Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Harlem Miracle (from the NY Times)

Our policy-makers can learn a thing or two from The Harlem Children's Zone.--Dr. Louie F. Rodriguez
NY Times
May 8, 2009
Op-Ed Columnist
The Harlem Miracle
The fight against poverty produces great programs but disappointing results. You go visit an inner-city school, job-training program or community youth center and you meet incredible people doing wonderful things. Then you look at the results from the serious evaluations and you find that these inspiring places are only producing incremental gains.

That’s why I was startled when I received an e-mail message from Roland Fryer, a meticulous Harvard economist. It included this sentence: “The attached study has changed my life as a scientist.”

Fryer and his colleague Will Dobbie have just finished a rigorous assessment of the charter schools operated by the Harlem Children’s Zone. They compared students in these schools to students in New York City as a whole and to comparable students who entered the lottery to get into the Harlem Children’s Zone schools, but weren’t selected.

They found that the Harlem Children’s Zone schools produced “enormous” gains. The typical student entered the charter middle school, Promise Academy, in sixth grade and scored in the 39th percentile among New York City students in math. By the eighth grade, the typical student in the school was in the 74th percentile. The typical student entered the school scoring in the 39th percentile in English Language Arts (verbal ability). By eighth grade, the typical student was in the 53rd percentile.

Forgive some academic jargon, but the most common education reform ideas — reducing class size, raising teacher pay, enrolling kids in Head Start — produce gains of about 0.1 or 0.2 or 0.3 standard deviations. If you study policy, those are the sorts of improvements you live with every day. Promise Academy produced gains of 1.3 and 1.4 standard deviations. That’s off the charts. In math, Promise Academy eliminated the achievement gap between its black students and the city average for white students.

Let me repeat that. It eliminated the black-white achievement gap. “The results changed my life as a researcher because I am no longer interested in marginal changes,” Fryer wrote in a subsequent e-mail. What Geoffrey Canada, Harlem Children’s Zone’s founder and president, has done is “the equivalent of curing cancer for these kids. It’s amazing. It should be celebrated. But it almost doesn’t matter if we stop there. We don’t have a way to replicate his cure, and we need one since so many of our kids are dying — literally and figuratively.”

These results are powerful evidence in a long-running debate. Some experts, mostly surrounding the education establishment, argue that schools alone can’t produce big changes. The problems are in society, and you have to work on broader issues like economic inequality. Reformers, on the other hand, have argued that school-based approaches can produce big results. The Harlem Children’s Zone results suggest the reformers are right. The Promise Academy does provide health and psychological services, but it helps kids who aren’t even involved in the other programs the organization offers.

To my mind, the results also vindicate an emerging model for low-income students. Over the past decade, dozens of charter and independent schools, like Promise Academy, have become no excuses schools. The basic theory is that middle-class kids enter adolescence with certain working models in their heads: what I can achieve; how to control impulses; how to work hard. Many kids from poorer, disorganized homes don’t have these internalized models. The schools create a disciplined, orderly and demanding counterculture to inculcate middle-class values.

To understand the culture in these schools, I’d recommend “Whatever It Takes,” a gripping account of Harlem Children’s Zone by my Times colleague Paul Tough, and “Sweating the Small Stuff,” a superb survey of these sorts of schools by David Whitman.

Basically, the no excuses schools pay meticulous attention to behavior and attitudes. They teach students how to look at the person who is talking, how to shake hands. These schools are academically rigorous and college-focused. Promise Academy students who are performing below grade level spent twice as much time in school as other students in New York City. Students who are performing at grade level spend 50 percent more time in school.

They also smash the normal bureaucratic strictures that bind leaders in regular schools. Promise Academy went through a tumultuous period as Canada searched for the right teachers. Nearly half of the teachers did not return for the 2005-2006 school year. A third didn’t return for the 2006-2007 year. Assessments are rigorous. Standardized tests are woven into the fabric of school life.

The approach works. Ever since welfare reform, we have had success with intrusive government programs that combine paternalistic leadership, sufficient funding and a ferocious commitment to traditional, middle-class values. We may have found a remedy for the achievement gap. Which city is going to take up the challenge? Omaha? Chicago? Yours?

U.S. Courts--Enemies of Education (from

So, will it take a legal decision or policy to realize this constitutional principle?--Dr. Louie F. Rodriguez
U.S. Courts--Enemies of Education

Friday 08 May 2009

by: David Bacon, t r u t h o u t | Perspective

The first day of desegregated schooling after Brown v. Board of Education, September 8, 1954, depicted here at Fort Myer Elementary School in Virginia. The Supreme Court is still dealing with educational inequality issues. (Photo: Bettmann / Corbis)
Sacramento, California - Is there a "constitutional right to education"?

Legal scholar and civil rights advocate Erwin Chemerinsky says there is. "There has to be a right to education in the Constitution," he declares, "and equal protection is a Constitutional imperative."

But according to Chemerinsky, this right has been fundamentally undermined by the Supreme Court. With the retirement of Justice David Souter, and the possible retirement in the next few years of Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and John Paul Stevens, the role of the court in defending the right to education will be thrust into the national spotlight. What role might their replacements play in guaranteeing education to American children, and reversing the conservative momentum of the last three decades?

Chemerinsky believes that without popular pressure and new judicial appointments that reverse the present course, the right to education will be further constricted, and even lost. Education itself in the United States is in greater danger than ever because of the steady "deconstitutionalization" of this right, he asserts. "The Supreme Court has followed a steady course over the last 35 years of undermining the right to education."

Chemerinsky has a long history as a civil rights advocate, which turned his appointment in 2007 as the founding dean of the University of California, Irvine School of Law into a fight. Although the university regents approved him, UCI Chancellor Michael V. Drake, who originally hired him, withdrew the invitation, saying Chemerinsky's views were "polarizing."

While Drake claimed that he had not received any pressure to withdraw the nomination, media reports unearthed efforts by conservative California Supreme Court Chief Justice Ronald George, Los Angeles Supervisor Mike Antonovich and a group of Orange County Republicans to kill the appointment. Although Chemerinsky is of one of the country's most respected constitutional scholars, they cited his opposition to the death penalty and his support for civil rights. In the end, his reputation and his defense by legal authorities nationwide moved UCI to restore the appointment.

In speaking to a meeting of California teachers earlier this year, Chemerinsky gave ample indication of the reasons why some of the most right-wing elements in California politics might not want to see him head one of its most prestigious law schools. He recalled the case of Rodriguez vs. the San Antonio Board of Education, decided in 1973. In that case, he explained, the plaintiffs proved a disparity in funding of 4 or 5 to one, between poor Latino communities and more affluent Anglo ones in that city. In a 5-4 decision, however, the Supreme Court held, in a decision written by Justice Louis Powell, that there is no right to education in the US Constitution. Wealth disparities, therefore, were permissible, even under the equal protection language of the 14th Amendment.

"Many expressed surprise," he noted, "since states require the education of minors in their own Constitutions. But Powell ruled there was no right to this on a federal level." Other similar decisions followed. The funding disparities noted in Texas, he says, are no different from those in California districts.

Chemerinsky connected this philosophy to the Supreme Court's decision upholding the legality of school vouchers. "They have one purpose only," he asserted. "That is to take funds out of the public school system and transfer them to parochial schools. In a 1982 decision, the court found that in Cleveland, where 95 percent of voucher money went to religious parochial schools, the system did not amount to state support of religious instruction. "Fortunately," he said, "the voucher system hasn't caught on, but the court has ruled it legal."

In this legal environment it's no surprise, therefore, that he views political action as necessary to the preservation and extension of civil rights. In fact, while he paints a dark picture of the legal panorama, he sees the main possibility for change arising from the election of the new administration of President Barack Obama. A window for change has opened, but Chemerinsky warns it will not stay open long. He cites the early years of the Clinton administration, which delayed on the appointment of new judges. After two years in office, and the loss of Congress to the Republicans in 1994, that administration began appointing judges as conservative as those appointed by Clinton's predecessor. The appointments were justified as political necessity - only those would "slide through."

Chemerinsky is a legal authority on the impact of race on education, and says that political action in support of desegregation has been integrally connected with extending the right to education. Some people believe, he says, that the watershed Brown vs. Board of Education immediately desegregated schools, thus ensuring the right to equal education for all students. In reality, while the Supreme Court held that segregation, the system of "separate but equal," was unconstitutional in 1954, for the next ten years there was no movement to comply with the decision. It was only after Title 6, the Civil Rights Act, threatened to withhold funds from schools that didn't desegregate that compliance began. "From 1964 to 1988, schools became less racially segregated as a result," he recalled. "But since 1988, they've become more segregated, and at an accelerating rate."

He traced the change to a 1974 case that prohibited the transfer of students between different school districts in order to desegregate schools. "In Chicago, where I grew up, the schools are now 95 percent black and Latino, yet just over the border, they're 95 percent white, and this is true in almost every metropolitan area. Yet the court said there's no remedy for this." This was followed by other decisions in the early 1990's, holding that once desegregation orders had been in effect for a brief time, those orders should end, whether or not the effect of doing so would lead to further resegregation. Then even voluntary desegregation plans that used race as one factor in assigning students were held unconstitutional by further 5-to-4 Supreme Court rulings.

In California, Chemerinsky described a similar impact from Proposition 209, which he campaigned unsuccessfully to defeat. He cites the disparity in racial diversity between private law schools, which are not constrained by Proposition 209's prohibition on affirmative action, and public law schools, which are. "Five years afterwards, the Stanford Law School had 9.5 percent African-American students, and USC 11 percent. UC Berkeley's Boalt Law School had 3 percent and UCLA 2 percent. One student told me that in her three years at Boalt she never had a black student in her class. The Supreme Court," he warned, "is likely soon to constitutionalize Prop 209."

Even the erosion of academic freedom, Chemerinsky asserts, is connected to court decisions undermining the right to education and desegregation. He cited the Supreme Court's decision in the Garcetti case in Los Angeles, holding that public employees have no First Amendment protection for speech on the job, even when they're fired for carrying out their responsibilities. The court has similarly eroded the rights of students to free speech, he says. "How can you teach students about the First Amendment if the people teaching them, and they themselves as students, have no First Amendment rights?" he asks.

"This can be changed, however, and it must be changed," he concludes.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Scholars Probe Diverse Effects of Exit Exams (from Ed Week)

This should be examined in Florida as well, especially given the dismal graduation rates. --Dr. Louie F. Rodriguez
Scholars Probe Diverse Effects of Exit Exams
State Graduation Tests Found to Hit Certain Groups Harder
By Debra Viadero

A study released last week suggesting that California’s high school exit exams are affecting some student demographic groups more than others is the latest in a small spate of studies pointing to trade-offs from policies that require high school students to pass state tests to graduate.

Twenty-six states have exit exams in place­ or will by 2012, according to the Center on Education Policy, a Washington-based group that tracks accountability policies.

While proponents see the exams as a way to spur students to higher levels of achievement, critics worry that the requirements come down harder on students from poor families, minority groups, or underresourced schools.

The California study, which was released April 22 by the Institute for Research on Education Policy and Practice at Stanford University, gauges the effect of the Golden State’s 6-year-old graduation policy on the first three graduating classes to take the new exit exams in four of the state’s largest districts. Collectively enrolling 110,000 high school students, the districts serve students in Fresno, Long Beach, San Diego, and San Francisco.

State Exit Exams
Twenty-six states have exit exams in place or will by 2012, according to the Center on Education Policy, a Washington-based group that tracks accountability policies.

SOURCE: Center on Education Policy, May 2008Researchers found that, after 2004, when 10th graders took the exit exams for the first time, graduation rates across the four districts declined by 3.6 to 4.5 percentage points each year.

During the same time period, student achievement, as measured by other state tests that the students take in 11th grade, did not significantly improve.

The detrimental effects of the new policy were harder on girls in the bottom achievement quartile than on boys. Girls experienced a 19-percentage point drop in graduation rates after the California High School Exit Exam, or CAHSEE, was implemented, while the graduation rate for boys with similar academic profiles decreased by 12 percentage points over the same period.

Likewise, graduation rates among the poorest-performing black, Hispanic, and Asian-American students declined by 15 to 19 percentage points following the enactment of the exit-exam policy. The comparable graduation-rate drop for white students in the same achievement quartile was 1 percentage point.

“These are clearly troubling, and no one can be happy with a policy that is having such disproportionate effects,” said Sean F. Reardon, an associate professor of education at Stanford who led the study.

Effects of Failing
Results for other working papers that are being circulated in academic and education policy circles suggest somewhat similar stories in other states.

In Massachusetts, for instance, a group of Harvard University researchers, in a study looking just at students who barely passed or barely failed that state’s exit exam in 10th grade, found that being labeled a failure can have a detrimental effect on low-income students in urban schools.

Even though students have plenty of opportunities to retake the exam—and most do—poor, inner-city students who just missed the passing cutoff in 10th grade are 8 percentage points less likely to graduate on time than demographically similar students who just barely passed, even though both groups scored at roughly the same levels on the 10th grade exam. Failing or passing the tests seems to have no statistically significant effect, though, on the probability of graduation for wealthier, suburban students.

And in New Jersey, which in the 1980s became one of the first states to require students to pass a statewide assessment to get a diploma, a not-yet-published study that also looks at students at the pass-fail margin shows a similar result. It finds that barely failing the test decreases the likelihood of graduation for students overall and especially so for black, Hispanic, and low-income students.

“I’m very sympathetic to the argument that we need to convey and find ways to enforce high expectations for students,” said Thomas S. Dee, an economist at Swarthmore College, in Swarthmore, Pa., who has also studied what happens in states across the nation when they enact graduation-exam requirements. He is not connected to the California, Massachusetts, and New Jersey studies.

“But I’m uncomfortable with this form of doing it, because it targets very strong penalties on the most at-risk students,” Mr. Dee continued. “The pejorative consequences appear to be concentrated in populations and communities that lack the capacity to meet these standards.”

But Jay P. Greene, another expert who has studied the effects of exit-exam policies across states, said apparent test-score disparities may not be reason enough to dismantle such policies.

“It’s sort of like blaming the thermometer for fevers,” said Mr. Greene, a professor of education reform at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. “There are differential passing rates for racial and ethnic groups, but it doesn’t speak about the test. It speaks about different educational opportunities and differing levels of social change.”

“The easiest way to maximize the graduation rate and ensure there is no differential impact is to give everyone a diploma at birth,” he said. School systems don’t do that, he added, because their diplomas are intended to signal that students possess certain skills that are needed to succeed.

Benefits vs. Costs
In California, state schools Superintendent Jack O’Connell, agreed with Mr. Greene.

“I continue to believe that the exit exam plays an important role in our work to ensure that a high school diploma has meaning,” he said in a statement. “I believe that the biggest mistake we could make is to view this report as a reason to lower our expectations for any student.”

While California’s effort did not seem to spur any achievement gains, the lead author of the Massachusetts study noted that achievement scores in that state, as measured by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, have risen in the 11 years since the state began administering its rigorous Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System, or MCAS, tests. Passing the tests became a graduation requirement with the class of 2003.

“But there’s no evidence on whether that’s the result of the exit exam or more money being put into the system,” said John P. Papay, a graduate student in education at Harvard and the primary author of that study.

At this point in the research process, the Harvard researchers are also hard-pressed to say whether the differential effects they found among Massachusetts students at the passing margin were due to the positive effects of passing the test or the negative effects of failing.

“Passing might give students more confidence,” Mr. Papay added, “but failing might make them more discouraged.”

Likewise, theories vary as to why exit-exam requirements seem to affect different groups of students differently. The usual explanation is that disadvantaged students often attend schools with fewer resources, greater challenges, and less-credentialed teachers than the schools that enroll more-advantaged students. And students from affluent families, many of whom typically are white, may have better access to tutors and other kinds of supports to enable them to pass their exams on another try.

In the California study, though, those kinds of explanations didn’t fit the data. For one, the researchers could find no effect for the policy change on low-income students, only for students of color and female students. The researchers also tried to test the idea that differences among schools were to blame by analyzing data for students within the same schools, but they got the same pattern of results.

That led the research team to advance a new explanation for the differences in effects: stereotype threat. The term refers to the tendency of people to fare less well on tests when they fear their efforts will confirm a negative stereotype about their group.

Psychological Threats
It was first coined by the psychologists Claude M. Steele and Joshua Aronson, who showed in a 1995 experiment that African-American students performed more poorly than white students when their race was emphasized in some way.

More than 300 experiments since then have demonstrated the same tendency among women, Asian-Americans, and even a group of white men taking a math test alongside Asian-American students.

The California researchers said stereotype threat became a likely explanation after they looked at students’ past scores on state tests. The data suggested that black students, girls, Latino students, and Asian-Americans had all underperformed on the exit exam in ways that could be deemed characteristically stereotypical. Asian-American students, for instance, turned in lower-than-predicted performances on the English section. Girls underperformed in math.

“It’s a very specific pattern, so it’s hard to explain based on effort,” said Mr. Reardon. “That’s what persuaded me that we have this stereotype-threat story going on, that we have this other set of tests to compare it to, and they don’t show the same pattern.”

Mr. Reardon said a large body of research points to classroom interventions to lessen perceived psychological threats for students. Schools might also provide additional instruction to low-achieving students or explore new ways to hold schools accountable for student achievement, he suggested.

Russell W. Rumberger, a professor of educational leadership and organization at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said growing numbers of states, including Indiana, Massachusetts, and Texas, are also exploring requiring students to pass end-of-course tests in individual subjects, rather than broader exit exams, as a potentially fairer way to boost graduation rates for some students without diminishing the value of a diploma. ("Exit Scramble," Aug. 13, 2008.)

“The cynic in me worries that we’re just going to continue to see these policies proliferate, because it seems like an obvious way to convey the expectations that we should have for students,” Mr. Dee said, “and the negative effects appear to be hidden from public discussion.”

Vol. 28, Issue 30, Pages 1,10-11

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Miami Edison High student honored for race-relations work (from The Miami Herald

I am so proud of Tranette. This initiative was born out of our collaborative work between FIU and the local public schools. --Dr. Louie F. Rodriguez
The Miami Herald
Posted on Tue, Apr. 21, 2009
Miami Edison High student honored for race-relations work

When Tranette Myrthil was arrested after a racially charged melee involving hundreds of students and dozens of police officers at Miami Edison last spring, she was left dispirited.
''At first, I was thinking negatively about everything,'' Myrthil recalled. ``My mom wanted to take me out of Edison. I had to beg to stay for my senior year.''

But in the months that followed, Myrthil decided to do something positive: She designed a curriculum to help teachers-in-training understand the needs of urban students.

On Wednesday, Myrthil will be named this year's recipient of the Princeton Prize in Race Relations. She'll receive a $1,000 cash prize Wednesday -- and next month will fly to the New Jersey campus for a student symposium on race.

''I'm really proud,'' said Myrthil, 18, who is headed to the University of North Florida this fall. ``I'm glad something good came out of that whole situation.''

The Princeton Prize is awarded by the Princeton University Club of South Florida. It honors high school students who have worked to further racial harmony in their communities.

Myrthil was selected for her efforts to build bridges between students and teachers, said Princeton Prize committee member Jonathan Colan.

''The more understanding there is between those two groups, the better schools can be in improving the school community,'' said Colan, an assistant U.S. attorney in Miami.

Nikisha Valdez, an American history teacher at Edison and Myrthil's mentor, applauded Myrthil's efforts.

''She's going to have a great career in advocacy, or maybe even education reform,'' Valdez said.

The melee at Edison made headlines last spring -- and underscored tensions between police and the Little Haiti community.

The clash was born from a student protest. Students said they had gathered in response to allegations that an assistant principal had manhandled a student.

Tensions escalated when some of the students threw food and water at the school police officers. Police say the students then threw chairs and fire extinguishers, prompting the officers at Edison to call for help.

At one point, as many as 60 police cars encircled the campus.

An all-out brawl ensued inside.

In the end, 10 police officers were treated for minor injuries. Six students were hurt. And more than two dozen teens were arrested -- among them Myrthil.

She says she wasn't involved in the scuffle, but happened to be in the outdoor lunch area at the time.

The charges against her and all of her peers were later dropped; prosecutors had determined the arrest reports wouldn't hold up in court.

At the time, Myrthil was enrolled in Valdez's American history class. She and her classmates were working on a project to better the lines of communication between students and teachers.

Valdez encouraged Myrthil to seize the opportunity and make positive changes in the community.

''She helped me to realize that I could do more positive things than just sitting around here and being negative,'' Myrthil said.

After the melee, Myrthil and her classmates spoke directly to teachers-in-training at Florida International University. The teens made suggestions about how to engage students -- and how to make them feel part of the school community.

''After the presentation, some of the teachers said they didn't know students from a school like Edison could be intelligent,'' Myrthil said. ``We changed their mind-set. We broke down the stereotype they had of us.''

Colan, who sits on the Princeton Prize committee, said the group was happy to see this year's winner come from Edison.

''It shows that people are dedicated -- even in the face of what had been a bad situation last year,'' he said.

Myrthil has not slowed in her efforts to help the Edison community.

This year, Myrthil and her peers on the Mayor's Youth Council have been working to eradicate hopelessness among students.

As part of the project, Myrthil has helped bring Edison students to college fairs and teen leadership conferences, she said.

Myrthil isn't sure what her future will hold, but she hopes to one day start a foundation to aid homeless children.

''Whatever I end up doing, I just want to make sure I help people,'' she said.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

School budget cuts: Broward considers switch to four-day weeks (from Sun-Sentinel)

I'm quoted in the story below regarding reform issues in Broward County, Florida.
-Dr. Louie F. Rodriguez


South Florida
School budget cuts: Broward considers switch to four-day weeks
Broward considering switch to save money, but students could have too much free time
By Akilah Johnson

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

April 19, 2009

Two Pompano Beach High students sat in their Web design class, adjusting images, picking background colors and wondering what Broward County would look like if every public high school went to the four-day schedule they already have.

"That's a lot of high school students out on Fridays," junior Khamisha Remikie said of the more than 70,200 teens whose weeks could be Friday-free if the Broward County School Board shuts all district high schools one day a week to save money, as members are considering.

Similar discussions are being held in the halls of the state Capitol as lawmakers look for ways to help districts meet budget shortfalls by allowing county school systems the flexibility to shorten school weeks. But some school officials, including those in Palm Beach County, are leery of the plan, which they say sounds good in theory but could be a logistical nightmare.

The abbreviated schedule works at Pompano Beach High, — Florida's only public high school with a four-day school week.

Shorter weeks mean longer days and classes that last nearly two hours, concessions Pompano Beach students say they are more than willing to make for the privilege of a three-day weekend. School starts at 7:05 a.m. and ends at 3:05 p.m.

"We had 45-minute classes because of FCAT, and we didn't do anything," sophomore Stephanie Zielinska said as she added text to her Jacqueline Kennedy Web page. "By the time you get your books out, you don't get in as deep as you should."

In fact, the six-page Web site, complete with dynamic graphics and audio slide shows, that Zielinska and Remikie are working on would be almost impossible to complete in a traditional 50-minute class, their teacher agreed.

"I can tell you right now that I love having a 110-minute block because we get so much accomplished," Cassandra Gresham said as her students worked. "I absolutely love it."

About one in four school districts nationwide have either dropped a day or considered doing so to cut costs, according to a 2008 survey by the American Association of School Administrators. Mostly small, rural districts have switched to truncated schedules, educators say.

Louie F. Rodriguez, who teaches urban public education at Florida International University, said shortening a school week is a structural change that doesn't necessarily improve or harm classroom learning. Having more impact, Rodriguez said, are relationships between students and adults and a school's culture.

"That's not going to change if there's a high-quality teacher in the classroom five days a week or four days a week," he said.

Pompano Beach High began compressing five days of regular classroom learning into four about eight years ago.

And now Broward, like the rest of Florida, is considering carving a day from the school week to save money by not having buses rumbling down streets or air-conditioning systems cooling schools.

"I don't like the idea that I have to talk about a four-day week," said Broward School Board Chairwoman Maureen Dinnen, who taught high school for 30 years. "Do I want all those high schoolers roaming the streets on Friday? I'm sure they're lovely kids, but it frightens me."

But with a $130 million budget cut in the past two school years and another $75 million cut expected for next year, it's a conversation Broward school officials say they must have.

The sentiment is different in Palm Beach County, where Art Johnson, the schools superintendent, has said he can't recommend unleashing all the students on the community when most adults are working, no matter the savings.

Debra Robinson, a Palm Beach County School Board member, says many parents would be extremely inconvenienced by a four-day school week.

"I'd have lots of questions how families could adapt to it," she said. "It seems school schedules drive all family life."

Pembroke Pines Commissioner Angelo Castillo said the shorter school week might work with "better motivated students" at magnet schools.

"But for the everyday, traditional high schooler, that's another day off unsupervised," he said. "I think it's predictable that lower educational performance and higher youth-related crime will follow."

While elected officials might mind the condensed school week, some parents of high schoolers feel differently.

Mark Scanlon said that as long as Cypress Bay High School in Weston keeps its block-class schedule — dividing the day into four, 90-minute classes — he doesn't mind if his daughter, a freshman, gets a three-day weekend.

"Kids can be involved in classes longer and be involved in a more intensive learning environment," Scanlon said. "It's almost like a college experience."

Pompano Beach High Principal David Gordon said the truncated week works at his school for two reasons. First, the entire campus is a magnet, meaning all 1,200 students must maintain a 2.5 average to stay in its international affairs, international business or information technology programs. The other reason: the school's block schedule.

"The block is critical to me," Gordon said. With that schedule, he explained, nothing is sacrificed academically.

Gordon's students may spend Fridays away from campus, but they still have take-home schoolwork, even if it's less than at traditional schools, students say.

Ask a senior round table how they spend their day off and you'll hear itineraries packed with volunteer hours, household chores and school assignments.

Senior Alan Gates said he sleeps in until about 9 a.m. Fridays, only to spend the next seven to eight hours doing homework. "But I go at a more relaxed pace," the 17-year-old said. There are TV and Facebook breaks, with a long lunch thrown in for good measure.

He calls it a day by 5 p.m. — homework complete and the rest of the weekend ahead of him.

Gordon said he hopes students manage to sneak in a little beach time every now and then, given the eight-hour school days.

"We beat them up pretty good for four days," he said.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Report: Integration lags, even as suburban schools add minorities (from

The report seems to suggest that there is a growing suburban segregation occuring.
--Dr. Louie F. Rodriguez
Report: Integration lags, even as suburban schools add minorities
Story Highlights
Minorities made up 99 percent of increase in suburban school rolls, study says

Diversity rose, but typical white suburban students attend 75 percent-white schools

Expert: Racial differences in schools "cannot exist if schools are racially balanced"

Most-segregated suburban district lies in suburban Chicago, Illinois, study finds

(CNN) -- The nation's suburban schools added 3.4 million students to their rolls over the past 15 years -- and nearly all of them were minorities, according to a study released Tuesday.

Yet the new arrivals resulted in only a modest increase in the individual schools' racial and ethnic diversity, the study said.

"The school districts look like they are more diverse, but within your school districts, if the whites are in one school, the blacks in a different school and the Hispanics in yet a different school, it doesn't necessarily mean the suburban whites have more black and Hispanic classmates -- because they don't go to the same school," said Richard Fry, senior research associate at the Pew Hispanic Center in Washington, who wrote the report.

Using federal government data, Fry found that minority students made up 99 percent of the increase in suburban school enrollment between the 1993-94 and 2006-07 school years.

During that time, the student body at the nation's suburban schools went from 72 percent white to 59 percent white; from 12 percent black to 15 percent black; from 11 percent Hispanic to 20 percent Hispanic; and from 5 percent Asian to 6 percent Asian.

The diversity, however, is not reflected at the individual school level. For example, in 2006-07, the typical white suburban student attended a school whose student body was 75 percent white, down from 83 percent white in 1993-94, Fry wrote.

"So at a time when the white share of student enrollment in suburban school districts was falling by 13 percentage points, the exposure of the typical white suburban student to minority students in his or her own school was growing by a little more than half that much -- or 8 percentage points," the report said.

From another point of view, the typical black suburban student attended a school in 2006-07 that was 34 percent white, down from 43 percent white in 1993-94.

But Latino suburban students tended to become more segregated over the same time period -- in 2006-07, the typical such student was in a school that was 49 percent Latino, versus 42 percent Latino in 1993-94.

Suburban schools accounted for most of the change in demographics, according to the study, accounting for two-thirds of the 5.1 million increase in the number of students nationwide over that time period.

City schools tended to be more segregated than their suburban counterparts, the study said, with the typical urban black student attending a school with 60 percent black enrollees; and the typical Latino student attending a school with 63 percent Latino enrollment.

Minority students in rural areas and in towns tended to be more exposed to whites than were their suburban counterparts.

The typical black student in a town or rural area attended a school where whites composed 47 percent of the student body and blacks 44 percent. The typical Latino student in a town or rural area attended a school where whites made up 43 percent of the student body, and Latinos made up 47 percent.

Asians in suburban schools saw only a slight uptick in isolation -- from 23 percent Asian to 24 percent Asian over the time period.

However, "white students aren't going to school with as many black and Hispanic students as the aggregate school district enrollment numbers indicate," Fry said in a telephone interview.

School diversity has long been considered an important marker of racial equality in education.

"When students of different racial/ethnic backgrounds do not attend the same schools, the potential exists that they also may not attend the same type of schools, i.e., schools of similar quality and level of resources," Fry wrote. "Racial differences in school quality ... cannot exist if schools are racially balanced."

The study identified the nation's most-segregated suburban school district as Maywood-Melrose Park-Broadview 89 School District in suburban Chicago, Illinois, based on its "dissimilarity index" of 0.79.

That index means that 79 percent of the district's minority students would have to be moved to different schools in order for the schools' student bodies to mirror the ethnic makeup of the surrounding population, he said.

The 0.74 figure for suburban Atlanta, Georgia's, DeKalb County means "you would have to move about three-quarters of DeKalb County's black students to a different school" in order to get racial balance, he said.

Calls to school superintendents in both districts were not immediately returned.

"The suburbs seem to have grown a lot more diverse," Fry concluded. "The place you'd expect to see it is among kids. But when you actually look at where kids go to school, it's not clear that white kids are going to school with a whole bunch more different classmates than they used to -- a little bit more, but not as much as the aggregate measures would suggest."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Unequal Education (from In These Times Magazine)

Please click on the link below to read about some of challenges facing education in Miami and how my research is trying to address the problems.--Dr. Louie F. Rodriguez