Wednesday Reading List: Education Horror Stories, Parent Perception is a Terrible Way to Assess School Quality, and Correcting Bad Readings of History

Shaina Cavazos of Chalkbeat looks at shady practices in in the business of virtual schooling:

One of Indiana’s largest high schools ended this past school year with almost 5,000 students, but no desks and no classrooms. The school also had very few graduates — 61 out of more than 900 seniors graduated last year. What Indiana Virtual School did have: Tens of millions in state dollars due to come its way over the next two years, and a founder whose for-profit company charged millions of dollars in management fees and rent to the school. Thomas Stoughton founded the school in 2011, taking advantage of a new law allowing Indiana charter schools to serve students exclusively over the internet, rather than in brick-and-mortar buildings.

This is one of those stories where the details get worse and worse the deeper one digs: overspending on "administrative overheard," wild underspending on teaching, self-dealing, obfuscating the use of funds, and more. Kudos to both Cavazos and Chalkbeat for engaging in the kind of long-form investigative journalism necessary to unearth educational horror stories.

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Elsewhere, Christina Veiga is in The Atlantic, examining how parent ethnicity affects perception of gifted education:

Allison Roda, an assistant professor of education at Molloy College in Long Island, interviewed more than 50 white, black, and Hispanic parents at an unidentified New York City school to learn about their attitudes towards gifted programs. (Her sample did not include any Asian parents.) She found that the white parents view applying for gifted programs and preparing their children to score well on the admissions test as hallmarks of good parenting. For the black and Hispanic families, being a good parent had more to do with choosing a diverse classroom for their child and not “gaming” the system by practicing for the gifted test, according to the report, which appeared recently in the peer-reviewed journal Teachers College Record.

I've mentioned this before, but parent perception is a woefully insufficient way to judge the quality of school programming. I aim for consistency around that perspective, whether we are dealing with school choice, accountability systems, or gifted programming. As such, while these results resonate as correct, they reinforce my position vis-a-vis perception. Parents harbor prejudiced attitudes about both the nature of their own children's talents, and the value of diversity in schooling. Those prejudices shape not their perception of gifted programming, but also their views on school quality more generally. These prejudices render untenable the idea that parent attitudes ought to be a primary way through which we assess school quality.

Speaking of fucked up perceptions, Adam Serwer is in The Atlantic, tackling White House Chief of Staff John Kelly's asinine take on the Civil War:

When White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told the Fox News host Laura Ingraham that the Civil War was caused by the “lack of an ability to compromise,” that the war was fought by “men and women of good faith on both sides,” and that Confederate General Robert E. Lee “was an honorable man,” he was invoking a rosy view of the Confederacy echoing that of his boss. Kelly was also reflecting a popular perception of the war that has persisted for decades, largely on the strength and influence of an organized pro-Confederate propaganda campaign conducted for a century. While the scholarly consensus is that the Civil War was about slavery, popular perception has not entirely caught up.

A handful of "educated people" in my life continue to argue with a straight face that the Civil War was not primarily about slavery. Serwer's piece unwinds that myth, while sharing additional resources that support an accurate reading of history. For my money, the easiest way to assess the cause of the Civil War is to review both the founding documents of the Confederacy, and the southern states' articles of secession; all of those documents say that slavery was the primary driver of secession, and thus, war.

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Finally today, Allison Keyes of The Root looks at The Smithsonian's new effort to build a hip-hop anthology:

The global appeal of that music, and its permeation into the culture of every country, is one of the reasons that the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture is partnering with Smithsonian Folkways Recordings and the hip-hop community to produce the Smithsonian Anthology of Hip-Hop and Rap. There’s a Kickstarter campaign underway to raise $250,000 for a box-set compilation, including nine CDs with more than 120 tracks, and a 300-page book with extensive liner notes. There will also be essays by artists and scholars, and never-before-published photos from the museum’s hip-hop collection.

If you're as moved by this idea as I was, check out the Kickstarter.

Have a great day!