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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
Alfie Kohn, National Education Policy Center
More than 50 million children attend public elementary or secondary school in the U.S. The fact that so many voters spend so much time thinking about what happens to their kids in school means that the topic of education — specifically, what comes between preschool and college — should be a priority for a Democratic candidate. And the focus should transcend political and economic considerations in order to address how our children are being educated. The standard positions of political progressives are absolutely worth repeating and embracing: support for public education, which is a cornerstone of a democratic society; adequate pay for teachers; a commitment to equity and integration; and so on. But many people who talk this way ignore or even endorse policies that are troubling to thoughtful educators. In a word, many political progressives are not educationally progressive — or even mindful of the difference. That’s why we need to call attention to — and offer a plan for changing — how the current narrative in education is shaped by the same corporate perspective that colors mainstream views of taxation, health care policy, and other issues. The models, methods, and metaphors of business predominate in talk of “school reform.” And this is uncritically accepted by too many left-liberals.
Erica Harbatkin and Gary T. Henry, Brookings Institute
While a growing number of studies find the detrimental effects of teacher mobility on student achievement, few studies have attempted to measure the effects of principal turnover. Nationally, about one in five schools lose their principal each year. But in North Carolina, for example, that figure climbs to more than one in three in the lowest-performing schools. If principal mobility influences average student achievement in a school, negative effects of each principal’s departure would affect far more students than negative effects of an individual teacher leaving. Principal turnover may also affect other school-level factors, including teacher turnover—prompting additional indirect detrimental effects of the principal’s departure.
The Associated Press
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos (dih-VAHS’) says higher education proposals from Democratic presidential candidates are “crazy” and too costly. DeVos says those plans would lead to a “federal takeover of higher education” and she suggests the cost could reach into the trillions. Democrats are responding to what’s seen as a crisis in college affordability, and most candidates have come out with higher education plans. They range from tuition-free college to debt forgiveness.
Language, Culture, and Power
Lee Romney, KQED
Darryl Lester was at his mom’s place in Tacoma, Washington, when a letter he’d been waiting for arrived in the mail. At 40, he was destitute, in pain and out of work. ‘My dream is to be able to pick up a book and read it by myself.’ Darryl Lester, lead plaintiff in landmark special education lawsuit in California The letter delivered good news: Lester would be getting disability benefits after blowing out his back in a sheet metal accident. But he crumpled it up and threw it in the trash. Why? Because he couldn’t read it. From first through seventh grades, Lester had attended three public schools in San Francisco. At each, he struggled with reading and didn’t get the help he needed for it.
Derrick Bryson Taylor and Neil Vigdor, The New York Times
The shotgun was hidden under a garment bag as the student entered the school. Moments later, a frantic evacuation was underway after a report of an “active shooter” — a sequence of events all too familiar, from Newtown, Conn., to Parkland, Fla. But then something unique happened because of a quick-thinking high school football coach: He grabbed the gun from the suicidal student — and hugged him.
Gili Kliger, Boston Review
The sea change was telling. Now often called the father of American anthropology, Boas—Prussian-born, Jewish, and male—in fact exerted tremendous influence far beyond the academic discipline he helped to establish, presiding over a revolution in the social sciences and becoming one of the best-known public intellectuals of the first half of the twentieth century. While his work ranged widely, from linguistics to mythology and physical anthropology, he is now mostly remembered for the methodological rigor he brought to the field, the many students he mentored, and his career-long opposition to scientific racism. In hundreds of academic essays, as well as in his public writing and activism, Boas developed a view of human cultures that was at once empirically grounded and historically sensitive, emphasizing the socially contingent in place of the biologically determined. This outlook influenced many prominent intellectuals of the day, from John Dewey to W. E. B. Du Bois.
Whole Children and Strong Communities
The Los Angeles County Office of Education announced Monday that it will dedicate $2 million to help historically undercounted communities conduct an accurate 2020 Census. LACOE said it will partner with more than 960 schools in districts that include Los Angeles, Long Beach, Compton, Glendale, Lynwood, Montebello, Mountain View, Paramount and Pomona, giving each school $2,000 for census outreach to students and families.
William Wan, The Washington Post
In the face of rising rates of depression, anxiety and suicide among young people, some states and school systems have started allowing students to take mental sick days off from school. Last year, Utah changed its definition of valid excuses for absences to include mental health issues. This summer, Oregon enacted a law — driven by a group of high school student activists — that allows students to take days off for mental health.
Carrie Spector, Stanford News
Nearly 10 years ago, school leaders in Oakland, California, launched the first district-level initiative of its kind in the nation: a program targeted exclusively to black male high schoolers that was a part of their regular classes during the school day. A new study shows that an achievement program targeted to black male students lowered high school dropout rates. Taught by black male instructors, the “Manhood Development” course emphasizes social-emotional learning, African and African American history and academic mentoring, drawing on culturally relevant teaching methods to counter stereotypes and create a stronger sense of community and belonging in school.
Access, Assessment, and Advancement
Kara Voght, Mother Jones
If a Democrat defeats President Trump in 2020, voters could expect the new resident of the White House to move in armed with a series of progressive proposals aimed at helping people find higher-paying jobs. The majority of the 2020 Democratic hopefuls have called for reforms to strengthen union power. Twelve of the Democratic candidates support a Green New Deal, a vision for creating federally backed green jobs. Under a Sanders or Warren administration, four-year public college would be free; community college would be free, regardless of which 2020 hopeful won.But, pray tell, while Americans are heading back to school or to their unionized jobs, who is going to watch their kids?
Alexis Marshall, NPR
The Department of Education has proposed several key changes to its massive survey that collects data from the nation’s public schools on a wide range of civil rights issues. Among the changes, the 2019-2020 version of the Civil Rights Data Collection would remove questions that focus on preschool and school finance. The proposals would also add in more questions about sexual assault and bullying based on religion.
Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, The Washington Post
House Democrats have rolled out a 1,165-page plan to reauthorize the main federal law governing higher education. There’s a lot in there. Much of it rehashes previous proposals, with a few new ideas and more comprehensive provisions. Higher education experts are divided on whether the legislation goes far enough, too far or has struck the right balance. Here’s a quick look at a few provisions that some say are worth advancing or revising.
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
Elizabeth Warren marches with striking Chicago teachers, a day after releasing new K-12 education plan
Ella Nilson, Vox
Senator Elizabeth Warren is joining striking teachers on Tuesday in Chicago, where they have been marching daily since last week after hitting a negotiation impasse with city officials on their contract. The teachers aren’t just marching for a pay raise, as Vox’s Alexia Fernandez Campbell recently wrote. Teachers want the city to put a large investment into its public schools, which are highly segregated and have growing class sizes. City officials are already offering Chicago teachers a raise, but the strikers want commitments to hire more staff and reduce class sizes written into their contract.Warren, a frontrunner for the 2020 Democratic nomination, used to be a public school teacher. And she just released a plan to take what Chicago teachers are fighting for and replicate it around the country. Six months after releasing a plan to cancel student debt and make public college free, Warren released her K-12 education plan on Monday.
Adam Harris, The Atlantic
When Diane Zook, the chair of Arkansas’ State Board of Education, banged her gavel to bring the afternoon meeting into order on October 10, every seat in the cramped boardroom was filled. Nearly every inch of paint on the wall had been covered by a body before the fire marshal, concerned about capacity, ushered those standing out of the room. The crowd spilled into the overflow areas in a wave. Sixty-two years after the world watched Little Rock struggle to desegregate its schools, history seemed to be repeating itself.
Sam Pizzigati, Between the Lines
According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, income inequality last year reached its highest level in more than 50 years. The widening gulf between the rich and the rest of the country came as a record-long economic expansion continued, but disproportionately benefitting the nation’s wealthiest families.The Gini index measures wealth distribution, and Gini’s recent reading for the U.S. of 0.485 is the highest reading since the Gini index was started in 1967. Jay Powell, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, has echoed concerns about economic mobility in the U.S. In February, he said that income inequality would be one of the biggest challenges facing the U.S. over the next decade. He said, “We want prosperity to be widely shared, and we need policies to make that happen.”
Public Schools and Private $
Frank Adamson, Meredith Galloway, Education Policy Analysis Archives
This article outlines different forms of education privatization operating globally, examines their prevalence within the United States, and analyzes whether student marginalization and segregation occurs at the local level. We analyze six U.S. districts with higher saturation levels of charter schools, the most predominant type of privatization (Camden, NJ, Washington DC, Flint, MI, Detroit, MI, Natomas, CA, and Oakland, CA). We find education privatization increasing in the US, but unevenly dispersed, with charter schools concentrated primarily in urban areas serving students of color. Furthermore, segregation in education remains a major issue for all types of schools, with students of color in urban contexts often attending intensely segregated schools (over 90% students of color). Instead of mitigating the segregation problem, student selection by charter school appears to exacerbate it, specifically for special education students.
The Koch network says it wants to remake public education. That means destroying it, says the author of a new book on the billionaire brothers.
Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post
Early this year, the Koch network committed to starting an effort to transform public education. What would that look like? The author of a new book on the billionaire Charles Koch and his late brother, David, says it would amount to the destruction of public education as we know it. The Koch network is the influential assemblage of groups funded by billionaire industrialist Charles Koch and more than 600 wealthy individuals who share his pro-business, anti-regulation view of economics and positions on social policy, such as climate change denial.
Joel Westheimer, NEPC
A report from the Manhattan Institute argues that public funding for education in the United States should be divided between traditional district public schools, charter schools, and private schools, with funding decisions based on student enrollment. The Case for Educational Pluralism in the U.S. asserts that expanding public funding to private (secular and religious) schools will result in greater choice for all students, improve the quality of education, reduce the achievement gap, and strengthen democratic institutions by increasing civic engagement. The report’s central argument stems from a combination of (a) conceptual perspectives rather than empirical research; (b) empirical studies drawn primarily from religious and school choice advocacy groups; and (c) well-designed and peer-reviewed studies that lead to conclusions only loosely tied or entirely unrelated to public funding of private schools. The report may prove useful for those who seek a rhetorical appeal for public funding of private school education. But because of lack of evidence, flawed logic, and failure to consider differences in national policy contexts, this report offers little useful to policymakers intent on improving access to quality schools.
Other News of Note
Letter to the Editor: Community vigil to mourn Migrant Farmworkers mural whitewashed during Hispanic Heritage Month
Brenda Perez, The Occidental
Dear friends: This letter is to inform stakeholders, community leaders, organizations, artists and constituents that another iconic mural has been erased in Highland Park, Los Angeles. The beloved mural, known locally as the Migrant Farmworkers mural and located at Garvanza Public Elementary School in Highland Park, was whitewashed between mid-September and mid-October during National Hispanic Heritage Month. Our community is brokenhearted at the loss of this widely acclaimed work by Daniel Cervantes that celebrated the vibrant cultural history of our migrant farm laborers by depicting their love and care for the land.The Highland Park community is further outraged that institutional sponsorships and legal protections did not save this mural from erasure.