Just News from Center X – May 8, 2020

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

L.A. schools will start Aug. 18, whether campuses are open or not

Howard Blume, The Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles schools will start fall classes on Aug. 18, but no decision has been made on whether campuses will reopen by that date amid ongoing concerns over the coronavirus crisis, Supt. Austin Beutner said Monday. Education officials in L.A. and across California are wrestling with how and when to bring the state’s 6.1 million students back to campuses that have been shuttered since mid-March — as they continue to adjust to the difficulties of distance learning and move to strengthen online summer school offerings. How many students can be in one classroom? Will staggered schedules be necessary? What happens when a student or family member shows signs of illness? What will be required to keep campuses sanitized? Will students and teachers have to wear masks? These are among key questions confronting school leaders.

Can California schools put safety measures in place in time to open early? Many district leaders skeptical

Diana Lambert and John Fensterwald, Ed Source
The unexpected announcement that California schools could resume as early as late July or early August was met with immediate pushback and raised more questions than answers for school districts, teachers and parents. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s suggestion to reopen schools — aimed at mitigating the learning loss resulting from school closures that began in mid-March in response to the coronavirus pandemic — means some schools would start the school year earlier than usual. There are concerns that schools will not have enough time and funding to stagger school schedules and create social distancing and related health plans to keep students and staff safe if campuses are reopened in late July or early August.

Coronavirus schools return: Can you really keep children 2m apart?

Sean Coughlan, BBC
It has divided opinion about whether it can be safe – and who should go back first. But there are places, such as Denmark and Germany, where it’s already happening. “There was anxiety in the community,” says Dom Maher, head of the international section of St Josef’s school in Roskilde, on the Danish island of Zealand. “A large percentage of parents were in two minds,” he says. “And there were some who decided to wait a few days to see.” But almost three weeks after re-opening, he thinks it has worked better than might have been expected.

Language, Culture, and Power

Does the stimulus package really exclude DACA students?

Kery Murakami, Inside Higher Ed
As U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has taken heat for ruling that undocumented college students brought to the country as children aren’t eligible for emergency student grants in the CARES Act, she has insisted she had no choice. Congress, DeVos has said repeatedly, made it clear in the March stimulus package that only those students eligible for federal student aid could get the grants. The grants are intended to help pay for housing, food and other necessities after campuses closed during the pandemic. And DACA students, so called because they were given the right to live and work in the U.S. under the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, cannot get student aid.

LAUSD students assigned coronavirus video diaries reflect on what they’ve found, instead of what they’ve lost [VIDEO]

Denise Dador, ABC7
Much has been written about the lost generation who came of age during World War I. Fast forward 100 years and we now have teenagers facing what also seems to be a world of disappearing opportunities. Are these kids lost? Or have they found something even more valuable? A film class assignment called the “Coronavirus Diaries” provides an intimate look into the lives of high school teens under restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a peak into their struggles as students. In her video diary, Dani Fuentes said, “It feels like summer almost. I’m not a very social person.”

Reading Louise Erdrich to my son

Rachel Cloues, Rethinking Schools
When my son Seeger was 8 years old, I brought home Louise Erdrich’s The Birchbark House from the library to read to him. I first spotted this book on the shelves in the children’s section a few years before, and I was thrilled to see Erdrich’s name on the spine of a “chapter book” for middle-grade readers. I was familiar with some of her adult novels from my college years and remembered appreciating Erdrich’s writing and perspective, so I wondered what stories she offered to children. My selection of her book that day was also part of a concerted effort to diversify the novels I was choosing to read to Seeger each night. We had been reading mostly older books by white, male authors like A. A. Milne, Roald Dahl, George Selden, E. B. White, and Lewis Carroll, because those were books I loved as a child. I had also read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s stories to Seeger, and really wanted to prompt conversation about and counteract the racist perspective we had encountered in that famous — and infamous — narrative of westward expansion.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Sustaining and scaling community schools: Seven questions to consider

With the nation’s economy and its families facing a host of crises, the community schools model may soon become even more relevant than it is today. That’s because this research-based reform transcends the classroom, seeking to provide students and their families with critical services they may be unable to otherwise afford—including “medical, dental, and mental health care services; tutoring and other academic supports; and resources for families, such as parent education classes, job training and placement services, housing assistance, and nutrition programs.” Three other pillars, in addition to such integrated services, are key aspects of the model: active family and community engagement and empowerment, expanded and enriched learning time and opportunities, and collaborative leadership. Yet a recent study co-authored by NEPC Fellow Jennifer Jellison Holme, an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin, raises questions about how well school districts are planning for the model.

UC San Diego to mass test students for the novel coronavirus

Gary Robbins, The Los Angeles Times
UC San Diego Chancellor Pradeep Khosla said Tuesday the university was going to begin mass testing students for the novel coronavirus as a major step toward resuming on-campus courses in the fall. The school’s experimental “Return to Learn” program will begin May 11, when UC San Diego starts giving self-administered tests to 5,000 students who are living in campus housing. If the program works, campus officials plan to test about 65,000 students, faculty and staff on a monthly basis.

Regional centers strive to keep therapy and services for special-needs students on track

Timothy Haddock, The Los Angeles Daily News
With the COVID-19 pandemic closing schools campuses and virtual learning in place, some special-needs students and students with learning disabilities in Southern California are losing crucial services and programs that are offered by school districts and service providers. Students can require such help as speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, behavioral therapy and community integration. Even programs that continue amid the outbreak are often missing a vital component of their education, the daily in-person interaction with other people in their communities that students with autism and other learning disabilities desperately need in their social development.

Access, Assessment, and Advancement

LA Unified summer school will offer intensive help, math and English and enrichment

Michael Burke, Ed Source
An expanded summer school session in Los Angeles Unified will be offered in three parts to help make up for lost learning during school closures, Superintendent Austin Beutner said Monday. One of those programs will be “an intensive set of classes” offered to a small number of students who are struggling the most, while other courses including math and English will be available to all students, Beutner said during a televised speech. Beutner did not say which grades would be offered the intensive classes. Barbara Jones, a spokeswoman for LA Unified, said the district has no further details about the program.

Better school counselors, better outcomes 

Christine Mulhern, Education Next
Teenagers are not known for their coolheaded decision-making, yet they face hundreds of choices with significant long-term consequences. In school, they must decide which courses to take, how much effort to invest, and whether and where to enroll in college. Many understandably lack the information and capacity needed to navigate such complex options. Enter the school counselor. High-school counselors can communicate the benefits of doing well in school, help with college applications, and recommend courses of study to prepare students for the careers of their choice. Belief in a counselor’s potential to boost college success has drawn national attention and inspired policy changes, such as former First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Reach Higher” initiative and the expansion of counselor hiring in Colorado and New York City.

Financial impacts of COVID-19 on higher education in California [VIDEO]

George Blumenthal, Berkeley News
In the last twenty years, California’s 10-campus University of California system and 23-campus state university system have seen significant declines in financial support from the state’s politicians, a trend that will only become more worrisome as California responds to the COVID-19 pandemic and economic downturn. That was the conclusion of a panel of higher education leaders who spoke Monday as part of Berkeley Conversations: COVID-19, a series of live online discussions between subject-matter experts. The panel included George Blumenthal, director of UC Berkeley’s Center for Studies in Higher Education (CSHE), James Hyatt, senior research associate at CSHE, Joseph Castro, president of California State University, Fresno, and Nathan Brostrom, interim chancellor at UC Merced.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

DeVos’s rules bolster rights of students accused of sexual misconduct

Erica Green, The New York Times
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Wednesday issued final regulations on sexual misconduct in education, delivering colleges and schools firm new rules on how they must deal with one of the biggest issues that have roiled their campuses for decades. The rules fulfill one of the Trump administration’s major policy goals for Title IX, the 48-year-old federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in programs that receive federal funding, bolstering due-process protections for accused students while relieving schools of some legal liabilities. But Ms. DeVos extended the reach of the law in other ways, establishing dating violence as a sexual misconduct category that must be addressed and mandating supportive measures for alleged victims of assault.

California’s homeless students at risk of falling through the cracks during pandemic

Carolyn Jones, EdSource
As schools rush to provide students with tablets, worksheets and regular check-ins with teachers during the pandemic, one group is proving elusive: those without permanent homes. California’s 195,000 homeless students have been harder to contact, and are more at risk of falling behind, than their peers during the school closures, school officials and advocates said. Since the shelter-in-place and social-distancing orders began in March, many homeless families have had to move because their informal living arrangements — doubled up with other families, for example — have fallen through. Others have lost jobs, leaving them with no way to pay motel bills. Some have left shelters due to fear of contracting the coronavirus.

A “heartbreakingly difficult equation”: Prisons struggle to maintain college programs during the pandemic

Nicole Lewis, Mother Jones
When coronavirus kept college professors from teaching in person at Maine Correctional Facility, officials reconfigured a prison classroom to hold classes over Zoom using the Internet from an administrator’s computer. Officials at Saginaw Correctional Facility in Michigan waived a ban on communication between volunteers and prisoners so that Delta College professors could instruct their students over email. At Great Meadow Correctional Facility in New York, college classes are postponed and graduation is cancelled.

Public Schools and Private $

Cuomo taps Gates Foundation to help New York ‘revolutionize’ education after coronavirus

Lauren Camera, U.S. News and World Report
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo tapped the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the powerful philanthropic player in the education space, to work with state education officials to reimagine the K-12 system when schools reopen in the fall. “Bill Gates is a visionary in many ways, and his ideas and thoughts on technology and education he’s spoken about for years,” Cuomo said Tuesday during his daily briefing at which he announced the partnership. “But I think we now have a moment in history where we can actually incorporate and advance those ideas.”

‘A dangerous idea’: Public school advocates denounce Cuomo-Gates plan seizing on pandemic to ‘reimagine’ New York’s education system

Julia Conley, Common Dreams
Public education advocates on Wednesday rejected New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s pledge to work with billionaire entrepreneurs like Microsoft founder Bill Gates to “reimagine” his state’s school systems once the coronavirus pandemic subsides. In his daily press briefing Tuesday, nearly two months after ordering schools throughout the state to close and millions of children began attending classes remotely from home, Cuomo said New York must “take this experience and really learn how we can do differently and better with our education system in terms of technology and virtual education.”

AB 2990 would create rules for enrichment contract vendors, affecting all public schools

Kristen Taketa, The San Diego Union Tribune
Charter school advocates are fighting a bill designed to stop home-school charter parents from spending school tax dollars on certain enrichment activities such as Disneyland passes, horseback riding lessons and private education for their children. The bill, AB 2990, was authored by Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens). The state Assembly Education Committee on Wednesday cleared the bill by a vote of 5-2. The California Charter Schools Association, which had worked with Garcia on the bill and said the bill was “based on credible concerns that we share,” is now opposing it.

Other News of Note

The profound civics lesson kids are getting from the U.S. government’s response to the covid-19 pandemic

Valerie Strauss (with Nicole Mirra and Antero Garcia), The Washington Post
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos last month decried student test scores from National Assessment of Educational Progress exams given in 2018 to eighth-graders in civics, U.S. geography and education. Students from around the country didn’t score well, and DeVos called the results “stark and inexcusable.” “In the real world,” she said, “this means students don’t know what the Lincoln-Douglas debates were about, nor can they discuss the significance of the Bill of Rights, or point out basic locations on a map.” (This was before President Trump did a virtual town hall at the Lincoln Memorial this week and declared he had been treated worse than Lincoln himself, reflecting his own unique view of U.S. history.) Meanwhile, an annual survey conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania consistently shows 75 percent of the American public cannot name the three branches of government. The authors of this post argue that civics and U.S. history are often taught as isolated facts that don’t really address what young people need to know to participate in the challenged American democratic experiment. They are Nicole Mirra, an assistant professor of urban teacher education at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey; and Antero Garcia, assistant professor in the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University.