Just News from Center X – July 30, 2021

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Teachers were told to ‘Give grace’ as the Pandemic started. They did that and much more

Lola Bartlett, Education Week

On Friday, March 13 of last year, schoolhouse doors closed across the United States in response to the emerging COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic caused the only lengthy, coast-to-coast disruption of American education to have ever occurred. Those first hours and days were for getting through the crisis. Teachers all over the country distributed materials to students, gathered their own belongings, and headed home that last time. In retrospect, a massive experiment in education from a distance had begun. The experiment left teachers mostly on their own in efforts to reach students with care and instruction as schools scrambled to create an emergency response. How did teachers respond? And how might their profession be changed as a result?

The culture war over critical race theory looks like the one waged 50 years ago over sex education

Valerie Strauss, Jennifer C. Berkshire, and Jack Schneider, Washington Post

The culture war now being waged over critical race theory is hardly the first time we have seen battles over what should and should not be taught in schools. This post looks at the similarities of the current controversy and one 50 years ago over sex education — and the goals of the people who started the wars. Last year Republicans began accusing schools of teaching critical race theory — an academic framework that examines how laws and public policy have perpetuated systemic racism — in an attempt to indoctrinate students to reject capitalism and fuel hostility to white people. In reality, most K-12 teachers do not teach critical race theory though many do discuss the history of racism in America. Republicans have been working in state legislatures in recent months to ban it from classrooms and to dictate what teachers can and can’t say about racism.

Leftwing rural teacher Pedro Castillo sworn in as president of Peru

Dan Collyns, The Guardian

A rural school teacher who has never held public office has been sworn in as Peru’s new president pledging to govern “with the people and for the people” in a ceremony steeped in historic symbolism on Peru’s bicentenary of independence from Spain. Wearing his typical wide-brimmed straw hat, Pedro Castillo promised to make sweeping changes to the country in his inaugural speech, he paid homage to Peru’s indigenous people and teachers and vowed to combat corruption, rein in monopolies and boost public spending on education and health. The symbolic import of the occasion was not lost on Castillo, the son of rural peasant farmers who never learned to read or write. “This country is founded on the sweat of my ancestors. The story of this silenced Peru is also my story,” he said.

Language, Culture, and Power

Study Confirms School-to-Prison Pipeline

Lauren Camera, U.S. News and World Report

Children who attend schools with high suspension rates are significantly more likely to be arrested and jailed as adults – especially Black and Hispanic boys – according to new research that shines a spotlight on the school-to-prison pipeline. Data have long shown that Black and Hispanic students experience suspension and expulsion at much higher rates than white students, and that as adults, they’re also disproportionately represented in the county’s prison system. And while research shows a correlation between high levels of education and low levels of criminal activity, there exists little evidence on the role that individual schools can play in their students’ future.

Court order dashes hopes of teenage immigrant DACA applicants  [Video]

Camilo Montoya-Galvez, CBS News

When he turned 15 in 2017, Agustin became eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the Obama-era policy that provides protection from deportation and work permits to undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children. But Agustin and his family decided it would be best to hold off on applying, fearing that any information sent to the government could be used against them, given Donald Trump’s election in 2016.

On White Fears, Stolen Lands and How Ethnic Studies Helps Students of All Colors: A conversation with Christine Sleeter

Claudia Meléndez Salinas, Voices of Monterey Bay

Wouldn’t you know it? Monterey County is home to one of the country’s foremost experts in ethnic studies and multicultural education — and she happens to be a white woman. Christine Sleeter, one of the founding faculty members of Cal State University Monterey Bay, has written 24 books, most of them on teaching, plus three novels. She is a member of the National Academy of Education and has received a plethora of awards, including the Chapman University Paulo Freire Education Project Social Justice Award, and the National Association for Multicultural Education Research Award. If you Google  “ethnic studies curriculum,” chances are her book “Transformative Ethnic Studies in Schools: Curriculum, Pedagogy, and Research,” co-authored with Miguel Zavala, will pop up near the top. Curious about her take on the current ethnic studies and critical race theory brouhaha, Voices of Monterey Bay co-founder Claudia Meléndez Salinas reached out to her. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Free school meals for all here to stay in California

Ali Tadayon, Ed Source

With 1 in every 6 children facing hunger in the U.S., California is the first state to promise every public school student — all 6 million of them — free school meals. The universal school meals program, which will launch in the 2022-2023 school year, is part of the landmark state budget agreement reached between Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature last month. Days later, Maine became the second state to commit to offering a universal school meals program with the signing of its budget. The program ensures that all students will be offered breakfast and lunch at their school, which state Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, said is “essential to learning.” Skinner has led the effort to establish a universal school meal program.

Making a difference for students with learning differences 1 on 1 [Video]

Jaclyn Borowski, Education Week

For the 1 in 5 students who learn differently, whether due to dyslexia, ADHD or other conditions, a sense of community and commonality is key. The nonprofit Eye to Eye tries to foster that by pairing older and younger students with learning differences in weekly mentoring sessions where they use arts and crafts to break down barriers and talk about common challenges and how to overcome them.

Home schooling exploded among Black, Asian and Latino students. But it wasn’t just the pandemic.

Moriah Balingit & Kate Rabinowitz, Seattle Times

When school buildings were shuttered last year, Torlecia Bates had not given much thought to home schooling her two school-aged children. Like a lot of parents, Bates, who lives outside of Richmond, Va., viewed remote schooling as a temporary inconvenience, and had plans of sending them back as soon as schools reopened. Then something in her shifted. Following the murder of George Floyd, Bates, who is Black, had a panic attack. She worried about the safety of her family. And she began to question whether the school her children attended was equipped to talk about racism with young students.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

Does test-based school accountability have an impact on student achievement and equity in education?

Rodrigo Torres, OECD

School accountability is one of the most controversial recent reforms taking place in education systems around the world, but evidence of whether and which accountability practices affect equity and performance in academic achievement has been difficult to isolate and establish. By using data available from several cycles of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA 2006-2015), this paper assesses the extent to which accountability practices affect equity and performance in academic achievement in high-income-and-low-and-middle -income countries. We found no conclusive evidence of accountability practices affecting educational outcomes in high-income-countries. However, we found some evidence in low-and-middle-income-countries pointing towards increased performance and increased inequality under accountability regimes in these contexts, although only in mathematics and science, and for one of our preferred specifications. In low-and-middle-income-countries, we found that, under higher levels of accountability, higher school autonomy on curriculum management and assessment could render better academic results in reading, mathematics and science.

A new window into how San Diego schools are performing

Will Huntsberry, Voice of San Diego

Some schools in San Diego County, like Edison Elementary in City Heights, are achieving surprising results in closing the achievement gap. But looking at raw test scores alone, it would be hard to tell. Roughly 95 percent of Edison’s students live near the federal poverty line. Most schools with that level of poverty score well below a proficient level in reading and math on California’s standardized tests. Based on the test scores and poverty level of all other schools in the county, Edison’s combined reading and math score should be 62 points below the state’s proficiency benchmark, to be exact. But Edison’s scores break out of the statistical model. The school’s combined score is 5 points above the proficiency cutoff. In other words, it scored 67 points higher than its poverty level predicts it should.

Why Lorgia García Peña was denied tenure at Harvard

Graciela Mochkofsy, The New Yorker

On the night before Thanksgiving, 2019, Lorgia García Peña, a professor of Latinx studies at Harvard, was in her house in Arlington, Massachusetts, seasoning a large turkey. She had nine students coming over for dinner the next day, and she was in high spirits. When her cell phone rang and the caller I.D. showed that it was Mariano Siskind, the chair of her department, Romance Languages and Literatures, she smiled with anticipation. García Peña had reached that point in a scholar’s career when great promise crystallizes into solid achievement. She had become a leading reference in the field of ethnic studies; her first book, “The Borders of Dominicanidad,” had been well reviewed and had received several awards; a new book, on diasporic Blackness, was under contract with the same publisher as her first, Duke University Press.


Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

This Is the End of Affirmative Action

Adam Harris, The Atlantic

One afternoon, during my freshman year at Alabama A&M University, my homework was piling up, and I was feeling antsy. I needed a change of scenery from Foster Hall. I’d heard that the library at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, 10 minutes away, was open three hours longer than our own. So I loaded up my backpack, ran down the stairs—the dorm’s elevator was busted—and headed across town. Founded in 1875 to educate Black students who had been shut out of American higher education, A&M was a second home for me. My mom had gone there; my uncle had been a drum major in the ’80s; my sister was on the volleyball team. But when you’re home long enough, you start to notice flaws: The classroom heaters were always breaking down, and the campus shuttle never seemed to run on time when it was coldest out. When I arrived at UAH, I was shocked. The buildings looked new, and fountains burst from man-made ponds. The library had books and magazines I’d never heard of—including the one for which I now write.

Duke study highlights the need for in-school reforms to truly integrate schools

Kris Nordstrom, Progressive Pulse

An innovative new study from researchers at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy examines the racial segregation that takes place within North Carolina schools, highlighting the need for more deliberate school-level policies to truly integrate schools. While many studies have examined segregation across districts and schools, this study provides a rare, in-depth look at the segregation that happens within a school building. The report’s findings bolster the recommendations of education advocates calling for a deeper understanding of school integration that looks beyond simply moving students in one school building or the other.

Want to fix financial literacy? Focus on billionaires squandering their wealth, not school curriculum

Agata Soroko, The Conversation

Shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic threw the global economy into a crisis in March 2020, I wrote an essay expressing my hope that the unfolding financial collapse wouldn’t be used to justify a push for more financial literacy education in schools. But this has since happened. In May 2020, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) announced its Program for International Student Assessment 2018 results with the following question: “With unemployment increasing and a global recession looming, it’s more important than ever to ask: are adolescents knowledgeable about money matters?” Ontario recently added financial literacy to Grade 9 math curriculum. Some researchers have emphasized the relevance of financial literacy education amid the current COVID-19 economic crisis.

Democracy and the Public Interest

With gags on discussing racism, can educators still do their jobs?

Maureen Downey, The Atlanta Journal Constitution

In a recent guest column for this blog, Cobb County elementary school counselor Jennifer Susko wrote about her despair over demands of white parents and board members to limit discussions of race and racism in the classroom. That frustration has now led Susko to resign. In June, the Cobb school board passed a resolution banning of the teaching critical race theory and the 1619 Project. The board’s four Republicans all voted in favor, while the three Democrats abstained. Abstaining member Leroy “Tre” Hutchins noted his colleagues in support of the resolution couldn’t clearly explain CRT and that Cobb risked outlawing its social and emotional learning programs, which some critics in Cobb and Cherokee have confused with CRT.

Rep. Katherine Clark leads bill to blunt discrimination against LGBTQ students at higher ed institutions

Benjamin Kail, MASS Live

U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark and three other Democrats hope to blunt discrimination of LGBTQ students by reversing a Trump-era rule that let universities claim religious exemptions from certain civil rights guarantees without a waiver. The Exposing Discrimination in Higher Education Act would reinstate a rule forcing universities that rely on federal funding to seek a waiver from the Department of Education before they can claim religious exemptions from Title IX. The 1972 act bars sex discrimination in educational programs or activities that receive federal aid, but DOE under former President Donald Trump paved the way for more schools to effectively dodge Title IX requirements, leaving LGBTQ students more susceptible to discrimination based on their orientation or identity.

China Bans For-Profit School Tutoring in Sweeping Overhaul [Video]

Bloomberg News

China unveiled a sweeping overhaul of its $100 billion education tech sector, banning companies that teach the school curriculum from making profits, raising capital or going public. Beijing on Saturday published a plethora of regulations that together threaten to up-end the sector and jeopardize billions of dollars in foreign investment. Companies that teach school subjects can no longer accept overseas investment, which could include capital from the offshore registered entities of Chinese firms, according to a notice released by the State Council. Those now in violation of that rule must take steps to rectify the situation, the country’s most powerful administrative authority said, without elaborating. In addition, listed firms will no longer be allowed to raise capital via stock markets to invest in businesses that teach classroom subjects. Outright acquisitions are forbidden. And all vacation and weekend tutoring related to the school syllabus is now off-limits.

Other News of Note

Remembering Civil Rights Icon Bob Moses: Organized SNCC, Miss. Freedom Summer & Algebra Project [Video]

Democracy Now

We remember the life of Bob Moses, the civil rights leader who left his job as a New York City high school teacher to register Black voters in Mississippi in the 1960s, facing down horrific violence and intimidation to become one of the icons of the movement. He died Sunday at age 86. Moses spent his later years as an advocate for improved math education, teaching thousands of students across the United States through the Algebra Project, the nonprofit he founded. Moses spoke to Democracy Now! in 2009, on the first day of the Obama presidency, recalling the 1964 fight for Black representation within the Democratic Party, the struggle against Jim Crow in the South and his passion for education. “In our country, I think we run sharecropper education,” Moses said, warning that unequal educational opportunities would continue racial disparities in the country. “We need a constitutional amendment, something which simply says every child in the country is a child of the country and is entitled to a quality public school education.”

For more on Bob Moses, see …

2014 Interview with Julian Bond

2014 Panel on Freedom Summer at Library of Congress 

The Algebra Project