Just News from Center X – June 17, 2016

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

Sebastian, who goes by one name, takes issue with the new teacher evaluation system in Los Angeles. Her rating has declined, unfairly in her view. The San Pedro High teacher is hardly the only one with concerns. Some see the observation-based system — negotiated by the district and unions — as too friendly toward teachers. Others say it’s too cumbersome or too reliant on principals with limited expertise.


Elissa Nadworny, NPR

Why would she teach preschool when she could make a heck of a lot more money teaching kindergarten? It’s a question I’ve heard over and over again reporting on education. In some places, we pay early childhood teachers less than fast-food workers, less than tree trimmers. As a country, we’ve acknowledged the importance of early learning and yet, when you look at what we pay those educators, it doesn’t add up.


Ann M. Simmons, Los Angeles Times

School doors have been slammed on millions of children worldwide because of discriminatory laws and practices and the failure of governments to make sure would-be students get an education, according to a Human Rights Watch report released Friday. Nearly 124 million children and adolescents, most of them between the ages of 6 and 15, are not attending school, the report concludes, citing information from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics.



Language, Culture, and Power


Susan Frey and Louis Freedberg, EdSource

Early childhood education programs in California have a critically important role to play in preparing children whose first language is not English to succeed in kindergarten and beyond, according to a new EdSource report. Titled “Promoting Success for Dual Language Learners: The Essential Role of Early Childhood Education Programs,” the report outlines seven challenges these programs face in meeting the needs of children under the age of 5 from diverse language backgrounds.


Mario Koran, Voice of San Diego

Parents who tour Sherman Elementary in Sherman Heights are handed a welcome packet and a contract. It comes with a promise and an expectation: Your son or daughter will be bilingual by the end of fifth grade. Leave before then, and the deal is off. But you, as a parent, will play a role. You will volunteer at the school and attend school events. You will have your child to school every day, on time. Baked into those lines are the ingredients for Sherman, a bilingual immersion school where every student is a language-learner.


Katie Rogers, New York Times

When Mayte Lara Ibarra, the valedictorian of her high school’s graduating class, revealed her plans to attend the University of Texas at Austin on a scholarship, she did what any graduate would do: She shared her excitement on social media. Ms. Lara also declared, proudly, that she is undocumented.



Access, Assessment, and Advancement


Louis Freedberg, EdSource

Despite close parallels between California’s school reforms and those called for in the new federal law signed by President Barack Obama last December, California and the U.S. Department of Education appear to be on a collision course regarding the rating systems each wants to put in place to measure success or failure of the state’s schools. Led by Gov. Jerry Brown and the State Board of Education, California is moving away from a single index, score or number to rank schools and districts.


Adolfo Guzman-Lopez, KPCC

The Los Angeles Unified School Board is considering a proposal to open college savings accounts for all of its students to encourage more of them to enroll and graduate from college. “This is part of a multi-layered strategy to increase college access for students and families who have been traditionally excluded from this part of the American Dream,” said school board President Steve Zimmer, who authored the resolution.


Fermin Leal, EdSource

California’s public colleges and universities are failing to graduate enough students with degrees in health fields and the so-called STEM subjects — science, technology, engineering and math — to meet the state’s growing job demands, according to a new report. The report by The Campaign for College Opportunity said California ranks near the bottom nationally in the rate of bachelor and associate degrees in those subjects at a time that it has far more STEM entry-level jobs than any other state.



Inequality, Poverty, Segregation


Nikole Hannah-Jones, New York Times Magazine

In the spring of 2014, when our daughter, Najya, was turning 4, my husband and I found ourselves facing our toughest decision since becoming parents. We live in Bedford-Stuyvesant, a low-income, heavily black, rapidly gentrifying neighborhood of brownstones in central Brooklyn. The nearby public schools are named after people intended to evoke black uplift, like Marcus Garvey, a prominent black nationalist in the 1920s, and Carter G. Woodson, the father of Black History Month, but the schools are a disturbing reflection of New York City’s stark racial and socioeconomic divisions. In one of the most diverse cities in the world, the children who attend these schools learn in classrooms where all of their classmates—and I mean, in most cases, every single one—are black and Latino, and nearly every student is poor. Not surprisingly, the test scores of most of Bed-Stuy’s schools reflect the marginalization of their students.


Anya Kamenetz, NPR

When Caitlin Cheney was living at a campground in Washington state with her mother and younger sister, she would do her homework by the light of the portable toilets, sitting on the concrete. She maintained nearly straight A’s even though she had to hitchhike to school, making it there an average of three days a week. “I really liked doing homework,” says Cheney, 22, who is now an undergraduate zoology student at Washington State University. “It kept my mind off reality a little bit.” More than 1 million public school students in the United States have no room to call their own, no desk to do their homework, no bed to rely on at night. State data collection, required by federal law and aggregated by the National Center for Homeless Education, shows the number of homeless students has doubled in the past decade, to 1.3 million in 2013-2014.


Kyle Stokes, KPCC

State education officials have effectively stayed a ruling advocates hoped would force Los Angeles Unified School District officials to redirect millions of new dollars this year into specialized programs for three high-needs groups: foster youth, English Learners and low-income students. The ruling, which the California Department of Education handed down late last month, had said the state’s new school funding formula doesn’t permit L.A. Unified to count roughly $450 million in special education spending as a program targeted for those three needy groups. But in a letter to the district on Tuesday afternoon, state schools superintendent Tom Torlakson said the department would not require LAUSD to make “any significant spending adjustments until the 2017-18 fiscal year,” giving the district time to “make thoughtful adjustments” to its spending plans.


Julia Daniel, Kevin Welner, Michelle Renée Valladares, National Education Policy Center

Research-based policies that provide sustained support can transform struggling schools into effective schools. Serious reform models like the Community Schools Initiative in New York City offer an alternative to the false promise of quickly boosting test scores and calling a school “transformed.” Yet approaches grounded in the idea of sustained improvement present a different challenge: what should policymakers expect, and by when? In Time for Improvement: Research-Based Expectations for Implementation of the Community Schools Initiative in New York City

, Julia Daniel, Kevin Welner and Michelle Renée Valladares of the University of Colorado Boulder describe the major findings from research about the stages of school improvement—research that informs a reasonable timetable for the NYC Community Schools Initiative.



Public Schools and Private $

Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

Organizers of a controversial educational reform effort that initially sought a massive expansion of charter schools in Los Angeles now say they will support any effective programs – including traditional public schools – to bring high-quality options to the 160,000 students they identify as attending failing public schools.

Emma Brown, The Washington Post

Full-time virtual charter schools have become increasingly popular during the past decade, now enrolling 180,000 students nationwide, students who learn by logging on to laptops from home instead of going to brick-and-mortar schoolhouses. But these schools’ growing enrollment has been accompanied by intense scrutiny: Journalists, activists and scholars have reported on virtual schools’ poor performance and raised questions about whether the schools are designed to effectively teach kids — or to effectively make a profit.

Jessica Calefati, The Mercury News

Online charter schools would be prohibited from hiring for-profit firms to provide instructional services under a new bill that the author says is a direct response to this newspaper’s investigation of the company behind a profitable but low-performing network of “virtual” academies.



Other News of Note


Los Angeles Times

High school is coming to an end for students throughout Los Angeles this month, and no graduation is complete without a student speech. This year’s young orators thanked the people who told them they would fail, spoke in rhymes, came out to their classmates and “broke up” with their schools. Here are excerpts from some of their speeches.



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