Just News from Center X – January 20, 2023

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

The “Learning Loss” Trap

The Editors, Rethinking Schools

This school year, as teachers carefully construct unit plans, build community with students, and navigate ongoing staff shortages, they also have to contend with a barrage of media coverage catastrophizing about so-called “learning loss.” Headlines suggest the losses are “historic,” “devastating,” and that students are “critically behind.” This fearmongering comes not only from the political right; there is a dangerous liberal-conservative consensus. President Biden’s Secretary of Education, Miguel Cardona, said: “I want to be very clear: The results in today’s Nation’s Report Card [delivered by the National Assessment of Educational Progress] are appalling and unacceptable.” The learning loss narrative shrouds itself in moment-in-time data from standardized tests, but it is not really about this moment. Rather, it is a weapon wielded against the past, to shift blame for pandemic school closures, and against the future, to narrowly frame the policy choices ahead.

The Rise and Fall of the Teaching Profession [Audio]

Have You Heard

The teaching profession is in the worst shape of the past 50 years. That’s according to researchers Melissa Arnold Lyon and Matthew Kraft, who crunched a half century’s worth of data on such indicators as whether students are interested in going into teaching, the prestige of the profession, and the satisfaction of teachers themselves. What emerged were some striking historical patterns and a clear warning about the state of the teaching profession.

Teachers from Gaza Strip observe peace education class in Hiroshima

NHK World

Teachers from the conflict-ravaged Gaza Strip have visited an elementary school in the atomic-bombed city of Hiroshima to observe a peace education class. Seven Palestinian teachers are currently in Japan at the invitation of the Japanese Foreign Ministry to learn about peace education. They visited Tenma Elementary School in Hiroshima on Wednesday. In the class, fifth graders presented their views on stories of atomic-bomb survivors told by their teacher. The students were told that one of the survivors lost her family in the bombing. She avoided family photos thereafter because she had taken one with her family shortly before the bombing. The Palestinian teachers listened intently while taking notes.

Language, Culture, and Power

Tallying the invisible costs of living undocumented in the United States

Carrie Spector, Stanford

There are an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, each with their own experience of adversity and loss. Financial, psychological, medical, familial — individuals labeled undocumented amass a multitude of damages, many of which are overlooked in the public conversation about immigration. A new Stanford-based research collaboration is working to bring those costs to light. The project — led by Antero Garcia, an associate professor at Stanford Graduate School of Education, and Alix Dick, a storyteller and filmmaker from Mexico who now lives in Los Angeles — provides a platform for first-person accounts of undocumented life, and an opportunity to tally the costs incurred. “Immigrants are often treated and talked about as a cost, a burden on the United States,” said Garcia. “But for people who’ve immigrated to this country, voluntarily or involuntarily — what are the costs to them and their lives? What’s been taken? And how and why do they continue to pay these costs for living in America?”

Students of Color Disproportionately Suffer From Police Assaults at School, Says Report

Eesha Pendharkar, Education Week

In 2013, a 17-year-old Texas student spent 52 days in a medically induced coma after police used a taser on him at school. The student fell to the ground, hitting his head on the floor, rendering him unconscious. Two years later, in Columbia, S.C., a 16-year-old Black girl in Spring Valley High School was placed in a headlock, flipped over in her desk, dragged, and thrown across her classroom by a school police officer. And in 2021, a school police officer in Long Beach, Calif., shot an 18-year-old while she was a passenger in a car driving away from a fight in the Millikan High School parking lot. She eventually died.

Teaching Indigenous land dispossession in Wisconsin and beyond

Elise Mahon, W News

In the 1860s, the University of Wisconsin was granted more than 230,000 acres of land to make pursuing an education in agriculture, military tactics, mechanical and classical arts attainable for the state’s working class. This was the mission of land-grant universities, as dictated by the 1862 Morrill Act. But where did the land granted to the university come from? While land-grant universities produce important scholarship and research that gives back to their states, they can do so because of the wealth and real estate gained from the dispossession of Indigenous lands.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Sustainable education and youth confidence as pillars of future civil society

Alberto Biancardi, Annarita Colasante & Idiano D’Adamo, Nature

Amidst ongoing unsettling events, including a global pandemic and a war in Ukraine, the challenge of sustainability remains central. In addition, there are many problems related to health, human rights and the environment, including malnutrition and food insecurity, as well as water shortage. The Sustainable Development Goals offer a pathway to reconciling economic growth with environmental concerns, through a highly interconnected framework of analysis. All countries must develop policies and trackable objectives to support the achievement of these goals.

Ed Department webinar shares risks, solutions for teen fentanyl use

Kara Arundel, K-12 Dive

Illicitly manufactured fentanyl remains one of the biggest risks to teenagers, but schools, families and communities can adopt strategies to reduce use and deaths, said panelists during a Tuesday webinar hosted by the U.S. Department of Education. Fentanyl, a highly potent synthetic opioid, is responsible for a 152% increase in drug-induced deaths of 14- through 18-year-olds from 2018 to 2021, according to federal research compiled by advocacy group Song for Charlie.

‘Big Brothers’ Can Have a Lasting Impact on Kids, Study Finds

Nadia Tamez-Robledo, EdSurge

Timothy Witchet was just a kid in Houston when he saw a TV show that would, in a roundabout way, change his life. It was an episode of the sitcom “The King of Queens” wherein protagonist Doug Heffernan signs up to be a “big brother” to a boy named Jason. The portly Doug joins a 10K race to impress his less-than-enthusiastic protégé but—cue the laugh track—ends up in the fetal position off in the grass. While Doug fails to finish the race, he praises Jason for coming in 48th place. “You’re a winner,” he tells the boy.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

The element of suspense in Supreme Court’s 2023 affirmative action ruling

Valerie Strauss and Kevin Welner, Washington Post

In the fall, the U.S. Supreme Court held hearings on cases challenging affirmative action programs at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill — and after hours of argument, it seemed clear that these programs are likely to be ended by a majority of the justices. With court watchers predicting a ruling against the universities this year, the question remains how broad that ruling will be. How will it affect other colleges and flagship state universities? Will the court allow racial proxies that favor White students to stand while eliminating affirmative action programs aimed at bringing more minorities onto campuses?

If Affirmative Action Ends, College Admissions May Be Changed Forever

Stephanie Saul, NY Times

In 1964, hoping to erase its image as a privileged cloister for white rich families, Wesleyan University contacted 400 Black high school students from around the country to persuade them to apply. The outreach led to the enrollment of what became known as Wesleyan’s “vanguard” class — one Latino and 13 Black students — which helped establish the university’s commitment to diversity. Nearly 60 years later, such recruitment practices face an existential threat.

The Neoliberal Superego of Education Policy

Christopher Newfield, Boston Review

A long time ago the United States had a civil rights enforcement system that increased racial equality. Generations of Black critique and social movements finally led, in the late 1950s, to federally mandated voluntary desegregation agreements, but these accomplished very little. Many momentous events later, policy frameworks emerged in the mid-1960s that did have a meaningful impact. In 1963 John F. Kennedy proposed the Civil Rights Act that Lyndon Johnson, propelled by a relentless civil rights movement, finally pushed through a Congress that stalled it for weeks in 1964. A month after it was passed came the Economic Opportunity Act, the cornerstone of the federal War on Poverty. The following year saw the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (the first general funding program for education in federal history) and the first Higher Education Act. By the end of this period the United States had laws prohibiting racial segregation and discrimination in several key arenas of national life, including housing, hospitality, education, employment, and elections.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Structural Racism Explained [Video]

Stephen Menendian, Othering and Belonging Institute

The “Structural Racism Explained” video draws upon many varied sources in formulating specific definitions for different types of racism. The video and prompts provided in this video and teaching guide are designed primarily for teachers to help students clarify and sharpen their understanding of the material, spur and support classroom discussion of the video and ideas, and provide ideas and leads for further research. But the materials are also useful for people who work in diversity, equity, and inclusion spaces and local governments. Teachers should feel encouraged to prod students to read and engage with source materials. The video and prompts provided here are designed and developed primarily for high school students, but can also be used by upper-level middle school systems or undergraduate university students, with tailoring.

Transforming Education with Equitable Financing


In September 2022, the Transforming Education Summit called on governments and the international community to mobilize action to transform education systems, including increasing equity in education spending towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 4 on quality education for all. To examine the equity issue in education, this brief presents findings on equitable education financing using the latest data from 102 countries and territories, highlighting the urgent need to target resources to reach the poorest and most marginalized. It discusses the challenges of not only inadequacy but also inequity in national education spending and international aid to education, and explores how equitable education financing can help address the global learning crisis. The brief presents key policy actions that governments and stakeholders must urgently take to respond to these challenges and transform education with equitable financing.

A once-segregated Denver school fights to stay integrated 50 years after historic court order

Melanie Asmar, Chalkbeat

Stedman Elementary is one of Denver’s most integrated schools. About a third of its students are Black, a third are Hispanic, and a third are white. “That happened by accident,” Principal Michael Atkins said, “but we are keeping it by design.” In the 1960s, Stedman wasn’t integrated at all — and it was no accident. In 1968, 92% of Stedman students were Black and the school was overcrowded. Rather than reassign some Stedman students to mostly white schools nearby, the district brought in trailers. The segregation at Stedman and at other Denver schools spurred a group of families, led by Wilfred Keyes, a Black father and chiropractor, to sue Denver Public Schools in 1969.

Democracy and the Public Interest

What Happened to the 1.3 Million Children Who Stopped Going to School?

Carol Burris, The Progressive

Between the fall of 2019 and 2021, 1.3 million children left the American public school system, according to Education Week. For those who care about the welfare of children, this sharp decline is worrisome. We know that enrollment declines were the steepest in large cities, where our neediest students reside and where COVID-19 was more devastating.  How many have dropped out, working in the underground economy or languishing at home without schooling? The honest answer is that there is no comprehensive accounting of where (or if) all of those 1.3 million children are now being schooled. However, what should be a national concern centered on the welfare of children has instead become promotional material for those who wish to eliminate public schools. The libertarian right and its allies, including the Center for Education Reform, have chalked up the decline to a story of unhappy public school parents exercising school choice. But is it?

Free speech or out of order? As meetings grow wild, officials try to tame public comment.

Karin Brulliard, Washington Post

A school board meeting in Greeley, Colo., kicked off this month with a newly restrictive public comment policy — the fourth iteration in a year marked by such vitriol over masks and books that one member suggested suspending comment altogether. Two opportunities for citizens to address the board for a total of four minutes had already been slimmed to one three-minute chance per person. Now speakers would have two minutes each. In Rochester, Minn., where public comment at city council meetings has featured personal attacks on the mayor and baseless accusations about the library promoting pedophilia, speakers since October have been permitted to comment just once a month — and the board is considering further restrictions.

Former special education student joins school board in Shasta

Carolyn Jones, EdSource

As a new school board member, Joshua Brown is prioritizing special education in his rural Northern California district. But his perspective is unusual: He has firsthand experience with the district’s special education program — as a student. Brown, 19, has autism and is one of only a handful of people known to have autism nationwide to serve in public office. He was sworn in on Nov. 7 to serve on the Shasta Union Elementary School District, a one-school district in the foothills west of Redding that he attended as a child.

Other News of Note

How one photographer is using his camera as a weapon against poverty and racism

Seyma Bayram, NPR

Devin Allen got his first camera in 2013 — a Canon that his grandmother had purchased for him on credit from Best Buy. The self-taught photographer had begun exploring the form a year before, taking pictures of the poetry scene in his native Baltimore with a camera on loan from a friend. That spawned an interest in the history of photography, particularly the contributions of Black photographers, that led Allen to study the work of the late Gordon Parks, who said “I chose my camera as a weapon against all the things I dislike about America — poverty, racism, discrimination.” Photography proved to be life-changing for Allen, who had felt powerless growing up in Baltimore and seeing his community struggle with many of the same socio-economic injustices that Parks had turned his camera on in the middle of the 20th century. As a young man, Allen saw how educational inequality, gentrification, violence, drugs, poverty and police brutality hurt his neighbors. He also lost several close friends to murder.

Martin Luther King Day should make you uncomfortable

Jamil Smith, LA Times

To become beloved, too often Black folks first have to die. And too often, even that isn’t enough. At this time of year, I wonder how America would celebrate one man in particular today had he lived. The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. would have turned 94 last Sunday had an assassin’s bullet not taken his life in Memphis, Tenn., and I cannot help but think how many people would still be denigrating him were he alive today. It doesn’t take much conjecture to visualize this.