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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
John Fensterwald, EdSource
Marshall Tuck and Tony Thurmond will face each other in the November general election for state superintendent of public instruction in what could be a closely contested and very expensive race funded by wealthy individuals who back charter schools and labor unions that want to restrict their growth. In other words, the race may look a lot like the last one, four years ago, when Tuck, a school reformer who has run charter schools and alternative district schools in Los Angeles, narrowly lost to State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. On Tuesday, Tuck edged Thurmond 37 percent to 34.3 percent, establishing himself as the front-runner to head up the nation’s largest and most ethnically diverse school system, with 6 million students. Tuck and Thurmond are both Democrats, but the office is nonpartisan — a candidate’s party affiliation is not listed on the ballot — and any candidate who gets 50 percent in the primary is the winner without requiring a runoff election. But two relatively unknown candidates with no prior political experience prevented that. Steven Ireland and Lily Ploski together captured 29 percent of the vote. On Wednesday, Ploski, who finished third with 17 percent, endorsed Thurmond, stating in a press release, “I urge my supporters to get behind Tony’s progressive campaign to make California’s public schools the best in the nation.”
Jessica Calefati, Los Angeles Times
With more than half a billion dollars socked away for next school year, the Los Angeles Unified School District hardly seems just two years from financial ruin. It’s a scenario that is especially tough to swallow if you’re a low-wage worker seeking a raise or a teacher who wants smaller classes. But budget documents show that today’s $548-million surplus cannot be sustained — and that even basic services face steep, seemingly unavoidable cuts because of massive problems barreling the district’s way. “There’s a disconnect between the rosy short-term picture and what we know is coming,” said board member Kelly Gonez. Board member Nick Melvoin, more bluntly, said, “We’re in a death spiral.”
Alia Wong, The Atlantic
What should be on the list of tasks for President Trump’s newly minted school-safety commission, charged with studying what can be done to prevent campus violence? Perhaps the commission, chaired by U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, should look at mental-health resources and student-discipline practices. And perhaps it should consider the design of campus facilities. One thing that would seemingly be an obvious candidate for the commission’s scrutiny is guns, as guns have been the weapon of choice in every major school-violence incident this year. And yet it became clear on Tuesday, as DeVos testified in front of a Senate subcommittee to answer questions about the Education Department’s fiscal year 2019 budget request, that will likely not be the case. Amid mostly peaceful exchanges about charter-school expansion, the recent wave of teachers’ strikes, and Pell grants, among other topics, a handful of Democratic Senators repeatedly asked DeVos how gun policy fits into the commission’s duties. She didn’t verbalize the G Word once, and at one point—in response to persistent questioning from Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy about the role of guns in school violence—DeVos dismissed that question as outside the commission’s charge. It’s up to Congress to debate gun control, she indicated; she and the commissioners are instead focusing their research on other potential sources of violence.
Language, Culture, and Power
Joy Resmovits, Los Angeles Times
Outgoing state Supt. of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson on Wednesday announced a new statewide effort to encourage students to learn more languages. Called Global California 2030, its goal is to help more students become fluent in multiple tongues. Torlakson said that by 2030, he wants half of the state’s 6.2 million K-12 students to participate in classes or programs that lead to proficiency in two or more languages. By 2040, he wants three out of four students to be proficient enough to earn the State Seal of Biliteracy. Torlakson announced the initiative at Cahuenga Elementary School, which offers a dual-language immersion program in English and Korean. California’s public school students speak more than 60 languages at home, and 40% come to school with knowledge of a language other than English. Torlakson called his plan a “call to action” that invites parents, legislators, educators and community members to pool resources to expand language offerings in schools and get more bilingual teachers trained. He said the state already is working with Mexico and Spain to expand a teacher-exchange program. Fluency, the plan argues, can help students succeed economically — and language acquisition can help their overall critical thinking.
Anya Kamenetz, NPR
Did you know that kids growing up in poverty hear 30 million fewer words by age 3? Chances are, if you’re the type of person who reads a newspaper or listens to NPR, you’ve heard that statistic before
Since 1992, this finding has, with unusual power, shaped the way educators, parents and policymakers think about educating poor children. But did you know that the number comes from just one study, begun almost 40 years ago, with just 42 families? That some people argue it contained a built-in racial bias? Or that others, including the authors of a new study that calls itself a “failed replication,” say it’s just wrong? NPR talked to eight researchers to explore this controversy. All of them say they share the goal of helping poor kids achieve their highest potential in school. But on the issue of how to define either the problem, or the solution, there are, well, very big gaps. With all that in mind, here are six things to know about the 30 million word gap.
Supriya Sridhar, Courier Journal
The Kentucky Board of Education unanimously approved standards Wednesday for the state’s controversial Bible literacy classes. The classes were criticized this year by the American Civil Liberties Union as an unconstitutional promotion of Christianity and Sunday school-style “religious life lessons,” and the organization sent a letter to the state requesting that it develop clear guidance for teachers. The classes were born out of a bill passed last year by the legislature creating state regulations for public high schools to offer elective literature courses on the Bible and Hebrew Scriptures. The bill reads that students will be given the opportunity to “explore the Bible’s relevance to contemporary society and culture.” Education board member Gary Houchens said the standards are meant to guide schools. “With this bill, it gave a framework for schools to be able to do it in a way, especially with state standards, that makes it more unified across the state and preserves the integrity of the course as an academic approach to the Bible,” Houchens said Wednesday. Kentucky Education Board spokeswoman Nancy Rodriguez said in an email that the department cannot determine curriculum to ensure teachers follow the standards but placed that responsibility with individual schools.
Whole Children and Strong Communities
Shawn Ginwright, Medium
From time to time, researchers, policy makers, philanthropy and practitioners all join together in a coordinated response to the most pressing issues facing America’s youth. I’ve been involved with this process for long enough to have participated in each of these roles. I recall during the early 1990s experts promoted the term “resiliency” which is the capacity to adapt, navigate and bounce back from adverse and challenging life experiences. Researchers and practitioners alike clamored over strategies to build more resilient youth. The early 2000’s the term “youth development” gained currency and had a significant influence on youth development programming, and probably more importantly how we viewed young people. Youth development offered an important shift in focus from viewing youth as problems to be solved to community assets who simply required supports and opportunities for healthy development. Since that time, a range of approaches have influenced how we think about young people, and consequently our programmatic strategies. I have, for the most part, attempted to nudge and cajole each of these approaches to consider the unique ways in which race, identity and social marginalization influence the development of youth of color. More recently, practitioners and policy stakeholders have recognized the impact of trauma on learning, and healthy development. In efforts to support young people who experience trauma, the term “trauma informed care” has gained traction among schools, juvenile justice departments, mental health programs and youth development agencies around the country.
Lori Higgins, Detroit Free Press
It’s nearly 90 degrees outside. You have 30-plus kids in a classroom. And you have no air conditioning. Is it too hot to learn? The answer, according to newly released research, is yes. A group of university researchers released this week the results of a study that found hot temperatures adversely affect academic achievement. For instance, they found that an average temperature increase of 1 degree in a school year decreased the amount learned that year by 1%. It’s a timely study. On Tuesday and Wednesday, students in the Detroit Public Schools Community District were released three hours early because of the heat. They also were expected to be sent home three hours early Thursday. The same thing happened in a few other charter schools and school districts this week. “That makes sense to me,” Thomas Niczay, superintendent of Hamtramck Public Schools, said of the researchers’ conclusions. His district dismissed students early Wednesday. Teachers tell him that students are often more lethargic and more irritable when the temps creep up. The study, published in the National Bureau of Economic Research, was conducted by researchers at Harvard University, the University of California-Los Angeles, Georgia State University and the College Board. Their conclusions are based on the scores of 10 million U.S. students who took the PSAT — a precursor to the SAT — at least twice between 2001 to 2014. Those scores were compared with daily weather reports from the same time period. “Cumulative heat exposure reduces academic achievement,” the researchers said in their report. The impact is most striking for black and Hispanic students. They argue that heat’s effects “account for up to 13% of the U.S. racial achievement gap.” That’s a reality, in part, because black and Hispanic students tend to live in hotter places than white students.
Stacey S. Horn and Stephen T. Russell, Oxford University Press Blog
Within its first month, the Trump administration revoked federal guidelines designed to promote protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or gender non-conforming youth (LGBTQ-GNC) public school students. This move received significant media attention, much of which focused on the challenges of growing up LGBTQ-GNC, and the unique role of schools as places that should be safe and supportive for all students. At issue is defining the rights of students to be protected based on LGBT-GNC identity or status. And yet these rights are regularly compromised through: harassment and victimization that is unchecked; unfair, punitive, and exclusionary discipline practices; and unequal access to supports, services, and curriculum that validate their identities and experiences. The groundbreaking study, Hatred in the Hallways, documented pervasive human rights violations perpetrated against LGBT youth in US schools. More recently, through an international convening and report, The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) firmly documented homophobic and transphobic violence as a global issue that has critical implications for positive development, health, and academic success of children and adolescence. The UNESCO report argued that bullying generally, and bullying related to sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) specifically, comprise a threat to the universal right to education established in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations.
Access, Assessment, and Advancement
Mary Louise Kelly, NPR
What is it like to design and build a new high school during the #NeverAgain movement? NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly talks to Dean Gorrell, superintendent in Verona, Wis., about how his team had to rethink the building of their high school after Parkland.
Evie Blad, Education Week
One in five school police officers say their school is not prepared to handle an active-shooter situation, according to a nationally representative survey of school resource officers conducted by the Education Week Research Center. And some school police report they haven’t been adequately trained to work in schools. Some also say their schools don’t set limits on their role in student discipline, which civil rights groups say is necessary to protect the rights of students. School law enforcement officials say some officers will never feel fully prepared for an event like a shooting because they are always looking for ways to improve. They also have to balance the need to be ready for unlikely worst-case scenarios with the everyday duties of the job that requires them, most essentially, to build trust with students. The survey findings come as elected officials and policymakers push to add more school-based officers in response to two large school shootings this year.
Adolfo Guzman-Lopez, KPCC
L.A. community college administrators say the first year of waived tuition for L.A. Unified grads, known as the College Promise, is benefiting students who are not in the program. Counselors say various supports are just as helpful to students as waiving tuition.
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
Marcella Bombardieri, The Atlantic
Russell Lowery-Hart spent a Texas winter weekend sleeping outside, even when a light rain fell and it grew so cold that he forced muddy shoes into his sleeping bag to warm his feet. By day, the 48-year-old became increasingly sunburned crisscrossing the streets of Waco, applying for fast-food jobs and searching for soup kitchens. He arrived at one charity at noon to find that lunch ended at 11:30; luckily, a homeless woman shared her cinnamon bread with him. He was unshowered and unshaven, in the same secondhand clothing the whole weekend. By Sunday morning, the humiliations had undone him. When a family heading to church crossed the street to avoid him, he hollered out, “I’m a fucking college president, you can look at me!” The family hustled away. But Lowery-Hart is, in fact, a college president. And he was on the streets to find a better way to lead a school where poverty intrudes into the classroom every day. Lowery-Hart is the president of Amarillo College, a community college on the Texas Panhandle, and he had driven seven hours down to Waco to participate in a two-day, two-night simulation of homelessness run by a religious charity, in the hopes of more deeply relating to his many students who live in poverty. “Just having a food pantry like we do isn’t enough,” Lowery-Hart said in a video diary recorded by a friend that Sunday morning last February. He was flat on the grass, still burrowed inside his sleeping bag as if fending off the trials yet to come that day. Then, in a kind of a forlorn chant, he added, “It isn’t enough, we’re not doing enough, we have to do more.”
26 states earn ‘F’ grade on school spending in Education Week analysis: Equity and effort often mismatched
Sterling C. Lloyd, Education Week
At a time when money is front and center as an education issue—fueling a recent wave of teacher strikes and legislative wrangling over resources—Education Week’s latest school finance analysis illustrates why the nation earns a mediocre mark on school funding and how fairly that money is divvied up within states. This second installment of Quality Counts 2018, which digs deeper into the C rating the nation received on school finance in January’s top-line report card, reveals much better performance on indicators of funding equity than on measures of overall spending: a B (86.5) for equity, but a D-minus (62.3) for spending. And the newly published analysis reveals some wide disparities among states. Wyoming, the consistent superstar in this category, earns the only A-minus (91.4). Five Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states—Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont—received grades of B-plus. At the other end of the spectrum, Idaho gets the lowest score of 59.7 and a D-minus. Three other states—Arizona, Nevada, and Utah—also receive D-minus grades.
John Fensterwald, EdSource
Despite some incremental progress, Los Angeles Unified officials continue to “evade” the requirement of the state’s education funding formula to spend substantially more on schools serving low-income children and other students who generate additional revenue for the district, authors of a study released on Tuesday wrote. In their fourth annual analysis of spending in the state’s largest school district, the United Way of Greater Los Angeles and Communities of Los Angeles Student Success, a coalition of organizations with the acronym CLASS, urged the district to spend hundreds of millions of dollars that it charges the district is diverting to general spending. The report also reiterated its previous call to funnel more of the additional revenue from the funding formula to the highest poverty, lowest-performing schools — instead of spreading it to most of the schools in the district. LA Unified’s school board agreed to do this four years ago, using a Student Equity Need Index that factors in a neighborhood’s health indicators, like asthma rates and exposure to gun violence, as well as a school’s standardized test scores. But the amount has totaled a small fraction of the funding under the formula, the study found. Bruce Fuller, a professor of education and public policy at UC Berkeley and director of the study, characterized the progress as “glacial incrementalism” in a statement. “We continue to see little fairness in how LAUSD distributes dollars to schools, ignoring whether they serve high or low shares of low-income children.”
Public Schools and Private $
Rad Berky, WCNC
The General Assembly has approved a measure to allow four Charlotte-area cities to open their own charter schools, essentially leaving the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. Critics have argued in the past that HB 514 may bring segregation back to our local schools. Passage of what was called HB 514 means Matthews, Mint Hill, Huntersville and Cornelius will be able to open their own charter schools. Critics say the four communities are all wealthy and predominantly white and will be able to give preference to their own residents for seats in those new classrooms. In a statement that came just minutes after the final vote of approval from the House, CMS said it was weighing possible responses, an indication that a lawsuit could follow. The statement went on to say, “Our community and state must always try to do what is best for our children and we owe it to future generations to stay focused on their needs.” Tuesday, a group of former CMS board members met with local members of the clergy to say they were concerned about what would happen if HB 514 passed. “In a time when we have increased diversity in our community, we should not isolate our schools along racial and socioeconomic lines,” said former board member Wilhelmenia Rembert.
Ned Barnett, The News & Observer
Superior Court Judge Robert Hobgood is owed an apology. The judge, who retired at the end of April after 38 years on the bench, ruled in 2014 that the law establishing North Carolina’s new school voucher program was unconstitutional for several reasons, one being that it sets no academic standards for schools receiving public funds. That failure, he noted, meant that the schools receiving vouchers could ignore the state Constitution’s requirement that publicly funded schools provide a sound, basic education. “The General Assembly fails the children of North Carolina when they are sent with public taxpayer money to private schools that have no legal obligation to teach them anything,” Hobgood said. In 2015, the state Supreme Court’s Republican-backed majority — Chief Justice Mark Martin and Justices Robert Edmunds, Barbara Jackson and Paul Newby — voted 4-3 to reverse Hobgood’s ruling. That allowed the voucher program known as “the Opportunity Scholarships program” to go forward. Four years later, experience has rendered its own verdict. It finds for Hobgood. A recent League of Women Voters review of curricula used at schools receiving vouchers found that most are “biblical world view” schools where Bible stories are taught as scientific and historic facts. Taxpayers are paying for students to be taught that the world is 6,000 years old, that the Genesis flood created the Grand Canyon, that evolution didn’t happen and that environmentalism is a liberal plot. UNC-Chapel Hill professors who reviewed history and science textbooks used at the schools describe them as inaccurate “nonsense” and said they fall far short of educational standards.
Thornton charter school for gifted and talented is under federal scrutiny for harassment and discrimination
Monte Whaley, The Denver Post
Colorado’s largest charter school for gifted and talented students has been hit with eight civil rights complaints in two years. But administrators at Stargate Charter School, in Thornton, say they have learned their lesson and are making changes to better address allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination against disabled students. The complaints include the school’s mishandling of allegations that a former coach groped students and the school’s treatment of students with disabilities. The school has followed steps laid out by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, including employee training, a full review of the school’s processes for handling complaints and bringing on a Title IX coordinator, Jan Kulmann, Stargate’s governing board president said. The school’s executive director stepped down in April. “While the board and administration take full responsibility for certain weaknesses in our administrative processes, we have taken this situation as an opportunity to review and strengthen those processes to better serve our students,” Kulmann said. But parents, many of whom remain fiercely loyal to Stargate, worry the school’s checkered past could prompt the Adams 12 School District — where the 1,400-enrollment K-12 school resides — to revoke its charter and make it a district-run, not independently operated, school. That could stymie the high-achieving atmosphere that prompted them to enroll their kids at Stargate in the first place.
Other News of Note
Corwin Haeck, KOMO
“It was the last dream of Dr. Martin Luther King and a half century after his death it remains unfulfilled. I’m Corwin Haeck with another KOMO Extra and 50 years ago this weekend, thousands camped out in Washington, D.C. for what was known as ‘The Poor People’s Campaign.’ Dr. King had begun organizing the campaign shortly before an assassin struck him down.”