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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
Dakota Smith, Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles is often criticized for its lack of public engagement and low voter turnout, and as a place where neighborhoods have a sense of community but the city overall feels fragmented. But the nation saw a different side of L.A. when last week’s teachers’ strike galvanized the city. Thousands of red-clad teachers marched and rallied on the streets, drawing vocal support not just from residents and parents but from politicians and celebrities eager to back their cause. By keeping a tight message and engaging parents, the United Teachers Los Angeles Union and its president, Alex Caputo-Pearl, were able to highlight issues of inequality and L.A.’s struggling school system in a way that supporters hope has lasting significance.
Alia Wong, The Atlantic
In Los Angeles, more than 30,000 teachers remain on strike; it took union and city officials more than a week to eke out a tentative agreement that, they announced Tuesday morning, will likely bring them back to their classrooms this week. Last Friday, teachers from a handful of public schools in Oakland, California, staged a one-day walkout, too, and they’re planning for another demonstration this Wednesday. Meanwhile, a citywide strike is brewing a few states over in Denver, as could soon be the case in Virginia, where teachers are gearing up for a one-day rally in Richmond later this month. An educator uprising is even percolating in Chicago, where the collective-bargaining process is just getting started: “We intend to bargain hard,” the teachers’ union’s president told the Chicago Tribune last week.
Jessica Yarmosky and Elissa Nadworny, NPR
The teachers union in Denver has voted to approve a strike that could begin as soon as Jan. 28. It would be the first time the city has seen a teacher strike in almost 25 years. The Denver Classroom Teachers Association finished voting late Tuesday after more than a year of negotiations between the union and the district, which have failed to yield an agreement. “Denver teachers overwhelmingly agreed to strike,” said Rob Gould, the union’s lead negotiator, at a press conference Tuesday. He unveiled that 93 percent of members had voted to go ahead with strike plans. “They’re striking for better pay. They’re striking for our profession. And they’re striking for Denver students.”
Language, Culture, and Power
Agnes Constante, NBC News
Two California non-profits are planning to distribute across school districts in California a teacher’s resource guide about “comfort women,” the mostly Korean women who were forced into Japanese military-run brothels during World War II. The guide was commissioned by the Korean American Forum of California (KAFC) and the Comfort Women Justice Coalition (CWJC), which spearheaded the creation and installation of a comfort women memorial in San Francisco in 2017, as part of their efforts to educate the world about this chapter of World War II history in Asia. “We need to do that in order to make sure that this kind of history will never be repeated again,” Lilian Sing, a retired San Francisco judge and co-chair of the CWJC, said. “And hopefully the historical atrocities like ours, like comfort women, as well as American slavery, the Armenian Genocide and the Holocaust, will never happen again.” During World War II, an estimated 200,000 women from countries including Korea, the Philippines, China, and Indonesia were forced into sexual slavery and “served” between five to 60 soldiers per day, according to research referenced by professors from Vassar College and Shanghai Normal University. The guide contains primary documents about Japan’s comfort women system, information about comfort women memorials in the United States, brief lesson plans with discussion questions and group exercises, comfort women testimonies, and the text of a congressional resolution asking the Japanese government to acknowledge, apologize for, and accept responsibility for its comfort women system.
Michael Melia, Associated Press
A legislative proposal in Connecticut would mandate instruction on climate change in public schools statewide, beginning in elementary school. Connecticut already has adopted science standards that call for teaching of climate change, but if the bill passes it is believed that it would be the country’s first to write such a requirement into law. “A lot of schools make the study of climate change an elective, and I don’t believe it should be an elective,” said state Rep. Christine Palm, a Democrat from Chester who proposed the bill. “I think it should be mandatory, and I think it should be early so there’s no excuse for kids to grow up ignorant of what’s at stake.” Some educators have questioned whether it’s necessary in light of Connecticut’s adoption in 2015 of the Next Generation Science Standards, which include climate change as a core aspect of science education beginning in middle school. “I do believe if the state has adopted standards, you’re teaching those standards, you’re going to be assessed on those standards,” said Fran Rabinowitz, executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents. “If you’re a district in Connecticut, your curriculum is addressing it already.” A similar proposal was introduced in the last legislative session but ultimately failed to win approval.
Adolfo Guzman-Lopez, KPCC
A Native American Advisory Council created by University of California President Janet Napolitano is set to meet for the first time on February 1. It’s set to discuss Native American student and faculty recruitment along with an issue important to many tribes: the return of human remains in the possession of UC campuses.
Whole Children and Strong Communities
E. Tammy Kim, The Hechinger Report
The walkout succeeded in putting a spotlight on the dire shortage of counselors, who are key to helping students navigate school and plan for life after graduation.
Marva Hinton, Education Week
A new study says programs with strong organizational structures hold the key to effective early-childhood education, and lists exceptional administrators and collaborative teachers as the two most important components of those structures. The study was conducted by researchers with the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research (UChicago Consortium) and the Ounce of Prevention Fund, or Ounce, a Chicago-based nonprofit that advocates for and provides high-quality early-childhood education. They wanted to find out what strong organizational settings looked like in early-childhood education. A research paper based on their findings was recently published in the journal Early Education and Development. But the researchers work began several years prior when researchers from UChicago Consortium and Ounce developed a new measuring system that used surveys of teachers, staff members, and parents to determine the level of organizational supports in early-childhood education settings. This system became known as the Early Education Essentials. Through these surveys, the researchers identified early-childhood education centers with strong and weak essential support scores. They then went into two centers with strong scores and two with weak scores to observe. Each pairing featured one school-based center and one community-based center. All of the centers were located in Chicago and in low- and working-class income neighborhoods. Their research validated what they had found in the surveys as the team was able to see how these elements worked in practice. They found that effective instructional leaders who are “strategically focused on children’s development and early achievement” are the most important element to having a strongly organized program.
John King, The Hechinger Report
More than 10,000 babies will be born in the United States today, each with infinite potential. These newborns, from diverse backgrounds, represent our country’s next generation of thinkers, workers and leaders. Much of their success in life depends on key decisions that our policymakers make now. And one of those key decisions is to promote policies that can ensure babies thrive, including quality early learning, child care, home visiting programs and comprehensive paid family leave. We know the first three years of a baby’s life shape all the rest. In that short period, babies develop more than 1 million new neural connections every second, forming the foundation for later learning. When our society provides young children with what they need to be healthy and happy, we optimize their chances to succeed. But when babies don’t get what their growing brains need — good health, support for strong families, and positive early learning experiences — they miss out on opportunities to flourish. Two very different futures can grow from disparate access to opportunity early in life.
Access, Assessment, and Advancement
Diana Lambert, EdSource
Nearly half of California’s potential teachers struggle to pass a gauntlet of standardized tests required for them to earn a credential, making it more difficult for the state to put a dent in a persistent teacher shortage. But that could change soon, as officials at the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing look to reform the entire landscape of tests that teachers have to take to enter the profession. While the issue of student testing has always received considerable attention, the tests prospective teachers in California must take have received far less. It is an issue that is attracting more attention recently, as state education leaders begin to acknowledge these tests as major stumbling blocks to attracting new teachers to the profession. At the same time, educators have to ensure that reforming the testing regimen, which could include eliminating some tests, doesn’t lower the standards for basic proficiency that these tests are supposed to ensure. About 40 percent of students seeking to become teachers give up because they fail to pass the required tests at various steps along the path to getting their credential, according to data from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. For prospective math or science teachers, that number climbs to 50 percent.
Felicia Mello, CALmatters
Emelyn Jerónimo is only 12 years old, but she already has $3,000 saved towards college. Socked away by her mother in chunks of $100 or less since Jerónimo was in kindergarten, the money may not seem like much, but it’s helped fuel the San Francisco sixth-grader’s dreams of becoming a pediatrician. Jerónimo’s nest egg is part of a first-of-its-kind program that automatically sets up college savings accounts for every kindergartner in San Francisco’s public schools, each seeded with $50 from the city treasury. And if Gov. Gavin Newsom gets his way, the model could soon roll out to other cities across California. Newsom launched Kindergarten to College as mayor of San Francisco in 2010, and last week proposed spending $50 million on similar pilot projects around the state as part of what he’s calling a cradle-to-career education strategy. “You want to address the stresses, the costs of education?” Newsom said at a press conference unveiling his 2019-20 budget. “Let’s start funding those costs when people enter into kindergarten.” Fans of so-called child savings accounts say they help children envision themselves attending college from a young age. Families of San Francisco public school students, many of whom are low-income, have saved a total of $3.4 million of their own money in the Kindergarten to College accounts, according to city Treasurer José Cisneros. Only about one in five students have contributed money beyond what the city supplies. That still outpaces the percentage of U.S. families contributing to 529 plans, tax-deferred accounts that provide another option for college savings—as Cisneros is quick to point out.
Larry Gordon, EdSource
The chancellor of the 23-campus California State University system pledged Tuesday not to raise tuition next year, a response to the recent generous higher education funding proposal from Gov. Gavin Newsom. Chancellor Timothy P. White’s announcement means that tuition will be frozen for a second year in a row at $5,742 annually for full-time undergraduates who are California residents. Those undergraduates taking six or fewer credits still would pay $3,330. “You heard me correctly: tuition is off the table,” White told the CSU board of trustees meeting in Long Beach. When he received modest applause at first for that, he jokingly responded: “That’s all? Oh my. It must be early in the morning.” Newsom’s first budget plan, released recently, proposed adding $300 million in extra ongoing funds for the CSU, an 8 percent raise above this year. That would include $62 million to enroll 7,300 more students, a 2 percent increase but less than half of what the university initially wanted. Newsom also insisted that tuition not be increased.
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
Steve Gorman, U.S. News & World Report
After settling a strike that galvanized support for long-neglected public schools in America’s second-largest school district, the Los Angeles teachers union is turning its sights on major new sources of sustained education funding. The head of the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) union, Alex Caputo-Pearl, says teachers will campaign for a 2020 California ballot initiative to roll back Proposition 13. The landmark 1978 ballot initiative, capping real estate levies, is widely credited with igniting a nationwide taxpayers revolt. “We’ve all got a lot of work to do to make sure that that ballot initiative passes,” he said in public remarks this week, stressing the union’s determination to restore for public schools a vital revenue source that was stunted 40 years ago. Under the 2020 ballot initiative dubbed “Schools and Communities First,” commercial and industrial property would once again be taxed by local governments according to market value. The limits on residential taxes under Prop 13 would be left intact, a system called “split roll.”
Kelly Field, The Hechinger Report
When Matt Johnson’s girlfriend was killed in gang crossfire in 2014, leaving him a single father to a 3-year-old girl, he knew it was time to do something different with his life. Johnson, who grew up surrounded by drugs and violence in Boston’s South End neighborhood, had been getting into trouble since he was a kid. Locked up at 14 for possessing crack cocaine, he spent what might have been his college years in prison for selling the drug. At the time of the shooting, he was 31, bouncing between jobs and dealing on the side. Now, suddenly, “everything was on me.” So when two guys he’d done time with — “dudes from the same background as me” — asked if he wanted to try college, he decided to give it a shot. Now 35, Johnson is one of 200 former gang members who are enrolled or preparing to enroll in Boston colleges through a program that is trying to transform the city’s most dangerous neighborhoods by transforming the lives of their most destructive residents. The program, called Boston Uncornered, seeks out “core influencers,” the 1 percent of young gang members in Bostonwho researchers say are either the perpetrators or victims of 70 percent of the city’s homicides. It offers them free college prep, mentors, and stipends under the theory that, once armed with a college degree, they’ll go from negative to positive role models in their communities.
Nick Anderson, The Washington Post
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill urged a federal judge Friday to reject allegations of illegal racial bias in the public university’s admissions process and rule in its favor without allowing the lawsuit to go to trial. At the same time, the plaintiff in the case — a group opposed to affirmative action called Students for Fair Admissions — also asked the judge to bypass a trial. The group said evidence showed that UNC gives too much weight to race and ethnicity in its admission process and has not given adequate consideration to race-blind strategies for enrolling a diverse class. The dueling legal motions in federal court in North Carolina showed that the debate over race-conscious admissions is not limited to how Harvard University selects a class. Students for Fair Admissions filed separate suits challenging aspects of the admissions policies at Harvard and UNC in November 2014. The highly publicized Harvard case went to trial in the fall in federal court in Boston. The judge in that case has not issued a ruling. The president of Students for Fair Admissions, Edward Blum, was also involved in litigation challenging how the University of Texas considers race in admissions. Blum and his allies lost in the Texas case when the Supreme Court upheld UT’s methods in 2016.
Public Schools and Private $
Riley McDonald Vaca, Los Angeles Times
It’s a confusing time to be a charter school teacher in Los Angeles. Usually, I consider myself to have everything in common with my husband and friends who teach in the Los Angeles Unified School District. We put in the same long hours, confront the same piles of ungraded papers and share similar worries and hopes for our students. But the teachers’ strike that ended Tuesday exposed a long-simmering rift between charter and district schools, and it made me confront my own role in the problems we face in Los Angeles education. The teachers and their union made clear during the negotiations that they believe schools like mine pose an existential crisis to schools like theirs. More than 100,000 children living within district boundaries now attend charters, and the money the state provides for their education has followed them out of LAUSD schools. Moreover, the teachers pointed out, charters tend to pick off the students with more involved parents, leaving public schools with a higher percentage of tougher cases and less funding and space.
Allison Roda, Molly Vollman Makris, Alisha Butler, And Bradley Quarles, Chalkbeat
Now that the holiday season has come to a close and the flow of Amazon boxes arriving at our doorsteps has slowed to a trickle, New Yorkers and Virginians are bracing themselves for a different Amazon arrival — the company’s new offices planned for Long Island City and Northern Virginia. As education researchers, we are focused on how Amazon’s arrival will transform schools in both areas. We’ve spent years studying gentrification and education and believe that Amazon’s arrival presents an important opportunity to learn from the past — and to create policies that benefit all students and families before it is too late. Here is what research has already shown us. We know that high-wage workers with school-age children will enter each region’s already overcrowded public schools. Choice can lead to gentrification, and gentrifiers use school choice mechanisms to select private schools, charter schools, magnet schools, and gifted and talented programs. Families with social, cultural, and economic capital move into low-income neighborhoods but often opt out of local schools that are mostly black and/or Latino and low-income. This process is already happening in Long Island City, other parts of Queens, and throughout New York City. Yet there is also some evidence that gentrification offers the potential for school integration. Where policymakers might go wrong is trusting that integration will happen on its own. The past also shows us that plans to integrate established schools are often met with resistance, or advantaged families wield their privilege to shape schools in ways that fit their children’s needs over those of others.
Tom Coulter, The Columbia Missourian
Legislation that would require a public vote on any charter school expansion was unveiled by Democratic House leaders during a press conference Tuesday afternoon. “Although alternatives to traditional local public schools can have a place in our public education system, these alternatives shouldn’t be imposed from on high and instead be implemented only in local communities that want them, and to be held to the same standards of accountability,” House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, said. House Bill 629 would require any potential expansion of a charter school to be approved by voters within the school district where the expansion would occur. In Missouri, charter schools exist only in Kansas City and St. Louis.
Other News of Note
Mark Warren, The American Prospect
When Zakiya Sankara-Jabar’s son was repeatedly suspended from his Pre-K program, she was shocked at first. The preschool kept calling her to say her son was in trouble for biting other students or having trouble transitioning from one activity to another. In Zakiya’s view, “They made normal three-year-old behavior sound very pathologized and abnormal.” Eventually, she had to withdraw her son from the school but he was subsequently suspended and expelled at other preschools. Zakiya had to drop out of college to care for her son but before she did, she used the college’s library services to search for articles on the experiences of black boys in public education. She quickly learned that her family’s experiences were not unusual. “I suddenly realized that I wasn’t a bad parent and my son wasn’t abnormal. This was something larger, more societal, that was happening to African American parents.”