Union City's Teachers and Administrators Work Together to Improve Student Achievement
by David L. Kirp
The report of a blue-ribbon commission chaired by Joel Klein, former chancellor of New York City's public schools, and Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state in the administration of President George W. Bush, came as a shocker. U.S. Education Reform and National Security, published in the spring of 2012 and carrying the imprimatur of the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations, ominously concludes that the miseducation of America's students poses an imminent threat to our country's capacity to defend ourselves. “Educational failure puts the United States' future economic prosperity, global position, and physical safety”—physical safety!—“at risk.”1
What can be done to avert this catastrophe? Klein and Rice plump for giving parents more choice about what school their children attend, arguing that charter schools and vouchers will generate needed innovation. The old-line public schools cannot merely be reformed, the report contends: if these institutions are going to do a decent job of educating our kids, a discipline-and-punish regimen of strict accountability is needed. Schools whose students aren't improving at a sufficiently rapid pace should be shuttered. Teachers' livelihoods should depend on how their students fare on high-stakes reading and mathematics tests, with pay raises handed to some and pink slips to others. Teachers should be recruited from among the top colleges, as Teach for America does, rather than being drawn mainly from run-of-the-mill education schools.*
For years, critics have lambasted the public schools as fossilized bureaucracies run by paper-pushers and filled with time-serving teachers preoccupied with their job security, not the lives of their students.
Washington has been delivering a similar, if less bombastic, salvo ever since the No Child Left Behind Act became law in 2002. The Obama administration's $4.35 billion Race to the Top initiative, the crown jewel of its education reform agenda, morphed into NCLB on steroids, as the U.S. Department of Education deployed the carrot of new money to prod the states into expanding charter schools and closing low-performing public schools.2
Look dispassionately at the evidence, and you'll find little justification for the proposition that imposing perform-or-die accountability on teachers or expanding choice for students will cure what ails public education.
NCLB, with its hyperemphasis on the three Rs and its command to close or remake “failing” public schools, was supposed to end what President George W. Bush called “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” But a decade later, scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, the nation's report card, have improved only slightly; and poor, black, and Latino students haven't been able to close the achievement gap. What's more, despite the hosannas for charters, the bulk of the research shows that, overall, they don't do a better job than traditional public schools.3
In short, there are no quick fixes, no miracle cures.
Aaron Chalfin's (PhD '13) paper, “The Effect of Mexican Immigration on the Wages and Employment of US Natives: Evidence from the Timing of Mexican Fertility Shocks” received the 2013 Best Comparative Paper Award from the Association of Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM). Aaron is now an assistant professor at the University of Cincinnati's School of Criminal Justice.
In a nutshell, what was this paper about?
The paper, co-authored with Morris Levy, a PhD candidate in UC Berkeley's Political Science department, considers the effect of Mexican immigration on labor market outcomes among US natives. Given the tenor of recent public discourse on immigration, this topic has become a hot-button political issue. It has also given rise to a controversial literature in the field of labor economics. From an empirical standpoint, the question is difficult to answer because just as immigrants may affect US labor markets, US labor markets may have a corresponding pull on the level of immigration. In order to identify the effect of immigration, Morris and I leverage two empirical regularities with respect to immigration to the US from Mexico. First, an excellent predictor of the number of Mexican immigrants is the stock of Mexican nationals of prime migration age. Second, migrants from a given Mexican state tend to settle in US cities which have longstanding cultural ties to that state. As it turns out, the fact that each state in Mexico experienced its demographic transition at a different time has implications for the magnitude of historical flow of migrants to US cities. In particular, US cities that are linked to states that experienced fertility declines 17-50 years ago receive fewer immigrants than US cities that are linked to states that did not experienced as large a fertility decline. These empirical regularities work like a random assignment mechanism which assigns a different number of migrants to each US city in a given decade. Our findings indicate little evidence that Mexican immigration has an effect on either the wages or employment of US natives in any age or education group and contributes to a growing literature that reports few collateral consequences of immigration at a national level.
What does it mean to have your work honored in this way?
As academics, we spend countless hours gathering and cleaning data and thinking about how to best interpret our results. This is a paper that Morris and I have been working on for several years now. When your work is recognized in this way, it is an incredibly rewarding feeling.
You have a new position with the School of Criminal Justice and the University of Cincinnati. What will be your area of focus, in teaching and in research?
I study a number of different areas of criminal justice policy. My past research has considered the effect of capital punishment, the relationship between crime and the macroeconomy and whether or not there is a relationship between unemployment and crime. Much of my current research involves the effectiveness of municipal police departments. I currently teach Applied Statistics and Research methods.
GSPP seems to be gaining strength in the area of criminal justice policy. What do you see as some of its potential key contributions?
GSPP is a terrific place to come if you are interested in (studying) crime. With respect to the economics of crime, this is due, in large part, to the expertise of Professor Steve Raphael who is one of the most prolific scholars of criminal justice policy in the United States. Steve has written extensively on the relationship between unemployment and crime, the collateral consequences of incarceration, corrections policy and many other topics. For those interested in other disciplinary approaches, Professors Rob Macoun and Jack Glaser are among the foremost scholars in this area as well. Finally, it is important to recognize that, at an individual level, crime has various social antecedents. Professor Rucker Johnson's work on early childhood experiences and intergenerational mobility is a must read for anyone interested in this area.
Outside of GSPP, there are scholars in other departments who study crime as well—notably Professors Justin McCrary, Frank Zimring and Jonathan Simon at Berkeley's law school. If criminal justice policy is an interest of yours, I do not think there is a better place to be than at Berkeley.
What aspect of your GSPP education have helped you most in both your research and job process?
When you are in a PhD program, the biggest key to your success is an advisor who encourages you, provides you with opportunities for enrichment and finds ways to increase your visibility to the wider community of researchers. My advisor, Professor Steve Raphael, did this and more. I know I speak for Sarah Tahamont and Hosung Sohn (two of Steve's other students who recently graduated) when I say that we would not have been successful were it not for Steve's efforts.
With respect to the process of academic interviewing, I could not have made it through the process without the help and support of Cecille Cabacungan and Martha Chavez. Applying to faculty jobs is an extremely onerous process and Cecille and Martha took it upon themselves to assist me in sending copious amounts of information (papers, cover letters, CVs, teaching evaluations, etc.) to dozens of universities. Cecille and Martha are both very busy making it possible for GSPP to fulfill its academic mission—I am extremely grateful for all of their help.
Now that you've moved to Cincinnati, what will you miss most about Berkeley?
I miss the fantastic weather, the great cheap eats, all of the local amenities in the surrounding area and the cultural and intellectual vibrancy of the community. I even miss the local oddballs who warn us of the coming rapture and laser beam terrorism.
As we await the full details of the Fifth Assessment report (AR5), it is worth looking at the evolution of science assessment, policy evaluation, and normative action on climate.
The climate change Conference of the Parties meeting (COP), most recently in Doha in December 2012, has now come and gone. As has been dissected in the press, very little was accomplished. Some will see this as a failure, as I do, and others will reasonably enough note that this meeting was never intended to be a milestone moment. The current plan, in fact, is for a ‘post-Kyoto’ international climate agreement to be adopted only at the COP 20 summit in December 2015.
The science of climate change only continues to get clearer and clearer, and bleaker.
A summary of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s findings from the First Assessment Report (1990) to the latest report is presented in Figure 1. This graphic is specifically not about the scientific record alone. What is most important about this figure is the juxtaposition of the language of science and the language of … language.
Note, in particular that as the physical climate change metrics have progressed, the words — shown at right — have slowly but surely progressed. In 1990, at the time of the first assessment report (FAR) the strongest scientific consensus statement was that another decade of data would likely be needed to clearly observe climate change. Through the second to fourth (SAR, TAR, and FAR) reports, increasing clarity on the science of climate change translated into a consensus of overwhelming blame on human activities. The key statements from each report are not only about the growing evidence for anthropogenically driven climate change, but they have moved into the ecological and social impacts of this change. AR4 critically concluded that climate change would lead to climate injustice as the poor, globally, bear the brunt of the impacts. Despite this ‘Rosetta Stone,’ translating science to language we have failed to act collectively.
One area where a deeper policy discussion can rapidly advance the overall conversation is on this science/action interface. As AR5 emerges, the climate change/ climate response interface will need deep, substantive action that responds rapidly to new ideas and opportunities. The rapid publication and open access features of ERL are particularly critical here as events such as Hurricane Sandy, economic or political advances in climate response made by cities, regions or nations, all warrant assessment and response. This is one of many areas where ERL has been at the forefront of the conversation, through not only Letters, but also commentary pieces and the conversation that Environmentalresearchweb can facilitate.
This process of translating proposed solutions — innovations — between interest groups, has been in far too short supply recently. One promising example has been the science/action dialog between a leading climate research center and the World Bank.
“The Earth system’s responses to climate change appear to be non-linear,” points out Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) Director, John Schellnhuber. “If we venture far beyond the 2° guardrail, towards the 4° line, the risk of crossing tipping points rises sharply. The only way to avoid this is to break the business-as-usual pattern of production and consumption.” This assessment came in a report on climate science commissioned by the World Bank. Dr. Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, noted succinctly and critically that:
“… most importantly, a 4°C world is so different from the current one that it comes with high uncertainty and new risks that threaten our ability to anticipate and plan for future adaptation needs.
This statement warrants careful discussion. Not only is World Bank President Kim affirming the results of the PIK study, and by direct extension the IPCC (because the same authors at PIK are also central to the work of the IPCC), but he is clearly noting that while many climate analysts rightly talk about the need to not exceed a 2° temperature increase, the path the world is currently on, namely 4–6° will be catastrophic. This may come as too soft a statement to many in the science community, but it opens the door to an increasingly detailed dialog between climate change science and agencies engaged in action.
This interplay of analysis and wider scrutiny can play a critical role in moving climate science and assessment to climate solutions. The story is far from one just at the global level. As climatehotmap.org and many other location specific assessments detail, the environmental change story is playing out in millions of critical cases. Each warrants reporting and action, as well as integration with assessments of current data gathering and ‘big data’ needs, and with wider socioeconomic questions of effective political and policy response. Through that dialog, papers in ERL will be critically important to advancing not only climate science, but the interactive dialog between knowledge and action.
Dan Kammen is the Class of 1935 Distinguished Professor of Energy.
From the Russell Sage Foundation:
Between 1975 and 2007, the American incarceration rate increased nearly fivefold, a historic increase that puts the United States in a league of its own among advanced economies. We incarcerate more people today than we ever have, and we stand out as the nation that most frequently uses incarceration to punish those who break the law. What factors explain the dramatic rise in incarceration rates in such a short period of time? In Why Are So Many Americans in Prison? Steven Raphael and Michael A. Stoll analyze the shocking expansion of America’s prison system and illustrate the pressing need to rethink mass incarceration in this country.
Raphael and Stoll carefully evaluate changes in crime patterns, enforcement practices and sentencing laws to reach a sobering conclusion: So many Americans are in prison today because we have chosen, through our public policies, to put them there. They dispel the notion that a rise in crime rates fueled the incarceration surge; in fact, crime rates have steadily declined to all-time lows. There is also little evidence for other factors commonly offered to explain the prison boom, such as the deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill since the 1950s, changing demographics, or the crack-cocaine epidemic. By contrast, Raphael and Stoll demonstrate that legislative changes to a relatively small set of sentencing policies explain nearly all prison growth since the 1980s. So-called tough on crime laws, including mandatory minimum penalties and repeat offender statutes, have increased the propensity to punish more offenders with lengthier prison sentences. Raphael and Stoll argue that the high-incarceration regime has inflicted broad social costs, particularly among minority communities, who form a disproportionate share of the incarcerated population. Why Are So Many Americans in Prison? ends with a powerful plea to consider alternative crime control strategies, such as expanded policing, drug court programs, and sentencing law reform, which together can end our addiction to incarceration and still preserve public safety.
As states confront the budgetary and social costs of the incarceration boom, Why Are So Many Americans in Prison? provides a revealing and accessible guide to the policies that created the era of mass incarceration and what we can do now to end it.
Steven Raphael is professor of public policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy at University of California, Berkeley. Michael A Stoll is professor and chair of public policy at the Luskin School of Public Policy at University of California, Los Angeles.