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
Lauren Camera, U.S. News and World Report
Former President Barack Obama returned to the White House on Tuesday – his first visit since leaving office in 2017 – to tout the Affordable Care Act. But seven months out from the 2022 midterm elections, reporters wanted to hear from the master orator what Democrats could do to improve their chances in November after the party’s messaging misfire in 2021. “We’ve got a story to tell,” Obama said. “We’ve just got to tell it.” Though typically far down on the list of issues driving voters to the polls, education is set to headline the looming election in the wake of two years of pandemic schooling that locked students out of classrooms, drove steep academic declines and unearthed an alarming mental health crisis among adolescents.
School supplies, critical race theory, and virtual prom: A social listening analysis on US education
Lauren Ziegler and Rebecca Winthrop, Brookings
The COVID-19 pandemic caused widespread disruption to the education sector, and many in the United States took to social media as an outlet for their joys, frustrations, and fears as they relate to schooling. As the pandemic has continued—now into its third year—Americans have voiced their opinions about remote learning and what should be taught in school. At the same time, the pandemic ushered in a new wave of polarization in the U.S., which was evident around things such as whether face masks belong in the classroom and when schools should transition back to in-person learning—with strong held opinions on both sides of the debate.
Madeline Will, Education Week
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten traveled to Poland this week to speak with children and educators displaced by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine—an experience, she said, that gave her a sense of what U.S. teachers can expect if they soon have a Ukrainian refugee in their classroom. The United States is preparing to welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees and others fleeing the war. Education Week spoke to Weingarten, who heads the second-largest teachers’ union in the United States, about her visit as she was driven back to Warsaw from the Polish-Ukrainian border.
Language, Culture, and Power
Erik Wallenberg, Monthly Review
Elizabeth “Betita” Sutherland Martinez spent her life fighting the death and destruction imposed by the White House and the Pentagon, from border jails to police barracks in every city and town across the United States. She used her powers as a gifted translator, editor, author, and organizer in opposition to racism and the brutality of empire building, and in agitation for an alternative society. Martinez stood up for the right of self-determination for colonized African nations, Vietnam, Latin America, the internal colonies of Indian reservations, and finally for the people of Afghanistan and Iraq. In each of these cases, Martinez stood in opposition to the powerful and held up the voices, dreams, and aspirations of those oppressed by the economic and political system of capitalism. Her opposition to imperialism and racism can be traced like a red thread throughout her life.
Candy Rodriguez, KXAN NBC
Members of the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies (NACCS) Tejas Foco Committee on Mexican American Studies Pre-K-12 and the Ethnic Studies Network of Texas will gather outside the William B. Travis Building Wednesday morning. The group plans to rally ahead of the Texas Education Agency’s State Board of Education meeting and will hold a news conference starting at 10:30 a.m. in response to the social studies Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills test or TEKS revision.The TEA is working to determine how to make changes to match the new law on teaching “critical race theory.”
Rob Manning, OPB
Denise Lajimodiere has studied Native American boarding schools and documented the experiences of Indigenous students for years. Those students have relayed accounts of being forced to leave their homes, learn English and give up tribal languages and cultural practices. Lajimodiere remembers talking to her own father about his time at Chemawa Indian School in Salem in the 1920s. “He said kids would just die,” Lajimodiere said. “And I asked him ‘what did they die of?’ … He said they died of being lonesome.”
Whole Children and Strong Communities
David Brancaccio, Rose Conlon, and Jarrett Dang, Marketplace
Some rate the economy based on the percentage of people actively looking for work who don’t yet have jobs – that’s the unemployment rate, which is now at a low 3.6% percent – it’s only been lower three times in the last 50 years. However, that statistic misses people who’ve vanished, many of them students and the youngest of workers. On this morning’s Economic Pulse, “Marketplace Morning Report” host ,David Brancaccio spoke to Kristen Lewis, the director of Measure of America, a Project of the Social Science Research Council in Brooklyn, who just released the latest data on what are labeled “the disconnected.” Below is an edited transcript of the conversation.
Ariel Gans, Education Week
The national mental health crisis has impacted students of all ages, yet efforts to address at least one specific mental health issue affecting those of school age—suicide—have largely focused on high schoolers. The mental health issues of a schools’ most vulnerable population, its youngest students, are often overlooked in this area. Reporters and experts shined a much-needed spotlight on that group during an Education Week online summit last week broadly focused on the growing mental health needs of students and staff in the nation’s schools.
Abigail Kramer, ProPublica
New York state has failed to provide children on Medicaid with the mental health care they are entitled to by law, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court Thursday by two adolescents acting on behalf of hundreds of thousands of Medicaid-eligible kids. As a result, the lawsuit alleges, young people with serious mental health conditions suffer unnecessarily, ending up in hospitals and residential treatment programs because they don’t have access to services that would keep them safe at home.
Access, Assessment, Advancement
Javeria Salman, Hechinger Report
Robert Sternberg is frustrated. Really frustrated. As a professor of psychology at Cornell University, Sternberg has long studied standardized tests, and concluded they don’t provide much useful information on whether students are learning to think critically and creatively, enabling them to be successful in college, careers and life in general. “The way we test students on typical standardized tests has little or nothing to do with the way real world problems present themselves,” said Sternberg, a psychometrician who’s developed several theories related to creativity, intelligence and testing.
Merry Li, Chalkbeat NY
In June 2018, I began to hear news about then-Mayor Bill de Blasio wanting to do away with the Standardized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT), the exam New York City students take to get into one of eight specialized high schools. These specialized schools are seen as huge stepping stones into elite colleges. Instead of basing admissions on SHSAT scores, de Blasio recommended admitting the top 7% of students in each middle school. He said specialized high schools did not reflect the diversity of the city — while most New York City public school students are Black and Hispanic, they make up only about 10% of specialized high school enrollment — and that he believed the test was not an accurate measure of a student’s intelligence.
Katilin Blanchard, Jacobin
Each year, the Department of Defense mails out a “Futures Survey” in an effort to understand the likelihood of military enlistment in people age sixteen to twenty-four. Results of the survey are clear: young people see the military as a way to pay for college. Over half of the respondents as recently as fall 2020 reported that funding education would be a motivating factor in enlistment, and respondents approaching college age (sixteen to eighteen) felt more certain about enlistment than any other age group surveyed. The average of $30,000 of debt per borrower — with a national total of $1.61 trillion dollars in student debt — is causing prospective students to think hard about avoiding university debt, and the military itself actively utilizes the debt crisis to steer young adults toward enlistment. Advertising all but promises of a full ride in exchange for enlistment, ignoring problems and details that often prevent this promise of actually being fulfilled. The military’s focus on enlisting people facing the student debt crisis is coercive, especially considering misleading marketing about the benefits of Veteran Affairs (VA) education assistance and recruitment strategies that target especially vulnerable student populations.
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
Senator Bernard Sanders, Counter Punch
Let me begin by congratulating the workers at Amazon in Staten Island who, for the first time, were able to win a union organizing campaign against that giant corporation which is owned by Jeff Bezos, the second wealthiest person in America. Amazon spent over $4 million in trying to defeat the union drive. The independent union, the Amazon Labor Union, had almost no money at all for their grassroots campaign but ended up with 55% of the vote. Congratulations Amazon Labor Union. I also want to congratulate the workers at Starbucks for their incredible union organizing efforts. Starbucks has coffee shops in some 15,000 locations all across the country and, until a few months ago, none of them were organized. Then, in December, workers in 2 shops in Buffalo, New York voted to join a union and that union organizing effort is now spreading like wildfire all across the nation.
Melissa Montalvo, Cal Matters
Paula Cortez Medrano has worked in the agriculture industry since she arrived in the U.S. over 25 years ago. She has labored in the heat of Fresno summers, picking onions, tomatoes, grapes, and garlic and in the freezing temperatures of local produce packing houses, where she would wear two layers of pants to stay warm while assembling frozen fruits and vegetables to be sold in grocery stores across the country. She contracted COVID-19 during the pandemic and was sent home from work with only two weeks of paid sick leave. It took her 40 days to recover, but when she returned to her packing house job, she was turned away.
Clay Risen, New York Times
June Shagaloff Alexander, whose work for the N.A.A.C.P. and its legal arm in the 1950s and ’60s put her at the forefront of the nationwide fight for school integration and made her a close confidante of civil rights figures like Thurgood Marshall and James Baldwin, died on March 29 at her home in Tel Aviv. She was 93. Her son, David Alexander, confirmed the death. Ms. Alexander (Ms. Shagaloff at the time) joined the civil rights movement as a college student, beginning as an intern with the N.A.A.C.P.’s legal department, which later became a separate entity, the Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Democracy and the Public Interest
Jesse Hagopian, Truthout
The above quote greets readers on the home page of a new Zinn Education Project report on state education standards on Reconstruction — and how this crucial history is taught, and mistaught, across the country. Reconstruction refers to the period following the Civil War until around 1877 when a radical movement for Black power and wealth redistribution swept the country. The consequences of Reconstruction’s unfinished revolution surround us, permeate our experience of daily life, provide crucial lessons for understanding our world today and suggest important methods for uprooting systemic racism. And for that very reason, guardians of the status quo have long sought to hide Reconstruction’s unprecedented advancements for Black people from students in a concerted effort to deny them the anti-racist lessons this history affords.
Ronald Brownstein, CNN
The escalating red-state efforts to ban more books mark a new stage in the struggle to control the educational experience of America’s kaleidoscopically diverse younger generations. Since 2021, more than a dozen Republican-controlled states have passed laws or approved executive branch policies that restrict how public school teachers can talk about race, gender and sexual orientation, as in the case of the bill critics call “don’t say gay,” which Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed into law last week. But now, even as National Library Week arrives this week, the attempt to limit what materials are available to young people is spilling out from the classroom into the library.
Consider This, NPR
Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity for students in kindergarten through third grade, was signed into law at the end of March by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. Critics have dubbed this it the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law. Lt. Gov. of Florida Jeanette Nunez spoke to NPR’s Kelsey Snell about the goals of the law.
Other News of Note
Jon Bistein, Rolling Stone
Rare archival footage of an 11-year-old Prince voicing his support for striking teachers in 1970 has surfaced thanks to an investigation by CBS 4 in Minnesota. The footage of Minneapolis Public School educators striking 52 years ago was dug up in an effort to give some historical context for a strike staged by educators in the same district just last month. After the video was restored, station production manager and local history buff Matt Liddy decided to scan the video for old landmarks, but was startled when he seemed to recognize one boy being interviewed by a local reporter.