Just News from Center X – April 12, 2019

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

School and pension costs in California: What can be done? [VIDEO]

Staff, EdSource
“California teachers, principals, and other school employees hope for a secure retirement. But the cost of paying for their pensions has soared and will rise further for at least several years. Despite increased state funding, many school districts find themselves in a tough balancing act. As pension costs have grown, they’ve taken up a bigger portion of the new money that districts have gotten every year. Pension costs are an obligation, not an option. To pay for pensions and other increased costs, some districts are cancelling new programs like art, computer labs, or summer school, or not growing the programs they wanted to grow. Other districts are laying off teachers or giving smaller raises. Why is this happening?”

Los Angeles hired consultants to ‘re-imagine’ its school system. Read their confidential recommendations.

Matt Barnum, Chalkbeat
Consultants hired by the country’s second-largest school district recommended a dramatic restructuring of Los Angeles Unified, documents show. The 300-plus pages of memos, presentations, and plan drafts offer a revealing look at options district leaders were weighing in 2018 before the district was consumed by a weeklong teachers strike. Created by the consulting firm Kitamba, the documents lay out an aggressive timeline for assigning schools to 32 support networks, giving principals more power, and cutting the central office by fall 2019. The January strike appears to have derailed the plans. A spokesperson for Los Angeles Unified declined to comment. After this story was published, the Los Angeles Times published an interview with Los Angeles Unified Superintendent Austin Beutner, who said a substantial restructuring is no longer planned. “We went through an exhaustive exercise. We listened to suggestions and ideas and we dismissed many of them that might have been tried elsewhere in the country,” he told the Times. The Times has previously reported aspects of the ideas being proposed, many of which were confirmed by the documents obtained by Chalkbeat through a public records request. Still, the documents offer more detail about what was being considered by Beutner — and the key decisions leaders faced about how a new system should work.

L.A. schools chief Austin Beutner says no major restructuring is in the works

Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles has been anticipating a shock wave from schools Supt. Austin Beutner, who worked for months on a plan to “reimagine” the nation’s second-largest school system and confront its staggering challenges. Now Beutner says that he has settled on a significantly less radical shift than many expected. The emerging L.A. school district plan, he said, is to follow a model already in practice in the west San Fernando Valley. There, schools are grouped into units based on geography and feeder patterns. One group, for example, is Taft High School and the middle and elementary schools that feed into it.

Understanding teacher shortages: An analysis of teacher supply and demand in the United States

Leib Sutcher, Linda Darling-Hammond, Desiree Carver-Thomas, EPAA
This paper reviews the sources of and potential solutions to teacher shortages in the United States. It describes the sources of current and projected increases in teacher demand relative to enrollments, shifts in pupil-teacher ratios, and attrition. It places these in relation to recent declines in teacher supply and evaluates evidence of shortages in fields like mathematics, science, special education, and educators for English learners, as well as in particular parts of the country. Our analysis using national databases through 2016 predicted an estimated annual teacher shortage of approximately 112,000 teachers in 2017-18. Our recent review of state teacher workforce reports estimated 109,000 individuals were uncertified for their teaching positions in the US in 2017, roughly approximating our projections. We discuss the factors driving shortages and, based on previous research, identify responses that might ameliorate these trends.

Language, Culture, and Power

Is the U.S. a democracy? A social studies battle turns on the nation’s values

Dana Goldstein, The New York Times
Bruising political fights are usual business in Becky Debowski’s eighth-grade social studies classroom. From a model Constitutional Convention to a bare-knuckle debate in Congress over slavery, she regularly has students assume roles of partisans throughout American history, like Abraham Lincoln and John C. Calhoun. After the exercises, the class comes back together to debate whether the nation lived up to what the state of Michigan calls “core democratic values,” such as equality, liberty and diversity. For decades, the values have been the heart of the state learning standards in social studies, a doorstop of a document that guides what teachers of history, civics, economics and geography cover in their lesson plans. “I’m really proud of my students,” Ms. Debowski said. “They can handle the complexity.” So she was angry last year when she learned of a proposed revision of the state standards, in which the word “democratic” was dropped from “core democratic values,” and the use of the word “democracy” was reduced. The changes were made after a group of prominent conservatives helped revise the standards. They drew attention to a long-simmering debate over whether “republic” is a better term than “democracy” to describe the American form of government.

What would closing the Mexican border mean for children and schools?

Alyson Klein, Education Week
President Donald Trump has threatened to close the border between the U.S. and Mexico, in order to stem the flow of migrants from Central America. His latest pitch: Giving the country a “one-year warning” before putting additional tariffs on car imports from the country, and then closing the border “if that doesn’t work.” But closing the border would be “a major problem” for thousands of children who are U.S. citizens but live in Mexico and attend school in the United States, said Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, a civil rights group. In many of those cases, families live in border towns in Mexico because it’s less expensive than the United States. But they choose to send their U.S. citizen children to higher-quality schools here, he said. Other times, parents have been deported but want their U.S. children to continue to live with them, while also receiving a U.S. education. That’s been a phenomenon for decades, he said. (See more here from Education Week.) Some of the students attend private school in the U.S. and others go to public schools that allow for out-of-district enrollment. Many of the students walk over the border, so it’s unclear how they might be affected if Trump closed the border only to vehicular traffic, Saenz said. But presumably, the border could be closed to foot traffic as well. And that would be problematic, Saenz argued.

From the neighborhood to the nation: Remake learning days takes root across America

Gregg Behr, Getting Smart
Sixty-six years ago, a world-famous physician named Benjamin Spock opened a nursery school in Pittsburgh. At the time, Spock was the rock star of pediatrics, thanks to his bestselling child-rearing tome, The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care. His purpose in opening the school was to study the arc of children’s growth and development and hopefully spark new insights into how learning happens. It was a groundbreaking idea, and the school attracted the field’s top minds. The Arsenal Family & Children’s Center became a training ground for countless physicians, psychologists, and educators, and the research they conducted revolutionized their understanding of what teaching and learning could look like. But perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the center was that the lessons learned there spread well beyond the school’s walls, traveling even beyond Pittsburgh to reach families across America. For that, we’re indebted to one person in particular: a young child-development student who trained at Arsenal for years. His name was Fred Rogers.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

California students learn to code to prepare for tomorrow’s jobs

Diana Lambert, EdSource
Artaviynia Stanley, 12, who attends Samuel Kennedy Elementary School in Sacramento, wants to be a computer science teacher someday. But her only access to a computer at home is when she borrows her grandmother’s laptop. Now she is one of thousands of students at 260 schools in low-income California communities learning computer coding after school through the Kids Code program. This is the first year of the grant program paid for by $15 million from Proposition 98, which sets the framework for how much of the state’s General Fund is mandated for K-12 schools and community colleges. A school’s eligibility for the grant is based on the number of students receiving free and reduced-priced lunch, used as an indicator of community poverty.

Stow preschoolers learn about world hunger, living on $2 a day

Emily Mills, Akron
How do you get food to hungry children around the world? According to a group of 2- to 5-year-old kids at The Nest Early Learning Center, you could host an art show to raise money to buy food for them, or you could mail them yogurt, applesauce or a refrigerator full of ice cream. The kids might still be working out how they can realistically help hungry children, but it’s the start of a conversation Nest founder and head teacher Anne Reiman hopes they continue having. “I think it’s really exciting to start this kind of lesson at a young age because once they’re in … high school and university, they already have this kind of background to hopefully help develop that empathy and compassion and drive to help others,” said Reiman, 31, of Silver Lake. According to International Samaritan, an international nonprofit dedicated to raising the standard of living in garbage dump communities — where people live near garbage dumps and are completely or partially reliant on the dump for survival — 795 million people around the world live on less than $2 a day.

Schools teaching students to overcome trauma

Tanya Manus, Rapid City Journal
A child or teen who’s hungry, ill-dressed for the weather, homeless or anxious about family problems is already struggling before the school day starts. Focusing on math, reading, history and science — or simply getting through the day — can be a challenge. That’s why, in Rapid City Area Schools, students of all ages are starting to learn how to cope with trauma and become resilient. “There’s a variety of ways students come to school having experienced trauma and … it affects their ability to learn,” said Dana Livermont, RCAS College & Career Readiness Lead Counselor. “There’s a growing body of research about adverse child experiences.” The sources of trauma are wide-ranging, and not every student reacts to trauma in the same way, Livermont said. Poverty, homelessness, hunger, abuse, neglect, or parental issues like incarceration, illness or divorce can leave children traumatized. Last year, a team of RCAS leaders developed a whole-child initiative designed to meet students’ social, emotional and cultural needs, Livermont said. Trauma-informed practices is one specific component of the whole-child initiative. These practices educate school staff about the effects of trauma on kids. The staff is learning how to cultivate school environments where students feel safe, welcomed and supported. Trauma-informed practices also teach staff how to help them take control of their emotions and build resilience.

Access, Assessment, and Advancement

A world ready to learn: Prioritizing quality early childhood education

UNICEF’s first global report on pre-primary education presents a comprehensive analysis of the status of early childhood education worldwide. It also outlines a set of practical recommendations for governments and partners to make quality pre-primary education universal and routine. Noting that at least 175 million children – 50 per cent of the world’s pre-primary-age population – are not enrolled in pre-primary programmes, the report urges governments to commit at least 10 per cent of their national education budgets to scale them up. Such funding should be invested in pre-primary teachers, quality standards and equitable expansion, the report states.

UCLA Community School students go to college at higher rates

John McDonald, Ampersand
To some, it may not seem to be a neighborhood where most of the kids go to college. The area around UCLA Community School near Koreatown in Los Angeles is populated by hardworking, low-income residents. About two-thirds are foreign born, many from Mexico and Central America. About 10 percent are Korean. The majority of students who attend the school come from families where money is always tight, and where economic hardship is real. Most begin school classified as English Learners. But the students in UCLA Community School go to college at higher rates than their student peers in Los Angeles and across the nation, and they keep going. A new analysis, the UCLA Community School Longitudinal College-going Data Report, finds that 86 percent of students in the class of 2017 enrolled in college immediately after high school, 60 percent in four-year colleges. And the rate of persistence toward a college education for these students from the first year to second was 85 percent. By way of comparison, in 2016, the immediate college enrollment rate in 4-year schools for students across the United States was 46 percent. And the persistence rate from the first to the second year of college was 74 percent.

Evidence from California on the long-run benefits of financial aid

Oded Gurantz and Eric Bettinger, Brookings
Tuition and fees at four-year colleges have more than doubled in the last 20 years, rising significantly faster than median wages. Although college attendance rates have increased over this time period, the gap between low-income and high-income families has not narrowed. Financial aid programs are one way to help low-income students overcome the short-term challenges of paying for higher education. Beginning with early work on the Pell Grant and other aid programs, research has pointed to aid having positive impacts on college attendance, persistence, and, in a few studies, degree completion. Yet research to date has likely understated the total societal returns to financial aid programs, as some of the benefits cannot be observed until many years after students leave the college campus. State support of higher education often comes under scrutiny due to budget concerns. Yet, if these subsidies lead to better job prospects and higher earnings, and produce a positive return to the state in the form of tax revenues, the state could possibly be underinvesting in students’ higher education.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Death by civilization

Mary Annette Pember, The Atlantic
My mother died while surviving civilization. Although she outlived a traumatic childhood immersed in its teachings, she carried the pain of those lessons for her entire life. Like most Native American peoples, our family’s story is touched by the legacy of boarding schools, institutions created to destroy and vilify Native culture, language, family, and spirituality. My mother, Bernice, was a survivor of Saint Mary’s Catholic Indian Boarding School on the Ojibwe reservation in Odanah, Wisconsin. She called it the “Sister School,” a world ruled by nuns clad in long black robes. Two hundred years ago, on March 3, 1819, the Civilization Fund Act ushered in an era of assimilationist policies, leading to the Indian boarding-school era, which lasted from 1860 to 1978. The act directly spurred the creation of the schools by putting forward the notion that Native culture and language were to blame for what was deemed the country’s “Indian problem.”

Recruiting by leading public universities targets affluent out-of-state communities at expense of in-state low-income students and students of color, new research shows

Knowledge that Matters
On the heels of the recent college admission scandal comes new research that shines a light on more common – and legal – recruiting practices that stack the deck against low-income students and students of color in gaining access to leading public universities in their states. The study, “Recruiting the Out-of-State University,” conducted by Crystal Han and Ozan Jaquette of the University of California Los Angeles and Karina Salazar of the University of Arizona, finds that certain flagship public universities, in search of higher revenue, are recruiting more out-of-state students from wealthy communities than low-income students and students of color in their own states. These recruiting practices, resulting in part from years of state budget cuts that have forced universities to rely more heavily on tuition and fees, amounts to “a startling degree of socioeconomic and racial bias.” Among key findings of the research: 1) Most public research universities put a priority on recruiting out-of-state students rather than students from their home state. Of the 15 universities studied, 12 made more out-of-state visits than in-state visits; 7 of the 15 made more than twice as many out-of-state visits than in-state visits. 2) Out-of-state visits were concentrated in highly affluent communities in major metropolitan areas, ignoring rural communities, with most universities significantly less likely to visit public high schools with a high percentage of Black, Latinx, and Native American students, even after controlling for school size and student achievement.

Racial diversity as a financial necessity at state universities

Casey Parks, The Hechinger Report
A few weeks after Stewart Lockett made local headlines for becoming the first black student body president at Louisiana State University in nearly 30 years, the 21-year-old settled into his new office and began looking through the files that previous presidents had left behind. He found old notes of inspiration and campaign buttons that promised to “Unite LSU” and “Put Students First.” He dug through the bottom drawer and pulled out a student government flyer from five years earlier. The brochure showed the 100 or so young people who’d served that semester. Lockett reached for a different flyer, then another. Every year, in every photo, nearly every student was white. For years, LSU was the state’s whitest public university, but Lockett could feel things changing. Even as flagships elsewhere have grown less diverse, LSU has made slight, but important gains. Last fall, after the university’s admissions team worked to craft a more intentional recruiting plan, officials say they enrolled the most diverse freshman class in LSU’s nearly 160-year history. Though minority students here report high rates of discrimination, a growing number of African-Americans and Latinos are staying at the flagship for all four years. In mid-January, as Lockett returned to the office for his final college semester, he fished out the old campaign flyers, and compared them to the photo he now uses as his computer background. His student government is about half-white, with a mix of black, Latino and Asian students rounding out the team.

Public Schools and Private $

Let’s fact-check this Betsy DeVos tweet about Trump’s $5 billion school tax credit proposal

Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post
“Despite what some may try to tell you . . . Education Freedom Scholarships are privately funded and do not take any money from public schools. #EducationFreedom” That comes from a tweet that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos posted in an attempt to sell the public on the Trump administration’s newest plan to expand alternatives to traditional public schools. And, for the record, it’s not true. The Trump administration has included in its proposed 2020 budget spending up to $5 billion on tax credits for individuals and groups who donate to help children attend private and religious schools. The donations, which would receive a 100 percent tax credit, could go for other education-related purposes — all aimed at expanding what DeVos now calls “education freedom” but used to more frequently refer to as “school choice.”

How a tiny California school district sparked calls for a charter crackdown

Ricardo Cano, CALmatters
One was a charter school operator desperate for authorization after years of rejection by multiple school districts. The other was a teeny district in the rural high desert, hemorrhaging students, facing insolvency and in dire need of revenue. The Albert Einstein Academy of Letters, Arts and Sciences and the Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District at the northern edge of Los Angeles County answered each other’s prayers in 2013 when they partnered. In a novel use of California’s charter school rules, the district agreed to oversee Albert Einstein’s elementary charter school even though it sat far outside Acton-Agua Dulce’s geographical boundary, and was inside the attendance area of another district that had already denied an Einstein petition. In return, Acton-Agua Dulce collected oversight fees of 3.5% of the school’s revenue, a formula that officials quickly replicated with more charter authorizations. By 2015-16, the district had approved and was collecting fees from a whole stable of charters, netting an additional $1.9 million in revenue. But the win-win creative partnership was also the kindling for a prolonged legislative and legal battle over reforms to California’s system for authorizing charter schools.

OPINION: When it comes to vouchers, equity and equality are not the same

Stephanie Hull, The Hechinger Report
Betsy DeVos, the U.S. Secretary of Education, continues to insist that private-school vouchers are the magic wand that the nation can wave to create equity for disadvantaged children — especially disadvantaged children of color. Last year she proposed to fund vouchers by cutting $1 billion from federal spending on various elements of public K– 12 education, such as after-school programs and teacher preparation. Earlier this year, she floated the idea of a $5 billion tax credit to encourage wealthy philanthropists and corporations to fund scholarships for vouchers. The core of the voucher idea is, of course, that if disadvantaged children are ever to have equitable opportunities for education, they need to get away from the failing public schools in their neighborhoods and attend more advantageous private schools. No one would argue against the fundamental contention that a large share of the nation’s low-income families live near failing schools. It’s also clear that most voucher solutions, one way or another, draw much-needed support away from those schools, which will never be able to address their challenges without additional resources. What the idea of vouchers has never fully taken into account is that equity and equality are not the same thing, and a shot at attending an independent school is not at all the same thing as an equal chance to succeed in an independent school.

Other News of Note

The historic strikes and protests by teachers across the country aren’t over

Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post
They aren’t over. The unprecedented stretch of strikes and protests by teachers across the country that started last year is continuing. In February 2018, West Virginia teachers began the “Red for Ed” movement, in which teachers in mostly Republican-led states — including Oklahoma, Arizona, Colorado and Kentucky — went on strike. This year, West Virginia teachers went out again, and there have been strikes in Los Angeles, Denver and Oakland. Only the one in Denver was directly about pay, with the others addressing broader issues confronting public schools, such as the spread of charter schools. Last month, teachers in some Kentucky districts called in sick for a day to protest an issue involving pensions. In Sacramento, teachers demanding smaller class sizes, pay raises and other things are planning a one-day strike Thursday. And North Carolina’s teachers are planning a one-day job action May 1.