Just News from Center X – October 13, 2023

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

“We declare our desire to live together in peace, free from wars, occupation, and hatred. We were born to live, not to die.”

Combatants for Peace

The events of the past few days have shaken us all to our core. Our hearts are with all of the victims and their families, and hope both for the safe return of those held captive, and for the safety of the civilians trapped inside Gaza. Combatants for Peace strongly and unequivocally condemn all acts of violence. There can be no justification for the targeting of children, or the collective punishment of the innocents. Together, we must retain our humanity, and value all human life as equal, sacred and cherished.

Refusing to bend, the Human Rights Educator of the Year will retire early

Sadie Dittenber, IdahoEdNews

Daisy Rain Martin has never been afraid to promote inclusivity in her classroom. A longtime language arts teacher at the Vallivue School District’s Sage Valley Middle School, Martin places books on her shelves that reflect the diversity of her classroom. She chooses curricula that inspire her students to think outside the box. And she encourages kids to explore, research and think critically about the world around them. Her efforts have earned her statewide recognition — she’s this year’s recipient of the Human Rights Educator of the Year Award — an accolade awarded by the Wassmuth Center for Human Rights to educators who go above and beyond to ground their classrooms in justice and joy, and honor every person’s dignity.

With Moms for Liberty Endorsement, ‘Science of Reading’ Faces More Political Controversy

Sarah Schwartz, Education Week

The Oklahoma State Department of Education announced earlier this month that it would be signing onto a controversial group’s new literacy effort—joining forces with Moms for Liberty, the conservative political organization whose local chapters have fought to challenge or remove books in districts across the country. The new announcement promises to further complicate the thorny political landscape of the “science of reading” movement, by linking what has been a bipartisan—if sometimes uneasy—movement nationwide for improved instruction in foundational literacy to an explicitly political group. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Ryan Walters, a Republican, followed Moms for Liberty in declaring the first week of October “Teach Kids to Read Week.” The moniker is a response to Banned Books Week, an annual event to bring attention to challenged books put on by the American Library Association and a coalition of other groups.

Language, Culture, and Power

Hoping to lower dropout rates, Newsom bans ‘willful defiance’ suspensions through high school

Anabel Sosa, Los Angeles Times

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday signed a bill that will ban “willful defiance” suspensions for middle and high school students who demonstrate bad behavior, including breaking the dress code, talking back to a teacher or using their phone in class. The legislation Newsom signed into law, SB 274, also will prohibit the suspension and expulsion of students due to tardiness or truancy. Educators can still suspend students for more severe actions, such as physical violence, possession or use of drugs, theft or bullying. California already bans these suspensions permanently for students in kindergarten through fifth grade, and the new law expands the policy to middle and high schools.

I Combed Through 81 Studies on School Discipline. Here’s What Educators Need to Know

4 evidence-based considerations for closing discipline disparities

Richard O. Welsh, Education Week

For many district and school leaders, the new school year has not only brought excitement but also uncertainty about how to address their school discipline dilemma. Directors of student supports and principals are inevitably having heated conversations about whether to suspend certain students—and for how long—or send them to alternative schools. Refashioning school discipline policies and practices has become the bane of policymakers’ and educators’ existence.

District and school leaders are caught between a rock and a hard place. Teachers and parents are demanding safe schools. Equity advocates highlight persistent racial inequality in suspensions and expulsions and growing evidence of the school-to-prison pipeline.

How Indigenous Peoples’ Day came about and why it matters today [VIDEO]

Harmeet Kaur, KCRA

For centuries, the U.S. celebrated Christopher Columbus as the intrepid explorer who discovered the Americas — a symbol of the American ideals of entrepreneurship and innovation.The story of the Italian navigator taught to generations of schoolchildren is shrouded in mythology. But for the Indigenous peoples who inhabited the Americas long before Columbus ever arrived, Columbus and his namesake holiday represent something much more sinister: the violent colonization of their lands and the brutal treatment of their people.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Student activists are pushing back against big polluters — and winning [Audio]

B.A. Parker, Rebecca Hersher, Courtney Stein, Bilal Qureshi, Dalia Mortada, Neela Banerjee, Arielle Retting, CODE SWITCH, NPR

South Baltimore is on a peninsula surrounded by water, highways and train tracks. It’s mostly made up of residential row houses, small yards, schools, rec centers and parks. It’s also often thought of as a place to avoid — folks are taught to be careful of or even avoid South Baltimore. There was a mass shooting this past July in the Brooklyn neighborhood of South Baltimore, and another in early September. “People think Curtis Bay is a dangerous place. It’s not. It’s just we’re surrounded by dangerous things,” says Taysia Thompson, 17. Taysia is a part of a group of student activists fighting against a very different kind of danger in their neighborhood: air pollution and climate change.

Heat, High Water, Hurricanes: Schools Are Not Ready for Climate Change

Colbi Edmonds, NY Times

When Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle in 2018, Calhoun County schools were ravaged. Winds of 160 miles per hour destroyed an elementary school and ripped high-school bleachers from the ground. “It was complete devastation,” said Darryl Taylor Jr., superintendent of the district. “It was like a nuclear bomb had gone off.” The Calhoun schools are still trying to rebuild what they lost five years ago.

Gavin Newsom Vetoed a Bill to Make Condoms Available at Schools

Katie Herchenroede, Mother Jones

A California bill requiring public high schools to provide condoms to their students didn’t make it past Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk this week. The bill, SB 541, would have required schools to place condoms in at least two easily accessible places on campus. Students would not have needed assistance or permission from staff to take both internal and external condoms. The measure also would have prohibited stores from refusing to give nonprescription contraception to a person solely on the basis of age. Providing free and easily-accessible contraception is a proven way to keep young adults sexually healthy—one that doctors have been recommending for decades. Introducing safe sex measures early, like having a condom in your bag, can also form a habit that bolsters reproductive health and choice for years to come.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

School district leaders must make early education a priority, so children enter school prepared

Nasha Patel, Hechinger Report

Early childhood care and education before pre-K or kindergarten has not traditionally been considered a public school system priority. But as school leaders tighten their budgets, they would be wise to invest money earlier, when the return on investment is highest. After all, children who receive high-quality early childhood care and education services are more likely to enter school prepared for academic and social success in kindergarten and beyond. When children are not ready for kindergarten, schools must use their limited resources on remediation efforts, too often with limited success. School district leaders are facing difficult spending choices, but early childhood care and education is an area to sustain and grow investment, not cut.

It’s time to repair our fractured math system

Kyndall Brown & Pamela Burdman, EdSource

Deep, active learning of mathematics for all students. We applaud this goal of California’s new math framework, an increasingly urgent priority in our data-rich, technology-enhanced age. However, the framework is only a guideline. Ensuring that schools and classrooms have the resources — including appropriate policies and high-quality teachers — to achieve the goal entails repairing fractures in our education landscape. Consider high school graduation requirements, which are literally all over the map.

HBCUs have been underfunded by $12 billion, federal officials reveal [AUDIO]

Alexis Marshall, NPR

Federal officials have told 16 states that they’ve been underfunding their Historically Black Colleges and Universities by some $12 billion.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

School Vaccination Rates Vary across California

Shalini Mustala and Shannon McConville, PPIC

As we head into the fall and winter, health systems are encouraging people to get flu vaccines and updated COVID shots. High vaccination rates reduce the risk of preventable disease outbreaks, lessening the strain of flu season on individuals and medical facilities. While flu and COVID vaccines are not mandatory, state law requires that students be vaccinated against other infectious diseases, such as measles, chicken pox, and polio. Maintaining adequate school vaccination rates is essential for public health and community well-being, but many schools across the state could be vulnerable to disease outbreaks due to lower vaccination rates. In the 2021­–22 school year (the most recent year school-level data are available), about 94% of California’s kindergarten students received all required vaccines. But vaccination rates among kindergartners vary across the state.

Labor Education Starts in School

Sonali Kolhatkar, CounterPunch

American society is steeped in narratives about economic prosperity shaped by capitalist ideas of individualism and a corporate culture of exploitation. Children are exposed to such ideas in schools and via pop culture and are required to put them into practice at a young age by proving their worth in ever-competitive environments to win college entry or employment. But rarely are young people taught about their rights as workers and about the naturally adversarial role between employers and employees. In California, thanks to labor organizers, that’s about to change.

Judge finds New Jersey has responsibility to address school segregation

Catherine Carrera & Jessie Gomez, Chalkbeat Newark

In the five-year legal battle to desegregate New Jersey public schools, on Friday a Superior Court judge denied the state’s defense that it should not be held responsible for the “unlawful, persistent, and pervasive” segregation in its educational system. While acknowledging that state public schools are segregated by race, and that the state has the constitutional power to take action, Judge Robert Lougy’s decision also found that the activists who made the allegations failed to prove the “entire” school system is segregated “across all districts.”

Democracy and the Public Interest

Texas Took Over Its Largest School District, but Has Let Underperforming Charter Networks Expand

Kiah Collier and Dan Keemahill, ProPublica

In June, Texas Commissioner of Education Mike Morath embarked on the largest school takeover in recent history, firing the governing board and the superintendent of the Houston Independent School District after one of its more than 270 schools failed to meet state educational standards for seven consecutive years. Though the state gave Houston’s Wheatley High School a passing score the last time it assigned ratings, Morath charged ahead, saying he had an obligation under the law to either close the campus or replace the board. He chose the latter.

Navigating parental rights: A study of Virginia’s model policies on transgender student treatment

Dustin Hornbeck, EPAA

In this study, I explore the discourse surrounding parental rights in U.S. public schools, with Virginia as a focal point. Analyzing two sets of model policies regarding the treatment of transgender students—one established under a Democratic governor and another implemented following the election of a Republican candidate championing parental rights—this research employs qualitative content analysis to gain insight into the contemporary parental rights movement in educational settings. Five key themes emerged: 1. Reliance on expert opinions; 2. Variation in depth and breadth of information within policies; 3. Transgender student inclusion in policies; 4.  Student and parent focus imbalance; and 5. Adherence to legal intent. The findings indicate a shift in emphasis from addressing gender identity concerns to prioritizing parental rights, with ramifications for the broader political landscape. This research enriches the ongoing dialogue on the role of parents in education and the consequences of the conservative parental rights movement for educational policy.

Youth-led workshops push school board candidates to address student needs

Eric Meltzer, Chalkbeat Colorado

Students may be the people with the most at stake in any school board election, but most of them can’t vote. For youth leaders with YAASPA — Young Aspiring Americans for Social and Political Activism — that’s all the more reason to ask candidates’ hard questions and push for real answers. “Potential candidates for the school board hold a lot of power. They’re involved in making very pivotal changes that affect both staff and youth,” said Jason Hoang, a youth leader with YAASPA and a graduate of Aurora’s Hinkley High School who now attends the University of Southern California.

Other News of Note

Students walk out of schools for missing and murdered Indigenous women in South Dakota

Associated Press

More than 100 students walked out of classes at a high school in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, calling attention to an epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women across the U.S.The crowd of Washington High School students congregated Thursday morning at a nearby park to recognize thousands of missing and slain Indigenous women, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reported.