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Here and Now in the Education World

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Taking on the latest in the controversy about the best for public school students from the viewpoints in a family of teachers and trainers.

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Title IX and What is Causing Uproar for Schools

September 26th, 2017
Post by CJN

 Title IX

On Friday, September 22, 2017 Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced changes to Title IX procedures affecting sexual harassment and violence on college campuses. Her statement confirms suspicion that the U.S. Department of Education intends to roll back critical civil rights protections for students. A new “Dear Colleague” letter to all educational entities explicitly stated the two 2011 actions to be rescinded – the Obama administration actions to clarify procedures for investigations of sexual harassment and violence to students.

When educational environments are unsafe because of sexual harassment, assault, and violence, students can’t learn — and their right to an education free of discrimination is put at risk.

#1: Forty-eight percent of students in grades 7–12 still face sexual harassment.

#2: Girls still receive $1.2 million less in funding for high school sports than boys.

#3: Although approximately 20 percent of women are targets of attempted or completed sexual assault, 89 percent of college campuses disclosed zero reported incidences in 2015.

Title IX, part of a U.S. Education amendment in June 1972, signed by President Richard Nixon, states

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.

Usually, the public thinks only of Title IX legislation affecting sports. It also affects classes offered to boys and girls, job discrimination in an educational institution, biased academic advantages and opportunities for scholarships, and sexual assault and harassment discrimination, especially on college campuses.

After Title IX regulations went into effect, women in sports increased 600%. However, the issues of sexual harassment showed numbers not so well improved. 8 in 10 boys and girls were still harassed, 25% very often. Girls were more likely to be harassed, 56% girls vs. 40% boys. See titleIX.info.

In 2011 regulations in a “Dear Colleague” letter explained in more explicit detail who and how Title IX would be implemented at all educational institutions. At that time, the criticism was that not enough victims’ complaints were pursued or decided. New regulations said the case would be decided by the preponderance of the evidence (POTE), the principal objective being to avoid use of federal monies to support sexual discrimination and provide protection against discrimination.

The argument about and the reason for the changes made September 22, 2017 are because Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education, claims that the accused in a sexual discrimination case and decisions that come before a school’s administration are diminished unless legal counsel is hired and forced to sue. The Office of Civil Rights of the DOE wishes to change the regulations to more equally weigh the claims of the victim and the accused. To do so, the OCR has sent another “Dear Colleague” letter to require clear and convincing evidence that what happened, happened.

When this decision first came to light on September 7, 2017, National Education Association (NEA) president Lily Eskalon Garcia said, we “are appalled that the Department of Education has decided to weaken protections for students who survive campus sexual assault or harassment. This decision offends our collective conscience and conflicts with the basic values of equality, safety, and respect that we teach our students every day.” See USA Today link above.

It’s 45 years since Title IX regulations first went into effect. Speaking personally, my daughter was harassed in middle school and the administration knew the rules and handled the situation well. My son-in-law dealt with the issue as coach at the local high school.

Brett Sokolov, director of the Association of Title IX Administrators (ATIXA), has posted many interim measures used while a matter of harassment is investigated in 80% of the schools in the U.S. that have a Title IX coordinator. He notes that the need to improve is not the excuse to remove the moral, ethical, and legal obligations of any educational institution.

Remember nobody can be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. Claiming the need for clear and convincing evidence, rather than the preponderance of evidence may seem useful, but can overwhelm the investigation and decision.

In addition, such heavy-handed investigations and decisions interfere with getting help for the survivor so s/he can succeed equably in education – the purpose of Title IX.

For all things Title IX go to https://www.titleix.com/law/

 

 

 

 

 

Federal Budget to Cut After-School and Summer Programs?

August 29th, 2017
Post by CJN
California elementary school with after-school program

California elementary school with after-school program

Keep in mind the $9 billion education cuts proposed by the president and Superintendent of the U.S. Department of Education, Betsy DeVos, and the Department of Agriculture cuts to school meal funds proposed by Sonny Perdue. These cuts are sitting on the table for all to see while Congress comes up with an actual budget funding bill.

The Committee on Education, Health and Human Services, and Labor, chaired by Republican Virginia Foxx-North Carolina, has designed a bill which passed by committee vote and passed the Appropriations Committee vote on July 12, 2017. It is unlikely to pass a full floor vote, nor in the Senate.

Still the action rattles the education community because some unfortunate version will pass. It cuts $2.4 billion from several sections of Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the latest version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).

From Title II-A it eliminates funds to reduce class size, provide professional development, recruit and retain teachers, and provide mentoring services to school districts across the country.

It takes money from Title I services to needy schools.

Most objectionable to districts that try to improve achievement levels and graduation rates are funds being slashed from the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21stCCLC) – part of ESSA – that provide for after-school services, summer programs, including meals, to low-income neighborhood schools.

The president and the Budget Director, Mick Mulvaney, insist that the programs are not boosting student achievement. Likewise, the bill claims to eliminate duplicative or ineffective programs and reduce funds to others. Evidence for such statements is rare or non-existent, like voter fraud.

Looking at current research, The Hechinger Report, Covering Innovation and Inequality in Education, focuses on 21st Century Community Learning Center sites in Mississippi’s poor neighborhoods. The document blames the cuts from the Department of Agriculture (USDA) that provide meals as well as the reduction of service funds for 21st CCLC that will lead to cognitive delays from malnutrition as well as no homework help, tutoring, or recreation supervision which means, of course, there will be no growth.

The Texas Education Agency’s evaluation of fifteen 21st Century Community Learning Center sites found higher test scores from grades 9-12 program participants and improved progression through grades. In middle schools, they found fewer disciplinary problems, better attendance and behavior, higher promotion and graduation rates. For details see “Texas study” .pdf in The Hechinger Report, found in the paragraph under subtitle “Related: How does Mississippi really compare…”.

The California Department of Education’s “Independent State-wide Evaluation of After-School Programs” shows reduced juvenile crime rate, higher graduation rates, and improved test scores. To see the details click here and to choose ACES 12/2012 from a list of studies click here.

Take Care Schools has data for California schools. Four hundred programs across the state serve 100,000 California students at 21stCCLC sites and other after-school programs agreed to by voters in an initiative promoted by former Governor Arnold Schwarznegger. California spends 4 times as much from state funds than it receives from the federal government. The problem is that, like in many states, the monies are divided: elementary and middle school programs are funded by state money. Any high school monies for after-school and summer programs come from the federal budget.

Click here for more analysis of California, Texas, and other state after-school programs.

If those funds disappear, anyone can realize that the progress low-income neighborhood schools are focusing on – student achievement, promotion, graduation rates – will be affected.

Do we want 18-year-olds standing on street corners, wandering from low-pay job to job, putting strain on their family or worse as we’ve all seen. Only because the president and his cohorts seem to think that taking all the $$ away, rather than fixing and improving the services, is the solution. Is that so?

 

 

 

Remind Me of Effects of Poverty on Children in School 

July 7th, 2017
Post by CJN
 California high school in region of poverty

California high school in region of poverty

A good thing for schools occurred in the Supreme Court this month. A decision keeps intact the constitutional provision by thirty-nine states to refuse to use funds for vouchers to private and parochial schools. Although the decision allowed funds to refurbish a parochial school’s day care playground, it was a narrow provision that safeguards the states from their voucher prohibition.

In addition, if you didn’t read about an American Federation of Teachers’ poll, 74% of U.S. voters oppose the president’s budget proposal, of which 54% strongly oppose, and of which 48% were Trump voters. The NAACP (2016 national conference) passed a resolution to support a moratorium on charter school expansion. Too many conflicting reports suggested a slow-down.

Upcoming on July 19, Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education, is the keynote speaker at American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) conference in Denver, Colorado. Interesting to see if there are any revisions in her voucher, civil rights, and budget policies. In August 2017, if the members of Congress do take a recess (some news articles suggest perhaps not) to their home states, it is up to teachers and administrators to hold firm against the president’s budget and voucher agenda. (from www.reclaimourschools.com, 6/30/2017 email)

With the status of school funds legislation and event attendance in mind, the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) has issued a report, The Geography of Child Poverty in California, by Sarah Bohn and Caroline Danielson, February 2017. Every state might replicate the report if not already available. Children of school age are affected by poverty from the day they are born. Of the 1.9 million United States children in poverty, 754,000 live in California. “These adverse circumstances [true in every state] lead to long-term physical, social, and behavioral consequences affecting future education and economic well-being.” p. 1 “Summary,” Geography of Child Poverty.

The major points in the report, although referring to California numbers, affect children in regions of the entire country:

  • One quarter of children live in poverty. This includes Latino, African-American, children of immigrant, young, and single parents. Interventions should focus on these groups.
  • In most poor families, at least one parent works.
  • Coping with housing cost and maintaining work and enough money resources differ in the regions of the state. In some areas, housing cost exceeds more than half of earnings. In others, families manage only by living in over-crowded housing.
  • Safety net programs can help reduce child poverty. However, the impact is better in low cost regions. Poor families in high-earning areas (earn more, but pay more for housing) cannot receive safety net benefits because the requirements don’t take into account the high cost of living.

To correct these facts the state must account for geographic differences in order to adopt approaches that will provide children with economic security. For each geographic region, changes in the housing burden on poor families, safety net adjustments, and employment leading to economic security are the goals.

Looking at Congress and California legislature, there is some hope. The House of Representatives on June 22, 2017 passed HR2353, “Strengthening Career and Technology Education for the 21st Century Act.” The bill will support education in culinary arts, HVAC repair, health care, pre-law, and Emergency Medical Training. Sounds good for every student, especially those who don’t immediately aim for college. However, the bill is now in committee in the Senate, so who knows?

In the California Assembly bill AB 1520 “Lifting Children and Families Out of Poverty Task Force” has passed and is now in the Senate. The legislation provides a task force to look at the problems identified by the PPIC report. The questions are: How long before it becomes actual legislation and is signed by the governor? How long before results are seen from the task force?

May you keep in mind the number and percent of your state’s population that must overcome the long- term circumstances that impoverish families. It’s a systemic problem. Unless government focuses on where poor children live, addresses those entrenched circumstances of poverty, and surmounts them, every child will not manage to do well enough to be lifted out of poverty and succeed in school and post-school.

 

What does Climate Change Have to Do with School?

June 11th, 2017
Post by CJN

Every public school teacher and administrator is gritting their teeth when reading the latest about the national budget.

One, Education Secretary DeVos continues to speak in favor of vouchers and sidesteps questions about preventing and ending discrimination (AAUW Action Alert 6/7/2017). She disregards taxpayer preferences. She agrees to allot significant public funds, formerly for public schools, to private and religious. Refusal to acknowledge the special issues of civil rights for disability, economic status, educational achievement, special education, and LGBT students seems to be the Secretary’s pattern.

Two, moving Education Department’s oversight of more than $1 trillion in student debt to the Treasury Department because the president wants to defund the agency by almost 50% (NYT, 5/28/2017) is unsatisfactory.

Another worrisome factor for schools is ICE deportations across the country. In addition, health care proposals in Congress that will affect 5 million children if they lose Medicaid eligibility (and miss school because they are sick) is unacceptable.

Then, the president declines to uphold the Paris Accords, unwilling to recognize the need for responding to climate change because of cost. Saving money is a short-term measure, destroying the world we stand on is a long time away for the current administration.

How do teachers explain the temptation to say, “don’t worry” vs. the necessity to teach about saving the environment? Not to discount the fact that many students in coal-mining, chemical manufacturing, oil producing and refining areas of the country are only concerned about their family’s jobs, not about evidence that the industries are polluting the rivers and oceans, are warming the Earth from burning fossil fuel and emitting carbon gases into the air.

From research into the problem, it is determined that the younger the students are, the easier it is to begin with understanding how earth’s climate system works, and as they get older, the students are more likely to accept new ideas, question conflicting understandings, and resolve the dilemmas.

Usually a teacher needs more resources besides the science text books your school distributes. Go to the internet. It is loaded with ways to strengthen understanding. To help teachers, several handbooks and information from Ohio State University explain principles of Climate Literacy:

-understands the essential principles of Earth’s climate system,

-knows how to assess scientifically credible information about climate,

-communicates about climate and climate change in a meaningful way, and

-is able to make informed and responsible decisions with regard to actions that may affect climate.

Another site, called Population Education, is useful to teachers to strengthen the relation of a young student with the environment. Remember there are plenty of library books to read about the forest, ocean, seasons, plants and animals, such as old favorites, The Happy Day by Ruth Krauss or The Last Forest by Laurie Glick. For upper elementary grade students, lessons provide ways they can begin to help the world: ways to recycle, to reduce energy consumption, to reduce the classroom’s carbon footprint.

Three sites that seem most valuable are provided on the February 2013 blog at Concordia University, Portland, Oregon:

NASA’s Climate Kids is produced by the Earth Science Community Team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, and is exciting in its design for young students.

Climate Change Education has a terrific curriculum for grades 4-5, especially Protect Your Climate-16 Lessons. It is organized by the Bay Area Quality Management District, California

Another is called Journey North, first introducing young students to movements of the earth, moon, and sun. Older students learn about plant, animal, insect migration. Lots of visuals animate the program, supported by the Annenberg Foundation.

As Americans have discovered after the president’s announcement, every state, county. city, and school district can insist on reducing global warming and pollution, protect animal life, and change the culture war over climate change.

Start now; “in a while” is too late.

 

 

 

 

 

Community Schools? 

May 11th, 2017
Post by CJN
small island school perfect for community school

small island school perfect for community school

Let’s concentrate on the news about the president’s proposed FY 2018 budget and, not yet signed into law, AHCA which passed in the House of Representatives and now goes to the Senate.

What jumps out to an educator is the decline in $9 billion in funds allocated to the U. S. Department of Education with no outcry from the administration’s cabinet member, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Next, the decline in funds in the AHCA plan for Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) which immediately, if it becomes law, affects the health and readiness to succeed for students from pre-K to 12th grade.

If $1 billion of the budget is diverted from existing programs to voucher-type programs, then after-school programs, class size, professional development, Pell grants are likely to go. (Note, however, Ms. DeVos has said year-round Pell Grant funding will be restored, but she has decided to roll back loan protections for borrowers. New York Times, “Graduates Meet DeVos with their Backs Turned” by Erica L. Green, May 11, 2017) If Medicaid becomes block grants with not enough money for a state to provide for all residents, the vulnerable are the victims and so, money will be diverted from education funds to provide for insurance for those with pre-existing condition, for children, for the elderly – children helped to stay alive, but no school. Is that not juggling until the balls drop? See NEA Education Insider, May 7, 2017.

Because of apprehension about possible disasters to public school education, establishment of well-defined and implemented “community schools” may help to overcome fears. In fact, states, districts, and even local communities have found ways to consolidate resources and people to ameliorate education problems, especially in low-income neighborhoods. In fact, Randi Weingarten, AFT president, escorted Betsy DeVos to see a community school in Dayton, Ohio.

However, many school districts have health centers or preschools or after-school programs or attendance clerks, nurses, and counselors or a public library attached to a school, but are not organized to be proficient and productive.

What are the ‘best practices’ model for community schools?

Two national organizations can help a school or district or region establish a community school: the Coalition for Community Schools, housed at the Institute for Educational Leadership, and The Children’s Aid Society of the National Center for Community Schools. Both organizations are standards-driven and use evidence-based strategies to promote equity and educational excellence, as noted on the websites.

The models are set to devise and implement four components to ensure a good community school. Focusing on Academics, think tutoring, homework centers, arts and music programs, academic challenge games, student government. For Health, think an open gym, dental and mental health centers, intramural sport programs, and an on-site clinic. For Community Resources, think advisory councils, services located at or near the school, community partners who seek funding. For Family, think ESL or GED or literacy classes, fitness, homework help for parents in school, adult sports. The options are endless to make the parents, community, and students think of the school as the resource for all.

The models instituted in Erie, Pennsylvania; New York City; Oxnard, California; and Flint, Michigan call for a coordinator to oversee and foster relentless support for the school community. The payoff is a place where education is valued and supported.

The hard part is the persistent under-funding, especially in low-income regions, and to secure state level fiscal equity and funding adequacy. Reading about New York City’s initiative, first call is to make efficient leverage of current and new public funding; second, use the district’s financial department knowledge to search for foundation grant funding; third, as many Harlem Children’s Zone community schools do, look to the private sector to broker partners and funding.

The end outcome is to achieve sustainability for community schools, and that is why the FY 2018 budget and AHCA are unnerving.

 

 

Contributors

Ongoing posts by CJN, Claire Noonan, M.A., elementary teacher in large urban schools with fifteen years in the classroom and twenty years supervising and coaching the reading/language arts curriculum.

Occasional posts by PEN, Paula Noonan, Ph.D., thirty years in training and consulting services to companies across the nation and content expert/teacher of M.Ed. programs for Jones International University.

Periodic posts by SEN, Sarah Noonan, the teacher starting her career in a suburban elementary school hit with all the budget and achievement dilemmas in beautiful California.