Just News from Center X – January 14, 2022

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Staff Shortages Are Bringing Schools to the Breaking Point

Stephen Sawchuk, Education Week

In snow-capped Summit County, Colo., home to some of Colorado’s best skiing, here’s one way to gauge just how difficult the Omicron variant is making it to keep schools open: Just look at the lift hills. Lines to use them are snaking down into town, because there’s a shortage of lift operators and too many of them are currently ill with COVID-19. Those factors, says Kate Hudnut, the district’s school board president, are the same ones facing the district’s schools, where dozens of staff are quarantining from the surge and substitutes are hard to find. “Staffing is going to make or break us,” Hudnut said. “You can only shuffle your classes so much until it’s just not safe; the kids have to be supervised. We’re not looking to put them all in the cafeteria, because this is not day care.

There Is Something Very Wrong With a Society That Scapegoats Its Teachers

Liat Olenick, The Nation

Healthy democracies don’t hate their teachers. But the last year has made clear that powerful Americans do—on both sides of the political spectrum. And until this changes, our democracy, our children, and our futures are in grave danger. As an educator with ten years experience teaching in New York City, I have never felt so hopeless about the future of public schools in this country. The first week of 2022 was a nightmare for both teachers and students, but instead of offering support or investment in measures that could help schools survive this Covid surge, politicians and pundits attacked us for asking for minimal Covid protections. These attacks came after a particularly brutal year for education: Since 2020, teachers across the country have been threatened by fascists for teaching about race and human rights.

Who wants to lead America’s school districts? Anyone? Anyone?

Neal Morton & Jackie Valley, Hechinger Report

After years leading school districts on the East Coast, Michele Robinson wanted to come home. In May of 2020, the Las Vegas native accepted an offer to become superintendent of the Elko County School District, which serves roughly 10,000 students in northeastern Nevada. Her tenure began just a few months into the pandemic when coronavirus cases were surging across the nation and education officials were grappling with whether and how to reopen schools. As hard as those first months were, the gradual return to in-person learning in fall 2020 was harder.

Language, Culture, and Power

Kid cooks and tasty lunches: One elementary school’s recipe for survival [VIDEO]

John Fensterwald & Andrew Reed, EdSource

At Pacific Elementary School, lunches are cooked from scratch daily with local produce and pasture-raised chicken donated by a nearby farm. Meals combine old favorites — tacos and homemade pizza — with the exotic: Filipino chicken adobo, Brazilian pumpkin stew, latkes for Hanukkah and Nigerian jollof rice for Kwanzaa. It’s no wonder that families from nearby Santa Cruz fill up many of the seats in the seaside town of Davenport’s only public school, intrigued by the food and the school’s renowned chefs: their own 10- and 11-year-old children. For more than three decades, sons and daughters of farmworkers and farm owners, along with out-of-town kids, have taken turns making lunch for each other, their teachers and staff. Doing so defines the school as well as sustains it financially.

COVID cases triple in California juvenile prisons

Byrhonda Lyons, CalMatters

COVID-19 cases among California’s incarcerated youth have tripled since last week, and at least one youth recently was admitted to a community hospital after experiencing serious symptoms, according to an internal agency email obtained by CalMatters. While the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation consistently tracks and routinely releases data on COVID-19 inside adult prisons, the same detailed disclosures are not made for those in the juvenile prison population.  “Due to state and federal medical privacy laws, we cannot discuss youth cases at specific facilities,” wrote Vicky Waters, a spokesperson for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, in an email response to CalMatters.

The Shocking School

John Summers, Boston Review

Irony is a constant companion in autism’s search for a home in an inhospitable society. But the story of the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, Massachusetts is rich beyond reason. Founded fifty years ago during a humanitarian wave that established community alternatives to the incarceration of disabled people in state asylums, the school became the only place in the United States to employ electric shock to correct autistic behavior. In Pain and Shock in America: Politics, Advocacy, and the Controversial Treatment of People with Disabilities, Jan Nisbet chronicles the history of this school, which deploys the “Graduated Electronic Decelerator” (GED). From a battery pack strapped around students’ backs, the decelerator’s wires travel under students’ clothing to their arms, legs, and torso.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

What Many LGBTQ+ Students Worry About Most During the Pandemic

Arianna Prothero, Education Week

National political fights over transgender youth rights combined with the pandemic have taken a toll on the mental health of many LGBTQ+ teenagers and young adults, a new poll shows. Two thirds of LGBTQ+ teens and young adults say that recent high-profile debates and state legislation on restricting transgender youth participation in school sports, among other related issues, have been hard on their mental health, according to the poll conducted by Morning Consult for the Trevor Project, a national suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ youth. The impact of these political debates is even more keenly felt among transgender and nonbinary youth, 85 percent of whom say these types of discussions and legislative activity have negatively affected their mental health.

Decade of data highlights SEL best practices from 20 districts

Kara Arundel, K12 Dive

In 2011, eight large school districts formed a network to figure out how to implement research on effective social and emotional learning programming into real-life, districtwide practices. To the surprise of several participants, not only did those districts discover it was possible to expand their SEL practices, they’ve also sustained high-quality programming despite changes in local leadership and budgets. The districts also saw positive student outcomes as a result of their collaborations and independent efforts.

Addressing the crisis in arts and music education in California

Louis Freedberg, EdSource

For decades, arts and music education in California has been dying a slow death in many schools, strangled by budget cuts amid an ongoing emphasis on core subjects like reading and math and test scores as the measure of student success. But now, as educators search for new strategies to excite students about learning, especially during this grim pandemic, there is hope for their revival. In contrast to several proposed ballot measures that would weaken public schools, former Los Angeles Unified Superintendent Austin Beutner is leading an effort to restore arts and music education to a more prominent place in the school curriculum.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

Newsom offers new money if California college systems meet equity goals

Michael Burke & Ashley A. Smith, EdSource

California’s public colleges and universities would get more funding to make college more affordable, increase enrollment and help more students finish college and enter the workforce under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed budget released Monday. Newsom proposed a total of $39.6 billion for the University of California, California State University, California’s community colleges and the California Student Aid Commission, which administers financial aid. That includes hundreds of millions in new spending for each of those segments. With the proposal, Newsom signaled a commitment to creating more spots at UC and CSU for California residents, making it easier for those students to pay for college and pushing UC and CSU to increase graduation rates, especially for underrepresented students.

College students with young kids – especially mothers – find themselves in a time crunch

Claire Wladis, The Conversation

We found that college students who have children had significantly less time for college than their childless peers – about 4.3 hours less per week, to be specific – and that this “time poverty” is greatest for mothers of preschool-age children. That’s according to a 2021 study of 11,195 U.S. college students. Our study found other trends as well. Student parents also often had to care for children while they were studying. The most “time-poor” parents sacrificed a great deal more of their free time for their studies than childless students who had more time and could complete an academic degree more rapidly. Among all student parents, those with the youngest children – and mothers in particular – had the least time for college and were likelier to enroll in college part time.“

Perceptions of Affordability

Elizabeth Redden, Inside Higher Education

High school juniors who believe they can’t afford higher education are about 20 percentage points less likely to attend college within the first three years after high school than peers who don’t think affordability is a barrier. In 2012, when most students in a new study were juniors in high school, researchers asked them whether they agreed with the following statement: “Even if you get accepted to college, your family cannot afford to send you.” Nearly a third of the students—32 percent—agreed or strongly agreed with that statement. Three years after high school, 59 percent of this group—“the non-afforders”—had ever attended college, compared to 80 percent of their peers, “the afforders,” for whom perceived affordability was not an issue.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

View from a classroom, wrapped in a testing line [Image]

Tsukunst, Instagram

Students in Oakland, CA, threaten walk out if schools don’t beef up COVID-19 protections [AUDIO]


Here & Now’s Tonya Mosley speaks with Oaklandside reporter Ashley McBride about a petition by students in Oakland, California, for more high-quality masks and other safety measures by next week or they’ll walk out of school — just as concerned teachers in the district did last Friday.

Economists Pin More Blame on Tech for Rising Inequality

Steve Lohr, New York Times

Daron Acemoglu, an influential economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has been making the case against what he describes as “excessive automation.” The economywide payoff of investing in machines and software has been stubbornly elusive. But he says the rising inequality resulting from those investments, and from the public policy that encourages them, is crystal clear. Half or more of the increasing gap in wages among American workers over the last 40 years is attributable to the automation of tasks formerly done by human workers, especially men without college degrees, according to some of his recent research.

Democracy and the Public Interest

Breaking New Ground with California’s State Seal of Civic Engagement: Lessons from Year 1

Erica Hodgin and Leah Bueso, LEADE

At a time of great concern about the health of our democracy, California has taken a significant step to recognize the importance of civic and democratic education. On September 10th, 2020, the California State Board of Education unanimously approved the State Seal of Civic Engagement (SSCE), an initiative awarding students who have demonstrated excellence in civics with a seal on their diploma. California is one of five states that now offers such a diploma seal in recognition of students’ civic learning and/or civic engagement; the other states include Arizona, Georgia, New York, and Virginia. The SSCE represents a unique opportunity to galvanize attention and support for civic education in California and to set a leading example for the rest of the country.

Federal court denies RI students appeal claiming constitutional right to civics education

Linda Borg,  The Providence Journal

The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit has denied an appeal by Providence students and others that claims students have been denied the right to a civics education. The suit, filed in 2018 in U.S. District Court by a New York law professor and the Rhode Island Center for Justice,  argues that all students should have access to an education that prepares them to participate in their civic duties — whether that involves the right to free speech, the right to vote, or sitting on a jury. Although filed by 14 students, Professor Michael Rebell, executive director of the Center for Education Equity at Teachers College, Columbia University said in 2018 that this is a class-action suit that involves tens of thousands of students in Rhode Island.

Here’s How Much Money LA Parents Are Fundraising For Schools, And What It Buys

Kyle Stokes, LAist

Erin Ploss-Campoamor surveyed the block in front of her children’s school, looking for friendly faces — and feeling a pang of anxiety. Ploss-Campoamor was camped out on the sidewalk in front of Micheltorena Street Elementary, just off of Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles’ Silver Lake neighborhood. Two fellow officers of the school’s booster club were there too, ready to do business: collect checks, hand out “thank-you” prizes, sell some merch. It was March 12, 2021, two weeks into a month-long fundraiser for the school’s booster group, “Friends of Micheltorena.” The parents had set out to raise $45,000.

Other News of Note

In Memoriam: Lani Guinier 1950 – 2022

Brett Milano, Harvard Law Today

The first African-American woman to be tenured and a monumental presence at Harvard Law School, Guinier devoted her life to justice, equality, empowerment, and democracy.  During a celebratory event for Lani Guinier at Harvard Law School in February 2018, Columbia Law School Professor Susan Sturm invoked a phrase that was familiar to all of Guinier’s family, friends, students and colleagues in attendance. It was a line that Guinier often used when prodding her students into pushing harder and thinking deeper: “My problem is, if you stop there …”  Guinier’s work was underlined by that sort of determination, both nationally and at Harvard, and she was renowned for her scholarship, including “Lift Every Voice,” “Becoming Gentlemen,” “The Tyranny of the Meritocracy,” and “The Miner’s Canary: Enlisting Race, Resisting Power, Transforming Democracy” (co-authored with Gerald Torres). Guinier, who was the Bennett Boskey Professor of Law, joined the Harvard Law School faculty in 1998, becoming the first woman of color to be a tenured Harvard Law professor. Following a lengthy struggle with Alzheimer’s disease, she died on Jan. 7, at age 71.

Clyde Bellecourt, co-founder of the American Indian Movement, dies of cancer at 85

Deepa Shivaram & Doualy Xaykaothao, NPR

Clyde Bellecourt, one of the most significant Native American leaders in the struggle for civil rights, died in Minneapolis on Tuesday night, his son Wolf confirmed to Minnesota Public Radio. Bellecourt was 85 and had been battling prostate cancer. Bellecourt, who was born and grew up on the White Earth Indian Reservation, co-founded the American Indian Movement in 1968. It began as a local organization in Minneapolis and over decades has expanded to advocate for Native civil rights across the United States and Canada and around the world. AIM says that today, it represents over 375 million Indigenous people worldwide.