Just News from Center X – October 2, 2020

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

A Real-Life Lesson in Civics: Only ‘We the People’ Can Save American Democracy

Randi Weingarten and Leo Casey, AFT Voices

The very foundation of American democracy lies in this: that the people choose who will govern them through free and fair elections. Every other important part of American democracy — the rule of law; the freedoms of expression, of conscience and of association; equality under the law; the ability to protest and demand a redress of our grievances; a free press and media; and an independent judiciary — ultimately rest on this bedrock. That is why “we the people” is central to representative democracy. Without the consent of the governed, expressed by voting, democracy is lost. For many years, we taught this principle in our New York City public high school classes in civics, law, political science and American history. Together with our students, we studied the meaning of the Declaration of the Independence, including its pronouncement that the “just powers” of government are derived from “the consent of the governed.”

Even when the smoke clears, schools find student trauma can linger

Caroyn Jones, EdSource

For some students, the fire is only the beginning. The nightmares, the grief and an all-consuming dread can persist for months or even years. That’s what teachers and school employees have observed among students in California’s fire-ravaged areas, especially Sonoma and Butte counties, where deadly wildfires have struck repeatedly in recent years. Now, those school districts are sharing their observations and advice with schools around the West that are adapting to a new reality: regular catastrophic wildfires.

Another Look at “Tinkering Toward Utopia”

Larry Cuban, Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

2020 marks a quarter-century since Tinkering was published. Still in print, the short book on the history of school reform that David Tyack* and I wrote has been praised and panned. Over the years, David and I have spoken and written about the ideas we expressed in the book about history of U.S. school reform and subsequent shifts that we have seen in reform-minded policies pushed by federal and state authorities. And, of course, the hyperbole that accompanied each reform’s rhetoric, action, and implementation. We have been asked many questions over the years about the logic of the central argument we made and evidence we had to support it. We have been asked about why schooling (both private and public) seem so familiar to each generation of parents even with new buildings, furnishings, and technologies.

Language, Culture, and Power

Gov. Newsom vetoes requirement for ethnic studies course in high school

John Fensterwald, EdSource

Gov. Gavin Newsom unexpectedly vetoed a bill Wednesday to mandate a course in ethnic studies as a high school graduation requirement, starting in 2029-30. He announced his decision on the final day for acting on bills passed in the legislative the session ending Aug. 31. In his veto message on Assembly Bill 331, Newsom reiterated his support for ethnic studies, pointing out that he signed a similar bill last month adding an ethnic studies course as a graduation requirement for California State University. But he said continuing disagreements over a proposed model ethnic studies curriculum for high school should be resolved before imposing a high school mandate.

What Abolishing the Police Means to Me: A Student’s Perspective

M’munga Songolo, Education Week

Policing in America has roots in the slave patrols designed to end resistance or uprisings within the slave community. I acknowledge this history so you can understand the inherent fear Black people already have toward the police. We can recognize the connection between Nat Turner and George Floyd, who were killed 189 years apart, both by a racist system. This summer, I participated in Word Is Bond’s Rising Leaders program, which empowers young Black men through leadership development, critical dialogue with police, and education. That experience has only strengthened my stance on the need for police abolition. None of the officers I interacted with, some of whom even policed my own neighborhood, had grown up or lived in north Portland, Ore. So how could they fully understand the people who live here? And they aren’t contributing members of the community here, because they spend their paychecks elsewhere.

“All lives matter”: How districts co-opt equity language and maintain the status quo

Tiffanie Lewis-Durham, Education Policy Analysis Archives

The term “equity” is widely used by educational policy makers to describe myriad programs and practices aimed at closing the supposed racial achievement gap. Research about the way equity has been used in these policies typically explores how policy actors with low will and capacity frame and implement their reforms. Few studies, however, explore equity-oriented reforms initiated and supported by policy makers who claim to fervently support educational equity. The purpose of this critical policy analysis was to examine how the rhetoric used by equity-supportive policy actors may have reinforced neoliberal ideas and inadvertently maintained white innocence and color-blind racism. Examining the Community Schools policy in New York City schools, this study found that some equity initiatives are circumscribed by their focus on “all lives”, which can unwittingly reinforce the status quo in schools.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

School and Society in the Age of Trump

National Education Policy Center

With the presidential election still a few weeks away, it remains to be seen whether the age of Trump is a four-year anomaly or longer era that will extend through 2024. But already National Education Policy Center Fellow John Rogers of UCLA has taken stock of how schools have been impacted by broad social issues that have risen to prominence during this administration’s reign. In School and Society in the Age of Trump, Rogers and his co-authors Michael Ishimoto, Alexander Kwako, Anthony Berryman, and Claudia Diera draw upon the results of a nationally representative survey of 500 high school principals to explore how schools have been impacted by a set of five broad, societal issues that have become more prominent during the presidency of Donald Trump.

A parent-led effort to close the digital divide

Javeria Salman, Hechinger Report

When the Clark County School District in Las Vegas announced it would be staying entirely remote this year, mother and education advocate Valeria Gurr was immediately concerned about how the decision would affect low-income and Spanish-speaking families, especially those with students who are English language learners. She worried that the district might fail to provide enough support, as it did in the disastrous transition to remote learning last spring, when one third of the district’s 314,848 students never got online because they didn’t have the technology, according to reporting from the Las Vegas Sun.

Home-School Partnerships Key to Supporting Students With Disabilities

Naomi Ondrasek, Learning Policy Institute

When her son’s school first cancelled in-person instruction last spring due to COVID-19, Samantha Pellitteri didn’t panic. “In the beginning, when all of our local schools closed, it was for a 2-week period.… I can handle anything for 2 weeks,” shared Pellitteri during a California Department of Education webinar on family engagement. But when her son’s district announced that the closure would continue for the remainder of the school year, she felt an uptick in anxiety. Her son, a 17-year-old high school sophomore who “brings joy to our house and pretty much anybody that meets him,” has multiple disabilities that require special education services delivered by a team of teachers and service providers. Recalled Pellitteri, “I thought, ‘OK, now I could use some help. I feel like I’m sort of on my own and trying to figure this out.… I really need to reach out to his team.’”

Access. Assessment, Advancement

DeVos vows to require standardized tests again: 4 questions answered

Nicholas Tampio, The Conversation

What did DeVos say? Since the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, U.S. public school students have had to take federally mandated standardized tests every year. Students got a break in the spring of 2020 when DeVos announced that states could apply for waivers due to the pandemic. “Neither students nor teachers,” she explained, “need to be focused on high-stakes tests during this difficult time.” In September, DeVos reaffirmed her commitment to federally mandated testing. “It is now our expectation,” DeVos wrote in a letter to chief state school officers, “that states will, in the interest of students,” administer standardized tests at the end of the 2020-2021 school year.

An Especially Stressful Time for Dreamers

Elizabeth Redden, Inside HigherEd

Undocumented immigrant college students, or Dreamers, are experiencing higher levels of anxiety about their legal status and increased financial and personal stresses due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new survey conducted by the scholarship-granting organization TheDream.US. A total of 2,681 of the approximately 3,850 undergraduate students supported with scholarships from the organization completed the survey, which was administered in May and early June at a time when Black Lives Matter protests were growing across the country and the Supreme Court was deciding the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Too Many Young Voters Are Drowning in Student Debt

Natalie Ravis, The Nation

Jonathan Moraga’s dream school was American University. Originally from Miami, Moraga wanted to study political science in the nation’s capital. But he never expected the high cost of living and student loans would push him out of the university. When the financial stress became overwhelming, he had to transfer to Florida International University, almost 900 miles away from Washington, where the tuition is $26,000 less than at American University. “Most other students don’t have to work or think about student loans. They just have to think about going to school,” said 21-year-old Moraga. “I just felt at a disadvantage. I know a lot of people who graduate and don’t find a job after college, and the problems are just amplified when you’re a minority.”

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

How Prop 13 affects funding and the quality of education for LA public schools

Steve Chiotakis, KCRW

When California passed Prop 13 in 1978, it capped property taxes in the state. That meant a big reduction in tax revenue. One of the areas most affected: public schools. California went from having some of the highest per student funding of schools — to among the lowest in the nation.
“Cities like LA have some of the largest student to teacher ratios in the country, which means that our kids in our schools have 35, sometimes more students in a class,” says Pedro Noguera, Dean of the USC Rossier School of Education. “That impacts the quality of education, particularly in the districts where poverty is the greatest.”

The Quiet Desegregation of Alabama’s Public Schools

Adam Harris, The Atlantic

Everyone seems to make the same mistake. They look at the picture of him, Sonnie Hereford IV, and think they know the story. In the photo, he is 6 years old. He is holding his father’s hand, walking down Governors Drive on September 3, 1963. People see him and see a boy on his way to desegregate Alabama’s schools, to become the first Black kid in attendance at Huntsville’s public, all-white Fifth Avenue School. But that’s not what the photo shows. Now, more than 50 years later, he motions to me and then points to his head in the photo. It’s slightly bent down. He wasn’t on his way to school when that photo was taken, despite what newspaper captions would say in the days and weeks and months to follow. He had been turned away. The photo shows him going home.

The Limits of Desegregation in Washington, D.C.

Adam Harris, The Atlantic

Hugh price can recall only a few exceptions to the rigid segregation of the city he was born into on November 22, 1941. One was right down the street. Raymond Elementary was a long, red rectangle of a building that was a short walk from his home on New Hampshire Avenue, in Washington, D.C. Price always looked forward to participating in the after-school parks-and-recreation program there. But Raymond was an all-white school, so he could not attend during the day. Instead, he went to Blanche K. Bruce Elementary, the school for Black students not far away. Sitting with me at the dining-room table in his home in New Rochelle, New York, in October 2019, Price recalled the “wall of segregation” in the city. He could go to the roller-skating rink on the street level of Kalorama Road, but the bowling alley in the rink’s basement was off-limits. He was not allowed to watch Westerns in the movie theaters on the other side of 14th Street. He couldn’t go on the rides at the amusement park on the outskirts of the city.

Pre-COVID Learning Inequities Were Already Large Around the World

Sarah Sparks, Education Week

The pandemic has laid bare deep existing education inequities, in the United States and around the world, which will make it more challenging for districts to respond. A new study, “Effective Policies, Successful Schools,” by the Organization for Economic Development and Opportunity finds that even before global school closures, countries have made little progress in closing gaps between students in low-income and wealthier schools, particularly when it comes to the staff and structure students need to weather periodic moves to remote online learning. And students in low-income schools, who have disproportionately experienced learning loss this spring, may be particularly at risk of falling behind: OECD found students in low-income schools were three times as likely to repeat a grade as their peers in wealthier schools, even if both students had the same reading score on the 2018 Program for International Student Assessment.

Public Schools and Private Dollars

Vouchers Over Virus: How the Department of Education Prioritized Private School Vouchers Over Responding to COVID-19

Neil Campbell, Center for American Progress

Amid the outbreak of the coronavirus in the United States this winter, schools faced their greatest disruption in generations with the abrupt switch to remote learning for the remainder of the 2019-2020 academic year. Public school systems were soon confronted with the complicated task of preparing for the new school year, with giant question marks about how COVID-19 diagnoses would affect their communities, what budgets should look like to provide necessary technology and personal protective equipment (PPE) to students and staff, and how safety concerns during the pandemic would affect the retention of students and educators.

Pennsylvania Poised To Turn CARES Money Into School Vouchers

Peter Greene, Forbes

Betsy DeVos’s attempt to take CARES act money intended for public schools and direct it to private schools was knocked down by federal courts not once, not twice, but three times, with the third strike being final. But now some Pennsylvania legislators are getting ready to try a similar sleight of hand with $500 million in taxpayer funds. House Bill 2696, the “Back on Track” bill, proposes to give a $1,000 voucher to parents for every K-12 child. This particular voucher format is the education savings account, a chunk of money set aside by the state that parents can spend on any qualifying education expenses, using an electronic transfer— a sort of educational debit card.

The Escalation of Policing: Slave Patrols, Privatization, and Predator Drones

Eddie Conway, The Real News Network

In 2018, LookingGlass Security Solutions, a private security firm, spied on over 600 demonstrations and gave the locations where the demonstrations would happen or be organized at. During Black Lives Matter protests this summer, the Dallas Police Department tweeted asking anyone who has videos from protests to upload the videos in its Tip app. Here in Baltimore, last November, Goucher College switched from a College Public Safety Department to contracting GardaWorld, a company largely known as a private military contractor. Earlier this year, over 100 faculty members at John Hopkins University signed a letter opposing the school’s proposal to use private police force. Student protesters have fought the proposal since its announcement and, in 2019, occupied a campus building for a 35-day sit-in. Here to talk about both the national and local issues of private security firms and their surveillance, and their challenges as it relates to civil rights

Other News of Note

Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed at Fifty

Liza Featherstone, JSTOR Daily

The teacher was holding forth. Hired by the Brazilian government to set up a workers’ literacy program, he waxed progressive to an audience of fisherman, peasants, and urban workers on why, according to the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget, they should not beat their children. He was pleased with his lecture as he delivered it—a pretty lucid and engaging explication, if he did say so himself. Then a worker raised his hand to ask some questions. “We have just heard some nice words,” the man said, politely but pointedly addressing the teacher as “Doctor.” “Fine words. Well spoken… do you know where people live, sir? Have you been in our houses, sir?”