Just News from Center X is a free weekly news blast about equitable and inclusive public education.
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Just News from Center X is a free weekly news blast about equitable and inclusive public education.
Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times
Two more labor groups have agreed to a new contract with the Los Angeles Unified School District, but negotiations with the teachers union remain at a tense standstill. The latest to settle is Chapter 500 of the California School Employees Assn., which represents about 3,800 technicians, library aides, financial managers and other office workers. The three-year agreement, announced Monday, is retroactive to July 1, 2017, and provides for raises of 2% per year. Unions representing about 60% of employees have tentative or approved contracts, with United Teachers Los Angeles being a notable exception. Earlier this month, the district reached a pact with Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, which represents about 2,500 principals, assistant principals and other managers. Although structured differently, that deal also has raises totaling about 6% over three years. The same is true of a May deal with Local 99, which represents nearly 30,000 bus drivers, cafeteria workers, teaching assistants and aides for disabled students. Leaders of the nation’s second-largest school system have hinted that teachers should anticipate something similar, although the current offer is not as generous. District negotiators said they want the teachers to come down on salary demands before making a better counteroffer.
Andrew Ujifusa, Education Week
In a watershed moment for his administration on education policy, President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, the first legislation Trump’s signed that makes significant changes to federal education law itself. The legislation is a reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, a $1.2 billion program last overhauled by Congress in 2006. The new law allows states to set their own goals for career and technical education programs without the education secretary’s approval, requires them to make progress toward those goals, and makes other changes to federal CTE law. Trump celebrated the bill signing at a “Pledge to America’s Workers” event on Tuesday in Florida designed to showcase the administration’s focus on workforce development. In a speech at Tampa Technical High School in Tampa, Fla., after the official bill signing at the White House, Trump said the new CTE law would contribute to the “booming economy.” Thanks to the law, Trump told the crowd, “More than 11 million students and workers will have greater access to better training and more jobs.”
Carolyn Jones, EdSource
Elementary teachers who changed their perceptions about math — such as who’s good at it and why it’s useful — saw their students’ math scores rise significantly, according to a new study by a Stanford University education researcher. The study, published in the journal Education Sciences, showed that student scores improved after teachers took an online course explaining how anyone can be good at math, math is fun and useful, and can be taught in a more positive, engaging way. “Many elementary teachers are math-traumatized. It’s amazing how many of them were given terrible ideas about maths as children,” said Jo Boaler, co-author of the study and a professor of mathematics education at Stanford’s Graduate School of Education. Boaler, who’s British, uses the British term “maths” instead of the American “math.”
Language, Culture, and Power
Matt Barnum, Chalkbeat
In recent years, there’s been an increased push to get more teachers of color into the classroom, often highlighting large gaps between student and teacher demographics. National data shows the problem isn’t just recruiting those teachers, but retaining them as well. Now a new paper offers a detailed look at the reasons why in one state, and hints at potential solutions. That’s important because a spate of recent research has linked teachers of color to better outcomes for students of color; some advocates point to inherent and democratic benefits for all students of a more diverse teaching profession. “With the increasing diversity of student populations and a societal striving to achieve educational equity, the issue of developing a diverse and effective teaching workforce remains urgent and pressing,” writes researcher Min Sun of the University of Washington. Sun’s paper, published in the peer-reviewed journal AERA Open, uses detailed data from 2004 to 2015 to focus on black teachers in North Carolina.
Carolyn Jones, EdSource
For decades, California 4th-graders have studied the Golden State: its geography, people and history. Now, historians and Native American teachers are pushing to broaden that curriculum to include more on the culture and history of the state’s original inhabitants. “For so many years, the story of California Indians has never really been part of classrooms,” said Rose Borunda, an education professor at Sacramento State University and a coordinator of the California Indian History Curriculum Coalition. “Our story has never been present. It’s often sidestepped because it’s inconvenient. But it’s the truth, and students should learn it.” Borunda, who is Native American, and her colleagues are working to educate teachers statewide on the history of California’s indigenous people, who were among the most populous and diverse Native Americans in North America. Their curriculum would complement the state’s History-Social Science framework, which was updated two years ago.
Education is a critical area for Latino voters to exert influence as immigration furor fuels newfound political activism, experts say
Esmeralda Fabián Romero, LA School Report
As immigration issues drive more Latinos into political activism, education is a ripe opportunity for Latino parents to wield considerable influence. A panel of education experts at a national convention last weekend in Miami agreed that Latino parents have catapulted this year from being mostly silent on political issues to becoming a significant voice in the political scene because of what they see as hostile immigration policies. But they have yet to flex their muscle as a voting bloc in the area of education. The Latino vote was not a determining factor in the last presidential election and most likely won’t be in this November’s midterm elections, one panelist said. But education, another panelist said, is an area where Latinos can step up and have a big impact in their local communities. Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, who leads the nation’s fourth-largest school system, which is predominantly Latino, lamented that education isn’t talked about by President Donald Trump nor addressed as a fundamental right in this country.
Whole Children and Strong Communities
Emma Bowman, NPR
For the past three weeks, students across India’s capital have been attending a radical new course: happiness. The Delhi government introduced “happiness classes” in an effort to shift the country’s academic focus from student achievement to emotional well-being. In a country that uses standardized testing to determine student success, offers a limited number of seats in top universities and sets high expectations, educators have been seeing mental health consequences. Delhi’s Education Minister Manish Sisodia is charged with implementing the unorthodox curriculum. “It will address the ever-growing concern – levels of happiness & wellbeing [are] decreasing, while stress, anxiety & depression are increasing,” he tweeted the day the program launched at the start of the month. Sisodia’s among many who say those pressures are linked to India’s high student suicide rate.
David Washburn, EdSource
Teachers and administrators throughout California will get additional training on how to improve school environments and implement alternatives to traditional discipline thanks to a state-funded partnership between two county education departments and UCLA. This week the departments of education in Orange and Butte counties, along with UCLA’s Center for the Transformation of Schools, announced a pilot program to develop a training curriculum based on multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS), an approach to learning and behavioral problems in which students progress through a range of interventions depending on their need levels. The program, which is funded by a $15-million grant that was part of the budget deal struck by Gov. Jerry Brown and the state Legislature in June, will emphasize restorative justice, social emotional learning and other alternatives that prioritize mediation and building healthy relationships over traditional punishments.
Michelle Andrews, NPR
As students enter college this fall, many will hunger for more than knowledge. Up to half of college students in recent published studies say they either are not getting enough to eat or are worried about it. This food insecurity is most prevalent at community colleges, but it’s common at public and private four-year schools as well. Student activists and advocates in the education community have drawn attention to the problem in recent years, and the food pantries that have sprung up at hundreds of schools are perhaps the most visible sign. Some schools nationally also have instituted the Swipe Out Hunger program, which allows students to donate their unused meal plan vouchers, or “swipes,” to other students to use at campus dining halls or food pantries. That’s a start, say analysts studying the problem of campus hunger, but more systemwide solutions are needed.
Access, Assessment, and Advancement
Priska Neely, LAist
Lots of 4-year-olds in Los Angeles County are going to preschool. Seventy-one percent are enrolled in a licensed center or school setting for a least half of the day. But access to those programs varies wildly in L.A. County and across the state. That’s according to a new analysis from the University of California, Berkeley, and the American Institutes for Research (AIR), which breaks down pre-k access county by county. “These numbers so underscore how much more we have to do,” said Kim Pattillo Brownson, vice president of policy and strategy for the advocacy group First 5 LA. Decades of research show the benefits that early learning can have on on brain development and school readiness, about how investments in early childhood can safe costs down the line. The report includes some maps and graphs that tell us a lot.
Sonali Kohli, Los Angeles Times
Last year, Los Angeles Unified officials predicted an 80% graduation rate for the class of 2017 — its highest ever — based on preliminary numbers. That continued an upward trend that district officials said was the product of a concentrated push to graduate more students. But after a federal audit questioned the accuracy of how California schools count their graduates, the state’s Department of Education changed its formula for figuring out who completed high school. Using the new math, L.A. Unified’s graduation rate was 76.1% for the class of 2017. The state fared better as a whole, graduating 82.7% of eligible students last year. State and local district officials did not provide adjusted data for previous years, though, so it is difficult to know whether L.A. Unified is continuing to improve graduation outcomes despite the change. The state will release 2018 graduation data in December. The change has to do with deciding who is counted as a student or a graduate.
Mikhail Zinshteyn, EdSource
Three dozen private California colleges and universities are offering a path to guaranteed admissions for community college students, adding a new option for those who want to earn their bachelor’s degrees in four years. The actions of the private colleges are part of a continuing trend that has seen stronger ties between the state’s community college system and its four-year colleges and universities. The Board of Governors of the California Community Colleges on July 16 approved an agreement that allows the private, nonprofit colleges and universities to begin accepting community college students as juniors if they meet academic requirements and take specific courses through a new transfer program. Community college students were always able to apply to these schools but this program offers them a direct pathway for admission. The agreement covers only non-profit schools.
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
Laura Meckler, The Washington Post
A few months into the Trump administration, the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights circulated a memo to agency investigators. They were no longer required to consider “systemic” bias when presented with a single claim of discrimination. Instead, the agency’s goal was to swiftly rule on individual complaints. On its own, it was a small move. But a year and a half later, it is clear that the 2017 memo marked the start of a steady march toward narrowing the agency’s approach to racial discrimination and civil rights enforcement. The new approach stems from a view that President Barack Obama’s administration stretched beyond the law in setting rules and guidelines for schools and opened so many discrimination investigations that the system became clogged with cases. Under Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, the agency is also moving away from the sweeping notion, embraced during the Obama years, that discrimination often occurs even if the people involved have no ill intent and that schools should be held accountable when outcomes differ by race. “We enforce the laws that Congress passes as written and in full — no less and no more,” said Kenneth Marcus, who was recently confirmed as assistant secretary of education for civil rights. “We are law enforcement officials, not advocates or social justice people.”
Alia Wong, The Atlantic
In 1925, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that cemented the country’s thinking on school choice: Families, the justices concluded in Pierce v. Society of Sisters, had the right to decide where to send their children to school and thus could choose private education. Catholic schools, which were the target of the lawsuit, rejoiced. They could continue serving as an alternative to the United States’ system of “common schools.” The Catholic Church went on to dominate America’s private-school world for several decades. But starting in the 1970s that dominance started to fade—and by the late 1990s, it was clear that the country was witnessing parochial education’s demise. Today, the number of students who attend Catholic schools (roughly 1.8 million children) is fewer than half of what it was half a century ago, according to an analysis of federal data published in the latest issue of Education Next. The National Catholic Education Association says that more than 100 Catholic schools were consolidated or closed altogether during the 2017–18 year alone. This trend isn’t just a source of concern for the Catholic community. It’s also troubling to those worried about growing inequality and income segregation in the education system as a whole. As the new Education Next report concludes, the demise of Catholic education correlates with a decline in the share of middle-class students attending independent schools. The authors—including Richard Murnane, a Harvard education and economics professor, and Sean Reardon, a Stanford expert on educational inequality—write that this exacerbates a system in which private education is largely reserved for the wealthy and for the few low-income children who are eligible for and manage to secure vouchers or financial aid.
Matt Krupnick, The Hechinger Report
On a recent Monday, American Studies professor Roosevelt Montás had the usual list of questions for high school students studying on Columbia University’s campus: How was your weekend? Did you catch up on sleep? Until this: “Did you question your family about the nature of virtue? It’s the highest good of mankind.” The 15 students gathered around a classroom table — along with 30 others studying nearby — were participants in Columbia’s 10-year-old Freedom and Citizenship program. It’s aimed at introducing promising minority, immigrant and low-income New York City teens to an intense, high-brow college life that few in their families or neighborhoods have experienced. Unlike programs at other colleges and universities, the curriculum focuses on major Western philosophical thinkers and writers via a “great books” program that Montás, who directs Columbia’s Center for the Core Curriculum, considers critical to students’ intellectual development. Montás believes core studies create a more equal playing field for underrepresented students by exposing them to big questions about human experience that they might not encounter otherwise.
Public Schools and Private $
John Fensterwald, EdSource
The vast majority of California’s charter schools sampled for a study failed to fully disclose how they spent money on students targeted for assistance under the state’s funding formula. Some didn’t account for any of that funding, as the state requires, according to a report released Wednesday by the nonprofit law and advocacy organization Public Advocates. Public Advocates is urging tighter oversight and stricter regulations for charter schools, similar to the requirements imposed on school districts. The report concludes that these changes are needed to ensure clearer accounting for spending and greater parent involvement in the creation of the key accountability document that districts and charter schools must complete annually. Called Local Control and Accountability Plans, or LCAPs, they set academic and school improvement goals and actions to achieve them. “We find charter school engagement, transparency and accountability woefully lacking to such a degree that it is sometimes impossible to determine how charter schools are spending millions of dollars” that should be used to improve the education of “high-needs” students drawing extra money, Public Advocates wrote. Those students include low-income, foster and homeless children and English learners.
Faith Boninger, NEPC Newsletter
It happened not with a bang but a whimper: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt announced that its in-classroom TV service, Channel One News, had aired the final broadcast of its 29-year history. The announcement attracted scant attention, especially for a project described breathlessly by a 1995 New York Times article as “the highest-profile—one might even say glamorous controversy in American education.” Founded in 1989 by entrepreneurs Christopher Whittle and Ed Winter, Channel One sparked debate by requiring participating schools to show students 12 minutes of commercial-filled television daily in classrooms. In exchange, the schools received equipment such as satellite dishes and televisions. Critics, including the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, objected to the insertion of corporate advertising into schools. Research co-authored by Alex Molnar, co-director of the NEPC’s Commercialism in Education Research Unit (CERU), found that the broadcast cost taxpayers an average of $229 per pupil in 1994 dollars (which would equal $389 in 2018 dollars) in lost school time. As co-director of CERU, NEPC research associate Faith Boninger is an expert on commercialism in schools. In this Q&A, she reflects upon the controversial project.
LeBron James has one more career-defining moment in his home state, opening a public school in Akron
Tania Ganguli, Los Angeles Times
As he drove to the school he was helping open in his hometown, LeBron James’ emotions brought him back to when he was the same age as the kids who were starting school there Monday. He remembered school meaning nothing to him. He remembered it being too far away for him to get there, especially when his mother didn’t have a car. He missed 83 days of school in fourth grade. “It was a surprise to me when I woke up and I was actually going to school,” James said. As he got older he learned about the value of an education, and how important that was to break poverty cycles. That’s why Monday mattered so much to James, the NBA’s biggest star who recently left Cleveland for the Lakers. At 8 a.m., 240 at-risk third- and fourth-graders started at the I Promise School in Akron, Ohio. It is a public, non-charter school, just like the ones James attended as a child, but it seeks to offer all the things kids growing up like James did need to succeed. The LeBron James Family Foundation is the top donor and worked with Akron Public Schools to meet all its standards and regulations. And here, the staff attends to not just the children’s education, but also the outside factors that might interfere with that education.
Other News of Note
Victoria Barrett, The Guardian
Last month, a young environmentalist, someone like me, tried to hold you accountable for your actions, as we should with all public servants. At a town hall meeting, Rose Strauss, a Sunrise Movement activist, asked you why you accept fossil fuel campaign donations when we know climate change is going to harm young people at an unjust rate. But, instead of doing your duty as a politician and being transparent with your actions, you responded by calling her “young and naive”. Later, Rose wrote in an op-ed about that moment: “I felt a pang in my heart. I felt belittled. Insignificant. I wanted to scream.” Mr. Wagner, you spoke without forethought or care and made a young person trying to think of solutions to big problems feel small. You call us young, but we will be disproportionately affected by climate change. You will be gone, but your children, your grandchildren, your great-grandchildren – we will pay for your mistakes.