for “a way out” of a dilemma he created by promising to roll back the program as a presidential candidate, according to two people familiar with the exchange ... Congressional Republicans expect the administration to unveil some version of this stopgap solution on Tuesday, but Mr. Trump will not make the announcement himself. Instead, Attorney General Jeff Sessions will handle it at an 11 a.m. briefing.

At the risk of oversimplifying a complicated program, DACA protects immigrant children from deportation. Dara Lind at Vox wrote a thorough explanation of the concept:

The immigrants protected through DACA grew up in the US; people might not assume they are unauthorized immigrants, and they might not have even known it themselves until they were teenagers. The program was supposed to give them a chance to build a life here ... The prospect of DACA’s demise is throwing the program into sharp relief: calling attention to the “DREAMers” who’ve been able to benefit from it, and the ways in which their lives have been changed over the past five years.

Ending DACA is a terrible idea. If you want to get a sense of how this program affects individuals, you should read an interview I conducted a few years ago with a young woman who benefitted from the program. The "DREAMers" grew up in America, participated in American schooling, and are poised to be a part of the future of this country. Excluding them from that future because of their parents' aversion to paperwork is borderline evil.

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But don't just take my word for it! Eric Gorski of Chalkbeat reports from Denver:

Rolling back protections for undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children would prove “catastrophic” for Denver Public Schools and the city, DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg said in a statement Thursday. Boasberg joined other school and community leaders from across the country in speaking up as President Donald Trump is expected to announce any day the repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, or DACA. “Our schools and our community are strengthened by our city’s rich diversity and open arms,” Boasberg said. “The DACA program has helped bring wonderfully talented and critically needed teachers to our classrooms and has provided peace of mind and legal status to thousands of immigrant children and families who make our city and our schools great.”

Thanks for your leadership, Superintendent! As Isabel Fattal of The Atlantic discovered, higher education leaders also are fighting:

Amid the torrent of pleas to President Trump this week to protect Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) are letters written by several university presidents. In a noteworthy showing of direct engagement in political discourse, the presidents of Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Brown, Cornell, Amherst, NYU, and Duke, for example, have written personal letters this week ... An estimated 10,000 undocumented immigrants graduate from college each year. The letters written by university presidents emphasize the good character of undocumented students and their contributions as members of the education system and future members of the workforce. In his letter, Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber writes, “I expect that the extraordinary young people at Princeton and other institutions of higher education who have benefited from the DACA program will be leaders in building the innovation economy that your administration has championed.”
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The politics of this issue are toxic, as the President spent years campaigning on the idea that immigrants are to blame for the misfortunes of this country's underemployed citizens. While Trump and his supporters point fingers, the young people who are thriving in this country are at risk of being deported. Whatever happens today, there will be more ways to protect DREAMers. The issue likely will end up in Congress, so folks should reach out to their representatives and express support for the striving DREAMers in their communities.

Have a great week!