Just News from Center X is a free weekly news blast about equitable and inclusive public education.
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Just News from Center X is a free weekly news blast about equitable and inclusive public education.
Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
Bill Raden, Capital & Main
When Gavin Newsom moves into the governor’s office next month, he will immediately have to confront the continuing legacy of Proposition 13, the 1978 referendum whose property tax cuts have slashed spending on California’s public education. In the 40 years since its passage, class sizes have ballooned while arts, driver ed and afterschool programs have vanished. Newsom will come armed with a cradle-to-career program he calls “California Promise,” which expands and integrates existing programs while making strategic investments in new infrastructure. Newsom’s most dramatic break from the Jerry Brown era is the governor-elect’s fierce commitment to high quality child care and universal preschool, a product of overcoming his own boyhood dyslexia and a deep appreciation for the pivotal role played by early infancy and the first five years in student achievement and, ultimately, adult success. A credible and comprehensive plan to recover public education’s promise of putting opportunity within reach of all Californians can’t come too soon for the state’s 6.2 million K-12 students. Getting Down to Facts II, a sweeping collection of prescriptive policy briefs recently published by Stanford University and Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE), found that “California’s children are behind before they enter Kindergarten” and that while California’s students learned at rates equal to or better than the national average, the gap in achievement between low-income and middle-income kids didn’t close.
Ed. Dept. watchdog to look into DeVos team’s oversight of ESSA, dismissal of civil rights complaints
Alyson Klein, Education Week
The U.S. Department of Education’s internal watchdog—the Office of the Inspector General—will be looking at the agency’s process for dismissing civil rights complaints. The plan was revealed in an agenda for 2019 posted on the inspector general’s website. The department recently revamped its process for investigating potential civil rights violations. The Obama administration looked at every complaint for potential evidence of systemic discrimination. The Trump team is only planning to do that in certain cases. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and company have said that this will help resolve more cases quickly, but civil rights groups are worried that investigators may miss the bigger picture. And the OIG will examine the department’s oversight of state accountability systems developed under the Every Student Succeeds Act, paying special attention to how schools are identified and improvement plans. Democrats in Congress, including Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., the incoming chairman of the House education committee, worry that some states aren’t taking the performance of vulnerable students into account in flagging schools for improvement.
Kyle Stokes, LAist
For the past five months, parents of the Los Angeles Unified School District’s 480,000 students have nervously watched the drawn-out, halting and — so far — unsuccessful effort to head off a strike by the district’s teachers union. That effort is now very short on time. On Monday, a panel of fact-finders will meet with LAUSD administrators and representatives for the union, United Teachers Los Angeles. Spokespeople for both organizations say it’s possible the panel could ask the parties to meet again on Tuesday and Wednesday. (If you want to know exactly what “fact-finding” is, we break that down for you here.) This all comes just ahead of a Dec. 14 deadline for the fact-finders to release a report outlining their recommendations for resolving the contract dispute. After that, nothing would legally prevent UTLA from asking its 30,000 members to walk off the job. But the deadline isn’t exactly firm. The two sides could agree to give the fact-finders more time or even return to the bargaining table after the report comes out.
Matt Barnum, Chalkbeat
A recent report offered a surprisingly rosy picture of the state of teacher diversity. The number of teachers of color in public schools, it noted, had more than doubled over the last three decades. “Our findings are different than the conventional wisdom,” Richard Ingersoll of the University of Pennsylvania, one of the authors of the research, told Chalkbeat. Teacher diversity still doesn’t mirror student diversity, he acknowledged. But “there is sort of an unheralded victory,” he said. You may be getting whiplash. Isn’t the teaching profession overwhelmingly white? Hasn’t progress been modest, at best? Here’s what you should know about the demographics of America’s teaching force, and how to make sense of these competing narratives.
Language, Culture, and Power
Alex Granados, Education Week
Hope Derry and Janett Nunez Meza are not a threatening pair. Derry is an unassuming 30-year-old from Ohio, and Nunez Meza is a 40-year-old originally from Nicaragua. The two work for the Bladen County, N.C., migrant education department, recruiting migrant students into the program and working with older youths who are not in school to help them get their General Educational Development credentials or learn English. It’s their job to show up at farmworker camps and talk with workers. The first time they came to Thunder Camp, one of the camps that house migrant workers at a nearby farm, they encountered a group of workers in their late teens and early 20s. One task that migrant education recruiters have to do when signing up migrant workers for their programs is ask their names and where they’re coming from. One said he had to get his ID because he didn’t know his birthday. (Out-of-school youths must prove they are between 18 and 21 to join the educational program for older youths.) He never came back. “He had jumped out the window and run away,” Derry said she later learned. The anecdote illustrates one of the challenges of providing educational services to migrant farmworkers: gaining their trust—especially now as anti-immigrant rhetoric escalates at the national level. Other challenges abound: disrupted schooling, competing with the lure of paid work, language barriers. These difficulties add up and are reflected in poor academic outcomes for this vulnerable group of students. Less than a third of migrant students score at or above proficient levels on their states’ annual reading and language arts assessments.
Marnette Federis, PRI’s The World
When Jin Kyu Park, 22, found out he was among 32 students in the United States to be awarded the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship, he said he shared the emotional moment with his parents. “I cried to my mom, who also cried, and then we both cried to my dad, who also then cried. We were all just crying,” he said. The Harvard senior studying molecular and cellular biology with a minor in ethnicity, migration and rights is the first student with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status to be chosen for the highly selective program, which offers students from all over the world two to three years of tuition-free study at Oxford University in England. Park came to the US with his parents at 7 years old from South Korea. His parents, who are also undocumented, work at a restaurant and a nail salon. Being offered the scholarship, he said, felt like the culmination of his parents’ sacrifice and hard work. “The kind of work they do is not amenable to an easy life,” he said. “The reason why this was such a big deal and such a meaningful thing for them, was to see in some sense their sacrifice be validated.”
Mark Keierleber, The 74
Reported hate crimes at K-12 schools and colleges surged by 25 percent last year, according to new Federal Bureau of Investigation data — the second year in a row in which such incidents spiked by roughly a quarter. It’s also the third consecutive year that reported hate crimes increased more broadly, according to the FBI. Across all locations, reported hate crimes rose by 17 percent in 2017. Hate crimes most frequently occurred in or near homes, accounting for 28 percent of incidents. Hate crimes were more frequently reported in schools than in commercial offices, government buildings, and churches.
Whole Children and Strong Communities
Kevin Mahnken, The 74
“Gritty” students have the makings of great citizens, according to new research published in the British Journal of Political Science. In a survey of North Carolina middle and high schoolers, kids who showed signs of tenacity and self-belief also described themselves as being more involved in their schools and communities, and they were more likely to say they intended to vote. Following a midterm election cycle in which less than half of all eligible voters cast a ballot — a paltry number that nevertheless represents a 50-year high — the results suggest that schools have the power to shift more students toward energetic democratic participation. Published in October, the study was originally conducted in 2015 and 2016 by Christina Gibson-Davis and D. Sunshine Hillygus, professors of public policy at Duke, and Brigham Young University political scientist John Holbein. The researchers partnered with the Wake County Public School System, the largest school district in North Carolina, to administer a wide-ranging survey to tens of thousands students in grades five, eight, and nine.
Ashley Hopkinson, EdSource
Instilling confidence in math skills from an early age is the mission of a new math program aimed at California preschoolers. With that in mind, the “Preschool Counts” program enlists undergraduate students to work one-on-one and in pairs with young children to boost their math skills through games and activities. The program began in 2013 on a pilot basis at Stanford University. Students at UCLA and San Francisco State University are also participating in the program. One of the objectives of Preschool Counts is to bring math to more preschool classrooms in low-income communities where children may have limited exposure to science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, programs. The program is, at least in part, a response to studies that have shown developing early math skills contributes to later academic success. Focusing on promoting learning of math concepts among young children, especially those from low-income families, is one of the reasons UCLA adopted Preschool Counts into its curriculum, said Megan Franke, a professor in UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and director of Preschool Counts at UCLA. “There are some prevailing narratives about who can do math and not do math and a lot of those (place) young people who live in poverty as not as capable or coming in behind,” Franke said. “And I wanted us to investigate those issues, get into the schools and see what is working and get to know the young people and their teachers.” UCLA students involved in Preschool Counts volunteer once a week at local preschools where the population is predominantly Latino students, she said.
Gary Warth, The San Diego Union-Tribune
Being new on campus can be hard for any college or university student. Imagine also being newly released from prison, unsure of your place at school or even in society, while trying to navigate class schedules, student benefits and graduation requirements. “The first month of college, I wanted to quit,” said San Diego City College student Ryan Flaco Rising. “I’m super tatted up. I’ve got tattoos all over the place, and I didn’t feel like I belonged there.” Rising had enrolled at City College in 2016 after eight years in prison and said he stuck it out partly because of encouragement from an acquaintance at the UC Berkeley-based Underground Scholars Initiative, a support group for formerly incarcerated students. He soon discovered the very thing that made him uncomfortable on campus also helped him connect with other students. “I stand out because I have all these tattoos,” he said. “People were coming up to me and saying, ‘Oh, you just got out? I just got out a few months ago, too.’ I started to recognize there was a lot of formerly incarcerated at the school.” Realizing there was strength in numbers, Rising and fellow student Maria Morales in 2016 founded the Urban Scholars Union, a City College support group for students who had been in prison. Since then, an Urban Scholars Union has opened at Southwestern College and a new one began holding meetings this semester at Miramar College.
Access, Assessment, and Advancement
John Fensterwald, EdSource
California’s high school graduation rate crept upward, but so did its dropout rate, with about 1 in 10 students overall and nearly 1 in 6 African-American students in the Class of 2018 quitting school, according to new state data. The California Department of Education also published the latest data on student suspension rates, which declined for the sixth straight year, and on chronic absenteeism, which rose slightly in 2017-18. The California Department of Education advanced the release of information months earlier than in previous years so that for the first time, there will be up-to-date data for the California School Dashboard, which is scheduled to be released next month. The color-coded dashboard, a key component in the state’s accountability system under the Local Control Funding Formula, rates schools and districts on a number of indicators, including graduation rates, standardized test scores, suspension rates and, for the first time, chronic absenteeism. The colors determine which low-performing schools and districts will receive support from county offices of education. Both graduation and dropout rates have improved significantly over the past decade, with some yearly fluctuations, and persistent disparities among ethnic and racial groups, and between low-income and wealthier students. “We’re seeing steady gains in key indicators, which tells us we’re moving in the right direction,” said State Board of Education President Michael Kirst, in a statement. “But on other measures we’re not moving fast enough to meet California’s high expectations for every student.”
Jennifer Craw, National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE)
The best education systems in the world are able to educate not only advantaged students, but also disadvantaged students to high levels so that they graduate with the skills they need to participate fully in society. One equity measure PISA considers is “core-skills resiliency”, which looks at the percent of students from the bottom quarter of the PISA index of economic, social and cultural status who score at Level 3 or above in all three subject areas (science, mathematics and reading) on PISA. This month we focus on core-skills resiliency in the top-performing countries and the United States.
Jill Barshay, The Hechinger Report
What does the declining birthrate mean for elementary, middle and high schools across the country? According to one set of projections, it could mean 8.5 percent fewer public school students a decade from now. “If it does come true, we’re going to see massive changes,” said Mike Griffith, a school finance specialist at the Education Commission of the States, a think tank that aims to inform education policy. “Nobody is talking about this.” Griffith says that a decline this large will likely lead to school closures around the country along with some unexpected consequences, such as more full-day kindergarten and publicly funded pre-kindergarten. Rural areas, already hard hit by depopulation, will likely feel the effects most severely. Teachers may face a tighter labor market.
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
Steve Lopez, Los Angeles Times
I didn’t know anything about Jose Razo’s back story when I first reached out to him. I was simply checking in with the principal who leads the L.A. Unified campus that has more students classified as homeless than any other. “For me, it’s personal,” the 43-year-old Razo told me one morning in a tight office with no room for one more box, folder, motivational poster or paper clip. “I do see myself in the faces of the students who walk through these hallways.” That’s because years ago, he lived as so many of them do today. Razo, who attended nearby Haddon Avenue Elementary and other local schools as a kid, said his father was not around much. His mother, as he described it, managed the trick of carrying herself as if she was persevering rather than struggling. For a time, Razo had no idea they were poor. Not until they moved into a garage. “My mother did anything she could,” Razo said. “She did massage. She would make and sell donuts, tamales, corn. My coming to Jesus moment was when we lived in that garage and I had to go to the bathroom. We didn’t have one in the garage, so we had to go to the owner’s house and knock on the door.” The garage had no running water. Mrs. Maria Maximina Razo and her five children had access to an outdoor sink. Maria Razo, Jose’s older sister, recalls a standing house rule: Do not knock on the owner’s door after 8 p.m. If you had to go to the bathroom, you had to hold it until the morning.
Matt Barnum, Chalkbeat
Between 1990 and 2015, Seattle’s neighborhoods saw a notable decline in racial segregation. It would make sense, then, to think that the city’s public schools had also become more integrated. Not so. In fact, they were headed in the opposite direction. In 1990, only 3 percent of schools were intensely segregated — that is, at least 90 percent of students were nonwhite — but by 2015, that number had spiked to 17 percent. That’s not entirely surprising. During that time, a high-profile Supreme Court case made it more difficult for Seattle to integrate its schools by race. But new research looking at America’s 100 largest cities shows that the diverging trends in Seattle — neighborhoods growing more diverse, as their schools grow more segregated — is not an anomaly. The analysis finds that, between 1990 and 2015, 72 percent of U.S. cities saw their neighborhoods grow less racially segregated, by one measure. Sixty-two percent saw their schools grow more segregated over that same period. “There is this incredibly striking trend,” said Ryan Coughlan, a professor at Guttman Community College, CUNY, who conducted the research. “It raises all kinds of alarm bells and questions as to what that’s about.”
The Campaign for College Opportunity
California has been known as a land of opportunity and a place that rewards audacity, ingenuity, and courageousness. The determination, innovations, and contributions of countless Latinx have characterized the spirit of this great state. From California’s earliest Mexican-American Governors, the critical agricultural labor that helps feed our nation, the patriotism of hundreds of thousands of Latinx who serve in our armed forces and run small businesses, the influence of California’s Mexican-Americans in the civil rights movement, to the visionary Facebook and Instagram Latinx tech co-founders in the Silicon Valley, California’s story is inextricably tied to the Latinx community. If California is going to continue to thrive economically as a hub of innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship, we must increase the educational success of a growing and disproportionality young Latinx community and ensure significantly more Latinx are prepared for college, attend college, and reach their college dreams.
Public Schools and Private $
Dana Goldstein, The New York Times
Over 500 educators in Chicago began the nation’s first strike at a charter school network on Tuesday, shutting down 15 schools serving more than 7,000 children. Teachers for the Acero Schools network rallied at local schools to call for higher pay and smaller class sizes, among other demands. The action is the latest mass teacher protest in a year when educators have closed ranks in places where organized labor has historically been weak — first in six conservative or swing states where teachers walked out of classrooms, and now in the charter school sector, where unionization is sparse. All of the picket lines have formed out of a dispute over public dollars — whether education funding is adequate, and what percentage of the money should go toward educator pay and classroom resources versus other costs. “Everyone is feeding off each other and hearing this rallying cry,” said Martha Baumgarten, a fifth-grade teacher at Carlos Fuentes Elementary School in the Acero network and a member of her union’s bargaining committee. “A lot of this comes down to lack of funding. But teachers across the country are seeing each other stand up and say that’s not O.K. We’re not going to support budgets and politics as usual.”
Bethany Blankley, Watchdog.org
The 2018 midterms ushered in 36 newly or re-elected governors, the majority of whom support private school choice. EdChoice.org produced a summary of the 36 governors’ positions on what EdChoice Board member Virginia Walden Ford argues “is the civil rights issue of our day.” In 2018, voters chose 23 Democrats and 27 Republicans as their governors. According to EdChoice.org’s analysis, the majority of governors who support private school choice are Republicans (16), the majority who oppose it are Democrats (12), and mostly Democrats remain “unclear” about their position (8). “Keep in mind that past support or opposition to K-12 private school choice does not mean a proposal will succeed or fail, but a governor’s position serves as a likely indicator of what will happen if a bill reaches his or her desk,” EdChoice states. “School choice is one of the most controversial and hard-fought public policy debates of the past few decades,” Jeffrey Dorfman writes at Forbes. He explains why the issue appears to fall along partisan lines, saying, “Most liberals, who get significant funding from public school teachers unions, line up against any form of school choice, while many conservatives favor allowing some form of market to introduce competition among schools for education tax dollars.”
Matt Barnum, Chalkbeat
School board members are elected to make the most local decisions about school policy. But a new group is trying to get them to join forces to form a network of school board members in at least 10 cities. School Board Partners says it wants to create a “national community” of board members and will offer coaching and consulting services. Emails obtained by Chalkbeat indicate the group is targeting board members in Atlanta, Baton Rouge, Denver, Detroit, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Memphis, New Orleans, Oakland, and Stockton. The group spun out of Education Cities, an organization that advocated for the “portfolio model,” a strategy focused on expanding charter schools as well as giving district schools more autonomy. Denver, Indianapolis, and New Orleans have enacted some version of that model, and Education Cities also counted member groups in most of the cities on School Board Partners’ list. And School Board Partners’ website says its community will be “aligned to a common theory of change” — signs that this is a new strategy for portfolio advocates.
Other News of Note
Nawal Arjini, The Nation [Book Review: Ghosts In The Schoolyard: Racism And School Closings On Chicago’s South Side]
When Marvel Comics needed a writer for its character Riri Williams (the “new Iron Man”), a suggestion came promptly—via Twitter, of course: “@eveewing 100%,” suggested one user. The next day, a Change.org petition to hire Eve Ewing, a professor at the University of Chicago, garnered more than 1,500 signatures in 24 hours. As Ewing herself noted, the character resembled her, both physically and biographically. (Besides being black women from Chicago with degrees from universities in Cambridge, Massachusetts, they’re also both on record as being fans of the New York rap group A Tribe Called Quest.) Apparently, someone at Marvel noticed: The first issue of Ewing’s Ironheart series was released last month. She has a large and growing following on Twitter: Last fall, she had 85,000 followers; today, closer to 200,000 people read her threads on basketball feuds, the discount-gadget site Woot, the importance of school libraries, and R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series. Unlike most other Twitter-famous academics, Ewing doesn’t only post content related to her job (all four of them: professor, poet, comics writer, and podcast host). Her feed reflects her various interests, from social justice to being seriously dorky: The right video game is never available; her husband is always “husbae”; and it’s worth a Twitter thread to explain that “technically, because it has so many eggs and so much butter, brioche is a pastry.”