Just News from Center X – June 3, 2022

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

362 School Counselors on the Pandemic’s Effect on Children: ‘Anxiety Is Filling Our Kids’

Claire Cain Miller and Bianca Pallaro, New York Times

American schoolchildren’s learning loss in the pandemic isn’t just in reading and math. It’s also in social and emotional skills — those needed to make and keep friends; participate in group projects; and cope with frustration and other emotions. In a survey of 362 school counselors nationwide by The New York Times in April, the counselors — licensed educators who teach these skills — described many students as frozen, socially and emotionally, at the age they were when the pandemic started. “Something that we continuously come back to is that our ninth graders were sixth graders the last time they had a normative, uninterrupted school year,” said Jennifer Fine, a high school counselor in Chicago. “Developmentally, our students have skipped over crucial years of social and emotional development.”

After a lockdown brings fears home, Denver students rally for gun control

Melanie Asmar, Chalkbeat Colorado

When Jude Keener-Ruscha realized the lockdown Thursday at Denver’s Northfield High School wasn’t a drill, they looked at the two good friends sitting next to them. “I thought, ‘Well, if I die sitting next to these two people, then it’s not that bad,’” said Jude, who will be a senior next year. “And that’s a thought no student should have in a classroom.”Jude was among about 75 Denver Public Schools students who rallied on the steps of the Colorado Capitol building Friday to call for gun control and an end to school shootings.

Targeting Children: Killing Fields in the Age of Mass Shootings

Henry Giroux, CounterPunch

Authoritarianism breeds violence, and revels in its use as a weapon of fear, division, and terror. The Republican Party in its white supremacy incarnation now holds firm to an absolutist view of the second amendment and argues that freedom is synonymous with unlimited gun rights.  For instance, in Texas, where 19 elementary children and two teachers were murdered by an 18-year-old with an  AR-15 type assault weapon, Governor Abbott defines freedom by putting into place laws that allow individuals to buy and carry guns without a permit. He and his fellow gun disciples refuse to recognize that with more guns comes more violence, especially in a country in which “a record 39,695,315 guns were sold to civilians in 2020.” Too much gun industry money flows into the pockets of Republicans for them to note or even care about the fact that “around 35 people in the U.S. are murdered with a gun every day [and] that more than 550 school shootings [have taken place] in the U.S. since Columbine.”

Language, Culture, and Power

Debate turns hot over UC proposal to set criteria for high school ethnic studies

John Fensterwald, EdSource

An influential University of California faculty committee has shelved a draft policy to require criteria for high school ethnic studies courses that critics characterized as narrow, ideological and activist. The professors who wrote the draft are vowing to fight for it, in what could become a combative and very public battle over who gets to decide what California high school students will learn about the heritage, history, culture and struggles of the state’s historically underrepresented groups. The proposal had gone through several iterations and had appeared to be on track to go before the UC Board of Regents for approval. Instead, the Board of Admissions and Relations with Schools or BOARS, which initiated the effort, has backpedaled amid continued questions and debate within and outside of UC.

Iowa Youth Academy Challenges Restrictions on Teaching Race in Education

Lisa Covington, Black Lives Matter at School Iowa

Educators, community members and students from across the state are invited to celebrate the need to “teach truth” about United States history on Monday, June 6, 2022 at The Englert Theatre. The action comes as lawmakers across 42 states seek to ban school curricula that include information about the role of racism, sexism, heterosexism, and other oppression in U.S. history which includes Iowa’s House File 802. Community members in Iowa are invited to celebrate how Black History and Ethnic Studies are taught in the face of state legislation.

Caught in an Educational Dragnet: How the School-to-Deportation Pipeline Harms Immigrant Youth and Youth of Color

Emma Tynan, Sarah Kim Pak, Ignacia Rodriguez Kmec, Mark R. Warren, The People’s Think Tank

In 2017, a high school sophomore named Alex doodled the name of his Honduran hometown and his high school mascot on a desk. This small action, which could have been addressed by asking him to wash it off, started a chain of events that led to Alex’s deportation from the United States. Alex’s family fled Honduran gang violence in search of asylum in the United States. Employing strict monitoring policies meant to remove members of the MS-13 gang from New York schools, school administrators and the resident school resource officer (SRO) misinterpreted Alex’s doodles as gang symbols. Alex’s resulting three-day suspension alerted immigration officials that he could be a “threat” to the United States, and after a lengthy detention, he was deported back to Honduras.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

School Meals May Help Families Fight Food Inflation

Caroline Danielson and Niu Gao, PPIC

Food and beverage prices rose by 8% between spring 2021 and spring 2022, outstripping most other categories of inflation that affect family budgets and hitting low-income families particularly hard. As prices continue to climb, families may be struggling to secure adequate food. For those with schoolchildren, access to school meals may hold promise as a buffer against price increases.Even before inflation took off, the pandemic created significant disruptions for some families. Between 2019 and 2020, food insecurity had jumped nationally among households with children, although it did not grow for all households. In spring 2020, 14% of California households with schoolchildren lacked access to sufficient food, based on the Census Household Pulse Survey. While the number fell to 10% in fall 2021 (and remained essentially the same in spring 2022), disparities across demographic groups continue to be wide: low-income, Black, and Latino families report food insufficiency at sharply higher rates than families overall.

Starting conversations on social and emotional learning with parents and teachers is critical for building family engagement

Emily Markovich Morris and Rini D’Souza, Brookings

“Build back better” and “build back equal” have become familiar slogans used to capture a global commitment to redressing educational inequities and system failures brought to center stage during the COVID-19 pandemic. These slogans are also a way for decisionmakers, educators, and communities to verbalize how and why our education systems are not adequately and inclusively serving all students and families. The Akanksha Foundation, a civil society organization based in Mumbai that works with government schools, is using “build back better” to create momentum for promoting the social and emotional learning (SEL) and well-being of students.

Project pairing students with and without disabilities seeks to bolster friendships, end isolation

Michele C. Hollow, Youth Today

After a year of remote learning and seeing each other online only, Elizabeth Mancini and Kelsey Heaney were glad to set foot on campus at The College of New Jersey last fall. “I spotted Kelsey and started running towards her,” Mancini said. “She saw me and ran towards me. We gave each other the biggest hug.” The college sophomores still hang out together as they nurture a friendship begun through Best Buddies, an international nonprofit that pairs students without learning disabilities with students with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

More student or faculty diversity on campus leads to lower racial gaps in graduation rates

Nicholas Bowman, The Conversation

College graduation gaps between Black and white students tend to shrink when there are more students of color or faculty of color on campus. This finding is based on analyses of 2,807 four-year U.S. colleges conducted by psychology researcher Nida Denson and me. Our research appeared as a peer-reviewed article in 2022 in Volume 93, Issue 3, of The Journal of Higher Education. Not only did we find that the gap in graduation rates between Black and white students is smaller at colleges with a larger percentage of Black students or faculty. We also found that the presence of one racial group may lead to smaller graduation gaps for other groups as well. For example, a greater percentage of Black students or instructors often helps shrink the graduation gap between other groups, such as Latino and white students.

Why community colleges are the perfect partner for green jobs — and good jobs

Sonya Christian, Hechinger Report

President Joe Biden and California Governor Gavin Newsom are investing significant federal and state dollars in new technologies — all in the pursuit of clean air, clean energy, healthier lives and green jobs for our communities. The discussions related to jobs are often framed from a historical perspective of competing interests — economic sustainability versus sound environment practices, corporate profits versus healthy communities. But I believe that with a green economy, we have the opportunity to show that these competitions are based on false dichotomies.

All Corinthian College Loans to Be Canceled

David Dayen, The American Prospect

For seven years, a collection of 15 “debt strikers” from the defunct for-profit education chain Corinthian Colleges have refused to pay back their student loans, after being duped into enrolling in schools that lied to them about the value of their degrees. The Corinthian 15 would eventually be joined by thousands of debtors from across the country, helping to spur a movement around the way America finances higher education. Now, they have finally won what they asked for from the beginning. The U.S. Education Department will announce tomorrow that it will grant blanket, automatic debt cancellation to all students of Corinthian Colleges, which disbanded in 2015 after a host of state and federal investigations into its misleading marketing and job placement claims. The department will also refund all borrowers with outstanding balances on their loans for payments they made.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Uvalde Students Fought for Desegregation in 1970s. Now Let’s Rise Up for Them.

Camilo Pérez-Bustillo, Truthout

Communities of Mexican origin and others throughout the United States, in Mexico and beyond, are mobilizing in solidarity with the suffering of the community of Uvalde, Texas. This includes student walkouts at more than 200 schools on May 26 in the first wave of a renewed national movement for rational gun control measures led by survivors and families of previous mass shootings in Parkland, Florida, and elsewhere. The horrific slaughter in Uvalde of 19 students and of two heroic teachers who died seeking to protect them should also remind us of all the ways in which children of color have been treated as if they were expendable, and the historical roots of these oppressive conditions. The children of Robb Elementary School are our children, who are emblematic of our families and our future: nuestro pueblo.

Illinois Will Investigate Possible Civil Rights Violations in Student Ticketing

Jennifer Smith Richards & Jodi S. Cohen, ProPublica

The Illinois attorney general’s office is investigating whether one of the state’s largest school districts, located in Chicago’s northwest suburbs, violated civil rights laws when police issued tickets to students accused of minor misbehavior. Attorney General Kwame Raoul told the Township High School District 211 superintendent last week to provide records on students cited for municipal ordinance violations related to school-based conduct or truancy, according to a letter obtained by ProPublica and the Chicago Tribune.

Attacks on Education Increased Worldwide During Pandemic

Global Coalition to Protest Education from Attack, Human Rights Watch

More than 9,000 students, teachers, and academics were harmed, injured, or killed in attacks on education during armed conflict over the past two years, according to Education under Attack 2022, a 265-page report published today by the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA). More than 5,000 separate attacks on education facilities, students, and educators, or incidents of military use, took place in 2020 and 2021, a significant increase over the previous two years. Researchers for Education under Attack 2022 found that the number of attacks on education and military use of schools increased from 2019 to 2020 by one-third, and continued at this heightened rate in 2021, even as schools and universities around the world closed for prolonged periods during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Democracy and the Public Interest

Progressives take a leaf out of the conservative playbook to target school boards [Audio]

Danielle Kurtzleben, NPR Morning Edition

A lot of people who run for school board are parents or teachers; 19-year-old Maryam Zafar is neither. “I have a lot of like, really close experience to a big chunk of the people that we are supposed to be serving as a school board,” she said. “And just because of my age, people automatically know that I have a unique perspective, whether they’ve heard it or not.” Zafar is a student at the University of Texas-Austin, and also a 2020 graduate of McNeil High School, in the Austin, Texas, suburb of Round Rock. “I am really privileged to have gone here; it gave me a lot of opportunities, but it wasn’t always a healthy or safe space for me and my friends, especially in regards to sexual harassment and assault,” she said in the courtyard of Round Rock High School on a recent spring afternoon, as students left school for the day.

Supreme Court likely to drop school voucher bombshell

Valerie Strauss, Washington Post

The public focus on upcoming Supreme Court rulings has been on Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide, and the Dobbs v. Jackson draft opinion overturning that precedent. But the court will also soon be handing down a decision in another case that could cause an earthquake for public education. The case is Carson v. Makin, which was brought to expand voucher policies that provide public money for private and religious education. The case involves a program in Maine that allows the state to pay for tuition at private schools in areas where there is no public school — so long as that private institution is “nonsectarian in accordance with the First Amendment.” Two families, along with a libertarian institute, brought a suit asking that courts require the state to include sectarian religious schools in the program.

Families of English learners must be allowed to engage and lead in district budgeting

Eduardo R. Muñoz-Muñoz, EdSource

California has a budgeting framework designed to engage communities in their aspirations and be adaptable to local needs. However, across the board, we are failing to connect meaningfully the families of more than 1.1 million English learners who make up 19.1% of our students in the state and are a source of linguistic wealth and vitality for California. Re-envisioning our system and charting new paths to address the educational needs of our diverse population is precisely the ethos of our school funding law in California, the Local Control Funding Formula, or LCFF, serving Californians since 2013.

Other News of Note

What Is Organizing, Anyway?

Beverly Gologorsky, The Nation

To begin, an anecdote. This past summer, a pigeon walked through my open balcony door while my attention was elsewhere. I shooed it out, but when I turned around two more pigeons walked out of my bedroom. In the 20 years I’ve lived in my apartment, this had never happened to me, though my balcony door was often open. All I could imagine was that those poor birds had gotten as disoriented as the rest of us in these pandemic years when nothing feels faintly normal.

But what is normal, anyway? Decades filled with war, inequity, poverty, and injustice? Really? Is this what we want—a society clearly failing its people? There are, of course, many groups working in wonderful ways to improve our lives, each of them a harbinger of what’s possible. These would certainly include Black Lives Matter, reproductive-rights organizations, and climate-change groups, as well as newly empowered union organizing, and that’s just to mention a few obvious examples.

Students Should Refuse to Go Back to School

Gal Beckerman, The Atlantic

It’s baffling. How can there be so much consensus among Americans about the need for stricter gun laws—63 percent want an outright ban on assault weapons—while we seem locked in this house of horrors, a schoolroom of slaughtered children around every turn, with no way out?

Yet moments of such misalignment, when the ideals of a critical mass clash with the rules that govern our collective lives, can also give rise to effective social movements. Most of us are unwilling to bear this American ritual any longer. The faces of those children. The unfathomable anguish of those parents, of those broken towns. The cruel inaction of politicians. At the same time, overwhelming evidence from countries such as Australia and Britain shows that reducing the number of guns in a society diminishes the possibility of mass shootings—and, I repeat, this is what a majority of Americans want.