Wednesday Reading List: Charter Leaders Reject Trump's Budget and No Toys for You!

The leaders of some of the country's largest charter school organizations - Dacia Toll, Brett Peiser, and Richard Barth - published an opinion piece in USA Today, responding to the Trump administration's budget proposal:

... we cannot support the president’s budget as currently proposed and we are determined to do everything in our power to work with Congress and the administration to protect the programs that are essential to the broader needs of our students, families and communities. Budgets are statements of priorities, and this one sends a clear message that public education is not a top priority ... We see charters as an important part of a much broader effort to revitalize public education in America.

This statement is important, because plenty of people, both inside and outside of the charter world, will quibble with that last sentence. In opposing this budget - even though it has a big increase in funding for charter schools - these particular leaders are putting their values in front of their organization's self-interests. Keep your eye on this situation.

Catherine Gewertz of Education Week spent time examining how one school in Illinois is tackling racial disparities:

In a high school that's one of America's best, according to national magazines, but where students from the humble brick apartment buildings south of the railroad tracks often feel out of place in advanced classes. A school where the nearly all-white teaching staff politely sidesteps conversations about racial equity, even as they try to build an academic playing field where all students can win. The patterns here aren't easy to budge. Some are published, for all to see, in school report cards. Black, Hispanic and low-income students score much lower on state tests here, as they do in schools nationwide. More than a quarter of Wheaton North students take AP classes—an accomplishment that puts the school in rarefied air nationally. But only 16 percent of those seats hold minority students, even though nonwhites make up 31 percent of the student body.

Gewertz's piece provides a lot of texture around that data. What's critical to understand, though, is that the opportunity gap can be an intra-school phenomenon. We know that de facto school segregation is still rampant, and that housing patterns often lock families into school districts that are divided by income levels. That said, even in schools that are racially and socioeconomically integrated, we can observe disparities that are linked directly to race and class.

Speaking of race and class, Tamar Davis at Blavity looks at recent discussions about race and ethnicity within the black community:

According to a 2015 report released by the Pew Research Center examining the rising population of foreign-born Blacks, the Black Immigrant population in America has nearly quadrupled since 1980. Even between the years of 2000 and 2013, the Black immigrant population (comprised of immigrants from Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America) rose from 6.7% to 8.7%. Studies conducted throughout the 90s have highlighted the tensions between various Black ethnic groups within the States particularly those between Black Americans and first generation- Black immigrants. Researchers have suggested that the driving force behind these tensions is the concept of segmented assimilation, which posits that since Black Americans have historically been oppressed in the US, it would be strategically disadvantageous for Black immigrants to fully assimilate into the Black American community.

It is well beyond my expertise to provide commentary on this article, but I think it's important for white folks to understand more about the heterogeneity of communities that aren't their own.

Finally today, German schools are considering taking away their children's toys, as a way to curb adult addiction behaviors. Sarah Zaske of The Atlantic has the story:

The toy-free kindergarten is not a new idea in Germany. It grew out of an addiction study group in the Bavarian district of Weilheim-Schongau that started meeting in the 1980s. The group included people who had worked directly with adult addicts and determined that, for many, habit-forming behavior had roots in childhood. To prevent these potential seeds of addiction from ever being planted, the researchers ultimately decided to create a project for kitas and kindergartens, which in Germany typically serve children ages 3 to 6, and remove the things children sometimes use to distract themselves from their negative feelings: toys.

Kidding aside, this story highlights the extent to which different countries have radically different philosophies undergirding their approaches to public education. It's a facile shortcut to label these things as "cultural differences," because the differences are an agglomeration of actual policy decisions, not the manifestation of ephemeral, abstract qualities inherent to a group of people. Have a great day!