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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
Jennifer C. Berkshire and Jack Schneider, The Nation
When Joe Biden took office last January, many were expecting a return to “normalcy”—at least a Democratic version of it. After all, Biden was a Senate veteran and an establishment insider. Anyone looking to predict his early policy priorities might reasonably have looked back to the Obama and Clinton administrations. Yet Biden has staked out a forcefully progressive position on a wide range of issues, especially those related to young people. Perhaps most significantly, the administration will start delivering a monthly payment of up to $300 per child to low- and middle-income families—a move that will benefit 88 percent of children and lift millions out of poverty. So what’s Biden’s plan for education? Despite a promise to invest heavily in it, he doesn’t appear to have one.
Lucy Sorenson, Brookings
Across the U.S., education leaders grapple with emerging questions about the best approach to student discipline. These questions stem from heightened concerns that disciplinary tools that remove students from school, such as out-of-school suspensions (OSS) and expulsions, may harm the removed students’ future educational achievement and attainment. This is particularly worrisome considering that suspensions are not evenly distributed across students. For example, Black students in secondary schools miss over five times more days of school due to suspension than do their white peers.
John McDonald, UCLA Newsroom
On Jan. 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation declaring “all persons held as slaves” within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free.” The reality though was that the Emancipation did not end slavery. Freedom for many would be won state by state in battles across the remnants of the Confederacy, with the help of nearly 200,000 Black soldiers who joined in the Union effort after Lincoln’s proclamation. Even as enslaved Black people in some Confederate states at midnight on Dec. 31, 1862, watched and waited for their freedom, many others did not know they were free. And as the war waged on thousands of confederates fled to the frontier state of Texas, taking thousands of enslaved Black people with them. It would be two-and-a-half years, more than two months after Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at the Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia, that 250,000 enslaved Black people in Texas would learn of their freedom.
Language, Culture, and Power
Zaidee Stavley and Betty Marquez Rosales, Ed Source
A program that prepares bilingual teachers for the growing number of dual-language classrooms in California is set to end this month, potentially worsening a chronic bilingual teacher shortage.
School districts in California have struggled for years to hire teachers with bilingual credentials. That’s a major obstacle to achieving the state’s goal, under the Global California 2030 Initiative, to enroll half of all K-12 students in “programs that lead to proficiency in two or more languages” by 2030. The same initiative has set a goal to increase the number of new bilingual teacher credentials from 700 in 2015-16 to 2,000 in 2029-30. In 2019-20, 1,075 bilingual credentials were issued, according to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.
Daisy Contreras, The World
Seventeen-year-old Mary Manching has spent the last few months virtually meeting with other teens and community advocates. They’ve been strategizing and lobbying lawmakers to make Asian American history mandatory in Illinois public schools. Growing up, Machanging said, she did not see herself — a Filipino American — represented in history textbooks. “I know I was really upset when I was reading my textbook and I saw that Filipinos, the only mention of us was when [President William] McKinley decided to colonize the Philippines, and that there were a ton of Filipino health care workers in America,” she said. “And I felt that, no, there is so much more to our history.”
Isabela Dias, Mother Jones
June 15 marks the ninth anniversary of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which grants temporary relief from deportation and the right to work for undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children. In almost a decade, more than 800,000 young people from dozens of countries have benefited from the program, even as DACA, which doesn’t provide a path to citizenship, has been constantly under threat from legal challenges and political changes. As a result of the turmoil, thousands of recipients and eligible applicants have been in limbo despite having lived and studied most of their lives in the United States.
Whole Children and Strong Communities
Students Experiencing Homelessness: The Conditions and Outcomes of Homelessness Among California Students
Dion Burns, Danny Espinoza, Naomi Ondrasek, Man Yang, Learning Policy Institute
California is in the midst of a crisis of homelessness, with about 1 in 5 of the nation’s population of students identified as experiencing homelessness residing in the state. Data for 2018–19 show that 270,000 students in the state were identified as experiencing homelessness, and these figures likely represent an undercount. The incidence of student poverty and homelessness in California has been rising steadily both in absolute numbers and as a percentage of the total student population. This increase mirrors a pattern seen in a majority of states and is likely to be exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis, which has led to elevated unemployment and has disproportionately impacted already vulnerable communities.
Chris Joffe, EdSurge
Two years ago, I had the distinct honor of facilitating a conversation with Lorena Sanabria, a student who was present during the 2017 Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school shooting in Parkland, Fla., at a national education conference. As we sat together on stage, Lorena, who was 17 years old at the time but wise far beyond her years, shared that one of the hardest things after the tragedy was the pressure to go “back to normal.” Within weeks of a shooting that killed 17 people, well-meaning teachers and parents were encouraging Lorena and her peers to reclaim their old lives. But, as she shared, “We were trying to tell them that normal will never be ‘normal’ again.” Lorena’s words struck a chord with me that day, and her story has stayed with me since. I’ve recalled it again and again in recent weeks as governors, mayors and superintendents discuss plans to reopen schools and get “back to normal” in the fall.
Phillip Palmer, KABC
Summer is almost here and the long 2020-21 school year is behind us, but the academic damage to our children caused by the pandemic has yet to be determined. Some experts believe by the fall of this year, student achievement in math will be 50% of typical gains in a school year. Summer school might be one way to close the gap, but if that’s not financially possible, three local teens might have your solution. Project Teens Teach, created almost a year ago by local teens Kacey Fifield, Yogini Vazirani and Lana Kang, offers free tutoring, by teenagers for elementary to high school students. “A lot of teens would be doing tutoring jobs, or something similar to that for pay. But it’s really inspiring for us to see that these kids are volunteering their time to actually help others,” says high school junior and co-founder Kacey Fifield.
Access, Assessment, Advancement
Zane Razzaq, MetroWest Daily News
Across the city, dozens of Framingham High School students found a quiet spot, cracked open their Chromebooks, and logged onto class. It’s become a well-worn routine in the time of pandemic schooling, except in this case students logged on at 5 p.m. For them, school began when the day was winding down for most. In late January, the school district rolled out “FHS Evening Academy,” a pilot program for teens struggling to attend during regular school hours. Students take courses to complete requirements needed to graduate and receive personalized help.
Thomas Peel, Ed Source
California’s community colleges face a reckoning over losing vulnerable students to more expensive for-profit colleges, where they often incur a disastrous amount of debt but exit with no degree. Designed to be affordable and local, community colleges are being outmaneuvered in marketing by the state’s for-profit college industry, which despite its troubled past, spends heavily on television advertising to lure students, experts said. Black people, Native Americans and Pacific Islanders are increasingly choosing for-profits, either by enrollment or transfer, at much higher rates than those groups’ shares of the state population.
Vanessa Romo, NPR
Jennifer Rocha wanted to hear the rustle of her black graduation gown against the bell pepper bushes in the California farm fields. She wanted to see the hem float above the dirt paths that she and her parents have spent years walking as a family while plucking heavy gallons of perfectly ripe fruits and vegetables that end up in America’s grocery stores. That’s why she decided to take her college graduation photos in the same hot vegetable fields in Coachella, Calif., where she has worked with her parents since she was in high school. “I’m proud that that’s where I come from,” says Rocha, who graduated from the University of California, San Diego on Saturday. “It’s a huge part of who I am.”
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
Cory Turner & Rebecca Klein, NPR
Roughly 7 million children in the U.S. receive special education services under a decades-old federal law — or did, until the pandemic began. Many of those services slowed or stopped when schools physically shut down in spring 2020. Modified instruction, behavioral counseling, and speech and physical therapy disappeared or were feebly reproduced online, for three, six, nine months. In some places, they have yet to fully resume. For many children with disabilities, families say this disruption wasn’t just difficult. It was devastating.
Douglas M. Haynes, The Sacramento Bee
Is it legal for Black people to thrive in California? The immediate answer may rely more on hope than on the realities of anti-Black history and the enduring politics and policies that continue to harm Black people. California was not a slave state, though possessing slaves was legal. Nor was it a member of the slave-holding Confederate States of America. Still, Confederate war veterans were welcome to the state, and communities honored the names of its generals on buildings and other public monuments. The legislature refused to ratify both the 14th amendment in 1868 (which guaranteed equal treatment) and the 1870 15th amendment (which extended voting rights to men without regard to race) — until 1959 and 1962, respectively.
Katie Rogers, New York Times
A year after the Supreme Court ruled that protections in the Civil Rights Act against discrimination in the workplace extended to gay and transgender people, the Education Department plans to say on Wednesday that it has interpreted the ruling to mean that those protections also extend to students. The department will say that discrimination against gay and transgender students is prohibited under Title IX, a 1972 law that prohibits sex-based discrimination in federally funded schools. The law has become a political cudgel in the culture wars over sex and education.
Democracy and the Public Interest
Tyler Kingkade, Brandy Zadrozny and Ben Collins, NBC News
A booby-trapped billboard. A list of demands. A conservative media frenzy.
Jeff Porter, superintendent of a wealthy suburban school district in Maine, had no idea that his community was about to become part of a national battle when in the summer of 2020 a father began accusing the district of trying to “indoctrinate” his children by teaching critical race theory. To Porter, the issue was straightforward: The district had denounced white supremacy in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by police, but did not teach critical race theory, the academic study of racism’s pervasive impact.
Samantha Michaels, Mother Jones
This weekend, teachers in more than 30 cities protested against new laws that would limit what they can say in the classroom about racism in the United States. The laws—in Texas, Idaho, Arkansas, Iowa, Louisiana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Arizona, North Carolina, and other states—have emerged since George Floyd’s murder in Minnesota, after more teachers expanded lessons about systemic racism. Many of the laws ban schools from exploring “critical race theory,” which holds that any study of American history must acknowledge that racism is deeply embedded in government policies and the legal system. Some of the laws are even more broad, seeking to restrict lessons that focus on marginalized groups or equity. There’s money behind them, too. A new political action committee, the 1776 Project PAC, is fundraising to support school board members and others who push similar bills.
Neal Morton, South Seattle Emerald
In 2013, families at a Seattle high school raked in more than $100,000 for a raffle to win a Tesla Model S. The year before, the parent teacher association at Garfield High School cleared $40,000 in raffle tickets for a Nissan Leaf. Other schools in this tech-boom city rely on lavish galas to raise as much as $422,000 in a single night, and some spend almost as much as they haul in. During the pandemic, parents at the John Stanford International School spent $249,999 — one dollar less than the school district allows before the board steps in to review such spending — on teaching assistants for a dual language program. This year, the Green Lake Parent Teacher Association (PTA) paid about half that much to cover the cost of the elementary school’s vocal teacher and a portion of a full-time counselor’s salary, among other supports for students. Meanwhile, in the South End, parents at Rising Star Elementary celebrate when they can cobble together even $300.
Other News of Note
Oren Schweitzer and Alexa Aviles, Jacobin
Alexa Avilés is a longtime community organizer in South Brooklyn. After a decade as president of the parent-teacher association at her daughters’ school, PS 172, she’s running for New York City Council. Endorsed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Bernie Sanders, she is running on the New York City Democratic Socialists of America’s (NYC-DSA) DSA for the City city council slate, made up of six DSA members and working-class organizers running on a platform of taking power from the wealthy and giving it to New York’s working class. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a PAC funded by billionaire real estate developer and Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross issued mailers throughout her district, fearmongering around Avilés’s calls to defund the New York Police Department (NYPD). Avilés is running in City Council District 38 to represent the South Brooklyn neighborhoods South Slope, Sunset Park, Red Hook, and parts of Borough Park, Dyker Heights, and Windsor Terrace. District 38 is a diverse working-class community, with a large population of immigrants and Puerto Rican and Mexican families, as well as being home to Brooklyn’s Chinatown. According to a study of District 38, it has the highest rate of adults without a high-school degree in New York City and half of its single mothers with young children live in poverty.
Juana Summers, NPR
Rep. Jamaal Bowman clutched a handful of flyers as he walked around the Gun Hill subway station, introducing himself to anyone who would stop and chat along the street in the Bronx. “Did you know that I was your congressperson before I introduced myself?” Bowman asked a woman, raising his voice to a shout as the train clattered overhead. She didn’t. “Come on now,” Bowman said, adopting an affect of incredulity. “How is that possible? I was out here campaigning all in 2019 to 2020. And in 2020 I won the election — against Eliot Engel.”