Just News from Center X – March 10, 2023

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

‘Slavery was wrong’ and 5 other things some educators won’t teach anymore

Hannah Natanson, Washington Post

Excerpts from Mary Wollstonecraft’s “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.” Passages from Christopher Columbus’s journal describing his brutal treatment of Indigenous peoples. A data set on the New York Police Department’s use of force, analyzed by race. These are among the items teachers have nixed from their lesson plans this school year and last, as they face pressure from parents worried about political indoctrination and administrators wary of controversy, as well as a spate of new state laws restricting education on race, gender and LGBTQ issues.

‘I just found myself struggling to keep up’: Number of teachers quitting hits new high

Matt Barnum, USA Today

The data is in: More teachers than usual exited the classroom after last school year, confirming longstanding fears that pandemic-era stresses would prompt an outflow of educators. That’s according to a Chalkbeat analysis of data from eight states – the most comprehensive accounting of recent teacher turnover to date. In Washington state, more teachers left the classroom after last school year than at any point in the last three decades. Maryland and Louisiana saw more teachers depart than any time in the last decade. And North Carolina saw a particularly alarming trend of more teachers leaving mid-school year.

Want to Humanize Classrooms? Take a Page From Youth Organizers.

Matt Homrich-Knieling, EdSurge

In the winter of 2020, I participated in a two-day youth organizing retreat in Detroit. Young people from organizations across the city came together to learn about community organizing, build community and develop a city-wide education justice campaign. Throughout the retreat, I watched and participated as youth organizers critically analyzed their school  experiences and co-created ideas for school improvement campaigns. The physical space of the retreat offered plentiful resources to help everyone meet their needs: flexible seating, break tables for arts and crafts, snacks and affirmation envelopes for each student to write and receive encouraging letters.

Language, Culture, and Power

“The cost of learning English depends on who you are.”  A Conversation about language, learning, and identity with Dr. Ramón Antonio Martínez

Antero and Alix, La Cuenta

Reflecting on how he ended up studying and teaching about language practices in schools, Dr. Ramón Antonio Martínez offered a frank reflection on his own family’s relationship with language loss. Currently an associate professor in the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University, Dr. Martínez offers an in-depth look at the complex and racialized landscape of language learning in U.S. schools today. Today we share the first part of this longer conversation about multilingualism, language learning, and schooling. Across our conversation, Dr. Martínez makes personal connections to family, his interests in teaching, and the kinds of research questions he explores in a pursuit of educational and linguistic equity.

Family reunited after four years separated by Trump-era immigration policy [Video]

Zaidee Stavely, Ed Source

A father separated from his family by a Trump administration immigration policy was finally able to return to the U.S. last month, after almost four years. When José Luis Ruiz Arévalos left the U.S. in May 2019, he thought he would be gone six days. Instead, he was forced to stay out of the country for almost four years. His absence created emotional and financial burdens for his entire family and derailed some of his children’s college plans. His return, full of joy and tears, lifts a heavy burden on his children and allows them to continue their academic journeys toward college degrees. “Finally, our struggle of almost four years has come to an end,” said his wife, Armanda Ruiz, in Spanish. “I have the moral support and the economic support I didn’t have, and my daughter who left college can continue her studies.”

This women-led nonprofit wants Los Angeles to recognize and prioritize its Indigenous population

Nadra Nittle, The 19th

When Odilia Romero immigrated to Los Angeles from Oaxaca, Mexico, as a 10-year-old in the 1980s, she faced a significant language barrier. She was presumed to be a Spanish speaker because she came from Latin America, but she knew neither that language nor English. Fluent in the Indigenous language of Zapotec, Romero struggled to find resources in her mother tongue and encountered prejudice from classmates who derisively called her indio, or Indian. Culturally isolated, she dropped out of school in about the 10th grade.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

America’s school lunch crisis

Anna North, Vox

In 2020, when schools across the country closed to slow the spread of Covid-19, federal lawmakers did something unprecedented: They decided to pay for free lunch for every public school student in America, every day, no questions asked. Millions of children rely on free or reduced price meals at school, and policymakers knew that need would only grow as families faced a devastating pandemic. The effect of the free meals was dramatic. Parents, many of them facing layoffs, illness, and grief, no longer had to worry about the cost of lunch for their kids — which, at about $2.50 a meal, was a $50 monthly expense per child that stretched many families even in normal times. Instead, they could pick up a free, nutritious meal at their children’s school, or in some cases even have it delivered by school bus. As a result, food insecurity in at-risk households with children declined by about 7 percentage points between the beginning of the pandemic and summer 2021.

Recess is a critical part of a child’s education

By Jennifer Dunne and Matt Wood, Seattle Times

We’ve all seen what happens when children don’t get their wiggles out: Grocery store meltdowns, classroom outbursts and many tears. We all know the solution is simple: Children need time to play. As educators, we see children struggling to sit still at desks in our classes every day. Too often, kids with insufficient breaks to move their bodies can’t learn, become distracted or distract other students, resulting in behavior challenges. In our combined 30-plus years in education, much has changed. School went from kids enjoying engaging lessons and receiving three recesses a day to slogging at an institution aiming to create strong test takers. When adults reduce recess time in order for kids to spend more time sitting at desks with scripted lessons, learning becomes monotonous and kids check out, resulting in a loss of learning.

California’s juvenile justice system seeks to end the incarceration of girls and young women

Betty Márquez Rosales, Ed Source

Four California counties will soon be offering girls and young women in youth jails more community-based alternatives to being detained. The initiative follows a pilot in Santa Clara County, established in 2018, which found that most incarcerated youth in girls’ units were in jails for lack of somewhere safe to go. Even when probation officials recommended their release, the girls stayed in county jails because of a lack of appropriate alternatives, such as safe temporary housing in a foster home or financial support to avoid returning to an abusive relationship.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

The political excitement for pre-K is missing one key ingredient

Mackenzie Wilkes, Politico

Governors have big plans for the nation’s youngest learners, pressing universal pre-K as a way to both get parents back to work and shore up a pandemic-rattled early childhood education system.

What those governors lack are the people to do the job. Although President Joe Biden failed to push pre-K programs through Capitol Hill and later urged a divided Congress to “finish the job” during his State of the Union, a patchwork of state officials are trying to piece things together.

These students raised hundreds of thousands to make their playground accessible

Jonaki Mehta, NPR

When he’d go outside at recess, John Buettner would dream of learning the monkey-bars. The fifth-grader uses a wheelchair, so they aren’t accessible to him—in fact, most of the playground at Glen Lake Elementary School isn’t. Meanwhile, Betsy Julien would look out from her classroom window as she ate lunch, at the students in their wheelchairs, and thought, “Our playground is not set up for everybody in the school to play and have fun.” Julien’s own son is a third-grader at Glen Lake, in the Minneapolis suburb of Hopkins, and he uses a wheelchair, too.

Students switch up college plans as states pass anti-LGBTQ laws

Rose Horowitch, NBC News

Cody Nobles hopes to study environmental science or marine biology at a college on a shoreline town, where he can observe ocean life firsthand. But after his native Florida adopted legislation restricting LGBTQ rights, Nobles, who is gay, is planning to find a similar environment in a different political climate. The 19-year-old says he wouldn’t have to worry as much about discrimination or even physical assault in California. “I came to reality and realized that I might actually have to involve those things into where I go, because you never know where I might be going,” Cody said, expressing concern about the possibility of having to attend school in “a place that has a record of hate crimes or a very old-fashioned point of view when it comes to gender.”

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Why Poverty Persists in America

Matthew Desmond, New York Times

In the past 50 years, scientists have mapped the entire human genome and eradicated smallpox. Here in the United States, infant-mortality rates and deaths from heart disease have fallen by roughly 70 percent, and the average American has gained almost a decade of life. Climate change was recognized as an existential threat. The internet was invented. On the problem of poverty, though, there has been no real improvement — just a long stasis. As estimated by the federal government’s poverty line, 12.6 percent of the U.S. population was poor in 1970; two decades later, it was 13.5 percent; in 2010, it was 15.1 percent; and in 2019, it was 10.5 percent. To graph the share of Americans living in poverty over the past half-century amounts to drawing a line that resembles gently rolling hills. The line curves slightly up, then slightly down, then back up again over the years, staying steady through Democratic and Republican administrations, rising in recessions and falling in boom years.

Confronting global inequalities to end HIV/AIDS

Winnie Byanyima, Brookings

Africa is not on track to end AIDS by 2030. The global crises of the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine exacerbated intersecting inequalities—within Africa, as well as between Africa and the Global North. But there is good news: By tackling inequalities we can end AIDS. Here are four practical measures leaders can take. In sub-Saharan Africa, adolescent girls and young women are three times more likely to be infected with HIV than boys and men of the same age. The driving factor is inequality. Enabling girls to stay in school until they complete secondary education reduces their vulnerability to HIV infection by up to 50 percent. When we include comprehensive sexuality education and other measures for girls’ empowerment their risk is reduced even further

A Just Transition for Women: Working Toward Digital Literacy in India

Radhika Iyengar and Pooja Iyengar, State of the Planet

Let us begin with where we need to go. According to the International Labour Organization, a just transition means “greening the economy in a way that is as fair and inclusive as possible to everyone concerned, creating decent work opportunities and leaving no one behind.” Unfortunately, women are losing the battle to acquire green skills and the green jobs of the future. The transition we are discussing is already dropping the word “just.” Why are women losing the battle for getting skilled? Let us take a deeper look. The labor statistics in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa show that more women are joining the informal employment sector. In South Asia, 95% of women in the labor force are in informal employment. The percentage for sub-Saharan Africa is 89%.  These large populations joining the informal sector are alarming because much of the activities performed could be unpaid and exploitative.

Democracy and the Public Interest

There’s a Long History of Indoctrination in Florida Schools—on the Right

Tera Hunter, History News Network

When I was growing up, my Florida high school required me to endure a course called “Americanism vs. Communism.” I was hardly alone. Between 1962 and 1991, Florida mandated the class for all high school juniors or seniors in public schools. Each lesson had the same takeaway: “Americanism” was all good and “Communism” all bad. Keep this history in mind when you hear Florida Governor Ron DeSantis talk about his opposition to the College Board’s Advanced Placement course in African American Studies because it is “woke indoctrination​​.”

“Americanism vs. Communism” was one of only two statewide requirements for graduation; the other was functional literacy. The top educational priorities in the Sunshine State were apparently reading, writing, and anti-communism. The course title has stuck with me all these years, especially as a college professor of history, because it forecast today’s sham debate about education in Florida.

‘Just the tip of the iceberg’: Kimberlé Crenshaw warns against rightwing battle over critical race theory

Gloria Oladipo, The Guardian

The professor who is a leading voice on critical race theory has warned that the rightwing battle against racial justice education not only threatens US democracy, but encourages a revival of segregationist values and policies. Kimberlé Crenshaw is among top American academics and authors recently stripped from the latest draft of the advanced placement (AP) African American studies course being piloted in US high schools, after Florida’s rightwing governor, Ron DeSantis, led an aggressive backlash against it. The Columbia University and UCLA law professor and co-founder of the African American Policy Forum thinktank, believes that the escalations against racial history teaching, in Florida and elsewhere represent “the tip of the iceberg” of rightwing efforts to retract the progress since the civil rights era and push America towards authoritarianism.

Evidence That Vouchers Are Cannibalizing Public School Budgets


An ongoing concern about using public funds for private schools is that public education will suffer financial consequences as a result. A new report from Public Funds Public Schools, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Education Law Center suggests that this is indeed happening and quantifies the apparent losses to public schools, which 90 percent of the nation’s students attend. Co-authored by NEPC Fellow Samuel E. Abrams and Steven J. Koutsavlis, both of Teachers College, Columbia University, the report is titled, The Fiscal Consequences of Private School Vouchers. It finds that the share of gross domestic product allocated to K-12 education declined in the seven U.S. states with the longest-running private school voucher programs between 2008 and 2019, even as private school voucher spending more than doubled and public school enrollment rose.

Other News of Note

Remembering Judy Heumann’s lasting contributions to disability rights [Video]

Geoff Bennett and Judy Heumann, PBS Newshour

Judy Heumann, who has been called the mother of the disability rights movement, has died at the age of 75. President Biden, in a statement noting her passing, called her a — quote — “trailblazer,” a rolling warrior for disability rights in America. Heumann, who lost her ability to walk at age 2 after contracting polio, lobbied for legislation that led to the passage of the landmark Americans With Disabilities Act.Tonight, we hear her in own her own words, as we revisit her Brief But Spectacular take on the disability rights movement.

Our fight for disability rights — and why we’re not done yet [2018]

Judy Heumann, TED Talks

Four decades ago, Judith Heumann helped to lead a groundbreaking protest called the Section 504 sit-in — in which disabled-rights activists occupied a federal building for almost a month, demanding greater accessibility for all. In this personal, inspiring talk, Heumann tells the stories behind the protest — and reminds us that, 40 years on, there’s still work left to do.