Educate All Students, Support Public Education

August 31, 2016

A Turning Point for the Charter School Movement

Filed under: Charter Schools — millerlf @ 10:42 am

Tuesday, 30 August 2016 By Molly Knefel, Truthout | News Analysis

Republican Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts poses for a selfie with supporters of his effort to lift the state’s cap on charter schools. Charters are facing formidable opposition this election season: Democrats passed a resolution this month opposing the proposed charter school expansion in Massachusetts, and residents will vote on the proposal in November. (Photo: Charlie Baker / Flickr)

A political battle is being waged over charter schools in Massachusetts right now, and it’s a microcosm of the state of the charter debate across the country. In the lead-up to a November ballot measure in which voters will decide whether or not to lift the state’s cap on charter schools, known as Question 2, Democrats passed a resolution this month opposing charter school expansion. The resolution states that the pro-charter campaign is “funded and governed by hidden money provided by Wall Street executives and hedge fund managers.” In response, the pro-charter group Democrats for Education Reform drafted a letter to the coalition behind the resolution, called the “No on 2” campaign, claiming that they misrepresented Democrats’ attitude towards charters. “There is great Democratic support for public charter schools,” wrote Liam Kerr, Massachusetts State Director of Democrats for Education Reform.

However, public sentiment has actually been turning steadily against charter schools, and not only within the Democratic party. The NAACP recently called for a moratorium on charters, as did the Movement for Black Lives. Over the past year and a half, The New York Times published a series of scathing reports on the high-profile New York City charter chain Success Academy, including a teacher caught on tape screaming at a young student for a math mistake, a principal with a list of difficult students titled “Got to Go,” and students peeing their pants out of fear. John Oliver’s recent “Last Week Tonight” segment on corruption in charter schools in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania prompted a defensive response from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, acknowledging that the practices at the schools featured were “unacceptable” but insisting they “are not representative of charter schools nationwide.”

On top of all that, the Democratic party platform this year contains language unprecedentedly critical of charter schools, saying they “should not replace or destabilize traditional public schools” and “must reflect their communities, and thus must accept and retain proportionate numbers of students of color, students with disabilities and English Language Learners in relation to their neighborhood public schools.” It was such a break from the norm in the party that Shavar Jeffries, Democrats for Education Reform president, called it an “unfortunate departure from President Obama’s historic education legacy” that “stands in stark contrast to the positions of a broad coalition of civil rights groups.”

While charters have always been a controversial subject within the Democratic Party, there’s been a longstanding bipartisan consensus behind closing poorly performing public schools in low-income communities and replacing them with charter schools. Both No Child Left Behind and Obama’s Race to the Top program encouraged the expansion of charter schools, and both initially enjoyed bipartisan support. And while teachers unions have been a consistent voice of criticism against those policies, pro-charter groups were often successfully able to write them off as self-interested. Even within the Democratic Party, reformers painted public school teachers as selfishly fighting for job protections — as if that’s the worst thing a worker could do — and not actually interested in the well-being of their students.

That narrative has always been misrepresentative and cynical. but for a long time, it has been dominant. That’s why the critical stances of the Movement for Black Lives and the NAACP are so powerful. At least since President Obama took office, and arguably since President Bush passed No Child Left Behind, charter schools have been winning the rhetorical war, presenting themselves as the compassionate solution for poor families of color struggling in an under-resourced public education system. When New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tried to put up a fight against Success Academy CEO Eva Moskowitz, arguing that the well-resourced network can afford to pay rent for public school space (Moskowitz herself makes six figures a year), Moskowitz went on national television and accused the mayor of wanting “to deny poor kids in Harlem an opportunity, a shot at life.” It was an effective strategy for Moskowitz, who got her free rent, allowing Success Academies across the city to continue to claim space from the same public schools she demonizes. It wasn’t until The New York Times series on Success Academy’s questionable practices toward its students, along with a federal civil rights complaint over the network’s treatment of students with disabilities, that Moskowitz found herself losing ground in the court of public opinion.

“We have a confluence of events,” explained Preston Green, professor of educational leadership at the University of Connecticut. “One is that we’re getting more and more evidence that charters are problematic, that there are issues with charters”– particularly, said Green, the issue of segregation. (A study by the Civil Rights Project at UCLA found that “charter schools are more racially isolated than traditional public schools in virtually every state and large metropolitan area in the nation.”) But that’s not the only factor contributing to the changing educational climate. “In addition, you’re seeing more and more discussion about fraud and mismanagement, and questions about whether the money actually makes it to the students and to the schools.” In the past, argues Green, charter schools called out for corruption were written off as simply “bad apples.”

But it’s becoming harder and harder to write off the types of stories featured in the John Oliver segment — schools over-reporting attendance in order to receive more public funds, CEOs convicted of embezzlement, or nonprofit charters directing government funds directly into private management companies — as isolated incidents. “Slowly but surely, people are starting to see this may be a systems problem, and that the fraud and mismanagement issues that we’re seeing in charters are not just because they’re bad apples, but because there is a lack of oversight,” Green said. He acknowledges that charters are still popular with many families and many Black families in particular. The pro-charter movement has “made the argument that choice is liberty,” explains Green. “But what you’re seeing very slowly are counter-narratives developing, and that while choice may be liberty, unfettered choice can cause all kinds of problems.”

Plus, he says, despite the enthusiasm for charters, Black communities have long emphasized the importance of oversight to ensure that charters are doing right by their students. “This debate has always been present,” Green said. “It’s just that there’s more evidence that indicates that it’s a problem, such that Black Lives Matter and the NAACP can come together and try to address this.” The fact that some charter schools are beloved by students and families, and that some are even structured around themes that meet particular needs of the communities they serve, doesn’t take away from the fundamental need to regulate the allocation of public resources out of public institutions (public schools) and into the private sector.

Interestingly, the pro-charter movement is largely built on the idea of oversight, or “accountability,” for public schools. The primary mechanism of accountability for education reformers is the type of high-stakes testing ushered in with No Child Left Behind and maintained under Race to the Top. Those programs’ “accountability” mechanisms were largely based around firing teachers and shutting down schools based on student test scores. But at the same time the Department of Education pushed for “accountability” for public schools by way of replacing them with charters, there are few systems in place to account for how charters spend the federal money they receive to educate their students, leading to the kind of rampant corruption outlined by Oliver.

The entire mission of the modern charter movement, allegedly, is to end educational inequality. It premises itself fundamentally on the notion that public schools are failing and that a marketplace of choices will give students and families better options. A better education, as goes the American way of thinking, is the way out of poverty. But that rhetoric just doesn’t hold up against the onslaught of stories of fraud, theft, civil rights violations, student push-out and a call to action by the nation’s most important movement for racial justice in a generation — a movement led by Black youth with an immediate stake in the fight for equality.

Plus, the defense of charters sometimes loses all sight of their stated purpose. In a truly baffling piece at USA Today earlier this month, Peter Cunningham, executive director of the pro-reform (and pro-charter) organization Education Post, argued that perhaps it’s not worth it to fight segregation, but to instead just focus on making schools better. Cunningham seems to have forgotten that separate schools that are equally high-quality, is an idea this nation decided was brutally racist and inherently unequal. “I support every effort to address poverty and segregation, but not at the expense of needed reforms,” writes Cunningham. Here, he shows his hand: “reform,” a movement theoretically created to address educational inequality caused by poverty, is more important than addressing poverty itself. Reform is more important than integration is an order handed down from the Supreme Court in 1954 that this country has, shamefully, yet to fully follow. Cunningham’s words are the logical conclusion of the goal of reform superseding the goal of equality — if you take reformers at their word that equality was ever really the goal.

Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, those fighting to expand charters are relying heavily on the language of equality. “I find it disappointing that the Democratic Party, which I feel is full of a lot of people who believe in equal opportunity and giving everybody a chance, would choose to be against something that is so important — especially to working-class families in underperforming school districts,” said Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker after the Democrats passed their resolution against lifting the cap. But critics of charters now have more leverage than ever to puncture that narrative.

It’s been almost 30 years since Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers, introduced the idea of charter schools as a way to better serve the highest need students. He envisioned a unionized workforce, empowered teachers and diverse student bodies. The best examples of charters today may adhere to Shanker’s vision, but most don’t — only around 12 percent are unionized, a quarter of teachers leave their schools each year (twice the rate of public school teachers) and they’re more likely to be “intensely segregated” than public schools.

Because the problem of educational inequity remains so entrenched, some families still seek out charters as the best option for their children. But the structural solution to inequality will never be a separate-but-sometimes-equal system.


August 30, 2016

MPS Rallies Teachers and Staff as New School Year Begins!

Filed under: MPS — millerlf @ 12:20 pm

Milwaukee Public Schools annual kickoff rally

Annysa Johnson Milwaukee Journal Sentinel August 29, 2016

See photos at: Fullscreen
Biluge Ntabala, a student at Milwaukee High School of the Arts, gives a speech thanking teachers for all they have done for her during the Milwaukee Public Schools annual kickoff rally at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent Darienne Driver, Mayor Tom Barrett and a host of others speakers spent the better part of two hours Monday touting the merits and values of MPS at Milwaukee’s BMO Harris Bradley Center.

But it took a child to really show it.

Speaking before thousands of MPS employees gathered for a back-to-school rally, High School of the Arts junior Biluge Ntabala credited MPS teachers with changing her life — and the lives of many students — through the gift of second chances.

Biluge, who was born in the Congo, said she knew just three words of English — yes, no and maybe — when she immigrated with her family to Milwaukee four years ago. This summer, she told the crowd, she took part in a University of Wisconsin-Madison program for gifted students and an NAACP competition in Cincinnati.

“I give thanks to each and every one of you who made this possible,” Biluge said to thunderous applause and a standing ovation.

“MPS gives second chances, and those chances change a youth’s life forever,” she said. “You are the parents some of us never had. Thank you for … using your voices to give us hope and pushing us to move beyond our expectations.”

Monday’s rally drew some 9,000 MPS educators and staff to the Bradley Center for a high-energy welcome and pep talk just days before the start of the 2016-’17 school year on Thursday. It was a celebration of all that supporters say is right with MPS. And the crowd erupted in applause again and again as its successes flashed across video screens on the stage. National awards. Teachers of the year. Nearly $50 million in scholarships to last year’s graduating seniors.

But the rally came, too, at a difficult time for the district as it — like the city itself — grapples with the long-simmering issues of race and equity laid bare by the recent police shooting and unrest in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park neighborhood. MPS serves primarily low-income students of color. And, despite its successes, the district’s struggles include many poorly performing schools and a graduation rate of 58%.

Driver acknowledged Monday that MPS has not consistently educated all students of color.

But she applauded her board of directors for proposing a social studies and civil rights curriculum inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement.

New initiatives

And she highlighted a handful of new initiatives aimed at closing its achievement gaps, including in reading and algebra readiness, and improved climate and culture in the schools. And she said building healthy relationships — with students, among students and with families — is at the heart of the district’s work and mission.

“We are at a critical time right now in terms of how we’re going to move forward. … We’re not waiting for Superman; we’re calling in the Justice League,” said Driver, who drew a standing ovation and was frequently drowned out by applause.

Driver said she was “truly ready to change the narrative about public education and … Milwaukee Public Schools.”

“Our children deserve an opportunity to learn. And I know you are the ones who are going to … make sure our students are successful and prepared for college, career and life, and more importantly that they are loved, that they are nurtured.”

Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association President Kim Schroeder used the rally to call out Gov. Scott Walker and lawmakers in Madison, who public school advocates say are trying to dismantle the district by expanding voucher programs and other initiatives that bolster private and independent charter schools.

“It is no secret that public education — and public education specifically in Milwaukee — is under attack by our governor and state Legislature,” Schroeder said.

And he lifted up teachers, not just for their work in the classroom, but their social justice activism in service of their students.

Many, he said, work with immigrant-rights groups because some of their students fear their parents will be taken away and deported in the night. They fight for racial justice “in the most segregated city in America,” he said, and the “Fight for 15” campaign so their students’ parents “have a chance to earn a living wage.”

“We teach and work in the most challenging and most rewarding — often at the same time — district in the state. The obstacles to success are seemingly impossible and more often than not you succeed,” Schroeder said.

“You are the most important person in so many of our students’ lives. And that’s a credit to you, your passion and your devotion.”

Can a Private Company Teach Troubled Kids?

Filed under: Privatization — millerlf @ 12:10 pm

At the Richmond Alternative School in Virginia, 97 percent of students are black and 87 percent are poor, and the city just outsourced their education.

Alexia Fernández Campbell Aug 27, 2016 The Atlantic

RICHMOND, Va.—Disruptive students are a headache for public schools. They distract from lessons, skip class, and often bring down the graduation rates. That’s why school districts across the country have resorted to opening alternative schools in recent decades, with hopes that smaller classes and individual attention might help these students get their diplomas. But even these alternative schools (which differ from charter schools in that they are still part of school districts and thus answer to superintendents) can be a burden: They’re expensive to run, and their graduation rates are still pretty low.

Desperate for help, many school districts are now hiring private companies to manage these alternative schools and educate their most troublesome students. Large, urban districts like Chicago and Philadelphia have been working with this emerging industry for several years now. Though research shows that problematic students in Philadelphia did better in alternative schools than traditional ones, there is a wide variance in school quality, and detailed information about their curricula is scarce.

The question on the table is whether a business whose job it is to make money can better educate vulnerable students than a public system with no profit motive. It’s not too different from the dynamic between the federal government and the private companies running its prisons across the country. But the Justice Department announced last week that it would stop contracting with the private sector, in part because it doesn’t seem to save that much money, and in part because the service didn’t improve either.

Richmond is one of the latest cities to experiment with outsourcing education. In July, the city hired a Texas-based company called Camelot Education to run the Richmond Alternative School, which last year served 223 students from across the city in grades 6 through 11. Nearly all of the students at Richmond Alternative are black (97 percent) and most are poor (87 percent qualify for free lunches). Some black parents once dubbed it the “colored children’s prison” and it has been criticized for contributing to what’s called the school-to-prison pipeline—Virginia is the state that refers the most students to law enforcement.

Data provided by Richmond’s school district shows that its alternative school has been floundering for years. When the school year ended three months ago, the numbers were alarming: The dropout rate had jumped to 38 percent, compared to 28 percent just two years earlier. And students’ scores in nearly every subject had fallen by 50 percent or more during that time.

“It’s at a point where we know something has to change. Trying something new is better than doing the same old thing.”

This led the school board to enlist Camelot, which has run alternative schools in 12 districts across the country. It was a quick decision that may have been too hasty, says Jessee Perry, who is running for a position on the school board, and it concerns her that it happened right before the beginning of the school year. “But it’s at a point where we know something has to change,” she says. “Trying something new is better than doing the same old thing.”

The turn to the private sector is not new for Richmond. In 2004, the city hired a private company to run a previous iteration of its alternative school, which was then called the Capital City Program. The $4.6 million agreement with a Tennessee-based company called Community Education Partners was the school district’s most expensive contract that year. Back then, the school was located next to the Gilpin Court housing projects, in one of the city’s most violent neighborhoods. The quality of the education provided by Community Education Partners turned out to be substandard, according to a Richmond Magazine investigation, which found that a third of the school’s teachers were not credentialed.

Elsewhere, schools run by Community Education Partners were not faring much better. The American Civil Liberties Union in Georgia sued the company in 2008 for allegedly providing “fundamentally inferior” education to students at an alternative school in Atlanta—an environment “so violent and intimidating that learning is all but impossible.” Atlanta canceled its contract with the company, and a year later, so did the city of Philadelphia.

When the firm’s contract with Richmond was up in 2013, the school board decided the district would take over the school again, saving it about $2 million a year. The school was moved away from Gilpin Court and into an old high-school building across the interstate. But student performance did not improve, as the district’s data shows. So, as of July, it has a $1.8 million contract with Camelot, and has agreed to provide additional support staff at a cost of $800,000, according to The Richmond Times-Dispatch.

During a recent visit to Richmond, I stopped by the school and it was buzzing with activity. Moving trucks were parked outside and crews were unloading teaching materials and what appeared to be furniture. School staff didn’t want to talk about the changes, and instead referred me to the district’s spokeswoman, who also declined to discuss them. The district did, however, provide this statement:

“Camelot will staff the school with educators who are licensed in specific content areas that are trained in behavior modification, de-escalation techniques, and who are experienced at working in nontraditional environments. The expectation is that this company will assist staff at the school in setting clear performance metrics such as enhancing the school climate, reducing absenteeism, and increasing the graduation rate.”

The district’s own teachers, who have been at Richmond Alternative for the past couple school years, were not trained to handle students who are prone to violence or who are dealing with trauma. This is something Camelot’s CEO, Todd Bock, says his staff is equipped to do. That’s because the company started out as a behavioral healthcare provider for teens before branching out into education in 2003. He says the company’s expertise is working with vulnerable teens who are at risk of dropping out of school or ending up in jail. Bock says staff at Camelot schools know the parents and guardians of each student and are aware of challenges they face at home. “So our approach really is to address the social-emotional and behavioral issues of our students first, because without that you can’t access academics,” he tells me.

For example, every day at a Camelot school begins and ends with a town-hall meeting, Bock says, where teachers and staff are encouraged to talk to students on a personal level. If a student acts up in class, protocol is for the teacher to stop and address the student’s behavior, instead of automatically sending him or her to the principal’s office. The policy at Richmond Alternative will be to suspend kids only if they break the law or if there is a need to call the police. “Frankly, suspending kids that have been suspended their whole life is a failure on our part,” he says. “We need to do everything we can to support kids and keep them where they need to be, which is in school.”

Companies such as Camelot can pay teachers less if they choose to, as they are not subject to collective bargaining agreements with the local teachers’ union.

The teachers who have been working at Richmond Alternative the past few years will have an opportunity to interview for teaching positions with Camelot, Bock says, but, if hired, they will be required to undergo the company’s de-escalation and behavior modification training. Companies such as Camelot can pay teachers less if they choose to, as they are not subject to collective bargaining agreements with the local teachers’ union.

This may be the first time that Richmond will work with Camelot, but data on the company’s presence in Philadelphia provides a fuller picture of its track record. Camelot was one of half a dozen companies running Philadelphia’s alternative schools in the past decade, the largest experiment in privatizing alternative education to date.

The city first turned to the private sector in 2004, with mixed results. In 2010, researchers at Mathematica Policy Research studied the academic outcomes of students in Philadelphia’s 14 alternative schools, which were all privately run, and compared them to the outcomes of similar students who stayed in traditional schools. Their research showed that students at alternative schools were more likely to pass their classes and graduate than similarly at-risk peers at traditional public schools. But graduation rates at alternative schools were still “abysmal,” says Hanley Chiang, the report’s main author. About 29 percent of students graduated from alternative schools, compared to about 22 percent of at-risk students who stayed at traditional high schools. “There is still a lot of room for improvement in getting these graduation rates up,” says Chiang.

His research also showed that instructional quality varies greatly among providers, with Camelot performing the best among those working in Philadelphia’s schools at the time. Graduation rates at Camelot schools increased by 12 percentage points compared to similar students who stayed in their original schools, while one provider, YouFirst (run by Community Education Partners) actually had a negative impact on graduation rates, which were lower by 14 percentage points. Chiang’s research didn’t look at whether the school district could have done a better job educating these students compared to the private firms. “The evidence is silent on that,” he says.

Despite its relative success in Philadelphia, Camelot has been criticized by the ACLU for a creating a “highly restrictive and overtly confrontational environment” at an alternative school it operates in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The school, Phoenix Academy, was mentioned in a class-action lawsuit filed last month by the ACLU against the Lancaster School District, alleging that the district unfairly sends foreign-born students to the school just because they don’t speak English well.

Perry, the Richmond school-board candidate, says she’s concerned about school districts relying on a for-profit model to educate their most vulnerable students. To keep making money, these companies benefit from maintaining a system where traditional schools cannot educate their own students. “They might also be tempted to cut costs, which can definitely hurt the quality of the education,” she says.

For now, Richmond is counting on Camelot to do a better job than its school district has in getting high-school diplomas in the hands of their worst-performing students. As Camelot’s CEO says, the district can always fire the company if it doesn’t deliver results.


August 25, 2016

Alberta Darling Joins Campaign to Elect Racist Buffoon, Donald Trump

Filed under: Darling,Racism — millerlf @ 3:05 pm

Alberta Darling joins effort to elect racist buffoon, Donald Trump. See Journal Sentinel article at:

The most outrageous Donald Trump quotes, ever

(Followed by a short history.)

Quotes and  history compiled by Marie Claire magazine August 5, 2016

  1. “An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that Barack Obama’s birth certificate is a fraud”

Trump was determined to ‘expose’ President Obama’s birthplace back in 2012, and even claimed to have sent investigators to Hawaii in the hopes of proving Obama wasn’t born in the United States.

  1. “Robert Pattinson should not take back Kristen Stewart. She cheated on him like a dog & will do it again – just watch. He can do much better!”

Clearly Donald is a Team Edward kind of guy…

  1. “Ariana Huffington is unattractive, both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man – he made a good decision.”

Trump always has charming things to say about successful, prominent women – but he stooped particularly low with this comment about Huffington Post founder.

  1. “You know, it really doesn’t matter what the media write as long as you’ve got a young, and beautiful, piece of ass.” 

Trump proves (again) that he views a woman’s looks over anything else…

  1. “I will build a great wall – and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me – and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.” 

Oh for goodness sake.

  1. “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bring crime. They’re rapists… And some, I assume, are good people.” 

Just another casually racial slur, then…

  1. “Our great African-American President hasn’t exactly had a positive impact on the thugs who are so happily and openly destroying Baltimore.” Don’t worry, his racist outbursts aren’t just directed at Mexico.

    9. “If I were running ‘The View’, I’d fire Rosie O’Donnell. I mean, I’d look at her right in that fat, ugly face of hers, I’d say ‘Rosie, you’re fired.’”

Trump has infamously hated on Rosie O’Donnell, making crude, sexist and misogynistic remarks about her on multiple occasions.

10. “All of the women on The Apprentice flirted with me – consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected.”

Because of course, no woman can resist Trump’s charms. [Throws up on keyboard]

11. “One of they key problems today is that politics is such a disgrace. Good people don’t go into government.”

Well at least he’s showing some self awareness.

  1. “The beauty of me is that I’m very rich.”

And not that fabulous barnet of yours?

  1. “It’s freezing and snowing in New York – we need global warming!”

Definitely not missing the point…

  1. “I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.”

Possibly (/definitely) one of the creepiest things we’ve ever heard…

  1. “My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well documented, are various other parts of my body.” Ew.
  2. “I have never seen a thin person drinking Diet Coke.”

We’re glad he’s so concerned about the obesity crisis.

  1. “I think the only difference between me and the other candidates is that I’m more honest and my women are more beautiful.”

Women aren’t possessions, Donald. They can’t belong to you.

  1. “You’re disgusting.”

To put this into context, Donald Trump said this to the opposing lawyer during a court case when she asked for a medical break to pump breast milk for her three-month-old daughter.

  1. “The point is, you can never be too greedy.”

Campaign slogan = sorted.

  1. “Sorry, there is no STAR on the stage tonight!”

In his Twitter liveblogging of the Democratic debate, Trump seemed to think he was watching a talent show rather than looking for the next POTUS.

21. “My Twitter has become so powerful that I can actually make my enemies tell the truth.”

We think Donald may be overestimating the power of Twitter.

22. “My IQ is one of the highest — and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure; it’s not your fault.”

Don’t worry, we won’t.

23. “I have so many fabulous friends who happen to be gay, but I am a traditionalist.”

What does that even mean?

24. “The other candidates — they went in, they didn’t know the air conditioning didn’t work. They sweated like dogs…How are they gonna beat ISIS? I don’t think it’s gonna happen.” 

Because sweating = the inability to solve a political crisis. Gotcha.

25. “Look at those hands, are they small hands? And, [Republican rival Marco Rubio] referred to my hands: ‘If they’re small, something else must be small.’ I guarantee you there’s no problem. I guarantee.”

Along with the petition to keep him out of the UK, can we also campaign for Trump to stop talking about his penis?

  1. “Thanks sweetie. That’s nice”

Said Donald in typically patronising style to a female 9/11 survivor. Inappropriate – and quite creepy.

  1. “Lyin’ Ted Cruz just used a picture of Melania from a shoot in his ad. Be careful, Lyin’ Ted, or I will spill the beans on your wife!”

Threatening your opponent’s wife on Twitter? Stay classy, Don…

  1. “I was down there, and I watched our police and our firemen, down on 7-Eleven, down at the World Trade Center, right after it came down”


Ah 7-Eleven, great convenience store, and def not to be confused with a national tragedy and symbol of global terrorism, eh Trump?

29. “The only card [Hillary Clinton] has is the woman’s card. She’s got nothing else to offer and frankly, if Hillary Clinton were a man, I don’t think she’d get 5 percent of the vote. The only thing she’s got going is the woman’s card, and the beautiful thing is, women don’t like her.”

Speaking from a, errr, woman’s perspective, we reckon ol’ Trumpy may be a little off with this one.

30. “Number one, I have great respect for women. I was the one that really broke the glass ceiling on behalf of women, more than anybody in the construction industry.”

Thank you Donald. Thank you for all your help.


Who’s Donald Trump?


Another Voucher Debacle

Filed under: Vouchers — millerlf @ 3:03 pm

Travis staff sues school and director

Ten former employees of the embattled Milwaukee voucher school Ceria M. Travis Academy have filed a lawsuit alleging the school and its director, Dorothy Travis-Moore, owe them more than $45,000 in back pay.

The workers, most of them teachers, filed the lawsuit in Milwaukee County Circuit Court last week. They say the school, which is in the midst of an ongoing battle with the state Department of Public Instruction over funding, refused to pay them for work they performed in May 2015 and May and June 2016.

Milwaukee attorney Richard Saks, who is representing the plaintiffs, said the total amount owed to Travis employees is probably closer to $100,000, but not everyone decided to sue. And he criticized Moore for working to reopen the school in the fall while she is was delinquent in her payments to past workers.

“She employed herself and relatives in pretty highly compensated executive capacities with the school. They’ve made a lot of money in that school in terms of their own compensation,” Saks said.

“We think it’s extremely unfair and unjust that teachers, assistant teachers and security personnel would go unpaid for two months,” he said.

Efforts to reach Moore through an attorney and the school were not successful.


The nonprofit Ceria M. Travis Academy Inc., which operates a kindergarten through 12th grade school at 4744 N. 39th St., is one of the longest-running schools in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, which allows low- and middle-income students to attend private schools on taxpayer-funded vouchers. It has earned more than $35 million in state payments since 1996 and last year enrolled about 307 students.

Academically, the school underperformed both Milwaukee Public Schools and the state in the 2014 assessments, the latest available, with 1% of students proficient or higher in language arts, none in math, 11% in science and 15% in social studies.

As president, Travis-Moore earned $138,935 for the fiscal year ending in 2014, down from $213,000 the previous year, according to its nonprofit IRS filings. Her daughter, Vice President Wilnekia Brinson, earned $108,529, down from $118,000. Nonprofits are required to list only those employees earning more than $100,000.

Brinson said in a 2014 interview that the school employs five family members, including her husband, Robert Brinson, who worked in student support and security. She declined to disclose other family members’ job titles and salaries at that time.

Ceria M. Travis Academy and its now-defunct sister school, Travis Technology High School, have been in a long-running battle with the Department of Public Instruction over state funding and compliance procedures.

Travis Technology High School closed in 2014 after the state barred it from participating in the voucher program because it failed to obtain a special bond.

DPI withheld more than $600,000 from Ceria Travis School this year, saying it owes the state $2.9 million in overpayments. Travis-Moore and the school sued the department and Superintendent Tony Evers in U.S. District Court in Milwaukee in May in an effort to recoup those funds. Her attorney said at the time that the state’s actions could jeopardize the school’s ability to reopen in the fall.

The lawsuit alleges Evers also illegally withheld more than $388,000 in voucher payments in an earlier dispute, despite two court orders mandating he release the funds. And, it says, Evers demanded more than $2.9 million, the school’s total payments for the 2014-’15 school year.

Travis Academy had come under heightened scrutiny in 2014 after current and former staff raised concerns about its operation. Staff complained about nepotism and the payment of six-figure administrative salaries while classroom resources were inadequate.

Complaints filed with the state in 2014 and obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel through an open records request also alleged the school violated state law by employing people without bachelor’s degrees to teach students.

School officials countered that a then-recent review of the schools by an independent accrediting organization found the programs to be operating in accordance with state law.

That review was requested by the Department of Public Instruction as it sought to follow up on the claims about unqualified teachers at the school.


August 17, 2016

Milwaukee’s War on Black People

Filed under: BlackLivesMatter,Milwaukee Community Devastation — millerlf @ 11:29 am


Sarah Lazare
August 15, 2016
Protesters taking to the streets today say that police violence against black residents of Milwaukee remains systemic. “You see anger, just the anger and the frustration of a community that has suffered atrocities and oppression on behalf of what they deem to be the police oppressive system, that has never seemingly been held accountable for taking the life, like the young man said, of their loved ones,” Muhibb Dyer, a community activist said.

Maria Hamilton, mother of Dontre Hamilton, leads the march Monday along Water St. during a Coalition for Justice rally at Red Arrow Park in downtown Milwaukee, Calvin Mattheis,

Donald Trump supporter and Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke has built a national profile by openly declaring war on the Black Lives Matter movement, from the floor of the Republican National Convention to the pages of national media outlets, once even proclaiming on social media that racial justice protesters will “join forces” with ISIS.

Now that some Milwaukee residents have staged days of open rebellion against police violence following the cop killing of 23-year-old Sylville K. Smith, Clarke is ratcheting up his rhetoric. During a press conference on Sunday, he employed dog-whistle racist language, stating that “the urban pathologies have to be addressed to shrink the growth of an underclass.” Clarke went on to argue that, from Baltimore to Ferguson to Milwaukee, there is a “war on police,” and vowed to escalate his crackdown on demonstrators. Meanwhile, Gov. Scott Walker on Sunday declared a state of emergency and activated the national guard against protesters.

But in a city that has been called the most segregated urban area in America, angry demonstrators are telling a different story, of a state-sanctioned war against poor black residents. This perspective was described by Sedan Smith, who identified himself to local outlet CBS 58 as the brother of Sylville Smith.

“It’s the police. This is the madness that they spark up. This is what they encourage. This is what they provoke. This is what you get. You take a loved one from something, this is what you get,” Smith declared on Saturday, standing in view of an auto parts store engulfed in flames. “I don’t know when it’s going to end. But it’s for y’all to start. We’re not the ones that’s killing us. Y’all killing us. We can’t make a change if you all don’t change.”

Before Sylville Smith was killed, Milwaukee was already reeling from former Milwaukee police officer Chistopher Manney’s killing of Dontre Hamilton, a mentally ill black man, with 14 gunshots in 2014. While Manney was fired from his position, he did not face any charges for the murder, and Milwaukee residents staged Black Lives Matter demonstrations to protest his impunity.

Protesters taking to the streets today say that police violence against black residents of Milwaukee remains systemic. “You see anger, just the anger and the frustration of a community that has suffered atrocities and oppression on behalf of what they deem to be the police oppressive system, that has never seemingly been held accountable for taking the life, like the young man said, of their loved ones,” Muhibb Dyer, a community activist and co-founder of the organization Flood the Hood with Dreams, told Democracy Now.

But in Milwaukee, injustices against black people extend far beyond policing. A 2013 study from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee found the state has the highest incarceration rate for black men in the country at 13 percent. Report authors John Pawasarat and Lois M. Quinn note:

The prison population in Wisconsin has more than tripled since 1990, fueled by increased government funding for drug enforcement (rather than treatment) and prison construction, three-strike rules, mandatory minimum sentence laws, truth-in-sentencing replacing judicial discretion in setting punishments, concentrated policing in minority communities, and state incarceration for minor probation and supervision violations. Particularly impacted were African American males, with the 2010 U.S. Census showing Wisconsin having the highest black male incarceration rate in the nation. In Milwaukee County over half of African American men in their 30s have served time in state prison.”

Not surpringly, Wisconsin’s budget allots more for incarceration than for schooling. Four out of every five African-American children in Milwaukee live in poverty.

A report released last year by the University of California at Los Angeles found that schools in Milwaukee suspend black students at nearly two times the national average. Meanwhile, Wisconsin has the worst achievement gap between white and black students in the United States, thanks largely to the Milwaukee public school system, which has been systematically defunded and privatized for more than two decades.

Racial disparities extend to home lending. A study released in July by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition found, “In the Milwaukee Metropolitan Statistical Area, whites represent 70 percent of the population, yet received 81 percent of the loans. African Americans are 16 percent of the population yet only received four percent of the loans.”

NPR’s Kenya Downs wrote an article last year raising the question, “Why is Milwaukee so bad for black people?” Downs wrote: “Milwaukee is a vibrant city known for its breweries and ethnic festivals and can be a great place to live — unless you’re black. Statistically, it is one of the worst places in the country for African-Americans to reside.”

When Baltimore erupted in uprisings last year following the violent death of Freddie Gray in police custody, angry protesters, most of them black youth, were widely demonized. Yet a recently released Department of Justice investigation into that city’s police department vindicates protesters’ outrage, exposing law enforcement’s atrocities against poor black communities, including systematic harassment, violence and degradation.

Now, like their counterparts in Baltimore, the black youth of Milwaukee are being demonized as thugs and criminals by the police department entrusted to protect and serve them. Bolstered by a hate-fueled presidential campaign, Sheriff Clarke is escalating his demagogic incitement against the very people he and his city have failed.

Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet. A former staff writer for Common Dreams, she coedited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War.

This article was made possible by the readers and supporters of AlterNet.


Preview YouTube video FULL SPEECH: Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. Republican National Convention

Preview YouTube video Sheriff David Clarke Gives Epic Press Conference Following Milwaukee Mayhem

August 15, 2016

The Case for Ethnic Studies in All Schools

Filed under: Ethnic Studies — millerlf @ 11:43 am

In 2010, a coalition of students, parents, teachers, and community advocates organized to win a pilot Ethnic Studies course in five San Francisco high schools. After implementation of the pilot, we continued to work together to evolve the curriculum and plan for its future expansion throughout district.

In 2014, Sandra Fewer, a San Francisco Board of Education Commissioner and former parent organizer for Coleman Advocates for Children & Youth, authored a landmark resolution to expand the curriculum. In December of that year, the policy was passed, providing access to Ethnic Studies classes for every San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) high school student.

Approximately 90 percent of SFUSD pupils are students of color and yet the curriculum remains overwhelmingly Eurocentric, leading many young people to disengage from their academic experience.

Extensive research, including a report from the National Education Association, demonstrates that Ethnic Studies, a curriculum that does reflect the experiences of students of color, has a positive impact on student academic engagement, achievement, and empowerment.

The SFUSD Ethnic Studies curriculum supports students to think critically about race, ethnicity and culture in the context of their own identifies and their lived experiences. By exposing students to the histories of diverse cultures, it offers a more accurate sense of the nation’s complex, multicultural history.

The curriculum is grounded in a social justice framework that provides students with the critical lens necessary to analyze oppression and address issues in their own lives. Some courses also provide hands-on service learning opportunities that support students in making positive changes in their communities.

In the advocacy efforts to win expansion of Ethnic Studies in SFUSD, students consistently testified about their frustration at the absence of historical and cultural figures from communities of color and the dominance of White ones in school curricula. That void, they said, made them feel excluded from what was being taught in most classes.

“It is just wrong that so many kids never learn anything in history that they can relate to or that has anything to do with their heritage,” said Alejandra Mendez-Ruiz, SFUSD senior and a Coleman youth leader.

“It makes us feel invisible and like we don’t have any value. Students in my Ethnic Studies class were way more attentive than in my other classes because we were learning about people that look like us and come from the places our families come from. When you walk into a class and see someone of your own background on the big projector instead of the same old Caucasian male as the hero, it makes you more curious and more excited about learning.”

SFUSD teachers also testified to the power of the curriculum, making the explicit link between Ethnic Studies and the school-to-prison pipeline. They talked about witnessing struggling students improve when they began to learn about their culture’s history – the achievements of the Black Civil Rights movement or the Chicano Movement, for example.

Students became more invested in their own education and felt more embraced by the school community, which had positive affects on the larger school climate.

At San Francisco’s Balboa High School, an Ethnic Studies course is used as an “early retention strategy” for outgoing middle school students identified as “at risk” of failing or dropping out. Earlier this year, Stanford University released findings from a controlled study that revealed that taking this ninth-grade Ethnic Studies course boosted the grades, attendance and course completion rates of participating students.

The academic benefits of the course were so significant, the researchers who conducted the study said they were “shocked” by their own findings.

“Schools have tried a number of approaches to support struggling students, and few have been this effective,” said Emily Penner, co-author of the Stanford report, according to the university’s news service. “It’s a novel approach that suggests that making schools relevant and engaging to struggling students can really pay off.”

Despite the abundance of evidence about the positive impacts of Ethnic Studies, many efforts around the country to expand the curriculum have faced aggressive opposition. Legislators in some states have proposed cutting the curriculum altogether, arguing that it is “anti-American” and teaches divisiveness.

An effort in Texas to add a Mexican-American course as a high school elective failed – in a state where Latinos are the largest ethnic group in public schools. And it wasn’t until July of last year that a federal appeals court ruled that a 2010 Arizona law banning Mexican American studies is discriminatory.

The good news is that a number of individual school districts require Ethnic Studies or are moving in that direction. And while California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed legislation last year that would have made Ethnic Studies courses a statewide requirement, the movement to win future legislation of this kind continues to grow.

California has one of the largest and most diverse student populations in the country, with young people of color making up nearly 75 percent of the student population. We should be setting an example for the nation by ensuring that all students have access to Ethnic Studies courses that broaden and expand their minds, affirm their sense of self and community, prepare them for the diverse workforce of the 21st century and lead to increased engagement and improved academic outcomes.

For those of us that have seen first-hand the many benefits of Ethnic Studies, we will continue to fight for expansion of these courses as an essential component of the quality, culturally relevant education that all our young people deserve.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

Kevine Boggess is policy director for San Francisco-based Coleman Advocates for Children & Youth, a community organization that supports human rights and dignity for all people.

The Long-Term Effects of Social-Justice Education on Black Students

Filed under: BlackLivesMatter,Ethnic Studies — millerlf @ 11:42 am

A new study shows such courses prompted self-exploration and openness in marginalized kids.

Melinda D. Anderson Jul 19, 2016 The Atlantic

Last summer, the high-school English teacher T.J. Whitaker revised the reading list for his contemporary literature course with the addition of a new title—The Savage City, a gritty nonfiction account of race and murder in New York City in the 1960s. The 24-year teaching veteran said he chose the book to give his students at Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey, a chance to read “an honest depiction of the Black Panther Party and the corruption that existed in the NYPD during the ‘60s.” In a school where black students are half of the student body—and a photo of two white peers in blackface caused an uproar in May—Whitaker’s classroom is a space for students to examine issues such as oppression, classism, and abuse of power. And it’s yielding results.

When the South Orange-Maplewood School District recently considered restoring school resource officers, law-enforcement officials assigned to school campuses, the move was met with sizeable opposition from juniors and seniors in Whitaker’s class. They organized fellow students to attend the public forums and testify on their experiences with local police—both in school and the community. And notably, they relied on Whitaker’s class discussions to bolster their arguments.

Transformative social-justice education is often viewed as a path to more equitable classrooms and cross-racial understanding, at a time when public-school classrooms are increasingly segregated. Most frequently associated with the Brazilian educator and theorist Paulo Freire, it is an approach growing in popularity and interest nationally. But for students from marginalized and disenfranchised groups—those most in need of upending the status quo—what is the payoff? And how can teachers steeped in this method affect their learning?

A new study from Pennsylvania State University seeks to answer these lingering questions. Marinda K. Harrell-Levy, an assistant professor of human development and family studies at Penn State Brandywine, set out to explore the long-term impact of a transformative social-justice course on black adolescents. The class, a junior-year requirement, intended to motivate students to become social agents in their schools and communities, and included a service learning component. In 2010, as part of a larger research project, Harrell-Levy followed up with 13 black students who graduated from an urban parochial high school in 1995 to 2009, and, though the sample size was small, she found that the benefits of their mandatory social-justice class extended well into adulthood.

“We know that if you teach … anything related to civic development, it’s very likely that within the next week or two after taking the course, students are going to have a positive feeling about their experiences,” she said. “[But] how do they feel … years later? Is it still resonating?” Harrell-Levy’s goal was to discover how the social-justice class helped a socioeconomically diverse group of black teenagers see themselves in society. What the study revealed was a deep-rooted link between the course, career choices, and the former students’ civic and social-justice values.
“[These] thought-provoking conversations made them consider, or reconsider, their own perspective on what it meant to be black.”

Black alumni of the class, many years after graduating, uniformly credited the social-justice course for provoking a process of self-exploration that altered their sense of justice and influenced their self-identity. Eleven of the 13 reported identifying or revising career interests while taking the course, prioritizing professions to improve their community. Helping convicted felons return to the workforce, pursuing a degree in social work, and working in the education field all flowed from their enrollment in the social-justice class.

“Jenna” (pseudonyms were used in the study to protect the identity of the student participants) pointed to the course as giving her “a different moral standpoint and a different conception of justice.” Her knowledge of civic issues like capital punishment increased, she said, inspiring her to enroll in law school “to contribute to a socially just world.” Likewise, conversations with participants like “Patricia” showed how the social-justice class ignited “the power of her own agency”—a sentiment widely shared, in which students saw themselves as capable of changing conditions in their own lives as well as larger institutional injustices.

The former students were very forthcoming, said Harrell-Levy, sharing all types of experiences they were going through, from “My father was in jail” and “My mother was addicted to drugs” to “I was in a foster home during half of my time at the school”—underscoring how their teachers incorporated those experiences into the learning process. “They felt that they were relevant. That their experiences were relevant. There was this nexus of culture and pedagogy that was happening with the students and with the teachers that made the learning process that much more meaningful for everybody,” said the study’s lead author.

Additionally, the research showed that the race of the teachers was not an impediment to the course’s mission—a crucial takeaway given that just over 8 out of 10 public schoolteachers are white. “They didn’t ignore the fact they are white,” said Harrell-Levy, stressing that “colorblind ideology” was rejected. Instead, recognizing that her students looked at her as “this privileged white lady who had the luxury of illuminating about issues [of diversity],” the teacher brought the students’ reluctance into the classroom discussion as a learning point.

An unexpected outcome for the researchers was how the course allowed students to unravel issues of advantage among black students based on class—an aspect that seldom surfaces in social-justice discourse. The predominately black Catholic school included a mix of students attending through school vouchers, athletic scholarships, academic scholarships and other financial means. According to Harrell-Levy, the combination offered a unique opportunity for the teachers to challenge intra-racial stereotypes. Participants who described themselves as “privileged” or “sheltered” revealed that their opinions of the “black poor”—and more generally, those living in poverty—were effectively confronted through the social-justice curriculum.
“We’ve got to give them the tools…to process in ways that are healthy and will actually build our democracy.”

“All of these … thought-provoking conversations made them consider, or reconsider, their own perspective on what it meant to be black. Their own perspective on what it meant to be poor and black. Their own perspective on what it meant to be [economically advantaged] and black. That was a type of conversation that teachers willingly let [happen].”

Leigh Patel, an associate education professor at Boston College and a sociologist of education, characterized the study as a nuanced take on race and class, and a departure from the study of blackness and black youth as a monolithic topic. She cautioned, however, that understanding the full scope of transformative social-justice education should extend beyond the individual to the collective impact.

“Are we transforming individuals’ [career] pathways [or] are we transforming a collective population’s realities of wellness and suffering?” asked Patel, noting that the drawback to focusing primarily on “individualistic, live-your-best-life” measures is that inequities are never experienced exclusively by individuals. By contrast, Patel cited United We Dream, the Dream Defenders, and We Charge Genocide as “explicit projects of social transformation” that are “fundamentally collective.”

Where Patel and Harrell-Levy found firm agreement was on the critical need to rethink teacher training and professional development to incorporate transformational social-justice teaching. “What’s required here is a certain vulnerability that you don’t really expect [and] teachers don’t generally want,” said the Penn State researcher. “The teachers in the study, on a regular basis, had to expose themselves in order to connect with the students. At the very least, teachers need to understand the impact that they’re having on students’ identity. Whether it’s intentional or unintentional, it’s happening.”

In the wake of recent fatal police shootings of black men, the Black Lives Matter Movement, and heightened interest in how black youth are processing these events, Harrell-Levy said the time is now to revisit the role of teachers and schools. “There’s a lot of emotion surging through a lot of [youth] right now, who don’t have any experience on what to do with it, and how to deal with it,” she said. “There’s a mental toll to … literally seeing life leave bodies on YouTube, again and again. We’ve got to give them the tools…to process in ways that are healthy and will actually build our democracy.”

Albuquerque Public Schools Add Ethnic Studies to High School Curriculum

Filed under: Ethnic Studies — millerlf @ 11:42 am
 Currently, only three Albuquerque high schools offer ethnic studies courses, including Chicano Studies, Mexican-American literature, and Native American studies. Last December, Families United for Education approached the Albuquerque Board of Education to advocate for ethnic studies courses across the district. Last week, about 40 teachers and community members came together for a three-day workshop to begin planning the curriculum, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, Albuquerque’s population is 46.7 percent Latino or Hispanic, 42.1 percent non-Hispanic white, 4.6 percent Native American and Alaskan Native, 4.6 percent two or more races, 3.3 percent African American, 2.6 percent Asian American, and 0.1 percent Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander.

RELATED: Students Call For Ethnic Studies in Portland High Schools

The 2015 four-year graduation rate at Albuquerque Public Schools is 61.7 percent, according to the New Mexico Department of Education.

Families United for Education is committed to continued family and community engagement, Emma Sandoval said. “The next step for Families United is to advocate for ethnic studies to be integrated in the core curriculum for K-12 in the Albuquerque Public School district,” she said.

Stanford study suggests academic benefits to ethnic studies courses

Filed under: Ethnic Studies — millerlf @ 11:42 am

A high school ethnic studies course examining the roles of race, nationality and culture on identity and experience boosted attendance and academic performance of students at risk of dropping out, a new study by scholars at Stanford Graduate School of Education (GSE) found.

The study looked at ethnic studies classes in a pilot program in San Francisco high schools, and compared academic outcomes for students encouraged to enroll in the courses with similar students who did not take them.

The researchers found that students not only made gains in attendance and grades, they also increased the number of course credits they earned to graduate.

“What’s so unique about this program is the degree to which it helped the students who took it,” said Emily Penner, co-author of the paper and a postdoctoral researcher at the GSE. “Schools have tried a number of approaches to support struggling students, and few have been this effective. It’s a novel approach that suggests that making school relevant and engaging to struggling students can really pay off.”

Thomas S. Dee, a professor at Stanford GSE and director at the Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis, was the other author of the report, which was posted Jan. 11 as a working paper on the website of the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).

District debate

The findings come as educators and policymakers in Arizona, California, Oregon and other states debate adding or taking away such curriculum from their schools. While ethnic studies proponents contend the courses can help address academic disparities by aligning individual student experiences with curriculum, opponents have argued they are anti-American, teach divisiveness and may displace opportunities for students to take electives of their choice.

Last year, California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed legislation proposing to require ethnic studies courses statewide, and the Arizona legislature also balked at a similar measure.

Still, a number of California school districts – including Los Angeles, Pico Rivera and Oakland – require ethnic studies or are moving in that direction. San Francisco voted to expand its program to all 19 high schools last year when early findings from this study indicated positive gains for students.

Significant gains

The study was conducted in collaboration with the San Francisco Unified School District as part of a research-practice partnership with the GSE.

Bill Sanderson, assistant superintendent at SFUSD, said the partnership “allows the district to validate promising practices and expand successes in multiple schools to have the greatest impact on students.”

The ethnic studies course offered in San Francisco focuses on the experiences and identities of racial and ethnic minorities, uses cultural references in teaching and aims to enhance social and political awareness. In one lesson, for example, teachers ask students to look at the role of advertising in reinforcing cultural stereotypes and the idea that some values and people are “normal” while others are not.

“Culturally relevant pedagogy embeds several features of interventions designed to reduce stereotype threat, such as explaining stereotypes and identifying external forces that contribute to academic challenges,” Dee said. “Ethnic studies may be effective because it is an unusually intensive and at-scale social-psychological intervention.”

For the study, Dee and Penner gathered data from three San Francisco high schools participating in the pilot ethnic studies program from 2010 to 2014.

Enrollment in ethnic studies was automatic for students who had eighth grade GPAs below 2.0 and voluntary for those with GPAs above 2.0. The scholars narrowed their observations to a population of 1,405 ninth graders, and compared attendance rates, GPA and grade credits earned for students who came in closest to each side of the 2.0 threshold. Looking at students near the cutoff allowed for the best analysis of the program because a student with a 1.99 GPA, for example, was likely to be very similar to a student with a 2.01 – except that one student was encouraged to enroll in the course, while the other was not.

“It’s similar to a randomized trial where one group of people are assigned to a treatment and another similar group is asked to take a placebo,” explained Dee, a senior fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.

The researchers found that attendance for those encouraged to enroll in the class increased by 21 percentage points, GPA by 1.4 grade points and credits earned by 23.

Boys, Hispanic students stand out

There were positive effects across male, female, Asian and Hispanic groups of students, the study said, but the improved outcomes were particularly concentrated among boys and Hispanic students.

The study also found significant effects on GPA specific to math and science. Grade point grew in English language arts, as well, but less so. Sample sizes of white and black populations, specifically, were too small to reliably estimate separate effects.

“To be confident we were getting the effect of the course and not the fact that these kids were flagged as needing extra help because of their GPA, we looked for similar patterns in high schools that did not offer ethnic studies,” Dee said. “We found no evidence the early warning indicators were causing the effects.

“The results are highly encouraging,” he added. “This is the first causally credible evidence on the academic effects of culturally relevant pedagogy.”

Dee and Penner cautioned, however, that the study had the benefit of examining a well-implemented program whose enrollment formula enabled a research design that allowed for causal inference.

“The evidence for San Francisco is very strong,” said Dee. “Whether what works there would work in other school districts is not yet determined. But the magnitude of the effects in San Francisco merits enthusiasm.”

The paper was funded through the Stanford-SFUSD partnership and a Postdoctoral Training Fellowship from the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences. The researchers presented their findings at the Association for Public Policy and Management conference in November 2015. The paper has not yet undergone peer review.

Media Contacts

Thomas S. Dee, Graduate School of Education:

Emily Penner, Graduate School of Education:

Brooke Donald, Graduate School of Education: (650) 721-1402,
Clifton B. Parker, Stanford News Service: (650) 725-0224,

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