Category Archives: Education

New Article: Class in the Classroom: Poverty, Policies, and Practices Impeding Education

New Article: Christine Chambers Goodman, Class in the Classroom: Poverty, Policies, and Practices Impeding Education, 27 Journal of Gender, Social Policy and the Law 95 (2019). Abstract below:

Part I of this Article begins with social science evidence to justify the combination approach of “equally adequate” education. It describes the data on the impact of SES on brain development. Part I also addresses the impacts of one’s physical environment, including the levels of poverty, crime, educational opportunity, housing, upward mobility, and stress in neighborhoods on educational outcomes. It then considers some potential counterarguments and poses questions that can guide social scientists in further research. Part II describes the constitutional protections for education and the state court litigation around those issues, concurring with the conclusion of others who believe that the key point of the constitutional right is to provide an education sufficient to participate in democratic processes of the nation. This section addresses the constitutional arguments around education and adequacy versus equality, recent cases putting forth these arguments, and their status. Part III briefly addresses the federal legislation, namely the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), which has subsequently been revised and renamed the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). To the extent data is available, this Article will examine how ESSA is working (relative to NCLB), as well as whether it is making progress for students in states who promote either equal or adequate education. Thus far, there is little data about application because the states only recently submitted their plans, and so this part focuses on the ESSA’s goals and shortfalls, and then looks at the plans put into place by several states. Part III will then highlight the adequacy and equality litigation currently and recently pending in selected states. The Article concludes with several proposals for future consideration by courts, policymakers, and legislatures.

New Article: School Vouchers, Special Education, and The Supreme Court

New Article: Aaron Tang, School Vouchers, Special Education, and The Supreme Court, 167 U. Pa. L. Rev. 337 (2019). Abstract below:

Among all of the contentious debates in education policy, perhaps none is as divisive as the one over private school vouchers. Even as more than 400,000 American students currently use some form of publicly funded voucher to attend a private school—with the number growing each year—one recent survey found that just thirty‐seven percent of Americans support the practice while forty‐nine percent oppose it. This divergence of opinion, unsurprisingly, corresponds largely with political affiliation, with Republicans more likely to support vouchers than Democrats.

In this Article, I argue that a path towards consensus on the voucher debate may be discernible in an unlikely place: an arcane pocket of Supreme Court case law regarding special education. In a series of cases, the Supreme Court has offered a vision of private school choice with plausible appeal to conservatives and liberals alike—a fact evidenced by the overwhelming consensus among the Justices themselves. In each of these cases, the Court has permitted parents of students with disabilities to remove their children from public school and enroll them in a private school at the government’s expense so long as a simple condition is met: the public school must have failed to provide the child with an appropriate education and the private school must succeed in its place. The Supreme Court’s approach to private school choice in the special education context, in other words, treats it as a simple question of empirics. We should support school choice when it helps kids, but not when it does not.

Applying this view to the school voucher debate more broadly would call into doubt many of the popular values‐based arguments advanced on both the left and right, leaving just one sound reason to oppose (or support) vouchers: the argument that they are bad (or good) for students. That argument, of course, is fundamentally contingent; it turns on what the research evidence tells us. And that evidence is hardly as iron‐clad in either direction as the left or right might wish. That, in turn, suggests that liberals and conservatives alike should reconsider their positions on school vouchers in some important ways.

News Coverage: San Francisco Had an Ambitious Plan to Tackle School Segregation. It Made It Worse.

News Coverage: Dana Goldstein, San Francisco Had an Ambitious Plan to Tackle School Segregation. It Made It Worse., N.Y. Times, Apr. 25, 2019.

News Coverage: The Other Segregation

News Coverage: Whitney Pirtle, The Other Segregation, The Atlantic, Apr. 23, 2019.

Note: when I teach poverty law, I often use the tracking example to make debates about education and opportunity personal. Many law students were tracked in K-12 to high level classes and for some lower income students tracking provided a way out. The discussion tends to be lively.

New Blog Post: How Families With Kids Drive Suburban Segregation

New Blog Post: Richard Florida, How Families With Kids Drive Suburban Segregation,, Apr. 9, 2019.

New Blog Post: The Utter Inadequacy of America’s Efforts to Desegregate Schools

desegregationNew Blog Post: Alana Semuels, The Utter Inadequacy of America’s Efforts to Desegregate Schools,, Apr. 12, 2019.

New Article: Early adversity in rural India impacts the brain networks underlying visual working memory

New Article: Sobanawartiny Wijeakumar, et. al, Early adversity in rural India impacts the brain networks underlying visual working memory, Wiley Online Lib. (2019).  Abstract below:

There is a growing need to understand the global impact of poverty on early brain and behavioural development, particularly with regard to key cognitive processes that emerge in early development. Although the impact of adversity on brain development can trap children in an intergenerational cycle of poverty, the massive potential for brain plasticity is also a source of hope: reliable, accessible, culturally agnostic methods to assess early brain development in low resource settings might be used to measure the impact of early adversity, identify infants for timely intervention and guide the development and monitor the effectiveness of early interventions. Visual working memory (VWM) is an early marker of cognitive capacity that has been assessed reliably in early infancy and is predictive of later academic achievement in Western countries. Here, we localized the functional brain networks that underlie VWM in early development in rural India using a portable neuroimaging system, and we assessed the impact of adversity on these brain networks. We recorded functional brain activity as young children aged 4–48 months performed a VWM task. Brain imaging results revealed localized activation in the frontal cortex, replicating findings from a Midwestern US sample. Critically, children from families with low maternal education and income showed weaker brain activity and poorer distractor suppression in canonical working memory areas in the left frontal cortex. Implications of this work are far‐reaching: it is now cost‐effective to localize functional brain networks in early development in low‐resource settings, paving the way for novel intervention and assessment methods.

New Blog Post: Abandoning public education will be considered unthinkable 50 years from now

New Blog Post: Adia Harvey Wingfield, Abandoning public education will be considered unthinkable 50 years from now,, Apr. 3, 2019.

The College Entrance Fiasco: A Mega Blog Post featuring Commentary & Scholarship

In the News:

Devlin Barrett & Matt Zapotosky, FBI accuses wealthy parents, including celebrities, in college-entrance bribery scheme, Wash. Post, Mar. 12, 2019.

Libby Nelson, The real college admissions scandal is what’s legal, Vox, Mar. 12, 2019.  “The scheme only worked because college admissions in America is broken.”

Joe Pinsker, Why Rich Parents Are So Set on Their Kids Going to Top Colleges, The Atlantic, Mar. 13, 2019. “There are plenty of examples of young people who go to all kinds of different schools who lead very successful and fulfilling lives, regardless of the name on their diploma,” . . . that may be true, but it’s harder to convey on a bumper sticker.

EJ Dickson, 9 of the Most WTF Details from the College Admissions Scandal Court Docs, Rolling Stone, Mar. 12, 2019.

Christal Hayes, College admissions scam rekindles scrutiny of Kushner’s Harvard acceptance, $2.5M pledge, USA Today, Mar. 12, 2019.


William G. Bowen, Martin A. Kurzweil, and Eugene M. Tobin, Equity and Excellent in American Higher Education (2006).


Despite our rhetoric of inclusiveness, a significant number of youth from poor families do not share equal access to America’s elite colleges and universities. While America has achieved the highest level of educational attainment of any country, it runs the risk of losing this position unless it can markedly improve the precollegiate preparation of students from racial minorities and lower-income families. After identifying the “equity” problem at the national level and studying nineteen selective colleges and universities, the authors propose a set of potential actions to be taken at federal, state, local, and institutional levels. With recommendations ranging from reform of the admissions process, to restructuring of federal financial aid and state support of public universities, to addressing the various precollegiate obstacles that disadvantaged students face at home and in school, the authors urge all selective colleges and universities to continue race-sensitive admissions policies, while urging the most selective (and privileged) institutions to enroll more well-qualified students from families with low socioeconomic status.

Jerome Karabel, The Chosen: The Hidden History of Admission and Exclusion at Harvard, Yale, and Princeton (2005). 

61HwuCVjihL.jpgMany of Karabel’s findings are astonishing: the admission of blacks into the Ivy League wasn’t an idealistic response to the civil rights movement but a fearful reaction to inner-city riots; Yale and Princeton decided to accept women only after realizing that they were losing men to colleges (such as Harvard and Stanford) that had begun accepting “the second sex”; Harvard had a systematic quota on “intellectuals” until quite recently; and discrimination against Asian Americans in the 1980s mirrored the treatment of Jews earlier in the century.

Thomas J. Espenshade & Alexandria Walton Radford, No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal: Race and Class in Elite College Admission and Campus Life (2009).


The authors explore the composition of applicant pools, factoring in background and “selective admission enhancement strategies”–including AP classes, test-prep courses, and extracurriculars–to assess how these strengthen applications. On campus, the authors examine roommate choices, friendship circles, and degrees of social interaction, and discover that while students from different racial and class circumstances are not separate in college, they do not mix as much as one might expect. The book encourages greater interaction among student groups and calls on educational institutions to improve access for students of lower socioeconomic status.


Gabrielle Bluestone, The college admissions scam is the perfect scandal in the golden age of grifters, Wash. Post, Mar. 13, 2019. “Part of what makes the Varsity Blues scandal so resonant is that it bluntly exposed workarounds that already exist to undermine higher education’s facade of meritocracy. It has long been legal — if distasteful — for wealthy parents to bribe colleges . . . .”

Rainesford Stauffer, I Learned in College That Admission Has Always Been for Sale, NY Times, Mar. 13, 2019. “The bribery scandal is no more abhorrent than the completely legal industry that helps many wealthy kids get into the schools of their dreams.”

News Coverage of Inequality: Inside the Shadowy, Totally Legal World of High-Priced College Consultants

13college-money-videoLargeNews Coverage of Inequality: Dana Goldstein & Jack Healy, Inside the Shadowy, Totally Legal World of High-Priced College Consultants,, Mar. 13, 2019.