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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
John Fensterwald, EdSource
Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders agree that the state should significantly increase funding for students with disabilities. But, in one of the biggest disagreements over next year’s state budget, they head into negotiations far apart on how they would spend the new money. Newsom is proposing an additional $696 million in ongoing funding for special education in his budget for next year. Last week, the Assembly Budget Committee rejected outright the new formula that the Department of Finance has proposed for divvying up that additional money. The 21 percent increase for students with special needs would be the largest in decades. But critics — and they are numerous — point out fewer than a quarter of the state’s school districts would qualify for any of the new money and once they get it, they could spend it however they want. Instead, the Assembly committee’s proposal for an additional $593 million instead would pay for services for students with disabilities in preschool — an age group that currently gets no state funding — and equalize funding for the regional special education agencies that administer funding and services on behalf of school districts and charter schools. This is the approach that a past state task force on special education urged and the Coalition for Adequate Funding for Special Education and associations representing school boards and school administrators are endorsing.
Kyle Stokes, LAist
The leader of the Los Angeles Unified School District has finally released details of a long-anticipated plan to re-shape the relationship between the system’s 900-plus schools and a massive central bureaucracy. Superintendent Austin Beutner’s plan, outlined in a memo sent to LAUSD board members late Monday, focuses on the educator smack in the middle of that relationship: the LAUSD campus principal. The superintendent has set in motion a series of changes centered, chiefly, on making the principal’s job simpler. Each change alone is relatively subtle, but Beutner says taken together, he hopes they’ll help principals spend more time learning from peers, mentoring teachers, and communicating more directly with the parents of the district’s half-a-million students.
Mass-shooting insurance? It’s not real, but LA youths’ ‘Mad Men’-style ad campaign aims to make you think about guns in our country
Elizabeth Chou, Los Angeles Daily News
On bus shelters and social media sites starting Wednesday, a provocative advertising campaign will begin rolling out to promote a new type of insurance — one that protects against different varieties of gun violence. The insurance would cover things like accidental or unintentional shootings, mass shootings, and gang- and domestic violence-related gun violence. But those interested in getting this insurance — if there are any — may be disappointed. The phone numbers and website information actually leads to a campaign — called “Actions Speak Louder Than Guns ” — supporting universal background checks for gun purchases at the federal level, and state legislation to provide funding for to fight local gang-related gun violence. Steven Bash, an El Camino Real Charter High School student who was part of a youth team that hatched up the “Mad Men”-style advertising campaign, admits it is a “publicity stunt” — but a needed one to jolt his high school peers and adults into action.
Language, Culture, and Power
Dorothy Venditto, Edutopia
Over the years, I’ve made the integration of social justice issues a priority in my teaching. This year, I had the opportunity to create a fifth-grade enrichment class about social justice called Gender Equity Champions, or GEC. The goals of this class were to help students identify how gender affects us and to learn about gender inequity around the world. These may seem like complex problems for fifth graders, but as is often the case, students surpassed expectations around what they could process and actions they could take. What started out as a one-semester elective for a small group of girls and boys turned into a yearlong club that inspired deep school-wide conversations.
Linda Flanagan, KQED
When Sophie Huttner was 16 years old, she labored over an ethical dilemma. Her small class at Kent Place School in New Jersey was discussing a case study that concerned a woman who was thinking of leaving her disabled husband; caring for his injuries was devouring the woman’s every moment, and the couple’s affection for each other had fizzled. Was it ethically wrong for her to leave him? “The case made me realize that the value I placed on individual autonomy would often conflict with other values that I also thought important, like loyalty and integrity,” Huttner said. At the time, she was involved in her first serious relationship, and the case and ensuing discussion touched on the very questions she was mulling in her personal life. “When you give kids and teenagers the space to explore ethical dilemmas, this can be very powerful for students,” said Jana M. Lone, director of the Center for Philosophy for Children at the University of Washington, which brings introductory philosophy to schoolkids in the Seattle area. Central to ethics education is teaching kids the skills to make sound decisions: to search for and evaluate their assumptions, to excavate the reasons behind those assumptions, to examine without prejudice another’s opinion and to make a thoughtful decision with confidence.
Robbyn McFadden, CBS News
If you are among the millions of visitors to New York City’s Central Park each year, you’ve seen the statues that dot the landscape honoring Shakespeare, Alexander Hamilton and Christopher Columbus. So, who’s missing? “How can you have statues of men everywhere, and the only statues of women are Mother Goose, Alice in Wonderland?” said Coline Jenkins. “We needed real women.” In the park there are 22 statues of men … and one dog, Balto, who was – you guessed it – male. “The women who have played such a vital part of history are invisible, until now,” said Pam Elam. She and Jenkins run the Monumental Women campaign. Their goal: to erect a monument in Central Park honoring women’s suffrage pioneers Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Their efforts haven’t exactly been a walk in the park. “They said immediately, ‘No, there will be no new statues in Central Park. It’s a historical collection, no,’” said Elam. “We persisted. Then they said, ‘Well, can you pick another park? And do you really want a statue? How ’bout a nice garden?’ We persisted.”
Whole Children and Strong Communities
Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post; Leila Morsy, Economic Policy Institute
Education reform efforts continue to focus mostly on how higher quality teaching can overcome social and economic challenges. Yet, these efforts have failed to make a meaningful difference in the achievement gap between black and white children. In part, this continued reform focus on in-class factors is the result of a failure to understand the pathways by which social and economic disadvantage contributes to depressed academic performance and behavioral outcomes and greater health morbidities. In a new report co-authored by Leila Morsy and Richard Rothstein, and co-published by the Economic Policy Institute and the Opportunity Institute, “Toxic Stress and Children’s Outcomes,” we argue that educators and policymakers should pay greater attention to the contribution of “toxic stress” — a dysregulated physiological stress reaction that arises in response to frightening and threatening experiences — to the achievement gap.
‘Schools are no longer just institutions of learning—we are the primary hub of care outside the family’
Pedro da Costa, Economic Policy Institute
My colleague Elaine Weiss launched her new book Broader, Bolder, Better on the challenges facing teachers around the country at an EPI event this week by emphasizing the need for policymakers and researchers to listen to educators themselves rather than imposing their biases on the pros. Truly moving remarks from guest of honor Joy Kirk, a middle-school teacher from Fredrick County, Va., made quite clear why that’s a sound strategy. Kirk described the transition she has witnessed in the role of teachers and schools as anchors in the community over her 24 years of teaching, which began in urban Philadelphia before she moved to a more rural setting. “Schools are no longer just institutions of learning. We are the primary hub of care outside the family,” she said, a stark reality considering the deeply under-resourced state of so many of the country’s schools.
Terry Gross, NPR
As colleges and universities across the country report an explosion of mental health problems, a new book argues that college life may be more stressful than ever. Dr. Anthony Rostain, co-author of The Stressed Years of Their Lives, notes that today’s college students are experiencing an “inordinate amount of anxiety” — much of it centered on “surviving college and doing well.” “What we’re seeing now are growing numbers of students coming [onto] campus who are already being treated for mental illness, or who are on various medications and who really have learned to manage their illnesses at home,” he says, “but suddenly they’re on their own and sometimes they’re not following through [with] their own recommended treatments.”
Access, Assessment, and Advancement
Chris Berdik, The Hechinger Report
Frame by frame, the simple round face sketched by seventh grader Annabelle Bechtel erupted into laughter in stop-motion animation, as she and her classmate Audrey Chung wove the face into a video they were making to explain satire. Other students were making their own videos, about foreshadowing, metaphor and other literary devices. The kids worked at tables surrounded by craft supplies, 3-D printers and woodworking tools in the maker space of Corte Madera School, a public school for grades 4 to 8 nestled in the San Mateo County hills. Bechtel could readily recite the definition of satire. But what else was she learning in this maker space? With scarcely a month left in the school year, why was it worth spending time making videos rather than covering the next academic standard?
Pamela Burdman and Christopher Edley, Jr., EdSource
Providing all students with the chance to take college admissions tests sounds like a logical way to pull disadvantaged students into the college pipeline. Unfortunately, the way state lawmakers are moving to do this is a huge mistake that will undermine accountability for excellence and equity. For several years, a number of school districts and others have been pressuring the state to administer the SAT or ACT in lieu of the Smarter Balanced tests in English Language Arts and math that all 11th graders are expected to take each spring. Last year, the Legislature actually passed a bill to do just that, but it was vetoed by Gov. Brown. A new bill (AB 751) now moving quickly through the Assembly has brought the idea back into play. There are so many reasons why this is wrong.
Elise Gould, Zane Mokhiber, and Julia Wolfe, Economic Policy Institute
Fallout from the Great Recession did a lot of damage to the employment prospects of young adults just entering the workforce after graduating from high school or college—and that damage persisted well into the recovery. However, with sustained improvements in economic conditions in recent years, young graduates’ prospects for employment and wage growth have been slowly improving. In this study, we analyze data on recent young college graduates (ages 21–24) to learn about the Class of 2019’s economic prospects as they start their careers.
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
Bettina L. Love, Education Week
In February of 2019, a positive behavior support coach who was employed by the district in Madison, Wis., allegedly physically assaulted and ripped the hair out of the head of an 11-year-old Black girl. In the same school district, several teachers and substitutes have been fired or resigned earlier this academic year after reports they used racial slurs in the classroom. In the neighboring school district of Middleton, Wis., a school bus driver was fired after the district confirmed he had slapped a Black child. All these incidents in Wisconsin happened within months of each other. In Binghamton, N.Y., four 12-year-old Black girls reported they were strip-searched at their school for acting too hyper and giddy in January. School officials likely assumed the girls were on drugs because their Black joy was unrecognizable. Of course, no drugs were found and the district denies strip searching the girls. However, the district does admit that asking students to remove some of their clothing is in compliance with a “sobriety check”. The girls’ parents dispute the district’s claims, and a civil lawsuit from the parents and a third-party investigation are still ongoing.
Low-income and minority students are growing share of enrollments, and 2 other takeaways from new study
Zipporah Osei, The Chronicle of Higher Education
A growing number of undergraduates come from low-income families, especially at less-selective colleges, according to a new analysis by the Pew Research Center. Using data from the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study — which was last updated in 2016 — the Pew researchers found that community colleges and the least-selective four-year colleges have seen the greatest rise in poor and minority students. The most selective, private four-year institutions have not seen as much of an increase, according to a report by the researchers. The report, released on Wednesday, places the fast-changing demographics of higher education in sharp relief.
Madeline Will, Education Week
Teachers of color are disproportionately more likely to be rated minimally ineffective or ineffective on evaluations than their white counterparts, a new study finds. The study finds that across Michigan, nearly 19 percent of black teachers and about 13 percent of Hispanic teachers received a low evaluation rating from 2011-12 to 2015-16, compared to just 7 percent of white teachers. Teachers of color in schools with a predominately white faculty are even more likely to receive low scores. “The results are consistent with, but not conclusive of, a story in which the evaluation system disproportionately and negatively harms teachers of color,” said Joshua Cowen, the faculty co-director of the Education Policy Innovation Collaborative at Michigan State University. “We don’t know, nor can we directly claim, that this is willful or explicit intent, but there’s a lot of research being done … on the roles of implicit bias in the classroom,” including between supervisors and teachers.
Public Schools and Private $
Ricardo Cano, CALmatters
Legislation that would give local school districts more control over charter-school authorizations narrowly passed the California State Assembly Wednesday in a dramatic vote that served as an initial litmus test for a package of consequential, union-backed charter regulation bills. For nearly an hour, Assembly Bill 1505 stood just shy of a handful of the 41 votes required to advance to the Senate, in part because of concerns the bill went too far in limiting the ability of charter schools to appeal authorization denials from local school districts to county and state education boards. Only one Republican, Jordan Cunningham, ended up voting yes on the measure. Many moderate Democrats initially were reluctant to support it, but the final tally included a mix of mods and liberal Democrats. Seventeen members chose not to vote. When the bill finally passed 44-19-17, it was with an assurance from Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, the bill’s author, that the bill would be amended to include a “fair” appeal process. “We knew this was going to be a fight because this is a heavily political matter,” O’Donnell said following the floor vote. “Charter schools have a lot of resources that public schools don’t on the political front, and they employ them in the state Capitol, and we saw that today.”
In the Public Interest
Public school students in California’s West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) are paying dearly for privately managed charter schools they don’t attend. Unchecked charter school expansion in recent years has added to the cost of educating students who attend traditional public schools. This has increased pressure on the district to cut spending on academic tutoring, services for English learners, and more. Charter schools add $27.9 million a year to WCCUSD’s costs of running its own schools, this study finds. That’s a net loss, after accounting for all savings realized by no longer educating the charter school students. As a result, the district has $978 less in funding for each traditional public school student it serves. This previously unmeasured cost is a conservative estimate. The district faces additional fiscal pressures due to charter schools that are too difficult to measure, such as the inequitable proportion of state funding it receives for educating high-needs students.
Andrew Ujifusa, Education Week
Arts education is an often-neglected but frequently critical component of what schools can provide to students, particularly those from underserved communities. And there’s a diverse set of approaches states and school systems take when addressing theater, dance, music, and the visual arts in schools of choice such as charter schools and magnets. That’s one key takeaway from “The Arts in Schools of Choice,” a policy brief from the Education Commission of the States released last week. The report concedes there’s not a big research base to build on regarding the intersection of arts education and school choice. (The brief also covers policy for educational options such as open-enrollment and private schools.) One study found, for example, that charters tend to offer less in the way of arts education than other public and private schools—but the same can’t be said in Chicago, where charter elementary schools do more specifically on music education than their counterparts.
Other News of Note
Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post
Students in scores of countries around the world skipped school on Friday to stage protests against governmental inaction on climate change and to demand that world leaders address the issue immediately. The coordinated action follows one in March, in which an estimated 1.6 million students from 125 countries protested instead of going to school. It was the latest event in a movement called Fridays for Future, in which young people periodically take action on climate change. The movement was sparked by a Swedish teenage activist named Greta Thunberg, who in 2018 led a solo protest in front of the Swedish parliament with a sign saying “School strike for the climate.” Pictures she posted on her social media accounts went viral, and the movement was born.