Thursday Reading List: Children Aren't the Problem With Policing, Policy Squabbles, and "Course Choice"

A. Rahman Ford of Blavity looks at a New Jersey bill that would require kindergarten students to learn how to properly interact with police:

The bill in question, A1114, “[r]equires school districts to provide instruction on interacting with law enforcement as part of the New Jersey Student Learning Standards in Social Studies.”  It recently passed the NJ Assembly unanimously.  According to the Assembly Education Committee, the bill requires school districts to provide instruction on interacting with law enforcement “in a manner marked by mutual cooperation and respect,” and based on the rights of individuals when interacting with a law enforcement official ... Clearly, solutions are needed, but indoctrination of eight-year-olds in the absence of their parents is not a good one.  Extensive statistical data on the disparities in stops, arrests, convictions, and killings prove that the pervasive lack of trust in law enforcement is warranted, and it is certainly not the obligation of kindergartners to rebuild it.

That final point nails the issue: the responsibility for reducing violence and racial disparities in policing cannot sit with five-year-olds. Moreover, teaching children that compliance will lead to safety is a lie. Consider this recent story out of Ohio:

A black man from Michigan and a police officer in Ohio have agreed to sit down for “a conversation” about an incendiary video showing their confrontation during a traffic stop, police said. The video, filmed by John Felton when he was in Dayton, shows the officer saying he pulled Felton over because they made “direct eye contact.”

A quick visit to the comments section of my facebook page demonstrates that this experience is not uncommon. Make eye contact while Black? You're suspicious. Avoid eye contact while Black? More suspicious. You cannot change the violent culture of policing in this country by teaching compliance to children.

In other news, Matt Barnum of Chalkbeat looks at a rift within the charter school community, which was exacerbated by the recent publication of a book:

The book, a collection of essays edited by the Center for Education Reform’s Jeanne Allen and Cara Candal and the Manhattan Institute’s Max Eden, makes the case that the charter school movement has gone awry: it’s over-regulated, hyper-focused on tests, and dismissive of families. They appear to have an ally in U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. In a recent speech to charter school leaders, DeVos criticized lengthy charter applications, warning that “many who call themselves ‘reformers’ have instead become just another breed of bureaucrats.” What’s needed now, the book’s authors say, is more innovation and less of a focus on test results. That argument prompted Checker Finn, the former president of the Fordham Institute, a right-of-center education think tank, to call the book “idiocy.”

While the average student or parent has little time for internecine battles among the education policy wonk glitterati, the issue at hand is of critical importance. I've said almost everything I ever want to say about the recklessness of privileging market-based choice ideology over measurable improvements in student outcomes. We can file this article away as additional evidence that this tension isn't going away any time soon.

Finally today, Robin Flanigan of Education Week looks at a different kind of "choice," which allows students in rural areas to take online courses remotely:

Opening up the world to students in isolated, rural communities is a challenge. Many rural schools lack the technological infrastructure or the financial resources to offer students rich experiences in foreign-language instruction, science, and other subjects. As a consequence, rural students often end up being academically and technologically unprepared to take on college or jobs right out of high school that require a sophisticated level of thinking and technological skills. Unlike their urban and suburban counterparts in other places, enrolling in charter schools or using a voucher to attend a private school are rarely options. But what is an option, and something that appears to be broadening the definition of school choice, is the freedom to choose online courses offered by providers other than the school district—in other words, course choice.

Flanigan explores a bunch of interrelated factors here, including quality control, access, and funding. One thing to watch, though, is the extent to which the federal government tries to expand this sort of program while cutting other critical sources of education funding in rural areas. Have a great day ...