Just News from Center X – February 16, 2024

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Education Secretary Calls Diversity Program Cuts Latest ‘Boogeyman’ To Divide Schools

Philip Lewis, Huffington Post

U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said Tuesday that he believes attacks on diversity programs in public schools are part of a larger campaign to “decrease the confidence in our public schools.” In a roundtable discussion with Black journalists at the Department of Education building in Washington, Cardona referred to the rollback as a “boogeyman” that opponents of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives have created to sow division in America’s schools — not unlike the debates over COVID masks and the teaching of critical race theory.

What I Wish I Knew About Teaching Black History Before I Left the Classroom

Bettina L. Love, Education Week

I remember my days as a Black elementary school teacher—eyes beaming with joy, proudly introducing students to a new Black icon each day in February. Time was precious in the shortest month of the year, and, with so many greats, my classes’ exploration was necessarily cursory. There was the occasional assigned book report, which attempted to have students study these figures beyond bullet points, but I failed to present the Black activists, artists, innovators, inventors, politicians, and scholars as relatable, real people struggling with what it means to be human. We explored how they fought racism, but I failed to portray them as people with emotions beyond that of resiliency—people with insecurities, personal conflicts, fears, doubts, and sometimes in need of redemption because of the harm they caused to the people they loved.

The war in Gaza is wiping out Palestine’s education and knowledge systems

Chandni Desai, The Conversation

Gaza’s education system has suffered significantly since Israel’s bombardment and assault on the strip began. Last month, Israel blew up Gaza’s last standing university, Al-Israa University. In the past four months, all or parts of Gaza’s 12 universities have been bombed and mostly destroyed. Approximately 378 schools have been destroyed or damaged. The Palestinian Ministry of Education has reported the deaths of over 4,327 students, 231 teachers and 94 professors. Numerous cultural heritage sites, including libraries, archives and museums, have also been destroyed, damaged and plundered.

Language, Culture, and Power

Show and tell: Local Natives highlight cultural education impacts of school district’s budget crisis

Mark Sabbatini, Juneau Empire

Local Alaska Native residents wanted to have more than words with local leaders about the Juneau School District’s budget crisis, which has been the subject of discussion at near-daily public meetings the past couple of weeks. So nearly the entire first hour of a “community conversation” Thursday featured traditional dances by students accompanied by narratives about lessons learned from ancestors over thousands of years. Some of the students later lined up in front of the gathering at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall to describe their favorite lessons from those elders passed on through the district’s Tlingit Culture, Language and Literacy (TCLL) Program.

“It’s important to learn our language,” said Awasti Lizzie George-Frank. “Our ancestors learned how to speak Lingít and that’s how they survived. Knowing how to speak Lingít helps me to remember my ancestors. Learning my language teaches me my history. I know how I fit into the world because I learned my history and my language.”

New SPLC report highlights disparities in Alabama’s juvenile justice system

Ralph Chapoco, Alabama Reflector

Black youth face harsher school discipline in Alabama than whites and are more likely to be locked in facilities that expose them to trauma, according to a report released Tuesday by the Montgomery-based Southern Poverty Law Center. The report, titled  “Only Young Once: Alabama’s Overreliance on School Pushout and For-Profit Youth Incarceration,” found that when it came to similar infractions, Alabama schools in 2017 suspended Black children (57%) more often than white children (38%). “We have a system that is geared more toward punishment than rehabilitation,” said Delvin Davis, a senior criminal justice policy analyst, in an interview Monday. “When we are talking about the youngest people who are incarcerated here, I think we need to flip the mindset about how we treat children and teenagers, as people who need to be resourced and cared for and provided for, as opposed to young people who we should dispose of and throw away if they have done something wrong.”

A day in the life: Two Denver fourth graders from Venezuela navigate a new school and country

Melanie Asmar, Chalkbeat Colorado

Fourth graders streamed one at a time through the playground door at Denver’s Valdez Elementary, a snaking jumble of energy and untied shoelaces. Most bounded up the stairs to their classrooms. Only a few stopped to give a quick side hug to the staff member who was squinting in the sun and holding the door. Two of the huggers were Jesus and Leiker, who arrived in Denver from Venezuela a few months ago. The boys, ages 9 and 10, are among the more than 38,000 migrants who have come to Denver in the past year after fleeing political and economic crises in their home countries.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Schools are trying to get more students therapy. Not all parents are on board

Michael Elsen-Rooney, AP News

Derry Oliver was in fifth grade when she first talked to her mom about seeing a therapist. She was living in Georgia with her uncle and grandparents while her mom was in New York scoping out jobs and apartments ahead of moving the family. It was a rough year apart. Oliver, now 17, was feeling depressed. A school staffer raised the idea of a therapist. Oliver’s mom, also named Derry Oliver, questioned the school’s assessment and didn’t give consent for therapy. “You’re so young,” the mom recalled thinking. “There’s nothing wrong with you. These are growing pains.”

6 years after Parkland shooting, school librarian works hard to make her space the safest

Alia Wong, USA TODAY

Six years since the day everything changed, the library at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School brims with resources to promote mental health. There’s a “Zen den” for resting and decompressing, a therapy dog named River, yoga equipment, a button-making station and smartboards that display videos of crochet lessons. Librarian Diana Haneski, River’s owner, puts a lot of thought into what to include in – and exclude from – the library’s collections. She opted to remove a Civil War-themed book with a rifle on its cover, for example, and to avoid other materials with imagery that could be upsetting. And she has made sure to include a range of literature that offers students an escape from daily life, including sci-fi novels and youth-oriented magazines.

Rethinking Our Response to Youth Homelessness

Jacqueline White, The Progressive

Consider the situation of Charles—a young Black man who showed up at HOPE 4 Youth, a drop-in center for youth facing homelessness in suburban Minneapolis. His grandmother, who he was staying with, had given him until the end of the month to find a new place. His name wasn’t on the lease and the stress of their under-the-radar arrangement had become too much for her.

Options for young people in Charles’ situation, who don’t have a rental history and don’t make enough to realistically afford their own place, are limited. He could do an intake through the local “coordinated entry” system, part of the federally-funded triage process that acts as a gateway to homelessness resources.  But because Charles wasn’t actually homeless, he would not end up among the 35 percent of young people who were deemed most in need by the coordinated entry system and thus eligible for housing. Even those who do make the cut routinely wait months until they can move into housing.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

Low pay. Fewer leadership roles. Black and Latina child-care workers deal with racial barriers

Jenny Gold and Kate Sequiera, Los Angeles Times

LaWanda Wesley had been working in child care for more than two decades, but no matter what she did, she couldn’t seem to get a meaningful raise or the promotion she felt she deserved. Her salary was stuck at around $19 an hour. She earned her master’s degree in educational leadership and policy studies, then a doctorate in educational leadership and management — all while raising five children as a single mother. But the organizations she worked for told her not to expect any pay difference or title change. At one point, Wesley, who is Black, was demoted and asked to train a white co-worker to be her supervisor. At another, a company was audited by the state and required to give her a 7% raise because she was so underpaid. “The message I got as a Black woman in early education was that no matter what you do — what letters and degree attainment — this is your place. And this place is not one of value,” said Wesley. “I remember feeling so less than, so demeaned and confused.”

Most California high school students don’t take courses needed to apply to CSU or UC [Interactive Map]

Yuxuan Xie and Daniel J. Willis, Ed Source

SAT Administrator College Board Settles New York Claims It Sold Student Data

Jonathan Stempel, US News and World Report

The College Board agreed to pay $750,000 to settle claims by New York attorney general that it violated high school students’ privacy by selling personal information it collected when they took the SAT and other exams, the state said on Tuesday. Attorney General Letitia James said the nonprofit exam administrator, which has more than 6,000 members, made tens of millions of dollars between 2018 and 2022 by licensing students’ information to more than 1,000 colleges and scholarship programs, which then used the data to solicit students. The College Board allegedly used its Student Search Service to sell students’ names, contact information, ethnicities, grade point averages and test scores, despite a 2014 state education law barring the commercialization of such data.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

The Potential for Land Use and Housing Reform to Address School Segregation and Educational Opportunity

Genevieve Siegel-Hawley, NEPC

Housing, land use, and zoning policies are often siloed in such a way that they are considered and addressed separately from school segregation and students’ opportunities to learn. But these policy areas can interact in powerful ways. This policy brief attempts to break down those siloes. Drawing on multiple bodies of literature, it explores what we know about the potential of housing and land use policy reform to address school segregation—and why doing so matters. The research reviewed here illuminates the close historical and legal relationship between school and housing segregation and the clear links between land use policy and school and housing segregation. Studies also show that where land use or housing reforms have enabled greater access to less segregated schools, historically marginalized students’ outcomes have improved. The brief concludes with recommendations for policymakers to offer pathways to diverse, well-resourced schools for historically marginalized families, along with oversight and enforcement that considers school-housing interrelationships.

Half of Babies — Including Mine — Rely on WIC. But Unless Congress Acts, Millions Could Face Food Insecurity

Candace Baker, Inequality.org

When my grandmother was raising my cousins and me, she taught us to work hard and go after what we wanted. I didn’t know it at the time, but we were in poverty. Scared of judgment and bureaucracy, my grandmother refused to apply for assistance programs. But that meant she had to work several jobs, day and night, bringing us with her because she couldn’t afford child care. We barely got by — and enjoyed no time together outside of work and school. We thought that’s how everyone lived. Your grandma works around the clock and still can’t make ends meet. That’s life, right? But as I got older, I saw that other kids had new clothes, after-school activities, and time to play. I wanted that. And most of all, I wanted to help my grandmother so that she could have it too. So I vowed to get a college education and a good-paying job helping others.

Moms and babies were struggling in Flint, Michigan. Cash offers a lifeline of hope.

Mona Hanna-Attisha and H. Luke Shaefer, USA Today

Americans are expected to spend about $26 billion on Valentine’s Day this year. That’s a lot of chocolates, red roses and candlelit dinners. But what if that price tag on love went beyond one heart-shaped day? And what if the target of our affection was actual living, chubby baby cherubs? This year, Flint, Michigan, will mark Valentine’s Day differently. There will still be love songs and ice cream, but the investment in love is collectively being directed toward our littlest babies. As Winnie the Pooh said, “Sometimes the smallest things take the most room in your heart.”  On Wednesday, Flint will celebrate the launch of Rx Kids, the nation’s first citywide cash prescription program for pregnant moms and infants. This year, every expectant mom in the city will receive $1,500 during mid-pregnancy and, once their babies are born, $500 per month until they turn 1 year old.

Democracy and the Public Interest

Can School Boards Survive the “Parents’ Rights” Movement?

Jonathan Collins & Jeffrey Henig, Teachers College

From viral moments to headlines, American school board meetings remain in the crossfire of sharp debates around gender-inclusion, library books, race and more. But as political hopefuls up and down the ballot plan to duke it out in November, what does the future of school district governance really look like?  Big politics (and big money) started intruding in local education policy several years ago, but the practice ballooned into a phenomenon in 2021 when conservative political action committees began pouring millions into local races.

Colorado lawmakers to consider bill that may curb book bans in school libraries and public libraries

Ann Schimke, Chalkbeat Colorado

Some Colorado lawmakers want to make it harder to pull books from the shelves of public libraries and school libraries, especially when the challenges come from people who live outside the community. Sen. Bill 24-49 would create a standard process through which books or other library materials could be challenged and outlines the makeup of school district committees that would have the authority to remove books from school libraries. The bill also spells out who can submit a book challenge. At a school library, challengers could be an enrolled student or the parent of a student. At a public library, a resident of the local library district could challenge a book. The bill, which will be heard by the Senate Education Committee on Feb. 22, comes at a time when book bans and challenges are more prevalent than they’ve been in decades. Often, those challenging books raise objections about how subjects like race, racism, or LGBTQ issues are handled. In some cases, dozens of challenges originate with one person.

How to talk to your kids about voting and the election

Leslie Gonzalez, KPBS

Politics can be a difficult subject to discuss with children. But, as they grow and begin to understand the fundamentals of civics and how people choose their local and national leaders, the subject is also hard to avoid. So, how do you talk to older kids about voting and elections? Here are some pro-tips from Wilson Middle School history teacher Michael Williams and Jeff Hoffman, psychologist with the San Diego Unified School District, who spoke to KPBS about the resources kids can use inside and outside the classroom, and how they can foster their curiosity at home. Voting allows people to come together as a community to make a collective decision. It fosters democracy and allows for a fair process in electing local and national leaders. It involves rules and making hard decisions independently. Hoffman remarked that kids are smart and often “take things literally.”

Other News of Note

Philadelphia’s ‘Black Shining Prince’

Menika Dirkson, Black Perspectives

Securely tucked away in the Print Department of The Library Company of Philadelphia’s collection of over 100,000 photographs, maps, drawings, and ephemera is the makeshift book, Portrait Album of Well-Known 19th-Century African American Men of Philadelphia, 1865-1885. In this 8.5 x 6.5 inch album, composed of carefully cut-out cardboard, cabinet card, and gelatin silver, are photographs of twenty-one prominent Black men. This book, possibly produced around 1885 by a school or church without access to a printing press, has pages that vary slightly in size, are different colors, and are composed of cardboard from varying sources, including one yellow page that reads, “Sharpless Bros Dry Goods, Chestnut & Eighth Sts Philadelphia.” On the inside of the front cover is the unsteady penciling of a child who used the album to not only practice their arithmetic, but most importantly, also learn about men like Union Army veterans Harmon Richardson and Taylor Aldridge who were leaders in the Black community.