• March 2, 2015 12:23 PM New Advocacy Group Pushes for Multilingualism in D.C. Schools

    This Friday, Netflix’s smash hit series, House of Cards, kicks off its third season. It’s the sort of event that that sparks a special level of buzz within the Beltways’ borders. It’s a bit like being in New York City for Fashion Week: the show reflects something of D.C.’s self-image back upon residents in ways both flattering and discomfiting. It’s validating to see our world depicted dramatically—House of Cards finds ways to make the denseness of D.C. political jockeying interesting and meaningful. But it’s also unsettling to recognize the grains of truth lurking in the show’s dark portrayal of how pettiness plagues the political process.

    But there’s another D.C., one that rarely makes an appearance in shows centered on “Official Washington.” It’s home to “Go-Go” music. To half-smokes. To hundreds of thousands of American voters who pay taxes and are eligible for the draft—but have no congressional representation. To the nation’s most universal pre-K program. And to a community whose racial, ethnic, religious, and linguistic diversity is truly global.

    D.C.’s dynamism as a local community was on full display earlier this week at a panel event hosted by the DC Language Immersion Project. The discussion, titled “Economic and Workforce Development Impacts of Language Immersion,” was the second in a series of local events designed to build a groundswell of support for multilingualism in D.C.’s public schools. National leaders, like Director of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA) Libia Gil, joined state leaders, like Lynn Fulton-Archer, one of the specialists coordinating Delaware’s statewide World Language Immersion program, to discuss promising policies for making American education more linguistically diverse.

    For example, Gil opened the evening explaining how OELA uses its $42 million grants budget to “focus on top-quality research” and improve professional pathways that diversify the linguistic backgrounds of American teachers. Like many other panelists, she explained that dual-immersion programs are uniquely powerful because they generally bring native English speakers together with students who speak another language at home in order to build on each group’s linguistic assets.

    In addition, voices from the business community, like Marriott’s Sonia Zamborsky and Joint National Committee for Languages and National Council for Languages and International Studies Executive Director Bill Rivers, explored various ways of gauging the value of multilingualism in the United States. Rivers cited recent data showing that 11 percent of American companies are actively looking for multilingual job candidates. DC’s unique position in the global economy could make multilingualism even more important in the local job market.

    Panelist after panelist echoed this point in a variety of ways. Specifically, they noted that domestic and global workforce demands are changing rapidly—most jobs being created now in the United States depend in some way on foreign trade. Zamborsky was blunt: “Language skills are typically seen as nice, fluffy, pat-you-on-the-head, aren’t you a good global citizen…but they also make you a better employee.”

    After the event, DC Language Immersion Project co-founder Vanessa Bertelli explained that the group formed in response to access gaps when it comes to D.C.’s existing public dual-immersion programs. “These programs are currently concentrated in Northwest D.C.,” she said, “And therefore are not a viable option for people East of the [Anacostia] River.” That is, most of these programs are currently flourishing in places that are most easily accessible to D.C.’s wealthier families, which means that folks from D.C.’s poorest neighborhoods can only attend if they “have the resources or the time to travel across the District four times a day.”

    Before starting the group, Bertelli had been part of earlier efforts to convince her neighborhood school’s leaders to include Spanish immersion as part of their public pre-K program. They “surveyed current and prospective parents, came up with implementation plans, engaged with all levels of school administration, and testified at public hearings, but it was not sufficient…[We] realized that unless there is a strategic, systemic plan for expanding immersion across the District, D.C. is not going to be able to seize this opportunity.” Specifically, she says, D.C. stakeholders should think of “immersion as one of the elements in a comprehensive, long-term plan to positioning themselves economically as global competitors.”

    Of course, vision-setting is just the first step. The devil is in the implementation. As Rivers put it on Tuesday night, “I don’t want [immersion] to sound like a magic bullet, because it’s not; it’s very hard to do.” In her presentation, Delaware’s Fulton-Archer noted that the state’s new World Language program involved thoughtful collaboration between at least 10 governmental agencies, non-governmental stakeholders, philanthropic efforts, and more. (For more on the challenges of taking program design all the way through to implementation, see these slides from Veronica Alvarez’s presentation at the convening that launched New America’s Dual Language Learners National Work Group.) She also highlighted a human capital problem challenging her state’s efforts: at present, the pipeline for training high-quality dual-immersion instructors is simply inadequate to demand.

    So: what are the DC Language Immersion Project’s prospects? Well, even though D.C.’s local government has its own past as a punchline provider for comedians and cynics alike, the District’s education leadership has proven more effective in recent years. There’s plenty of reason to be optimistic that those leaders are ready to heed calls for more multilingualism in D.C. schools. Because as House of Cards makes clear, dysfunction here has more to do with Congress than Washington itself.

    (Update: Click here to watch the DC Language Immersion Project panel discussion!)


    **Disclosure: my son is enrolled in Washington, D.C.’s public pre-K program (and my daughter will be soon). They are dual language learners (Welsh-English).

    Note: This post is part of New America’s Dual Language Learner National Work Group. Click here for more information on this team’s work.

    [Cross-posted at Ed Central]

  • March 2, 2015 12:10 PM Gaming the Numbers? Conflicting College Admissions Messages Confound Parents and Kids

    NEW YORK — A friend snapped photos of the colorful college brochures cramming his high school son’s mailbox and posted the pile on Facebook with a message that all but gushed, “Look which schools want us!”

    Colleges send out realms of encouraging mail to potential applicants every year in stepped-up-recruiting campaigns. Photo: Rob Urban

    As a higher-education journalist and the parent of a college applicant, I had a more cynical reaction: aren’t they being gamed?

    Why are colleges extending application deadlines, dropping once-required essays and sending reams of snail mail and social media encouragement to students they may have no intention of admitting? Why are many of these same colleges then boasting about the number of kids they are turning down?

    The Hechinger Report and other skeptical journalists are documenting this aggressive approach, known as “recruit to deny,” which colleges hope will lead to more applications and in turn boost their rankings by helping their institutions appear more selective.

    Related: Colleges ratchet up recruiting of applicants just to turn them down

    Yet consider these facts: An annual found many colleges are having difficulty filling their classes with qualified applicants — a fact few disclose. Analysts say higher education is beset with financial woes and headed for a shakeout as declining enrollments mean fewer college students in the years to come. Nearly 30 percent of public and 20 percent of private universities will suffer declines in revenue in 2015.

    Then there are parents and kids, worrying about how they can afford college, repay loans and get decent jobs in an uncertain economy: last year’s college graduates were the most indebted in history, with an average debt load of $33,000.

    You might conclude from this worrisome picture and the amped-up recruiting tactics that colleges are starting to look desperate. Their relentlessly upbeat press releases and announcements proclaim a different narrative.

    Public and private four-year colleges maintain they are shattering application records (take note, U.S. News & World Report!), with many once again claiming this year’s applicant pool as their “most competitive” ever.

    Related: Can we please change the conversation about college admissions?

    UCLA reports freshmen applications are up 7.2 percent. UNC-Chapel Hill reports a 37 percent increase over the number five years ago. And private colleges with annual price tags upward of $60,000 are reporting even more dramatic increases. Bucknell University in Pennsylvania says applications rose nearly 39 percent over last year; Swarthmore dropped a required essay and claimed a 42 percent jump.

    The Holy Grail of Harvard saw a 9 percent jump in applications: 37,305 for a class of about 2,000. Harvard attributes the rise to heightened recruiting on social media and a new financial aid gift that will defray costs for some.

    Union College in upstate New York reported a 10 percent surge for a record number of applications. It credited “new facilities” and “an ambitious marketing plan designed to elevate its reputation,” and added that “the competition to get into a top-tier school like Union remains fierce.”

    Related: U.S. university enrollment continues to slide

    Can you blame students — and their parents — for being confused?

    I decided to ask Ted Fiske, founder and editor of the popular Fiske Guide to Colleges, for some insight.

    “The whole thing is a crap shoot,” Fiske told me. “It’s a chaotic marketplace … nobody really understands how the whole thing is working anymore. Colleges aren’t in control of the process — there are too many things making it complicated for them.”

    One of those factors includes a hunger for the prestige that comes with looking increasingly selective, which elevates rankings. Yet the perception of increasing competition causes students and parents to hedge their bets by applying to dozens of colleges, which is easy to do with the Common Application.

    That practice leaves colleges confused about the intentions of applicants, Drake University President David Maxwell told me. In turn, colleges feel the need to step up recruiting.

    “You don’t know if they [the applicants] are serious,” Maxwell said. “What you really want is a big enough applicant pool with diversity, both geographic and socioeconomic. You want the tuba players and the scuba divers — and you hope they will be learning a great deal from each other.”

    Tom Delahunt, vice president for admission and student financial planning at Drake, believes colleges are judged by the wrong data, including “how many kids we deny. What they should be concerned about is how our graduates do. I am in complete agreement that this race to increase more applicants just to deny more students is a big part of the problem.”

    After reading a recent story in which Bucknell’s admissions dean readily acknowledged that he used a “bag of tricks” to ratchet up applications, I sought out Lloyd Thacker, whose sensible book, College Unranked: Ending the College Admissions Frenzy, is filled with essays about hype and hypocrisy. Thacker decries the emphasis he believes colleges place on marketing over teaching and learning.

    “Colleges are confusing what is good for business with what is good for education,” Thacker said. “They are competing for rank, status and prestige — not educational quality. This increasing competition to be selective has worsened or exacerbated widening inequalities in education.”

    Such inequalities are exactly why recruiting and then rejecting students seems contrary to President Barack Obama’s push to get more Americans through college. Just 39.4 percent of Americans between the ages of 25 and 64 have either a two- or four-year college degree. Only one in three students from the bottom half of the income distribution in the U.S. attends a college with a six-year graduation rate of at least 70 percent. Isn’t this the population needing attention?

    Unfortunately, it isn’t working that way. At The Hechinger Report, we’ve reported that America’s colleges and universities are quietly shifting the burden of big tuition increases onto lower-income students. That could leave four-year college degrees beyond their economic reach, even as Obama pushes to make college more affordable — and attainable.

    Related: How Tuition Tracker helps kids compare colleges and other tips for overwhelmed parents

    All this brings me back to the anxiety-fueled world of college admissions, to the anxiety of my son and his friends and their parents as they wait to hear from many colleges that initially made them feel wanted. In these weeks before the hoped-for thick (acceptance) letters arrive alongside the feared but inevitable thin (rejection) letters, we agonize:

    Did we include enough safety schools? How much, if any, financial aid will be offered? Will the admissions offices overlook a C in physics or chemistry, a missing math or foreign language sequence, or any other perceived weakness? Will our kids get caught up in or dismayed by the incessant bragging over who got in where?

    Hopefully they’ll thrive wherever they end up. But what if they end up feeling used and dejected in a cynical game to juice the numbers?

    “I’ve watched too many kids say this [admissions process] really screws them up,” Thacker told me, adding that he’ll continue pushing colleges to think of their entering classes not as clients or customers — but as students who want to learn.

    Imagine that.

    [Cross-posted at The Hechinger Report]

  • March 2, 2015 12:03 PM Location, Location, Location: Are Top Universities Too Far Away From Low-Income High School Graduates?

    This graphic from “Optimal Spatial Distribution of Colleges,” shows that Illinois would produce more college educated adults if four-year institutions (the green circles) moved closer to where high school students live.

    Almost 80 percent of high school graduates go to college nowadays.  Almost half of them, mostly low-income students, start at a community college. And 80 percent of those say they hope to get a four-year bachelor’s degree. But in the end, less than a third of community college graduates transfer to a four-year college, and still fewer of them — only about 15 percent — succeed in getting that undergraduate degree.

    For some, the problem might be one of real estate. According to a new research study, community college students are particularly resistant to traveling long distances or moving to a new town for school. Yet the best affordable colleges tend to be the state flagship universities, which are often located far from the cities where large numbers of community college students live. Instead of transferring to the best four-year college that they can get into, community college graduates tend to enroll in the four-year college that is closest to home – often one where the chances of graduating are lower and the professional prospects are dimmer. And if there isn’t a four-year college nearby, many simply end their college career altogether.

    In a working paper,”Who Transfers and Where Do They Go? Community College Students in Florida,” Ben Backes, a researcher at the American Institutes for Research, and his co-author Erin Dunlop Velez, looked at every student who graduated from high school in Florida between 2002 and 2004 and tracked the students for 10 years. The researchers examined high school transcripts, test scores, community college grades and other administrative data to see which factors were most important in the decision to go to community college and then transfer to a four-year school afterward.  Their results were presented on Feb. 20, 2015, at a conference of the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research (CALDER), a consortium of Backes’s research institute and six universities.

    The authors found that three-quarters of the 80,000 students they tracked who went to a community college never transferred to a four-year school. Distance to the nearest four-year institution appeared to be almost as important a factor in their decision as the student’s community college grades. In other words, if the nearest four-year college was 30 miles away from the student’s community college, that translated to a 30 percent decrease in the likelihood of transferring. That’s almost the same decrease in transfer rates between a B and a C student. That means there are strong, “A” students who aren’t continuing their education because a four-year school is too far away. For 10 percent of community college students in Florida, there isn’t a four-year institution within a 55-mile radius.

    Among the quarter of community college students who did transfer, Backes found a curious pattern: they mostly flocked from one community college to the same four-year institution. For example, 80 percent of the transfer students from Miami-Dade College, a two-year community college, went 14 miles away to Florida International University. Only 4 percent transferred to the state flagship university, the University of Florida in Gainesville, 336 miles away. Tuition wasn’t a driving factor; the University of Florida charges about the same tuition as other Florida public colleges.

    “We were surprised that no one really goes beyond the nearest four-year institution,” said Backes. “Absolutely, many of them would have been admitted to the University of Florida,” judging by their test scores and grades.

    Backes said this decision can be a crucial one. The flagship school is much better funded. It offers more courses to help students meet their requirements and get their degrees quickly. Graduation rates are much higher; students of similar educational and demographic backgrounds are far more likely to complete their bachelor’s degrees if they attend the flagship university. And finally, students who go to the flagship school have better professional prospects and earn more money after graduation, on average.

    Backes looked at only Florida, but he suspects that his findings would be true in many states, and especially places like California and Texas, where the best four-year public colleges are sometimes far from urban population centers.

    It’s unclear exactly why Florida’s community college students are especially sensitive to distance, and what can be done about it. One hypothesis is that many low-income students from immigrant families might be gravitating toward what is familiar. They might not be aware that their prospects would be much brighter if they moved to Gainesville for a couple years. They might not know that they can get financial aid to cover their living expenses. Perhaps information sessions, where top community college students are presented with information on graduation rates and post-college salaries from different four-year institutions, might prompt them to make a better choice.

    But it’s also likely that many of these students have already started families or are supporting parents. They cannot uproot their lives or quit their part-time or full-time jobs to move away to finish college.

    Perhaps universities should move closer to where the students are?

    Exactly that was suggested in a University of Washington study, presented on Feb. 26, 2015, at the Association for Education Finance and Policy Conference. In “Optimal Spatial Distribution of Colleges,” Mark Long calculated that the United States could optimize the college education of the nation, as measured by credits completed, if four-year colleges moved closer to urban population centers and two-year colleges moved farther away from them.

    Of course, Long doesn’t really expect the University of California at Riverside to move to Los Angeles. But as the population grows and state universities consider expansion plans, he suggests, for example, that the University of Illinois campus in Chicago should be targeted instead of the one in Champaign.

    [Cross-posted at The Hechinger Report]

  • February 28, 2015 08:00 PM Is it Time for a Student Debt Revolt?

    The escalating problem of American education debt has concerned pundits in this country for many years. Politicians make minor policy changes periodically to avoid calamity but the long-term trends remain the same.

    College costs more every year, students and families borrow more and more every year, and graduate (or drop out) starting their working lives saddled with ever higher debt burdens.

    Some students are pushing back, by just refusing to pay their loans. According to an article in the New Yorker:

    On Monday, [Mallory] Heiney and fourteen other people who took out loans to attend [the for-profit] Corinthian [Colleges] announced that they are going on a “debt strike,” and will stop repaying their loans. They believe that they have both ethical and legal grounds for what appears to be an unprecedented collective action against the debt charged to students who attended Corinthian schools, and they are also making a broader statement about the trillion dollars of student debt owed throughout the country.

    Readers of this publication may remember Corinthian, the company profiled here back in 2009 because,

    Graduates of [large-scale] proprietary colleges often struggle to find jobs in their fields. This is because, in many cases, they don’t get the skills they need to compete. …It’s far easier and less expensive for schools to boost enrollment numbers through aggressive advertising and recruitment than to expend the resources to build quality schools. Corinthian and Career Education… have faced the most damning allegations when it comes to educational quality and steering students into shady private loans.

    In general education debtors can’t just not pay their loans; the federal government can garnish wages and even social security in order to college on student loans. It’s virtually impossible to discharge student loans in bankruptcy. But this time it might be different. According to the New Yorker piece:

    In December, a group of Democrats in the Senate, led by Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, wrote to the Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, calling on the Department of Education to “immediately discharge” the federal loans of at least some students who attended Corinthian. This wasn’t a toothless press stunt. The department, the senators noted, has the power to cancel federal loans for students who attended institutions that violated their rights. In fact, they pointed out, the department’s federal-loan agreements with students go as far as to spell this out, if in fine print: “In some cases, you may assert, as a defense against collection of your loan, that the school did something wrong or failed to do something that it should have done.” Earlier this month, the attorney general of Massachusetts made a request similar to that of the senators.

    Is this the beginning of a trend? Maybe. This doesn’t mean a whole lot of students with high debt are likely to be able to avoid payment anytime soon, but this is setting a new standard here.

    Armed by a group of lawyers connected to the Occupy Wall Street movement, the Corinthian victims are making a compelling argument that their education actually constituted fraud, and they therefor don’t have to pay the loans back.

    But if Corinthian is fraud, is the University of Phoenix too? Is Northeastern? Who knows how far this argument can go.

  • February 27, 2015 05:52 PM Arizona State Univeristy: More Troubles in White Students Learning About Whiteness

    Yet again we have an example of the disaster that can develop when colleges attempt to teach white people about being white. Back in 2013 a professor at a Minnesota community college faced sanctions for her “actions in [targeting] select students based on their race and gender,” that occurred when she taught a class about structural racism.

    Now, according to this piece over at Talking Points Memo:

    Officials at Arizona State University probably weren’t expecting the full Stormfront treatment when its English department advertised a spring semester class exploring the “problem of whiteness.”
    But that’s exactly what the university got. The floodgates opened in late January after an ASU journalism student complained on Fox News that the class singled out white people as “the root cause of social injustices for this country.” Neo-Nazi types and white supremacists then reportedly threatened the white professor who was teaching the course, Lee Bebout. They publicly shared his personal contact information and flooded message boards with menacing rants against him.

    It’s not really clear what the objective problem with this English course, the full of title which is “Studies in Amer Lit/Culture: U.S. Race Theory & the Problem of Whiteness,” is supposed to be. It is, however, always hard to talk to white people, especially “neo-Nazi types and white supremacists” how race works.

    The course, the full syllabus of which is irritatingly not available online, apparently covers “major critical schools of recent decades-postcolonialist, psychoanalytic, deconstructionist, feminist, new historicist.” Texts include The Possessive Investment in Whiteness, Critical Race Theory, Everyday Language of White Racism, Playing in the Dark, and The Alchemy of Race and Rights.

    A portion of the course syllabus appears to be accessible here, however. The (unverified) description explains the class like this:

    Course Description: A disclaimer, a warning, an invitation. This class is a challenge both intellectually and (sometimes) emotionally. …The texts that we read ask us to consider thorny questions circulating around how power—in the forms of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, and nationality—functions to open and foreclose meaning in the world in which we live.
    What is Critical Race Theory (CRT)? Undoubtedly, the US Civil Rights movements saw many significant gains. However, in the 1980s scholars questioned why racial inequality persisted even after formal, explicit discriminatory practices were ended. The result of this query is the field of CRT, which originated at the intersection of legal studies, literary analysis, and critical theory. Today, CRT is a vibrant current of thought in the humanities and social sciences as these fields work to identify and undo inequality. What is “the problem of whiteness?” The answer to this may be legion. A field connected to CRT, Critical Whiteness Studies (CWS) is concerned with dismantling white supremacy in part by understanding how whiteness is socially constructed and experienced. This course is setup to introduce participants to concepts and intellectual threads from both fields. This is not the average literature class. This is a theory class where we will hone our skills in applying concepts from CRT and CWS to literary and cultural texts….

    So it’s basically standard books about race in America. And that issue, how “in the 1980s scholars questioned why racial inequality persisted even after formal, explicit discriminatory practices were ended” might be a very interesting for conservative white people, right?

    No one criticizing the course appears to be enrolled, but as one ASU student complained:

    “I think it shows the significant double standard of higher education institutions,” [said] James Malone, a junior economics major…”They would never allow a class talking about the problem of ‘blackness.’ And if they did, there would be an uproar about it. But you can certainly harass people for their apparent whiteness.”

    Actually the “problem of blackness” is a fairly common discussion point in racial studies.

    No students taking the course have criticized the professor about “harassment” so far.

  • February 26, 2015 02:36 PM Why ASAP Could Harm Some Students

    The City University of New York’s Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) has gotten a great deal of positive attention in the last few years, and for good reason. The program provides much-needed additional economic, advising, and social supports to community college students from low-income families, and a new evaluation of a randomized trial from MDRC found that ASAP increased three-year associate’s degree completion rates from 22% in the control group to 40% in the treatment group. I’m glad to see that the program will be expanded to three community colleges in Ohio, as this will help address concerns about the feasibility of scaling up the program to cover more students.

    But it is important to recognize that ASAP, as currently constituted, is limited to students who are able and willing to attend college full-time. Full-time students are the minority at community colleges, and full-time students tend to be more economically and socially advantaged than their part-time peers. As currently constructed, ASAP would direct a higher percentage of resources to full-time students, even though part-time students likely need support more than full-time students. (However, it’s worth noting that although part-time students count in some states’ performance-based funding systems, they are currently not counted in federal graduation rate metrics.)

    Students in ASAP also get priority registration privileges, which can certainly contribute to on-time degree completion. But it is not uncommon for classes (at least at desirable times) to have waiting lists, meaning that ASAP students get access to courses while other students do not. If a part-time student cannot get access to a course that he or she needs, it could mean that the student is forced to stop out of college for a semester—a substantial risk factor for degree completion.

    ASAP has many promising aspects, but further study is needed to see if the degree completion gains for full-time students are coming at the expense of part-time students. Some of the ASAP services should be extended to all students, and priority registration should be reconsidered to benefit students who are truly in need to getting into a course instead of those who are able to attend full-time.

    [Cross-posted at Kelchen on Education]

  • February 25, 2015 12:19 AM How Twitter is Shaping the #CommonCore Debate

    The online fight over Common Core - fired off in 140-character bursts - is allowing a new kind of activist to gain political influence.

    While Louis C.K.’s Common Core Twitter rant might be the most famous, he is far from alone in taking to the social media platform to join the Internet war over the new controversial math and English standards most American schools have adopted.

    Parents and teachers, policy wonks and politicians, teachers unions and libertarian groups are among the 53,000 tweeters who sent 190,000 tweets using the #CommonCore hash tag during the six month period following September 1, 2013, which was around the time the debate began spilling over into the mainstream.

    Many weren’t educators and most were against Common Core - not good news for supporters.

    Three researchers - Jonathan Supovitz of the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education, Alan J. Daly at the University of California at San Diego, and Miguel del Fresno of the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia in Spain - used data from these tweets to document how Twitter has given rise to an influential group of social media-savvy activists who aspire to influence the future of American education.

    “The Common Core Twitter debate is really not a debate about the standards,” said Supovitz. “But instead a debate about the role of for-profits or the federal government, or about data privacy issues. It’s a proxy for the other enduring disagreements in education.”

    Related: How one Ohio mother is trying to take down the Common Core 

    Supovitz says that ordinary citizens and grassroots groups have used Twitter to gain the type of influence - both with politicians and the mainstream media - that has traditionally been enjoyed by more established groups.

    “Money talks but social media squawks,” said Supovitz. “Policymakers are acutely aware that this conversation is going on and they feel it. While they are usually not participants [in the Twitter debate], they know they have to keep track of it.”

    Supovitz says that they found that while supporters of the Common Core are more likely to use “rational policy speak,” opponents are more likely to use “political language that appeals to readers’ raw emotions.”

    “Social media is allowing people to connect in altogether new ways,” said Supovitz. “There is no money, there is no organization. This is voluntary work driven by people’s passion and desire to raise the profiles of these issues.”

    Of the people tweeting the most using the hash tag, 40 percent did not work in education, and more often than not these heavy tweeters were opposed to the standards.

    The researchers also looked at which Twitter profiles were mentioned most in #CommonCore tweets and who was retweeted the most. Again about 40 percent of these people didn’t formally work in education and most opposed the Common Core.

    The data, which have been displayed in a variety of ways, can be found at

    The site also includes interviews with some of the most influential #CommonCore tweeters, including Katie Lapham, an English as a Second Language elementary school teacher in New York City.

    Lapham, who joined Twitter in 2013 to get out her message about how Common Core was hurting her students who were learning English, points to U.S. News & World Report using one of her tweets in a story as a victory.

    Related: Can the Common Core raise graduation rate for English learners?

    The researchers are in the process of analyzing tweets from March to November 2014. In their preliminary analysis, they have found that the number of people using #CommonCore has grown and that, as elections across the country heated up, more established voices were playing a larger role in the debate.

    [Cross-posted at The Hechinger Report]

  • February 24, 2015 10:28 AM ACE Sides With the Worst For-Profit Colleges

    Congratulations, One Dupont. You are now officially carrying the water for the worst of the for-profit higher education industry.

    On Monday, the American Council on Education (ACE) sent a letter to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce supporting Republican legislation that would overturn just about every effort that the Obama administration has made to rein in the for-profit college sector’s worst actors, who have been caught time and again taking advantage of low-income students to gain access to federal student aid funds. ACE begins the letter by saying that it “recognize(s) the need for safeguarding public funds.” Well, this is a strange way to show that.

    Among other things, the Supporting Academic Freedom through Regulatory Relief Act, which was introduced by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), would repeal the Gainful Employment rule, which aims to stop for-profit colleges and other vocational programs from saddling students with unmanageable levels of debt. For-profit college lobbyists have been working overtime to get this regulation overturned. Their job just got easier with ACE and 26 other major higher education associations, who signed onto the letter, in their corner.

    ACE argues that it would be better to address these issues as part of the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act so that they can be considered “in a thoughtful, comprehensive way with the full input of Congress and other stakeholders.” But the leaders of ACE know full well that this Congress will never do anything to protect vulnerable students from unscrupulous for-profit schools. It is telling that the first higher education legislation that the House education committee has introduced this year would deregulate an industry that has put so many students at risk.

    What makes this stranger is that ACE has been supportive of the Gainful Employment Rule in the past. In comments it submitted to the U.S. Department of Education last March, the group said that the regulation was “clearly in the interest of students and the federal government.” But that was before the Republicans took control of both chambers of Congress.

    The leaders of ACE and the rest of One Dupont may see this as an opportune time to suck up to the Republican majority so they can get what they want. Never mind the students who will suffer as a result.

    [Cross-posted at Ed Central]

  • February 24, 2015 10:22 AM The Biggest Losers in the No Child Left Behind Rewrite

    Rural school districts and states with large, rural populations are poised to lose a disproportionate amount of funding and opportunities to innovate under a bill proposed by House Republicans, according to a report by the Obama administration.

    U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke at an on-the-record breakfast with reporters Monday morning to further detail his concerns with the bill, which would rewrite No Child Left Behind, the current version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). Duncan and the White House have been vocal opponents to the proposed bill, which faces a House vote on Friday.

    Rural Colorado’s Edison School has big technological ambitions, despite the fact that many of its students still lack internet access at home.

    One of the major sticking points of rewrite is the proposed amount of spending, which a White House report released this month referred to as “effectively locking in sequestration-era cuts for the rest of the decade.” The bill would cap spending on ESEA at $800 million lower than 2012 and according to the report, would allocate $7 billion less in Title I funds over six years than President Obama’s budget.

    “If you look at the numbers its a pretty devastating portrait of what this thing might do,” Duncan said in reference to the White House report, which also details the amount of funding that individual school districts are expected to lose as a result of the cuts.

    The recent White House report mostly focused on large, urban districts like the Los Angeles Unified School District and the Chicago Public School District, which are poised to lose more than $80 million and $64 million respectively, or about 24 percent of their 2014 estimated Title I allocations. New data related to the White House report released Tuesday found that many of these large school districts poised to lose funding serve largely black or Hispanic populations.

    But according to the previous report, some rural districts will lose even higher percentages of their Title I funding. Nationwide, nearly 50 percent of school districts are small and rural, and 20 percent of students in the country attend those schools. Rural schools are also serving an increasing number of low-income and minority students, according to the Rural School and Community Trust.

    In Mississippi, where more than 56 percent of students attend rural schools, Title I funding could be cut by $7 million, with the largest cuts taking place in five high-poverty Mississippi Delta districts. The Delta’s Coahoma County School District, for instance, would see a 50 percent reduction of its Title I funding. In Alaska, the rural Iditarod Area School District would see a nearly 63 percent decrease in funding. Hatch Valley Municipal Schools in New Mexico is estimated to see a nearly 44 percent decrease.

    Supporters of the bill say it the rewrite is needed to curtail the federal government’s role in education. The bill repeals certain aspects of ESEA, such as requirements for how much states and school districts must spend before receiving federal funding, and eliminating more than 65 federal education programs. “Continuing to leave students, states, and school districts tied to a failing law is unacceptable,” said Rep. Todd Rokita, a Republican of Indiana, in a statement earlier this month. “This bill is designed to restore educational control to its proper place and reduce the federal government’s intrusion into our classrooms.”

    Related: Why did Mississippi lose out on preschool funding— again?

     At Monday’s breakfast, Duncan cautioned that rural districts in particular stand to lose out due to these eliminations. He also argued that the bill should include funding for early childhood education, which “is desperately important on the rural side.”

    Also missing from the bill, Duncan said, is a commitment to programs that encourage innovation, like Promise Neighborhoods, a program that replicated ideas from the Harlem Children’s Zone in school districts around the country, or the Investing in Innovation i3 grant. “A lot of what we’ve done on the innovation piece has been in rural communities,” Duncan said. Because of the small size of many rural districts, launching innovative programs such as early-college initiatives in rural North Carolina or efforts to expand access to Advanced Placement courses in rural Tennessee is “impossible,” he added. “Those are the kinds of things that would be taken away from rural districts that are trying to challenge the status quo and get better.”

    [Cross-posted at The Hechinger Report]

  • February 24, 2015 10:00 AM Q&A with Shaun Harper: Fix the System, and Black and Brown Men Will Follow

    A new national collaborative explicitly aimed at improving outcomes for boys and men of color pivots from the current narrative and focuses on institutions that reduce the quality of life of black and brown men.

    Rise (Research, Integration, Strategy and Evaluation) will “identify best practices and opportunities for new research that can inform equitable policies, and ultimately create positive change in communities across the United States,” addressing four key areas: education, health, criminal justice as well as economic opportunity and workforce development.

    But why should we trust this initiative differs from others that view black and brown men as problems needing to be fixed?

    Related: Expelled in preschool

    Rise receives support from members of the Executives’ Alliance to Expand Opportunities for Boys and Men of Color, which includes Atlantic Philanthropies, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (also among the various funders of The Hechinger Report), and the Annie E. Casey Foundation, all of which have agreed to devote $8.5 million into this $10 million three-year effort.

    Shaun Harper

    Shaun Harper of the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education (Penn GSE) and Sharon Norris-Shelton of project co-leader Equal Measure (formerly the OMG Center for Collaborative Learning) will co-direct the initiative.

    In a statement, Rise said it planned to convene researchers, evaluators, practitioners and community activists to share knowledge. It plans to fund new research and evaluation projects that are solution driven. Rise seeks to build an easily accessible Web portal that establishes “a virtual community of practice.” In addition, Rise will disseminate best practices and policy recommendations from the work of researchers, policymakers, practitioners and community stakeholders.

    Related: A new way to design a school

    However, what good is research if it accepts the same belief systems of institutions that limit the outcomes of men of color? What good is research if it’s “complicit in promoting the verbal and statistical rhetoric that avoids the problem of institutional accountability?”

    To dig into this and other issues, I asked Rise’s co-director Shaun Harper a few questions.

    AP: Many public sector leaders have claimed their particular problem to be the “next civil rights issue of our generation.” Why does Rise look for multifaceted solutions that are inclusive of education, health, criminal justice, as well as economic opportunity and workforce development?

    SH: The systematic miscarriage of justice as well as inequities in schooling, housing, health care, and the U.S. labor market comingle to cyclically disadvantage particular Americans. Attempting to address any one of these issues without fully recognizing its interconnectedness with the others will continually lead to incremental and unsustainable gains. Rise will unify experts within and across each of these areas to identify policies, practices, and conditions that are most likely to improve the lives and experiences of boys and men of color.

    AP: In spite of evidence that structural inequalities in schooling, criminal justice, health care and employment negatively impact the life outcomes of men and boys of color, the narrative of thrift, drive, dress and home training still seem to resonate. How will Rise shift blaming individuals to holding structures accountable?

    SH: Rise is most committed to evidence-based systemic and structural change. Its funders have empowered Equal Measure, the Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education, and our lead partners to search for solutions that extend beyond mentoring programs and other important activities that only affect a few. Rise is about interdisciplinary collaboration, community engagement, capacity building, and rigorous program evaluation. We envision this leading to more-integrated policymaking and strategic investments.

    Related: Can the Common Core raise graduation rate for English learners?

    AP: You’ve been critical of the ways researchers employ deficit models in their examinations of student success. How do you see research on boys and men of color changing in the next 10 years?

    SH: We are firmly committed to changing hopeless, one-sided narratives about boys and men of color, as well as their families, schools, and communities. Rise will fund several solutions-oriented research and evaluation projects. Assets and replicable, scalable strategies will be identified. Over the next decade, I am hopeful that more researchers will pose anti-deficit questions that yield powerful and practically useful insights into what helps Asian American, Black, Latino, and Native American males succeed. I also hope policymakers and powerful others will come to recognize how scaling effective programs and practices that positively affect these populations ultimately benefits our entire society.

    AP: How will Rise attend to the inextricable linkages to girls and women of color? Sexuality?

    Sharon Norris-Shelton, the person with whom I am co-directing Rise, is a woman of color. We will be thoughtful and intentional about fully engaging women scholars in our interdisciplinary network. Women will be at our convenings, they will be among our grantees, and we will aggressively highlight their research. Furthermore, Rise will challenge researchers and others to make clearer how race, class, gender, language, and sexualities uniquely converge for boys/men of color and for girls/women of color. This has not been done well in the existing literature. For example, we do not know enough about why outcomes are so different for boys and girls who live in the same homes, attend the same schools, and have the same access to resources. We will urge scholars and advocates to consider the full range of statistics that separately highlight success and disadvantage for both sexes. We will also invite and support studies that consider whole persons, including their sexualities, spiritual and religious orientations, etc.

    AP: How can those who are interested get involved?

    SH: This summer we will launch, our virtual community of practice. We will host monthly virtual engagement sessions for those who are interested in joining strategic conversations with others who are committed to improving the lives of boys and men of color. Also, there will be a discussion board on which community agents (e.g., nonprofit leaders and youth-serving organization staff), parents and families, teachers and others can post questions and problems of practice and receive advice from virtual community members. Additionally, we will post requests for grant and evaluation proposals, as well as ‘ideation’ challenges, to the site. There will always be something happening in the virtual community for those who are interested in being involved; it will not be a static website that only occasionally gets updated. Lastly, families, community agents, practitioners and policymakers will be invited to various in-person Rise convenings over the next three years.

    Finally, researchers and advocates who aren’t so invested in finding “truth” and “innovation” as much as they are in finding justice and inclusion for men of color.

Recent Blog Posts