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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
Emma Fialka-Feldman, Rethinking Schools
I grew up in the suburbs of Detroit. In the early 1990s, my family fought to have my brother Micah, who had been labeled with an intellectual disability with needs similar to those with Down syndrome, included in the general education classroom with supports. My parents are college-educated, speak English, and raised my brother and me with middle-class economic stability. We are white. These privileges meant that my parents could choose where to send my brother to school; they could take time off work without fear of losing their jobs to attend the hundreds of meetings; they could understand the meetings in English (although they didn’t necessarily understand the special education jargon). They didn’t have to wait months for translation services. They “spoke” the language of school — knowing who to contact when there were challenges and then demanding, year after year, that the school do better. My family also held the unwavering belief that school would not simply be about providing access to independent life skills, coin counting, and specialized discrete trials. Micah wouldn’t go to school to become less disabled. Micah would go to school so that he could reach his full potential. Learning and developing would be a lifelong process. Micah deserved to learn alongside his neighbors and friends with and without disabilities.
Elise Gout, Jamil Modaffari, and Kevin DeGood, Center for American Progress
Across the country, more and more students are returning to their classrooms after what has been, for some, nearly a year of online learning. The school closures brought on by COVID-19 have underscored how critical the physical environment is to student well-being and educational success. And yet, for large populations of students—particularly those in communities with fewer resources and in Black, Latino, and other communities of color—going back to school means going back to broken-down facilities with poor insulation and outdated ventilation systems. The deficiencies of school infrastructure have been exposed by the compounding crises of the COVID-19 pandemic and the record-breaking extreme weather events exacerbated by climate change. Last year, schools in Oregon burned in the worst wildfire season to date, and schools in Florida flooded after Tropical Storm Eta.
Emily Bloch, Education Week
A Duval County teacher who hung a Black Lives Matter flag in her classroom says she heard she was fired through a YouTube video. On Monday, Amy Donofrio’s legal team released a statement criticizing a recent guest speaking engagement from Florida Department of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran at Hillsdale College, a private conservative school in Michigan. Corcoran used Donofrio as an example while speaking about critical race theory and curriculum oversight and announced that he had her fired. In March, the school district announced Donofrio would be removed from her classroom while Duval Schools conducted an investigation for “several allegations.”
Language, Culture, and Power
Sara Miller Llana, Christian Science Monitor
Charline Grant was used to the disrespect. At first it was subtle. Her oldest son, Ziphion, a second grader, was coming home with notes about his disruptive behavior, about too much fidgeting or showing off. Initially, she didn’t suspect racism. She sat him down and says she came down hard. But the microaggressions mounted. She now knows to call them “macroaggressions,” she says, because they might be imperceivable to some, yet punch the target hard. They followed him through elementary and middle school. There was the time he spilled his grapes and a teacher lashed out so strongly that spit flew into his face. There were complaints he didn’t put away the basketball, or spent too long in the bathroom – the same things other kids did but didn’t get in trouble for. During his first year in high school, Ziphion, at that point a lanky teenager, called his mother from a bathroom stall, sobbing. “He said he was overwhelmed. It was just constant. Everything was just him, him, him,” she says.
Cory Turner & Sequoia Carrillo, NPR
Kriti Sarav does her best work in a narrow bedroom closet. Wedged in among plastic storage bins full of spare sheets, blankets, and pillows, the 16-year-old podcaster sits at a small desk with a microphone and headphones. “We got really lucky because when we moved into this house, they had this desk here,” Kriti says. “I like it for podcasting now — and storage, obviously.” It was in this tiny closet that Kriti recorded the podcast that won our high school grand prize in this year’s NPR Student Podcast Challenge.
Priscilla Chan, EL Education
It’s one of my most vivid teaching memories: It was September of 2005 and I was greeting students in the hall at the high school in the South Bronx where I was a science teacher, when a student I didn’t know, who was Black, said to me, “Hi, ching chong ching chong.” I was taken aback for a second, but instantly my educator reflexes jumped in. I introduced myself, he did the same, and I asked him what he meant by what he said. He replied: That’s how you people talk, right? That started a great conversation which ended with him telling me that I was the first Chinese person he had ever really spoken to, besides the delivery man, and that he would come talk to me again soon. As people of color know, it’s not our responsibility to be “patient and polite racial and cultural ambassadors.” However, as an educator and school leader, that is often literally my job! Educators frequently are at the crossroads of “spokesperson and resource library,” forging interracial bonds and building coalitions while constantly teaching toward anti-racism, and I embrace the opportunity.
Whole Children and Strong Communities
Marisa Saunders, Lorea Martinez, Lisa Flook, Laura E. Hernández
Social Justice Humanitas Academy—a public high school located in Southern California’s San Fernando Valley—was designed and founded by teachers as a community school in 2011. Their vision, which they actualized with partners through the Los Angeles Unified School District Pilot School initiative, was to create a school that would “not only be a place of learning, but also a resource for the community.” To do so, they designed a school that would bring together community resources, incorporate collaborative structures, and support students on their pathways to postsecondary success and self-actualization. Since its inception, SJ Humanitas has supported the success of its distinct student population. Currently, SJ Humanitas serves 521 students, 96% of whom are Latino/a and 7% of whom are identified as English learners. Ninety-three percent of its students are identified as economically disadvantaged, which represents a larger percentage than the district average. Despite serving a more disadvantaged population, SJ Humanitas outperforms its counterparts in LAUSD on a number of measures.
Taraji P. Henson launches campaign to help Black students fight mental health struggles, racism [VIDEO]
Morgan Smith, People
Taraji P. Henson is on a mission to combat racial bias in the classroom — and the mental distress it causes Black children. In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, the Empire star exclusively tells PEOPLE she is launching The Unspoken Curriculum, a new mental health campaign that will help Black students recognize signs of trauma and empower them to seek help. “We’re in a state of emergency right now,” says Henson, whose inspiration for the program comes from the events of the past 16 months — including the COVID-19 pandemic’s devastating impact on Black communities as well as ongoing instances of police brutality and racial injustice.
Monique Corral, Ed Source
California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s revised state budget proposal for 2021-22 includes one-time funds of $2.6 billion to schools to provide interventions for students, including tutoring. While tutoring can make a difference, we must avoid the pitfalls of pre-packaged and episodic interventions. We must get this one right. School districts should prioritize funding for tutoring for students who have fallen the furthest behind in their studies and whose families are the most disenfranchised economically. Experts who have studied learning loss during the pandemic estimate that students on average likely will have lost five to nine months of learning by the end of the school year.
Access, Assessment, Advancement
Andrew Reed & Alexander Montero, Ed Source
EdSource asked education leaders, advocates and keen observers of all segments of California’s education system to comment on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s 2021-22 revised budget for early education and child care. Scroll down and click on the photos to read their thought-provoking responses on the governor’s plans for investing in early education. Also see what education leaders are saying about the governor’s K-12 and postsecondary education budget.
Sarah Weissman, Inside Higher Ed
Colleges and universities, charitable and educational foundations, and various companies are investing in a spate of new courses or degree and certificate programs and services for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated students.The growth in prison higher education and workforce training opportunities comes on the heels of a sea change this academic year for all students, including those in prison. The murder of George Floyd last summer and the protests that followed prompted higher education leaders to re-examine their criminal justice programs, campus policing practices and initiatives to recruit and retain students of color. The pandemic shut down in-person instruction at colleges, including at prison college programs, as coronavirus infections tore through overcrowded prisons and led to the early release of thousands of inmates.
Joshua Duarte, Twitter
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
Anti-poverty policies for children must level the playing field across both racial and economic lines
Lisa A. Gennetian and Hirokazu Yoshikawa, Brookings
The expanded child tax credit proposed under the Biden American Rescue Plan is the largest single anti-poverty investment in children since the introduction of Head Start to over half a million families in the summer of 1965. With Black, Native American, and Latinx children representing nearly three-quarters of children in poverty as of 2019, scholars and policy pundits are simultaneously touting the expanded child tax credit as a policy of racial equity. Reducing poverty through these new policy investments will go a long way: Evidence points to how income-based policies that reduce poverty may cushion against the blows of pandemic-induced income loss, protect children from further harm, and support their development. Relief from continued stimulus payments and the expanded child tax credit will also more generally alleviate the negative ripple effects of economic and health distress on family life and parenting. However, these policy investments in isolation may not reach their full impact without also addressing the long-standing racial disparities of structural racism—some of which contributed to child poverty in the first place.
Ashley John-Baptiste, BBC
In 1960s and 70s Britain, hundreds of black children were labelled as “educationally subnormal”, and wrongly sent to schools for pupils who were deemed to have low intelligence. For the first time, some former pupils have spoken about their experiences for a new BBC documentary.
In the 1970s, at the age of six, Noel Gordon was sent to what was known at the time as an “educationahttps://ny.chalkbeat.org/2021/5/19/22442846/nyc-parent-council-elections-school-integration-divideslly subnormal” (ESN) boarding school, 15 miles (24km) from his home.
“That school was hell,” says Noel. “I spent 10 years there, and when I left at 16, I couldn’t even get a job because I couldn’t spell or fill out a job application.”
Zama Neff, Human Rights Watch
I’ve spent most of my career talking to parents who moved heaven and earth to get their children an education. There was the mother from Mogadishu, Somalia, who told me she gave thanks every afternoon when her children returned safely from school, until Al Shabaab fighters abducted her 17-year-old daughter and she had to flee with her other children. The Tamil grandmother who fled aerial bombing through lagoons during the years-long conflict in Sri Lanka only to ask, the night she arrived in a tent encampment, how her grandson would take exams. Syrian families reaching Europe who told my colleagues that they decided to make the dangerous Mediterranean crossing in part because their children could not get educated as refugees in Lebanon or Jordan. These parents’ passionate belief that education was so essential for their children’s lives that it was worth great risk has motivated my work to protect education during war, and to get refugee children in school.
Democracy and the Public Interest
George Packer, The Atlantic
The early months of the Biden presidency have revealed a conflict between two approaches to policy. One is liberal and universalist, the other progressive and particularist. One pursues equality through programs that include as many Americans as possible; the other targets groups, sometimes narrowly defined ones, in the name of equity. One minimizes cultural flashpoints; the other heightens them. One tries to weaken the Republican opposition with broadly popular ideas; the other, pushed by activists, draws conservatives into battles that intensify polarization. One has a chance to build a governing majority; the other risks consigning the Democratic Party to the dismal fate of the British Labour Party. So far, this conflict has generally been muted, but it’s bound to get worse, because it represents a deep and unresolved ideological tension among Democrats. It shows up in policy areas as different as universal basic income, vaccine distribution, and standardized testing—even in the unlikely field of civics, where there’s a quiet but consequential fracas going on.
Matt Vasilogambros, PEW
After waiting two hours for her chance to speak, high school student Samantha Oliver chimed in to the Delaware House Education Committee hearing last week with a succinct message: Young people should be active participants in our democracy. “It is a necessity that we, the next generation, learn how to use our voices for good, for change, effectively and earnestly,” said Oliver, a junior at the Sussex Academy of Arts, on the Zoom call. “We will be the ones to lead the charge of our country for the years to come.”
Valerie Strauss, Washington Post
While many Americans see 2021 as the year that may bring back something close to normalcy after the covid-19 pandemic, it has instead been declared the “Year of School Choice” by the American Federation for Children, an organization that promotes alternatives to public education and that was once headed by Betsy DeVos. Anyone who was thinking that the departure of DeVos as U.S. education secretary would stem the movement to privatize public education should think again. In numerous states, legislatures have proposed or are considering legislation to expand alternatives to the public schools that educate most American schoolchildren, often using public funding to pay for private and religious school. This post looks at some of the latest state actions. It was written by Carol Burris, a former prizewinning principal in New York and now executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group the Network for Public Education, which opposes charter schools and the privatization of public education.
Other News of Note
Norman Hill and Velma Murphy Hill, Dissent
More than a year into a national reckoning over racism, two heroes in the struggle for racial justice have received little national attention. A. Philip Randolph and Bayard Rustin were mentor and student, friends and colleagues—eventually, their relationship was like father and son. They were two giants who contributed greatly to the advancement of civil and human rights, economic justice, and coalition politics for the democratization of America. Although younger generations are often unaware of their contributions, it is on their shoulders that today’s activists stand. Five principles animated their lives of struggle and achievement.