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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
Alexis Marshall, NPR
For the fourth time in history, Congress is considering impeaching the president of the United States. For teachers around the country, it’s an opportunity to explore concepts and skills that are often relegated to textbooks. We asked social studies teachers from around the country how — if at all — they’re using this teachable moment, navigating the nationally polarizing topic and trying to sidestep the often asked question, “What do you think?”
Marcelo Suárez-Orozco and V. Ram Ramanathan, Phi Delta Kappan
In September, as part of the youth led international climate strike millions of young people around the world took to the streets demanding action on climate change. In multiple languages and from every continent, they sent a clear message: If environmental damage continues to go unchecked, then our future will be bleak. In a vivid example of youth solidarity triumphing over indifference, these demonstrations showed just how quickly a global movement can come together in the digital age, especially when led by young people who sense the urgency of their cause. “We must dramatically accelerate independence from fossil fuels — it’s really important that we start transitioning to renewable energy as soon as we can,” said student organizer Claire Morrison in Edmonton, Canada.
Lauren Camera, US News and World Report
If the Supreme Court rules in favor of the Trump administration, the future for teachers like Vicente Rodriguez and some 660,000 immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children, would be in doubt. “I made it my life’s mission to make sure students would never, ever experience such events and hardship in pursuit of education as I did,” he said to thousands of people gathered in front of the steps of the high court Tuesday as the justices began considering the Trump administration’s efforts to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA. Rodriguez, who is a teaching assistant and DACA recipient from San Bernardino, California, is one of an estimated 20,000 teachers, assistant teachers and those in the process of being certified to become teachers who are protected under DACA in school districts all across the country.
Language, Culture, and Power
Nina Totenberg, NPR
The U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority signaled Tuesday that it may let the Trump administration shut down the Obama-era program that granted temporary protection from deportation to roughly 700,000 young people, commonly known as DREAMers. Brought to the U.S. illegally as children, the DREAMers were allowed to legally work and go to school if they met certain requirements and passed a background check. The program, begun in 2012, is known as DACA — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
Cindy Carcamo, Andrea Castillo, Teresa Watanabe & Sonali Kohli, The Los Angeles Times
They are doctors and pharmacists, business owners and students who were brought to the United States as children, unaware that they had entered illegally or on visas that later expired. Without legal status, their hopes for the future were dim. Seven years ago, their lives dramatically changed when the Obama administration announced it would defer deportation and allow work permits for young people who met certain residency, educational and background requirements under a policy known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.
Zaidee Stavely, EdSource
As the U.S. Supreme Court weighs whether to stop protecting some undocumented immigrants from deportation, the University of California is preparing to support immigrant students, regardless of the outcome, according to UC President Janet Napolitano. UC was one of the key plaintiffs in a case heard Tuesday in the U.S. Supreme Court over Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which currently provides temporary protection from deportation and permission to work for about 660,000 people who came to the U.S. as children, according to the most recent data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Just over 200,000 DACA recipients live in California, by far the largest number of any state, according to the Migration Policy Institute.
Whole Children and Strong Communities
Lulu Garcia-Navarro, NPR
A regular drumbeat of mass shootings in the U.S., both inside schools and out, has ramped up pressure on education and law enforcement officials to do all they can to prevent the next attack. Close to all public schools in the U.S. conducted some kind of lockdown drill in 2015-2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Last year, 57% of teens told researchers they worry about a shooting happening at their school. A slightly higher percentage of parents of teenagers, 63%, fear a shooting at their child’s school, the Pew Research Center found.
Evie Blad, Education Week
Ask Emma Thornsberry how she knows that the population of her rural community has changed in recent years, and she’ll point to tree branches arching over the roads. Tall trucks used to carry loads of coal from nearby mines, snapping off limbs as they barreled past. But some of those mines have closed, taking jobs, truck traffic, and workers with them, and leaving the branches to grow unhindered. “It’s very hard not to notice,” said Emma, a junior at Knott Central High School in Knott County. Students in eastern Kentucky Appalachia are very aware of the economic and population shifts that have reshaped their area. And now their schools are enlisting them to put that knowledge to work, by ensuring that every person who calls their communities home is counted in the 2020 census.
Linda Jacobson, Education Dive
A summer school program for high school English learners who have lived in the U.S. for less than three years increased the number of core courses those students took that are required for graduation. But the program had little impact on four- and five-year graduation rates, according to a study in the American Educational Research Journal.
Offered by a large, urban school district in California, the five-week summer school classes were intended to help students earn credit they missed during the school year. Because doubt exists about the quality of credit recovery programs, author Angela Johnson of NWEA, a nonprofit assessment organization, also examined whether students’ English proficiency levels increased after participating in the classes.
Access, Assessment, and Advancement
Anabelle Timsit, Quartz
Decades of research have shown that one of the best long term investments a government can make is in improving vulnerable children’s start to life. Research shows that support for pregnant women and for infants until they start school could help countries make a 10 to 13% return on investment each year. This would be in the form of enhanced productivity and better life outcomes, while the state would spend less on remedial education, healthcare, and the criminal justice system. That’s because young children’s brains are like sponges; they absorb every experience and interaction around them and use that to learn about who they are and how they fit into the world. By the time a child turns five, 90% of their brain will have developed, which means that the quality of the care and education they receive during that time can influence how the rest of their life unfolds—where they go to school for example, or whether or not they end up in jail, have developmental delays, and more.
Theodora Yu, The Sacramento Bee
Young Xiong is the first in his family to attend college. The Sacramento State University alum is now a pharmacy graduate student – thanks to help from a federally funded program at the school. Currently at its ninth year, the Full Circle Project is a two-semester program that has assisted hundreds of students with academic support and leadership opportunities. The framework was designed to prepare students to be successful in college as Sacramento State sees one of the lowest graduation rates for Asian and Pacific Islander students compared to other California State University campuses.
Elissa Nadworny, NPR
When Rhonda Gonzales was in college in the early ’90s, the term “first-generation” wasn’t part of her vocabulary. Sure, she was the first in her family to go to college and she did have a sense of discomfort on campus — not quite fitting in. But it wasn’t something she advertised, or even identified with, and no one else on campus seemed to care much, either. Today, it’s a very different story. Gonzales is now a dean and a professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio, where she started a program for first-generation students. One important component: match students with faculty members who were also first-generation students — professors like her, who have worn those uncomfortable shoes, and still found success. They call these groups familias.
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
Christina Samuels, Education Week
Gentrification in the past decade is linked with declining enrollment in neighborhood schools—but the race and ethnicity of new families moving into the neighborhood changes the equation, finds a new study. Overall, neighborhood school enrollment drops when college-educated, middle-class families move into an area that had been characterized by concentrated poverty and underinvestment in infrastructure. Looking at gentrified neighborhoods nationwide, that accounts for a drop in enrollment of about 32,000 children between 2000 and 2014, compared to similar neighborhoods that had not gentrified. But that enrollment drop is sharpest when the gentrifying families are white. In contrast, when the new families are all black and Latino, the study found that black enrollment in neighborhood schools goes up. The race of gentrifying families did not change the number of white, Latino, or economically disadvantaged children in these schools.
Mike Rose, Mike Rose’s Blog
What you see depends on where you sit, and for how long. You enter the classroom from the rear, wanting to be discrete on your first visit, and slip into the desk closest to the door. A few students notice you, but most are walking around or leaning over to the person next to them talking. Except for one woman, the class is all men, twenties and thirties, a few White guys, the rest Black and Latino. Hoodies, baggy pants, loud profanity. The teacher is in front at a cloudy overhead projector. Three men are around him – each seems bigger than the next – and they are arguing. The room is old and dingy, no windows, bare except for the irregular rows of desks, the table with the projector, a cart holding pipes and metal bars, and in the corner a worn flag from the American Welding Society. You’re trying to take it all in when a sullen guy in an oversized t-shirt, a bandanna around his head, walks over to you and asks, “What are you doin’ here?”
Jonathan Rothwell, New York Times
Income inequality in the United States would fall drastically if people were compensated based only on their ability. The fundamental reason that income inequality is extraordinarily high in the United States relative to other democracies is the disparities in power across groups. Both the left and the right often miss how these disparities can play out. The skills that really matter in the workplace are much more evenly distributed than many people assume. Most low-wage workers are underpaid relative to their measured intelligence and personality traits, and many of the highest-paid professionals — including doctors, lawyers and financial managers — are overpaid according to the same metrics.
Public Schools and Private $
Linda Jacobson, Education Dive
What was originally Westchester High School in Los Angeles wasn’t built to accommodate the drop-off and pick-up routines of multiple schools. But with three magnet high schools under the Westchester Enriched Science Magnets umbrella, a STEM middle school and two charter schools — Ocean and WISH — on the campus, that has become the reality. The schools also share one auditorium, which has seen “years of neglect due to lack of funding,” says Rebecca Cunningham, whose daughter is in 7th grade at Katherine Johnson STEM Academy, a Los Angeles Unified School District school sharing the campus with the high school and the charters. “But, who should pay for that upkeep?”
John McWhorter, The Atlantic
About 10 years ago, Steven Wilson founded the Ascend charter school in Brooklyn. Ascend is now a network with 15 schools; they serve mostly poor kids of color from kindergarten to high-school age, and they work. Test scores there outstrip New York City averages. Some charter schools have become notorious for excessively punitive discipline; Ascend examined and revised its disciplinary practices in response. Social justice in action, no? But Wilson is white, he sees excesses in the far left’s take on classroom education, he deigned to say so in an obscure blog post this summer—and he seems to have been fired as a result.
A federal criminal trial got underway Tuesday for the former chief executive of Los Angeles-based charter school network Celerity Educational Group on charges of conspiracy to misappropriate and embezzle public funds. Grace Canada is accused of participating in a scheme with Celerity’s founder, Vielka McFarlane, to siphon more than $2 million in public education funds intended for students and misspend the money on first-class travel, fine dining, custom bikes and upscale shopping.
Other News of Note
Bill Fletcher, In These Times
Proponents of the “ranks and file strategy” (RFS) emphasize the need to lay the foundations of a revitalized labor movement through rank-and-file workers—as opposed to union staff or leadership. As Laura Gabby notes, this idea has a long history: In the 1970s, for instance, thousands of leftists (myself included) of both working-class origin and otherwise entered the workforce to build a real working-class Left and rebuild organized labor.
Though this rank-and-file emphasis is more of an orientation than a full strategy, it is good in that it encourages people on the Left to engage as rank and filers—to enter into the working class as coworkers rather than staff. The idea is not, as Andrew Dobbyn argues, elitist; instead, it suggests fellow workers have something to teach, rather than simply being vessels for knowledge from leftists. But the current discussion has certain important blind spots. First, the mostly white socialists discussing the RFS often fail to recognize that leftist formations composed mostly or entirely of people of color have historically been instrumental in developing and leading efforts to retool the labor movement. The direction and character of these formations has frequently differed from that of white-led formations.