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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post
Five years ago I began spotlighting the winners of an annual project called “Schools of Opportunity,” which recognizes high schools that work to close opportunity gaps by creating learning environments that reach every student. Here are the seven winners in the 2018-19 cycle. The Schools of Opportunity project started in 2014 as a pilot in New York and Colorado, and went national in 2015-16. Several dozen schools have been honored in the program, which assesses a range of factors (see graphic above), including how well the adults in a school building provide health and psychological support for students as well as judicious and fair discipline policies, and broad and enriched curriculum.
Jennifer Imazeki, EdSource
At this point, many readers will have heard the estimate from the Getting Down to Facts II research collaborative that California needs approximately $26 billion in additional funding to reach an adequate funding level in all schools, i.e. the level necessary for all schools to be able to meet the goals set by the State Board of Education. Such a statistic naturally leads to the question: Where are we going to get that kind of money? Unfortunately, California’s options for raising that revenue are quite limited. Of course, there are statewide taxes (such as the sales and income taxes approved through Prop 30 in 2012 and Prop 55 in 2016); there are also some options at the local level. My own GDTFII report tries to highlight lessons we might learn from other states about school finance systems, but when it comes to local revenue options, California’s context is so different from other states that such comparisons are not particularly useful. Specifically, in most other states local districts have much more flexibility to raise revenue via property taxes and local property taxes typically are the primary source of school funding; in California, we lost that flexibility in the 1970s with Proposition 13.
Education is a hot topic for some candidates in the Democratic presidential field — and potential trouble for others
Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post
One promised to spend $315 billion to raise teachers’ pay. Another vowed to hire a former public school teacher as U.S. education secretary. A number of them want to eliminate tuition at public schools and forgive a mountain of student loans. They are the Democratic candidates seeking their party’s 2020 presidential nomination, and education is a hot topic among a good number of them in the field of 23. It is also potential trouble for some candidates whose past positions, once dominant in the party, have been losing luster in the era of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. American voters have long declared education an important issue but never prioritized education in general elections — at least not until the 2018 midterm elections. That’s when some races were won or lost — depending on your point of view — on education issues. Scott Walker lost his bid for a third term as Wisconsin governor to Tony Evers, a former state education superintendent who campaigned against Walker’s assault on public education.
Language, Culture, and Power
Evie Blad, Education Week
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Equality Act Friday, greenlighting a bill that would amend Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to add explicit federal protections for gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation to existing federal civil rights laws alongside similar protections based on race and national origin. If it becomes law, the bill could have broad effects for public schools, touching on everything from the treatment of transgender students and bullying prevention to the rights of employees. The bill passed the house 236-173. It will almost certainly face more resistance in the Republican-led Senate. “Today’s historic vote to pass The Equality Act in the U.S. House of Representatives is a vital step forward to ensure that the rights and livelihood of all Americans—including hundreds of thousands of LGBTQ students and educators—are protected,” said Eliza Byard, the executive director of GLSEN, an organization that advocates for LGBTQ students. The change could essentially moot ongoing arguments about whether Title IX protects transgender students, and whether sex protections in employment laws apply more broadly to gender identity and sexual orientation, an issue currently before the U.S. Supreme Court. “This is just that guarantee that no court is going to be in a guessing game about whether or not these protections exist,” said Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign, which supports the Equality Act.
Emily Tate, EdSurge
About two-and-a-half years ago, staff at the nonprofit crowdfunding platform DonorsChoose.org began to notice an uptick in teacher requests for resources in which students could “see themselves”—that was the key phrase that kept coming up. That upward trend has continued:
Since 2016, such requests have increased 117 percent. And DonorsChoose is taking note. On Thursday, the organization announced the launch of #ISeeMe, a campaign aimed at boosting the amount of culturally responsive materials in U.S. classrooms. These include items like books written by authors of color, or other resources featuring figures from diverse backgrounds. As part of the campaign—which will target requests on DonorsChoose made by teachers of color, female math and science teachers, and any teacher who asks for resources that reflect their students’ identities—Google.org has pledged $4 million to match donations to relevant projects.
Emmanuel Felton, The Hechinger Report
Can a locally elected school board bring true accountability to the city’s diffuse network of charter schools, or will the corruption and favoritism that plagued the city’s school board before Katrina return, giving an upper hand to savvy, well-connected parents and communities?
Whole Children and Strong Communities
Maya Salam, The New York Times
It’s no secret that intimate partner violence is a leading killer of women in the United States: More than half of homicides of women are at the hands of a romantic partner, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Now it appears that this type of violence is also affecting adolescent girls. A new study found that of nearly 2,200 homicides of young people from 2003 to 2016, some 7 percent — or 150 of those deaths — were at the hands of current or former intimate partners. Girls made up 90 percent of the victims, underscoring the importance of not discounting early dating relationships as casual or pretend. “While the dynamics of these relationship may be quite different than among adults, this is a public health issue we need to take seriously,” said Avanti Adhia, who led the study, one of the most comprehensive ever on the topic, which was published in the April issue of JAMA Pediatrics. Dating violence among teenagers has the potential to lead to death, she went on, and girls are at the highest risk. Breakups or jealousy precipitated more than a quarter of the homicides, researchers found, and a majority of the deaths involved guns (which are also a major factor in the number of adult women killed by their partners). The average age of girls killed was 17, while their partners were, on average, 21. The fact that teenagers are grappling with intimate partner violence might be surprising, but it’s actually incredibly common.
Associated Press, U.S. News & World Report
Schools trying to protect kids from mass shootings are turning to gunshot detection systems, cellphone apps and artificial intelligence — a high-tech approach designed to reduce the number of victims. Technology that speeds up law enforcement’s response and quickly alerts teachers and students to danger is a growing tool amid rising concerns over the inability to prevent shootings like the one last week at a suburban Denver high school. An 18-year-old student who rushed one of the gunmen died. While a focus on gun control often emerges after school shootings, technology can be a less partisan solution that’s quick to implement — though some experts say funding preventive mental health resources should be the priority. “We’ve kind of reached this state of frustration where we (feel like we) can’t protect our students,” said Dennis Kenney, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “What we’re trying to do is find some technological fix, and there isn’t one.” Districts nationwide are recognizing that and instituting an approach that combines technology with mental health programs, bullying prevention and security officers.
Anthony Pellicone and Rafi Santo, Reclaiming Digital Futures
Youth come into informal learning environments with their own interests and expectations. These interests can present powerful pathways towards deeper learning, and present both participants and educators with a starting point for thinking about new programs. However, it’s not always clear how this might work in practice. Here, we share how Chicago Public Library’s YOUmedia program uses an approach to youth development that supports teen participants to be actively involved in the design of their own programs with the guidance of librarians. Inspired by cooperative design methods, YOUmedia taps into youth interest to create meaningful, engaging, and well-loved programs alongside their teen patrons.
Access, Assessment, and Advancement
Andrew Ujifusa, Education Week
Much of the federal education law deals with schools struggling to meet expectations. And we have new information concerning just how many of them are being tagged as needing improvement in the Every Student Succeeds Act era. But the answers vary significantly by state. A new report from the Center on Education Policy takes a state-by-state look at the number of schools that have been identified as needing comprehensive support and improvement, targeted support and improvement, or additional targeted support and improvement. Those are ESSA’s three school improvement categories. The share of schools getting each one of those labels can vary dramatically from state to state. In Florida, for example, 69 percent of schools fell into one of those buckets, while in Maryland, just 3 percent of schools have recevied one of the labels so far. The same goes for the share of schools in each of those categories: In Arizona, 41 percent of schools need targeted support and improvement, while in Kansas, the corresponding figure is just 6 percent. Need a reminder of which schools those labels apply to? You can go here. Basically, schools needing comprehensive support and improvement are Title I schools with very low overall performance, or high schools with low graduation rates, while the other two types of schools have some sort of chronic underperformance among student subgroups. These labels matter schools are supposed to get evidence-based interventions tailored to address their problem areas.
John Fensterwald, EdSource
Research released this week identified 156 California school districts with higher test scores in math and English language arts than expected for African-American and Hispanic students and found that teacher experience was the common factor that contributed to the higher results. “The research finds that providing students with qualified, fully prepared teachers is a critical component for raising student achievement,” said Anne Podolsky, lead author on the report, “California’s Positive Outliers: Districts Beating the Odds,” by the Palo-Alto based Learning Policy Institute. Other co-authors included Sean Reardon, professor at the Stanford University School of Education, and the institute’s CEO and president, Linda Darling-Hammond. Hammond is also the newly appointed president of the State Board of Education and an adviser to Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Sidney Fussell, The Atlantic
Students taking the SAT will soon be subjected to a new kind of assessment. On top of their math and verbal results, indicating what knowledge they were able to summon internally while taking the exam, they’ll be placed along a scale of adversity: a representation of the external. By calculating students’ social, economic, and family background, the College Board hopes to add new context to students’ test scores. Evaluating students on factors far beyond their control might seem like a novel attempt in leveling the playing field, but in some ways, it actually brings the test closer to its conflicted origins.
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
Lulu Garcia-Navarro, NPR
NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro asks former federal prosecutor Paul Butler about how more than 20 Trump judicial nominees have declined to affirm a Supreme Court decision desegregating public schools.
Esther Cepeda, Enterprise Record
Over the past few years, I’ve taught at schools that were low-income, terribly under-resourced and majority-African American and Latino. I’ve also taught at affluent, majority-white schools with nutritionally balanced lunches and laptops for every student. What I’ve come to learn is that in all of these schools, the one factor that should move the needle of student achievement — teacher quality — only supports a woefully inadequate status quo. My students who attended school in a building with ancient pipes that leached lead into the water fountains and with glue traps that were scattered around the school so that mice could die painful public deaths usually had teachers with their hearts in the right place. But the teachers also had low classroom-management skills or academic subject-matter expertise. The few true believers with skills — teachers who were there to prove that low-income kids could perform as well as their well-resourced peers in neighboring districts — tended to burn out and leave for greener pastures relatively quickly. In contrast, affluent schools — where the “whole child” is considered, enrichment programs are built into test-prep-driven schedules and the calendar is marked with countless bells and whistles like field trips and special-learning activities — attract the best-performing and most highly qualified teachers.
Adolfo Guzman-Lopez, KPCC
An estimated one in five California community college students are experiencing homelessness. Many of them sleep in their cars. Legislation working its way through the State Assembly would require community colleges to open their parking lots at night to give them a safe place to park overnight — but the bill is facing pushback from some colleges and local elected officials. Cypress College student Selina Jaimes Davila is among the students who have been left with no choice but to sleep in their cars. She’s moving on to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo soon, but says she would have benefitted from a safe place on the Cypress campus. “I would have gotten more hours of sleep, I would have felt safer,” she said. “I wouldn’t have had to like, you know, kind of in a way, sneak around.”
Public Schools and Private $
Dana Goldstein and Sydney Ember, The New York Times
When Senator Bernie Sanders delivered a wide-ranging speech on education Saturday, he became the first major Democratic candidate to propose a detailed plan to racially integrate schools, calling for $1 billion in funding to support local integration efforts, such as magnet schools and busing. It was the type of robust agenda that integration advocates say they have waited decades for. But for some, those ideas were overshadowed by more divisive elements of the proposal: Mr. Sanders’s plan to freeze federal funding for all new charter schools, and the link his plan made between charter schools and segregation.
John Fensterwald, EdSource
State law already requires that a charter school admit any student who applies. In his May budget revision, Gov. Gavin Newsom is proposing to tighten the language banning discrimination in charter school enrollment, particularly to protect students with disabilities and students with poor grades who want to attend charter schools. “The Administration is committed to a system where traditional and charter schools work together to serve the best interests of all students in a community,” reads Newsom’s budget summary, adding the law change would “level the playing field for both traditional and charter schools.”
Cipriano Vargas and Barbara Avalos, The Morning Call
A badly needed reform to the charter school authorization process, Assembly Bill 1505, is currently making its way through the Legislature. The measure will ensure that charter schools obey the law, do not stray from their stated mission and truly serve the communities where they are located. This proposal would allow locally elected school boards to make decisions around which charter schools open in their districts, and would allow locally elected leaders making these decisions to take into consideration the interest of all district students.
Other News of Note
John Rogers, Re-Imagining Migration
In late April, in a tense and closely watched session, President Trump’s Solicitor General, Noel Francisco, appeared before the United States Supreme Court to argue for the inclusion of a question about citizenship status on the 2020 Census form. As the justices prepare to rule in the coming weeks, a central question before the court is whether including such a question will yield lower response rates from immigrant residents, thereby leading to less political power and diminished government resources for cities and states with large immigrant populations. Will immigrants steer clear of census gatherers out of fear that their personal information about citizenship status will be used for immigration enforcement? A likely answer to this question comes from an unlikely source: high school principals. In a nationally representative survey of 505 high school principals conducted last summer by UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access, principals indicated that the Trump administration’s political rhetoric and policy action have created a climate of fear amongst many immigrant families.