Just News from Center X – April 19, 2024

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Mary Johnson: A Powerful Advocate for Educational Justice, 1955-2024

John Rogers, Center X

Mary Johnson, a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and groundbreaking advocate for parent power and educational justice, passed away at the age of 68. Over her lifetime of organizing and advocacy, she helped hundreds of parents in southeast Los Angeles navigate the complexities of special education rules, led successful campaigns to change school district policies, and served as president of the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Parent Collaborative.

Algebra success isn’t about a ‘perfect’ curriculum — schools need to invest in math teacher training and coaching

Shantay Mobley, Hechinger Report

There has been much talk and concern in recent months about making higher-level math more accessible to high schoolers, particularly low-income students from Black and Hispanic communities. Much of this discussion dwells on what is the best curriculum to use to teach Algebra I and other higher-level math courses. The right curriculum is important, of course. A high-quality curriculum creates the foundation for success in math. A curriculum that values culturally responsive education enables teachers both to value the many kinds of experiences that students bring to classrooms and to push them academically while engaging them personally. But properly implementing an Algebra I curriculum is at least as important as the curriculum itself. The core of implementation, meanwhile, is coaching each teacher for the specific challenges they will face in their classrooms.

Teachers can’t afford to live near schools. Some cities adopt a radical housing idea [Video]

Veronica Miracle, CNN

According to NCES, nearly 80% of schools struggle to fill open teacher positions. Some cities believe job-specific affordable housing could be the solution to the nationwide shortage.

Language, Culture, and Power

Red states threaten librarians with prison — as blue states work to protect them

Hannah Natanson and Anumita Kaur, Washington Post

Sam Lee, a leader of the Connecticut Library Association, heads to work these days torn between hope and fear. She’s encouraged because legislators in her state proposed a bill this year making it harder for school boards to ban library books. But she’s fearful because Connecticut, like America, is seeing a sustained surge in book challenges — and she wonders if objectors will see the legislation as a reason to file more complaints. “I would like to be optimistic,” Lee said. “But having been in my position for the last few years … I don’t know, it really feels like it’s been forever. And I am worried the book banners are just going to be emboldened.”

After his release from a Colorado prison, David Carrillo continues to educate students on the inside

Jason Gonzales & Charlotte West, Chalkbeat Colorado

David Carrillo often envisioned himself walking into a diner just like Jim’s Burger Haven in Thornton. Or maybe browsing in Walmart or some other store. He had heard so many stories about others out on parole getting overwhelmed in new situations, especially after almost three decades in prison. He wanted to be prepared for his release at the end of January from the Colorado Territorial Correctional Facility. “I would kind of visualize myself walking through these different areas and being OK,” he said during an interview last week. So far, as he’s transitioned into his new life, there have been very few moments where he’s felt uncomfortable, Carrillo said after eating Jim’s classic smash burger and fries.

‘Hilltop,’ Howard University’s student newspaper, is going strong at 100 years old [AUDIO]

Alana Wise, NPR

Howard University’s student newspaper hit 100. The paper that Zora Neale Hurston helped found is still going strong.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

About 1 in 4 U.S. teachers say their school went into a gun-related lockdown in the last school year

Kiley Hurst, Pew Research

Twenty-five years after the mass shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, a majority of public K-12 teachers (59%) say they are at least somewhat worried about the possibility of a shooting ever happening at their school. This includes 18% who say they’re extremely or very worried, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Another 31% of teachers say they are not too worried about a shooting occurring at their school. Only 7% of teachers say they are not at all worried. This survey comes at a time when school shootings are at a record high (82 in 2023) and gun safety continues to be a topic in 2024 election campaigns.

This Colorado teacher survived Columbine. Here’s how she prioritizes trauma-informed practices.

Ann Schimke, Chalkbeat Colorado

When Heather Martin was a senior in high school, she survived the Columbine High School shooting that killed 12 students and one teacher in Littleton, Colorado. Even as she tried to move on with her life, she carried the trauma of that day inside her — often in ways that surprised her. The following year, during a community college class, she burst into tears during a routine fire drill, confused and embarrassed by her emotional reaction. “I hadn’t remembered, until that very moment, that the fire alarm had been going off while I was barricaded for three hours before the SWAT team came,” she said. She also struggled with panic attacks, an eating disorder, and insensitive comments from instructors. Eventually, Martin dropped out of college.

How Fresno Unified is getting missing students back in class [AUDIO]

Education Beat Podcast

Ever since the Covid-19 pandemic, many California students have struggled to attend class regularly. Recent data shows that even last school year, when kids were back in person and there were fewer Covid regulations, nearly a quarter of students statewide missed more than 10% of the school year. But some school districts, like Fresno Unified, have managed to bring many of their missing students back to class. What’s their secret?

Access, Assessment, Advancement

California Preschools Wrestle to Comply With State’s Tightened Suspension Rules [Audio]

Daisy Nguyen, KQED

Like many babies born around the time of the COVID-19 shutdowns, 4-year-old Cole grew up watching Cocomelon and Bluey. The popular kids shows kept him entertained while his mom, Grace McPherson, helped his older sister with distance learning. However, too much screen time and social isolation took a toll on Cole’s development. His mom said he was “pretty much nonverbal” when he was 3 years old. So last fall, McPherson enrolled her son in a preschool in the Bay Area town of Oakley to help him catch up. The first day went smoothly. But on the second day, not long after dropping him off, the school called McPherson to pick up Cole because he refused to sit at circle time and was crying inconsolably.

With State Bans on D.E.I., Some Universities Find a Workaround: Rebranding

Stephanie Saul, New York Times

At the University of Tennessee, the campus D.E.I. program is now called the Division of Access and Engagement. Louisiana State University also rebranded its diversity office after Jeff Landry, a Trump-backed Republican, was elected governor last fall. Its Division of Inclusion, Civil Rights and Title IX is now called the Division of Engagement, Civil Rights and Title IX.

And at the University of Oklahoma, the diversity office is now the Division of Access and Opportunity. In what appears to be an effort to placate or, even head fake, opponents of diversity and equity programs, university officials are relaunching their D.E.I. offices under different names, changing the titles of officials, and rewriting requirements to eliminate words like “diversity” and “equity.” In some cases, only the words have changed.

USC valedictorian’s grad speech is canceled: ‘The university has betrayed me’

Jaweed Kaleem, Los Angeles Times

When Asna Tabassum learned that USC had barred her from speaking at next month’s graduation, she hadn’t yet planned what she would say in her remarks, beyond that she would convey a message of hope. University leaders who announced the decision Monday, after pro-Israel groups criticized a link on Tabassum’s Instagram page as evidence of her being antisemitic, didn’t know the theme of her speech because she hadn’t shared it with them, the class valedictorian said an interview with the Times on Tuesday. Tabassum, a biomedical engineering major, said that in addition to hope, she was thinking of touching on “how we must continue to use our education as a privilege to inform ourselves and ultimately make a change in the world.”

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

‘Worst child displacement crisis in the world’: German minister speaks out about Sudan’s children

Lili Bayer, The Guardian

Annalena Baerbock, the German foreign minister, spoke about the children of Sudan during today’s conference. “What we are witnessing in Sudan is the worst child displacement crisis in the world,” she said. And yet, she said, “in many of our countries, as the war enters in its second year, it is practically absent from our daily news.” “Every life counts equally, whether in Ukraine, in Gaza, or in Sudan,” the minister said. “The international community has to provide more for the people of Sudan, for the children of Sudan,” she said, noting that Germany will provide 244 million euros in bilateral assistance for Sudan on top of its EU support.

Lawsuit alleges incarcerated young adults are deprived of special education services

Suevon Lee, WBUR

A lawsuit filed in Middlesex Superior Court on Tuesday alleges that the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has failed to adequately provide or oversee required special education services to eligible students housed in county correctional facilities. Incarcerated students with disabilities who have an individualized education program, or IEP, are offered “only minimal services” by DESE in county jails and are routinely under-identified as eligible for special ed services, according to the complaint.

Disproportionality in Special Education Fueled by Implicit Bias

Brenda Álvarez, NEA Today

In Nikki Woodward’s 24-year career as a special education teacher, she has seen one too many students of color with disabilities misidentified and misplaced—meaning they did not receive the services needed to help develop academic and social skills, improve their well-being, and prepare for a successful life after school. The Maryland educator has also seen it close to home. Years ago, when Woodward’s cousin was an infant, she noticed certain traits in his social interactions that were atypical. She suspected autism. The diagnosis from early interventionists determined ADHD, and for years special education teams provided services (and medication) to help manage his behavior—missing the fact that the child had no capacity to have a conversation or interact with others. He avoided eye contact but could sit for hours to build any Lego set put before him, a classic sign of hyper fixation, Woodward explains.

Democracy and the Public Interest

Report: Last year ended with a surge in book bans

Elizabeth Blair, NPR

PEN America says there was an “unprecedented” surge in book bans during the latter half of 2023, according to a new report. The free expression group says that from July-December of last year, it recorded 4,349 instances of book bans across 23 states and 52 public school districts. The report says more books were banned in those six months than in the 12 months of the 2022-2023 school year. PEN America says it draws its information on bans from “publicly available data on district or school websites, news sources, public records requests, and school board minutes.”

DeSantis tweaks Florida book challenge law, blames liberal activist who wanted Bible out of schools

Brendan Farrington, AP News

Two years ago, Democrats repeatedly and forcefully warned Republicans and Gov. Ron DeSantis that a new law making it easier to challenge school books was so broadly worded that it would create havoc across the state. Now they can say, “I told you so.” DeSantis backtracked on the 2022 law on Tuesday when he signed a bill narrowing its focus. He blamed liberal activists for abusing the law, not the citizens whose objections to certain books account for the majority of book removals from school libraries and classrooms.

Transgender rights vs. parent rights. California goes to court to settle school divide

Howard Blume, LA Times

Supporters of a proposed November ballot initiative wanted the all-important title of their measure to reflect their beliefs, a name like “Protect Kids of California Act.” But Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta saw things differently when his office chose the name signature gatherers must use: “Restricts Rights of Transgender Youth.” Among its provisions, the initiative in question — which has not yet qualified for the ballot — would require schools to notify parents if a child changed gender identification unofficially or in schools records, such as a roll sheet. With a May 28 deadline to submit signatures — and 25% of the way to the goal — initiative backers must use the state’s description, which they say is hindering their effort.

Other News of Note

Review: Teach for Climate Justice: A Vision for Transforming Education

Paul Buhle, Radical Teacher

How can we speak to young people about the ecological disaster and increasing inequality that will shape their lives without making them feel hopeless—or succumb ourselves to a deadening fatalism? How can we educate the next generation to find ways to make a difference, to see that a better future is possible? Tom Roderick, a veteran teacher, writer, and education activist, spent 36 years before retirement at the Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility in New York City. If anyone has the credentials for the task at hand, it’s him—and he approaches the subject with a light touch, urging educators to teach for joy and justice.