Tuesday Reading List: School Funding, Tradeoffs in Social Studies Standards, and Fake Vandalism

Sierra Mannie of The Hechinger Report looks at how members of the Mississippi legislature reacted to discussions about changing their statewide school funding formula:

... legislators from both chambers, Democratic and Republican, seemed primarily concerned with how local contributions would fit into the new funding scheme. Sen. John Polk, R-Hattiesburg, pointed out that local governments determine millage rate for public-school districts. “How do we force the county and local governments to raise millage and their contribution?” he asked. "Will high wealth school districts take the burden to pay for low-income districts?” asked Rep. Sonya Williams-Barnes, D-Gulfport. Sen. Brice Wiggins, R-Pascagoula, said his district has already raised its millage as high as it would go. “How do we get other municipalities to raise millage, too?” he asked. Rep. Greg Holloway, D-Hazlehurst, asked the most glaring question: “How do you propose we shift resources from affluent districts to lower-income districts?”

The responses were triggered by a meeting with the group EdBuild (In the interest of disclosure: I am a part of an advisory group that EdBuild convenes to discuss policy issues; I have no interest, fiduciary or otherwise, in the organization). The issues articulated by the legislators are the exact reasons that reinventing school funding formulas is so difficult. To drive equity, you either need to A) raise new revenue and disproportionately allocate that revenue to under-resourced communities, or B) move resources from higher wealth areas to lower wealth areas. Money alone doesn't solve problems, of course, but policymakers will struggle to make a political case for change without putting the question of resources on the table.

Staying in the South, Grace Tatter in Chalkbeat looks at the dustup over Tennessee's new social studies standards:

The standards have generated controversy two years in a row. Last year, concerns about an overrepresentation of Islam in seventh-grade world history propelled them to national headlines. This year, Tennessee has been derided in media reports that lessons about Islam, as well as important events in the civil rights and women’s movements, may be cut out of revisions. Social studies, which includes civics, history, geography, and economics, has been a flashpoint across the nation in recent years, including concerns that politics and cultural values are bleeding into curriculum or textbooks. Tennessee is one of the few states to open up its standards revision process to the public, the result of a 2015 state law.

Apparently, some citizens complained that teaching children about the history of Islam was tantamount to "indoctrinating" them into the Muslim faith. Ok.

To state the obvious, a student will be a less informed adult, with lesser ability to navigate the exigencies of the real world, without an accurate perspective on the history of the world. That said, Tatter points out the real challenges of trying to decide what gets covered, and what does not, in the limited hours of the social studies classroom. There are real tradeoffs when standards are established, and it's worth understanding how those decisions are made.

Speaking of which, Education Week has a new interactive graphic that explains which states have adopted which standards:  

In other news, Matt Barnum is in The Atlantic examining whether or not selective admission high schools produce better results:

When simply making raw comparisons between students at selective-enrollment versus other city schools, the differences appear stark: Students at selective schools scored more than seven points higher on the ACT, which has a maximum score of 36. Yet when researchers controlled for a variety of factors to isolate the effect of attending a selective school, the disparities all but vanished. Attending a selective-enrollment school led to only a statistically insignificant bump in the ACT of half a point. The selective schools also seemed to have little or no effect on the likelihood of taking Advanced Placement classes, graduating from high school, or enrolling and staying in college. Selective schools did, however, produce a variety of non-academic gains: Students had higher attendance and lower suspension rates, and they trusted their teachers more. Students also reported that their peers’ behavior was much better and that they felt safer in school—this suggests that insofar as selective schools are beneficial, it may be because of higher-achieving peers rather than better-quality instruction.

I would love to know whether the "non-academic gains" had to do with the quality of teaching, or even perceptions among the teaching staff about the abilities of the incoming students.

Finally, here's my favorite fake vandalism story of the week, from my current home, Massachusetts, by Christine Cauthen for Blavity,

When Maria Daly reported a burglary earlier this month at her Millbury, Massachusetts home, police found "BLM" tagged on the outside of her house. But the local police chief, Donald Desorcy, had a feeling that something was off from the beginning of the investigation. She posted the "vandalism" to Facebook, writing "This is what we have to deal with these days and it makes me sick." But the truth came out, and Daly is now scheduled to appear in court for fabricating the whole incident. She faces charges for filing a false police report as well as misleading a police investigation.

This kind of thing has happened before, and it's an incredibly inelegant way to blame an entire group of people for something they didn't do. Do better, America.