The DREAMers Movement: Conflict Between American Citizenship As a Formal Legal Status And Citizenship As An American Identity

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The United States is known to be the land of opportunity and upholds the ideals of the “American Dream.” This “dream” includes providing equal opportunities for residents of the nation to journey into a life of success and prosperity. The American Dream is a motivating force for foreigners to immigrate to the United States for the chance to reap social, political, and economic benefits that their country of origin cannot provide. While some individuals patiently wait to immigrate to the United States legally, others desperately immigrate illegally for survival, and along come their children, unwillingly. Within the immigrant population lies a very vulnerable sector of individuals known as Dreamers. This term comes from the legislative Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (Dream) Act, introduced but failed to pass Congress in 2001, that focuses on “immigrant integration [and] addressing the problem of how young [students] who know no other country and identify as American best participate and contribute to the American society” (Zatz and Rodriguez, 2015). The challenge holding legislatures from granting these individuals citizenship is the polarized view of “protecting children from the consequences for actions over which  the child had no control, while others frame the Act as a reward for illegal activity that would create an incentive for minor children to enter into the United States illegally” (Georgetown Law Library). After 11 years of revisions and rejection of the Dream Act, in 2012, President Obama made an executive order to implement the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program to temporarily protect Dreamers. Despite political disagreement, more Americans have jumped on board to support the legalization of long-term immigrant students. As a result of this change, I want to pose the question: How have political leaders shaped opinions about long-term immigrant students from the introduction of the Dream Act in 2001 to the current debate over DACA today?

To date, the United States continues to face challenges of protecting its sovereignty as it faces increasing amounts of illegal immigration. Although the nation battles with strengthening border control between immigrants and Americans, immigrants travel to the United States to contribute to the United States’ society as an attempt to reap the benefits of the American Dream. Lacking legal documentation to gain respect for their societal contributions, many political leaders have been hesitant to honor the benefits and are quick to point out the consequences that immigrants have contributed to the society. Since the introduction of the Dream Act in 2001 and the implementation of the DACA program, the opinions behind immigrant students have shifted but continue to face pushback from those who believe that immigrants do not deserve citizenship for any reason. Since the 2016 presidential election of Donald Trump, debates over protecting DACA have been heightened causing many Dreamers to face a torturous fear of the program ending any day. While many extremists continue to fight against legalizing Dreamers, the upward shift in opinions has been a result in the reality of how America has tremendously benefitted, quantitatively, from Dreamers through their talents, values, and contributions to the economy.

Swift, A (2018). “More Americans Say Immigrants Help Rather Than Hurt The Economy.”

In terms of immigration reform policies, measures that impact undocumented immigrant rights, such as granting citizenship, is traditionally supported by Democratic legislatures. As for the Republican party, there is generally more pushback for implementing immigrant rights. This conflict was especially the case dating back to the Republican party’s anti-immigration movement in the mid 1990s that included the introduction of Proposition 187 by Republican governor Pete Wilson (Wroe, 2008). This policy denied public services to undocumented residents of California and required persons to report “suspected” illegal immigrants to the authorities. In effort to maintain the support of his voters, Wilson used the presence of illegal immigrants as a scapegoat for the long and deep recession of the time period. Wilson stirred feelings of resentment within the public towards illegal immigrants by speaking “out against illegal immigration, arguing that undocumented persons took jobs, burdened schools and hospitals, and avoided taxes” (Wroe 2008). At the time, nearly two-thirds of U.S. citizens thought more harm than good for the economy and the choice of rhetoric used by Wilson was one contributing factor (Swift 2017).

The United States has always taken great pride in the value of citizenship. Politics of race, gender, ethnicity, and social class are determining factors for the decision making of the country. Previous to the introduction of the Dream Act in 2001, President Ronald Reagan, Republican, made first attempts to confront social, economic, and political issues regarding US immigrants through the Immigrant Reform and Control Act (IRCA) in 1986. This act was an attempt to control the legalization of immigrants and regulate employers from hiring undocumented individuals. In his announcement speech, President Ronald Reagan’s expressed the motive behind passing IRCA:

“Future generations of Americans will be thankful for our efforts to humanely regain control of our borders and thereby preserve the value of one of the most sacred possessions of our people: American citizenship” (Wooley, Peters 2018).

President Reagan presented the pride in having and protecting a status of citizenship in the United States to the values of the nation. Reagan used his political power to influence Americans’ opinions of who deserves rights, access, and possession to the land. In 1993, 64% of Americans believed immigrants mostly hurt the U.S. Economy (Swift, 2017). Evidently, between the years of President Reagan and into the 1993 prelude presidential term of President Bill Clinton, the opinions about immigrants in the United States were very unsupportive of legalizing those who were undocumented. Although IRCA resolved immediate issues by controlling the legalization of immigrants and regulating employers from hiring undocumented individuals, the reform failed (Zatz and Rodriguez, 2015). The number of undocumented and “unauthorized immigrants living in the country soared, from an estimated 5 million in 1986 to 11.1 million by 2013 (Plumer, 2013).

As a result of  9/11 attack on the United States, enforced security of immigrants entering and undocumented individuals living in the country accelerated. It was the first time in 14 years that the “traditional unauthorized inflow [had] been flat or falling (Rosenblum, 2015). A huge influence for this reaction was the implementation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) which was the larger umbrella over other agencies: Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), US Customs and Border Patrol (CBP), and US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) (Zatz and Rodriguez 2015). These agencies lead to a large number of raids in under-the-table workforces and immigrant homes across the country. Likewise, the measures of border security led to increased demands for exceptions over Dreamers, “the group of immigrants who may be well-assimilated, have good and useful jobs, or exhibit some other attributes that resonate with the values and moralities of nationals” (Nicholls, 2013). Action towards the issue of undocumented students brought to the United States unwillingly and unjustly facing consequences for actions they had no control over was in high demand.

In 2001, political leaders, Democrat Dick Durbin and Republican Orin Hatch, served as the voice for the Dreamers by introducing the Dream Act. This was an attempt to demand for action to be taken to protect the vulnerable sector of students in America. Specifically, the act proposed to create a path to citizenship for students who came to the United States before the age of sixteen, who are still below the age of thirty-five, who have resided in the United States for at least five years, who completed high school (or equivalent schooling, like a GED), and who enroll in either an institution of higher learning or the military (Keyes, 2013). Although failed to pass both chambers of Congress, this act was the ignition of conversation across the country about who deserves rights to resources in America, such as access to higher education.

Since the promotion of Dreamers in 2001, many house representatives continue to be hesitant to support full citizenship for those who have come to the country illegally; however, there has been a shift in political and public support for the consideration of legalizing Dreamers. A huge motive for this change of opinions are the results of the relationship between the economy and protecting undocumented immigrants. Being an everyday contributor to the United States’ society, statistics show granting citizenship to undocumented workers would significantly improve the American economy. The U.S. economy has “never before confronted such significant shifts in its industrial, occupational, and geographical employment patterns nor has it experienced such growth and compositional changes” (Briggs, 1996). From an economic perspective, the United States will dramatically be impacted if it were to experience a decline in immigrant populations.

Without citizenship, Dreamers are unable to pursue higher education because of the inability to apply for financial services, such as federal financial aid and in-state tuition. With the “increasingly competitive global market and economy demands more access to education so that [Dreamers]” can enter various sectors of jobs then strengthening the workforce. The increased demands for immigration reforms has encouraged many political leaders who previously opposed protecting Dreamers to shift their rhetoric about immigrant rights. In addition, the presence of Latino policymakers contribute to the change in opinions as they serve as an informative tool within politics to educate their co-leaders on the circumstances of Dreamers in the U.S.. (Nienhusser, 2015). As a result, the percentage of Americans who believe immigrants mostly help the U.S. economy has steadily increased since 2001 (Swift, 2017).                                                               

In response to 11 years of Congress’s inability to pass the Dream Act, several legislators sent President Obama letters urging him to use executive action to stop the deportation of innocent immigrant students in the United States. In 2012, President Obama introduced the DACA policy as a way to respectfully acknowledge Dreamers as “Americans in their heart, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper” (Keyes, 2013). This policy grants Dreamers two-year renewable prosecutorial discretion from deportation and authorization to work. This has since given privilege to Dreamers to pursue a higher education and legally work in areas serving higher wages. Since the implementation of DACA, “beneficiaries have been able to get better paying jobs and in general become more financially stable” (Ortega, Edwards, Wolgin, 2017). Furthermore, in return, this has led to more tax revenue and greater economic benefits for localities, states, and the nation as a whole. Despite evident progress in the economy through temporarily granting Dreamers equal opportunities, opposing attitudes towards Dreamers continue to be a disruption on serving the nation’s interest. Republican Lamar Smith of Texas, chairman of Judiciary Committee views the Dream Act as “an American nightmare” because it would displace american students from public colleges (Preston, 2011). Representative Steve Pearce, a New Mexico Republican slightly shifted away from the general consensus of the Republican party and believes “if there are jobs for those people, then fine, let’s give them legal status, let’s give them work, but not citizenship, because that’s going to take benefits away from my family” (Parker, 2013). It is evident that providing Dreamers the legality to work will benefit the economy; however, Wilson’s rhetoric and emphasis that illegal immigrants steal goods (i.e. access to higher education) and are a burden to the society in the mid 1990s continues to creep in the minds of Americans.

Today’s political climate over the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals protecting Dreamers has intensified since the election of Republican President Donald Trump. In the years of 2015 and 2016, Trump campaigned on a platform of increased security and regulation of undocumented immigrants already living in the U.S. The debate over illegal immigrants in the U.S. has intensified due to Trump’s emphasis of the negative embodiments that immigrants bring to the country, such as “Haitians all have AIDS and declaration of countries in Africa as ‘shithole countries’” (Kirby, 2018). His rhetoric for the demand of “immigrants who can contribute to our society, grow our economy, and assimilate into our great nation” reproduces the “nation-state standards that define whether a person is a “good” and “deserving” member through a racial lense (Kirby, 2018; Carrasco, Seif 2014). Regardless of the “87% of Americans who favor granting protections for DACA immigrants,” Trump’s administration threatens to curtail DACA (Auter, Lall, 2018). Since Trump’s election,“partisan views on immigration appear to reflect the rhetoric and actions of his administration – Republicans dissatisfaction with immigration has dropped 16 percent, while Democrats’ dissatisfaction has risen 16 points between 2017 and 2018” (Auter, Lall, 2018). Causing much frustration, worry, and eagerness, Trump has yet to disband the DACA program knowing “immigration is an economic phenomenon and that its regulation is an instrument of economic policy making” (Briggs, 1996). Other political leader have encouraged for decisions behind policy making exclude “divisive politics and recognize [the] shared interest in common-sense immigration reform/affirm [the] perspective of what reform and human rights looks like through [the nation’s] actions” (Carrasco, Seif 2014).

The United States, also known as the land of opportunity, has had a broken immigrations system for decades creating a situation were a significant population of undocumented students struggle to integrate into society. As a product of the political rhetoric and work of political leaders, the public opinion, state legislators, and federal courts are dramatically shifting as they consider the needs of Dreamers and allocating equal opportunities to reap benefits of the United States. Since the introduction of the Dream Act and the evolution of the DACA program, ”undocumented young people are redefining what constitutes good citizenship to include those of us who have limited access to education, work in the underground economy” (Carrasco, Seif, 2014). With the shift in political and public opinions of Dreamers, the undocumented students who grow up associating themselves with an American identity will no longer have to worry about not having the same opportunities as their native counterparts to fulfill their dreams.  







Auter, Z. and Lall, J. (Jan. 23, 2018). Republicans’ Dissatisfaction With Immigration Down, Democrats’ Up,

Briggs, R. (1996). Immigration Policy: A Determinant of Economic Phenomena. Mass Immigration and the National Interest: Policy Directions for the New Century, 7-22.

Carrasco, T. and Seif, H. (2014). Disrupting the Dream: Undocumented Youth Reframe Citizenship and Deportability Through Anti-Deportation Activism, Macmillian Publishers Ltd, 279-299.

Georgetown Law Library (2018). A Brief History of Civil Rights in the United States, Georgetown Law,

Kirby, J. (Jan 11, 2018). Trump Wants Fewer Immigrants From “Shithole Countries” and More From Places Like Norway,

Nienhusser, H. (2015). Undocumented Immigrants and Higher Education Policy: The Policymaking Environment of New York State, The Review of Higher Education, 271-303.

Nicholls, W. (Sep. 2013). Introduction. The DREAMers: How The Undocumented Youth Movement Transformed the Immigrant Rights Debate, 1-16.

Ortega, F., Edwards, R., and Wolgin, P. (Sep. 18, 2017). The Economic Benefits of Passing the Dream Act, Center for American Progress, 1-14.

Parker, A. (July 25, 2013). Sign of Hope Seen InHouse For Immigration Overhaul. The New York Times,

Plumer, B. (Jan. 30, 2013). “Congress Tried To Fix Immigration Back in 1986. Why Did It Fall? The Washington Post,

Preston, J. (Feb 8, 2011). After A False Dawn, Anxiety For Illegal Immigrant Students,

Rosenblum, Marc R (2015). “A New Era in US Immigration Enforcement: Implications for the Policy Debate.” Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, vol. 16, no. 2, 122–132.,

Swift, A. (June 29, 2017). More Americans Say Immigrants Help Rather Than Hurt Economy.

Woolley, J. and Gerhard, P. (2018). Ronald Reagan: Statement on Signing the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, The American Presidency Project,

Wroe, A. (2008). Introduction. The Republican Party and Immigration Politics, 1-10.

Zatz, Marjorie Sue, and Nancy Rodriguez (2015). Dreams and Nightmares: Immigration Policy, Youth, and Families. University of California Press, 10

A Comparison of Student Activism in American History

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Student activism is definitely not a new phenomenon. All across the world students have been protesting for decades for a number of different reasons. In the United States the peak of student protests can be traced back to the 1960’s and the 1970’s, years in which the country was fighting a war in Vietnam and was dealing with the civil rights movement, perhaps the most significant and impactful movement in modern history.  At this time large numbers of citizens, especially young college students, were protesting against the war, against racial and gender inequalities, and against a government that did not seem to support the rights of all people. Students were marching to express their disappointment, to embrace diversity supporting people of all races and of all gender orientations, and they were also doing it to show their reluctance towards a country that was sending its young men to die in an unjust war. The political involvement of young people was seen as a good thing by some, but other people did not approve their actions and did not share their views. Therefore many people condemned students’ engagement in matters that were considered too complicated for their young ages and their limited experience. These college students had a vision of a world free of violence, one in which their lives were not put in jeopardy by higher powers that did not operate in the greater interest of the people.  

Similar motives are behind students’ protests today. One of the events that shook this country recently was the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, which saw 17 citizens, both students and school personnel, lose their lives. Shortly after February 14th, the day of this tragedy, some students initiated a movement called #neveragain, and started to publicly express their opinions, hopes, and desires regarding gun control policies, security in schools, and overall sharing their resentment with the rest of the country.  Like the protests of the sixties and seventies, today’s students are advocating for their lives and marching against a government that appears to prioritize other interests instead of protecting the people. Also, like in previous decades we are witnessing a split in the ways modern school protests are seen by the public. However, the ways in which people approve or disapprove of student activism, and the reasons behind their opinion, may differ between these two historical periods. The aim of this paper is to examine those differences and to answer this question: how has American public opinion about student activism differed between the late 1960s protests, when compared with the protests of today?

I argue that Americans today are more willing to listen and support young people’s actions and to protest by their side. I believe that modern society feels the threats of violence more tangibly when compared with how a large section of the population did in the late 1960s. We are seeing things happening almost in real time thanks to the Internet and social media, both causes and  responses to violence can appear to be random, and the general perception is that no one is truly safe anywhere. However, despite the fact that people are tired of mourning young students who lose their lives in such a tragic manner, there is still a significant portion of the population who believe that these high school students are too young to have opinions, and that their collective voice should not matter despite being silent eye-witnesses of the reckless violence that has caused some of them to die on a regular school day. Therefore, we see similar sentiments to what we have seen in the past. To support my argument I will look at how the “Free Speech Movement” at Berkeley College in 1964 and the shooting at Kent State University in 1970 were viewed by the public and compare them to the perception that Americans have regarding students’ involvement today, focusing on the mass school shooting in Parkland High, Florida.

These three important chapters of American history are very different from one another, but they also have some crucial similarities. Between 1964 and 1965 the Free Speech Movement was a precursor in bringing political and social matters to college campuses. Berkeley College student protests during the Civil Rights era started to facilitate the road for future movements against the Vietnam War and other future controversial issues. In 1971 at Kent State University, students organized on campus against President Richard Nixon’s decision to continue the War in Vietnam and to invade Cambodia. Students brought their protest into the streets and started what would become a four-day heated protest.  The protests took place both on and off campus, and eventually culminated in the killing of four students- who were murdered by the Ohio Army National Guard. In February 2018, the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, initiated another student protest that resonated worldwide, and the underlying reasons for this protest are once again political. Students are arguing in favor of more rigid gun control policies, and in this attempt they are inevitably going against the interests of many lobbies and National Rifle Association (NRA) supporters. In each of these cases students are involved in matters that are often left to the judgement of adults and experts, and all of them had and are having a great impact on society, touching the souls of many, and enraging many others.

When analyzing polls from these three different student protests, we notice that in this day and age society’s approval of student involvement has changed compared to the 1960s and 1970s. Concerning the public opinion of Americans in the late 1960s, a poll from 1969 shows that only 34% of the interviewees believed that white student protesters could be trusted, while 54% believed in being careful when dealing with them (Justifying Violence, 1969). Polls and articles of that time use the words “student disturbances”, “violence”, and “riots” much more frequently than they use words like “activism” and “protests.” This is in large part due to the fact that the racial implications, and the issues of segregation and inequality, helped to further complicate the social context, creating a challenge in the comparison between public opinion at the time versus today. Another survey from 1970 asked women if they were in agreement with the  student protests or if they were opposed, and as a result 65% of women from that poll declared to be somewhat or strongly opposed (Virginia Slims American Women’s Poll 1970, Aug, 1970). These statistics are relevant not only to show the public opinion of the time, but also to further understand the threat of violence perceived by many Americans when thinking about student protests.

In a recent poll from March 2018, we find out that a large percentage of the American population is supportive (64% of interviewees approved) of Parkland students arguing for themselves on TV and in other media, and the poll also shows that for the most part the public thinks that these students are advocating for issues they truly believe in (Monmouth University, 2018). Similarly, a survey regarding approval or disapproval of students protesting in favor of stricter gun laws reported a 63% rate of approval (Quinnipiac University, 2018). Another recent CBS News poll regarding gun policies and school safety also shows that the majority of Americans believe that students should be actively involved in activism and protests, and that their voice matters a great deal in order to change things for the better. More than six in ten Americans believe young people should get involved while only a third think that adults should handle such issues without their intervention (De Pinto, Backus, Salvato, 2018).

Some controversies regarding the Free Speech Movement revolve around the nature and the ultimate goal of educational institutions. In part, the movement found the oppositions of those who maintained that the ultimate goal of public universities was to educate the students, and therefore believed in certain restrictions to freedom of speech (Cohen, Zelnich, Litwak, 2002). However, using the words of President Sproul, as stated in the book The Free Speech Movement: Reflections on Berkeley in the 1960s, University administrators argued that:

“The function of the University is to seek and to transmit knowledge and to train students in the process whereby truth is to be made known. To convert, or to make converts, is alien and hostile to this dispassionate duty. Where it becomes necessary, in performing the function of a university, to consider political, social, or sectarian movements, they are dissected and examined – not taught, and the conclusion left, with no tipping of the scales, to the logic of the facts. The University is founded upon faith in intelligence and knowledge and it must defend their free operation…” (Cohen, Zelnich, Litwak, 2002).

President Sproul also pointed out the fact that the State should protect the rights of a free people, guaranteeing people’s freedom as well as the freedom of the press (Cohen, Zelnich, Litwak, 2002).

Those who criticized and opposed the protesters from Kent State University, arguing that violence and disorder were their main goals, have likely been influenced by the images that mass media was spreading at the time. The journal article Protesting the Invasion of Cambodia: A Case Study of Crowd Behavior and Demonstration Leadership highlights the importance of recognizing who initiates the violence, stating that is often the control agent responsible rather than the crowd (Brown, Lewis, 1998). Therefore, sociologists have come to the conclusion that crowd behavior is strongly affected by the way it is counteracted. In the specific case of Kent State, students may have not found the approval of a large section of the population due to the bad images that were dispersed through television and print media of the time. The public was holding the students responsible for the disorders without considering that they might have been reacting to control agents rather than acting against them.

When comparing these media portrayals with those of modern times, a recent article from The New Yorker, reveals just in its title the two possible causes that are pushing the majority of Americans to support student protests: “Urgency and Frustration” (Writt, 2018). The article written by Emily Writt talks about the attention that Parkland’s students have gained worldwide, and about the support that they are receiving from celebrities and citizens in general. One of the students’ main slogans simply reads “Enough.” Almost everyone can identify with this word, including adults and adolescents, regardless of race, gender, or political orientation. For the first time we are witnesses of a protest that the majority of the population can relate to. The issues are internal, scary, and unpredictable, and as naive as it may sound, the solution seems to be more achievable compared to those potential solutions to other issues in the past. Some would argue that if it’s “easy enough” for high school students to see the necessary solutions before us, adults and those in charge ought to be able to understand and implement them as well.

In conclusion, there are a number of reasons why public opinion about student activism has shifted more recently. Although some remain skeptical about student involvement in certain matters, research and public opinion polls indicate that the world is starting to realize the importance of paying attention to young people in a constructive way. After all, students are the next generation that will run this country, and paying attention to their needs now may prove beneficial to us all in the future.



Brown, Clyde, and Erik L. Lewis. “Protesting the Invasion of Cambodia: A Case Study of

Crowd Behavior and Demonstration Leadership.” Polity, vol. 30, no. 4, 1998, pp. 645–665. JSTOR, JSTOR,


The Free Speech Movement : Reflections on Berkeley in the 1960s, edited by Robert

Cohen, and Reginald E. Zelnik, University of California Press, 2002. ProQuest Ebook Central


Writt, E. Urgency and Frustration: The Never Again Movement Gathers Momentum. The

New Yorker. February 23, 2018


Virginia Slims. Virginia Slims American Women’s Poll 1970, Aug, 1970 [survey

question]. USHARRIS.70VSF1.RF11A. Louis Harris & Associates [producer]. Cornell University, Ithaca, NY: Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, iPOLL [distributor], accessed May-4-2018.


Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. Quinnipiac University Poll, Mar, 2018 [survey

question]. USQUINN.032218.R48. Quinnipiac University Polling Institute [producer]. Cornell University, Ithaca, NY: Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, iPOLL [distributor], accessed May-4-2018.


Monmouth University Polling Institute. Monmouth University Poll, Mar, 2018 [survey

question]. USMONM.030818.R27. Monmouth University Polling Institute [producer]. Cornell University, Ithaca, NY: Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, iPOLL [distributor], accessed Apr-20-2018.


CBS News. CBS News Poll, Mar, 2018 [survey question]. USCBS.031418.R24. CBS

News [producer]. Cornell University, Ithaca, NY: Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, iPOLL [distributor], accessed Apr-20-2018.


Survey Research Center, University of Michigan. Justifying Violence: Attitudes of

American Men Survey, Jun, 1969 [survey question]. USSRC.45379B.QB04. Survey Research Center, University of Michigan [producer]. Cornell University, Ithaca, NY: Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, iPOLL [distributor], accessed Apr-20-2018.



Mental Health in Special Education: Comparing the 1970s to Today

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  “Mental health disorders are the most common health issues faced by our nation’s school-aged children. One in five children suffers from a mental health or learning disorder, and 80% of chronic mental disorders begin in childhood,” states Christina Samuels, a news article writer for Education Weekly. As told by this statistic, mental illness is a huge and common problem within children and students today. Despite this problem, mental health needs and disabilities were not always recognized in schools from the start of federal special education laws. Mental health was viewed as a taboo and there was an extreme stigma surrounding such needs. It was viewed as not nearly as important as physical health is. Overtime accommodations based on mental health needs have become much more prevalent and are provided to the students that need help more and more. Today, there is a lot more aid and attention surrounding mental health needs, and students are better accommodated in schools than from the start of federal special education laws.

In the mid-1970s, many federal special education laws were originally created. These laws were meant to help and accommodate students in school with special needs and disabilities. The main focus of these laws was surrounding students who had what was referred to as “mental retardation” at the time, more commonly known today as autism. It was important that autism was talked about and students with autism were receiving the help they needed, but mental health was another very important topic that was left unaddressed. In the original documentation of these laws, the words “mental health” do not appear. In Peter Wright’s article, “The History of Special Education Law,” Wright discusses The Education for all Handicapped Children Act of 1975. Wright states that, “Congress intended that all children with disabilities would ‘have a right to education, and to establish a process by which State and local educational agencies may be held accountable for providing educational services for all handicapped children.’’’ This law discusses the need for help when it comes to handicapped children, but never specifically mentions mental health. Handicapped can refer to both physical and mental disabilities, yet mental health needs were not being accommodated for at the time. When it comes to mental health, students deserve to have the help they need and a way to deal with their disabilities in school. Despite this need, students weren’t getting the help they needed in the 1970s.

In the 1970s, there was a much bigger stigma surrounding mental health than there is today. In an article written by Wulf Rossler titled, “The Stigma of Mental Health,” Rossler talks about the rise of this stigma surrounding mental health. He discusses the negative impacts of this stigma and how it has affected the way people view mental health. He writes, “A scientific concept on the stigma of mental disorders was first developed in the middle of the 20th century, first theoretically and eventually empirically in the 1970s.” This explains when the stigma was adopted. The time period it comes from was a time period where mental health was not addressed in schools. He continues to say, “Overall, the 1960s and 1970s were full of an anti‐psychiatry attitude, blaming psychiatry for being repressive, coercive and more damaging than helpful to patients.” This portrays the idea that mental health wasn’t important and something that shouldn’t be discussed back in the 1970s. Rossler talks about the way mental health is portrayed negatively in the media, for example the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, which was released in 1975. This movie negatively represents people with mental health disorders as well as negatively portraying a psychiatric ward. Because of the negative portrayal of mental health in this movie as well as other forms of media, mental health is viewed as less important than it is, and not something that should be and needs to be helped. Also around the time of the 1970s, mental health treatment was being reformed, and the government was working on the improvement and quality of mental health hospitals and psychiatric wards. Because mental health was already not being treated well and mental health institutions didn’t have the best conditions, mental health was viewed as even less important in schools.

Another federal law from the 1970s for special education was The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, more commonly referred to as IDEA. IDEA was most recently amended in 2004 according to The Everyday Guide to Special Education Law, by Randy Chapman. One of the key principles of IDEA is FAPE. FAPE stands for Free Appropriate Public Education. According to IDEA, every student with a disability has the right to a Free Appropriate Public Education, despite what accommodations they may need. Students are to be provided with supports that directly cater to the students specific and personal needs, and helps them towards their education and future. That being said, it is important that any need is taken care of. However, that was not the case when it came to mental health. Another key principle of IDEA is an appropriate evaluation. According to IDEA evaluation of students must be relevant and timely. This law is all about students receiving fair and appropriate accommodations depending on their disability, yet at the time this law was created in the 1970s, students with mental health needs were still denied the help they needed. Students with mental health needs were not properly accommodated, leaving them struggling academically in school.

As the Association for Children with Mental Health states, “Many estimates show that even though mental illness affects so many of our kids aged 6-17 at least one-half and many estimate as many as 80% of them do not receive the mental health care they need.” This statistic emphasizes the lack of support for students with mental health needs, despite the extreme need. Diseases like anxiety, depression, post traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disease can negatively affect students abilities to complete work, go to class, take tests, pay attention in class and participate in class. These aspects of school usually count majorly towards grades and grade point averages, and are important when trying to grasp a full understanding of lessons and what is being taught. This leaves students who struggle with mental health related issues and disabilities with grades that don’t properly reflect their abilities and intelligence when it comes to school work, as well as potentially hindering them from being able to learn as much as other students. The Association for Children’s Mental Health states, “mental Health Disorders can affect classroom learning and social interactions, both of which are critical to the success of students.” This again portrays the importance of mental health when it comes to an effective education and this is now more recognized in schools. The negative effects mental health disorders can have on students are more discussed openly and helped today than in the past.

In terms of mental health when it comes to special education federal laws, mental health needs technically fall under the section 504 of the Rehabilitation Acts of 1973. Randy Chapman’s The Everyday Guide to Special Education Law states, “A person has a disability under section 504 if the individual has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the individual’s major life activities” (page 341). This book was published in 2008 and directly mentions “mental impairment,” something that was not mentioned in the documents from the 1970s. Since this time, mental health has been addressed way more in schools, and it has become possible for students to receive accommodations based on these needs. The Everyday Guide to Special Education Law continues to say, “A student with mental illness may need a modified class schedule to allow time for regular counseling or therapy” (page 342). This book provides information about what accommodations students with mental health illness’ can receive and how they can go about getting them. Ultimately, there has been an extremely positive and successful change over time in regards to students getting accommodations based on mental health needs from the 1970s to today.

These federal laws of the 1970s were created in the hopes of helping students with physical disabilities and mental retardation, but did not seem to mention students who suffered with mental disabilities. Since this time, mental health is addressed way more in schools, and students can get accommodations based on these needs. When comparing the 1970s to today, it is clear there has been a vast improvement with how schools treat and accommodate students with mental health disabilities.


Works Cited

Chapman, Randy. “The Everyday Guide to Special Education Law: A Handbook for Parents, Teachers and Other Professionals / Edition 2.” Barnes & Noble,


Rössler, Wulf. Advances in Pediatrics., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Sept. 2016,


Samuels, Christina. “School Resources for Supporting Child Mental Health.” Education Week – On Special Education, 13 July 2016,


Wight, Pete. “The History of Special Education Law – Wrightslaw.” The Blame Game: Are School and Learning Problems the Kids’ Fault? – Wrightslaw, 2010,


Students at an amusement park learn more about integrals and derivatives than being in a classroom

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In an effort by government officials to improve the US education system, the controversial idea of school choice has recently been brought up by the current Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, a Pro-Trump government conservative who is well known for her least qualifications of the very role she plays on the decision-making table of the US government. DeVos claims that school choice will be the solution to the rising numbers of segregated, and poorly funded schools in the country.

I have always had a vague idea of what school choice means, but I knew for sure that it was proposed to provide more choices and fewer restrictions on families to choose what school they send their children to. Up until the point where I watched a documentary titled “Most Likely to Succeed,” I was oblivious to what school choice meant. “Most Likely to Succeed” is a documentary that was produced by Ted Dintersmith focused greatly on school choice, and specifically on what is called “Charter Schools.” As a foreign student in the United States, my curiosity grew even stronger since I have never heard of charter schools before, nor have I ever known that they are considered part of the public schools’ program either. So, I decided to dive into the history of charter schools even more.

Charter schools were first created and introduced publicly in 1988 by the education reformer and the president of the American Federation of Teachers, Albert Shanker. According to an article written by Richard Kahlenberg and Halley Potter titled “Restoring Shanker’s Vision of Charter Schools,” Shanker created the idea because of the raising funding issues of public schools, the growing issue of segregation, and “teaching for the test” problems that teachers were facing due to the harsh assessments that were merely based on their students’ grades. In Most Likely to Succeed, The Executive Producer Ted Dintersmith, focuses on a particular charter school that he selected after touring around the country and amongst varies communities, looking for successful charter schools to cover. The school that Dintersmith focused on is called High Tech High charter school, located in San Diego, California. According to High Tech High’s website, the school follows a new education system that works primarily on peoples’ skills, not test scores that could be beaten by a computer, but skills that only humans could learn and master. So, I will be looking to answer the question: how has the vision of charter schools changed or remained the same from Shanker’s original idea in 1988 to the vision expressed in High Tech High charter school today? The answer to this question will help me understand whether if DeVos’s decision on implementing charter schools is a good idea or not.

Firstly, according to Kahlenberg and Potter, what Albert Shanker had in mind when he first created the idea of charter schools was that they be a form of public school that—in exchange for autonomy—would be highly accountable “…these schools would be given a charter to try their fresh approaches for a set period of time and be renewed only if they succeeded.” Mention Kahlenberg and Potter. Shanker envisioned charter schools to be schools that are publicly funded and independently managed. He viewed implementing charter schools as an experiment for a new type of schooling that is not necessarily permanent and would only be allowed to continue if it would prove to the public its effectiveness and shows positive progress towards a better quality of public education. (Kahlenberg & Potter, 2014). According to Shankers vision, implementing school choice in the system will not only give the freedom of choice to the families and their children to choose where they want to send their children to school at, while not having to worry about that being predetermined for them by their zip code, but also it will give a louder voice for teachers in the school system, while allowing them to implement their creativity in classrooms freely.

In a study conducted by Dr. Gary Miron, a Professor of Evaluation, Measurement, and Research at Western Michigan University, he laid out, in the form of a prepared testimony before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, what the original goals of charter schools were when Shanker first proposed the idea. Goals like; enhancing opportunities for parent involvement, creating new opportunities for school choice with open access for all, developing innovations in curriculum and instruction, enhancing professional autonomy and opportunities for professional development for teachers, and creating highly accountable schools. (Miron, n.d.)

While keeping in mind what Shanker originally wanted charter schools to do, and after almost 30 years of this developing type of schooling, it would be interesting to see what High Tech High’s vision is nowadays. According to the official website of the mentioned school, “High Tech High is guided by four connected design principles—equity, personalization, authentic work, and collaborative design—that set aspirational goals and create a foundation for understanding our approach.” The approach of HTH, that was displayed in “Most Likely to Succeed” documentary, towards providing the best education to children is teaching them what machines cannot learn and that was simply described in the documentary by one of the teachers at HTH as “Soft Skills.” A teacher at HTH explains that by teaching soft skills, elements such as collaboration, teamwork, showing up and producing something while being passionate about it, were the main goals and objectives of every teacher on board, “skills like these will stay with them, they are not going to forget them” says the teacher (Most Likely to Succeed1:15).  Since HTH’s main mission is set to address the four main components mentioned earlier, equity, authentic work, personalization and collaborative design, the school has been trying to address these four points in every way possible.

According to the program description of the school on their website, HTH says that “Our schools are intentionally diverse and integrated”. HTH prioritizes providing an equal opportunity to students from a different background, race, class, and genders through making their admission model, a lottery model, where non-biased admission is guaranteed, and integration is most likely to happen. This strategy helps the school avoid any issues related to zip code admission while providing the best quality of education through having students from multiple different backgrounds work together. The school believes this type of environment enhances the students learning experiences since it is parallel to Vygotsky’s theory of having children of different ages, backgrounds, and cultures, work together to better improve their abilities and cognitive development.

Additionally, HTH takes pride in its personalization approach, which is focused mainly on identity development and personal growth. Things like being a caring person and having a mutual respect for teachers and adults in the community, are on top of the list for HTH. The school achieves those goals through “…program design elements such as small school size, small classes, home visits, advisories, and student collaborative work” (“High Tech High,” n.d.). Moreover, the hands-on experience that HTH focuses on, and the engagement strategy that it follows to educate its students is an essential element of the school’s values, described as authenticity in work, HTH school projects “…integrate hands and minds and incorporate inquiry across multiple disciplines, leading to the creation of meaningful and beautiful work.” More on that point, Most Likely to Succeed backs that up by showing students working individually on their own projects while learning the same principles and skills they would if they were in a traditional classroom and school, however, the way they do it at HTH is fundamentally different. The documentary shows students in art and engineering class working on a group project that consists of multiple individual projects assigned to multiple small groups. The project would only be done when every group have finished their part of the final piece, and have that part aligned perfectly with everyone else’s parts. In this particular example, students in this class were working on a project that shows the evolution of art using their engineering skills to make a wooden machine that illustrates the evolution mentioned earlier. After finishing this project as a class of multiple groups that worked together, students had to present their work at a big fair at the end of the school year, where community partners, families and friends came to see students of HTH present the projects that they worked on all year long for varies classes. This type of learning model is what Ted Dintersmith talks about in his co-authored book with Tony Wagner “Most Likely to Succeed, preparing our kids for the innovation era.” Dintersmith gave an example to show the essence of the hands-on experience that students get exposed to at charter schools like HTH, in comparison to the learning experience they would receive at a traditional classroom and school, “if we took kids to an amusement park instead of spending months working on integration techniques, they’d develop a better understanding of essence of integrals and derivatives.” Dintersmith goes on even further than that to show a picture of a roller-coaster that explains concepts of math like the slope, the positive and negative derivatives, and integrals.

And Illustration of experimental learning in math, in Most Likely to Succeed by Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith. Photo Credit: Personal Phone.

Shanker’s idea of charter schools has more to do with experimental learning than teaching for the test type of learning, teaching students that a grade doesn’t define their abilities, nor would it be an indicator of how hard they, or their teachers, worked. And that is what HTH goes by too, more qualitative education and assessments rather than quantitative, that showed clearly in Most Likely to Succeed when teachers assigned students to work on ideas that they [the students] brainstormed and came up with, to illustrate Malala’s story with the Taliban troops in Afghanistan. How did students get assessed and based on what? Well, students had to perform a play in front of parents and community members on the final day of the school year. The teachers then gathered after that day with the students, parents were invited too, however, it was optional for them to attend, and then teacher talked with each student that participated in the play about what they thought they learned and achieved through this experience. Realizing that students and youths growth would benefit greatly from a qualitative assessment rather than quantitative one that only shows number as grades, teachers do their best to help the student reflect back on the experience they have had, provide them with thoughtful feedback and support, and what the students gain out of this whole experience is what one of the teachers, that was highlighted earlier in this paper described it as “soft skills, what machines can’t learn”.

Reinforcing teachers’ creativity through giving them enough freedom, away from grades assessments, to flourish in their classrooms while creating their own curriculum of their own design, is what Shanker envisioned, and that is what HTH is doing too. HTH believes that this strategy will open-up space for teachers to teach and focus on building the three C’s that Dinterdmith highlights in his book and those are; critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creative problem-solving. “we are not suggesting that these skills be taught instead of content knowledge” says Dinterdmith, explaining that teaching critical thinking without engaging students in rich and challenging academic content is not what he is suggesting, “the goal must be to choose the academic content selectively so as to create the required foundation for lifelong learning” so basically, it is not up to the content to decide what the students need to learn to live a better life, it is up to the students to learn about their needs first, then utilize the content they think best serves those needs. That’s when the learning happens when learning experimentally teaches the application of science and math in the real world without letting the coverage of the content overwhelms the development of core competence. (Tony Wagner & Dintersmith, 2015).

To conclude, Shanker’s vision and High Tech High charter school’s vision are not any different after all. One important thing to consider while looking at DeVos’s proposal of school choice is that not every public charter school is like High Tech High charter school. Some of them have different approaches towards education, and in fact, they could be in an opposite direction of what Shanker really wanted out of charter schools. Therefore, I think it is safe to say that my understanding of school choice has improved considerably, while my support of the implementation of school choice, considering the change that have happened to the original vision of so many of these type of schoolings like charter schools, I remain opposing to the idea of letting any school whose approach on education is not anywhere close to High Tech High approach, to be allowed to operate freely in the community under the title of school choice and closing the gap of the many problems we have been having with our education system in the US.




High Tech High. (n.d.). Retrieved April 30, 2018, from
Kehlenberg, R., & Halley, P. (2014). Restoring Shanker’s Vision for Charter Schools. American Educator, 4–13.
Tony Wagner, & Dintersmith, T. (2015). Most Likely to Succeed, preparing our kids for innovation era. Scribner.
Whiteley, G. (n.d.). Most Likely To Succeed. Retrieved from

Hello Class My Name Is Mom: A Look at Homeschooling in the 1970’s and Today

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From learning lessons through parents, to taking classes completely online, the concept of homeschooling has completely transformed from the 1970s to today; and the motivations for doing so have too. Homeschooling has always been seen as an alternative to public, private and charter schools, but at the beginning of the 20th century, the country saw a dramatic drop in the number of homeschoolers, and a huge increase in the number of students enrolled in public schools. That was, until the 1970s, when John Holt, educational theorist, argued that formal schools’ focus on rote learning created an “oppressive classroom environment designed to make children compliant” (A Brief History of Homeschooling, 2017). Many families agreed with his argument, and soon, parents were taking their children out of public schools and re-exploring the option of homeschooling. This transition begs the question, how have various families’ motivation and experiences of homeschooling transformed from the 1970s to today?

In the 1970s homeschoolers were primarily motivated by three factors: religion, “back to the land” education and left and right political ideologies. Today in 2018, while religion has stayed a consistent motivation for some homeschoolers others have shifted to focus more on two factors: special education and family first values. Additionally many of today’s homeschooling families experience the process through online classes and programs, which has contributed to the growth of the homeschooling community. The transition from a more raw and natural homeschooling system in the 1970s, has faded away to reveal a completely new-and-improved homeschooling system, one that revolves more around online lessons, connecting with teachers from home, and building a sense of community for both the families and the children.

One of the most popular motives for homeschooling in the 1970s was due to the lack of focus on religion in public schools, especially Christian values. The recent 1962 and 1963 Supreme court decisions outlawing school prayer and school-sponsored Bible reading shocked and devastated many religious families. Over the years, many started pulling their children out of public schools. The fact that public schools no longer allowed teacher-led prayer, or prayer organized by a public school, even when delivered by a student, “violate the First Amendment, whether in a classroom, over the public address system, at a graduation exercise, or even at a high school football game” angered many families across the country (Haynes & Thomas, 2007). Religion was a very important factor for some parents in the 1970s, and if the public schools were not going to allow it, than parents would not allow their children to attend the schools. They viewed the removal of religious practices from schools as “yanking God out of the public schools” (Carper, 2000). Many parents wanted their children to have a strong religious affiliation when they grew older, and the best way to achieve that was to teach it to their children themselves. With the kids at home, parents were able to incorporate daily prayer, bible readings, and church attendance at a level that they found appropriate.

The 1970s were a time of earth-grown and organic, people were looking to ground themselves, and revert back to the “natural” ways of life, and for that they turned to “back to the land” education. This form of homeschooling was often found in newly developed communes, small-scaled communities that were looking to model “a new society in hopes that the old world somehow would be won over” (Gaither, 2017). These communes were spread all over the country and very self-sufficient. They had their own magazines such as Whole Earth, and Mother Earth News, which taught readers how to build houses, raise animals, and grow crops (Gaither, 2017). There was also a strong emphasis put on family; each commune has a slightly different style, and some were more experimentative than others. Some communes attempted to use a group parenting style, which often resulted in very little parenting at all. Instead these children were treated as miniature adults and given all the responsibilities of an adult member of the commune. Researchers who went to visit the commune expecting to find a wild, “hippie” child instead found a well behaved child and concluded “the farther away from regular families and cities and careers that we get, the less obnoxious and self-centered the kids get” (Smith & Sternfield, 2012). Most of these communes approached education in a similar fashion. Many began with a philosophical antagonism to public education. As one member put it ““suddenly I saw all the bulls—t in the whole educational and social system…. The problem with our schools is that they are turning out robots to keep the social system going” (Gaither, 2017). A lot of the families in the commune agreed with this statement and believed that public schools were being used as the primary means of assimilating children into “the establishment”. Therefore, they looked to alternative methods of teaching their children the skills they felt to be the most important.

“Back to the land” homeschooling education was taught through work and real-life skills. Stacia Dunham, a member of one of these communes tells the story of her education growing up. She remembers one year her family caught five hundred trout, and they sat assembly-line style around the table, learning how to gut and clean the fish. Her and her sisters also cared for the goats, chickens, pigs, and cows. They tended to a large apple orchard, forged for berries, hunted and dressed the kill and panned for gold. Math was learned when necessary, and taught through project-style method, (Gaither, 2017). Although this was not a traditional public, or homeschooling method, the children who went though this programs still learned successful crafts, and were able to read, write and do math. But they were also able to take care of themselves, grow crops, catch, gut and cook fish and care for animals. Along with their basic education, they were learning skills that could never be taught in a classroom. This method of schooling worked well. Many children went on to earn advanced degrees and find successful jobs, as one mother describes it “the kids turned out to be bright, creative, interesting and full of life. It’s almost as if being exposed to all the wildness back then demystified that way of life for them,” (Gaither, 2017). Although this was a successful motive and experience for some families, others weren’t so keen on the idea, and were driven more by their political ideologies than a wilderness experience.

Both left and right winged families were transitioning towards a homeschool approach instead of traditional public schools. The left wing “hippie” movement viewed the public school as “symbols of everything wrong and destructive in modern life” and therefore favored a homeschool approach (Kunzman & Gaither, 2009). Although some left wing families went as far as to join the “back to the land” homeschool experience, many just made the transition from public school to home. Many of the more liberal families had been faced with feelings of feelings of despair and powerlessness after their protests had failed to stop the Vietnam War and felt disillusionment with the pace of social change prompted many to drop out of “mainstream” America (Kunzman & Gaither, 2009). Many of these families worked to design their own curriculum that taught their children the lessons and skills they wanted them to learn, not those the government was “forcing” upon their children.

On the other hand, the right wing conservatives transitioned to homeschooling for different reasons. They were particularly upset over discussions of “race and sex that tended to make the United States look bad” (Gaither, 2017). They also despised the “new math” and whole language instruction that insinuated reality is not a fixed given to learn, but an open possibility to construct by the individual. They were continually worried about sex education and the topics of death and dying. They too were dissatisfied with the public schools curriculum and ways of teaching and moved to homeschooling. Conservative families looked primarily to the mother to provide educational change for the children. The 1970s were a different time for women, they were seen now more than ever as articulate, empowered and strong. While the men were away at work, it was the women who showed up to the meetings and vocalized their opinions about the public schools. Ultimately, it was the conservative women who were able to make such a popular shift from public formal schooling to a much more individual system of homeschooling.

Flash to fifty years later and the homeschooling movement that picked up speed in the 70s has completely taken off. As of spring 2016, there were about 2.6 million children between the ages of 5 and 17 who were being homeschooled (Ray, 2018). Compared to the approximated 10,000 who were homeschooled in 1970, that is an enormous increase in popularity (Gaither, 2009). And while some of the motives such as religion have stayed consistent over those past fifty years, with our ever-evolving society, many families have shifted to a greater concern for special education and family first values. The introduction and integration of the Internet into the homeschooling system has greatly influenced this increase in popularity, and completely revolutionized the whole homeschooling movement and curriculum.

Despite the societal changed the United States has faced, the religious ideologies that motivated families in the 70s’ still motivate people today in 2018. Many families still desire their children to grown up with a strong religious affiliation that can only be achieved by teachings though home. According to data from the National Household Education Survey’s Program, in 2016, 51% of families choose to homeschool their children due to a “desire to provide religious instruction”. Although unlike the 70’s, due to the invention of the Internet in 1983, families today do not have to rely solely on their parents or church for instruction. Many companies have now created online programs for all ages that base their curriculum and lessons around religion. For example, Sonlight is a Christian–based curriculum that parents can order online. Their mission is to “encourage children to honor God’s “Great Commission” by gaining an international perspective and a godly heart for the world. It is this missionary concern – the desire that God’s name should be known and His glories revealed throughout the world among all peoples – that motivated our decision to study history from an international perspective.” They use a combination of online resources and literature based lessons that they believe are the most effective. They provide full curriculum or individual subjects that come with detailed instructions, and notes for the parents so they can follow along with their children. Parents are very pleased with pre-designed curriculums like these because it allows them to control what their children are learning, without having to design and teach them every step of the way. Children have the option to complete courses in math, science, bible, language arts, etc. and a selection of AP courses during their “high school” years. There are also extra electives such as driver’s education, computer programing, foreign language, health, practical life skills, and music that may not be offered in a traditional public school setting. A majority of these programs continue to place an emphasis on God and Christianity while still providing the students with the well-rounded education that will prepare them to enter college or the workforce.

Families who are looking incorporate a more religious intensive curriculum into their child’s education will have a much more enjoyable experience today in 2018 than they would back in the 70s. There are so many more programs to choose from, and because many of them are based online, the students are able to get in contact with other kids their age that may be using the same, or similar programs. Although they may not be with other children for all hours of the day, they are still receiving that exposure and developing similar social skills that they would develop if they were enrolled in general public school.

One of the motives and experiences of homeschooling that has transformed from the 1970s to today is the concern for special education. Data also suggests that in 2016, 34% of families choose to homeschool their children due to a physical or mental health problem, special needs or temporary illness (A National Household Education Survey’s Program). Many parents today are concerned that public schools are more worried about turning out the most number of graduates, or obtaining the highest test scores than the individual child’s learning experience. This is especially true for parents of children with special needs. For example, a mother who has used the online program Achieve Beyond, a curriculum designed specifically for children who suffer from Autism states “…at no point do you feel like you or your child is just floating in space, not being taken seriously.” Despite the daily challenges families with special needs children face, the new experiences of homeschool have made educating these children that much easier.

According to the Homeschool learning defense association (HSLDA), 17 different states are not obligated to give services by law; in other words, there are no laws that allow homeschool education students to obtain special education funding. This has made homeschooling in these different states more of a challenge, but thanks to the online curriculum, many of the lessons designed for special needs children standardized across the country. This means that a child in Connecticut, who is “a student receiving home instruction [and] is not enrolled in a private school, and is not eligible for special education or related services” is able to obtain the same education as a child in Kentucky or Louisiana who is eligible for special services (Special Education Provisions, 2018). The introduction of online and more standardized homeschooling curriculum specifically designed for children with special needs has given parents the ability to provide more structured lessons that students can learn at their own pace.

By far, the most popular change in homeschooling motives is a much stronger emphasis on family first values. This can be anything from a desire to spend more time with your children, to dissatisfaction in the public schooling system/curriculum to wanting to provide more moral instruction. Data from the American Institute for Research (AIR) concluded that 77% of parents choose to homeschool their children in order to “provide moral instruction”, while 74% of parents said they had a strong “dissatisfaction with academic instruction at other schools.” This can be seen extensively in the African American community; the number of homeschooled African American children has almost doubled from 105,000 in 2003, to 220,000 in 2018. Amber Johnson, mother of 4, is concerned that “we have not come as far along in race relations in the country as I thought that we had, and that there seems to be a lot of messed up stuff brewing underneath”. This has caused her, along with hundreds of other families, to transition to homeschooling where they can create a customized curriculum that focuses more on what they want their children to learn, instead of what they schools are teaching them. For example, Sheva Quinn has been homeschooling her six and seven year old daughters for four years, and has built a history curriculum that emphasizes African American history. She has added a personal touch by tracing her family’s history back to Ghana, which allows her children to make a personal connection with the information they are learning, something they would never experience in traditional public schools (Weber & Kargbo, 2018). Quinn, who is a single mother, works as a teacher for online classes, and a homeschool educator has found the access to low-cost or free online lessons has made it possible to be continue to do all the things she enjoys while still providing her children with an education that she feels is best for them.

These family first values that many people share in common has allowed families of all races to connect, share there experiences, teach in group settings, and form a community. Especially with the introduction of online programs, students can now connect and interact with other students across the country. Many homeschooling programs have set up community centers all across the country where students can go and learn a lesson or two in a more formal classroom setting, while still being taught their more specified curriculum. This gives children the ability to interact and form friendships and social skills that they would form in school without actually having to attend public school.

Over the last fifty years, the motivations and experiences of homeschooling have had its ups and downs. The 1970’s were a time for religion, hippies and politics, while today’s communities focus more on special education and family first values. Overall, families who have joined the homeschooling movement over the last five years have had a much more positive experience than those of the 70s. They have been able to use the Internet to benefit their lessons and connect with families across the state or across the country who share similar beliefs on education and lifestyles. Although, the 70s were seen as a truly new era for homeschooling, it was the first time since the 18th century the country had seen such a drastic increase in the number of families who chose to homeschool. Since that transition, the numbers have only continued to increase, and while families motives and experiences have, and will continue to change, the choice of homeschooling will be around for years to come.


A Brief History of Homeschooling. (2017, November 12). Retrieved from   of-homeschooling/

Carper, J. (2000). Pluralism to Establishment to Dissent: The Religious and         Educational Context of Home

Schooling. Peabody Journal of Education,75(1), 8-19.   doi:10.1207/s15327930pje751&2_2

Curriculum, S. (n.d.). Christian Homeschool Curriculum Educational Philosophy.   Retrieved from     philosophy/

Gaither, M. (2009). Homeschooling in the USA. School Field,7(3), 331-346.   doi:10.1177/1477878509343741

Gaither, M. (2017). Homeschool: An American history. New York, NY: Palgrave   Macmillan.

Haynes, C. C., & Thomas, O. S. (2007). Finding common ground: A First   Amendment guide to religion and public schools. Nashville, TN: First Amendment   Center.

Kunzman, R., & Gaither, M. (2013). Homeschooling: A Comprehensive Survey of   the Research. Journal of Educational Alternatives,2(1), 4-59.

Ray, B. D. (2018, January 13). Research Facts on Homeschooling. Retrieved from

Reasons Parents Homeschool. (2017, November 12). Retrieved from   parents- homeschool/

Redford, J., & Battle, D. (2016, November 1). Homeschooling in the United States:   2012. Retrieved from   2012

Special Education Provisions in the 50 States and Territories. (2018). Retrieved   from

Weber, S., & Kargbo, C. (2018, April 22). Black families increasingly choose to   homeschool kids. Retrieved from   families-increasingly-choose-to-homeschool-kids#transcript

















Zero Tolerance: School Discipline or Prison Manufacturer?

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Since its immersion into law through the 1994 Gun Free School Act, “zero tolerance” policies in regards to disciplinary action have been controversial as the initial emphasis for safer school environments free of weapons such as guns, knives, and explosives has transformed to become a mass generator of young disenfranchised Black and Brown men from the educational system to the prison system via the school-to-prison pipeline. As a provision of a larger mandate, the 1994 Gun Free School Act, heavily supported by then President Clinton, was signed into effect under the Improving America’s School Act of 1994, borrowed language from earlier political rhetoric to establish “zero tolerance” policies in regards to drug trade in the early 1980s. This language was later adopted by President Clinton (Martinez, 2009). Through President Clinton’s lens, this terminology would be extrapolated into the educational system to symbolize stricter reinforcement of disciplinary actions for severe behavioral infractions in order to quell the anxieties that existed in many American schools due to the rise in prominence of firearms in schools (Portner, 1994). Although its intention was to create safe school environments, it has been recently used as a tool to police young Black and Brown men. This begs the question how and why did schools respond to early 1980s federal laws on “zero tolerance” disciplinary policies? Furthermore, how have these practices affected the school-to-prison pipeline?

In response to the first question, I will argue that although the 1994 Gun Free School Act did not explicitly utilize the rhetoric of “zero tolerance”, this terminology was applied to the American school system as it symbolized the firm stance that was believed to be needed due to the increasing amount of weapons being brought into schools to enforce a strong, disciplinary ambience. The creation of the term, however, did not arise from this Act, but rather, it was borrowed from earlier struggles to deal with the booming drug trade in the United States. It was utilized as a mechanism to effectively discipline students believed to be serious offenders and threats to their school environments as this language could be applied to a wide variety of issues and settings due to the lack of definition of the term (Martinez, 2009). Secondly, I will argue that despite the intentions to create a safe school environment, the “zero tolerance” policy was adopted, due to federal mandates, to aid schools in the discipline of students, the policing of Black and Brown young men has contributed to the school-to-prison pipeline.

The War on Drugs, initiated under then-president Reagan, began the rhetoric that would later be utilized to enforce strict policies in school environments, although the principle and the practices created did not originally have the intention to be utilized under the school context. Because of the prominence of drugs, especially recreational drug use in young adolescents, this became a large concern of the American people. Through Reagan’s heavy emphasis on drug education programs and demonizing recreational drugs to young children, he coined the “zero tolerance” policy in efforts to quell the growing anxieties believed to be due to the rise of drugs’ pervasiveness in young children’s lives (Viadero & Crawford, 1986). This policy was meant to symbolize severe disciplinary actions and consequences for activities not deemed to be appropriate by government officials. Although these policies had intentions to protect children from illegal drugs and specifically crack cocaine, the creation of federal educational programs alongside a rhetoric focusing heavily on the ills and perils of drugs, this tactic employed by the Reagan administration utilized strict language to instill fear. This tactic proved to be beneficial and was continued to be used by Reagan’s successors because the policy heavily condemned the distribution, usage, and transportation of such illegal drugs as it placed heavy disciplinary action and federal laws on such activities (Viadero & Crawford, 1986). The War on Drugs, as described by Reagan, with policies such as the “zero tolerance” policy transcends not only the drug related crimes in the 1980s but could also be applied to other contexts because the language of “zero tolerance” policies, meant to signify little tolerance of infractions and poor behavior would be faced with severe consequences, did not explicitly pertain to any particular realm of public life and therefore, it could subsequently be applied to the educational system.

Reagan’s legacy only continued through the continuation of harsh disciplinary action in regards to drugs under Bush and ultimately through Clinton, who transformed the term of “zero tolerance” towards the restrictive disciplinary action needed in schools due to the rise of insecurity in school environments. Bush, a believer of Reagan’s stance in regards to drug related offenses pushed Reagan’s initial ideas even further by way of restricting federal funds from those not found to be complicit with the laws and regulations set by the federal government, “Every school, every college and university–and every workplace–must adopt tough but fair policies about drug use by students and employees. And those that will not adopt such policies will not get federal funds. Period” (Bush, 1989). This “tough but fair policies” terminology does not have strong parameters and little clarity regarding the definition of tough and fair, thus creating vague concepts for the policy and its implementation. In addition, the scare tactic created by refusing federal funds to those not found in compliance with the standards set by the government instills a strong coercive sentiment from those anticipating government funds. Bush, through his lack of clarity and seemingly imprecise language, adopted this language from Reagan and added modifications to place stronger responsibilities on drug education programs and schools for their enforcement of the standards advocated by the government. This usage of loose language for policy allowed for the eventual reinterpretation of “zero tolerance” into broader public scopes. This language employed by Bush during his presidency set the precedence for Clinton’s reinterpretation of “zero tolerance” policies.

Because of Clinton’s interpretation of the significance of “zero tolerance” policies, he was able to instill the rhetoric used during the War on Drugs to apply to the educational system through similar politics employed by Bush to transform the policy from drug related offenses to school related behavioral offenses. This is revealed through the Improving Schools Act of 1994. Through this Act, Clinton strived to create a school conducive to effective learning and school safety as demonstrated through many of the mandates. In particular, the provision focused on gun safety in schools, utilizes vague language to condemn weapons in schools, with strong consequences for those not found in compliance with the rules, not only punishable for students with weapons but also the schools, “Requires states to enact laws, and districts to enact policies, expelling for a year students who bring guns to school. Allows local officials to make exceptions on a case-by-case basis. Requires districts to refer such students to the criminal-justice or juvenile-delinquency systems” (Improving Schools Act, 1994). This interpretation by the Clinton administration of earlier “zero tolerance” policies places onus on schools to enforce this disciplinary action in order to maintain federal funds. In addition, although the terminology is not utilized explicitly in this mandate, the sentiment is still in effect as this requires schools to take these behavioral infractions seriously because there will be federal consequences, leaving schools with little options but to comply with this mandate. In this way, Clinton reimagined “zero tolerance” by firstly introducing these policies into the educational system but also through placing heavy responsibility on schools to comply with the standards set by the Act.

Additionally, Clinton’s zero tolerance policy extended not only to enforce strict laws regarding weapons within the school environment, but also to the ideals of appropriate students through their activities and their dress. This is evident through his 1996 presidential campaign, in which the phrase “zero tolerance” was only utilized once, however, the forcefulness and lack of deviation from the standards to be implemented gave schools very little options, thus creating obligations to enforce strict disciplinary action for minute offenses such as dress code and attendance violations.  In his campaign, Clinton emphasized standards for appropriate conduct, as mentioned:

“No student should be so afraid that he or she cannot learn. We are working very hard to preserve funding for the Safe and Drug-Free Schools program and to enforce our policy of zero tolerance for guns in schools….Too often, we learn that students are turning to violence and theft simply to obtain designer clothes and fancy sneakers– or that items of clothing worn to school, bearing special colors or insignia, are used to identify gang membership or to instill fear among students and teachers alike. If student uniforms can help deter school violence, promote discipline, and offer a better learning environment, then we should offer our strong support to the schools and parents that try them. Consequently, we have distributed a new manual on school uniforms to every one of the nation’s 16,000 school districts, providing a central source of information about successful school uniform program” (Clinton, 1996).

Through his depiction of appropriate and inappropriate forms of school dress and conduct, Clinton sends explicit messages about the types of students that are in need of “zero tolerance” policies in order to ensure that these practices of ill dress and criminal activity are quelled from the school environment. Though he does not explicitly mention Black and Brown urban youth, his criminalization of believed gang apparel, theft, and overall style of dress have been stereotypically attributed to urban, poor people of color. This would later lead to the disproportionality of Black and Brown youth in the prison system via the school-to-prison pipeline because of these images about the types of people who are likely to violate these school policies. Furthermore, his idea for creating a culture of appropriate conduct in schools, is one with a one dimensional solution as he attributes uniforms and strict policies regarding possessions of weapons within schools to the eradication of improper conduct. Finally, like his predecessors, Clinton vaguely alludes to federal funds supporting those schools and districts that properly implement his policies, thus forcing schools to have to uphold these standards out of necessity rather than agreeance to the policies. Though he did not overtly mention “zero tolerance” policies in this statement, the sentiment permeated his language due to the enticement of schools to create these policies due to an increase in funds and the transformation of “zero tolerance” policies to not only apply to weapon possession but also exert control over students’ physical bodies through dress.

Although it has been discussed that “zero tolerance” policies were intended to specifically target gun possession in schools, as demonstrated with the language utilized by the Clinton administration through his 1996 Presidential campaign, “zero tolerance” policies’ implementations in schools were not equitably, nor conditionally applied in all schools across the country. Despite the mandates for all schools to have these policies ingrained in their schools, the implementation of these policies lacked uniformity due to the lack of clear understanding of “zero tolerance” and a set of applicable areas, therefore, allowing different schools to apply these policies differently, for different offenses. For example, the rhetoric utilized in the legislation experienced a shift from initially “firearm” to “weapon” (Martinez, 2009). This small shift in the language encompasses a much larger range of unacceptable behaviors. By changing the legislation from “firearm” to “weapon”, a larger amount of items could be classified as a “weapon” and as “weapon” is a much more subjective term. This term lacks a universal understanding due to different perceptions regarding a “weapon”. This gives school officials more freedom in their determination if a student possesses a “weapon”, different than a “firearm” because a “firearm” has a set definition, perception and physical appearance. Additionally, as reported by Martinez in her study of the effectiveness of “zero tolerance” policies, the utilization of these policies varied nationwide, dependent on the school, “In addition, 94% of schools targeted firearms and weapons, 88% targeted drugs, 87% targeted alcohol, and 79% targeted fights (Casella). In 1997, drugs were added to the policy (Casella). Beginning in 1999, some schools included swearing, truancy, insubordination, disrespect, and dress-code violation (Axman, 2005, Essex, 2004; Skiba, 2000; Wald, 2001) in their policies” (Martinez, 2009). This is indicative of the lack of uniformity in application of these policies, therefore, allowing a large range of behaviors to be subjectively deemed inappropriate and dangerous to the school environment.

Though the criminalization of Black men existed prior to the creation of “zero tolerance” policies, these policies proved to target Black youth, in a way that was uncharacteristic of the prior mechanisms to criminalize this group by way of the educational system. Though Black men have long been sought after for disciplinary consequences, dating to the Civil Rights Era and prior, “zero tolerance” policies in the educational system directed criminalization to a new demographic that had not been as heavily policed, young Black men in schools. As mentioned previously, as “zero tolerance” policies transformed from drug related offenses to weapon related offenses to any behavioral offenses, not limited to dress and conduct, this broadened the number of acts that could be considered criminal through the lens of the policy. This form of social control comes at the cost of the livelihoods of Black and Brown youth as the vagueness of “zero tolerance” policies and their enforcement may result in severe consequences for minor infractions (Triplett, Allen & Lewis, 2014). This is indicative by the rate of suspension and expulsion of Black and Brown youth, “Although African American boys comprised 17% of Oakland Unified School District student population in 2010–11, they constituted 42% of students suspended (Urban Strategies Council, 2012, p. 6). Nearly one in ten African American boys in elementary school, one in three in middle school, and one in five in high school were suspended in 2010–11 (p. 6).” (Brown, 2014). Although this statistic is utilized within the context of Oakland, California, this is representative of the nation as a whole. Additionally, this is demonstrative of the severe behavioral consequences that Black youth are disproportionately shortchanged by that leads to interruptions in their education and ultimately, to their livelihoods. Through “zero tolerance” policies in schooling, school discipline has shifted to penalize students of color has become a gateway to the prison system.

As “zero tolerance” policies have evolved over time, their consequences have also changed due to the change in target of the policy. In its initial form, “zero tolerance” policies were meant to discipline those involved in the booming drug trade in the 1980s, however, as drugs were believed to be infiltrating the educational system, “zero tolerance” was extrapolated to apply to drug related offenses in the educational system. This was first initiated under then-president Ronald Reagan, who sought to bring relief and tough disciplinary action to those found not in compliance with the standards set by “zero tolerance” policies. Shortly thereafter, the Bush administration sought to more fully extend the ideas of his predecessor by coupling this policy with federal funds. Federal funds would be given to schools that featured “zero tolerance” policies in regards to drug related behaviors. In addition, programs that illustrated drug education too would be given federal aid. Under Clinton, following the ideals set by both Reagan and Bush, this rhetoric was used to enforce strict disciplinary action for students considered to be threats to their school environment for their gun possession. However, with an increase in gun violence in schools nationwide, this policy was again reformed to apply to a more expansive list of weapons in order to create a safer school environment. Although it was intended to create a safer school environment, under Clinton, it was again modified to apply to a larger range of school behavior and conduct. This change in “zero tolerance” policies came with heavy consequences for students of color, as these students, and predominantly Black and Brown young men became the target of this policy as a social control tactic. This has lead to the large increase of Black and Brown young men found in the prison system via the school-to-prison pipeline. The evolution of “zero tolerance” policies has demonstrated that although policies may have intentions to be beneficial, in practice, these policies may have adverse effects and lead to a lower quality of life despite intentions to better lives.



Brown, O. (2014). From the Philadelphia Negro to the Prison Industrial Complex: Crime and the Marginalization of African American Males in Contemporary America. Spectrum: A  Journal on Black Men, 3(1), 71-96. doi:10.2979/spectrum.3.1.71

Clinton/Gore ’96 Campaign. “President Clinton’s Plans for Education in America.” The Phi Delta Kappan, vol. 78, no. 2, 1996, pp. 116–118. JSTOR, JSTOR,

Martinez, Stephanie. “A System Gone Berserk: How Are Zero-Tolerance Policies Really Affecting Schools?.” Preventing School Failure, vol. 53, no. 3, 01 Jan. 2009, pp. 153-158.

Mongan, P., & Walker, R. (2012). “The Road to Hell Is Paved with Good Intentions”: A Historical, Theoretical, and Legal Analysis of Zero-Tolerance Weapons Policies in American Schools. Preventing School Failure, 56(4), 232-240.

Portner, J. (2016, May 01). Clinton Gives Symbolic Lift to Gun-Free Provision. Retrieved April  16, 2018, from

President Sounds Battle Cry for a National War on Drugs. (2016, December 14). Retrieved April 18, 2018, from war on drugs

Summary of the Improving America’s Schools Act. (2016, May 01). Retrieved from free school act inmeta:Cover_year=1994

Triplett, N., Allen, A., & Lewis, C. (2014). Zero Tolerance, School Shootings, and the Post-Brown Quest for Equity in Discipline Policy: An Examination of

How Urban Minorities Are Punished for White Suburban Violence. The Journal of Negro Education, 83(3), 352-370. doi:10.7709/jnegroeducation.83.3.0352

Viadero, D., & Crawford, J. (2017, September 26). Reagan and Congress Poised To Launch War Against Drugs. Retrieved April 17, 2018, from

Continuity and Change of Teach for America Impact

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The goal of the controversial program Teach for America (TFA) is to improve the education of the most needy students in impoverished areas in order to combat inequality. Current media criticizes the program harshly for sending underprepared college graduates into disadvantaged public schools and only worsening the issues already existing. Yet since its founding, TFA has attracted the best and brightest of college graduates who go into teaching believing that they will make a difference, despite criticisms of the organization. My own research investigates the question: How have Teach for America teachers from 1989 to today perceived their impact on improving the education of disadvantaged students?

Teach for America alumni reflect on their experience of feeling overwhelmed by the realities of teaching in urban and rural schools. While most go into the program optimistic and excited to be a sort of savior to their students, there is an overwhelming trend over time of TFA teachers leaving the experience feeling that their impact was not all positive. In more recent years, teachers have begun to recognize the flaws of the whole Teach for America program, rather than focusing just on their own mistakes as earlier alum had tended to do.

Teach for America’s website defines the program as “a diverse network of leaders who confront educational inequity through every sector, starting with two years of teaching in a low-income community” (“Teach for America”). Founded in 1989 by Wendy Kopp, who conceived of the idea as her senior thesis at Princeton, TFA reports having over 55,000 alumni and corps members (“Teach for America”). Their mission statement claims that their goal is “expanding opportunity for children by affecting profound systemic change. We find, develop, and support a diverse network of leaders from classrooms, schools, and every sector and field in order to shape the broader system in which schools operate” (“Teach for America”). It begins with a competitive application process, during which it recruits college graduates and has an acceptance rate of 11% in recent years (Kruvelis). The summer before recruits are to begin teaching, they take part in 6-9 weeks of intensive training to prepare them before their minimum two year commitment to their assignment to a struggling public school (“Teach for America”).

In its early years, TFA corps members seemed to see more promise in the program, and viewed the problems they encountered more as problems that they anticipated being improved through training. In an observation of Michael Lach, a recruit in training in 1990, a professor reflected that “if this program intends to prepare a new corps of teachers who will enter America’s schools and have the confidence, competence, and commitment to stay there long enough to make a difference, perhaps it should be more respectful of the depth and breadth of knowledge, the complexity, and, indeed, the artistry required of good teaching” (Appleman 19). A year later, when asked about the impact of his time teaching, Michael said “TFA and my experience has not made me a happier person. I see a sad, messed up place. I’m trying as best I can to change it. It’s frustrating … but it would be even worse if no one did it.” (Appleman). Seeing the true inequities in the underprivileged society in which he worked, Michael seems to have more doubt that Teach for America was prepared to solve the problem.

Jonathan Schorr, who reflected on his experience in the corps in 1993, still during the first five years of TFA, similarly felt his hopefulness dwindling during his years working at his assigned school, “I- perhaps like most TFA-ers, harbored dreams of liberating my students from public school mediocrity and offering them as good an education as I had received. But I was not ready…. As bad as it was for me, it was worse for the students…. Many of mine … took long steps on the path toward dropping out…. I was not a successful teacher and the loss to the students was real and large” (Schorr 318).

In the early 1990s, the media was already reflecting criticism that amplified the flaws in the system reflected by TFA experiences. While corps members like Lach and Schorr expressed a sense of failure to their students for their personal lack of preparation for the classroom, the entire organization was under fire for its setup of sending “pedagogically underprepared teachers in charge of classrooms full of the at-risk students who populate inner-city and rural schools” (Lawton). The media had grown highly critical of TFA, saying it only makes the issues of under resourced schools worse for minority and low-income students by perpetuating their unequal access to quality teachers (Darling-Hammond). While teachers themselves tended to focus on their own struggles in fighting inequality based upon feeling unprepared, sources outside of TFA deemed the program harmful to those it served. As this outlook grew more common in the public opinion, teachers reflecting on their experiences tended to recognize deeper flaws in the system that TFA continuously neglected to resolve.  

A major cause for the escalation of criticisms against TFA as an organization by not only the mass media but also its own members can be connected to the insufficient reforms. Within the last twenty years, the organization has expanded immensely. Wendy Chovnick, who was a corps member from 2001-2003, when contrasting the amount of support she felt she had during her commitment when compared to the experiences of corps members now, sums up that she believes “TFA was in many ways a better, and more genuine, organization in the late 1990s and early 2000s that it is today” (Chovnick 143). This is due to the fact that by expanding as an organization, TFA is sending even more unprepared teachers into classrooms with needy students, while also reportedly providing less support for corps members while on the job. Thus, students receive an even poorer education as their teachers are forced to deal with issues that come up in classrooms without the guidance of TFA leadership and mentors.

TFA alum Marco spoke on his time teaching in 2010 with a similar sense of unpreparedness as his earlier counterparts saying “‘Two years is far too short a time for stints with such things. I must admit that this leads me to question the Teach For America program in general. Can I really become an effective educator in such a short period of time? What is the actual quality of education I am providing to my students? Am I even affecting the inequity that infects our nation’s educational system?’” (Veltri 161). Another teacher who was assigned by TFA in the 2000s, Marguerite, stated “‘It troubles me that, regardless of my good intentions, I am contributing to the cycle of inconsistency present in my school. I do firmly believe that my presence at Jackson is a positive thing… But, as I try to accomplish these goals, however, I am learning to be a teacher” (Veltri 161-162). These teachers are recognizing the impact of their inexperience as a whole, recognizing that learning on the job is irresponsible and unfair to their students. It had become apparent that after years in action TFA had done the opposite of its goal of decreasing inequality in the education of students in having developed a trend of many teachers leaving the profession, only continuing the cycle of disadvantaged students learning from new rounds of inexperienced teachers.

Additionally, the memoirs of recent TFA corps members have taken on more serious criticisms regarding the dysfunction of the organization. In addition to the previously recognized problem of teacher inexperience, members highlight that TFA’s approach to educating these students actually enforces the inequity of their circumstances. Sarah Ishmael, who taught with TFA from 2010 to 2013 recognized serious flaws in training TFA provided regarding how they approached teaching and preparing for cultural differences. It is important to understand that most corps members come from upper middle class backgrounds and grew up with all the resources which the students they serve lack. Ishmael critiques the enforcement of deficit thinking saying that TFA “have not effectively taken responsibility for ensuring that corps members have a truly critical understanding of race, class, White privilege, and the historically racist roots of inequality” (Ishmael 87-88). Backing up Ishmael’s experience, a study on the content of TFA’s preservice training revealed that not only had TFA failed to distinguish between critical scholarly and lay definitions of privilege, but also the materials they used in diversity sessions created misunderstandings about the nature of privilege and what communities of color were like (Bybee 2013). In fact, this can be exemplified by a writing on change driven by Teach for America by the head of research at TFA, who states, “In our most transformational classrooms, both teachers and students display a sense of urgency and focus, a collective purpose, and a determination to defy what some call the ‘destiny of demographics.’ Students own their progress, are intrinsically motivated, and engage at high levels with rigorous and meaningful content” (Harding). This kind of thought enforces that students are at a deficit because of their race, and is a harmful mindset for teachers to have toward their students because it influences the way their students think about themselves. If students believe that they are not destined to succeed based on their race and are taught that it is something they must work to overcome, they are less likely to learn effectively. Ishmael asserts that her training left her strongly feeling that TFA “allowed corps members to treat the cultural differences between their students as deficits by emphasizing the importance of teaching students to rise above their communities’ ‘low expectations of them’” (Ishmael 90). TFA encourages corps members to instill a “no excuses” culture typical of White-upper-middle class culture, which is ignorant in that it drives them to think that they can encourage their students to criticize their own culture. This model fosters deficit thinking, which is harmful for students and teachers alike. Ishmael profoundly highlights the savior complex that this kind of thought cultivates, saying on the topic of teachers benefitting from TFA by leaving with a so-called newfound understanding for the disadvantages of those they serve with a lower socioeconomic status and of a minority race, that “people of color, people who have been legally and economically disenfranchised, should never have to educate their more privileged counterparts about what it’s like to be oppressed. Children should never have to show their teachers why and how their ‘no excuses’ culture is harmful and based on deficit thinking” (Ishmael 92). There are major flaws in TFA’s diversity training that have a severe impact on the inequity of education for the students TFA attempts to serve.

The main reason why criticism for TFA has been mounting over time is due to its continued lack of response to the negative judgement and suggestions for reform which it receives. Chovnick again castigates the organization based upon her experience of observing them being ignorant to grievances and concerns and churning out positive TFA stories to mask the bad and improve the public image of them. Chovnick says she is “a firm believer that all organizations, especially nonprofit organizations, must be open to critique and willing to engage in honest dialogue about limitations and how to improve. In my experience, TFA was more interested in sharing a good story than engaging public dialogue about really difficult questions facing the organization and facing education” (Chovnick 147-148). Based on her experiences, TFA should be more open to criticism and willing to make changes in order to function in a useful way for accomplishing its original purpose of creating better educational opportunities for disadvantaged students, and deviate from the trend of increasing criticism over time for its approach to teaching.

While it is easy to find negative critiques in the media on TFA from any point in its existence, delving into corps members memoirs and reflections from their own experience being in the organization uncovers a more personal lens of the inequity that TFA has come to be known for perpetrating. Early members tended to express concerns for the success of the organization based on their own sense of incompetence as teachers based on the insufficient preparation TFA provided. This was just the beginning of the unfair education that the organization was providing to disadvantaged students. As TFA continued to expand and fail to address these issues, corps members, in accord with the media, shifted to more severe criticism, to the point of suggesting that the inherent design of TFA would never be effective. Alumni accounts regarding their impact on inequality through TFA is particularly valuable to research because it “reveals the subtle interactions among TFA teachers’ personal identities, their evolving professional ambitions, and the organization’s communication about the purposes of their participation in the program. It also brings to light the less examined, though potentially powerful, qualitative effects of TFA’s model and the organizational values and ideologies that it implies” (Trujillo, Scott & Rivera). Through investigating these accounts, the reality of the TFA experience and the truth behind the media’s criticisms of it can be understood at a unique level in order to recognize the trend of mounting criticism in the organization.

Works Cited

Appleman, Deborah. “Teach for America: Is Idealism Enough?” The Christian Science Monitor, 8 Aug. 1990,, p. 19.

Appleman, Deborah. “‘Teach for America’ a Year Later” The Christian Science Monitor, 22 Aug. 1991,

Bybee, Eric Ruiz. “An Issue of Equity: Assessing the Cultural Knowledge of Pre-service Teachers in Teach for America.” (2013).

Chovnick, Wendy. “Good intentions gone bad: Teach For America’s transformation from a small, humble non-profit into an elitist corporate behemoth.” Teach For America counter narratives: Alumni speak up and speak out. New York, NY: Peter Lang(2015).

Darling-Hammond, Linda. “Who Will Speak for the Children? How ‘Teach for America’ Hurts Urban Schools and Students.” The Phi Delta Kappan, vol. 76, no. 1, 1994, pp. 21–34.

Harding, Heather. “Teach for America: Leading for Change.” Educational Leadership, vol. 69, no. 8, 2012, pp. 58–61.

Ishmael, Sarah. “Dysconscious Racism, Class Privilege, and TFA” Teach For America counter narratives: Alumni speak up and speak out. New York, NY: Peter Lang(2015).

Kruvelis, Melanie. “Seniors Vie for Spot in Selective Teach for America Program.” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, 14 Aug. 2014,

Lawton, Millicent. “Teach For America: Success or ‘Disservice’?” Education Week, 3 May 2016,

Schorr, Jonathan. “Class Action: What Clinton’s National Service Program Could Learn from ‘Teach for America,'” Phi Delta Kappan, December 1993, pp. 315-18.

“Teach For America.” Teach For America,

Trujillo, Tina, Janelle Scott, and Marialena Rivera. “Follow the yellow brick road: Teach for America and the making of educational leaders.” American Journal of Education 123.3 (2017): 353-391.

Veltri, Barbara Torre. Learning on Other People’s Kids: Becoming a Teach for America Teacher. Information Age Pub., 2010.


The Rise and Fall of Black Teachers and Principals in U.S. Public Schools Since Brown v. Board

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The effect the 1954 court ruling, Brown v. Board, had on students in the south and across the nation is a popular study. Eventually, schools across the nation black and white students attended schools together, with an equal education. However, I’m interested in understanding what happened to the teachers and the principals from the all-black public schools. What happened to this population after the implementation of the 1954 court ruling? Discussions about the lack of faculty diversity in public schools are still being had today. Black school officials were most ran public-schools, but they didn’t run the schools that were integrated. They especially were not put in charge for making decisions for school-boards post-segregation. Even in the most recent years, the numbers of black teachers and principals are low across the nation. How did the population of Black teachers and principals in our nation’s public schools change from 1960 to 2009 and why did this change occur?

The change in the population of Black teachers and principals resembles a wave. The numbers fluctuated over time. First, during the mid-1960’s, in the early years of implementing the court ruling, the numbers of Black teachers and principals declined as a result of racism that marred school desegregation. Second, from the late-60’s to the early 70’s the number of Black teachers increased in efforts to improve the diversity issue recognized by certain administrators in the south. Third, by the mid-70’s another drop in Black teacher population occurred. Black teachers were being hired at slower rates and fired at faster rates.  In recent 20 years, the number of black teachers and principals across the nation continue to be at a low. Other factors contributed to this; low graduation rates of Black students and a lack of Black applicants for teaching positions. The rise and fall of the population of Black teachers and principals were a result of the way white-run school districts chose to interpret and implement the court order. When the 1954 Brown v Board decision required southern schools to integrate, the jobs of black teachers and principals were not protected.

The NAACP convinced the supreme court that the long-standing doctrine “separate but equal” was in violation of the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments. The quality of the education was not equal among the racially segregated schools. When the supreme court ruled racially segregated schools were unconstitutional, school boards did not act in accordance right away. White school boards, politicians, and families refused to comply. The feeling was mutual for Black students’ and their families because integration also meant to trade in the unique solidarity that existed between the black faculty and the students at the all-black public schools, for equal education funding and quality. When integration eventually took its course, most Black teachers and principals were not included. While Black and White faces filled the seats at the newly integrated schools, the hand on the blackboard was still White. Black school officials were left high and dry by the thousands.

White politicians and school officials realized they had to comply when civil rights organization, NAACP, filed lawsuits and consistently pressured school boards to integrate. By the summer of 1965, moderation of school desegregation resistance began with Hyde County being the first school district to comply. Nonetheless, school boards created barriers that delayed integration, which included guidelines that allowed school boards to deny Black students for reasons that were motivated by race, though race was not explicitly stated. “Under the leadership of Gov. Luther Hodges, the state engineered a series of legal and administrative barriers to school integration that, although very effective, did not appear openly to defy the Supreme Court.”. One would think that a decline in teaching positions would be the reason why Black teachers are low in numbers, but studies found that Black applicants were being hired at slower rates compared to White applicants, during the mid-60’s. This was the turning point that contributed to the first dip in the population of Black teachers and principals in our nation’s public schools. The Black teachers who were hired to work in the newly integrated schools did not experience the same work environment as they did at the all-black schools. They were treated poorly by the White teachers, administrators, and the White students whom they taught. “In 1970, Crew, who was Black, joined the Hayes integration committee and was dismayed by the white students-mostly those with disciplinary problems- and white teachers the city Board of Education assigned to the school.” (Goldstein p. 119). Black teachers were assigned to classrooms where the grade level and subject area was out of the scope of their expertise, resulting in poor teacher-evaluations and student test scores. Ultimately, the seemingly underperforming Black teachers were removed from their positions for incompetence. “White school boards used a number of strategies to obscure the role racism played in decisions to terminate black educators.” (Goldstein, p. 118). This is the second contributing factor to the population dip. If they have to be hired for the sake of following constitutional provisions, manipulate the conditions so there is a reason to let them go. For the Black teachers who endured the poor working conditions, it was their duty to be a role model and a support system for the Black students who also felt intolerable by their White teachers and classmates. Administrators worried that with such little Black teachers, students would be forced to face the challenges of integration alone. “Educators and students who experienced first-hand racial desegregation of schools found themselves caught in a dilemma: the advantages of better facilities and curriculum in integrated schools vs. the attachment to schools that had become valued cultural centers, untainted by white interference.”

A rise in the population wave occurred in 1965. In response to administrations’ concern for Black students’ well-being, five hundred southern Black teachers who were displaced by the Brown ruling were hired. NAACP Lawyer, Jack Greenberg expressed that more needed to be done because Black teachers held a “uniquely important place in Southern society.” Unfortunately, despite the truth behind Greenberg’s statement on the absolute necessity and importance of having Black teachers, diversity was swept out just as fast as it was brought in. The rate of the decline in Black public school teachers and principals is astonishing.

In the following five years, according to a 1972 report on the displacement of educators in desegregated public schools, in 1970, there were only 8 Black high school principals remaining in North Carolina. North Carolina experienced the highest decline in Black public school faculty out of 8 southern states, that being 96%. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare 1972 data shows that the number of high schools grew to be 311. Surely, the population of principals grew as well. Gathered from the same data set, the population of White high school principals rose during this period from 167 to 280. While that of Black principals dropped from 44 to 31. The number of White high school principals grew by 67 percent; versus a 30 percent decline in Black principals. If the growth rate of Black principals had been in sync with the growing rate of high schools at that time, studies predict there would have been at least 65 Black principals. Evaluating this data proves that the racial disparity between Black and White principals grew. Initially (before the number of high schools increased) for every Black principal there were four times as many White principals, on average (1: 3.8). Assuming the prediction supplied by the survey is accurate, the ratio of Black to White principals would have increased by a small degree (1: 4.1). Yet, the confirmed data (the 30% decline in Black principals) reveal that the ratio increased considerably: there were nine times as many White principals than Black principals in 1972.  

Over the course of the years following school desegregation in the 1960’s, there has been a pattern in the reasons behind the rise and fall of Black teachers and principals. The then segregated,  all-black public schools had a unique education- one that reflected their experiences as Black people during that time, one where the teachers looked like the students, and one that implemented Black culture into the curriculum. The teachers were empathetic to the needs of their student because of this common ground. Not only did these customs influence the way students felt about their education, it also influenced the way teachers thought of their role as educators, leaders, and the likelihood that these teachers would return at the start of every school year. The newly racially integrated schools did not integrate those customs. This negligence continued years following. Black teachers and Black students were placed in a white world of academia- and so we are here. A 2016 report by The U.S. Department of Education on “The State of Racial Diversity in the Educator Workforce” included a survey on the percentage of public school teachers who remained in the same school in 2011-12 to 2012-14. The survey indicated that Black teacher retention rate was the lowest. Amongst White, Hispanic, and Asian/Pacific Islanders, Asian/Pacific Islander teachers rated the highest retention at 96%. Prepared teachers tend to work in poor urban schools with high proportions of students of color. These high-poverty schools tend to have higher rates of teachers who leave the profession and those who move to other schools than low-poverty schools. Even though the makeup of some classrooms resemble that of the all-black schools previous to the 1960’s, the community, the culture, and the values do not because schools across the nation have adopted that of the white-run school boards, starting post Brown v. Board. Subsequently, it is safe to assume that this loss leads to the loss of our Black teachers and principals and their willingness to stay in the profession.

Recruitment and retention of teachers of color may be affected by the larger percentage of teachers of color who participate in alternative teacher preparation programs. HBCUs and alternative routes to teacher certification tend to enroll a more racially diverse population of teacher candidates. There’s an issue with the rates in Black applicants alongside an issue with Black graduates. Between 2007 and 2009, in New Orleans, the proportion of Black teachers fell from 73% to 57%. Black teachers are leaving their positions and at the same time, less Black graduates are filling those roles. According to The Department’s Baccalaureate and Beyond (B&B) Longitudinal Study on 2008 bachelor’s degree graduates who applied to k-12 teaching positions, only  9% of all the graduates were Black, and only 15% of those who applied to teaching positions were Black. Of the small pool of graduates, the majority of them are applicants. However, on a large scale, these numbers do not compare to the number of White applicants. Additionally, the rate of students of color graduating high school and completing college reduces the number of graduates eligible for teaching positions. High school graduation rates among black students are 54 percent. Only 56 percent of black students who complete high school move on to college. The six-year graduation rate for African Americans was only 40.5 percent in 2007.

When the Supreme court ruled that state-sanctioned racially segregated schools were unconstitutional as it violated the fourteenth amendment, they did not explicitly include the professionals who were also racially segregated. Therefore, school-boards, who were at first reluctant to move into integration, interpreted the ruling in a way that did not allow many Black teachers nor principals to keep their jobs. When the court ruling was finally implemented in the 60’s, the population of Black teachers and principals fell. As the years went on, these numbers rose and fell continuously, but the decline was much greater! These reasons changed over time, from explicitly racists white administrators refusing to hire Black faculty, to Black teacher being put under circumstances that led them to be fired, then the reduction of Black graduates affecting the number of eligible teachers. Furthermore, the conditions of public schools affected the retention rate of Black teachers. The way that the school boards implemented the 1954 ruling set the stage for the state of diversity in our nation’s public schools.

Tool for Change: Understanding the Formation and Evolution of the Title IX Statute as a Policy Base for Social and Political Reform

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Tool for Change: Understanding the Formation and Evolution of the Title IX Statute as a Policy Base for Social and Political Reform

In the United States, upward social mobility is often desired but infrequently achieved due to inequalities within political, economic, and social structures. The United States places a strong emphasis on academic rigor to achieve upward social mobility. Educational opportunities are crucial for the success of American citizens because the United States has strong cultural reliance on schooling, literacy, and a competitive nature with other nations. The United States has deeply rooted history within the system of education, however, there are large disparities within educational opportunities. The United States is continuously challenged to combat educational disparities through top-down methodology. Policymakers, advocates, and citizens rally to create legislation to challenge educational inequalities. Often, legislators develop policy to challenge one issue, however, the policy in practice can be much different. Furthermore, legislators use the momentum of particular policy as a tool for change; to create political and social reform from policy enacted by Congress. Specifically, the implementation and evolution of the educational statute, Title IX, suggests that the role of institutional legitimacy within government and academic institutions directly correspond to momentum shift of policy in practice. The evolution of Title IX shows two different political bases in which legislators used the statute Title IX as a tool for change to instill social and political reform.  How did the Title IX statute originate in 1972 as a matter of educational policy in the minds of legislators and how has the policy shifted momentum in the past 15 years?

Throughout the early-to-mid 1900s, there were large social and economic disparities between men and women. In the educational realm, men had plethora of educational opportunities and women did not. This educational disparity between men and women received push-back by women’s rights activists. Legislators were forced to create a statute that would address the need for equal educational opportunities. The creation of the Title IX statute in 1972 sought to answer the concerns of activists. Interestingly, the momentum of Title IX has shifted from ensuring educational opportunities regardless of sex and has begun to address more pressing issues of sexual misconduct within post-secondary institutions. The shift in momentum functions through legislators using different issues as policy bases. Title IX originated as a matter of policy to strictly provide gender equality in educational opportunities using the policy base of athletics, however, within the past fifteen, legislators shifted momentum by addressing sexual misconduct as their policy base under Title IX to instill institutional legitimacy at the educational and governmental level to create meaningful social and political reform.

The development of educational equality as a matter of policy formation stems from the advocacy of women’s rights activists and the role of athletics in the mid 1900s. On July 2, 1964, Congress enacted the Civil Rights Act which “prohibited discrimination in public places, provided for the integration of schools and other public facilities and made employment discrimination illegal [on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin]” (Bowen, 2015). This legislation was one of the first significant steps to eliminate discriminatory practices in the workplace on the basis of sex. After implementation, women’s rights activists continued to push for equalities within all aspects of American society. Studies found that educational opportunities were directly linked to greater participation in the labor force, increased earnings, better health and access to healthcare (Ensuring Equity, 2009, 4). Educational opportunities provide the  necessary tools for upward social mobility. Therefore, activists understood the importance of institutions providing equal educational opportunities regardless of gender. Women’s rights activists also placed emphasis on the role of women in athletics.

Athletics have remained a dominant part of American culture. Women have been able to participate in athletics since the early 1900s. One of the main actors within athletics is the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). This organization was established in 1905 and remained the most dominant organization in intercollegiate athletics because of their administrative and organizational role and control of television rights for collegiate sports (Ware, 2011, 54). It is important to understand the role of the NCAA in the athletic realm of post-secondary institutions because the NCAA did not support the opinion of women’s rights activists in the need for equal educational and athletic opportunities. During the early 1900’s, the NCAA strictly focused on men’s athletic events due to popularity. However, during the 1960s, the United States Cold War rhetoric against the Soviet Union created “a palpable national need to defeat the Soviets in many areas of life, including sports” (Smith, 2011, 143). The emphasis of women competing in athletics shifted the viewpoint of the NCAA and the organization quickly embedded its administrative power in both male and female collegiate athletics. The advocacy of equal educational opportunities from women’s rights advocates and dominant organizations like the NCAA led to the implementation of the Title IX statute and created the first political base in which legislators strove to provide social and political reform.

Due to the determination of advocates of equal opportunity in educational and athletic structures within institutions, policymakers realized the need to create legislation to support gender equality. The United States enacted the federal statute Title IX under the Educational Amendment of 1972. Title IX states:

No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance (AAUW, 2009).

The statute was fairly minor in terms of detail because legislators feared public push-back. The social norms within the United States still emphasized the gender differences between men and women. Legislators did not want radical policy, but quite simply, gender equality in education. After the passage of Title IX, there was a lack of enforcement in post-secondary educational institutions. Advocates accepted that Title IX was a tool in the process of achieving gender equality within educational and athletic opportunities. The strength of Title IX relied on its use of “citizens making educators aware of its existence and demanding adherence to this law” (Women Studies Newsletter, 1974). Self-advocacy was predominant in the athletic realm of Title IX and equal opportunity.

In 1976, the Yale women’s rowing team experienced conditions that were drastically different from their male counterpart. The women’s team were forced to sit on the bus, freezing cold, while the men’s team showered. Chris Ernst, an athlete on the women’s rowing team, and her eighteen other teammates made a nationwide stance against the unfair treatment. Ernst reached out to national media outlets to gain coverage of the unfair treatment that was still occurring even after the implementation of Title IX (Dupont, 2012). Policymakers needed to address higher educational institutions regarding their compliance with Title IX. Using athletics as the political base to instill political and social reform, legislators shifted the momentum of Title IX within the ten years of being implemented. This momentum shift in policy gave administrative power to educational institutions as well as government organizations. The Department of Health, Education and Welfare were given “three main responsibilities in administering Title IX: 1) explaining the law to schools and colleges and advising the public of its rights under the law and what to do if those rights were denied; 2) investigating charges of discrimination filed by citizens; and 3) initiating investigations to make sure the nation’s 16,000 school districts were in compliance with the law” (Smith, 2011, 63). Legislators quickly recognized the difficulty in administering the statute without real compliance guidelines. This lead to the creation of the Three Prong Test under the Title IX statue.

In 1979, the Office for Civil Rights created regulations in which an institution could adhere to Title IX requirements. Legislators used athletics as their political base to create guidance standards. In order to remain in compliance of Title IX, institutions could adhere to any one of the prongs including: “1) by providing athletic opportunities proportionate to student enrollment, (2) by demonstrating continual expansion of athletic opportunities to the underrepresented sex, and (3) by full accommodation of the interests and abilities of the underrepresented sex” (Smith, 2011, 149). The creation of the Three Prong Test instilled more institutional legitimacy at the governmental level because the government had a written set of compliance standards educational institutions were required to follow.

Within the first decade of Title IX, it was clear that Title IX originated as a matter of policy to address inequalities within educational institutions. Legislators created simple policy using athletics as their political base in the hopes to provide gender equality in educational opportunities. In the early stages of Title IX, there was a lack of enforcement due to the low level of legislative interest. However, the role of athletics acted as the policy base in which Title IX quickly shifted momentum over the first few years of implementation. The advocacy of women in athletics evolved Title IX to become more structurally sound; policymakers realized they needed to hold institutions accountable through the use of compliance guidelines like the Three Prong test. It is clear that the introduction of Title IX was to address the overarching disparities between men and women in regard to educational opportunities. However, in the past fifteen years, the evolution of Title IX has shifted to address the frequency of sexual misconduct on college campuses. Legislators are using sexual misconduct as the base under the Title IX statute to provide clear and precise legislative policy that will instill institutional legitimacy at the educational and governmental level.

Sexual misconduct is a societal issue that has been present in the United States for a very long time. However, within the past fifteen years, the United States has experienced an increase of sexual misconduct on college campuses. The evidence is overwhelming: 1-in-5 women experience sexual misconduct as some point during their college career (Gray, 2015). In addition, there has been a drastic rise of complaints of discrimination to the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) department from 6,364 in fiscal 2009 to 9,989 in fiscal 2014 (Layton, 2015). The increase of sexual misconduct within post-secondary institutions have created a significant momentum shift in Title IX policy. Legislators have shifted their political base from athletics to sexual misconduct in order to create relevant social and political reform. In 2011, the Obama administration issued the “Dear Colleague Letter” which offered guidance to institutions when handling sexual misconduct on college campuses.

The Dear Colleague guidance placed emphasis on procedural requirements of the college institution which included: “1) a notice of nondiscrimination, 2) employment of at least one individual to handle Title IX responsibilities at that institution and, 3) creation and publication of grievance procedures that provide a fair and timely response to sex discrimination complaints” (OCR, 2011, 6). The implementation of these procedural requirements under Title IX are the first momentum shift of Title IX policy under the political base of sexual misconduct. By creating these standards, the Obama administration initiated the efforts to instill institutional legitimacy at the governmental and educational level in order to address the high frequency of sexual misconduct on college campuses. The Obama administration used the Title IX statute as their base for their policy formation surrounding the prevalence of sexual misconduct on college campuses. The new guidance under the Title IX statute clearly had one focus in the mind of policymakers: to reduce the frequency of sexual assault on college campuses and to promote the use of educational programs when training students and faculty. However, the Obama administration failed to recognize the potential implications that arise from the implementation, applicability, and compliance standards of Dear Colleague.

After the release of the Obama administration “Dear Colleague” guidance, there was severe push-back from institutions and advocates due to confusing requirements and the governments “improper pressure upon universities to adopt procedures that do not afford fundamental fairness” (Penn, 2015, 1). The guidelines placed pressure on the collegiate institutions to adjudicate sexual assault cases, however, many argued this would sidestep due process and normal legal procedure. In addition, the 2011 “Dear Colleague” guidance acted as just that; there was no law passed by Congress to actually require institutions to reform their procedures. The government could do little to require institutions to comply with the guidance which reduced institutional legitimacy at both the governmental and institutional level. These push-backs created the most recent evolution of Title IX policy with the release of the Trump administration 2017 “Dear Colleague” guidance.

Once again, legislators must look to create meaningful policy that will create social and political reform. Due to societal pushback from the Obama administration “Dear Colleague” guidance, legislators have been forced to re-evaluate the policy guidelines under Title IX. In 2017,  under the Trump administration, the Department of Education reverse and reintroduced the “Dear Colleague” guidance. The Department of Education Secretary, Betsy Devos, delivered new guidance referencing the importance of an equal and fair adjudication process for both the complainant and alleged perpetrator. The Department of Education believes that “many schools have established procedures for resolving allegations that lack the most basic elements of fairness and due process, are overwhelmingly stacked against the accused and are in no way required by Title IX law or regulation” (Jackson, 2017, 2). It is clear that the former adjudication process within educational institutions lack institutional legitimacy that is needed to create lasting social and political reform to combat sexual misconduct. Most recently, the Trump administration is providing viable options to instill institutional legitimacy. The Department of Education recommend that the adjudication process be handled by a third-party representative, to remove the sixty-day mandatory resolution deadline, increase the standard of proof to clear and convincing, and to require institutions to provide legal support (Brown, 2017). These guidelines will instill institutional legitimacy at the educational and governmental level because the institutions will be able to provide meaningful support and a fair adjudication process in sexual misconduct cases. Creating institutional legitimacy at the educational and governmental level under the Title IX statute allows legislators to instill lasting social and political reform to address sexual misconduct.

Overall, the formation of policy is often much different than policy in practice. The introduction of Title IX in 1972 was merely to provide equal educational opportunities regardless of sex. During the mid-to-late 1900s, legislators used athletics as their policy base to implement regulations and procedures to better equip educational and governmental institutions with strategies to challenge inequalities within the education sector. Within the past fifteen years, legislators have shifted the momentum of Title IX by using the issue of the frequency of sexual misconduct on college campuses as their policy base. Through “Dear Colleague” guidelines issued by the Obama administration and Trump administration, it is clear that legislators are using a different policy base to create meaningful social and political reform. Although the policy base has shifted momentum from the formation of Title IX to present-day, legislators believe in the importance of institutional legitimacy and their reform efforts show that precise legislation and a fair adjudication process will instill institutional legitimacy at the educational and governmental level. In order for Title IX policy to benefit society, the policy must be equip to provide necessary components to combat inequalities within educational institutions. Institutional legitimacy will allow Title IX to function as its intended purpose; to provide equal education opportunities regardless of sex.



Works Cited

Bowen, Mae. “This Day in History: President Lyndon B. Johnson Signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” National Archives and Records Administration, National Archives and Records Administration, 2 July 2015,

Brown, Sarah. “What Does the End of Obama’s Title IX Guidance Mean for Colleges?”, The Chronicle of Higher Education, 23 Sept. 2017,

Office for Civil Rights. Dear Colleague . United States Department of Education, 4 Apr. 2011.

Office for Civil Rights. Dear Colleague . United States Department of Education, 7 Sept. 2017.

Dupont, Kevin. “Former Yale Rower Chris Ernst to Be Honored for Forcing Changes in Women’s Athletics – The Boston Globe.”, 17 June 2012,

Gray, Eliza. “Sexual Assault: University Survey Highlights Role of ‘Verbal Coercion’.” Time, Time, 25 June 2015,

Jackson, Candice. “Dear Colleague.” United States Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights, 22 Sept. 2017,

Layton, Lyndsey. “Civil Rights Complaints to U.S. Department of Education Reach a Record High.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 18 Mar. 2015,

Penn Law School Faculty. Sexual Assault Complaints: Protecting Complainants and the Accused Students at Universities. Penn Law School, 18 Feb. 2015.

AAUW Public Policy and Government Relations Department. Title IX: Ensuring Equity in Education for Women and Girls. June 2009.

Reynolds, Celene. “The Mobilization of Title IX in Colleges and Universities.” Institution for Social and Policy Studies, Yale University, 17 May 2016,

Smith, Ronald A. “Title IX and Governmental Reform in Women’s Athletics.” Pay for Play: A History of Big-Time College Athletic Reform, University of Illinois Press, 2011, pp. 141–150. JSTOR,

Ware, Susan. “In the Meantime: THE EARLY DAYS OF TITLE IX.” Game, Set, Match: Billie Jean King and the Revolution in Women’s Sports, University of North Carolina Press, 2011, pp. 43–74. JSTOR,

“Title IX: A Tool for Change.” Women’s Studies Newsletter, vol. 2, no. 1, 1974, pp. 13–13. JSTOR, JSTOR,


Chinese students in the United States from 19th Century to 21st Century

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 Chinese Students in the United States from 19th Century to 21st Century

    International students have become a very steady group in US schools and colleges now. It has been recorded that currently there are more than 1 million international students studying in the U.S. (Farrugia) Chinese students weigh a high percentage of the total number of international students. As early as the Qing Dynasty, after China was defeated in the Opium War, Chinese students have been sent to the United States. Actually, it is very interesting that some of the first Chinese students who were brought to study in the States were studying right here in the New England states. The studyabroad wave had been cut by the end of the 19th Century since China has been involved in World War One, World War Two and Chinese Civil war. After re-establishing the diplomatic connection with the U.S. government in 1976, in the past few decades, international students from China studying in the States has dramatically increased. Some of them are government-sponsored scholars while most of the students paid their tuition with their own family funds. It has become a trend for an upper-middle-class Chinese family to send their children to study in the States to receive a better education. In this essay, we address the reasons and motivations for Chinese students to study in the United States change from the 1800s, late 1900 to 21st Century.

    When the first group of Chinese boys were sent to study in the early-to-mid 1800s, they were expected to contribute to their motherland after learning western technology. Since at that time, China society and government were tremendously impacted by the development of the western world, and the government believed that these boys were able to help China strengthen its force in military, economy and technology. During the last two decades of last century, Chinese students started to come to study in the States again, specifically after 1976, when President Nixon visited China to re-establish the diplomatic relationship. Some Chinese students were on scholarship from the government and the government hoped to catch up with the western world for stagnancy in economy and technology during the cultural revolution. Chinese was the top place of origin among international students from 1988/89 to 1993/94 and again from 1998/99 through 2000/01. (Chow) After 1989, a lot of the students were driven by the incident of Tiananmen Square Protest of 1989 and decided to come to study in the U.S and stay here for a political protection especially when the States passed the law for allowing Chinese citizens in the States to obtain permanent residency.  Nowadays, Internet access has become available for the majority Chinese families and they have had access to get to know more about US education. Not only scholars and professionals sent their children to study in the States, but also a normal middle-class family who is able to afford the tuition want their children to study in the United States. College credentials from U.S universities and colleges are seen as a more valuable degree than their local counterparts. Thus, young generations are seeking advanced degrees in the U.S so that they are able to lay a better career foundation for their future.  I argue that the motivation of Chinese students to come to study in the U.S changes over time. In the 1800s, it is more of group mission, then in the late 1900s, it becomes the pursuit of freedom of speech and more advanced academic knowledge. But in the current 21st century, the motivation is to set a better foundation for their career and more varieties of educational programs.

    It was Rev. Samuel Robbins Brown, a minister from Windsor, Connecticut who first brought Chinese students to the U.S. After serving in Macau for 8 years, Mr Brown came back to America for health reason, but he also brought three young Chinese with him. Yung Wing was one of them. (Cedrone) He attended Monson Academy in Massachusetts and graduated from Yale University in 1854. (Austen)  Yung Wing’s dream always provides Chinese students with an opportunity to have an education that he had and he stated that “I might be obliged to create new conditions if I found old ones were not favourable to any plan I might have.” (Railton) Thus, since that there had not been any formal connection in education between two countries at that time, he established Hartford’s Chinese Educational Mission after turning down a few offers from his alma mater. Later, Chinese government got in touch with Wing and began to sponsor some boys from the (royal? local?) families to study in the U.S. The government believed that with the aid of western education, those boys were able to learn western knowledge and would come back to China to enforce  in military, economy and also technology and repel foreign aggression. (CEM)

    Approximately 120 Chinese boys were sent to the States. They arrived in San Francisco first and then travelled throughout the country by train until they finally got to New England. They lived in host families and went to school across small towns in Connecticut and Massachusetts. Most of the boys adapted to the western culture very well despite the fact that they spoke little to none English before their arrival. (Cedrone) But the mission did not last very long. In 1881, West Point rejected the entrance for several Chinese boys, meanwhile, the violence against Chinese in America increased rapidly and the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed the year after. The Chinese government decided to call back the boys despite the fact that most of them had not finished their education.   While, after these boys returned home, they did become huge assets for the Chinese government. Most of them entered diplomatic services, including railroad, telegraph operation and diplomats. (Cedrone) Liang Cheng, one of the 120 boys finished his high school in Phillips Academy returned to China before finishing his college, but he came back to the States as the Chinese Ambassador to the United States. (New York Historical Society) (photo 1) Thus, the earlier Chinese students came to study in the United States, not for personal achievement. It was not an individual motivation, but a group mission to fulfil a bigger task.

    It took a very long time for the Chinese students to come to study in the States again. After World War One, World War Two, Chinese Civil War and also the Chinese cultural revolution, the United States finally welcomed their first group of Chinese students again. When President Nixon visited China in 1976, the door opened eventually. In 1979, the Chinese government sent the first group of students to the States, aiming to catch up with the western technology, as for the past decade, due to the Cultural Revolution, almost everything from the western world was repulsed and abandoned in China, for ideological reasons. (Wei 8) The first groups of students that were sent to the States at that time of period were mature scholars with families and connections back home because Chinese government wanted to make sure that they would return home after their study. Their motivation to study in the States was the research opportunities and advanced curriculums that U.S colleges and universities were able to offer. Since it was not until the 1980s that Chinese Universities were integrated with international education again, they had very limited access to advanced technology back home. (Wei 14) Then the Tiananmen Square Protest of 1989 changed the mind of a lot of Chinese students. In 1989, about a million Chinese, among them were mostly college students and young scholars gathered in downtown Beijing protesting for more freedom of voice. They wanted the leader of the ruling Party, which has always been the Chinese Communist Party, to resign. On July 4th, the leader of the Party ordered the troops to storm through the protest and fired to the protesters. The detailed casualty number was never revealed to the public but the estimation was over 300 killed and 10,000 arrested. ( A lot of students at that time were terrified and worried about similar things could happen to them as well. So a lot of them chose to go abroad to avoid being caught and to pursue freedom of speech.  In a 1989 survey among Chinese students in America, only 6.9% of Chinese students prefer Chinese government over Western while about 40% before the incident happened. 72.6% respondents replied that they were concerned about the political situation back in China. (Chang&Deng) Compare with students in the 70s and early 80s, Chinese students wanted to study in the States because with a U.S education, it was easier for them to stay in the States and found a job to remain their status in the country. In 1991, U.S government decided to allow Chinese students in the States at that time to apply for permanent residency, thus the majority of the Chinese students decided to stay in the States instead of returning to China. (U.S Congress) However, around 70% of the Chinese students in the 20th Century came to study in the States on government or public fund. From 1978 to 2000, there were over 220 thousand Chinese came to study in the States. 57 thousand were funded by government and another 102 thousand were funded by government organizations and companies. (Ma&Zhang) Although in the 20th century, there were only 23 years of official diplomatic relations between the two governments, the motivation and reason for Chinese students to come to study in the States changed from studying more modern knowledge to a political asylum due to political incidents happened in mainland China.

    For the past decade, with the increasing number of international students studying in the United States, the number of Chinese students increases as well. 41.5% of Chinese students choose the United States as their first preferred study abroad destination, and another 31.6% of them state the U.S as their alternative choice. (Chow 11-12) In contrast to the previous two centuries, most of the Chinese students now are studying in the States with their family funds. In 2013, 384 out of 414 thousand Chinese students paid their U.S tuition with the aid from their parents. (Ma&Zhang) It is well-known that college tuition is not cheap, but Chinese families are willing to pay for it because of the high-quality education in America. Chinese families care about ranking because higher ranking would bring higher quality credential, which might result in (or secure?)a better job. According to 2017 U.S. NEWS best global universities ranking,  47 U.S colleges and universities are ranked at top 100 around the world while only 2 Chinese universities join the top 100 list. ( U.S NEWS) Meanwhile, in 2017, there were about 9.4 million students who took the Gaokao exam in China. ( XINHUA NET) In the same year, only 3.2 million high school seniors graduated from their schools in the United States. (Seltzer) It is not reasonable to determine whether an institution is good or not simply by a ranking report from an organization’s report. But statistically, it is for sure much easier for Chinese students to get into a worldwide well-known elite university if they choose to study in the States.

    Besides the ranking, Chinese students also prefer the wider selection of curriculum and freedom of choosing courses in the States. In China, which college a student is going to attend and what major a student is going to study are both determined by one single exam at the end of senior year in high school. (Svoboda) Gaokao, a similar exam like SAT/ACT in the states determine the path of the next four years for all high school seniors. But unlike the U.S standard test, which can be taken multiple times and is definitely not the only factor to be considered by the admissions team, Gaokao is held nationwide at the same weekend in June and can be only taken once for each student. Once the score is determined, it becomes the only factor to place students into different colleges. At the same time, the major for each student is also set once they are enrolled. No matter how hard they are willing to change their major or transfer to another school, it is very unlikely for the school to grant the application. Thus, families who are able to pay the U.S tuition often send their kids to study abroad to create a more variety of choices for their offsprings.

    In conclusion, Chinese students have been in the United States since the late 1800s. The reasons and motivation for them to pursue their education across the world have changed in different periods of times. The first group of Chinese students were sent to the New England area to fulfil a group mission so that China was able to learn western technology. While the motivation initially started as a passive decision, when the door was opened again in 1976, mature Chinese scholars came to States to catch up with the modern technology while Chinese higher education institutions remained in an isolated status. After 1988 Tiananmen Square Massacre, young Chinese students wanted to study in the U.S for the freedom of speech and democratic atmosphere. Currently,  among the international students in the U.S, China ranks as No.1 regarding the number of students. Chinese students choose to study in the States for a higher quality of education and wider selections of academic programs.

Photo1: Liang Cheng arriving at Chicago as Chinese Ambassador to the United States. ( New York Historical Society)

Sources Cited

Austen, Barbara. “Yung Wing’s Dream: The Chinese Educational Mission, 1872-1881.”Connecticut History. Accessed March 31, 2018.

Chang, Parris, and Zhiduan Deng. “The Chinese Brain Drain and Policy Options.” Studies In Comparative International Development, vol. 27, no. 1, 1992, pp. 44–60., doi:10.1007/bf02687104.

Chinese Education Mission Connection. “CEM Connections – HOME.” CEM Connections – HOME, 1 Apr. 2017,

Chow, Patricia. “What International Students Think about US Higher Education.”International Higher Education, no. 65, 2015, doi:10.6017/ihe.2011.65.8568

FARRUGIA, CHRISTINE A. Open Doors 2017: Report on International Education Exchange. INST OF INTL EDUCATION, 2018., Accessed March 31, 2018

Railton, Ben. “Yung Wing, the Chinese Educational Mission, and Transnational Connecticut.” ConnecticutHistoryorg. Accessed March 31, 2018.

Seltzer, Rick. “The High School Graduate Plateau.” Inside Higher Ed, 6 Dec. 2016,

Svoboda, Sarah. “Why Do So Many Chinese Students Choose US Universities?” BBC News, BBC, 2 June 2015,

“The First Study Abroad Program.” New York Historical Society, September 24, 2014. Accessed March 31, 2018.

“Tiananmen Square Massacre Takes Place.” Edited by Staff from,, A&E Television Networks, 4 June 2009,

“Total of 9.4 Million Students to Attend 2017 Gaokao in China.” Edited by Ying, XINHUA NET, 6 June 2017,

United States, Congress, Cong., Senate – Judiciary | House – Judiciary. 4 June 1991. 102nd Congress, bill,

U.S NEWS. U.S. News & World Report. U.S. News & World Report, 2017, U.S. News & World Report,

Wei, William. “China’s Brain Drain to the United States: Views of Overseas Chinese Students and Scholars in the 1990s (review).” China Review International 4, no. 1 (1997): 298-300. doi:10.1353/cri.1997.0122.

Zhang, Yabin, and Xiaoqing Ma. “65年留学历程:从留苏到留美,从公费到自费”,网易163 王小易编辑,Data.163, “65 Years Study Abroad History: From Soviet Union to the U.S, From Paid by Government to Paid by Family .” Edited by Xiaoyi Wang, Data.163, 28 Sept. 2014,

From “coeducation was a myth” to “coeducation was no longer a big deal”: Women’s experiences at Trinity College in the first twenty years of coeducation

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In 1969, Trinity College enrolled its first coeducated class, accepting the first women to study at the previously all-male institution. In 1990, Professor Noreen Channels conducted a survey with the female graduates of the first twenty years of coeducation at Trinity. As Weiss Malkiel (2016) puts it, coeducation was not a triumph of feminism, women still make gendered choices in education, and issues of sexual harassment and assault are no more under control today than they were in the first years of coeducation. Looking at the answers Trinity graduates gave to the survey questions, one can determine whether this statement is true, whether coeducation was a success in the history of the college, whether the discrimination experienced by the first women who coeducated the institution improved over the years. Thus, this paper seeks to answer the following questions: Did the percentage of Trinity women who describe experiencing classroom discrimination or sexual assault against them or others increase or decrease as more women attended the college from 1969 to 1990? Are their accounts similar or different over time?

Through a detailed analysis of the survey responses, I will show that while the percentage of women describing classroom discrimination steadily declined – from three-quarters of the respondents of early 1970s graduates to roughly a third by the end of the 1980s –, the percentage of women experiencing sexual assault against them or others remained the same over the years. In terms of classroom discrimination, the types of experiences shared in the women’s accounts also show a gradual improvement – even with some issues, such as the lack of female faculty members remaining the same – from an overall feeling of not being treated as an equal to only experiencing discrimination or sexism from certain professors, and on a social level, rather than educational. On the other hand, the stories shared about sexual harassment and assault remain similar over the years: it seems like women’s concern for their safety, the general dismissal of assaults, and rapes or rape attempts remained an unchanged part of Trinity women’s college experience in the first twenty years of coeducation.

By 1955, 75 percent of colleges in the United States were coeducated, but many colleges – including such prestigious institutions as Harvard, Princeton, and Yale – remained all-male institutions until the end of the 1960s, while many women’s colleges existed as well. At the end of the 1960s, the second wave of the women’s movement became more active and visible, and the cultural changes led to single-sex institutions seeming old-fashioned. Thus, administrators at single-sex colleges began to worry that they would lose students to coeducated institutions, and many – Yale, Princeton, Amherst, Dartmouth, and so on – decided to become coeducational. The news that other institutions already decided to admit women or were considering doing so made Trinity College decide adopt coeducation as well (Miller-Bernal & Poulson, 2004). The reason why I believe it is important to examine the effects of this decision is because it not only profoundly shaped the life of the college itself, but because it had a lasting impact on the women’s lives who coeducated the institution. Also, it is especially important to analyze the experiences of these women with classroom discrimination and sexual assault because 92 percent of female Trinity students in 2010 expressed that issues of sexual assault, and being considered equal to men inside and outside the classroom are important issues to them (Hughes, 2010).

As mentioned above, to answer the research question, this essay focuses on Professor Channels’s “Survey of the Trinity College Alumnae”, conducted in the fall of 1990. This survey was mailed to approximately 3000 women who attended Trinity College from the start of coeducation, between 1969 and 1990, and was returned by 990 women. From Professor Channels’s report on the survey, it is known how many women returned the survey from different graduation cohorts (meaning whether they graduated between 1970 and 1974, or 1988 and 1989, for example). To see what percentage of these women shared an anecdote of classroom discrimination or sexual assault – the respondents could choose whether they want to share a story about being a woman at Trinity or not –, I simply counted the number of stories that Professor Channels categorized in the sections “Education, Classroom, and Faculty” and “Sexual Harassment and Abuse and Safety and Security Concerns”, and compared it to the number of women who answered the survey.

It is important to note that the experiences of women who responded to the survey are not necessarily representative of the experiences of the total female population attending the college. The women who answered most likely felt it is important to examine the question of women’s experiences after coeducation in a previously all-male college. However, it cannot be assumed that those women who did not answer the survey questions, or answered but did not share an anecdote, did not experience similar things, but also cannot be assumed they did. I do believe it is important to examine the answers of those women who thought it important to share their accounts, because we can get a rough picture of what it was like to attend Trinity College as a woman after coeducation.

To answer my question, I also had to determine the overall number of women attending the college in the years the survey respondents graduated. To do so, I looked at Trinity’s admission statistics that show the number of enrolled women in different years, and the US Department of Education’s NCES longitudinal data on post-secondary institutions that shows the total number of enrolled women on campus in certain years after 1980. This data tells us that in the beginning, when only the first-year class was coeducated, women on campus formed only a small minority in the overall student body, even with possible transfer students among the upperclassmen. According to the admissions statistics, 106 women were enrolled in 1969 to the class of 1973, and this number was growing over the years, resulting in a campus where half of the student body was female by the end of the 1970s: the NCES longitudinal study tells us that in 1980, 853 women attended Trinity, forming 47 percent of its student body.

Classroom discrimination

Among those survey respondents who graduated between 1970 and 1974, 72 percent shared a story about classroom discrimination. This number is 51 percent among those who graduated between 1975 and 1979, 40 percent among the graduates of the years between 1980 and 1984, basically the same, 43 percent among those from between 1985 and 1987, while it is only 38 percent among the graduates of 1988 and 1989:

This data tells us that as more women attended Trinity, the experiences of classroom discrimination decreased in number. Reading the stories these women share, there are themes that come up among all the cohorts: the encounter with sexist or misogynistic professors and male students; the experience with patronizing professors; the lack of female faculty members; the lack of attention to women’s issues; the lack of women from the curriculum; the lack of support for women and the lack of advising for them, especially in certain majors.

Even though many of the stories shared by women from the later years are similar to those from the earlier years, at a closer look these anecdotes show the gradual improvement in classroom discrimination, and Trinity’s development into a truly coeducated college in academic terms. The best indicator of this change is that those women who graduated in the early years of coeducation shared a feeling of Trinity still being an entirely male institution, while many of the graduates of the 1980s shared stories of support and feeling equal within the classroom – even if outside of it, in the social sphere, they still experienced discrimination. I believe that the alumna who graduated between 1970 and 1974 summarized the changes perfectly:

“Upon entering Trinity in 1969, I discovered that coeducation was a myth. At that time, Trinity was still a men’s institution, with some women in attendance. While a number of male students displayed extremely negative attitudes to the female presence, the faculty response was even more disappointing. The professor who announced that no woman in his course would ever receive a grade higher than a “C” stands out in my mind. In visiting the campus over the last 20 years, I have observed that the situation has improved with the increased numbers of women on campus. Trinity’s evolution into a co-ed college appears to be a success – but one should not believe that it happened overnight. Academically, Trinity has stood me in a very good stead for both my graduate studies and my career. I sincerely hope those standards have not fallen.”

As this quote tells us, the first women who arrived at Trinity did not feel welcome by male upperclassmen and professors, since many of them expressed negative attitudes towards change. Even though this general feeling of Trinity still being a men’s institution has changed over time, the encounter with one or several sexist or misogynistic professors remained an experience that many female Trinity graduates shared. Those graduating between 1970 and 1974 shared stories such as “being counseled about classes by a senior professor who said he didn’t believe in educating girls”, and “the chairman of the department made it quite clear that he did not want women in his department”. One of the strongest descriptions of such open discrimination in the classroom is the following, shared by an alumna who graduated between 1975 and 1979:

“In labs, he would ridicule all the women and refuse to answer any of their questions. ‘Oh, I don’t see any hands up in this row’, when I was waving it 2 feet from his face. On the other hand, he would coddle with the guys and practically do their experiments for them if they didn’t understand. He would cruise the lab room making sexist remarks and laughing and ignoring any requests from women. I dropped the course. (He gloated during a particular lab which required us each to use our own urine, and cackled when women’s labs would be ruined if it was the wrong time of the month for them – they were not allowed to use someone else’s if they had a problem.)”

Many of these women explain how they felt that racism and sexism were similar dynamics, such as in cases like the one described by an alumna: “One teacher told me that women and blacks don’t belong in college. The women and blacks all got C’s in that class – the only C I got at Trinity.” Among those who graduated in the later years, these experiences became much rarer, and if they encountered sexism on part of faculty members, they usually wrote that it was only one particular professor in one particular department, and they believed that it was not a characteristic of the entire school environment by then:

“The only negative memory I have regards one episode of discrimination. I was told by the science professor that the only reason I was a lab assistant was in case a woman spilled a chemical on herself and needed to be showered down. To my surprise the professor also told me that wiping up spills would be a useful skill for my further role as a housewife. Fortunately, I knew that he voiced many strong opinions, and I did not place much importance in his opinion – beyond disbelief that such attitudes existed. I don’t think this experience was at all characteristic of Trinity.” (Alumna who graduated between 1980 and 1984.)

Thus, over time, overt sexism on the part of professors became something that women students experienced less often, while experiencing sexism on the part of male classmates in educational settings also seem to have disappeared by the 1980s – while, according to many survey respondents, it remained an important part of social life at Trinity. In the early years of coeducation, many upperclassmen resented the female presence – with many of them being accepting of course – but the situation improved significantly and, since this type of experience seems to be missing from the experiences of those who graduated in the 1980s, rapidly:

“There was a certain amount of vocal unwelcoming noise expressed mainly through the Tripod by upperclassmen who opposed coeducation at Trinity. Coming from a public high school it was sometimes hard for me to keep these negative comments in perspective. However, the majority of the students were accepting, and the situation continued to improve from year to year.” (Alumna, graduated in the years 1970-74.)

Thus, by the end of the 1970s, male students accepted women’s presence in the classroom, as a graduate from between 1980 and 1984 described “being taken just as seriously by men (students/faculty) educationally, but not fully socially.” Then, as I described, most professors did not demonstrate explicit sexism, but subtle forms of discrimination and patronizing attitudes are present in the stories of students from the later years as well, along with the seemingly unchanged assumption on the part of many male professors that women are only in college to find husbands or that they are only going to work until marrying, then becoming a housewife, and thus, there is no need for them to study anything hard or challenging:

“Although he did offer some advice, his overall tone was extremely patronizing. He remembered how when he began at Trinity there were no female students, and advised me not to worry about the class because someday (he felt in the future) I will be married and this will be unimportant. He advised me to take ‘nice’ courses in the future. He suggested a language course. That was my first and last science course at Trinity.” (Experience with the lab compartment of a science class, alumna graduated in the years 1985-87.)

Another issue that is present in many female graduates’ anecdotes is the lack of female faculty members, often combined with the opinion that the presence of female role models, especially in majors that are male-dominated, would be important and inspiring to young women attending the college. While many of the women expressed the need for more female faculty members, many also shared an encounter with an inspiring woman professor, which shows why it would be important to have more women in the faculty as the college got coeducated:

“I was fortunate enough to meet a female faculty member, who played a crucial role during my last year at Trinity, and I am now pursuing a graduate degree. Had I not had the positive experiences and encouragement during my senior year I may not have chosen to pursue graduate work.” (Alumna who graduated between 1985 and 1987.)

What is especially important about this opinion is that this situation does not seem to really improve over the years, it is still present in the accounts of women who graduated in the end of the 1980s:

“Although this isn’t a specific memory of my experience at Trinity, the lack of positive female role models in the ‘science and math’ departments, clearly remains as a strong, disconcerting memory of my college experience.” (Alumna who graduated between 1985 and 1987.)

Along with the lack of female faculty members, many survey respondents remembered that in general, there was a lack of attention to women’s issues, that women were missing from the curriculum, and that women lacked support and advising, especially in certain majors, most likely math and science. This issue does not seem to improve over the years, as women who graduated in the 1980s still shared experiences such as being ridiculed for expressing feminist views – as the account of a graduate from between 1980 and 1984 tells us:

“Oftentimes we were discouraged – as in the case of being called a “lesbo” or having new ways of doing history disparaged. There were many sacred cows, not to be questioned, but fraternities were the most sacred of all. Questioning the fraternities meant you were ‘militant’ or weird. Certainly you’d be isolated and, of course, you were socially ugly. These messages can be conveyed subtly as well as explicitly – and I’d say it was more the build-up of subtle messages than incidence that convinced me I was a feminist – and very proud of it.”

The term used by this alumna – “socially ugly” – highlights how, even though discrimination and sexism on the part of most professors and male students was not an issue by the end of the first twenty years of coeducation, social discrimination was still often experienced by female Trinity students, while some issues – like the lack of female faculty members –remained relatively unresolved. Overall, I would argue that we can agree with the alumna who graduated at the end of the 1970s who said that by the time she enrolled in the college, “coeducation was no longer a big deal”. In academic terms, Trinity College’s coeducation seems to have been successfully implemented by the time of Professor Channels’s survey. Looking at the responses categorized in the survey’s sexual harassment and assault section gives us a different picture that shows that determining whether coeducation was a success is a more complicated task.

Sexual harassment and assault

The percentage of women among the survey respondents who shared a story of sexual harassment or assault that happened to them or to others, even though quite low, remained technically unchanged over the years: among the graduates between 1970 and 1974 this number is 13,5 percent, between 1975 and 1979 it is 14 percent, between 1980 and 1984 it is slightly higher, 23 percent, between 1985 and 1987 it is 18 percent, and it is 13 percent among the graduates of 1988 and 1989:

Even though these numbers are low, and many women shared not their own experiences but that of a friend, a roommate, or a story that they simply heard of, the fact that these experiences were so important to them that they share it after several years show that these experiences cannot be dismissed. Also, as it is known, survivors of sexual assault often do not share their stories.

Women who graduated in the early 1970s and those in the late 1980s all shared similar stories: concern for safety, especially when walking home at night; verbal assault and degrading comments; being harassed in fraternities or by professors; rapes and rape attempts; and most importantly, the general dismissal of these cases, are experiences that remained a part of female Trinity students’ campus life over the years. One story that stands out is the gang rape incident that happened in one of the fraternities: this story appears in almost every account of women who graduated between 1980 and 1984, and even appears in the stories of later graduates. The fact that so many women felt it is important to share this story probably explains the higher percentage of women sharing a story of sexual assault in this cohort. Most of the accounts of these women describe how the administration did not deal with the incident in a way they were supposed to, and how awful they felt when they learned that many of the male students actually supported the members of this fraternity:

“The event I remember in particular is a gang rape that occurred at Crow one year to a woman non-student. I remember feeling disgusted, angry, helpless as well as humiliation for my feelings about it. The school put Crow on probation – no parties or something – the event was extremely controversial. Most of the men I know supported the Crow brothers involved and many of the women I knew were silent (as was I), or passively supportive. I could not understand why nothing more was done and why the frat system couldn’t be abolished completely. It does nothing for the status of women there – and there’s no need for it at such a small school. Really.”

Although no other event was highlighted in the graduates’ accounts as many times as this gang rape, many other women experienced rape or rape attempts during their years at Trinity. In some cases, this was done by strange men who entered the dorms and people’s rooms while they were sleeping. Oftentimes, it was done by fellow male students: male students attempted rape in dorms’ showers, in the hallway, and so on, but date rape is also an issue that often comes up in the stories, with the account of an alumna who graduated between 1985 and 1987 being one of the most disturbing:

“I was far from being in a compromising position when he suddenly jumped on top of me with a hand holding my mouth when 4 of his fraternity brothers came in, ripped off only my clothes that were necessary for their purposes and all proceeded to rape me, my ‘date’ still holding me down. Thoughtfully they all wore condoms so I had no physical results of this act but I don’t think I have to go into the emotional results. Looking back I wish I had reported them and ‘destroyed’ them the way they had me. (…) My friends were sorry for me but we all came from nice towns and nice schools and this didn’t happen to ‘nice girls’. Maybe that’s one reason I didn’t report it. I also came to Trinity a year after the ‘Crow Incident’.”

As it can be seen, this alumna not only referred back to the gang rape in Crow in the previous year, but she also felt a sense of guilt after she was raped, and she also gived an explanation of why she did not report the incident. Those who reported such cases, however, often faced an administration that tended to dismiss the cases: women were often pressured not to press charges, often because they were told that it would hurt the college’s reputation. Also, as the account of an 1985-87 graduate whose roommate was raped tells us, if the perpetrator’s family was wealthy, there was usually nothing done to them:

“The man that had raped her was a senior at Trinity. His family was very wealthy, he was a fraternity brother (not that those are related). Because it was spring semester and he was about to graduate she was advised against pressing charges. It would have been her word against his and he had more money. There was never a security alert about the incident and not one thing was done to the man. He was graduated and went on his merry way while my roommate was made to feel that she’d done something wrong and she was a bad person because she’d gone to his room on their way back from the Summit. That’s rotten. Trinity and everyone else failed in that situation and my roommate transferred.”

Of course, not all women who shared a story of sexual harassment and assault told an experience of rape or rape attempt. An issue that comes up more often is the women’s concern for their safety, especially when walking home at night. Many of these accounts link this to the fact that Trinity is located in the inner-city – some even blaming administration for not preparing the students for inner-city life while most of them are used to suburbia. However, even though some women were actually attacked or harassed by locals, a just as often talked about issue is being harassed in fraternities. Women shared the experience of “feeling like a piece of meat in a frat party”, where an alumna from the years 1980-84 also experienced “hearing a girlfriend pleading to be let out of a room in a frat house and realizing that not one of the guy’s ‘brothers’ would step in to tell him to let her out”. Especially after the “Crow incident”, as the gang rape is often referred to in the women’s accounts, the fraternity scene felt even less safe for many of them:

“It all represented to me the worst of the whole fraternity scene. It opened my eyes and politicized me. The whole fraternity scene no longer felt safe to me. (…) The whole incident was quickly hushed up. I blame the administration for that. (…)” (Alumna, graduated in the years 1980-84.)

Although a less frequent experience, especially in the accounts of the women who graduated in the 1980s, some of the alumnae shared anecdotes of being harassed by a professor. Oftentimes, the refused professor gave the female student a worse grade, and just as in the case of rape committed or attempted by male students, this harassment was also dismissed by the administration:

“A member of the faculty made sexual advances to me. Upon reporting the incident to the [administration], I was asked if I had ‘led him on’ – this an overweight, over seventy professor. His chairman insisted I had made the whole thing up – despite the fact that as I learned later, the same professor had been reported to the Dean six times in the past. What did I think about being a woman at Trinity. Ge, it was just swell.” (Alumna who graduated between 1975 and 1979.)

A last issue that is often shared in the women’s accounts over time is that of experiencing verbal assault, receiving degrading comments, such as being called out for wearing a short skirt in a classroom, or being called a “feminist bitch” when expressing concern about harassment. In terms of such comments, what seems to be an unchanged experience of Trinity alumnae over time is that of being rated based on their appearance upon arrival at the college by upperclassmen:

“I remember vividly being excited about attending Trinity because I was in the first class of women fresh’men’ and though that a great challenge. Especially being one of 100 women amidst 1200 men. Upon arriving I was hurt by the men’s reaction. They seemed dismayed that we had arrived and only had interest in meeting the women whose pictures were most attractive in what was then called the ‘freshman pig book’.” (Alumna from the first coeducated class.)

As the above described percentages already told us, the issue of sexual harassment and assault remained relatively unchanged in the first twenty years of coeducation. The different experiences women shared in their anecdotes show that graduates at the end of the 1980s faced very similar situations as those in the early 1970s. Even though an “awareness day” was introduced after the often-cited gang rape incident, it can be seen that while Trinity appears to have successfully achieved coeducation in terms of equality in the classroom, female students’ stories about sexual assault do not show such improvement.


In his analysis of Professor Channels’s survey, Peter J. Knapp (2000) argues that “as the survey reveals, coeducation has touched the lives of alumnae in varying ways, in the process working as well to alter the life of the institution” (p. 382), and that even though coeducation was a difficult experience for some, it was also an extraordinary opportunity. After reviewing the stories that female Trinity graduates shared, I would conclude that coeducation has definitely altered the life of the institution, as by the end of the 1980s, classroom discrimination that was such a common experience of the first women who attended the college, was only experienced by some. However, the numbers and issues of sexual harassment and assault remained technically unchanged over the years, suggesting that the social integration of men and women was not entirely successful in the first twenty years of coeducation. Whether this situation has improved in the almost thirty years since Channels’s survey is questionable, but it would be interesting to explore in further research. Comparing the experiences of Trinity graduates to those of other nearby colleges, or to those of the alumnae of previously all-women colleges would be fascinating and important to explore as well.

Works cited:
Primary sources:
Channels, Noreen L. (1990): Survey of the Trinity College Alumnae. (Available at the Watkinson Library)

US Department of Education’s NCES longitudinal data on post-secondary institutions (Database available at:

Trinity College Admission Statistics of 1969-1998 (Available at the Watkinson Library and Google Spreadsheet)

Hughes, James (2010): 2010 Survey of Female Students at Trinity College. Available at: (Last visited: March 30, 2018)

Knapp, Peter J. (2000): Coeducation, Long Range Planning, and the Advent of Information Technology. In: Trinity College in the Twentieth Century. Hartford, CT: Trinity College, pp. 365-466.

Miller-Bernal, Leslie & Poulson, Susan L. (2004): Going Coed: Women’s Experiences in Formerly Men’s Colleges and Universities, 1950-2000. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press.

Weiss Malkiel, Nancy (2016): Coeducation at university was – and is – no triumph of feminism. aeon, November 8, 2016. (Last visited: March 30, 2018)

Can Money Buy A Better Education?

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Educational inequalities continue persisting in today’s time, creating an achievement gap between certain groups of students. These inequalities exist for many different reasons, some reasons including; race, social class, and poverty. For many years, the government has been trying to figure out a way to close the achievement gap by offering support in areas where they are able to help, starting with providing help to kids from low-income families to get the resources they need in order to go to school and get an effective education. In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson passed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as the Title I act, in attempt to offer every child an equal opportunity at education, and potentially close the achievement gap. The ESEA provided an increase of funding to many schools in low-income areas, and was implemented to try and create equality for all students (VCU Library, 2018). Shortly after the ESEA came out, opponents of federal aid had an issue with this bill because they believed that education funds should be controlled by state/local power, rather than federally. The ESEA continued developing overtime, eventually turning into the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), implemented by President George W. Bush. The NCLB included funding, annual testing, and consequences for schools that did not meet the NCLB goals (Lee, 2014). This act was very controversial due to the fact that it held schools accountable for low achieving students. This act ended in 2015 when President Obama created the Every Students Succeeds Act (ESSA), which is an emphasis on the ESEA act of 1965. The ESSA continues to try to give every child equal opportunities, along with also emphasizing accountability within schools (US Department of Education, year). Since the ESEA was passed in 1965,, there has been controversy with federal fundings and the federal government being “too” involved in schools, so my question is; how was the ESSA of 2015 put together in Congress as a compromise on past legislation for federal aid for low-income children (ESEA and NCLB)?

Although critics argue that the ESSA was created solely as an extension of previous policies, in doing so they neglect the shortcomings of the No Child Left Behind Act and the Elementary and Secondary Act. Thus, I argue that the ESSA was created in an effort to rectify the failures of NCLB and ESEA by continuing to hold schools accountable, but offering flexibility and freedom to set their own standards and goals. One of the main problems with the NCLB was that it held schools accountable for failing children with high-stakes testing, not taking outside factors into consideration. The NCLB required annual testing, and provided states with goals that students should be meeting (Lee, 2018). On the other hand, the ESSA continues to require annual testing, but the school has more decision on how to handle their testing. They get to pick when they test, how much they test, and what they test. Under the ESSA, states are also able to set their own goals (USA Today, 2015). The ESSA continues to promote educational equality by allowing schools flexibility, but continuing to hold them accountable.

In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson passed the ESEA, influenced by the War on Poverty, which “focused attention on the educational needs of poor children and established federal standards to push school districts towards more equitable treatment of disadvantaged students” (Kantor, 1991). The ESEA was the first real movement to change education and promote educational equality. The ESEA provided funding to schools in low-income areas, where there were a lot of students living in poverty. President Lyndon B. Johnson touched on the importance of the ESEA to America in his statement on signing the ESEA. He puts an emphasis on student’s from low-income families, gives them hope for their futures. He states;

“By passing this bill, we bridge the gap between helplessness and hope for      more than five million educationally deprived children. We put into the hands of our youth more than 30 million new books, and into many of our schools their first libraries. We reduce the terrible time lag in bringing new teaching techniques into the nation's classrooms. We strengthen state and local agencies which bear the burden and the challenge of better education. And we rekindle the revolution--the revolution of the spirit against the tyranny of ignorance. As a son of a tenant farmer, I know that education is the only valid passport from poverty. As a former teacher--and, I hope, a future one--I have great expectations of what this law will mean for all of our young people. As President of the United States, I believe deeply no law I have signed or will ever sign means more to the future of America.”

Full Statement

In his statement, he stressed the importance of revolutionizing America by changing the way the education system works, and giving every student, even students of low-income that can’t necessarily afford and obtain all the resources that everyone else can an equal opportunity to escape their financial situation.

The ESEA included a lot of federal regulation regarding decisions about schooling and effective teaching, and for 15 years, the ESEA was continuously changing and developing. The ESEA included Title II, which included funds for school libraries and textbooks (VCU Library, 2018). After Title II, the government implemented Title III, which supported education programs when school was not in session.

The ESEA brought a lot of controversial issues. A lot of people believed that funding and where the money ends up should not be controlled by the federal government, it should be controlled by the state and local jurisdictions. Because of this, in 1981, president at the time, Ronald Reagan passed the Education Consolidation and Improvement Act (ECIA). This act was implemented for the purpose of giving states and local governments more control over their education system (Hammond, 1983). There were also problems associated with the ECIA, due to the fact that federal regulation was decreased, and federal funding was also cut by around a billion dollars (Hammond, 1983).  

Moving forward to 1999, George W. Bush was just elected president. When he was first elected, he put an emphasis on how education was his top priority, and focused on 4 principles; accountability, putting control where it belongs, parental choice, and researching what works (Sclafani, 2002). Accountability was important to President Bush, because he argued that many times, children that weren’t succeeding as well as others were brushed over and schools were often times not held accountable for their failing children. He then implemented the No Child Left Behind act of 2001. With this act, President Bush put a large focus of attention on assessment and testing. In order to see whether or not children were doing well and were succeeding, he required annual testing, which he believed would help determine strengths and weaknesses, and how to help fix any problems that might arise (Sclafani, 2002). The No Child Left Behind act set goals and standards for all schools, and they would measure whether or not the schools made these goals by using Adequate Yearly Progress (Department of Education, 2009). While signing the No Child Left Behind Act, President George W. Bush stated;

“The story of children being just shuffled through the system is one of the saddest stories of America. Let’s just move them through. It’s so much easier to move a child through than trying to figure out how to solve a child’s problems. The first step to making sure that a child is not shuffled through is to test that child as to whether or not he or she can read and write, or add and subtract. The first way to solve a problem is to diagnose it. And so, what this bill says, it says every child can learn. And we want to know early, before it’s too late, whether or not a child has a problem in learning. I understand taking tests aren’t fun. Too bad. We need to know in America. We need to know whether or not children have got the basic education. No longer is it acceptable to hide poor performance. No longer is it acceptable to keep results away from parents. One of the interesting things about this bill, it says that we’re never going to give up on a school that’s performing poorly; that when we find poor performance, a school will be given time and incentives and resources to correct their problems. A school will be given time to try other methodologies, perhaps other leadership, to make sure that people can succeed. If, however, schools don’t perform, if, however, given the new resources, focused resources, they are unable to solve the problem of not educating their children, there must be real consequences.”

Full Statement 

In his speech, he puts the emphasis on testing to make sure that schools are being held accountable. Under the No Child Left Behind act, schools that did not meet their goals multiple times would face consequences. The NCLB Act also required teachers to be highly qualified. Teachers were required to have at least a bachelor’s degree, and be specialized in the subject that they were teaching, and know how to teach it well, and under the NCLB, states would have to do teacher evaluations based on student outcome (Simpson et al., 2004).

Many people had an issue with the No Child Left Behind Act for many different reasons. A general controversy about the NCLB was teacher qualifications. People worried with the amount of stress that they were put under with having to meet the goals presented by the adequate yearly progress, and not getting paid enough to begin with, teachers would either start leaving their careers or people would be hesitant about pursuing a career in education (Simpson et al., 2004). Another big problem with the NCLB act was that it required all students to meet the same goals at the same time, not taking outside factors into consideration (NPR, 2015), for example, whether or not a child had a language barrier, or if a child was already levels behind their peers, they would only have one school year to catch up and meet the Adequate Yearly Progress goals. Also, people also feared that because of these tests, teachers would begin to start teaching only to the test.

Finally, in attempt to rectify the controversial issues that started from the ESEA and NCLB, President Barack Obama implemented the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in 2015. While signing this into a new act, he stated;

“We’re going to have to have our young people master not just the basics but also become critical thinkers and creative problem solvers.  And our competitive advantage depends on whether our kids are prepared to seize the opportunities for tomorrow. And that’s exactly what the Every Student Succeeds Act does. It builds on the reforms that have helped us make so much progress already, holding everybody to high standards for teaching and learning, empowering states and school districts to develop their own strategies for improvement, dedicating resources to our most vulnerable children. With this bill, we reaffirm that fundamental American ideal that every child, regardless of race, income, background, the zip code where they live, deserves the chance to make out of their lives what they will.”

Full Statement:

In President Obama’s statement, he emphasises how education consists of not only learning all the basics, but also soft skills, like critical thinking, solving problems, confidence, etc. He also talks about how with the ESSA, states and school districts will have the ability to set their own goals. Alyson Klein, writer for Edweek, wrote an article on the ESSA. She writes, “ESSA allows states—rather than the federal government—to ride herd on accountability, school improvement, and teacher quality, while requiring them to maintain key protections for vulnerable groups of students, such as minorities, English-learners, and those with disabilities” (Klein, 2018). Under the ESSA, schools are continued to be held accountable by testing, however, the ESSA uses a measuring system that takes into consideration non-academic factors as well (Mathis & Trujillo, 2016). Under the ESSA, students are also allowed 504 plans, which accommodates any student that has a type of learning disability, mental illness, or disability (US Department of Education, 2015).

Also, with the ESSA, teachers are no longer evaluated, and the teacher requirements that were placed under the NCLB act are also no longer required under the ESSA (Edweek, 2015). The ESSA holds schools accountable, while still continuing to offer schools flexibility to do what is best for their area and their students.

In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson talked about the War on Poverty in his First State of the Union Address. President Johnson said, “‘Our aim is not only to receive the symptoms of poverty, but to cure it and, above all, to prevent it’”. President Johnson emphasized in this speech that education is the key to solve the War on Poverty (Kantor, 1991), and since the implementation of the ESEA in 1965, there has been a fight for educational equality. Although there have been a lot of controversial issues with the ESEA, NCLB, and even the ESSA, the government has acknowledged the fact that there is a big educational inequality between students from low-income families, and students that come from wealthier families.

Despite the shortcomings of the ESEA and NCLB, they started an important education reform, and they both symbolize the idea that education is a right, and everyone should get an opportunity to obtain the best quality education, no matter race, gender, socioeconomic status, etc. The ESSA contains President Lyndon B. Johnson’s first original idea, and has expanded it, adding important parts from the NCLB act, becoming an act that holds schools accountable, but also offers them flexibility. The ESSA tries to offer every student educational opportunities and equality, and will hopefully expand and come up with more solutions to close the achievement gap.


Klein, A. (2018). ESSA Progress Report: How the New Law Is Moving From Policy to Practice. [online] Education Week. Available at: [Accessed 3 May 2018].

Korte, G. (2018). The Every Student Succeeds Act vs. No Child Left Behind: What’s changed?. [online] USA TODAY. Available at: [Accessed 3 May 2018]. (2018). President Johnson’s remarks on signing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act – LBJ Presidential Library. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 May 2018].

Lee, A. (2018). No Child Left Behind (NCLB): What You Need to Know. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 May 2018].

Mathis, W.J. & Trujillo, T.M. (2016). Lessons from NCLB for Every Student Succeeds Act.      Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center Retrieved [Accessed 3 May 2018]. From

Sclafani, S. (2018). No Child Left Behind. Issues and Science in Technology, [online] 19(2), pp.43-47. Available at: [Accessed 3 May 2018].

Simpson, R., LaCava, P. and Graner, P. (2018). The No Child Left Behind Act: Challenges and Implications for Educators. Intervention in School and Clinic, 40(2), pp.67-75.

Turner, C. (2018). No Child Left Behind: What Worked, What Didn’t. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 May 2018]. (2018). Remarks by the President at Every Student Succeeds Act Signing Ceremony. [online] Available at: [Accessed 3 May 2018].

Tracking: Educational Paths Shaping Future Opportunities

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“Upper tracks? Man, when do you think I see those kids? I never see them. Why should I? Some of them don’t even go to class in the same building with me. If I ever walked into one of their rooms they’d throw me out before the teacher even came in. They’d say I’d only be holding them back from their learning” (Cottle 1974:24). Those are the words from an eleven year old African American boy, who was placed in his school’s low track. Unfortunately, this demonstrates a negative outcome of tracking in education modern day: students feeling unworthy of belonging in certain classrooms. Over time, tracking has served to separate students into different courses based on academic ability. Around the 1860s, Horace Mann claimed that education was “the great equalizer of the conditions of men, the balance wheel of the social machinery.” During the common school era, there were ideas that education was an opportunity to intellectually grow and to push for equality. As time passed, individuals had new ideas about education. More specifically, in the 1920s Robert Yerkes made a claim that students should be separated based on results from tests to ensure the students receive an education at their level. Despite the good intentions for the learning of the students, such separation was not very well executed. Education now does not fully serve as Mann hypothesized to make man equal, and tracking, along with the changing quality of education and the changing economy may all be at fault. By gathering information, I will answer the following: After tracking was initially proposed by administrative progressives such as Yerkes in the 1920’s, how and why did tracking grow so rapidly?



Tracking grew during the mid-twentieth century because it was driven by class stratification. In order for privileged people to obtain an advantage in the economy, they had to make sure their children received a better quality education than the children of people in lower classes, and grouping students by ability level achieved this goal. Many sociologists have coined this term as social class reproduction. Furthermore, tracking grew because it was ideological. The existence of racial separation in the United States caused an abandonment to the common school movement and justified changing students into groups despite being in the same building.



The Plessy v Ferguson case that established the separate but equal ruling in 1896 promoted separate schooling during the late 1890s. The ruling was established to make sure that schools for white for children of color were strictly enforced (Ansalone 2006:145). The growing division between blacks and whites during this period was reflected in education and propelled by tracking. The education of black students was very negatively affected as although there was a separation, equality was not established. Black students were given worn out, used textbooks, had old chalkboards, and low resources in general. This context shows how black children were denied the opportunity for an equal educational experience, which could have negative impacts in their futures (Ansalone 2006:146). Tracking was not existing as a label because students were not integrated, so this was just a separation. This existing racial separation in the United States then justified a difference in the qualities of education different individuals received depending on the color of their skin.



Tracking and educational inequalities grew alongside and were driven by racial divisions. During the time period of Separate but Equal, teachers were separated based on their skills. Unfortunately, many of the teachers who taught black children had not even completed eighth grade (Ansalone 2006:146). Racial inequalities caused educational inequalities to rise; the least qualified teachers were most often placed in lower tracks, causing those already disadvantaged students to be even more disadvantaged. Since the best teachers and the best students were put together, they were given the resources to allow their students to flourish. Justifying the separation of students into groups also allowed teachers to prime their students through tracking. Teachers held different expectations for their students. The higher the track, the higher the teacher’s expectations will be. If a teacher has high expectations of his or her students, then the students will be more motivated to study, which increases the chances that the students will be academically successful (Hellingman 2003:99). Teacher credentials and teacher expectations shaped tracking, all of which kept reproducing to cover racial inequalities.



Paul Davis Chapman writes Schools As Sorters: Testing and Tracking in California, 1910-1925 to demonstrate the impacts of using intelligence tests for the means of classifying students into ability groups. There is a focus on Oakland, San Jose, and Palo Alto because these cities were first introducing the tests and they were a direct link to Stanford, where Lewis Terman was creating intelligence tests (Chapman 1981:701). Terman largely contributed to intelligence testing in the state of California as he helped put together the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Test. Terman’s slogan was, “a mental test for every child” (Chapman 1981:704). Chapman writes in this article, “Terman and several army colleagues, including Robert Yerkes of Harvard and Edward Thorndike of Columbia, received a generous grant from the General Education Board of the Rockefeller Foundation to develop ‘an intelligence scale for the group examination of school children’” (Chapman 1981:704). Essentially, all children would be given a test that would decide the child’s track: gifted, bright, average, slow, or special. Intelligence testing was growing because it promoted efficiency, science, and nativist, all prominent values during this progressive era (Chapman 1981: 714). Terman’s contributions align to those of Robert Yerkes.



As an administrative progressive, Robert Yerkes (1920’s) claimed that children should be classified for mental differences and career preparation. Yerkes broke ground with separating individuals by the use of alpha and beta tests. Although these were culturally biased tests, they allowed for the separation of students based on their score, which defined their intelligence. (Yerkes 1919:6-7). Yerkes created the argument that because children were different physically, they also had to be different mentally. He created a mental classification and educational plan: students were placed in the high (A), medium (B), or low (C) track. The track accordingly decided if students took on professional, industrial, or manual jobs. Yerkes (1919) mentioned, “…occupations for which they were best adapted.” He believed individuals received an education that best fit their needs. Connecting schooling to jobs was an early problem that led educators to assume that school curriculums were either academic or vocational, which has been seen today through schooling (Oaks 1986:32). Yerkes’ plan further affected students individually: students in the high track would finish in three years, students in the medium track would finish in four years, and students in the low track would finish in 6 years. It is crucial to recognize that under Yerkes’ plan, students in the low track be placed at a disadvantage because they would need double the time as students in the high track in order to succeed, but this would then create complications for their future careers.



Dejure segregation in schools ended when the supreme court overruled the separate but equal policy in 1954. During this time, there was a growing belief that education could impact opportunity by facilitating economic and social equality (Ansalone 2006: 147). Schools gained more purpose to society than just to provide academic knowledge. Horace Mann’s claim of education as a “great equalizer” became relevant in demonstrating the potential of education. Sociologist Jeanie Oaks writes a book to explain the way race and class are embedded in measures of ability and prior achievement (Oaks 1986:33). Oaks explains, “Disproportionate percentages of poor and minority youngsters (principally black and Hispanic) are placed in low ability, general, and vocational tracks” (Oaks 1986:33). The trend in many research studies, like in Oaks’s research, is that poor, minority, underrepresented groups are most often placed in the lower, disadvantaged tracks. This occurs as the privilege ensure their children are in the higher tracks, leaving the unprivileged in the lower tracks. Tracking is the modern day label that has over time increasingly separated students not only by academic ability but further by class status.



Education began to take a shift as educators began fulfilling the needs of students on a more individual basis. Students received instruction that focused on what the student specifically needed help in. Since students of similar levels of intelligence asked similar questions and had similar needs, they were put in the same track, which increased efficiency. If a classroom had students of mixed learning abilities, the teacher would hypothetically have to stop for the students that take longer to grasp concepts, all of which would put the other students on hold. To avoid the expense of putting students on hold, tracking has become efficient through the creation of homogeneous groups of educational ability. In 1908, the superintendent of Boston schools wrote, “Until very recently the schools have offered equal opportunity for all to receive one kind of education, but what will make them democratic is to provide opportunity for all to receive education as will fit them equally well for their particular life work” (Oaks 1986:32). The superintendent’s position allowed him to give validity to tracking; he portrayed tracking as the way to create equality in education, for everyone received an education to their level. Tracking grew rapidly as parents learned about it and further advocated for it. Parents did not want their child to be placed in a classroom with students of lower abilities. Homogeneous classrooms may not, however, bring students of higher ability down; in many instances, students of higher abilities help those of lower abilities in mixed classrooms, but as tracking was growing and its long-term impacts were not clearly understood, many advocated for tracking for its efficiency in teaching students by needs.



Sociologist Pierre Bourdieu introduces the concept of cultural capital to explain the accumulation of knowledge and skills one can use to depict social status in society. Indeed, having cultural capital allows one to effectively navigate dominant social structures, like school. Those with cultural capital allowed tracking to grow rapidly as they took advantage of tracking to ensure themselves the best possible quality education. Most often, students with cultural capital relied on their parents to advocate for them. Knowing that higher tracks provide a better path to a successful career, parents were more able to use their capital to advocate and get their child the best, highest education. Students that are decided on careers, like engineering or medicine, know what they want, so they are going to make sure to be above everyone to ensure their career paths, which reinforces tracking and makes it grow increasingly (Rozycki 1999:115). Students with cultural capital tend to be white or wealthy students whose parents most likely attended college. On the other hand, students who lack cultural capital are low-income, minority students, who are not equipped to recognize the importance the tracking system has in their future and therefore fall victims to low tracks that do not steer them towards such career paths and that do not provide them with an understanding of how to navigate society’s dominant structures, like school.



Learning to navigate society’s dominant structures is important because we live in a capitalist society in which the job market is selective and reserved for privileged. Capitalism depicts social darwinism in that only some survive; only some succeed in the job market while others unfortunately partake in jobs of lower status. Over time, America’s agrarian economy shifted to a much more industrial economy, which increased demand for educated people. More students began taking up more spaces in high schools, so education was becoming a higher priority. When this was happening, immigration was rising, which in turn increased tracking (Loveless 1998). The reason being was that minority and the poor were trained for low status jobs that removed them from academic learning and the mainstream of schooling while the rich were placed in higher tracks. Although this trend was occurring as the United States became more industrial, figure one shows a similar pattern from Yerkes time. By studying the mechanisms that make up tracking, we can understand why it continues growing.

In the figure above, the high track completes kindergarten through fifth grade in only three years while the low track completes kindergarten through fifth grade in double the time of the high track. The higher track leads to a profession while the lower track leads to manual work. It is very visible that higher tracks prepare for the better jobs whereas the lower tracks prepare for basic skills.

Divisions in educational plans affect career choices that supplement the economy and further result in an increased achievement gap. Those in higher tracks stay on the top while those in lower tracks unfortunately stay in the bottom. The divisions within tracks is visible through subjects as well. Oaks explains, “At the junior highs, white students typically enrolled in typing, home economics, and general industrial arts courses, while minorities frequently took classes that prepared them for specific jobs” (Oaks 1986:33). Socioeconomic differences align with race and ethnicity, which unfortunately only put whites on top, depriving other individuals from an education that prepares for careers and promoting class stratification.

Further in terms of the economy, it is important to recognize the reality of the workforce. Although an education may lead to careers, the manual jobs still need to be completed. Tracking has continued to grow very rapidly because there is a need for a more highly skilled workforce, which tracking fulfills by creating people on top with roles to keep the economy going (Rozycki 1999:115). Furthermore, with positions of higher status taken, there need to be individuals to take jobs of lower status. A school, for example, needs a principal and a dean of students, but it also needs janitors and cafeteria staff. All in all, tracking is disadvantaging because employers look for people with problem solving skills, general knowledge, and complex skills, not the complex skills lower tracks teach.



Harvard’s President from 1933 to 1953, James Bryant Conant had contributions to tracking as he brought in his perspective of a push for schools that would function in an economically unjust society. Conant recognized that students were different in ability, but he claimed that schools had to find a way to respond to such differences. He claimed that having students of mixed abilities together and reducing visible group differences would serve to promote a democracy (Proefriedt 2005). Proefriedt directly writes about Conant, “He expected that all students would be exposed to a general education program for about half their time in school, with students assigned to different ability levels. There would be no formal tracks; placements would be made on an individualized basis” (Proefriedt 2005). Conant pushed not for tracks, but for assigning students to different ability levels to allow students to help uplift each other. He envisioned a society in which college graduates would make a salary close to that of those that did not graduate college (Proefriedt 2005). Unfortunately, tracking has taken a shift in which students are solely tracked by their ability, which does not follow Conant’s beliefs about mixing students. Furthermore, tracking has not allowed for an equality in education as Conant believed. Although schools should be held accountable, social and economic factors must be held accountable.

Source: Retrieved from Presentation by Jack Dougherty at Trinity College
“Famous educator’s plan for a school that will advance students according to ability”



Tracking has grown so rapidly, resulting in positive and negative effects for students in different tracks. Using tracks allows to separate students by ability; therefore, students compare themselves to students in their track. Because students in a lower track are not forced to compare themselves to students in a higher track, students tend to have a better self-esteem. Similarly, tracking has, to an extent, grown to positively motivate students to learn as much as they could so that they could move up tracks. Hallinan (2003) researched instructional grouping and found that assigning students to groups in which tasks are intellectually challenging and related to future goal increases their motivation to learn (Hallinan 2003:99). Essentially, if students are seeing themselves as not successful, they will want to prove themselves to move up tracks. Despite positive effects of tracking, its rapid growth has allowed for visible negative effects. In opposition to the above listed, tracking has too caused students in lower tracks to develop low self-esteem in that they may think are are incapable of reaching higher tracks. Tracking is also detrimental to the poor youth who are targets to the lower tracks because it restricts their learning. Lower tracks are not exposed to college preparatory classes, which puts students at a disadvantage. Furthermore, teacher expectation may be influenced by the track and reflect on student performance. Teachers, curriculum, and self-esteem of the student play a role in tracking.



Tracking as an ideology has caused an abandonment of the common school movement towards that of a a separation of students due to the existence of racial tensions. Despite being in a similar building, students were separated. Of those separated, those that received the best education were placed in higher tracks because their parents used their privilege to advocate for their education and put them at an advantage, all of which prompted class stratification. When Robert Yerkes broke ground by separating individuals based on tests, tracking was flourishing as individuals were tracked for believed mental differences. Ideally, tracking was meant to maximize student learning by strategically placing students in classrooms of their levels. However, tracking has fallen behind of its goal as seen in practice over time. Hallinan explains, “Limitations in the process of assigning student to ability groups and in the pedagogical techniques utilized at different ability group levels seriously restrict the learning opportunities that are provided to students in some ability groups” (Hallinan 2003). Dividing students by levels of ability resulted in divisions of race. Unfortunately, only those with cultural capital were able to advocate in order to receive the best education possible, which was most often in the higher level tracks. Higher level tracks have served to provide students with the knowledge and skills to thrive in higher positions and careers while lower tracks have done the opposite, most often negatively impacting poor, minority, students of color in training for manual labor and basic skills. Although tracking become commonplace in the United States, perhaps detraking will now serve to raise awareness regarding the educational inequalities that exist and lead to economic inequalities, all of which shape future opportunities.



Ansalone, George. 2006. “Tracking: A Return to Jim Crow.” Race, Gender & Class 13(1/2):144–53. <>

Ansalone, George. 2009. “Tracking, Schooling and the Equality of Educational Opportunity.” Race, Gender & Class 16(3/4):174–84. <>

Chapman, Paul D. 1981. “Schools As Sorters: Testing and Tracking in California, 1910-1925.” Journal of Social History 701–716. <>

Cooper, Robert. 1996. “Detracking Reform in an Urban California High School: Improving the Schooling Experiences of African American Students.” The Journal of Negro Education 65(2):190–208. <>

Oakes, Jeannie. 1986. “Beyond Tracking.” Educational Horizons 65(1):32–35. <>

Oakes, Jeannie and Martin Lipton. 1992. “Detracking Schools: Early Lessons from the Field.” The Phi Delta Kappan 73(6):448–54. <>

Proefriedt, William A. 2005. “Revisiting James Bryant Conant” Education Week. <>

Rozycki, Edward G. 1999. “‘Tracking’ in Public Education: Preparation for the World of Work?” Educational Horizons 77(3):113–16. <>

Rubin, Beth C. 2003. “Unpacking Detracking: When Progressive Pedagogy Meets Students’ Social Worlds.” American Educational Research Journal 40(2):539–73. <>

Yerkes, Robert. 1919. “The Mental Rating of School Children.” National School Service 1, no. 12 (February 15, 1919): 6–7, <>

The Crucial Juncture of Early Education Reform

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Early education in the United States has functioned as a patchwork system of public and private programs on each the federal, state, and local level.  Every program operates with their own goals, qualifications, and most importantly, function to serve a specific subset of the American population (Philips and Zigler, 1987).  How and why early education has evolved into its current form can be traced back to a critical moment in American politics.  Most federal programs can be tracked to a crucial juncture, a time in which a vital transition leaves “a lasting mark on the political landscape, [and] one that constrains future reform possibilities” (Karch, 2013, p. 24).  For early education, its crucial juncture continues to be the introduction of the bipartisan Comprehensive Child Development Act of 1971 and its eventual veto by President Richard Nixon.

In the years leading up to the Comprehensive Child Development Act of 1971, the nation was finally ready to address early childhood reform.  Women had started entering the workforce, cognitive psychologists had established the importance of early childhood experience, and the national Head Start program had established great gains in support across the nation (Karch, 2013).  Even Nixon, during his presidential campaign, promised to “make a national commitment to providing all American children an opportunity for a healthful and stimulating development during the first five years of life” (Hunter, 1971, p. 1).  Politicians from both sides of the aisle were willing to work together and rework the patchwork system that had been burdening American families from every social class (Rose, 2010).  From a distance, it seemed like all the necessary components for successful implementation of early education reform was lining up perfectly.  Why then, was the Comprehensive Child Development Act of 1971 unsuccessful in bringing universal early education programs to American families, and what lasting implications have President Nixon’s veto had on early education reform efforts on future reform efforts?

The perfect storm of need, desire, and cooperation from the American public propelled early education reform into the spotlight, culminating in the bipartisan Comprehensive Child Development Act of 1971.  Political pressure rather than the interest of American children resulted in Nixon’s decision to veto the bill.  The President’s veto message forever changed the political landscape of early education reform, labeling the act as an attempt to Sovietize American children, and has had “a chilling effect on efforts to channel federal resources to quality child care that has persisted to the present day” (Ludden, 2016; Philips and Zigler, 1987, p. 15).  The dismissal of federal legislation forced state and local governments to take on the responsibility of future early education reform agendas, resulting in an even more fragmented system of childcare.

The Changing Role of Women in American Society

Change in women’s participation in the labor force from 1950-2000 (Rose, 2010, p. 46)

Historically, women in the United States have been the conventional caregiver for children, and until the 1960s were rarely employed outside of their home.  In 1950, less than 12 percent of married women with children under six were employed.  By 1970, that number had increased to more than 30 percent (Karch, 2013).  The influx of women into the workforce, left preschool and child care centers overwhelmed and unable to meet their new demand (Ludden, 2016).  Previous to the 1971 bill, day-care centers had been available for impoverished families, often offered through philanthropists and social workers.  For wealthier, middle-class families, private preschool and nursery schools were popular forms of childcare (Philips and Zigler, 1987).  This early split between public and private programs and their association with impoverished and privileged communities stigmatized the purpose of early education and developed “social-class-linked conceptions of appropriate childrearing environments (Philips and Zigler, 1987, p. 3).

One of the many challenges that have prevented the successful implementation of early childhood initiatives has been the American value of individualism in child rearing.  This belief dates back to the beginning of early childhood programs and continues to impinge upon its progress.  Early education occupies a unique position in society because it combines both child-care and school preparation in one setting (Karch, 2013).  This contradicts an underlying belief that child rearing is the private responsibility of parents, whereas education is the public responsibility of the country (Rose, 2010).  The shared responsibility of childrearing between the state and families “threatens deep-seated values about motherhood, childrearing, and family privacy” (Philips and Zigler, 1987, p. 9).  Nevertheless, during World War II, in an attempt to get women into factories building supplies for the war effort, Congress passed the Community Facilities Act.  One part of the act aided in the development of childcare centers.  Although these centers successfully cared for over 1.5 million children, the shared responsibility of childcare was always seen as a “temporary solution” to the problems associated with childcare (Philips and Zigler, 1987).  Finding and maintaining the appropriate balance between public and private responsibility continues to be one of the greatest challenges early education reform faces on a national level.

Cognitive Psychology and the Purpose of Early Education

While the need for improved childcare options was initially the result of mothers joining the workforce, Cognitive Psychologist brought an additional element to the reform table.  Research conducted in the 1960s identified a critical period of cognitive development during the first five years of growth (Karch, 2013).  These findings brought about a new purpose for early education reform.  Many politicians saw this as a crucial component of their ‘War on Poverty’.  In 1965, Head Start, a federal early interventionist program for impoverished children was created with the promise of giving kids an early boost and long-term educational benefits (Rose, 2010).  For politicians, this program hoped to increase the success of the nation’s poor and help break the cycle of poverty and welfare dependence.  Head Start operated outside of the public-school system, allowing leaders to modify the program based on the needs of their community and incorporate parent involvement (Rose, 2010).  Although initial research about the effectiveness of Head Start was not overwhelmingly positive, it shifted the nations focus on student success.  For middle-class families, the promised benefits of early education for the nation’s poor made them question what benefits early schooling would on their own children (Karch, 2013).  The purpose of early education was evolving.  Instead of focusing on childcare, early education was now about “school readiness”, preparing students to be successful throughout their educational career.

The 1960s was an exciting time for those invested in early education reform.  U.S. Commissioner of Education, Harold Howe II, predicted in 1968 that “by the year 2000 most children in the United States will be attending regular public school starting at the age of four” (Karch, 2013, p.1).  In 1964, consultant Harry Levin projected the “present combination of circumstances…makes a large-scale establishment of preschools inevitable” (Karch, 2013, p. 57).   More importantly, the candidates for the 1968 presidential election were addressing early education reform.  Richard Nixon’s campaign expressed support for early education based on child development research and the desire to tackle America’s growing poverty problems (Ludden, 2016).  In a campaign speech, Nixon made a “’national commitment to providing all American children an opportunity for a healthful and stimulating development during the first five years of life”, which many saw as a commitment to large-scale reform efforts (United States. President, 1971).

The Comprehensive Child Development Act of 1971

In 1969, Minnesota Senator Walter Mondale and Indiana Representative John Brademas introduced the bipartisan Comprehensive Child Development Act in Congress (Roth, 1976).  Federal legislation concerning universal educational programs was rare during this time period when most matters concerning education were debated on state and local levels.  The idea of universal early education was surprising and “represented an abrupt departure from previous government policy” (Rose, 2010, p. 43).  Additionally, the act’s long-term plan for all American students to attend early education programs through a sliding payment scale showed a shift in government spending priorities.  Marian Wright Edelman, a civil rights organizer, described how the “1971 bill tried to address the entitlements of all children and sought not to make child care a class issue.  We don’t need any more singling out of poor kids” (Rose, 2010, p. 48).  The preamble addresses the main goals of the Comprehensive Child Development Act of 1971:

“It is the purpose of this Act to provide every child with a fair and full opportunity to reach his full potential by establishing and expanding comprehensive child development programs and services designed to assure the sound and coordinated development of these programs, to recognize and build upon the experience and success gained through Head Start and similar efforts, to furnish child development services for those children who need them most, with special emphasis on preschool programs for economically disadvantaged children, and for children of working mothers and single parent families, to provide that decisions on the nature and funding of such programs made at the community level with the full involvement of parents and other individuals and organizations in the community interested in child development, and to establish the legislative framework for the future expansion of such programs to universally available child development services” (Roth, 1976, pp. 1-2).

Historically, Nixon’s decision to veto the bill and condemn any future forms of national early education has become the lasting remembrance of the Comprehensive Child Development Act.  Although many politicians and those within the nation were disappointed by Nixon’s decision, the flaws in the bill and its passage through Congress cannot be overstated in the bill’s eventual failure.  The Comprehensive Child Development Bill’s largest obstacle was its introduction as a congressional, rather than a presidential bill.  This rarely produces the same level of support needed for passage.  Furthermore, the Nixon Administration already had its own reform agenda, The Family Assistance Plan, which resulted in limited communication between Congress and the White House (Rose, 2010; Roth, 1976).  Both forms of legislation would require political support and would compete for the same funding (Karch, 2012).  A White House aid reported that the “President felt that separate child care legislation would undercut one of the most appealing features of the President’s own welfare reform bill” (Hunter, 1971, December 8, p. 51).  Not only did Congress fail to gain the support of Nixon, but also that of the public.  A strategic decision was made to speed up the bill’s passage through Congress by limiting time spent on educating the public and getting feedback about the proposed bill (Roth, 1976).  In time, this decision would turn the public against the bill, prompting Nixon’s veto message argument that “neither the immediate need nor the desirability of a national child development program for the character has been demonstrated” (United States. President, 1971, p. 2).

The language of the Comprehensive Child Development Act and the proposed amendments when passing through the Senate and House of Representatives also had detrimental consequences on its passage.  The House decided to attach the Comprehensive Child Development Act to the Economic Opportunity Bill, which was due for an extension in 1971.  In the early 1970s, vetoes were relatively uncommon and House leaders believed Nixon would not dare to veto the Economic Opportunity Bill, which was seen as a key part of the “War on Poverty” (Roth, 1976).  This represented one of the many examples of Congress’s overconfidence in their ability to pass the act.  Additionally, the act stated broad and vague goals for how the act would be implemented into American society (Rose, 2010).

The bill’s fundamental elements, prime sponsorship, was debated in both the House and Senate, resulting in an even more confused definition in who could apply as a prime sponsor.  The original House version had a population minimum of 100,000 individuals, preventing Indian reservations, small Head Start, nonprofit, parent, and migrant organizations from qualifying (Roth, 1976).  Meanwhile, the Senate considered not having a population minimum and the Nixon Administration believed only States should have the power to apply for primary sponsorship (Karch, 2013).  The Perkins amendment, introduced by Representative Carl Perkins, decreased the minimum sponsorship population to 10,000 individuals, which “had the effect of stripping the bill of almost the entire republic support it had in the house” (Karch, 2013, p. 79).  The ambiguity of the qualifications to obtain primary sponsorship across the House, Senate, and the Nixon administration proved central in the act’s eventual veto.  Sponsorship, parent involvement, and state vs. local involvement in early education efforts would be debated across both houses of legislation, and eventually lead to the dissolution of much of the bill’s support (Rose, 2010).  The lack of effective committee meetings, communication between branches of government, and different opinions about the long-term goals of the bill was never resolved in time to meet the 1971 Economic Opportunity Act deadline.

Opposition to the Comprehensive Child Development Act was heard while the bill passed through Congress.  Many were concerned that universal preschool would weaken family values.  A Florida mayor argued that the bill was “designed to destroy the family and the home…and lead us into a totalitarian state” (Karch, 2013, p. 74).  New York Times articles reported that “senators criticized the new program as both ‘radical’ and ‘socialistic’”, and that critics were “comparing it to youth programs in Nazi Germany and the indoctrination of the young in the Soviet Union and other communist countries” (Hunter, 1971, December 3, pp. 1 & 21).

Although politicians on both sides of the aisle were willing to work together, several key elements of the bill’s legislation were never fully addressed leading to a growing number of congressmen who opposed the bill.  The failure to address the concerns of primary sponsorship, the role of states and parent involvement, as well as gaining public support, contributed to the bill’s eventual failure.

Nixon’s Decision

In the days leading up to Nixon’s final decision on the bill, few in Congress believed the bill would pass.  Marjorie Hunter, a writer for The New York Times, believed “the President’s decision on whether to veto the legislation could be one of the most crucial domestic issues he has faced this year [1971]” (Hunter, 1971, December 8, p. 51).  Nixon had recently announced controversial trips to China and the Soviet Union and was still fighting to pass his Family Assistance Plan (Roth, 1976).  Some observers believed the “‘president made a very practical political decision that he had more to gain from vetoing it than from signing it’” with the 1972 elections right around the corner (Karch, 2013, p. 83).

On December 9th, Nixon vetoed the Comprehensive Child Development Act, forever creating a crucial juncture for early education reform.  The reasons behind Nixon’s decision are mixed, but the language used in his speech “drove ‘a stake through its heart,’ so that similar child care legislation would not resurface in the future (In the words of Jeff Bell – American Conservative Union Lobbyist) (Rose, 2010, p. 63).  Nixon argued that the “program points far beyond what this administration envisioned when it made a ‘national commitment to…American children’” and “the intent of Title V [Child Development Programs] is overshadowed by the fiscal irresponsibility, administrative unworkability, and family-weakening implications of the system it envisions.  We owe our children something more than good intentions” (United States. President, 1971, p. 1).  Nixon claimed that “it would be better to have no legal services corruption than one so irresponsibility structured (Rosenthal, 1971, December 10, p. 20).        Nixon’s veto message prevented the very nature of early education reform to be addressed again at the federal level by equating it with the sovietization of children.  Knowing that there had not been public discussion, Nixon was able to point to the lack of interest and need for such immediate and drastic changes to early education.  An aid to the Nixon Administration believed the president wanted to “kill the bill on philosophical grounds”, making future legislation a crime against the very values America was built on (Ludden, 2016; Rose, 2010).  Furthermore, the bill’s proposed cost was an easy target.  Although cognitive psychologists and recent studies had established the importance of early education, Nixon pointed to the “fiscal irresponsibility” of sponsoring a two-billion-dollar bill, “whose effectiveness has yet to be demonstrated” (Karch, 2013; United States. President, 1971, pp. 2-3).

The draft of the Comprehensive Child Development Act presented to President Nixon was not free from contextual and structural problems.  Decisions about primary membership, parental involvement, and the long-term goals concerning universal programs were not fully addressed, allowing the president to veto the bill without personal repercussion.  While protecting his own presidency, the Nixon’s “veto…spurred a series of reactions and counterreactions that affected the subsequent evolution of American preschool education” (Karch, 2013, p.8).  Advocates for reform started looking for venues at the state and local level to effect change, resulting in the long-term fragmentation of early education reform efforts (Karch, 2013).  The veto also marked the beginning of the conservative party’s association with traditional family values and a long-winded battle for reform efforts (Ludden, 2016).  The Washington Post believed the child development bill could be ‘as important a breakthrough for the youth as Medicare was for the old’”, however, as Joan Lombardi puts it, Nixon’s decision “‘set the child-care agenda back for decades: while other countries moved ahead, the United States stood still’” (Rose, 2010, p. 53; Karch, 2013, p. 85).

Reform Efforts in the Twenty-First Century

Percentage of 4-year-olds served in state preschool (Friendman-Krauss et al., 2018)

The Comprehensive Child Development Act started a national debate about the importance of early education for a child’s future success in school, and about what venue should be responsible for legislation concerning reform efforts.  In Nixon’s speech, he argues that the goal of government is to “diminish and eventually eliminate poverty in the United States”, but some policies should be left up to states to decide what best suits their individual needs (United States. President, 1971, p. 2).  This act brought about a larger discussion about the role of government in education policy (Roth, 1976).  Advocates for access to early education knew national level reform was no longer probable and therefore shifted their efforts to identifying state governments that would effectively implement their ideas (Karch, 2013).  Across the country, states have used different public and private approaches to increase enrollment in early education programs.  States differ in the scope of their programs, availability to students of different socioeconomic classes, and many other factors (Rose, 2010).  The various approaches used by states results in the current patchwork system.  Nevertheless, This disorder represents a continued interest and dedication to providing students with opportunities to succeed in school.

Although, Nixon helped establish traditional family values as the backbone of the conservative party, many red states continue to lead the nation in innovative early education reform efforts.  Research conducted in 2018 by The National Institute for Early Education Research identified Oklahoma as a leading state in three and four-year-old participation rates.  As one of four states to serve over 70% of four-year-old children, and meeting nine out of ten quality checklist standards, Oklahoma has quietly become a leader in early education reform (Friedman-Krauss et al., 2018).  Oklahoma has helped prove that early education does not have to be associated with political parties, but rather, politicians who want something better for all the students in their state.

Oklahoma pre-school enrollment, 1986-2006 (Rose, 2010, p. 115)

In 1980, Oklahoma started their early education reform efforts with the creation of just ten pilot programs across the state (Rose, 2010).  With the hopes of eventually providing all students with the opportunity to attend preschool programs, the state continued to fund and grow the programs (Friedan-Krauss et al., 2018).  In 1998, with a crisis in their public-school system, Oklahoma decided to add preschool to their school system.  This decision provided students access to free public preschool programs across the state, with over 99% of school districts offering preschool today (Rose, 2010; Friendman-Krauss et al., 2018).  One has to question what is unique about Oklahoma’s approach that has allowed them to grow into one of the most successful states in the nation.  One important element is that Oklahoma did not try to establish a universal program overnight.  Instead, it took several decades to form the system that is currently in place (Rose, 2010).  Because it is offered through their public-school system, local districts maintain some control over the programs, and they can be held to specific quality standards (Friendman-Krauss et al., 2018).  Oklahoma’s approach is not the only way to find success, but it does continue to serve as a model for other states looking to improve.

Many states have seen large increases in their total enrollment of students in early childhood programs since The National Institute for Early Education Research started collecting data in 2002.  This upward trend is encouraging, however, there are still seven states without formal early education programs, and many more with less than 10% of their total population of preschool age students enrolled (Friendman-Krauss et al., 2018).   Although the Comprehensive Child Development Act of 1971 would have been an uphill battle to successfully implement, its failure to pass left states responsible for future reform efforts.  While some states like Oklahoma have implemented universal preschool programs, many states and the children they serve, have been left behind.

Percentage of 4-year-olds enrolled in state preschool, change from 2002-2017 (Friendman-Krauss et al., 2018)


The Comprehensive Child Development Act of 1971 represents a time in which the nation believed access to early education should be a right available to all children.  Changes to the labor market and research about early education helped heighten the debate concerning universal early education programs.  Although flaws in the bill’s language and Nixon’s political needs would prevent its implementation, the Comprehensive Child Development Act continues to serve as a crucial juncture for early education reform.  The decentralization of political authority from the national to the state level has helped create the patchwork system of early education programs seen across the country.  For now, a federally sponsored early education initiative seems unlikely, and it is therefore up to individual states to implement meaningful programs for their youngest citizens.  Some, like Oklahoma, Vermont, Florida, and the District of Columbia have risen to the top, providing over 70% of their four-year-old children with early education programs.  Other, however, fail to even start the initiative with any state sponsored programs.  Perhaps, what the nation needs now is not a universal program from the federal government, but rather universal standards to help guide states and their initiatives.


Work Cited:

Friedman-Krauss, A.H., Barnett, W.S., Weinsenfield, G.G., Horowitz, M., Kasmin, R. & DiCrecchio, N. (2018).  The state of preschool 2017: State preschool yearbook.  National Institute for Early Education Research, 14.  Retrieved from

Hunter, M. (1971, December 8). House clears poverty bill despite Nixon veto threat. The New York Times, pp. 1 & 51. 

Hunter. M. (1971, December 3). Senate approves a broad program of child day care. The New York Times, pp. 1 & 21.

Karch, A. (2013).  Early start: Preschool politics in the United States.  Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press. Retrieved from

Ludden, J (Producer). (2016, October 13). How politics killed the universal child care in the 1970s. [Audio podcast]. Retrieved from

Phillips, D. & Zigler, E. (1987).  The checkered history of federal child care regulations. Review of Research in Education, 14(1), 3-41. Retrieved from

Rose, E. (2010).  The promise of preschool: From head start to universal pre-kindergarten. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Rosenthal. J. (1971, December 10). President vetoes child care plan as irresponsible. The New York Times, pp 1 & 20.

Roth, W. (1976). The politics of daycare: The comprehensive child development act of 1971. Institute for Research on Poverty: Discussion Papers, 369-76.  Retrieved from

United States. President (1969-1974: Nixon). (1971). The veto message from the President of the United States, returning the Economic Opportunity Amendments of 1971 with his objections, &c. The American Presidency Project. Retrieved from