Just News from Center X – Jan 31, 2020


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

One year after the teachers’ strike

Howard Blume, Deadline LA, KPFK
One year after the LA Teachers Strike, the LAUSD has new opportunities but also faces real and difficult challenges. One year after the teachers strike, Professors Pedro Noguera and John Rogers sat down with LA Times Education Reporter Howard Blume to share their views on KPFK’s ” Deadline LA.”

California education spending inches up from ‘near the bottom of the barrel’

Lee Romney, KALW
Governor Gavin Newsom released his proposed budget in early January. It’s his second since he took office and, just like the first one, it focuses on education. Many public education advocates are applauding Newsom’s focus on equity, special education, and teacher quality. But California still ranks low compared to other states when it comes to public education spending. And one-time increases aren’t going to change that.

California moves closer to eliminating, replacing reading instruction test that has blocked thousands from teaching credential

Diana Lambert, EdSource
The California reading instruction test is a major hurdle for many aspiring teachers across the state. So much so that about one-third who take the test fail the first time, according to state data of the five-year period between 2012 and 2017. The poor performance is prompting action by the state: The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing is assembling a panel to recommend alternatives to the Reading Instruction Competence Assessment, or RICA, while state legislators are considering a bill that would replace it.

Language, Culture, and Power

Autism and behaviorism: New research adds to an already compelling case against ABA

Alfie Kohn, NEPC
When a common practice isn’t necessary or useful even under presumably optimal conditions, it’s time to question whether that practice makes sense at all. For example, if teachers don’t need to give grades even in high school  (and if eliminating grades clearly benefits their students), how can we justify grading younger children? If research shows there’s little or no benefit to assigning homework even in math, which is the discipline that proponents assume makes the clearest case for its value, why would we keep assigning it in other subjects?
And if it turns out that, contrary to widespread assumptions, behavior modification techniques aren’t supported by solid data even when used with autistic kids, why would we persist in manipulating anyone with positive reinforcement? A rigorous new meta-analysis utterly debunks the claim that applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy is the only intervention for children with autism that’s “evidence-based.” In fact, it raises serious questions about whether ABA merits that description at all.

Meet the millennial farmers we’ll be counting on to endure climate change

Tom Philpott, Mother Jones
On Bite podcast’s 100th episode, we celebrate the next generation of American growers. Nearly four years ago, Maddie Oatman, Kiera Butler, and I launched Bite, Mother Jones’ food podcast. Looking back over Bite’s first 99 episodes, I’m proud of the way we’ve stuck to our original vision: to explore “how your food intersects with other important topics like identity, social justice, health, corporate influence, and climate change,” as Maddie put it at the time. For episode 100, we decided to dig into the dirt, for a look at the roots of where your food comes from: the farm. Specifically, the rising generation of farmers who will be tasked with keeping us fed while climate change brings increasingly furious storms and droughts, while also dealing with stratospheric land prices, enduring legacies of racism, and corporate domination of food markets that weighs down crop prices. It’s no wonder that the average age of US farmers has been rising for four decades, and now stands at nearly 58.

The blind girls of Acabella: Pitch perfect and in total harmony

Catherine Womack, The Los Angeles Times
Natalie Fuentes used to get bored during choir rehearsals at her middle school in Bell. A 12-year-old with a remarkably soulful, powerhouse voice, Fuentes has perfect pitch, adores Ariana Grande’s music and has been blind since birth. At school, her sighted classmates often needed much more time to learn their vocal parts than she did, which could frustrate her. But Fuentes has found a group that moves at her speed, a place where there are no limits to how far she can go musically.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Make up school time lost to climate disasters, fire country lawmaker says

Ricardo Cano, Cal Matters
As climate-fueled natural disasters and power shutoffs have eroded the school year in an unprecedented swath of California, a lawmaker in wildfire country is proposing making up the lost instructional time for the most severely impacted students by funding “disaster relief” summer schools. Formally dubbed the “Disaster Relief Instructional Recovery Program,” Senate Bill 884 by Democratic Sen. Bill Dodd of Napa would give schools the funding to make up instructional days lost to fires, natural disasters and attendant blackouts.

Children’s mental health a cause for concern in report on California youth policies

Carolyn Jones, EdSource
California is making progress improving the lives of its 9.2 million children, but still lags behind other states — especially on issues related to young people’s mental health, according to a report released Tuesday. “The 2020 California Children’s Report Card,” published by the Oakland-based advocacy organization Children Now, gives California an overall grade of “C-” for its programs that provide health, education and family services, as well as child welfare and adolescent services for young people from birth to age 26. The report is Children Now’s 31st annual look at state services affecting children.

A massive rollout of ‘community schools’ shows signs of paying off, report finds

Megan Ruge, Education Week
In 2014, New York City launched a $52 million effort to launch 45 “community schools,” part of a nationwide movement to transform schools into neighborhood hubs offering a range of social and health services to students and their families. That investment, which eventually grew to more than 200 schools, is starting to be paying off, according to an independent evaluation of the schools released this week by the RAND Corporation.

Access, Assessment, and Advancement

No consensus on UC tuition hike as students protest and regents express mixed view

Teresa Watanabe, The Los Angeles Times
University of California regents voiced starkly different views Wednesday on a proposed tuition increase for fall 2020, as consensus on the controversial issue failed to emerge. During more than two hours of discussion on the first of a two-day meeting in San Francisco, one regent ruled out an increase while others leaned toward one of two plans UC officials have laid out that would raise tuition over five years. Their debate came one day after Gov. Gavin Newsom announced he opposed any tuition increase as “unwarranted, bad for students and inconsistent with our college affordability goals.” His 2020-21 budget includes a $217.7 million increase in new permanent funding over last year for the UC system.

California looks to expand bachelor’s programs behind bars

Vanessa Rancaño, KQED
When Brant Choate gets mail from the men and women in the California prisons he helps oversee, he says the letters often read something like this: “I’ve graduated with my associate degree for transfer and I need a place to go.” More than 1,000 people in California prisons are in that situation, Choate estimates. As director of the Division of Rehabilitative Programs for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, he said he’s been wanting to expand bachelor’s degree programs for years.

Would making Metro free for LAUSD students help raise a generation of public transit riders?

The Times Editorial Board, The Los Angeles Times
L.A.’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority has a ridership problem. Despite an enormous rail-building boom and the imposition of billions of dollars in new taxes to support public transit, fewer people are riding the subways and buses. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Unified School District has a poverty problem. More than 80% of its students live below the poverty line. Their families often struggle to cover the basic expenses, including transportation.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Major resource infusion is in the works for 20 struggling L.A. schools

Howard Blume, The Los Angeles Times
Twenty struggling Los Angeles schools will get a mega-infusion of resources in an aggressive, experimental effort to show that L.A. Unified — if properly funded — can boost student achievement, L.A. schools Supt. Austin Beutner announced on Tuesday. The effort, tentatively called Project 2020, seeks to raise standardized test scores in reading and math by 20 percentage points at each of 20 elementary schools within two years, a challenging statistical jump, based on typical school performance.

African Americans take on more education debt—and the payoff is complicated

Jaymes Pyne, Eric Grodsky, The National Interest
When seeking graduate and professional degrees, African Americans take on over 50% more debt than white students. On the upside, African Americans also see a bigger payoff to earning such degrees. Whether or not that payoff is enough to make up for the additional debt burden is unclear. These are some key takeaways from a study we released in January 2020 in the journal Sociology of Education that examined graduate school debt. We are researchers who study issues of inequality and disadvantage in education.

Parent resistance thwarts local school desegregation efforts

The Associated Press, The New York Times
As they try to address stubborn school segregation, many of the nation’s school districts confront a familiar obstacle: resistance from affluent, well-organized and mostly white parents to changes affecting their children’s classrooms. From New York City to Richmond, Virginia, sweeping proposals to ease inequities have been scaled back or canceled after encountering a backlash. The debates have been charged with emotion and racist rhetoric reminiscent of the aftermath of Brown vs. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that threw out state laws establishing segregated schools.

Public Schools and Private $

Bank stops voucher program donations over anti-gay schools

The Associated Press, The New York Times
A bank says it will stop donating millions of dollars to Florida’s private school voucher program after reports that some schools in the program discriminate against LGBTQ students. In a tweet to a Florida lawmaker on Tuesday, Fifth Third Bank said it has told officials with the state voucher program it will stop participating. “We have communicated with program officials that we will not be contributing again until more inclusive policies have been adopted by all participating schools to protect the sexual orientation of all our students,” the Ohio-based bank tweeted to state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith.

The 5 most serious charter school scandals in 2019 — and why they matter

Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post
The new year is bringing calls for new scrutiny of the charter school sector as the bipartisan support it once enjoyed has been fracturing, with many Democrats turning against the movement they had supported. In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Wolfe (D) had pledged to tighten lax ethics rules and give school districts the right to limit enrollment at charters that don’t offer a high-quality education — and now nearly 30 superintendents are calling on him to fulfill that promise, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

A provocative argument on segregation, school choice and shared language

Jay Mathews, The Washington Post
I am old enough to remember last century’s civil rights movement. But I had little understanding of the similarities between the language of segregationists then and school choice advocates now until I read a new book by longtime civil rights activist Steve Suitts. In “Overturning Brown: The Segregationist Legacy of the Modern School Choice Movement,” Suitts focused on the use of tax-supported school vouchers and tax credits today to pay private school tuition for parents who want them. I don’t think those who support vouchers and tax credits have the same views as those who argued for tax-supported segregation academies in the 1950s and 1960s. But Suitts showed that they often used the same words.

Other News of Note

Missing Zinn

Cornel West and Mordecia Lyon, The Boston Review
Ten years ago, on January 27, 2010, activist historian Howard Zinn died. I never met him, but his death felt like losing a family member. If you had told me on that mournful day that a decade later I’d be interviewing Cornel West about Zinn, I would’ve told you to stop playing with me. Both Zinn and West transformed my social consciousness as a teenager. I was born in Springfield, Massachusetts, where radical abolitionist John Brown lived when he first met Frederick Douglass. After Congress passed the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, John Brown, along with others, formed the League of Gileadites, an armed militia that made Springfield into one of the few effective safe havens in the country for those who’d escaped slavery. It was Zinn’s work that introduced me to Brown, as well as to so many other freedom fighters left out of textbooks.