Annie Waldman

The Trump administration drove him back to China — where he invented a fast coronavirus test

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox.

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Here's how Teach for America evolved into an arm of the charter school movement

When the Walton Family Foundation announced in 2013 that it was donating $20 million to Teach For America to recruit and train nearly 4,000 teachers for low-income schools, its press release did not reveal the unusual terms for the grant.

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US will investigate discrimination affecting Native American students on Montana reservation

A year and a half after receiving a detailed complaint from tribal leaders, the U.S. Department of Education plans to investigate their allegations that the Wolf Point School District in Montana discriminates against Native American students.

This article is a collaboration between ProPublica and The New York Times.

In a Dec. 28 letter, sent hours after The New York Times and ProPublica published an investigation into racial inequities in the school district, the department’s Office for Civil Rights notified the lawyer representing the tribal executive board of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation that it would look into the complaint. The board includes members of the Assiniboine and Sioux tribes.

According to the letter, the investigation will focus on whether Wolf Point schools discipline Native students more harshly than white students, shunt them into remedial programs without appropriate cause, and deny them special education evaluations and services. Native American and mixed-race students make up more than three-quarters of Wolf Point’s enrollment.

The department said it will also examine whether the district failed to respond to a parent’s allegations that a Native student was racially harassed. The student wasn’t identified in the tribal complaint or in the letter.

“Tribal children have suffered unfairly for years in the Wolf Point School District,” said Melina Healey, the lawyer representing the tribal executive board. She called for a “swift and thorough investigation that leads to much-needed reforms.”

The Office for Civil Rights is already looking into a complaint by Louella Contreras that the Wolf Point district failed to provide her granddaughter, Ruth Fourstar, with special education services. The department’s decision to look into the tribal leaders’ broader allegations bucks the Education Department’s policy under Secretary Betsy DeVos of pulling back from investigating complaints of systemic discrimination by schools and colleges, and concentrating on mistreatment of individuals. ProPublica reported in June that, under DeVos, the department had scuttled more than 1,200 civil rights investigations that began under the Obama administration and lasted at least six months.

Nationwide, more than 90 percent of Native students attend integrated public schools near or on reservations, which have historically restricted tribal influence over curriculum, funding and staffing. Native American students have some of the worst academic outcomes in public schools: They score lower than nearly all other demographic groups on national tests and less than three-fourths of Native students graduate from high school.

In the early 20th century, white homesteaders prevailed on the federal government to open up unused lands on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation to non-Native settlement. In June 2017, the tribal executive board filed a 46-page complaint that described dozens of instances where Wolf Point schools provided limited academic opportunities and social support to Native students.

ProPublica and the Times found that Native students in Wolf Point are twice as likely to receive at least one suspension compared with their white peers, and white students are more than 10 times as likely to take at least one Advanced Placement course as Native students, according to an analysis of federal education data. In interviews, students, staff and parents said Wolf Point’s schools push Native children into a poorly funded, understaffed program for remedial students and truants. Native students said they were dropped from sports teams after giving birth, while a white pregnant student was not.

The Times-ProPublica investigation also found that some Native students have turned to self-harm and suicide. Three months before the tribal executive board’s complaint, a Wolf Point High School junior killed himself following a public rebuke from the principal for poor attendance, two students said. He was the second student at the high school in seven years to take his own life after being chided by district administrators.

Jeana Lervick, an attorney representing the school district, said the district is closed for the holidays and is unable to comment on the federal investigation. “Wolf Point Schools works constantly to address the challenges facing our students and in particular, our Indigenous students,” Lervick said in an earlier statement. “Our district is aware of historical issues in our nation and as educators do everything in our power to address them.”

The district’s superintendent and the high school principal did not respond to emailed questions.

Should civil rights investigators identify violations of federal law, the school district could lose federal funding. Typically, before investigators recommend sanctions, school districts voluntarily enter into an agreement with the department to remedy any wrongdoing and bring the district back into compliance with federal law. Federal civil rights investigations can take up to several years to resolve.

“Instead of providing a safe learning environment, the Wolf Point School District adds to the long history of educational abuses of our tribal communities,” said Roxanne Gourneau, a former member of the Fort Peck tribal executive board, who has worked to reform Wolf Point schools since her son took his life after being disciplined at the high school. “The school district has done more to fuel Native students’ trauma than to support their education. Change is long overdue.”

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DeVos Dumps More Than 1,200 Civil Rights Probes Inherited from Obama

Whether schoolchildren in DeSoto County, Mississippi, are paddled varies by their race. Black students are almost two and a half times more likely than whites to endure the corporal punishment permitted under school district policyfor skipping class, insubordination, repeated tardiness, flagrant dress code violations, or other misbehavior: up to three “licks per incident on the buttocks with an appropriate instrument approved by the principal.”

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Shutdown of Texas Schools Investigation Shows Trump Administration Pullback on Civil Rights

Beside a highway in Bryan, Texas, tucked between a motorcycle bar and the county jail, stands a low-slung, sprawling complex with tinted windows, sandstone walls and barbed wire lining parts of its roof. A roadside sign identifies it as the Brazos County Juvenile Justice Center.

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Failing Charter Schools Have a Reincarnation Plan

This past June, Florida’s top education agency delivered a failing grade to the Orange Park Performing Arts Academy in suburban Jacksonville for the second year in a row. It designated the charter school for kindergarten through fifth grade as the worst public school in Clay County, and one of the lowest performing in the state.

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Trump Administration Quietly Rolls Back Civil Rights Efforts Across Federal Government

For decades, the Department of Justice has used court-enforced agreements to protect civil rights, successfully desegregating school systems, reforming police departments, ensuring access for the disabled and defending the religious.

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DeVos Pick to Head Civil Rights Office Once Said She Faced Discrimination for Being White

The new acting head of the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights once complained that she experienced discrimination because she is white.

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Big Pharma Recruiting Professors to Justify $1,000-Per-Day Pills

Over the last three years, pharmaceutical companies have mounted a public relations blitz to tout new cures for the hepatitis C virus and persuade insurers, including government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, to cover the costs. That isn't an easy sell, because the price of the treatments ranges from $40,000 to $94,000, or because the treatments take three months, as much as $1,000 per day.

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Is New Jersey's Troubled Student Loan Agency Bribing Students for Good Reviews?

Over the past few years, dozens of borrowers have written devastating reviews of the New Jersey state agency whose student loans, as we have detailed, have strikingly onerous terms.

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New Jersey Legislators Move to Reform Aggressive Student Loan Program

New Jersey lawmakers have announced a series of measures addressing student debt issues this week, including one bill aimed at reforming the state’s controversial student loan program.

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Education Department Recommends Axing Accreditor of For-profit Colleges

A much-criticized college accreditor that regulates hundreds of for-profit schools should have its oversight powers terminated, a U.S. Department of Education staff report has recommended.

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Elizabeth Warren Slams For-Profit College Accreditor for ‘Appalling Record of Failure’

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., released a report on Friday slamming an accreditor of for-profit colleges for its "appalling record of failure."

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Attorneys General Come Down on Accreditor of For-Profit Colleges

Twelve state attorneys general have asked the federal Department of Education to revoke the recognition of the much-criticized Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools.

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Department of Education Report Calls on Colleges to Step Up Support for Poor Students

Colleges should be doing more to recruit low-income students and to support them as they work to finish their degrees, says a new report released by the U.S. Department of Education.

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Exposing a For-Profit College's Cynical Project to Make Money From Kids With Low Self-Esteem

Perhaps you remember Corinthian Colleges. It was the country's second largest chain of for-profit colleges, before it collapsed into bankruptcy last year amid evidence of phony marketing and predatory loans.

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Department of Education Demands Greater Accountability from College Accreditors

The U.S. Department of Education announced new transparency measures for college accreditors [last week], encouraging the organizations to focus more on student outcomes such as graduation rates.

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New Data Reveals Stark Gaps in Graduation Rates Between Poor and Wealthy Students

A new report released last week provides a detailed look at the graduation rates of low-income college students. At many colleges, low-income students graduate at much lower rates than their high-income peers.

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Colleges Flush With Cash Saddle Poorest Students With Debt

New York University is among the country’s wealthiest schools. Backed by its $3.5 billion endowment, the school has built campuses in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai, invested billionsin SoHo real estate, and given its star faculty loans to buy summer homes

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New York City Introduces New Restrictions on Suspending and Restraining Kids in City Schools

New York City educators will face new restrictions on handcuffing students or suspending them from school, as part of regulations proposed earlier this month by the city’s education department. If the proposals are adopted as expected, schools will also have to begin tracking the number of times students are tied down or otherwise restrained.

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One Connecticut Public School Student Was Restrained Over 700 Times in One Year

Connecticut public schools are far too quick to restrain or isolate unruly children against their will, leaving hundreds with injuries and many others with unmet educational needs, a state report released last week found.

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NYC Sends $30M a Year to School With History of Giving Kids Electric Shocks

The Judge Rotenberg Center, a Boston-area school for kids with severe developmental disabilities and behavior disorders, has earned national notoriety for a long record of brutal techniques to keep children in line.

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How Are Public Schools Getting Away With Violently Restraining Students?

In March 2012, police responded to a call from a Brooklyn public school about a five-year-old autistic boy who was having a tantrum. Officers held down the kindergartener, who was then tied to a stretcher and transported to a hospital. The little boy's mother had been called to the school and witnessed the episode. "He was crying and screaming," she said. "They strapped him to that stretcher."

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