Just News from Center X – May 14, 2021

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Masks, Tracking, Desk Shields: How Much Do School Measures Reduce Families’ COVID-19 Risk?

Sarah Sparks, Education Week

While relatively few schools experienced widescale outbreaks during the pandemic, the return to full-time, in-person instruction will inevitably increase students’ exposure to the coronavirus. But the number and kind of protections schools put in place now can make a big difference in the risk that those students will bring the illness home to family members, according to a study published last month in the journal Science. Even as more adults and older students become vaccinated, the study suggests no one safety measure will be a silver bullet when it comes to preventing COVID-19. “When we talk about the risks from in-person schooling, our tendency is to think about it in terms of risk of transmission in the classroom,” said Justin Lessler, the lead author of the study and an associate professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “But really there are a whole host of activities that go along with in-person schooling, including the transport to and from school. All of the ancillary activities can have as much impact on transmission as what’s going on in the classroom. So when we think about school, we should be thinking about the whole picture.”

Migrant Education Teams Face Challenges To Get Children Back Into Schools [Audio]

Kerry Sheridan, NPR’s Morning Edition

More than 270,000 children participate in migrant education programs across the country. Many of those programs, however, have reported declines in enrollment during the pandemic. Why are the children of migrant farm workers not enrolling in school? Normally, there are more than 250,000 kids enrolled in migrant education programs across the U.S., but many of those programs are reporting declines in enrollment. In Tampa, Kerry Sheridan from WUSF has been following one district’s efforts to get those kids back.

How to Safely Reopen Schools [Audio]

A. Martinez, John Rogers, Tyrone Howard, Take Two

For many, one of the biggest points of anxiety during this pandemic has been about school and whether to send kids back to campus. Just yesterday, Governor Newsom said all school districts in the state should reopen for full-time 5 day-a- week instruction. He tied that to BILLIONS in funding proposals…although he stopped short of a mandate. And today Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers – the second-largest teachers’ union in the U-S – also called for a full reopening of the nation’s schools. Yet, resistance among many families remains.

Language, Culture, and Power

A year of pandemic schooling highlights education gaps for English-language learners [Audio]

Daisy Contreras, Public Radio International

Veronica Alzaga remembers the difficult weeks her 12-year-old daughter, Marcela Gonzalez Alzaga, had during virtual learning last year. She was about to finish 5th grade in Rogers, Arkansas, when the pandemic hit, forcing her to adapt learning from home. Teachers taught her daughter mostly via Zoom, Veronica Alzaga says, so it wasn’t a difficult transition. But that changed in middle school, where most classes were self-taught through webinars. “There was a point where we were up until two in the morning trying to figure out how to complete the assignments,” says Veronica Alzaga, whose primary language is Spanish. “Marcela would get headaches and cry through it all, it was tough. I didn’t know how to help her.” Veronica Alzaga says the school didn’t provide her with support — like tutoring or translation services — so she could help her daughter with schoolwork.

Immigrant, bilingual special educator named national teacher of year, says she’s devoted to finding ‘all our students’ strengths’

Linda Jacobson, The 74

Children with special needs are among those whose learning has suffered the most because of the pandemic. But that’s not what Juliana Urtubey sees when she looks at her students at Booker Elementary in Las Vegas. “Our brains work in slightly different ways. Our job is to find all of our students’ strengths,” she said about special education teachers. That perspective, she said, has given her an advantage over the past year. “I was mining for students’ strengths.”

Anti-trans legislation has never been about protecting children

Nikita Shepard, Washington Post

In March, the Arkansas legislature passed a bill banning gender-confirming medical treatment for transgender youths. The bill marked just one instance of a wave of recent anti-transgender legislation across the country that would restrict trans people’s access to athletic participation, health care, sex education and other accommodations. As Arkansas state Sen. Alan Clark (R) declared: “This bill sets out to protect children in an area where they very much need protection.” It might seem strange that a politician with no medical training could justify a bill denying certain children medical treatment — without which, advocates note, they will suffer horrifying consequences — on the basis of “protecting children.” Yet history shows that political discourse about protecting children since the mid-20th century has never really been about improving their health. Instead, it has a lot to do with race.

Whole Children and Strong Communities


Summer Learning and Beyond: Opportunities for Creating Equity

Megan Bang, Leah Bricker, Linda Darling-Hammond, Adam K. Edgerton , Pam Grossman, Kris D. Gutiérrez, Ann Ishimaru, Sarah Klevan, Carol D. Lee, David Miyashiro, Na’ilah Suad Nasir, Pedro A. Noguera, Charles Payne, Bill Penuel, Sara Plasencia , Shirin Vossoughi, Learning Policy Institute

While many education stakeholders have called for intensive remediation for students to address this year of disrupted schooling and potential learning loss, a new report argues that intensive remediation alone will not meet students’ needs and—if conducted in a way that is segregating, stigmatizing, and separated from children’s real-life concerns—could even deepen inequalities and exacerbate trauma. Students have experienced multiple forms of trauma this past year from the pandemic and from racialized violence and have shown remarkable strength, resolve, and caring. They deserve learning experiences that are rooted in evidence about how people learn best; experiences that are intellectually honest and authentic; that provide opportunities for joy, exploration, play, and self direction; and experiences that offer them a chance to study and understand the world.


Students, community organizations ask judge to order mental health services, internet access

John Fensterwald, Ed Source

Arguing that appropriating billions of dollars alone will not ensure action, community organizations and parents from Los Angeles and Oakland are asking an Alameda County Superior Court judge to order the state to immediately provide computers and internet access and address the mental health needs of children who have borne the brunt of the pandemic. The May 3 request for immediate relief comes six months after the plaintiffs sued the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. Now they’re now seeking a preliminary injunction to force the state to respond. Superior Court Judge Winifred Smith has set June 4 for a hearing.


COVID-19 Devastates Communities Of Color But Latino Teens Are Still Unsure About The Vaccine

Jackie Fortier, LAist

News of the FDA’s authorization of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine for children as young as 12 renewed focus on the effort to vaccinate teenagers. It has been almost a month since the vaccine was made available to all Californians 16 and older, and about a quarter of teenagers in L.A. have gotten vaccinated, but there is a clear racial divide: young Latino and Black Angelenos are lagging way behind in getting the shots. “The lowest [vaccination] rates are among young Black and LatinX men and women, and it’s among the 16-to-29 year olds that we have the most work to do,” said Barbara Ferrer, director of the L.A. County Health Department.


Access, Assessment, Advancement


Newsom unveils $14.5-billion plan for California schools, including free universal pre-K proposal [VIDEO]  

Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled another piece of his pandemic recovery plan on Wednesday, one that will include more than $14.5 billion funding for public schools. The plan includes a proposed universal pre-K program by 2024, savings accounts for 3.7 million children, and the reduction of class sizes. This comes just two days after it was revealed that California has an astonishing budget surplus of nearly $76 billion.


Activists Mobilize for Waivers and Opt Outs as Biden Mandates Tests

Stan Karp, Rethinking Schools

One month after taking office, the Biden administration faced its first major education policy test. It failed miserably. Despite a campaign promise to end standardized testing in public schools (See “Biden’s Broken Promise: Time to Opt Out!” by Denisha Jones), on Feb. 22 administration officials declared it would not grant “blanket waivers of assessments” for the current school year despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The announcement drew immediate grassroots protest that clogged U.S. Education Department (ED) phone lines and ensured that students returning to classrooms after a year of trauma and chaos would face hours of useless standardized tests mandated by the federal government.

The cost of doing nothing

Sara Weissman, Inside Higher Ed

The United States loses out on hundreds of billions of dollars each year because of racial and socioeconomic inequities in higher education attainment, according to a new report by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. The report, conducted in partnership with the Postsecondary Value Commission, an initiative of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and managed by the Institute for Higher Education Policy, found that it would take $3.97 trillion to close racial and socioeconomic gaps in college degree completion in the country. But after that initial investment, the United States would gain $956 billion per year in increased tax revenues and GDP and cost savings on social assistance programs.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Teach About Inequality With These 28 New York Times Graphs

Michael Gonchar, New York Times

Inequalities, by definition, involve a comparison between two or more things. In math, we can easily express inequalities with simple mathematical sentences, such as x

Lack of Broadband Access Advances Systemic Inequality

Brandeis Marshall, Kate Ruane, Common Dreams

If you’re reading this article, you’re probably not one of the millions of people living without broadband access in America. People living without broadband access— who are disproportionately non-white people, low income, or rural—do not have access to equal opportunities in education, employment, banking, and other important components of connection and social mobility. That was the case before the pandemic, and it’s even worse now. The digital divide is what separates those without broadband from those with it, and it encompasses all the broader social inequalities associated with an increasingly digitized world. Along with discrimination in housing, banking, employment, and other areas of life, it is both a result of and contributes to systemic inequalities faced by people who are Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and other underserved groups.


Girls’ education one of the smartest post-Covid investments, says PM

Sean Coughlan, BBC News

Boris Johnson is to urge the international community to back plans to get 40m more girls in developing countries in school, calling it “one of the smartest investments we can make”.

And he will take part in a video link-up with schoolchildren in Kenya to promote access to education for girls. This is a focus of the UK’s presidency of the G7 group of leading economies.

But aid agencies have warned of the negative impact of the UK’s international aid cuts.


Democracy and the Public Interest

2 Oklahoma Boys Pulled From Class for ‘Black Lives Matter’ T-Shirts

Jesus Jiménez, New York Times

Two brothers, 8 and 5, were removed from their Oklahoma elementary school classrooms this past week and made to wait out the school day in a front office for wearing T-shirts that read “Black Lives Matter,” according to the boys’ mother. The superintendent of the Ardmore, Okla., school district where the brothers, Bentlee and Rodney Herbert, attend different schools had previously told their mother, Jordan Herbert, that politics would “not be allowed at school,” Ms. Herbert recalled on Friday. The American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma has called the incident a violation of the students’ First Amendment rights.

I spent a year and a half at a ‘no-excuses’ charter school – this is what I saw

Joanne Golann, The Conversation

Charter schools are 30 years old as of 2021, and the contentious debate about their merits and place in American society continues. To better understand what happens at charter schools – and as a sociologist who focuses on education – I spent a year and a half at a particular type of urban charter school that takes a “no-excuses” approach toward education. My research was conducted from 2012 through 2013, but these practices are still prevalent in charter schools today. The no-excuses model is one of the most celebrated and most controversial education reform models for raising student achievement among Black and Latino students. Charters, which are public schools of choice that are independently managed, show comparable achievement to traditional public schools, but no-excuses charters produce much stronger test-score gains. No-excuses schools have been heralded as examples of charter success and have received millions of dollars in foundation support. At the same time, no-excuses schools themselves have started to rethink their harsh disciplinary practices. Large charter networks like KIPP and Noble in recent years have acknowledged the wrongfulness of their disciplinary approaches and repudiated the no-excuses approach.

Florida Gov. DeSantis expands private school voucher program

Brendan Farrington, Associated Press

Florida’s school voucher program will be significantly expanded after Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill Tuesday that increases eligibility to attend private schools at public expense. The bill is projected to allow more than 60,000 previously ineligible students to seek vouchers. The cost to the state will be an estimated $200 million. DeSantis held a bill-signing ceremony at a Miami-Dade County Catholic school surrounded by students in uniforms.

Other News of Note

The War on Critical Race Theory

David Theo Goldberg, Boston Review

According to the right, a specter is haunting the United States: the specter of critical race theory (CRT). On the eve of losing the presidency, Donald Trump issued an executive order in September banning “diversity and race sensitivity training” in government agencies, including all government “spending related to any training on critical race theory.” He was prompted, apparently, by hearing an interview with conservative activist Christopher Rufo on Fox News characterizing “critical race theory programs in government” as “the cult of indoctrination.” (President Biden ended the ban as soon as he took office.) In March Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, introduced a bill seeking to ban the teaching of CRT in the military because—he charges without argument or evidence—it is “racist.” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis banned CRT from being covered in Florida’s public schools for “teaching kids to hate their country and to hate each other.” Republican majority lawmakers in the state of Idaho prohibited the use of state funding for student “social justice” activities of any kind at public universities and threatened to withhold funding earmarked for “social justice programming and critical race theory.” Lawmakers in Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Utah are following suit.

When the Party’s Over

Brendan O’Connor, The Baffler

In the 1967 preface to History and Class Consciousness, Hungarian communist Georg Lukács reflected critically but not cruelly on the “messianic sectarianism” of his youth: “Our enthusiasm was a very makeshift substitute for knowledge and experience.” After the 1917 Russian revolution, as the organized communist movement grew in Hungary, politics became not just a matter of principle but of practical decision-making with material consequences. Lukács came to see that simply having the correct idea or the moral high ground was not enough to guarantee victory. “If I wished to arrive at a decision that was correct in principle I could never be content just to consider the immediate state of affairs. I would have to seek out those often-concealed mediations that had produced the situation and above all I would have to strive to anticipate the factors that would probably result from them and influence future praxis,” he wrote. “I found myself adopting an intellectual attitude dictated, by life itself, that conflicted sharply with the idealism and utopianism of my revolutionary messianism.”