Just News from Center X – July 2, 2021

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

America’s schools are crumbling. Fixing them could save lives (and the planet)

Levi Pulkkinen, Hechinger Report

Before the coronavirus pandemic made airflow a life-or-death issue, ventilation experts rarely tested the air inside schools. That was probably a mistake, said Kevin Thomas, the business representative for the union representing ventilation workers in the Seattle area. “You don’t feel the CO2 levels going up, you just start to get tired,” said Thomas of Sheet Metal Workers Union Local 66, which represents heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) workers. “The temperature rises, and you just take off your sweatshirt.” Similar findings have been recorded by HVAC experts across the U.S. — perhaps not surprising in a country where about 36,000 schools have ventilation systems in need of attention. But replacing aging ventilation systems with new versions of the same out-of-date technology won’t be enough, warned Tony Hans, an engineer specializing in green buildings.

Special ed and high-needs students get windfall in budget deal

Joe Hong, Cal Matters

California schools are poised to get a record-breaking amount of money in the state budget to help students recover from the 15 months of chaos, virtual classrooms, hybrid schedules and ever-shifting guidance. Districts with lots of high-needs students, including those with disabilities, stand to get even more money. Educators will use some of the extra funding to hire counselors who could better address the mental health impacts of the pandemic. Lawmakers hope the unprecedented funding will also help address the pre-pandemic costs of special education and employee pensions.

Want students to get the COVID-19 vaccine? Here’s what to do and not to do  

Ariana Prothero, Education Week

Schools have a big interest in students getting vaccinated against COVID-19. It protects students, especially those with weakened immune systems who are at greater risk of getting severely ill with COVID-19; and it shields older teachers and school staff from getting sick. Plus, vaccinated children and adolescents are important to stopping the spread and mutation of the coronavirus nationally. Schools have long been a resource for health information for families, and public health experts see schools as a key partner in helping families overcome their concerns about the COVID-19 vaccines. But how schools approach this potentially delicate issue is very important.


Language, Culture, and Power

Four things schools won’t be able to do under ‘Critical Race Theory’ laws 

Eesha Pendharkar, Education Week

Conservatives and liberals are at loggerheads over what critical race theory is, if it’s taught in schools, and whether it should be permanently banned from classroom discussions. While the debate over critical race theory has driven the passage of laws restricting how teachers talk with students about America’s racist past, only eight of the 26 bills actually refer to critical race theory, according to an Education Week analysis of proposed and passed legislation and state school board policies. Portions of many states’ bills are vague and myopic about what will and will not be allowed in schools.

New culturally inclusive strategies will be implemented in New Mexico schools

Anna Padilla, KRQE

New Mexico’s teachers must now go through anti-racism training and include a culturally inclusive curriculum in the classroom. Those requirements will go into effect on Thursday as part of the Black Education Act. Under the new law, districts and charter schools must implement anti-racism policies, and an advisory council will be created to address education for black students. New Mexico’s population is only about 2% Black, but the Public Education Department says that’s irrelevant compared to the need for such strategies.

Immigrant students will need more support next school year. Improved translation services are high on the wishlist. 

Reema Amin, Chalkbeat New York

A couple of months into the pandemic, Marleny De La Cruz lost her job as an office cleaner. Shortly after, her husband lost his supermarket job near their East Harlem home. She told herself there would be a silver lining: She could spend more time helping their 10-year-old son and 17-year-old daughter navigate remote learning through the tail end of the 2019-20 school year. Being home full-time, however, didn’t solve the biggest hurdle for De La Cruz, who only speaks Spanish. Communicating with her children’s schools remained exceedingly difficult. It wasn’t until this spring — nearly a year later — that her daughter’s high school in Queens set up De La Cruz with a translator during teacher phone calls, she said.


Whole Children and Strong Communities

Supporting Newcomers Through a Community School Model

Amber Hu, Learning Policy Institute

Colorful murals decorate the entrance to Oakland International High School, welcoming students, staff, and visitors to this small-by-design community school in the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD). Tucked away on a quiet street of a busy Oakland neighborhood, the school is a sanctuary for its nearly 400 students, all of whom are recently arrived immigrants—or newcomers. As part of the Internationals Network, Oakland International combines a commitment to rigorous academics, linguistic dignity, and bilingualism with a high-touch community school infrastructure. The result is a school that excels at preparing students academically and linguistically for their new lives in the United States. Students at Oakland International represent 27 countries and more than 30 languages. Some are refugees escaping conflict in their home countries, and many arrive with gaps in their education experience. In 2019, more than one third of students were unaccompanied minors. All are English learners. Although staff recognize students’ difficult histories and challenging circumstances, they also celebrate and tap into students’ unique assets. As Learning Lab Co-Director Lauren Markham explains, “We can make a list all day long of the challenges students bring into the classrooms and what struggles they might have, but we want to turn the lens to the assets and strengths that they’re bringing.”

All California public school students now have access to free breakfast and lunch, No questions asked [VIDEO]

Kim Baldonado, NBC Los Angeles

For millions of children, schools are more than a place of learning. They’re also a place to get the food they would otherwise go without. Now, all California students can get that food – no questions asked. Before the pandemic began, over 3.6 million California students qualified for free or reduced price meals at school. That’s nearly 60% of all students in the state. “Sometimes they have troubled homes, or the families can’t cook food when the kids have to go to classes at the time,” said middle schooler Felix Gutierrez of students who need free meals. Advocates believe the number of students who are eligible for free meals is much higher than that 3.6 million.

How are Poughkeepsie schools improving student support? By supporting parents. Here’s how.

Katelyn Cordero, Poughkeepsie Journal

Viviana glanced around the room of Spanish-speaking single mothers. Quietly, she raised her hand and asked to share her story. “I miss my country. I miss my home,” she said. Her eyes were wet and growing red. Lorraine Boughton quickly moved to her side and wrapped her in an embrace. “You’re not alone anymore,” the Poughkeepsie City School District’s family advocate said to her in Spanish. “We are here for you. We’re not going anywhere.” Viviana had only arrived in Poughkeepsie two months earlier. An undocumented immigrant, she had fled from an abusive partner in Guatemala with her 5-year-old daughter and was taken hostage during the journey north. They lost their identification and all their money along the way. To support them, Viviana has been cleaning cars in the street. Although she provided the Journal with her identity, it is being withheld, with her first name changed, in the interest of her safety.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

After controversial admissions changes, nation’s ‘best’ high school gets more diverse  

Jeffrey R. Young, Ed Surge

Who gets to go to the best public high school in the country? That has been a contentious question for a community just outside of Washington, D.C., after school officials made changes to the admissions process for Thomas Jefferson High School for Science  Technology last year. The stated goal was to increase the diversity of students at the public magnet school, which U.S. News & World Report named the top in the nation. But opponents say the new policy illegally erects barriers for Asian American students. (EdSurge dug into the issue on a recent episode of the Bootstraps podcast series co-produced with the journalism nonprofit Open Campus.) On Thursday, officials announced the racial and socioeconomic makeup of the first entering class at Thomas Jefferson, or TJ as everyone in town calls it, to be chosen under the new system—which included dropping an admissions test, eliminating an application fee and ensuring that top students from each eligible middle school get to attend. The biggest impact occurred along lines of economic class.

‘Harvard for the masses’ — at a community college in Atlanta

Valerie Strauss and David Kirp, Washington Post

While it’s not impossible to fail out of Harvard University, the school is known for providing a range of supports to its students that help the vast majority make it through. With its extraordinary wealth, that is easier for Harvard to do than most other schools. That is especially true of community colleges, two-year institutions that often get short shrift in national discussions about higher education but that provide millions of students from across the country with an affordable route to a bachelor’s degree. But wrapping supports around students is exactly what a community college in Georgia is doing, with extraordinary results, as explained in this post by David L. Kirp, a professor at the graduate school at the University of California at Berkeley.

Why Colleges Should Ditch the SAT—Permanently

Sheryll Cashin, Politico

Colleges today face relentless legal challenges to affirmative action, pressuring them to keep refining policies to achieve diversity, equity and inclusion on their campuses. The norm-shattering Covid-19 pandemic did something unexpected: It turned higher education, for a year or more, into a national experiment in admissions reform. At a time when many college aspirants could not travel to testing sites, nearly three-quarters of colleges and universities, including Harvard and many other top-ranked schools, made the SAT or ACT optional in 2020. Several institutions have extended these policies for another year or more. The chancellor of Vanderbilt University, Daniel Diermeier, told me in a public question-and-answer session that Vanderbilt, for example, is extending its test-optional policy for two years and plans to study the results.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Nashville education advocates premiere documentary tracing the history of segregation

Meghan Mangrum, Nashville Tennessean

Despite the political division nationally over whether to talk about systemic racism and inequity in schools, Nashville public education advocates are plowing ahead and say the conversation is needed and important. The first step, many argue, is to understand the history that has contributed to the inequities seen in local communities today. And that is the very mission of a new documentary from the Nashville Public Education Foundation: “By Design: The Shaping of Nashville Public Schools.” Grounded in footage of historical documents and photos, the documentary follows the history of Nashville schools and the education of Black students from the post-Civil War 1880s to the present day.

How capitalism undermines progressive education reform

Mike Stivers, Jacobin

The basic function of education under capitalism is to produce the next generation of compliant workers. We should fight instead for fully funded schools that empower   students — while challenging the capitalist system that undermines progressive education reform. In 1842, Horace Mann, one of the most important educational reformers of the nineteenth century, declared that “nothing but universal education can counter this tendency to the domination of capital and the servility of labor. If one class possesses all of the wealth and the education, while the residue of society is ignorant and poor . . . the latter . . . will be the servile dependents and subjects of the former.”

Transnational Class Formation [Audio]

Will Brehm and Karen Lillie, Fresh Ed

Elite schools help reproduce the capitalist class. The sons and daughters of the wealthy go to elite schools to gain networks and receive education that helps maintain their social status in the future. My guest today, Karen Lillie, has looked at this process in an elite school in Switzerland that enrolls children from around the world. She finds that students are in the process of becoming part of the transnational class while also maintaining their national identities in interesting ways.


Democracy and the Public Interest

The War on History Is a War on Democracy [Audio]

Timothy Snyder, New York Times

In March 1932, the cover of Fortune magazine featured a painting of Red Square by Diego Rivera. A numberless crowd of faceless men marched with red banners, surrounding a locomotive engine emblazoned with hammer and sickle. This was the image of communist modernization the Soviets wished to transmit during Stalin’s first five-year plan: The achievement was impersonal, technical, unquestionable. The Soviet Union was transforming itself from an agrarian backwater into an industrial power through sheer disciplined understanding of the objective realities of history. Its citizens celebrated the revolution, as Rivera’s painting suggested, even as it molded them into a new kind of people.

For a Better Democracy, Invest in Adult Literacy Education

Shahana Hanif, Broolyn Paper

Adult literacy education is an essential service. As a teenager diagnosed with Lupus, I navigated a complex and nebulous healthcare system without adequate medical interpreters for my parents, who have limited English proficiency. To help me negotiate care, my parents needed language justice and access to comprehensive adult literacy which our city currently does not provide. Language justice is the right for New Yorkers to communicate and receive services in their dominant language. From the beginning of my campaign, we have highlighted comprehensive language services as a fundamental city tool — one needed to do successful vaccine distribution and contact tracing, disaster preparedness, and have a city that truly works for all of us.

Republicans less likely to trust their main news source if they see it as ‘mainstream’; Democrats more likely

Jeffrey Gottfried, Pew Research

Most Americans place at least some trust in the media outlet they turn to most frequently for political news. But their trust varies widely by political party and whether they see the outlet in question as part of the “mainstream media” or not – though in very different ways between Republicans and Democrats.  Overall, roughly eight-in-ten U.S. adults (83%) have at least some trust in the accuracy of the political news they get from their main news source, with 38% expressing a “great deal” of trust in it, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted March 8-14, 2021. Americans tend to have more trust in their main source for political news than they do in the news media more broadly: About two-in-ten adults (18%) express a great deal of trust in the accuracy of the political news they get from national news organizations (though a majority – 64% – have at least some trust).


Other News of Note

Elizabeth Martínez, Voice of the Chicana Movement, Dies at 95

Katharine Q. Seelye, New York Times

Elizabeth Martínez, a feminist, writer and community activist who helped organize the Chicana movement, which sought to empower people, like her, who were of Mexican descent and born in the United States, died on Tuesday in San Francisco. She was 95. The cause was vascular dementia, said Tony Platt, a longtime friend. Known as Betita, Ms. Martínez used her literary skills as an editor and writer to inspire, provoke, educate, strategize, organize and build cross-ethnic and cross-racial alliances, all in pursuit of social justice. Half Mexican and half Anglo, she struggled for decades with her identity. As a young professional in Manhattan, she called herself Liz Sutherland, taking her mother’s Scottish middle name as her surname and sometimes passing as Anglo.