The74Million The74Million en Wed, 23 Aug 2017 17:22:00 -0400 5 Key Things You Need to Know About Important New Study on the Benefits of KIPP Pre-K
Mathematica Policy Research released a study earlier this week looking at the effects of KIPP pre-K on student achievement.  Yes, that’s right — KIPP doesn’t just run charter schools for K-12 students; where it can, it also offers pre-K.

The study looks at the impact of KIPP pre-K and elementary for a randomly selected group of children in Houston and Washington, D.C. and at the effects of KIPP pre-K for a larger sample of students in six states. The results, which have gotten attention on The 74 and other outlets, are promising for proponents of pre-K.

But there are some additional things you should know:

1. Charter schools and pre-K can yield greater benefits for kids than either effort alone

In 2015, Sara Mead, a fellow Bellwether education analyst, and I conducted the first national review of state policies related to pre-K and charter schools. At the time, we knew that both charters and pre-K, when done well, can be extremely powerful for children. We hypothesized that, combined, they could produce even greater effects.

The most recent Mathematica study bears that out. A key finding is that both KIPP pre-K and KIPP elementary schools are good—but the combination of both is even better. Children who attended a KIPP school from pre-K through second grade had higher math and reading achievement than their peers who attended other schools. The study also found that KIPP students who started in pre-K may have an advantage over KIPP students who started in kindergarten, particularly for reading outcomes.

2. But policies in many states prevent students and families from realizing these benefits

Our research found nearly a 1,000 charter schools serve preschoolers in many states — but we also found they often face substantial barriers in doing so. Specifically, current interpretation of policy in nine states prevents charter schools from opening a pre-K program. Ohio’s charter law, for example, says charter schools can only admit students between the ages of 5 and 22. Other barriers are more subtle: Some states don’t allow charter schools to automatically enroll pre-K students into their kindergarten program, or only allow school districts to determine which schools receive pre-K funding. Many of these laws weren’t intended to prevent charter schools from serving preschoolers. But enabling KIPP and other charter schools to serve more preschoolers will require policy changes in some states.

KIPP runs schools in a variety of states where state policy makes it easy for charter pre-K programs to exist — like those in D.C. and Texas — but also in states where policy creates obstacles. These states are missing a potential opportunity to amplify both pre-K and charter benefits.

3. What happens to children after pre-K is crucial

This study is particularly valuable because it was able to follow preschoolers through second grade in KIPP schools. That’s somewhat unique among studies of pre-K programs. Mathematica found that the combination of KIPP pre-K and early elementary had a strong, positive effect for children through second grade but that non-KIPP students were able to "catch up," on one measure of reading, between kindergarten and second grade. In other words, children’s experiences through early elementary school affect their growth trajectory.

This finding affirms recommendations from a recent consensus panel of early childhood researchers: "Children’s early learning trajectories depend on the quality of their learning experiences not only before and during their pre-K year, but also following the pre-K year. Classroom experiences early in elementary school can serve as charging stations for sustaining and amplifying pre-K learning gains."

Other research, such as the evaluation of the Chicago Child-Parent Centers and a recent study of the effects of Head Start, also suggest that improvements in elementary school quality can amplify the effect of high-quality pre-K and yields the greatest boost for kids.

4. Assuming rigorous academics and comprehensive services as competing alternatives is a false dichotomy

The KIPP pre-K programs in this study combine high-quality early learning with a range of health, family, and other services such as speech, physical, and occupational therapists and social workers; parent education and family engagement; health screenings; and referrals to outside services.

Public policy debates about preschool, and education more generally, often present a false dichotomy between education reforms like charter schools and strategies that emphasize meeting children’s holistic health, social, and other needs. This study shows that it’s possible to provide comprehensive services within a high-performing charter school model that also prioritizes rigorous academics.

5.  This research is incredibly helpful for the field at large, but less so for individual early childhood programs

In its simplest form, this study asks, "Does KIPP's charter pre-K program work?" Its findings suggest that pre-K can yield benefits for kids, so more charter schools may want to consider adding pre-K to their offerings, and states should eliminate policy barriers that prevent them for doing so.

But it doesn’t help charter school leaders — or other early childhood educators, for that matter — decide what their preschool programs should look like. To be more useful for program design, future research should ask, "What aspects of this charter pre-K program are effective? For whom or what group of students? On what different outcomes or indicators? Under what circumstances?"

Looking more closely at the practices of high-performing programs—as we do in Education Next and as a recent ConnCAN report also does—is a promising starting point.

Taken together, both the study’s findings and its practical and policy implications suggest that high-quality charter pre-K programs are a promising opportunity for children.

Andy Rotherham co-founded Bellwether Education Partners. He sits on The 74’s board of directors and serves as one of the site’s senior editors.

]]> 2114 Wed, 23 Aug 2017 17:22:00 -0400
Analysis: Why Charlottesville Is a Wakeup Call for Educators Who Believe in Equal Promise for All Students
As students across the San Francisco Bay area prepare for their first week of school, recent events in Charlottesville are a devastating reminder of how much work we must do to build a more equitable and inclusive world.

The hard work of educating our children doesn’t happen in a vacuum — students, teachers, principals, and families carry into our schools and classrooms the images of what happened in Virginia, along with the harsh reality that we are far from living in the world so many of us want.

Students of color living in poverty already face a steady stream of messages that reinforce the narrative that they are “not as smart” and should temper their expectations and dreams. This destructive and unjust storyline is not new. What is new is that these messages are being amplified, fueled by a polarized nation.

If we truly believe all individuals are equal, we must accept that all kids have equal promise.

That roughly 40 percent of Bay area low-income kids of color do not graduate high school (twice the rate of other American kids), and when dropouts are twice as likely to live in poverty as are college graduates, we are failing both our students and our ideals.

Real and enduring change across this country cannot happen until we embrace our most historically marginalized students as equally deserving of opportunity. Starting in the classroom and extending to our justice system and to housing and healthcare, we must demand that all children have the opportunity to unleash their full potential.

Strong public schools are society’s most potent force in achieving a stronger and more united country. Strong schools help strengthen communities and enable children to grow as individuals and, in turn, help us grow as a nation.

Anyone proximate to the problem of educational inequity knows the solution will also require addressing empathy gaps, economic gaps, and legal gaps — all of which hold back our students our communities, and our country. While we do not have all the answers, many more exist today, thanks to the hard work of countless educators.

As individuals, we are imperfect leaders. Collectively, we are much stronger. As we start this school year, my call to action to all educators is:

  1. How do we elevate the voices of our students and families in all we do?

  2. How do we seek out opportunities to collaborate across lines of difference while recognizing what we have in common?

  3. How do we consistently live up to the educational values of excellence and equity?

We have an opportunity to write a different narrative. Twenty years from now, our own kids, nieces, and nephews will ask us about this moment in history. I am determined to be able to share how we were part of the solution.

]]> 2113 Wed, 23 Aug 2017 16:33:00 -0400
485 Days and Counting: NYC's Education Department Stymies Public Records Requests, Both Big and Small
During 2015 and 2016, New York City investigators corroborated 59 accusations of misconduct against preschool teachers or staff in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s signature Pre-K For All initiative.  

Fifty-nine is a small, perhaps statistically probable two-year tally for programs attended by 70,000 children. But as with many other records the public has a right to see, the city has refused for more than a year to provide the case reports, leaving to the imagination whether they involve fraud and poor supervision or more disturbing acts of abuse involving 4-year-olds.  

In fact, the Department of Education doesn’t appear to have released hundreds of teacher misconduct reports in all grades, a reflection of its reluctance to share records at all, attorneys, advocates, and reporters say. They complain that the agency delays responding to requests for months or even years, earning a reputation as perhaps the city’s least transparent agency and flouting deadlines for providing records set out in New York’s Freedom of Information Law.  

"Let's talk about the New York City Department of Education,” said Robert Freeman, executive director of the state Committee on Open Government, which oversees open meetings and public records laws. “Terrible. Terrible. They're terrible. They're terrible.”

"The fear of embarrassment one way or the other is, I think, a critical motivation, and my belief — and I've spoken to many people about this — is that they think almost anything is sensitive. Everything is sensitive.”

“In reality,” Freeman said, “hardly anything is sensitive.”

FOIL lays out timelines, DOE does otherwise

Before 1974, there was no “general public right of access to government records or meetings of government bodies” in New York. FOIL changed that.  Government agencies like the DOE have five days to provide, deny, or ask for more time when they can’t grant the request in 20 days. If additional time is required, the agency has to provide “a date certain within a reasonable period.”

It hasn’t worked out that way at the DOE’s record office in lower Manhattan’s Tweed Courthouse. In April, an investigation by The Village Voice and Chalkbeat found that it took the DOE 103 days on average to respond to FOIL requests, worse than any of the other city agencies.

The finding was more of a confirmation than a surprise. On April 20, 2016, The 74 requested disciplinary decisions relating to teachers found guilty of misconduct dating back to January 1, 2015. On April 25, 2016, The 74 asked for a list of the agency’s outstanding FOIL requests.

That was 485 days ago and the DOE still hasn’t filled either request. (Disclosure: I was press secretary at the DOE from 2005-2010 under Mayor Michael Bloomberg.) The DOE also stopped sending required monthly notices extending their deadlines.

By July, The 74 hadn’t received an extension letter since March 15 for one request and May 17 for the other. The lapse allowed the site to argue the city had improperly denied its requests. DOE General Counsel Howard Friedman quashed the argument, essentially holding that the extension letters he said The 74 was receiving prevented the site from making an appeal based on not receiving the letters.

Friedman did say that  the request for teacher misconduct records would be completed by January 31, 2018, 21 months after it was submitted and, as it happens, beyond the reach of the mayor’s re-election campaign. He also said the request for a list of the DOE’s outstanding FOIL requests would be completed by Friday, Aug. 25 of this year, or 16 months for a spreadsheet.

Another month, another DOE Form Delay Letter

Education reporters are familiar with the city’s Kafkaesque form letters extending the date when they can expect requested records; the letters appear in inboxes every month over and over.

I've been waiting for my last two FOIL requests for over two and a half years, and have cycled through several different Department of Education lawyers who email me once a month to give a delayed date for when my FOIL will be ready,” said Eliza Shapiro, an education reporter at Politico.

Delays as long as 20 months across a dozen requests led the New York Post to sue the DOE and Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina (one of several FOIL-related lawsuits brought against the agency). In an Aug. 9, 2016 court filing, the newspaper and three of its reporters argued that the city’s practice of extending deadlines indefinitely, with no explanation or review, left them “in limbo — their requests neither granted nor denied — with the only certainty being the receipt of another monthly Form Delay Letter from Respondents gifting themselves more time … all the while … the Petitioners and the public are left in the dark about the workings and failings of their government.”   

The DOE did not respond to a request for comment about the Post’s lawsuit.

The rules governing New York City schools — Chancellor’s Regulations — have been interpreted by the city to mean the agency can repeatedly push back deadlines through “extension letter(s).” But that concept doesn’t appear in state law and leads to delays FOIL never contemplated, lawyers say.

“There is no provision in the statute for repeated extensions,” Freeman said in an analysis of the city’s response to the Post’s requests for public information.

The DOE declined to answer The 74’s question about the legal basis for repeated extensions.

“The DOE addresses FOIL requests in accordance with State law and remains committed to more efficiently serving the public with respect to FOIL,” press secretary Toya Holness said in a statement. “Increasing transparency is a priority and this work is ongoing.”


The agency also provided background language describing how the size and complexity of the department affects its response time and the ways it’s improving its FOIL operation. It provided identical language in April to Chalkbeat.

De Blasio then and now

A spokeswoman for Mayor de Blasio said that “any allegation that City Hall controls either tactically or explicitly how DOE’s responds to FOIL requests is blatantly false.”  

On Tuesday, the mayor and four of his top aides were called out for using personal email accounts to conduct city business. Such practice has “long come under fire from advocates of open government and historians, who argue that such electronic communications are public record and should be preserved and accessible to the public and the news media,” The New York Times reported.

The revelation was included in a city Department of Investigation document obtained by the Times under FOIL.

Back when de Blasio served as public advocate prior to becoming mayor in 2014, he was something of a one-issue champion for improving government transparency, as many have reported, and the DOE was a particular target. The agency received an F in a high-profile report  de Blasio  released grading the responsiveness of every city agency. He also inspired the creation of the Open Records portal, which allows for central, online submission of FOIL requests.

“The City is inviting waste and corruption by blocking information that belongs to the public,” de Blasio said at the time. “That’s the last thing New York City can afford right now. We have to start holding government accountable when it refuses to turn over public records to citizens and taxpayers.”

Since 2013, vast amounts of city data has been migrating online as a result of the city’s Open Data Law signed by Bloomberg in 2012. All 92 city agencies are required to release all their public data by 2018. As of the last yearly update in July, more than 1,700 data sets had been published on the public portal, which drew an average of 140,000 visitors per month.

In November 2015 and January 2016, de Blasio expanded and strengthened the law, including a requirement that city agencies review data sets compiled as a result of FOIL requests to see if they should be included on the portal. While the mayor has congratulated his administration on its public information efforts, champions of open government are not sanguine about the city’s commitment to transparency.

"I thought that (Mayor Rudy) Giuliani's administration was pretty bad,” Freeman said. “I think that de Blasio is right up there."

]]> 2112 Wed, 23 Aug 2017 16:25:00 -0400
The 74 Interview: Alexis Morin on Students For Education Reform, Youth Power & Achieving Educational Justice
Four years ago, a group of college students from across Los Angeles gathered in a coffee shop to share stories. Some of them were difficult to hear: what it felt like to take remedial classes, to be talked down to by a professor, to be the first person in their neighborhood or family to attend college.

But something else was happening in that room: The students were realizing they weren’t alone. The education system they’d spent the past two decades in wasn’t working for them, or for their peers who shared their socioeconomic background. Still, they had hope in it. And they had hope that they could change it.

These students all belonged to Students for Education Reform, or SFER, a nonprofit network of 2,000 students on 93 college campuses that trains young education activists. Alexis Morin, executive director and co-founder of SFER, listened to these conversations that day, and even though she created SFER in 2011, she credits that moment in the coffee shop as a turning point in her understanding of the importance of student voice in education.

“I was beyond energized by what a group of people who are realizing what they deserved from this system — and didn’t get — could do to shape the system,” she said.

Now 27, Morin has grown her SFER staff team to 23, which oversees student organizing in six cities: Los Angeles, Denver, Boston, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Charlotte, and Richmond, California. The 4,000 students who have been a part of SFER over the years — over 60 percent identify as low-income, first generation, and/or students of color — have influenced school board races, fought stringent school policing practices, decried raids on immigrant families, and advocated for high-quality teacher hiring.

Morin spoke with The 74 about the lack of student voice and power in schools, and why students must demand it.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

When did you decide to start SFER? What inspired this?

I connected with Catharine (Bellinger), my co-founder, at the end of our freshman year and both of us were hungry to spend some of our time at (Princeton) doing something we considered meaningful. My co-founder had done an intensive teaching internship at KIPP in Washington D.C. I had served on my school board in my hometown in Massachusetts (during high school). That was a great experience. I learned the Education Reform Act of 1993 in Massachusetts outlines that every district in Massachusetts is supposed to have a student representative on the school board. But that often falls by the wayside. My district was generally delivering high-quality academics. There were tons of phenomenal courses and teachers, and still there were students not being well served and there was huge disparity in the quality of teachers across the school. I thought all of that was really interesting.

Did you pick up on that from the school board meetings?

I picked up on that from being a really engaged student and also being the editor-in-chief of my school newspaper. My goal on the school board was to raise some of these questions and to talk about what it would look like to have teachers who are at the level of our all-star rock star teachers in every classroom.

There was another thing that I couldn’t name at the time, but I think it was missing in my hometown — a deep commitment to developing students’ sense of purpose and character and a sense of your role as a citizen. The school as a whole didn’t have a mission around students locating themselves in the country, in the world, and thinking about how to combine their gifts with pursuit of justice.

I started to understand the difference between student voice and student power. I think both are important, but the student school board member, for example, is a non-voting position. That’s one of the ideas that have come to life in our student organizing work: We absolutely believe we need to build a platform for much of our student voice. People and decision makers need to understand what students’ dreams are and whether or not their experience is propelling them towards those dreams. Students need power. Power is the ability to compel someone to make a decision that will benefit you in pursuit of your dreams. Students through us are building power through collective action, community organizing, issue campaigns, and these electoral campaigns. When we can combine those two things, we’re going to see districts be much more responsive to student and community needs.

How do you think schools or districts are doing when it comes to giving students power versus students voice?

There’s very little student voice and there’s very little student power.  “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will,” — the Frederick Douglass quote. These institutions and the leaders who run them — particularly when they’re underperforming and they’re not supportive environments for students — are never going to give students power or, I believe, even be particularly interested in hearing students’ voices. But student can organize together and demand power and demand recognition.

We have incredible inspiring examples of this in our nation’s history. Probably the example that has been most inspiring to us at SFER has been the work of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during the civil rights movement and the work those undergraduates and young people did to register voters, challenge racist policies, agitate people to get in touch with their dignity...the sacrifices and risks that those young people were willing to take changed our nation forever.

Much more recently, we’ve seen a wave of Black Lives Matter protests often led by young people and the campus expression of that, where black students organizing together, demanding to have their needs and their experiences recognized on campus, doing things like sits-ins and threatening to have a football team strike. I think the DREAMer movement is another movement that has inspired the nation and completely changed the empathy with which Americans understand the experiences of immigrants and immigrant children and undocumented children.

This question of, “How are our schools doing at giving students voice and power?” is pretty much always going to be that they’re not. That’s not their function. But how well are students doing in getting together, creating their own agenda, and building the power to demand that? I think we’ve seen examples of that historically, and now we see examples of students doing that when it comes to this question of a quality education.

What are some of SFER’s biggest accomplishments?

Building this movement of students. There's now been over 4,000 members of SFER cumulatively that is diverse and representative of the students going through our school system. That means there’s first-generation college students, there’s immigrant students, there’s undocumented students, there’s students of color, and all these students have been trained in advocacy and organizing. Those who are undergrads are taking actions, and those who are alumni, 60 percent are working in education or advocacy.

The next accomplishment that we’re so proud of is the work that SFER Action Network members have done to reshape their city school boards. Since 2013, across five different city school districts, young alumni of those districts have been actively engaged in evaluating candidates for school board, endorsing the people they believe are going to fight for the education of low-income students, and then communicating with voters about the power of a vote for school board. Those campaigns have led to anywhere from an 8 percent increase in voter turnout when our members are communicating at the door. The folks turning out are families who are being underserved by the district and don’t usually vote in school board elections. Now these neighborhoods and voters are saying, “Wow, I do have power to push the district to make the meaningful changes that my family needs.”

When students have played a role in helping shape that (school board), those board members know there are young alumni of their district watching them. They care about what this group thinks of them, and they often want to learn from students.

As an example, one of our members, Brenda Contreras, who is a first-generation college student at Sacramento State, navigated her way to college by utilizing an afterschool program and getting advice from her friends. While she had some teachers in her journey through the Richmond public schools who supported her, she did not have a teacher who helped her think about applying to college. A really powerful call to action that Brenda has for the district is to build college support into the academic program.

What are some of the issues you advocate for?

Our members have taken on issues that represent their experiences in the school system: the struggle for dignity, safety, respect, and civil rights. Other issues represent their demand to be educated. I know that sounds so simple, but it’s not happening in way too many places. I’ll give you some examples of different types of campaigns.

Last year, in North Carolina, ICE, the immigration agency, was doing raids with the intention of detaining and deporting students, including young refugees from Central America. ICE was doing these raids at bus stops to pick up students and parents that they knew would be there. These raids were terrifying to the immigrant community in North Carolina and in Charlotte and led to depressed attendance as families didn’t want to jeopardize being separated and were forced to choose between their child attending school and getting educated or risking their safety and their ability to live in the country. SFER members in Charlotte went to school board meetings and said, “This district needs to stand up for every student regardless of their immigration or documentation status,” and asked the school board members to go on record in support of all students, including undocumented students, and to call ICE off of this tactic. This activism and ICE’s actions and the community reaction was even picked up by the New York Times editorial board. There was one student who our members were in particular organizing around, and he was given a stay of deportation in large part because the community said, “Absolutely not. He’s a student and he should be in school and he should be learning.”

A similar, related issue that our members have taken up in Minnesota has been a campaign to define and limit the role of school resource officers. Our members in Minnesota, many of whom have known Philando Castile and have seen their own city rocked by racist policing practices, said, “What is the role of police in our schools?” There is no legislative guidance around this and there’s not a thoughtful approach. But what we see is heavier policing in schools that serve black students, in schools that serve students of color, and schools that serve low-income students. Our members have been conducting a campaign asking for the governor and the legislature to create a task force and evaluate what is the role police should play in schools and how should those police be trained and how can we make sure as a community that we’re not exposing students to trauma over policing, criminalization, or danger.

When it comes to students pursuing college prep academics, we’ve had students in Richmond, California, ask their superintendent and their district and their school board to fill all the teacher vacancies. High schoolers in the city of Richmond turned out to a board meeting and said, “We need instructors so that we can learn this content and apply to college.” Students have been testifying at school board meetings, meeting with the HR leadership in the district, and talking to policy experts who understand the challenges of long-term vacancies, the teacher shortage, and the problem of emergency credentials that allow teachers who aren’t experts in a subject to be teaching.

How do you decide which cities you work in?

When we were growing campus to campus, we were tracking down other students who were really radically optimistic about the idea that our public schools could be much better. We ended up choosing a lot of cities that had elected school boards, and the reason for that was our sister nonprofit, SFER Action Network, enables our members to vet candidates running for school board members in their cities and decide who they believe will best represent their interests and best advance education reform. When our students make endorsements, which has now happened every years since 2013, the way that they show up for those candidates they believe in is through voter contact, door knocking, and phone calls. It’s overwhelmingly students doing it in their own cities, sometimes even down to their own neighborhood where they’re talking to voters. And the impact they’ve been able to make in increasing voter turnout and playing a critical role in these candidates getting elected has been a really empowering way to support better leaders in our cities. That’s possible in cities that have an elected school board.

How do you decide which road to take if group members disagree on what side of an issue they should be advocating for?

Students research what’s going on in their district...How does power work in this district? Who is in charge? Who sits on the school board and what are their goals? What responsibility does the superintendent have? What is changeable and what is not? Our members and staff are learning the answers to those things by setting up meetings with elected officials, attending and studying what goes on at every school board meeting, and meeting with groups that are policy experts.

Students often in a leadership role in each city will bring forward to their peers a recommendation for a campaign based on what issues students are raising. Students will ratify that campaign and start to execute on it. At the end, reflect: What did we learn? Did we achieve our goal? What reactions did we provoke? Did we build our membership base? The process requires strong relationships between our members and among our staff, and it requires research and deliberation where students discuss which of these issues will have a more profound impact on students in schools right now. That process is where a lot of the soul of organizing work lives. It requires grit and real relationships built on a foundation of trust and shared values.

Why are the voices of college students so important when it comes to advocating for education?

College students know how they were prepared to succeed in college and how they weren’t. So their reflections on their district are crucial information for all the educators who are trying to increase access to college.

Is it often hard to get them to care about education?

The students that we connect with, we find that spark of connection because we both care deeply about their city and their experience about going through the K-12 public school system. I think there’s an abundance of students who care about this issue and it doesn’t feel like there’s a limited supply of student activists, especially in 2017, especially after this last presidential election. The work is getting out there to connect with these students. Every day we want to be inviting more students in to understand that they have agency and can reshape these systems that have failed their families and communities.

Do you think adults take student voice seriously, or do students have to prove themselves at a level that’s higher than an adult would in these conversations?

Of course students’ contributions are discounted. And the way that students will assert their power is to work together to demand changes to the direction of the district and to work with the community and voters to hold leaders accountable. As students do these things and show up regularly at every board meeting and show up at every election, it won’t really matter what the leaders of the district think students should say or shouldn’t say. Students will be powerful in the district. For students who feel like they’ve been marginalized or that their voices don’t count, don’t request to be respected; do the work of organizing with a group of people who share the same goal and values, and then decision makers will have no choice except to consult you and care what you think.

For educators or advocates or even decision makers who want to pursue the bold and radical change that kids need, understanding and seeking out the experience students had in your schools and understanding what their dreams are and whether or not your schools supported that, that is critical information.

]]> 2111 Wed, 23 Aug 2017 16:24:00 -0400
How Trump’s Immigration Crackdown Is Traumatizing Students Across the U.S. — Including Many Born Here
This is the third article in a series produced in collaboration with The Guardian examining the climate affecting immigrant school children and their parents as the new school year begins. See a version of this article at
Gathered around a camera in their family’s kitchen, the four Duarte children pleaded for help. When their undocumented parents were picked up by border patrol agents outside their home in National City, California, the full-time students, ages 12 to 19, were unable to pay for food, let alone rent.
Yarely and Aracely, 12-year-old twin sisters, had watched it happen. The girls were eating breakfast last May when their father, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico, went outside to grab a newspaper and was swarmed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. When their mother went outside to investigate all the commotion, she, too, was arrested.
“It was pretty traumatizing for my little sisters,” said 19-year-old Francisco Duarte, the oldest of the four siblings. “They just took them right in front of them. One day everything was normal, and the next day, my parents were gone.”
To raise money for their living expenses and their parents’ legal fees, the children, who are all U.S. citizens, launched a GoFundMe campaign and released a Youtube video about their experience.

For the estimated 1 million undocumented children in the U.S. — and the roughly 4.5 million young people born here who have at least one undocumented parent, like the Duartes — President Trump’s immigration crackdown is creating high levels of psychological distress. As students head back to school this fall, school officials from New York to New Mexico are preparing for increased anxiety and absenteeism among students of immigrant families.

“Kids start lagging behind academically, having social stress, anxiety, depression,” said Lisseth Rojas-Flores, an associate professor of marital and family therapy at Fuller Theological Seminary in California. “With the new administration and all the threats for deportation that are so vivid and so real, and all the rhetoric that’s going around, the anxiety escalates to a point that can be very paralyzing for some of these kids, who don’t want to go to school, or who go to school and sit in there and still worry about their families.”
Across the country, school administrators are taking bold steps to protect students and their families. Superintendents and school board members from districts including Miami; Milwaukee; Chicago; New York City; Des Moines; Portland, Oregon, and many others are declaring their schools “sanctuaries” from Trump’s immigration policies. While these policies vary, sanctuary schools are offering workshops to students and their families about managing visits from immigration authorities, vowing to shield students’ personal data from officials, and promising to block federal agents’ access to school property unless they present a warrant.
(The 74: As Immigrant Students Worry About a New School Year, Districts & Educators Unveil Plans to Protect Their Safety — and Privacy)
Since Trump took office, immigration arrests have increased 38 percent, and deportation orders have climbed 31 percent. Because more than 90 percent of those detained and deported are men, many immigrant families are losing their breadwinners, with the very real possibility of economic hardship.
“We are seeing more and more students dropping out,” Tania Romero, a social worker at Flushing International high school in Queens, New York, said at a panel discussion in May. “Young people are choosing to leave schools to work and save money in case they’re deported anytime soon.”
In a statement, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Jennifer Elzea, said the agency was committed to ensuring that enforcement actions did not “unnecessarily disrupt” undocumented parents with underage children — but that authorities “will no longer exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement.”
(The 74: Immigration Agents Inside Schools? Why Some Activists Are Warning Undocumented Students About Trump’s Policy Shifts)
In the wake of the Duarte family arrests, immigration officials defended their actions in the face
of widespread local protests. Authorities said the children’s parents, Francisco Duarte-Tineo and Rosenda Perez-Pelcastre, were connected to a stash house for human smuggling. The family denied those allegations, and no criminal charges have been filed. Perez-Pelcastre was released on bond in June with an ankle bracelet, but the children’s father was denied bond.
A July report by the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank, found that emotional distress and economic insecurity can derail the future success of undocumented children and those with undocumented parents, as families are separated and immigrant communities are targeted by heightened enforcement.
The symptoms are most profound among those — like the Duarte family — whose parents have direct contact with the authorities, according to research by Rojas-Flores.
Postville, Iowa, became the staging ground in 2008 for one of the largest immigration raids in U.S. history. The bust remains an omnipresent force in the town's schools.
Photo: Mark Keierleber
The lessons of Postville
Postville, Iowa, has become a destination for researchers looking to study the effects of immigration enforcement on youth. The small farm town of roughly 2,000 became a staging ground for one of the largest immigration raids in U.S. history near the end of the school year in 2008, when immigration agents descended on the town in helicopters, SUVs, and buses. They arrested 389 workers at a kosher meatpacking plan, to cries of “la migra, la migra.”
After arrests, criminal convictions, and deportations, the community was left in shambles. Immigrant families not displaced by the raid skipped town in fear. Many of the high school’s current upperclassmen were young children when the raid took place; one teen recalls 19 children hiding — for weeks — in the family’s basement. Others claimed sanctuary in a local Catholic church.
The raid had far-reaching effects on the student population. In a 2011 report, researchers at the University of Northern Iowa documented that students stopped coming to class, while schools found increased behavioral issues among the children who remained.
A report in the International Journal of Epidemiology recorded how heightened anxiety from the raid affected Postville’s Latino children before they were born: Nine months after the incident, babies born to Latina mothers were 24 percent more likely to have a low birth weight than those born the previous year.
‘La Migra’
Though it’s been nearly a decade, the 2008 raid haunts Postville’s youth, and Trump’s immigration crackdown has renewed anxiety. After immigration agents made an arrest in a neighboring town this spring, fear echoed through classrooms and school hallways over rumors that ICE had returned to Postville.
The high school principal contacted federal authorities and announced over the intercom that no enforcement activity had been confirmed in Postville. But still, kids were afraid to walk home, said Joy Minikwu, the district’s English as a second language instructional coach.
A school official’s undocumented mother barricaded the front door to her home and hid inside. Others packed their bags and fled.
One student said he went into “alert mode” every time he spots a helicopter. Another told his neighbor, first-grade teacher Lisa Acevada, about his plan should the government deport his parents back to Guatemala: “Mom and Dad said that if they’re taken, we’ll have to live with you.”
Students in Postville, Iowa, board buses at the end of a school day last spring. Shortly after President Donald Trump called for ramped-up immigration arrests, a rumor circulated around town that federal agents had returned to their community.
Photo: Mark Keierleber
Noe Gonzalez, a 14-year-old freshman born in Iowa to undocumented Mexican immigrants, said the thought of his parents being deported preys on his mind. “I don’t know what would happen, if I would be deported too or if I’d go to a foster home,” he said. “I’d like to stick with them, but yet I don’t want to leave the U.S.”
In response to this heightened anxiety, educators in Postville and elsewhere have worked to find ways to protect their students. Minikwu said she approached school leaders and pushed them to create a concrete emergency plan, should federal agents ever return. Details are still being discussed.
“My concern is that if something like this were to happen again and we’re taken off guard again, it’s our own fault for not being prepared,” she said. “I think it’s something that is pertinent to our families and for us to be as good of a support as we want to be.”
]]> 2110 Wed, 23 Aug 2017 16:22:00 -0400
10 Keys to How the Class of 2021 Views the World: They Never Used Landlines or Desktops—But Are Emoji Experts
The last of the millennials are going to college, and they’ve never known a world without emojis or eHarmony.

Beloit College has released its annual Mindset List for this year’s incoming freshmen, the class of 2021. Most of the students were born in 1999, and they know a world saturated with technology. They also know college costs a whole lot of money, and they can find a blog about almost anything.

Here are 10 of the most revealing findings; you can read the full list here.

  1. They are the first generation for whom a “phone” has been primarily a video game, direction finder, electronic telegraph, and research library.

  2. EHarmony has always offered an algorithm for happiness.

  3. There have always been emojis to cheer us up.

  4. Donald Trump has always been a political figure, as a Democrat, an independent, and a Republican.

  5. Zappos has always meant shoes on the Internet.

  6. Whatever the subject, there’s always been a blog for it.   

  7. There has never been a sanctioned Texas A&M bonfire.

  8. In their lifetimes, Blackberry has gone from being a wild fruit to being a communication device to becoming a wild fruit again.

  9. The Panama Canal has always belonged to Panama.

  10. By the time they entered school, laptops were outselling desktops.

Three Beloit College professors wrote this year’s version of the list, which the Wisconsin school has compiled annually since 1998.

]]> 2109 Wed, 23 Aug 2017 15:13:00 -0400
Success Academy Students Outscore Every District in New York State on Annual English and Math Exams
Success Academy Charter Schools’ new state test scores were so good, students across the network outperformed every district in New York state on the annual grades 3-8 exams.

Of the New York City charter network’s 5,800 students who took the test, 95 percent passed the math test and 84 percent passed reading. As a comparison, 41 percent of New York City’s students passed the reading test and 38 percent passed the math test, a few percentage point improvement over last year.

This achievement comes from a student group made up of 95 percent children of color and whose families have a median income of $32,000. The five-highest performing districts in New York have less than 10 percent students of color and family median incomes ranging from $130,000 to $290,000, according to a Success Academy analysis.

Of Success Academy’s special needs students, 60 percent passed reading and 82 percent passed math. The network also calculated the achievement of its highest-needs students, who are placed in classes with 12 students and two teachers: 32 percent of those students passed reading and 54 percent passed math.

The school’s students who are homeless or live in temporary housing passed math at a higher rate than the network’s overall student population, at 97 percent. They tied the network’s overall reading pass rate of 84 percent.

This is the first year Success Academy has run an analysis to compare its performance to other districts. Scores at the charter network have been historically high: This year’s achievement is an improvement of 1 and 2 percentage points in math and reading, respectively, over 2016.

Last fall, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio criticized Success Academy’s high scores as being a result of a test-prep environment.

However, “Test prep doesn’t explain the performance of our kids,” said Success Academy spokesperson Brian Whitley. “The tests are aligned to standards that ask for more than that.”

Whitley attributed the high achievement to content-rich curriculum and close monitoring of student progress by teachers. The network said it received 17,000 applications for 3,000 open seats this year.

“These results should inspire the de Blasio administration to immediately support Success Academy and other high-performing charters to serve more students in public space,” said Eva Moskowitz, Success Academy founder and CEO, in a press release. The de Blasio administration and Moskowitz have long fought over access to city space for her expanding charter school network. But in a win for charter schools this July, an extension of de Blasio’s control of the city schools included provisions making it easier for more charters to open or grow.

However, Joseph Belluck, head of the State University of New York’s charter authorizer committee, said Success Academy’s further growth would be difficult after its board chair, Daniel Loeb, made racially charged comments about an African-American state senator.

“It would be difficult for me to expand the network of a school that has somebody on the board that holds those views,” Belluck said, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Loeb has since issued an apology, which Moskowitz called “absolutely necessary,” but some have argued the response was insufficient and want Loeb to resign. The fallout from the comments reflect a larger divide within the education reform community, which has been split by the Trump administration’s support of school choice initiatives. At the beginning of the summer, Democrats for Education Reform head Shavar Jeffries stepped down from the Success Academy board.

Disclosure: Campbell Brown, The 74’s co-founder, sits on Success Academy’s board of directors.

]]> 2108 Wed, 23 Aug 2017 14:55:00 -0400
10 Tips for Immigrant Students, Families to Be Safe Part of LAUSD’s New ‘We Are One’ Guide
Don’t open the door. Know your rights. Make an emergency plan for when a family member is detained.

Those are among the tips included in the Los Angeles Unified School District’s new  “We Are One Education & Immigration Resource Guide.” Aug. 15 was the first day of school in the country’s second-largest school district, where one-quarter of its roughly 640,000 students are either undocumented or the children of undocumented immigrants. School entrances were adorned with big banners bearing the image of the Statue of Liberty and proclaiming LAUSD’s message that it stands with its immigrant families: “We Are One LA Unified.”

The district wants to create awareness of the new resource guide and toolkit for immigrant students and families on the district’s website. As of Monday, it is now available in Spanish.

(The 74: As Immigrant Students Worry About a New School Year, Districts & Educators Unveil Plans to Protect Their Safety (and Privacy))

Here are 10 things immigrant families can find in the district’s resource guide to be safe at school and at home.

  1. You have the right to remain silent, even if you’re not a legal citizen: As a parent and as a student, you should know that all people in the United States, regardless of immigration status, have certain rights and protections under the U.S. Constitution, including the right to remain silent if detained by law enforcement officers.

  2. Don’t open the door: If a Customs Enforcement (ICE) officer knocks on your door, you have the right to not open the door. Talking to the officer through a window is safer.

  3. You have a right to a lawyer — and never sign anything until you talk to your lawyer: Do not sign any documents if you are not certain about what they mean. Always speak to an attorney before signing anything given to you by ICE. You have the right to speak with an attorney. If you don’t have an attorney, look for legal advice from community organizations listed on Page 14 of the guide.

  4. Every child in the U.S. has the right to attend a public school: Your children have the right to attend any public school in the United States, because all children have a constitutional right to access a free public education regardless of their or their parents’ immigration status.

  5. Your school is not allowed to share personal data with the federal government: You can feel comfortable sharing your personal information with your children’s schools. That information is safe because all school districts are prohibited from providing student education records to third parties as mandated by the federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

  6. Keep legal documents, and school contacts, in one place: Speak to your family members about critical information regarding legal guardianship, health records, and whom to contact at the school site. Keep your documents updated and located in a safe and accessible area, including the emergency information card that you can fill out and print from Page 10.

  7. Have your “Red Card” handy: The “Red Cards” can help you defend your constitutional rights when coming face to face with an immigration officer. There is a sample of these bilingual cards in the guide. You can print them from Page 5 and have one with you at all times. If detained by law enforcement authorities, you can give or read the cards to them.

  8. Create an emergency ICE family checklist: You must have a plan detailing what every member of your family should do in case one of you is detained by ICE. Follow the checklist on Page 6 and make sure you are ready with information and documents you and your family need.

  9. Five things to do if a family member is detained: There is a five-step checklist on Page 11 of the guide that can help you prepare for when a family member is detained by immigration authorities. If you are not sure if your relative was detained, you can find out by calling the ICE Online Detainee Locator for more information at 1-888-351-4021. If you are a minor, ask an adult to call for you.

  10. Help your siblings if your parent is detained: If you are a student and you believe one of your parents or guardians has been detained by ICE, consult immediately with a school administrator for support in contacting your siblings’ schools to arrange for a plan for you and your siblings to follow. Then contact the caregiver your parents designated for you and your siblings. There is more information to help you on Page 12 of the guide.

]]> 2107 Tue, 22 Aug 2017 17:38:00 -0400
Alliance College-Ready Public Schools: AMPing Up Its Alumni Network to Track & Guide Students Through College

This is one chapter in an ongoing multimedia series by Richard Whitmire called The Alumni, which focuses on the efforts being made by America’s top charter networks in guiding alumni to — and through — college. Read all our school profiles here, and be sure to visit The Alumni microsite to see other essays, videos, graphics, and profiles of the educators and students leading a college success revolution:

Simon Linsley, who oversees college success programs for Los Angeles–based Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, has a spreadsheet documenting the nearly doubling rate at which Alliance has opened new high schools.

With 15 high schools in its network now, Alliance has grown from just eight schools five years ago. In total so far, there are 8,712 high school graduates of Alliance schools.

That rapid rate was calculated to meet a demand from parents who wanted high schools in which, compared to the traditional L.A. schools, students were far more likely to earn high school diplomas and enter college. When Alliance opened its first high school in 2004, only 49 percent of students in traditional LAUSD schools graduated from high school.

Photo: The 74

Alliance is posting those gains now, but that comes five years after the charter network realized it had a problem: Far too few of its alumni were actually earning college degrees. At that point, Alliance put together a team to track its students after graduation.

But compared to the charter networks with higher college success rates, Alliance was late to the charter school game. That, plus being challenged by its rapid growth, probably explains why Alliance has a low proportion of alumni who graduate college within six years: 25 percent.

That’s better than the 9 percent of students from low-income families who earn college degrees within six years, but well below other charter networks, where half of their graduates earn college degrees within six years.

All three California charter networks profiled in The Alumni, Alliance, Aspire, and Green Dot, ended up at the bottom of the college success rankings. The reasons for that appear to lie in the state’s erratic funding over the past decade, first slicing per-student K-12 funding to the bone, followed by severe cuts to the state university system.

At a time when charter networks elsewhere in the country were expanding their college success programs, the California charters were struggling just to stay afloat. And when their students entered the beleaguered state university system, they struggled to win seats in classes mandatory to stay on track for graduation. Middle-class students could afford to wait it out; not these students. Many gave up and took jobs.

So the relevant question is how the college success rate at Alliance compares to Los Angeles Unified. Hard to say, since LAUSD, like nearly all traditional districts, doesn’t track its students that far. But we do know how many LAUSD graduates enter four-year colleges: 24 percent, compared to 49 percent of Alliance graduates.

Another factor to consider: LAUSD includes far more upper-income parents coming from schools in neighborhoods like Brentwood. About 78 percent of the district students are considered disadvantaged, compared to 97 percent of Alliance students. And the racial mix is different as well, with far more white and Asian students in district schools. At Alliance, those students make up just 2 percent of the student population.

Alliance may rank near the bottom of the major charter networks in terms of degree-earning rates, but it still significantly outperforms L.A.’s traditional district.

A GreatSchools study published this May identified “spotlight” schools where black and Hispanic students fare far better than the city’s district at large. Several Alliance charters ended up on that list. Alliance estimates that its students score 82 percent higher in math and 48 percent higher in English, compared to students at neighboring traditional public schools.

Until recently, Alliance schools operated like traditional high schools, which measure themselves only by the percent of students winning high school diplomas — perhaps supplemented by the percentage of their graduates committing to enroll in college, which is an unreliable measure. Many students just don’t show up for the first day of classes, or drop out after the freshman year.

The idea that high schools should track their students through college, and then calculate the number of their alumni earning degrees after six years, is both new and radical. The assumption has always been that it was the job of colleges to worry about how many of their students earn degrees.

In researching The Alumni, I came across very few traditional school districts that track their students through college, and those were collaborating with charter schools.

Even today, Alliance’s alumni tracking efforts are modest, at least compared to the extensive programs devised by networks like KIPP, which employs teams with precise student caseloads, tracking them with software from Salesforce — an expensive endeavor.

At Alliance, only three people oversee the effort, and there are no caseloads. Rather, Alliance relies on improving its college selection process using a list of colleges more likely to guarantee success for its unique students, almost all of whom are low-income and minorities and then supporting them in college with a student mentor program known as AMP, Alliance Mentorship Program.

The 135 mentors who take part in AMP — all of whom are Alliance alumni — receive modest stipends and keep track of five to eight recent Alliance graduates. That approach keeps costs down for Alliance, which sets a goal to prove it can do a better job educating low-income students without spending any more money than what traditional L.A. high schools receive.

College counseling in action

The Alliance Marc and Eva Stern Math and Science School is an Alliance school located on the campus of California State University, Los Angeles. Both college counseling at the high school and the AMP program at the university were taking place in late April.

Seniors were scheduled for exit interviews, during which a high school counselor or “college success” team member sits down with a high school senior and reviews his or her college plans. This particular day also happened to be one week before seniors had to commit to college.

In each case, Linsley updated student files, reviewed where they had applied and where they had been accepted and rejected. He then analyzed the details of their commitments. Almost all the planning revolved around financials.

Karina Rodriguez: The tough migration

The first student to meet with Linsley that day was Karina Rodriguez. The shy 17-year-old’s mom stays at home while her dad sells fruit from a truck. On weekends, she helps sell fruit as well.

Rodriguez had been accepted at the University of California, Los Angeles, a highly prestigious and selective public university — an accomplishment that history and data would defy for a student of her background.

Rodriguez, who wanted to study environmental engineering, was also accepted to New York University, but she never considered moving to New York — the Big Apple is simply too far from family.

Alliance senior Karina Rodriguez.
Photo: Richard Whitmire

At UCLA, grants and scholarships were expected to cover all but $24,000 over four years, but that was still a scary figure for Rodriguez, who had no money saved for college.

Rodriguez appeared to prefer living at home and commuting to UCLA, which concerned Linsley, who was busy scanning the student’s online financial aid package from UCLA. The aid package, he concluded, would cover room and board. To top that, the commute could take up to two hours one-way.

“In the long run it’s going to be better for you to live in [university] housing, especially the first year, when you’re acclimating to academics,” Linsley told Rodriguez. “Plus, you would have no social life.”

Rodriguez looked worried, and while her heart appeared to be more comfortable living at home, she promised to change her application to apply for student housing.

Kiara Ramirez: Chemistry on the horizon

On the same day, Kiara Ramirez was confidently wearing a Smith College sweatshirt and a big smile, and feeling good about her decision. The estimated cost of a Smith education is $72,000 and the financial offer covers $70,000 of that, she said. Her study interest: chemistry.

Simon Linsley, director of college success at Alliance, with senior Kiara Ramirez.
Photo: Richard Whitmire

As Linsley examined the aid package, he noticed there were no transportation allowances. His estimate: Going to Smith would cost Ramirez $20,000 over four years. For an Alliance student, that’s a lot.

He then pointed out that Ramirez hadn’t actually accepted Smith’s offer — and had only a week to do so, and he told her as much. Suddenly, her cheerful demeanor disappeared. She looked worried, which Linsley quickly sought to absolve.

To help Ramirez manage all her needed actions over the next week, Linsley built a to-do list in an email, which he sent to both Ramirez and her counselor.

Vanessa Najarro: Awkward adjustment

The AMP mentee on the adjacent college campus, Cal State L.A., was sophomore Vanessa Najarro, a criminal justice major who one day would like to join the FBI. Adjusting to college life meant learning how to be more organized and how to seek out professors for help. When she was an Alliance high school student, the teachers were always available. The college social life was also an awkward adjustment.

“It can be nerve-racking to get out there and actually talk to strangers,” Najarro said. “In high school you see your friends every day.”

On one day, she was being mentored by Alliance alum By’Ron Williams, who walked her through a checklist of questions supplied by Linsley’s program. Next year, Najarro wants to become a mentor.

Cal State L.A. freshman Vanessa Najarro, a graduate of Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, gets counseled by an upperclassman there, also an Alliance alumnus.
Photo: Richard Whitmire

“It’s really helpful. They teach you how to build résumés, how to network. These are life skills that you don’t get in high school,” Najarro said. “AMP mentors have also helped with financial aid questions. But it’s also about becoming a better person, building yourself up.”

Najarro was accepted to the University of California, Merced, which is both a more prestigious university and a place from which she is more likely to earn a degree. But that seemed too far away.

“I really like L.A., and I felt like I would get homesick,” she said.

Being at Cal State L.A. allows her to live at home and work 20 hours a week as a cashier, which is necessary to pay off college debts. But those same distractions explain why the Cal State L.A. graduation rates are so low: Only 19 percent of the students earn degrees within six years, in part because of the many work and family obligations and distractions.

Najarro agreed that there are more challenges, especially time management issues arising from being a full-time student and working 20 hours a week.

Part of her motivation came from being the first in her family to go to college. “I have a good GPA,” she said. “I feel like I have to be a good role model for my brothers.”

David Vaca: ‘Overwhelmed’

One AMP mentor, David Vaca, described the many pressures he hears from his mentees — pressures familiar to him, because he experienced the same, only without benefit of a student counselor. Feeling overwhelmed with classwork and worrying about failing are only two of the pressures. “It’s also work. They feel pressured by their parents. I can speak for myself. I felt pressure to get a job because I was in college, everything was getting more expensive — food, books,” Vaca said. “So they have to take on that extra job, plus the four classes already and also the pressure to also get involved into some campus activities. They could probably lose track of one of those things, like their education.”

Vaca knows he can’t solve all their problems, but just having someone to talk to makes a difference.

“I can hope that they won’t ever feel alone, because it definitely is a scary place out here,” he said. “You definitely feel alone a lot. Overwhelmed.”

]]> 2106 Tue, 22 Aug 2017 16:31:00 -0400
New Study: KIPP Pre-K Has Big — and Possibly Lasting — Impact on Early Student Achievement
Earlier is better when it comes to the KIPP charter network, suggests new research released Tuesday.

Researchers with Mathematica Policy Research, an independent group, found positive effects both for the combination of KIPP pre-K and KIPP early elementary grades and for KIPP pre-K programs alone.

“We believe it’s never too early to begin a KIPP education, and these findings show that starting KIPP at a young age can put our students on the path towards long-term success in college and life,” Susan Schaeffler, executive director of KIPP DC, said via email. Researchers studied KIPP pre-K programs at two elementary schools in Houston and one in Washington, D.C., between 2011 and 2016.

(The Alumni: Exclusive — Data Show Charter School Students Graduating From College at Three to Five Times National Average)

Researchers also found that some of those benefits persist through second grade, even as other research has found that the advantages of preschool either fade out or turn into negative effects by early elementary school.

“The fact that it shows both that KIPP pre-K on its own and then the combination of KIPP pre-K and KIPP early elementary have positive effects on children’s learning outcomes is a big deal, particularly given some of the past research on pre-K and fade-out,” said Ashley LiBetti Mitchel, a senior analyst focused on early education at Bellwether Education Partners.

The combination of KIPP pre-K and early elementary school had “positive and statistically significant impacts on reading and math achievement” by second grade, researchers found.

They compared test outcomes for second-graders who entered and won lotteries for spots for 3-year-old pre-K programs at the two Houston KIPP schools and the one in D.C. versus those second-graders who entered the pre-K lottery but didn’t win spots.

In three of four measures of math and reading skills, researchers found “educationally meaningful” impacts.

The largest benefit, letter-word identification, is the equivalent of moving from the 66th to the 80th percentile when tested on that skill, researchers found. Math benefits, as judged by applied problems and calculation, were slightly smaller. The smallest benefit, reading passage comprehension, was the equivalent of moving from the 29th to the 36th percentile, they wrote.

Researchers also compared the test scores of second-graders who entered and won lotteries to attend KIPP schools in kindergarten with those who applied but didn’t get a spot. They then compared the benefit of attending KIPP starting in kindergarten to the benefit of attending KIPP starting in 3-year-old pre-K, two years before kindergarten.

They found bigger, though not statistically significant, benefits in reading for students who had attended pre-K as compared with those who started KIPP in kindergarten, and no difference in math scores.

“It looks pretty promising that KIPP pre-K programs are providing an additional benefit,” Virginia Knechtel, one of the Mathematica researchers, said.

To test whether the benefit of KIPP pre-K fades out over time, researchers compared the difference in lottery winners’ and losers’ scores in reading in kindergarten and again in second grade. Some reading benefit lasted through second grade; the researchers didn’t test math fade-out.

In general, the research pool was small — about 1,100 students in both the pre-K and kindergarten groups. The sample size on the fade-out benefits was even smaller, at 199, so “we have to sort of take caution in interpreting these findings,” Knechtel said.

KIPP is a high-performing charter school network founded in 1994. It serves 88,000 students in 209 elementary, middle, and high schools across the country. Twenty-seven of KIPP’s 80 elementary schools offer pre-K.

The pre-K research follows earlier studies of KIPP by Mathematica. In 2013, researchers found positive effects in reading, math, science, and social studies for KIPP middle schools. In 2015, a five-year study found positive effects on student achievement associated with KIPP schools across all grade levels.

The Laura and John Arnold Foundation sponsored the new pre-K research. The Texan philanthropists previously helped reopen Head Start preschool programs shuttered during the 2013 federal government shutdown.

The KIPP special sauce
Researchers also found smaller evidence that KIPP pre-K helps students’ executive function, things such as memory and switching tasks.

Sharon Foley, managing director of academics at KIPP Houston, previously taught first grade at a KIPP elementary school in Washington, D.C., where students also attended KIPP pre-K.

“The students get a bit of a boost, because we’re not spending time on these things that are very foundational year over year over year; we’re really able to build very quickly from start to finish,” she said.

(The 74: Washington, D.C. — The Pre-K Capital Where Nearly All 4-Year-Olds (and Most 3-Year-Olds!) Go to School)

The Mathematica researchers pointed out six key features of KIPP preschools, including a focus on academics, establishment of a behavioral foundation for later success, and an emphasis on building relationships with students and families.

Among the characteristics researchers saw as key to KIPP’s success, Foley said the emphasis on teacher observations and coaching stuck out to her.

The network has a standard procedure for evaluation of its teachers, including classroom observations by a coach, a hypothesis on how the teacher can improve, and rigorous work on improving specific skills.

“That four- to five-step approach is really consistent whether you teach high school biology … or whether you teach pre-K–3,” she said.

Mitchel, the Bellwether analyst, said it’s noteworthy that the KIPP schools align their preschool and early elementary curricula, particularly given that most elementary and preschool programs exist in silos.

She also said she’d like more detailed research on what is making the KIPP programs work.

“There’s some information about what the programs look like, but not very much, and if we want to take this research and move it from just three programs to something that other programs can learn from, we need to be much more nuanced,” Mitchel said.

The Walton Family Foundation, The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, Doris & Donald Fisher Fund, Jonathan Sackler, and the Karsh Family Foundation have provided financial support to the KIPP Foundation and The 74.

Andy Rotherham co-founded Bellwether Education Partners. He sits on The 74’s board of directors and serves as one of the site’s senior editors.

]]> 2105 Tue, 22 Aug 2017 15:42:00 -0400
Immigration Agents Inside Schools? Why Some Activists Are Warning Undocumented Students About Trump’s Policy Shifts
This is the second article in a series produced in collaboration with The Guardian examining the climate affecting immigrant school children and their parents as the new school year begins. See a version of this article today at
One student exchanged hand gestures with a classmate in the school hallway. Another drew graffiti in his notebook. A third wore a Chicago Bulls T-shirt.

School authorities on Long Island, New York, accused the teenagers of displaying signs or symbols associated with a notorious street gang with close ties to Central America. They were suspended, and several of the students were arrested. But before the charges were substantiated — even before appeals of their suspensions were complete — the students were shipped off to detention facilities thousands of miles from home, without their parents’ knowledge.

Not because of gang activity — which has yet to be proved in court — but because of immigration status.

How teenagers with no criminal convictions ended up in the hands of federal authorities is the subject of a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union. It’s also a troubling example of how President Trump’s wide-ranging executive order to ramp up immigration enforcement may be giving federal immigration authorities a stronger foothold in America’s schools.

As many as 20,000 police officers are stationed inside American schools to help maintain safety. Called school resource officers, they are employed by local police or sheriff’s agencies and historically have few ties to immigration authorities. But Trump’s immigration order, signed in January, revives a decades-old program that trains local law enforcement officials in immigration enforcement and deputizes them with federal authority.

Since some of these newly empowered police departments also deploy officers in schools, attorneys and civil rights activists say school resource officers can easily become a conduit for personal information about students and their families, such as undocumented status, that is supposed to be protected under federal student privacy laws.

President Donald Trump speaks at Suffolk Community College on July 28, 2017, in Brentwood, New York, near to where the violent street gang MS-13 has committed a number of murders. Trump urged Congress to dedicate more funding to border enforcement and faster deportations.
Photo: Getty Images

Immigration arrests have increased 38 percent since Trump took office. Though just 60 law enforcement agencies currently participate in the immigration enforcement program, according to ICE, that number has nearly doubled since January. Interviews with officials at participating local agencies show that about half assign officers to schools, including in Maryland, Arizona, and South Carolina.

(The 74: As Immigrant Students Worry About a New School Year, Districts & Educators Unveil Plans to Protect Their Safety (and Privacy))

On Long Island, where police are battling the brutal street gang MS-13 — an effort applauded by President Trump in a visit last month — attorney Bryan Johnson said that innocent teenagers at Brentwood High School have been swept up after educators shared student disciplinary records with school resource officers from the Suffolk County Police Department, which has a partnership with federal officials to crack down on gang violence. Schools, he said, “can have a pretty strong educated guess” as to a family’s immigration status, and because the schools provide the information, immigration officials know where students live. More than 75 percent of students at the high school are Hispanic.

Felix Adeyeye, a spokesman for Brentwood Union Free School District, said that “it’s preposterous” to think educators share student records with school resource officers. Suffolk County doesn’t have a federal immigration enforcement agreement, but attorneys pointed to other avenues for cooperation, including a gang task force and informal deals.

Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy Sini told WNYC that “there are a number of ways” school suspensions can reach immigration officials. “And kudos to school resource officers for being diligent,” he said. Sini did not respond to requests for comment.

In its lawsuit, the ACLU of Northern California accused the Trump administration of using “unsubstantiated claims of gang affiliation” to send three Suffolk County minors to detention in California.

Brentwood is just one of dozens of districts nationwide where immigration enforcement in schools, or fear of it, has terrified immigrant students; about 1 million undocumented children live in the U.S., and an estimated 5.5 million kids have at least one undocumented parent. Across the country, districts have adopted “sanctuary school” resolutions to help students feel safe — not from gangs, but from immigration agents.

Community members rally in July near Suffolk County Community College on Long Island ahead of a speech by President Donald Trump.
Photo: Getty Images

Dani Moore, an immigrant rights activist in North Carolina, said the dual role of the Wake County Sheriff’s Office, which collaborates with immigration authorities, raises questions. “We’re concerned about instituting a show-me-your-papers mentality among law enforcement officers on the streets, in our neighborhoods, outside of our schools, and even inside our schools,” Moore said.

A 2011 ICE memo discouraging enforcement at schools remains in place under Trump, spokeswoman Jennifer Elzea said. The Department of Homeland Security is “committed to ensuring that people seeking to participate in activities or utilize services provided at any sensitive location are free to do so without fear or hesitation,” she said — but immigration authorities “will no longer exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement.”

Many school districts are not taking chances. In June, Wake County’s school board clarified a policy that grants school police special access to campus to conduct school-related duties, school board member James Martin said in an email. But when acting in any other capacity, including immigration enforcement, they need a subpoena or warrant.

Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison couldn’t be reached for comment but told The News & Observer the revision was unnecessary because deputies inquire about immigration status only of people in jail, adding that school board members “don’t tell my deputies what to do. They work for me.”

Beyond federal agreements between police and federal agencies, many city agencies and immigration authorities already have a history of collaboration, said Harold Jordan, a senior policy advocate at the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania. In fact, a majority offer informal, voluntary assistance, according to a December survey by the Immigrant Legal Resource Center.

In testimony before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Sini said combatting MS-13 requires “a particular focus on the unaccompanied alien children population.” But a similar initiative six years before could hold some important lessons for authorities in Brentwood.

In 2011, immigrant rights groups in Carbondale, Colorado, accused a school resource officer — who also served on an ICE anti-gang task force — of racially profiling Latino students. Police Chief Gene Schilling denied the charge and said the program, which wasn’t designed to enforce immigration laws, helped reduce the gang presence in Carbondale schools. But in the process, he said, the police department lost the trust of the community it served.

“If you asked me today, ‘Would you do it again?’ I’d say, ‘There ain’t no way,’ ” Schilling said.

]]> 2099 Tue, 22 Aug 2017 07:15:00 -0400 Bertelli: Why a Recent Drop in Charter School Support Is Not About Charter School Quality
If there is one thing polls are really good at, it’s provoking people to wax philosophical on what the findings really mean. So when Education Next’s new annual poll on education reform revealed an unsurprising year-over-year drop in support for charter schools, some were quick to advocate for solutions to improve charters’ public standing.

Unfortunately, most of this early advice, while well-meaning, majorly misses the mark.

Consider this piece by Maureen Kelleher at Education Post, in which she argues that the erosion of support for charters is due to some charters failing to make good on commitments to quality and accountability. She argues, “If we want to win the charter war, we have to start by looking deeply at ourselves.”  

Kelleher is right that charter schools — in fact, all public schools — should be high-quality and accountable for results. But there is no evidence in the poll that the drop in charter support is at all tied to school quality. In fact, the decline is much more likely attributable to the unusually intense charter attacks launched by organizations that benefit from keeping the district-run school model intact. The attacks began in the lead-up to last year’s election and have only intensified since inauguration day as charter opponents attempt to tag anything to do with school choice with the unpopular “Trump/DeVos” badge. Meanwhile, teachers unions and the organizations they support spent the summer passing resolutions condemning charters.

The common themes among these attacks have nothing to do with quality; instead, they rely on ridiculous assertions of “privatization” and “billionaires” taking over schools for their own benefit — and at the expense of public school children. More recently, the scurrilous attacks have painted choice advocates as segregationists.

It hasn’t mattered that, over the same period, there has been a wealth of compelling data released that charter schools are meeting the needs of underserved communities better than their district-run counterparts.

Studies have emerged showing improved college graduation rates, positive impact on nearby district-run schools, leadership in recruiting teachers of color, and improving outcomes despite funding disparities. These complement the comprehensive 2015 nationwide study that showed significant gains for urban charter students relative to their peers attending district-run schools.

So why, despite all the good news about the work charters are doing, is the campaign against them finding traction? Because the average parent does not read about studies, and, as last week’s poll also showed, families drastically overestimate the quality of their local schools.

According to the poll, 54 percent of respondents gave their local schools an A or B grade while giving similar grades to only 24 percent of schools nationally. In fact, only 13 percent of respondents rated local schools in the D or F category. This is consistent with the recent Learning Heroes survey that revealed the serious disconnect between parents’ belief about the kind of education their children receive versus the reality. In short, most people (including parents) believe their schools are good, regardless of what scores actually show.

In this environment, critics of school choice initiatives leverage those beliefs to convince parents that “unaccountable” charters are a scheme by “privatizers” to siphon money from their “good, local” schools. The issue of quality is almost never a factor. If your child attends a “good” school, why would you ever support taking money away from it?

Convincing people to lend their voice and support to change is a two-stage process. First, they must be convinced that the status quo needs changing and, second, that the change being proposed is the right solution. What’s clear from recent polls and surveys is that a growing number of parents don’t see a problem, and therefore see any proposed changes as irresponsible. Charter school advocates need look no further than the results from Massachusetts’s Question 2 to understand that people’s views on charters are almost never a referendum on their quality.

A focus on quality and accountability is great for kids, and charters should not stop striving for those high standards. But as an advocacy strategy, it appears insufficient and misguided, doubling down on a talking point that has failed to rebuff the ongoing relentless attacks against school choice.

]]> 2104 Mon, 21 Aug 2017 17:16:00 -0400
Langhorne: When Pursuing Education Becomes a Crime, It’s the System That Should Be Scrutinized, Not the Students
In a recent article, Derrell Bradford mentioned New Jersey and the state’s practice of having off-duty police officers follow students home to make sure the students are attending school in their assigned district.

“When we’ve criminalized the pursuit of a good school, we must ask whether the mission and intent we ascribe to public education are really being served,” Bradford writes.

It is a thought-provoking sentence. I assume that Bradford would have liked for me to think about how children’s ZIP codes are the largest predictor of the type of education they’ll receive (the subject of his excellent article); instead, I thought about Emilio.

Emilio (not his real name) was a student in my ninth-grade ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) English class. Although I couldn’t claim he was one of my better students or that he possessed a particularly strong work ethic, he was prompt and polite, engaged while in class, and gifted with a wonderful sense of humor.

Prior to reading Shakespeare, the class studied literary devices — pun, oxymoron, simile, etc. I have never seen a student laugh so hard at the sign for “Dry Creek Water Park.”

Around the beginning of February, Emilio told me he would miss the next class because his family was moving.

In March, I pulled Emilio into the hallway to discuss his tardiness, which had gone from nonexistent to unacceptably frequent. Emilio’s class was first period. Because of the class’s demographics, it was not unusual for students to get a nighttime job to help support their families. I asked Emilio if this was the case. Ever polite, he explained that no, he did not have a nighttime job, but he now had to take two public buses to get to school and it took 75 minutes if the buses ran on time.

Only then did I realize: Emilio had moved out of our school’s boundary region. He might have even moved out of the school district altogether.

Teachers are expected to report students like Emilio. My former school district employs people to make sure that all of the students attending the school are currently living in-district as well as in-region, and that they’re not using an outdated or false address, or putting down a relative’s address. It’s not an easy task, but it is an important one.

Illegally enrolled students do cost individual schools money. The number of legally enrolled students, not the number of students physically present in the building, determines the school’s funding. Often, these numbers do not align. As a result, these illegally enrolled students contribute to problems of increased class sizes and thinly stretched resources, but they don’t bring any tax money along with them. Also, non-native speakers like Emilio are more expensive to educate than other students.

This issue is not new. A 1991 New York Times article examined the growing number of expulsions of illegally enrolled students in suburban areas. Unfortunately, in the current system of property taxes and geographic school boundaries, schools truly can’t afford to educate students from outside their districts, and so those students have to be removed and sent back to their neighborhood schools, regardless of the difference in school quality.

Sadly, it’s been over 25 years, and we still haven’t fixed the inherent and obvious problems with this system of using geographic boundaries to assign students to schools.

(The 74: Bernard — Why Are We Arresting Mothers for ‘Stealing’ a Public Education?)

What if we had a different system?

What if Emilio could choose where he went to school? What if the taxpayer money followed him to the school of his choice rather than staying in the district where he lived? What if he were allowed to openly admit that he wanted to attend our school rather than feeling forced to sneak in like a criminal?

Having input into your education is empowering and motivating, especially for students who usually feel as if they have no voice.

Students should not be denied the opportunity of a good education because of where their parents live, and a system of school choice allows students to pursue that opportunity without fear of committing a crime. In this system, taxpayers fund students, not schools, so the money follows the student to the school he chooses to attend rather than staying in the school closest to where he lives.

I didn’t ask Emilio any questions about where he lived; I didn’t want to know. I continued to teach him as before — with a chuckle and a lot of patience.

In most cases, following district procedures is important. Sending away a faceless illegally enrolled student to his assigned school district might be the proper thing to do.

But forcing a 15-year-old boy who laughs at puns and has a good group of friends to leave his school for one with fewer educational opportunities is, to me, what’s criminal.

]]> 2103 Mon, 21 Aug 2017 16:47:00 -0400
My First Solar Eclipse! 17 Eye-Opening Photos of Kids Experiencing Science Along the Path of Totality
Armed with space-themed snacks, special glasses, and lots of curiosity, students and teachers across the country stepped outside their classrooms for Monday’s spectacular solar eclipse. Whether in the Path of Totality or on the partial-eclipse sidelines, educators took the opportunity to deliver lessons in astronomy and got to see wonder on their students’ bright faces as they watched the rare celestial event unfold.

Here is a sample of 17 tweets from schools around the nation celebrating #SolarEclipse2017.


]]> 2102 Mon, 21 Aug 2017 16:21:00 -0400
Bullying on the Rise in NYC Middle and High Schools, NYDN Analysis of Student Surveys Shows
More students in New York City schools report that their peers are being bullied than last year, according to a New York Daily News analysis of student survey data from the city Department of Education.

From 2016 to 2017, the Daily News found a 10 percentage point jump in bullying reports, with 81 percent of the city’s 400,000 students in grades 6–12 citing incidences of harassment this past year.

Sixty-five percent said bullying happened over “race, religion, ethnicity, national origin, or citizenship/immigration status,” and 73 percent reported classmates being bullied over “disability or weight.”

On last year’s questionnaire, half of students reported that their peers were bullied because of “race or ethnicity” and 55 percent said bullying happened because of “national origin, citizenship/immigration status, religion, disability, or weight.”

Because the questions were changed for the 2017 survey, a department spokesman told the Daily News that comparing results from the two years was “not valid.”

Nationally, bullying has been decreasing, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. In 2015, 20.8 percent of 12-to-18-year-olds reported being bullied, down from 21.5 percent in 2013. But the same report found that LGBT students were more likely to report bullying. In high school, 34 percent of LGBT students said they were bullied, compared with 19 percent of their heterosexual peers.

NCES data found that bullying is most likely to happen in middle schools, with nearly 22 percent reporting harassment, versus nearly 15 percent of high schoolers.



If you are an educator who is looking for training resources on preventing bullying, visit

If you are a student and are looking for resources on bullying, visit

]]> 2101 Mon, 21 Aug 2017 15:59:00 -0400
As Immigrant Students Worry About a New School Year, Districts & Educators Unveil Plans to Protect Their Safety (and Privacy)
This is the first article in a series produced in collaboration with The Guardian examining the climate affecting immigrant school children and their parents as the new school year begins. See a version of this article today at
If federal immigration agents come knocking, don’t open the door. You have the right to plead the Fifth Amendment and refuse to speak. Consult an attorney before signing any papers. Designate a trusted adult who can care for your child if you cannot. Develop a family preparedness plan, in case an emergency arises.
These are among recommendations to families that the Los Angeles Unified School District rolled out Aug. 8, a week before the start of school, to address concerns among its large immigrant population. That “We Are One” campaign put the nation’s second-largest district — where an estimated one-quarter of the students are either undocumented or the children of undocumented immigrants — at the forefront of a national resistance movement among school districts to the immigration policies of President Trump, whose White House victory was propelled in part by promises of aggressive enforcement.
Coincidentally, in the days after LA Superintendent Michelle King announced the campaign, the target of one such enforcement action got a reprieve. The February arrest of Rómulo Avelica-González as he dropped off his teenage daughter at her Los Angeles middle school had been captured by the crying girl on video that went viral — and immediately came to symbolize fears of immigrant families being torn apart under the new administration. On Aug. 10, an immigration appeals court threw out the father’s deportation order. He could be released on bond by the end of the month, though deportation proceedings could take years.
Following a summer of anxiety and uncertainty for Avelica-González’s daughter Fatima and other students who are undocumented or have undocumented parents, the unveiling of the LA campaign was just the latest move in a city that had already voted to join a lawsuit challenging the president’s authority and strengthened a “sanctuary district” resolution, which banned federal immigration authorities from schools without superintendent approval and called for educator training to help families navigate U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement inquiries.

Los Angeles is not alone. Across the country, educators have declared their schools and school districts “sanctuaries” from Trump’s immigration policies. Superintendents and school board members from districts as diverse as Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Chicago; New York City; and Des Moines, Iowa, have created or revised “sanctuary school” resolutions, vowing to shield students’ personal information from immigration authorities and block federal agents’ access to school property unless they present a warrant.

Ahead of the new school year in Oakland, California, principals and assistant principals received training this month on what to do under the district’s sanctuary resolution should enforcement activity occur at or near a school, said Nicole Knight, executive director of the district’s English Language Learner and Multilingual Achievement Office.
Each school now has posters — in multiple languages — that proclaim, “Oakland schools are sanctuary schools. You are welcome here.” “Walls speak,” Knight said. “When the community comes in and this is one of the first messages that they see, that’s comforting to them. They know that the school has their back.”
A sanctuary school resolution in Portland, Oregon, clearly lays out student data protections: School staff may not disclose the immigration status or other personal information about students, citing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, the federal student privacy law.
One of the first education leaders to speak out was Alberto Carvalho, superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools. For him, solidarity with undocumented students is personal: Carvalho was a teenager when he left grave poverty in Portugal for the promise of a better life. Now the leader of America’s fourth-largest school district, where nearly 20 percent of students are English language learners, he took a strong stand in March against any federal agents who might try to enforce immigration laws at his schools: “Over my dead body.”
Back in California — where about 250,000 undocumented children are enrolled in public schools and 750,000 have at least one undocumented parent — lawmakers are debating a “sanctuary state” bill that, in part, takes aim at potential data mining that could use students’ personal information to uncover their immigration status. That legislation would bar school police from assisting with immigration enforcement, creating a “database firewall” around student records maintained by officers, said Adam Schwartz, an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit advocacy group that fights for online privacy protections. Statewide, about 60 schools and county education offices have adopted resolutions that safeguard undocumented students.
“It’s not that the public school necessarily has a file that says ‘These kids are undocumented’ and ‘These kids aren’t undocumented,’ ” he told The 74. Rather, schools collect all kinds of personal information about students, including addresses and languages spoken at home. “One database by itself might not tell you anything,” he said, “but when you sew it all together, when this mosaic comes together, a motivated party could use this to begin to identify who undocumented immigrants are.”
Though experts say “sanctuary school” resolutions are largely symbolic, supporters say they hope the message has the power to both sway public attitudes and assuage the fear that has been coursing through school hallways.
In the first six months of the Trump presidency, immigration courts ordered 57,069 people to leave the country, up by nearly 31 percent since last year, according to the most recent Justice Department data. Additionally, federal agents detained 650 people during a four-day enforcement operation in July that targeted undocumented immigrants who entered the country as unaccompanied children and as family units, according to an ICE media release.
“The level of fear that we’re seeing amongst our students is big; the level of fear amongst our families is huge as well.”
Along with the heightened enforcement, say public school leaders across the country, has come increased anxiety in the classroom. Students who are undocumented or have undocumented parents have brought their fears for themselves and their families to school, making teaching much more difficult. Particularly after the election, some schools saw marked drops in attendance as immigrant parents, afraid of exposing their children to the authorities, kept them home.
For example, a district spokeswoman in Las Cruces, New Mexico, said schools saw a 60 percent spike in absences following a local immigration raid in February. That coincided with a national Day Without Immigrants protest — when several districts across the country reported a surge in absences — but many students didn’t return to class for a month or longer. Now, as school reopens, the Las Cruces district is opening “international welcome centers” at four high schools to better serve students who are new to the U.S., said Roberto Lozano, the district’s chief officer of equity, innovation, and social justice. The centers — which were in part a response to the election — began the year helping to ensure that students enrolled in classes matching their proficiency levels, Lozano said.
In Milwaukee, a student who advocated for a sanctuary schools policy in her district said some undocumented families moved back to Mexico after the election, fearing Trump’s rhetoric would quickly become reality. In New York City, a visit by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration officers to a school in May ignited an immediate firestorm of fear that a fourth-grader was being targeted for deportation.
“The level of fear that we’re seeing amongst our students is big; the level of fear amongst our families is huge as well,” Tania Romero, a social worker at Flushing International High School in New York, said during a May panel discussion. “We’ve had a particularly challenging time this year to even get parents to come out to our know-your-rights workshops,” which outline legal resources for undocumented families, she added.
Though they don’t carry much legal weight, sanctuary school resolutions help ease parents’ and children’s anxiety by ensuring that teachers and principals know how to respond if immigration agents go to a school or request student information, said Jessica Hanson, an attorney at the National Immigration Law Center.
“What we’re seeing is really schools realizing that they do have a role to play in ensuring that the educational space is a space where students can actually learn,” she said. “And that requires the space to be free of threats to students’ physical safety, as well as psychological well-being.”
With about 1 million undocumented children living in the U.S., and an estimated 5.5 million kids with at least one undocumented parent, sanctuary school resolutions “add a layer of security in the sense that everyone is acting consistently and knowing that ICE and other immigration agents are not allowed to access students’ information or come onto campus unless they have specific judicial documents and go through the school’s legal counsel,” Hanson said.
Since 2011, ICE has maintained a policy of avoiding enforcement activities at schools. In a statement, agency spokeswoman Jennifer Elzea said the policy remains in effect under the Trump administration, adding that the Department of Homeland Security is “committed to ensuring that people seeking to participate in activities or utilize services provided at any sensitive location are free to do so without fear or hesitation.”
Still, Elzea said, federal immigration authorities “will no longer exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement.”
In the first 100 days after Trump signed executive orders ramping up immigration enforcement, federal agents arrested more than 41,000 people for civil immigration offenses, a 38 percent increase over the same period in 2016. Trump’s proposed 2018 budget, which faces an uphill battle in Congress, calls for hiring an additional 1,500 immigration agents at a cost of $300 million and earmarks $1.5 billion for expanding detention and deportation efforts. On Aug. 2, Trump announced a proposal that would halve the number of legal immigrants admitted to the country over the next decade.
For school districts, required under the Supreme Court’s 1982 Plyler v. Doe decision to provide children with access to public education regardless of immigration status, Trump’s priorities put them squarely in the middle of a broader policy debate affecting millions of kids.
Francisco Negrón, chief legal officer at the National School Boards Association, said he fielded questions from education leaders after the election about district obligations under Plyler and the legality of sanctuary resolutions. His advice: Be cautious, because “sanctuary” is not a legal term and is, in some instances, “politically loaded.” In those conversations, Negrón said, he warns districts not to “overpromise” the protections they can provide to undocumented families.
Despite the resolutions, schools don’t have any real power to resist detentions and deportations, said Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a nonprofit that advocates for strict enforcement. Sanctuary school policies, he said, are “purely political.”
“It’s basically just them venting a little bit,” he said of the sanctuary districts. “There’s no indication whatever that ICE is interested in enforcing immigration laws in schools.”
Rep. Mike Ritze, a Republican member of Oklahoma’s House of Representatives, took a similar stance. In a television interview, Ritze said the cash-strapped state spends $60 million to educate non-English-speaking students and that officials should “identify them and then turn them over to ICE to see if they truly are citizens, and do we really have to educate non-citizens?”
In clarifying his remarks to The 74, Ritze said he was referring to non-English-speaking students with criminal records. “If they’re a criminal, they should be turned over to ICE,” he said. “I think murder trumps educating a 16-year-old.”
That sort of talk, some school officials say, is why sanctuary resolutions are so important.
“It is about making sure that we’re clear on mission,” said Los Angeles school board member Mónica García, who proposed her district’s sanctuary policy. “We are not the body that decides who gets to be in this country or not, but we are the body that decides how we focus our services and continue to build a system that educates kids.”
]]> 2097 Mon, 21 Aug 2017 06:45:00 -0400
Cunningham: The School Choice Debate Has Derailed. It’s Time to Focus on Parents’ Rights & Student Success
The news that support for public charter schools has dropped from 51 percent to 39 percent is a wake-up call for the school choice movement. We can continue to play defense and lose, or we can reframe the conversation around the issues that matter most: the rights of parents and the best interests of children.

School choice is a response to a bureaucratic and ineffective education system that is not evolving to meet the needs of America’s racially and economically diverse student population. By many different measures, traditional public schools are falling short.

Troublingly, 1 in 6 students don’t graduate from high school. Only about 1 in 3 who do graduate are ready for college. Few of the remaining students have marketable work skills upon graduation, while employers are hungry for workers who can think, communicate, analyze, and show up on time. In a global economy, few American students learn to speak foreign languages, which is standard education in most other developed countries.

Among the poorer students, all these numbers are worse. Less than 1 in 10 low-income kids earn a four-year college degree. About 30 percent don’t even finish high school, and those who do have few career choices. It’s no wonder low-income parents are desperate for better options.

The choice movement has grown steadily over the past 25 years by offering new and innovative approaches to teaching and learning. Like any movement, it is not perfect, but, at least in the urban areas, it is significantly better than the system it is replacing.

Today, the best charter schools are getting eye-popping results, narrowing or eliminating achievement gaps, boosting college enrollment and completion among low-income people of color, and increasing diversity in the teaching corps. They’re using technology in new and better ways to personalize learning and empower teachers to meet students where they are and enable them to learn at their own pace.

Not surprisingly, the system has struck back by shifting the conversation away from student outcomes and parent rights. Instead, officials focus on money, governance, selectivity, testing, segregation, discipline, management, jobs, and any other topic they can use to change the subject.

The poll results suggest that more and more people are starting to question the motives and merits of school choice. And, in truth, the choice movement has allowed enough bad actors into the space to validate their concerns.

As every homemaker knows, housecleaning is not an occasional activity when the dirt piles up. It’s an everyday task requiring vigilance and commitment to high standards. The more the choice community holds itself accountable, the more pressure it puts on the traditional system to do the same — the better for kids everywhere.

Another key finding of the poll is that opposition to using public money to buy private education through vouchers or tax credits is softening. Inner-city parents see uniformed kids marching off to Catholic schools each morning and wonder why their public schools don’t foster the same feelings of self-esteem and pride.

Black and Hispanic parents see high teacher turnover in their public schools and wonder why so few teachers are people of color. They see increasingly militant teachers unions threatening strikes and anti-tax politicians unwilling to fund schools adequately, and they want to remove these uncertainties from their lives. If they can find a way to enroll their child in a better school, they will leap at it.

No one can dispute the right of parents to choose their child’s school. Every day, privileged parents are making that choice by moving into a community with good schools, by choosing private schools, or by jockeying within the existing system to find the best fit for their kid. Poor parents deserve the same opportunity to choose.

Parents should be the face of the school choice movement. We spend a lot of time glorifying the innovative educators creating charter schools, but we should spend more time honoring the parents with the courage to buck the system. Their voices matter most. Without them, there is no choice movement.

Fundamentally, school choice is about freedom — one of America’s core values. No one should be trapped in a system that isn’t working for their kids.

With a new school year upon us, and a political climate that rewards bluster and blame over truth and common understanding, we need to bring the education conversation back to core principles. It begins with parent rights and it ends with student outcomes, and most of the other topics are secondary or irrelevant.

Wake up, America: It’s time for school.

]]> 2093 Sun, 20 Aug 2017 16:14:00 -0400
A D.C. Breakthrough as Traditional Public School Students Post Gains on PARCC Test, Outperforming Charters
Students in traditional D.C. public schools scored 6.4 percentage points better in reading and 3.5 percentage points better in math than they did last school year, outperforming the district’s charter schools, according to PARCC results released Thursday.

These gains are the largest since D.C. students began taking the exam in 2015, and they are greater than the increases posted by other states in the PARCC consortium. These improvements span schools and socioeconomic groups.

Now, 32 percent of students in traditional public schools in D.C. are on track in reading, and 27 percent are on track in math. Combined, traditional public and charter school students are now 31 percent proficient in reading and 27 percent proficient in math.

“DCPS students made unprecedented progress on the PARCC,” Chancellor Antwan Wilson said in a statement. “This improvement is a clear sign of student learning, our commitment to our young people, and our investment in the programs and curriculum that support the work.”


But there is still a large achievement gap to overcome. White students districtwide scored 82 percent proficient in reading and 76 percent proficient in math, compared with about one-fifth of black students and one-quarter of Latino students.

“Obviously, we still have a lot of work to do to make sure we are closing the achievement gap and that all students are thriving in school,” said DCPS Deputy Chief of Communications Michelle Lerner. “But we’re proud that we have these significant gains because it’s in every side of the city and it’s in every single grade and across every single subgroup.”

Last year, the district’s charter schools posted larger gains than its traditional public schools, but this year, D.C. charter schools saw less than half a percentage point in growth. Altogether, the traditional and charter schools improved 4 percentage points in reading and 2 percentage points in math. 

Lerner wouldn’t specifically comment on whether she thought competition from charter schools fueled the score increases in the traditional public schools. She credited factors like the district’s early adoption of Common Core standards and D.C.’s LEAP professional development program for teachers. “Professional development is quite wonky, but this is how you move the needle,” she said.

“Stunned that nobody is pointing out that [D.C. Public Schools] is now on pace w/ charter schools in math and outperforming in ELA on #PARCC,” tweeted Kaya Henderson, former chancellor of DC Public Schools. “Every time charters outpaced [D.C. Public Schools], it was highlighted at the press conference. #DCPS deserves its victory lap. #DCPSRising.”

Going forward, Lerner said D.C. will focus on improving attendance, reducing suspensions through restorative practices, and offering social-emotional support to continue reaching underperforming students. 

In the meantime, D.C. educators celebrated the news Thursday.

]]> 2094 Sun, 20 Aug 2017 16:13:00 -0400
NYC Numbers Show City’s Unassigned Teachers Paid $10,000 More on Average Than Those Teaching Kids Full Time

Corrected Aug. 21

New York City's Absent Teacher Reserve pool is made up of teachers who lost their jobs through budget cuts, school closures, poor performance ratings or disciplinary issues. An earlier headline and wording in the story incorrectly equated the ATR with the so-called rubber room, which involves teachers who have been removed from the classroom for incompetence or misconduct.

Could the higher-than-imagined average salaries of teachers not in classrooms but drawing full-time wages give New York City schools officials a budget-healing incentive to raise buyout offers?

Perhaps, but that’s not the Department of Education’s first solution to reducing the number of teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve pool, made up of teachers who lost their jobs through budget cuts, school closures, poor performance ratings or disciplinary issues. 

The ATR pool has made headlines through the years, as city parents have protested its use and advocacy groups have demanded greater transparency about how much tax revenue is being diverted to teachers who do not teach. A sampling of recent articles:

  • Absent Teacher Reserve cost New York City $151.6 million this past school year (Read more)
  • NYC Refuses to Provide Information About Educators in ‘Absent Teacher Reserve,’ Advocates Claim (Read more)
  • Open Letter From a NYC Parent: Stop Transferring Ineffective Teachers to Our Low-Income Schools (Read more)

But the pool is now once again front-page news following the July announcement that the department will begin reducing the reserve, which currently contains more than 800 teachers, by placing teachers from the pool in jobs that are still vacant in October.

The assignments, known as forced placements in many districts, will take place without the consent of the principals. Some 400 teachers may be moved out of the pool this way, sparking fears that a disproportionate share will be placed in impoverished schools that struggle to attract and retain teachers. (TNTP CEO Daniel Weisberg decried the decision in a recent essay, noting that “schools across the city will face an influx of teachers with records of poor performance.”)

Chancellor Fariña reverses course

Three years ago, Chancellor Carmen Fariña vowed not to force principals to accept teachers they didn’t want or teachers to take jobs they didn’t want. The district last month said it can’t afford to continue that policy.

Under pressure from news media and with the new school year some three weeks away, the New York City Department of Education released new information on Friday about the cost and makeup of the pool.

Among the surprises: The average salary of teachers in the pool is $94,000 a year, which is $10,000 more than the system-wide average.

Adding in benefits, teachers in the pool received more than $116,000 in compensation. By way of comparison, the base salary for teachers in the district is $54,000.

The relatively high average salaries of teachers in the pool has sparked dueling arguments. Education Department officials have countered contentions that the more senior salaries are a disincentive to hiring pool teachers by offering to subsidize the cost to schools.

Conversely, others have suggested that the $150 million cost of the pool—much higher than the $100 million estimate previously released—might prod department officials to increase the buyout offers available to pool teachers from $50,000.

By the numbers: Meet the teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve

Among the figures released by the department:

  • One-fourth of the 822 teachers in the pool were in it five years ago—though not necessarily continuously—and nearly half were on reserve at the end of the 2014–2015 school year.
  • The largest portion, 38 percent, are in the pool because their schools were closed, and 30 percent are because of budget cuts.
  • One-third (32 percent) are there following legal or disciplinary accusations.
  • Although three-fourths were rated “satisfactory” in 2015–2016, 12 percent received the lowest possible evaluations.
  • According to a 2014 analysis, 30 percent received unsatisfactory evaluations. To put that in perspective, the same year 93 percent of the city’s teacher corps overall was rated effective or highly effective.
  • The recession, coupled with the closure of some small high schools promoted by former chancellor Joel Klein, boosted the number of pool teachers. Buyouts significantly reduced size of the pool, which two years ago topped 1,900.
  • The district earlier in the summer had balked at providing data on the pool’s overall cost, but it estimated the average wages and benefits of pool members to be $100,000, a $13 million miscalculation. Information released Friday did not explain the rest of the difference between the past estimate of $100 million and the current price tag of $150 million.

The pool is the result of a 2005 agreement between the United Federation of Teachers and then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Before the pool’s creation, senior teachers could displace junior ones without the consent of the principal. On his way out of office in 2010, Klein, Bloomberg’s chancellor of education, pushed for an end to the pool.

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This Week in ESSA: Final 4 First-Round States Get Federal Feedback, 6 States Now Approved, Chiefs for Change Weighs In

Corrected Aug. 21

Six states have had their plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act approved by the U.S. Department of Education. The number of states with final approval was incorrect in an earlier headline.


This update on the Every Student Succeeds Act and the education plans now being refined by state legislatures is produced in partnership with ESSA Essentials, a new series from the Collaborative for Student Success. It’s an offshoot of their ESSA Advance newsletter, which you can sign up for here! (See our recent ESSA updates from previous weeks right here.)

Two more states — Connecticut and Louisiana — have had their ESSA plans approved by the Department of Education.

Originally, the department claimed Connecticut’s plan was vague and that putting all “high-need” students in one group could obscure issues that need to be addressed for individual subgroups.

Connecticut’s plan was approved after state education officials clarified their planned process for boosting student achievement. It is “a great achievement for our state,” said Commissioner Dianna R. Wentzell. “We didn’t have to change anything in the plan.”

Wentzell also said Connecticut will keep working to identify individual subgroups on a more granular level while also continuing to look at them as an aggregate group.

Louisiana state officials responded to federal feedback by switching to science and social studies tests to measure quality and achievement. The state “had originally wanted to use a brand-new ‘interest and opportunity’ indicator that would look at whether students are getting access to things like arts and physical education classes,” according to Education Week’s Alyson Klein

The plan also de-emphasizes standardized testing and funnels more federal funding to struggling rural schools.

As we reported last week, the Education Department also recently approved Nevada, New Jersey, and New Mexico’s ESSA plans. So far, six of the original 17 plans submitted in April have received federal approval  — and all have received feedback from the department.

Here are the week’s other top developments:

1. Last four first-round states get federal feedback. 

On Aug. 10, the Education Department released feedback on Arizona, North Dakota, and Vermont’s ESSA plans. As reported by Education Week, Arizona “will need to change the way that science factors into its accountability system.” 

Arizona: In an echo of the department’s feedback to other states such as Delaware, science “can be included in the systems,” but it can’t “be part of the ‘academic achievement’ portion of state plans.” Arizona must also reconfigure the rate at which school test participation will factor in ratings. 

North Dakota: The state needs to “do a better job of explaining how student progress on standardized tests — as opposed to straight-up achievement — will factor into school ratings.” North Dakota also:

  • Must “reconsider how much weight it’s giving to academic indicators — like test scores and graduation rates — as opposed to school quality factors, like school climate.” Currently, the state favors non-academic over academic measures, which directly contradicts ESSA provisions requiring states to give academic factors greater weight.

  • Fix its use of a single “racial minority” subgroup rather than breaking down groups into individual races and ethnicities as ESSA stipulates.

Vermont: The state has to “clarify how it will pinpoint schools where particular subgroups of students, such as English-language learners and students in special education, are struggling.” Vermont also:

  • Joins Arizona in needing to reconfigure the way it plans to deal with schools that have low standardized test participation rates.

  • Planned to let individual districts make decisions regarding academic progress and classification as “low-performing” for schools, but federal officials said there must be statewide standards.

  • Must include proficiency rates, instead of “scale scores,” in its accountability system.

Colorado: Finally, four days later, the department issued feedback on the last of the 17 original ESSA plans — Colorado’s. Federal officials directed their state counterparts to:

  • Reconfigure “student achievement goals and academic achievement indicators so that they are based on straight-up proficiency rates, not scale scores.”

  • Provide more information on “how graduation rates and English-language proficiency — two required elements of ESSA plans — will figure into school ratings.”

  • Ensure that the state’s “proficiency rates include students whose parents decide to opt them out of standardized tests.”

2. Minnesota changes the way it’s grading schools. 
The Minnesota Department of Education has released the state’s draft ESSA plan for public review. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, under the new plan, which “replaces the ratings and labels given to public schools based on their performance with one that focuses on the lowest-performing 5 percent of Title I–funded schools,” Minnesota students “will continue to take state tests, but the way that schools are graded will change dramatically.” The plan would also focus on high schools that graduate less than 67 percent of students or where a subgroup falls below this threshold. Comments will be accepted until Aug. 31.

3. West Virginia makes out-of-school suspensions count against attendance rates. 

The West Virginia Department of Education has proposed “making out-of-school suspensions, other than those resulting from the highest level of student offenses, count against public schools’ attendance rates.” West Virginia’s ESSA plan states that “the measure of Behavior that will be included in the Statewide Accountability System is the percentage of students in each school that received zero out-of-school suspensions within a school year; an effort to incentivize LEAs [local education agencies] and schools to develop alternative approaches to discipline that keep students engaged in instruction.” Commentary on the proposed change will be accepted until Aug. 30.

4. Idaho’s plan — and its new school accountability structure — goes to Gov. Otter for review.   

The Idaho State Board of Education has unanimously approved the state’s draft ESSA plan, which proposes a new school accountability structure and updated measures to identify low-performing schools. The plan also “outlines how state leaders and educators will implement nine federal programs, many of which affect students with disabilities or direct professional development training for teachers.” Gov. Butch Otter will review the—document for 30 days before final submission to the U.S. Department of Education.

5. Missouri’s draft plan is approved and ready for Gov. Greitens’s signature. 

The Missouri Board of Education unanimously approved the state’s final draft plan. It now awaits a signature from Gov. Eric Greitens. The plan states that “Missouri will aim to have at least 82 percent of its public school students proficient in English and at least 74 percent of students proficient in math by 2026, as part of its federally mandated plan to improve the worst-performing public schools.”

6. Chiefs for Change highlights curriculum reform as driver of school improvement.  

Chiefs for Change examined how ESSA “presents new opportunities for curriculum reform,” which can be a “powerful and underused driver of school improvement.” The report takes a look at work in Florida, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New York, and Washington, D.C., to “create the conditions for aligned standards and curricula or to directly develop and scale high-quality, standards-aligned curricular materials, and the results of their efforts.”

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