Just News from Center X – June 21, 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

Immigrants brought riches to urban schools. Now they’re in the shadows.

Erica L. Green, The New York Times
Mary Donnelly, the principal of John Ruhrah Elementary/Middle School, has watched with pride for 18 years as new languages proliferated in the hallways, different countries were added to her social studies work sheets and the student population nearly quadrupled. The influx of poor immigrant families brought a flood of resources as the school’s official poverty rate rose above 90 percent: an after-school program, three interpreters and a steady infusion of federal funding. But in recent years, as the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown began to reverberate through the nation’s public schools, the students who had been such a fiscal asset have turned into a budgetary liability. Education leaders in Baltimore say White House policy proposals are prompting immigrant families to forgo services that they fear could land them on Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s radar or jeopardize their path to citizenship. And because the school district here uses families’ participation in government assistance programs to measure poverty rates, John Ruhrah, at least on paper, suddenly looks rich.

Pension relief, special education funding highlight Gov. Newsom’s budget

John Fensterwald, EdSource
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s first education budget, which the Legislature passed on Thursday, remains his budget. After negotiations with legislative leaders, Newsom’s spending priorities remain largely intact and signal the directions his administration will take over his first term. Education leaders largely praised the education budget when Newsom released his initial budget in January and the revision in May, and were still on board this week. “The governor successfully held true to principles he laid out in January and got significant wins across the board,” said Kevin Gordon, president of Capitol Advisors Group, an education consulting firm. “He found creative ways to address crucial issues that educators statewide are articulating.” Funding for K-12 schools and community colleges is determined by a complex formula laid out in Proposition 98, which voters passed in 1988. It’s roughly 40 percent of the state’s budget, varying a bit from year to year. Newsom funded the minimum increase required by Prop. 98, which will raise the level by $2.9 billion, to $81.1 billion in 2019-20. For additional money, Newsom turned to the General Fund, where K-12 had to compete with health care, housing, homelessness and legislators’ own priorities.

Bill calls for assurance that low-income kids get school meals

Alisha Kirby, K-12 Daily
Public schools in California do not have to participate in federal school meal programs, but under a bill moving through the state Legislature, they will have to ensure low-income children receive at least one meal on campus that meets federal nutrition requirements. Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton and author of AB 354, noted that academic performance is partially linked to if students are coming to school hungry, and that all traditional and public charter schools should be providing lunch to children eligible for free or reduced-price meals. “Many schools do this, and some schools also provide breakfast, but there are some public schools that maybe have a very small percentage of Title I students, and many times they don’t give that meal to those students,” Quirk-Silva said during a Senate committee hearing Wednesday. “We want students, no matter what school they’re going to, to have at least the one nutritious meal.”

Language, Culture, and Power

A student and a teacher: The struggles of being undocumented in California

Farida Jhabvala Romero, The Mercury News
Dafne, a high school senior in San Jose, is one of a small fraction of the state’s estimated 27,000 undocumented students graduating from high schools and enrolling in four-year colleges this year. Barred from federal financial aid and facing the gnawing uncertainty she’ll ever be able to legally work in the U.S. even after earning a degree, Dafne, 17, knows firsthand the hurdles undocumented students face to succeed in higher education. The basketball player and cheerleader was 8 years old when her parents brought her from Mexico to San Jose. This news organization is not using her full name to protect her identity. In middle school, she realized why her mother wouldn’t let her go on a school trip to visit the Capitol or why she couldn’t get a job at fast-food chains like her friends. She said she felt ashamed and limited by her immigration status. But now she’s trying to break free. She will attend UC Davis in the fall. “I think, for me, college is my ticket. It’s a ticket for me to do something greater, to be something else than just my status,” said Dafne, who hopes U.S. immigration laws will change so she can work as a high school teacher one day.

Peer training program opens eyes to effects of prejudice, hate

Jenn Smith, The Berkshire Eagle
Benjamin Ginsberg might be young — he just graduated from the eighth grade at Reid Middle School — but he’s old enough to know the hurt of words or the pain of persecution. He shared those experiences recently as a member of a peer leadership training program of the Anti-Defamation League. “I come from a Jewish background,” he said. “One day, when we were talking about Adolf Hitler in [English language arts] and social studies class, some kids were being a little ignorant and started saying, “Heil, Hitler!” like it was some hilarious joke. “This offended me because Hitler was actually one of those men who had condemned my great-grandparents to death. Although some students may have not understood what they were saying, it’s still wrong to make such statements, even in jest. We all face hardships that others might not know about.” Amid an uptick in incidents of hate crimes, anti-Semitism and bullying, the Berkshire County Superintendents’ Roundtable, Jewish Federation of the Berkshires and other private donors partnered with local school districts to invest in the ADL’s A World of Difference Institute Peer Training Program. The program launched in the fall, and it included nearly 300 students and staff members from eight schools: Drury High School, Mount Greylock Regional High School, Nessacus Regional Middle School, Herberg and Reid middle schools, Lenox Memorial Middle and High School, and Monument Valley Regional Middle School.

Few student board members can vote. Should that change?

Stephen Sawchuk, Education Week
In the final months of her tenure on the Anne Arundel, Md., board of education, Josie Urrea doubled down on her efforts to dismantle the student ranking system she says promotes too much competition and stress among students. Urrea’s hard-charging approach on a tough topic belies the fact that she is just 18 years old and one of only a handful of U.S. youths who hold full or near-full voting rights on their school board while also attending public school. (She may also be the very first student ever to serve as the vice president of one.) It’s a position that has taught her any number of civics lessons, including this: Sometimes, major policy shifts can be made only through a series of compromises. Josie’s original proposal would have done away with the valedictorian and salutatorian honors altogether. A modified version she drafted after some pointed criticism in public comments preserves those honors, but puts more emphasis on selecting students who also exemplify service, leadership, and character. “In the real world, you have to be well rounded, not just the smartest,” Urrea said. Anne Arundel and its nearby neighbor, Montgomery County, Md., are both on a short list of districts that have a student board member imbued with near-equal voting clout as adult members—and a phenomenon that provides an unsettling contrast to the current interest in K-12 civics education. More states and districts are considering or passing legislation aimed at boosting students’ knowledge of civics and engagement in civic problem-solving; a national civics education coalition counts more than 80 bills introduced in state legislatures in the 2018-19 session. The irony is that those channels are often lacking within the major governance structure in K-12 education: school boards.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Report: Arts a vehicle for teaching SEL skills

Linda Jacobson, Education Dive
Social-emotional skills are an integral part of arts education, and arts instruction is a vehicle for addressing social-emotional learning (SEL) in schools, according to a report released Tuesday from the Consortium on School Research at the University of Chicago and Ingenuity, a nonprofit organization. With a review of research and examples from Chicago Public Schools, the report describes how arts experiences help students develop self-management and self-discipline, interpersonal and relationship skills, and self-expression. “Arts educators have an important role to play in social-emotional development,” the authors write, adding that the arts give students different ways to develop and use skills, such as empathy and perseverance, than do other academic areas. The authors stress, however, that artistic expression can also leave students with negative emotions, feeling as if they are not talented or creative. “The relevant question is not if an art practice will affect a social-emotional competency, but how it will happen and what arts educators can do to improve the odds that the impact is positive,” they write.

Young people, digital media, and participation in civic and political life

Shelley Boulianne and Yannis Theocharis, LSE Department of Media and Communication
Has digital media created a generation of young people who can click, but can’t engage with social and political causes? This is a question we set out to examine. We examined the hundreds of studies conducted on this topic. We found that digital media use is positively related to getting involved in offline civic and political activities. Rather than limit use of digital media, parents and educators could encourages uses – such as researching and discussing political issues – that have positive outcomes on civic and political participation. Across the globe, young people are distinguished by their early adoption and intense use of digital media. They are ideal case studies for understanding the impacts of digital media and can foreshadow positive and negative impacts before this technology diffuses to other segments of the population. In addition, they are at the forefront of adapting these tools in ways that interest them. As such, the relationship of their digital media use and participation in civic and political life is an important area for research and has important consequences for democratic politics.

Here to learn: Creating safe and supportive schools in Los Angeles Unified School District

Victor Leung, Ana Mendoza, and Jessica Cobb, #StudentsNotSuspects
“Here to Learn” provides a full analysis of LAUSD’s mandatory metal detector search policy. This analysis is based on a comprehensive review of LAUSD metal detection search logs produced in response to a Public Records Act (PRA) request for any entries containing weapons in the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 school years by researchers at UCLA’s Civil Rights Project. The analysis shows that the policy is expensive and ineffective at both finding and deterring weapons at schools. The study also shows that in practice, school staff take advantage of the policy to target particular students for punishment and humiliation. In addition, “Here to Learn” presents the narratives of students and educators. They urge the district to stop criminalizing students and to invest instead in developing healthy school communities.

Access, Assessment, and Advancement

Even after ‘historic’ federal spending, today’s child care system serves only 1 in 6 eligible kids. Now Congress might approve billions more to stem the crisis

Carolyn Phenicie, LA School Report
U.S. child care is widely seen as being in crisis. It’s costly, in many states more expensive than college tuition, and hard for parents to find. Workers in the field receive low wages, leaving many eligible for public assistance. And the programs available for many families are often not up to the quality standards that support learning at a crucial stage of young children’s brain development. Last year, Congress dramatically increased the major federal source of child care funding, allowing states to begin chipping away at problems left unaddressed after years of stagnant funding. The increase, an additional $2.37 billion each in fiscal years 2018 and 2019, allows states to add more children to program rolls, increase payments to providers, and pay for new congressionally-mandated safety and quality improvements. There’s been bipartisan support for the issue, with figures as politically divergent as Sen. Elizabeth Warren and presidential daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump making it a policy focus.

Is the nation’s rising graduation rate real?

Catherine Gewertz, Education Week
Millions of high school seniors are claiming their diplomas, but that spring ritual is clouded by a persistent debate: Are the nation’s record-setting graduation rates inflated by quick-fix practices like credit recovery? Or are they real? A group of researchers and advocates has produced a new analysis that supports the rosier interpretation. Released Tuesday, as part of an annual report on graduation rates, the new approach offers a counterpoint to the argument that graduation rates have been driven up artificially when schools push struggling students into alternative programs, or bolster their completion data with catch-up courses, or when states and districts erroneously—or deliberately—misclassify students. “We didn’t find a basis for that narrative,” said John Bridgeland, the CEO of Civic, which produces the “Building a Grad Nation” report with Johns Hopkins University, America’s Promise Alliance, and the Alliance for Excellent Education. But the new index drew skeptics of its own. “It doesn’t do what they claim,” said Michael Cohen, the president of Achieve, which studies graduation-rate trends. “If you want to address skepticism about increases in graduation rates because they’re not matched by increases in academic performance, AP scores and 8th grade [NAEP] scores don’t accomplish that.”

Oakland’s graduate profile: A spotlight on what matters most

Young Whan Choi, Education Week
This past spring, Leonardo Quezada and hundreds of students in Oakland crossed the graduation stage with proud families in the audience. Graduation is a huge accomplishment, and yet, it does not guarantee that a student is ready for what comes next. In Leonardo’s case, I’m confident that he is prepared. How do I know? Did I look at his grades on AP exams or in community college classes? No. Instead, I spent a couple of hours interviewing him for a podcast series called “The Young and The Woke” for which I talk to students in Oakland whose school experience has helped them develop a clear sense of purpose. We never once talked about his grades in school, but he did tell me about his life. He was homeless for several years until his family was able to get a home through the Oakland Housing Authority. At school, he became interested in nutrition through the Health Academy at Oakland Technical High School, which led him to participate in a successful campaign to pass the Good Food Purchasing Resolution in 2016. He had to work with peers and adults to advocate for a complicated piece of policy that expects the district to purchase food based on factors like transportation, treatment of animals, labor practices, and nutrition. This experience sparked a passion for politics, which led him to volunteer for Oakland mayoral candidate Cat Brooks. His story reminds educators that we aren’t just teaching content and skills. We are also helping young people awaken to their purpose in the world. Our students need a quality, rigorous education along with access to resources provided by a robust public sector and access to leadership opportunities and networks like those provided by his volunteer work.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Better schools won’t fix America

Nick Hanauer, The Atlantic
Long ago, I was captivated by a seductively intuitive idea, one many of my wealthy friends still subscribe to: that both poverty and rising inequality are largely consequences of America’s failing education system. Fix that, I believed, and we could cure much of what ails America. This belief system, which I have come to think of as “educationism,” is grounded in a familiar story about cause and effect: Once upon a time, America created a public-education system that was the envy of the modern world. No nation produced more or better-educated high-school and college graduates, and thus the great American middle class was built. But then, sometime around the 1970s, America lost its way. We allowed our schools to crumble, and our test scores and graduation rates to fall. School systems that once churned out well-paid factory workers failed to keep pace with the rising educational demands of the new knowledge economy. As America’s public-school systems foundered, so did the earning power of the American middle class. And as inequality increased, so did political polarization, cynicism, and anger, threatening to undermine American democracy itself. Taken with this story line, I embraced education as both a philanthropic cause and a civic mission. I co-founded the League of Education Voters, a nonprofit dedicated to improving public education. I joined Bill Gates, Alice Walton, and Paul Allen in giving more than $1 million each to an effort to pass a ballot measure that established Washington State’s first charter schools. All told, I have devoted countless hours and millions of dollars to the simple idea that if we improved our schools—if we modernized our curricula and our teaching methods, substantially increased school funding, rooted out bad teachers, and opened enough charter schools—American children, especially those in low-income and working-class communities, would start learning again. Graduation rates and wages would increase, poverty and inequality would decrease, and public commitment to democracy would be restored. But after decades of organizing and giving, I have come to the uncomfortable conclusion that I was wrong. And I hate being wrong.

OPINION: Four ways to break the cycle of food and housing insecurity on campus

Angela Sanchez, The Hechinger Report
For my last two years of high school, I was homeless. My father gave me the option of sharing our circumstances with teachers, counselors and administrators. I chose to stay silent. Even at 16, I knew that when people hear the word “homeless,” most do not think of youth or families. However, in Los Angeles County alone, approximately 63,000 minors are homeless. And that number is actually a conservative estimate because families often underreport for reasons that include fear of separation and the stigma of being homeless. They keep quiet, as did my dad and I. A recent study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has received much attention lately, as it showed a significant variance in reported data on students who experience food insecurity. The study called into question the survey methods of a variety of sources, including leading researchers from the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice at Temple University, founded and led by Sara Goldrick-Rab.

Teachers push for books with more diversity, fewer stereotypes

Sarah Schwartz, Education Week
For decades, children’s books in school libraries and classrooms have overwhelmingly featured white faces. And as the U.S. school-age population grows more diverse, students of color are less likely than white students to see books with characters that look like them or share their cultural background. Some educators and children’s book authors are trying to change that. Nonprofits like We Need Diverse Books advocate for children’s literature that better reflects the experiences of all young readers. In online communities, such as those formed around Twitter hashtags #DisruptTexts and #DiversityJedi, teachers, authors, and critics discuss which books are given to students in classrooms and what messages they convey. Even DonorsChoose.org, the school crowdfunding platform, recently pledged to match donations to teacher requests for diverse learning materials. The ripples of this ongoing conversation have reached a lot of classrooms, said Jess Lifshitz, a 5th grade teacher at Meadowbrook Elementary School in Northbrook, Ill. “More teachers now know it’s the right thing to have books that represent a wide variety of people,” said Lifshitz. But, she added, “I think people do that, and they kind of want to check it off the checklist.”

Public Schools and Private $

Democrats are fighting over charter schools. Will key early primary states care?

Andrew Ujifusa, Education Week
If you’re following the Democratic presidential primary and you care about education, it’s hard to avoid all the stories and questions about charters with a 2020 angle. Are candidates like Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont betraying many Democrats, and left-leaning voters of color in particular, by taking on charters? Or in the era of rolling teacher strikes and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, are they smart to at least partially repudiate the independently run, publicly financed schools? Those are good questions. But the primary isn’t wrapped up nationwide all in one day. The first few states to hold primaries or caucuses will play a huge role in establishing favorites and quickly paring down a big field. These states’ unique political and policy environments are a huge focus for campaigns. So what does the charter school landscape look like in the first four primary (or caucus) states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina? Despite all the national angst about charters, is is it possible they won’t make much of a difference one way or the other in the beginning states of the 2020 primaries? Could the answers vary significantly from state to state? One answer that might stick with you: There are more Chinese restaurants in Bethesda, Md., where Education Week has its offices, than charter schools in one early-bird state. Need more info? Here’s a handy chart we put together with a few basic facts about charter schools in the four early states.

NEPC issues ‘red flag warning’ on personalized learning

Dian Schaffhauser, The Journal
A new report from the National Education Policy Center has suggested that the concept of personalized learning has been productized by technology companies in ways that “can put important educational decisions in private hands and compromise the privacy of children and their teachers.” “Personalized Learning and the Digital Privatization of Curriculum and Teaching,” developed by three researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder, reported that these programs are “proliferating in schools” across the country. This spread is being sparked by ample philanthropic funding, lobbying by the tech industry, marketing by vendors that want to get into the K-12 market and an education policy environment “that provides little guidance and few constraints.” The analysis has uncovered “questionable” assumptions about the efficacy of personalized learning in the most influential programs, alongside a lack of research support, “self-interested advocacy” from the tech industry and “serious threats” to data privacy.

How wildly expensive for-profit private schools are different from wildly expensive nonprofit private schools

Valerie Strauss, Washington Post
They aren’t for everyone — in fact, they are for very few — but they are growing in number, because there is some demand. They are high-end for-profit private schools, and it can cost close to $60,000 to send a child to one of them for grades from nursery school through the end of high school. What are they? Who goes to them? What do they offer? How are for-profit schools different from elite nonprofit private schools, aside from the fact that for-profit schools are intended to make money for their founders and nonprofit schools aren’t? These questions were asked and answered by Mike Levy — former curriculum director at Avenues World School in New York City, which runs a global network of schools that cater to the 0.01 percent — in the podcast “Have You Heard.” He is currently the head of the middle school at Presidio Knolls, a private school in San Francisco.

Other News of Note

Finally, presidential candidates are talking about poverty

Greg Kaufmann, The Nation
In August 2012, The Nation launched a blog series called #TalkPoverty to “help push the issue of poverty into the mainstream political debate.” Each week we profiled advocates, scholars, and people in poverty who asked questions of President Barack Obama and the Republican challenger, then-Governor Mitt Romney. Obama responded to a final questionnaire; Romney took a pass. Still, there were no questions directly about poverty in any of the presidential debates. Seven years later, for candidates to discuss poverty, be asked about poverty, or speak directly to people in poverty—is still rare. As the Rev. Dr. William Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, pointed out last week, “During the 2016 Presidential primaries and campaign, there were 26 televised debates, but not a single hour was devoted to how candidates would address America’s poverty. Republicans talk about the economy, while Democrats speak of the middle class. Nobody talks about the poor. The Poor People’s Campaign is organizing across lines created to divide us and we’re forcing those in power to listen.”