Just News from Center X – August 28, 2020

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Restarting and Reinventing School: Learning in the Time of COVID and Beyond

Linda Darling-Hammond, Abby Schachner, Adam Edgerton, Aneesha Badrinarayan, Jessica Cardichon, Peter W. Cookson, Jr., Michael Griffith, Sarah Klevan, Anna Maier, Monica Martinez, Hanna Melnick, Natalie Truong, Steve Wojcikiewicz, Learning Policy Institute
Across the United States, state education agencies and school districts face daunting challenges and difficult decisions for restarting schools as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. As state and district leaders prepare for what schooling will look like in 2020 and beyond, there is an opportunity to identify evidence-based policies and practices that will enable them to seize this moment to rethink school in ways that can transform learning opportunities for students and teachers alike. Our current system took shape almost exactly a century ago, when school designs and funding were established to implement mass education on an assembly-line model organized to prepare students for their “places in life”—judgments that were enacted within contexts of deep-seated racial, ethnic, economic, and cultural prejudices. In a historical moment when we have more knowledge about human development and learning, when society and the economy demand a more challenging set of skills, and when—at least in our rhetoric—there is a greater social commitment to equitable education, it is time to use the huge disruptions caused by this pandemic to reinvent our systems of education. The question is: How we can harness these understandings as we necessarily redesign school? How can we transform what has not been working for children and for our society into a more equitable and empowering future?

Districts, teachers seize Black Lives Matter moment for curriculum inclusivity

Shawna De La Rosa, Education Dive
The reinvigorated movement has sparked a significant wave of interest from teachers who want to know what they can do to help implement change. Fueled by the police-involved death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd and other Black Americans, as well as prolonged shutdowns that have widened equity gaps, Black Lives Matter is making its way from street rallies to curriculum. The reinvigorated movement sparked a significant wave of interest from teachers nationwide who want to know what they can do to help implement change. Case in point, the free, online “Abolitionist Teaching Book Club 2020” grew from a 30-teacher webinar book club chat into a 10,000-attendee five-day teacher conference in a matter of weeks.

Federal Appeals Court Backs Gavin Grimm in Long-Running Transgender Case

Mark Walsh , Education Week
A federal appeals court on Wednesday held in the long-running case of transgender student Gavin Grimm that his Virginia school district violated the equal-protection clause and Title IX when it barred him from the boys restroom when he was in high school.

A panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, in Richmond, Va., also ruled 2-1 that the Gloucester County district violated Grimm’s rights by refusing to amend his school records after Grimm, who was assigned female at birth, had chest reconstruction surgery and the state amended his birth certificate to “male.” “At the heart of this appeal is whether equal protection and Title IX can protect transgender students from school bathroom policies that prohibit them from affirming their gender,” U.S. Circuit Judge Henry F. Floyd wrote for the majority in upholding a series of federal district court decisions in favor of Grimm in 2018 and 2019. “We join a growing consensus of courts in holding that the answer is resoundingly yes.”

Language, Culture, and Power

A Texas teacher who posted Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ posters in her virtual classroom was placed on leave after parents complained

Stacy Fernandez, Texas Tribune
Unable to meet with her students in person because of the pandemic, Taylor Lifka, an advanced English teacher at Roma High School, set out to personalize and add warmth to her virtual classroom space. She displayed a collage of posters, just like the ones in her real classroom: One read “Black Lives Matter,” another included a rainbow flag and a third had a phrase written in Spanish that highlights solidarity between Black and brown people. On the digital chalk board, she asked students to put their names and preferred pronouns in the chat box. Then, she posted a screenshot of her classroom on her social media. On Sunday, one day before she was supposed to welcome her students back virtually for the first day of class, a school official told her to take down the signs. She refused. A few hours later, she was placed on paid leave.

CA moves to stop excessive punishment of Black and disabled students at Barstow, Oroville school districts 

Nina Agrawal, Los Angeles Times
Three school districts in Barstow and Oroville discriminated against Black students and students with disabilities by excessively disciplining them, prompting the state to impose five-year corrective plans, California Atty. General Xavier Becerra said Tuesday. The California Department of Justice found that Barstow Unified School District, Oroville City Elementary School District and Oroville Union High School District had a “systemic over-reliance on punitive, exclusionary discipline against Black students and students with disabilities,” according to a news release from Becerra’s office. It also found that the districts failed to respond adequately to complaints of harassment and discrimination, including in some cases the use of racial slurs.

Review of Language learner strategies: Contexts, issues and applications in second language learning and teaching

Olivia Obeso, Education Review
Grenfell and Harris’s Language Learner Strategies is a theoretical and practical overview of an approach to teaching and learning language. The book is divided into three parts. The authors first place the study of language learner strategies (LLS) within the history of second language learning research, then discuss how theories of LLS inform practice, and finally, set an agenda for future LLS research. These three parts move from highly theoretical to firmly rooted in practice, suggesting the range of readers for whom this book is intended. The sections could be three separate books in their own right, yet each one clearly speaks to the authors’ intentions of
exploring and reflecting on LLS.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Two metres or one: what is the evidence for physical distancing in covid-19?

Nicholas R Jones, Zeshan U Qureshi, Robert J Temple, Jessica P J Larwood, Trisha Greenhalgh, Lydia Bourouiba, BMJ
Physical distancing is an important part of measures to control covid-19, but exactly how far away and for how long contact is safe in different contexts is unclear. Rules that stipulate a single specific physical distance (1 or 2 metres) between individuals to reduce transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing covid-19, are based on an outdated, dichotomous notion of respiratory droplet size. This overlooks the physics of respiratory emissions, where droplets of all sizes are trapped and moved by the exhaled moist and hot turbulent gas cloud that keeps them concentrated as it carries them over metres in a few seconds.12 After the cloud slows sufficiently, ventilation, specific patterns of airflow, and type of activity become important. Viral load of the emitter, duration of exposure, and susceptibility of an individual to infection are also important. Instead of single, fixed physical distance rules, we propose graded recommendations that better reflect the multiple factors that combine to determine risk. This would provide greater protection in the highest risk settings but also greater freedom in lower risk settings, potentially enabling a return towards normality in some aspects of social and economic life.

Students have their own demands for school reopening

Charlotte West, The Hechinger Report
When 17-year-old Chloe Pressley listened to her school board discuss how the Prince William County, Virginia, school system should reopen, something was missing. Parents and teachers were weighing in on what students needed, she said, “but they were not saying how I feel.” As the board debated a virtual or hybrid model, and adults argued about students’ physical safety, Pressley was primarily worried about students’ mental health. “No one was considering the psychological toll each reopening plan would take on students,” she said.

Social Studies Teachers’ Trust in Institutions and Groups Civic Development in the Era of Truth Decay

Julia H. Kaufman, Laura S. Hamilton, Lynn Hu, RAND
Teachers’ trust in institutions can influence their ability to counter Truth Decay—the diminishing role of facts and analysis in American public life—in public school classrooms. This Data Note, one in a series, describes how social studies teachers for kindergarten through 12th grade responded to questions about their trust in institutions (from the federal government to news and social media platforms) and their willingness to accept recommendations or information provided by members of particular groups (from scientists and medical doctors to journalists and scholars).

Access, Assessment, Advancement

LA City Council Approves $30M For Free Childcare for Low-Income Working Families, Programs At Parks

City News Service
The City Council voted Wednesday to use $30 million to provide childcare relief to low-incoming working families in Los Angeles during the COVID-19 pandemic. Council President Nury Martinez, who co-authored the proposal with Councilman Curren Price, said the cornerstone of the effort is putting about $10 million toward the Recreation and Parks Department to create 50 Alternative Learning Centers for educational childcare at parks throughout Los Angeles. “Securing affordable childcare is an enormous burden on low-income working moms during the best of times, but during this COVID-19 pandemic, we have utter desperation as mothers are forced to choose between work or staying home and not having enough money to pay their rent and feed their kids,” Martinez said.

Finnish children get to participate in the evaluation of their early childhood education and care

American Association for the Advancement of Science
Finnish children have a very positive attitude towards early childhood education and care (ECEC), according to new research from the University of Eastern Finland. Published in Early Child Development and Care this August, the study explored children’s negative experiences of early childhood education and care. The researchers have published an article on children’s positive experiences already earlier. “Studying children’s experiences of, and their participation in, early childhood education and care is very topical in Finland right now, since the country’s new ECEC legislation from 2018 places increasing emphasis on children’s interests and participation,” Postdoctoral Researcher Kaisa Pihlainen from the University of Eastern Finland says.

Cases Spike at Universities Nationally

Lilah, Burke, InsideHigherEd
Most colleges and universities have now begun classes and brought students to campus all over the country. Several of those institutions, especially large ones, are now seeing outbreaks of COVID-19 among students. Many of the most visible and serious outbreaks are in the Southeast United States. The University of Alabama has had over 500 cases at its Tuscaloosa campus, for example, and Auburn University has seen over 200 cases this week alone. The University of Miami reported 141 after the first week of class, and the University of Kentucky has seen 250 cases so far.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

What young people have to say about race and inequality in South Africa

Kira Erwin and Kathryn Pillay, The Conversation
Meritocracy is the belief that holding power or success should be judged on people’s individual ability, rather than on wealth or social connections. At first glance, this appears to be a reasonable proposition. But the focus on individual merit becomes harder to fathom as one enters the messy world of structural inequality and discrimination. As our research shows, ideologies of meritocracy and individualism create obstacles for collective action towards a more equal and just society. Our findings were published in the book Race in Education, the outcome of a thinktank on the effects of race at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study. Using a methodology called Dreaming Workshops, our study explored how Grade 11 students, of around 16 and 17 years old, from different schools in the South African coastal city of Durban imagined race, racism and non-racialism in a utopian future.

Why unions are good for workers—especially in a crisis like COVID-19

Celine McNicholas, Lynn Rhinehart, Margaret Poydock, Heidi Shierholz, and Daniel Perez, Economic Policy Institute
The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored both the importance of unions in giving workers a collective voice in the workplace and the urgent need to reform U.S. labor laws to arrest the erosion of those rights. During the crisis, unionized workers have been able to secure enhanced safety measures, additional premium pay, paid sick time, and a say in the terms of furloughs or work-share arrangements to save jobs. These pandemic-specific benefits build on the many ways unions help workers. Following are just a few of the benefits, according to the latest data: Unionized workers (workers covered by a union contract) earn on average 11.2% more in wages than nonunionized peers (workers in the same industry and occupation with similar education and experience). Black and Hispanic workers get a larger boost from unionization. Black workers represented by a union are paid 13.7% more than their nonunionized peers. Hispanic workers represented by unions are paid 20.1% more than their nonunionized peers.

In the Pandemic, Some School Bus Drivers Are Treated as if They’re “Expendable”

Stuck at the intersection of reopening and staying healthy.

Will Peischel, Mother Jones
For the first time in more than 30 years, Kellie Ray, who’s driven school buses in Kentucky, Tennessee, and now Alabama, is feeling the back-to-school blues. Usually, that’s not the case. “I love the kids,” she says with a laugh, “but not the pay.” She calls the middle school children on her route in Shelby County, Alabama, her “babies.” When Alabama schools reopened last week, Ray saw how everything had changed. Her usual bus route once required picking up about 70 kids, but on her first day back at work, she only drove five. The district, which comprises 21,000 students, divided students into two groups. Those with last names beginning with A through J were going to have in-person instruction on Mondays and Tuesdays, and those whose last names began with K through Z were in classrooms Thursdays and Fridays. According to Ray, until nine days before school started, the plan was to send the entire student body back on the same days.

Public Schools and Private Dollars

Judge blocks DeVos plan to send more pandemic relief to private school students

Michael Stratford, Politico
A federal judge in California on Wednesday halted Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ effort to boost emergency coronavirus relief for private school students. The court ruling blocks DeVos from implementing or enforcing her rule in at least eight states and some of the nation’s largest public school districts. The secretary’s policy requires public school districts to send a greater share of their CARES Act, H.R. 748 (116), pandemic assistance funding to private school students than is typically required under federal law. The judge’s order prevents DeVos from carrying out the policy in Michigan, California, Maine, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Hawaii and the District of Columbia, as well as for public school districts in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco and Cleveland.

Network for Public Education Releases New Report on Charter School Closure, Churn, and Instability

Jan Resseger, NEPC
Last week the Network for Public Education (NPE) released a fine new report tracking school closures over time in the charter school sector. The comprehensive new study, Broken Promises: An Analysis of Charter School Closures from 1999-2017, tracks built-in instability in this education sector which sucks money out of the public schools. Charter schools are paid for with public tax dollars and surely ought to operate for the benefit of their students and the communities where they are located. But the charter school sector has been troubled from the beginning. For years we have learned about problems in charter schools, one school at at time, one scandal at a time: academic failure, graft and corruption, sudden school closures, selection of students in a sector that is supposed to be open to all, the violation of students’ rights through punitive discipline and pushout schemes, and other problems. It has been hard to get a handle on overall trends, as a succession of breaches of the public good were reported one-at-a-time, city-by-city in the press. The Broken Promises report instead documents a long trend.

A community of color was failed by 30 years of school choice — now teachers push a positive alternative

Jeff Bryant, Alternet
“It’s something students are definitely going to want to talk about when they come back to school,” Samantha Garrett told me while schools were closed for the summer in Milwaukee, and the community was grappling with the uncertainty of how the district would reopen amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. But the “it” Garrett referred to in this case was not the disease. It was the other big story that continued to dominate news throughout the summer—the wave after wave of protests for Black lives that have drawn an estimated 15-26 million Americans out into streets across the country.

Other News of Note

This UCLA Professor’s Books on Policing and Prison Used to Be Treated as Radical. Now, Everything’s Changed

Robert Ito, LA Magazine
For much of her career, UCLA professor and historian Kelly Lytle Hernández has taken on some of this country’s most powerful and storied institutions. In her 2010 book, Migra! A History of the U.S. Border Patrol, she laid out, in exacting detail, the racist roots of that agency, from its targeting of Mexican migrant laborers in its earliest days, to later programs like “Operation Wetback.” In City of Inmates: Conquest, Rebellion, and the Rise of Human Caging in Los Angeles, 1771-1965, she tackled L.A.’s sprawl of jails and prisons, explaining how the city came to create the largest prison system in the U.S. by systematically and intentionally “purging, removing, caging … and eliminating” immigrants and people of color. As director of Million Dollar Hoods, an exhaustive map-based project that reveals the human and literal cost (nearly a billion dollars every year) of incarcerating thousands of people throughout L.A., she took on the LAPD and the sheriff’s department, among others.

‘I don’t want pity, I want change’: Jacob Blake’s sister gives powerful testimony [Video]

Letetra Widman, the sister of Jacob Blake, who was shot in the back by police on Sunday, gives an impassioned plea saying that above all the other labels given to her brother, he is human.

Letetra said she had been inundated with messages of support but that all she really wanted was change.