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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
Learning for Justice
It’s another morning of mourning. On Tuesday night, shootings at two separate massage parlors resulted in the deaths of eight people, including six Asian American women, according to reports. It’s impossible to remove the tragedy from its context. After a year of rising numbers of hate crimes, racist rhetoric and violence against AAPI people, a recent spate of violence, particularly against elders, have left Asian American communities reeling. Now this. There is a lot we still don’t know about this developing story. More will arise about the shooter’s actions and motives. And more will arise about the lost loved ones left in the wake of this violence. There is also a lot that we know. We know that public and private figures alike have spent the past year scapegoating, dehumanizing, stereotyping and enacting violence against AAPI communities for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic. We know that recent violence and bullying has left AAPI families fearful of sending their kids to school.
Kalyn Belsha, Chalkbeat
School districts that were planning to spend some of their pandemic relief money on Covid testing got another financial boost Wednesday, as federal health officials announced they would provide $10 billion to states and some cities specifically for COVID testing in schools. The money, which will come from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, can be used to help schools put new testing programs into place or to pay for existing ones. It will help cover the costs of diagnosing students or staff who come to school with symptoms, as well as the routine screening of asymptomatic students and teachers that has allowed some schools to keep their buildings open during the pandemic. The Biden administration said the money, included in the $1.9 trillion stimulus package that the president signed into law last week, is part of its bigger effort to reopen more schools for in-person learning this spring, though the money likely will also be useful next fall. “Our main message here is that we want schools to have the resources so that they can add this layer of mitigation,” said Carole Johnson, who coordinates testing for the White House’s COVID response team.
Erica L. Green, New York Times
Tucked into the $1.9 trillion pandemic rescue law is something of a surprise coming from a Democratic Congress and a president long seen as a champion of public education— nearly $3 billion earmarked for private schools. More surprising is who got it there: Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader whose loyalty to his constituents diverged from the wishes of his party, and Randi Weingarten, the leader of one of the nation’s most powerful teachers’ unions, who acknowledged that the federal government had an obligation to help all schools recover from the pandemic, even those who do not accept her group. The deal, which came after Mr. Schumer was lobbied by the powerful Orthodox Jewish community in New York City, riled other Democratic leaders and public school advocates who have spent years beating back efforts by the Trump administration and congressional Republicans to funnel federal money to private schools, including in the last two coronavirus relief bills. Democrats had railed against the push by President Donald J. Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, to use pandemic relief bills to aid private schools, only to do it themselves.
Language, Culture, and Power
Jennifer DePaoli , Laura E. Hernández, Roberta C. Furger, Linda Darling-Hammond, Learning Policy Institute
The compounding effects of systemic racism and the coronavirus pandemic have posed significant challenges to students, practitioners, and schools, particularly for Black and Latinx students who have borne the brunt of structural inequities. But these events have also created an opportunity for educational leaders to rethink school structures to better address the needs and nurture the assets of young people in the short and long term. This brief describes how schools can ameliorate—rather than exacerbate—racial inequities with research-based practices that advance a restorative approach to schooling and make learning environments more supportive, equitable, and anti-racist.
John Fensterwald, EdSource
On Thursday, the State Board of Education will adopt an Ethnic Studies Model Curriculum for high schools that is four years, four drafts, three public vetting periods and 100,000 comments in the making. Had they more time and an endless reservoir of patience, the board, the California Department of Education and the Instructional Quality Commission, which reports to the state board, could have continued to refine what and how ethnic studies should be taught. But the Legislature set an April 1 deadline to pass the model curriculum, and more iterations would not resolve the irreconcilable differences between its staunchest advocates and critics. The model curriculum, while voluntary for districts to adopt, is intended to build upon ethnic studies courses already offered as electives in hundreds of high schools. Two of the state’s largest districts indicated they intend to require an ethnic studies course for graduation: Fresno Unified next year and Los Angeles Unified in 2022-23. Reinforcing the growing movement is research showing the power of ethnic studies to engage Black and Latino students is compelling, though limited. Most often cited is a 2014 study by Stanford University professors Thomas Dee and Emily Penner of struggling 9th-graders in San Francisco. That report, soon to be updated, showed that taking ethnic studies taught by skilled instructors led to significantly improved attendance, grades and credits.
To serve kids in the pandemic, a tribe and a Washington school district create a unique learning space
Dahlia Bazzaz, Seattle Times
Fourteen-year-old Roger Tinoco-Wheeler jumped at the chance to be back with friends twice a week at his Port Angeles middle school in January. But when it comes to learning, he’s grown to love an environment much closer to home: surrounded by extended family members in a small, salmon-colored building just down the road from his house, where tutors and adults in his tribe have taught him since last fall. At the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe’s learning center, tucked in the tribe’s reservation on the Olympic Peninsula, Roger and dozens of other students get support with online schoolwork and relief from long days spent at home. A tutor there helped raise his math grade from an F to a B in just a few weeks, and shares his love of anime. The mandatory device-free time liberated him from distractions on his phone. Trail walks around the reservation, and trips to the recreation center, helped fill the void of not playing sports. After experiencing how health measures transformed the way his school operates in person, where meals aren’t eaten together and some group activities are paused for social distancing, this tight-knit pod feels like more than a temporary solution while school buildings were closed.
Whole Children and Strong Communities
Tyrone Howard and Jaleel Howard, Educational Leadership
The education of Black boys has been a topic of discussion for the past four decades. Scholars, practitioners, and policymakers have all weighed in on the challenges affecting Black male students (Harper & Wood, 2016; Howard, 2014). Despite the increasing body of research and commentary, however, disparate academic outcomes for this group of learners (compared with students in other demographics) remain. As a father of three Black young men and a researcher on equity in schools and the experiences of Black students (Tyrone) and a former middle-school teacher, current PhD student, and author (Jaleel, who also happens to be one of Tyrone’s sons), our goal here is not to go through a litany of statistics to demonstrate what is “wrong” with Black boys or how consistently they “fail.” To the contrary, we believe that those concerned about both Black male students and equity have to engage in a different set of questions and frame an analysis of Black boys’ experiences and outcomes in schools differently. It’s important to use an equity-centered analysis when looking at how Black boys experience schools.
Alfredo Santana, Wave Publication
For education advocate Mary Johnson, the COVID-19 pandemic brought a new chapter in her fight to increase grassroots involvement in academic success and college readiness for area students. In the last 22 years, Johnson’s nonprofit organization Parent-U-Turn has reached out to parents in Southeast Los Angeles County, building bridges of communication between teachers and administrators about the learning conditions that many poor students endure.
But last March, her job got more complicated as districts canceled in-person teaching, and courses migrated online to control the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus. The COVID-19 pandemic uncovered deeper holes with virtual classes in households unprepared for the challenge. Now, students wrestle with problems most often seen in Third-World countries: they lack computers and laptops to complete assignments, noisy neighbors play loud music that extends overnight, and parents lack basic reading and writing skills to help.
Valerie Stauss, Washington Post
I recently posted a piece by a university professor titled Rachael Gabriel who took a counterintuitive view of the “learning loss” that students have sustained during the coronavirus pandemic. She argued that there is no such thing as learning loss but that, rather, students are learning things during the pandemic that aren’t measured on standardized tests. The following piece, by Bridget Terry Long, dean of Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, takes a different view of learning loss. She argues that it isn’t only academics that students have lost but also mental health and trauma supports— and that America needs to think broadly about using additional support systems, such as tutors and nurses and counselors, to help kids regain what they have missed during the pandemic. The two pieces are both interesting reads.
Access, Assessment, Advancement
Lauren Camera, US News & World Report
In January 2017, mere days before former President Donald Trump’s inauguration, the outgoing cabinet secretaries of the Obama administration sat beside the incoming cabinet secretaries – many still in the confirmation process – for a joint cabinet meeting that had become an important tradition to ensure a smooth transition of power from one administration to the next. The lengthy meeting was designed as a sort of role-playing exercise, in which they were given a series of potential national crises. The soon-to-be former secretaries huddled with their replacements and outlined how they dealt with similar situations during their tenure, what issues might arise and what protocols were in place to ensure each part of the federal government could tackle the crisis effectively. As former Education Secretary John King tells it, one of the scenarios given to the room was how to deal with a pandemic. But not just any pandemic – specifically, how to deal with a respiratory illness that originated overseas and spiraled into a global pandemic.”We talked about the need to have clear, science-based communication with the public, and part of that included having good data,” says King, who was paired with Betsy DeVos, now a former education secretary herself, but still in the confirmation process at the time of the transition meeting. Three years later that exact scenario shuttered every school district in the country for more than 50 million children in the U.S.
Peter Goodman, NEPC
Secretary of Education Designee Cardona testified at his Senate Education Committee confirmation hearing (Watch here); committee members have five minutes to ask and receive answers: a preview of Cardona policies? Maybe. One of the first questions was whether he would grant waivers allowing states not to administer standardized grades 3-8 tests. Chalkbeat reports, Miguel Cardona sent mixed messages… how he would approach federally required standardized testing this year, “If the conditions under COVID-19 prevent a student from being in school in person, I don’t think we need to be bringing students in just to test them,” But he suggested he still believes testing could be useful this year. “If we don’t assess where our students are and their level of performance, it’s going to be difficult for us to provide targeted support and resource allocation in the manner that can best support the closing of the gaps that have been exacerbated due to this pandemic,”
Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times
UC Merced announced Monday that it would guarantee a freshman seat to eligible local students, the first University of California campus to do so in an effort to expand college access in one of the state’s most underserved areas. University officials are aiming to motivate more students in the San Joaquin Valley— which lags behind other California regions in high school graduation rates— to pursue college. Only 30% of Merced Union High School District students complete the college preparatory coursework required for UC admission, said Charles Nies, UC Merced’s vice chancellor of student affairs. “[This] is not a free pass,” UC Merced Chancellor Juan Sánchez Muñoz said Monday at El Capitan High School in Merced. “It is our way of saying to young people … that make the grade, that have the wherewithal, that make an effort that we’ll have a place for you.” The plan comes amid growing national and state pressure to increase college access, especially to disadvantaged students. Earlier this year, Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed a “dual admission” system that would grant an admission guarantee into UC or California State University to high school graduates who do not gain immediate freshman entry, but could transfer after they complete required community college coursework. By giving them conditional admission upfront, proponents say, students would be more likely to stay on the path to a four-year degree.
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
Sonya Douglass Horsford, Education Week
In 1990, educational theorist Beverly Gordon warned, “The 21st century will be marked by the struggles of people of color for position, credibility, and respect within Western societies.” She described the greatest battle as being that for the control over the education of minority groups in white-dominant societies. She asked, “Whose vision of the role of African Americans, other people of color, and the disenfranchised will prevail? For what purposes might people of color be educated? How might education assist people of color in challenging the societal structures that maintain and reproduce inequality?” Gordon’s recasting of schooling in white-dominant societies as a battle over the education of the oppressed is an important reminder of the competing visions that comprise education in the United States.
Christopher Pulliam & Richard V. Reeves, Brookings Institution
Child poverty is center stage in current policy debates, at last. Far too many American children grow up poor. One in seven children live in poverty, according to the official poverty measure; one in eight by the supplemental poverty measure (which accounts for government transfers). President Biden has just signed into law a bill that fundamentally restructures the child tax credit for one year as part of a larger relief package. The policy expands the child tax credit and delivers it periodically rather than as a lump sum at tax time— effectively instituting a child allowance administered through the tax code. Under the plan, low- and middle-income families with children will receive a yearly total of $3,000 per child aged 6 to 17 and $3,600 per child under 6. Looking at the supplemental poverty measure (SPM), this single provision is projected to reduce child poverty from nearly 14 percent to 7 and a half percent— a 45 percent reduction— according to researchers at Columbia University’s Center on Poverty and Social Policy. The payments are projected to drastically cut child poverty across racial groups, but with particularly large reductions for Black, Hispanic, and Native American children. Similar reductions are expected for the number of children living in deep poverty.
Melissa Bailey, Hechinger Report
Emily Chan is in sixth grade, the crucial year to get into one of Boston’s three exam schools, which serve grades 7 to 12. In the past, the pressure of the entrance test has been intense, and Emily wasn’t planning to apply. But for the first time in nearly 60 years, students won’t have to sweat through an exam to land a spot. Instead, Emily was invited to apply based on her pre-pandemic academic record. So she threw her name in for all three schools. Emily, 12, lives in Boston’s South End with her parents, a homemaker and a cafeteria worker, both immigrants from China. Her mother, Meifeng Jiang, said she hopes a golden ticket to one of the city’s top-ranked schools will set Emily on a path to become a doctor. “I just want her to succeed, to have more opportunities,” Jiang said through a Cantonese translator. Emily, who loves math and wants to be a pharmacist, said that she’s nervous about how hard the classes may be but that she’s eager for a “better education.” The one-year change in admissions policy was prompted by the pandemic and a desire to diversify the selective schools, in which Black and Latino students are underrepresented. For the first time, the city plans to use ZIP codes to place students, along with their GPAs, with priority given to low-income areas.
Democracy and the Public Interest
Darren Stewart, Truthout
ollowing a year of relative dormancy, the international youth climate strikes are back in the streets and online this week. During the first year of the pandemic, young people who had skipped school to demand that elected officials curb the climate crisis and otherwise worked protests into their weekly routines had to curtail some of their organizing in response to shelter-in-place guidelines of varying strictness. But some climate agitation continued, and many activists also joined fights for racial and economic justice as Black Lives Matter protests swept the world and COVID-19 exposed the failures of existing social programs. On Friday, March 19, young people in over 800 cities and towns across the world will again join forces to call out world leaders for their failure to act on the climate crisis, urging them to treat it with the level of urgency that many nations have conveyed in their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vanessa Nakate of Rise up Movement, Twitter
They screened my speech, cut my time repeatedly and said I couldn’t call out leaders. They censored my voice, so I went off script.
Vinson Cunningham, Los Angeles Times
Robin D.G. Kelley is, for my money, the great historian of our era. He has written groundbreaking works about, among other things, Alabama’s Communist Party during the Great Depression; the life of Thelonious Monk; and the visions of activists and thinkers from the African diaspora. On top of his work at UCLA — where he is a distinguished professor and holds the Gary B. Nash Endowed Chair in U.S. history — he issues a steady stream of limpid, persuasive, almost casually brilliant essays on politics, current affairs and cultural matters for Boston Review and other outlets. He keeps an eye on grassroots movements and on how maintaining a fertile, humane vision for the future creates new opportunities for radical action in the present.
Other News of Note
Erika Lee, TEDx Minneapolis
America is called a “nation of immigrants,” but it is also a nation of xenophobia. Historian Erika Lee explores the deep roots of xenophobia in America, why it’s such a big problem today, and what we can do about it. Filmed September 19th, 2020 at Dogwood Coffee NE in Minneapolis. One of the nation’s leading immigration and Asian American historians, Erika Lee teaches American history at the University of Minnesota, where she is Director of the Immigration History Research Center. The granddaughter of Chinese immigrants, she is the author of award-winning books including America for Americans: A History of Xenophobia in the United States, which was called “essential reading” by Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to Be an Antiracist.