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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
Catherine Gewertz, Education Week
Nearly 90 percent of the nation’s high school principals are contending with hostile clashes between students and a swirl of other problems that have been inflamed by the political division and heated rhetoric during Donald Trump’s presidency, according to survey results released Wednesday. The report, released by the University of California-Los Angeles, paints a picture of schools deeply affected by angry confrontations between students, and by confusion and fear arising from their growing distrust of information, whether it comes from mainstream news outlets or social media. The study also shows schools struggling mightily with polarizing debates about gun safety and immigration enforcement and with the ripple effects of opioid addiction. UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access studied 505 principals in communities that are nationally representative regionally, racially, and by family income and political party affiliation. In an online survey in the summer of 2018, the principals discussed how those five problems affected their schools during that year, and how they’d responded. Forty of the principals also participated in longer, followup interviews.
Andrew Ujifusa, Education Week
President Donald Trump is seeking a 10 percent cut to the U.S. Department of Education’s budget in his fiscal 2020 budget proposal, which would cut the department’s spending by $7.1 billion down to $64 billion starting in October. Funding for teacher development under Title II, totaling $2.1 billion, would be eliminated, as would $1.2 billion in Title IV funding for academic supports and enrichment and $1.1 billion for 21st Century Community Learning Centers that support after-school programs. In total, funding for 29 programs would be eliminated in the federal budget. On the other side of the ledger, Trump’s budget blueprint calls for $500 million for federal charter school grants, a $60 million increase from current funding levels. The president also wants $200 million for the School Safety National Activities program, which would more than double the program’s $95 million in current funding—of that amount, $100 million would be used to fund a new School Safety State Formula Grant program. There are no requirements for the grant program related to firearms, according to the Education Department. And the office for civil rights would get $125 million, the same as current funding. On the school choice front, the department says its main proposal has already been introduced: a federal tax-credit scholarship program from Republicans. The Treasury Department’s budget proposal includes $5 billion for the cost of such a program.
Erica L. Green, The New York Times
A federal judge has ruled that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos illegally delayed an Obama-era rule that required states to address racial disparities in special education programs. In a decision on Thursday, Judge Tanya S. Chutkan of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia called the Education Department’s delay of the special education rule “arbitrary and capricious.” The rule, drafted under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act, would require states to identify districts with “significant disproportionality” in the number of minority students channeled into special education services, segregated in restrictive classroom settings or disciplined. The rule, passed in the final weeks of the Obama administration, required districts to examine policies and practices that contributed to the disparities and fund remedies. The judge’s ruling vacates Ms. DeVos’s decision to put off the regulation by two years. Instead it will take effect immediately. Leaders in the Education Department said last summer that they needed time to study the rule’s potential consequences because they were concerned that it could promote unconstitutional “racial quotas.” Civil rights groups hailed the ruling as a victory over one of the most significant policy moves that Ms. DeVos has made to date. While the department has rescinded nonbinding guidance documents, which championed Obama-era practices for addressing racial bias, the special education rule is binding, and states had been preparing to enforce it for more than a year.
Language, Culture, and Power
Students press for bills requiring African American, Puerto Rican history to be taught in Connecticut high schools
Daniela Altimari, Hartford Courant
Dozens of students came to the legislature’s education committee meeting on Wednesday to support two bills that would require Connecticut schools to teach African American and Puerto Rican history. “This bill is important to me because knowing your history gives importance and a sense of identity and self worth,” said Shane Brooks, a student at the Science and Technology Magnet High School and New London High School. “Going to a public school with a lack of African American studies being taught in school system made me feel irrelevant and unheard…Going to a predominately black and Hispanic school and having all white teachers has been very difficult because I can’t relate to them and I have to listen to their white ideology. The history of racism should be a discussion of the curriculum because America was founded on racism which still affects African Americans.”
Corey Mitchell, Education Week
When people come across Michelle-Thuy Ngoc Duong’s name, they often see a stumbling block bound to trip up their tongues. The 17-year-old sees a bridge. A bridge spanning her parents’ journey from Vietnam to the United States. A bridge connecting the U.S.-born teen to Vietnamese culture. A bridge to understanding. “My name is where I come from,” Michelle-Thuy Ngoc said. “It’s a reminder of hope.” A junior at Downtown College Prep Alum Rock High School, a San Jose, Calif.-based charter school, Michelle-Thuy Ngoc (Michelle knock twee) is among the students backing “My Name, My Identity,” a national campaign that places a premium on pronouncing students’ names correctly and valuing diversity. The campaign—a partnership between the National Association for Bilingual Education, the Santa Clara, Calif., County Office of Education, and the California Association for Bilingual Education—focuses on the fact that a name is more than just a name: It’s one of the first things children recognize, one of the first words they learn to say, it’s how the world identifies them. For students, especially the children of immigrants or those who are English-language learners, a teacher who knows their name and can pronounce it correctly signals respect and marks a critical step in helping them adjust to school. But for many ELLs, a mispronounced name is often the first of many slights they experience in classrooms; they’re already unlikely to see educators who are like them, teachers who speak their language, or a curriculum that reflects their culture.
I didn’t have a teacher who looked like me till college — why I’m working to change that for the next generation
Casey Chon, The 74
When I saw Crazy Rich Asians for the first time last summer, I couldn’t stop crying during the movie. Yes, it was a beautiful movie, but those tears were not for the movie itself. They were because for the first time in my entire life, I had seen a movie where people like me were on the screen as main characters with a storyline, not just the comic relief or as a villain. Since then, I’ve reflected a lot on why that movie was such a significant moment for me. It’s because besides my family, I did not have positive role models growing up that looked like me. The first time I experienced an Asian-American teacher in a content classroom was when I was a junior in college. It should not have taken that long. I grew up in Purchase, a small town in Westchester, New York. In my town, there were not many other Korean-Americans. In fact, I was one of the only American students of color at Purchase Elementary School. My closest friends were ones who moved into town for a few years from other countries like Switzerland and Japan, and then moved back to where they were from. I don’t remember much from elementary school, but I do remember that I never felt like I fit in.
Whole Children and Strong Communities
David Washburn, EdSource
Nearly 400,000 K-12 students in California attend a school that has a police officer but not a counselor, according to a new nationwide report by the ACLU on the presence of police and mental health services in schools. The report used federal data that had not been released publicly until 2018 to make the argument that schoolchildren in America are over-policed and under-supported by health and mental health professionals. This reality harms school environments, increases students’ anxiety and exacerbates discipline disparities among students of color and those with disabilities, the report states. “Data show that school staff who provide health and mental health services to our children not only improve the health outcomes for those students, but also improve school safety,” the report’s authors wrote. “However, there is no evidence that police in schools improve school safety — indeed, in many cases they are causing harm.”
Kim Eckart, UW News
Students of color who attend schools with a culture that emphasizes the value of diversity — specifically schools whose mission statements mention goals such as serving a diverse student body and appreciating diversity and cultural differences — show better cardiovascular health than peers whose schools do not express such values, according to a new study. This same pattern did not emerge among white students. Cynthia Levine, a University of Washington assistant professor of psychology and the study’s lead author, said some people might wonder whether schools whose mission statements emphasize the value of diversity are really different environments from schools whose mission statements do not, or if is this just rhetoric. “We used another sample of schools in Chicago to check this, and we showed that schools whose mission statements mention diversity are schools where students of color are more academically successful and less likely to be disciplined,” said Levine, who conducted the study while a postdoctoral researcher at Northwestern University in Illinois. “For students of color, these schools that emphasize diversity are different environments in concrete ways,” she added. “They may feel more supported and valued there, in a way that matters for their health.”
Lauren Barack, Education Dive
Shirl Buss recalls 4th-graders finding their families’ homes on an 8-foot model of San Rafael, California, and putting markers down to note the locations. Taking part in the Resilient by Design project, the students during the 2017-18 school year were tasked with creating proposals on how to mitigate rising sea levels in their city — but the prospect of their communities or homes impacted by floods was neither depressing nor daunting. Instead, Buss notes, they were invested and excited. “Students were fierce [and] innovative, and this whetted their appetite,” Buss — creative director of Y-PLAN, part of the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Cities and Schools — told Education Dive. “They asked, ‘How old will we be when this happens? How high will the water be?’ Students were engaged and empowered.” Teaching students about urban planning has long moved beyond using textbooks to show how cities are built on grids. Instead, students are asked to take authorship themselves, either by creating new potential spaces within their communities — similar to the Y-PLAN project — or asking them how those communities can be redesigned and having them craft proposals with that mission in mind. All tap into project-based learning methods. Students work on a long term program together and often in assigned roles. The result is not just a working solution, but tools that teach them how to communicate and engage with others — skills they’ll need when they progress into the working world.
Access, Assessment, and Advancement
Catherine Gewertz, Education Week
The testing revolution sparked by the common core has all but evaporated in less than a decade, with only one-third of the states still using the federally funded assessments designed to measure those standards. Education Week’s fourth survey of state tests since 2014 shows that only 16 are still using the PARCC or Smarter Balanced assessments in math and English/language arts in 2018-19. When those tests were being designed in 2010 and 2011, 45 states reported plans to use them. But by 2014, a year before the tests became available, only half the states were still on board. By 2016, that number had dropped to 21. And now it’s dwindled to one-third. To have most states sharing the same assessments would have marked an unprecedented shift in U.S. educational testing: States had never before banded together in such large numbers to use one set of academic standards and tests. It was a grand experiment aimed at creating tests that better measured learning, and allowed parents and policymakers to compare student progress across the states. But opposition to the length and cost of the tests led most states to go back to buying or crafting their own. Political backlash against perceived federal involvement in what students learn was also a factor in that pullback, even though common-core advocates argued that federal funding of tests did not mean the government would shape the curriculum. Federal officials aren’t allowed to dictate what students learn.
Melanie Asmar, Chalkbeat
The staff at Knapp Elementary insist there’s nothing extraordinary going on inside their well-worn school in southwest Denver. And yet the students here, nearly all from low-income families and more than half of them learning English as a second language, post some of the highest growth scores in Denver Public Schools, an achievement that has earned the school state recognition six years in a row. In a district where families routinely drive their children across the city in search of a good school, a majority of students who bound up the concrete steps every day live right in the neighborhood. Principal Shane Knight said stability is the secret to Knapp’s success. “Nothing we do is dynamic or amazing in terms of, ‘Oh, this is something innovative,’” Knight said. “It’s the power of consistency and the power of doing the small things well.”
Katherine Long, The Seattle Times
A pilot program at the University of Washington is finding ways to better support black and brown male students, who often find the campus isolating and unsupportive, and who graduate at lower rates.
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
Hannah Fry, Richard Winton, Matthew Ormseth, and Laura Newberry, Los Angeles Times
In allegations that sent shock waves through academia, federal prosecutors on Tuesday accused top CEOs, two Hollywood actresses and a legendary fashion designer of taking part in an audacious scheme to get their children into elite universities through fraud, bribes and lies. The scheme, which began in 2011, centered around the owner of a for-profit Newport Beach college admissions company that wealthy parents paid to help their children cheat on college entrance exams and to falsify athletic records of students to enable them to secure admission to elite schools, including UCLA, USC, Stanford, Yale and Georgetown, according to court records.
Sandra Emerson, Enterprise-Record
In California, schools are legally required to identify homeless students, provide services to those students and report the data back to the state, yet a quarter of all schools in the state say that none of their students are experiencing homelessness. An audit of school districts aims to find if that answer is accurate. The audit, approved unanimously Wednesday, March 6 by the Joint Committee on Legislative Audit, will study barriers that schools face in identifying students experiencing homelessness, why (and if) those students are going unreported, and best practices to identify and provide services to them. The sample size for the audit will be small. Just three to five public school districts and a charter school will be selected for the questions, which will be conducted by the state auditor’s office. Districts will come from rural, suburban and urban areas, and at least one will come out of San Bernardino County and the San Francisco Bay area.
Aaron Gettinger, The Hechinger Report
The sunrise in rural central Michigan reveals a landscape of neatly divided cornfields crossed by ditches and wooded creeks. But few of the sleepy teenagers on the lumbering school bus from Maple Valley Junior–Senior High School likely noticed this scene on their hour drive to Grand Rapids along the two-lane Highway 66 and Interstate 96. They were headed from the two villages that make up their tiny school district — Nashville and Vermontville, total combined population 2,404 — to the DeVos Place Convention Center, where 151 colleges and universities had booths set up at a recruiting fair organized by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, or NACAC. The students were going to see the recruiters because few recruiters come to see them. Urban and suburban students may take college recruiting visits for granted, but recruiters rarely go to schools as small or as distant as Maple Valley, which serves fewer than 500 sixth- through 12th-graders. “When we think about an urban high school, a college recruiter can hit 1,500 students at a time,” said Andrew Koricich, an assistant professor of education at Appalachian State University. “To do that in a rural area, you may have to go to 10 high schools.” Rural households also have lower incomes than urban and suburban ones, the Census Bureau reports, meaning that rural students are less profitable for colleges — which often have to offer them financial aid.
Public Schools and Private $
Steve Lopez, Los Angeles Times
Echo Park resident Jackie Goldberg, a grandmother, great aunt and candidate for school board, says if she had school-age children, she would not send them to a charter school. Not even the one in her neighborhood that has been called one of the best in California. I might be a little biased here because I know the founder of Gabriella Charter School. But parents are impressed, too. And Gabriella, which has a waiting list of students trying to get in, has won a string of accolades over the years, including a Distinguished Schools Award last year from the state. Still, said Goldberg, she’d pick another school for her kids. “Right now, I would, because there are wonderful magnet programs and some of them are not filled, and I would prefer that, if I didn’t like the neighborhood schools,” she said. Why not the charter? “Because I know personally that my decision would unintentionally harm other children,” Goldberg said.
John Fensterwald, EdSource
new task force that will examine the financial impact of charter schools and report back to Gov. Gavin Newsom by July 1 met for the first time privately on March 7. Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond led the meeting, at Newsom’s request, and will chair the 11-member Charter Task Force. They include four individuals representing the state’s 1,300-plus charter schools, four public employee union representatives and three school district and county office of education representatives, including San Diego Unified Superintendent Cindy Marten. Thurmond appointed the members in consultation with the governor’s office, according to a press release.
Erica L. Green, The New York Times
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced Monday that she will no longer enforce a provision in federal law that bars religious organizations from providing federally funded educational services to private schools. The move comes after the 2017 Supreme Court decision, Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia Inc. v. Comer, in which the high court found that Missouri had unconstitutionally engaged in religious discrimination when it denied a church-run preschool publicly funded tire scraps for its playground. Ms. DeVos said that after consultation with the Justice Department, education officials determined that a provision in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the federal law governing the nation’s elementary, middle and high schools, was also unconstitutional. The law calls for students in public and private schools to receive “equitable services,” such as special education, tutoring or mentoring, and allows districts to hire contractors to deliver those services. But the law requires that those contractors be independent of “any religious organization.”
Other News of Note
John Rogers, UCLA IDEA
In this age defined by the presidency of Donald J. Trump, our nation is increasingly divided and our political atmosphere highly charged. The contentious environment contributes to other societal problems, even as it makes it increasingly difficult to deal with them. America’s schools are not immune from this division and incivility and are similarly challenged to address a range of issues that confront our society. In this new study, School and Society in the Age of Trump, we asked a nationally representative group of more than 500 high school principals how a broad set of social issues at the forefront of the Trump presidency are felt and affect students and educators within America’s high schools. We look closely at: 1) political division and hostility; 2) disputes over truth, facts, and the reliability of sources; 3) opioid addiction; 4) the threat of immigration enforcement; and 5) the threats of gun violence on school campuses. The study explores the impact on students’ experiences in America’s high schools as well as their learning and wellbeing. We also examine how high school principals throughout the U.S. responded to these challenges, and measure how the impact and responses differ across schools depending on student demographics, geographic location, or partisan orientation of the surrounding community.