Tag Archives: elementary

Pocan: For Every Student Succeeds Act

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, a member of the Education and the Workforce Committee, spoke Dec. 2 on the House floor in support of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act Reauthorization, the Every Student Succeeds Act.

The bipartisan bill passed the House this week by a vote of 359-64 and the Senate is expected to finalize it next week.

This is the first reauthorization of the ESEA since the expiration of No Child Left Behind in 2007.

The following is Pocan’s statement on the floor:

I rise in support of the Every Student Succeeds Act. Defending public education is one of the reasons I came to Congress.

For years, we’ve witnessed a negative impact on public education from underfunding our schools and to stripping teachers of their rights to collectively bargain for fair pay and conditions. At the same time, punitive policies which limit teachers’ and administrators’ abilities to manage their classrooms have further hampered student achievement. 

In my home state, attacks on public education are made on a regular basis. And nationally our dialogue surrounding K-12 education has lacked the input of local educators, parents and communities. It’s past time we renew the promise of an ESEA which has students’ best interests at heart.

I meet with teachers and administrators from Wisconsin’s 2nd Congressional District regularly and was stunned when I was told one third of a school’s staff turned over last year because schools lack the financial support and autonomy they need to give students the educational experience they deserve. Teachers are being asked to do more with less and it’s coming at the expense of our kids’ education.

A 2014 Alliance for Excellent Education student demonstrated that 13% of the nation’s 3.4 million teachers move schools or leave the profession every year. Close to 40-50% of teachers leave the job entirely within 5 years of starting.

And while this bill is far from perfect, I am pleased that we are finally discussing a bill today that aims to put students first and trusts the teachers who dedicate their careers to education.

This bill trusts and empowers teachers to ensure their voices are heard on the federal, state, and local level while increasing teacher quality and professional development, and reducing the burden of testing in schools.

Those are good improvements, Mr. Speaker, good for our nation’s children, and that’s why I support this bill.

Civil rights groups guide Congress on education bill

Nearly 20 civil rights groups and education advocates released shared civil rights principles for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

In the principles, the groups highlight the important and historic role the federal government has played during the 50 years since the ESEA was originally passed in promoting educational opportunity and protecting the rights and interests of students disadvantaged by discrimination, poverty, and other conditions that may limit their educational attainment.

The groups say that this role must be maintained in any bill to reauthorize the ESEA, along with ensuring that each state adopts college and career-ready state standards, aligned statewide annual assessments, and a state accountability system to improve instruction and learning for students in low-performing schools.

The full text of the principles:

Shared Civil Rights Principles for the Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act January 2015

The United States has played a historic and critical role in promoting educational opportunity and protecting the rights and interests of students disadvantaged by discrimination, poverty, and other conditions that may limit their educational attainment. For more than five decades, Congress has consistently recognized and acted on the need to promote fair and equal access to public schools for: children of color; children living in poverty; children with disabilities; homeless, foster and migrant children; children in detention; children still learning English; Native children; and girls as well as boys. Much progress has been made, but educational inequality continues to quash dreams, erode our democracy, and hinder economic growth. This federal role must be honored and maintained in a reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), which must ensure the following:

I. Each state adopts college and career-ready state standards and provides:

 All students a fair and equal opportunity to meet these standards, including: 

  • Access to early childhood education for economically disadvantaged children and those with disabilities (ages birth to 5 years).
  • Equal access to qualified and effective teachers and core college-prep courses.
  • Equal access to technology including hardware, software, and the Internet.
  • Safe and healthy school climate with inclusionary discipline best practices.
  • Supports and services needed by English learners and students with disabilities.
  • Protections for the most vulnerable children, e.g., those in juvenile or criminal justice systems, those in child welfare systems, pregnant/parenting students, and foster, homeless, and migrant youth.

Annual, statewide assessments for all students (in grades 3-8 and at least once in high school) that are aligned with, and measure each student’s progress toward meeting, the state’s college and career-ready standards, and 

  • Are valid and reliable measures of student progress and meet other requirements now in Sec. 1111(b)(3) of Title I.
  • Provide appropriate accommodations for English learners, who should be exempt only for their first year attending school in the United States.
  • Provide appropriate accommodations for students with disabilities.
  • Limit alternate assessments based on alternate achievement standards only to students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, up to 1 percent of all students; terminate assessments based on modified achievement standards; and prohibit the use of Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) to measure academic achievement under ESEA.
  • Allow, during a transition period, alternatives to computer-based assessment for students in schools that have not yet provided them with sufficient access to, and experience with, the required technology.

II. Federal dollars are targeted to historically underserved students and schools.

  • Title I is used to provide extra (supplemental) resources needed by high-poverty schools to close achievement gaps and improve student outcomes.
  • States, districts and schools serving the highest-need student populations receive more funding than others.
  • Targeted funding is provided to meet the needs of the most vulnerable children including youth in juvenile and criminal justice systems; Native American children; English learners; and foster, homeless, and migrant students.

III. State accountability systems expect and support all students to make enough progress every year so that they graduate from high school ready for college and career. 

  • States set annual district and school targets for grade-level achievement, high school graduation, and closing achievement gaps, for all students, including accelerated progress for subgroups (each major racial and ethnic group, students with disabilities, English language learners, and students from low-income families), and rate schools and districts on how well they meet the targets.
  • Effective remedies to improve instruction, learning and school climate (including, e.g., decreases in bullying and harassment, use of exclusionary discipline practices, use of police in schools, and student referrals to law enforcement) for students enrolled are implemented in any school where the school as a whole, or any subgroup of students, has not met the annual achievement and graduation targets or where achievement gaps persist.  The remedies must be effective both in improving subgroup achievement and high school graduation rates and in closing achievement gaps.

IV. States and districts ensure that all Title I schools encourage and promote meaningful engagement and input of all parents/guardians –regardless of their participation or influence in school board elections – including those who are not proficient in English, or who have disabilities or limited education/literacy –  in their children’s education and in school activities and decision-making.  Schools communicate and provide information and data in ways that are accessible to all parents (e.g., written, oral, translated).

V. States and LEAs improve data collection and reporting to parents and the public on student achievement and gap-closing, course-completion, graduation rates, school climate indicators (including decreases in use of exclusionary discipline practices, use of police in schools, and student referrals to law enforcement), opportunity measures (including pre-K and technology), and per-pupil expenditures. Data are disaggregated by categories in Sec. 1111(b)(3)(C)(xiii) of Title I, and cross-tabulated by gender. 

VI. States implement and enforce the law.  The Secretary of Education approves plans, ensures state implementation through oversight and enforcement, and takes action when states fail to meet their obligations to close achievement gaps and provide equal educational opportunity for all students.

Submitted by:
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
American Association of University Women
American Civil Liberties Union
Children’s Defense Fund
Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates 
Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund
Easter Seals
The Education Trust 
League of United Latin American Citizens 
Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund
NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund
National Center for Learning Disabilities 
National Council of La Raza 
National Urban League
National Women’s Law Center
Partners for Each and Every Child
Southeast Asia Resource Action Center
United Negro College Fund

Lego’s building blocks to diversity

Through a partnership between Madison Metropolitan School District, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Welcoming Schools program and Gender Spectrum, elementary school students analyzed LEGO sets and marketing and, taking inspiration from a LEGO ad from 1981, came up with a 21st century ad to remind LEGO that “diversity is perfect.” LEGO responded:

It’s amazing to see the outcome of all the time and effort you put into your analysis of gender and culture in LEGO sets. I enjoyed reading the letters you posted on your website. We know we’re lucky to have so many loyal LEGO fans around the world and we’re always pleased to get feedback.

When we develop a new LEGO set, we use customer feedback like yours — and most importantly, we ask children for opinions on every little detail. You’re the best play experts in the world and the toughest judges of what’s fun and what isn’t.

It’s true we currently have more male than female minifigures in our assortment. We completely agree that we need to be careful about the roles our female figures play — we need to make sure they’re part of the action and have exciting adventures, and aren’t just waiting to be rescued.

You say we should make female minifigures and sets for girls that look more like our other play themes. You’re right: we don’t expect all girls to love the LEGO Friends sets. We know that each child is unique. That’s why we offer more than 450 different toys in various themes so everyone can choose what matches their building skills and links into their passions and interests.

Our designers spend all day dreaming up new sets and ideas, and new roles continue to appear and old roles evolve for both male and female characters. Lots of strong women and girls live in LEGO City. They work as businesswomen, police officers and fire fighters. And THE LEGO MOVIE features Wyldstyle as a main character. She’s an awesome, inspiring character who’s also one of the best builders around!

We originally chose yellow for the color of minifigures so they wouldn’t represent a specific ethnicity in sets when there were no characters represented. In this way, LEGO figures would be acceptable all over the world and fans could assign their own individual roles. However, in some products where we want figures to be as authentic as possible, such as movie characters, and others we plan in the future, some minifigures won’t be yellow to stay true to their characterization.

We put a lot of effort into creating a variety of new and exciting characters for the Minifigures Collectibles line: so far we’ve had a female surgeon, a zoologist, athletes, extreme sports characters, rock stars, and a scientist — just to share a few examples. They cover a lot of everyday professions, but we’ve also developed heroic characters like a female Viking, Amazon warrior, space explorer… as well as fantasy and mythical female characters.

Here at the LEGO Group we’re also having many conversations about the topics you raised, so your comments will be shared with our marketing and development teams. After all, we want to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow: that means both boys and girls, everywhere in the world!

Feds asked to investigate Wisconsin single-sex school programs

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Wisconsin are asking the U.S. Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education to investigate single-sex programs in the Barron Area and Beloit School Districts.

In the federal complaints, the ACLU maintains that the programs appear to violate federal and state law by forcing students into a single-sex environment, relying on harmful gender stereotypes and depriving students of equal educational opportunities because of their sex.

Programs in both districts, according to a statement from the ACLU, trained teachers that boys should be allowed to move around the classroom during instruction, while girls should sit quietly; that they should tailor instructional materials and assignments toward stereotypical “boys’ interests” like sports and “girls’ interests” like sharing feelings and, in the Barron Area example, discussing topics like cats, shopping and horses; and emphasized that they should speak to boys in a clear and assertive manner while smiling and speaking softly to girls.

“We all want children in Wisconsin to have a quality education, but tracking them into programs that promote stereotypes doesn’t help anyone,” stated Karyn Rotker, of the ACLU of Wisconsin. “Whatever the intentions of the educators who set up these programs, the disproven theories on which they rely actually limit opportunities for boys and girls alike.”

The complaints were filed against Riverview Middle School in Barron; and Robinson and McLenegan Elementary Schools in Beloit.

Beloit School District has offered single-sex programs in two elementary schools in multiple subjects and in non-academic areas such as lunch and recess, since 2007.

The Barron Area School District separated its fifth grade math and language arts classes by sex in 2011, and although it temporarily discontinued the program this year due to scheduling issues, the district has refused to respond to inquiries as to whether it will be halted permanently.

The programs in both districts were heavily influenced by the ideas of Dr. Leonard Sax, whose theories on the supposed differences between boys’ and girls’ brains are rooted in what the ACLU called “archaic stereotypes.” Sax has said that girls do badly under stress, so they should not be given time limits on a test; and that boys who like to read, do not enjoy contact sports and do not have a lot of close male friends should be firmly disciplined, required to spend time with “normal males” and made to play sports.

The school districts cited Sax’s discredited theory of differences between boys’ and girls’ brains as its justification for single-sex education. These theories were recently debunked in an article authored by a multidisciplinary team of scientists in the prestigious journal Science, which argued that sex segregation does not improve academic performance, but does foster stereotypes.

“There is no solid evidence supporting the assertions about supposed differences between boys’ and girls’ brains on which these programs are based, and there is absolutely no evidence that teaching boys and girls differently leads to any educational improvements,” said Galen Sherwin, attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. “It’s harmful for public schools to promote these types of generalizations about boys and girls—particularly with children who are so young.”

The ACLU wants the OCR to investigate and enforce federal laws that prohibit discrimination based on sex in schools and ensure that these programs are not implemented again.

‘Gay’ – in the negative way – regularly heard in grade schools

The most common form of biased language in elementary schools, heard regularly by both students and teachers, is the use of the word “gay” in a negative way.

That’s the finding of a new study from the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network. GLSEN released the study “Playgrounds and Prejudice: Elementary School Climate in the United States” on Jan. 18, the same day it released a safe-schools tool kit for elementary school educators.

The report, based on national surveys of 1,065 students in grades 3-6 and 1,099 elementary school teachers of kindergarten through sixth grade, examines experiences with biased remarks and bullying.

“School climate and victimization can affect students’ educational outcomes and personal development at every grade level,” said GLSEN executive director Eliza Byard. “‘Playgrounds and Prejudice’ offers invaluable insights into biased remarks and bullying in America’s elementary schools. The report also shows the need for elementary schools to do more to address issues of homophobia, gender expression and family diversity.”

The study found that 45 percent of elementary school students and 49 percent of elementary school teachers regularly hear “that’s so gay.”

The study also found:

• Twenty-six percent of students and teachers hear homophobic remarks such as “fag” and “lesbo” in grade school. Students at a similar percentage hear negative racial comments.

• Three-fourths of students report that students at their school are called names, made fun of or bullied with at least some regularity. Most commonly this is because of students’ looks or body size, followed by not being good at sports, how well they do at schoolwork, not conforming to traditional gender norms/roles or because other people think they’re gay.

• Seven in 10 students say they have learned about family diversity, but only two in 10 have learned about families with gay or lesbian parents.

• Nearly 90 percent of elementary school teachers surveyed said they include representations of different families in the classroom, but only 21 percent report representation of LGB parents and only 8 percent report representation of transgender parents.

• About 48 percent of teachers said they feel comfortable answering questions from students about LGB people and 41 percent are comfortable answering questions about transgender people.