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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
Karin Fischer, EdSource
Newly elected governor Gavin Newsom’s big campaign promises on education could cost billions of dollars if fully realized. The governor-elect has pledged to establish a cradle-to-career system of education in California and made it a central tenet of his education platform. To improve educational outcomes, the former San Francisco mayor argues that the state needs to begin offering services in early childhood with interventions continuing throughout school and college. The Newsom campaign did not release cost projections for any of its proposed education policies during the campaign against Republican John Cox. But through an examination of previous legislative proposals, expert and advocacy group assessments and a review of comparable programs in other states, EdSource was able to provide a rough calculation of how much Newsom’s strategy could cost.
Moriah Balingit, The Washington Post
In a race closely watched by education activists, Wisconsin education chief Tony Evers ousted Republican Gov. Scott Walker in a state President Trump carried in 2016, a win that activists viewed as evidence of the enduring might of teacher unions. Tuesday’s midterm elections were regarded as a test of the strength of educator activism. They followed a landmark Supreme Court decision on unions and walkouts that galvanized teachers. Unprecedented numbers of educators ran for public office this year, and many more volunteered for candidates who pledged to increase education funding. Voters ranked education as one of their top issues in Arizona and Wisconsin. Nationally, education was mentioned in one-third of all television ads in governors’ races, according to the Wesleyan Media Project, which tracks campaign ads. Only health care garnered more mentions. But the final grade for teachers — their success as candidates and their ability to influence races — was mixed.
Erika Kitzmiller and Adele Bruni Ashley, The Hechinger Report
Pipe bombs. People murdered because of their skin color or religion. The possible end of federal protections for transgender people. These recent horrific events may have occurred outside school walls, but the associated trauma and fear are spilling into our classrooms. Teachers are struggling to find ways to support their students and to create meaningful curricula for children who may or may not understand the effects of these events in their lives. In 2017, UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access surveyed 1,535 teachers from over three hundred geographically and demographically diverse public high schools, asking them to reflect on their experiences from January to May of that year. Through both this survey and subsequent teacher interviews, the institute found that 51.4 percent of teachers reported that more students were experiencing “high levels of stress and anxiety” than in previous years; teachers pointed to heightened student concerns about immigration status, healthcare and LGBT rights. Meanwhile, 27 percent of teachers reported increases in derogatory remarks made by students during class discussions, and 72.3 percent of teachers agreed that they needed more guidance from school leadership and more opportunities for professional development around the promotion of civil exchange. We understand that everyone might not agree on the particulars of these issues, and that some individuals might feel that discussing these topics is too political for schools or educators. But remaining silent is a political act. Moreover, silence does nothing to address the real and significant challenges that our schools face today.
Language, Culture, and Power
What becomes possible when students learn from educators that share part of their cultural experience? Or when they learn curriculum that honors and sustains their distinct history? Aaron Harris, a New York City public school teacher, is one of just four male teachers of color at a school with a predominantly Black student body. A Washington, D.C. native, Aaron shares his experiences as a teacher of color in the classroom, and how race and ethnicity inform the role educators play in their students’ lives.
Commentary from LAUSD board member Kelly Gonez: With our investment in dual language programs, ‘Our diversity is our strength’
Kelly Gonez, LA School Report
I was entering elementary school when the Spanish spoken in my home slowly disappeared. Up to that point, my mother, an immigrant from Peru, had taught me both Spanish and English at home. But soon after I began school, the only times Spanish was spoken was during overheard calls with my family members in Peru or at family gatherings. I quickly began to lose the tools to communicate fully with my relatives. My mother focused on speaking English only because she wanted the best for me. She arrived to the U.S. in the early 1980s. At the time, she faced hostility for speaking Spanish in public, and speaking accented English made it difficult to find a career in her desired field, health. As an immigrant, she faced barriers that she wanted to spare me from. All the signs in our society seemed to point toward devaluing our home language and culture. As a result, my mom believed that speaking Spanish predominantly at home would hinder my English language development and my learning abilities in school. Today, we know better. We know that being bilingual, biliterate, and bicultural are incredible assets for children. And now, as I raise my infant son, we are intentionally striving for him to learn Spanish and feel pride in our culture and heritage, while also learning English. The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), which serves more than 100,000 students learning English as a second language and where more than 92 languages are spoken, deeply values the linguistic and cultural assets of our students and families.
Teachers, students on both sides of the border team up to create Baja’s first public dual-language schools
Kristen Taketa, The San Diego Union-Tribune
When families are deported from the U.S. to Mexico, it becomes the job of Mexico schools to teach their children. But school teachers in Baja are finding that hard to do, officials say, because even while many parents may be Spanish speakers, many of their children can only speak English well. Baja public schools only really started to focus on teaching English as a subject as recently as five years ago, said Cristina Alfaro, a San Diego State University professor of bilingual education and leader of international bilingual education development efforts. “Many of these students were born here and their education was here, but then because of our anti-immigrant and deportation situation that’s going on right now, the parents are getting deported so the kids have to go,” Alfaro said. “But they don’t speak Spanish. So now they’re in these classrooms, maybe they’ve had six years of English-only instruction, and then the teachers over there are saying, how do I teach this?” This dilemma applies to many of the approximately 53,000 Baja students who are from the U.S., Baja education officials say. So teaching professors and education leaders from both sides of the border have teamed up as part of a binational partnership that will develop more bilingual teachers in Baja who can teach these students well. Instead of just getting more Baja teachers to teach English as a separate, single subject, officials in this partnership are working on developing dual-language schools, ones that can immerse all students — both native English speakers and native Spanish speakers — in the two languages.
Whole Children and Strong Communities
Not your average student council: How Chicago’s student voice committees are giving kids a real say in their schools
Kate Stringer, The 74
The students at Mather High School in Chicago wanted to do something. Their peers said they didn’t feel comfortable coming to school, weren’t paying attention in class, and sometimes skipped lessons altogether. So a small group of students tried to figure out what the root of the problem might be. They talked to their classmates, interviewed teachers, and researched what other schools were doing to help students feel connected. Finally, they decided they were going to improve the relationships between the school’s 100 teachers and 1,500 students. If they could do this, “students would feel much more comfortable in class and teachers would feel more motivated to work and have a mutual respect between them so these problems would decrease,” senior Minaz Khatoon said. “It’s also not only our opinion,” senior Anna Morys added. “We also read a lot of research that proves that students who had better relationships with their teachers have higher grades and more self-confidence.” It was a daunting task, but one well within the mission of these 30 high schoolers who were part of the school’s student voice committee, one of many student-led groups across Chicago Public Schools that aim to give students a more meaningful say in their education.
Fenit Nirappil, The Washington Post
The D.C. Council indefinitely delayed action on legislation to lower the voting age to 16, dealing a blow to efforts to make the nation’s capital the first jurisdiction to allow minors to cast ballots in presidential contests. Lawmakers voted 7 to 6 to table the bill, imperiling its chances before an end-of-year deadline to pass legislation. The voting bill hit a setback after a pair of lawmakers who helped introduce the legislation — Trayon White Sr. (D-Ward 8) and Anita Bonds (D-At Large) — flipped positions and declined to vote for it. Also voting to delay action were Chairman Phil Mendelson (D), Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), Brandon T. Todd (D-Ward 4), Kenyan R. McDuffie (D-Ward 5) and Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3). Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) had backed the proposal but distanced herself from the measure before the vote. The bill would have allowed 16- and 17-year-olds to cast ballots in the District starting in 2020. Census data suggests more than 10,000 new voters were eligible.
Louis Freedberg, EdSource
The latest gun violence travesty, this time in California, is once again focusing our attention on just how much — or little — our nation’s leaders care about our young. Earlier this year, students at a high school in Parkland, Florida, were massacred by a disturbed former student wielding a semi-automatic rifle. Just this week, David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez, two prominent youthful voices to have emerged from that disaster, spoke at a “Vote for Our Lives” rally on the UC Irvine campus, a two-hour drive south of the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, where 12 people were fatally gunned down Wednesday night. Irvine has been called the safest city in the United States. But the Borderline massacre indicates that no one is safe when lethal weapons are too easily accessible to people whose only intent is to use them to slaughter others. The gunman reportedly used a Glock 21 .45-caliber handgun with an extended magazine to cause the mayhem at this Southern California gathering spot for Country Western dancing. And what is an “extended magazine”? One website ad extolled them as the “ultimate in high capacity.” The magazines “will more than double the standard capacity of your standard Glock .45 Automatic Colt Pistol magazine,” the ad explained. You can buy them for $16.99. Donald Trump came to office promising to make America “safe.” “As your president I have no higher duty than to protect the lives of the American people first,” he declared in a speech last year — a speech focused on the threats of unauthorized immigrants, including those who committed murders. But he has done nothing to make young people, or people of any age, safer from gun violence. Instead, he has portrayed undocumented immigrants as the greatest danger we face as a nation.
Access, Assessment, and Advancement
Jin Chi, Brookings
The international development community has placed adolescent girls and secondary schooling at the center of girls’ education policy, and has given less attention to gender realities of girls and boys in early childhood. This oversight begs the following question: Can gender and education issues at primary, secondary, and tertiary levels and beyond be tackled without paying attention to interventions in the early years? My project at Brookings highlights the gaps and opportunities in bringing a gender perspective into early childhood teacher policy, particularly in the context of China, where I have been working in the field of girls’ education and early childhood development for many years. Policymakers and educators worldwide should not underestimate the importance of early childhood education on the development of deeply engrained gender norms. It is important to consider the cognitive and affective formation of gender identity which develops in early childhood. The types of skills, personality attributes, and career aspirations learned through teacher-child interactions and childhood play can form stereotypical masculine and feminine attitudes toward gender roles, which develop before adolescence.
Larry Gordon, EdSource
California’s Latino students are making progress in higher education but colleges and state policymakers should take further steps to help close a continuing ethnic achievement gap, according to a new report by the Campaign for College Opportunity. The nonprofit advocacy group headquartered in Los Angeles called for a series of reforms, including: expanding enrollment at the 10-campus University of California and the 23-campus California State University systems so there is more room for students of Latino heritage, improving community college programs that guarantee transfers to four-year-schools if students take the right courses, getting high schools to offer more college prep classes and bolstering state college financial aid. The study also focused on remedial education, the non-credit courses in English and math that students judged to have weak skills are required to take at community colleges. (Cal State dropped remedial courses this fall.) Latino students have been disproportionately placed into those remedial courses, which are associated with lower degree completion and transfer rates, the study says. A new law mandates that community colleges change the way students are placed in the classes starting next year, ending placement exams and giving more weight to high school grades. The colleges must successfully implement that reform, the study urged.
Max Larkin and Mayowa Aina, KPCC
For years, Harvard University’s admissions office has given a ”
” to legacy students, or students with at least one parent who graduated from Harvard or Radcliffe, its former sister school.
The size and nature of that “tip” was officially unclear — until a federal judge compelled Harvard to share six years of admissions data. That reveal came ahead of a recently concluded federal trial, in which Harvard stood accused of discriminating against Asian-American applicants. Expert analyses of Harvard’s data, prepared by both parties in the lawsuit, disagree on many counts; but both say legacy preference can make a big difference. And that’s not just the case at Harvard. Forty-two percent of private institutions and 6 percent of public institutions consider legacy status as a factor in admissions, according to a 2018 survey of admissions directors by Inside Higher Ed.
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
Theresa Harrington, EdSource
After hours of testimony, the state Board of Education Thursday rejected two history textbooks from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, but approved 10 others based on new history social sciences guidelines. Following nearly eight hours of emotional pleas from Hindus and Indian American, as well as advocates for the LGBTQ community requesting fair historical representations in K-8 textbooks, the state Board of Education endorsed the recommendations of an advisory panel. When Board President Mike Kirst declared the public hearing closed after about 500 people spoke, he said: “That was the longest in the history of the state Board of Education.” But that wasn’t the only historical moment. The board also said it was making history by approving new textbooks they expect to be models for other states across the nation — for their new content related to diverse populations as well as for robust lessons in civic engagement. “Part of what we’re trying to do is get more people engaged in civic participation — and we certainly had a lot today,” Kirst said, calling the meeting “in some ways a model” of the types of opportunities that they are encouraging for people’s voices to be heard.
Taylor Swaak, LA School Report
LA Unified is poised to consider using district property to house homeless students and their families. Kelly Gonez, who authored the resolution that’s up for a school board vote Tuesday, said that to her knowledge, this would be a first for the district. The resolution, co-sponsored by Mónica García and Nick Melvoin, would ask Superintendent Austin Beutner to research the “feasibility” of using district sites to: 1) Allow overnight parking for homeless students and families, in collaboration with the Safe Parking L.A. program, 2) Provide overnight shelter and meals, “at minimum” during winter and summer recesses, and 3) Build or convert buildings to create temporary or permanent housing. There are no identified locations at this point, but possibilities could include schools, offices and parking lots. The resolution proposes using funds from Proposition HHH, a bond measure voters approved in 2016 that granted the county $1.2 billion to aid the homeless, including building affordable housing. There are between 16,200 and 21,000 homeless students in LA Unified, depending on who’s counting. The definition of “homeless” varies, but often includes those residing in shelters or cars, doubling up with other families or living on the street. Last year, the number of homeless students in LA Unified spiked 50 percent from the previous year as the district doubled its staff who work with the homeless from 14 to 29 people. Homelessness has far-reaching consequences on academic achievement: Research shows these students are eight times more likely than their peers to repeat a grade and twice as likely to score lower on standardized tests. About 23 percent of homeless youth in LA Unified also miss 10 percent or more of the school year — nearly twice the district average, according to the California Department of Education.
Casey Parks, The Hechinger Report
In Honduras, Carlos Chirinos-Padilla said, it was too dangerous to run. Soccer games were short and confined to the street in front of his house. Drug cartels roamed the neighborhood, he said, sometimes forcibly recruiting his neighbors, sometimes murdering them. Carlos and a group of other boys stole space and time when they could, but the violence left little room for dribbling. When he fled Honduras for New Orleans two years ago, Carlos, now 16 and a high school junior, hoped for just two things: a quiet place to live and an opportunity to play real soccer on a real team. A high school squad, he thought, would be the best place to start. Carlos enrolled at Cohen College Prep, a small high school in uptown New Orleans. For nearly 70 years, Cohen had been largely African-American, but Carlos’s arrival coincided with a demographic shift at the school. Five years ago, the school had no Latino students. Teenagers whose first language is Spanish now make up more than a quarter of the 350 students enrolled. Statewide, the number of Hispanic students has tripled over the past decade, from 17,000 in 2008 to 50,000 this year. Almost as soon as the new students arrived, teachers said, they started asking to play soccer.
Public Schools and Private $
Ed Mendel, Calpensions
An old line about local governments in CalPERS — “You can check in, but you can’t check out” — usually refers to an often prohibitively high termination fee to pay future pension costs. But for charter schools the old line is literally true. Current law does not allow termination of their CalPERS contract. When a charter school closes, the unpaid pension debt is covered by the large CalPERS pool mainly funded by regular schools. CalPERS has contracts to provide pensions for non-teaching employees in 422 charter schools, a growing movement that allows parents to choose a state-funded school operating free of many state regulations. Thirteen more charter schools are seeking CalPERS contracts. A few charter schools have gone into bankruptcy. Some charter school operators have been convicted of wrongly using public funds for their own purposes. And about 600 have closed or never opened since charter schools were authorized in 1993. CalPERS enrolls charter school employees through contracts with county offices of education. There are signs that some charter schools in CalPERS may be having trouble or want to shed growing pension costs. “CalPERS has identified an estimated 140 charter schools that have stopped reporting payroll to us,” Amy Morgan, a California Public Employees Retirement System spokeswoman said last week.
In this month’s NEPC Education Interview of the Month, Lewis and Clark College Emeritus Professor of Education Gregory A. Smith and Cornell University professor Noliwe Rooks discuss school privatization, segregation, and the end of public education. Greg and Noliwe, who also chairs the American Studies Program at Cornell, explore issues that have arisen from the range of privatizing reforms prevalent over the last decade, and their impact on our ability to create equitable schools. Dr. Rooks has researched the roots of school privatization going back to the 19th century, when, she points out, there was the same kind of “deep-pocketed interest” from philanthropists that exists today. Dr. Rooks coined the term “segrenomics,” referring to the profit for businesses that offer to educate children in economically and racially segregated communities. She attempts to understand the meaning of a society in which those with access to wealth and power are invested in education reform for “poor black children,” but only with models of education that don’t look like the education their own children get.
Rob O’Dell, Arizona Republic
A grassroots group of parents successfully overturned the massive school voucher expansion supported by the state’s Republican establishment, as the “no” vote on Proposition 305 won by a wide margin, the Associated Press has projected. The “no” vote victory on Prop. 305 has major implications for the school-choice movement in Arizona and nationally, as the state has long been ground zero for the conservative issue and Republican leaders have crowned the Empowerment Scholarship Account expansion as a national template. The grassroots group who launched the referendum by obtaining more than 111,000 signatures to put it on the ballot celebrated as the results came in Tuesday night, said Dawn Penich-Thacker, spokeswoman for Save Our Schools Arizona. “We are over the moon. We set out to send a message to the state government and the nation,” Penich-Thacker said. “This defeat should be echoing at the state Capitol and all the way to Washington.”
Other News of Note
Michael Fox, The Nation
Ana Caroline Campagnolo is a 27-year-old high-school history teacher with thick-rimmed glasses and long, straight, dark hair, parted to one side. For several years she has waged a campaign to rid Brazil’s education system of what she believes to be deep-rooted “communist indoctrination.” This year, that activism won her a seat in the Santa Catarina statehouse representing the Social Liberal Party of far-right president-elect Jair Bolsonaro. Just hours after the presidential election results rolled in, Campagnolo posted a message on her Facebook page calling on students to film and report teachers who express negative views about Bolsonaro’s victory. She set up a hotline where students could send the videos and complaints. “Monday, October 29, is the day that indoctrinated professors will be revolted. Many of them will not contain their rage and will make the classroom a captive auditorium for their political complaints as a result of Bolsonaro’s victory,” she wrote. The message went viral. Bolsonaro shared his own video in support of the initiative and called for it to be duplicated around the country. Teachers called the move censorship. Federal prosecutors opened an investigation into the case.