MoveSmart.org is incredibly pleased to bring you live coverage of the “Reaffirming the Role of School Integration in K-12 Education Policy: A Conversation Among Policymakers, Advocates, and Educators” Conference.
This live blogging is sponsored by the Poverty & Race Research Action Council.
Update 11/27: C-Span has posted video of the morning from this conference on their website.
10:03am – Bryan Gilmore of the Howard University Fair Housing Clinic calls the room to order, welcomes everyone to the conference, and introduces Dean Kurt. L. Schmoke. Dean Schmoke welcomes everyone to the School, highlights the work of Charles Houston Jr, and frames this event as the continuation of Howard’s committment to civil and human rights.
10:10am – John Brittain, a visiting professor of law at the David A Clarke School of Law, introduced the opening panel, “Why Are We Here?” and highlights the importance of and increasingly multicultural nature of school integration. Panelists include Theodore Shaw, former head of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and current professor at Columbia Law School, and Lisa Chavez, research analyst at the Warren Institute on Race, Ethnicity, and Diversity at Berkeley Law School.
10:15am – Shaw speaks first and summarizes the recent Supreme Court decisions, noting that “it is important to understand how far we have been pushed back.” He explains that he is excited about the new administration but that “there is not alot of time to make an impact, to undo the damage that has been done. Our job is not to be soft because our friends are in the administration, our job is to push the administration.”
10:19am – Shaw notes, “I don’t want [Obama] stuck in the quagmire of race” but he also recognizes the importance of fulfilling the promise of Brown v Board of Education.
10:20am – “We are here because we know that there is work that remains to be done if we are to bring about equity and equality in this country.”
10:22am – Chavez takes the podium and explains the Berkeley desegregation plan report that the Warren Institute recently published. She highlights the increased diversity in the US since the first school desegregation decisions; in 1968 Berkeley was roughly 50/50 white/black, but now is incredibly diverse, with 20% of the district self-identifying as “multi racial”.
[note: see the comments on this post for more information about the report referenced above]
10:29am – Chavez highlights that three of the school districts recently awarded federal desegregation funding had less than 10% Latino students. She also touches on magnet schools, noting that they are in need of increased federal support and that many Latinos take advantage of this option.
10:31am – She closes by noting that immigrant integration is incredibly important and language policy has enormous implications. Many Spanish language students are isolated in their schools; Chavez argues that promoting bilingualism is a goal.
10:34am – Derek Black, Associate Professor of Law and Director of the Education Rights Center at Howard University Law School introduces the next panel, “the Role of the Federal Government in Reducing Racial and Socioeconomic isolation and Promoting Diversity in K-12 Schooling”. There are 6 panelists; will include their names as each speaks.
10:36am -Russlyn Ali, Assistant Secretary for civil Rights at the Dept of Education, is the first panelist to speak. She begins by saying that our approach to integration must be “multifaceted”, saying that it is about grant priorities, magnet programs, Title VI, and civil rights enforcement.
10:39am – Ali talks about an instrument first used in the 1970s – 441B plans – and tells of one that has been resurrected in Buford, South Carolina. While Buford is majority African American, the only magnet school in the district would have been 78% white and was to be located in a gated community. The Dept of Education worked with community members to change policies, threatened to not approve the school’s construction, and the situation has since dramatically approved.
10:42am – Ali notes that she knows that this is the most important civil rights issue of our time, but it doesn’t look like other civil rights movements. “It is about whether integration is a tool and a goal in and of itself or if it links to student achievement. I think it is a little bit of both.”
10:44am – “We need to work together to create an appetite for integration.”
10:47am – Anurima Bhargava, director of Education Practice for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, begins by noting that schools are as segregated now as they were in the 1970s.
10:50am – Bhargava asks what it would mean to include an integration agenda in racially isolating schools, highlighting the importance of teacher improvement and discipline policies. She says that looking beyond student assignment to all kinds of policies is important.
10:51am – Roslyn Mickelson, professor of sociology at the University of North Caroline at Charlotte, speaks next. Mickelson’s research focuses on the question, “What does all of the high quality research… say on the topic of integration affects?” Her first finding is that there are key differences between earlier (pre-1990) and later (post-1990) research, largely in the quality of their data and techniques. Her second finding is that the preponderance of post-1990 research finds that integration improves performance in a number of academic factors, especially for middle schoolers. She also states that integrated schools promote interracial friendships and that there is no evidence of harm in regards to race relations.
10:57am – Mickelson’s final finding is that more research is needed before joking that all sociologists think more research is needed.
10:58am – The next speaker is Pat Todd, the Executive Director for Student Assignment for Jefferson County Public Schools (Kentucky). she begins noting that her school district has been transformed by federal intervention – and still refers to that intervention as “forced busing”. She highlights the importance of Justice Kennedy’s decision and says that they have a new student assignment plan that addresses diversity.
11:03am – Todd explains that they are using geography to determine school assignment; they have created a typology of neighborhoods and all schools are required to have a minimum of 15% and a maximum of 50% of students from any classification of neighborhood. http://twitpic.com/pcven
11:06am – Todd closes by asking that a similar forum to be hosted in Jefferson County and invites all in the room to attend. shey says, “It is important for them to hear about the importance of diversity, because all they are hearing is about charter schools, performance based pay for teachers, and student performance… We need the President and others talking about true transformation.” Thunderous applause when she finishes her remarks; Todd is a very compelling speaker.
11:08am – Jocelyn Samuels, a senior counselor at the Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, is the next speaker. She notes that many of her colleagues are in the room before explaining that they have hundreds of consent decrees that they are currently reviewing.
11:12am – Samuels cites some disturbing statistics: in one school district in Alabama 75% of black students were in all black classrooms; in a district in Tennessee that is 74% white, 79% of those that received out of school and 60% of in school suspensions were black – when the student body was only 20% black; in a school district in Georgia that is 74% black almost all of the students identified with disabilities were black, which compelled the district to re-examine their procedures – resulting in 80% of those designations being removed.
11:15am – Samuels notes that “diversity means something more than just racial diversity,” before addressing the needs of English language learners.
11:16am – Black takes the podium and asks Ali about disparate impact regulations and the impact they may have on assignment. She replies that we should expect to see more work about disparate impact and that the Supreme Court has given the Department that tool. She notes that African American boys in particular are disciplined more harshly than their white peers.
11:19am – Black asks about how disparate impact plays into school funding disparities. Ali responds that she knows funding is important and that the President is working on the issue, highlighting the $10b in discretionary funding that the Dept of Educaiton has to address the problem. But she says that it can’t just be about funding but it also has to be about reform. She says that the new civil rights data collection will gather some of the information needed to truly see disparities within and across school districts. Ali says that looking at teacher distribution patterns and how they play out across the country is also important.
11:23am – Bhargava comments that it is important to re-invigorate Title VI and more forceful actions by DOJ but also to re-open a right of private action. Ali comments that her office receives 63,000 complaints annually but only a small portion fall under Title VI.
11:24am – Black asks Samuels about how the growing Latino populations in certain jurisdictions find themselves “gerrymandered” out of school districts. She first asks her colleagues to stand and thanks them for their hard work and encourages all in the room to call these kinds of issues to their attention before noting that they are looking at these kinds of issues.
11:30am – Black asks Mickelson if she would like to make additional comments. She notes that in school districts that cease desegregation efforts schools quickly re-segregate and the fallout is widespread. Mickelson specifically highlights the phenomenon of teacher segregation; as schools re-segregated teachers in those newly segregated schools moved to suburban districts and were replaces by less well qualified educators.
11:37am – A commenter from the audience focuses on how this conversation has been primarily carried on by professionals, noting that there is not much of a movement associated with school integration any more. He talks about two models of engaging the community and parents in integration and encourages the panel to think about putting the movement back into the mix.
11:42am – Black asks Todd about how the community perceives their plan now versus how it was perceived before it was re-drafted. She responds that the plan is not the different and that they made an effort to keep the plan’s public facing elements familiar. After the new plan was created they held a series of forums, accepted web comments, and even used a telephone-based system to get as much feedback from the community as possible.
11:45am – The final question comes from the audience, a parent of an 8 year old at a magnet school asks what she and other parents can do to build this movement. Bhargava thanks the parents (there is a group of them here) for attending and points to a manual that they prepared to help parents understand issues around magnet schools and choice.
[bloggers’ note: For some reason, Howard is blocking access to Twitpic, Scribd, and Slideshare; documents, pictures, and presentations will be added to this post as soon as possible. Links to pictures will be inserted as they are taken.]
11:45am to 12:10pm – break
12:12pm – Moderator Lia Epperson, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, opens the next panel “Federal Education funding and Opportunities to Promote K-12 School Integration”. The first panelist is Carmel Martin, Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development with the Department of Education.
12:16pm – Martin begins with an introduction of what her office works on, noting that they have been busy giving out more than $10b dollars. Her office is drafting their proposals for the reauthorization of NCLB, she notes that they are early in the process, but there are a few priorities. She cites equity in all programs (teachers, resources, achievement, and opportunity), accountability and consistency in standards, student supports, and promoting better choices for students – both in and across districts. She welcomes comments from the audience and panelists about how they can advance these goals.
12:24pm – Susan Eaton, research director at the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race & Justice, is the next panelist. Eaton promises to speak rapdily to cover a great deal – I’ll do my best to capture her remarks. She begins by saying that there should be a clear shift in policy and language from the previous administration. It is important to recognize that there are many barriers, and that a civil rights analysis should be incorporated into the federal language and policy around education.
12:27pm – Eaton urges that the new administration’s praise of high performing but racially segregated charter schools be tempered with equal or greater praise and highlighting of racially diverse and high performing schools, such as magnet schools. She also urges for incentives for charter schools to create interjurisdiction choice plans and highlights recent research from her institute and the Civil Rights Project at UCLA.
12:30pm – David Hinojosa, the education staff attorney with MALDEF, is the next speaker. He begins by noting that Latinos are the fastest growing demographic group in public schools and noting that you would assume that with this change you would see an increase in diversity. Unfortunately, that has not been the case and 2 our of 5 Latino students are in segregated schools.
12:32pm – Hinojosa urges districts to resist concentrating ELL learners in “clusters”, and “raises his brow” towards new immigrant centers and immigrant-centric schools that look like – and may indeed be – illegal segregation of ELL students. He says that language programs themselves don’t require that teachers be well qualified, and that as a result students are in a “sink or swim” situation.
12:36pm – Sean Reardon, Associate Professor of Education and Sociology at Stanford University is the next speaker. He notes that more research is needed – and more research should be funded by IES – on achievement disparities. He explains that this is not specifically about the efficacy of specific teaching practices but rather on whether those strategies are effective at reducing disparities.
12:39pm – Reardon says that education should be viewed as a social process in a social setting with a set of social outcomes, and that when you think of education that way a different set of questions begin to arise. “Next to families, schools are the great socializing engine of a democracy.”
12:41pm – Bill Magnotta, the president-elect of Magnet Schools of America, is the next speaker. He opens with talking about the need for leadership and tells a story about a superintendent of a major school district repeatedly said in public forums that there is no research supporting the idea that segregation impacts achievement – without being challenged on it. he notes that charter schools grew under Bush and now dwarf magnet schools; he says that we have been funding less magnet schools over the last 10 years than in the previous 10. He notes that the federal magnet program is the only such program with diversity as a specific requirement, and that if the federal gov’t wants to get serious about diversity then they should fund magnet schools (applause).
12:45pm – Magnotta ends by saying that he sometimes feels that magnet schools are the best kept secret, and he hopes to see more of them and more research on them.
12:47pm – The final panelist is Roberto Rodriguez, Special Assistant to the President for Education Policy – White House Domestic Council. Rodriguez opens by talking about the importance of “the early years” and says they are a great place to begin to focus on an agenda for equity.
12:52pm – Rodriguez closes by talking about the Promise Neighborhoods Initiative and place-based initiatives. He references the Harlem Children’s Zone and encourages the room to provide feedback and recommendations on this new agenda.
12:54pm – Epperson takes the podium again and thanks the panelists for their succinct and thoughtful comments. She asks Asst. Sec. Martin about the role that integration and diversity will play in the new Race to the Top funding criteria. She responds that states should put forth a comprehensive plan for reducing achievement gaps and that both charter and magnet schools are included, and that these are not mutually exclusive.
1:00pm – A commenter from the audience first references the importance of not just teacher quality but instruction quality before urging the federal government to coordinate efforts and help build an argument that integrated instruction benefits all children.
1:04pm – A teacher from Oakland says that she cringes a bit on the “choice” rhetoric as there are many programs her students cannot apply for because they are application-based. She asks how you can ensure that students have access to true choice in education. Reardon responds that there are some ways to make choice more accessible, saying that if you give parents more information they can make better choices. But he also notes that transportation is important – if you can’t get your child to and from school then it’s not a real choice.
1:06pm – A commenter from Detroit and an organization called BAMN says that they are fighting to build a movement pushing for equity and integration; she explains that it is not possible to improve achievement for black and Latino youth without school integration. She urges the government to cut the strings on the money and remove the requirements to create charter schools and support them building inter-jurisdictional solutions.
1:09pm – A questioner asks for details about just how much money the federal government is spending on school integration. Asst. Sec. Martin reviews a variety of programs but does not provide specific dollar amounts for any of them.
1:15pm – Another questioner from BAMN asks about whether or not it is a requirement to expand charter schools in order to receive Race to the Top funding. Rodriguez responds that it is not a requirement.
1:15pm to 2:30pm – lunch break
2:35pm to 2:50pm- A group of students from City at Peace give a short performance about students at a magnet school. Outstanding work, standing ovation.
2:55pm – Phil Tegeler of PRRAC takes the podium to introduce the next panel, “Linking Housing Opportunity and Integrated Schools.”
2:58pm – Michelle Aronowitz, the Deputy General Counsel for Fair Housing and enforcement at HUD, is the first panelist. She begins by citing the work on the Westchester case and notes that Asst. Sec. Trasvina is currently on a listening tour about strenghtening the affirmatively furthering fair housing regulations. She then gives a brief overview of the still-being-drafted plans for the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative.
3:00pm – Aranowitz closes after just a few minutes, noting that she has only been at HUD for a few weeks and is happy to be here and be a part of this process.
3:01pm – Myron Orfield, executive director of the Institute on Race and Poverty at the University of Minnesota Law School, is the next panelist. He begins by noting that Minneapolis, where he is based, went from having segregated schools to have 109 in just the last two years.
[Unfortunately I missed most of Myron’s comments due to a technical glitch…]
3:09pm – The next speaker is Demetria McCain, Director of Advocacy and Education at the Inclusive Communities Project. She begins with a description of ICP and their work, noting that crime and schools are the two primary concerns of most of the families that they work with.
3:13pm – McCain notes that they would like to see HUD expand housing opportunities for families and discusses the counseling program in Baltimore created out of the Thompson v. HUD lawsuit, highlighting their brand new report.
3:14pm – “It is time to take big leaps, not small little leaps… so that we can have a HUD policy that actually impacts some of these issues.”
3:15pm – The last speaker on the panel is Derek Douglas, Special Assistant to the President for Urban Affairs on the Domestic Policy Council. Douglas first notes that there is his office as well as an Office of Urban Affairs, headed by Adolpho Carrion, and that what he says goes for both efforts. He notes that he agrees with bringing civil rights principles into LIHTC.
3:17pm – Douglas notes that there are two priorities. The first is expanding opportunities in low income communities and ensuring that all places become opportunity-rich communities. Second is ensuring that there are opportunities dispersed throughout a region so that families who wish to move have real choices. He notes that we have to be focused on both the city and the suburbs in our civil rights priority.
3:19pm – “There is a huge civil rights angle and perspective that could be brought to bear on transportation.”
3:22pm – Douglas notes that there are a number of inter-agency working groups in the White House now, including a Distressed Neighborhoods Working Group. The goal is to transform communities through a collaborative approach. He also highlights the Sustainable Communities Initiative, which is a partnershi primarily among HUD, EPA and DOT.
3:25pm – “The problem of segregation… is one that is front and center in this administration’s mind.” He notes that “inclusion” is a metric by which all new policies are judged.
3:27pm – Tegeler begins the discussion piece by asking McCain if she has a question on the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative. She says that the broad statements are great but that “the devil is in the details” and so far the details are lacking. She then cites the specific rules regarding new developments being tied to the location of old developments built in segregated neighborhoods. Aranowitz responds that the plan is still in the formation process and they are seeking feedback. Douglas repeats that it is a work in progress but promises to take back this comment. he notes that the goal was to make it much more flexible than HOPE VI but that they would look at this specific issue.
3:32pm – john powell encourages the panel to move away from a city-suburbs model and instead focus on opportunity, recognizing that some urban areas have opportunity and some suburbs do not. He then asks about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which are now part of the federal government, and how the affirmative furthering of fair housing regulations would apply. He also asks about the “dual credit system” and how we “funnel bad money” into low income communities.
3:35 – Douglas responds to the credit question saying that “we completely agree with you in the administration” and says taht they are pushing for financial regulation reform. Aranowitz notes that the affirmative furthering regulations don’t apply to Fannie or Freddie but that a number of other federal laws to apply, including ECOA and others.
3:37pm – James Loewen, author of Sundown Towns, talks about the towns that are intentionally all white and asks if the federal government will withhold housing and school grants until they take real steps to undo the segregation they helped create. Aranowitz responds by saying that “the point is well taken” and that “she would love to see the list.”
3:38pm – Chester Hartman of PRRAC talks about the problem of high classroom turnover (children who change schools frequently). He notes that almost all involuntary, destructive classroom turnover is a product of involuntary, destructive housing turnover (gentrifiction, rent increases, imminent domain, etc.). He encourages the housing people to get involved in education – and vice versa.
3:42pm -Tegeler notes that it is going to be critical to make connectiones between the housing and education equity worlds. Douglas echoes Tegeler’s comments and then asks a question himself about whether or not if we want to improve education outcomes if we need to look beyond
3:44pm – Michael Allen of Relman & Dane, who worked on the Westchester case representing the Anti Discrimination Center, wonders how difficult it is going to be for HUD to inform its ‘customers’ – the states and municipalities to which they distribute grants – that the locus of power has shifted to communities. Orfield then notes that empowering metropolitan planning organizations (MPO) to review plans and at the same time making these organizations more democratic can both play critical roles.
4:08pm – Dennis Parker, director of the ACLU Racial Justice Program, introduces the final panel of the day, “Promoting Integration Through Interdistrict Programs.” The first speaker is Amy Stuart Wells, Professor of Sociology and Education and direcfor of the Center for Understanding Race and Education and the Teachers College of Columbia University.
4:10pm – Wells notes that there are 8 school desegregation programs that still exist before highlighting a new report that her program released today, “Boundary Crossing for Diversity, Equity and Achievement: Inter-district School Desegregation and Educational Opportunity”.
4:13pm – Wells details the findings in her new report, noting that racial attitudes in the suburbs change over time through inter-district school assignment and choice plans. [Missed the next chunk of Wells presentation due to a technical glitch; please see the above linked report for more information.]
4:20pm – Don Senti, the superintendent of the School District of Clayton, Missouri (St Louis) is the next speaker. He notes that more than 6,000 African American students have transferred to mostly white suburban schools through their programs.
4:23pm – The biggest impact is that the 100,000 students in the suburban districts are receiving a more diverse education than they would have otherwise. Senti notes that achievement and graduation rates have gone up, but that the diversity is the most important impact of the program.
4:25pm – Senti notes that high school students in his district actually staged a walkout to protest just the possibility that the desegregation plan would end.
4:27pm – The next speaker on the panel is Caty Royce of the Fund for an Open Society [full disclosure: I am on the board of directors for this organization]. Royce notes that as an organizer, she looks for opportunities in the inter-district programs. She tells the story of when a school district threatened to withdraw from a program and the community pushed back and won, describing a “magical” moment when community members used the term “integration” and vigorously defended the program.
4:34pm – Royce talks about how we all care about the achievement gap but that we need to shift the conversation to the “opportunity gap”, which is what allows the achievement gap to exist.
4:35pm – The final panelist is David J Johns, a senior education adviser on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. Johns begins with a personal story of how he and his siblings commuted nearly two hours every day to attend a higher quality school.
4:38pm – Johns says that the Senate is trying to invest $97b in schools to dramatically improve them. He says that one of the themes is “integration” – not of the multiracial variety but of the collaborative, interdisciplinary variety. The funding is going to compel states to come up with a system that will produce results and require them to get high risk kids into high performing programs.
4:43pm – Bill Taylor, chair of the Citizens’ Commission on Civil Rights, is the final panelist. He notes that inter-district programs are successful in that they have been “accepted”. He says that all of the polling and data shows that the St. Louis program has been increasingly accepted and that there are increasing numbers of children applying to be a part of it.
4:48pm – Taylor says another key to the success of the program has been Senti, who has provided amazing leadership in demonstrating to the suburban communities the value of the program.
4:52pm – He concludes by talking about the needs, including a mandatory “right of transfer”, noting that we have an intra-district choice program but we need an inter-district program. He argues for a federal law that would compel districts who want to receive certain federal funds to participate in inter-district transfer programs.
4:56pm – A questioner notes that the day has focused on urban and suburban schools and wonders what options there are for segregated and poor urban schools. Parker notes that many rural schools have been models for inter-district agreements because they are used to working across many geographies.
4:57pm – A commenter notes that there has been much discussion about student diversity but that there has been little discussion of administrator or faculty diversity. Johns comments that this is a part of the Senate conversations.
5:00pm – Parker invites the final panelists to the stage, who will provide closing remarks and suggest next steps. The moderator is Jack Boger, dean of the UNC Law School. He begins by thanking the people who organized the conference.
5:03pm – Boger asks john powell, executive director of the Kirwan Institute, and Gary Orfield, the co-director of the Civil Rights Project / Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA, what advice they would give to the Obama administration. powell begins by saying that he knows many of us have friends and allies in the administration yet the theme of the day has been one of respectful tension, that “many of us feel that not enough is being done”.
5:06pm – powell notes that he understands this administration is dealing with alot, but that “we are losing ground” and encourages them to look at regulations and funding but also wants to see them better use the bully pulpit. He notes that “real leadership” is about setting the agenda, and the best way to do that is by getting out front of an issue and talking about it.
5:10pm – Orfield comments that we need to bring pressure. He notes that we know they are hiring the right people and are likely to bring about better enforcement, but that segregation is expanding in schools and that – since the early 1980s – we haven’t made any progress in closing the achievement gap.
5:14pm – Orfield notes that we are still living in the terminology of Nixon and Reagan, not the terminology of King and the Brown decision. “There’s people in this administration that want to do something, but we need to mobilize them.”
5:20pm – powell talks about Cleveland, which is one of the poorest and most segregated cities in the country, that was able to create a regional magnet school that has brought about at least some diversity. He also notes that we are building housing every single day, and if we altered our priorities then things would be quite different today. powell says that we need to control the conversation about race; right now that discussion is controlled by Fox News.
5:23pm – “We can’t lose our voices because we think we have friends in high places.”
5:25pm – Orfield says that we have spent nothing on programs that actually worked in school desegregation since Reagan zeroed out the program.
5:30pm – Orfield ends the day with this comment, “After you think about today, do something.”
–end of live blogging–