District News Roundup

April 04, 1990 3 min read

A task force studying the problems of black males in Milwaukee is expected to propose this month that the city’s school district create a set of pilot schools that would enroll only black males.

The proposals will be presented to the school board as part of a comprehensive set of plans for improving educational opportunities for black male students, who consistently have the highest dropout rates and lowest test scores of any major group in the system.

The proposal, which was aired at a task-force meeting last month, drew immediate criticism from civil-rights experts, who said that any plan to treat students differently because of their race and gender raises serious constitutional questions.

But task-force members and other local leaders defended the plan, saying the district’s schools currently are not offering the supportive environment that such students need to succeed in school.

Some local leaders have criticized the district’s emphasis on integration, saying that it has detracted from efforts to improve educational quality for black students.

In recent years, a small but vocal group of black leaders has called for the creation of a separate public-school system in Milwaukee that would serve several predominantly black neighborhoods.

The same group also backed a private-school choice plan for students from low-income families in the city that was approved by the Wisconsin legislature last month. Nearly 1,000 low-income students will be affected by that plan.

New York City Board Calls For

Independent Inspector General

The New York City school board has agreed to relinquish control over its inspector general’s office, and has recommended the creation of an independent watchdog office with the powers to issue subpoenas, conduct wiretaps, and use other investigative techniques available to special prosecutors.

The move followed the release of a report by a mayoral commission that was harshly critical of the district’s current inspector general’s office, likening its conduct of investigations to the antics of the “Keystone Cops.”

The mayoral commission--the Joint Commission on Integrity in the Public Schools--was formed after a Bronx school principal was arrested in 1988 on charges of buying crack cocaine.

That event encouraged dozens of whistleblowers to come forward with additional allegations of corruption and misconduct throughout the nation’s largest school district.

The commission said the current inspector general’s office, by mishandling earlier investigations, had encouraged the growth of corruption and mismanagement in the system.

Both the commission and the board of education have recommended that Mayor David N. Dinkins and the state’s attorney general appoint a new, independent inspector general.

The change would require a revision to the city charter, which currently allows a separate citywide investigations department to issue subpoenas, but otherwise limits the powers of the city’s more than two dozen watchdog agencies.

Nearly one-third of the 19,362 students who enrolled as 9th graders in Philadelphia’s public schools in 1984 had dropped out of school four years later, and only 41 percent had obtained diplomas after four years, according to the district’s first longitudinal study of its dropout problem.

Of the remaining 27.2 percent, 12 percent were still enrolled in the district during the 1988-89 school year, and the other 15.2 percent had withdrawn for a variety of reasons, including transfers to other school districts, deaths, physical disabilities, and incarceration.

One year later, 38.2 percent of the students had dropped out, and the proportion earning a diploma had increased to 43.7 percent.

The study was released the day before parents, teachers, and other school employees met at 80 locations to begin developing system-wide performance goals for the district that will include reductions in the dropout rate and increases in the graduation rate.

The information is currently being compiled by school officials and will be presented later this month to the school board.

The board is expected to formally adopt a set of goals that will undergird a planned high-school restructuring effort in the district.

A version of this article appeared in the April 04, 1990 edition of Education Week as District News Roundup