InformED Report 11/14/16
Civil rights groups sue N.J. over graduation requirements
Adam Clark @realAdamClark | NJ.com | Twitter
New Jersey’s high school graduation requirements have once again drawn a legal challenge.
A group of civil rights and parent advocacy organizations filed a lawsuit Oct. 21 claiming the new requirements violate state law and make it especially difficult for low-income and minority students to graduate.
The new requirements, which apply to current freshman and future high schools students, include passing the state’s controversial standardized tests, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exams.
“The State Board of Education is going full-steam ahead with a plan that breaks New Jersey law and, more disturbingly, disproportionately harms the most vulnerable students,” said Ed Barocas, legal director for the New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.
The suit was filed by the ACLU-NJ and the Eduction Law Center on behalf of the Latino Action Network (LAN), the Latino Coalition of New Jersey (LCNJ) and the Paterson Education Fund (PEF).
“The state knows about the PARCC’s high failure rates, extreme racial disparities, and deep economic divisions in passing scores, and yet officials decided to use this test as a key criterion for graduation despite the glaring problems,” Barocas said.
The state Department of Education declined to respond to the group’s complaint.
To read more visit NJ.com
LGBT group sues Utah over anti-gay school laws
Lindsay Whitehurst | The Washington Times | Twitter
A Utah lawsuit filed Monday seeks to open up a new front in LGBT rights following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage by challenging laws they say discriminate against LGBT students by restricting talk about homosexuality in schools.
The suit contends the law blocked teachers from helping a 7-year-old boy targeted by bullies for wearing girls’ clothes because it prevented them from saying it’s OK to be gay.
The rule is one of several similar measures around the country, said Christopher Stoll, a lawyer with the National Center for Lesbian Rights, which joined Equality Utah on the lawsuit. The center may bring similar lawsuits in states like Arizona, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina and Texas.
“They’re extremely stigmatizing to LGBT students,” he said. “They basically send the message that their identity is something that’s too shameful to even be discussed in class.”
The state law was part of a wide-ranging sexual education bill passed with little dissent in 2001. It prohibits instruction on “advocacy of homosexuality,” along with contraceptives and sex outside marriage. The Utah State Board of Education adopted a similar rule the year earlier that applies to any class that covers marriage, childbirth or parenthood.
To read more visit The Washington Times
Charter schools face state action in 2017
Molly Born | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | Twitter
State Sen. Jim Brewster unveiled a cluster of proposed overhauls this month centered on addressing “transparency, fiscal solvency and accountability issues” in charter schools.
But with Pennsylvania’s General Assembly wrapping up its work for this session, his spokesman said the proposals wouldn’t show up in bill form until the Legislature reconvenes in 2017 — the 20th anniversary of the state’s charter school law that practically everyone with a stake in the matter agrees needs changing.
Mr. Brewster, D-McKeesport, and three members of the Senate Democratic policy committee heard testimony from charter schools executives, traditional school district representatives and state officials on the topic at a hearing Oct. 13 in Monroeville. Mr. Brewster left little doubt about his position on Pennsylvania’s public schools run by private entities.
“If I said to you, you may be the cause of the failure and eventual closing down of 15 school districts, how would you feel about that?” he asked one charter school CEO.
More than 150 brick-and-mortar charter schools, nearly half in Philadelphia, enroll 128,000 students across the state. Fourteen cyber charters operate in Pennsylvania. None of the schools have elected school boards, and only some have teachers unions.
To read more visit the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
NAACP calls for moratorium on charter schools until they stop acting like private schools
Steven Rosenfeld | Alternet | Twitter
The charter school industry is coming under increased attack by national civil rights leaders for its unequal and anti-democratic practices in the communities it purports to help by privatizing K-12 schools.
On Saturday, the board of directors at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People ratified a resolution passed this summer at its national convention calling for a moratorium on charter expansion and strengthening charter oversight. The NAACP vote came after intense lobbying against the resolution from the industry and its allies, including editorials in the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, a letter from black pro-charter legislators from California (where the sector gets almost anything it wants), and out-of-state protesters who were bused in and interrupted the NAACP’s proceedings.
“We are moving forward to require that charter schools receive the same level of oversight, civil rights protections and provide the same level of transparency, and we require the same of traditional public schools,” said Roslyn M. Brock, NAACP chair, in a statement after the 63-member national board vote. “Our decision today is driven by a long-held principle and policy of the NAACP that high-quality, free, public education should be afforded to all children.”
“The NAACP’s resolution is not inspired by ideological opposition to charter schools but by our historical support of public schools—as well as today’s data and the present experience of NAACP branches in nearly every school district in the nation,” said Cornell William Brooks, NAACP President, and CEO. “Our NAACP members, who as citizen advocates, not professional lobbyists, are those who attend school board meetings, engage with state legislatures and support both parents and teachers.”
To read more visit SALON
L.A. Unified takes a harder look at its charter schools. Critics blame politics
Howard Blume | Los Angeles Times | Twitter
Some years back, when administrators at a group of Los Angeles charter schools ordered the entire instructional staff to cheat on state standardized tests, the charter division of the Los Angeles Unified School District was at first willing to forgive what had happened and move on.
But last week, the L.A. Board of Education followed the recommendation of the charter division and voted to shut down three charters, ostensibly because their parent organization had been sluggish in providing requested paperwork that was important but not crucial to the schooling of students.
Although district officials insist they’ve been consistent and diligent, some pro- and anti-charter forces perceive a charter division that demands more from — and favors fewer — charters.
Within its boundaries, L.A. Unified authorizes these independently managed schools and then evaluates whether to renew them every five years. At the same time, the district is competing intensely with these charters over student enrollment and the education dollars that come with it.
To read more visit the Los Angeles Times
LAUSD teachers earn too much to live in the affordable housing apartments built for them
In the mid-2000s, in the midst of a housing boom, the Los Angeles Unified School District realized that skyrocketing rents were fueling teacher turnover.
Nearly half of all new teachers in some neighborhoods were leaving the district after three years. L.A. Unified was pouring millions of dollars into training new hires, only to watch them pick up and go.
Two below-market apartment complexes were built on unused district land, and a third is under construction. Today, both are fully occupied. But not one L.A. Unified teacher lives in them.
That fact alone doesn’t mean L.A. Unified’s affordable housing experiment is a failure.
The projects have created 156 affordable units in Gardena and Hollywood — 121 of which have been rented by L.A. Unified service workers. The apartments designed primarily for middle-class teachers have been an unintentional boon for the cafeteria workers, bus drivers and special education assistants who make up the lowest-paid group in the school system.
To read more visit the LA Times
1 in 4 U.S. teachers are chronically absent, missing more than 10 days of school
More than 1 in 4 of the nation’s full-time teachers are considered chronically absent from school, according to federal data, missing the equivalent of more than two weeks of classes each academic year in what some districts say has become an educational crisis.
The U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights estimated this summer that 27 percent of the nation’s teachers are out of school for more than 10 days of regular classes — some missing far more than 10 days — based on self-reported numbers from the nation’s school districts. But some school systems, especially those in poor, rural areas and in some major cities, saw chronic absenteeism among teachers rise above 75 percent in 2014, the last year for which data is available.
In the Alamance-Burlington School System, located between Greensboro and Chapel Hill, N.C., 80 percent of its 1,500 teachers missed more than 10 days of school in the 2013-2014 school year. Cleveland reported that about 84 percent of its 2,700 teachers had excessive absences. Nevada’s Clark County School District, which includes Las Vegas, reported that more than half of its 17,000 teachers were chronically absent — missing a total of at least 85,000 work days, or the equivalent number of hours that nearly 500 teachers would work during an entire 180-day school year.
To read more visit The Washington Post