Just News from Center X – February 16, 2018

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

Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

A familiar face: Violence in the lives of children and adolescents

United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
All children have the right to be protected from violence inflicted on them by anyone in their lives – whether parents, teachers, friends, romantic partners or strangers … Every 7 minutes, somewhere in the world, an adolescent is killed by an act of violence…. 59 school shootings that resulted in at least one reported fatality were recorded in 14 countries during the past 25 years. Nearly 3 in 4 of these occurred in the United States … In the United States, the homicide rate among non-Hispanic Black adolescent boys aged 10 to 19 is almost 19 times higher than the rate among non-Hispanic White adolescent boys. If the homicide rate among non-Hispanic Black adolescent boys was applied nationwide, the United States would be one of the top 10 most deadly countries in the world.

One year in, Betsy DeVos has supercharged teacher activism

Rebecca Klein, Huffington Post
When Betsy DeVos was named education secretary last February, she become public education’s No. 1 enemy. After all, the billionaire is notorious for her desire to expand private school choice programs (which include many religious private schools that teach Christian fundamentalist doctrine). One year into her tenure, educators have turned this opposition into action. As in so many industries and among Democrats at large, there has been a wave of activism in response to President Donald Trump in the past year. In education, this activism has manifested as a renewed rallying around traditional public schools. The Network for Public Education, an advocacy group, has seen membership shoot up to 330,000 members, compared to 22,000 members before DeVos was nominated. The previous year, membership had increased by only a fraction of that amount. And in states like Kentucky, more teachers than ever are running for office.

Teach what matters

Jesse Hagopian, I am an Educator
Recently I flew to New York City for film project called, “8 Powerful Voices for Public Education.” Below is the address I delivered to make the case for teaching skills that will empower students to challenge oppression and solve societal problems–not just prepare them for the next mind-numbing standardized test. #TeachWhatMatters. Pass it on.

Language, Culture, and Power

How has the presidential election affected young Americans?

Melissa DeJonckheere, Andre Fisher, and Tammy Chang, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health
The 2016 presidential election season and subsequent political events have had physical and emotional impacts on youth. We collected qualitative insights from 14 to 24 year olds across the US related to these events over time. Open-ended probes were sent via text message at three time points before and after the 2016 presidential election. The majority of youth reported emotional stress during all three time points, and female participants were significantly more likely to experience emotional responses. White participants were more likely to report negative symptoms than their peers both pre-election and at 4-months post-election. While preliminary, the results indicate that feelings of stress, anxiety, and fear have persisted in the months following the election, particularly for young women. Additional research is needed to examine the long-term effects of political events on the emotional and physical health of youth.

Education Department no longer investigating transgender bathroom complaints

Moriah Balingit, Los Angeles Times
The Education Department confirmed Monday it is no longer investigating civil rights complaints from transgender students barred from school bathrooms that match their gender identity, a development those students say leaves them vulnerable to bullying and violence. The Obama administration in 2016 directed public schools to allow students to use bathrooms that align with their gender identity, even if that conflicted with the gender on their birth certificates. The administration concluded that barring transgender students from public school bathrooms was a form of sex discrimination prohibited under Title IX.

Hate at school: Ugly new incidents

Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post
DeKalb County, Ga.: A teacher stands accused of enacting abuse and directing anti-Semitic remarks toward Jewish students. The abuse includes deliberately tripping a girl and holding a small boy down to yell in his face with a megaphone. Ventura County, Calif: A Muslim boy felt bullied out of his class by his teacher, who used materials expressly designed to demonize those who follow Islam. The student remains left to study alone in the library during that class period until his court case resolves. St. Louis: A Board of Education candidate and former teacher has a history of prejudiced social media musings, such as “’Dreamers’ is just Anchor Kid misspelled” and “Ban Islam in America!” McKinney, Tex.: Two teachers step down after tweeting — separately — that Islam is a “satanic death cult” and that transgender people are “mentally ill.” Warwick, R.I.: A principal retires in the wake of a video showing him referring to Jewish people and black people with slurs. Commerce City, Colo: A principal has been accused of harassing and targeting a teacher because of her Apache heritage. Those are some of the 64 incidents of hate involving U.S. schools in 32 states that were reported by the media and highlighted in a new report by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance project.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Freezing classrooms spark heated debate over Baltimore’s school infrastructure

John Yang, PBS
Baltimore City Public Schools faced outrage from parents after images emerged of students wearing coats in a freezing classroom. More than a third of schools reported a lack of heat this winter during a cold snap, and that’s just one of the many problems plaguing the school system’s crumbling infrastructure, underscoring a larger debate about long-term funding and investment. John Yang reports.

NYC public schools to offer voter registration program for students this spring

Ben Chapman, NY Daily News
More than 50,000 city students 17 and up will have the chance to register to vote through their schools this year, city officials said Monday. The new voter registration program builds on single-day events the city executed in 2016 and 2017 — and is one of a number of projects to boost civic involvement among the city’s 1.1 million public school kids that’ll be unveiled by Mayor de Blasio in his Tuesday State of the City address. De Blasio “in our current political environment,” said civic education — and civic involvement — is “more important than ever.” “The fate of our country is in their hands, and they deserve to be included in the democratic process,” he said. “If you don’t teach civics and acclimate students to the democratic process, how can you expect teenagers to develop into engaged citizens?”

Food pantries, loaned textbooks and child care: California’s community colleges help needy students

Mikhail Zinshteyn, EdSource
A year after graduating from North Hollywood High School in 2013, family disputes pushed Michael Jaramillo to living on the streets. Sometimes he’d find relief, like when his friend invited him to stay with his parents for two weeks. Odd jobs in construction, moving services and retail netted him just shy of $800 a month and enough to swing hot meals and the occasional night at a hotel. During several episodes of homelessness totaling nine months he slept in laundromats, hospital waiting rooms, other people’s cars and on the rooftops of apartment buildings. While other 19-year-olds crammed all night for college exams, he “would bust an all-nighter and just walk around” on evenings he couldn’t find a place to rest. Thanks to a series of breaks Jaramillo is now a student at Los Angeles Valley College and, with his work-study job, is part of a growing effort to help students struggling with hunger or homelessness.

Access, Assessment, and Advancement

The gap between the science on kids and reading, and how it is taught

Claudio Sanchez, KPCC
Mark Seidenberg is not the first researcher to reach the stunning conclusion that only a third of the nation’s school children read at grade level. The reasons are numerous, but one that Seidenberg cites over and over again is this: The way kids are taught to read in school is disconnected from the latest research, namely how language and speech actually develop in a child’s brain. Seidenberg is a cognitive scientist and professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In his latest book, “Language at the Speed of Sight,” he points out that the “science of reading” can be a difficult concept for educators to grasp. He says it requires some basic understanding of brain research and the “mechanics” of reading, or what is often referred to as phonics. I talked with Seidenberg about what it will take to improve reading instruction. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

With support instead of punishment, a California school district works to improve special education

Theresa Harrington, EdSource
As a result of California’s new school accountability system, West Contra Costa Unified, a San Francisco Bay Area school district that includes Richmond and several surrounding communities, is facing considerable pressure to increase the number of special education students who meet math and English language arts standards on tests and who go on to graduate. The district is among more than 150 districts — nearly 18 percent of all districts in California — slated to get help from county offices of education to improve special education students’ performance on state accountability metrics such as standardized tests and graduation rates. The assistance it and other districts will receive is based on low performance on a range of indicators measured by California’s new accountability dashboard, which also includes ratings for other student groups such as English learners, low-income students and racial and ethnic subgroups. In a break from the punitive era of the former federal No Child Left Behind Act, the state has identified districts targeted for support based on a series of color codes on the new California School Dashboard that went into full operation last fall. The state is also relying on its dashboard as it works toward meeting new federal accountability requirements under the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA.

Applications for college aid through the California Dream Act are down again

Joy Resmovits, Los Angeles Times
Each year, California invites students who are in the country without legal permission to apply for the same financial aid packages available to others. But officials once again are concerned that fears are keeping those they want to help from seeking the funding. The deadline to apply for aid through the California Dream Act is March 2, just about two weeks away. As of Monday, 19,141 students had applied. That’s a little more than half of last year’s total.
“We’re 20,000 students behind,” said Lupita Cortez Alcalá, executive director of the California Student Aid Commission, the organization that administers state financial aid. College counselors and Cortez Alcalá cite immigrant families’ increasing distrust of the government. Students are especially concerned about the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which hangs in the balance.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Why are American public schools still so segregated?

Matthew Green, KQED
As of 2014, white students no longer made up the majority of America’s public elementary and secondary school students. As our latest Above the Noise video points out, this milestone might give the impression that public schools are becoming increasingly diverse institutions, with a solid mix of white students and students of color. But, by and large, they’re not. In fact, schools have gotten steadily more segregated in recent decades. According to research from UCLA’s Civil Rights Project, black students are just as segregated today as they were in the 1960s, before serious enforcement of federal desegregation orders went into effect. The study found that in most public schools throughout the country, there’s little contact between white students and students of color.

In Alabama case, desegregation history defeats district’s secession effort

Mark Walsh, Education Week
This week’s federal appeals court decision rejecting a predominantly white Alabama community’s effort to secede from a larger, more racially diverse county school district was a case of desegregation history triumphing over a purported effort to restore “local control.” In Education Week’s District Dossier blog, Corey Mitchell covers the Feb. 13 decision by a panel of the Atlanta-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Stout v. Gardendale City Board of Education. Since I have also written about this widely watched case at various points in the past, I thought I would add a few observations about the 11th Circuit decision. This case has attracted nationwide attention for several reasons. For one, it is an example of several around the country where smaller communities, often predominantly white, are trying to (or have been able to) secede, splinter, or tear away from a larger, racially diverse school district. Secondly, the ruling below by a federal district judge in this case was a curious one. Judge Madeline H. Haikala of Birmingham had ruled last April that race was a motivating factor in the Gardendale school district’s effort to secede from the Jefferson County, Ala., school system. Nevertheless, the judge held that Gardendale could take control of the two elementary schools within its limits right away and could work toward taking control of the middle school and high school in three years.

Latino teachers face stereotypes, are asked to ‘prove their worth,’ report says

Madeline Will, Education Week
In a new report, Latino teachers say they have unique strengths that benefit their students and the whole school—but that sometimes hamper their own professional success. The report, released today by The Education Trust, tells the stories of Latino teachers who say they want to advocate for their students, which might mean incorporating the Spanish language or Latino culture into their classrooms or accepting the added responsibilities of being a translator. But when they do this work, they say, they are viewed as being inferior teachers or only good for Latino students—and that they are overlooked for advancement opportunities.

Public Schools and Private $

DeVos seeks cuts from Education Department to support school choice

Valerie Strauss, Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, and Moriah Balingit, The Washington Post
More than $1 billion would be spent on private school vouchers and other school choice plans under the budget proposal released Monday by President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. The proposal also calls for slashing the Education Department’s budget and devoting more resources to career training, at the expense of four-year colleges and universities. The proposal would cut $3.6 billion — about 5 percent — from the Education Department by eliminating several discretionary programs, including one that funds after-school activities for needy children and another that covers teacher training. It contains many of the same ideas that DeVos pitched in her budget proposal last year, large portions of which Congress rejected.

Understanding California’s charter schools division: A quick guide

George White, EdSource
In 1992 California legislators passed a law allowing the operation of charter schools, which are public schools that get funding from the state and have greater flexibility in hiring, curriculum, management and other aspects of their operations. In the fall of 2017 there were 1,275 charters in the state. The California Department of Education’s charter schools division has a major advisory role in State Board of Education decisions on charter school issues. This FAQ explains the division’s grant management responsibilities and its advisory roles in the charter school renewal appeals process and in the local regulation of charters.

Gates Foundation moves to implement new strategy to support ‘networks for school improvement’

Louis Freedberg, EdSource
Following a speech last October in which Bill Gates announced a major shift in the education priorities and strategy of his foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is moving to implement its plan to invest the biggest share of its education philanthropy dollars in education networks that come up with their own “locally driven solutions” to improve student achievement.
To that end it has issued detailed Requests for Proposals for what it calls “networks for school improvement” due on Feb. 21. The networks that will be funded must be focused on improving outcomes for African-American, Latino and low- income students. In its proposal guidelines, the foundation said it is “guided by the belief that all lives have equal value, and that all students — especially black, Latino and low-income students — must have equal access to a great public education that prepares them for adulthood.” The foundation is the largest education funder in the U.S., and in that role it has the potential to have an outsize impact on school reforms. Initially, the foundation will fund a small number of networks — probably less than 10 — and over the next three years issue additional calls for proposals, eventually funding between 20 and 30 networks, all consisting of middle and high schools.

Other News of Note

The Blues and Langston Hughes

Smithsonian Education
Students learn the structure of the blues stanza, both in music and in the blues-based poems of Langston Hughes. This set of lessons is divided into grades K–2, 3–5, 6–8, and 9–12. Younger students compose their own three-line blues poems. Older students listen for details of the Great Migration in recordings of rural and urban blues from Smithsonian Folkways.