Just News from Center X – June 24, 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

Melinda D. Anderson, The Atlantic
Nancy Gutierrez was primed to shine. As the new principal at Fischer Middle School in East San Jose, California, it was more than a new job for Gutierrez, it was a homecoming. She was a product of the heavily Mexican American, working-class, and immigrant community, and her mom still lived just a few blocks from the school in Northern California. “I grew up going to the same bodega on the corner as they did,” Gutierrez said, speaking of her students and their families. “I wasn’t someone who … had these expectations and didn’t know who the community was.”

Catherine Cray, Boston Magazine
The Boston Public Schools’ teaching staff does not adequately reflect the diversity of its student body—and the kids are noticing. “I’ve had students say to me, ‘Miss, why don’t I have teachers of color in my school, or in my English class, or in my math class?” Jane Skelton shares. Skelton is the head coach for the Women Educators of Color (WEOC) Executive Coaching Program, a recently announced initiative that seeks to engage and retain female educators of color.

Nassim Elbardouh, Rethinking Schools
Like many, I watched in shock as the terror attacks unfolded in Paris last November. ISIS, the same group that had killed 43 innocent people in a double suicide bombing in Lebanon the day before, was now attacking Parisians. I checked Facebook to see if my Parisian friends were safe and noticed two things: First, several friends had messaged me to ask if my friends in Paris were safe (I lived there in 2008). Second, there was a feature enabled called the Facebook Safety Check that lets users mark themselves “safe” after an attack, earthquake, or other disaster. I was relieved to know that my friends were OK, but I also felt the weight of the questions that followed in my mind: Why didn’t my family have access to the same safety feature following the bombing in Lebanon? Are some lives more worthy of mourning?

Language, Culture, and Power


Rebecca Damante, The Century Foundation
While including LGBT content in schools is beneficial for students, the way in which this content is presented is just as important, if not more.

Mike Szymanski, LA School Report
The Ethnic Studies Committee, which LA Unified unceremoniously disbanded last year, has been renewed by the district, and members agreed to meet for up to three more years with a goal toward incorporating ethnic studies as a graduation requirement, according to Derrick Chau, director of secondary instruction at LA Unified.

Cory Turner, NPR
Something’s wrong in America’s classrooms. According to new data from the Education Department, black students — from kindergarten through high school — are 3.8 times more likely to be suspended than white students. Now the really bad news. This trend begins in preschool, where black children are already 3.6 times more likely to be suspended than white students.

Access, Assessment, and Advancement


Robert Barnes, The Washington Post
The Supreme Court on Thursday said University of Texas admission officials may consider the race of student applicants in a limited way to build a diverse student body. The 4-to-3 decision was a surprising win for advocates of affirmative action, who say the benefits of diversity at the nation’s colleges and universities are worth the intrusion on the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection that generally forbids the government from making decisions based on racial classifications.

Spencer Michels, PBS
San Francisco’s Lowell High School is one of the most selective public schools in the country. But the school’s selectivity means that black and Latino students, who are often less prepared for academic rigor than Lowell’s majority-Asian students, are underrepresented. In association with Education Week, special correspondent Spencer Michels reports on how elite schools are working to diversify.

Kyle Stokes, KPCC
Early numbers show nearly three-quarters of Los Angeles Unified School District’s high school senior class met a new set of graduation requirements, district officials have announced. The Class of 2016 is the first L.A. Unified has required to complete California’s so-called “A-G” sequence of required high school courses — and, superintendent Michelle King said Tuesday, preliminary figures show 74 percent of this year’s seniors did so.

The Times Editorial Board, Los Angeles Times
Because of new rules designed to raise graduation standards, officials of the Los Angeles Unified School District woke up in December to the grim news that only half of its students were on track to graduate, down from 74% the year before. The problem was that this was the first year all students had to pass the full range of college-prep courses — known as the A through G sequence – required by the University of California and California State University for admission. But just a couple of months later, the situation suddenly, startlingly improved, with 63% on track to graduate. By the end of March, 68% had completed their A-G courses, and an additional 15% were close enough that they might be able to make it. The actual graduation rate will not be known for several months. How did this remarkable turnaround happen, and what does it mean?

Dorian Merina, KPCC
The state budget that lawmakers sent to Governor Jerry Brown this week could open up scores of new preschool seats in the Los Angeles area and prompt the re-opening of an early education center – but the gains still represent just a fraction of the high need that remains as many parents scramble to find seats for their children.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation


William J. Mathis, National Education Policy Center
Underinvestment in schools has characterized Western countries since the beginning of public education and is the result of political decision-making. Despite polls showing public support for schools, the argument that money doesn’t matter has, nevertheless, always found an audience. In a brief released today, Does Money Matter, William Mathis considers the evidence used to support the claim that there is no systemic relation between spending and school quality.

Sonali Kohli and Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times
The Los Angeles Board of Education on Tuesday passed a $7.6-billion budget that includes significantly higher spending for next year, though questions remain about how much of that money will go to the students it should.

Alisha Kirby, Cabinet Report
Priority will be given to low-income children looking to enroll in state-funded after-school programs under legislation that passed the Senate Education Committee last week. To boost these students’ participation rates, AB 1567 would also waive any fees for students identified as homeless, low-income or foster youth.

Todd Mann, The Hill
In 1968, the United States launched Apollo 8, the first manned spacecraft to orbit the moon and return safely. In that same year but with much less publicity, Tacoma Public Schools launched the nation’s first magnet school, McCarver Elementary School, in an attempt to diversify its segregated school system. Almost fifty years later, a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) and a Federal court ruling in Mississippi show that school segregation remains a national problem and that magnet schools are still a viable solution that fly under the public radar.

Public Schools and Private $


Howard Blume and Zahira Torres, Los Angeles Times
Two organizations set up to work within the traditional public school system are moving away from their original mission — and from the Los Angeles Unified School District — in the name of better helping students. The governing boards of the Los Angeles Fund for Public Education and the group LA’s Promise have voted to merge to create a new organization whose plans include setting up charter schools.

Martin Levine, Nonprofit Quarterly
This week, we learned more about an ambitious and highly controversial effort to transform Los Angeles’s public school system that will test the limits of its public-private partnership. Last August, we first learned that several major foundations, including the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the Keck Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation, were developing a $450 million plan with a goal “to enroll half of all Los Angeles students in charter schools over the next eight years, perhaps beginning with the enrollment of half of all students currently at schools with low test scores.” Even for a district that already has 16 percent of its students in charters, this would be a dramatic change.

Jack Schneider, The Atlantic
Everything in American education is broken. Or so say the policy elites, from the online learning pioneer Sal Khan to the journalist-turned-reformer Campbell Brown. As leaders of the XQ project succinctly put it, we need to “scrap the blueprint and revolutionize this dangerously broken system.”

Other News of Note


David Bacon, The Nation
On Sunday night, June 12, as Ruben Nuñez, head of Oaxaca’s teachers union, was leaving a meeting in Mexico City, his car was overtaken and stopped by several large king-cab pickup trucks. Heavily armed men in civilian clothes exited and pulled him, another teacher, and a taxi driver from their cab, and then drove them at high speed to the airport. Nuñez was immediately flown over a thousand miles north to Hermosillo, Sonora, and dumped into a high-security federal lockup. Just hours earlier, unidentified armed agents did the same thing in Oaxaca itself, taking prisoner Francisco Villalobos, the union’s second-highest officer, and flying him to the Hermosillo prison as well. Villalobos was charged with having stolen textbooks a year ago. Nuñez’s charges are still unknown.



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