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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
Howard Blume and Melody Gutierrez, Los Angeles Times
Thousands of signs were ready, along with thousands of teachers to hold them. Nothing, it seemed, could stop a Los Angeles teachers’ strike from starting Thursday. Then, the day before, came a midday announcement from the teachers union: The strike would have to wait until Monday. United Teachers Los Angeles didn’t make the decision Wednesday because of progress in contract talks. A deal still seemed beyond reach for the time being. Instead, the delay was due to a legal technicality. Union leaders were concerned over whether they’d given the Los Angeles Unified School District a required 10-day notice that they were terminating their labor agreement. Absent that notice, lawyers for the school system could potentially let the strike begin and then force teachers back into classrooms for several days, disrupting momentum. UTLA officials decided not to take that chance but blamed L.A. schools Supt. Austin Beutner for pursuing legal maneuvers rather than meeting their demands.
EdSource asked several education leaders to comment on what they think Gov. Jerry Brown’s most important contributions to education reforms in California have been, what major education issues remain unaddressed and what they are hoping for from incoming Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Alyson Klein, Education Week
Happy New Year! It’s 2019, which means that the Every Student Succeeds Act is more than three years old, and finally having an impact on school districts. President Donald Trump and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have been on the job for almost two years, with no major school choice initiative in sight. And Democrats are about to take over the U.S. House of Representatives. Here’s what to watch for next year.
Language, Culture, and Power
My school policed our black male students’ hair. The viral forced-haircut video showed me how wrong we were.
David McGuire, Chalkbeat
It took 30 seconds of watching the video of Buena Regional High School Wrestler Andrew Johnson getting his hair cut before his wrestling match for me to have my entire perspective changed. Like most people who watched the viral video, I had various emotions. The first was confusion as to why he was getting his hair cut before the match. When I first saw the video, I clicked on it without paying little attention to the caption. After watching the video again, this time after reading the caption, the confusion quickly shifted to anger. Then, I shifted from anger to sadness. I was sad for the young man who went on to win his match, but in reality, had lost so much in that moment. What message were we sending to children about their appearance? I was sad because of previous feelings I had as a school principal about hair and the hair policy we once had. At the beginning of this school year, my Indianapolis charter network rolled out a brand-new policy in our handbook regarding hair. This year, for the first time in the over a decade, Tindley no longer requires young men to cut their hair. Previously, we had a stringent policy when it came to how young men could wear their hair. Braids, twists, dreads, or hair longer than three inches was not permitted in any of our schools. It was a policy that I strongly backed.
Young Whan Choi, The Young and the Woke
In this episode, we learn about Leonardo, a senior in the Health Academy at Oakland Technical High School. His story paints a picture of how the path to high school graduation isn’t always a straight line, but rather a windy road full of twists and turns. There isn’t a GPS device to help you navigate all those curves, many of which are uncharted. Instead, it takes the wisdom, guidance, and resources of an entire village. The village that supports Leonardo to be successful begins with his mother and also includes the Oakland Housing Authority, amazing classroom teachers, community organizations like the HOPE collaborative, internship opportunities, and not insignificantly the financial support of voters in Oakland in through Measure N.
Educator: ‘When my students learned I was once a soldier, they fell for many of the pervasive stereotypes of veterans.’ Why that’s a problem and how we can fix it.
Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post; Brian M. Thompson, U.S. Education Department
Veterans know a thing or two about safety and security. Many of us were once part of surges into dangerous areas to secure neighborhoods and protect the local population from terrorists and insurgents. Because of veterans’ “leadership skills, experience, and essential training,” the Federal Commission on School Safety has provided veterans with a new mission, “to help ensure the safety and security of our nation’s schools.” Based on my previous experience as a soldier and teacher, I have no doubt veterans can help protect students and teachers, but there is a far more important reason to have them working in schools across the country. Before I taught high school history for five years at a high-poverty public school in Washington, D.C., I served my country as an infantryman with a combat deployment to Afghanistan. While I taught students the causes and effects of the Industrial Revolution, my unit was over there fighting again. As my students worried about grades and my fellow teachers and I fretted over lesson plans, my Army buddies were trying to avoid IEDs and ambushes. Every day at the start of my planning period, I did something few Americans ever do. I visited the Department of Defense casualty identification website to see if the war had claimed the life of another friend. I didn’t have to scroll down too far to realize my fear had transformed into a harsh reality.
Whole Children and Strong Communities
Linda Jacobson, Education Dive
Attendance on the last day of school before a holiday break can sometimes be rather spotty. But last month, classrooms at Public Service Community High School in South Los Angeles were full, and roughly 40 representatives from local agencies and organizations were gathered in the cafeteria for instructions on what to expect during career day. Public Service Community School Principal Dennis Fulgoni and Community School Coordinator Reyna Guzman address visitors assembled for career day. “A lot of our students, they’re going to be the first ones in their family to graduate from high school,“ Reyna Guzman, the community school coordinator at Public Service Community High School — part of a network of “partner schools” affiliated with the nonprofit Los Angeles Education Partnership (LAEP) — told the Los Angeles firefighters, engineers, healthcare professionals and other visitors seated at lunch tables. For the rest of the morning, the featured guests circulated throughout classrooms in the building, sharing how they got into their line of work and answering students’ questions.
David Washburn, EdSource
The use of restorative justice in elementary schools leads to significantly fewer suspensions, a narrowing of the suspension gap between black and white students and improved perceptions of school climates among teachers, according to findings from a new study by the RAND Corporation. However, the researchers — who spent two years studying a restorative justice program in the Pittsburgh public schools in Pennsylvania — also found that middle schoolers did not benefit from the program and it had no effect on academic achievement. The data were not adequate to judge its effectiveness in high schools, said Catherine Augustine, the study’s lead researcher. “We consider it promising at the elementary level,” Augustine said. “But we were disappointed by the findings at the middle school level.” Substantial research over the past decade has shown that so-called “zero tolerance” discipline policies, which favor exclusionary punishments like suspensions, are largely ineffective in reducing student misbehavior and disproportionately meted out to students of color and those with disabilities. Armed with the research, youth and civil rights advocates have pushed districts in California and throughout the country to adopt alternatives to traditional discipline, with restorative justice being among the most popular. The underlying idea is that students respond better to discipline when it is focused less on punishment and more on righting wrongs and building healthy relationships within the school.
Rebecca Steck and Jennifer Vespucci, eSchool News
Saint Patrick’s is a small, pre-K–8 Catholic school in Yorktown Heights, New York. Last year, we received a grant to revamp our computer lab into what we call a STREAM lab, which stands for science, technology, religion, engineering, art, and math. The grant allowed us to invest in 30 new MacBook Airs to supplement our existing iPads and Chromebooks. Before we spent a cent, though, we made certain to connect every purchase with our two important goals: improving each individual child’s academic and career prospects, and improving our students’ scores on state assessments, which are critical to whether we’re succeeding or failing as a school. To that end, here are four essential skills that we strive to teach all of our students by the time they finish middle school.
Access, Assessment, and Advancement
Gov. Newsom wants universal preschool for low-income children in California to be phased in over three years
Louis Freedberg, EdSource
Within days of being sworn in as California’s chief executive, Governor Gavin Newsom is expected to put forward a three-year plan to achieve universal preschool in California for all low-income 4-year-olds, in an attempt to implement a campaign promise pledging a major expansion of early education programs. What’s more, the ambitious plan will call for full-day preschool, according to a document provided by a source close to the Newsom transition team. In 2014, the Legislature declared that “it is the intent of the state to provide all low-income 4-year-old children from working families with full-day, full-year early education and care.” Each year since then, it has provided funds for additional subsidized full day preschool slots, but most slots are still part-day ones. According to the Newsom transition team document outlining the plan, the push for universal preschool would be part of “the largest, most comprehensive investment in early learning and child development in California history.” Expanding a range of early education programs would be the central pillar of Newsom’s “California for All” budget for the coming fiscal year, which he is required to submit to the Legislature by Jan. 10.
Sasha Jones, Education Week
Test-based retention in 8th grade increases the likelihood of criminal conviction by age 25, according to a new study. The study focused on Louisiana students who were held back in 8th grade between 1998-1999 through 2000-2001 because they just scored just below the cutoff on tests designed to determine whether they were ready for promotion to 9th grade. Their outcomes were compared with those for similarly low-performing students in the same state who were promoted to 9th grade during the same time period. By doing so, the authors of the study hope to eliminate external socioeconomic factors that could led to similar effects. The findings were shared December 2018 in a working paper posted by the National Bureau of Economic Research. “The only difference between the kids right below the threshold and the kids above is that the kid below scored one point below the kids right above,” Michael Lovenheim, co-author and associate professor of Cornell University’s department of policy analysis and management, said. If a student is retained in 8th grade, the likelihood of being convicted for a violent crime by the age of 25 increases by 1.05 percentage points—a 58.44 percent increase relative to the mean for this group of students. Nevertheless, there is little effect on juvenile crime, and a non-statistically significant increase in the likelihood of being convicted of any crime.
California has money for ex-convicts to go to school. Here’s how LA community colleges want to spend it
Adolfo Guzman-Lopez, LAist
Los Angeles community colleges are competing for some of the $5 million in state grants created to help students who’ve spent time in prison. The money will bolster growing efforts to enroll, educate and support formerly incarcerated people. Some of the schools that are applying for grants say they want to hire more counselors to help with everything from food and housing to academics and psychological issues. The California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office is overseeing the $5 million grant program. The deadline for schools to apply is January 31. “We’re all aware that the cost of incarcerating someone is tremendously higher than educating someone,” said Carol Kozeracki, dean of academics at L.A. City College, which plans to apply for one of the grants. There are about 250 formerly incarcerated students taking classes at L.A. City College, more than in the past, she said. The increase is due to an effort to reach out to people in prison and to create on-campus programs to support formerly incarcerated students with the transition from prison to the classroom. Researchers have documented how education does a lot to keep people from committing offenses that will return them to prison.
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
Kevin Mahnken, The 74
Who should have the greatest say over education? Elected school boards, most agree. Decades of opinion polling show that the public prefers local control of schools to federal or state mandates. From left-leaning parents bent on reducing standardized testing to conservative activists still ruing the loss of school prayer, Americans generally believe that authority over community classrooms should be wielded by community members. So who controls the elected boards? In spite of their importance, we know relatively little about the composition of these most basic entities of school governance. But a new study published in the American Educational Research Association’s open access journal has uncovered a big finding: School board members are disproportionately likely to come from wealthier, whiter, and more educated neighborhoods within districts. The study, conducted by Vanderbilt University professor Jason Grissom and University of Pennsylvania professor Marc Meredith, suggests that the most advantaged areas of a district — and the schools located within them — receive greater representation than comparatively disadvantaged ones.
Sarah Butrymowicz, The Hechinger Report
Although cultural tides are shifting, a lack of resources and opportunities makes it hard for girls to reach their potential.
Nick Anderson, The Washington Post
Citing widespread evidence of hunger on college campuses, a federal report released Wednesday urged officials to work with states and colleges to help more students get access to government food assistance. The Government Accountability Office, an investigative agency that works for Congress, found nearly 2 million students from low-income backgrounds who were potentially eligible for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in 2016 but did not receive the benefits. Confusion over eligibility often hinders access, the GAO found. At nine of 14 colleges the GAO contacted, some officials and students said they were unfamiliar with the program or didn’t fully understand its rules. The report recommended the Agriculture Department’s Food and Nutrition Service clarify on its website who is eligible and share more information on state efforts to promote the program among college students. Federal law bars many full-time college students from participating in the nutrition program but allows exceptions. Among them, according to the report, are parents with young children, participants in federal work-study programs, recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and students who work at least 20 hours a week.
Public Schools and Private $
Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times
Recent races for the Los Angeles Board of Education have been the most expensive school board contests in the nation’s history — and charter school supporters spent millions more than anyone else. But a key charter group announced Friday it will sit out a March special election to fill an empty and potentially pivotal seat. The political arm of the California Charter Schools Assn. is not endorsing any of the 10 candidates for the seat left vacant in July, when Ref Rodriguez resigned after pleading guilty to one felony and three misdemeanors for campaign fundraising violations. The hopefuls are vying to represent the oddly shaped District 5, which covers some neighborhoods north of downtown L.A. as well as the cities of southeast Los Angeles County. The Board of Education, currently with six members, is split on key issues, including how to interact with privately operated charter schools, which compete with district-operated schools for students. A spokeswoman for the charter group spoke of the many strong options for the board seat. “There are a number of highly qualified, inspiring candidates in this race,” said Brittany Chord Parmley of CCSA Advocates. “Given the diversity, strength and depth of the field, we have decided not to endorse. … This election is an opportunity for the entire community to engage in a dialogue about what it will take to provide an outstanding public education to all Los Angeles students.”
Adam Harris, The Atlantic
Children should have equal access to a high-quality education. It’s a popular talking point among both the left and the right because it’s non-objectionable—yet it’s far from the reality of American primary and secondary education. As the landmark Reagan-administration report, A Nation at Risk, put it 35 years ago, “If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.” Advocates for so-called school choice, however, argue that they have a solution: If you provide students and families with a broad range of options—including charter schools, private schools, and traditional public schools—they can choose the one that best suits them. In theory, the schools would compete with one another, vying for students, and the competition itself would spur them all to improve, as Peter Bergman, a professor of economics and education at Columbia University, told me. Ideally, that competition is open to all students equally, as it is that sort of open free-for-all that ought to produce the best results. Of course, for this to work, parents need to know about the options available to them. Research has shown that there are significant barriers to choice, among them access to transportation, enrollment issues, and a lack of information about the schools. A new working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research adds another dimension to this problem: Schools themselves may play a role in encouraging more “desirable” students to enroll, meaning that often it’s more the schools choosing the students than the reverse.
Alexis Audette, Chalkbeat
Choosing schools in New York City can be a formidable challenge. That was evident at a Community Education Council meeting in District 2 last week, when I spoke in favor of a proposal to phase out the exam that governs admissions to the city’s sought-after, specialized high schools — and many other parents voiced opposition to the plan. In 2011, when my husband and I began to think about where our daughter would go to kindergarten, we realized what a complex educational landscape we would have to navigate. In the years since, we have struggled, as former teachers ourselves, to reconcile our values and self-interests. And sometimes our choices have reflected the latter. I’ve come to see these choices through a different, critical lens, and I think our family’s story — just one in a school system with more than one million schoolchildren — may shed light on how the system isn’t yet set up to make the right choices the easy ones, and why I’ve come to believe elevating these values is so important at this moment.
Other News of Note
Lauren Gilger, KJZZ
Even without newly proposed laws at the Arizona Legislature this session, there are already rules around advocacy that teachers have to follow. Recently, two teachers — including Arizona Education Association Teacher of the Year Kareem Neal — faced disciplinary action for their advocacy for the failed Invest in Education initiative during class time. State law says teachers are forbidden from using public resources to influence an election. As teachers in Arizona and around the country become more politically engaged, how can they walk the line between being public employees and education advocates? Dr. Keith Catone has studied that line and how important is for teachers to be involved in shaping education policy. He’s executive director at CYCLE, the Center for Youth & Community Leadership in Education at Roger Williams University. He joined The Show to talk more about it.