Just News from Center X – March 23, 2018

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Betsy DeVos fights Dems on vouchers, safety, civil rights in budget hearing

Andrew Ujifusa, Education Week
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos sparred with House Democrats over the Trump administration’s proposed budget’s support for private school choice, and its cuts to programs related to civil rights, safety, and after-school. In the Tuesday House appropriations subcommittee hearing, DeVos said the administration’s fiscal 2019 budget proposal would maintain its support for disadvantaged students, while also attempting to ensure greater opportunities for them through a new, $1 billion school choice program. She also highlighted $200 million in funds for science, technology, engineering, and math education, made available through the current Education Innovation and Research program, as well as level funding for the Title I program focused on disadvantaged students ($14.9 billion), as well as for special education ($12.8 billion). The budget proposed by the Trump administration would cut $3.6 billion from the Education Department, a 5.3 percent reduction that would lower the department’s total spending to just over $63 billion. “President Trump is committed to reducing the federal footprint in education, and that is reflected in this budget,” DeVos told committee members. Republicans were largely supportive of the budget but also expressed concerns.

Their pay has stood still. Now Oklahoma teachers could be the next to walk.

Dana Goldstein, The New York Times
When she woke up one morning last week, Tiffany Bell, a teacher at Hamilton Elementary School here, had $35 in her bank account. On take-home pay of $2,200 per month, she supports her husband, a veteran who went back to school, and their three children, all of whom qualify for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, a federal benefit for low-income families. The couple’s 4-year-old twins attend a Head Start preschool — another antipoverty program. Money is so tight for Ms. Bell, 26, that she had to think twice before spending $15 on Oreos for a class project, in which her third graders removed differing amounts of icing to display the phases of the moon. She knew it would be hard to support a family on a teacher’s salary. “But not this hard,” she said. When West Virginia teachers mounted a statewide walkout last month, earning a modest raise, it seemed like an anomaly: a successful grass-roots labor uprising in a conservative state with weak public sector unions. But just a few weeks later, the West Virginia action looks like the potential beginning of a red-state rebellion.

Transgender teachers: In their own voices

La Johnson, NPR
NPR Ed has been reporting this month on the lives of transgender educators around the country. We surveyed 79 educators from the U.S. and Canada, and they had a lot to say – about their teaching, their identities and their roles in the lives of young people. We reported the survey findings here, and followed with this story about how educators are coming together to organize and to share their experiences in the classroom, and in their lives. We asked our survey respondents to send in a selfie and tell us what they wish others knew about them as a trans- or gender nonconforming (T/GNC) educator. Here are some of their responses.

Language, Culture, and Power

Junot Diaz – Learning to inhabit multiple worlds in “Islandborn” [VIDEO]

Trevor Noah, The Daily Show
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Diaz talks about writing his first children’s book, “Islandborn,” and discusses the identity struggles that immigrants face in the U.S.

Watch what happened when older students saw young kids protesting gun violence on a N.Y. street [VIDEO]

Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post
This video shows what happened in Brooklyn, N.Y., on March 14, 2018, during a national student protest against gun violence when some older students saw a group of elementary school kids taking part in the demonstration.

How they saw it: Students report on the school walkouts

Staff, Los Angeles Times
At the Los Angeles Times, we try to do our part to raise the next generation of storytellers. Our High School Insider program offers young journalists a helping hand, with classroom resources, special conferences, paid internships and a chance to get their work published on our website. Some of our HS Insider reporters were on the job March 14, when students all over the nation organized walkouts and other activities to honor the 17 people killed a month earlier at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and to push for stricter gun control to try to prevent future mass shootings. You can read their accounts here.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Oakland Unified initiative for African-American girls follows years of focus on the boys

Lee Romney, EdSource
Ever since the Oakland Unified School District launched its African-American Male Achievement office eight years ago people have been asking, “What about the girls?” Among them were community leaders like Nzingha Dugas, who under contract to the district for many years ran academic enrichment programs and a basketball league that she says kept more than a few girls out of trouble — and in some cases out of the grasp of sex traffickers. More recently, 12-year-old Jordan Smith joined the chorus in calling for a district program that focused just on girls. “I didn’t think it was fair, or that it was even possible for us to have our own group,” said Jordan, a 6th-grader at West Oakland Middle School. Her doubts were misplaced. In January, Jordan and a dozen other girls signed up for the inaugural leadership class of the African-American Female Excellence initiative, headed by Dugas and run, along with the boys’ program, out of the district’s expanded Office of Equity. Like the boys’ initiative, the goal is to boost cultural pride and academic performance, lower suspension and dropout rates and create greater understanding of the students’ singular experiences and needs.

Latest report on California arts education shows progress, if slow

Carla Javier, KPCC
There’s been a push to expand arts education in California in recent years. New numbers out today from Create CA, one of the groups behind that effort, paint a mixed picture: while some headway has been made, it’s been slow. Overall, the number of students who participate in the arts increased from 38 to 39 percent. “It’s showing some forward progress,” explained Pat Wayne, program director at Create CA. “Not of course what we’d hope it would be, but we’re going in the right direction.” One of the biggest changes highlighted in the report is a 26 percent drop in the number of students around the state who don’t have access to any type of arts instruction. Wayne said part of that might be due to a correction of how data is reported, but another big factor was an effort to reach out to districts and counties to develop strategic arts plans and to identify where access may not be equitable.

Sage advice on leadership and whole child education

Jonathan P. Raymond, Vunela
David Brooks has been doing a lot of thinking about how to transform public education — maybe even more than he knows. What do I mean? Well, just yesterday, Brooks ran an insightful column in the New York Times, pointing out the importance of leadership for K-12 schooling. As superintendent of the Sacramento City Unified School District from 2009 to 2013, I learned that lesson first-hand, and can tell you exactly how Brooks gets it right. But last month, Brooks ran a column on a seemingly different topic — social entrepreneurship — which, in fact, was also about transforming education. His main point — that the jobs of today require a vastly different skill set than those of the past — overlaps with the other lesson I learned as superintendent: to make education relevant to the 21st century, schools must take a holistic approach, tending not just to classwork, but nurturing the Whole Child — head, heart, and hands. In my forthcoming book, Wildflowers: From No Child to Whole Child, A Superintendent’s Challenge to America, I talk to everyday Americans — parents, educators, policymakers, and kids — about how we can achieve the goal of a public education system that improves the lives of students, families, and communities. Great leadership and Whole Child education are America’s best hope — not just for making public education better, but for our collective future as a nation.

Access, Assessment, and Advancement

How Trump repeal of Obama-era school discipline guidelines could affect California

David Washburn, EdSource
If U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos decides to repeal Obama-era school discipline reform guidance — which she’s often hinted at, most recently during a 60 Minutes interview — the action could hamper discipline reform efforts in districts throughout California, especially in those where the pace of reform has been slow, say civil rights and youth advocates.
However, any effort to roll back the federal guidelines would have no real effect on California’s statewide discipline policies or its newly established accountability measures, according to state officials. “At the district level, and especially at the school level, we still see very harmful school climates and high suspension rates,” said Amir Whitaker, a staff attorney for the ACLU of Southern California. “The repeal at the federal level, although it won’t affect policy directly, sends the wrong message to schools.” At issue are the Obama administration’s “Rethink Discipline” guidelines, which were first introduced in 2014 as part of President Barack Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative. They emphasized alternatives to suspensions and expulsions and highlighted data showing that students of color and those with disabilities were up to three times as likely as white students to face these punishments, often for similar nonviolent offenses.

California tops in suspension reform, but still not properly targeting disparities, report says

David Washburn, EdSource
California in recent years has arguably become the best state in the nation at holding school districts accountable for their suspension rates — but a number of districts are still lagging considerably when it comes to addressing suspension disparities among specific groups of students and supporting alternatives to traditional discipline, according to a new statewide report.
Thanks to the debut last year of the school accountability system known as the California School Dashboard, the state is one of just three nationwide to include suspension rates as a top indicator of overall school performance, and it sets the most stringent goals, asserts the report released Thursday by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a nationwide crime prevention and youth advocacy organization. While districts have been required to address suspension rates since 2013 when the state Legislature passed the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) — Gov. Jerry Brown’s sweeping school reform law — the dashboard has taken the responsibility to another level, said Brian Lee, the California director of Fight Crime: Invest in Kids and author of the report, which analyzed the Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAPs) from the state’s fifty largest districts. “Now that (suspension rates) have been elevated to one of the top indicators on the dashboard, districts have a sense of what they should strive for,” Lee said. “Before you had to say you were doing something but there was no standard for it, or real accountability.”

Some CSUs have to turn away thousands of students. These proposals may fix that

Adolfo Guzman-Lopez, KPCC
Last year, 32,000 high school seniors were turned away from their first choice California State University campus because of high demand. The university’s trustees are aiming to fix that with two proposals they approved unanimously on Wednesday at a board meeting in Long Beach. The changes are set to go into effect for seniors applying for admission in the fall of 2019. Here’s some background.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Extensive data shows punishing reach of racism for black boys

Emily Badger, Claire Cain Miller, Adam Pearce, and Kevin Quealy, The New York Times
Black boys raised in America, even in the wealthiest families and living in some of the most well-to-do neighborhoods, still earn less in adulthood than white boys with similar backgrounds, according to a sweeping new study that traced the lives of millions of children. White boys who grow up rich are likely to remain that way. Black boys raised at the top, however, are more likely to become poor than to stay wealthy in their own adult households. Even when children grow up next to each other with parents who earn similar incomes, black boys fare worse than white boys in 99 percent of America. And the gaps only worsen in the kind of neighborhoods that promise low poverty and good schools. According to the study, led by researchers at Stanford, Harvard and the Census Bureau, income inequality between blacks and whites is driven entirely by what is happening among these boys and the men they become. Though black girls and women face deep inequality on many measures, black and white girls from families with comparable earnings attain similar individual incomes as adults.

Family budget calculator

Economic Policy Institute
EPI’s Family Budget Calculator measures the income a family needs in order to attain a modest yet adequate standard of living. The budgets estimate community-specific costs for 10 family types (one or two adults with zero to four children) in all counties and metro areas in the United States. Compared with the federal poverty line and the Supplemental Poverty Measure, EPI’s family budgets provide a more accurate and complete measure of economic security in America.

Why DeVos’s plan to delay Obama-era rule on minority special-education students is a mistake

Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post; Catherine Kramarczuk Voulgarides, Touro College
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is moving to impose a two-year delay on the Equity in IDEA rules, which would have gone into effect in July 2018. The delay in implementation will, at best, promote the status quo in special education — which has been characterized by decades of racialized outcomes in the placement, classification, and/or discipline of students with disabilities — or will exacerbate these inequities. The department stated its reasons for the proposed delay in the Federal Register  on Feb. 27, 2018, but minimized the civil-rights issue that is central to disproportionality in special education.
Students of color — primarily Native American, black, and Latino students — have historically been marginalized in the United State education system through questionable special education placement, classification, and/or disciplinary outcomes as compared to their white counterparts. Minimizing the civil-rights issue that is at the heart of disproportionality is a mistake.

Dena Simmons: How does imposter syndrome affect students of color? [VIDEO]

Staff, NPR/TED
When Bronx-native Dena Simmons received a scholarship to attend a majority white boarding school, she felt like an imposter. Simmons suggests ways students of color can be made to feel more accepted.

Public Schools and Private $

School choice may be accelerating gentrification

Matt Barnum, The Atlantic
When Francis Pearman was studying at Vanderbilt, he and a fellow graduate student noticed a striking phenomenon in Nashville: White, affluent families were moving into low-income neighborhoods without sending their children to the neighborhood schools. “We were really curious to see what that relationship looked like at the national level,” said Pearman, now a professor at the University of Pittsburgh. When he and that student, Walker Swain, looked at national data, a pattern emerged. The ability to opt out of the neighborhood school increased the likelihood that a mostly black or Hispanic neighborhood would see an influx of wealthier residents. “As school choice expands, the likelihood that low-income communities of color experience gentrification increases,” Pearman said. Their finding adds to the already-contentious policy debates over school choice, gentrification, and segregation. And now another study, focusing on Charlotte, North Carolina, has come to similar conclusions: Housing prices spiked in areas where students were given new ability to switch schools away from one deemed failing.

6 Months after Maria, Puerto Ricans face a new threat—education reform

Yarimar Bonilla, Rima Brusi, and Natasha Ycia Ora Bannan, The Nation
Six months after Hurricane Maria, Puerto Ricans are understandably frustrated with their government officials. One might expect discontent to center around the head of the power company who oversaw months of blackouts or the governor who awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in private contracts with little or no oversight. But instead it is the secretary of the department of education, Philadelphia-native Julia Keleher, who has become the focus of people’s anger. In the past few weeks, Puerto Ricans have been calling for her resignation, making her the object of a viral hashtag campaign, #JuliaGoHome. On Monday, the school system was paralyzed by a strike as thousands of teachers protested the education-reform bill her office has spearheaded.

Louisiana Supreme Court case illustrates shortcomings of charter schools

Nketiah Berko, Tulane Hullabaloo
The Louisiana Supreme Court overturned a decision by the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal regarding charter school funding on March 13. The lower court’s ruling held that 35 charter schools did not qualify as public schools and, thus, were not entitled to state aid. The contentious case, in which funding for 18,000 students hung in the balance, clearly demonstrates the adverse effects introduced by the charter school system. Charter schools are frequently touted as a panacea for the problems of America’s faltering school system. Per the Programme for International Student Assessment, the U.S. ranked 38th in mathematics and 24th in both science and reading out of 71 countries in 2017. The U.S. received these rankings despite spending $12,296 per elementary and secondary public school student per year on average, a higher sum than all but two other nations. Charter schools, by combining market competition with autonomous control, have thus emerged as an attractive alternative to America’s ailing public school system. The effects of charter schools are, however, largely ambiguous. Some districts, like those in Michigan, have seen public school systems devastated by the loss of revenue resulting from an expanding charter school presence. New Orleans, alternatively, has seen state exam passage rates and scores alike go up even with a large charter school presence. The court’s decision to reaffirm the right of charter schools to receive state funding maintains the illusion that charter schools are simply public schools by another name. Authorized by Louisiana’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, the 35 schools involved in the dispute are not under the jurisdiction of local school boards. Nonetheless, per the court’s decision, Louisiana law has “expressed that charter schools are independent public schools.” “Independent public schools,” however, is a description that misrepresents the definition of charter schools. Up to 90 percent of the funding these schools receive is state aid, so these charter schools are not independently funded. These schools cannot be considered public entities either because they are removed from the control of local polities.

Other News of Note

Central Valley freedom summer [VIDEO]

Veronica Terriquez, UC Santa Cruz
The Central Valley Freedom Summer Participatory Action Project which engages UC Merced and UC Santa Cruz students in grassroots campaigns, voter education, and participatory action research. … In addition to doing voter education and outreach, the students will be addressing and researching topics such as immigrant rights, health disparities, environmental justice educational equity, gun reform, and other racial justice issues. My hope is that this project will strengthen the links between the UC system and Central Valley communities. This movement is important because it is led by young people for young people to build up an electorate that represents the communities that need it most.