Just News from Center X – August 5, 2022

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

‘Never seen it this bad’: America faces catastrophic teacher shortage

Hannah Natanson, Washington Post

Rural school districts in Texas are switching to four-day weeks this fall due to lack of staff. Florida is asking veterans with no teaching background to enter classrooms. Arizona is allowing college students to step in and instruct children. The teacher shortage in America has hit crisis levels — and school officials everywhere are scrambling to ensure that, as students return to classrooms, someone will be there to educate them. “I have never seen it this bad,” Dan Domenech, executive director of the School Superintendents Association, said of the teacher shortage. “Right now it’s number one on the list of issues that are concerning school districts … necessity is the mother of invention, and hard-pressed districts are going to have to come up with some solutions.”

The Secret Weapon for Fighting Teacher Attrition

National Education Policy Center

It’s been a tough two years for teachers, even tougher than usual due to the whiplash inducing switches back and forth between in-person and remote learning, support personnel staffing shortages, and state-level efforts to restrict instruction about race, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Not surprisingly, recent survey results suggest that (already low)teacher morale declined even further during the pandemic. Nearly half of teachers say they are considering leaving the profession in the next two years, survey results suggest. While it seems unlikely that upwards of 40 percent of educators will actually resign by 2024, teacher attrition in the United States is rising and already high relative to rates in other nations and in other professions. That’s according to a recent study by Emma García of the Economic Policy Institute, NEPC Fellow Eunice Han of the University of Utah, and Elaine Weiss of the National Academy of Social Insurance.

The Merit Pay Zombie Rises Again in North Carolina

Justin Parmenter, The Progressive

Teachers in the state are fighting a proposal that would peg their pay to a dubious evaluation system instead of experience or certification. Facing an acute school staffing crisis, you might think North Carolina policymakers would enact teacher pay raises like they just did in Alabama and Mississippi—both states that, like North Carolina, have Republican legislatures. You’d be wrong. Instead, North Carolina teachers are now fighting an attempt to scrap their experience-based pay scale for an unprecedented state-wide system of merit pay. As in other states, early retirements and resignations mounted, and substitute teachers became hard to find as the pandemic dragged on. In the state’s biannual Teacher Working Conditions survey, more than 7 percent of school staff said they planned to quit education altogether.

Language, Culture, and Power

It matters now more than ever: What new developments say about Teacher Diversity and Student Success

Michael Hansen, Constance A. Lindsay, and Seth Gershenson, Brookings Institute

Early last year, we published our book, “Teacher Diversity and Student Success,” through Harvard Education Press. Though it feels like eons ago, it was barely two years ago when we were putting finishing touches on the manuscript in the late spring of 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic had just recently shut down public schools, and the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police had triggered a wave of protests on racial justice. It wasn’t clear at that point how long or deep of an impact either of these developments would have on education in general, nor our book topic in particular.

Residential schools banned native languages. The Cree want theirs back.

Chico Harlan and Amanda Coletta, Washington Post

Lucy Johnson never spoke the Cree language when she was growing up. Her father wouldn’t allow it. He called it “jungle talk.” He didn’t elaborate much until he was weeks away from dying of alcoholism. Then he told his children that he associated the language with his experience at Ermineskin residential school. When he tried to speak Cree there, he said, a priest sexually abused him. “The more he spoke, the more punishment he received,” Johnson said. It’s a legacy of Ermineskin that Johnson, now 55 and a paralegal, can’t speak the language of her people. Nor can her six siblings. Across Canada, the often brutal residential school system, designed to assimilate Indigenous people into White, European culture, succeeded in breaking the tradition of passing on languages from generation to generation — and put the survival of some in jeopardy.

The Student Voice Research Framework: Four Principles for Helping Researchers Navigate Biases and Assumptions to Democratize Schools and Deepen Social Justice Work

Marc Brasof and Joseph Levitan, TC Press

Is educational research finding all the necessary knowledge to address the most pressing issues in our education systems? Are educational leaders and teachers learning what they need to know about students to be responsive and effective educators? Does most research have real impacts in schools, and are researchers prepared to do such work?

As educational researcher-practitioners working in schools throughout the Americas, we have come to realize that the answer to these questions, in most places, is no. There is a pressing need to make schools more socially just spaces and to improve student learning, success, and wellbeing. These issues are firmly established in research literature, but only in general terms.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Recommitting to the Joyful Classroom

Rethinking News Editors

The world is broken. But instead of giving up, instead of resigning, teachers need to pivot to make teaching an act of defiance, a declaration that the only way forward is through lessons that teach students to remember joy, to activate their muscles of imagination, kindness, laughter, playfulness, and solidarity. The fear that the world cannot be mended is a story told by those who benefit from today’s distorted relationships of wealth and power, and thus have an interest in keeping us docile. So instead of surrendering to despair, let us choose to create a different path.

California’s Students in Foster Care: Challenges and Promising Practices

Dion Burns, Danny Espinoza, Julie Adams, Naomi Ondrasek. Learning Policy Institute

In California, approximately 47,000 students live in foster care (in 2018–19, around 0.7% of the student population). The reasons for entry into foster care are multiple, complex, and often intertwined with the social and environmental challenges associated with poverty. The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the social and environmental challenges facing students. Because many schools, child welfare agencies, courts, and other businesses and agencies closed for much of the 2019–20 and 2020–21 school years, students in foster care experienced reduced access to in-person education and supports. As the state and schools work to recover from the pandemic, sustained attention will be necessary to ensure these students have access to the services they need to succeed.

Schools Must Protect Pregnant Students. Proposed Federal Rules Would Spell Out How

Libby Stanford, Education Week

For the first time in nearly 50 years, the U.S. Department of Education plans to explicitly spell out protections for pregnant and parenting students and school employees—an evolution advocates say may be more important than ever in a post-Roe v. Wade world. The Education Department’s proposed Title IX rules made headlines for their historic protections of LGBTQ students when they were released in June. But they also include clarifications on school officials’ obligations to not discriminate against pregnant and parenting students and employees, adding detail to rules which haven’t been updated since 1975.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

Dems Promised Universal Pre-K, Paid Leave, and Free Community College. Now It’s All Gone.

Ben Burgis, Jacobin

Remember universal pre-K? Remember universal paid family and medical leave? Remember tuition-free community college? These weren’t planks of the Bernie Sanders 2020 platform scorned by mainstream Democrats like Joe Biden. They were presented as important elements of the president’s agenda and included in the “Build Back Better” package rolled out with great fanfare in 2021. Fast-forward to last week, when it was announced that, after many months of stops and starts negotiations between Democratic leadership and recalcitrant Democratic senator Joe Manchin have finally resulted in a bill that incorporates some elements of what Build Back Better was supposed to do. But there’s no universal pre-K. No family and medical leave. Not a single semester of free college.

New UNESCO report unpacks current trends and challenges to right to higher education


What are the state legal obligations related to higher education? How do they apply in the context of increased human movement, rising inequalities and growing digitalization? What are national measures taken to advance this right, and what are the challenges faced? In the context of the World Higher Education Conference 2022 (WHEC22) held in May 2022, the new UNESCO  Report ‘Right to higher education: unpacking the international normative framework in light of current trends and challenges’, published jointly with the Right to Education Initiative, tackles these questions with the aim to ensure that the human-rights based approach is placed at the heart of the higher education debate.

Expanding Access to College in Prisons

Meghan Brink, Inside HigherEd

Next year prisoners will be eligible for Pell Grants under a new proposal from the Education Department that is estimated to benefit around 500,000 people behind bars. Colleges will have an opportunity to launch new programs in prisons, providing a key opportunity for incarcerated individuals to prepare themselves to re-enter society after they serve their time. There have been limited opportunities to access higher education in prisons since a 1994 law made prisoners ineligible for Pell Grants, federal financial aid for low-income students. In 2016, the Education Department began to offer Pell funding to some colleges to begin offering courses in prisons through the Second Chance Pell experiment.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Vast New Study Shows a Key to Reducing Poverty: More Friendships Between Rich and Poor

Claire Cain Miller, Josh Katz, Francesca Paris and Aatish Bhatia, New York Times

Over the last four decades, the financial circumstances into which children have been born have increasingly determined where they have ended up as adults. But an expansive new study, based on billions of social media connections, has uncovered a powerful exception to that pattern that helps explain why certain places offer a path out of poverty. For poor children, living in an area where people have more friendships that cut across class lines significantly increases how much they earn in adulthood, the new research found.

Social capital II: determinants of economic connectedness

Raj Chetty, Matthew O. Jackson, Theresa Kuchler, Johannes Stroebel, Nathaniel Hendren, Robert B. Fluegge, Sara Gong, Federico Gonzalez, Armelle Grondin, Matthew Jacob, Drew Johnston, Martin Koenen, Eduardo Laguna-Muggenburg, Florian Mudekereza, Tom Rutter, Nicolaj Thor, Wilbur Townsend, Ruby Zhang, Mike Bailey, Pablo Barberá, Monica Bhole & Nils Wernerfelt, Nature

Many researchers and policy-makers have raised concerns that societies around the world are fragmented and polarized, with little interaction across racial, political and class lines. In addition to being of potential concern in its own right, a lack of interaction between different groups of people is associated with worse economic and social outcomes. For example, in our companion paper, we used data on social networks from Facebook to show that communities in which people with low SES interact less with people with high SES exhibit less upward income mobility across generations. … We show that increases in high-SES exposure lead low-SES people to form more friendships with high-SES people in schools that exhibit low levels of friending bias. Thus, socioeconomic integration can increase economic connectedness in communities in which friending bias is low. By contrast, when friending bias is high, increasing cross-SES interactions among existing members may be necessary to increase economic connectedness. To support such efforts, we release privacy-protected statistics on economic connectedness, exposure and friending bias for each ZIP (postal) code, high school and college in the United States at https://www.socialcapital.org.

A Federal Guaranteed Income Policy Could End Generational Cycles of Poverty

Katie Fleischer, Ms. Magazine

After another school year impacted by the COVID pandemic, the long-term effects of educational disruptions are increasingly visible. Years of increased stress, financial burdens, and virtual schooling have affected children as well as adults: Test scores have fallen, rates of behavioral issues and absenteeism are up, and students are struggling to maintain their mental health and social skills. These effects manifest disproportionately in Black and brown families. While students in majority-white schools are starting to recover to pre-pandemic success rates, students in majority-Black schools remain five months behind pre-pandemic math and reading levels—leaving them a full 12 months behind their peers in majority-white schools.

Democracy and the Public Interest

The GOP’s school board takeover strategy is falling flat

Jennifer Berkshire and Jack Schneider, The Hill

“The path to save the nation is very simple — it’s going to go through the school boards,” Steve Bannon declared on his podcast last May. Parent outrage, opined the former Trump adviser, could be mined by the GOP for electoral gold — from the most local elections to Congress, all the way to the White House. Suddenly the news cycle was awash in stories of formerly staid school board races transforming into partisan battlegrounds, as Republicans seized on parent discontent over mask mandates, teaching about race and gender inclusion policies. After Glen Youngkin’s upset victory in Virginia and the recall of three school board members in San Francisco, a narrative of Democratic crisis and conservative triumph clicked into place.

The Arizona Republican Primary Is Ground Zero for America’s Hysteria Over Critical Race Theory and Drag Queens

Melissa Gira Grant, The New Republic

“We’ve been called every name in the book: domestic terrorists, racists, bigots, disruptors—angry mom,” Trish Olson, a mother of three in Scottsdale, Arizona, said in a campaign ad released last December by the gubernatorial campaign for Kari Lake. A political novice who denies that Joe Biden is the lawfully elected president, Lake secured a Trump endorsement in September 2021, almost a year before the crowded GOP primary. Along with pushing Trump’s election lies, Lake also promotes a full range of conspiracy theories that have come to define American conservatism over the past few years—that schools seized on the coronavirus pandemic to usurp parental rights; that “critical race theory,” or CRT, threatens white children’s education; that teachers are “grooming” children for gender and sexual deviance.

Partisans tend to cite different ideas for what more the government should do for parents and children

Gabriel Borelli and Amina Dunn, Pew Research

Almost half of U.S. adults (46%) say the federal government does too little to address issues affecting parents, while a slim majority (54%) say the government does too little to address issues facing children. Asked what more the government should do to support parents and children, Americans frequently mention forms of social or direct financial support, though Democrats and Republicans often offer different suggestions. About four-in-ten adults say the government does the right amount for parents (38%) and a third say the same for children. About one-in-ten say the government does too much for both groups, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted this spring.

Other News of Note

Twenty Years of Freedom Dreams

Robin D. G. Kelley, Boston Review

Two decades after I delivered the lecture at Dartmouth that would become the seed for my 2002 book, Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination, the world caught fire. In the late spring of 2020, some 26 million people around the world took to the streets to protest the public execution of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the vigilante murder of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia, and the killing of Breonna Taylor. For the last decade, videos of police killing unarmed Black people in the United States and Canada had become routine, but so had the protests. This was different. An unprecedented number of people risked their health and safety to face down riot police, tear gas, rubber bullets, and the COVID-19 pandemic to demand justice and a radically different approach to public safety. Activists proposed cutting police budgets and abolishing prisons to fund housing, healthcare, living wage jobs, universal basic income, green energy, and a system of restorative justice. The Minneapolis city council passed a dramatic resolution to defund its police, and at least sixteen cities pledged to significantly cut expenditures on law enforcement.