Just News from Center X – June 25, 2021

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Stress has many U.S. teachers leaving profession: survey 

Robert Preidt, US News & World Report

Teaching has always been a stressful job, and now a new survey suggests the pandemic could be driving even more teachers from the time-honored profession. Teacher stress was a concern prior to the pandemic and may have only become worse,” said study author Elizabeth Steiner, a policy researcher at RAND Corp. “This raises the concern that more teachers may decide to quit this year than in past years if nothing is done to address challenging working conditions and support teacher well-being.” Her team found that nearly 1 in 4 public school teachers may leave their job by the end of the 2020-21 school year, compared with 1 in 6 who were likely to leave prior to the coronavirus pandemic. Black teachers were particularly likely to consider leaving, the survey conducted in January and February 2021 revealed

California school districts receive unprecedented windfall but lack teachers to help students catch up

Diana Lambert, EdSource

California schools collectively have billions of state and federal dollars to spend on programs to help students catch up on the learning they lost while school campuses were closed. But many districts do not have enough fully qualified teachers to fill regular classrooms, let alone to launch new academic programs this fall. The state’s schools have struggled with teacher shortages for years, especially in the areas of special education, math, science and bilingual education, but the problem has worsened since the pandemic began. Research by the Learning Policy Institute, which consisted of interviews with district leaders from eight of the largest and nine of the smallest school districts in the state, found that the number of teacher candidates earning credentials declined during the pandemic.

We don’t need orders from states or Congress on teaching race. We know our students best.

Ronn Nozoe, USA Today

As educators wrap up the 2020-21 school year and prepare for a “new normal” this fall, one of the tasks on deck is curriculum planning. In talking to school leaders around the country, I’ve heard many concerns regarding state legislatures deciding how individual schools teach students about race and racism in American history and train educators on diversity, equity and inclusion. The National Association of Secondary School Principals believes that those in the schools – educators and school leaders – should make curriculum and professional development decisions, not those in state or federal Capitol buildings. Local control is the heart of the U.S. education system at the primary and secondary levels.

Language, Culture, and Power

‘Heartbreaking’ conditions in US migrant child camp

Hilary Andersson, BBC News

In recent months, the US has seen a massive rise in migrants and asylum seekers from Central America. Violence, natural disasters and pandemic-related economic strife are some of the reasons behind the influx, experts say. Some have also suggested the perception of a more lenient administration under Democrat Joe Biden has contributed to the crisis, though the White House has urged migrants against journeying to the US border. The tented camp in the Fort Bliss military base in El Paso, Texas, is the temporary home for over 2,000 teenaged children who have crossed the US-Mexico border alone and are now awaiting reunification with family in the US.

Miseducation [Audio]

Rita Suh, GenActivist gen/activist

We invited Dr. Rita Suh to talk with us about her vast experience with educational inequity and her amazing work to design a more equitable education system. G-mom is a lifelong educator, so this conversation was right up her alley. We discussed the ways that our education system intentionally miseducates it’s students and the ways that discrimination and bias produces inequity. So often things like language or dialect can be misread and greatly impact someone’s learning experience. We discuss ways teachers can be more aware and intentional about examining their own biases and creating equitable classrooms where all students can thrive.

Books through bars

Madeline Zelazo, The Recorder

In 1994, Congress passed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which, among other things, banned incarcerated people from receiving Pell Grants for higher education, even if they were qualified in other ways. The motive behind the bill was to inflict harsher punishments on criminals in order to set an example to others. However, its effectiveness failed and incarceration rates grew in the United States while the equal opportunity for education vanished for incarcerated people. In 2017, outraged by mass incarceration and its underfunding for education, the Turners Falls organization Great Falls Books Through Bars was established in downtown Turners Falls. Great Falls Books Through Bars is a volunteer, abolitionist-driven organization that sends books and other reading materials to incarcerated people across the United States. These days, it’s run by 15 to 20 volunteers, none of whom have been with the organization since its inception.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

When neighbors in Brooklyn need help with homework or Latino housing rights, this Baltimore teacher’s aide steps in

Stephanie García, Baltimore Sun

Stepping in to translate between landlords and tenants, Kendra Summers saw that her Latino neighbors needed an advocate.The teacher’s aide at Brooklyn’s Maree Garnett Farring Elementary School created Casa Amable — which translates to “Kind Home” — a program that teaches residents new to the U.S. about tenant rights and the housing process regardless of their legal status. In 2019, Summers was awarded an 18-month community fellowship with the Open Society Institute, which provides activists and social entrepreneurs with funding to address problems such as health equity, youth development and criminal justice in underserved Baltimore City communities. Last year, Summers had to switch gears and launch Casa Amable while helping her community cope with the pandemic through vaccine outreach, food drives and ensuring students had internet access for distance learning.

Southeast LA students highly impacted by pandemic, survey find

Betty Márquez Rosales, EdSource

A recent survey by AltaMed Health Services and Great Public Schools Now found that the educational experiences and psychological wellbeing of residents in the southeast Los Angeles region of L.A. County were impacted at higher rates due to pre-existing “social determinants of health that keep them marginalized.” Over 2,000 residents with at least one child enrolled in grades K-12 were surveyed, with 45% identifying as Latino. The survey included 23 questions and was made available for families in English and Spanish during March and April of this year.

The pandemic affected mental health and college plans for U.S. high schoolers.

Dana Goldstein, New York Times

Nearly 80 percent of American high school juniors and seniors say the coronavirus pandemic has affected their plans after graduation, and 72 percent of 13- to 19-year-olds have struggled with their mental health, a new survey shows. The survey, conducted by America’s Promise Alliance, a nonprofit group, found that 58 percent of teenagers reported learning entirely or mostly online in the 2020-21 school year, and 22 percent said that they had learned about half online and half in person. Nineteen percent said they had learned mostly through in-person instruction. The results are from a nationally representative survey of 2,400 high school students conducted in March and April.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

New project seeks to improve retention and graduation rates for students of color at University of Illinois: ‘They have a platform, they have the resources.’ [AUDIO]

Elyssa Cherney, Chicago Tribune

On the heels of a statewide action plan that calls for greater investment in Black college students, a new coalition will examine racial equity at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and offer strategies to improve diversity. The 18-month effort, funded by the Joyce Foundation, will focus on the state’s flagship public university, where just under 6% of students are Black, 11% are Latino and well under 1% identify as Native American or Hawaiian/Pacific Islander, under-representations of the state’s population, according to school data. The largest demographic groups are white students at 41% and Asian American students at 16%.

What does fair look like at America’s elite public schools?

Francine Kiefer, Christian Science Monitor

Vishal Krishnaiah, a rising senior at Lowell High School in San Francisco, finished the last of his seven Advanced Placement exams earlier in June. He loves his public school for its academic rigor, “amazing” teachers, and wide array of opportunities. He could have gone to a private high school, but he wanted Lowell. Fortunately, he had the grades – and the entrance exam score – to get in. But that’s changed now. As with several other high-profile selective schools around the country, the local school board has dropped the entrance exam to Lowell, which graduated a Supreme Court justice and a Nobel Prize winner, among notables. A temporary measure begun under the pandemic – selection by lottery with no exam or grade requirement – has become permanent, fueled by the board’s concerns about racism and too few Black and Latino students.

NCAA athletes win 9-0 on educational perks as Kavanaugh calls out ban on direct payments

Amy Howe, SCOTUS Blog

The Supreme Court on Monday reshaped the relationship between universities and the athletes who play college sports. In an opinion by Justice Neil Gorsuch, the justices unanimously ruled that the National Collegiate Athletic Association cannot prohibit its member schools from providing athletes with certain forms of education-related benefits, such as paid post-graduate internships, scholarships for graduate school, or free laptops or musical instruments.

Although the decision did not involve cash payments to college athletes, it may pave the way for a future Supreme Court ruling on whether college athletes should be able to earn money for playing sports – either directly from their universities or through lucrative endorsement deals. In a concurring opinion, Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote that the NCAA’s policies banning those types of compensation “raise serious questions under the antitrust laws.”

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Is Education No Longer the ‘Great Equalizer’?

Thomas Edsall, New York Times

There is an ongoing debate over what kind of investments in human capital — roughly the knowledge, skills, habits, abilities, experience, intelligence, training, judgment, creativity and wisdom possessed by an individual — contribute most to productivity and life satisfaction. Is education no longer “a great equalizer of the conditions of men,” as Horace Mann declared in 1848, but instead a great divider? Can the Biden administration’s efforts to distribute cash benefits to the working class and the poor produce sustained improvements in the lives of those on the bottom tiers of income and wealth — or would a substantial investment in children’s training and enrichment programs at a very early age produce more consistent and permanent results?

The U.S. Is Increasingly Diverse, So Why Is Segregation Getting Worse?

Alana Semuels, Time

The integration battles of the Civil Rights era happened more than half a century ago, but the U.S. is getting more, not less, segregated, as that past recedes. More than 80% of large metropolitan areas in the United States were more segregated in 2019 than they were in 1990, according to an analysis of residential segregation released Monday by the Othering & Belonging Institute at the University of California-Berkeley. The U.S. has become more diverse over time, which has obscured the persistence of segregation, the report finds. Metropolitan areas aren’t all-white, all-Black, or all-Latino, but within metropolitan areas, the different races are clustered in segregated neighborhoods, creating social and economic divisions that can fuel unrest. “The U.S. continues to be a place of segregation, not integration,” says Stephen Menendian, assistant director at the Othering & Belonging Institute, which studies the roots of social and economic inequality in the United States.

San Bernardino County education office shortchanged minority students out of equity funding, state says

Scott Schwebke, San Bernardino Sun

The San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools short-changed predominately low-income Black and Latino students by an estimated $166 million in state funds earmarked for programs that promote equity, while improperly counting school police expenses toward the funding mandate, the California Department of Education said Monday in a landmark decision.

The decision follows a complaint filed a year ago by the Inland Congregations United for Change and the Congregations Organized for Prophetic Engagement. The San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools office denied the initial allegations, prompting the complainants to file an appeal with the California Department of Education. “To our knowledge, this is the first decision against a county and could have far-reaching implications for school funding accountability in California,” Nicole Ochi, an attorney for the San Francisco-based law firm Public Advocates Inc., who helped write the complaint. “This is a great victory for the complainants, COPE and ICUC, who are grassroots organizations that have fought long and hard for equitable allocation of resources for students of color in the Inland Empire.”

Democracy and the Public Interest

Cheerleader prevails at U.S. Supreme Court in free speech case

Andrew Chung, Reuters

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled in favor of a Pennsylvania teenager who sued after a profanity-laced social media post got her banished from her high school’s cheerleading squad in a closely watched free speech case, but it declined to outright bar public schools from regulating off-campus speech. The justices ruled 8-1 that the punishment that Mahanoy Area School District officials gave the plaintiff, Brandi Levy, for her social media post – made on Snapchat at a local convenience store in Mahanoy City on a weekend – violated her free speech rights under the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment. The decision was authored by liberal Justice Stephen Breyer. The case involved the free speech rights of America’s roughly 50 million public school students in the internet and social media era. Many schools and educators have argued that their ability to curb bullying, threats, cheating and harassment – all frequently occurring online – should not be limited to school grounds. The justices preserved the authority of public schools to sometimes regulate speech that occurs away from campus.

While Politicians Fight Over Civic Education, Most Parents and Adults Agree on the Subject

Anna Saavedra, The Evidence Base

Civics has become one of the most polarizing topics in the politics around K-12 education. The controversy surrounds bills in process or passed in eight states that would limit civic education by prohibiting discussion of racism—and in some states even the discussion of current events—in public school classrooms. And this super-politicization of civic education is threatening the Civics Secures Democracy act, a landmark bipartisan bill in support of civic education that would infuse the teaching of civics with $1 billion annually.

But while state and federal politics may indicate that the nation is at an impasse and simply cannot see eye to eye on anything, least of all how to prepare children for U.S. citizenship, in reality parents–and adults without children in the home—agree across the aisle more than disagree when it comes to civic education. We hope for the good of the people, our politicians pay better attention to the will of the people, and work together to solve what has become a crisis for civic education.

What is the religious exemption to Title IX and what’s at stake in LGBTQ students’ legal challenge

Kif Augustine-Adams, The Conversation

While federal law shields most U.S. students from gender and sexual orientation discrimination, an estimated 100,000 LGBTQ students at religious institutions do not have the same protections. Under a religious exemption provision, scores of colleges and universities can – and do – discriminate on the basis of someone’s sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression. A class action lawsuit now challenges that discrimination. It alleges that the Department of Education’s acquiescence in Title IX’s religious exemption violates the students’ constitutional rights and causes them harm.

Other News of Note

Student challenges Florida Gov. DeSantis over critical race theory ban

Valerie Strauss, Washington Post

Uma Menon is a 17-year-old writer and student at Princeton University who attended public schools in Florida, where the state Board of Education just banned public schools from teaching that racism is “embedded in American society and its legal systems in order to uphold the supremacy of white persons.” In this post, she challenges state education officials and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who spearheaded the move to ban what is called critical race theory. Florida is one of a handful of Republican-led states that have approved such bans, with some 10 others attempting to do the same. Critical race theory (CRT) is an academic framework for looking at systemic racism. Though states are banning it from being taught in schools, most teachers don’t use the term when discussing racism and don’t require students read the work of scholars who use that framework.

Critical race theory sparks activism in students

Jerusha Conner, The Conversation

Critical race theory – an academic framework that holds that racism is embedded in society – has become the subject of an intense debate about how issues of race should or shouldn’t be taught in schools. Largely missing in the debate is evidence of how exposure to critical race theory actually affects students. As a researcher who specializes in youth activism, I have conducted research on and with youth organizing groups in which critical race theory is a core component of the political education. Eighty-two percent of youth organizing groups regularly offer political education, which involves a critical examination of social issues, usually through workshops and group discussions. My research – along with that of other scholars – points to three important outcomes for young people who are taught critical race theory as part of youth organizing.