THE LEGACY NEWSPAPER — On the evening of April 4, 1968, teen music sensation Stevie Wonder was dozing off in the back of a car on his way home to Detroit from the Michigan School for the Blind, when the news crackled over the radio: Martin Luther King Jr. had just been assassinated in Memphis. His driver quickly turned off the radio and they drove on in silence and shock, tears streaming down Wonder’s face.
Five days later, Wonder flew to Atlanta for the slain civil rights hero’s funeral, as riots erupted in several cities, the country still reeling. He joined Harry Belafonte, Aretha Franklin, Mahalia Jackson, Eartha Kitt, Diana Ross and a long list of politicians and pastors who mourned King, prayed for a nation in which all men are created equal and vowed to continue the fight for freedom.
Wonder was still in shock—he remembered how, when he was five, he first heard about King as he listened to coverage of the Montgomery bus boycott on the radio. “I asked, ‘Why don’t they like colored people? What’s the difference?’ I still can’t see the difference.” As a young teenager, when Wonder was performing with the Motown Revue in Alabama, he experienced first-hand the evils of segregation—he remembers someone shooting at their tour bus, just missing the gas tank. When he was 15, Wonder finally met King, shaking his hand at a freedom rally in Chicago.
At the funeral, Wonder was joined by his local representative, young African-American Congressman John Conyers, who had just introduced a bill to honor King’s legacy by making his birthday a national holiday. Thus began an epic crusade, led by Wonder and some of the biggest names in music—from Bob Marley to Michael Jackson—to create Martin Luther King Day.
To overcome the resistance of conservative politicians, including President Reagan and many of his fellow citizens, Wonder put his career on hold, led rallies from coast to coast and galvanized millions of Americans with his passion and integrity.
But it took 15 years.
In the immediate wake of King’s death, the political establishment was more concerned with keeping things calm, tamping down unrest, and arresting rioters and activists. It was a violent year—that summer the Democratic convention in Chicago exploded in chaos and another inspiring leader, Robert F. Kennedy, was killed by an assassin. The country seemed on the verge of civil war.
Conyers’ bill languished in Congress for over a decade, through years of anti-war protests, Watergate and political corruption, stifled by inertia and malaise at the end of the 1970s. The dream was kept alive by labor unions, who viewed King as a working-class hero, with protests that slowly built up steam. At a General Motors plant in New York, a small group of auto workers refused to work on King’s birthday in 1969, and thousands of hospital workers in New York City went on strike until managers agreed to a paid holiday on the birthday. King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, led a birthday rally that year in Atlanta, where she was joined by Conyers and union leaders. By 1973, some of the country’s largest unions, including the AFSCME and the United Autoworkers, made the paid holiday a regular demand in their contract negotiations.
Finally in 1979, President Jimmy Carter, who had been elected with the support of the unions, endorsed the bill to create the holiday. Carter made an emotional appearance at King’s old church, Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. But Congress refused to budge, led by conservative Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina, who denounced King as a lawbreaker who had been manipulated by Communists. The situation looked bleak.
By then, Wonder had matured from a young harmonica-playing sensation to a chart-topping music genius lauded for his complex rhythms and socially-conscious lyrics about racism, black liberation, love and unity. He had kept in touch with Coretta Scott King, regularly performing at rallies to push for the holiday. He told a cheering crowd in Atlanta in the summer of 1979, “If we cannot celebrate a man who died for love, then how can we say we believe in it? It is up to me and you.”
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.
Read the full article here: May require an Education Week subscription.
EDUCATION WEEK — Minnesota, New York, Virginia, and West Virginia have some work to do on their plans to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
All four states, who were among the 34 that turned in their plans this fall, were flagged for issues with accountability, helping low-performing schools improve, and other areas. So far, ten other states that turned in their plans this fall — Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Kansas, Maryland, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming—have received feedback from the feds. Puerto Rico has also gotten a response on its plan. (Check out our summaries of their feedback here and here.)
Plus, sixteen states and the District of Columbia, all of which submitted plans in the spring, have gotten the all-clear from U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Colorado, which asked for extra time on its application, is the only spring state still waiting for approval.
So what problems did the department find in this latest round of states? Here’s a quick look. Click on the state’s name for a link to the feds’ letter…
Read the full article here: May require an Education Week subscription.
The nation’s graduation rate rose again to a record high, with more than 84 percent of students graduating on time in 2016, according to data released Monday by the U.S. Department of Education.
That is the highest graduation rate recorded since 2011, when the Education Department began requiring schools to report rates in a standardized way. The graduation rate rose by nearly a percentage point from 2015 to 2016, from 83.2 percent to 84.1 percent. It has risen about 4 percentage points since 2011, when 79 percent of students obtained a high school diploma within four years.
All minority groups saw a rise in on-time graduation rates in 2016, but gaps persist. Only 76 percent of black students and 79 percent of Hispanic students graduated on time, compared to 88 percent of white students and 91 percent of Asian/Pacific Islander students.
The Obama administration considered the rise in graduation rates among its most important achievements in education, but experts have cautioned those rates can be a poor measure of how prepared young people are for work and higher education. Even as they are graduating at higher rates, students’ performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a test of reading and math achievement, is unchanged or slipping…
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., told a roomful of state education chiefs Tuesday that he’ll push to fund the new block grant Congress created under the Every Student Succeeds Act to help districts cover the cost of health, safety, technology programs, and moer. And he said he looks forward to the kind of innovation and change the new law can bring to states.
Meanwhile, Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., also an ESSA architect and the top Democrat on the House education committee, challenged states to develop plans that will look out for historically disadvantaged groups of students.
It’s one of the most controversial questions about the Every Student Succeeds Act and accountability in general: How should schools be graded?
Since nearly all states have at least turned in their ESSA plans, and many ESSA plans have been approved, we now have a good idea of how states are answering those questions. Keep one thing in mind: ESSA requires certain low-performing schools to be identified as needing either targeted or comprehensive support. States have no wiggle room on that. But beyond that, states can assign things like A-F grades, stars, or points. Based on the states that have turned in their plans—and remember, not every state has—We did some good old-fashioned counting and came to the following conclusions, in chart form:
Here are a few notes about that chart.
1) Many states use some kind of points system only as a starting point, since they then use those systems to arrive at final grades or scores that are presented differently to the public…
Fifty Democrats in Congress have urged Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to nominate a “qualified individual” to run the U.S. Department of Education’s office for civil rights, and are continuing to criticize her approach to issues ranging from sexual assault to transgender student rights protections.
In a letter Tuesday, the Democratic lawmakers specifically singled out Candice Jackson, the acting assistant secretary for civil rights, for displaying a “hostility towards the very mission and functions of the office she is charged to lead.” More broadly, the lawmakers criticized the department’s approach to investigations involving students of color, English-language learners, and LGBTQ students, among others.
DeVos’s approach to civil rights has become one of the most controversial parts of her work during her first six months on the job. The secretary has said that the education department’s office for civil rights under Obama was too aggressive and too eager to pursue broad cases against institutions, leaving individual students’ civil rights complaints to languish…
The Virginia Dept. of Education is proposing a new accountability system. Under the new plan, “schools will be identified as requiring either ‘comprehensive support and improvement’ — when school-wide test scores fall short of benchmarks — or ‘targeted support and improvement’ — when a subgroup falls short.” Spokesman Charles Pyle commented that “the state’s accountability program offers parents user-friendly data to evaluate schools, including an online dashboard.”
The top two Democrats for education in Congress have warned U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos that her department’s new approach to reviewing states’ Every Student Succeeds Act plans is riddled with problems.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., the ranking Democrats on the respective Senate and House education committees, wrote in a Friday letter to DeVos that the U.S. Department of Education’s plans to begin conducting two-hour phone calls with states about their ESSA plans before providing states with formal comments will “limit the public’s knowledge” about ESSA-related agreements between states and the department.
“We are deeply concerned that this decision will result in inconsistent treatment of state agencies, leading to flawed implementation of our nation’s education law and harm to our nation’s most vulnerable students,” Murray and Scott wrote…