Just News from Center X – December 9, 2022

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Time to Turn Up the Pressure on the University of California Decision-Makers

Jane McAlevey, The Nation

As a member of Local 5810 of the United Auto Workers, I can’t think of a more momentous month in our union. In the same week, starting November 14, I cast my ballot for the Members United reform slate in the national union’s first democratic direct-member vote for the top leadership, and I walked off the job with 48,000 other colleagues at the University of California in the largest strike of the year! Prior to becoming an academic researcher at the university, I was a member of UAW local 1981, the National Writers Union. I’ve also spent 38 years as a union organizer and contract negotiator, and I have the pleasure now of writing books and curricula for training programs to teach thousands of rank-and-file workers annually what it takes to win the hardest fights.

The pandemic has exacerbated a long-standing national shortage of teachers

John Schmitt and Katherine deCourcy, Economic Policy Institute

The pandemic exacerbated a preexisting and long-standing shortage of teachers. The shortage is particularly acute for certain subject areas and in some geographic locations. It is especially severe in schools with high shares of students of color or students from low-income families. The shortage is not a function of an inadequate number of qualified teachers in the U.S. economy. Simply, there are too few qualified teachers willing to work at current compensation levels given the increasingly stressful environment facing teachers.

George Newall, a Creator of ‘Schoolhouse Rock,’ Dies at 88

Sam Roberts, New York Times

George R. Newall, an advertising executive who was the last surviving creator of “Schoolhouse Rock,” the animated musical snippets that taught young Generation X television viewers grammar, math, civics and science for a few moments during otherwise vacuous Saturday-morning commercial programming, died on Nov. 30 at a hospital near his home in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y. He was 88.

Language, Culture, and Power

Why DACA—and Dreamers—are forever in a state of limbo

Byerin Blakemore, National Geographic

For millions of people brought to the United States without documentation as children, simply existing can mean breaking the law. Many don’t have the legal paperwork that allows them to work, drive, or attend school. And even though they may speak fluent English, know no other country, and consider themselves American, the threat of deportation is always present. “I’ve lost a lot in life due to my undocumented status,” Fatima, a 29-year-old student brought to the U.S. from Bangladesh when she was a year old, told the National Immigration Law Center. Without legal status, she said, “I am in limbo forever.”

DACA Ruled Unlawful by the Fifth Circuit. Here’s What Happens Next

Brenda Alvarez, NEA Today

For ten years, DACA has provided more than 600,000 immigrants, who came to the U.S. as children, temporary lawful status that prohibits their deportation and makes it legal for them to work and get a driver’s license, among other life-changing provisions. In October, however, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled DACA unlawful. Despite finding that the DACA program is unlawful, the Fifth Circuit allowed the program to remain in place for current recipients and for those processing renewals, as the case continues in the courts. However, it is likely that the courts will end DACA in the next few years—unless Congress acts now. “The recent ruling … is a blow to all the work we have fought so hard to do,” says NEA President Becky Pringle, who adds that the loss of protections for 9,000 DACA educators will only make the nationwide educator shortage worse. “We need these educators more than ever.”

Mother and son who are both poet laureates work to inspire others [Video]

Jeffrey Brown, Anne Azzi Davenport, Alison Thoet, PBS Newshour

Becoming a poet laureate is a coveted role and rare honor, rarer still, having two laureates in the same family. Jeffrey Brown went to Philadelphia to meet with a poetic family and hear how a mother-son duo works to bring poetry to a wider public. It is part of our arts and culture series, Canvas.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Why the Movement Against Social-Emotional Learning Is a Disaster

Christina Cipriano, The Progessive

Not long ago, kindness, gratitude, and empathy were taught in our nation’s schools without controversy. For nearly three decades, these skills were referred to as Social and Emotional Learning, or SEL, and they helped millions of students, teachers, and families to thrive. This year, SEL has been criticized as both race evasive and antiracist, depending on which political camp the critic belongs to. Despite the confusion, new research uncovering the representation of minoritized youth in SEL demonstrates that these two very complex narratives warrant much deeper attention than the countless headlines that pop up from Googling SEL. The basics of SEL, like managing stress, problem solving, decision making, and communication, have strong associations with academic benefits for students. And, although self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and responsible decision-making are widely considered standard for SEL, there are more than 136 frameworks that can comprise more than 700 other life skills. This begs the question: If schools ban social and emotional learning, what are they left with?

Family engagement is critical for schools’ COVID-19 recovery efforts

Rachel M. Perera, Ayesha K. Hashim, and Hayley R. Weddle, Brookings

More than two and a half years later, the cumulative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on children and their caregivers are coming into clear view. Surveys of both parents and educators highlight concerning trends in children’s emotional well-being and mental health. These concerns are heightened for children of color, who were significantly more likely to lose a parent or caregiver from a COVID-19 related death. Recent research evaluating the effects of the pandemic on students’ learning trajectories reflects this reality. Learning rates slowed during the pandemic for most students, and even more so for students of color and students from low-income families.

The crisis of student mental health is much vaster than we realize

Donna St. George and Valerie Strauss, Washington Post

The change was gradual. At first, Riana Alexander was always tired. Then she began missing classes. She had been an honors student at her Arizona high school, just outside Phoenix. But last winter, after the isolation of remote learning, then the overload of a full-on return to school, her grades were slipping. She wasn’t eating a lot. She avoided friends. Her worried mother searched for mental health treatment. Finally, in the spring, a three-day-a-week intensive program for depression helped the teenager steady herself and “want to get better,” Alexander said. Then, as she was finding her way, a girl at her school took her own life. Then a teen elsewhere in the district did the same. Then another.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

An Early Childhood Director Fears the Worst for the Field — And Wonders If Anyone Will Save It

Emily Tate Sullivan, Ed Surge

For almost three years now, I’ve been watching early childhood educators—in my program and in others—make the difficult but inevitable choice to walk away from their careers working with young children to take better-paying, lower-stress jobs elsewhere. But it still hurt, still shocked, when one of the best early childhood educators I’ve ever worked with told me she was leaving, too. She was one of a kind: so passionate about this work, so engaging, knowledgeable, calm, warm and inviting. Her heart was in this field, really in it. But like so many others, she couldn’t afford to stay in this industry any longer.

“Kids Seem to Be a Paycheck”: How a Billion-Dollar Corporation Exploits Washington’s Special Education System

Lulu Ramadan, Mike Reicher and Taylor Blatchford, The Seattle Times

Donna Green hit her breaking point last summer, six months into her job as the top administrator at the Northwest School of Innovative Learning. She had grudgingly accepted when her request for classroom computers was ignored and a furniture order for what she called an “embarrassingly barren” campus was answered with plastic folding tables. She’d worried that her staff was inexperienced but had figured her decade in special education would help fill that void.

College students say academic pressure is the most common cause of mental health problems — and not just at highly selective institutions

Howard Gardner and Wendy Fischman, KQED

Along with our research team, we spent five years visiting ten disparate campuses, carrying out over two thou­sand intensive, semi-structured interviews. On each campus we interviewed approximately fifty incoming students and fifty grad­uating students, and smaller numbers of faculty, senior adminis­trators, trustees, young alums, parents, and job recruiters. … Across all participants, nearly half (44%) rank mental health as the most important problem on campus — one of the few agree­ments among all participants. Put another way, each constituency group in our study — first-year students, graduating students, faculty, administrators, parents, trustees, young alums — ranks mental health as the biggest problem on the college campus. This alignment — among students at different stages, faculty and administrators who are on campus, as well as trustees, young alums, and parents who are off campus — is notable; indeed, it does not obtain with respect to any of the more than three dozen other questions in our interview protocol.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Equality or Equity? [Audio]

Jill Anderson and Jeff Duncan Andrade, Harvard EdCast

Longtime educator Jeffrey Duncan-Andrade thinks schools have been focused on equality for too long and need to fundamentally rethink the way they do things. He says a focus on equality is not producing the results that schools really need — providing all students with a quality education. While visiting schools many years ago, he noticed educators used the terms “equality” and “equity” interchangeably. Then, he started tracking what that actually means. The data clearly demonstrates that aiming for equality doesn’t work. What would schools look like if they were, instead, truly equitable places? In this episode of the Harvard EdCast, Duncan-Andrade reimagines what education could look like in America if we dared to break free of the system that constrains it.

3 Reasons Your District Needs a Theory of Change for Equity Work

Terrance L. Green, Education Week

We are still living in the shadows of COVID-19, the ongoing manifestations of anti-Black racism, and policy efforts to remove truth telling about America’s history in schools. Despite these efforts to undermine racial-justice work, many school districts are continuing to prioritize equity and anti-racism. Yet, many of these same districts struggle with finding a way to organize the multiple aspects of their work and to strategically weather the racist and political winds that are constantly blowing. As districts throughout the country accelerate their hiring of P-12 chief equity officers and other equity positions, it’s important that districts and their equity leaders develop a theory of change that will anchor and guide their work.

Toward Free Education for All Children

Bede Sheppard, Human Rights Watch

Education is fundamental for children’s development and a powerful catalyst for improving their entire lives. International human rights law guarantees everyone a right to education. But it surprises many to learn that the international human rights framework only explicitly guarantees an immediate right to free primary education—even though we know that a child equipped with just a primary education is inadequately prepared to thrive in today’s world. Children who participate in education from the pre-primary through to the secondary level have better health, better job prospects, and higher earnings as adults. And they are less vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, including child labor and child marriage.

Democracy and the Public Interest

Growing and Diversifying Youth Climate Activism


A survey conducted by CIRCLE and ACE illuminates barriers to participation and highlights strategies that can expand young people’s engagement in climate action.

Advocacy and activism can be valuable pathways for young people to participate in civic life and effect change on the issues affecting their lives, peers, and communities. It can also be a way to connect young people’s concerns to voting and expand the electorate. However, as with casting a ballot, there are inequities in who is and isn’t participating that can often be traced back to differences in access and barriers to joining a movement or taking action. In 2022, CIRCLE partnered with Action for the Climate Emergency to explore those barriers and opportunities for growth in relation to climate activism. In recent years, climate change has emerged as a top issue that motivates young voters and influences their choice at the polls, and a major focus of youth activism. That activism may also be having an impact on elections: a previous study by CIRCLE and other researchers found that counties where more climate change protests took place had modestly higher rates of youth voter registration.

‘We’re Not Just a School. We’re a Community’: New Documentary Highlights Battle to Save Chicago Elementary School

Meredith Francis, WTTW

In the new POV documentary Let the Little Light Shine, a 7th grade student named Keon is sitting in a classroom with other students, parents, and teachers who are planning a small demonstration at a Chicago Public Schools meeting. The meeting is about the proposal to close their high-performing elementary school and transition it into a new high school. When discussing what the school’s closure would mean to the students, Keon says, “We’re not just a school. We’re a community.” That school is the National Teachers Academy (NTA) in Chicago’s South Loop. Let the Little Light Shine, directed and produced by Kevin Shaw, is about the NTA community’s fight to keep their school open, as affluent residents in the growing South Loop push for a new high school to be created in its place.

GOP’s private school gambit amounts to blackmail

Dave Zweifel, The Cap Times

Wisconsin is sitting on a $6.6 billion budget surplus, which should give the state an opportunity to reinvigorate its public schools after years of being nickel and dimed by Scott Walker’s wing of the Republican Party. The state can now afford to take its knee off the necks of Wisconsin’s 423 school districts, a good half of which have had to resort to referendums to raise local property taxes to hire an adequate number of teachers and fix leaky roofs on their schools. But wait! It’s now become clear that these Republican legislators are going to hold hostage this golden opportunity to help local public schools. Oh, the kingpin of these Republicans, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, thinks sending a few more dollars to local schools isn’t a bad idea.

Other News of Note

Albertha Johnston Murray: The Life of a Local Public Intellectual

Candace Cunningham, Black Perspectives

Some of America’s most celebrated Black intellectuals—Mary McLeod Bethune, W.E.B. DuBois, James Weldon Johnson, Ida B. Wells, Carter G. Woodson, and others—began their careers, in the inadequately funded classrooms of America’s racially segregated schools. Some of that can certainly be attributed to the limited professional opportunities for college-educated Black Americans, especially in the Jim Crow South. Yet Black schoolteachers often exemplified the life of a public intellectual. In their daily work, Black educators actively engaged in building and sharing knowledge. Through their schools, students, and organizational networks, they made knowledge accessible to their local communities.

Exclusive: Activist Angela Davis still comes to Rockland after critics shut down school-related appearance

Nancy Cutler, LOHUD

Activist and educator Angela Davis came to Rockland after all Thursday evening, meeting with North Rockland teens − and hundreds of others − after a planned school-sponsored event unraveled amid criticism that she was too “radical” for the county and its children. The event finally took place at Pilgrim Baptist Church, with about 500 people crowded in. There was no prior publicity, a strategic move, organizers said, after the North Rockland school district and then, quietly, St. Thomas Aquinas College in Sparkill pulled out of hosting the civil rights activist because of protests