Just News from Center X – March 11, 2016

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Emily Goldberg, Los Angeles Magazine

Los Angeles Unified School District has weathered its fair share of hardship. The second biggest school district in the nation is no stranger to controversy, and 80 percent of students live at or below the poverty line. Yet too often, we hear only the bad news. Take high school social studies teacher Daniel Jocz, for example. In his 11 years teaching, Jocz has gone above and beyond in his efforts to better educate his students and inspire them both inside and outside of the classroom. In January this commitment earned him some much-deserved recognition when he was chosen as one of four finalists for 2016’s National Teacher of the Year.  (The winner will be announced in April.)


Thomas Toch, The Atlantic

The Obama administration has worked hard to strengthen public-school teaching—a $400 billion-plus workforce, and perhaps the single strongest lever in schools for raising student achievement. But just after Thanksgiving, the president signed a major new education law that largely abandoned the cornerstone of his teacher agenda: pressing states and school districts to take more seriously the task of identifying who in the profession was doing a good job, and who wasn’t. Two powerful forces at opposite ends of the political spectrum had attacked the president’s strategy—teacher unions wanting to end the new scrutiny of their members and Tea Party members targeting the Obama plan as part of a larger anti-Washington campaign. As a result, the new Every Student Succeeds Act terminates the Obama administration’s incentives for states and school districts to introduce tougher teacher-evaluation systems. And the law effectively bans the U.S. Secretary of Education from promoting teacher-performance measurements in the future.


John Cassidy, The New Yorker


One of the most intriguing moments in Sunday night’s Democratic debate came when CNN’s Anderson Cooper asked Hillary Clinton, “Do you think unions protect bad teachers?” In the Democratic Party, few subjects are as incendiary as education. On one side of the issue are the reformers, such as Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York, who support charter schools, regular testing, and changing labor contracts to make it easier to fire underperforming teachers. On the other side are the defenders of public schools, such as Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York City, who are seeking to impose limits on the charter movement, modify testing requirements, and stand up for teachers.


Language, Culture, and Power


Melinda D. Anderson, The Atlantic

In Tucson, Arizona, Che Guevara posters and Paulo Freire’s The Pedagogy of the Oppressed are the spark that set off a heated conflict over ethnic studies that has made national headlines for years. For critics, including two former state schools superintendents, the Mexican American studies program in the Tucson Unified School District is little more than divisive propaganda: “ethnic chauvinism” with a “very toxic effect … in an educational setting.” For supporters, reading literature on Chicano history in America and critical race theory is intended to close cultural gaps in the curriculum—and to close academic gaps for the district’s Hispanic students.


Daniela Gerson, Los Angeles Times

Maria Onate had not read a book until her son started high school. Her illiterate parents ended her schooling when she was 15, informing her that she had to get ready for marriage and work to help support the family in their rancho in Puebla, Mexico. More than two decades later, she was shocked when the parent center coordinators at her son’s new high school, Bravo Medical Magnet, suggested she join a book club. She was there for her child’s education. She thought it was too late for her own.


Corey Mitchell, Education Week

Acting Education Secretary John B. King Jr. told a gathering of English-language-learner educators that the nation’s new federal K-12 law could help broaden the definition of a well-rounded education to include biliteracy. In a three-minute video address to the National Association of Bilingual Education’s annual conference in Chicago, King touted the potential benefits of the Every Student Succeeds Act for English-learners and all students.

Access, Assessment, and Advancement

Ronald Brownstein, The Atlantic

Americans continue to see expanding access to education as the best strategy for widening opportunity in the modern economy, but remain conflicted as to whether to extend that commitment to dramatically widening the pathway to higher education, the Atlantic Media/Pearson Opportunity Poll has found. The survey found that big majorities of Americans, across racial, partisan, and generational lines, support expanding access to pre-school for more young children.


Sara Goldrick-Rab and Nancy Kendall, The Century Foundation

The high price of college is the subject of media headlines, policy debates, and dinner table conversations because of its implications for educational opportunities, student and family pocketbooks, and the economy. Some people caution against giving too much weight to the advertised price of a college education, pointing out that the availability of financial aid means that college is not as expensive as people think it is. But they overlook a substantial problem: for many students, the real price of college is much higher than what recruitment literature, conventional wisdom, and even official statistics convey. Our research indicates that the current approach to higher education financing too often leaves low-income students facing unexpected, and sometimes untenable, expenses.


Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, The Washington Post

A growing body of research suggests that African Americans are bearing the brunt of the student debt burden, as they are more likely than other groups to borrow for college and fall behind on payments. It goes to reason that a sweeping overhaul of college pricing, be it the elimination of tuition at public universities or reduction of interest rates on student loans, would have the greatest impact on African American students. And just who would usher in such a change? Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. That’s the premise of a new academic paper that touts the Democratic presidential candidate’s proposal of free tuition for everyone attending state colleges and universities.

Mikhail Zinshteyn, The Atlantic

The SAT has been called out of touch, instructionally irrelevant, and a contributor to the diversity gaps on college campuses because the test arguably benefits wealthier students who can afford heaps of test preparation. But now the SAT is fighting back.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Kelly Candaele, Capital and Main

I turned off onto a long dirt road about 15 miles outside of Montevideo, Uruguay and drove towards a wooden guard shack that stood across from a small farmhouse hidden by a long row of trees. Usually, if you want to meet a country’s president – or even ex-president – you have to fight through layers of bureaucracy, confirm that you are not a threat and have a very good rationale for being considered worthy to talk to. But in the case of Uruguay’s former head of state, José “Pepe” Mujica, you simply find your way to his home – something that apparently 30 or 40 people do every day.


Emily Deruy and Janie Boschma, The Atlantic

Charlotte, North Carolina, wants to change its status as one of the worst places in the United States for poor children to have a shot at getting ahead as adults. If the city succeeds, its efforts may offer a roadmap for other major metro areas gripped by barriers such as concentrated poverty and school segregation.


Julia Daniel and Jon Snyder, National Education Policy Center

Research literature finds that community school models offering various agreed-upon features provide an excellent social return on investment and significant promise for providing opportunities for learning and promoting well-being in students and communities. This brief by Julia Daniel, a doctoral student at the National Education Policy Center and Jon Snyder, Executive Director of the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education, summarizes the empirical basis for several features of community schools.


Philippa Strum, Los Angeles Times

In the coverage of the 2016 election cycle, you’ll hear this time and again: Latinos — immigrants and their families — are playing an important role in electing the next U.S. president. They are the largest minority group in the nation, and they are poised to make a major impact on American democracy. It won’t be the first time. Seventy years ago, Mexican immigrants moved American civil rights forward, away from racial segregation toward integration and equality. It happened eight years before the Supreme Court began to dismantle segregation by handing down its decision in Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954.


Public Schools and Private $

Motoko Rich, New York Times

The 70 teachers who showed up to a school board meeting here recently in matching green and black T-shirts paraded in a circle, chanting, “Charter schools are not public schools!” and accusing the superintendent of doing the bidding of “a corporate oligarchy.”


Jeff Bryant, Campaign for America’s Future

The rapid expansion of the charter school industry across the country continues to be dogged by high-profile scandals, lurid news reports, and studies showing widespread corruption and fraud.

Benjamin Herold, Education Week

Developing new software for K-12 schools. Investing in hot ed-tech startups. Donating tens of millions of dollars to schools experimenting with fresh approaches to customizing the classroom experience. All are part of a new, multi-pronged effort by Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, pediatrician Priscilla Chan, to use their massive fortune to reshape public education with technology.


Other News of Note

Robin D. G. Kelley, Boston Review

In the fall of 2015, college campuses were engulfed by fires ignited in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri. This is not to say that college students had until then been quiet in the face of police violence against black Americans. Throughout the previous year, it had often been college students who hit the streets, blocked traffic, occupied the halls of justice and malls of America, disrupted political campaign rallies, and risked arrest to protest the torture and suffocation of Eric Garner, the abuse and death of Sandra Bland, the executions of Tamir Rice, Ezell Ford, Tanisha Anderson, Walter Scott, Tony Robinson, Freddie Gray, ad infinitum.


Peter Balonon-Rosen, WBUR

Hundreds of students across Boston walked out of their classes on Monday to protest proposed districtwide budget cuts. Boston Public Schools is facing an up to $50 million budget shortfall for the 2016-2017 school year. As a result, individual schools across the district are bracing to lose teaching positions, extracurricular activities, librarians, language programs and music and arts classes.


Just News from Center X is a free weekly education news blast edited by Jenn Ayscue.