Just News from Center X – January 15, 2021

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

How the School Transmission Conversation Became So Muddled [Audio]

Brooke Gladstone, On the Media

Over the past 10 months, debates have raged over how to keep the coronavirus in check. What to open? What to close? Where does the virus spread, and where are we relatively safe? Through it all, one kind of space in particular has been the subject of vigorous debate — and, starting a few months into the virus, a kind of unexpected conventional wisdom emerged: that schools were relatively safe. In the midst of the darkness, it brought some welcome light: kids are safe! They can go to school! While other institutions closed, countries around the world — particularly in Europe and the UK — kept their schools open. And yet, in response to rising rates and a new, more contagious variant, many of those same countries have since closed their school doors. It turns out that, if you believe the epidemiologists, schools do, in fact, bring risk of transmission. How could we ever have thought otherwise?

Big district superintendents, Newsom advisers remain at odds on back to school plan

John Fensterwald, Ed Source

After a meeting Monday with top advisers of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration, superintendents of two of the largest school districts in California said nothing had changed: Their districts won’t pursue $2 billion in state funding in return for committing by Feb. 1 to send younger students back to school when Covid infection rates fall. Reaching an agreement in under three weeks with employee unions on the conditions for a safe return to in-person instruction, Los Angeles Unified Superintendent Austin Beutner said after the meeting, is “not possible.” On Tuesday, the district escalated the dispute, voting unanimously in closed session to sue Newsom over the reopening plan.

CPS locked these teachers out of class after they refused to report in person. So they found other ways to teach their students

Stefano Esposito, Chicago Sun-Times

Wrapped in blankets and hunched over laptops, a handful of locked-out Chicago Public Schools teachers set up their remote classrooms outside the Belmont Cragin home of Chicago Board of Education President Miguel del Valle Wednesday. A few minutes before, they’d knocked on del Valle’s front door, but there was no answer. “He has the power to call a meeting, he has the power to speak to the mayor. He has the mayor’s ear,” said Quetzalli Castro, a seventh-grade teacher at the nearby Prieto Math and Science Academy. Castro was there to support about 100 CPS employees district-wide who still haven’t shown up to their schools this week as required and have been subsequently locked out of their CPS Google Classroom accounts and told they wouldn’t be paid. Teachers refusing to return to classrooms have complained the district’s plan to restart schools in the midst of a pandemic is confusing, inadequate and potentially dangerous.

Language, Culture, and Power

Latino groups ask Biden team to push back English-language testing amid Covid concerns

Cynthia Silva, NBC News

Several national Latino education and civil rights groups are asking President-elect Joe Biden to push back in-person proficiency tests for students learning English as a second language amid Covid-19 concerns. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and other groups sent a letter to Biden’s education transition team on Monday, saying that in-person assessments can impose health risks for English-language learners, or ELLS. The concern comes after over 30 states have set windows to test such students’ English proficiency, starting as early as Jan. 4. With over 3.8 Latino ELLS in public schools, it’s a worry that affects a demographic three times more likely to become infected with the coronavirus. “No student should be forced to choose between their health and well-being, or taking a test that will determine their proficiency in learning the English language, especially during an unprecedented pandemic,” David Hinojosa, director of the Educational Opportunities Project at the lawyers’ committee, wrote. “These tests can wait.”

How family separation inspired a children’s book about a fearless girl

Dorany Pineda, Los Angeles Times

Eight years ago, when Oriel María Siu found out she was pregnant with her first child, she immediately began hunting for children’s books. She riffled through dozens in the aisles of Seattle libraries, growing frustrated over the trite, predictable narratives she found on the shelves: white boys and girls were ubiquitous; children of color often played secondary characters; gender stereotypes and Eurocentric perspectives abounded. Books she found about diversity were frequently shallow; she vividly remembers one that “reduces brown culture to nothing more than a piñata party on Cinco de Mayo attended by happy people who eat tacos. And the tacos don’t even look like real tacos!” None of the books addressed the real experiences of children like hers, or the child she had been decades ago when her family was forced to flee Honduras. Or those who’d been separated from their parents.

How to make anti-racism more than a performance

Bettina L. Love, Education Week

Since the world watched Minneapolis resident George Floyd die at the hands of a police officer named Derek Chauvin and learned police in Louisville, Ky., shot and killed Breonna Taylor in her own home, an outpouring of attention has focused on anti-racism and equity. Countless anti-racism book clubs were formed; books addressing America’s racism shot up The New York Times bestsellers list; big-name corporations with feeble track records on diversity and inclusion made public statements in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. And the field of education saw a resurgence of calls for anti-racism and equity. School districts and colleges around the country formed task forces, committees, and working groups to address what they already know: that despite good intentions for racial justice, the work is at best elusive without substantive commitment from the institutions and is dead on arrival without significant structural changes that address systemic racism.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

California schools struggle to pay for ventilation upgrades, key to safely reopen campuses

Betty Marquez Rosales & Carolyn Jones, Ed Source

Upgrading ventilation systems is a key way schools can reduce the spread of the coronavirus when campuses reopen, but some districts in California are finding the cost of those upgrades to be insurmountable.Some districts have recently been able to upgrade their HVAC systems using local bond money. Some hope that the Legislature will place a multi-billion bond on the 2022 state ballot to provide new money for school facilities. Others are hoping President-elect Joe Biden will push through infrastructure legislation that includes money for schools. But few funding streams are guaranteed, and they may not be sufficient to cover the regular inspections and stringent filter replacements that HVAC systems require. Because the coronavirus is primarily spread through air droplets, teachers unions and state authorities are urging schools to improve their indoor air quality by installing modern air filters or air purifiers, or replacing their outdated heating, cooling and air ventilation (HVAC) systems entirely. But the costs can exceed hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the region, the condition of the existing buildings and the size of the school.

Schools are a lifeline for homeless students. COVID-19 is severing the connection.

Nadia Tamez-Robledo, EdSurge

As temperatures began to dip this fall, Allen Blackwell III says he and his colleagues at Baltimore City Public Schools kept watch on weather reports hoping to see it hit 32 degrees. That would herald the opening of winter shelters where homeless students and their families could be housed. “We were in the support area before. Now we’re dealing with survival,” says Blackwell, the district’s homeless and foster care liaison who oversees homeless services at 120 schools and 15 shelters as well as partnerships with local agencies. For students experiencing homelessness, schools are a lifeline for their entire families. Blackwell’s department has continued to provide food, clothing and transportation support despite being largely cut off from in-person contact with students since March. But that system only works if homelessness liaisons know where these students are. The COVID-19 pandemic made that exponentially harder when it forced districts to go virtual in the spring and kept many remote throughout the fall.

Distance Learning and Parental Mental Health During COVID-19 [Video]

Casandra Davis and Alberto Ortega, AERA

When the emerging COVID-19 pandemic caused most U.S. schools to close and transition to distance learning last spring, many parents were forced into new roles as proxy educators for their children. A study published today in Educational Researcher, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association, finds that roughly 51 percent of all parents surveyed in March and April had at least one child struggling with distance learning and were themselves experiencing significantly higher levels of stress. The study authors found that parents with at least one student struggling with distance learning were 19 percentage points more likely than other parents to report anxiety. These parents also were 22 percentage points more likely to experience depression, and were 20 percentage points more likely to have trouble sleeping.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

Refugee And Immigrant Women Show Promise As A Pipeline For New Colorado Early Childhood Educators

Jenny Brundin, CPR News

When Khan Mwezi landed in Colorado eight years ago from a refugee camp in Uganda, she arrived with a high-risk pregnancy. Her daughter, Martinode Hill Gift, was born prematurely and stayed in the neonatal intensive care unit for four months. During that time, Mwezi spent a lot of time with infants. As her husband scraped together a living for them, Mwezi attended to all her daughter’s special needs. “Life was very, very difficult,” said Mwezi, who had no family support because most of her family was killed in wars and ethnic strife in the Congo. Little did Mwezi know that seven years later she’d be back caring for infants, and filling a critical workforce need in Colorado. She’d landed a part-time job at an early child care center. The state’s early childhood worker shortage is most acute in infant and toddler care, with about half as many workers currently employed as are needed.

Biden’s debt forgiveness plan would help millions of California students

Mikhail Zinshetyn, Cal Matters

Millions of Californians could get one of the biggest transfers of money in this country’s history as lawmakers and the incoming president duel over competing plans to rid the nation of ten of billions of dollars in student debt. If President-elect Joe Biden follows through with his campaign promise to forgive $10,000 in federal student debt, as many as 1.3 million Californians could see the balance on their federal college loans totally wiped out. The plan, which would make good on a once fringe progressive goal of student forgiveness that’s gone mainstream in the past five years, would benefit a total of roughly 3.9 million Californians who combined owe $140 billion in federal loans used to pay for college. But a chorus of Congressional Democrats, including Sens. Chuck Schumer, Elizabeth Warren and California U.S. Representative Maxine Waters, wants Biden to expunge up to $50,000 in federal student debt. Debt cancellation of $50,000 would clear the federal student debts of far more Californians­— between 2.9 and 3.3 million people, according to a CalMatters analysis of U.S. Department of Education data.

More black students enroll in HBCUs following hate crime reports: Study

Jeremy Bauer-Wolf, Education Dive

Incidents of hate and bias ratcheted up on campuses nationwide in the wake of President Donald Trump’s election in 2016, reports show. Though the racial animus across the country has been well-documented, “little is known” about how it affects enrollment patterns, the study notes. “In light of the current president and the rhetoric, we wanted to explore the different types of choices where students are going to enroll in college,” said Dominique Baker, an education policy professor at Southern Methodist University and report co-author. She and co-author Tolani Britton, a University of California, Berkeley, education professor, drew on federal enrollment and campus crime statistics, as well as hate crime information collected by the FBI, from 1999 to 2017. It excludes for-profit institutions, as they enroll large shares of online learners. They discovered that enrollment of first-time Black students climbed at HBCUs and fell at non-HBCUs in states where hate crime reports increased.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

I desegregated the University of Georgia. History is still in the making.

Charlayne Hunter-Gault, New York Times

Sixty years ago, I walked onto the campus of the University of Georgia along with my high school classmate Hamilton Holmes. Ordinarily this would have been a routine exercise, as it had been for students since the institution was established in 1785. Except in all that time, not one Black person had ever been allowed to attend the University of Georgia. Hamilton and I wanted to change that, though not because we wanted to make history. We applied to UGA with the same kind of dreams and ambitions as every student there. Hamp, as he was widely known, wanted to be a doctor. I had wanted to be a journalist since I first read the comic strip “Brenda Starr, Reporter” when I was around 5. We were approached by an activist group of Black men in Atlanta known as the Atlanta Committee for Cooperative Action (ACCA) who wanted to put Brown v. Board of Education to the test. It had been five years since that 1954 Supreme Court decision; they believed it was time for action.

The Basic Facts About Children in Poverty

Areeba Haider, Center for American Progress

In America, nearly 11 million children are poor. That’s 1 in 7 kids, who make up almost one-third of all people living in poverty in this country. This number should be unimaginable in one of the world’s wealthiest countries, and yet child poverty has remained stubbornly high for decades Across the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which is made up of 37 countries including Denmark, New Zealand, Spain, and the United Kingdom, the United States is consistently ranked as one of the worst in child poverty rates. As the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting recession continue to devastate the United States, children are facing the consequences of failed leadership. Since April 2020, the share of children with at least one unemployed parent has consistently remained above reported rates during the peak of the Great Recession. More than 4 in 10 children live in a household struggling to meet basic expenses, and between 7 million and 11 million children live in households in which they are unable to eat enough because of the cost. When the pandemic forced schools to shift to distanced and virtual learning, it worsened the barriers to quality education for low-income children and pushed their parents, particularly mothers, to choose between caregiving and employment. Without serious interventions, an economic recovery will leave low-income and marginalized people—and their children—behind. Already, some calculations are finding that the child poverty rate has increased dramatically since the onset of the coronavirus crisis.

Remember the fundamentals as we build back better in girls’ education

Stephanie Psaki & Karen Austrian, Brookings Institution

The world has changed dramatically over the last 10 months. In the midst of such broad changes, we might be tempted to throw away our old ways of doing things and figure out a new approach to meeting the needs of women and girls around the world. But with regard to gender equality in education, many of the fundamentals have stayed the same, and our challenge is to figure out how to update our work to this new reality, while not forgetting the commitments and goals— and other challenges— that preceded COVID-19. This spring, the Population Council’s GIRL Center launched the Evidence for Gender and Education Resource (EGER), a searchable, easy-to-use, interactive database to drive better education results for girls, boys, and communities around the world. It includes information on current practice (who is doing what, where?), current evidence (what has worked in some settings?) and current needs (where do challenges remain?) in global girls’ education. Based on insights from EGER, we will be launching a 2021 Roadmap for Girls’ Education in the coming months.

Democracy and the Public Interest

Democracy Needs to Be Taught in School

Andrea Gabor, Bloomberg Opinion

Last week’s attack on the U.S. Capitol may have been incited by President Donald Trump and right-wing politicians, but it was supported by millions of their followers. News reports and public opinion polls make it clear that many Americans believe evidence-free assertions by Trump and his allies of massive voter fraud in the November election and their lies about the power of public officials to overturn the result. The riot was just the latest and most appalling evidence that a wide swath of the American public doesn’t understand democratic norms. That’s why it should serve as a sputnik moment for an ambitious revival of civics instruction along with expanded training in news literacy.

As Betsy DeVos steps down, critics hope it is time to put the public back in public education

Liz Willen, Hechinger Report

For four years, opponents of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos deplored her private school priorities, so it was hardly expected she’d be hailed as a hero for a sudden epiphany disassociating herself from President Donald Trump and resigning. The most succinct reaction to her meaningless resignation 13 days before her term ended came in a two-word statement from a longtime nemesis, the American Federation of Teachers: Good riddance. Instead of being praised as one of the first Trump cabinet members to bow out in the wake of violence surrounding Monday’s Capitol takeover, DeVos is prompting a fresh wave of cynicism and antipathy, along with a fervent hope for better policies ahead once Miguel Cardona, President-elect Joe Biden’s appointee for the job, takes over.

Private schools cashed in on P.P.P. funding

Shawn Hubler & Amelia Nierenberg, New York Times

This spring, when the federal government disbursed billions of dollars in emergency pandemic funding, the traditional K-12 public schools in Los Angeles got an average of about $716,000.
Meanwhile, Sierra Canyon School, a private school in the San Fernando Valley where LeBron James’s son is a basketball standout, got $3.14 million — part of a forgivable pandemic loan to its foundation from the federal Paycheck Protection Program. New York’s public schools averaged $386,000 in federal aid. But Poly Prep Country Day School, a private school in Brooklyn with more than $114 million in the bank, got a $5.83 million P.P.P. loan. Public schools in Washington, D.C., averaged $189,000 in federal funding. But a P.P.P. loan for $5.22 million went to the Sidwell Friends School, the Washington alma mater of Sasha and Malia Obama. This week, as the federal government releases a second round of P.P.P. loans, watchdog groups are following the money. From its start, the $659 billion program, intended to help struggling mom-and-pop businesses and nonprofits cover their payrolls with loans backed by the Small Business Administration, has been troubled by complaints that the rich and connected had crowded out intended recipients.

Other News of Note

The Other America [Video]

Martin Luther King Jr., Youtube

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1967 speech at Stanford. Here, he expounds on his nonviolent philosophy and methodology.