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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
Zoë Carpenter, The Nation
Last week, a group of lawyers visited a remote Border Patrol facility in Clint, Texas, that was designed for the temporary detention of about 100 adult migrants. What they found were some 250 children in appalling conditions. Several were sick and in quarantine; others had lice. Very young children had been left in the care of slightly older children. Although the government is bound by a legal agreement and other regulations to provide “safe and sanitary” conditions for underage migrants and to transfer them out of Border Patrol custody within 72 hours, children told lawyers they had been in the facility for weeks without regular access to beds, showers, toothbrushes, and soap.
Evie Blad, Education Week
When districts get an infusion of Title I funds, the Every Student Succeeds Act says that federal money should add to the state and local funds schools already receive without taking the place of any of those dollars. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos released final guidance Thursday about what districts must do to prove they are complying with that part of the law—ensuring that Title I provides the intended boost to targeted high-poverty schools, rather than displacing money into non-Title I schools. DeVos’ release is the final version of draft “supplement not supplant” guidance the Education Department put out in January. The nonregulatory guidance says districts must show that the way they allocate state and local money to schools does not use a school’s Title I status as a factor. The guidance takes a much lighter touch than the Obama administration’s first stab at the issue after ESSA was signed into law in 2015. Those proposed regulations would have required spending at Title I schools be at least equal to that of the non-Title I schools. Civil rights groups praised that approach.
Ariella Plachta, Los Angeles Daily News
The Los Angeles Unified School Board on Tuesday voted to end a longstanding but controversial security policy of randomly searching students with metal-detector wands after an emotional meeting divided members on how to keep the district’s 600-plus campuses safe in an era of recurrent gun violence. The resolution passed four votes to three, moving to end the 26-year old policy of random searches. It also asks LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner to develop an alternative alongside community groups by July 1, 2020, when the current practice ends. Proponents of nixing the practice, which civil rights advocates have long argued distracts from instruction time and makes young people in schools feel like criminals, were members Monica Garcia, Kelly Gonez, Nick Melvoin and newly-elected Jackie Goldberg. Board members George McKenna, Scott Schmerelson and Richard Vladovic detracted, demanding evidence that the policy fails to act as a deterrent to students bringing weapons on campus and fearing unaffordable liability costs in the case of incidents.
Language, Culture, and Power
Michael Burke, EdSource
Voters across California worry about affording college, but the fear is more pressing for those in rural areas. That’s the conclusion of a report released Monday by Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE) which shows that voters in certain counties — typically those in rural areas and places close to the borders with Nevada and Oregon — are more likely to have greater concerns about college affordability than voters in other parts of the state. The report is based on an analysis of a February PACE/Rossier School poll that found college affordability was the second most important education-related issue among voters, trailing only gun violence in schools. The poll surveyed 2,000 registered voters in California with an estimated margin of error of 2.9 percentage points. The report shows that low-income voters are more likely than high-income voters to be concerned about college costs and that, in some counties, concerns vary along racial and ethnic lines.
Jill Fletcher, Edutopia
In 2015, Hawaiʻi’s Department of Education took steps to address educational equity by implementing interdependent learning outcomes called Na Hopena A’o or HĀ. [Editor’s note: Our software does not support the use of the kahakōmacron, which is used in Hawaiian to indicate a long vowel.] The HĀ framework looks different in each school community because all stakeholders—students, teachers, staff, parents, and community members—work together to build a strengthened sense of belonging, responsibility, excellence, well-being, aloha, and Hawaiʻi, include Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) culture, language, history, and values.
Ellen Friedrichs, The Washington Post
Back in the early and mid-2000s I taught sex education at an after-school program in New York City. One day we invited in some teens who were part of a local LGBTQ youth group to talk about their organization. During that conversation, it became clear that those students had experienced tremendous amounts of hostility. And, unfortunately, that seemed completely normal to all the young people in the room. Over the next decade, it seemed as if things were getting better for LGBTQ youths at school. A biennial school climate survey from the LGBTQ education organization GLSEN found that starting in 2007 there were notable declines in students being victimized at school based on gender identity and sexual orientation, and there were increases in school supports like gender and sexuality alliances (GSAs) and anti-bullying programs. But in many ways, the pendulum now appears to be swinging in a different direction. The latest GLSEN survey, from 2017, found that for the first time in years, there were fewer positive changes for LGBT students, and the rate of progress seems to be slowing down.
Whole Children and Strong Communities
Michael Finch II, The Sacramento Bee
California’s efforts to improve health care for children is being dimmed by high rents and housing prices, poorly performing schools, expensive child care and a host of other challenges, according to a new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. In many ways, the report reflects a familiar story for the state: Prosperity is unevenly divided, the education system is inadequate and families are worse off because of the shortcomings in public programs. The report found that more than 13 million U.S. children live in poverty. California made only small gains compared with last year in the foundation’s Kids Count report, which evaluates child well-being based on 16 measures that rate health, education, family and community, and economic well-being. The report found California had more than 1 million children living in impoverished areas, and more children than in any other state living in households where the parents or guardians lacked a high school education.
Zaidee Stavely, EdSource
Has your child ever lived with a parent or caregiver who had mental health issues, such as depression? Witnessed a parent or caregiver being screamed at, insulted or humiliated by another adult? Been separated from their parent or caregiver due to foster care or immigration? Those are some of the questions on a survey that California pediatricians will use to screen millions of children for traumatic experiences beginning Jan. 1, 2020. Many more of these screenings are expected, after the 2019-20 budget just approved by the state Legislature allocated $45 million to reimburse doctors for screening MediCal patients for trauma, and $50 million to train doctors on how to conduct trauma screenings. The funding is in addition to funding for screenings for developmental and other disabilities. The new screenings are part of a push by Gov. Gavin Newsom to focus on adverse childhood experiences, underscored by his appointment of Dr. Nadine Burke Harris as California’s first surgeon general earlier this year. Burke Harris is recognized as a pioneer in the study of how these experiences can affect children’s developing brains and cause a number of lifelong health and mental health problems. Research has shown that experiencing a large number of traumatic events in childhood can increase the risk of cancer, heart disease, diabetes and depression, among other chronic illnesses.
Sarah D. Sparks, Education Week
Adolescents can be challenging for educators to keep engaged—but putting in the effort to make them feel connected to school can pay off well into adulthood. In a study published this morning in the journal Pediatrics, researchers at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracked more than 14,000 middle and high school students over 20 years. They found that students who felt connected to their school and family as adolescents grew up safer and with better mental health than those who were disconnected as teenagers. Connected adolescents were less than half as likely be the victims of physical violence, to use illicit drugs, or to be diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease by their 20s or 30s, a significant decline in risk. “The work that we do in school—particularly in terms of making [students] feel more connected, feel safer, feel like the adults around them care about them and want to see them succeed—that has impacts well into adulthood,” said Kathleen Ethier, the director of the CDC’s division of adolescent and school health and a co-author of the study. “And that’s exciting to know because it’s something we know how to do.” The study comes as districts increasingly look for ways to improve student-teacher relationships and make students from traditionally underrepresented groups feel more welcome in school.
Access, Assessment, and Advancement
Linda Jacobson, Education Dive
The U.S. child population continues to increase and grow more diverse — especially in California, Florida and Texas. But the overall rate of 3- and 4-year-olds not attending preschool — 52% — hasn’t changed since 2010, according to the 2019 Kids Count Data Book, which has been tracking child well-being at the state level since 1990. Other education indicators covered by the report include 4th-grade reading proficiency, where Massachusetts ranks the highest with just over half of students reaching the proficiency level, and New Mexico ranks last with 25% scoring in that range. The nationwide percentage of 8th-graders proficient in math — about a third — has also remained stagnant since 2009. The report also highlights the steady upward trend in high school graduation rates, but notes racial disparities, with only 11% of white students not graduating in four years, compared to 28% of Native American students, 22% of African American students and 20% of Latino students. “Students who graduate from high school on time have many more choices in young adulthood,” the authors write. “They are more likely to pursue postsecondary education and training, make healthier decisions and engage in less risky behaviors.”
Sydney Johnson, EdSource
California has the highest number of technology workers in the country. But many students in the state lack access to the computer science courses that may set them up for those career opportunities, a new study shows. More than half (61 percent) of high schools in California do not offer computer science courses, according to a study released Monday by the Kapor Center, a nonprofit that focuses on equity and access in technology, and Computer Science for California (CSforCA), a campaign that promotes access to computer science education in California. The high schools that do offer computer science courses are more likely to be in high-income or urban areas. Students of color and students in rural and low-income areas are least likely to have access to computer science courses, the study found. Only 3 percent of California’s 1.9 million high school students were enrolled in a computer science course in the 2016-17 school year, according to the report. In 2018, only 1 percent took an Advanced Placement computer science course, which can offer students college credit.
Doug Lederman, Inside Higher Ed
Nuance is a good thing, and it tends to help improve our understanding of complex issues and public policy questions. Unfortunately, our political discourse and, increasingly, news media coverage seem less and less inclined to traffic in it. Take some of the key issues in postsecondary education right now. Most political speeches or media coverage would leave you with the impression that Americans believe college degrees aren’t worth the money, that Democrats overwhelmingly support free college as the answer to the college affordability problem, and that Republicans don’t care about holding colleges and universities (especially for-profit ones) accountable. Turns out none of those things are really true — or at least that the public’s true attitudes are much more nuanced than that. The picture that emerges from Third Way’s comprehensive survey of nearly 1,400 Americans who describe themselves as likely to vote in the 2020 general election is of a public that still believes in the value of colleges and universities and their degrees and thinks the institutions must do a better job of educating students affordably and effectively. The survey also suggests that the public is more centered in its views about higher education than the politicians on the right and left who purport to represent them.
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
Andrew Sheeler, The Sacramento Bee
Nearly 20 California community colleges and community college districts are opposing a proposed law that would let homeless community college students sleep overnight in campus parking lots. Their formal opposition to the bill marks a significant change in tone and strategy for those college districts, which previously did not take a stance on the proposal but raised concerns that it could expose them to tens of millions of dollars new charges for security, maintenance and liability costs. Concerns about the bill prompted the Senate Committee on Education to add several amendments to the bill. Most notably, campuses would be allowed to opt out of Assembly Bill 302 if they demonstrate “the community college is addressing issues for students who are experiencing homelessness.”
Native Americans are almost invisible on college campuses, and it’s hurting their chances for success
Adolfo Guzman-Lopez, LAist
For Native American college students, the road to earning a college degree can be a rocky, lonely pursuit. Only about 1,100 of the 280,000 students enrolled in the entire 10-campus University of California system in 2018 were Native Americans — that’s 0.4 percent. And the overall Native American enrollment was only about 100 students more than 20 years ago; during that same span, the UC system added 100,000 students. The relatively few Native American enrollees are 11 percent less likely than all other students to earn a degree within six years. It’s no better at the Cal State system. Out of nearly 90,000 freshmen who entered a CSU in the fall of 2018, only 166 were Native American — that’s less than 0.2 percent. Those students earned their degrees at the same rate as their UC peers. Advocates say that lack of representation — almost to the point of invisibility — and a lack of support can help to explain the dire statistics of Native Americans in higher education. They say the state has a responsibility to make public higher education accessible to all students, but with Native Americans, there’s a heavier debt. “In some ways, our right to that kind of access to education is deepened by the fact that these institutions are built on indigenous peoples’ lands,” said Cheryl Crazy Bull, president of the American Indian College Fund.
Kevin Carey, The New York Times
Senator Bernie Sanders on Monday proposed canceling all $1.6 trillion of outstanding student loan debt in the United States, one-upping a rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has proposed canceling $640 billion of the debt. But there is a potential problem with the Sanders plan, and, to a lesser extent, the Warren plan. Their solutions for the past and plans for the future don’t line up. The scope of higher education borrowing is vast. There are over 44 million student debtors, and researchers estimate that as many as 40 percent could default. Other Democratic candidates have put forth proposals to make college cheaper and debt easier to repay. But none of the plans are so big as those from Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren. “I don’t often use the phrase, but today we are, in fact, offering a revolutionary proposal” that will let people “get all of the education that they need to live out their dreams,” Mr. Sanders said in introducing his bill. Both Mr. Sanders and Ms. Warren, who is sponsoring a separate bill, have proposed making all undergraduate programs at public colleges and universities free. That would reduce the need for borrowing. But it would not eliminate future student debt — not even close.
Public Schools and Private $
Andrew Ujifusa, Education Week
Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania has vetoed a bill that would expand the state’s private school choice program, a move that in part reflects increasing opposition in the Democratic Party to programs that grassroots activists and voters believe divert funding away from traditional public schools. Wolf, a Democrat, vetoed House Bill 800, which would have doubled money available for the Educational Improvement Tax Credit to an annual amount of $210 million. The program provides tax credits for donations to organizations that provide scholarships to private schools. The money can also be used to support prekindergarten programs. In his veto message, Wolf said the current tax-credit scholarship program “lacks accountability and oversight.” He also rhetorically questioned why the state would increase its funding when there are bigger priorities for K-12 in Pennsylvania. “We have public schools that are structurally deteriorating, contaminated by lead, and staffed by teachers who are not appropriately paid and overstretched in their responsibilities. Tackling these challenges, and others, should be our collective priority,” the governor said in his message.
Louis Freedberg, EdSource
As charter school conflicts intensify in California, increasing attention is being focused not only on the schools themselves but on the school boards and other entities that grant them permission to operate in the first place. They’re called charter authorizers, and unlike many states, California has hundreds of them: 294 local school districts, 41 county offices of education, along with the State Board of Education. In fact, California, with over 1300 charters schools, has more authorizers than any other state. That’s not only because of California’s size but also because it has an extremely decentralized approach to charter school authorization. Someone wishing to start a charter school, or to renew a charter, must apply to a local school district to get the green light to do so. If a petition is turned down by the district, applicants can appeal to county boards of education, and if they are denied there, they can go to the State Board of Education as a last resort. An emerging question is whether California’s authorizers have the skills, capacity and guidance to adequately oversee the charter schools under their jurisdiction.
Roland Li, San Francisco Chronicle
Stanford University is offering $3.4 billion in housing and $1.3 billion for transit and public education benefits as it faces pushback over a proposed 2.3 million-square-foot academic expansion over the next two decades. The school said in a letter Monday to Santa Clara County that it would spend $3.4 billion to construct 575 affordable housing units and 1,597 market-rate housing units. All the affordable units and 1,015 of the market-rate units would be built first, before 25% of the academic buildings are constructed over the next 20 years.
Other News of Note
Julia Terruso, The Philadelphia Inquirer
Helen Gym was cooking for her family’s Lunar New Year celebration when she received a call from Mayor Jim Kenney’s team. It was January 2017, and President Donald Trump had just issued an executive order prohibiting citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States. Could she help gather people at the airport to rally against the ban? Gym, a freshman City Council member, put out a call on Twitter, and contacted community groups, friends and elected officials. An hour later, the international terminal was filled with protesters. That night, amid similar rallies around the country, a federal judge stayed the order. “There’s hundreds of people, and we’re chanting ‘Let them in!’ and you know, that to me is like when our democracy is a living, breathing entity,” Gym said. “It’s not some static thing fixed and written in the 1700s. … We create it … and we can make change.”