Just News from Center X is a free weekly news blast about equitable public education. Please share and encourage colleagues and friends to subscribe.
Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
Mireya Villerreal, CBS News
Life expectancy in the U.S. has seen the steepest drop since World War II. Largely driven by the coronavirus pandemic, life expectancy has dropped by a year and a half to the lowest level since 2003. For Hispanic and Black populations, it’s down by as much as three years. Meanwhile, a staggering number of children have lost a parent or caregiver. Alyssa Quarles is overwhelmed by guilt that she couldn’t save her 48-year-old father, Theodis, after he got COVID. “As the days passed, he started to say, like, ‘Help me. Please don’t let me die,’” she told CBS News, crying. “Like I don’t know what to say to him. Like I don’t think he’s gonna die, but he keeps saying it. It was hard.”
Clare Lombardo, NPR
The American Academy of Pediatrics released updated guidance for schools Monday, recommending that all students over 2 years old, along with staff, wear masks, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated against COVID-19. The new AAP guidance comes less than two weeks after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its own recommendations, calling for indoor mask-wearing for unvaccinated students ages 2 and up, as well as staff. (Children under 12 are not yet eligible for vaccination.) The CDC notes, however, that schools might find universal masking necessary in areas with low vaccination rates, increasing community transmission or a number of other factors. Both sets of guidance focus on getting students back into classrooms.
Jaclyn Borowski, Education Week
Latinx students are the least likely in the United States to have a teacher who looks like them, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). For Hector Perez-Roman, a history teacher at Arleta High School in Los Angeles, that statistic was just one more reason for him to go into teaching. And it’s the value he sees for his students in having a teacher and a teaching body that is reflective of their backgrounds, that keeps him in the classroom.
Language, Culture, and Power
Zaidee Stavely, EdSource
Immigrant rights advocates in California and nationwide will focus on pushing the Biden administration and Congress to enact immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship, after a judge last week declared DACA unlawful. Thousands of high school and college students in California lost hope of obtaining work permits and deportation protection when a federal judge on Friday stopped the government from receiving new DACA applications.
School safety without police: social workers, private security considered as Chicago councils vote to remove officers
Pascal Sabino, Block Club Chicago and Maia Spoto, Chalkbeat Chicago
At Hyde Park Academy on the South Side, the school’s governing council voted to keep one campus police officer and replace another with a dean in charge of culture and climate. At Kennedy High School on the Southwest Side, the council will replace two student resource officers with a student support specialist and private security. In high schools across the city, local school councils — once again tasked with the decision to keep or remove school police — have been grappling with the best way to keep students safe. The groups were first handed the authority last summer to decide whether to retain or remove police. Of the more than 70 schools that took a vote, 17 opted to remove police — decisions that became mostly moot after COVID-19 led to school closures.
A London pupil who wrote and performed her own monologue to help tackle racism has won a top award after beating more than 23,000 other students to the prize. Clio, 17, who goes to Compton School in North Finchley, scooped the Show Racism the Red Card award for her performance of ‘I am Black’. The monologue challenges attitudes towards racism and was described by judges as “the best entry they’ve seen in the 22 year history of the competition”.
Speaking to ITV News Clio said: “I love speaking, I love spoken words, I love dance, I love acting, so it really just came naturally to me. I put my thoughts onto paper and spoke them aloud.
“I hope young people will take initiative and I hope that initiative will drive not only young people but generations.”
Whole Children and Strong Communities
Matthew Landry, The Conversation
Recognizing that millions of U.S. children are at risk of hunger, Maine and California have approved funding to offer free school meals to all students within their state. Meanwhile, a bill proposed in Congress aims to make free school meals a permanent fixture in all states. The Universal School Meals Program Act would provide free healthy meals and snacks to all children in public and nonprofit private schools regardless of income. Currently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has allowed school districts to provide meals free of charge to families during the pandemic. Previously set to expire in September, the policy has been extended through the 2021-2022 school year. This marks the first time in the 75-year history of the National School Lunch Program that all U.S. public school children are getting equal access to school meals, with no questions asked.
Noble Ingram, Ed Surge
Even as students are sorting through information online more than ever, the number of school librarians who could help them learn the fundamentals of research and media literacy have been quietly disappearing. A report published today from the School Librarian Investigation: Decline or Evolution? (SLIDE), a research project through Antioch University Seattle and funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services, highlights an ongoing decline in the number of districts nationwide with school librarians. According to the findings, there were about 20 percent fewer librarians during the 2018-2019 school year in the 13,000 districts examined than a decade prior. But the absence of these educators isn’t equally distributed; Smaller, rural districts, and those with higher proportions of English-language learners, Hispanic students, and low-income students were more likely to lack a librarian.
Claire Latane, The Progressive
Children and teenagers need positive and supportive school environments as they struggle to navigate their lives and futures. Overwhelming anxiety now affects nearly two-thirds of young adults. It has surpassed depression as the number one reason college students seek counseling. And suicide is now the second leading cause of death for children and youth aged ten to eighteen. Schools too often present harsh environments with imposing fences, locking gates, window grates, and security cameras. In a recent survey of Los Angeles public school students, 50 percent suffered from moderate to severe post-traumatic stress disorder. Trauma-informed education is growing as more school districts acknowledge that the majority of students today have experienced some form of trauma that impacts their ability to learn. A groundbreaking study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that nearly two-thirds of participants had endured at least one adverse childhood experience.
Access, Assessment, Advancement
Andrew Ujifusa, Education Week
A new brief from two researchers explores a question that could grow in importance as the pandemic persists: To what extent could the coronavirus intensify the pressure on—and increase public skepticism about—standardized tests in general? To find answers or at least clues, Paul Bruno and Dan Goldhaber looked at states’ requests for waivers from annual standardized testing requirements this past spring; how the U.S. Department responded; and what trends emerged from what states sought and what the feds granted.
Erica L. Green and Madeleine Ngo, New York Times
What was once considered a progressive dream for the nation’s education system could be headed toward reality as Democrats push forward to broker a deal on a new spending plan containing President Biden’s most ambitious domestic policy goals. Included in the list of programs Democrats agreed this week to include in their $3.5 trillion budget blueprint are Mr. Biden’s campaign proposals to offer prekindergarten enrollment for every 3- and 4-year-old in the country, and tuition-free community college to every young adult. So far, both proposals are drawing widespread support from the Democratic coalition and are expected to remain priorities as the party’s top leaders seek to deliver on bedrocks of Mr. Biden’s $4 trillion economic plan.
“Infrastructure’s about roads and bridges, but it’s about the other things we need to have a fully engaged and active work force,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusets. “That means child care for parents. It means early childhood education, giving our kids the right start. And that means post-high school education or training. That’s what it’s going to take in the 21st century.”
John Reed, KUER NPR Utah
Most inmates in-state and federal prisons have access to a high school education. But when it comes to college, not much is known about what’s available. It’s one of the key hurdles Erin Castro is trying to overcome. She’s the co-founder of the University of Utah’s Prison Education Project and said to do that, we first need better data. “We’ve known for a long time that there is a strong relationship between educational attainment and one’s life chances of becoming incarcerated,” Castro said. “At this point in time, it is really difficult to answer questions about higher education in prison.” Nationally, about 25% of inmates don’t have a high school education. Fewer than 4% have a college degree, compared to 29% of the general public, according to a study from the Prison Policy Initiative.
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
Opportunity in Crisis: Investing in Educational Equity with Education Secretary Miguel Cardona [Audio]
The Biden administration has made equity a central goal, including in education where long-standing disparities have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Studies show students of color and those from rural areas have struggled the most with remote learning over the past year. In our continuing “Opportunity in Crisis” series, Washington Post opinions writer Jonathan Capehart speaks with Education Secretary Miguel Cardona about what policies can help students, teachers and families as schools reopen again this fall.
Erin Einhorn, and Olivia Lewis, NBC News
When they started building the wall behind Margaret Watson’s house in northwest Detroit, she knew the reason without having to ask. As a child in the late 1930s, Watson had seen the new streets laid down like a tic-tac-toe board in the open fields where her father once planted a garden the size of a city block. She’d roller-skated down those newly paved lanes at speeds that would have been impossible on the dirt roads that ran in front of her house. She knew the new streets had to be for white families — not Black ones like hers — so she wasn’t particularly surprised when, in the spring of 1941, a 6-foot-high, 4-inch-thick, half-mile-long concrete fortification suddenly appeared in her backyard.
Marissanne Lewis-Thompson, NPR
In St. Louis, two Catholic high schools are reckoning with an uneasy history linked to slavery. The high schools were named after prominent bishops who owned enslaved people. As the schools grapple with an appropriate response, students and parents are now weighing in. St. Louis Public Radio’s Marissanne Lewis-Thompson reports.
Democracy and the Public Interest
By Bianca Quilantan and Juan Perez Jr., Politico
The Education Department announced on Friday that it will not give preference to applicants for a federal grant competition to pursue plans that teach about systemic racism, softening the agency’s position on an initial set of criteria that drew intense Republican opposition. While the agency had ostensibly sought to nudge school districts into crafting more culturally sensitive classroom instruction in American history and civics education, the department has now hedged. “This program, however, has not, does not, and will not dictate or recommend specific curriculum be introduced or taught in classrooms,” Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said of the grant initiative in a blog post published on Friday. “Those decisions are — and will continue to be — made at the local level.”
Leo Casey, Dissent
The American right’s latest culture war offensive is an all-out assault on “critical race theory” (CRT). Like other right-wing campaigns, the attack on CRT is taking place on two fronts—one battle to define the term negatively in popular discourse, and another to enact laws and executive orders that severely restrict how racism is addressed in public schools and post-secondary public institutions. The two fronts work in tandem, feeding off each other; consequently, they must be addressed together. The right has been shrewd in selecting its target. Founded in the 1970s by legal scholars, CRT has its roots in efforts to explore the ways that racial biases in the law result from structural and systemic inequities. In subsequent decades, the approach spread to disciplines across the social sciences and humanities, as well as to professional fields such as medicine and education, with the goal of investigating and analyzing systemic racism in different cultures and institutions. Today, its influence can be found in dozens of fields of research, and in thousands of texts by hundreds of authors.
Caleb Dunson, Chalkbeat
At the beginning of my freshman year of high school, I witnessed Donald Trump’s ascent to our country’s highest office. For me, it cast a dark and confusing pall over 2016. I had planned to use my education to fight for racial justice. But seeing tens of millions of Americans enthusiastically embrace a presidential candidate who showed no interest in ensuring people who looked like me were treated equally made that plan seem futile. But as I continued through my high school career, I discovered that my civics classes — like U.S. History, U.S. Government, Comparative Politics, African American History, and Law —reaffirmed my original instincts. Those classes showed me how, even as a young person, I could use political strategies like protesting, writing letters to my elected representatives, volunteering with community organizations, and engaging in get-out-the-vote efforts to address racial injustice.
Other News of Note
Barbara Ransby, Chinyere Tutashinda, Karissa Lewis, M Adams, and Shanelle Matthews, In These Times
If we begin with the “just future” we conjure up in our imagination and work our way backward, perhaps we can fight harder, think more clearly, strategize with more savvy and move with greater determination. That is what Barbara Ransby’s visionary letter from the future invites us to do. When care not competition rules the day, when gardens outnumber guns, when every child receives the love and protection they deserve, we will indeed be able to finally breathe freely. That time and place is our North Star.