Monday Reading List: Revisiting Desegregation in Kentucky, Higher Education, and Civil Rights

Emma Brown of The Washington Post has a must read piece about an attempt to dismantle the vestiges of desegregation in Louisville, Kentucky:

Even as integration efforts faded across much of the South and schools nationwide have grown more segregated by race and class in recent years, Jefferson County persisted in using busing and magnet programs to strengthen diversity in the classroom. White and black and poor and rich children share schools to a greater extent here than in most other large districts across the country, leading to friendships across the usual social divides and giving rise to what school officials say are stronger academic outcomes for disadvantaged students. Now the program is in danger of being dismantled. The threat is no longer from protesters in hoods throwing bricks at buses carrying black children into white parts of town, but from state legislators pushing a bill to require a return to neighborhood schools.

This effort is a good reminder that there is nothing inherently romantic, good, diverse, or just about the concept of the neighborhood school. Moreover, the Louisville situation highlights the extent to which traditional school systems were established to reinforce segregation and class divisions. Whenever I hear someone pine for a return to traditional public schools, I'm like ... 

Meanwhile, Andrew Ujifusa of Education Week looks at action on the federal level and thinks lawmakers are likely to tackle the higher education act:

A broad set of issues will be under the microscope, from Pell Grants for low-income prospective students, to the information about higher education programs made available to families as K-12 students consider their postsecondary careers. Republican lawmakers appear ready to put their own stamp on the HEA, which technically expired in 2013 and was last reauthorized in 2008. Both Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., the leaders of their respective chambers' education committees, have made it clear they're taking a close look at the law ... Alexander has previously expressed worries about student overborrowing and has indicated support for colleges and universities having some "skin in the game," or financial responsibility if students can't pay back their loans. And he's likely to push for a dramatically simplified Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.

It's notable that the leadership for this endeavor is coming from Congress, and not the Trump administration. Is this a signal that Congress is not prioritizing Trump's K-12 desires? Or can Congress do both?

Caroline Bauman of Chalkbeat looks at how one Memphis school is rethinking discipline, in light of child trauma:

Leaders at Aspire Coleman, whose 525 students are mostly black and poor, have been revamping their disciplinary practices based on gender, with a special focus on girls of color who have experienced trauma. They now offer separate advisory classes to support girls and boys, and have trained staff on how to work with students who have been abused or neglected. After three years, suspensions are down by two-thirds school-wide, and are well below the national rate for girls of color ... Researchers increasingly point to emotional trauma as the root of disciplinary problems that lead black girls, as a group, to be suspended or expelled six times more frequently than girls of any other race — more often than white boys, too. Trauma can range from abuse and neglect to homelessness and family dysfunction. The data has school leaders across the nation rethinking their disciplinary policies.

Grappling with the underlying causes of misbehavior seems critical. It's important to understand how gender and race affect interactions among teachers and students. Those interactions end up manifesting not just in schools, but in the criminal justice system as well.

The office of civil rights at the United States Department of Education exists to monitor these sorts of racial and gender  disparities. Shavar Jeffries, the president of Democrats for Education Reform, is in The Hechinger Report defending that department:

OCR is responsible for enforcing several civil rights statues that entitle students to non-discriminatory treatment ... This mandate is inseparable from the capacity of public schools to effectively educate students, as students’ learning is invariably compromised to the degree they are subject to decision-making rooted in stereotypes about their identity, as opposed to their educational needs. The denial of mainstream educational services to students with disabilities; the tracking of African-American and Latino kids to remedial classes; the provision of extracurricular activities only to boys; the allocation of educational resources to schools in ethnically disparate ways – these practices, among many others, fall within the purview of OCR, and OCR’s effectiveness, or lack thereof, in policing such discriminatory practices is inextricably connected to our students’ ability to be educated well.

The context here is that Republican lawmakers have a preternatural desire to cut civil rights funding for education. Education secretary Betsy DeVos seems unlikely to be a huge advocate for civil rights, and attorney general Jeff Sessions is not likely protect the civil rights of children, given his track record as a Senator and US Attorney. Given that milieu, vigilance is important. Have a nice week!