Just News from Center X – April 16, 2021

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

The Return to School:  Parents and Education Advocates Weigh In [Audio]

A. Martinez, John Rogers, Ana Ponce, Evelyn Aleman, Take Two

The Los Angeles Unified School District is starting to welcome younger students back to some campuses this week, with all schools and grades to follow in the next few weeks. On Monday, the Superintendent Austin Beutner also announced a plan to possibly extend the school year. The school board is expected to vote on the proposal later this month. Today, we hear from some parents and education advocates about all of this.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona says schools have to be ‘redesigned’ post-pandemic [VIDEO]

Katherine Fung, Newsweek

The nation’s new education secretary is calling for schools to be “redesigned” after the coronavirus pandemic. “We shouldn’t go back to the schools of  March 2020—that’s a low bar,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said in a discussion with the founders of A Starting Point, a civic engagement organization.

How race-related stress could be driving educators of color away from the job

Ain Grooms, The Conversation

When teachers of color experience high levels of race-based stress in schools, they can also have an increasingly negative sense of belonging, according to new research. For the study, we analyzed survey data from educators of color across Iowa. To get at whether they were experiencing race-based stress, we asked whether the educators felt supported raising concerns with their peers about racism in schools or if they felt the need to ignore or avoid it. I conducted this research along with my colleagues – education researcher Duhita Mahatmya and community and behavioral health professor Eboneé Johnson. Teachers reported less support from colleagues than did principals. Over 75% of the teachers in our sample (175 out of 229) reported a negative sense of belonging, especially when they thought school districts would not devise policies to actively address equity and racism.


Language, Culture, and Power

Why so many Asian American students are learning remotely [AUDIO]

Anya Kamenetz, KQED

Last month, Tsong Tong Vang was walking his 5-year-old grandson to the school bus in St. Paul, Minn., when, according to local media reports, a woman pulled up in a car and started yelling anti-Asian abuse and threats at him. Reports of such incidents have been growing around the country since early last year, amid public statements by President Trump and others linking China with the coronavirus pandemic. And they may be one reason for some Asian families not to send children to school in-person right now. Asian American students are far more likely to be learning remotely than members of any other racial or ethnic group in the United States

When typical middle school antics mean suspensions, handcuffs or jail

Levi Pulkkinen, Hechinger Report

Pep rallies are supposed to be joyful, loud and unabashed. Having just turned 12 in the fall of 2017, Alan bubbled over with excitement ahead of his first rally at Deming Intermediate School in Deming, New Mexico, a small city near the Mexican border. Classrooms aren’t easy for Alan, his mother said. (We are using Alan’s middle name to protect his privacy.) She described him as a gentle, soulful boy going through life with a collection of medical conditions including Tourette syndrome. His tics and shouts, all beyond his control, make him an easy target for bullies and, to some school staff, a problem student to be corrected.

Students demanding end of police officers at Clark County schools

Jeremy Chen, KTNV

A group of Las Vegas area students and activists is calling for the school district to disband its police department saying a survey shows complaints from students of color who feel they’re being targeted. Meanwhile, some parents say removing police presence from school campuses is the wrong approach. On Wednesday, a demonstration took place at the Clark County School District headquarters. It comes on the heels of a new report by Youth Mandate, a nationwide movement that seeks to end the school-to-prison-to-deportation pipeline. A survey from the organization found two in five students say they don’t feel safe when they see police at school.


Whole Children and Strong Communities

Undanced Dances During a Pandemic

Suchi Branfman, The Nation

My solo starts off with my arms out-stretched towards the sky, trying to touch the rafters, stretching on tip-toe, reaching, head up to the sky. Terry Sakamoto Jr., is describing a dance he calls “The Mountain.” He wrote the choreography from his bunk while in Covid lockdown last spring at the California Rehabilitation Center, a medium-security men’s prison located in Norco, Calif., about 65 miles from my home. Before March 2020, when the state prison system shut down all programming and visitation due to the coronavirus, Terry was among the folks inside the prison with whom I had the remarkable opportunity to dance, make dance, and converse every Monday night for years. The project, called Dancing Through Prison Walls, began in December of 2016. The work took many forms, whether teaching credit-bearing college courses or Rehabilitative Achievement Credit workshops, collaborating on choreographies, bringing in guest artists, or simply spending hours dancing with folks inside the prison gym.

How American parents have been doing it all wrong

Robin Abcarian, Los Angeles Times

Anyone who has parented a toddler will be able to relate to the day Michaeleen Doucleff, in her own words, “hit bottom.” She was lying in bed in San Francisco before sunrise, the house still quiet as her 3-year-old daughter and husband slept. “I was preparing for battle,” she later wrote. “I was going over in my head how to handle the next encounter with the enemy. What will I do when she strikes me again? When she hits? Kicks? Or bites?” At various points in her new book, “Hunt, Gather, Parent: What Ancient Cultures Can Teach Us About the Lost Art of Raising Happy, Helpful Little Humans,” Doucleff calls her child “a raging maniac,” “a mini shrew” and “the wild hyena.”

Social-emotional learning can help prevent school shootings

Agnes Varghese, Ed Source

If the devastation of the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that governmental ill-preparedness can lead to unnecessary loss of life. We need a national task force to explore the most effective methods of imparting social and emotional learning to address the mental health needs of students as they return to the classroom. This is especially important now as the trauma, social isolation and/or disruption in routine associated with the pandemic can result in mental health problems that students may not know how to handle. Their attempts to cope could result in deadly violence. During the pandemic, gun sales have soared, and mass shootings outside of schools have continued. We must act now to thwart future school shootings, but we must address the problem much differently than in the past.


Access, Assessment, Advancement

Backlash growing to Biden’s insistence that schools give standardized tests during the pandemic

Valerie Strauss, Washington Post

The Biden administration is facing growing backlash from state education chiefs, Republican senators, teachers unions and others who say that its insistence that schools give standardized tests to students this year is unfair, and that it is being inconsistent in how it awards testing flexibility to states. Michigan State Superintendent Michael Rice has slammed the U.S. Education Department for its “indefensible” logic in rejecting the state’s request for a testing waiver while granting one to the Washington, D.C., school system — the only waiver that has been given.


Lawmakers divided on Washington education bill that eliminates state testing requirement for some student teachers

Elise Takahama, The Seattle Times

Washington lawmakers are divided over an education bill that would eliminate a standardized assessment for student teachers that critics say is inequitable and unnecessary. While the Senate passed the bill over the weekend, it’s on its way back to the House floor because it was approved with a new amendment that brings the test back in two years. And many aren’t happy with the change.

Combating Inequality in Higher Education

Steven Mintz, Inside HigherEd

Yale’s Hall of Graduate Studies is no more. At a cost of $162 million, the nearly 90-year-old structure has been transformed into the Humanities Quadrangle, housing 15 departments and programs, the Whitney Humanities Center, the Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning, workspaces and a lounge for graduate students, a 180-seat auditorium, and a 90-seat film screening room. Like Yale’s Sterling Law School, the university decided to preserve and renovate an older structure rather than demolish and start anew. A former dean hailed “Yale’s visionary approach,” which “will bring new life to an iconic building.” To put the sum spent on the Humanities Quadrangle in perspective, Yale recently spent between $500 and $600 million (in 2013 dollars) to construct two new residential colleges housing 800 students and is currently spending another $471 million on a physical sciences and engineering building and garage, and at least $150 million on its Commons dining hall and the adjacent Memorial Hall into a “campus center” and “central hub of student life.”


Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Racial Integration Through Two-Way Dual Language Immersion: A Case Study

Elizabeth M. Uzzell and Jennifer B. Ayscue, Education Policy Analysis Archives

Despite increasingly diverse public school enrollment, students across the U.S. are still segregated by race and poverty, and English learners (ELs) often experience triple segregation by race, poverty, and language. Two-way immersion (TWI) programs may create racially integrated learning environments, by offering a dual language model that balances native English speakers and speakers of the partner language. Through semi-structured interviews, observation, and document analysis, this qualitative case study examined howa Spanish TWI program facilitates integration in a rural elementary school. Findings show that students from different backgrounds may have equal status in mutually beneficial environments, can become bilingual and bicultural, and may experience lifelong benefits. Implications include the need for increased federal, state, and local funding to support districts using TWI to achieve integration as well as a federal language policy that promotes TWI.

Structural Racism Explainer Collection

Urban Institute

For most of its history, the United States has excluded people of color from its main pathways of opportunity and upward mobility. Racist policies and practices have been advanced since our nation’s inception, practiced by leaders who wrote and spoke about freedom and equality while engaging in the purchase, bondage, and sale of people of African descent and the betrayal and genocide of Indigenous people. The progress made since then, though undeniable, has been uneven and too often followed by periods of backlash and retrenchment. Our history of discriminatory policies and institutional practices has created profound inequities and injustice across social and economic domains for Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and Asian people. And these inequities reinforce one another: housing segregation locks in educational inequities; separate and unequal neighborhood conditions fuel abusive policing practices; the racial wealth gap blocks access to higher education and entrepreneurship; daily exposure to the indignities of racism erodes people’s health.

No, Education Still Won’t Solve Poverty

Mike Stivers and Cristina Groeger, Jacobin Magazine

For more than a century, one of the most persistent ideas in US politics has been that education is the best solution to inequality. But it’s not persistent because it’s true — it’s persistent because it’s a useful myth for political and economic elites jealously guarding their money and power. Since the mid-1800s, the number of children attending school in the United States has steadily increased. Economic equality has not. Yet the idea that schooling is the best way to reduce poverty and close the gap between rich and poor goes almost unquestioned. In her new book, The Education Trap, historian Cristina Groeger addresses this myth head on.


Democracy and the Public Interest

Educating for Civic Reasoning and Discourse

National Academy of Education

At the time of this report’s publication, multiple crises have made the need and urgency for skills in civic reasoning and discourse starkly evident. Increasing polarization and unprecedented strain

on our democratic institutions coincided with social protests of persistent racial injustices. At the same time, a health pandemic, economic shock, and a continuing climate crisis challenged the world to take action. In addition, the ubiquitous availability of questionable digital information has made the acquisition of civic reasoning and discourse skills progressively more important for students to develop.

Civics Secures Democracy Act proposes grants to support civics education [AUDIO]

Morning Edition, NPR

NPR’s Steve Inskeep talks to GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas and Democratic Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware about a bipartisan initiative to invest $1 billion in civics and history education.

“A Punishing American Zeitgeist”​ 

Nikhil Pal Singh, Drift Magazine

With Trump finally, dramatically out of office, the efforts to historicize his tenure have already begun. What is his legacy? How did we get here? What’s next? Long an astute commentator on race, imperialism, and the history of American political struggle, Nikhil Pal Singh has been an essential scholarly voice amidst the chaos that defined the Trump era, and the online noise that continues even in his absence. Singh is a Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis and History at New York University, where he directs the NYU Prison Education Program. He is the author of Black Is a Country: Race and the Unfinished Struggle for Democracy (2004), which reframed the history of the American civil rights movement, tracing its long arc through the radical Black intellectual tradition of the 20th century. His 2017 book Race and America’s Long War linked domestic struggles for racial equality with the United States’s imperial ambitions and ongoing involvement in foreign wars.  Over Zoom, we asked Singh what he makes of the political landscape — from Twitter wars to Trump’s “1776 Project” to the state of the Democratic Party and the GOP.


Other News of Note

Make Your Life a Constellation [Audio]

Mariame Kaba, Under the Tree with Bill Ayers

Sometimes we ask, What can one person do? The first step is to stop being one person. Move away from “me,” and take steps toward creating a “we.” From one to two, from two to three, step-by-step toward an irresistible movement for justice and peace, powered by love—the organizer’s credo. We’re honored to be joined by Mariame Kaba, educator and legendary abolitionist organizer who’s been building social movements for racial, gender and transformative justice for years. The founder of Project Nia, author of Prison Culture, the popular blog that shines a bright light into the carceral state and the punishment bureaucracy, her recently released book, We Do This ’Til We Free Us: Abolitionist Organizing and Transforming Justice, is a powerful guide to justice organizing and abolitionist politics.