Thursday, January 31, 2008

Enrollment Down, LAUSD Scraps Building Plans

The Los Angeles Unified School District is cutting back on plans for expanding new schools and new classrooms. The reason stated is that there has been a sharp decline in school enrollment over the past couple of years so the expansion and creation of new schools would seem useless. The reasons for the lack of enrollment point to lowering birth rates as well as the expense of living in and around L.A. More families move out of L.A. because of the expense of living in such a costly city, thereby lowering the enrollment.

According to Orfield, "many of the inequalities in schools, derive from the concentrated poverty that is the result of both historic and contemporary job discrimination and housing segregation." This case is no exception -- minority students and low-income white students would be the ones dropping out or leaving the L.A. schools, segregating the low-income students from middle to upper-middle class students.

The article quotes L.A. residents who support the cut-back, saying they don't believe the birth rates would rise as projected by the district. It is questionable as to whether this is really the only reason why the residents would want the cut-back because it also means that existing L.A. schools will enjoy increased support. The children of those who can afford to live within the school district would benefit from the smaller classes and the individual attention while ridding of the low-income students. The Coleman Report states that, "a pupil's achievement is strongly related to the educational backgrounds and aspirations of the other students in the school" It brings into question as to whether residents of children attending schools in the district are afraid of the negative effect of such a statement.

With this said, Orfield argues that desegregation can work in a metropolitan district like that of LAUSD by desegregating both the inner city and the suburbs. This, he argues, not only allows for the highest levels of integration while creating a framework of interracial area wide concern and involvement, but also stabilizes enrollment. We can see both a social capital good, and a human capital good evolve from this idea.
But, how many suburban white families are going to send their child to Jordan High in Watts?

-GROUP 2 , ED175

A Very Serious Defense of Standardized Testing

Is standardized testing all bad? No, of course not! How can a practice focusing on accountability be a bad thing? All other occupations have some kind of standard, so what makes teaching so special? If a doctor never actually cures a single patient or his patients never get better, should he be allowed to continue his practice?

Teachers teach, and we must have a way to measure their performance. After all, this is how society works. Teaching is not like babysitting in which we send over our children to school, and as long as they come home safely for dinner, we are happy. We want our children to learn, to compete, and to have sufficient knowledge when they graduate from high school. In order for that to happen, teachers need to teach. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that teachers are not teaching, but I want to see the results on paper!

Please don’t tell me that standardized tests encourage teachers teaching to the test. There are countries (e.g., Japan and Taiwan) that required students to take a college entrance exam. They are not complaining, aren’t they? In fact, according to the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, their students are doing so much better than the U.S. Can we say that by having a national academic standard, Japanese students and Taiwanese students are doing better in school? Standardized testing gives students a goal to achieve, so they do it!

“But we are not Japan! Our students are so heterogeneous. One size won’t fit all!” Well, this is a good argument. How is it possible for teachers to teach students coming from numerous cultural backgrounds and still expect all of them to achieve to the same level? Nobody said it’s going to be easy, but we have to try! By having a unified standard, we can educate our children in a much more effective way. Scholars around the country are researching the best way to teach lessons. The author of “The Teaching Gap”, James Hiebert, is currently leading a longitudinal study to figure out a lesson plan for all teachers to use at classrooms. It is possible.

Standardized test is necessary for our nation to be on the top of the world. Education is important. We realized how behind we were when Sputnik went up to the sky. It’s time for us to wake up and push our children to be the best they can be.


Taiwan Moves from Meritocracy

In Taiwan, people strongly believe that education is the best way to improve social mobility and shorten the gap between the wealthy and the poor. The main reason is because of our entrance examination and tuition.

Junior high school graduates need to take an entrance exam to study in senior high school, and senior high school graduates need to take another entrance exam to study in college. Students have better opportunities to get a good job if they get a high grade that helps them to study in a good school and popular program. Their future job is a reward of their hard work. Diligent and smart students from low SES families have chances to move from lower to higher stratification. As a result, social mobility occurs through this mechanism.

Different levels of tuition also improve this social mobility. Tuition at national/public colleges is much cheaper than at private schools, and most of the top schools in Taiwan are national universities. Therefore, another reward for diligent and smart students is cheaper tuition.

When educational reform started ten years ago, however, it gradually undermined these mechanisms. Before this reform, exam scores were the only criteria that schools used to choose students. Now students have multiple routes to enter a college. They can either apply to a program or take the exam. If they win a prize in an international competition, such as International Mathematical Olympia, they will be recommended to the best school. This policy, however, results in rural-urban inequality. Students can take advantage of their cultural capital to outperform others. Parents also use their physical capital to send their children to all kinds of cram schools, even for Chinese and music!

In sum, though the entrance exam oversimplifies individual differences, this exam and tuition policy helps to reduce inequality.


Pell Grants for Kids?

President Bush called again for a voucher-like program for low-income families in his final State of the Union address. Thinking about Kozol, one can see there are both liberty and equity arguments at play in the voucher debate.

Equity in public education hasn’t been particularly evident throughout history. Nonetheless, the argument against vouchers is that they will further enlarge the gap between the haves and have-nots, siphoning money from public schools to private, often religious, schools. Bush and other voucher supporters take more of a liberty approach, arguing that students and families should have the freedom to opt out of public schools when those schools are failing them. Without vouchers, one might argue, private schools will continue to be the domain of wealthy elite and failing public schools the domain of poor, often minority, students.

This is a highly contentious issue. But when one reads accounts of education in private schools, as in the Byrk, Lee, and Holland study of Catholic high schools, one cannot help but think that these schools are doing something right. Is the answer to allow more low-income students the opportunity to attend a Catholic or other private school, as the Bush proposal would do? I know that if I were a low-income parent faced with the thought of sending my kid to a public school with a poor reputation for positive educational outcomes, I wouldn’t reject out-of-hand a program that offered to help me give my kid a chance for a better schooling situation.

There will always be valid arguments that parents in a position to take advantage of these programs will be the higher-income, higher-social and cultural capital families. However, vigorous outreach programs aimed at parents and children in low-income schools could alter this dynamic. It remains, however, a tough idea to swallow for those of us who believe in public education.


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Missing Group

Having read a fair amount of articles in the field of educational psychology and taken a few sociology classes focus on inequality in the school system. I've noticed that there is one group of students that has been consistently skipped. Because of their social-economic status and academic achievements, they are just not that interesting to be looked at.

Stereotypically speaking, when investigating school performance and students’ academic achievements, a dichotomized method is often used. Generally, researchers study high performance schools vs. low performance schools, and/or high academic achieving students vs. low academic achieving students. Many significant findings are found from these comparisons between the high and the low. Educational psychologists study high-achieving students from high performance school because they want to know what contribute to these students’ success and assure they reach their potentials. These students can be found in the GATE program. High-achieving students from low performance schools are often studied to figure out why they are able to perform well in an environment that is not optimal for studying. These students were often rewarded with scholarships to pursue higher education. Low-achieving students form low performance schools become an interest of study for people’s desire to help, to close the gate between the high and the low, and to reach social equality. Many intervention programs are the results of this line of study.

One group in this 2X2 matrix is missing.

Few studies have investigated the low-achieving students from high performance school. Why is that? I don’t have an empirical answer for this question. This question has been in my mind for quite a while. I was in this group. I was a so-so student in a high performance high school. I will not go so far by saying nobody cared about my well-being, but I believe this is one area where a lot of educational psychologist and sociologist missed. In depth qualitative researches in the form of interviews (but not inclusively) have been done on all other three groups but not so much in this group. I would like to know more about this group’s emotional development, self-esteem formation, perception of schools and peers, future outlook…etc

As a person who is studying to become an educator, my responsible is to make sure schooling is as rewarding as possible to all students. When there is a group of people that has been consistently overlook because of their fortune being in a nice school, I want to make sure they are receiving equal amount of attention as everybody.


Waller’s 1930s expectations of teachers alive and well in 2008

An initial read of Willard Waller’s “The School and the Community” might have a lot of us asking, “Why is this article important today with its outdated notions of teacher propriety?” However, after reading a recent article on states wanting “tougher penalties for abusive teachers”, we might see that Waller’s ideas are not as antiquated after all.

The article discusses how 15 states want stronger oversight and tougher punishment for teachers who engage in “sexual misconduct” with students. A nationwide investigation puts the figure at over 2,500 teachers from 2001 through 2005 whose teaching credentials were revoked or denied due to allegations of sexual misconduct. Of course, the number is bigger due to underreporting.

I think the vast majority of people would agree that it is not acceptable for teachers (both male and female) to have romantic/sexual relationships with students, who are minors. This is an extreme case where I would argue that expecting teachers to uphold certain societal expectations (ex. no sex with students allowed) is a good thing for society. The questions each society/culture must address are—what are the boundaries to limiting teacher behavior? Should we have a moral teacher checklist that individuals will need to meet in order to become a teacher? Who in society gets to determine the moral standards teachers should have?


Publics, Privates, and Charters

Eli Broad believes that in situations where there is a lack of mayoral control, such as in Los Angeles, one needs to redevelop the schools from "bottom up". In response, Broad is donating more than $23 million to LA charter schools because of their successful ability to raise test scores in low income, urban communities. His views are supported by evidence that students attending these charter schools, such as KIPP and ASPIRE, are more efficiently tackling the academic obstacles that these students are facing.

This is an example of a public school adopting some of the positive aspects of a private school, such as increasing the salary of teachers and putting them through more intensive training. Students who live in low income communities and are unable to pay for the high private school tuition are able to attend these free charter schools and potentially achieve higher test scores than students who are attending public schools in the same district.

-GROUP 1, ED175

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Rich Get Richer

While California’s public schools are bracing for budget cuts, some of the country’s richest prep schools are feeling flush. According to the New York Times, both Andover and Exeter posted more than 20% gains on their already sizeable endowments last year, despite a looming recession and a sluggish stock market.

The secret to their financial success? Well-connected alumni. Both schools are famous breeding grounds for future Wall Street tycoons. And after Andover and Exeter grads make their fortunes; they give back to the alma mater – not just with donations, but also with investment advice. With big-name investors minding their portfolios for free, these schools make a killing, which allows them to spare no expense as they train the next generation of Wall Street tycoons. Bowles and Gintis couldn’t have invented a more apt example of social reproduction in American education.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Fate of the Black Middle Class

Seven years ago, Adam Gamoran predicted that in the 21st century educational disparities between Blacks and Whites would decline by means of the “virtuous cycle” and other factors. The virtuous cycle, he asserts, is the result of upward social mobility in the Black community, “just as Blacks who attended high school in the 1980s and 1990s benefited from the educational accomplishments of their parents, so their children will benefit from the further narrowing of educational inequalities” (p. 137).

But perhaps Mare’s position is more in line with the Pew Research Center’s disturbing and counterintuitive report documenting a trend in downward mobility among the Black middle class. The Pew Research Center found that 45% of the children of Black middle class parents “end up near poor”. How can this be? I will summarize a possibility offered by a columnist of USA Today:

1. The two-paycheck family is the most important factor driving up income and living standards in America. Yet, the percentage of married African Americans dropped 26 percentage points between 1969 and 1998. Although martial rates also dropped for White Americans, they were not as affected because of a much higher starting point.

2. African American women have a much higher college graduation rate than their male counterparts—this report says they graduate at twice the rate. Between 1974 and 2007 the media income for African American men fell by 12% and rose by 75% for African American women. Quoting directly, “a high-earning woman has little incentive to marry a low earning man”. Similar trends are noticeable in the Latina/o community.

3. Perhaps the most disturbing possibility, that “achieving middle class status is no guarantee that children will start achieving in school”. What about our discussions on social, cultural, and human capital and mobility through education? For those who are as disturbed as I, see Claude Steele’s stereotype threat for a potential (psychosocial) explanation.

4. The report also documented higher perceptions of racial discrimination among African Americans than among Whites. This reminded me of our discussion about the differences in market / economic returns for educated women/men and black/white people.

What would Adam Gamoran say?

The Intersection of Contest and Sponsored Mobility

According to Turner, America is by and large a country where contest mobility prevails. I agree with Turners assessment as Americans wholeheartedly buy into the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality. That is why it is particularly ironic to find parents and children clamoring to participate in the rare but flagrant examples of sponsored mobility.

Recently, I had the privilege of visiting Whitney High School, a public school in Cerritos for 7-12th graders that is well known for its amazing curriculum rich with AP courses and a talented cadre of teachers some of whom are Whitney alum. Not to mention the schools well developed college center that doubles as the library. The mission of Whitney High School is to “prepare academically proficient students for entrance to and success at their best matched colleges or universities.” By academically proficient the school means only the 13 strongest test-takers at each of the 19 elementary schools located in the same district as Whitney. Once identified these students are invited to join the Whitney community replete with quality college preparatory resources where they will be shaped into tomorrow’s college freshman. Not surprisingly, the parents of the chosen few are quick to make arrangements for their child to attend Whitney, even if that means relocating.

The selection of promising young people to attend Whitney is sponsored mobility at its best but what I find interesting is the thread of contest mobility woven into the selection process. A student is only deemed worthy of Whitney High School after outperforming all the other students in their elementary schools.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Coeducation in Afghanistan

"...women are seen as the repository of family honor, and the education of girls--whether in terms of the design of school buildings or in the way in which classes are conducted--needs to reflect that reality"

This quote looks like one that could be taken from the pages of American education history as we read about in the words of Tyack and Hansot. But, it is very current indeed, coming from an article in this week's TIME Magazine. The article is about the slow move toward educating girls in Afghanistan. Cultural values prohibit the mixing of girls and unrelated men, and families see no finanical benefit to educating girls in a society where their employment options are restricted.

It is interesting to hear the central conflict of our own nation as we moved toward co-education echoed in the words of a country and culture that is so different from our own. I tend to think of the inequalities that have existed in terms of gender in education as a tradition of devaluing females. But, this article makes clear that keeping girls from school has been, in part to protect a valued role girls play in society. It is clearly a moral issue described in this article. Seen from that light it is hard to criticize the decision to exclude girls, and my esteem for those young ladies and teachers who are breaking the mold has gone up exponentially.

Friday, January 25, 2008

'Helicopter Parents', Cultural Capital, and College Life

"According to a UCLA survey released today, a whopping 84% of college freshmen nationwide reported that Mom and Dad showed the right amount of involvement in the decision to go to college. Of those, 80.5% said they were fine with the amount of input their parents offered in choosing a school."

This article by the LA Times based on a UCLA survey of undergraduates shows a trend that is becoming more and more prevalent among young adults of this generation. Parental involvement in students' lives into the "college years" and beyond seems to be increasing all around the country. Some even go so far as to call these parents who hover over their child's every move, "helicopter parents". However, parents' input and oversight of their children also poses an interesting question about cultural capital: Are parents using their cultural capital to not only get their children into college, but also help advance their children through college on a path towards graduation?

The interesting part about this article is that the children seem to welcome their parents' involvement when it comes to academic affairs and do not feel that their parents are too overbearing. In effect, children are allowing their parents to use the cultural capital that parents learned from going through the college system. On the other side, parents are doing everything they can to make sure their child has the maximum benefits from a college education. However, not all students have the luxury of relying on their cultural capital and parental involvement.

This study found that Latino and Asian parents seemed to lack attention towards their college students which was often a result of language barriers or because parents were immigrants to the United States and did not know how to deal with the college system. Since parents seem to be greatly involved in the lives of their college students, what changes can be made to improve the parental involvement and build cultural capital amongst those marginalized groups?


Thursday, January 24, 2008

History of American Special Ed

The Future of Children Website maintained by Princeton University and the Brookings Institution includes many excellent resources for students of education policy in America. One article provides a very clear discussion of the history of Special Education in this country.

Special education of individuals with disabilities in America dveloped as almost an afterthought, not fully coming into the national policy picture until the early 1970s. What does this say about the way our country has historically viewed those with disabilities? In your opinion, have our views changed in the last 30 years?

Following the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1974 (IDEA), marked improvements were seen in graduation rates, employability and college enrollment and success for students with disabilities. Clearly, investing in the human capital of this group has paid off for not only for the individual but for society as a whole. But, has the return on investment been worth the high cost of educating these students? Current policies may reveal what our society thinks about this issue.

As the California High School Exit Exam (CAHSEE) requirement goes into full effect this year, many special education students will not be able to gradute high school despite their completion of required coursework and meeting the goals set forth in their Individualized Education Plans.
Laying aside the personal impact, what will happen to society's investment in educating these students when they are shut out of college and vocational programs, or better career paths? The high fail rate is also likely to have an effect on the views we collectively hold about "the disabled."

In order to look at the effect of the CAHSEE on special education students, I am proposing a study that looks at drop-out and graduation rates for these students as well as college admissions data. I would like to compare current data to data collected prior to the CAHSEE requirement. Dr. Domina has suggested looking across states with and without similar requirements. What might be the benefits and drawbacks of such an analysis? Which outcome variables would you include beyond those listed? Do you believe that a study of public data is sufficient, or would a case study design provide more helpful information?

- Janice Hansen, ED261

Can we compute our way to educational equality?

OLPC (one laptop per child) aims to create a $75 laptop. At the same time, Microsoft aims to create new opportunities for everyone through education by using software to create innovative learning experiences. With provision of TabletPC linked to wireless networks, they believe children can learn at their own pace.

It may be a coincidence that two associations announced very similar projects: using TabletPC or laptop. The implication of both of these projects is that educational inequality can be reduced through the provision of physical capital: computers with Internet connection. The problem, however, is not limited to technologies per se. Teachers with different backgrounds use technologies in different ways. Meskill, Mossop, DiAngelo, and Pasquale found that some novice teachers even used opportunities to use computers as a punishment and reinforcement. Thus, the problem is how to integrate technologies into in-class teaching.

I am not sure whether these projects have curriculum design of which teachers may take advantage or not. So let’s wait and see what these ambitious projects may contribute to the world.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

More on Immigration as Ascription

In response to Prof. Domina's "Immigration as Ascription," post last week, Group 5 wrote:
A lot immigrants came from collectivist cultures that view education as beneficial to the society as opposed to individuals. As a result, parents of immigrants do not see education as a main priority.
Immigration is one of the most important and debated issues in a wide array of policy circles, among educators, social and human rights activists, and lay citizens. This is a complex and multifaceted issue but for the purpose of this blog I will focus on the education of immigrants as a response to the aforementioned blog post.

First, generalizing immigrants' home cultures is a task that has challenged scholars for years because of the diversity of immigrants in this country; in addition to the diversity in country of origin, the following considerations further complicate the attempt to generalize immigrants: (a) generation, i.e. first, second, third, (b) political relationship between the US and the immigrants' country of origin, (c) political and social climate in US, i.e. distinct stereotypes/perceptions are associated with immigrants from different countries (d) immigration status e.g. undocumented v. documented, Permanent Resident v. Student Visa, etc. Already, a much more complex process becomes apparent and these are just a few considerations.

Second, although it is true that "a lot [of] immigrants came from collectivist cultures" this does not necessarily equate with the value they place on education. A perfect example of this contradiction is the Latina/o community; one of the most oft-cited reasons that Latina/o immigrants come to the United States is to improve the educational opportunity structure for their children. Education is highly valued in this community, yet Latinas/os (immigrant and US-born) are severely underrepresented in higher education and have the lowest educational attainment rates of all ethnic groups. Again, here is a group that values education very highly but has not found success at the same rate as their Asian counterparts, for example. In her book, "Unequal origins: Immigrant selection and the education of the second generation" Cynthia Feliciano of UCI has examined this issue and finds that the educational success of immigrants is influenced by structural, economic, and political factors. With care not to generalize, she finds a strong correlation between immigrants' social class status in the country of origin and their consequent success in the US--higher social class in the country of origin is highly correlated with subsequent educational success in the US.

Drawing from our readings on cultural capital, the connection between educational success of some immigrants and not others can be more readily appreciated as a function of class. In an attempt to simplify a comparison, picture two recently arrived immigrants who are identical in every way (gender, age, country of origin, language, cultural customs, religion, values, personality, etc.) except for their social class -- one benefitted from an upper/middle class upbringing, while the other lived in poverty/working class. Without overanalyzing, do you think one has a better chance of tapping into the cultural capital that is valued in the US educational system? Which one?


Blackburn Bucks the Tuition Trend

In an opposite move to the one recently proposed by the University of California, a small, private college has taken the tack of actually decreasing tuition. Why would they make such a move? This is especially a pertinent question because it is generally accepted that tuition moves in one direction (up). According to the president of Blackburn College, in Illinois, a major factor in the decision was that too much time was spent haggling with students and families over competing aid packages from other colleges.

Taking the same cultural capital analysis used in the UC post, we can imagine why this might be the case. Students and families with high cultural capital know that you can actually bargain with colleges on their financial aid packages. This creates strange dynamics at the colleges and universities in which tuition is raised so that they can offer more “merit” aid to applicants. This allows for more maneuverability in attracting and haggling with high income/high cultural capital students to whom such a merit scholarship appeals (free registration required).

Blackburn College, though not carrying the weight of the prestigious University of California by a long shot, is nonetheless sending a clear message that the rules of the game are fixed for those who are in the know. They could continue on the path of increasing tuition and bargaining with students over aid packages, but have decided the better approach is to decrease tuition. This has the parallel effect of signaling to low cultural capital and low income students (those who may potentially most benefit from a higher education) that Blackburn is one private college that may be attainable.


Monday, January 21, 2008

Social Capital and Student Success

The Los Angeles Times article on January 18th about The Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) Academy of Opportunity in South Los Angeles is an example of the importance of social capital within families in order to help children succeed in school. The Academy of Opportunity is a charter school, funded by billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad, which features a rigorous curriculum. Elementary school and junior high students have ten-hour school days, heavy workloads, wear uniforms, and go to class during the summer and on weekends.

Academy of Opportunity students’ test scores have risen dramatically, and many see this as evidence that this type of school is a proven formula that can be applied to all inner-city schools. Critics, however, say the test scores are not surprising given the high levels of parental involvement. For instance, parents are required to sign a form promising to take their children to school, check their homework, and confer with teachers.

According to one critic, “It’s not a model for urban schools; it’s a model for families in urban areas with parents who are supportive and want more for their children.” I agree that this type of school could be effective for students coming from a family characterized by Coleman as having low human capital (poor and uneducated) and high social capital (strong relations between children and parents). It does not seem like a formula that can be applied across the board to all urban schools, as it would not meet the needs of, what Coleman calls, “deficient families.” Students with an absence of social capital within their family would not have the crucial parental support needed in order to stick with and excel in such a demanding educational environment.


Thursday, January 17, 2008

Subsidizing human capital investments

Despite the looming California budget crisis, the UC regents are currently weighing a plan to build a $2 billion endowment to supplement financial aid for poor and middle class students.

The proposed plan implies a move away from the traditional model of public higher education finance -- in which state funds are used to keep tuition low for all students. With this idea, the UC is heading toward the price structure that elite private institutions like Harvard and Yale utilize -- in which generous financial aid offers offset high tuition prices. UC tuition levels are already high compared to most US public universities. Under the proposed plan, affluent students would pay even more in tuition, while students whose parents make $100,000 or less would be eligible for aid.

From a human capital perspective this sounds like an egalitarian move. For students, the returns to an investment in UC education are high. So why should the state subsized those human capital investments -- particularly for student who can afford to pay the full freight? But from a cultural capital perspective, it doesn't sound like such a hot idea. While students from highly educated families understand "the rules of the game" and can navigate the process of applying for financial aid, students whose families don't have higher education experience may not know about financial aid opportunities. Even if many of these students qualify for aid, high tuition prices may scare them away from the UC.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Weber and NCLB

Weber's (1946) article on the bureaucratization of society applies to NCLB, specifically with respect to the law's requirement of "highly qualified" teachers, as assessed via examination.

In California, prospective K-8 multiple subject teachers must pass two examinations - the CSET (California Subject Examination for Teachers) and the CBEST (California Basic Educational Skills Test). The CBEST assesses reading, math, and writing skills and costs $41. The CSET assesses multiple subjects (those elementary teachers teach) and costs $70 per subtest (there are 3 subtests: reading, language, literature, history, and social science; math and science; and physical education, human development, and visual and performing arts). If you don't pass one subset, you must re-take it (and pay the fee again). Therefore the total cost (if you pass all tests the first time) is $251.

Prior to NCLB, prospective teachers could either pass both tests OR pass the CBEST and request a waiver for the CSET because they had completed a specified number of coursework units (I think it was 45 semester units) in a variety of subjects. Liberal Studies majors often took this second option. When NCLB was passed in Jan 2002, it required passage of a subject matter test as the ONLY avenue for demonstration of multiple subjects skills. Thus, waivers were eliminated. PROSPECTIVE TEACHERS MUST NOW PASS BOTH TESTS IN ORDER TO BE ADMITTED TO MOST CREDENTIAL PROGRAMS IN CA. (If students are admitted on a provisional basis without passage of CSET, they must pass it in order to apply for the preliminary multiple subject teaching credential).

This has had an important impact on teacher education. My 10 years of experience in teacher education is that certain populations of students are more affected by this aspect of the law than others, in particular students in financial need and students whose first language is not English. This particularly affected students in the bilingual teacher education program, in that many of these students were the first person in their family to graduate from college and many of these students have financial responsibilities that make payment of test fees a burden. This aspect of the law has differentially affected students of color and has resulted in people, who otherwise may have been great teachers, being excluded from entrance into the teaching profession based on financial and testing reasons. As you know, some students do not take tests well. This was not as much of a problem prior to NCLB, because these students could take the coursework and request a waiver.

I agree with Weber that this type of bureaucratization both serves as a sorting mechanism or gatekeeper and as a way to de-personalize the teaching institution. Whereas before individual cases were considered vis-a-vis the options of examination or coursework, now there it is simply a matter of you pass the test or you don't.

Another interesting thought is that the current administation often proposes making it easier for "professionals", such as retired engineers, to enter the teaching profession (e.g. skipping teacher education classes altogether). I find this interesting in light of the fact that younger people are currently being excluded by the law, people whose perhaps life-long career amibitions are to teach.


Monday, January 14, 2008

Immigration as ascription

Immigration status doesn’t show up in Blau & Duncan’s list of ascriptive characteristics, but it surely belongs there. Since children of U.S. citizens and children born in the U.S. are granted automatic citizenship, whether you’re a U.S. citizen, a documented immigrant, or an undocumented immigrant is a function of the conditions of your birth.

Would we get a different picture of the relationship between ascription and achievement in the U.S. today if we considered immigration as an ascriptive characteristic? This article suggests that the answer is probably yes. Thanks to a 1982 Supreme Court decision, students don’t need documentation to attend American public elementary and high schools. But as one undocumented immigrant put it: “After high school, I am done. This is the end of me.” Most public colleges charge undocumented immigrants out-of-state tuition, and few state and federal financial aid programs are available to them. And lacking documentation is a major hurdle in the job market.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Do schools matter?

Yesterday, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings addressed the National Press Club in an attempt to get the ball rolling on NCLB reauthorization. As the nation debates the law, which uses data and punishments to identify and motivate failing schools, it’s worth asking: What do schools have to do with educational inequality? Not much, Eduwonkette argues in this post surveying the research literature on school effects.

Is football the new affirmative action?

Here’s a remarkable statement on just bleak the college enrollment picture is for African-American men: At 96 of the 330 colleges that participate in NCAA Division I sports, scholarship athletes make up more than one-fifth of the black male enrollment.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Kennedy on NCLB reauthorization

The No Child Left Behind Act is the most sweeping effort to improve American schools and remedy educational inequalities since Brown vs. Board of Ed and the end of legal school segregation. But thanks to some fundamental flaws in the law’s design, ham-fisted implementation by the federal Department of Education, and President Bush’s tanking popularity, the law has become a political hot potato. While school reform has long been a primarily Democratic issue – and despite the fact that NCLB is tied to millions of dollars in federal funding for high-poverty schools – each of the Democratic presidential candidates are campaigning against law, and its reauthorization is very much in question.

Yesterday, one of the law’s principle authors and the ranking Democratic in the Senate Education Committee, Edward Kennedy took to the Washington Post op-ed page to make the case for NCLB reauthorization. The article’s most striking moment comes at the end, when Kennedy channels his brother, Robert Kennedy, asking “What happened to the children?” It’s a question that bears asking again and again. We ask so much of our schools – they free parents up to work outside of the home. anchor our communities, provide jobs, help keep our streets safe, drive our economy growth – that we sometimes forget that their most important job is to educate children. Whatever you think of NCLB or Kennedy’s argument, he’s right about that.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Counselor and Contest Mobility

In his classic “Sponsored and Contest Mobility and the School System” (Arum and Beattie, pp. 22-35) Ralph Turner articulates a central premise of America’s educational system: “Contest mobility is a system in which elite status is the prize in an open contest and is taken by the aspirants’ own efforts.” To understand what Turner is getting at, think about the college admissions game, in which high school students compete for high grades, study for the SAT, hone their applications. Anybody can enter the applicant pool, and the whole process is predicated on the assumption that the best applicants win and gain admission.

The idea becomes clearer still when you think about Turner’s description of the “sponsored” system of educational mobility. In this system, schools aren’t places where students compete to join the elite; they’re places where already pre-selected future elites are groomed. Think about admissions to Hogwarts Academy in the Harry Potter series as an example. Students don’t apply to Hogwarts; young wizards simply receive an invitation unbidden. It doesn’t matter how hard you work – if you’re a muggle, you’re just not getting in.

In Turner’s account – and in the American popular imagination – our system is heavily oriented toward contest mobility. But every now and again, a piece of news comes along that reminds me despite our belief in America’s meritocratic contests, our educational system has a strong element of sponsored mobility, too. This New York Times article about high school guidance counselors is one such piece of news. College admissions may be a contest, but far too few American students have access to counselors to teach them the contest’s rules. As a result, counselors often play the role that elites play in sponsored mobility systems – picking promising students for special attention, and thereby sponsoring their rise to the elites.

UPDATE: NYU sociologist Mitchell Stevens, who spent a year observing the admissions process at a selective New England college chimes in on this issue: "By the time upper-middle-class 17-year-olds sit down to write their applications, most of the race to top institutions has already been run, and they already enjoy comfortable leads.

Early Ed: The Next Frontier

Virtually every American child spends some 40 hours a week in school for nine months out of the year, every year between the age of 5 and the age of 18. Many of us stay in school far longer. But that wasn’t always the case. As recently as 1940, fewer than 40% of all young adults finished high school and just 6% finished college. (Today, more than 80% of young adults finish high school, and nearly 30% earn a BA.) The expansion of educational opportunity that occurred in the U.S. over the last century made America a global leader in educational attainment and put education at the center of the American dream.

But in the last decade or two, the American educational expansion has slowed and the rest of the world has begun to catch up. High school graduation rates have remained more or less constant since the 1980s. And while college enrollment rates are still creeping upwards, for more and more college entrants, the path to a BA is long and winding.

Given this, it’s interesting that American educational policy-makers have become increasingly focused on early education. Rather than working directly to keep more 16 year-olds in high school, or bring more 18 year-olds into college, we’ve lately been focused on getting more 4 year-olds into preschool and more 5 year-olds into full-day Kindergarten. It looks like California may be the latest to follow this trend. The San Jose Mercury News is reporting that Gov. Schwarzenegger poised to launch a “Year of Education” in California, calling for preschool for all Californians and expanding the school day for the state’s Kindergarteners. Will expanding educational opportunities for young children have lasting effects on American educational inequalities and attainments?

UPDATE: Actually, before we get to these questions, California's budget crisis raises another, even more fundamental question: Are taxpayers willing to pay for an expansion of early education?