Just News from Center X – February 3, 2023

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

College Board faces storm of criticism over AP African American studies

Nick Anderson, Washington Post

One day after the College Board unveiled revisions to its debut African American studies class, debate intensified Thursday within academia and beyond over the decision to drop from the course plan various lessons and authors disliked by conservative politicians.The organization eliminated some items that appeared on a draft of the plan that circulated a year ago: lessons on Black Lives Matter and on reparations for the harms of slavery and racial discrimination, as well as suggested readings from left-leaning notables such as scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw, an architect of critical race theory. The topics aren’t barred from the course, though, and teachers are free to choose reading assignments.

Florida Teachers Hide Their Books to Avoid Felonies

Joan Walsh, The Nation

It’s not just the ridiculous “Stop W.O.K.E. Act” or restrictions on discussing issues of gender and sexuality in early grades or last week’s decision not to allow an Advanced Placement African American Studies course to be taught in Florida high schools. Governor Ron DeSantis’s crusade against independent thought is leading to bare bookshelves in classrooms as teachers panic about whether their own classroom libraries violate state law. Last year DeSantis signed HB 1467, which barred pornography and “age inappropriate” books and required that all reading materials “be suited to student needs.” But school district administrators haven’t been clear about how they’re going to ascertain that. This month school officials instructed teachers in Manatee and Duval counties to either remove books from classrooms or cover them up with paper sheeting until the districts come up with a way to ensure that none of the reading material ran afoul of the new law. Teachers who don’t make sure their books pass DeSantis’s muster are risking up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine for displaying a forbidden book, which is a third-degree felony.

COVID school closures cost children one-third of a year’s learning

Miryam Naddaf, Nature

Children lost out on more than one-third of a school years’ worth of learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, an analysis has found. Their mathematics skills were more affected than their reading abilities. The study, published in Nature Human Behaviour on 30 January1, shows that efforts to prevent further learning losses after the pandemic have been successful, but school-aged children have not caught up on the loss of knowledge and skills that they experienced at the start of the pandemic, during which school closures were widespread. “This is going to be a real problem for this generation that experienced the pandemic in school,” says Bastian Betthäuser, a sociologist at the University of Oxford, UK, and a co-author of the study. If not addressed, these learning losses will affect this generation’s success in the labour market, he adds.

Language, Culture, and Power

Ethnic Studies is the Solution to Political Division in Tennessee

Anna Young, Tennessee Tribune

As a student at a large public high school in New York City, one may question why I would choose to write an essay promoting Ethnic Studies curricula to a local paper in Tennessee. My parents met in tenth grade at Chattanooga Christian School, and although I consider New York my home, I have spent a large portion of my childhood and adolescence with my family in Tennessee, largely impacting the person I am today. This year, I have had the privilege of taking Ethnic Studies as my twelfth-grade history course, and it has opened my eyes to many fundamental injustices in the world, specifically regarding how racism is embedded in many of the systems and institutions that make up the United States. However, thousands of other students in my own state, let alone in the state I call my second home, don’t get this opportunity, and are therefore missing out on both learning about culture as well as how to combat inequity.

California’s Highly Educated Immigrants

Marisol Cuellar Mejia, Cesar Alesi Perez, Hanbs Johnson, PPIC

With robust job growth and low unemployment, California’s post-pandemic economy looks strong on many measures, and the state must take actions to sustain this growth and address future needs. One important issue is the job market’s rising demand for highly educated workers. California’s immigrant workers are increasingly college educated and will be critical to the state’s future economic growth. Recent immigrants to California are among the most educated residents of the state. A majority (52%) of working-age immigrants (ages 25–64) arriving over the past ten years have a bachelor’s or graduate degree, compared to just 29% of immigrants arriving earlier and 41% of US-born Californians. Recent arrivals from Asia are particularly highly educated. But for every region of origin, the trend is toward much more highly educated immigrants.

Witnessing Change in a ‘Little Town for Latinos’: An English Learner’s Journey [VIDEO]

Lauren Santucci & Ileana Najarro, Education Week

Over the last decade, the town of Russellville, Ala., has seen a huge growth in its Spanish-speaking population. A quarter of all students in the Russellville City Schools district are English learners. And in the last ten years, the percentage of English-learner students statewide has doubled. In response, the Russellville school district has created a robust English-learner program and hired 10 bilingual aides, funded largely by pandemic relief dollars. Born in Russellville to immigrant parents from El Salvador, Brian Santos started as an EL student in the district.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

California teachers call on their districts for contractual commitment to community schools

Ali Tadayon, EdSource

As California dishes out $4.1 billion to school districts through 2031 to transform thousands of campuses into full-service community schools, teachers are demanding that parents, community leaders as well as educators have a say in how a district’s allocation is spent and that the initiative is sustainable in the long-term. West Contra Costa Unified administrators say they also want the community to have a say in the program’s rollout, but the district and the teachers union, United Teachers of Richmond, are at odds over how to formalize the community input.

Scrap school police and add counselors and academic help for Black students, coalition says

Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

Community and student activists on Tuesday relaunched a campaign to eliminate the Los Angeles School Police Department, calling instead for expansion of mental health and academic programs, college and career counseling and job and life-skills training — focusing especially on the needs of Black students. The call from a coalition of organizations puts renewed pressure on Los Angeles Unified School District Supt. Alberto Carvalho as he also confronts tense labor negotiations and pushes forward with his own expensive agenda for academic progress. Meanwhile, a group of Latino parents on Tuesday spoke out in support of school police — a counterpoint of the message delivered with passion by about 150 protesters on the steps of Mann UCLA Community School in South Los Angeles.

Teachers Qualify For Family Leave. Why Not Bus Drivers And Cafeteria Workers?

Dave Jamieson, HuffPost

Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) had her first child while serving in the House of Representatives in 2014. Four years later, she became the first sitting senator to give birth while in office. “It was not until I became a mom and was traveling back and forth to Illinois twice a week and trying to pump breast milk for my baby that I realized there were no lactation rooms I could use in the airport,” Duckworth told HuffPost. “I was told, ‘Well, you can plug your breast pump in next to where those guys are charging their phones.’” The U.S. tends to lag behind other developed countries when it comes to progressive, family-friendly policies. One law that Duckworth says desperately needs some bolstering is the Family and Medical Leave Act, which turns 30 years old this year.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

Black History Belongs in Early Elementary School

Wintre Foxworth Johnson, Education Week

In the last stanzas of the 1926 poem “I, too,” Langston Hughes writes: “Tomorrow, / I’ll be at the table / When company comes. / Nobody’ll dare / Say to me, / ‘Eat in the kitchen,’ / Then. / Besides, / They’ll see how beautiful I am / And be ashamed— / I, too, am America.” This sentiment remains relevant for Black people today, as K-12 schools continue to grapple with how to best (or even at all) integrate Black history into social studies and language arts curricula. Too often, this essential content is relegated to metaphorically “eat in the kitchen” by only being introduced during Black History Month. The integration of Black history into U.S. core curricula is a missed opportunity in elementary school, a period in young children’s development during which there is boundless potential to nurture their creativity.

Education Secretary: Standardized Tests Should No Longer Be a ‘Hammer’

Libby Stanford, Education Week

Standardized tests should be used as “a flashlight” on what works in education not as “a hammer” to force outcomes, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said during a speech last week. The statement reflects a shift in thinking since annual testing became federal law more than 20 years ago, and it echoes past comments from Cardona, who warned states against using 2022 NAEP scores punitively when they showed steep drops in reading and math in September.

Encouraging Black Girls to Bring a Bold Voice to Mathematics

Rebecca Koenig, EdSurge

One day, when Nicole M. Joseph was in the third grade, she raised her hand in class to answer a math question. The teacher did not call on her. Her mother happened to be standing outside the door observing the classroom and was unhappy about what she saw. It seemed to her that Nicole, a Black girl, was being ignored by her teacher, a white woman. So she saw to it that her daughter moved to a different class — an advanced class. That little girl went on to study math and economics in college, then became a math teacher and a teacher-coach

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Climate Change Took a Heavy Toll on the U.S. Last Year. What’s the Cost to Education?

Nadia Tamez-Robledo, EdSurge

Measuring the effects of extreme weather requires extreme numbers.Climate change racked up an eye-popping $165 billion damages tab in the U.S. last year, as tallied by a recent federal report. And back in September, around 82 percent of Florida school districts closed for at least one day — keeping roughly 2.5 million students out of school. With experts predicting more extreme weather in 2023, that undoubtedly means schools will suffer more disruptions in a K-12 education era already defined by pandemic-related learning setbacks.

A Civil Rights Hero Reflects on Her Past

Zhoriél Tapo, Scholastic Kids Press

In September 1957, nine Black students entered Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas. For their safety, they had to be escorted by federal troops. No Black student had ever been enrolled at the all-White school, which had fiercely fought integration. At the time, schools in the South were segregated. A Supreme Court decision in 1954, Brown v. Board of Education, had ruled that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. Civil rights leaders in the South began to test the limits of the ruling.

Tyre Nichols’ killing has some Black teens seeing police as threats, not allies

Tonyaa Weathersbee, Chalkbeat Tennessee

Hours after his school day ended Friday, 16-year-old Caleb Carpenter made his way to the Interstate 55 bridge connecting Memphis and Arkansas to join protesters who had gathered after the release of footage showing the brutal beating of Tyre Nichols by police. “I’m tired of seeing all the Black-on-Black crime, but I feel unsafe with the police now, after that video I saw,” said Caleb, who attends Memphis Business Academy, a charter school. “I hated that it was Black police officers doing this to him, and I couldn’t do anything but question why.”

Democracy and the Public Interest

‘School choice’ is culture-war focus for Kansas lawmakers

John Hanna, KSHB

Top Republican legislators in Kansas are focusing on helping conservative parents remove their children from public schools over what’s taught about gender and sexuality rather than pursuing a version of what critics call Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law. A proposal to allow parents to use state tax dollars to pay for private or home schooling was available online Tuesday, a day after a committee on K-12 spending introduced the measure in the House. The introduction comes as funding and lesson plans for public schools have become hot button issues for conservative politicians nationwide. Lawmakers in Iowa approved a similar law last week and at least a dozen states are considering similar legislation.

Public Schools as Contested Places

Carl Cohn, School Administrator

This past fall, I met with a small group of school superintendents in Murrieta, Calif., a suburban community in Riverside County, about 90 minutes from my home in Palm Springs. Tim Thompson, a local evangelical pastor in that part of the county, has described the public schools there as “the devil’s playground,” and he decided to support seven candidates for election in three of the area’s school districts. In one district, the pastor promoted a slate of four candidates on a five-person school board. I asked the superintendent of that district what would happen to her efforts there in supporting equity and reducing inequality among her students if the pastor’s slate were to be elected. She answered: “They would be gone instantly!”

Youth Are Interested in Political Action, but Lack Support and Opportunities

Ruby Belle Booth, CIRCLE

Following a 2022 election cycle in which youth (ages 18-29) played a critical role, our exclusive survey reveals that more than half of young people still believe the country is on the wrong track, and many express major concerns about American values and institutions. At the same time, a majority of young people see politics as important to their personal identity, and more than three in four youth say they believe they can get involved and improve things in their communities. Some youth are putting that belief into action through various forms of civic and political engagement, and many more say they might do so if given the opportunity. But too many young people—often those from historically marginalized groups—continue to say they don’t feel well-informed or qualified enough to participate in political life. That points to ongoing challenges in ensuring the equitable civic preparation and participation of all young people.

Other News of Note

At 79, Angela Davis Is Still Fighting for a Better World: A reading list in honor of the radical philosopher’s birthday.

Boston Review

Few thinkers have fused theory and practice like Angela Davis. For decades the legendary organizer, intellectual, and former political prisoner has advanced a revolutionary anti-racist, anti-fascist politics of liberation. As she celebrates her seventy-ninth birthday this month, her struggle for a better world remains urgent. For philosopher Alberto Toscano, the enduring value of Davis’s thought is manifest in her distinctive analysis of U.S. fascism, which she developed in the early 1970s by drawing on Herbert Marcuse’s concept of “preventive counter-revolution.” According to Toscano, by moving away from a Eurocentric definition and emphasizing the role of the prison in the United States, Davis’s conception of fascism “can serve as an antidote to the lures and limits of the analogies that increasingly circulate” in today’s debates about the meaning of fascism.