Public School Policies

From unions to vouchers, school budgets to discipline policies, we cover some of the most controversial issues affecting public schools today. Learn more about education reform and how it impacts your family. Keep current on the latest controversies regarding religion, sex-education, civil rights and more.
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Inmates in America’s prisons are protected from corporal punishment, yet it is a system of discipline that still exists in public schools in nineteen states. Teachers and principals are allowed to strike a child, either with a paddle, an open hand, or in some cases a ruler, in order to punish them. Students may be struck on the bottom or the upper thighs. Generally speaking, students are directed to bend over a desk or chair while a school official administers the punishment. For safety purposes, it is usually witnessed by another school official, but sometimes the punishment is neither discussed with, nor approved by, the child’s parents.
 
The vast majority of states that still allow these punishments are in the Deep South, where large populations of students of color – especially African-Americans – comprise the student bodies of public schools. Texas leads the way with over 10,000 cases of spanking or paddling each year. However, some states in the West, including Wyoming, Idaho, and Arizona, also allow corporal punishment.
 
While these states still allow corporal punishment, many of their school districts have taken it upon themselves to ban the practice. However, many school districts persist in using spanking and paddling as punishment. In fact, according to the Department of Education, each year, hundreds of thousands of students are subjected to corporal punishment. While some districts in larger, urban schools still employ the practice, it occurs mostly in smaller, rural communities. The Department of Education reports that of these students, an . . . read more
The notion of comprehensive education is nothing new, yet with all of the education reforms and testing initatives, has it fallen even further to the wayside?  Are our current curriculum standards robbing children of a real education, in favor of No. 2 pencils scratching on standardized bubbles? 

Many consider John Dewey, the late nineteenth and early twentieth-century philosopher and advocate of progressivism to be the father of student-centered learning. Dewey championed the idea that schools should address a broad spectrum of student needs, rather than drill rote memorization of facts into students’ heads. The addition of school counselors, special education programs, advanced courses for the gifted, and student support services like positive behavior interventions would all fall under the realm of whole-child educational programs that schools throughout the nation have implemented for quite some time.  According to the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, whole-child education should encompass the following: 

  • Every child comes to school healthy and is supported in his or her pursuit of good mental and physical health through physical education, health, and wellness classes and activities that enrich their lives.
  • Every child learns in an environment that is free from discrimination, upholds the tenets of social justice and equality, and provides opportunities for students to feel valued and respected.
  • Every child is actively engaged in their learning, which is facilitated by hands-on and project-based learning, community service, extracurricular activities, and other programs that extend learning beyond the classroom.
  • Every child participates in personalized learning programs that meet their unique academic, . . . read more
What is the School-to-Prison Pipeline?
 
In an era in which negative or violent behaviors at school – from bullying and harassment, racism and sexism, and school shootings – is commonplace, public schools have taken measures to beef up security in the name of protecting students and staff. Schools in urban areas have long been home to security guards and metal detectors, however, security measures in recent years at urban and rural schools alike have grown to include armed school resource officers (SRO), complex networks of surveillance cameras, and zero-tolerance discipline policies that have resulted in a substantial increase in the number of student suspensions, expulsions and school-based arrests. In fact, the number of disciplinary actions taken in schools is at an all-time high.

However, this is just one component of the modern-day school-to-prison pipeline, in which students are forced out of school by Draconian policies that land them in the criminal justice system.
 
This begs the question, “How did we get to this point?” The American Civil Liberties Union has identified five primary factors in the development of today’s police-state schools that funnel children into courts and jails:
 
       1.     Lack of funding and resources: Many discipline problems arise when students are disengaged and do not have support services to help them persist in their educational pursuits. Lack of textbooks, inexperienced teachers, and non-existent counseling and special education services all contribute to delinquency and high dropout rates.
       2.     Alternative school environments: In some public . . . read more
Immigration reform has been a hotly contested issue for decades. With Congress deadlocked on the issue, state legislatures across the country have passed strict anti-immigration bills, leaving millions of immigrants in fear of deportation. One source of fear for undocumented families is that local school districts that require birth certificates, social security numbers, and other vital information in order to enroll students will reveal the family’s undocumented status and lead authorities to apprehend them. The fear of legal retribution is so great that for many families, removing their children from school is their only choice.
 
Plyler v. Doe
 
The recent wave of state-based restrictions on enrollment of undocumented students is somewhat curious given that the Supreme Court ruled that these students have an equal right to education. In their 1982 ruling in Plyler v. Doe, the justices held that schools cannot:
 
       ·      Deny a student enrollment based on undocumented status;
 
       ·      Require different procedures to determine a student’s residency;
 
       ·      Engage in any activities that may discourage a student from enrolling;
 
       ·      Require students or their parents to document their immigration status;
 
       ·      Ask questions that may expose a student’s immigration status;
 
       ·      Require a student’s social security number for enrollment purposes.

Furthermore, as a result of the ruling, school officials involved in enrollment and intake of new students are not obligated to enforce U.S. immigration laws. Yet, despite these clear-cut guidelines regarding student enrollment, public schools keep finding ways to exclude immigrant and undocumented children.
 
Alabama – The “Show Me Your Papers State”

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As the pressure to demonstrate student achievement has increased over the last decade, some educators have begun bending the rules. While cheating scandals involving teachers are nothing new, with the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) in 2002, the stakes for teachers and students alike rose dramatically.
 
NCLB’s strict testing and performance requirements have gotten the most attention over the years. Students in elementary and middle grades are required to be tested annually in math and reading. High school students must be tested at least once between tenth and twelfth grade. Schools must also demonstrate “adequate yearly progress,” in which students show year-to-year improvement towards the eventual goal that 100 percent of students are proficient on tests in both subject areas.
 
Originally, districts had until 2014 to meet 100 percent proficiency. But by 2011 it became clear that thousands of schools across the country would not meet this goal. As a result, the Obama Administration agreed to award waivers to districts that could not reach the goal, however, districts had to agree to implement teacher evaluation systems that were directly tied to student test scores if waivers were to be granted. Thus, cheating scandals involving educators have since become much more commonplace.
 
Cheating Cases Reported Across the Nation
 
Educators in Philadelphia have been charged with “fostering a culture of cheating” after the state’s attorney general discovered in 2008 that teachers had provided test answers to students, improperly reviewed state assessments, and in some cases changed student answers. . . . read more
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Knowledge is Power Program: A Strong Model for Public Schools
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Urban Public Schools Come to the Rescue of Black Boys
Public schools across the nation are implementing programs that help keep young black men in school and off the streets. Boosting graduation rates, reducing gang involvement and violence, and providing positive male role models are just a few of the common elements of these programs. Yet, the achievement gap between black boys and other peer groups remains extremely wide.
Teachers in 19 States Allowed to Physically Punish Students
As of 2014, nineteen states still allow corporal punishment – spanking and paddling the most common choices – in their public schools. However, some argue that not only are these punishments physically harmful, they also are disproportionately administered to students of color. As a result, House democrats have taken up the issue in a new bill that would ban all forms of corporal punishment nationwide.
Public School Policies

Education Reform

Education reform is in the works, and you can stay updated on the latest changes, debates, and policies here. Learn more about No Child Left Behind and how it impacts your child. Explore how federal and state government is working to improve school performance, student achievement and education standards.

Teachers and Unions

A comprehensive look at teachers, tenure, and unions. Learn how unions impact school performance. Explore the impact of education reform on teaching qualification standards, traditional unions and controversial tenure rules.

Public School Budgets

We offer an overview of public school budgets; where the money comes from, how it’s spent and what schools are doing to get more funding. Learn how schools are cutting budgets and how the cuts will impact your child. Delve into some of the creative ways school districts are trying to raise money and where the extra money is spent.

Vouchers

Explore both sides of the school voucher debate. Learn what your options are, how those choices are funded and the impact on your local school district. From the latest government initiatives to results from recent studies, explore vouchers and the options they provide.

School Discipline Policies

Examine the various discipline methods being put to use in public schools. From detention to expulsion, spanking to handcuffing, school discipline can often be controversial. Does spanking work? Do police belong in schools? Learn more about what is being done to punish out of control students.

School Controversies

The most controversial issues impacting public school students today. From bullying to book bans, this is a comprehensive look at some of the most oft-debated issues. This section features articles on school segregation, religion, over-crowding, civil rights, and green technology.