Just News from Center X – December 3, 2021

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

“It’s so hard and so challenging”: An oral history of year three of pandemic schooling

Sarah Garland, Ariel Gilreath, Neal Morton, Lillian Mongeau, Caroline Preston, and Christina Samuels, Hechinger Report

As the new school year began this fall, battles around vaccine and mask mandates raged, school boards took up the thorny issue of how to teach students about race and Congress argued about how much to spend on children (and everything else). But now the first few weeks of school have turned into the first few months and another new normal is taking shape. As teachers and students, parents and principals, settle into this strange new school year, they say they are just beginning to understand the effects of last year’s disruptions. Our reporters are spending the year listening to people from across the country as they manage school districts, lead classrooms, parent students and attend school. We talked to a student in Wyoming, a kindergarten teacher in Philadelphia, and a pastor (and father) in Arkansas, among nearly a dozen others. Here are some voices from our first round of interviews, which have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

5 Ways to Teach Climate Change and COVID-19 During Polarized Times

Madeline Will, Education Week

In science class, teachers say, you don’t rely on preconceived opinions, personal biases, or emotions to determine what you think. You look at the data to draw conclusions. But these days, that’s easier said than done. Science curriculum has long trafficked in controversial topics, like human evolution and man-made causes of climate change, but educators say the amount of misinformation swirling both in and out of their classrooms has reached a peak in recent years. And some curriculum mainstays—like vaccines or infectious diseases—have become politicized since the coronavirus pandemic. Plus, the intense public fervor over nonscientific topics like how the nation’s history of racism is taught in social studies classes and which books about race are read in English classes has left many science teachers feeling apprehensive about courting controversy.

I Am Native American and a Teacher. That Matters to My Students [Video]

Kaylee Domzalski, Education Week

Valorie Spearman, dean of students at Creekside Community High School in Tigard, Ore., graduated from the University of Oregon’s Sapsik’ʷałá master’s program in 2004. Since then, she’s continued to work in the field, while returning to mentor students in the graduate program. In her current role as teacher and dean, she’s been able to show students that being Native and being an educator can go hand-in-hand.

Language, Culture, and Power

Inclusive Intercultural Education in Multicultural Societies

Rocío Cárdenas-Rodríguez and Teresa Terrón-Caro, Oxford Research Encyclopedias

Cultural diversity is a characteristic of plural societies, and the way that each society approaches that diversity determines whether or not the societies evolve or stagnate, whether cultural groups remain segregated or integrate, and whether social inequalities grow or if communities affirm the value of diversity and promote equality. For this reason, it is important to analyze the cultural diversity management system that guides our interventions because the socioeducational methods and practices designed for any given plural context depends on them. Research refers to the assimilationist, multicultural, and intercultural cultural diversity management models, and the conclusion appears to be that the intercultural model is the framework that [best] accounts for an integrated and inclusive society. Interculturalism requires the establishment of policies that champion equity, in order to achieve equality at the legal and social levels, and that promote genuine equality of opportunity. At the same time, it demands pedagogical practices based in civic education. An intercultural education should help us learn to live together and should educate people, to grow their knowledge, understanding, and respect for cultural diversity.

How robots can help kids learn English [AUDIO]

Education Beat Podcast, EdSource

California is still lagging in helping students become proficient in English by their sixth year in school. Students who take longer than six years to learn English can miss out on academic content in other classes and even electives. This week, we look at how one district uses robotics to help speed up and deepen learning for long-term English learners. And we discuss a recent report on how California can do better to serve these students.

NYC is making a big investment in culturally responsive education. It benefits all of us.

Amy Parker, Chalkbeat NY

None of my teachers ever talked about families that looked like mine. None of the books at school showed families that looked like mine. The message I received was loud and clear in this silence: Don’t talk about having a gay mom. It’s not normal. It’s not accepted. School taught me to hide who I was and what I valued. In other ways, I was overly represented in the books I read and the classes I took. As a white, cisgender girl, I benefited from my privilege. Now that I am a teacher, I work hard to create lessons — and an overall environment — that allow our young people to be seen and understood in a way that I was not.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

School shootings are becoming more frequent, after a lull during the pandemic

Jacey Fortin, New York Times

The deadly gunfire in Oxford, Mich., on Tuesday added one more episode to a growing list of fatal shootings on school property in the United States this year, following a lull in shootings earlier in the coronavirus pandemic. According to the news outlet Education Week, there have been 28 school shootings resulting in injury or death so far in 2021, with 20 of them reported since Aug 1. The publication says that at least nine people have been killed by gunfire on school property this year, including two people who were shot by police officers.

What can schools do to navigate the effects of long COVID?

Katie Navarra, K12 Dive

Schools have become accustomed to flexing protocols to respond to the rapidly changing pandemic environment, but navigating “long COVID” — persistent and recurring post-COVID conditions experienced for four or more weeks after initial infection — remains uncharted territory. In July, the White House classified the lingering effects of chronic post-COVID syndrome a disability, which means employers and schools have to provide needed accommodations in compliance with Section 504 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Those covered include “students who never had a disability before but may now have a disability under Section 504 because of long COVID,” said Ron Hager, managing attorney for education and employment at National Disability Rights Network. “Children who already receive services under the IDEA may need new, different services, or reasonable modifications that result from long COVID.”

Pandemic-era civil rights data essential to inform special education equity

Lauren Morando Rhim, K12 Dive

Twenty months into the pandemic, we are plagued by more questions than answers regarding its impact on students’ experiences and academic performance. While data continues to be collected in real-time, historical trends provide a baseline to help us understand and, ideally, develop strategies to address problematic shifts triggered by the pandemic. Every two years, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights collects key indicators of our progress upholding the civil rights of students enrolled in traditional public schools and charter schools in its Civil Rights Data Collection. The CRDC is essential to understanding students’ experiences and is especially important to the ongoing examination of the role of charter schools in the broader public education landscape.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

Who belongs at a women’s college in 2021? Students want admissions policies to change

Melissa Block, NPR

Toward the end of Kendall Sanders’ first year at Hollins University, a historically women’s college in Roanoke, Va., the sociology major had a realization. “My journey has been, ‘Girlhood does not define me,’ ” Sanders says. “My womanness, my femininity does not define me.” Sanders, a senior now, is nonbinary and uses the pronouns they/them. “I was like, I don’t think I care about being a girl,” they say. For someone who grew up in the Bible Belt  region of Little Rock, Ark., that realization was a pretty big deal. “I really just want to escape the binary in general, to do away with it,” Sanders says. “I don’t want to spend my life trying to prove that I am one gender. I want to wake up, put on some clothes, go out into my day. If you perceive me as one gender, that’s OK, too. But for me, it just is what it is.”

Keeping College Affordable for California Students

Kevin Cook and Jacob Jackson, PPIC

California has traditionally kept college affordable with a combination of low tuition—particularly at its community colleges—and generous financial aid. However, past recessions prompted cuts in state funding to the University of California (UC) and California State University (CSU), and tuition tripled between 1995–96 and 2011–12. Since then state funding has increased and tuition at public institutions has remained relatively stable. However, in an era of constrained resources, revenue volatility, and increasing economic inequality, a resilient, effective, and efficient financial aid system is increasingly important.

Challenges remain for undocumented students to tap financial aid in California

Zaidee Stavely, EdSource

California made history in 2001 when it became the second state in the nation to pass a law that allows undocumented students who attended and graduated from high school in the state to pay in-state college tuition. Since then, it has benefited tens of thousands of students. But advocates say many undocumented students who qualify for in-state tuition and financial aid are not receiving these benefits, 20 years after the law passed. The application process is difficult to navigate, and the requirements vary from college to college, making it hard for many students to apply. As a result, many students pay out-of-state tuition, even though they qualify for lower rates.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Freedom to Exclude

Eric Foner, Los Angeles Review of Books

Anyone with even a passing interest in the history of American politics knows about the election of 1964, when Lyndon B. Johnson’s landslide victory over Barry Goldwater ushered in the Great Society, the high tide of modern American liberalism. Not many, however, have heard of the electoral battle in California that same year over Proposition 14, an amendment to the state constitution that repealed a recently enacted law barring racial discrimination in the sale of housing and prohibited the state from enacting any such law or regulation in the future. On the same day that Johnson carried California by 1.3 million votes, Proposition 14 passed by an even more decisive margin, 2.1 million. The state’s Supreme Court quickly ruled that Proposition 14 violated the federal constitution. But its overwhelming passage revealed that millions of white Americans took for granted the right to live in a racially exclusive community. The triumph of Proposition 14 undercuts the widespread misconception that white backlash against the civil rights revolution arose from the evolution of the nonviolent, interracial campaign for racial justice into urban rioting and Black separatism.

Why Digital Equity Is About So Much More Than Access and Infrastructure

Beth Holland, EdSurge

With the ambitious goal of closing the digital divide, Congress approved and President Biden recently signed into law $65 billion for broadband infrastructure—the largest federal investment in history. While this new legislation should absolutely be celebrated, we must recognize it as only a critical first step toward digital equity and not as a conclusion reached or goal met. Achieving digital equity only just begins when students and teachers have sufficient access. Real digital equity requires more than just boxes and wires; it requires tailor-made planning best fit to meet school and district needs.

What’s it like to study from a hotel? As UC housing crunch worsens, these students are finding out

Ryan Loyola & Sindhu Ananthavel, Cal Matters

Zarai Saldana expected to kick off her senior year at UC Merced from a brand-new apartment where she’d already signed a lease. Instead, the transfer student spent the first two weeks of the school year shuttling from hotel to hotel. Construction delays had held up the opening of Merced Station, the private student apartment complex where she’d planned to live, leaving more than 500 of UC Merced’s 9,000-plus students without housing. In hotel rooms paid for by the university, Saldana and her roommate took turns studying or eating on the one desk. With no kitchen, she couldn’t prepare food. And because the hotels had to make room for non-student guests who already had reservations, she said, the university assigned her to three different hotels in a span of 11 days. The constant moving affected her studies.“I didn’t start off as well as I hoped I would,” she said. “I started falling behind.”

Democracy and the Public Interest

Ed Law Scholars File Brief in U.S. Supreme Court Case on State Funding for Religious Schools


A group of education law scholars has filed an amicus brief in a U.S. Supreme Court case, arguing  that  the  Court  should  not  require  public  funds  to  be  spent  for  religious  teach-ing.  The  brief  was  a  project  of  Derek  Black, Suzanne  Eckes, Preston  Green  and  Kevin  Welner,  all  of  whom  are  NEPC  Fellows  who  specialize  in  education  policy  and  law.The  case,  Carson  v.  Makin, challenges  Maine’s  exclusion  of  “sectarian”  schools—those  that  include  religious  instruction—from  the  state’s  “tuitioning”  program.  Maine  has,  for  nearly  150  years,  allowed  towns  too  small  to  operate  high  schools  of  their  own  to  pay  for  their  students  to  attend  other  public  or  private  high  schools.  The  state  has,  since  1980,  placed a ban on schools that would use the public funds for sectarian (religious) teaching.

How district leaders can seize an opportunity emerging from volatile school board races

Matt Zalaznick, District Administration

The challenges created by this fall’s contentious school board elections also offer superintendents and their teams a chance to bridge some political divides, one expert says. Even though one recent survey shows most Americans approve of how schools have performed since the COVID pandemic began, school board candidates in some districts won seats by capitalizing on anger over critical race theory and mask and vaccine mandates. Administrators should be able to have more frank conversations with these new board members who will now be publicly accountable for their positions and decisions, says Casey D. Cobb, a professor of education policy at the University of Connecticut’s Neag School of Education.

New York City poised to give non-citizens the right to vote in local elections

David Meyers, Fulcrum

New York City appears to be on the verge of the nation’s biggest expansion of voting privileges for non-citizens who are permanent residents of the United States. While non-citizens are legally prevented from voting in federal elections, some states allow municipalities to open the door for local elections. Cities in California, Maryland and Vermont have already granted voting rights to non-citizens, but not on the scale proposed in New York. A bill currently under consideration by the City Council would allow as many as 900,000 non-citizens to vote for mayor, city council, borough president and other local offices. The bill is scheduled for consideration Dec. 9 and is likely to pass, according to Gothamist.

Other News of Note

Untold stories of urban Indigenous women need to be heard

Kyle Mays, Daily Bruin

The experiences of urban Indigenous communities remain understudied and misunderstood. I want to tell the story about the importance of Indigenous women in postwar Detroit. In the spring of 1940, my Nokomis, or great-grandmother, named Keadnoquay, or Esther Shawboose, traveled to Detroit from the Saginaw Chippewa Reservation at the age of 16. Detroit was right on the precipice of becoming the arsenal of democracy because of its contribution to the United States’ World War II efforts. I’m sure she was terrified. Imagine coming to a large city without family as a teenage girl and trying to survive.

Paulo Freire Birth Centenary, Dec 6, 7, 8, Join via Zoom

UNESCO Chair in Global Adult Education, University of Malta is organising “Paulo Freire Birth Centenary Fest” 6-8 December. Join via zoom, no registration required: