Just News from Center X – October 12, 2018

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Just News from Center X is a free weekly news blast about equitable and inclusive public education.
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This week’s Just Talk features a dialogue between John Rogers and five participants in the Central Valley Freedom Summer project.

Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

With bill signings, Gov. Brown makes his final mark on California education

David Washburn and John Fensterwald, EdSource
Gov. Jerry Brown wrapped up his final legislative session this week and in doing so became the most prolific decider of laws in California history. During his 16 years as governor — two terms spanning the late 1970s and early 1980s and two terms this decade — he signed a total of 17,851 bills and vetoed 1,829. This year’s crop included dozens that touched on a plethora of education-related issues — ranging from school start times to for-profit charter schools, standardized tests, discipline, mental health and early education. Brown largely stayed true to his beliefs in local control when it comes to education policy and vetoed several high-profile measures that came with statewide mandates. Meanwhile, he signed bills that, among other things, protected poor students and offered low-cost solutions to improving school safety. Here’s a rundown of the governor’s decisions on some of the most-watched education legislation that crossed his desk.

California voters will weigh 100-plus school funding measures in November

Ricardo Cano, Times of San Diego
Californians in November will weigh billions of dollars’ worth of ballot measures for low-income housing, children’s hospitals and more. But one of the biggest asks will be mostly invisible to most voters—nearly 100 local proposals to sell bonds for school construction projects that, if passed, could total more than $12 billion in local borrowing in coming years. About 90 school districts across the state have construction bond measures on the Nov. 6 ballot, asking local voters to approve borrowing for projects from security upgrades in the wake of the Parkland, Fla., mass shooting to air conditioning to the removal of lead from school drinking water. Another 13 districts are asking voters for harder-to-pass parcel taxes, which require a two-thirds majority for approval, and which total about $43 million. The requests are fewer than in the 2016 general election, when more than 180 school bond measures were on local ballots, but still a hefty reflection of the ongoing need to repair and renovate aging public schools in California. Though the state spends more of its general fund on K-12 education than any other line item—$11,639 per student this year—that money is just for the classroom, and can’t be used for capital projects.

Civics education helps create young voters and activists

Alia Wong, The Atlantic
It’s widely known that young adults in the United States tend to vote at lower rates than older Americans, but it’s easy to gloss over just how stunning the numbers really are—especially at a time of such intense political polarization and divisiveness. Only half of eligible adults between the ages of 18 and 29 voted in the 2016 presidential election that sent Donald Trump to the White House. During the 2014 midterm elections two years earlier, the youth-voter-turnout rate was just 20 percent, the lowest ever recorded in history, according to an analysis of Census data. These troubling voting rates follow decades of declining civics education. Starting in the 1960s, robust civics instruction, which usually took place through three standard high-school courses, started to atrophy. It’s likely not a coincidence, then, given evidence suggesting a link between civics education and voter participation, that the 1960s coincided with a slump in the rate of young adults who cast ballots.

Language, Culture, and Power

Affirmative action as counterweight to privilege and elitism

Betty Hung, LA Progressive
The naked and brutal exercise of power by Republicans in the battle to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is a travesty, but unfortunately not surprising. With the rise of the #MeToo movement and demographic shifts that will lead to white people being a minority in the United States by 2045, I believe we are witnessing an effort by privileged white men to hold on to and consolidate their power and control, even if it results in the erosion of our democratic institutions. One of the key battlegrounds in this power struggle is affirmative action. Since the early 1960s, affirmative action has helped to level the playing field and open doors for women and people of color, providing a tool to address the pervasive gender and racial disparities in our society that continue to limit access to equal opportunity. Yet, affirmative action is under vigorous attack and potentially could be eliminated at universities across the nation.

Educators call for unity at Indigenous People’s Day celebration [VIDEO]

Kimberly Paynter, WHYY
Educators called for more awareness of indigenous cultures around the world at the 8th annual Indigenous People’s Day celebration at

Bartram’s Garden

in Philadelphia. About a hundred Philadelphians gathered to learn about the cultures of native people of the Americas and to honor their own heritage. The event was organized by

Indigenous Education

. The organization’s co-founder, Tavis Sanders, also known as Red Tail Hawk, said he hopes the event will help educate other members of the community about indigenous cultures all over the world. He highlighted love and affection, and respect for all people, especially women and elders, as themes of the indigenous cultures. Bartram’s Garden staff members gave a botanical tour, and Sanders said he was thrilled to be holding the event at the garden for a second year. Sanders is in awe of how the garden has been kept up for hundreds of years. “It’s very important to us as an indigenous population here in Philly, so that our children could come and see what this historic land looked like before development,” he said.

College-bound Latinos seek to move from home, beyond family-first stereotype known as ‘Familismo’ [VIDEO]

Joseph Hong, Palm Springs Desert Sun
Before his daughter moved to Davis for college, Joe Mota researched the town. He learned that biking was popular among students and residents, so he bought his daughter, Joceline Baez-Figeuroa, a bike. But Mota didn’t have time to teach his daughter how to fix the bike. As a safety measure, he researched bike repair shops in the area. When Baez-Figueroa’s bike broke less than two weeks into the school year, Mota was ready to lend a helping hand, despite being 500 miles away. After Baez-Figueroa moved into her dorm in September, the next chapter of her life has been bolstered by Mota and his wife’s long-distance parenthood. Mota and Baez-Figeura are redefining the notion of “Familismo,” the academic term used to describe the tendency among Latinos to prioritize the needs of the family over one’s own that traditionally has resulted in students staying close to home for college. In the Coachella Valley, this cultural trait may be becoming obsolete as prospective college students like Baez-Figueroa fix their gaze beyond the desert. “My parents have always been extremely supportive,” said Baez-Figueroa. “Same thing with my grandparents. It didn’t bother them if I had to go far away because it was for a bigger cause.” But not all Latino families are comfortable with the distance.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

A teacher in California is explaining the concept of consent to her third-graders with a simple chart

Andrea Diaz, CNN
With the recent news about the #MeToo movement and sexual misconduct allegations against Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the term “consent” has become part of the national dialogue. It also can be confusing. So one California teacher, worried that her students may not understand the concept, created a simple chart to explain it. Liz Kleinrock, a third-grade teacher at Citizens of the World Charter School in Los Angeles, calls her explainer “All About Consent.” Designed for 8- and 9-year-olds, it outlines when one should ask for consent, how to recognize it and what to do if it’s denied. Kleinrock shared the chart on her Instagram feed, where it gathered a lot of attention in recent days. “Whenever I get frustrated about the state of our country, it inspires me to proactively teach my kids to DO BETTER,” she wrote in her post. “Role playing is a great way to reinforce these skills, but they MUST be taught explicitly!”

These high school students are tackling Kentucky’s mental health crisis

Rainesford Stauffer, The Week
An insidious problem is lurking in Kentucky’s schools: Students across the state are reporting high amounts of psychological stress, anxiety, and depression. The problem has become so bad that suicide is now the second leading cause of death for the state’s youth. While nationally, mental health awareness has increased, for Kentucky’s teenagers, the issue isn’t getting nearly enough attention. During her sophomore year, Kentucky high schooler Allison Tu realized mental health was being treated like an afterthought in her school. “One student told me that all of their suicide prevention education, which is mandated, technically, by Kentucky law but left up to districts to administer, is just a bookmark,” Tu explained to The Week. “A literal, physical bookmark that has a suicide prevention hotline number on it, and that was it.” This felt to Tu like the equivalent of a shoulder shrug. Stress and anxiety don’t come with a power-off button for teenagers; it seeps in through peer pressure, and lingers on social media. It’s exacerbated by an overwhelming sense that one needs to have their entire life mapped out at 16. Tu wanted more focus on helping her peers battle mental health problems, and she figured that if the adults in the room weren’t going to make it a priority, the students would have to take things into their own hands. So in 2016, she founded StAMINA (Student Alliance for Mental Health Innovation and Action), which she calls “a network of really passionate students who are dedicated to improving mental health through a bottom-up approach.”

Interview with former Sacramento schools chief, author of ‘Wildflowers: A school superintendent’s challenge to America,’ on educating the ‘whole child’

Conor Williams, LA School Report
The present erosion of American democratic institutions has a range of ugly consequences — anxiety, distrust, polarization, etc. But most concretely, our current political catastrophe has produced heavy gridlock. Creative, productive policymaking is at an all-time low — including in education. The 2015 passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act ended the No Child Left Behind era of education policymaking, and the staggering struggles of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have largely stalled national education policy discourse. Jonathan Raymond’s Wildflowers: A School Superintendent’s Challenge to America, offers an opening bid on where we might turn next for that thoughtful policymaking. Raymond is currently president of the Stuart Foundation, a family foundation dedicated to improving children’s lives through education. But Wildflowers draws heavily on his prior work as the school superintendent in Sacramento. The book explores a holistic way of thinking about children’s learning and development — known as whole child education — and how our current education system can discourage that approach.

Access, Assessment, and Advancement

Time to change how we think about early education, international study finds

Lillian Mongeau, The Hechinger Report
The U.S. could learn a lot about early education from our international counterparts. That’s the conclusion of a comprehensive, multi-year study of six early education systems that are beating the U.S. on money spent per child, percentage of children enrolled and math achievement at age 15. The project, published in September as a book called “The Early Advantage: Early Childhood Systems that Lead by Example,” takes a deep look at services for young children in Australia, England, Finland, Hong Kong, Korea and Singapore. The work was led by Sharon Lynn Kagan, a professor at Columbia University’s Teachers College and Yale University. (The Hechinger Report is an independently funded unit of Teachers College.) The study was funded by the National Center on Education and the Economy, a think tank focused on the connection between education and economics. “There are incredible lessons from these other countries,” Kagan said. The lessons “manifest themselves not only in what we can do but in how we actually think about young children and the services for them.” In the U.S., caring for young children has long been considered the responsibility of individual families, not the government. With the exception of a few times in history where it was considered a national priority to bring women into the workforce temporarily, publicly funded child care has remained low on the list of programs receiving federal dollars. The federal money that is spent, mostly on preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds living in poverty (through programs like Head Start) and on helping states provide subsidized child care, is generally considered assistance for families struggling to make ends meet.

‘Doors open because of this’: How one Newark high school is closing the college degree gap

Patrick Wall, Chalkbeat
After the final bell rang at Newark’s East Side High School on a recent afternoon and students surged toward the exits, Hannah Olaniyi hustled to her next class. By 3 p.m., she was copying down the distinctions between prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells among 13 other seniors who had elected to take a college-level biology course after their normal school day. Before long, she would have to rush in an Uber to her evening job selling sneakers at KicksUSA, then return home to cook dinner for her siblings and finish her homework. But for the next hour, her only concern was taking notes so she could pass the course to earn the credits that would lead to a college degree. “It’s not that I want, I need to get a degree,” explained Olaniyi, who said her commitment to education came from her mother, a Nigerian immigrant who died of cancer last year. “Failure is not an option.” Olaniyi is not alone in her quest for a college degree. On average, 51 percent of Newark Public School students enroll in college right after high school, a rate that has grown over time, according to a new report. Yet only 23 percent of Newark high school graduates earn a degree within six years of leaving high school, the report found, leaving them ill-equipped for an economy where decent-paying jobs are increasingly reserved for college graduates. The early-college program that Olaniyi is part of at East Side, like those at a handful of other Newark schools, is an effort to close the degree gap by allowing students to earn college credits even before they have high-school diplomas. Through a partnership with Essex County College, a Newark-based community college, East Side students who qualify by passing a required exam can earn up to 64 college credits and an associate’s degree by graduation — a benefit offered by only 7 percent of programs like this in the U.S., according to federal data. And, unlike many programs, the cost of transportation, books, and tuition is free to students.

California rural education network launches to help isolated teachers share resources

Lee Romney, EdSource
On an early morning late last spring about 100 educators from districts serving California’s rural areas trickled into a meeting hall north of Sacramento for the inaugural launch of a network meant to address their isolation and frustration. Among them were staff from county offices of education, school superintendents, principals and a handful of students. They hailed from as far as southern Imperial County on the Mexican border to remote northern Modoc, from Mono County to the east to coastal Humboldt in the west. Their common interest: Addressing what they call a crisis in rural education. The goal of the nascent California Rural Ed Network, which launched online Oct. 1, is to join forces to attract new resources, share expertise and focus attention of policy makers to schools outside urban and suburban California — many of them underfunded and serving a preponderance of low-income students. When then-Butte County Office of Education Assistant Superintendent Susan Hukkanen addressed the gathering to explain her proposed network, she sounded more like a preacher or a politician than a bureaucrat. “We are asking you to join other advocates and spokespersons for a completely and overdue focus on isolated, underserved and woefully underfunded rural schools,” she beckoned. “Now is the time to raise our voices to transform our rural schools into viable hubs for their communities.”

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Next in the Upper West Side and Harlem integration push: Encouraging parents to explore their options

Christina Veiga, Chalkbeat
Standing before a classroom of parents crammed into child-sized chairs, Principal Claudia Aguirre launched into her pitch for P.S. 149 Sojourner Truth, a kindergarten through eighth grade school in Harlem. She had just five minutes to try to convince her audience to consider applying to her school, which serves mostly students from low-income families and has some of the lowest math test scores in the city. In a gentle tone, Aguirre promised the parents gathered for the middle school kickoff event that she would know every child by name and highlighted laptops for each student, arts programming, and coding classes. “I’m guessing we may not be on your list right now,” she said. “You might be pleasantly surprised by what we offer.” When her time was up, no one had raised their hand with questions. All that one mother had written in her notebook was “no Regents,” a reference to the fact that P.S. 149 does not offer its middle school students a chance to take courses that can count towards high school graduation credits. Aguirre headed to the next classroom of waiting families to give her speech again. Aguirre’s sales pitch— and its lukewarm reception—may be indicative of the tough road ahead for education leaders eager to integrate middle schools in District 3, which spans the Upper West Side and Harlem. Families there apply to middle schools and hope their children are accepted, a time consuming and competitive process that has led to stark segregation. This fall marks the first application cycle since District 3 approved a controversial plan to spur diversity by giving some students priority in admissions. But along with that headline-grabbing admission change, parent and school leaders are trying a different strategy: arming families with more information about a broader range schools.

California community colleges seek larger Cal Grants to cover students’ living costs

Mikhail Zinshteyn, EdSource
California’s community college system is advancing a bold plan to overhaul how students in the state receive financial aid. The proposal would be expensive, estimated to cost $1.5 billion a year, but would change the rules of the state’s main form of financial aid — the Cal Grant programs — to allow hundreds of thousands of low- and moderate-income students to receive aid to cover not just tuition but also living expenses like housing and food. Under current regulations, most Cal Grant money, which is awarded to over 300,000 students, is used to cover tuition. But for many community college students, especially low-income students who are eligible to receive tuition waivers, living expenses comprise by far the largest share of their college costs. In many cases, these living costs can present an insurmountable barrier to attending college. The concept of providing state aid to cover living expenses is not a new one. But by including it in its budget proposal for the 2019-20 school year, the community college Board of Governors signals to ensure that the issue will be considered.

Is technology driving educational inequality?

Joshua Kim, Inside Higher Ed
Those of us who work in digital learning believe that our work serves a larger social purpose. Our belief system has at its core the idea of education as an engine of opportunity creation. We see digital technologies as a set of tools and methods that can, when properly utilized, be leveraged to expand educational access and increase quality. Spend time in places where those who work in online learning and educational technology congregate, and you will find a shared commitment to opportunity creation. This belief that technology can be a fundamental force in support of progressive educational values is widely shared across the profession. This commitment to social justice within the ed-tech and online learning community, however, just may be blinding many of us to the costs of digitization of higher education. We may be in the situation where technology is driving, rather than ameliorating, educational stratification. Educational technology and online learning as a cause of educational inequality are not part of our profession’s collective sense of self. It is not supposed to work out this way. Blended and online learning methods, platforms and techniques are supposed to create opportunities for the many, not just the few. How might digital learning be doing more to concentrate higher education privilege than delivering widespread educational benefits? Evidence for this disturbing conclusion may be found in how both blended and online education are operating across the postsecondary ecosystem.

Public Schools and Private $

Democrats want government watchdog to sniff around virtual charter schools

Andrew Ujifusa, Education Week
Two Democratic senators have asked the Government Accountability Office to look into how full-time virtual charter schools work and their results. In a Wednesday letter, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, express concerns about the virtual charters’ student-teacher ratios, students’ performance compared to their peers in traditional public schools, and their transparency when it comes to issues like executive pay and advertising. “Accountability models, funding formulas, and attendance policies were created for brick-and-mortar schools, and yet, state funding and accountability policies have not kept pace with the growth of virtual charter schools,” Brown and Murray wrote to the agency. Virtual charters have been going through a very difficult stretch. There’s intense skepticism about their performance and management practices. In Brown’s own state of Ohio, for example, the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow disintegrated after a lengthy court battle over its claims about student enrollment. (Brown and Murray mentioned the ECOT fallout in their letter). Cyber charters in states like Georgia and New Mexico have also struggled to stay open. In their letter, the two senators cite a 2016 investigation by our colleague Ben Herold into Colorado’s largest online charter school, the GOAL Academy, which continued to grow even as questions arose about its students’ performance and their level of engagement with the online materials.

The bizarre law that’s overcrowding California’s public schools

Jeremy Mohler, Medium
You’d think Independence High School would at least get to use all of its sprawling campus on San Jose’s east side. Its state, California, ranks 41st nationwide in how much it spends per public school student. And its district, the East Side Union High School District (ESUHSD), is losing nearly $20 million a year because of charter schools in its boundaries. But, due to a little-known state law, Independence is being forced to share space with two charter schools — that’s right, two. Prop 39, passed by voters in 2000 as part of a school funding ballot initiative, allows the private operators of charter schools to “co-locate” at traditional, neighborhood schools. It allowed both KIPP San Jose Collegiate and ACE Charter School to take space from Independence, which is creating problems for students and districts officials. One student wanted to use the gym. “My school’s black student union wanted to hold an art show for Black History Month, and we weren’t able to use our own school’s small gym due to the charters’ extensive reservations,” she says in a new video on Prop 39’s impact statewide. Another has to walk home from school late at night because on some days charter students get first dibs on the sports fields.

Author: Rich people are spending fortunes to make education better. ‘The problem is that they’re not.’ [AUDIO]

Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post
“What I found is a much more nuanced story about what motivates the winners of our age and among the things I found was that many, many elites who try to give, who try to donate to a charter school, who try to get on the board of a charter school, who try to, you know, help the Harlem Children’s Zone, who try to do any number of things in any number of other areas—there’s a general sincerity to these people in general. They are not trying to do this to make more money, they’re trying to do this to make the world better. The problem is that they’re not.” That comes from a new book titled “Winner Takes All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World,” by journalist and author Anand Giridharadas, which looks at how the world’s wealthy seek to use their money “to change the world” but don’t own up to their role in the problems they seek to address — and end up failing anyway. Giridharadas, a political analyst for NBC News and MSNBC, visiting journalism scholar at New York University and former correspondent and columnist for the New York Times, spoke to the hosts of the education podcast “Have You Heard” recently about how his theme intersects with the education world.

Other News of Note

Even in #MeToo era, educators still aren’t sharing their stories

Jessica Campisi, Education Dive
When educators and other school community members discuss sexual assault prevention, it’s usually about securing more resources to protect students from abuse by other students or by teachers. But teachers are facing these issues, too: 40% of educators have seen or experienced these incidents in the workplace, and nearly 60% of these officials don’t report it. Throughout the world, sexual assault survivors often don’t share their stories. Many feel shame or fear of retribution, and many don’t think they’ll be believed. Teachers struggle with similar things. A majority of educators, according to Education Week, know how to report sexual harassment and assault, and they’ve been trained and know their school’s protocol. They’re not reporting because they don’t think their case is serious enough to go that far, because they don’t think anything will happen as a result, or because they’re scared it will damage their workplace environment or lead to retaliation.