Just News from Center X is a free weekly news blast about equitable and inclusive public education.
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Just News from Center X is a free weekly news blast about equitable and inclusive public education.
Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
Cathy Cohen, Joseph Kahne, and Jessica Marshall
We live in a time of heightened political and civic activity among young people, especially young people of color. The election of President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 inspired increased civic and political participation among young adults. More recently, youth engagement in politics remains highly significant following the election of Donald Trump, the continued killing of primarily young black people by the police, and school shootings, including the shooting in Parkland, Fla. Meanwhile, digital technology and social media provide near universal and constant access to varied forms of engagement. Movements focused on immigration laws and workers’ rights, police accountability, gun violence, and mass incarceration resonate with youth of color, including Black, Latinx, Asian American, and Native American youth. They respond by speaking their minds, creating art and protesting with their bodies to advocate for policy changes to improve their safety, their education and their futures.
How African Americans fought for & won birthright citizenship 150 years before Trump tried to end it [VIDEO]
Amy Goodman, Juan Gonzalez, and Martha Jones, Democracy Now!
“We begin today’s show with President Trump’s claims that he will end constitutionally protected birthright citizenship in the United States. In an interview released Tuesday, Trump told the news outlet Axios that he planned to sign an executive order ending citizenship for children of noncitizens born on U.S. soil. Civil rights groups, legal experts and politicians on both sides of the aisle are blasting Trump for his comments, including the false claim that the U.S. is the only country with birthright laws. In fact, at least 30 other countries have similar laws, including Canada, Mexico, and Cuba.”
Francisco Vara-Orta, Eric Gorski, Shaina Cavazos, and Melanie Asmar, Chalkbeat
At New York City’s Harvest Collegiate High School on Monday, social studies teacher Andy del Calvo did what educators often do: He adapted his lesson for the times. He shared news stories about the massacre of 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue and about last week’s shooting of two African-Americans at a Kentucky supermarket, and urged his students to think. Del Calvo hoped that examining America’s latest heartbreaking moments would give his students a chance to process their feelings, develop empathy for others, and spur them to act — maybe through raising money for victims or expressing themselves through art. “This is a place where students can get a feel for how to have these kinds of conversations with a broad variety of people,” he said, noting that the school’s 480 students roughly mirror New York’s diversity. “If I have this conversation with friends, people tend to have pretty similar ideas about whatever. Doing it at a school, especially at an integrated school, they are going to have to navigate the issues in a way that is deeply important for our democracy — especially today.” This weekend’s mass shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue, carried out by a shooter authorities have said targeted the Jewish community and expressed anti-immigrant sentiments online, strikes at the heart of rising concerns about how bias shapes people’s thinking and where the school system should fit in pushing back on those mentalities.
Language, Culture, and Power
Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times
At one of more than two dozen stations in a dimly lit Boyle Heights call center, Wendy Morales clicked her mouse to place a call to an L.A. County resident named Dulce. Morales, 20, is young and Latino, like Dulce and the many others she’s been working to reach. She’s part of a big push to get her peers to vote. Dulce didn’t hang up, as some do. In fact, she had a question as a first-time voter: Could she fill out her ballot with a pencil? Young voters have been a particular target of outreach leading up to the November midterm elections because they are underrepresented. They’re especially sought after by Democrats because they lean liberal, especially in California, where they could help flip Republican seats and unseat the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. For the last couple of years, too, those seeking young voters in the state have gotten a special boost from a new law that allows 16- and 17-year-olds to register to vote before they reach the legal voting age of 18.
Zaidee Stavely, EdSource
As the federal government increases immigrant detention and attempts to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, many California colleges are finding new ways to help undocumented students succeed and get assistance to their families as well. The latest effort is the California Campus Catalyst Fund, established by a group of educators, funders and advocates, and administered by the nonprofit organization Immigrants Rising, which announced last week that it has awarded grants of about $125,000 each to 32 public colleges and universities across the state. Immigrants Rising, which works to help undocumented youth meet their education and career goals, is providing the grants to expand legal aid, mental health services and career guidance to undocumented students. The funders are also taking the unusual move of assisting students’ undocumented family members with services that range from legal consultations and mental health therapy to workshops on how to become an entrepreneur and civics classes teaching them how to participate in a city council meeting. With more undocumented residents in California than any other state, their ability to make it through college and gain a foothold in the labor market could make a difference for the economies and overall wellbeing of their communities.
San Francisco will allow noncitizens to vote in a local election, creating a new immigration flashpoint
Cindy Carcamo, Los Angeles Times
San Francisco in November will become the largest city in the nation to allow noncitizens the chance to vote in a local election, making the city once again a flashpoint in the debate about immigration. Noncitizens, including those without legal status, will be allowed to vote only in a school board race and just a little more than 40 have registered to vote so far. Still, the decision carries major symbolic force and has become the latest punching bag for conservatives who already are using California’s efforts to protect people in this country illegally from President Trump’s immigration crackdown as a political issue in the midterm election. California has gone further than any other state in offering opportunities to those here illegally, including providing special driver’s licenses, college tuition breaks and child healthcare. Voting has been a more sensitive topic, but experts said it fits both the larger political trends in California as well as the conservative backlash. “It will speak to that sort of sense that change is coming to the United States and that change is being done extralegally somehow,” said Louis DeSipio, a professor of political science at UC Irvine.
Whole Children and Strong Communities
A Queer Endeavor, NEPC, CU Engage, CU Boulder School of Education
As a community of educators, researchers, staff and students, we affirm our support and love for our transgender and gender nonbinary students, friends, colleagues, and family members. We want to state this as clearly and simply as possible: the broad scientific consensus is that gender is not binary. We live in a world with transgender people, and we always have. Governments and others assign a legal sex category at birth, usually based on anatomical characteristics; but this does not change the reality of a spectrum of gender identities. There is simply no other conclusion about the nature of sex and gender that is morally or scientifically valid.
Jill Barshay, The Hechinger Report
In September 2018, I wrote about the so-called “Trump effect” on bullying in schools, citing a study that found higher bullying rates in GOP districts after the 2016 presidential election. But that piece raised an important question: what should schools do to address and prevent bullying? The scientific evidence on what works is complicated. There’s a whole cottage industry of consultants selling anti-bullying programs to schools but academic researchers say there is no proof they work. There are some small studies with positive results. But when reputable researchers study efforts to expand these strategies across schools among many students and compare bullying rates with those at schools that didn’t receive the intervention, there tends not to be a difference. For example, this 2007 review of anti-bullying programs found “little discernible effect on youth participants.” “A lot of us know the dirty secret that these [bullying-prevention] programs don’t work out in the real world,” said Ron Avi Astor, an educational psychologist at the University of Southern California and an expert in bullying prevention. “All of us talk about it.”
When families and schools work together, students do better. New report has 5 ways of engaging parents in their kids’ education
Kate Stringer, The 74
In the 1990s, parents in a Central East Austin, Texas, school didn’t know that their children, who came home with As and Bs on their report cards, were actually scoring in the bottom quartile on state tests. But when an organization meant to connect families and schools started sharing student performance data, these families, who were primarily from low-income households, led the effort to turn their school around in student performance, teacher turnover, and attendance. There’s a pervasive, but false, myth that families from low-income households are less engaged in their children’s education than wealthier, white families, said Heather Weiss, director of the Global Family Research Project and author of a new report on family engagement for the Carnegie Corporation of New York. This erroneous belief can lead schools not to try to engage families, which is a lost opportunity, as research shows family engagement can increase student achievement and boost graduation rates — especially for children in low-income households.
Access, Assessment, and Advancement
Priska Neely, KPCC
A new report out Tuesday from the research and advocacy group Children Now gives a county-by-county snapshot of the health and education of California’s more than 9 million children. In L.A. County and across the state, some of the biggest weak spots were in early childhood supports.
Jackie Goldberg, Los Angeles Times
Parents and grandparents of students in the Los Angeles Unified School District know that smaller classroom sizes would mean more attention to the social and academic needs of the children they love. But in elementary, middle and high schools across the district, class sizes have not met state or regional goals for more than 25 years. In the current contract between L.A. Unified and United Teachers Los Angeles, there is a chart that establishes maximum class sizes. At most grade levels, the maximum hovers at around 36 students. But in the 1990s, during a period of deep recession, teachers agreed to Section 1.5 of their contract, which allows the district to ignore these maximums. Although teachers negotiated a rule in 2014 that requires the district to give the union a “notice of intent” to use Section 1.5, write a rationale for ignoring class-size requirements and give teachers an opportunity to dissent from the rationale provided, L.A. Unified can and does still unilaterally implement whatever class size it chooses. Today, classes of 45 students or more are not uncommon in most secondary schools. (This excludes kindergarten through third-grade classes, which receive state funding specifically for class-size reduction.)
Andrew Kreighbaum, Inside Higher Ed
Student loan debt has become perhaps the biggest preoccupation of policy makers overseeing the higher education system. But often buried beneath headlines about graduates with six-figure debt is the reality that students who most need loans to attend college come from families with little or no savings. That’s especially true of African American households, who rely on loans to send children to college to a greater extent and spend more of their income after loans and grant aid on higher ed than white families. A proposal from Senator Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat, aims to address those patterns of inequality in the U.S. by establishing a savings account for every child in the country when they are born. The federal government would make payments of as much as $2,000 into the account each year based on family income until the child turns 18 — at which point, he or she could use the money to buy a home or pay for a college education.
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
Matt Barnum, Chalkbeat
The consequences of teacher churn were apparent to Esperanza Vazquez, a mother of two from New York City. “I had an experience with my son where he had a new teacher every week in math,” she told Chalkbeat recently. “That doesn’t help students.” Now new research backs up Vazquez’s experience, documenting for perhaps the first time the steep consequences for students after teachers leave a classroom in middle of the school year. The finding comes in a trio of new studies focusing on North Carolina. Together, they suggest that ill effects of teacher turnover identified in previous research may be driven largely by midyear departures; that those consequences extend even to students in the same grade whose teachers stay on; and that midyear turnover may be more common than previously thought, especially in schools serving more students of color and those from low-income families. “While it is possible for turnover to be beneficial for school systems, an extensive body of research points to the ways that teacher turnover disrupts … the continuity of a child’s learning experiences, particularly in underserved schools,” write researchers Gary Henry of Vanderbilt and Christopher Redding of the University of Florida in one of the papers.
Jon Marcus, The Hechinger Report
By most measures, Aboubacar Konate was an outstanding candidate for college. Konate graduated second in his class from The English High School in Boston with a 4.5 grade-point average. He was on the student council and debate team, took Advanced Placement classes in history and chemistry, speaks four languages, worked a corporate internship and played three sports: soccer, basketball and track. He did everything he thought was needed to become the first in his family to go to college: worked hard and proved that he was smart enough to make it. “I went through all the hoops, the struggles, the obstacles,” Konate said. “College was my dream and my goal.” But the aspiring engineer fell short on one other measure: having the money to pay. His father didn’t make enough to save for tuition; if there was anything left after covering rent and food for Konate and his two younger sisters, his father used it to support their grandparents. And while Konate won a substantial scholarship from a foundation run by onetime Boston Red Sox player Adrian González and his wife, he still fell far short of what the private universities he’d dreamed of attending expected him to pay. The best deal he could get was from a private engineering college that offered Konate little to no financial aid, despite his high school record and economic situation; he would still owe more than $30,000 a year, even after subtracting his González scholarship. He couldn’t afford it. “I lost all hope,” Konate said. “My family does not have money like that.”
Saahil Desai, The Atlantic
Quick, think of a college athlete. Chances are the person who comes to mind is a football or basketball player at a powerhouse Division I school like Louisiana State University or the University of Kentucky. Maybe the player resembles, say, Joel Embiid, who turned a chiseled, 7-foot frame into a full-ride scholarship at the University of Kansas before ascending to NBA stardom. But the typical student athlete looks a lot more like Matteo DiMayorca, a Harvard junior recruited to play offensive tackle on the college’s football team. DiMayorca isn’t angling for a future career in the NFL, and after a nagging string of knee injuries, he’s transitioned into a managerial role on the team. He has been playing football since the fourth grade, but he says he only seriously started considering playing in college as a junior in high school. “With the help of my parents,” DiMayorca says, “I put together a highlight tape, sent out emails, and reached out to a couple of coaches.” That summer, he attended football camps put on by colleges to register on coaches’ radars. And then, the offer letters started trickling in: First from Colgate University, and then Harvard, where he applied early action. The most visible college athletes—the ones running across bar-TV screens or in full-color photographs on newspaper sports pages—tend to be black. Indeed, college football and basketball players skew disproportionately African American. But, says Kirsten Hextrum, a professor of educational leadership at the University of Oklahoma, “the black men in these two sports are not the reality of who has access to college sports.”
Public Schools and Private $
Amy Lueck, The Atlantic
In 2016, shortly after she was appointed to the position, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos declared American public schools a “dead end.” Instead, DeVos advocates for “school choice,” code for charter schools, vouchers, and other privatization efforts. Families who have watched their local schools struggle might agree with DeVos, but her characterization is still troubling. It reflects a distrust of education as a communal goal, not just an individual one. That’s a big change from the objective of American public schools during their first two centuries. Far from being a “dead end,” for a long time the public school—particularly the public high school—served an important civic purpose: not only as an academic training ground, but also as a center for community and activity in American cities.
Jonathan K. Osorio, Honolulu Civil Beat
Education and the state of our public schools in Hawaii predominate our political discussions in election years and for good reason. There really are no issues, from global climate change to energy and transportation, to creating sustainable economies whose solutions aren’t deeply connected to and dependent on the quality of public education. While many parents worry that their children must be given the best tools to allow them to compete in an increasingly unpredictable economy and thus choose from an ample array of private schools, it is the success or failure of public schools in Hawaii that will determine the fate of these islands and our people. We need to acknowledge that not everyone who wishes to have a private school education has the money for it and that understanding alone often obscures the relationship between education and the needs of society. Some people believe that one is entitled only to the education that one can afford, and that government, which provides the funding for public education, is not obligated to provide the teachers, facilities and educational research to create a truly challenging and enriching education that is free to the public. If that philosophy were wholly adopted, it would tend to maintaining class distinctions between people over multiple generations. From time to time, that was the philosophy of powerful people in Hawaii. During the territorial years, spokesmen (they were hardly ever women) for the sugar industry claimed that a high school education diverted young people from laboring jobs in the plantations. We might be outraged today, to think of this, but it should be noted that the government officials and especially plantation owners in the 1920s and ’30s were at least pinning their notion of public education to the society they saw and one they hoped would not change.
Private groups have long tried to help turn around struggling schools. But it’s not clear if they’re doing any good.
Matt Barnum, Chalkbeat
School improvement programs have sprouted up around the country to help turn around long-struggling schools. And the money that comes with that has also spurred the growth of external groups offering their services to schools. But there’s little evidence on whether that school improvement industry, paid for by taxpayers, is actually boosting student learning, according to a study of 151 turnaround providers endorsed by various state agencies. It’s a striking finding in light of the significant role third-party groups play in supporting these efforts. But it’s not entirely surprising, considering the disappointing (albeit still debated) track record of turnaround efforts across the country, and anecdotal reports that providers with little experience emerged once the spigot of federal dollars was turned on. There’s also a less damning explanation: Research is expensive and difficult to undertake. Programs may be successful, even if no study exists to prove it. Still, the results raise questions about the role of third-party turnaround providers, which may continue as federal education law requires turnaround efforts in each state’s lowest performing 5 percent of schools. This growth of outside groups has likely come because schools have had limited support to implement turnaround strategies — including from state education departments, many of whom worked with or encouraged use of external providers. In the 2012-13 school year, for instance, 34 states and two-thirds of districts implementing federal turnarounds reported contracting with external consultants to support those efforts.
Other News of Note
Julie Stern, AFT Voices
We know that AFT members vote, but do your friends, family and colleagues vote too? Our well-being as a nation is on the line this time around. Here are five reasons you can use to convince your reticent friends and family to show up and support candidates that will protect workers, public education and other progressive issues in this election.
Julio Angel Alicea, Rethinking Schools
When Donald Trump was making waves for his bigoted statements about Mexicans, Muslims, and women during the Republican primaries, my high school students, most of them low-income students of color and many also of immigrant families, sought reassurance from me, as their history teacher, that he would not win the presidency. I naively granted them that assurance, thinking to myself “How could the country elect a candidate reminiscent of the segregationist George Wallace?” After sleeping for what seemed like a few minutes after watching the results pour in, I woke up to an email from my principal. In it, she called for an emergency staff meeting before school to discuss how we would accommodate students’ (and staffs’) varied emotions, concerns, and needs. Not long after, the students whom I had assured came to me with questions of how, why, and what now. My eventual response was to share an affirming poem another teacher had written in the aftermath of the election, but provided only a temporary remedy.