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DeVos At The One-Year Mark; Black Lives Matter In Schools; Zero Tolerance

While Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has in some ways made little progress on her signature issue — school choice — she spent much of her 12 months in office undoing work that she and many conservatives viewed as overreach by the Obama administration. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images     It has been a year since Betsy DeVos was sworn in as education secretary, and this month marks the first anniversary of our weekly education news roundup! Let's pause to mark those moments ...

New York Regents Chancellor would Opt-Out

Controversies over the Common Core roll-out ultimately led former Chancellor of the New York Board of Regents Merryl Tisch to step down. To create more support for the Board of Regents, Betty Rosa was recently elected to replace Tisch as the chancellor. On her first day as Chancellor, Rosa said, “If I was a parent and I was not on the Board of Regents, I would opt out at this time.” Rosa stepped into office after 200,ooo New York students opted out of taking these standardized tests. Her job now is to bring together the Common Core opponents and supporters. Rosa herself is called a "renegade" because she and five other board members often vote against the majority on divisive issues. For example, she is against teacher evaluations because she, herself was once a special education teacher and a district superintendent. In a recent interview she said, “I’d like to get back to a system that is not one size fits all, a system that really is focused on children’s needs.” Rosa was also endorsed by the New York State Allies for Public Education, which organizes opt-out rallies and information forums, and is an organization The Franklin Foundation considers crucial to ensuring real change in the support for public schools in New York. But Rosa's success depends on how well she will work with others on the board. In the past, she had some issues with former Chancellor Tisch. In 2010, Rosa urged Tisch not to publish test results because she felt that they inaccurately portrayed a marked improvement in student performance. Now, Rosa is going to have to work with State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia, who had said that Common Core tests need to be tweaked, but not change completely. And at the press conference where Rosa was introduced as Tisch's successor, Elia and Vice Chancellor Andrew Brown stressed the changes to this year's tests, including that the tests will be shorter and students will have unlimited time to take them. And Rosa understands that this is going to be a problem.“When you have an institution as large as [the state education department] is and you have changes…you still have to proceed in a way that doesn’t create more turbulence in the field,” she said. “It’s going to be a process." For her first year, Rosa would like to work with the board to discuss how best to proceed....

kid in handcuffs

The School-to-Prison Pipeline

Within the last decade, mass incarceration has risen exponentially in the United States. With four percent of the world’s population and almost 25 percent of the world’s incarcerated population, the United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world. This is a 400 percent increase since 1984. However, the most affected individuals are youths. According to The Prison Policy Initiative, 41 percent of juveniles have been arrested by the time they turn 23, sometimes serving life sentences. This trend is called the "school-to-prison pipeline", wherein students are pushed out of schools and into the criminal justice system. Through juvenile courts, the United States incarcerates its youth more than any other country in the world. In 2002, approximately 126,000 youths were incarcerated in youth detention centers, while almost 500,000 are brought to these facilities in a given year.      “We are addicted to incarceration. We are addicted to the profits that come from incarceration. We are addicted to free labor, cheap labor…” -Mychal Denzel Smith In an interview with the Inside Out documentary, Mychal Denzel Smith noted that Americans are "addicted" to incarceration. Smith is a fellow at the Nation Institute, a non-profit organization focused on the protection and expansion of free press. Smith found that the prevalence of committed crimes has actually gone down in the last decade, but the rate of incarceration has risen. Smith explains that this inverse relation is caused by school-level practices. Educational researcher Christine Christle published evidence connecting the rising incarceration rates with these practices in The Journal of Special Education in 2005. Christle and her colleagues found that practices such as excessive policing, high-stakes testing, and zero-tolerance policies correlate with juvenile delinquency.  Community Coalition published a similar study highlighted in this info-graphic, depicting the school to prison and foster care to prison pipelines. A 2011 study done by the National Education Policy Center found that zero-tolerance policies such as the use of suspensions and detentions to punish students for minor offenses like dress code violations or cell phone use has “redefined students as criminals.” Furthermore, a student who is suspended three or more times before his or her sophomore year is five times as likely to drop out, while students who do not graduate are eight times more likely to be convicted felons and sent to prison, according to the National Juvenile Defender Center. In addition, Smith finds that the issue of race plays a much larger role in the incarceration of youths than previously thought. According to the same study done by the National Juvenile Defender Center, black and latino students are 3.5 and 1.5 times more likely to be suspended compared to their white peers, respectively, and collectively make up 70 percent of all arrests made in schools. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, police presence and security around schools have increased; however, schools still rely heavily on teachers, administrators, and poorly trained officers for discipline. With the incidence of school violence on the rise over the last 15 years, schools have been policed more heavily than...

In York PA education will be all about profit

In York PA education will be all about profit thanks to the Corbett administration who asked a judge to grant receivership of the district to a local businessman who intends to "sell" the district to a for-profit charter school corporation. Believe it or not, this all happened December 1st, and a PA judge granted the request on the 26th which is when the news broke, leaving parents caught completely off-guard. Unfortunately with all that has been going on in our communities and in the world some stories, even the important ones, fly completely under the radar. The district's Chief Recovery Officer, David Meckley, was appointed to his post by now outgoing governor Tom Corbett in 2012 to fix fiscal issues within the district. 2 years later, the best suggestion he could come up with was to sell the district and the futures of York's children out to a for-profit venture. This move now gives Mr. Meckley sole authority to make York, PA the first city in the nation to turn it's entire school district over to a for-profit education entity called Charter Schools USA. You can read the article on PennLive.com by clicking here. Mr. Meckley is not an educator, does not operate under the counsel of educators, and is able to act unilaterally without the support of the elected school board, administrators, or parents of the children being served by the district. My issue with this is two-fold. First, as a father of two I am bothered by the idea that my children's education can be decided by a person I did not elect to hold that decision in his or her hands. Recognizing that the York school district has had serious budget problems for sometime, we have to admit that many school districts have had a similar issue; and the use of political force to push an agenda here smacks of cronyism. York's parents simply aren't being given a choice - or even a say in what happens to their children's educations...

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