Freedom with Limitations: How the Supreme Court Has Limited Students’ Freedom of Speech Over the Past Five Decades

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In the U.S. Constitution, the First Amendment addresses one’s right to freedom of speech and expression, but it is clear that the degree of freedom in some circumstances is subject to change or be changed accordingly. Public schools are a clear example of the kind of ‘circumstance’ that school administrators and teachers have struggled with defining the measure of freedom of speech or expression that their students have under the protection of the First Amendment. The question of students’ rights to freedom of speech and expression was first distinctly demonstrated in 1969 in the Tinker vs. Des Moines case. Following this Supreme Court Case, there have only been three other cases that have been taken to the Supreme Court on this topic and are constantly being used to determine acts of student protests that are seen controversial by leveraging their rights appropriately or not. Since the 1969 ruling in the Tinker vs. Des Moines case, which addressed students’ right to some forms of protest by emphasizing that students’ freedom of speech could be exercised in school, I will be exploring how schools’ responses to student’s rights to free speech have changed since the Tinker vs. Des Moines case.

Before the Tinker vs. Des Moines case, students’ rights in school were not a common topic of conversation. Students were expected to behave a certain way and discussion about current events or personal opinions on subjects were both discouraged and unacceptable. School was based on a strict curriculum that both the students and teachers were instructed to follow. That all changed with the Tinker vs. Des Moines case. Since then, there have been three other major Supreme Court cases concerning public school students’ protection under the First Amendment that have demonstrated the growing limitations on student’s freedom of speech. Although the Tinker vs. Des Moines case was a huge step forward for students’ to be able to exercise their freedom of speech, it also opened the door to major controversies about what students are allowed to say and not say in school. Through tracing the four major Supreme court cases from 1969 to the most recent in 2006, I have concluded that school’s responses as well as the Supreme court response to student speech cases on public and high school students’ exercised freedom of speech have resulted in narrowing student’s protection under the First Amendment due to the increasing spotlight on schooling over the past forty years.

In the wake of the Vietnam war, many people, including students, were voicing their opinions on whether the U.S. should play an active role in the war. Demonstrations and protests rose up all across the nation. One peaceful protest, though, received particular attention in Des Moines, Iowa, public high school and resulted in starting the conversation on students’ rights in school. A group of high school students decided to wear black armbands to school as an act of peaceful protest against the sending of troops into the war. When the students were suspended for their protest, they filed against the school and the case was taken up to the Supreme Court. In 1969, the court ruled in favor of the students, clearly declaring that students were protected by the First Amendment and have a right to exercise their freedom of speech and expression in a manner that is not disruptive to other students or members of the school. The famous line that came from this court case states, ”students do not ‘shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate,’”[1] concluding that public schools are a place where students can exercise their rights and express their political views or opinions in a peaceful way.

As mentioned earlier, this Supreme Court case was the first time public schools had to address the complicated boundaries of exercised freedom of speech by students in school. This case stressed the fact that as long as students were ‘non-disruptive’ to the educational setting, “a fundamental right of freedom of expression cannot be squelched due to ‘a mere desire to avoid [the] discomfort and unpleasantness that always accompanies an unpopular viewpoint.’”[2] Still today this case is often referenced in lower court cases as well as brought light to students’ role in school and how they can and cannot act. It wouldn’t be until twenty years later that another student speech case would work its way up to the Supreme Court and refine the words of the Tinker vs. Des Moines case, making the ways schools respond to students exercise of the First Amendment a bit more complicated.

How does a teacher, principal, or school administrator define ‘non-disruptive?’ The language used in the Tinker vs. Des Moines case made it clear that students are protected by the First Amendment in school but only if it is done so appropriately and does not interfere with the academic environment or make anyone feel unsafe. But this left schools a great deal of power to interpret what those words really mean and look like and had students testing the limits of their freedoms. Almost twenty years after the Tinker vs. Des Moines case, the conversation of student speech rights was brought back up in the Bethel School District vs. Fraser in 1986.

In the 1980’s sex education was a heated topic among public schools. Everyone had different opinions on how it should be taught and what should be covered in the health course. Interestingly enough, after almost twenty years of no Supreme Court cases regarding student speech rights, the Bethel School District vs. Fraser case surfaces as being a case involving both sexual language and students’ right to freedom of speech. In 1986, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the school district in the Bethel School District vs. Fraser case, when the school decided to suspend high school student Matthew Fraser for the sexual connotations he made during a school-wide speech. The court made it clear that this case was nothing like the Tinker vs. Des Moines case because instead of dealing with political opinionated speech, this case was about vulgar language. The court used language such as, “The purpose of public education in America is to teach fundamental values”[3] and “The constitutional rights of students in public school are not automatically coextensive with the rights of adults in other settings.”[4] This case marked the first distinguished limitation on the Tinker vs. Des Moines that promoted the freedom of speech in public schools as well as demonstrated that schools had the power to monitor students’ speech.

Following the Bethel School District vs. Fraser case, two years later the Supreme Court took on another landmark case, the Hazelwood School District vs. Kulmeier case. This case targeted another area of students’ freedom of speech and expression by focusing on student publications. Again, the court ruled in favor of the school and,

“As the Court saw it, ‘[t]he question whether the First Amendment requires a school to tolerate particular student speech – the question we addressed in Tinker- is different from the question whether the First Amendment requires a school affirmatively to promote particular speech.’ Instead, the Court concluded that the school newspaper was a non-public forum and that the decision to censor the articles (the principal concluded that one of the subject (teen pregnancy) was age inappropriate for many of the school’s students and that the other story (about divorce) was unfair to the father of the student interviewed about her parents’ divorce) was a ‘reasonable’ regulation permissible under the Court’s public forum case law.”[5]

This case trailed behind Bethel School District vs. Fraser in the re-examining of students’ rights of freedom of speech and expression, and both showed how the Supreme Court and school districts believed that there needed to be limitations on how students’ exercise the First Amendment.

Lastly, and continuing the trend of limiting students’ freedom of speech and expression, was the most recent Supreme Court case Morse vs. Frederick. In 2007 the Supreme Court again ruled in favor of the principal’s decision to suspend Joseph Frederick for hanging a banner across the street from the school that said “Bong Hits 4 Jesus.” This case was particularly dragged out, as it went to court nine times before being taken up by the Supreme Court. In the appeal to the Supreme Court, the district brief stated, “’School officials are now faced with a confusing, if not alarming, message. They are responsible for teaching students about the dangers of illegal drugs. But they also must tolerate pro-drug messages in the face of threats of draconian civil-damages lawsuits, this is wildly wrong. And this court should say so.’”[6] There was a lot of debate within the court on this case, but again the Supreme Court decided to re-examine the Tinker vs. Des Moines case and limit the students’ freedom of speech in public schools. What stands out to me most in this case, is that it really challenges the ruling of the Tinker vs. Des Moines case because the banner that was held up wasn’t even on school grounds technically. But the ruling stated that, “’schools may take  steps to safeguard students entrusted to their care from speech that can reasonably be regarded as encouraging illegal drug use,’”[7] therefore again, leaving schools the ability to define ‘steps to safeguard’ and punish students depending on their definition.

Since the Tinker vs. Des Moines case in 1969, there have been significant limitations put into place on students’ rights to freedom of speech and exercise through Supreme Court cases. As schools take on a greater presence in our society and are seen to hold more responsibility when it comes to teaching students values as well as academic subjects, it is hard for schools to clearly act on situations involving students’ protection of the First Amendment. I believe that this trend will continue in the future, especially with the internet and social media playing dominant roles in our everyday lives.

[1] “Tinker v. Des Moines – Landmark Supreme Court Ruling on Behalf of Student Expression.” American Civil Liberties Union. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2017.

[2] Darden, Edwin C. “Free Speech and Public Schools.” Free Speech and Public Schools. Center for Public Education, 5 Apr. 2006. Web. 1 May 2017. <>.

[3] “Key Supreme Court Cases.” Key Supreme Court Cases: Bethel School District v. Fraser (ABA Division for Public Education). American Bar Association, n.d. Web. 1 May 2017. <>.

[4] Walsh, Mark. “Speech Ruling Backs Schools But Protects Student Political Expression.”Education Week. N.p., 10 Mar. 2017. Web. 8 Apr. 2017.

[5]  35 Hastings Const. L.Q. 835 2007-2008, Morse v. Frederick and the Regulation of Student Cyberspeech by Brannon P. Denning and Molly C. Taylor. P. 840

[6] Trotter, Andrew. “Supreme Court Accepts Case on Student Free Speech.” Education Week. N.p., 10 Mar. 2017. Web. 8 Apr. 2017.

[7] 35 Hastings Const. L.Q. 835 2007-2008, Morse v. Frederick and the Regulation of Student Cyberspeech by Brannon P. Denning and Molly C. Taylor. P. 835.


“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble; and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

-First Amendment

Works Cited

Altbach, Philip G. “American Student Activism: The Post-Sixties Transformation.” The Journal of Higher Education 61.1 (1990): 32-49. JSTOR. Web. 04 Apr. 2017.

Darden, Edwin C. “Free Speech and Public Schools.” Free Speech and Public Schools. Center for Public Education, 5 Apr. 2006. Web. 1 May 2017. <>.

“Key Supreme Court Cases.” Key Supreme Court Cases: Bethel School District v. Fraser (ABA Division for Public Education). American Bar Association, n.d. Web. 1 May 2017. <>.

“Tinker v. Des Moines – Landmark Supreme Court Ruling on Behalf of Student Expression.” American Civil Liberties Union. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2017.

“Tinker v. Des Moines Podcast.” United States Courts. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Apr. 2017.

Trotter, Andrew. “Supreme Court Accepts Case on Student Free Speech.” Education Week. N.p., 10 Mar. 2017. Web. 8 Apr. 2017.

Waggoner, Charles. “The Impact Of Symbolic Speech In Public Schools: A Selective Case Analysis From Tinker To Zamecnik.” Administrative Issues Journal Education Practice and Research (2013): n. pag. Web.

Walsh, Mark. “Speech Ruling Backs Schools But Protects Student Political Expression.” Education Week. N.p., 10 Mar. 2017. Web. 8 Apr. 2017.

The Effects of Sheff v. O’Neill on Hartford Schools

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In April of 1989, Elizabeth Horton Sheff and ten other Hartford families sued the state, alleging that the current school system produced racial isolation and unequal access to quality education (Megan & Kauffman, 2017). This case became popularly known as Sheff v. O’Neill. In July of 1996, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs stating that the current system of education in Hartford was unconstitutional. However, no goals to resolve the school system where put in place. (Megan & Kauffman, 2017) (De la Torre & Kauffman, 2017) (De La Torre, 2017)  (Sheff Movement)

By the spring of 1997 the state released a three part plan in response to the Sheff V. O’Neil case. This plan included “(1) a 5-year state takeover of the Hartford school system, (2) a stronger commitment to early childhood education, and (3) the restructuring of the voluntary integration school programs (i.e. magnet schools).” (Sheff Movement) This 3-part plan along with the 2003 agreement to install 8 new magnet schools launched a 3-billion-dollar magnet school project in the city of Hartford. This project’s primary focus was designed to provide integration into the Hartford education system. In the 20 some-odd years since the Sheff ruling, magnet schools have proven to be a success. Hartford’s graduation rates are higher, test scores are higher, and dropout rates are lower. The numbers alone show vast improvement within Hartford’s education system. (Sheff Movement) (Megan, Kauffman, & De La Torre, 2017) Unfortunately the numbers portray only one side of the story.

While magnet schools are a well-intentioned response to the Sheff v. O’Neill ruling. They provided diversity, specialized focus on skills, and access to a quality education but they also had many unintended negative consequences. (Megan, Kauffman, & De La Torre, 2017) Ever since the Sheff ruling the board of education, the regional school choice office, the Sheff Movement and its attorneys, as well as the CT attorney general and his office have shifted their primary focus to the development of magnet schools in Hartford. This shift in focus has negatively affected traditional public schools, as they have suffered from a lack of funding, and a lack of access to fundamental resources. This shift in focus has also negatively impacted the students of Hartford who are not a part of the open choice program. They are left with little options and ultimately must attend a lower performing traditional public school. Thus,  despite their success, magnet schools in Hartford have created a number of negative consequences that affect students who are not “lucky” enough to be enrolled in these programs.

Before the Sheff V. O’Neil case, the Hartford education system was struggling. These public institutions were not performing well and that clearly negatively impacted Hartford Students. The hartford schools system in the late 80’s and early 90’s was home to some of the worst schools in the state. (Sheff Movement) Sheff and the families involved in the case deduced that the best way to solve this issue was school integration as Hartford public schools were largely African American or Hispanic. (Sheff Movement) School integration would not only force interaction among minority and majority students, Hartford schools would have to improve, to attract suburban and white students,  While it took time to see results after the ruling the plan was ultimately put in place. The goal of the Sheff movement was to ultimately have 100% of Hartford students enrolled in magnet schools or other school choice programs. (Sheff Movement) (Thomas, 2013) Unfortunately, 10 years late only 42% of Hartford Students are enrolled in Magnet or other school choice programs. The other 48% are in private schools, if they can afford them, home schooled, or in the traditional Hartford public school system. (Thomas, 2013)

After the Sheff ruling in 2003, 3 billion dollars of state and local funds was dedicated to the Hartford education system. However, that money was not used to improve the already existing public schools in Hartford. The money was used to create more magnet schools. As more magnet schools were created the more funding for schools had to be spread across a larger district. Since magnet schools are given a set budget based on their number of students and integration ratios, traditional public schools have been the first to suffer major budget cuts. (Megan, Kauffman, & De La Torre, 2017)

To date there are about 44 schools in the Hartford district.  22 of the 44 schools in Hartford are Magnet schools. The state and the local district helped fund magnet schools but initially the state was primarily responsible for funding magnet schools. However, over time, the local district had to take on more and more responsibility. (Zillow) (Magnet school webpage)

In 2008 The sheff movement, their attorneys, and the State of Connecticut with their attorneys  proposed an order which called for further expansion of school choice options and created the regional school choice office. (Sheff Document) Two years after the passing of that proposed order (2010) local districts became responsible for 20 percent of  the operating costs of magnet schools within those districts.  In the 2014-2015 school year, local districts became responsible for 30 percent of magnet school operating costs. In the 2014-2015 school year, the state paid 10,443 dollars per student to magnet schools. Each local district paid 4,407 dollars per student. This amount could not waver as magnet schools are funded-on a per pupil basis. As the debates to increase the amount of magnet schools have continued, State Rep. Andy Fleischmann of West Hartford stated in an interview with CT Mirror that “…he was skeptical about the benefits of building more magnet schools as it will continue to take funding from Neighborhood Schools.” (Thomas & Phaneuf, 2015).  In the 2016-2017 school year the Hartford Board of Education approved a 419 million budget for education from consisting of funds from the federal, state and local governments. This new budget resulted in job cuts an estimated 235 cuts. However, since magnet schools must receive a budget based on admitted students the cuts will most likely be centered around traditional public schools. (Megan, Kauffman, & De La Torre, 2017)

Hartford Courant journalists Kathleen Megan, Matthew Kauffman, Vanessa De La Torre wrote an investigative piece on the Hartford education system, particularly magnet schools, and how they affect traditional Hartford public schools. The articles focus primarily on Thirman L. Milner School. Milner is a traditional public school in Hartford that is doing poorly. Milner has been underfunded for over the last 20 years and is one of the worst performing in the state. When journalist went to visit Milner, they noted the mismatch school furniture, mouse and bug traps, mouse droppings, and the rundown structure of the building. The school did not have enough money to give the student useable textbook, or proper school materials. The school was also unable to fill many vacant teaching positions forcing them to turn to under qualified candidates. Martin Luther King Jr. school also suffered from the same consequence of negligence and underfunding. The King school has been described as rundown. The school did not have the money to repair basic problems like holes in the wall.  Meanwhile Annie Fisher, Mary Hooker, and the University of Hartford magnet school have access to a lot more funding. A team of students from Annie Fishers school just sent a science project into outer space. Mary Hooker has a waterfall descending into a brand-new lobby.  Annie Fisher & the University of Hartford magnet schools were given brand new athletic fields. These exceptional schools are within just a few miles of Milner and Martin Luther King Jr. school. What is most disheartening is that students clearly notice the difference in treatment and deduce that they themselves are not worth the money or the investment. (Megan, Kauffman, and De La Torre, 2017)

Kauffman and Megan also reported that even teachers have lost faith or confidence in being able to educate their students. This lack of funding, and general care for Hartford public schools has created a failing system. Traditional Hartford Public schools have extremely low test scores. There is an extremely high teacher turnover rate and many do not have access to safe and fully functioning playground, or decent, legible text books. Educators, politicians, and academics have referred to these schools as test centers. Unfortunately, it can’t even do that because some school don’t have the warm bodies to fill vacant teaching spots. (Megan, Kauffman, & De La Torre, 2017)

Due to the mass creation of magnet schools in Hartford, and the Sheff Standard, minority students are denied access to the quality education they provide. The Sheff standard is a popular name for the racial quota magnets schools must reach each year to obtain/sustain their magnet status. The Sheff standard for many Hartford magnet schools is 75 % black and Latino, 25% white and other. Investigative Journalist from the Hartford Courant Kathy Megan and Matthew Kauffman discovered rather jarring facts about this racial quota in their investigative piece on the effects of the Sheff ruling 20 years down the road. Over the last several years Magnet schools have had a hard time obtaining white students from the suburbs. This lack of white applicants makes it quite difficult for the magnets schools to maintain their percentages. That lack of applicants has led to principals of magnet schools accepting and denying students seats at their schools based on race. There are many schools in danger of losing their seats, Classical Magnet and Capital prep are two magnet schools that exceed the black and Latino quota at 77%. Capital Prep’s and Classical Magnet’s school’s principals admitted to having to deny minority students open seats just to maintain their magnet status. Ironically, not only are student of color being denied a quality education because of their race, Hartford schools are looking to provide that quality education to white suburban students who are typically already surrounded by excellent school systems. (Megan, Kauffman, & De La Torre, 2017)

More than 87 % of Hartford student apply for the school choice program. (Hartford Public Schools) Only 42% of Hartford students are enrolled through a lottery system. The lottery system was designed to provide a fair chance for all applicants of inter-district schools. The idea was that this way everyone has an equal shot. No one is unfairly turned away. Only, the lottery has become something that does the exact opposite.

CT Mirror wrote an article titled “Is school Choice really a Choice, or a Chance?”. The way the lottery system is set up there is no choice as students are reduced to the color of their skin or the economic status. (Thomas, 2015) In recent cases students have been admitted to schools like Capital Prep without even having to go through the lottery system. Students are being recruited and then selected to attend magnet schools based on their talents. The system has become completely corrupted further denying children of Hartford opportunities they so desperately need, because their next option is what is left of the traditional Hartford public school system. (de la Torre, Kauffman, and Megan, 2017)

Most of these schools are very small they have about 100 students or less per grade, so space is limited. In the documentary “Waiting for Superman” the director follows several children who are not from the Hartford area. However, they seem to be facing the same issues. Their traditional public school systems are wasting away as the expansion of school choice continues. In the last scenes of the documentary you see several hopeful families attend a lotterys for various magnet or charter schools. Parents have expressed throughout the documentary that this is their last hope for their children. If their kids don’t get in then they must return to their failing school systems. Most of these families’ children are not enrolled through the lottery and all you can see from both the parents as well as the children is defeat, they have lost their chance at a quality education. (Guggenheim, 2010)

Magnet schools were a well intentioned response to an already failing education system in Hartford. It is hard to believe that anyone could have foreseen all the negative consequences that  now exist as a direct result of Magnet School Expansion. Elizabeth Horton-Sheff in a CT Mirror article by Jacqueline Thomas stated how proud she was that 42% of Hartford Students were admitted into the school choice programs. It highlighted their success. (Thomas, 2013) Other mays see that 42% differently. It took the Connecticut government over 10 year to get a 42% participation rate. That means that 48% of students are not enrolled in magnet schools and a large percentage of those 48% attend the traditional Hartford public schools that are being bled dry. (Thomas, 2013) (Megan and Kauffman, 2017) Do they have to wait another ten year until they get what they deserve? Is it fair/constitutional that they have to go to schools that are barely getting by while magnet schools provide education to suburban students who have a various quality options surrounding them?  

The Sheff movement and magnet schools themselves have been under a lot of fire lately especially with the release of the Hartford Courant’s investigative series on the effects of Sheff. To gather both sides of this debate the WNPR show “Where we Live” invited the journalist Kauffman and Megan and Elizabeth Horton to speak.  Horton was clearly upset with the piece and stated that the journalists did not portray the entire story. Megan and Kauffman agreed that this was one side but a side that needed to be heard and given attention. It would have been interesting to hear Horton-Sheff’s response to the following statements. 48% of Hartford students are denied access to the quality education magnets schools provide. (Thomas, 2013) They are denied access to these school based on a corrupt lottery system selecting students based off race and/or talent. The expansion of magnet schools has resulted in major cuts of funding from traditional public schools. The now failing traditional public schools are a result of the cuts. The cuts made from public schools are then given to magnet schools, schools that support less than half of Hartford students. (Megan & Kauffman, 2017)

The Hartford Public school website praises the success of magnet schools and the improvement of the Hartford education system.  Yes, Magnet schools are succeeding and everyone knows they are. That success is the popular narrative, it’s what people want to hear, and what people want to focus on. The success of magnets schools has overshadowed the shortcoming of our traditional public schools, and instead of fixing traditional public schools we are slowly picking them apart and then not providing a better option for all. We are leaving children behind, yet we only focus on what is going right, even though there is so much going wrong. This paper is only one side of the story, it solely focuses on the negative impact of magnet schools since the Sheff V. O’Neill ruling, but ask yourself this, how does the other side of this story make any of these impacts better?



Brown, L., & Nalpathanchil, L. (2017, March 30). Sheff v. O’Neill: A “Courant” Look At A 20-Year-Old Ruling. Where We Live. WNPR. Retrieved from

Connecticut Magnet Public Schools. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Cotto, R., & Feder, K. (2014, April). Choice Watch: Diversity and Access in Connecticut’s School Choice Programs. Connecticut Voices for Children. Retrieved from

de la Torre, V. (2016, June 6). Hartford School Board Passes $419 Million Budget Calling for At Least 235 Job Cuts. The Hartford Courant. Retrieved from

de la Torre, V., & Kauffman, M. (2017, May 3). Acclaimed Capital Prep Magnet School Bypassed Normal Lottery Process for Athletes, other Students. Hartford. Retrieved from

Guggenheim, D. (2010). Waiting for “Superman.” Participant Media.

Hartford Public Schools Distinguished as Magnet Schools of America District of the Year: 11 Schools Recognised for Excellence and Distinction. (2016, May 6).

History of Sheff V. O’Neill. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Key Features of the 2008 Settlement Agreement in Sheff v. O’Neill. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Measuring Progress. (n.d.). Retrieved from

School Reviews for Hartford. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Thomas, J. R. (2013). Nearly Half the Students of Hartford now Attend  Integrated  Schools. The Ct Mirror. Retrieved from

Thomas, J. R. (2015, September 10). Is School Choice really a Choice, or a Chance? The Ct Mirror. Retrieved from

Thomas, J. R., & Phaneuf, K. (2015, February 3). Magnet School Increasing Burden on Municipalities. The Ct Mirror. Retrieved from

Timeline. (n.d.). Retrieved from

de la Torre, V. (2017, March 12). Left Behind: 20 Year After Sheff V. O’Neill Students Struggle In Hartford’s Segregated Neighborhood Schools. Hartford Courant. Retrieved from

Kauffman, M., & de la Torre, V. (2017, March 13). Beyond Reach: Even as Magnet School Seats Remain Empty, Racial Quotas Keep Many Black, Latino Students Out. Hartford Courant. Retrieved from

Kauffman, M., & Megan, K. (2017, March 14). Imperfect Choices: With INtegrated Schools Out of Reach, Segregated Options Gain Favor. Hartford Courant. Retrieved from


The SAT: From Reducing to Perpetuating Inequality

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The college application process changed forever after the formation of the test known as the SAT. The test began in 1926, less than a hundred years ago, and yet a record breaking 1.7 million students from the class of 2015 took the test (College Board 2015). Colleges have begun to make the SAT optional in their applications, but this is a relatively new change, and just a few years ago anyone who wanted to attend college needed to take the test. The SAT is surrounded by controversy; people say that the test favors the rich over the poor, and white students over minority students. Equality advocates also say that the SAT is not a good measure of intelligence or potential, and that consistent good grades over time do a much better job of predicting a student’s capabilities to college admission officers. The SAT comes with many alleged problems, so what was it intended to accomplish in the first place? Was it meant to offer a solution to some problem? When and why did the SAT begin, and what was its original intent, and how has its actual outcome changed over time?

The SAT was implemented by the College Board as a college admissions test before World War I, and its original goal was to reduce inequality by leveling the playing field between elite private school students and non-elite students with high aptitude. But by the 1980’s, equality advocates were raising serious concerns about the real outcomes of the SAT’s wide usage. The SAT originally gave students who could not dream of attending college the chance to do so. It became so prevalent so quickly because it offered the chance of an elite education to once neglected groups– students from schools outside of the northeast, students from rural schools, home-schooled students, students from low-achieving high schools. The SAT was thought of as an equalizer, because it could detect those with high academic ability that would otherwise go unnoticed. And in many ways, it did its job. Far more students were given the chance to go on to higher education than had been given the chance before. However, its role as an equalizer has run its course as there is evidence that the test now perpetuates inequality more than it ever negated it.

Before the SAT, there was the College Entrance Examination Board. The Board acted as a middleman between the high schools and colleges, connecting high schools to more colleges to send its students, and giving colleges a high academic standard for high schools to conform to, so that the college could be sure its incoming students were prepared to attend (Zwick 6). High school students would take exams called the College Boards, which would then be hand-graded, and sent to colleges. Some aspects of this process sound similar to the SAT–the College Boards were a uniform test given to students to assess their college readiness. The big difference, however, is that the College Board at the time required membership from schools, and most of those schools were elite private boarding and day schools in the Northeast, and Ivy League and Seven Sisters colleges (Zwick 6). It was the 1933 president of Harvard, James Bryant Conant, who decided to change things up. At the beginning of Conant’s presidency, “Harvard and colleges like it tended to define undergraduate merit primarily in terms of nonacademic, nonquantifiable qualities like ‘character,’ which evidently was not usually found in students who went to public high schools”(Zwick 7). Conant rejected this, and began a small program called the Harvard National Scholarships, wherein boys from outside of the Northeast who showed a high level of academic promise could be brought into Harvard with full scholarships (Zwick 7). Conant decided to use the SAT (at the time known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test) as the test to find these boys with high intelligence. The program took off, and soon all Ivy League schools were looking for intelligence rather than character in their applicants. Conant and the creator of the SAT, Henry Chauncey, created the Educational Testing Service, or ETS, to administrate all post-secondary educational testing. By 1938, the SAT was used as the primary admissions test by all of the College Board schools, and in 1942, the original test was suspended, never to be used again (Zwick 8).

The test was able to rise to in popularity so quickly in part because of the Nation’s obsession with intelligence testing following the first World War. During the first war, intelligence tests were used to sort men in the military by who had “potential” to become officers or  generals from those who did not (Crouse and Trusheim 16). Henry Chauncey convinced the army and the navy to use the SAT as an intelligence test, and so demonstrated that the SAT could be used to test over 300,000 people on the same day, and be accurately scored (Zwick 8). This action brought to attention the idea that all high school students could eventually be tested in a similar way, and so be sorted based on their abilities.

Even after the SAT rose in popularity and became mainstream, it was reconfigured and modified regularly in response to outside criticisms. When the SAT was created, it was meant to test for aptitude. In the earliest version of the test, students were given 315 questions to answer in 97 minutes, and no one was expected to finish (Zwick 58). This time frame meant that students were tested on speed as well as accuracy, as the test was a race to see who could answer the most questions correctly. The questions were more like “puzzle-solving” questions with tricky wording and indirect logic (Zwick 58). The earliest modifications were lengthening the time limit, and developing new types of questions that were meant to be harder to practice, or less affectable by tutoring (Zwick 57). This early test was not based directly off of what students would learn in school, but instead meant to measure innate intellectual ability. By 1946, this type of intelligence testing had given way to testing of more critical thinking and logic, and by the 1990’s, the test was meant to be based off of the type of learning done in high schools. Beginning in 1970, developers of the SAT started considering cultural, educational, and economic equality in the formation of test questions. Advocates for the SAT said of recent changes to its format, “Many of the motivations that led to previous modifications in the SAT continue to be relevant [in preparing] to revise the test…the basic and most important challenge is always to ensure that the SAT is fair for all students and that it effectively meets the needs of college admissions offices”(Zwick 73). What caused this shift in emphasis toward a more equal test for everyone, and have these changes actually generated more equal outcomes?

The shift toward a more equal test gained traction in the late 1970’s, when critics began to research and call attention to the vastly different score outcomes between white students, students of color, poor students, and wealthy students. With social justice concerns on the rise during this time period, the SAT was an easy target. Written in the 1980’s, the book The Case Against the SAT by James Crouse and Dale Trusheim, made public research done on the racial and economic biases within the SAT. At the time, the SAT was claiming that it helped black students get into college, as the test was supposed to be “color-blind” and give students an equal opportunity to prove their abilities. Their studies showed that there was a very large gap between white students’ SAT scores and black students’ SAT scores, with the white student’s scores being the higher of the two groups. When admissions offices were comparing white student and black student scores, the gap made it very difficult for black students to be admitted at selective four-year colleges–less than one black student for every ten white students would meet qualifications(Crouse and Trusheim 121). Similarly, the SAT claimed that it increased college admission for low-income applicants. However, Crouse and Trusheim stated that the correlation between SAT score and family income was larger than the correlation between freshman grades and SAT score, an argument that calls into question the entire point of the SAT (Crouse and Trusheim 123). In both cases of black students and low-income students, Crouse and Trusheim argue that the SAT does not do the job that it claims to do, which is separating potentially successful low-income or black students from potentially unsuccessful low-income or black students; a far cry from the original intent of the SAT to create admissions equality. These disparities led to widespread criticism that began with the Nairn/Nader report called The Reign of ETS: The Corporation That Makes Up Minds, which aimed to discredit the SAT by claiming it was fraudulent, and reporting on how family income influences SAT scores and college admission. After this publication, vast amounts of criticisms came out in the form of academic journals, newspaper articles, and articles in national magazines. At the peak of this movement, the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, commonly known as FairTest, was formed by civil rights leaders, teachers and students. The organization aims to “safeguard the SAT and other tests against racial bias and to extend public disclosure of test information” (Crouse and Trusheim 38). The organization is still active today.

These arguments that came to public awareness in the 1980’s are still the arguments used today, however today there is even more evidence for the claims made in the eighties. The SAT continues to sound like a credible representation of American values–that a person from any background that works hard enough can score well on the SAT and find himself or herself qualified for an elite education. However, the argument against the SAT now works to prove the exact opposite: that the SAT has the effect of perpetuating inequalities in America. Mark Garrison, a modern-day equality advocate, even goes as far to say that the SAT reinforces a sort of feudal caste system, stating in his book that “testing techniques are fixated and validated on their link to unequal social structure while employing procedural equality through standardization”(Garrison 104). He argues that the SAT, by establishing itself as an “equitable” test, has been able to survive for so long by claiming to sort out “natural” differences in intellectual abilities. These differences, however, are entirely social, and do not have any basis in natural or intellectual difference. Garrison cites a study (Schiff and Lewontin 1986) that found that individual variation is a “within-group phenomenon”, meaning that each type of social group would have its individuals with higher and lower intellectual ability, instead of some groups consisting of mostly highly intelligent individuals and some groups consisting of very small amounts of highly intelligent individuals (Garrison 105). It is surely unfair then, that even in recent SAT tests, the students with the lowest combined family incomes had the lowest average SAT scores for both the verbal and math tests, and students with the highest combined family incomes had the highest average scores for both the verbal and math tests (Zwick 212).

The SAT on some level accomplished its original goal of equalizing the college admissions playing field simply by opening up the opportunity for everyone to apply to college. However, now that anyone who wants to can and does apply, the actual outcome of the test matters much more. The idea of measuring “aptitude” is gone from the name and intent of the SAT, and yet there still remains an underlying assumption that the SAT can predict how “smart” a person is, and what opportunities lie ahead of him or her. Research has made it clear that the test is in fact a poor predictor of academic ability, and indicates more the types of resources a student has to prepare for the test, whether that means private school, tutors, or upper class parents that have the cultural capital to help their students study for the SAT in the ways that will better help them to succeed. The original intent of the SAT was to bring more equality to the college admission process. The test has evolved over the decades to more closely achieve this goal, but every improvement has been followed by new research that demonstrates ever more subtle cultural, economic and racial bias. The SAT went through a major overhaul in 2015 intended to put much of this criticism into the past, and yet the criticism persists.  Perhaps the very concept of a bias-free test for predicting academic and intellectual success is inherently unachievable.  All we know is that it has not been yet achieved in spite of nearly a hundred years of effort. I argue that the SAT had a clear job set out for it, which was bringing more equality to the college admissions process (that began with almost no equality). The test was successful in that respect, but nowadays does not do enough to offer every student an equal opportunity for a high quality education.




“Annual Results Reveal Largest and Most Diverse Group of Students Take PSAT/NMSQT®, SAT®, and AP®; Need to Improve Readiness Remains.” The College Board. The College Board, 27 Feb. 2017. Web. 21 Apr. 2017


Zwick, Rebecca. Rethinking the SAT The Future of Standardized Testing in University Admissions. London: Taylor and Francis, 2013. Print.


Crouse, James, and Dale Trusheim. The Case against the SAT:. Chicago, IL: U of Chicago P., 1988. Print.
Garrison, Mark J. A Measure of Failure : The Political Origins of Standardized Testing. Albany, State University of New York Press, 2009.

How did the Advanced Placement Program become the marker of a “quality education”?

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The state of secondary education in the United States was forever changed in the 1950s by the introduction of the Advanced Placement Program. The program, organized by the Committee on Admission with Advanced Standing, was a way of connecting colleges with high-performing high school students who would be taking courses considered “college-level” and thus granted credit for the subject which would allow them to opt out of taking the course in college. The image of the APP provided by this perspective is that the program would expose elite, bright students by the numbers they receive on their tests. Further research shows, however, that there may be something more about Advanced Placement that provokes admissions directors to pay closer attention the students who take the courses offered. The main question is this: what was it about the APP that caused colleges and universities in the United States to consider the students who participate the receivers of a “quality education”?

Research shows that it is not only high scores on end of the year AP tests which play a role in the college admission process. It is the element of academic elevation, taking on tougher a curriculum, and showing an ambition to test oneself with a college-level course which contribute to the overall image of a prospective applicant, as much as their 4 or 5 attached to their applications. Because secondary schools do not require students to take part in AP courses, students are confronted with a choice typically by the end of their sophomore years in high school: to elect to take a class in theory taught at a college level and risk receiving a grade which might not reflect their academic talent, or continue on a straight path and take the course taught at the high school level and receive a grade which they can be happy with. In the end, is an A in a non-AP course reflective of genius, or merely a signal that you are academically where you are supposed to be, and not exceptional? Though it is unfair to compare an A in a non-AP course to a B in an AP course, research indicates that students who elect to take AP courses signal that they are willing to test themselves and learn at a higher level than what the straight path offers. The College Board’s Advanced Placement Program, built to “develop high school course descriptions and assessments that colleges would find rigorous enough to use as a basis for granting credit” (College Board: “A Brief History of the Advanced Placement Program”), gives students a platform to bring themselves to college with more than just high AP scores. It is this reality which prompted the state of California to come under a highly publicized lawsuit at the end of the twentieth century, which will be analyzed further.


Dr. Frank H. Bowles, the president of the College Entrance Examination Board (now known as The College Board) in the year 1960, was right in assuming that the APP would become vital to college admissions programs throughout the country. Four decades after the introduction of the APP, in the years 2002 and 2003, research reflected heavily the idea that having taken an AP course was a signal of academic potential as much as one’s score on the AP test itself. Nevertheless, this reality was indicated as early as 1990 by the The National Research Council. The Council published in that year a book-length analysis of Biology Education in American high schools titled, Fulfilling the Promise: Biology Education in the Nation’s Schools, in which they concluded that one factor in the success of AP Biology is the probability that it helps students in the college admissions process:

“The presence of AP biology provides an incentive for students with an interest in science and might serve as a device to recruit students to other science courses. And AP courses probably also help individual students in admission to college” (Committee on High-School Biology Education, National Research Council).

Twelve years later the Council published a more comprehensive report in which this probability manifested into a concrete reality. In 2002, a year in which 913,251 students took AP exams, the NRC conducted a survey with hundreds of colleges and universities regarding AP and Honors Programs. It was in this study where it is revealed that schools in fact do look deeper into the APP than initially thought:

“The survey revealed that, regardless of their specific goals, the most important priority for admission officers at selective schools is to admit students who can take advantage of the academic strengths of the institution as well as contribute to the education of their peers. Because past performance is deemed a strong predictor of future performance, admission officers carefully review applicants’ transcripts to determine how well and to what extent the applicants have taken advantage of the school- and community- based opportunities available to them in high school. Admission personnel generally view the presence of AP or IB courses on a transcript as an indicator of the applicant’s willingness to confront academic challenges” (Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools, National Research Council).


This study lies as the foundation for the idea that students who take AP courses, regardless to a certain extent of how they perform in the courses, are generally looked upon more favorably than students who don’t challenge themselves and take standard-level courses. This survey concluded that in choosing to AP courses at their respective high schools, a student is choosing to “take advantage of the academic strengths of the institution” and showing “willingness to confront academic challenges.” This idea seemingly has prompted students to lean towards taking AP classes so that admissions officers would look more favorably upon them than students without AP classes on their transcripts, at least according to Dr. Susan P. Santoli’s 2002 study of the Advanced Placement Program titled “Is There an Advanced Placement Advantage?” Dr. Santoli, who at the time of publication was Assistant Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of South Alabama, indicates that the AP name does in fact strengthen a student’s chances of being admitted to college on behalf of the courses’ “informal standards”:

“Besides more challenging classes and better teachers, an obvious reason to take AP classes is the college factor — admission to college, or testing out of college courses. A transcript with AP courses on it strengthens the chances for college admission (Casserly; Willingham and Morris; Dillon, 1986; Lawrence, 1996; Lord; Hebel, 1999)… Although the AP courses terminate in national exams in May of each year, information from colleges consistently revealed that it was not the AP exam grade that was important to them, but the course itself. Although the format of the course is up to the individual schools, there are informal standards that supposedly underlie the courses. The College Board supplies course guidelines, organizes conferences and workshops, publishes sample exams and syllabi, allows teachers to have essay portions of their exams returned, analyzes each component of the exam by student, and regularly reviews exams and course offerings (Lawrence; Casserly; Morris and Willingham; Prescott). Of major significance to colleges are the skills taught and the structure of the courses (Henry, 1990; Prescott). ‘It’s like an academic green light to assume that a certain level of preparation has been achieved,’ according to a Sweet Briar College admissions director (Lawrence, 1996, p. 2)” (Santoli, 26-27).


Further information published in 2003 underlined the importance of the AP program lying in taking the course itself rather than performing well on the AP exam. A report published in June of 2003 by The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, with the University of Virginia and Yale as participating universities, discusses the AP program and the role it plays in the college admission process and has a conclusion similar those of the aforementioned research:

“Publications of the College Board, college and university web pages, and personal advice from other students often cite the potential positive edge to be gained from participation in these programs… “Students improve their chances of being accepted by the college of their choice. College admissions personnel view AP Programs as one indicator of future success at the college level. Participation in AP Programs is, therefore, a great advantage to a student who wishes to attend a highly selective college” (College Entrance Examination Board and Educational Testing Service, 1999b, p. 1). In a Johns Hopkins newsletter designed for pre-college gifted students, students are advised to ‘[t]ake the most advanced courses available—especially in your areas of strength—including honors, Advanced Placement (AP), and/or International Baccalaureate (IB) options’ (Hellerman, 1994a, p. 3). They are also advised that ‘even when an AP score won’t translate into credit you can use, it can still help you in other ways—by impressing admissions officers or convincing professors to let you take more advanced courses’ (Hellerman, 1994b, p. 6). The veracity of these claims is affirmed on college websites and in articles in college admissions journals (Sindelar, 1988)” (Callahan).


In summary, these sources indicate that by the year 2003, the Advanced Placement Program had officially become a marker of a quality education in the eyes of admissions officers, but not on behalf of the reason which Frank H. Bowles had in mind when he advertised the program to a gathering of secondary schools in 1960. Students who take AP courses are ambitious and willing to take full advantage of their school’s academic opportunities, live up to the “informal standards” which the AP Program discretely implies, and indicate future success in college by their choice to take college-level courses before even arriving in college. These are qualities which any student would love to have, and more importantly, which any college admissions officer would love to have as descriptive of their own student body. APs appear as the marker of a “quality education,” therefore, because they give the spotlight to students who challenge themselves academically, where students who take standard courses are forced to find alternative ways to stand out on their transcripts. Because of the potential benefits of taking APs, it is easy to understand why the courses would be in high-demand for students who wish to boost the status of their college applications; and with high demand inevitably rises a group of people who will be unable to participate. The idea that this unfortunate reality was calculated and aimed to affect minorities in low-income schools was the subject of the 1999 lawsuit against the state of California.


“Bias Alleged In Advanced Courses in Calif. Schools” was the headline for Jay Matthews’ 1999 article in The Washington Post covering the lawsuit regarding access to the Advanced Placement Program in California secondary schools. “A California lawsuit yesterday challenged for the first time the relative lack of demanding high school courses available to students in predominantly minority, low-income schools” (Matthews), the article begins before delving into exactly what was at stake in this lawsuit. Essentially, the American Civil Liberties Union recognized an apparent violation of the state constitution in the allegation that fewer AP courses were available in poorer, more minority-populated schools than in affluent white schools. The fear, according to Matthews, was that students would be not only receiving a less comprehensive education, but would also be less likely to be admitted to the University of California without the weight of the AP course on one’s GPA. The suit highlights the case of four students at Inglewood High School in LA, where the student body is 97% African American or Hispanic and only three AP courses, neither of which are in math or science, are offered. This was raised in contrast to Beverly Hills High School, with an 8.8% minority population and 14 AP courses available. In the end, the suit was successful: the Advanced Placement Challenge Grant Program began in February 2000 as detailed by Senate Bill SB 1504 (Escutia). The program provided school districts with funds to instruct teachers on AP curriculum and granted reduced fees for tests to low-income students. This result after a long-fought battle exposes the importance of AP programs to students who intend to attend college, and want AP on their transcript to be more likely to achieve that goal.


The conundrum of the APP likely occupies a lot of space in the minds of high school students who are deciding whether or not to elect AP courses for their next semester. It is often the students who find themselves in the middle of the pack, in terms of how their class year ranks, who find that the choice can be extremely difficult: risk performing poorly in an AP course, when an A is almost guaranteed in the traditional course offered. High performing students will excel in APs, and students who know they don’t perform highly will rarely consider taking an AP. The question that lies at the core of that choice is the one which this data answers: is it worth it to take an AP course? After sifting through national surveys and reports, it seems the answer is a resounding yes, because an ambitious student is one which will always catch the eye of college admissions.



Callahan, Carolyn M. Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate Programs for Talented Students in American High Schools: A Focus on Science and Mathematics. National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented, 2003. Web. 5 May 2017.
Committee on High-School Biology Education, National Research Council. Fulfilling the Promise: Biology Education in the Nation’s Schools. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 1990. Web. 5 May 2017.
Council, N.R. et al. Learning and Understanding: Improving Advanced Study of Mathematics and Science in U.S. High Schools. National Academies Press, 2002. Web.
Escutia. SB 1504 Senate Bill – Bill Analysis. N.p., 2000. Web. 5 May 2017.
Matthews, Jay. “Bias Alleged In Advanced Courses in Calif. Schools.” The Washington Post 28 July 1999. Web. 5 May 2017.
Rothschild, Eric. “Four Decades of the Advanced Placement Program.” The History Teacher 32.2 (1999): 175–206. Web.
Santoli, Susan P. “Is There an Advanced Placement Advantage?” American Secondary Education 30.3 (2002): 23–35. Print.

The Roots of Environmental Education in the US

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In the most recent decade, “environmental education” has been a new key phrase that has been widely used not only at environment related conferences or educational discussions, but also in public schools and afterschool programs alike. According to US Environmental Protection Agency, environmental education is defined as “a process that allows individuals to explore environmental issues, engage in problem solving, and take action to improve the environment” and after certain education, “individuals develop a deeper understanding of environmental issues and have the skills to make informed and responsible decisions” (EPA). All sorts of new programs and green schools rise along with this environmental education trend. Outdoor education places an emphasis on environmental related topics as well. Artists use their eco-art as a bridge to implement environmental education in creative ways. Each organization or person has a different interpretation on the concept of environmental education. This essay traces the history of  environmental education during the 1970s in the United States and investigates the following questions: how did environmental education start in the US in the 1970s and how did it transform from the previous conservation education? What were the major factors that led to this education movement?

The 1970s was a critical point in history for environmental education. In the 1950s, there was a lack of documentation on environmental education. An increase in social attention on environmental education started in the 1970s, when people started to realize the importance of building the connection between human and nature, raising the knowledge and understanding towards the biophysical environment, as well offering solutions to the environmental issues (ProQuest Historical Newspaper: The New York Times). In this essay, I argued that even though environmental education rose in the US as a subproduct of environmental revolution in 1970, Dr William B. Stapp, professor from University of Michigan, was the root founder of the environmental education movement and pushed the transition from previous conservation education to the modern environmental education . The foundation of environmental education was for the purpose of solving community based environmental issues, developing stronger human morality, and building a more knowledgeable citizenship for the country.

On Earth Day, April 22nd, 1970, 20 million people marched on the streets all over the U.S, marking the beginnings of the environmental revolution. Earth Day was an opportunity to “(give) voice to that emerging consciousness, channeling the energy of the anti-war protest movement and putting environmental concerns on the front page” (Earth Day Network). As a result, new legislation and governmental changes rose up in response to the environmental movement and massive citizenry concern about their environment. Environmental issues became one of the political conversations (Hill 1).

Consequently, environmental education was also one of the major products from the environmental revolution. Diversified groups of social environmental protection organizations stood up and came up with their educational initiatives. At the same time, public schools were working on integrating environmental education into the state school system as well (Carney NJ20). Moreover, the urgent need for environmental education was seen not only through school upper level administrative leaders, but also through the base of the education system workers. In the first environmental education meeting, the Consortium on Public Education in Environmental Awareness, held in 1969, schoolteachers spoke up to push school administrations to incorporate environmental material into school curricula (New York Times 50).

Earth Day not only stimulated a curriculum innovation in the traditional education system, but also completely changed how students viewed their natural world. According to a poll conducted in 1980, young people showed more environmental awareness compared to their cohort from 15 years ago. The result showed that 62% of the high school students agreed that nongame endangered species protection was “very important” while only 32% opinionated that it was “fairly important” (Carney NJ 20). One of the teaching assistants, who was also a biologist, claimed that environmental movement had an influence on the young generation and their viewed towards their connection to the natural environment.

Environmental education was successfully launched after Earth Day 1970. Dr William B. Stapp, one of the environmental education founders, played another crucial role in pushing the entire system forward. Dr. Stapp was the Professor Emeritus of the School of Natural Resources & Environment, University of Michigan and founded University of Michigan’s Environmental Education program in 1970s (Environmental Education Research 471). His journal The Concept of Environmental Education for the first time defined the term “environmental education” in 1970.

Dr. Stapp stated the necessity to transform conservation education to community-based environmental education. In the journal, he discussed that “most current programs in conservation education are oriented primarily to basic resources; they do not focus on community environment and its associated problems” (Stapp 34). Indeed, prior to 1969, there were only a touch of articles found that focused on “human environment” and “education and environment” and barely any resources examined “ecology” as a social issue (Bruker 136). During the early 20th century, conservation was a commonly talked topic. President Theodore Roosevelt placed an emphasis on natural resources conservation as he said “these resources were the property of the people and should serve their benefit” (Bruker 136).  From “nature study” in the 1920s to “outdoor education” in the 1940s, the purpose of the education had always been on the wise use of resources and learning of the appreciation of natural environment (Bruker 136).

Students at the time only understood nature as a natural environment, separated from human lives. In their knowledge, “ecology” was limitedly defined as “animal life and behavior”, and “environment” was constrained within “the classroom, home and social environment of children” (Bruker 135). At a New York Times Youth Forum in 1957, where students shared their thoughts on environmental issues, one sixteen-year-old high school student Thomas said, we should clean up the pollution problem in streams and rivers”, however, he didn’t mention how it would affect human beings (New York Times 21). Another student expressed “Americans don’t have an interest in maintaining the beauty of our national parks and sanctuaries. The high schools and public schools should do more to stimulate an interest in the great outdoors” (New York Times 21). These statements showed that students, during Conservation Era, had full understanding of natural resources conservation, but lacked knowledge of the interconnection between humans and the natural environment. Thus, Dr. Stapp voiced out the higher need of programs focusing on “the role of the citizen in working, both individually and collectively, toward the solution of problems that affect our well being” (Stapp 34). In a journal reflecting the social gains of Environmental Movement after its first three years, author Gladwin Hill showed the difference between environmental education and conservation education. In the education section, he wrote that “the sudden awareness of ‘ecology’- the interrelation of living things and their inanimate surroundings- underscored the parochialism of those areas of traditional higher education in which biologists didn’t talk to geologists and demographers saw nothing in common with foresters ”(Hill 1).

The prediction of future urbanization was another reason that environmental education would be crucial to the society. As people moved from rural areas to urban environments, they gradually lose their deep connection with nature. This would diminish people’s understanding on their reliance on nature as a consequence as well. The lack of understanding of the natural environment would only worsen the current environmental issues, such as lack of environmental planning and management and misuse of chemicals (Stapp 33).  

Urbanization also deformed people’s traditional ethics, attitudes, and opinions. After being immersed in a polluted environment for a long time, people would be immunized to the polluted environment and they would take it as granted and stopped making a change (Dunlap and Liere 10). Additionally, in a society that promoted anti-environmental education and trend, Dr. James Swan, professor from University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources and Institute for Social Research, said, “we have always been taught that all growth is good, yet physical and economic growth are not compatible with pollution control”(Bird 40). So there’s the need to reform the education system and reemphasize the ethics that promote positivity to the society. Urbanization had influenced people in a way that was beyond just physical disconnection but psychological transformation.

Environmental education would also serve as a national politics game changer. In the American political system, each citizen had a voice and these voices could make a difference in the political decision making process. Citizens and voters had the responsibility to understand what their natural environment meant to them (Stapp 33). Their wisdom was counted to make political decisions due to their voting rights. These voting decisions not only implied the future political leaders but also determined the destiny of community issues. These political decisions were further connected to national science and technology, economy, etc.

All in all, Earth Day 1970 was a critical point that opened the environmental revolution and people’s consciousness on environmental issues. Nevertheless, if the society was only aiming to protect the natural environment, conservation education would do its job to educate the public about the natural world and environment management. The key was that Dr. Stapp voiced out the major social issues and potential social problems in the 1970s, and determined the root causes of these issues. He came up with the solution to these issues, a brand new education system: environmental education. Without Dr. Stapp’s contribution in pointing out the ultimate problems, the society would not be able to grasp the necessity to transform from conservation education to the modern environmental education.  


Works Cited

Bruker, Robert M. “An Historical Approach to Environmental Education.” The Clearing House 48, no. 3 (1973): 135–37.

CARNEY, LEO H. “Environmentalists Focus on Education.” New York Times  (1923-Current File); New York, N.Y. June 14, 1981, sec. New Jersey Weekly.

“COURSES BACKED ON ENVIRONMENT: Several Disciplines Join to Implement Education.” New York Times  (1923-Current File); New York, N.Y. December 21, 1969.

Dunlap, Riley E., and Kent D. Van Liere. “The ‘New Environmental Paradigm’: A Proposed Measuring Instrument and Preliminary Result.” Journal of Environmental Education 9 (Summer, 1978): 10-19. ResearchGate. Web. 15 Apr. 2017.

“Ee_from Classic to Contem..pdf.” Accessed May 3, 2017.

HILL, GLADWIN. “Environmental Movement Registers Gains in 3 Years: Environmental Movement Scores Important Gains in Three Years Government International Affairs Education The Law Moves to Regulate Growth Specific Actions Politics.” New York Times  (1923-Current File); New York, N.Y. April 9, 1973.

“North Carolina Environmental Education.” From the Classic to the Contemporary. Accessed May 3, 2017.–basics–course-materials.html.

“Obituary.” Environmental Education Research 7, no. 4 (November 1, 2001): 471–72. doi:10.1080/13504620120081331.

Stapp, William B. “Environmental Encounters.” Environmental Education 2, no. 1 (September 1, 1970): 35–41. doi:10.1080/00139254.1970.10801536.

———. “The Concept of Environmental Education.” The American Biology Teacher 32, no. 1 (1970): 14–15. doi:10.2307/4442877.

“The History of Earth Day.” Earth Day Network. Accessed May 3, 2017.

Times, DAVID BIRD Special to The New York. “EDUCATORS MEET ON ENVIRONMENT: 3-Day Session Examines Teaching of the Subject.” New York Times  (1923-Current File); New York, N.Y. December 6, 1970.

US EPA, OA. “What Is Environmental Education?” Overviews and Factsheets. Accessed May 5, 2017.

“Youth Forum Calls for Education In Drive to Save U.S. Resources.” New York Times. 1957.


Housing, School Choice, and Racial Segregation

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Adam Bloom

Educ 300

Housing, School Choice, and Racial Segregation

In 1954, The Supreme Court of the United States of America made one of the most groundbreaking and influential decisions in their history.  They ruled that racially segregated public schools, that had previously been considered “separate but equal,” were “inherently unequal (Brown vs. Board).”  Many thought that the end of De Jure segregation meant that American public schools would become fully integrated, but even to this day, this goal remains largely unachieved.  Those who were working towards integration in schools found that most neighborhoods were segregated, and in a system in which a majority of public school students attend district schools based on the town they live in, it proved hard to tackle the issue of integration without first desegregating housing.  While significant progress has been made towards racial integration in public schools, it remains an unfinished process, and has suffered many setbacks, and has fallen victim to a pattern of resegregation during the 1990’s due to a rise in housing segregation in the previous decades (Trends in School Economic Segregation, 1970 to 2010).  The main factor that has prevented racial integration from truly occurring in American public schools is the fact that neighborhoods all over the country, in every state and city, remain alarming segregated.  When the Brown vs Board of Education ruling occurred, the legal right of federal and state governments to enforce segregated education in public schools was revoked.  This meant the end of De Jure segregation, but to this day, many public schools remain segregated, leaving the country in a state of De Facto segregation.  Most American public school students attend their local neighborhood schools, and when students live in segregated neighborhoods, they inherently end up attending segregated schools.  When offered choices in the schools that parents can send their children to, an effort many thought would expedite the process, parents began placing their children in schools with other kids who looked like them.  This trend of school choice failing to address segregation has been in effect since the early days after Brown, and still continues today with options such as Charter schools.  Many factors can be attributed to the lack of full integration since the Brown decision, and the trend of resegregation during the 1990’s.  The main barrier to integration in American public schools is the segregation of housing, perpetuated by efforts of white and affluent families to distance themselves from racial heterogeneity by fleeing cities for suburbs that lack diversity, and using school choice to push their children into less diverse schools.

From 1964 to 1988, black students in the South who attended majority white schools rose from 2.3% to 43.5%, indicating a massive scale of integration in the region after the initial pushback from the Brown decision (Fighting School Resegregation). In 1968, 78% of black students attended virtually all minority schools in the South. In 1988, right before the boom in resegregation during the 1990’s, this number dropped drastically to 24%. By 2001, after the 1990’s, the number had risen back up to 41%. In the Northeast during the same period, black students who attended virtually all minority schools rose from 42% in 1968 to to 48% in 1988 and then to 52% in 2001 (Civil Rights Project). This suggests that, while integration efforts between the 1960’s and the 1990’s were successful in the South, the Northeast was gradually becoming more segregated. Until the 1990’s, the South was home to the greatest declines in segregation since the Brown ruling.  Despite this, the South experienced the largest increase in segregation for black students over the course of the 1990’s (American Educational Research Association). Over the course of the decade, the South had experienced an increase in black students attending virtually all minority schools of 17%, while the Northeast experienced a rise of only 3% (Civil Rights Project). The 1990’s were not only a period of resegregation in the South, but this trend occurred nationally as well. During this critical decade, the percentage of blacks who were attending majority white schools went down 13%, reaching its lowest point since 1968. In 2000, 17% of black students attended majority white schools. At the the same time, whites had become the most segregated racial group, attending, on average, a public school that was 80% white. By this time, the average black student was attending a school that was 33% white (Fighting School Resegregation). Black students found themselves increasingly in schools with higher minority populations and lower white populations, while white students were being segregated at alarming rates into all virtually all white schools throughout the course of the 1990s. By the end of the decade, white, latino, and black students found themselves segregated from their peers of other races at alarming rates.

The cause of this shocking rise in segregation of schools, and particularly of white students, has been widely debated. One theory that attempts to explain the high levels of segregation in public schools today blames socioeconomic barriers that prevent low-income minority families from purchasing homes in high-income districts, therefore creating a metaphorical wall that prevents them from integrating into other neighborhoods with different racial makeups. On average, black and latino families make less money per year than white families (Income and Poverty in the United States: 2014). This fact is used to back up the claim that black and latino families face a socio economic barrier that prevents them from being able to move into whatever neighborhood they want.  Because high income neighborhoods have schools that, on average, perform better than low income schools, this lack of choice in housing prevents minority students from integrating with the wealthier and white students in nearby neighborhoods (Money, Race and Success).  While this barrier most definitely exists, it cannot be used to explain in full why blacks and whites live in different neighborhoods. If the lack of affordability in housing for black and latino families was the main cause for segregated housing, then it could be expected that levels of segregation within a particular income bracket would be lower than in the overall population. Instead, poor whites and poor blacks often do not live in the same neighborhoods. The same can be said for middle-income and, especially, upper-income blacks and whites (Racial Housing Segregation and Concentration in the Central Cities). Therefore, segregation in housing and education must largely be produced by choices made by people when choosing which neighborhoods to live in and what schools to attend.

In the 1960’s, a few years after the Brown ruling, an increase in black populations in cities led to an exodus of whites flocking into the suburbs. The Kerner Report, commissioned by President Lyndon B. Johnson, revealed that whites were fleeing for the suburbs, and excluding blacks from “employment, housing and educational opportunities” in their towns. The report goes on to claim that “our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white (The Atlantic).”  This conclusion alludes to the separate living spaces inhabited by different racial groups; blacks in cities, and whites in the suburbs. As suburban neighborhoods became more integrated with an influx of more affluent minorities coming from the inner-cities starting in the 1970’s, white families began to move further out from the city. When this occurred, they were usually not replaced by white families due to a lack of interest by whites of living in diverse towns, therefore, since 1970, many previously integrated neighborhoods have experienced a trend of resegregation (The Washington Post). During this period, some of the most rapid school resegregation took place in suburban neighborhoods where white families were leaving for even more racially homogenous neighborhoods (A Multiracial Society with Segregated Schools).  During the course of the 1990’s, the population of white metropolitan public school students fell from 63% to 56% (American Educational Research Association). This is the product of white flight from cities as a result of an influx of minority populations over the previous decades.  As the inner city population began to bleed into the suburbs, whites started moving further out into the fringes of cities into “all-white neighborhoods, affluent gated communities, or unincorporated housing developments (The Atlantic).” By doing so, white families are forcing themselves into racially homogenized neighborhoods.  With the reverse diversification of these neighborgoods, it is no surprise that white students have become the most segregated racial group.  They have been fleeing integrated living spaces and, as a result, their schools reflect the makeup of the towns they run away to.

In a study by Maria Krysan at the University of Illinois, white viewers were asked to watched short clips of scenes from identical neighborhoods.  The white subjects were more likely to rate the neighborhood with white actors portraying the residents positively, while they reacted negatively to the same scenes in the same neighborhood when the scene was played out with black actors (The Washington Post). This study suggests that whites have a negative attitude towards living in neighborhoods that are not racially compromised of a vast majority of those who are like themselves.  When whites move into more racially segregated towns to distance themselves from their black and low income neighbors, the vacancies they leave are rarely filled by whites, as whites are no longer choosing to live in integrated communities (The Washington Post).  Therefore, as time goes on, previously integrated communities become more and more segregated.  A realtor working in a suburb of Chicago recounts how she has encountered this phenomenon of purposeful segregation by whites. She consistently meets clients who immediately make it clear that they will not live on the eastern side of town, the part of the suburb that borders a poor black neighborhood (The Washington Post). These white families are making a conscious effort to keep themselves as distanced from different racial and socioeconomic groups as possible.  Ferguson, Missouri offers insight into a specific town where white flight has occurred over the last twenty years. In that twenty year period, the racial composition of Ferguson changed from 25% black to 67% black. As this change has occurred over time, whites have mostly left Ferguson for suburban communities that are more racially segregated and further from the center of St. Louis (American Sociological Association). Although segregation decreased within Ferguson, this was simply the result of a massive exodus of white families into racially homogenized communities elsewhere.  Another study involved an interview with a black mother in Mobile, Alabama.  When asked what type of neighborhood she wanted to live in, she said that living in an all black neighborhood was “trouble,” and she went on to say that “if you’ve got a mixture it’s less trouble (Why Poor People Move).”  When asked about the advantages of an all black neighborhood, her answer was simple; “No advantage at all (Why Poor People Move).”  This mother revealed an attitude that has been studied amongst minority racial groups whose preferences are geared to integrated neighborhoods.  They often do not seek the homogeneity sought out by white families.

The introduction of school choice options in the South after the Brown decision resulted in a failure at desegregation as few blacks enrolled in white schools, and virtually no whites enrolled in black schools.  A lack of choice to integrate in these early years of school choice by black families can be attributed to factors such as a distrust for white schools and communities and a pride in their own schools, viewed as an achievement accomplished through their own willpower and work.  The choice to remain integrated by white families was accomplished through violent attacks, threats, and intimidation meant to scare black students from integrating into their previously all white schools (Cecelski, 9).  When school choice options, such as charter schools, appeared they hoped to be centers of racial and socioeconomic integration (Kahlenberg, 13). Despite this, families of all races are often choosing schools based on racial composition rather than academic quality of the school.  Unfortunately, charter schools have become home to some of the most deeply segregated public schools.  According to a study by researchers at UCLA, charter schools are more racially isolated than traditional public schools in virtually every state and large metropolitan area in the nation (Choice Without Equity).  The cause of this segregation can be partly explained by the fact that parents are, in many cases, choosing to only apply to charter schools where a majority of the students are of their own race (National Education Policy Center).  Middle school parents were 12% more likely to choose a school where the race of their child was represented by at least 20% of the student body than a school on a similar academic scale where their child’s race made up 10% of the student body (Slate).  Parents of all races have preferences to send their children to schools that are racially similar to themselves when given the choice. This being said, studies indicate that white and high income applicants to charter schools had the strongest preferences that their children stay in schools that are racially and socioeconomically homogenized.  When the proportion of latino and black students in a school increases, white parents become less likely to apply to these schools. This is untrue for black and latino families, suggesting that school choice is the method by which white and affluent families perpetuate racial segregation in schools (Scholars Strategy Network).  The 2000’s were a period of sharp increases in the segregation of the extremely wealthy across school districts, indicating that affluent families, not just white families, are choosing to attend schools that isolate themselves from those different in different wealth brackets than them (Trends in School Economic Segregation, 1970 to 2010).  School choice, originally intended to speed up integration, has become a tool of affluent and white families to further segregation and keep their children in racially and socioeconomically  homogenized schools.  

After the Brown ruling, there was hope that American public schools would be filled with children that represented the actual demographics of the country.  More than half a century later, this dream remains unrealized, and the process towards integration remains unfinished.  In a system of neighborhood schools, segregated housing perpetuated by the choices of whites to live in homogenous neighborhoods prevents schools from replicating the diversity of the nation, but rather forces them to represent demographics that are the result of individual choice.  In hopes of combating this roadblock, school choice options have evolved over the last half century in hopes of tackling a problem that wouldn’t seem to go away.  Original forms of school choice in Southern states were thwarted by threatening whites who intimidated blacks from taking advantage of integrated schools.  In more modern times, school choice options such as charter schools have failed to live up to their promise of integration, as families, and particularly white and affluent families, are choosing to apply only to schools whose student bodies look like their children.  Integration efforts since the Brown ruling have not been a complete failure.  Particularly in the South, schools saw massive increases in racial integration in the few decades after the landmark case.  Despite this, trends towards housing segregation caused by white flight from increasingly minority cities into racially homogenized suburbs during the 1970’s and 1980’s introduced an era of resegregation during the 1990’s.  As housing became segregated, education followed suite.  It is not completely clear why this trend of resegregation waited until 1990 to occur, as housing segregation and white flight became significant issues in the 1970’s.  Further research into why this delay occurred may offer clearer insight into how trends in housing segregation correlate to trends in school segregation over long periods of time.  Housing segregation, School choice, and School segregation are separate entities, but one cannot be understood without first understanding the others.  To finish the job that began more than half a century ago in the Supreme Court, the reality of purposeful segregation by whites in homogeneous neighborhoods and racially motivated choices about which schools their children will attend must be confronted, and these practices must be challenged by the prospect of a society in which education truly is a place of equal opportunity for all.

Works Cited

Badger, Emily. “How Race Still Influences Where We Choose To Live.” The Washington Post, July 17, 2015.

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 347 U.S. 483 (1954) (The Supreme Court of the United States of America May 17, 1954).

Cecelski, David. Along Freedom Road. The University of North Carolina Press, 1994.

“Choice Without Equity:
 Charter School Segregation and the Need for Civil Rights Standards.” Choice Without Equity:
 Charter School Segregation and the Need for Civil Rights Standards — The Civil Rights Project at UCLA. University of California – Los Angeles, n.d. Web. 05 May 2017.

DeLuca, Stefanie, Peter Rosenblatt, and Holly Wood. “Why Poor People Move (and Where They Go): Residential Mobility, Selection and Stratification.” New York University, n.d.

DeNavas-Walt, Carmen, and Bernadette Proctor. “Income and Poverty in the United States: 2014.” United States Census Bureau, September 2015.

Denice, Patrick. “WHEN THEY CHOOSE PUBLIC SCHOOLS, WHAT DO PARENTS WANT?” University of Washington: Scholars Strategy Network, February 2016.

Farley, John. “Racial Housing Segregation and Concentration in the Central Cities.” Southern Illinois University: Department of Housing and Urban Development, n.d.

“Fighting School Resegregation.” The New York Times, January 27, 2003.

Frankenberg, Erica, and Gary Orfield. “A Multiracial Society with Segregated Schools: Are We Losing the Dream?” Harvard University: The Civil Rights Project, January 2003.

Goldstein, Dana. “One Reason School Segregation Persists.” Slate, July 15, 2016.

Kahlenberg, Richard, and Halley Potter. A Smarter Charter. Teachers College Press, 2014.

Mickelson, Roslyn. “School Choice and Segregation by Race, Class, and Achievement.” National Education Policy Center, March 1, 2008.

Orfield, Gary, Erica Frankenberg, Jongyeon Ee, and John Kuscera. “Brown at 60: Great Progress, a Long Retreat and an Uncertain Future.” The University of California: The Civil Rights Project, May 15, 2014.

Owens, Ann. “Trends in School Economic Segregation, 1970 to 2010.” University of Southern California, July 2014.

Reynolds, Farley, and William Rey. “Changes in the Segregation of Whites from Blacks During the 1980s: Small Steps Toward a More Integrated Society.” American Sociological Association 59 (February 1994): 23–45.

Rich, Motoko, Amanda Cox, and Matthew Bloch. “Money, Race and Success: How Your School District Compares.” The New York Times, April 29, 2016.

Semuels, Alana. “White Flight Never Ended.” The Atlantic, July 30, 2015.

Stroub, Kori, and Meredith Richards. “From Resegregation to Reintegration: Trends in the Racial/Ethnic Segregation of Metropolitan Public Schools, 1993-2009.” American Educational Research Association 50 (June 2013).


Gun-Free Schools

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Representative Thomas Massie introduced The Safe Students Act (H.R. 34) to the House of Representatives on January 3, 2017. The bills purpose is simply, “To repeal the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 and amendments to that Act.”1 This proposal for reform comes as no surprise, given President Donald Trump repeatedly promised to end gun-free school zones throughout his campaign. President Trump’s logic is that gun-free school zones make it easier for criminals to harm people. In his words, gun-free zones are “bait” to a “sicko.”2 He shares this view with many Americans, yet others vehemently want to keep guns out of classrooms. The gun control debate in the United States has waxed in recent years, growing more partisan with time. This essay will evaluate the original purpose of the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 and the associated Gun-Free Schools Act of 1993, how they have been implemented over time, and the effectiveness of their implementation.

The Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 (GFSZA) was originally intended to reduce gun violence in and around public, parochial, and private schools. Congress passed the GFSZA as a part of the Crime Control Act of 1990, and it was signed into law by President George H. W. Bush.3 The Act prohibits any individual from knowingly bringing a firearm into a school or school zone, yet makes appropriate exceptions. A school zone, as defined by the GFSZA, is any distance 1,000 ft. from the school. For example, the GFSZA made exceptions for licensed carriers to have a gun on their private property regardless of living in a school zone.4 The GFSZA was difficult for the federal government to implement, because the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) did not have enough resources to enforce the law nationally. As a result the federal charge was usually brought against an individual after he or she had been arrested by local police officers for violating a similar State statute. Because of difficulty implementing the GFSZA of 1990, Congress submitted an additional firearms law in 1993 – the Gun-Free Schools Act (GFSA). As a result the burden of keeping guns out of schools shifted from the ATF to local educational agencies (LEAs). The effectiveness of both methods of implementation has been unclear. Statistics show that fewer children are victims of gun violence in schools, but that students still bring firearms onto school grounds without being caught. Moreover, mass school shootings have not been prevented by the GFSZA or the GFSA.

The Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 was passed with the intent to protect children from gun violence on school grounds. Representative William J, Hughes introduced the bill to the Subcommittee on Crime by delivering the following opening statement:

“Good morning. Welcome to the hearing of the Subcommittee on Crime on H.R.3757, the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990. This bill, sponsored by our esteemed colleague Ed Feighan, addresses the increasing problems and tragedies, which occur all to regularly when guns are brought onto school property. We are bombarded by news reports of yet another student or teacher killing at the hands of either an armed and deranged person, or by an angry and armed fellow student.”5

 Representative Hughes went on to argue that school shootings were not isolated incidents. He believed that tragedy and frequency of such incidents compelled the federal government to act. Prohibiting guns on school grounds seemed like a logical solution to many Americans. There was widespread support for the bill, and many witnesses gave testimony in favor of the Gun-Free School Zones Act. Representative Hughes even summarized some testimony in his opening address to the Subcommittee on Crime:

“Barbara Lautman, on behalf of the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence notes in her testimony that a 1987 survey by the National School Safety Center estimated that 135,000 boys carried guns to schools daily during 1987. Joel Packer, for the NEA, states that schools around the country report dramatic increases in gun incidents, but notes that this phenomenon is not limited or isolated to only our city school systems or to one area of the country. These disturbing trends are national in character. We correctly emphasize the importance of education in this Country – the safety of our students and teachers must be insured.” 6

Support for the bill was widespread because Americans want to insure the safety of the their children and believed that the bill would help eliminate gun violence in schools. In debating the need for this bill Representatives used the personal stories of Laurie Dann and Patrick Purdy to capture emotional support. Laurie Dann was a 30-year-old woman with a history of mental illness that went on a violent spree May 20th, 1988 in the Chicago area. She gave out treats poisoned with arsenic, detonated a weak bomb in a school hallway, and attempted to burn a family in their home. The most damage she did, however, came when she drove to an elementary school armed with a pistol and a revolver. She shot and killed an eight-year-old boy and wounded five others.7 Patrick Purdy was a 24-year-old man with a criminal record for soliciting sex, along with narcotics and weapons violations. On January 17th, 1989 he drove to a school ground in Stockton, California. Using an AK-47 rifle the gunman killed five children between the ages of six and nine, and injured thirty others.8 These anecdotes were referenced in the Congressional hearing on the Gun-Free School Zones Act as if the Act were designed to prevent mass school shootings from happening.

Others testified in support of the Gun-Free School Zones Act because they saw it as a method to enforce crimes in which firearms were used, such as drug trafficking and gang crimes that were increasingly happening around school grounds. Chief Kovacic of the Cleveland Police Department testified in support of the Act, citing a rapid increase of firearm incidents in Cleveland schools. He said that firearms were used for various crimes such as threatening students or teachers, aggravated assault, kidnapping, rape, drug trafficking, gang violence and robbery. Although the Police Chief already had the ability under State law to seize firearms on school grounds, he supported the establishment of the school zone. He argued that being able to seize firearms in a zone that extended 1,000 ft. in any direction of the school, as the Act dictates, would make it easier to police these firearm-related crimes.9 Barbara Lautman, the Director of the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence, shared national statistics that mirrored the trends in Cleveland. She shared with the Subcommittee on Crime that,

“Last fall, the Centers for Disease Control issued a study found that 1 of every 10 youngsters who died in 1987 was killed with a gun. A recent study by a leader of the American Academy of Pediatrics found that gunshot wounds increased 300 percent among urban youth from 1986 until 1988. In a statistical analysis of youth homicide which the Center released recently found that 1989 was the record year for gun murders among youngsters 19 and under.” 10

As evidenced by all this testimony, Americans supported the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 (GFSZA) because they saw it as a way to thwart the increasingly threat of gun violence around schools. Once the bill was enacted there were issues concerning its constitutionality, however. On March 10, 1992 Alfonzo Lopez, a 12th grade high school student, arrived to his school in San Antonio, Texas carrying a concealed .38 caliber handgun and several bullets. He was arrested by State authorities and charged under Texas law (Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 46.03(a)(1). The State charges were dismissed the next day when federal agents charged the young man with violating the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990. His case went to the Supreme Court.11 Chief Justice Rehnquist delivered the majority opinion ruling the Gun-Free School Zones Act unconstitutional. Rehnquist began his opinion by citing a lengthy history of cases relating to the Commerce Clause, and established a framework of guidelines that he would use to determine whether Congress had the authority to regulate this kind of activity. According to his standards, Congress exceeded their power to legislate under the Commerce Clause.12 Congress responded by amending the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990. The Duke Law Journal explains the amendments as such, “Congress changed the gravamen of the offense from possessing a firearm in a school zone to possessing a firearm “that has moved in or that otherwise affects interstate or foreign commerce” in a school zone. The added language is a jurisdictional element that limits the statute’s “reach to a discrete set of firearm possessions that additionally have an explicit connection with or effect on interstate commerce.”13

Despite the fact that the Gun-Free School Zones Act was initially enacted with support from American constituents, it has not been effectively implemented. The primary issue concerning the nature of the federal bill is enforcement. Who is charged with enforcing the law and preventing students or teachers from bringing a firearm into school zones? Originally the ATF was responsible for enforcing the GFSZA of 1990, and they clearly recognized their inability to do so. The director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms gave the following address to Congress:

“Investigative jurisdiction with respect to the Gun Control Act lies with the Secretary of the Treasury who has delegated this responsibility to ATF. Therefore, if the bill is enacted, ATF would have the primary jurisdiction over the enforcement of its provisions. To enforce these and other laws within its jurisdiction, ATF has approximately 1,800 special agents nationwide. They are concentrated in large urban areas of the country. Our firearms enforcement activities are focused on violent criminals and illegal drug traffickers. As you can see from these numbers, and the law enforcement demands placed upon us, ATF could not provide direct protection to all of the Nation’s schools, and could not be expected to be the first line of defense against guns and violence in schools. We believe that this function is, and should remain, primarily the responsibility of State and local law enforcement officials.”14

Because of federal agents inability to enforce this bill nationally, Congress did eventually designate enforcement to the local agencies and school districts by introducing an additional bill, known as the Gun-Free Schools Act (GFSA). The Gun-Free Schools Act of 1993, “Amends the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to require local educational agencies (LEAs), as a condition of receiving ESEA assistance from the State, to have in effect a policy requiring expulsion from school for at least one year of any student who has brought a gun, knife, or other weapon to a school under LEA jurisdiction. Authorizes the Secretary of Education to make grants to LEAs for: (1) purchasing crime prevention equipment, including metal detectors; and (2) training security personnel.” 15 This Act was intended to deter students from bringing weapons to schools and aid local educational agencies in preventing firearms from being brought to schools. It is important to note that the GFSA of 1993 is not an amendment to the GFSZA of 1990, but an additional law submitted to shift the burden of implementation to local agencies rather than the ATF.

Since 1990, the death rate from school shootings has dropped. From the 1980s into the early 1990s the United States experienced rising gun violence in schools, but since the 1992-1993 school year there has been a significant decline in school firearm deaths. In other words, the implementation of the GFSA and GFSZA corresponded to a reduction of gun violence in schools.16

Source: K12 Academics from the National School Safety Center

However, it would be incorrect to entirely attribute this decrease in school shootings to the implementation of the GFSZA and the GFSA, since this trend mirrors a national decrease in gun violence. 17


To further complicate matters the estimated number of students that bring firearms to schools is small and has not significantly dropped since the implementation of the GFSZA and the GFSA. In 1990 Barbara Lautman testified that an estimated 135,000 students brought guns to schools daily. 18 In 2001, after the enactment of both the GFSZA and GFSA and gun violence had significantly dropped, the Law and Policy Journal of the Villanova School of Law published the following information,

“On any given day, the odds are good that when a teenager sits down in an urban high school classroom, one of his or her classmates is packing a gun’’ (ibid:283). It has been estimated that each day 135,000 students carry guns to school (Maginnis 1995). But the fact that only about six thousand students are expelled per school year for bringing a firearm to school (U.S. Department of Education 1998) would suggest that only a fraction of students who do so are being detected or sanctioned, particularly given current zero-tolerance policies that require suspension or expulsion (usually the latter) for students who carry guns to school. This says a great deal about school security and society’s failure to limit juveniles’ access to firearms.” 19(emphasis added)


To truly compare the number – 135,000 – from 1990 to 1995, one must consider the number of students enrolled in schools in the United States, and divide to calculate the rate. When examining the total number of students enrolled in school, 135,000 actually seems quite small. The following chart lists enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools of the United States over time. 20

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

According to this data (after dividing 135,000 by the number of total enrolled students and multiplying by 100) I found that the rate of students that brought a firearm to school in 1990 was .327% and the rate of students that brought a firearm to school in 2000 was .285%. To have less than .5% of the nation’s students bringing firearms to school daily, contradicts the statement that the “odds” are in favor of a student being in a classroom with another student carrying a concealed firearm. In fact, it shows illustrates that very few students brought guns to school in 1990 and even less bring firearms to school today. The GFSZA and GFSA may have contributed to the small decrease in the rate of students bringing firearms onto school property, but the decrease is negligible.

The effectiveness of the Gun-Free School Zones Act and Gun-Free Schools Act has not been successful in preventing mass shootings either. Ironically, just as Congress highlighted mass school shootings in 1990 to demonstrate a need for the GFSZA, the Republican Party is now doing the same to demonstrate the need for its repeal. This time highlighting the tragedy that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in which 20 students ages 6 and 7 were killed.21 Gun violence and mass school shootings has declined, but deranged individuals and mentally ill individuals still have access to firearms and still present a threat to educational facilities. Mass shootings occurred before the GFSZA and occurred after.

In order to determine a causal relationship between the GFSZA/GFSA and factors such as 1) homicide with a firearm on school property 2) death by a firearm on school property and 3) students bringing firearms onto school grounds more research would need to be done. The best way to determine the effectiveness of the United States gun-free school policy would be to configure a multifactorial regression analysis of accurate statistics. Evaluating the available statistics shows that there has been a significant decrease in gun violence nationally, and that gun violence in schools follows this trend. Yet a very small percentage of students used to bring guns to school, and very few students currently bring guns to school. Student deaths and student homicides using firearms do not present a major threat to education the way it did in the late 1980s, but that does not seem to be a result of the GFSZA or the GFSA.































  1. The Safe Students Act, H.R. 34, 115 Cong. (2017).
  2. Diamond, Jeremy. “Trump Clarifies Position on Guns in Schools.” CNN. May 24, 2016. Accessed April 26, 2017.
  3. S. 3266, 101 Cong. (1990) (enacted).
  4. Ibid.
  5. Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990. Hearing on H.R. 3757 before the Subcommittee on Crime of the Committee on the Judiciary. House of Representatives, One Hundred First Congress, Second Session.
  6. Ibid.
  7. “Remembering The Laurie Dann Spree.” NBC Chicago. April 26, 2017. Accessed April 26, 2017.
  8. “Five Children Killed As Gunman Attacks A California School.” The New York Times. January 17, 1989. Accessed April 26, 2017.
  9. Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990. Hearing on H.R. 3757 before the Subcommittee on Crime of the Committee on the Judiciary. House of Representatives, One Hundred First Congress, Second Session.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Chicago-Kent College of Law at Illinois Tech. “United States v. Lopez.” Oyez. (accessed April 27, 2017).
  12. Safra, Seth J. “The Amended Gun-Free School Zones Act: Doubt as to its Constitutionality Remains.” Duke Law Journal50 (2000): 637-40. Accessed April 27, 2017.
  13. Ibid.
  14. Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990. Hearing on H.R. 3757 before the Subcommittee on Crime of the Committee on the Judiciary. House of Representatives, One Hundred First Congress, Second Session.
  15. H.R. 987, 103 Cong. (1994) (enacted).
  16. Glavin, Chris. “History of School Shootings in the United States.” Chris Glavin. February 05, 2014. Accessed May 05, 2017.
  17. Cohn, D’Vera, Paul Taylor, Mark Hugo Lopez, Catherine A. Gallagher, Kim Parker, and Kevin T. Maass. “Gun Homicide Rate Down 49% Since 1993 Peak; Public Unaware.” Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends Project. May 07, 2013. Accessed May 05, 2017.
  18. Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990. Hearing on H.R. 3757 before the Subcommittee on Crime of the Committee on the Judiciary. House of Representatives, One Hundred First Congress, Second Session.
  19. Redding, Richard E., and Sarah M. Shalf. “The Legal Context of School Violence: The Effectiveness of Federal, State, and Local Law Enforcement Efforts to Reduce Gun Violence in Schools.” Law & Policy, 3rd ser., 23 (July 2001).
  20. “Enrollment in Public Elementary and Secondary Schools.” National Center for Education Statistics. Accessed May 05, 2017.
  21. “Sandy Hook Elementary Shooting: What Happened?” CNN. Accessed May 05, 2017.



Growth of Autism: From Isolation to Integration

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Growth of Autism: From Isolation to Integration

An average of 1 in 88 children in the United States are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) (Center for Disease Control and Prevention). The number of students throughout the public school system identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder has rapidly increased in the last decade. ASD can occur in all ethnicities, racial groups, and socioeconomic levels and is much more common in males than females. Due to the strides that the Special Education Department of Connecticut has made, it is much easier for children with ASD to be able to grasp the tools they need to live a happy normal life. Yet, there has been an increase in prevalence rate in CT from “.12 to .23 between 1998 and 2001” which leads many parents questioning the support their children are receiving in our public school system. (Connecticut Department of Education, 2001) How have special education programs for students with autism in Connecticut public schools shifted from 1975 to today?

Special Education Programs were nonexistent back in 1975, and today they exist because of the laws that have been enacted and implemented into our public schooling. They have helped shape what our Special Education Program is today. Prior to 1975, it was not uncommon for children with cognitive or emotional disabilities, deafness, blindness, or the need for speech therapy to be home schooled or sent to a private school. It was not until 1975 that two federal laws, The Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) which provided a “right to public education for all children regardless of disability” and required schools to provide individualized or special education for children with qualifying disabilities. (Special Education News) It is evident that there has been many strides and efforts within our special education program to help better accommodate the students’ needs, yet there is still a necessity for major improvement within our professionals training prior to employment.

Autism is one of the fastest growing disorders and one of the toughest to diagnose. Due to the variety of different symptoms and signs it becomes almost impossible for parents to catch within their own children. Autism can very well be one of the most confusing disorders to understand, which is why many questions have still remained unanswered. It usually develops within a child by age three. It directly affects communication and interaction between other children and adults. It is characterized by behaviors of the child and what are known as “spectrum disorders,” these can greatly vary between each individual. Individuals with ASD may experience issues with behavior, development, cognitive, and psychological emotions.  Symptoms of ASD include but are not subjected to; social interaction and nonverbal communication development failures, body language, and facial expressions. Other indicators are lack of compassion and lack of interest. Nonverbal communication development failures include delay in speech or in some cases very little to no speech at all, issues with creating conversation and keeping conversations, repetitive use of language, and difficulty understanding what someone is communicating. Typical body language features that are found are body rocking, pacing back and forth, and hand flapping. There is no direct cure for autism but there are treatments that can help a child with ASD. A parent can put their child in behavior training and management, specialized therapies, and in some cases certain medicines can help. (WebMD) Behavior training and management “uses positive reinforcement, self-help, and social skills training to improve behavior and communication” (WebMD). Certain types of treatments have been successful in the past such as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), Treatment and Education of Autistic and Related Communication Handicapped Children (TEACCH), and sensory integration (WebMD). Specialized therapies include “speech, occupational, and physical therapy” (WebMD) They are essential in helping the individual with ASD and must be present in the child’s early life in order help better their future interactions with others. Speech therapy assists the child with their communication skills and verbal language. Occupational and physical therapy can improve “any deficiencies in coordination and motor skills” (WebMD). Some medicines are used to help decrease depression, anxiety, hyperactivity, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors in the child. (WebMD)

Before the 1975’s children with mental learning disabilities children were often neglected or even excluded from education in the public schools. In the early part of the 20th Century parents formed “advocacy groups to help bring the educational needs of children with disabilities to the public eye” (special education news). It wasn’t until 1961 when President John F. Kennedy created the “President’s Panel on Mental Retardation” (special education news). This panel was to give guidance to the states by federal aid. Then in 1965, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act was signed by Lyndon B. Johnson. This act helped provide funding for primary education, and “is seen by advocacy groups as expanding access to public education for children with disabilities” (special education news). Although these events did begin to introduce special education for students with disabilities it was not until 1975 when two federal laws changed history. The Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EHA) (P.L. 94 – 142) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) were both enacted in 1975. (special education news)  The EHA enforced that all children regardless of their disability had a right to free public education. (government publishing office) And the IDEA required that all public schools must provide individualized special education for children with “qualifying disabilities” in order to receive public funds for the state (special education news).

Prior to the IDEA, “over 4 million children with disabilities were denied appropriate access to public education” (American Psychological Association). IDEA has four major sections broken up by letter; section A, B, C, and D. Part A states the basic foundation for the entire Act it defines the terms that are used throughout the Act and introduces the Office of Special Education Programs (Which is responsible for administering the terms of the IDEA) (American psychological association). Part B indicates the education guidelines for students ages 3 – 21 years old. It enforces that states are required to educate students with disabilities (Martin, Martin. & Terman, 1996). Part C highlights the need for identifying all children with disabilities. It sets the guidelines of funding and what services will be provided to the child from birth to 2 years of age (American Psychological Association).   Lastly, Part B recognizes the national activities to be undertaken so that they can advance the education of the child with disabilities. Some include grants, transitional services and support programs that can help contribute to the child’s overall success. (American Psychological Association).

The IDEA will grant financial support for state and local schools, but in order to receive such funding each district must abide by six main principles. (1) “Every child is entitled to a free and appropriate public education, (2) When a school professional believes that a student between the ages of 3 and 21 may have a disability that has substantial impact on the student’s learning or behavior, the student is entitled to an evaluation in all areas related to the suspected disability, (3) Creation of an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). The purpose is to lay out a series of specific actions and steps through which educational providers, parents and the student themselves may help reach the students goals, (4) That the education and services for children with disabilities must be provided in the least restrictive environment and those children be placed in a “typical” education setting with non-disabled students, (5) Input of the child and their parents must be taken into account in the education process. (American Psychological Association). And (6) “When a parent feels that an IEP is inappropriate for their child, or that their child is not receiving needed services, they have the right under IDEA to challenge their child’s treatment (due process)” (Kastiyannis, Yell, Bradley, 2001; Turnbull, Huerta, & Stowe, 2004). During this time in the 1970’s it is important to understand that even though these acts were in place they did not specifically help children with autism or any other disability. All children with any type of learning disability were placed under the same type of educational support.

It was not until the 1990’s when the Individual Education Plan came about where autistic child started to gain the help they needed. The Individual Education Plan also known as IEP, was a document set in place to help disabled children receive a “quality education that he or she would not otherwise receive” (special education news) It was under the IDEA and stated that it must be established for any child that qualifies for special education services. This was also very helpful to parents because they were allowed to submit an evaluation request (special education news). After the evaluation is complete the results are used to create an IEP for the student, yet again if the parents are still dissatisfied with the outcome they can request an independent evaluation and request that is it funded by the school district. (special education news) If the student receives the eligibility then the school will then schedule a meeting (Planning and Placement Team Meeting) with the parents to discuss the evaluation, and create an IEP. IEP’s must be revisited yearly, and can be viewed at any time. (special education news) Before the IEP children with disabilities were treated horrible, especially children with ASD. One major case titled, PJ, ET, AL, v State of Connecticut, Board of Education ET AL, filed in 1991 changed the history for children with disabilities.

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Example of Parents could request an independent evaluation

The PJ case is one of the most well-known cases in special education history. It was filed in 1991 by “five school-age children with mental retardation and their families against the Connecticut State Board of Education, the State Commissioner of Education and certain local school districts alleging violation of 20” U.S.C. § 1412(a)(5)(A). It was certified as a class action lawsuit on December 13, 1993. The court defined the class as “All mentally retarded school-age children in Connecticut who have been identified as needing special education and who, on or after February 20, 1991, are not educated in regular classrooms.” “ C.A.R.C. v State of Connecticut Board of Education, 2:91CV00180 (JAC), Ruling on Motion to Reconsider Denial of Motion for Class Certification, slip op. at 6 (D. Conn. December 13, 1993). The settlement was eventually approved by the court on May 22, 2002. The class membership consists of children with label mental retardation / intellectual disability on or after February 20, 1991 (Civil Action No. ::291CV00180 (RNC). The state settled the case with the Plaintiffs, and agreed to take further steps toward improving the educational system set in place for child with intellectual disabilities. The federal court maintained its jurisdiction, this was so monitoring could be put in place to track the progress the State makes towards the goals that were set in place by the Agreement. (Civil Action No. ::291CV00180 (RNC) Today, the State Department of Education has put an emphasis amount of pressure on the school districts to remove any self-contained programming with kids with disabilities. This is to create a “Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)” that can assist the student with their focus. There are “highly detailed color-coded maps of the State reviewed with administrators regularly” due to the PJ case settlement. (State of Connecticut Department of Education)

On November 22, 2005 fifteen families from across Connecticut brought light in the Hartford Superior Court and challenged the constitutionality of Connecticut’s Educational System. The Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (CCJEF) helped push this case and included children of all districts in Connecticut. On “September 7, 2016, Connecticut Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher ruled in the longstanding case of Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (CCJEF) v. Rell” (Hartford Courant) Education policy issues were discussed yet the main issue was the relationship between the State and local governments as it related to public schools funding. It was argued that the state’s failure to properly fund its public schools has affected thousands of students in Connecticut by limiting their future beyond grade school. The CCJEF v Rell case is another example towards better accommodations for children with disabilities in Connecticut.

Today this lawsuit is still ongoing and has already produced many positive outcomes. The advocacy efforts have led to the creation of the Governor’s Commission on Education Finance (2006) and to the increase in education funding that were passed by the 2007 Legislature. (CT Coalition for Justice in Education Funding). It is important that we are pushing towards providing suitable and substantially equal educational opportunities to the children of Connecticut.  In light of this issue, I have also found a study conducted in 2004 that clearly shows how much more work needs to be done in helping children with disabilities specifically children with ASD.

In a study, conducted in winter of 2004 by Paul W. Cascella and Catherine S. Colella, school speech – language pathologists (SLPs) were found to be highly underprepared for the challenges inherent in school service delivery for children with ASD. They looked at school speech – language pathologists and their academic preparation and clinical training prior to being hired. They utilized a rating scale and random sampling of Connecticut school speech – language pathologists about their paraprofessional education and current knowledge of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Each participant had a minimal amount of pre professional academic or clinical preparation in ASD, and no differences were found in how speech – language pathologist were trained over the past 30 years. School speech – language pathologist were reported with relatively stronger knowledge of the types of general behavior and communication characteristics found in children with ASD and less knowledge of the education assessment and intervention formats. With the prevalence of children with ASD, speech – language pathology graduate programs must begin to enhance their paraprofessional education in order to provide “school – based speech – language pathologists with specific training to meet the communication needs presents by schoolchildren with Autism Spectrum Disorder” (Cascella and Colella). Although this study was conducted 13 years ago there was an article written in the New Haven Register by Michelle Tuccitto Sullo in 2013 that quotes many school officials stressing this exact issue.

Sullo begins her article by stating, “If students with disabilities are going to succeed in regular classrooms, their instructors need to have the training and preparation to teach them” She went in depth and interviewed several different individuals ranging from school teacher, principles, to lawyers in special education. Each individual did not deny that there is a necessity for better training with the teachers who deal with children with ASD. (Sullo New Haven Register). An attorney from Sherman named Jennifer Laviano, who represents families of students with disabilities in cases where there is a disagreement over the education plan, said “whether teacher have adequate training depends on the disability, and the majority of disabled students have learning disabilities. I don’t think many teachers are adequately trained to deal with autism” (Sullo New Haven Register). It was found by the State Department of Education that a need for training is in need. The department’s Bureau of Special Education’s Annual Performance Report, released in February of 2013 showed monitoring that “specifically indicated a need for training in strategies like co-teaching and differentiated instruction.” (Sullo New Haven Register). It was stated that training had been offered, yet it was to meet the needs of students in co-taught classrooms. Sullo concluded that the report “indicates that teacher training geared toward helping disabled students achieve academically continued through job-embedded, school level and district level professional development”. Yet through this effort given by the state there is still a need of more support and push for better training in order for the teachers to not fall short.

It is clear that special education in Connecticut has taken dramatic strides from 1975 to today. The push for personal assistance with children of ASD has been brought to light by cases like the PJ, ET, AL, v State of Connecticut, Board of Education ET AL and the CCJEF v Rell case. Also the law of the IDEA aided the beginning steps toward helping disabled children have an equal opportunity in education. Without such measures taken the special education programs in the Connecticut public schools would be non-existent. It has been a long battle for these children and families that have suffered over the years, and it is through such cases that we can learn from to better help accommodate every student. The hope is for one day that children with Autism Spectrum Disorder will be able to have access to a free equal education that allows them to live a long, happy life.

Works Cited

Autism – Treatment Overview.” WebMD. HealthWise, 2015. Web. 30 Apr. 2017.

CDC Revises Estimate of Autism Prevalence: 1 in 88.” Autism Speaks. N.p., 17 Dec. 2012. Web. 01 May 2017.

Connecticut Supreme Court Faces Historic Question:.” Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding: CCJEF. CT Coalition for Justice in Education Funding: CCJF, n.d. Web. 01 May 2017.

Doc. No. PUBLIC LAW 94-142-29 (1975). Print.

Enter Your Company or Top-Level Office. “Early Childhood Special Education.” SDE: Early Childhood Special Education. N.p., 21 Jan. 2016. Web. 01 May 2017.

Government Relations. “Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).” American Psychological Association. American Psychological Association, n.d. Web. 01 May 2017.

History of Disabilities Education Law.” The Bulletin. The Bulletin, 04 Apr. 2015. Web. 01 May 2017.

IEP – Individual Education Plan.” Special Education News. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 May 2017.

Katsiyannis, A., Yell, M., & Bradley, R. (2001). Reflections on the 25th anniversary of the individuals with disabilities education act. Remedial and Special Education, 22, 324-334.

Martin, E., Martin, R., & Terman, D. (1996). The legislative and litigation history of special education. The Future of Children, 6, 25-39.


Rell, Jodi M. “Guidelines for the Identification and Education of Children and Youth with Autism.” Connecticut State Department of Education. N.p., July 2005. Web. 15 Apr. 2017.

Read The Decision In CCJEF v. Rell.” Hartford Courant 7 Sept. 2016: n. pag. Web. 29 Apr. 2017.

Sullo, Michelle Tuccitto. “Decade after ‘P.J.’ Settlement, Special Education Debate Rages in Connecticut.” New Haven Register. New Haven Register, 09 Nov. 2013. Web. 01 May 2017.

Sullo, Michelle Tuccitto. “Many Connecticut Teachers Lack Proper Training, Special Ed Advocates Say.” New Haven Register 12 Nov. 2013: n. pag. New Haven Registar. Michelle Tuccitto Sullo, 12 Nov. 2013. Web. 29 Apr. 2017.

The History of Special Education in the United States.” Special Education. N.p., 2009. Web. 02 May 2017.

Turnbull, H., Huerta, N., & Stowe, M. (2004). The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act as Amended in 2004. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.

Your Child’s Rights.” Autism Speaks. N.p., 24 July 2012. Web. 29 Apr. 2017.


Past and Present Attitudes Towards the Use of iPads in the Classroom

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In our current world, where the use of technology has become so prominent, it is not rare to walk into a classroom at any level and notice at least one technological device.  The use of many traditional teaching tools, such as chalkboards and slates have been replaced by modern technological devices, and curriculums often revolve around online learning.  Since their emergence in 2010, iPads are a relatively new form of technology that have increasingly entered into the sphere of education as a means to enhance student learning.  Many schools mandate that students possess their own iPad devices in order access online learning tools, applications, and digital textbooks used both inside and outside of school.  I can recall my senior year of high school when many of my teachers asked their students to raise their hand if they favored using iPads as a means to access digitalized books.  As a result of the large amount of support that my school community had for the use of the device, my high school implemented iPads in the classroom for the first time in 2014.  Every incoming freshman student was expected to own their own iPad that would be used to access digital books along with academic websites and applications.  However, only shortly after this change was made, teachers and parents, including my own, began to question whether my high school had made the right decision.   How have iPads changed ― or not changed ― student learning since they were first introduced in 2010, and has the public’s view towards the use of iPads in the classroom changed between 2011 and today?

Many studies show that the implementation of iPads has transformed classrooms and helped to enhance student learning and engagement both within and outside of schools in ways that traditional forms of teaching along with the technology used in the classroom prior to 2010 had not allowed them to do.   I argue that even though the implementation of iPads has changed student learning, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worst, the results that researchers have uncovered regarding how the use of iPads in the classroom enhances or hinders student learning has stayed constant between 2011 and 2016 but has begun to change in 2017.  Researchers between 2011 and 2016 have all discovered that the use of iPads in schools can lead to decreased academic performance and attentional awareness because these devices can act as a major distraction to students and their nearby peers.  Researchers between 2011 and 2016 have also found that iPads can benefit student learning by increasing student’s academic engagement, motivation, and achievement both within and outside of schools.  However, 2017 has seen an even greater increase in negative attitudes towards iPads and their effect on schooling, as schools have begun to recognize its limitations and rather turn to using Google Chromebooks in order to enhance student learning.

Most of the research conducted on iPads in the classroom has occurred between 2012 and 2015.  A large amount of this research recognizes how iPads, like the laptops used in the classroom prior to 2010, act as portable devices that allow students to transport their learning outside of the classroom.  As early as 2011, researchers have recognized how the “touch sensitive, lightweight and compact” features of the iPad make it a device that has the potential to change the classroom and student learning (“Educators Find the iPads”).  Throughout the years, many researchers have continued to note that iPads have enhanced student learning because they are more beneficial to students than other portable devices are like laptops and smartphones.  In 2014, researchers Picard, Martin, and Tsao claim that

iPads have all the functionality and connectivity of laptop computers, but are far more light weight, and all the mobility of smartphones, but with a larger, multi-touch screen.  The iPad’s finger-based interface is intuitive to use, convenient, and can be used to perform a variety of activities, including writing and drawing with the finger-tip. (Picard et. al. 203-204)

Ipads therefore act as a medium that allow students to have access to a portable device with touch screen abilities that is still large enough and easy for students to use in order to compete their school related activities.

Another way in which iPads have their own unique aspects that have changed student learning is through their ability to engage students with their learning in a variety of creative ways that were not previously available to them before 2010.  The touch screen aspect of iPad devices, along with the devices multiple apps, which have a variety of video and audio functions, allow and encourage students to apply their creative thinking and skills to their school work more than they had been able to do prior to 2010.  In 2011, Westlake High School conducted an iPad pilot initiative program in order to test the effects of iPads on student learning and compare it to student learning without iPads.  During the experiment, the school discovered that iPads have “spurred creativity as well because of the camera, video camera, and the apps that can be used for creative storytelling, video production, etc.”(Foote 16).   In addition, “because the camera is embedded in the device, projects that might have taken weeks in the past can be completed in a matter of days” (Foote 16).  Having recordings of class projects enables students to be able to replay their work so that they can access and critique it and ultimately enhance their learning experience.

Studies conducted on the implementation of iPads between 2011 and 2016 have also showed that the iPads can also affect the creativity aspect of student learning by discouraging students from using their creative skills that traditional methods of drawing with a pen and paper encouraged them to use.  Picard et. al. conducted a study in which they compared the drawing results of students who drew with a pen-on-paper and those who drew on their iPads by touching the screen.  Although they had originally thought that children’s drawings would be more detailed on the iPads because many have claimed that “finger drawing on an iPad screen enhances the quality of the resulting production because it bypasses the difficulties involved in handling a pen”, they discovered that their hypothesis was incorrect (Picard et. al. 205).  According to the results, the researchers “found a slight but significant decrease in graphic scores in the iPad (finger drawing) condition, compared with the standard paper/pen drawing” (Picard et. al. 210).  Such findings suggest that students are more likely to draw detailed and more artistic drawings with their traditional pen and paper than with their iPads and that iPads may have changed student learning by leading students to exercise a smaller amount of creativity to their drawings.

In addition, iPads allow students to communicate in ways that computers prior to 2010 did not offer.  In their own study conducted in 2011, researchers Orrin T. Murray and Nicole R. Olcese from the Pennsylvania State University considered “whether the iPad and its attended software constitutes a set of resources for which there is no analog equivalent, thus allowing teachers and students to do things in learning environments that could not otherwise be possible.” (Murray and Olcese 43).  One of their major findings included how “as advertised, the iPad offers users a way to connect to others via Bluetooth and collaborate via the Internet through popular social networking services like Facebook and Twitter” (Murray and Olcese 46).   With iPads, students can communicate globally and gain access to a vast amount of information that extends beyond their classroom and home lives due to the variety of unique applications.  Murray and Olcese go on to explain how iPad applications also allow for students to participate in peer group work, as these applications enable

multiple users to create and share material simultaneously using either a WiFi peer-to-peer function. It also provides an opportunity for multiple users to work on the same document at the same time, a function that has given cachet in the classroom to online collaborative offerings like Google Documents. (Murray and Olcese 47)

Such innovative applications encourage students to engage more with those not only in their classroom but also with those around the world.   Such findings suggest that the introduction of iPads into the classroom has therefore allowed students to interact with a globalized world and to extend their learning beyond the classroom even more than prior means of learning allowed them to do.

In addition, studies between 2011 and 2016 have shown that the increase of iPads in the classroom has helped to increase student motivation and engagement in school.  In the Westlake High School iPad pilot initiative program, “90% [of the 854 students surveyed] reported that the iPad had a somewhat positive or positive effect on their motivation to learn. Eighty-nine percent reported that the iPad had a positive or somewhat positive impact on their ‘desire to dig deeper into a subject.’”(Foote 17).   Although such findings are not generalizable to the entire population since the group studied is only a small sample of all students, the findings are characteristic of many of the positive results uncovered between 2011 and 2016 regarding how students have responded positively to the implementation of iPads and its effects on their learning.  In many cases, the implementation of iPads has been associated with “increased motivation, enthusiasm, interest, engagement, independency, and self- regulation, creativity and improved productivity” (Clark and Lukin 4).

IPads have also affected the role of teachers in the classroom and their pedagogical practices.  Many teachers expressed how iPads have allowed students to receive more individualized lesson plans that meet their needs.  Research in 2013 has discovered that “teachers felt that the devices [iPads] enabled them as teachers, to promote independent learning, to differentiate learning more easily for different student needs and to easily share resources both with students and with each other” (Clark and Lukin 4).  Through the variety of applications that iPads offer, students can independently complete activities at different levels.  Research conducted in 2016 also showed that iPads allow teachers “to personalize instruction for every child.  If the student is struggling, [the teacher] can let the iPad offer repetition (through games, targeted reading, or apps) and if another needs to move faster, [the teacher] directs him to a faster-paced game or app (Tynan-Wood).  Also, iPads can be used on the side of teacher instruction, as students can learn from the applications on their iPad rather than just having to listen to their teacher the entire class time.

One of the downsides to the implementation of iPads in the classroom that researchers have discovered between 2011 and 2016 is that student’s learning can suffer when teachers do not receive the training needed to properly implement the devices in the classroom (Tynan-Wood).  Also, research conducted in 2016 found that iPads can distract students from their learning at school, and even in class, “some students bypassed security measures and surfed prohibited websites” (Tynan-Wood).  Such research about how iPads can be distracting devices existed prior to 2016, as in 2013, a study was conducted on 777 students at Arkansas State University and discovered that “students reported using their smartphone or other internet capable device an average of 11 times per day. Eighty-six percent of students reported texting during class, 68 percent reported checking emails and 66 percent said they use social networking sites during class” (Hennington).  Studies throughout 2011 and 2016 have found that iPads have changed student learning by causing students and their nearby peers to be more distracted by the multiple applications that are easily available to use.

While studies between 2011 and 2016, have all looked at how iPads have changed student learning in the classroom either positively or negatively, there have been not been a large number of studies conducted in 2017 that have looked at the use of iPads in the classroom yet.  Rather, the studies conducted in 2017 on this topic have mostly looked at how schools have begun to shift away from the use of iPads to Chromebooks.  The New York Times claimed in 2017 that “Apple’s iPads and Mac notebooks ― which accounted for about half of the mobile devices shipped to schools in the United States in 2013 ― have steadily lost ground to Chromebooks…” (Singer).  A major reason for this shift away from iPads and towards Chromebooks is because “while school administrators generally like the iPad’s touch screens for younger elementary school students, some said older students often needed laptops with built-in physical keyboards for writing and taking state assessment tests” (Singer).  Another article in 2017 related how Lancaster City School District has begun to use Chromebooks more than iPads because “along with being cheaper, Chromebooks are easier for IT staff to manage.  A lot of education software utilizes Flash, which is not supported on iPads” (Thurston).  Such pushback against the use of iPads illustrates how today, the public’s focus has shifted away from how iPads can change student learning and towards how new methods of technology can complete this task even better.

Between 2011 and 2016, researchers have focused on finding evidence of how iPads have changed student learning for the better or worse; however, beginning in 2017, researchers are starting to no longer look at the effects of iPads on student learning but rather at the new devices that are emerging in the classroom.  While the pushback against the use of iPads in the classroom because of the device’s limitations has also shown to influence the way in which students learn in the classroom, looking at the effects of the rise of Chromebooks on student learning is another topic of study in and of itself.  It will be interesting to see if iPads will continue to remain in the classroom at all by the end of 2017 or if they will be completely replaced by Chromebooks.  If schools continue to follow the trajectory where they increase the number of technological innovations used in the classroom in order to keep up with the modernized world, then it becomes extremely important for society to study the effects of these technological innovations on student learning in order to ensure that students are receiving the education that they need.

Works Cited

Clark, Wilma, and Rosemary Luckin. “IPads in the Classroom.” What The Research Says. 2013, < http://ss-web>. Accessed 4 May 2017. Web

“Educators Find the iPad a Useful Aid in the Classroom.”  Targeted News Service. Washington, D.C. 3 Nov 2011, <>.  Accessed 4 May 2017. Web.

Foote, Carolyn. “The Evolution of a 1: 1 iPad Program.” Internet Schools vol. 1,  no. 15-18, 2012,  <>. Accessed 4 May 2017.  Web.

Hennington, C. “Tech Offers Opportunities, Distractions in Classroom. University Wire. 13 Feb 2014, <>. Accessed 4 May 2017. Web.

Murray, Orrin T., and Nicole R. Olcese. “Teaching and Learning with IPads, Ready or Not?.” TechTrends vol. 55, no. 6,  2011, pp. 42-48,  <>. Accessed 4 May 2017. Web.

Picard, Delphine, Perrine Martin, and Raphaele Tsao. “IPads at School? A Quantitative Comparison of Elementary Schoolchildren’s Pen-on-Paper Versus Finger-on-Screen Drawing Skills.” Journal of Educational Computing Research vol. 50. no. 2, 2014, p. 203-212, <>. Accessed 4 May 2017. Web.

Thurston, Trista. “Chromebooks for Everyone Lancaster Schools are Rolling Out New Technology.” Lancaster, Ohio: Lancaster Eagle- Gazette, 20 Feb 2017, <>. Accessed 4 May 2017. Web.

Tynan-Wood, Christina. “IPads in the Classroom: The Promise and the Problems.” Great Schools,  7 Mar. 2016, <>. Accessed 4 May 2017. Web.

Singer, Natasha. “Apple Devices Lose Luster in American Classrooms”. New York Times. New York: New York Times Company,  2 March 2017, <>. Accessed 4 May 2017. Web.



The International Baccalaureate Educational System

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Not only is education a tool for success, it is also a necessity in today’s society when seeking a competitive career path. In our modern society, there is limited opportunity for people without a college degree, and even less for people without a high school diploma. The level of classes taken in high school play a large role in what universities a student will apply to, and have success in. Advanced Placement (AP) classes have earned a credible name for themselves, and “passing” test scores are recognized for college credit at many established four-year universities. International Baccalaureate (IB) classes are of similar caliber. Likewise, IB “passing” test scores are also recognized for college credit. I am conducting my research on the International Baccalaureate Organization’s (IBO) Diploma Programme, as it is arguably as rigorous, but not as widely known as College Board’s Advanced Placement. My research asks the following questions: When and where did the International Baccalaureate curriculum first arise? How did it spread to the United States after its creation in 1968? What has its impact been on students since the 1970s?

The International Baccalaureate Organization (IBO) is an international, non-profit educational foundation. Since the founding, IB has earned a reputation for high standards of teaching and student achievement with standards-based learning. The IBO works with schools, governments, and international organizations to develop challenging programs of international education and rigorous assessment. The IBO offers four programs for students ages three to nineteen: Primary Years Programme, Middle Years Programme, Diploma Programme, and Career-Related Programme. The Diploma Programme (DP) for students ages sixteen to nineteen will be studied specifically for its impact on students’ preparation for success in higher education. My research will study how the IB curriculum has spread from its origin in Europe in 1968 to hundreds of other countries, specifically the United States after the 1970s. Although IB was adopted for United States military families, proponents of a global education embraced it because it is a rigorous curriculum comparable to AP. The IBO contends its curriculum as making students more likely to succeed in higher education. However, it does not consider selection bias as a contributing factor among the students enrolled in IB courses.

The International Baccalaureate Organization originated in Geneva, Switzerland in 1968 after a significant demand arose among the international school community for a globally recognized secondary school diploma (Tarc 235). IB education was devised to provide a uniform and portable education to the children of diplomats, military personnel and business professionals as they moved around the world, in order to ensure a complete education (Gross). It was never intended for public schools, but has since expanded to be implemented in them. According to IB’s “Find a World School” list on their website, as of 2016 there were over 4,500 schools offering one or more IB programs. The author of Pros and Cons of International Baccalaureate Program, Dr. Patricia Fioriello, writes, “It is an integrated program, and that is increasingly being adopted by international schools globally for a variety of reasons including a standardized international curriculum for students who are ‘global nomads.’ The program…stresses the “global” citizen…” (Pros and Cons). This is likely one of the reasons it became attractive to schools in the United States as it spread from its origin in Europe.

The Diploma Programme (DP) has specific requirements that must be contextualized in order to understand the curriculum. The DP curriculum is made up of the DP core and six subject groups. The core has multiple components including theory of knowledge (TOK), creativity, activity, service (CAS), and the extended essay. The six subject groups are in language and literature, language acquisition, individuals and societies, sciences, mathematics, and the arts (“DP Curriculum”). Most subjects may be taken at either standard level (SL) or higher level (HL), depending on what a school is able to offer. To earn the full diploma a student must take at least three subjects at HL, as well as take the three core elements — TOK, CAS, and the extended essay (International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme). However, students are also able to take IB classes for credit, without completing the Diploma Progamme. Both SL and HL courses are designed to be taken within the two years of the DP, whereas AP classes are taken over the span of one year. SL courses are recommended to have at least 150 hours of instructional time, and HL courses are recommended to have at least 240 instructional hours (International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme).

According to the IBO’s website, the DP core assessment is designed for students to reflect on the nature of knowledge, complete independent research, and undertake a project involving community service. Examining this core is pertinent to determining how the IBO believes they prepare a student for success in higher education, and how the assessments compare to AP. The IBO uses both external and internal assessment components in the DP curriculum. Success in both of these is required to receive the IB Diploma, and goes into the total score at the end of the two-year period, whereas the AP score is solely made up of the performance on the final exams. For most courses, the main forms of external assessment are examinations. The IBO believes them to be highly objective and reliable. They may include essays, structured problems, short-response questions, data-response questions, text-response questions, and/or case-study questions (“Assessment & Exams”). Teacher assessment is also used for most courses’ internal assessment. This may include oral work in languages, fieldwork in geography, laboratory work in the sciences, investigations in mathematics, and/or artistic performances (“Assessment & Exams”). The IB curriculum holds teachers to a higher standard, as they must attend workshops in order to teach their subject following IB guidelines. The IBO holds two major examination sessions each year in May and November. These tests are graded on a seven point scale, and may be distributed to chosen universities for credit where accepted, in a fashion similar to AP.

The IB Diploma is designed for students seeking challenging academics. The curriculum is rigorous and time consuming, and therefore a specific group of highly-motivated students are targeted to enroll in the DP. In a The New York Times article, a public high school senior described the IB Diploma as marking students, “…the “top of the top,” Ms. Khabbaza says, “the academic leaders of tomorrow” (Gross). When the article was written in 2003, New York was described as being among the fastest-growing International Baccalaureate states. It had, “…24 high schools, including clusters on Long Island and in the Rochester area, among the nation’s 396 participating schools” (Gross). The article attributes the standards-based success to a broader audience in the United States in the 1980’s after the presidential report, “A Nation at Risk,” condemned an educational system lagging behind other countries.

The IBO promotes its curriculum as preparing students for success in higher education, but it does not consider selection bias surrounding the students that are enrolled in these courses. In an article published on Education Week, “International Baccalaureate Saw Rapid Growth in High-Poverty Schools,” author Sarah D. Sparks argues that the number of high-poverty United States schools participating in an international advanced-diploma program has been rising rapidly, but participation still lags among poor students at those schools. Sparks conducted a study that found only one third of students who took the high school exams to qualify for IB Diploma credits were from low-income families. She includes this pie chart that depicts the higher likelihood of exam takers being white:

Source: International Baccalaureate Saw Rapid Growth
Source: International Baccalaureate Saw Rapid Growth

Her research raises questions about the access and support for students in poverty to participate in advanced course work like AP/IB. Sparks also found that of students who participated in the IB Diploma Programme in high school, low-income students of almost every race were a little less likely to immediately go on to college than IB classmates who were not low-income. She writes, “Programs geared toward academically advanced students can be a heavy lift in high-poverty schools, where students have to overcome… stereotypes suggesting they are somehow less able” (Sparks). Overall, Sparks’ research supports the idea of selection bias in the results of broad success for students who participate. In reality, the students who are having success are already statistically likely to succeed because of their race and socioeconomic status. However, Sparks acknowledges that Hispanic, Black, and White IB students in poverty were more likely to go on to college right after high school than peers in poverty who did not participate in IB. This supports the IBO’s claim that they prepare students for higher education. Nonetheless, there is undoubtedly selection bias inherent in the success of IB Diploma Programme students.

Paul Tarc’s article, “What is the ‘International’ in International Baccalaureate?: Three Structuring Tensions of the Early Years (1962-1973),” addresses the difficulty in IB’s educational ideal. He names the educational ideal as one of three structuring tensions. Tarc writes, “The educational ideal of IB as a progressive education of ‘the whole person’ was in tension with the need for IB to have internationally acceptable standards…” (Tarc 239). During a historical period of strained democratization in the 1960s, IB was designed to represent a modern, forward-looking model of schooling with the aim of making a more peaceful world. In its early years IB was created for the social elite and they are the social class that have continued to utilize it from the 1970s to this day. Selection bias by the IBO has deep roots in the Diploma Programme. Students that do well in the IB curriculum are more likely to be elite.

Trinity College, an elite private liberal arts school, accepts both International Baccalaureate and Advanced Placement credits. According to the portion of the Trinity website titled, “AP/IB Credits (and Credits for Selected Other National Examinations)”:

Students who wish to receive credit for international or foreign examinations (listed below) must have the official results sent to the Registrar’s Office for review. Course credits, not to exceed two per subject, may be granted. A maximum of nine course credits will be given for any combination of these results (“AP/IB Credits”).

Trinity College currently accepts Higher Level course examinations with scores of 5, 6, or 7. It also lists specific course equivalencies, as determined by departments. For example, an IB Mathematics HL score of a 5 is equivalent to MATH 131, and scores of 6 or 7 are equivalent to MATH 131 and MATH 132 (“AP/IB Credits”). The first mention of Trinity College accepting IB credits was in the 1979-1980 Trinity College Bulletin. The section addressing International Baccalaureate Higher Level Examinations is much smaller in this issue than the current Bulletin. They are compared below:

("AP/IB Credits")
Source: “AP/IB Credits
Source: Trinity College Bulletin Catalogue Issue 1979-1980
Source: Trinity College Bulletin, 1979-1980 (Catalogue)

The same terms applied in the 1979-1980 issue for accepting scores of 5, 6 or 7. However, there were no course equivalencies listed in the 1979-1980 Bulletin. Importantly, not all colleges and universities recognize IB test scores for credit, especially standard level courses.

The International Baccalaureate Organization, an international, non-profit educational foundation, has made a lasting mark on education curriculums since its creation in 1968. The International Baccalaureate Organization’s Diploma Programme, is arguably as rigorous, but not as widely known as College Board’s Advanced Placement. The IBO’s work with schools, governments, and international organizations since the 1970s to develop challenging programs of international education and rigorous assessment has earned it a reputation for high standards of teaching and student achievement with standards-based learning. Its adoption by United States military families, diplomats, and business professionals to maintain education uniformity for their children led to an implementation in hundreds of United States schools. The IBO has had triumph in preparing students of the curriculum to be more likely for success in higher education. Nevertheless, there is a deeply rooted selection bias in the students that are enrolled in these courses. The students who are having success are already statistically likely to succeed because of their race and socioeconomic status. The IBO contends its curriculum as making students more likely to succeed in higher education. However, it does not consider selection bias as a contributing factor among the students enrolled in IB courses.



Fioriello, Patricia. “Pros and Cons of International Baccalaureate Program.” Blog post.Critical Issues in K12 Education., n.d. Web.

Gross, Jane. “Diploma for the ‘Top of the Top’; International Baccalaureate Gains Favor in Region.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 20 June 2003. Web. 01 Apr. 2017.

Iborganization. “Assessment & Exams.” International Baccalaureate. International Baccalaureate Organization, n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2017.

Iborganization. “DP Curriculum.” International Baccalaureate. International Baccalaureate Organization, n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2017.

International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme Standard Level and Higher Level Courses. N.p.: International Baccalaureate, 2015. Web.

Sparks, Sarah D. “International Baccalaureate Saw Rapid Growth in High-Poverty Schools.” Education Week. Editorial Projects in Education, 31 July 2015. Web. 02 May 2017.

Tarc, P. “What Is the ‘International’ in the International Baccalaureate?: Three Structuring Tensions of the Early Years (1962–1973).” Journal of Research in International Education 8.3 (2009): 235-61. Journal of Research in International Education. Web. DOI: 10.1177/1475240909344679.

Trinity College, “Trinity College Bulletin, 1979-1980 (Catalogue)” (1980). Trinity College Bulletins and Catalogues. 47.

A Third Perspective to Affirmative Action

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Since the Civil Rights movement, when affirmative action was implemented in 1965, there have been many debates about whether or not it was the right decision. Affirmative action is a policy with race- and gender-based preferences, originally, which aimed to end discrimination in education, employment and government contractors. It was implemented to attempt to equalize the racial discrimination that this country was ‘“founded” on. People in favor argue that it is assisting marginalized races and lower socioeconomic classes because they have less resources, and it compensates for socioeconomic inequalities. On the other hand, people against affirmative action believe that although it was adequate when implemented, it is now outdated, and it is a form of racial prejudice.

There has been a third opinion developed in the long time debates over whether it is right to take race, ethnicity and sex into account when admitting students into higher education. Richard Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at The Century Foundation, a liberal think-tank, has proposed a new perspective to the debate and is the leader of this policy reform: class-based affirmative action. When and why did Kahlenberg’s policy proposals arise for class-based affirmative action in higher education, and to what extent have they become implemented?

In 1993, Kahlenberg began to reconsider affirmative action and it’s actual effectiveness, when there were many debates around the topic. Kahlenberg argues this new approach to affirmative action is crucial in the face of the stratification that is currently present in education, but specifically, in higher education. Richard Kahlenberg provides a compelling argument for a class-based affirmative action, which demonstrates a more effective way of dealing with social inequalities. Overall, Kahlenberg’s remedy has not seen widespread success in the United States context. Kahlenberg argues several reasons for this, one being financial issues.

In 1996, when Kahlenberg, published his California Law Review titled, Class-Based Affirmative Action, one of his first pieces on the topic, there were also discussions about the elimination of affirmative action. In California, for example, in November of 1996 proposition 209, “provided that the state ‘shall not discriminate against or grant preferential treatment to any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education or public contracting” (Kahlenberg 1997:XVI). Although Kahlenberg began to write and published his law review before Proposition 209 was instated, there were many debates around race- and gender-based affirmative action, and whether it should be eliminated altogether. Kahlenberg (1997) claims that in 1993, when he was writing another publication about class-based affirmative action, The Remedy (1997), he viewed race- and gender-based affirmative action as eroding and collapsing before his eyes, which is when he decided that there needed to be an alternative. Kahlenberg (1997) attributes the increase of interest in class-based affirmative action to Proposition 209, and affirmative action being under attack. California’s Proposition 209 caught the attention of several other states, including Texas, Colorado, Louisiana, and New Jersey, but many knew that affirmative action could not be completely abolished. Kahlenbergs argument for a class-based affirmative action quickly picked up attention as an alternative to race- and gender-based preferences, especially due to the lack of other alternatives being presented.

In the United States, the cycle of poverty is a vicious and never ending cycle for most who are within it, which is part of the reason Kahlenberg asserts that affirmative action must be reformed, “a fairer society in which children of short parents might still grow up to be short, but children of low-income parents would be less likely to end up poor adults” (Kahlenberg 2012). Many Americans had lost hope in affirmative action after it had gone from implementation to practice, and many people were disappointed. Kahlenberg viewed class based affirmative action as the most logical remedy, “This approach would provide preferences in education, employment, and government contracting based on class or SES, rather than race- or gender- implicitly addressing the current-day legacy of past discrimination without resorting to the toxic remedy of biological preference” (Kahlenberg 1996a:1037-8). One of Kahlenberg, and others, first argument against race-based affirmative action is, “How can we justify providing a leg up to the daughter of a wealthy black daughter over the daughter of the poor white janitor?” (Kahlenberg 1996b). Although this argument has been taken from conservative thinkers, it has still been given validity for people like Kahlenberg and Connerly. Kahlenberg can use this argument in favor of class-based affirmative action because if it was implemented it would solve the problem of a wealthy student of color attending a school of a low-income white student. A more factual based argument that Kahlenberg has recently presented is, “In practice, affirmative action programs often benefit the most advantaged students of color.  (Former college presidents) William Bowen and Derek Bok found that 86% of Black students at the 28 elite universities they studied were from middle- or upper-status families” (Roach 2003). Race- and gender-based affirmative action is now helping students who are already advantaged, which should not be the point. Race- and gender-based affirmative action was originally instated to try to diminish inequalities in this country, not create more.

In Kahlenbergs, The Remedy (1997), he outlines three arguments for why class-based affirmative action will be more beneficial for the current social inequalities, than race- and gender-based affirmative action. The first goal of class-based affirmative action, is bona fide equal opportunity. The second, “will indirectly compensate for past discrimination, bring about natural integration and provide a bridge to a color-blind future” (Kahlenberg 1997:83). And lastly, class-based preferences will endure the political and juridical arguments that, as we have seen, race- and gender-based preferences have not always endured, for example, Proposition 209.
Kahlenberg (1997) claims that class-based affirmative action is the best system of preferences because it provides equal opportunity, which is the central focus to class-based affirmative action. Kahlenberg uses Professor James Fishkin’s definition of equal opportunity, “the central doctrine in modern liberalism for legitimating the distribution of goods in society” (The Remedy). Kahlenberg claims that social circumstances should not factor into one’s life chances and opportunities. Kahlenberg has two reasons why we should pay more attention to equal opportunity. The first, is practical reasoning, providing equal opportunity should not necessarily mean equal results, which would organize society to have the most qualified people in the most qualified positions. In this sense, Kahlenberg asserts that formal equal opportunity is not enough, because it does not account for people’s social position that they are born into. The second, a moral reasoning, is that equal opportunity allows the people who work hard to have a job reflective of that, and vice-versa for those who do not (Kahlenberg 1997). If our values are hard work and merit then it is morally unsound to reward people for being more “worthy” when they have different starting positions.

The second argument Kahlenberg presents for class-based affirmative action has three prongs. The first, compensation for past discrimination, which he argues class-based affirmative action does by compensating for discriminative economic legacies. Kahlenberg believes that class-based affirmative action addresses this issue of compensation more because “unlike a system of racial preferences, class-based preferences do not assume a direct linear link between an individual’s race and his rightful position in life’s competition” (1997:102).  By this, Kahlenberg was referring to past policies, for example, housing discrimination policies, like redlining, that did not allow black people to live in certain areas, which still have negative ramifications today. Kahlenberg argues that class-based affirmative action will combat that, which race- and gender-based lacked to. The second prong to this argument was that class-based affirmative action would promote integration. Since their is a larger proportion of minority students who are of the poor or working class, it will affect those students the most, which will indirectly increase diversity. This is also a less toxic way of promoting diversity, than race-based preferences because that can create hostile attitudes and grudges.

The third prong is that class-based preferences will be able to endure political and juridical arguments more so than race- and gender-based preferences. Initially, the Supreme Court, was in favor of race- and gender-based affirmative action, but as time continued concern increased over its actual progress. Kahlenberg defends that, “For while almost any race-based preference is today vulnerable to attack by the Supreme Court, the Court is almost sure to uphold the constitutionality of class-based affirmative actions programs” (1997:107). Race is known as a suspect classification, which means that it requires greater scrutiny for justification than other legislations. Politicians have attempted to make class a suspect classification, but have failed, which means that there is no law within the constitution that protects the poor. In other words, class-based preferences will be easier to defend, because unlike race they are not suspect classifications under greater scrutiny. Similarly, gender-based preferences are not fully suspect, and they have been met with much less scrutiny than race-based. Not only are race-based preferences difficult to hold up in court and the political sphere, but are also widely disapproved of by the public. “In most national polls, racial preferences in employment or education – even those not involving quotas- are opposed by more than 80 percent of whites and 50 percent of blacks” (Kahlenberg 1997:109). This shows how not only are the dominant group, but also the subordinated group who actually benefits from affirmative action, do not believe that race-based is the answer.

Kahlenberg argues that class-based affirmative action will also be the best way to diversify higher education. Diversifying higher education is still an issue, as Kahlenberg highlights in several of his articles. Recent cases include Grutter v. Bollinger, which forced University Michigan Law School to use race-based decisions in admissions. Others are Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978), Fisher v. University of Texas (2013) and Fisher v. University of Texas (2016), which all upheld race-based affirmative action at different institutions. Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978), set an important new precedent. The US Supreme Court decided, in light of this case, that it was unconstitutional to have racial quotas, specifically in relation to the equal protection clause, which states that “no state shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws” (Affirmative Action: Court Decisions, 2016). This case upheld race-based affirmative action, but abolished quotas. UC v. Bakke (1978), was one of the first cases to seriously challenge  affirmative action in higher education.

One of the most controversial, and widely discussed suits today that have come close to class-based affirmative action occurred at the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin), known as Fisher v. University of Texas (2013) and Fisher v. University of Texas (2016). Although both of these cases have upheld race-based affirmative action at UT Austin, it has brought race-based affirmative action into more scrutiny and has opened up the conversation for an alternative, class-based affirmative action. In 2008, when Abigail Fisher was denied admissions to UT Austin, she filed a complaint against UT Austin that she wished to be reassessed under a race-neutral principal. In 2011, the Fifth Circuit, which is a branch of the Supreme Court, covering Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi,  whose justice is Clarence Thomas, found that UT Austin’s admissions policies were constitutional. Once Fisher heard the results, she was not satisfied, Fisher then took the case all the way to the Supreme Court. After hearing arguments, the Supreme Court decided to vacate the Circuit’s opinion and demand revision at the Fifth Circuit. The Fifth Circuit then ruled that, Fisher’s case was not sufficient against UT Austin, so the Supreme Court decided to review the case again. After another few years of listening to arguments, in June 2016, the Supreme Court ruled that UT Austin’s race-conscious policy is constitutional.

Fisher’s case is the closest colleges or universities have come to ending race-based policies, and utilizing other factors like socioeconomic status or income to decide who should get a leg up in college admissions. The Supreme Court suggested, in the 2013 ruling, that UT Austin’s race-based preference program was constitutional, but that race-neutral tactics should be employed when possible. The Supreme Court, like the United States public, want to achieve diversity, but do not like to use racial preferences to get there.

One of the main arguments Kahlenberg attributes to the lack of class-based affirmative action in higher education, or even the discussion of it, is the financial implications is has. To economically diversify a school there will need to be more money for programs like financial aid (Kahlenberg 2015). It is not in colleges admissions interest to give class-based preferences because that means they will be giving out more governmental support, and will have less students attending the school who pay full tuition.

Although Kahleberg and many others provide persuasive arguments for different affirmative actions, my concern is the reason affirmative action was implemented was to attempt to equalize the playing field from the past discrimination this country was founded on: the kidnapping and stealing of African peoples to be indentured slaves in the colonies for the benefit of white Europeans. Affirmative action was implemented to equalize this injustice and provide opportunities where they may not have existed before, which it has failed to do. In this sense, I argue that affirmative action might not be able to do an adequate enough job to amend the suffering that took place almost two centuries ago and continues to pervade society today. Affirmative action attempts to deal with the problem of “race” , racial inequalities, but does not adequately confront the structural issues of “racism”, and how “race” is upheld by “racism”. It is attempting to neutralize “race”, but does not actually get to the core problem: the United States is a white-supremacist, racist nation, with racism embedded in our institutions. Affirmative action, whether race-, gender-, or class-based, does try to account for some discrimination, but regardless of the number of people of color affirmative actions puts into different institutions, it does not change people’s attitudes toward them. It is kind of a half-measure in that, it increases levels of education among people of color but does not change the reasons why they are so economically disadvantaged. If people of color can’t get loans, housing, or education in the same way as whites, then affirmative action is only tackling one aspect of the greater, structural problem.  Affirmative action needs to be accompanied by a restructuring of the political and economic landscape to ensure that subordinated people can meet their own desires and truly act as autonomous actors in society.

Kahlenbergs third perspective on affirmative action offers a class-based approach as opposed to race- or gender-based preferences. Kahlenberg argues that this new form of affirmative action is crucial to higher education, especially due to the current socio economic stratification that exists. Kahlenbergs argument took off in the latter half of the 1990’s, when states, like California, were beginning to abolish race- and gender-based preferences. The first goal of class-based affirmative action, is bona fide equal opportunity. The second, “will indirectly compensate for past discrimination, bring about natural integration and provide a bridge to a color-blind future” (Kahlenberg 1997:83). And lastly, class-based preferences will endure the political and juridical arguments that, as we have seen, race- and gender-based preferences have not always endured.


Anon. “Affirmative Action | Overview.” National Conference of State Legislatures. Retrieved March 30, 2017 (

Anon. 2016. “Affirmative Action: Court Decisions.” National Conference of State Legislatures. Retrieved May 4, 2017 (

Anon. “Who Supports Affirmative Action?” American Civil Liberties Union. Retrieved March 30, 2017 (

Anon. n.d. “California Affirmative Action, Proposition 209 (1996) – Ballotpedia.” Retrieved April 18, 2017 (,_Proposition_209_(1996)).

Anon. n.d. “Ward Connerly – Ballotpedia.” Retrieved April 18, 2017 (

Anon. n.d. “Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin.” American Civil Liberties Union. Retrieved April 1, 2017 (

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Kahlenberg, Richard. 1996a. “Class-Based Affirmative Action.” California Law Review 84(4):1037. (

Kahlenberg, Richard D. 1996b. “Need-Based Affirmative Action.” Christian Science Monitor, November 4. Retrieved May 3, 2017 (

Kahlenberg, Richard D. 1997. The Remedy: Class, Race, And Affirmative Action. Basic Books.

Kahlenberg, Richard. 2010. “Toward a New Affirmative Action.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved April 1, 2017

Kahlenberg, Richard D. 2012. “Magnifying Social Inequality.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, July 2. Retrieved April 1, 2017 (

Kahlenberg, Richard D. 2015. “For the Sake of Working-Class Students, Give ‘Fisher’ Another Chance.” The Chronicle of Higher Education, May 18. Retrieved April 1, 2017 (

McBride, Alex. “The Supreme Court. Expanding Civil Rights. Landmark Cases. Regents of University of California v. Bakke (1978) | PBS.” Retrieved April 1, 2017 (

McBride, Alex. “The Supreme Court. The Future of the Court. Landmark Cases. Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger (2003) | PBS.” Retrieved April 1, 2017 (

Roach, Ronald. 2003. “Class-Based Affirmative Action.” Diverse Issues in Higher Education, June 19. Retrieved April 12, 2017 (


“From Lunchboxes to Laptops:” Maine’s Laptop Initiative

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“From Lunchboxes to Laptops” -Previous Governor Angus King

For over a hundred of years, Maine found itself in the “bottom third of states – in prosperity, income, education, and opportunity for [its] kids” (Curtis, 2013). In order to increase Maine’s reputation, previous Governor Angus King discussed the possibility of increasing the academic success of his state by creating a smaller student-to-computer ratio within the public school systems in the 1990’s. At the time, Maine had a 5:1 ratio of students to computers. Governor King proposed decreasing this ratio to 2:1. He first proposed this idea to MIT scientist, Seymour Papert, who was a child behavior specialist. Papert suggested decreasing the ratio even further to 1:1. This 1-to-1 ratio would mean that every student would receive their own laptop. Papert argued that a laptop is “the intellectual tool of our time” and a 1-to-1 ratio would be “magic” (Curtis, 2013). Governor King wanted to do this to make a change and wanted it to be better than what everyone else was doing. The changes Maine had previously attempted were not working. The following essay investigates the implementation of the 2002 Maine Learning Initiative for laptops in middle school classrooms, and how this technology has either helped or hindered student learning and teachers’ ability to teach.

Initially, the 2002 Maine Learning Initiative for laptops was viewed favorably by the original supporter, Governor Angus King, because to him, technology meant a higher status for Maine and he believed this program was a better use of the state’s funds. However, by 2009, the program became too costly, and by 2016, a major shift had occurred. Despite the initial positive results that laptops were seen to have on student and teacher learning, collaboration, and behavior, Maine began to question the feasibility and affordability of implementing this new protocol. Switching every public middle school to a 1:1 ratio became too expensive and teachers were transforming their practices at a slow rate. The current Governor, Paul LePage, criticizes the program for the lack of training that the teachers receive. Furthermore, the Education Department in Maine also voiced its own concerns because the Maine Learning Initiative is now moving away from its originals goals.

In 2002, King was able to move forward with his idea, and he distributed laptops to every seventh grade student in the state. Through the Maine Learning Technology Initiative, this made Maine the first state to implement a 1-to-1 laptop program. By the fall of 2002, Maine had distributed 17,000 Apple laptops to the seventh graders and their teachers in 243 middle schools across the state (Garthwait and Weller, 2005). The laptops included “built-in wireless technology; a CD-ROM drive; a case; and a full complement of software, including AppleWorks, iMovie and iPhoto” (MEPRI, 2003). These laptops were expected to last until the students graduated high school. Today, the Maine Learning Technology Initiative has provided laptops and tablets to 66,000 of the 183,000 students in Maine (Herold and Kazi, 2016). The reason why not all students have a laptop is because of the tight funds and budget. Even though all levels of schooling in Maine have the same goals for the 1-to-1 initiative program, the money that the middle school receives versus the high school differs. The middle schools in Maine “receive money for software, hardware, network infrastructure, warranties, technical support, professional development, and data-backup services,” whereas in the high schools in Maine they only receive funds for “the wireless-network infrastructure that is installed by the state to support the laptops” (Ash, 2009). As a result, in 2009, when costs were increasing and economic times were tough, only “50 percent of the high schools in Maine [had] allocated and dedicated the funds to advance this program” (Ash, 2009). As a whole though, by giving students a laptop, especially the ones who could not afford to buy one for themselves, the state of Maine has provided them with a powerful learning tool.

Having technology very accessible in these Maine classrooms has made students learning more successful. It has increased test scores in the subjects of science, writing, math and English. Students have edited papers more often than before and have received more feedback on their writing. The mathematics score for the eighth graders “rose from 30 percent in 2000 to 39 percent in 2011” (Morell, 2012). When students use laptops to search the web, they use a wider range of sources. While working with laptops, students have gained experience in project-based learning, learned how to access resources on the internet, work collaboratively with others and have increased their problem solving skills (Zheng and Warschauer, 2016).

From the fall of 2002 to the spring of 2002, positive changes occurred in the students’ behavior. Attendance rates increased, discipline problems declined, detention slips went from 29 to 3, suspension rates went from 5 to 0, and overall 91% of the students’ grades improves (Curtis, 2013). One student said, “I have never handed all of my homework in because I always lose stuff,” but “now I hand everything in because it is right there on my laptop” (Curtis, 2013). Students found themselves to be more interested in their work because it was more fascinating to search on a laptop.

By having laptops in the classrooms, it has also helped teachers. Teachers have mostly used the laptops for researching about lesson plans, finding instructional material and to communicate with other administrative staff. To be exact, in 2002, 55% of teachers used laptops to communicate with other teachers (MEPRI, 2003). They often exchange curriculum and instructional ideas. Maine teachers do not just do this with other Maine teachers, but also with teachers in different countries. One teacher said, “I am currently working on a unit with a teacher in Milan, Italy. We are going to have our students collaborate on a project of some sort” (MEPRI, 2003). When technology is in the classroom, it helps them convey information to students in ways that have never been done before. Instead of going to the library and having to find books for the students, they can all access resources on their computer. It helps teachers and students by having “information at their fingertips” (MEPRI, 2003). By teachers using their laptops a few times a week to more often, it has opened up many opportunities for them.

Implementing the 1-to-1 ratio throughout every school helped King to achieve many of the goals that he set out for the state as its governor. King wanted Maine “to have the most digitally literate society on earth” (Watters, 2015). His goal was to prepare students for the future economy, which highly relies on technological literacy and innovation. This goal came from the fact that “70% of business and information technology (IT) professionals nationwide report that their companies are concerned about the Digital Divide because they, and the U.S. economy in general, need more IT talent” (MEPRI, 2003). King’s initial idea to help increase his state’s national ranking ended up turning Maine into a national leader in terms of providing students with laptops for learning. His effort to improve his own state’s reputation resulted in a movement that improved student learning throughout the entire nation. Governor King had effectively “put Maine on the technological map” (Curtis, 2013).

Even though the Maine Learning Initiative is accomplishing Governor King’s goal of making Maine a “world leader” in the technological world, the program has cost the state a large amount of money. When the 1-to-1 laptop program was first discussed, King suggested that $50 million should be taken from the state funds and that $15 million should be raised, for a total of $65 million devoted to the program (Watters, 2015). King argued that this was a worthwhile investment, as funds are used to fix the roads every year, but this was a “once-in-a-lifetime chance to do something transformational instead of incremental” (Watters, 2015). After thoroughly discussing the budget for the laptop program, he decreased the budget for this program from the initial $65 million to $15 million (Watters, 2015). Instead of funding the 1-to-1 initiative all at once, Governor King decided that the funding would “be dependent on annual re-appropriation” (Watters, 2015). Currently, the Maine Learning Initiative costs $11.5 million per year, with $10.5 million used on Apple products and $1 million on H-P products (Gallagher, 2016).

With such a high yearly cost, Governor LePage argues that the price is not worth the effectiveness of the program. He said, “It has been a massive failure,” and continued, “It’s been a failure and we all know it but we keep doing it because we’re used to doing it” (Cousins, 2016). Governor LePage is skeptical of the Maine Learning Initiative and has asked for a review of the program. He thinks that the 1-to-1 initiative is failing because there is not enough training for the teachers and students. There has not been adequate training to demonstrate to them how to use the laptops to their fullest capacity for education. LePage critiques former Governor King, by saying that “we should have been doing that [the training] 15 years ago” and not waiting until technology catches up with us (Cousins, 2016). Even in the early years of the program, when people thought it was most effective, teachers reported that they felt as though they “need[ed] more time and professional development” (MEPRI, 2003). LePage thinks that schools have been focusing more on the device itself, such as “which devices schools will get, for what price, etc.,” but not on the learning the laptops can and should be providing. Governor LePage, himself, believes that the Maine Learning Initiative “has been flawed from the start and that the focus needs to shift” (Cousins, 2016). According to the Department of Education, there will be changes to the initiative in the next couple years.

As for the students, many children may become distracted by the computers by searching websites that are not school related, such as Facebook and YouTube, during the school hours. Additionally, students may encounter technological issues that slow down and distract their learning (Morell, 2012). For example, with a large number of people on the same network at once, internet access and network connection can become slow. One student reported, ““These computers aren’t completely stable, because I had a project that I saved on the server and on the desktop and both of these things got messed up with the file” (MEPRI, 2003). This means that sometimes technology is preventing students from completing their work efficiently, rather than enhancing their learning.

The current contract, which was signed in 2012, provided funding to the public middle schools for the 1-to-1 initiative until 2016, with the ability to add on one year extensions, giving Maine the opportunity to decide whether or not they would like to continue with the program on a yearly basis. Bill Beardsley, the Deputy Education Commissioner, stated that this somewhat flexible contract “gives us a chance to regroup, to think it through,” and continued, “Should we still be doing the concept of what Angus King came up with, or a new concept?” (Cousins, 2016). Governor LePage is keeping a close eye on the Education Department because he wants to ensure that the initiative is having positive effects on student learning. He plans to look at test scores, attendance rates, engagement within the classroom, and the behavior of students. When the contract for the 1-to-1 program expires at the beginning of the 2017 academic year, LePage will no longer be the governor, so the Education Department will have to do their “homework for whoever the decision maker will be” (Gallagher, 2016).

The Maine Learning Initiative Program did achieve one of Governor King’s goals to “put Maine on the technological map” and to boost the reputation of the state (Curtis, 2013). By providing almost all teachers and students with a laptop, the program has created immense learning opportunities for all people involved; however, there have also been downfalls and challenges involved. The 1-to-1 initiative was successful in that it allowed students to search the web for projects, write papers at school and at home, and to make learning more fun. For teachers, the laptops have helped them to easily search for lesson plans and to communicate with other teachers overseas. Even though there are a large amount of benefits to this program, the technology itself, the training that teachers receive, and the need for funding are all examples of challenges and downfalls to the program. Now, in 2017, the program is still being questioned for its effectiveness, and I am curious to see where it goes from here. From what other states have done and the research I have found on the use of technology in the classrooms, I would recommend that the next governor of Maine provides enough funding for the program to continue for a few more years until data can be collected on its effectiveness for student learning and teachers’ ability to teach.


Ash, Katie. “State Laptop Program Progresses in Maine Amid Tight Budgets – Education Week.” Education Week 2 Sept. 2009. Education Week. Web. 1 May 2017.

Cousins, Christopher. “LePage Calls Maine’s Student Laptop Program a ‘massive Failure’ | State & Capitol.” N.p., 14 Oct. 2016. Web. 1 May 2017.

—. “LePage Eyes Changing Laptop Program Launched by Angus King.” The Bangor Daily News. N.p., 12 Aug. 2016. Web. 5 May 2017.

Curtis, Diane. “A Computer for Every Lap: The Maine Learning Technology Initiative.” Edutopia. N.p., 13 May 2003. Web. 21 Apr. 2017.

Gallagher, Noel. “Maine Officials Extend Student Computer Contract – Portland Press Herald.” Press Herald. N.p., 12 Aug. 2016. Web. 5 May 2017.

Garthwait, Abigail, and Herman Weller. “A Year in the Life: Two Seventh Grade Teachers Implement One-to-One Computing.” (2005): n. pag. Print.

Herold, Benjamin, and Jason Kazi. “Maine 1-to-1 Computing Initiative Under Microscope – Education Week.” Education Week 31 Aug. 2016. Education Week. Web. 4 Apr. 2017.

Maine Education Policy Research Institute. “The Maine Learning Technology Initiative: Teacher, Student, and School Perspectives Mid-Year Evaluation Report.” Mar. 2003: n. pag. Print.

Morell, Ricki. “King’s Laptops Leveled Playing Field, but Academic Benefits Hard to Assess.” The Bangor Daily News. N.p., 31 Oct. 2012. Web. 5 May 2017.

—. “Maine’s Decade-Old School Laptop Program Wins Qualified Praise.” The Hechinger Report. N.p., 31 Oct. 2012. Web. 5 May 2017.

Watters, Audrey. “From Lunchboxes to Laptops: How Maine Went One-to-One.” Hack Education. N.p., 2 Mar. 2015. Web. 21 Apr. 2017.

Zheng, Binbin, and Mark Warschauer. “How Maine Schools Proved Why Schools Everywhere Should Provide One Laptop per Child.” The Bangor Daily News. N.p., 24 June 2016. Web. 21 Apr. 2017.

Can An Idea Truly Be Replicated? A Look into The Harlem Children’s Zone

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Public Education in the United States is not a perfect system. Reformers over time have tried to figure out the problems that correlate between poverty and education, but have yet to find the perfect solution. In the 1990s a dedicated New York City educator named Geoffrey Canada decided to create an intensive educational program to tackle poverty in Harlem, New York. Today, it is known as the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ), and it includes its own charter schools, extensive social programs outside of school, and different forms of counseling. The idea of the Harlem Children’s Zone can be traced back to Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty” initiative from the 1960s (Dyson). Johnson believed in creating social welfare programs to link education, health and community to fix systemic issues of poverty. Poverty in the United States dropped to 11% under the Johnson administration, but they did not end poverty for good. Communities in the United States were still suffering from the never-ending cycle of poverty and lack of educational opportunities. Canada identified the root of these issues of lack of support and guidance for children. He believed that if he could break the cycle of poverty at the beginning of these kids’ lives, more kids would stay in school and out of trouble.

Canada’s model has come to be known as the cradle to college pipeline, or conveyor-belt strategy, and it has been very successful in helping the children in Harlem get a proper education and go onto college. When the Obama administration came to office they pledged to use Canada’s extensive model as a template for how to fix the education in other high poverty areas in the United States, Obama would call this the Promise Neighborhood Initiative, he said, “if poverty is a disease that infects an entire community in the form of unemployment and violence, failing schools and broken homes, then we can’t just treat those symptoms in isolation. We have to heal that entire community” (Tough 265). What challenges and opportunities have districts faced when they received federal funding to implement the Harlem Children’s Zone model?

The Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) model works because it is an infectious, contagious disease of hard work and positivity. Research shows that in order to fix poverty in America through education, it has to be a complete systemic change (Dyson). The reason HCZ worked and was able to spread its model for success around the country, was because it went beyond just education and fixed systemic family and community issues. Social scientists found that coming from a supportive, nurturing home gave children the success they needed to stay in school (Tough). However, not all cities or districts are the same. Even though different districts took on the Harlem Children’s Zone model, the outcomes were different. I looked at two districts in the United States with different demographics and socioeconomic statuses. Fresno, California was granted funding to use towards an already existing program, while the city of Cleveland Ohio used the HCZ model to start a new social program in the Central Cleveland area. From my research it is evident that the Harlem Children’s Zone model is working, but different cities will never have the same experience due to existing challenges, varying funding and community support.

The HCZ model has different programs and levels of schooling that focus on all ages to ensure success. Canada’s plan started before children were even born and followed their lives until they would eventually be accepted into college, this is known as the cradle to college pipeline. Canada began with the creation of Baby College, a program to properly educate new parents on how to stay smart during pregnancy and what they could expect with having a newborn. Then after Baby College the children would gradate to the three year old journey, then onto Harlem gems, and then finally to Canada’s charter school: Promise Academy. Canada’s charter school had strict rules, long hours, and the best teachers he could find. School culture has been a debated topic on the success or failure of low-income schools, for Canada, his school culture was not up for discussion. New York Times journalist Paul Tough comments on Canada’s beliefs in his book, Whatever it Takes, he writes, “but from the very first days of life, the middle-class children received extra stimulation and support, an ever-present helping hand that allowed them to develop and hone exactly those skills that they would need to succeed in school and as adults” (Tough 52). This quote shows Canada’s main thinking and inspiration for the HCZ, the idea was that in order to fix the problem with education, you had to fix everything else too. This included after school activities, parenting at home, and any other time the child was not in school. Then presidential candidate Barak Obama wanted to spread this inclusive, contagious model across the country in order to solve all issues with poverty and education, this idea became the Promise Neighborhoods.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Promise Neighborhood website outlines the goals of Promise Neighborhoods and how different cities can execute them. Their core goals are meant to affect the entire community and promote help and inclusion amongst members. At the beginning Promise Neighborhoods started assigning one-year, $500,000 grants to high poverty neighborhoods. These grants were to be used for educational, health and social change amongst the communities. The grants were given out on a point system and it was extremely competitive. The categories for the system range from quality of their project design to the geographic description and status of the current area. The neighborhoods that were granted the money scored almost perfectly in all areas, proving just how badly these areas needed help and to make a change (U.S Department of Education).

Fresno, California, one of the poorest neighborhoods in the United States, was awarded the Promise Neighborhood Grant money in 2011. The median income for residents in Fresno is $14,212 and over 66% of the community has not graduated from high school ( The Promise Neighborhood program in Fresno is called, Reading and Beyond. The organization first started in 1998 when members of First Covenant Church came together to help children in the community who were struggling to read. The Fresno community recognized the needs and issues of children early on, and they started to build a strong platform of support to make change possible. The federal Promise Neighborhood grants were given to unique districts across the country, Fresno’s grant was used to support an already existing community with a strong base and large support network. This was not the case for all grant recipients, depending on the status of the community at the time the grant was given, heavily effected the outcome and results of the program.

Today, Reading and Beyond is a similar program to the HCZ which focuses on cradle to college support. They target entire families to build the proper framework and to help children receive the support they need at home, as well as in school. For example, Reading and Beyond provides six child care locations around the city to ensure children are constantly getting the attention they need when parents are at work. Reading and Beyond also provides in-home visits to help families communicate and make the best possible change with their guidance ( The executive director of Reading and Beyond, Luis Santana, was quoted saying this in regards to the Promise Neighborhoods grant, “This fund will not solve all of our problems. However, it will give us the resources to develop a 10-year plan for the for the Lowell/Jefferson/Webster neighborhood” (Business Journal 2010). Both Santana and Canada understand that this change will not happen over night. Santana recognizes that there is still a lot of work to be done in Fresno, poverty has not been entirely abolished.

Reading and Beyond gives families a positive example, as well as equally important hope to be able to overcome issues with poverty that are deeply affected by lack of education. Author Tough explains in regards to poverty across America, “the disadvantages that poverty imposes on children aren’t primarily about material goods… the more significant advantages that middle-class children gain, these researchers argue, come from more elusive process: the language that their parents use, the attitudes towards life that they convey” (Tough 52). Successful programs start from a young age and teach parents about the resources and skills they should use at home. These early steps help create the concrete framework needed for a proper education and success after school. The different programs are helping break the cycle of poverty by teaching low-income families the subconscious secrets of successful middle class family homes.

A different kind of Promise Neighborhood lies in Central Cleveland, Ohio. The city of Cleveland has a large population of African American residents and a reputation of high poverty and crime rates. The Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood’s online website describes, “in 2009, statistics for the Central neighborhood showed that three quarters of the nearly 5,000 children lived in poverty, 66 percent of the residents lived in subsidized or public housing, and the three pre-K through eighth-grade schools were in academic emergency” ( These statistics show how the city was in desperate need of the full community change that then-President Obama was focused on. Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood (CCPN) was denied two times for the Promise Neighborhood grant. Unfortunately they were never officially offered the grant, but they received vast support and advice from the Promise Neighborhood Institute, thus classifying them as a Promise Neighborhood. Margaret Bernstein at The Plain Dealer, a local newspaper in Cleveland, explains that CCPN has significantly less funding for its program than HCZ whose budget exceeds $75 million a year and has two billionaires on their board (Bernstein, A). But, CCPN does not focus on its lack of funding, rather they focus on a cost effective model with the same types of programs that HCZ uses, they call this “collective impact.” This meant that Cleveland wanted to establish cross-sector collaboration, including health, housing and education, to ensure that families were getting all the help they needed.

In a recent New York Times article by Paul Tough, he explains, “when parents get the support they need to create a warm, stable, nurturing environment at home, their children’s stress levels often go down, while their emotional stability and psychological resilience improve” (Tough). Both communities, Cleveland and Harlem, are starting the healing process with entire families, instead of just the students. Tough addresses the fact that a stable family life gives children the continuous care and support they need to be successful and stay in school. However, this goal has not fully impacted all of the parents in Cleveland Central yet. The idea and concept of Promise Neighborhoods is less well-known in Cleveland than in other parts of the country. Most parents do not understand who plans the afterschool activities and school tutoring for their children, and how beneficial it is (Bernstein, A). In another Plain Dealer piece from Margaret Bernstein, she writes, “a movement can’t take hold if it’s not begun from within. At Marion-Sterling, that starts with a team of moms and dads who fan out over the neighboring housing projects to invite parents to school events, hanging invitations on doorknobs when families aren’t home” (Bernstein, B). Parents like Brandy Davis in the Central Cleveland area are mobilizing other mothers and fathers to get involved with their children’s school. There is no excuse not to help, and CCPN provides all the resources needed to take action. Currently only about half of the parents are involved with community and school activities. This shows a flaw in Obama’s plan for Promise Neighborhoods, certain districts are not reaching success at the same speed or with the same amount of funding. Although, CCPN is moving in a positive direction, the lack of parental involvement or interest shows that no idea or model can ever be exactly replicated in a new environment. There are many outside factors that contribute to the success of a program, not just the amount of funding or the type of model you use.

Author Maurice Dyson argues that just because programs and schools are given money, it does not make them all successful. He writes, “In the quest to replicate success, it becomes paramount to separate fad from fact in order to examine the actual underpinnings that meet the academic needs of high-poverty minority students” (Dyson 725). Dyson goes on to explain the importance of school culture and how this has a bigger effect on students than funding, something Geoffrey Canada defined at the very start of Promise Academy. The most important way for a program like CCPN to succeed, is to provide positive reinforcement and support. Although Promise Neighborhoods across the United States are having different outcomes, they are all working towards a supportive, loving community to inspire success. Through the examples of Fresno, California and Cleveland, Ohio, you can see that Geoffrey Canada’s model is impossible to identically replicate. But, both districts are moving towards the success of HCZ by using their ideas and model. Politicians and supporters need to address specific problems in the areas in order to make our Promise Neighborhoods the most successful they can be.

Work Cited

“About — Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood.” Cleveland Central Promise Neighborhood. Web. 20 Apr. 2017.

Bernstein, Margaret. (A). “Central’s Anti-poverty ‘Promise’ Effort Not Letting Lack of Funding, Name Recognition Deter It: Margaret Bernstein.” The Plain Dealer, 03 June 2012. Web. 01 May 2017.

Bernstein, Margaret. (B). “A Cleveland School Where Parent Engagement Work Is Slowly Taking Hold (gallery and Video): Margaret Bernstein.” The Plain Dealer, 14 Nov. 2012. Web. 05 May 2017.

Dyson, Maurice R. “Promise Zones, Poverty, and the Future of Public Schools: Confronting the Challenges of Socioeconomic Integration & School Culture in High-Poverty Schools.” Michigan State Law Review 2014.3 (2014): 711-736.

“Fresno Nonprofit Receives $500K Academic Grant.” Business Insider., 22 Dec. 2012. Web. 20 Apr. 2017.

“Reading and Beyond | Our Mission.” Http:// Web. 20 Apr. 2017.

“Resources — Promise Neighborhoods.” Home. US Department of Education (ED), 23 Aug. 2013. Web. 20 Apr. 2017.

Tough, Paul. “To Help Kids Thrive, Coach Their Parents.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 21 May 2016. Web. 05 May 2017.

Tough, Paul. Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009. Print.

Title IX: Past and Present

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Throughout history the relationship between women in education has been tumultuous and largely unstable. Margaret Haley’s perception of education revealed contradictory viewpoints between teaching as a female profession and teaching as a mechanism for social movement. Teaching, according to her, was initially perceived as a way for social movement; however, it was only deemed possible within the confines of gender norms. The role that gender plays in education highlights the shifting relationship that women have with education. The shift away from gendered views in the progressive era and in modern times highlights education as the great equalizer for males and females. Similarly, the implementation of the Title IX Education Act in 1972 served as a mechanism for women in education to attain more freedom, rights, and opportunities. The purpose of the act was for women to be provided the same opportunity as their male counterparts and thus promote gender equality. The Act specifically states that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance” (NCAA, 2017). The act itself had no initial mention of athletics or sports; however, in today’s society it is commonplace to associate Title IX with athletics and more specifically women’s involvement with athletics. In this essay I aim to explore what the original goals for Title IX were and what were the intended and unintended outcomes?

Title IX is currently a living, breathing law, it is constantly changing to fit the needs of society and reforming to the call and beckon of women’s equality. Since Title IX was passed, it has been the subject of over 20 proposed amendments or political actions. The original intention of the law was to promote gender equality. According to Susan Ware (2007) the first Congressional hearings on the education and employment of women were in June and July of 1970, which later turned into the Title IX document. What it strived for was for the law to cover sex discrimination in federally funded or assisted programs, and for equal pay of female professionals. However, I argue that the implementation of the Title IX Act in 1972 served not only as a catalyst to promote gender equality in education, but also elevated athletic opportunities for women in today’s society.  

“Prior to Title IX, female students were denied equal opportunities under the law in academics; women applicants were routinely denied equal access to medical, law and other graduate disciplines; and women athletes were denied equal participation in sports.  Similarly, female faculty members were denied equal compensation and promotion” (Birch Bayh). While, the implementation of the policy had clear intentions of ensuring educational opportunity for women, somewhere down the line the shift changed to focus on extracurriculars outside of the classroom. The world of sports and athletics began to take shape, and thus, females in sports began to rise. Title IX is often associated today with having equal athletic opportunity rather than educational opportunity. The Act itself promoted and fought for gender equity for boys and girls in every educational program that received federal funding. Women, according to the Act were allowed to have the same federal funding as men under the condition that their request had educational roots. At least on paper, women were finally being accepted and seen as equals to men. The implementation of Title IX allowed for more gender equity within the school system. One way in which the Act promoted gender equity was combating issues of discrimination in the university admissions process. Women, prior to the implementation of the Act, were often rejected from higher education opportunities on the basis of their gender (Mango, 1991). There were no previous legal ramifications for Universities which rejected applicants on the basis of their gender, a written legal rule provided women with legal basis in order to combat issues of sexism and discrimination in education. The initial goal was to provide women with the same federal funding as men, with this came the understanding that admissions processes largely favored male applicants over females. The implementation of the Act created legal parameters for women applying to universities needing federal funding or wanting funding later on in their academic careers. The Act also provided equal gendered opportunities while in schools especially in the science, technology, engineering and math fields (STEM) (Walters, 2010). Women’s employment opportunities and employment stability were additionally protected under the Title IX Act. The Act also addressed issues of sex discrimination. While, the implementation of the policy had clear intentions of ensuring educational opportunity for women, somewhere down the line the shift changed to focus on extracurriculars outside of the classroom.

Athletics often times did not fall into the category of what was considered an “educational program.” In 1981, when two young women attempted to create a golf team using federal aid, the federal court in Michigan ruled that Title IX did not cover athletics as an educational program (Flygare, 1981). Nine years after the first implementation of the policy, on a state level, the majority of the population held the belief that athletics was not considered an educational program. Additionally, in the original language of the Title IX act athletics were not included under the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) jurisdiction. Therefore, in 1977 discrimination in the realm of athletics and any grievances in athletics did not fall under the Title IX Act (Kuhn, 1976). If this original language had been passed the Act would have had clear intentions of applying to activities outside the classroom such as athletics rather than solely gender inequities within schools. Athletic programs were not, at the time, considered educational programs that were assisted under federal grant laws. An educational program is a program written by an institution which determines the learning process of each student. Athletics on the other hand can be seen as a recreational program because it can be argued that there is little knowledge gained to improve a student’s own learning process at an institution and at this time most athletic clubs were not federally funded. However, others argue that the knowledge gained from athletics often extends beyond what is learned in a classroom. When Title IX began to shift its focus on athletics it was argued that sports not only counted as a learning program, but also that women deserved to have the same rights as men within the sports world.  

Title IX first began to shift from a focus on education to a focus on women and athletics in 1979 when the three part test went into effect. The three part test was a tool used to determine if a proposed action fell under the qualifications for Title IX. In order to comply with the three part test of Title IX institutions must provide participation for men and women, athletic financial assistance, and ethical treatment of males and females.

According to the three part test, “the number of male and female athletes is substantially proportionate to their respective enrollments, the institution has a history and continuing practice of expanding participation opportunities responsive to the developing interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex; and the institution is fully and effectively accommodating the interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex” (US Department of Education, 2017).

This three part test expanded Title IX beyond just an “educational program” and allowed women to not only participate in athletics, but to participate with the same quality as their male counterparts. One such example of the prevalence of women in the sports realm post 1972 occurred when media coverage of women increased. While coverage of the women may have perpetuated female stereotypes, nonetheless it was still considered coverage, and it was still considered movement in the right direction for women’s equality. According to Kane (1998), “there was a significant increase in the proportion of coverage given to women in athletic roles.” In the same study they also found that there was more media covering women in “sex-appropriate” sports such as tennis versus “sex-inappropriate” sports like rugby. Essentially, there was in an increase in the quantity of media coverage of females in sports, but a decrease in quality in how women were perceived in media. This unfortunately, is an issue that still affects women in sports today. The shift into athletics catapulted women’s athletics to the forefront of the Title IX march for equality and provided us with what athletics looks like today.

Title IX still remains a prevalent topic of discussion within the world of athletics and within the female community. The use of it in an athletic context has given rise to pop ups of female empowerment. Women in sports are finally being provided the same resources as men; there are however, questions as to whether or not those resources match in quality. For example, in April of 2017, the Women’s National Hockey team went on strike in order to prompt USA Hockey for more funding. Female National and Professional hockey players in the United States make significantly less amounts of money than their male counterparts and thus, they have to take up second jobs. Title IX sparked protests outside of an educational setting and empowered women to fight for their rights. Another example of women in sports was the protest of the US Women’s National Soccer team, who also protested the inequities in their pay. While both women’s team had opportunities to represent their nation, and receive money while doing so, the quality of their compensation did not match nearly as close as the men. With this, it brings to question why the United States is so slow to reform and change in order to empower the women of the nation. It took years for women to finally become accepted into schools and universities, a long time for them to receive the same quality of education, even longer for them to be allowed to participate in athletics, and now even though they are allowed to participate in athletics, the treatment of women still remains questionable. The shift of Title IX into athletics and the progression of the STEM fields show that progress is possible and doors can be opened when vying for change. However, progress is still slow, as studies conducted in 2003 show that men made up over three quarters of the students enrolled in higher education STEM programs (National Women’s Law Center, 2012). So while the act itself opened up more doors, progress in the STEM field is slow moving, just as it has been with women in athletics. With the treatment of women remaining questionable and the slow progression of change for women, it brings to light future implications for the Title IX act which has begun to spring up in the last few years. Particularly, in the past few years the amount of uprising sparked by women have moved Title IX into a new area which covers issues of sexual harassment on college campuses. The versatility of Title IX, what it represents as a law to protect women, and the slow moving doors that it opens, provides women a chance of equality in all aspects of life. While the change may be slow, it is a change nonetheless.



Flygare, T. J. (1981). Federal Court in Michigan Holds That Title IX Does Not Cover Athletics. Phi Delta Kappan, 62(10), 741-42.

Intercollegiate athletics policy: three-part test part three. (n.d.). US Department of Education: Office of Civil Rights website:

Kane, M. J. (1988). Media coverage of the female athlete before, during, and after Title IX: Sports Illustrated revisited. Journal of sport management, 2(2), 87-99.

Kuhn, J. L. (1976). Title IX: Employment and Athletics Are Outside HEW’s Jurisdiction. Geo. LJ, 65, 49.

Kuhn, J. (1976). Title IX: Employment and Athletics Are Outside Hew’s Jurisdiction. Georgetown Law Journal 65(1), 49-78

Mango, K. (1991). Students Versus Professors: Combating Sexual Harassment Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Connecticut Law Review 23(2), 355-412.

Title IX opening the gates of higher education. (n.d.). Birch Bayh: Title IX website:

Title IX 40 years and counting. (2012, June). May 4, 2017, from National Women’s Law Center.

Walters, J., & McNeely, C. L. (2010). Recasting Title IX: Addressing gender equity in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics professoriate. Review of Policy Research, 27(3), 317-332.

Ware, S. (2007). Title IX: A brief history with documents. Bedford/St. Martins.


Helping or Hurting? An Analysis of Pell Grant Outcomes Overtime

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When Puerto Rican and South Bronx native Angel Perez was in high school, he didn’t think he would get to go to college because of the cost. Today he is a doctor of education  and the Vice President for Enrollment and Student Success at one of the most selective institutions of higher education in the United States. Yet, not all Pell Grant recipients ended up like Angel. While Angel was one of the lucky students who was able to succeed with the help of the Pell Grant, not all Pell recipients had such luck. This leads me to question,  what were the original goals of the Pell Grant, and overtime, what have been the intended and unintended outcomes of it which affect students?

To address the first part of my question, I argue that the original goal of the Pell Grant was for qualified low-income students to attend postsecondary institutions without financial burdens. The Federal Student Loan program was created the same year as the Pell Grant,  in the same federal legislation, the Higher Education Act of 1972 was created. The federal government created the Pell Grant so low-income students would not have to take out loans from the new loan program. For the second portion of my question I argue that, the intended outcomes of the Pell Grant affecting students are increasing low-income student post secondary enrollment, and the unintended outcomes, have distinguished high graduation rate institutions from low graduation rate institutions, increased political support for the Pell grant, and  increasing student.

The federal Pell Grant was first implemented in the Higher Education Reauthorization Act (HERA) of 1972, and originally called the Basic Educational Opportunity Program. It is a federally subsidized grant that allows people to attend institutions of postsecondary education, without having to pay the government. The Pell Grant functions similar to today, where there is an income-eligibility standard that can change. The grant aid is determined by collecting data on student family income and assets, cost of institution, and “intensity of enrollment” (Baine and Mulin 2011, 6). Intensity of enrollment translates to whether a student is enrolled in the institution as a full time, or part time student. The federal Pell Grant’s original goal was to financially provide a consistent medium for college-ready, low-income students to attend postsecondary institutions. The actual text of the Reauthorization Act of 1972 that implements Pell reads:

providing basic educational opportunity grants… to those students of exceptional need who, for lack of such a grant, would be unable to obtain a postsecondary education (Higher Education Act 1972, U.S. Congress).

Thus, the original goal of the Pell Grant in 1972 was for qualified low-income students to not only actually attend a postsecondary educational institution, but reap the various benefits that came with a college degree or program certificate. The federal government’s website with information about the Pell grant,, describes it as the “the federal floor of support for needy students”, since its inception (Pell Institute).  The CollegeBoard describes the Pell Grant’s original goal as “a central idea to provide the funds disadvantaged students needed to make it possible for them to enroll in college” (CollegeBoard Policy and Advocacy Center, 2013, p. 9). This  interpretation of the 1972 Pell Grant goal aligns with the interpretation of various researchers and scholars including Cervantes, Creusere, McMillion, McQueen, Short, Steiner and Webster in Opening the Doors To Higher Education: Forty Years of Opportunity, (2005) to define the purpose of the grant as a medium “to give students a predictable, guaranteed foundation of federal support” (46) . Thus, the direct text of the HERA, describing the purpose of the Pell Grant and the interpretation of it from various researchers shows that originally the Pell Grant’s goal was to simply provide a stable monetary source that low-income students could use to attend a postsecondary institution.

       The goal of the Pell Grant has intentionally provoked a rise in low-income student enrollment in higher education institutions throughout time. Various reports support these claim through statistical analysis. The CollegeBoard has reported an increase in high school graduates enrolling into an institution of higher education since 1972. In 1972, 49% of all high school graduates were enrolled in a college or university, compared to more recently, 2010, in which 68% of all high school graduates were enrolled in college (CollegeBoard Policy & Advocacy Center, 2013, p. 9). The U.S. Department of Education, Office of Higher Education substantiates this increase in undergraduate student enrollment in their 2006-2007, Federal Pell Grant Program: End of Year Report. Below is a detailed chart explaining the increase in college enrollment throughout time, since the Pell Grant’s inception in 1972.

U.S. Dept. of Ed, 2007
U.S. Dept. of Ed, 2007


U.S. Dept. of Ed., 2007
U.S. Dept. of Ed., 2007

          As Table 1 and 2 show, there was an increase in both number of Pell Grant applications and eligible Pell Grant applicants, from from 1973 to 1981, from 1981-1997 and overall from 1973-2005 (Department of Education 2006)I use “valid Pell Grant applicants” as a proxy for students enrolled in postsecondary institutions of higher education, because one of the requirements for a legitimate Pell grant application is official confirmed status of enrollment in a post-secondary institution. Thus, there was an overall increase of 11,057, 166 people in postsecondary institutions, throughout time from 1973 to 2005. This information shows an intentional outcome of the Pell Grant, a spike in post-secondary enrollment.

        On the other hand, an unintentional outcome of the Pell Grant throughout time has been the distinction between institutions of high graduation rates and lower graduation rates. According to the Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, the greater the number of Pell recipients and institution serves, the lower the overall graduation rate of that institution (Advisory Committee Student Financial Assistance, 2013, p. 3)

Integrated PostSecondary System. 2012.
Integrated PostSecondary Education System. 2012.

        As the bar graph above shows, the lower the percent of Pell recipients at postsecondary institutions, the higher the graduation rate. In a 2013 study, The Integrated PostSecondary Education System (IPEDS) defined graduation as completing the degree, program or certificate of a post-secondary institution in six year or less (Integrated PostSecondary Education System, 2012).  A year later in 2014, the CollegeBoard came to a similar conclusion when it posted a report on specifically institutions of higher education titled, “Four Year Graduation Rates and Pell Grant Representation for Four Year Colleges”. In the report, the colleges and universities with higher graduation rates (above 70%), had a lower percentage of Pell recipients, as shown in the figures below

Screen Shot 2017-04-20 at 2.28.03 PM

CollegeBoard. 2014.

        While these figures only represent some colleges and universities in just California and Kentucky, the full report generally showed fewer Pell recipients in institutions of high graduation rates. It should also be noted that these numbers are not representative of the factors that Pell recipient work ethic or intelligence. Rather, Pell recipients graduation are affected by a variety of factors that negatively affect their graduation rate. According to the Project Officer of the National Center for Education Statistics, Thomas Weko,  that many Pell recipients face certain life factors that put them at a disadvantage when compared to non Pell recipients. These factors include being a single parents, working full or part time, having dependents or being financially independent. Moreover,  41% of Pell recipients had parents with just a high school diploma or less (National Center For Education Statistics, 2009, p. 5). Thus, these factors contribute to the graduation rate of Pell recipients, and overall a distinction between institutions of high graduation rates and institutions of lower graduation rates.

       Increasing political support for the Pell grant is another unintended outcome of the Pell Grant throughout time. In 1978, the Middle Income Student Assistance Act (MISAA) was enacted under Jimmy Carter. The law expanded the pool of peoples eligible for the Pell grant to include middle-class students. At the time, the middle income average was $20,000, and hen the MISAA was enacted, the income eligibility was anything below $25,000, which meant “an additional 1.5 million middle-income students would be eligible for the program” (Middle Income Assistance Act, 1978). By expanding the Pell Grant  to middle income peoples, there were more stakeholders in it. The Pell Grant would now cater to both low and middle income families, dramatically increasing the political support behind it on a local, state and federal level. Politicians at all levels would now need to cater to their middle classes as well. Since there was a much larger constituency supporting the Pell Grant educational assistance program, Cervantes, Creusere, McMillian, McQueen, Short, Steiner and Webster agree that helped the survival of the program (2005).  Thus, as the Pell grant changed throughout time and catered to an additional demographic, political support for it, a federally subsidized grant, increased.

Arguably the most interesting unintended outcome of the Pell Grant is student debt and disillusionment. Sara Goldrick-Rab addresses this outcome in her analysis of the Pell grant in her book Paying the Price (2016).  Goldrick-Rab notes that despite the 120% increase in funding from 1980-1989, the purchasing power of Pell grants have been dwindling, a stark contrast to the relative stability of its purchasing power as the Basic Educational Opportunity grant in its early years. Thus, Pell grants are covering less and less of student’s college, leaving to question how low and low-middle income students are paying the rest. While purchasing power of Pell Grants has decreased since the 1980s, more and more students are enrolling in college, 20.5 million were enrolled in 2016 alone (National Center for Education Statistics 2017). This increase merely decreases the amount of aid each student can receive. Simultaneously, the cost of college has dramatically increased, having double while adjusted for inflation, in 2000 since 1980 (Horn and Chang 2000). The numbers have only risen since then.  College is riskiest for low-income families, for instance as of 1995, 77% of Pell recipients came from families whose income was less than 25,000$ (National Center Education Statistics 2007).  Rab argues that while the Pell Grant was instituted “to protect students from low-income families, for whom college is already  risky investment, have to take loans”, the opposite has occurred (Goldrick Rab, 2016, p. 79). This brings to question, is the Pell Grant actually disillusioning students on college?  Due to the incredible increase in college costs, and the low purchasing power of Pell grants, students are taking out loans and falling into debts. These debts sometimes even reach six figures and are often financed with minimum wage jobs despite Pell recipients’ bachelor’s degree. From 1990-2000, 87% of Pell recipients had to borrow money to afford college, and their average loan was $18,500 (National Center for Education Statistics, 2009, p. 7).The number of Pell recipients taking out loans has grown dramatically, having increased 30% from 1996 to 2012. Over 40% of Pell recipients have taken out federally subsidized loans. Furthermore, because students find that they need to balance two to three jobs with five courses and a club, they don’t even end up graduating from college. Goldrick-Rab questions if the outcome of Pell grant goals are worth it in today’s increasingly expensive world, she asks, “Is the Pell program a sound financial investment in the nation’s future, or is it a wasteful and ineffective program that allows students access to money- perhaps even enticing them to attend college and incur debt-without ensuring they graduate from college?” (Goldrick-Rab, 2016, p. 68).

         The Pell Grant started off as a federally subsidized grant with the intention to help students attend postsecondary institutions in order to reap its benefits. While it succeeded in increasing low-income student presence in these institutions, it had several unintended outcomes, some of which have actually been very detrimental to the very students it wanted to help in the first place. While these outcomes have ultimately been influenced by the rising cost of college and issues plaguing low income families, the outcomes stated above would not have been possible without the Pell Grant. In years to come as the world of postsecondary education becomes more expensive, it is my hope Pell recipients are nonetheless able to persist and fulfill the original goals of the Pell Grant.


Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance. (2013).“Measure Twice: The Impact of on Graduation Rates Serving Pell Grant Recipients, A Policy Bulletin for HEA Reauthorization”. 

Baime, David and Mulin, Christopher. (2011). “Promoting Education Opportunity: The Pell Grant at Community Colleges”. American Association of Community Colleges. 

CollegeBoard Advocacy & Policy Center. (2013). “Rethinking Pell Grants”.

CollegeBoard. 2014. Four Year Graduation Rates and Pell Representation for Four Year Colleges”. Accessed

Federal Pell Grant Program End of Year Report. (2007). U.S. Department of Education, Office of Higher Education.

Goldrick-Rab, Sara. (2016). Paying the Price. London: University of Chicago Press. 

Horn, Laura, Chang, C., Berker, A. (2000). “What Students Pay for College: Changes in Net Price of College Attendance Between 1992-93 and 1999-2000”. Postsecondary Education Descriptive Analysis Reports.

Integrated PostSecondary Education System (IPEDS). (2012). Six-Year Graduation Rate and Test Score by Percent Pell Recipients.

“Jimmy Carter: Education Amendments of 1978 and the Middle Income Student Assistance Act Statement on Signing H.R. 15 and S. 2539 Into Law.” Accessed April 9, 2017. Retrieved from

National Center for Education Statistics. (2009). A Profile of Successful Pell Grant Recipients: Time to Bachelor’s Degree and Early Graduate School Enrollment, Statistical Analysis Report”.

“Text of S. 659 (92nd): An Act to Amend the Higher Education Act of 1965, the Vocational Education … (Passed Congress/Enrolled Bill Version).” United States Congress. Accessed April 19, 2017. Retrieved from

TG Research and Analytic Service. (2005). Higher Education Opportunity Grant: 40 Years of Opportunity, Opening the Doors to Higher Education: Perspectives on the Higher Education Act 40 Years Later”.

“The NCES Fast Facts Tool Provides Quick Answers to Many Education Questions” National Center for Education Statistics. Accessed April 9, 2017. Retrieved

“The Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education — Pell Grants.” Accessed April 20, 2017.

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Higher Education (2007). Federal Pell Grant Program End of Year Report 2006-2007. Showing 1973-1981.

U.S. Department of Education, Office of Higher Education (2007). Federal Pell Grant Program End of Year Report 2006-2007. Showing 2006-2007.

Prison Education: Observing Pell Grants Through the Lens of Two Presidential Administrations

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According the FBI’s website, an estimated 12,196,959 arrests were made in the year 2012 [1]. For millions of these prisoners, the consequences of being incarcerated will have permanent effects that will impact almost every aspect of their lives. Spending time in federal or state prisons can make it hard to find a job or housing, but most importantly, it puts an immediate halt on a person’s education. Though education may not seem like a viable option, The Pell Grant program has assisted in providing inmates with an education. Originally founded in 1972 under the name “Basic Educational Opportunity Grant”, Pell grants are awarded to low-income undergraduates and can be used in over 6,000 higher-education institutions [2]. Those eligible for grants also include prisoners of federal and state prisons. The goal of these Pell grants is to promote prison education programs which, in return, will provide inmates with an education that will keep them out of prison in the future and consequently reduce recidivism rates.

Pell grants were awarded to qualified persons with a criminal history up until 1994, when Congress passed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, making it impossible for those with felonies to obtain the grants. Just over two decades later, during the Obama presidency, Congress lifted its ban, allowing Pell grants to be accessible by prisoners, consequently assisting the funding of education behind bars. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the ban was lifted for experimental reasons, “to test new models to allow incarcerated Americans to receive Pell Grants and pursue the postsecondary education with the goal of helping them get jobs, support their families, and turn their lives around” [3]. If education is so strongly emphasized in our society, why did the Clinton administration feel it was necessary to impose a ban on certain people’s access to Pell grants, knowing full well the grants could change lives and create opportunities for people?. Additionally, as of the summer of 2015, the Obama administration lifted the ban, allowing prisoners to apply for Pell grants as they did pre-1994. Why has the mood regarding prison education shifted over the past 20 years? I argue that it is ironic that the Clinton administration put a ban on Pell grants for prisoners- as a part of their crackdown on crime initiative- given that educated prisoners are far less likely to return to prison, cost less to imprison, and become for valuable members of society. I also argue that the aforementioned reasons are why the Obama administration felt it was necessary to lift the ban and fund prison education for inmates.

One of the most notable focuses of the 1990’s Clinton administration were crime and drug related problems. Labeled the “War on Drugs”, Bill Clinton and his staff made aggressive strides to limit the possession and distribution of illegal drugs, specifically in America’s inner-cities. The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act was arguably the most impactful pieces of legislation during the 90’s. The act effectively took away any opportunity for prisoners to receive or accept Pell grants. One advocator for this act, Democratic Representative Bart Gordon from Tennessee and his team claimed that, “100,000 prisoners received Pell Grants (the actual number was around 25,000)” [4].

Up until the 1994 ban, there was much debate regarding the legitimacy of the Pell grant program. Some, such as Rep. Bart Gordon- a Tennessee Democrat- was strongly against allowing federal prisoners access to Pell grants. In Gordon’s mind, spending money on educating prisoners should not be a priority of the United States government. Instead, Gordon was a strong advocator for (and perhaps rightly so) spending government money on “law-abiding citizens” [5]. Additionally, opposers of prisoners receiving Pell grants believe that if prisoners are awarded Pell grants, they are consequently taking away from non-felons who are looking for federal grants. Another opposer of prison education was Key Bailey Hutchison, a republican from Texas, who argued, “Pell grants were sold {to Congress} to help low- and middle-income families send their kids to college. They were not sold for prison rehabilitation” [6]. As of May of 1994, $2,300 was the maximum amount awarded via Pell grants to low-income students. Though inmates who receive grants do not take away from the amount of grants available to the public, “making grants to inmates does cut the total available, which slightly reduces the size of each award” [4]  .

Why would individuals during the Clinton administration want to limit prison education if it is linked to reduced recidivism rates? Several companies and prisons can actually benefit from a high inmate population. Companies such as IBM, Microsoft, and Motorola are able to contract prison labor and generate profits from such. In fact, “Just between 1980 and 1994, profits went up from $392 million to $1.31 billion” [7]. The rise in prison labor profit coincidentally corresponds with the ban imposed on Pell Grants. Essentially, the point where prison labor was generating the most money was when prison education was halted, consequently raising the recidivism rate, meaning company profits ultimately benefited. Additionally, prisons with a high population and therefore high potential for labor employment became replacements for Third World labor. In one instance, an assembly plant originally operating near the Mexico border was moved to the San Quentin State Prison in California in favor of cheaper labor. It is not unheard of for companies to fire employees in favor of cheaper prison labor.

Lots of members of the Clinton administration were extremely unhappy at the prospect of using federal money to fund prisoner education. One of the many problems that people pointed to were that there were millions of prospective college students who could not afford to pay for college, yet many more federal prisoners who were receiving an education in prison at no cost to them. Republican governor William Weld, who was nominated by Bill Clinton to serve as the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, once said to a CBS anchor, “‘you tell them [middle class families] that, if their son or daughter committed a violent felony, they would be eligible for a free education, their eyes fall out of their heads” [8]. Furthermore, former republican senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina said in an address to Congress that,”Congress has already, as part of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988, denied Pell Grants and numerous other Federal benefits to individuals who are convicted of possessing or trafficking drugs … I see no reason why other criminals, including murderers, should be treated any better” [9]. The pushback extended further than from just those in governmental positions. Even students during the Clinton administration voiced their displeasure at the thought of prisoners receiving a free education. NBC aired a showed titled “Society’s Debt?” in April of 1994 where several students discussed their unhappiness regarding the allocation of Pell grants that allowed prisoners to receive a free education. One student’s testimony:

“I believe I’ve had five days off since the first of the year, but I don’t have a choice. I’ve got to work all those hours in order to make ends meet and pay my bills. The prisoners, they have their cable TV, they have their weight rooms. What do I have? I have school, I have a job, and I have a bed I see for four to five hours a night, and that’s it.” [10]

Officials from the Clinton administration were listening to these testimonies and took note. Later in that same year of 1994, the Clinton administration would official enforce The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act that would see an end to Pell grants for prisoners.

Opposite from the pushback from the Clinton administration, there are some serious reasons for why the Obama administration has lifted the ban of Pell grants. Conventional rehabilitation methods usually entail creating harsh and undesirable environments for prisoners, with expectations relying on the experience in incarceration being will be so miserable, they will not risk going back. However, with the installment of Pell grants, prisoner recidivism goes down dramatically. A study conducted in various Maryland prisons showed that, “three years after their release, 22 percent of the prisoners who had taken classes returned to prison” [11]. Additionally, contrary to many GOP opinions, the cost to supply an inmate with a Pell grant does not cost much at all. In fact, before the 1994, Drew Leder of the Washington Post wrote that, “less than one percent of Pell grant funds go to inmates” while raising the question, “The price of not educating them? Consider the cost in blood and tears when they hit the streets, then the $30,000 per year for jailing repeat offenders.” [12]

Another reason the Obama administration reinstated Pell grants for prisoners is because it decreases recidivism rates. It’s simple, education, as a means to rehabilitate, is a much more promising endeavor that attempts to instill critical thinking and accumulates knowledge that inmates can use in their lives outside of incarceration. Additionally, education can create a sense of belonging for many, another vital part of rehabilitating. Prison education also provides prisoners with a learning experience beyond the books they read or the papers they write. One prisoner documents, “Prison-based college programs provide guys like myself with a way to understand the consequences of crime – that it perpetuates the socio-economic destruction of our own society.” This sort of understanding is behind why the national recidivism rate is 60 percent, yet, “only 30 percent of college- educated inmates return to prison” [13]. These statistics are exactly the reasons why Pell grants were allocated towards prison education (as well as why the Obama administration has given the program another “test-run”), to directly reduce the recidivism rate.

Another reason why the Obama administration wanted to re-evaluate Pell grants to prisoners is because they allow inmates a second chance at becoming productive members of society. During his final State of the Union address, Barack Obama mentioned, “We agree that real opportunity requires every American to get the education and training they need to land a good-paying job” [14]. With that being said, Pell grants offer inmates a perfect opportunity the learn the skills and training needed to employ themselves after life in prison. Data conducted by the RAND corporation, a nonprofit global policy think tank, found that, “The odds of obtaining employment after being released among inmates who participated in correctional education were 13 percent higher than the odds for those who did not”. Prisoners who obtain employment would actually benefit government spending as that same study found that, “Correctional education is a cost effective initiative; every dollar spent on prison education could save up to five dollars on three-year re-incarceration costs” [15].

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the pilot program that the Obama administration introduced has a goal of, “[increasing] access to high-quality educational opportunities and help these individuals successfully transition out of prison and back into the classroom or the workforce” [16]. Furthermore, the pilot program was created to build on top of the previous Pell grant program pre-1994 ban. This means new procedures have been implemented such as introducing and improving education in juvenile correctional facilities referred to as the, “Correctional Education Guidance Package”. So, to answer the question of why the Obama administration has decided to retract the ban on Pell grants on prisoners and fund prison education- lower recidivism rates, saving government dollars, and increasing the chance of an inmate re-assimilating into society in a productive manner.

Though the Obama administration has only recently lifted the ban on Pell grants for prisoners, there are already some promising signs. The United States has one of the largest prison populations in the world, housing around 22% of the world’s prison population [17]. The thought of reducing the recidivism in the United States could only decrease the over-crowding problem that plagues so many U.S. prisons. Additionally, the average U.S. resident spend around $260 a year on corrections, while the government spends around $80 million [18]. Cutting the cost of incarcerating prisoners could allow the government to allocate money to other places such as education and environmental services. Only time will tell if the initiative is successful, but if it is, the United States should benefit tremendously.


Works Cited:

[1] FBI. “Persons Arrested.” FBI. FBI, 16 May 2013. Web. 08 Apr. 2017.

[2] The Pell Institute. “The Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education — Pell Grants.” The Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education — Pell Grants. The Pell Institute, n.d. Web. 06 Apr. 2017.

[3] U.S. Department of Education. “U.S. Department of Education Launches Second Chance Pell Pilot Program for Incarcerated Individuals.” U.S. Department of Education Launches Second Chance Pell Pilot Program for Incarcerated Individuals | U.S. Department of Education. U.S. Department of Education, 31 July 2015. Web. 08 Apr. 2017.

[4] Jilani, Zaid. “How Congress Killed One of the Few Lifelines for Former Prisoners — And Why It’s Time to Bring It Back.” AlterNet, June 3, 2015.

[5] Waldron, Thomas W. “Federal Aid to Inmates for College Tuition Imperiled in Congress: [FINAL Edition].” The Sun; Baltimore, Md. May 22, 1994, sec. METRO.

[6] Clymer, Adam. “EDUCATION GRANTS GOP Gives up Proposed Aid Ban Immigrants Would Have Lost Pell Funding: [Final Edition].” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; Milwaukee, Wis. November 26, 1995, sec. News.

[7] Palaez, Vicky. “The Prison Industry in the United States: Big Business or a New Form of Slavery? | Global Research – Centre for Research on Globalization.” Accessed April 17, 2017.

[8] Page, J. “Eliminating the Enemy: The Import of Denying Prisoners Access to Higher Education in Clinton's America.” Punishment &amp; Society 6 (n.d.): 357–78.

[9] Ibid

[10] Jilani, Zaid. “How Congress Killed One of the Few Lifelines for Former Prisoners — And Why It’s Time to Bring It Back.” AlterNet, June 3, 2015.

[11] Lewin, Tamar. “Inmate Education Is Found To Lower Risk of New Arrest.” The New York Times, November 16, 2001.

[12] Leder, Drew. “Why Deny Prisoners an Education?: [FINAL Edition].” The Washington Post (Pre-1997 Fulltext); Washington, D.C. June 1, 1994, sec. OP/ED.

[13] “It Would Be a Crime to Cancel Learning Time for Prisoners Pell Grants Lower the Recidivism Rate and Save Tax Dollars: [All 05/31/94 Edition].” The Christian Science Monitor (Pre-1997 Fulltext); Boston, Mass. May 31, 1994, sec. OPINION/ESSAYS.

[14] Camera, Lauren. “Pell Grant Changes Aimed at Allowing Poor Students to Graduate Faster.” US News & World Report. Accessed April 23, 2017.

[15] “The Effects of Prison Education Programs: Research Findings.” Journalist’s Resource, June 3, 2014.

[16] “U.S. Department of Education Launches Second Chance Pell Pilot Program for Incarcerated Individuals | U.S. Department of Education.” Accessed April 8, 2017.

[17] “Incarceration in the United States.” Wikipedia, April 13, 2017.

[18] 8, Aimee Picchi MoneyWatch May, 2014, and 5:53 Am. “The High Price of Incarceration in America.” Accessed April 23, 2017.


Incorrect Charter School History: A Study of the Academy of the Pacific Rim to Unveil the True Nature of the Reform

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Incorrect Charter School History: A study of the Academy of the Pacific Rim to Unveil the True Nature of the Reform

By: Lily Jewell

May 5, 2017

           The charter school concept was originally a small idea, but today the creation of individual charter schools has led to a massive education reform. According to Kahlenberg and Potter, the original idea of charter schools was developed by teachers in the 1980s. These leaders wanted to create small, engaging educational settings throughout low- income communities. It was an attempt to help students from all different racial, ethnic, economic, and religious backgrounds. At first these schools were a simple alternative for students from low-income backgrounds. They prided themselves on individuality. Since, the schools pride themselves on being unique does the general overview of the reform compare to the history and evolution of a specific charter school. How did the Academy of the Pacific Rim originate, and is their story similar or different to the typical charter narrative as portrayed by Kahlenberg and Potter in A Smarter Charter? And what does this comparison reveal about how to correctly tell the story about the charter school reform?

Academy of the Pacific Rim, located in Hyde Park, Boston Massachusetts, founded in 1995, once the charter school reform had already begun. Academy of the Pacific Rim prides them on fulfilling the goals of the charter school movement. Academy of the Pacific Rim is just one of the many charter schools that make up the entire reform. Studying the origins of this specific charter school, will provide an up close and personal look at how one charter school’s story compares to an overall historical analysis of the charter school reform. Since charter schools pride themselves on originality, and more, it will be intriguing to see how the portrayal of the charter school reform lines up with the individual case of Academy of the Pacific Rim. The history of the Academy of the Pacific Rim, lines up with Kahlenberg and Potter’s focus on individuality, but studying the individual case proves that we cannot study the reform as a whole. In order to understand how charter schools are working to serve our students we must look at how each school serves specific niches and how they evolve individually over time.

Kahlenberg and Potter manage to tell only the general charter school reform story, as moving away from Shanker’s original vision. In order to prove how far the reform has moved away from the original vision they analyze the different promises of the original reform, and assess whether the statistics from three different studies show that they are succeeding. The overall data they found was that “the group of schools that were supposed to be held up as exemplars, models for the traditional schools, in reality perform, on a whole, no better,” (Kahlenberg and Potter 82). The history they paint of the charter schools shows the history and progress of charter schools as a whole, rather than the individualized schools. But there studies do not remain consistent for all charter schools, specifically the Academy of the Pacific Rim.

Charter schools vary on a variety of different levels, such as location, study body, niches, and more. Despite the variety in the physical schools, the stories of these charter schools seem more alike than different. The portrayal of charter school origins appears similar because of the consistent goals of different charter schools. They all work to provide low-income families with better public school opportunities. Academy of the Pacific Rim, like many charter schools pride themselves on providing the best education for their students, similar to other excelling charter schools in Boston, such as Roxbury Preparatory Charter School and Boston Harbor Academy Charter School. “They are also knit by a common vision: serving city youth who want academically rigorous options beyond traditional public schools,” (Vaishnav 2002). Academy of the Pacific Rim, along with many schools that make up the charter school reform, get lost in the vast sea of charter schools. The charter school originating story is remarkably similar to the general story of the reform, but differs in the ways in which its originating story is centered partially on the niches of the school.

The origin story depicted by Kahlenburg and Potter tells the story of independent educators wanting to experiment with their teaching styles. Similar to the depiction in A Smarter Charter, the Academy of the Pacific Rim was founded by former public or private school teachers in their thirties who met at conferences or meetings on charter schools (Vashinav 2002). This image enforces the idea that the Academy of the Pacific Rim charter school was founded on the very basic premises as other charter schools in the reform. And similar to the overview given in A Smarter Charter, the leaders of the school eventually got lost in a group of other Boston charter schools. Along with Roxbury Preparatory Charter School and Boston Harbor Academy Charter School, Academy of the Pacific Rim leaders created a sort of alliance with the other school leaders. “They swap notes on boosting scores on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System exam. They share ideas on math curricula. If one has an opening for a teacher, they refer candidates,” (Vashinav 2002). Additionally, Marc Kenen, executive director of the Massachusetts Charter School Association, said the strong bonds among Pacific Rim, Roxbury Prep, and the Harbor Academy “exemplify the relationship he hopes to see among the state’s 42 charter schools. He also wants charter schools to work more closely with public schools,” (Vaishnav 2002). The leaders of these charter schools see them as excelling because of the ways in which they have broken from the ‘self-reliant’ mentality charter schools were originally founded with. The portrayal of Academy of Pacific Rim in Vashinav’s article expresses the distancing from individuality as a positive, which is very different than how Kahlenburg and Potter paint the picture of the charter school reform.

Another way studying the Academy of the Pacific Rim’s founding can help ensure a fuller understanding of the charter school reform is the way in which the story expresses the importance of having school specific niches. Each charter school has a different student body to educate, with a variety of different needs. Academy of the Pacific Rim was founded on western principles, because specific parent activist felt there was a certain advantage in doing so. The goal of creating this school was to take into consideration not just races, such as black and white. Robert Guen, a former school committee member and founder of the Academy of the Pacific Rim said “‘We thought we could do something not just for Chinese Americans, but for the whole city,’… ‘Combine the high academic standards, discipline, and emphasis on character development’,” (Radin 1998). This mentality is different than the one depicted in A Smarter Charter. Even the curriculum is different than the general traditional public schools:

They start the day with exercises in tai chi chuan, an ancient Chinese   meditation in motion. They wear casual uniforms: khaki pants and white oxford shirts, or burgandy shirts with the school’s logo. No sneakers. No jeans. They adhere to a strict disciplinary code. They clean their school themselves. They all study Mandarin Chinese. Absences are low, ambitions high (Radin 1998).

As Kahlenburg and Potter portray, each charter school is different. But by studying the curriculum at the Academy of the Pacific Rim, the true power of the individualism within charter schools becomes unveiled. Studying the culture and curriculum of Academy of the Pacific Rim proves that some schools are succeeding in meeting the needs of the students.

In addition to looking at the curriculum and culture of the Academy of the Pacific Rim, analyzing the history portrayal of school finances also proves the importance of studying individual schools rather than the reform as a whole. The Academy of the Pacific Rim started in only two floors of a building in Hyde Park, Massachusetts. And like many other charter schools, they were struggling to find the appropriate way to get more finances. Since charter schools are not that old, understanding finances is still a work in progress. But in 2006 the Academy of the Pacific Rim got lucky because they got cut a deal because of $22.27 million revenue bond issue sold by the Massachusetts Development Finance Agency (Kaske 2006). They ended up being granted $11.775 million, and it was insured through ACA Financial Guaranty Corp, making it the first charter school is Massachusetts to have bond insurance (Kaske 2006). This individual financial success confirms the importance of studying the individual cases of charter schools, because “in some states, charter schools are unable to find financing for facility acquisitions and renovations,” (Kaske 2006). Therefore, it is impossible to tell the charter school reform story from a financial perspective because each case is different. And understanding how a school acquires their resources is crucial because the resources change the face of the school entirely. All in all, it is impossible to rate how charter schools are performing unless there is a foundational understanding of how they acquire their resources, and this is why overarching stories such as A Smarter Charter are not as helpful as studying the individual cases of charter schools.

Additionally another flaw about telling only the story of the charter school reform as whole based off statistics, is that when schools are referenced frequently they are only referred to based on their current standing in time. There is no story about how the individual schools improve over time. For example, in 2006 when the Academy of the Pacific Rim received this influx in money they were able to accept 125 (Kaske 2006) additional students, creating more opportunities for more underprivileged students. And quite frequently these success stories are overshadowed by the major failures of the reform. The ability of the Academy of the Pacific Rim to improve their educational environment significantly is something to be applauded. But overviewing stories such as A Smarter Charter do not reveal how schools have improved. Studying schools on an individualistic basis is the only way to reveal improvements. Since the charter schools are still a relatively new form of schools, understanding their development individually is crucial in order to properly evaluate them.

Studying the individual cases of charter schools is significantly better than giving an overview based off of general statistics. Although the story Kahlenberg and Potter tell is the right story is does not give enough credit to the charter schools in terms of how they are individually performing in terms of culture and curriculum, and how they have improved over the years. Charter schools were only created a little over thirty years ago, therefore, they are here to stay and are going to keep improving. The study of the Academy of the Pacific Rim reveals the importance of studying the individual practices and financing to tell the whole story of the charter school reform. The charter school reform started so that public schools would have freedom experiment and has a sense of individuality. Therefore, when telling the story of the charter school reform, the reform part of it should be removed from the story. Instead the details of the day-to-day business of individual schools should be portrayed, whether they are prevailing and successful schools or failing and need dire improvements. Each school is different, and has to work to educate a variety of different student bodies. Therefore, each school has different needs that need to be met. No school is the same, because no student body is the same. The statistics can only tell part of the charter school story. A Smarter Charter tells the logistical side of the story, but the study the portrayal of the Academy of the Pacific Rim through newspaper articles unveils the truth of the history of charter schools.


Works Cited

Kahlenberg, Richard D., and Halley Potter. A Smarter Charter: Finding What Works for Charter Schools and Public Education. New York: Teachers College, 2014. Print.

Kaske, Michelle. “Massachusetts Charter School Using Bond Proceeds to Purchase Building.” The Bond Buyer. (July 10, 2006 Monday): 362 words. LexisNexis Academic. Web. Date Accessed: 2017/03/29.


Vaishnav, A. (2002, Jun 16). CHARTER SCHOOLS SHARE IDEAS. Boston Globe Retrieved from