By Nate Davis, CEO and Board of Directors Chairman, K12 Inc.
Our nation’s graduation rate is at an all-time high. The national figure shows 84 percent of young people, overall, graduating from high school within four years after first entering the 9th grade, a trend that has been on a consistent upswing since the 2010-2011 school year.
Still, despite much progress with that indicator, major gaps still exist. And there is great concern that the graduation rate hype not only masks those gaps, but distracts us from what must be our ultimate goal: ensuring all students earn a high school diploma and are college and career ready.
Even as overall graduation rates improve, Black and Hispanic students continue to lag behind that curve. Graduation rates for African American students are 76.4 percentage points—8 percentage points behind the national average—and Latino students are at 79.3 percent. Native American students fare even worse at just 72 percent graduation. Meanwhile, White and Asian students are anywhere from four to six points higher than the national average.
None of us can reasonably expect the closure of inequality gaps, if we’re simply satisfied with overall graduation rates while resigned to stubborn achievement gaps. Yet, it seems as if we’re in a phase whereby these disparities are being treated as normal—“the way it is”—as opposed to addressing a larger parity problem.
We have to ask ourselves: are we having a responsible and responsive conversation about high school graduation?
The most recent “Building a Grad Nation” report from America’s Promise Alliance says that, “Twenty-three states have Black-White graduation rate gaps larger than the national average, including five states—Wisconsin, Nevada, Minnesota, New York, and Ohio—where the gap is more than 20 percentage points…Twenty-four states have Hispanic/White graduation rate gaps that exceed the national average, and in two states – Minnesota and New York—the gap is more than 20 percentage points.”
The persistent normalcy of lower achievement among certain disadvantaged student populations is deeply troubling. Closing those gaps should be as important—if not more—than simply raising overall graduation rates.
At the same time, graduation rates can be used to unfairly malign schools that are serving underprivileged youth and, in fact, helping at-risk students earn a high school diploma. Alternative schools are singled out for having four-year cohort graduation rates that are generally lower than the national average, but left out of the conversation is how these schools are intentionally designed to serve credit-deficient transfer students and former dropouts at risk of never earning a diploma at all.
Measuring how well schools are graduating students is important, but it should be done right, and must not create disincentives for schools to serve credit-deficient students or dropouts looking for a second chance. After all, what is more important for these students: graduating or graduating “on-time”? It’s why graduation rate calculations should be reformed altogether so schools are held accountable for students’ annual progress toward graduation every year, not just in the fourth year of high school.
Sadly, the drive to meet on-time graduation has led to recent cases of manipulation and fraud, which, of course, is wrong, but it also misses the primary purposes of high school altogether: preparing students for higher education, careers, and the workforce. The linkage between these goals—graduation and college and career readiness—is crucial for broader national competitiveness. Graduating students is meaningless if they are not prepared.
The number of high school students heading into remedial courses in their first year of college are staggering, and the gaps between varying demographics are even more troubling. Nearly 60 percent of African American students are forced to enroll in non-credit remedial classes in college, according to the Center for American Progress, compared to 45 percent of Latino students and 35 percent of White students. This means that Black, first-year college students, already burdened the most by rising college costs and loan debt, are taking on a greater share of the $1.3 billion wasted on non-credit remedial courses.
There is no one silver bullet that will solve our nation’s graduation problem, but we can start by realigning graduation standards to the expectations of colleges, career training programs, industries and jobs, and developing competency-based, personalized learning paths for students unconstrained by four-year cohorts. And we must finally address funding gaps that exist for too many alternative schools working to eliminate achievement gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged students.
Addressing this complex challenge requires a mix of other solutions, too; improved learning models and instruction, greater support for our teachers, innovative technology, and increased services to disenfranchised students groups are just a few that we should be working on. But none of this can happen without educators, policymakers and business leaders willing to engage in honest and constructive conversations, and then pledging to act.
A rising graduation rate is worth celebrating, but let’s not become complacent.
Nate Davis is the Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Directors at K12 Inc., an online education provider for students in pre-K through 12th grade
During a special meeting today, Highline College’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously on the selection of Dr. John Mosby as the next president of the college.
Mosby currently serves as vice president for student services at Mission College in Santa Clara, California, part of the West Valley Mission Community College District.
Mosby has more than 23 years of higher education experience and holds a doctorate in leadership/higher education administration from the University of San Diego.
The selection follows a 10-month national search to fill the vacancy left by Dr. Jack Bermingham, who retired in August 2017 after more than a decade as president.
“Our goal has been to find an open, inspirational leader who embodies and promotes the college’s values of diversity, access, equity and community and is a fit for the unique Highline culture and environment,” said Debrena Jackson Gandy, chair of the five-member board. “We are confident that we found such a leader in Dr. Mosby.”
Dr. Jeff Wagnitz will continue to serve as interim president until Mosby assumes the post, after which he will return full time to his previous role as a vice president. Mosby is slated to join Highline in July 2018.
Founded in 1961 as the first community college in King County, Highline today serves 17,000 students and is the most diverse higher education institution in the state, with more than 70 percent students of color.
Add one more to the long list of recent DC public education scandals* in the era of education ‘reform’: DC’s NAEP** test scores are increasing at a lower rate now (after the elected school board was abolished in 2007) than they were in the decade before that.
This is true in every single subgroup I looked at: Blacks, Hispanics, Whites, 4th graders, 8th graders, in reading, and in math.
Forget what you’ve heard about DC being the fastest-growing school district. Our NAEP scores were going up faster before our first Chancellor, Michelle Rhee, was appointed than they have been doing since that date.
Last week, the 2017 NAEP results were announced at the National Press Club building here on 14th Street NW, and I went in person to see and compare the results of 10 years of education ‘reform’ after 2007 with the previous decade. When I and others used the NAEP database and separated out average scale scores for black, Hispanic, and white students in DC, at the 4th and 8th grade levels, in both reading and math, even I was shocked:
In every single one of these twelve sub-groups, the rate of change in scores was WORSE (i.e., lower) after 2007 (when the chancellors took over) than it was before that date (when we still had an elected school board).
I published the raw data, taken from the NAEP database, as well as graphs and short analyses, on my blog, (gfbrandenburg.wordpress.com) which you can inspect if you like. I will give you two examples:
In the year 2000, the first year for which I had comparable data, that group got an average scale score of 188 (on a scale of 0 – 500). In the year 2007, the last year under the elected school board, their average scale score was 209, which is an increase of 21 points in 7 years, for an average increase of 3.0 points per year, pre-‘reform’.
After a decade of ‘reform’ DC’s black fourth grade students ended up earning an average scale score of 224, which is an increase of 15 points over 10 years. That works out to an average growth of 1.5 points per year, under direct mayoral control.
So, in other words, Hispanic fourth graders in DC made twice the rate of progress on the math NAEP under the elected school board than they did under Chancellors Rhee, Henderson, and Wilson.
In 1998, the first year for which I had data, Hispanic 8th graders in DC got an average scale score of 246 (again on a scale of 0-500). In 2007, which is the last year under the elected board of education, they earned an average scale score of 249, which is an increase of only 3 points.
However, in 2017, their counterparts received an average scale score of 242. Yes, the score went DOWN by 7 points.
So, under the elected board of education, the scores for 8th grade Latinx students went up a little bit. But under direct mayoral control and education ‘reform’, their scores actually dropped.
That’s only two examples. There are actually twelve such subgroups (3 ethnicities, times 2 grade levels, times 2 subjects), and in every single case progress was worse after 2007 than it was beforehand.
*For many years, DC officials and the editorial board of the Washington Post have been bragging that the educational ‘reforms’ enacted under Chancellor Michelle Rhee and her successors have made DCPS the fastest-improving school district in the entire nation. (See https://wapo.st/2qPRSGw or https://wapo.st/2qJn7Dh for just two examples.)
It didn’t matter how many lies Chancellor Rhee told about her own mythical successes in a privately run school in Baltimore (see https://wapo.st/2K28Vgy ). She also got away with falsehoods about the necessity of firing hundreds of teachers mid-year for allegedly being sexual predators or abusers of children (see https://wapo.st/2qNGxqB ); there were always acolytes like Richard Whitmire willing to cheer her on publicly (see https://wapo.st/2HC0zOj ), even though the charges were false.
A lot of stories about widespread fraud in the District of Columbia public school system have hit the front pages recently. Examples:
Teachers and administrators were pressured to give passing grades and diplomas to students who missed so much school (and did so little work) that they were ineligible to pass – roughly one-third of last year’s graduating class. (see https://bit.ly/2ngmemi ) You may recall that the rising official (but fake) high school graduation rate in Washington was a used as a sign that the reforms under direct mayoral control of education had led to dramatic improvements in education here.
Schools pretended that their out-of-school suspension rates had been dropping, when in actual fact, they simply were suspending students without recording those actions in the system. (see https://wapo.st/2HhbARS )
Less than half of the 2018 senior class is on track to graduate because of truancy, failed classes, and the like. ( see https://bit.ly/2K5DFx9 )
High-ranking city officials, up to and including the Chancellor himself, cheated the system by having their own children bypass long waiting lists and get admitted to favored schools. (see https://wapo.st/2Hk3HLi )
A major scandal in 2011 about adults erasing and changing student answer sheets on the DC-CAS test at many schools in DC in order to earn bonuses and promotions was unfortunately swept under the rug. (see https://bit.ly/2HR4c0q )
About those “public” charter schools that were going to do such a miraculous job in educating low-income black or brown children that DCPS teachers supposedly refused to teach? Well, at least forty-six of those charter schools (yes, 46!) have been closed down so far, either for theft, poor performance on tests, low enrollment, or other problems. (see https://bit.ly/2JcxIx9 ).
NAEP, or the National Assessment of Educational Progress, is given about every two years to a carefully chosen representative sample of students all over the USA. It has a searchable database that anybody with a little bit of persistence can learn to use: https://bit.ly/2F5LHlS .
I did not do any comparable measurements for Asian-Americans or Native Americans or other such ethnic/racial groups because their populations in DC are so small that in most years, NAEP doesn’t report any data at all for them.
In the past, I did not find big differences between the scores of boys and girls, so I didn’t bother looking this time.
Other categories I could have looked at, but didn’t, include: special education students; students whose first language isn’t English; economically disadvantaged students; the various percentiles; and those just in DCPS versus all students in DC versus charter school students. Feel free to do so, and report what you find!
My reason for not including figures separated out for only DCPS, and only DC Charter Schools, is that NAEP didn’t provide that data before about 2011. I also figured that the charter schools and the regular public schools, together, are in fact the de-facto public education system that has grown under both the formerly elected school board and the current mayoral system, so it was best to combine the two together.
I would like to thank Mary Levy for compiling lots of data about education in DC, and Matthew Frumin for pointing out these trends. I would also like to thank many DC students, parents, and teachers (current or otherwise) who have told me their stories.
The Every Student Succeeds Act is supposed to bring about a big change in school improvement. The law says states and districts can use any kind of interventions they want in low-performing schools, as long as they have evidence to back them up.
But the provision has some experts worried. They’re concerned that there just aren’t enough strategies with a big research base behind them for schools to choose from. These experts also worried that district officials may not have the capacity or expertise to figure out which interventions will actually work.
Districts, they’ve said, may end up doing the same things they have before, and may end up getting the same results.
“My guess is, you’ll see a lot of people doing the things they were already doing,” said Terra Wallin, who worked as a career staffer at the federal Education Department on school turnaround issues and is now a consultant with Education First, a policy organization that is working with states on ESSA implementation. “You’ll see a lot of providers approaching schools or districts to say, ‘Look, we meet the evidence standard,'” Wallin said…
Read the full article here: May require an Education Week subscription.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is approving plans that fly in the face of the Every Student Succeeds Act’s protections for vulnerable children, according to more than a dozen civil rights groups, including the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
The groups sent a letter Tuesday to Democratic and Republican leaders on the House and Senate education committees asking them to tell DeVos to stop approving “unlawful” plans.
“We call on you to fulfill your role in ESSA’s implementation and to correct the Department of Education’s flawed approval of state plans that do not comply core equity provisions of the law,” the groups wrote to Sens. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., as well as Reps. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., and Bobby Scott, D-Va.
This is far from the first time that the civil rights community—and Democratic lawmakers—have questioned DeVos’ approach to plan approval. The Alliance for Excellent Education, one of the 17 groups that signed off on the letter, put together a legal brief questioning whether some of the plans that DeVos has approved meet ESSA’s requirements. And both Murray and Scott have written letters to DeVos saying she is flouting the law.
I spent most of my first year of grad school sitting in the back row of class with my hood up. There were nearly 40 of us in the cohort. Two were Black.
My hoodie was an act of silent dissent. Today, I completely understand when my students want to do the same, even with me in front of the room. Academia and public schools are spaces where people of color often feel underrepresented, unwelcome and unheard.
From third grade through high school, I was a student in a series of neighborhood public schools. Afterward, I went to community college and then on to a public liberal arts college where I earned my bachelor’s and eventually my master’s degree. Each phase of my educational journey shared two characteristics:
The further I progressed, the fewer Black and Brown classmates I had.
As I progressed, regardless of the demographics of the student population, the faculty and administrators were uniformly nearly all White.
That needs to change.
An organization I am part of, the National Network of State Teachers of the Year, recently released videos designed to provoke conversations that will lead to this kind of change. Called Courageous Conversations About Race in Schools, the videos provide an effective starting point for real discussions that should be happening in schools — particularly in colleges and universities across this country.
Research tells us that upwards of 80 percent of U.S. teachers are White. Different research tells us that nearly 80 percent of teachers are female. Obviously, those Venn diagrams overlap in a largely White and female workforce.
At the same time, because of higher birth rates among immigrant populations and the “mysterious phenomenon” of disproportionately high numbers of White children in private schools, a majority of the population of students in public school are students of color, and those numbers are headed even higher, based on enrollment numbers in lower grades.
Schools systems need to do a better job of attracting and retaining effective teachers of color. Students of color need to see more people of color in positions of expertise and authority, and teachers need to be conversant and literate in the cultural traditions that are present in their classrooms. None of these statements should be controversial.
The lack of representation is an equity issue, and to resolve it we can look to lessons elsewhere in our society. During the Vietnam War, the Pentagon realized that majority Brown platoons of soldiers and Marines wouldn’t take life-or-death orders from a uniformly White officer corps. The Pentagon thus underwent an intentional effort to diversify the officer corps. Since then, the Pentagon has submitted amicus curiae briefs in every major affirmative action case before the U.S. Supreme Court because they understand that representation matters.
Time for a representation disruption
The word “disruption” gets hurled around frequently in business and increasingly in education. Usually, it’s about handing Silicon Valley tech bros a metric ton of venture capital to sprinkle the #EdTech fairy dust of the moment. But I’m going to argue that when it comes to teacher diversity and representation in schools, we actually need disruption.
In my neck of the woods, the numbers are especially grim: There are only about 800 Black teachers in all of Washington State. In my 12-year teaching career, I have never worked with another Black male general education teacher.
There’s no reason for me to be alone. We see talented students of color all over higher education because universities know how to recruit them. As Jeff Duncan-Andrade says, “Look at any college football or basketball team and tell me colleges don’t know how to recruit Black talent. When I was a kid I thought Georgetown was an HBCU.”
But it can’t just be student-athletes. We need to bring in students who can increase teacher diversity. It’s imperative-and it’s well within our power.
Nate Bowling is a high school government teacher in Tacoma, Washington, who was named the 2016 Washington State Teacher of the year and a finalist for National Teacher of the Year.
By Sheila Edwards Lange, Ph.D.,President, Seattle Central College
THE SEATTLE MEDIUM — On my desk, like many of you, I have a mousepad.
On my mousepad is a picture of African American students at work in a segregated classroom in 1945. Above that picture is the word OPPORTUNITY. Below, it reads, “Being able to see past traditional barriers and having an intense belief in your ideas and abilities will help you take advantage of any opportunity.”
I purchased this mousepad on a visit to the National Civil Rights Museum, mere feet from where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed 50 years ago.
Although that mousepad is a mundane detail in my day-to-day work, it is a daily reminder of the fight for opportunity at the heart of Dr. King’s work. That mission is as important now as it was 50 years ago. And, as an educator, it is a mission that I am connected to and responsible for.
In the simplest terms, education is a civil right. Access to education is access to opportunity. It is the path to career advancement. The key to closing the income gap. It can drive equity in housing. It is a proven determinant of overall health and wellbeing. It will mold the future African American leaders of industry, politics and social justice.
But as I look at the state of our education system, it’s abundantly clear that our work in securing educational equality is far from finished.
We live in a state with one of the nation’s most regressive tax structures and an education system so chronically underfunded that the Washington State Supreme Court demanded that our legislature find billions of dollars to support schools by 2018. Beyond just securing the funds our schools need, we face an uphill battle to ensure these funds are distributed equitably to the schools that need it most.
With only one in five workers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers identifying as black or Latino, we face a diversity problem and growing income gap in the region’s most lucrative careers. Closing this gap will require educational innovation and proactive policies from employers to create new paths to high-paying jobs.
And with Seattle’s changing economy and skyrocketing cost of living, these pressures will only continue to build.
That is not to say that we haven’t made incredible progress. As a community, and as a country, we have come a long way since Dr. King’s death in 1968. The fact that I, an African American woman, the granddaughter of a sharecropper and a maid, am writing this from behind a college president’s desk is a testament to that progress. But in the 50th year after Dr. King’s death, I would like to challenge our community to rediscover his sense of urgency and reignite the resolve and focus that fueled the progress of the 1960s civil rights movement.
Together, we can make Seattle an example to our nation of what is possible when education is accessible. We can define equal opportunity. We can prove that fostering professional communities made up of diverse cultures, backgrounds and perspectives is not only the right thing to do socially, it is the recipe for innovation.
I invite you to join the Seattle Colleges to help make educational equality a reality. If you are a business leader, consider partnering with us to find the employees your company needs to thrive. If you are a parent, introduce your kids to the affordable, local opportunities provided by the Seattle Colleges. If you are a teacher or guidance counselor, help your students see that a great postsecondary education can begin with community college.
Together we can create a future full of opportunity. As a community of educators, business leaders, parents, voters and activists, it is time to fulfill Dr. King’s vision.
DEFENDER NEWS NETWORK — Believing that “black is beautiful,” an important mantra of self-acceptance and self-love, could pay major dividends in school, a new study finds.
An article in the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education focuses on a new study from Sheretta Butler-Barnes, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis, which finds that young black women with “strong racial identity” are more likely to be academically engaged, curious and persistent.
The survey looked at 733 black middle and high school girls in “three socio-economically school districts in the Midwest,” according to the JBHE.
The study, “Promoting Resilience Among African American Girls: Racial Identity as a Protective Factor,” was published on the Child Development journal website and found that feeling positive about being black, along with feeling supported by their schools, correlated with the girls’ greater academic motivation.
Researchers also found that feeling good about your racial identity could act as a buffer for students in “hostile or negative” academic environments.
“Persons of color who have unhealthy racial identity beliefs tend to perform lower in school and have more symptoms of depression,” Butler-Barnes noted.
“We found that feeling positive about being Black, and feeling support and belonging at school, may be especially important for African-American girls’ classroom engagement and curiosity,” Butler-Barnes added. “Feeling connected to the school may also work together with racial identity attitudes to improve academic outcomes.”
That study’s findings appear to support another recent study, from the University of Washington, which found that cultivating pride in black culture and identity led one group of girls at a Seattle-area middle school to express greater confidence. More than that, both the girls and their teachers reported a stronger connection to their school and greater involvement.
As the University of Washington website notes, the participants in the study took a 12-week course that combined mindfulness teachings with a cultural-enrichment curriculum. Not only did the girls identify more strongly with their black heritage, but their positive feelings toward other black people also increased significantly.
This cultural pride translated to stronger “humanist” beliefs among the girls—“a belief that they fit in with people of all races, that their racial heritage has value in society and that their race should not exclude them from being part of the larger community,”according to the UW website.
The study’s author, Janine Jones, who heads UW’s psychology program, notes that “there are a lot of girls who check out in school when they feel like they’re not seen, not understood or invested in by school personnel. There are a lot of negative perceptions of African-Americans, and the perception they receive is that it’s not a good thing to be black.”
Jones continued: “We may think it’s easier to avoid it than to address it. But if we start addressing oppression by countering it with the humanness of who these kids are, we’re more likely to keep them engaged and feeling a sense of belonging.”
In the summer of 2017, Charleena Lyles, a pregnant 30-year-old black mother was fatally shot by two white Seattle police officers in her home as her three young children looked on. Lyles, who had called the police to report a burglary, reportedly suffered from mental illness. She pulled a knife out of her pocket when the police entered her home, but rather than tasing or subduing her with pepper spray, they shot her seven times.
Days after the shooting, seven black Seattle high school students formed “New Generation,” a school activist group that led a walkout at Garfield High School to raise awareness about the young mother’s death and to organize in their school and community for racial justice. Uniting students with Charleena Lyles’ family on the one-year anniversary of her death, New Generation held a powerful assembly that launched the hashtag #RememberHerName to make sure that people don’t forget Charleena Lyles and the police violence that led to her death.
The death of Lyles is a symbol of the injustices the group of students has experienced and witnessed in their communities and even within their school. They wanted to take action not just for Charleena Lyles but for all people of color, especially their fellow students.
“We’re students of color and we share similar struggles, experience the same disadvantages, and strive to become more than what society has labeled us,” says Chardonnay Beaver, who founded New Generation along with classmates Janelle Gary, Myles Gillespie, Kevon Avery, Israel Presley, and Umoya McKinney.
“We’ve discovered that action is the first step in turning ideas of equality into reality. Because we’re students we have the opportunity to reach our peers directly.”
New Generation was a recipient of the 2018 Black Education Matters Student Activist Awards (BEMSAA), which gives recognition, support, and a $1,000 award to student leaders in the Seattle Public Schools who demonstrate exceptional leadership in struggles against racism—especially with an understanding of the intersections with sexism, homophobia, transphobia, Islamaphobia, class exploitation and other forms of oppression—within their school or community.
Over the past three years, nine Seattle Public Schools students and one youth organization – New Generation — have been honored with the award.
The program was founded by Jesse Hagopian, an Ethnic Studies teacher and co-adviser to the Black Student Union at Garfield High School in Seattle. Just like New Generation was spurred by violence, the award program was a positive outcome of a clash with police.
Do state plans for implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act do enough to shine a spotlight on historically disadvantaged groups of students—and do they give schools the tools they need to improve outcomes for those children?
“What we are seeing so far is not encouraging,” concludes a report from The Education Trust, a Washington-based organization that advocates for low-income and minority students. “For all the talk about equity surrounding ESSA, too many state leaders have taken a pass on clearly naming and acting on schools’ underperformance for low-income students, students of color, students with disabilities, and English learners.”
Education Trust, whose executive director, John B. King Jr., served as President Barack Obama’s last secretary of education, reviewed the 17 ESSA plans submitted to the department so far, as well as the 34 that have been submitted. It found that:
In general, states picked indicators that get at whether students are learning, including chronic absenteeism, college and career readiness, and on-track graduation. But some states picked so many indicators that it will be that there’s a “real risk” schools won’t have the incentive to improve on any of them, the advocacy group said. Example: Connecticut and Arkansas each have more than 10 indicators. Plus, some states, including Louisiana, have proposed indicators that aren’t ready for rollout yet…
Read the full story here: May require an Education Week subscription.