Friday Reading List: Sports and Schools Don't Mix, Colleges Engage in False Advertising, and Union Politics

Aria Bendix of The Atlantic looks at a telling survey of American schooling:

American teens spend far more time on sports than they do on their studies. At least that’s how international students see it, according to a report out Wednesday from the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution ... And valuing sports over knowledge is distinctly American, according to these foreign students. Nearly two-thirds of foreign-exchange students in the United States view American teenagers as placing a much higher value on athletic success than teens in their home countries do. By comparison, only 5 percent of international students say American teens place a much higher value on success in mathematics than teenagers abroad. Around 65 percent of foreign-exchange students also feel that American teens spend less time on homework than their international peers.

I've heard this observation anecdotally, and the attitudes captured in this study comport with my own conclusions. The coupling of sports and academia in this country - at all levels - has no discernible positive impact on the quality of schooling. I love sports. But they can take place outside of school. Apologists for school sports will argue that elite college sports teams attract incalculable revenue to their host institutions; that argument is true at just a handful of schools, and those programs cannibalize just as many resources as they generate.

Speaking of educational malpractice in higher education, Jon Marcus of The Hechinger Report looks at the accuracy of college admissions marketing materials:

At a time of alternative facts, much of the information students get when choosing colleges — which they’ll be doing soon, as acceptance letters show up in their mailboxes — is sometimes inaccurate, almost never independently corroborated and often intended to put the best face on the universities’ performance with carefully chosen wording. This includes not only the important questions of how many graduates get jobs in their fields and how much they’ll make with a degree in a given major, but whether their credits will transfer, how students do on graduate school admission tests and even how much an education will ultimately cost.

Marcus goes on to report that the Trump administration is trying to roll back some of the Obama administration's attempts to introduce more transparency to the system.

There are some pretty stunning details in Marcus's reporting, including misleading offers of financial aid. This happens everywhere - at nonprofit public universities, private colleges, and for-profit institutions - in case you're eager to apply an ideological lens to this problem.

In other news, Eric Gorski of Chalkbeat looks at internal tensions in the Denver teachers union:

... three younger teachers gunning for those union leadership positions portrayed the status quo as ineffective in battling a “corporatist” district agenda and in addressing broader social justice issues harming students and communities ... [Tommie] Shimrock portrayed the Denver union’s current leadership as complicit in an era that has seen erosion of teachers’ rights and rapid growth of charter schools and innovation schools. Innovation schools are managed by the district but don’t need to follow the union contract. Shimrock also criticized the union for failing in efforts to elect candidates to the school board who favor union positions. With four of the seven Denver school board seats up for grabs this November, a high-stakes, big-money election is anticipated.

Denver will be an interesting litmus test for how teachers' unions both organize and engage in politics during the Trump era. The school system in Denver has advanced a series of unique reforms over the years, many of which have led to substantial improvements in children's live. It's not surprising that the union would be grabbing to get power back now, but this sort of rhetoric can cause good ideas to become collateral damage in an ideological war.

Finally, Chris Stewart at Citizen Ed has a list of "new rules" for school reform debates. I particularly like these two:

3. If you don’t believe that poor children and children of color can learn at high levels, don’t teach in their schools.
25. America has thousands of half-empty urban schools. Let’s not “talk” about integration or evil school closures. Solve both, enroll now.

Regular readers will know why that last rule hits home for me. I live in a community - *cough* Brooklyn *cough* - where the rapid influx of wealthier (and Whiter) residents in the last two decades has not caused greater school integration. If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times: White liberals need to put our money where our mouths are vis-a-vis social justice and school integration, otherwise we are just full ... of ... 

Have a great weekend!