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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
Stephen Sawchuk, Education Week
For many Americans, the decision by a Minnesota jury this week to convict former police officer Derek Chauvin of the murder and manslaughter of an unarmed Black man, George Floyd, came as a rare moment of accountability—a small bend in the moral arc of the universe, to borrow Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous formulation. Floyd’s tragic death, and the subsequent mass Black Lives Matter protests, also fueled a growing discourse about structural racism in American schools, especially over their racially lopsided teaching force, heavy police presence that overdisciplines Black students, and ethnically non-representative curriculum. Dissatisfaction with those areas long predates the traumatic events of 2020—the seeds and groundwork for overhauling such things as school policing and curriculum reform, after all, were planted years ago and have been carefully tended since. But the events of last year have helped lend legitimacy and urgency to some of those efforts, social-justice educators say.
Laura Meckler and Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, Washington Post
The federal government has long been a bit player in education. Under an expansive vision being rolled out this spring by President Biden, that would change. Biden has proposed — or is expected to propose — a half dozen education programs that would constitute the largest federal investment in education in at least a half century. Any one of them would be significant on its own. Taken together, if approved by Congress, they form a cradle-to-college plan that aims to reduce inequities that course through American schools by infusing hundreds of billions of dollars into virtually every level of the system. “These are truly unprecedented investments in education,” said Sarah Abernathy, executive director of the Committee for Education Funding.
Much of Biden’s strategy is focused on cold, hard cash, a show-me-the-money plan that would more than double federal support to high-poverty districts, rebuild crumbling schools and subsidize pre-K and community college alike.
Louis Freedberg, Ed Source
The resignation of Los Angeles Unified superintendent Austin Beutner has raised the specter of whether the pandemic will contribute to an accelerating pace of turnover in the leadership of the state and the nations’ school districts. Superintendent turnover is a fact of life, especially in large urban districts, and especially in L.A. Unified. By the end of this school year, half of California’s 30 largest districts will have new superintendents, compared to those in place in 2017. But education leaders worry that the pandemic will lead to a further outflow.
Language, Culture, and Power
Chelsea Sheasley, Christian Science Monitor
When Nathaniel Genene walked into his Minneapolis high school last week for the first time in over a year he quickly noticed that there was no uniformed police officer standing watch. “Usually when you walk in SROs are the first thing you see and the last when you walk out,” he says, using the abbreviation for school resource officers. Mr. Genene, a senior at Washburn High School, served as the citywide student representative on the Minneapolis school board last year. He helped push the board to cut ties with the city’s police department last June in the wake of the death of George Floyd in police custody. Other school systems, including in Portland, Oregon, and Denver followed suit, sparking a wave of districts reconsidering whether officers belong in schools.
San Diego teacher creates ‘social justice league’ for students with disabilities, ‘a forgotten minority’
Kristen Taketa, San Diego Union Tribune
After George Floyd died in Minneapolis police custody last summer, special education teacher Francia Pinillos felt the urge to talk to her students about race and social justice. “There was a complete disturbance in my soul about how this image is going to live on all sorts of media,” she said recently, “and my students are going to see this with no clear opportunities to dissect and talk about what is happening.” Pinillos has worked for the last seven years at TRACE, a San Diego Unified school that serves about 500 students ages 18-22 who have disabilities.
Autism does not discriminate. The complex, lifelong developmental disability affects people of all races and socioeconomic backgrounds, yet the support and resources available to children varies across cultures. About 1 in 54 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) according to the CDC, and research shows that it’s critical to diagnose children as early as possible to enhance children’s social communication and reduce challenging behaviors. But when it comes to Latino children in the United States, Assistant Professor Kristina Lopez in Arizona State University’s School of Social Work says they’re often overlooked, have a delayed diagnosis and are provided limited access to services.
Whole Children and Strong Communities
Sharlee DiMenichi, The Progressive
Students from kindergarten through high school are experiencing pandemic-related stress that has impacted their mental health and capacity to learn. School shutdowns and virtual learning have isolated learners from peers and teachers. And these closures have rendered extracurricular activities inaccessible. With the current unemployment rate still far above pre-pandemic levels, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, school-age students face financial instability and food insecurity. Families that already lived at the edge of a fiscal precipice are especially at risk. Meanwhile, reliance on virtual learning has challenged young people to adopt a level of self-direction that, in many cases, is far beyond their ability.
‘We’re not a monolith’: some Black and Brown parents in Oakland feel conflicted as in-person learning returns
Carlos Cabrera-Lomelí & Sara Hossaini, KQED
On Monday, the Oakland Unified School District will welcome back third through sixth graders at select schools. But as kids prepare a gradual return to in-person learning, some parents are still feeling hesitant about ending distance learning altogether. Ryan Austin, artist educator and Oakland resident, said she’s seen the wide range of effects that distance learning can have on kids, in part based on the kind of support systems they have at home.
Kavitha Cardoza, NPR
To say Leah Juelke is an award-winning teacher is a bit of an understatement. She was a top 10 finalist for the Global Teacher Prize in 2020; she was North Dakota’s Teacher of the Year in 2018; and she was awarded an NEA Foundation award for teaching excellence in 2019. But Juelke, who teaches high school English learners in Fargo, N.D., says nothing prepared her for teaching during the coronavirus pandemic.”The level of stress is exponentially higher. It’s like nothing I’ve experienced before.” It’s a sentiment that NPR heard from teachers across the United States.
Access, Assessment, Advancement
Mashariki Kudumu, Michelle Sanders, LeHenry Solomon, and Jessica Wade, LA Public Library
Black-led and community driven solutions to create positive spaces for Black mothers and families.
Christina Couch, Nova
In a Missouri courtroom in 2008, Stanley Andrisse realized that he wasn’t seen as human. The case being fought that day centered around a drug trafficking charge—Andrisse’s third felony conviction. Not long ago, he was a college student churning through sweat-soaked undergraduate years funded by a football scholarship at Lindenwood University. Now, he was facing a bifurcated future, one path leading to a burgeoning career and the other stopping at gray, cinder block walls. He wasn’t sure which he was headed for. Growing up in Ferguson, Missouri, Andrisse started building a reputation as early as middle school, and adults around him solidified it. He was smart, and frequently in trouble, mostly for small infractions like talking out of turn or sagging his pants—transgressions Black boys seemed to be penalized for far more often than white ones. Over time, they added up to harsh penalties. Detention graduated to school suspensions, and eventually, teachers expected trouble from Andrisse while peers celebrated his fearless rule breaking.
Flagship universities say diversity is a priority but Black enrollment in many states continues to lag.
Lauren Lumpkin,Meredith Kolodner and Nick Anderson, Washington Post
Alarms sounded at the University of Maryland when the Class of 2022 arrived at College Park. Seven percent of freshmen in fall 2018 were Black, down from 10 percent the year before and 13 percent in 2014. It marked a nadir for a metric crucial to the flagship university’s commitment to diversity in a state where about a third of public high school graduates each year are Black.
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
Cameron Pattterson & Justin Pope, Washington Post
Joan Johns Cobbs remembers that Monday morning 70 years ago. She was 12 years old, crammed among nearly 500 students overflowing the auditorium of the all-Black Moton School in Prince Edward County. The teachers had been told to leave. All eyes were on Joan’s 16-year-old sister Barbara, taking the stage. The crowd that morning, April 23, 1951, underscored the righteousness of the cause. Moton was supposed to accommodate 180. The building was so decrepit and its offerings so inferior to its nearby all-White counterpart that the fiction of “separate but equal” could no longer be conscionably sustained. Barbara spoke calmly but forcefully, urging her schoolmates to declare a strike.
Justin Spike, Associated Press
Mihaly Horvath, a 12-year-old in a village in northeastern Hungary, can’t wait for his school to reopen. As a devastating COVID-19 surge swept Hungary in the spring, classes were suspended and students were ordered to study online. But Mihaly’s family, part of Hungary’s large Roma minority, doesn’t have a computer or internet access at their home in Bodvaszilas, and he says he’s falling behind in his lessons as a result. “Some students have telephones, some have computers. But there are others like me who don’t have either,” he said from the yard of a dilapidated house where he lives with nine other family members.
Leah Lessard and Jaana Juvonen, The Conversation
Friendships that bridge across social class – “cross-class friendships” – can minimize middle school academic achievement differences that are based on the level of parents’ education, according to research from the UCLA School Diversity Project. As scholars of adolescent development, we examined academic achievement differences among 4,288 middle school students in California based on their parents’ education level. Seventeen percent of parents or guardians of students in our sample did not receive a high school diploma, 12% had a high school diploma or equivalent, 28% attended some college, 23% had a four-year college degree and 20% had a graduate degree.
Democracy and the Public Interest
Cornel West and Jeremy Tate, Washington Post
Upon learning to read while enslaved, Frederick Douglass began his great journey of emancipation, as such journeys always begin, in the mind. Defying unjust laws, he read in secret, empowered by the wisdom of contemporaries and classics alike to think as a free man. Douglass risked mockery, abuse, beating and even death to study the likes of Socrates, Cato and Cicero. Long after Douglass’s encounters with these ancient thinkers, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. would be similarly galvanized by his reading in the classics as a young seminarian — he mentions Socrates three times in his 1963 “Letter From Birmingham Jail.” Yet today, one of America’s greatest Black institutions, Howard University, is diminishing the light of wisdom and truth that inspired Douglass, King and countless other freedom fighters. Amid a move for educational “prioritization,” Howard University is dissolving its classics department.
Reynaldo Leaños Jr. Latino USA
There’s been a lot of conversation about the U.S.-Mexico border and asylum seekers lately, but issues with people embarking on long journeys to the United States and seeking asylum are nothing new. However, increasing misinformation and hysteria across social media and the news are burying historical knowledge and clouding many people’s perspectives. On today’s episode of Latino USA, investigative journalist Jean Guerrero speaks with Maria Hinojosa about her recent reporting on Latino social media influencers who are fanning the flames of the immigration debate, reflects on the dangers of misinformation and talks about why combating false narratives is personal for her.
Max Kutner, Los Angeles Magazine
Early last June, Brentwood School posted an image of a black square on Instagram. This was eight days after George Floyd had been killed, and it was part of #BlackoutTuesday, a social media campaign against racism and inequality. Other Los Angeles prep schools also participated in the well-intentioned if largely symbolic online gesture, along with millions of other institutions, businesses, and individuals. But Brentwood’s black box got what’s known as ratioed; it received more negative comments than likes. Many more. “Brentwood is a toxic racist cesspool for students of color, but an ivory tower for the wealthy, white elite,” read one of the scores of scathing remarks that kept popping up on Instagram throughout the day.
Other News of Note
Julian Taylor & Phoenix Garayùa-Tudryn, Education Week
Public schools can be a beautiful reflection of the communities they serve. We’ve been privileged with the education that Chapel Hill, N.C., perhaps the state’s most respected school district, has provided us. As co-founders of our high school’s Black and Brown Student Coalition, we’ve also been pleased to watch our social-justice-oriented town rally around its people of color, exemplified by “Black Lives Matter” yard signs and Instagram reposts of black squares. So if Chapel Hill is so progressive, then why does our district have the second largest achievement gap nationally for Black students and the fifth largest for Latinx students, when compared with white students, as recently described by Stanford University researcher Sean F. Reardon and his colleagues. In fact, according to the study, 3 of the 4 largest gaps between Black and white students occur in progressive towns with prestigious universities, including Chapel Hill and Berkeley, Calif. That should be cause for reflection.
Mia Uzzell, Teen Vogue
The movement to dismantle Confederate monuments reached a fever pitch during the height of the Black Lives Matter protests last summer. Across the country, protesters toppled statues, and cities scrambled to atone for their histories of upholding bigotry by renaming streets and monuments. One institution that came under scrutiny is Robert E. Lee High School. Named for the commander of the Confederate Army, the school is located in Jacksonville, Florida — the state’s most populous city, which was itself named after president Andrew Jackson, architect of a brutal ethnic-cleansing campaign against Native peoples.