Chicago’s New Graduation Requirements

Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposed a new high school requirement for the kids in Chicago. They need to have a post-graduation plan.

Emanuel’s proposal would add one more big item to the graduation checklist for high school seniors: proof they’ve been accepted into college or the military, or a trade or a “gap-year” program. The requirement would also be satisfied if the student has a job or a job offer.

The point, the mayor said, is to get Chicago Public Schools students in all parts of the city to stop seeing high school graduation as an ending and get them to consider what’s next.

There are a couple of important stats in the Chicago Tribune article:

  •  The district’s five-year high school graduation rate last year hovered at around 73 percent, despite broad race-based disparities.
  • As of 2015, the University of Chicago’s Consortium on School Research concluded an estimated 18 percent of CPS ninth-graders would graduate from a four-year college within ten years of starting high school.

Will Emanuel’s plan mean that fewer kids graduate from high school? Will Emanuel’s plan dump a bunch of kids into the community college system who will spend years floundering in remedial classes?

Meanwhile New York City is struggling with the same problems. What do you do with kids who have been badly educated in the public schools? How do the community colleges pick up the pieces?

In NYC, the kids are shuffled along to CUNY’s community colleges, which immediately plop them in remedial classes because they can’t read or add.  80% of incoming freshmen at CUNY school need remediation.

But the kids get stuck in those remedial classes. Only 50% complete the program in a year. And the kids who do make it through the years of remedial classes AND then basic classes in the community college system AND THEN, finally, get to a four-year CUNY college, can’t finish. You know why? Because they run out of loan money. They’ve spent thousand and thousands of dollars just getting the basic education that they should have gotten for free in the public schools, and then don’t have anything left for college.

CUNY is revamping their remedial programs, so the kids don’t get stuck in them for too long, but then they’re just going to end up totally unprepared for the regular classes and will fail out.

It’s easy to make policies. It’s hard to actually make change.

Mike Pence’s Marriage

Emma Green at the Atlantic sums up a Wash Post article on Mike Pence. (I’ve used up my free articles at the WaPo for the week.)

The Washington Post ran a profile of Karen Pence, the wife of Vice President Mike Pence, on Wednesday. The piece talks about the closeness of the Pences’ relationship, and cites something Pence told The Hill in 2002: Unless his wife is there, he never eats alone with another woman or attends an event where alcohol is being served. (It’s unclear whether, 15 years later, this remains Pence’s practice.) It’s not in the Post piece, but here’s the original quote from 2002: “‘If there’s alcohol being served and people are being loose, I want to have the best-looking brunette in the room standing next to me,’ Pence said.”

Steve and I never ever considered such a move. Not going anywhere were alcohol is served without my spouse would SEVERELY impact my social life.

But I’m not feeling that judgy today. I spent some time over the weekend with friends who were divorced, and if that kind of craziness keeps the Pence marriage strong, then whatever.

I suspect that Pence isn’t that unusual. I’ve been to parties where it was assumed that the men would socialize in one room, the women in the other. I was given the eyeball, if I talked to the guys for too long. I doubt anybody thought I was trying to snatch up their man, but socializing with the other gender was considered weird. Typically, we try to avoid those sorts of affairs, but they do exist.

How a New Supreme Court Ruling Could Affect Special Education

In a stunning 8-0 decision in the case Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of a higher standard of education for children with disabilities. Advocates and parents say the case dramatically expands the rights of special-education students in the United States, creates a nationwide standard for special education, and empowers parents as they advocate for their children in schools. But critics say the decision will not have any impact on schools, arguing that the vast majority already provide a good education for those kids.

As I explained in January, the parents of Endrew F. removed him from his local public school, where he made little progress, and placed him in a private school, where they said he made “significant” academic and social improvement.

In 2012, Drew’s parents filed a complaint with the Colorado Department of Education to recover the cost of tuition at the school, which is now about $70,000 per year. The lower courts ruled on behalf of the school district on the grounds that the intent of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is to ensure handicapped kids have access to public education—not to guarantee any particular level of education once inside. But the parents appealed, with the case eventually landing at the Supreme Court.

More here.

Landmark Decision for Special Education

I wrote about Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District for the Atlantic in January. At that time, the case was under review by Supreme Court. The justices were debating whether or not children with special needs were entitled to an education that provided them with de minimus benefits — basically no benefits – or whether they were entitled an education that enabled them to make progress.

Today, SCOTUS ruled in favor of Endew F. and all special ed kids. Yahoo!

And this happened just as Judge Neil Gorsuch was being questioned by the Senate. He was forced to explain to Congress why he ruled against special education students in several cases. He was forced to admit that he was wrong.

Oh, life is very, very good today.

Turmoil on the College Campus (and elsewhere)

I’m pulling together research on the on-going protests on college campuses. I don’t have an article in the works yet. Just gathering info. I thought I would share some of the links here this afternoon without commentary.

Fox News reports on research from Brookings that found that most of the protests to date have happened at schools with a wealthier student body. “Since 2014, at the 90 or so colleges that have tried to disinvite conservatives from speaking, the average student comes from a family with an annual income $32,000 higher than that of the overall average student in America, the Brookings study found.”

In the Chronicle, Stanley Fish pushes back against the idea that a university is a place for free speech.

Freedom of speech is not an academic value. Accuracy of speech is an academic value; completeness of speech is an academic value; relevance of speech is an academic value. Each of these values is directly related to the goal of academic inquiry: getting a matter of fact right. The operative commonplace is “following the evidence wherever it leads.” You can’t do that if your sources are suspect or nonexistent; you can’t do that if you only consider evidence favorable to your biases; you can’t do that if your evidence is far afield and hasn’t been persuasively connected to the instant matter of fact.

Charles Murray continues to give campus talks. He was at Duke and Columbia this week. The faculty at Columbia released a statement.

The University of Chicago is creating a system for punishing students who violate their free speech policy.

The Chronicle has a great round-up of all the campus protests against conservative speakers, as well as the white supremacist garbage that’s also going on.

Another opinion in the Chronicle:

The desire to cleanse the campus of dissident voices has become something of a mission. Shaming, scapegoating, and periodic ritual exorcisms are a prime feature of campus life. A distinguished scholar at my own college writes in an open email letter to the faculty that when colleagues who are “different” (in his case, nonwhite, nonstraight, nonmale) speak to us we are compelled not merely to listen but to “validate their experiences.” When we meet at a faculty reception a week or so later and he asks what I think of his letter, I tell him I admire his willingness to share his thoughts but have been puzzling over the word “compelled” and the expression “validate their experiences.” Does he mean thereby to suggest that if we have doubts or misgivings about what a colleague has said to us, we should keep our mouths firmly shut? Exactly, replies my earnest, right-minded colleague.

A profile of FIRE.

Another shouting down of a speaker at McMasters College.

This is just two days of articles. I feel like things are heating up. And not just on the college campus. I went to a meeting for local Democratic women a few weeks ago. It was the first time I went to one of their events. It was standing room only. Lots of first timers there.

 

 

Trump’s Budget Isn’t a Surprise

I’m reading commentary on Donald Trump’s budget with a certain amount of dread. It’s exactly what he promised. We shouldn’t be surprised, but still I’m depressed.

Let me just focus for a minute on the funding for special education and services, because it’s very much on my mind today. I put aside the rest of the day to find appropriate programs for Ian for the 2-1/2 months of summer.

Ian’s public school will take care of him for a half day through July, but that’s all I have. Without lots of stimulating activity during the summer, he’ll retreat to his computer and have no socialization. He’ll be mute by the time we get to September. There are no state sponsored activities that are appropriate for him, so it’s going to be lots of out-of-pocket expenses with me not working at all, so I can drive him around.

I’ve been calling the financial aid offices at several colleges if see they’ll take into consideration our special education expenses when putting together a financial aid package for Jonah. They won’t. They also don’t care that we wasted too many years in graduate school and didn’t get started on new careers until our mid-30s.

When things get tighter for the special education community, we go into isolationist mode. We take care of our kids first, and we stop advocating for the greater community.  I know very well that as tough as things get for us, it is NOTHING compared to families with less means and with kids with more severe problems. (I have horror stories.) But the responsibility of a parent to care for his/her kid first. I can’t advocate for others, if I’m scrounging around for my kid.

Things are going to get tighter for families like ours. For families with less means and more severely disabled kids, situations will become dire.

I need a little more time to read everything and figure out specific details.

How will the cuts in the budget impact you and your family?

UPDATE: What to be depressed? Look at this chart.

 

Jersey Towns

New Jersey is a strange place. Sandwiched in between New York City and Philadelphia, New Jersey doesn’t have its own culture or personality. In the North, we know more about the traffic patterns of Cross Bronx expressway than what’s going on around the Meadowlands; South Jersey cheers for the Phillies. People here self-identify based on their towns, not the state. People will say that they’re from Secaucus or Paterson, not from Jersey.

If all politics are local, Jersey takes it a step further. All life is local here. People grow up in their towns and never leave. They coach their kid’s little league games on the same fields that they played on as kids. They gradually will open up to new people who land in their towns and will be friendly enough, but their loyalties always remain with the long standing locals and their relatives who all live about ten minutes away. Sundays mean huge extended families and a large pasta dinner.

We moved to our first home in a New Jersey town, when Jonah was five. We needed a backyard and nearby schools. We embraced our new lives and planned on staying for the long haul. But then, things started falling apart. Our youngest son didn’t attend school in the town, because of his disability, so we only had one kid involved in the town life, which centered around the kids’ sports leagues. Our property value kept dropping, because new zoning laws put our home just a few yards from a commercial district. The test scores for the school put the town on a NCLB watchlist, and nobody seemed to care.

We put the house – a home that we had lovingly restored – on the market and moved six years ago to a new town. It  was a big deal. Some of our old friends stopped talking to us. Jonah was in middle school at the time and he had a rough transition. We went from a 15-year to a 30-year mortgage. But we were desperate. We needed a change.

It was a gamble. We didn’t really know that the new town would provide our kids with a better education. We didn’t really know if the house would be a good investment. We didn’t really know if we would fit into this new community.

This town has more people who have lived elsewhere, more professionals, higher school test scores, sports teams that win everything, and is much, much bigger. But that’s just stats on a wikipedia page. What about the intangibles?

Friends asked me last week, if we did the right thing. I had a few glasses of wine in me at the time, and didn’t have a great answer ready. I’ve been thinking about this question all week.

This town is different from a lot of other Jersey towns, because it is so atypically Jersey. It’s not based on tribal family ties, but on a tradition of social capital. There are a million different clubs and activities. I’ve been at meetings for the school or politics every night this week. People volunteer like crazy. And they have super high skill levels. The presidents of the PTA have MBA’s from Harvard or ran the publicity department of a Fortune 500 company before becoming a stay at home mother.

The Newcomers club has hundreds of members. There are genealogy societies at the library. The Presbyterian church hosted the West Point marching band. The Catholic church runs a food kitchen. There’s the League of Women Voters, a historical society, tech classes, cooking classes, amateur birding clubs, dozens of book groups, free movies.

Since I spend so many hours in front of a computer during the day, it’s nice to have those social outlets in the evening. With only one kid in the local public school, I’m much less plugged in than others, but I get by.

With all the intensity in town, I can’t say for certain that the move was great for our kids. Somethings they do get lost in shuffle. There have been pros and cons, for sure. Steve and myself benefitted in more obvious ways though we still bat around the idea of moving back to Manhattan when Ian finishes school.

I suppose I still don’t have a great answer about whether or not our gamble paid off. For the present, it did.