The ELL Paradox in Hartford Public Schools

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“We know we are very fortunate. We all understood that these students are going to grow up here, stay here and be a permanent part of this community. Their success is key to our community’s success.”[i]

In October of 2010, I had the opportunity to intern at a local Hartford Public School. I was very eager to work with a recent Teach for America graduate at the time, and felt that I could bring a new perspective to his 6th grade classroom; as a product of the Hartford Public School system, I felt that I could truly relate to his students and serve as a valuable asset to the classroom. During my first few weeks at there, I found myself in a very difficult position: although I wanted to spend my time helping the students in the classroom with science projects and other assignments, I found myself being used mostly as a translator between the teacher and four [transfer] students who were in his homeroom. These students had recently moved to Hartford from Puerto Rico and were immediately enrolled into a Hartford school by their mother, who did not want to see them fall behind in their academics.

The Vice Principal of this school at the time explained that the school no longer had an official ELL program (English Language Learners) but rather, the children spent their fourth period in a class for students with developmental and behavioral problems. In this class, typically taught by a member of the school support staff, students received specialized attention with their classwork. Many times the class was taught by a bilingual staff-person; however, this was not always the case. I realized immediately that this arrangement was problematic – the children did not have behavioral nor developmental problems, they simply did not understand a word of English. Due to the experiences that these children and countless others face and the changing nature of ELL/Bilingual Education programs in Hartford Public Schools, both before and after the complaint with USDOE OCR was filed, we can see that Hartford has experienced a shift from a Spanish-language minority group to multiple language minority groups. Furthermore, albeit the Hartford Public Schools signed a resolution which provided a legal remedy to the immediate problems experienced by ELL [Bilingual] Students, the changes promised in the resolution have not yet been implemented in the district. Thus, the dual language concept to be implemented in HPS would not address ELL concerns for non-Spanish (and non-English) speaking minority groups.

Literature Review

Original Complaint: In April of 2007, the Center for Children’s Advocacy in Hartford filed a complaint with the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights [USDOE OCR] claiming that “the city schools failed to adequately teach English language learners…”[ii] Reflecting on the experience of the Rivera children, it is clear to see that they were at an unfair disadvantage at their school. The district failed to meet the needs of every student, especially those who needed them most. Under Federal law, districts are required to provide sufficient support to students with limited mastery of the English language. In Hartford, the demographics of the schools are representative of the vast diversity of the City’s population. This led me to formulate this question: Why did Hartford ELL advocates pursue district compliance with federal law and does this fit with current broader Hartford Public School language policies?

The original complaint filed with USDOE OCR, was filed on behalf of Liberian, Somali-Bantu, and Spanish-speaking families with [what is referred to in the document as] Limited English-proficiency (LEP). The primary argument made by the Center for Children’s Advocacy in the complaint was that the “Hartford Public School district has not developed or implemented an adequate system for communicating with non-English speaking parents who are also non-Spanish-speaking.”[iii] As a result, the Center for Children’s Advocacy cited the Hartford Public School district as being in direct violation of “Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act which promises and the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974 (EEOA).”[iv]

Somalia-Bantu Youth of Hartford, CT at Tutoring Program held by Campus Organization. Credit: Nick Lacy, Trinity College Office of Communications

The Center for Children’s Advocacy cited that the district did not offer a sufficient bilingual education program for students with limited English proficiency. The Center reached out to numerous parents and community organizations including the Hartford Refugee Resettlement Group to make their case. This network of service providers would ultimately serve as a voice for Somali-Bantu youth and those students like them. The Center used valuable information given to them by the Resettlement group to show that many Somali-Bantu youth who had been given refugee status had limited-to-no previous formal education in their home countries. This would create important implications for the Hartford Public School District who would need to employ new strategies to reach these students.

The Center for Children’s Advocacy also found that the District had failed to provide parents with sufficient means of communication and that all communication from the schools were in English, which the Somali-Bantu families did not understand. In an October 2012 article featured in Education Week, titled, Schools Falter at Keeping ELL Families in the Loop, Lesli Maxwell outlines important information that all ELL districts should know about. In an interview with Peggy Nicholson, a representative with the Advocates for Children’s Services (an ally of the Southern Poverty Law Center), Ms. Nicholson explains that, “For these parents, it was an issue of not being able to be meaningful participants in decisions about their child’s education…”[v] The complaint filed in 2007 brought to light the changing composition of minority groups in Hartford. The shift went from a predominantly Spanish-speaking minority to a more diverse group, including for the first time ever, students such as Somali-Bantu youth and Liberian youth. The fact that these new families, including refugee families, were arriving in Hartford created a need to focus on the educational attainment of all students in enrolled in the Hartford Public School district.

The Center found that “by failing to establish an effective system for communicating with the Somali-Bantu students and their parents, the District was in violation of Title VI which reads:

No state shall deny equal educational opportunity to an individual on account of his or her race, color, sex or national origin, by…                                                                                             (f) the failure by an educational agency to take appropriate action to overcome the language barriers that impede equal participation by its students in instructional programs.

By this point, you may start to ask yourself: How do the teachers who are dealing with these students feel? According to a study released by Education Week, titled Teaching ELL Students, in 2006-07, the State of Connecticut certified a total of 836 teachers in Title III language instruction programs. Researchers found that the average number of ELL students per certified Title III teacher in Connecticut was 34. Interestingly, Connecticut was one of the many states that DID NOT require all prospective teachers to demonstrate competence in ELL instruction – the states that did require this for prospective teachers included Arizona, Florida, New York.

In Hartford, not only did teachers lack the materials and training to teach many ELL students, but some teachers went as far as to say: “The school system is not set up for this…teachers need more support.” This highlights a key problem about the ELL program in Hartford – if students don’t understand teachers, and teachers don’t understand the student population they are servicing, how can any learning or imparting of learning truly occur? Ultimately, the problem that ELL students in Hartford are experiencing is a multi-faceted dilemma that in order for the District to fully address, these Administrators must look deeper to see the many layers of the problem to fully address the concerns of ELL advocates.

Resolution to Complaint: On February 13, 2013, Dr. Christina Kishimoto, Superintendent of the Hartford Public School District filed a resolution agreement to OCR Complaint No. 01-07-1149 filed by the Center for Children’s Advocacy. In said resolution, the District outlined the steps that were to be employed to create an adequate program of learning and progress monitoring for ELL students. In the agreement, the District agreed to ensure approximately 45-60 minutes of daily bilingual support for ELL students.[vi] The District also promised to bring in more ESL teachers[vii] and bilingual school staff that could help the Hartford schools to reach its goal of providing ELL students with a meaningful education experience.

One of the major problems that I identified in the resolution agreement was listed under §4 of said agreement, titled “STAFFING”.

Dr. Christina Kishimoto, Superintendent of Hartford Schools. Credit: Nellie Mae Education Foundation


The Hartford Board of Education states that:

The District will use its best efforts to ensure that each school has enough qualified ESL – and bilingual-certified staff to provide the services described above. The District recognizes that “best efforts” includes promptly and actively recruiting qualified ESL – and bilingual certified staff when there are vacancies as well as assigning ESL – and bilingual-certified general education staff to provide ESL and bilingual services.

The problem lies in the wording of the claim: “when there are vacancies” – implies something very interesting that takes place in Hartford schools. When the district piloted its ESL programs, they searched for highly motivated, certified, well-educated individuals to fill positions as bilingual literacy coaches, mentors and teachers; when the ESL/Bilingual program was discontinued in Hartford, many of these educators trained for special populations stood on-board in their schools and transitioned into roles as literacy coaches, special education coaches and math coaches, according to one Hartford Public School district official who noted, “These instructors are too valuable a resource in our schools, so we had to find ways to keep them around.”  Many of these teachers were on track to become tenured (if they were not already), had obtained advanced degrees and were members of teachers unions, for example. Given the fact that these individuals were in such high demand previously, it made sense to keep them around as they contributed greatly to the overall school and the community at large. Thus, although the resolution provided teachers with more professional development to help them to help the ELL students in their classrooms, they will never replace the teachers and coaches with advanced degrees in bilingual education who have a deeper understanding of the dual-language model and its implications.

Furthermore, the District promised to take on a more hands-on approach in identifying “new arrivals” (students who’d been in the U.S. for less than three years), long-term ELL Students (students who have undertaken an intensive ELL program and have not yet mastered proficiency in the English language even after the duration of their time in the program) and students with limited-to-no previous education in their home countries, such as the Somali-Bantu refugee children. The resolution also promised to provide more resources, such as translators for parents who would like to communicate with their child’s schools. This provided a remedy to using students as translators, which was seen as highly inappropriate and un-professional among those parents who needed a way to effectively communicate their thoughts and feelings to school officials. This challenged the notion of a neglectful school and district that did not previously care to communicate properly with these parents. It seemed that Hartford Public Schools wanted to use this document to thoroughly outline what it was going to take for the District to be in compliance with the regulation implementing Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, at 34 C.F.R. Section 100.3, which was the main violation cited in the OCR complaint.

Two-Way Feasibility Study:  To have my readers fully understand the scope of what we are talking about in this paper, I would like to point out a few key terms. In a recent study which gauged the feasibility of implementation of a two-way language program in the 2014-2015 school year, (conducted by Achieve Hartford in partnership with the Hartford Board of Education), the term “English Language Learner” refers to any student who is “an active learner of the English language whose dominant language is other than English and whose proficiency in English is not sufficient to assure equal educational opportunity in the general education program…”[viii] The study details the steps that need to be made in order to fully implement Two-Way Language programs in Hartford Public Schools and implies that the road to a dual language program is long and toilsome, but not without its due rewards.

What was most striking in this study was that the list of ‘pros’ matched in length the list of ‘cons’ in the first few pages of the document. The lists were used to highlight what has and has not worked in the past in various Hartford Public Schools; in other words, the task of implementing a Two Way Language program has nearly as many benefits as it has limitations. On the “positives” list, the number one benefit listed was “Cognitive benefits to children: research has indicated children who grow up bilingual, bi-literate and multi-culturally competent surpass their non-bilingual peers in academic competencies and language skills.” [1] On the “challenges” list, the number one detriment listed was: “Requires more concentrated district support and resources.”[2]

The two-way feasibility study conducted for Hartford Schools also highlights the work that the Hartford Public School District is doing to create a multi-cultural consciousness among the many students they service. Many of these efforts include teaching students about different cultures through music, art and literature, such as Day of the Dead or Kwanzaa or learning about Japanese Internment Camps through Haiku written by Japanese-Americans – key concepts in cultural enrichment taught in schools, and taught in English. This is not conducive to a meaningful educational experience, particularly among students such as Somali-Bantu refugees, Liberian children or children of Dominican descent, for example, who may not have any formal educational experience prior to arriving in the United States.

Somalia-Bantu Youth of Hartford, CT at Tutoring Program held by Campus Organization. Credit: Nick Lacy, Trinity College Office of Communications


In the struggle to implement sufficient ELL programming in any schools, the multi-dimensioned effort needs to include everyone in the District who can help to provide a “meaningful experience” for these students, children who need them most. The effect can be felt from the top-down: the central office must find money to fund these specialized classes and specially trained teachers. In the schools, and specifically, in the classroom, teachers must find ways to not only help ELL students master both a new language, AND what is being taught the course. Also, important to note is that Spanish is spoken by the vast majority of English Language Learners, nationally. This is evident in the Hartford School District, where extensive programming for Spanish-speaking students had been (and in many respects continues to be) the main focus of the ESL programs in place in local schools.[ix]

In a recent article published in Education Week by Mary Ann Zehr, titled English-learners pose policy puzzle[x]. I was very interested to find the following statistical data, which placed this English-Language-Learning paradox in the vanguard of my mind for many weeks:

            Only 23.6% of students who start the ninth grade in New York City as English-Language Learners graduate four years later, although, some continue their schooling and receive diplomas after that. The four year dropout rate for ELLs is 41.8%…The families of school-aged ELLs are consistently more socio-economically disadvantaged than those of their peers. ELL youths are half as likely to have a parent with a two or four year college degree and much more likely to live in a low-income household. While 2/3rds of ELL youths have a parent who holds a steady job, their parents typically earn much less than those of non-English-Language Learners.

This put the ELL paradox shows us that families who are not proficient in English will struggle more significantly than families who have English fluency. Families who have a proficiency in English are able to effectively communicate with their schools, albeit ELL families, in many cases, cannot. According to Federal Law, “school districts are required to provide adequate support to students with limited English proficiency so that they can meaningfully access a school’s curriculum.”[xi]  When Somali-Bantu Refugees fled Somalia, not only were these “New Arrivals” experiencing a myriad of problems as newcomers to the United States, the schools were not helping ease their burden.

For this reason, the data leads me to believe that due to the experiences that these Somali-Bantu, Liberian and Spanish-speaking children and countless others face and the changing nature of ELL/Bilingual Education programs in Hartford Public Schools, both before and after the complaint with USDOE OCR was filed, a shift has occurred in Hartford. The City has experienced a shift from a Spanish-language minority group to multiple language minority groups. Furthermore, albeit the Hartford Public Schools signed a resolution which provided a legal remedy to the immediate problems experienced by ELL [Bilingual] Students, the changes promised in the resolution have not yet been implemented in the district. Thus, I believe that the dual language concept to be implemented in Hartford would not address ELL concerns for non-Spanish (and non-English) speaking minority groups.. It seems that although the Somali-Bantu refugee families, Liberian families and other ELL families are slowly integrating into the City of Hartford, the vast majority of families in the ELL program are still Spanish-speaking. The District would need to further identify and monitor the progress of “New Arrivals” to see which strategies and best practices work for these families. Naturally, these families would have to ask questions and reach out to find resources such as the Hartford Refugee Resettlement Group which would in turn help get these families adjust to the United States. They would also need to take full advantage of the translator sources which are outlined in the resolution agreement, to truly be involved in ensuring that their child gets a fair education. Hartford Public Schools has a very good outline of how the resolution to the ELL paradox should look, but the fact of the matter is that until these reforms are implemented, the Hartford School District is STILL in violation of Civil Rights law. The only way these reforms could ever be effective is if they are implemented immediately and in the time frame that was promised in the resolution agreement.



Center for Children’s Advocacy. “Complaint to the US Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, Concerning Limited-English Proficient Learners in the Hartford Public Schools,” April 11, 2007.

DeLaTorre, Vanessa. “Hartford Courant: After Federal Probe, Hartford Schools Agree To Improve Services For ‘English Language Learners,” March 22, 2013.

Hartford Public Schools. Two-Way Language Program Feasibility Study, January 3, 2013.

Lesli Maxwell, “Schools Falter at Keeping ELL Families in the Loop,” Education Week, October 2, 2012.

US Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights. “Hartford Board of Education (District) OCR Complaint No. 01-07-1149 Resolution Agreement,” February 13, 2013.

Mary Ann Zehr, “English-Learners pose policy puzzle,” Education Week, December 31, 2008.

[1]  Hartford Public Schools, Two-Way Language, 2013.

[2]  Hartford Public Schools, Two-Way Language, 2013.

[i] Maxwell, 2013

[ii] De La Torre, After Federal Probe, Hartford Schools Agree To Improve Services For ‘English Language Learners

[iii] CCA Complaint, USDOE OCR, 2013

[iv] CCA Complaint, USDOE OCR, 2013

[v] Maxwell, 2012

[vi] Hartford Public Schools, Resolution Agreement, 2013

[vii] English Language Learners (ELLs) in Hartford are placed in an English-as-a-Second Language (ESL) program.

[viii] Hartford Public Schools, Two-Way Language

[ix] These schools such as Moylan, McDonough and Parkville School are all in neighborhoods with a very high Black and Latino population. (HPS State of the Schools Address, 2013)

[x] Zehr, English-Learners pose policy puzzle.

[xi] De La Torre, Federal Probe, 2013

Dual Language Learning Programs

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According to Thomas and Collier’s interpretation of Berliner & Biddle’s 1995 article on English language education, “In 1988, 70 percent of U.S. school-age children were of Euro- American, non-Hispanic background. But by the year 2020, U.S. demographic projections predict that at least 50 percent of school-age children will be of non-Euro-American background.” (Thomas, Collier 13). These percentages indicate that non-English speaking populations are growing rapidly. So rapidly in fact, it will be very important in the coming years to figure out how to give these students the best chance for success in the American school system. Reformers are faced with the task of how to approach the education of these non-English speaking students.

Over the past two decades English language learning has evolved tremendously. It has become a necessity to educate American citizens in a Multilingual fashion due to the influx of immigrants and non-English speaking U.S. citizens. Many American teachers don’t know exactly how to approach the education of these citizens. There are a multitude of programs that educate non-English speaking students. Two-way bilingual programs, developmental bilingual programs and transitional programs are all educational agendas that focus on literacy in two languages. These bi-literal agendas have come to be known as Dual Language Programs. According to The Massachuettes Association for Bilingual Education, “Dual language is a form of bilingual education in which students are taught literacy and content in two languages.” (MABE). In comparison, English as a second language (ESL) programs and Structured English Immersion (SEI) programs are more geared toward proficiency in English only (NCELA). The two types of programs differ in that English only programs do not encourage and sometimes do not allow the use of Spanish and other non-English languages. English only programs which are highly in use in American schools are criticized for putting non-English speaking students at a disadvantage in terms of academic success beyond the understanding of English. As educators search for better ways to help their non-English speaking students achieve academic success they have run into a wall of debate surrounding the issues of Dual Language versus Single Language education. How have some educators of Spanish-speaking students attempted to shift to dual-language learning programs since the 1990s, and what kinds of challenges have they faced?

The early 1990s was a time period of slight criticism of the bilingual learning plan. As America underwent a transformation of its population and continues to undergo this transformation conservative voters have come out of the woodwork in groves with a “keep America American” type of mentality. Unfortunately while this attitude can be seen as patriotic it also does a good job of stigmatizing millions of English learning students. Laws like Proposition 227 have made it hard for certain states to continues their bilingual education programs despite the proven effectiveness of the programs. Dual Language learning programs which have proven effective for both English speaking and non-English speaking students are not taken seriously. In recent years educators of non-English speaking students have tried to push for more Bilingual programs across the country because they are equally beneficial for both types of students.

According to Smith and Rodriguez, in 1965 “Bilingual Education was made a public policy in the US with the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). (Smith and Rodriguez)” Since that time, the perception of this act and the ways in which it is carried out have shifted. According to Smith and Rodriguez, “The 2001 reauthorization of ESEA brought with it vast changes in how language minority children are educated in the US.” (Smith and Rodriguez).  According to the ESEA any student whose original language is not English is now classified as “English Language Learners” (Smith and Rodriguez). These English language learners have two types of learning options. English Only education separates the language minority students and teaches proficiency in English Only and after a certain period of time these students are migrated into the regular population to continue their schooling. Dual Language uses both languages equally. Dual learning has been put onto a pedestal recently as it seems like an effective way to garner the attention of these language deficient students.

While Dual Language learning seems great, there are deeper factors that must be analyzed. The Sociolinguistic Environment of a Bilingual School by Kathy Escamilla is a 1994 case study that reports about a California school with a population of about 1200 students and a focus on Bilingual Education. The study concentrates on how an effective Dual Language program must have an environment outside of class where both languages are of equal importance. The data that Escamilla provides indicates the emphasis of English over Spanish in the classroom settings. (Escamilla)

According to Escamilla, “English is the language used to give students awards and rewards and English is the language used between adults, even adult bilinguals. All of the above impresses upon students that the important language is English and that Spanish serves no purpose other than as a “bridge to English”. (Escamilla 41). Escamilla follows this by noting that, “No matter what teachers and other people in the school “tell” students about the importance of being bilingual what they do in the context of both the classroom and the larger school environment presents a contradictory and much stronger message.” (Escamilla 42).

Escamilla’s findings indicate that while Dual Language education is a great goal it has minor discrepancies that limit its potential. For instance, educators in Dual Language classes do not emphasize the importance of the native languages of their students, which turns the native language into a translation tool as opposed to a cultural benefit. When utilizing Bilingual education, educators have to be weary about focusing too much on one language while downplaying the significance of the other language.

Reformers of the 1990s were worried about giving too much instruction in English therefore not fulfilling their goals of Spanish literacy. On the other hand there were similar worries that by incorporating Spanish instruction, the students would not be able to complete the main goal, which was to learn English. Some of the findings in Escamilla’s case study may have been crucial in the passing of Proposition 227 in 1997.

Proposition 227 banned bilingual education in California. Active at the beginning of the following school year, it became illegal to teach children in any other language that wasn’t English. Massachusetts and Arizona followed in California’s footsteps and by 2002 they were the only 3 states to completely ban bilingual education.

According to Susan Eaton’s 2012 report, in 2002, Massachusetts, California and Arizona were the only 3 states to have completely banned bilingual education (Eaton 2). By law, these states forced educators to use Structured English Immersion (SEI) plans in which non-English speaking students were separated from their English-speaking peers. In the segregated classrooms non-English speaking students were taught specifically in English until they showed enough improvement to return to the normal population.

While these laws are still in place in the 3 states, there has been a growing concern over the need to provide students with the alternative for Bilingual education. According to Eaton, “policymakers see it not only as an effective educational method, but also as a dynamic model of ethnic and cultural integration in a rapidly changing society” (Eaton 3).

Following Prop 227 some California schools converted into Charter Schools in order to continue using their dual-immersion programs. “Under California law, charter schools are exempt from virtually all state rules.” (Schnailberg). Other California school districts use a 1974 Supreme Court ruling which helped Chinese students take non-English classes (Alorro). Despite these few states banding against Dual Language education, research has shown that the benefits for students are uncanny.

School Effective for Language Minority Students by Wayne P. Thomas and Virginia Collier is a report published in 1997 that focuses on K-12 data for language minority students. The study uses over 700,000 “language minority” student records from between 1982 and 1996. (Thomas, Collier 31). This study cites long-term findings of non-English speaking students in order to see how they well they did up until their final years of regular education. The research uses these long-term results in order to compare the benefits of two-way bilingual classes with English only classes. According to their research, “children in well-implemented one-way and two-way bilingual classes outperform their counterparts being schooled in well-implemented monolingual classes, as they reach the upper grades of elementary school.” (Thomas, Collier 15). This finding is significant because it ultimately shows the effectiveness in dual language programs in preparing student for academic success. Their research also cites the importance in building “sociocultural context” for English language learners. Similar to Escamilla’s findings, when both languages are of equal importance it is beneficial to students of a non-familiar language backgrounds.

In their study, Thomas and Collier ask the question, “”Which characteristics of well-implemented programs result in higher long-term achievement for the most at-risk and high-need student?” (Thomas, Collier 26). They found that Dual Language programs have a great effect on the students academic record. The graph below shows how students of non-English speaking backgrounds need to work twice as hard to catch up with the regular population once their are out of the ESL classes.

English language learners must typically gain more than one year's achievement to close the achievement gap

Some of the most important findings of this study were the findings on School Effectiveness. The researchers labeled L1 as the students native language and L2 as English. According to Thomas and Collier, “Students born in the U.S., who received 2-3 years of schooling in both LI and L2 in U.S. schools, made greater progress than similar groups who received all of their schooling in English (L2), with ESL support, in U.S. schools.” (Thomas, Collier 50). This data also goes to the fact that Dual Language Programs are beneficial to students.

Thomas and Collier also attest to the fact that students who recieved mixed language work did better overall on their assignments. According to Thomas and Collier, “Students who received L I academic content and L2 academic content (taught by teachers trained in second language acquisition and the content areas who were also socioculturally supportive of students) did better than students who received only L2 academic work.” (Thomas, Collier 51). This finding shows that recieving work in both languages make it easier for the students to succeed. This finding also points to the fact that the students are not intellectually challenge but once they are given the opportunity to learn in their own language it makes it that much easier. Thomas and Collier follow this finding by stating that student groups in their research sample, “who are separated from grade-level classes for most of the school day for several years do not know the level of cognitive and academic work expected in the mainstream, and with time, students may develop lower aspirations for their own academic achievement” (Thomas, Collier 52). This finding goes against the belief that ESL or SEI programs have the same effect on students as Dual Language programs. The following graph from Thomas and Collier’s study shows just how much more effective Dual Language Learning Programs were.

Long-term achievement in NCEs

This graph shows that by grade 11, students in Dual Language and billingual programs were much more successful than students in ESL and SEI programs. Thomas and Collier’s research shows us that “the program with the highest long-term academic success is two-way bilingual education” (Thomas, Collier 53).

If Dual Language programs are so effective what are educators doing to get them implemented. Many reformers cite the need for Bilingual education to inspire non-English speaking students to achieve at higher rates. Bilingual education has the ability to help non-English speaking students learn English but it also has the ability to teach English-speaking fluency in another language thus making these students more valuable by preparing them for communication with nations outside of the United States. Educators locally and nationally are making the push to get more dual language programs put into place. In her 2012 Hartford Courant article, Andrea Dyrness states, “the movement to restrict languages in schools is directly connected to the movement to restrict immigration.” (Dyrness). She also points to anti non-English education as a “disservice” to an English speaking students. I think dual language education is important because of the benefits of being multilingual in a competitive national economy. Other educators like Susan Eaton cite the importance of Multilingual education because of its ability to garner friendships and bonds across cultures. Educators are making clear strides at implementing Dual Language programs more widely because of its numerous benefits. While they are faced with few roadblocks such as Prop 227 it seems as if at least a small portion of American schools will be geared toward bilingual education.

Works Cited

Alorro, Audrey. “English-only Law Hits California Schools Ban on Bilingual Education Ignites Protest.” Freedom Socialist Party, October 1998.

“Bilingual Education – Dual Language Programs.” Bilingual Education, n.d.

Dyrness, Andrea. “English-Only Teaching Ignores Bilingual Benefits.” Hartford Courant, March 23, 2012.

Escamilla, Kathy. “The Sociolinguistic Environment of a Billingual School: A Case Study.” Bilingual Research Journal 1&2, no. 18 (Winter/Spring 1994).

Eaton, Susan. “Have We Learned Our Language Lesson?” One Nation Indivisible (June 2012).

NCELA. “Language_Instruction_Educational_Programs.pdf”, n.d.

Schnaiberg, Lynn. “Some Calif. Schools Finding Ways Around Prop. 227.” Education Week, September 30, 1998.

Schnaiberg, Lynn. “Two-Way Bilingual-Ed. Programs Show Promise, New Study Suggests.” Education Week, March 23, 1994.

Thomas, Wayne P., and Virginia Collier. School Effectiveness for Language Minority Students. NCBE Resource Collection Series, No. 9. National Clearinghouse for Bilingual Education, George Washington University, Center for the Study of Language and Education, 2011 Eye Street, N.W., Suite 200, Washington, DC 20006. Tel: 202-467-0867., December 1997.

The Noble Difference: Popularity of the Noble Network in Chicago

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As more high schools are opening and closing in the city of Chicago, more parents and future 9th grade students are taking advantage of public school choice and beginning to seek high schools that have established a reputation for producing results. High schools that have appealed to parents and students have ranged from magnet schools, montessori schools, traditional schools, and more recently charter schools. In the city of Chicago, approximately 19,000 students applied for admission to charter schools and over 23,000 are predicted to apply next year (1).The overwhelming amount of students applying to charter schools in the Chicagoland area causes a debate among the charter school community as to which of them has a better reputation as the “best” school to attend. When looking at all networks of charter high schools, one network has obtained both the most frequent media attention by the city of Chicago and produced effective results in standardized tests: the Noble Network of Charter Schools. With over 6,304 applications received by the Noble Network of Charter schools from 2010-2011, the amount of applicants for the 10 campuses leads one to wonder: how and why did the Noble Network of Charter Schools, compared to its competitors, become so popular in Chicago from 1999, when the network first opened, to the present?

There have been many reasons given by parents who have applied their children to a Noble charter high school as opposed to any other charter high school in Chicago. Noble’s college matriculation rates, their curricular focus, support, and their achievements with testing stand out among these as the critical deciding factors. Many other competitor networks of charter schools have similar practices to that of the Noble Network of Charter Schools; however, the Noble Network of Charter Schools produce some of the largest numbers of applicants growing larger and larger each year in the city of Chicago. Although Noble seems to operate just as every other network of charter schools does, Noble has certain characteristics that sets their schools apart from its competitors.

I personally decided to research this network of charter schools because I attended and graduated from one of the Noble Network of Charter Schools campuses. Also, I wanted to research the “The Noble Difference Campaign” in which the network prides themselves on and what I experienced in high school. Moreover in my own personal experience, the range of charter high schools is extremely competitive, and I wanted to research the reason behind the growing number of applications to Noble. The Noble Network of Charter Schools emerged in 1999 with the opening of its first campus, Noble Street Charter School an open enrollment charter high school. After its first graduating class in 2003, Noble expanded throughout the city of Chicago and has 13 campuses in a variety of neighborhoods including a middle school (2). The Noble Network of Charter Schools, like every other charter school in the city of Chicago, conducts a lottery every spring for applicants waiting to attend their schools. According to the Illinois Charter School Biennial Report, about 6,304 applications were received for the 10 campuses already established for the 2010-2011 school with only 1428 of those applicants admitted.

In considering different schools for their children, most parents try to choose a school that will keep their children on track for college and matriculate to college right after high school. College matriculation rates determines the number of students in which apply to college and attend right after graduating high school. When students walk into a Noble charter high schools, they are asked to sign a contract their first day of school freshman year. This contract is an agreement that the student makes with the staff and teachers of the school that their main goal in success and college in the long run. According to Angelica Alfaro, the alumni coordinator for Noble’s original campus, the college matriculation rate for the first graduating class was 81% (3). Today that rate has gradually increased with each campus having it’s own matriculation rate either at or above the original campus’s rate.

"College Matriculation Rates 2011". Chicago Public Schools Office of College and Career Preparation.

Moreover, the rates at which minorities are matriculating into college through a Noble Network Charter school is proving to be one of the highest especially compared to that of Chicago Public Schools in general. According to the Chicago Public Schools Office of College and Career Preparation in 2011, over 90% of Latino and African American students who graduate from a Noble high school matriculate into college (4). In attending a Noble charter high school, minority students are more likely to graduate from high school and matriculate into college than in traditional Chicago Public Schools system school. In knowing that students would be more likely to attend college after high school, students would be enrolled more likely in a Noble Network charter school as opposed to a school a part of the Chicago Public schools system.

At the heart of each school, curricular focus, which includes school environment,  is one of the most important components to a student’s success in that schools because the type of education a student receives will ultimately determine his or her success beyond high school and on to college. Curricular focus is the type of environment that a student is immersed in, the people in the school community, as well as the loved ones at home who are aiding in the student’s success throughout their four years in high school. In considering curricular focus, the University of Chicago conducted a study called The 5 Essentials study which gives a picture of the type of school environment a school has without considering statistics and test scores (5). This study was administered to parents, teachers, and staff within each school and with each question centered on a specific category of the study. The study focused on five aspects of a school’s environment: ambitious instruction, effective leaders, collaborative teachers, involved families, and a supportive environment.

"5 Essentials Study", University of Chicago.

Compared to a few major Chicago charter schools and even the Chicago Public Schools system, Noble has campuses that prevail above every single one. Noble Street Charter Schools, Noble-UIC Campus, and Noble-Englewood Campus all have some of the highest scores in each of the 5 essentials category and beat out two of its competitor charter schools, Chicago International Charter Schools and an UNO Charter School campus (6) . Furthermore when looking into the 5 Essentials study at the University of Chicago website, every single noble campus has scored either an overall organized or well-organized review as a school which means in every category Noble has strong and very strong responses from parents, students, and staff (7).  Overall the Noble Network of Charter Schools has demonstrated one of the strongest strong curricular focuses, as compared to two of its top competitors,  centered on a strong environment present by the everyone in the network including students, staff, and parents.

When students are in high school, many of these students need the support of their loved ones as well as strong and supportive staff and teachers. Being able to have strong role models in the school as well as organization allows for students to transition smoothly into the groove of both high school and preparing themselves for college. As part of their vision for college preparation, the Noble Network of Charter Schools divides each grade level into ‘advisories’ and has one designated advisor for a group of anywhere between 10-30 students for their next four years at Noble. The advisor acts as a “life mentor” and aids their group of students in academics and makes sure that each student is both mentally and academically prepared for college (8). Having a mentor for their entire high school career and beyond helps these students connect with their peers as well as associate with their teachers on a personal level. Having that personal touch allows students to adjust to the rigors of both high school and college much more smoothly and have someone guide them through the process. Furthermore, teachers and students each treat each other with respect, which in most schools is an issue that becomes the center of disciplinary measures needing to be taken. According to Steven R. Covey the author of Leader in Me: How Schools and Parents Around the World Are Inspiring Greatness, One Child At a Time, “Students treat each other with respect [at Noble]. They also treat adults with respect, in large part because they are treated with respect”(9). Because the Noble Network of Charter Schools maintains this professional environment with the help of rules, and the staff and teachers treat students with respect and understanding, students are able to sit comfortable and create a healthy learning environment for themselves and others without any issues. The support given to students by teachers and staff that work for the Noble Network of Charter Schools relate to students at a personal level as well as a professional level which gives students the support they need to succeed the next four years at Noble and beyond.

Every spring, high school seniors all over Chicago dread the same fateful test that in their eyes determines the next few years of their life: the ACT. The ACT and prepping for the test has been one of the most important ideas centered on in high schools all over Chicago because of the impact it has on college admissions. Although according to a research brief by the Rand Corporation stated that the performance of charter high schools is “approximately on par with that of traditional publics schools in Chicago” (10), Noble has proven to rise above other non-selective high schools in the city. In order to make sure that Noble is being compared to only it’s competitors and not other traditional schools and selective enrollment schools, the charter high schools are compared to every non-selective enrollment high school in the city according to their average ACT score.

"Top Ten Open Enrollment, Non-selective, Traditional High Schools in Chicago", Illinois Policy Institute.

 In the top ten highest performing non-selective high schools in Chicago of 2012 (according to the average ACT score), the Noble Network had 9 of their campus placed on the list including taking the first 8 spots (11).  Having a majority of the Noble Network of Charter Schools campuses placed in the top ten of the highest performing non-selective high schools gives for a great reputation of sending students to top tier colleges and excellent ACT test preparation. This success posed by the Noble Network of Charter Schools demonstrates to parents that their children are able to take the ACT with the proper amount of preparation and gives students a confidence that they will be able to enter into the college or university of their dreams with the help of the Noble Network. Because of Noble’s impressive success with the ACT and its high ranks among their charter school peers, parents are more prone to choose Noble as a better route for their child’s future.

In the city of Chicago, there are over 600 public schools all together each with their own ways to manage their schools and perks. The Noble Network of Charter Schools has had some of the largest numbers of applications received as well as promising statistics of students who have attended the schools since its launch in 1999. The Noble Network of Charter Schools’ high college matriculation rates, strong curricular focus centered in school environment, support for students and parents, and their success with testing demonstrates to parents and future students the range of success that the network has had and why it is such a top competitor. With it’s growing number of applicants each year, it is clear why the Noble Network of Charter Schools appeal to parents and students looking for a school to help their children succeed throughout their high school career and continuing on into college.

(1). “Illinois Charter School Biennial Report.” Illinois State Board of Education, 12 Jan. 2013. Web. 11 Apr. 2013.

(2). “Mission & History.” Noble Network of Charter Schools, 2012. Web. 11 Apr. 2013.

(3). Interview with Angelica Alfaro. Voice.

(4). Condition of Education, 2012; CPS Office of College and Career Preparation; National Clearinghouse, and internal tracking.

(5). Lowry, Bryan. “The Ins and Outs of Chicago’s Charter Network Expansion: What’s Working, What’s Not — and Why.” Northwestern University, 31 Jan. 2013. Web. 13 Apr. 2013.

(6). “The University of Chicago Urban Education Institute.” The University of Chicago, 31 Jan. 2013. Web. 14 Apr. 2013.

(7). Covey, Stephen R. The Leader In Me: How Schools and Parents Around the World Are Inspiring Greatness, One Child At A Time. New York: Free, 2008. 139-41. Print.

(8). Ibid.

(9). “Achievement and Attainment in Chicago Charter Schools.” The Rand Corporation, 23 Jan. 2008. Web. 17 Apr. 2013

(10). Dwyer, Josh. “Top Ten Charters Outperform Top Ten Open Enrollment, Non-selective, Traditional High Schools in Chicago.” Illinois Policy Institute, 8 Oct. 2012. Web. 18 Apr. 2013.

History of the History of the Morrill Land Grant Act

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“We have schools to teach the art of man slaying and to make masters of ‘deep-throated engines’ of war; and shall we not have schools to teach men the way to feed, clothe, and enlighten the great brotherhood of man?”

— Justin Smith Morrill

Speech of Honorable Justin Morrill. Justin Morrill’s Speech April 19th, 1858


In the mind of many educators, colleges created by the Morrill-Land Grant Act of 1862 have come to represent the vehicle to the American dream. When created, they boasted “flexible entrance requirements, free tuition, expanded courses of study, and democratic atmosphere [which] were unprecedented in universities in the United States or anywhere in the world” (Cross). No scholar denies that the signing of the Morrill Act was itself historic. The missions of Land Grant institutions were explicitly aimed at creating non-elite colleges where members of the working classes could obtain a practical and liberal education. Historians, during both the centennial and sesquicentennial anniversaries of the Morrill Act, were motivated to interpret how higher education has evolved as a result of this legislation.

Given the context in which these histories were written — the early 1960’s and then again in 2012 — it would be a fair assumption that different stories would be told upon its 150th anniversary than on its hundredth. After all, hindsight is 20/20. It is surprising then, that in a fifty year period historians provide rich descriptions with more similarities than differences when interpreting this Act. This paper is an exploration of the Land-Grant Act and how four different historians– two centennial, two sesquicentennial – have explained it.

The Land-Grant Act of 1862 provided states with a grant of land or land scrip amounting to 30,000 acres for each senator and representative to fund colleges in each state with the distinct purpose of:

… the endowment, support, and maintenance of at least one college where the leading object shall be, without excluding other scientific and classical studies and including military tactic, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, in such manner as the legislatures of the States may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life. (The Morrill Act)

Named for its sponsor, Vermont statesman Justin Smith Morrill, the act is officially titled “An Act Donating Public Lands to the Several States and Territories which may provide Colleges for the Benefit of Agriculture and the Mechanic Arts.” Signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on July 2, 1862, sixty-nine colleges were funded with a tripartite function- instruction, research, and extension.

The Act initially included a provision excluding any state that was in rebellion or insurrection against the government. However, in the Reconstruction period following the Civil War, former Confederate States and eventually all states and territories were included. Presently, as the outcome of subsequent legislation, there are one hundred and six institutions with the Land-Grant designation. These institutions provide 85 percent of Bachelor’s degrees, as well as 70 percent of graduate degrees and 50 percent of doctoral degrees, respectfully. Thus, without the Morrill Land-Grant Act, the  landscape of higher education as we know it today would not exist.

Around its 100th anniversary, two of the most widely acknowledged works on the history of the land-grant college movement  were written: Edward D. Eddy’s Colleges for Our Land and Time: The Land –Grant idea in American Education (1957) and Allan Nevins’ The State Universities and Democracy (1962).  Eddy and Nevins regard the movement as an inevitable product of the educational demands within a growing democracy. They consider the Morrill Act a pivotal piece of educational evolution in the United States. Both historians attribute educational reform as a response to demands of farmers as being the principle motivation for this legislation. Centennial historians, by and large, agree that the chief motivating factor in the passage of the Morrill Act was educating the “ordinary person”.

In anticipation of the Act’s centennial anniversary, Eddy published the first general account of development in Land-Grant Colleges. This book offered the first account of the Land-Grant movement from its beginnings to the point at which it was published. The foreword to the book was written by Executive Secretary of the American Association of Land-Grant Colleges and State Universities, Russell Thackerey. Thackerey credits Eddy with writing the most thorough synthesis to date. He acknowledges that much had been written about these institutions, but none have dealt with the Land Grant movement as wholly as Eddy. Eddy represents the dominant view held by historians of his generation. While there were some dissenters, his work is still cited by many today.

Eddy’s book is a success story of the land grant colleges, whose several thousand facts range from the number of books in select land-grant college libraries in 1876 to the number of research projects undertaken in 1920. While Eddy lays out facts and figures, he places even more emphasis on his supposition that the Morrill Act was merely an idea on which a nation built– what we know now as the “people’s colleges”. This simple idea was to train the sons of farmers and mechanics as the next phase in the development of a new type of freedom- an American freedom. This freedom maintained the credo that opportunities must be given to all; as all individuals have supreme worth.

Resulting from the flexibility of this idea, institutions were empowered to move from institutions of limited dedications to “instruments of broad public service to every class and kind … as universities in purpose and fact” (Eddy). Therefore, they were able to dedicate themselves to the trilogy of American ingenuity in an autonomous fashion.

The dominant theme of Eddy’s work, as well as the work of his peers, is the democratic nature of these colleges. Written in the context of the Cold War, democracy screams out to the reader on almost every page. Nevins’ historical perspective rests on the premise that the passage of the Morrill Act was an “immortal moment in the history of higher education in America” and that the most important idea in the genesis of the land-grant colleges and state universities was that of democracy, because it had behind it the most passionate feeling” (Nevins) Further supporting this focus on democracy, Eddy and Nevins histories argue that the federal government passed this legislation as a response to demand. The people ask, and the governments’ response is democracy in action. Both historians shy away from examining how this act was an important piece of federal economic policy.

Eddy makes no attempt to pretend to fully comprehend Morrill’s purpose in introducing this bill. He acknowledges that Morrill, a practical man, argued that this educational framework was necessary because of certain conditions such as the inadequate existing offerings of collegiate education, the rapid dissipation of public land to private interests and the way in which America was lagging behind demonstrated success in Europe— courtesy of agricultural and industrial schools.  While Morrill’s name has become synonymous with land-grant colleges, Eddy, too, credits the perseverance and enthusiasm of Jonathan Turner, “a disappointed schoolmaster and an academic jack-of-all-trades” (Eddy) with laying the foundation from which the movement arose. Turner’s name in the works of latter historians has merely been reduced to a footnote.

Eddy is clear that this is a story of evolution, “a gradual, slow, but steady evolution reflecting the needs of the nation. Sometimes the colleges were ahead of need, sometimes behind, but almost always they responded in some fashion to national demands and changes” (Eddy).  Similarly, the sesquicentennial historians agree that progress was slow. However, when discussed by contemporary historians, the subtle difference is that they indicate a long a period of stagnation due to external factors. These factors are the hindrance of funding to build and improve these colleges as a result of the Civil War. Additionally, two subsequent acts were ratified within this time frame which flooded the market with federal land and caused compensation for the sale of the land to be disadvantageous.

The sesquicentennial anniversary arose at a time when America’s economy finds itself in dire straits. Therefore, funding for the institutions created by the Land-Grant Act are constrained by limited resources and are being asked—more than ever—to prove their worth.  At the start of 2013, President Barack Obama unveiled his “College Score Card”. Created by the U.S. Department of Education’s College Affordability and Transparency Center, these scorecards are intended to help potential students find more bang for their buck when it comes to pursuing their college education. Given the context of this anniversary, it is not surprising that historians’ view of Morrill institutions has become even more idealized and romantic.

In 2012, a collection of essays commemorating the 150th anniversary was published titled, Precipice or Crossroads? Where America’s Great Public Universities Stand and Where They Are Going Midway through Their Second Century. Daniel Mark Fogel, former President of University of Vermont, penned the introduction to this compilation. Coy F. Cross, a professional historian, wrote the chapter entitled Democracy, the West, and Land-Grant Colleges. Additionally, Cross wrote the only recent biography of Morrill, Justin Smith Morrill: Father of the Land-Grant Colleges (1999).

Cross refers to the Nevins work multiple times within his essay. Even though neither mention Eddy by name, his romantic themes of democracy and meritocracy by and large persevere. These historians though, go beyond just reinforcing the earlier perception of the impact of the Morrill Act. They argue that “our great public universities are under threat, and some would say they are facing their hour of maximum peril.”(Fogel) Fogel and Cross drive home upon their readers that these institutions represent the most important sector of higher education and they are facing challenges unlike any that Nevins could have imagined when he wrote his history.

Cross’ piece provides a full timeline of the development of the legislation. Similar to the centennial historians he emphasizes that it was an inevitable outgrowth of westward expansion. Expansion to Cross, was tied to the belief held by 19th century Americans that opportunity and democracy were the American ideal.  Education and democracy were hand in and hand. It was the responsibly of the American government then to avoid the oppression and appalling conditions “urban, industrial life had on British factory workers” (Cross). This would be accomplished by not only instructing farmers and elevating agriculture to a science but as the children of farmers and mechanics became educated, democracy would strengthen as more of the citizenry became educated voters.

Fogel offers the opinion that “without the extensive capacity they provided after WW II to receive returning veterans and, later, the children and grandchildren of the veterans’ generation, America’s postwar prosperity and power would have been unthinkable and unattainable.” (Fogel) Therefore concluding that for America to regain its economic prestige, greater investments must be made in land-grant institutions and thereby American democracy.

The historiography of the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862 has evolved only in the sense that its impact and successes are now seen as even more vital and far-reaching. In the big picture, whether through the lens of democracy or the economy, both sets of historians argue that this legislation forever changed higher education in America for the better. While there are slight differences in the way they prove their points, centennial historians by pointing to the fulfillment of the American Dream and sesquicentennial historians by the sheer number of students enrolled, the interpretation of this event has not shifted. The work of these historians point to the idea that “democracy could not survive unless every man had the opportunity to pursue any occupation to which he aspired, without restriction” (Cross). Therefore, these land-grant institutions are the paradigm of equality, democracy, and opportunity for all- the values which America hold near and dear.


Works Cited

Cross, Coy F. “Democracy, the West, and Land-Grant Colleges.” Precipice or Crossroads?: Where America’s Great Public Universities Stand and Where They Are Going Midway through Their Second Century. Albany: SUNY, 2012. 46-61. Print.

Eddy, Edward Danforth. Colleges for Our Land and Time: The Land-grant Idea in American Education. New York: Harper, 1957. Print.

Fogel, Daniel Mark, and Elizabeth Malson-Huddle. Precipice or Crossroads?: Where America’s Great Public Universities Stand and Where They Are Going Midway through Their Second Century. Albany: SUNY, 2012. Print.

Morrill Act of 1862, 37th Congress, 2nd Session. 2 July 1862, sec. 4.

Nevins, Allan. The State Universities and Democracy. Urbana: University of Illinois, 1962. Print.

Speech of Hon. Justin S. Morrill, of Vermont, on the Bill Granting Lands for Agricultural Colleges 1858;. By Justin S. Morrill. 1858. Congressional Globe Office Washington. Web. 03 May 2013.


Single-Sex Success; An Education for the Nation?

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Single - Sex Success; An Education for the Nation?

Public, single-sex education is a highly debated topic throughout America. The benefits and drawbacks of such a method are critiqued and analyzed, in search for the ultimate education system which creates the best learning environment for students. In the past few decades, two instrumental events in the battle over single sex education were the 1998 AAUW (The American Association of University Women) report and the 2006 shift in Title IX federal guidelines. The report casts a negative light on single-sex education, whereas the guidelines created leeway for single sex schooling to take root in public schools. Both of these occurrences impacted the societal perception of single-sex education, and the actions of law and policy makers; namely, deciding what single-sex opportunities would be available to the public. The 1998 AAUW report and the 2006 shift in federal guidelines were dramatic turning points for National, public, single-sex education; However, throughout the national debates sparked by both these instances, Hartford has lagged behind in implementing single-sex scholastic changes. Compared to the National average, Hartford has not fleshed out all possible options for single-sex education. Hartford is lacking in the options that it offers for students to attend single sex schools, most notably after the two important shifts in history listed above. The question lingers: How and why has single-sex public education evolved in Hartford, in comparison to the nation, since the 1998 AAUW report and the 2006 shift in federal guidelines? The 1998 AAUW report and the 2006 shift in federal guidelines were dramatic turning points for National, public, single-sex education; However, throughout the national debates sparked by both these instances, Hartford has lagged behind in implementing single-sex scholastic changes.

“Public schools in America are in crisis. Students are dropping out in record numbers, standardized test scores are failing, illiteracy rates are high, and the demand for remedial education programs for adults has increased,[1]” states Amy Bellman at the start of her 1997 book, Young Women’s Leadership School: Single-Sex Public Education after V.M.I. At this time in history, public, single-sex education had captured the attention of the nation through the Supreme Court Case, United States v. Virginia et al. The case called into question the legality of a publicly funded school, Virginia Military Institute, refusing the admission of women; the college stood as a male-only institute since it was founded in 1839[2]. The issue became whether or not the school would stop collecting public funds, begin accepting women at VMI, or create an equal counterpart for women. Though the school proposed a plan to create a similar program for women at Mary Baldwin College, the Supreme Court ruled that the counterpart was not “comparable” to the men’s program. According to National Association for Single Sex Public Schools,

“As the majority opinion made clear, and as Justice Rehnquist stressed in his concurrence, “comparable” does not mean “identical.” The Court found the program at Mary Baldwin college to be not comparable to the VMI program, not because VMI had a football stadium etc. and Mary Baldwin didn’t, but because the difference in funding was so large. Bottom line: “comparable” means “costing about the same amount of money”.[3] 

This case set the precedent that public schools admitting only boys or girls must have a monetarily comparable counterpart. The nation responded to this decision with various outcries from sectors ranging from women’s rights activist groups to parents whom are pro school choice.

One organization that responded to the VMI court case was the AAUW, American Association for University Women. The AAUW released a report in 1998, a year and a half after the decision of the court case, entitled, “Separated By Sex: A Critical Look at Single-Sex Education for Girls.” The report argued that single-sex education is not actually a better learning environment for girls. Furthermore, Separated By Sex makes various claims in an attempt to convince scholars and researchers that single-sex education does not live up to its expectations. For example, the report argues that, “There is no evidence that single-sex education in general “works” or is “better” than coeducation,[4]” and that “The long-term impact of single-sex education on girls or boys is unknown.[5]” The report expands on these statements by claiming that regardless of how a classroom would separate students by gender, the absence of sexism will never truly exist. With the intention of convincing scholars and academics of the findings within the AAUW report, this literature provides a look into the counterargument in order to discredit its logic. Citing the findings of James Coleman’s The Adolescent Society, the report insinuates the drawbacks of attending an academic environment, “governed by cars and the cruel jungle of rating and dating[6]” (21). The report goes on to say that Coleman’s findings suggest that single-sex schools provide a more effective learning environment by severely reducing the “competition for adolescent energies” which dominate co-education environments. Namely, Coleman’s argument focuses on the emphasis placed on the developing sexual relations between boys and girls, distracting from the academic environment and hindering scholastic achievement. These claims are backed by statistics of improved of standardized test scores in single-sex environments. However, the AAUW reports that: “…differences in scores [can be attributed] to factors such as the selectivity of the school or the socioeconomic advantages of those parents opting for single-sex education[7]” (34). This report claims that there is no actual proof that the separation of sexes results in better test scores. This insinuates that parents in the position of school choice are of a higher socioeconomic class than those who do not, regardless of whether or not all of these institutions are public. In sum, the AAUW 1998 report called out single-sex research as flawed and incomplete, challenging the integrity of single-sex schools and garnering national attention to the debate.

After the release of the AAUW report, the nation responded hastily. Schools around the country began experimenting with single-sex classrooms, some converting to the single-sex format entirely. Benjamin Wright, who was serving as the chief administrative officer for the Nashville public schools at that time, stated, “Coed’s not working. Time to try something else.[8]” In 1999, Wright was sent to Seattle to take over Thurgood Marshall Elementary School, which was considered “failing.” In hopes to revive this school, Wright took note of the staggering statistics of suspensions, expulsions and special-education enrollment of girls versus boys. Wright concluded that a single-sex environment may benefit these students socially, and thereby scholastically, by showing a more individualized approach to students and their learning. Effective in this endeavor, Wright boasts, “…the percentage of boys meeting the state’s academic standards rose from 10 percent to 35 percent in math and 10 percent to 53 percent in reading and writing” (Weil, 2008).  In 2001, three years after the AAUW report, single-sex education was instituted into the legislation of the No Child Left Behind. NCLB was passed on January 8th, 2002[9]. The summary of the single-sex section of this bill states:

“On January 8, 2002, the President signed into law the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Act of 1965. Section 5131(a)(23) of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act allows local educational agencies (LEAs) to use Innovative Programs funds to support same-gender schools and classrooms consistent with applicable law. It also requires the Department, within 120 days of enactment, to issue guidelines for LEAs regarding the applicable law on single-sex classes and schools. This notice fully implements Congress’s mandate by describing and explaining the current statutory and regulatory requirements relating to single-sex classes and schools.”

This legislature made it legal for public, government funds to go directly to the establishment of single-sex classrooms and schools. A monumental step for single-sex education, the number of public, educational institutions offering a single-sex skyrocketed. The following is a table presenting data collected by the National Association of Single Sex Public Education, representing numbers out of 93,000 public elementary and secondary schools in America.


The data reveals that in 1995, before the AAUW report, only three out of 93,000 public elementary and secondary institutions in America offered a single-sex alternative to the typical classroom structure. The AAUW report did not effectively influence America to discredit research on single-sex public schools, but actually resulted in a serious increase in national interest on the matter. This lead to a serious leap in the public, single-sex opportunities the nation strove to offer.

Before the AAUW report, there were no public, single-sex opportunities in Hartford. Though many cities throughout the Nation began implementing single-sex opportunities, Hartford was not one of them. In the 1997-1998 school year, Hartford public schools were spending an average of $10,835 per student.[11] The following year, Hartford reportedly spent $12,013 per pupil. During the 1999-2000 school year, Hartford spent $12, 365. Even with these budget increases of $1,530 more per student over the course of three years, there was no experimentation with single-sex education.

In 2006, there was a shift in the Federal Guidelines of Title IX that defined both the policy of public funds allotted to develop single-sex classrooms and schools as well as methods for implementing a co-educational environment using government monies. This legislature is regarded as, “…the most significant policy change [in education] since a landmark federal law barring sex discrimination in education more than 30 years ago.[12]” The guidelines stated that schools can include only boys or girls in a classroom because it enhances the academic achievement of students. However, schools are not required to offer any single-sex programs, and only students who choose to participate will be enrolled. These policy makers whom stood behind these guidelines believed that by making the process of creating a single-sex environment easier for school officials, cities falling behind nationally in test scores would be able to find a solution.

After the 2006 shift in federal guidelines, single-sex, public education got extreme national attention. Though many cities were utilizing these new standards to create single-sex opportunities for students, some organizations spoke out against the new regulations. The Feminist Majority Foundation, for example, released a report entitled, Single-Sex Education, Fertile Ground for Discrimination. This report argued that, “In the classroom, separating boys and girls can reinforce stereotypes[13]” and “The weaker 2006 regulations have opened the door to discrimination.[14]” Yet regardless of outcries labeling the new regulations as a violation of rights and a gateway to discrimination, the nation increased their level of public, single-sex opportunities over the course of the next four years.


In 2003, three years before the 2006 shift in federal guidelines, only 140 schools out of approximately 93,000 schools offered single-sex opportunities. Yet in 2010, only four years after shift in Title IX federal guidelines made single-sex education easier to implement in schools, this number more than tripled. The 2006 shift in federal guidelines severely impacted the number of national public, single-sex opportunities for students.

A year and a half after the 2006 shift in federal guidelines, the city of Hartford finally began to join the public, single-sex education movement. The first single-sex classroom was quickly founded in Hartford at Fox Middle School, but this program soon closed due to insufficient city funding. Yet in late 2006, Dr. Steven Adamowski became superintendent of Hartford Public Schools. He brought to office a plan based on two principles. The first of his ideologies was school choice, and the second focused on “Managed Performance Empowerment (MPE),” which gives schools both more control and responsibility to ensure good test scores and graduation rates. A large part of this plan focused on student-budgeting, which would allow schools to plan their budget more appropriately around student to school ratio[16]. In 2008, two years after Adamowski, took office, the “Per Pupil Amounts for Current Spending of Public Elementary-Secondary School Systems” rose to $16,841[17]. With this increase in per pupil ratio, Hartford started to look at options for public, single-sex education. According to a Hartford Courant article published by Rachel Gottlieb Frank in March of 2008, “Hartford is poised to jump headlong into single-gender education, with an all-boys school being planned for the fall and a girls’ school to follow a year later.[18]” The all-boys classroom which had taken root in Fox Middle School, would soon be transformed into the Benjamin E. Mays Academy for boys, a public school devoted solely to the education of young male students. An institution for girls was in the words as well, and planned to be implemented the following year. A year later, in 2009, Grace Academy, a public, all girls school for students in grades 5-8 was also founded in Hartford. Since the 2006 shift in federal guidelines, Hartford has done more to implement public, single-sex education within the city. However, it still pales in comparison to the changes made across the nation.

Though Hartford has created public, single-sex opportunities of schooling for students over the past few years, the change is not significant enough to match the national average. Though the nation began implementing public, single-sex options for students after the AAUW report in 1998, similar opportunities were not offered in Hartford. It wasn’t until the shift in federal guidelines in 2006 that Hartford began to make a small change, as the nation made a extremely notable leap in the public, single-sex education available. With greater funding spent per pupil, single-sex education is more plausible in Hartford. In the 2010 fiscal year, the nation spent on average $10,615 per student in the public school system[19]. Therefore, with more money per student going to Hartford schools than the national average, Hartford should be able to better compete with the national statistics for public, single-sex education.

[1] Bellman, Amy B., Young Women’s Leadership School: Single-Sex Public Education after V.M.I., Wis. L. Rev. 827 (1997), (Introduction, p.g. 1)

[2] The National Association for Single-Sex Public Education, 2006-2013,

[3]The National Association for Single-Sex Public Education, 2006-2013,

[4] Separated By Sex: A Critical Look at Single-Sex Education for Girls. Rep. Washington, DC: American Association of University Women Educational Foundation, 1998. Web. <>.

[5] Separated By Sex: A Critical Look at Single-Sex Education for Girls. Rep. Washington, DC: American Association of University Women Educational Foundation, 1998. Web. <>.

[6] Separated By Sex: A Critical Look at Single-Sex Education for Girls. Rep. Washington, DC: American Association of University Women Educational Foundation, 1998. Web. <>.

[7]  Separated By Sex: A Critical Look at Single-Sex Education for Girls. Rep. Washington, DC: American Association of University Women Educational Foundation, 1998. Web. <>.

[8] Weil, Elizabeth. “Teaching Boys and Girls Separately.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 02 Mar. 2008. <>.

[9] No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001, Pub. L. No. 107-110, § 115, Stat. 1425 (2002).

[10] The National Association for Single-Sex Public Education, 2006-2013,

[11] National Census, Public Elementary and Secondary Education Finances Per Year,

[12] – Schemo, Diana J. “Federal Rules Back Single-Sex Public Education.” The New York Times [New York City] 25 Oct. 2006

[13] Single-Sex Education, Fertile Ground for Discrimination, Feminist Majority Foundation, 2006,

[14] Single-Sex Education, Fertile Ground for Discrimination, Feminist Majority Foundation, 2006,

[15] The National Association for Single-Sex Public Education, 2006-2013, ,

[16] Funding a Better Education, Achieve Hartford, 2012, Achieve Hartford!, Hartford, CT

[17] National Census, Public Elementary and Secondary Education Finances Per Year,

[18] FRANK, RACHEL G. “Boys School In Works For Fall Hartford Planning To Relaunch Benjamin E. Mays Academy, Establish An All-Girls School Next Year.” The Hartford Courant [Hartford] 9 Mar. 2008: n. pag. Print.

[19] Gumbrecht, Jamie. “Which Places Spent Most per Student on Education?” Schools of Thought RSS. CNN, 21 June 2012. <>.

Pathways to Teaching: The Evolution of the Urban Teacher Residency Concept

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As education reformers think of ways to solve the problems that plague the education system there is a growing interest in studying the crisis that affects the teaching profession. A report issued by the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future in 2003 states, “the nation has reached a consensus that well-prepared teachers are the most valuable resource a community can provide to its young people (Hunt and Carroll 4).” The number of college students that were interested in teacher education in the 1980s and 1990s plummeted. This brought a new challenge for states across the U.S to provide more ways for people to enter the field. The solution proposed was the creation of alternative certification programs, which was embraced by few states including New Jersey early on (Grossman and Loeb 3). This new approach provided opportunities to greatly increase the number of people in the field and a “fast track” learning experience to get them in schools quicker.

In more recent years, reformers have seen negative consequences resulting from alternative certification programs. Issues of teacher shortages have evolved to issues of high teacher turnover rates of the large number of people who enter the field especially in urban and high-needs schools. There are also questions of teacher quality and the reputation of professionalism for the teaching profession as a whole. The reauthorization of the Higher Education Opportunity Act in 2008 supports the creation and sustainment of a new pathway to teaching.  This new pathway will provide extended pre-service training in which theory and classroom practice are interwoven, mentoring opportunities for prospective teachers from more experienced teachers, and will allow prospective teachers to experience the environments they will work in before they take on their on classrooms (Higher Education Act). Programs in urban cities like Chicago and Boston have provided the blueprint for this model for teacher preparation. This essay aims to address how the Urban Teacher Residency concept arose as an improved alternative for teaching in the early 2000s, and what implications it has on the future of education.

Urban Teacher Residency programs (UTRs) were created to provide professional development and support to reduce the high turnover rate of new teachers in urban schools and better prepare them for the field. Traditional and fast track teacher certification programs do not provide enough support for novice teachers because they lack a sufficient amount of pre-service experiences for teacher candidates in classrooms. UTR teacher trainees commit to four to five years in the program. During the first year, the teacher trainees have the opportunity to get a Master’s level degree in their subject of choice while gaining experience in the classroom by shadowing a veteran teacher who serves as a mentor. After completing the first year, the teachers commit to teaching three or four years (which depends on requirements of the district they are serving) and are placed in their own classroom in high-needs school districts in urban areas. They receive support throughout the remainder of the program to ensure that they provide quality instruction and remain in the field. Contrary to popular belief this is not a new concept, but instead a variation of a teacher preparation model that was introduced in the 1980s when reformers were thinking of way to solve the teacher crisis of the time.

Revisiting the Past: Professional Development Schools

The Urban Teacher Residency concept evolved from professional development schools, which were an experiment that teacher education reformers were trying in the 1980s. Professional development schools (PDS) also known as “clinical schools” were jointly operated by universities and school districts and were structured to provide new teachers more practice based experiences in schools, and refine the teaching and leadership skills of veteran teachers (Olson). This change would in turn improve student learning and achievement.  During this time teaching was not a valued profession because of the training and pay rates in comparison to doctors and lawyers during the time. This model was based on the medical school residency and would serve as a ladder for teachers to climb. The logic was simple: the more opportunities that novice teachers had to prepare for the field the better they would perform. Furthermore, it would allow them to move up in the ranks by taking on leadership roles such as being a mentor.

In 1986, two national reports were released that called for reform in teacher preparation. The Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy released “A Nation Prepared: Teachers for the 21st Century” and The Holmes Groups released “Tomorrow’s Teachers.” Both reports called for a restructuring of the teacher education that existed during the time. A Nation Prepared stated that the restructuring process begins with establishing higher standards for teacher education. One solution proposed was the elimination of the undergraduate degree in education.

A Nation Prepared: Teachers for the 21st Century Proposed Elimination of Undergraduate Education Degree Photo Source: Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy

There was a growing concern of the large number of prospective teachers who failed exams that tested skills such as reading comprehension (Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy). Although teachers were required to hold at least a bachelor’s degree to teach, the lack of academically challenging classes had many people perceive the profession as worthless. The Carnegie Forum felt that undergraduate training should be used to ground future educators in the subjects that they would teach leaving graduate level coursework on teaching theories, practices, and in the field training. The release of the two reports was a turning point in teacher education and the education field as a whole.

As Times and Ideas Change Things Remain the Same

In 2003, experienced teachers Vivian Troen and Katherine Boles published a book titled “ Who’s Teaching Your Children?” Their book addressed the crisis and offered similar solutions 17 years after the release of the A Nation Prepared and The Holmes Group  reports.  Troen and Boles constructed the idea that is known as the “Trilemma Dysfunction”. They describe the trilemma dysfunction as a cycle of “Not [having] enough academically able candidates [that] are attracted to teaching, teacher education programs do an inadequate job of preparing classroom teachers, and the professional work life of the teacher is, on the whole, unacceptable (Troen and Boles).” Because of the less than stellar perceptions of teaching as a rewarding career, many people who are capable of successfully meeting the everyday challenges that are presented in the classroom do not even consider the field as an option.  This is first issue that will continue to contribute to the crisis if not fully addressed and restructured. There is a growing need for a focus on quality instead of quantity to truly improve the education system. Troen and Boles proposed “Millennium School” which built on the ideas of support that were present in the professional development school model.

The ultimate goal of PDs were to strengthen the teaching profession by providing more rigorous preparation of the individuals who would be teaching future generations and place it on the same standard of excellence that doctors, lawyers, and other professionals receive. Despite evidence, reform efforts continued to not focus on the heart of the matter: teacher preparation.

From Professional Development Schools to the UTR Concept

Although professional development schools were promising in theory, they did not garner enough support to be implemented widely. A report released by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and The Center for Teaching Quality suggests that the downfalls of professional development schools was the lack of support of new teachers when they began teaching and the fact that most PDS were not meeting the standards that were developed by NCATE (3).

Although not full proof, the UTR concept is gaining more support. Many reformers agree, that extending the time in pre-service learning is necessary because it provides novice teachers with an ample amount of time to experience what it is truly like to be a teacher. They also feel that the UTR success comes from their extended partnerships, which include non-profit organizations in addition to the school district and university partners that mirror the PDs model (Barnett, Montgomery and Snyder). The initial success of UTRs in Chicago and Boston led to the creation of The Urban Teacher Residency United Network six years the first UTR launch in 2001. Today the network encompasses 18 programs that serve teachers all across the U.S. and is looking to expand more in the near future. Although the programs vary based on the needs that they are trying to fulfill in each specific district here are seven common principles that they share. These principles are:

“1. Weaving education theory and classroom practice tightly together in a year-long residency model of highly relevant teacher education;
2.Focusing on Resident learning alongside an experienced, trained and well-compensated mentor;
3.Preparing candidates in cohorts to cultivate a professional learning community, foster collaboration, and promote school change;
4.Building effective partnerships and drawing on community-based organizations to promote a “third way” for teacher preparation;
5.Serving school districts by attending to both their teacher supply problems and curricular goals and instructional approaches;
6.Supporting Residents for multiple years once they are hired as teachers of record; and
7.Establishing incentives and supporting differentiated career goals to retain Residents and reward accomplished and experienced teachers.”
(Center for Teaching Quality Report on Creating and Sustaining Urban Teacher Residencies)

 These principles may be the thread that will keep this concept together and provide the change that is need in the field of education and specifically for teachers to change the world one lesson at a time. As more data becomes available it will be necessary for reformers to examine and compare the successes and failures of both professional development schools and Urban Teacher Residencies to avoid making the same mistakes over again.

Works Cited:

Alternative Routes to Teaching: Mapping the New Landscape of Teacher Education. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard Education Press, 2008. Print.

Berry, Barnett, Diana Montgomery, and Jon Snyder. “ Urban Teacher Residency Models and Institutes of Higher Education.” National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and Center for Teacher Quality.2008.

Berry, Barnett, Diana Montgomery, Rachel Curtis, Mindy Hernandez, Judy Wurtzel, and John Snyder. “Creating and Sustaining Urban Teacher Residencies: A New Way to Recruit, Prepare and Retain Highly Effective Teachers in High-Needs Districts.” Center for Teaching Quality, the Aspen Institute, and Bank Street College. August 2008.

Higher Education Opportunity Act. Public Law 110-315. STAT 3137. 14 August 2008. United States Statutes at Large. Print

Olson, Lynn. “‘Clinical Schools’: Theory Meets Practice on the Training Ground.” Education Week 12 Apr. 1989. Web. 1 May 2013.

Troen, Vivian, and Katherine C. Boles. “The ‘Trilemma’ Dysfunction.” Education Week 14 May 2003. Web. 1 May 2013.


New York State’s Correctional Facilities change in access to Higher Education

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The United States currently is the country with the highest number of inmates in prison. Although America is successful in putting criminals away problems occur upon release. Half of those incarcerated end up returning to prison for committing another crime (Olian). To reduce crime, and at the same time cut the number of Americans incarcerated, there must be a push for prison reform, with a major emphasis on the rehabilitation of prisoners. Providing convicted criminals the gift of education, while imprisoned, has been controversial for many years. But attaining a higher education is an extraordinarily beneficial part of prison life, if only to end the vicious cycle of recidivism. In New York State there are a few thriving education programs in correctional facilities. How and why have the opportunities for higher education in New York State prisons changed from 1965 to current day?

The educational opportunities available for inmates in the New York State prison system have gone through a tremendous change, a see saw of reform and retrenchment, over the past half century. The changes can be traced to 1965 when legislation was enacted allowing inmates to receive tuition for a college education. This liberal policy was reversed by enactment of the 1994 Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act. The Act included a section that barred prisoners from applying for Pell Grants, which awarded eligible students college scholarships. This legislation reflected the views of many people who believed it was unfair to grant a college education to convicts when so many of Americans could not afford the costly price of higher education themselves. Prisoner advocates respond by arguing that prisons provide health care and other fundamental human needs to inmates and providing education should be no different (Olian). Since 1994, without the chance to apply for federal funds to pay for a college education, prisoners seeking an education have had to shift their strategy to find education benefits through voluntary programs supported by private organizations. The short sightedness of the ban on federal support for prisoner education is apparent:  inmates who take college courses while in prison have a lower rate of recidivism (Lewin). Correctional facility education programs benefit the inmates and society. Additionally prisoners involved in a higher education program are better behaved while in prison therefore less disruptive to prison life (Olian).

The topic of crime was prevalent in politics leading up to the passing of the Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act signed by President Bill Clinton on September 13th 1994. The initial effort to disqualify prisoners from eligibility for Pell Grants began in 1988 with the Anti-Drug Abuse Act. The act excluded any person who had trafficked or possessed drugs to be eligible to receive a grant. The topic resurfaced in early 1991 after Governor William Weld, the moderate Republican Governor of Massachusetts, received a copy of a speech on the benefits of obtaining a college degree while incarcerated. He denounced the rehabilitation of criminals through education, and asserted in a widely publicized speech that soon individuals who were unable to afford higher education classes would commit a crime to wind up in prison just to be eligible to receive a free education. Governor Weld continued to express his views in national media interviews, most notably on a segment called ‘Prison U.’ on 60 Minutes. Senator Jesse Helms, a conservative of North Carolina, took the position that if prisoners convicted of drug related offense were ineligible for educational benefits,  all prisoners should be eliminated as well.  Senator Helms proposed an act denying prisoners the right to qualify for a Pell grant on July 30, 1991. His proposal was passed and in 1992 the amendment was attached to the Higher Education Reauthorization Act. Congress then ruled that inmates sentenced to life in prison or given the death penalty were disqualified from receiving a grant for a higher education. The debate over a right to education in correctional facilities continued to be a prominent and controversial subject in 1993 (Page 358). Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas was a strong voice calling for the elimination of prisoner eligibility for Pell grants (Phillips). Senator Hutchison presented Senate Amendment 1158 to end prisoner eligibility for receiving Pell Grants. The Senate passed the proposal. The controversial subject was portrayed to the American public once again on April 19th 1994 with an NBC Dateline episode titled ‘Society’s Debt?’ dedicated to the contrast between low-income students that are denied a Pell Grant and inmates who are extended a grant while in prison. The episodes illustrated a heart wrenching story of the father of a thirteen-year-old murder victim as he expresses his fury over the fact that his son’s killer received a Pell Grant, “He’s going to do about 14-and-a-half-years minimum, and we’re saying to him, “Thank you very much for killing somebody. We’re going to give you a college education.”” Just a day after the episode aired, an amendment to exclude all prisoners from receiving a Pell Grant was proposed by Representatives Tim Holden and Bart Gordon of Pennsylvania and Jack Fields of Texas (Page 359). On September 13th 1994 prisoners were officially eliminated as acceptable applicants in receiving a Pell Grant with the signing into effect of the greater Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act (Phillips). By excluding prisoners to receive a grant for a higher education, politicians were playing to popular sentiment. They claimed to be supporters of families who were unable to afford the high price of a college education even though they had played by the rules and had broken no laws. These families faced the frustration that prisoners had the opportunity to higher education that they as law-abiding citizens did not (Page 373). Politicians, and the public at large, responded to these feelings.

Prior to 1965 only a scarce number of educational programs were offered in correctional facilities. In 1965 an act went into effect giving prisoners the choice to apply for Pell Grants. The financial aid given by Pell Grants supported education programs in 90% of the states, including New York, although only one tenth of one percent of the total grants distributed were awarded to prisoners (Martin). The 1970s were considered to be the Golden Age for education in correctional facilities. There was a wide belief in the era that education was the key in empowering prisoners to become valuable citizens. By giving a new meaning to the life of an individual once involved in criminal activity reduces the risk of recidivism. The following decade of the 1980s did not receive the same kind of support for correctional education that the 1970s did. Correctional theories on prison changed during this time from a place of rehabilitation to a place of punishment. In correlation to this difference of belief there were cutbacks in prison education. Although participating in educational programs was the choice of each prisoner, there was a push at the time for mandatory participation (Ryan and McCabe).

In 1994 education in correctional facilities shifted immensely when Congress passed the Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act. The 1994 Act changed the nature of the prison correctional system drastically as programs instantly began to shut down (Martin). Correctional facilities suffered with the loss of Pell Grants thus creating many cutbacks for education programs. Some states had no choice but to shut down their programs. In fact one report concluded that in 1994-1995 the number of federal prisons offering education programs was 82.6% and a year later dropped to 63% (Ubah and Robinson 124). The availability of choices in the programs decreased with the cut in funding (Ubah and Robinson 125).

Although current programs do not possess the strength they did prior to 1994, through volunteers and private funding they are gaining popularity again. The funding to keep the education program alive is weak. Yet these programs hold enormous potential. Not only does the lack of support for correctional education hurt the prisoners, it hurts society as well. This is due to the correspondence between recidivism and receiving a higher education. A study for the United States Department of Education reported that inmates who obtain an education while in prison are far less likely to commit another crime within the first three years of being released (Lewin). A lead author of the study from the Correctional Education Association, Stephen J. Steurer, explains that not only is the decrease in recidivism of great importance to public safety but also has financial advantages. Steurer is quoted in a 2001 New York Times article explaining the benefits, “”But there are also real financial savings. We found that for every dollar you spend on education, you save two dollars by avoiding the cost of re-incarceration.””(Lewin).

Although focused on college programs there are many other education programs that can be offered in New York State prisons. These include Academic Outreach (Cell Study), Adult Basic Education, Bilingual Program, Certificate in Ministry and Human Services, General Education Development (GED), Masters of Professional Studies, Special Education Program, and Title I Program. In New York there are twenty prisons that offer college programs. (Program Services-Education (Academics)) There are 70 prisons in New York as well as a drug treatment campus, which means in New York State less than 30% of facilities offer secondary education opportunities (New York State, Citizen Guide). In these facilities college level courses are offered to inmates who have already received their high school diploma or a GED. Because of the 1994 Act, prison educational programs are now privately funded. These programs offer inmates a chance to receive certificates, Bachelor, and Associate degrees. Overall program lengths, assessment, and admission requirements vary by the school within the facility. (Program Services-Education (Academics))

Many colleges, including Bard College and Cornell University, work on a volunteer basis made possible by private funds to educate prisoners. At Cornell University, after the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act passed which caused taxpayer-funded education programs to deteriorate, faculty members took action. In 1999 Cornell University gave permission for the classes they offered at Auburn Correctional Facility through the efforts of volunteers, to be allowed to count towards college credits for the student-prisoners. Since then Cornell has worked to successfully strengthen the program offering twelve courses each semester taught by faculty or graduate students who offer their time to educate inmates. In 2009 the Sunshine Lady Foundation and the Provost’s office made a generous donation effecting in the programs expansion. The academic opportunities given to the participating prisoners allow them a mental escape from the stark lives that prison life entails. The courses offered through the program range from a class on Shakespeare to one on the Representation of Hip-Hop & Political Thought (Cornell Prison Education Program).


A screen shot from a segment of 60 Minutes produced by Catherine Olian.

At Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York a liberal arts education is offered to inmates at the maximum-security prison of Eastern Correctional Facility in New York. Because the Bard Prison Initiative is privately funded the program is free of charge to those admitted. The prisoners of the facility have been sentenced seven years to life for the conviction of heinous crimes. Yet, as seen on the Bard Prison Initiative 60 Minutes special, when placed in a classroom the men are seen as hard working students dedicated to their liberal arts education. The liberal arts curriculum offers many courses including literature, German, sociology and philosophy. One student of the program proudly explained that he must study at least five or six hours in order to be prepared for the stimulating classes he attends through the prestigious liberal arts college. Through the passionate way one inmate speaks it is evident that education has had a transforming effect on him. After taking a course in Philosophy he pushed for a German course to be offered with the hopes he could read the original works of German philosophy. Ironically, the man who is so passionate about philosophers such as Karl Marx will also be spending twenty to forty years of his life behind bars for the fatal shooting of a woman as he committed a robbery. Yet with the help of the Bard Prison Initiative his time spent in prison aims to rehabilitate him by enhancing his life behind bars and hopefully creating a beneficial member of society upon his release. Another student prisoner explains the importance of attaining a higher education rather than vocational training, “A vocational program might give you skills to have a job but it won’t give you skills to have a life”. This same prisoner tragically took the life of his own mother in 1991. In order to end recidivism intensive change must happen during incarceration. A third student prisoner claims until he was locked up he had never read a book; he now strives to get his PhD. Although only about 10% of inmates who apply to receive a Bard Education are extended the opportunity, those who do are extremely grateful. Bard Professor Tabetha Ewing teaches a history course for both Bard students and the maximum-security prisoners. She recounts her first class at the prison positively: “As soon as we shut the door and we began working it was the most amazing experience”. The students fortunate to take Professor Ewing’s European History course were among the hardest working she had encountered; in fact she had to toughen the course to adapt to her students from the Eastern Correctional Facility. Prisoners who choose to participate in the Bard program are given access to a study room. Yet many participants must work in their own rooms, an arduous task due to the constant distractions of prison life  (Olian).

Works Cited

“Cornell Prison Education Program.” Cornell Prison Education Program. Cornell

University. <>.


Lewin, Tamar. “Inmate Education Is Found To Lower Risk of New Arrest.” The New

York Times. The New York Times, 16 Nov. 2001. Web.




Martin, Marlene. “What Happened to Prison Education Programs?”

July 2009. Web. <



“New York State | Citizen Guide.” New York State | Citizen Guide. Web. 16 Apr. 2013.



Olian, Catherine, prod. “60 Minutes.” Maximum Security Education. CBS. New York,

15 Apr. 2007. Bard College. Web. <



Page, Joshua. “Eliminating the Enemy: The Import of Denying Prisoners Access to

Higher Education in Clinton’s America.” Punishment & Society 357-378 6.4  (2004): SAGE Journals. Web. <>.


Phillips, Leslie. “Crime Bill May Close Book on Inmate Grants.”

USA Today 14 Apr. 1994, Final ed. USA Today.

Gannett Company, Inc.


“Program Services-Education (Academics).” NYS Department of Corrections and

Community Supervision. NYS Department of Corrections and Community

Supervision Web. <>.


Roberts, Sam. “As Crime Rate Drops, New York’s Jail Population Falls to Lowest Level

in 24 Years.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 11 June 2010. <>.


Ryan, T.A, and Kimberly A. McCabe. “Mandatory Versus Voluntary Prison Education

and Academic Achievement.” The Prison Journal 4th ser. 74 (1994): 450-61.

Sage Publications, Inc. Web. 15 Apr.



Ubah, Charles B.A., and Robert L. Robinson, Jr. “A Grounded Look at the Debate

Over Prison-Based Education: Optimistic Theory Versus Pessimistic

Worldview.” The Prison Journal 83.2 (2003): 115-29. SAGE. Web. 2 May

2013. <>.



Charter School Growth and its Effect on Catholic Schools

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The presence of charter schools in cities throughout the United States continues to increase as families become more dissatisfied with traditional public schooling and look for alternatives. The first charter school opened in Minnesota in 1992 (Cavanagh), and since then they have rapidly expanded across the nation. Charter schools have been highly criticized by education reformers who don’t believe that they are a long-term solution to ensuring all children have access to a public school education.  However, they are not the only alternative to standard public schooling in urban areas.  Catholic schools have provided students with a quality education long before charter schools were established, and pride themselves on having the task of “transmitting to students, by various means, the specific norms, values, and beliefs of the Catholic faith” (Donlevy 106).  However, the emergence of charter schools has significantly changed the education sector and affected the existence of private, specifically Catholic, schools.

By reviewing various studies that address the connection between charter schools and Catholic schools on a national level, there is enough evidence to suggest that the growth of the former has negatively affected enrollment rates of the latter.  This paper will explore the relationship further and address reasons to explain how, and why, the charter school movement has caused Catholic schools to decline over the past two decades.  This association will first be looked at on a national level, and then locally by focusing on Jumoke Academy, a charter school in Hartford, Connecticut that used to be called St. Justin’s School and was run by the Hartford Archdiocese.  However, by examining this specific case in Hartford, it is evident that arriving at a definite conclusion is not as straightforward as the national relationship makes it seem.  This paper addresses the complex nature of the education system by taking into consideration that the national findings do not line up perfectly with this specific, Hartford-based example.

Researchers have conducted several studies in the past year that focus on how the rise of the charter school movement has affected Catholic schools. In their study entitled “Catholic Schools, Charter Schools, and Urban Neighborhoods,” Margaret Brinig and Nicole Garnett find a close relationship between the rise of charter schools and decrease of Catholic schools in urban areas. Though they limit their study to Chicago, they bring up some important overall distinctions between the two different types of schools, which are helpful in understanding how they are connected at a national level. According to their research, the number of Catholic schools nationwide was at an all time high in the middle of the twentieth century. However, by the late 1960s, this number began to decline due to financial reasons.  The study states that “religious vocations plummeted at the same time that Catholics suburbanized en masse, causing parochial schools to experience dramatic increases in labor costs just as collection revenues declined precipitously” (Brinig & Garnett 35).  These academic institutions, which are run and funded by the Archdiocese, began to experience difficulties providing adequate resources and training to their teachers and students. It also discusses the priests’, who were historically responsible for operating the schools, change in perspective. They began to view these Catholic schools, which no longer just served Catholic students, as “unnecessary burden[s]” (35), which is a factor that can be linked to a decline in academic quality. Nationally speaking, financial difficulties caused Catholic schools to decrease in academic caliber and as a result, became less desirable to families compared to what charter schools could offer.

To provide some contextualization of the relevancy of this comparison between Catholic schools and charter schools, Brinig and Garnett also give an overview of charter schools’ history in the United States. They suggest that the increase in popularity is because they have several of the attributes of private schools, yet are “schools of choice” and entirely free. The article also brings up a point of distinction between charter schools and other schools: often times, charters are “more accountable than private schools and, arguably, even more than traditional public schools, because underperforming charter schools are more likely to be closed” (37).  This specific piece of information is particularly relevant to the overall argument of this paper because of the clear relationship it establishes between these two types of schools. When given a choice between a costly private school that is not held accountable for its results, and a free charter school that works hard to ensure that it is meeting national standards and adequately preparing its students, it can be assumed that most parents would be inclined to choose the latter.

It is significant to notice that this connection between the decline of Catholic schools and rise of charter schools has just begun to be studied by researchers.  Brinig and Garnett published their study in January 1, 2012, and since then there have been several other studies that address this relationship. It is likely that the explanation for this is the upsurge of new research surrounding charter schools as they are at the forefront of the school choice movement.  Richard Buddin discusses the impact charter schools have had on private schools as well as traditional public schools in his study, published in August 28, 2012. Before closely looking at Buddin’s findings, it is important to clarify how his research is relevant to the development of this argument. He first divides up the schools he looks at into the categories: traditional public school, charter, private, Catholic, other religious, and nonsectarian, and some of his explanations are limited to how the emergence of charter schools has decreased enrollment rates in all private schools and traditional public schools. However, early on into his study he clarifies his objective by stating, “the enrollment patterns across Catholic, other religious, and nonsectarian schools are similar to those for all private schools; that is, each type of school is more common in urban than non-urban areas and each type is more common at lower-grade levels” (Buddin 16).

For the purposes of this research, the overall argument is not limited to a particular grade-level. Buddin, however, goes into greater detail, and though some of his research surpasses the limits of this paper, his findings are in-line with the complete thesis because of his focus on charter schools’ impact on private schools (which includes Catholic schools) in urban neighborhoods. The basis for his observations stems from a study entitled “Changes in School Type by Urban Enrollment Status,” which examines the annual growth in enrollment percentage from 2000 to 2008 at the different school categories previously mentioned. The chart below highlights some of Buddin’s most important and relevant findings that help explain this relationship:

Source: (Buddin 4)

Though his study breaks the nation’s student population into four models: overall patterns of student enrollment, schools in non-urban areas, schools in some urban areas, and schools that are highly urban, for the purposes of this analysis only the charts that demonstrate “schools with some urban students” and “schools in highly urban areas” are included. Buddin differentiates between these two categories with the condition that to be a highly urban area, at least 50% of the students must live in a large city (19).

Most notable in this study is the difference in growth between charter schools and Catholic schools over the eight-year span.  In highly urban areas, charter school percentage increased by 14.76%, from .96% of the student pool in 2000 to 4.56% in 2008. However, Catholic school enrollment declined by 5.59%, from 8.25% to 6.73% in 2008.  The study also highlights an interesting difference between the growths of traditional public schools and charter schools; despite a growth in charter schools, the percentage of students enrolled in traditional public schools declined by 3.81%.  This statistic strengthens the argument that students in urban and highly urban areas are choosing to enroll in charter schools over Catholic schools; they are not simply dropping out of Catholic schools to attend any public school—they are opting for charter schools over traditional public schools. If the reason students were avoiding Catholic schools was merely because of tuition costs or the faith-based curriculum that exists in these institutions, it would be logical to assume that the enrollment percentage would increase for traditional public schools as well. Instead however, all other numbers have decreased over the eight-year period, while the enrollment in charter schools is the only number to have gone up.

This study brings up other interesting points that help to describe the relationship between charters and Catholic schools nationwide. Buddin points out “in highly urban areas, private schools contribute 32, 23, and 15% of charter elementary, middle, and high school enrollments” (23).  Keeping in mind that when he refers to “private schools” he is including Catholic schools, this point is made exceedingly relevant to the overall argument of this paper. There are several reasons to explain why Catholic schools have decreased nationally and why they appear to be funneling their students into charter schools.  Sean Cavanagh discusses the plummet in Catholic school enrollment in “Catholic Ed., K-12 Charters Squaring Off,” which was published in Education Week in August 2012. It is interesting to note that this analysis was also done in late 2012, again reinforcing the relative newness of interest in charter schools’ affect on the private education sector. The first similarity Cavanagh brings up between Catholic schools and charter schools is likeness in framework and design. Concrete examples he uses are the parallels in school missions, academic models, and the overall demographic of students both schools primarily serve (Cavanagh). The combination of the community-centered approach most charter school networks pride themselves on and absence of tuition makes enrolling in a charter school a popular and logical choice for many families in urban areas.

Cavanaugh’s argument is further strengthened by two compelling statistics he includes in his article. He writes, “Since 2000, 1,942 Catholic schools around the country have shut their doors, and enrollment has dropped by 621,583 students, to just over 2 million today, according to the National Catholic Educational Association. If that decline continues, charter enrollment will surpass that of Catholic Schools for the first time this academic year” (Cavanaugh).  This data is from a study conducted by Sean Kennedy from the Lexington Institute, a think tank that has examined the Catholic and charter systems. Later in his article he states, “Today, some 5,600 charter schools, serving about 2 million students, operate in 41 states and the District of Columbia” (Cavanaugh). This prediction is further strengthened by a statistic Buddin inputs in his discussion of the charter school movement. He writes that “if trends continue, charter share in total enrollment will rise from 3.7% to 6.2% in 2016” (Buddin 23). These facts are significant and tremendously telling of the magnitude of the charter school movement and how its growth over the past two decades has, and will continue, to affect Catholic schools in the United States at a national level.

The three studies stated above provide enough evidence to conclude that there is a clear national trend that exists between the rise of charter schools and decline of Catholic schools. However, when applying this theory to a local example, the common causality appears to be less clear.  According to a Hartford Courant article published in 1992, St. Justin’s School was the “last school in the Archdiocese of Hartford with a predominantly black enrollment attached to a predominantly black parish, [and] closed in 1989” (Renner).  Eight years later, Jumoke Academy opened its doors in the same building St. Justin’s had occupied (Green).  This example raises the questions: what was the site used for during this eight year gap, and is the relationship between this former Catholic school and currently operating charter school consistent with the aforementioned national trend?  Brinig and Garett found that there were multiple situations in their study of Chicago where charter schools physically replaced Catholic schools; they noticed this fact in 14 schools that they researched (33).  However, this is not enough evidence to support this one specific case in Hartford. The eight-year gap between St. Justin’s closing and Jumoke’s opening complicates the relationship and suggests that the closing of St. Justin’s School and opening of Jumoke Academy in the same building in 1997, might just be a coincidence.

Despite the ambiguities this example presents, there are some similarities to suggest that this relationship may be consistent, in some ways, with the national trends previously discussed. The same Hartford Courant article that discusses St. Justin’s closing also states, “In the three-county Hartford Archdiocese, Catholic school enrollment was 22,000 in the past school year, compared with 54,000 in 1964” (Renner). This goes to show that despite the overall generality of Buddin, Cavanaugh, and Brinig and Garnett’s studies, the national trends found in their studies are applicable in various ways to the city of Hartford.  It is clear that the same decline in Catholic schools nationwide is also noticeable in this one specific region of study; Hartford was by no means immune to the effects of the charter school movement, though it is less evident whether the definite cause for St. Justin’s School’s closing was related to the upsurge of charter schools in the area as well.

Though the reasons behind this closing are not explicitly stated, many Catholic schools were forced to close because of financial difficulties or lack of resources. Although there is no concrete evidence to definitively provide an answer for why St. Justin’s School closed, newspaper articles from the Hartford Courant suggest that Jumoke Academy has, and continues to be, well-received by the Hartford community. In an article titled, “Jumoke Becoming an Achiever,” the charter school’s success is highlighted by the following line, “Now in its 11th year, the 325-student school is emerging as one of the better-run charters, taking in mostly poor black and Latino kids who, chosen by lottery, usually arrive well behind academically” (Simpson).  The article goes on to praise the dedicated teaching staff, revamped curriculum, and longer school days as major factors in the school’s success.  This example of Jumoke Academy demonstrates how complex the relationship between charter schools and Catholic schools truly is. Despite having a strong understanding of how this connection manifests itself on a national level, it cannot be seamlessly applied to the case of St. Justin’s School and Jumoke Academy.

On a national level, research indicates that a conclusion can be made in regards to the charter school movement’s affect on Catholic schools over the last twenty years. However, the specific example of St. Justin’s School and Jumoke Academy questions this relationship and suggests that there is not just one explanation for the closing of a Catholic school. The overall picture of this correlation becomes less clear when viewing it through both a national and local lens, but does not necessarily invalidate the understanding that, on a broader, national scale, there is an obvious connection between the rise of charter schools and decline of Catholic schools. Due to the relative newness of this research topic, it will be interesting to see how charter school growth continues to affect the future of Catholic schools in the United States.

Works Cited

Brinig, Margaret F., and Nicole Stelle Garnett. “Catholic Schools, Charter Schools, and Urban Neighborhoods.” The University of Chicago Law Review 79, no. 1 (January 1, 2012): 31–57. doi:10.2307/41552894.

Buddin, Richard. “The Impact of Charter Schools on Public and Private School Enrollments.”  Policy Analysis no. 707. Web. 28 August 2012

Cavanagh, Sean. “Catholic Ed. k-12 Charters Squaring Off.” Education Week 32.2 (2012): 1-13. Education Full Text (H.W. Wilson). Web.  20 April 2013.

Donlevy, J. Kent. “Catholic Schools: The Inclusion of Non-Catholic Students.” Canadian Journal of Education / Revue Canadienne De L’éducation 27, no. 1 (January 1, 2002): 101–118. doi:10.2307/1602190.

Green, Rick, and Courant Staff Writer. “HARTFORD COULD BE LEFT WITHOUT, AS CHARTER SCHOOLS OPEN THIS FALL: [STATEWIDE Edition].” Hartford Courant. May 15, 1997, sec. MAIN (A).

Renner, Gerald, and Courant Religion Writer. “Schools Get Respect but Dozens Close Spirited Debate How Connecticut Catholics Are Struggling with Change Third of Five Parts Schools Get Respect but Many Close: [A Edition].” Hartford Courant. August 25, 1992, sec. MAIN (A).

Simpson, Stan, “JUMOKE BECOMING AN ACHIEVER [Corrected 08/03/07]. Hartford Courant. August 1, 2007, sec. CONNECTICUT.

Title IX: Shift in Focus from Education to Athletics

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In 1972 Title IX was passed, which is a portion of the Education Amendments of 1972 stating “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance…” (OASAM).  Although this portion of the Education Amendments was not specifically aimed at fixing discrimination in athletics, Title IX became most known for and had one of the greatest effects on ending sexist inequity in sports.  In fact, the words “athletics” or “sports” were not even mentioned in this section of the amendment, which beckons the questions, when Title IX was originally debated among policymakers, how much was the focus on academics versus athletics? To what extent has this balance shifted over time, and what were its consequences?

Title IX originally came to passage in order to specifically battle gender inequity and discrimination in education. Those who advocated the enactment of Title IX spotlighted sex discrimination issues in education and the workplace such as equal pay, sex bias in school texts, and tenure track opportunities.  However, women’s athletics quickly became one of the most hotly debated topics of the 1970s and 80s shortly after the passing of Title IX. Currently, Title IX is practically synonymous with women’s athletics.  Over time, the focus of Title IX shifted from gender inequity in education to gender inequity in sport, launching a revolution in women’s athletics.

Although Title IX is widely known as a catalyst for advancements in women’s sports, the focus on athletics was unintended.  Initially, its supporters focused on the demand for gender equality in education and the workplace, with no real thought put into the question of athletics.  The impetus behind Title IX was the prevalent discrimination women faced in all aspects of the educational experience, including students, administrators, and professors.  The law was purposely designed to specifically cover the banning of sex discrimination within educational institutions because previous laws like Title VII and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not apply to education but instead focused solely on discrimination in employment (Ware, 3). These issues were discussed without mention of athletics during a 1970 hearing in the House of Representatives before the Special Subcommittee on Education on discrimination against women:

prohibit[ing] discrimination against women in federally assisted programs and in employment in education; to extend the equal pay act so as to prohibit discrimination in administrative, professional and executive employment; and to extend the jurisdiction of the U.S. Commission of civil rights to include sex. (Congress)

During these hearings and debates about the law, athletics had barely been mentioned, and Representative Edith Green of Oregon predicted in 1971 that Title IX would “probably be the most revolutionary thing in higher education in the 1970s” (Ware, 4).  Another female Representative, Patsy Mink of Hawaii, stated in hindsight, “When it was proposed, we had no idea that its most visible impact would be in athletics.  I had been paying attention to the academic issue.  I had been excluded from medical school because I was female” (Ware, 4). No one involved in the legislation and passing of Title IX could have foreseen the enormous splash it would make in the future of women’s sports.  However, almost immediately after the passing of Title IX in 1972, the switch in focus on athletics occurred for several reasons.

The idea of gender equity in athletics was originally not considered during debates leading up to the passing of Title IX because athletic programs themselves did not receive federal funding, so this issue was not seen as a likely target for enforcement.  However, since the law applied to the entirety of an institution receiving federal funds, not just a specific program, athletics fell under its jurisdiction and therefore needed to be addressed (Ware, 4).  College athletic administrators, coaches, and directors began to realize the potential enormity this legislation could have on athletics, and soon enough many ordinary Americans also began questioning the obvious gender inequity in the field of sports. The social context of the time was also crucial to the shift in thinking about women’s participation in athletics.   The Women’s Liberation Movement was at its peak, and female athletes were becoming increasingly visible in the public sphere.  Billie Jean King, a tennis icon who famously beat Bobby Riggs in a battle of the sexes tennis match, testified in congressional hearings in 1973 and became the first female athlete to ever win $100,000 in one year (Ross Edwards).  In the late 1960s, a female ran the Boston Marathon for the first time. These public acts helped inspire the argument for gender equality in athletics.

The shift from gender equity in education to athletics was also spurred by the visibility of sex discrimination in sports.  The widespread feminism of the 1960s had a great impact on equalizing athletics because for the first time, it opened the nation’s eyes to the disparities between men’s and women’s opportunities.  The sex segregation in athletics was much easier to see after the nation’s consciousness was raised by modern feminism (Ware, 2). Margot Polivy, an attorney for the American Intercollegiate Athletic Association for Women (AIAW), argued that inequality was easier to explain and understand through sport than through everyday sex role stereotyping and discrimination (Ross Edwards).  Some modes of discrimination are “subtle, almost invisible- not that in athletics” (Ware, 2).  Generally speaking, the policymakers and officials in D.C. were not the original ones pushing for more attention on women’s athletics, it was a movement from the bottom up where women’s groups and common Americans were fighting from the athletic standpoint.  For example, there was a series of court cases brought by fathers of athletically gifted daughters in the early 1970s (Ross Edwards).  However, not all men were as inclined to extend equality to women in sports as these eager fathers.

Ironically, the opponents of Title IX, mostly men, actually drew positive attention to the fight for equity in athletics through their lobbying against it.  The supporters of Title IX targeted athletics as a direct result of all the attention opponents brought to the issue.  For instance, men’s opposition caused women in AIAW to take a strong position in favor of the regulations regarding athletics sooner than they otherwise might have (Ross Edwards).  Many female athletic administrators, some of whom were originally ambivalent towards the law, began to sense its power when they saw how angry it made men (Ware, 13). The NCAA was one of the greatest original opponents of the law, and they took a strong stance against holding collegiate championships for women.  However, after they saw all the attention and progress women’s athletics had made in such a short period of time, NCAA officials decided to accept the idea of women’s sports, not out of an honest desire for equity, but because they sought profit.

The booming focus on gender equity in athletics had great success in the 1970s.  As journalist Candace Lyle Hogan observed at the time, “Fueled by an almost chemical interaction of a federal anti-sex discrimination law, the women’s liberation movement, and what is called the temper of the times, women’s sports took off like a rocket in 1972” (Ware, 7).  The number of women’s teams at both the high school and college levels dramatically raised, reaching a 66 percent increase in women’s college teams by 1999 (Simon, 4).  From 1971 to 2002, there was an 847 percent increase in high school female athletes, from 294,015 participants to a whopping 2.7 million participants (Simon, 4).  The period from 1972 to 1981 witnessed the greatest growth in women’s participation and the amount of money spent on female athletic programs, but this is also relative to the extremely poor state women’s athletics was in before.  Any amount of progress feels like leaps and bounds when starting from practically nothing.  This growth, however, did not continue throughout the 1980s, and many aspects of women’s athletics saw substantial setbacks during this time period.

The 1980s is considered a stalemate in the advancement of women’s athletics for several reasons.  By 1981-1982, the AIAW, which prided itself in focusing on the “student” aspect of student-athletes, had collapsed and the NCAA had taken over women’s collegiate sports.  As author Susan Ware wrote of this turnover, “A significant chance for a different kind of women’s athletics- less commercial, more focused on education and participation, potentially less exploitative- had been lost” (Ware, 12).  Because men were accepting the new changes in athletics, they started to take advantage of the new opportunities in employment.  For instance, because of Title IX, jobs coaching women’s teams became better compensated and therefore more attractive to men, and the gap between men’s and women’s coaching salaries since the 1970s has actually widened (Ware, 15).  Additionally, most institutions merged their previously segregated athletic departments, naturally resulting with men in charge of administrative positions in athletic departments. Women had coached 92 percent of women’s teams in 1973, but by 1984 this had dropped to 53.8 percent and in 2002 it was only 44 percent (Ware, 15).  Title IX inadvertently resulted in reverse effects on employment opportunities in athletics for women during the 1980s, and female student athletes similarly suffered.

Politics had a significant influence in the backsliding of progression in women’s sports in the 80s.  Not only did the Equal Rights Amendment fail in 1982, but also the Republican takeover of presidency of 1981 proved detrimental to the civil rights cause, as Ronald Reagan attempted to scale back big government and limit federal initiatives (Ware, 14).  In specific, one court case in 1984 had the most damaging affect in enforcing Title IX.  The Grove City Supreme Court decision held that only particular college departments that received federal funds directly were subject to Title IX; therefore, if a department did not receive direct federal funding they could dismiss the ideals of Title IX (Simon, 71).  The New York Times called this a pure example of “judicial activism”, and it resulted in schools cutting recently added women’s teams and scholarships, and the Office for Civil Rights cancelled twenty-three investigations (Ware, 14).  This stalemate continued until 1988 when the Civil Rights Restoration Act was passed in Congress over Reagan’s veto, which restored the broad coverage of Title IX (Ware, 15).  This brought the future of women’s athletics back on track, but in the years to come, more consequences ensued.

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, a significant problem emerged that has yet to fully disappear. Many schools were still following the methods they adopted in the 70s, which dealt with Title IX by linking participation opportunities to the proportions of male and female enrollments. In an attempt to end sex discrimination in education, many schools were admitting significantly more women than men.  In the fall of 1998, women comprised 59 percent of the student body at Providence College (Hogshead-Makar, 198).  This situation was extremely common in schools, and by 2000, 57 percent of all bachelor’s degrees were earned by women (Simon, 4).  Although this was a tremendous success for women, it conflicted the original intentions of Title IX because now the scales were unfairly tilting in the opposite direction.  For example,  to keep up with schools’ enrollment proportion policies, more and more women’s teams were being added to collegiate athletic programs.  Since most schools had tight budgets, many programs cut men’s “minor” sports teams, like gymnastics and wrestling, in order to fund these new women’s teams (Simon, 72).  Many men and women alike viewed this as reverse discrimination and intolerable. One lawyer who studied the effects of Title IX called this elimination of men’s non-revenue sports “the least fair and least educationally sound means of resolving the dilemma of Title IX compliance” (Ware, 17).  This debate over funding between men’s and women’s sports continues in schools across the nation and although the practice of cutting men’s sports has somewhat diminished, it has not fully disappeared.

While athletics has historically been focused on in discussions of Title IX, advancements in gender equity in education have also had a significant impact on the learning experiences of women as well as on the subsequent job opportunities. The debate of women’s athletics has seemed to overshadow the progressions made in educational experiences of women because of the popularity of the topic of athletics and its enormous strides made in such a short time.  While the issues in women’s athletics stole the spotlight over the years following Title IX, the quest for gender equity in education and employment in education was always continuously under way and advancing- it was just more behind-the-scenes. As Nancy Hogshead-Makar, law professor at Florida Coastal School of Law and 1984 Olympic gold-medalist, noted, “Title IX is working every bit as hard in the classroom as it is on the athletic field” (Kilman).  Since its enactment in 1972, Title IX has worked to lawfully end sex discrimination in schools by requiring safe and accessible learning environments for both sexes, guaranteeing pregnant and parenting students equal opportunities, and requiring that course offerings and career counseling not be limited by gender (Kilman).  Students are also protected against sexual harassment by faculty members as well as against gender bias in standardized testing, textbooks, and in the use of technology.

Title IX and the fight for gender equity in education has seen much success, as well as many drawbacks.  Early advances were made between 1970-1975, when about 150 women’s studies programs were established across the country for the first time (Hanson, 85).  In addition to the high rates of bachelor’s degrees earned by women, today women make up 58 percent of graduate students and more than half of all medical and law students are women (Hanson, 83).  By 2004, women composed almost one half of all the teachers in two- and four-year colleges (Hanson, 83).  One of the most powerful examples of changes after Title IX is the amount of women in math and science courses, earning degrees in these subjects in record numbers.  In the mid-eighties, women earned a high of 36 percent of computer science degrees, and in 2005, women earned slightly over half of the doctorates in life sciences (Hanson, 84-85).

However, many aspects of education were negatively affected by the intense focus on sports.  For instance, recruited athletes are given special advantages in admissions despite low SAT scores, and their education is not a priority.  As the Carnegie Commission Report investigating intercollegiate athletics stated, “The defects of American college athletics are two: commercialism, and a negligent attitude toward the educational opportunity for which college exists” (Ware, 26).  This statement reigns true today, where oftentimes the opposite effect that Title IX had intended occurs with students’ ignorance towards education and excessive focus on sports.  In academics, people first blame a female student’s lack of success on her gender, race, or family income. In sports, the female athletes themselves aren’t to blame for the failure of the system to provide them with opportunities- the answer is to change the system.  This answer should also be applied to education.  High school and collegiate athletes are called “student-athletes” for a reason, where “student” takes precedence.  However, nowadays this is often not the case.

Although the focus of Title IX has been predominantly on the discussion of athletics, the fight for gender equity is just as if not more important.  Originally, the discussions of the legislation targeted educational opportunities and working to end sex discrimination in educational employment.  Despite the successes seen in education, especially higher education, for women, the successes seen in women’s athletics has seemed to overpower those advancements over the years when evaluating the effects of Title IX.  Today, women are excelling in every realm of athletics and education as a direct result of Title IX.  Although the focus of debate between education and athletics has shifted over the years, both venues are extremely important in the overall end to sex discrimination in the United States.  Full gender equity in education and athletics has not yet been met, but by measuring the progress seen thus far, equity is surely in the near future.





Works Cited

Congress, House, Committee on Education and Labor, Discrimination Against Women: Hearings before the Special Subcommittee on Education, 91st Cong., 2nd sess., 17 June 1970

Hanson, Katherine, Vivian Guilfoy, and Sarita Pillai. More than Title IX: How Equity in Education Has Shaped the Nation. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2009.

Hogshead-Makar, Nancy, and Andrew S. Zimbalist. Equal Play: Title IX and Social Change. Philadelphia, PA: Temple UP, 2007.

Kilman, Carrie. “Beyond the Playing Field.” Teaching Tolerance no. 42 (Fall2012 2012): 29-33. Education Full Text (H.W. Wilson), EBSCOhost

Pauline, Gina. “Celebrating 40 Years of Title IX: How Far Have We Really Come?” JOPERD–The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance 83.8 (2012) Questia.

Ross Edwards, Amanda. “Why Sport? The Development of Sport as a Policy Issue in Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.” Journal of Policy History 22.3 (2010) Project Muse

Simon, Rita J. Sporting Equality: Title IX Thirty Years Later. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 2005.

Ware, Susan. Title IX: A Brief History with Documents. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2007. 

Reform Rooted In Unions: Then & Now

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"I am a teacher, hear me roar."

The term ‘union’ refers to legally recognized assemblies of workers of specified industries. In terms of educators and those in the education ‘industry’, teachers unions can be one of the most powerful voices in terms of educational politics when operated efficiently. Today however, teachers unions are receiving a huge part of the blame in the failure of America’s past educational reformation attempts, attempting to tackle the same issues that once resonated in educational politics 100 years prior. This essay seeks to explore how one woman’s vision ties with the modern idea of what a teacher union is to stand for. It will explore the way teachers unions of the late 1990’s have accepted or rejected the view Margaret Haley and the Chicago Teacher’s Federation set forth of in 1904. Though there are social issues of race and class being dealt with by contemporary leaders that she could not have foreseen over a century ago, it will move beyond that to also accentuate the similarities in the goals of each time period’s vision of what makes a teachers union, to ultimately show that if Margaret Haley were to live a century longer, she would most closely identify with the social justice unionists of the 1990’s than industrial or professional unions.

To understand what Haley stood for, one may look at her upbringing for a preface. An average farmer from Illinois, Haley grew up with a sense of security and comfort, but not luxury. Like many other children from her town, she spent her time playing in multiplayer games, not in the sense that we know, but those that required open air and a handful of children. These two prerequisites were not hard to meet, as the family’s farm provided ample open space, and being one of six children made finding playmates easy. I-Spy, pom-pom-pull-away, and farmer-in-the-dell were all part of her childhood. “Except for a greater number of books, we lived after the fashion of most farm families at that time and place” (Rousmaniere, 5). Haley claimed that the books are what made her house different, but furthermore, her exposure to books at such a young age made her stand out from her peers.

Margaret Haley's autobiography "Battleground"

The trend continued, as Margaret Haley was a woman unlike many of her time, backing down to no one and rejecting traditional “ladylike qualities” of her era. “Described as an anathema to her opponents, Margaret Haley was portrayed as a militant, a radical, a lady labor slugger, a character assassin, and an advocate of the mob rule” (“Battlegrounds”, xxxi). Her personality even rang through the way she titled her autobiography “Battleground”, in which she opens with the line “I never wanted to fight” (3). This would seem ironic to anyone who knew her legacy, for most of it was a fight, an ongoing struggle for educational reform beginning with the institution of teachers unions in her home state. In fact, mostly all the woman did was fight once she entered the education system as a 16-year-old sixth grade teacher in 1884, and never looked back as Haley “fought to correct tax inequalities, increase the salaries of teachers, expose unfair land leasing by the Chicago Board of Education, and among all things, develop teachers’ consciousness about citizenship and responsibility” (Rousmaniere, 212).  This is what Margaret Haley believed was the real meaning of ‘educational freedom’.

To achieve this so called ‘educational freedom’, Haley wanted to try a different, unprecedented way of educating children, all rooting from the creation of what she believed was the most effective teachers union. She longed for a teachers union that had the luxury of increased budgets, but also one that shifted its focus from “factory-izing” education to the instincts of individual teachers, as well as the assistance of communities surrounding the schools. From Haley, we are given three main themes of what she believed were essential in behind the implementation of teachers unions in the interest of reforming education to better serve society, rather than simply to perpetuate what already goes on.

The first theme behind her vision of unions is her advocacy of incorporating school reform from a financial standpoint into the agenda of teachers unions, urging the public to become aware that it is the public’s support that is needed in our schools. Haley expanded on this in her 1904 address titled “Why Teachers Should Organize”,

“Nowhere in the United States today does the public school, as a branch of the public service, receive from the public either the moral or financial support needed to enable it properly to perform its important moral function in the social organism” (“Why Teachers”, 148).

Haley realized that education was more than sitting in a classroom, education is an epiphenomenon of some sorts. When it does not work as it should, it goes beyond the miseducation of a child to education failing as an institution for ultimately not pulling its weight in efforts to shape society. Like the cliche that states a chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link, when education fails, economic and social injustices can be traced back to that weak link, a truth that Haley and reformers around the turn of the 21st century both agree on. “If the American people cannot be made to realize and meet their responsibility to the public school, no self-appointed custodians of the public intelligence and conscience can do it for them” (145). Haley insisted that teachers unions would have to strive for the public’s financial and moral support, for without both she feared the continuance of the treacherous hegemonic structure our country has been known to operate on.

Building off the previous theme comes her firm assertion that schools are a driving force behind our democratic society, and for that the teachers should be active citizens. Haley said, “The methods as well as the object of teachers’ organizations must be in harmony with the fundamental object of the public school in a democracy, to preserve and develop the democratic ideal” (145). Expanding on her previous concern, a worry of Haley’s was that those associated with the public school are not fully aware of how much of an epiphenomenon school actually is. She wrote,

“We teachers are responsible for existing conditions to the extent that the schools have not inspired true ideals of democracy, or that we have not made the necessary effort toward removing the conditions which make the realization of these ideals impossible” (147).

Margaret Haley believed that teachers should take the brunt of the blame for this, and in order to prevent the ongoing failure, they should aim to produce a democratic society in which free intelligence is the starting point. The only way to achieve this freed intelligence, and ultimately build a society inspired by the original ideals of democracy would be to have teachers become aware that behind their power to educate children, there lies a much larger investment in our democratic society.

The third theme is coherent through her address her insistence upon teachers having the right to control their own working environment. Haley firmly believed in the fact that regulated classroom environments by those not a part of the teacher-student population were not the answer.

“The atmosphere in which it is easiest to teach is the atmosphere in which it is easiest to learn. The same things that are a burden to the teacher are a burden also to the child. The same things which restrict her powers restrict his powers also” ( 146)

She explained that because students’ primary goal of attending school is to become educated, and teachers attend school to primarily teach said students, there is no explanation for a conflict of interest amongst teachers and students. Haley insisted that a valuable education comes through freed intelligence, a result of this free activity of the teachers that she speaks of. She wondered how someone could justify someone other than a student or teacher being responsible for their own learning environment and conditions. It would be unfathomable that a learning environment be created without the input of these two parties, with the interests of these two parties at the forefront of any agenda having to do with education.

Margaret Haley fought hard for justice inside and out of the classroom and wished the best for any who followed in her footsteps, evident in the way she closed her own autobiography. “It is only in the hope that my experiences may be a field map that I have marked them down. For men and women die, but the old, old war of might against right goes on” (“Battlegrounds”, 271).


The modern teachers union movement began in Chicago in 1897, but fast forward almost an entire century to the 1990’s and the old, old war of might against right Haley spoke of lives on. Many of the issues faced by Margaret Haley and the Chicago Teachers Federation back then, from undermining of education via insufficient budgets to testing to debates over the factory-ization of schools, remain pressing topics of education reform today.

Peterson's compilation of contemporary unionist theory

With the collaboration of the minds of reformers Bob Peterson, Michael Charney, and other contemporary unionists, three ideotypes of unions have been created in industrial, professional, and social justice unions. The first is industrial unionism, which focuses primarily on defending teachers’ rights and working conditions. Margaret Haley demanded more than that. Professional unionism embraces the idea of teachers as professionals, and that their responsibility lies within providing a child with a quality education. Again, Haley wanted this, but more. The third type of union is a is a hybrid sort of union referred to as a social justice union. Although her beliefs were not entirely the same, Margaret Haley would best fit amongst modern social justice unionists. This type of union goes beyond the sole interests of the teacher or student, and recognizes that in order to make progress it must be a team effort, including teachers, parents, and friends, for education is much more than merely the institution sociologists classify it as.

During a three-day institute in 1994 sanctioned by the National Coalition of Education Activists, a Bob Peterson and Michael Cheney led a group of 27 fellow teacher union activists in creating a draft of a social justice union to better govern public education.  The draft states,

“Too many have been quick to blame children and their communities for school failure, and slow to identify educational policies and classroom practices that, in the long run, serve those who want to see public schools die out or be sold off to the highest bidder” (Peterson, 128).

Set out to seek justice for education workers and to better schooling in the interest of public education, these unionists wanted to, at the very least, see schools no longer be run as capitalist enterprises. To counter, the institute produced a list of goals or objectives an ideal social justice union would have in mind whilst serving the community. They can best be broken down into four main themes behind their view of a complete social justice union.

The first of their ideas is an urge for all to become aware that parents and neighbors of our students are key allies to the army of students and teachers in the struggle for social justice, and that by building strategic alliances with all parties (parents, labor unions, and community groups), equality will inevitably follow. Social justice unionists believe that,

“Because parents play a central role in the education of their children and are our strongest political allies, education unions should work to insure that parents are full partners in our school” (129).

Like Haley, social justice unionists would like to urge the public to become aware of the role education has for them, their children, their children’s children, and so on. Instead of blindly supporting the first policy that one is prompted with, that usually has only the interests of a select few in mind, that often does nothing to counter injustices and even reproduces the ones already in place, people need to take an interest, if not for themselves for their neighbors. In their draft, contemporary unionists even suggest things like paid workdays for when parents chaperone students to further get their point across (130). In 1904, and modern times, unionists agree that the best education system is one that encompasses not only students and teachers, but all members of society, for that is exactly who education serves.

The second of their themes builds off of their first, and claims that in order for true democracy to make a comeback, organizations that claim to be democratically driven must not function with a bureaucratic philosophy. The 29 leaders write,

“Members often feel that their union is as distant from them as school administration. Communication is too often one-way, with union newspapers and newsletters arely seeking opinions or input. Some local and state apparatuses are dominated by cliques of individuals, making entry into union activities difficult for new members or rank-and-file activists” (129-130).

If things remain the way they are, and if hegemony continues to be the harsh norm, democracy will drift even further from the public’s hand. Unionists assert that by operating with a mobilized membership mentality, in which decisions are made only after widespread discussion amongst all members, change can finally be seen in education, and society as a whole. Haley spoke of the responsibility of the school in her 1904 address,

“That the public school does not feel its responsibility in the matter of political corruption, for instance, nor realize the effect upon the schools of this corruption and the misdirected activity of which it is a symptom, is proof that the public school is not yet conscious of its own vital function in society” (“Why Teachers”, 147).

Furthermore, they, like Haley, claim that to place the blame on the school for the lowered democratic ideal is not the answer either, for the public school is not aware of its power, but with the implementation of education as unionists lay it out, both past and present, it will not be long before progress towards truthful democracy is made.

Their third idea calls for the social justice union prototype to not only define and defend the rights its members are entitled to, but to also coincidentally fight for the rights of students and improvement of the broader community as a whole. The draft states,

“The interests of education workers are best served by defending public education while simultaneously working to transform it. Unions of education workers need to accept some responsibility in for the problems of public schools. We need to use our resources, membership, and power at the bargaining table and in the legislative arena to help resolve these problems” (Peterson, 129).

Similar to Margaret Haley’s third belief, contemporary unionists believe thatthe best education occurs when the decisions are made with the interests of both parties, those working in public education and those benefitting from it, ranking of the highest importance in the minds of those in charge of deciding. This is often referred to as the ‘factory-ization’ of education, defined in Haley’s address as

“…making the teacher an automaton, a mere factory hand, whose duty it is to carry out mechanically and unquestioningly the ideas and orders of those clothed with the authority of position, and who may or may not know the needs of the children or how to minister to them” (“Why Teachers”, 148).

In the past, traditional teacher accountability has gotten dumbed down in a sense, as those in power dance around the actual issues while instead focus on simply getting by and meeting brainless standards set by someone so far removed from the whole process that it almost resembles tyranny. Instead, Haley and contemporary unionists both agree that is the teachers that need to be not atop the system, but instead right in the middle of it, collaborating with all parties involved to design the most effective curriculum for a specific institution. The draft insists that social justice unions, “Put teachers and others who work in classrooms at the center of school reform agendas, ensuring that they take ownership of reform initiatives” (Peterson, 130). Contemporary unionists go as far as to suggest mechanisms such as peer mentoring, peer evaluation, and career ladders to constantly improve those in charge of educating society (Peterson, 17).

The fourth of contemporary leaders views is what sets their vision of teachers unions apart from Margaret Haley’s back in 1904. Essential to successful schooling today is an awareness of the internal structure of society in terms of the injustices having to do with race and glass. Rewind a century however, and this was not yet the mindset. In the early 1900’s, a man by the name of Booker T. Washington was advocating for African American’s right to an education, but he had not yet built a following large enough to counter the white supremacy apparent in America at the beginning of the 20th century (“From Slavery”). Because of this, it can be argued that Margaret Haley in 1904 was blinded in a sense, not aware of the reality that schools have a dual, contradictory role in which they “reinforce and reproduce class, racial, and gender divisions and inequality…[and] they provide an opportunity to break down those same divisions and inequalities” (Peterson, 16). Haley therefore did not include any specific way to combat these issues of race and class, but were she alive today, she would definitely argue against funding through property taxes, one proven way to lengthen the gap between classes and education.

Thankfully, contemporary leaders do realize this and have since picked up where Haley left off, and have added a fourth underlying theme of teachers union to counter injustices relating to race and class. At the tail end of the draft, Peterson and his crew state that an additional theme for unions to operate on.

“Encourage those who work with children to use methods of instruction and curricula that will promote racial and gender equity, combat racism and prejudice, encourage critical thinking about our society’s problems, and nurture an active, reflective citizenry that is committed to real democracy and social and economic justice” (Peterson, 130).

The case of schools failing to challenge students academically, dulling them down to the same level as the assessments that they are judged by, and ultimately remove from within them the ability, as well as the desire, to learn. The contemporary crew suggested changes that would increase respect for all cultures, as well as practices that will help break down stereotypes that society has created for those that are not white and heterogeneous (130).  Social justice unionists call for more attention being paid to school-related practices, and to implicate within them a curriculum that promotes not only a better education, but also equality amongst all.

After thorough analysis of both the beliefs of Margaret Haley and those of contemporary unionists like Bob Peterson, although separated by over a 100 years, it can be concluded that Margaret Haley, were she alive today, would without a doubt stand alongside (or at least close by) Peterson and identify herself a social justice unionist. Despite the lack of detail paid to the concepts of race and class and their relation to education, both parties clearly envision a better society starting with the implementation of an unprecedented style of unionism, one that treats education as more than a place where kids go to school, and where teachers go to work. The ultimate goal would be to eventually, through this new style of unions and education, achieve a world in which we are all seen for who we are, different but all in the same, for since when has being human become not enough to be entitled to all our world has to offer. When the system is designed for the people, by the people, the true definition of democracy, there is no possible conflict between the good of society and the members of society being served.

Richmond, VA already has an implemented 'social justice union'

Margaret Haley’s insistence on educational reform rooting from the implementation of a union that was financially and morally supported by the same public that it is serving, a union that operates with real democracy in mind, and a union that is operated by teachers, students, parents, and all those directly in the middle of it all coincide with the first three characteristics contemporary unionists drafted. They envisioned a union in which members of the community become allies in the fight for social justice, a union that truly operated on democracy rather than simply claiming it did, and exactly like Haley saw that the most efficient union would operate with both the interests of students and teachers in mind. Similar even in the way they would implement their respective ‘ideal’ unions, Haley and contemporary leaders agree that a passive approach will result in little to no progress being made. Haley wrote how the current system is a hindrance to real leadership, as “no man or woman dares lift a hand against a board of education if he wants to hold his job” (“Battleground”, 274). Peterson and company build on this, as they find that for something radical to get done, it would require firm action. Social justice unions should “aggressively educate and mobilize its membership to fight for social justice in all areas of society” (Peterson, 130). In the U.S., there already exists a Richmond teachers union committed to social justice. This differs vastly from the former way of reforming, the ‘compartmentalizing’ of education, as Haley defines it. “One of the troubles of reform is that reformers all put their own isms into airtight compartments. Educators will have to be the engineers to relate and balance the issues” (“Battleground”, 271). ‘Justice for all’ needs to be more than just recited at the beginning of each school day, and with the implementation of teachers unions constructed around the aforementioned ideals of Margaret Haley along with those of prominent contemporary unionists, change is certain to be on the horizon.

Primary Sources

“Advice from Margaret Haley, Leader of Teacher Unionism.” Diane Ravitchs Blog. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 May 2013. <>.

Besieged: School Boards and the Future of Education Politics. Washington, D.C: Brookings Institution Press, 2005. Print.

“From Slavery to Freedom: The African-American Pamphlet Collection, 1822-1909 History.” History. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 May 2013.<>.

Haley, Margaret. Battleground: The Autobiography of Margaret A. Haley. Urbana:University of Illinois Press, 1982. Print.

Haley, Margaret. The Gardener Mind. New Haven: Yale university press, 1937. Print.The Yale Series of Younger Poets.

Haley, Margaret. “Why Teachers Should Organize.” In National Association of Education. Journal of Addresses and Proceedings of the 43rd Annual Meeting (St. Louis), 145–152. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1904.

Peterson, Bob. Transforming Teachers Unions. Milwaukee, WI: Rethinking Schools, 1999.

Rousmaniere, Kate. Citizen Teacher: The Life and Leadership of Margaret Haley. Albany: State University of New York, 2005. Print.

“The Chicago Strike and the History of American Teachers’ Unions”N.p., n.d. Web. 03 May 2013. <>.

Author’s note: I chose this topic because I’m interested to see how Margaret Haley’s vision of teachers unions in 1904 compare and contrast with the ideas of unionists today, because many of her concerns seem to still resonate. It’s amazing that its veracity transcends a time-span of well over 100 years.


Admission to Private Preschool Isn’t Such a Stroll For NYC Parents

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Source: NY Mag; "the Price of Perfection"

New York City’s horror stories used to primarily entail the amount of crime and violence on the streets.  Today, however, many of the most horrifying tales are concerning parents and their desperate and relentless scramble to get their children into the most elite and prestigious private preschools. That said competition for admission to New York City’s private preschools is incredibly fierce with over fifteen applicants for every available spot. “Next year is going to be even worse,” warns Amanda Uhry, the owner of Manhattan Private School Advisors (Nursery University). Roxana Reid of Smart City Kids adds, “Several nursery schools had ten or more children shut out from getting into school altogether last year” (Nursery University).

As time has progressed and more studies emphasizing the importance of early childhood development have been conducted, preschools have evolved drastically both in their purpose and importance to society. Although private preschools have been highly sought after in New York City since their origins, in recent years the competition to get into these elite schools has never been greater. In fact, competition has reached such extremes that the admissions process to get into these schools has been completely transformed. Due to the combination of extreme wealth, change in demographics, the public’s perception of preschools, and the urban baby boom that has occurred in New York City, getting into a private nursery school isn’t quite as easy as the A, B, C’s.

Brief Overview of the History of Preschool and Its Development in the United States

The first nursery schools  appeared in the United States in the nineteenth century with the growth of the factory system. They were generally privately financed, designed for upper and upper middle class children under the age of five, and were typically affiliated to universities (McMillan). Moreover, they were often the places where child studies and psychological theories concerning children and their families—such as those of Sigmund Freud and Jean Piaget—were conducted (Read). As such, they formed part of a broader development of the professionalizing field of child welfare and development (Read). In the 1920s, however, the nursery school began to evolve when parents began getting involved in its running (Spodek).

Throughout the majority of the twentieth century, the nursery school began to integrate itself into public education systems around the country—though this effort was largely constrained by the high expenses and the general conception that the best place for young children was at home with their mothers (Beatty). Exceptions were made, however, for the children living in poor urban areas and in times of national emergency, such as during the Great Depression and World War II (Beatty). Day-care centers without the educational rationale of nursery schools still remained to dominate the area however (Beatty).

In the mid-1960s, the federal government undertook War on Poverty programs, such as Project Head Start, which provided nursery school experiences for underprivileged children (Beatty). These projects determined how important the first years in a child’s life are in respect to establishing healthy attitudes, a sense of values, intellectual interests, good learning habits and social behavior patterns–ultimately sparking the public’s interests and subsequently a drastic increase in public and private preschools, both in number and demand (Beatty).

The Importance of Early Childhood Education

President Obama recently emphasized the importance of quality preschool education in his State of the Union message, insisting on a substantial expansion:

“Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than seven dollars later on – by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime,” Mr. Obama said in his speech. In his budget, he requested $75 billion over 10 years to help states dramatically expand preschool options for low-income children” (Paulson).

In recent years, early childhood education has gained a great deal of attention from both the public and the press. Data has shown how beneficial high-quality early childhood education is in respect to a child’s future academic success (Pepper). Dr. Steven Barnett, director of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) says that “Children who attend high-quality preschool enter kindergarten with better pre-reading skills, richer vocabularies, and stronger basic math skills than those who do not.” Scientific research has supported this argument. It is reported that approximately 90% of the brain develops before the age of five. Additionally, the first three years are supposedly the most vital in determining the child’s “brain architecture” (Gallen). The most recent of the NIEER reports claimed that children in high-quality programs earn approximately $143,000 more over their lifetime than the control group — and are less likely to smoke (Goldman). Although some argue that the beneficial impacts of preschool decreases over time, this is accredited to differences in the quality of preschool (Pepper).

New York City

In New York City, parents are facing a severe shortage of prekindergarten seats in public schools, with eight applicants for every available spot in some neighborhoods (Beekman). In spite of the city investing approximately $20 million this year to add 4,000 full-day prekindergarten seats in lower-income communities, the city is struggling to meet demand—especially in Manhattan and Queens (Beekman). Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, argues “We can’t continue to be a city where only a fraction of our kids has access to early education” (Beekman). The crisis is most evident in Brooklyn’s District 20 where allegedly more than eight children compete for every available spot. Additionally, Battery Park City’s Public School 89 had a prekindergarten admission rate of 7% (Beekman).

Given the amount of competition there is to attend one of the City’s public preschools, parents have turned to alternative academic routes. One of the most popular alternatives is sending their children to one of the private preschools. As Omar Davis, a Manhattan dad of two, explains, “There aren’t a lot of good resources for pre-K kids that aren’t private” (Beekman) However, competition to get into these private pre-kindergarten schools makes getting into Harvard look easy.

Change in Population

It is reported that the combination of extreme wealth and the urban baby boom has made private nursery school admissions incredibly competitive. In a place as affluent as Manhattan, the number of people willing to spend $15,000 a year tuition for private nursery school has flourished in recent years. This is in large part due to the rise in the white population and an increasing number of upper and upper-middle-class families staying in the city as opposed to moving to the suburbs.

According to 2010 Census estimates, for the first time since the 1970s, Manhattan’s population is predominantly non-white Hispanic (Roberts). The percentage of whites has increased exponentially from 40% in 1990 to 51% in 2009 (Roberts). In Lower Manhattan, the white population increased approximately by 25% between 2000 and 2005 (Roberts). Many accredit this increase in population to the increase of whites working on Wall Street and younger couples who stay in the city to start and raise their families (Roberts). Manhattan borough president, Scott M. Stringer, interprets the consequences this change in population has: “the borough is becoming a place for very, very wealthy people and enclaves for poor people and that middle-income people are finding it impossible to stay here” (Roberts).

In addition to the influx of wealth, the borough has also experienced a drastic increase in young children due to an urban “baby boom”. The Census Bureau approximates that the number of children in Manhattan under the age of five has increased by approximately thirty percent between 2000 and 2006 (Saulny). This is incredibly problematic in respect to entrance into schools as “New York City has about half the capacity it needs for its youngest students, public and private,” contests Betty Holcomb, the policy director of Child Care Inc., “Even if you’re rich, you’re not guaranteed a place in a preschool” (Saulny).

This change in the demographics of Manhattan’s population translates to a change in values and ideals of the society as well. In his article, “The Price of Perfection,” author Michael Wolff comments on the complete transformation of Brearley, the preschool his daughter had attended, from when his wife had graduated in 1970. He notes that this shift mirrors the change that has occurred overall in Manhattan:

“My wife’s Brearley class differs substantially from my daughters’ classes. My wife’s classmates were children of writers (predominantly, it seems, New Yorker writers), Columbia academics, publishers, doctors, and lawyers as well as socialites and product brand names — most of whom have largely been replaced in my daughters’ classes by the children of people in the financial industry. This clearly mirrors what has happened in the city itself — banking, providing never-before-imagined levels of cash flow and vastly scaled-up net worths, has changed these schools as it has changed (sleeked up, amped up, intensified, competified) Manhattan life”  (Wolff)

Ronnie Moskowitz, director of The Washington Market School (TriBeCa), comments on the transformation of TriBeCa from  “the old-hippie network”

to “the old-boy network”: ”It’s a new generation of parents,” she said. ”It’s the $2 million lofts. We were used to having aging hippies here and artists and pioneers. They were willing to live without much, no shoe stores or supermarkets. Now, parents walking in are asking about reading and worrying about testing. They’re parents who’re afraid of being judged.”

As the economic and social returns associated with college attendance flourish rapidly, higher education has become progressively more important to American social and economic mobility. That said to succeed in today’s global economy, a quality education has become essential. To many Americans a “quality” education translates to mean one that is solely attainable from an Ivy League College (Chan).

From Preschool to Princeton

As college admissions have become increasingly more competitive over the years, upper-middle and upper-class City parents have become increasingly more concerned about their child/children attending the right high school (Nursery University). Considering that the majority of private schools tend to children in grades K-12, admission to a quality preschool has taken on vast meaning. The competition for preschools is not merely over the quality of the nursery school, but rather the schools in which the preschool feeds the children to in the ensuing years (Nursery University). Most specifically, what many refer to as the ”Baby Ivies” — the private schools that have a reputation for their students gaining admission to the Ivy League schools (Nursery University).

The New York Daily News featured an article concerning Nicole Imprescia, a Manhattan mother, suing York Avenue Preschool for “jeopardizing” her daughter’s chances of getting into an elite private school, or one day: the Ivy League. Allegedly, the court papers filed by Ms. Imprescia implied that the school has essentially damaged her child’s chances of getting into a top college, citing an editorial that recognizes preschools as the first step to ‘the Ivy League’ (Martinez). “When their 4-year-old doesn’t get into preschools,” education journalist, James Atlas, says, “many of these social elite think it’s the beginning of the end. They didn’t get on the track. It’s not gonna happen for them. They might have to move to the suburbs. Every dire possibility unfolds before your eyes” (“Nursery School Scandal”). One must question how it is possible to even attain and formulate a legitimate argument against a preschool for supposedly “ruining” a child’s future academic success. The argument lies in the Early Childhood Admissions Assessment (ECAA), a standardized test used for lower elementary admissions for private schools in New York City.

The Early Childhood Admissions Assessment (ECAA)

The Educational Records Bureau, known colloquially as the ERB, issues the Early Childhood Admissions Assessment (ECAA) for lower elementary admissions for NYC private schools (Jones). The ECAA (most commonly referred to as the ERB) was developed in the 1960s to prevent children who were applying to multiple private schools from having to take numerous tests (Jones). It is comprised of a series of assessment tests designed to measure cognitive abilities and current development level (Jones). For preschoolers, the test is made up of eight sections—four that test verbal skills and four that test non-verbal skills including picture concepts, coding block design, and matrix reasoning (Jones). The scores are then combined to make a full scale composite score.

In New York City, the ERB has been interpreted by the public to be the determiner of a child’s future academic success. In large part this is accredited to the fact that it is an important component of a prospective student’s application to lower elementary private schools. Needless to say, many of the most competitive preschools acknowledge this and use it to their advantage to draw in future applicants (Anderson). York Avenue Preschool, for example, claims on their website that their students have consistently tested well on the E.R.B and that they “are very proud of [their] Kindergarten placement record and work closely with the ongoing school Directors,” accompanying this claim with a list of schools their children have been accepted into. 

The Mandell School, another highly respected preschool in New York City, also features a separate file for the schools their students have been admitted into over the years. Evidently, these preschools acknowledge the significance of the E.R.B. and many have developed curriculums that essentially “teach to the test”—making them even more desirable and the competition even fiercer.

The Building Blocks of Future Academic Success

As previously stated, many of these competitive private preschools have adapted curriculums essentially catered to preparing children for the E.R.B. Rather than allowing the children to whittle away the days of early childhood playing dress-up or chasing one another around the playground, these preschool programs enacted expose them to games and activities that help the kids develop a wide range of skills needed to perform well on the test. These games and activities go far beyond building blocks and coloring, however.

At Horrace Mann, where tuition costs approximately $26,880, four-year-olds are taught reading and computer readiness (Goldman). At the 92nd Street Y, a highly respected preschool in the City, children participate in an archeology “dig” and sculpture projects (Goldman). These are only two examples that provide some insight to the many diverse and advanced programs these private preschools offer. In reality, the vast majority of these highly sought after schools offer students on-staff child psychologists, yoga and music specialists, and language professionals (Goldman). Many even offer on-site testing for the ERB to insure matriculation at a good private kindergarten (Goldman).


The admissions process has become incredibly stressful for parents where observed play sessions, time-consuming interviews, escalating tuition costs and application fees, and preferences shown to legacies of the school have become the norm (Anderson). To cope with such an exhausting process, many anxious New York parents have even hired professional school placement consultants, such as “Smart City Kids” to get their children one of the limited, coveted seats (for the price of $4,000). With a preschool application process that resembles that of a collegiate one, it is not surprising that such corporations exist in the competitive environment of New York City (“Nursery School Scandal”).

At many of the most elite private preschools, such as Episcopal and Christ Church Day School, parents and children meet independently with the director and a few teachers for an interview. Other schools hold play-date ”interviews.” At the Y, for example, a small group of parents, their children and teachers assemble in a room and interact with one another for approximately forty-five minutes. One parent, an investment banker, recollects on her experience of taking her 20-month-old son on an interview at the City and Country preschool: ”The head of [City and Country], the head of admissions and several teachers were observing and taking notes on a clipboard, ‘I wondered, ‘What are they looking for? What are they writing down while he’s playing at the water table?”’

The truth of the matter is that the admissions process for these top preschools is incredibly daunting and difficult. The application process begins on the Tuesday after Labor day—a day many New York City parents refer to as “Black Tuesday” (Greene). This is the first and arguably most vital step in the process as it is the day that most private nursery schools send out their applications. If parents were to miss this day, they will not be able to receive an application to those schools for the year. That said parents are advised to start calling at nine in the morning, considering that many of the schools run out of their applications by noon. “Staying organized and on top of those dates and deadlines is really critical,” Roxana Reid, educational consultant and founder of Smart City Kids, adds, “Otherwise, you can be out of the process before you even get started” (Greene). Once parents receive the applications for the respective schools, the ensuing months are filled with open houses and interviews. This step in the process is incredibly vital in determining an applicant’s success as it is not only the children being evaluated, it is the parents as well. Wendy Levey, Director of Epiphany Community Nursery School, explains that school directors are “looking for families who will be a positive part of the community,” and therefore parents should, “From start to finish, treat the process with respect, care, and attention” (Greene). Moreover, many of the preschools require parents to compose short essays  that entail discussing the child’s strengths, weakness, and other personal attributes. This task, though seemingly simple, has proven itself to be incredibly challenging for parents as many have expressed the difficulty of “profiling” an 18-month-old (Saulny). Rabbani, Manhattan father of two, asks, “What do you say about someone who just popped out?” “You’re just getting to know them yourself” (Saulny).  After all of the applications have been completed and open houses have been attended, parents are encouraged to send a “first choice letter” to their favorite school. All that there is left to do is wait.

The sad reality is that regardless of how qualified an applicant is, acceptance to one of New York City’s private preschools is not guaranteed.  Subsequently, parents invest heavily into recommendations, connections, and referrals. Needless to say, connections matter—and many of Manhattan’s most powerful and well connected are willing to go through great lengths to secure their children spots. Jack Grubman, former telecom stock analyst and multimillionaire, is one man that will attest to this claim. Once considered a highly respectable figure on Wall Street, Jack Grubman was convicted of giving a favorable rating to AT&T stock in exchange for his twins’ acceptance into the 92nd Street Y in 2002 (“Nursery School Scandal”). In addition to this scandal, he had Citigroup donate one million dollars to the Y. Needless to say, his children got accepted into the school though the representative from the Y stated that the large donation had no influence in the decision (“Nursery School Scandal”).. Arthur Levitt, former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, commented on the scandal and explained how this occurrence is hardly confined to this one example: “…buying entry into these schools has gone on in the elite community for as long as I can remember. Some of them tell you how much you have to put up, some of it’s done by winks and nods” (“Nursery School Scandal”).


The unfortunate truth of the matter is that the nursery craze largely involves white and affluent parents who perceive acceptance into these schools as a determinant of self-worth in New York City’s elite social circles (“Nursery School Scandal”). That said it appears almost as though the children are mere products and the parents are consumers. Preschools are supposed to be the places where children meet their first friends, learn to share, and bask in the innocence of childhood. The cutthroat competition that has emerged for entrance into these prestigious New York City private preschools contradicts the real purpose of preschool.

The Ethical Culture Fieldston School opened its doors to eight children of the working poor in 1878. It was founded by Felix Adler who firmly believed that the children of the poor should and deserved to be educated. By 1890, the school expanded to accommodate the upper-class after they had began expressing interest in attending. Today, tuition costs approximately $30,000 per student. It is ironic that this school, primarily designed to serve children of the poor-and-working-poor classes, has evolved into an institution that caters to the most advantaged of families. With an annual tuition of $30,000 and an application form that has a $60 fee, applying to this school is practically impossible if you are not financially sound. To conclude, private preschools in New York City have evolved from institutions designed to provide relief for disadvantaged and low-income families to an institution that symbolizes pride, status, and success for the wealthy parents of New York City.


Anderson, Jenny. “At Elite New York Schools, Admissions Policies Are Evolving.” The New York Times, September 5, 2011, sec. N.Y. / Region.

Barnett, W. Steven. “Benefits of Compensatory Preschool Education.” The Journal of Human Resources 27, no. 2 (April 1, 1992): 279–312. doi:10.2307/145736.

Beatty, Barbara. 1995. Preschool Education in America: The Culture of Young Children from the Colonial Era to the Present. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Beekman, Daniel. “Exclusive: Not Enough Free City pre-K Programs as Applications Outnumber Available Seats 8 to 1 in Some Neighborhoods.” NY Daily News, March 4, 2013.

Chan, Sewell. “Nursery School Frenzy, Caught on Film.” City Room, November 17, 2008.

Gallen, Thomas. “The Importance of Pre-kindergarten Education | Other Opinions | Bradenton Herald.” Bradenton, March 17, 2013.

Goldman, Victoria. Manhattan Directory of Private Nursery Schools, 6th Ed. 6th ed. Soho Press, 2007.

Goldman, Victoria. “The Baby Ivies – New York Times.” New York Times, January 12, 2003.

Jones, Elise. “ERB Testing: What the Heck Is the ERB and What Do Moms Need to Know?” Mommybites New York, December 28, 2011.


Jr, John E. Pepper, and James M. Zimmerman. “The Business Case for Early Childhood Education.” The New York Times, March 1, 2013, sec. Opinion.

Kuczynski-Brown, Alex. “New York Class Size: Nearly Half Of Public Schools Have Overcrowded Classrooms, UFT Says.” Huffington Post, September 26, 2012.

Martinez, Jose. “Manhattan Mom Sues $19K/yr. Preschool for Damaging 4-year-old Daughter’s Ivy League Chances,” March 14, 2011.

“Nursery School Scandal.” ABC News, January 5, 2006.

Paulson, Amanda. “Pre-K Programs Take Biggest State Funding Hit Ever.” MinnPost, April 30, 2013.

Read, Katherine H., and June Patterson. 1980. The Nursery School and Kindergarten: Human Relationships and Learning, 7th ed. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.

Roberts, Sam. “White Population Rises in Manhattan.” City Room, June 4, 2010.

Sangha, Soni. “For City Parents, a Waiting List for Nearly Everything.” The New York Times, February 22, 2013, sec. N.Y. / Region.

Saulny, Susan. “In Baby Boomlet, Preschool Derby Is the Fiercest Yet.” The New York Times, March 3, 2006, sec. Education.

Simon, Marc H., and Matthew Makar. Nursery University. DOCURAMA, 2009.

Spodek, Bernard, and Olivia N. Saracho. 1994. Right from the Start: Teaching Children Ages Three to Eight. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

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Stopping Traffic: Keeping Kids out of the School-to-Prison Pipeline

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The School-to-Prison Pipeline is a term coined to describe the funneling of elementary and secondary students from the classroom into the courtroom. Students are often guided toward the criminal justice system by policies utilized in schools by faculty, administration, and law enforcement; this ongoing process only increases recidivism rates among youth. Various reformers have developed strategies to combat the forces of the pipeline. These strategies tackle the multifaceted issue through a variety of means including altering school policies, working with students outside of school to change attitudes about education, and encouraging better relationships between students and faculty.

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) was enacted in April 1965 as a part of President Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty.” This federal statute funds primary and secondary education and places a strong emphasis on providing all students with equal access to education; additionally, ESEA focuses on high standards in schools and high levels of accountability. Despite the efforts of President Johnson to level the playing field for youth in the United States, inequality persists in the realm of public education. One such inequality is very apparent: students in low-income, urban areas are far more susceptible to the dangers of the School-to-Prison Pipeline. Various reformers have taken steps to halt the flow of students along the School-to-Prison pipeline since the ESEA was passed in 1965 although the problem persists today.

The Honorable Judge Steven Teske lives and serves as a justice in Clayton County, Georgia. Judge Teske has become renowned for his tactics in battling the school-to-prison pipeline. He looks at each and every youth offender with compassionate eyes and recognizes that they are, in fact, still young people with futures ahead of them. Teske exclaims in a blog post he writes for the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, “We have a duty to protect kids — we have a higher duty to protect the community! Detention can protect us or it can hurt us.” Judge Teske seeks to avoid incarceration for young people at all costs, encouraging a reentry into the community, schools, and involvement in mentoring, community service, or leadership programs to promote healthy self-image and to deter recidivism. He continuously makes an effort to provide juvenile offenders with alternate sentences including community service or anger management programs rather than sending them to prison. According to a study conducted by David S. Kirk and Robert J. Sampson:

“Among…students who steered clear of the juvenile justice system,  64 percent went on to graduate high school. In contrast, a mere 26 percent of arrested students graduated high school. Of those young adults without criminal records who graduated high school or obtained GED certification, 35 percent enrolled in four-year colleges. For arrestees, 16 percent subsequently enrolled in four-year colleges” (Kirk 47).

Judge Teske’s core approach, avoiding adolescent incarceration at all costs, is not only an effective means of rehabilitating youth offenders but more specifically, it encourages these offenders to alter their course and decreases recidivism for those individuals in the long run.

Another approach taken by the Honorable Judge Jimmie Edwards is very different, but also effective. Judge Edwards mirrors Judge Teske’s idea that the incarceration of youth ought to be avoided; however, his tactics for achieving this goal are different. Edwards established Innovative Concept Academy in 2009 in conjunction with MERS Goodwill, St. Louis Public Schools, and the Juvenile Court. ICA is the only school in the nation supervised by the court system, and welcomes youth offenders and juvenile delinquents in the hopes of rehabilitating them. The school’s mission statement is posted on their website; the site states that the goal of the organization is “to increase the protective factors available to these youth which are aimed at eliminating at-risk behaviors that negatively impact the St. Louis community.” The school was established to ensure that at-risk youth and juvenile offenders are offered a second chance at an education inside the walls of a schoolhouse that does not utilize zero tolerance policies, employ law enforcement officers as disciplinarians, or other harsh methods to punish students. The school offers a full curriculum in math, science, English, and history for all students. There is also an emphasis placed on extracurricular activities to both keep students out of trouble and to further “challenge their minds,” according to the school website.

The Youth and Congregations in Partnership Program (YCP) is a mentoring program run out of the Kings County District Attorney Office in Brooklyn, NY. This program is geared toward youth offenders between the ages of 13 and 22. All of these juveniles must fall within certain parameters to qualify for the program: they must be within the specified age range; they must have committed a misdemeanor (not a felony) and cannot have been previously convicted of sexual offenses, arson, or other very serious crimes. The Court must refer a youth to YCP; if they are accepted into the program they will avoid incarceration as long as they follow the guidelines laid out in a contract every participant is required to sign.

Each youth is assigned a Masters Social Worker and mentors from the local community. YCP has a relationship with various religious congregations, local community service organizations, and volunteers who offer their time and services to these juvenile offenders. In addition to the mentoring each youth receives, there are also comprehensive services made available to each individual such as anger management courses, family counseling, career readiness and job placement. The youth meet with their mentor and social worker regularly for one year. In order to graduate the program, each youth must attend their meetings, be present at every court appearance they are slated to make, partake in community service projects, remain in school, and if they are old enough, have a job. This is a multi-pronged approach that seeks to intervene on the youth’s behalf in all areas in order to rehabilitate offenders and prevent recidivism.

The school-to-prison pipeline has been shown to disparately affect minority students. Although YCP was not established to serve strictly minority youth, most of the members of the program are young African American or Latino males. This highlights some of the factors that contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline that are not part of the students’ school days. Parental incarceration, blatant racial discrimination both by the media and in school, placement into foster care, and overall heightened rates of imprisonment negatively impact African American students already at risk. “Black youth are increasingly likely to have a parent in prison — among those born in 1990, one in four black children had a father in prison by age 14” (Heitzeg 6). These unfortunate circumstances contribute to the vicious cycle of recidivism: when the authority figures in one’s life are incarcerated and the media expresses the notion that young, black men are future criminals, the stereotypes become the reality as these youth cannot separate their true identity and existence from the role they are told they will play. This label is difficult to shake and causes problems both in and out of school for these students, their families, and their educators.

Fig. 1 Percentage of U.S. Prison Population and Total U.S. Population by Race. 2003. Web. 18 April 2013.

Racial discrimination is highly problematic within the school-to-prison pipeline; some reformers suggest that in order to target the pipeline, an elimination of this racism is absolutely crucial. Positive Behavioral Supports (PBS) is “an evidence-based approach to improving school discipline shown to reduce disciplinary incidents, support gains in academic achievement, and improve staff morale and perceptions of school safety” ( This approach has become popular in some Midwestern schools; it is used to combat racism in conjunction with other means like “’beyond diversity trainings’ and trainings in culturally responsive pedagogy” (Cregor 7). Positive Behavioral Supports have been implemented both in schools and through daylong and residential programs; these programs encourage reopening lines of communication that have been dismantled, especially those between educators and students in the hopes that at-risk youth will not be exposed to exclusionary disciplinary policies and ultimately face detention when direct conversation between the two groups could result in avoiding punishment altogether.

One of two states that have addressed zero-tolerance policies in schools at a state level, Colorado passed Senate Bill 46, the “Smart School Discipline Bill,” in 2012. This bill became a reality due to the hard work of Padres y Jóvenes Unidos (PJU), a group of parents and students in Colorado who have joined together in an effort to encourage educational equality and justice. PJU works to tackle the harsh disciplinary practices employed in schools and places an emphasis on ending racial targeting in schools. Members have rallied together to hold schools to greater standards of accountability and have achieved great success. In September of 2010, PJU held a “Books Not Bars” conference which kick-started their legislative campaign by teaching parents and students about the forces behind the school-to-prison pipeline and utilizing student testimony about unfair treatment they receive in the classroom. By the spring of 2011, Colorado Senate Bill 133 “created a task force of elected officials, law enforcement, and community members to study the need for statewide discipline reform” ( Ultimately, the 2012 legislative session resulted in the Smart School Discipline Bill, an amendment to the Colorado School Finance Act (HB 1345), that calls for schools to change their disciplinary codes to include minimized referral of students to law enforcement officials and instead ensures that each and every student punishment suits the infraction committed.

Padres y Jóvenes Unidos emphasizes restorative justice, an approach that focuses on both victims and offenders in the face of conflict. Restorative justice programs, sometimes referred to as victim offender mediation programs (VOM), have been found to achieve great results. Four longitudinal studies conducted throughout the 1990’s looked at a total 1,298 juvenile offenders. Among those offenders, 619 did go through VOM and 679 did not. After one year data was collected about the recidivism rates of these youth: 19% of those youth who went through a victim offender mediation program were rearrested within one year; 28% of those youth who did not go through a VOM were rearrested within the same time frame (Nugent 1). Various organizations exist with the purpose of encouraging restorative justice in public schools across the nation and the groups seeking reform are not just made up of parents and students, but educators as well. For example, Teachers Unite is an educator-led membership group that seeks to bring restorative justice to New York public schools with the ultimate goal of reaching educational and social justice for all students. Restorative justice has been a positive force in slowing the movement of the school-to-prison pipeline.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) reports, “over 3 million students are suspended at least once each year and over 100,000 are expelled. U.S. public school discipline rates have never been higher—roughly double today what they were in the 1970s” (Cregor 5). Since the enactment of the ESEA, the rates of intense punishment have only increased; however, attempts have been made to curb suspensions and expulsions. Naturally, policy implementation has been a means of halting the pipeline in various areas across the United States. The second of two states to tackle school disciplinary policies at the state level is Florida. The state legislature of Florida amended state statutes pertaining to zero tolerance policies in school in response to the high rate of student arrests that occur in the state. Provision 1006.13 of the state statutes describes the “policy of zero tolerance for crime and victimization” in schools. Provision 1006.13 requires that zero-tolerance policies must be non-discriminatory and that schools thoroughly define which infractions will result in student arrest, as well as the establishment of “a procedure that provides each student with the opportunity for a review of the disciplinary action imposed.” The statute also limits the amount of time for which a student can be suspended and calls for schools to handle disciplinary infractions to the best of their abilities before contacting law enforcement officials. Refraining from arresting students for infractions like dress-code violations, minor incidents of vandalism (for example, the carving of one’s name in a desk), or tardiness limits the students’ involvement with the criminal justice system and prevents the relationships between students and teachers from irreparable damage.

The school-to-prison pipeline is a major issue that plagues elementary and secondary schools across the nation and leaves indelible marks on the youth of today.  Many reformers agree on the major driving forces behind the pipeline including racial targeting, overly harsh, exclusionary disciplinary policies in schools, poor communication between students and educators, and unnecessary incarceration of youth. In the documentary film The Lottery, education reformer Eva Moskowitz explains that when deciding where to build prisons, officials look at the reading levels of fourth and fifth grade African American males in public schools to determine the right locations. The fact that schools and academic performance of students is being linked to incarceration before offenses have even been committed highlight further the power of the pipeline. While various reform strategies including redirecting youth away from incarceration, the establishment of new schools for youth offenders, offender rehabilitation, positive behavioral support, restorative justice, and policy implementation have been very impressive efforts to divert the pipeline, we are in need of more and better strategies. The school-to-prison pipeline must be halted in order to protect our youth.

Works Cited

“2012 Florida Statutes.” Online Sunshine. Florida State Legislature, 01 May 2013. Web. 01 May 2013. <>.

Bush, Mike. “Judge Jimmie Edwards Sends Kids to School Instead of Prison.” KSDK, 22 Nov. 2011. Web. 18 Apr. 2013. <>.

“Community Juvenile Justice.” Juvenile Justice. Positive Behavior Supports, n.d. Web. 01 May 2013. <>.

Cregor, Matt, and Damon Hewitt. “Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline: A Survey from the Field.” Poverty & Race 20 (Jan.-Feb. 2011): 5-7. NAACP LDF. NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Jan.-Feb. 2011. Web. 29 Apr. 2013. <>.

Heitzeg, Nancy A. “Education Or Incarceration: Zero Tolerance Policies And the School to Prison Pipeline.” The Forum on Public Policy, 2009. Web. 23 Apr. 2013. <>.

“Home.” Home. Innovative Concept Academy, n.d. Web. 18 Apr. 2013. <>.

Kirk, David S., and Robert J. Sampson. “Juvenile Arrest and Collateral Educational Damage in the Transition to Adulthood.” Sociology of Education 86.1 (2012): 36-62. Web. 17 Apr. 2013. <>.

“Mission Statement.” Teachers Unite. Teachers Unite, n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2013. <>.

Nugent, William R., PhD, Mark S. Umbreit, PhD, Lizabeth Wiinamaki, and Jeff Paddock. “Participation in Victim-Offender Mediation Reduces Recidivism.” VOMA Connections 3 (Summer 1999): 1-12. Print.

“Policies Proposed, Change Demanded to End ‘School-to-Prison Pipeine'” Education Week – Rules for Engagement. 13 Dec. 2012 Web. 18 Apr. 2013. <>.

Sackler, Madeleine, dir. The Lottery. 2010. Film.

“Statewide Change: 2 Years in the Making.” Home. Padres Y Jóvenes Unidos, n.d. Web. 01 May 2013. <>.

“Study: Student Arrest Leads to Push Out, Low College Attendance.” Education Week – Inside School Research. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2013. <>.

Teske, Steven. “Resisting the Temptation of Jail: The Lesser of Two Evils.” Juvenile Justice Information Exchange. JJIE, 11 Mar. 2013. Web. 17 Apr. 2013. <>.

“The Smart School Discipline Law.” Home. Padres Y Jóvenes Unidos, n.d. Web. 01 May 2013. <>.





No Child Left Behind: How the Federal Government’s Expanded Control Over Public Education Has Compromised Students’ Hopes and Dreams

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As the widening gap between America’s haves and have-nots continues to cast an ominous cloud over a nation that allegedly provides its members with hopes and dreams, the public education system needs to be utilized as a tool capable of curbing income inequality.  Sadly, the pervasive achievement gap that exists in public schools has blackened the integrity of American democracy and directly perpetuates the nation’s grotesque rates of income inequality.    A firm believer in the power of education to transform society, prominent education reformer Horace Mann once said,

When we have spread competence through all the abodes of poverty, when we have substituted knowledge for ignorance in the minds of the whole people, when we have reformed the vicious and reclaimed the criminal, then may we invite all neighboring nations to behold the spectacle, and say to them, in the conscious elation of virtue, ‘Rejoice with me,’ for I have found that which was lost.  (666)

In 1983, the federal government began to take steps toward finding what is “lost” in public schools.  Under the direction of the Regan administration, the National Commission on Excellence in Education evaluated the school system and reported that educational “mediocrity” had put the nation at “risk” (ANAR 113).  In A Nation At Risk (ANAR), the Commission said, “Part of what is at risk is the promise first made on this continent: All, regardless of race or class or economic status, are entitled to a fair chance and to the tools for developing their individual powers of mind and spirit to the utmost” (115).   The Commission’s report and recognition that all children were not getting an equal education garnered national attention, prompting the federal government to craft educational reform strategies that would work toward improving schools and narrowing the achievement gap.  But why and how did the federal government’s authority over the public school system increase? With the release of ANAR, the general public, business leaders, and elected officials looked to the federal government to reform an educational system that was failing students and jeopardizing America’s economic system.  In the 1990’s, the popularity of accountability-based reform measures spread amongst federal government officials and gained momentum with reports of a Texas accountability model that had experienced success in closing the achievement gap. In result, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act was able to pass in 2002, giving the federal government unprecedented control over the functions and operations of the public school system as it mandated that States implement high-stakes testing and create cultures of accountability.

When the eighteen month study of the National Commission on Excellence in Education culminated in the unsettling conclusion that, “the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and people.  What was unimaginable a generation ago has begun to occur—others are matching and surpassing our educational attainments,” educational reform strategies on the federal level started to dominate national discussion (113).  Not only did the Commission report that American students had fallen well behind other industrialized nations on student achievement tests, but over ten percent of seventeen-year-olds were functionally illiterate and high school student’s scores on standardized tests were steadily declining (115).  Furthermore, the Commission recommended that high schools should adopt stronger graduation requirements, increase classroom instruction and administer more homework, and hold teachers to higher standards (25).  It recommended that high schools require all students to complete four years of English, three years of mathematics, three years of science, three years of social studies, and one semester of computer science (27).  Commenting on the principle goals of ANAR, Former assistant secretary of education Diane Ravitch says:

ANAR called for sensible, mainstream reforms to renew and repair our school system.  The reforms it recommended were appropriate to the nature of schools: strengthening the curriculum for all students; setting clear and reasonable high school graduation requirements that demonstrate students readiness for postsecondary education or the modern workplace; establishing clear and appropriate college entrance requirements; improving the quality of textbooks and tests; expecting students to spend more time on schoolwork; establishing higher requirements for new recruits into the teaching profession; and increasing teacher compensation. (30)

When ANAR released its recommendations, public opinion polls showed that mainstream concerns over educational quality had sharply risen.  Business leaders voiced that America’s ability to compete in a global economy would be undermined by the failures of the education system (McDonnel 27).  After all, the Commission said, “The world is indeed one global village.  We live among determined, well-educated, and strongly motivated competitors.  America’s position in the world may once have been reasonably secure with only a few exceptionally well-trained men and women.  It is no longer” (ANAR 14).  While, ANAR revealed the federal government’s rising concern over the well-being of the public school system and how this would impact the economy, its recommendations were developed with the intention that States would use the Report as a framework to guide their own, independent process of educational reform.  The Report advocated for standards-based reform, but it did not require the States to carry out its recommendations.  As the pressure to improve schools became more palpable, the federal governments’ incentive to reform public schools increased.

In the 1990’s, testing and accountability became the focal points of federal education reform plans in America (Ravitch 95). Before this transformation of ideology occurred, both President George H.W. Bush and President Clinton advocated for the creation of a system of national standards, but were unsuccessful in getting legislation passed (95-96).  Despite their failure to get reform measures passed, Bush and Clinton’s plans reflected the federal government’s growing desire to expand its role in public education.  While Bush’s America 2000 program and Clinton’s Goals 2000 program focused primarily on voluntary national standards and tests, a growing number of politicians became intoxicated by the idea that increased accountability would lead to a better school system.  Ravitch says, “In the 1990’s, elected officials of both parties came to accept as secular gospel the idea that testing and accountability would necessarily lead to better schools…It became a ritual for Republicans and Democrats alike to bemoan the lack of accountability in American public education…” (95-96).   These politicians pointed to a successful model of accountability in Texas, where officials claimed that the achievement gap between white and minority students was narrowing, as tangible evidence of the benefits to holding administrators, teachers, and students accountable in schools (96).  The growing popularity of accountability-based reform amongst elected officials, coupled with Texas’ success in raising test scores and graduation rates, led to the passing of NCLB, which gave the federal government unprecedented control over public education and how it operates.

The Bush administration’s NCLB Act contained a host of federal mandates that were all but forced on the States.  While the ANAR report provided the State’s with a template for standards-based reform, NCLB imposed high-stakes testing on the States and in doing so, altered the function of public school curriculums. Highlighting the differences between ANAR and NCLB, Ravitch says, “ANAR envisioned a public school system that offered a rich, well-balanced, and coherent curriculum…NCLB, by contrast, was bereft of any educational ideas.  It was a technocratic approach to school reform that measured ‘success’ only in relation to standardized test scores…” (29).   If a State refused to comply with the mandates laid out by NCLB, they risked losing millions of federally funded dollars for their public schools (29).  Commenting on the unprecedented level of federal involvement in public education, University of Rochester professor David Hursh said, “The passage of the No Child Left Behind Act marks the largest intervention of the federal government into education in the history of the United States” (Hursh).  So what did NCLB actually mandate?  In explaining NCLB, writers from said, “At the core of the No Child Left Behind Act were a number of measures designed to drive broad gains in student achievement and to hold states and schools more accountable for student progress” (  These measures included annual testing for grades three through eight in reading and math.  It also required that States bring one hundred percent of its students to proficiency levels on state tests by 2013-2014 (  If an individual school failed to make “adequate yearly progress” towards the overarching goal of one hundred percent student proficiency in back-to-back years, students would be given the opportunity to attend another public school. If a school continued to fail to make progress, the school would potentially be faced with “governance changes.”    Furthermore, states were required to develop annual report cards that charted student-achievement progress in different schools districts.  Teachers were to be held accountable as well.  Every teacher of a core content area had to be “highly qualified” in the subject matter that he or she taught (  And, in a culture of accountability created through NCLB, public school curriculums were narrowed because of the strong emphasis placed on high-stakes tests that could make or break the futures of both teachers and students.

According to Hursh, NCLB was passed primarily because of its grand promise to provide every American child with a quality education and close the achievement gap between white and minority students (Hursh).  But did NCLB lived up to this promise?   A 2006 study by the Harvard Civil Rights Project found that under NCLB,

Neither a significant rise in achievement, nor closure of the racial achievement gaps is being achieved. Small early gains in math have reverted to the preexisting pattern. If that is true, all the pressure and sanctions have, so far, been in vain or even counterproductive…. On the issue of closing the gap for minority and poor children, a central goal of NCLB, there are also no significant changes since NCLB was enacted. (Hursh)

Not only did NCLB fail to live up to its high expectations, but it also forced teachers to narrow curriculums because of the importance placed on bringing all students to proficiency levels on high-stakes tests (Ravitch 107).  For example, a 2007 report by The Center on Education Policy found that in a nationally represented group of school districts, over sixty percent had increased class time spent on mathematics and reading while over forty percent had reduced the class time spent on science, social studies, and the arts (108).  Six years after Harvard Civil Rights Project’s finding, in a 2012 interview, Ravitch went ever farther in her criticism of NCLB.  She said,

After 10 years of NCLB, we should have seen dramatic progress on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, but we have not. By now, we should be able to point to sharp reductions of the achievement gaps between children of different racial and ethnic groups and children from different income groups, but we cannot…many children continue to be left behind, and we know who those children are: They are the same children who were left behind 10 years ago. (Strauss)

If NCLB has not worked towards eliminating poverty and closing the achievement gap that perpetuates income inequality, how can the public school system be improved moving forward?

Deeply embedded into the minds of many prominent American educational reformers is the redemptive belief that if operated properly, the public education system can provide its citizens with an opportunity to achieve a more perfect society.  For example, in 1848, Horace Mann argued that the greatest combater of social inequality is education.  He said, “Education…beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer of the conditions of men, — the balance-wheel of the social machinery”  (669).  Sharing Mann’s sentiments on the relationship between education and society, in 1900, reformer John Dewey warned against an unequal educational system, saying, “What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all of its children.  Any other ideal for our schools is narrow and unlovely; acted upon, it destroys our democracy” (19).  In 1904, President of the National Federation of Teachers Margaret A. Haley said that the “fundamental object of the public school in a democracy” is to “preserve and develop the democratic ideal” (145).   As these educational reformers suggest, the quality of education that children receive has a lasting impact on the quality of democracy they live in.  With this in mind, it becomes clear that the high-stakes tests that currently define and dictate public school curriculums need to be eradicated and replaced with well-balanced curriculums that prepare students to become active participants in American democracy.  Ravitch says, “Tests are necessary and helpful.  But tests must be supplemented by human judgment.  When we define what matters in education only by what we can measure, we are in serious trouble.  When that happens, we tend to forget that schools are responsible for shaping character, developing sound minds in healthy bodies, and forming citizens for our democracy…” (167).  Under the current conditions set forth by NCLB, the American public school system has sadly become an establishment solely concerned with high-stakes tests.   If the federal government wants to positively impact the educational system, it must heed the words of the long-list of above-mentioned reformers and transform public schools into institutions that preserve and extend the democratic ideal that every child deserves to have hopes and dreams.

Works Cited

Dewey, John.  The School and Society.  3rd ed.  Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1900.  University of California Lib.  Hathi Trust Digital Library.  Web. 26 April 2013.

Haley, Margaret. “Why Teachers Should Organize.” National Educational Association. Journal of Addresses and Proceedings of the Forty-Third Annual Meeting, 145–152. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1904.  University of Illinois Lib.  Hathi Trust Digital Library.  Web.  27 April 2013.

Hursh, David.  “Exacerbating Inequality: The Failed Promise of the No Child Left Behind Act.”  Race Ethnicity and Education 10.3 (2007): 295-308.  Web.  28 April 2013.

Mann, Horace.  Life and Works of Horace Mann.  Ed.  Mary Mann.  Vol. 3.  Boston: Horace B. Fuller, 1868. University of California Lib.  Hathi Trust Digital Library.   Web. 27 April 2013.

McDonnell, Lorraine M.  “No Child Left Behind and the Federal Role in Education: Evolution or Revolution?”  Peabody Journal of Education 80.2 (2005): 19-38.  Web.  28 April 2013.

National Commission on Excellence in Education.  “A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform.” The Elementary School Journal 84.2 (1983): 112-130.  Web.  25 April 2013.

“No Child Left Behind.”  Education Week, 19 Sept. 2011.  Web.  27 April 2013.

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

Strauss, Valerie.  “Ravitch: No Child Left Behind and the Damage Done.”  The Washington Post Company.  10 Jan. 2012.  Web.  27 April 2013.






Saving a City: New Haven’s Minority Teachers and Community Organizations

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For long, New Haven has been known as the “murder capital” of Connecticut and at one point was considered one of the most dangerous cities to live in throughout the entire country. Growing up in the inner city, some may feel perfectly fine. However, there are some that have the fear of being shot at in the morning waiting at the bus stop or celebrating a team victory with family and friends. Living in a home with a father who has been a high school principal in New Haven Public Schools for close to 20 years, many New Haven residents give credit to African American educators as community leaders and are the leading factors for helping improve neighborhoods with a high volume of crime and schools with high dropout rates. Apparently, having more African American leaders within an urban school can ultimately change the learning culture. While examining the relationship between minority teachers and student outcomes, it leads to the question of: has the hiring of African American educators in New Haven public schools actually led to an increase in the graduation rate and/or led to a decrease in the crime rate, or is this simply a perception by the public?

While people [from New Haven] believe that the increase of African-American educators

Percentage of minority teachers decreases

has increased the graduation rate and decreased the crime rate, in reality, community organizations deserve the credit for helping to reshape the city and its schools. Of the students attending New Haven schools, the majority of them are of the Black or Latino race. It is true that many students would agree that it is those teachers of color that helped motivate them to do better in school and plan a future for themselves. However, over the last decade, the number of minority teachers has been decreasing each year. Although it is almost a surprise that the number of African-American teachers have decreased, what are the underlying factors that helped produce such numbers that is improving the city’s graduation numbers and high volume of violent crime?

Crime History

New Haven 4th dangerous City

For those who know of New Haven, the first thing that the city is associated with, even before Yale, is the amounts of violent crime that the city has seen in recent years. Just in 2010, “The Elm City follows Flint, Mich., Detroit, Mich. and St. Louis, Mo. as the U.S. city with the largest violent crime to population ratio”[1]. Of the violent crimes, shootings are the main issues and it is our youth who are the main culprits and victims. Newhallville, one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in New Haven, is the home of 80% of the violent crimes that take place within the city. Just by word of mouth people are afraid to go through “The ‘Ville” during the day or the night simply because they are afraid of being robbed or even shot at for wearing the wrong colors. One of the main causal factors of this violent history is due to the distribution of drugs.

From 2008-2010 Newhallville had been run by drug lord, 40 Cal Al, who was just a teenager, and someone who I went to high school with. Affiliated with a 30 member gang known as R2: BWE (Read St: Beef with Everybody), they were known as definitely one of the hardest crews in town. “If you have a problem with them, your life is on the line. It’s not a crew that shoots you in your legs”[2] states a member of New Haven’s Street Outreach Program. Over several years leading up to the gang members’ arrests in 2010 they had been tied to numerous murders, attempted armed assaults on cops, aggravated assaults, firearms discharges, and street robberies. Ranging from ages 14 to 17 years old, these members sold drugs and attacked random people just to gain credit on the streets.[3]

Average SAT scores

As early as 1995, when the New Haven Gang task forces were able to shut down many of the national gangs that were led by adults, the city’s youth began to take over from what they learned from their parents who had either been killed or incarcerated. “The city’s kids took the lesson to heart: you fight for what you stand for. And, in the temporary absence of strong gangs to stand for, they stood for the only thing they had left: their neighborhoods”[4]. Reflecting from the amount of crime, New Haven was also known for its low performing test scores and low graduation rate. In 2004, two of the largest public high schools in New Haven were only graduating nearly 68% percent of its seniors, while the average SAT scores were just over 800 which were much lower than the state average[5]. This was definitely a problem because students were spending much more time on the streets, rather than in school.

As Crime Rate Drops, Graduation Rate Rises

According to the crime information from the Department of Police Services, the number of homicides recorded from 2003-2009 have decreased by 3%[6]

Crime rate

and the graduation has increased by nearly 15%[7]. The fact that less shooting are occurring within the city means that less teens are spending most of their time dealing drugs and holding guns, and are actually going to school. Kermit Carolina, New Haven mayoral candidate, and current James Hillhouse principal is one of many African American educators who is receiving credits for these statistics. Students feel that Carolina, as well as several other minority educators are “so driven, inspired and determined to support, nurture and encourage their children — their students” and have never encountered such teachers like that in previous years[8]. Just this year New Haven Public schools has increased its graduation rate from 58-70 percent. The underlying factor however is not the increase of minority teachers within the school. Although, there is note the Board of Education has been initiating programs with the police to identify students who are considered to be involved with gang activity, the number of minority staff decreases each year. According to the New Haven Register, “the hard work and perseverance of city students, who with parents, families and the community play a critical role in the success of School Change.”[9]

New Haven Promise Scholarship Motivates Students

City officials have said that the collaboration with community organizations, such as Yale University, Yale-New Haven Hospital, and the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven[10] have all contributed to the cleaning up of city and ultimately helping students to graduate and pursue college. However, to some students, chasing higher education is not always the reality. This consists of various reasons: financial, lack of motivation, or they do not know how to choose college. In Connecticut there are several universities: liberal arts, private, or public that the New Haven Promise Scholarship fund promises to assist any student who can maintain a 3.0 grade point average throughout high school. Though some may think that the college prep program begins in high school, it actually starts when children are first enrolled into kindergarten at New Haven Public Schools. The organizations motives are to create a “Pathway to Promise that is a Yearlong Journey to for a child’s Future Success that is going to create a college-going culture in all New Haven Public School preK-8 schools”[11]. As part of the inaugural class of the Promise scholars in 2011, it seems like the scholarship provides an atmosphere that motivates students to not only get a high school diploma, but eventually attend a university. Just in the past year the graduation rate has reached its highest in the last decade at 70.5% percent while 42% of the high school seniors have applied for the scholarship.[12] As the Promise’s Motto states, “work hard, get great grades, and look for a letter from us in July”[13] which gives students all of the motivation to exceed the best.

Programs that Benefit the Community

The Kiyama Movement, founded by New Haven resident as well as civil-rights activist and defense attorney Michael Jefferson, was developed “for the expressed purpose of challenging select behavior in the broader black community that serves to impede the collective advancement of black people.”[14] Jefferson believed that the reason why our schools were failing before is because our kids didn’t have someone in their ears telling them right from wrong. He states that this “dysfunction” in the city is caused by, “the fact that the black male does not receive the type of positive guidance that he should receive from other black males.”[15] Beginning in 2005 This “War on Ignorance” has a pledge each year, inaugurating 40 black men who swear to do all in their power to make this world a better place for their generation. “Kiyama has helped those young boys turn into men”, Jefferson states. “In the last 8 years I’ve had nearly 300 people take the pledge and they have all been positive in school and the community. After you make yourself a better person, then you help out the city, those who need it the most.”[16]

Since 2005, the Kiyama Movement has been working to get young men from the Newhallville area to take part in its pledge. In prior years, Newhallville, an urban neighborhood and possibly one with the highest crime rate in the city, had been suffering from its youth being taken in by the streets and ultimately dropping out of school. James Hillhouse High School, located right on the outskirts of Newhallville has been used as the home for the organization, recruiting its African American male students to take part in the “war on ignorance” and ultimately spreading the message along in order to resist self-destruction of the black community.

Newhallville as a "Promise Land"

Prior to 2003, the Dixwell “Q” House was a community center for students attend after school until their parents got out of work, but its main intentions were to keep them away from the negative influences of the urban streets.[17] Attending the “Q” House for numerous summers during my younger years I can say that it was very beneficial for the entire the community. Although there were many fights between the kids who also attended, it was much better to have that in a controlled environment where there were adults who could quickly resolve problems, rather than being on the streets where guns or other weapons could have easily gotten involved. The “Q” House served as an outlet for urban kids after the long school day and even weekends. Although academic achievement was not emphasized as much as it should have been, programs such as arts, dance, music, and recreational time were offered from the time school was out, until it was dinner time. While the city is fighting to bring back the “Q” House a new community center has opened to replace it. Opening in 2005 the Dixwell-Yale University Community Learning Center, run by Yale student interns, is a non-profit organization that has been home to nearly 10,000 students each year that participate in either after school or summer programs. This community based learning center, in the middle of an urban neighborhood has been known for its assistance in education improvements by offering tutoring, computer literacy, mentoring and athletics.[18]




To answer the question of has the hiring of more African American educators in New Haven Public Schools actually led to an increase in the graduation rate and/or led to a decrease in the crime rate, or is this simply a perception by the public? The answer is no, because statistics show, that each year from as far back as 1995, that the number of minority teachers has decreased by about 15%.

2008-09 percentage of minority staff

Although the community may perceive that it is indeed African American teachers who deserve credit for reshaping the city and its schools, it is actually community organizations who should be worthy of the recognition. Teaming up with community activist and Yale University, these community outreach programs are helping lead the city of New Haven and its schools to a bright future to come.





[1] Rosenfeld, Everett. “New Haven Fourth Most Dangerous City in U.S., According to Preliminary FBI Data.” Cross Campus, n.d.

[2] Bass, Oaul. “‘R2’ Gang Leaves Trail Of Violence  |  New Haven Independent.” New Haven Independent, March 26, 2012.

[3] Bass, Oaul. “‘R2’ Gang Leaves Trail Of Violence  |  New Haven Independent.” New Haven Independent, March 26, 2012.

[4] Weiner, Ali. “Pledging Allegiance” The News Journal, October 12,2010.




[8] Bailey, Melissa. “Hillhouse Rallies For Carolina  |  New Haven Independent.” New Haven Independent, January 10, 2012.

[9] Abdul-Karim, Shahid. “New Haven Public Schools Graduation Rate Grows to 70.5 Percent.” New Haven Register – Serving New Haven, CT, January 22, 2013.

[10] Abdul-Karim, Shahid. “New Haven Public Schools Graduation Rate Grows to 70.5 Percent.” New Haven Register – Serving New Haven, CT, January 22, 2013.


[12] Smith, Abbe. “More Students Than Expected Apply for New Haven Promise Program.” New Haven Register – Serving New Haven, CT, March 30, 2011.



[15] Ross, Andy. “Can Newhallville Become A ‘Promise Land’?  |  New Haven Independent.” New Haven Independent, March 1, 2011.

[16] Appel, Allan. “40 Black Men Take The ‘Kiyama’ Pledge  |  New Haven Independent.” New Haven Independent, May 24, 2010.

[17] Medina-Tayac, Sebastian. “Residents, Yalies Call for Q House.” Yale Daily News, October 11, 2012.


Diversification of Workforce: New York City and Chicago

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Diversification of the Teaching Workforce: New York City and Chicago

The sixties and seventies are world renowned as a time period of national progressive social change in the United States. These two decades were responsible for shaping political and social conflicts that highlighted the absence of many opportunities for people of diverse backgrounds in the United States. As the era of social change came to an end, an increased number of opportunities for people of color became widely available. In fact, during the last four decades, schools have opened their doors to students and teachers of a widely varied range of ethnicities. Because public schools have become increasingly diverse during the last 40 years, a demand for multicultural teachers has also increased. According to statistical data collected from the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, minority enrollment (students of Black and Hispanic background) made up roughly about 22% of the distribution of public school students. By 1999, minority enrollment was recorded at 38%. With these progressively increasing numbers, schools have started to question the reasoning behind the widening achievement gap that exists between students of color and white students. If multicultural teacher recruitment and retention is the key to closing the achievement gap, how much racial diversification has occurred in the teaching workforce since the 1960s? And how has it affected urban public schools and their students in large American cities such as New York and Chicago?

Although there are factors that may affect a student’s achievement, teachers are ultimately held liable for their student’s successes and failures. There is a large amount of data and research that ultimately prove that teachers have a great degree of influence on their students, especially if they are African American or Hispanic educators (for African American/ Hispanic students. Although the teaching workforce has not shown a tremendous increase in diversity (despite of the need for them), they have served as a changing force, ultimately having a positive effect on inner city students in New York City and Chicago.

Interpreting The Data

Diversification from a nationwide stance

Various scholars including Ana Maria Villegas, Tamara F. Lucas, Margaret Wilder, and Thomas S. Dee have argued that diversifying the teacher workforce has a positive effect on students of color that attend public inner-city schools. In his article, A Teacher Like Me: Does Race, Ethnicity, or Gender Matter? scholar Thomas S. Dee argues that there are teacher effects that ultimately help shape a student’s educational outcome. For instance, he states, “A related type of passive teacher effect is the phenomenon known as “stereotype threat”. Stereotype threat refers to the possibility that, in situations students perceive stereotypes might attach black students with white teachers they (students) experience an apprehension that retards their academic identification and subsequent achievement” (158). When white teachers are placed in school setting that serves predominantly students of color, academic performance may be inhibited in terms of test taking.  As the nation becomes increasingly diverse, it is important to take into account what school practices might help close the achievement gap.
In their study, Diversifying the Teacher Workforce: A Retrospective and Prospective Analysis, scholars Ana Maria Villegas and Tamara F. Lucas defend the reasoning behind enforcing the recruitment of diverse teachers, stating that there is a “growing disparity between minority student and minority teacher populations” (76). Contrary to popular assumption, data shows there was a great disparity between the percentage of student and teacher populations enrolled to teach and study at public high schools. According to Table 1 below, in 1971, the percentage of minority teachers in public elementary and secondary schools was 11.7%, while students were at 22.2%.

U.S. Department of Education, 2001; National Center for Education Statistics; Diversifying the Workforce: A Retrospective and Prospective Analysis

Data gathered from 1986 showed that there were only 9.4% of minority teachers enrolled at public elementary and secondary schools while the number of students increased to 30.9%. Surprisingly, the difference in percentage points nearly doubled in size- from 10.5 to 21.5 in about a 15-year span (1971-1986).

Similarly, data gathered by Villegas and Lucas showed that in 1987, 13.1% of elementary and secondary public school teachers considered racial/ethnic minority background. Unlike prior data collected, this table shows that there was some increase in the percentage of racial/ethnic minority teachers enrolled at public schools. In 1999 there was a reported 15.7% of racial minority educators teaching at elementary and secondary public schools. Although that is considered quantitative increase, it was certainly not enough to match the large percentage of students that were enrolled at the time.

Source from NCES, Diversification of the Workforce: A Retrospective and Prospective Analysis

How “diversified” is America in accordance to their regions?

            Analyzing the data provided by the National Center for Educational Statistics led to another quantitative search of the diversification of children enrolled in public schools within each region. Table 3-2 below demonstrates how data gathered by the NCES in October from 1972-99 shows that minority enrollment gradually rose from 18.6% to 31.8% in the 27-year span in the North East; while in the Midwest it nearly doubled from 12.5% to 24.0%. While these two regions account for different states and cities within them, it is important to remember that the need for diverse teachers was as equally important in big cities in the Midwest like Chicago, as those big cities in the Northeast like New York City.

National Center for Educational Statistics; Appendix Table 3-2

The Census School District Tabulation (STP2) provided a series of longitudinal datasets that shows even more specific data in regards to the ethnicities of children enrolled in public schools during the 1999-2000 school year. These datasets that were collected by the U.S. Census Bureau’s Population Division and sponsored by the National Center for Education Statistics, show that during the ‘99-‘00 school year, Chicago’s Public School District had a total of over 600,00 diverse students enrolled in the 299 public school district, which also happens to be the main district of the city. The New York 2000 Census recorded having about, 1,500,000 “non-white and ethnic students.”


Longitudinal Data collected from School District Demographics System; National Center for Education Statistics

“To some the teacher is in the best strategic position to further movements for a new social order”- New York City teacher union leader Henry Linville

While there is not an exact set of quantitative data provided by each of these states regarding the race of elementary and secondary school teachers, there are various accounts which take into consideration the fact that diverse teachers were and still are indefinitely scarce and very much needed in public school systems. For example, in her book Uncivil Rights: Teachers, Unions, and Race in the Battle for School Equity, author Jonna Perrillo writes,  “throughout much of the 1950s, the Teacher’s Union publicly exposed the shockingly low percentage of black teachers in the city and petitioned to train and hire more” (Perrillo p.7). They did this in attempts to diversify and integrate newly desegregated schools, in order to establish communities in diverse neighborhoods. In an attempt to desegregate the school, Perrillo writes, “the UFT recruited black teachers from the South to teach in the city’s schools, and also presented plans to integrate the schools as well” (Perrillo p.8). These plans to recruit and retain teachers came after it was reported that alarmingly low numbers of black teachers were enrolled as teachers in New York City, despite the growing population.

In her historical claim of the trials and tribulations of New York City teachers, Perrillo sheds light on the inequality issues many teachers faced during the late 1950s, and 1960s. In chapter three she notes, “While blacks made up 10 percent of the city’s population, less than 2 percent of the city’s licensed teachers were black” (p. 90). She goes on to state that there were many reasons behind the shortage of black teachers in the workforce, the main reason being discrimination against aspiring African American educators.  Perrillo claimed that the Department of Education disputed many unions’ attempts to diversify the workforce in fear that their jobs would be taken away. In chapter 4, named “An Educator’s Commitment”, Perrillo explains a theory proposed by the Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited group  (HARYOU) which states that, “our community has been controlled by people other than us…Such control was in the hands of educators who have successfully failed to educate blacks and Puerto Ricans in the past- and are afraid that Blacks and Puerto Ricans will do a better job” (p. 128). She goes to on explain that HARYOU was dedicated to educate the masses on the importance of having black teachers in the classroom. Perrillo noted that in New York City schools, “black children lacked positive role models in school extended both to the everyday curriculum and to those who taught it…because they better understood black students, HARYOU found, black teachers were often better to control their classes, and ultimately better teachers” (p. 128).

Parents that were able to see the effects of having their children educated by African-American/ Hispanic teachers versus white teachers were able to testify and rally against having such low numbers of minority teachers in New York City. According to Perrillo, “the problem resided in the fact that while half of the city’s public school students were black and Puerto Rican, less than 10 percent of teachers were” (p. 154). She goes on to state that parents petitioned this, asking for more minority teachers and “for white teachers and supervisors to undergo massive re-training that would bring about a change in attitude and rethinking of some traditional practices.”

Economist Thomas S. Dee further elaborates on the importance of having a teacher of color placed in diverse schools in his article, A Teacher Like Me: Does Race, Ethnicity or Gender Matter? Although he introduces his argument and claims through the notion of stereotype, the more important results lie in data he collected from the NELS88 Longitudinal study. In the data he collected and analyzed, Dee was able to conclude that both “white and minority students are likely to be perceived as disruptive by a teacher who does not share their racial/ethnic designation” (Dee p. 162). His main argument focuses on the notion that “the racial, ethnic, and gender dynamics between students and teachers have consistently large effects on teacher perceptions of student performance…the effects with race and ethnicity appear to be concentrated among students of low socioeconomic status” (Dee p. 163). His interpretation of the data only serves to back up the larger claim made by Jonna Perrillo, which emphasizes the importance of having diverse teachers teach diverse students.


What are the students saying?

Although there have been quantitative claims made by historians like Jonna Perrillo, and economists like Thomas S. Dee, one of the most important pieces of evidence to take into account when looking into the effectiveness of hiring diverse teachers is the opinion of the students themselves. For many years, there have been informal interviews about the positive effects teachers have on their students that are categorized as minority students. In a journal article named, Increasing African American Teachers’ Presence in American Schools: Voice of Students Who Care, author Margaret Wilder notes that researchers Beady and Hansell were able to find that a “teacher’s race was strongly associated with his or her expectations for students’ success” (Wilder p. 209). More specifically through her research, Wilder was able to find that African American teachers expected more out of their students than white teachers did. Through her studies, Wilder was able to find the effects of exposing African American children to African American teachers.

Wilder noted that while her six interviews had substantial information, which fully supported the diversification of the workforce, “that her findings were not representative of an entire population of African American students” (Wilder p. 212). In one of her interviews with a young woman named Rose, the female spoke wonderfully about her prior educator Ms. Rhodes.

Rose: “I never really had too many people in grade school who were real positive. In Upward Bound, I remember Ms. Rhodes. She is an African teacher. She taught us so much about Africa and where we came from and what we had to do. I mean, I love this lady so much. When you look at her, it’s like a glow. She just stands out so much, and she is such a powerful lady. She gave me a view that nobody else really . . . gave me. She really taught me a lot about my history. I never really thought about it before . . . It was the way she talked. When she talks I know everything she says is true. I know she probably would not lie to me or whatever. I mean, you just meet her and you fall in love with her” (p. 213).

This particular interview was a reflection of the interviews that Wilder had transcribed onto her article about the effects of African American teachers. All of the students that were interviewed spoke highly of their teachers, many recalling them as motivating forces in their life. Her interviews gave an insight as to the real effects of placing a teacher of a diverse background (which a student can relate to) in a classroom. Each student’s description of their relationships with their ethnic teachers were rich, and it seemed as if each student was actually invested in and empowered by what they were learning. All of the students always spoke fondly of their teachers and all of them were able to recall many meaningful moments and experiences with all of their racially diverse teachers during their elementary and secondary school careers.



            There has been a major underrepresentation of African American, Hispanic, Asian and other ethnic groups in the teaching workforce across the United States. Since the 1960s, many educational reformers have fought to diversify the teaching workforce through establishing guilds and teacher unions. However, their attempts to diversify the workforce has been shot down various times by those who head each state’s department of education (DOE). The United States has undergone a vast amount of social change in the last four decades, but that is still not reflected in our educational system. Each year, the achievement gap between African American/Hispanic students versus white students seems to increase. For many years, parents, educational reformers, and other social activists have fought to diversify the teaching workforce due to their belief that it is the key to closing the everlasting gap.

Because there has not been much quantitative evidence regarding the number of racially diverse teachers in New York and Chicago during the last thirty years, it is evident that there is indeed a shortage of African American/Hispanic teachers. Data collected from the National Center for Educational Statistics portray a small increase of racially diverse teachers within the workforce. The small numbers of ethnic teachers that dedicate their lives to educating children from inner city schools are known to make a difference despite the disparities that exists within each group. Studies such as those conducted by Margaret Wilder indeed show that despite the small amount in increase of the diversity of the workforce, teachers have made significant strides in terms of helping their students and even connecting with their students. Most, if not all of her interviewed youth praised all of their past educators, which is a clear statement on the importance of having students of color also educated by teachers of color.






Dee, Thomas S. “A Teacher like Me: Does Race, Ethnicity, or Gender Matter?” The American Economic Review 95.2 (2005): 158-65. Web.

NCES (National Center for Education Statistics). (1997). Selected characteristics of public school teachers: Spring 1961 to spring 1996. In Digest of Education Statistics, 1997.

NCES (National Center for Education Statistics). (1999). Table 3-1 Percentage Distribution of public school students enrolled in grades K-12 who were minorities: October 1972-99. In The Condition of Education, 2001.

NCES (National Center for Education Statistics). (1999). Table 3-2 Percentage distribution of public school students enrolled in grades k-12 who were minorities, by region: October 1972-99. In The Condition of Education, 2001.

Perrillo, Jonna. Uncivil Rights: Teachers, Unions, and Race in the Battle for School Equity. Chicago: University of Chicago, 2012. Print.


School District Demographics System. 2000 Census: Chicago District 299, New York City DOE. Accessed April 30th, 2013
Villegas, Ana María, and Tamara F. Lucas. “Diversifying the Teacher Workforce: A Retrospective and Prospective Analysis.” Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education 103.1 (2004): 70-104. Web.


Wilder, M. “Increasing African American Teachers’ Presence in American Schools: Voices of Students Who Care.” Urban Education 35.2 (2000): 205-20. Print.


Relinquishing the Remedy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Examining “The Unexamined Remedy”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






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












Relinquishing the Remedy: Why Didn’t This Happen?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is Education Reform Just the Same Thing Over and Over Again?

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“While we reform at a frenzied pace, we have rarely dug deeply enough into the underlying system of districts, schools, and teachers to start reshaping the educational landscape.”[1]—Frederick M. Hess

Education scholar Frederick M. Hess is the director of the Educational Policy at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, which is an American think tank. The quote above addresses his criticism of American education reform. According to Hess, while “new” education legislation is constantly created, none of them are powerful enough to disrupt the status quo and change the current education system. Hess argues rather that these education remedies only tweak former ones or claim to instate a new reform, while actually never introducing a new system. Is Fred Hess right? Are we just doing the same thing over and over again?

Through the analysis and comparison of President George W. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” bill and President Barack Obama’s “Race to the Top” grant program, it is apparent that Fred Hess is more accurate than America and education reformers may want to believe.  Overall, the lawmakers and education advocators of No Child Left Behind and the lawmakers and education advocators of Race to the Top agree in what public schools need in order to improve and be successful. Whereas the wording and minutia may be different between No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, the larger emphasis remains the same. Fred Hess is accurate that reformers have a tendency to get stuck on certain reform styles, such as accountability. Education reformers definitely also have a fear to completely dissociate from previous reforms in order to introduce something completely new and different. However, Hess does not give education reformers enough credit. While No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top are eerily similar in the sense of what reform styles they advocate for, analysis of congressional records display their attempts to amend the previous failures of Congress and the federal government when it comes to education reform.

President Bush argued during the debate of No Child Left Behind and education reform that, “public schools are America’s great hope, and making them work for every child is our Nation’s great duty.”[2]  As a result in 2001, the legislation bill H.R. 1 No Child Left Behind was passed by Congress. The main idea behind NCLB was solutions based on accountability, choice and flexibility in federal education programs. Furthermore, NCLB reauthorizes the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. The goals of No Child Left Behind are to close the achievement gap, create equal opportunity for every child, achieve proficiency in reading, and to improve low-performing schools.[3]

Increasing accountability for states, school districts, and schools is a major part of No Child Left Behind. NCLB required states to implement statewide accountability systems, mainly assessments, for all public schools and students. Congressman Cass Ballenger comments, “the bill takes a two-track approach, expanding flexibility for States and local school districts while holding them strictly accountable for increasing student achievement.”[4] With the data from these assessments, schools will be ranked. Schools that fail to meet the Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) received punishments. On the other side of the spectrum, schools that met or exceeded the AYP became eligible for State Academic Achievement Awards. In exchange for this increase in accountability, states received more flexibility in the use of federal education dollars.[5]

No Child Left Behind presented parents and students with greater accessibility and options for school choice. The fear that children would remain stuck attending low-performing public schools motivated this part of NCLB. Congressman Boehner comments again on the significance of school choice, “the bill also includes a school choice ‘safety valve’ for students trapped in chronically failing schools that fail to improve after three consecutive years of emergency aid.”[6] However, through a choice program, children would be able to attend a successful public school, which may include a charter school in the district. As a result, NCLB required state districts to provide transportation for these children attending non-district public schools such as public charter schools or magnet schools. It also required the use of Title I funds to obtain supplemental educational services from the public or private sector.[7]

With the implementation of No Child Left Behind, President Bush called for every student to be proficient in reading by the year of 2014. This statement is reflective of the stronger emphasis placed on reading in NCLB. A program, Reading First Initiative, helped increase federal investment in scientifically based reading instruction programs in the early grades. Other program changes within “No Child Left Behind” include class size reduction, English language support, and improving teacher quality. [8] With the change in presidency from President Bush to President Obama, a new education reform was established.

In 2010, after the passing of the Race to the Top program, President Obama claims, “we have an obligation to lift up every child in every school in this country, especially those who are starting out furthest behind.”[9] In 2009, with the help of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, President Obama passed the education incentive grant program Race to the Top. RTTT is designed to spur systematic reform and embrace innovative approaches to teaching and learning. Race to the Top calls for education reforms such as accountability, standards, improving teacher quality, charter schools, along with other reform styles. The goals of RTTT are to close the achievement gap, improve student achievement for all children, cultivate a society ready for college and the workforce, and improve low-performing schools.

A significant aspect of Race to the Top is the promotion of design and implementation of rigorous standards and quality assessments that are properly aligned with the standards. Greg Jones, Chairman of California Business for Education Excellence, participated in the Committee on Education and labor debate on April 29, 2009, reaffirming other congressmen opinions;

“First, it is not enough to have excellent standards. They have to be aligned test, meaningful accountability and high-quality instruction, as well. Second, holding all students to the same expectations, and reporting results publicly revealed disturbing achievement gaps based on race and economic levels. And, third, we have data that demonstrates irrefutably that these achievement gaps can be closed without lowering standards or expectations to meet them.”[10]

Race to the Top calls for a system of common academic standards created by the states, as well as the improvement of assessments to match these new standards. The idea behind these assessments is that the states will have more data to help them inform decisions and improve instruction. Additionally, RTTT calls to create a statewide longitudinal data system and to make results more accessible.

Attracting great teachers and more importantly, keeping great teachers is an essential emphasis of Obama’s Race to the Top education program. In order to achieve this goal, RTTT calls to expand effective teacher support and to reform and improve teacher prep programs. U.S. Representative Susan Davis comments on the grant program in relation to teachers, “Grants would provide support for rewarding teachers for improving student academic achievement, encouraging highly qualified, effective teachers to enter classrooms with high concentrations of poor children, and developing and implementing performance-based teacher compensation systems.”[11] Also, RTTT signals for the revision of teacher evaluation, compensation and retention policies in order to ensure that good teachers remain in the system and poor teachers do not. Lastly, it encourages the placing of the best teachers in the lowest-performing schools.

Race to the Top hopes to demonstrate and sustain education reform throughout the years. In order to achieve this end result, it encourages expanding support for high-performing public charters, increasing the focus on science and math education, and promoting the collaboration between business leaders, educators, and other stakeholders to raise student achievement. U.S. Representative Rush D. Holt Jr. comments on the emphasis placed on math and science education, “states that include in their Race to the Top application a high-quality plan to emphasize science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education will receive a competitive preference.”[12] Additionally, U.S. Representative Jared Polis comments on the importance of charter schools in RTTT, “replication and expansion of high-quality charter schools will play a central role in the Administration’s education reform agenda. The charter school program has provided over $2.2 billion in financial assistance to States since 1995 for the planning, program design, and initial implementation of charter schools, and the dissemination of information on charter schools.”[13] While Race to the Top calls for accountability, standards, and teacher improvement, it also calls for these other reforms.

Despite the continuous attempts to amend the American public school system, Fred Hess is accurate in the sense that federal education reformers are calling for “the same thing over and over again.”[14] Regardless of the fact that President Obama states in 2010 while defending his Race to the Top program, “‘we get comfortable with the status quo even when the status quo isn’t good. When you try to shake things up, sometimes people aren’t happy.’”[15] While the actual wording of the legislation may differ, both No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top apply the same reform styles to the education system, thereby not actually breaking the status quo. Both call for closing the achievement gap, accountability, standards, school choice, and improving teacher quality.

Although both of these legislations are calling for essentially the same thing, they differ slightly in the fine print. For example, No Child Left Behind focuses on reading, while Race to the Top places a greater emphasis on math and science education. Whereas, NCLB desires to have every child proficient in reading 2014, RTTT wants to increase the high school graduation rate and send more children to higher education facilities, such as college.

In some respects, Race to the Top is an amended version of No Child Left Behind. The analysis of congressional debates and records reveals that congressman and education reformers agree with what No Child Left Behind attempted to accomplish. In a Congressional meeting, U.S. Representative Michael Castle of Delaware asked Secretary Duncan, “In No Child Left Behind, we adopted having standards and assessments…You have also used that expression. I want to make sure I understand what we are talking about?”[16] Secretary Duncan responds, “And what I think NCLB got fundamentally wrong is they were very, very loose on the goals. So you have 50 states, 50 different goal posts, all over the map. And you are exactly right. Due to the political pressure, the vast majority of those standards got dummied down.”[17]

However, these debates and records also reveal the belief that the implementation of No Child Left Behind failed to achieve its goal. As a result, Congress and the Secretary of Education Arne Duncan modified the application of the reforms of No Child Left Behind such as calling for assessments to match the standards of the state.  Hon. Vernon J. Ehlers, a Representative in Congress from the State of Michigan states, “I look forward to working with President Obama, Secretary Duncan, and the Members of this Committee on reforming the No Child Left Behind Act…We must update this law with improvements.”[18] In addition to hoping to rectify flaws from No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top also added more reforms to complete their incentive grant program. For example, Race to the Top places emphasis on data systems as way to help improve instruction.

No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top are both examples of federal education reform. Federal education reform has historically always been a controversial topic. First off, it is extremely challenging for everyone to agree on what remedy should be applied to the schools in order to improve them. Moreover, the federal government has its limits within the realm of public education. In fact, journalist Bill Swindell states,  “education has historically been mostly a state and local matter. The federal government’s involvement began with the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act (PL 89-10), which provided aid to students in poor school districts.”[19] No Child Left Behind received criticism when it not only reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act but also introduced new sanctions.  Seemingly, in response to this criticism, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made a conscious decision to dial back the federal government’s involvement by incorporating federal education reform through an incentive grant program while also encouraging state governments to improve their public schools.

As a consequence of criticism from No Child Left Behind, the main difference between these two pieces of education reform legislation is their form. Patrick McGuinn comments on this difference. He states, “NCLB forced states to change many of their educational practices, but political resistance and capacity gaps at the state level meant that these changes were often more superficial than substantive.”[20] While on the other hand, “RTTT’s design—and specifically its use of a competitive grant process—was intended to avoid these problems by relying on incentives instead of sanctions to drive state reform.”[21] However, even with these differing styles of legislation, the application of these reforms is similar. In both instances if a school district does not follow the requested improvements then it will not receive federal funding.

If Race to the Top is not that different from No Child Left Behind, then how does education reform move forward? In order to move forward it is necessary to better understand the flaws with the current education reform. Fred Hess argues in an Education Next article “Taking Stock of a Decade of Reform” that there are three consistent problems with education reformers and their policies: “Problem One: Measures that are overly ambitious or poorly designed risk undermining popular support for sound and necessary reforms…Problem Two: Overpromising… Problem Three: Obsession with ‘gap closing.’”[22]  In other words, these education programs prevent “problem solving and policy tinkering,”[23] in order to improve not only the policy but also more importantly the schools. These reforms make it difficult to adapt the reforms to make sure that these reforms work when applied. Hess argues that with overpromising, education supporters are acting impatiently and as a result are “stifling creativity.”[24] Furthermore, Hess states, “for the past decade, school reform has been primarily about ‘closing achievement gaps’ by boosting math and reading proficiency and graduation rates, among black, Latino, and poor students.”[25] Both No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top embody all of these “problems”.

So where do education reformers go from here? According to Fred Hess, “building on the best of what remains of their architecture—and sweeping the rest out of the way—will take time and patience. But that’s what’s called for.”[26] In other words, education reformers need to stop trying to find the silver bullet and take a step back. Education advocators need to reflect on past reform and acknowledge what works and what does not. Collaboration with teachers and administrators in the school in order to discuss what actually works when implemented is necessary. Education reformers need to be patient and understand that education reform is not possible in one program. Rather, it is accomplished through a series of revisions and constant trial and error. In this essence, Race to the Top may be on the right track for federal education reform by looking at its mistakes in No Child Left Behind and attempting to improve the implementation of the reforms. However, Hess is right in the sense that Race to the Top still focuses on the same reform styles, just different methods.


[1] Frederick M. Hess, Same Thing Over and Over Again, ix.

[2] Public Papers of the President of the United States, 1020.

[3] Hon. John A. Boehner, Introduction of H.R. 1—the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, Congressional Record, Extension of Remarks, House of Representatives, One Hundred Seventh Congress, First Session, March 21, 2001, House of Representatives, 107th Cong. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2001, E437.

[4] House of Representatives, No Child Left Behind Act Rewards Progress, Corrects Failure, One Hundred and Seventh Congress, First Session, May, 16, 2001, 107th Cong. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2001, H2188.

[5] David Nather, “Student-Testing Drive Marks an Attitude Shift in Congress”, CQ Weekly, June 30, 2001, accessed on April 15, 2013,

[6] Introduction of H.R. 1—the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, E437.

[7] Nather, “Student-testing Drive Marks an Attitude Shift in Congress”,

[8] Nather, “Student-testing Drive Marks an Attitude Shift in Congress”,

[9] Associated Press, “Obama takes on critics of education plan” NBC News, July 29, 2010, accessed on April 15, 2013,

[10] House of Representatives, United States Congress. Strengthening America’s Competitiveness Through Common Academic Standards, Hearing Before the Committee on Education and Labor, One Hundred Eleventh Congress, First Session, April 29, 2009. 111th Cong. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2009, 25-26.

[11] House of Representatives, United States Congress, The Obama Administration’s Education Agenda, Hearing Before the Committee on Education and Labor, One Hundred Eleventh Congress, First Session, May 20, 2009, 111th Cong. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2009, 96.

[12] The Obama Administration’s Education Agenda, 87.

[13] The Obama Administration’s Education Agenda, 93.

[14] Hess, The Same Thing Over and Over Again, ix.

[15] “Obama takes on critics of education plan”,

[16] The Obama Administration’s Education Agenda, 30.

[17] The Obama Administration’s Education Agenda, 30-31.

[18] The Obama Administration’s Education Agenda, 52.

[19] Bill Swindell, “States Give Low Marks to Education Law,” CQ Weekly, April 10, 2004, accessed on April 15, 2013,

[20] Patrick McQuinn, “Stimulating Reform: Race to the Top, Competitive Grants and the Obama Education Agenda”, Educational Policy (November 28, 2011): 138.

[21] McQuinn, “Stimulating Reform: Race to the Top, Competitive Grants and the Obama Education Agenda”138.

[22] Fred Hess, “Taking Stock of a Decade of Reform,” Education Next, Spring 2001: 61-65.

[23] Hess, “Taking Stock of a Decade of Reform,” 63.

[24] Hess, “Taking Stock of a Decade of Reform,” 63.

[25] Hess, “Taking Stock of a Decade of Reform,” 65.

[26] Hess, “Taking Stock of a Decade of Reform,” 65.