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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
Louis Freedberg, EdSource
In his first State of the State speech Tuesday morning, Gov. Gavin Newsom named Linda Darling-Hammond, a Stanford University professor emeritus and one of the nation’s most prominent education researchers, to head California’s State Board of Education. “Thank you for doing this, Linda,” Newsom said, acknowledging Darling-Hammond, who was in the Assembly chambers in the State Capitol. Darling-Hammond, who currently chairs the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, will succeed another Stanford professor emeritus, Michael Kirst, who led the state board during Jerry Brown’s first terms as governor, as well as his last two terms. Kirst, a close advisor to Brown for over four decades on education matters, decided to step down from the board in December at the end of Brown’s four terms as governor.
Kyle Stokes, LAist
And you thought you were done with consequential elections until 2020. Not so in Los Angeles, where ten candidates have lined up for a special election for an open seat on the Los Angeles Unified School Board. Wednesday was the deadline to qualify for the March 2019 ballot. At stake: control of a pivotal seat on the LAUSD board, which is caught in the middle of an increasingly expensive political proxy war between charter school advocates and teachers unions. But there are even more elements of intrigue in the race: a clash between new faces and the old guard, divisions along racial and geographic lines — and even the remnants of a scandal. Here’s what you need to know.
Sawsan Morrar and Michael Finch II, The Sacramento Bee
A judge ordered Sacramento City Unified School District back into arbitration to settle a long-running contract dispute with the teachers union amid a budget crisis. The decision Wednesday by Sacramento Superior Court Judge David I. Brown puts the district and the Sacramento City Teachers Association back where they were in November when planned arbitration was halted after the district filed a court motion. The district had asked the judge to determine whether there was an agreement over how to distribute a 3.5 percent salary adjustment for early and mid-career teachers. “It’s a clear victory,” teachers union president David Fisher said in a statement Wednesday. “It’s a shame that the district frivolously spent precious resources on attorneys rather than using those resources in our classrooms.” Sacramento City Unified spokesman Alex Barrios said in a statement Thursday that the two sides are far apart in their understanding of whether the salary schedule adjustment will cost the district more money than it had agreed to. However, he said, “We respect the Court’s decision and look forward to presenting our facts in arbitration.”
Language, Culture, and Power
An interview with Courtney Everts Mykytyn on her quiet movement to integrate schools in L.A. & beyond
Connor Williams, LA School Report
After a prolonged lull, American school integration debates have reignited in recent years. Courtney Everts Mykytyn, the founder of California-based Integrated Schools, is quietly becoming a force in these conversations. Her four-year-old group describes itself and its mission this way: “Integrated Schools is growing a grassroots movement of, by and for parents who are intentionally, joyfully and humbly enrolling their children in integrating schools … Because school segregation is as much a story of failed public policy as it is one of white/privileged families thwarting it, our hearts-and-minds campaign offers a new model for integration in which this undertaking falls not on the backs of marginalized communities, but on white and/or privileged families who care about equity.” I first encountered Mykytyn’s work while writing an article about gentrification’s effects on bilingual education. She’s also been featured in Mother Jones and CityLab. I sat down with her during a trip to Los Angeles. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Maine educators, free speech advocates decry proposal to limit ‘obscene’ books in public schools [AUDIO]
Robbie Feinberg, Maine Public Radio
A bill proposed by a state lawmaker from New Gloucester could limit the distribution of books and other materials in public schools that are judged to be “obscene.” The measure drew opposition Monday morning from a host of free-speech advocates, teachers and librarians, who say they worry that that it could have a “chilling effect” on what schools are allowed to teach. The original version of Republican state Rep. Amy Arata’s bill would have removed public schools from the list of institutions in Maine that can distribute “obscene” materials, to minors, for educational purposes. It would have effectively banned certain books and other materials in schools. But at a hearing before the Legislature’s Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee, Arata offered an amended version that she says would instead require students and their parents or guardians to give written consent before receiving any “obscene” materials distributed by a school.
Lisa Button, The Hechinger Report
Immigration lawyers and education experts offer advice to teachers balancing legal requirements and moral obligations.
Whole Children and Strong Communities
Mari Payton and Tom Jones, NBC7
Athletic trainers are healthcare providers. They focus on the prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation of injuries. Few high schools in California have full-time athletic trainers and even more troubling, the trainers that are in place aren’t regulated. That means kids playing high school sports could be at great risk. NBC 7 Investigates analyzed 2016-2017 data from the California Interscholastic Foundation (CIF). The data shows only 30-percent of high schools in San Diego County have a full-time athletic trainer on staff. The majority only have athletic trainers during practices or games. One in four San Diego County high schools does not have an athletic trainer at all.
Elissa Nadworny, NPR
Getting students to show up is one of the biggest challenges schools face: How can someone learn at school if they’re not there in the first place? A new study suggests living in a high-crime area, or simply passing through one on the way to school, can impact how often students show up to class. “Some kids have a harder time getting to a school than others, not for any fault of their own, but because of the way the transportation system is set up, because of the way crime clusters in particular places,” explains Julia Burdick-Will, a sociology professor at Johns Hopkins University and the lead author of the study. “It might not be huge, or every day, but it adds up.” She and her team looked at how neighborhood crime in Baltimore affects attendance. The vast majority of students there use public transportation (like many urban school systems, Baltimore City Public Schools don’t bus students). Researchers mapped the routes high school freshmen took to and from school — what streets they were walking on, when and where they picked up a bus, when they transferred, etc. Then, researchers applied crime data by location and time of day to see how those findings related to student absences for the year. They discovered “kids who are supposed to be walking along streets with higher rates of violent crime are more likely to miss school,” Burdick-Will explains.
Dian Schaffhauser, The Journal
A recent “data point” from the U.S. Department of Education National Center for Education Statistics stated that schools where cellphone use was allowed reported less cyberbullying than schools where the devices were prohibited. The two-page brief didn’t offer any theories about why this would be so. According to the agency, a 2016 School Survey on Crime and Safety asked principals about the rules in their public schools regarding whether students were allowed to access their phones during the school day. Across all schools, two-thirds (66 percent) had such rules in place. Those also had a higher rate of daily or weekly cyberbullying — 16 percent — versus 10 percent at schools where cell phone use was allowed.
Access, Assessment, and Advancement
John Fensterwald, EdSource
Without fanfare or advance notice, the California Department of Education released the list of the state’s poorest-performing schools last week for the first time in four years. The 781 schools include 481 out of about 6,600 schools getting Title I federal aid for low-income students and 300 high schools where fewer than two-thirds of students graduate. Under a federal education law that requires states to identify the lowest performing schools, districts with these schools will get a modicum of federal aid — about $150,000 per school per year — along with the obligation to figure out how to make the schools better. Only this time there will be fewer dictates from Washington and less interference from Sacramento. Their new-found autonomy has left some school leaders optimistic but also uncertain over what to do next. Some student advocacy groups, meanwhile, are ambivalent. They are supportive of the reasoning behind more flexibility but skeptical it will be effective.
Matt Barnum, Chalkbeat
The Oakland school board has a problem: too many schools and too few students. To stay afloat, the district plans to close as many as two dozen schools over the next five years. That decision has not gone over well with the teachers and students affected. “I know you think that [it] is a low-quality school, but they produce high-quality students,” one teacher said at the emotional meeting when the board announced the first closure. Similar scenes have played out across the country. In some cities, the rapid growth of charter schools mean students are spread too thinly across too many district buildings, prompting closures. In other places, a declining number of school-age students is the culprit. And elsewhere, policymakers have been motivated to close schools by a desire to improve academic performance. In the 2014-15 school year, more than 210,000 students attended a school that would be closed that year, according to the most recent data from the federal government. So what are the consequences? Overall, do school closures set displaced students on a negative academic trajectory, or do they more often help students escape schools that have long struggled?
Larry Gordon, EdSource
While the California State University has boasted about improved systemwide graduation rates, new statistics show a more troubling picture at many of CSU’s 23 campuses. Some campuses lag far behind in the expensive initiative to sharply improve graduation rates by 2025 and face what one high-ranking administrator called “a heavy lift” to get many more entering freshmen to finish within four years. For example, 11 campuses still graduated less than 20 percent of the students who entered as freshmen four years ago. In an unpleasant surprise, four campuses actually saw their four-year graduation rates decline a bit in 2018. And at 13 campuses, less than 60 percent of freshmen finished after six years. To be sure, notable progress was made in some categories and at about half of the campuses as course sections were added, new faculty and counselors were hired and students were pushed to take a full 15 unit load of classes each semester. Since most of those efforts began just two years ago and are still gaining momentum, officials say it will take a while for graduation numbers to more fully reflect the various changes and the $150 million spent on them so far.
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
Knowledge that Matters, Sudikoff Institute Public Forum
The number of black homeless students in Los Angeles County has increased significantly and black students are overrepresented among the homeless student population, according to a new analysis by researchers at the Black Male Institute at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies. Young, Black, & Houseless: An Analysis of LA County Black Homeless Student Population, finds that the number of black homeless students has increased by more than 40 percent since 2014-15. One-third of black students experiencing homelessness in California reside in Los Angeles County. In the Los Angeles Unified School District, the number of black homeless students has increased by more than 150 percent. The analysis also finds that black students are the only racial/ethnic group that disproportionately experiences homelessness. While black students make up about 7.5 percent of student enrollment in Los Angeles County, they account for 10% of homeless students.
Justin Murphy and Georgie Silvarole, USA TODAY
Elijah Goldberg thought he could handle precalculus in 11th grade. His guidance counselor, he said, did not. “It seemed like they were scared I would fail a class and it would make the district look bad,” he said. “It was a big argument – I had to get my mom involved.” Frustrated, he instead took the class in the evening at a community college near his home outside Rochester, New York, and earned an A minus. He took the transcript back to his high school in the wealthy suburb of Brighton and showed it to the staff – proof he had been correct about his own ability. “I felt like the administrators didn’t believe in me – I was definitely discouraged from taking AP (advanced placement) classes and getting ahead,” said Goldberg, who graduated in 2016. “In my AP classes, there weren’t a lot of us, and we definitely weren’t encouraged. It was more just ‘Get through, and don’t fail.’” For black students across the USA – the “us” he referenced – Goldberg’s experience is a common one.
Valerie Kinloch, Tanja Burkhard, and Carlotta Penn, Educator Innovator
Our February reading for Literacy, Equity + Remarkable Notes = LEARN critiques narratives of failure associated with literacy and literacy education that schools weave about Black male students. In an article published in Research in the Teaching of English, authors Valerie Kinloch, Tanja Burkhard, and Carlotta Penn detail the out-of-school literacy practices of two Black young men Khaleeq and Rendell. The authors discuss the importance of producing counter-narratives to negative messages that Khaleeq and Rendell receive in school about their intelligence and their community-based trajectories when “school is not enough.”
Public Schools and Private $
Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post
In the largest public school system in the country, New York City Chancellor Richard Carranza recently scolded charter school supporters for disparaging traditional public schools. The year before, he had struck a far friendlier tone. In the second-largest public school district in the country, Los Angeles teachers ended a six-day strike in January with a key concession from pro-charter Superintendent Austin Beutner: a commitment to call for a districtwide cap on new charters until their effect on district schools can be assessed. In the third-largest school district in the country, Chicago teachers at several charter schools are on strike, the second time within a month it has happened in the city. The December strike there was the first in the charter sector, which is largely (and intentionally) non-unionized and pays most teachers far less than district schools.
Andy Stern, The Daily Beast
The recent LA teachers strike, and the school board’s vote to recommend a moratorium on new charter schools, reignited the a long-standing debate on charter schools—one that seems so dated. The strike brought back memories of my first experiences with education policy as President of SEIU, America’s largest non-teaching union. It was around 2005. I replaced Sandy Feldman, then president of the American Federation of Teachers, as a judge for the LA-based Broad Foundation prize for urban schools (later I became a board member). Unions promoted education reform—but different kinds. The AFT’s iconic president, Al Shanker, backed “the greatest possible choice among public schools,” while the competitor union, the National Education Association, promoted charter schools’ role in “incubating innovation within the existing public education system.”
Edward Booth, Richmond Confidential
On Wednesday, the West Contra Costa Unified School Board discussed a resolution that calls upon the state to establish a moratorium on charter school expansion. The proposed resolution, inspired by several others—including one that passed last month following the teachers’ strike in the Los Angeles Unified School District—calls for a moratorium on charter school expansion from the California State Board of Education and seeks to establish additional oversight over existing charter schools. Board member Consuelo Lara, who introduced and co-sponsored the resolution, said the call for action to the state is the main focus of the resolution. “The charter school laws are ridiculous and need to be changed at that level,” Lara said. The resolution provides a full page of arguments to support its backers’ central premise: They note the extreme proliferation of charter schools in recent years; call the schools “woefully lacking” in engagement, transparency and accountability; and, citing a May 2018 study by In The Public Interest, criticize the high cost of the schools to district funds across the state. They also note the shortage of school district space and resources caused by the legal requirement that they provide facilities for charter schools, which may result in some of them being co-located within district schools.
Other News of Note
Charlene Muhammad, Los Angeles Sentinel
A recent study indicates that Black workers stand to lose critical unionized public sector jobs from threats to unions in L.A. County. According to the report, “An Ongoing Demand for Los Angeles: A Bright Future Requires Organizing More Black Public Sector Union Workers,” public sector jobs and unions that represent such employees contribute to the economic and social stability of the Black middle class in Los Angeles. The 730 Black workers surveyed by the Los Angeles Black Worker Center found that L.A. County Black public sector union workers earn more than their non-union counterparts, and report more stable communities and longer careers. In addition, higher wagers and better benefits allow them to care for their families, the workers reported.