Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Boston area school segregation called rife

The drumbeat of Leftist deception goes on. Look at the phrase below: "often isolating black and Latino students in low-performing schools". A more honest phrase would be "which are therefore low-performing schools". A school can only be as good as its students

Public schools in the Boston and Springfield metropolitan areas are among the most segregated in the country, often isolating black and Latino students in low-performing schools, according to a report released today by Northeastern University.

Of the 100 large metropolitan regions examined, the Springfield area ranked second (behind Los Angeles) for the most segregated schools for Latino students, while the Boston area ranked fourth (behind New York) in that same category, according to the study by faculty at the Institute on Urban Health Research at Northeastern University’s Bouv√© College of Health Sciences.

Among the most segregated schools for black students, Springfield ranked ninth and Boston ranked 28th.

Nationwide, black students tend to be more highly segregated than their Latino peers, according to one of the report’s authors, although in the two Massachusetts regions studied, the degree of segregation is roughly the same for both groups.

Overall, metropolitan areas in the Northeast and Midwest dominated the rankings for the most segregated schools — the repercussions of segregated housing patterns and centuries-old practices of school districts run mostly by individual cities and towns, rather than by counties, the authors said.

That fragmented approach to public education has great consequences for black and Latino students, who often end up at schools with low achievement, less parental involvement, high rates of absenteeism, and low rates of graduation, according to the report. [They don't "end up" in such schools. Low achievement, less parental involvement, high rates of absenteeism, and low rates of graduation are what the students and their parents do, not what the school does]

In Massachusetts, for instance, all 35 schools the state has declared as underperforming are in urban centers with high black and Latino enrollment and high levels of poverty, while none of the schools are in the largely white suburban or rural towns.

“Many people [in the Northeast and Midwest] have the expectation they can buy into a good school district, entitling them to almost a private level of schooling,’’ said Nancy McArdle, a coauthor of the report, in a telephone interview. “It’s antithetical to the idea of public schools.’’

The report, which will be posted on diversitydata.org, is being released amid a push by President Obama to overhaul the nation’s worst schools and to open more schools using innovative programs to close a stubborn achievement gap between students of different races, ethnicities, and income levels.

Much of that effort has focused on work between the nation’s cities and their respective state education agencies. But the report’s authors add another potential and often overlooked partner to that mix: suburban schools, and the resources they could offer.

Among the report’s recommendations: allow students in failing schools to transfer to higher-performing schools outside their communities; create a student-assignment system that encompasses multiple school districts; supplement existing school systems with regional schools that mix urban and suburban students; or expand voluntary desegregation programs such as Metco, which enables roughly 3,500 students in Boston and Springfield to attend suburban schools.Continued...

The authors also call on state and local leaders to build more affordable housing in the suburbs and reinvest in depressed city neighborhoods to create more demographically diverse communities.

Many of those ideas have the support of some prominent Massachusetts civil rights groups, which have been pushing Boston school officials for several months to consider these approaches as they look to overhaul the way they assign students to schools.

Laura Rotolo, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said it was disappointing that the Boston and Springfield areas ranked so poorly in the study, decades after the cities desegregated their schools and after various pushes by the state to build more affordable housing in the suburbs. “It just shows the work we need to do,’’ Rotolo said. “The schools are extremely segregated, and we have to do something to change that.’’

School districts across the nation have been confused about the extent to which they can use race as a factor in assigning students to schools. That’s because the US Supreme Court three years ago invalidated voluntary desegregation plans in Seattle and Louisville, Ky. The ruling suggested race could not be the basis for assigning students to schools, but civil rights activists have said race can still be one of several factors.

Boston schools Superintendent Carol R. Johnson declined to comment on the report’s recommendations because she had not seen a copy of the report.

More broadly, though, Johnson said that creating more affordable housing is critical, as is continuing to improve urban schools. She noted that high-performing schools in the city, such as Boston Latin, have attracted suburban families to the city. “We certainly want to create integrated communities where students can learn to work with students from different backgrounds,’’ Johnson said.

A spokeswoman for Springfield schools also declined to comment on the report’s recommendations, but said the district is working aggressively to overhaul its schools.

The Northeastern report examined the distribution of students of different races, ethnicities, and income levels in elementary schools across large metropolitan areas, as defined by the federal government.

Areas were then judged on a scale from zero to 100, with the lowest number representing what the report called “no segregation’’ and the highest, “total segregation.’’ Anything above 60 was considered high.

The values represent the share of students of a particular demographic that would have to move to another school to achieve full integration, mirroring the demographic makeup of that metropolitan region.

Metro Boston, under the federal formula, encompasses much of Eastern Massachusetts and two counties in New Hampshire, creating a landscape where student enrollment is 67.4 percent white, 14.5 percent Latino, 9 percent black, and 6.8 percent Asian.

The Boston area scored 70 for Latino students and for black students. The Springfield area scored 73 for Latino students and 75 for black students.

McArdle said using metropolitan regions instead of individual school districts in the study provided “a better indication of the housing market people choose to live in.’’ “The city of Boston doesn’t function in isolation of itself,’’ said McArdle, who coauthored the report with Northeastern faculty Theresa Osypuk and Dolores Acevedo-Garcia.

The report doesn’t offer specific examples of schools in a region to show the divergent demographic mixes. But according to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the contrasts are stark.

For instance, at the John F. Kennedy School in Jamaica Plain, which the state declared underperforming this year, 80 percent of the students are Latino.

By contrast, General John Nixon Elementary School in Sudbury, where fifth-graders had the highest English MCAS scores last spring, 88 percent of students are white, according to enrollment data the districts reported to the state last fall.

Even within Boston, demographics can vary widely. Latino students account for 82 percent of enrollment at the William Blackstone School in the South End, while in South Boston, one neighborhood away, whites account for 62 percent of enrollment at the Oliver Hazard Perry School.

“Every parent wants the best for their children,’’ McArdle said. “It is very shortsighted to continue to isolate ourselves into specific communities and focus only on our own community and not look more broadly.’’


American education’s diminishing returns

American spending on public education, adjusted for inflation, has more than doubled over the last three decades. What did taxpayers get for their money? The average math and reading scores of American 17-year-olds have not improved since the early 1970s according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress long-term trend assessment.

Twice the money. Zero progress.

Yet students in other countries have been improving their test scores. The Program for International Student Assessment 2006 measured the math and science literacy of 15-year-olds in 29 countries that belong to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The results? American students placed in the bottom quarter in math and in the bottom third in science.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, "We are lagging the rest of the world, and we are lagging it in pretty substantial ways."

The current public education system is not preparing Americans to succeed in the increasingly competitive global economy. In the U.S., this will lead to growing unemployment rates, a decline in Gross Domestic Product, unsustainable levels of national debt, and reduced military capability.

U.S. Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, said last week that the single biggest threat to national security is the national debt. The estimated $600 billion in interest on the national debt in 2012 that American taxpayers will have to pay is "one year's worth of defense budget," Mullin said. He predicted that the defense budget will eventually be cut to facilitate the "wave of debt."

In addition to endangering the U.S.'s economic and national security, low educational attainment also imposes societal and personal costs. Societal costs include higher unemployment, higher crime, lower income tax revenues, and higher social welfare payments. Personal costs include lower lifetime earnings and life expectancy. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, estimated lifetime earnings are about $1.2 million for high school graduates and $2.1 million for college graduates. Also, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that life expectancy increases when educational attainment increases.

Those who argue that the solution is more money for public schools have had three decades to test their theory. Increased spending has not led to improvement. American test scores have remained flat since the early 1970s even though per-pupil spending, adjusted for inflation, went from $4,489 in 1970-1971 to $10,041 in 2006-2007--an increase of 124 percent.

American per-pupil spending in 2006 was 41 percent higher than the OECD average of $7,283, and yet American students still placed in the bottom quarter in math and in the bottom third in science among OECD countries.

Clearly, increasing spending further is unlikely to improve test scores. "Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results" is how Einstein defined "insanity." So now that we know what doesn't work, what should we do?

Television reporter John Stossel argued in his ABC News special report "Stupid in America: How We Cheat Our Kids" that the U.S. public education system is a government monopoly, and monopolies usually fail their customers. Stossel concluded that competition and choice can improve education just as it improves everything else.

Without the pressure to compete, monopolies have little incentive to serve customers better. When the U.S. Postal Service was a monopoly, it couldn't deliver packages overnight. But when it had to compete with FedEx and others, then suddenly it could deliver overnight. Competition spurs competitors to innovate and perform better.

Because attempts to achieve substantial reform within the current U.S. public education system have failed for decades, it's time to end the monopoly and develop alternative, competitive systems that give parents the freedom to choose the schools their kids attend regardless of where they live and how much money they make.

School choice empowers parents to remove their kids from failing schools and place them in successful schools. And it gradually forces public schools to improve or risk losing students to better schools.

Embracing policies that give families the freedom to choose the schools their kids attend would not require more money from taxpayers. Instead, it would require the improvement of resource allocation. For example, resources could be more effectively allocated by allowing parents to use their kids' share of public education funding to choose the best schools for their kids.

There is, of course, strong resistance to school choice from the defenders of the status quo in education whose livelihoods are threatened by alternatives that focus on the best interest of kids instead of adults. The preservation of self-interests is to be expected, but how is it affecting the nation?

America has barely been treading water in terms of domestic and international test scores for three decades despite the fact that spending on public education, adjusted for inflation, has more than doubled.

Where will we be three decades from now?


Religion and education in Australia

By Jennifer Buckingham

Religious schools have been a major feature of the educational landscape in Australia since British settlement. The first schools in colonial New South Wales were Anglican schools. Despite fluctuating levels of political support and public funding, Catholic schools have survived in large numbers for close to 200 years.

At last count, 1.1 million children (out of a total school population of 3.4 million) were enrolled in non-government schools in Australia. More than 90% of these students were in religious schools.

Over the last two decades, enrolments in non-government schools continued to rise steadily. But more remarkable than the overall growth has been the diversification of religious schools in this period. While the traditional Christian religions remain dominant, their rate of growth has been outpaced by Islamic schools and schools associated with new Christian denominations.

Inevitably, this change in the nature of the non-government school sector has caused disquiet. Some people are worried about the potential negative effects of religious schools on children, such as lower standards of education and religious indoctrination. Others are concerned about the potential negative effects on society, such as social fragmentation and intolerance.

These are all important concerns, but there is little evidence that religious schools are the cause of any of the educational or social ills attributed to them.

Indeed, it is equally plausible to argue that religious schools are an essential part of a free, democratic and pluralist society. A public school system is necessarily secular and therefore cannot make everyone happy. Religious schools can act as an ‘escape valve.’ In the United States, for example, there have been dozens of conflicts between families and public schools over religious principles and that have ended up in court. The resolutions have invariably been unsatisfactory for all parties. In Australia, by contrast, most parents with a religious preference that cannot be accommodated in public schools have the option of choosing a religious school.

All schools should be expected to implement a high quality curriculum and engender in their students a commitment to the values that underpin a harmonious society. At present, there is no reason to believe that religious schools are falling short of these aims.

The above is a press release from the Centre for Independent Studies, dated 17 September. Enquiries to cis@cis.org.au. Snail mail: PO Box 92, St Leonards, NSW, Australia 1590.

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