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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
The editors of Rethinking Schools
In Abbott Elementary, an ABC sitcom about an underfunded elementary school in Philadelphia, Quinta Brunson plays Janine Teagues, an enthusiastic 2nd-grade teacher who attempts to overcome every obstacle with her grit and determination — a flickering light in the back hallways, the perpetual lack of basic school supplies, a complicated reading software program. Barbara and Melissa, the older, more experienced teachers, remind her “to just worry about what you can control.” And for years, that’s what teachers have done. We’ve made do. Having kids paint with water, like Barbara, when there’s no money for paints. Ponying up pieces of our salaries to buy books for classroom libraries, highlighters for writing activities, pencils, food for hungry kids, printers, microphones, even textbooks.
Shawn Hubler, New York Times
In New York City, the nation’s largest school district has lost some 50,000 students over the past two years. In Michigan, enrollment remains more than 50,000 below prepandemic levels from big cities to the rural Upper Peninsula. In the suburbs of Orange County, Calif., where families have moved for generations to be part of the public school system, enrollment slid for the second consecutive year; statewide, more than a quarter-million public school students have dropped from California’s rolls since 2019. And since school funding is tied to enrollment, cities that have lost many students — including Denver, Albuquerque and Oakland — are now considering combining classrooms, laying off teachers or shutting down entire schools. All together, America’s public schools have lost at least 1.2 million students since 2020, according to a recently published national survey. State enrollment figures show no sign of a rebound to the previous national levels any time soon.
Belinda Deneen Wallace and Jesse W. Schwartz, Radical Teacher
THERE ARE BLACK PEOPLE IN THE FUTURE” reads an art installation created by Alisha B. Wormsley in the summer of 2018. The billboard, part of an annual community art project in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was removed after being embroiled in a controversy when opponents deemed it racist, offensive, and divisive. In speaking about the installation, Wormsley stated, “It started out as a black nerd sci-fi joke. A response to the absence of non-white faces in science fiction films and TV…Afrofuturism dares to suggest that not only will black people exist in the future, but that we will be makers and shapers of it, too.
Language, Culture, and Power
Umme Orthy, Chalkbeat Philadelphia
As we walked together into my ninth grade homeroom, my parents instructed me to tell them everything my teacher said. It was time for my parent-teacher conference, but my parents spoke very limited English. It was my job to translate. “Your child is doing a really good job in school,” the teacher started. My parents nodded and smiled, and I could tell they had understood. From there on, though, I translated everything. It was challenging since my family had moved from Bangladesh only a year before — and I, too, was still learning English.
Betty Marquez Rosales, EdSource
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved an initial $6 million in funding to repurpose a former juvenile detention facility in the city of Lancaster, now known as the Challenger Memorial Youth Center, into a job training facility. The board also approved partnering with local Antelope Valley College to design the residential and vocational training programs. Plans for the center include providing vocational training, career training, behavioral health services, and housing for 6-18 months. The center will serve young people ages 18 to 25 who have been in the juvenile justice system, in the foster care system or who are homeless.
Jamil Jan Kochai, The Writer’s Voice New Yorker Podcast
Jamil Jan Kochai reads his story “Occupational Hazards,” from the May 23, 2022, issue of the magazine. Kochai’s first novel, “99 Nights in Logar,” was published in 2019 and was a finalist for the pen/Hemingway Award. His story collection, “The Haunting of Hajji Hotak and Other Stories,” will come out in July.
Whole Children and Strong Communities
Valerie Strauss, Washington Post
Teachers are once again grappling with how to address with their students racially motivated killings in America, this time at a Buffalo supermarket where 13 people were shot — 11 of them Black — and 10 died. A White teenager, who police said wrote an online document citing the “great replacement” theory, has been charged with and pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder in the shooting. The racist theory says that non-White immigrants are being brought into the United States to eliminate Whites. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), the No. 3 House Republican, and other GOP lawmakers have at one time or another echoed the racist idea.
Ayen Bior, Ari Shapiro, Matt Ozug, & Lucja Skolankiewicz, NPR
It’s midday at Poland’s Warsaw Ukrainian School and the teachers are doing their best to shepherd students to their next lesson. The adults are outnumbered, and no match for loud, energetic 7- and 8-year-olds who have flooded the hallways during the afternoon passing period. The Ukrainian school looks like any grade school: student artwork lines the walls, the youngest students sing nursery rhymes to memorize “heads, shoulders, knees, and toes,” and the teacher’s lounge is a solace for diligent instructors. But there is nothing typical about this school.
Kara Arundel, K-12 Dive
Parents and teachers expressed strong and widespread support for incorporating social-emotional learning in K-12 schools, despite recent efforts to politicize the practice, according to two surveys released this week. One poll found nearly all teachers (94%) said students do better in school when teachers integrate SEL into the classroom. Two-thirds of teachers said that over the past two years, a student or parent had requested mental health or social-emotional support, according to a survey of more than 2,000 educators by Teachers Pay Teachers, an online marketplace for original educational resources.
Access, Assessment, Advancement
Emily Tate, EdSurge
Earlier this month, as thousands of early childhood educators and advocates gathered in Baltimore for the 2022 National Head Start Annual Conference, attendees exchanged first-hand accounts and anecdotes from the field, sharing what the last couple of years have been like for them and what it’s like right now.Tommy Sheridan, the deputy director of the National Head Start Association (NHSA), a nonprofit advocacy and professional support organization for Head Start, was hearing stories about just how challenging it is to be in early childhood education right now.
Lauren Camera, US News and World Report
Progressives have long been calling on President Joe Biden to support the total cancellation of student loan debt as a sign of his commitment to racial equity and a nod to the bloc of the Democratic Party that provided the crucial get-out-the-vote energy that delivered him to the White House. But Biden has never shied away from making clear that he doesn’t support it.”I will not make that happen,” he said a month after his inauguration when asked whether he’d act on calls, including from newly minted Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, to use his executive authority to cancel up to $50,000 in student loan debt per borrower.
Zaeem Sheikh, Cal Matters
Being a California resident can save you a lot of money at the University of California — about $30,000 in tuition per year. At California State University, a non-resident student pays nearly $10,000 more than a California resident with the same 12-unit class load; at a community college, it can be up to about $7,500. For more than 20 years, California has exempted many undocumented students from having to pay non-resident tuition at the state’s public colleges and universities. But gaps in the law mean that some undocumented students and visa holders still don’t qualify for in-state prices — even if they’ve lived in the state for more than a decade.
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
Pedro Noguera, The Conversation
Nearly seven decades after the U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954, the court’s declared goal of integrated education is still not yet achieved. American society continues to grow more racially and ethnically diverse. But many of the nation’s public K-12 schools are not well integrated and are instead predominantly attended by students of one race or another. As an educational sociologist, I fear that the nation has effectively decided that it’s simply not worth continuing to pursue the goals of Brown. I also fear that accepting failure could portend a return to the days of the case that Brown overturned, the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision. That case set “separate but equal” facilities for different races, including schools and universities, as the national priority.
Alex Ruppenthal, Chalkbeat Chicago
Hundreds of Chicago Public Schools students at predominantly Black and Latino high schools were forced to participate in what is supposed to be a “voluntary” military-run training program, according to a new report released Wednesday detailing an investigation by the district’s watchdog. The practice of automatically enrolling students in JROTC, or the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, has drawn scrutiny for steering teens from under-resourced schools toward military careers and away from other educational or job opportunities.
Naaz Modan, K-12 Dive
The Biden administration is expected to soon release its proposed Title IX regulations almost a year after kicking off its review of the federal civil rights law prohibiting sex discrimination in schools. The new version will be the third iteration in just as many administrations. The repeated overhaul has brought significant changes to school staff and operations, some of which overlapped with schools having to close down and divert resources as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. Title IX’s complex history, however, dates back much further.
Democracy and the Public Interest
Lana Cohen, Press Herald
About 200 students gathered outside Lyman Moore and Lincoln middle schools in Portland on Friday morning to protest what they said is a culture of tolerance toward racism, bullying and other forms of discrimination at their schools. Lyman Moore students gathered in a large circle holding signs that said “our voices will be heard,” “Black lives matter” and “we won’t be silenced.” They screamed in unison: “What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now,” before beginning a march around their school building in North Deering. Students said they feel adults aren’t taking them seriously. They said they are fed up with a lack of response from teachers and school administrators when they report being discriminated against and made fun of because of race, gender and sexuality, among other things.
Jonathan Zimmerman, The Nation
Schoolbooks have embraced Communism, threatening young Americans’ patriotism and sexual morality. And behind it all lies a shadowy cabal of big businessmen, bent on demolishing the very system that enriched them. That’s what right-wing journalists wrote in the 1950s, at the height of the Red Scare. It’s easy to see parallels to that campaign in contemporary attacks on critical race theory and LGBTQ-themed lessons, which have become whipping boys on conservative media. Once again, the alarmists warn, students’ minds and bodies are at mortal risk. And “woke capital” (think Disney) is the culprit, conspiring with “Marxist” educators and politicians to destroy the nation.
Claudia Chwalisz, Noéma
Imagine you receive an invitation one day from your mayor, inviting you to serve as a member of your city’s newly established permanent Citizens’ Assembly. You will be one of 100 others like you — people who are not politicians or even necessarily party members. All of you were drawn by lot through a fair and random process called a civic lottery. Together, you are broadly representative of the community — a mix of bakers, doctors, students, accountants, shopkeepers and more. You are young and old and from many backgrounds — everybody living in the city over age 16 is eligible, and anyone can take part regardless of citizenship status. Essentially, this group of 100 people is a microcosm of the wider public. Your mandate lasts for one year, after which a new group of people will be drawn by lot.
Other News of Note
Marcelo Suárez Orozco, Columbia University Press
The fundamental mission of education is to cultivate healthy, flourishing, and engaged children. In the Platonic tradition, education endeavors to nurture logic and science (truth), ethics and justice (goodness), and aesthetics (the creation and appreciation of beauty). In the face of growing inequities, creating a more inclusive, just, and sustainable world is education’s urgent challenge. In the words of Pope Francis, a “summons to solidarity” with the next generation, with each other, and with our ever-more fragile planet is the ethical imperative of our times. This volume engages education as a path for a more humane, sustainable, and equitable future.