Just News from Center X – February 23, 2024

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Teachers are limiting lessons on political, social issues, report finds

Hannah Natanson, Washington Post

A majority of American teachers are circumscribing lessons on political or social topics due to worries over parental complaints, and amid a wave of legislation that has reshaped how educators are allowed to discuss race, history, sex and gender in the classroom, according to a national study released Thursday. A report by Rand Corp. found that of a nationally representative sample of 1,400 K-12 teachers, 65 percent reported restricting instruction on “political and social issues.” This is nearly double the percentage of teachers who reported actually being subject to state laws that restrict discussion of race, sex and gender in the classroom, according to the report. A Washington Post analysis found that, as of late 2022, legislators in 25 states had passed 64 laws restricting what teachers can teach and what children can do at school. More than two dozen similar laws passed in 2023.

Chicago’s school board wants to remove police from all schools starting next school year

Reema Amin & Becky Vevea, Chalkbeat

The Chicago Board of Education wants to remove police officers from schools starting next school year, according to a resolution included in the agenda for Thursday’s board meeting. The resolution directs CPS CEO Pedro Martinez to come up with a new policy by June 27 that would introduce a “holistic approach to school safety” at district schools, such as implementing restorative justice practices, which focus on resolving a conflict instead of punishment. That policy “must make explicit that the use of [school resource officers] within District schools will end by the start of the 2024-2025 school year,” the resolution said.

Aren’t the Children of Gaza Worth Saving?

Charles Glass, The Nation

Dr. Revathi Balan of India’s Tirunelveli Medical College Hospital received word last week that an ambulance was delivering an 11-year-old boy for emergency treatment. According to The Hindu (an Indian English-language daily), the boy, Sterlin Grace Danison, had accidentally stabbed himself with scissors that pierced his right ventricle. His parents had taken their bleeding son to a local clinic, whose medics could not stop the blood from flowing and put him in the ambulance. “Even before the ambulance entered the hospital,” the newspaper reported, “Dr. Revathi had a team of doctors, nurses and the operation theatre ready.” Within 10 minutes of his arrival, the youngster received the urgent attention of a cardiothoracic surgeon, the head of cardiology, an anesthetist, and two surgical nurses. The medical staff spent five hours stabilizing Danison’s heartbeat and repairing the ventricle. Their efforts saved his life. No one turns his back on a child whose life is threatened.

Language, Culture, and Power

Mexican American Educational History: A Moment of Recognition

Philis M. Barragán Goetz, Rubén Donato, and Maribel Santiago, Teachers College Record

Public schools have received an enormous amount of media headlines in the last few years. While not new, efforts to ban books that challenge racism, to rebrand critical race theory as somehow anti-American, and to omit revisionist accounts of the nation’s founding receive extensive, often breathless news coverage . As scholars of education and history, we have been deeply troubled by the attempts to distort the past, including the ways the news media continue to frame the attacks on education in ahistorical terms and promote an uncritical view of the role education has played in maintaining systemic oppression in the past and present. These distortions also contribute to public misconceptions of Mexican Americans that position them as not valuing education . Defending a manufactured crisis about how race is treated in the curriculum distracts the nation from the fact that most students of color are attending segregated, underfunded, underresourced schools. Mexican American students are experiencing a continuity of segregated schooling conditions and in some places endure hyper-segregation.

America’s Origin Story is a Myth

Daniel Denver and Nick Estes, Jacobin

The liberal story of the United States is that we’re a nation of immigrants. The indigenous story is that the country was founded as a nation of settler colonialists. For most of US history, maintaining overwhelming white settlement to ensure indigenous dispossession was official policy. In Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler even praised American immigration law for its racial exclusions, favorably comparing the United States to what he framed as a racially defiled Latin America. In an interview with Daniel Denvir on the Jacobin Radio podcast the Dig, Nick Estes discusses his book, Our History Is the Future: Standing Rock Versus the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Long Tradition of Indigenous Resistance. He talks through nineteenth-century smallpox epidemics, massacres at the hands of the US military, the genocide of the buffalo, and the caging of indigenous people on the reservation system.

How Bilingual Teachers and Policies Shape Immigrant Students’ Futures

María Alejandra Trujillo, BNN

In the heart of Tijuana, a group of prospective bilingual teachers from California embarks on a transformative journey, stepping into classrooms that mirror the lives of many immigrant students they will soon teach. This experience, aimed at understanding the multifaceted challenges faced by immigrant students from Mexico and other countries, highlights a crucial aspect of education that often goes unnoticed: the need for empathy, resources, and support to bridge the educational divide. The visit to Tijuana schools is more than an educational trip; it’s a deep dive into the realities that many immigrant children face before stepping foot in a U.S. classroom. These prospective teachers witness firsthand the stark contrasts in educational environments, gaining insights into the struggles of adapting to a new language and culture. This experience is pivotal, equipping them with the understanding and empathy needed to support immigrant children and families, thereby addressing their struggles in education more effectively.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

A brief but spectacular take on building trust in schools

William Brangham, PBS Newshour

Valor Collegiate Academy in Nashville encourages students to share what’s going on in their lives and to accept support, creating what they call a community of care. We hear from high school teacher Natalie Nikitas and Valor students as they give their Brief But Spectacular take on building trust at school.

Research: Immigration enforcement hinders schoolwork; schools offer support

Mallika Seshadri, EdSource

Immigrant students’ schoolwork and experience in the classroom often suffer in the presence of immigration enforcement — with 60% percent of teachers and school staff reporting poorer academic performance, and nearly half noting increased rates of bullying against these students, UCLA-based researchers found. “Instead of focusing on their education, these students struggle with this uncertainty and, as a result, are often absent from school or inattentive. Their teachers also struggle to motivate them and sometimes to protect them,” reads a recent policy brief by UCLA’s Center for the Transformation of Schools, Latino Policy and Politics Institute, and Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles.

Unaccompanied homeless youth are overlooked. A new book shows what it means to give them support.

Kalyn Belsha, Chalkbeat

When Vicki Sokolik first started working with teens experiencing homelessness living on their own without a parent, she would host “lunch and learns” at local high schools. Her goal was to explain to social workers, assistant principals, and other staff who qualified as an unaccompanied homeless youth, and how schools could refer those students to her nonprofit for housing and other services. Sixteen years later, Sokolik says there is still a lack of awareness of these students and their particular social, emotional, and educational needs.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

Student loan balances wiped for the first batch of borrowers in Biden’s SAVE plan [AUDIO]

Ana Perez & Steve Inskeep, NPR

An email went out this morning to some student loan borrowers basically saying, you’re debt free. On Wednesday, the federal Education Department zeroed out loan balances for nearly 153,000 borrowers. They are people who borrowed $12,000 or less, have been paying their student loans for at least 10 years, and enrolled in the Biden administration’s new repayment plan called SAVE launched last summer.  “We’re providing debt relief to people who need it the most,” said Education Secretary Miguel Cardona on Wednesday in an interview on NPR’s Morning Edition

I am medically fragile and use a wheelchair. Here’s what makes college possible for me.

Abey Weitzman, Chalkbeat New York

I will never be independent. That’s OK. No one is. Don’t get me wrong: I understand wanting to be able to care for oneself. From an evolutionary standpoint, it improves your chance of survival. But when we move the goalpost from surviving to thriving, working together and caring for one another becomes more valuable. I admit I have a different perspective about all of this since I am severely disabled and medically fragile, but I know a few things about succeeding amid adversity. I’m a junior at Columbia University, and I start each day being lifted out of bed by one of my parents or aides.

How HBCUs are building a stronger Black teacher pipeline

Anna Merod, K-12 Dive

Amid ongoing efforts to diversify the K-12 teacher workforce, a United Negro College Fund report finds some historically Black colleges and universities are working to get Black students in the teacher pipeline by tapping into faculty networks, establishing relationships with school districts and using financial aid as a recruitment tool. Additionally, HBCUs leveraged long-standing connections with their local Black church communities to promote teacher prep programs and financial aid offerings during religious services.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Supreme Court Declines Case on Selective High School Aiming to Boost Racial Diversity

Mark Walsh, Education Week

Over a sharp dissent by two justices, the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to take up a challenge to the admissions plan for a highly selective K-12 magnet school in a case that many conservative legal advocates had hoped would be the next step after the justices last year outlawed race-based admissions in higher education. The court declined to hear the case involving Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Va. A group advocating for Asian American students had sought review of a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit that upheld the Fairfax County school district’s revised admissions policy for the acclaimed magnet school on the basis that there was no illegal racially disparate impact on the Asian American students.

The inherence bias in preschoolers’ explanations for achievement differences: replication and extension

Margaux Renoux, Sébastien Goudeau, Theodore Alexopoulos, Cédric A. Bouquet & Andrei Cimpian, Nature

Even at the earliest stages of schooling, such as preschool, children pay attention to how well their peers do academically and try to explain the differences between them. The key hypothesis tested in the present work is that when preschool children explain the achievement differences they observe in the classroom, they invoke factors inherent to students (e.g., intelligence, personality) more often than is justified and, conversely, overlook factors extrinsic to students (e.g., family background). In the spirit of contributing to cumulative and reproducible science4, we replicate and extend an important set of prior findings that provided support for this hypothesis, suggesting that preschool children indeed show an inherence bias in their explanations for achievement differences in the classroom.

How tax breaks siphoned millions from Missouri public schools that serve poor students

Christine Wen, Danielle McLean, Kevin Welner, & Nathan Jensen, Missouri Independent

Built in 1910, James Elementary is a three-story brick school in Kansas City historic Northeast neighborhood, with a bright blue front door framed by a sand-colored stone arch adorned with a gargoyle. As bustling students and teachers negotiate a maze of gray stairs with worn wooden handrails, Marjorie Mayes, the school’s principal, escorts a visitor across uneven blue tile floors on the ground floor to a classroom with exposed brick walls and pipes. Bubbling paint mars some walls, evidence of the water leaks spreading inside the aging building. “It’s living history,” said Mayes during a mid-September tour of the building. “Not the kind of living history we want.”The district would like to tackle the US$400 million in deferred maintenance needed to create a 21st century learning environment at its 35 schools — including James Elementary — but it can’t. It doesn’t have the money.

Democracy and the Public Interest

Most Superintendents Try to Avoid Politics. This Group Encourages Them to Lean In

Caitlynn Peetz, Education Week

When Jennifer Cheatham asked a room full of school district leaders at a national conference here how they felt about navigating political issues in education, the vast majority said they “hate it,” but that doing so was a necessary part of the job. The result of the unscientific poll of mostly superintendents during a standing-room-only session at AASA’s National Conference on Education confirmed what Cheatham, a senior lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, has found since forming the Collaborative on Political Leadership in the Superintendency last May. The collaborative—a combination of superintendents, education politics scholars, and leaders of organizations that train superintendents—aims to establish a shared understanding of the superintendent’s political role and equip district leaders with the skills to confidently navigate political issues that arise, rather than shy away from them.

Support for Teaching Gender Identity in School Is Split, Even Among Democrats

Sarah Mervosh, New York Times

Americans are deeply split over whether gender identity should be taught in school, according to two polls released this week that underscored the extent of the divide on one of the most contested topics in education.vMany groups, including Democrats, teachers and teenagers, are split on whether schools should teach about gender identity — a person’s internal sense of their own gender and whether it aligns with their sex assigned at birth, according to a survey by researchers at the University of Southern California and a separate survey by Pew Research Center.vBut on issues of race, another topic that has fueled state restrictions and book bans, there was broader support for instruction. That extended to some Republicans, the U.S.C. survey found.

Giving Students the Tools to Fight Hate

Shauna Taradash, The Progressive

Between 2010 and 2019, children were victims of hate crimes more often than the general population. But on top of this, racism doesn’t need to take the form of hate crimes to cause serious negative impacts. The American Academy of Pediatrics has identified racism as a social determinant of health that has negative outcomes on the health and well-being of children. To reverse those outcomes, children must be given tools to develop a positive self-identity and build survival skills in an increasingly hostile society. Unfortunately, across the United States, more and more states are criminalizing education by instituting book bans and educational gag orders that would remove essential historical and cultural context from the curriculum. Not only must we reverse these bans, but—given the rising threats to children’s psychological and physical health—we have a collective responsibility to include scientifically-backed practices in our pedagogy that will instill resilience against fear and ignorance.

Other News of Note

Charles Sallis, 89, Dies; Upended the Teaching of Mississippi History

Adam Nossiter, New York Times

Charles Sallis, a Mississippi historian who collaborated on a high-school textbook that revolutionized the teaching of Mississippi’s troubled history, died on Feb. 5, at his home in Jackson, Miss. He was 89. His death was confirmed by his son Charles Jr. Until “Mississippi: Conflict & Change,” which Mr. Sallis wrote and edited with the sociologist James W. Loewen, was published in 1974, high school students in the state had been fed a pablum that omitted the horrors of slavery, lynching, the Ku Klux Klan and Jim Crow and largely skipped over the civil rights movement.