Just News from Center X – April 9, 2021

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Teens Are Starting to Get Vaccinated. That’s a Big Deal for Schools

Madeline Will, Education Week

High school juniors and seniors are starting to be vaccinated against COVID-19—a watershed moment in the pandemic for schools. “It felt like the turning point,” said Jonathan Denny, a 17-year-old high school junior in New Orleans, who received his first vaccine dose last month. “We used to be so afraid, we were bleaching all of our groceries and never seeing anyone, but now it feels like, wow, maybe in a few months I can kind of have my old life back again.”

More than 30 states have already opened vaccine eligibility to those 16 and up, according to a New York Times tracker, and most others plan to do so in the coming days or weeks. (President Joe Biden is calling for all states to make everyone eligible for the vaccine by April 19.) Educators are now encouraging their oldest students to get the vaccine, with the hopes that it will help normalize school operations and reduce the number of coronavirus outbreaks. In many states, teenagers and young adults now seem to be driving COVID-19 surges.

LA Teachers Won a Safe Schools Reopening by Organizing

Betsy Long, Jacobin

United Teachers of Los Angeles won a strong health and safety agreement ahead of returning to classrooms later this month. They won it the old-fashioned way: organizing rank-and-file teachers to demand an agreement that benefits teachers, parents, and students. After a year of remote classes, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) will soon welcome cohorts of students back to school campuses for hybrid learning now that Los Angeles County is in the “red tier,” the second-highest tier of COVID risk levels after the “purple tier,” as designated by the California Department of Public Health. Opening campuses will affect more than just students and teachers. LAUSD schools are central to the communities they serve. LA County has been in the purple tier for most of the 2020–21 school year, but it has finally transitioned to red, which allows for in-person instruction. LAUSD’s superintendent, Austin Beutner, announced an April 19 elementary campus phased reopening after the “Sideletter Agreement” with United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), the city teachers’ union of which I am a member, was finalized.

A Mexican American educator fights back against the State Department’s refusal to accept his citizenship

Tina Vazquez, Prism

Imagine being on vacation in Mexico only to realize that your U.S. passport is set to expire. You return to the states early and visit your local passport agency to renew it, but the State Department tells you that the birth certificate you previously submitted doesn’t “sufficiently support your date and place of birth in the United States.” The government wants additional documentation to prove you are a U.S. citizen. You present your early immunization records, childhood health records, school photos, yearbooks, school IDs, and degrees, but none of it proves sufficient. The government ramps up its demand for documentation, and the requests are increasingly burdensome. The State Department wants records of your mother’s medical care before you were even born and your sibling’s school transcripts. After months of tedious back and forth, the government ultimately denies your passport renewal, leaving you in perpetual limbo and potentially subject to immigration enforcement.

Language, Culture, and Power

Asian high school students speak out against discrimination, harassment [AUDIO]

The Weekend Edition, NPR

NPR’s Scott Simon talks to three high schoolers from New York City about their experiences with anti-Asian hate: Joyce Jiang, Amanda Chen, and Lily Zheng.

Bed-Stuy elementary school leads the way on social justice

Anna Bradley-Smith, BK Reader

It started with a letter. P.S. 5 Dr. Ronald E. McNair fifth grader Chane Grandison put pen to paper to call on his local member of congress, Hakeem Jeffries, to fund classes on equity and understanding. In his letter, the Bed-Stuy elementary student told Jeffries, as a young Black man, he had never really taken notice of race relations.“I mostly like to spend time playing with friends and playing video games. Recently I’ve noticed how troublesome racism can be, and how divided our country really is,” he wrote.

This Tucson teen is on a crusade to require anti-racist lessons at school

Clara Migoya, Arizona Daily Star

Classmates started debating whether the Civil War was racially motivated in Ashlee Diggles’ junior U.S. history class when her teacher said something unsettling. The teacher at the midtown Tucson school asked the teens if they would stay in the class if it was made up of a majority of black students. “I don’t think he was outright racist,” said Diggles, who is part of the 1% of Black students at University High School. “A lot of it had to do with him just probably not being surrounded by a lot of people of color.” She wrote an email to him explaining what made the question upsetting and why she felt uncomfortable. She suggested resources for him to review. Then she started sharing those resources with other teachers and students, and after that, with Tucson Unified School District board members.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

School: It’s Not Just for Kids Anymore

Conor Williams, New York Times

In March of last year, the week before the pandemic shuttered schools in Washington, D.C., Annie Macheel’s Advanced Adult English as a Second Language class at Briya Public Charter School in Fort Totten was making plans. At one table, four women — two native Spanish-speakers, one Amharic speaker, and one Vietnamese speaker — haltingly practiced scheduling play dates for their children in English. Outside, in the hall, a group of pre-kindergartners — some of whom had mothers at that table — cheerfully burbled past the door, “caminando, caminando, volando, volando” (walking, walking, flying, flying). This juxtaposition — family members decades apart, but attending classes down the hall from one another — is central to a “dual-generation” educational approach.

L.A. Unified to open 25 school-based vaccine centers for families

Betty Márquez Rosales, EdSource

In an effort to increase the number of students returning to schools by increasing access to vaccines, Los Angeles Unified is opening 25 school-based vaccination sites for the families of students in coming weeks. The 25 sites are an increase from the two sites that were announced two weeks ago and which open on Tuesday. “The opportunity gaps for students from families who are struggling to get by will only worsen if they’re not back in schools with their peers from more affluent neighborhoods,” Superintendent Austin Beutner said during a Monday morning broadcast.

Four years ago, I met two extraordinary children

John Woodrow Cox, Twitter

Ava was 7, from rural South Carolina. Tyshaun was 8, from Southeast DC. They didn’t know each other or have much in common, but gun violence had ruined both of their lives. This is the story of how they became best friends.


Access, Assessment, Advancement

Duluth Preschool hopes to break down cultural barriers

Adelle Whitefoot, Duluth News Tribune

Starting children off right as early as possible in school can help them succeed throughout their educational careers. That is the mission of a new preschool at Lowell Elementary School in Duluth. Duluth Public Schools is bringing back its bicultural preschool program next fall, which was discontinued in the early 2000s when budget cuts led to a lack of funding. Dubbed Oshki-Inwewin, it will be a full-day preschool, operating four days a week. American Indian Education Coordinator Edye Washington said the idea came from a conversation with Sherry Williams, who is the administrator for the district’s preschool and Head Start programs.

Local assessments an option if statewide tests aren’t viable during pandemic, California officials signal

Sydney Johnson, EdSource

California officials signal California education officials have been told verbally that the state may not need to submit a waiver application to the U.S. Department of Education, thus opening the door for more flexibility this spring when it comes to standardized testing, as school districts continue to navigate reopening plans during the pandemic. As vaccinations have ramped up and cases of Covid-19 have declined across the state, many California schools have started bringing back groups of students for in-person instruction. One part of the reopening puzzle recently has been how and when to administer statewide standardized tests, which in February the U.S. Department of Education said would be required.


Trust, Flexibility & Learning during Covid-19 in Finland [Audio]

Pasi Sahlberg, Fresh Ed

Today we explore the response of the Finnish education system to the Covid-19 pandemic. Unlike many countries with children out of school, the narrative of “learning loss” never emerged. In fact, as Pasi Sahlberg tells me, the opposite happened. Pasi Sahlberg is a professor of education policy at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. He’s been a regular on FreshEd for the past five years. His latest books include Finnish Lessons 3.0: What can the world learn from educational change in Finland (2021), and In Teachers We Trust: The Finnish way to world-class schools, which was co-authored with Tim Walker (2021). Today we discuss these books in relation to the pandemic.


Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Neighborhood segregation persists for Black, Latino or Hispanic, and Asian Americans

William Frey, Brookings

The systemic racism spotlighted over the past year in the wake of the death of George Floyd has long pervaded much of American society. One enduring dimension is the neighborhood residential segregation of people of color from white residents due to a well-known history of discriminatory practices imposed by government and private sector forces. As I note in my book, Diversity Explosion, Black-white neighborhood segregation has decreased (albeit modestly) since its peak in the 1960s. Still, more than 50 years after the passage of the 1968 Fair Housing Act, substantial levels of neighborhood segregation persist for Black residents and—to a sizable, though lesser extent—for Latino or Hispanic and Asian Americans. This high level of racial segregation is part and parcel of continued housing discrimination based on race and ethnicity, and has prompted the Biden administration to propose new efforts to reduce both formal and informal forces that allow it to endure.

Ed. Dept. to review Title IX rules on sexual assault, gender equity, LGBTQ rights

Evie Blad, Education Week

The U.S. Department of Education will review its regulations and policies related to Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in K-12 schools, colleges, and university. The review, which follows an executive order by President Joe Biden, could lead to revisions of a Trump-era rule on how schools must address reports of sexual assault and harassment. The process could also help determine how the agency defines unfair treatment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in K-12 education. “Experiencing sex discrimination in any form can derail a student’s opportunity to learn, participate, and thrive in and outside of the classroom, including in extracurricular activities and other educational settings,” acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Suzanne Goldberg said in a Tuesday letter to educators and officials announcing the review.

Wolf’s bold proposal to fix unconscionable education inequality

Susan Spicks, York Daily Record

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the critical role schools play in our communities. It also laid bare the gross disparities in resources available to students from one district to another, leaving no doubt that Pennsylvania’s system for funding education is broken and inflicting harm on hundreds of thousands of students in communities throughout the commonwealth. When school buildings were closed a year ago, students in many wealthy communities seamlessly pivoted to remote learning and many have returned to in-person school. This was possible because they had district-issued laptops and iPads, small class sizes, buildings with space to allow for social distancing, and updated HVAC systems to ensure a healthy learning environment.


Democracy and the Public Interest

Why Republican efforts to ban the 1619 Project from classrooms are so misguided

Valerie Strauss and Seth Rockman, Washington Pos

Republican legislators in a handful of states are trying to cut funding to schools and colleges that use the New York Times’ award-winning 1619 Project for classroom lessons — efforts that have served to keep the provocative retelling of American history in the spotlight. The project, published in the newspaper’s magazine in August 2019, is a collection of essays and stories that argue that America was not founded in 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was adopted, but rather in 1619, the year that enslaved Africans were first brought to the land that became the United States. The project annoyed President Donald Trump so much that he appointed a panel — the 1776 Commission — to write a report about the “patriotic” history of the United States that countered its narrative. That report — posted on the White House website two days before Trump left office in January — said the Founding Fathers were not hypocrites for owning enslaved people while calling for equality in America’s founding documents, and equated progressives with the fascist Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.

Why Democracy Needs Privacy

Carissa Veliz, Boston Review

Imagine having a master key for your life. Would you go around making copies of it and giving them out to strangers? Probably not. So why are you willing to give up your personal data to pretty much anyone who asks for it? Privacy is like the key that unlocks the aspects of yourself that are most intimate and personal, that most make you you. Your naked body. Your sexual history and fantasies. Your past, present, and possible future diseases. Your fears, your losses, your failures. The worst things you have ever done, said, and thought. Your inadequacies, your mistakes, your traumas. The moment in which you have felt most ashamed. That family relation you wish you didn’t have. Your most drunken night.

Seoul Education Office Bucks Opposition from Conservative Groups with Student Rights Plan

Korea Bizwire

Despite strong opposition from some conservative groups, the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education has stipulated the protection of sexual minority rights in the student rights plan, the first in its history, that it unveiled on Thursday. In accordance with the Seoul Metropolitan Student Human Rights Ordinance, the student human rights plan should be established and implemented at an interval of three years. Under the vision of guaranteeing human rights in everyday life at schools in Seoul, the latest plan consists of five policy goals, ten policy directions and 20 policy tasks. Under the plan, the Seoul education office will protect minority students, including sexual minorities, while strengthening human rights education.


Other News of Note

How not to think like a cop, with Naomi Murakawa [Audio]

Time to Say Goodbye

It’s just Andy and Tammy this week, with special guest Naomi Murakawa, a professor of African American Studies at Princeton and the author of The First Civil Right: How Liberals Built Prison America. Naomi talks with us about her J-A roots in Oakland, how her dad’s career in the criminal-legal system got her thinking about carceral politics, why police reform has long been a trap, and the history of hate crimes legislation in the US. She shares her observations on Black Lives Matter, the emergence of abolitionist thinking, and the discourse around “anti-Asian violence.” What can crime statistics tell us about the world? How do we stop ourselves from thinking like cops? Which groups are pushing Asian America in a more punitive direction? And how should “Asian American history 101” inform our analyses of recent violence?