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The School-to-Prison Pipeline Is Targeting Your Child

Most of us have heard the term the "school-to-prison" pipeline, but perhaps you aren't completely clear on what it is or how it works. A new video by the Advancement Project that uses throwback clips of classic television shows, "The Cosby Show" and "Saved By the Bell," is meant to illustrate exactly what drives the mass incarceration of Black and Latino youth. The video highlights the fact that kids today are more poorly behaved than in the past, but that punishment for even minor disciplinary infractions in school casts them criminals. When Zach Morris was disciplined for using a phone in class, we didn't see Mr. Belding calling the cops. "It has been this way for a long time but in the 1980s, there was a shift in the discourse around young people and there was this new term used to describe them, 'superpredator.' Young people had been dubbed superpredators right in the middle of the crack cocaine epidemic and the height of the war on drugs," Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project, told EBONY.com. "The intersection of these things, were the leading cause to a crackdown on young people's [behavior]." "Schools then started to adopt 'zero tolerance policies' along with drug sniffing dogs and metal detectors. Then came the 1990s, with the Drug Free School Zones Act which requires expulsion for carrying a gun on school grounds. Zero tolerance policies are the kind of discipline that requires a particular kind of exclusion and it is a practice of harsh discipline." It wasn't always like this. Before and during part of the 1980s, kids engaged in many of the same behaviors that are the grounds for suspension and expulsion now. Talking on a cell phone, having a food fight in the cafeteria, lateness, dress code violations,disrupting class----minor infractions that used to result in a trip to the principal's office and maybe a few days of detention. Now, these types of behaviors can result in criminal penalties, fines, and young people getting caught up in the criminal justice system with ramifications that can last a lifetime.

Bill Cosby to USF grads: Make no excuses, have no fear

Nanette Asimov:

Those forced to graduate from college and enter the cold and competitive Real World could do worse than have comedian Bill Cosby nudge them from their ivy-covered nest. "You have this education. There are parents waiting for you to move out. They've been waiting for this day, and they don't want you to back out," Cosby told a church-full of graduating students and their families on Friday at the University of San Francisco's commencement ceremony for the College of Arts and Sciences. Laughter and applause pulsed through the Jesuit university's grand St. Ignatius Church on Fulton Street, its stained-glass saints no doubt accustomed to more contemplative conventions. Cosby's larger message to graduates did not carry the controversial punch of his now famous speech in 2004, when he told the NAACP that "we cannot blame the white people anymore" for the troubles of the black community.

How School Choice Became an Explosive Issue

Kevin Carey:

Bill Cosby and Dick Morris presumably disagree about most things, so it's instructive to note that both have officially endorsed "School Choice Week," which began yesterday with a series of rallies and events around the country celebrating the idea of parents being able to decide where their children go to school. Indeed, school choice seems like such an obviously good idea that the most interesting thing about School Choice Week is why it exists at all. That school choice is valuable is beyond dispute. That's why there's a multi-billion dollar private school industry serving millions of students. And it's why there is a much larger system of school choice embedded in the American real estate market. While some parents pay school tuition directly, many more pay it through their monthly mortgage and property tax bills. Anyone who has deliberately purchased a home in a "good" school district is, by definition, a beneficiary and supporter of school choice.

Parents Should Be Allowed to Choose Their Kids' Teacher

Andrew Rotherham:

The most important decision you will make about your children's education is picking their school, right? That's the conventional wisdom, but it's actually wrong -- or at best it's only half-correct. Teacher effectiveness varies a lot within schools, even within good schools, which means that just choosing the right school for your kid is not a proxy for choosing great teachers. So while "school choice" is hotly debated (next week is National School Choice Week, complete with Bill Cosby's blessing and events galore,) there are few rallies being held for giving parents the right to choose a particular teacher. That's because the whole system is stacked against empowering families in this way. In fact, because of how seniority rules generally work, it's a lot more common for teachers to choose their students than for students to choose their teachers. Just how much individual teachers matter is the big implication of an analysis of 2.5 million students and their instructors that was released in December and highlighted recently in the New York Times. The long-term, large-scale study by economists at Columbia and Harvard used two decades of data to examine differences in student outcomes (including such categories as teen pregnancy and college enrollment) and link those differences with how effective their teachers were at improving student scores on achievement tests. The headline-grabbing finding was that replacing an ineffective teacher with one of average quality would boost a single classroom's lifetime earnings by a quarter-million dollars. And that's just from one year of assigning that group of kids to an average teacher instead of a lousy one. A second study, released January 12 by the Education Trust-West, an education advocacy group in California, examined three years of data on teachers from the Los Angeles public school system and noted that low-income and minority students are twice as likely to have teachers in the bottom 25% of effectiveness. The Ed Trust study did not get as much attention as the one by the Ivy League economists, but it reached the same obvious conclusion: more effective teachers boost learning for students

Bill Cosby, Jesse Jackson join Back to School rally in Detroit

Darren Nichols:

Hundreds of parents, teachers and school children wearing blue "I'm In" T-shirts marched along Woodward today for the second annual Back to School parade and rally downtown. Comedian Bill Cosby, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and television and syndicated radio personality Rickey Smiley participated in the parade that culminated with a rally at Hart Plaza. "We should just work on making Detroit a better place and DPS (better)," said Brandon Bailey, 14, who will attend Cass Technical High School this fall. "It's very important that DPS stays good financially, education-wise and just keeping kids on track and on task." The rally is a part of the district's efforts retain students for the "I'm In" enrollment campaign. The district is seeking to target 77,313 students for this fall. Officials said last year's campaign exceeded expectations by bring in 830 additional students and generating about $6.2 million for the financially strapped district.

Bill Cosby on education, responsibility at Essence

Chevel Johnson:

Bill Cosby used his trademark humor and storytelling style to chide hundreds gathered Saturday at the Essence Music Festival's empowerment seminars into talking to their children about real life and, in the process, keeping it simple. "We've got to lay it out for them," Cosby said when asked about how to help cut the rate of teen pregnancies in America. "Let's tell them about life. You're 14 and having sex. OK. So, what kind of job do you have?" Cosby, who received a standing ovation when he walked on stage, said the African-American community must get involved if change is going to occur in any area.

The Diary: Barbara Ehrenreich

Barbara Ehrenreich:

In the course of their work my brilliant children - a human rights lawyer and a freelance journalist - travel to places such as Phnom Penh and Dubai. In the course of mine Macomb, Illinois, is a more typical destination, involving five hours of flying, including a layover in Detroit and then two hours of driving through snow-covered fields barely interrupted by a couple of semi-boarded-up "towns", including the intriguingly named Preemption (population 71). After all this industrial-agricultural wasteland, Macomb is a veritable hive of human, cultural and commercial activity. There is a branch of the state university system, where I have been invited to speak, and until a few months ago, my hosts inform me, there were a total of two Italian restaurants in town, one famed for its Spam-and-Doritos-topped pizza. I'm staying at the Hampton Inn, a minimalist motel chain located opposite a Farm King, an agricultural supply store. I can't help asking whether this is where the university puts up a genuine celebrity speaker, such as Bill Cosby. "Oh no," I am told, "he flew in in his private plane and out the same night." Ann, a congenial administrator at Western Illinois University, fills me in on the student body. They are mostly white, first-generation college students and, while about a third of them are studying law enforcement with a view to a career in police work, this does not stop them from illegal under-age drinking or, for that matter, smoking pot. We muse on the problem of binge drinking, endemic to American campuses: why go straight from sobriety to vomiting? Haven't they ever sampled the pleasures of tipsiness? Then Ann tells me one of the saddest things I've heard on the perennial subject of Young People Today: they don't know how to be "silly", she says, in the sense of whimsy and absurdity. They are strait-laced and even a little timid, unless, of course, they are utterly wasted.

Detroit Coaxes Students to High-Stakes Roll Call

Alex Kellogg:

Annual 'Count Day' Determines How Much State Money Schools Will Get; a Test for District's Emergency Financial Manager Public school districts across Michigan mobilized Wednesday to boost attendance for Count Day, the annual fall roll call that largely determines how much money each district receives under the state's per-pupil funding system. Students in Detroit were treated to free meals, ice-cream parties, T-shirts, celebrity visits and a chance to win iPods and a plasma-screen TV -- just for showing up for class. Districts received an average of $7,810 per student last year, but that could decline by more than $200 a pupil this year as Michigan looks to close a $1.7 billion budget hole. Every student in class Wednesday represented funding for the school year. The stakes were especially high for the Detroit Public Schools, where Wednesday's carnival atmosphere masked grim financial realities. Enrollment has plummeted roughly 50% in the past decade, contributing to a $259 million deficit this year that has put the district on the brink of bankruptcy. The results of the count will serve as the first report card for Robert C. Bobb, the district's state-appointed emergency financial manager, who is hoping to stave off bankruptcy and stabilize enrollment. Detroit schools this summer launched a $500,000 campaign aimed at keeping students that included ads by Bill Cosby.

2 new L.A. arts high schools are a study in contrasts

Mitchell Landsberg:

The schools opened for business this week, one on a $232-million shiny new campus, the other in rented space in a small church. Both have high hopes. One occupies $232 million worth of serious architecture on a promontory overlooking downtown Los Angeles. The other rents cramped space in a South L.A. church. One has an address that shouts prestige, with neighbors that include the city's Roman Catholic cathedral and the Music Center. The other is across the street from an apartment building for the recently homeless. Two new high schools for the arts debuted this week -- a rare enough feat in a down economy. Despite the vast differences in their circumstances, it may be too early to say which of the two has the most potential to nurture the next generation of artists and performers. The Los Angeles Unified school at 450 N. Grand Ave., perched across the 101 Freeway from the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, was years in the making and is housed on one of the most expensive and widely praised campuses in the nation. Yet it is only now shaking off more than a year of controversy and false starts in its launch to become the flagship of the district. The Fernando Pullum Performing Arts High School at 51st Street and Broadway may have the feel of something hastily thrown together out of spare parts, but it is led by one of the city's most respected music educators and has the support of such big-name artists as Kenny Burrell, Jackson Browne, Bill Cosby and Don Cheadle.

Comic Bill Cosby lends support to Detroit schools

Corey Williams:

Bill Cosby had heard about the tough-as-nails, uncompromising man tackling fraud and improving education throughout the Detroit's public schools, and wanted to help. So the 72-year-old actor, comedian and activist decided to loan the district his celebrity as Detroit tries to hold off plummeting enrollment amid a fiscal crisis that a few weeks ago spurred suggestions of a possible bankruptcy. "All around the United States of America - in the cities and the counties - our public education is suffering and has been suffering. Cuts, cuts, cuts," Cosby told reporters Tuesday as he began a day that would take him from shooting commercials to visiting homes in a far northwest Detroit neighborhood. He has joined "I'm In," emergency financial manager Robert Bobb's $500,000 campaign to stop the flow of students leaving the district - and maybe persuade parents who have sent their children elsewhere to give Detroit another shot.

African-American dads and others here size up Bill Cosby's tough love talk

Pat Schneider:

There's a crisis among young African-American males in Madison, says Kenneth Black, president of 100 Black Men of Madison. High school drop-out rates, low employment, a high incidence of jail and prison time -- and beneath it all, a growing number of black children growing up without a father. "It definitely needs to be dealt with," said Black, a division administrator in the state Department of Veteran Affairs. "There's a huge void in most of these kids' lives. They need to see positive African-American role models who are successful in the community. They need to see us," he said. 100 Black Men of Madison may be best known for its back-to-school backpack giveaway that draws hundreds of children each year, but its bedrock program is mentoring. "Our intent is to get these young men and expose them to the more positive things in life: the Overture, sporting events, UW and places outside our community," Black said. Black was among several local African-Americans interviewed for this article who had praise, and some criticism, for the rallying cry to social responsibility raised by comedian Bill Cosby. "Some people are not happy with Bill Cosby for airing dirty laundry," said Johnny Winston Jr., a member of the Madison School Board. "But it's not like he's saying something we don't know." Barbara Golden, an advocate for children and families in Dane County, said it was good that the discussion opened by Cosby was taking place outside just African-American circles. "We are very much a part of America. What happens to us should be the concern of everybody," Golden said. The African-American culture also has a strong influence on mainstream U.S. culture, she noted, noting how white kids' performances at a recent Madison middle-school talent show borrowed heavily from hip-hop. "No one can sit and say, 'This doesn't affect me,'" she said. Cosby's book published last month, "Come On People: On the Path from Victims to Victors" is just the latest round in a years-long confrontation with his fellow African-Americans.
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Tough, Sad and Smart

Bob Herbert: They are a longtime odd couple, Bill Cosby and Harvard’s Dr. Alvin Poussaint, and their latest campaign is nothing less than an effort to save the soul of black America. Mr. Cosby, of course, is the boisterous veteran comedian who has spent the last few years hammering home some brutal truths about self-destructive behavior within the African-American community. “A word to the wise ain’t necessary,” Mr. Cosby likes to say. “It’s the stupid ones who need the advice.” Dr. Poussaint is a quiet, elegant professor of psychiatry who, in public at least, is in no way funny. He teaches at the Harvard Medical School and is a staff member at the Judge Baker Children’s Center in Boston, where...

Bill Cosby talks about what teachers need to do better.

Teacher Magazine: Published: January 1, 2007 Tough Love Bill Cosby talks about what teachers need to do better. By Denise Kersten Wills Bill Cosby made headlines in October when he urged teachers to do a better job of explaining to students the importance of the subjects they teach. —Erinn The comedian, best known as the beloved Dr. Huxtable from TV’s long-running hit The Cosby Show, has been outspoken in recent years about what the black community needs to do to close the racial achievement gap. The Cos isn’t a classroom veteran, but neither is he a stranger to education—he holds master’s and doctorate degrees in the field. We followed up with Cosby and asked him to explain his remarks. Recent...

"More Straight Talk from Bill Cosby"

Deborah Schoch:But while some black leaders and educators have condemned his criticisms, he was greeted with sustained applause Saturday when he took on the black educational system in front of hundreds of Los Angeles area parents, teachers and students at Maranatha Community Church in the Crenshaw district. Cosby was the keynote speaker at a forum titled "Education Is a Civil Right," organized by local black educators to help forge an African American education agenda. No subject was sacred. Cosby chastised those black parents who he said fail to involve themselves in their children's education, know what subjects they're studying, visit their schools or meet the teachers. Some fail to monitor their children's habits, he said. "We've got parents who won't...

Texas Gives Teachers in 76 Schools $7M in Bonuses

Ericka Mellon:Some critics of merit pay argue it puts too much emphasis on standardized tests, but Perry and Texas Education Commissioner Shirley Neeley defended the state's plan for compensating teachers who prove themselves. "When you reward excellence, excellence becomes the standard," Perry said Tuesday at Oleson Elementary in the Aldine Independent School District. Eleven schools in Houston ISD and two schools in North Forest ISD also are expecting the staff bonuses. Schools had to give at least 75 percent of the bonus money to teachers, but they could include others. Perry said the bonuses could be as large as $10,000. At Oleson Elementary, the figure was much lower. Some at the campus received $2,800 while others earned $1,100 based on...

Cosby's Ongoing Passion

Eugene Kane:ut Bill Cosby still cares about the issues he's been talking about all over the country in a one-man campaign to send a message to African-Americans about personal responsibility, good parenting and the need for education. Even when Cosby's mainly in town to make people laugh, the plight of black America is never far from his mind. But Cosby is also the recently outspoken social critic who has held community meetings in black neighborhoods across America designed to address nagging problems related to the under-performance of black students, black parents and black leaders in general....

Out Of The Mouths Of Babes

Have you ever seen the television show, “Kids Say the Darndest Things” hosted by Bill Cosby? Since becoming elected to the Madison school board, I have had students say all kinds of the “darndest” things to me. Here are a few examples…...

Bill Cosby Visits Milwaukee North Division High School

Meg Kissinger & Mark Johnson:He pilloried the media. Cosby, who was criticized for comments last spring by some who thought he was too harsh on young African-Americans, saved much of his venom for the media. Looking at the scores of reporters in the crowd, he said: "They won't show up again until you kill somebody. They don't show up and write about you until your test scores are so damn low and they can prove that you're not smart. They don't care about you. "We are letting TV sets raise our children," he said. "A transformation has to take place. Eugene Kane summarizes the visit here. Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Editorial MP3 Audio File...

Cosby to visit Milwaukee North

Georgia Pabst on Bill Cosby's visit to Milwaukee North on October 20, 2004 (6 to 9p.m.); 1101 W. Center St.The gathering was announced Friday by Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who worked with the Metropolitan Milwaukee Alliance of Black School Educators and the Wisconsin Black Media Association to bring about the Cosby appearance. Barrett said he hoped the discussion would deal with the importance of education and how the community can tackle and develop solutions to educational disparities and other challenges. Cosby first raised a national storm in May during a ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring an end to school segregation. He decried the lack of emphasis on education...

Ideas to Close the Education Gap

Alan J. Borsuk writes about efforts to close the education gap between black & white students:In Wisconsin the gap is so wide that black eighth-graders and white fourth-graders had almost identical scores in math on a national standardized test given in 2003. The gap between white and black eighth-graders was larger in Wisconsin than in any other state in both reading and math on that set of tests. There's been quite a bit of discussion on Bill Cosby's recent speech at Howard University. The Washington Post's Colbert I. King says simply: "Fix it, Brother". Debra Dickerson also comments on her blog....

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