Study: South should spend on schools, train homegrown talent

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As teachers in multiple states protest for better pay, a new study warns that the fast-growing South region must invest more in public schools and higher education to ensure its homegrown talent shares in its economic prosperity.

The State of the South 2018 report, released Tuesday, found that 13 states across the region have failed to adequately invest in public schools, higher education and other resources to prepare the next generation of workers. At the same time, the region has relied heavily on an influx of newcomers with college degrees to fill higher-paying jobs.

Those discrepancies indicate that the region’s commitment to improving public schools and higher education has eroded since the Great Recession that started in 2007, the study said. Eight out of 10 southern children are educated in public schools, yet “a decade of budgetary austerity has left most states with a lower relative level of public investment in public schools and higher education than before the Great Recession,” according to the report.

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Baltimore Mayor Pugh and Laura Ingraham Go At It Over Gun Protest

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60 years after Brown v. Board of Education, how racially balanced are America’s public schools?

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’s been more than 60 years since the Supreme Court, in Brown v. Board of Education, ruled “separate but equal” schools unconstitutional. In that time, school populations have diversified, thanks in large part to an increase in the numbers of Hispanic and Asian students attending U.S. schools.

But how closely do America’s traditional public and charter schools look like the communities they serve? And if schools’ student bodies don’t reflect their neighborhoods’ racial makeup, how come?

In “Balancing Act: Schools, Neighborhoods, and Racial Imbalance” (PDF), Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst, Richard V. Reeves, Nathan Joo, and Pete Rodrigue examine the share of white, black, and Hispanic students at 86,109 public schools—both traditional and charters—across the country and identify schools whose racial imbalance with respect to their surrounding neighborhoods makes them ‘outliers’ within their states.

The analysis finds that though most schools are relatively similar to their surrounding neighborhoods in terms of racial makeup for white, black, and Hispanic students, there’s a lot of variation between school districts and states. Charter schools, in particular, display greater racial imbalances than traditional public schools and are on average 6 percent more black than their neighborhoods. When compared to traditional public schools, charter schools are on average approximately 14 percent more black, 22 percent less white, and 8 percent more Hispanic.

Want to see how your school compares to other schools within your district? Search for it in a new interactive, or read on for more top-level findings.

Most schools look like their neighborhoods

The authors find that many schools are similar, in terms of their racial composition, to the neighborhoods in which they are located. The average U.S. public school (including charter and magnet schools) is 2.6 percent less white, 1.8 percent more black, and 0.9 percent more Hispanic than its surrounding neighborhood.

More schools are “outliers” in terms of black student representation

Though most schools are similar to their surrounding neighborhoods, approximately one-third are outliers. Further, schools that qualify as outliers tend to have either an overrepresentation of black and Hispanic students, or an underrepresentation of white students.

To better understand what it means to be an outlier, it helps to understand more about the methodology. First, the authors match school to neighborhoods like this:


Then they determined whether a school is an outlier for each racial category (white, black, Hispanic) based on the degree to which the racial imbalance between a school and its neighborhood is substantially outside its own state’s pattern of school-neighborhood differences, assuming a normal distribution.

This means there are some schools—in Washington, D.C. or Mississippi, for instance—where the black or white student populations are underrepresented or overrepresented by as much as 30 percent compared to their neighborhoods, but aren’t classified as an outlier. That’s because the threshold for determining outliers varies by state, and some states or districts—like D.C. or Mississippi—have higher thresholds because the state’s range of imbalance scores is wider.

Charters show more racial imbalance, especially in terms of their black student populations. But why?

Charter schools tend to have an overrepresentation of black students compared to their surrounding neighborhoods. In contrast, Hispanics are underrepresented in charter schools. So why is this? The most obvious explanation is that charters allow students to attend schools outside of their neighborhoods. But as the authors argue, it’s a bit more complicated than that.

The authors find no substantial correlation between the quality of statewide charter school laws and racial imbalance. At the same time, they don’t find anything beyond a modest correlational relationship between the degree to which charter schools may act as substitutes to traditional public schools (based off of geographic proximity) and charter school racial imbalance.

Schools in some states show more racial imbalance than others

There is also significant state-level variation in the racial imbalance of schools. In the regions with higher minority concentration, the South (for black Americans) and the West (for Hispanic Americans), the chances of seeing larger racial imbalances in public schools increases.


The authors aren’t able to conclude whether this is because more minority density translates into more opportunity for minority populations to freely form more homogenous schools or because it translates into increased propensity for white-flight from the school system.

School district boundaries divide some communities along racial lines

For some school districts across the country, the way district lines have been drawn masks the extent to which schools don’t look like their surrounding neighborhoods in terms of race.

In Long Island, for example, school districts are quite small (the island is 1,400 square miles and has 125 districts, with the typical district having only one high school). When the authors relax the boundaries of their analysis and ignore district lines (incorporating schools outside of the school district, but within the 2-mile neighborhood radius), they find the racial imbalance in some of these “gerrymandered” school districts grows dramatically.

For more on how gerrymandered districts affect the racial makeup of some U.S. schools, read more on the Social Mobility Memos blog.


School-level data on racial imbalances can be valuable for a number of reasons, especially for local policymakers trying to understand the effect their policies may have on the racial makeup of local schools. Many localities such as Wake County, Boston, Charlotte, and Seattle have ended or substantially curtailed their efforts at K-12 school integration. Since 2000, at least 71 communities across the country have attempted to create new, smaller school districts (47 have been successful). Some fear such action could lead to greater segregation in public schools.

The authors emphasize caution, however, against drawing overly broad conclusions. The fact a school is more black than its surrounding neighborhood may be the result of intentional policy and is not necessarily good or bad. And when it comes to charters, the authors find it’s equally likely that they could lead to a deepening of segregation (in part by allowing for black students and white students to choose schools in which students of their race dominate enrollment) or they could reduce it and lead to greater equity (by loosening the connection between neighborhood and school).

The authors conclude that though recent history has seen a decrease in policy to encourage integration, it’s still possible to increase school diversity.

“The variation in the racial composition of schools across different districts shows that it is possible to increase integration. But it is important to be aware that this will be challenging given such high levels (still) of residential racial segregation, area based attendance policies, and a natural preference of many parents to send their children to a nearby school. Schools make the degree of residential segregation highly visible. School segregation is a symptom of residential segregation; which lies outside the scope of this paper.”

Read the full paper to learn more (PDF).

By Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst, Richard V. Reeves, Nathan Joo, and Edward Rodrigue

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Betsy DeVos reveals her longtime education secretary aspirations: “I literally had never given it a thought”

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Image: Quartz

Her Senate confirmation last week—won by a hair’s breadth—didn’t help to make US education secretary Betsy DeVos any less blisteringly controversial. Neither, surely, will this. In an interview with Axios’s Jonathan Swan published this morning, DeVos—a Michigan billionaire with no personal experience in public education—revealed she was apparently just as taken by surprise by president…

Recalled DeVos:

It was the day after the election that somebody with whom I’ve worked for a number of years actually e‑mailed and said, ‘Would you ever think about secretary of education?’I literally have never given it a thought. But if the opportunity ever presented itself, how could I not consider it?

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Texas: The Fight Against Vouchers Begins Again

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Texas has a Lt. Governor named Adan Patrick who hates public schools. Before he was elected to the legislature, he was a radio talk show host, a small-time rightwing shock jock. Patrick’s favorite cause is vouchers and defunding public schools.

He needs to be reminded that “school choice” originated as the battle cry of white segregationists after the Brown decision of 1954. But maybe he knows that.

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Teacher Protests: “Unethical” and Union-led–or Evidence of Professional Courage?

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Image: Education Week

It’s wrong to characterize this string of protests in Detroit as selfish actions taken by a minority of teachers–or a union-driven overreaction to a belt-tightening. There’s a lot at stake here, beginning with the survival of a major public school system. Think this could never happen in your state or district? There doesn’t seem to be much to prevent collapse of public education in Detroit, except for the professional courage of its teachers.

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America Is Criminalizing Black Teachers: Atlanta’s Cheating Scandal and the Racist Underbelly of Education Reform


Last week, an Atlanta jury convicted 11 teachers and school administrators of racketeering in a system-wide cheating scandal. Yes, you read that correctly. Teachers and administrators inflating student scores on standardized tests is now considered “organized crime” in this country, and is punishable by more 20 years in prison, in these cases.

I am an educator. I am a black woman who may someday mother a black child. I have taught other black mothers’ children. Much of my educational success in elementary school is directly attributable to high performance on standardized tests that caused my white teachers to notice me and intervene on my behalf to get me “tracked” into higher-achieving classrooms. I believe all children deserve access to a good, high-quality, public education.

Therefore, I don’t have to condone cheating in any form (and I don’t) to assert that what has happened in Atlanta to these teachers is a travesty. The pictures that emerged last week of handcuffed black schoolteachers being led out of Southern courtrooms in one of the country’s largest urban black school systems were absolutely heartbreaking.

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