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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Zero Tolerance Public School Discipline Negatively Affects African American Students

One of the most harmful policies put into the public school system is, I believe "zero tolerance" of .......

Whatever the zero tolerance is, it means that someone can use his/her own intolerance as a weapon.

For instance, lets say your child has problems with his/her hands, and needs a certain kind of scissor to cut paper. Let's say that a teacher tells the students that the class will be creating a mural and will be making shapes from colored paper. So you, as a mom who cares, sends your child with his/her special scissors and a note as to why you are doing this.

A school with a zero tolerance policy in place may suspend your child for bringing in a weapon. Another example is this:

For 9 years I offered parents my service as a representative for their children who were suspended and sent to a Suspension Hearing. At the West 125th street Suspension Hearing site in the 9 years I worked there volunteering to assist parents, guess how many white faces I saw? One besides mine - a first-year law school student taking on suspension hearings for extra credit. 95-98% of the kids, ranging from 1st grade through high school, were all Special Education children and African American or Hispanic.

See? We must throw out zero tolerance and examine the circumstances of each incident.

Betsy Combier
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials

Study Finds That School Zero-Tolerance Discipline Policies Do More Harm Than Good

A new study by F. Chris Curran, an assistant professor of public policy at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, finds that zero-tolerance public school disciplinary policies may produce racial disparities in school suspensions and expulsions which could hinder the academic success rates of African American students. Furthermore, the study finds that these policies have had little effect on improving school safety.
Dr. Curran writes in the article that “the study showed that state laws requiring schools to have zero tolerance policies increased suspension rates for all students. Second, suspension rates increased at a higher rate for African-American students, potentially contributing to racial disparities in discipline. Finally, principals reported few decreases in problem behaviors in schools, suggesting that the laws did not improve the safety and order of schools.”
The suggests that state zero tolerance laws may be resulting in more students, particularly students of color, being excluded from the learning environment while failing to improve the school setting for those students who remain. “Principals report few decreases in problem behaviors such as fighting, drug use, or disrespect as a result of these laws,” says Dr. Curran.
The study, “Estimating the Effect of State Zero Tolerance Laws on Exclusionary Discipline, Racial Discipline Gaps, and Student Behavior,” was published on the website of the journal Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis. It may be accessed here.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Class Action Lawsuit Claims a Constitutional Right to Literacy

In a Case with Blockbuster Potential, Detroit School Children Assert a Federal Constitutional Right to Literacy

, Justia VERDICT


Why this case is important, says the author:

 " The Complaint also lays out an ambitious legal theory, effectively asking the federal court to apply “heightened scrutiny” to what is going on in Detroit, and urging it not to apply the deference ordinarily given to state and local school officials concerning their administration of public education.  The Complaint identifies two related but distinct grounds for judicial skepticism. One is a familiar equal protection concern for disempowered groups—the Complaint describes the plaintiffs as a “discrete class,” almost all of whom are “low income children of color.”

Columns on this website that examine judicial rulings tend to focus on the very last stage of litigation—a U.S. Supreme Court decision. In the space below, however, I want to discuss a potentially significant case that is in its earliest stages. Last week, a class action lawsuit entitled Gary B. v. Snyder was filed in federal district court in Detroit on behalf of children who attend some of the most dilapidated and lowest-performing Detroit public schools. The defendants are the Governor and various other state officials, who plaintiffs allege are violating the constitutional rights of Detroit children by depriving students of their “fundamental right” to literacy under the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process and equal protection clauses.
The Snyder Complaint—crafted by a high-powered team of litigators that includes Mark Rosenbaum from Public Counsel, famed Supreme Court specialist Carter Phillips from the Sidley Austin law firm, as well as two prominent law school deans (one sitting and one former)—recites in heart-wrenching detail (its allegations span 129 pages) the physical, curricular, and human resource shortcomings of the schools attended by the plaintiffs. The Complaint also carefully documents the woeful underperformance of the students at these schools, as compared to other schools in the state and also to the state’s competency baselines established for various grade levels. It is hard to believe the conditions laid out in the Complaint exist in 21st Century America; at times the allegations seem more like the setting of a Dickens novel.
But the case is noteworthy not just for the factual light it might shed on Detroit school conditions and performance. The Complaint also lays out an ambitious legal theory, effectively asking the federal court to apply “heightened scrutiny” to what is going on in Detroit, and urging it not to apply the deference ordinarily given to state and local school officials concerning their administration of public education.  The Complaint identifies two related but distinct grounds for judicial skepticism. One is a familiar equal protection concern for disempowered groups—the Complaint describes the plaintiffs as a “discrete class,” almost all of whom are “low income children of color.”
Putting aside the racial and socioeconomic makeup of the victims, the Complaint also asserts that heightened judicial oversight is warranted because in the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause there is a “fundamental right of access to literacy,” which presupposes better facilities, better instructional materials, and better teacher training than exist in Detroit. In asserting a federal “fundamental right” to literacy under the so-called “substantive due process doctrine” of the Fourteenth Amendment, the lawsuit is path-breaking, and perhaps ultimately destined for the Supreme Court.
How likely is the lawsuit to succeed? That is hard to say. Certainly relevant is that the Supreme Court in 1973 (in the San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez case) explicitly declined to find education to be a “fundamental” right or interest that would justify heightened scrutiny in the context of a challenge to Texas laws that resulted in differential financing and administration of public education within the state. But perhaps equally important is how the Court in Rodriguez did highlight the importance of education to the exercise of the constitutional rights of expression and political participation, and what the Court said in holding open the possibility that if a state deprived a student the opportunity for a “basic” minimal education essential for someone to operate in American democracy, heightened scrutiny might be appropriate. The Court explained, in language that has since been repeated by the Justices, that:
[w]hatever merit appellees’ argument might have if a State’s . . . system occasioned an absolute denial of educational opportunities to any of its children, that argument provides no basis for finding an interference with fundamental rights where . . . no charge fairly could be made that the system fails to provide each child with an opportunity to acquire the basic minimal skills necessary for the enjoyment of the rights of speech and of full participation in the political process.
In asserting that many Detroit public school children lack any realistic chance at literacy (defined in the Complaint in various ways but focused on the ability “to use language to engage with the world—to understand, analyze, synthesize, reflect and critique”), the Complaint seeks to locate the conditions in Detroit precisely within the contours of the question the Court held open inRodriguez. Indeed, the Complaint at various points links its concept of literacy directly to expressive and political rights (including military service), saying that literacy is essential not only to success in the workplace and higher education, but also (importantly) to “be[ing] an informed citizen capable of participating in democracy.”
This emphasis on political rights is relevant not just to the “fundamental rights” argument plaintiffs make; it also informs their claims of racial inequality under the equal protection clause. The Supreme Court ordinarily employs some form of strict scrutiny under equal protection for racial discrimination only when government explicitly classifies people on racial lines, or subjectively favors some races over others. A law that is neither overtly based on race nor motivated by a racially unequal mindset, but which has a “disparate impact” (or differential effect) along racial lines, is subject only to “rationality review,” under which courts defer a great deal to whatever a legislature has decided to do.
It is usually very hard to prove that racial favoritism lies behind facially neutral government actions that generate racially disparate impacts, but the one area where the Court has tended to infer impermissible intent from unequal racial effect is the political rights realm. In the voting rights and jury contexts, for example, the intent requirement of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments has been watered down such that the Court has been much more willing to accept a disparate impact theory than in other areas of equal protection law. To me, this makes some sense, insofar as the deference the Court generally affords the legislature with respect to laws that create disparate racial effects is itself implicitly premised on a fair and legitimate political process that is producing the laws to which deference is owed. But if certain racial groups are excluded in fact from political participation, then deference to the outcomes of the political process seems less warranted. For that reason, in the political rights realm, the Court has tended to care about whether traditionally disempowered groups are afforded actual—and not just hypothetical—inclusion in the political processes of voting and jury service (and perhaps also military service).
And the Court’s jurisprudence concerning racial fairness in education—from Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 (which struck down school segregation) through Grutter v. Bollinger in 2003 (which upheld the University of Michigan Law School’s race-based affirmative action program)—consistently links education to political participation. For example, in reaching its result, the Court’s majority opinion in Grutter stressed that access to law school determines opportunities not only for good jobs, but also for political power. For the Grutter Court, it was important that law schools are places that train political leaders—congresspersons, Senators, federal judges, and military top brass—in addition to corporate executives. And the Snyder Complaint seeks to build on that relationship between education and self-governance.
So the legal theories the Snyder plaintiffs assert are not foreclosed by Supreme Court precedent, and in some ways find support in it. Yet there are still major hurdles to clear. One, in connection with the fundamental rights tack, is explaining why literacy via education should be considered a fundamental right when other things that are, in practical terms, also essential to political participation and expression—such as housing and health care—are not. The Rodriguez Court was very mindful of not wanting to extend the list of unenumerated fundamental rights (which already includes things like voting, marriage, interstate travel, and procreative and sexual autonomy) in a way that pulls the Court down a slippery slope. So convincing the federal courts that education is distinctively valuable (perhaps more so than a minimum income, shelter, and healthcare) is an important and formidable task.
A related hurdle also identified by the Court in Rodriguez is that a fundamental right to a minimally adequate education is different than other fundamental rights the Court has already recognized, insofar as assertion of a right to a minimal education is an affirmative claim that government must extend support farther than it is currently doing, rather than an argument that government must simply refrain from interfering with private conduct. I think this argument was overstated in Rodriguez. Some of the areas in which the Court has talked about fundamental rights—such as interstate travel or access to contraception—may involve situations in which the courts are telling government simply to stop regulating or interfering with consensual private conduct. But when we call voting or marriage a fundamental right that triggers strict scrutiny, we may have strayed across the negative/affirmative rights line; elections and civil marriages don’t take place without the government affirmatively facilitating them. In any event, as the SnyderComplaint repeatedly points out, the State of Michigan (like other states) has made attendance in some kind of state-approved school compulsory, so the State is already interfering with private choices in this realm, and in ways that allegedly make it nigh impossible for Detroit children to attain literacy.
But the affirmative/negative rights line does implicitly bring up probably the biggest hurdle for the plaintiffsthe practical and logistical concerns about appropriate remedies that might disincline federal courts to get deeply involved in decisions about school facilities, curricula, teacher training, and the like. Most of the other settings in which the Court has recognized a fundamental right do not involve the remedial complexity the Snyder case implicates. And as the Court cautioned in Rodriguez, at a time when the federal judiciary was in the midst of a mixed experience of federal judicial oversight over busing, pupil reassignment, and other aspects of the federal judicial effort to eliminate the vestiges of racial school segregation:
We stand on familiar ground when we continue to acknowledge that the Justices of this Court lack both the expertise and the familiarity with local problems so necessary to the making of wise decisions with respect to the raising and disposition of public revenues. . . . In addition to matters of fiscal policy, this case also involves the most persistent and difficult questions of educational policy, another area in which this Court’s lack of specialized knowledge and experience counsels against premature interference with the informed judgments made at the state and local levels. Education, perhaps even more than welfare assistance, presents a myriad of ‘intractable economic, social, and even philosophical problems.’ The very complexity of the problems of financing and managing a . . . public school system suggests that ‘there will be more than one constitutionally permissible method of solving them,’ and that, within the limits of rationality, ‘the legislature’s efforts to tackle the problems’ should be entitled to respect.
At the end of the day, as daunting as these remedial obstacles are, the time may be ripe for the filing of a lawsuit like Snyder. As I noted in an earlier column, last year’s same-sex marriage case has breathed new life into the doctrine of substantive due process (as distinguished from equal protection) and has shown that the Court is willing to recognize new liberties that are not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution. Depending on the presidential and Senate elections, soon the Court may, for the first time since late spring of 1969 (before Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon), have a majority of Justices appointed by Democrat presidents. Moreover, the state law challenges to educational attainment that have been filed in many state courts have met with only limited success (in part because of state law barriers to justiciability). Add to all this the fact that the conditions and attainment in Detroit are so bad, and it is reasonable to conclude there is much to possibly gain and quite little to lose in taking a shot under the federal Constitution. Even as to the remedial complexity, federal courts have learned much over the last 40 years (since Rodriguez was decided) so that they may feel more confident about providing meaningful relief in ways that avoid some of the glitches they experienced during the first phase of desegregation. At a minimum, perhaps federal judges would be open to declaring a constitutional violation even if they feel unable to craft detailed remedies, in a way that will put more pressure on state legislative and executive authorities to do something big. Anything to increase political attention to these issues would be to the good.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Principal Leadership Is Key Factor in Teachers’ Satisfaction with Evaluation Systems

Good leadership leads to good everything else. This is not rocket science.

What is good leadership?
*Respect for all
*Immediate attention To wrong-doing/mistakes/data errors
*Resolving differences/misconduct fairly
*Never discriminating, lying, hurting someone, cheating
*Never deliberately abusing someone
* Putting a positive outlook first

Those are some of my picks.

Betsy Combier

Principal Leadership Is Key Factor in Teachers’ Satisfaction with Evaluation Systems

Posted by Jessica Bailey on July 21, 2016
As an educator, researcher, or someone interested in the field of education, have you ever wondered whether teachers are satisfied with their evaluation process? How they perceive their school’s professional climate? Are the two are related?
To further advance the research agenda of the Northeast Educator Effectiveness Research Alliance at REL Northeast & Islands, several core planning group members wanted to understand how new teacher evaluation systems are related to school professional climate. A 2015 REL Northeast & Islands study of eight New Hampshire districts found that elements of a strong school professional climate—such as principal leadership, teacher influence, and trust—are positively related to teacher support for a new evaluation system and that teacher influence, in particular, is related to the fidelity of implementation of the new system.
To further examine the relationship between teachers’ self-reported views of their school’s professional climate and their satisfaction with their formal evaluation process, REL researchers Natalie Lacireno-PaquetCandice Bocala, and I analyzed data from the National Center for Education Statistics 2011/12 Schools and Staffing Survey and the 2012/13 Teacher Follow-up Survey. These surveys include questionson two factors that are related to school climate: principal leadership and teacher influence over school policy and decision making.
The Institute of Education Sciences published our analysis in the May 2016 report “Relationship Between School Professional Climate and Teachers’ Satisfaction with the Evaluation Process.”
We found that:
  • Teachers’ perceptions of their principals’ leadership was associated with their satisfaction with the evaluation system and that, specifically, the more positively teachers rated their principals’ leadership, the more likely they were to report satisfaction with their evaluation process.
  • The rating that teachers received on their evaluation was also associated with their satisfaction with their evaluation process. Those rated satisfactory or higher were more likely to be satisfied than those rated at levels below satisfactory.
  • There was no association between teachers’ views of their influence in the school and their satisfaction with the evaluation system.
  • Teachers whose evaluation process included student test score outcomes were 2.5 times less likelyto be satisfied with that process than teachers whose evaluations did not include student test scores.
While state and district requirements continue to change during this transformative period of accountability reform, some form of educator evaluation is here to stay for the foreseeable future. Therefore, states and districts may want to consider how to increase teacher satisfaction with the evaluation process. To support this observation, we know from our research that teachers are more satisfied with the process when they have a principal who establishes a positive school professional climate and specifically emulates strong leadership. Further research is needed, however, to determine whether this relationship is causal. We also know from our research that teachers typically prefer not to have student test scores included in their evaluations, which is another topic worthy of further study.
Related media links:

Relationship Between School Professional Climate and Teachers’ Satisfaction with the Evaluation Process
Principal Investigator: Natalie Lacireno-Paquet


OverviewThis study, conducted in collaboration with the Northeast Educator Effectiveness Research Alliance, reports on the relationship between teachers’ perceptions of school professional climate and their satisfaction with their formal evaluation process using the responses of a nationally representative sample of teachers from the Schools and Staffing Surveys.
Specifically, the study used logistic regression analysis to examine whether teachers’ satisfaction with their evaluation was associated with two measures of school professional climate (principal leadership and teacher influence), teacher and school characteristics, and the inclusion of student test scores in the evaluation system.
The results indicate that teachers’ perceptions of their principals’ leadership was associated with their satisfaction with the evaluation system—the more positively teachers rated their principal’s leadership, the more likely they were to report satisfaction with their evaluation process. The rating teachers received on their evaluation was also associated with their satisfaction, with those rated satisfactory or higher more likely to be satisfied. Teachers whose evaluation process included student test score outcomes were less likely to be satisfied with that process than teachers whose evaluations did not include student test scores.
The findings reinforce current literature about the importance of the school principal in establishing positive school professional climate. The report recommends additional research related to the implementation of new educatorevaluation systems. 
View the full report.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The New York City Department of Education Blog

No, it's not mine. The New York City Department of Education has their own blog:

The Morning Bell

Some information may be useful - some may not.

But, as the Department is well-known for altering or hiding data, an agency or rule is only as good as its implementation. Everything looks good until you try to use the information or locate someone to help you deal with your own circumstances.

Betsy Combier
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials

Every child has one shot at an excellent education. It’s up to us to make sure they get it. Let’s shape the next generation of New York’s voices and minds. Let’s transform dreamers to doers. Let’s empower students in every neighborhood on their path to success. Because we believe in every child’s future.
  There are three key areas of our work to advance Equity and Excellence for All:
1.     Academic Excellence: means striving to ensure every student is college- and career ready. We work to meet students’ diverse needs with a variety of in-school and afterschool programs and support front-line educators and leadership with opportunities for professional development and collaboration.
2.     Student & Community Support: celebrates supporting the whole child, as well as their family, on their social and emotional journey inside and outside of the classroom. We collaborate with community partners—from elected officials to public advocates—and engage parents and families to reflect the needs of local communities.
3.     Innovation: allows us to experiment with new programming and initiatives. We aim to provide schools and educators the flexibility and resources they need to meet students and families where they are. 
The full Equity and Excellence for All agenda includes a range of policy initiatives organized across three key areas. A sampling of the initiatives is below:
Academic Excellence
Student & Community Support

1.     By 2026, 80% of our students will graduate high school on time
2.     Two-thirds of our students will be college ready
To reach these goals, we must:
1.     Start early.
2.     Support strong teachers and a strong curriculum in every school.
3.     Meet communities where they are.

Universal Literacy
What is the goal? 
Striving to ensure every student is college- and career ready, we must start early and ensure all students are reading on grade level by the end of 2nd grade. Every elementary school will receive support from a dedicated reading coach.

What will we see this school year?
103 reading coaches were hired during spring of 2016 and received intensive training over the summer. Schools also began preparatory work this past spring.

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What is the goal? 
All students will complete algebra no later than 9th grade, enabling them to reach more advanced math courses in high school and better preparing them for college and careers. By 2022, all students will have access to an algebra course in 8th grade, and to academic supports in elementary and middle school to ensure greater algebra readiness. 

What will we see this school year? 
 400 teachers from 5th to 10th grade will return to their classrooms across the city this September with expanded expertise in math instruction and strategies. 67 elementary schools are departmentalizing to ensure a specialized math teacher is helping students toward the goal of algebra for all.
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What is the goal? 
Every high school student will have access to Advanced Placement courses. New AP courses and preparatory courses will start in fall 2016, with 75 percent of students offered at least five AP classes by fall 2018. By fall 2021, students at all high schools will have access to a full slate of at least five AP classes, thereby increasing college and career readiness for all students. 

What will we see this school year?
There will be new AP courses at
 63 schools, including 35 that did not offer any last year. Teachers at these schools are also receiving rigorous, subject-specific training for all AP teachers. 

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What is the goal? 
Through an unprecedented public-private partnership with lead partners NYC Foundation for Computer Science Education (CSNYC) and Robin Hood, by 2025, all NYC public school students will receive high quality Computer Science (CS) education at each school level: elementary, middle, and high school. Over the next 10 years, the DOE will train nearly 5,000 teachers who will bring CS education to the City’s ~1.1 million public school students.

What will we see this school year? 
246 elementary, middle, and schools are participating in Computer Science for All this year, including 98 offering full-year or multi-year sequences. This includes AP Computer Science Principles, the Software Engineering Program (SEP), and SEP Jr., which are full-year or multi-year sequences, and the STEM Institute, an intensive training for teachers to implement Computer Science lessons and units in their schools. Across these schools, 457 teachers are receiving rigorous professional development and support to implement these programs.

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What is the goal? 
Empowering students on their path to success means ensuring every middle school student will be exposed to a college-going culture and will have the opportunity to visit a college campus. The campus visit will be embedded in a broader set of student and parent workshops focused on planning for high school and college.

What will we see this school year?
For the 2016-17 school year, College Access for All will be implemented in
 over 160 middle schools in 10 districts: 5, 6, 8, 11, 14, 18, 19, 27, 29, and 31. Schools in other districts are also encouraged to continue and expand upon existing efforts to create a college going culture for all students.

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What is the goal? 
Every high school student will have access to a true “college-ready” culture. By the 2018-19 school year, every student will graduate from high school with an individual college and career plan and have access to resources that will support them in pursuing that plan.

What will we see this school year? 
100 high schools are receiving new training and funding to build a school-wide college and career culture. In addition to school-based programs, we will continue to expand on citywide supports for building college awareness and readiness. 

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Single Shepherd
What is the goal? 
Every student in grades 6-12 in Districts 7 and 23 will have support that focuses on the whole child, as well as their family on their journey inside and outside of the classroom. Each child will have a dedicated counselor or social worker who will support them through graduation and college enrollment. This initiative will be rigorously evaluated may be expanded to other high-needs districts based on evidence.

What will we see this school year?
We have hired approximately 120 shepherds for all middle and high schools in Districts 7 and 23; 16,000 students across 51 schools. The shepherds, who have received rigorous training, will each support approximately 100 students, and will provide academic, social, and emotional supports to ensure students are on a path to success.

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What is the goal? 
As we continue innovating, district and charter schools will be paired r with the flexibility and resources they need to meet students where they are.

What will we see this school year? 
108 district and charter schools have partnered to share best practices. This includes 11 co-located schools building campus community and sharing practices; 19 schools in District 16 in Brooklyn participating in a district-wide district-charter partnership; and 78 schools in Districts 18, 19, and 23 in Brooklyn engaged in the DOE Uncommon Schools-Impact Partnership. An additional 28 schools will be identified for new collaborative learning partnerships this fall.