Just News from Center X – March 8, 2019

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

L.A. school board signals support for an education tax increase this year

Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times
Hoping to harness the momentum of a six-day teachers’ strike that drew broad public sympathy, L.A. schools Supt. Austin Beutner is pushing a measure to raise local taxes for education. If Board of Education members approve the plan — and all six have said they will — a parcel tax would go on either the June or November ballot. Getting on the June ballot would require board action before the end of next week. District staff, pollsters and attorneys unveiled the funding plan at a board meeting on Tuesday. When board members expressed enthusiasm, Beutner said he’d come back later this week with a resolution for the ballot they could vote on. “This will allow for the accelerated improvement in student learning, further reduction in class size and providing more support to students and educators in schools,” Beutner later said in a statement. “It is time to build on the commitment the community has expressed and move forward together.”

Lessons from the Los Angeles and Oakland teachers’ strikes

Louis Freedberg, EdSource
After two teachers’ strikes in as many months in California, it is too soon to tell whether the labor disputes in Oakland and Los Angeles presage a new era of school-based activism. But regardless of what comes next, this year’s strikes had much in common, and yielded valuable lessons and insights for other districts where labor troubles may also be brewing.

Jackie Goldberg appears headed for a runoff in LAUSD board election; second place is too close to call

Kyle Stokes, LAist
Last August, Jackie Goldberg lobbied hard to be re-appointed to a gig she last held 27 years ago: L.A. Unified School Board member. At the time, the veteran of local politics in L.A. said she’d be willing to serve in the role temporarily, at least until voters elected a permanent replacement for Ref Rodriguez. Rodriguez had recently resigned his LAUSD board seat amid a campaign finance scandal. But when the LAUSD board voted to turn Goldberg away, board member George McKenna saw what was coming next for the former L.A. City Councilor and State Assembly member. McKenna speculated Goldberg might just run in the special election for the seat. “If she runs, c’est formidable,” McKenna, a New Orleans native, predicted in Cajun French. “She will be far more formidable than if you appoint her.” Goldberg did run. She got the backing of United Teachers Los Angeles. And she has proven formidable. With 100 percent of the 112 precincts reporting, Goldberg received more than 48 percent of the vote. Keep in mind that’s in a crowded field with nine other candidates vying to represent LAUSD Board District 5, which covers parts of northeast and southeast L.A. That total ensures Goldberg will advance to a May 14 runoff between the top two finishers. Goldberg would need more than 50 percent of the vote to win the seat outright and avoid a runoff. The vote count won’t be finalized until all mail-in ballots are tallied. The nail-biter race is for second place.

Language, Culture, and Power

The U.S. teaching population is getting bigger, and more female

Alia Wong, The Atlantic
Teaching in the United States was once considered a career for men. Then the profession’s gender composition shifted dramatically around the mid-19th century, when the country’s public-school system was born. As schoolhouse doors opened to children of all social classes and genders, so too did the education profession. By the late 1880s, women made up a majority—63 percent—of all the country’s teachers (though men continued to make up most of the high-school teaching force until the late 1970s). Within a few decades, the choice to teach young children was solidified as an inherently “feminine” pursuit; in fact, girls who couldn’t or didn’t want to be homemakers had few other job options.

Schools are teaching kids in Korean, Arabic, French as dual immersion programs expand beyond Spanish

Roxana Kopetman, The Orange County Register
In Maritza Bermudez’s home, the goal has been to speak Spanish as much as possible. But starting next school year, Korean will be thrown into the mix. Bermudez, who lives in Anaheim, is enrolling one of her children in a Korean/English language immersion program – the first of its kind in Orange County and part of a growing trend throughout Southern California. “We know it’s going to be challenging,” Bermudez said. “But being trilingual is being a step ahead.” While a new group of kindergarteners, including Bermudez’s son, will be learning their ABC’s in English and Korean, others in the Anaheim Elementary School District will be learning in Spanish and English. The district will be the first in Orange County, and possibly the state, to offer language immersion programs for at least one class on all of its 23 campuses in the new school year: Korean-English at Jefferson Elementary and Spanish-English everywhere else. Meanwhile, the idea of teaching in two languages is gaining traction, nationally and in Southern California. Smaller districts, such as Anaheim Elementary, are joined in the trend by some of California’s biggest school districts, such as Los Angeles Unified and Riverside Unified, both of which are expanding their dual-language options.

Schools add African-American history into everyday curriculum for students in Winston-Salem, Forsyth County

Michael Bragg, Winston-Salem Journal
On a January afternoon, Nakita Carson and the students in her second-grade class were talking about Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson — the three African-American women at the center of the “Hidden Figures” book and movie. Carson and her students at Walkertown Elementary School weren’t discussing these women, each of whom played a vital role for NASA, in anticipation of Black History Month. They were talking about them because their history and their stories fit the curriculum Carson was teaching at that moment. It’s part of a mindful effort by Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools to infuse and integrate African-American history into social studies curriculum throughout the school year. And it’s not just about adding more content beyond the month of February, but also about including more historical figures and notable contributions from Africans and African-Americans who have long been absent from history classes. “We find a way to tie in African-American figures or African-American contributions to whatever topic we’re covering,” Carson said.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Navigating a safe path to schools surrounded by homicide

Sonali Kohli, Los Angeles Times
In the most dangerous neighborhoods in Los Angeles, thousands of students must navigate safe paths to and from school — traveling through multiple gang territories amid threats of robbery, harassment, sexual assault, kidnapping and other hazards. Dymally High School, in Green Meadows, and Hawkins High School near Harvard Park are among the public high schools in Los Angeles County surrounded by the most homicides, according to an analysis by The Times. Students have few transportation options. The Los Angeles Unified School District offers limited busing, mostly for students attending district schools outside of their communities. Many must walk to school, while others take public buses or private ride shares when family members are unable to drive them. Here are three students’ journeys to school: by foot, by bus and by car.

Pollution is bad for your health and the environment. It’s also bad for schools, two recent studies show.

Matt Barnum, Chalkbeat
Late last year, the Trump administration moved to roll back Obama-era regulations designed to improve air quality and limit pollution. No one thought of it as an education story. But new research suggests it is, at least in part. While the health risks of air pollution have long been documented, two recent studies are among the first to directly connect two different forms of pollution to lower test scores and higher absence rates among exposed schoolchildren. Schools across the country — particularly those serving more low-income students of color — are often located near hotbeds of pollution, like highways. “The results are pretty damning,” said Claudia Persico, a professor at American University and one of the researchers behind both of the studies. “These papers suggest that pollution might play a much bigger role in inequality in outcomes between rich and poor kids and between black and white kids than we previously realized.”

Student authors write their truth, their pain, their healing

Julie Muhlstein, HeraldNet
In a story called “Rising,” Moniline Winston shares what she never thought she could. She’s 18 now, a half-dozen years past a hellish experience of sexual abuse. Her telling of what happened when she was a girl in Ephrata is included in “Listen: Young Writers Reflect on Chaos, Clarity, Action, Balance.” It’s the seventh book written by Scriber Lake High School students under the guidance of English teacher Marjie Bowker. “This one goes way further than in the past,” Bowker said. “We have to be truthful.” Truth, with its healing power, is a theme running through the teens’ personal narratives. Their stories delve into tough topics including anxiety, bullying, self-harm and suicide attempts.

Access, Assessment, and Advancement

A consumer’s guide to testing under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA): What can the common core and other ESSA assessments tell us?

Madhabi Chatterji, National Education Policy Center
Between May and August of 2018, the federal government approved 44 proposals submitted by state departments of education to meet testing and accountability requirements under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015. As these states move towards implementing their federally approved plans for meeting external regulatory requirements for accountability, they face several challenges. They should be alert to any unexpected negative outcomes of testing on students, schools, and education systems, and they need guidelines to help them avoid test misuses. This “consumer’s guide” from Professor Madhabi Chatterji explains how best to apply information from the adopted tests with a mind to their design and with close attention to their purposes, technical merits and limitations. The guide draws on best practice guidelines in the 2014 Standards for Educational and Psychological Testing, combined with published recommendations of selected professional associations, educational researchers, educational leaders and practitioners to elaborate on the problem, and to provide guidelines, examples and recommendations.

Union campaign seeks more money for special education, disadvantaged students

Andrew Ujifusa, Education Week
A national teachers’ union, a Democratic U.S. senator, and others are launching a new push for Washington to spend more on students with disabilities, students from disadvantaged backgrounds, school construction, and other federal and state education programs. The “Fund Our Future” campaign is led by the American Federation of Teachers, and has the backing of Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md. In addition to pushing for more federal spending on a variety of fronts, the AFT plans to hold Fund Our Future events in different locations around the country over the next few weeks and aims to capitalize on teacher unrest and educator activism over the last several months. “We are having funding fights in virtually every state capital and in Washinton, D.C.,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a Monday conference call with reporters. “The root cause of every single one of these teacher walkouts that have been roiling the country, and every single funding fight, is the lack of appropriate investments.”

‘Safety’ in U.S. schools means more cops and fewer counselors

Rebecca Klein, HuffPost
An estimated 14 million students attend a school without a single counselor, nurse, psychologist or social worker, according to a new report from the American Civil Liberties Union. But their schools do employ cops. This disparity is poised to get worse after the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, inspired the federal government and many state legislatures to push for enhanced security on campuses and prioritize the “hardening” of schools. “There’s a dangerous trend in prioritizing law enforcement as a response to school safety when no evidence suggests that’s going to improve things,” said Amir Whitaker, staff attorney with the ACLU of Southern California and co-author of the report released Monday. The ACLU report analyzes data from the federal government. The government first began collecting data on how many social workers, nurses and psychologists schools employ in 2016 and released its findings in April 2018. (It already collected data on school counselors.) These numbers are self-reported by schools, so they may be unreliable. However, Whitaker said, “it’s literally the only data we have available.”

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Access does not equal equity

Amadou Diallo, The Hechinger Report
At New York City’s Urban Assembly Maker Academy high school in lower Manhattan, two things immediately stand out. First, its teachers are rarely standing at the front of the classroom dispensing facts and figures for students to dutifully transcribe. Instead, they’re constantly on the move, going from table to table facilitating group discussions and providing feedback as students work. Second, the students reflect the racial diversity of the city. Within one of the nation’s most segregated school systems, Maker Academy has attracted a mix of black, Latino, white and Asian students in which no single group makes up less than 10 percent or more than 46 percent of the population. “This is the most diverse school that I’ve ever been a part of in my 15 years in education,” says school principal Luke Bauer. “We have kids from the projects and kids who take Ubers.” The school’s leaders made diversity a priority before it even opened five years ago, Bauer says, when they chose not to use grades or test scores as admissions criteria. They also embraced a nontraditional educational model. Like a growing number of schools around the country, Maker Academy uses a mastery-based learning model, in which static letter grades on one-off tests and assignments are jettisoned in favor of detailed feedback that students use to revise their work as they progress toward mastery of clearly defined skills. Instead of receiving a C grade on an essay, for example, a student’s evaluation may include a 1 out of 4 in reasoning, a 2 out of 4 in evidence and a 3 out of 4 in communication, with an opportunity to submit additional drafts throughout the semester.

The schools that tried—but failed—to make Native Americans obsolete

Alia Wong, The Atlantic
Two centuries ago, Congress passed a law that kicked into high gear the U.S. government’s campaign to assimilate Native Americans to Western culture—to figuratively “kill the Indian,” as one general later put it, and “save the man.” The Civilization Fund Act of 1819, passed 200 years ago this week, had the purported goal of infusing the country’s indigenous people with “good moral character” and vocational skills. The law tasked Christian missions and the federal government with teaching young indigenous Americans subjects ranging from reading to math, eventually leading to a network of boarding schools designed to carry out this charge. The act was, in effect, an effort to stamp out America’s original cultural identity and replace it with one that Europeans had, not long before, imported to the continent. Over time, countless Native American children were taken from their families and homelands and placed in faraway boarding schools, a process that was often traumatic and degrading.

As elite campuses diversify, a ‘bias towards privilege’ persists

Elissa Nadworny, KPCC
Elite colleges are making strides to diversify their student bodies, both racially and economically. In the last few years, we’ve seen most top schools commit to enrolling more low-income students, through financial aid, recruiting efforts and programs for high school students aimed at expanding the pipeline. But once those students arrive on campus, says Anthony Abraham Jack, they often find the experience isolating and foreign. “There’s a difference between access and inclusion,” explains Jack, an assistant professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and author of the new book The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students. “Universities have extended invitations to more and more diverse sets of students, but have not changed their ways to adapt to who is on campus.” For his book, Jack profiles low-income students at an unnamed elite college. He puts them into two groups: Those coming from prep schools, and those coming from under-resourced public schools. In those two groups, he finds key differences, but one common problem: “We have paid less attention to what happens when students get on campus than their moment of entry and where they go once they graduate.”

Public Schools and Private $

‘Common sense regulations’ or ‘an extended middle finger’—how far will California go on charter schools?

Ricardo Cano, CALmatters
With new fast-tracked transparency rules for charter schools in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom has fulfilled a January pledge to bring “long overdue” accountability measures to this growing sector of public schools. But the open meeting and disclosure law signed Tuesday—after Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed similar bills twice in prior years—may turn out to be the least controversial part of the Capitol push for tighter charter school regulation. Several bills, introduced as teachers strikes have amplified the issue, would impose far more consequential and politically loaded restrictions on the state’s 1,300-plus charters, publicly-funded schools that operate outside of the control of school districts and are mostly non-union.

California to require more transparency from charter schools

Associated Press, Education Week
California’s 1,300 charter schools will soon face stricter transparency requirements under legislation pushed by Gov. Gavin Newsom. State lawmakers sent Newsom, a Democrat, the bill Thursday, on the sixth day of a teachers strike in Oakland, the second major teachers strike for California this year. California law has until now been unclear on whether charter schools must hold public meetings, respond to public records requests and adopt conflict-of-interest policies. Teachers unions have demanded more transparency and argued charter schools drain money that should go to traditional public schools. “More transparency and higher ethical standards for charters is certainly needed, but the charter schools transparency bill doesn’t go far enough,” said Ismael Armendariz, 1st vice president of the Oakland Education Association, in a statement. Charter schools groups are split on the measure. The California Charter Schools Association doesn’t have a formal position, while the Charter School Development Center said the bill sets onerous restrictions designed to “cripple” the state’s charter schools.

Bay Area district joins others in calling for moratorium on charter school expansions

Theresa Harrington, EdSource
Amid concerns that it could experience the same level of charter school growth that Oakland Unified has seen, a nearby Bay Area district is calling for a statewide moratorium on charter school expansion. The West Contra Costa Unified school board, which oversees K-12 campuses in Richmond and surrounding communities, approved a resolution Wednesday in a 4-1 vote calling for a moratorium on charter school expansion statewide and the strengthening of transparency and oversight in the way they are governed and operated. Charter school enrollment has grown from 1,451 in 2014-15 to 3,192 last year, rising from 4.7 percent of all students in the district to 10.1 percent, according to the California Department of Education. District officials say those numbers have risen even higher this year. However, state data is not yet available. Oakland’s charter school enrollment has reached 30 percent of students, according to Oakland Unified.

Other News of Note

The climate change lawsuit that could stop the U.S. government from supporting fossil fuels [VIDEO]

Steve Kroft, CBC News
Of all the cases working their way through the federal court system none is more interesting or potentially more life changing than Juliana v. United States. To quote one federal judge, “This is no ordinary lawsuit.” It was filed back in 2015 on behalf of a group of kids who are trying to get the courts to block the U.S. government from continuing the use of fossil fuels. They say it’s causing climate change, endangering their future and violating their constitutional rights to life, liberty and property. When the lawsuit began hardly anyone took it seriously, including the government’s lawyers, who have since watched the Supreme Court reject two of their motions to delay or dismiss the case. Four years in, it is still very much alive, in part because the plaintiffs have amassed a body of evidence that will surprise even the skeptics and have forced the government to admit that the crisis is real.