Just News from Center X – Feb 21, 2020

Just News

Just News from Center X is a free weekly news blast about equitable public education. Please share and encourage colleagues and friends to subscribe.

Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

California students sued because they were such poor readers. They just won $53 million to help them

Sonali Kohli and Iris Lee, Los Angeles Times
Two years ago, a group of students and their teachers sued the state of California for doing a poor job teaching kids how to read — 53% of California third-graders did not meet state test standards that year, and scores have increased incrementally since. On Thursday they won $53 million so that the state’s lowest-performing schools can do better.
Under the settlement with the state, most of the funding will be awarded over three years to 75 public elementary schools, including charters, with the poorest third-grade reading scores in California over the last two years.

Gov. Newsom’s big bets: community schools, competitive grants and new teacher incentives

John Fensterwald, EdSource
Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to entice thousands of new teachers into the classroom, concentrate school improvement in the most impoverished neighborhoods and use competitive grants to challenge districts to form partnerships and develop best practices to raise achievement. He outlined his ideas for addressing the teacher shortage and stepping up school improvement in an 85-page document his administration released late last month. The “omnibus education trailer bill” offers the first look at how he plans to spend more than $1.5 billion in his 2020-21 K-12 budget.

California’s special education teacher shortage

Naomi Ondrasek, Desiree Carver-Thomas, Caitlin Scott, Linda Darling-Hammond, Learning Policy Institute
California is in the midst of a severe and deepening shortage of special education teachers—and it is not alone. The field of special education at large has long been plagued by persistent shortages of fully certified teachers, in large part due to a severe drop in teacher education enrollments and high attrition for special educators. As a result, students with disabilities who often have the greatest needs are frequently taught by the least qualified teachers. To better understand the nature of the shortage in California, and what can be done about it, the Learning Policy Institute released California’s Special Education Teacher Shortage.

UCSC graduate students go on strike

Nicholas Ibarra, Santa Cruz Sentinel
Graduate students began an open-ended wildcat strike Monday at UC Santa Cruz as they continue to call for a substantial pay increase. Hundreds of demonstrators rallied at both campus entrances Monday, blocking the main entrance for hours throughout the afternoon and appearing to briefly close the campus to outside traffic altogether. Because the strike was not authorized by the students’ union, participation was difficult to determine. Tony Boardman, co-president of the UCSC Graduate Student Association and among the striking teaching assistants, said he believes approximately half of UCSC’s 750 teaching assistants and graduate-student instructors were striking.

Language, Culture, and Power

Harvard students to file lawsuit demanding school pull investments from prisons

Erik Ortiz, NBC News
They’re taking their fight from the campus to the courtroom. A group of Harvard University students plans to file a lawsuit Wednesday to force the Ivy League school to withdraw its investment funds from companies that profit from the prison industry — ratcheting up past efforts that included a petition drive and protests. The Harvard Prison Divestment Campaign wants a judge to require the university to divest its $40 billion endowment — the largest in academia — from prisons and related companies and produce a report outlining its direct and indirect investments in the industry.

What Students Want Teachers—and Facebook—to Know About Digital Citizenship

Wade Tyler Millward, EdSurge
In some hands, social media tools are blights on society, tools for bullies and misinformation campaigns. Sometimes, they’re a canvas for artists, sources to build community, paths by which people find a higher calling. Sanah Jivani has personally experienced both extremes of the spectrum. It was on Facebook where she found an account dedicated to guessing why Jivani—whose hair had fallen out by age 12 due to an autoimmune disease—wore a wig to school. That discovery, coupled with offline bullying, made her feel alone and ashamed. But it was also on Facebook where in 2011 Jivani, then in ninth grade, posted a video of her removing the wig. In the video, she said that she sees beauty in everyone, while acknowledging that others’ words about her appearance had hurt her. In the comments of her video, she saw people open up about their own experiences with bullies and self-harm. Jivani had jump started a career in self-care advocacy.

Agata Soroko on financial literacy education [AUDIO]

Jamilee Baroud, In a Click
Agata Soroko is a PhD candidate and a part-time professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Ottawa. Her research interests are in equity-focused school reform, financial literacy and social studies education, poverty and inequality, and politics and education. On today’s episode we debunk some myths about financial literacy education. I hope you learn as much I did. Enjoy!

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Newsom wants more dyslexia screenings, services for California students

Carolyn Jones, EdSource
A new plan by Gov. Gavin Newsom, who struggled with dyslexia as a child, would pay for more screenings and services for the thousands of California students with dyslexia — a condition that advocates say has not received enough attention in schools. The California Dyslexia Initiative, which the governor announced last week as part of his 2020-21 budget proposal, would set aside $4 million for screening, professional learning for teachers, research and a conference on dyslexia, a learning disorder that affects one’s ability to read and write. Although the amount is small compared to the overall education budget, it lays the groundwork for future investment and brings much-needed attention to the issue, advocates said.

Special education in California in need of overhaul, researchers say 

Carolyn Jones, EdSource
Special education in California should be overhauled to focus on the individual needs of students, with better training for teachers, more streamlined services and improved screening for the youngest children, according to a compilation of reports released today. Those were some of the recommendations proposed in “Special Education: Organizing Schools to Serve Students with Disabilities in California,” a package of 13 reports and a summary produced by Policy Analysis for California Education, a nonpartisan research and policy organization led by faculty from UC Berkeley, UCLA, University of Southern California and Stanford University.

Food fight: How 2 Trump proposals could bite into school lunch

Cory Turner, NPR
Two pending rule changes meant to reduce what the Trump administration calls abuse of federal benefit programs could also mean hundreds of thousands of children lose access to free school meals. The first proposed change: The Trump administration wants to tighten states’ standards for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps. States have long been able to simplify enrollment in SNAP, allowing families who live in near poverty to apply for the benefit with less paperwork and somewhat more flexible rules to qualify. But the administration believes some households are getting benefits they don’t deserve.

Access, Assessment, and Advancement

College is expensive. What will key 2020 candidates do about it?

Bryan Anderson, The Sacramento Bee
Californians owe the plurality of the nation’s student debt, with 3.8 million borrowers owing $135 billion, according to data from the Department of Education’s Office for Federal Student Aid — more than three-fifth of the state’s annual budget. With California’s March 3, 2020 primary approaching, college affordability is topic voters are asking the candidates to address.

I only took three years of high school math, escaped with a ‘D’ and turned out OK

Sandy Banks, The Los Angeles Times
I’ve never managed to master much beyond the nuts and bolts of math. I was an honor student who could ace almost every subject, but ninth-grade geometry tripped me up. I slipped through with a C, but needed three tries to pass trigonometry, with a D. I couldn’t understand the point of all that mathematical mumbo jumbo. And not once in the 40 years since I finished school have I ever been asked to factor a polynomial or calculate the cosine of anything. Maybe that’s why I’m not convinced that every California State University-bound student needs four years of high school math or quantitative reasoning courses just to be considered for admission.

There’s a new Proposition 13. It would send billions to California schools that need it

George Skelton, The Los Angeles Times
Proposition 13 is the only measure on the March 3 state ballot — and its number is causing many voters to do double takes. Maybe we should retire certain proposition numbers like professional sports teams retire their superstars’ jersey numbers. It would eliminate confusion. The difference, however, is that the honored athletes are iconic heroes. The celebrated propositions usually are loved by some and hated by others. The original Proposition 13 is a prime example. In 1978, it substantially cut property taxes and became a national symbol of an anti-tax revolt. But it also stripped K-12 schools and local governments of significant property tax revenue and forced much of their care and feeding onto state government.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

The war against the poor knows no borders

Liz Theoharis, Boston Review
The January 3 assassination of Qasem Soleimani was a major escalation in the U.S. conflict with Iran. In reality, though, the United States has been besieging Iran with lethal, if less bloody, tools of war for over a decade. In the last few years, the United States has introduced devastating sanctions targeting Iran’s oil revenues (which accounted for 80 percent of the country’s foreign earnings), and these have been intensified by the Trump administration under a campaign called “Maximum Pressure.” Tens of millions of Iranians suffer every day because their economy is under ruthless attack.

Education interview of the month: Urban Politics and policymaking [AUDIO]

Christopher Saldaña, Jennifer Jellison Holme, and Kara Finnigan, National Education Policy Center
NEPC Researcher Christopher Saldaña Interviews Jennifer Jellison Holme and Kara Finnigan about the structural inequities faced by schools in impoverished communities.

Schools are still segregated, and black children are paying a price

Emma Garcia, Economic Policy Institute
Well over six decades after the Supreme Court declared “separate but equal” schools to be unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education, schools remain heavily segregated by race and ethnicity. What are the consequences of this lack of progress in integrating schools for black children? It depresses education outcomes for black students; as shown in this report, it lowers their standardized test scores. It widens performance gaps between white and black students.
It reflects and bolsters segregation by economic status, with black students being more likely than white students to attend high-poverty schools. It means that the promise of integration and equal opportunities for all black students remains an ideal rather than a reality. In contrast, when black students have the opportunity to attend schools with lower concentrations of poverty and larger shares of white students they perform better, on average, on standardized tests.

Public Schools and Private $

This college was accredited by a DeVos-sanctioned group. We couldn’t find evidence of students or faculty.

Chris Quintana and Shelly Conlon, USA Today
Reagan National University was supposed to be a place of higher learning, but it was unclear how it awarded degrees. By all appearances, at present, it has no students, no faculty and no classrooms. An agency meant to serve as a gatekeeper for federal money gave the university approval to operate anyway. That accrediting agency, financially troubled and losing members fast, exists mainly because it was saved by the Education Department in 2018.

What it really means when Trump, DeVos and their allies refer to public schools as ‘government schools’

Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post
If you were listening to President Trump deliver his State of the Union address this month, you heard him refer to public schools as “government schools.” It was not the first time, and you can expect to hear it with increasing frequency from him, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and their allies as they push to increase programs that use public money for private and religious school education. Trump and DeVos use the term most often with the adjective “failing” attached as a broad denunciation of the public school system, which advocates see as the nation’s most important civic institution. The president and education secretary say their goal is to provide families with the most education options even as they disparage the one that enrolls most of America’s schoolchildren and continues to get high marks from the public.

How could Michael Bloomberg’s education record play on the democratic debate stage?

Evie Blad, Education Week
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will appear for the first time on the presidential debate stage Wednesday night, bringing with him a hands-on education record stemming from three terms as mayor—but also many positions that run counter to those of his opponents in the Democratic primary. For example, Bloomberg, who helped steer the nation’s largest school district as mayor, notably has a record of enthusiastically supporting charter schools and policies that incorporate them into school improvement efforts. That may put him at odds with fellow debaters like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and billionaire philanthropist Tom Steyer, who’ve pledged to rein in federal support for charters.

Other News of Note

Think student activists are ‘snowflakes’? Think again

Scott Carlson, The Chronicle of Higher Education
Campus activism has had a resurgence in recent years, with students responding to crises in the economy (the Occupy movement), in society (the new culture wars), and in politics (with the election of Donald Trump). Those activists have been derided as “snowflakes,” who can’t handle opposing viewpoints, or bullies, who shout other people down. But Jerusha O. Conner, an associate professor of education at Villanova University and author of The New Student Activists: The Rise of Neoactivism on College Campuses, argues that the current generation of activists is far more varied and thoughtful about its activism. To a great extent, she writes, they are responding to the emergence of the “neoliberal university” — providing job training and other individualized benefits, rather than nurturing the public conversation for the good of democracy. These neoactivists, her research shows, are learning how to turn the competitive college environment to their advantage: They harness their role as consumers of higher education to push for change.