Just News from Center X – February 23, 2018

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

‘Let the youth lead’: Student activists nationwide demand change after Parkland shooting

Arianna Prothero and Andrew Ujifusa, Education Week
Marches in Washington and Utah. Walkouts in California, Iowa, and Maryland. Emotional Twitter rebukes of political leadership that have gone viral. And thousands of chanting young people converging on the Florida statehouse in Tallahassee, demanding changes to the state’s gun laws. Just as it seemed that public reaction to school shootings had become predictable, and lawmakers’ votes on gun control would stay within the status quo, students’ responses to the latest tragedy in Parkland, Fla., have been anything but. The upwelling of youth activism across the country galvanized by the Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School stands in stark contrast to that seen after previous school shootings, advocates and academics say, and holds the potential to become a commanding new force as advocates push for new restrictions on guns and access to guns. “I think gun violence has really affected me for a long time, starting with Sandy Hook,” said Amarins Laanstra-Corn, 17, a junior at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Md., who co-organized a student walkout that took her and other students to Capitol Hill and the White House on Wednesday. “It could be one of us and we can’t sit quietly. We can’t let this die out.” Seasoned gun-control advocates are hopeful that students will be successful where adults have not. “This is a powerful, no-B.S. constituency that is now very angry and very active and very much calling for change and calling for action,” said Mark Barden, whose son Daniel was killed in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in 2012 and went on to co-found Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit that works to protect children from gun violence. “More than calling for it, they’re demanding it.”

Trump’s solution for school shootings: Arm teachers

Moriah Balingit, The Washington Post
Seated between teenage survivors of the Florida school shooting, President Trump said during a White House listening session Wednesday that arming teachers and posting gun-toting veterans in schools could deter or stop school shooters. His comments came during an emotional meeting that included Vice President Pence, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and school-shooting survivors and families who had lost children to gun violence, including a father who buried his daughter just last week. They poured out grief and anger over the lack of efforts to stem school shootings. Trump talked about strengthening background checks and increasing mental health resources. But his most pointed and specific remarks came when he spoke about adding security to schools by arming teachers and posting gun-equipped veterans. Trump posited that if Aaron Feis, a popular football coach, has been armed, he could have stopped the gunman who killed Feis and 16 others last week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Teacher shortages persist in California and getting worse in many communities

Louis Freedberg, EdSource
Despite an improving economy and new efforts to recruit teachers, California’s teacher shortage is showing no signs of easing up. In fact, shortages are becoming more severe in many communities. That’s the conclusion of a new report from the Learning Policy Institute, based on a survey of 25 school districts of different sizes and in diverse locations in the state. The districts are not intended to be representative of California’s nearly 1,000 school districts, but they provide a window into how some two dozen districts are dealing with a widespread problem. Four-fifths of the districts report that the shortages continue compared to last year, and more than half said that there has been no change since then. One-third say the situation has gotten worse. Only 10 percent said that the situation has improved.

Language, Culture, and Power

‘I worry every day’: Lockdown drills prompt fear, self-reflection after school shooting

Madeline Will, Education Week
Every few months, the children in Kelly Myers’ preschool class in Roanoke, Va., go to a corner of their classroom and hide. Myers puts a barricade under the door knob to jam it closed and turns off the lights. Then, the children, who are 2 ½ to 3 ½ years old, sit quietly in the dark until the all-clear. Often, students start to cry. Lockdown drills such as these are ubiquitous in schools these days, but they take on new significance in the wake of a horrific school shooting such as the one in Parkland, Fla., in which a gunman killed 17 people and wounded 15 others at a high school. For many teachers, the realization sets in during these drills that “if the door opens, they’re coming for me and my kids,” Myers said. “My responsibility is the kids and to keep them safe, and if I don’t get that door closed tight enough, they’re coming for me.” And as the number of school shootings ticks up year after year, teachers say the lockdown drills never lose their impact. While some teachers say they’re glad that their schools prepare for the worst-case scenario, many also say the drills have become increasingly surreal and unnerving. “I think there’s something very sobering about the lockdown drill,” said Paul Hankins, an 11th grade English teacher in Floyds Knobs, Ind. “If you do a fire drill or a tornado drill, they seem like they’re so implausible. … We don’t come back from the fire drill and talk about how it went.” With Parkland on their minds, teachers faced with a lockdown have to ask the hard questions: How would they respond in an emergency situation? Would they take a bullet for their students, as several teachers did in Florida?

A century-old suffragist’s story inspires high school girls to ‘Hear Our Voice’

Catherine Womack, Los Angeles Times
Inside the well-worn choir room at Van Nuys High School, a scuffed-up old grand piano rumbles as composer David O pounds out slow, bluesy chords. “Who I am,” the choir sings soulfully above his accompaniment, their voices rising in pitch with each word, “is a woman who fights a good fight.” Choral director Brianne Arevalo calls out the beats above the piano’s chords, signaling the song’s climax: “Never afraid to speak my mind. That’s who I am. That’s who I am!” In the back row, 17-year-old Clara Pierone’s voice rises above the group’s harmonies as she belts out the final line with a descending, gospel-style flourish. With a big gesture, Arevalo — Miss Arevalo to her students — cues the cut-off. There’s a brief beat of magical silence. “What a beautiful piece you wrote,” Arevalo says, reveling for a moment in the rich sound. But soon enough, she jumps back into teacher-mode to offer a quick, practical tip on how to brighten a sustained high note in a performance so that it doesn’t go flat. Arevalo and her students are rehearsing “Hear Our Voice: A Woman’s Journey,” a new oratorio written and composed by Van Nuys High School choir students that explores the history of women’s rights. They will premiere the piece Friday (for other students) and Saturday (for the public) alongside 10 student instrumentalists and eight professional singers from the Los Angeles Master Chorale.

Navajo president: Go to college, then bring that knowledge home

Laurel Morales, NPR
Tommy Rock has had three graduations — high school, college and graduate school. And no one from his family was there — no one to cheer for him, no one to take his picture. And when he came home to Monument Valley, few really cared. “I didn’t get no congratulations or nothing,” Rock said. “It was like ‘Oh you think you’re better than us?’ I was like, ‘Wow, OK.’ ” When a Navajo baby is born, it’s custom to bury the umbilical cord in the ground. The Navajo believe that ties the child to the land forever. But a new generation of Navajos are defying this belief as more and more young people leave the Navajo Nation to go to college or to find work. Elders encourage their return, but often that transition home is rough. Almost half of the Navajo Nation is unemployed. After high school there are few opportunities.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Here’s how witnessing violence harms children’s mental health

Daniel J. Flannery, The Conversation
When children learn about news like the deadly school shooting that claimed more than a dozen lives on Feb. 14, 2018 in Broward County, Florida, a logical question for them to ask is: Will the same thing happen to me? As researchers and clinicians who have studied the problem of violence over the past three decades, we have witnessed a steady increase in levels of children’s exposure to violence and its damaging effect on their mental health. How does this exposure affect the mental health of children and adolescents? And how should we handle the increased fear and insecurity that results from such events?

Is there any way for schools to prevent shootings?

Anya Kamenetz, NPR
Could anyone have stopped this? That’s one of the biggest questions for schools and educators as the nation takes in the facts of the shooting in Parkland, Fla., that has left 17 dead and 23 injured. While the U.S. remains a global outlier by far when it comes to mass shootings, and owns 42 percent of the world’s guns, the fact is that most schools in the country have taken steps to prepare for this kind of threat. Since the Columbine massacre in 1999, schools have changed the way they respond to both potential threats and actual attacks. And they’ve done so even without coordinated federal oversight or much in the way of dedicated resources, either for training, safety or broader prevention.

Teacher: Trump helps us teach respect and empathy by modeling what those things are not

Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post; Dana Dusbiber, California Writing Project
Can we be honest about how President Trump’s behavior is affecting the work educators do in the classroom? Classroom lessons and discussions about subjects including world and U.S. history, current events, science and our changing planet have been reshaped to take into account the statements, actions and views of this president — and the same is true with the Social Emotional Learning lessons that I share with my eighth-grade students in our Sacramento classroom. I’m still not sure whether Trump is making the teaching of SEL easier or harder, but I do know that he provides almost daily models for my students of character traits that are the exact opposite of what our lessons teach. SEL, or Social Emotional Learning, is a school-based program that seeks to promote enhanced social-emotional health for students across the grade levels. Many districts and schools across the country have adopted some form of this program for their teachers to use in the classroom. Our school district in northern California has adopted a model that has been in use for several years.

Access, Assessment, and Advancement

‘Big data’ classes a big hit in California high schools

Carolyn Jones, EdSource
Data science — the study of computer-generated “big data” — is the hottest career in the U.S., according to Glassdoor. And now it’s the hottest math class at a growing number of California high schools. About 30 high schools in California have started offering data science classes for juniors and seniors, in some cases as an alternative to Algebra 2. A hands-on blend of statistics and computer programming, data science meets the requirements of A-G coursework — the series of classes in English, math, science, foreign language, history and other core subjects necessary for admission to the University of California and California State University systems — and doesn’t require prior knowledge of computers or statistics. Data science is the study of large sets of data, using computers to look for patterns and trends. In data science classes, students write computer programs that help sort through data and identify regularities — essentially “taking a big data set and dancing around it and getting it to tell you its secrets,” according to math education consultant Tim Erickson, who writes data science curriculum. And it’s proven to be a popular addition to high school math departments.

College aid a game changer for foster youth, but many don’t apply

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez, KPCC
Advocates are trying to reach as many high school seniors in foster care as possible before a key financial aid deadline next month. Xavier Mountain knows how important that outreach can be. Put into foster care at the age of two, by the time he graduated from high school in Stockton, California he knew he wanted to go to college but had no significant help from the adults around him. “I didn’t even know about financial aid; I got into community college just lost and I was wondering how to fund my education,” he said. Within that first year he applied for and received financial aid. He went on to earn his bachelors’ degree and is now a graduate student in social work at the University of Southern California. But it’s hard for him to forget how angry he was at the time because the adults in the foster care system and in school pushed college enrollment but didn’t back it up by helping him fill out applications.

2 sisters in Los Angeles are DREAMers but only 1 is covered by DACA

Shereen Marisol Meraji, NPR
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST: Congress has yet to come up with a compromise immigration bill, so the fate of the so-called DREAMers is still up in the air. We’re going to introduce you now to two of them. They are sisters. One has protections under DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The other sister does not. From NPR’s Code Switch team, here’s Shereen Marisol Meraji. SHEREEN MARISOL MERAJI, BYLINE: Eighteen-year-old Abigail Gonzalez fits the high-achieving DREAMer stereotype. She’s got straight A’s, she’s senior class president, and she really wants to go to Princeton. Abigail describes herself as a Dodgers fan who listens to K-pop. ABIGAIL GONZALEZ: And I love to eat Italian, Korean. Like, I love trying different types of foods. MERAJI: She’ll also credit her oldest sister, Miriam Gonzalez Avila, for being… GONZALEZ: My biggest inspiration. And she remembers – she’s the only one who remembers Mexico. MERAJI: Miriam was 6 years old and Abigail was 6 months old when their mom brought them to Los Angeles to reunite with their dad. Miriam’s 24 now and the oldest of four. She describes herself as a hardworking planner. She was high school valedictorian, the first in the family to go to college, and she sees a lot of herself in her youngest sister.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Suspension rates for black male students in California higher for foster youth, rural students

Lee Romney, EdSource
Black male students in rural counties and those in foster care are suspended at some of the highest rates in California, a new report has found. The report also found that the disparity in suspension rates among black male students compared to all students is greatest in kindergarten through the 3rd grade. The report, titled “Get Out! Black Male Suspensions in California Public Schools,” looked at suspensions through the 2016-17 school year. It was authored by J. Luke Wood and Frank Harris III, co-directors of San Diego State University’s Community College Equity Assessment Lab, and Tyrone C. Howard, director of UCLA’s Black Male Institute. Their report found that while black male suspensions have declined statewide — from 18 percent of all suspensions in the 2011-12 school year to 13 percent last year, the rates are still disproportionate when compared to the overall student population. African-Americans make up just over 5 percent of California’s public school enrollment, but account for nearly 18 percent of suspensions and black boys and young men receive nearly three-quarters of those suspensions. African-American boys also make up 14 percent of those expelled.

A new call to end legacy admissions

Richard D. Kahlenberg, The Atlantic
Up until now, most of the legal and political fights over college-admissions policies have centered around the use of race as a factor in admissions at selective colleges. But that may be changing. On Wednesday, student groups at 13 elite colleges announced that they are mobilizing against a different type of affirmative-action program: that which privileges the children of alumni. About three-quarters of U.S. News & World Report’s top 100 universities give a boost in admissions to the relatives of alumni, according to an analysis by The Century Foundation, where I am a senior fellow. But student groups such as the Cornell First Generation Students Union, Socioeconomic Diversity Advocates at the University Chicago, and First-Gens@Brown have announced that they plan to challenge such policies, which research finds tend to benefit white and wealthy applicants. It’s ironic, said Mayra Valadez, a senior and first-generation student at Cornell, that “at institutions of higher learning, there are people doing research on combating income inequality,” yet admissions officers in those same colleges are providing “affirmative action for the wealthy.”

How segregation persists

Douglas Massey, Jacobin
Despite rising minority socioeconomic status, declining levels of discrimination, and growing tolerance for other-race neighbors, residential segregation persists in the United States, and for African Americans remains as high as ever in several large metropolitan areas. In Cycle of Segregation, Maria Krysan and Kyle Crowder make a major contribution to our understanding of how and why residential segregation persists.

Public Schools and Private $

After Florida school shooting, South Lyon boosters cancel AR-15 raffle

James David Dickson, The Detroit News
The booster club for the South Lyon High School football team has canceled a fundraising dinner where organizers were set to raffle off the same model of weapon that was used in the mass shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school. A flier advertising the “2nd Annual Wild Game Dinner,” listed gun raffles among the attractions, including an “AR15,” a semi-automatic high powered assault rifle that was used to kill 17 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday. “Due to the recent tragic events earlier this week, the South Lyon Football Booster Organization has decided to cancel their second annual Wild Game Dinner,” a statement on the booster organization’s website said. “The sensitivity of the issue coupled with the untimely tragedy has led to the decision.”

New Zealand is a school choice utopia. But do students perform better?

PBS New Hour
This story is the first of a three-part series that examines how other countries approach the idea of school choice. Upcoming reports on school choice will focus on Sweden and France via The Hechinger Report. Diane Parkinson, principal of Bucklands Beach Intermediate School in New Zealand, puts her best foot forward when recruiting students. On a sunny Monday in August, Parkinson, along with two students and an assistant principal, went to visit Bucklands Beach Primary School to talk to the sixth-year students there. Sitting on the floor of their library, the dozens of students dressed in red and navy blue were an eager audience. The students would soon be making their final selection for middle school; although many had already put in applications for BBI, not all had done so. The visit was an opportunity to answer general questions about Intermediate School for all students, to help ensure a smooth transition, and to make a sales pitch for BBI to those who had not yet made up their minds.

Researcher: N.H. school choice bill could create ‘tax shelter’ for rich

Lola Duffort, Concord Monitor
A bill to expand New Hampshire’s Education Tax Credit program has some worried the state could create a tax shelter for the wealthy. Currently, businesses can donate to certain school choice scholarship programs and receive a tax credit worth 85 percent in return. House Bill 1686 would make that tax credit available to interest-and-dividends taxpayers – those who pay a 5 percent tax on certain types of passive income. “What the sponsors have done is open up this tax credit to the average person,” said Republican Rep. Norman Major, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, which recently recommended the bill on a party-line vote. But some Democrats are warning that expanding the tax credit to individuals, instead of just businesses, will mean rich, savvy taxpayers will be able to stack the credit along with a federal deduction for charitable giving – and end up saving more in taxes than what the donation was worth.

Other News of Note

Out of bloodshed, hope for gun control

Gary Younge, The Nation
There is a learned hopelessness about mass shootings in America that creates the foundations for an emotionally hollow, politically impotent, media-saturated response. Conservatives offer prayers for those who have died and oppose any action that will prevent more deaths. Liberals offer outrage at the carnage and demand that something must be done, but then go on to do relatively little. (Gun owners are almost twice as likely as non–gun owners to have contacted a public official about gun policy, and almost three times as likely to have donated to a group that takes a position on the issue.) The rest of the world looks on aghast that an ostensibly mature democracy could witness such a tragedy and decide to do nothing to prevent it from happening again. Cable-news channels screen mawkish portraits of the dead and arm’s-length, usually posthumous profiles of the killer. Talk of evil is “balanced” by calls for legislation. Then, after a few days, the talking and the calling stop—until the next time.