Just News from Center X – April 22, 2016

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice


Randi Weingarten, Huffington Post
The winner of a $1 million prize honoring excellence in teaching set off shockwaves last year when she said that, given the current climate, she would not encourage people to consider teaching in public schools. Perhaps that declaration, from veteran teacher Nancie Atwell, shouldn’t have come as a shock. Atwell decried the unrelenting focus on standardized tests, which she said reduces teachers to “mere technicians.” But she could have cited any number of factors that demoralize many teachers currently in the profession and increasingly dissuade people from considering teaching.

John Fensterwald, EdSource
Three school districts have created innovative systems to evaluate teachers that could serve as models for districts laboring under a flawed state evaluation law, according to a new study. The progress of the San Juan, San Jose and Poway districts contrasts with the seemingly intractable stalemate in the Legislature, where Democratic and Republican leaders, seeing no breakthrough, are steering clear this year of proposing comprehensive evaluation reforms.

Warren Simmons, Fellow and Former Executive Director, Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University
2016 Wallace Foundation Distinguished Lecture, AERA

Andrew Ujifusa, Education Week
When Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is on the campaign trail talking about education, the Republican presidential candidate is perhaps best known for two promises: He’ll have the U.S. Department of Education end the Common Core State Standards—and he’ll abolish the federal Education Department itself. The first of those would seem to be a nonstarter—the common core is a state-driven initiative, not a federal mandate, and the Education Department has no authority to roll it back. The second harks back to President Ronald Reagan, whose 1980 campaign platform included ending the then-new department, a push that has never gained traction. That leaves Cruz’s other major K-12 theme: support for charter schools and vouchers, which the first-term U.S. senator has put at the top of his legislative agenda since he was elected in 2012.

Language, Culture, and Power


Jerry Kang, Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, UCLA
My job as Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion is to build equity for all, and to make sure that there is an equal learning and working environment for everyone, regardless of political or religious affiliation. But if your name is plastered around campus, casting you as a murderer or terrorist, how could you stay focused on anything like learning, teaching, or research? In modern times, we may have to resign ourselves to the reality of negative, unfair, and often anonymous statements about us strewn throughout the Internet, with little practical recourse. But I refuse to believe that we can do nothing about hateful posters pushed into our school and workplaces by outsiders. Indeed, the recent Statement of Principles Against Intolerance adopted by the UC Regents encourage quick and forceful response (Principles i and j). This message is sent in that spirit.

Lillian Mongeau, PBS
Last spring, 9-year-old Derrick Fields sat in his social studies classroom at Sherman Elementary School, learning about the creation of the telegraph. The machine was invented so that “someone can connect to someone who is far away,” he said. This was pretty normal stuff for a fourth grade history lesson, except for one thing: The entire lesson — from the textbooks to the teacher’s instructions to the students’ short essays — was in Spanish. In fact, half of Derrick’s time is spent learning in Spanish and the other half in English in what’s known as a dual language immersion program.

Mark Walsh, Education Week
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday appeared divided on whether Texas could challenge the Obama administration’s program offering relief from deportation and work permits to some 4 million unauthorized immigrant parents of U.S. citizen children.

Valerie Strauss, Jamila Carter, Answer Sheet
In many school districts across the country, black students in traditional public schools are suspended at rates much higher than for white students, as this University of Pennsylvania analysis shows. What’s more, some “no excuses” charter schools in urban areas operate with a philosophy that more discipline for black students is better, even for tiny infractions. In this post, Jamila Carter, a mother of three and an early childhood educator in Philadelphia, asks and answers the question of whether black students really need “no excuses” discipline. You can follow her Twitter at @jubimom. This appeared on the Edushyster website of education blogger and activist Jennifer Berkshire, who gave me permission to republish.

Access, Assessment, and Advancement


Linda Darling-Hammond, Charles E. Ducommun Professor of Education Emerita, Stanford University
AERA Distinguished Lecture

Deepa Fernandes, KPCC
There is bipartisan agreement that the state’s early childhood system is broken. Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed overhauling it, but his proposal doesn’t have the support of experts and leaders in the field. Now two new reports reinforce the myriad of problems with the current system and present alternative suggestions for improving the lot of children under the age of five.

Kyle Stokes, KPCC
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has set a goal of ensuring all graduates of L.A. Unified high schools can attend one year of community college tuition-free starting in 2017, pledging to raise roughly $1.5 million from the city’s business and philanthropic communities to help make it happen.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation


Cory Turner, Reema Khrais, Tim Lloyd, Alexandra Olgin, Laura Isensee, Becky Vevea, Dan Carsen, NPR
Let’s begin with a choice. Say there’s a check in the mail. It’s meant to help you run your household. You can use it to keep the lights on, the water running and food on the table. Would you rather that check be for $9,794 or $28,639? It’s not a trick question. It’s the story of America’s schools in two numbers.

Stefanie A. DeLuca and Susan Clampet-Lundquist, The Century Foundation
In an era when social mobility in the United States has become increasingly elusive, the stories of Baltimore’s youth could offer key insight into pathways out of poverty. In The Cycle of Poverty Is Not Inevitable, TCF fellow Stefanie DeLuca and Saint Joseph University’s Susan Clampet-Lundquist draw lessons on disrupting intergenerational inequality from nearly a decade’s worth of research with youth in Baltimore. What their inspirational stories demonstrate is that with the right policies in place, disadvantaged youth can have the support they need to successfully launch into adulthood—and out of the cycle of poverty.

Emily Deruy, The Atlantic
The U.S. Education Secretary John King is frustrated by what he describes as the “ahistorical nature” of conversations today about how to integrate schools. Speaking at a Century Foundation panel on Tuesday to highlight two recent reports by the left-leaning think tank, King said that the need for “urgency” when it comes to making classrooms more socioeconomically and racially diverse is sometimes thwarted by communities who see the current lack of real integration as a fact over which they have no control. That, he argued, is simply not true.

Caitlin Yoshiko Kandil, Los Angeles Times
As a child, Sylvia Mendez thought her parents’ court case was all about a playground. That’s because in 1944, the school bus would drop her off at the white school, which had “manicured lawns” and a “beautiful playground,” but she wasn’t allowed there. Instead, she would have to keep walking down the street to the Mexican school — two wooden shacks on a dirt lot next to a cow pasture. “We went to court every day, I listened to what they were saying, but really I was dreaming about going back to that beautiful school,” Mendez said. But it wasn’t a playground that Mendez’s parents, Gonzalo and Felicitas, were fighting for. It was racial equality.

Diane Ravitch, Salon
The segregated states of the Deep South fought desegregation tooth-and-nail for years after the 1954 Brown v Board of Education decision. The white leadership did not want white children to go to school with black children, period. Their first response was to declare that they would never desegregate: never, never, never. As pressure from the federal government and the courts accelerated, Southern officials found a new tactic to preserve segregation: school choice. School choice, they knew, would protect the status quo: White children would “choose” to stay in white schools, and black children would “choose” to stay in black schools. Eventually the federal courts struck down every school choice plan, recognizing that it was a blatant effort to avoid the letter and spirit of the Brown decision. But here we are, 80 years later, with segregation on the rise and school choice in the ascendancy as its vehicle. Southern states are adopting charters and vouchers because their long-frustrated effort to return to segregated schools is at last feasible.

Public Schools and Private $

Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times
A Woodland Hills charter school recently made an unusual offer to its veteran teachers: We’ll give you $30,000 if you return to the Los Angeles Unified School District before you retire. It wasn’t the teachers that El Camino Real Charter High School wanted to get rid of. It was the cost of their retirement benefits.

Sarah Tully, Education Week
The parent-trigger movement that allows parents to petition to take over failing schools is hitting obstacles in California because the system to determine if schools are indeed failing is in transition. In 2010, California was the first state to pass a so-called parent-trigger law, which allows parents to overhaul schools that are determined as failing by turning them into charters, removing the administration, or taking other measures. It’s also the only state, out of six that have such laws, to successfully execute a campaign.

Gary Miron and Charisse Gulosino, National Education Policy Center
The fourth edition of the National Education Policy Center’s annual report on online and blended learning schools provides a detailed overview and inventory of full-time virtual and blended learning schools, also called hybrid schools. Little rigorous research has examined the inner workings of these schools, but evidence indicates that students differ from those in traditional public schools, and that school outcomes are consistently below traditional public schools. Nevertheless, enrollment growth has continued, assisted by vigorous advertising campaigns, corporate lobbying, and favorable legislation.

Other News of Note


Leah Donnella, NPR
It has been a year since Freddie Gray died from injuries sustained as Baltimore police transported him to a station. The 25-year-old was arrested after running from police; officers later found a small knife in Gray’s possession. Cellphone video of the arrest showed Gray being dragged, moaning in pain, to the police van while at least one onlooker shouted that Gray needed medical care. Gray was not secured in the back of the van, which led to 80 percent of his spine being severed. The Baltimore Sun has a comprehensive timeline of the investigation into his death and the status of legal cases against the officers involved. This week, journalists, commentators and community members are reflecting on what Gray’s death has meant for the city and what it might mean going forward.

Erica L. Green, The Baltimore Sun
A youth-led activists group in Baltimore City has planned a districtwide student walkout on Friday to protest standardized testing, which they call a mechanism of institutional racism.



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