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Posts from 2014

How Urban Policing and Mass Imprisonment Create a Second-Class Citizenship in America

In many urban areas across the United States, police departments, criminal courts, probation and parole offices are the agencies of government most familiar to residents. A recent study of New York City, for example, showed that three-quarters of 18 to 19 year-old black men are stopped by the police each year. On any given day, eleven percent of young black men are in jail or prison, and one third are living under some form of correctional supervision. The prevalence of prison terms, police encounters, and other contacts with criminal justice have grown at a breakneck pace. The incarceration rate in America more than quadrupled over the last four decades. Imprisonment went up when crime grew – but also went up when crime declined. 

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Institutional Capacity for Natural Disasters: Case Studies in Africa

In Climate Change and African Political Stability Student Working Paper No. 6 (pdf), a group of students led by Goldman School professor Jennifer Bussell explores the causes of variation in government policies to reduce the risk of, prepare for, and respond to natural disasters. While the report focuses on ten case studies within Africa, many policymakers will find that the analysis can be useful to a broader set of cases, particularly in developing countries.

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A More Sustainable Tomorrow, Today

A green economy, one that promotes clean energy, reduces pollutants and greenhouse gases, requires an intersection of government regulation, business and innovation in both technology and public policy. Goldman School Professor Lee Friedman, postdoctoral fellow Hanna Breetz and Professor Michael O’Hare are diving into the complexities of regulation, business innovation and investment. Their research has direct bearing on policy today and is helping to shape a greener tomorrow.

California’s Global Warming Solutions Act (AB32), aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. It is groundbreaking and ambitious legislation that has set into motion new policy and regulatory efforts. But 2020 is less than a decade away. What happens after that? 

“For green business investment, it is important for the State to be clear about what kinds of emissions reductions it is going to require in the 2021-30 period,” says Professor Lee Friedman. “People who are making large scale investments now in things like new commercial buildings, need to decide whether the money they invest in making it green will repay itself in lower bills in the future. This is tied directly to emissions goals. If CA did nothing after it achieves its 2020 emissions goals, there would be no incentive to continue to reduce emissions. If the price of emission allowances increases steadily through continued regulation, however, it incentivizes investment in green business.”

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Banding Together

Union City's Teachers and Administrators Work Together to Improve Student Achievement

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.

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