Last week President Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) into law, replacing No Child Left Behind as the latest version of the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Education Act. With any bill of this size and scope it defies easy description, and as one would expect given the political climate in Washington, DC, ESSA is a decidedly mixed law with the potential for both positive and negative effects.
Today is #GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to giving back. Grassroots organizations are working hard for — and winning — serious victories for public school children in communities across the country. But they can't continue without gifts from people like you.
On November 3, 2015, a tight race to achieve full funding of public schools across Mississippi was lost. Initiative 42, the ballot initiative for “better schools,” was a citizen-led campaign with bipartisan, grassroots support for fully funded public schools.
The school-to-prison pipeline has drawn increased attention recently, especially after Dignity in School’s successful National Week of Action. But while stories of middle and high schoolers pushed out of school through inequitable and disproportionately applied harsh discipline policies are tragic enough, there may be something even worse: the pre-school to prison pipeline. It can be hard to imagine scenarios in which suspending or expelling a preschooler would be appropriate, but a new report from the Center for American Progress shows that even our youngest students are disciplined and pushed out at disproportionate rates.
Mississippi's public schools have been underfunded and under-performing for years. Their students, especially in the state's poorer districts, face inequitable learning environments and lack the real opportunity to learn that could help encourage their future successes. Despite these very real problems, however, Tuesday's election failed in passing Proposition 42, a proposed constitutional amendment that would have required adequate and efficient funding of the state's public schools. Yet while the parents, students, educators, and advocates who led the campaign for the amendment are disappointed, they aren't giving up on Mississippi and the educational future of its children.
The Foundation Budget Review Commission, a bipartisan group of legislators and educators, released their findings on the state of education funding in Massachusetts and their recommendation for an ambitious new funding plan that would allow schools to more fully support programs to increase educational equity. While the plan would cost about half a billion dollars per year, it would also be the first step in addressing the substantial opportunity gap that exists in Massachusetts.
The Obama administration has reversed course on the high-stakes, high-frequency federal testing policies of the last decade. Following the policies of the Bush administration's No Child Left Behind, programs like Race to the Top encouraged tests that were used for crucial decisions like school funding, teacher hiring, and school takeovers. They also increased the amount of time students spend testing, reducing their instructional time and contributing to curriculum that reduced breadth and depth of learning for more test preparation. Now, while not wholly abandoning standardized testing, the administration finally responded to mounting criticism against these tests and is calling for capping the amount of time students can spend on them.
Last week was Dignity in School’s national week of action to end school pushout. All week parents, students, educators, and activists held events across the country to engage their communities and spread information about ways we can rethink discipline in public schools. The national week of action had four major demands: to shift funding to restorative discipline practices, to use positive behavioral interventions instead of suspensions and expulsions, to fully implement restorative justice practices, and to engage parents and students about discipline policies.
Under a beautiful October sky on the edge of the French Quarter, 700 people from around the country converged on New Orleans. Students, parents, teachers, community activists, labor organizers, policy experts, and advocates of a multitude of issues came together for a weekend of education, collaboration, and engagement.
Organized by the Schott Foundation and the American Federation of Teachers, with more than a dozen co-sponsoring local and national organizations, our key theme was community and labor organizing together for racial justice.
A new report by a trio of racial justice and LGBTQ+ organizations highlights an important but overlooked facet of the school to prison pipeline: LGBTQ+ students are also at risk from harsh disciplinary policies. The Equality Federation, the Advancement Project, and the Gay Straight Alliance Network worked together to publish their report, called Power in Partnerships: Building Connections at the Intersections to End the School-to-Prison Pipeline. The report not only emphasizes how crucial this issue is, but also serves as a valuable resource for groups looking to form partnerships to fight against all of the many ways the school to prison pipeline hurts students.
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