Just News from Center X – December 17, 2021

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

New Leader Pushes Teachers’ Union to Take On Social Justice Role

Erica L. Green, New York Times

Becky Pringle was racing through her hometown to her fourth event one day in September when her staff alerted her to a looming controversy. Fox News was preparing to publish emails between the White House and officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, showing that the C.D.C. had continued to advise masking in schools last spring out of fear of a public showdown with Ms. Pringle, the head of the nation’s largest teachers’ union and the highest-ranking Black labor leader in the country. The story seemed to affirm the most fervent criticism of her union, the National Education Association, in recent months — that it had too much control over school reopening decisions during the coronavirus pandemic and was wielding outsize influence in the Biden administration. Ms. Pringle shrugged it off with a single-sentence tweet: “It’s no secret we want to keep our students and schools safe.”

Los Angeles Unified’s new superintendent pledges to be ‘a voice in the community’

Michael Burke, EdSource

Alberto Carvalho, the incoming superintendent of Los Angeles Unified, on Tuesday pledged to dedicate himself to advancing equity and helping all students in the state’s largest school district reach their full potential. Carvalho’s remarks at Edward R. Roybal Learning Center marked his first public appearance in Los Angeles since taking the job last week and also came after the district’s seven-person board unanimously approved his four-year contract, which pays him an annual salary of $440,000. Carvalho will officially take over as superintendent by March. He comes to Los Angeles from Miami-Dade County Schools, where he is superintendent. Here are four things he said at his introductory news conference:

What’s behind the worker shortage in American schools

Jonathan Chang & Meghna Chakrabarti, NPR [AUDIO]

Schools are facing a shortage of bus drivers. Custodians. Substitute teachers. Cafeteria workers. “I’m hearing about teachers sacrificing their planning periods to cover for classrooms that don’t have an assigned teacher available. Administrators stepping into classrooms, or into school buses or lunch lines,” school finance reporter Mark Lieberman says. “School districts going out to the community and asking parents to step into these various roles.” What does this mean for educators? “Educators are experts at this. They will find a way to get enough adults into the classroom,” education reporter Koby Levin says. “The cost though is that folks end up doing coverage that’s really outside of the scope of their duties, and that means they can’t work on the kind of programming that’s going to help students recover from the pandemic.”

Language, Culture, and Power

Unseen and unsafe: Students who have been “deadnamed” explain why a new California law matters

Oden Taylor, Cal Matters

Jamie Marquis can’t count the number of times they’ve been called the wrong name. A junior psychology major at the University of California, Davis, who identifies as non-binary, they changed their name several years ago. But since then they’ve struggled to get that name even on basic educational records, instead of their name assigned at birth that they do not identify with, commonly known as a deadname.  “I wish that there was a way to really explain to cisgender people how being deadnamed feels,” Marquis said. “It’s humiliating. It makes you feel out of place and unwelcome, because of all the things about your identity, even your name is being ignored.”A new state law could make a huge difference for people like them, Marquis said.

This small, local Laotian-owned bakery is funding Asian American studies scholarships

Brahmjot Kaur, NBC News

A Laotian-owned French bakery in Connecticut has started a college scholarship for students taking Asian American studies and pursuing careers in public school education. Khamla Vorasane opened BouNom Bakery in Avon last February with her sister, Chan Graham. It’s named after their late parents, Boulieng and Nom. “What can we do to continue this conversation when the media no longer picks up about hate crimes towards Asians? How do we keep that dialogue going? One thing we realized is, it’s a matter of education,” Vorasane told NBC Asian America. Each year for the next three years, two University of Connecticut students will receive $1,000 each to support their studies.

Century Foundation report calls for bilingual ed funding boost, policy shift

Shawna De La Rosa, K12 Dive

The author of a new Century Foundation report argues English learners deserve more federal funding and would benefit from federal policies that shift education from English-only to bilingual and biliterate models. English learners make up more than 10% of the U.S. student population. In the report, Conor Williams, a senior fellow at The Century Foundation, recommends tripling the annual Title III funding for ELs from about $740 million to $2.2 billion, which would amount to about $440 in annual per-pupil funding for ELs. He also suggests collecting more accurate data on ELs’ language and academic development and supporting EL early education.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

In the shadows: The orphans Covid left behind

Rita Omokha, Hechinger Report

Tré never stopped praying. Even when the virus ravaged his sweet mother’s lungs in a matter of days this summer. Or when her casket was lowered into the soil three weeks after her 50th birthday. He never lost what Cindy Dawkins taught her four babies to hold tightest to: the belief that all things work together for good. On the last Sunday in October, Tré bows his head once more, sitting at the front of West Pines Baptist Church. As the choir sings songs of hope and heaven and God, Tré rocks left and right, his hands clasped, nodding to lyric after melodic lyric. He stands tall, looking fly in his black hoodie, pressed khakis, white Reebok classics, and crisp low-top fade. At 20, Tré is now the man of the house. He’s always been, as the only boy, but now, he feels a heavier load. “As [the coffin] was going down, in my mind I’m like, This is real now,” he says. “I gotta do what it takes. I looked at my sisters, and I was like, ‘That’s my responsibility now.’”

Many students in Puerto Rico suffer from menstrual injustice. Here’s how activists want to help

Adriana Rozas Rivera, The Lilly

It’s that time of the month. Your uterus twists, warning that your period is coming. You’re at school and have no tampons or pads. You’re afraid to ask a classmate, so you run to the bathroom. It’s out of toilet paper and there are no stall doors or hand soap. These are the struggles facing some people who menstruate on the island of Puerto Rico. In many public schools, teachers say, students come up against a horde of troubles when managing their periods. Along with poor public school bathroom conditions, they say, is a lack of comprehensive menstrual education and access to menstrual products. There is also the stigma — having your period is still seen as a mark of weakness and impurity.

How educators can fight misinformation to safeguard students, staff and families

Debra Duardo, EdSource

We are facing tremendous challenges in educating our students in Los Angeles County and around the country. From changing public health protocols, to helping kids catch up from the previous two years of pandemic disruption, one thread is woven through all the issues we face: widespread misinformation. Misinformation has divided us and slowed progress. And as it relates to Covid-19 testing and vaccinations, it has caused harm to many of our students, staff and their families. This summer, the Los Angeles County Office of Education convened focus groups with parents in five districts to find out where they stood on the pandemic and their children’s return to school.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

Importance of pre-K takes center stage at Pennsylvania fair funding trial

Dale Mezzacappa, Chalkbeat

Testimony in Pennsylvania’s landmark school funding trial turned to the effect of high-quality preschool as advocates descended on Harrisburg to press their case that the Commonwealth’s current system for allocating and distributing state education aid to districts perpetuates inequity and harms its neediest students.“We are here to say we’ve heard enough. It is time to fund our schools,” said Donna Cooper, executive director of the Philadelphia-based Children First, formerly Public Citizens for Children and Youth. The rally drew more than 100 people to the Capitol steps Tuesday. The trial, which started more than a month ago, has been punctuated by several demonstrations, as organizations like Education Voters PA and Children First draw attention to the huge stakes they attach to the outcome. “This court case is our Brown v. Board,” said Cooper, referring to the historic 1954 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that laws mandating racial segregation in public schools were unconstitutional.

Cal State poised to drop SAT admission requirement as chancellor supports scrapping test

Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times

California State University, the largest four-year university system in the nation, is poised to drop the SAT and ACT as an admissions requirement — a move that would follow the University of California’s elimination of the exams and further shake up the standardized testing landscape as hundreds of campuses across the nation shift away from the assessments. Cal State Chancellor Joseph I. Castro said Wednesday he supports scrapping the test requirements after a systemwide admission advisory council approved a recommendation to do so last week. The Board of Trustees will review the recommendation in January and vote on it in March. “I’m very supportive of that,” Castro said of eliminating testing requirements.

New report: California must address imbalance of too many eligible students and not enough slots at UC and CSU

Ashley A. Smith, EdSource

California has more eligible students for admission to the state’s public universities than those campuses have space for. A new report released Wednesday by The Campaign for College Opportunity highlights that more eligible students are applying to the University of California and California State University campuses than those colleges can admit. The lack of capacity means that fewer qualified Latino and Black students are applying to these universities. It also means that the state is still projecting a shortfall of workers with bachelor’s degrees and ranks 34th nationally in awarding four-year degrees.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Chicago students walk out of South Side school over racial slurs: ‘We will not be silenced’

Mauricio Pena, Chalkbeat

A dozen students trickled out the front doors of Sarah E. Goode STEM Academy at 10:45 a.m. Monday. Before long, the group swelled to about 50 students chanting in unison: “We will not be silenced.” Some Black students at the Ashburn campus say that, for years, they have notified teachers, administrators, and security guards that students are using racial slurs on campus. Those concerns have largely been ignored or dismissed as a joke, they said. The walkout served as a way to call attention to what students said was a culture of unchecked racism at the school, which is 61% Latino and 37% Black, with 2% of students identifying with other races, said senior Kendall Canteberry, one of the organizers of the walkout. The student protest came amid increasing national scrutiny over the way conversations on race are handled in classrooms and schools. It also comes six months after the district said it was working to build an anti-bias culture at its campuses but has not fully detailed its plans.

U.S. public school students often go to schools where at least half of their peers are the same race or ethnicity

Katherine Schaeffer, Pew Research Center

U.S. public school students tend to go to schools where most of the student body shares their racial or ethnic background. Even though this trend has changed somewhat over the last two decades, it remains especially true for White students, a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Department of Education data shows. In the 2018-19 school year, the most recent year for which data is available, 79% of White elementary and secondary public school students went to schools where at least half of their peers were also White. In that year, more than half of Hispanic students (56%) and 42% of Black students also attended schools where half the students or more shared their race or ethnicity. This includes those who attend traditional public schools and public charter schools.

To Reduce Inequality in Our Education System, Reduce Class Sizes

Leonie Haimson, The Nation

New York City public schools are often as crushed as the subway during rush hour, with literally thousands of students forced to learn in overstuffed classrooms—sitting side by side, elbows knocking into each other, or sometimes leaning against the wall or resting on a radiator. Even in the age of Covid-19, hallways are so jam-packed it can be hard for students to get to their next class. It wasn’t supposed to be this way—and, if the city’s mayor and the City Council speaker would pass a crucial piece of legislation limiting class sizes in New York’s public schools, it wouldn’t have to continue. But as the end of the council’s term ticks closer, the two are standing in the way of a popular bill, adding a new and frustrating chapter to a drama that’s been playing out for decades.

Democracy and the Public Interest

Teachers, Parents File Lawsuit Against New Hampshire’s ‘Divisive Concepts’ Law

Lauren Camera, US News

A group of educators and parents in New Hampshire, backed by the American Federation of Teachers, filed a federal lawsuit Monday challenging the state’s restriction on teaching “divisive concepts” in public schools – one of the first lawsuits in the country to take on the wave of contentious legislation stemming from the GOP-backed culture war against critical race theory. “This law has created fear among teachers who are not actually violating any New Hampshire law but fear they could be targeted without evidence by people with a political agenda,” Deb Howes, president of New Hampshire’s AFT chapter, said on a call Monday. “Educators are terrified of losing their teaching license over simply trying to teach.”

Critical Race Theory Fights Have Made Life Miserable for School Board Candidates

Andrew Ujifusa, Education Week

It’s easy to call the politics surrounding critical race theory intense, or divisive, or even cynical. But if you want to discuss the issue in a way that works with voters, your life can get very complicated very fast. As recently as a year ago, critical race theory was not on the radar as a big political issue for schools. But as states have restricted how educators talk to students about race and other “divisive topics”—and as raucous school board meetings have drawn concern from the Department of Justice—the topic has come to symbolize fundamental disagreements about American history, ideals, and what schools should teach students about where the nation stands today. It’s also potentially turned K-12 education into a prominent 2022 campaign issue at the local school board level and beyond.

Proud Boys Regroup, Focusing on School Boards and Town Councils

Sheera Frenkel, New York Times

They showed up last month outside the school board building in Beloit, Wis., to protest school masking requirements. They turned up days later at a school board meeting in New Hanover County, N.C., before a vote on a mask mandate. They also attended a gathering in Downers Grove, Ill., where parents were trying to remove a nonbinary author’s graphic novel from public school libraries. Members of the Proud Boys, the far-right nationalist group, have increasingly appeared in recent months at town council gatherings, school board presentations and health department question-and-answer sessions across the country. Their presence at the events is part of a strategy shift by the militia organization toward a larger goal: to bring their brand of menacing politics to the local level.

Other News of Note

Remembering bell hooks and her enormous legacy [Video]

Amna Nawaz and Lena I. Jackson, PBS Newshour

Born Gloria Jean Watkins, bell hooks grew up in segregated Kentucky in the 1950s and ’60s. The daughter of a janitor and a maid, hooks left home to attend Stanford University, where she earned an English degree. She went on to earn a Ph.D. and then authored more than 30 works under her pen name, which is taken from her great-grandmother. Her prolific writing spanned poetry, essays, and children’s books, examining the intersection of race, politics, and gender, and making her one of the most influential Black feminist scholars of the last half-century. In 2004, hooks returned to Kentucky to teach at Berea College and later founded the bell hooks Institute there. Here to talk more about her life and impact is Imani Perry. She’s the Hughes-Rogers professor of African American studies at Princeton University.

Trailblazing Black feminist and social critic bell hooks dies at 69

Harrison Smith, Washington Post

Trailblazing Black feminist bell hooks, whose graceful, probing and wide-ranging books sought to empower people of all races, classes and genders, anticipating and helping shape ongoing debates about justice and discrimination in the United States, died Dec. 15 at her home in Berea, Ky. She was 69. The cause was end-stage renal failure, said her sister Gwenda Motley. Dr. hooks had been on the faculty of Berea College since 2004, serving as distinguished professor in residence in Appalachian studies. A poet, memoirist, social critic and scholar, she wrote more than 30 books, mixing the personal and the political as she examined Madonna music videos, Clarence Thomas’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing, the representation of Black Americans in film and the nature of love.