Just News from Center X – July 3, 2019

Just News from Center X is a free weekly news blast about equitable and inclusive public education. Please share and encourage colleagues and friends to subscribe.

Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?

Frederick Douglass, 1852, Reprinted in Teaching American History
Mr. President, Friends and Fellow Citizens: He who could address this audience without a quailing sensation, has stronger nerves than I have. I do not remember ever to have appeared as a speaker before any assembly more shrinkingly, nor with greater distrust of my ability, than I do this day. A feeling has crept over me, quite unfavorable to the exercise of my limited powers of speech. The task before me is one which requires much previous thought and study for its proper performance. I know that apologies of this sort are generally considered flat and unmeaning. I trust, however, that mine will not be so considered. Should I seem at ease, my appearance would much misrepresent me. The little experience I have had in addressing public meetings, in country schoolhouses, avails me nothing on the present occasion. The papers and placards say, that I am to deliver a 4th [of] July oration. This certainly sounds large, and out of the common way, for it is true that I have often had the privilege to speak in this beautiful Hall, and to address many who now honor me with their presence. But neither their familiar faces, nor the perfect gage I think I have of Corinthian Hall, seems to free me from embarrassment.

What to the Refugee is the Fourth of July?

Ed Simon, 2019, History News Network
What to the refugee child is the Fourth of July? How will so-called Independence Day be celebrated by the children whose families are escaping violence in Central America, only to be placed in the concentration camps of the Ursula Detention Facility, the Port Isabel Detention Center, Fort Sill where Japanese-Americans were once unjustly imprisoned, or the Tornillo tent city? For there is something obscene in the fireworks this year, something sacrilegious in singing the Star-Spangled Banner or God Bless America, something profane about the endless bromides concerning the wisdom of our founders. Something nauseating in the orchestral and pyrotechnic spectacle over the National Mall, presided over by a man elected by a minority of voters, who panders to his base with the abject inhumanity of family separation at the border, of denying migrant children – children – the necessities of basic hygiene. Something heretical in valorizing a nation led by a man who crowds over a thousand people into concrete spaces designed for a hundred, where the cost of imprisoning a child is $750 a day but Justice Department attorney Sarah Fabian can claim before a judge that its “safe and sanitary” to deny people showers, soap, and toothpaste. How can you enjoy your burgers and hotdogs, baseball games, picnics with your family, when children are given water tainted with bleach and forced by ICE agents to defecate on themselves in concentration camps run by for-profit prison companies supported by your tax dollars? What to the refugee is the Fourth of July? Bitterness, ash, wind, and empty promises. What to the child imprisoned in an American concentration camp is Independence Day? Cruelty and lies.

About one-in-six U.S. teachers work second jobs – and not just in the summer

Katherine Shaeffer, Pew Research Center
Classes have ended for the summer at public schools across the United States, but a sizable share of teachers are still hard at work at second jobs outside the classroom. Among all public elementary and secondary school teachers in the U.S., 16% worked non-school summer jobs in the break before the 2015-16 school year. Notably, about the same share of teachers (18%) had second jobs during the 2015-16 school year, too, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). This makes teachers about three times as likely as U.S. workers overall to balance multiple jobs, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. (Multiple jobholders have made up a small but steady portion of the U.S. labor force since 1970.)

Language, Culture, and Power

SCOTUS will decide the fate of DACA in the fall

Larry Mantle, KPCC AirTalk
The Supreme Court will decide whether President Donald Trump can end an Obama-era program shielding young immigrants from deportation. The justices’ order Friday sets up high-stakes legal arguments in late fall or early winter, with a decision likely by June 2020 as Trump seeks re-election. Trump ordered an end to the program known as DACA in 2017, resulting in protests and a failed congressional effort to salvage it. Federal courts in California, New York, Virginia and Washington, D.C., meanwhile have blocked Trump from ending it immediately. A federal judge in Texas has declared the program is illegal, but refused to order it halted. The program — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — protects about 700,000 people, known as dreamers, who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children or came with families that overstayed visas. No matter the outcome of the Supreme Court case, the DACA protections seem certain to remain in effect at least until the high court issues its decision.

Government plans dramatic expansion of migrant child shelters

John Burnett, NPR
The Department of Health and Human Services is dramatically expanding its network of child shelters across the country in order to avoid the kind of scandal that occurred in Clint, Texas, where scores of immigrant children were warehoused together. “There are too many kids in Border Patrol stations right now, and we’re working to get them out of those stations and into HHS care,” says Mark Weber, HHS deputy assistant secretary for public affairs. Last week, Congress passed a humanitarian aid bill that will pump $3 billion into HHS to beef up its child shelter network. The same week, the agency announced a new 1,300-bed emergency shelter for unaccompanied migrant children to open in Carrizo Springs, Texas, later this month. The minors, ages 13-17, will be housed in reconverted oilfield worker housing, with the addition of a soccer field and classrooms. The children remain in government custody until they can be released to sponsors in the U.S., usually a family member. The contract, worth up to $300 million, went to BCFS, a San Antonio nonprofit with deep experience in emergency management.

San Francisco school will cover controversial George Washington murals

Derrick Bryson Taylor, The New York Times
The San Francisco Board of Education voted unanimously this week to cover a series of murals at George Washington High School that includes images of a dead Native American and slaves at work. A debate about the series of 13 murals, called “The Life of George Washington,” has been going on for over half a century, but has heated up in the past couple of years. The seven-member board’s decision came Tuesday, during the panel’s last meeting of the school year. “I didn’t know how the board would vote, but it was important that we not put this off any longer,” Stevon Cook, the board’s president, said in an interview Thursday night. Those in favor of covering the murals have said some of the images are offensive to various groups. Some in favor of keeping them see artistic value in the work, which was created in the 1930s for the Works Progress Administration by Victor Arnautoff, a Russian-born artist, social realist and Communist who was critical of the country’s first president.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Budget realities challenging California school districts’ restorative justice programs

David Washburn, EdSource
Legions of California educators have been trained in recent years in restorative justice, which is no longer considered an obscure alternative to traditional school discipline. Yet even in districts with well-established programs, finding and keeping funding for it remains a challenge. Earlier this year, for example, the Oakland Unified School District board approved a package of austere budget cuts that appeared to have dismantled the district’s program, which was established more than a decade ago. Although funds for the program have been restored, at least for now, its possible termination came as a shock to its many backers. “I have lost all faith or trust in this board right now,” said a tearful Yota Omosowho, the board’s student member, amid cries of disbelief from students and others in the audience.

Where to start? Inside one California district’s approach to redesign STEM education

Sydney Johnson, EdSource
School is out for summer. But in Tracy, Calif., teachers have been hard at work. Inside the staff development training room at the Tracy Unified School District, a group of about 25 teachers and curriculum specialists gathered this summer to overhaul the district’s approach to teaching science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM. The plan is to go from an approach in which most subjects are taught separately to one in which lessons integrate state standards in math, science, computer science and English language arts. “We just can’t be siloed anymore,” said Deborah Coker, a teacher on special assignment at Tracy Unified. “There’s not enough time in the day to teach everything separately.”

Access, Assessment, and Advancement

Racial disparities persist on test scores, hiring and discipline in Virginia’s largest school system

Debbie Truong, The Washington Post
Black and Hispanic students in Virginia’s largest school system still lag behind white and Asian classmates on state reading and math tests, despite efforts in Fairfax County Public Schools to narrow those achievement gaps. That’s according to the latest report by the Minority Student Achievement Oversight Committee, a group of parents, teachers and school system employees appointed by the Fairfax County School Board. The group issued its annual report last week, which mirrored findings from the three past years that racial gaps on Standards of Learning test scores haven’t budged since 2005. The report also detailed disparities in hiring, student discipline and access to advanced courses in the nearly 188,000-student school system, mirroring challenges that have vexed educators in public schools throughout the country.

Graduating from college still a struggle for many California foster youth

The Mercury News
May was a big month for Miguel Almodóvar. The former foster youth graduated from California State University, East Bay and his mother — whom he’d seen only once in the previous four years — celebrated with him, as did his younger sister, whom he hadn’t seen in two years. Still, he almost skipped walking the stage to pick up his diploma. His sense of accomplishment was muted by exhaustion and an awareness that many of his “broth
ers and sisters” — other youth that have been in foster care — were not on stage with him. “I guess it was anxiety about big ceremonies and a bit of imposter syndrome,” Almodóvar, 26, said. “Every foster deserves the opportunity to reach that milestone, but their life circumstances get in the way. Why did I get it and not so many others?”

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

School busing and race tore L.A. apart in the 1970s

Howard Blume, The Los Angeles Times
Few issues divided Los Angeles more in the 1970s than school desegregation and busing. It sparked protests and political movements — and led to white families fleeing from the Los Angeles Unified School District. These issues came back to life at the Democratic presidential debate. In a heated exchange, Kamala Harris accused Joe Biden of not taking a morally correct position in favor of an assertive federal role in the busing of students to achieve integration.
In California, school desegregation was part of broader integration efforts, including the elimination of redlining, which kept black people and members of other minority groups from living in “white” neighborhoods. It was this practice, in L.A. and elsewhere, that gave rise to mandatory busing as a potential remedy to the harms of segregation. The idea was that schools for all students would improve if white students had to share the fate of black students.

College costs saddle many students with large debts

Dan Schnur, The Sacramento Bee
In the movies, college is about football games and fraternity parties, all-nighters in the library and espresso-fueled bull sessions about the meaning of life. But in the real world, higher education is much less glamorous. For many students, it means scheduling their classes around full-time jobs. For others, it can mean food instability and homelessness. And those who do earn a diploma are also likely to take with them an invoice for tens of thousands of dollars in student debt. “The biggest barriers to enrolling in college are cost and the need to work full-time,” said California Community College Chancellor Eloy Oakley, one of several of the California education influencers who called for the state to significantly increase student financial aid. “Getting college affordability right is a challenge California must address to improve social and economic mobility for all who live here.”

The education deserts of rural America

Adam Harris, The Atlantic
One in three Montanans lives more than 60 minutes from the nearest college campus. The tracts of land that separate these individuals and institutions are sometimes called “education deserts,” and they cover many patches of rural America. Add to that the fact that nearly 40 percent of first-time, full-time freshmen attend institutions fewer than 50 miles from home, and these statistics begin to sketch the outlines of a crisis.

Public Schools and Private $

Are charter schools facing a reckoning?

Bruno V. Manno, Education Week
Earlier this year, a USA Today piece reported that the charter school strategy is “facing a reckoning,” adding that “the rollback on charters is well underway.” Not really. No doubt, today’s charter political environment is precarious. Charter openings declined steadily from their 2013 peak of 642 to 309 in 2017. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders recently called for a moratorium on federal support for charters along with several other proposals that would rein in these independently run public schools.

Silicon Valley-Funded Startup AltSchool Ends Management of Its Private Lab Schools but Invests in Growing National Network of Partner Schools

Noble Ingram, The 74
The education startup AltSchool, founded in 2013 by two Silicon Valley alumni, announced Friday that it’s breaking from the chain of four private microschools it operates in the Bay Area and New York City. The schools are known for their tiny class sizes and emphasis on “student-centered learning,” which tailors curriculum to each individual student’s academic and social-emotional needs. Parents from these schools pushed for the transition in management after convening with the company. AltSchool will rebrand as Altitude Learning this fall and will focus on distributing its education software product that is based on — and was tested in — these experimental schools. The company has also developed a two-year-old “partner network” — currently with 42 schools and districts across the U.S. — to share tools and professional development on student-centered learning. Almost every school in the network subscribes to the AltSchool software.

L.A. charter schools’ plans: Take back mayor’s office, sue district, battle teachers union

Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times
In the wake of the Los Angeles teachers strike, a group of key charter school supporters, concerned about political backlash, worked on a plan to stem anti-charter sentiment and regain control of local education reforms. The strategy under discussion was to “take back” the Board of Education and the mayor’s office, develop a lawsuit against the school district and attack the local teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles.

Other News of Note

San Diego Unified raises pride flags for the first time in its history

Kristen Taketa, The San Diego Union-Tribune
Decades ago, San Diego Unified P.E. teacher Lynn Barnes-Wallace believed she could have been fired if the school district found out she was lesbian. On Friday morning, she teared up behind her sunglasses after she watched San Diego Unified students, amid applause from spectators, raise two pride flags at the district’s headquarters for the first time in the district’s history: the rainbow LGBT pride flag and the blue, white and pink transgender pride flag. San Diego Unified Superintendent Cindy Marten called the raising of the flags an “historic occasion.” The flags symbolize the district’s support for LGBTQIA+ individuals, including lesbian, gay, bisexual/pansexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex and asexual individuals. Next month, the San Diego Unified School Board will vote on a resolution to recognize pride month, which is in June, and San Diego’s pride parade in July. The board will also vote on a resolution to support AB 493, which would require middle and high schools to train educators on how to support LGBTQ students.