Just News from Center X – Aug 23, 2019

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Back to the classroom: LAUSD chief sets sights on supporting principals and gaining public trust

Ariella Plachta, Los Angeles Daily News
Following a year roiled by a teachers strike and failure of a school funding ballot measure, Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner kicked off the 2019-2020 school year Thursday with goals to support campus leadership and build public trust in the nation’s second largest school district.

If you don’t have a strong supply of well-prepared teachers, nothing else in education can work

Carrie Spector and Linda Darling Hammond, Stanford Educator
Linda Darling-Hammond, professor emerita at Stanford Graduate School of Education, has spent decades studying teacher education programs and practices and is widely considered one of the most important voices in the field. She founded the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education and led former President Barack Obama’s education policy transition team in 2008. Now president and CEO of the Learning Policy Institute (LPI), she was recently appointed president of the California State Board of Education, which oversees academic standards, curriculum, assessments and accountability for K-12 schools throughout the state. In a new book, Preparing Teachers for Deeper Learning, she and UCLA Professor Jeannie Oakes, with LPI colleagues, profile seven groundbreaking teacher education programs in the United States, detailing the practices that set them apart. We spoke with her about what 21st-century teacher preparation looks like.

13% of L.A. students have a significant disability. Is this a better deal for them?

Howard Blume, The Los Angeles Times
The Los Angeles Unified School District, which educates about 64,500 students with disabilities, will regain full control over programs that serve their special needs, after decades of costly court-ordered outside supervision, officials announced this week. The court-approved agreement will end a consent decree dating back to 1996, when district officials acknowledged they were not meeting their legal obligations to serve students with a broad range of disabilities, including dyslexia, autism, aphasia, blindness and paralysis.

Language, Culture, and Power

White House sought ways to block undocumented immigrant children from attending public schools

Jennifer Jacobs and Justin Sink, Time
Some top aides to President Donald Trump sought for months for a way to give states the power to block undocumented immigrant children from enrolling in public schools — all part of the administration’s efforts to stem illegal crossings at the southern U.S. border. Trump senior adviser Stephen Miller had been a driving force behind the effort as early as 2017, pressing cabinet officials and members of the White House Domestic Policy Council repeatedly to devise a way to limit enrollment, according to several people familiar with the matter. The push was part of a menu of ideas on immigration that could be carried out without congressional approval.

Will changes to California’s ethnic studies curriculum weaken it? That’s what some activists and educators say

Alex Wigglesworth, The Los Angeles Times
A broad coalition of educators and student groups is defending California’s draft ethnic studies curriculum and expressed concern that substantial revisions could weaken the integrity of the academic discipline. State education leaders said last week that the draft curriculum “falls short and needs to be substantially redesigned” amid calls for revisions by ethnic organizations, including groups representing Jews, Armenians, Greeks, Hindus and Koreans. They want the draft to be changed to cover the experiences of other ethnic communities that also suffered bigotry. “Ethnic studies is especially important to black, brown, indigenous and Asian students because our histories and experiences are severely minimized or erased altogether in the mainstream curriculum,” Thandiwe Abdullah, co-president of the Black Student Union at LACES High School, said in a statement. “By going beyond our four groups, the impact of the curriculum is diluted, in order to reemphasize things that have already been covered in classes like World History.”

Douglas Kellner: Dangerous new dimension to mass shootings in America

Joanie Harmon, Ampersand Online News for UCLA ED&IS
In April of 2007, Douglas Kellner was on his way to deliver a talk at Virginia Tech when he was notified that the university was closed due to a mass shooting that had just occurred on campus, killing 32 and wounding 17. Kellner, who is a UCLA Distinguished Professor of Education, Gender Studies, and Germanic Languages and a scholar of media and film, was horrified and fascinated. “I was researching media spectacle at the time,” he recalls. “I started reading about [the shooting] … and thinking about Columbine and other school shootings and the key ideas just hit me. It’s been the same idea for every one of these shootings – that we have an out-of-control gun culture and a crisis of masculinities. These young men who were in crisis… resolved it through these shootings and it became a media spectacle.” Professor Kellner is now examining the newest aspect of mass killings in the Trump era – the role of racism that motivates troubled individuals to kill. He is currently working on a second edition of his 2008 book, “Guys and Guns Amok: Domestic Terrorism and School Shootings from the Oklahoma City Bombing to the Virginia Tech Massacre.’

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Families requesting more vaccine exemptions in local schools despite recent measles outbreak [VIDEO]

Denise Dador, KTLA
Making sure children are up to date on their immunizations is part of many parents’ back-to-school checklists. At the same time, there’s an increase in families requesting vaccine exemptions. A recent measles outbreak is fueling the debate.

The safest way to get to school? LAUSD introduces new bus safety features [VIDEO]

Megan Telles, KTLA
School busses will be equipped with new safety features as the Los Angeles Unified School District begins a new year. Megan Telles reports for the KTLA 5 Morning News on Aug. 19, 2019.

LAUSD partners with city housing agencies to assist northeast Valley families

Ariella Planchta, Los Angeles Daily News
As students across the Los Angeles Unified School District headed back to classrooms Tuesday, district officials heralded a new partnership with city and county housing agencies aimed at providing support to a number of housing insecure and homeless families in the northeast San Fernando Valley. Douglas Guthrie, president and CEO of the Housing Authority for the city of LA, said the agency will grant 50 Section 8 housing assistance vouchers to LAUSD households as part of a pilot program in coordination with LA Family Housing and Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office, in hopes of duplicating the venture in other parts of the district.

Don’t forget, not every student had opportunities for enrichment this summer

Joshua Brown, Education Post
This summer, my students and I learned that blue crabs are really feisty, but mosquitos are even feistier. For two weeks in June, I chaperoned a student fellowship program called Earthwatch Ignite, which seeks to stimulate interest and passion for science and technology through fully-funded scientific research expeditions for Los Angeles-area students to various locations around the United States. Under the guidance of ecologists and biologists from Sam Houston State University, a group of eight rising juniors and seniors and I studied the effects of different salinity levels on the metabolic rates of blue crabs at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Texas gulf coast. Although the humidity was high and the mosquitos fierce, we experienced the thrills of field research and learned a thing or two about the complex ecosystems in the Texas gulf region.

Access, Assessment, and Advancement

Report: More states setting higher ‘proficiency’ standards on assessments

Linda Jacobson, Education Dive
The gap is narrowing between what states consider proficiency in math and reading — and the standards set by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), according to a new “mapping” study released Wednesday by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Comparing the 2017 NAEP results for 4th- and 8th-grade reading and math to state assessments for the 2016–17 school year, the report shows that since 2007, the difference between state cut scores for proficiency and the “NAEP equivalent” has grown smaller and is sometimes almost half of what it was. In all but 8th-grade math, the gap is also smaller than it was in 2015.

The growing partisan divide in views of higher education

Kim Parker, Pew Research Center
Americans see value in higher education – whether they graduated from college or not. Most say a college degree is important, if not essential, in helping a young person succeed in the world, and college graduates themselves say their degree helped them grow and develop the skills they needed for the workplace. While fewer than half of today’s young adults are enrolled in a two-year or four-year college, the share has risen steadily over the past several decades. And the economic advantages college graduates have over those without a degree are clear and growing. Even so, there is an undercurrent of dissatisfaction – even suspicion – among the public about the role colleges play in society, the way admissions decisions are made and the extent to which free speech is constrained on college campuses. And these views are increasingly linked to partisanship.

How much did L.A. test scores improve over the last year? Beutner touts ‘real progress’

Howard Blume, The Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles schools Supt. Austin Beutner touted gains in student achievement, rising graduation rates and lower absenteeism as “real progress” and evidence that the nation’s second-largest school district is making strides in his annual State of the Schools speech Thursday. A gain of 1.6 percentage points over the previous school year on state tests in English and 1.9 percentage points in math represent an upward pace that some experts regard as realistic and even commendable if they can be sustained over the long term. Graduation rates increased just under 1 percentage point and absenteeism is down by half a percentage point. In the biggest jump, 80% of high school juniors took the SAT college admissions test, up from 44% a year ago, thanks to the district providing free testing during the school day.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

How life became an endless, terrible competition

Daniel Markovitz, The Atlantic
In the summer of 1987, I graduated from a public high school in Austin, Texas, and headed northeast to attend Yale. I then spent nearly 15 years studying at various universities—the London School of Economics, the University of Oxford, Harvard, and finally Yale Law School—picking up a string of degrees along the way. Today, I teach at Yale Law, where my students unnervingly resemble my younger self: They are, overwhelmingly, products of professional parents and high-class universities. I pass on to them the advantages that my own teachers bestowed on me. They, and I, owe our prosperity and our caste to meritocracy.

New studies challenge the claim that black students are sent to special ed too much

Jill Barshay. The Hechinger Report
Decades of research have documented that students of color, particularly black children, are disproportionately classified by schools as having disabilities. In 2016, 12 percent of black children across the nation received services at school for disabilities ranging from emotional disturbances to physical disabilities to intellectual impairment. Only 8.5 percent of white children received those services.
The disability rate for Hispanic students — 9.4 percent nationally — is only slightly higher than for whites and the disparity hasn’t been as contentious as the disproportionality for blacks. Some academics and advocates have argued that disability status had become a tool to perpetuate racial segregation, especially in the South.

Sid Thompson: A historic look at school integration and busing

Joanie Harmon, Ampersand Online News for UCLA ED&IS
During the second presidential debates earlier this summer, Senator Kamala Harris cited her experiences as a product of school desegregation in the early 1970s. By doing so, she acknowledged a long-shelved but hardly forgotten aspect of the nation’s social, educational, and racial history. Sid Thompson, a Senior Fellow at UCLA’s Center X, was a principal at Crenshaw High School during the time of the possibility of a federal mandate on busing to integrate public schools. In an interview last fall, he shared his observations of students, families, and his colleagues in the historic – and perpetual – debate over reorganizing the way that public education is provided in order to create a semblance of racial equality. Thompson, who later became the first African American superintendent of LAUSD, serving in that post from 1991 to 1996 – encompassing the period of the 1992 Los Angeles Riots that gave birth to UCLA’s Center X.

Public Schools and Private $

Report: Oakland charters under-enroll disabled students

Ali Tadyon, San Jose Mercury News
Charter schools in Oakland enrolled students with disabilities at about half the rate of traditional public schools, according to a report released Wednesday from the state teachers union, which estimates the financial toll that takes on the cash-strapped district is anywhere from $3.2 million to more than $10 million. Both charters and district schools are funded by the state based on their daily student attendance figures. But unlike district schools, charters are not governed by a publicly elected school board, and their teachers are not part of the same teachers union. The California Teachers Association — which issued the report — has historically fought charter school growth and pushed for stricter charter regulation.

America divided: Public support for charter schools is growing — but so is opposition, new poll finds

Mark Keierleber, LA School Report
Public opinion on charter schools has grown polarized as the number of people who either support or oppose the schools has increased, according to a new poll released Tuesday by the journal Education Next. Much of the opposition is being levied by Democrats at a time when party leaders and 2020 presidential contenders have become increasingly skeptical of charters.

California may tighten background checks, credentials for charter school teachers

Diana Lambert, EdSource
California charter school teachers don’t always have a teaching credential or the federal background checks required of teachers in traditional public schools. Currently, 1,118 California charter school teachers do not have any type of teaching credential or permit, including a Certificate of Clearance, according to the California Department of Education. The certificate is issued after a teacher candidate is fingerprinted and given a background check by both the California Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Anyone who has been convicted of serious and violent felonies, including murder, rape or sexual abuse of a minor, cannot obtain a credential to work in a school.

Other News of Note

March for our lives, no longer protesting in streets, unveils gun control plan

Brakkton Booker, NPR
With their hopes fading that lawmakers in Washington will pass new gun safety measures, young activists from March for Our Lives have their own plans on how to stem gun violence. The proposal, called A Peace Plan for a Safer America, comes a little more than two weeks after a pair of mass shootings claimed the lives of 31 people and injured dozens more in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. In the days after those shootings, President Trump signaled there was “a very strong appetite for background checks” on people seeking to purchase firearms. But there are reports the president has either lost interest in the matter or changed his mind. Organizers with March for Our Lives say there needs to be a greater urgency by elected officials to protect American lives. They see the gun issue as both a crisis and a cause for the federal government to declare a national emergency. The plan is aimed at candidates seeking federal office, including President Trump and his 2020 Democratic presidential challengers.