Florida School Shooting Gives Legislators New Perspective in Children’s Committee

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Recent events in the U.S. weighed heavy on legislators minds as they began the Committee on Children session on Thursday, February 15.

Following a school shooting on Wednesday in Parkland, FL, the well-being of children- the ultimate goal of this committee- took an extra place of importance for the legislators present.

Chairwoman and Representative Debra Urban began the meeting by publicly sending her regards to the victims of the Florida attacks, and opening the floor for her fellow committee members to also say a word regarding the shooting.

All of the legislators spoke similarly of thoughts and prayers for Florida, with Senator Len Suzio empathizing with the victims, referencing the emotions they had felt in Connecticut’s own school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown in 2012. Senator Suzio also suggested they take a moment of silence for the students and educators who had lost their lives the day before.

“We do need to think about school safety. We really can’t take anything off the table in order to protect our children,” said Liz Linehan, in the promotion of her point that when it comes to spending on school security, events like the tragedy in Florida really show that they should not hold back.

With the needs of children in a new perspective, the committee proceeded.

Chairwoman Urban quickly asked for a motion to raise on several bills on the agenda to be discussed. All legislators present unanimously voted to do so and swiftly moved on. The bills were as follows:

  • An Act Establishing the State Oversight Council on Children and Families
  • An Act Concerning Special Immigrant Juvenile Status
  • An Act Concerning the Transfer of a Child Charged with Certain Offenses to the Criminal Docket and the Grounds for Detention of an Arrested Child
  • An Act Extending the Reporting Deadline of the Task Force to Study Voluntary Admission to the Department of Children and Families
  • An Act Prohibiting Female Genital Mutilation
  • An Act Concerning Children in the Temporary Custody of the Department of Children and Families
  • An Act Concerning Parental Choice in the Event of Stillbirth

The Committee moved on to discuss An Act Establishing a Moratorium on the Use of Recycled Tire Rubber at Municipal and Public School Playgrounds.

Studies have previously cited that recycled tire rubber typically used as the surface for playgrounds could contain cancerous carcinogens dangerous for children. While there was previously a ban on it, there is now a moratorium.

Legislators currently await the results of an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study on the potential hazards of the material. Several of those present expressed frustration with the EPA’s delay, saying they should have heard from them in August of 2017.

Representative Urban clarified “Once the EPA study ends it becomes up to the legislators…If crumb rubber is proven to cause cancer it is up to legislators to decide if they still want to use it, it is not a trigger to rip up playgrounds.”

In frustration with the lagging results of the EPA study, Representative Pat Boyd questioned why they didn’t just make the decision now and prevent potentially harmful materials from continuing to be in municipal and public school playgrounds.

This idea was struck down by Representative Liz Linehan, saying “If they spend money on the playgrounds before the study comes out then we’re asking municipalities to spend money on something that they could have to send back.”

Representatives Noreen Kokoruda and Anne Dauphinais supported this view, citing it could be careless to move on the matter without the results of the EPA study. 

The second big concept discussed was An Act Concerning Concussion Education for Coaches of Certain Youth Athletic Activities.

As far as concussion education goes, at present, the state of Connecticut only mandates that an educational handout on concussions go out to coaches. This bill would mandate a 30-minute video training session for certain coaches.

“Many of the coaches are volunteers so I wouldn’t want to put a mandate on it, though I would strongly encourage them to educate themselves,” said Representative Dauphinais, in favor of not requiring concussion education training for coaches.

However in the spirit of doing all that is possible in the interest of children Representative Lezlye Zupkus countered saying, “No one wants anyone to have a concussion and I’m just looking to protect our kids so I will be flagging this.”

Representative William Buckbee also spoke out in support of the mandated concussion education saying “I don’t know one coach worth their salt who wouldn’t give thirty minutes to learn about concussions.”

The committee went on to go straight to a vote on the 4 remaining pieces of legislation on the agenda. They were as follows:

  • An Act Concerning the Department of Children and Families
  • An Act Concerning Children’s Programs
  • An Act Concerning Children’s Health
  • An Act Concerning Children’s Safety

The first of these, An Act Concerning the Department of Children and Families, received a unanimous “yes” from all present. On the other three, all legislators voted “yes” besides Representative Dauphinais, who voted no to all three.

With the impact of the Florida school shooting heavy on the minds of the legislators, they recessed the hearing after having considered and voted on acts to better the interests of the children of Connecticut.

To learn more about the CT Committee on Children, see their webpage here.

The committee met in Room 1E in the Legislative Office Building

School Closings: What’s the Message?

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School Closings: What’s the Message?

Lily Jewell and Sarah Clancy

When schools are closed, students do not just move to another and continue on with their daily lives. They are forced into new cramped classrooms with lower student to teacher ratios. Not only does it impact their physical environment, but it also sends a message to the students and parents within the communities. At this months Hartford Board of Education meeting, Dr. Benjamin Foster took the chance to express his concerns with the upcoming Hartford Public School closing in the north end of Hartford. The Hartford Board of Education holds “regular meetings”, which are intended to set goals, listen to the superintendents speak and budgets, but not specifically manage or solve individual problems. One of the biggest topics of conversation at this meeting had to do with the recent announcement of several schools closing due to their underperformance, and students not acting according to their grade level. Foster was speaking on behalf of the NAACP and the community concerned about the closing of several schools. The north end of Hartford is notoriously known for having low-income households, there is a poverty rate of 49.35%, which is much higher than the city’s high poverty rate of 33.9%.(http://www.hartford.gov/demographics-nhpz)

For Dr. Benjamin Foster, his concern is not about the logistics or forcing students to  relocate. His concern had to more about the messages it sends to the families of these communities. It sends these families a bad message, a message that they do not meet the expectations of society. And he hopes that the Board of Education can monitor these effects closely. Foster powerfully stated, “We want to again reiterate the devastation that it causes communities when schools are missing. Parity and equity should be the key in whatever decisions that you make. We will monitor this very stringently….”

One way he recommended fixing this is by constantly forcing the images of individuals from Hartford who made it. He even proposed examples of individuals who would be the perfect fit for this role. He referenced Charles Stone, who is now a big time journalist, and also a Hartford High graduate. He wants to see individuals such as Stone across the walls of Hartford public schools, to show the students they can become great too. It will give them a goal to strive for. Although Foster, is concerned about the traumatic effect of these schools closing he was still willing to propose ways to help the students even when moving forward in these devastating conditions.

Foster was not the only person unsettled by the closing of public schools in the north of Hartford. A mother, Shelly Davis, also raised her concerns who was followed up to the microphone by four other women, all wearing matching blue shirts to show solidarity with Shelly. Shelly stated that it was unfair for those schools to be closed because it would force her child and many other students to be bused to schools in the south end of hartford, where the teacher to student ratio would be dismal. It is important to notice that the closing of these north end Hartford public schools has not only caught the attention of parents, but also members of the education committee at the NAACP. The concerns are all across the community, and the Board of Education must listen in order to move forward in a way that will best benefit the students.

Outside Links-

Statistics-

http://www.hartford.gov/demographics-nhpz
Dr. Benjamin Foster Biography-

http://www.hartford.edu/aboutuofh/empowering-change/speaker-bios/benjamin-foster-new.aspx

NAACP and NAACP Education committee-

Education

Oldest and Boldest

Charles Stone-

http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20140407/news/140408758/

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SAT Causing Trouble Since 1984

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The SAT has gone through many evolutions since it first began in 1926 as the Scholastic Aptitude Test. But the most recent and drastic change occurred in 2005 we began to see schools starting move away from the SAT again for the first time since the first initial spike in 1984. Many high level universities saw the SAT as unable to accurately portray a student’s academic ability. Because of this the College Board decided to implement new additions and edits to the test structure. The SAT no longer saw quantitative comparison and analogy as necessary predictors and added reading comprehension, an increase in math concepts, and an essay question. These changes, made to improve the SAT, still may not have increased the test ability to portray academic ability. Since these changes, schools like Trinity College have decided to no longer look at SAT scores. Since Bates went test optional in 1984 have the reasons why colleges, like Trinity College, no longer require the test remained the same or changed over the past thirty years? Why have they stayed constant or stayed the same?

Over the past thirty years, the reasons colleges have shifted away from the SAT and and other tests have stayed constant. The issues surrounding racial scoring gaps and the test’s inability to accurately predict academic success are still prevalent today. Universities feel that they still need to require the SAT because they believe it sets their schools to a higher academic standard. This first initial spike, after Bates kick started the test optional movement,  in college rejections of the SAT occurred in 1994 when over 100 universities decided to go test optional. 1 Test optional schools continued to grow for the next decade when now even elite colleges are beginning to put less weight on the SAT. Racial scoring gaps within the test have become extremely prevalent in the media as well as how colleges are analyzing scores of their incoming students. The SAT has gone through so many restructuring that universities are beginning to question whether or not the test is a good predictor of how well their incoming class will do academically for the next four years.

Racial inequality issues within the test have been one of the most influential issues surround the SAT even when Bates first decided to go test optional. In the 1980s there was much debate about how the SAT represented and did not represent different parts of the American community. A study conducted by The Staff of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing in 1987 they found, “in examining these test items, it becomes apparent that parts of the SAT will be easier for students who are familiar with the activities of upper-middle class Americans”. 2 An example of these tests were inserted into the study

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Lots of lower class and minority students could have issues with these types of questions because they may not have been that type of life style. Many schools in the late 80s began to have issues with racial inequalities and how students began to view their own academic success and potential because of the test. Michael Behnke Director of Admissions at M.I.T says that his school worries “about people defining their worth and potential in terms of the scores. This is especially troubling because of race and gender difference in scores’”. 4 Another big issue surrounding inequality within the test at this point was test preparation. There were not as many available test aids for all types of students as there is today. So unequal preparation was something many admission officers were concerned with as well as, “that the advantages that coaching offers to richer applicants makes it more difficult for institutions to assess the comparative qualifications of students of differing economic status”. 5 This point ties right into the racial scoring gap within the test “It’s just not fair to minority, blue-collared and rural students” that they did not have equal opportunity to succeed on the SAT and show colleges that they were also acceptable candidates for their school. 6

In 1984 Bate’s had issues surrounding racial inequality and scoring gaps within the SAT that are still in the minds of admissions officers today. There is clear research showing this gap between minority and white student test scores and as colleges begin to get more and more diverse tests with this issue will no longer be a good indicator of academic success. There continues to be a large debate over the value of the SAT because of this scoring gap, “black colleges and universities are among the institutions most likely to have dropped the SAT/ACT requirement”. 7 The inequality in the scores is influenced by many factors such as socioeconomic advantages, test preparation, and how the test is designed all together. Even though “blacks and Hispanics are more likely than whites from comparable backgrounds to utilize test preparation”’ there is still a gap of almost “200 points” between black and white test takers. 8 For colleges that emphasize on their SAT averages of their student body 200 points carries a lot of weight when accepting a student. Because many of the top universities like Harvard and Yale continue to put a high value on SAT scores it makes it increasingly harder for “black students, who are otherwise highly qualified, to win admission to the nation’s highest-ranked colleges and universities”. 9 Starting in the 2000s there were over 800 high ranking colleges that became test optional or stopped looking at the test all together but there still seems to be a reputation that low SAT scores predict less success in college. Even in today’s version of the SAT there are many issues surrounding the bias wording of test questions similar to the wording in the 1980s. An example of one of these questions:

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The right answer is (C) but “an inner-city black student who has never seen a boat, much less heard of a regatta” may not find this question so easy to answer. 11 These racial inequality issues were prevalent in 1980 and are still prevalent today.

Issues surrounding the test’s ability to predict success began to arise in the 1980s. As universities began to go test optional in the late 80s and early 90s they began to see that their applicant pool for incoming students did not show any less able minded students. The current SAT was not showing them the abilities that these students would need in the years to come in college. College’s also saw, “that if a student, after completing a national examination, feels that the test scores are too low as many of them do he or she is inclined to apply down”. 12 When Bate’s went test optional they immediately saw a rise in applicants to their college as well as seeing, “the percentage of students not submitting testing rose to the mid-to-high 30% range”. 13 Not only did this increase and diversify up universities application pool many universities like Bowdoin College, Johns Hopkins, and Union College saw the SAT as giving them unimportant information about the student. They saw the SAT as showing which students can pay for the most study preparation and which students spent their time memorizing how to take one specific test. These colleges and many more saw the SAT as ‘’unfair, measure irrelevant knowledge, and provide redundant information”. 14 When Bowdoin first decided to go test optional one extreme difference they saw within their applicant pool were students that were “highly motivated” as well as did “more interesting extracurricular activities”. 15 The SAT even in the 1980s was unable to show schools that students would be prepared for the rigorous course load of college. Instead they found that it showed them a limited group of students that had the resources and ability to do well on the test.

Today the SAT still does not test students on abilities they will need once they get to college as well as being unable to predict success. Within the SAT there are four sections reading, math, language, and the essay. During the restructuring in 2005 additions like the essay were implemented within the test. Because of how this section is structured it “requires students to answer an essay question without doing research and without adequate time to prepare or edit their response”. 16 Along with issues within the test, there has been an increase in the number of students opting out of taking the SAT because of strenuous amount of time it now takes to complete, it takes them up to four or more hours. And if you have accommodations for extra time the test can take up to six hours. This makes it difficult for students to retake the exam multiple times to produce the best score possible. Because of this length and amount of questions on the SAT many SAT tutors have tips and trick on how to get through questions faster without needing to complete the entire exercise. Within the reading comprehension section many students resort to reading only the questions and determining based off of  keywords they see both in the text and in thee question how to answer it correctly. “By chance alone, one would expect students to get 20% of the questions right, since all the questions are five-choice multiple-choice items. For most passages, students were able to answer between 26% and 38% correctly, but for one passage students were able to answer 59% of the items right — about what would be expected if students had actually read the passage first”. 17 This show the extent to which the SAT has continued, even with changes, to fail to predict academic success in college and accurately show students knowledge.

Top colleges are still reluctant to let go of the SAT because of the past reputation of a better education high test scores brought to colleges. Since the 1980s the SAT has slowly been rejected by many colleges but it still remains an important part of admission within the top Ivy League schools in the US that set the standard for the rest of the lower ranking elite colleges. Even despite endless research showing the inability of the SAT to show academic success and the racial and gender inequalities within the test these top colleges continue to hold onto the SAT. Lots of elite colleges that still have the SAT, “are waiting for one of the highest-ranked universities to make a move”. 18 Until that happens the SAT will remain a big part of high education. These Ivy League colleges hold onto the SAT to show their elite status as an academic institution when in reality it shows their inability to progress as a college. Many smaller universities are reluctant to let go of the SAT because they have a “fear of being viewed as academically weak”. 19 Lots of the these elite schools feel pressure from other institutions like when Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine went test optional there were many positive reactions but, “the only strongly negative reaction came from the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business, the agency that certifies business schools. Harvard was pressured by this group to continue to require the exam”. 20 Lots of outside institutions still view the SAT as showing high academic standing for schools. There an extreme amount of research showing the SAT as irrelevant and unfair but these schools still cling to it which causes smaller schools to see the benefit in it as well. They “require the test scores to maintain an aura of selectivity”. 21

Since 1984 when Bates went test optional the reasons surround this shift have stayed constant and so have the schools that refuse to go test optional. The racial scoring gaps has stayed prevalent or even grown since it was first addressed as an issue in the late 80s and the problems surrounding what the test is actually measured have remained in the minds of admissions officers. Even with the extent of research conducted on the SAT and all of the problems surrounding it schools like Ivy Leagues have stuck to using the SAT as a measurement of future academic success. Why? The SAT and other tests have a long reputation of showing elite students that should attend elite higher education. Because of these school’s need to show “an aura of selectivity” and elite standing, schools are stuck with the SAT. As long as schools like the Ivy Leagues stick to using the SAT smaller schools in need of some form of measurement of academic ability will continue to use the SAT. It is a cycle that can only be broken by colleges themselves.

Notes:

  1. “The Growing List of Colleges That Have Rejected the Use of the SAT.” The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, no. 50 (2005): 45-46. Accessed February 4, 2016. http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.trincoll.edu/stable/25073366.
  2. Amy Allina, “Beyond Standardized Testing: Admissions Alternatives That Work,” The Staff of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, November 1987,[Page 11], http://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED292812.
  3. Allina, Amy. “Beyond Standardized Testing: Admissions Alternatives That Work.” The Staff of the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, November 1987. http://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED292812.
  4. Allina, “Beyond Standardized Testing: Admissions,” [Page 6].
  5. Allina, “Beyond Standardized Testing: Admissions,” [Page 10].
  6. Edward B. Fiske, “Some Colleges Question Usefulness of SAT’s,” New York Times, October 9, 1984.
  7. “The Growing List of Colleges That Have Rejected the Use of the SAT.” The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, no. 50 (2005): 45-46. Accessed February 4, 2016. http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.trincoll.edu/stable/25073366.
  8.  Sigal Alon, “Racial Differences in Test Preparation Strategies: A Commentary on Shadow Education, American Style: Test Preparation, the SAT and College Enrollment,” Oxford University Press 89, no. 2 (November 2010): [Page 463], http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.trincoll.edu/stable/40984541.
  9. “Will the Nation’s Leading Colleges Sound the Death Knell for the SAT?,” The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, no. 53 (2006): [Page #], accessed February 4, 2016, http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.trincoll.edu/stable/25073522.
  10. “How Changes in the SAT Will Affect College-Bound Blacks,” The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, [Page 12], accessed July 2002, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3133904.
  11. “How Changes in the SAT Will Affect College-Bound Blacks,” The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, [Page 12], accessed July 2002, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3133904.
  12. Ernest Boyer, College: The Undergraduate Experience in America (Princeton, NJ: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 1986), [Page 34].
  13. William C. Hiss and Kate M. Doria, “Defining Promise: Twenty Five Years of Optional Testing at Bates College,” Bates College, last modified 2009, http://www.bates.edu/admission/optional-testing/.
  14. Allina, “Beyond Standardized Testing: Admissions,” [Page 1].
  15. Allina, “Beyond Standardized Testing: Admissions,” [Page 18].
  16. “Will the Nation’s Leading,” [Page 15].
  17. Bracey W. Gerald, “‘Reading’ Test Questions,” Phi Delta Kappan, [Page 1], http://search.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.trincoll.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eft&AN=503354020&site=ehost-live&scope=site.
  18. The Growing List of Colleges,” [Page 46].
  19. The Growing List of Colleges,” [Page 46].
  20. Allina, “Beyond Standardized Testing: Admissions,” [Page 4].
  21. Allina, “Beyond Standardized Testing: Admissions,” [Page 1].

Waiting for Superman

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We can see the worry and hope on parents and students faces as they eagerly wait for their number to be called during the lottery to get into a charter school. In their minds, the parents know that this is the last chance for their children to have a better opportunity at education. The people that are attending the lottery want their children to be in the best school possible that will meet their needs. (Guggenheim1:30.03) They are bound to their neighborhood schools, which do not have a good reputation for a student to succeed academically. Other families attending the lottery are there because they do not what their children to attend the neighborhood public schools and cannot afford private institutions.

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With limited spots available in the schools and an overwhelming amount of applicants, by law there has to be a public lottery in place. During the lottery scenes the filmmakers would focus on the student and their loved ones faces to capture the emotions as they call number after number, not hearing their own yet. On the screens in white text we see the amount of spaces available in each school and we are able to see the number decrease as names are being called, and the chances for the children are becoming more slim.(Guggenheim 1:33.00) This is important because we are able to internalize the emotions that the families are feeling.

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One student whose story that we follow throughout the movie attended the lottery to obtain a spot at the SEED school. After his number was not called there was a short interview with him, which displayed the defeat that he felt. The reporter asked him “why do you want to go to the SEED school?” and in his reply he stated “I want my kids to have better than what I had. I don’t want them around this stuff”(Guggenheim 1:22.07) This students knew that the SEED school was an opportunity for him to better himself and to have a successful future. The reporter and the student further discuss that his father was not around and that he passed away when he was young from drugs. The student made it very clear that he wanted a better future for himself and he knew that a good education was his ticket to success.

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According to The Dirty Dozen by Kevin G. Welner charter schools are supposed to fit the needs of the students in their area. So how do they do so if there are so many kids on their waitlists? As stated by Welner “If charter schools identified as successful are not serving a cross-section of the students population, then where do the students go who are left out?” (Welner) If the charter school are targeting the neighborhood students, and not all of the students are accepted in the lottery then what happens to their education? Welner would respond to this as a technique used by charter schools to enroll the students that they would actually want there. The Dirty Dozen discusses twelve techniques used by charter schools to filter out the students they want attending their schools.

Ferguson, B., & Royal, K. H. (2011). The Deception of the “Lottery” at Lycee Francais
and Audubon Schools: The Misuse of Charter Schools, Part II. New Orleans, LA: http://www.researchonreforms.org/html/documents/DeceptionoftheLottery.pdf

Guggenheim, Davis. Waiting for “Superman.” 2010. Film.

Welner, Kevin G. January 17, 2011“Why ‘Inside Job’ bests ‘Waiting for Superman’ on school reform.” Teachers College Record.

The Home Schooled Take the Capitol… to Thank Their Legislators

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As state Senator Joe Markley begins his opening remarks, eager parents and students brainstorm various questions to ask about both his life and his work. Senator Markley completed his first full term at the age of 27. He describes his youth at the capital being his biggest setback. As one of the younger senators, one of his constant struggles was voting against certain things. “I worried that I would be blamed for saying no; therefore, I constantly said yes”. Currently completing his second term, Markley feels that he is at an advantage compared to his fellow peers. Having experienced the election process at such a young age, Markley encourages younger youth to consider the life of a legislator as a career. Therefore, instead of having to constantly convince legislators to make moralistic decisions, have them come in with desired characteristics- “You don’t win by having a good argument, rather change the people that are up here”. Senator Markley concludes his opening remarks by taking a few questions and inviting people to enjoy the capital for the day.

As the day continues, the parents of TEACH, or The Education Association of Christian Homeschoolers, gathered much like they do every year at the Capitol building. The main organizer said in her speech that they have come to be known as the “cookie people” to the capitol staff. Each parent brought all of their students to demonstrate all that they’ve been learning, to pick up new teaching strategies, to connect with other homeschooling parents, and to thank the legislators that have been advocating for them.

Many of the parents who were present in the Capitol Building were members of one of the many Classical Conversations communities. Classical Conversations is a Christian homeschooling network that offers a plethora of resources to homeschooling parents and their homeschooled children. They hold meetings where students from different families and ages can come and learn together under one parent. Those meetings (frequent or infrequent) serve to create the community aspect many homeschooling parents feel that their students miss out on when they choose to educate them at home. Their students make new friends and thus new partners in learning. They also offer tutoring sessions for homeschooling parents so that all parents (both new and veteran teachers) have the opportunity to stay up to date on new strategies that have been proven effective.

 As we transitioned into the next section, “Excellence in Education” presented by Classical Conversations, we were able to take a closer look into lessons of a “successful” parent-tutor in the Classical Conversations community. In the middle of the room, students begin to sing songs about everything from math to history. The youngest kid singing couldn’t have been more than six or seven years old but could recite a list of squared and cubed numbers as well as their twelve year old peers.There was a sense of pride in their ability to demonstrate their lessons without fear. It was equally present on the faces of the parents watching excitedly in their seats, and on the faces of the students participating. Parents who didn’t have children in the demonstration were equally as thrilled. Afterall, this was exactly what the yearly trips to the capitol had been designed to do. To reassure new and old parents that this was working and that it could work all the way until their children graduated as long as they had the right tools.

 

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Emma Palmieri’s Learning Goals

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Having gone from a community college to an Educational Studies major and non-traditional student at a small private liberal arts college in New England, I’m interested in education from a historical context and what shaped it into what I know and experience today, as well as what people in the past have experienced.

Trinity College IDP program

IDP Photos
IDP Students at Trinity College

Olivia’s Learning Goals

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Through this course I want to learn about how education was formed throughout history and how this influences my own education now. I am interested in learning about how public schools were formed and why and how some are failing very badly in the present. I hope to further my understanding in teaching techniques. I am interested in learning on the process of how these techniques were tested in schools.

Cartoon about public schools
Cartoon about public schools

Stefania’s learning goals

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During Educaiton 200 last semester we began to talk about education in the past and present but I was interested in going deeper into that topic with Education 300 this semester. I really want to have a better understanding of how our education system got started and how it has changed since then. I want to compare different types of education systems and how they benefit or hurt the different schools within the country. By understanding different types of learning theories from the past it will help me grasp why our education system is what is it is today.

Goldstein's book, from Amazon.com
Goldstein’s book, from Amazon.com

From ‘88 to the New Millennium: The Rise and Decline of Gifted and Talented Programs

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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,

Chart 1 G and T Program Mandates Map of the United States, 1996 (Source: Josten)
Chart 1 G and T Program Mandates Map of the United States, 1996
(Source: Josten)

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).

Image 1: Gifted Education: National Overview (Source: cec.org)
Image 1: Gifted Education: National Overview                (Source: 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).

Image 2 Showing the Lack of Racial Diversity in Existing Programs (source: nytimes.com)
Image 2 Showing the Lack of Racial Diversity in Existing Programs (source: 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.

 

 

Works Cited

Baker, Al. “In One School, Students Are Divided by Gifted Label — and Race.” The New York Times 12 Jan. 2013. NYTimes.com. Web. 1 May 2014.
Baker, Al. “Fewer Pupils Qualify for Gifted Programs.” The New York Times 4 Apr. 2014. NYTimes.com. Web. 2 May 2014.

Bainbridge, Carol. “Jacob Javits Funding.” About.com Gifted Children. N. p., n.d. Web. 1 May 2014.
Brown, Scott et al. “Assumptions Underlying the Identification of Gifted and Talented Students.” Gifted Child Quarterly 49.1 (2005): 68–70. Print.
Callahan, Carolyn M. Program Evaluation in Gifted Education. Corwin Press, 2004. Print.
Davidson Institute for Talent Development. “New York.” Web. 1 May 2014.
Gootman, Elissa, and Robert Gebeloff. “Fewer Children Entering Gifted Programs.” The New York Times 30 Oct. 2008. NYTimes.com. Web. 2 May 2014.
“Gifted Programs in the City Are Less Diverse.” The New York Times 19 June 2008. NYTimes.com. Web. 1 May 2014.
Jost, Kenneth.”Educating Gifted Students”. The CQ Researcher. 7(12 ).1997. Web. 4 April 2014.
National Association for Gifted Children.2008. Web. 4 April 2014.
National Commission on Excellence in Education.  “A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform”. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Education.1983.
“National Excellence: A Case for Developing America’s Talent.” Web. 1 May 2014.
“No Child Left Behind? Ask the Gifted.” The New York Times 5 Apr. 2006. NYTimes.com. Web. 1 May 2014.
NYC Department of Education. “Gifted & Talented.” 2014.
Rogers, Karen B. Re-Forming Gifted Education: Matching the Program to the Child. Great Potential Press, Inc., 2002. Print.Ross, Pat O. C. National Excellence:
A Case for Developing America’s Talent. Washington. DC: Office of
Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Dept. of Education, 1993. Print.
Ross, Pat O. C. National Excellence: A Case for Developing America’s Talent. Washington. DC: Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Dept. of Education, 1993. Print.
Stephens, Kristen, and Jan Riggsbee. “The Children Neglected by No Child Left Behind.” Duke Today. N. p., n.d. Web. 2 May 2014.
Russo, Charles. “UNEQUAL EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES FOR GIFTED STUDENTS: ROBBING PETER TO PAY PAUL?” Fordham Urban Law Journal 29.2 (2001): 727. Print.

 

Accepted: The evolution of college admission requirements

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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.

 

Works Cited

 

“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/>.

Marketing the Magnet School

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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.

Works Cited

 

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>.

 

“Greater Hartford Regional School Choice Office.” Regional School Choice Office for the Greater Hartford Region. Web. <http://www.choiceeducation.org>.

 

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>.

 

 

 

 

 

 

METCO: A study of students’ experiences over time

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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) 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 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 that “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).

Susan Eaton, a researcher on Civil Rights issues, wrote an in depth account of the experiences of sixty-five of the earliest METCO participants. 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 the class. They described a feeling of isolation and unworthiness. They also described feeling that “the smallest slip would land me 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 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. 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).

Sources

“METCO Program.” Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. N.p., 19 Dec. 2013. Web. 06 Apr. 2014.

“METCO Study Finds Broad Support from Parents/Students.” The Harvard University Gazette. N.p., 25 Sept. 1997. Web. 06 Apr. 2014.

“Segregation in Neighborhoods and Schools: Impacts on Minority Children in the Boston Region.” Lewis Mumford Center Census 2000 American Newcomers Report. N.p., 1 Sept. 2003. Web. 06 Apr. 2014.

Dentler, Robert A. “Barriers to Northern School Desegregation.” Daedalus 95.1, The Negro American—2 (1966): 45-63. JSTOR. Web. 06 Apr. 2014. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/20026966?ref=search-gateway:087cad3cdf71390e31ff194c00dac63a>.

Cubeta, Kate, Regina Caines, and Bonie Williamson. “METCO an important Program.”The Arlington Advocate. N.p., 05 Apr. 2014. Web. 06 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.

Proposal 2014

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Question:  How has the promotion of Magnet Schools in Hartford changed over time and does this affect whether enrollment of students from suburbs increases or decreases?

Why does this need to be researched?  Before coming to Trinity College, I had never even heard of “Magnet Schools.”  However, after living in Hartford for a year and a half, Magnet Schools have become a topic of weekly discussion in a variety of my classes.  It is clear that they are a relatively new aspect to the educational system, and all of the hype about these schools make them seem revolutionary.    I would like to know if this hype actually translates into the enrollment rates into these schools.  Its is particularly important to focus on whether or not magnet schools are attracting more or less students from the suburbs over time.  This is because one of the  claims that magnet school supporters make is that desegregating schools benefits students’ education.   Magnet School are supposed to be a tool for desegregation.  Part of desegregation requires enrollment of suburban, often white upper-middle class, students to be attracted to magnet schools in the city.  There is a trend of students wanting to leave the urban schools, and enroll in schools outside city.  However, this is rarely reversed, it is not as common for suburban students to be drawn to urban schools.  I am interested in finding out if the promotion of magnet schools has changed over time, and whether or not this promotion attracts more or less students from suburbs.  How “magnetic” are these schools really, and does this follow the trend of increased or decreased promotion of the schools.  It is easy to be blinded by the glaring promotion of Magnet Schools,  therefore it is important to look at the facts surrounding them.  Has the promotion of magnet schools changed over time, and does this translate into increased or decreased enrollment of students, particularly from suburbs?  This is important to research because it offers a viewpoint on whether or not magnet schools are fulfilling their goal of desegregation.

Research Process:

The process of research is always a daunting task for me, so to begin I am going to search online databases such as Trinity College Library’s, ERIC, and GoogleScholar.  I also am planning on scheduling time with a Trinity Librarian so they can assist me in finding the best and most relevant sources.  I am beginning my search by looking for articles that provide an overview of what Magnet Schools are, when they began, distinctive characteristics about them, and the goals of the schools.  I think this type of information will provide a good introduction to my paper.  I also need to research supporters of Magnet Schools and find more information on why Magnet Schools are seen as a desegregation tool.  I know that I cannot rely on just scholarly articles for this type of paper, I need to focus a lot on data.  I will be using the Magnet School Racial Survey By Town of Residence conducted by the Public School Information System for the school years from 2005-2008 to see if magnet school enrollment has changed or remained the same.  I will also find the most recent collection of this data.  I will be looking at magnet school promotional pamphlets generously provided by Jack to see how different magnet schools were advertised in January 2007.  I will compare this to magnet school websites that exist today, such as those on the CSDE website and take note on how their strategies have changed or remained the same.  I will finally analyze my findings and see is there is a relationship between changes in promotional techniques and enrollment.

Sources:  

Arcia, E. (2006). Comparison of the enrollment percentages of magnet and non-magnet schools in a large urban school district. Educational Policy Analysis Archives14(33), 1-16. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ806067.pdf

Connecticut state department of education. (2002). Retrieved from http://www.sde.ct.gov/sde/cwp/view.asp?a=2681&q=320450

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

State of Connecticut Department of Education. (2005).Magnet school racial survey by town of residence . (also 2006, 2007, 2008)

assorted promotional pamphlets from Jan 2007 Magnet schools

 

Next Step:  I am also interested in looking into whether or not the promotion or “hype” about magnet schools actually matches up with the results these schools produce.  To make this fit the “change and continuity over time” aspect of this paper, I could research school level (or students level) data of test scores or another type of evaluation over the past few years.  I would then analyze this data and from it decide if there seems to be trends in increasing or decreasing performance in magnet schools.  I am hoping to possibly incorporate this into my paper.  I also need to request recent data on student enrollment in magnet schools.

The Unfortunate Truth

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American Teacher is an eye-opening documentary that exposes the harsh realities’ teachers in America face when they enter the educational workforce. Despite our country’s high demand on people achieving a higher education we do not value and respect the people who devote their lives to making this possible. The film follows the lives of four teachers and exposes their difficult journey as a teacher in America. American Teacher sets out to raise awareness about our national outlook of under appreciating and under paying educators and attempts to alter the view of teachers to become a more desirable and appreciated job.

Every day, Jamie Fidler, Jonathan Dearmen, Erik Benner and Rhena Jasey enter a classroom filled with young minds with limitless potential. However, low funding, long hours, and lack of appreciation make it difficult for more people to devote their lives to educating. Jamie Fidler a teacher of eleven years began her experience in the classroom spending $3,000 out of her own pocket in order to supply her classroom with essential items. Since then she has been working a second and sometimes third job in order to make an appropriate living for her family.  Following that we meet Rhena Jasey, a Harvard graduate who was criticized for choosing education as a profession due to her prestigious college education. Next we are introduced to Erik Benne, a Texas history teacher and coach who are loved dearly by his students. Due to the low salary of teachers and his family’s needs, he works another job in order to have a higher income. Finally, we meet Jonathan Dearman, a man who adored his profession, but was forced out of the classroom due to lack of salary.

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Each of these teachers is committed to their profession yet face harsh realities that are associated with their career. The most unfortunate problem that each of these educators face is the lack of salary, which forces many educators out of the classroom as we saw with Dearman. Although these teachers are dedicated to their profession, the lack of money is a hindrance on their entire lives. Each one of these teachers is afraid of survival, whether it is family or personal needs; money is a factor that can not be ignored. The fact that 62% of teachers have a second job outside of their classroom hinders their ability to commit everything they have to their students (McGinn, Roth 00:41:28). “Almost half of teachers leave before their fifth year many citing the low salary and difficult working conditions” (McGinn, Roth 00:41:28) The drastic number of teachers with second jobs as well as high percentage of teachers leaving the profession creates great concerns for the future of the American education system. American Teacher illustrates the immense hardships educators face, but also serves as a warning to our country about our educational system. The decline in teacher conditions and pay directly correlates with student achievement. Among industrialized nations we rank in the middle of the pack 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math. These ranking limits our potential as a country and the only way to raise test scores and prepare young people for global competition we must encourage students to consider teaching as a profession. (McGinn, Roth 00:16:30) The negative stigma associated with teaching drives people away from the profession and therefore negatively influences the future of America.

nations

In our culture, it is now expected that a person graduates college, and it is becoming more common that graduate school is the next step. The pressure and demand to achieve an education begins in elementary school and the people who guide and assist students are not respected in our culture. In our country doctors and lawyers are considered prestigious jobs, yet there would be no doctors or lawyers without educators. As a country we need to change the viewpoint people have with teachers and encourage people to choose teaching as a career path. Educators deserve a higher standing in society and the choice to become a teacher must be valued as opposed to looked down on.

A yahoo news article by Liz Goodwin explores the disparities from the film. The film implies that an underlying problem in our education system is the low salary teachers earn and that teachers need to be paid more. Goodwin explains the split in education reform on whether to “raise base salaries altogether or compensate some teachers more by handing out bonuses based on student test scores” (Goodwin P. 1) Goodwin discusses work done by Economist Eric Hanushek who claims that “raising teacher pay across the board would have little to no effect on students test scores” (Goodwin P.1). Instead of raising pay as a whole he feels that there are alternative ways for teachers to improve students success one of which is “hand out bonuses to those who are lifting scores called merit pay” (Goodwin Page 1). The argument Hanushek is making claims that paying everyone the same amount will not result in better teachers instead he feels the merit pay will reward the good teachers.  The alternative views about teacher salary create concern because there are many approaches that may be deemed the “best”. Overall this article is exploring the different options not discussed in the film that are available in order to raise the performance of teachers in America.

Overall, American Teacher illustrates the necessity of valuing educators. The low salaries and low appreciation these people receive will eventually damage Americas education system entirely. The hardship these four teachers faced were troubling and appalling. It is educators that are the foundation of young peoples futures and therefore it is our responsibility as a country to respect and provide for these people who are devoting their lives to the future of America.

 

Works Cited

“About the Project .” Teacher Salary Project. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Feb 2014. <http://www.theteachersalaryproject.org/about-the-project.php>.

 

Jeri . “The Progressive Press.” The Progressive Press RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2014. <http://www.progressivepress.net/american-teacher-documentary-review/>.

 

 

 

Roth, Vanessa, and Brian McGinn. American Teacher. Video documentary, 2011.http://www.theteachersalaryproject.org/.

 

Yahoo News, Liz Goodwin. “‘American Teacher’ Film Argues Teachers Aren’t Paid Enough, but Ignores Merit Pay Debate.” Yahoo! News. Yahoo!, 26 Sept. 2011. Web. 19 Feb. 2014.

 

 

The Plight of The American Teacher

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“The American Teacher” is a documentary that explains the struggles of teachers in the United States today.  It was directed and produced by Vanessa Roth, written by Dave Eggers, and narrated by Matt Damon.  The difficulties of the teaching career are told through interviews with educational policy experts and by chronicling a year of the lives of four teachers.  The documentary is funded by the Teacher Salary Project, “a nonpartisan organization dedicated to raising awareness about the impact of our national policy of underpaying and under-valuing educators” (“About The Project”).   The film conveys the idea that  the American educational system  struggles  because of the disrespect shown the teaching profession.

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Bill Gates discussing education reform
“The American Teacher”
0:01:20

“American Teacher” suggests that even though teaching is a difficult, laborious job, it is often low-paying and disrespected.  Also, despite the fact that it serves a vital role in shaping students’ futures, graduates from most selective colleges do not consider it for a career because it is not as prestigious as becoming a doctor or a lawyer.  According to the film, this results in students underperforming in schools.  A clip of Bill Gates, whose foundation has donated heftily to education reform, shows Mr. Gates asking, “how do you make education better?  The more we looked at it the more we realized that having great teachers was the very key thing” (Roth 0:01:21-0:01:30).  For the American education system to improve, we need distinguished, prepared, intelligent teachers for our students.  The film offers a solution to this problem: Given the problem of underperforming students in schools, the reform goal is to transform the nature of teaching by making it a more prestigious and well-paid occupation.  This can be accomplished by the capacity-building of the rigor of the teaching career, and designing programs to increase teachers’ salaries to entice professionals toward the career.

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0:29:48
The American Teacher

To express the difficulties inherent in the teaching profession, the film follows four teachers, Erik Benner from Texas, Jonathan Dearman from California, Jamie Fidler from New York, and Rhena Jasey from New Jersey for one year.  By filming class sessions and telling the story of the teachers’ lives at home, it is made clear that teachers work long hours both inside and outside of the classroom.  Fidler says, “I leave the house at seven o’clock in the morning…and I get home at 6:30” (Roth 0:04:45-0:05:00).  The film notes that the average teacher who does their job correctly works at least a 65 hour work week.  So why then, the film questions, is teaching regarded by society as an easy, attainable career?

To further illustrate the struggle of the American teacher, the film describes how low salaries affect a teacher’s personal life.  Erik Benner, a history teacher and middle school football coach in Texas, was forced to pick up a second job at Circuit City in order to support his family.  He justified this decision by saying that as a man, society views his as the “provider” of the family (Roth 0:39:40).  Between teaching and shifts at Circuit City, worked seven days a week, which put severe strain on his marriage and ultimately led to divorce.  It is clear his starting salary of $27,000  was not reflective of the amount of work he put into his job, and was not enough money to support a family.  Due to situations such as this, not only are fewer people interested in becoming teachers, but current teachers are being driven out of the classroom.

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The American Teacher
1:00:20

Money is a powerful incentive especially for recent college graduates.  It can have a profound influence on choosing certain professions.  It is no surprise that many of the best students want to become doctors or lawyers,  professions with the possibility of hefty salaries.  There is little motivation to become a teacher when there are many other professions with better salaries held in higher esteem.  The Vice President for educator quality at American institutes for research, Sabrina Laine said, “If you want somebody to stay in education…and you want them to feel like they can make a decent living…we gotta be more creative in the kinds of alternatives we provide for how we pay our teachers” (Roth 1:00:53-1:00:10).  Money is a possible incentive for attracting professionals towards the classroom.

    Zeke Vanderhoek, founder and principal of The Equality Project School (TEP), has designed a program in which the best teachers are brought to students who need them the most (Roth 1:01:50).  TEP is designed to solve the problem of the nature of teaching and to hopefully inspire other schools to redistribute funds so that teachers earn a salary they deserve.  The teachers hired at TEP receive a competitive starting salary of $125,000 which is publicly funded(Roth 1:02:13).  Vanderhoek says, “if you increase teachers’ salaries, you change the perception of what it means to be a teacher” (Roth 1:03:00-1:03:18).  The film does not however, offer any indication of how TEP “redistributes funds.”  For example, it does not discuss if any programs have been cut in order to pay teachers more money.  Schools around the country who have adopted similar programs have reported rising graduation rates, lower drop-out rates and higher teacher retention rates.  The ultimate goal is to fix the American education system, and “The American Teacher” argues that through programs such as TEP, which allows teachers to be regarded as high-ranking, well-paid professionals, our schools will improve.

    The New York Times identifies gaps in the documentary.  The article, “What’s a Teacher Worth” by Neil Genzlinger suggests that teacher pay is not the only factor for improving schools, and the film should have expressed other major issues.  “The film…never addresses specifically how higher salaries would be financed…and it treats pay as if it’s the only factor in educational dysfunction; not a word is said about no-show students, uninvolved parents or other issues” (Genzlinger).  This is a legitimate claim, however, the documentary correctly expresses how teaching and specifically teacher quality affects schooling.  By highlighting the adversities teachers face, the film succeeds in offering a compelling argument that by making education a distinguished, prestigious career choice, we will improve the education system.

Works Cited

“About the Project .” Teacher Salary Project. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Feb 2014. <http://www.theteachersalaryproject.org/about-the-project.php>.

American Teacher. Dir. Vanessa Roth. Prod. Ninive Calegari and Dave Eggers. 2011.

Genzlinger, Neil. “What’s a Teacher Worth.” The New York Times. N.p., 27 09 2011. Web. 21 Feb 2014. <http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/30/movies/vanessa-roths-american-teacher-review.html?_r=1&>.

First Education Committee Meeting Ends in Disappointment

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On February 10, 2014 at 10:30 in the morning, the Hartford Education Committee held their first meeting of the 2014 session at the Legislative Office Building of the Hartford General Assembly. Room 2C was filled with an audience of people in amphitheater style seating, interested and perhaps even passionate about reforming the Connecticut education system.  The audience seemed prepared to devote a considerable amount of time to the meeting, as many were dressed in suits, ready to take notes on laptops and in notebooks.  Both of us were excited to witness discussion about the many issues existing in Connecticut schools today.  Having never attended an education committee meeting before, we expected a lengthy and thoughtful deliberation that would illustrate the direction education reform would take in the coming year.

Senator Andrea L. Stillman opened the meeting by welcoming everyone to the new session.  She introduced other committee chairs, who all seemed eager to make progress in the new term.  Representative Andrew Fleischmann remarked that he was especially enthusiastic to address the issues of reforming pre-schools and increasing safety in schools. He declared another worthy goal the committee had: “we want to do good while keeping the number of bills short”.

Senator Stillman addressed Section III of the meeting agenda schedule, titled “Committee Concepts to be Raised”, stating that these were all issues to be discussed at future meetings.  Section III lists several issues: special education, magnet schools, collaboration between boards of education and school resource officers, authorization of state grant commitments for school building projects, and social media education.  Having yet to formalize most of these into a bill, Stillman suggested, “don’t try to look up these bills because there is no language for them yet.” There was a collective response from the audience in favor of reviewing these topics at future meetings, and with that the meeting concluded.

Initially when Stillman called recess, it seemed logical to assume that the meeting was taking a short break, and that conversation would once again resume.  Some members remained seated, engaging in small-talk with one another, while others rushed out of the room.  We waited for about five minutes expecting a sign that the meeting was going to recommence.  Finally, we got the courage to ask another member of the audience if the meeting was still going.  The man we asked told us that the meeting was in fact over, and that the purpose of it was to simply vote that the concepts raised would be discussed in greater detail in the future.  These concepts would eventually take form in a bill.  However, there was still no decided time and date for the next meeting.

Leaving the meeting, we were shocked at the outcome and lack of effectiveness that took place.  There are clearly many issues with the Connecticut education system, and we expected this meeting to address some of them.  In addition to the many concepts to be raised, there were three previously raised governors bills on the agenda.  It is not surprising that these issues will not be resolved, or that they will take a long time to be resolved because of the nature of the legislative process that we witnessed before our eyes.  If our government continues to treat major issues, such as education reform, with such insignificance and lightness, progress in creating policy will inevitably be absent.

Similarly, we were surprised by the tardiness of the people attending the meeting and the tardiness of the meeting itself which started ten minutes late.  Because this was such a formal assembly with senators and representatives, we expected promptness and efficiency.  Neither of us could believe that people took time out of their schedules for what seemed like such a disorganized and unproductive gathering that only lasted about twenty minutes.

Even while the meeting was taking place, the comments that were made by senators and representatives lacked substance.  Those in attendance introduced themselves and spoke only of how excited they were to reconvene in session.  These were nice remarks, however they were redundant and neglected to articulate the key issues at hand.  One would expect these powerful voices to have more to say regarding some of the most prominent issues in our society.  It felt as if we were sitting in a high school class, where a student would makes a comment, and three more students paraphrased the same concept simply to gain participation points.  We were truly disappointed by the lack of originality and value in their words.

Ultimately, the outcome of this meeting was disappointing.  Our expectations for quality conversation and strong voices receded quickly.  However, observing this event allowed us to understand the inner workings of today’s legislative process in a way that highlights their flaws and truly depicts why education reform is a complicated, cluttered, and slow-moving process.

photo-5
Isabel and Emily at the Education Committee meeting
Photo Credit: Christina Raiti

Isabel Monteleone is a student at Trinity College ‘16, majoring in Public Policy and Law

Emily Meehan is a student at Trinity College ‘16, majoring in Educational Studies

 

Avoiding Plagiarism Heffernan

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Step One: He found that the average “margin of error” of a New York City teacher was plus or minus 28 points.

 

Step Two:  He found that the normal “margin of error” of a New York City educator was plus or minus 28 points.

 

Step Three: He found that the normal “margin of error” of a New York City educator was plus or minus 28 points. (Ravitch 270-71)

 

Step Four: Sean Corcoran set out to look at teacher evaluations in both New York and Houston. (Ravitch 270-71) His findings show that there was on average a boundary of error when evaluating students, which either added or subtracted 28 points.

 

Step Five: Sean Corcoran set out to look at teacher evaluations in New York and Houston (Ravitch 270-271). His findings show that the “average margin of error” of a typical New York teacher was “plus or minus 28 points” (Ravitch 270-271)

Plagarism

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Step 1:  The value-added scores also fluctuate between years. A teacher who gets a particular ranking in year one is likely to get a different ranking the next year. There will always be instability in these rankings, some of which will reflect “real” performance changes.

 

Step 2: However, it is very hard to have trust in any performance rating if you have a better shot at a coin toss rather than getting the same rate the next year.

 

(But it is difficult to trust any performance rating if the odds of getting the same rating next year are no better than a coin toss.) original

 

Step 3:  Any teacher who winds up in the forty-third percentile in comparison to his/her peers could technically be somewhere in the middle of the fifteenth and seventy-first percentile. (Ravitch 270).

 

Step 4: In a study to determine teacher’s in New York City margin of error, economist, Sean Corcoran found their margin of error was a little above or below twenty-eight points.  (Ravitch 270).

 

Step 5:  It is very unlikely that a teacher will have the same rating consecutively and there are always other aspects and variables to be accounted for.  “But it is difficult to trust any performance rating if the odds of getting the same rating next year are no better than a coin toss.”  (Ravitch 271).

 

Works Cited

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

What I want to learn about in Ed 300

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Ed 300 is my first educational studies class I am taking in Trinity College. Because my educational background may not reflect on American education, this course will give me insight about the flow of education in the United States. In addition, I want to learn how the educational policies are working and are made. I want this course help me to grow my knowledge about education in depth and in width.

Learning Goal

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There are several things I hope to achieve in Ed 300.  To begin, I would love to learn about the old educational system.  I would also like to learn how the reforms in the past lead to the reforms that followed.  Finally, I hope to learn why the policies are the way they are today and what people are currently working on for new reforms.