Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
John McDonald, Ampersand
“In my classroom we don’t say the words ‘Donald Trump.’ It’s not that it’s against the rules. But if I say his name, the kids put their hands over their ears to cover them. They are that afraid.” With those words a young teacher made clear the rising fear and anxiety confronting children and families in the urban schools in which they teach. Her comments were made at a recent gathering at UCLA of educators and advocates seeking ways to protect the civil rights of students and parents in Los Angeles area schools and beyond. “In its first 95 days, the Trump administration has unleashed racist and xenophobic rhetoric, it has marginalized and made more vulnerable various communities, and it has corroded public discourse,” said UCLA Professor John Rogers, Faculty Director of UCLA Center X.
Carolyn Jones, EdSource
A federal judge on Tuesday blocked President Donald Trump’s order to withhold federal funding from local jurisdictions that have promised to protect undocumented immigrants from deportation. The preliminary injunction by Judge William Orrick of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco comes in response to a lawsuit filed by Santa Clara and San Francisco counties that claims Trump’s executive order is vague and unconstitutional. Orrick’s ruling bars the federal government from cutting funds to counties, cities, towns, states and possibly schools that have declared themselves sanctuaries or “safe havens” for immigrants. At least 57 school districts in California have passed resolutions to protect undocumented immigrants, although not all have used the term “sanctuary” and the protections vary from district to district.
Alyson Klein, Education Week
President Donald Trump announced that he signed executive order directing U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to conduct a study to “determine where the federal government has unlawfully overstepped on state and local control,” a White House official said, The executive order is “intended to return authority to where Congress intended—state and local entities.” One such report is unlikely to have a dramatic impact on K-12 education policy. But the directive is a way for the Trump administration to make it clear it supports local control of schools. “For too long, the federal government has imposed its will on state and local governments. The result has been education that spends more and achieves far, far, far less,” Trump said in remarks about the executive order Wednesday before signing it. “My administration has been working to reverse this federal power grab.” In response to the executive order, a task force at the department, led by Robert Eitel, a senior adviser to the secretary, will take a hard look at all of the K-12 regulations put out by the past administration and decide which step on local control, Rob Goad, a senior U.S. Department of Education aide, said. After 300 days, the department will release a report on its findings.
Language, Culture, and Power
Sarah Larimer, The Washington Post
Former vice president Joe Biden on Wednesday pushed college students to work to combat sexual assault, by intervening if they see a questionable situation and speaking up against so-called locker room talk. “Change the culture,” he told a crowd at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. “You can do it.” Biden was appearing at Mason, a public university with about 35,000 students, as part of an event for “It’s On Us,” a campaign focused on stopping sexual assault on college campuses. The effort launched a few years ago, during the Obama administration. “College campuses are communities,” Biden said. “And the place where people’s attitudes are affected, changed, altered, impacted, are within communities.”
Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post; Miranda Johnson, Education Law and Policy Institute
A Florida mother recently watched in horror as her 10-year-old autistic son was handcuffed and arrested at school. The child, John Benjamin Haygood, was taken into custody and spent a night in jail because, six months earlier, he kicked and scratched an aide assigned by the school to support him in his special education classroom. Yet John’s need for help managing his behaviors is precisely the reason he was entitled to extra support at school. Unfortunately, this incident — while extreme — is not atypical. The most recent national data released by the Department of Education show that students with disabilities account for a quarter of all children arrested at school, even though they are only 12 percent of the school population. As a lawyer who represents students who have been suspended or who face expulsion from school, I regularly work with young people who have become involved in the juvenile justice system. They are protected from being expelled when their behavior is related to their disability, but they can still be arrested, charged in juvenile justice proceedings or even criminally convicted when they are charged as an adult.
Jonathan Zimmerman and Emily Robertson, The Atlantic
On August 9, 2014, the police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed Michael Brown on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri. Wilson is white; Brown was black. He was also unarmed. Within a few days, Ferguson was engulfed in riots. In dozens of other American cities, thousands of protesters took to the streets to condemn racism and police brutality. Some schools in the Ferguson area delayed their scheduled opening to allow work crews to clean up the post-riot debris and to make sure that students could be transported safely. When they finally opened their doors, the schools had to decide how—and whether—to address the Brown shooting and its aftermath. Across America, demonstrators chanted that “Black Lives Matter.” How would Ferguson-area teachers make the controversy matter, and to what end? Not surprisingly, their approaches varied. In University City, a suburb bordering St. Louis, one teacher led students in a “free-ranging discussion” of race, criminal justice, and inequality. “They were able to deconstruct the issues in terms of looking at things like poverty, education, the militarization of the police department, and the perception around the country and the world that St. Louis was in turmoil,” the teacher proudly recalled. But across the Mississippi River in Edwardsville, Illinois, school officials instructed teachers to “change the subject” whenever Ferguson arose in class. And in Riverview Gardens, the district where Michael Brown was killed, officials told teachers to talk about the issue only when students raised it. If students became “emotional about the situation,” teachers were advised to refer them to school counselors and social workers.
Whole Children and Strong Communities
Tara García Mathewson, The Atlantic
Samira Abdulkadir came to the United States 10 years ago, a young bride with a baby boy. She was from Somalia but came to the U.S. by route of Kenya, where she was married. The family settled just outside of Boston, in Chelsea, Massachusetts, and Abdulkadir had more children. Her second child, a girl, was born deaf. Then she had a boy, who died after five months in the hospital. Her next child, another girl, was also deaf—like their father. When this youngest girl was born without hearing, Abdulkadir drifted toward despair. She spoke very little English, she didn’t have any extended family in the area, she was still grieving the loss of her baby, two out of her three surviving children were deaf, and she said her husband couldn’t share much of the responsibility at home because of his own disability. MGH Chelsea HealthCare Center referred Abdulkadir to its Healthy Families America home-visiting program. The service is designed to support first-time parents, as well as those raising babies for the first time in the United States. The program offers supports to immigrant families adjusting to U.S. culture and an unfamiliar health-care system until their youngest child turns three. Based on individual needs, MGH home-visitors help connect families to social services, educational opportunities, and medical or mental health care. They also follow an early-childhood curriculum to ensure babies and toddlers meet developmental milestones on time.
Eric Westervelt, NPR
Organizers of Saturday’s nationwide March for Science have some pretty lofty goals: supporting science “as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity.” Promoting “evidence-based policies in the public interest.” Oh, and don’t forget highlighting “the very real role that science plays in each of our lives and the need to respect and encourage research that gives us insight into the world.” Whoa, that’s a lot of exalted ground to cover with one cardboard sign! But long after those signs and slogans are put away, educators will continue the fun, hard slog of helping students understand key issues, like global warming, the science behind it and what students can do to help. I reached out to three veteran experts on climate science education — Scott Denning, Frank Niepold and Rebecca Anderson — who’ll be working on the issue during and after this weekend’s marches. I wanted to hear more about their work and challenges, especially at a time when the head of the EPA has questioned the human role in global warming and President Trump has proposed slashing climate change funding and pulling back many environmental regulations.
Priska Neely, KPCC
Arts education in America got a report card Tuesday. The grades aren’t great, and they haven’t improved much since the last assessment in 2008. But there is at least one bright spot: Latino students are narrowing the achievement gap between them and white students. The evaluation comes from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), which also tracks student proficiency in math, reading and science. In music, students averaged at 147 out of 300 points, and in visual arts, 149 out of 300 — very similar to the results eight years prior. “That’s where we are, and we haven’t seen any progress over time, unless students were clearly exposed to course taking and did some things outside of school,” said Peggy Carr, acting commissioner for the National Center for Education Statistics, which administers the assessment.
Access, Assessment, and Advancement
Christina Samuels, Education Week
New York City, which in three years expanded its prekindergarten program to serve all the city’s 4-year-olds, now plans to offer a universal program for 3-year-olds—and it expects that the state and the federal government will contribute money to make that happen. Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat, said that the program plans to start by serving 3-year-olds in the South Bronx and in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Brownsville, two of the city’s lowest-income areas. The program will continue expanding based on neighborhood districts until universal access is achieved by 2021. “Using the successful model we developed for Pre-K for All, we are doubling down with free, full-day, high-quality 3-K for All for our 3-year-olds,” de Blasio said an event rolling out the plan. “This extra year of education will provide our children with a level of academic and social development that they cannot get later on, while at the same time alleviating some of the strain New York City’s working families face today.”
Mikhail Zinshteyn, EdSource
California lags behind 40 other states in the amount it spends per child for a range of services including public education and healthcare, according to a new report. But aside from education spending, where California has for years spent less than other states, the state spends more than most others on other child-related services and supports, such as health care, child care, tax credits and maternal support that benefits children. California was the 12th-highest-spending state on health care for children, and seventh in spending on “income supports and social services.” The Urban Institute, a Washington D.C.-based research and policy organization, found that California spent just over $6,600 for every child under 19 years old for education, health care and social services in 2013 – the most recent year that researchers said data are available on state and local spending for all 50 states. The national average was just over $7,920, according to the report.
Jon Marcus, The Atlantic
In the main room of a onetime fraternity house at the edge of San Diego State University, a small group of students labors quietly, laser-focused, over textbooks and laptops. This is the Veterans House, its door propped open by a spent artillery shell. It’s where some of the more than 800 military veterans enrolled here study between classes as a flat-screen TV broadcasts SportsCenter with the volume muted, or help each other out with particularly challenging assignments. At the heart of the campus is yet another lounge for student-veterans. Called the Bunker, it’s draped with camouflage and decorated with service symbols, insignia, and vintage recruiting posters. It’s inside the Veterans Center, a warren of offices filled with advisers and counselors—most military veterans themselves—who cut through paperwork and other potentially career-ending distractions. This level of support helps more than three-quarters of the veterans at San Diego State graduate within four years, the university reports, nearly double the national average. That’s in spite of extra challenges confronting student-veterans, who are usually older than traditional-aged students and more likely to be juggling college with families, jobs, and service-related disabilities, and who often face significantly more red tape.
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
Lindsey Bever, The Washington Post
An elementary school principal at a predominantly black school in western Florida has requested to be reassigned amid tension over a letter she sent instructing teachers to group white students in the same classroom. Christine Hoffman, former principal at Campbell Park Elementary in St. Petersburg, Fla., asked to be “relieved” as principal and was transferred Tuesday to the Pinellas County school district headquarters during an internal investigation, the district said in a statement. Hoffman had come under fire for an email she sent to teachers April 18 about class rosters, in which she stated that teachers should keep an equal number of boys and girls in each class and “white students should be in the same class.” In a follow-up email to staff members two days later, the principal apologized for her “poor judgment.”
Louis Freedberg, EdSource
Posing significant challenges for educators, about 1 in 8 students in California schools has at least one parent who is undocumented, according to a new brief from the Education Trust-West. Undocumented children as well as U.S. citizen children with undocumented relatives have experienced heightened anxieties for several years as a result of deportation policies begun under President George W. Bush and tightened ones under President Barack Obama. But according to school officials, those anxieties have reached new heights since Donald Trump’s inauguration, with possible consequences on their ability to focus on school work, the willingness of parents to attend school events, or even to bring their children to school.
Francisco Vara-Orta, Education Week
When it comes to how much private money flows in to help their students, the Kohler, Sheboygan Area, and Sheboygan Falls school districts may seem a world apart. In reality, they’re neighbors. Private donations can come through parent-teacher organizations, school district foundations, booster clubs, and private companies. Though they account for a fraction of districts’ budgets, the extra dollars can reinforce existing inequities between districts just one street over from one another, suggests a nationwide Education Week Research Center analysis of the latest federal financial data available. Sheboygan Falls, Kohler, and Sheboygan Area sit side by side on the east side of Sheboygan County—about an hour north of Milwaukee near Lake Michigan. Within the county, the Kohler district garnered the most in private contributions in 2014: $863 per pupil. Sheboygan Falls, meanwhile, brought in $27 per pupil, and Sheboygan Area, $62 a student.
Public Schools and Private $
Mikhail Zinshteyn, EdSource
Californians on both sides of the charter school debate can expect two years of hearings over Senate Bill 808, a bill that would restrict the charter school approval process, which critics claim could lead to the shuttering of many of the schools. During a press conference Monday at the Capitol, the bill’s author, Sen. Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, outlined a two-year roadmap for the proposed law’s passage that includes an eventual vote on the bill. “Yes, this bill will be going through the process like any other bill, and eventually it’ll be having a vote,” Mendoza said. That process includes a hearing in the Senate Education Committee this week and meetings in communities throughout the state this year. Mendoza added that Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, chair of that committee, “has indicated that he would like to study the bill a bit further.”
Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times
Donald Trump’s plans to reform education have been routinely described as radical, but one key feature — taxpayer-funded vouchers — may find some unlikely supporters: California voters. About 60% of adults and 66% of public-school parents in a new poll said they favored vouchers that parents could use for their children’s education at any public, private, or parochial school. Republicans (67%) were more likely than independents (56%) and far more likely than Democrats (46%) to hold that view. Across racial and ethnic groups, 73% of African Americans, 69% of Latinos, 56% of Asians and 51% of whites supported vouchers.
Patrick Wall, The Atlantic
Last year, a contentious zone change in New York City forced well-off parents to decide whether or not to integrate a high-poverty school. The exact-same scenario had played out a half-century earlier during the city’s brief attempt at school desegregation. On November 23, the morning after his home was drawn into a different school zone, Mark Gonsalves slipped out of his office in Midtown Manhattan and rode the subway to the Upper West Side. He met his wife outside a tan-brick building on West 61st Street. It was P.S. 191. Together, they entered the school’s library, a sparse room with butterfly stickers pasted to the wall and wooden shelves full of donated books. A promotional video was playing. It showed children of different races smiling as they made papier-mâché sculptures and visited a local museum. Gonsalves, who is an executive at a sportswear company, pulled out a pen and paper. The couple had come to size up the school.
Other News of Note
Palko Karasz, The New York Times
As an American scholar of Soviet history, Charles D. Shaw thought he understood authoritarianism before he moved to Hungary in 2015 to teach at Central European University. “Coming from Moscow to Budapest, it certainly felt like I was finally coming to Europe — to the European Union,” Mr. Shaw said. Now he feels as if repression has followed him. The right-wing government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban recently passed legislation that could shut down the university, which was created after the fall of Communism and which promotes the ideal of an open society. Next month, Parliament will vote on a bill to impose greater scrutiny on nonprofit organizations that receive foreign financing. Mr. Orban, prime minister since 2010, supports the idea of “illiberal democracy,” which puts rule-by-majority nationalism ahead of minority rights, political pluralism and international cooperation. For Mr. Shaw, the parallels with contemporary Russia are unnerving. “The political and cultural boundaries of Europe are potentially shifting,” he said. “And that’s what’s so scary to people.”