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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
Jaleel Howard, Cicely Bingener, & Tyrone Howard, Educational Leadership
Emerging data on student academic outcomes during the pandemic indicate that Black students (and other underserved groups) suffered academic losses in areas such as reading and math (Dorn et al., 2020). Many teachers struggled to get Black students to consistently engage during the pandemic. But to be clear, this issue didn’t suddenly appear during remote instruction; many teachers struggled to engage Black students prior to the pandemic, and this dynamic was only exacerbated by the impersonal nature of remote learning. As we return to in-person instruction, it’s crucial to ask: How can educators better motivate and engage Black students?
Eesha Pendharkar, Education Week
America’s K-12 teaching force today remains predominantly white in stark contrast to its rapidly diversifying student body. Almost 80 percent of public school teachers are white, according to a 2017-18 National Center for Education Statistics survey. That’s despite the fact that students of color today make up the majority of America’s student body. Research shows that having more teachers of color in a district boosts the performance of all students, no matter their race, and makes students of color feel a sense of belonging. But districts—even when they’re aware of the shortfall—have struggled to recruit and retain teachers of color for a variety of reasons, including flawed hiring practices, racially biased workplace environments, and lack of sustained diversity efforts, according to experts.
U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO)
Students experience a range of hostile behaviors at schools nationwide, according to GAO’s analysis of nationally generalizable surveys of students and schools. About one in five students aged 12 to 18 were bullied annually in school years 2014-15, 2016-17, and 2018-19. Of students who were bullied in school year 2018-19, about one in four students experienced bullying related to their race, national origin, religion, disability, gender, or sexual orientation. About one in four of all students aged 12 to 18 saw hate words or symbols written in their schools, such as homophobic slurs and references to lynching. Most hostile behaviors also increased in school year 2017-18, according to our analysis of the school survey. Hate crimes—which most commonly targeted students because of their race and national origin—and physical attacks with a weapon nearly doubled (see figure). Sexual assaults also increased during the same period.
Language, Culture, and Power
Lallia Allali, San Diego Union Tribune
Muslim students in California public schools are twice as likely to be bullied in school than other students, a new report by the California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations reveals. “Examining Islamophobia in California Schools” — fifth such report by the organization in nearly 10 years — surveyed about 708 Muslim students between the ages of 11 and 18 years old from January to August. The survey captured Muslim students’ perceptions pre- and post-pandemic. Pre-pandemic, 47 percent of Muslim students reported being bullied because of their faith, more than double the 20 percent of students ages 12-18 who experience bullying nationwide. Thirty percent of Muslim girls who wear the “hijab” or headscarf reported having their hijab offensively touched or pulled.
Angel Salcedo, KOAT News
Cathryn Stout, Chalkbeat Memphis
As the sun set across Memphis Monday night, dozens of grieving students gathered at Hamilton High School for a vigil to mourn the life of 15-year-old shooting victim Phillexus Buchanan, but their grief turned to frustration as police officers ordered them off the campus. Instead of honoring their classmate with a balloon release on the grounds of her high school, the students, banned from campus after hours, left the large empty parking lot and huddled across the street on a small sidewalk. The moment, coming in the aftermath of a tragedy, illustrates how the politics of mourning can be complicated for Black children as their grief traditions clash with a litany of rules and regulations.
Whole Children and Strong Communities
Jessica Yauri, The Nation
My family collects cans and bottles from sunup to sundown all year long. I started when I was 12, watching my parents glazed in sweat, as if it had just rained on them. Despite the aches and the tireless nights, their smiles shined as they worked. The recycling center is loud with the chattering of people and clicking of bottles and cans bumping into each other, and old Latino music plays on the radio. My mother leaves at dawn to collect cans, and when she returns 12 hours later, I help her pull the shopping cart the six long blocks to the recycling center through the streets of Bushwick. Three blocks before we reach the center, we are greeted by bees and the stench of beer and compost. Although this center has been like my second home for the past 10 years, I have kept it mostly a secret. I usually did this work after school, except for Mondays, when I would go early to bring my mom breakfast and supplies like gloves, tape, and beer boxes.
Uriel Serrano, Alejandro Banuelos, Jeydon Vargas, KCET
Spa days, vacations and the general emphasis on leisure, while they can promote well-being, are often overrepresented as practices for self-care. These activities often place an emphasis on the individual while ignoring collective healing practices rooted in community. As Jeydon Vargas, a youth organizer with Brothers, Sons, Selves (BSS) recently reminded his comrades, community organizing is often tied to healing and youth justice. “People want justice because they want to heal,” he says. For Jeydon and other youth of color, justice is rooted in reclaiming and transforming the systems and institutions that criminalize them and their behaviors, but it is also about the need to address the emotional and psychological consequences of criminalization. Studies have shown that children and youth who witness violence and experience criminalization report struggling with mental health conditions such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. For Black, Latinx and Indigenous children and youth, this is particularly the case given the over-policing of their neighborhoods and tribal lands.
As of June 2021, 38 school districts in 15 different states moved to end School Resource Of-ficer (SRO) programs. What, though, are districts using as alternatives to SROs? An NEPC review of school district resolutions in 16 major districts across the U.S. offers some insight into what districts planned to do instead of relying on police in schools. Understanding these alternatives, and understanding the research about SROs and other safety options, provides some crucial evidentiary foundations for moving forward—particularly at a time when some school districts are backsliding on their reform initiatives.Following the murder of George Floyd, Minneapolis was the first school district to end its SRO program, igniting a wave of similar reforms in other school districts. Each of the 16 school districts’ resolutions that we reviewed mentioned shifting the focus from policing to using equity-centered alternatives to policing. These alternatives include the use of restor-ative practices, promoting racial equity in the classroom, and deeper community engage-ment and support. All 16 districts stated that they would implement schoolwide changes in approaching behavior, such as trauma-informed practices, social-emotional supports, or restorative practices.
Access, Assessment, Advancement
Mary King, Inequality.org
During World War II, the federal government provided child care around the clock to enable more women to work in the war industries. In 1971, we came close to having a national child care program when President Richard Nixon vetoed legislation that had strong bi-partisan support. Now, as Congress prepares to vote on President Biden’s key legislation, the nation is presented with another opportunity to make a historic investment in our future. While the bill faces opposition from members of Congress concerned over rising inflation and the federal debt, these concerns are unfounded and politically motivated. Notably, no such fears were expressed when the military budget was increased yet again in September, by $25 billion —nearly forty percent more than the $18 billion in average annual spending for universal preschool proposed in the Build Back Better Act.
Carolyn Jones & John Fensterwald, EdSource
Some of California’s largest school districts are trying an unconventional tactic to help students re-engage in school after distance learning and boost their chances of acceptance into the state’s public colleges: by dropping D and F grades. Los Angeles Unified, Oakland Unified, Sacramento City Unified and other districts are considering phasing out grades below a C for high school students. If a student fails a test or doesn’t complete their homework, they’ll be able to retake the test and get more time to turn in assignments. The idea is to encourage students to learn the course material and not be derailed by a low grade that could potentially disqualify them from admission to the University of California and California State University. Students who don’t learn the material, pass the final exam or finish homework by the end of the semester would earn an “incomplete.”
Jeffrey R. Young, EdSurge
When a student stops out of college before getting a degree, the college should act fast if it wants to get them back. That’s because there’s a correlation between how long a student has been disengaged and the likelihood that they’ll return. “As soon as a student drops out or stops out or disengages, the university needs to have an immediate attack plan,” said Bruce Etter, assistant director of research at the University Professional and Continuing Education Association, in an interview with EdSurge this week. “Do we provide them a certificate for credits earned? Do we provide a concierge service? Do we offer a subset of courses at a lower price?
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
Erin Richards, Emily Bloch, Gary Stern and Christine Fernando, USA Today
Algebra classes taught by Nadine Ebri look different than the ones you probably took in school. Students practice equations through singing, dancing and drawing. Activities are sculpted around their hobbies and interests: anime, gaming, Minecraft. Problem-solving is a team sport, rather than an individual sprint to the right answer. Ebri, a math teacher and tech specialist for Duval County Schools in Florida, is using new techniques designed to promote equity. If kids of color, girls and low-income students engage, they’ll be more likely to pursue high-level math classes, the argument goes. That can open doors to competitive colleges and lucrative careers.
Melissa Gomez, LA Times
Maya Flores stared at her laptop screen, watching as her teacher guided classmates on how to complete online assignments. But there was a big problem. Maya, 11, is deaf. Her teacher doesn’t know American Sign Language. For more than two months Maya waited for a sign language interpreter to help her because she could not understand how to participate in the Los Angeles school district’s online independent study program. She began falling asleep during school hours. Eventually, she stopped logging in.Her mother, Rena Tafoya, who has health conditions that could threaten her life if she contracts COVID-19, needed to keep Maya home and believed her daughter would receive required services, including an ASL interpreter.
Shawna De La Rosa, K12 Dive
Poorer districts are facing staffing shortages at two to three times the rate of their more affluent counterparts in Washington state, with a University of Washington working paper finding lower-income districts in particular were short on paraeducators, transportation workers, janitors, nurses, special educators and teachers for English language learners. Based on total job postings, the working paper finds districts are most in need of substitute and special education teachers. The positions with the next highest posting rates are elementary, ELL and STEM teachers, which come close to equaling the number of special education postings when added together.
Democracy and the Public Interest
Mark Joseph Stern, Slate
After a year of nationwide panic over what’s taught in publicly funded schools, the Supreme Court’s upcoming argument in Carson v. Makin deserves more attention. The questions posed in the case have major ramifications for the engineered hysteria over critical race theory, as well as general the dismay many Americans feel over the kind of education they’re subsidizing with their tax dollars. Carson v. Makin asks whether the First Amendment compels individuals of every faith to help finance the indoctrination of children by conservative Christians to discriminate against LGBTQ people, women, religious minorities, and liberal Christians. This pedagogy is so extreme, so divisive and fanatical, that it makes critical race theory look like Blue’s Clues. Yet the Supreme Court will almost certainly force taxpayers to subsidize these harmful teachings, no matter how gravely it violates their own sincerely held moral and religious beliefs.
Valerie Strauss, Washington Post
Early this year, my Washington Post colleague Jay Mathews and I published conflicting pieces about whether charter schools — which are publicly funded but privately operated — sometimes control which students are admitted. Jay said in a column that it is something of a myth that charter schools pick and choose students; I published a post by Kevin Welner, director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder, who researches school choice (among other topics). Welner and co-author Wagma Mommandi have published a new book, “School’s Choice: How Charter Schools Control Access and Shape Enrollment,” that describes how the decisions that charter school operators make affect who is permitted to enroll in their schools. The piece below, by Welner, delves into the issue.
Ileana Najarro, Education Week
When Stephanie Parra, a Latina, attended her first state conference as a newly elected school board member of the Phoenix Union high school district in Arizona, she could count on two hands the people of color in the room. “It was not a welcoming space, and it was not a space where I felt like I should be,” Parra said. That was back in 2014. Since then, the state of diversity among school board members across the country has remained low compared to the growing diversity of the nation’s student population. That includes a persistent lack of Latino representation.
Other News of Note
Miles Palacios, Mark Jackson and Craig Hawkins, Oregon Live
Students and youth want to be included in decisions that impact their lives and educational experiences. Around the state and country, student and youth leaders are building power and making space to lift up their own perspectives at policy making tables. Over the past year, we’ve been working on solutions to elevate youth and students in Oregon’s policy-making processes. One solution we’ve identified is a 2022 legislative session bill that Rep. Andrea Valderrama, D-Portland, will be introducing to establish a “Racial Equity and Justice Youth Collaborative” at the Oregon Department of Education.
Joshua Cohen, Derrick Darby, Robert Gooding-Williams, Desmond Jagmohan, Falguni A. Sheth, Tommie Shelby, Boston Review
On Thursday, November 11, 2021 Boston Review hosted a virtual roundtable in memory of Charles W. Mills. Mills, who passed away in September, was Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNY). He was widely known for his work on social and political philosophy, ethics, and Marxist thought. Mills’ most influential book, The Racial Contract, has had a profound and lasting impact on contemporary thinking about race and justice. A group of philosopher and public intellectuals came together to honor his life, his work in philosophy and political theory, and most importantly, what he meant for so many.