Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
Valerie Strauss and Larry Ferlazzo, Washington Post
It has been an annual tradition on The Answer Sheet for veteran teacher Larry Ferlazzo to assess what he sees as the best and worst education news of the year and then make predictions about the coming year. Here is his installment on the news of 2020 (and his predictions for 2021 will be coming soon). Ferlazzo teaches English and social studies at Luther Burbank High School in Sacramento. He has written or edited 12 books on education, writes a teacher advice blog for Education Week and has a popular resource-sharing blog. He has written pieces for The Answer Sheet over the years, including one on how teachers can help students motivate themselves and this one, one of my favorites, titled: “NEWS BREAK (not breaking news): Teacher asks students to grade him. One wrote: ‘I give Mr. Ferlazzo an A at being annoying.’”
Evie Blad, Education Week
President-elect Joe Biden’s COVID-19 plan aims to quiet the political storms that have made it difficult for school leaders to know how to reopen buildings and left teachers and families unsure who to trust about their safety. But a national public health crisis requires tremendous cooperation and collective action from the public. Ten months since the first virus case emerged in the United States, polls show that Americans’ response can often be traced back to who they voted for, what media they consume, which federal officials they trust, and where they live. And those divisions have been exacerbated by the Trump administration’s contradictory, and at times hostile messaging on the issue.
John Fensterwald, Ed Source
Looking beyond the state-ordered Covid lockdown that has shut down all but essential services in all but a handful of counties in California, three Democratic Assembly leaders proposed legislation Monday that would require public school students to physically return to school in stages by early spring, after public health officials lift closure orders. The effect would be to start reopening schools for at least the most struggling or perhaps the youngest students when their counties move from the most restrictive purple tier, where 99% school districts are now, to any less restrictive color: red, orange or yellow.
Language, Culture, and Power
ReNika Moore and Jennifer Bellamy, ACLU
In the last four years, the Trump administration has aggressively dismantled federal protections that ensure equal treatment against racial discrimination, amplified racist rhetoric, and explicitly targeted communities of color with harmful executive actions. The Biden-Harris administration must both reinstate federal rules that protect against racial discrimination, and take meanginful steps to further advance racial justice in the U.S. Here are just a few of the many items that should top the Biden Administration’s to-do list.
Cayla Bamberger, Hechinger Report
Single mom Nicole Vaughn has spent the better part of her adult life advocating for her five adopted children with disabilities. But when schools shuttered for the coronavirus last spring, Vaughn gained a slew of new responsibilities, like helping her kids access virtual classrooms and coordinating the special education services they receive. This story also appeared in Mind/Shift “I had to send emails to the speech and language provider saying, ‘Hey, they haven’t seen you, I haven’t seen you. What’s going on?’ ” said Vaughn, who lives in the Detroit metropolitan area.
Bo Hamby and Dalia Mortada, NPR
Santiago Potes is one of the hundreds of thousands of DACA-recipients currently living in the U.S. His parents fled Colombia when he was four years old, traveling with Potes to Miami. Now, Potes, 23, is a graduate of Columbia University and also the first Latino DACA recipient to be awarded a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship.
Whole Children and Strong Communities
Joseph Kahne, Erica Hodgin, John Rogers, Cal Matters
Deep fissures in our civic community along with the spread of misinformation undermine our commitment and capacity for public engagement and action. This weakening of our ability to solve problems democratically coincides with crises that demand our collective attention. We are struggling to respond to a global pandemic, the urgent need to address racial injustice and challenges of climate change which are bringing unprecedented wildfires to the West Coast. Needless to say, many underlying challenges we face as a society will persist long after a COVID-19 vaccine is widely distributed. Even as we wait for a new administration to bring some modest changes to our national politics, it is increasingly clear that we need a broader renewal of democracy. Our public schools can and should play a critical role. We should be preparing youth to engage thoughtfully and powerfully with societal issues.
William Brehm and Dennis Shirley, Fresh Ed
Today I wax philosophically with Dennis Shirley about his new co-edited special issue of the ECNU Review of Educationentitled Beyond well-being: Educating for Wholeness and Purpose. In our conversation we discuss the future of education and the dialectic between well-being and learning.
AOC Just Launched a Homework Helper Program That Could Offer Much-Needed Relief for Students (and Parents)
Maressa Brown, Parents
After running a successful pilot program in New York, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign has launched a virtual Homework Helpers program that could serve as a model for communities around the country. All over the country, parents are increasingly overwhelmed and concerned about their kids falling behind in school as a result of the pandemic. A Pew Research Center survey from late October found that 7 in 10 parents whose children are getting online instruction—either fully or in combination with in-person learning—say they or another adult in their household is providing at least some additional instruction or resources to their children beyond what is being provided by the school. But with both time and energy in short supply, parents could use some assistance. And that’s where a new tutoring program could come in.
Access, Assessment, Advancement
Benjamin Cottingham, PACE
In response to the onset of COVID-19, most California districts were forced to shift to distance learning models in the spring of 2020. The immediate solutions, although not ideal, were feasible for middle and high school students. However, the transition to distance learning for students in the early grades—transitional kindergarten through third grade (TK–3)—has proved difficult for students, parents, and teachers alike. Throughout the summer and fall of 2020, PACE interviewed 15 district and school leaders, teachers, parents, and researchers to identify areas for improvement of distance education for students in the early grades. The policies and practices addressed in this brief are also informed by dozens of additional interviews that were conducted as a part of PACE’s broader work around California’s COVID-19 response and distance learning. This brief identifies challenges experienced during distance learning and suggests promising practices and potential policy changes that can positively affect the current experience of students, parents, and teachers involved in TK–3 distance learning.
More students than ever got F’s in first term of 2020-21 school year — but are A-F grades fair in a pandemic?
Valerie Strauss, Washington Post
Students’ grades for the first period of the 2020-21 academic year are being recorded and we are seeing stories from around the country about an unprecedented rise in F’s. Is anybody surprised?
Millions of kids are living through the most disruptive school year of their lives because of the coronavirus pandemic. They are forced to learn at home online or wear masks in classrooms without the benefit of their usual social, sports and artistic outlets. Anxiety among students is exploding, as is depression and loneliness and trauma, according to health officials and students themselves. To be sure, many adults are having a hard time staying focused on their work amid the health and political chaos of 2020, so why would anybody expect young people to be any better?
Indigo Olivier, In these Times
At the end of November, members of the Columbia University-Barnard College chapter of Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) launched a tuition strike campaign against “exorbitant tuition rates” which, they say, “constitute a significant source of financial hardship” during the pandemic. Student demands are wide-ranging and include a 10% reduction in the cost of attendance, 10% increase in financial aid, and an amalgamation of demands from disparate student campaigns, many of which were set in motion long before the pandemic began. So far over 1,700 students have signed a petition to withhold tuition for the Spring 2021 semester and any future donations to the university after graduating.
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
John Rogers, ASCD Education Update
The closure of school campuses in spring 2020 came with little warning, few resources, and minimal guidance from federal and state officials or professional organizations. Yet, principals across the country leaned into this monumental task as health threats and economic dislocation affected staff, community members, and students. As one California principal reported, the transition to remote instruction “will go down as one of public education’s most incredible feats in its entire history.”
‘A lost generation’: Surge of research reveals students sliding backward, most vulnerable worst affected
Laura Meckler and Hannah Natanson, Washington Post
After the U.S. education system fractured into Zoom screens last spring, experts feared millions of children would fall behind. Hard evidence now shows they were right. A flood of new data — on the national, state and district levels — finds students began this academic year behind. Most of the research concludes students of color and those in high-poverty communities fell further behind their peers, exacerbating long-standing gaps in American education. A study released this week by McKinsey & Co. estimates that the shift to remote school in the spring set White students back by one to three months in math, while students of color lost three to five months. As the coronavirus pandemic persists through this academic year, McKinsey said, losses will escalate.
Hernán Galperin and Stephen Aguilar, The Conversation
The widespread reliance on remote learning is harming students of color from low-income households more than kids who are from more affluent families. Our survey of over 1,000 families in South and East Los Angeles (95% of whom identify as Hispanic and 96% who are on free or reduced-price meals) shows that these students often lack the appropriate technology for learning at home. They also often have parents who must work during school hours or who have limited ability to help their children with online learning. As a result, families in the survey reported lower levels of schoolwork completion and class engagement, two important predictors of academic achievement.
Public Schools and Private Dollars
The Times Editorial Board, Los Angeles Times
When Betsy DeVos took the job as the nation’s chief educator, she probably never imagined that a pandemic would strike, requiring her to exert actual leadership in extremely difficult circumstances. It’s a role for which she is utterly unqualified. From the time of her confirmation hearings, when she betrayed her ignorance about the controversy surrounding how best to measure student progress, it was clear that DeVos had neither the expertise nor the skills required for even the most basic version of the job.
Jon Shelton, Jacobin
Serious fans of science fiction understand that the best work in the sci-fi genre either uses the future or an alternate reality to provide a window into our present. Episodes of the Twilight Zone (1959–64), which I’ve rediscovered on Netflix during this pandemic, routinely imagined scenarios that made Americans consider the consequences of real threats like nuclear war or automation. Blade Runner (1982) asked what would happen when the line between human and artificial intelligence was no longer clear. More recently, Neil Blomkamp’s Elysium (2013) envisioned a future of wealth inequality in which the 1 percent live in a beautiful satellite above the Earth while the planet is given over to poverty and squalor. By imagining plausible futures stemming from our present, these works shock the viewer into considering what will happen if we don’t rethink our priorities.
Jeff Bryant, The Progressive
After such a polarizing election, as the nation grapples with how to deal with the coronavirus pandemic and its financial fallout, many people wonder what can bring us together. In his new book, Schoolhouse Burning: Public Education and the Assault on American Democracy, Derek Black convincingly argues that, historically, public education can, and frequently has, unified a divided country. Black’s deftly rendered historical account stretches from the nation’s founding to the Civil Rights Movement and into modern times. It describes how public education has long been the touchstone for the nation to recommit to its founding principles.
Other News of Note
Kareem Abdul Jabbar, WebMD
My life is at risk. Not just because I’m 73 with the usual annoying aches and pains that accompany age, but because I’m tall and I’m Black. At 7 feet, 2 inches, I’m statistically more prone to blood clots, lower back and hip problems, higher risk of cancer, especially prostate cancer, atrial fibrillation (a heart rhythm disorder), and a shorter life span in general. Being Black means I’m more likely to suffer from diabetes, heart problems, obesity, cancer, and a shorter life in general. Yup, tall people and Black people have shorter life expectancies. So far, in keeping with these statistical risks, I’ve had prostate cancer, leukemia, and heart bypass surgery.