Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
Evie Blad Education Week
President-elect Joe Biden plans to pursue an ambitious agenda for K-12 education that will depend on cooperation from Congress and his administration’s ability to address the ongoing effects of the coronavirus pandemic on students and schools. The former Democratic vice president, whose victory was called by the Associated Press Saturday morning after a close election and days of vote-counting in multiple states, has promised a sharp U-turn from the education philosophy and policies of his competitor, Republican President Donald Trump, in areas including the COVID-19 crisis, civil rights enforcement in schools, and aid for underprivileged students.
Valerie Strauss, Washington Post
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is on her way out of office now that Joe Biden has defeated President Trump, and the education world is eager to see who her successor will be. Whoever it is, Biden has said that the new education secretary will be on a mission to undo things the controversial DeVos accomplished — such as making school choice the primary priority of the department — and work to support traditional public school districts. Public education advocates are hoping that he picks someone who will bolster public schools, and move away from the past two decades of school policies that emphasized charter schools, standardized testing and operating schools through a business model.
Amelia Nierenberg and Adam Pasick, New York Times
On Tuesday, Philadelphia delayed plans to bring its youngest public school students back to classrooms for at least some in-person instruction on Nov. 30 as cases rise in the city. Remote learning will continue for all students “until further notice,” officials said. “We hope to see these children in school before the spring, but it’s all going to be based on the advice from the health community,” said William R. Hite Jr., the superintendent. A similar trend is playing out across the country, especially in big cities, as U.S. cases and hospitalizations reach a new high.
Language, Culture, and Power
Black Lives Matter at School, Rethinking Schools
In the wake of the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and others named and unnamed, a great Uprising for Black Lives has swept the nation and the world, inciting new urgency and radical possibilities for advancing abolitionist practice and uprooting institutional racism. The uprising has helped create a national discussion about what public safety could be. For too long public safety has been defined as spending more money on the legal punishment system and funding for more police in schools and communities. We believe it is vital to redefine public safety in terms of the holistic social and emotional well-being of students and educators. During this time of the coronavirus pandemic, public safety has to also mean not opening schools until the science supports it can be done safely, COVID-19 testing at schools and in communities is widely available, personal protective equipment is funded and supplied for educators and students, schools are provided functioning ventilation systems, and so much more.
Bianca Quilantan, Politico
Hundreds of thousands of undocumented students across the country live with the fear that they could face deportation and an end to their plans for higher education. The Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program has provided work authorization and deportation protections for undocumented people who were illegally brought to the United States as children or overstayed a visa. For seven years, DACA gave some relief so students could work and go to college without looking over their shoulders for immigration officials.
John Fensterwald, EdSource
The California Department of Education is recommending dozens of wording changes and additional lesson plans about Pacific Islander, Japanese and Korean Americans and other ethnic groups to its proposed model ethnic studies curriculum. The revisions respond to criticisms that the document, which is undergoing its third revision, is too polemical in presenting racial struggles and omits the achievements and history of various ethnic and religious groups. The latest changes, released Friday, will go before the Instructional Quality Commission, which will amend the draft curriculum at its meeting Nov. 18-19 (see Item 8 on the agenda). The commission advises the State Board of Education, which by law must adopt the curriculum framework by March 31, 2021.
Whole Children and Strong Communities
Alyson Klein, Education Week
It’s a dilemma schools have struggled with for years: Should teachers spend the precious time they have helping students dig deeply into a specific issue, problem, or question? Or should they teach more broadly about a wide variety of topics?
The argument for the former approach—called “deep learning”—is that it improves student engagement and prepares kids to be better problem solvers in a world with increasingly complex challenges around health, economics, social justice, and climate change. A broader approach, the counter argument goes, introduces students to a greater mix of topics, giving them a better sense of all the issues and problems society is facing.
National Education Policy Center
The images and anecdotes are disturbing and revealing: In San Antonio, drone photos show what appears to be an enormous parking lot but is actually more than 10,000 people waiting in lines for a socially distanced food pantry that fed 50,000 people in a single day. In Central Florida, Disney fans from around the world have raised money to help support food banks that feed the many park employees who are out of work. And in California, in early Octo-ber, an alliance of 36 food banks announced the packaging of the 100 millionth meal served during the pandemic. “We’ve never experienced food insecurity at this level since we’ve been tracking the data for the last 20 years,” NEPC Fellow Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, Director of the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University, told Minnesota Public Radio last month.
Education inequality, community schools, and system transformation: Launching the Task Force on Next Generation Community Schools
Kristen Harper, Sarah Jonas, and Rebecca Winthrop, Brookings Institute
With COVID-19 cases on the rise, families and schools across America face an extended period of educational disruption. Recent research illustrates the toll that this upheaval has had on our nation’s young people. In a nationally representative survey of high school students, one-third of young people reported being unhappy or depressed. Projections of learning loss on math and reading due to COVID-19 show that educational disruptions will likely result in negative effects, especially for students who were already behind. Low-income students and students of color, who have historically been poorly served by our education systems, are being hit particularly hard.
Access, Assessment, Advancement
Claire Miller, New York Times
On Election Day, Multnomah County, which includes Portland, Ore., passed one of the most progressive universal preschool policies in the nation. The measure, to be paid for by a large tax on high earners, will provide free preschool for all children ages 3 and 4, in public schools and in existing and new private preschools and home-based child care centers. It will also significantly raise teachers’ wages so they are equivalent to those of kindergarten teachers. It seeks to overcome the central problem in early childhood care and education: It is unaffordable for many families, yet teachers are underpaid. The solution, Multnomah County voters decided, is to finance preschool with public funding instead of private tuition, and to pay teachers much more.
Erika Christakis, The Atlantic
The litany of tragedies and inconveniences visited upon Americans by COVID-19 is long, but one of the more pronounced sources of misery for parents has been pandemic schooling. The logistical gymnastics necessary to balance work and school when all the crucial resources—time, physical space, internet bandwidth, emotional reserves—are limited have pushed many to the point of despair. Pandemic school is clearly not working well, especially for younger children—and it’s all but impossible for the 20 percent of American students who lack access to the technology needed for remote learning. But what parents are coming to understand about their kids’ education—glimpsed through Zoom windows and “asynchronous” classwork—is that school was not always working so great before COVID-19 either.
Omar Rashad, Cal Matters
Kaylin Tran imagined her first year at UCLA after transferring from Pasadena City College as kind of like a coming of age movie: She’d join clubs, make lifelong friends and pore over books in the university’s iconic library. Instead, thanks to the pandemic, she’s sitting in front of a computer screen in her family’s San Gabriel home, paying $14,000 a year for tuition instead of $1,600. “It definitely gives you a disconnect from the actual college experience, because it’s basically like, you’ve been at home for the past two years at community college,” Tran said. “Nothing feels any different.” The limitations of online education are frustrating for many California college students, but they’re especially so for the tens of thousands who transferred from community colleges to four-year universities this year
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
Subsidized housing and school segregation: Examining the relationship between federally subsidized affordable housing and racial and economic isolation in schools
Jennifer Jellison Holme, Erica Frankenberg, Joanna Sanchez, Kendra Taylor, Sarah De La Garza, Michelle Kennedy, Education Policy Analysis Archives
Each year, the federal government provides billions of dollars in support for low-income families in their acquisition of housing. In this analysis, we examine how several of these subsidized housing programs, public housing and Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) financed housing, relate to patterns of school segregation for children. We use GIS to examine the location of subsidized housing vis-à-vis district boundaries and school attendance boundaries in four Texas counties. We then examine patterns of segregation between schools with and without subsidized housing in their attendance zones, as well as the extent of economic and racial isolation experienced by students in those schools. Our results illustrate that public housing and LIHTC housing developments are zoned to racially and economically isolated schools, and that developments are associated with especially high levels of economic and racial isolation for Black and Latinx students. We conclude by discussing implications for housing and education policy to ameliorate these patterns.
Joseph Choi, The Hill
Children in Latin America have lost four times as many school days than children in the rest of the world, according to a UNICEF report released Monday. UNICEF regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Bernt Aasen, said in the report that millions of vulnerable children in this region may not return to school. “For those without computers, without internet or even without a place to study, learning from home has become a daunting challenge,” he said. According to the report, 97 percent of children in Latin America and the Caribbean have missed out on 174 days of learning on average and are at risk of losing an entire year of their education. This has affected about 137 million children in total.
Bill Ayers, Under the Tree
Voter suppression may be the only strategy left for the reactionaries, but, truth-be-told, voter suppression is as American as cherry pie, baked deep in the national DNA. Founded on war and conquest, land theft and forced removal, ethnic cleansing and genocide, kidnapping and a complex system of generational slavery based on African ancestry, the US is hardly innocent in spite of the noisy protestations of the White Nationalists. It’s a settler-colonial, racial capitalist system, and the founding documents are crystal clear: power will be exercised by and for the few. A fundamental revolutionary duty—and really the responsibility of anyone whose eyes are open—is to struggle to know what time it is, and so we explore this treacherous, ominous, and oddly hopeful moment with a dear friend and comrade Barbara Ransby, historian, award-winning author, professor of history, Black studies, and gender and women’s studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Public Schools and Private Dollars
Lauren Camera, US News and World Report
After the 2020 presidential election was called for Joe Biden on Saturday, the country’s educators released a collective sigh of relief knowing that, at long last, the days were numbered for the woman they consider Public (School) Enemy No. 1: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. The national teachers unions, their city and state affiliates, school superintendents, principals, educators and parents took to social media to throw DeVos an early retirement party, posting photos and videos of themselves popping bottles of champagne with tears in their eyes, retweeting GIFs and memes of doors being slammed shut, of actors performing trite “buh-byes” and of photoshopped pictures of DeVos as Cruella de Vil and other Disney movie villains.
Peter Greene, The Progressive
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, sensing perhaps the need to reaffirm her stamp on education policy, recently gave a speech at an education roundtable at Hillsdale College, a private Christian college in Michigan. The Washington Post called her remarks an “anti-government polemic” that reasserted one of her long-held beliefs: that families, rather than the federal government, should be the “sovereign sphere” for deciding how to spend public money for education. DeVos also made a plug for her Education Freedom Scholarship Initiative, which would provide $5 billion in federal tax credits that states could use to create school voucher programs.
Kalyn Belsha and Matt Barnum, Chalkbeat
In 2017, it took Vice President Mike Pence’s tiebreaking vote to make billionaire philanthropist and school-choice activist Betsy DeVos the country’s education secretary. Days earlier, she had struggled to answer basic education policy questions during her confirmation hearing. Her confusion, the evocative details — in response to one question, she said schools may need guns to protect against grizzly bears — and a surge in protest and civic activism against President Trump turned DeVos into a household name. She has held onto that symbolic power. To many educators, her name remains a shorthand for feelings of frustration and disrespect.
Other News of Note
Jeff Duncan Andrade, Books with Brothers
Books with Brothers celebrates Black educators and Black creators through the joyful reading of children’s books. Join us each week as we share a new reading by a different friend of Big Picture Learning.
14 students sued Rhode Island over civics education. Now, they’re more politically engaged than ever
Allie Reed, Boston Globe
Mealaktey Sok, 18, says she never learned about the importance of voting in school. Neither did 19-year-old Nancy Xiong. “I didn’t care about it because I never learned about it,” Xiong said. The two are among 14 current and former students from Rhode Island public schools who sued Governor Gina Raimondo and the state last year, claiming their schools failed to provide them an adequate civics education. Their case, Cook (A.C.) v. Raimondo, came as both American democracy and the American public education system face severe challenges. Budget cuts have forced civics, social studies, and other subjects to take a back seat to boosting math and reading scores on standardized tests. Recent studies show that more than half of Americans cannot name the three branches of government or pass the USCIS Citizenship Test that roughly 90 percent of immigrants pass.