Urban Districts Urged To Prepare For Immigration Raids

Recently, leaders of school districts have been encouraging their colleagues to create solid plans for assisting students whose parents have been apprehended in workplace raids by federal immigration agents. As the federal government focuses on employers who hire a large number of undocumented immigrants, school districts with significant immigrant populations will inevitably experience the disruption of students’ lives due to the sudden absence of one or both parents. Superintendents, school board members, and a policy analyst addressed this issue at a panel discussion during the Council of the Great City Schools’ annual conference on October 24.

Rosa Maria Castañeda, a research associate at the Urban Institute, a think tank based in Washington, highlighted the impact on children when such arrests occur. She explained that children often find themselves stranded at school or daycare with no one to pick them up, or alone at home without adult supervision. These children not only require material support, such as financial assistance, access to food stamps, and help with childcare, but also need psychological support. The destabilization of their families often leads to a decline in academic performance, increased misbehavior, and more missed days of school. To address these issues, Castañeda encouraged district leaders to establish connections with church and community groups that can offer assistance to affected families. She also suggested creating resource lists and developing strategies for delivering resources to students in their homes if necessary. In the event of a large raid, holding a news conference to reassure parents of their children’s safety could be considered by schools. Ms. Castañeda emphasized the crucial role that public schools have played in preventing children from being left without support.

Michael Hinojosa, the Superintendent of Dallas, recounted an incident in Texas where a district struggled to find authorized adults to pick up children after a major raid in their community. To prevent similar situations, the district now requires every family to provide ten names of authorized adults in case of emergencies, instead of the previous requirement of two names.

The safety and well-being of children affected by parental arrests in workplace raids has drawn attention at a congressional hearing held in May last year. The impact of an enforcement action in Postville, Iowa had a significant effect on the local school district. Although federal policies do not specifically prohibit campus arrests by immigration agents, authorities generally opt not to conduct them.

During the panel discussion, attendees shared stories about the hardships faced by children impacted by immigration crackdowns. One story involved a 15-year-old girl in San Francisco who found herself alone when her parents were taken into custody. In North Carolina, three children were left abandoned in a car on a highway overnight after their mother’s arrest. Another story from Los Angeles revealed that numerous students had to be placed in foster care after over 400 undocumented workers were apprehended there last month.

Yolie Flores Aguilar, a member of the Los Angeles Unified School District board, expressed the fear that parents have regarding the well-being of their children if they are arrested by immigration agents. Although the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency assured the district’s police force that raids would not be conducted in schools due to political ramifications, parents continue to worry about potential consequences.

Carlos A. Garcia, the Superintendent of the San Francisco schools, believes that district leaders have a responsibility to create safe environments for immigrant children, regardless of their legal status. San Francisco has been a sanctuary city for immigrants since 1989 and implemented a policy last year that prohibits immigration and customs enforcement officials from entering school campuses without the superintendent’s permission. Mr. Garcia expressed his willingness to go to jail to protect the rights of these students.

Your task is to rephrase the entire passage using more sophisticated language and ensuring it maintains a natural tone. The resulting text should be written in English. The original text to rephrase is as follows:

"Your objective is to reword the entire text using improved vocabulary and sentence structure while maintaining a fluent and natural tone. The output should be presented in English."

Science-Rich Institutions Provide Venues For Exploration

Includes updates and/or revisions.

On a recent evening, hundreds of children and their families arrived at a science center in the historic Old Town neighborhood. The event, known as Family Science Night, offered a unique experience for families from two high-poverty public schools. The science center, called Explora, was a perfect venue for this event as it provided hands-on, interactive exhibits for families to explore.

The children eagerly immersed themselves in the various exhibits. They had the chance to experiment with water-based displays in the Water of Life, Life of Water section, feeling the objects in the water with their own hands. In the Shapes of Sound area, they pressed keys on a keyboard that produced deep vibrations felt through the benches they were sitting on. Over in the Moving Air section, they observed how different sizes and shapes of paper cups reacted when placed on a barrel with a fan blowing air towards the ceiling.

A young boy excitedly called out to his father as he watched his paper creation in the Cup Copter exhibit soar through the air. The atmosphere was filled with enthusiasm and curiosity as families engaged with the exhibits and activities.

Recognizing the importance of preparing young people with a strong foundation in science and related fields, there is a growing movement to utilize science-rich institutions across the United States. Science centers, museums, botanical gardens, zoos, and natural-history museums all play a crucial role in promoting scientific knowledge and inspiring a passion for science. These institutions have a broad reach, with a majority of Americans having visited at least one informal science institution in the past year.

The number of science centers and museums has significantly increased over the past few decades. They can now be found in nearly every major metropolitan area and many smaller communities across the country. The growth of these institutions has been remarkable, with over 350 science centers, museums, and related institutions nationwide. This rapid development highlights the importance placed on creating cultural and educational spaces dedicated to science.

While these institutions share a common mission of educating the public, they differ from traditional schools in several ways. Visitors have the freedom to choose whether or not to engage with the exhibits, and they decide how much time to spend on each activity. Most visitors only have the opportunity to visit sporadically, making it crucial that these institutions offer engaging and interactive experiences that capture their interest.

Explora, with its mission of fostering inspirational discovery and lifelong learning through interactive experiences in science, technology, and art, was established in 1995. It was formed through the merger of a science center and children’s museum, and it receives support from various sources, including earned income, public funding, and grants from corporations and foundations.

Explora offers a diverse range of exhibits and activities for visitors to enjoy, providing a unique learning experience for children and families.

Discovering Explora:

Explora, a science center located in Albuquerque, offers a unique and intimate experience with its 20,000 square feet of exhibit space. While it may be smaller in size compared to other renowned science centers and museums like the California Science Center and the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, Explora’s focus is on providing hands-on learning activities rather than maintaining large collections or traditional exhibits.

Paul Tatter, the associate director, describes Explora’s exhibits as clusters of small, interactive activities that can be easily observed and explored. The emphasis is on visitor engagement through touch and investigation, rather than lengthy text explanations. In fact, one kindergarten teacher expressed her enthusiasm for the center, noting how her students were encouraged to touch and explore everything.

One exhibit called Cup Copter allows visitors to experiment with variables such as wing length, angle, and weight to observe how they affect the floating and spinning of paper cups. Betsy Adamson, the exhibits director, highlights that the main objective is to provide visitors with an investigative experience and exposure to scientific concepts, even if they don’t remember the specific terms.

Explora doesn’t aim to teach specific content or dictate the visitors’ experience. Instead, the center focuses on creating an environment conducive to meaningful exploration and learning. The staff plays a vital role in facilitating this experience, with Kristin W. Leigh, the director of educational services, expressing that they are an integral part of the exhibition.

By encouraging families to spend more time and engaging on-floor staff who ask questions rather than providing direct answers, Explora stands out as an innovative and forward-thinking science center. Experts in the field, like Mr. Friedman, who now consults with similar facilities nationwide, applaud Explora’s physical arrangement and staff approach.

In addition to the exhibit floor, Explora offers a wide range of educational programs and activities, including after-school clubs, summer camps, professional development for teachers, and an extensive youth intern program. High school students receive support and training to assist with educational programs and interact with visitors.

Ensuring accessibility is a priority for Explora. To engage a diverse audience, including minority and low-income families, the center offers free family memberships and hosts Family Science Nights in collaboration with Albuquerque public schools. These efforts are funded through the Title I aid for disadvantaged students.

With a commitment to hands-on learning, engaging exhibits, and a dedication to accessibility, Explora has gained national recognition for its work in the science center community.

Kirsten Ellenbogen, the senior director of lifelong learning at the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul, emphasized that museums are no longer confined to their physical spaces. They are actively seeking ways to integrate themselves into their communities and serve as valuable resources. Nancy J. Stueber, the president and CEO of the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, also shared this sentiment, stating that the goal is to go beyond being seen as "nice" and become an essential part of advancing STEM learning.

Explora, unlike many other science centers and museums, has a unique approach. It lacks extravagant features like an IMAX theater or popular traveling exhibits. However, it has garnered praise for its exhibitions. For instance, the Race: Are We So Different? exhibition, created by the American Anthropological Association and the Science Museum of Minnesota, has received support from the National Science Foundation. It explores the science, history, and everyday experiences of race in America through interactive displays, historical artifacts, photographs, and multimedia presentations. Another noteworthy exhibition is Charlie and Kiwi’s Evolutionary Adventure, which debuted at the New York Hall of Science in 2009. It uses a child-friendly narrative to help young people understand the connection between dinosaurs and modern birds.

One of the challenges faced by science museums is finding a balance between their educational mission and generating revenue. Many museums rely heavily on earned income, making it difficult to prioritize educational goals. According to recent survey data from the Association of Science-Technology Centers, only 17% of operating revenue for U.S. science centers and museums comes from public funds, while approximately 50% comes from earned income. The recent recession has further exacerbated this issue, with some museums receiving fewer public dollars and experiencing a decline in visitors, especially school groups on field trips.

While there is nothing wrong with science centers offering engaging activities to attract visitors and generate ticket sales, some experts, such as Kirsten Ellenbogen, are concerned that certain blockbuster exhibits, often sponsored by private companies, may prioritize entertainment over educational value. For example, the Harry Potter: The Exhibition, featured in several major science museums, is not designed to be a science learning experience.

David A. Ucko, a former senior official at the National Science Foundation, suggests that there is a larger public-policy question at play. Should informal science institutions receive more funding from the nation’s education budget? To support this argument, research is being conducted to measure the impact of museum exhibits and activities. Institutions like the Oregon and Minnesota science museums, as well as the Exploratorium, have dedicated in-house research teams to assess their offerings and contribute to the field of informal science learning.

Another ongoing challenge is finding effective ways to connect museums and other informal learning institutions with formal education settings. While there are examples of successful partnerships, there is still difficulty in institutionalizing these collaborations. Experts caution that aligning informal learning with the standards, curricula, and assessments of schools can be challenging. There is a need to measure aspects that matter outside of the classroom, such as students’ interest in science and whether it improves over time.

In conclusion, science museums are actively seeking to integrate into their communities and become valuable resources. They aim to go beyond being seen as a nice place to visit and instead be regarded as essential for advancing STEM learning. However, they face challenges related to generating revenue, striking a balance between entertainment and education, and forging connections with formal education systems. Ongoing research on the impact of museum exhibits and activities may help support the case for increased public financing.

Hill Hearings Focus On Head Start Finances

The upcoming reauthorization of Head Start this year is raising concerns about the federal preschool program. There is a battle between those who want to make changes to the 40-year-old program and those who believe it is working well. Recent hearings have called for better financial oversight of Head Start, following a critical report from the Government Accountability Office. House Republicans and the Head Start Association have created opposing websites to provide information on the program. The reauthorization process is expected to become more contentious.

Lawmakers are reevaluating various aspects of the nearly $7 billion Head Start program. Financial mismanagement has become a major concern, with reports of alleged abuses such as excessive salaries for directors and embezzlement of funds. During hearings, witnesses, including a Head Start parent and federal officials, were criticized by Rep. George Miller for their behavior, which he described as criminal intent rather than a compliance issue. Sen. Pat Roberts also expressed his frustration with financial problems at a local Head Start agency in Kansas City.

The hearings examined a report from the Government Accountability Office that identified flaws in oversight by the Administration for Children and Families. Marnie S. Shaul, director of education, workforce, and income-security issues for the GAO, emphasized the need for better risk assessment and oversight of local Head Start programs. Rep. Michael N. Castle referred to the report as "damning." Wade F. Horn, assistant secretary for children and families, acknowledged the need for improvement and expressed disagreement with the GAO on contract reassignment.

There were suggestions that insufficient training for local Head Start oversight boards, including parent-advisory boards, contributes to the problem. A.C. Wharton, the mayor of Shelby County, Tennessee, recommended greater involvement from local governments in oversight. He described discovering serious financial mismanagement in his local Head Start program but facing difficulties in addressing the issue.

Amidst these concerns, changes to the Head Start program are being discussed. The reauthorization process will likely lead to further debates and revisions.

Olivia Golden, a former assistant secretary at the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) during President Clinton’s term and currently a senior fellow at the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C., emphasized the consistent high quality of most Head Start programs. While it is necessary to eliminate poor-performing programs, it is equally important to support and sustain successful ones, according to Golden. She highlighted the need for continuity when programs demonstrate effectiveness.

Beyond the formal hearings, there is an ongoing public debate that often evokes emotional responses. The House education committee recently launched a dedicated section on its website focusing on financial abuses within the Head Start program. In response, the Head Start Association promptly introduced its own website, inviting parents and Head Start graduates to join their efforts to safeguard the program.

Fiscal Stability Allows For Long View On Stimulus

As school administrators across the nation grapple with budget cuts due to the ongoing economic downturn, Greg Murry, the superintendent of this 9,000-student district, faces a unique challenge: how to effectively utilize a windfall of up to $7 million in economic-stimulus money within a limited time frame. Unlike other states, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act passed by Congress last February presented Arkansas with a rare opportunity to make long-term investments in student outcomes instead of simply patching budget holes.

Conway, located about 30 minutes away from Little Rock, is determined to maximize the impact of the federal aid it has received without making unsustainable spending commitments. The infusion of funds from the stimulus package offers the district a chance to make lasting investments in student achievement. However, there is concern about the future sustainability of these investments once the stimulus money runs out.

"We want to ensure that the money given to us by our patrons is not wasted," said Mr. Murry. "Our focus is on using it to improve student achievement." The $787 billion recovery act has allocated up to $100 billion in one-time funding for education to state budgets without considering the extent to which each state has been affected by the economic downturn.

The main component of the stimulus package designed to stabilize education funding is the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund, which allocated $48.6 billion to states based on population rather than need. The primary purpose of this fund was to offset cuts to K-12 and higher education budgets. However, Arkansas, which received $443 million in stabilization aid, did not have any K-12 cuts to restore. In fact, the state has increased funding for public schools by approximately $700 million in recent years, partially due to new legislation resulting from a school finance lawsuit.

As a result, around $341 million in state stabilization funds were designated to flow to Arkansas districts through the Title I formula, which provides aid to disadvantaged students, after the state filled a minor cut in higher education. Due to slower-than-expected revenue growth this year, districts were cautioned against spending their second allocation of $119 million in stabilization funds until it is certain that there will be no need for budget cuts. In addition to the stabilization funds, Arkansas received an unprecedented increase of $106 million in Title I grants and $112 million in new funding for students in special education through the stimulus law.

Districts have the flexibility to use their state stabilization funds for activities authorized under four major federal laws, including the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the law governing career and technical education, and the law addressing adult and family literacy. The funds can also be used for facility renovations and repairs.

Arkansas districts have taken advantage of these options. State officials have advised districts, including Conway, not to hire permanent employees with stimulus funds unless there is a plan to sustain those positions beyond the availability of federal dollars. The emphasis has been on targeting the money towards programs that will have a lasting impact on student outcomes. "The biggest challenge was getting districts to see the bigger picture: that these funds could significantly influence student achievement," said Tom W. Kimbrell, the state commissioner of education, who assumed his role in late September.

Focused Funding

When Arkansas districts submitted their plans for stimulus spending to the state, they were required to outline the education redesign objectives that would be accomplished with each expenditure, even if they were requesting funds for restroom renovations. Applications from districts that lacked specificity were returned, and districts that planned to hire new staff members had to provide an explanation of how they would sustain these employees after the stimulus funds were depleted. Districts without a clear funding plan were denied.

The majority of Arkansas’ fiscal-stabilization funds were allocated to school facilities, with a particular focus on renovation and modernization projects such as new science labs and school expansions. According to Mr. Kimbrell, this allocation was intended to avoid initiating new programs that could not be sustained once the funding expires next year.

In the Conway district, the bulk of the up to $4 million in fiscal-stabilization funds will be allocated towards facility improvements. Some projects have already been completed, such as replacing the old wooden lockers at Carl Stuart Middle School with new metal ones and installing new doors to prevent break-ins. Additionally, classrooms across the district received new paint jobs, schools had their floors and ceilings upgraded, and light fixtures were replaced with more environmentally friendly models. The HVAC systems were retrofitted, allowing the district to save on future energy costs. Sinks and toilets in the restrooms, including those in Joy Bateman’s 1st grade classroom at Sallie Cone Elementary School, were replaced with newer fixtures that are less prone to clogging. Superintendent Murry jokingly referred to these improvements as "lipstick," but emphasized that students, teachers, and the community have all noted the positive changes.

One project that Superintendent Murry is particularly proud of is a summer enrichment program for struggling students in grades K-4, which was financed using a portion of Conway’s over $1 million in additional Title I funds. The district plans to continue operating this program for the next two summers, with even more students participating. If the program proves successful, Mr. Murry hopes to find funding to continue it after most of the stimulus funding has ended.

Conway also utilized a portion of its extra Title I aid for professional development. Coaches from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock were brought in to assist teachers at an elementary school with their literacy program. This partnership allowed teachers to observe and provide feedback on each other’s lessons, as well as provided time for collaborative planning. Other Arkansas districts chose to invest their Title I funds in technology, such as student-responder systems, and provided training to teachers on how to effectively use these tools. In rural areas, some districts focused on distance learning initiatives. Conway, on the other hand, developed partnerships with universities and school improvement specialists, and implemented the state’s new differentiated accountability plan.

A portion of the stimulus money in Arkansas was allocated towards teacher salaries, particularly in rural parts of the state. These funds were used for recruitment and retention programs aimed at attracting and keeping highly qualified teachers. State officials encouraged districts to consider tying teacher bonuses, at least in part, to student outcomes, and some districts followed this guidance. The guidelines for the $4 billion Race to the Top Fund grant competition also promote such pay plans.

Furthermore, districts received a substantial increase in special education funding, which was mainly allocated towards ensuring compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines and investing in technology, including computer-based assessments for special-needs students and interactive classroom whiteboards.

"We were absolutely determined to ensure that we were not simply wasting money on something that was not wise," stated Ms. Vann. "Believe me, we did everything necessary to ensure that this was benefiting our children."

Dallas To Build A $50-Million ‘Super-Magnet’ High School

The Dallas Independent School District is in the process of constructing a state-of-the-art school in Texas. The decision to build this $50 million "super-magnet" high school, which has the potential to accommodate over 4,000 students, was heavily influenced by big business in Dallas. This project will involve various stakeholders such as politicians, builders, developers, realtors, bankers, and businessmen. It will require a special act of the Texas legislature and has already initiated a national sales campaign to attract potential buyers for one of the largest undeveloped sites in downtown urban America.

Advocates of the new school argue that it will save operational expenses by reducing administrative duplication and offer students a wider range of course options compared to the current high schools in the district. However, it is uncertain whether the new school will improve desegregation or attract middle-class white families back into the system. Nonetheless, the atmosphere of growth and the prevailing optimism about the future motivate Dallas business leaders to think ambitiously, influencing those around them.

Walter Humann, an executive at Hunt Oil Co. who chaired the panel that recommended building the super-magnet, describes the Dallas area as dynamic, optimistic, and bold in its thinking. He believes that the new school will serve as a magnet to attract people back into the school system. He firmly believes that with careful consideration, both cost-effectiveness and boldness can be achieved simultaneously.

The catalyst for this project emerged more than a year ago during a hearing presided by U.S. District Judge Barefoot Sanders. The hearing discussed proposed changes to the district’s 1976 school-desegregation plan. The racial makeup of the district has shifted significantly over the past decade, with the majority of students now coming from minority groups. Currently, 50% of students are black and 20% are Hispanic. The 1976 desegregation order did not mandate the busing of high school students, leading to racial isolation in many of the district’s comprehensive high schools due to housing patterns. The magnet schools, which currently number seven, were established in response to the 1976 order but have not achieved the diverse student populations that school officials had envisioned. Most of the magnet schools have a disproportionately high number of black and Hispanic students. During the hearing, Judge Sanders proposed the idea of consolidating the district’s magnet schools onto a single campus, similar to Dallas’s Skyline High School, a renowned career-development complex that enrolls approximately 4,000 students in various fields such as building trades, aviation, computer science, and fashion design. This proposal was intended to promote integration and improve the effectiveness of the magnet schools.

Even before Judge Sanders made this suggestion, school officials were already aware of the need to enhance the district’s magnet schools, many of which were located in older buildings that had been previously closed. The idea of combining some of the schools or building a centralized academic center to serve all the magnet schools was being discussed within the community advisory committees. These committees also expressed concerns about the limited academic offerings available to students due to the small size of several magnet schools.

In response, school officials began exploring different possibilities. One option was to repurpose schools in the North Dallas area that were either being vacated or could be closed due to declining enrollment, primarily in the predominantly white section of the city. The aim was to consolidate and upgrade the facilities to create a more robust and integrated magnet school system.

Eventually, we approached the judge and requested permission to explore the possibility of studying the project with the help of the community advisory committees, which are integral to the magnet-school programs," said Mr. Ascough. These committees consist of prominent business executives in the city. "The committees expressed their support for having a ‘superfacility,’ depending on its location. Each group involved had its own perspective on this matter," Mr. Ascough explained. The arts magnet group did not want to leave the arts district, while the business community wanted the school to remain downtown. The advisers to the law magnet desired to stay near City Hall and the courts, and the committee members for the health magnet preferred being close to Baylor Hospital. And all the while, the Trinity River ran through the city, acting as a barrier between predominantly white North Dallas and the predominantly minority population in the Oak Cliff section to the southwest. "Anglo members were concerned that if the judge wanted a good balance, then Anglo students would have to come from north of the river. However, despite the primary site being right across the bridge, the Trinity River was seen as a psychological obstacle that might prevent the school from attracting kids," Mr. Ascough stated. "Others believe that a good program anywhere will attract students." The one thing the committee members agreed on was that building a new school was the logical solution to the problem. The necessary financing for the project was available, as the district could sell valuable downtown real estate to fund the construction of the new facility.

A feasibility study

The committee hired an architectural firm to conduct a feasibility study for the project, which resulted in a proposed complex costing between $35 million and $50 million and included a "creative-financing" plan. Designed to accommodate a minimum of 4,000 students in grades 9 through 12, the "super-school" would consolidate existing magnet programs in various fields such as business, law, health, human services, transportation, science and technology, as well as programs for talented and gifted students. The arts magnet program may also be relocated to the new complex. While the school would have a centralized library and combined departments for core academic subjects like English, math, and science, each of the magnet programs would have its own dedicated wing or building and retain its individual identity. Students would likely spend half of their day in schoolwide academic classes and the other half in specialized classes. In a time when most school systems in the country are struggling due to declining enrollment and financial challenges, the Dallas school board, with the support of the business community, has committed to selecting a site for the new multimillion-dollar magnet school this month. The duplication of services at smaller magnet high schools has led to inefficiency, according to Mr. Humann, an executive in the oil industry. The existing facilities are outdated and in dire need of renovation. Building a new school was seen as a solution that would be "greater than the sum of its parts." "When you consider the financial aspect, the district could save $2 million to $3 million annually in operating expenses by centralizing the magnet schools," explained Mr. Humann. "The main question was how to finance it. We assumed that Dallas should not and could not attempt to raise a significant amount through bonds to build a centralized magnet." Dallas school officials admitted that they did not expect to pass a bond issue for the funding of a new school. Therefore, the solution agreed upon by business and school leaders was to sell valuable downtown real estate.

"We must utilize the property until the completion of the new facilities," stated Robby Collins, the lobbyist representing the Dallas district in the state legislature. The predicament arises as the district also requires funds from the land sale to finance the construction of the new facilities. However, real estate experts argue that no developer would be willing to pay the school system for valuable land that they wouldn’t be able to utilize for a period of two to three years. As a solution, school officials plan to request one-time legislation from the Texas legislature that would allow the Dallas district to sell revenue bonds to finance the project. This proposal suggests that the bonds would be issued once a developer has agreed to purchase the land. Mr. Collins believes that the proposal will face no opposition as it benefits both the school district and the taxpayers.

Simultaneously, the school board is in the process of choosing between two sites recommended by the community advisory committee. These options include the current location of the arts magnet high school in the newly established downtown arts district or a site in Oak Cliff, which is situated across the Trinity River from downtown Dallas. If the board members opt for the 4.37-acre arts magnet site, the district would need to construct a high-rise magnet school. Conversely, the 21.5-acre Oak Cliff site could accommodate a community-college-style campus to accommodate the magnet programs.

Although only two board members have publicly expressed their stance on the site selection, a majority of them privately agree to vote for the Oak Cliff site. The district had purchased this site in 1976 with the intention of building a magnet school.

"Super recruiting" will be necessary to overcome the challenges facing the new magnet school, according to Mr. Wright. A public opinion survey conducted alongside the feasibility study revealed that consolidating the district’s magnet schools on a single site near downtown would not effectively contribute to desegregating the schools. The market survey also indicated that neither of the proposed sites is highly appealing to most individuals within the school system. Moreover, establishing a new magnet school in Oak Cliff would further complicate the task of attracting white students. Mr. Wright acknowledged that selling the magnet school would be an uphill battle. However, he and other school officials remain confident in their ability to overcome these obstacles.

Bennett Panel Urges Major Expansion Of NEAP

Last week, a distinguished panel organized by Secretary of Education William J. Bennett revealed plans for an ambitious and costly version of the nation’s "report card" on student achievement. The panel, consisting of 22 members, proposed significant changes to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The redesigned assessment would include state-specific data, measure learning in more core subjects, incorporate out-of-school 17-year-olds, and include a larger sampling of private school students. Additionally, the panel recommended a new governance structure for NAEP that would ensure its independence from any external influence.

The study group contends that these changes would greatly enhance our ability to track the knowledge and capabilities of our children. According to the report titled "The Nation’s Report Card: Improving the Assessment of Student Achievement," the current assessments fail to address the most pressing questions posed by parents, concerned citizens, and educators today. During a press conference held to announce the report, Secretary Bennett expressed his support for the panel’s work, stating that few reform proposals from the 1980s would have a more significant long-term impact on education in the United States. The Secretary pledged to study the proposal’s details and pursue legislation to implement an improved report card.

Regarding the panel’s recommendation to increase annual federal funding for NAEP five-fold, from $5 million to $26 million, Secretary Bennett acknowledged the need for further consideration. However, he reassured his commitment to finding the necessary resources to move forward with the proposed changes. The panel argued that its proposed budget is a small sum compared to the approximately $170 billion allocated to elementary and secondary education this year. They emphasized the urgency of adopting their recommendations, noting that it would take several years to implement the assessment’s redesign and produce test results based on the new structure. Officials from the Education Department estimated that even if Congress promptly enacted the proposals, most of the changes would not be reflected in NAEP tests until 1992. In the Reagan Administration’s budget request for the upcoming fiscal year, funding for NAEP would increase to approximately $7.9 million, with $1 million allocated for planning potential changes in the assessment.

Additional changes to NAEP’s budget to align with the study group’s recommendations would not occur until fiscal year 1989, according to Secretary Bennett. A review of the report by a committee of the National Academy of Education, a distinguished group of experts in the field, characterized the lack of support for NAEP in recent years as "fiscal starvation." This review was published alongside the report.

NAEP, now in its 18th year, is a program authorized by Congress to regularly test a sample of students in subjects such as reading, writing, and mathematics. Secretary Bennett formed the study group in May to identify ways to enhance the assessment’s informativeness, usefulness, and efficiency. The panel, chaired by former Tennessee Governor Lamar Alexander, consisted of educators, testing experts, state officials, and private citizens. With funding from the Education Department and various private foundations, including Exxon, Ford, Hewlett, MacArthur, and Matsushita, the panel commissioned 46 background papers and established nine committees to delve into specific questions about NAEP.

The proposed changes seek to provide a more comprehensive and accurate assessment of student achievement across the nation, addressing the concerns of various stakeholders.

“There is a significant level of public interest in the question of ‘How are we doing? What are our children learning?’" he stated.

New Perspective

The panel is just one of the many groups currently proposing that states compare the academic performance of students. The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), for instance, has been working on a plan to collect such data and has suggested that NAEP could be the most effective method to do so. Ramsay Selden, director of CCSSO’s state education-assessment center, mentioned that the group still needs to review the panel’s recommendations, but he anticipated that "most of our members will find this an appealing way to proceed, instead of trying to do something similar on our own." The change in attitudes towards state-by-state comparisons since the inception of NAEP in the 1960s is remarkable, according to several observers. "What is being discussed today wouldn’t even have been considered 20 years ago," said Michael W. Kirst, a member of Secretary Bennett’s study group and a professor of education at Stanford University. "Anyone who had suggested it would have been dismissed with laughter." Interest in comparing student performance among states has been fueled in recent years by the substantial amount of funding allocated to state-level education reforms and the annual "wall chart" on educational progress produced by the Department of Education.

The wall chart, which uses scores from the two national college-admissions tests to compare students’ performance across states, has received widespread criticism from educators as being inadequate and misleading. During the press conference last week, Mr. Bennett acknowledged that the wall chart had flaws but stated that the department would continue producing it because "it’s the best we have."

Other Suggestions

The study group emphasized that any changes ultimately implemented in NAEP must maintain consistency with its existing database. "The information that NAEP has generated since 1969 is the most reliable ‘baseline’ data available regarding what children know and can do," the report stated. Some of the key recommendations from the study group include: expanding regular assessments in core subjects like reading, writing, and mathematics to include reading, writing, and literacy; math, science, and technology; and history, geography, and civics; placing more focus on "higher order" thinking skills, such as problem-solving, and exploring the use of new measurement techniques beyond standard multiple-choice formats; changing the grade-level samples from the current grades 3, 7, and 11 to the more significant "transition" grades of 4, 8, and 12; regularly testing out-of-school 17-year-olds and potentially including even older age groups, like 21- and 25-year-olds, in literacy studies; enlarging the sample of private-school students to draw valid conclusions about student achievement in individual grades and major subgroups of private schools. Furthermore, the panel has proposed the creation of an independent agency called the "Education Assessment Council" to establish policies and future directions for NAEP.


Under the envisioned restructuring, the program would be managed by a separate testing contractor contracted by the federal government. Although NAEP currently has an external committee of experts, its members are appointed by the NAEP contractor, which is currently the Educational Testing Service. With each change in contractor, the committee is reconstituted. The new council’s members would be appointed by the Secretary of Education, serving overlapping five-year terms, from candidates recommended by a permanent, statutory nominating committee. The council members would represent a wide range of testing experts and national, state, and local representatives. The federal government would provide a grant to an independent organization, mandated by law, to house the council. The organization would receive up to $2.5 million annually and potentially employ around 10 professional staff members. The panel recommended that the new council be established and operational in time for the 1990 assessment.

"Compliments and Caveats"

“It would not be wise to assume that the new NAEP will be devoid of unintended consequences." Some of the academy’s "warnings" include the following: NAEP should be cautious about taking on a wide range of related research activities. "The new NAEP, with its extensive agenda, is at risk of spreading itself too thin and compromising the quality of its main activities," the committee warned. This opinion was supported by Linda Darling-Hammond, a member of the study group and director of the RAND Corporation’s education and human-resources program, in a statement included with the report. A separate group should be established, independent of NAEP, to monitor the impact of the test on schools. "Although previous NAEP activity has had little influence on school practices, this may change significantly" once the assessment is altered, and "not all of these changes may be beneficial." NAEP should avoid developing hierarchies of skills and subskills based on assumptions about how students learn. The committee noted that more research is needed in this area, stating that "it is far from clear that a single approach to learning can ever be appropriate for all children." Such hierarchies, they cautioned, could serve as the basis for a curriculum.

The committee similarly advised against making broad generalizations about the factors that contribute to success or failure in school based on NAEP data. "[F]ew such questions are suitable for examination within the current NAEP design," they stated. Continued caution should be exercised when comparing states based on average test scores. "Many factors impact the ranking of states, districts, and schools," the committee stated. "Simple comparisons are susceptible to misuse and are unlikely to inform meaningful efforts to improve schools."

Important Aim

Despite these cautions, H. Thomas James, vice chairman and study director for the Secretary’s panel and president emeritus of the Spencer Foundation, stated that he did not anticipate much opposition to the panel’s recommendations from the education community. "The opposition from teachers and school administrators began to fade early on in the history of NAEP and has now virtually disappeared," he said. Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers and a member of the academy’s review committee, acknowledged that revamping NAEP had been a lesser priority for most education groups. However, he added that there was a "recognization among all these groups that, even though it’s not a cause they champion, strengthening NAEP is one of the most important accomplishments we can achieve in this phase of education reform."

Copies of the report can be purchased for $9 each, prepaid, from the National Academy of Education, 108 Longfellow Hall, Cambridge, Mass. 02138.

Oxford Makes Progress On Diversity – But Too Slowly, Says University Head

According to the vice-chancellor of Oxford University, progress in tackling inequality and disadvantage is still slow. Despite admitting record numbers of women, state-educated pupils, and students from black and minority ethnic backgrounds last year, wide variations among the university’s colleges were highlighted in the review. The proportion of UK state school students was more than 60% for the first time, while a record number of disabled undergraduates joined Oxford. However, Balliol College was shown to admit nearly double the number of men as women, while only 48% of Trinity’s students come from state schools.

Louise Richardson, the vice-chancellor, recognizes the slow pace of progress and the university’s inequality, which mirrors society’s socio-economic, regional and ethnic barriers. This led to the development of policies to increase the number of successful applications from underrepresented and disadvantaged backgrounds. These policies include a foundation year for talented students without the necessary grades, along with extra support for those from less privileged backgrounds. The university also identified a rise in the number of applicants from Bangladeshi and Pakistani backgrounds, which doubled the number of admissions. However, it also revealed a significant variation among individual courses, with no offers made to black students in biological sciences, biomedical sciences and earth sciences, among others.

Additionally, while the proportion of students from outside the EU continues to rise, those from the UK were 77.7% of the total intake in 2018, the lowest on record. Meanwhile, international students paid roughly £25,000 annually compared to £9,250 for their UK counterparts.

The Rise And Fall Of Corinthian Colleges And The Wake Of Debt It Left Behind

When Corinthian Colleges Inc., one of America’s largest for-profit college companies, had its flow of student aid money suspended by the Department of Education, the investigation of the chain involving 20 state attorneys general, various federal bodies, and the Department itself came to a temporary halt. The decision of the DOE to freeze these funds, expected as a 21-day hold, saw Corinthian predict its own downfall, leaving 72,000 students without tuition, and placing the American taxpayer on the hook for $1bn in federally-backed loans. The DOE took control of a supervised liquidation of Corinthian and released $16m in student aid money to keep schools open. A deal was struck whereby 85 campuses would be sold, while the remaining dozen would close. The company has revealed its plans for the closure of these schools, and in the interim period, pursuing buyers remain interested in Corinthian.

As organisations such as Corinthian collapse, the question of how for-profits fit into the higher education mix comes under scrutiny. Although many have criticised for-profit colleges as being unnecessary and deleterious, these institutions are needed to meet growing demand for workers, particularly in healthcare. This branch of the industry tends to focus on certificate granting programmes such those training medical assistants. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this occupation is expected to add 162,000 jobs over the next decade, and an estimated 40% of America’s medical assistants train with for-profit colleges. That being said, the closing down of colleges such as Corinthian leaves students on uncertain ground, with debt and credits unlikely to transfer. While the closing of institutions through a “teach-out” can result in the DOE reimbursing some federal grants, students will need to contact lenders and State Departments of Education to discharge private loans; the forgiven loans will impact taxpayers.

The collapse of companies such as Corinthian may have a larger impact on how the Department of Education deals with companies in the future, according to Robyn Smith, a staff attorney at the National Consumer Law Center specialising in student aid and for-profit education issues.

According to the National Consumer Law Center’s Smith, Corinthian’s student population is mostly made up of low-income students who are not financially sophisticated. However, Smith also believes that any student who finds themselves in this situation would find it difficult as the situation is complex. In light of this, Smith and a number of other analysts are calling for a halt on new enrollments to Corinthian schools, although this could make it more difficult to sell parts of the corporation. A number of senators and the California attorney general have also called for new enrollments to stop as well.

The students who have already enrolled in Corinthian schools are being notified about the corporation’s status. However, Corinthian is still going ahead with its plans to advertise and recruit more students. It is not known what impact these actions will have on new enrollees as more schools could be closed in the future. Others may not be recertified for student aid, and some may be bought and change the programs they offer.

Despite being expensive, Corinthian’s schools have never been a bargain. A two-year degree costs up to $40,000 which is significantly more than the average tuition cost of community college, which is $6,528. The least expensive healthcare certificate that Corinthian offers is $17,000. It is concerning to note that nationally, only 10% of all for-profit college students graduate without debt. In contrast, 70% of certificate-holding community college students do not incur debt, according to the College Board.

Consumer advocates have been concerned for some time about the high loan default rates for students leaving Corinthian’s schools. While student default rates have been higher than average, the state agencies that oversee them, along with the department of education, have not provided adequate oversight.

Corinthian was founded in 1995 and by 2004 its revenue had surpassed $800m. In 2008, its revenue reached $1 billion and it had 114 campuses. However, in 2011, Corinthian started to experience difficulties and lost $111m. The company had posted negative earnings in each of the two preceding years, with sector-wide contraction being blamed for the losses. Without jobs for graduates, placement rates fall and default rates rise. This then leads to higher scrutiny from government agencies and a fall in the company’s stock price.

Corinthian has been subject to investigations by a number of government agencies and attorneys general, who were looking into allegations of inflated job placement numbers, aggressive marketing tactics, altered grades, and attendance. The Department of Education stated that Corinthian had admitted to faking job placement figures, although the corporation disputed this.

According to a legal complaint made by California’s state attorney general, Corinthian allegedly utilized temporary agencies to employ their graduates and inflate its job placement rates. For Corinthian, boosting these numbers was crucial because it not only helped attract prospective students but also justified the accreditation that allowed them access to federal funds, which contributed to more than 80% of the company’s revenue. The US Department of Education had stopped funding Corinthian on the 22nd of June due to claims made against the company, including allegations of falsifying job numbers and tampering with grades, attendance, and documentation for placement rates.

The current situation for these schools may signify the disturbance afflicting the industry. As per Kinser, we still don’t have a clear image of the for-profit sector’s future, which is going to be substantially different from what it was five years ago.

Enrollment at for-profit schools decreased by 12% between 2010 and 2012, which some analysts attribute to changes in regulations. For-profit schools are now disallowed from paying recruiters based on enrollment. Proposed regulations by the DOE would aid in determining a company’s student loan eligibility based on graduates’ default rates and earnings, which threatens the core business model of for-profit schools, according to Kinser.

One proposed solution is controlling the growth of these institutions. According to Kinser, "An institution can go from 5,000 students to 50,000 students in a couple of years."

According to Urdan, "This is already an incredibly volatile sector from the standpoint of publicly traded stocks." Nevertheless, as per the agreement between Corinthian and the Department of Education, investors and lenders are not included on the stakeholder list, which is quite concerning.

Why Toby Young And Other Robust White Men Are Using Free Speech To Whip Universities

Defenders of free speech have been celebrating recent events, including the creation of a new union headed by Toby Young. However, one may wonder why this has become so prominent now. It appears to be part of a reaction against the perceived censorship and political correctness that is spreading through universities like a cheap red sock in a hot white wash. A recent report by right-wing think tank Policy Exchange suggests that due to the highly partisan and vocal nature of the Brexit debate and unnecessary arguments over free speech, there is a growing danger that the right will view universities as being opposed to conservative and British values.

The importance of free speech on campus cannot be ignored. It is essential to remember John Stuart Mill’s assertion that even false ideas should be given a voice, as without them, true ideas become "dead dogmas" that we are incapable of defending. While it is clear that there must be limits to free speech, the frontline in the debate has always been determining where the line should be drawn. Some speakers have faced protests and boycotts because their opponents see their views as akin to hate speech, with the line being hotly contested.

It is not new for universities to come under attack for being tainted with anti-British or left-wing views, seeking to indoctrinate students and pursuing a "woke" agenda. However, it is detrimental to universities to enter into an overly defensive mode, as this poorly befits institutions of higher learning, and may demonstrate that universities may be perceived as easy targets. It is in the interest of those in power to send a message to higher education institutions that they are under scrutiny. By intimidating academics, especially their leaders, it will cultivate self-censorship and cast a shadow over their independence.

Power and speech are inextricably linked. The power to speak implies the power to prevent others from doing so. Multiple facets of power can be exercised, and the most insidious of these is when it penetrates and leads to self-censorship. This has happened to universities in other countries and has brought about darkness. It is imperative that the UK’s universities resist this temptation and remain steadfast in their commitment to free speech.