Just News from Center X – April 29, 2016

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice


P.L. Thomas, Furman University; National Education Policy Center

Kassie Benjamin offers a powerful confession at Jose Vilson’s blog. Benjamin—like many educators including myself—became an educator firmly holding to the belief that education is the great equalizer, the lever that changes people’s lives and society for the better.

However, Benjamin explains: “Slowly, I came to the belief I have today: education

is assimilation. Still.”


David G. Savage, Los Angeles Times

Just in time for the election season, the Supreme Court has strengthened the rights of the nation’s 22 million public employees to protect them against being demoted or fired for supporting the wrong political candidate in the eyes of their supervisors. “The Constitution prohibits a government employer from discharging or demoting an employee because the employee supports a particular political candidate,” Justice Stephen G. Breyer said Tuesday.


Patricia Gándara, UCLA; American Educational Research Association

Patrick Wall, Chalkbeat

At some of the city’s 130 new “community schools,” new assistant principals seemed to have magically appeared and started sitting in on meetings, popping into classrooms, and hastening down hallways.



Language, Culture, and Power


Cindy Carcamo, Los Angeles Times

A declining share of Latinos in the U.S. are speaking Spanish and a growing share only speaks English at home, according to findings in a study released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center.


Melissa Harris-Perry, Wake Forest University; Bettina L. Love, University of Georgia; Lori Patton Davis, Indiana University; Adrienne Dixson, University of Illinois; April L. Peters, University of Georgia; Terri Nicol Watson, City College of New York

AERA Presidential Session

In 2014, the White House’s Council on Women and Girls issued a report highlighting the progress of women and girls of color, most notably in education. Along with an increase in high school and college graduation rates it was reported, “Since 2009, both fourth and eighth grade math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the largest nationwide assessment, have improved for all girls of color” (p. 2). Absent from this conversation, however, were the distinct challenges based on the intersection of race and gender that left Black girls with the least growth across all categories and contexts. This session seeks to open up new avenues of scholarship focused on the promises and perils Black girls and women encounter in PK – 20 systems. The session will also explore how such scholarship could inform policy-based solutions to improve the academic success and life chances of Black girls and women.


U.S. Department of Education

The U.S. Department of Education, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, announced today $5.7 million in new grants aimed at improving outcomes for students who have been involved in the criminal justice system. The Department also released a new toolkit providing guidance to educators and others to support a successful reentry system for formerly incarcerated youth and adults.


Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

Jennifer Wolfsie, like many visitors to Raleigh, N.C., wasted no time exploring the hip Southern city, ordering clams, beet salad and potatoes aligot at Death & Taxes on Hargett Street, finishing off with a nightcap at Fox Liquor Bar. But at each place the Midwest school board member left not only a tip but also a white paper square with a message about a new state law that critics say discriminates against gay, lesbian and transgender people. “I believe in equality for all,” said the paper, printed by the organizers of the education conference she was attending this month. “I will not return to the state until HB2 is repealed. Make North Carolina a place I want to visit again.”



Access, Assessment, and Advancement


Emma Brown, The Washington Post

Noah McQueen attended 10 different middle schools, then transferred among high schools three different times during his freshman year. He was struggling. But then he was paired with a mentor who helped him find his path. Now 19 and a student at Morehouse College, McQueen has become one of the faces of My Brother’s Keeper, President Obama’s initiative to improve the lives and prospects of boys and young men of color.


Associated Press, Education Week

There was an emergency in Room 14. Three girls injured, one with a broken thighbone and maybe something more serious. Snapping on sterile gloves and kneeling before the worst-off patient, two 17-year-olds went to work. The pair cut open the girl’s pant leg, pinched her toes to see if she had feeling and fit her with a neck brace. Sweat flecked their faces by the time they had the patient — a perfectly healthy classmate — strapped to a back board 12 minutes later. “You are acting like professionals and you haven’t even finished this class yet!” Gretchen Medel, an EMT who oversaw the mock exercise during the first responder course she teaches at a health care-focused high school east of San Francisco, told the students. Decades after “shop class” became known as a lesser alternative for children deemed unfit for college, vocational education is making a comeback in many of the nation’s high schools.


Anya Kamenetz, NPR

The latest results of the test known as the Nation’s Report Card are in. They cover high school seniors, who took the test in math and reading last year. The numbers are unlikely to give fodder either to educational cheerleaders or alarmists: The average score in both subjects was just one point lower in 2015 compared with the last time the test was given, in 2013. This tiny downtick was statistically significant in mathematics, but not for the reading test.


Mikhail Zinshteyn, The Atlantic

The nation’s colleges continue to graduate far fewer students who grew up in poor households. With the country’s economic potential possibly hanging in the balance, a new report urges the United States to dedicate more resources and know-how to closing the college-completion gap between wealthier students and those from low-income backgrounds.



Inequality, Poverty, Segregation


John Fensterwald, EdSource

The state Constitution does not guarantee children in California a minimally funded quality education, a divided California Court of Appeal ruled Wednesday in a landmark decision closely watched by proponents of more K-12 spending.


John Fensterwald, EdSource

Seven months before the November election, substantial majorities of likely California voters said they would support extending Proposition 30, the temporary income tax on the wealthiest state residents, and passing a proposed $9 billion school construction bond, according to a survey released Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California.


Josie Huang, KPCC

Children in Los Angeles County are growing up in more economically segregated neighborhoods than their parents did, as affluent families move to where the best-performing schools are, according to a new study out of the University of Southern California.


Amy Rothschild, The Atlantic

Are efforts to boost kids’ vocabularies before kindergarten missing the mark?



Public Schools and Private $

Walt Gardner, Education Week

The debate over parental choice invariably focuses on charter schools. I understand their appeal.  But what about magnet schools (“L.A. Unified magnets accepted less than half of applicants this year,” Los Angeles Times

, Apr. 25)?  Long before charter schools became a widespread option, they were the only publicly funded alternative. I believe they still offer the best choice. Let’s see why.


Andre Perry, The Hechinger Report

Communities shouldn’t accept the flagrantly negative tradeoffs that come with school reform. Reform can only be sustained by the very communities that use them. That’s the bottom line for New Orleanians involved in the current effort to bring charter schools in the Recovery School District back into the New Orleans Public School District. The public has the rights to good schools and good governance. And if it isn’t the bottom line and for the rest of the country, it should be.



Other News of Note


Casey Quinlan, Think Progress

Keron Blair will look you directly in the eye the whole time he’s talking to you, making sure you absorb every single word he’s saying. His personality seemed a bit reserved when he sat down with me at a Starbucks to discuss Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, the coalition he is director of, which been responsible for organizing and supporting school protests across the country. But when you listen to his speeches, you hear a minister’s voice. “Public education…could die on our watch,” Blair said at a recent event for the Milwaukee Teachers Association. “The reality is what drew me to this fight is the shared acknowledgement that we are in fact at war, and what I’ve learned about wartime is that you cannot operate with the same kind of rules. You’ve got to make some wartime adjustments.” AROS’ ongoing protests have conveyed exactly that level of urgency.



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