This week’s Just Talk explores the role of educators in understanding, teaching about, and resisting the “Muslim Ban.” We share a set of resources and lessons and present a Q&A with professors Arshad Ali (George Washington University), Shirin Vossoughi (Northwestern University), and Maryam Kashani (University of Illinois). On February 8, these scholars will present a virtual “National Teach-In on the Presidential Executive Order Banning Immigrants” for educators and high school students.
February 3, 2017
Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
Anya Kamenetz, NPR
Saira Rafiee boarded a plane in Tehran this weekend on her way to New York. She had been visiting family in Iran and needed to get back to the U.S. in time for classes at City University of New York's Graduate Center, where she is a Ph.D. student in political science. But, as a result of President Trump's executive order restricting the travel of citizens from seven majority-Muslim countries, including Iran, Rafiee says she was detained in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and, after nearly 18 hours, sent back to Tehran. Rafiee did not immediately respond to emails requesting comment, but she posted publicly on Facebook: “…I have no clue whether I would ever be able to go back to the school I like so much, or to see my dear friends there. But my story isn't as painful and terrifying as many other stories I have heard these days. I know an Iranian student in the US, who was planning to go back to Iran to see her sister who has cancer probably for the last time, but had to cancel her trip because of this order. A dear friend of mine, a Columbia Ph.D. student, went to Canada on Friday to be with his fiancée for the weekend, and is not able to go back to his studies and work, back to his scholarly life. I know many students who are outside the US, doing fieldwork for their dissertation, and have no clue whether they can finish their studies after studying for many years…”
Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post
Betsy DeVos, the Michigan billionaire President Trump nominated to be education secretary, wrote a letter to a senator about the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. What she said in that letter is very telling about her education priorities. DeVos wrote the letter to Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, after a Jan. 17 confirmation hearing in which DeVos revealed a lack of understanding of basic education issues, including IDEA.
Russell Berman, The Atlantic
Two Republican senators announced on Wednesday they would oppose Betsy DeVos’s nomination for education secretary, presenting the first serious threat to one of President Trump’s Cabinet picks. Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska each supported DeVos in a committee vote but said Wednesday afternoon they would vote no when her nomination reaches the Senate floor. Because Republicans have a slim, 52-48 seat majority in the Senate and every Democrat is expected to oppose DeVos, the defection of just one more GOP senator would sink her nomination. As it stands, Vice President Mike Pence would need to cast a tie-breaking vote to put her over the top, exercising a power that his predecessor, Joseph Biden, never once had to use in his eight years in office.
Language, Culture, and Power
Larry Gordon, EdSource
Many California university and college officials are protesting the new restrictive immigration policies issued by the Trump administration, saying the rules could harm international students and faculty and limit the free exchange of research and ideas. “While maintaining security of the nation’s visa system is critical, this executive order is contrary to the values we hold dear,” said a statement issued by University of California President Janet Napolitano and the chancellors of the 10 UC campuses. Napolitano, the former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, and the other officials said that the university system is “deeply enriched” by students and scholars from other countries and that actions to restrict their movements is very worrisome. Leaders of Stanford University, California Institute of Technology, University of Southern California and the California State University system – as well as national associations of universities and academics – were among those who expressed similar concerns in statements. For example, CSU system Chancellor Timothy P. White, the 23 CSU campus presidents, faculty and student leaders urged Trump to reconsider the policies that are “in stark contrast to the fundamental tenets of the California State University. We believe in the free exchange of ideas globally, central to which is our ability to welcome and interact with those from around the world.”
Mark Walsh, Education Week
A federal appeals court has upheld an injunction allowing refugee students with limited English proficiency in a Pennsylvania school district to transfer from an alternative school for underachievers to a regular high school with special help for English-language learners. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, in Philadelphia, unanimously ruled for a group that includes students with limited or interrupted formal education, or SLIFE, who had fled war and violence in countries including Burma, Mozambique, Somalia, Sudan, and Tanzania. The Lancaster school district assigned the students, who were generally 18 to 21 years old, to the Phoenix Academy, an alternative school run by a for-profit provider focusing on "accelerated credit recovery" but which court papers say focused on seat time, stringent security measures, and a strict dress code. English-language learners at the academy take one English-as-a-second-language class but otherwise learn all their other subjects with the general population.
La Johnson, NPR
We know lots of facts about dyslexia: It's the most common reading disorder. It changes the way millions of people read and process information. But we know much less about how it feels to people who have it. How it shapes your self-image, your confidence and how people see and react to you. And so I reached out to some really creative people — artists who have dyslexia — to talk about this. One of the most fascinating things I heard is that dyslexia plays a big role in their creative process. Some said their struggle with written words informs their art, and that the struggle to express ideas they can't in writing makes their art unique.
Whole Children and Strong Communities
Daarel Burnette II, Education Week
To hear some teachers and students tell it, the St. Paul school system was out of control in the 2015-16 school year, and in dire need of action. Fights broke out in classrooms and high school hallways. Students assaulted staff members. School police officers arrested students for the slightest offenses and treated them with gross disrespect. Faced with student walkouts, a threatened teachers’ strike, and the firing of its longtime superintendent, the 38,000-student district has since rolled out measures aimed at ensuring the safety of staff and students and creating an environment conducive to learning. But a review of several years of police, school, and county attorney data suggests a more temperate climate—and makes clear just how hard it is to reconcile perception and reality in the realm of school safety and student-police interactions.
Sophia Boyd, NPR
What's the best time for students to have recess? Before lunch, or after? What happens if it rains? If students are misbehaving, is it a good idea to punish them by making them sit out recess? Those are just a few of the issues addressed in new guidelines designed to help schools have good recess. The recommendations come from a group called SHAPE (Society of Health and Physical Educators) America and from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recess might seem simple — just open the doors and let the kids run free. But only eight states have policies that require it, according to last year's Shape of the Nation report. And when researchers started looking, they found very little consistency or guidance about what makes recess effective. The new guidelines, in two documents, offer educators a list of 19 evidence-based strategies and a template to show them what a good recess policy looks like.
Maureen Magee, The San Diego Union-Tribune
Public schools can order free testing to determine lead levels in drinking water under a new state program announced Monday. The testing program is in response to new requirements that all community water systems test public school drinking water upon request by school officials. “Students should have access to clean drinking water at all times,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said in a statement. “Students need fresh water, nutritious meals, and appropriate physical activity to be ready to learn in class.”
Access, Assessment, and Advancement
Devin Browne, KPCC
As California’s rating system for preschools transitions from federal funding to state and county support, educators are reflecting on what has worked and what might still need to be fine-tuned. In 2012 and 2013, the state received $75 million in grant money from the Obama administration’s “Race to the Top” initiative to build a rating system for childcare and preschool programs. That funding ran out last June, and now the architects of the rating system are receiving funding from two state sources. Under the so-called Quality Rating and Improvement System, programs are rated according to seven measures: qualifications of the lead teacher, qualifications of the director, physical environment of space, effective teacher-child interactions, children’s access to annual screenings for vision and hearing, evidence of child assessments for development, and teacher-to-child ratios. Scores range from 2 to 5.
Emily Deruy, The Atlantic
When states raise the number of math classes they require students to take in high school, black students complete more math coursework—and boost their earnings as a result. That’s the topline takeaway from new research by Joshua Goodman, an associate professor of public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
Peter J. Taylor, The Washington Post
For too long, the prevailing attitude in America has been that the only education that matters is a path resulting in a four-year college degree. There is a widespread belief throughout the nation that vocational education is somehow second-class and that people who acquire such training are underachievers or are not smart enough for the rigors of four-year college. For many, vocational training conjures images of workshops leading to mind-numbing, dead-end, manual labor jobs paying low wages. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is this misguided point of view that paints vocational education as the second-rate stepchild in the higher-education world. And not only has it done a great disservice to our nation and our young people, but it’s wrong.
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
Ed Yong, The Atlantic
“There are lots of people at the place where I work, but there is one person who is really special. This person is really, really smart,” said Lin Bian. “This person figures out how to do things quickly and comes up with answers much faster and better than anyone else. This person is really, really smart.” Bian, a psychologist at the University of Illinois, read this story out to 240 children, aged 5 to 7. She then showed them pictures of four adults—two men and two women—and asked them to guess which was the protagonist of the story. She also gave them two further tests: one in which they had to guess which adult in a pair was “really, really smart”, and another where they had to match attributes like “smart” or “nice” to pictures of unfamiliar men and women. The results were stark. Among the 5-year-olds, both boys and girls associated brilliance with their own gender. But among those aged 6 or 7, only the boys still held to that view. At an age when girls tend to outperform boys at school, and when children in general show large positive biases towards their own in-groups, the girls became less likely than boys to attribute brilliance to their own gender. You could frame that as a good thing: While boys continued to believe in their own brilliance, the girls, on average, developed a more equal view. But that view has consequences—Bian also found that the older girls were less interested in games that were meant for “really, really smart” children.
Emma Brown and Wesley Lowery, The Washington Post
A Mississippi school district has dropped its challenge to the court-ordered desegregation of its middle and high schools, ending a 50-year legal battle over the segregation of black and white students. The Cleveland School District’s board announced Monday that it had reached a settlement with the Justice Department and private plaintiffs in the long-running case. Jamie Jacks, a lawyer for the school board, said board members voted unanimously to drop their challenge to offer the community clarity about the future. They felt “moving forward with a solid plan would serve the District, its students, faculty, parents and the community best in the long run,” Jacks said.
Caitlin Emma, Politico
Six Senate Democrats said Wednesday they’re “deeply troubled” by “racist, bigoted, and misogynistic statements” made on social media by several of President Donald Trump's Education Department hires. In a letter to Jason Botel, new senior White House adviser for education, and Acting Education Secretary Phil Rosenfelt, the senators said they want a briefing on the agency's “efforts to promote a diverse and inclusive workforce free of prejudice or malice, the administration's vetting procedures for appointees, and how the department intends to handle reports of inappropriate communications or behavior from staff.”
Public Schools and Private $
Betsy DeVos 'is unprepared and unqualified' to be Education secretary, charter school booster Eli Broad says
Joy Resmovits, Los Angeles Times
Eli Broad, the prominent local philanthropist behind a massive effort to increase the number of charter schools in Los Angeles, is protesting the appointment of Betsy DeVos as secretary of Education. Broad sent a letter to U.S. senators Wednesday, asking them to vote against President Trump’s nominee. “I believe she is unprepared and unqualified for the position,” Broad wrote. “Indeed, with Betsy DeVos at the helm of the U.S. Department of Education, much of the good work that has been accomplished to improve public education for all of America’s children could be undone.” Betsy DeVos is a billionaire Republican fundraiser based in Grand Rapids, Mich. Before Trump announced her nomination, she spent her dollars and connections promoting school choice, in the form of both vouchers and charter schools.
John Fensterwald, EdSource
The California Supreme Court has let stand a 2016 appeals court decision that will restrict some charter schools’ ability to expand and jeopardize the status of an estimated 38,000 students studying under charter school arrangements that the appeals court declared illegal. The case involved a small but growing number of charters, called “nonclassroom-based” charter schools or “independent study charters” – schools that don’t operate in a traditional bricks-and-mortar setting. They serve a range of students, among them children home-schooled for religious reasons, students who struggled in a regular school environment, and child actors and athletes needing a flexible schedule. Some of these schools, like for-profit K12 Inc., operate only online, while others offer limited face-to-face services in satellite offices or “resource centers,” where the schools run science labs, tutor students, give standardized tests and serve special education students. At issue in “Anderson Union High School District v. Shasta Secondary Home School” was whether the charter school law permits an independent study charter authorized in one district to open a “resource center” to serve students living in other districts in the same county. A district court said Shasta Secondary Home School, recently renamed Shasta Charter Academy, could; a three-judge panel of the 3rd District Court of Appeals ruled it couldn’t.
Few school supplies but a lavish party: At charter school, teachers saw a clash between scarcity and extravagance
Anna M. Phillips, Los Angeles Times
The longer she worked for Celerity Dyad Charter School in South Los Angeles, the more Tien Le wondered where the public money the school received was going. She taught in a portable classroom on an asphalt lot — not unheard of in this city of tight squeezes and little green space — but her students had no library, cafeteria or gymnasium. The school didn’t provide most supplies, Le said, so when her sixth-graders needed books, pencils and paper, she bought them herself. Months into her first year, Le and her colleagues were invited by the organization that managed the school to a holiday party at a large house in Hollywood. She and other teachers and staff parked in a lot rented for the occasion and took a shuttle to the house. Inside, there were two open bars, casino tables for poker and blackjack, and a karaoke room. At evening’s end, a limousine ferried guests back to their cars. “I remember being really confused that night,” Le said. “When I asked for basic supplies, I couldn’t get those things, yet you have money for this expensive party? … For a public school it was not normal.”
Other News of Note
Ian Whitaker, The Atlantic
Nevada's failed universal voucher program provided a useful template for what a school landscape could look like under the education secretary-nominee.
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