Tuesday, 24 April 2018
A new report from Betsy Devos' own Department of Education exposes destructive racism in American schools.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos openly supports policy decisions that treat disciplinary bias against black students as if it were a myth. She’s even gone so far as to say protections for minority students have made schools more violent.
But a recently released report proves the racial bias is extremely real, in the midst of DeVos’ attempted whitewashing. Perhaps ironically, the department DeVos heads is the source of the report.
Looking at data from the 2015-2016 school year, the Department of Education found that while black students are 15 percent of the total population in American public schools, they make up 31 percent of the students who are arrested or referred to law enforcement.
By comparison, white students are 49 percent of the student population and are 36 percent of those arrested or referred to authorities.
The report also found disciplinary actions were more likely to take aim at black students.
The data comes out as DeVos has been pushing to rescind guidance from the Obama administration that sought to prevent black students from being punished more severely than their white counterparts. DeVos’ team has even taken to using the tragic shooting at Stoneman Douglas High as cover, going so far as to blame the Obama-era protections for making schools less safe.
Todd A. Cox, director of policy for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, told The Hill the Trump team was “using that horrible tragedy to attack the guidance.”
In a hearing last month, Devos’ indifference to racism in schools was slammed by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), who had asked DeVos in June 2017 to address how school segregation might adversely affect minority students.
But instead of answering the congresswoman, DeVos’ office went silent. In the hearing, DeVos appeared to suggest she would answer when Democrats in Congress rubber-stamped more of Trump’s nominees.
Lee responded to DeVos’ attempt at evading responsibility, saying, “Madame Secretary, you just don’t care much civil rights of black and brown children.”
DeVos has already succeeded in rolling back rules put in place by the Obama administration that enshrined protections for victims of sexual assault. Going after racial protections now is in line with the Trump team’s disregard for racial and gender equality.
The initiative to roll back the Obama rule proves Lee’s accusation is accurate, and the evidence shows that harm is being done, and DeVos does not care at all.
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Saturday, 21 April 2018
Friday, 20 April 2018
New York State began Common Core aligned high-stakes testing in grades 3 to 8 last week. State officials argued this round of testing would be less disruptive of education and less stress inducing for students because the English-Language Arts test was reduced from three days to two. Parents continue to dispute this. A survey conducted by Newsday found the overall opt-out rate for the test on Long Island’s Nassau and Suffolk counties was over 50% and in some districts it exceeded 60%. Most Long Island school districts used the pencil and paper format for the test. Those whose students took the computer-based version were in for a surprise when students had difficulty logging on to the test or their connection, mid-test, was interrupted. Questar Assessment, the vendor that created and administers the test for the New York State Education Department attributed these problems to “technical issues.”
Because of parental protests, New York State shifted it testing contract to Questar Assessment from Pearson in 2015 because Pearson would not release test questions to teachers and the public for review. Analysis of reading passages and questions released by Questar from the 2017 8th grade ELA exam reveal major problems in the design of the test and its value for assessing student learning and improving instruction.
A well-designed test starts with easier reading passages and questions to build up student confidence as they proceed through the test. Placing easier passages and questions first, and having a variety of different types of questions, helps educators establish the specifics children are having trouble understanding. But the Common Core aligned exam has reading passages that are almost all of similar length and difficulty and with the same types of questions. Not only is it designed so that large numbers of students fail, but it also gives educators no information about why they are failing. It is worthless as a learning assessment to inform instruction.
A potentially more significant problem with the Common Core/high-stakes testing regime dominating education in the United States is continued poor performance by students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) despite a focus on skill acquisition and test preparation. While eighth-grade reading scores show slight improvement over 2015 results, there has been no no improvement in grade 4 and 8 math or in grade 4 reading. In addition, according to recently released test result analysis, the United States’ poorest-performing students scored worse in both reading and math than they did in 2015. The average score only remained steady because of improved test results by higher-performing students. Pro-testing groups have celebrated the lower opt-out rates in minority communities, but these are the students left furthest behind by the high-stakes testing regime.
In New York State, on the latest NAEP fourth grade reading exam about one-third of children scored below basic reading level, another third at basic reading level, one-fourth at proficient reading level, and less than 10% at the advanced level. African American and Latino students on the average performed 25 points lower than White peers. Students from poorer families also scored significantly lower than students from more affluent families. While the scoring gaps have decreased since 1998, after 20 years they remain unacceptably high. In New York City, scores on the 4th grade math test have declined by seven points since 2013.
What the NAEP results demonstrate is that under the Common Core/high-stakes testing regime real education is sacrificed to prepare students, especially poorer and minority students, for specific tests. But when they are given different tests, the deficiencies with this type of miseducation and testing program are exposed.
There are no excuses for failure of the Common Core/high-stakes testing regime. High-stakes tests were mandated by federal government with the Bush era No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 and reinforced by the Obama Race to the Top federal grant initiative in 2009. The Common Core standards that shape curriculum and tests were introduced in 2009. Every child tested by the NAEP has known nothing but Common Core and Common Core aligned tests for their entire school career.