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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary 5 Policy and the Education of Minority and Disadvantaged Students According to conference presenter Jacob Adams, education policy is a blunt but very powerful instrument that has been used to shape the education reform process. Policy can profoundly affect what goes on in classrooms, often reflecting the broad goals and sweeping visions of public officials who sometimes are far removed from the day-to-day work of instruction. Because they are removed from it, what happens in the classroom often does not conform to what was expected or intended by policy makers. The conference examined education policies and trends in the education of minority and economically disadvantaged students since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education. The Court found that racially segregated schools were inherently unequal, given the history and then-current facts related to the social and economic implications of race in America (Blank, 2001; National Research Council, 1989:1-54, 329-390). It is not surprising, then, that for nearly three decades following that decision, policies emanating from the executive branch, Congress, and the courts primarily addressed questions of inequality of educational resources and opportunities. This chapter begins with a brief review of the history of court decisions and legislation related to desegregation, and then discusses the compensatory education programs that were begun in the mid-1960s. It then goes on to discuss education policies associated with court decisions concerning fiscal equity and the legal definition of an “adequate” education.
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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary It concludes with a discussion of the evolution of education policies associated with standards-based reform. RIGHTS AND RESOURCES It used to be said that education was about teaching the three Rs: reading, writing, and ’rithmetic. As discussed in this volume, it is now clear that teaching these basic skills alone is no longer adequate to prepare young people for the demands of contemporary society. Taking his cues from this theme, Ronald Ferguson grouped his comments about factors that have affected the education of minority students since Brown v. Board in terms of “the six Rs: rights, resources, requirements, systemic reform, rules, and research-based pedagogy.” Here, we turn our attention to Ferguson’s first two Rs: rights and resources. In particular, we review how racial segregation and school funding inequities have been addressed by the courts and what is known about how policies related to these issues have affected student learning. We also discuss what is known about the effectiveness of federally sponsored compensatory education programs that were developed in the 1960s as part of the Johnson administration’s War on Poverty. Desegregation In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court made a bold statement about racial inequality in Brown v. Board. Discussing the Court’s decision, Ferguson (in this volume) noted that it was not just about the equitable distribution of resources for black and white students. Quoting the justices in the Court’s decision: “to separate [black children] from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely ever to be undone (Martin, 1998)” (Ferguson, in this volume). Despite the forceful rhetoric, it is important to note that very little progress was made toward the desegregation of schools until 10 years after the Brown decision. By 1964, no more than 1 in 50 black children in the South attended an integrated school (Rebell, in this volume; Ferguson, in this volume; Orfield and Eaton, 1996). Not surprisingly, Ferguson notes, there is no evidence of improvement in academic outcomes for black students during the first 10 years following Brown. As discussed in Chapter 1, the black population was highly concentrated in the South at the time of Brown v. Board and was still disproportionately concentrated in the South in 2000, despite substantial outmigration to the urban centers of the North and the Midwest.
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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary It was not until the Supreme Court’s 1968 decision in Green v. County School Board that substantial desegregation took place. Acknowledging the lack of progress toward desegregation in the years following Brown v. Board, the Court’s Green decision required school boards to develop desegregation plans that promise “to realistically work now” (Rebell, in this volume) and that segregated school systems had to be dismantled “root and branch.” This decision, combined with the passage in 1964 of the Civil Rights Act, posed a realistic threat of a loss of federal funding for school systems that remained segregated. By 1972, dramatic changes finally were taking place. Over 90 percent of black students in 11 Southern states were attending school with at least some white students. However, little desegregation took place outside the South, and the school desegregation movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s left segregated Hispanic schools largely untouched (Orfield and Yun, 1999). By 1973—only a few years after desegregation began in earnest— federal courts started to pull back their support of school desegregation. In Keyes v. School District #1, the Supreme Court ruled that desegregation was not required if school systems were segregated de facto because of housing patterns rather than intentional policies (Rebell, in this volume). The same year, the Supreme Court held in Milliken v. Bradley that predominantly white school districts in suburban Detroit were not required to participate in a metropolitan-wide desegregation plan because the Court found no evidence that the suburban districts had intentionally discriminated against minority students. The outmigration of whites from the central city to the suburbs had left few white children in the Detroit Public Schools. Thus, the Milliken decision made significant desegregation in Detroit and several other predominantly minority big-city school systems in the Northeast, the Midwest and the West a practical impossibility (Ferguson, in this volume). Recognizing this, a federal district court in Michigan approved in 1977 a Detroit-only remedial plan that required the state of Michigan to provide approximately $12 million for compensatory programs, counseling services, and in-service training for teachers in Detroit. The district court’s decision, known as Milliken II, was upheld by the Supreme Court, which noted that the plan was “aptly tailored to remedy the consequences of the Constitutional violation” (Rebell, in this volume; Orfield and Eaton, 1996). However, Orfield, commenting during the conference on the continuing pattern of low achievement in the Detroit Public Schools, stated that although “the Milliken program may have had some positive effect, . . . the programs simply did not prove to be the systemic remedy needed by urban Detroit.”
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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary Effects of School Desegregation Policies Orfield commented further on Milliken at the conference, and on the history of school desegregation in general: We never had policies or practices that permitted us to cross suburban lines, except in the cases of county-wide school systems (e.g., Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky) . . . which have proven to be by far the most effective in producing very long-term, sustained, stable desegregation (Kurlander, Yun and Orfield, 2000). The Milliken decision was like Plessy v. Ferguson [see Chapter 1] in terms of the segregation experience of the United States. We have had no significant effort to desegregate in the country in terms of enforcement policies, except in the late sixties by the Johnson Administration, and by the courts during the period from 1968-1973. Though it [school desegregation policy] was implemented only for a very short period, it produced huge changes in the South. It didn’t produce very many changes elsewhere. Summarizing analyses of the effects of school desegregation efforts of this period, Ferguson (in this volume) drew the following conclusions: white achievement is entirely unaffected by desegregation; desegregation did not lead to an increase in black mathematics achievement; desegregation does tend to raise black reading scores, but by relatively small amounts . . . ; and gains are likely to be greatest among the younger children. Citing Jencks and Mayer (1990), Ferguson also noted that most case studies of the effects of the desegregation plans of the late 1960s and early 1970s measured achievement at only one point in time, and that no study examined the cumulative effects of desegregation over a number of years. He also noted that studies rarely paid attention to how desegregation policies were implemented, so the mechanisms by which desegregation exerted greater or lesser effects in different circumstances were unknown. For example, Ferguson argued that it is not enough to know that black and white students attended the same schools without knowing what policies and practices, if any, were being implemented at the school level to promote racial interaction in academic and social contexts. Orfield, citing trend data for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and for other national achievement tests, stated that some of the largest gains in academic achievement made by blacks occurred at the same times and places that desegregation plans exerted their greatest effects. The largest academic achievement gains for blacks oc-
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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary curred in the South during the late 1960s into the 1970s, when desegregation plans exerted their greatest influence. This correlation, while not proving causation, suggests that desegregation contributed to academic gains for blacks (Orfield 2000; Grissmer et al., 1998:206-213; Grissmer, 2000). Orfield noted that while the research tends to show that integration produced some academic benefits for minority children, it is a mistake to consider academic outcomes as the only ones that matter. The larger goal of desegregation policies was to undo the structures supporting the racial polarization of society. “We haven’t been looking at whether it produces a different society. There is beginning to accumulate a body of evidence that suggests that it does. This is a very important thing for a society which will become predominantly non-European in another half century—and a school system that will do that in another two decades.” Orfield cited findings from a survey of high school juniors conducted in the Jefferson County, Kentucky, Public Schools in 2000. The school district, which includes Louisville, is among the most thoroughly integrated in the country and has been since the mid-1970s. Both black and white students overwhelmingly responded affirmatively when asked whether they found it easy to work with students across racial lines. Orfield indicated that Louisville’s experience with a county-wide desegregation plan is not at all typical of major U.S. cities. Since the peak of desegregation efforts in the early 1970s, schools have been gradually re-segregating and non-Hispanic whites are the most segregated of all racial and ethnic groups—something that Orfield argued will place white students at a distinct disadvantage given the rapidly changing demographic composition of the country. Ferguson (in this volume) quotes James E. Ryan (1999:272) as he summed up his observations on the current status and future prospects of desegregation policy: “That poor and minority schools will remain separate from white and wealthier schools [because they are in different political jurisdictions] appears to be taken as a given, and, if anything, is reinforced by the fact that advocates are fighting not over integration but resources.” In Ferguson’s view, courts in the 1990s began releasing districts from desegregation orders issued in the 1970s, so it appears that court ordered desegregation will soon be a thing of the past. Compensatory Education In 1965, two of the most important federal programs designed to equalize educational opportunity were established: Head Start and Chapter I (later renamed Title I) of the Elementary and Secondary Education
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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary Act. Developed as part of the Johnson administration’s War on Poverty, both programs sought to compensate through supplementary education programs for some of the disadvantages associated with poverty. With the goal of improving educational outcomes for students from low-income families, these programs sought to “break the cycle of poverty” by increasing opportunities for student participants to become well-educated and eventually to become gainfully employed. Unlike the court-ordered desegregation plans derived from the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education, these and several other compensatory education programs begun in the 1960s were race-neutral. However, since minority students were more likely than others to be poor, these programs played an especially important role in the education of many minority students. Head Start is a preschool program that provides young children with educational enrichment along with nutritional and social services. Chapter I/Title I is a program that provides supplementary funding to schools that serve a large number of low-income students. Until recently, local school districts could use the supplementary federal funding to pay for a wide variety of educational services and strategies. Beginning in 1994, federal legislation began to link Title I funds to standards-based education reform strategies, as discussed later in this chapter. Neither of these programs was discussed in any detail at the conference, although Ronald Ferguson briefly summarized what is known about the effects of the these programs during his conference presentation, and more detail is provided in his paper in Part III of this volume. According to Ferguson, “neither of the two large-scale evaluations of Title I has reached the conclusion that it substantially narrows achievement gaps between disadvantaged and middle-class students, as policy makers intended” (Ferguson, in this volume). As for Head Start, Ferguson reported that outcomes have been more positive. Evaluations of Head Start have found that the program improves the academic performance of children in early grade school, although the advantages that former Head Start students have over those who did not participate in the program tend to disappear after a few years (National Research Council, 1998b:150). FUNDING EQUITY AND THE RIGHT TO AN ADEQUATE EDUCATION By the mid-1970s, it had become clear that the courts no longer were as supportive as they once were of desegregation as a remedy for past and present inequality of educational opportunity (Rebell, in this volume; Ferguson, in this volume). Also, the courts and the public were question-
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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary ing whether desegregation plans actually had improved student outcomes. For these reasons, equity-related school litigation began to shift from an explicit focus on race to disparities in school finance. Serrano v. Priest, decided by the California State Supreme Court in 1971, was one of the earliest and most influential school finance cases. Citing both the equal protection clauses of the Constitution of the United States and the California constitution, the California court ruled that the state’s system of school finance based on local property taxes was unconstitutional. In its place, the court adopted “fiscal neutrality” as the guiding principle of school finance (Rebell, in this volume; National Research Council, 1999e:71-75). Rebell notes that this principle means that “the level of resources available to students in each school district should not be a function of wealth, other than the wealth of the state as a whole. In other words, the fiscal neutrality principle holds that the state has a constitutional obligation to equalize the value of the taxable wealth in each district, so that equal tax efforts will yield equal resources” (in this volume). Two years later in 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the argument that the Texas system of school funding violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. According to Rebell, the “extreme inequities created by the Texas education finance system” that were the subject of the San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez seemed to reformers “an ideal vehicle for establishing a new legal doctrine to make good on Brown’s promise of equal educational opportunity” (Rebell, in this volume). The Rodriguez case was initiated by parents in the predominantly Mexican-American Edgewood Independent School District. The Edgewood district is adjacent to the much wealthier and predominantly white Alamo Heights district. Residents of the Alamo Heights district taxed their more valuable property at a rate that was 20 percent lower than did the residents of the Edgewood district. Despite Alamo Heights’ lower tax rate, that district provided nearly $600 in funding for each student, compared with only $356 per pupil in Edgewood—a figure that also included supplementary antipoverty funding from federal sources. Writing for the Court majority, Justice Powell stated that the right to education is not specifically mentioned in the U.S. Constitution and therefore funding inequities in education are not a federal issue. Justice Powell also responded to the plaintiffs’ argument that an adequate education is needed for citizens to exercise their First Amendment freedoms, including the right to vote. Acknowledging the importance of an educated citizenry for democracy, Justice Powell again rejected the argument that education was a federal responsibility and cited as part of his rationale the lack of specific standards for defining how much and what kind of educa-
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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary tion should be considered adequate to enable citizens to exercise their political rights. According to Rebell (in this volume), Justice Powell set forth a “slippery slope” argument, noting that if some level of education were to be considered a sine qua non for the exercise of political rights under the federal constitution, similar arguments could be made that “the ill-fed, ill-clothed, and ill-housed are among the most ineffective participants in the political process.” Although the Rodriguez case was a major defeat for reformers, Rebell argues, the Supreme Court’s ruling in that case laid the groundwork for a new legal rationale to pursue equality of educational opportunity in state courts. The new strategy would be based on the fact that, unlike the U.S. Constitution, every state constitution explicitly mentions the provision of what is variously called an “adequate,” “ample,” or “thorough and efficient” education as a core responsibility of state government. Rebell (in this volume) goes on to quote Justice Powell’s majority opinion in Rodriguez: “The State [of Texas] repeatedly asserted in its briefs…that it now assures ‘every child in every school district an adequate education.’ No proof was offered at trial persuasively discrediting or refuting the State’s assertion.” Rebell added that the Rodriguez case focused almost entirely on funding disparities, and the adequacy of the education provided to students in the Edgewood district was not even discussed by the plaintiffs. From the early 1970s to 2000, litigation was introduced challenging the constitutionality of school finance systems in 44 of the 50 states (Rebell, in this volume), with many of the challenges based on the principle of fiscal neutrality articulated in Serrano. After several successful challenges of inequitable school finance systems in the 1970s, Adams and Rebell claim, the judicial tide was reversed in the early 1980s, as courts increasingly cited the Rodriguez ruling as a basis for rejecting challenges (Rebell, in this volume). Rebell (in this volume) and Jacob Adams (1997; see also National Research Council, 1999e:100, 101) consider 1989 to have been a pivotal year, as courts once again reversed direction. According to Rebell (in this volume), plaintiffs had prevailed in only 7 of 15 school finance cases through 1988, and only 2 of those 7 victories occurred between 1980 and 1988. However, from 1989 through 2000, plaintiffs prevailed in nearly two-thirds (18 of 28) of the challenges to school finance systems that reached state supreme courts. Major Events in 1989 According to both Adams and Rebell, two major events took place in 1989. The first was the National Education Summit in which the first
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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary President Bush convened all 50 of the nation’s governors and business leaders and educators to collaborate with the federal government in establishing standards-based education systems. The summit identified six national goals that became the cornerstone of the Bush administration’s America 2000 program. These same goals were included among the eight goals articulated in the Clinton administration’s Goals 2000 Act of 1994. Companion legislation linked federal funding for Title I, special education, and vocational education to the requirement that states establish and implement specific content and performance standards (U.S. Department of Education, 1999:xi). As of January 2001, 49 states had established statewide academic standards for what students should know in at least some subjects. All 50 states were administering tests that purportedly assess the performance of students in mastering those standards (Olson, 2001:14). The second major event of 1989 was the Rose v. Council for Better Education decision in Kentucky. Plaintiffs in this school finance case, similar to the Rodriguez and Serrano cases, argued that the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s system of school funding was unconstitutional. The Kentucky supreme court ruled that not only was the school finance system unconstitutional, but so was the commonwealth’s entire education system because it failed to provide students with the “thorough and efficient” education required by Kentucky’s constitution. Rebell argues that it is no coincidence that the Rose decision occurred in the same year as the National Education Summit because the case clearly reflects the basic principles of the standards movement, as articulated at the summit. As noted by Rebell, the Kentucky supreme court ruled that a “thorough and efficient” education was one that laid out as its goal the development of the following seven capabilities in every Kentucky schoolchild: sufficient oral and written communication skills to enable the student to function in a complex and rapidly changing civilization; sufficient knowledge of economic, social, and political systems to enable the student to make informed choices; sufficient understanding of governmental processes to enable the student to understand the issues that affect his or her community, state, and nation; sufficient self-knowledge and knowledge of his or her mental and physical wellness; sufficient grounding in the arts to enable each student to appreciate his or her cultural and historical heritage; sufficient training or preparation for advanced training in either academic or vocational fields so as to enable each child to choose and pursue life work intelligently; and
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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary sufficient levels of academic and vocational skills to enable public school students to compete favorably with their counterparts in surrounding states, in academics or in the job market (Rebell, this volume; National Research Council, 1999e: 107). The Kentucky Educational Reform Act After defining the constitutionally required “thorough and efficient” education in terms of these seven capabilities, the court then left it up to Kentucky’s legislative and executive branches to totally redesign the education system to ensure that all Kentucky children received this kind of “thorough and efficient” or “adequate” education (Rebell, this volume). The result was the passage and implementation of the Kentucky Educational Reform Act (KERA) of 1990, which has served as the blueprint for Kentucky’s education reform efforts and as a model emulated by some other states. KERA reconstituted Kentucky’s entire system of elementary and secondary education, including finance, governance, and programming. According to the NRC report on school finance (National Research Council, 1999e: p.110), [It] increased school district revenue by 34 percent (19 percent adjusted for inflation) between 1990 and 1993 . . . and reduced disparities in spending among districts and in the relationship between district wealth and spending (Adams, 1997). KERA also featured a strong accountability program based on a new assessment system and providing financial rewards [to schools] for exceptional performance and significant sanctions for poor performance. Lois Gray, superintendent of schools in Hardin County, Kentucky, discussed in a preconference workshop how the Kentucky Educational Reform Act has changed education in her district. She described how faculty and staff in her district were now under the same kind of pressure to perform that Kentucky basketball coaches have been under for a long time: [Educators] have young people to work with. They are being put on the spot. Basketball coaches in Kentucky know that if their players on the court don’t do well, [the coaches] don’t last long. Their tenure is shorter than that of superintendents and principals if they don’t win. So, we have tried to liken [schooling] to athletics. Why shouldn’t the public expect, with the time and the resources that they have given us, that we should achieve at a high level for all of their children? As discussed below, the Kentucky Educational Reform Act emphasizes capacity building, performance standards, and accountability. The above quote from Superintendent Gray demonstrates how KERA’s ac-
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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary countability system puts pressure on teachers and administrators to get results—to improve learning outcomes for their students. Jennifer O’Day, describing her research in Chicago, observed that the strategies emphasized in education reform programs reflect what the designers of those programs think is the primary problem. She argued that reform programs that mainly emphasize testing and accountability reflect the perception that lack of motivation is the primary problem that needs to be addressed. As in Kentucky, the potential threat of negative sanctions is used to motivate teachers and administrators in the schools she studied in Chicago. According to O’Day: There is quite a bit of research that supports the idea that motivation is important in performance, and that there is some interplay between motivation, ability, and the situation in which people work. So, there is reason to emphasize motivation as well as capacity building [in reform]. But there also is quite a bit of research that says that motivation itself is largely dependent on whether the individuals involved think that they can attain whatever goal is set up. So, if you have a very low performing student, or a very low performing school, and you say, “This is what you have to do,” to the extent that the goal is viewed as out of the realm of possibility, it is not a motivating factor. The Kentucky Educational Reform Act was the legislature’s response to the state supreme court’s ruling in Rose. Since Rose began as a school funding equity case, it is not surprising that KERA places a strong emphasis on capacity building as well as accountability. KERA addresses capacity building by requiring specific programs and policies and by augmenting and equalizing funding. Superintendent Gray describes below the efforts she is making in her district to help ensure that KERA’s demanding accountability goals are perceived by students, teachers, and administrators as within reach and have a positive motivating effect. In addition to teacher professional development: There have been efforts to remove barriers to learning. One of those was to put family and youth resource service centers in the schools to make sure children get the physical care that they need, to help parents have the skills they need to parent, to provide advocacy for them when they need that . . . to help with clothing and toys for the home, and to make sure that books are in the home. So, we are trying to take care of some of the disadvantages that sometimes happen. We have a homework bus that travels to communities where children may not go to the library. It has computers with homework helpers and online encyclopedias, and staff who can help. She went on to describe an information management system, not unlike what John Bransford described as an important tool to be used in promoting learning:
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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary In my district, we have implemented . . . a data warehouse that takes all of our software data collection information and puts it together as if it were one software package. At the click of a button, we can now manipulate different pieces of information so we can do an in-depth evaluation of how a specific child is doing, or how well specific groups are doing. . . . We are disaggregating data and looking at how specific children are doing because until we look at the individual, we won’t change the whole. Which children are not doing well? Which children are doing well? What can we learn about the ones who are successful? Who taught them? Where did their teachers go to school? What professional development did their teachers do? How do African American males do when they take algebra 1 from this teacher vs. that teacher? Is there a difference? Can we replicate success? We can find that out in our data warehouse. These are some of the things we are doing in Hardin County to remove barriers for children, and similar things are happening elsewhere in Kentucky. Superintendent Gray has made substantial progress in improving achievement for students in Hardin County, and she says that Kentucky, as a whole, has made gains. She also noted, however, that after 10 years of the Kentucky Education Reform Act, the black-white achievement gap is largely undiminished and that the commonwealth “still has a long way to go” (Orlofsky and Olson, 2001). Commenting on Kentucky’s experience, workshop participant Lorraine McDonnell emphasized the importance of patience in education reform. She noted that there is a problem in talking about having all children learn to high standards when we “are not dealing with what that means over what time period.” She went on to note that educational reform programs too often are implemented “on an electoral cycle instead of on an educational cycle. I think that the thing that is most astounding about Kentucky is that somehow policy makers in Kentucky have convinced the voters to be patient, and I think that that is one of the most important lessons. If you can figure out a way to create incentives for patience, while at the same time having really clear milestones (measuring progress toward goals), that will take you a long way toward solving a lot of these problems.” MAKING MONEY MATTER In his wide-ranging conference presentation, Ronald Ferguson discussed what is known from research about the effects of efforts to equalize or increase the resources available for the schooling of minority and economically disadvantaged students. Jacob Adams and Michael Rebell also addressed this issue in relation to the legal principle of educational adequacy. That more money does not necessarily result in better educa-
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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary tional outcomes is implicit in the title of the 1999 NRC report Making Money Matter. Consistent with arguments made by Jacob Adams and Michael Rebell, Making Money Matter argues that “dissatisfaction has grown with school finance approaches that fail to address directly…the academic achievement levels of American students and the worsening conditions facing children in some central-city neighborhoods. The concept of equity motivating school finance reform today is shifting in emphasis from the amount of money spent to the adequacy of the education that the money provides” (National Research Council, 1999e:69). As Adams put it, the legal concept of educational adequacy has shifted the focus of the courts from issues related to the equality of inputs to outputs—to the concern that students from all backgrounds should have a reasonable expectation of obtaining an adequate education, as it is defined by each state. For students from disadvantaged backgrounds, mere fiscal equity may not be sufficient to provide a reasonable assurance of an adequate education (see Chapter 4 discussion of the educational achievement of students in high-poverty schools). Additional funding may be needed. Jacob Adams noted that this principle was acknowledged in a ruling of the Wisconsin supreme court in summer 2000. Rebell notes (in this volume) that funding equity cases have helped to diminish disparities between rich and poor districts but did nothing to address disparities among schools in the same district or funding disparities among the states. Interstate disparities account for approximately two-thirds of all funding disparities (National Research Council, 1999e). Despite the progress toward more equitable funding, substantial disparities remain between rich and poor districts and, to a lesser extent, between high- minority and other districts (National Research Council, 1999e: 47; Parrish, 1996a, 1996b). In some states in which interdistrict disparities were reduced, tax limitation measures such as California’s Proposition 13 resulted in the downward leveling of school spending. California’s per pupil spending fell from 5th in the nation in 1964-1965 to 42nd in 1994-1995 (Rebell, in this volume; Fischel, 1989). According to 2000 census data, California is home to 21 percent of the nation’s minority population. Ferguson (in this volume) and others (National Research Council, 1999e:38) commented that the argument has been made that the amount of money spent on schools has little to do with education outcomes (Hanushek, 1994, 1997). The validity of this argument is difficult to assess, given the number and complexity of factors involved (e.g., geographic variations in costs, inflation, and the purposes for which money is used). Ferguson addressed this question by evaluating studies of the effectiveness of spending for specific purposes. For example, he argued that spending on preschool and class size reduction improves academic outcomes
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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary for minority and disadvantaged students, although the evidence is less clear for others. Ferguson argued that evidence of the effectiveness of money spent on Title I or Chapter 1, which along with Head Start is the largest federal education program serving disadvantaged students, has been hard to find. (Note: Head Start and Title I are two large education programs that trace their origins to the mid-1960s and the Johnson administration’s War on Poverty. Although Head Start is discussed briefly in Chapter 2, and evidence of the effectiveness of Head Start and Title I is briefly discussed by Ferguson [in this volume], these major programs affecting the education of minority and disadvantaged students were not discussed in detail by any conference presenter.) Measures of teacher quality also are correlated with academic outcomes. To the extent that additional funding helps in the recruitment and retention of good teachers, then it is reasonable to argue that more money used for these purposes can improve educational outcomes (for a more detailed discussion of these issues, see Ferguson, in this volume). In Chapter 3, David Cohen argued that the quality of a school building or the presence of instructional materials in a school has little to do with student learning per se. For learning to occur, resources must be used, and used skillfully, in a well-coordinated instructional program. Of course, resources cannot be used in teaching and learning if they are not present or if school facilities are in such poor condition that the environment is not conducive to learning (U.S. Department of Education, 2000e; Kozol, 1991). Given adequate material resources and facilities, however, the quality of the curricula, teachers’ knowledge and didactic skills, coordination of instructional components, and the purposefulness of teachers and students are most crucial. Their presence or absence depends at least as much on good research, strong leadership, and organizational planning as on money. STANDARDS-BASED REFORM From the 1983 publication of the influential critique of American education, A Nation at Risk (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983) to the Year 2000 (Council of Economic Advisers, 2000:30), policy makers have argued that nothing less than the future security and prosperity of the nation are at stake if dramatic improvements in the quality of American education are not made. In the often-quoted words from A Nation at Risk, “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war” (National Commission on Excellence in Education: 1). Although some believe that this statement typifies the hyperbole of A Nation at Risk (Berliner and Biddle, 1995), there
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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary is no doubt that this critique of American education influenced subsequent education reforms that were more sharply focused on learning and on high-stakes assessments of it. The emphasis on standards and assessments was reflected in the adoption of six education goals by the President and the nation’s governors in 1990. The first Bush administration launched a campaign called America 2000 to coordinate the implementation of the standards (U.S. Department of Education, 1991). The Clinton administration continued and expanded this effort with two additional goals, and renamed the implementation campaign, Goals 2000 (U.S. Department of Education, 1998). Perhaps even more importantly, many state governments have made standards and accountability the centerpiece of their education policies (Curran, 1999). Many scholars who participated in the conference and its workshops, including Jay Heubert, Jacob Adams, Michael Rebell, Lorraine McDonnell, Jennifer O’Day, Julie Underwood, and Catherine Snow, emphasized that standards-based reform has several elements that must be well aligned if the reform program is to succeed. Several presenters argued that, at times, standards-based reform has been inappropriately equated with simply setting high standards and then holding students and educators accountable for achieving them. Developing the instructional capacity (see Cohen, Chapter 3) needed to achieve the standards sometimes is overlooked as an integral part of standards-based reform. Commenting on this, Julie Underwood stated, “when children aren’t learning, we should be looking at how to realign human and intellectual resources. That may mean that you provide more funds, . . . choose to do smaller classes or different approaches with curriculum. But your fundamental question is: Are we using these resources in a way that improves children’s learning?” Jay Heubert argued that standards-based reform is likely to have the greatest impact on minority and disadvantaged students. He made the point, however, that there is serious doubt as to whether the impact ultimately will be beneficial or harmful. Proponents of standards-based reform and high-stakes testing argue that since these students often are the ones who currently are being educated most poorly, they stand to gain the most from efforts to hold schools, students, and teachers to high standards of teaching and learning. In contrast, Heubert observed, “critics of high-stakes testing fear that many such students will be harmed by high-stakes tests. They will be disproportionately retained in grade or denied high school diplomas. High-stakes testing would have highly negative consequences for these students if their schools don’t expose them to the knowledge and skills they need to pass the test. What it comes down to, I think, is whether we are going to use standards and high-stakes testing as
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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary levers to improve teaching and learning, or whether we are going to punish students for not knowing what we have never taught them.” Drawing on principles of testing articulated in the NRC report on appropriate test use (National Research Council, 1999c), as well as the American Educational Research Association (AERA) (2000), the American Psychological Association and the National Council on Measurement in Education (AERA et al., 1999) Heubert argued that before a school district or state implements a program of high-stakes testing, they need to ensure that clear performance standards have been defined, the curriculum is aligned with the performance standards, and instruction is aligned with both the performance standards and the curriculum. Heubert went on to argue that decisions on promotion and graduation should not be based solely on performance on a single test, because a student’s performance can vary from day to day, and because tests are limited in the precision with which they can assess student learning. Furthermore, Heubert noted, if a test is not used to secure the best available placement or treatment for students, then it is being used inappropriately. There is no reason why testing should force educators into a Hobson’s choice—to have to choose between two undesirable options. That is, educators should not have to choose between failing a large number of students or allowing those students to graduate or progress to the next grade without having achieved established performance standards. Instead, Heubert argued a better use of testing and performance standards would be to conduct early and frequent formative assessments to diagnose students’ needs, tailor instruction, and target educational resources. Standards-based reforms will help students if used in this way to build instructional capacity—to fine-tune and improve curriculum and instruction so that all children achieve well-defined, high academic standards. If, however, the difficult work of building instructional capacity is not integrally related to setting high performance standards and holding students and teachers accountable for achieving them, then standards-based reform will exacerbate, not lessen, existing racial/ethic and socioeconomic achievement gaps. For Heubert, it is very much an open question what the effect of standards and high-stakes testing will be. To illustrate the potential for problems, Heubert quoted from the National Research Council report High Stakes: Testing for Tracking, Promotion, and Graduation (National Research Council, 1999c:179): “There is little evidence to suggest that exit exams in current use have been validated
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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary properly against the defined curriculum and actual instruction; rather, it appears that many states have not taken adequate steps to validate their assessment instruments, and the proper studies would reveal important weaknesses.” More recently, Achieve, an organization created in the 1990s by the governors and business leaders to promote standards-based reform, has studied the alignment of state standards with state assessments and curriculum frameworks in nine states. Despite substantial efforts by some states to align standards, assessments, and curricula, Achieve found that some of the problems of validity and alignment described above in High Stakes remain unresolved (Edwards, 2001:33-40). According to Heubert, the percentage of students—especially minority and disadvantaged students—who do not graduate from high school was already very high before states and school districts began their most recent round of increases in graduation and promotion requirements (National Research Council, 1999c:128-132, 2001c). In the 2000-2001 school year, 18 states required the passing of an exit exam to graduate from high school, with a total of 24 committed to implementing exit exams within the next several years. Of the 18 that required passage of a graduation exam in 2000-2001, 5 had exams calibrated to 10th grade level standards or higher. The number of states that will require mastery of similarly high standards within the next several years is expected to rise to 21 (Edwards, 2001:78). In 2000-2001, three states required students to pass an examination in order to be promoted from one grade to another. Seven states are committed to implementing statewide promotion exams within the next few years. Heubert noted that, in addition to statewide testing policies, many big-city school districts require passage of a district-wide test both as a condition for graduation and for promotion from grade to grade. Citing High Stakes (National Research Council, 1999c:130-131, 155-158, 2001c), he noted that the single strongest predictor of who will drop out of school is retention in grade. Students who are retained even once are at significantly increased risk of dropping out. He added that the effects of failing a promotion test often are not perceived until years later. As Heubert put it, “Kids don’t drop out after a third grade promotion test or a sixth grade promotion test. The harm, or potential harm is invisible at the time initial retention occurs. In this sense, I would compare retention in grade with high blood pressure—a silent threat, whose effects are not felt until much later.” For Heubert, Eugene Garcia, Jacob Adams, and other conference presenters, it is still an open question whether standards-based reform will be a net plus or minus for the education of minority and disadvantaged
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Achieving High Educational Standards For All: Conference Summary students. The outcome will depend on the leadership and skill of educators to coordinate and fine-tune educational resources to meet the instructional needs of students from all backgrounds. The outcome also will depend on the willingness of the public and public officials to devote the resources needed to improve instructional capacity and to make sure that the resources are used wisely. Finally, much also will depend on the availability and use of high-quality research to guide educators and policy makers as they decide how best to make education spending matter. Chapter 6 provides examples of how researchers and practitioners are working together to make standards-based reform work for all children.
Representative terms from entire chapter: