Just News from Center X – February 9, 2018

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice


Who gets the right to stay?

Joseph H. Carens, Boston Review
In the United States, the Trump administration is greatly increasing efforts to find and deport irregular migrants, even when they are people who have lived here peacefully and productively for many years and have American spouses and children. The decision to cancel Temporary Protected Status for Salvadorans, Haitians, and others will add hundreds of thousands of people to that category. This narrow, punitive approach is almost certain to make things worse, not only for the immigrants but also for the country as a whole. Yet, the current public discussion of this topic is focused almost entirely on questions about the political gains and losses that will follow for Republicans and Democrats from their tactical and strategic choices. Instead I would like to bring into view the moral and policy norms that should govern how liberal democratic states treat people who have settled without official authorization. While these norms are unlikely to be debated during the budget crisis, it may be helpful to remember what is at stake. There is a policy path that would be both prudent and principled, both wise and just.

Trump’s proposed cuts to science education would be ‘devastating,’ educators say

Carolyn Jones, EdSource
President Donald Trump’s proposed cuts to science education — which Congress is debating this week along with other aspects of the federal budget — would devastate K-12 science classrooms as schools are rolling out ambitious new curriculum standards and trying to prepare students for science and technology jobs of the future, leading educators said. “The impact will be huge. It’s not only a lot of money that will be lost, but it sends a terrible signal to the public, to teachers, to students that science isn’t important,” said David Evans, director of the National Science Teachers Association. “What’s at stake is STEM job readiness, the workforce of the future, a generation of informed citizens. … It’s a tragedy.” Congress was nearing a budget deal Wednesday morning, but details were not immediately available. Trump’s budget proposal, unveiled in May, slashes more than $3 billion in funding for science education. It eliminates funding entirely for the education divisions of NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; teacher training grants, which schools use to help teachers learn the new science standards; grants that support academic enrichment, such as science lab equipment and coding classes; and NOAA’s Sea Grant program, which funds science education in colleges and K-12 schools.

How a shooting at LAUSD’s middle school fits into a bigger debate about the district’s security policy

Kyle Stokes, KPCC
On the morning of Jan. 21, 1993, Alan Warhaftig was teaching a math class at Fairfax High School. “Then, a P.A. announcement came over,” recalls the longtime teacher and administrator, now retired. “And I could tell from the principal’s voice that something serious had happened.” In another classroom, a ninth grader had been handling a .357 magnum in his backpack — he’d swiped it from his grandparents’ closet because he was afraid of bullies on the bus — when he unintentionally set the gun off. A bullet from that gun traveled through a student sitting nearby, traveled clear across the room, and struck 16-year-old Demetrius Rice in the chest. “He was gone almost immidiately,” Warhaftig said. The circumstances of Rice’s death 25 years ago are eerily similar to the incident in a classroom at Salvador Castro Middle School on Thursday. Police are still determining why a 12-year-old Castro student had a semi-automatic weapon in her backpack that morning. The gun accidentally went off from inside the backpack, wounding two 15-year-old students. The L.A. County District Attorney’s Office announced two felony charges against the 12-year-old on Friday afternoon: one for being a minor in possession of a firearm and another for bringing a weapon onto school grounds. Thursday’s incident has shined a fresh light on the policies Los Angeles Unified School District officials have instituted to keep weapons and drugs off the city’s campuses — policies that have their origins in Rice’s death 25 years ago.

Language, Culture, and Power

The Bureau of Indian Education is broken

Denise Juneau, Education Week
The Bureau of Indian Education recently wrapped up its tribal consultation process on its latest proposed strategic plan “to guide its work and service delivery to [Native] students, schools, and tribes.” While the BIE creates plan after plan intended to restructure, realign, reform, redesign, revise, and redo their education system, in actuality these plans are rarely carried out. The necessary changes to schooling simply remain words written on paper. Meanwhile, tribes, schools, educators, parents, and students continue to wait for the federal government to meet its legal trust responsibility to provide a quality education to American Indian students. For over a century, the federal government has proven that attempting to control and oversee a nationwide network of schools leads to an ineffective and disheartening system of education that fails to address the cultural, linguistic, and overall learning needs of American Indian children. If the BIE’s record of failure reflected on any other group of students, there would be a national outcry.

Latino male teachers: Building the pipeline

Madeline Will, Education Week
By all accounts, Angel Magana is a natural-born teacher. Growing up, he spent hours teaching his two younger siblings what he learned in school. But in northeast Denver, every single one of his teachers in elementary and middle school was a white woman. The only adults who looked like him were the ones serving lunch in the cafeteria or emptying the trash cans in the hallway. Magana, a Mexican-American 19-year-old, knows he doesn’t look like the average teacher. In fact, only 9 percent of public school teachers are Hispanic, and about 2 percent are Hispanic men—despite the fact that the Hispanic student population is the fastest growing in the country, making up about a quarter of K-12 students. As a student, Magana said, “I thought it was very odd that the students were part of one culture, and they were getting all of their education, which they would be using for the rest of their life, from someone who, on some occasions, couldn’t relate.” It wasn’t until Magana was a high school junior that he had a Latino male teacher—his Spanish teacher. It was a “defining moment,” Magana said. It showed him what it was like to be able to relate to a teacher, and it reinforced his own desire to go into the profession. “I wanted to be the change, basically. That’s one of my life goals,” he said. “Why not me? Why can’t I go forward and teach and inspire kids, especially Latino males, and show them that this field, this life, is very giving and very fulfilling?”

China’s #MeToo movement started on college campuses. It may end there

Kemeng Fan, Los Angeles Times
It wasn’t until her thesis advisor locked the door of his sister’s Beijing apartment that Luo Xixi realized his intentions. Chen Xiaowu had told Luo that he needed her help tending to plants. He didn’t. The only thing that prevented her rape, she said, was a phone call from his wife and her own desperate cry, “I’m a virgin!” After staying silent about the assault for more than a decade, Luo, now a Bay Area software engineer in her 30s, took inspiration from the #MeToo movement that sprang up last fall and decided to speak. She filed a complaint with Beihang University, the aeronautics school she had attended in Beijing, and publicly accused Chen, the vice director of the graduate school, of sexual assault. Luo, in an online letter read by 3 million people, named herself as one of seven women he abused. The school stripped the administrator of his position, then fired him, and the Ministry of Education promised to set up “effective, long-term mechanisms” against sexual harassment. Her actions ignited a national debate about appropriate behavior between professors and students. Activists branded it China’s #MeToo movement; social media swelled with supportive hashtags. But the effort failed to encourage many others to voice their grievances or extend to the entertainment and business sectors, which struggle with similar issues. Instead, the young women who set out to battle sexual harassment are finding their efforts publicly heralded and privately stymied.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

All California schools built before 2010 must be tested for lead in water

Louis Freedberg, EdSource
The water supply to all schools in California built before 2010 must be tested to ensure it does not have high levels of lead, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson declared in a message to all school districts. The testing is mandated by a new state law (Assembly Bill 746)  signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last fall. The law indicates that the state will cover the costs of the testing, but Torlakson made no mention of who would pay for it in his message. The law makes clear that it is not the school but the “community water system that serves a school site” that will be responsible for testing school drinking water. “Students need fresh water, nutritious meals and regular physical activity to be ready to learn and succeed in class,” Torlakson said. “Cooperation with local water systems is critical to ensure proper testing.”

Screen addiction among teens: Is there such a thing?

Anya Kamenetz, NPR
Look up from this screen right now. Take a look around. On a bus. In a cafe. Even at a stoplight. Chances are, most of the other people in your line of sight are staring at their phones or other devices. And if they don’t happen to have one out, it is certainly tucked away in a pocket or bag. But are we truly addicted to technology? And what about our kids? It’s a scary question, and a big one for scientists right now. Still, while the debate rages on, some doctors and technologists are focusing on solutions. “There is a fairly even split in the scientific community about whether ‘tech addiction’ is a real thing,” says Dr. Michael Bishop. He runs Summerland, which he calls “a summer camp for screen overuse,” for teens.

And now, online teacher training for active shooters in schools, courtesy of the Department of Homeland Security

Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post
It’s early February 2018, and already this year there have been at least 14 incidents in schools with guns, some of them deadly. If the number surprises you, it may be because some of these events have gotten little coverage in the news because they have become sickeningly routine. That, in fact, is what Katherine W. Schweit, a former senior FBI official and the co-author of a study of 160 active shooting incidents in the United States, recently told the New York Times: “We have absolutely become numb to these kinds of shootings, and I think that will continue.” With active shooting situations in schools no longer uncommon, the Department of Homeland Security is now offering online training for teachers and first-responders to prepare for such a disaster — right on their computers.

Access, Assessment, and Advancement

A message for early educators: Babies are the ‘ideal’ scientists

Priska Neely, KPCC
Teaching science, technology, engineering and math to babies may seem like a daunting task, but for educators at Children’s Center at the California Institute of Technology, it’s the perfect age to introduce the concepts. “The baby is the ideal scientist,” said Susan Wood, executive director of the Children’s Center. They’re exploring, they’re wondering, they’re experimenting, they’re drawing conclusions – so we just want to build on their innate skills.” That’s why she and other researchers at CalTech created the Early Childhood STEM Conference to give educators tools to view everyday activities as chance to teach little children about science, technology, engineering and math. Hundreds of early childhood educators are gathering Friday and Saturday in Orange County for the seventh annual conference. Educators will hear from leaders in the STEM field and can choose from a variety of workshops, like “The STEM of Cooking” and “Mathematize This!” “There’s a big buzz about STEM education,” said Wood. “The problem is it’s never really been taught intentionally enough to early childhood providers, so they really don’t know what to do. It’s our job to give them those ideas.” Teachers at Children’s Center put these ideas to work in classrooms everyday, even with infants. Their curriculum is based in play but also emphasized the concepts of force and movement.

How a school-based early-learning program boosted later college attendance

Christina Samuels, Education Week
Preschool may be good at offering short-term academic gains for kids, but a program that provided services starting at preschool through 3rd grade showed benefits for children that boosted their college attendance rates years later, according to a new study. Researchers examined the life outcomes of nearly 1,000 children who attended the Chicago Child-Parent Centers as preschoolers in the early 1980s. On average, children who attended the program completed more years of education than a control group of children. And those effects were amplified the longer that they remained in the program.

Governor wants California school districts to give more detail on use of state funds in budgets

Louis Freedberg, EdSource
In an effort to make it easier to see how school districts in California are spending their funds to improve education outcomes, Gov. Jerry Brown wants to require school districts to publish in their annual budgets a summary of the funds they plan to spend on low-income children, English learners and other high-needs students. His proposal is contained in what is called the Omnibus Education Trailer Bill issued by the state’s Department of Finance, published last week. The bill is intended to implement key sections of Brown’s proposed budget for the coming fiscal year. The Legislature would have to approve the trailer bill when it approves a final budget, probably sometime in June. But the seemingly straightforward proposal has raised concerns among school district administrators that it will create an unnecessary extra bureaucratic requirement without contributing to greater transparency in how state funds are spent.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Why schools fail to teach slavery’s ‘hard history’

Cory Turner, NPR
“In the ways that we teach and learn about the history of American slavery,” write the authors of a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), “the nation needs an intervention.” This new report, titled Teaching Hard History: American Slavery, is meant to be that intervention: a resource for teachers who are eager to help their students better understand slavery — not as some “peculiar institution” but as the blood-soaked bedrock on which the United States was built. The report, which is the work of the SPLC’s Teaching Tolerance project, is also an appeal to states, school district leaders and textbook-makers to stop avoiding slavery’s hard truths and lasting impact. The Teaching Tolerance project began in 1991, according to its website, “to reduce prejudice, improve intergroup relations and support equitable school experiences for our nation’s children.”

After closing record schools, Chicago’s new plan draws fury

Sophia Tareen And Don Babwin, Associated Press
Five years after the largest mass closure of public schools in an American city, Chicago is forging ahead with a plan to shutter four more in one of the city’s highest-crime and impoverished areas. School officials are pitching the new closures around Englewood, a neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side, to make way for a new $85 million school they insist will better serve students and reverse low enrollment. But some parents, students and activists are skeptical, saying they’re still reeling from the 2013 closures and the latest plan will make things worse, including the displacement of hundreds of mostly black and poor teenagers. “The last thing they should do is close our schools,” said 16-year-old Miracle Boyd, a student at John Hope College Prep, which could close. “They aren’t the ones sitting in those chairs five days a week struggling to learn because we don’t have the necessities we need as students. … Why not use the $85 million to improve our education and get our schools on the road to success?” Like other cities, Chicago has long relied on closures to address underperforming and underutilized schools. Significant closures have taken place in Philadelphia, Detroit and St. Louis, but Chicago made history when it closed roughly 50 schools, affecting more than 12,000 students in mostly African-American and Latino neighborhoods. The debate over Chicago’s latest proposed closures has exploded, with shouting matches and emotional pleas during community meetings. Residents have pleaded with the district to invest more in neighborhood schools and safety. Some have alleged that racial politics are at play. And they worry by pulling students out of schools near their homes and placing them in ones farther away, they are putting them in danger of gang members who will view them as the enemy just by virtue of their address.

Maryland offers $100 million to settle decade-long case involving historically black schools

Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, The Washington Post
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Wednesday offered the state’s historically black colleges and universities up to $100 million to resolve a 12-year-old lawsuit over inequality in public higher education. The proposed settlement is more than double the amount the state pledged early in the case. It arrives a day after a federal judge granted the state a temporary reprieve as it appeals an order issued in November to establish a set of unique and high-demand programs at its four historically black institutions — Morgan State University, Coppin State University, Bowie State University and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. But the proposal may not be enough to satisfy the coalition of alumni from Maryland’s historically black institutions who filed the lawsuit in 2006 to dismantle what they say are vestiges of racial segregation. The group has accused Maryland of insufficiently funding historically black colleges and allowing other state schools to duplicate their programs, placing pressure on enrollment.

Public Schools and Private $

Where will Trump go next on choice? Watch these three groups of students

Alyson Klein, Education Week
Want to know where the White House and Congress might go next on school choice? Watch three populations that the federal government has a special responsibility for: children of military personnel, Native American students, and kids living in the District of Columbia. President Donald Trump ran on creating a $20 billion voucher program, but so far, Republicans in Congress aren’t exactly chomping at the bit to make that a reality. That’s partly because fears from many in the GOP about federal overreach—even in the service of school choice, a policy that most Republicans favor.

How Betsy DeVos softened her message on school choice

Kimberly Hefling and Caitlin Emma, Politico
Betsy DeVos became famous — and infamous in some quarters — as the leader of an education movement that pushed for public funding for private schools, including religious education. But a year into her tenure as President Donald Trump’s Education secretary, DeVos generally steers clear of the words, “school choice,” a phrase she once used often that’s freighted with racial, demographic and religious implications. Instead, she opts for gentler terms such as “innovation” and “blended learning,” and speaks of coming together and “finding solutions.” DeVos has by no means backed off her push to fulfill Trump’s promise to inject $20 billion into expanded private education options for kids. But one of the most divisive figures in Trump’s Cabinet, hated by teachers unions and progressives as Public School Enemy No. 1, has figured out how to market that effort differently. Behind the scenes, DeVos met with Frank Luntz, one of the top Republican messaging experts, to figure out how to talk about conservative educational policies without sparking protests from teachers and liberals.

The new tax law’s subtle subversion of public schools

Clint Smith, The Atlantic
American public schools have long been, and remain, deeply unequal. At the most dilapidated and underperforming schools, teachers are blamed for stagnant graduation rates, students are derided for low tests scores, and parents are chastised for not being involved. Too often, however, scrutiny of these schools’ performance doesn’t take into account the structural factors that have contributed to their outcomes. One of the most significant factors contributing to the chasm of educational opportunity is the way that schools are funded. According to the most recent data made available by the Department of Education in 2015, the wealthiest 25 percent of school districts receive 15 percent more in per-student funding from state and local governments as compared to the poorest 25 percent of school districts. Nationally, that accounts for a $1,500-per-student funding gap, a gap that has grown by 44 percent since the 2001-02 school year. It’s a system that leaves the poor with less and the rich with more—a phenomenon that the new GOP tax law has the potential to make even worse. Under the Republican plan passed through Congress last December, families can now use 529 college-savings plans to pay for private K-12 schooling, allowing them up to $10,000 in tax-free withdrawals per child annually. This new provision effectively operates the same way a voucher program would, but without the name: While vouchers distribute funds directly to parents to pay for private school, the new law uses the tax code to facilitate private-school attendance.

Other News of Note

Who first showed us that Black lives matter?

Chris Lebron, The New York Times
As a black philosopher, I am constantly navigating a path through the traditions and categories that define my profession. Most often, that navigation takes place between the canonical Western philosophy stretching back to Ancient Greece and the more recent intellectual output and contributions of previously excluded groups, including women, L.G.B.T people and African-American thinkers. This last tradition — the history of black thought — is a profound one for me; it is the foundation for my project of making sense of my place in America. But black thought’s role in our struggles for emancipation and the redemption of the American dream make it the inheritance of all Americans.