Tag Archives: President Obama

The Elephant in the Room: Will the deBlasio/Carranza School Integration Initiatives Result in White Flight?

Do you have friends of another race? Do you know their spouse and childrens’ names? Have you visited their home and have they visited your home?

Have we entered a post racial world? Is the concept of post-racialism a mirage?

With the election of Barack Obama commentators across the nation announced we were entering a post racial world,

Many commentators, both conservative and liberal, have celebrated the election of Barack Obama as president of the United States, claiming the election signified America has truly become a “post-racial” society … This view is consistent with beliefs the majority of White Americans [and] this view is consistent with opinions found in the Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and elsewhere

Ten days before leaving office Obama gave an upbeat speech; however, rejecting the post-racial trope,  .

There’s a … threat to our democracy – one as old as our nation itself. After my election, there was talk of a post-racial America. Such a vision, however well-intended, was never realistic. For race remains a potent and often divisive force in our society. I’ve lived long enough to know that race relations are better than they were ten, or twenty, or thirty years ago – you can see it not just in statistics, but in the attitudes of young Americans across the political spectrum.

 The last two years have shown us that the ugliness of racism has been seething below the surface, and our president has allowed these feeling to percolate and spread across the nation.

We are far, far away from post racialism, if that term has any meaning at all.

As the cold war faded a social scientist predicted, “The End of History.” (1989) and prophesized a new emerging world,

Francis Fukuyama, an acclaimed American political philosopher, entered the global imagination at the end of the Cold War when he prophesied the “end of history” — a belief that, after the fall of communism, free-market liberal democracy had won out and would become the world’s “final form of human government.”

 With the emergence of fascist-leaning governments in Poland and Hungary, with the Russian annexation of Crimea, rising ultra nationalist movements in Sweden and Germany, Fukuyama responded,

 “Twenty five years ago, I didn’t have a sense or a theory about how democracies can go backward … And I think they clearly can.”

 Are the current plans to integrate middle schools viable plans to move school integration forward? Or, are we still rooted in a racially-conflicted world?

A little history:

 In the 1950’s the migration of Afro-American families to Northern cities accelerated, one of the results: what has come to be known as “white flight,” white families left traditional white neighborhoods and moved to the suburbs creating racially segregated inner city communities. As the flight continued city after city became majority minority cities.  One of the outcomes in addition to segregated neighborhoods was segregated schools. White families who remained often opted to move their kids to parochial and private schools.

Over the last twenty years a reverse migration, the movement of white families back to cities, called gentrification has moved lower income families of color into smaller and smaller areas of the city and created hyper-segregated schools. Today only 15% of the 1.1 million students in New York City schools are white.

In 2014, one of the most progressive cities in the nation was shocked as the UCLA Civil Rights Project report was released,

A report released today by UCLA’s Civil Rights Project finds that public school students in New York continue to be severely segregated. Public school students in the state are increasingly isolated by race and class as the proportion of minority and poor students continues to grow, according to the CRP report, “New York State’s Extreme School Segregation: Inequality, Inaction and a Damaged Future.”

The City responded by issuing a School Diversity Policy Statement  that included establishing a 50-member blue ribbon advisory task force on School Integration and Equity whose report is due in December.

Districts on the Lower East Side (1), the Upper West Side (3) and Brownstone Brooklyn (15) spent months meeting and eventually created plans that were approved by the chancellor.

The  100-plus page District 15 Diversity Plan Executive Summary,

  • Remove all screens. (These screens include: lateness, attendance, student behavior, admissions exams/tests, standardized test scores, report card grades, & auditions. Maintain the current system of school choice
  • Create an admissions priority for students who qualify as low-income, are English Language Learners (ELLs) and/or are Students in Temporary Housing for 52% of all seats at all District 15 middle schools.

The District 3 Middle School Integration Plan is similar,

Under the plan approved in District 3, students who are poor, struggle on state tests, and earn low report card grades will be given admissions priority for a quarter of seats at the district’s middle schools. Of those seats, 10 percent would go to students who struggle the most, and 15 percent would go to the next-neediest group.

David Kirkland, the Director of the NYU Metro Center explains why a transformation to integrated schools is essential,

The research suggests, over and again, that people who are exposed to differences are more open-minded and more tolerant. They’re more compassionate. They think more complexly. They’re capable of working out difficult problems.

Forget college and career readiness. Here we have civic readiness, the ability to participate in a multicultural democracy with people who are different than you are, in ways that inspire not tension but community and collaboration.

What this is, is an idea of democracy of access, democracy of opportunity. If my friends’ parents are doctors, the dream of becoming a doctor becomes tangible. It becomes far more legible, as opposed to when I live in communities where nobody gets to be a doctor, or nobody gets to be a lawyer, or judge. The seedling of that imagination becomes within reach.

 The Mayor, the Chancellor, the teachers union, scholars, progressive parents, editorial boards (perhaps with the exception of the NY Post) are hailing the plans and urging the city to move forward at a quicker pace.

The elephant in the room: will white parents accept/welcome the integration plans, or, seek other segregated by race and/or perceived ability options?

The plans have not been universally accepted, white parents have asked: Will the high academic standards (whatever that means) be maintained? Will classes be homogeneous by test scores or heterogeneous? and, we don’t know how the almost all white staffs will respond?

There have been highly successful integration plans in the past, I blogged about a district-created New York City plan last month.

Families are beginning to apply for placements and the districts will inform families of their placements in the spring.

Will the families, white and black, collaborate to make the plans work for all children?

James Madison High School was integrated in the early sixties and considered a successfully integrated high school. In December, 1973 “racial incidents” broke out, and, Fran Schumer, a recent graduate from Madison (and one of my students) wrote an article for the Harvard Crimson, “Prisoners of Class ,”

IN A QUIET, residential area of Brooklyn, N.Y., a crowd of angry white teen-agers surrounded the main doors of James Madison High School chanting “We want the Niggers, we want the Niggers.” Armed with sticks, rocks and fragments of glass, they waited for the black students in the school to leave the building. The police, who were called to the school earlier that morning when fist fights between black and white students erupted in the halls, forced the crowd to move on down the block so that the black students could leave the building safely. After the white crowd moved out of sight, the black students quickly headed for the local trains on which they would make the one-and-one-half hour trip homeward …

 It is possible that people at James Madison High School will never know the pieces add up to their own victimization. As long as the prisoners of class and the prisoners of race must make self-destructive choices, they will continue to fight each other for the breadcrumbs. But after all, they choose to act this way and this kind of free choice is as American as apple pie, Watts, Hough, Bedford-Stuyvesant and in a few years, Flatbush.

Integrating a school is more than moving chips on a chess board; too often the “integrated” school becomes a microcosm of the outside world, segregation within the “integrated” school.

How far have we moved since the “racial incidents” at a “successfully” integrated high school almost fifty years ago?  BTW, it took a decade, Madison reclaimed it’s prestige in the community and today is a thriving fully integrated high achieving high school.

Will school districts participate in #black lives matter in schools?  Will teachers, parent and students of all races work together to create inclusive schools and inclusive communities?

As I write my twitter feed buzzes with reports of a “multiple casualties” shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh and the rabid Trump supporter bombing suspect. Trump rallies that appear to be re-creations of Leni Riefenstahl’s, “Triumph of Will” rally in 1934 Germany.  Diane Ravitch expresses her frustration in a blog post (“Hatred Breeds Hatred), I totally agree with Diane and hope that New Yorkers can set a model for the nation.

How Will the Republican Control of Both Houses of Congress Impact the Reauthorization of ESEA and Other Education Policies?

The Republicans control both the House of Representatives and the Senate; they control the flow of legislation to the President’s desk, yes, the cloture rule requires 60 votes to bring a bill to a vote and the Dems can replace the Repubs as obstructionists.

While Democratic candidates tried to distance themselves from the President the election was a referendum on Barack Obama. In 2008 and 2012 the Obama team created a “new” coalition – millennials, new voters, well-educated women, Afro-American and Hispanic voters, in the midterms, 2010 and 2014 the coalition never came together.

I will leave deep analysis to the endless array of talking heads, for me a simpler question: How will the Republican congress impact education.

Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)

At the core of the Republican mantra is a smaller government, and smaller government means fewer federal dollars. The major source of federal education dollars is Title 1 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The Congress determines the total pool of dollars and the formula by which the dollars are distributed. While the current funding formula is complex (Read description here) the formula is driven by levels of poverty. A Republican controlled Congress might shrink the total pool and change the formula to give states more flexibility and send a larger share to poor rural areas and away from urban areas.

The 2013 bill that passed the House contained policies that might be attractive to teachers and their unions.

The July 2013 House bill would dramatically reduce the federal “footprint” on education by

§ eliminating the current federal accountability system of adequate yearly progress (AYP) and allow states and school districts to set their own testing standards;
§ eliminating the corrective actions for failing schools;
§ repealing the “highly qualified teacher” definition;
§ eliminating “more than 70” existing programs, consolidating others, and granting broad autonomy to states; and schools in the administration of education.
§ Removes a policy, requiring school districts to use student test scores in teacher evaluations
§ Allows parents to take federal education money and use it to send their children to other public schools, including charter schools.

The chairs of the education committees in both houses will change from 2013 and there is no way of knowing whether the Repubs will recycle the 2013 bill or start from scratch with a new bill.

The Rulemaking Authority of the US Department of Education

There is no question that any bill would curtail the role of the Department of Education. The Duncan USDOE has been more aggressive than any predecessor in driving policy through their rulemaking and budgetary powers. The four plus billions in Race to the Top dollars required a commitment to the Common Core, teacher evaluation and a host of other requirements. Two examples: students who have been in the country for more than a year, regardless of their English skills must take state tests and the data included in the school, school district and state assessments. Requests to move the requirement to two or three years have been denied by the USDOE. Student with Disabilities, except for the lowest functioning 1% must take state tests, and, once again, all the data redounds to the school, district and state. Requests to change the reg have been denied.

Advocacy organizations have supported the intensive rulemaking fearing that states may divert dollars for other purposes. Currently the feds require that all testing data is disaggregated by sub-group, by race, ethnicity and handicapping condition, and the data made public, if the requirement is removed states may not be so anxious to release, or even collect the data.

The Feds and the Common Core

The Common Core State Standards are not a federal program, although the Duncan Department strongly endorses the CCSS. No Child Left Behind (No Child Left Behind is the name given to ESEA in the 2002 reauthorization) requires testing in English and Mathematics for all children in grades 3-8 and passing exams in English, Mathematics and Science to graduate high school. Federal law does prohibit the feds from requiring any specific curriculum and the CCSS are not a curriculum. A reauthorized ESEA could curtail any endorsement of the Common Core; the abandonment of the Core is a state responsibility.

Repeal/Changing the Testing Requirements of NCLB

The annual testing requirements of NCLB are the most politically sensitive of all education policies. The revolt among parents is not dying, it continues to escalate, and, it is neither left or right, it cuts across the political spectrum. Will the Republicans try and steal the thunder and replace annual testing with tests every third year, or, use a sampling technique similar to NAEP tests to monitor academic progress?

A simpler approach is to leave the testing to the states, deflect the public anger away from Washington and move it to state capitals.

Charter Schools, Vouchers and the Marketplace Solutions.

Whatever the legislation a movement to competition, to use Governor Cuomo’s phrase, “to end the monopoly” of public schools will be part of any federal legislation. While charter schools and vouchers are a state responsibility the feds can write legislation to remove any barriers and provide dollars to encourage states to take a charter or voucher path.
You may notice that soon to be majority leader of the Senate Mitch McConnell held a press conference followed by a lengthy press conference by President Obama: both love fests; on Friday the President is meeting with the Republican leaders, over the length of both news conferences not a word about education.

In the democratic corner Joe Williams the leader of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER): supports charter schools and vouchers, the common core and opposes unions, Diane Ravitch, the leader of the Network for Public Education: opposes charter schools, the common core and works with the unions. Both democrats; miles apart. On the Republican side the Tea Partiers speak of Obamacore, revile the federal role in education as well as the dismantling of public education, also in the party are the supporters of Chambers of Commerce, supporters of testing and the common core.

Educational politics today is complicated, really complicated.

As the new Congress convenes in January committees in both houses will begin to craft reauthorizations of ESEA, and by next summer the conference committee will reconcile the bills from both houses, I suspect the many advocates of current USDOE policies and practices will urge the President to veto any bill.

Bill Gates and Eli Broad will lobby behind the scenes, the Tea Partiers in both houses will cry for returning education authority to the states.

Stay tuned.

How Can the Democrats Build a Coalition to Win the November Midterms: Fire Arne

President Obama is in trouble, real trouble.

Each and every day in the House and the Senate the single goal of the Republicans is to damage the Democrats and increase their chances of maintaining control of the House and winning control of the Senate, and, the Democrats are worried, they should be.

Nate Silver, in his FiveThirtyEight blog predicts,

When FiveThirtyEight last issued a U.S. Senate forecast way back in July — we concluded the race for Senate control was a toss-up. That was a little ahead of the conventional wisdom at the time, which characterized the Democrats as vulnerable but more likely than not to retain the chamber.

Our new forecast goes a half-step further: We think the Republicans are now slight favorites to win at least six seats and capture the chamber.

If the Republicans seize control of the Senate they will begin to undo six years of Obama legislation – beginning with the Affordable Care Act and working through worker rights, social issues and appointing as many conservative justices as possible. Six years of an Obama administration can be undone in his last two years, as well as setting the stage for the 2016 presidential election.

The policymakers, the Harvard and Yale graduates are at the top of the policy junta. From education to healthcare to the environment and energy policy the intellectual “elites” design policies. How do we assure that every American has affordable healthcare? How do we reduce and/or eliminate poverty? How do we save the environment? How do we improve the economy, reduce unemployment, and lessen income inequality? How do we both secure our borders and create a path to citizenship for the undocumented? How do we improve education for all students?

The next level is the policy implementers, the bureaucrats who steer the regulations and legislation through the maze of government into actual implementation.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC), the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committe (DCCC) are in full campaign mode with six months until November elections.

Motivating the core, fundraising, building an army of foot soldiers, expanding social media, all preparing for that Tuesday in November.

Outside of the loop, or more accurately on the edge of the loop are the strategists, the guys and gals on the ground that actually run campaigns, for a fee.

SKDKnickerbocker, Pitta Bishop Del Giorno, Red Horse Strategies, there are scores of firms, some regional, others national, some only work for Republicans or Democrats while others will work across the political spectrum.

John Del Cecato at AKPD Media crafted the “Dante” TV commercial that is credited with pushing Bill de Blasio’s campaign ahead of the pack of candidates.

Browse a directory of consulting firms here

There are frequently tensions between the policymakers and the folks that actually run campaigns. Bill de Blasio ran a brilliant campaign, beginning as a lightly regarded much too liberal candidate and besting the favorites Christine Quinn and Bill Thompson and avoiding a runoff. The brilliance of the campaign has not transferred into the first few months of his mayoralty, the glow of victory has worn off, and there whispers are a one-term mayor.

If I were invited to a meeting of policymakers, strategists and consulting firms I would advise:

“In 2008 and 2012 new voters, Afro-Americans, women, LGTs, millennials and progressives across the age spectrum; a coalition that came together only for the elections; in 2010, the midterms, the coalition never came together; the Republicans seized the House and eroded the Democratic majority in the Senate. Are we doing anything differently in 2014?

Will the 2008 and 2012 new voters come back to the polls? Have we motivated the core constituency? Not only is the answer “no,” we have lost voters in the middle.

The Affordable Care Act has become Obamacare, a tarnished plan that has motivated the Republicans and the uncommitted. Will the eight million who signed up for the Affordable Care Act vote in 2014? Will they vote for Democrats? The rollout of the Affordable Care Act was a disaster, an avoidable disaster, a disaster that could cost seats in the Senate. A disaster that is not remediable.

Another bubbling disaster is the Common Core and the alienation of teachers.

There are three million teachers: they vote, they get involved in campaigns, they man phone banks, they knock on doors, they are respected in their communities, they were key players in 2008 and 2012, and Arne Duncan has driven them away from the administration.

Whether the Common Core and Race to the Top are disasters or wonderful is irrelevant. Teachers and increasing numbers of parents perceive them as disasters. A Republican Congress will dismantle the Obama education policies and Democrats will join them.

I hear the policymakers and strategists argue that progressives and teachers have no other place to go, after all Republican policy is anathema. They are shortsighted, the alternative is staying at home, not to volunteer, not to contribute to campaigns, to walk away from involvement.

There is one action that would motivate and invigorate teachers and progressive voters.

Fire Arne Duncan (and select a highly regarded career educator).

I know, I know, he’s Barrack’s best bud, he’s a homeboy, the President would never consider dumping Arne.

If the Republicans control Congress the President will spend his last two years vetoing bill after bill and trying to convince other Democrats not to vote to override his veto – with only limited success. The Republicans and the Democrats will be in full 2016 election mode and you better believe the President will not only be irrelevant, he will attacked by his own party.

For six years Arne Duncan has skillfully evaded Congress, he has created a circle of loyal supporters: governors and corporate leaders, an elite intelligentsia that has distanced themselves from teachers and parents. On one hand Duncan consistently repeats a mantra, “education is the civil rights issue of the 21st century;” on the ground, in classrooms, in living rooms, electeds in state legislators and in Congress, have moved from suspicion to outright opposition.

David Tyack and Larry Cuban, in their seminal study of school reforms, “Tinkering Towards Utopia,” (1997) tell us,

We do not believe in educational Phoenixes and we do not think the system is in ashes … we suggest thst reformers take a broader view of the aims that should guide public education and focus on ways to improve instruction from inside out rather than top down … Reforms should be designed by educators working together to take advantage of their knowledge of their own diverse students and communities and supporting each other in new ways of teaching. It is especially important to engage the understanding and support of parents and the public when reforms challenge cultural beliefs about what a ‘real school’ should be and do.

Duncan has lost the confidence of teachers and parents.

The President has to fire Arne now and change the path of education, or, remain loyal to his best friend and watch the Congress reverse his education policies.

I fear the policymakers will prevail; the President will stay the course, remain loyal, and watch his legacy crumble.

I don’t know how to resolve Ukraine, or Syria, or the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, I’m pretty good at winning elections.

A choice: three million teachers with feet on the ground or sitting at home marking papers.”

And I don’t charge a million dollars for my advice.