Just News from Center X – August 21, 2020

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

School outbreaks wreck Trump’s plans for return to normal

Bianca Quilantan, Nicole Gaudiano, Juan Perez Jr., Politico
President Donald Trump hoped schools and colleges would reopen their doors this fall, marking the retreat of the coronavirus pandemic and the start of an economic revival just months before the presidential election. Metastasizing outbreaks are shattering those hopes. Thousands of kids and coeds are getting sick, along with their teachers, triggering mass quarantines, campus closures and last-minute switches to online learning. Virus-proof kids who are “virtually immune” to the scourge — that was what the president promised. A few days into the new school year, that prediction hasn’t held together. “His promises have proven to be false,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat whose home state has seen coronavirus infections in 87 percent of the counties as of Monday, thrusting more than 2,000 students and nearly 600 teachers into quarantine.

Five key takeaways for the 2020-21 school year in California [VIDEO]      

Ethan Edward Coston, Cal Matters
As more than 6 million California students head back to school this fall, this year isn’t about fresh notebooks, sharpened pencils and new backpacks. Students, parents and educators are navigating a new world of virtual learning, with the vast majority of California schools remaining online. CalMatters K-12 education reporter Ricardo Cano moderated a PolicyMatters discussion on August 13 that addressed how the struggles of moving to virtual learning have altered California’s education landscape. Panelists included educators, researchers, students and parents. Don Austin, superintendent of Palo Alto Unified School District, shared his perspective as a district administrator, while Heather Hough, executive director of Policy Analysis for California Education, gave a high level overview of teaching and learning. Lakisha Young, the founder and executive director of Oakland Reach, a parent-run, parent-led group, discussed how families have struggled with online learning. Elijah Tsai, a senior at Lincoln High School in Stockton, and state president of the California Association of Student Councils, provided first-hand insight into what he and his peers experienced with remote learning this spring.

Sustaining an Equitable Online Community

Akiko Avevalo, Justin Betzelberger, Dr. Zachary Cue, Jacquelyn Herst, Richard Huynh, Jon Kovach, Anne Maben, Leticia Perez and Erica Young, UCLA Science Project
Establishing a culture of belonging serves as a foundation for equitable and socially-just science classrooms. Research is clear that trusting relationships are needed to support a culture of inquiry, talk, and willingness to share ideas and openness to new thinking. Development of this culture requires time and investment in face-to-face classroom settings, and additional challenges in a virtual classroom. Considering the importance of initiating and sustaining a dynamic learning community, we are offering some considerations to support you (first and foremost), your students, and your science community.

Language, Culture, and Power

Black women, the right to vote and the 19th Amendment [AUDIO]  

Morgan Givens and Sasha-Ann Simons, NPR
The year 2020 will be remembered for a lot of reasons, but one milestone we can’t forget is the centennial of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment. On Aug. 18, 1920, its newfound existence guaranteed women the constitutional right to vote. The Nineteenth Amendment didn’t start or end the fight for women’s suffrage, however. That fight was long and many of its earliest activists didn’t live to cast their ballots. Black women were among the first suffragettes, yet they have continued to face barriers to voting for decades.

An Open Letter to Well-Meaning White Teachers: Three ways to center Black progress in the classroom

Robert S. Harvey
In January, on a cold, sunny Boston day, just two months before the COVID-19 global pandemic shut down schools across the nation, I visited a neighborhood school full of Black students. After observing a full day, a well-meaning white teacher—chair of Black Lives Matters week—stood in front of a group of faculty members with an abundance of anxious energy. She told us that she was planning on inviting successful Black people to talk to the students. “They don’t have to be President Obama or Beyoncé or anything, they can be anybody,”…

The Migrant Student Club [AUDIO]

Latino USA, NPR
Over 300,000 students in the U.S. migrate every year to work in agriculture, from spring to fall. At a high school in South Texas, when these students return, they gather at the Migrant Student Club to discuss their experiences and get support from a migrant student counselor. At a special gathering of the club we met Reyes, who started picking asparagus in Michigan to help support his family when he was 9 years old. And over the course of his last semester of school, we follow him as he works to graduate, financially support his family, and deal with an unexpected twist: the pandemic.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Your child’s a no-show at virtual school? You may get a call from the state’s foster care agency

Bianca Vázquez Toness, Boston Globe
Massachusetts school officials have reported dozens of families to state social workers for possible neglect charges because of issues related to their children’s participation in remote learning classes during the pandemic shutdown in the spring, according to interviews with parents, advocates, and reviews of documents. In most cases, lawyers and family advocates said, the referrals were made solely because students failed to log into class repeatedly. Most of the parents reported were mothers, and several did not have any previous involvement with social services.

Secretary of State Alex Padilla Re-Launches California Students Vote Project

Alex Padilla, Yubanet.com
Today, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla and California Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis re-launched the California Students Vote Project (CSVP) during a presentation to the University of California Student Association. CSVP is a first of its kind national campaign to increase civic engagement and voter participation among California University and college students. Every major institution of higher education in California—including the California Community College (CCC), California State University (CSU), University of California (UC), and the Association of Independent Cal­ifornia Colleges and Universities (AICCU) systems —have partnered with the Secretary of State’s office, Lieutenant Governor Kounalakis and a coalition of nonprofit organizations on CSVP. “As a result of the challenging and chaotic times we are living in, the 2020 General Election will be a critical one,” Secretary of State Alex Padilla said. “Students will have a chance to make their voices heard on key issues, policies, and elected officials, including the presidential race.

One way to solve the shortage of poll workers: Let high school students do the job

Valerie Strauss, Washington Post
With the November elections just a few months away and some states allowing voters to cast ballots as early as September, there are growing concerns about shortages of poll workers during the coronavirus pandemic. Many poll workers are over 60 years old; in the 2018 general election, 58 percent of them were, according to a report by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. And, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “people in their 60s or 70s are, in general, at higher risk for severe illness than people in their 50s.” As a result, younger people who are less likely to have severe complications than older people are being sought out as poll workers, as this NPR story reports.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

California schools allowed to open for small groups with ’acute’ needs under new guidance

John Fensterwald, EdSource
School districts will be able to bring back to school small groups of students with disabilities and others with “acute” needs for face-to-face instruction, Gov. Gavin Newsom and State Board of Education President Linda Darling-Hammond announced Friday. The California Department of Public Health will provide details for districts to follow, perhaps next week. All districts will be able to bring small groups of students on campus, including those whose schools cannot currently open because they’re in counties on the state’s watch list for high rates of coronavirus infection, hospitalizations and other criteria, Darling-Hammond said.

As school starts, California districts try to improve virtual special education

Carolyn Jones, EdSource
As schools in California begin re-opening virtually, state education officials have taken steps to improve distance learning for a group of students who were largely left behind in the spring: Those in special education. But some parents wonder if distance learning will ever work well for students with disabilities.

What Do Students Lose If College Is Just Online?

Sam Van Pykeren, Mother Jones
As the school year begins, the future of college remains uncertain. Like the rest of the United States’ response to the coronavirus, the process has been balkanized. Some colleges are fully reopening (with plans to mitigate spread); others are trying to go totally online; some are using a hybrid model. Just a few months ago, some universities announced plans to reopen in person, but now—with cases booming again—have reversed course. With the Trump administration pushing to reopen schools no matter the consequences, they’ve left schools with no choice: Online education is the way forward. Learning through a screen will be the new normal for the fall semester. This brings up a persistent question: What do students miss when the college experience is yanked from them?

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Working parents face tough decisions as schools reopen

Joe Heim and Scott Clement, The Washington Post
Amanda Hickerson had been agonizing over the decision for weeks. Should she and her husband keep their first- and third-graders at home for a virtual start to the school year? Or should they opt for a hybrid choice that would let the children attend classes at school two days a week? The choice for Hickerson wasn’t just about her children’s education. As with many Americans facing decisions about school reopening plans, it was also about her career. The mental health therapist from Smithfield, Va., had to cut back on seeing patients this spring when the coronavirus closed school and her children moved to online learning. Hickerson’s husband wasn’t able to work from home, so that meant she had little time for video counseling of clients.

Rural Schools Struggle With Road Ahead In Era Of Coronavirus [AUDIO]

Kirk Siegler, NPR
At the Bruneau-Grandview School District in rural southern Idaho, a couple of dozen teachers are crowded into the small library. They’re doing a refresher training for online teaching. In person-classes are scheduled to begin Monday, but with coronavirus cases continuing to rise in Idaho and other states, it’s an open question for how long. Superintendent Ryan Cantrell, who’s helping lead the Google Classroom training, is advising his staff that last-minute decisions will be the unfortunate normal this upcoming school year. Parents have the option of sending their kids to school this week, or staying fully online or some combination of both.

This Is What Dystopia Looks Like

Aaron Talley, The Nation
In September 2017, she had marched into my classroom because she wanted to meet “the new Black English teacher,” a rarity at my school, where the staff is predominately white, despite being on the South Side of Chicago in one of its “toughest” neighborhoods.
In my mind, she was ready for college. At the age of 16, she was already adept at making jokes about “toxic masculinity,” and already had a catalogue of her favorite Black feminist poets. Over the course of the next three years, she and I held several discussions about family, her future, race, gender, and writing.

Public Schools and Private Dollars

Deconstructing Teach For All 

Will Brehm, T. Jameson Brewer, Kathleen DeMarrais & Kelly L.McFaden, FreshED
Today we look at counter narratives to Teach for All, the global network of affiliate organizations that recruit people to make 2-year commitments teaching in high-need schools. An outgrowth of Teach for America and Teach First in the United Kingdom, Teach for All advances a one-size fits all solution to educational problems in over 53 countries. It is funded by powerful corporations and organizations, such as the Clinton Global Initiative, and has become an important actor in the global education reform movement. But what do former recruits think of Teach for All? How does Teach for All’s carefully crafted message of reform translate into practice? My guests today are Jameson Brewer, Kathleen deMarrais and Kelly L. McFaden who have recently co-edited a volume called Teach for All Counter Narratives. The book is a collection of first-hand accounts where former recruits offer powerful critiques of the organization and its methods.

Want To Start A Charter School In LAUSD? New (Tougher) Ground Rules Now Apply

Kyle Stokes, LAist
Los Angeles Unified School Board members this afternoon narrowly voted to approve a policy that has alarmed charter school advocates. The new policy outlines how LAUSD officials will weigh requests to start new charter schools or renew existing charter schools, which currently serve more than 118,000 students. LAUSD is adapting its guidelines to account for sweeping changes to California’s charter law, which granted districts statewide more powers to block new charters from opening. But the changes to state law — part of Assembly Bill 1505 — also mean that existing schools with strong academic track records should have an easier time staying open.

States Blast ‘Reverse Robin Hood’ DeVos Plan to Send Covid Aid to Swanky Private Schools

Nicolas Iovino, Courthouse News Service
Accusing Education Secretary Betsy DeVos of being a “Reverse Robin Hood,” a Michigan deputy attorney general urged a federal judge Tuesday to block the Education Department’s plan for diverting pandemic relief funds from public to private schools. “Secretary DeVos pulls a reverse Robin Hood, taking from the poor and giving to the rich,” Michigan Assistant Attorney General Neil Giovanatti argued in a virtual court hearing Tuesday.
Joined by seven states, four school districts and the District of Columbia, Michigan sued DeVos last month over a July 1 rule that directs local public education agencies to dole out emergency funds to private schools based on the number of students at each school, rather than the traditional Title I formula based on the number of low-income students at risk of poor academic performance in each private school.

Other News of Note

The Century of Black Women Activists Who Paved the Way for Kamala Harris

Daina Ramey Berry and Kali Nicole Gross, Politico
Joe Biden’s choice of Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate is rightly heralded as a historic moment for Black women. For the first time, a Black woman is the presumptive nominee of a major party ticket. This moment comes 100 years after women gained the right to vote with the passage and ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920 and 55 years after the Voting Rights Act guaranteed the ability of Black people to exercise their franchise. Harris’ rise reflects her own long list of qualifications—district attorney of San Francisco; first African American and first woman attorney general of California; second African American woman and first South Asian American in the U.S. Senate. But her rise—hastened in part by this summer’s national protests that likely factored into Biden’s decision—also has deep historical roots in the extensive record of Black women’s political activism in the U.S.

United Against Racism [Video]