By Ron Rice, Senior Director, Government Relations at the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools
I have been a Black student, education policymaker, and now an advocate for providing the best educational opportunities for all our children. One reality that I’ve had to face and embrace through each of these stages in my life and career is that the prevalence of leaders of color like me is a major contributor to educational success and whose lack thereof stifles that potential. As a student of color, those examples helped me thrive; and today they inform my advocacy.
This month, my organization, the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools released its highly-anticipated report, “Identity and Charter School Leadership: Profiles of Leaders of Color Building an Effective Staff” which examined the ways that school leaders of color’s experiences and perspectives influence how they build school culture, parent and community relationships, and effective staff. This needed report affirmed what I and many fellow school leaders of color have witnessed first-hand in schools from New Jersey (where I advised the state Department of Education) to Massachusetts, California, Louisiana, Missouri, Wisconsin, and North Carolina, where school leaders of color were studied. The report’s finding is clear: our children of color thrive with diverse and experienced teachers who understand their challenges and have a personal, unwavering dedication to their success.
Most importantly, our report is instructive as well because it sheds light — through the profiles of three public charter school leaders of color from Louisiana, North Carolina, and California — on the principles that can help match our best current and future teachers with our nation’s students. Three of those principles that resonated with my two decades in education policy are:
First, fill our school leadership pipeline with talented educators of color who come from nontraditional backgrounds and fields of study. But how do we dispel the myth that there are not enough qualified and passionate people of color who can and want to fill this educational pipeline? One way to do this comes from Eric Sanchez, co-founder of Henderson Collegiate — a network of three schools serving elementary, middle and high school in Henderson, North Carolina. Instead of only recruiting future educators from traditional education programs, Eric also recruits graduates from university programs focusing on social justice and ethnic studies. And this encouragement doesn’t end once the teachers reach the classroom — we must provide clear pathways for these teachers to pursue school leadership.
Second, school leaders and education policymakers of all colors must be committed to seeing and promoting diversity as an asset, not a deficit; an opportunity, not an obstacle. Imagine how better prepared our children will be for the world of tomorrow if they have been taught the history behind their identity, the language behind their culture, and the geography behind their journey. While nearly all schools struggle with activating this principle for the benefit of our students, our report demonstrates that public charter schools are making substantial progress where traditional public schools haven’t.
Third, achievement and demonstrated success — not myths, preconceptions, and inherited political biases — must be the basis upon which we support the best educational opportunities for all our children. For example, by their design, public charter schools have the flexibility to create and finetune curricula, teaching methods, and optimal outcomes that traditional public schools do not. So, why would we ever consider putting obstacles in any educational paths that are showing real achievement?
Race and identity of both our educators and students is only one factor in the holistic successes we are all working towards. However, it’s also true that all schools across our country in every community have historically not valued students’ diversity and identity as assets to enrich the education they receive. Public charter schools are making real progress to expose this blind spot and make the needed course corrections to ensure the success we’ve seen for some students are the norm for all.
Ron Rice Jr. is a former two term Newark, NJ city councilman, chief advisor to the New Jersey Department of Education, and is currently Senior Director, Government Relations at the National Alliance of Public Charter Schools.
The number of states that can try out new ways to test students under the Every Student Succeeds Act just doubled.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced that she had approved Georgia and North Carolina to try out new assessment methods for the 2019-20 school year, joining Louisiana and New Hampshire as states to successfully apply to participate in this pilot.
Georgia’s approach to the pilot is particularly notable, since it will be trying out not one but two assessment systems for the upcoming academic year. One will rely on adaptive assessments, which present students with questions based on their answers to previous ones, instead of relying on a fixed progression of test questions. The other will rely on “real-time” information on student performance. Meanwhile, North Carolina’s pilot system will rely on customized “routes” based on students’ prior answers on formative assessments. (More on formative assessments here.)
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The final straw broke in November when Aimy Steele got a call from the central office asking her to find space for five more classrooms.
Steele, the principal of Beverly Hills STEM Elementary School in Concord, N.C., about 25 miles from Charlotte, had already moved an English-as-a-second-language class into the library and an after-school program from a portable unit into the cafeteria to comply with a state law mandating lower class sizes in elementary grades.
The mandate, which she said did not come with extra money for new teachers or classrooms—school construction is funded at the county-level—came after financially-strapped districts had shed hundreds of teaching assistants.
“That was kind of the last moment, where I said, ‘this is absolutely ridiculous,’” said Steele, who filed paperwork to run on the Democratic ticket in North Carolina’s 82nd district just a few weeks later. She will face Republican Linda P. Johnson, a nine-term incumbent and chairwoman of the House K-12 education and appropriations committees, in November.
Steele, 39, is among a handful of current and former school leaders—including principals and assistant principals—who are running for local and state offices this year. Their numbers are dwarfed by teacher-candidates, who, fed up with low salaries and cuts to general education funding, marched on state capitols in the spring. (An Education Week analysis found at least 156 teachers had filed to run for state offices this year, with 25 so far winning their party primaries and 42 advancing without a primary challenge.)
Principals Want Bigger Voice in Education Policy
But the small number of principals who are running hope their experience running schools will give them a bigger voice in state education policy and other policy areas that affect education. The school leaders argue that many of the hot-button issues that legislators are wrestling with are school-connected—whether it’s the opioid crisis, the economy, transportation, infrastructure, or healthcare.
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How does an individual’s decision to drop out of high school affect the rest of us? And, conversely, how does a student graduating from high school benefit all of us?
Those were the questions the Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed) sought to answer when it began working on an economic model that would demonstrate the economic impact of a 90 percent high school graduation rate.
Individuals who drop out of high school are far more likely to spend their lives periodically unemployed, on government assistance, or cycling in and out of the prison system than individuals who earn a high school diploma. But individuals are not the only ones affected when they do not graduate.
To quantify how a student’s decision to drop out affects the rest of us, and, conversely, how a student graduating from high school benefits all of us, the Alliance for Excellent Education (All4Ed) released new data demonstrating the economic impact of reaching a 90 percent high school graduation rate. The data is available for the United States as a whole, all fifty states, and roughly 140 metro areas, from Anchorage, Alaska to Winston-Salem, North Carolina and many places in-between.
During a time when future success is so closely linked to educational outcomes, one in six students do not earn their high school diploma. Individuals who drop out of high school are far more likely to spend their lives periodically unemployed, on government assistance, or cycling in and out of the prison system.
But what if the United States were able to achieve a 90 percent high school graduation rate? How would that benefit the nation?
For the Class of 2015, which had a graduation rate of 83.2 percent, a 90 percent graduation rate would have meant an additional 250,000 students would have walked across the Commencement Day stage.
These graduates would collectively have earned $3.1 billion ANNUALLY in additional income.
That additional income isn’t going under the mattress. It’s being spent in local grocery stores, restaurants, and other businesses, powering national, state, and local economies.
And these new graduates are also contributing more in the form of tax dollars—roughly $664 million collectively by the midpoint of their careers. That tax revenue will go toward public schools, roads, and a variety of other public goods.
In total, the collective spending power of these new graduates will lead to greater opportunities for the nation, including $5.7 billion in economic growth and more than 14,000 new jobs created…
“It was a great feeling watching the returns come in!” said Jonas Knotts, a high school teacher and president of the Webster County Education Association, an affiliate of the West Virginia Education Association (WVEA). “People and educators are really starting to see the power that they possess. We have a voting bloc that, if we turn out to the polls, can outvote anybody. Teachers are realizing this. It’s something that fills us with a very empowering feeling.”
Early this spring, WVEA members kicked off what NEA President Lily Eskelsen García has called an “education spring” with a statewide, nine-day strike that brought red-shirted educators from every one of the state’s 55 counties to the state Capitol.
Their massive show of solidarity, which ended with significant pay raises for all public workers, including teachers and education support professionals, and the establishment of a state task force to address public-worker health insurance, inspired educators across the nation and has been followed by statewide educator walkouts in Oklahoma, Arizona, and Kentucky, and huge Capitol demonstrations in Colorado and North Carolina.
Now, WVEA members are modeling what happens next: They’re taking their energy and passion for public education to the ballot box. In this May’s primary races, WVEA endorsed 115 pro-public school candidates for U.S. Senate, U.S. House, and the state’s House of Delegates and Senate. Of those, 99 candidates—or nearly 90 percent—won. One state lawmaker who had called union members “free riders” was shown the door.
This is exactly what public-school educators across the nation have promised to do in the mid-term elections this November. With this latest show of union strength, WVEA members have shown how it can be done—and how good it feels.
“This election was a huge vindication for the power of the movement because, of course, the opposition was saying ‘they’re going to forget, they’re going to stay home,’” said Knotts. “But we know it’s only one victory in a long war. We have to keep up those conversations, we have to keep people engaged, we have to show them how we’re working to improve everybody’s status—from teachers to support personnel to students to communities…”
May 19, 2018 – Allison Kerley Townsend, a third-grade teacher at Barnwell Elementary School in Fulton County, is the 2019 Georgia Teacher of the Year, State School Superintendent Richard Woods announced tonight. As Georgia Teacher of the Year, Townsend will serve as an advocate for public education in Georgia.
“It is very clear to me that Allison Kerley Townsend is a teacher who walks into her classroom every day with her focus in exactly the right place: what do these students in front of me need to learn, and how can I help them learn it?” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said. “Then she brings all of her creativity, ingenuity and skill to the fore to accomplish that goal. I am honored to recognize her as the 2019 Georgia Teacher of the Year and look forward to working with her to tell the best story I know – the story of Georgia’s public schools, and the lives changing within them every single day.”
Townsend graduated from Clemson University in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education. Since then, she has taught Pre-K, third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade students.
As a teacher, Townsend strives to give each child a voice in their learning, and inspires them to grow beyond “engagement” to “ownership.” She came away from her time as a Pre-K teacher with the conviction that all children start out as curious and excited learners, and that her goal as an educator should be to nurture their passion for learning.
“Some people believe that children are the ‘leaders of tomorrow,’” Townsend said. “I like to challenge this idea. We cannot ignore the incredible impact children can have on the world today, if we let them. My mission is to help students take ownership of their learning and have an impact beyond the classroom…whether they are Skyping a scientist across the country, blogging about how they believe we should combat pollution, or sharing the inspiring music videos we create as a class.”
Townsend is also dedicated to having an impact on students and teachers beyond her own classroom and making her mark on education at the global level. From presenting at conferences to using Twitter as a window into her classroom, she has made connections with educators all over the world.
“I have helped a teacher in North Carolina design an authentic project-based learning unit for her students based on nutrition and fractions,” Townsend said. “I have Skyped with a teacher in Virginia to teach him how to implement student-led conferences. I have even had a teacher across the world in Vietnam reach out to me to let me know that she shared my students’ personal mission statements with her class, and that inspired them to write their own, too. I am passionate about inspiring students and teachers around the world and believe that our impact does not have to wait for ‘tomorrow.’ Every single one of us can help change the world today.”
As Georgia Teacher of the Year, Townsend will represent Georgia teachers by speaking to the public about the teaching profession and potentially conducting workshops and programs for educators. She will also participate in the competitive selection process for the 2019 National Teacher of the Year.
One thing we’ll keep stressing again and again this week: how far federal policy has moved since the days of the No Child Left Behind Act (ESSA’s predecessor). Read on.
So, what kinds of goals are states setting?
Some states chose fixed goals that aim for all students, and all subgroups of vulnerable students, such as those qualifying for subsidized school lunches or English-language learners, to reach the same target (such as 80 percent proficiency). What’s nice about this kind of goal is that it sets the same endpoint, making it easier to see over time how achievement gaps are expected to close. States in this category include: Arkansas, Hawaii, Kansas, Mississippi, (grades 3-8 only), Ohio, Minnesota, New York, Rhode island, South Dakota, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
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Submitted by Jesse Williams, Rep. Marvin Pendarvis & Dr. Carol Tempel
THE CHARLESTON CHRONICLE — When voting to build a new Center for Advanced Studies at North Charleston High School, instead of Garrett Academy of Technology, board members added that they would continue to invest in improving the quality of education at Garrett. In order to hold the school board accountable, the Quality Education Project (QEP) encourages the board and stakeholders to consider solutions that are outlined below since a thorough revision of the academic and vocational curriculum at Garrett is urgent and necessary.
In order to ensure greater and more diverse student attendance, the Garrett campus should be open to a growing middle school population in North Charleston. The prospects of building a middle school building to cater to area students and to build a strong pipeline into the trades programs should be considered, given the fact that two standalone high schools already exist.
Key questions about the vocational curriculum must also be addressed. Garrett is poised to offer a new Curriculum and Instructional Model for Twenty-first Century Career and Technology Training. This program should offer Landscaping and Design, Renewable Energy Technology, Finance and Entrepreneurial Leadership, Hospitality and Tourism, Early Childhood Education, Culinary Arts, Automotive Mechanics and Auto Body, Mechanical Building Trades, and Transportation, Distribution and Logistics. This vocational training offers the necessary skills for full employment in the Lowcountry that not only prepares students for the current job market but the future workplace as well. It is vital that vocational programs are aligned with the strengths of the local economy and Lowcountry employers who are committed to hiring local graduates. These trades and the overall academic program at Garrett are intended to complement the CAS at North Charleston High School to avoid duplication.
At the same time, questions about the academic curriculum are warranted. The new Garrett High School could offer a rigorous college preparatory curriculum to appeal to those students who are on the waiting list at Academic Magnet and others interested in a college track. To meet the unique academic and vocational needs of Garrett, adopting an International Baccalaureate (IB) program, which has solid academics with a career and technology component beginning in Middle School, is one constructive way to meet the unique needs of Garrett. The IB Program should offer college-level training in foreign languages, math, sciences, and the humanities that will translate into college credit at local and state institutions. The IB program also promises to differentiate itself from the programs offered at North Charleston High School.
Given the appeal this curriculum will have, it is worth considering how the new Garrett Middle and High School is governed. A traditional neighborhood public, partial-magnet (non-charter) school offers the best avenue for public participation and transparency. Any new program should not be run by a charter organization or Meeting Street Academy, or any other program that privatizes or takes away public and district oversight of the school. Garrett will therefore serve a broader school population that focuses on the local North Charleston community.
These solutions offer the beginning of a very important discussion in regard to the quality of education that the school district and school board has promised to the Garrett community. As the community and district officials contemplate a model for Garrett, QEP calls on district leadership to make a public commitment to an academically viable Garrett, to share all plans they are contemplating, and to provide a timeframe to enact these reforms. The public and communities impacted are far too often left in the dark, wondering about specifics concerning district plans. This leads to a lack of transparency and mistrust of the school board and district. As an organization committed to quality public education, QEP feels that these points of discussion are consistent with the ideals of quality public education and that Garrett can reflect these standards. With collaborative support, these inquires can inspire a model for the district, if not the entire state of South Carolina to follow.
By Charlene Crowell, (Communications Deputy Director, Center for Responsible Lending)
AMSTERDAM NEWS — Mounting student debt is a nagging problem for most families these days. As the cost of higher education rises, borrowing to cover those costs often becomes a family concern across multiple generations including the student, parents, and even grandparents or other relatives.
Today’s 21st Century jobs usually demand higher education and specialized skills to earn one’s way into the middle class. In households where educational loans are inevitable, it becomes an important family decision to determine which institutions are actually worth the debt incurred. Equally important is the institution’s likelihood of its students graduating.
Higher education institutions that do not provide its students and graduates with requisite skills and knowledge become money pits that lead to deeper debt and likely loan defaults.
New research by the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) analyzed student debt on a state-by-state basis. An interactive map of CRL’s findings reveal on a state basis each of the 50 states’ total undergraduate population, for-profit enrollment, and the top for-profit schools by enrollment for both four-year and two-year institutions.
Entitled “The State of For-Profit Colleges,” the report concludes that investing in a for-profit education is almost always a risky proposition. Undergraduate borrowing by state showed that the percentage of students that borrow from the federal government generally ranged between 40 to 60 percent for public colleges, compared to 50 to 80 percent at for-profit institutions.
Additionally, both public and private, not-for-profit institutions, on average, lead to better results at a lower cost of debt, better earnings following graduation, and the fewest loan defaults.
“In many cases, for-profit students are nontraditional students, making sacrifices and struggling to manage family and work obligations to make better lives for their families,” noted Robin Howarth, a CRL senior researcher. “For-profit colleges target them with aggressive marketing, persuading them to invest heavily in futures that will never come to pass.”
CRL also found that women and Blacks suffer disparate impacts, particularly at for-profit institutions, where they are disproportionately enrolled in most states.
For example, enrollment at Mississippi’s for-profit colleges was 78 percent female and nearly 66 percent Black. Other states with high Black enrollment at for-profits included Georgia (57 percent), Louisiana (55 percent), Maryland (58 percent) and North Carolina (54 percent).
Focus group interviews further substantiated these figures, and recounted poignant, real life experiences.
Brianna, a 31-year-old Black female completed a Medical Assistant (MA) certificate at the now-defunct Everest University. Once she completed her MA certificate and passed the certification test, she found she could only find a job in her field of study that paid $12 per hour, much less than the $35,000-$45,000 salary that Everest told her would be her starting salary as a medical assistant.
She was also left with $21,000 in student debt. As a result, she has struggled since matriculation with low credit scores and cramped housing conditions for herself and three children. For her, public schools, according to Brianna, are “better in the long run” due to their lower cost despite having more requirements for attendance.
Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota, and Wyoming are the latest states to receive feedback on their plans for implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act.
The U.S. Department of Education staffers seem to be burning the midnight oil on feedback letters lately. Four other states—Georgia, Maryland, Puerto Rico, and Utah—got responses last week. Every state has submitted a plan to implement ESSA. And 16 states and the District of Columbia have had their plans approved.
So what do the latest letters say? They are extensive and almost all of them ask for a lot more detail on testing, school turnarounds, accountability, goals, teacher distribution, and more.
Here’s a quick look at some highlights. Click on the state name to read the full letter.
Alabama: The department wants to state to make its student achievement goals clearer, and better explain how student growth on state tests would be used to calculate a school’s academic score. And the feds aren’t clear on how Alabama will calculate English-language proficiency and incorporate it into school ratings—an ESSA must. The state also needs to make it clear that it will flag schools that don’t get federal Title I money for extra supports with subgroups of students…
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