national newsletter

The benefits of DACA — and the risks of removing it

Welcome to Chalkbeat’s national newsletter! We’re Matt Barnum and Sarah Darville, Chalkbeat’s national team. Our goal is to help you make sense of the messy, fascinating, often controversial efforts to improve education for poor students across the country. Did a friend forward? The link to subscribe is here.

The big story

Giving undocumented young people protection from deportation came with a big education bonus: It made them more likely to finish high school and enter college, according to a study released earlier this week.

It’s new evidence suggesting that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, benefits individual students as well as society as a whole — and comes as Congress debates the fate of DACA recipients.

According to the study, DACA increased high school graduation rates by nearly 4 percentage points among potential beneficiaries, including nearly 11 percentage points among Hispanic students. College enrollment among Hispanic non-citizens jumped by over 7 percentage points. Teenage pregnancy rates also dropped, and 17- to 29-year-olds were more likely to have jobs.

Those findings put a scientific spin on the anecdotal benefits that education officials have long cited.

Angélica Infante Green, a New York State education official, and Susana Cordova of Denver Public Schools described one student who benefitted from the program in a recent op-ed: “Take ‘Carlos,’ who graduated top of his class at Stuyvesant [High School]. Before DACA, the only opportunity Carlos had after graduation was to work for his family. Now he’s going to college and excelling academically.”

Check out our full story here.

(Photo: Joe Amon / Denver Post)

Local stories to watch

  • A new hurdle for charter schools looking for space? In Colorado, pot shops. One school spent $40,000 on a new space before the district superintendent rejected the location for being too close to a marijuana dispensary called Starbuds.
  • Teacher evaluations are about to cause another big fight in New York. The state education commissioner has a plan for redesigning the system by fall of 2019. Minutes after she explained it, the state teachers union said it wants change now — and will push lawmakers to make it happen.
  • This Memphis teacher offers Olympic inspiration to her students. Today, she’s an alternate on the U.S. bobsled team competing next week in Pyeongchang and a P.E. teacher in Memphis. She credits two high school teachers for helping her get there.   

Matt’s research roundup

  • California’s approach to schools, worrying to civil rights groups, may be working fine. The Golden State has spurned the federal government and most of the accountability-driven school reform movement in the last decade. Two recent studies point to positive results, including for poor students and students of color. Students scored higher on tests and were more likely to graduate high school because of a funding system civil rights advocates have said operates without sufficient oversight.
  • Teachers unions remain rare in charter schools, according to an analysis by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Despite efforts by national unions to make inroads in charters, only about 11 percent of charters had unionized teachers — about the same share as in the 2009-10 school year. About half of those schools were in places like Hawaii and Maryland that require charter leaders to collectively bargain with their teachers.

DeVos watch

Stay tuned: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos will be part of “an upcoming TV special on innovation in education.” We know because she visited a public school in Indianapolis to film it — though the district didn’t know it was happening. Here’s how it went down.

DeVos praised the Trump administration’s proposed budget, which was released earlier this week and recommended increasing funding for private school vouchers and charter schools, while making an overall cut to the Department of Education. The blueprint, which includes specific cuts to teacher training and after-school programs, is likely to be ignored.

Critics of DeVos say her tenure has had one big silver lining: She’s made teachers more politically active.

DeVos’s Department of Education now acknowledges it doesn’t believe that gender identity is covered by the federal civil rights law’s Title IX. This means the department generally won’t be investigating complaints of discrimination against transgender students.

What we’re reading

  • A high-profile school segregation decision: A federal appeals court says an Alabama town looking to secede and create its own school district can’t, because the move is racially motivated.
  • A North Carolina committee is set to study how the state’s larger school districts might be split up — a move that could exacerbate segregation. News & Observer
  • Cincinnati’s school district has been kicked out of the charter school oversight business. Plain Dealer  
  • Teachers’ home visits are under scrutiny for being “government intrusion” in Utah as lawmakers fight for funding. Salt Lake Tribune
  • Delaware doesn’t allocate extra funds to schools serving poor students and English learners. Now, the ACLU is suing. Delaware Public Media
  • Things have gotten testy between Philadelphia’s charter schools and the school district, and schools are pushing for a new oversight structure. The Notebook
  • Illinois is one of the few states giving PARCC state tests. Now it might give up on them after this year. Chicago Tribune
  • Amplify CEO Larry Berger says it’s time to give up on the “engineering model” of personalized learning in favor of something more human. Rick Hess
  • “Accumulating frustration” over the disconnect between the science of reading and how students are taught pushed this researcher to write a new book offering solutions. NPR