Just News from Center X – April 3, 2020

Just News from Center X is a free weekly news blast about equitable public education. Please share and encourage colleagues and friends to subscribe.

Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

The California Dept. of Education recommends students not return to the classroom to finish the school year

CBS News 8 Team
California’s State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Thurmond, on Tuesday issued a recommendation that students not return to school campuses before the end of the 2019-20 school year. The California Department of Education’s decision to make the recommendation comes due to safety concerns and the need for ongoing social distancing. “In order to allow schools to plan accordingly, and to ensure that learning still occurs until the end of the school year, we are suggesting that schools plan and prepare to have their curriculum carried out through a distance learning model,” said Thurmond in a statement.

About a third of L.A. high school students aren’t logging into class daily amid COVID-19 closures

The Los Angeles Times
About one-third of some 120,000 Los Angeles high school students have not logged onto online classes every day, and 15,000 are absent from all online learning as efforts to continue distance learning fall short, according to the school district. The disappointing figures were released Monday by L.A. schools Supt. Austin Beutner during a morning video update. “It’s simply not acceptable that we lose touch with 15,000 young adults or that many students aren’t getting the education they should be,” Beutner said in prepared remarks. “This will take some time and a good bit of trial and error to get it right. And it will take the continued patience and commitment of all involved — students, families and teachers.”

After coronavirus subsides, we must pay teachers more

Andre M. Perry, Brookings Institute
As Wall Street takes a pounding from the COVID-19 pandemic, the stock we place in teachers is on the rise. If you didn’t appreciate the expertise, labor, and dedication that teachers patiently pour into our children most days of the week, then you probably do now. To help reduce the spread of the coronavirus, districts across the country have closed schools, many for the rest of the academic year. Parents have been left to play the role of teacher, principal, and lunch lady all at once. We’re pulling out our hair trying to figure out lesson plans, distance learning platforms, and assignments. And our children are treating us like the flailing emergency substitute teachers we are.

Language, Culture, and Power

Using ethnic studies as a portal toward peace in the Central Valley

Jorge Moraga, Bakersfield.com
“Gentefied,” co-created and directed by Bakersfield native Marvin Lemus, premiered on Netflix in February 2020. The 10-episode Spanglish series captures the ways gentrification and ongoing wealth inequality affects a Mexican-American family living in Los Angeles. Despite being centered in Boyle Heights, Lemus found pockets to bring Bakersfield to the forefront. Take for example a conversation between Nayeli (a brown Chicana in the early stages of middle school crushes) and Norma (a Salvadoreña queer woman who works at Mama Fina’s Tacos restaurant):

Students with disabilities could lose with COVID-19 stimulus package

David DeMatthews, The Hill
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, is the nation’s federal special education law. It provides funding, technical assistance and monitoring to ensure students with disabilities receive a free and appropriate education. With the new COVID-19 stimulus package, the U.S. Congress will provide Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos with the right to provide waivers to states for the IDEA implementation. As a researcher in the area of education policy, I think this is extremely concerning. If DeVos’ past behavior has any predictive value for her future decisions related to equitable educational policies, then families of children with disabilities across the country should also be highly concerned.

Can Teachers Read Books Out Loud Online? Actually, Yes.

Kristina Ishmael, Meredith Jacob and Peter Jaszi, EdSurge
The first image many people have of school is a circle of small children, sitting cross-legged, paying attention (or not) to an adult reading a book aloud and showing pictures to the class. Indeed, presidents and sports stars choose exactly this photo op when visiting schools. And teachers across the country reenact the scene daily—or did until a few weeks ago. As schools, teachers and families face the shock of abruptly shifting to online education, one small question has been how to shift these read alouds to Zoom, Facebook, Google Hangouts and YouTube, the spaces where many classes continue to meet. A second question has been given almost equal importance: Is reading a book to students online even legal?

Whole Children and Strong Communities

San Francisco Schools Are Lending Computers to Students In Need

Jay Barmann, FSist
Starting Tuesday and throughout this week, SFUSD students who sign up for the program can come pick up a Chromebook that they will then need to return to the school district when schools reopen, or at the end of the summer break — whichever comes first. “SFUSD is working to provide access to technology for students in need of a device for distance learning, to the greatest extent possible,” the district said in a statement to parents Sunday night. “In service of this effort, the district will loan Chromebooks to SFUSD students in grades 3-12 who do not have access to a computer during the day at home to support distance learning.”

California food banks partner with schools to serve families of students

Ali Tadayon, EdSource
As thousands of parents struggle to put food on the table during the coronavirus pandemic, California food banks are partnering with schools to feed children, as well as their families. With schools shut down across the state, districts are serving “grab and go” meals to students in an effort to stop the coronavirus spread. Many have also allowed food banks to distribute boxes of groceries at the school sites. The largest effort is underway at the Los Angeles Unified School District, which has partnered with star chef Jose Andres and other organizations to provide meals for both students and their parents.

Coronavirus: Parents missing work to care for out-of-school kids could get help under new bill

Brooke Staggs, The Orange County Register
With schools across California closed to slow the spread of the coronavirus, State Sen. Ling Ling Chang on Monday announced a bill intended to help parents who miss work to care for kids recoup a portion of their lost wages. “There are so many people who have followed the rules; they pay taxes, they save money, they scrape by so their kids can go to college. And now this crisis has taken all of that away,” said Chang, a Republican from Diamond Bar whose 29th District includes portions of Orange, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.

Access, Assessment, and Advancement

UC temporarily eases admissions requirements in response to educational disruptions

Nicole Freeling, The University of California
The University of California on late Tuesday, March 31, took a number of steps to temporarily adjust admissions requirements, so students and families will have one less thing to worry about. The measures include suspending the letter grade requirement for academic classes taken in winter, spring or summer terms of 2020; providing flexibility for students who need more time to meet registration, deposit and transcript deadlines; and suspending the standardized test requirement for students applying for admission as freshmen for fall 2021. These changes do not lower the bar for admission, but accommodate the real barriers students have faced as tests have been cancelled and classes have moved to pass/fail grading.

Community College Leaders Worry COVID-19 Crisis Will Push Students To Drop Out

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez
The effort to move community classes online has been a large feat. Some of these campuses educate as many students as the larger four-year campuses and with 115 colleges, the state’s community college network is the largest higher education system in the country. “Our main focus has been helping to support students through this crisis,” said system Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley. The campuses are governed by local boards of trustees but his office has been working to help the campuses transition to online instruction. Oakley issued an executive order earlier this month to clear the way for all campuses to begin online teaching.

“I just want my family to see I got handed a diploma”: 5 students on how coronavirus has affected senior year

Terry Nguyen, Vox
In the face of school and college closures nationwide due to the novel coronavirus, life for most students has continued on — just indoors. Students have migrated online to stream lectures, attend courses, and take tests (as part of Zoom University, some college students joke) likely for the remainder of the year. The pandemic has forced campuses to abruptly cancel their spring terms in a matter of days, making the last moments of the academic year especially bittersweet. For soon-to-be graduates in both high school and college, though, the pandemic threatens to impact several meaningful milestones — events like graduation, prom, grad night, and other end-of-year celebrations that would’ve brought together family and friends before they move onto the next chapter of their lives. These students didn’t have the chance to say proper goodbyes or make the most of what should’ve been their final days on campus. Here are five high school and college seniors on how they came to terms with Covid-19 affecting their final academic year, what commencement celebrations mean to them, and their hopes for the future.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

School shutdowns threaten to worsen the achievement gap

Los Angeles Times Editorial Board
The COVID-19 crisis threatens to undo years of educational efforts to help disadvantaged students catch up to their more affluent classmates. The same old problems—lack of internet access or computers for doing homework, parents who have limited financial or educational resources to help their children with school—are exacerbated now that students are required to learn not in a classroom, but remotely.

Disconnected and Disadvantaged: Schools Race to Give Students Access

Lauren Camera, U.S. News and World Report
When the coronavirus prompted the swift closures of school districts across the country and education officials began devising distance learning plans, the technology team for Charleston’s public schools knew they had a problem: the roughly 4,000 students in their district without internet at home and no way to access online instruction. “As a district, we do not practice e-learning a whole lot,” Thomas Nawrocki, executive director of information technology at 50,000-student Charleston County School District, says. “Once they started talking about lessons at home, and teachers sending lessons via Google Drive or doing Google Meets, we had to act pretty quick.”

When a School is More Than Just a School: How Schools of Opportunity are Handling Coronavirus Closures

NEPC Newsletter
Across the U.S., schools have been finding innovative ways to serve their students, even after their doors were closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Most obviously, teachers have been providing lessons and instruction through various forms of distance education. Districts are also offering free “grab-and-go” meals and even emergency child care centers built around the idea of social distancing. Groups like the Learning Policy Institute, the Network for Public Education, and Local Progress are documenting these and other ways that governmental entities like school districts are responding to need. Because NEPC has been recognizing extraordinary Schools of Opportunity for the past five years, we’re starting to investigate how those schools have been responding to the crisis. The recognition program honors high schools that engage in research-based practices that focus on closing opportunity gaps.

Public Schools and Private $

DeVos: Leaving Students Behind And Launching National School Vouchers

Peter Greene, Forbes
On Friday afternoon, education secretary Betsy DeVos spoke as part of the coronavirus task force presentation. In eight and a half minutes, she touched on several points, including indications that she may try to use the widespread pandemic-driven shutdown to create a path to national school vouchers. After thanking Trump for his “clear-eyed leadership,” plus a few other nods to her boss, DeVos moved on some actions the department is taking.

Citing coronavirus risks, L.A. teachers union calls for new limits on charter schools

Howard Blume, The Los Angeles Times
Citing the coronavirus emergency, the L.A. teachers union on Thursday called for a moratorium on new charter school approvals and a halt to new campus-sharing arrangements with charters. United Teachers Los Angeles has long wanted to slow or stop the growth of these privately operated public schools, but cast its current opposition in terms of the ongoing health crisis of the COVID-19 outbreak. Union President Alex Caputo-Pearl, in a letter sent to Los Angeles schools Supt. Austin Beutner on Thursday, said it would be unfair to approve new charter schools without an opportunity for board members to hear from community members. Currently members of the public are unable to gather and it could be difficult for them to participate in scheduled board meetings, which probably would take place by video- or audio-conferencing.

Other News of Note

Risk and everyday heroes

Mike Rose, Mike Rose’s Blog
In the terrible and constant flow of images related to the coronavirus pandemic, the pictures of grocery clerks at their stations have been catching my attention. The images are so familiar and benign: the clerk tapping keys on the register, or, hand extended, passing packaged meat or a box of soap over the scanner, or leaning over to help a customer insert a credit card. How many times a day is this commonplace human-commercial drama repeated? But these are not commonplace times, for while countless businesses are shuttered and we are told to keep our distance from each other, and in some cities and states to stay at home, grocery clerks are doing their job face-to-face with a stream of their fellow human beings. Depending on the store, the clerks have as protection gloves, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, marked boundaries, and, as I write this, the promise in one grocery chain of a plexiglass barrier. But in most cases, these protections are inadequate. Still the clerks are at their stations. And, it seems, the nation sees them. And acknowledges the risk they take. And thanks them.

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice: Schools, the Coronavirus, and the Near Future

Larry Cuban, NEPC Blog Post of the Day
I recently received a note from a colleague asking about what happens after the pandemic virus’s effects ebb, Americans return to work (if their workplace has not closed), schools re-open, and “social distancing” becomes an unwelcome memory. My colleague asked if at such a time would school reform sweep across the nation as it did for New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
In that city all public schools were closed, teachers were fired, and within a few years, state-driven reforms created a new district that contained mostly charter schools enrolling 93 percent of students, the highest number among the nation’s districts.

Forget trying to be your kid’s substitute school teacher during COVID-19

Joel Westheimer, Ottawa Citizen
I am really struck by the variety of media inquiries I’ve been getting about the impacts of COVID-19 on education, what parents should be doing at home, and so on. The interest doesn’t surprise me (I am an education columnist on public radio), but the preoccupation with whether kids will “fall behind” or with how they will “catch up” has. I see hundreds of stories, websites and YouTube videos that aim to help parents create miniature classrooms at home. Maybe some parents have folding chairs they can bring up from the basement and put in rows. Where’s that big blackboard we used to have? Is there a run on chalk at Costco? Stop worrying about the vague and evidence-less idea of children “falling behind” or “catching up.” This is a worldwide pause in life-as-usual. We’ve spent the last 25 years over-scheduling kids, over-testing kids, putting undue pressure on them to achieve more and more and play less and less. The result? Several generations of children and young adults who are stressed out, medicated, alienated and depressed.

Menu