Just News from Center X is a free weekly news blast about equitable public education. Please share and encourage colleagues and friends to subscribe.
Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
A dance of hope by children who scavenge coal
Elle Kurancid and Walaa Alshaer, NPR
Before sunset, in the 110-square-mile mining region of Jharia in eastern India, an ensemble of girls dances near an opencast coal mine. Come sunrise, they’ll be back at the mines for another reason: survival. “We’re afraid, but we’re bound to go with the risks,” says 16-year-old Anjali, who scavenges from her local mine — typically between 4 a.m. and 10 a.m. — for a few dollars worth of coal. An estimated 250 people in her rural village, including 65 children, fill their baskets at the pits, then sell the rocks in local markets or keep them for free household fuel. Poverty abounds across the coal-rich state of Jharkhand, home to Jharia and some of India’s largest coal reserves.
In the quest to transform education, putting purpose at the center is key
Emily Markovich Morris and Ghulam Omar Qargha, Brookings
Education systems transformation is creating buzz among educators, policymakers, researchers, and families. For the first time, the U.N. secretary general convened the Transforming Education Summit around the subject in 2022. In tandem, UNESCO, UNESCO Institute for Statistics, UNICEF, the World Bank, and the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) co-authored “From Learning Recovery to Education Transformation” to lay a roadmap for how to move from COVID-19 school closures to systems change. Donor institutions like the Global Partnership for Education’s most recent strategy centers on systems transformation, and groups like the Global Campaign for Education are advocating for broader public engagement on transformative education.
Peacekeepers and Peacemakers
Erin Greene, Rethinking Schools
At just 7:50 a.m., students were already in the middle of their third pledge of the morning. After the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance, students recited the Pledge to the Texas Flag, and then moved on to our school pledge, which the school had proudly named (or rather, adults far removed from the classroom had named) the Peacekeeper’s Pledge. On this morning, it was the Peacekeeper’s Pledge that really caught the attention of my still-awaking brain. What were our students promising to do? Who were they promising to be? And why did we expect them to mindlessly recite words that they had played no role in creating? The students wrapped up their pledges, essentially promising to be obedient students for the day, and then we walked down the outdoor hallway to our portable. As students chattered about video games and their activities from the night before, I kept thinking about the Peacekeeper’s Pledge.
Language, Culture, and Power
What Do Immigrant Students Need? It Isn’t Just ELL [Audio]
Jill Anderson and Carola Suárez-Orozco, The Harvard EdCast
Educators need to do more to address the basic social emotional needs of immigrant children if they are to advance in learning, says Harvard Professor Carola Suárez-Orozco. She is the director of the Immigration Initiative at Harvard, where she’s focused on the practices that can change immigrant children’s lives in the classroom. Immigrant children make up 27 percent of US student population. Immigrant children face many challenges and also have many strengths and resiliences. However, those qualities often go unnoticed in the quest to learn English. Suárez-Orozco doesn’t dismiss learning English as important, rather she wants educators to gain a better understanding of who immigrant children really are in order to succeed.
The School District That’s Enrolling Ukrainian Refugees—and Hiring Their Parents
Denisa R. Superville, Education Week
Over the last 12 months, Nataliia Mostova has gone from teaching in Dnipro, Ukraine, to working in a hotel in Bulgaria, to now serving as a paraprofessional at Jardine Elementary School in Topeka, Kan., where she’s helping young Ukrainian refugees get used a new life and school halfway around the world. A year after Russia invaded Ukraine and displaced millions of Ukrainians, Mostova and her daughter, Mariia, a 4th grader at Jardine Elementary, and her son, Bogdan, who’s enrolled in kindergarten, feel safe in their new home. But she is still often gripped with worry for her grandfather, who is still in Ukraine, and her husband Andrii, who is serving in the military. Her heart “is always aching for them [and] for the country,” Mostova said through a translator.
The fight for African American studies in schools isn’t getting easier, even after 50 years
Alia Wong and Nivri Shah, USA Today
In 1967, young people across Philadelphia took to the streets to protest the district’s treatment of Black students. Among their demands: functioning classrooms, more Black educators and an end to a system that funneled them into menial jobs. The youth also asked for something that remains controversial to this day: the inclusion of African American studies in school. The protest ended violently. Hundreds of Philadelphia police officers wielding clubs attacked the student activists. Nearly two dozen people were seriously injured, and dozens more were arrested. Fast-forward to the early 2000s, when Philadelphia became the first major city to make African American studies a graduation requirement.
Whole Children and Strong Communities
Shaping enjoyment and belonging at school: The spatial perspectives and practices of one Latina student leader
Claudia Diera, Curriculum Inquiry
Efforts to transform urban schools often overlook the role of students in shaping educational spaces. And so, I ask: How do students, as the primary users of school space, make and shape their school? I draw from spatial inquiry that emphasizes the social production of space to provide a glimpse into the spatial perspectives and practices of Azul, a young Latina from a working-class community and Associated Student Body president of her school. Relying on ethnographic observations and semi-structured interviews, I examine instances where Azul and her peers transform school spaces from their intended uses to student-friendly, democratic spaces. My findings indicate that ascribing and shaping enjoyment and belonging are crucial components to their production of school space. A lived curriculum of school space is shaped as young people negotiate and construct school space to be more inclusive of their educational wants and needs.
Conservatives’ war on emotions in the classroom
Fabiola Cineas, Vox
Tarinda Craglow has counseled school-age children in Phoenix for nearly two decades. When she started working with kids through community nonprofits around 2004, only a handful of them were experiencing homelessness. Now, she’s a school social worker in an alternative education high school district, and a high number of the 1,500 students she’s responsible for qualify for services under a federal aid program for homeless students. Craglow has spent years advocating for basic rights like housing and health care for Phoenix’s at-risk youth. But her latest battle has been in Arizona’s public schools, as one of the grassroots organizers behind SEL4AZ, an organization pushing education leaders to double down on the educational concept known as “social-emotional learning” (SEL), which holds that giving students ongoing instruction on how to manage their emotions can help them succeed socially and academically.
Globetrotting Black nutritionist Flemmie P. Kittrell revolutionized early childhood education and illuminated ‘hidden hunger’
Brandy Thomas Wells, The Conversation
Nutrition is among the most critical issues of our time. Diet-related illnesses are shortening life spans and the lack of conveniently located and affordable nutritious food makes it hard for many Americans to enjoy good health. Physicians are also alarmed by nutritional trends they see among the nation’s most vulnerable people: children. I think that this situation would frustrate Black nutritionist Flemmie Pansy Kittrell if she were alive today. Throughout a trailblazing career that spanned half a century, she worked to enhance food security and to improve both diets and children’s health – under the umbrella of home economics.
Access, Assessment, Advancement
Federal Government Launches First-of-Its-Kind Center for Early Childhood Workforce
Emily Tate Sullivan, EdSurge
While the national labor force has long since rebounded from the pandemic, the child care sector has lagged behind, experiencing a slow recovery that continues to this day. In the three years since the arrival of COVID-19, families have struggled to find high-quality, affordable child care for their children. Child care providers have been hard-pressed to find qualified workers to fill their open positions, often because retail and service industry employers have emerged as better-paying competitors. And the early childhood educators who remain in the field have done so despite low wages, rising inflation and high-stress working conditions.
Asian American Students Like Me Support Affirmative Action in College Admissions
Sriya Tallapragada, Teen Vogue
“Where do you want to go to college?” I’m a sophomore in high school, and this dreaded phrase has been coming up in conversation increasingly often. So, amid the glossy pamphlets and flashy emails advertising prospective schools, I sat down to draft a list of the features of the kind of community I’d like to be a part of for those highly anticipated four years.Commitment to a strong education? Check. Preparing students for the lives of active citizenship? Another check. A diverse community? My pen hovered.
Conflict brews over governor’s student transfer guarantee plan for ultracompetitive UCLA
Teresa Watanabe, LA Times
For thousands of community college students who vie each year to transfer to ultracompetitive UCLA, it sounds like a dream: Complete required coursework, meet a specified grade-point average and earn guaranteed admission to the most popular university in the nation. That’s what Gov. Gavin Newsom directed UCLA to do in his proposed budget last month — or risk losing $20 million in state funding.
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
Schools’ surge in marketing to attract pupils fuels inequalities globally, new research reveals
University of Bristol, Eureka Alert
A pioneering global study has revealed how schools worldwide are using a raft of marketing techniques to attract higher performing pupils and climb the league tables. The research, published today and led by the University of Bristol, shows how the increasing trend of parents being able to choose which primary and secondary school their child goes to has resulted in greater rivalry, driving an industry of marketing activity in both public and paid-for schools, sometimes at the expense of improvements to education. The findings uncovered a prevalence of concerning practices, such as targeting certain households to boost academic performance and using misleading imagery in promotional materials.
The racist idea that changed American education
Matt Barnum, Vox
Almost exactly 50 years ago, Alex Rodriguez got his 15 minutes of fame when he was in sixth grade. Now 61, Rodriguez recalls when news media swarmed his family’s small home in west San Antonio in 1973. “There was everybody and their grandma as far as reporters all over the place,” he said. “At the school, at the house, at the neighborhood. They were just going crazy.” The TV crews had cameras, he recalls, that “were bigger than a bazooka.” In a way, the reporters were there because of him. In 1968, his father, Demetrio, had sued the state of Texas for underfunding his son’s school district, which was predominantly made up of low-income and Mexican American families. Alex recalls the third floor of his elementary school being condemned; when it rained, water would pour down the stairs. Three or four students shared one textbook.
Resegregation will not happen on our watch: The political and social context surrounding voluntary integration in Wake County Public School System
Jennifer B. Ayscue, Daniela Barriga, and Elizabeth M. Uzzell, EPAA
As resegregation occurs across the country, some school districts are pursuing voluntary integration. This qualitative case study uses critical policy analysis to explore the political and social contexts surrounding the early stages of developing a voluntary integration plan in Wake County Public School System, North Carolina. Through analysis of interviews with school board and community members as well as a range of documents, findings indicate that population growth and residential development, the proliferation of unregulated school choice, varied perspectives of community stakeholders, inequitable distribution of power and resources, and school board politics largely shape the process of developing a voluntary integration plan. Recommendations are provided for school district policies, cross-sector collaboration, and state-level policies that could strengthen the potential success of voluntary integration plans.
Democracy and the Public Interest
The Culture War’s Impact on Public Schools
Tim Walker, NEA Today
Manufactured outrages designed to divide educators and parents for political gain didn’t work in 2022, a recent NEA survey found. Instead, midterm voters were focused on school safety, the educator shortage, book bans and other challenges. Unfortunately, as the 2024 campaign season begins to take shape, the “culture war” on public schools doesn’t show many signs of abating. The stakes couldn’t be higher, says John Rogers, professor at the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA and director of UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access. Rogers believes we are at an “existential moment for public education and a diverse democracy.”
Critics use falsehoods in bid to reduce trust in public schools
Steve Westerberg, Des Moines Register
I encourage everyone to pay attention to what is going on at the Iowa Capitol concerning education. Though the private school voucher bill has received the most attention, there are other bills that could further damage public education if they pass into law. Nationwide, there’s a well-orchestrated effort to undermine confidence in public schools. The strategy involves widespread sharing of false narratives to sow doubts about the practices taking place in public schools.
Free Speech: Time for a Different Kind of Discussion
Joseph Kahne and Carlos E. Cortés, Social Education
A January 6, 2022, headline in the Washington Post trumpeted the dire news: “Most Americans support freedom of speech, but….” The article’s first line went on to proclaim that while Americans overwhelmingly support free speech, they are “deeply conflicted on what is protected, what should be restricted, by whom, and on what grounds.” The story pointed out that “a shockingly large minority supports government restrictions on some kinds of speech under
some circumstances. Shocking to them, maybe, but not to us. That’s what repeated
polls of high school students have been reporting for a number of years.
Other News of Note
The Campus Walkout That Led to America’s First Black Studies Department
Farrell Evans, History
In late 1968 at San Francisco State College, African American students led a 133-day on-campus strike, the longest of its kind in U.S. history. One of their primary goals was to force the school’s administration to establish the nation’s first Black Studies department. Prior to the strike, the university had briefly offered a smattering of courses focused on the African American experience through other departments. But the Black Students Union, driven by the racial turbulence of the 1960s, wanted its own department with a degree program and a full-time Black faculty teaching about the history, culture and contributions of their own people. They called for a curriculum that went beyond traditional Euro-centric views and better reflected Black perspectives.
A framework to help us understand the world
Olufemi O Taiwo, Hammer and Hope
When the British Crown assumed direct rule over Kenya in 1895, that year marked a milestone in a project to restructure the social world to aggrandize a few well-placed elites in London. The British Crown had pursued this same project in Jamestown, where it created the colonies that would become the United States; in Bengal, where the British East India Company’s armed forces established a political foothold on the Indian subcontinent; and in countless far-off places. Racial capitalism is a framework to understand what the British Crown sought to build. But what is racial capitalism, anyway, and where does the term come from? For some people, racial capitalism is one word too many: “Capitalism” alone explains the kinds of oppression and exploitation we see in the world. For others, “racial capitalism” is several words too few: The phrase fails to mention gender, ability, nationality, and other bases for systematic injustice. But racial capitalism is best understood as a way that both racism and capitalism work in history and in the present — and how the world as a whole is formed from the areas of colonialism built off the trans-Atlantic slave trade.