#betsydevos

Title IX – 2000% jump in sexual violence at US colleges in a decade but the stats reveal much more

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US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has been in the firing line as the media interpret her words to defend both sides in discrimination cases as code for wanting to roll back Title IX. Title IX was introduced in 1972 prohibiting sex discrimination in all education programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance. The law itself does not mention sexual violence, but its interpretation by the courts puts the onus on schools to make sure they address it should such claims be filed. Let’s get this straight from the beginning, sexual violence in any form is inexcusable. According to the Office for Civil Rights (which is part of the Dept of Education) in the last decade, sexual violence claims in tertiary educational institutions have soared 2000%. Seems an extraordinary growth rate. In absolute numbers sexual violence on US campuses numbered 177 reported cases in 2016. In 2016 there were 20.4mn students in colleges in the US or 8.7 sexual assaults per 1,000,000 students or 0.00087%.

In FY 2016, sex discrimination claims comprised 46% (7,747) of all complaints received in the year, as compared to 28% (2,939) in FY 2015. The majority of Title IX complaints received in 2016 (6,251) were led by a single complainant alleging discrimination in schools’ athletics programs. Complaints involving discrimination based on disability status comprised 36% (5,936) of all complaints this year; race or national origin discrimination complaints comprised 15% (2,439). Age based discrimination was 3% (581).

In Fig 7 above OCR’s staffing level has consistently declined over the life of the agency even though complaint volume has significantly increased. OCR’s staffing level at the end of FY 2016 was 563 (FTE), marginally above the all-time low in staff levels since 1980, when the Department of Education separated from what had until then been the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. The number of staff in OCR today is almost 12% below its staffing level 10 years ago (640); about 29% below its staffing level 20 years ago (788); and more than 50% below its staffing level 34 years ago (1,148).

In FY 2013, OCR received 9,950 complaints and resolved 10,128 total cases. In FY 2016, OCR received 16,720 complaints and resolved 8,625 cases. Estimates are than FY 1985, OCR received just 2,199 complaints—nearly 87% fewer than what OCR now receives in a typical year. Even examining the last several years, from FY 2011 to FY 2016, annual complaint receipts increased by more than 113% and 188% since FY2006.

While not condoning any form of discrimination (whether sex, race, gender or any other form) does it not strike one as rather odd that the figures have jumped so high in such a short period? Most of these laws are over 40 years old. Has racism or sex discrimination all of a sudden jumped from the woodwork?

The 2016 OCR paper states clearly, “Finally, with this year’s annual report, we mark the end of eight productive years in the Obama Administration of securing equal educational opportunity for students. While numbers alone can never tell the full story, the 76,000 complaints we handled, the 66,000 cases we resolved, the more than 5,400 resolution agreements we reached, and the 34 policy guidance documents we issued between 2009 and 2016 speak volumes about ongoing student need and this agency’s service to our school communities.”

This statement almost reads as a failure. Surely the mark of a successful OCR would be to see a reduction in the number of claims. It almost reads as if the OCR wants a higher number of claims to justify its importance. Is it really rational to think that students became 113% more harrassed than 5 years prior? Considering that 80% of sex discrimination claims were made with respect to equal opportunities in athletics, most sports are split by gender – track & field, soccer, American football, boxing etc. Note these 6251 claims weren’t about sexual assault but sex discrimination. Was this possibly an issue of transgender students complaining that they weren’t allowed to play sport for teams that now reflect their gender identity?

If one reads the media one could be forgiven for thinking that most of the Title IX issues were sexual assault related.  They are not. As DeVos made clear, processes at colleges in dealing with sexual violence are often inadequate and there needs to a commitment to ensuring the evidence backs the claims. Do people really have a problem with being innocent before proven guilty?

Let us be clear. The defence of civil rights is just. However the global shift towards public grievance and identity politics is borne out by these statistics. Obama allocated an extra $131 million in 2016 to the OCR to help hire another 210 workers. They’ve hired 19 so far.  We live in a world where Google is censoring what it sees as ‘inappropriate’. We have UC Berkeley deciding to enforce a 50% limit to attendance to a lecture by Ben Shapiro. What we are looking at here should concern people. Safe spaces, trigger warnings and micro aggressions are all terms that have spawned in recent years. Is it any wonder that claims to offices like the OCR are skyrocketing. Why get ahead through hard work, diligence and  exceptional ethics when you can get to the front of the line by complaining you were hard done by. Too easy!

Educating the Educated on Education in America

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I read a load of barbs hurled at new Secretary for Education, Betsy DeVos. Much of it was labeled at her wealthy background and the fact that neither she nor her kids had spent time in the public education system to have a clue about the ‘real world’. Some of it related to her like of charter schools. The funny thing is you don’t need to dig far to work out the problems are decades old. While it is easy to point fingers at DeVos, we only need look at a survey taken by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) in the US back in January of 1993 to see successive administrations have dropped the ball. Poverty, alcoholism, student apathy and absenteeism were cited as big problems in secondary public schools. Lack of a parent was also high on the agenda.

Broken homes and poverty seem to be a big issue. The report said, “Besides lack of parent involvement, the school problems viewed as serious by at least 10 percent of public school teachers included student apathy, poverty, student absenteeism, student disrespect for teachers, parental alcoholism and/or drug abuse, and student tardiness. Behaviors and attitudes of students were more likely to be seen as problematic by teachers at the secondary level than by teachers at the elementary level. Parent alcoholism, on the other hand, was described as “serious” as often by elementary teachers as by secondary teachers and poverty was described as “serious” more often by elementary teachers. “

img_0262Scrolling forward to 2014, approximately 20 percent of school-age children were in families living in poverty. The percentage of school-age children living in poverty ranged across the United States from 12 percent in Maryland to 29 percent in Mississippi. The map below shows the aggressive skew between the north and south with regards to relative poverty according to NCES

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When looking at ethnicity, the skew was also telling. The chart below highlights the change in poverty levels among various races/ethnicities between 2009 and 2014. GFC made a dent in almost every category. In 2014, approximately 15.3 million, or 21 percent, of all children under the age of 18 were in families living in poverty; this population includes the 10.7 million school-age 5- to 17-year-olds  and 4.6 million children under age 5 living in poverty.

Going another level we see that broken households seem to be relatively correlated. NCES highlights the extent of single parent households. You’ll notice that the totals exceed 100% in certain categories but this is down to double counting.

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Switching gears to free lunches at school for poverty stricken students. The percentage of students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch (FRPL) under the National School Lunch Program provides a proxy measure for the concentration of low-income students within a school. Children from families with incomes at or below 130 percent of the poverty level are eligible for free meals. Those from families with incomes that are between 130 percent and 185 percent of the poverty level are eligible for reduced-price meals. In this indicator, public schools (including both traditional and charter) are divided into categories by FRPL eligibility. High-poverty schools are defined as public schools where more than 75.0 percent of the students are eligible for FRPL, and mid-high poverty schools are those schools where 50.1 to 75.0 percent of the students are eligible for FRPL. Low-poverty schools are defined as public schools where 25.0 percent or less of the students are eligible for FRPL, and mid-low poverty schools are those schools where 25.1 to 50.0 percent of the students are eligible for FRPL. In school year 2012–13, some 21 percent of public school students attended low-poverty schools, and 24 percent of public school students attended high-poverty schools.

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The US Dept of Education has celebrated higher graduation rates as an achievement but according to the American Psychological Association, “poor (bottom 20 percent of all family incomes) students were five times more likely to drop out of high school than high-income (top 20 percent of all family incomes) students…Family poverty is associated with a number of adverse conditions — high mobility and homelessness; hunger and food insecurity; parents who are in jail or absent; domestic violence; drug abuse and other problems — known as “toxic stressors” because they are severe, sustained and not buffered by supportive relationships…Community poverty also matters. Some neighborhoods, particularly those with high concentrations of African-Americans, are communities of concentrated disadvantage with extremely high levels of joblessness, family instability, poor health, substance abuse, poverty, welfare dependency and crime”

The Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, collects test results from 65 countries for its rankings, which come out every three years. The latest results, from 2012, showed:

“In mathematics, 29 nations and other jurisdictions outperformed the United States by a statistically significant margin, up from 23 three years ago,” reports Education Week. “In science, 22 education systems scored above the U.S. average, up from 18 in 2009.”

In reading, 19 other locales scored higher than U.S. students — a jump from nine in 2009, when the last assessment was performed.”

So before people rip into DeVos they might do well to analyze the long term economic related problems that feed into education. Poverty has never been as high in America with almost 50 million people on food stamps. In 2000 that number was around 17mn. It is not a question of calling one race dumber than another. Deteriorating economics, the breakdown of families and stable support networks are preventing better outcomes.

The charter school criticisms of DeVos are also out of place. Indeed former US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan who served under Obama faced the following criticism which I don’t see raised by DeVos haters,

“The agency’s inspector general issued a scathing report in 2012 that found deficiencies in how the department handled federal grants to charter schools between 2008 and 2011″ – in other words, during Duncan’s watch.

A recent report from the Center for Popular Democracy and the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS) uncovered over $200 million in “alleged and confirmed financial fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement” committed by charter schools around the country.because  much of the fraud “will go undetected because the federal government, the states, and local charter authorizers lack the oversight necessary to detect the fraud.”

With such a dreadful trajectory in scholastic achievement in part due to decades of poorly planned education policy not to mention growing poverty and economic hardship is it any wonder. Before questioning DeVos and her intentions, perhaps when looking at these so called deeply educated byproducts of the public sector that know better than her, they might look at what hasn’t been achieved in so long. It most certainly won’t be to chuck more money at the problem. One has to wonder that the plight of schools in impoverished areas is to secure high quality teachers willing to forgo their safety and try to reverse long standing trends that were highlighted by the NCES surveys in 1993.

Throwing stones at DeVos because of her wealth is hardly the way forward. Economic revival will be a vital tenet of that recovery but at the same time, the highly indebted world pushing on a string with multiple asset bubbles hardly sets the scene for a quick fix. Is it any wonder Trump was voted in – decades of negligence by former administrations who will now reap the risks of ill-thought out policy which protected the establishment at the expense of the plebs.