Just News from Center X – April 2, 2021

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Teachers reimagine schools and themselves post-Covid [VIDEO]

John Fensterwald & Andrew Reed, EdSource

How should schools welcome back students in the fall? How did a year under Covid change teachers’ view of their work? What online learning practices are worth keeping once students resume full time in the classroom? We asked members of EdSource’s new Teachers Advisory Committee these questions during a recent meeting and recorded their responses. Their reflections, which they agreed to share with readers, are interesting and insightful.

A majority of school districts are now open. But not everyone wants to return.

Shawn Hubler, New York Times

Elementary students returned to classrooms in Long Beach, Calif., on Monday and campuses from Los Angeles to Boston prepared for significant expansions of in-person instruction as a majority of the nation’s districts have now begun to reopen school buildings, many of which have been closed for more than a year. On Monday, Burbio, which monitors some 1,200 districts including the largest 200 in the country, reported that 53.1 percent of students were in schools offering daily, in-person classes, and that for the first time, the proportion of students attending school virtually or in hybrid classes had dropped. The change, Burbio officials said, appeared to be driven by the return in elementary and middle schools to in-person classes, and by the new rules from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention permitting schools to allow three feet of social distance instead of six feet in elementary schools.

Why black parents aren’t joining the push to reopen schools

Melinda D. Anderson, Mother Jones

In the spring of 2020, with Maryland’s stay-at-home order lifted, a new ritual was born on a cul-de-sac in North Baltimore’s affluent Homeland neighborhood. A group of moms gathered on Friday evenings to commiserate about the sudden pivot to remote learning. Seated in physically distanced chairs under a maple tree, Annette Anderson and her friends talked about the stresses of managing their own jobs while overseeing their children’s schoolwork. As summer arrived, the weekly conversations turned to speculation over the Baltimore City Public Schools plan for reopening in the fall. Other moms were clearly ready to turn their children back over to full-time teachers. But Anderson was a firm no.

Language, Culture, and Power

Pueblo Tribal Teacher On The Difficulty Of Getting Students Online [Comic]

LA Johnson, NPR

It’s been a year since teachers were handed an unprecedented request: Educate students in entirely new ways amid the backdrop of a pandemic. In this comic series, we’ll illustrate one teacher’s story each week from now until the end of the school year. Lori Chavez, a middle school social studies teacher in Kewa Pueblo, N.M., discusses the importance of staying connected to your community during lockdown.

Naming and Self-identification in the Black Community

E. James West, Black Perspectives

Naming is a complicated business. Names play a vital role in defining group identity and the identity of individuals who belong to that group. Naming can be a tool for empowerment and/or oppression – a means of projecting ideas of social inferiority; a tool to reclaim and redefine individual and collective identity. For perhaps no group is this legacy as relevant or as complex than African Americans. Since the first Africans arrived on the shores of what would become the United States, the connotative struggle over what Anthony Neal describes as ‘the naming’ has been inextricably and dialectically bound to the ongoing struggle for civil rights and racial equality. From Black activists and intellectuals to the layperson on the street, the labels of ‘African’, ‘colored’, ‘Negro’, ‘Black’, ‘Afro-American’ and others have been alternatively (and oftentimes concomitantly) embraced, critiqued, discarded, and reclaimed.

Los Angeles builds restorative justice village to advance racial equality [Video]

NBC News

As Americans watch the Derek Chauvin trial unfold, cities are thinking of new ways to bring racial justice through social services. Los Angeles County is scrapping a plan to build a new prison and investing in affordable housing medical services and job training instead. NBC News’ Simone Boyce reports on the restorative justice village. Update: The housing is now expected to cost $57 million.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

What life was like for students in the pandemic year: 11th graders share their experience

Oceanside High School Students, Education Week

I stare at my blank computer screen, trying to find the motivation to turn it on, but my finger flinches every time it hovers near the button. I instead open my curtains. It is raining outside, but it does not matter, I will not be going out there for the rest of the day. The sound of pounding raindrops contributes to my headache enough to make me turn on my computer in hopes that it will give me something to drown out the noise. But as soon as I open it up, I feel the weight of the world crash upon my shoulders.

‘I felt like I was in a hole’: how one student managed the stress of COVID-19 [VIDEO] 

Miles Johnson, Education Week

Like millions of students across the country in the spring of 2020, Miles Johnson, a member of the Navajo Nation and a high school senior, learned that his school was shutting down. He returned home, some 138 miles away from his Navajo IB Prep boarding school, but once there had trouble securing an internet connection so that he could do his schoolwork. Determined not to lose momentum in his studies, Miles discovered one day that he could access Wi-Fi from the roof of his family home, but he also had to juggle internet use with other members of his family, including his grandmother.

When can kids get the COVID-19 vaccine? A pediatrician answers 5 questions parents are asking

James Wood, The Conversation

Do kids really need to get the COVID-19 vaccine? The short answer is yes. A lot of studies have shown that COVID-19 isn’t as severe in children, particularly younger kids – but that doesn’t mean kids aren’t at risk of getting infected and potentially spreading the virus. Children under 12 who get COVID-19 do tend to have mild illnesses or no symptoms, while teenagers seem to have responses somewhere between what adults and younger kids have experienced. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that teens were about twice as likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19 as children ages 5-11.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

Report: U.S. could have universal Pre-K by 2040

Oriana Gonzalez, Axios

The National Institute for Early Education at Rutgers University (NIEER) on Wednesday released a plan that shows how the U.S. could have universal high-quality preschool within the next 30 years. Why it matters: “At its current pace and without federal government leadership, the U.S. won’t reach all children with free preschool before 2100,” said NIEER Founder and Senior Co-director Steven Barnett. Details: States are more likely to invest more in preschool education if they receive federal help. NIEER’s plan says the federal government should match regional and local-level investments in high-quality preschool for all children under 200% of the federal poverty level.

Biden education team squashes states’ push to nix all tests but approves other flexibility 

Evie Blad, Education Week

In decisions it has telegraphed for weeks, the U.S. Department of Education has denied some states’ requests to cancel federally mandated statewide standardized tests for a second consecutive year as they continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic. The agency denied requests from Georgia and South Carolina to call off the tests in Friday letters to their state schools chiefs. And it warned Oregon it would not accept a plan to replace year-end tests with the results of a survey designed to measure factors like access to educational resources that can affect students’ learning.

Easing the transfer path in California from community colleges to universities: Long Beach pilot program does a lot of what Newsom wants statewide

Larry Gordon, EdSource

A second-year student at Long Beach City College, Emilio Mann is part of an experiment that aims to ease and improve the way he and classmates transfer to a public university and ultimately earn a bachelor’s degree. So far, things are working well for him. Mann was recently accepted to California State University, Long Beach for next fall through a pilot program that connected him very early on as a community college student to the university with counseling, campus tours and other benefits. He also was directed to the courses he needs to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology, avoiding the confusions and delays that occur when a student takes the wrong classes. The Long Beach pilot, called the  “Long Beach College Promise 2.0,” goes a few steps further than other efforts underway around California to help more students transfer.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

White parents in D.C. talk a lot about racial justice. So why do they focus on majority-White schools?

Vanessa Williamson and Jackson Gode, Washington Post

On a playground, one parent tells another that they are moving to the suburbs “for the schools.” After a meeting, a mom asks a co-worker how they chose a preschool. Informal conversations like these can be decisive for parents’ school choices, and perceptions of school quality play a significant role in where people choose to live. But such social networks can also spread misinformation and bias. In a study of an online parent forum in D.C. written with our colleague Hao Sun, we trace how parents’ conversations about schools recapitulate — and to the extent these conversations are influential, reinforce — racial and economic segregation. We examined more than 400,000 messages posted to the forum between 2008 and 2020. Within each of 15,000 conversation threads, we identified more than 150 public schools and more than 500 keywords that help capture the substance of the discussion. The commenters post anonymously, so we can’t speak conclusively about the demography of the participants, but data ranging from their Zip codes to their car choices suggest that the commenters are predominantly upper middle class and White.

Sent home early: Lost learning in special education

Sarah Butrymowicz, Hechinger Report

Near the end of Delilah McBride’s second month of kindergarten in Taylor, Michigan, her family received jarring news from her principal: Delilah would be allowed to come to school only in the morning. Someone would need to pick her up before noon every day, even as the rest of her peers continued learning and playing together. Delilah’s first several weeks of school in the fall of 2018 had been marked by discipline incidents and suspensions, as she got in trouble for not listening to instructions and hitting staff members. Her parents wanted to get her a special education designation — and all the supports that came with it. But instead, they were told by school administrators that their daughter “couldn’t handle full days,” said Sarah McBride, Delilah’s mother. “It was a nonnegotiable thing,” McBride recalled. That night, as she and her husband scrambled to figure out who could watch Delilah in the early afternoon, questions swirled in her head: “How long is this going to go on? Were [school officials] able to do it?”

Schools need to invest to help students with disabilities catch up after pandemic, report says


Students in special education — especially students of color — have suffered disproportionate impacts from school closures and the pandemic and will need extra assistance to catch up, according to a recent report from UCLA’s Center for Civil Rights Remedies. Loss of instructional time, limited counseling and tutoring services and family trauma, such as unemployment or losing a loved one to Covid, have all contributed to bleak conditions for students in special education in many districts, the report says. The report, “Disabling Inequity: the urgent need for race-conscious resource remedies,” also examined…

Democracy and the Public Interest

A key to bridging the political divide: Sit down and talk? 

Glenn Gamboa, Washington Post

A few years ago, Dave Isay started worrying about America as he saw the middle ground between the political parties vanish into what he calls “disconnection and a vast void.” “I am not ever concerned about people arguing with each other, because that’s healthy,” Isay said. “But I was concerned with people treating one another with contempt.”.Isay, the recipient of a MacArthur “genius” grant, the winner of six Peabody awards and the founder of the oral history project StoryCorps, hatched an idea: The surest way to start rebuilding common ground, he decided, was to gather people of differing views and backgrounds to sit down and simply talk to each other.

Supreme Court case could change the nature of college sports

Jessica Gresko, Seattle Times

A Supreme Court case being argued this week amid March Madness could erode the difference between elite college athletes and professional sports stars. If the former college athletes who brought the case win, colleges could end up competing for talented student athletes by offering over-the-top education benefits worth tens of thousands of dollars. And that could change the nature of college sports. At least that’s the fear of the NCAA. But the former athletes who sued say most college athletes will never play professional sports and that the NCAA’s rules capping education benefits deprive them of the ability to be rewarded for their athletic talents and hard work. They say the NCAA’s rules are not just unfair but illegal, and they want schools to be able to offer any education benefits they see fit.

Acton-Agua Dulce School District to pay $700K after fraud allegations

Caleb Lunetta, The Signal Santa Clarita Valley

The Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District has agreed to a $726,606 settlement following a San Diego Court ruling over millions of dollars and charter school fraud throughout California.  The decision comes after Sean McManus, 48, and Jason Schrock, 44, were indicted by a grand jury along with nine other defendants in May 2019 in connection to their 19 California A3 Charter Schools siphoning off $50 million from the state. The indictment of both men alleges they lied about student-enrollment numbers, forged documentation and manipulated government regulators by having people misrepresent themselves as CEOs of separate schools, all in an effort to gain public funds.

Other News of Note

Visibility Alone Will Not Keep Transgender Youth Safe

Chase Strangio and Raquel Willis, The Nation

On March 3, Missouri father Brandon Boulware begged lawmakers not to pass a bill that would ban his transgender daughter from participation in her dance squad, volleyball, and tennis teams. To date, a video of his testimony shared by the American Civil Liberties Union has impressively drawn more than 7.5 million views. But visibility alone has been no match for the tide of anti-trans legislation introduced over the past three months. The Missouri bill that Boulware testified against is just one of the more than 100 bills introduced around the country targeting trans people’s ability to update our identification documents to accurately reflect our gender, play sports in school, and access health care. This is why we expanded Trans Day of Visibility, which annually falls on March 31, into Trans Week of Visibility and Action, an effort to mobilize our community and allies against the national wave of anti-trans legislation and rhetoric that attacks and questions our existence. If we don’t put up a coordinated and spirited fight, these bills will devastate the lives of vulnerable youth across the country—and many already have. They will continue to be a threat in the coming weeks, and possibly years to come—which is why we have to start acting now.