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
Jessica Wolf, UCLA Newsroom
While voter turnout is typically low during midterm election years, a group of UCLA and other students spent summer and fall fanning out across California to help young people from low-income communities understand their political power. The grassroots work with non-partisan groups throughout the state resulted in educational and community events that were all part of the California Freedom Summer. “People of color are seven out of 10 young people in the state of California and in some of your communities you are eight out of 10, nine out of 10, 10 out of 10,” Veronica Terriquez, director of UCLA’s Chicano Studies Research Center, told 100-plus high school students at a recent event at UC Riverside.
Diana Lambert, EdSource
Bond measures that would finance teacher housing, as well as school repairs, are likely to win in the high-cost communities of Santa Cruz, San Diego and San Jose. The bond issues are part of a statewide trend to build affordable housing for school staff who are struggling to pay for housing in an increasingly expensive state. District officials are increasingly seeing housing as a way to give their district a competitive edge when vying for and retaining teachers during California’s ongoing teacher shortage.
Erin Mansfield and Kayla Jimenez, USA Today
GOP-backed parental rights advocates saw mixed results in school board races all over the country on Tuesday after voters in more than two dozen states chose whom they want to represent them and make future decisions for kids. USA TODAY tracked the influence of national conservative groups and parents’ rights groups throughout the 2022 midterm election season, from political newcomers winning on race in mostly white districts to the organizations backing the candidates to their demands to remove social and racial justice curriculum and ban books from schools. Hundreds of school board elections took place Tuesday, including races where candidates ran unopposed and others where entire conservative slates ran to replace liberal-leaning boards. School board races are largely nonpartisan, but in some places, conservative groups worked to influence races with small financial investments and messaging around parental rights.
Language, Culture, and Power
Mneesha Gellman, The Conversation
Whenever November would roll around, James Gensaw, a Yurok language high school teacher in far northern California, would get a request from a school administrator. They would always ask him to bring students from the Native American Club, which he advises, to demonstrate Yurok dancing on the high school quad at lunch time. “On the one hand, it was nice that the school wanted to have us share our culture,” Gensaw told me during an interview. “On the other, it wasn’t always respectful. Some kids would make fun of the Native American dancers, mimicking war cries and calling out ‘chief.’” “The media would be invited to come cover the dancing as part of their Thanksgiving coverage, and it felt like we were a spectacle,” he continued. “Other cultural groups and issues would sometimes be presented in school assemblies, in the gym, where teachers monitored student behavior. I thought, why didn’t we get to have that? We needed more respect for sharing our culture.”
Carolyn Jones, EdSource
Michele Bergeron knows that her 5-year-old son, who’s deaf, likes watermelon and pizza. He’s obsessed with airplanes, wants to play football, likes books about Spider-Man and someday wants to be tall like his dad. “Without sign language, I never would have known any of this,” said the Fremont mother. “Sign language is the most important thing for deaf children and their families to learn. How else are you going to communicate? How will you know your child’s hopes and dreams?”
Adam Sanchez, Rethinking Schools
I learned there was an era of Black power that I didn’t even know existed,” Sean wrote. “That there was a MAJOR Black power movement in the 1860s and 1870s, is so exciting to me!” Joel added. “As a Black student, I’m really happy to be learning about it . . . because everyone thinks that it was only in the 1960s when there was a powerful Black rights movement.” I had asked my African American history students at Philadelphia’s Central High School to summarize what they had learned from our unit on Reconstruction and whether they thought it was important for students to know about this era and why. The answers I received were a testament to how empowering learning about Reconstruction can be for students — in a way that emphasizes the dramatic struggles and successes of the era.
Whole Children and Strong Communities
Carol Jago, Chicago Tribune
Alarm bells are ringing across the country over steep declines in mathematics on the latest Nation’s Report Card. Results in reading are equally alarming. Nearly 40% of fourth graders nationally read below the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) basic level, and about half of Chicago students are performing below that mark. It’s a crisis, but I’m confident we can recover. Let’s not forget that these results reflect how students performed last year compared with their performance in 2019, before COVID-19 upended all our lives. The pandemic took an immense toll on reading. It wasn’t only children who found it difficult to read during the past two years. Many avid adult readers suddenly discovered that we lacked the stamina and focus to persevere with a book for more than a few pages. Children experienced similar frustrations, and as a consequence, their reading muscles atrophied. These students didn’t forget how to read. They lost the habit of reading.
Naaz Modan, K-12 Dive
The National Parent Teacher Association plans a heightened focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, as well as whole child development as an approach to student success, under updated standards for family-school partnerships released Tuesday. The diversity, equity and inclusion changes include, among other things, suggestions that schools and PTAs should “identify and remedy power imbalances” in families’ roles in decision making, work to eliminate bias in family engagement strategies, encourage involvement from historically marginalized groups and use linguistically and culturally responsive outreach, and remove economic and other barriers to family involvement.
Pearson, K-12 Dive
The number of U.S. youth who identify as transgender has doubled over the past five years to about 300,000 individuals, according to a comprehensive new report from researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles. This finding may suggest that more young people feel comfortable identifying themselves as transgender. Still, there remains a lot that schools can do to support transgender and gender-questioning students. These young people face a difficult path.
Access, Assessment, Advancement
Adrian Florido, NPR
Guest host Adrian Florido speaks with Mitchell Chang, associate vice chancellor at UCLA, about what’s at risk if affirmative action in college admissions is overturned.
Ashleigh Panoo, EdSource
At Fresno City College’s Career and Technology Center, tucked away in an industrial neighborhood near the city’s southern border, a dozen students gathered around the wood framing of a small exterior wall. The construction students were raising the structures onto a trailer, beginning what will be the first of 24 tiny homes that will go to people in need. And beyond the charitable goal, this important real-life construction project is teaching work skills and is aiming to help students enter the workforce with valuable experience.
Megan Go, Diverse Issues in Higher Education
“My parents were tasked with the job of survival, and I with self-actualization. The immigrant generational gap is real. What a luxury it is to search for purpose, meaning, and fulfillment.” I came across this tweet written by the user Bo Ren a few years ago and it stuck with me since. It was the mentality I had that was put into words. As an Asian American immigrant myself, I’ve felt the pressure to succeed due to the sacrifices my parents have made to provide me the opportunities they never had, and sacrificing my mental health in the process. Numerous Asian American university students share this mindset. The topic of mental health has been overlooked and brushed off within the Asian American community. Plenty of factors, both internal and external, allow this cycle to continue.
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, United Nations
The unresolved legacies of trade and trafficking of enslaved Africans and colonialism, post-colonial apartheid and segregation, continues to harm children of African descent in all areas of life, UN experts said. In a report presented to the General Assembly by the Working Group on people of African descent, they highlighted discrimination against children of African descent in areas including the administration of justice, law enforcement, education and health.
“Due to racial discrimination, racial stereotypes, systemic racial discrimination and xenophobia, children of African descent are not considered as children at all,” Working Group Chair Catherine Namakula said when presenting the report. “Throughout the diaspora, children of African descent face heavier policing, including more arrests, police surveillance, racial profiling, strip searches and excessive use of force. Law enforcement is in conflict with children of African descent,” the experts’ report said.
Mark Lieberman, Education Week
A new report from the United Nations doesn’t mince words: If Earth continues on its current path, policies in place to stop the worst effects of climate change will fail. School districts in the United States, large and small, should pay attention. On top of preparing K-12 students for a world where climate change effects will be omnipresent, districts annually emit tens of millions of metric tons of carbon, waste hundreds of thousands of tons of food, and operate hundreds of thousands of diesel-emitting school buses.
Jamie Grierson, The Guardian
Boys should be encouraged to ignore gender stereotypes and share their emotions, according to the team behind a new UK initiative aimed at encouraging them to talk about their feelings and speak out against inequality. The Global Boyhood Initiative, co-founded by the US-based gender equality organisation Equimundo and the French violence against women charity the Kering Foundation, aims to equip adults with the tools to raise boys to become men who embrace a healthy masculinity. A report – The State of UK Boys – has been published to mark the launch of the US initiative in the UK, pulling together findings from a range of academic research over the past 20 years – with insights from 15 researchers in the field of gender, masculinities and boyhood.
Democracy and the Public Interest
Will Bunch, Philadelphia Inquirer
What a difference a day makes: 24 little hours. As the darkness descended across America on Tuesday, editors at the New York Times locked in their doom-for-Democrats front page while 3,000 miles west in Arizona, the extremist femme fatale Kari Lake was boasting to reporters that “I’m going to be your worst frickin’ nightmare” as Arizona’s next governor. Inside the Beltway, the pundits who’d issued a political tsunami watch gazed out on the waters with their binoculars, waiting for a “red wave” to roll ashore. Hardly anyone was paying attention to what was happening on college campuses from Tempe, Ariz., to Champaign, Ill., where teens and 20-somethings stood and waited for hours to cast their ballots in the 2022 midterms, patiently scrolling through their iPhones or even sneaking in some homework. At the University of Michigan, in a state where abortion rights were on the ballot through both a referendum and a pro-choice governor, hundreds of students — some draped in blankets as the mercury plunged — stood on a line for two-to-three hours to cast their ballot.
Helen Ladd, NEPC
Charter schools are publicly funded schools of choice operated by private entities. They differ from traditional public schools in that they have more operational autonomy, their teachers are not public employees, and they are operated by nonprofit or for-profit private entities under renewable contracts called charters. The main sense in which they are public is that they are funded by taxpayer dollars. Charter schools have expanded rapidly since their early beginnings in Minnesota in the 1990s and are now enabled by state legislation in 45 states. Nationwide, charter schools account for about 7 percent of all school enrollments but over 40 percent in several urban districts. Although many people have long been skeptical of the charter school movement, enrollments in charter schools have been growing, including during the pandemic, and appear likely to continue doing so.
Jill Anderson, Harvard EdCast [Audio]
The upcoming election has the potential to greatly shift the landscape for many district leaders around the nation. In fact, the work of superintendents has never been more challenging, say Senior Lecturer Jennifer Cheatham and Claremont Graduate University Professor Carl Cohn, given the ongoing polarization today. That divide is impacting superintendents’ day-to-day work, making it incredibly hard to focus on key things like teaching and learning, equity, or even relationship building.
Other News of Note
Michael Messner, The Conversation
If former President Donald Trump had his way, the nation would have celebrated the centennial of the World War I armistice with a massive military parade in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 11, 2018. But that never happened. When Pentagon officials announced the president’s decision to cancel the parade in August 2018, they blamed local politicians for driving up the cost of the proposed event. There may have been other reasons. Veterans were especially outspoken in their opposition. Retired generals and admirals feared such a demonstration would embarrass the U.S., placing the nation in the company of small-time authoritarian regimes that regularly parade their tanks and missiles as demonstrations of their military might.
Isabel Van Brugen, Newsweek
Russian parents have expressed their anger at the news that Soviet-era basic military training will be reinstated in high schools amidst the war in Ukraine. The so-called “initial military training” program, which teaches children how to assemble and disassemble firearms, how to provide first aid, and how to respond to a nuclear or chemical attack, was abolished in 1993. Russia’s Education Minister Sergey Kravtsov said on Wednesday that the course will be added to the Russian school curricula in the next academic year, state-run news agency TASS reported. “It will be introduced in schools starting from the next academic year. Now it is being drafted and after January 1, it will begin to be tested,” Kravtsov told reporters after a meeting with the honorary jury panel of the Znaniye (Knowledge) educational award.