Education

Briefly Stated: June 14, 2023

June 14, 2023 8 min read
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Segregation Persists in Public Schools 69 Years After ‘Brown’

America’s public schools remain firmly separate. White students go to school with white students. Students of color are the classmates of students of color. Same goes for the more affluent and the poorer.

That’s the bottom line of a new report from the U.S. Department of Education released the week marking the 69th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court Brown v. Board of Education decision, outlawing racial segregation of children in public schools.

It outlines the ongoing problem of school segregation, emphasizes the advantages of diverse schools based on decades of research, and offers solutions for districts wanting to desegregate. Simultaneously, the Education Department announced grant funding for districts to foster diversity.

Subsequent to the Brown ruling, the nation made strides in making public education accessible and equitable. Desegregation, though, had reversed by the 1990s.

White students now make up less than half of all students enrolled in public schools, according to 2022 enrollment data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

Between 1991 and 2000, segregation between white students and Black students increased and has remained unchanged. Socioeconomic isolation likely increased between 1998 and 2020.

“Students are going to very different types of schools depending on their races,” said Erica Frankenberg, a professor of education and demography and the director of the center for education and civil rights at Pennsylvania State University.

For all students to succeed, districts need to work to ensure diversity and focus on desegregation efforts with the help of the federal government, she said.

Racially and socioeconomically segregated schools often have less access to the resources and funding needed to ensure that high-quality educational opportunities are provided for all students, research indicates.

The report found that 3 in 5 Black and Latino students and 2 in 5 American Indian or Alaska Native students attend schools where students of color make up at least 75 percent of the enrollment. About half of white students attend schools in which students of color make up less than 25 percent, according to the report.

Physical Clashes, Protests, and Other Actions Arise Over LGBTQ+ Issues in California Schools

It’s getting really ugly in California.

Protesters briefly scuffled and punches flew last week as a Southern California school district decided whether to recognize June as Pride Month.

Several hundred people gathered in the parking lot of Glendale Unified district headquarters, split between those who support or oppose exposing youngsters to LGBTQ+ issues in schools. Some opponents wore T-shirts emblazoned with: “Leave our kids alone.”

It was the same slogan used by some demonstrators the week before outside Saticoy Elementary School in Los Angeles to protest a planned Pride assembly. Police had to separate groups of protesters and counterprotesters who came to blows.

Across the nation, Pride month celebrations are kicking off amid rising backlash in some places against LGBTQ+ rights. Community parade organizers, school districts, and even professional sports teams have faced protests for flying rainbow flags and honoring drag performers.

The situation is growing so volatile that the Human Rights Campaign declared a state of emergency for LGBTQ+ people last week and released a guidebook pointing to laws it deems discriminatory in each state, along with “know your rights” information and resources to help people relocate to states with stronger LGBTQ+ protections.

Sounding the alarm about the current political climate, the organization said travel advisories alone aren’t enough to help people already living in states where lawmakers have targeted LGBTQ+ people.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has also gotten into the fray. The Democrat blasted a Temecula school board president who voted along with a majority of the panel to reject a curriculum because a textbook mentioned the late gay-rights activist and San Francisco politician Harvey Milk. The board president also called Milk a “pedophile.” Newsom fired back in a Twitter post, calling the board president and college professor, “ignorant.”

Both the Glendale and Los Angeles school boards voted to recognize Pride Month.

Approval in Oklahoma of First Religious Charter in Country Likely to Spark Legal Challenges

A state charter board has given the go-ahead to the nation’s first Catholic charter school, laying the groundwork for a seismic boost in government aid to religion and a likely legal challenge.

Oklahoma’s statewide virtual charter board last week approved the application, 3-2, by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City and Diocese of Tulsa for the St. Isidore of Seville Catholic Virtual School.

“It’s hard to think of a clearer violation of the religious freedom of Oklahoma taxpayers and public school families than the state establishing the nation’s first religious public charter school,” said Rachel Laser, the president and CEO of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. “This is a sea change for American democracy.”

In contrast, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt applauded the decision. “This is a win for religious liberty and education freedom in our great state, and I am encouraged by these efforts to give parents more options when it comes to their child’s education,” said Stitt. “With the nation watching, our state showed that we will not stand for religious discrimination.”

Oklahoma’s current Attorney General Gentner Drummond, a Republican, had advised that under the state constitution, publicly funded schools had to be “nonsectarian.” That differs from the legal opinion issued last year by then-Attorney General John O’Connor, also a Republican, that recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions meant a state likely would have to approve applications for religiously affiliated charter schools.

Some charter proponents are opposed to the concept. Nina Rees, the president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, issued a statement critical of the Catholic charter school’s approval.

“All charter schools are public schools, and as such must be nonsectarian,” she said. “Charter schools were conceived as, and have always been, innovative public schools that provide an alternative for families who want a public school option other than the one dictated by their ZIP code.”

Under the board’s action, St. Isidore would begin operating by the fall of 2024.

Post-Graduation Shooting Kills Student and Stepdad

An 18-year-old and his stepfather were killed last week outside a theater in Richmond, Va., where the student’s high school graduation ceremony had been held, raising concerns for commencement ceremonies taking place in that city and across the nation.

The 19-year-old suspect was charged the next day with two counts of second-degree murder, said authorities, who added that the suspect had targeted Shawn Jackson.

Five others were wounded by the gunfire outside the Altria Theater, which is across the street from a large, grassy park and in the middle of the Virginia Commonwealth University campus. At least 12 others were injured or treated for anxiety due to the mayhem, according to police.

“This should have been a safe space. People should have felt safe at a graduation,” said Interim Police Chief Rick Edwards.

Richmond schools Superintendent Jason Kamras said the new graduates of Huguenot High were outside taking photos with families and friends when the shooting broke out.

“Stop the flood of guns, increase the mental health support, increase the funding for health care, education, and housing,” Kamras said. “We have so many families that are hurting, that are just hanging on by a thread. When you put that together with an ocean of firearms, time and time again, we end up with situations like this.”

Kamras expressed frustration with the situation, especially since the school system made efforts to increase safety at the event. He said police officers were already present prior to the shooting, and the district hired additional security for the ceremony.

“I think we kept everybody safe inside,” Kamras said. “But once you go outside, ... I’m not sure what we can do. … That’s why I say it goes beyond schools. This is about gun laws, mental health.”

Ceremonies for the district’s four other high schools will now be relocated to each school’s campus, Kamras said.

New AP Precalculus Aims to Diversify Math Pipeline

It doesn’t take advanced math to figure out that it’s going to take a lot more time and money for students to get through college—if they get there at all—without the proper foundational skills. But it does take advanced math to succeed in that endeavor.

The College Board thinks it can help students with that. Coming this fall: Advanced Placement Precalculus. It’s intended to cover a “broad spectrum of function types that are foundational for careers in mathematics, physics, biology, health science, social science, and data science,” according to the course framework.

That course joins AP’s calculus and statistics courses that can jump-start students’ college careers with credits and provide better preparation for higher education. As it stands, not all high schools offer them, and students of color in particular often face barriers accessing them in schools that do.

Currently, only about 5 percent of AP Calculus and AP Statistics students are Black, and 17 percent are Latino, the College Board says. More than half of students who take calculus in high school come from families with a household income above $100,000 a year, according to a 2018 study.

Schools organize math courses in a variety of ways. Some offer Algebra 1 in 8th grade, others in 9th grade, and others offer Algebra 2 as the highest level, said Adrian Mims Sr., the founder and chief executive of the Calculus Project.

That makes it difficult for some high schools to properly prepare and support students’ transition into a calculus course their senior year. AP Precalculus can serve as a senior year capstone course that can better prepare students to take calculus in college, avoid remedial classes, and, in some cases, even offer course credit, said Mims, who served on the advisory committee for creating the new AP course.

So while some students may take AP Precalculus their junior year as a precursor to AP Calculus, others can take the new course their senior year more generally as a precursor to college-level math.

The Associated Press, Wire Service; Caitlyn Meisner, Newsroom Intern; Ileana Najarro, Staff Writer; Eesha Pendharkar, Staff Writer; Tribune News Service; and Mark Walsh, Contributing Writer contributed to this article.
A version of this article appeared in the June 14, 2023 edition of Education Week as Briefly Stated

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