Relinquishing the Remedy

Posted on

When my twins were babies, I took a ton of pictures.  Everywhere we went I had a camera or a device snapping photos of them.  Whenever their birthday draws near, I pull out my photo box to reminisce on how sweet they were and to remind myself how far we have come.  As the Sheff v. O’Neill victory approaches its seventeenth anniversary, I can’t help but wonder if the current snapshot of Hartford area schools has grown all that far from the picture of racial isolation and concentrated poverty we saw in 1996.  From Project Concern in the 1960’s to Open Choice today, the battle to integrate Hartford area schools has been long and hard.  According to the Sheff plaintiffs, the case was fought “ … to prepare all children to live and prosper in a growing racial/ethic, economically globally connected world” (“About Sheff v. O’Neill”).  While some progress has been made, little has really been done to diversify the student populations of schools within Hartford public school region.

Just two years after the 1996 Sheff ruling, local school desegregation advocates presented a viable metro integration plan to “remedy” the grievances addressed in the case by mandating public school integration.  According to “The Unexamined Remedy”, this involuntary integration was to occur by combining Hartford and twenty-one neighboring towns into a regional school district.  Key constituents showed little to no support for this model.  If true school integration is and was a priority for the State, why didn’t this happen?  Hartford public schools have been ailing for decades.  What factors caused education reformers of the time to turn their backs on a possible cure and relinquish the remedy?

A Lofty Goal: Sheff v. O’Neill 1996 Ruling

In April of 1989, a group of Hartford area students, their parents, and attorneys banded together to file a law suite against the city of Hartford.  The State Board of Education and Governor at the time, William O’Neil, were listed as the defendants in the case.  The suit was named after one of the plaintiffs, Elizabeth Horton Sheff.  Sheff’s son, Milo, was a fourth grader in a Hartford public school at the time.  According to the Sheff Movement, the case sought to “… redress the inequity between the level of education provided to students in Hartford public schools and that available to children in surrounding suburban districts” (“About Sheff v. O’Neill”).  The plaintiffs claimed that the state had violated Hartford public school students’ constitutional right to equal educational opportunity under the Connecticut State Constitution, because they allowed schools to be racially, ethnically, and economically segregated.

In July of 1996 with a vote of four to three, The Connecticut State Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Sheff plaintiffs.  The Court acknowledged that the State had not intentionally segregated the marginalized students within the Hartford public school system from their peers of other racial and ethnic backgrounds in neighboring towns.  However, the Court did recognize that the State was responsible for the way school district boundary lines were drawn which caused Hartford public school students to be isolated from students of other racial, ethnic, and economic backgrounds.

As for a course of action to address the racial, ethnic, and economic isolation of Hartford children, the court deemed that to be a matter for legislature and the executive branch.  Furthermore, no time frame was given to enact any specific remedy.

Examining “The Unexamined Remedy”

In June 1998, The Connecticut Center for School Change, a statewide non-profit with the goal “to help all districts teach all students to achieve at high standards” (“Who We Are”), came up with a detailed integration plan.  The proposal was co-authored by then executive director, Dr. Gordon Bruno, and an education policy political scientist, Dr. Kathryn McDermott.  The report, referred to as “The Unexamined Remedy”, laid out a plan that would rapidly address the racial and economic isolation within Hartford and twenty-one surrounding towns.  The very first sentence of the fifty-two page document states, “The intent of this document is to propose a means by which a high-quality, racially, and ethnically integrated education may be achieved for all Hartford area public school students” (The Unexamined Remedy 3).  The plan provides a complicated, yet feasible course of action to integrate schools by consolidating school districts into a regional school system(s).  The plan says that local communities in the state of Connecticut “tend to be racially and socioeconomically homogeneous” (The Unexamined Remedy 6).  The report goes on to say that town lines in Connecticut separate communities by socioeconomic class.  While integration is the primary goal of the plan, it is not the only goal.  The focal point of The Unexamined Remedy is quality education for all students throughout the region.  The plan states, “Educational excellence, equal educational opportunity and racial/ethnic integration are inseparably related” (The Unexamined Remedy 3).  Gordon Bruno emphasized that integration does not automatically signal quality education.  The plan explicitly defines what The Connecticut Center for School Change what quality schooling means to them.

The plan highlights smallness as being an essential element to quality schooling.  They made very specific recommendations for school and class sizes suggesting smaller classes of no more than fifteen students for elementary school classrooms, eighteen is the limit for grades three through five, a maximum of twenty students per class were suggested for sixth through eighth graders, and a cap of twenty-five students was placed on grades nine through twelve classrooms.  “Smallness increases the chances that all students are known well by teachers and administrators in their schools, both when they arrive as newcomers and throughout their school careers” (The Unexamined Remedy 6).  According to the plan, small schools and small classrooms would build the relationships necessary to foster academic success, especially for students with special learning needs.

In addition to smallness, the plan makes other strong recommendations for achieving school quality.  They advocate for pre-schools for all parents of three and four year olds who desire them as well as extended day kindergarten programming in every elementary school.  It opposes tracking citing the negative affects it tends to have on minority students, “For too many minority students, incorrect assignment to low or special education tracks becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy” (The Unexamined Remedy 7).  Individual learning plans were advised to ensure every child’s needs are met.

These initiatives are deemed to be integral to the production of quality education alongside the initiative to integrate.  Quality indicators as they are called include small schools, small classes, school readiness, alternative programs, individual learning plans, accountability for standards and learning goals, character development, community service, and conflict resolution training.  Per the Connecticut Center for School Change, without the aforementioned the ultimate goal of Sheff, access to quality education for all, would be inconceivable.

The twenty-two towns considered for participation in the regional district consolidation plan were the communities previously required to “… engage in regional planning to enhance educational quality and diversity” (The Unexamined Remedy 4) by the General Assembly in 1994.  The twenty-two towns were Avon, Bloomfield, Bolton, Canton, East Granby, East Hartford, East Windsor, Ellington, Enfield, Glastonbury, Granby, Hartford, Manchester, Rocky Hill, Simsbury, South Windsor, Suffield, Vernon, West Hartford, Wethersfield, Windsor Locks, and Windsor (The Unexamined Remedy 4).  While these towns were proposed, The Connecticut Center for School Change was open to other recommendations for groupings.  Of this, the plan states, “A different grouping of municipalities may work better than the one we propose; in addition, it may make sense to create more than one consolidated district in the area, reflecting natural boundaries or existing relationships among communities” (The Unexamined Remedy 4).

Regardless of the towns involved, the metro integration plan would have required some drastic changes in school governance.   Each of the twenty-two towns has its own local school board.  The proposal recommended replacing these local school boards with a regional one to ensure that town priorities would not be placed over the regional agenda.  Also, reducing the administrative overhead of twenty-two school systems would have freed up money that could go directly to increasing the funding of individual schools.

The proposed regional school board would have consisted of thirty-one members.  Twenty-two of them would have been representatives of the individual towns, and there would have been nine additional.   School boards typically do not exceed nine members.  The plan proposed a board over three times that.  The Connecticut Center for School Change notes that smaller school boards were initially created to give elite members of society to greater control over schooling.  The plan rejected small school boards, because they wanted to give all communities a say in school governance.  In the proposed plan, The Connecticut Center for School Change would simultaneously create a large centralized school board and small locally controlled schools.  A regional school district would have meant school level decision making over things like curriculum and budget, but adherence to district-wide standards and policies.  The plan gave a lot of agency to local schools to operate effectively within district guidelines.

Parents also had a great deal of agency, or controlled choice, as it was called.  The intent was to make all schools magnets.  Parents would apply to several schools they would like for their children to attend.  Unlike the current school lottery system, parents would have been guaranteed that their children would be placed in one of their selections.  There would be a variety of options and all schools would be of good quality.

Map of Metro Integration Plan to Consolidate 22 Towns ("The Unthinkable Remedy")






Map of Current School District Boundaries ("About This Website")












Relinquishing the Remedy: Why Didn’t This Happen?

At the time of the report in 1998, there were 172 public schools within the proposed district.   It is difficult to get groups within a single district to agree on a course of action.  Bringing several districts with varying demographics together presented many obstacles.

Such large and small changes are usually met with resistance.  According to Gordon Bruno, the metro integration plan was opposed by many and elected officials refused to consider it because of concerns about getting support for re-election.  Bruno also names the Connecticut Parent Teacher Association (CTPTA) for being in direct opposition to the plan.  He does note that the CTPTA’s opposition would not be directly towards integration, but the consequences of school district reduction.  Consolidation of school districts would mean a reduction in school board members.  In a 2004 interview, Dr. Bruno says that the ranks of superintendents would have been reduced from over one hundred and seventy to about a dozen (Bruno 6).  Career displacement for high-ranking educators was incredibly controversial.  Those controversies ultimately lead to political pressure.  Dr. Bruno recalled that a number of constituents agreed with the plan behind closed doors, but none were willing to face the political backlash by publicly supporting the plan.  According to Dr. Bruno, the plan was the right thing to do for the students, but the wrong approach for political interests.

Dr. Bruno and Dr. McDermott’s may very well have been too radical in their suggestions for integration for serious consideration in the “land of steady habits”.  Attorney and former education committee chair, Cameron Staples, notes that Connecticut has a long history of local school control.  He believes the plan was too extreme and doesn’t recall anyone supporting it besides the authors.  He goes on to say that a shift from local to regional consolidation may have been viewed by suburban constituents as a way to disperse the issues of Hartford public schools to the suburbs (Staples 2).

There was opposition to this progressive plan that stemmed from fears of forced integration.   Of school integration, Dr. Bruno says that it is “both right and required” (Bruno 4).  He did not believe that voluntary integration would yield results.

Some may assume that urban parents were desperate to integrate schools and give their children ‘better opportunities’.  Co-author, Kathy McDermott points out that the threat of forced integration was something that both urban and suburban parents feared.  She asserts, “City people are just like suburban people and generally like the idea of having their kids right around the corner …” (McDermott 2).  Politicians were leery of telling people where to send their children, particularly when that may mean long commutes between districts.

Although admirable in its approach, the metro integration plan did not happened.  There were several factors that prevented the plan from becoming reality.  The logistics of governing and details like transportation coupled with a genuine fear of change and the unknown prevented the plan from garnering real support.  When Dr. Bruno retired from The Connecticut Center for School Change, The Unexamined Remedy retired with him (McDermott 4).  The remedy was indeed examined, but tossed aside for more politically friendly approaches.  The school district boundary lines have remained intact, and the families that choose to integrate have found other means of doing so through choice programs and magnet schools.


“About Sheff v. O’Neill.”  Sheff Movement.  Web.  5 April 2013.  <>

Bruno, Gordon.  Interview with Jennifer Williams.  The Unexamined Remedy Metropolitan School District Oral History.  Hartford, 2004.

McDermott, Kathryn.  Interview with Jennifer Williams.  The Unexamined Remedy Metropolitan School District Oral History.  Hartford, 2004.

“Memorandum of Decision – 3/3/99.”  Connecticut Judicial Branch.  Web.  1 May 2013.  <>

“About This Website.”  Smart Choices.  Web.  1 May 2013.  <>

Staples, Cameron.  Interview with Jennifer Williams.  The Unexamined Remedy Metropolitan School District Oral History.  Hartford, 2004.

The Connecticut Center for School Change.  The Unexamined Remedy.  1998.  PDF file.

“Who We Are.”  The Connecticut Center for School ChangeWeb.  5 April 2013.  <>

Williams, Jennifer. “The Unthinkable Remedy: The Proposed Metropolitan Hartford School District”. Presentation for the Cities Suburbs Schools Project at Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut, Summer 2004.

Michael Paris Presents an Analysis of School Desegregation

Posted on

CUNY Professor, Michael Paris, came to common hour on Thursday, April 18 to present his lecture “Serving Two Masters Revisited: Cause Lawyering and Legal Mobilization in Sheff v. O’Neill“.  During the lecture, Paris presented some critiques of the means by which Sheff v. O’Neill sought to remedy the demographical isolation of Hartford public school students.  Paris was knowledgeable and engaging.  He spoke quickly and passionately about the Sheff case and educational equality.  He is brilliant and well-spoken. He spoke of the importance of center cities, like Hartford, and how they should be a resource to the surrounding communities instead of economic wastelands.  It was clear throughout his presentation that he is quite fond of the late Derrick Bell. He refers to Bell’s work to make a case against some of the implications that can be drawn about race from the Sheff lawsuit.  For instance, Paris points out that the racial isolation was cited as the cause for unequal educational opportunities.  This is problematic because one could infer that there is something wrong with a school setting that has black and brown children in the majority. Is the education received of any better quality simply because that black child is able to sit next to a white one? Paris says no. He also examines the argument for using socio-economic status as a tool for desegregation in lieu of race.  He finds that to negate race would be to “roll up history like a rug” and push aside other important factors (the history of wealth, housing, policy) that contribute to the current climate in public school education.  He also asserts that socio-economic based desegregation would work well in some settling, but not in all.  Paris says that race and space are tied.  He states that poverty cannot be easily eliminated, but all schools can be middle class.

This lecture was interesting to me, because I am analyzing a metro integration plan from the late nineties that proposes steps to provide quality education for all students.  Paris said the Sheff victory is sometimes viewed as an expensive remedy with little reform.  The lecture gave me a new perspective on the work that has been done in the local fight for school equality and the work that is still left to do. Entering into the third phase of Sheff, it may very well be time for a new direction.

A Seat at the Table: A conversation with the community about creating a dual-language school in Hartford

Posted on

On April 13, Achieve Hartford, Sheff Movement, and the Educational Studies Program at Trinity College extended and invitation to the community to attend a presentation and discussion about how we can bring a dual-language program to the Hartford region. A dual-language model enrolls an equal number of native Spanish speaking students and English speaking students to create an environment that celebrates diversity, creates bi-literacy, and promotes intellectual exchange.

Just outside of the Learning Corridor’s cafeteria where the event was held, I was greeted by the familiar faces of Trinity students politely asking guests to sign in.  Inside of the cafeteria people were buzzing about in anticipation of the event.  I took my seat next to the mother of an original Sheff complainant.  To my right was a Sheff Movement attorney.  I was honored to have a seat at the table (literally and figuratively).  Introductions and interactions were quickly taking place throughout the room.  The crowd was excited and atmosphere was almost festive.

From the onset, it was clear that space would be made for everyone to have a seat at the table for this important discussion.  Educational Studies Professor Andrea Dyrness of Trinity College gave a lively introduction in Spanish then again in English.  The presenters asked if anyone was in need of Spanish translation before continuing the duration of the program primarily in English. Enrique Sepulveda, a professor of Education at the University of St. Joseph also gave an enthusiastic welcome.  In his presentation, “Why a Dual Language School?”, he fleshed out three compelling answers to the question.  Sepulveda highlights building on the linguistic and cultural strengths of native Spanish speakers and their families, promoting bi-literacy and bilingualism, and promoting racial and cultural integration as the key answers to his question.  Professor of Bi-Lingual Education, Liz Howard from the University of Connecticut, presented research and data that illustrated the incredible benefits of a well-designed dual-language program. According to Howard and fellow panelist, Marina Perez Taverner, dual language students may not perform as well as their peers in mono-language programs on standardized tests until the 5th grade or higher. It was stress that a long term commitment to dual language education is integral to students’ success.  Considering the country’s current obsession with annual standardized test scores, I wonder if a model that doesn’t provide instant gratification can survive CMT and CAPT testing.

The most compelling argument for dual education was a brief video showcasing students, faculty, and parents from the Puentes dual-language program Regional Multicultural Magnet School in New London.  The young students were poised, articulate, and keenly aware of the ways in which the dual-language program benefit them. If this model can work well in a nearby city, what is the hold up in Hartford? With current school Superintendent Christina Kishimoto lending her support, I would venture to say that Mayor Pedro Segarra, a pioneer in Latino equality, will not be far behind. As a panelist accurately observed, the time to bring a dual-language school to Hartford is now. The stars seem to be aligned, and I could not agree more.

For information on this event or if you would like to learn more about bringing a dual-language school to Hartford, please visit .

Karen Taylor is a Hartford resident and IDP student at Trinity College majoring in Educational Studies.

How did metro integration advocates envision Hartford county public schools post Sheff v. O’Neill?

Posted on

Research Question:

How did metro integration advocates envision Hartford county public schools after the Sheff v. O’Neill ruling?  Why didn’t their vision come to fruition?


As a graduate of Hartford public schools, I feel as though I was not given access to an education that would adequately prepare me for higher education.  A quality education should be a public good equally available to all students.  Historically in the state of Connecticut, where you live has been the primary (and sometimes sole) determining factor as to what type of education a child will receive.  There is vast disparity between the qualities of education children in urban areas receive in comparison to their suburban counterparts.  I am interested in the way school district lines have been drawn and their impact on diversity throughout Hartford County.  In the state of Connecticut, wealthy suburban children seem to be walled off from impoverished urban children.  If there were such a way to alleviate the segregation of children from these backgrounds, why hasn’t it been done?

The 1989 case, Sheff v. O’Neill sought to provide all children within the state of Connecticut access to their “fundamental right to education and equal protection under the law”.  According to the Sheff Movement organization, the lawsuit “seeks to prepare all children to live and prosper in a growing racial/ethic, economically globally connected world.”  Many local reformers have theorized ways in which to remedy the racial and socio-economic segregation of public schools in Hartford county.  The initial vision that integration advocates had for public schools in Hartford County is relevant to our Education Reform course, because it is important to see how reformers of the past sought to remedy the stratification of Hartford schools.  It is also important to note the reasons why metro integration advocates’ recommendations to redraw school district lines based on regions and not towns were not implemented into practice.  Knowledge of this particular group’s past efforts and why they did not work helps to frame the current discussion of what reform strategies are possible for Hartford County public schools to implement today.  Through this analysis, an assessment can be made as to whether redrawing school district lines is a viable integration strategy for current times, and also are the past barriers to redrawing district lines still prevalent today.  From what Jack has shown me, the structure of Hartford County’s past settlement patterns and town based school zones prevents effective racial and socio-economic integration.  I am curious to discover why a reform strategy that seems to remedy Hartford County’s segregation and truly integrate schooling did not come to pass.

Research Strategy:

My first order of business for research is to become familiar with the material.  It is impossible to conduct in-depth research of a topic unless you are knowledgeable on the subject.  My research strategy is to thoroughly read through the consolidation plan that Jack was kind enough to share with me.  I will go through the oral history transcripts that Jack provided me with to get a first hand perspective on what metro integration advocate leaders were seeking and what was actually accomplished.  To uncover why the metro integration plan didn’t happen, I will use the consolidation plan as a starting point and think like a historical actor to pick out key points that may have been controversial at the time.  I will narrow them down and investigate the major themes.  Initially, I used the files Jack gave me and searched for similar terms via the Internet.  As I sift through this first batch of  related sources, I will look through education reform documents of the time to get a general idea of what suggestions or alternatives were on the table at the time of this recommendation.  Hartford obviously chose to go in a different direction to address racial and socio-economic integration.  What made the current strategy more compelling?  Since Sheff v. O’Neill was a catalyst for school integration in Hartford, I will use the major findings of the case to foreground my research. 

Primary Sources:

 “About Sheff v. O’Neill.”  Sheff Movement.  Web.  5 April 2013.  <>

Bruno, Gordon.  Interview with Jennifer Williams.  The Unexamined Remedy Metropolitan School District Oral History.  Hartford, 2004.

Hasegawa, Jack.  Interview with Jennifer Williams.  The Unexamined Remedy Metropolitan School District Oral History.  Hartford, 2004.

Judson, George.  “Poverty Tied To Failures In Hartford.”  New York Times 20 Feb. 1993.  Web.

McDermott, Kathryn.  Interview with Jennifer Williams.  The Unexamined Remedy Metropolitan School District Oral History.  Hartford, 2004.

Sacks, Michael.  “Suburbanization and the Racial/Ethnic Divide in the Hartford Metropolitan Area.”  2003.  PDF file.

Staples, Cameron.  Interview with Jennifer Williams.  The Unexamined Remedy Metropolitan School District Oral History.  Hartford, 2004.

The Connecticut Center for School Change.  The Unexamined Remedy.  1998.  PDF file.


Praying for Improvement: Reuniting Church and State

Posted on

On Wednesday, February 28, the Christian Activities Council in conjunction with Hartford Public Schools hosted a community forum “… about the important role the faith community can play in education”.  Unconventional times call for unconventional measures.  Despite the traditionally perceived threat of a merger between church and state, Dr. Christina Kishimoto calls upon faith based organizations to promote Hartford Public School initiatives to improve student achievement.   An event room at the Hartford Seminary on Lorraine Street was two thirds full with community organizers, parents, and educators.  Reverend Edwin Ayala, Executive Director of the Christian Activities Council and Dr. Christina Kishimoto, Superintendent of Hartford Public Schools worked together to facilitate the discussion and respond to audience commentary.

When Dr. Kishimoto took the floor, she gave a touching account of her childhood experiences in church.  She grew up in a South Bronx housing project to immigrant parents, neither of whom had a high school diploma.  Dr. Kishimoto recalls, “For my family, church played an important role in navigating schools.”  For her family, religion was a catalyst for academic success.  She says that ultimately she, her mother, father, and brother attended college at the same time.  She attributes her family’s scholastic achievement to their strong ties to each other and to their church congregation.

“I’m putting the Superintendent hat aside”, she says.  “I am now speaking as a resident about how my faith shaped the way I see the world.”  She speaks passionately about the importance of prayer in her household.  She confesses that what keeps her up at night is knowing that there are children growing up without strong values or family ties.  Dr. Kishimoto asserts that those ties and values can be found in religious organizations.  She asks the question of the evening, “How do we come together in an organized way to bring what faith based community can bring?”.

Reverend Ayala exclaims, “As people of faith, we are stories people.  We need to share stories of success in Hartford Public Schools.  We could preach and share signs of hope with our congregations”.

The room buzzes with excitement.  Reverend Ayala suggests that church leaders can promote academic success within their congregation by asking to see student report cards after church services.  Dr. Kishimoto chimes in and volunteers to visit churches and speak with church members in middle and end of student grading periods.

Captain Brian Thomas from the Hartford North End Salvation Army makes a plea for more volunteers to help with homework during their after school program.  He has only 3 or 4 volunteers for the 20 grade school children currently enrolled.  A gentleman in the audience asks if churches would be willing to recruit congregation members to join Big Brothers Big Sisters.  An idea is born and all seemed to be in favor.  Dr. Kishimoto informs the audience that Hartford Public Schools is already in contact with Andy Fleishmann, President and CEO of Nutmeg Big Brothers Big Sisters, and she welcomes the churches’ help in supporting their mission to provide Hartford Public School students with strong mentors.

Over the course of the two and a half hour long forum concerns were voiced, ideas were spun, connections were made, and hope was sparked.  Within the city of Hartford, religious organizations abound.  Dr. Kishimoto is working with them to include Hartford students in their outreach efforts by providing support to neighborhood parents and services to their children.

If Dr. Kishimoto and Reverend Ayala are able to garner the active support of Hartford’s churches, temples, mosques, and synagogues, students will stand to gain tremendously.  Religion may be a key to redemption for Hartford Public Schools, after all.

Karen is a Trinity College IDP student majoring in Educational Studies.  She is a graduate of Weaver High School and a Hartford resident.

Homework Under Siege

Posted on

The 2009 documentary, A Race to Nowhere, was the brainchild of movie director/protective parent/concerned citizen, Vicki Abeles.  The film contains a powerful combination of “expert” interviews and emotional vignettes to convince viewers of the dangers of putting students under too much scholastic pressure.  We meet a high school girl who starves herself to stay up and do homework, ultimately resulting in her admittance to a psychiatric hospital for anorexia.  Depression, stomach pains, and headaches are the tip of the iceberg for the students depicted in Race to Nowhere.  In the beginning of the film, the director discusses her own children’s struggle with anxiety induced illness.  According to the film’s website, “[Race to Nowhere] reveals an education system in which cheating has become commonplace; students have become disengaged; stress-related illness, depression and burnout are rampant; and young people arrive at college and the workplace unprepared and uninspired”[1].  Throughout the film, the audience is shown one tragic case after another to expose the harmful side effects of America’s obsession with achievement and performance.

The film makers of Race to Nowhere pulled out all the stops to ensure that this documentary tugged at the heart strings.  Anxious about their future’s dependence upon their academic performance, the desperate students in the film took prescription drugs, starved themselves, and stayed up all night to make the grade.  The film portrayed students as victims of the system and framed parents as helpless bystanders.  The selected interviews and imagery in the film were incredibly emotional.  There were several scenes that showed the poor overworked students in emotional distress.

Stressed over homework, 10 year old Zachary is consoled by his mother.

Ten year old Zachary and his mother were the most difficult for me to watch.  In one scene, Zach is sitting at the kitchen table slaving away and obviously stressed.  He twirls the pencil through his red curly hair as he tells his mother about the consequences of giving an incorrect response to his homework [00:38:23].  Zachary fearfully warns his mother,  “If we forget this mom or if I do a different one, then we are going to get in trouble.  Then we lose five minutes of recess.”[2]  The way this scene is structured makes taking recess away from a child facing adult-like pressure to perform seem like a crime.  The film paints a clear picture of victims and villains.

Zachary stresses over the consequences of an incorrect response on his homework.

To go a step farther in the fight against homework, Race to Nowhere had several experts whom stated that homework is detrimental to the long term mental, social, and intellectual success of students.  An AP science teacher says that when he cut student’s homework load in half they scored better on the AP test.  If that doesn’t move you to ban homework everywhere, watch as an incredibly passionate English teacher cries on camera as she talks about how the pressure of performance is making it impossible for her to teach her students valuable critical thinking skills [00:34:19].

This teacher ultimately resigned, because she wasn't willing to teach to the test.

The most critical point of the film was the final scene.  In the closing frames, viewers learn that the film is dedicated to young Devon Martin who took her own life, because of a poor math grade.  The film closes with her picture and several frames containing advice for everyone from parents to students to teacher to school administrators.  This is definitely a call to community action on behalf of children who the films claims are being robbed of their childhoods.

13 year old Devon took her own life, because of a poor math score.

One thing that troubled me was the omission of the driving force behind the culture of competition and achievement.  Teachers are not giving ridiculous amounts of homework, because they love grading papers.  They are facing the same pressure to perform that their students are facing.  A variety of teacher interviews would have made the arguments presented in the film more credible.

If ending homework is the way to improve student’s experiences in education, it would have been nice to hear from the principal in Wyoming that chose to do away with homework altogether.  Education reformers are constantly discussing a lack of challenging curriculum for students.  In this documentary, we did not hear any thoughts from those responsible for creating school curriculum.  No current school administrators were consulted to shed some light on why they feel homework is an important part of school education.  I also find it odd that of all the families featured in the film, there was not one that was grateful for the extra time, effort, and attention teachers were putting into creating such challenging coursework.  There is obviously some benefit to a rigorous academic curriculum.  This documentary only presents information that will garner support for the filmmakers’ mission to change the way student success in education is evaluated.

Works Cited
[1] “About the Film.” Race to Nowhere:Leveraging the Power of Community to Transform Education. Reel Link Films, n.d. Web. 24 Feb. 2013.

[2] Race to Nowhere. Dir. Vicki Abeles. Reel Link Films, 2010. Web.

Avoiding Plagiarism Exercise

Posted on

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

There will always be instability in these rankings, some of which will reflect “real” performance changes. 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.

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

There will never be stability in these evaluations, some of which will show genuine changes in performance.  It is hard to trust any performance evaluation if the odds of getting the same rating the following year are the same as tossing a coin.

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

There will never be stability in these evaluations, some of which will show genuine changes in performance.  It is hard to trust any performance evaluation if the odds of getting the same rating the following year are the same as tossing a coin. (Ravitch 270)

Ravitch, Diane.  The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education, Revised and Expanded Edition.  New York: Basic Books, 2010.  Print.

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

The rankings will always be inconsistent and some of the data will show real differences in performance.  Since the odds of getting the same rating the following year is solely up to chance, it is hard to rely on any performance evaluation. (Ravitch 270)

Ravitch, Diane.  The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education, Revised and Expanded Edition.  New York: Basic Books, 2010.  Print.

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

The rankings lack consistency, and the data will show variations in student performance.  Furthermore, performance ratings are unreliable because “the odds of getting the same rating next year are no better than a coin toss” (Ravitch 270).

Ravitch, Diane.  The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education, Revised and Expanded Edition.  New York: Basic Books, 2010.  Print.


Gustav Feingold on Intelligence and Immigrants in 1920’s Hartford

Posted on

What did Gustave Feingold write on intelligence and immigrants in 1920s Hartford?

When approaching source detective question, my first course of action was to do a quick and dirty Google search.  I typed in all the important pieces in the hopes of yielding fast yet accurate results.  The top five of the 706,000 results looked accurate.

Unfortunately, none of them would allow me to read the full pdf without payment.  It was back to the drawing board.  I decided to look over the “Search strategies for sources” under “Resources & Tools” on Ed Reform commons site.

I started with the bold subtitle, If you know very little, because I knew little to nothing about the topic.  The site instructs us to use Wikipedia.  On the Wikipedia site, I searched for Gustave Feingold and yielded no results.  A couple of times, I misspelled his name and had to go back and check my question to make sure I had it right.  It’s impossible to find the information if there are mistakes in the search inquiry, so attention to detail is a must.   According to Wikipedia, my subject did not have a page.

 Yet, another dead-end.  I went back to the search strategies page and continued to work my way down the list.  The next recommended search engine was  I tried my luck.  In my first search I only filled in the author section.


I assumed that the topic of immigration would be easy to find among Feingold’s publications.  It wasn’t.  I did an advance search that included the word immigration and still nothing.

A conversation with Jack got me thinking about other places that Gustave’s immigration article could be.  We brainstormed about other relevant databases and decided to try Google Scholar.  I didn’t think that it would be a successful search, because Google was the first search engine I tried.  I did my quick and dirty search of “Gustave Feingold immigrant”.  The first result was a home run. It was exactly what I needed.


Jack explained that this branch of Google was geared toward scholarly work, so my results pool was more specific to my academic needs.  I clicked on the article title, and it lead me to American Psychological Association database.  With VPN, the educational psychology article can be downloaded for free.

In the article, “Intelligence of First Generation Immigrant Groups”, Gustave Feingold disproves and discredits the results of Army testing that portray the children of immigrants as intellectually inferior.  In fact, Gustave shows that their is very little difference in the intellectual ability of American-reared in comparison to their full blooded American counterparts.

Feingold, Gustave.  “Intelligence of the First Generation of Immigrant Groups (A Study and a Critique).”  Journal of Educational Psychology Feb. 1924: Print.


My hopes for Ed 300

Posted on

In Ed 300, I hope to learn how past education policy and culture has informed our modern educational structure.  I would also like to utilize this learning to put current ed policies and practices in context.  I also hope to learn valuable research methods (particularly how to include technology resources) to assist in my coursework as a potential Ed Studies major.