Just News from Center X – December 18, 2020

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

If Teachers Get the Vaccine Quickly, Can Students Get Back to School?

Eliza Shapiro and Shawn Hubler, Education Week

States and cities across the country are moving to put teachers near the front of the line to receive a coronavirus vaccine, in an effort to make it safer to return to classrooms and provide relief to struggling students and weary parents. In Arizona, where many schools have moved online in recent weeks amid a virus surge, Gov. Doug Ducey declared that teachers would be among the very first people inoculated. “Teachers are essential to our state,” he said. Utah’s governor talked about possibly getting shots to educators this month. And Los Angeles officials urged prioritizing teachers alongside firefighters and prison guards.

CDC report: Coronavirus mitigation efforts to reopen schools could cost up to $442 per student

Shawna De La Rosa, Education Dive

Coronavirus mitigation efforts in schools will cost about $55 per student for materials and consumables, according to a recently released CDC report, and up to $442 per student when additional custodial staff and transportation costs are factored in. There are approximately 50 million students enrolled in the U.S. K-12 public school system, according to the report, and since March, 270,000 students have tested positive for COVID-19. Younger students are less likely to experience serious complications from the virus, but teachers and staff members can fall into higher-risk categories. Using CDC data, coronavirus mitigation of $442 per student multiplied by nearly 51 million students would be about $22 billion total for all U.S. schools.

Europe wanted to keep schools open this winter. Coronavirus surges have disrupted those plans

Rick Noack, Washington Post

Surging coronavirus outbreaks in a number of nations are forcing governments to close schools, despite initial promises to keep them open this winter. The latest country to change course is Germany, where most schools will move to distance learning Wednesday as part of tougher new lockdown rules. Widening outbreaks have also triggered the closure of schools in the Netherlands and in Asia, where the South Korean capital, Seoul, opted for similar measures this week. The school closures in Germany and the Netherlands mark a notable turnaround in Europe, where governments said this fall that keeping schools open would be a priority, arguing that they aren’t significant drivers of coronavirus outbreaks.

Language, Culture, and Power

Aligning our Practices with our Values [Audio]

Eve Ewing and Bill Ayers, Under the Tree

Martin Luther King, Jr famously said that “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.” From the Birmingham jail he exhorted us to open our eyes, link arms, and get firmly on the freedom side: “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.” We explore an expanding vision of justice and freedom—and responsibility—with Eve Ewing, poet, playwright, academic researcher and teacher, institution builder, and Marvel Comics creator.

‘Backpacks full of boulders’: How one district is addressing the trauma undocumented children bring to school

Kavitha Cardoza, Hechinger Report

When Nando was in the fourth grade, his older brother was killed by gangs in El Salvador. His mother was terrified for his safety, so Nando stopped going to school. For years, he stayed indoors. “It felt like prison,” he said. Nando’s family struggled to put food on the table. They grew increasingly desperate. So, at 16, he decided to make the treacherous journey to the U.S., leaving behind his parents and younger brother. “I had a coyote who was helping me, but halfway through, he took my money and left,” said Nando. He worked on a farm in Mexico for two months to make enough money to continue the journey. “I was sad, I was tired, I felt desperate.”

W.E.B. Du Bois Is as Relevant as Ever

Norman Stockwell, The Progressive

More than a century ago, sociologist and civil rights activist William Edward Burghardt Du Bois (1868-1963) published his classic work, The Souls of Black Folk. In a combination of analysis, storytelling, autobiography, and gospel song, Du Bois sought to address what he saw as the crucial issue of the time: “the color line.” The book ends with what he calls an afterthought: “Hear my cry, O God the Reader; vouchsafe that this my book fall not still-born into the world wilderness.” In W.E.B. Du Bois: The Lost and the Found, a new monograph for the Polity Press series “Black Lives,” poet and assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, Elvira Basevich offers insights and context that clearly shows how relevant and important Du Bois’s work is in the context of twenty-first century anti-racist work.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Listening to formerly homeless youth

Earl Edwards, Phi Delta Kappan

Homelessness is a growing issue among high school students, yet many teachers have no idea how to support students experiencing it. They could’ve seen the signs. [Helen starts to cry.] Like, I was wearing the same three outfits I had worn since freshman year. It’s not like I was wearing new clothes. It’s not like I had new shoes or anything. I was wearing the same freaking shoes. My coach could’ve said something . . . . [Helen starts crying harder] I don’t know, I think I’m dumb because I don’t know what I would’ve done [if they offered help]. There’s signs, you know, like not showing up every day. Like something is wrong you know — it’s not because the kid is a lost cause. [School faculty and staff should] never put a kid down. Never just assume a situation and just always try to hear them out. Like, you don’t know what’s going on in other people’s lives, like literally, so don’t assume anything. Just make it known that you can help and that you want to help. Make it known that they’re not going to be a burden if they reach out to you.

School Dropout, Child Marriage, and Early Pregnancy [Audio]

Erin Murphy Graham and Will Brehm, Fresh Ed

What’s the relationship between school dropout, child marriage, and early pregnancy? Do girls drop out of school because of early marriage or pregnancy? Or is it the reverse? My guest today is Erin Murphy-Graham who has researched these questions extensively in Honduras. She focuses on the agency of girls in their adolescence and the disconnect between schooling and their futures.

Caring in Viral Times

Michael McColly, Boston Review

Like her mother, who had worked as a nurse in a factory, my mother found her calling in caring for others. Between raising my sisters and me, she taught special education, ran a women’s crisis hotline, volunteered at the state prison to teach reading, worked at the YMCA—and that’s just what I can remember before I left for college. I fondly remember trailing behind her as we walked through the neighborhoods of Marion, Indiana, as she knocked on doors to convince factory workers to vote for George McGovern. I have memories of her kneeling beside old wooden desks encouraging her students at Crispus Attucks High School in Indianapolis. And though vague, I have this image of her at a YMCA picnic, surrounded by children vying for her attention—children with twisted bodies, bottle-thick glasses, leaning on metal crutches with braces on their legs. As a boy of seven, though I didn’t understand the emotions of jealousy and fear I felt toward these disabled children, I did learn that my mother was more than just my mother.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

Long sought after ’cradle to career’ education data system for California comes with hefty price tag

Louis Freedberg, Ed Source

One of the few notable areas where Gov. Gavin Newsom departed from his predecessor Gov. Jerry Brown on entering office was his support for establishing a longitudinal data system linking information from preschool into the workplace. Despite the fact that most other states had created that system in some form, for years Brown resisted entreaties from researchers and advocates to allocate the funds to set one up. But it was such a high priority for Newsom that, within days of taking office in 2019, he called for it in the second paragraph of his first budget as governor. He designated an initial $10 million for “critical work” to create what he called “the California Cradle-to-Career Data System” in order to “to better track student outcomes and increase the alignment of our educational system to the state’s workforce needs.”

College Applications Down As Recruitment Process Goes Virtual [Audio]

Michael Martin, NPR

We’re going to spend some time talking about the college admissions process, which, if you are a part of it, you know was already nerve-wracking for everybody involved. But amid the pandemic and efforts to control it, things are even more stressful. Just about all aspects of the process have been thrown into disarray, from standardized testing to campus visits and athletic recruitment. And of course, all this is happening amid all the other chaos this year where students and families may be dealing with illness, death or long-term unemployment. We wanted to get a better sense of what prospective college students are up against and what could help, so we’ve called three people with deep knowledge on these issues. We don’t expect them to have all the answers, but we do hope they can help us understand it better.

College Presidents and the Struggle for Integration [Audio]

Eddie Cole, New Books Network

Some of America’s most pressing civil rights issues–desegregation, equal educational and employment opportunities, housing discrimination, and free speech–have been closely intertwined with higher education institutions. Although it is commonly known that college students and other activists, as well as politicians, actively participated in the fight for and against civil rights in the middle decades of the twentieth century, historical accounts have not adequately focused on the roles that the nation’s college presidents played in the debates concerning racism. Based on archival research conducted at a range of colleges and universities across the United States, The Campus Color Line: College Presidents and the Struggle for Black Freedom (Princeton UP, 2020) sheds light on the important place of college presidents in the struggle for racial parity.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Racial stereotypes drive students of color away from STEM, but many still persist

Ebony McGee, The Conversation

Dominique, a Black electrical engineering doctoral student, found herself in an awkward situation in the lounge of a hotel where she had been attending a conference on science. A white man at her table assumed a nearby Black woman was on the hotel cleaning staff, so he asked her to clean their table. The woman did as she was asked, but in the process she informed him that not only was she a scientist attending the same conference as he, but she was also the keynote speaker. Rather than apologize for his erroneous assumption, the man cracked a joke. “But she cleans so good,” the man told everyone at the table. “Can we say: ‘Dual career opportunity?’” – as if an accomplished scientist would need an “opportunity” to clean tables.

Study: Teacher Performance Measures May Penalize Black Educators

Matthew P. Steinberg and Lauren Sartain, AERA

By not adjusting for school and classroom factors outside the control of educators, classroom observation scores for Black teachers in Chicago Public Schools unfairly penalize them for being more likely to teach in schools in low-income neighborhoods with students who are academically disadvantaged, according to a study published today in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association. The study found that the typical Black teacher in Chicago ranked at the 37th percentile in classroom observation scores, compared to the 55th percentile for the typical White teacher. Once the researchers controlled for differences in school and classroom factors, including student poverty, misconduct rates, and incoming academic achievement, the gap statistically disappeared.

Newark schools are ramping up virtual tutoring. Will it be enough to combat pandemic learning loss?

Patrick Wall, Chalkbeat

As evidence mounts that the pandemic is inflicting academic harm on many students, some Newark schools are turning to a simple yet potentially potent treatment: tutoring. The city school district plans to train students to tutor their peers, and it recently launched a “homework hotline” where teachers work one-on-one with students over video chat. Some Newark charter schools are also bringing in tutors, including corporate volunteers at one school and AmeriCorps members at another. All the tutoring is happening virtually while classrooms are closed. But as schools race to offer students extra help, experts caution that only rigorous and frequent tutoring is likely to help reverse the learning loss caused by the pandemic.

Public Schools and Private Dollars

How Betsy DeVos Bent the Nation’s Education Debate in Four Tense Years

Andrew Ujifusa, Education Week

Shortly after President-elect Joe Biden’s victory—amid the continued disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic—U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos decided to send schools a message. DeVos unveiled a website purporting to show that little coronavirus education relief had actually been spent, many months after it became available. She used the announcement to challenge states’ alacrity in responding to the virus and cast doubts on their calls for additional federal aid. “I hope parents, teachers, and local leaders will use this information to advocate for an immediate safe return to learning for all students. Our children’s futures, and therefore our nation’s future, depend on it,” DeVos said in a statement.

DeVos urges career staff to ‘be the resistance’ as Biden takes over

Michael Stratford, Politico

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos urged career employees at the Education Department on Tuesday to “be the resistance” when the Biden administration comes into power next month, according to a recording of her remarks obtained by POLITICO. During a department-wide virtual meeting to discuss the shift to the new administration, DeVos acknowledged that most of the agency’s thousands of career employees “will be here through the coming transition and beyond.” “Let me leave you with this plea: Resist,” DeVos said. “Be the resistance against forces that will derail you from doing what’s right for students. In everything you do, please put students first — always.”

Rosenwald schools provided an educational path for Black students. A new road map is needed for today

Courtland Milloy, Washington Post

It is the 1930s, in the Jim Crow South. We see an all-Black class of elementary- and middle-schoolers at a newly built Rosenwald school. There’s a math equation on the blackboard. When the teacher asks if anyone can solve it, hands enthusiastically shoot up. Many of the students are children of sharecroppers and had never seen the inside of a school just a few months earlier. Some couldn’t read or write. But with proper instruction, they learn fast. And now some are doing calculus. The scene is from Aviva Kempner’s 2015 documentary about philanthropist Julius Rosenwald, chief executive of Sears, Roebuck and Co., who partnered with African Americans throughout the South to build more than 5,300 schools. More than 600,000 Black students attended them.

Other News of Note

‘Teachers should be activists’–Talking racism, segregation, and education with Adrienne Coddett 

David McKie, Ottawa Magazine

As Adrienne Coddett gears up for her most challenging job yet at Woodroffe High School, where she has taught for 21 years, she is anxious and excited. Excited because she wants to affect as much change as she can, anxious because she sees her job as nothing less than radically transforming the education system. After a career spent quietly doing great things under the radar, Coddett is about to take on more leadership, more power, and wield more influence — and it couldn’t have come at a better time. As schools across the country examine their curriculums with an eye to addressing racism, Coddett will be at the centre of a lot of hard discussions. That’s because she’s bringing decades of experience with Black youth to her job as head of social sciences and business at Woodroffe High School, where the first language of nearly half the students is not English.

Socialism Informs the Best of Our Politics

Michael Harrington, In These Times (1988)

Is social­ism rel­e­vant to the late 20th and 21st cen­turies? And if so what does one mean by ​“social­ism”? In any case, why iden­ti­fy as a social­ist in the Unit­ed States where the very word invites mis­un­der­stand­ing, at best, and a fran­tic, igno­rant rejec­tion at worst? Final­ly, giv­en all of these prob­lems why build a social­ist orga­ni­za­tion in this country? First, the social­ist cri­tique of pow­er under both cap­i­tal­ism and Com­mu­nism is not only sub­stan­tial in and of itself; it also makes a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to the cause of incre­men­tal reform as well as to a rad­i­cal restruc­tur­ing of society.