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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
Wayne Au and Moé Yonamine, Rethinking Schools
Although the recent increase in anti-Asian attacks has been hard for all of us, the murderous killing spree in Atlanta has our families, our youth, and our communities spiraling. From a Japanese teacher in Seattle’s Chinatown-International District being assaulted by a man wielding a sock filled with rocks, to the robbery and killing of an Asian American elder in Oakland, to the elderly Asian American woman shoved and spit on in White Plains, New York, to the punching of an Asian man in North Portland, Oregon, these attacks both traumatize and activate us as Chinese American and Okinawan American educators personally. They connect us to our own experiences with hate in this country, and they highlight the deeply rooted history of white supremacy in violence against Asian people. What is happening now is nothing new. The racism, the devaluing of life of Asian and Asian Americans, the dehumanizing of immigrant workers, the fetishism of — and violence toward — Asian women have been perpetuated throughout U.S. history.
Jennifer Molina, Ed Source
University College London
The close monitoring of schools and student achievement data in the English education system is unlikely to be a one-way street to “school improvement” due to the stress it causes teachers, finds a new study by UCL researchers. The paper, which is published today and funded by the Nuffield Foundation, suggests that although increasing accountability may bring about short-term improvements in student performance, this could be counterproductive if it reduces teacher supply in the long-term and leads to shortages of high-quality teachers. The researchers analysed data from the 2018 Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS) of over 100,000 teachers from more than 40 countries. They found that England sits towards the top of the ‘accountability’ scale and that high levels of measurements of educational performance – such as school assessments being used to make judgements about the effectiveness of teachers, whether there are school league tables and whether there are inspections of schools – could partly be driving higher stress levels among teachers in England.
Language, Culture, and Power
Ofelia Garcia, Education Review
Tapón is the word that comes to mind when I think about this piece. The tapón of my bathtub in Cuba when I was a child that prevented the water from streaming out. The tapón of the traffic jams in Puerto Rico, leaving my mother-in-law´s house to go anywhere, as the traffic stopped flowing. And the tapón I feel today, in NYC, in the midst of a pandemic that has hit poor
communities of color the hardest, and as a smooth transition to a new president has been slowed down by lies and innuendos of fraud. I have written many academic articles, but never have I struggled with the tapón I have felt in writing this piece that urged me to take a “viaje a la semilla,” the title of a book by Alejo Carpentier, a Cuban author. Taking a trip ‘to the seed of it all’ is painful, and I have resisted lifting the tapón that has kept me from looking inward, linking my today with my past.
Gabriel Rodriguez, The Conversation
Many Americans think of the suburbs as exclusive enclaves for white, middle-class people. Yet reality paints a different picture. In recent decades suburbs across the country have rapidly become more socioeconomically, ethnically and racially diverse. In fact, since 2010 most people in the U.S. – including people of color – call suburbia home. Pew Research Center notes that 175 million people live in suburban and small metropolitan areas, while 144 million live in either rural or urban counties. The Latino community has played a pivotal role in spurring these changes. As an educational researcher who focuses on suburban-urban education, Latino education and racial inequality in schooling, I have interviewed Latino and Latina students about their experiences of belonging at suburban public high schools. Their reflections shine a light on how schools can better support these youth and other students of color.
Center for the Study of International Migration
The UCLA Center for the Study of International Migration condemns the latest wave of racist violence in this country, this time directed at Asian communities, and specifically the murder of six Asian workers in Georgia. We express our solidarity with Asian American students and faculty at UCLA and with all Asian Americans living in this country. We condemn the insults that have been hurled by politicians, adding insult to grievous injury, and we call for an end to the violence in both words and deeds. As scholars of immigration, we note that this wave of violence is the latest manifestation of a sad and almost 200-year history of violence against Asian Americans and of racist opposition to immigration from Asia. Our own city of Los Angeles was the site of one of the most terrible such outbursts: in an 1871 riot, residents of the then small city of barely 6,000 persons, lynched 18 Chinese immigrants.
Whole Children and Strong Communities
Nicole Hockley, Newsweek
After my beautiful butterfly Dylan was murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary, I spent every waking hour working to expand background checks. I felt so empty, so lost—but this work gave me focus and purpose. I had to make sure my baby boy didn’t die in vain, that his short life would be remembered by my helping others live. I spent weeks talking with dozens of lawmakers—Republicans and Democrats— who were still undecided, or said they would vote “no” on background checks. I brought pictures of Dylan to leave with the Senators, to give a face to the numbers of those that die by gun violence every year. We didn’t lose statistics; we lost people. We lost our children. It was still so early after Dylan’s death and I found it difficult to grieve publicly while taking action to prevent other tragedies. I recall walking down the pathways in and under the Senate buildings, trailing my fingers along the walls to see if what I was experiencing was real, or part of my horrible waking nightmare.
Giles Bruce, USA Today
After COVID-19 forced Olivia Goulding’s Indiana middle school to switch back to remote learning late last year, the math teacher lost contact with many of her students. So she and some colleagues came up with a plan: visiting them under the guise of dropping off Christmas gifts.
They set out with cards and candy canes and dropped by the homes of every eighth grader at Sarah Scott Middle School in Terre Haute, a city of more than 60,000 near the Illinois border where Indiana State University and the federal death row are located. They saw firsthand how kids, many living in poverty with dysfunctional families, coped with the pandemic’s disruptions to their academic and social routines. “You just have a better concept of where they’re coming from and the challenges they really do have,” Goulding said. “When you’re looking at that electronic grade book and Sally Lou hasn’t turned in something, you remember back in your mind: ‘Oh yeah, Sally Lou was home by herself, taking care of three younger siblings when I stopped by, and I spotted her helping Johnny with his math, and she was helping this one with something else.’”
Rebekah Fenton, Education Week
I am a pediatrician. It is my job to respond to young people’s needs. I listen and see them as the experts of their own lives. But even within medicine, not everyone does this, and the needs of Black people are systematically ignored. The physical pain that Black people experience is both under-recognized and undertreated, and young people are no exception. In a study of appendicitis management in emergency departments, for instance, Black children were less likely to receive the appropriate pain medication despite reporting the same pain scores as white children. Emotional pain is even less visible and, therefore, harder to recognize. Adults caring for young people need to trust their expressions of anxiety or feeling unsafe and protect them from harm. But when Black students demand an end to ongoing trauma from police, the adults charged with protecting them often dismiss their voices. Black and brown youth activists have called for police-free schools, citing the disproportionate harm to Black and brown students, including extreme punishment for minor offenses, sexual harassment, and anxiety in the presence of police—all of which is supported by research.
Access, Assessment, Advancement
Haymarket Books Live
Join Black Lives Matter at School educators for a conversation about the new uprising for educational justice in early childhood education. Education activists Takiema Bunche-Smith, Laleña Garcia, Angela Harris, Denisha Jones, Makai Kellogg and Nancy Carlsson Paige discuss the struggle against systemic racism in schools, how we can win real educational justice and the lessons from Black Lives Matter at School organizing focused on early childhood education.
These early childhood educators will discuss how racism impacts the early educational experiences of Black children and will share ideas for centering Black Lives Matter in School from the struggle against systemic racism from their own work.
Cady Lang, Time
Bradley Freeman Jr. was doing some Christmas shopping at Target when he got the email. Glancing down at his phone, all he could see was a preview: “Hey Brad, thanks for taking the time to audition for us …” He immediately assumed he had been rejected. Then he read the rest.
“I had to read it over, like, seven different times to make sure that I actually got the part,” he says. “I say yes, and then I realized I didn’t actually type anything so I had to send a second email and say yes and then texted—I was like, ‘Just making sure you know that I accepted this part.’” The part—the one that had him “hyperventilating in the middle of Target”—is the puppeteer for Wesley Walker, a new Black Muppet who, along with his father Elijah, will be introduced on March 23 by Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit behind Sesame Street.
Don’t force schools to give standardized tests this pandemic year, research scholars ask Education Secretary Cardona
Valerie Strauss, Washington Post
More than 540 education researchers and scholars are asking Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to reconsider his department’s decision requiring school districts to administer federally mandated standardized tests this pandemic year, saying the exams will “exacerbate inequality” and “produce flawed data.” A letter signed by 548 members of the academic research community was sent to the Education Department on Monday, urging that Cardona award states waivers from federal testing mandates. It also urges the department to invest in “more holistically evaluating school quality” by “developing new measures of educational opportunities.” The Education Department announced in February — before Cardona was confirmed by the Senate — that public school districts had to administer exams in math and English Language Arts required annually by the federal 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaced the 2002 No Child Left Behind law.
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
Nicola Abé, Spiegel International
Two weeks after Amelia’s first day of school last March, she was suddenly unable to go anymore. Her school had been shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic. But for the first grader from Uruguay, it wasn’t such a big deal. She learned the alphabet by way of digital tutorials, and she had so much fun with the digital math lessons that she did additional exercises. There were video conferences three times a week, so she could get to know her teacher and classmates better. And under the leadership of her physical education teacher, Amelia, 7, did gymnastics exercises in her living room. Amelia, though, is not some well-off pupil at a private school. She goes to a public school in Uruguay’s capital of Montevideo. And like all of the other schoolchildren in the small country sandwiched between Argentina and Brazil, she received her tablet computer from the state.
Anya Kamanetz, NPR
The U.S. Education Department has released the first in a series of school surveys intended to provide a national view of learning during the pandemic. It reveals that the percentage of students who are still attending school virtually may be higher than previously understood.
As of January and early February of this year, 43% of elementary students and 48% of middle school students in the survey remained fully remote. And the survey found large differences by race: 68% of Asian, 58% of Black and 56% of Hispanic fourth graders were learning entirely remotely, while just 27% of White students were. Conversely, nearly half of white fourth-graders were learning full-time in person, compared with just 15% of Asian, 28% of Black and 33% of Hispanic fourth-graders. The remainder had hybrid schedules.
Jessica Rosenworcel, Democracy
At the start of this school year, a picture of two young girls sitting outside a Taco Bell swept across the Internet. They were not headed to the restaurant for lunch. Instead, they were seen cross-legged on the ground with laptops on their knees, trying to catch a free WiFi signal to do their schoolwork. They had nowhere else to go to get online and attend their remote class. Images often go viral because they touch a nerve. This was no exception; it was heart wrenching to see what these students in Salinas, California had to do to keep up in school. But they’re hardly unique. There are kids like them in communities across the country. They live in rural areas, urban areas, and everywhere in-between. This especially cruel part of the digital divide is known as the “homework gap.” It is time for a national plan to address it. The days when schoolwork required only paper and pencil are long gone. Now, seven in ten teachers assign homework that requires access to the Internet. Yet data from the Federal Communications Commission—where I work—suggest that one in three households do not subscribe to broadband. The “homework gap” is where those numbers overlap.
Democracy and the Public Interest
The US has fallen to a new low in a global ranking of political rights and civil liberties, a drop fueled by unequal treatment of minority groups, damaging influence of money in politics, and increased polarization, according to a new report by Freedom House, a democracy watchdog group. The US earned 83 out of 100 possible points this year in Freedom House’s annual rankings of freedoms around the world, an 11-point drop from its ranking of 94 a decade ago. The US’s new ranking places it on par with countries like Panama, Romania and Croatia and behind countries such as Argentina and Mongolia. It lagged far behind countries like the United Kingdom (93), Chile (93), Costa Rica (91) and Slovakia (90).
Lawrence Lessig, Washington Post
H.R. 1 is poised to be the most important democracy reform enacted by Congress since the Voting Rights Act of 1965. But in the wake of its passage in the House on a strict party-line vote on March 3, some anxious scholars and pundits worry it cannot pass the Senate and are urging Democrats to pull back. That advice is wholly misguided, both politically and morally. This is not the time to compromise on H.R. 1. It is not time for Democrats to negotiate against themselves. This is the time to make the argument for every facet of H.R. 1 even more strongly.
H.R. 1 is an omnibus reform package that covers a wide range of flaws in our current representative democracy. Building on the work of the late representative John Lewis, the bill would assure that every qualified voter had equal freedom to vote, and that no state could deploy complex rules to suppress anyone’s right to participate. It would end the partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts, increase election security and, for the first time in U.S. history, give candidates for Congress a real opportunity to rely on small contributors alone to fund their campaigns.
Spencer Lee Lenfield, Harvard Magazine
Several months before the invasion of the United States Capitol threw the nation’s seat of legislative power into peril, the Annenberg Public Policy Center’s survey on civic knowledge found that barely half of American adults can name all three branches of government, and 20 percent cannot name any rights protected by the First Amendment. Remarkably, these figures constitute improvements on the results of the previous 15 years of this annual survey. Even more troubling, the separate World Values Survey has found that since the 1950s, ever fewer numbers within each birth cohort in the United States has ranked it “essential” to live in a democratically governed country. Not even a third of Americans born in the 1980s think democracy is vital. This state of affairs follows prolonged disinvestment in the fields of history and civics: today, a new report reveals, federal spending per pupil in these subjects averages $0.05, whereas STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) per pupil averages $50—a thousandfold difference in funding allocation.
Other News of Note
Dolores Huerta and Luis Valdez, Post Wallace Stegner Lecture
Join Peninsula Open Space Trust and our partners the Dolores Huerta Foundation, Puente and Latino Outdoors in welcoming American civil rights leader and United Farmworkers cofounder Dolores Huerta for a conversation with founder of El Teatro Campesino and renowned American playwright Luis Valdez. In this special talk, Dolores and Luis will reflect on their long history in the Santa Clara Valley, their work in the struggles for social and environmental justice, and perspectives on relationships between history, land and people in California. The conversation will be moderated by Jose Gonzalez, Founder of Latino Outdoors.