Tuesday, December 10, 2013
By: Anjalé D. Welton (and Christopher Thomas)
Race to The Top (RTTT) serves as the Obama Administration’s declaration for states to rapidly design school reforms that support the needs of persistently low performing schools with the assumption that competition for federal funding will promote the design of innovative state level policies aimed at bolstering student achievement and equitable outcomes (U.S. DOE, 2009). Incentivized reforms such as RTTT have far-reaching aims to address the achievement gap. Predictably not unlike any previous reforms that are hurriedly placed on the national policy agenda, RTTT outlines the solutions to the achievement gap without a sophisticated recall of how we arrived at the so-called gaps in student achievement in the first place. There are serious implications for student equity given RTTT has made such an impact on the policy agenda for state grant recipients in such a short period of time.
In the summit of its implementation scholarly debates emerged (and still continue) as to whether No Child Left Behind’s (NCLB) emphasis on disaggregating data to reveal gaps in achievement among certain student groups either provides the visible evidence to force educational leaders to face inequities or further reifies deficit perspectives about certain students groups’ academic abilities (Gutiérrez, 2008; Leonardo, 2007; Milner, 2012). McKenzie and Scheurich (2004) coined the term equity trap to describe deficit oriented thinking and practices in education. Similarly, school reforms should be mindful of falling in a deficit-based “gap trap” as focusing on gaps in achievement suggests that certain subgroups of students—typically racially minoritized groups, students with disabilities, children living in poverty, and English Language Learners—are the root cause of these gaps, versus exploring systemic and structural as well as policy-based explanations for disparities in achievement (Guiterrez, 2008; Leonardo, 2007; Milner, 2012). Simply put, school reform initiatives that function within an achievement gap framework acknowledge “the symptoms, but not the causes of the achievement problem affecting” these surveilled student groups (Leonardo, 2007, p. 269).
Particularly, current reforms, like RTTT, fail to provide a critical analysis of the underlying causes of disparities in achievement among student groups. Rather, RTTT is undergirded by deficit-based understandings of the root causes of educational inequities that may generate structures and practices that could be harmful to students from historically marginalized backgrounds (see Milner, 2012). For example, the RTTT application criteria sends a federally backed deficit-based message about students’ academic capacities by compelling states to use prescriptive definitions for terms such as “high-need LEA,” “high-minority school,” “high-poverty school,” and “high needs students” (U.S. DOE, 2009, p. 12-14). In addition to the above deficit-based categories for certain institutional types and student groups, the federal criteria is also definitive about how states should approach closing the achievement gap awarding up to 30 points to state applications that demonstrated “significant progress in raising achievement and closing gaps” (U.S. DOE, 2009, p. 7)
Ultimately, despite the federal policy’s effort to “encourage and reward States that are creating the conditions for education innovation and reform,” the way in which RTTT delineates specific approaches for targeted subgroups and institutions and its narrow articulation of the achievement gap causes one to question whether state recipients will have the flexibility to consider equity and develop truly equitable learning conditions for students upon implementation (U.S. DOE, 2009, p. 2). Because of the stealthy achievement gap language in the policy text, leaders tasked with implementing RTTT could misleadingly interpret that they will be “awarded” for instituting simplistic deficit based student categories when measuring student performance. For example, Illinois a round three Race to the Top recipient included the following language in its state grant application:
The systems and resources developed by this Plan are particularly critical to closing the achievement gap and dramatically improving performance in Illinois' lowest performing schools. As a result, for the Black, Hispanic, and Low-Income subgroups, the State's goals are more aggressive, both in the timing and trajectory of student outcomes. (State of Illinois, 2011, p. 7)
Unfortunately, Illinois’ RTTT application provided only limited snapshots of student performance data to substantiate why the above highlighted subgroups would require an aggressive approach for improving student outcomes. As research has shown technical, outcomes based solutions such as the one articulated in the example from Illinois are mere quick fixes that only in the end reproduce inequities and even exacerbate gaps in student achievement (Holme, Diem, & Welton, 2013; Welton, Diem, & Holme, in press). It is problematic for incentivized school reforms such as RTTT to declare equity as a goal when its use of an achievement gap framework only searches for students’ shortcomings and never the assets they may offer to school and their own learning (Milner, 2012).
While data-informed decision-making using standardized measures does give a glimpse into educational disparities, data presented in this manner provides only a narrow, simplistic version of the story. Ultimately, complex counternarratives to the achievement gap framework are needed that acknowledge systemic and structural explanations for the proverbial gap in achievement.
Note: This blog entry is adapted from research on the implementation of Race to the Top and evaluation systems in collaboration with Christopher N. Thomas from the University of San Francisco.
Gutiérrez, R. (2008). A "gap gazing" fetish in mathematics education? Problematizing research on the achievement gap. Journal for Research in Mathematics Education, 39(4), 357-364.
Holme, J. J., Diem, S. D., & Welton, A. D. (in press). Suburban school districts and demographic change: The technical, normative, and political dimensions of response. Educational Administration Quarterly.
Leonardo, Z. (2007). The war on schools: NCLB, nation creation and the educational construction of whiteness. Race Ethnicity and Education, 10, 261-278.
McKenzie, K. B. & Scheurich, J. J. (2004). Equity traps: A useful construct for preparing principals to lead schools that are successful with racially diverse students. Educational Administration Quarterly, 40(5), 601-632.
Milner, H.R. (2012). Beyond a test score: Explaining opportunity gaps in educational practice. Journal of Black Studies, 43(6), 693-718.
State of Illinois (2011). Race to the Top application for Phase 3 funding CFDA Number: 84.395A. Retrieved October 22, 2013 from http://www.isbe.net/racetothetop/PDF/phase3_app.pdf
U.S. Department of Education (2009). Race to the Top Program Executive Summary. Retrieved October 22, 2013 from http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/executive-summary.pdf
Welton, A.D., Diem, S.L., & Holme, J.J. (in press). Color conscious, cultural blindness: Suburban school districts and demographic change. Education and Urban Society.
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
On November 26, 2013, the National Education Policy Center (NEPC) released its annual EMO report entitled, "Profiles of For-Profit and Nonprofit Education Management Organizations: Fourteenth Edition – 2011-2012." The report is the latest edition in a series of reports examining the status and trends of school management in charter and brick-and-mortar schools. The authors (Miron & Gulosino, 2013) differentiate among the varied types of EMOs in terms of their sizes, profit-nonprofit orientation, and enrollment growth. In the report, the authors define education management organizations (EMOs) as private entities that manage public schools, including charter schools via contracts to produce specified academic and financial results. EMOs have management authority over a school, and are thus distinct from vendors hired to meet particular education-related services. In what follows I will not take a stand on EMOs as much as to discuss the principal findings of the report (Miron & Gulosino, 2013) and two pressing issues from prior research on EMOs.
One indicator of the success of EMO-managed schools is their rapid growth. This is a particularly valid indicator of EMO viability because students attend EMO-managed schools voluntarily and have the option of returning to brick-and-mortar schools if EMO-managed schools prove unsatisfactory. A cornerstone of the market theory is the assumption that there are no barriers to entry that prevent EMO-managed schools from increasing their share of the market. The ability of EMO-managed schools to differentiate the quality of their services from those offered by brick-and-mortar schools while charging zero tuition as brick-and-mortar schools make EMO-managed schools potentially strong competitors to existing brick-and-mortar schools in the market for students.
A. For-Profit Operators
During the 1998-1999 school year, 5 for-profit EMOs enrolled approximately 1,000 students; during the 2011-2012 school year 97 for-profit EMOs had a total enrollment of 462,926 students. While the actual number of for-profit companies has grown very little over the past few years, many of the large- and medium-sized EMOs are expanding into new service areas, such as supplemental education services and virtual schooling.
B. Nonprofit Operators
Since the 1998-1999 school year, the number of nonprofit EMOs has increased from 46 to 201, and the number of schools managed has increased from 92 to 840. Enrollment has grown from 5,426 students in 1998-1999 to 445,052 in 2011-2012. Nonprofit operators have shown more robust growth in regular public school settings than for-profit operators, both in terms of new nonprofit EMOs and new managed schools. KIPP, the Knowledge is Power Program, a national charter school network, remained the largest nonprofit EMO, with 98 schools and just over 35,045 students in 2011-2012.
C. Virtual Schools
The number of virtual schools operated by EMOs has increased from 60 in 2009-2010 to 91 in 2011-2012. This represents 10.8 percent of all schools (a total of 840) managed by for-profit EMOs. The average virtual school enrollment is 1,388.
A. Academic Achievement
Critics of EMO-managed schools question whether or not they will improve the educational achievement of students, particularly students from poorly performing inner-city schools (Brown et al., 2004). Broad generalizations about the academic impacts of EMO-managed schools should be viewed with skepticism unless buttressed by supportive evidence (Betts & Tang, 2011). Policy-wise, however, the present context for education reform focused on academic achievement has provided an enabling environment conducive to the growth of EMO-managed schools. In particular, the Obama administration's Race to the Top (RTTT) reform has included an increased emphasis on the role of EMOs generally and a specific emphasis on EMOs-managed charter schools in replicating best practices to "turn around" the lowest performing 5% of the nation's public schools. Tennessee and particularly Memphis has become an epicenter of the RTTT reform. Since being awarded RTTT funding in 2010, Tennessee has seen the number of EMOs grow from 2 to 8. The majority are located in Memphis (i.e., Yes Prep; Scholar Academies; Green Dot; KIPP Memphis; The Influence 1 Foundation, LEAD Public Schools; Aspire Public Schools). A verdict on their contribution to academic achievement will take time to fully determine.
EMOs also have had significant support from venture philanthropy networks, from corporate giving and family foundations to individual donors (Hentschke et al., 2003). Critics of K-12 funding formula argue that the pace of school change has been too slow, that educational bureaucracies have been able to resist major changes, and as a result, the many millions of dollars invested into schools have produced minimal results (Colvin, 2005; Hess, 2005; Lake et al., 2009). Venture philanthropies respond to this criticism by seeking a return on their investment in the form of for-profit and nonprofit education management or supporting the growth in a new school industry (i.e., virtual schools). Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, NewSchools Venture Fund (NSVF), The Broad Foundation, and The Walton Family Foundation are leading these efforts. Such venture philanthropy networks can influence policymakers, education officials, and charter school authorizers, and can circumvent formal policy processes to get reforms enacted (Ravitch, 2013). In this way, they can ignore the traditional democratic processes by which educational policies take shape, directly impacting school structure, curriculum, and personnel issues without necessarily engaging in public deliberation (Reich, 2005; Ravitch, 2013). Educational researchers are just beginning to investigate the strategies the venture philanthropy networks employ (Hess, 2005; Wohlstetter et al., 2011), and how their efforts are have helped fuel the expansion of EMOs. A more detailed examination of EMO scale-up strategies, such as budgets, financial plans, and locational decisions is clearly warranted.
Some of the most important finance questions that have remained unanswered are: Are they profitable or cost-effective? In what ways has the sector transformed since 1999? How do venture philanthropy networks affect the design and delivery of education by EMO-managed schools? Finally, mergers, acquisitions, and non-profit/for-profit arrangements seem to be the cutting edge in EMO growth and yet there is no systematic research into what is going on and what it means for schools. Given the budget crisis all schools are facing, more empirical studies are needed on how to help EMO-managed schools reduce costs or enhance revenues if they are to be used as vehicles for educational innovation.
As a cautionary tale, the range of venture philanthropy networks providing financial resources to EMO-managed schools is diverse and our understanding is fragmentary (Wohlstetter et al., 2011). There is no single repository to which researchers can access data on the contributions and donations from private sources or on the amount that they give. In addition, the determination of the profitability of a single EMO is very difficult since they are not required to report that information. The findings from NEPC's latest profile report on EMOs should form the starting point for more in-depth and thoroughgoing analysis into how EMOs fund their growth.
Betts, J. R., & Tang, E. (2011). The effect of charter schools on student achievement: A meta-analysis of the literature. Seattle, WA: Center for Reinventing Public Education.
Brown, H., Henig, J., Lacireno-Paquet, N., and Holyoke, T. T. (2004). Scale of operations and locus of control in market- versus mission-oriented charter schools. Social Science Quarterly, 85(5): 1035-1051.
Colvin, R. L. (2005). A new generation of philanthropists and their great ambitions. In F. M. Hess (Ed.), With the best of intentions: How philanthropy is reshaping K-12 education (pp. 21-48). Cambridge: Harvard Education Press.
Hentschke, G., Oschman, S., & Snell, S. (2003) Trends and best practices for education management organizations. Policy Perspectives, WestEd, San Francisco.
Hess, F. M. (Ed.). (2005). With the best of intentions: How philanthropy is reshaping K-12 education. Cambridge: Harvard Education Press.
Lake, R. J., & Hill, P. T. (2009). Performance management in portfolio school districts. Seattle, WA: Center on Reinventing Public Education. Retrieved from http://www.crpe.org/cs/crpe/view/projects/1
Miron, G., & Gulosino, C. (2013). Profiles of for-profit and nonprofit education management organizations: Fourteenth Edition—2011-2012. Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center. Retrieved [date] from http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/EMO-profiles-11-12
Ravitch, D. (2006). Bill Gates, the nation's superintendent of schools. The Los Angeles Times.
Ravitch, D. (2013). The reign of error: The hoax of the privatization movement and the danger of America's public schools. New York: Random House, Inc.
Reich, R. (2005). A failure of philanthropy. Stanford Social Innovation Review (Winter), 33.
Wohlstetter, P., Smith, J., Farrell, C., Guilbert, H., & Hirman, J. (2011). How funding shapes the growth of charter management organizations: Is the tail wagging the dog? Journal of Education Finance, 37 (2), 150-174.
Tuesday, December 03, 2013
Undergraduate Enrollment in the Big 10 Public Universities: Exploring Enrollment of African Americans and Hispanics from 2002-2011
The Engines of Inequality report (Gerald & Haycock, 2006) indicates that despite an abundance of resources, flagship universities are not doing a sufficient job in providing access or funds to underrepresented groups. Recently, Carnevale and Strohl (2013) expanded this line of research to include the top 468 most selective schools and found that flagship schools were not alone in lack of active initiatives toward enrolling underrepresented students. Their research suggested that due to social structure being white students generally hail from higher SES, benefiting from increased resources, opportunities, and social capitol result a higher chance these students will end up in an elite university. Furthermore, when this social unbalance is combined with the lack of outreach and effort from elite educational institutions, these organizations have become passively complicit in “the systematic reproduction of white racial privilege across generations” (p. 7).
This line of research is important because of what it means financially means for African Americans and Hispanics to have access to elite institutions. Pew Research Center (2011) has conducted research on the effects that the recession had on four major racial groups. Before the recession, African Americans ($12,124) and Hispanics ($18,359) were already well behind the average White ($134,992) net worth; as Asian ($168,103) net worth was above. Yet in post-recession 2009, this wealth had dramatically declined affecting the minority groups more heavily. African Americans ($5,677) experienced a 54% decline, Hispanic ($6,325) wealth declined 66%, Asian ($78,066) wealth declined by 54%, and White ($113,149) wealth declined by just 15%.
Access to prestigious schools are important to advanced financial security. Hoekstra (2009) found there was significant differences in earnings between students who went to a flag-ship university and those who were academically similar but rejected from the university, with those who went to the flag-ship earning roughly 20% more. Specifically regarding underrepresented groups, research has found that African Americans and Hispanics who attended more selective schools had a more positive return on investment (Dale and Krueger (2011), suggesting that income of these individuals are in-fact higher and the social benefit is more significant.
Across the public universities in the Big 10, Caucasian students have been on a decreasing trend as noticeable increases can be attributed to Hispanic and Non-Resident Alien students. The data suggests that Big 10 public universities are the exact school that both reports are referring to when highlighting major disparities between the total enrolled and enrollment of underrepresented groups.
The only minority group that is actively decreasing in percentile owned of total enrollment in the Big 10 are African Americans. Although the decrease is statistically moderate, forecasting indicates that if these trends stay consistent by 2015 undergraduate African Americans will be down from 5.2% to 4.6% of total enrollment and by 2020 that will drop to 3.9%.
Conversely, these universities are showing increase support toward Hispanic students. From 2002-2011 The average Big 10 increase of this group is 2.59%. In 2011, Hispanic undergraduate students have almost caught up to African American students owning 4.9% of all enrollment and is forecasted to own 7% of all undergraduate Big 10 enrollment by 2020. Rutgers and Maryland bolstering this system’s Hispanic enrollment; without their inclusion the Big 10 average Hispanic enrollment would be roughly at 4.0%.
Since African Americans own the lowest wealth and are the only minority group on a declining trend, a deeper investigation into individual university’s actions is warranted. Much like with the Hispanic population, Maryland and Rutgers’ enrollment significantly bolster the totals by enrolling roughly 3000 students and are the only two universities that in 2011 African Americans owned over 7% of total enrollment. Without these institutions the highest enrollment would had been Michigan State with 6.5% and the average Big 10 percentage of enrollment would drop from 5.2% to 4.0%.
When reports come out that indicate elite universities are either active or passive participants in perpetuating inequality, the data indicates that these universities not only contribute to that argument, but are in fact the drivers. It is clear that the Big 10 and many universities within the system is not showing an active interest in at minimum retaining African Americans populations. As the Booking Institute suggests, without access to these types of universities we can expect this group to remain within the bottom socio-economic levels of our society.
It is absolutely imperative that the Big 10 public institutions start actively finding the talent in this demographic that is ready for an elite institution but instead go to lower ranked, non-competitive schools.
by Dan Collier