Just News from Center X – Oct 11, 2019

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Seven trends in U.S. teacher education, and the need to address systemic injustices

Education Deans for Justice and Equity with the NEPC, NEPC
Teachers are important, as is their preparation. We, Education Deans for Justice and Equity, support efforts to improve both. But improving teaching and teacher education must be part of larger efforts to advance equity in society. Whether crediting teachers as the single most important factor in student success or blaming and scapegoating them for failing schools that only widen social and economic disparities, many of the stories that circulate about education presume that it’s all about the teacher. Concerned less with the system of education and more with the individual actor, this rhetoric tends to reduce the problem of education to the shortcomings of individuals. The solution correspondingly focuses on incentives and other market-based change

California puts $15-billion schools bond on March ballot

Associated Press, The Los Angeles Times
Californians will vote next year whether the state should issue $15 billion in bonds for school construction and modernization projects. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation Monday placing the bond on the March 2020 ballot. He says improving physical conditions in schools will improve students’ educational experiences.

Students for Fair Admissions files notice of appeal in Harvard admissions case

Camille G. Caldera, The Harvard Crimson
Students for Fair Admissions filed a notice of appeal to the United States First Circuit Court of Appeals Friday afternoon in its longtime suit against Harvard alleging that the College’s admissions process unlawfully discriminates against Asian American applicants. A notice of appeal instructs the lower court to “assemble the record” of case materials amassed throughout the trial and send a “notice of assembly” to the Appeals Court. The notice comes just three days after judge Allison D. Burroughs ruled in favor of Harvard in federal district court Tuesday. She cleared the University of all four counts of alleged wrongdoing — including intentional discrimination against Asian Americans and inadequate exploration of race-neutral alternatives — and affirmed the value of diversity in higher education under Supreme Court precedent.

Language, Culture, and Power

For a lot of American teens, religion is a regular part of the public school day [REPORT]

Pew Research Center
Religion in public schools has long been a controversial issue. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1962 that teachers and administrators cannot lead prayers in public schools, and a decision in 2000 barred school districts from sponsoring student-led prayers at football games. At the same time, the court has held that students retain a First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion and may voluntarily pray before, during and after school. Where exactly to draw the line between constitutionally protected religious activity and impermissible state-sponsored religious indoctrination remains under dispute. This year, the Supreme Court declined to hear a case involving a high school coach who was fired for leading prayer after games, just one of several recent controversies in this area of law. While periodic battles continue in the courts, what is the day-to-day experience of students in public schools across the country? A new Pew Research Center survey asked a nationally representative sample of more than 1,800 teenagers (ages 13 to 17) about the kinds of religious activity they engage in – or see other students engaging in – during the course of the school day.

As DACA case looms on Supreme Court, LA city attorney files in support of ‘Dreamers’

Los Angeles Daily News
Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer on Tuesday announced the filing of a brief in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration program, which has protected more than 700,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. when they were children from deportation. President Donald Trump first ordered the termination of the Obama-era program to give deferral from deportation and work permits to “Dreamers” who arrived in the country illegally as minors in September 2017, setting off a host of lawsuits. The U.S. Supreme Court on Nov. 12 is scheduled to hear arguments on whether to end the program.

Families endure costly legal fights trying to get the right special education services

Kristen Taketa, The Los Angeles Times
The law says public schools must give students with disabilities the services that meet their individual needs, but parents and districts often disagree on what those services should be or whether a student needs services at all. Every year school districts across California settle thousands of these disputes by paying parents and lawyers millions of dollars in what are called due process cases. The number of due process cases has climbed in recent years, tapping into school districts’ already tight budgets. Last school year, San Diego Unified paid $2 million to settle 128 due process cases, according to district records.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Pedro Noguera on Black Youth Study [Audio]

A. Martinez and Pedro Noguera, Take Two KPCC
A UCLA report on black youth in LA County explores a range of challenges many K through 12 students face that negatively affect outcomes in school and beyond. Among them: environmental contamination – asthma rates for black children in LA County are almost three times higher than for white children. Food insecurity and homelessness can factor in too. The report makes several policy suggestions to tackle the problems. Take Two talks about it with Pedro Noguera, co-author of the report and a professor at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies.

School meals: a reflection of growing poverty in LA 

Jorge Macias. CalMatters
It’s 7:30 in the morning of any given school day. Jonathan Rodríguez and Yvette Fuentes, both 12, arrive at the Luther Burbank Middle School cafeteria to pick up breakfasts in closed containers and take them in carts to the classrooms of teachers Emily Feinberg and Gisele Hoffer. The food is placed on a counter in the classroom and in order, the children rise from their chairs and choose their breakfast. They quietly drink milk and eat fruit, an egg burrito, or whatever has been served. Five minutes later, they are ready for class to begin. Now their stomachs feel better.

A fence goes up to deter school shootings, and a neighborhood loses its park

Sonali Kohli, The Los Angeles Times
Joaquin and Jude Perez, like many children in their Long Beach neighborhood, learned how to ride their bikes on the blacktop at Fremont Elementary School. The school grounds have long been their de facto park, where they play with friends after school and on weekends while parents chat. But last week, Fremont Elementary parents were notified that the school would soon become a “closed campus.” New fences would secure the school and after-hours public access would be blocked. A few days ago, a school police officer asked 6-year-old Jude and his dad to leave while they were playing soccer with friends in the evening.

Access, Assessment, and Advancement

Standardized test scores and later life outcomes are linked. But is there causation?

Dan Goldhaber & Umut Özek, Education Week
The use of standardized tests as a measure of student success and progress in school goes back decades, with federal policies and programs that mandated yearly assessments as part of state accountability systems significantly accelerating this trend in the past 20 years. But the tide has turned sharply in recent years. Parents, advocates, and researchers have increasingly raised concerns about the role of testing in education. The shift in people’s attitudes about the use of tests and about the consequences of relying (or possibly over-relying) on test scores for the purposes of both school and teacher accountability raises the question: What can tests tell us about the contributions of schools and teachers to student success in the future?

A scholarship program makes college a reality for undocumented students

Patricia Guadalupe, NBC News
With the academic year in full swing, thousands of college students across the country are unable to pay for a higher education because their legal status blocks them from scholarships or financial aid, including from the federal government, the largest provider. But over 1,000 students a year have received scholarships from TheDream.US, an organization that seeks to eliminate obstacles to education for undocumented students. A majority of this year’s 1,070 scholarship recipients — 71 percent — are the first in their families to go to college.

Federal judge slams DeVos and Education Department for violating order and weighs sanctions

Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, The Washington Post
A federal judge blasted Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for flagrantly violating an order to stop collecting loan payments from former Corinthian Colleges students, an infringement that could result in fines or other sanctions.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

The Harvard ruling misses the point

Richard Ford, Boston Review
Many Americans think of college—and especially the selective university—as a social leveler, offering upward mobility to anyone with talent and drive. This idea helps to justify the stark inequalities of twenty-first-century capitalism: anyone, we are told, can ascend an ever-steepening social and economic hierarchy and reap the growing rewards at the top. The elite status of the selective university seems available to all. But, of course, it isn’t. The result is that class stratification, cutthroat capitalist competition, and racial resentment collide in university admissions. Consider just the last year’s worth of news.

Rich students get better SAT scores—here’s why

Abigail Hess, CNBC
Today, most colleges and universities require that applicants a standardized test, such as the SAT or the ACT, as part of applying. As a result, roughly 2 million students in the U.S. take the SAT each year, hoping for a score high enough to earn them admission to their target school. But in the wake of the Varsity Blues scandal, many are questioning the advantages that wealthy students benefit from throughout the college application process, including the advantages they enjoy around standardized testing.

Money over merit? New study says gifted programs favor students from wealthier families

Marta W. Aldrich, Chalkbeat
Elementary school students from higher-income families are far more likely to land in gifted programs than their lower-income classmates, even if those students go to the same school and show similar levels of achievement in math and reading, says a new study. In fact, across America, a student from a family in the top fifth of economic and social status is twice as likely to receive gifted services than an equally achieving peer in the bottom fifth. And the gap swells to almost seven times more likely when examining all students, say researchers from Vanderbilt University and the University of Florida.

Public Schools and Private $

New era for charter schools: Newsom signs bill after intensive negotiations

John Fensterwald, EdSource
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Thursday a comprehensive rewrite of the charter school law that will expand the authority of local school boards to reject new charter schools while requiring that they more clearly justify their reasons for doing so. Newsom’s staff negotiated the revisions during weeks of tense discussions with organizations that for years have been battling over the growth of charter schools in California. But at the signing ceremony for Assembly Bill 1505, the leaders of the two main antagonists, the California Teachers Association and the California Charter Schools Association, stood side by side next to him, smiled appreciatively and thanked the governor for a compromise that contains elements they like.

Inspire Charter Schools offered to pay families, staff to recruit students

Kristen Taketa, The San Diego Union Tribune
The statewide Inspire charter school network has turned heads for how quickly it has been able to grow its enrollment. Inspire, which traditional public school and charter school officials are urging to be investigated, jumped from 151 students enrolled in 2014 to an anticipated 35,000-plus students this school year. Inspire has opened at least 13 schools so far. The more students it enrolls, the more state education dollars it has been able to collect. At the beginning of this current school year, a state agency predicted that Inspire would receive at least $285 million in state funding this school year, more than double what it collected two years ago.

Other News of Note

Teacher activism is making Red State governor’s races competitive

Bracey Harris, Hechinger Report
Paula Howard teaches in a Republican stronghold in north Mississippi, along the Tennessee border. She usually votes Republican and is closely following the campaign of Jerry Darnell, a Republican educator running to represent Howard’s home district in the state Legislature.
But — while energized about the possibility of sending a conservative colleague to the state Capital — for governor she’s backing the Democrat, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood. She likes his calls to dramatically increase funding for education, including raising teacher pay, directing an additional $300 million to school districts, and expanding the state’s public pre-K program.