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A cheap intervention that helps needy students with top grades apply to elite colleges won’t fix higher education. So why is the idea dominating the conversation?
Both liberal-arts values and job training beyond the campus have a place in undergraduate education, as some colleges are showing.
Anne Bavier says she hadn’t expected to lead another school, but the international focus at the University of Texas at Arlington was hard to resist.
The association worries that colleges that host Confucius Institutes are ceding too much control over academic matters to the Chinese government.
Sometimes conflict is the starting point on the path to progress.
That’s one of two possible ways events could play out in the wake of Vergara v. California, a court case that is driving enormous debate throughout the education world.
Brought on behalf of nine public school students, the Vergara case argued that California’s laws on teacher tenure and placement violate the right to an education in the state constitution. The lawsuit claimed that minority and low-income students are deprived of effective teachers by state laws that, in essence, award lifetime employment to teachers after as little as 18 months, and that require layoffs on the basis of seniority.
Last week, a judge agreed, saying these laws deprive students of their civil rights. The decision affirmed the fundamental duty to ensure that all students, regardless of zip code, family income or skin color, receive a quality education – starting with an effective teacher.
The question is, what happens now?
One possibility is a series of appeals, probably stretching across years, and similar suits in other states and districts. Both sides have the millions such a fight would require. Improvements for teachers and students would be slow in coming.
I hope it doesn’t turn out that way.
There’s a second path – which is for all involved to recognize, as the court did, that the status quo is broken, and get to work on alternatives that serve students well – and respect and value teachers and the profession of teaching.
The second path may be harder to achieve. This country has plenty of experience at lawyering up. It has less at finding consensus on tough public issues.
But I am convinced it can be done. There is a common-sense path forward – built on a recognition that the interests of teachers and of disadvantaged students are not opposed, but aligned. With commitment and collaboration, we can create systems that do these vital things:
- Ensure that disadvantaged students have strong teachers
- Establish a meaningful bar for teacher tenure
- Retain the most effective teachers
- Make it possible to remove teachers who are ineffective, even after a meaningful period of support
Too much of the reaction to Vergara has suggested that the needs of students and of teachers are at odds. On the contrary, both students and teachers will benefit in systems that use wise practices, including high-quality, thoughtful supports and incentives, to ensure that all students – and especially the most disadvantaged — have effective teachers. Students and teachers both benefit when school systems take concrete steps to elevate the teaching profession, to recognize, listen to and learn from the most effective educators, and establish practices and career paths for educators that enable them to hold on to the most effective educators.
Tenure itself is not the issue here. I absolutely support job security for effective teachers. I think it’s vital to protect teachers from arbitrary or ill-motivated job actions. But giving teachers tenure after only 18 months in the job — a practice that Vergara challenged — is not a meaningful bar. Awarding tenure to someone without a track record of improving student achievement doesn’t respect the craft of teaching, and it doesn’t serve children well. Likewise, in the unfortunate circumstances when teachers must be laid off, letting them go solely on the basis of seniority, without taking quality into account, doesn’t serve our students well. Such policies ignore teachers’ effectiveness and undercut the public’s confidence in public education.
Instead, let’s create rewards —and reduce barriers — to attract and keep talented teachers and to develop inspiring school principals, especially in neighborhoods where children need the most help. The challenges that students growing up in poverty bring to school can be enormous. Our school systems should act on that understanding by ensuring that such students have especially skilled teachers, principals, and support staff.
Let’s recognize that as a nation, we have a responsibility to better prepare and support our teachers throughout their careers. Let’s recognize and celebrate the strongest teachers and find opportunities for those who are willing to mentor their peers to do so. Let’s pay teachers in a way that recognizes their real value and importance to our society. Through such steps, we can do a better job of keeping strong teachers at every stage of their career – from promising early-career teachers to accomplished teachers who can mentor their colleagues.
Let’s have a conversation that is national in scope but local in its solutions. Let’s find a way forward that supports both students and educators.
And let’s learn from high-performing nations that translate their respect for the value of teachers into action. These countries pay all teachers well, recognize excellence, and offer pay and career rewards for working with the neediest kids.
Elevating teaching and school leadership is an imperative everywhere in this country, and something we have long worked to support at the federal level.
Our RESPECT blueprint pulled together the thinking of thousands of educators to lay out a vision for how we as a nation can transform the profession of teaching; a new initiative, Teach to Lead, responds to some of their recommendations with new ideas for putting teachers in leadership roles, and builds on the many effective examples of distributed leadership at work in our schools today. We’ve also collaborated with national education organizations, including the two major teachers unions, to spotlight and learn from examples where labor and management are working effectively together to support students and educators.
We are also putting a strong focus on how we can support states and school districts in more equitably providing great teachers to all students – a focus intensified by the work of our Equity and Excellence Commission. Our new Race to the Top-Opportunity proposal would invest in states and districts willing to tackle persistent, systemic opportunity gaps in access to resources, coursework, and effective educators. And we are promoting policies and making investments that target the many other inequities that can unfairly harm a child’s home life, as well as their education, and reduce their chances of going to college, being successful in a career and contributing to society.
After a dramatic, emotional week, it can be hard to recognize that there’s common ground among people and organizations that tend to be opposite each other in courtrooms, on television and at bargaining tables. But we can align in the fight against academic failure.
It took enormous courage for 10th grader Beatriz Vergara and her eight co-plaintiffs to stand up and demand change to a broken status quo. It’ll take courage from all of us to come to consensus on new solutions.
Arne Duncan is U.S. Secretary of Education and the former CEO of Chicago’s public schools.
The scholarship program will help the company and ASU Online, and could pay broader benefits. "Imagine if 200 corporations were doing this," says Arizona State's president.
A letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan says the department’s proposal to toughen regulations could hurt students instead of helping them.
Contracts presented at an antitrust trial suggest that the NCAA and sports conferences specifically allow television networks to use players’ names and likenesses.
At the opening of the association’s annual meeting, professors hear pleas for campus policies to protect online speech.
A fixture in college basketball for 50 years, Mr. Vaccaro has been a fixture too in a California courtroom as the NCAA defends itself in a lawsuit he helped bring about.
Explore an exclusive interactive tool, based on data released by edX, that provides fresh insights about who takes massive open online courses.
This op-ed originally appeared in the National Journal.
This year the nation will commemorate two historic actions taken to protect equal rights: the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education — the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that abolished state-sponsored segregation in public education — and the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
We are left with an important question: Has the promise of Brown and the Civil Rights Act been fulfilled?
Most people agree that despite progress made, educational equity and opportunity remains out of reach for many students from diverse language and cultural backgrounds. For example, of all students enrolled in low-performing schools, 42 percent are black and 33 percent are Latino. Furthermore, these students are much more likely to be taught by teachers with less experience than those leading classrooms in more affluent, mostly white school districts.
There is some good news. Communities that recognize the value of language and cultural diversity have contributed to the proliferation of dual-language programs in schools across the country. California, Illinois, and New York all offer students what’s known as the Seal of Bi-literacy, a distinction that appears on the diplomas and transcripts of students who have become proficient in two or more languages by high school graduation.Legislation that would create a similar student recognition is either pending or under consideration in 10 other states.
Boosting the number of students able to speak, read, and write in more than one language—what President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan sometimes refer to as “bi-literacy skills”—has become essential to America’s future economic prosperity and national security.
We also have more work to do. According to the Education Department’s latest Civil Rights Data Collection, information compiled from all 97,000 of the nation’s public schools, black students (57 percent), Latino students (67 percent), and English learners (65 percent) have less access than their white, English-speaking peers (71 percent) to the kinds of rigorous math and science courses needed for college and many careers.
The CRDC also provides other evidence of unequal opportunity. Students in the process of learning English represent 5 percent of the nation’s high school students but only 2 percent of those enrolled in advanced-placement courses. Among students already proficient in English, about 7 percent participate in gifted and talented programs at their schools. That figure is three and a half times larger than the paltry 2 percent of students in the process of learning English who participate in similar programs.
In a country where the share of students who come from households where languages other than English are spoken at home is expanding, one has to wonder how much untapped potential is being squandered. How many exceptional minds are insufficiently challenged each day?
A number of recent incidents have also served to remind us that we have much more to do to ensure supportive, inclusionary, and egalitarian environments for all our children. Recently a school principal in Texas made headlines when she described the act of speaking Spanish as “disruptive” and prohibited it at school. Although the principal’s contract was not renewed and the ban on speaking Spanish lifted, this incident had a chilling effect on students and the community. It opened old wounds left from a time when this kind of language oppression was common.
Sadly, in the past year alone Education Department staff has heard similar stories during visits to schools in California, Colorado, Illinois, and Nevada. Students, parents, and even Hispanic teachers have reported being prohibited from speaking Spanish in all settings, including parent-teacher conferences. The agency’s Office for Civil Rights has also investigated several complaints alleging that school districts discriminate on the basis of national origin by prohibiting, and sometimes punishing, students for speaking in their native language. In 2013, the division received almost 80 official complaints containing allegations of discrimination on the basis of national origin involving services for English-learner students and/or communication with parents of limited English proficiency.
In many of these cases, districts have not been able to show valid educational justifications for these actions. Ironically, the reason given by many school administrators and districts for prohibiting Spanish is what I see as the misguided notion that this promotes more rapid learning of the English language.
As a former bilingual-education teacher, principal, and district superintendent, I have a hard time conceptualizing any valid educational justification for barring languages other than English from schools, making it more difficult for parents and teachers to communicate or sending the message to students that speaking a second language is a bad thing. Instead, it seems clear that these sorts of actions leave students and parents feeling excluded. Devaluing other languages and cultures is not only harmful to student identity and self-confidence, but can also be disruptive to the learning process.
In this country, we have a civic duty and moral obligation to be vigilant and courageous in taking appropriate action when we witness cases of mistreatment and exclusion of any student. We must embrace the richness and diversity that is our cultural and linguistic heritage. And, as we collectively face increasing global economic and political interdependency, equipping more students with the skills to read, speak, and write in multiple languages represents not only an advantage but an essential part of our country’s security.
Only when schools consistently do both will we realize the promise of Brown and the broader civil-rights movement.
Libia S. Gil is the assistant deputy secretary in the Education Department’s Office of English Language Acquisition.
Last Friday, I found myself in an elementary school classroom engaging with students on the topic of summer learning. Studies demonstrate that there is a notable trend of learning loss when young people do not engage in educational opportunities during summer months; thus, summer programs and activities are paramount to preventing the “summer slide”.
As I worked with the students, a light went on in my head as to how I conduct my own academic journey. Learning through action, discovery, and self-exploration can be as valuable as classroom experiences. These instances of experiential learning give me the chance to take classroom theories and practice them. What better time to engage in experiential learning than during the months away from school!
Whether it is getting involved with an internship or simply a local service organization, I challenge all students—especially those in high school and college— to step out of their comfort zones and try something new:
- Start your search by determining if your school has a service program; my college has an “Applied Study Term” option that allows us to take a semester off from coursework to grow in the community. These programs are often paired with grant and scholarship opportunities to cover incidental costs. If you’re still in high school, reach out to local organizations, like a community center, a museum, a youth group, or even your own school or library.
- Once you’ve narrowed your interests, contact relevant organizations for an interview. I dare you to pick an organization based on the personal contribution you can make to it rather than its name or prestige. Being able to “own” your assignments will help you discover your passions.
- Now that you have found a niche, make sure to have fun and connect your experiences over the summer with classroom knowledge. Your mind grows brighter with every light bulb moment.
They always say that the most important lessons in life come from experiencing it; ironically, my lesson still happened in a classroom through my summer internship with ED, just 822 miles away from home.
Michael Lotspeich is an intern in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach and a junior at the University of Illinois-Springfield.
Income from business activities outside an entity's tax-exempt purpose is taxable, but the IRS isn’t always clear about what constitutes such income, an advisory group found.
The commission that was set to terminate the college’s accreditation this year has proposed a new status, "restoration," that would give the institution more time to fix its problems.
His letter to the Office for Civil Rights shows that young men are often as unhappy with college investigations into alleged sexual assaults as are their accusers.
A professor on one campus and the president of another are among this year’s biggest success stories for the maverick movement.
A searchable list of the nearly 300 faculty members who have gone on to serve in Congress since 1774.
A stunning upset in a Virginia primary election has turned faculty members into political opponents at Randolph-Macon College. Here’s how they measure up academically.
In a procedural vote, Democrats fell four votes short of the 60 they needed to bring the measure to the Senate floor.