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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
Los Angeles educators are honored with the first Sal Castro Award for continuing the legacy of the ’68 East LA Walkouts
Esmeralda Fabián Romero, LA School Report
As LA Unified commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Walkouts, the district honored eleven educators who are continuing the legacy of Sal Castro, the social studies teacher who guided 15,000 students who left their East Los Angeles classrooms on March 1, 1968, to fight for educational justice. The winners were selected from the Walkouts’ five “legacy schools” — Wilson, Garfield, Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Belmont high schools — and were honored with the first Sal Castro Award for “not only teaching but also advocating” for their students during a ceremony Saturday at East Los Angeles College. “These teachers represent everything students were fighting for 50 years ago. They wanted teachers that could connect with them, they understand who they are, their culture, and can guide them to succeed,” José Huerta, the Local District East superintendent, said at the awards ceremony.
Louis Freedberg, EdSource
Were California to try to implement anything remotely along the lines of what President Trump has proposed for arming teachers to prevent firearm massacres in schools, the state would have a massive and expensive undertaking on its hands. It would also almost certainly require significant legislative changes, because if anything California has been moving in just the opposite direction in its attempts to keep dangerous firearms off school campuses and out of the hands of school personnel. Beginning last month, a new state law (Assembly Bill 424) went into effect barring even school employees with permits to carry concealed weapons to bring those guns onto campus. Arming thousands of teachers would also have to overcome vehement opposition from California’s teachers unions. “Bringing more guns into schools is a misguided and dangerously flawed idea,” said California Teachers Association president Eric Heins.
Yuki Noguchi, NPR
Since the mass killing at a Parkland, Fla., high school earlier this month, many teachers have called on their state pension funds to sell their stakes in gun-makers. Private investment firms including BlackRock and Blackstone are reviewing their firearms investments in response to clients’ demands. But even those sympathetic to their position say divesting from those companies doesn’t lead to industry change. Many state pension funds that invest on behalf of public employees and teachers own shares in firearms manufacturers passively — they own their stakes primarily because they are included in broad market index funds that pensions invest in. “I’m currently urging my colleagues to divest in retail and wholesale suppliers of weapons that are banned for possession or sale in the state of California,” says State Treasurer John Chiang, who sits on the boards of his state’s two largest pension funds — CalPERS for public employees and CalSTRS for teachers. He is urging pensions across the country to sell off their investments in gun-makers and gun retailers. “We can make a clear and powerful signal that the inaction by Congress is heartless, it’s intolerable, and there are people who want to make sure that kids aren’t losing their lives,” Chiang says. CalSTRS — the California State teachers retirement fund — sold off its stake in publicly traded gun manufacturers, including Sturm Ruger and American Outdoor Brands (formerly Smith & Wesson) in 2013, following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times
The union that represents Los Angeles school cafeteria workers, bus drivers and custodians announced Monday that it will hold a vote to authorize a strike. If the workers approve a strike, a walkout would not be inevitable, but union leaders could call one without returning to the membership for permission. The move could provide more leverage at the bargaining table to negotiators for Local 99 of the Service Employees International Union. Voting is scheduled to take place March 12 through March 24. Union leaders made their announcement during a demonstration at Marlton School in the Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw area. The campus serves deaf and hard-of-hearing students, and the union’s members include aides who work with the disabled. During negotiations over staffing and work hours, the union has accused the L.A. Unified School District of illegally cutting the hours of these aides.
Language, Culture, and Power
Erin B. Logan, NPR
It’s too early to know if politicians will heed the calls for increased gun control after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. But one thing is clear: If change comes, it will be because of the passionate activism of the schools’ students. The teens appear to have galvanized a new, national movement and inspired student activists across the country, spurring high school walkouts in Washington D.C., Arizona, and Minnesota. While this surge of teen organizing around gun control may feel new, the U.S. has a rich history of youth activism. Here’s a quick look at three big moments when children and teens became agents of change.
Kavitha Cardoza, Education Week
When 13-year-old André Cordeiro moved from rural Portugal to Toronto, the only English words he knew were, “hi,” “bye,” and “hot dog.” Four years later, he speaks English “way better” and credits the English-learner class he attends every morning at Islington Junior Middle School. With just six other students in that class, the teacher answers André’s questions right away, unlike in the larger, mainstream classes he attends every afternoon. He’s more at ease in his morning class because no one speaks English fluently. “I feel kind of equal,” said André, now in 8th grade. “There’s not as much pressure if I make a mistake.” Three-fourths of the roughly 500 students at Islington, a K-8 school in Toronto, speak a language other than English at home, including Somali, Arabic, Korean, Bengali, and Russian. But far from being unusual, this diverse school mirrors Canada’s largest city, where almost half the 2.7 million population is foreign-born. Overall, 30 percent of Canada’s schoolchildren are either immigrants themselves or have at least one parent born abroad. That’s compared with 23 percent of U.S. students who are immigrants or children of immigrants. Yet Canada has one of the highest performing education systems in the world as ranked by the Program for International Assessment, or PISA, test that 15-year-olds from more than 70 countries take. The United States’ rankings, by contrast, are mediocre. Part of Canada’s success is connected to its strong track record on educating immigrants. Within three years of arriving in Canada’s public schools, PISA tests show that children of new migrants do as well as native-born children.
Michael Reichert, The Atlantic
In the aftermath of a school shooting, one question always stands out: Why did he—it’s almost always a he—do it? Such an event, and its male perpetrator, draws attention to an awful truth lurking behind the “crazy” outburst: Male violence isn’t a one-off, anomalous occurrence, but one more event in a steady drone of violence in homes, schools, and neighborhoods. In 2014, the University of Alabama criminologist Adam Lankford examined a database of mass killings that occurred from 2006 to 2012. Of the 308 killers, 94 percent were male. Separately, Mother Jones compiled a list from 1982 to today; they found that of 93 shooters in 2014, 97 percent were male. In other violence categories, boys have a higher rate of assault than girls and suffer a higher rate of injury from assault. They are also more likely to report being in a fight in the past year and far more likely to be a homicide victim. In fact, homicide has become the leading cause of death for young African American males. Another display of male violence recently received public attention. One week before the massacre in Parkland, Florida, photos of a woman with a black eye—allegedly the result of abuse by her then-husband, a senior White House staffer who’s since resigned—were circulated on social media and in news outlets. As with mass shootings, violence directed toward an intimate partner is more commonly perpetrated by males. The bottom line is that interpersonal violence of all kinds is largely a male phenomenon. Whether it is physical bullying, fighting, or more severe forms of violence, boys account for a disproportionate amount of both perpetrators and victims.
Whole Children and Strong Communities
Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post; Michelle Renée Valladares, National Education Policy Institute
I’ve never met Irene Robinson in person, but after watching her graciously and candidly share the story of the closing of her grandchildren’s Washington Park elementary school in the new mini-documentary, “Kings and Queens,” I am left with the feeling that I’ve known her for years. In 2013, members of the Chicago Board of Education approved the closing of 50 elementary schools. Despite weeks of protests by teachers, parents and community members, 46,000 students, mostly African American, saw their schools closed in the largest mass closing of neighborhood schools in U.S. history. At the time, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel explained the decision as a money-saving measure and promised that residents like Ms. Irene would have a say in turning the former schools into facilities that would benefit the surrounding neighborhoods. Today, two-thirds of those buildings remain vacant and there are no standards for community involvement in determining their reuse. As Chicago Public School board members — who will vote on new school closures — listen to the stories of families like the Robinsons, I hope that they take time to understand that these stories align with the vast amount of research that documents the damage school closings do to children and to communities. As a scholar at the National Education Policy Center, I can confirm that Robinson’s story is one I and other researchers have heard over and over.
Mimi Kirk, The Atlantic
After last week’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida, the young survivors underwent a routine that has become all too familiar. Teams of crisis counselors were dispatched, vigils and funerals were held, and local officials debated what to do about the physical aftermath of the massacre: inspecting the school’s buildings and deciding when (and if) the campus would re-open for classes. The psychological damage may be harder to assess. Among kids exposed to traumatic violence, short-term symptoms immediately after such incidents include trouble focusing, managing emotions, and negotiating relationships. The effects of childhood trauma also show up later in life: As adults, children who witnessed violence will be more likely to suffer from depression, deal with substance abuse, and struggle with obesity. American school shootings are a relatively rare form of childhood trauma—albeit less so than they used to be. But many other experiences that can cause lasting psychological damage, such as parental incarceration and economic hardship, are relatively common. Indeed, a new report from Child Trends, a Bethesda, Maryland, nonprofit that conducts research on improving children’s lives, found that almost half of all American children have experienced at least one potentially traumatic “adverse childhood experience,” or ACE. In “The Prevalence of Adverse Childhood Experiences, Nationally, by State, and by Race or Ethnicity,” the authors Vanessa Sacks and David Murphey used data from the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health to determine which children 17 and under are more likely to experience trauma, and where these children live.
Debbie Truong, The Washington Post
One student questioned her father about his conservative views on gay rights. Another approached a friend from camp about their divergent opinions on President Trump. And a third pressed his cousin on his ardent support for guns. In a climate of political and social divisiveness, when social media often doubles as an echo chamber, educators issued a challenge to 12th-graders at T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria that seemed, at once, simple and extraordinary — find someone different from themselves, with whom they disagree on a foundational issue, and talk. It was an exercise in listening and respectful disagreement, an opportunity for students to hear and learn from perspectives different from their own. Students were, at first, reluctant. “We’re really afraid of talking to people that we disagree with,” English teacher Laurel Taylor said.
Access, Assessment, and Advancement
Angélica M. Casas, BBC
One in five students in Los Angeles face housing insecurity. (VIDEO)
Louis Freedberg and Mikhail Zinshteyn, EdSource
California’s high school graduation rates have increased significantly in recent years, but the percentage of those students who complete their college education continues to lag, with long-term implications for the state’s future. That is the stark conclusion of a new report by California Competes, a policy and advocacy organization focusing on the state’s system of higher education. “High school graduation rates are improving steadily, but college completion rates are not following suit,” the report states. Citing projections that the state will lack more than 2 million college-educated workers by 2025, California Competes executive director Lande Ajose said, “when you have the kind of robust economic fortune California has, and yet you see gaps in what is occurring in terms of degree attainment, that is cause for concern.” California’s high school graduation rate — measured by the percentage of students who begin in the 9th grade and graduate four years later — increased from 77 percent in 2010 to 84 percent in 2016. But just over half of California’s college students — 55 percent — get their associate degrees at a community college in three years or bachelor’s degrees in six years. That figure includes completion rates for private institutions as well as the state’s public colleges and universities. Completion rates are lowest at the California Community Colleges, which serves a student body with more part-time and older students than the California State University or the University of California.
Adolfo Guzman-Lopez, KPCC
It used to be that only high school counselors and school administrators could see data about how many students had completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). “There was no ability to compare among high schools, counties, or a state how we were doing in submitting this information,” said Lupita Cortez Alcala, executive director of the California Student Aid Commission. In anticipation of this Friday’s deadline for 12th graders to submit the application, the commission modeled their new Race to Submit campaign on an effort in Riverside County that increased application completion rates by double digits. The state campaign uses a racecar-type dashboard and search options to allow anyone to see what percentage of students at a school, school district, or county have submitted the application. The idea is that by publicizing the data, schools can compete to boost their rates of completion.
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
Deborah Netburn and Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times
Amy Guerrero said she started getting randomly searched at her Koreatown middle school, Young Oak Kim Academy, when she was 12 years old. “I got searched all the time, but I never saw the nurse, not once,” said Amy, who is 15 and a sophomore at UCLA Community School, which also is in Koreatown. “Whenever I felt sick or had a cut they said the nurse wasn’t there that day, but I saw the officers all the time.” In the wake of the school shooting that took 17 lives in Parkland, Fla., earlier this month, there has been much debate about how to make campuses more secure. Some have called for more police on campuses, others for improved mental health services for students. President Trump has suggested arming teachers. But in Los Angeles, the debate over safety also has extended in another direction. Some students believe the current system for searching students for weapons is unfair, while others believe it makes campuses safer and want even more safety measures. In back-to-back events, Los Angeles students and teachers landed on starkly different sides in a debate over security measures at schools. On Friday in the west San Fernando Valley, teachers and students gave school police — and even random searches of students — a resounding vote of confidence. The next day, in a gathering south of downtown, participants criticized an approach to security that they said criminalized students, victimizing them more than protecting them. They want to end random searches of students; some activists called for an end to police officers on campus.
Will Stancil, The Atlantic
Judge William Pryor is likely not accustomed to being praised by civil-rights advocates. The judge is not a liberal lion. A Bush appointee currently sitting on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which serves much of the deep South, Judge Pryor’s writings have been critical of gay rights and abortion protections. His conservative bona fides have, reputedly, helped earn him a spot on President Trump’s shortlist for Supreme Court nominations. But earlier this month, as part of a twisting, turning school-desegregation saga in Alabama’s Jefferson County, Judge Pryor struck a strange blow on behalf of integrated schools. In an appellate decision, he forbade a heavily white city from breaking away from a diverse district and running its own separate school system. What made this moment even stranger was that Pryor’s decision overturned the ruling of an Obama-appointed judge who had demonstrated great concern over school segregation. Unexpectedly, that judge had found herself at odds with many of the nation’s most vocal advocates of integrated education. While civil-rights advocates celebrated Pryor’s move, the news out of Jefferson County isn’t all good. The recent decision raises important questions about the long-term fate of school desegregation—in Jefferson County, but everywhere else, too. America’s strongest legal tools for integration are aging into their sixth decade. At its core, the Jefferson County case is about whether they’ll survive any longer.
Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is seeking public comment on a plan to delay the implementation of an Obama-era rule that is intended to prevent schools from unnecessarily pushing minority students into special education. The Education Department published a note in the Federal Register on Tuesday that says it wants to delay for two years the rule that was intended to be implemented starting in the 2018-2019 school year. The department did not respond to a query about why it was doing this, but the notice says that it is doing it to make sure that the rule’s “effectiveness” can be ensured. The Hill newspaper had reported recently that states, districts, superintendents and others had raised concerns about the rule. Administrators have expressed concern about the cost of implementation, while advocates for students with disabilities have said it is an important step to protect minority children. This is one of a number of Obama-era regulations and rules that DeVos has rolled back or delayed, and it is possible that DeVos could decide to eliminate it altogether.
Public Schools and Private $
Christina Samuels, Education Week
Students with disabilities made up about 10.6 percent of the charter school population, compared to about 12.5 percent of the population for traditional public schools, according to a recent analysis of federal data by the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools. That enrollment percentage, based on 2013-14 (the most recent national data available) is up from 10.4 percent in 2012-13. But a deeper dive into the federal data shows that special education enrollment differs depending on the type of charter school under examination. State charter laws determine whether a charter school operates completely independently of the local school district, or if it is considered a part of the local district. Those that operate independently of the local school systems enroll more students with disabilities—about 11.5 percent. Most charter schools in Massachusetts, Michigan, and North Carolina fit into this category. In contrast, charter schools that are considered part of a district’s overall portfolio of schools have a smaller special education enrollment, about 9.7 percent. Most charter schools in California, Colorado, and Florida fit in to this legal structure. What’s driving the difference? Lauren Morando Rhim, the organization’s co-founder and executive director, suggested that students with disabilities might be steered to a district’s existing programs, rather than charters operating in that district. In contract, independent charters are legally responsible under the Individuals with Disabilities Act to offer a full “continuum of services” for students with special needs. And, as public schools, charters don’t ring the same concern as vouchers, said Selene Almazan, the legal director for the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates. Almazan’s organization is concerned that parents who accept vouchers may be unaware that they are waiving certain legal rights.
The performance of Utah’s charter schools has been a ‘grave disappointment,’ according to the Republican lawmaker who created them
Benjamin Wood, The Salt Lake Tribune
Sen. Howard Stephenson, sponsor of the laws that launched charter schools in Utah, said Tuesday that the alternative schools have fallen short of their mission to improve education through innovation and competition. The Draper Republican said he’s looking for a “fresh start” for charter schools, as their average performance on statewide tests is no better than that of their school district counterparts. “I don’t want to discount the fact that many, many students have found success in these schools of choice but on average, we have not seen that occur,” Stephenson said. “That has been a grave disappointment for me as the sponsor of that [original] legislation.”
PBS New Hour
This story is the second of a three-part series that examines how other countries approach the idea of school choice. Read about New Zealand here. It was one of many tense moments at Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ confirmation hearing last year. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., repeatedly asked DeVos if she believed that all schools that receive public money, including private schools, should meet the same accountability standards. DeVos would not answer yes or no; she eventually began repeating, “I support accountability.” Many people were alarmed by her answers, including charter school advocate and billionaire Eli Broad and Republican senators Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins who voted against Devos’ confirmation. They fear what will happen to American education if school choice is expanded without mechanisms in place to ensure students are learning and schools are of high quality. Some point to Sweden, and its plummeting international test scores, as a warning of what more school choice in the U.S. could bring without an accompanying rise in accountability. Sweden adopted a nationwide universal voucher program in 1992 as part of a series of reforms designed to give more control over education to towns and schools. Families can choose any school, public or private: Taxpayer money follows the student. This voucher system has led to a burgeoning industry of mostly for-profit, private schools, also called “free schools.” Two of the companies that run schools in Sweden are listed on the country’s stock exchange.
Other News of Note
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Truthout
The emergent student mobilizations against gun violence could potentially grow into a social movement capable of fundamentally changing the gun violence and militarism that pervades American society and culture. However, to do so, they will have to take up the ways that Black people are disproportionately impacted by these phenomena. A look at the significant differences in how the student mobilizations against gun violence are being greeted compared to the Black insurgency of Black Lives Matter is a productive place to start — it’s important to take stock of why these two mobilizations of young people have been viewed differently. The Black uprisings in Ferguson and Baltimore and the explosion of the Black Lives Matter movement exposed the racism and brutality of American society that the political establishment always works so hard to shroud.