The Obama administration has made it a major priority to turn around the nation's lowest performing schools but there is considerable debate over how to accomplish this goal. Some argue for bringing in new teachers or new organizations such as charter schools to turnaround failing institutions, contending that improved educational opportunities do not require a change in the mix of students in a school. Others argue that it is very difficult to take successful high poverty de facto segregated schools to scale and that magnet approaches can turn around failing institutions by attracting a different mix of students, parents, and faculty.
Join our panelists in a debate over whether or not economic integration is important in raising the achievement of low-income and minority students.
John C. Brittain
John C. Brittain returned to legal academia in June 2009 as a professor of law at the University of the District of Columbia, David A. Clarke School of Law in Washington.
Before then, Brittain had been the chief counsel and senior deputy director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in Washington, D.C., a 45-year-old public interest legal organization started by President John F. Kennedy to enlist private lawyers to take pro bono civil rights cases.
Brittain, a veteran former law school dean at Texas Southern University in Houston, law professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law, and public interest civil rights lawyer with a career spanning 40 years with residences in four states, has served as the president of the National Lawyers' Guild, on the executive committee and the board of the ACLU, and legal counsel to NAACP at the local level and national office of the General Counsel. He received the NAACP's highest honor for a lawyer, the coveted William Robert Ming Advocacy Award for legal service without a fee.
He is a school desegregation specialist and one of the original counsel in Sheff v. O'Neill, a landmark case decided by the Connecticut Supreme Court in 1996. He was frequently mentioned in the book The Children in Room E4: American Education on Trial by Susan Eaton, an excellent chronicle of the Sheff case. In addition, Brittain is a part of a legal team that filed a friend of the court brief on behalf of the NAACP in the People Involved in Community Schools v. Seattle School District and Meredith v. Jefferson County Board of Education (Louisville) school cases decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2007 concerning voluntary race-conscious student assignment plans. Further, he filed a friend of the court brief in the Connecticut adequacy finance lawsuit styled, "Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding (CCJEF) v. Rell" (pending in the Connecticut Supreme Court). In one other related area, Brittain has focused on the intersection between housing and school segregation, and the policies that contribute to the condition of structural poverty in low income and minority neighborhoods.
At the higher education level, Brittain was trained by his mentor, the late Professor Herbert O. Reid, the Charles Hamilton Houston Professor of Law at Howard University, to pursue comparability and competitiveness for historically Black colleges and universities.
Finally, he has participated in the publication of two reports on judicial diversity.
Cynthia G. Brown
ynthia G. Brown is Vice President for Education Policy and previously served as Director of the Renewing Our Schools, Securing Our Future National Task Force on Public Education, a joint initiative of American Progress and the Institute for America's Future.
Cindy has spent over 35 years working in a variety of professional positions addressing high-quality, equitable public education. Prior to joining American Progress, she was an independent education consultant who advised and wrote for local and state school systems, education associations, foundations, nonprofit organizations, and a corporation.
From 1986 through September 2001, Brown served as director of the Resource Center on Educational Equity of the Council of Chief State School Officers. She was appointed by President Jimmy Carter as the first assistant secretary for civil rights in the U.S. Department of Education (1980). Prior to that position, she served as principal deputy of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare's, or HEW, Office for Civil Rights. Subsequent to her government service, she was codirector of the not-for-profit Equality Center.
Before the Carter administration, she worked for the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Children's Defense Fund, and began her career in the HEW Office for Civil Rights as an investigator. Brown has a master's degree in public administration from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University and a B.A. from Oberlin College. She serves as chair of the American Youth Policy Forum Board of Directors and on the boards of directors of the Hyde Leadership Public Charter School and the National Association for Teen Fitness and Exercise.
Richard D. Kahlenberg
Richard D. Kahlenberg is a Senior Fellow at The Century Foundation, where he writes about education, equal opportunity, and civil rights. He is the author of four books.
Jay Mathews is the education columnist of The Washington Post. He has been with the Post 38 years. He was born April 5, 1945, in Long Beach, Calif., and attended Hillsdale High School in San Mateo, CA, and Harvard Colleges and served with the army in Vietnam. He has reported from China and California, and covered the stock market in New York. He has written seven books, including works on China, disability rights, the famous Los Angeles math teacher, Jaime Escalante, and the lack of challenge in American high schools.
His rating system for U.S. high schools, the Challenge Index, appears every year in Newsweek and the Post. It has been cited in hundreds of newspapers and magazines since 1998 and is often the most-visited feature on the Newsweek.com Web site. It received 3.7 million hits the first week of its 2009 appearance.
Mathews' best-selling college admissions book, Harvard Schmarvard, shows why admission to a brand-name school will NOT change your life, and instructs applicants in how to survive the application process with their family and their sense of humor intact. His book, Supertest: How the International Baccalaureate Can Strengthen Our Schools, describes the IB program's success in transforming ordinary schools, particularly Mount Vernon High in Fairfax County.
His most successful book is his most recent, "Work Hard. Be Nice - How Two Inspired Teachers Created the Most Promising Schools in America." The story of how KIPP school founders Dave Levin and Mike Feinberg raised the achievement of impoverished students to new heights was a New York Times bestseller in 2009.
His column in the Post's Metro section, which began a year ago, appears each Monday. His "Extra Credit" column, six years old, appears Thursdays in the Post's Extra sections. His weekly online column, now nine years old, appears each Friday on his "Class Struggle" blog at http://washingtonpost.com/class-struggle, where he posts other items regularly.
He has won the Education Writers Association National Education Reporting Award and the Benjamin Fine Award for Outstanding Education Reporting, as well as the Eugene Meyer Award, The Washington Post's top honor for distinguished service to the newspaper.
Amy Wilkins is an experienced political and community organizer with a special skill in media communications. Amy oversees the Education Trust's media, data, government affairs, and coalition work. She has sharpened her skills in advocacy over years of successful work for the Children's Defense Fund, the Democratic National Committee, the Peace Corps, and the White House Office of Media Affairs, among others.