Just News from Center X – March 11, 2022

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

‘Release the Dough’: Minneapolis Teachers Strike for First Time in More Than 50 Years

Kenny Stancil, Common Dreams

The Minneapolis teachers’ strike entered a second day Wednesday as union representatives and district officials resumed negotiations over smaller class sizes, improved student supports, and better pay. In addition to demanding caps on class sizes and counselors in every school, the union is seeking higher starting salaries for educational support professionals (ESPs) as well as “a 12% salary increase for first-year educators and 5% increase for second-year teachers,” the Star Tribune reported.

Debunking the myth that teachers stop improving after five years

Jill Barshay, Hechinger Report

The idea that teachers stop getting better after their first few years on the job has become widely accepted by both policymakers and the public. Philanthropist and former Microsoft CEO Bill Gates popularized the notion in a 2009 TED Talk when he said “once somebody has taught for three years, their teaching quality does not change thereafter.” He argued that teacher effectiveness should be measured and good teachers rewarded.

Teachers help students navigate misinformation, emotions, history of war in Ukraine

Melissa Gomez, LA Times

In Ricardo Martinez’s sophomore English classes, one question keeps coming up among his students as the Russian invasion of Ukraine gets bloodier and more destructive: Am I going to get drafted to go to war? While some of his students at Sotomayor Arts and Sciences Magnet in Glassell Park have been disengaged from the current news cycle, with its images of rumbling tanks and bombed-out buildings, others have expressed fear about what the war might mean for them.

Language, Culture, and Power

‘Every Parent Should Be Able to Feel This Way’: How Black School Leaders Build Trust With Families

Catherine Gewertz, Education Week

How the pandemic plays out for different families is complex. I do think that there is a socioeconomic component to it. I found that the families in our school who chose hybrid versus remote were white families or more-affluent Black families. More lower-income Black families chose remote. It’s an issue of trusting social institutions like schools or the educational system. If you talk to parents from low-income Black communities, I think they will say, ‘I don’t think that the schools are on our side.’

Spare the rod:  Punishment and the moral community of schools [Review]

Michael Apple, Education Review

The issues involved in student actions and school punishment are not new. Indeed, one of

my very first books was Schooling and the Rights of Children (Haubrich & Apple, 1975b), a

collective effort whose aim was “to establish a new perspective on the extension of liberties

and rights of children within the confines of the public schools” (Haubrick & Apple 1975a, p. ix). Like Spare the Rod, it too was deeply concerned with repressive forms of punishment, with the history of these forms, with worries that too often students lose their rights when they enter the school, and with what educators who were committed to creating more democratic schooling might do about such things. That early book certainly bears the mark of the period of time when it was published. But it is helpful to understand that Spare the Rod is actually a continuation of a set of issues that have been thought about for a long time.

Barbie doll that honors Ida B. Wells faces an uphill battle against anti-Blackness

Toni Sturdivant, The Conversation

When Mattel announced in January 2022 that it was releasing a new Barbie doll to honor Ida B. Wells – the famed 19th-century Black journalist and anti-lynching crusader – the company said the idea was to “inspire us to dream big.” However, while the doll may prove helpful to young Black children, its impact is likely to be limited. Although diverse groups are sometimes represented accurately within print and digital media, racist portrayals of Black people still persist. Young Black children can internalize racial messages from a variety of sources, including anti-Black messages from the media, interactions with peers and school practices, such as being disproportionately disciplined or suspended from school. This internalization can negatively impact young children’s feelings about their race and others.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

This seemingly benign education app seems harmless. It Isn’t

NEPC Newsletter

At first glance, it seems harmless, even heartwarming. Using feel-good language, its creators describe the digital product Along as a way to “supercharge” student-teacher relationships and further social-emotional learning by permitting children and teens to record brief video or audio responses to teachers’ questions about topics both superficial and light (e.g., their favorite movies) and deeply personal (e.g., their problems and values). Along was introduced in June 2021 by Gradient Learning and its partner, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. They designed the free product, Gradient explains, to help upper elementary, middle, and high school students “open up about who they are and what’s really on their mind—without peer pressure.” So  far,  so  good.  The  devil,  however,  is  quite  literally  in  the  details,  write  Faith  Boninger and Alex Molnar, co-directors of NEPC’s Commercialism in Education Research Unit, in a recent piece in Phi Delta Kappan, a journal for educators.

Meet the Incredible Activist Breaking Bias & Teaching Kids to Take Climate Action

Akindare Okunola, Global Citizen

As a child, Doyinsola Ogunye wanted to be a scientist and change the world, much like the characters in the cartoons she watched.  “I don’t know why, but I always wanted to invent things and create solutions,” she tells Global Citizen. Years later, she’s making it happen — not just changing the world but also inspiring kids to do the same. “In children’s formative years, it’s important that they know and are able to imbibe values and that will definitely change their outlook towards life. If we’re teaching 2 million children the right things to do, we know that in the nearest future, we’ll have more children and people supporting a cleaner and healthier environment,” Ogunye says, on the importance of educating children for the future.

19 Top Books for Tween and Teen Climate Activists

Liz Borsage, School Library Journal

Climate Justice is at the forefront of youth activism, from the school strikes led by Greta Thunberg to the water protectors fighting against the Keystone XL pipeline. Teens and tweens are going beyond reading about historical environmentalists and becoming eco-heroes themselves, battling for their own futures. The following titles illustrate what is happening on the individual and collective scale—highlighting not only the youths’ struggles but also what they are fighting for.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

Equity must be part of how we define quality in early learning, one report says

Karen D’Souza, EdSource

Quality is a term that gets bandied about a lot in the national discourse about early learning programs but there is little consensus on just what constitutes quality. Is it measured in test scores, joyful learning experiences, or equitable access to a diverse range of programs? Trust for Learning, a philanthropic partnership supporting early childhood education, recently released a report that investigates this question.

Prison Education Programs: What to Know

Sarah Wood, US News & World Report

During his nearly 14 years serving time in an Alabama prison, David Garlock wanted to do everything he could to better himself. That meant earning an education. While incarcerated, Garlock enrolled in trade school, where he earned a certificate in architectural and mechanical drafting. After he was released, he kept working toward his ultimate goal – a college degree.Nine months out of prison, Garlock was accepted at Eastern University in Pennsylvania. Because of the classes he’d taken in prison, he entered Eastern with more than 60 credits and eventually graduated with a bachelor’s degree.

What’s keeping California’s community college students from transferring? [AUDIO]

Education Beat Podcast

More than 2 million students attend California’s community colleges, which are billed as a good place for students to start a path to a bachelor’s degree. But when it comes time to transfer to a four-year college, too few are successfully making the jump. What’s keeping California’s community college students from transferring?

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Will Gov. Newsom do more to reduce California inequality?

Alejandro Lazo, Cal Matters

Gov. Gavin Newsom is an unlikely champion of California’s down and out. Yet the wine entrepreneur, who built his political career and fortune with help from the state’s wealthy elite, campaigned on a promise to address California’s disparities – and do so boldly. From his first day in office in January 2019, Newsom called the manifestations of California’s inequality – homelessness, poverty and rising costs – “moral imperatives,” not just policy priorities. “So long as they persist, each and every one of us is diminished,” he declared.

School meal programs in ‘financial peril’ after spending bill snub, advocates say

Erik Ortiz, NBC News

A sprawling $1.5 trillion spending bill that would fund the federal government beyond Friday doesn’t include special benefits put in place at the start of the pandemic for schools to ensure that every student is fed. The exclusion means child nutrition waivers would expire on June 30, potentially cutting off access to breakfast and lunch for millions of schoolchildren at a time of rising food costs, school nutrition advocates warn. “We all want to put the pandemic behind us, but what school meal programs face is nowhere close to normal,” Beth Wallace, president of the School Nutrition Association, said in a statement Wednesday. “We desperately need these waivers to manage unyielding supply chain disruptions and labor shortages, cover rapidly escalating costs and remain viable to support our communities.


Samohi removes honors English label in effort toward equity

Emily Sawicki, Santa Monica Daily Press

Freshmen and sophomores at Santa Monica High School will no longer be divided into “honors” and “regular” English classes beginning in the 2022-23 school year, a move that department personnel say will increase equity and positive outcomes for all students. “What we’re doing is, we’re saying this is a new paradigm,” Samohi English teacher Sarah Rodriguez said during the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) Board of Education meeting on March 10. “This is not about labeling students [or] labeling classes. It’s about saying all of our students are capable, and we’re going to meet them where they are.” The shift in programming inspired strong feelings both for and against the move, inciting a wave of opposition from several parents who spoke at last week’s hearing, as well as support from several students and parents who self-identified as people of color.

Democracy and the Public Interest

Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” Bill Is Poised to Become Law

Abigail Weinberg

The Florida state Senate voted Tuesday to approve a bill that would ban discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade classrooms. The bill, having already passed in the state House of Representatives, now heads to the desk of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is expected to sign it into law. Most of the bill is innocuous fluff, outlining parents’ rights to access their students’ medical records. This buries the offending bit, which reads: Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.

Cold War-era ‘Teachers’ Loyalty Law’ voted down by New Hampshire House Education Committee [VIDEO]

Grace Finerman, WMUR

State lawmakers voted against a bill influencing how teachers talk about race and racism in the classroom on Tuesday. The legislation titled “An Act Relative to Teachers’ Loyalty” would have updated a Cold War-era law banning educators from advocating for communism in schools and would have added restrictions on teaching topics like racism.

Despite Right-Wing Backlash, Racial Justice Education Is Still on the Rise

Eleanor Bader, Truthout

Shortly after Alabama’s state board of education passed a resolution last August to ban public schools from teaching or purchasing materials that “impute fault, blame,” or cause students “to feel guilt or anguish” about the legacy of slavery or ongoing racial injustice, members of the Birmingham, Alabama, school board pushed back by passing a resolution of their own. The sharply worded statement, “A Resolution to Advance Equity for All Students,” emphasized that city educators will continue to be proactive in “dismantling the pillars of unequal justice, bigotry and oppression” and affirmed that the city of Birmingham will provide resources and professional development to educators who “teach about, celebrate, uphold, and affirm the lives of all races and that support critical dialogue among students, staff and community members about the impact of bias and racism” both within and outside of school house doors.

Other News of Note

Teaching about Refugees

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Welcome to UNHCR’s Teaching About Refugees page. This page contains a collection of UNHCR teaching materials on refugees, asylum and migration for primary and secondary education, as well as some guidance for teachers working with refugee children in the classroom.

Open Access Book: Conflict in Ukraine

Rajan Menon  Eugene Rumer

Originally published in 2015, this book addresses a “current crisis” that has now manifested in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In the book, political scientists Rajan Menon and Eugene Rumer—experts in the international relations of post-Soviet states—clearly show what is at stake in Ukraine, explaining the key economic, political, and security challenges that were faced in 2015 and the prospects for overcoming them. For readers seven years on, the discussion of historical precedents, likely outcomes, and policy proposals provide necessary context to understand this conflict whose consequences will be felt for many years to come.

With thanks to The MIT Press and the authors in making this open access edition available.