Just News from Center X – April 29, 2022

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Dark Money Networks That Attacked Justice Jackson Are Also Attacking Schools

Alyssa Bowen, Truthout

Right-wing groups spent untold millions from undisclosed sources to oppose now-confirmed Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson during her confirmation hearings in late March and April, despite Jackson being moderate enough to earn the backing of a police union and prominent GOP legal figures. Jane Mayer’s The New Yorker exposé recently uncovered the role of the little-known dark money organization, American Accountability Foundation (AAF), in attacking Judge Jackson and other Biden nominees. AAF appears to be an offshoot of the Conservative Partnership Institute — another dark money organization that has received money from major right-wing sources, like the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, as well as from Bradley board member and Trump apologist Cleta Mitchell.

Schools must do more to support Black students

Keara Williams, Gene McAdoo, & Tyrone C. Howard, Edsource

Despite decades of reform efforts, Black students’ educational experiences continue to be shaped by anti-blackness, the general or specific contempt for blackness, resulting in Black people not being seen as fully human and worthy of having their civil rights and humanity observed and protected. Data on the more than 350,000 Black students in California schools suggests that we must do something different, as many are not being served well in the Golden State.

‘It Can Save Lives’: Students Testify to the Power of Poetry

Catherine Gewertz, Education Week

Teachers of poetry have always had many reasons to teach it. Poetry can enrich instruction in reading, writing, speaking and listening, capture students with its musicality, and spark their creative and critical thinking. But during the pandemic, and a painful national soul-searching on racism, an often-overlooked reason has quietly resurfaced: Poetry can sustain both students and teachers during tough times. That power is fueling renewed explorations this month, the 22nd annual National Poetry Month. “Poetry just looks like a bunch of rhymes on paper, but it can save lives,” said Terrain Small, a junior at Miami-Norland Senior High School in Miami.

Language, Culture, and Power

Why Students Like Me Want to ‘Diversify Our Narrative’

Maya Bhatt, KQED

Growing up as a brown girl in America, I was often tested by the power of invisibility. The world around me didn’t seem to include me in anything. The long-legged models that popped up on my Instagram feed didn’t have the same chocolate, brown skin. My favorite Disney Channel shows made Indian American actors speak with a thick accent. The whole world seemed to have us figured out, yet their perception was completely wrong. The real me was completely invisible in mainstream media. My love for reading sprouted from a young age. And as I advanced in my reading skills and grade levels, I began to see a trend that many of my white counterparts were oblivious to: our school’s curriculum lacked diversity.

Yup’ik and Iñupiaq spelling bees keep native Alaskan languages alive [Audio]

Katie Anastas, All Things Considered

For the Yup’ik and Inupiat people of Alaska, a spelling bee is more than a friendly competition. As Alaska Public Media’s Katie Anastas reports, spelling bees are a way for kids to connect to their culture and make sure native languages live on. At this year’s Yup’ik and Inupiaq spelling bees, 16 students from all over Alaska took the stage. Freda Dan organized the Yup’ik competition. She also served as a judge who read aloud the words and gave students the definition.

An Indigenous Elsewhere: A Conversation with Sandy Grande

Bhakti Shringarpure, LA Review of Books

At a time when too many rush to claim this mantle, Sandy Grande actually embodies what it means to be an “activist-scholar.” Sandy recently joined the political science department at the University of Connecticut, where I teach, and since then, I and my colleagues have been profoundly enriched and radically altered by learning from her. We have watched her work to transform institutional spaces that are much like many American universities: predominantly white and entrenched in settler-colonial structures. This energy of simultaneous disruption and transformation emerges from Sandy’s long-standing history of scholarship and activism within discourses of Indigenous pedagogy while attempting to carve out a space for Native American and Indigenous studies that continually resists epistemologies of erasure. Sandy’s paradigm-shifting book, Red Pedagogy: Native American Social and Political Thought, which was published in 2004, exposed the limitations of a critical-educational theory that does not take the histories and concerns of Indigenous populations into account. She insists that scholars of critical pedagogy and American Indian studies must enter into productive conversation in order to build broader coalitions united in anti-capitalist and decolonization agendas.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Learning and Ways of Knowing [Audio]

Tiffany Marie, Drawing From The Well

What is learning and how do we learn?  In episode 8 of Drawing From the Well, we hear from:

Youth expert Laila, who imagines a school that centers student wellness and creative ways for teachers to approach teaching. A Q&A with professor, researcher, and learning scientist Dr. Shirin Vossoughi about her work in trying to understand the complexities of learning to contribute to projects of educational justice. Kyle Beckham of the Berkeley Educators for Equity and Excellence who reflects on what learning is, the differences between knowledge and understanding, and how experiences and the application of knowledge leads to a greater depth of understanding.

LAUSD Launches The Nation’s Largest School-Based Air Quality Monitoring Network

Julia Paskin, LAIST

It’s no secret that Los Angeles has the worst air quality of any major U.S. city. To combat that, 200 air quality sensors have been installed at schools throughout the Los Angeles Unified School District, making it the country’s largest school-based air quality monitoring network. The sensors give parents and students in the nation’s second-largest school district up-to-date access to air quality information. Carlos Torres, director of L.A. Unified’s Office of Environmental Health and Safety, said a call from his boss in the middle of the night provided the impetus for installing the “Know Your Air Network.”

In CDC survey, 37% of U.S. high school students report regular mental health struggles during COVID-19

Katherine Schaeffer, Pew Research

Many high school students have reported experiencing mental health challenges during the coronavirus outbreak, according to recently published survey findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). High school students who are gay, lesbian or bisexual, as well as girls, were especially likely to say their mental health has suffered during the pandemic.

Overall, 37% of students at public and private high schools reported that their mental health was not good most or all of the time during the pandemic, according to the CDC’s Adolescent Behaviors and Experiences Survey, which was fielded from January to June 2021.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

How the Pandemic Devastated State-Run Early Education

Lauren Camera, US News and World Report

The coronavirus pandemic wiped out a decade of progress in increasing preschool enrollment – slashing care for more than a quarter-million children – even as it led to major decreases in state investment and made it nearly impossible for operators to meet best practices. While child care and preschool operators, teachers and parents have long lamented the pandemic’s impact on the early education system in the U.S. – one already rife with long-standing challenges surrounding access, cost and quality – a new assessment of state-funded care for 3- and 4-year-olds shows just how precarious the system is.

As colleges and universities drop admission tests, what’s the impact on enrollment? [Video]

Hari Sreenivasan and Sarah Clune Hartman, PBS Newshour

Standardized test scores in the U.S. used to all but make or break college applications for high school seniors. But during the pandemic, nearly 80 percent of four-year colleges and universities went test-optional. The result? Some students got accepted to more selective schools. Now many colleges are considering eliminating admission tests permanently. Special correspondent Hari Sreenivasan reports from Atlanta as part of our special series Rethinking College.

Nearly 9 in 10 young Americans support government action on student debt, Harvard survey finds

Annie Nova, CNBC

That’s the finding from a survey conducted by the Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School. More than 2,000 adults under the age of 30 were polled between March 15 and March 30. Outstanding student loan debt in the U.S. exceeds $1.7 trillion, burdening households more than credit card or auto debt. More than 40 million Americans are in debt for their education, and up to a quarter are in delinquency or default. The Biden administration is under pressure to forgive student debt, and as a candidate on the campaign trail, President Joe Biden had promised to cancel $10,000 for all. The White House says it’s still looking at its options, and in the meantime has continued to keep the payments on pause.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

The State Took His Kids Three Times. And Three Times It Gave Them Back

Molly Parker, Vernal Coleman, and Haru Coryne, ProPublica

On a September afternoon last year, a state child welfare investigator drove into Alto Pass, a village in the rolling hills of Southern Illinois, to the home Alan Schott shared with his then-girlfriend and his two daughters. Someone had called the state’s child abuse hotline, claiming that Schott was neglecting the girls. Though they were only 6 and 8, the girls knew enough to know why the investigator was at the door. The neglect allegation was at least the 10th report made to the state that Schott or the girls’ mother, who Schott had split up with several years before, was failing to properly care for them.

Legacy of Jim Crow still affects funding for public schools

Derek Black and Axton Crolley, The Conversation

Nearly 70 years ago – in its 1954 Brown v. Board decision – the Supreme Court framed racial segregation as the cause of educational inequality. It did not, however, challenge the lengths to which states went to ensure the unequal funding of Black schools.Before Brown, Southern states were using segregation to signify and tangibly reinforce second-class citizenship for Black people in the United States. The court in Brown deemed that segregation was inherently unequal. Even if the schools were “equalized” on all “tangible factors,” segregation remained a problem and physical integration was the cure, the Court concluded.

‘The Walls Around Opportunity‘

Scott Jaschik, Inside HigherEd

The U.S. Supreme Court will this fall hear challenges to the admissions policies at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on their use of affirmative action. Critics say the colleges should not be allowed to consider race. For Gary Orfield, that is not what the Supreme Court should do. A professor of education, law, political science and urban planning at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he co-directs the Civil Rights Project (a research center), Orfield is a proponent of affirmative action and a variety of other policies to help all students. In The Walls Around Opportunity: The Failure of Colorblind Policy for Higher Education, he outlines why.

Democracy and the Public Interest

Is Responsiveness to Student Voice Related to Academic Outcomes? Strengthening the Rationale for Student Voice in School Reform

Joseph Kahne, Benjamin Bowyer, Jessica Marshall, and Erica Hodgin, American Journal of Education

In June 2020, as protests around the nation broke out in response to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade, students at Burroughs High School1 on Chicago’s South Side were frustrated at the lack of discussions taking place in their classrooms. While a national reckoning with anti-Black racism and police violence was being held at dining room tables and covered in the news, they wanted their teachers to open space in school to process and make sense of these injustices. An ad hoc group of students, members of their school’s student voice committee (SVC), worked with a trusted teacher to craft a letter to all school staff. It was signed by more than 80 students and outlined their concerns. In the letter, students described their disappointment with the silence of the mostly White staff. They noted that whereas students took to the streets to protest and make their voices heard, their teachers—whom they expected to be just as outraged—largely failed to address the events despite their centrality to the lives of the young people they engaged with daily. The school administration met with students to discuss the letter.

Under Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover, who will protect users?

Safiya Noble and Rashad Robinson, Los Angeles Times

Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover has triggered widespread criticism. Many people are panicked about the direction Musk will take the social platform. There’s a reason for alarm, but focusing solely on Musk ignores the crisis of monopoly control without accountability that characterizes much of the media in this country. In recent decades, the notion of a public square, or the space available to debate, contest, experiment with and expand democratic discourse is a struggle fraught with challenges. The tech sector has remade our understanding of who can speak and who should be heard, in both good and troubling ways. That has given rise to algorithmic and automated boosting of everything from evidence-based research and investigative journalism to outright racist propaganda.

NYC libraries are offering free digital library cards to people across the U.S.

Claire Woodcock, Vice

Any teenager in the U.S. can now get unmetered access to banned and challenged books thanks to the Brooklyn Public Library (BPL), which announced this week that teens can now register for a library card and receive access to hundreds of banned and challenged books in digital and audiobook formats. Books UnBanned is a teen-led initiative from BPL that aims to push back against recent attempts to remove reading materials from schools and libraries in the U.S. By giving people ages 13 to 21 a library card, the program is providing access to BPL’s digital catalogs regardless of location, with the hope of reaching marginalized teens who frequently find themselves targets of bigoted and racist attacks.

Other News of Note

The young activist

Savanah Waqualevu, The Fiji Times

Nineteen- year old Grace Fong is the climate science Oceania national coordinator for Fiji. Growing up hearing about rising sea levels and even more intense tropical cyclones, she began to understand the threat of climate change. As a student of Yat Sen Secondary School and later a scholarship student of International Secondary School Suva, Grace’s passion to play an active role against climate change grew. “While climate education in Fiji has been incorporated into several topics, I still feel like there’s still so much more to learn because even though I am being educated on what the problem is, there isn’t enough coverage of the practical ways to solve it,” she said While she understands the state of climate education in Fiji, she also realises the potential young people have to step out and make a difference.