Just News from Center X – April 1, 2016

Just News from Center X is a free weekly news blast about equitable public education. Please share and encourage colleagues and friends to subscribe.

Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

John Fensterwald, EdSource

The U.S. Supreme Court’s expected announcement Tuesday of a 4-4 deadlock in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association leaves opponents and supporters of mandatory fees charged by public employee unions looking to the November election and the next president’s critical nominee to the high court. The tie vote leaves in place the ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, in San Francisco, providing a win for the CTA – for now. But it also means the appeals court’s decision will not set national precedence, leaving the case unsettled. The Friedrichs plaintiffs can ask for the case to be heard when a new justice is appointed.

Emmanuel Felton, Education Week

Ten years after California legislators passed a bill creating a database to get a better handle on its teaching force, the Golden state remains one of only a handful of states not to have such a database.

Eric Westervelt, NPR

John B. King Jr was recently confirmed by the Senate as the new U.S. Secretary of Education for the remainder of President Obama’s term, succeeding Arne Duncan. With a slew of pressing issues from pre-K to college debt, I wanted to find out what King thinks he can get done in such a short window of time. Here’s our conversation.


Language, Culture, and Power

Jackie Mader, Education Week

The U.S. Department of Education’s office of English-language acquisition is offering $3.2 million in grants to support the instruction and studying of various Native American languages, in an attempt to support the preservation of those languages and boost the education of Native youth.

Marie-Anne Suizzo, Answer Sheet

Teaching young people about race and its role in the history, present and future of this country is as important as any other subject — but, as this post explains, one that many whites still grapple with. This was written by Marie-Anne Suizzo, an associate professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin and a Public Voices Fellow with the OpEd Project, a non-profit working to increase the range of public voices and ideas. Suizzo’s research focuses on parenting and child development across cultures and ethnicities.

Matt Barnum, The 74

School security officers outnumber counselors in four out of the 10 largest public school districts in the country —  including three of the top five — according to data obtained by The 74. New York City, Chicago, Miami-Dade County, and Houston schools all employ more security staff than counselors.


Access, Assessment, and Advancement

Andre Perry, The Hechinger Report
Two recent reports regarding black student achievement set the proper framework for others who write about why institutions struggle to educate all students, particularly black boys and young men.

Julian Vasquez Heilig, The Progressive
A revolt involving hundreds of thousands of Americans against the federal and state government has been brewing over the past couple of years. What caused this grassroots revolt? Parents and students have had enough of high-stakes testing required by federal law and implemented by the states and have chosen to “opt out” of the tests.

Christine Armario, KPCC
Miles from the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the red carpet, Steve Shin belts out tunes on a piano scarred with nicks and love notes written in scratches, teaching children how to sing. In scores of other middle schools, his students might have already learned how to read the notes on a scale. But years of cuts have stripped arts classes from much of the Los Angeles district, leaving many children in the world’s entertainment capital with no instruction in music, visual arts, dance or theater.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Rebecca Wolf and Janelle Sands, Education Policy Analysis Archives

California recently overhauled its K–12 public education finance system. Enacted in 2013, the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) replaced California’s 40- year-old funding formula. The LCFF increases district officials’ fiscal flexibility; provides more resources to districts serving larger proportions of low-income, English learner (EL), and foster youth students; and requires district officials to engage community members in district decisions. This article expands on a study conducted by a team of 12 independent researchers that investigated the early implementation of the LCFF. The study sought to answer three research questions: (a) how are district officials using their newfound budget flexibility? (b) how are district officials engaging parents and other stakeholders? (c) what are the opportunities provided to districts under the LCFF and the challenges it creates for them? Data include 71 semi-structured interviews with district stakeholders across 10 diverse districts in California and 22 interviews with county office of education (COE) officials across the state. Findings include that respondents were cautiously optimistic about the LCFF. District officials appreciated increased budget flexibility and the focus on community engagement. Inevitably, however, district and COE officials experienced challenges in implementing the law during its first year.

William J. Mathis and Kevin Welner, National Education Policy Center

A new but widespread policy approach called “portfolio districts” shifts decision-making away from district superintendents and other central-office leaders. This approach is being used in more than three dozen large districts, including New York City, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, New Orleans, Memphis, Nashville, St. Louis, Cleveland, and Denver. But the policy’s expansion is not being driven by evidence of success.

Kimberly Quick, The Century Foundation

A half-century of research demonstrates that having schools with high concentrations of poverty can be detrimental to students. Socioeconomically and racially diverse schools not only provide cognitive and civic benefits to all students, they also narrow achievement gaps by raising the scores of the least-advantaged students, while letting their wealthier classmates continue to thrive. And yet, despite this overwhelming evidence, Loudoun County Public Schools in Virginia—serving one of the wealthiest counties in the nation—is recklessly considering a redistricting plan that would intentionally concentrate hundreds of low-income and Hispanic children into two elementary schools.


Matthew Delmont, The Atlantic

“When we would go to white schools, we’d see these lovely classrooms, with a small number of children in each class,” Ruth Batson recalled. As a Boston civil-rights activist and the mother of three, Batson gained personal knowledge of how the city’s public schools shortchanged black youth in the 1950s and 1960s. “The teachers were permanent. We’d see wonderful materials. When we’d go to our schools, we would see overcrowded classrooms, children sitting out in the corridors, and so forth. And so, then we decided that where there were a large number of white students, that’s where the care went. That’s where the books went. That’s where the money went.”


Public Schools and Private $

Emma Brown, The Washington Post

Students in the nation’s private schools are disproportionately-and in some states overwhelmingly-white. While that’s not entirely surprising, a new analysis from the Southern Education Foundation quantifies the continued segregation of white students in private schools, particularly in the South, where private-school enrollment jumped in the 1950s and 1960s as white families sought to avoid attending integrated public schools.

Joy Resmovits, Los Angeles Times

Just several years after its glitzy launch, StudentsFirst, the Sacramento-based education group started by former Washington, D.C., schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, is merging with another education advocacy organization, 50Can.

Kali Holloway, Alternet

Perhaps guided by the old adage that you have to spend money to make money, the champions of education “reform” have poured billions into the effort to privatize and profit from America’s schools. Those funds are used on multiple fronts: launching charter schools, underwriting the political campaigns of politicians, and of course, investing in media to propagate the free-market privatization vision. Among the most visible properties in this effort is the Seventy Four, the well-funded, power broker-backed education news website run by former journalist-turned-school privatization activist Campbell Brown.


Other News of Note

Jonathon Cook, Global Research

Families threaten to pull children from Jaffa’s first mixed Arab-Jewish school, accusing Tel Aviv officials of breaking promises.

Elsa Vulliami, The Independent

Teachers will descend on Westminster to march in protest against the Government’s plans to force all state schools to become academies.


Just News from Center X is a free weekly education news blast edited by Jenn Ayscue.