Friday Reading List: Proof Point Day!

Sorry there wasn't a "Reading List" yesterday, fam, but things were ... hectic.

But more about that later. It's #ProofPointDay! Be sure to wear your green and recognize the first generation college students (FGs) in your life! Here's an interview with #ProofPointDay founder Chastity Lord that we did last year on the blog, in two parts (Part 1 and Part 2). Her point about investing in people is huge:

We have forgotten what happens when our country invests in people and things. We cannot catch amnesia about why we were willing to do those things. The cost of higher education is escalating, and Pell Grants are being rolled back. There is no way I could have had the trajectory I had if I had gone to college today. The same tools are not in place anymore ...

College should be available to many more students, but all kinds of real and imagined barriers exist. In a brave piece earlier this week, Beth Hawkins discusses the personal struggle associated with preparing her son for college:

Corey also has Asperger’s. He can’t tolerate the noise a pencil makes on paper, intuit when sarcasm is inappropriate or easily turn his attention from one activity to another. Until this year, the vast majority of the interactions I had with his teachers were essentially discussions about how to make him into a compliant, neuro-typical kid. Infuriatingly, the conversations would often end with a surprised remark about how smart he was. “There’s no reason to think he couldn’t go to college even,” his special education teacher said last year at the end of an exhausting meeting about what she perceived as his bad attitude toward school. She mentioned a local college with a middling reputation that has a special program for students with autism. Across the table, I fumed ...

As the son of a former special education teacher, I can only say "Amen" to the idea that our models of inclusivity must account for students with unique abilities. Once students are in college, though, it can be an inhospitable place for all kinds of folks. Here's Beth McMurtie in the Chronicle of Higher Education on Yale's particular challenges:

In studying hiring and promotion data, the committee found slow progress, although one period stood apart from the others: 1999 to 2007. During that time, the report notes, Richard C. Levin, who was then president, made faculty diversity a priority, laid out concrete goals, and provided open-ended resources. As a result, hiring of women and minorities rose significantly. But cutbacks following the recession of 2008 undermined many of those gains. The proportion of new assistant professors coming from underrepresented minority groups, for example, dropped from 14 percent during 2000-04 to 7 percent during 2010-15, although the report notes that changes in self-reporting on race and ethnicity may have undercounted the number of minority faculty members since 2012. Diversity policies in recent years have also been more "scattershot," the report states, with committees forming and disbanding.

In the interest of full disclosure, I happened to attend the university during that aberrantly positive period, and it still didn't seem THAT diverse. This goes back to my point earlier this week, though, that too often our work to create representative environments is a "nice to have" not a "must have," and as soon as belts tighten, efforts at diversity are the first thing to go. In the meantime, our best students can suffer exclusion before they even show up:

Andrew Jones says he never received less than an A in high school, earning a cumulative 4.0 grade point average and the title of valedictorian of his graduating class. Despite his achievements, the Louisiana teen wasn’t allowed to walk the stage because he had a goatee.

This story is emblematic of all the ways we tell children of color they don't belong in our schools. It starts early, according to this CRPE study on suspensions across sectors:

A recent headline-grabbing report from UCLA on discipline takes charter schools to task—and rightly so. But reading beyond the headline shows cause for concern across all public schools, traditional district and charter alike. The report found that in the 2011-12 school year, the average suspension rate for all charter schools combined was 7.8 percent; the average for all non-charter schools was 6.7 percent. The report notes that charter schools suspending students at a lower rate are more numerous than those suspending at a higher rate and says “there are likely many effective charter schools that reserve suspension as a measure of last resort.” Furthermore, the report states that some charter schools “likely offer excellent examples of effective non-punitive approaches to school discipline and could help close the pipeline.” The UCLA report makes it clear that neither sector corners the market on either good or bad discipline practice.

More here on elementary school suspensions in Dallas. Children don't learn when they're not in school, period.

Finally, the education reform world is engaged in a mostly civil conversation about the diversity of the field, although there are differing perspectives on whether we're being too stingy in what our definitions of diversity are. Robert Pondiscio wrote something about the "left" driving folks on the "right" out of education reform. Marilyn Rhames said "welcome to the club," vis-a-vis feeling as if your voice is marginalized. Stacey Childress of New Schools Venture Fund responded, as it was her conference that set off the debate. Chris Stewart wrote a characteristically sharp response. In the meantime, a group of white folks who consider themselves allies wrote an open letter describing what they perceive to be significant problems with the field (note: I helped with that one). Read everything and arrive at your own conclusions ... I don't think there's as much disagreement as there appears to be on the surface, but we can't get around having a real conversation about race.

Happy Friday!