Just News from Center X – June 10, 2016

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


Kyle Stokes, KPCC

Only a few years ago, the Los Angeles Unified School District’s system for evaluating teachers’ job performance was the subject of legal disputes, full-blown lawsuits and bitter fractious debate between district leaders and the teachers union. Not anymore. Last weekend, the rank-and-file of United Teachers Los Angeles overwhelmingly approved new contract terms for a teacher evaluation system — and unlike in the past, both sides agreed the talks had gone smoothly.


Norman E. Rosenthal, The New York Times

Closing the so-called achievement gap between poor inner-city children and their more affluent suburban counterparts is among the biggest challenges for education reformers. The success of some schools’ efforts suggests that meditation might significantly improve children’s school performance—and help close that gap.


Language, Culture, and Power


Susan Frey, EdSource

The preschool children sit with legs crossed, squirming a little, as their language class begins at a Native American Head Start preschool on a reservation in Shasta County. “Hestum,” says the teacher, which means “Greetings” in Wintu. The children at Redding Rancheria eagerly respond and then, together with the teacher, count from 1 to 10 in Wintu.


Anya Kamenetz, NPR

When students get suspended from school for a few days, they may not be the only ones who miss out. A report released today

by UCLA’s Civil Rights Project tries for the first time to quantify the full social cost of so-called “exclusionary discipline.” The authors calculate that suspensions in just one year of school — 10th grade — contributed to 67,000 students eventually dropping out of high school. And that, they conclude, generates total costs to the nation of more than $35 billion.


Melinda D. Anderson, The Atlantic

In spite of some signs of improvement, fundamental disparities persist in youth incarceration. The number of youngsters in U.S. correctional facilities has been cut in half—a dramatic drop of 53 percent from 2001 to 2013—according to a Pew analysis of federal data. Still, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a child-advocacy group, found “in every year for which data are available, the overwhelming majority of confined youth are held for nonviolent offenses.” And children of color bear the brunt of juvenile-justice policies: Black children are nearly five times as likely, and Latino and Native American youngsters are two to three times as likely, to be incarcerated as are their white peers. Similar inequities carry over to the learning that happens behind bars.


Access, Assessment, and Advancement


Judy Lin, CALmatters

One by one, dozens of blacks and Latinos lined up behind a microphone placed before the state school board appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown. Spanish-speaking mothers pleaded for the 10-member panel to evaluate schools based on parent involvement because they have felt unwelcome at their children’s schools. African-American students asked the state to compile school suspension and absenteeism rates because those problems cause students to fall behind on schoolwork, feel alienated by teachers and struggle to find their self worth.


Education Week

Beginning with the class of 2011, federal regulations required each state to calculate graduation rates using a method known as the Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate (ACGR). All states and the District of Columbia have reported ACGR rates. Based on those state-reported data, the U.S. Department of Education indicates that the nation’s graduation rate reached an all-time high, 82 percent for the class of 2014. That’s an increase of 1 percentage point over the prior year. But black, Latino, and American Indian students continue to lag behind their white and Asian peers. Browse the latest state and national data for all students and subgroups.


Anya Kamenetz, NPR

Have you ever seen a school data wall? In a struggling Newark, N.J., public school, I’ve seen bulletin boards showing the test scores of each grade compared with state averages. And in one in affluent Silicon Valley, I’ve seen smartboards that track individual students’ math responses in real time. These kinds of public displays send a message: This school cares about student performance by the numbers. You’ve probably heard about the positive side of all that data gathering and sharing. Like this story we ran just last week about a district that used data as the catalyst to conquer chronic absences

. But as “data-driven” education becomes more popular, critics are also raising a range of concerns.




Inequality, Poverty, Segregation


KJ Dell’Antonia, The New York Times

WHAT are your kids up to this summer? Sounds like a casual question. But for working parents at this time of year, it’s loaded. What have you managed to pull together that will keep your kids engaged, healthy, happy and safe, while still allowing you to keep feeding and clothing them? For most parents, summer, that beloved institution, is a financial and logistical nightmare.


Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

State officials have ordered the Los Angeles Unified School District to redirect hundreds of millions of dollars in spending, with the goal of benefiting students who need the most academic assistance. The action won the praise of advocates who had filed a complaint with the state, while L.A. Unified officials said that complying with the order will hurt students. The issue is whether the school system is following the rules of a revised state funding plan that provides added dollars for students who are more difficult and costly to educate.


Evie Blad, Education Week

New federal data show a continuing deep gulf between the educational experiences of traditionally disadvantaged student groups and their peers on a broad range of indicators, findings that follow years of efforts by government and advocacy groups to level the playing field in U.S. public schools.

Public Schools and Private $

John Rogers, UCLA; Marco Amador, Capital and Main

Sonali Kohli, Los Angeles Times

By the time parents find out that their kids’ school will share a campus with a charter school, the decision to put it there has usually already been made.

Stephen Sawchuk, Education Week

California’s labor-relations board for public employees issued a mixed ruling on whether a major California charter management organization illegally tried to quash a unionization drive at its schools.



Other News of Note


Shannon Van Sant, Voice of America.

Recent protests in China’s Jiangsu and Hubei Provinces by parents of students in the local schools have led to questions and criticism of China’s education system, and the measures the Chinese government is taking to make it more equitable.  The demonstrations erupted after China’s government announced it would implement a quota system where nearly 80,000 places at universities in Jiangsu and Hubei provinces would go to students from poorer regions in China.



Just News from Center X is a free weekly education news blast edited by Jenn Ayscue.