Deja Vu: Madison School District Agreement with the US ED Office of Civil Rights

Last October, Madison Superintendent Jen Cheatham signed a resolution agreement with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights regarding OCR’s compliance review of access to advanced coursework by Hispanic and African-American students in the District. The resolution agreement was presented at the December 5, 2016 Instruction Workgroup meeting (agenda item 6.1): The […]

“The legislation would require the U.S. Department of Education to reveal which schools have been accused of violating students’ civil rights, as well as any corrective actions or other resolutions of its probes”

Annie Waldeman: Under federal law, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Office for Civil Rights is responsible for ensuring equal access to education and investigating allegations of discrimination in the country’s schools and colleges. Families and students can file complaints with the office, which then investigates and determines whether a college or school […]

Madison School District Responds to Civil Rights Investigation

Taylor Kilgore: Jim Bradshaw of the Office for Civil Rights’ Washington D.C. office confirmed in an email that “the process is ongoing.” Greg Jones, president of the NAACP says it is important to know “what the district has done to comply with their agreement with Office for Civil Rights.” “Given the urgency of education outcomes […]

Federalism And Civil Rights Governance

Jessica Huseman and Annie Waldman The Department of Education has laid out plans to loosen requirements on investigations into civil rights complaints, according to an internal memo sent to staff on June 8 and obtained by ProPublica. Under the Obama administration, the department’s office for civil rights applied an expansive approach to investigations. Individual complaints […]

Asians With “Very Familiar Profiles”: How Princeton’s Admissions Officers Talk About Race

A trove of documents created during a federal investigation into Princeton University offers an unprecedented glimpse at how elite college admissions officers talk about race. Outsiders have long debated how the secretive Ivy League admissions system considers the race of its applicants. Within the schools, such discussions form one of the most closely guarded elements […]

K-12 Civil Rights Data Issues

Nathan Hansen: Despite collecting the information, by law, for more than 40 years, public schools continue to struggle to report accurate and comparable civil rights data to the Department of Education. “The issue is whether different districts are providing the same type of data and working on the same definition,” said outgoing Sparta Superintendent John […]

Gov. Abbott threatens to pull out of refugee program over Syrian refugees to consternation of civil rights workers, student refugees

Sarah Phillips The state of Texas recently threatened to pull out of the federal refugee resettlement program over security concerns related to Syrian refugees, a move that the Texas Civil Rights Project has condemned as furthering suffering of populations of the world. On Sept. 21, Gov. Greg Abbott’s office announced its intention to withdraw from […]

Dershowitz And Others Decry Attack On Student Rights

Jacob Gershman: group of law professors are accusing the civil rights office of the U.S. Education Department of taking “unlawful actions” that have led to “pervasive and severe infringements” of speech rights and due-process protections on college campuses. An open letter signed by Harvard University professor Alan Dershowitz and 20 other legal scholars blasts a […]

Civil Rights Overreach Quotas for college prep courses?

Wall Street Journal:

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said last week that the Obama Administration will ramp up investigations of civil rights infractions in school districts, which might sound well and good. What it means in practice, however, is that his Office of Civil Rights (OCR) will revert to the Clinton Administration policy of equating statistical disparity with discrimination, which is troubling.
OCR oversees Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination by race, color or national origin in public schools and colleges that receive federal funding. In a speech last week, Mr. Duncan said that “in the last decade”–that’s short for the Bush years–“the Office for Civil Rights has not been as vigilant as it should have been in combating racial and gender discrimination.” He cited statistics showing that white students are more likely than their black peers to take Advanced Placement classes and less likely to be expelled from school.
Therefore, Mr. Duncan said, OCR “will collect and monitor data on equity.” He added that the department will also conduct compliance reviews “to ensure that all students have equal access to educational opportunities” and to determine “whether districts and schools are disciplining students without regard to skin color.”

Consultant: Madison schools should use its mission to recruit minority teachers

Pat Schneider:

The Madison Metropolitan School District has an image problem with teachers of color, says a consultant who recommends using the district’s mission of creating an environment where all students thrive to recruit a more diverse workforce.
The number of minority teachers in the district, while growing, is not keeping pace with the growing proportion of minority students, consultant Monica Rosen told Madison School Board members Monday.
“You’ll never catch up at the rate you’re going. I think there needs to be something more aggressive,” said Rosen, a partner in the national firm Cross & Joftus.
The gap between the number of students of color and the number of teachers of color has been brought into sharp focus as the school district works to close a persistent academic achievement gap between students of color and their white classmates.
A leader in the African-American community in November filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, charging that the district was discriminating against people of color in its hiring.
And nearly all the school district personnel interviewed as part of Cross & Joftus’ review mentioned their own concerns about the lack of diversity among school district staff, Rosen reported.

Darien Top 10 of 2013: No. 1 — Special education

David DesRoches, via a kind reader:

Darien’s issues have highlighted a special education flaw that exists across the state and nation. The question over what is appropriate has drawn a deep divide among residents. Parents from several states and Connecticut towns have contacted The Times, saying that Darien’s problems happen everywhere, and in most cases, the problems are worse.
Sue Gamm, the Chicago attorney hired by the Board of Education to investigate how deep the special education problems went, told The Darien Times that her work in town was the most difficult job in her 40-plus year career. Gamm formerly was a top administrator for Chicago Public Schools and a division director for the U.S. Office of Civil Rights. She has performed similar duties in more than 50 school districts across the United States.
John Verre, the man charged with overhauling Darien’s special education program, has also noted the difficult challenge Darien presents.
“Darien is a particularly challenging combination of problems,” Verre told The Times shortly after he was hired in October. “It compares to the most challenging situation I’ve ever found.”
A number of people have resigned from their top-earning positions, including the schools’ superintendent, Steve Falcone, along with Matt Byrnes, a former assistant superintendent, Dick Huot, the finance director, and Antoinette Fornshell, the literacy coordinator. Most recently, one of the people who has been consistently named as having contributed to the illegal special education program, Liz Wesolowski, announced to fellow staff members she was leaving Darien for a position with Shelton Public Schools.
Fornshell and Wesolowski played key roles in the implementation of the district’s SRBI program, which Gamm criticized for its lack of data and poor implementation due to staff being poorly trained. There was also no manual for SRBI, which is an intervention program designed to give children extra help if they fall behind in their class work. It’s intended to prevent children from needing more expensive special education services, but critics say it is more often used to delay providing special ed to children with legally-defined disabilities.

Feds investigating Durham school suspension rates

Jane Porter:

The federal government has begun investigating a complaint that Durham Public Schools suspends black and disabled students at disproportionately high rates, a group that filed the complaint said Thursday.
Advocates for Children’s Services, a project of Legal Aid of North Carolina, and the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at the Civil Rights Project of UCLA filed the complaint against DPS in April with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.
In the 2009-2010 school year, 14.1 percent of black students were suspended while 3.3 percent of white students were; 17 percent of disabled students were suspended while 8.4 percent of non-disabled students were, according to the complaint.
It describes the experiences of two students identified only as “N.B.” and “T.H.” Both are black and both spent years in DPS; both were suspended from school repeatedly.
“N.B.,” a 17-year-old student diagnosed with several mental health issues, wasn’t evaluated for her eligibility for special education and related services by DPS until she was well into high school. “T.H.” has been diagnosed with behavioral disabilities; instead of addressing those issues which the complaint says contributed to his falling behind in school, “(his school) responded punitively with out-of-school suspension.”

Quality teachers count in the classroom

Esther Cepeda:

Every few months, a handful of education reform advocates push the idea that the public education system’s woes could be fixed if only there were more black or Hispanic teachers in classrooms.
You’ll surely hear this in the wake of the U.S. Department of Education’s alarming data, published last week by the Office of Civil Rights, showing that though Hispanic and black students represent 45 percent of public school populations, they account for 56 percent of students expelled under zero-tolerance school discipline policies.
Worse, black students are three and a half times more likely to be suspended or expelled than white peers, and more than 70 percent of students involved in school-related arrests or referred to law enforcement are Hispanic or African-American.

The Wrong Approach to Discipline

The New York Times:

Distressing new federal data on the disciplinary treatment of black students adds urgency to investigations into the treatment of minority children in a dozen school districts around the country by the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Education. The agency, which is negotiating policies with some of these districts, needs to push for procedures that keep children in school.
The new 2009-10 federal data, drawn from more than 72,000 schools, serving about 85 percent of the nation’s students, covers a range of issues, including student discipline and retention.
Black students made up only 18 percent of those in the sample but 35 percent of those suspended one time and 39 percent of all expulsions. Blacks, in general, are three-and-a-half times as likely to be suspended or expelled than their white peers, and more than 70 percent of the students who were involved in arrests or referred to law enforcement agencies were black or Hispanic.

Settlement of Somali harassment complaints in Minn. schools to require reporting; School Silences ‘Kids For Christ’

Associated Press:

A Minnesota school district must report to the federal government any future allegations of harassment against Somali students as part of a tentative agreement to end a civil rights investigation, the district’s superintendent said Monday.
St. Cloud Superintendent Bruce Watkins said all but the final details of the agreement had been reached with the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights. The deal up for board approval Thursday night requires that the district make its schools more welcoming to Somalis; it finds that the district broke no federal rules in handling previous incidents, Watkins said.

Todd Starnes:

An Oklahoma school district is facing a lawsuit for allegedly forbidding organizers of a Christian club from promoting events on campus.
“This is a simple matter of a school district targeting a Christian organization,” said Matt Sharp, an attorney representing the “Kids for Christ,” a community-led Christian group suing the Owasso Public Schools.

Discipline rate of black students in Del., elsewhere is probed

Nichole Dobo:

The U.S. Department of Education’s office of civil rights is investigating whether black male students are punished disproportionately in the Christina School District in Wilmington and Newark, one of five districts nationwide under scrutiny for its discipline record.
Federal investigators are in the process of visiting all of Christina’s schools and have requested detailed discipline data for at least the last two academic years.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan first mentioned districts were being investigated at a conference in late September hosted by the Department of Education’s civil rights office and the Department of Justice’s civil rights division. Besides Delaware, the school districts under review are in New York, North Carolina, Utah and Minnesota.

Milwaukee Public Schools targeted in complaint over instruction of English as second language

Georgia Pabst:

Milwaukee Public Schools is not complying with civil rights law in effectively teaching English to Spanish-speaking students, according to a federal complaint filed by the League of United Latin American Citizens of Wisconsin.
The complaint, filed at the Office of Civil Rights in the U. S. Department of Education office in Chicago, claims MPS and the Milwaukee School Board are not complying with the Civil Rights Act.
The district receives federal funds for teaching English to students who speak another language, and the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that school districts must help such students overcome language barriers so they can succeed in all of their classes, said Darryl Morin, state director of LULAC.
“LULAC of Wisconsin has serious concerns regarding the education theory, programming and resources allocated to these efforts at MPS,” he said.
Morin said MPS has used uncertified and unqualified teachers in the program.
The U.S. Department of Education confirmed that its Office of Civil Rights has received the complaint. Jim Bradshaw, a spokesman for the department in Washington, D.C., said the office is evaluating the complaint to determine whether an investigation is appropriate. The evaluation process should take about a month, he said.
MPS spokeswoman Roseann St. Aubin said district officials can’t comment because they just received the complaint Tuesday and have not reviewed it.

Given Half A Chance: Black Males in Public Schools are Driven to Drop Out

The Schott Foundation for Public Education:

50+ Years Post Brown v. Board of Education, Schott Foundation Report Reveals that States and Districts Fail to Educate the Majority of Male Black Students
The release of the 2008 Schott Foundation Report entitled “Given Half a Chance: The Schott 50 State Report on Public Education for Black Males,” details the disturbing reality of America’s national racial achievement gap. State-by-state data demonstrate that districts with large Black enrollments educate their White, non-Hispanic peers, but fail to educate the majority of their Black male students.

Individual state reports (Wisconsin):

This section includes United States Department of Education National Center for Education Statistics state and district data for Black and White male students for states in which there are districts listed in the preceding section and for those districts themselves. Data are also included from the United States Department of Education Office of Civil Rights 2004 Elementary and Secondary School Survey concerning Special Education, Gifted and Talented and Discipline reports; National Assessment of Educational Progress; and Advanced Placement.

Tammerlin Drummond has more.

Madison School District vows to do better for African-American students

Kelly Meyerhofer: The Madison School District’s new long-term plan looks vaguely similar to its predecessor, a strategic framework produced in 2013. Two of three overarching goals share similar language. The third goal, however, stands out from its 2013 counterpart by explicitly vowing to do better for African-American students. Superintendent Jennifer Cheatham said she attended nearly […]

Gender Inequity Among the Gender Equity Enforcers

Peter Wood: Several days ago I published an essay about a new policy on sexual harassment issued by the U.S. Office of Civil Rights. The policy, which expands the definition of sexual harassment and removes various procedural protections for those accused, was presented in a letter to the president of the University of Montana. The […]

Due Process, Federalism And American Colleges Fleming Think that’s scary? What happens next is even worse. Following guidelines from the Obama administration Office of Civil Rights, you will likely be denied representation by a lawyer, forbidden from presenting exonerating evidence or asking questions of your accuser (who will invariably be referred to as the “victim” or the “survivor”), be subject […]

Real Community Leadership

I’ve noticed in several postings that people have criticized the Madison School Board for lack of leadership. I believe that true leadership happens in the community and then comes to the board level for action. This has been the case in many actions that have been taken place in the past, present and will undoubtedly […]

Advanced learning opportunities and Madison’s taxpayer supported K-12 school district

Christina Gomez Schmidt: Why is this a problem? Earlier this year, the Wisconsin State Journal editorial board highlighted a concerning outflux of students from the Madison Metropolitan School District. Safety concerns might be partly to blame. But a glaring absence of consistent academic challenge in the typical school day no doubt contributes. Despite common knowledge […]

Spotlight on Due Process 2018

the fire: Colleges and universities across the country are failing to afford their students due process and fundamental fairness in their disciplinary proceedings. These institutions investigate and punish offenses ranging from vandalism and housing violations to felonious acts of sexual assault, handling many cases that are arguably better left to courts and law enforcement. But […]

Where Title IX Went Wrong

Christina Hoff Summers: Title IX, the 1972 legislation banning sex discrimination in education programs that receive federal financial support, was a reasonable equality-of-opportunity law in its original form. So what explains the scorched-earth campaign against men’s sports carried out in its name? Why has it been used to deny students and professors due process and […]

Homeland Security’s Massive New Database Will Include Face Recognition, DNA, and Peoples’ “Non-Obvious Relationships”

Jennifer Lynch: The records DHS plans to include in HART will chill and deter people from exercising their First Amendment protected rights to speak, assemble, and associate. Data like face recognition makes it possible to identify and track people in real time, including at lawful political protests and other gatherings. Other data DHS is planning […]

Ed Department investigating anti-male discrimination at Yale

Toni Airaksinen: The U.S. Department of Education has launched a Title IX investigation into Yale University amid allegations that the institution offers educational programs and scholarship opportunities that exclude men. According to a letter dated April 26, the department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is investigating seven Yale initiatives, including the Yale Women Faculty Forum, […]

Gloria Reyes enters the Madison School Board race

Amber Walker: Gloria Reyes, deputy mayor for the city of Madison, announced Wednesday that she will challenge Madison School Board vice president Anna Moffit for Seat 1 on the board. Since 2014, Reyes has served as the mayor’s liaison to several city agencies including the Department of Civil Rights, the Madison Police and Fire departments […]

Unlearning History

Eric Raymond: Looking back, we can see that between 1865 and around 1914 the Union and the former South negotiated an imperfect but workable peace. The first step in that negotiation took place at Appomattox, when the Union troops accepting General Robert E. Lee’s surrender saluted the defeated and allowed them to retain their arms, […]

Betsy DeVos: The Era of Weaponized Title IX in Campus Rape Cases Is Over

Robby Soave: “The era of ‘rule by letter’ is over,” her speech says, referencing the Obama-era Education Department’s infamous “Dear Colleague” letter, which fundamentally changed the way schools handle sexual misconduct issues. “Through intimidation and coercion, the failed system has clearly pushed schools to overreach.” The Dear Colleague letter was released on April 4, 2011, […]

Justice Dept. to Take On Affirmative Action in College Admissions

Charlie Savage: The Trump administration is preparing to redirect resources of the Justice Department’s civil rights division toward investigating and suing universities over affirmative action admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants, according to a document obtained by The New York Times. The document, an internal announcement to the civil rights division, seeks current […]

Justice Department to take on affirmative action in college admissions

Charlie Savage: The Trump administration is preparing to redirect resources of the Justice Department’s civil rights division toward investigating and suing universities over affirmative action admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants, according to a document obtained by The New York Times. The document, an internal announcement to the civil rights division, seeks current […]

American College of Trial Lawyers on campus sexual assault investigations: ‘Under the current system everyone loses.’

American College of Trial Lawyers: ACTL, an organization that “seeks to improve the standards of trial practice, professionalism, ethics, and the administration of justice” and selects only members who have demonstrated “the very highest standards of trial advocacy, ethical conduct, integrity, professionalism and collegiality,” acknowledges that colleges and universities are “in a double bind” when […]


Mimi Swartz: Cerebral palsy is a neurological disorder that affects muscle control and, therefore, balance, posture, and coordination. Claire, then as now, was inordinately bright and outgoing, but she couldn’t walk; she used a wheelchair, and while the rest of the kids played during recess, her school thought it best to leave Claire on the […]

On Regulation And The Law

Jake New: In 2011, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights issued a Dear Colleague letter that urged institutions to better investigate and adjudicate cases of campus sexual assault. The letter spelled out how the department interprets Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and for the past five years it has been […]

Roots of Engagement in Baton Rouge

Christine Campbell: Reform efforts in cities like New York City, Washington, D.C., and New Orleans have led to improved school options and better outcomes for more students. But the pace and shape of the reforms were wrenching for all involved and each of these cities carries some legacy of bitterness and mistrust around how reforms […]

Why Are Educators Learning How to Interrogate Their Students?

Douglas Starr: About a year and a half ago, Jessica Schneider was handed a flyer by one of her colleagues in the child-advocacy community. It advertised a training session, offered under the auspices of the Illinois Principals Association (I.P.A.), in how to interrogate students. Specifically, teachers and school administrators would be taught an abbreviated version […]

Yale’s Imaginary Crime Wave

KC Johnson Yale is the only university that regularly issues reports on its handling of sexual assault complaints, the result of a 2012 resolution agreement with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). The university is also unusual in reporting so many sexual complaints, the result of its peculiar decision to broaden the campus definition of […]

“The Plight of History in American Schools”

Diane Ravitch writing in Educational Excellence Network, 1989: Futuristic novels with a bleak vision of the prospects for the free individual characteristically portray a society in which the dictatorship has eliminated or strictly controls knowledge of the past. In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, the regime successfully wages a “campaign against the Past” by banning […]

Commentary on education reform and status quo governance

Anthony Cody: There is growing evidence that the corporate-sponsored education reform project is on its last legs. The crazy patchwork of half-assed solutions on offer for the past decade have one by one failed to deliver, and one by one they are falling. Can the edifice survive once its pillars of support have crumbled? Teach […]

Minneapolis Schools Implement Explicit Racial Bias in Suspensions

Robby Soave: The good: Minneapolis Public Schools want to decrease total suspensions for non-violent infractions of school rules. The bad: The district has pledged to do this by implementing a special review system for cases where a black or Latino student is disciplined. Only minority students will enjoy this special privilege. That seems purposefully unconstitutional—and […]

Brentwood parents of special education students unite to call for school district reform

Paula King: Parents of special education students who recently protested in front of Brentwood Union School District headquarters are calling for districtwide reform, including greater inclusion for special needs children on campuses and an end to alleged retaliation against proactive parents by district officials. Parents for Special Education Reform claim that their children are being […]

Sun Prairie schools agree to revamp special ed screening

Gayle Worland:

In response to findings that a disproportionate number of black students enrolled in the Sun Prairie School District are placed into special education programs, the district has agreed to revamp its student screening process and bolster teacher training.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights announced Friday that the Sun Prairie district had volunteered to make the changes in response to a “compliance review,” which was designed to determine whether the district discriminates against black students when referring them to special education meant for students with a disability.
The federal office found that in the 2012-13 school year, black students made up 10 percent of the district’s student enrollment but 24.2 percent of the students enrolled in special education.
Screenings for students who might be struggling vary from school to school within the 7,372-student district, and some students referred to special education did not receive follow-up, the investigation found.
The review was still in progress when the district offered to make changes, including:

Teacher absenteeism puts students at a loss

Greg Toppo: New research suggests that teacher absenteeism is becoming problematic in U.S. public schools, as about one in three teachers miss more than 10 days of school each year. The nation’s improving economic picture may also worsen absenteeism as teachers’ fears ease that they’ll lose their job over taking too many sick days, researchers […]

In jeopardy: Open government in Washington State

Laurie Rogers, via a kind email:

Dear Colleagues and Friends:
The citizens of Washington State need your help in defending the principle of open government.
Last week, I wrote an article for my blog “Betrayed” about how the board of Spokane Public Schools is again attempting to modify the Public Records Act in ways that would undermine the Act for citizens across the entire State of Washington. That article is found here:
One of the bills introduced this year regarding the Public Records Act is HB 1128, a bill that would essentially gut the Public Records Act for citizens and whistleblowers. HB 1128 would make it nearly impossible to obtain records that agencies do not want to release. It was theoretically written to protect and defend public agencies against abusive records requesters; it was not written to protect or defend citizens against abusive agencies.
On Jan. 25, HB 1128 was discussed in a legislative hearing. All of the pro-HB 1128 arguments were made by public officials, including Spokane County Commissioner Todd Mielke. Nearly all complained about vindictive behavior by former public employees. Meanwhile, all arguments made in opposition to HB 1128 were made by non-government people who spoke up for the principle of open government and the right of citizens to hold their government agencies accountable.
Legislators wisely elected to revisit the language of HB 1128, so we have a brief opportunity to influence this process. I’ve written an analysis of HB 1128, which I’ve pasted below and attached in a PDF file. You will see that the impact of HB 1128 would be devastating for open-government in Washington State and for all citizens. I also have serious worries about future bills regarding the Public Records Act.
All comments and suggestions are welcome. You also are welcome to quote or forward this email and the analysis as you wish.
If the language in any new legislation regarding the Public Records Act and other open-government laws doesn’t protect the rights of citizens and whistleblowers, I guarantee that language will be used against us. Please help us to maintain open government in Washington State. Please ask your legislators, your friends and your colleagues to stand up against HB 1128, against the language in HB 1128, and against any other bills that would negatively affect the principle of open government in this state.
There are other ways to accomplish what the authors of HB 1128 intended. Tim Ford, the open-government ombudsman in the Attorney General’s Office, would be a great point of contact on how to do it.
Thank you for your help. Please see the analysis below or attached.
Laurie Rogers
Spokane, WA

Should this school be saved? The fight over Chicago’s Dyett High

Stephanie Simon and James B. Kelleher:

By just about any definition, Walter H. Dyett High School has failed.
Just 10 percent can pass the state math exam; barely one in six is proficient in reading. The technology lab is so ancient, some of the computers still take 3-inch floppy disks. More teens drop out than graduate.
Yet when the Chicago Board of Education announced plans to shut the place down, it sparked a community uprising.
Students, parents and teachers have staged sit-ins outside the mayor’s office; earlier this month, 10 were arrested for refusing to leave the fifth floor of City Hall. The protestors have held rallies. They’ve sued the school board. A group of students has filed a federal civil-rights complaint seeking to keep Dyett open.
Their quest to save a failed school may seem quixotic. But it is echoed in communities across the United States, as a rising anger at school closures takes hold.
The bipartisan education reform movement sweeping the nation – and promoted by President Barack Obama – calls for rating schools by their students’ test scores and then taking drastic steps to overhaul the worst performers by firing the teachers, turning the schools over to private management or shutting them down altogether.

Harvard Targeted in U.S. Asian-American Discrimination Probe

Daniel Golden:

The U.S. Education Department is probing complaints that Harvard University and Princeton University discriminate against Asian-Americans in undergraduate admissions.
The department’s Office for Civil Rights is investigating a complaint it received in August that Harvard rejected an Asian- American candidate for the current freshman class based on race or national origin, a department spokesman said. The agency is looking into a similar August 2011 allegation against Princeton as part of a review begun in 2008 of that school’s handling of Asian-American candidates, said the spokesman, who declined to be identified, citing department policy.
Both complaints involve the same applicant, who was among the top students in his California high school class and whose family originally came from India, according to the applicant’s father, who declined to be identified.

Steve Hsu on Transparency in college admissions:

Today we learned from Bloomberg that the U.S. Education Department is investigating complaints that Harvard University and Princeton University discriminate against Asian-Americans in undergraduate admissions. It is a common belief among Asian-American families that their children are held to higher academic standards than applicants from other ethnic groups, including whites. Such practices were openly acknowledged as a result of internal investigations at universities like Berkeley and Stanford in the 1980s and 1990s. Have they now been corrected?
Statistics seem to support a claim of widespread discrimination across most of elite higher education. For example, in comprehensive statistics compiled as part of Duke University’s Campus Life and Learning project (as reported in a recent analysis by Duke economist Peter Arcidiacono and collaborators), Asian-American students averaged 1457 out of 1600 on the math and reading portion of the SAT, compared to 1416 for whites, 1347 for Hispanics and 1275 for blacks. There is every reason to believe that a similar pattern holds at nearly all elite universities in America, with some notable exceptions such as Caltech. In fact, Duke may be one of the mildest offenders when it comes to Asian-American admissions: with the goal of increasing its overall student quality, Duke has reportedly been more friendly recently to Asian-American applicants than traditional powers such as Harvard and Princeton.

NAACP complaint claims racial bias in student discipline at Anne Arundel schools

Chris Walker:

Anne Arundel County schools have not made sufficient progress in eliminating racial bias from its student disciplinary practices, according to a civil rights complaint filed by the NAACP.
The complaint, filed with the civil rights office of the U.S. Department of Education on Friday, alleges that the numbers of African-American students referred for discipline and suspended have hardly changed since a similar complaint in 2004. That complaint led to an improvement plan agreed to in 2005 by the NAACP and the school system.
“Six years later, however, there has been no marked improvement in the disparate treatment of African-American students in disciplinary actions, which continues a pattern of denial and limitation of their educational opportunities and thus their future sustainability,” the new complaint reads

The Department of Education, Yale, And the New Threat to Free Speech on Campus

Greg Lukianoff:

Yale University’s decision last month to punish a fraternity that made pledges chant offensive slogans was heralded by some as a blow against sexual harassment in the college setting. But it may be the beginning of a new wave of campus censorship of politically incorrect speech. The reason lies in the relationship between the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which is in charge of enforcing federal antidiscrimination laws on campus, and the ever-growing ranks of campus bureaucracy.
On April 4, 2011, OCR issued a 19-page letter laying out detailed procedures every university in the country must follow in cases involving claims of sexual harassment or sexual assault. A college that fails to follow these guidelines risks an OCR investigation and the loss of federal funding, a devastating blow for many schools. In the case of Yale, for example, OCR has the power to withhold half a billion dollars in federal funds.

Yale Restricts a Fraternity for Five Years

Lisa Foderaro, via a kind reader’s email:

A Yale fraternity whose alumni include both President Bushes has been banned from conducting any activities on campus for five years, including recruiting, as punishment for an episode last October in which members led pledges in chants offensive to women, the university announced on Tuesday.
Yale’s publicizing of its disciplinary actions is highly unusual, but officials said their move followed a remarkably public and far-reaching episode. After the chanting in a residential quadrangle by members of the fraternity chapter, Delta Kappa Epsilon, 16 students and alumnae filed a complaint with the federal Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights accusing the university of failing to eliminate a hostile sexual environment on campus. The department confirmed last month that it had started an investigation.

Hartland Arrowhead High School responds to Title IX complaint

Arrowhead High School will pay for girls lacrosse and alpine skiing programs following an investigation by the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, according to documents provided to the Journal Sentinel.
It was the second such major investigation into how the Waukesha County high school treats the athletic interests of boys and girls, protected under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, in the last four years.
According to an Oct. 29 letter from Jeffrey Turnbull with the OCR’s Chicago office, the federal government concluded “that the District is not currently fully and effectively accommodating the interests and abilities of its girls.”

Desk Arrest Stirs Protest

Sean Gardiner:

In February, 12-year-old Alexa Gonzalez doodled on her desk in social studies class at her junior high school in Forest Hills: “Lexi was here 2/1/10” and “I Love my babis, Abby & Faith.”
Ms. Gonzalez was escorted to the dean’s office where school safety officers had her empty her backpack, take off her shoes and sweater and then searched her pockets. The New York Police Department was then called and four officers arrived, arrested her then walked her out of the school with her wrists handcuffed behind her back as classmates looked on. Her mother was told she would have to report to family court on vandalism charges.
The severity of authorities’ reaction has turned Ms. Gonzalez, who was using an erasable marker, into the poster child for a student rights movement that wants more transparency on the suspensions, expulsions and arrests in each school. A protest rally, sponsored by the New York Civil Liberties Union and student rights groups, was held at the Board of Education building behind City Hall on Tuesday calling on law makers to pass the so-called Student Safety Act. It would provide detailed data of disciplinary action taken by the School Safety Division, which is part of the NYPD, by race, sex, age, disability and socioeconomic status.
Both the city’s Department of Education and NYPD have conceded their officers overreacted in Ms. Gonzalez’s case and didn’t act within their guidelines.

Back to Basics: Get the Feds Out

Susan Ohanian:

Doug, a longtime science teacher in Alaska, makes this observation:
“It is really interesting to me that President Obama can let BP take the lead in cleaning up the disaster in the Gulf, and yet teachers have got hedge fund managers, mayors, think tank policy wonks, billionaire vulture capitalists, and no real education experts, calling the shots on public school “reform,” with Arne Duncan as department head, whose teaching experience comes from volunteering at his mom’s after school program (He actually says this, as if it means something!) mouthing a bunch of nonsense about educating our way to a better economy and making education the civil rights issue of our generation. Well, no. The economy tanked because of a monumental failure of government to regulate the financial industry, and manufacturing long ago moved out of the country. And before we can talk about civil rights, we need to straighten out some things with health care, endless war, mass incarceration, racism and immigration, and state-sponsored torture.
Borderland blog, June 16, 2010
When BP chief executive Tony Hayward appeared before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Chairman Henry Waxman said the Committee reviewed 30,000 documents related to the oil disaster and found “no evidence that you (Hayward) paid any attention to the tremendous risks BP was taking.” Likewise no one at the National Governors Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, or the House and Senate education committees etc. is paying any attention to the tremendous risks the U. S. Department of Education is taking with its money bribes to the states.

The Quiet Preference for Men in Admissions

Charlotte Allen:

It’s a well-known fact that there’s a severe gender imbalance in undergraduate college populations: about 57 percent of undergrads these days are female and only 43 percent male, the culmination of a trend over the past few decades in which significantly fewer young men than young women either graduate from high school or enroll in college. It’s also a well-known fact—at least among college admissions officers—that many private institutions have tried to close the gender gap by quietly relaxing admissions standards for male applicants, essentially practicing affirmative action for young men. What they’re doing is perfectly legal, even under Title IX, the 1972 federal law that bans sex discrimination by institutions of higher learning receiving federal funds. Title IX contains an exemption that specifically allows private colleges that aren’t professional or technical institutions to prefer one sex over the other in undergraduate admissions. Militant feminists and principled opponents of affirmative action might complain about the discrimination against women that Title IX permits, but for many second- and third-tier liberal arts colleges lacking male educational magnets such as engineering and business programs, the exemption may be a lifesaver, preventing those smaller and less prestigious schools from turning into de facto women’s colleges that few young people of either sex might want to attend.
Now, however, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has decided to turn over this rock carefully set in place by admissions committees. The commission launched an investigation last fall into the extent of male preferences in admissions decisions at 19 various institutions of higher learning. These include public universities (where such preferences are illegal under Title IX); elite private institutions such as Georgetown and Johns Hopkins; smaller liberal arts schools (Gettysburg College, with 2,600 undergraduates, is on the list); religious schools (the Jesuit-run University of Richmond and Messiah College in Grantham, Pa.); and historically black Virginia Union University, also in Richmond. On May 14 the commission’s general counsel, David P. Blackwood, announced that four of the 19 schools–Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, Gettysburg, and Messiah—had raised legal issues concerning compliance with the commission’s subpoenas, and that Virginia Union, while responding politely, had not complied in any way. Blackwood said that the commission might have to ask the Justice Department for help in obtaining admissions data from Virginia Union.

California’s schools From bad to worse

The Economist:

AS THE Obama administration spreads enthusiasm about a proposal to replace a patchwork of state education standards with national ones, it might also heed a cautionary tale. In the 1990s California too established rigorous standards. “We thought they were the highest,” up there with those of Massachusetts and Indiana, says Mike Petrilli of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education think-tank in Washington, DC. But California never translated those standards into results. Its public schools are, with some exceptions, awful. Moreover, the state’s fiscal crisis is about to make them even worse.
California’s 8th-graders (14-year-olds), for example, ranked 46th in maths last year. Only Alabama, Mississippi and the District of Columbia did worse. California also sends a smaller share of its high-school graduates to college than all but three other states. One of its roughly 1,000 school districts, Los Angeles Unified, which happens to be the second-largest in the country, has just become the first to be investigated by the federal Office for Civil Rights about whether it adequately teaches pupils who have little or no English.
Eli Broad, a Los Angeles philanthropist who is trying to reform education, blames a combination of California’s dysfunctional governance, with “elected school boards made up of wannabes and unions”, and the fact that the state’s teachers’ union is both more powerful and “more regressive” than elsewhere. The California Teachers Association (CTA) is the biggest lobby in the state, having spent some $210m in the past decade–more than any other group– to intervene in California’s politics.

Feds examine LA schools’ English learner program

Associated Press:

The U.S. Education Department is planning to examine the Los Angeles Unified School District’s low achieving English-language learning program to determine whether those students are being denied a fair education.
The department’s Office for Civil Rights will investigate whether the nation’s second-largest school district is complying with federal civil rights laws with regard to English-language learners, who comprise about a third of the district’s 688,000 pupils, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The inquiry was sparked by the low academic achievement of the district’s English learners. Only 3 percent are proficient in high-school math and English.
Problems in LAUSD’s English-language learning program were highlighted last fall in a study by the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute.

Draft US K-12 “Core Standards” Available for Comment

National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and Council of Chief State School Officers:

As part of the Common Core State Standards Initiative (CCSSI), the draft K-12 standards are now available for public comment. These draft standards, developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and experts, seek to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare our children for college and the workforce.
Governors and state commissioners of education from 48 states, 2 territories and the District of Columbia committed to developing a common core of state standards in English-language arts and mathematics for grades K-12. This is a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).
The NGA Center and CCSSO have received feedback from national organizations representing, but not limited to teachers, postsecondary education (including community colleges), civil rights groups, English language learners, and students with disabilities. These standards are now open for public comment until Friday, April 2.

Ed chief: Agency to review equal access at schools

Bob Johnson:

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Monday the federal government will become more vigilant to make sure students have equal access and opportunity to everything ranging from college prep classes to science and engineering programs.
“We are going to reinvigorate civil rights enforcement,” Duncan said on a historic Selma bridge to commemorate the 45th anniversary of a bloody confrontation between voting rights demonstrators and state troopers.
Duncan said the department also will issue a series of guidelines to public schools and colleges addressing fairness and equity issues.
“The truth is that, in the last decade, the office for civil rights has not been as vigilant as it should be. That is about to change,” Duncan said.
Duncan spoke to a crowd about 400 people on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in observance of “Bloody Sunday,” the day in 1965 when several hundred civil rights protesters were beaten by state troopers as they crossed the span over the Alabama River, bound for Montgomery.

DC Schools Chancellor Wants to Test “Differentiated Learning”

V. Dion Haynes:

D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee plans to establish an experimental program that would offer customized lessons for disabled, regular and gifted students in the same classroom, a key component of her strategy to reduce exorbitant special education costs.
Rhee’s proposal would launch a “differentiated learning” laboratory at West Elementary School in Northwest Washington, then replicate it citywide. Under the proposal, which is being met with skepticism from some West teachers and parents, the system would hire a private special-education school to run the program.
The proposal is among several actions Rhee is taking to overhaul special education, which for years has lacked high-quality programs for learning-disabled and physically disabled students. The system spends about $137 million on private school tuition annually for about 2,400 children (out of more than 9,400 disabled students) whom it cannot serve in the public schools.
Since 2006, the D.C. public schools have been under a federal court order to eliminate a backlog of more than 1,000 decisions from hearing officers regarding placement of students in special education programs. The order stemmed from a consent decree that settled a class-action suit filed by parents protesting the system’s long delay in providing services for the students.
Federal law requires schools to practice “inclusion” — putting special education students in regular classrooms whenever possible — a mandate the system has ignored in countless cases, advocates say. Under differentiated learning or differentiated instruction, an approach that has been used in schools in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties and across the nation over the past decade, students are grouped in the same classroom according to their ability levels and learning styles. They get the same lesson but are given different assignments and tasks based on their abilities.
For instance, a third-grade class in St. Louis recently was assigned to report on Martin Luther King Jr., with some students writing a timeline, others illustrating pages and others comparing the era of the slain civil rights leader to today.
Rhee is proposing to go a step further than most other districts using the concept. She wants to treat all students in the differentiated instruction classrooms much like special education students, with each getting an education plan outlining how teachers would address the child’s specific strengths, weaknesses and learning style.
Special education “is about individualization of instruction — that is going to be the overarching theme of these schools. Every kid — gifted kids — need really good individualization,” Rhee said in an interview. “All kids will benefit when we’re operating in that manner.”

A judge says Preston Hollow Elementary segregated white kids to please parents. The reality is deeper and maybe more troubling.

On a sunny September morning in 2005 Preston Hollow Elementary School hosted Bike to School Day. Dozens of grinning children with fair skin played and talked outside in the courtyard, relaxing happily after rides through their North Dallas neighborhood of garish mansions and stately brick homes. Parents shared tea and fruit, capturing the smiles of […]

Commentary on the New Jersey Voucher Lawsuit

Kristen Graham: Organizers called the suit an important step in the civil-rights movement, pointing out that many students in the defendant districts are poor and minorities. “This lawsuit today is as important as the Montgomery bus boycott of the mid-1950s,” said the Rev. Reginald T. Jackson, executive director of the Black Ministers Council of New […]