Just News from Center X – May 7, 2021

Just News from Center X is a free weekly news blast about equitable public education. Please share and encourage colleagues and friends to subscribe.

Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Philly kids, teachers march for schools, racial justice: ‘Normal was never enough’

Kristen A. Graham, Philadelphia Inquirer

Christina Ly was a sophomore in high school when a ceiling in her school collapsed, raining pieces of plaster and streams of water into hallways at the Academy at Palumbo in South Philadelphia. Palumbo educators had warned officials of problems at the school, but their warnings went unheeded. In addition to environmental problems, Palumbo, like all 220 schools in the Philadelphia School District, doesn’t have enough staff, enough supplies, enough money, Ly said.

Why Teachers Leave—or Don’t: A Look at the Numbers

Liana Loewus, Education Week

Deciding to leave any job can be hard, but for teachers, exiting the classroom can be downright heartbreaking. Teaching is, in its essence, about relationships—understanding students’ needs, fostering their passions, figuring out what makes them tick. To give up that work, for many, would be a deep loss. “It’s the students’ faces, it’s their excitement to learn,” said Akilah Williams, a 5th grade teacher in Georgia’s Clayton County school district, outside Atlanta. “The students are what keep me here.” And yet about 8 percent of teachers leave the profession every year, federal data have long shown. Younger teachers, and those early in their careers, are among the most likely to leave teaching. And while trends in turnover do vary regionally, special education teachers and science and math teachers tend to be at high risk for turnover.

Virtual Schools in the U.S. 2021

Alex Molnar and Faith Boninger, NEPC

The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed virtual schooling to the forefront of the national educational landscape. Vendor corporations, tech industry trade associations, philanthropists, and venture capitalists—all of whom have been promoting virtual education for over a decade—quickly positioned digital programs and platforms as the obvious solution for schools that had to close buildings to avoid transmitting the virus. Some of these technologies did, in fact, help educators connect with their students. But the nation’s experience with virtual technologies during the pandemic also revealed fundamental limitations of these approaches and spotlighted serious problems with the rosy vision of a bright new virtual future. Hackers disrupted district connections, held student personal data for ransom, and “zoom bombed” classes. Teachers, students, and parents struggled—with mixed success—to adjust to the virtual education technologies. Parents, when turned to for needed supports, found that they often lacked the time, resources, and knowledge required to meaningfully engage in the technological programming offered. Many students and parents were sidelined altogether because they lack access to broadband, computers, and other digital necessities.

Language, Culture, and Power

Comics as anti-racist education and advocacy

Shirlene Obuobi, Monica Vela, and Brian Callender, The Lancet

Academic medicine is increasingly recognising the importance of teaching about structural racism in medicine to help ameliorate racial health-care disparities. Yet such teaching can be challenging and, in some settings, considered controversial. Leveraging the power of narrative, comics can contribute to education about structural racism.

Schools are sending kids to virtual classes as punishment. Advocates say that could violate their rights.

Erin Einhorn, NBC News

Before his kindergarten classes begin for the day, Raynardo Antonio Ocasio watches from his mother’s third-floor bedroom window as his classmates line up on the sidewalk below. “It actually makes him sad,” said his mother, Mayra Irizarry. “He doesn’t understand why he’s not going to the school. He wants that interaction. He wants to be around kids.” But Raynardo, 6, has been banned from his classroom since September. After attending in-person classes for four weeks last fall at the Zeta Charter School, across the street from his apartment in northern Manhattan, Raynardo was banished to the school’s virtual classes for failing to wear a mask and follow other Covid-19 safety rules.

Proctor Institute report examines Mexican American studies implementation in Texas public schools

Arman Kyaw, Diverse Issues in Higher Education

A new report from Rutgers University’s Samuel DeWitt Proctor Institute for Leadership, Equity, & Justice is highlighting and advocating for efforts to integrate Mexican American Studies (MAS) into the Texas K-12 education system. The report, “Leading from the Hyphen: A Conocimientos Movement to Integrate Mexican American Studies into Texas Public Schools,” was written by Dr. Alice Ginsberg, a part-time lecturer who teaches in Rutgers-Newark’s Department of Urban Education. A key objective of the report “is to help people to understand that MAS is more than just incorporating Mexican American history or literature into the curriculum,” Ginsberg said.


Whole Children and Strong Communities

Former ‘pregnant girl’ builds support to help other teen moms [AUDIO]

Terry Gross, Fresh Air

When Nicole Lynn Lewis got pregnant in high school, she thought it might end her dream of going to college and having a career. She felt ashamed, in part because of how people regarded her as a pregnant Black teenager. “In that moment, as I watched those two pink lines show up on that test on the counter of my bathroom, [I felt] that I was now in a different category as an individual and as a person,” she says, “that I would forever be in that category of someone who had made all the wrong decisions, someone who was not going to be successful.”

Teaching kids to make art out of what you have in the pandemic [COMIC]

Olivia Martinez & Jenny Ziomek, NPR

It’s been a year since teachers were handed an unprecedented request: educate students in entirely new ways, amid the backdrop of a global pandemic. In this comic series, we’ll illustrate one teacher’s story each week from now until the end of the school year. Episode 7: Olivia Martinez, a first-grade teacher at the Charles White Visual Arts LACMA Magnet School in Los Angeles, reflects on making the most of what you have.

The Compton Girls Club is the after-school program you wish you’d had as a teen

Arit John, Los Angeles Times

Kukim Vazquez, a 17-year-old high school senior from Compton, started baking when she was in fifth grade and has spent the last few years watching YouTube tutorials and making more cookies and cupcakes than her friends and family are able to consume. After a cousin encouraged her to get on Instagram to promote her baking business, she came across a jewelry-making workshop hosted by the Compton Girls Club. Like a lot of high school students, Vazquez had been struggling during the pandemic: There was no more French club, no gymnastics, no tutoring kids after school. Signing up for the sessions seemed better than scrolling on her phone all day.

Access, Assessment, Advancement


To Provide High-Quality Early Learning, California Must Invest in Its Early Learning Assessment System

Cathy Yun, Learning Policy Institute

The American Families Plan, proposed by President Biden in his national address on April 28, includes a game-changing $200 billion investment that would provide access to high-quality preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds. These proposed federal investments come at a time when both the governor and the legislature in California have signaled their intentions to expand the state’s early childhood infrastructure. To capitalize on these much-needed resources, it will be important for California to invest in a robust early learning assessment system. High-quality early childhood experiences, coupled with good nutrition and health care, can help close gaps before children enter formal schooling. Yet by the time they start kindergarten, young children in the United States have already experienced systemic inequities, including varying levels of access to nutritious meals, health care, and home learning experiences. These different circumstances take the form of early and ongoing opportunity gaps, which translate into achievement gaps in later grades. In California, the disparities between the opportunities afforded young children from low-income backgrounds and their peers from higher-income families are even greater than the national average.


California state board likely to adopt long-awaited ‘student growth model’ to measure test scores

John Fensterwald, Ed Source

At their meeting on May 12, members of the State Board of Education are expected to finally adopt what other states have adopted and what’s been under study for years in California: a way to include individual students’ progress on state standardized tests as part of the state’s school accountability system. State board members agree with the criticism of advocates of student equity and school accountability hawks that a “student growth model” should replace what the state now uses to measure student achievement on the California School Dashboard. That current method compares the test results of the latest 4th graders with the previous year’s 4th grades to calculate change as an element on the dashboard.


Student Debt Is Devastating American Families—Here’s How

Cody Hounanian and Whitney Barkley-Denney, The Nation

Student loan debt cancellation is within reach. A national poll conducted in September 2020 by the Center for Responsible Lending found that nearly two-thirds of respondents supported some degree of student loan debt cancellation. A series of state-level polls found the same, with a majority of voters in Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina supporting debt cancellation. At the federal level, over 75 members of Congress have signed on to a resolution calling for President Biden to use his executive power to cancel $50,000 in student loan debt across the board. And, in February, the Democratic Association of Attorneys General publicly endorsed the same.


Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

“Progress for People of Color Doesn’t Come at White Folks’ Expense” [Audio]

Heather McGhee and Archon Fung, Boston Review

Heather, your new book has been getting a huge amount of well-deserved attention. Out of its many contributions, two struck me as especially important. First, I think you really effectively talked about racial injustice and inequality at the same time. I know a lot of people have been trying to do that, including myself, but it’s so hard for us to avoid this mental habit of either saying, “It’s race that’s doing the work,” or “No, it’s class that’s really doing the work.” Many people I talk to think that the fundamental social problem in the United States is racial injustice. Others think that the fundamental problem is class and that if we could just tackle economic inequality, racial justice would take care of itself. That you speak to both is huge.

Child Protective Services investigates half of all Black children in California

Julia Lurie, Mother Jones

For decades, researchers have pointed out that the child welfare system is riddled with inequities. Black children are far more likely than their white counterparts to be investigated as victims of abuse and neglect, to be placed in foster care, and to be permanently separated from their biological parents. “Spend a day at dependency court in any major city and you will see the unmistakable color of the child welfare system,” wrote Dorothy Roberts, a University of Pennsylvania law professor, in her 2001 book, Shattered Bonds. “The disproportionate number of Black children in America’s child welfare system is staggering.”

One-third of LGBTQ college students experienced housing disruption during pandemic

Staff, Los Angeles Blade

A new study from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law conducted in collaboration with the Point Foundation, the nation’s largest LGBTQ scholarship fund, finds that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the educational opportunities, financial security, and housing stability of many college students in the U.S., including an estimated 3.4 million LGBTQ students ages 18-40. Using data from the Access to Higher Education Survey, a nationally representative sample of adults ages 18 to 40 conducted in January and February 2021, researchers examined the experiences of LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ students and those who planned to be students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Democracy and the Public Interest

In bitterly divided election in Southlake, Texas, opponents of anti-racism education win big

Mike Hixenbaugh and Antonia Hylton, NBC News

Nine months after officials in the affluent Carroll Independent School District introduced a proposal to combat racial and cultural intolerance in schools, voters delivered a resounding victory Saturday to a slate of school board and City Council candidates who opposed the plan.

In an unusually bitter campaign that echoed a growing national divide over how to address issues of race, gender and sexuality in schools, candidates in the city of Southlake were split between two camps: those who supported new diversity and inclusion training requirements for Carroll students and teachers and those backed by a political action committee that was formed last year to defeat the plan. On one side, progressives argued that curriculum and disciplinary changes were needed to make all children feel safe and welcome in Carroll, a mostly white but quickly diversifying school district. On the other, conservatives in Southlake rejected the school diversity plan as an effort to indoctrinate students with a far-left ideology that, according to some, would institutionalize discrimination against white children and those with conservative Christian values.

A Former Privatizer Changes Sides

Charles Siler, Diane Ravitch’s Blog

Nearly all my life I believed public schools were obstacles to success, achievement, and social mobility for individuals and our society as a whole. And it wasn’t just schools. This was my belief about nearly all government activity. I saw government agencies as little more than hives of self-serving bureaucrats looking for ways to increase their budgets by robbing more and more money from taxpayers, all while standing in the way of innovation and success. My view of government, including “government schools,” was in many ways a reflection of my upbringing. I was raised by evangelical Christians, with a father who descended from slave owners and who attended schools in Mississippi before the state had fully integrated them. The words “[Robert E.] Lee surrendered, but I didn’t!”were emblazoned on a trinket that hung off the family car keys. This tongue-in-cheek joke that wasn’t entirely a joke captured the ethos of our familial and social circles.

CA Assembly committee advances school accountability bill that charter schools oppose

Kristen Taketa, San Diego Union Tribune

A bill that aims to fix loopholes that have allowed cases of charter school fraud in California passed a key Assembly committee Wednesday. The state Assembly Education Committee voted 5-2 to advance the bill to the Appropriations Committee. The education committee’s only Republican members, Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin) and Megan Dahle (R-Nevada City), voted no. Education Committee Chair Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach) has said he introduced AB 1316 to prevent future charter school scandals, including ones like the A3 charter school case, in which operators of the online charter school network manipulated enrollment numbers to fraudulently obtain hundreds of millions of state education dollars.

Other News of Note


Seeking asylum in a time of Covid/

Encontraron refugio en EE.UU. pero ahora enfrentan el reto de la educación en inglés en medio de la pandemia de COVID-19

Alexandra Villereal, Hechinger Report/Telemundo

In January, Rosa Bermudez brought home a colorful worksheet from Stansbury Elementary School, meant to guide her “power plan” for a safe, healthy relationship to technology. But it was in English, and as the 11-year-old tried to fill in blank bullet points, some things got lost in translation — like when she described her family’s media rules as “picking up toys” and “sweeping and mopping.” Just having homework is a change of pace for Rosa, who before the pandemic struck, already knew what it’s like to go without teachers or classmates for months on end. Before enrolling at schools in Utah this past winter, she and her brothers missed out on roughly two years of regular education while their family sought refuge in the United States.

En enero, Rosa Bermúdez trajo a casa una colorida hoja de trabajo que le entregaron en la escuela primaria Stansbury para enseñarla a tener una relación segura y saludable con la tecnología. Pero la hoja estaba en inglés y cuando la estudiante de 11 años trató de llenar los espacios en blanco, interpretó mal algunas cosas, como cuando se le preguntó por las reglas en su hogar para el consumo de los medios de comunicación y ella describió que eran “recoger juguetes” y “barrer y trapear”. El solo hecho de tener tareas escolares constituye un cambio en la rutina de Rosa, que antes de la pandemia ya sabía lo que era prescindir de maestros o compañeros de clase durante largos meses. Antes de matricularse en escuelas del estado de Utah el invierno pasado, sus hermanos y ella perdieron alrededor de dos años de educación regular mientras su familia tramitaba su solicitud de asilo en Estados Unidos.