Just News from Center X – July 17, 2020

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Pace of California schools looking to open with distance learning accelerates

Louis Freedberg, EdSource
The pace of school districts that will start the coming school year primarily with distance learning is accelerating in California. In recent days, districts serving at least 1.4 million of the state’s 6.2 million public school students have announced that they will be teaching students remotely, at least to begin the school year. The rapid increase in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations in the state just weeks before most school districts are due to open for the 2020-21 school year appears to be the driving factor in districts deciding to continue online learning for most or all of their students.

OC Board of Education votes to support return to school without social distancing, masks

Roxana Kopetman, Orange County Register
While school districts across California are choosing remote learning to start the school year, the Orange County Board of Education is going a different route. On Monday night, the conservative-leaning board voted on its own guidelines for schools: a return to the old ways, before the coronavirus pandemic. That means on-campus instruction. No face masks. No keeping 6 feet apart. The lone dissenting vote was Trustee Beckie Gomez, also the only board member to wear a mask during the meeting. The board has no power to direct any of Orange County’s 27 school districts to follow its guidelines, which are in direct opposition to those issued by the Orange County Department of Education, state public health officials and others.

Thousands of Educators Laid Off Already Due to COVID-19, and More Expected

Daarel Burnette and Madeline Will, Education Week
Thousands of educators across the nation have been laid off this summer as the result of the coronavirus pandemic and its historic economic fallout, according to an Education Week analysis of local media reports. And there are more to come.Layoffs notices have been sent across the country—including in California, Massachusetts, and Michigan—as district administrators contend with how to safely reopen schools for the 2020-21 academic year and help students who have missed more than a half-year of in-person learning catch up academically.

Language, Learning, and Power

Do #BlackLivesMatter in schools? Why the answer is ‘no.’

Valerie Strauss with Subini Annamma and David Stoval, Washington Post
We’ve seen a movement arise in recent months, led by Black Lives Matter, demanding racial and social justice following the police killing of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis in May. Protesters have filled the streets of hundreds of cities and towns, calling for an end to America’s institutional racism and the defunding of police. As part of the national discussion, this question arises: Do #BlackLivesMatter in schools? The two authors of this post, Subini Annamma and David Stovall, say the answer is no and take a deep dive into the subject to explain why.

The US Military Is Using Online Gaming to Recruit Teens

Jordan Uhl, The Nation
Have a nice time getting banned, my dude,” Army recruiter and gamer Joshua “Strotnium” David told me right before he booted me from the US Army’s Twitch channel. I had just reminded viewers of the United States’ history of atrocities around the globe, and helpfully provided a link to the Wikipedia page for US war crimes. Was I undiplomatic? Sure. But if the military is going to use one of hte world’s most populate platforms to recruit kids, then it shouldn’t be able to do so without some pushback.

Kids with disabilities blocked from bilingual programs

Tara Garcia Mathewson, Hechinger Report
For almost a decade, Simón López, the special education coordinator at Boston’s Sarah Greenwood School, has been fighting against the school district that employs him. He has lobbied principals, written letters to the revolving door of superintendents in the district, made his case to school board members and even contacted state education agency officials. All to no avail.His cause? López maintains that the Sarah Greenwood School’s coveted dual language program, which teaches students in both English and Spanish, is violating civil rights laws by intentionally excluding many students with emotional disabilities — including some native Spanish speakers who would benefit from a bilingual approach.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Study: More than Half of U.S. Students Experience Summer Learning Losses Five Years in a Row

Tony Pals Tong Wu, AERA
Following U.S. students across five summers between grades 1 and 6, a little more than half (52 percent) experienced learning losses in all five summers, according to a large national study published today. Students in this group lost an average of 39 percent of their total school year gains during each summer. The study appeared in American Educational Research Journal, a peer-reviewed publication of the American Educational Research Association. “Many children in the U.S. have not physically attended a school since early March because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and some have likened the period we’re in now to an unusually long summer,” said study author Allison Atteberry, an assistant professor at the University of Colorado—Boulder. “Because our results highlight that achievement disparities disproportionately widen during the summer, this is deeply concerning.”

Activism on social media varies by race and ethnicity, age, political party

Brooke Auxier, Pew Research Center
From global protests against racial injustice to the 2020 election, some Americans who use social media are taking to these platforms to mobilize others and show their support for causes or issues. But experiences and attitudes related to political activities on social media vary by race and ethnicity, age, and party, according to a Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults conducted June 16-22, 2020. People can be politically active on social media in many ways. This survey asked Americans about four different types of activities that they may have engaged in on these platforms. Overall, about one-third of social media users (36%) say they have used sites like Facebook, Twitter and others in the past month to post a picture to show their support for a cause, look up information about rallies or protests happening in their area (35%) or encourage others to take action on issues they regard as important (32%). A smaller share (18%) reports using a hashtag related to a political or social issue on social media during this time.

At college health centers, students battle misdiagnoses and inaccessible care

Jenn Abelson, Nicole Dungca, Meryl Kornfield and Andrew Ba Tran, Washington Post
After days of sharp pain shooting up her left abdomen, Rose Wong hobbled from her history class to the student health center at Duke University. A nurse pressed on the 20-year-old’s belly and told her it felt like gas. Wong questioned the diagnosis but said the nurse dismissed her doubts and sent her to the campus pharmacy to pick up Gas-X that afternoon in February 2019.
The next morning, Wong doubled over in pain, and a roommate drove her to a nearby emergency room in Durham, N.C. In the hospital, doctors discovered her condition was far more serious: Her left kidney had a massive hemorrhage. The bleeding, she later learned, was caused by a cancerous tumor that required surgery and chemotherapy and forced her to miss an entire school year.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

Government Rescinds International Student Policy

Elizabeth Redden, Inside HigherEd
The Department of Homeland Security rescinded a July 6 policy directive that would have required international students to take at least some in-person coursework in order to remain in the U.S. The government agreed to rescind the guidance in response to a lawsuit filed by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The rescission of the July 6 directive, and an associated FAQ released July 7, means that the government reverts to guidance issued in March that allows international students to remain in the U.S. while taking a fully online course load. At least 20 states and the District of Columbia and about two dozen universities filed various lawsuits to block the policy change from going into effect. Harvard and MIT — both of which plan to conduct most of their fall coursework online — argued in their lawsuit that the July 6 directive reflected an effort by the government to force universities to reopen despite the continuing dangers posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

First, Consider the Deal Breakers

Aden Hayes, Inside HigherEd
By mid-June, the overwhelming majority of colleges and universities in the United States had announced that they planned to have their students return to campus for the fall semester. But college presidents, boards of trustees and legal teams continue to analyze, measure and wrestle with the dozens of variables that could impact or impede an on-campus term. Any realistic administrator would have to agree that, to have a chance of success, the on-campus experience can happen only when all the stars (infrared thermometers, accurate and plentiful COVID-19 tests, isolation dorms) and planets (hand sanitizer, PPE, face masks, social distancing) align perfectly.

Standardized Testing and COVID-19: 4 Questions Answered

Sarah Sparks, Education Week
Big state and national tests always require finely tuned coordination among researchers and schools. During the pandemic, large-scale assessments could become a complicated mess—if they can be pulled off at all. Large-scale tests—from the Nation’s Report Card to state accountability exams—face an uphill climb next year, experts say, amid concerns that administering them could expose staff and students to a higher risk of coronavirus and prove difficult to do consistently among the shifting school set-ups expected next year.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

L.A. Latino, Black students suffered deep disparities in online learning, records show

Paloma Esquivel andHoward Blume, Los Angeles Times
More than 50,000 Black and Latino middle and high school students in Los Angeles did not regularly participate in the school system’s main platform for virtual classrooms after campuses closed in March, a reflection of the deep disparities faced by students of color amid the COVID-19 pandemic and of the difficulties ahead as L.A. Unified prepares for continued online learning. The numbers, reflected in a first-of-its-kind report by Los Angeles Unified School District analysts examining student engagement during campus closures, paint a stark picture of students in the nation’s second largest school district struggling under the new pressures of online learning.

Enrollment Changes May Create Winners and Losers in K–12 Budget Deal

Julien Lafortune, Radhika Mehlotra, Public Policy Institute of California
The persistent rise of COVID-19 cases means schools may stay closed and distance learning continues for the foreseeable future, a scenario that puts districts at risk of losing funding due to lost attendance. Typically, district funding is based on average daily attendance (ADA) throughout the year. To ensure stable K–12 funding, Governor Newsom and California’s legislature agreed on a budget that includes a “hold-harmless” provision, calculating attendance based on the prior 2019–20 school year. The hold-harmless provision, however, creates winners and losers among districts: growing districts will lose funding per student, while districts with declining enrollment will gain funding per student. Moreover, districts with more high need students get more funding under the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), meaning that gains or losses will be even larger in higher-need districts.

Progress on social mobility takes more than two viewpoints

Lisa A. Gennetian, Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, and Hirokazu Yoshikawa, Brookings
recent article in the Economist positioned the debate on social mobility in the United States with two leading economic views as fully representative. One view, grounded in dozens of analyses by Raj Chetty and colleagues of large administrative data, is that neighborhoods and place have an outsized influence in interfering with social mobility. This view points to the value of public investment in neighborhoods and housing with a particular lens on desegregation by race and social class. The other, grounded in analyses of evaluations of early childhood programs by James Heckman, is that children’s early learning environments—whether at home or in nonparental settings—have an outsized influence in shaping social mobility. This view points to the value of public investment in high-quality early education interventions, including home visiting but also preschool. These views—and the effort to present them as contradictions—are mostly right and also almost entirely wrong.

Public Schools and Private Dollars

DeVos Abandons a Lifetime of Local Advocacy to Demand Schools Reopen

Erica Green, New York Times
As the nation’s public schools plunged into crisis at the outset of the coronavirus outbreak, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos stuck to the message of decades of conservative education advocacy.vShe championed her trademark policies of local and parental control, freeing states of federal mandates, loosening rules and funding opportunities that she said would help schools “rethink education” outside their brick-and-mortar buildings. But now, as President Trump pushes public schools to reopen this fall, Ms. DeVos is demanding they do as Washington says, a stance diametrically opposite to how she has led the department. Already a partisan lightning rod, she has become the face of the Trump administration’s efforts to pry open the schoolhouse doors through force and threats. Her presence, as arguably the most recognizable and divisive member of the administration next to Mr. Trump himself, has inflamed a debate that is roiling communities in every corner of the country.

Pressley hits DeVos over reopening schools: ‘I wouldn’t trust you to care for a house plant let alone my child’

Aris Folley, The Hill
Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) swiped at Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Sunday after the Trump administration official doubled down on her push for students to return to school. In a tweet knocking DeVos on Sunday afternoon, the first-term lawmaker directly called her out, writing, “@BetsyDeVosED you have no plan. Teachers, kids and parents are fearing for their lives.”“You point to a private sector that has put profits over people and claimed the lives of thousands of essential workers. I wouldn’t trust you to care for a house plant let alone my child,” she continued.

DeVos’ Outdated Statistic on School Efforts

Lori Robertson, Factcheck.org
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos used an outdated figure in claiming only 10% of school districts had “provided any kind of real curriculum and instruction program” after the coronavirus pandemic caused schools to shut down this spring. That was the case for 82 districts in late March, but by late April, 56% were doing so. In late May, the figure was 67%. Those figures, from the Center on Reinventing Public Education, reflect the percentage of the 82 districts that provided formal curriculum and instruction. Those districts, however, weren’t a nationally representative sample. Another analysis, conducted by the same organization and published in June, did include a statistically representative sample of U.S. school districts. It found, using publicly available information, that 33.5% expected all teachers to provide remote instruction, and another 13.2% expected some teachers to do so.

Other News of Note

How a History Textbook Would Describe 2020 So Far

James West Davidson, The Atlantic
History never ends. But history textbooks must. As deadlines for new editions loom, every textbook writer lurches to a sudden stop. The last chapter always ends in uncertainty: unfinished and unresolved. I’ve experienced this many times myself, as a co-author on several history textbooks. By now it seems clear that we are all living through a major turning point in history, one that will be studied for years to come. Future textbook authors will write entries on the year 2020, revise them, and revise them some more with each new edition. What follows is an attempt at—literally—a first draft of history: what I might write if I were wrapping up the last chapter of a high-school history textbook right now.