Wednesday Reading List: Advice for Parents, Lawsuits, and Disagreements in Polling

To start today's reading list, Leticia Chavez-Garcia provides guidance to families on how to identify a mismatch between their children and assigned teachers:

At the end of the day, children are little people with feelings but somewhat powerless in their education. We need to be their champion and their voice. The law mandates that you as a parent must enroll your child in the local neighborhood school. We don’t have a choice in that, by law we have to send our kids off to school for six to seven hours per day. What you absolutely do have a right to do is choose the school and choose the teacher if necessary. Parents mistakenly believe that they do not have the right or the power to question the school’s decisions regarding your child. That is wrong, you can and must be assert your rights for your student.

There are lots of obstacles to parents expressing dissatisfaction with a school, or a specific teacher: power dynamics, time, even language barriers. Chavez-Garcia's advice is practical and rooted in an understanding of her own kids' and grandkids' needs.

At the college level, it's even harder to figure out how to express dissatisfaction with the quality of education. Jason Johnson at The Root looks at how the Obama administration is changing the rules around loan repayment lawsuits against for-profit colleges:

The Obama administration has been cracking down on for-profit colleges, effectively shutting down some of them (whether they had committed any wrongdoing or not) and leading others to jump out of the business before the whip cracks. The latest foray into the war on for-profit schools is a change to the “borrower defense to repayment.” The legislation has been around since the 1990s and allows students to sue for loan forgiveness if their college broke the law in order to defraud them. The revised rule would give students the power to sue a college for back tuition and fees if they felt “substantially misrepresented” by the institution. In theory this sounds nice, right? ... The problem is that education isn’t like any other product you can just buy, wear or exchange every three years for a new model.

Johnson is concerned that institutions serving more vulnerable students - particularly HBCUs - will be adversely affected by litigious students. There needs to be some level of legal protection for students vis-a-vis the quality of education, but nobody has figured out how to do this yet. At the higher education level, because most students are older, something akin to consumer protection makes sense. At the K-12 level, it's even harder to figure out, which is why we invest so heavily in accountability mechanisms, even though they're imperfect.

Jennifer Alexander is in The Hechinger Report talking about my favorite story of the last two weeks: the Connecticut court decision on educational equity and reform:

Moukasher’s ruling spoke directly to the pain that far too many students, for too many years, have felt when they leave our high schools and arrive at college, only to realize that they are woefully unprepared for the task ahead. For example, recently released results of SAT scores underscore the need for dramatic improvement. Only 6 out of 10 students in the state are ready for college-level work in English and 4 out of 10 students are ready in math. This is a gap in readiness that our students and our state cannot afford. In just a couple of years, the majority of jobs in our state are going to require some education beyond high school.

My greatest hope is that the Connecticut ruling kicks off a new era of rethinking the intersections of equity and excellence in education. At the risk of oversimplifying things, the biggest disagreements about education reform have hinged on the question of whether the system needs more money to improve, or more structural changes. Clearly it's not either/or, and I hope the Connecticut ruling forces folks on opposite sides of those issues to work together.

Elsewhere in educational lawsuits, Erin Einhorn in Chalkbeat has a story out of Michigan:

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, names Gov. Rick Snyder and state education officials as defendants and demands that they provide quality literacy instruction to every Detroit child. The suit does not put a dollar amount on what it would cost to bring quality instruction to all Detroit children. But it does highlight severe problems facing Detroit schools — in charter schools as well as schools that are part of the main city school district and the state-run Education Achievement Authority. “Where state officials … deny access to literacy to children of color from low-income families, they perpetuate the most pernicious form of racial inequality that government can inflict on its most vulnerable and deserving population,” Rosenbaum said.

After a generation of working on education reform issues through the country's legislatures, are folks fed up and looking to the courts? 

Finally, after last week's poll of Democrats in Massachusetts, another poll this on the charter school ballot question has a majority of both Democrats and Republicans against lifting the cap:

The survey, conducted Sept. 7-10 by The MassINC Polling Group, finds opponents of the measure to expand charter schools outnumber supporters of the measure, 48 percent to 41 percent. Eleven percent of respondents said they don't know, or are undecided.

It's hard to figure out what's going on here, as even Republicans are against raising the cap by a five point margin.

Almost 90% of the poll respondents were White, though, which might explain the major differences, given that earlier polling demonstrates that communities of color are far more favorable to lifting the cap. Have a great day!