Just News from Center X – May 29, 2020


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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Classes outside, face coverings and one-way hallways: How Los Angeles schools may reopen

Michael Burke, EdSource
any schools in districts in Los Angeles County could have a totally different look this year: masked students sitting six feet apart, walking single file along hallways and up and down stairs. They may eat lunch at their desks or with drastically fewer students in the cafeteria, and some could attend classes outdoors. Those are among the recommendations of a county-wide task force of district leaders for reopening schools for more than 2 million students this fall. The recommendations are included in a framework published Wednesday by the L.A. County Office of Education and are meant to serve as a guide to 80 school districts within the county, by far the most populous in the state, as they consider how and whether to reopen for the 2020-21 academic year.

A looming financial meltdown for America’s schools

Cory Turner, NPR
Austin Beutner looked haggard, his face a curtain of worry lines. The superintendent of the second-largest school district in the nation sat at a desk last week delivering a video address to Los Angeles families. But he began with a stark message clearly meant for another audience: Lawmakers in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. “Cuts to funding at schools will forever impact the lives of children,” Beutner said less than a week after California’s governor called for emergency cuts in education spending. The harm children face from these cuts, Beutner warned, “is just as real a threat to them as is the coronavirus.”

‘The future of public education is at stake’: An open letter to Joe Biden from 215 school advocates

Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post
President George W. Bush ushered in the No Child Left Behind period, signing the K-12 legislation into law in early 2002 and ushering in the era of the high-stakes standardized test. The goal of the legislation — which was written with the input of zero public school teachers — was ostensibly to ensure that marginalized communities were not ignored but turned out to be at best an ineffective solution to very real problems of inequity. Schools concentrated on math and English so students could pass mandated standardized tests while giving short shrift, or simply eliminating, classes in history, science, art, music, physical education and other subjects.

Language, Culture, and Power

Transgender student Gavin Grimm’s battle over bathroom access returns to court

Ann E. Marimow, The Washington Post
The case of Gavin Grimm, the transgender student barred from using the boys’ bathroom at his Virginia high school, returned to court Tuesday before a three-judge panel that seemed divided over whether federal laws protect transgender students from discrimination. Judge James A. Wynn Jr. of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit said Grimm’s school had essentially created separate but equal accommodations similar to the segregated schools for black children that were found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 1954. “Turns out no one goes there,” Wynn said of the single-stall restroom Grimm’s school offered as an alternative to the boys’ bathroom he wanted to use. “Is it not a stigma to create a restroom for a particular individual based on their orientation or gender identity?”

Norwalk-La Mirada parents, students want in-person graduation, not virtual one

Mike Sprague, The Whittier Daily News
Omar Bonilla is going to be the first person to graduate in his family — his grandparents are immigrants — and his mother, Yvette Lopez, wants to see her son take part in Norwalk High ceremonies. It’s why Lopez helped organize a protest in the heat of the day Tuesday at the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District office. As a result of the coronavirus crisis, the graduates are not scheduled to walk across a stage in front of parents, family and friends. Instead, the district is planning a “virtual” graduation ceremony via social media.

Education after COVID-19 cannot be reimagined without a racial justice plan

Colin Seale, Forbes
With schools across the country finishing the academic year remotely, there is little consensus about what schools should look like in the fall. It is highly unlikely that there will be a vaccine or cure that will mitigate the risks of COVID-19 infection in time for the upcoming school year. Understandably, every stakeholder group in K-12 education wants to know what the plan should be and wants to have some input on the plan. This conversation ramped up after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released their considerations for schools earlier this month. The CDC’s suggestions included spacing student desks at least 6 feet apart from each other, discouraging sharing, and procuring massive amounts of soap, hand sanitizer, and supplies to clean and disinfect frequently-touched surfaces. But, even with every stakeholder group from parents to teacher unions chiming in with their own ideas about how the school day should be structured and what safety measures should implemented, an important piece is missing.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

The coronavirus has made it obvious. Teenagers should start school later.

Aaron E. Carroll, The New York Times
The pandemic has provided us with a unique opportunity to run an experiment in letting teenagers sleep in. It’s happening in my own house. My kids are 18, 16 and almost 14. Their school is being taught mostly asynchronously, through reading or videos. They do have some scheduled meetings and tests, but none begin before 10 a.m., and many are in the afternoon. My wife and I have removed all restrictions and let them regulate their sleep themselves. The kids seem to be going to bed between midnight and 3 a.m. If they’re not required to be in a morning session, I might see them by lunch. It is working out amazingly well for all involved. Granted, we are just one family. But there’s overwhelming evidence that kids don’t sleep enough, and a new study makes a compelling case that starting school later would help.

Leveraging social and emotional learning to support students and families in the time of COVID-19

Justina Schlund and Roger Weissberg, Learning Policy Institute
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for social and emotional learning (SEL) was clear: A large body of research has demonstrated the effectiveness of SEL for supporting students’ academic and long term success. Principals, teachers, researchers, parents, employers, and students themselves have been calling for SEL in education. At the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), we were working closely with districts and states across the country to systematically integrate SEL across classrooms, schools, homes, and community partnerships. The pandemic has further illuminated the need for SEL to care for ourselves, our students, and their families. COVID-19 has also exposed existing inequities in education and may fundamentally change how we conceive of school. Now more than ever, we must call upon our empathy, resilience, relationship building, and collective resolve as we innovate and rebuild our education systems.

Increasing screen time during the coronavirus pandemic could be harmful to kids’ eyesight

ShuFang Shih and Olivia Killeen, The Conversation
The coronavirus pandemic is remaking the way children learn, and it could have an impact on their eyes. With schools shifting to online lessons at home, children are spending more time in front of computer screens, and many parents are relaxing screen-time rules for TV and video games to keep kids occupied while social distancing. In the midst of the crisis, many children are spending less time playing outdoors. This combination – more screen time and less outdoor time – may actually harm children’s vision and put them at higher risk of developing myopia, or nearsightedness. That can lead to serious eye problems in the future, including some potentially blinding diseases.

Access, Assessment, and Advancement

1-in-5 teachers unlikely to return to schools if reopened in the fall, poll finds

Alexa Lardieri, U.S. News and World Report
One-in-5 teachers say they are unlikely to go back to school if they reopen in the fall and six-in-10 parents would likely continue at-home education. A USA Today/Ipsos poll found that nearly two-thirds of teachers say they haven’t been able to properly do their jobs since the coronavirus closed schools across the country, though most teachers report working more than usual. Additionally, while 60% of parents would likely continue home-schooling, 30% of parents say they are “very likely” to do so even if schools open in the fall.

America sabotaged the solution to its new higher-education crisis

Sara Goldrick-Rab, The Atlantic
Right now, across the country, millions of high-school graduates and their families are facing an undeniable fact: The pandemic has thrown their plans for the future into complete disarray. Some of these families were hoping to send their kids to out-of-state institutions that are now barely operational. Others were hoping their kids would find jobs right out of high school, and those jobs are almost certainly gone now. Many of these families—plus millions of students already midway through a college degree—are going to turn to an institution often overlooked in the national discourse about higher education: community college. And why shouldn’t they?

Putting schools online won’t save money. Here’s what will

Peter Greene, The Progressive
Virtually nobody following the world of education finances is looking at the current situation and saying, “Yeah, the pandemic shut-down isn’t going to affect school funding at all.” A huge school budget crunch is coming. Virtually nobody following the world of education finances is looking at the current situation and saying, “Yeah, the pandemic shut-down isn’t going to affect school funding at all.” A huge school budget crunch is coming. The majority of a school’s budget is spent on personnel, so budget crunches inevitably result in staff cuts. When officials like New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo talk about “reimagining” schools and replacing traditional classrooms with a more “personalized” approach, what they really want is to park students in front of computer screens and replace teachers with software.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Virtual special education meetings popular in some districts, but a major hurdle in others

Carolyn Jones, EdSource
In the wake of a federal order for schools to keep providing special education during school closures, one of the trickiest parts of those services — mandatory parent meetings — has proven to be an unexpected boon in some districts but almost impossible in others. For parents who have computers and are comfortable with videoconferencing, the virtual meetings with teachers, therapists and other school staff have been relatively smooth and efficient. In fact, some districts say they’ll keep them even after schools reopen, because they’re more convenient for teachers and parents who work. But the online meetings have been a challenge for parents who lack technological skills, don’t speak English or are preoccupied with more pressing matters, such as unemployment or homelessness related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Living in hotels, students lose ground while dealing with cramped rooms and eviction fears

Aliyya Swaby and Juan Pablo Garnham, Texas Tribune
With their two young children in tow, Andre Cameron and Tie Hernandez sought a room at the Budget Suites of America in late March. On a form asking how long they planned to stay, they answered “four to six months.” They put down a $200 deposit for a one-bedroom in the middle of a life-changing pandemic, having no idea whether that estimate was accurate. Paetun Beavers, who is 11, and Kingstun Beavers, who is 9, sleep on a couch in the living room and pile their blankets up in the morning. The family pays the hotel $8 a week for sluggish internet so the children can complete homework assignments for Comanche Springs School in Eagle Mountain-Saginaw Independent School District — to the perpetual soundtrack of Fort Worth’s busy Interstate 820.

How the crisis is making racial inequality worse

Greg Rosalsky, Planet Money
COVID-19 is killing African Americans at a rate three times higher than white people. You can see the disparity on the map with places like the Bronx, the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans and the South Side of Chicago grappling with thousands of deaths from the disease. The health crisis, however, is also an economic crisis, and the virus is clobbering these communities on this front, too.Job losses are “dramatically concentrated in the low end of the wage distribution,” says Erik Hurst, an economist at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. He is the co-author of a new study, “The U.S. Labor Market during the Beginning of the Pandemic Recession,” which analyzes payroll data from millions of American workers between early March and mid-April.

Public Schools and Private $

DeVos demands public schools share pandemic aid with private institutions

Erica L. Green, The New York Times
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, defiant amid criticism that she is using the coronavirus to pursue a long-sought agenda, said she would force public school districts to spend a large portion of federal rescue funding on private school students, regardless of income. Ms. DeVos announced the measure in a letter to the Council of Chief State School Officers, which represents state education chiefs, defending her position on how education funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, should be spent.

A bold pitch to boost school funding for the nation’s most vulnerable students

Cory Turner, NPR
School district lines have become engines of inequity in many states. Not only can they be used to keep children out of a neighborhood’s schools, they can also keep a district’s wealth in. But with many districts facing severe budget cuts because of the coronavirus pandemic, a new report proposes a radical solution: Leave the lines, but spread the wealth.

Did some charter schools double-dip in federal coronavirus relief funding?

Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post
When Congress passed a huge economic assistance aid package in March, known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, it included $13.5 billion in funding for K-12 grants to states. Most of the money was supposed to be distributed to school districts and charter schools through a formula based on their share of Title 1 funds, which are intended to help students from low-income families. But after the act passed, some charter schools — which are publicly funded but privately managed — decided to also apply for loans from a different part of the new law, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which was intended to help small businesses and eligible nonprofit organizations.

Other News of Note

Eddie Glaude on death of George Floyd: ‘Police don’t value the lives of black folk’

Eddie Glaude, MSNBC
Eddie Glaude, Chairman of the Center for African American Studies at Princeton University and MSNBC contributor, on the death of George Floyd: “Police don’t value the lives of black folk. When you look at the face of that officer, he doesn’t seem to assume that he has his knee on the neck of a human being … He doesn’t hear him call out for his mother. He doesn’t hear him crying. This is the America we live in.”