“The term gifted and talented student means children and youths who give evidence of higher performance capability in such areas as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who require services or activities not ordinarily provided by the schools in order to develop such capabilities fully.” (nagc.org)
Gifted and talented programs have been a part of the American public system since the 19th century. It was once such an important piece of public education that the Jacob Javits Gifted and Talented Act was passed in 1988 to monitor, preserve and improve the integrity of G&T programs. However despite this act, gifted and talented programing is declining and nonexistent in some states across the nation.
What has happened to G&T programs since 1988? In the early 1990s, it was seen as an imperative aspect of the future of public education. However, due to a combination of confusion about how to define, identify and manage giftedness, lack of funding and program mandates, the proposed vision for enriching G&T programs never fully came to fruition. In large school districts like New York City, this confusion in identification/the lack of funding has resulted in a decline in enrollment and a lack of diversity in the program. As the nation continues to strive to strengthen all public schools as a whole rather than focusing on the top performers, the antithesis of the Jacob Javits Act is occurring. G&T programming is becoming an afterthought and talented children are being left behind.
The Ebb & Flow of G & T Programming Post-Jacob Javits
The 1983 publication of A Nation at Risk (ANAR) revealed that public education in the United States was failing talented American children. A Nation At Risk was an assessment of the American public education system that was conducted by the National Commission on Education under President Ronald Reagan’s administration. It used data from various standardized exams like the Standardized Aptitude Test (SATs) and surveys to make a poignant statement. The report was very blunt and simple to read and it outlined ways that the country could improve public education. As one of the world’s superpowers, American children were not performing on the same level as their international counterparts and standardized test performance was dismal (NCEE 1983). For the first time in American history, the report revealed that this generation of students “will not surpass, will not equal, will not even approach, those of their parents” (NCEE, 12).A Nation at Risk pointed out that there was a lack of “specialists in education for gifted and talented” despite the abundance of regular teachers (NCEE, 20). Furthermore “ over half the population of gifted students does not match their tested ability with comparable achievement in school” (NCEE, 11). With the use of such disparaging language, the nation needed to make a change in the quality of the public school education – especially for gifted students.A Nation at Risk also states that “over half the population of gifted students do not match the tested ability with comparable achievement in school” and that “gifted students may need a curriculum enriched and accelerated beyond the needs of other students of high ability (8, 24).
After ANAR, a period of gifted education reform was in place. Three years before the passage of the Jacob Javits Act (in 1985), Carter and Hamilton asserted that schools in the 1980s saw gifted programs as “educational frills” (14). When budget cuts were put into place, many gifted and talented programs were the first to go. Carter and Hamilton explain that “ those recommending the elimination of gifted programs typically believe the gifted can reach their potential without special help” (14). Additionally, there was a fear that “intellectualism may lead to elitism” (Russo,730.)However, these assertions were refuted with the information provided by ANAR. If the America failed to foster the intellectual advancement of its brightest students, it would quickly fall behind other industrialized nations. Advocates of gifted education asserted that these bright students were “a wasted resource” if they were not challenged with tailor-made programs. Carter and Hamilton accurately predicted that school boards would not simply fund gifted programs because it is a “good idea”. Instead, “the decision to fund or not to fund will depend more and more on program effectiveness, as measured by student outcomes” (Carter and Hamilton,14).
As a result, the Jacob Javits Gifted and Talented Act was passed in 1988 as a component of the Elementary and Secondary Act (nagc.org). Under this legislation, the Javits Act was supposed to change the standard of gifted education. According to the National Association for Gifted Children’s website,
“The purpose of the Act is to orchestrate a coordinated program of scientifically based research, demonstration projects, innovative strategies, and similar activities that build and enhance the ability of elementary and secondary schools to meet the special educational needs of gifted and talented students. “ (nagc.org).
Additionally, the Act intended to use the research from the newly instated National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented (NRC/GT) to improve the identification process of students who are underrepresented in gifted and talented programs. More often than not, poor/minority students were not included in programs due to the entry criteria. Through the money that would be awarded to the program annually by congress, the Javits program would be able to support different state programs that would improve G&T education.
In 1993, a follow-up to ANAR entitled National Excellence: A Case for Developing America’s Talent was released under Richard Riley (the new secretary of education). Even though this was 5 years after the passage of the Jacob Javits Act, the quality of gifted programs across in nation still had major issues. In the Forward of National Excellence, Riley calls this the “quiet crisis” (1). Although the American public was successfully made aware of the needs of G&T students and there was an increase in the amount of programs, some problems still remained. In comparison to other countries, American students were still being outperformed “at all levels” (National Excellence,1). The report also asserted that although there were some strong gifted and talented programs in the country, they were “limited in scope and substance” and most gifted students were not receiving the attention they needed (National Excellence,4). Special accommodations were not being created to offer gifted students a more rigorous education. Instead of focusing on academic “excellence”, there was too much focus placed on “adequacy” (National Excellence,4). Furthermore, the only available national survey at the time showed that a mere “2 cents out of every $100 spent on K-12 education in 1990” supported gifted students. Once again, due to the lack of a nation-wide mandate to identify and provide services to gifted students, some states failed to provide a significant amount of funding for the existing programs. For example as shown in Chart 1,
in 1996 New York provided $14.3 million to G&T programs. In Florida (a state with a similar amount of inhabitants), $146.9 million was provided (Jost, 268). Consequently, the quality and scope of the programs in these states could be on completely different levels. The $9 million budget of the Jacob Javits program was only used for research and demonstration grants at this time, and was not nearly enough to support or mitigate the disparities across the nation (nagc.org).
In addition, the talents of disadvantaged and minority students were going “unnoticed” and they received “fewer advanced educational opportunities” (National Excellence, 3). Students of color and those with lower socioeconomic statuses were less likely to be a part of the existing G&T programs.This was due to the wide array of identification methods. The term gifted was seen as controversial and all states are not mandated to identify gifted students. The states that have chosen to at least identify students can use any method of their choice (aptitude assessments, teacher recommendations, performance assessments, behavioral checklists etc.) (Brown et.al,9). More often than not, the states use aptitude assessments for identification. These exams may be biased and unable to identify all aspects of giftedness (Brown et. al). Therefore, social stratification can be perpetuated since students of color and lower socioeconomic backgrounds may not perform as well on these exams as their white/more affluent counterparts. Also, Local Education Agencies are not mandated to follow their state’s definition of giftedness so the definition may vary and exclude some students (nagc.org). Nevertheless, some strides in G & T programs were made within five years after this report was published. In 1998, the NAGC created official guidelines for Pre-K – 12 Grade students (nagc.org). The diversity of the existing programs, however, would continue to be disappointing.
By the new millennium, G&T programs began to decrease due to budget cuts, issues with identification methods, and the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). NCLB was passed in 2002 under the administration of former President George W. Bush. American public school students were still not performing at high or proficient levels on national exams. NCLB mandated that all states would have to demonstrate that their students were performing at grade level through stat-administered exams.Otherwise, they would be restructured or shut down if they continually showed no improvement annually over a span of 6 years (today.duke.edu). As a result of NCLB, many schools turned the focus to low-performing students and began to use funding to support them rather than the high-achieving gifted students. According to Stephens and Rigabee,
“As a result (of NCLB), schools are unintentionally guided to focus on remediation rather than on acceleration and enrichment. National budget figures since 1988 reveal that less than one percent of federal education dollars have been devoted to gifted and talented education.” (today.duke.edu).
The act also revised the Jacob Javits to allow the program to give some funds to statewide grants for G &T programs (nagc.org). In 2002, Jacob Javits received $11.25 million (a $3.75 million increase from 2001). Five years later, it was decreased to $9.25 million. Although the scope of the act increased, funds for the program would continue to decrease. Although the Jacob Javits program was not created to fund all programs across the country, the variance in allocations shows instability. Therefore, research projects and grants for programming were hindered.
By 2007, very little changed and the picture of G&T programs continued to be bleak. A report conducted by the National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC) revealed that only 11 out of 29 states that mandated the identification of gifted students “provided funds to school systems to specifically support the gifted” (today.duke.edu). The report also showed that 14 states spent “less that $500,000 per year on gifted education, with eight states expending $0” (duke.today.edu). Today, G & T programs still face the same issues 24 years later. According to the National Society for the Gifted and Talented website (NSGT) , “An emphasis on raising test scores for under-performing children, the elimination of gifted programs and classes in schools, and an overall tendency in our society to be ambivalent about high academic and artistic performance are undermining the development of children with great potential.” (nsgt.org). The NSGT website also points out that out of 3 million gifted students in grades K-12 in the United States, “only perhaps a quarter have been identified and receive support” (nsgt.org). Furthermore out of this small group (see Image 1), ¼ of gifted students across the nation are Hispanic or African American, while ¾ of them are White or Asian (cec.org).
The Jacob Javits program was created in part to help identify and serve students who are “disabled, economically disadvantaged and English language learners” and to assist G&T programs who request funds (Bainbridge, giftedkids.about.com.) Despite this fact, the Jacob Javits program was defunded completely under President Obama between 2011 and 2013 due to significant budget cuts and the downturn of the economy (Bainbridge, giftedkids.about.com). The administration decided that states would still support G &T programs without the additional funds.
Some parents of gifted students are becoming so frustrated with the lack of programs at neighborhood public schools and they looked for alternatives (Rogers, 2002). In some cases, some parents “have sued school districts to get assistance through the court system…” (Rogers, xvi). However, Rogers goes on to explain that while the court “can be helpful in those states that mandate gifted educational services”, it was not as useful in states that do not have mandates for gifted students (xvi). In the most recent voluntary survey conducted by NAGC for the 2012-2013 school year, the following information was gathered (nagc.org):
- Out of 43 states that responded to the question “Does the state have mandate for GT Identification or Services?” , 32 states mandate identification and/or service for G &T students
- Out of the 32 states that responded the question “What areas are included in the mandate?”, 28 mandate identification, 26 mandate services, 9 mandate “other” programs (not clear what that means), and 1 did not specify
- Out of the 30 states that responded to the question “Does the state fund the mandate?”, 18 receive partial funding , 8 receive no funding, and 4 receive full funding.
These discouraging numbers highlight the issues with G& T programing.In the states that did respond, we see that there is a range between those who receive full/partial funding and those who mandate service and/or identification. Without federal mandates, states are not even required to respond to NAGC surveys. Without full participation, how are G &T programs supposed to make improvements? This shows that G&T programming are clearly no longer a focus and as a result, they are on the decline across the nation. If we look at a specific, large school district like New York, it is clear there is a plethora of issues that plague the existing programs.
New York City: A Case of Identification and Funding Issues
As shown in the previous section,there are significant issues with funding, identification of gifted students, and the racial/economic demographics of existing G& T programs. In New York City,there has been numerous reports of the disparities and social stratification that are present in the decreasing amount of services for gifted students.This is a major issue in g &t programming, and it plays major role in its decline.
Before looking at some of the most recent issues, it is important to note that there is very little data on gifted programs in NYC. As late as 2013, the state has refused to provide the “racial demographics of the g&t programs and the schools that provide them” (Baker, nytimes.com).
As shown in Image 2 (from 2008), students in districts that are 1)predominately Black or Hispanic 2)economically disadvantaged do not have as much access to gifted programs in their district (see link to map http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/01/13/nyregion/a-racial-gap-in-gifted-programs.html?ref=education) . As explained by Al Baker’s January 12, 2013 NY Times article “Gifted, Talented and Separated”, gifted children that are in schools that reflect the racial demographic of the city are predominately white or Hispanic. When I searched on the NAGC website, there was no information on NYC’s current G &T practices since the state did not conduct the optional surveys. According to the Davidson Institute for Talent Development website,
New York does not mandate gifted programing or funding (davidsongifted.org). Using P.S 163 as an example Baker explains,
“There are 652 students enrolled at P.S. 163 this year, from prekindergarten through fifth grade. Roughly 63 percent of them are black and Hispanic; whites make up 27percent;and Asians account for 6 percent.Yet in P.S. 163’s gifted classes, the racial dynamics of the neighborhood, the school itself and the school system are turned upside down.Of the 205 children enrolled in the nine gifted classes, 97, or 47 percent, are white; another 31 of the students, or 15 percent, are Asian. And a combined 65 students, or 32 percent, are black and Hispanic.In the 21 other classes that enroll the school’s remaining 447 students, only80, or 18 percent, are white.” (nytimes.com)
These disparities match the G&T programs across the city. Many critics of the NYC Gifted program argue that the admission standards “favor middle-class children, many of them white or Asian, over black and Hispanic children who might have equal promise, and that the programs create castes within schools” (Baker, nytimes.com). The NYC Department of Education has tried to mitigate these issues by changing the criteria in 2008.NYC has both district and city wide programs. District programs begin in kindergarten and continue on the last grade of the school and only take students that live in that district. City wide programs that accept students from all across the city (schools.nyc.gov).
Prior to changes put in place in 2008 by former Mayor Bloomberg , the city’s 32 districts were able to create their own criteria for admission. According to Baker, “They varied, but educators often took a holistic approach” and “they looked at evaluations from teachers and classroom observations, relying on tests only in part, by comparing the results of students from within a district” (Baker, nytimes.com). However, this changed and the admission criteria became solely based on standardized exams. In 2008, students were offered seats in the gifted programs by scoring above the 90th percentile on the standardized Olsat (reasoning) exam and Bracken School Readiness Assessment. This criteria ” was lowered from 95th percentile because too few children met the higher standard” (Gootman and Gebeloff, nytimes.com). However, a study conducted by the NY times showed that “under the new policy, children from the city’s poorest districts were offered a smaller percentage than last year of the entry-grade gifted slots in elementary schools. Children in the city’s wealthiest districts captured a greater share of the slots.” (Gootman and Gebeloff, nytimes.com) .
Only 9% of students in the gifted program were Hispanic, 13% Black and 28% Asian while 50 % were white. (Gootman and Gebeloff, nytimes.com). Additionally, the gifted programs began to shrink in 2008 and only 1,305 kindergarteners and first graders were admitted (a 1,373 decrease from 2007). However, 16,324 students applied for the program in 2008, which shows the high demand of the program and the lack of available services (Gootman and Gebeloff, nytimes.com). Gootman and Gebeloff go on to show that gifted enrollment has been on the decline since there is no wait list for the “most popular programs” as there were in the past (nytimes.com).
Currently, the city maintains the 90th percentile cut off for admission to district programs and a cutoff at the 97th percentile for citywide and district G&T programs .NYC faces a lack of funding and structure for the identification for the program since G& T programing is not mandated.Although the Braken School Readiness Assessment was replaced in 2013 with the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test, the number of children (especially students of color ),declined this year (Baker, nytimes.com). The NYCDepartment of Education plans to continue to reassess the admission criteria. Only time will tell what will happen to G &T programs as time goes on and if all students will be equally served.
With the focus on raising academic achievement for all students, G&T programs are losing momentum, funding and enrollment across the country. Until a national mandate is put into place, G & T students will continue to be left behind and students from disadvantaged backgrounds will continue to be underrepresented. From ’88 to the new millennium, gifted and talented programs have gone from being a point of focus to an afterthought. After 24 years of ebbs and flows, the goals of the Jacob Javits program have not fully materialized.
A Case for Developing America’s Talent. Washington. DC: Office of
Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Dept. of Education, 1993. Print.
In the early 1800s, the British government, motivated by profit and security, marched into the Southeast Asian nation of Burma, also known today as Myanmar. A Buddhist country rich in natural resources, Burma was an expansionist power that bordered India, one of Great Britain’s most prized colonies. Three Anglo-Burmese Wars were fought over a period of 60 years and Burmese territories were annexed as provinces of British India before the British government allowed Burma to be administered separately in 1937 (Harvey, 1946). In 1948, Burma finally gained its independence but the presence of the British colonists had inevitably transformed the nation, its government, society, and institutions. The education system in Burma was one of the areas in which profound changes had taken place. How did British colonization transform the Burmese education system during the mid-19th to early 20th centuries and how did nationalists respond to these foreign influences?
In the pre-colonial period, education and religion were inextricably linked as the Theravada Buddhist monastic order, or the Sangha, served as the main educational institution for the natives. After Burma was colonized, the British attempted to reform the existing system, initially by working to incorporate more secular subjects into the monastic curriculum and later by setting up a system of secular schools that could supply them with local administrators and civil servants and enable them to “civilize” the Burmese people. With the rise of the nationalistic spirit in the 20th century, the educated Burmese demanded education reforms and created national schools that endeavored to rebuild a sense of national identity.
Prior to the arrival of the British, few private schools existed except those established by Christian missionaries and local monasteries in the self-contained agricultural villages were the center of culture and served as schools for the Burmese boys. Due to religious restrictions set against women, girls were educated at home by parents who taught them basic literacy skills alone with other skills related to efficacy in home duties and at the marketplace needed for business activities (Cady, 1958). The emphasis of monastic education was placed largely on learning and reciting religious Pali scriptures that would help the boys develop skills required to eventually monks (Fuqua, 1992). The strong connection between religion and schooling is reflected by fact that the Burmese word for school (kyaung) is the same word used to refer to the monastery.Though the education was of a religious nature, the monastic schools ensured that Burma had a high literacy rate of about 60% as the majority of Burmese men were at least able to read and write their basic letters (Harvey, 1946).
The monastery schools were completely independent from government control and Buddhist monks, in addition to carrying out the duties of their office, acted as the schoolmasters, teaching the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Their work was supported by voluntary gifts, donations, and alms from the villagers, allowing the monks to provide education free of charge to all boys in the village regardless of their class or religious background (Octennial Report, 1956). Some boys attended the school in the day and went home at night while others temporarily became novices for a period of time and lived at the monastery. Rather than using exams or grades to categorize the boys, the monks grouped boys instead by lessons they had completed (Octennial Report, 1956). The main issue in these village school systems, however, was that attendance was irregular and some students dropped out after just receiving the basic literacy skills as working in the fields took precedence over going to school.
In addition to teaching students the basics needed for literacy, the monastic education aimed to transmit the traditional cultural, moral, and religious values of the community and society (Cady, 1958). The monastic education system also contributed to the leveling of classes in society as entrance was open to all and regardless of whether one was a prince or the son of a poor farmer, everyone enjoyed the same status and was subject to the same discipline (Cady, 1958). A more advanced level of education that addressed a wider array of subjects, such as Buddhist Studies, Classical Burmese literature, court protocol, engineering, construction and manufacturing operations (Cady, 1958) could also be attained at some monastic centers in urban locations. This education enabled those who would become monks to build pagodas and monasteries and for those who didn’t to fill roles in the Burmese court.
Aside from monastic schools, a few other avenues of education were also available to the Burmese males. Vocational education was learned in a hands-on manner with students taking up actual apprenticeships (Harvey, 1946). The Burmese kings also sent men to Calcutta and attend higher learning institutions to acquire other sorts of training in the medical or technical fields (Furnivall, 1948).
Prior to 1854, the British had a laissez-faire policy in regards to education. The British had a policy of conciliation since the early 19th century and to avoid confrontation with the local population they did not try to change the education system which was linked to religion (Fuqua, 1992). However, as mentioned before, western education schools had already been established by Christian missionaries in the rural areas populated by Non-Burman ethnic tribes, such as the Karens, Kachins, and Chins. While the missionaries’ efforts with the Burmans and Shans, who were devout Buddhists, were met with resistance, they successfully educated some of the minority groups and also converted them to Christianity. These schools educated both male and female students. The efforts of the American Baptist mission schools, for instance, were so successful with the Karen that they eventually established a college for them in the city of Rangoon (Cady, 1958). These mission schools were an effective means of educating rural populations living in areas that were hard to reach due to geographical barriers, even after a formal school system began to emerge later.
Starting in 1854, the British authorities extended their influence into the education system. Their aim was to “convey useful and practical knowledge suited to every station in life to the great masses of people” as well as to “spread civilization” to remove superstitious prejudices (Fuqua, 1992) . Aside from their liberal and humanitarian sentiments, they also hoped to use education to attach subjects more closely to British rule (Furnivall, 1948) and needed natives who were literate and fluent in English to fill the positions as local administrators and subordinate civil servants (Hillman, 1946). Though they had already opened three Anglo-vernacular schools between the period of 1885 and 1844 to educate English-speaking clerks, there was little demand for these schools because fewer positions in government work was available at that time and most people continued going to monastic schools.
Initially, the British attempted to use the existing monastic system to fashion a rudimentary system of western-style primary education. As this was prior to the separation of Burma from India, this simply resulted in the imposition of educational policies in India on the Burmese system. It fell upon Sir Arthur Phayre, the Commissioner of British Burma to combine the best of both worlds and incorporate secular subjects into monastic system to create a westernized system similar to what was established in India (Fuqua, 1992). However, Phayre’s attempts failed because they were resisted by the monks and they failed to take into accounts the differences between the Indian and Burmese population. Although a few monasteries were receptive to the idea of improving their curriculum and accepted secular textbooks from the British, most monasteries resisted the change. Monks refused to teach subjects like geography and science which they considered to be evil and “refused to play the layman, to be supervised by the layman, to keep lay attendance registers, to exercise lay discipline, and to use lay books” (Campbell,1946). Although their resistance was in part due to religious reasons, it is also likely that they were reacting to being “systematically disenfranchised by the colonial state through its demolition of the pre-existing Buddhist political order” that was closely associated with the Burmese monarchy in the pre-colonial era(Cheesman, 2003). Phayre’s efforts also failed because unlike in India where there was “no comprehensive egalitarian schooling managed by a single agency” and access to schooling was dependent on one’s wealth, gender, and social status in the caste system, in Burma a system of monastic schooling that had a magnitude of independence already existed (Cheesman, 2003). This impeded the efforts of the British who had no means of unifying and reaching out to the hundreds of monastic schools that were not under a central authority. Additionally, the British failed to consider the problem of fluctuations and irregularities in school attendance that was prevalent in monastic schools.
The disappointing results of trying to influence the Sangha and merge monastic education with western secular notions of schooling, the British administration changed their strategy. By 1871, the British authorities set up a system of lay schools under the control of a director of public instruction and his inspectors (Furnivall, 1948). Three main types of schools were established: vernacular schools, Anglo-vernacular schools, and English schools. These schools had taught the 3 Rs as well as subjects in science, British history, the British constitution, Grades 1 to 4 were designated as elementary school, grades 5 to 7 were designated as middle school and grades 8 to 10 as high school (Tinker, 1967). The language of instruction was Burmese in the vernacular schools and English in the English schools, while Anglo-Vernacular schools used both languages for instruction until the 8th standard and English becomes the sole language of instruction (Tinker, 1967). Students had to pay a fee to attend these schools and those who could not pay continued to attend monastic schools (Cheesman, 2003). Those who displayed high academic ability in vernacular schools were given financial aid and other “bridge” program provisions were made for them to transfer into Anglo-vernacular schools (Cambell, 1946). By 1891, there were over 6000 lay schools opened in Burma (Fuqua, 1992). The opening of the Rangoon University, the first higher education institution, in 1885 by the government was followed quickly by the opening of universities (Hillman, 1946).
While the aim of the Sangha was to “teach the boys how to live but not merely how to make a living” (Furnivall, 1948), the modern schooling system based on western ideologies taught students skills that had market value and that led them to contribute to the economy to the benefit of their colonizers. Students were trained for vocational jobs or low skill jobs so that they could enter the work-force and help the British maximize their economic profits and the best of them attained higher education that allowed them to work in the colonial administration (Fuqua, 1992). The British education system did however have a positive effect on female education and increased female literacy because women were permitted to enroll in these lay schools (Furnivall, 19480).
Later in the 1870s when the opening of the Suez Canal accelerated Burma’s economic growth which consequently led the administrative expansion, there was a rise in demand for English schools (Hillman, 1946). The majority of the schools that were opened were vernacular schools which only led to careers as vernacular school teachers or other low paying manual jobs. The Burmese began to realize that they needed to enroll in Anglo-Vernacular or English schools that would allow them attend university and secure jobs in the administration and other government office jobs in the education, health, forestry, and agricultural sectors (Tinker, 1967). As the number of students in Anglo-vernacular and English schools increased, so did the enrollment in universities, leading to a new class of educated Burmese citizens. The desire for social advantage led to the rise in demand and popularity of the state-managed modern education system and to the decline of the monastic school system.
In the turn of the 20th century, the rise in the number of educated Burmese led to a nationalist movement that was inspired by a number of concurrent events. The reforms being implemented by the British in neighboring India and the Japanese victories against Russia opened up the possibility of successfully resisting their opp. Education received from the schooling system established by the British ironically contributed to the nationalist movement in two ways. First, while more people had earned higher degrees to enter government posts, most available posts for the Burmese had been filled by 1930. The frustration of university students was manifested in strikes and protests, contributing to the conditions of political unrest and economic decline in Burma (Hillman, 1946). In 1920, the university students began a national strike to protest against educational policies set by the British who raised the bar for university entrance requirements, marking the entry of students into national politics.
Second, education empowered the Burmese people to fight for liberation from their western colonizers; the Burmese who had gone abroad for further studies returned with both a realization of how they had been second-class citizens in their own country that was being exploited by the colonizers as well as new ideas about government and politics (Cady, 1958). A revival of interest in Burmese history, arts, and literature followed John Furnivall’s organization of the Burma Research Society in 1909 (Cady, 1958). A nationalist group called the Young Men’s Buddhist Association (YMBA) that was modeled after the Young Men’s Christian Association began to organize and were later joined by other university student led groups such as the Thakin group and We Burmans Association They began to use print materials to mobilize nationalist sentiments across the nation (Cheesman, 2003).
The agenda of these groups were centered largely on issues of education (Schober,2007). The Burmese began to realize that the knowledge of Burmese literature had almost died out and that aside from rural areas, English had become the main spoken language as Burmese language and literacy were not sufficiently taught in schools attended by the majority of students (Schober,2007). The YMBA based on its model and actions implicitly seemed to acknowledge that modernization was necessary and did not completely discard modern education. But at the same time, concerned about the influence of western education on the national identity, they tried to support schools that had Buddhism in the curriculum (Schober, 2007).The nationalists also supported monastic schools, petitioning the government to exempt these schools from taxation and discouraging costly religious rituals in these schools.
In the 1920s, Burmese nationalists began to open private schools that were independent of government control that fostered nationalistic ideals (Hillman, 1946). Despite popular support, these schools did not have sufficient funding and had to receive government support (Hillman, 1946). The YMBA agitated the government further to establish more national schools that were independent from the British education system where Burmese was the language of instruction (Fuqua, 1992). Their aim was to establish a system that could compete with the British system and eventually supplant it (Fuqua, 1992).
 Please note that within the borders of Burma there exists a number of different ethnic minority groups who are identified separately from the main population of Burmans. In this paper, I am refer to the entire population that lives in Burma as “Burmese” and to those of the majority ethnic group as “Burmans”.
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Schober, J. (2007). Colonial knowledge and buddhist education in burma. I.Harris (Ed.) Buddhism, power, and political order (pp.52-70). London: Routledge.
Tinker, H. (1967). The Union of Burma: a study of the first years of independence. (4th ed.). London: issued under the auspices of the Royal Institute of International Affairs by Oxford U.P.
To understand the complexities sewn within the development, and ensuing transition, towards a musically enriched school system, one must first be able to identify the point upon which the appearance of music education in the school system first emerged. In order to fully comprehend this, we must first be able to locate its emergence within the proper context and time period, because by doing so, we have a better ability to appreciate the weight music has held toward the development of other American institutions outside the school system. In this light, I seek to question the point at which music education appeared as a method of schooling and the ways advocates have reasoned for music education’s change over time. To answer this question, the following paper will begin with a break-down of the time period surrounding it’s involvement in the school system, followed by a discussion of it’s involvement in the common school era, and finally with a reflection of its emergence into the school system. Within this exploration, I will be able to unveil the deeply rooted significance music holds as a symbol and expression of democratic ideals and the ways the curriculum always seems to evolve to facilitate and mirror the needs of society.
Background To The Rise of a Musically Enriched Education
Music, as an aid to educational development, was first introduced during the Progressive era of early 1900s, an after-effect of the common-school movement, introduced around the mid-1800s. Prior to this, musicianship was used as a means of entertainment among the genteel class and as a public demonstration of elite stature. However, upon the realization that music could be used as a tool to promote social reform within the poorer classes (and could thereby be used to ameliorate the economic status of the country as a whole), the purpose of music became transformed. Instead of its original purpose as a representation of elite’s priority and a form of their entertainment, music became a tool for promoting social, political, and economic reform, and as such, reflected the ideologies behind the turn of the century’s Progressive movement.
The Progressive Movement of the early 1900’s was a time period centered on American evolution and advancement. Within this period of reform, many “shared in common the view that government at every level must be actively involved in these reforms”(West, et al.). This included the school system, and eventually resulted in the creation of a music-mandate in the curriculum. Before I dive into the details behind the Progressive Movement’s impact on music as a form of education, it is important to touch upon the transformations occurring in the urban and rural districts during the same time.
The cities of the early 1900s, areas usually comprised of social settlements (“centers for neighborhood social services and social reform activities”(Abrams)), which were built around music, as an aid to the poor and unskilled. It was believed among the majority of the upper-middle-class, that musical appreciation within the working class could be a powerful means of reform for them, and was one that could cause “social uplift and amelioration”(Lee, 307). This viewpoint continued following the adoption of musical instruction in rural areas nearer the 1920s, a transition that allowed the inclusion of the majority of American public, and most importantly, school children at the time. This inclusion of the masses reflected many of the democratic ideologies intrinsic to the Progressive era’s push for widespread class inclusion. By incorporating musical instruction (something I will touch on again later) into the curriculum of rural schools, this movement of progression was able to reach a broader audience. And subsequently, changed the approach to schooling, and in the eyes of many reformers both then and today, changed it for the better.
With the implementation and availability of music education, to more of the “common” folk in American society, music, as a tool of empowerment, became even more prevalent, and reflected the ideology of many Progressive Era reformers. Following this transition, music became a symbol that embodied democratic ideologies through it’s encouragement of the idea that everyone could appreciate and participate in music (and that it was not restricted to only the more elite social classes); something that created a further distinction between our conception of American versus European culture. American reformers of this time believed that “a democratic revolution in music signaled the beginning of the disintegration of the genteel ideal in music, an ideal that had seen European cultural models as best for Americans. (Lee, 308). Music education, by in large, was crucial to not only the evolution of America’s social and economic structure, but allowed us to politically distance ourselves from the European, monarchial culture, furthering our pride in a democratic America.
At the same time that this adoption of music among the rural community was broadening, there was also a heavy migration from rural areas to cities, a consequence of the greater economic opportunities made available from the rise of factory work and considerable need for skilled laborers and arms manufacturing at the peak of the First World War. As a result, many elite-class members worried that their cities would become filled with the uneducated and unskilled people of the countryside, and what’s more, the rural economy those migrants left, will begin to deteriorate from lack of available workers. This worry among the elite class, yet ameliorated interest, surrounding rural life can be seen through President Theodore Roosevelt’s 1908 creation of the Country Life Commission, a group created to monitor economic rural life, especially within institutions like the church and the school. It was believed that music would play a fundamental role in uplifting and reinvigorating the rural masses.
Even though, following the end of World War I, many migrants returned back to their respective rural communities, the influence of music in those places never subsided. What was once a national method of reform, created to uplift the economic downfall of rural communities, transcended into those same rural areas becoming “fertile ground for music teaching”(Lee, 318). Upon the addition of rural involvement with musicianship, music was able to progress into a form of schooling and education.
The Significance of the Common School Era
Nearing the turn of the century, the common school reform era took full flight. It’s emergence around 1860 marked a key transition to a new approach of school-wide instruction, which stressed the significance that universal schooling and mass public education has on unifying American culture. This method of schooling not only elevated the level of instruction (as a result of the movement’s mandate for “systematic examinations and minimum training requirements for teachers”(Rury, 75)), but also caused a separation between schooling and religion, a distinction yet to be enforced within the school system. Prior to the common school era, school and religion were tremendously intertwined. This inevitably influenced the type of instruction the students were given, as it was something flooded with religious bias. Not surprisingly, intolerance and bigotry ran rapid amongst American society. It was believed that this type of hatred, a result from “religious sectarianism and cultural conflict, posed a big challenge to the future of American institutions, especially the principle of democratically elected government”(Rury, 75). The school system was viewed as both the cause and potential end to this problem, and was believed as “the solution to a host of social problems, and as a tool of economic and political development”(Rury, 74), as I had mentioned earlier.
A new-found emphasis on musical education arose upon the “common schooling” era, where offerings of music activity, like “listening lessons, instrumental performing groups, musical history, and theory – began to appear in isolated places near the turn of the century. These offerings were extracurricular at first, but later evolved into curricular subjects” (Mark, 256). This change reflected a shift in the discourse and the overall perception of the purpose of education within American society. Not only did this shift reflect a greater appreciation for artistic ability on a vocational level, but also mirrored the notion that “democracy depended on universal [and one standard level of] education” (Marks, 141) for all children.
Music’s Progression and Involvement In The School Curriculum
The transition of music into the school system before the turn of the century, began with a focus on vocal music education, where “music educators made four-part choral singing the music activity for high schools…it included one hour of music study four days each week in addition to the usual one hour per week of required choral music. That would have put the music program on par with other disciplines in the high school curriculum”(Gary, 256). However, it wasn’t until later that the focus on choral-based classes transitioned to incorporate instrumental classes as well. What’s more, this introduction to instrumental classes coincided with a shift in the approach of teaching music, where the traditional individualized-method of instruction converted into a form of class-based instruction. In this way, “group instruction for singing was the norm, and it fit easily into the structure of the American common schools; it was as yet unknown for instrumental music, however.”(Gary, 266). Instead, instrumental music teaching was previously “done on an individual basis, as had been the usual practice for centuries. The regular faculty of the public schools was hired initially to teach vocal music. Music theory and appreciation were added at the turn of the century”(Gary, 266). This appreciation, however, became more and more diluted approaching mid-century America. The following quote best summarizes the transition from music’s prominence around the turn of the century to its latter general dismissal among school boards towards the mid-twentieth century.
“Music had been an integral part of the school curriculum during the progressive education era. When progressive education ceased to be an organized movement in the 1950s, however, music, like the other curricular disciplines, lost a philosophical basis of support. Progressive education was not replaced by a new comprehensive philosophy, and so all of the disciplines found themselves with curricula partially suited to progressive education, whose philosophy was under question. Without the guidance of a comprehensive philosophy for American education, there was no new direction indicated for curriculum planners. Music education remained static, as did other disciplines”(Gary, 352).
In respect to the static nature the music curriculum now found itself in, music educators began to revolutionize their methods of instruction in an effort to mimic the modern nature of new social reforms. As a result, the 1960s and 1970s proved to be a fundamental time for radical changes within music education. One most notable shift within these changes was the implementation of comprehensive musicianship.
Comprehensive musicianship was first introduced around 1965 in an effort to radicalize and reinvigorate the music curriculum within the American education system. This development, founded based off an incorporation of “music history and theory”(Gary, 361), has had a tremendous impact on elementary and secondary schools. Not only has it by allowed children with the necessary background information to be able to devise insight into the meaning and context of their songs and performances, but also has given way to a new era of music education that appreciates a broader understanding of music and its relation to its society. Comprehensive musicianship was also incorporated into collegiate curriculums as well, but this process was much more gradual. However, despite its more protracted implementation, comprehensive musicianship gave way to many of the collegiate music courses we are so familiar with today. In fact, Trinity College’s own music curriculum began in 1977, and today reflects much of the historical and theological content that was so embedded within comprehensive musicianship from its introduction in elementary schools in 1965.
The emergence of musical education in terms of a necessity to uphold the progressive and common school values of the early 1900s, evolved to accommodate the new philosophical movement of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. Despite the inevitable variability within these different social reform movements of the past century and a half, music education has continued to reflect the ideologies of each of its respective eras. In this way, we can understand music’s role as being a facilitator for societal mobility and progression, the reason for its change over time.
Abrams, Laura S. “Social Settlements.” Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood in History and Society. The Gale Group, Inc, 2008. Web. 22 April. 2014.
Keene, James A. A History of Music Education in the United States. Hanover, NH: U of New England, 1982. Print.
Lee, William R. “Music Education and Rural Reform, 1900-1925.” Journal of Research in Music Education, Vol. 45, No. 2 (Summer, 1997), pp. 306-326. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3345589.
Mark, Michael L., and Charles L. Gary. A History of American Music Education. New York: Schirmer, 1992. Print.
Rury, John L. “Excerpt On The Common School Reform Movement (1830s-60s).” Education and Social Change: Contours in the History of American Schooling. 3rd ed. New York: Routledge, 2009. 74-80. Print.
West, Thomas G., and William A. Schambra. “The Progressive Movement and the Transformation of American Politics.” The Heritage Foundation. 18 July 2007. Web. 29 Apr. 2014.
Upon my arrival to Trinity College, I learned something interesting when we shared our birthdays and ages at orientation; something that I hadn’t given much thought to until now. I am one of my youngest friends here and I am born in April, the fourth month of the year! It really surprised me to learn that students are in my class but almost a full year or two older than me. Different states have different cut offs so I assumed that it was as simple as that, but then I learned of the redshirting phenomenon. Redshirting refers to the practice of postponing a child’s entrance to school with the intent that your child will have an advantage. Redshirting has created yet another inequality in the United States public education system. In this paper I seek to uncover: When and how did the practice of “redshirting” for kindergarten arise as a public issue, has the practice become more prevalent in recent decades, and if so, what kinds of factors have influenced it, and what are the broader consequences?
Redshirting arose, by name, as a public issue in the early 1980’s and since, studies have shown that redshirting has steadily increased in the past three decades. There is no single explanation for what caused the shift, but there have been many factors that influenced the increase in redshirting. Redshirting has also come with consequences, causing a greater disparity of knowledge in kindergarten and changes in school curricula.
Redshirting comes from the practice used by college athletic teams, a technique where an athlete takes a season off for development and training purposes. Redshirting kindergarteners, however, has become a recent phenomenon, with scarce mention before the early 1970’s. Some believe that policy shifts in entry laws from 1975-2000 contributed to the rise of redshirting. During this time, twenty-two states increased the minimum age for kindergarten entry. This ultimately led to a steady decline in six-year olds enrolled in first and second grade, dropping 13% between 1968 and 2010 (Bassok and Reardon, 284). Policy is not the only factor that has influenced this change- it is also believed to come from parenting techniques. This delay that parents’ have may in part created, is due to the fear that their child is not socially or developmentally ready to begin kindergarten (Bassok and Reardon, 284). However, parents’ may not have come up with the idea to redshirt their child on their own.
Another factor that is believed to contribute to the rise of redshirting is the rise in standardized testing. Scholars Lincove and Painter found that the No Child Left Behind law has increased pressure for schools to reach the national standard; standardized testing can begin as early as the third grade. Standardized testing in the third grade puts immense pressure on teachers and school boards to start preparing students for these exams as early as grades K – 2 (Lincove and Painter, 154). Some districts feel the need to increase the kindergarten entry age or encourage parents to redshirt students because of standardized testing (Lincove and Painter, 154). The fact that schools have recently made changes to the legal age of school entry is tied to the schools fear of not performing well on standardized testing, and it’s believed that the redshirting phenomenon might be an unintentional consequence of pressure that the standardized testing puts on schools (Deming and Dynarski, 9). It is a common thought that redshirting was challenging the intellectual level of kindergarten curriculum but this is something much larger, standardized testing is the reason for the change in curriculum. Although there is not any data to prove that kindergarten is what first grade was forty years ago, it is quite obvious that the academic expectations of kindergarteners is higher than ever (Deming and Dynarski, 11). Allowing an extra year for students to stay home and develop creates disparity in knowledge in the classroom, which makes it difficult for the teacher to teach the class (Graue and DiPerna, 512). Parents’ decision to redshirt their children can be both individual and communal based. As mentioned before, some research has found that school districts have encouraged parents to redshirt their children to increase the standardized testing results for the district (Lincove and Painter, 154). Standardized testing holds school districts (principals and teachers) accountable for students test scores, which leads them to encourage redshirting. Parents and teachers are only thinking about the short-term benefits it will provide on both parties; not realizing the long-term repercussions it might have (Deming and Dynarski, 9).
Another reason that we presume parents’ redshirt their children is due to the fear of retention. Studies have shown that students who repeat a year of kindergarten often have behavioral issues in their second year and are not as motivated to learn (Holloway, 89). Since parents’ are the ones who make the decisions for their child to be redshirted it is important to look at family influence. This is where redshirting becomes complex because there are many independent variables outside of the school that influence the decision to redshirt. Scholars Lincove and Painter looked at the National Educational Longitudinal Study (NELS) of 1988 and analyzed eighth graders and attempted to trace back to their kindergarten entry. In this study, they separated the students into three groups: summer birthdays, winter birthdays, and summer birthdays that redshirted (Lincove and Painter 159). From their study, they determined that most of the students who were redshirted came from nontraditional families and were likely to have been born outside of the U.S (Lincove and Painter, 158). In contrast, today it is evident that students from middle-class families are more likely to be redshirted because of their cultural capital and socioeconomic status (Hansen- Bundy).
In 2006, a study was conducted that found that 5% of children in the United States are entering school a year later than they are permitted to. While this may seem harmless, 77% of these deferrals are students who are born in the last quarter of the year and 30% of these children come from families who are in the top socioeconomic quarter (Bedard and Dhuey, 29). Therefore, this leaves children from low socioeconomic standing in an even greater disadvantage – being the youngest in their class and having less cultural capital. An important consequence of redshirting is the increase in disparity of human capital and social welfare (Deming and Dynarski, 16). In kindergarten, those who are the oldest are the ones with the greatest advantage – typically coming from higher socioeconomic classes and having an extra year under their belts from cultural education experiences. On the other hand, children who live in poverty are faced with the struggle to compete with students that already had an unfair advantage outside of the classroom. There is substantial evidence from an array of programs that are for disadvantaged children. This evidence shows that early assistance prevents grade repetition, reduces crime, and helps prevent teen pregnancy (Heckman and Masterov, 6). The use of tracking in the American school system takes this disparity and puts these students on lower education paths as if they have learning disabilities when, in actuality, they are only behind because they are competing with students a full year older than them (Deming and Dynarski, 16).
There has been much debate on whether or not redshirting has positive or negative long-term effects on a child. In the earliest grades, the redshirted child is said to be at an advantage, coming into school with an extra year of development, which gives them a leg up both in and outside of the classroom. It is proven that the brain development between ages five and six is very significant because these are the fundamental years of children’s lives (Konnikova). However, evidence shows that redshirted students don’t have this ‘leg up’ forever. Being the oldest student in a class reduces their educational attainment (Deming and Dynarski, 3). The younger children attain more knowledge because they are more motivated and carry a good work ethic throughout schooling (Deming and Dynarski, 2). Plummeting High School graduation rates in America’s public education system is a huge issue and correlations can be made to redshirting. Redshirting has created a loop in the public education system, because of the higher age of entry into kindergarten, high school students are able to drop out a year earlier (Deming and Dynarski, 2). The United States doesn’t have a universal age entry law for kindergarten; however, there is compulsory schooling law in place that constrains children to remain in school until a certain age, not for a certain amount of years (Deming and Dynarski, 12). Although there is evidence of correlation between increase in redshirting and increase in dropout rates, most redshirted kids will not drop out. The price of redshirting is that these children will be delayed in entering the labor force and acquiring capital (Deming and Dynarski, 15).
In redshirting, parents are trying to give their child an advantage in the classroom and on the sports field but what they don’t realize is that this ‘leg up’ doesn’t last forever. Choosing to redshirt is also choosing to prolong your child’s childhood, which in turn means they will reach some of life’s greatest milestones a year later than they were supposed to (Deming and Dynarski, 4). This recent phenomenon of delaying entry to school has led to the prolonging childhood and adolescence, most importantly the delay of adulthood – which correlates with the economy (Deming and Dynarski, 2). Education teaches cognitive and other skills that are key components to the labor force and more importantly impacts the economy. This fact ties back into the high dropout rate because it negatively effects the economy, if these cognitive and non-cognitive skills are not embedded in students (Heckman and Masterov, 7). It also ties to the prolonging of childhood because redshirted students enter the industry a year later than they would have. The economy is greatly impacted if the school system is not producing students who have cognitive and non-cognitive skills that are essential to the labor force (Heckman and Masterov, 18). With that said the phenomenon of redshirting and any other educational shifts like it must be closely studied.
Kindergarten once revolved around finger painting, nap time, learning shapes, colors and the alphabet. Today kindergarten curriculum revolves around fast pace preparation for the standardized tests that they will begin taking. The curriculum of Kindergarten is changing and seems to be shifting towards the structure of 1st grade because of the popularity of redshirting. Since redshirting is fairly recent there isn’t one determined explanation for the shift studies have shown that helicopter parents and standardized testing are the leading causes. The pressure for students to preform and achieve has made parents’ fearful that their child isn’t ready to start school. What I hadn’t realized at first glance was the many other social, political, and economic factors that redshirting has created. Educational shifts are crucial to study because if the system isn’t producing skilled and intelligent individuals our economy will suffer. Redshirting seems like it could be an easy fix – if the education system had a universal age requirement. However, educational changes take a lot of time and nothing is a simple, as it may seem.
Every parent wants what is best for their child and say they would ‘ do anything for their child.’ It is a fatal flaw that in our education system that those who have socioeconomic status are the ones who can afford to redshirt and give their child a ‘leg up.’ Redshirting raises the question of whether this practice is immoral or unwise, because of the disparity that it is creating. There is no study that has shown enough evidence of anything detrimental to a child’s future if they are redshirting. Redshirting may create disparity of knowledge in classrooms but disparity is everywhere in society, and if redshirting could potentially help your child there isn’t any parent who wouldn’t do it. The rules and expectations of students in Education are almost always based on their age. America is living on a calendar of age; age determines when we can start school, drop out of school, drive, vote, work, consume alcohol, buy tobacco. Age, by society’s standards determines individuals’ readiness, maturity, and ability to handle certain situations. America has let age define an individual’s experience and progression beyond just celebrating another year of life.
Aliprantis, Dionissi. “Redshirting, Compulsory Schooling Laws, and Educational Attainment” American Educational Research Association, 37:316 (2012): 316-338. Web. 14.April.2014.
Bassok, Daphna and Reardon, Sean. “Academic Redshirting” In Kindergarten: Prevalence, Patterns, and Implications” American Educational Research Association, 35:283(2013): 283-297. Web. 13. April.2014.
Bedard, Kelly and Dhuey, Elizabeth. “ The Persistence of Early Childhood Maturity: International Evidence Of Long-Run Age Effects.” Department of Economics University of Santa Barbara, University of Santa Barbara. Web. 27. April. 2014
Deming, David and Dynarski, Susan. “The Lengthening of Childhood.” NBER Working Paper no.14124. National Bureau of Economic Research. June, 2008. Web. 29April 2014.
DiPerna, James and Graue, Elizabeth. “Redshirting and Early Retention: Who Gets the ‘Gift of Time’ and What Are Its Outcomes?” American Educational Research Journal, 37.2 (2000): 509-534. Web. 15. April. 2014.
Hansen – Bundy, Benjy. “Political MoJo.” Mother Jones. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2014.
Heckman, James, and Dimitriy Masterov. 2007. “The Productivity Argument for Investing in Young Children.” Review of Agricultural Economics, 29(3): 446–93.
Konnikova, Maria. “Youngest Kid, Smartest Kid?” The New Yorker. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Apr. 2014.
Lincove, Jane and Painter, Gary. “Does the Age That Children Start Kindergarten Matter? Evidence of Long- Term Educational and Social Outcomes” Educational Evaluation and Policy, 28.2 (2006): 153-179. Web. 16. 2014.
Moyer, Melinda. “Can Your Kid Hack It in Kindergarten, or Should You Redshirt Him?” Slate Magazine. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Apr. 2014.
Safer, Morley. “Redshirting:Holding Kids Back from Kindergarten.” CBS. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Apr. 2014.
Schmidt, Michelle. “Kindergarten ‘Redshirting’: A Leg Up or an Unfair Advantage?” SparkPeople. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2014.
“All the world over, so easy to see, people everywhere just want to be free.” The 1968 school year began with The Rascal’s topping the Billboard Charts,[i] and students everywhere were taking their lyrics to heart. Be it Vietnam, Nixon, Civil Rights or Women’s Rights, campuses across the country overflowed with activism and controversy. Among elite colleges in the Northeast—traditionally all-male institutions—a tidal wave of progressive change was taking place, the highlight of which was the admission of women at many of these schools. With widespread student support, and administrative consent (albeit for reasons other than equality), Trinity accepted their first women for the 1969-1970 school year. At the same time, when the subject of co-education was raised at Amherst College, the student body’s ambivalence and the administration’s opposition culminated into a failure to integrate fully for another five years, later than almost all of their peers. While the administrations and trustees of both Trinity and Amherst showed profit-driven motives for co-education—which resulted in their unwillingness to adequately support their first women—the prevalence of opposition among Amherst students and officials resulted in Amherst’s first women having a more difficult experience than the first women to attend Trinity.
While the Trinity administration’s motives for implementing co-education placed economics and academic competitiveness above equality, the student body’s support for co-education evidenced a progressive campus community. Evidence of the administration’s reasons for admitting women can be found in a private memorandum written by Robert Fuller, the Dean of Students at the time of the first admission of women, to Theodore Lockwood, who served as president of the College from 1968-1981. In the report, Fuller explained how co-education would allow Trinity to increase their academic competetiveness, writing, “we could replace the less qualified among the men we are now admitting with women who were the academic equals of the upper half of our entering men.”[ii] According to Fuller, this would prevent Trinity from falling behind their peer institutions, including Swarthmore College, Wesleyan University, and Williams College. He also claimed that accepting women will decrease the economic burden the College faced, writing, “The admission of women would reduced this demand [for scholarships], because a family seldom considers sending a daughter to an expensive private college unless it can pay her way.”[iii] While the Fuller memo points to the administration’s profit-driven motives for implementing co-education, evidence shows that the student body was ready to welcome women to the College. A poll taken by the Trinity Tripod in October of 1968, less than a month after Fuller wrote his report, showed that 76% of students were in support of having females as classmates and peers.[iv] This proves that, while the administration may not have been ready to accept women for reasons of social progress, they would find at least some level of support from the student body.
Although they finally bowed to the pressures of competition in 1974, the Amherst administration and Board of Trustees were initially very reluctant to admit women, and their hesitance was initially matched by ambivalence on the part of the student body. It was not until the early 70’s that the tide of student support for co-education switched in favor of the admission of women. Discussion surrounding co-education at Amherst gained steam around the same time that Trinity admitted it’s first women, yet the College claimed that the problems surrounding a switch to co-education were too great to overcome. According to Joan Annett, who took classes at Amherst as a part of the “12-College Exchange” in 1970, wrote, “The feasibility of coeducation at Amherst is, undeniably, a complex issue; however, most of the obstacles involved are not as insurmountable as many of the officials of the College would have us believe.”[v] Despite the rapid acceptance of co-education among elite Northeastern colleges, the Amherst administration managed to paint the difficulties attached to co-education as being too difficult to overcome. And while any resistance to co-education prior to 1970 by Trinity officials and trustees was counterbalanced by strong student support for co-education, this was not the case at Amherst. In December of 1968, two months after 76% of Trinity students had declared their support for co-education, only 49% of Amherst students did the same.[vi] It was not until 1973 that the support for the admission of women began to grow among students and faculty, and the administration finally decided to appoint a committee to study the benefits of transitioning to co-education. A Boston Globe article from November of 1974 reported that, “there was considerable opposition to it by the alumni…however, as other schools began to accept women and pressure for the change built up among Amherst faculty and students, the trustees last year agreed to consider at this year’s meeting if a study could show its benefits to the college.”[vii] The results of this study finally convinced the Amherst community to accept co-education, but the absence of active support for co-education over the last few years would prove to predicate an uphill battle for Amherst’s first women—one that they would find themselves undertaking with very little external support.
The first generation of women at Trinity found that, while the administration was often ambivalent to their struggles, they could rely on the support of certain portions of the student body and the faculty. In the classroom, while isolated instances of prejudice were certainly present, women reported that the system as a whole treated them with fairness. One member of the class of 1979 reported that they “don’t remember being treated any differently than [their] other male classmates.”[viii] Not all of the early women at Trinity corroborated these reports of academic equality, including another member of the class of 1979 who recalled that they “felt discrimination against women by faculty, in the classroom—blatant—with words.”[ix] While Noreen Channels did not report the majors of the individuals quote in her survey for the sake of privacy, the disparity in academic experiences had by Trinity’s first women suggests that the integration of women into the classroom was welcomed differently by different academic disciplines.
Outside of the classroom, Trinity’s first women faced numerous, terrifying struggles, but reported that they were able to find support among the student body, which they found especially vital in the absence of administrative support. One member of the class of 1979 recalled the reluctance of the Administration to act on their behalf, saying, “Even though there were a significant number of physical assaults on women, there was essentially no college-sponsored remedy,”[x] while a 1984 graduate remembers, “the response of [a male administrator], when told of a gang rape of a women at Trinity (at a frat) by male students, was ‘boys will be boys’”[xi] The actions of the Trinity administration during the first years of co-education explicitly speak to their priorities; the reputation of the College was a far higher consideration than the health, safety, and wellbeing of its female students. Another member of the class of 1979 provided a recollection that, while providing further evidence of the College administration’s skewed priorities and general apathy to the safety of women, spoke to the courage of a more progressive student body that recognized female students as their peers, and recognized their safety as being an important issue. She recalls,
My friends and I were outraged when there were a number of rapes and assaults (1974-75) and TC would not post composite drawings of the men who were responsible. We were told it would hurt the reputation of the school. The make students, without the help of the school, organized escort services and in 2 cases that I witnessed, the students cornered and/or beat up 2 men who’d been assaulting or planning to assault women. One of the suspects was caught in my dorm bathroom, hiding with a knife.[xii]
The above passage, while highlighting the failure of the Trinity administration to support their first female students, makes it clear that these students were not entirely along in their difficult journey. Brave male students, without any support from the College, stood by Trinity’s first women as they faced the incredibly daunting challenge of integrating into the campus community.
The first women to attend Amherst, in light of the broad resistance to co-education, often felt that they were unwelcome and excluded. From when they first stepped on campus, the first female students were made to feel as though there presence was opposed and their admission was illegitimate. Alissa Reyness, a 1981 graduate, reflected on the hostile campus culture, saying,
When school started that fall, there were rumors about coeducation. Rumors that the majority of the alumni, and many students and faculty were against it. The decision (so the rumors went) had not been based on notions of equality and equal access, but on economics: Amherst was losing out in the application pool to the now coeducational Big Three. Another rumor was that the high proportion of attractive women that first year was an intentional sop to the unwilling students, alumni, and faculty.[xiii]
Reyness’ account of the rumors that were circulating campus during their first year it very easy to imagine how unwelcome women felt in the Amherst community. However, the hostility went beyond the campus murmurings and was sometimes far more direct. One female member of the class of 1981 an incident where she realized how blatant and universal the hostility could be. She writes,
One very strong, clear—and still sad—memory I have was of a reunion dinner in 1980. The president at the time came in to speak and he was booed—by a lot of people there—because he had been instrumental in the coeducation of the College. For me it was like a deep wound—to see this great man treated badly and disrespectfully like this—and also to feel that these people—alumni—hadn’t wanted me at the College. I’ll never forget this scene. I found a male friend after this and tried to explain my hurt to him and he didn’t even understand.[xiv]
The first women at Amherst, as evidenced above, felt isolated and unwelcome on their own campus. Emily Cooperman of the class of 1982 described “a whole atmosphere, a kind of culture, in which [she] felt [her]self clearly a foreigner.”[xv] This experience differs from that of Trinity’s first women in that women at Amherst felt that they were ostracized on a more universal level, and they felt that they were without allies.
Since these first women bravely carved their way through Trinity and Amherst, both institutions have come a long way in terms of treating women fairly, but both still have a long way to go. One member of the class of 2016 reported that she has thus far had a “fair classroom experience,” but that “Trinity is a male-dominated social institution.”[xvi] Another member of class of 2016 spoke of the mistreatment of female faculty that still exists at Trinity, saying that, “My advisor is leaving for [another University]…because she can’t deal with how she’s treated as a woman by her colleagues.”[xvii] This student also noted a present stigma surrounding the Woman and Gender Studies program at Trinity, saying that, “[as a Woman and Gender Studies minor,] people assume I’m a feminist who doesn’t shave their legs.”[xviii] The experience of women at Amherst has come a long way since co-education. One member of the class of 2015 said, “I don’t see my experience at Amherst as being as scripted by my gender as I think I might have felt soon after co-education.” However, she noted that “many classroom spaces are still male-dominated, and men will speak disproportionately to the number that are in the class.” [xix] While the framework laid by the first women at each of these institutions has done a great deal to improve the female condition at Amherst and Trinity, continuing to fight for equal treatment is still of the utmost importance.
The first women to attend both Trinity and Amherst faced an incredibly daunting battle, and found that their respective administrations did little to support them. However, support among male students at Trinity (which was largely absent at Amherst), resulted in Trinity’s early female graduates finding a support network that was not present at Amherst. Women at each school, with or without allies, fought for their safety, their rights, and the opportunity for their voice to be heard. While both schools have made tremendous progress, women in the NESCAC and beyond are still fighting for the same rights, and it is my hope that by better understanding where the battle has been, we are all better equipped to fight for a better, more just future.
Special Thanks to Rob Walsh, Peter Knapp, Jack Dougherty, and the staff of the Amherst College Archives & Special Collections Library for their invaluable help with research.
[i] “The Hot 100 Archives.” Text. Billboard, January 2, 2013. http://www.billboard.com/charts/hot-100.
[ii] Robert Fuller, “The Admission of Women Undergraduates to Trinity College,” September 30, 1968.
[iv] “76% Support Coeducation in Tripod Evaluation.” Trinity Tripod. October 11, 1968, Vol. LXVII, No. 8 edition.
[v] Joan Annett, “Coeducation at Amherst: A Feminine View,” Amherst Alumni News XXII, no. 3 (Winter 1970): 3–5.
[vi] “Amherst and Coeducation: A Summary.” News of Amherst College: Amherst College Bulletin 63, no. 6 (March 1974).
[vii]McMillan, Gary. “Amherst College to End Male Tradition, Trustees Decide to Admit Women Next Fall.” Boston Globe, November 3, 1974.
[viii].Noreen Channels, Survey of the Trinity College Alumnae Conducted in the Spring, 1990 (Hartford, Conn., United States: Trinity College, 1990). Pt.4, P.10.
[ix] ibid. Pt. 4, P.17.
[x] ibid. Pt.3, P.5.
[xi] ibid. Pt.3, P.15.
[xii] ibid. Pt.3, P.6.
[xiii] Auban Haydel and Kit Lasher, The Fairest College?: Twenty Years of Women at Amherst (Amherst, MA, 1997). P.13.
[xiv] ibid. PP.10-11.
[xv] ibid. P.29.
[xvi] Monteleone, Isabel. Interview with Isabel Monteleone, Trinity College, Class of 2016. Interview by Evan Turiano. Face to Face, April 21, 2014.
[xvii] Reny, Olivia. Interview with Olivia Reny, Trinity College, Class of 2016. Interview by Evan Turiano. Face to Face, April 20, 2014.
[xix] Ellis-Moore, Kyra. Interview with Kyra Ellis-Moore, Amherst College, Class of 2015. Interview by Evan Turiano. Email, April 22, 2014.
Moving Ahead from Head Start
Early childhood education refers to the teaching that goes on amongst children before they enter elementary school. The educational and social values that the students gain from this schooling are very beneficial as they enter elementary school. Early childhood education is not just based off of the curriculum and how the class is taught, it is also based off of the social structure of the classroom. Even the way that the furniture is aligned in the classroom has an impact on how successful the quality of the education is. Young children in these classes are not just there to be taught math, reading, writing, etc.; they are there to learn how to be social and creative — skills that they will use later in life. Head Start is a publicly funded early childhood education program that was started in the 1960s. The main purpose of the Head Start program was to encourage students that were living in poverty to become accustomed to life as a student at as young as an age as possible. Unfortunately, Head Start aimed almost only to students in poverty and excluded everyone else from the program. In the early 1990s, a new program was started called Universal Pre-K. This program has had more of a popularity streak because it aims at more people than just the lower class. Because of the vast amount of people that this program targets, there are now more students enrolled in Universal Pre-K than Head Start even though Head Start has been around for over thirty more years than UPK.
A main purpose to both of these programs is to narrow to achievement gap. There is a very close correlation between the opportunity gap and the achievement gap. Unfortunately, a child’s future is planned out when they enter this world because of the opportunities that are given to them by their parents. This claim is completely unfair because every child should be able to succeed just like the next one. The problem is, that most children are not given the chance. In order to close the achievement gap, we have to narrow the opportunity gap as well. Publicly funded early education is needed everywhere with quality teachers. Quality instructors are key to actually reforming the gaps. Ravitch believes that these gaps will be hard and costly to close but it will be worth it. She states, “Early intervention can make a lasting difference in children’s lives. It’s expensive to do it right. Its even more expensive to do half measures or not to do it at all (Ravitch, 233).” I completely agree with what she has to say here. The price is going to make a dent in the country, but will make an even bigger dent if we keep all of these kids that have potential hidden. Heckman explained that, “Early intervention not only enhances the life prospects of children but also has a high benefit-cost ratio and rate of return for society’s investment (Ravitch, 231).” If students that would be set up to fail have the chance to succeed, what they give back to the country will be more beneficial and cost less than what the country puts into them to make them succeed. If students of low in come families are encouraged to start schooling at a younger age, the opportunity gap is immediately narrowed. A lot of children that come from poverty do not think about education until it is mandatory. Even when it is mandatory, it is dreaded and not cared about. Gaps are caused by so many reasons and these differences between students affect children’s readiness to learn. All children have the capability to be able to learn, but some have a head start because of the background that they come from. That is why the program Head Start came into play in the 1960s. Early childhood education cannot completely close the gap, but it has proven to shrink the gap. Head Start and Universal Pre-K both have the same goal when it comes to narrowing the achievement gap (Ravitch, 230-233). Closing the achievement gap was a goal that Head Start started with when the program began and still sticks with. This is the same for Universal Pre-K. Even though these two programs might compete because they are so similar, they both have very similar goals for what they want to happen with the young children. There have been projects done to prove that this gap can be narrowed with the right qualifications in early education.
Early education has been proven to work through many projects like the Nurse Family Partnership program, the Perry Preschool Project, and the Abecedarian Project. The Perry Preschool project enrolled fifty-eight poor African Americans children into a school starting at the age of three. These students would attend preschool for three hours a day for two years. This school was unlike other preschools; the curriculum was made so the children were encouraged to plan their own days. The teachers were very qualified and they were paid similar to public school teachers. They made weekly home visits to the students parents, teaching them how to turn every day activities into learning exercises. After the students had completed the two years of schooling, they were tracked until they were adults. These students were, “less likely than students in the control group to skip school, be assigned to a special education class or have to repeat a grade. By age 19, 66 percent of them had graduated from high school, as compared to 45 percent of those who hadn’t gone to Perry (Ravitch, 232).” This is solid evidence that early education is useful. It makes it hard for almost anyone to fight against it.
In 1964, the Federal Government created a panel of child development experts to design a program to help overcome barriers that children face when they are living in poverty. The program that was created was called Head Start. Head Start started as a summer program that was designed to break the cycle of poverty by providing early childhood education for low-income families. Educators, child development specialists, community leaders and parents positively looked at Head Start across the nation (History & Facts). The original goal of Head Start was to create a summer program that was funded by the government for young children in need of an early childhood education. Because the program was over the summer, it gave the children an opportunity to do something useful with their summers rather than just have three months to waste time. This program was obviously successful because within a year, the enrollment increased so much. President Lydon B. Johnson was in office at the time that the program was kicking off. Fortunately, Head Start had enough support that the new program was granted $96,400,000. With this money, 561,000 students were enrolled in just the first year. This turn out was unexpected, but pointed the program into a very upward turn. The next year, in 1966, Head Start became a 9-month, part day program for children of low in come families. The enrollment climbed its way up to 733,000 students in just one year. In 1969, Head Start moved from the Office of Economic Opportunity to the newly established Office of Child Development. President Nixon was now in office; the funding was still increasing, but the enrollment was starting to decrease. In 1972, Head Start started to serve children with disabilities, but unfortunately, the enrollment number was continually dropping. In 1978, President Carter was in office and the first actual expansion took place and the enrollment started to rise again. In 1986, the goals started to change and children were only accepted into the program for one year (Head Start History). The purpose of the program changed from development of social competence to the promotion of school readiness. The original goals of Head Start in the 1960s was the prepare children that were living in poverty for elementary school. Head Start has made their process somewhat difficult because the early education does not lead right into an elementary education. Universal Pre-K has learned from these goals because Head Start was not as successful.
Universal Pre-K varies from state to state. The main goal of Universal Pre-K is to ensure that all children, including children with disabilities, and English Language Learners have rich and varied learning experiences that prepare them for success in school and lay the foundation for college and career readiness (Engage NY). The South has taken the rein for implementing Universal Pre-K into their education. So far, Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas, Tennessee, Arkansas, Florida, West Virginia, New York, Illinois, Iowa, and Massachusetts are the only starts that have started or finished the process of having UPK (Wong, 110). UPK goal is to provide a government funded highly qualified education to students in need. The reason why this differs from Head Start so much is because Head Start was only aiming towards children in poverty. There are five domains in which the UPK hopes to structure its program. The first is the approach to learning. The program hopes to set a standard for how children become involved in learning and acquiring knowledge. If this is done before they enter elementary school, they are already headed in the right track and can automatically start learning rather than have to be taught how to learn first. The next is physical development and health. UPK hopes that children learn the ability to engage in daily activities while being cautious of their health. The next goal is social and emotional development. In this domain, it is hoped that, children gain the emotional competence and ability to form positive relationships that give meaning to children’s experiences when they are at home, at school, or in a larger community. The fourth domain is communication, language and literacy. It is hoped that children can understand, create, and communicate meaning. The last domain is cognition and knowledge of the world. UPK hopes that what children need to know and understand about their world and how they apply what they know to the real world. These domains are very similar Head Start’s goals, but UPK is more structured and organized. Rather than just aiming for the poor, UPK makes an approach to have, “Preschool for all (Wong, 114).” UPK is also adjacent to preexisting schools, unlike Head Start. When being part of the UPK program, once Kindergarten rolls around, the student does not have to look for a new school, they are already enrolled.
Universal Pre-K has learned from Head Start’s mistakes. Head Start as a program had very good intentions in the 1960s that have lead on until today. The program just has some blimps in its structure that causes it to not be as successful as Universal Pre-K. Since the program is only aimed at the poor students in the country, they lose a lot of support that they could gain from the students in the middle class that aren’t necessarily poor, but still need schooling to be publicly funded. Universal Pre-K had the advantage of being able to see why Head Start was having difficulties and that is why they were able to make their program universally popular because it engages everyone that is in need of an education. Both of these programs had very similar educational goals. They both wanted to teach their students in an educational prospect as well as social. Universal Pre-K just had a better plan for aiming their program for everyone, rather than just the lower class. There is more public funding that goes towards UPK because there are more supporters. The goals of early education have not changed much through time, but the people that are gaining a public early educational experience are increasing.
“History & Facts.” Head Start. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 May 2014.
Haxton, B. “A Brief History of Changes in the Head Start Program.” Head Start History. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Apr. 2014.
Ravitch, Diane. Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools. New York: Knopf, 2013. Print.
“New York State Prekindergarten Foundation to the Common Core.” Engage NY. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2014.
Wong, Kenneth K., and Robert Rothman. “Learning from Head Start.” Clio at the Table: Using History to Inform and Improve Education Policy. New York: Peter Lang, 2009. 109-24. Print.
Founded by Maria Montessori (1870-1952), the Montessori method is aimed at teaching students independence at an early age. Maria Montessori was a medical doctor who sought to enhance learning for children through her goal, which she defined as, “the development of a complete human being, oriented to the environment, and adapted to his or her time, place and culture” (Lillard, p. 3). Maria Montessori was a visionary who based her educational plans on observations of children in different places and cultures. The Montessori method is a teaching approach that gives children more independence and freedom than traditional forms of schooling, it also gives students the freedom to construct their own knowledge within the classroom by allowing them to be responsible for the activities they take part in (cleaning up and putting away all things used once they are done playing in that center). The Montessori method also differs from traditional public school teaching methods in that this method allows for mixed aged classrooms, in other words a classroom may have ten students who are three years old, five students who are four years old, and three students who are five years old. The classroom, or prepared environment (Lillard, p. 24) provide ample space for children to explore and work freely with one another. The beauty of this method is that students learn from each other to respect one another as well as the classroom where the learning takes place. The Montessori method provides students with unstructured play that is also missing in traditional schooling (Boulmier, p. 42). Maria Montessori
While Maria Montessori began her work in Italy, Montessori schools have gone worldwide spreading to different countries and continents. Although Montessori schools have been present in the US since 1911, they did not initially succeed, and even after the “rebirth” of Montessori in the 1960s its growth has been relatively slow. By looking at its origins and ways in which the Montessori method has changed, I seek to discover why the Montessori movement was not initially successful, and why its growth has been relatively slow in the US. The Montessori method had much success in Italy where it originated and much attention was given to the method in the US in its early years, however, rising skepticism from media outlets (news papers, magazines, etc.) contributed to the temporary departure of the Montessori method in the US. Many people, however, were influenced by the amazing teaching approach that was introduced by Maria Montessori and in the 1960s the method was reborn in the US.
The Arrival and Departure of Montessori
Maria Montessori opened her first school in Rome in 1907 called Casa de Bambini in the San Lorenzo District in Rome. Soon after the opening of this school, which was in a run-down tenement building of San Lorenzo, the Montessori method grew more popular and eventually made its way to the US in 1911. In their article called “Montessori and the Mainstream: A Century of Reform on the Margins” Keith Whitescarver and Jacqueline Cossentino referred to McClure’s Magazine, a very popular journal that brought the Montessori method to the attention of the American people. McClure was ultimately able to convince Maria Montessori to travel from Rome to the United States to inform the American people, in greater detail, of her great teaching approach in the hopes that once informed, Americans would take action and help implement the Montessori method into American schools. Through the slow application of the Montessori method in American schools, Maria Montessori began to generate followers who opposed the traditional forms of schooling. For example, Dorothy Canfield Fisher, a best-selling author and great supporter of the Montessori method emphasized the faults of modern education and stressed the idea of “’Dr. Montessori to the rescue’” (Whitescarver and Cossentino, p. 2576). Montessori had many supporters not because she said all of the right things, but because she advocated for active children even before it was commonplace to have children do activities in school (Rathunde, p. 11).
The Montessori method was a booming movement, and more and more people became interested in the educational approach by 1913. American teachers traveled to Rome to become better informed and trained in the teaching method, things seemed to be going really well for Maria Montessori and her movement in the United States, however, as quickly as the movement was picked up speed, it slowed down and by 1915 the Montessori method began regressing in the media and received critical reviews in newspapers and magazines. The supporters that Maria Montessori once had were no longer supporting the Montessori method, but moving on to other things that interested them. Though Montessori schools still existed, the movement and major support for the method was nonexistent.
The very implementation of the Montessori method into American schools played a significant role in its failures. Having gone from the slums of San Lorenzo to Tarrytown, where the first Montessori school was opened in the US and backed financially by the president of the country’s most prestigious bank, it was evident that:
“This private school did not emulate either the location or clientele of Maria Montessori’s schools in the slums of Rome, but instead served children from the financial and business elite in a fashionable home overlooking the Hudson River” (Whitescarver and Cossentino, p. 2575).
From the start the Montessori method implemented in the United States vaguely resembled the Montessori method that originated in Italy. As the years passed, the movement was slowly slipped under the rug and forgotten by many media outlets, thus the Montessori movement had died out. The success of the Montessori method in the United States was short lived, however, bits and pieces of the Montessori method were being talked about among kindergarten teachers seeking different ways to supplement the kindergarten experience for students. In bringing her teaching method to the United States Maria Montessori did not intend to have bits and pieces of her method implemented in schools. The American inclination to tamper with newly introduced educational advances was highly prevalent during the period of 1911-1915 in which the US did not entirely go in accordance with what Maria Montessori’s intentions for her method were in bringing the movement to the United States. And this way of using her method proved that the intent to apply the Montessori method to schools in the United States was unsuccessful from 1911-1915.
P. Donohue Shortridge’s article entitled, “Maria Montessori and Educational Forces in America” presents more background on how Americans viewed the Montessori method when it was first introduced to Americans. This article begins by referencing Maria Montessori’s address at Carnegie Hall in December of 1913 where she spoke to excited parents who were eager to learn about her method. However, Dr. Montessori did not appeal to educational establishments who, “Found more to dislike than to admire in Montessori [and] marshaled their considerable power to discourage any permanent American Montessori movement for years to come. As with Whitescarver and Cossentino’s piece, those institutions were factors playing a role in the short success of the Montessori movement in its early years. The Montessori method appealed to many hopeful parents who believed in the method, however, at the same time it clashed with educational institutions who did not favor that change. A great critic of Dr. Montessori’s work was William Heard Kilpatrick, “the most famous education teacher in America” of Teachers College (Shortridge, 42). Shortridge cited a diary entry by Kilpatrick in which he wrote:
“ I am reasonably sure that we cannot use it [the Montessori method] thus so in America. I do not object to the notion of the liberty, in fact that seems very good. [But] the sense of training seems to be carried too far and to include some indefensible areas. (Beineke, 1998, p. 67)” (Shortridge, 44).
Kilpatrick, like many critics of the Montessori method viewed the approach in a negative light, not agreeing with the level of freedom and independence that is given to the child. The unfortunate decline in support that was experienced by Maria Montessori played a major role in the early failure of the movement. What is important to note, however, is that although the Montessori method went inactive for many years, the growing support for the movement continued to excel in different countries (Whitescarver and Cossentino, p. 2580-81).
The Rebirth of the Movement
Just as the Montessori method saw failure in 1915, in the 1960s the movement experienced rebirth through Nancy McCormick Rambusch. Rambusch studied Maria Montessori’s methods while in college and ultimately helped revive the Montessori method when she was in pursuit to find alternative teaching methods for her own child. Rambusch saw for herself how the Montessori method worked while she was studying in Paris (Whitescarver and Cossentino, p. 2581). Rambusch worked in collaboration with Maria Montessori’s son Mario in an effort to become properly trained and eventually return the Montessori method to the United States. Rambusch did just that; she took training courses in the Montessori method to become an expert on Maria Montessori’s way of thinking and applied what she learned to her efforts to open a Montessori school in the US. Rambusch was the prominent force in opening the Whitby School, a Montessori school in Greenwich, CT. The success of returning the Montessori method to the United States and having it be accepted in the way that it was played major roles in the rise of the Montessori Movement after its fall decades earlier. Whitescarver and Cossentino provide readers with both ends of the spectrum, showing that the Montessori method had little success and received many critiques, thus leading to its temporary demise, and later showing how the movement rose from the ashes and has grown to be very well known and implemented around the world.
What Rambusch did differently that helped the Montessori method thrive in its revival in the US was keep Maria Montessori’s goals in mind. Mario Montessori made sure that bringing the Montessori method back to the US meant making no changes to the teaching approach that his mother had created. Ultimately Maria Montessori wanted to implement the pure and unchanged Montessori method into American schools, and Nancy McCormick Rambusch and Mario Montessori did that. The rebirth of the Montessori Movement in the United States can be attributed to many things, however, the main contributors to the revival of the movement were Nancy McCormick Rambusch and Mario Montessori.
Slow Growth in the United States
Maria Montessori’s teaching approach went through many ups and downs. From being heavily supported by the media and American people, to being almost forgotten and erased from American education, and finally breaking through in the 1960s and still being around today, the movement has gone through a lot in the past century. Although the Montessori method is used in many states across the country, its growth is still quite slow considering the efforts that have been put forth for the movement to thrive. The slow growth of the movement can be attributed to the still present skepticism of educational institutions. Over the course of one hundred years the Montessori movement strived to become effectively implemented into American education, and while it has succeeded in doing so, the movement is slowly growing because tensions exist between the Montessori movement and American educational institutions and policy makers (Whitescarver and Cossentino, p. 2581 & 2589).
Like the critics that Dr. Montessori did not appeal to in her 1913 address, Kilpatrick did not agree entirely with the Montessori method. Shortridge and Whitescarver and Cossentino all present readers with ample background of the rise and fall of the Montessori Movement and the wonderful works of Maria Montessori and her followers such as Nancy McCormick Rambusch to revive the movement.
So many Americans embraced the Montessori movement when McClure first introduced it to the United States; however, the interest of Americans in the method was short lived and the movement was ultimately cast out by its critics and non-supporters. The ups and downs experienced by Maria Montessori and her followers were what made the movement stronger and what made Montessori want to stick to the purity of the approach. Maria Montessori laid out the foundation for her followers to help the movement grow into what it is today. And although the movement is growing slowly, more and more supporters of the movement continue to raise awareness on the importance of instilling independence, respect, and self-accountability into children at an early age.
Boulmier, Prairie. “Looking at How Children Succeed, Through the Montessori Lens”. (2014).
Lillard, Paula P. Montessori Today. New York: Shocken Books Inc., (1996). Print.
Rathunde, Keivin. “MONTESSORI EDUCATION AND OPTIMAL EXPERIENCE: A
FRAMEWORK FOR NEW RESEARCH”. The NAMTA Journal. (2001).
Shortridge, P. Donohue. “Maria Montessori And Educational Forces In America.”
Montessori Life 19.1 (2007): 34-47. Education Full Text (H.W. Wilson). Web.
Whitescarver, Keith, and Jacqueline Cossentino. “Montessori and the Mainstream: A
Century of Reform on the Margins.” The Teachers College Record 110.12 (2008): 2571-2600.
Having grown up in a suburban part of the greater Boston area, I greatly valued being a student at a diverse high school. However, my town was not particularly diverse itself, but rather it participated in a program called METCO, also known as the Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity. This program allowed for minority, inner city kids to come to predominantly white, wealthy suburbs for a good public school education. This program was always important to me, as I felt fortunate to be educated along side people who were so different from me. Though I valued the program in my own education, I did not know a lot about the program as a whole outside of my friends who participated and my town, which sparked my curiosity to learn more. Specifically, I wanted to know how the experiences of the first METCO participants and those in more recent years differed.
The METCO (Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity) was originally created in 1966 in response to the deeply segregated educational communities in Massachusetts, the African Americans being concentrated in the inner city and Somerville with whites in the suburbs. Bostonians met the program with relative warmth, in part because of new legislation. In 1965, Massachusetts passed the Racial Imbalance Law, which offered benefits to school districts with at least fifty percent minority students (Eaton, 3). Parents signed their children up for METCO so they would to receive a better education, which continues to be the driving reason for METCO sign up. Originally, it was supposed to be short term, until the Boston Public Schools improved, however, the program has become America’s oldest desegregation because of its success. As opposed to dying out, the program accelerated (South Boston Today). The participation increased from only seven school districts in its first year, to thirty-three districts now, forty-nine years later (Massachusetts Department of Education). Over the course of the last half a century, it is generally thought that America has made leaps and bounds in terms of achieving racial equality. Though the country may have an African American president, the road for METCO students has not been as smooth as one might romanticize. The program receives amazing feedback for providing them with “good or excellent” experiences, but after a significant amount of research, I would argue that this is because of the resilience and toughness that METCO students have exhibited from the get-go in the sixties, and their willingness to seize opportunity, as opposed to attributing it completely to the receiving schools and their educators. The students have a lot to overcome, many of the same things students in the sixties struggled with.
Susan Eaton, a researcher on Civil Rights issues, wrote an in depth account of the experiences of sixty-five of the earliest METCO participants, a book called “The Other Boston Bussing Story.” Now adults, they reflected on their experiences both good and bad in the revolutionary program. One main issue they had with being placed in these suburban schools was their feelings when placed in either high performing or low performing classes; both caused problems. When a black student was placed in a high performing class, he or she was often the only black student in this class. They described a feeling of isolation and unworthiness. They also described feeling that “the smallest slip would land (them) in trouble” (Eaton, 71). The adults Eaton interviewed described a constant feeling of need to prove themselves because of a believed pre-conceived notion by their educators and white peers that black students were not as smart as their white counterparts. The METCO students also reported that they and their other African American friends were placed in low performance classes even when they were excelling students academically (Eaton, 72). Eaton identifies the three major possibilities for the causes of these problems with the tracking system and METCO students. One of these is the possibility that the suburban schools had higher standards than the schools the METCO students had come from. The second is that long-term METCO students still underperformed in comparison to their white peers, despite having the same education. This could be because of difference is very early childhood or because of the unique problems. The third and most troubling issue is that black METCO students were being placed in lower performing classes because of their teachers’ and administrators prejudices (Eaton, 72).
Aside from racism perpetrated by teachers, the former METCO students also interviewed by Eaton also experienced racism inflicted by their peers. Many of the students interviewed had heard the word “nigger” at some point during their time in the suburban school. There was also occasionally racist graffiti throughout the school. There were cases of dramatic racism, like repeated harassment, which was largely ignored by educators and administrators (58). However, it seems as though there were more commonly experiences of “subtle,” more frequent racist occurrences. Remarkably though, the former METCO students do not dwell on these experiences, but consider them “as merely one aspect of a larger and multifaceted educational experience” (59). One student that had been called a nigger wrote it off as “stupid stuff” he continued that he either “ignored that or (I) insulted them back” (59). How strong these METCO students are and were. Eaton adds, though, that their appeared nonchalance of racism is not completely accurate. They, in fact, would often get in physical altercations with the kids who called them these racist slurs. Today, in their adult lives, they continue to “speak out and take action against racism in its subtle and blatant forms” (59). There was a difference in the way two different groups of METCO students thought about the racism they experienced. Some students “dismissed” the racism, while the other group believed that it was the white students who were afraid of being educated with people they viewed as being so different from them.
The METCO in its current form program seeks to address two major issues in the Massachusetts public school system by placing inner city, minority (Asian, Hispanic, and Black) students in predominately white suburban schools. The first is the “racial imbalance” that is experienced in the districts sending students. That is, the concentrated amount of minority groups in public schools. The second and less obvious issue is “racial isolation.” This issue pertains to the school receiving METCO students, where students are almost exclusively accustomed to interacting with other white students. Studies have shown the importance for students of all races to have the experience interacting with races different than their own (Cubeta, 2014.) METCO in some regard has proven these studies correct.
According to research done by Harvard University in 1997, a whopping ninety-one percent of students participating in METCO reported “they had a good or excellent experience in learning to get along with people from other backgrounds.” Eighty-two percent of students said they had “a good or excellent experience with the academic program.” Though nearly all METCO students describe good experiences, I was surprised that over 50 percent of students reported an experience of discrimination by teachers (Harvard, 1997). In addition to this, although METCO students can be sent to the receiving public school from the early age of pre-kindergarten, they still have an extremely lower average test scores than their peers in school (Cubeta, 2014).
The academic effects of METCO students in the most recent research on the program are overwhelming. The research shows that the METCO students far out perform their peers at the schools in their own districts. Ninety percent of METCO students go on to graduate from high school and attend college. This is drastically different than the schools they had come from, which were environments where college preparation was not heavily emphasized due to a variety of more pressing issues like staying away from gang violence and drugs. It is noted, however, that the evidence for academic success in METCO may not be caused by the program itself but is because of the fact that it is a self selecting program, so the families that make the effort to enroll their children in this program are more likely to encourage students to do well in school. It is incredible that these students have managed to do as well as they have in school, considering the unique array of problems they are met with, like early morning wake ups (one of the things adults remember most about the program), long bus rides, discrimination, and a general uneasiness in an environment so different from that of their own (Eaton Chirichigno, 16).
As a white girl having grown up in a suburban town, I found it compelling as well as accurate to read of the educational benefits to integration for all races. The National Academy of Education concluded that being educated in a racially diverse setting “provides the necessary conditions under which other educational policies can facilitate improved academic achievement, improved intergroup relations, and positive long-term outcomes” (Eaton Chirichigno, 23). Hopefully, the current METCO students will receive a positive outcome in this sense, as I know I did from being educated with them. However, some of the sixty-five METCO students interviewed by Eaton would not say the program had a positive affect on them. One interviewee, Paul Hammond, said that METCO “screwed (him) up for life” (Eaton. 83). He reasons this in saying that just being in METCO, sent the message that where the student was from was a “garbage heap.” Hammond says he internalized these notions of his neighborhood, concluding that he, too, was “shit” (Eaton, 183). Eaton goes on, saying that other METCO students who had an overall negative experience with the program had similar resentments to Paul’s. The complaints by these students, as troubling as it is, seem like they could hold true today. One of these is that, by placing students in a neighborhood so different from their own, they felt like their background and culture was “neither acknowledged or valued” (Eaton, 184).
There is a struggle here over what solutions for METCO’s problems could be. It has become evident that, while METCO certainly opens numerous academic doors for student, it is still problematic that METCO students are uprooted from their neighborhoods, which provide much of the basis for their background and culture, and are placed in towns that are seen as “better,” causing problems with their identity. In an ideal world, the Boston and Somerville public schools would improve so that students in these districts do not need to leave in order to get opportunities. However, this would detract from the benefits of the learning in a racially diverse environment.
As a student who considers herself to be very lucky to have been taught alongside METCO students, I have to admit that I find my own thesis troubling and surprising, that students are not having the wonderful experiences in the program that I would have hoped. Though I knew of some of the struggles faced by METCO students, the five a.m. wake ups, hour long bus rides, and parent(s) they practically never saw due to their working two jobs, I was blind to some of the others. Since I grew up in an extremely liberal, welcoming town, perhaps I was sheltered to the discrimination that students could potentially face. Though I offer no solution to the problems METCO students face (aside from everyone to be perfectly welcoming and accepting), I think that it is important at the very least to acknowledge the hardships students face, and the extent to which they persevere.
Cubeta, Kate, Regina Caines, and Bonnie Williamson. “The Wheels on the Bus Go round and Round: Metco in Our Town.” – Your View. N.p., 3 Apr. 2014. Web. 01 May 2014.
Eaton, Susan, and Gina Chirichigno. METCO Merits More. Issue brief. N.p.: Pioneer Institute, n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.
Eaton, Susan E. The Other Boston Busing Story: What’s Won and Lost across the Boundary Line. New Haven: Yale UP, 2001. Print.
“Evaluating METCO.” South Boston Today. N.p., 31 Jan. 2014. Web. 1 May 2014.
Logan, John R., Deirdre Oakley, and Jacob Stowell. “Lewis Mumford Center Census 2000 American Newcomers Report.” Lewis Mumford Center Census 2000 American Newcomers Report. University of Albany, 1 Sept. 2003. Web. 02 May 2014.
“METCO Program.” Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 May 2014.
“METCO Study Finds Broad Support from Parents/Students.” The Harvard University Gazette. Harvard University, 25 Sept. 1997. Web. 02 May 2014.
Nelson, Laura J. “Study Says Metco Students Outperform Urban Peers.” Boston.com. The New York Times, 16 June 2011. Web. 02 May 2014.
Parker, Brock. “Parents, Teachers Implore Brookline Committee Panel Not to Cut Metco – The Boston Globe.” BostonGlobe.com. The Boston Globe, 24 Jan. 2014. Web. 01 May 2014.
Trinity College’s very first curriculum was significantly different from today’s curriculum. Students in 1824 moved together as a class and followed the prescribed daily routine, whereas now students choose their own courses and have individualized schedules. As of 2014, Trinity College curriculum for undergraduates is composed of distribution requirements, majors, and minors. For the distribution requirements, students have to take at least one course of each field of Arts, Humanities, Natural Science, Numerical & Symbolic Reasoning, Social Science, Global Engagement, and complete a First Year Seminar, Second Language, and two Writing Emphasis courses. Out of the 36 credits that students need to earn for a Bachelor’s degree, approximately 10 to 12 credits are set aside for the general education requirements. However, according to the College Catalogue of 1824-1825, there was no major, minor, or distribution requirements, and all students had to take Rhetoric, Greek, Latin, Math, Philosophy, Natural Science, Social Science, Theology, and Physical training, following Trinity’s four-year plan. Courses were not varied, and students’ choice was none or few. Until Trinity College has today’s curriculum, many major and minor changes have taken place. By comparing these distinct curricula, this essay explores when and how Trinity College shifted from a highly unified to a more individualized model with distribution requirements, focusing on why these changes happened.
Since Trinity College was established, there have been three important curriculum changes in 1949, 1969, and 1987. In 1949, the college tried to keep the essence of liberal arts education despite the rise of specialism and the returns of veterans after WWII by solidifying the general education. In 1969, accompanied by the coeducation, Trinity College established the open curriculum, which enabled students to choose courses besides major requirements. In 1987, Trinity got rid of the open curriculum and reorganized the distribution requirements. Overall, Trinity College’s curriculum development was a continuous tension between two objectives. On one hand, Trinity College desired to stay true to the ideals of liberal arts education emphasizing reasoning, argumentation, and close interaction with professors. On the other hand, it had to adopt new trends and demand rising in America, such as specialism and liberalism. Within each major change, one of these goals advanced further than the other.
Changes Prior to 1945
Moving toward the professionalism and specialism was a general trend in American higher education in 1900s, and Trinity College was of no exception. Michael Bisesi describes the curriculum trend before 1945, in his paper Historical Developments in American Undergraduate Education: General Education and the Core Curriculum, as he says, “the pendulum of curricular change was on the side of specialization prior to 1945.” The development and expansion of knowledge in science and technology pushed many American colleges and universities to become institutions where students could be prepared for certain occupations.
Although Trinity College started with the very tight, prescribed academic plan focusing on Classics and Philosophy, it also had to adopt the new field of studies. There was no major curriculum shift until mid twentieth century. Yet, the curriculum was revised over time little by little, leaning toward specialism. At first, Trinity divided students as Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science, and their curricula were arranged. As professional knowledge was required for many occupations, such as engineering and pre-medical, Trinity created groups under B.A. and B.S., which have became Today’s majors. The College Bulletin of 1920-1921 shows how Trinity College conceived majors as the preparation for specialized occupations, saying that choosing a major is “taking into account special aptitudes and interests, and plans for a future occupation, to ensure that he shall carry his studies in some subjects beyond the elementary stage.”
However, despite the specialism, Trinity College had a relatively well-balanced curriculum. For example, as shown by the College Catalogue of 1930-1931, B.A. and B.S. programs had a different set of course plan. For B.A. groups, including Philosophy, Language, English, and History, more Math and Science were required, and for B.S. groups of Chemistry, Biology, Pre-medical, Engineering, and Physics more Language and Philosophy courses were required. This system allowed students to explore a broad range of knowledge regardless of what group they chose. Also, only 8 to 10 courses were required for groups. Choosing one concentration did not mean that students would become narrow-sighted.
Changes After World War II in 1949
World War II brought many changes in higher education in America especially because of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Acts called the G.I. Bill. As the federal government experienced the struggles with returning veterans after the World War I, they passed the G.I. Bill, which supported returning veterans for their higher education. As a result, many veterans came back to Trinity to continue their education, and they shifted students’ general interest from Classics to more practical fields, such as engineering and business, in Trinity College in the Twentieth Century: A History, Peter Knapp describes, “the Trinity community in the late 1940s was becoming increasingly aware that changes were occurring in student interests, both academic and professional. As reflected in choice of major, the humanities were facing stiff competition from the social sciences and the sciences.” Because returning veterans were older than traditional college students, and many of them already had a family to take care of, they preferred to study something that could secure their jobs after college.
While students’ interest and purpose of studying was moving toward vocationalism, the College wanted to keep the core of a liberal arts education. After WWII, many liberal arts colleges in New England experienced the same movement and tried to define the ideal of liberal arts education. The 1945 Harvard Report reveals how much these colleges struggled from overwhelming specialization, as it states, “we cannot, however, turn away from specialism. The problem is how to save general education and its values within a system where specialism is necessary.” Trinity College went through scrutiny on its curriculum, emphasizing on general education. The college reasserted that Trinity College was a liberal arts college, as the College Bulletin of 1949-1950 notes, “one hundred twenty-seven years of experience at Trinity indicates that the liberal arts type of general education offers the best means of attaining the above aim.”
President Funston aimed at restricting the small class size and fostering personal interaction with professors as a liberal arts college. However, he adopted some specialism trends by requiring a major and making Greek and Latin optional. The revised curriculum introduced B.A. and B.S with majors. Previously, there were groups that student could study in depth, but there was also an option not to choose a particular group. However, the revised curriculum required students to pick a major to get a Bachelor’s degree. In addition, the requirements for the Greek and Latin could be fulfilled by taking classical civilization courses instead. Not having Greek and Latin might look damaging to the essence of liberal arts education. However, Funston thought that the idea of liberal arts education in America should adopt the new culture in America, which could be different from Europeans:
“American education must make a strong effort to develop new curricula consonant not merely with America’s fateful involvement in world affairs but with the spectacular emergence into importance of great new societies whose culture did not seem to have the same value and meaning for Americans as the more traditional cultures of Western Europe and the Mediterranean.”
Over all, the year of 1949 did not g285o through a drastic change. Rather, curriculum was revised little by little, and the direction of changes was different one at a time; sometimes leaning toward specialism, other times sticking to liberal arts education.
Open curriculum in 1969
Open curriculum allows students to take any courses besides their major requirements. The open curriculum was first introduced in 1969 at Trinity College. Students were encouraged to take any courses after discussing with their advisors. The College Bulletin in 1968-1969 and in 1970-1971 shows how the open curriculum worked. In 1968, before the open curriculum, there was a page explaining the basic requirements students needed to fulfill, which are equivalent to our distribution requirements. The requirements included a-year-long English, Math, Western History, Foreign Language, Natural Science, a semester long arts and Philosophy. These requirements were designed to be fulfilled during the first two years before digging into one major during one’s junior and senior years.
On the contrary, in the College Bulletin of 1970-71, the basic requirement page was removed from the requirements for the Bachelor’s degree. Instead, the curriculum was introduced as a “dual” system. The first two years are “to provides a framework within which students can receive individual attention, discover their principal interests, and have repeatedly demonstrated to them that what they are doing in the College is worth the effort”; the last two years are to “focuses on a more strictly defined body of knowledge”. The first part consists of the Freshmen Seminar and non-minor guideline. Although the school did not required students to take general courses, it still provided a direction that students could follow. Also, it created the Freshmen Seminar, as an opportunity to search what they were interested in.
The coeducation in 1968 influenced this curriculum changes. As the college admitted female students, it had to go through transformative shifts in and out. As the school opened new departments to satisfy women’s demand, not every department could be a part of the distribution requirement. The college had to let students take courses in the new departments, and the open curriculum was a solution to this problem. Furthermore, though women and minority students were a small percent of the entire student body, their academic interests were different from white male students. To meet the interests of new student groups and to attract more competitive students, Trinity decided to make the curriculum flexible.
In addition to the coeducation, 1960s was the decade of the counterculture in America. Knapp described that undergraduates were inspired by American’s war involvement with Indonesia, the assassinations of a few leaders, Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy, and they “questioned the state of affairs in the nation, and challenged prevailing assumptions about authority and tradition.” Sit-in happening shows that students at Trinity also raised their voices on campus. The sit-in was an organized movement in 1968 from a group of students to lock in the Board of Trustee until the Trustees decided to give more scholarships to Black students. Students locked the door for four hours, and it drew much attention not just on campus, but also in New England. Although it was not directly related to the changes in curriculum, it suggests that students expressed their concerns and asked for more freedom, and the school had to take into account them even when they changed the curriculum.
Going Back to the Distribution Requirements in 1987
After implementing the open curriculum for a couple of decades, the school recognized the failure that students preferred to be in the safety net and not take various courses. According to Knapp’s account, “under the open curriculum, furthermore, many students had preferred taking courses in the humanities and social sciences, and when possible, avoided the study of the natural and physical sciences.” The school had to make sure that students left the school with a minimum knowledge in essential disciplines. Moreover, there were some students who were attracted by the open curriculum with the intention of “finding a shelter in the open curriculum from requirements other colleges and universities were imposing.” As a solution, the college introduced interdisciplinary minors and required students to take six courses from at least three different fields. However, the minor requirement rather confused both faculties and students. Unlike the college’s intention that students could learn the correlation among different fields, students just took courses in separate departments because there was a lack of intercommunication among different departments. Departments were specialized in one subject, and there were not many cases that multiple departments worked together. It was not a true interdisciplinary.
President English was concerned that students did not benefit by the open curriculum, and faculties agreed with his thoughts as well. Finally, in 1987, the second major curricular change occurred with the introduction of a five-part distribution requirement under which students had to complete “at least one course in each of the five major areas in the curriculum – humanities, arts, social sciences, natural sciences, and numerical or symbolic reasoning” in addition to writing and mathematics proficiency requirements.” The Curriculum Revision Committee Report indicated that the school wanted more concrete and solid curriculum that would be efficient in fostering students’ knowledge when it states that a curriculum “ought to be a practical guide to the realities of academic life at a given institution, and it ought to embody some educational idea.” As a liberal arts college, Trinity desired students to be exposed to various fields. Even though more choices and freedom of students were important components, they were overweighed by the objective of staying true to liberal arts education.
Over time, Trinity College went through many curriculum changes, and the direction was not consistent all the time comparing the three major changes in 1949, 1969, and 1987. In 1949, the college partly followed the trend of specialism while trying to stick to the liberal arts college. In 1969, the school made a drastic changes and was more acceptable to social changes. In 1987, the college reversed the movement and came back to the arranged curriculum with more requirements. Overall, the school struggled to keep the identity of a liberal arts college especially in the midst of the drastic social and technological changes in the twentieth century. Because the two objectives of keeping the essence of liberal arts education and serving social needs are conflicting each other, the college had to move back and forth and find the middle point where the college could fulfill the both objectives. Trinity might currently experience the same struggles that it had in the past as the society and technology is changing in higher speed. Finding the true meaning of liberal arts education and staying true to it can be much more difficult these days. However, as Trinity history shows the college will manage to find a middle point again.
 Trinity College. Student Handbook 2013-2014, 2013.
 Trinity College. Trinity College Bulletin of 1823-1824. Watkinson Library: Trinity College, 1823. Print. (Located at Watkinson Library at Trinity College)
 Bisesi, Michael. 1982. “Historical Developments in American Undergraduate Education: General Education and the Core Curriculum.” British Journal of Educational Studies 30 (2): 203. doi:10.2307/3121552.
 Trinity College. Trinity College Bulletin of 1920-1921, Watkinson Library: Trinity College, 1920.
 Trinity College. Trinity College Bulletin of 1930-1931. Watkinson Library: Trinity College, 1930.
 Knapp, Peter J. Trinity College in the Twentieth Century: A History:146. Hartford, Conn: Trinity College, 2000.
 Quoted in Bisesi., 204.
 Trinity College. Trinity College Bulletin of 1949-1950:25. Watkinson Library: Trinity College, 1949.
 Knapp., 285.
 Trinity College. Trinity College Bulletin of 1968-1969. Watkinson Library: Trinity College, 1969
 Trinity College. Trinity College Bulletin of 1970-1971. Watkinson Library: Trinity College, 1970.
 Knapp., 327.
 Knapp., 407.
 Knapp., 407.
 Knapp., 407.
 Quoted in  Trinity College. Trinity College Bulletin of 1970-1971. Watkinson Library: Trinity College, 1970.
Accepted: The evolution of college admission requirements
The choice to move onto higher education is a particularly simple in the 21st century, with 75% of college students continuing their studies after high school it has become routine. High school students prepare themselves to apply to college knowing the mass amount of stress all of the preparation will invoke. However, students were not always so expected to enter college and the admission requirements were not nearly the same. The problem with college admission requirements is that they will never stay consistent for long periods which then raises the question of how did a college receive its prestigious title and how does it maintain it. Over time, elite colleges have become more selective due to many social pressures of society, but the question of how did this selectivity become so severe must be considered in order to fully understand these changes.
The root of college admissions began during the 1600s when the first college, Harvard, was founded in America. The establishments of entrance requirement were developed a few years after the founding of the school and officially began in 1642 (Broome 1). Harvard then created a code of laws, which can be found in College Book No. I (Broome 1). The laws created state that “When any scholar is able to read Tully or such like classical Latin Author Tempore and make and speaker true Latin in verse and prosesuo Marte, and decline perfectlt the paradigms of nounes and verbes in ye Greeke tongue, then may hee bee admitted into ye College.” (Broome 18) These requirements stayed consistent throughout the seventeenth century and remained unchanged until the mid eighteenth century (Broome 19). The reason there were no additional requirements throughout that period of time can be attributed the “struggle for existence against poverty” (Broome 19). The state of America at the time made it difficult for higher education to be a main priority of the American people.
The curriculum that was in place at Harvard maintained unchanged throughout the century and was comprised of courses that only required knowledge of Latin and Greek (Broome 20). As more colleges were being founded the requirements and courses of study would be imitated or similar (Broome 27). It was not until 1734 that the laws of Harvard were slightly changed, and at this point the only alternation was omitting the ability to speak Latin (Broome 29). As Harvard continued to make a series of small changes in their admission requirements it was evident that the significance of Latin “as a living language” was diminishing (Broome 29). As more colleges were established, there were additional admission requirements added to particular colleges plans yet remained pretty consistent with Harvards’, the only additional criteria that was being added was arithmetic and Greek was beginning to become more important than Latin (Broome 32).
As the eighteenth century was coming to a close, America was undergoing significant changes in religion, social and political conditions. The shift towards liberalism and an evident division between church and state, the development of democracy and an overall problem of classes logically led to new educational changes (Broome 40). The colonial colleges, however, were not receptive to these new demands and remained almost completely unchanged until the middle of the nineteenth century (Broome 40). However, the strong desire for “popular and useful” studies was met by the establishment of academies, which allowed people to begin their education before entering college (Broome 40). People in America strove to obtain a better education then before and were determined to expand their knowledge beyond the colonial college’s curriculum.
As more colleges were being founded and established throughout the country the colonial colleges were then inspired to rethink and expand their admission requirements. Finally in the mid nineteenth century, Harvard and other colonial colleges made advancements in their admission requirements. Subjects such as geometry, algebra, and eventually history were added as admission requirements. The original three subjects that were included in 1800 rose to eight by 1870, showing that the nineteenth century was a revolutionary time for college admission requirements (Broome 52). After 1870, colleges were updating and adding requirements, which can be assumed to be the foundation of requirements today. As the subject English became more prominent in admission requirements, Harvard decided to require a short essay based on a particular prompt each year which is likely the foundation of the various essays prompts the majority of colleges still use. The continuous development in admission requirements is directly correlated with the demand for higher education.
As people became more interested in obtaining a higher education there was a significant revolution in preparatory schools and academies. Although colleges made advancements in their admission requirements throughout the nineteenth century, the establishment of preparatory school and academies negatively affected the number of students attending college. “Academies, and a new sort of institution, public high schools, flourished because they met “the particular wants of the times”, the high school had the additional advantage of being free, at home and under complete public control” (Broome 72). In today’s society high school is expected to prepare students to go to college, yet in the nineteenth century “high schools were intended specifically for those who were not preparing for college” (Broome 73). High school essentially became an opportunity to prepare students for practical life as well as prepare them to move onto college (Broome 73). However, not all students who graduated high school could be expected to move onto The American Colleges. Although, the colonial colleges were expanding their admission requirements, the requirements were still specific enough that very few students were able to “enter the old fashioned gate” (Broome 73). Unfortunately, the transition from public high school to college was not well coordinated and the students who found themselves entering college were those attending the preparatory schools, which were established in accordance to the colonial colleges.
Beginning in 1900 elite members of society like Franklin Delano Roosevelt graduated from leading preparatory schools and immediately moved to a top college such as Harvard, Yale, or Princeton (Karabel 23). The elite members of society that were moving onto such colleges set “a cultural tone at the country’s prestigious universities”, (Brooks 1) Despite the schools intense academic reputation, young men like Roosevelt arrived on campus with little concern about his academics. The shift from a solely academic environment to a more social and elitism one can be attributed to colleges desire to be associated with America’s most powerful families. When elite members of society arrived on college campuses “their main proving grounds were extracurricular activities and social life. Positioning themselves to edit the school paper or join the right secret society, they strove to establish their social worth and to prove how much they embodied the virtues of the Harvard Man, the Yale Man or the Princeton Man. That meant being effortlessly athletic, charismatic, fair, brave, modest and, above all, a leader of men.” (Brooks 1) Overall, elite schools like Harvard and Yale were focusing their efforts on having high social status students and were in fact, proud, of having “more gentlemen and fewer scholars” (Brooks 1). It seems that an admission requirement became a person’s social status in society and that many schools were benefitting from admitting students of high social status due to their public image.
Although, elite colleges benefited from accepting middle and upper class members of society, admission officers and school officials felt that the academic merit of the school was crucial to its existence. The fundamental conflict amongst colleges was between “those who wanted to accept more students on the basis of scholarly merit – intelligence, high test scores and good grades – and those who sought what you might call leadership skills – that ineffable combination of charisma, social confidence, decisiveness and the ability, often proved on the athletic field, to be part of a team”(Brooks 2). Elite colleges struggled between the two options in regards to its admissions procedures, the difficult continues to arise in the admission process today, but dates back to before World War II.
It was not until after World War II that this social hierarchy was altered and such colleges would benefit. The once white Protestant population that dominated schools like Yale would decline because college presidents wanted to expand their student body to a group beyond this white protestant upper class. The shift of expectations and a more diverse study body resulted in higher SAT scores and a wider range of accepted students and led prestigious colleges to focus more on the academic merit of their students (Brooks 1). The shift to a more academically based admission process benefitted the schools merit and reputation yet has only forced competition between the true meritocrats and the upper class. This intense competition has created a series of problems that have all contributed to the brutally competitive admission process in the 21st century.
As college attendance rates have drastically risen since the mid 20th century, the competition and requirements to attend elite colleges have become more competitive then ever before. Between 1960 and 2001 college enrollment more than tripled from 4.1 million to an astounding 14.8 million (Greater Expectations 1). This rapid increase in college attendance has influenced colleges to create more and more requirements in order for students to even apply to a particular school. The typical elite college, application requirements are; Common Application, specific college questions and a writing supplement, SAT or ACT with writing, 2 SAT subject tests, school report and high school transcript, two teacher reports, a mid year school report and a final school report (Harvard.edu). Although, the current system of admission evaluates its applicants on a variety of components, but the reason for this increased selectivity at a top university can be attributed to a variety of social and technological factors.
As the college admission process has become more technologically based the increase in number of applicants has risen dramatically. Students are sending more applications than ever, due to the universal common application that is now accepted to over 500 schools, including many of the ivy leagues (Perez-Pena). Although, elite schools are rejecting more students than ever the high number of applicants helps with lowering their acceptance rate, which in return makes them a more desirable option for next year’s applicants. These low acceptance rates, in reality, motivate students to prepare themselves for college earlier than ever before. The college admission process now begins far before high school, with many upper and middle class parents seeking early placement in the best possible education programs.
The 21st century marks a time period where parents are making absurd efforts in order for their children to attend the countries top universities. Within the last thirty years, Americas test prep companies have grown to a $5 billion annual industry, allowing those who can afford it to place their children with professionals to master the standardized tests and essays required by most schools (UNZ). The notion of a wealthy family being able to buy their child’s way into a top school would be unheard of in other countries, yet the united states has created an environment where “cheating” the system is a reasonable option (Unz). With each new admission requirements comes an attempt to stand out amongst the other applicants but people are taking it too far and essentially creating an alter ego in their applications by hiring others to take standardized tests for them or hire a professional to write essays. People are willing to go to any extreme in order to be admitted to a top college, which has created a society of extreme competition and dishonesty.
The college admission process began as a set of laws made by the college and has emerged into a long list of requirements that students must submit in order to be considered. The founding of elite colleges immediately enticed the upper class in America which forced colleges to focus their attention on those who could afford, provide and positively publicize the schools name. Due to a series of religious, social and political conditions in America, the demands for higher education increased dramatically. Originally elite colleges began seeking out those students who could positively impact the school financially and socially, but are now being bombarded with countless eligible applicants leading the admission selectivity to become increasing more competitive.
“Application Requirements.” Home at Harvard. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 May 2014. <https://college.harvard.edu/admissions/application-requirements>.
Brooks, David . “The Chosen: Getting in .” New York Times 6 Nov. 2005: n. pag. www.Nytimes.com. Web. 13 Apr. 2014.
Broome, Edwin Cornelius. A historical and critical discussion of college admission requirements. New York: Macmillan, 1903. Print.
“Chapter One | We Are a College-Going Nation.” Chapter One | We Are a College-Going Nation. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 May 2014. <http://greaterexpectations.org/report/1b.h
Karabel, Jerome. The chosen: the hidden history of admission and exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005. Print.
PÉrez-PeÑa, Richard. “Best, Brightest and Rejected: Elite Colleges Turn Away Up to 95%.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 8 Apr. 2014. Web. 16 Apr. 2014. <http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/09/us/led-by-stanfords-5-top-colleges-acceptance-rates-hit-new-lows.html>.
Unz, Ron. “The Myth of American Meritocracy.” The American Conservative. N.p., 28 Nov. 2012. Web. 1 May 2014. <http://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/the-myth-of-american-meritocracy/>.
Italian immigrants and their families have long been regarded, in North America, as a hard-working ethnic group. Brought up hearing stories of ancestral struggles and hardships, Italian immigrants to North America embraced attributes for being fiercely motivated individuals, earning the nickname “i lavatori forti”, or “the hard workers”(Iacovetta, Pre). Regardless, their strong work ethic did not initially transcend into the classroom. Italians put the family and labor first, rather skeptical of what the North American school system would offer their children. Italian immigrants fought against the dominant ways of the school system, fearful of losing their cultural roots by embracing change. Consequently, Italian students were considered one of the lowest performing ethnic groups of the mid-1900s. Generational changes brought radical change to the upbringing of Italian-Americans and their performance in school.
Since social factors are the most important indicator in determining one’s academic achievement, an individual’s background has huge implications on learning in the classroom. With the rise of globalization, a large pool of immigrants has emerged in North America, which has been impacted by the North American way of life. Overtime, first generation Italian immigrants have had unique experiences in the U.S. school system, making huge strides in academia once they embraced aspects of North American culture. Since the early 20th century, their participation and approach to adopting and implementing aspects of American culture has increased. This behavior, apparent when Italians migrated to North America and combated much resentment for their way of life, did not transcend into the classroom initially. Over time, first and second generation Italians adapted to North American customs and cultures and with that, the school system. This transition throughout the mid to late 1900s and into the 20th century drastically increased the achievement of Italians, who originally performed poorly in the classroom. In this paper, I will observe how first and second generation Italian immigrants began to prioritize school over labor, and overall increased student achievement as an ethnic group by examining historical references, scholarly articles, and personal experiences. By doing so, Italians became Americanized and distanced themselves from the family. This paper discerns the changing experiences of first-generation Italian immigrants in New Haven, Toronto, and New York City within the last two centuries and studies the shift in Italian family and student behavior – from opposing the school system to succeeding within it.
The importance of the family
In the onset of immigration to North American, Italians, like many other ethnic groups, strived to keep the unspoken promise of clinging tightly to their culture living in a new country. To Italians, community was everything. They put a large emphasis on the towns they lived in, their “paesi”, where they lived and worked amongst each other and maintained a strong sense of community (Milione 1). As Dr. Vincenzo Milione, who studied the achievement of Italians since their migration to North American in the 1900’s states: “The fact that their role models did not go to work in a shirt and tie was less important to these youngsters than their ability to give their family a better than decent life style [sic] Papa owned a grocery store right on the block. It’ll be his son’s once he retires. The boy can work there, and learn the business…these possibilities and the fact that they were all respectable jobs were reasons enough why they didn’t consider the completion of high school a pressing necessity” (Milione 2). Social media was well played a large role in defining the Italian attitude toward community and school. Descendants of Italian immigrants and immigrants themselves took pride in the representations of characteristics in movies like “The Godfather”, where Italians, who found success outside of academia, were admired for their strong family ties, honor, and respect for the family. Such mentalities contributed to the 1990s a report by the New York City Board of Education depicts Italians as the ethnic group with the third highest dropout rate, where 1 in every 5 dropped out of high school (Milione 3). Italians were third to Hispanics and Blacks in high school dropout rates in 1988. Their attitude towards the family sets the stage for the low student achievement levels of Italian immigrants and their descendants in the school.
It is important to note that it was not solely the fear or stubbornness of Italians which provoked their reactions towards the North American school system. Rather, it was their inherent background that propelled them to negate the importance of schooling. Lassonde explains, “Given the contadino’s limited exposure to schooling in southern Italy, he could only have experienced the demands of the local schools as yet another manifestation of his cultural separateness – as the consequence of ethnic differences the marked off the host culture in which he dwelt as alien and hostile” (Lassonde 60). These Italian immigrants, the parents of soon-to-be Americanized children, could not conceptualize the kind of sacrifices that would be needed to comply with schooling in order for them to still maintain closeness to the family. The length of required years, the adoption of a new language and culture, and the independence and freedom it may bring their children were alive in the heads and hearts of Italians.
The family versus the school: Hardships faced
Stephen Lassonde’s account of schooling and family life of Italian immigrants in the 20th century, Learning to Forget, brings to life the way in which the school and the family often conflicted in values. Lassonde states: “Because schooling grated so against their conception of what children owed their parents, because Italian peasants customarily relied on their children’s earnings to meet expenses, and because schooling in the United States addressed subjects that appeared to usurp the rights of parents to inculcate in their children their own moral principles, they objected strenuously to these laws” (Lassonde 56). This stubborn attitude on the part of Italian families, which coincided with parental fear that the American school system would drastically alter and suppress their inherent culture, was expressed negatively on the part of Italian immigrant achievement levels. Lassonde particularly explores the reactions and experiences of Southern Italian families and students, claiming that they appeared “disinterested” in schooling altogether. Lassonde states: “…because most cared little about their children’s achievement in school, they did not insist on the use of English at home, as was characteristic of other immigrants who placed greater emphasis on schooling as a path to upward mobility” (Lassonde 58). In almost every form, schooling, for many Italian immigrant families, was a direct threat that impeded on the family’s’ ability to personally educate and instill certain values in their respective children.
Another Italian immigrant experience, the study and story of Leonard Covello and his family, represents the way in which the family and the North American school system were on opposite ends. Immigrants of New York, the Covello’s, like many other Italian immigrants, took pride in their name and the culture they brought with them. One evening, Leonard’s parents recognized his teacher had misspelled his last name on a report card. Instead of “Coviello”, the teacher had replaced his last name with “Covello”, because it would be easier to pronounce. What seemed like a trivial change, turned into an explosive argument between father and son. Leonard’s father was perplexed and insulted by the modification of their family name. A famous Italian proverb which Covello quotes in his own studies of his experiences and those of many other Italian immigrant families, best exemplifies the Italian sentiment toward embracing the North American way of life: “He who leaves the old way for the new knows what he leaves but knows not what he will find” (Lassonde 62). Italian families, like the Covello’s, felt disrespected and attacked when their cultural practices and values were being faltered with.
Eventually, Leonard Covello became a teacher who worked to amend the broken system which had demeaned immigrant children. Shawn Weldon’s historical review on Leonard Covello describes his motivations for aspiring to create cultural plurism within the school system and stressing the importance of immigrant children in the school environment (Weldon 1). Covello’s numerous accomplishments that occurred in his adulthood include implementing a community centered school to integrate Italian and Puerto Rican children, serving as head of the Italian Department at DeWitt Clinton in 1920, teaching at various universities, and establishing a high school. Identifying the struggle of Italian American children in the classroom, Weldon states that Covello “recognized that Italian American children were confronted by a dilemma in the public schools. They were expected to separate themselves from their native culture and language, including their families and communities, in order to meet the school’s expectations and to achieve academically. Covello sought means to ease the transition of immigrant school children into American life and to aid in their acculturation without separating them from their communities or native culture” (Weldon 1). Leonard Covello’s life serves to exemplify the level of achievements of Italian-American children who experienced first-hand the difficulties of assimilating to North American and schooling.
In Such Hardworking People, Franca Iacovetta writes of the hardships faced from Italian immigration in the mid1960s in Toronto, Canada. Italian children feared for their days in school due to the constant fights that broke out against the Canadian children. These reactions were in response to deep-seated hatred that surfaced because Canadian’s took Italian immigration as an event that rid the Canadians of their jobs (Iacovetta 109). The Italian worker was blamed for the lowered standard and wages in the workplace. On the other hand, Italians were disliked for their attitudes – indifferent to learning English and congregating in large groups together. For both cultural and economic reasons, Canadians maintained strong prejudices against Italians – a factor in the difficulty for Italians and their descendants to integrate.
Cultural assimilation became a goal of the school system. School systems looked to transform the backward, stubborn children of immigrants, who were oftentimes ostracized for their behavior and attitudes. Referring to the cultural characteristics of Italians that led them to be scorned in Toronto, Iacovetta states, “North Americans made their prejudices clear by depicting Italians as ‘hot blooded’ and ‘culturally backward’ peasants” (Iacovetta 105). Resentment only grew as Italians, in their everyday lives, remained true to their customs and way of life, unwilling, for the larger part, to adapt to the North American way. For most Canadians, who held similar sentiments, schooling appeared to be the solution to rear Italian children to behave like Canadians and slowly distance themselves from the culture and customs they brought with them across the Atlantic.
When student achievement for Italian immigrants sunk so low that it began to stun many, educators and policy makers concluded that a greater collaboration between the education system and Italian communities was in order. Such programs developed from “The Sons of Italy” organization which launched a nation-wide campaign to represent Italian-Americans in the best light by focusing on their achievements. Similarly, the Calandra Institute’s tutoring program, AMICI was launched. Milione articulates this by urging that this continue to be improved: “There must be mentoring programs that make our students aware of the necessity of advanced degrees and pointing them in those directions that will help them effectively understand the need and advantages of a post graduate degree (Milione 11). Similarly, Covello emphasizes this need for collaboration between family and school in his book The Social Background of the Italo-American School Child. Covello stresses the realities that Italian-American children faced in the classroom, constantly battling between their two cultures, which leads to issues with the school system: “because of the cultural duality of the child, the possibility that he may react violently against either the parental cultural or the American cultural or, what is very likely, against both simultaneously, is overlooked owing to lack of comprehension of, or even disregard of, difficulties of Italian school children in America” (Covello 331). For such children, attempting to be all American or all Italian had its downfalls – schools upset with children who would not conform and parents distraught at children who would not hold on to their Italian values. Eventually, it became clear that acculturation was necessary for Italian-American students to succeed both in and out of the classroom.
Embracing change brings achievement: A conclusion
In the 1980s, Italian dropout rates peaked, bringing the ethnic group to third for highest dropout rates. Within a decade, significant changes took place, which have continued to occur in bringing student achievement to a high. Milione articulate this shift in stating: “as the parents became better educated, their views regarding where they wanted their children to be in the new millennium changed and with them the shifting of traditional perceptions regarding their children’s future as it pertained to education. Their children realize that it’s only through a solid formal education that they will reap the rewards our system affords those who can compete and create” (Milione 12). While Italians today are still not at the top of their classes, as an ethnic group, they have made significant improvements.
Today, first and second generation immigrant student achievement has soared in comparison to American-born students which puts a remarkable spin on the history of Italian-American students whose ancestors did not initially succeed in the classroom. An NBCLatino study by Sandra Lilley references data that states the inherent differences between immigrant children and their American-born peers which lead them to perform better in the classroom. A sociology professor at Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Hao, who is cited in her article, clarifies the attributes of immigrant children which become the difference makers: “Immigrants who come to the U.S. are self-selective; they overcome difficulties to create a better life, and foreign-born immigrant parents transmit this motivation, values and expectations to their children” (Lilley 1). While the values that Italian immigrants transcended on their children did not initially transcend into the classroom, with time, the essence of working hard to provide for the family, maintain strong relationships, and hold on to cultural values became working hard to succeed in the school system and realize the American Dream. It is these attributes that contributed to the mentality of “i lavatori forti”. When the descendants of these Italian immigrants were able to embrace the values and purpose of the North American school system, Italian student achievement soared. Instead of experiencing the school system as a waste of time that would pull children away from obligations of the family, over time, Italians were able to see the importance of schooling, and with that the opportunities it would give rise to. They were more than barbershop owners, bakery men, and housewives. They too, could aspire to more than their parents, grandparents, and extended family members had ever been.
This story of Italian achievement resembles the condition and circumstance in which I was brought up in. Born and raised in a purely Italian home, where my closest relatives, aside from my intermediate family, were an eight hour plan ride away, my expectations to maintain my Italian culture alive were high. The summers I spent in Italy with aunts, uncles, grandparents, and older cousins were spent explaining my experiences in the U.S. school system: long days spent studying, weekends prepping for exams and standardized tests, retreats, internships, programs to prepare me for college, college tours in excess. My grandparents especially, were never quite able to understand why I devoted so much time to things they had never worried about or come to know as routine as I had. “Do you help your mother clean the house?” “Are you learning how to be a good Italian woman?” These were the questions I was being asked, and my drawn-out answers about being too busy with school resulted in skeptical and unforgiving facial expressions. The stakes for me were high. Unlike the way it was for my parents, I would not be joining them in the workforce once I was of age. Unlike them, I would not be the child of parents who owned a restaurant. I valued the long hours I spent educating myself, but it was giving me a mentality much different from that of my family members back in Italy. Because they could not quite grasp the purpose of it, they have ultimately been unable to see the value in my education, regardless of all of the opportunities it has given me and the achievements I have made within it.
Ultimately, Italian student achievement was able to grow once Italian families embraced the systemic unit of the school as one that would bring prosperity and success to their children and further descendants. When the North American school system became a source of affluence and upward mobility, it was given more attention and care; this led students themselves to recognize its importance and to strive to achieve greater than they ever had before.
Covello, Leonard, and Francesco Cordasco. The Social Background of the Italo-American School Child. A Study of the Southern Italian Family Mores and Their Effect on the School Situation in Italy and America. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1967. Print.
Iacovetta, Franca. Such Hardworking People: Immigrants in Postwar Toronto. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s UP, 1992. Print.
Milione, Vincenzo. Italian American Youth and Educational Achievement levels: How are we doing? New York.
Lilley, Sandra. “Study: First Generation Immigrant Children Do Better in School than US-born kids.” NBC Latino. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Apr. 2014.
Lassonde, Stephen. Learning to Forget: Schooling and Family Life in New Haven’s Working Class, 1870-1940. 2005. Yale University Press. Print.
Weldon, Shawn. Leonard Covello 1907-1974. 1982
Albert Einstein once said: “The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.” This observation speaks to me on two profound levels: First, I was never able to discern the dispute between traditional and charter schools, despite working with charters for the past six summers. Secondly, as I searched for an entry-level position in education this year, the most visible job applications were an assortment of fast-track two-year teaching charter school initiatives. Through this paper, I intend to explore the fundamental role of the teacher, and how the dispute between traditional and charter schools has impacted the profession of teaching in America over time.
With a constantly oscillating pendulum from autonomy through accountability, continuity to competition, centralization, and decentralization then recentralization: America has spun a sticky web of education legislation that catches politicians, educators and families alike in a stalemate. How have charter schools effected America’s education today since they were first established in 1992? My research will address the particular effects of charter schools on the role of contemporary educators. Overall, this paper will examine the degeneration of the role of a teacher: specifically through teacher salaries, the charter school business-model, the further elevated status of school administrators and principals over teachers, and the perpetual prescription of teacher turnover-rates by attracting young teachers with energy and intellect, but also with a lack of incentives and experiential expertise to overcome the adversities of teaching in low-performing schools and low-income communities. Are we fixing old problems, or simply creating new ones?
The charter school movement was a rationale reaction to our evolving world, knowledge and education. My thesis is that, the charter school movement has been beneficial to the gaps in America’s education system since it was embraced in the 1990s, but is ultimately harmful to the fundamental occupation of today’s teacher. Charter schools are not the “silver bullet” for education, but they are the foundry alloy that’s clipping the issues within the system, while also polarizing pugnacious traditional and charter school advocates and leaders.1 Charter schools can’t fix America’s education inequalities without reconciling their model with traditional schools.
In 1960, the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) was founded and formed in response to the perceived unfairness and mistreatment of teachers in America’s education system. In 1983, A Nation at Risk released what “was an impassioned plea to make our schools function in their core mission as academic institutions and to make our educational system live up to its ideals,” by upgrading teacher preparation and textbooks, raising education standards, improving curriculums and forcing educators to shift their styles of teaching.2 In 1992, Minnesota approved the first charter-school law,3 and in 1994, the Clinton Administration strongly supported and further encouraged states to pass charter laws. By 1998, Albert Shanker, the President of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) embraced the concept of charter schools, which mobilized their establishment across the country.
In 2002, President Bush’s distinctive domestic initiative, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) created high-stakes standardized testing, which incentivized educators to spend less time teaching their curriculum and more time teaching to the test, leaving little time for genuine learning and ultimately, changed the nature of how traditional schools approached their standards and education.4 Then, from 2003 to 2007, Ray Budde’s vision in 1974 for a charter school model of education and the reorganization of school districts spread across the United States,5 which emphasized redefining education through innovative pedagogical practices, longer teaching hours, and overarching accountability, enforced by the principals and administrators of charter schools.
Through the charter school model, principals sign performance agreements and receive significant gains in their budget, along with discretionary spending. Reversing nearly a hundred years of hierarchical management, the principals of charter schools are given authority to retain, dismiss and even provide cash bonuses to their network support team members. Support team members are urged to: “follow up relentlessly when the system doesn’t respond or performs unsatisfactory, and ‘filter’ or ‘block’ other requests that may burden principals.”6 In turn, the charter school business-model is subtly degenerating the fundamental role of the teacher. “Teachers who leave charter schools are more dissatisfied with their terms of employment and the nature of the job than teachers who leave traditional public schools,”7 and when education is run like a business, it becomes a turnover factory for dissatisfied teachers, because “charters are free to set their own pay scales,”8 so while the income of a new charter school teacher is very low, about $14 per hour, and the income of a principal could be high or low, but either way, the stresses of both jobs are accelerated, along with teacher turnover-rates. Moreover, the National Education Association (NEA) reflects how changes in teachers’ salaries since 2003 and NCLB has been anything but stable. Since 2007, the annual salary of a teacher as progressively plummeted, and only recently raised:9
After decades of charter school experimentation, accountability has proven to be beneficial to achievement, opportunity and learning gaps in America’s education, but at what cost? As 2014 unfolds, traditional schoolteachers are experiencing further shifts in their curriculum from the Common Core and additional pressures from reformed pedagogy. But shouldn’t innovative thinking be collaborative and not competitive? Education cannot be run like a business because its goal isn’t to attain a profit; its goal is to educate. Teaching is an extraordinarily challenging occupation that’s constantly in flux. Charter schools are a result of shifts in legislation and make the role of a teacher progressively less appealing. Traditional schools do not advertise or promote, so young educators become cogs that turn the wheels of charter school agendas. The mission of charter schools is to “cultivate learners who use determination and innovative thinking to build a strong academic foundation in the 21st century learning environment.”10 But deceptively do not allow individual teachers to create any of their classrooms’ innovative thinking or practices; instead administrators and principals implement whatever “best practices” their organization embraces.
Charter schools have a very highly-defined set of criteria for what needs to be included in a lesson plan – making teaching into a strenuous series of systematic processes that artificially do not arise, but occur. Meanwhile, young aspiring teachers flock to the noble calls of charter schools, while experienced teachers avoid working in low-income, low-performing districts because the pay, responsibilities, treatment and management are notably unappealing. The position of a charter school teacher should be filled with highly experienced and tenured teachers who genuinely know what it means to invest themselves in a special group of students every year. But instead, education reform combats these kinds of teachers, and politicians are too scared to fully centralize or decentralize risks and invest in ideas that may not succeed.
“Unfortunate as it may be, schools have never been just about educating children. They are also about constructing social and political power. Real school reform must be about challenging it. Until we find the political will and vision to put social justice at the heart of the debate about public education, school reform will continue to be an exasperating tug of war with limited impact on the status quo.”11
Thus, it’s up to non-profit charter schools to try and equip this rope with excellent teachers every year, only their workforce brings the wrong mix of force. The core of education is centered on the teacher, and teaching should be similar to other social work like healthcare. Both occupations demand not only a commitment to their professions and undefined hours, but a commitment to others as well.
A brain surgeon is trained for at least eight years before they can touch a human brain, but an educator simply requires a background check before they can train a child’s mind. America’s best educators are attracted to postsecondary education, which also draws talent away from primary schools. The founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ), Geoffrey Canada, expresses the need for early childhood education through “Baby College,”12 but according to an Occupational Employment and Wages from the U.S. Department of Labor: primary school teachers annually earn “$54,740,” while healthcare practitioners earned about “$93,320” annually, with an hourly medium of “$35.76.”13 In turn, America spends far more money on its healthcare than its education, meanwhile charter schools prescribe even less pay to their teachers.
Compensation differentials between schoolteachers and law enforcement officials are slightly alarming. Currently, police officers earn “$58,720” annually, in comparison to the “$54,740” of an average schoolteacher. There are two issues largely at play here: prison rates were increasing due to nonviolent crimes: “the federal prison population has reached record levels, that a high proportion of prisoners are non-violent drug offenders, and that racial disparities in sentencing and the proportion of lower-level drug offenders are increasing.”14 Although President Obama has largely addressed America’s clemency applications, it’s important to point out that our country currently pays its citizens more money to incarcerate people, than it does to teach them how to avoid incarceration. John Roman, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, said: “the biggest predictor of committing a criminal act is being young, male, and relatively low-skilled,”15 so could education be the cure for our country’s high crime and incarceration rates?
In regard to the educational implications of collegiate teacher salaries, the outstanding annual incomes of “postsecondary law ($122,280), health specialties ($105,880) and engineer ($102,880) teachers”16 should indicate that law, health and engineering are not being taught in primary schools when our youth clearly reflects a desire and demand to learn about these subjects later on. Why isn’t there a class on Law in middle school? America’s primary school education does not inform its students about how to follow the law. Instead, students receive an experiential trial and error education from police officers that sometimes inadvertently initiate self-perpetuating criminal records that progressively narrow career paths and futures.
The task of uprooting the ideology behind education reform is complex and nuanced, and charter schools may merely be a transitory route to turning around low-performing schools. But the problems of America’s education do not wholly rest within the minorities and cultural controversies that reform spurs and stirs: “The main reason Teach For America [TFA] teachers leave the classroom, Kopp said, is because they want to have a bigger impact,”17 a bigger impact than changing the trajectory of young minorities in struggling communities? Many TFA teachers find themselves as small parts of a bigger goal: and many of the most successful TFA graduates defer to becoming principals and administrators, not only because it’s a more impactful position with much better compensation, but also because the program ultimately renders the role of a teacher as undesirable: “nearly two-thirds (60.5%) of TFA teachers continue as public school teachers beyond their two-year commitment.”18 Some charter programs are proving they are better than TFA and Achievement First’s two-year-turnover conveyor belts, but only by about another two years: “Other charter networks have similar career arcs for teachers. At Success Academy Charter Schools, a chain run by Eva S. Moskowitz, a former New York City councilwoman, the average is about four years in the classroom. KIPP, one of the country’s best known and largest charter operators, with 141 schools in 20 states, also keeps teachers in classrooms for an average of about four years.”19 Daniel Lindley makes an insightful point about this:
“Teachers go through three stages in learning the craft. The first stage, the first full year of teaching, is just learning to be comfortable in a roomful of adolescents. The second stage, typically the second year, is teaching, with some success, the given curriculum. The third stage, which can begin in the third year and shouldn’t end, is teaching shaped by the creativity and originality of the teacher herself. Most of the ‘short-timers’ will never reach the third stage. No wonder so many leave after too short a time.”20
The result, teachers who truly love teaching become or try to become administrators and principals, potentially excellent educators traditionally flee and maybe a few of them get fired in public schools.
Charter schools are improving the quality of education in low-income communities and bridging gaps in our education, but they are also harming the overall occupation of the teacher. The charter school-model embodies teaching as a physical and financial sacrificial occupation, and reform is against the odds of limited resources in communities with economic disparities.
“Over the past several decades, the most elite sector of higher education has become more selective—and expensive—than ever. David L. Kirp writes that ‘even as higher education has become more stratified at the top, it has also become more widely available … on the lower rungs of the academic ladder, where what matters are money and enrollment figures, not prestige.’”21
However, the prestige and experiential credentials of a teacher should be paramount, it’s what makes education successful. What would it be like to employ new, but more thoroughly trained teachers at high-performing schools with intellectually curious students who encourage education; then employ highly-experienced teachers in low-performing schools with less motivated students who are struggling under the pressures of poverty, but maintained both of their current salaries?
Innovative ideas like charter schools promote callings that attract generations thinking about how rapidly the world is changing, and how we must respond and adapt to these changes and rise above adversity. Failing schools should have the funds to attract the most high-performing teachers. However, the charter school movement targets less experienced, and more aspiring educators to transform communities and contribute to charter mission statements and statistical success, at the cost of uninspiring teachers through meager wages, extended hours, and most importantly, a culture of teachers who tour their time. Today’s education system attracts “16%”22 of males at a declining rate:
Traditional schooling initially made teaching appealing to women, while charters, to youth: and instead of protecting our country’s women and children, we’re sending them into schools with low-wages, long hours and little experience, and then pressuring them to outperform previous fiscal measurements for their job’s sake. If a teacher gets a bad recommendation, why stay in the occupation?
For those who consider education as a lifelong career – it’s about leading young minds to discover the world’s problems and guiding them to become productive and passionate citizens. America’s education system is failing students beyond its minorities. Traditionally speaking, young and inexperienced teachers have always been placed in failing schools, because that’s how they’re molded. Education reform is doing the same thing, but it’s not “doing the same thing over and over,”23 it’s doing the same thing with different historical perspectives, tools, measurements, policies and instruction. There shouldn’t be a divide between traditional and charter school ideologies, best practices should simply be taken from each, and organizations such as “America Forward” that embrace the both worlds of charter and traditional schools are looking beyond all the controversy: because new schooling implementations such as the Extended Learning Time (ELT) and teacher autonomy are extremely effective, when utilized correctly.
The impact of charter schools in New Orleans has been highly scrutinized, and also successful:
“The typical student in a Louisiana charter school gains more learning in a year than his TPS [Tradtional Public School] counterpart, resulting in about two months of additional gains in reading and three months in math. These positive patterns are pronounced in New Orleans and other urban settings where historically student academic performance has been poor. The difference in learning in a New Orleans Charter School equates to four months of additional learning in reading and five more months of learning in math”24
Charter schools are beneficial to America’s educational gaps and inequalities, and traditional schools should collaboratively embrace some of their ideas. The charter school movement will continue to close educational gaps, but also continue to create controversy among policies, communities and districts alike: only to create more gaps that we may not be able to recognize yet. Teachers need to invest far more than two years in teaching to truly make an impact. Canada further expresses the ephemeral uplift of a charter school education, like HCZ:
“In communities like Harlem, people tend to think that a single decent program for poor children is enough to provide escape velocity, to give the children the momentum to orbit around their communities and not be damaged. But they’re wrong. The programs are just not powerful enough. The gravity of the community always pulls the child back down. They might stay in the air for a year, but then lousy schools, lousy communities, the stresses of being poor all begin to weigh on that child and that family, and they begin to fall closer back down to the values and the performance levels of the community.”25
The gravity of these communities not only causes its students to stay in the air for a year, but teachers as well. I believe the power Canada is probing at may rest within federal hands received by educational professionals who know America’s education system best: because as curriculum and knowledge evolves in America, so do the demands of a teacher.
The bottom line is that, America needs to put more value on the occupation of the teacher, and charter schools are harming the appeal of becoming an educator by providing our country’s teachers with little pay and longer hours. Charter schools are bridging gaps in America’s education, but is it possible they’re creating gaps between teachers and their ability or desire to teach? Based the: “World Top 20 Education Poll,”26 in comparison to the leading countries in education such as, “Japan, South Korea and the United Kingdom: the United States ranks 18,” even though, American teachers spend more time teaching than any other country. In 2007, when America’s teaching salaries peaked, teachers spent “on average 1,080 hours teaching each year. Across the O.E.C.D. [The Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development], the average is 794 hours on primary education, 709 hours on lower secondary education, and 653 hours on upper secondary education general programs:
American teachers’ pay is more middling. The average public primary-school teacher who has worked 15 years and has received the minimum amount of training, for example, earns $43,633”:27
Until the United States starts to appreciate their teachers as much as they’re valued in countries with exceptional education systems, controversies will continue over accountability or autonomy. I believe Holly Welham points out some of the key international differences among the treatment of teachers in her article: “How Teachers are Rated in 21 Countries Around the World.”28 If charter schools continue to degenerate the value of teachers, there could turnout to be a shortage of teachers in America’s future. Classroom efficiency and technology will evolve, curriculum will evolve with history, but the student only evolves through their teacher. “The new standards won’t revolutionize education. It’s not enough to set goals; you have to figure out how to meet them.”29 Failing education could benefit from the expertise and experience of educators that only higher education attracts in order to truly affect change in America’s education; because if education inequalities began with untrained or inexperienced educators teaching in low-performing schools with low-wages, I believe Einstein when he said: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
“American Teacher (2011).” N.p., n.d. Web. 2014.
“The Lottery (2010).” N.p., n.d. Web. 2014.
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Hess, Frederick M. “American Enterprise Institute.” Doing the Same Thing Over and Over. Aei.org. AEI Online, 17 Nov. 2010. Web. <http://www.aei.org/article/education/k-12/doing-the-same-thing-over-and-over/>.
Ionata, Catherine M., Rick Bergdahl, Henry Seton, and Daniel Lindley. “The High Turnover at Charter Schools.” Nytimes.com. The New York Times, 29 Aug. 2013. Web. <http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/30/opinion/the-high-turnover-at-charter-schools.html?_r=0>.
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- Sackler, Madeleine. The Lottery. Video Documentary, 2010. ↩
- Ravitch, Diane. The Great School Wars: New York City, 1805-1973; a History of the Public Schools as Battlefield of Social Change. New York: Basic, 25. 1974. Print. ↩
- Editorial Projects in Education Research Center. (2011, May 25). Issues A-Z: Charter Schools. Education Week.org. May 25, 2011. Web. ↩
- Ravitch, Diane. The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education. New York: Basic, 2010. Print. ↩
- Kolderie, Ted. “Ray Budde and the Origins of the ‘Charter Concept'”Education Evolving. Center for Policy Studies and Hamline University, 1. June 2005. Web. ↩
- NYCSED. “Charter School Office.” Nysed.gov. About Charter Schools: Laws and Regulations: Article 56. NYSED: PSC, 9. 2006. Web. ↩
- Center on Reinventing Public Education. “Teacher Attrition in Charter vs. District Schools.” Crpe.org. Center on Reinventing Public Education, Aug. 2010. Web. ↩
- Charter School Jobs. “About Charter Schools.” Charterschooljobs.com. K12connect, Inc., 2014. Web. ↩
- NEA. “Rankings of the States 2013 and Estimates of School Statistics 2014.” National Education Association. Mar. 2014. Web. ↩
- Charter School Jobs. “About Charter Schools.” Charterschooljobs.com. K12connect, Inc., 2014. Web. ↩
- Christensen, Linda, and Stan Karp. “Why Is School Reform So Hard? The Dual Character of Schooling Invariably Generates Contradictory Impulses When It Come to Reform.” Edweek.org. Education Week, 8 Oct. 2003. Web. ↩
- Tough, Paul. Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America. Boston: Mariner, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 53. 2009. Print. ↩
- Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Occupational Employment and Wages – May 2013.” Occupational Employment and Wages. Bureau of Labor Statistics: U.S. Department of Labor, May 2013. Web. ↩
- Sentencing Project. “The Federal Prison Population: A Statistical Analysis.” Sentencingproject.org. The Sentencing Project Research and Advocacy for Reform, 2004. Web. ↩
- Hess, Alexander E.M., and Thomas C. Frohlich. “10 Cities Where Violent Crime Is Soaring.” Time.com. Time, 21 Apr. 2014. Web. ↩
- Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Occupational Employment and Wages – May 2013.” Occupational Employment and Wages. Bureau of Labor Statistics: U.S. Department of Labor, May 2013. Web. ↩
- Armario, Christine. “Teach For America Met With Big Questions In Face Of Expansion.” TheHuffingtonPost.com. The Huffington Post, 27 Nov. 2011. Web. ↩
- Donaldson, Morgaen L., and Susan M. Johnson. “TFA Teachers: How Long Do They Teach? Why Do They Leave?” Edweek.org. Education Week., 4 Oct. 2011. Web. ↩
- Rich, Motoko. “At Charter Schools, Short Careers by Choice.” Nytimes.com. The New York Times, 26 Aug. 2013. Web. ↩
- Ionata, Catherine M., Rick Bergdahl, Henry Seton, and Daniel Lindley. “The High Turnover at Charter Schools.” Nytimes.com. The New York Times, 29 Aug. 2013. Web. ↩
- Walsh, Taylor. “Unlocking the Gates: How and Why Leading Universities Are Opening Up Access to Their Courses. Princeton University Press, 2010. ↩
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- Hess, Frederick M. “American Enterprise Institute.” Doing the Same Thing Over and Over. Aei.org. AEI Online, 17 Nov. 2010. Web. ↩
- Credo. “Charter School Performance in Louisiana.” Credo.stanford.edu. Center for Research on Education Outcomes. 8 Aug. 2013. Web. ↩
- Tough, Paul. Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America. Boston: Mariner, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, p. 232, 2009. Print. ↩
- The World Top 20 Education Poll (WT20EP0), 2014 ↩
- Rampell, Catherine. “Teacher Pay Around the World.” Economix.blogs.nytimes & oecd.org. The New York Times, 9 Sept. 2009. Web. ↩
- Welham, Holly. “How Teachers Are Rated in 21 Countries Around the World.” Theguardian.com. Guardian News and Media, 03 Oct. 2013. Web. ↩
- Brooks, David. “When the Circus Descends.” Nytimes.com. The New York Times, 17 Apr. 2014. Web. ↩
Autism, a mental condition, present from early childhood, characterized by difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts, has been a controversial topic in schooling for all of time. (Webster). Throughout history, the concept of Autism has come to mean different things. Initially, Other Learning Disabilities was the broad category that encompassed all types of disabilities. In response to a vague category, public schools dealt with these disabilities in various ways that are different than strategies often used for children with Autism today. How did the teaching strategies for this population change from the 1930’s to the present and why did these changes occur?
Prior to the 1960’s, children with disabilities were often neglected and excluded from the public school system entirely. Moving forward, the sixties was a time period where the disabilities were more widely accepted; although, there were still few disabled children in the public school system. In the 1970’s, the passing of a federal law permitted disabled children to obtain a free public education however; the treatment of the children in the schools did not change directly due to the law. This did not occur until outraged parents made a splash in the public sphere through a series of lawsuits.
In the 1930’s, disabilities were just beginning to become recognized. In America, children who were disabled were often instituted, ignored, or neglected. Language for the time described these children as “mentally retarded”, “daft”, or plain “stupid”. (Quinn 1). Families in this time period who had disabled children moved downward in social status, were frowned upon, and were socially ostracized. Disabled children were religiously viewed as Satan’s children and were a result of the parents’ sins prior to childbirth. (Ravensbergen 1). The life expectancy was no more than twenty years of age and they were very empty years of life for not only the children but the families as well. Often children were shipped off to institutions, which resembled prisons. (Quinn 2). They were left to rot away and were intentionally meant to be kept out of the way of those who were “normal” in society. Due to the lack of compassion, care, and acceptance of the disabled children, early public schools were never forced to create a program to educate this part of the population.
The term “Autism” did not come into our country’s common vocabulary until the 1960’s. (Googlegram). However, while the term became prevalent, it was extremely rare for children of the 1960’s to be diagnosed with Autism. (Connecticut State Department of Education 97). All disabilities during this time period fell into the category of “mental retardation” and therefore were dealt with extremely poorly or not dealt with at all within the public school system.
Change did not occur until the 1960’s when disabilities became positively visible in the eyes of parents. In order for a disabled child to be educated, the burden laid on his/her parents. The only real options were home schooling or extremely pricey private institutions. (specialednews 6). In 1961, John F. Kennedy created the presidents panel dealing with mental retardation. This was instituted as a result of parents who began to protest the rights of their disabled children. (specialnews 8). His panel called for the state to be aided by the government in order to provide an education for disabled children. Continuing on the timeline, in 1965, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act was created. This act allows for accessibility of a free education. (OSPI 1). In the early 1970’s, one in every five students with a disability was educated in the public school system. (USDE). America was now in a period of special education innovation and parents were eager to make progress.
In 1971, Janet Taggart, Katie Dolan, Cecile Lindquist, and Evelyn Chapman (four moms from Washington State who were tired of the way their children were being neglected) were able to create a law, which would later be passed in congress. (Johnson). The law was titled Education for All and it provided students with disabilities equal access to a public school education. The work of these four mothers would later serve as a blueprint for IDEA. (Johnson). This is the first account where we witness parental involvement and action in order to provide a better life for disabled children.
It was not until 1975, that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act was approved. This was a law which stated that all local public schools must provide a free education for all disabled children without any additional cost to the parents. It was intended to provide a basis for disabled children to survive in life past primary schooling. IDEA contained six principles, all of which allowed disabled children and their parents to have rights for the first time in public schools. The first was Zero Reject, which basically eliminates the possibility uneducable children failing to receive an education. (Heward 1). Nondiscriminatory Identification and Evaluation refers to the testing done in order to identify a child as being disabled. It must be culturally and economically fair for all children. Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) “protects the rights of individuals with disabilities in programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance, including federal funds”. (Russlyn 1). The fourth principle is LRE or Least Restrictive Environment. This means that the disabled child should be in class for the longest amount of time with nondisabled children until it becomes disruptive for either party. (Heward 3). Next, Due Process safeguards are a set of guidelines to ensure the parent’s rights in the entire special education process. Lastly, Parent and Student Participation refers to the necessity and encouragement of making decisions together for the benefit of the child.
It was not until after IDEA was passed that the percentage of disabled children receiving education in public schools in comparison to nondisabled children increased. (ed.gov 32). “About 95 percent of school-age children and youth ages 6–21 who were served under IDEA in school were enrolled in regular schools” (ed.gov32). “Third, with one sweeping motion more than one million children were added to the public school system.” (Hoskin 1). It is important to note that even though IDEA was in effect, this did not separate different disabilities within the school just yet. They still all fell under the broad category of retardation. Autism identification was still rare at this time.
While the public schools were mandated to adopt these terms for all disabled children, this did not mean the practices changed within the classroom. Yes, disabled children were now allowed and accepted in public schools and yes, there was now a plan for them. However, it did not mean they were respected. The term IEP came into effect a few years after IDEA was introduced. IEP stands for Individualized Education Program. (specialednews 4). It is unique to each child’s needs and is reviewed yearly. It contains things such as goals, objectives, current levels of functioning, and time schedules for the child. It contains techniques used to help the child as well. During the 70’s and up until the mid 90’s, public schools used techniques such as scream rooms, restraint, and verbal abuse. Scream rooms were often rooms with a single color wall, contained a chair/desk, no windows, and a door. They were used for children with disabilities as a form of punishment. A characteristic of children with Autism is self-infliction of pain. The children would be kept in these rooms for hours at a time and would often scratch the walls, hit their heads, or cause harm to their bodies as an escape from insanity. Verbal abuse was utilized to deal with these children because teachers lacked patience and did not necessarily care about the children because they were still undervalued in society.
What aided IDEA to truly change the strategies used in schooling? The answer is parental involvement. Unfortunately, it took several devastating occurrences, which led to lawsuits, ultimately allowing the public to put pressure on the public school system to change its tactics. The use of restraint was a common practice all the way up to the twenty-first century! An article written in 2004 tells the story of a boy named Cedric. Cedric was fourteen years old and was classified with a disability. He had a history of violent behavior and which was unknown but the special education teachers were using restraint techniques in order to control his meltdowns. His teacher had put him in a hold on the ground after a dispute about lunch and when his mother was called to come to the school, he had already been pronounced dead. This raised controversy in the court and raised the question as to how many children were really being disciplined in schooling with this technique? Was it allowed because the children were in special ed? Cedric’s mother did not let her son’s death go unnoticed and did not let schools go unpunished.
In 2004, well after IDEA, parents of nine-year-old Jan Rankowski sued Falmouth school for banning their son. Jan was a young boy with Autism and was enrolled in school with a placement in special education. There were complaints about Jan bothering other children in the playground and possessing “autistic-like” characteristics. This ultimately led to the school banning Jan until a professional evaluated him. Jan’s form of Autism severely altered his social skills and made it very difficult for him to carry out an appropriate conversation with anyone he came into contact with. The only thing that helped Jan’s conditions was to continually socialize him with others. With this being said, his parents could not understand how the school thought a ban would be keeping their son’s best interest at heart. “By banning the kid from the most social part of the day, you’re ensuring that he won’t be able to learn social skills. It’s almost like saying, ‘You don’t know math, so we’re not letting you in the math class,” said Wayne Gilpin of Future Horizons. The article written by Sarah Leitch proceeds to explain how ultimately Jan had to be home schooled and was banned from playing in his playground. “The boy’s parents say they hope their lawsuit will force schools to treat disabled or home-schooled children the same way as other children. Others across the country are watching the case as the number of children diagnosed with Asperger’s continues to climb” (Leitch).
It was a combination of cases like the above and many more that pressured scientists and schooling systems to create alternate methods. Shortly after several very public lawsuits came out, ASD was discovered. ASD is Autism Spectrum Disorder. This resulted in a scale of assessment used to determine if a child had Autism and if so how to go about intervention. (Rell 7). The spectrum was very significant because it raised the number of children who were diagnosed. This proposed a problem for the public schools. Ultimately, it forced them to create a separate learning program and strategy for children with Autism. Technically, children who diagnosed as having ASD qualify for IDEA. However, it is treated quite differently than an emotional disorder, which was once in the same category.
Shifting to the present time period in public schooling, there is a list of techniques proven to be most effective for children with Autism. Early intervention is the earliest and can be provided federally for children after the age of three. Individualized and Intensive programming has been implemented in schools and parents must be notified for each PPT (Planning and Placement Team) meeting in order to determine an appropriate IEP for his/her child. Teachers must make sure the assignments are clear and on point. If there is a change in schedule, it is important for the teacher to tell the children because children with Autism are meticulous about their schedule. There are vocal devices to help children communicate. Often teachers create a picture book with basic labeled functions for the children to point to and aid in verbalization. As a teacher or paraprofessional, it is required under the public school system, to be certified in ABA training. The number of children diagnosed with Autism has risen to about one in every eighty born. This can be attributed to a number of reasons however, a large one is that more research has been done and more appropriate classifications are now able to be made. Children are correctly diagnosed and can now receive the help they need in the public school system. There is no question that there is more work to be done and the public school system will forever be evolving in an attempt to eliminate all flaws.
Not too long ago, The Atlantic published an article called How My Autistic Son Got Lost in the Public School System, by Amy Mackin. This article was published recently in January of 2013. The article relates the brief history of a young boy named Henry (not his real name for privacy purposes) who was diagnosed and treated for his Autism Spectrum Disorder. His parents were extremely on top of their game, started with early intervention, provided necessary resources, and their son still managed to slip through the cracks at school. Part of Henry’s disorder was his ability to strictly follow rules. Mackin explains how the teacher had certain bathroom breaks for the children allotted during certain times of the day. In an attempt for Henry follow the rules, he would pee in his pants. “When he had an accident, he was too ashamed to tell anyone, so he sat in his own urine for hours. Not one staff member at the school ever noticed.” (Mackin 3). The article goes on to tell more stories of how Henry was mistreated, not necessarily on purpose, but because public schools were not trained to deal with such disorders.
“The problem is that public schools are mostly worried about academics and test scores. They have to be—their success in those areas dictates the percentage of state and federal funding they get. Few schools have designated psychologists (most often, multiple schools share the same one). Teachers aren’t psychologists, and asking them to be is not fair.” (Mackin 6).
Ultimately, Henry’s parents chose to home school him because they could not sleep at night worrying about their boy at a public middle school. His mother worked to make this story public and widely known. Her hopes were to change another child’s experience in middle school and allow other parents to send their children to school without apprehensiveness at all times. As alarming as the date of this article may be, it helps us realize that the public school system is still far from perfect and parents will continue to push for quality.
These strategies may have never been discovered or put into place if it were not for persistent, active, parents willing to dedicate their lives to correcting the system and pressuring schools to treat disabled children with the respect they deserve. The law of IDEA surely aided in the appropriate action but it was much more that allowed our public schools to take steps in the right direction in terms of educating those with disabilities. Parents serve as the primary advocates and catalysts of these movements. The public school system has shifted from not even accepting children with disabilities, to putting up with them legally, to treating them with disrespect, to caring, and finally improving techniques day by day. It has been a long road to the creation of equality but the hopes are that one day children with Autism will be equipped with skills to lead healthy, normal lives. The shift is bittersweet because it has been paved by sad stories of disabled children and the passion of their parents to create a different destiny for other children.
Connecticut State Department of Education “Division of Teaching and Learning Program and Service” Bureau of Special Education July 2005
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The concept of an Interdistrict magnet school is one that has played a significant role in the field of educational studies, especially when discussing desegregation. Congress announced its support for the funding of magnet schools as options for desegregated education with the Emergency School Aid Act of 1972. These schools were proposed as a means of integrating the learning environment by attracting students from many different districts into a school with a quality curriculum that focuses on a specific theme. The federal government continues to grant funding to magnet schools that choose to apply for the aid, as long as these schools meet specific eligibility requirements, such as desegregation. For magnet schools to achieve their goal of desegregation, they need to attract high percentages of students from suburbs into their location in the city. The idea is that because these schools are drawing from many different districts, across designated boundaries, they are therefore appealing to students of many different races and socioeconomic statuses while also aiding desegregation within the school. Because some magnet schools struggle to attract a diverse body of students, they need to adjust their marketing strategies to appeal to a broad audience of students.
As the concept of the magnet school has evolved over time, so have the marketing strategies for schools. My research question is, has magnet school marketing in the Hartford region changed over time to attract a diverse student body, in order to be eligible for federal aid? There has been an expected shift from simple marketing pamphlets, to a technology-based advertising strategy. Furthermore, developers have added magnet schools with themes revolving around the arts to attract students of higher socioeconomic status. Therefore, magnet school marketing in the Hartford Region has changed overtime, and this change can be explained by the increased pressure to prove desegregation in the school.
Magnet schools are public schools that attempt desegregation by enrolling students from across many different district lines. The goal of this type of desegregation was to integrate segregated schools without requiring forced busing (Rossell, 303). Congress announced its support for federal magnet school funding through the Emergency School Aid Act of 1972. This act provided choice for families, rather than demanding integration (Rossell, 303). Research says, “desegregation was the primary reason for the creation of magnet programs and schools” (Arcia, 2). Magnet schools are designed with a thematic curriculum, which allows an opportunity for high-quality education to a broad range of students (Arcia, 3). Christine Rossell interprets this as; “Proponents claim that their implementation and operation will significantly reduce overall hostility to desegregation by providing quality education in an integrated setting. Rather than viewing school desegregations as a threat, white parents will view it as an opportunity” (Rossell, 304). The federal government declared it’s support for magnet schools because the goal to offer a peaceful chance for educational integration.
More recently, the government has continued to grant funding to magnet schools for the purpose of desegregation and as assistance for schools with high concentrations of poverty (Civil Rights Project, 7). Through the US Department of Education, the Magnet School Assistance program provides funding to schools every three years. “The U.S. Department of Education reviews grant applications, typically selecting 30 to 50 school districts per cycle to receive funding” (Civil Rights Project 7). In 2010, the Obama Administration declared that for schools to be eligible for a federal grant, they need to prove that they are actually integrating students by reducing minority isolation (Civil Rights Project, 9). The process of the federal government providing magnet schools with grants has continued since the 1970s, with the goal of equity in mind. However, the process of grant eligibility has become stricter as racial and socioeconomic segregation has increased within schools.
Typically, urban public schools consist widely of minority students, while suburban schools are predominantly white. In order to for magnet schools to receive federal funding, they need to enroll students from both the city and the suburbs, which will allow for both racial and social class integration in the school. For example, in the wake of great opposition to segregation in Hartford in 1989 arose the lawsuit Sheff v O’Neill filed by a mother, Elizabeth Horton Sheff in the name of her son and other students against segregation of schools (Dougherty, Esteves, Wanzer, Tatem, Bell, Cobb, Esposito, 1). Their belief was that the segregation was unlawful, and that integration would provide all students with a better education. In a 2003 settlement of Sheff, magnet schools and a Hartford School choice program were designated as tools to attract students from the city and from suburbs (Dougherty et al., 2). Usually, there is a trend of students wanting to leave the urban schools, and enroll in schools outside the city. However, this is rarely reversed meaning that it is not as common for suburban students to be drawn to urban schools.
One way magnet schools attract suburban students into the city is through marketing strategies. Promotional tools of magnet schools exist to attract potential students towards applying to the school. Through research of magnet school marketing tools such as pamphlets and websites from a variety of different years, it is clear that some strategies have remained the same. For example, promotional tools hark on the quality of education that students at the school receive, while expressing the goals of the school. This may be a result of sources online that provide outlines for how marketing of magnet schools should look. At the top of one such outline from Omaha Magnet Schools, a line reads “The School that Tells the Best True Story Wins” (Magnet School Marketing Plan, 1). This template stresses the importance of expressing the goals of the magnet school in promotion, while highlighting attractive aspects about the school that will draw applicants in. Based on research, these are themes that have existed in many promotional tools over time.
While the basic themes of magnet school marketing tools have remained the same, there are many inherent differences as well. Within Hartford, magnet school marketing tools have been adapted to expand audiences. In 2004, magnet schools were promoted through pamphlets that provided an overview of Hartford’s Interdistrict magnet school program. The booklet is designed in a bright yellow background with bolded letters on the front that read: “Hartford Host Interdistrict Magnet Schools”. There is a graphic of a multicolored H and rising sun below the title. The pamphlet opens up into a booklet, and the eye is immediately drawn to a large blue text that says “learning for life.” Following this slogan are statements about the goals of Hartford magnet schools that express the benefits of the magnet program, such as no tuition cost for parents, or the home school districts. The booklet expands to a map of the Greater Hartford Region and a list of the eligible magnet schools. Text on these pages reveal that the schools are dedicated to academic excellence, as well as providing application dates, information on the enrollment process, and a reminder that there is no tuition cost. The pamphlet opens once more to become a poster size where each magnet school is described individually. In 2004, there were 8 Hartford magnet schools promoted in this booklet. Descriptions of each school provided the theme of the curriculum, information on how many seats were available in each school and for which grades, and claims regarding a desegregated learning environment. The application is provided on the far right side of this page. It is a very simple, straightforward application that would be mailed back to the Hartford Magnet School Office. This process seems very simple, the system of mailing these pamphlets out makes it difficult to reach a broad audience of people.
Today, Hartford Magnet Schools as well as CREC magnet schools that are located in the Greater Hartford Region, are promoted together online. Simply searching the web for “choice education” will take a potential applicant directly to the Regional School Choice Office (RSCO) for the Greater Hartford Region website. The homepage provides links to many different informational pages such as latest news and events, RSCO lottery information, and even a link that simply states “what you need to know.” Included in the homepage is a video called “It’s a GO.” The video offers student perspectives by explaining their personal reasons for choosing to take part in and why they appreciate the help of RSCO. It also shows opinions of staff members form a variety of choice schools from the Greater Hartford Region. Each member boasted about the diversity of the schools, the academic rigor, and the friendly environment that is welcoming of students from across the entire region. This video adds to the promotion of magnet schools what paper pamphlets could not. It offers viewers a look at how choice schools affect real people, giving the marketing process a personal, relatable feel.
The website also highlights links to lists of different options for magnet schools. Following these links will take the viewer to a page that lists individual magnet school options as well as link to data about performance reports from each school. With a wide array of schools to choose from, the addition of performance reports allows a student to narrow their options by offering factual statistics about the successes and failures of certain schools. This page also offers links for specific magnet schools wich describe the themes, programs, special features, and lottery placement procedures exclusively for that school. The website offers a seemingly endless stream of information for potential applicants which is far more than a pamphlet can do. Although the goal of transferring marketing information onto the internet may not explicitly be to efficiently inform students in the suburbs, this is a positive consequence of the change.
Based on the evidence provided, from 2004 to 2014, there has been a shift in the type of marketing magnet schools use. Although the content within promotional packages has remained relatively the same, highlighting what makes certain magnet schools successful and answering all the questions about why an applicant should attend, the strategies for publicizing this information has changed. Marketing in 2004 consisted of paperback pamphlets mailed to the homes of potential applicants. Naturally, this technique has changed, and all of this information is available on the Internet. Interestingly, the time period of this shift has been almost bisected by the 2010 change in federal grant eligibility. Perhaps, the shift is due to the fact that the Internet can be accessed more quickly by larger aggregates of people, specifically the families in suburbs who are likely to have Internet access. By providing this cohort of people simple, readily available information, magnet school supporters may believe that these people will be more likely to apply to choice schools. By attracting these students, magnet schools are more likely to become desegregated and therefore applicable for grants.
Furthermore, there has been an increase in the amount of arts themed magnet schools from 2004 to 2014. Students from higher socioeconomic status are more likely to have exposure to art, museums, or theatre at a younger age and thus may be more interested in pursuing these fields in secondary schooling. Some students may be drawn to urban schools if it offers them a chance to learn in an environment geared to their interests more so than a traditional high school. The 2004 Hartford manget schools pamphlet does not advertise for any schools with curricula specifically focused in the arts. However, today schools such as Journalism and Media Academy Magnet School, RJ Kinsella Magnet School of Performing Arts, Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts, and Pathways Academy of Technology and Design (RSCO) exist which all have arts based focus. This increase in arts and performance based schools may be a marketing technique to draw middle and upperclass students into urban area schools, by providing certain students with educational options they may value.
The idea that implementation of arts focused curricula as a way of attracting a variety of students is especially convincing when comparing magnet schools to Hartford district schools. The majority of district schools offer average high school curricula, teaching math, english, and science. However, district schools are more likely to be vocational than magnet schools. Although some magnet schools may be related to occupations, it is more common to see this in district schools. For example, Hartford offers the Culinary Arts Academy, HPHS Academy of Nursing and Health Sciences, and the HPHS Law and Government Academy (HPS). The number of vocational schools may be related to class differences, because typically more urban students are likely to pursue a vocational education. It is hard to argue that their interest causes magnet schools to add arts based themes, however this addition certainly helps them to attract a variety of students from the suburbs and the city who do not wish to attend traditional or vocational schools. This indeed would help desegregate a school looking for federal grants.
Ultimately, it is difficult to understand if changes in marketing strategies have attracted more suburban students without analyzing data. To continue this research, I wish to access data on the numbers of suburban students who apply for magnet school enrollment in Hartford, and whether or not this has altered along with the changes in marketing techniques.
Arcia, E. (2006). Comparison of the enrollment percentages of magnet and non-magnet schools in a large urban school district. Educational Policy Analysis Archives, 14(33), 1-16. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ806067.pdf
Dougherty , Jack, Naralys Estevez, Jesse Wanzer, David Tatem, Courtney Bell, Casey Cobb, and Craig Esposito. “A Visual Guide to Sheff vs. O’neill School Desegregation.” trincoll.edu. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Apr 2014. <http://www.trincoll.edu/depts/educ/css/research/Sheff_Report_July2006.pdf>.
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Magnet Schools of America, . “15 Annual International Conference.” . N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Apr 2014. <http://web.archive.org/web/19970112060010/http://magnet.edu/magnet11.htm>.
Magnet Schools of America, . “32nd National Conference .” . N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Apr 2014. <http://www.magnet.edu/conferences-and-events/2014-msahartford-schedule>.
Omaha Magnet Schools, . “Magnet School Marketing Plan 2010-2011.” . N.p.. Web. 16 Apr 2014. <http://www.magnet.edu/files/pdf/dr_marketing-plan.pdf>.
Rossell, C. H. (1979). Magnet schools as a desegregation tool. Urban Education, 302-320. Retrieved from http://uex.sagepub.com/content/14/3/303.full.pdf html
The Civil Rights Project. “Reviving Magnet Schools: Strengthening a Successful Choice Option.” .1 Feb. 2002. Web. . <http://civilrightsproject.ucla.edu/research/k-12-education/integration-and-diversity/reviving-magnet-schools-strengthening-a-successful-choice-option/MSAPbrief-02-02-12.pdf>.