Just News from Center X – April 15, 2016

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Sonali Kohli, Los Angeles Times
California will be able to keep its teacher tenure and seniority laws, at least for now, because they’re constitutional. That’s what a California appellate court said in its ruling Thursday, overturning a lower court’s decision in the case Vergara vs. California. So what is this case, and what does it mean for teachers in California and across the country?

Emma Brown, The Washington Post
Applications to Teach for America fell by 16 percent in 2016, marking the third consecutive year in which the organization — which places college graduates in some of the nation’s toughest classrooms — has seen its applicant pool shrink.

Ursula Wolfe-Rocca, Rethinking Schools
Student-selected and student-run current events discussions are a daily ingredient of my high school social studies classes. The first 20 minutes of every 90-minute class period, we read an excerpt from a recent newspaper article and discuss its significance. In the last few years, the discussions have been dominated by names that have piled up with sickening frequency: Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland. My students, mostly Asian American and white, live in Lake Oswego, one of the wealthiest cities in Oregon and a community that benefits from mostly positive relationships with police. They struggle to understand a society that continues to allow Black lives to die at the hands of law enforcement.

Southern Poverty Law Center
Every four years, teachers in the United States use the presidential election to impart valuable lessons to students about the electoral process, democracy, government and the responsibilities of citizenship. But, for students and teachers alike, this year’s primary season is starkly different from any in recent memory. The results of an online survey conducted by Teaching Tolerance suggest that the campaign is having a profoundly negative effect on children and classrooms.

Language, Culture, and Power

Claudio Sanchez, NPR
Imagine you’re back in school, bored to death, with limited academic options. Because you’re learning English, everybody assumes you’re not ready for more challenging work. What they don’t realize is that you’re gifted. Researchers say this happens to lots of gifted children who arrive at school speaking little or no English. These students go unnoticed, until someone taps into their remarkable talent and potential. Vanessa Minero Leon was lucky. She was one of those students who got noticed.

Susan Dynarski, The New York Times
Public schools are increasingly filled with black and Hispanic students, but the children identified as “gifted” in those schools are overwhelmingly white and Asian. The numbers are startling. Black third graders are half as likely as whites to be included in programs for the gifted, and the deficit is nearly as large for Hispanics, according to work by two Vanderbilt researchers, Jason Grissom and Christopher Redding.

Emily Von Hoffmann, The Atlantic
Undocumented and mixed-status families (where some have citizen or resident status and others don’t) are increasingly hesitant to send their kids to school. In some areas, families with undocumented members are wary of using their real home address on school forms for fear that their information could be shared with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Access, Assessment, and Advancement

Associated Press
Immigrant children living in the U.S. without legal status have been blocked from registering for school and accessing the educational services they need, according to a report on school districts in four states by Georgetown University Law Center researchers.

Anya Kamenetz, NPR
High schools around the country are increasingly turning to external, for-profit providers for “online credit recovery.” These courses, taken on a computer, offer students who have failed a course a second chance to earn credits they need for graduation, whether after school, in the summer or during the school year. In some districts, it’s an important part of efforts to raise graduation rates, as we wrote about in our Graduation Rates project last year. Today, the first large-scale, randomized controlled trial of student performance in these courses is out from the American Institutes of Research, and the news is not great.

Sonali Kohli, Los Angeles Times
Students in South Los Angeles public high schools will soon receive priority admission to Cal State Dominguez Hills. On Thursday, the Los Angeles Unified School District announced an agreement with the university to guarantee admission to qualified students who attend the high schools nearby. The collaboration’s stated goal is to provide a clearer path into higher education for students in the largely low-income neighborhoods around the university. The program hopes to encourage students from the included schools to study science, technology, engineering and math — the so-called STEM disciplines.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Sonali Kohli, Los Angeles Times
Headlines and talk shows across the country often feature parents worried about their children’s stressful workload or pulling their kids out of new standardized tests. But an umbrella organization of civil rights groups contends that there is a huge population of people whose voices are missing when talking about the needs of schools. In a nationally representative survey of black and Latino parents in the U.S., the Leadership Conference Education Fund found that these parents care about having good teachers, more money for their schools and a more challenging curriculum for their students.

Madeleine Brand, KCRW; Guest: Sarah Abraham, MIT
We’ve known for decades that the rich live longer than the poor. But it turns out the size of that gap depends on where you live. That’s the surprising finding of a new study out today. In some cities, like Los Angeles, the poor live almost as long as their wealthier counterparts. Their lives are getting longer too. Elsewhere, the trend is going in the opposite direction. The poor are living shorter and shorter lives. Why? Madeleine speaks to one of the researchers on the new study.

Kimberly Beltran, Cabinet Report
States and school districts have until Oct. 1 to begin meeting new federal requirements aimed at removing barriers to educational opportunities for the nation’s estimated two million homeless children.

Alyson Klein, Education Week
If you haven’t read through all 1,000-plus pages of the brand new Every Student Succeeds Act, you may have missed a key theme: The new law includes a host of new transparency requirements that will give the feds, states, districts, educators, advocates and (yes) education reporters a much clearer picture of how different populations of kids are doing and what kind of access they have to resources, including money. So what exactly will districts and states need to report on under ESSA that they didn’t have to report on under No Child Left Behind, the previous version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act?

Public Schools and Private $

Jeremy Mohler, Capital and Main
April 1 was a historic day for public education in the U.S. Joined by diverse community groups and other workers, Chicago’s public school teachers took to the streets demanding more from city and state leaders. More autonomy in the classroom. More funding for education. More support for students, school nurses and librarians. Even higher wages for fast-food workers across the city. But they were also demanding less. Less unregulated charter schools. Less “high stakes” standardized testing. In short, less privatization.

Kyle Stokes, KPCC
Charter school advocates and Los Angeles Unified School District leaders are again toe-to-toe, this time over a bill in the state legislature that would limit the school board’s ability to use the district’s internal investigator to oversee charter schools.

Other News of Note

T. Rees Shapiro, The Washington Post
More than 80 years ago, Indian political leader Mahatma Gandhi led the so-called “Salt March” to the shores of the Arabian Sea as part of a non-violent demonstration against taxes on salt under British rule. In the same spirit of protest, a group of Americans of Indian descent are advocating against a series of proposed revisions to California school history textbooks, changes that they believe diminish the role Hindus played in the world’s earliest civilizations. The Hindu American Foundation has started a campaign to keep recognition of Hindus in the new textbooks, which are slated for publication later this year.

Casey Quinlan, ThinkProgress
With standardized testing season in full force, the so-called “opt-out movement” remains strong. Parents who think testing is having a deleterious effect on their children’s education are once again opting their kids out of tests. But this year, activists are taking one of their biggest critiques head on — that the “opt-out movement” is too white and upper middle class.


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