Just News from Center X – December 4, 2020

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

California families sue state over distance learning inequities

Katy Murphy, Politico

Seven families took California to court Monday, accusing the state of failing to ensure “basic educational equality” during a prolonged period of remote learning brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic. The plaintiffs say the state isn’t providing the equipment, training and support that low-income families desperately need and that it has left it up to districts and teachers to navigate the challenges on their own, providing scant guidance or oversight. Meanwhile, they say, families have been forced to pay for basic school supplies or make do without a computer for each child or reliable internet access.

Children Account for More New COVID-19 Cases as the Pandemic Rolls On

Sarah Sparks, Education Week

Children are less likely to catch the coronavirus than adults and tend to have less severe symptoms if they do get infected. But as more people get tested and researchers learn more about COVID-19, children’s vulnerability to the virus is becoming more apparent. A study published Tuesday in the journal Pediatrics finds there have been more than a half million children diagnosed with COVID-19 as of Sept. 10, a rate of 729 cases per 100,000 children. Researchers from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association analyzed coronavirus case data from April to September from 49 state health departments as well as those of New York City, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and Guam. (New York State does not report coronavirus cases by age.)

Teaching in the Pandemic: ‘This Is Not Sustainable’

Natasha Singer, New York Times

At Farmington Central Junior High in rural Illinois, classes still start at 8 a.m. But that’s about the only part of the school day that has not changed for Caitlyn Clayton, an eighth-grade English teacher tirelessly toggling between in-person and remote students. At the start of the school day, Ms. Clayton stands in front of the classroom, reminding her students to properly pull their masks over their noses. Then she delves into a writing lesson, all the while scanning the room for possible virus threats. She stops students from sharing supplies. She keeps her distance when answering their questions. She disinfects the desks between classes.

Language, Culture, and Power

‘Black Lives Matter at School’ — a new book on anti-racist work in education

Valerie Strauss, Washington Post

“To the Black children of the future who will one day all be taught the epic story of how Black people finally got free, and who will grow up knowing that their lives matter at school — and everywhere else.” That’s the dedication to a new book, “Black Lives Matter at School: An Uprising for Educational Justice,” which springs from a movement that started several years ago to resist racism and imbue anti-racism in school curriculums as well as educational practices and policies. The book — edited by educators and activists Denisha Jones and Jesse Hagopian — is a collection of essays, interviews, poems, lessons and more from educators, students and parents who have become involved with the movement. It discusses the movement’s four demands: ending zero-tolerance discipline and implementing restorative justice; hiring more Black teachers; mandating Black history and ethnic studies in K-12 curriculum; and funding counselors and not police officers in schools.

Transforming mentalities: Engaging men and boys to address the root causes of violence against women


As the UN Specialized Agency for Education, Culture, Sciences and Information, UNESCO is uniquely placed to support communities worldwide in deconstructing stereotypes and addressing violent patterns of behavior and mentalities. By promoting a lasting change in attitudes and mentalities through education, culture and information, we can help establish the right conditions for men to uphold this cause of social justice, for women to live free of violence, and for communities worldwide to strive towards gender equality for the wellbeing of all. To mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, UNESCO organized an online high-level roundtable to discuss what it takes to eradicate violent mentalities and behaviours harming women and girls, how to engage men and boys to reject all toxic gender norms and mindsets that lead to gender-based violence, and how to translate this commitment into concrete actions that make a lasting difference.

Advancing a diverse future: Recruiting and retaining educators of color in Los Angeles County.  

The Greater LA Education Foundation

Los Angeles County needs to recruit and retain more educators of color, especially Black and Latinx educators, in order to provide students with the best possible education in equitable, diverse, and inclusive schools throughout LA County’s 80 school districts. Research shows that educators of color bring unique strengths and skills in the classroom and in leadership roles, which yield academic and holistic benefits for students. But among the approximately 1.5 million students, 74,000 teachers, and 6,800 school administrators in Los Angeles County, there are significantly more students of color (85%) than teachers (57%) and administrators (61%) of color.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Students missing: A South L.A. high school confronts pandemic’s heavy toll

Ricardo Cano, Cal Matters

Kevin arrived in Los Angeles from Honduras in the spring of 2019 with a third-grade education. Until this late autumn evening, he seemed to only exist on paper, unaccounted for by his academic counselor and teachers. Counselor Antonio Roque was determined not to give up on the ninth-grader. So he knocked five times on Kevin’s door in South Los Angeles, as a stream of cars loudly whirred behind him, and was surprised when he saw his student for the first time.
“You don’t look anything like the photo I have of you,” Roque told Kevin in Spanish as he entered the 15-year-old’s bedroom-slash-living room. “Oh my god, you’re tall.” Before the coronavirus pandemic shuttered school campuses across California and the nation, these kinds of last-resort home visits helped nudge the school’s most chronically absent students back toward completing school. But at the Communication and Technology School in the nation’s second-largest school system, where almost all students come from poverty and roughly 1 in 10 are new to the country, many students like Kevin have gone missing.

Improving Education the New Mexico Way: An Evidence-Based Approach

Jeannie Oakes Danny Espinoza Linda Darling-Hammond Carmen Gonzales Jennifer DePaoli Tara Kini Gary Hoachlander Dion Burns Michael Griffith Melanie Leung, Learning Policy Institute

Following a major court decision requiring more adequate and equitable school funding in New Mexico, state leaders and stakeholders have begun to reimagine the system of education. As part of this process, the Learning Policy Institute was asked to conduct research on the challenges facing education in the state and to identify evidence-based policies that could build a high-quality, equitable system able to provide a culturally and linguistically responsive education for the state’s diverse learners. This study has yielded a set of recommendations that are evidence-based, locally informed, and resonant with the goals of New Mexicans. It focuses on five fundamental elements of a high-quality education system: meaningful learning, knowledgeable and skillful educators, integrated student supports, and high-quality early learning opportunities, and adequate and equitably distributed school funding.

How “cradle-to-career” schools provide all-round support and tackle inequality

Victoria Hirst, The Conversation

During the COVID-19 lockdowns, stories have been shared of schools delivering food parcels, phoning struggling families and providing on-site care for the children of key workers. We have seen many schools go much further than their statutory role of educating and safeguarding their pupils, sometimes acting as the most important support institution for whole neighbourhoods.
This broader school role is the thinking behind “cradle-to-career” schools. Their core approach involves providing a pipeline of support from birth to early adulthood, combined with activities which target different aspects of young people’s lives. This could include free antenatal classes and social groups for parents, youth groups, mentoring and career advice.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

Inside California’s new master plan to reshape early education and child care

Karen D’Souza, Ed Source

California’s long-awaited roadmap to reshape early childhood care and education in the state took a critical first step on Tuesday with the release of a first-ever 10-year master plan, but some advocates say more specifics are needed to ensure progress. Gov. Gavin Newsom made early childhood education a central focus of his administration prior to the pandemic and has maintained his support throughout the health crisis. The 107-page Master Plan for Early Learning and Care: California for All Kids, which its authors say would require anywhere from $2-$12 billion to implement, is intended to serve as an overarching framework over the next decade to overhaul the state’s childhood education and child care systems, which have long lagged behind those of other states.

New Report Offers Clearest Picture Yet Of Pandemic Impact On Student Learning [Audio]

Cory Turner, NPR

A sweeping new review of national test data suggests the pandemic-driven jump to online learning has had little impact on children’s reading growth and has only somewhat slowed gains in math. That positive news comes from the testing nonprofit NWEA and covers nearly 4.4 million U.S. students in grades three through eight. But the report also includes a worrying caveat: Many of the nation’s most vulnerable students are missing from the data. “Preliminary fall data suggests that, on average, students are faring better than we had feared,” says Beth Tarasawa, head of research at NWEA, in a news release accompanying the report.

Higher ed alliances expand racial justice movement

National Education Policy Center

The rising COVID infection rates and the presidential election have dominated past couple months of news, and the urgency of the racial justice protests of the 2020 spring and summer may, for some, seem lost in the tumult of 2020. Already, polls suggest that public support for the demonstrators—and the Black Lives Matters movement that inspired them—has waned in the wake of Trump administration efforts to cast mostly peaceful events as looting sprees carried out by “criminals,” “vandals,” and “thugs.”Yet the issues that united demonstrators still demand immediate attention. Unarmed people of color continue to be killed by police. And the coronavirus is still disproportionately dam-aging communities of color, which have outsized death and infection rates and which dispro-portionately rely on remote learning in areas with large digital divides.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Parent Groups Sue LAUSD And CA Over Handling Of Distance Learning. Where Should The Blame Fall? [Audio]

Larry Mantle with Judith Larson and John Rogers, Air Talk on KPCC

Nine parents of Los Angeles Unified students filed a class action lawsuit in September against the state’s largest school district over how it handles distance learning, arguing the district’s online offerings fall short and violate their children’s right to an education. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit include Black and Latino parents, parents of students with special needs, and parents of students learning English. Surveys of parents and the district’s own data have shown that students in these groups, in particular, have struggled with distance learning. In a prior statement, an LAUSD spokesperson had said: “Many of the challenges society faces present themselves in schools including the impact of COVID-19. School districts like Los Angeles Unified have to balance the sometimes conflicting priorities of the learning needs of students and the health and safety of all in the school community.” Seven families also took the state of California to court this week arguing that the state is not providing “basic educational equality,” according to Politico.

The Importance of Inequality Studies

William A. Darity Jr., Malachi Hacohen and Adam Hollowell, Inside HigherEd

Many Americans imagine higher education as a place of social mobility — an egalitarian pathway for reducing the gap between rich and poor. This viewpoint has been under public attack recently, with high-profile authors, including Michael Sandel and Daniel Markovits, decrying stratification in higher education access and economic mobility. Yet much of the recent critique has focused on inequality in higher education admissions or, to a lesser extent, higher education as a workplace. Much less is being written about the place of the study of social inequality in higher education curricula. Indeed, the study of social inequality is more urgent than ever, especially if higher education is to fulfill its mission as a promoter of expanded opportunity and well-being. Students, professors and administrators need a deeper understanding of how human disparities have developed, why they persist and how they continue to evolve over time.

Wages for the top 1% skyrocketed 160% since 1979 while the share of wages for the bottom 90% shrunk

Economic Policy Institute

Newly available wage data tell a familiar story: In every period since 1979, wages for the bottom 90% were continuously redistributed upward to the top 10% and frequently to the very highest 1.0% and 0.1%. For last year, 2019, the data show a continuation, with annual wages rising fastest for those in the top 10% while those in the bottom 90% saw below-average wage growth.
This unceasing growth of wage inequality that undercuts wage growth for the bottom 90% reaffirms the need to place generating robust wage growth for the vast majority and rebuilding worker power at the center of economic policymaking.

Public Schools and Private Dollars

Betsy DeVos vowed to change American education. For the most part, she didn’t

Chris Quintana and Alia Wong, USA Today

In January 2017, Betsy DeVos, President Donald Trump’s nominee for education secretary, told lawmakers at her confirmation hearing that the threat of grizzly bears in Wyoming justified the national push to equip schools with guns. She was responding to a question from Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who’d made gun control a priority after children in his state were massacred in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School. DeVos’ gaffe, which garnered a slew of memes and a spoof on “Saturday Night Live,” became a metaphor for her tenure as education secretary. It also contributed to her status as the most unpopular member of Trump’s already-controversial Cabinet. DeVos won confirmation, thanks to Vice President Mike Pence’s tiebreaking vote.

How DeVos May Have Started a Counterrevolution in Education

Jack Schneider and Jennifer C. Berkshire, New York Times

Measured solely by policy accomplishments, Betsy DeVos, one of Donald Trump’s longest-serving cabinet officials, was a flop in her four years as secretary of education. Early on, her efforts to move a federal voucher program through a Republican-controlled Congress more concerned with taxes and deregulation repeatedly fell short. This year, she was forced to abandon a directive ordering states to redirect coronavirus funds to private schools after three federal judges ruled against her.

Why Privatization Is Wrong

Chiara Cordelli, Boston Review

The idea of a privatized state sounds like a contradiction. Yet it is the state of contradiction in which we currently live. Without exaggeration, one may say that if the twentieth century was the age of the bureaucratization of the modern state—with its expanded class of ministers, public officials, and civil servants—the twenty-first century has been the age of its privatization. Since the 1980s, rulers around the world have promised smaller governments. President Bill Clinton of the United States, in his 1996 State of the Union address, twice proclaimed that “the era of big government is over.” But Clinton was wrong. What the new era has delivered is not smaller governments, but rather bigger, yet privatized, ones.

Other News of Note

They know the pain of online learning. Here’s what teachers, parents and students did about it

Paloma Esquivel, Julia Barajas, Laura Newberry, Los Angeles Times

Nearly nine months and counting — that’s how long more than 1 million L.A. County students have been out of school. It’s only a guess when campuses will reopen amid the alarming surge in coronavirus cases. But talk to educators, parents and students and they invariably know someone who has made a difference. Someone who identified a pain point with distance learning, attempted to fix it and moved schooling forward during this unprecedented disruption to education. They are brothers, worried mothers, creative teachers and college professors inventing new ways to teach familiar lessons. They are community builders who motivate students isolated behind computer screens. These are some of their stories.