Just News from Center X – November 19, 2021

Just News

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

What the history of student vaccination mandates means for school COVID vaccine rules [Audio]

Anya Kameetz, NPR

The vaccination of 5- to 11-year-olds against COVID-19 is well underway. California has become the first state to announce that it will add this vaccine to its list of shots that are required for all schoolchildren, and a handful of districts around the country are making similar moves. NPR’s Anya Kamenetz reports that this kind of mandate goes back nearly two centuries, but it has always drawn pushback.

School Cannot Go on This Way. Education Leaders Need to Step Up

Nicole Mirra and Antero Garcia

A veteran middle school teacher reports that a mix of COVID-19 fear and prolonged social isolation has left some of her students so unwilling to be in physical proximity to each other that collaborative learning is nearly impossible. A new student-teacher worries that she is betraying her commitment to differentiate instruction as she pushes through a curriculum that her 10th graders aren’t ready for so she can meet the deadline for the next benchmark exam set by her assistant principal. A high school literacy coach spends his planning period researching how to support a student whose guardian died of COVID-19 because grief counseling feels more urgent to him than writing instruction.

The School Board Wars Part 1 and Part 2 [Audio]

The Daily (Podcast)

Part 1:  Over the past year in the U.S., meetings of the bodies have seen heated fights between parents over the country’s most polarizing issues.  Part 2:  Meetings of the Central Bucks school board devolve into ugly fights and a bitter election is nearing.  But what’s actually happening in classrooms?

Language, Culture, and Power

1619, Building a learning community

John Sawyer, The Pulitzer Center

“The 1619 Project book has helped me reshape, rethink and reframe how I teach African American history,” Abigail Henry says. “I have been teaching African American history for 10 years, and I feel like it’s finally this year that I’m teaching in a way that meets the needs and demands of my students.” Henry is a former architect who teaches African American history at the high school level in Philadelphia. She was one of the educators who had the chance this fall to share with her students advance copies of The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story, the expanded book-length version of the landmark set of essays on the continuing impact of American slavery that was first published in The New York Times Magazine in August 2019. What was it like, teaching the project that has attracted the interest of educators nationwide—while also prompting heated school board meetings and cable TV caricature and spilling over into political campaigns? Henry’s reflections and curricular approach are part of 1619education.org, the new web portal we launched on Tuesday in conjunction with the publication of A New Origin Story and Born on the Water, a children’s book by lead 1619 writer Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renée Watson, illustrated by Nikkolas Smith.

California has to get ethnic studies right to support Black LGBTQ youth

Sikuvu Hutchinson, Los Angeles Times

In October, California became the first state in the U.S. to require ethnic studies for high school graduation starting in 2030. Signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom, the measure was the subject of a more than five-year battle over curriculum content, inclusion and conservative backlash against teaching about racism in K-12 schools. Bucking the reactionary furor over social justice education, all California students will finally have the opportunity to learn American history beyond the standard narratives of heroic straight white males (and a handful of exceptional people of color). Per the state guidelines, core ethnic studies themes focus on identity, history, systems of power, social movements and equity. But the long-term effects on student learning will ultimately hinge on execution — particularly for marginalized Black LGBTQ youth.

To Honor His Indigenous Ancestors, He Became a Champion

Kurt Streeter, New York Times

Ku Stevens ran toward the rising sun. His feet dug into the gravel trail, his legs burned with pain, and he fought doubt. He ran on. A pair of straggling spectators crossed his path, and he swerved to avoid them, nearly losing his balance, and he ran on. The five-kilometer race’s trail climbed into the foothills. He had no teammates and his competitors had fallen far back. There was no one to push him toward the time he needed to be the best. But Stevens ran on. A senior at Yerington High School in western Nevada, Ku — short for Kutoven — raced in the Nevada state interscholastic championships in early November.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Parents are spending new child benefit on food, education. But will Congress keep it?

Matt Barnum, Chalkbeat

Earlier this year, Congress decided to try a remarkably straightforward approach to reduce child poverty: give their families more money. As part of the Biden-backed American Rescue Plan, Congress expanded the child tax credit, which provides cash benefits to most households with children, including some of the country’s poorest families. The IRS has been distributing that money monthly since July. How well has it worked? Initial data suggests the expanded program has cut child poverty and child hunger substantially — although the impact would be greater if all eligible families were receiving the payments. There’s not hard evidence yet, but previous research suggests that the monthly payments also could boost student learning. Indeed, many low-income families say they have used the funds on their children’s education.

‘They See Us as the Enemy’: School Nurses Battle Covid-19, and Angry Parents

New York Times

When a junior high school student in western Oregon tested positive for the coronavirus last month, Sherry McIntyre, a school nurse, quarantined two dozen of the student’s football teammates. The players had spent time together in the locker room unmasked, and, according to local guidelines, they could not return to school for at least 10 days. Some parents took the news poorly. They told Ms. McIntyre that she should lose her nursing license or accused her of violating their children’s educational rights. Another nurse in the district faced similar ire when she quarantined the volleyball team. This fall, after facing repeated hostility from parents, they started locking their office doors.

Transgender Students Need Adult Support in School. Is It Slipping?

Sarah Sparks, Education Week

Acceptance and support from teachers and administrators can be crucial to transgender students’ mental health and engagement in school, but there are signs that a backlash against these students has deepened since the pandemic. Transgender students, who make up nearly 1 in 50 U.S. high school students, have been among the most isolated groups during the pandemic, and they returned to campus this year amid a new wave of anti-transgender legislation. While before the pandemic, proposed and enacted legislative restrictions focused on students’ use of single-sex facilities like restrooms, more than 90 bills introduced in the last few years have focused on limiting their participation in single-sex sports and extracurricular activities. A new, nationally representative survey suggests these ongoing debates may be eroding support for transgender students among the adults at their schools.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

The Build Back Better Act Can Level the Field for Single Parents

Julie Kohler, The Nation

There are many things to cheer regarding the Build Back Better Act’s transformational $400 billion investment in early care and education. The act would deliver meaningful relief to millions of families by establishing universal pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds, capping child care costs for working- and middle-class families at 7 percent of household income, and raising the wages of a workforce dominated by women of color that is currently paid, on average, $12/hour.

But the Build Back Better Act also has the potential, if passed, to represent something else: a political victory over a regressive family ideology that has long been deployed to block public investments that would benefit the vast majority of families.

California community college system urged to do more to help students complete college

Michael Burke, Ed Source

Amid declining enrollment, California’s community colleges should do more to help students in the system stay enrolled once they get there and complete their college goals, faculty and members of the statewide board of governors said Monday.  During a meeting Monday of the board, which oversees California’s 116 colleges, members learned that in addition to enrollment being down dramatically across the colleges, students who do enroll rarely go on to complete a degree or certificate.

UC lecturers win raises, concessions in deal that averts two-day strike

Mikhail Zinshteyn, Cal Matters

The University of California’s 6,500 lecturers called off their planned strike today after winning long-sought concessions from UC management — including salary increases of about 30% over five years for its members and job stability promises. The deal, brokered around 4 a.m., followed two days of marathon bargaining sessions and capped off a labor impasse that began nearly three years ago.

“What changed is that we were really going to go on strike,” said Mia McIver, president of the union of lecturers, the University Council-American Federation of Teachers. “They understood how angry our members were.”

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Plessy v. Ferguson aimed to end segregation—but codified it instead

Byerin Blakemore, National Geographic

Homer Plessy boarded the train in New Orleans, first-class ticket in hand. His instructions were clear: Head for the “whites-only” car and await his arrest. The June 1892 incident played out just as expected—a clockwork application of a new Louisiana law that relegated Black passengers to racially segregated train cars. The mixed-race man’s insistence on riding in a whites-only car wasn’t spontaneous: It was an act of civil disobedience that a local civil rights organization had organized to challenge the law. Yet Plessy’s arrest led to a landmark Supreme Court case that would provide federal sanction for decades of Jim Crow segregation.

Protection of Education in Conflict Zones – a Step in the Right Direction

Gudrun Østby and Ragnhild Nordås, PRIO

On Friday October 30, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution on the protection of education in conflict zones. This is one of the most important matters on which Norway has facilitated negotiations in the Security Council and the resolution is a major step in the right direction for protecting the right of the most vulnerable children to attend school. Education is also good peace policy. The next goal must be for the education provided to meet certain quality standards and for all children to have the right to attend school, regardless of gender, ethnicity or religion. This is crucial for creating peace and development in the longer term.

Not just a kid from the projects

Meagan Zullo, Youth Communication

Growing up, I didn’t know that I came from a lower class. Once, I even had a birthday party at a Build-a-Bear workshop! My dad was a superintendent at a movie theater, and we often watched movies there and got popcorn for free. My mom was a stay at home mom, and she often helped translate for Spanish speaking parents whose kids went to my school. I come from a big family. I have four siblings, two nieces, two nephews, and more cousins than I can count. My house is always full of smiles and laughter that make the small space feel bigger. This was a haven to me. But school was a different story. I went to my zoned elementary school, where the computers were old and constantly broken. We had hardly any books in our library. The books that we did have were stained or had pages ripped out. Our play yard consisted of a filthy jungle gym, and our teachers looked overworked because there were over 30 kids in a class. This class size also made it hard for me to understand what was being taught because it was hard to focus.

Democracy and the Public Interest

Is It Unwise to Privatize?

John D. Donahue, Washington Monthly

Privatization is one of the English language’s more woebegone words. It’s a plug-ugly Frankenstein’s monster of a term—a noun born of a verb carved out of an adjective. And nobody can quite agree on what it means. To some, it refers to contracting out the delivery of publicly funded services. To others, it’s transferring governmental assets to private hands. Still others take the broad view, labeling as privatization the overall shrinkage of the public sector. Donald Cohen and Allen Mikaelian say it’s all of the above, and they say to hell with it.

‘Miseducation’: Journalist Katie Worth on climate education and corporate influences [Audio]

Jonathan Chang and MeghnaChakrabarti, On Point

What are kids learning about climate change in schools? Journalist Katie Worth pored over curriculum and visited classrooms across the country and found that students’ climate education was often being hindered by corporate and political influences. “We would like to think that schools are kind of some ideologically neutral place where kids just learn the facts about the world,” Worth says. “And that’s just not true.” Today, On Point: Corporate influence and climate change, in the classroom.

Why Republicans Want to Ban the 1619 Project: Martha Jones, plus Gregory Boyle on gangs [Audio]

Jon Wiener, Start Making Sense

Republicans continue to work to ban teaching about Black Americans’ place in our history – their legislation, proposed in 27 states, would prohibit teaching the 1619 Project, which has just published a book offering what the authors call “a new origin story” about the United States. Martha Jones, a historian at Johns Hopkins University, and one of the contributors, talks about the battle, the book, and the larger project. Plus: Father Greg Boyle is the founder of Homebody Industries, the largest gang-intervention, rehabilitation, and reentry program on the planet. He’s got a new book out now, it’s about “the power of extravagant tenderness” and it’s called “The Whole Language.”

Other News of Note

Radical Movements and Political Power

Justin Vassallo, Boston Review

In a late 1968 essay on the general strike in Paris that spring, the editors of the New Left Review declared a revolution. “How do we explain this sudden switch of consciousness,” they asked, “this abrupt reversal from acceptance to rebellion, from obedience to mutiny?” May 1968, as has been commemorated many times over, was both a culmination and a rupture extending far beyond Paris. It crystallized a global New Left comprised of various, radical youth-led organizations while marking a generational break from an “old left” sullied, as its critics saw it, by accommodation to welfare capitalism, cultural conformity, law and order politics, and imperialism.