Just News from Center X – March 25, 2022

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

K-12 Education: An Estimated 1.1 Million Teachers Nationwide Had At Least One Student Who Never Showed Up for Class in the 2020-21 School Year

U.S. Government Accountability Office

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reverberate across the nation, for millions of students, educators, and families, the current school year is rife with challenges. The long-term impact of the disruptions of the last 2 years on student enrollment and attendance remains to be seen, particularly for students with whom schools have lost contact. As we previously reported, even though many schools provided students with computers and internet access to participate in virtual instruction, many students faced difficulties staying engaged in school or disappeared from school altogether. While the issue of students not showing up at all during the pandemic is of grave significance, little is known about the obstacles these students face or the types of schools they come from. The CARES Act includes a provision for GAO to report on its ongoing monitoring and oversight efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic.2 In this report, we provide information on (1) how widespread was the issue of K-12 public school students not showing up for class all year in school year 2020-21, (2) obstacles these students faced in showing up, and (3) the characteristics of the schools these students were registered to attend.

“Instead of Going to School or University, Ukrainian Children and Young People Are Hiding in Shelters, Trembling, and Shuddering from Every Noise”

Ari Bloomekatz and Kateryna Maliuta-Osaulova, Rethinking Schools

AB: The first question I have is are you safe? The last we heard was that you were fleeing with your children to the west of Ukraine. Can you describe the journey?

KMO: I’m safe. Last week my children and I moved from Kyiv to my parents’ house, which is located in the central part of Ukraine. It took us eight hours to drive 300 kilometers because of the threats of attack and the numerous devastations we had to drive around.

AB: Can you tell us about your union?

KMO: The Trade Union of Education and Science Workers of Ukraine organizes school teachers, people who work at pre-school childcare facilities, educators, professors and lecturers in higher education, as well as administrative and support staff of education facilities and retired pensioners. It has 26,294 primary organizations with a total membership of about 1.6 million.

Work Won’t Love You Back: What Teachers Can Teach Us About Work

Sarah Jaffe, The Progressive

According to Ma-Riah Roberson Moody, a big part of the reason that Minneapolis and St. Paul teachers and educational support professionals (ESPs) voted to strike in March was that they were “feeling disrespected in our jobs.” Moody is a special education assistant at Minneapolis’s Roosevelt High School and the first vice president of the ESP chapter of the Minneapolis Federation of Teachers. She spends her days assisting students with assignments, advocating for them to teachers and school officials, and generally making it possible for them to attend school. When school buildings were closed, she notes, the people staffing emergency child care sites were ESPs. And workers like her make an average starting salary of $24,000 a year. Like many other workers deemed “essential,” teachers have learned over the past couple of years that they are expendable.

Language, Culture, and Power

In America, I faced Islamophobia right from the start

Umme Orthy, Chalkbeat

“Do you know you have to come back here because they are banning Muslims?” my uncle, calling from Bangladesh, told me, his voice scared. It was 2017, and he had just heard about President Trump’s executive order barring people from a group of Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. It was a terrifying thought, considering that it had taken my family 13 years to get U.S. immigrant visas, and we had only recently arrived in Philadelphia. According to my uncle who was watching the international news, we weren’t welcome here because of our religion. As it turned out, the executive order didn’t apply to us because Bangladesh — my mathribhumi, or motherland — was not one of the countries subject to the ban. But the call was unsettling because until then I hadn’t known that there was such a thing as Islamophobia. I never expected this kind of welcome to America.

US High Schooler’s Answer Listing Zero ‘Positive Effects of Imperialism’ Goes Viral

Julia Conley, Common Dreams

A Massachusetts student’s response to a homework assignment went viral Tuesday after the high schooler refused to list “positive effects of imperialism” but included a long list of its negative impacts on communities throughout history. Cece Walsh, a 15-year-old student at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School, a public high school outside Boston, thought of numerous harmful effects of governments which expanding their influence and power by force, including the “genocide of Indigenous peoples,” slavery, “destruction of cultures and traditions,” “forced religion,” and the exploitation of the planet. The worksheet her older sister posted on Twitter Monday—which has been shared more than 18,000 times on the platform by Wednesday morning—showed her vehement disagreement with being asked to consider imperialism’s supposed benefits.

Who Gets to Be American?

Jonna Perrillo, Boston Review

Laws controlling what schools teach about race and gender show an awareness that classrooms are sites of nation-building. During the Cold War, El Paso public schools knew this too when they taught the children of former Nazis how to be white Americans. … In one of the first acts of the Cold War, U.S. War Department officials recruited Nazi scientist Johann Tschinkel, along with 117 other scientists who had designed Hitler’s V-2 missile, to build a weapon under a program called Operation Paperclip. Once in the U.S., Tschinkel recalled that he could “line up excuses” for why he had consented to the Nazi regime and yet “the question remained: I had known about the persecution of Jews, Socialists and other regime adversaries.” He had watched his wife’s uncle being forced to wear the yellow star, and he had not helped him when he was imprisoned in Theresienstadt and then Treblinka, where he died. He had “heard rumors” about other concentration camps in Poland, and he knew people tried to emigrate. He realized he had not worked with any Jews since 1938.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Transgender Students and Policy in K-12 Public Schools: Acknowledging Historical Harms and Taking Steps Toward a Promising Future

Elizabeth J. Meyer, Bethy Leonardi, and Harper B. Keenan, NEPC

Transgender and nonbinary (collectively referred to here as “trans”) students are ill-served by most school environments. They experience challenges trying to navigate institutions that, at best, are poorly designed to support them and that often work against them. Although some districts and states have developed laws and policies to improve students’ experiences, many are either ill-conceived, ineffectively implemented, or reinforce restrictive and inflexible structures regulating gender. This brief explores these issues in depth and puts forth recommendations for policy and practice to create spaces in which transgender youth can fully engage with school.

A school created a homeless shelter in the gym and it paid off in the classroom

Gail Cornwall, Hechinger Report

On a Friday evening in the fall of 2019, Maria Flores stood waiting with her “crazy heavy” duffel bag and her teenage son outside the office of a man whose home she cleans. A friend of hers had told him that Flores had been evicted from the apartment she had lived in for 16 years. There, the single mom had paid $700 a month in rent ever since she’d moved in eight-months pregnant. Now, one night at a motel cost as much as $250. “Every single day I was looking for a place to live,” Flores said. He’d offered two air mattresses, keys to his office, and permission to sleep there on weekends. For the better part of a year, Flores, who asked to use only one of her two surnames, lived that way: Back and forth, spend and scrimp. But there was no shower or kitchen at the office.

LGBTQ2S+ kids in the U.S. are under attack. Here’s how to help

Ursula Muñoz-Schaefer, Xtra*

ver since Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a directive ordering the state’s child welfare services to investigate affirming families of trans youth for “child abuse,” parents in the Lone Star State have found themselves confronted with difficult decisions. Although a Texas court halted all pending investigations in a Friday ruling, many families feel they have no choice but to leave the state, even if it means being separated from their communities. But relocating has proven financially and emotionally strenuous.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

Graduate profiles help districts prepare students for college and careers

Roman Stearns and Mary Perry, Ed Source

Nearly two years of coping with the serious disruptions created by the Covid-19 pandemic has put a bright light on both the importance of our public school system and its shortcomings. The crisis has also created a wider willingness — among educators, community members and families — to admit that schools as we know them are not serving the needs of today’s students or tomorrow’s world. As Devin Vodicka, former superintendent of Vista Unified and CEO of Learner-Centered Collaborative, said in a recent blog: “The new purpose of schooling needs to be fostering agency, collaboration, and real-world problem solving … to ensure students can think critically and creatively, collaborate effectively with others, apply skills and knowledge to solving real problems, and find meaningful ways to contribute to the world.”

Howard University Faculty Win Tentative Agreement Just Hours Before Planned Strike

Maximillian Alvarez, In These Times

Since full-time lecturers at Howard University originally voted to unionize, they have spent nearly four years bargaining with the university administration to get their first contract. On March 23, just hours before lecturers and nearly 200 adjunct professors, who have been fighting for their second contract, were set to strike, the union secured a historic tentative agreement with the university and called it off. Union members will be voting on whether or not to ratify the tentative agreement in the coming weeks. Even though the strike was narrowly averted, Howard has a long way to go to adequately address the long-running systemic problems that brought non-tenure-track faculty to the point of hitting the picket line.

Colleges routinely fail to ask about new hires’ history of sexual harassment

Susan Fortney, Theresa Morris, The Conversation

When three graduate students sued Harvard University in early 2022 for sexual harassment by a tenured professor, they claimed the school hired the professor despite knowing that he allegedly harassed students at the last school where he worked. The students also claim Harvard ignored the professor’s sexual harassment of students at Harvard, including one of the individuals who sued. Their lawsuit also alleges the school ignored how the professor allegedly retaliated against them. Such allegations may leave students, parents and the general public wondering if colleges and universities take the issue of sexual harassment seriously.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

If You Think Republicans Are Overplaying Schools, You Aren’t Paying Attention

Jennifer C. Berkshire and Jack Schneider, New York Times

The warning signs are everywhere. For 30 years, polls showed that Americans trusted Democrats over Republicans to invest in public education and strengthen schools. Within the past year, however, Republicans have closed the gap; a recent poll shows the two parties separated on the issue by less than the margin of error. Since the Republican Glenn Youngkin scored an upset win in Virginia’s race for governor by making education a central campaign issue, Republicans in state after state have capitalized on anger over mask mandates, parental rights and teaching about race, and their strategy seems to be working. The culture wars now threatening to consume American schools have produced an unlikely coalition — one that includes populists on the right and a growing number of affluent, educated white parents on the left. Both groups are increasingly at odds with the Democratic Party.

How Rising Rents Harm Kids

NEPC Newsletter

In Sacramento, CA, rents have risen 21 percent in the past year, to an average of $2,582 per month. In Cincinnati, Ohio, they’re up 24 percent year-over-year, to $1,473. And in Austin, Texas, rents rose a whopping 40 percent between 2020 and 2021, to $2,290 per month. A  combination  of  COVID-related  factors,  rising  housing  prices  that  keep  more  potential  home buyers in the rental market, and low inventory has led to increases averaging 14 per-cent nationwide in the housing rental market this year. This surge is on top of longer-term increases: Between 2010 and 2019, rental expenses increased 27 percent, or four times fast-er than the price of other goods, resulting in a situation in which roughly half of renters are now  “housing  cost  burdened,”  meaning  they  spend  more  than  a  third  of  their  incomes  on  utilities and rent.

‘Is it a crime to study?’: outcry as Taliban bar girls from secondary schools

Weronika Strzyżyńska and Akhtar Mohammad Makoii, The Guardian

The Taliban are facing international condemnation after they announced on Wednesday that girls would not be allowed to attend secondary school, despite their previous assurances. “The denial of education violates the human rights of women and girls,” said Michelle Bachelet, the UN human rights high commissioner. “Beyond their equal right to education, it leaves them more exposed to violence, poverty and exploitation.” Samira Hamidi, an Amnesty International campaigner in Afghanistan, said: “This is a worst nightmare come true for the women and girls of Afghanistan, who have had their future and all they had hoped and worked for ripped away from them over the last year.” Hamidi said the Taliban had “betrayed” the country by “depriving a generation of women and girls of their right to education”.

Democracy and the Public Interest

Book bans and the threat of censorship rev up political activism in the suburbs [Audio]

NPR Morning Edition

Book bans at the school and state levels are galvanizing parents who oppose them. And there’s a larger story at play, one that is less about books and more about democratic norms. NPR’s Odette Yousef has more. … On a Thursday evening in late January, more than 200 moms and some dads hopped onto a Zoom call. These were parents who’ve been alarmed by efforts to remove reading materials that deal with race, gender and sexuality from their children’s schools. They believe their kids have a right to freely access information. But many didn’t know what to do. This online session was about teaching them to organize against the book bans.

“We’re Going to Be Conservative.” Official Orders Books Removed From Schools, Targeting Titles About Transgender People

Jeremy Schwartz, ProPublica and The Texas Tribune, and Mike Hixenbaugh, NBC News

In early January, a day before students returned from winter break, Jeremy Glenn, the superintendent of the Granbury Independent School District in North Texas, told a group of librarians he’d summoned to a district meeting room that he needed to speak from his heart.

“I want to talk about our community,” Glenn said, according to a recording of the Jan. 10 meeting obtained and verified by NBC News, ProPublica and The Texas Tribune. Glenn explained that Granbury, the largest city in a county where 81% of residents voted for then-President Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election, is “very, very conservative.” He noted that members of Granbury’s school board — his bosses — were also very conservative. And to any school employees who might have different political beliefs, Glenn said, “You better hide it,” adding, “Here in this community, we’re going to be conservative.”

Culture Wars Could Be Coming to a School Board Near You

Katie Reilly, Time Magazine

When Lisa Schoenberger got up to speak in favor of a mask mandate at a school board meeting in Omaha, Neb., last year, she knew she wasn’t going to be popular, so she tried to soften the crowd with a reference to Frozen II, her 5-year-old daughter’s favorite movie. In one scene, a character confronts a challenge by resolving to “do the next right thing.” “I share the frustration of all of the people who are really, really tired of this,” said Schoenberger, the first attendee at the August meeting to support a mask requirement for students under 12, after more than 30 people had voiced opposition. “But when you have a difficult decision, all you can do is the next right thing,” she said. “And I believe that that’s what masking for one more month will do for our children.”

Other News of Note

Follow the global youth protests this week

Somini Sengupta, New York Times

They’ve grown up in a pandemic. They’ve come of age in an era of strongman leaders. The climate crisis looms over their very lives. Generation Z, the cohort born after 1996, has inherited a set of compounding uncertainties. It explains, in some measure, the vibe of the youth climate movement. Powered by rage and distrust, it is decentralized and it is increasingly focused on the inequitable effects of global warming. The global youth movement known as Fridays for Future has called on its members to organize protests around the world this Friday, March 25. Its rallying cry is “climate reparations and justice.”