Just News from Center X – November 10, 2023

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Liberal and moderate candidates take control of school boards in contentious races across US

Brooke Schultz and Geoff Mulvihill, AP News

Voters in some of the highest-profile school board elections across the U.S. rebuked conservative candidates in local school board elections who want to ban books and restrict classroom conversations on race and gender. In recent years, down-ballot elections have become proxy votes for polarizing national issues. Liberal and moderate candidates took control in high-profile races Tuesday in conservative Iowa, as well as swing states Pennsylvania and Virginia. The American Federation of Teachers said candidates publicly endorsed by conservative groups such as Moms for Liberty and the 1776 Project lost about 70% of their races nationally in elections this week — a tally those groups dispute. “They don’t want to engage in this banning of books or censoring of honest history or undermining who kids are,” Randi Weingarten, the teachers union president told The Associated Press on Wednesday, characterizing the candidates who won as “pro-public school.”

How Black Female Teachers Enrich Science With Anti-Racism

Jade Mcclain-Nyu, Futurity

Black female science teachers find ways to incorporate anti-racist teaching in their classrooms, according to a new study. Examples might include teaching about the practices and systems that led to high rates of diabetes in Black communities or discussions about the Flint water crisis. In a series of interviews and Sista Circles (group settings for Black women to develop and exchange ideas) in 2020, 18 Black women (teaching grades 5-12) shared their teaching practices and efforts to build critical consciousness among their students and colleagues, and connect history and culture to science. The findings appear in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching.

What I Read to My Son When the World Is on Fire

Miriam Udel, New York Times

Last May, my husband and I invited a Palestinian friend for Shabbat dinner, and when he asked what to bring, I requested a book about his homeland for our 7-year-old son. Because this friend is lavishly generous and wasn’t sure of our child’s reading level, he showed up with a gift bag of titles about Palestinian children and their experiences, ranging from picture books to a four-volume series of middle-grade novels. In the wake of the devastating atrocities committed by Hamas on Oct. 7 and the subsequent weeks of violence in Gaza, I have found myself reaching for those books. Children’s books, which present subtle truths in simple terms, offer a valuable tool in retaining our moral bearings, especially amid a maelstrom of grief and rage.

Language, Culture, and Power

‘We Exist’: How to Learn About Native Americans Through Native Lenses

Farina King, Education Week

Every November, someone contacts me to present about Native Americans for Native American Heritage Month. In such presentations, I provide background about the month and why it matters. But I also emphasize how important it is to learn about Native Americans not just in a single month or at a single event. I stress turning to and listening foremost to Native American and Indigenous voices throughout the year. Growing up, I primarily attended school in an area with very few Native Americans.

Milwaukee Public Museum hired three bilingual educators. Here’s why that’s important.

Amy Schwabe, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Emiliano Rodriguez is an educator at the Milwaukee Public Museum. Recently, he was sitting on the first floor of the museum, behind a table filled with photos of anthropologist Zelia Nuttall, selections from Codex Tonindeye, an ancient manuscript discovered in a pre-Aztec Dominican monastery, and re-creations of clay bead figures — all information to educate museum visitors about an ancient city in Mexico. “I had this picture and map up of the city. A dad with some kids walked by, and I saw that he recognized the picture,” Rodriguez said. “But he was reserved even as I saw his kids telling him to ask about the city. “He hesitantly said something in Spanish, and when I responded, he saw that I spoke Spanish, and all of us had a great conversation about the items on my table and the programs we offer at the museum.”

‘It was like being transported into Mexico’:  How fólklorico helps students connect with their roots

Natalie Hernandez, LA Times

Alondra Ordaz and other women from the Grupo Folklórico Mexica squeeze into the cramped teachers’ lounge at Minnie Gant Elementary in Long Beach, their makeshift dressing room for the day. They step into bright, colorful skirts, drape white lace shawls over their shoulders and take turns putting on different shades of red lipstick. With delicate hands, Ordaz helps place the braided yarn and ribbon tocados on their slicked-back hair, pinning everything in place.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Where Are All the Missing Students?

Adam Harris, The Atlantic

In 2006, the School District of Philadelphia, in partnership with Microsoft, opened the School of the Future. The idea was simple enough: Establish a learning environment centered on technology—no textbooks, just laptops and Wi-Fi—that would provide students in relatively poor districts the same benefits that those in wealthier areas enjoyed. The district built a handsome, well-lit building and filled it with state-of-the-art trappings including electronic lockers and Italian-marble bathrooms. It was heralded as a path-defining achievement for public-private partnerships in education. Two years later, Michael Gottfried, now an economist at the University of Pennsylvania but then a graduate student there, was part of a team examining whether such a technological revolution actually made a difference in student achievement. But he soon realized that the technology was somewhat beside the point: “We were talking to a teacher [at the School of the Future] and she said, ‘Here’s the thing, we can talk all you want about smart boards and laptops per student and curriculum moving online, but I have a bigger problem: Half of my class isn’t here.’”

Colorado students say they want more solutions-oriented climate education now before it’s too late

Jenny Brundi, COlorado Public Radio News

Seventeen-year-old Reema Patadia wants to be a biomedical engineer, but she’s always had a passion for the environment. One day at school, she heard her Design and Innovation teacher talking with a man about an idea that seemed like it could bridge those two interests. “And I went up to them and said ‘Hey, what are you guys talking about? It sounded really interesting,’”

The man, Martin Ogle, was saying that, typically, students who want an “environmental career” are steered toward just a limited range of fields — environmental scientist, forester, or park ranger. But that’s just a small slice of the economy.  Really, he was saying, that every job now is a climate job – that is, there’s a way anything can be more sustainable, whether you’re a nurse, an engineer, in finance, or run an ice cream shop.

The Bike Bus: A Weekly Parade With Huge Benefits for Students

Kaylee Domzalski & Sam Mallon, Education Week

One student describes it as “a parade every Wednesday.” And that’s pretty much what it looks like as more than 100 students ride the bike bus to Alameda Elementary School each week. Led by Sam Balto, the Portland school’s physical education teacher, the bike bus meets 1.5 miles from the school and picks up kids along the way, mostly on bikes, but occasionally on rollerblades, as they blast music and make their way to school. But behind the party-like atmosphere of the bike bus lies real benefits for students. Here, Balto discusses those benefits, and talks through the five components schools and districts need to create a bike bus of their own.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

1969, Sesame Street Debuts [Video]

The History Channel

On November 10, 1969, “Sesame Street,” a pioneering TV show that would teach generations of young children the alphabet and how to count, makes its broadcast debut. “Sesame Street,” with its memorable theme song (“Can you tell me how to get/How to get to Sesame Street”), went on to become the most widely viewed children’s program in the world. It has aired in more than 120 countries. The show was the brainchild of Joan Ganz Cooney, a former documentary producer for public television. Cooney’s goal was to create programming for preschoolers that was both entertaining and educational. She also wanted to use TV as a way to help underprivileged 3- to 5- year-olds prepare for kindergarten. “Sesame Street” was set in a fictional New York neighborhood and included ethnically diverse characters and positive social messages.

Here’s What Can Happen When Kids Age Out of Foster Care

Kitra Cahana, Ed Williams,Kitra Cahana, ProPublica

Last year, 63 kids in New Mexico turned 18 and aged out of foster care. It’s a fraught time; after spending their lives in a system that micromanages their every move, the teens are thrust into adulthood, left to fend for themselves while struggling with the aftereffects of a childhood often spent cycling among foster homes. Some thrive. Many do not. Roughly 30% of foster youth end up homeless after aging out of foster care, national studies show. An estimated 1 in 4 end up incarcerated. The New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department has made efforts to reverse those grim statistics. Notably, CYFD launched its Fostering Connections program in 2020 for youth who age out of the foster system. It offers some assistance with housing, food and behavioral health care. That’s often not enough, advocates say.

“Sistah’s With Purpose” aims to support Black students achieve their college goals [VIDEO]

CBS Los Angeles

It takes a village to raise children into adults and a group of retired women are doing what they can to support Black students and their college goals.


Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

How does a computer discriminate? [AUDIO] 

Lori Lizarraga, Jess Kung, Courtney Stein, & Leah Donnella, NPR

OK, not exactly a computer — more like, the wild array of technologies that inform what we consume on our computers and phones. Because on this episode, we’re looking at how AI and race bias intersect. Safiya Noble, a professor at UCLA and the author of the book Algorithms of Oppression talks us through some of the messy issues that arise when algorithms and tech are used as substitutes for good old-fashioned human brains. And she says when it comes to understanding Artificial Intelligence, we should emphasize the “A” — and take the “I” with a grain of salt.

Cherelle Parker will be Philadelphia’s 100th mayor. Here’s what she wants to change about education.

Dale Mezzacapa, Chalkbeat Philadelphia

There was never much doubt that Cherelle Parker would become the city’s 100th mayor and the first woman ever to lead the nation’s sixth largest city. On Tuesday night, she defeated Republican David Oh, winning more than 73% of the vote. Like mayors before her, she will lead a city with an underfunded school district beset by concentrated poverty — conditions that limit schools’ ability to make major inroads on the traditional measures of student achievement such as proficiency on state tests and graduation rates.

We analyzed over 3.5 million written teacher comments about students and found racial bias

Angus Kittelman, David Markowitz

Associate Professor of Communication, and Kent McIntosh, The Conversation

Written teacher comments about students can show implicit racial or ethnic and gender biases in school discipline, according to our recent study. To identify these biases, we analyzed more than 3.5 million teacher comments about students from thousands of schools in the U.S. These comments were written in student office discipline referrals. Teacher comments were gathered from a web application used by schools to provide information such as when and where student discipline referrals occurred. When purchasing the application, schools can provide permission for their de-identified data to be used for research purposes. Our study showed that teachers wrote more when describing behavior incidents of Black students compared with white students. They also used more negative emotions, words like “anger,” “hurt” and “disrespectful,” and used more verbs, such as “scraped,” “hit” and “spanked.” We found the opposite was true for Asian and Hispanic students compared with white students.

Democracy and the Public Interest

Students Protest Book Bans

Laura Glesby, New Haven Independent

When Alanah Wali joined a hundred of her high school peers to protest a national surge in censorship of literature about race and sexuality, she thought about the American laws that forbade enslaved Black people from learning how to read.  “Our ability to read should not be taken for granted,” she said. The protest, convened by local educators and librarians along with the Yale School of Art’s Class Action Collective on Thursday afternoon, brought together students from six different high schools: Metropolitan Business Academy, Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School, Wilbur Cross, Hill Regional Career High School, High School in the Community, and Achievement First Amistad High School. Class Action Collective Founder Pamela Hovland kicked off the protest at Temple Plaza. She cited PEN America’s count that in the last school year, 3,362 instances of book banning occurred in 33 states. Of the books at stake, 41 percent featured LGBTQIA+ characters and 40 percent featured a ​“prominent character of color,” said Hovland.

Transgender students: Navigating the politics

Jonathan E. Collins, Phi Delta Kappan

One morning in early June, I sipped coffee inside a hotel conference room with floor-to-ceiling windows that beg you to gaze into the depths of the Pacific Ocean. I was in sunny southern California for a meeting organized by policy makers turned professors Carl Cohn and Jennifer Cheatham. They brought scholars, philanthropists, and superintendents together for two days of discussion on the political challenges now confronting the superintendency. That morning, superintendents serving districts of different sizes and types from various states and regions throughout the U.S. spoke about their struggles with the new “politics of education.” They painted vivid pictures of board meetings consumed by anger that seemed detached from the everyday needs of kids who were (and are) still clawing out of the pits of the most ravenous public health crisis of modern times. One superintendent, Vivian Ekchian, spoke with passion about how much she loved the kids in her district, but she was reaching a breaking point. By the end of June, she had announced her retirement from California’s Glendale Unified School District.

Are These Vouchers on Steroids a Trainwreck in Slow Motion?

NEPC Newsletter

Termed “education savings accounts” (ESAs) these vouchers on steroids were the subject of 79 percent of the 111 voucher-related bills introduced in state legislatures in 2023. Five states enacted new ESAs. In addition, four states expanded existing ESA programs.  In most ways, ESAs are similar to traditional vouchers that parents have used for decades to pay for private schools at public expense. It’s just that they go a step farther, permitting parents to use the funds not just for private school tuition but for other education-related expenses such as school uniforms, homeschool curricula, and gym memberships. In a recent article in the Brown Center Chalkboard, a publication of The Brookings Institution, a Washington, DC-based think tank, NEPC fellow Joshua Cowen of Michigan State University writes that he already sees signs that ESAs are following in the footsteps of traditional vouchers, which studies suggest lead to a flood of new providers, many of which quickly close, as well as tuition hikes at existing voucher schools.

Other News of Note

THE WOUND IN TIME (A poem for the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day)

Carol Ann Duffy

It is the wound in Time. The century’s tides,
chanting their bitter psalms, cannot heal it.
Not the war to end all wars; death’s birthing place;
the earth nursing its ticking metal eggs, hatching
new carnage. But how could you know, brave
as belief as you boarded the boats, singing?
The end of God in the poisonous, shrapneled air.
Poetry gargling its own blood. We sense it was love
you gave your world for; the town squares silent,
awaiting their cenotaphs. What happened next?
War. And after that? War. And now? War. War.
History might as well be water, chastising this shore;
for we learn nothing from your endless sacrifice.
Your faces drowning in the pages of the sea.