Nikole Hannah-Jones on Democracy Now: Her reporting on the resegregation of schools deserves to be heard

Nikole Hannah-Jonesfavicon Nikole Hannah-Jones is my new hero. She’s the author of “Segregation Now,” the ProPublica and Atlantic Monthly piece (that you must read!) about the resegregation of schools in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Here she is in an interview on Democracy Now. She connects her recent article with this week’s Supreme Court case, Schuette v. BAMN, which allowed Michigan voters to amend their state constitution to disallow race as a factor in college admission.

Here’s a quote that resonated with me:

I think it’s very obvious, if you just look just strictly at the facts, that we still have a racialized K-12 system, and that Black and Brown students tend to be in schools where they are receiving an inferior education. They have a less-rigorous curriculum. They’re less likely to get access to classes that will help them in college, such as Advanced Placement Physics, higher-level Math, and they are most likely to be taught by inexperienced teachers.

Later in the interview, when discussing Brown v. Board of Education, Ms. Hannah-Jones says, “Resources follow white students in this country….Today that’s still the case. We have not eliminated that connection between resources and race.”

Ms. Hannah-Jones knows what she’s talking about. Like Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow, Ms. Hannah-Jones deserves to be heard. favicon

Sneak preview: Next year’s Kindle study. And a request for your help to set it up!

imagesfavicon Now that generous contributors have donated more than 150 Kindles to the Kindle Classroom Project, it’s time for a real, grown-up, scientific study about the effects of using Kindles on student reading identity and achievement.

I’m excited.

I’d like the study to answer the following questions:

1. Do students who read on Kindles (aka Kindlers) read more than their peers who read physical books (aka non-Kindlers)?

2. Do the reading skills of Kindlers grow more than those of non-Kindlers?

3. Do the Kindlers grow to like reading more? Do they identify as readers more than the non-Kindlers?

4. For which students is the Kindle most and least effective? This could include race, gender, reading skill, or other characteristics.

5. Which Kindle configuration is most effective – mandatory-for-all, student opt-in, or by-teacher-invite?

OK, that’s a lot of questions, and I’ve never done a scientific-ish study, so this is where maybe you could help out! The good news is, I have a lot of resources ready to go. For example, I have 150 Kindles, several interested teachers, a high-quality online reading assessment, and a well-regarded reader identity survey. Those things are in place.

What’s not in place is exactly how to set up the study. Ideally, for a number of reasons, I’d like to work with just one teacher, preferably who teachers ninth graders.

But I’m not sure all of my questions can be answered with just one teacher and just 100 students. To be specific: Questions #1-3 (actually, maybe Question #4, too) deal with whether Kindlers do better than non-Kindlers. It seems to me that 1/2 of the students should be reading on Kindles while 1/2 should be reading physical books. Isn’t that right? If so, Does that mean that two classes should have Kindles throughout the year and the other two not get access to them? Or should we switch in the middle, just to see if the same students behave differently with- or without a Kindle?

Another concern: What should I do with question #5? It seems important to investigate whether there is a difference if students get to opt into the program vs. if they’re invited by a teacher or required by a teacher. Would reading growth go down if students feel forced to use a Kindle? Though I like these questions, I’m not sure how to pull off this part of the study at the same time as the Kindle vs. non-Kindle part. What are your thoughts?

Let me say again: I’d love to hear your ideas about how to set this up. Though I went to grad school (really, I did!), I’ve never taken a methods class. Let me know your thoughts. You can leave them in the comments or email me at mark (at) iserotope (dot) com. All help is appreciated. Thank you! favicon

My Kappan article on Kindles featured in The Marshall Memo!

marshall memofavicon I wasn’t having a great Monday until an email from Kim Marshall arrived in my inbox.

Yes, the Kim Marshall, of The Marshall Memo, the extremely well-regarded weekly publication that curates and summarizes key articles about K-12 education.

Here is the email in part:

I enjoyed your article in Phi Delta Kappan and summarized it in this week’s Marshall Memo, a newsletter I send to subscribers in the U.S. and around the world (attached). I hope you feel I did justice to your piece.

Wow! Mr. Marshall enjoyed my article about the Kindle Classroom Project? And he liked it enough to include it in his newsletter – out of the 100+ articles he reads every week from the 64 journals he reviews?

I’m very honored. (Mr. Marshall, of course you did justice to my piece. Thank you.)

Here’s the Table of Contents. Seven is a great number.

Screenshot 2014-04-21 21.16.13Also, I must say this: I am very impressed by Mr. Marshall’s work. Content curation is not a new buzzword to him. He’s been reading about education and publishing his Memo since 2003. (On a side note: I wish I’d come up with this great idea!) favicon

ReadingPack: A great way to find, organize, and share articles on the web. Or: Pocket + + (Twitter – Zite)

favicon I read a lot of nonfiction on the web. And I like to find good articles, read them, share them, and save them.

You’d think there would be a good service out there that helps me do all those things. Actually, as I’ve written about before, things are a bit clunky. Usually it takes several apps to achieve a good reading flow.

That’s why I’m happy to try out ReadingPack, a service that organizes what you’re reading online and helps you discover new articles you may enjoy. In short, ReadingPack is a social reading list.

Here’s how it works: If you find an article that you want to read later, you can share it to your “pack.” For those of you who use Pocket, that’s the Pocket part of ReadingPack.

Then, if you really like the article and want to save it, you can designate it a “must read.” This moves the article to your “shared list,” which others can see if they’re following you. For the very few of you who use (or used to use, my all-time favorite), that’s the part of ReadingPack.

Which gets me to the best part of ReadingPack. You can follow people whose articles you like. And then those articles arrive in your “feed.” This is news discovery part of ReadingPack, and it’s a bit like Zite (which is going out of business soon) and a bit like Twitter (with a keener focus on articles).

So far I’m liking ReadingPack, and I’m excited to try it out with my students. I’m pretty sure they’ll like that ReadingPack offers saving and sharing and following all in one place.

Because ReadingPack is new, not everything is perfect yet. For example, I don’t like that long headlines are cut off (this was also a problem with Bundlr and Annotary). And I’d like to put my articles into collections (the founder said this feature is coming) and have the option to follow people’s collections (rather than the people themselves). (Yes, I loved And the phone app (at least the Android version) doesn’t always work. But those are small things, and there are improvements coming out every day. I’m excited to see what founder Yuval Shoshan does with ReadingPack.

If you’re tired of the articles you find on Facebook, or you’re finding that your Twitter feed is a bit crowded, or if you’d like to save your articles in an organized way where others can read them, you should try out ReadingPack. If you do, let me know what you think! favicon

Please watch: “Saving Central”

favicon Last post I wrote about “Resegregation in the American South,” an outstanding article by Nikole Hannah-Jones about resegregation in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

I encourage you to watch this short documentary, “Saving Central,” by Maisie Crow.

I wish more U.S. Government and Economics teachers taught Brown v. Board not just as a landmark Supreme Court case but also with an emphasis on what has happened after the ruling.

I wish more U.S. History teachers taught the Civil Rights movement with a focus on the recent effects of mass incarceration, as outlined in Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow.

There is not an issue about which I care more deeply than the role of equitable education on advancing civil rights in our country. favicon

Pernicious effects of school resegregation

segregation-300-200favicon This article is a hard one to read. But I hope you’ll read it.

In “Resegregation in the American South,” Nikole Hannah-Jones tells the story of school segregation, desegregation, and resegregation in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

It focuses on the family of James Dent, an African American man who attended Tuscaloosa schools shortly after Brown v. Board of Education, when most southern schools clung to Jim Crow policies.

Ms. Hannah-Jones expertly juxtaposes the school experiences of Mr. Dent with those of his daughter, Melissa, who attended school at the height of court-ordered desegregation, and those of his granddaughter, D’Leisha, who currently attends a re-segregated high school.

The story is not pretty. And it’s sad.

I mean, we know the story. Desegregation was difficult to achieve in the South, but after the 1964 Civil Rights Act and more than a decade of court involvement, many communities integrated schools, which decreased the achievement gap and offered African Americans more access to college and the American dream.

Ms. Hannah-Jones cites a study by Rucker Johnson, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley:

A 2014 study conducted by Rucker Johnson, a public–policy professor at the University of California at Berkeley, published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, found de-segregation’s impact on racial equality to be deep, wide, and long-lasting. Johnson examined data on a representative sample of 8,258 American adults born between 1945 and 1968, whom he followed through 2011. He found that black Americans who attended schools integrated by court order were more likely to graduate, go on to college, and earn a degree than black Americans who attended segregated schools. They made more money: five years of integrated schooling increased the earnings of black adults by 15 percent. They were significantly less likely to spend time in jail. They were healthier.

Unfortunately, over the past 15 years, and for a number of reasons, schools have re-segregated. The evidence demonstrates that this trend hurts African Americans tremendously. It certainly has affected the Dent family. While Melissa’s integrated education helped her attain a more secure economic standing than her father, the reverse is true for D’Leisha. A star student at a re-segregated high school, D’Leisha faces few college opportunities because of low ACT scores.

It’s horrible.

Reading this article got me thinking about a couple things. First: the effects of the small schools movement in the early 2000s. The thinking was that large schools led to anonymity, which led students, particularly kids of color, to fall through the cracks. I think that’s true, and I believe in small schools, and I taught at one for 12 years. But it may also be true that the movement, funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, may have unwittingly exacerbated trends in school resegregation. After all, large comprehensive high schools may do a better job to promote racial diversity; then again, large schools have other significant problems.

The article also left me asking, Now what? We may know that integrated schools are better for students. But it doesn’t take a cynic to conclude that most Americans have largely given up. Ms. Hannah-Jones writes, “Polls show Americans embracing this promise (of integration) in the abstract, but that rarely translates into on-the-ground support for integration efforts.” Even the most liberal white parents are leery of sending their children to public schools.

It gets me to think whether the charter school movement also serves to make segregation more permanent. (I work for a charter school network and have taught in a charter school.) On the one hand, strong charter schools have done a great job educating kids of color, who otherwise would not receive a good education. That’s clear. But on the other hand, charters do little to promote an agenda of integration.

This is hard stuff.

Please read the article. It’s long, but it’s important. And then please tell me what you think in the comments. Thank you! favicon

Extra: Parental Involvement Is Overrated

favicon In my Twitter feed this morning was an op-ed in the New York Times that challenges the benefits of parental involvement. Written by two sociology professors, who wrote The Broken Compass: Parental Involvement With Children’s Education, the article looks at the evidence from the past 40 years and concludes that only a few very specific parental behaviors help students.

Mark Isero‘s insight:

Apparently, the research suggests that most parental involvement does not help students in school. The most effective thing a parent can do is expect, from an early age, that the child will go to college.

Please check out the article on Iserotope Extras. If you trust the professors’ research, then it’ll make you question a lot of things, like Back to School Night and whether you should call home about missing homework.

My idea after reading this article is that if it is true that parents’ expectations of their kids to go to college is important, then schools should employ them to put together college-going curriculum, specifically field trips.

At my last school, advisers spent many hours putting those field trips together. Maybe a parent group could do that?

And one last thing: Even though parental involvement may not lead to academic achievement, that doesn’t mean cut parents out altogether. They definitely make an impact on school culture and fundraising — always. favicon

Students give thanks for new Chromebook

favicon Remember when I challenged you in February to help me surprise Nancy Jo Turner and her ninth graders with a new Chromebook?

Well, because of so many generous donations (including some contributions from Ms. Turner’s former students, now in college), the Chromebook is now a reality!

Here are some pictures of students with the Chromebook:

And here are a few thank-you cards that Nancy Jo’s students wrote:

Thank you again! favicon

Craigslisters love the Kindle Classroom Project

favicon I’m always happy when a stranger donates to the Kindle Classroom Project, whether that means donating a Kindle, making a cash contribution, or supporting a project on DonorsChoose.

But one of my favorite things is when a random person on Craigslist agrees to meet with me and hand over their Kindle.

I started asking for Kindles on Craigslist last year, and at the beginning, I wasn’t so successful. But lately, things have changed. I don’t have any hard data on this, but it seems like I’m getting somewhere around a 5% yield rate right now.

The process is pretty easy, actually. I’ve set up an RSS feed that automatically sends local Craigslist posts for Kindles to my Feedly / Digg Reader. The going rate for Kindles on Craigslist is about $40.

Here’s the email that I send them:

Screenshot 2014-04-12 11.42.02

And then I wait. Usually, nothing happens, but sometimes, I get a response. (I think the links help; it makes me look legit!) We arrange a good time and place to make the transaction, and that’s that.

The best thing is that everyone has come through so far. I get there, the person is usually already there, prompt and prepared, we say hello, sometimes there’s a handshake, and then the Kindle is exchanged.

Except it’s not really exchanged — because I don’t have anything to give them except my thanks. Maybe that’s the next step. Perhaps I need to give them something physical. A thank-you card, maybe? They don’t really seem to care either way, I don’t think.

And then it’s done. The 10- to 15-second interaction results in joy both ways. The Craigslister is happy to donate, and I’m happy that another student gets his or her hands on a Kindle. favicon