Just News from Center X – January 13, 2023

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Orange Unified’s conservative majority fires superintendent with a day’s notice

John Fensterwald, EdSource

With one day’s notice during winter recess, a conservative majority on the Orange Unified school board fired respected Supt. Gunn Marie Hansen with no explanation after a closed-door meeting Thursday night. The vote followed impassioned public comments from parents, teachers and community members who pleaded with them to change their minds on what they anticipated was coming. They warned them of the consequences, including expensive litigation and hundreds of thousands of dollars in severance payments.

How Finland Is Teaching a Generation to Spot Misinformation

Jenny Gross, New York Times

A typical lesson that Saara Martikka, a teacher in Hameenlinna, Finland, gives her students goes like this: She presents her eighth graders with news articles. Together, they discuss: What’s the purpose of the article? How and when was it written? What are the author’s central claims?

“Just because it’s a good thing or it’s a nice thing doesn’t mean it’s true or it’s valid,” she said. In a class last month, she showed students three TikTok videos, and they discussed the creators’ motivations and the effect that the videos had on them. Her goal, like that of teachers around Finland, is to help students learn to identify false information.

Why One Principal Is Asking Her Staff to Do Less

Crystal Thorpe, Education Week

Principals, it is time for a reset. This school year will be filled with election messaging, Roe v. Wade debates, gender-identity issues, school prayer challenges, and whatever new political issues present in the next few months. No matter our stances on any of these contentious topics, they affect us both mentally and emotionally. Yet, as the world continues to feel as though it is spiraling into turmoil, we continue to show up. We spent the last several years as the public face of mask and vaccination decisions that we neither controlled nor influenced. We have been villainized for teaching about any social injustice, supporting social-emotional learning, or trying to help kids through mental health challenges. We have tried to answer the questions about acts of racial hatred, the insurrection against our own government, a war in Ukraine, and mass shootings.

Language, Culture, and Power

To Create Safer Spaces for Students, Teachers of Color Must Reckon With Our Settler Identity

Whitney Aragaki, EdSurge

Last year, I had the privilege of learning and leading as the 2022 Hawaiʻi State Teacher of the Year and a CCSSO National Finalist. After being thrown into the public arena, my image, my story and my classroom were displayed and open for critique. As I traveled across the nation, teachers shared their stories with me. One of the most heartfelt stories I heard was from a fellow Asian educator. They appreciated seeing another Asian educator receive national recognition in a profession where only 2.1% of public school educators are of Asian descent.

JROTC Is Preying on Poor Students

Seth Kershner and Scott Harding, Jacobin

The Pentagon’s signature program for instilling military values in American schools, the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC), has a long history dating to 1916. But it hasn’t endured such bad press since the 1970s. In several damning articles, the New York Times revealed the structure of what’s wrong with high school military training: instructors who use their positions to prey on teenage girls, in-school shooting ranges built with grants from the National Rifle Association, and mandatory enrollment in some of the nation’s largest school districts — all abetted by school officials who fail to adequately monitor a program of such dubious educational value that many instructors lack a college degree.

Why being bilingual can open doors for children with developmental disabilities, not close them

Rebecca Ward and Eirini Sanoudaki, The Conversation

When parents learn their child has a developmental disability, they often have questions about what their child may or may not be able to do. Children with developmental disabilities, such as Down syndrome, often have challenges and delays in language development. And for some families, one of these questions may be: “Will speaking two languages be detrimental to their development?” However, studies consistently demonstrate exposure to an additional language, including a minority language, does not impact language outcomes negatively. This highlights the importance of giving children the opportunity to become bilingual.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Advocates hold rally on NY Capitol steps lobbying for free school meals for all students

Emma Misiaszek, CNYCentral.com

At 11 a.m. Monday, Senator Michelle Hinchey and Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas joined lawmakers, students and anti-hunger advocates to call on Gov. Kathy Hochul to fund free school meals for all New York students in the next year’s state budget. In June 2022, federal waivers that provided free school meals expired. More than 700,000 students across the state were impacted. Families in New York relied on free school meals throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The Universal School Meals Program Act of 2021 provided school breakfast and lunch at no charge to all students. However, legislators have failed to include an extension of child nutrition waivers in the final version of the 2022 Omnibus Appropriations Bill.

High school students protest anti-LGBTQ sentiment in GOP-led legislature

Gloria Rebecca Gomez & Isabela Gamez, AZ Mirror

Across the street from the state Capitol, while lawmakers gathered in advance of the new legislative session, Arizona high school students laid out 180 black body bags in protest. “We are trying to let our legislators know that every single step they take, bill they vote on, there is a life on the line,” said Dawn Shim, the leader of Support Equality Schools Arizona, which organized the event.

Why the U.S. must recognize and support caregiving students in middle and high schools

Emma Armstrong-Carter, Hechinger Report

Middle and high schoolers juggle a lot between school, friends and family life. But an estimated one in five have even bigger responsibilities — they are also caregivers for their families, at a time when most U.S. schools do not formally identify or support caregiving students. It’s time for adults to recognize and help caregiving adolescents through federal, state and local educational policies, so they do not need to choose between caregiving and school activities.

Caregiving youth provide ongoing, time-intensive care at home to family members who have aging-related needs or are chronically ill, such as grandparents, parents and disabled siblings. They may also take care of younger siblings if their parents are working long hours, disabled or chronically ill.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

Declaring War on Education as a Public Good

David Love, LA Progressive

The U.S. Supreme Court has decided to hear two legal challenges brought by six Republican-led states and two student loan debtors to President Biden’s $400 billion debt-relief plan, which promises to provide as much as $20,000 in forgiveness to more than 40 million Americans with federal college loans. The program has been placed on hold in light of these cases, causing Biden to extend the pandemic-era pause on federal student loan repayments through June 2023. The United States is an outlier in terms of its prohibitively large student debt, which stands at $1.75 trillion and amounts to roughly 7.5 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, and exorbitant college costs. Indeed, other countries, such as France and Germany, offer low-cost tuition, and in countries including Finland, Brazil, Norway and Panama, there is no tuition at all. But education did not always come at such a high cost in America, where public education was once treated as a public good.

Proposed bill would allow students in Mexico to attend a California community college

Michael Burke, EdSource

Under newly proposed legislation, low-income students in Mexico who live within 45 miles of California’s border would be allowed to attend a local community college without paying nonresident tuition. The legislation, Assembly Bill 91, would allow those students to attend community college in San Diego or Imperial County. “We live in a dynamic border region where we need to educate more students to fill the jobs required for growth,” Assemblymember David Alvarez, the bill’s author, said in a statement.

During the pandemic many Americans chose not to go to college, but high schoolers did [AUDIO]

Elissa Nadworny, NPR

Fewer people in the U.S. are going to college, but through early college programs and dual enrollment, many colleges are seeing a growing number of high schoolers in their classrooms.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Female Equity Leaders of Color Are Undervalued and Undercut

Ann M. Ishimaru, Education Week

In my research and professional work with district leaders over the past decade, I have seen and heard versions of Kiara’s hypothetical scenario play out over and over in school systems across the country. Female leaders of color often face not only outright resistance to their equity efforts but must also manage routine racial and gendered microaggressions and stereotyped assessments of their leadership. To enable these educators to sustain their leadership and advance racial equity in schools, we must disrupt the organizational dynamics that exact such a high toll on these leaders. Self-care practices might be be helpful, but individual remedies do not address the roots of the harm: that schools rely on Black female leaders while undervaluing and mistreating them.

Most homeless students are doubled-up. What does that mean? | Quick Guide

Betty Márquez Rosales, EdSource

Public schools across the U.S. have found that around one million children are experiencing homelessness, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Not all those students, however, live in homeless shelters or are on the streets — most of them are “doubled-up,” a term used to describe children and youth ages 21 and under living in shared housing, such as with another family or friends, due to various crises. In California, doubled-up numbers are high.

University founded to give free education to women whose countries deny it [AUDIO]

Here & Now, WBUR

For Afghan women, the list of prohibitions is growing: Severe restrictions on working, no going to parks or gyms, no travel unaccompanied by male relatives, head coverings and — perhaps most painfully — no education beyond 6th grade, ending any opportunity for girls and women to develop careers and financial independence. Kamal Ahmad is among those trying to change that for at least some Afghan women, as well as other women facing educational oppression in other countries.

Democracy and the Public Interest

Olentangy Schools official cuts off reading of Dr. Seuss book during NPR podcast

Megan Henry, Columbus Dispatch

The assistant director of communications for Olentangy Local School District abruptly stopped the reading of the Dr. Seuss book “The Sneetches” to a third-grade classroom during an NPR podcast after students asked about race. Shale Meadows Elementary School third grade teacher Mandy Robek was reading “The Sneetches” to her class as part of NPR’s latest episode of “Planet Money” about the economic lessons in children’s books. During the podcast, which aired Friday, Amanda Beeman, the assistant director of communications for the school district, stopped the reading part way through the book.

Students of Teacher Behind 150+ Book Ban Requests Detail History of Racism, Homophobia

Judd Legum, History News Network

Vicki Baggett, an English teacher at Northview High School in Florida, is pushing for the Escambia County School District to remove nearly 150 books from school libraries. In an interview last month, Baggett told Popular Information that she is challenging books like When Wilma Rudolph Played Basketball — the story of a sprinter who overcame racial discrimination to become an Olympic champion — because she’s concerned the book could make white students “feel uncomfortable.” Baggett said she has “a responsibility to protect minors” from this kind of content. While Baggett claims she is keeping inappropriate content away from children, her former and current students tell Popular Information that Baggett openly promoted racist and homophobic beliefs in class.

“Tell them local control is important”: A case study of democratic, community-centered school boards

Daniella Hall Sutherland, EPAA

On a cold Tuesday in March, a school board director in Vermont stood before his assembled community at the annual town meeting, a form of participatory democracy dating back to Colonial America (Bryan, 2010). Residents were bundled in wool sweaters and ski jackets, listening attentively as children played on snowbanks outside. The town’s elementary school faced an uncertain future, as the state legislature pressed for district consolidation as education budgets climbed. The director was well-known in the community for his blunt, fiscally conservative approach to leadership. In addition to serving on the school board for 20 years, he was the local volunteer fire chief, a small business owner, and member of the local police department. At this moment, however, he was unusually emotive. Plaintively, he asked the audience to speak to their representatives at the state house. “Tell them local control is important.Tell them you want to raise your hand and decide for the school in your town meeting… The DOE thinks only they know what is right.”

Other News of Note

What Does It Mean to Be Free? [Video]

Nathalie Etoke and Lewis Gordon, Boston Review

As part of our ongoing events series with The Philosopher, Nathalie Etoke, Associate Professor of Francophone and Africana Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center, sat down with philosopher Lewis Gordon to discuss Etoke’s new book, Black Existential Freedom. Over their wide-ranging conversation, they discuss the meaning of freedom, the nature of struggles against oppression, the limitations of Afropessimism, the work of Black existentialism, and much more. Below is a transcript of their conversation, which has been lightly edited for clarity.

Norm Fruchter, leader in NYC and Newark education equity movement, dies at 85

Michael Elsen-Rooney, Reema Amin, and Alex Zimmerman, Chalkbeat

Norm Fruchter, a towering figure in the education equity movements in New York City and Newark, died Wednesday after being struck by a car in late December, a spokesperson for his family confirmed. Fruchter was hit by a car while crossing the street near his home in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn on Dec. 22, and died from his injuries at NYU Lutheran Medical Center in Brooklyn on Jan. 4, said Michele Cahill, a friend of the family. He was 85 years old. An activist, community organizer, school leader, novelist, and academic, Fruchter was on the front lines of some of the most pivotal social and educational battles of the past half century in the five boroughs and his native New Jersey. He was active in the civil rights movement, fought for parents to have real power in running schools, and led the progressive push for small public schools. For decades, he helped spearhead efforts to increase diversity and desegregate city schools.