Just News from Center X – October 20, 2023

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

For Book Fairs, Scholastic Will Separate Titles That Deal With Race and Gender

Dana Goldstein, New York Times

Scholastic, the children’s book publisher, said that its elementary-school book fairs would now have a separate section for titles that deal with race, gender and sexuality — a response to dozens of state laws that restrict how those subjects are discussed in schools. Those organizing book fairs can include — or exclude — that set of books, known as the “Share Every Story, Celebrate Every Voice” catalog. School fairs can also choose to include specific books from the list. The separate catalog of 64 titles includes a children’s biography of Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson; a fantasy novel about a Lakota girl; a graphic novel featuring the Black Panther superhero; and a book about different family types, such as adoptive families and families with same-sex parents, according to a list provided by Scholastic.

What a Fresno teachers’ strike 45 years ago can teach us today [AUDIO]

Education Beat Podcast

Fresno teachers are voting this Wednesday on whether or not to strike, if the union and the district can’t come to an agreement on class size, teacher pay and benefits. The first and only time Fresno teachers have been on strike before was 45 years ago, in 1978. What can we learn from those who were involved in both sides of that strike?

Here’s What High School Students of Color Think About Being a Teacher

Madeline Will, Education Week

There’s long been a push to bring more teachers of color into classrooms, with policymakers and district leaders spearheading recruitment and retention initiatives. But one voice has been notably missing from the conversation: high school students of color. So says Amber Ravenell, the director of research for Teach Plus, a national organization that supports teacher-leadership. The group recently conducted interviews with 103 high school students of color and Indigenous students about why they would—or wouldn’t—go into teaching.

Language, Culture, and Power

Students Speak Up: Supporting students who are learning English

Educators Rising, Phi Delta Kappan

We asked our Educators Rising students to share their observations on how their schools support students whose home language is not English, and what they thought their schools could do better.

“Our Folks Were Badass!”:  Learning and Dreaming in Basement

Sohyun An, Rethinking Schools

In 2020, four Asian American middle school students, Annie, Adithi, Sunny, and Toni, gathered from their respective basements outside of Atlanta to meet each other virtually after the COVID-19 pandemic hit and their school moved to remote instruction. Annie self-identified as a Chinese Christian girl, Adithi as a Hindu Indian girl, Toni as a Vietnamese biracial nonbinary, and Sunny as a Korean American girl. The four met in 6th grade and became friends. To feel connected during virtual schooling and social distancing during the pandemic, the four relied on each other through texting and video chats. Then, one day in 7th grade, they came up with a virtual book club idea to read their favorite books together and talk about their daily lives. They named the book club the Basement because they were literally in the basements of their houses while video chatting.

Arturo Schomburg, Black Studies, and Social Change

DJ Polite, Black Perspectives

Around 1930, a fifteen-year-old John Henrik Clarke travelled to New York City, New York, anxious to meet Arturo Schomburg at the 135th Street branch of the New York Public Library. The library branch held the most extensive archive of the Black diaspora, most of it gathered by Schomburg himself. Clarke boldly said that he wanted to know the full history of Blacks around the world. Schomburg responded, “Son, go study the history of your oppressor. Once you know the history of your oppressor and why he had to oppress you, you will also learn why he had to remove you from the respectful commentary of human history.” Clarke later proclaimed Schomburg as a father of Africana Studies because Schomburg advocated the study of the Black experience as a tool of liberation, a tool that he intended to be used by the masses. Today Black Studies is under attack, for precisely this reason, as evidenced by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and backlash-minded education reformers. Black Studies, in its fullness, remains a tool not for rote memorization, but a tool for understanding racism, and therefore rectifying racial inequality.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

A conversation with Martin Blank, national community schools leader, about California’s big bet

John Fensterwald, EdSource

EdSource asked Martin Blank for his perspective on California’s massive investment in community schools in the context of the community schools movement that he was instrumental in creating. For 20 years after he co-founded it in 1997, Blank directed the Coalition for Community Schools, a national organization that advocates for policies that support the implementation of quality community schools. He also served as president of the Institute for Educational Leadership, the coalition’s home. After serving as a VISTA volunteer in the Missouri Bootheel region, Blank, an attorney, was a senior staff member at A.L. Nellum and Associates, the nation’s first African American-owned consulting firm.

Inside the Psychiatric Hospitals Where Foster Kids Are a “Gold Mine”

Julia Lurie, Mother Jones

The first time Katrina Edwards was locked in a psychiatric hospital for children, she was sure a foster parent would pick her up the next day. It was a spring night in 2012 when Edwards, then 12 years old, was admitted to North Star Behavioral Health in Anchorage. In a photo taken upon her arrival, Edwards wears an Abercrombie hoodie and has dark circles under her eyes, her expression skeptical. During her initial evaluation, a psychiatrist asked a battery of questions, including what Edwards wanted to be when she grew up (a police officer), what she did for fun (sports), and how she slept (poorly, with nightmares).

How simple outdoor activities can help students understand learning is a process

Lauren Barack, K-12 Dive

Regular time spent outdoors, including in a school garden, can help elementary school students learn social-emotional learning skills like patience, self-regulation — and lead to an understanding that learning is a process that doesn’t always bring immediate results. Allowing students to perform simple activities in outdoor spaces can accustom them to “the pace of the natural world,” said Ayesha Ercelawn, an education specialist with Green Schoolyards America, a nonprofit based in Berkeley, California, that advocates for greener school ground design.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

Little kids need outdoor play — but not when it’s 110 degrees

Anya Kamanetz, Hechinger Report

Dora Ramos is a family child care provider in Stamford, Connecticut, where the temperature climbed above 90 degrees for a few days in July. She takes care of children in her home, which has a large backyard, and was able to adapt, still getting the children outside, even on the hottest days. “Our parents bring the children at 7:10 a.m., so we bring them outside very early — first thing,” she said. “We have sprinklers; they use the hose to fill up pots with water and ‘cook.’”

But in Dallas, where the high hit 110 degrees on August 18, it wasn’t safe or possible to play outside for weeks-long stretches this summer, said Cori Berg, the director of Hope Day School, a preschool there. “It was cranky weather for sure,” she said. “What most people don’t really think about is what it’s like for a child in a center. They’re cooped up in one room for hours and hours and hours.”

UAW members aren’t all assembling cars. More and more are unionized grad students [Audio]

Andrea Hsu, NPR

On a recent Saturday, a crowd marched in the rain outside a Stellantis parts distribution center in Tappan, N.Y. Joining the striking autoworkers were others members of the United Auto Workers union, including some hailing from completely different lines of work. “It was really awesome to see how much we had in common,” says Andrea Joseph, a postdoctoral fellow from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai who studies pregnancy. These days, the “A” in UAW might as well include academia, as roughly 100,000 of the union’s 383,000 members work in higher education. They include graduate students who work as teaching and research assistants, clerical and technical workers, adjunct professors and postdocs.

Tensions surge at US universities as students rally over Israel-Hamas war

Anisha Dutta, Aljazeera

It was an unprecedented scene. Columbia University, located in the heart of Manhattan, took the extraordinary move of closing its doors to the public last week as dueling protests erupted simultaneously on its lawn. Hundreds of protesters, representing pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli student groups, clashed in front of the stately colonnade of Butler Library on October 12. Three helicopters hovered overhead, and rows of New York Police Department officers stood ready to intervene if tensions boiled over into violence. But Columbia was hardly the only school in the United States to convulse with demonstrations during the past week. Since the Palestinian group Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel — and Israel responded with a declaration of war — tensions in the Middle East have been reflected on college and university campuses, traditional hotbeds for activism in the US.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Racial gaps in math have grown. A school tried closing theirs by teaching all kids the same classes

Maura Turcotte,The Post and Courier, AP, Washington Post

Hope Reed was seeing stark disparities a decade ago at her high school in the suburbs of Columbia, South Carolina.

Nearly half the school’s students were white, but the freshman remedial math classes were made up of almost all students of color. Reed, then chair of the math department at Blythewood High School, intervened with an experiment.

She taught a ninth-grade remedial class and used the regular Algebra 1 curriculum with nearly 50 students.

Black teachers’ resistance to segregation 60 years ago holds lessons for teachers today

Tonyaa Weathersbee, Chalkbeat Tennessee

As a Birmingham, Alabama, native, Tondra Loder-Jackson was inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement. She was especially inspired by the 1,000-plus Black children who walked out of school in Birmingham on May 2, 1963, to protest Jim Crow segregation in what would be known as the Children’s Crusade. Still, one question lingered for Loder-Jackson. Where, she wondered, were the Black teachers? Now a professor of educational foundations at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Loder-Jackson sought the answer to that question — and wound up debunking a narrative that Black teachers either shied away from the movement or were hostile to it.

Chetty, Sandel on what’s crushing American Dream

Samantha Laine Perfas, Harvard Gazette

When you look at big data, it’s irrefutable: The American Dream is fading. Raj Chetty, the William A. Ackman Professor of Economics, said as much during Wednesday’s “Education, Elitism, and Economic Opportunity” event at the Kennedy School, which also featured political philosopher Michael Sandel, the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor of Government. From the 1940s to the 1980s, Chetty said, economic mobility dipped dramatically. In the 1940s, it was virtually guaranteed that Americans would climb the economic ladder, with more than 90 percent earning more than their parents. But for those born in the 1980s, who are in their 30s now? They’ve got a 50/50 shot at achieving similar levels of financial success. “It reflects a fundamental change in the economy that we would like to understand,” Chetty said. “These kinds of changes in our economy have led a lot of people to express frustration about this being a country where it’s no longer easy to get ahead, even through hard work.”

Democracy and the Public Interest

The Politics of State Takeovers [Audio]

Jennifer Berkshire and Jack Schneider Have You Heard?

Have You Heard heads to Houston, where the state now controls Texas’ largest school district. We’ll meet teachers and parents who say the takeover of the schools in this Democratic city is fundamentally about politics. And we’ll try to make sense of how the takeover fits into the efforts by Governor Greg Abbott to bring private school vouchers to the Lone Star state. Spoiler: it does.

More than half of Americans say they took on leadership roles when growing up

Isabel Goddard and Juliana Menasce Horowitz, Pew Research

About a third of Americans say a major reason there aren’t more women in top leadership positions in politics and business is because women are not encouraged to be leaders from an early age, a recent Pew Research Center survey found. One-in-five adults say they took on leadership roles in their school or community extremely often or often, while 35% say they did so sometimes. More than four-in-ten (44%) say they rarely or never took on leadership roles when they were growing up. Some demographic groups are more likely than others to say they took on leadership roles at least sometimes when they were growing up. These groups include:

Men (59% did so at least sometimes); Asian and Black adults (66% and 65%); Adults younger than 50 (59%); Adults with a postgraduate degree (68%).

Why what looked like good news for charter schools actually wasn’t

Valerie Strauss, Washington Post

It seemed like good news for charter schools when a study released this summer declared that they get better student outcomes than do traditional public schools — at least from 2015 to 2019, the years for which researchers said they crunched the numbers. The Wall Street Journal editorial board hailed the results as showing “huge learning gains over union schools” (with “union schools” used as a pejorative reference to public schools in traditional school districts). Education Week’s headline declared: “Charter Schools Now Outperform Traditional Public Schools, Sweeping Study Finds.” But the study, it turned out, doesn’t show that at all. The headlines were wrong. For one thing, a close look at the results revealed only tiny improvements in charter schools. That, plus concerns critics have raised about the validity of the methodology and definitions used in the study, render moot the claims of besting traditional public schools.

Other News of Note


Learning for Justice

Processing Attacks in Israel and the Outbreak of War in the Region

Facing History and Ourselves

RESOURCES for Learning More about the War on Gaza

Teach Palestine

Resources for Discussing the Israel-Hamas War with Students

School Library Journal