Stopping Traffic: Keeping Kids out of the School-to-Prison Pipeline

Posted on

The School-to-Prison Pipeline is a term coined to describe the funneling of elementary and secondary students from the classroom into the courtroom. Students are often guided toward the criminal justice system by policies utilized in schools by faculty, administration, and law enforcement; this ongoing process only increases recidivism rates among youth. Various reformers have developed strategies to combat the forces of the pipeline. These strategies tackle the multifaceted issue through a variety of means including altering school policies, working with students outside of school to change attitudes about education, and encouraging better relationships between students and faculty.

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was enacted in April 1965 as a part of President Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty.” This federal statute funds primary and secondary education and places a strong emphasis on providing all students with equal access to education; additionally, ESEA focuses on high standards in schools and high levels of accountability. Despite the efforts of President Johnson to level the playing field for youth in the United States, inequality persists in the realm of public education. One such inequality is very apparent: students in low-income, urban areas are far more susceptible to the dangers of the School-to-Prison Pipeline. Various reformers have taken steps to halt the flow of students along the School-to-Prison pipeline since the ESEA was passed in 1965 although the problem persists today.

The Honorable Judge Steven Teske lives and serves as a justice in Clayton County, Georgia. Judge Teske has become renowned for his tactics in battling the school-to-prison pipeline. He looks at each and every youth offender with compassionate eyes and recognizes that they are, in fact, still young people with futures ahead of them. Teske exclaims in a blog post he writes for the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, “We have a duty to protect kids — we have a higher duty to protect the community! Detention can protect us or it can hurt us.” Judge Teske seeks to avoid incarceration for young people at all costs, encouraging a reentry into the community, schools, and involvement in mentoring, community service, or leadership programs to promote healthy self-image and to deter recidivism. He continuously makes an effort to provide juvenile offenders with alternate sentences including community service or anger management programs rather than sending them to prison. According to a study conducted by David S. Kirk and Robert J. Sampson:

“Among…students who steered clear of the juvenile justice system,  64 percent went on to graduate high school. In contrast, a mere 26 percent of arrested students graduated high school. Of those young adults without criminal records who graduated high school or obtained GED certification, 35 percent enrolled in four-year colleges. For arrestees, 16 percent subsequently enrolled in four-year colleges” (Kirk 47).

Judge Teske’s core approach, avoiding adolescent incarceration at all costs, is not only an effective means of rehabilitating youth offenders but more specifically, it encourages these offenders to alter their course and decreases recidivism for those individuals in the long run.

Another approach taken by the Honorable Judge Jimmie Edwards is very different, but also effective. Judge Edwards mirrors Judge Teske’s idea that the incarceration of youth ought to be avoided; however, his tactics for achieving this goal are different. Edwards established Innovative Concept Academy in 2009 in conjunction with MERS Goodwill, St. Louis Public Schools, and the Juvenile Court. ICA is the only school in the nation supervised by the court system, and welcomes youth offenders and juvenile delinquents in the hopes of rehabilitating them. The school’s mission statement is posted on their website; the site states that the goal of the organization is “to increase the protective factors available to these youth which are aimed at eliminating at-risk behaviors that negatively impact the St. Louis community.” The school was established to ensure that at-risk youth and juvenile offenders are offered a second chance at an education inside the walls of a schoolhouse that does not utilize zero tolerance policies, employ law enforcement officers as disciplinarians, or other harsh methods to punish students. The school offers a full curriculum in math, science, English, and history for all students. There is also an emphasis placed on extracurricular activities to both keep students out of trouble and to further “challenge their minds,” according to the school website.

The Youth and Congregations in Partnership Program (YCP) is a mentoring program run out of the Kings County District Attorney Office in Brooklyn, NY. This program is geared toward youth offenders between the ages of 13 and 22. All of these juveniles must fall within certain parameters to qualify for the program: they must be within the specified age range; they must have committed a misdemeanor (not a felony) and cannot have been previously convicted of sexual offenses, arson, or other very serious crimes. The Court must refer a youth to YCP; if they are accepted into the program they will avoid incarceration as long as they follow the guidelines laid out in a contract every participant is required to sign.

Each youth is assigned a Masters Social Worker and mentors from the local community. YCP has a relationship with various religious congregations, local community service organizations, and volunteers who offer their time and services to these juvenile offenders. In addition to the mentoring each youth receives, there are also comprehensive services made available to each individual such as anger management courses, family counseling, career readiness and job placement. The youth meet with their mentor and social worker regularly for one year. In order to graduate the program, each youth must attend their meetings, be present at every court appearance they are slated to make, partake in community service projects, remain in school, and if they are old enough, have a job. This is a multi-pronged approach that seeks to intervene on the youth’s behalf in all areas in order to rehabilitate offenders and prevent recidivism.

The school-to-prison pipeline has been shown to disparately affect minority students. Although YCP was not established to serve strictly minority youth, most of the members of the program are young African American or Latino males. This highlights some of the factors that contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline that are not part of the students’ school days. Parental incarceration, blatant racial discrimination both by the media and in school, placement into foster care, and overall heightened rates of imprisonment negatively impact African American students already at risk. “Black youth are increasingly likely to have a parent in prison — among those born in 1990, one in four black children had a father in prison by age 14” (Heitzeg 6). These unfortunate circumstances contribute to the vicious cycle of recidivism: when the authority figures in one’s life are incarcerated and the media expresses the notion that young, black men are future criminals, the stereotypes become the reality as these youth cannot separate their true identity and existence from the role they are told they will play. This label is difficult to shake and causes problems both in and out of school for these students, their families, and their educators.

Fig. 1 Percentage of U.S. Prison Population and Total U.S. Population by Race. 2003. Web. 18 April 2013.

Racial discrimination is highly problematic within the school-to-prison pipeline; some reformers suggest that in order to target the pipeline, an elimination of this racism is absolutely crucial. Positive Behavioral Supports (PBS) is “an evidence-based approach to improving school discipline shown to reduce disciplinary incidents, support gains in academic achievement, and improve staff morale and perceptions of school safety” ( This approach has become popular in some Midwestern schools; it is used to combat racism in conjunction with other means like “’beyond diversity trainings’ and trainings in culturally responsive pedagogy” (Cregor 7). Positive Behavioral Supports have been implemented both in schools and through daylong and residential programs; these programs encourage reopening lines of communication that have been dismantled, especially those between educators and students in the hopes that at-risk youth will not be exposed to exclusionary disciplinary policies and ultimately face detention when direct conversation between the two groups could result in avoiding punishment altogether.

One of two states that have addressed zero-tolerance policies in schools at a state level, Colorado passed Senate Bill 46, the “Smart School Discipline Bill,” in 2012. This bill became a reality due to the hard work of Padres y Jóvenes Unidos (PJU), a group of parents and students in Colorado who have joined together in an effort to encourage educational equality and justice. PJU works to tackle the harsh disciplinary practices employed in schools and places an emphasis on ending racial targeting in schools. Members have rallied together to hold schools to greater standards of accountability and have achieved great success. In September of 2010, PJU held a “Books Not Bars” conference which kick-started their legislative campaign by teaching parents and students about the forces behind the school-to-prison pipeline and utilizing student testimony about unfair treatment they receive in the classroom. By the spring of 2011, Colorado Senate Bill 133 “created a task force of elected officials, law enforcement, and community members to study the need for statewide discipline reform” ( Ultimately, the 2012 legislative session resulted in the Smart School Discipline Bill, an amendment to the Colorado School Finance Act (HB 1345), that calls for schools to change their disciplinary codes to include minimized referral of students to law enforcement officials and instead ensures that each and every student punishment suits the infraction committed.

Padres y Jóvenes Unidos emphasizes restorative justice, an approach that focuses on both victims and offenders in the face of conflict. Restorative justice programs, sometimes referred to as victim offender mediation programs (VOM), have been found to achieve great results. Four longitudinal studies conducted throughout the 1990’s looked at a total 1,298 juvenile offenders. Among those offenders, 619 did go through VOM and 679 did not. After one year data was collected about the recidivism rates of these youth: 19% of those youth who went through a victim offender mediation program were rearrested within one year; 28% of those youth who did not go through a VOM were rearrested within the same time frame (Nugent 1). Various organizations exist with the purpose of encouraging restorative justice in public schools across the nation and the groups seeking reform are not just made up of parents and students, but educators as well. For example, Teachers Unite is an educator-led membership group that seeks to bring restorative justice to New York public schools with the ultimate goal of reaching educational and social justice for all students. Restorative justice has been a positive force in slowing the movement of the school-to-prison pipeline.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) reports, “over 3 million students are suspended at least once each year and over 100,000 are expelled. U.S. public school discipline rates have never been higher—roughly double today what they were in the 1970s” (Cregor 5). Since the enactment of the ESEA, the rates of intense punishment have only increased; however, attempts have been made to curb suspensions and expulsions. Naturally, policy implementation has been a means of halting the pipeline in various areas across the United States. The second of two states to tackle school disciplinary policies at the state level is Florida. The state legislature of Florida amended state statutes pertaining to zero tolerance policies in school in response to the high rate of student arrests that occur in the state. Provision 1006.13 of the state statutes describes the “policy of zero tolerance for crime and victimization” in schools. Provision 1006.13 requires that zero-tolerance policies must be non-discriminatory and that schools thoroughly define which infractions will result in student arrest, as well as the establishment of “a procedure that provides each student with the opportunity for a review of the disciplinary action imposed.” The statute also limits the amount of time for which a student can be suspended and calls for schools to handle disciplinary infractions to the best of their abilities before contacting law enforcement officials. Refraining from arresting students for infractions like dress-code violations, minor incidents of vandalism (for example, the carving of one’s name in a desk), or tardiness limits the students’ involvement with the criminal justice system and prevents the relationships between students and teachers from irreparable damage.

The school-to-prison pipeline is a major issue that plagues elementary and secondary schools across the nation and leaves indelible marks on the youth of today.  Many reformers agree on the major driving forces behind the pipeline including racial targeting, overly harsh, exclusionary disciplinary policies in schools, poor communication between students and educators, and unnecessary incarceration of youth. In the documentary film The Lottery, education reformer Eva Moskowitz explains that when deciding where to build prisons, officials look at the reading levels of fourth and fifth grade African American males in public schools to determine the right locations. The fact that schools and academic performance of students is being linked to incarceration before offenses have even been committed highlight further the power of the pipeline. While various reform strategies including redirecting youth away from incarceration, the establishment of new schools for youth offenders, offender rehabilitation, positive behavioral support, restorative justice, and policy implementation have been very impressive efforts to divert the pipeline, we are in need of more and better strategies. The school-to-prison pipeline must be halted in order to protect our youth.

Works Cited

“2012 Florida Statutes.” Online Sunshine. Florida State Legislature, 01 May 2013. Web. 01 May 2013. <>.

Bush, Mike. “Judge Jimmie Edwards Sends Kids to School Instead of Prison.” KSDK, 22 Nov. 2011. Web. 18 Apr. 2013. <>.

“Community Juvenile Justice.” Juvenile Justice. Positive Behavior Supports, n.d. Web. 01 May 2013. <>.

Cregor, Matt, and Damon Hewitt. “Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline: A Survey from the Field.” Poverty & Race 20 (Jan.-Feb. 2011): 5-7. NAACP LDF. NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Jan.-Feb. 2011. Web. 29 Apr. 2013. <>.

Heitzeg, Nancy A. “Education Or Incarceration: Zero Tolerance Policies And the School to Prison Pipeline.” The Forum on Public Policy, 2009. Web. 23 Apr. 2013. <>.

“Home.” Home. Innovative Concept Academy, n.d. Web. 18 Apr. 2013. <>.

Kirk, David S., and Robert J. Sampson. “Juvenile Arrest and Collateral Educational Damage in the Transition to Adulthood.” Sociology of Education 86.1 (2012): 36-62. Web. 17 Apr. 2013. <>.

“Mission Statement.” Teachers Unite. Teachers Unite, n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2013. <>.

Nugent, William R., PhD, Mark S. Umbreit, PhD, Lizabeth Wiinamaki, and Jeff Paddock. “Participation in Victim-Offender Mediation Reduces Recidivism.” VOMA Connections 3 (Summer 1999): 1-12. Print.

“Policies Proposed, Change Demanded to End ‘School-to-Prison Pipeine'” Education Week – Rules for Engagement. 13 Dec. 2012 Web. 18 Apr. 2013. <>.

Sackler, Madeleine, dir. The Lottery. 2010. Film.

“Statewide Change: 2 Years in the Making.” Home. Padres Y Jóvenes Unidos, n.d. Web. 01 May 2013. <>.

“Study: Student Arrest Leads to Push Out, Low College Attendance.” Education Week – Inside School Research. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2013. <>.

Teske, Steven. “Resisting the Temptation of Jail: The Lesser of Two Evils.” Juvenile Justice Information Exchange. JJIE, 11 Mar. 2013. Web. 17 Apr. 2013. <>.

“The Smart School Discipline Law.” Home. Padres Y Jóvenes Unidos, n.d. Web. 01 May 2013. <>.





Dual-Language Immersion

Posted on

On Saturday April 13, 2013 in the Learning Corridor citizens of Hartford, concerned parents, reformers, educators, lawyers, and even students came together to discuss the creation of a multi-district dual-language magnet school for the Hartford region. These schools bring together students who speak different languages and educate them together in both languages in order for every child to become bilingual and biliterate. Andrea Dyrness and Enrique Sepulveda welcomed all guests and introduced three panelists, Liz Howard, Marina Perez Taverner, and Robert Cotto, who spoke about various aspects of creating this type of school in Hartford.

I had no prior knowledge of dual-language schools and this meeting was very informative. The model, in my opinion, is brilliant. To take children who speak different native tongues and educate them together, in both languages, is a wonderful way not only to create bilingualism, but also to encourage “intercultural competence.” To inspire sentiments of tolerance and acceptance of other cultures in children at such a young age can only benefit society. In addition, bilingualism is an invaluable skill that, I feel, is often overlooked in the United States.

When I learned from Liz Howard that Hartford used to be a “stronghold” of dual language education in the state of Connecticut, I was very surprised. I was interested in the reasons why the system might have been dissolved in the area. The video testimonials of parents and students involved with the Puentes dual-language program compiled by Nyesha McCauley was my favorite part of the discussion. I was pleasantly surprised by how wise the children interviewed were. Students Hirishi, Santiago Cortes, and Finella Smith shared some very wise words about how mastering two languages will be very helpful as they grow older and how being bilingual allows them to make friends with new people. The fact that children so young could recognize these values only reinforced my support for dual-language schools.

I believe that dual-language immersion programs in Hartford would be a great success. Robert Gotto explained that to create this magnet school in Hartford is, in fact, feasible and I hope that it becomes a reality for the region. I have mentored in a local elementary school for the past two years and many of the students I have interacted with are not native English speakers; I do believe that many of these youth, if not all, would benefit a great deal from a dual-language program. I think the creation of a multi-district dual-language magnet school in Hartford would be a wonderful asset to the community.

Homeschooling in the United States

Posted on

Home-schooling can be a challenging topic to research because it exists outside of most governmental education data-collection systems. What are current estimates of the number (and percentage) of children who are home-schooled in the US, and has this rate grown over time? Describe your search strategy to find reliable estimates, and if sources disagree, briefly explain how and offer some reasons why.

The practice of homeschooling students has, in fact, become more and more popular over the past decade. In 1999 the National Household Education Surveys Program found that across the United States, about 1.7 percent of students, approximately 850,000 individuals, were homeschooled. By 2003, the percentage of students studying at home rose to 2.2 percent. In the 2005-2006 school year, between 1.9 and 2.4 million students were homeschooled. The number of youth educated at home continues to rise. However, current, up-to-date data was difficult to locate despite my best search efforts, most likely due to the difficulty posed to researchers by the collecting of this information.

To start, I searched the terms “homeschooling in the united states” on Google Scholar, which led me to a number of studies by the National Household Education Surveys Program that involved collecting data about homeschooling in the United States. These sources provided some statistical data concerning the number of students in the United States being homeschooled in a given year, and the percentage of all U.S. students that they constitute. My next search, “current homeschooling rates,” was not quite as successful. It proved far more difficult for me to find information about current rates of homeschooling in the United States. In fact, many of the sources I found with data about home schooling did not discuss information that was current at the time they were published: for example, one work was published in 2001 and referred to 1999 statistics.

Next, I moved to WorldCat and began my search with various terms, “current homeschooling rates,” “homeschooling in the US,” and “2012 home education.” Most of the information I found included information on tried and true homeschooling practices, books discussing specific groups within the homeschooling community (for example, Write these laws on your children : inside the world of conservative Christian homeschooling, a book by Robert Kunzman), and when I searched “2012 home education,” I was led to a series of sources that equated to high level ‘how-to’ guides and self-help books. Unfortunately, none of these sources were geared toward statistical analysis or data collection about the rates of homeschooling. In desperation, I turned to Wikipedia – which, perhaps, I should have done at the start. According to the “Homeschooling in the United States” page, approximately 2.9 percent, or 2 million, United States students are currently being homeschooled. I used some of the cited references from the Wikipedia page to find out a bit more about current rates.

A Wikipedia reference led me to a brief issued by the National Center for Education Statistics from December 2008. According to the Parent and Family Involvement in Education survey conducted by the NHES, 1.5 million United States students were engaged in home education in 2007. This brief led me to search for the National Center for Education Statistics on Google where I found the most recent version of Projections of Education Statistics to 2012. Unfortunately, “Neither the actual numbers nor the projections of public and private elementary and secondary school enrollment include homeschooled students because more data are required to develop reliable projections” (Projections 1).

It seems to me that the most current information available on homeschooling statistics is lagging by a few years. The sources that I found did not discuss the homeschooling rate at the times they were published, but instead, the data from approximately three years prior. Nevertheless, I was able to uncover the fact that the practice of homeschooling has become more prevalent over the past decade and the number and percentage of students being educated at home has increased.

Works Cited

Bielick, Stacey, Kathryn Chandler, and Stephen P. Broughman. “Homeschooling in the United States: 1999.” (2001). Education Resources Information Center.

Princiotta, Daniel, Stacey Bielick, and Chris Chapman. “1.1 Million Homeschooled Students in the United States in 2003. Issue Brief. NCES 2004-115.” National Center for Education Statistics (2004).

“Projections of Education Statistics to 2021 – About This Report.” Projections of Education Statistics to 2021 – About This Report. National Center for Education Statistics, n.d. Web. 12 Apr. 2013. <>.

Ray, Brian D. “Research Facts on Homeschooling. General Facts and Trends.” National Home Education Research Institute (2006). Education Resources Information Center.


The School-to-Prison Pipeline Research Essay Proposal

Posted on

Research Question:

What is the “school-to-prison pipeline,” and what steps have various reform groups taken to halt the funneling of students into the criminal justice system in major U.S. cities over the past five years?


The school-to-prison pipeline plagues schools and youth across the country, specifically minority and disabled students in urban areas. Due to policies employed in elementary and secondary schools across the United States, students are funneled directly from the school system into the criminal justice system. Many of these schools have metal detectors at every entrance, law enforcement officers staffing the buildings and campuses, and intense zero-tolerance policies that treat minor and major infractions with similar severity. Authorities and educators have shown an increasing dependence on suspensions, expulsions, and outside law enforcement to intervene when faced with disciplinary issues in the classroom. The removal of students from the classroom setting regularly for both major and minor disciplinary infractions poses significant physical and emotional risks to youth. Often, young people living in urban settings are led to feel that arrest and incarceration are inevitable and are simply what lies ahead in their futures. Recidivism rates for juveniles are shockingly high and the school-to-prison pipeline only adds to these figures. The fact that school policies could be, at least in part, responsible for guiding students into the criminal justice system is alarming; any policies or campaigns to put a stop to this pipeline are incredibly important.

Research Strategy:

To start my research, I used Google, Google Scholar, and JStor to search “school to prison pipeline” in an effort to gather broad, background information about the school-to-prison pipeline. After gathering information about the way the pipeline is defined and framed, I narrowed my search to “school to prison pipeline new york city” and “education policy school to prison pipeline.” Next I moved on to create a working list of groups dedicated to tackling the pipeline by searching “school to prison pipeline reform” and “education reformers new york, ny.” I then searched some of the names that I found cropping up in multiple articles to expand my list of reformers and campaigns. While I do have a list of individuals who are prominent leaders in the field and their accomplishments, I would like to delve deeper into not only the reform methods that they have tried and succeeded with, but also those attempts that were not successful.


“A Look At School Discipline | New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) – American Civil Liberties Union of New York State.” A Look At School Discipline | New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) – American Civil Liberties Union of New York State. New York Civil Liberties Union, n.d. Web. 02 Apr. 2013.

“A Look At School Safety | New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) – American Civil Liberties Union of New York State.” A Look At School Safety | New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) – American Civil Liberties Union of New York State. New York Civil Liberties Union, n.d. Web. 02 Apr. 2013.

Kim, Catherine Y., Daniel J. Losen, and Damon Hewitt. The School to Prison Pipeline: Structuring Legal Reform. New York: New York UP, 2010. Print.

“Medgar Evers College President William L. Pollard and Kings County District Attorney Charles J. Hynes Present a Symposium on Race, Law and Justice: Strategies for Closing the School-to-Prison Pipeline.” CUNY Newswire. The City University of New York, 14 Feb. 2013. Web. 05 Apr. 2013. <>.

Resmovits, Joy. “School-To-Prison Pipeline Targeted By Judges, Education Officials.” The Huffington Post., 12 Mar. 2012. Web. 04 Apr. 2013.

“School-to-Prison Pipeline.” American Civil Liberties Union. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Apr. 2013.

“The Student Safety Act | New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) – American Civil Liberties Union of New York State.” The Student Safety Act | New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) – American Civil Liberties Union of New York State. New York Civil Liberties Union, n.d. Web. 02 Apr. 2013.

Wald, J. and Losen, D. J. Defining and redirecting a school-to-prison pipeline. New Directions for Youth Development, 2003: 9–15. doi: 10.1002/yd.51

Welch, Kelly, and Allison Ann Payne. “Racial Threat and Punitive School Discipline.” Social Problems 57.1 (2010): 25-48. JSTOR. Web. 02 Apr. 2013.

“YCP.” YCP. Kings County District Attorney Office, n.d. Web. 04 Apr. 2013.


Community Rules for Community Schools – Establishing schools tailored to neighborhood needs

Posted on

HARTFORD, CT – On Monday, March 4 members of the Connecticut legislative body and local citizens alike met at the Legislative Office Building for a public hearing hosted by the Education Committee to discuss Senate Bill 1002 (SB 1002), a piece of legislation that the Committee introduced on February 27, 2013 that will establish community schools throughout Connecticut. The Coalition for Community Schools defines community schools as “both a place and a set of partnerships between the school and other community resources.” The community school model emphasizes a ‘bottom-up’ approach, relying on the participation and contribution of stakeholders – parents, educators, and local citizens – to create the best possible school for a given geographical area. These schools will aim to better the educational experience of students through a variety of comprehensive services that extend beyond classroom instruction. The strategy behind these schools involves a focus on not only academics but also students’ safe passage to and from school, students’ health and their home environments.

Public Hearing for SB 1002

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Chairperson Dr. Benjamin Foster took the floor as an expert in public education to provide his opinion on the benefits of community schools. He argued that these schools reaffirm minority students’ long-term goals and provide a well-rounded education that is not directed solely at the passage of state tests. “Tests alone, I repeat, tests alone will not gauge the psyche of our students and their aims and aspirations” he explains in support of SB 1002. At this time there are many different facets of education that are currently widening the achievement gap between students. Foster cites the “digital divide, healthcare, prenatal care, parental employment” as examples of issues that, on their faces, seem unrelated to education but are crucial.

There is a strong need for what Dr. Foster calls “cultural competency, the comprehension of others’ values” in order to establish a more harmonious learning environment and more effective discussions and lessons in the classroom. Dr. Foster explains that these community schools ought to adopt African American history “as a regular part of the curriculum” to be taught throughout the entire school year, not just with special emphasis during the month of February. He also called for the adoption of Latin American history into the regular curriculum. These measures, according to Foster, will increase cultural competency and enhance the learning experience for minority students at the new community schools.

Toward the end of his presentation, Dr. Foster provided recommendations for the Education Committee and the teachers’ union. He calls for more options for parents and students by way of improved schools, parent universities, and “mandatory economic literacy ensuring that our students understand how our economic system works.” Dr. Foster believes that the creation of community schools in Connecticut school districts will provide these advantages to local citizens.

The major benefit stemming from the creation of community schools, Dr. Foster explains, is that they will “provide our parents and students with more options.” Dr. Foster illuminates the fact that “there may be a musician, there may be a scientist, there may be a carpenter, or whatever, with that same student that scores low on the tests.” He states very firmly, “all of our kids have intelligence.” Unfortunately, at present, not all of our kids have equal opportunities and for that reason Dr. Foster is in favor of SB 1002.

Werner Oyanadal joined the discussion, representing the Latino & Puerto Rican Affairs Committee (LPRAC) as their Acting Executive Director. He also came to the hearing to voice his support for the community school model and SB 1002. Oyanadal calls not only for full-service community schools to be opened, but also for early learning programs that will prepare students from an early age. He referenced the massive achievement gaps among students of different racial groups; the achievement gaps in Connecticut are some of the highest in the nation. He expressed his hope that community schools would begin to close those substantial gaps.

According to Oyanadal, minority students experience major problems outside the classroom that prevent effective education, one of the most powerful being hunger. Community schools would provide all students with a wide range of services including longer school days and the offering of meals to students, which wouldl have a very positive effect on the students and their neighborhoods. He calls for schools to ask how they can get involved with the local community on a deeper level. Oyanadal states that after an evaluation of the surrounding neighborhood that a community school “becomes a beacon in the community” because it will provide the specific services that a given local population needs.

Senate Bill 1002 has been introduced with the hopes that the community school model will be established in the State of Connecticut. Proponents of the bill suggest that this new model of education will provide students with innumerable benefits and invaluable support that will take them straight through to college graduation and a successful future.

You Win Some, You Choose Some: Charter Schools and the Choice Movement in The Lottery

Posted on

In the year 2010, there were 365,000 children on waitlists to attend charter schools across the United States. A poignant documentary that provides a look at the education system in Harlem, New York, The Lottery places a special emphasis on charter schools in New York City School District 5, namely the Harlem Success Academy. We watch as Eric Roachford, Jr., Gregory Goodwine, Jr., Nadiyah Horne, and Christian Yoanson, five-year-old charter school hopefuls, and their parents wait the agonizing two months before “the lottery,” the random drawing of applicants that decides who will attend the Harlem Success Academy and who will attend one of the public schools in District 5. The documentary includes testimonials from a handful of educators and political figures that are prominent individuals in the education system, including Harlem Success Academy founder Eva Moskowitz.

All children are capable of success. Moskowitz and other proponents of charter school education argue that the current system employed in the United States does not provide students with fair and equal learning opportunities. The Lottery illuminates the achievement gap between students of different racial groups, citing the four-year disparity between white and black students: “The average black 12th grader performs as well as the average white 8th grader” (The Lottery 0:02:49) and “58% of black 4th graders are functionally illiterate” (The Lottery 0:03:06). Nevertheless, Moskowitz suggests that students of every race, background, and circumstance can, as her school’s motto suggests, become college graduates. The message is clear: the system is flawed the children are not. Every student deserves a phenomenal education, and if they are allowed one, they can achieve great success.

The overarching debate concerns the benefits and disadvantages of the choice movement and charter schools versus the public school system. The theory depicted in The Lottery on school reform is that public education is subpar and the problems lie with teachers’ inadequacies rather than the shortcomings of students or unsupportive, disinterested parents. Short-lived school reform programs have been implemented in public schools time and time again with unsatisfying results. There is a need to shut down failing public schools, according to filmmakers, and the presence of charter schools in districts with floundering public schools is a way to increase parental choice and student achievement.

Public Hearing. The Lottery (0:30:27)

The film includes shots of every day life in Harlem, endearing clips of teachers engaging their young students, and most powerfully, a public hearing in Harlem full of passionate parents and educators debating what is right for District 5. These scenes are so crucial because they demonstrate the reality of the situation and remind viewers that this is fact not fiction.

ACORN Protesters. The Lottery (0:26:34)


There is a point of view notably absent from this documentary. The only perspective viewers get on those who disagree with the establishment of charter schools is that of an aggressive, hostile opposition. The documentary paints those who combat the charter school movement as uninformed and irrational. The United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), for example, vehemently oppose the charter school movement. Although ACORN is now defunct, at the time of filming, protesters gathered in the streets of Harlem vilifying the charter school movement and those who encourage it. The Teachers’ Union in New York City is also portrayed in a very negative light. Moskowitz accuses the UFT of utilizing “Godfather tactics” to bully anyone who opposes their views. Due to the size of the union, democratic politicians cannot possibly win elections without its support, making the Union a force to be reckoned with. The Lottery does not adequately provide the audience with an objective look at this side of the debate. The film is borderline propagandistic in favor of charter schools due to its one-sided nature.

Nevertheless, the film is moving. As viewers get to see the personal lives of four Harlem families, emotional attachment to these smiling five-year-olds becomes impossible to avoid. The filmmakers do a wonderful job at showing viewers that, contrary to public belief; parents in failing school districts are not always the problem. In fact, many of these parents are driven to help their children succeed. In an interview with film critic Thelma Adams, director Madeleine Sackler explains, “What gives me the most hope is the reason I made the movie: there are so many parents that are eager for something better” (Adams 1). At the very end of the documentary, viewers are called to action; called to “Mentor Teach Donate Vote” (The Lottery1:16:53), and in that moment you will never have wanted to do that quite so badly.

The Lottery (1:16:53)

Works Cited

Adams, Thelma. “Charter School Controversy: A Q&A With The Lottery Director Madeleine Sackler.”   The Huffington Post. Web. 24 Feb. 2013.

“FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions About Charter Schools.” California Charter             Schools Association. Web. 24 Feb. 2013.

Sackler, Madeleine, dir. The Lottery. 2010. Film.

Avoiding Plagiarism

Posted on

Example 1: Plagiarize the original text by copying portions of it word-for-word.

A teacher who gets a particular ranking in year one is likely to get a different ranking the next year. There will always be instability in these rankings, some of which will reflect “real” performance changes.

Example 2: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, without copying it word-for-word.

If a teacher gets a specific ranking in his or her first year it is probable that he or she will score differently the following year.  These rankings will always be unstable, and only some of them will reflect serious performance changes.

Example 3: Plagiarize the original text by paraphrasing its structure too closely, and include a citation. Even though you cited it, paraphrasing too closely is still plagiarism.

If a teacher gets a specific ranking in his or her first year it is probable that he or she will score differently the following year.  These rankings will always be unstable, and only some of them will reflect real performance changes (Ravitch 270).

Example 4: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, and include a citation to the original source.

Generally, the ranking a given educator achieves after their first assessment is not indicative of future rankings, as only a portion of these scores can be relied upon to demonstrate the teacher’s true progress – or lack thereof (Ravitch 270).

Example 5: Properly paraphrase from the original text by restating the author’s ideas in different words and phrases, add a direct quote, and include a citation to the original source.

Generally, the ranking a given educator achieves after their first assessment is not indicative of future rankings. These scores are widely considered to be unreliable, and only some of these rankings “will reflect ‘real’ performances changes” (Ravitch 270).

Works Cited

Ravitch, Diane. The Death and Life of the Great American School System. New York:
Basic, 2011. 270-71. Print.