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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
Linda Wertheimer, NPR
This week, the Trump administration revoked federal guidelines on affirmative action from the Obama era. Those guidelines encouraged the consideration of race in admissions at schools and universities. Trump officials, instead, are promoting a race-neutral approach. We wanted to know how the Trump administration’s announcement will affect college admissions. Jon Boeckenstedt is an associate vice president at DePaul University in Chicago. He oversees undergraduate admissions there. He joins us now from Naperville, Ill. Thank you very much for joining us.
Laura Meckler, The Washington Post
Judge Brett Kavanaugh, President Trump’s choice for the Supreme Court, has defended the use of taxpayer money for religious schools and backed student-led prayers at high school football games, siding with religious interests in the debate over government entanglement with religion. In private practice, Kavanaugh backed the government when it sought to support religious interests and challenged schools when they attempted to exclude religious groups. Together, legal experts say, these cases suggest he would continue the court’s steady shift from a strict separation between government and religion to a far more permeable relationship — a matter with implications for public and private schools.
Carolyn Jones, EdSource
Science education got a boost in the 2018-19 state budget, but the plan stops short of funding training for teachers in California’s ambitious new science standards — something education leaders had been pushing for. The budget, which the Legislature approved this month and Gov. Brown signed Wednesday, includes a $6.1 billion increase in funding for K-12 schools. It calls for nearly $400 million for programs promoting science, technology, engineering and math education, ranging from STEM teacher recruitment to after-school coding classes to tech internships for high school students. But it doesn’t set aside money specifically to train teachers in the new science standards. Districts must apply for grants or use money from their general funds. “Overall, I’d say this budget is somewhere in the middle. We’re happy to see an overall increased investment in education, but we would have preferred to have dedicated funding for (the new science standards),” said Jessica Sawko, director of the California Science Teachers Association. “It means that a lot of that work to advocate for using funds is going to have to happen at the local level.”
Language, Culture, and Power
Sasha Jones, Education Week
Arno Michaelis has always been obsessed with warriors. While visiting the Milwaukee County Zoo as a child, this meant drawing Greek mythological heroes riding on top of the tigers. As he grew older, Michaelis thought it meant being a white supremacist skinhead, defending his race. Now, for Michaelis, being a warrior means teaching Wisconsin students about the toxicity of hate, segregation, and racism. For seven years, starting at the age of 16, Michaelis was involved with the white power movement as a founding member of a racist skinhead organization and the lead singer of a race-metal band. Having started drinking at age 14, gang activity, heavy punk music, and bullying were just another part of the adrenaline rush. “It really pissed people off, and I wasn’t ignorant as to why,” Michaelis said of his destructive behavior. “It gave me a thrill.” The thrill ride came to a halt when, on August 5, 2012, a white skinhead follower that Michaelis had recruited killed six and wounded four in a racially motivated attack on a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisc. Soon after the tragedy, Michaelis, who by then had long ago given up his skinhead ways, met Pardeep Kaleka, a former police officer, teacher, and trauma therapist, whose father was killed in the shooting.
Donna St. George, The Washington Post
For Angelina Xu, one of the best holidays of the year is like Thanksgiving and Christmas rolled into one. It brings the chance to see far-flung relatives and friends, to laugh and tell stories around the dinner table, to revel in plates and plates of Chinese food. But schools don’t close for Lunar New Year in her Maryland school system, so the 12-year-old said she and others are forced to choose between their classes and their culture — an “impossible decision.” “It’s important to me to be off because it’s the best chance I get to relate to my family in China, and to connect more with my parents and my brother, and to learn more about my culture,” said Xu, who attends Roberto Clemente Middle School in Germantown. The rising seventh-grader is part of a growing call for recognition of Lunar New Year in Montgomery County, a sprawling school district outside Washington that ranks as the largest in the state — and one of the largest in the nation — with more than 161,000 students.
Alia Wong, The Atlantic
The University of California at Berkeley fields more than 85,000 freshman applications every year. About 15,500 of those applicants are accepted, including 4,500 or so students who aren’t from California; roughly 9 percent of those offered admission aren’t from the United States. Global diversity has inherent value in a college setting, but at Berkeley—a public institution that receives substantial support from taxpayer dollars—some argue it can come into conflict with its founding values as a “land-grant” university established in the mid-1800s largely to serve the children of farmers and factory workers. And as panelists acknowledged in a discussion Wednesday at the Aspen Ideas Festival, which is co-hosted by the Aspen Institute and The Atlantic, some even find international-student recruitment at private universities problematic at a time when a four-year degree remains out of reach for so many Americans. But the panelists—all of them current or former university presidents—roundly disagree with the contention that colleges and universities in the U.S. should be restricted to those who live in the country.
Whole Children and Strong Communities
Do suspensions lead to higher dropout rates and other academic problems? In New York City, the answer could be yes
Alex Zimmerman, Chalkbeat
Reams of research show that students who are suspended are also more likely to drop out, get sucked into the juvenile justice system, and face a slew of other academic challenges. But a crucial question has largely gone unanswered: Do suspensions themselves cause those negative outcomes, or are the factors that led to the suspension in the first place the real culprit — or some combination of both? New research focusing on New York City offers fresh evidence to help answer that question. The paper, published in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Education, suggests that suspensions really do contribute to students passing fewer classes, increasing their risk of dropping out, and lowering the odds of graduating. The findings add new evidence to a heated debate playing out in New York and across the country about how suspensions affect students, and whether dramatically reducing them could boost outcomes for students of color and those with disabilities, groups that are disproportionately suspended.
Christina Samuels, Education Week
Head Start providers are uniquely positioned to help the country’s most vulnerable children from birth to age 5, including those affected by the opioid crisis, say its supporters—and those advocates are looking for a $200 million grant from Congress to support that work. Head Start, which serves about a million children and pregnant women, has already been working with children who have been born with a dependence on opioids as well as those suffering trauma and displacement because of opioid abuse among family members, advocates say.
Lisa Stark, PBS News Hour
The changing culture around sexual harassment and the #MeToo movement has some states and school districts rethinking their sex ed curriculum to include healthy relationships, preventing violence and ensuring consent. Special correspondent Lisa Stark of Education Week visits a Washington, D.C., school that is committed to comprehensive sexuality education.
Access, Assessment, and Advancement
Jeremy Bauer-Wolf, Inside Higher Ed
While institutions have focused on enrolling more high school graduates and seeing them through to commencement, new federal data suggest that students from lower socioeconomic classes still have trouble with access to higher education. According to a report released Thursday by the Center for American Progress, major gaps still exist in enrollment between students from wealthy, well-educated families and their more impoverished peers. “I think it’s an important reminder that we still have a lot of work to do on college access,” said Ben Miller, the report’s author. “There’s been a lot of emphasis on getting students to complete college and that’s totally warranted, but who even gets in the door of a school is an important thing, too.”
Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times
The University of California opened its doors to a record number of Californians for fall 2018, led by growth in transfer students from across the state, according to preliminary data released Wednesday. The public research university’s nine undergraduate campuses offered seats to 95,654 Californians, nearly 3,000 more students than last year. Overall, UC admitted about three-fifths of the 221,788 California, out-of-state and international students who applied. “After reviewing yet another record-breaking number of applications, our campuses have offered admission to an exceptionally talented group of students for the upcoming academic year,” UC President Janet Napolitano said in a statement. “With the benefit of a UC education, these accomplished young people from different backgrounds, with diverse beliefs and aspirations, will make California and the world a better place.” The mix of offers for freshmen and transfer students slightly shifted this year in response to pressure by Gov. Jerry Brown and state legislators to widen access for California community college students. As a result, most campuses increased offers to California transfer students and decreased them for freshmen.
Anya Kamenetz, NPR
In the U.S., more than 4 out of 10 undergraduate college students are above the age of 25. When people talk about these adult students, you usually hear words like “job skills” and “quickest path to a degree.” But for more than four decades, a special program in Washington state has sought to offer much more than that. It’s called the Tacoma Program. Back in 1972, Maxine Mimms, a professor at The Evergreen State College, created a new kind of college at her kitchen table, designed to serve students who are starting over in life, and to give them access to deep, transformational learning. When we drive up to the tiny, strip-mall campus in Tacoma’s historically black Hilltop neighborhood, Mimms greets us wearing a headdress, a robe, a necklace, bracelets and rings crowded with gemstones. She offers us coffee and takes a deep breath, then launches into her story. Mimms started this college by teaching students in her home from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m., before driving to her job at Evergreen’s main campus in Olympia.
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
How school desegregation efforts could change, or not, after DeVos’s move to scrap Obama-era guidance on race
Amanda Zhou, Chalkbeat
The Trump administration’s decision to withdraw guidance dealing with race in school admissions last week wasn’t just about colleges. School districts across the country have grappled with how to integrate their schools, too. And one of the seven documents withdrawn by the education and justice departments offered a roadmap for districts looking to voluntarily integrate their elementary and secondary schools. This move is important symbolically — particularly in light of a surge of discussions about the persistence of segregation in public schools. But it’s not likely to have far-reaching policy implications, since only a handful of districts voluntarily use race in school assignment decisions. Here’s what we know about what this change might mean for K-12 schools. Keep in mind that the retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, who has authored a number of the key affirmative action opinions, puts things in even more flux. Critics of affirmative action hope Kennedy’s replacement will join other conservative judges to further limit the consideration of race in state and local policies, including school admissions decisions.
Jill Barshay, The Hechinger Report
Advocates for the poor often make the argument that the neediest children need more resources at school to overcome the disadvantages of poverty. For example, a child from a poor home whose mother works an overnight shift might need more one-on-one attention at school to learn to read. That costs money. Historically, the decentralized U.S. school system was largely funded through local property taxes, providing a giant financial advantage to rich students who live in wealthy neighborhoods with high property values. That has changed. Over the past 50 years, both state and federal funds have attempted to level the playing field. However, the latest data from the federal government, covering the 2014-15 school year, still shows an advantage to the wealthy across the nation’s public elementary, middle and high schools. And there are signs that the funding gap between rich and poor might have grown larger in the aftermath of the great recession.
Ashley Hopkinson, EdSource
A majority of child care workers in California are paid so little they qualify for public assistance programs, according to a new report on the early education workforce. Fifty-eight percent of child care workers in California are on one or more public assistance programs, such as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, a federally funded program that helps pay for food, housing and other expenses, the report by UC Berkeley’s Center for the Study of Child Care Employment found. This is according to the most recent data by the American Community Survey and Current Population Survey. Researchers said while there is little debate about how “woefully underfunded” some early childhood programs are, policy rarely addresses workers’ economic well-being. In 2017, the median wage for childcare workers in California was $12.29 per hour, a 3 percent increase from 2015. Statewide, the median annual income for child care workers is $25,570, the report states.
Public Schools and Private $
Forbes 30 under 30 in education: Manufacturing “edu-preneur” networks to promote and reinforce privatization/marketization in education
T. Jameson Brewer, Nicholas D. Hartlep, Ian M. Scott
Each year Forbes bestows a handful of “edu-preneurs” with the 30 Under 30 Award in Education (Under30), designating those individuals as the best hope for revolutionizing and reforming education. Boasting low recipient rates, Forbes elevates the manufactured expertise of awardees and the importance of their organizations and ventures. Further, Forbes employs the language and norms of neoliberalism to articulate a pro-market vision of education reform. This social network analytic (SNA) study seeks to untangle the edu-preneur network and critically examine the connections between awardees, their organizations, judges, and the larger education reform network. To this end, we utilized descriptive analyses and SNA. We find evidence that Under30 serves as a mechanism for promoting social closure and ideological homophily within education reform networks. Further, we consider the policy implications that such awards may have on public discourse and policy creation.
Molly Gott and Derek Seidman, Jacobin
The ongoing wave of teacher strikes across the US is changing the conversation about public educationin this country. From West Virginia to Arizona, Kentucky to Oklahoma, Colorado to North Carolina, tens of thousands of teachers have taken to the streets and filled state capitals, garnering public support and racking up victories in some of the nation’s most hostile political terrain. Even though the teachers who have gone on strike are paid well below the national average, their demands have gone beyond better salary and benefits for themselves. They have also struck for their students’ needs — to improve classroom quality and to increase classroom resources. Teachers are calling for greater investment in children and the country’s public education system as a whole. They are also demanding that corporations, banks, and billionaires pay their fair share to invest in schools. The teachers’ strikes also represent a major pushback by public sector workers against the right-wing agenda of austerity and privatization. The austerity and privatization agenda for education goes something like this: impose big tax cuts for corporations and the .01 percent and then use declining tax revenue as a rationale to cut funding for state-funded services like public schools. Because they are underfunded, public schools cannot provide the quality education kids deserve. Then, the right wing criticizes public schools and teachers, saying there is a crisis in education. Finally, the right wing uses this as an opportunity to make changes to the education system that benefit them — including offering privatization as a solution that solves the crisis of underfunding.
Jake Jacobs, The Progressive
On a recent trip to New York City, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos visited two schools—not the public schools her agency is charged with overseeing, but two Orthodox Jewish yeshivas. DeVos used the opportunity to advocate for her lifelong crusade, “school choice.” As head of the Education Department, she’s proposed vastly expanding vouchers for private religious schools using public education funding, shattering the Constitutional barrier between church and state. While fourteen states allow tax dollars to fund religious school vouchers, thirty-seven state constitutions contain Blaine Amendments, limiting state funding to religious schools. Many states have enacted policies that contravene or chip away at the Blaine protections, to the delight of DeVos, who has urged such restrictions be “assigned to the ash heap of history.” Nowhere is this more evident than New York, as a bitter dispute has escalated over the lack of academic instruction offered by yeshivas, which accept state funding but reject state education laws. DeVos came to New York to court the monolithic ultra-Orthodox vote. She is also backstopping a single state senator, Simcha Felder, who alone has tilted the balance of power toward public funding of religious education in the state. Should DeVos and other “school choice” advocates get their wish, New York’s experience with yeshivas may portend what is to come as public education budgets are hijacked to fund private religious schools in many more places.
Other News of Note
Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post
“Black students’ minds and bodies are under attack. Fifteen-year-old Black student Coby Burren was in geography class at Pearland High School near Houston in the fall of 2015. As he read the assigned page of his textbook, he noticed something that deeply disturbed him: A map of the United States with a caption that said the Atlantic slave trade brought ‘millions of workers from Africa to the southern United States to work on agricultural plantations.’ Coby took a picture of his textbook and texted it to his mother, adding, ‘We was real hard workers wasn’t we,’ along with a sarcastic emoji. Not only had the McGraw-Hill textbook replaced the word ‘slave’ with ‘workers,’ they also placed the chapter on the enslavement of Africans in the chapter of the book titled ‘Patterns of Immigration’ — as if Africans came to the United States looking for a better life. … From the North to the South, corporate curriculum lies to our students, conceals pain and injustice, masks racism, and demeans our Black students. But it’s not only the curriculum that is traumatizing students.” That is part of the introduction to a new book, “Teaching for Black Lives,” a collection of writings that help educators humanize blacks in curriculum, teaching and policy and connect lessons to young people’s lives. Edited by Dyan Watson, Jesse Hagopian and Wayne Au, the book is designed to show how educators “can and should make their classrooms and schools sites of resistance to white supremacy and anti-Blackness, as well as sites for knowing the hope and beauty in Blackness.”