Just News from Center X – October 27, 2023

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

No Place Is Safe For Children In Gaza

Sarah Ferguson, UNESCO

In all wars, it is children who suffer the most. Since the deadly attack on Israel on Oct. 7, 2023 and the unrelenting bombardment of the Gaza Strip that followed, children have been killed, abducted, maimed and exposed to deeply distressing events. A reported 2,360 children have been killed and 5,634 injured in attacks in Gaza — more than 400 children killed or injured daily. More than 30 children in Israel reportedly have lost their lives, and dozens more remain in captivity in Gaza.

Public Schools Struggle to Say the Right Thing About the Israel-Hamas War

Troy Closson, New York Times

In Atlanta, Jewish parents criticized the school district’s statement on “the violence facing children and families in the Middle East” for never using the word “terrorism.” In Los Angeles, a Muslim organization condemned public school officials for “not acknowledging the dispossession of the Palestinian people,” after a “We Stand With Israel” message was posted on the district’s official website. And in New York, public school leaders have released a wide-ranging patchwork of memos that have often prompted the same response from different factions of parents and teachers: outrage. Over the past two weeks, American public school districts have wrestled with the dilemma of how — and whether — to respond to the Hamas attack on Israel and the subsequent Israeli bombardment of Gaza, which together have killed thousands of civilians.

For some Kharkiv schoolkids, class moved to safety underground in a subway station [AUDIO]

Joanna Kakissis, NPR

In Ukraine’s second-largest city, near the Russian border, grade-schoolers attend classes in a subway station that doubles as a bomb shelter.

Language, Culture, and Power

Study: School Debate Programs Linked to Improvements in Academic Achievement, Graduation Rates, and College Enrollment [Video]

Beth Schueler and Katherine Larned, AERA

Participating in policy debate programs in middle and high school is associated with improvements in English language arts (ELA) achievement and increases in the likelihood that students graduate from high school and enroll in postsecondary education, according to new research. The study was published today in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association. It was conducted by Beth Schueler from the University of Virginia and Katherine Larned from Harvard University.

Policy debate is an interscholastic, competitive, extracurricular activity in which teams of students engage in structured argumentation about public policy issues. Participants focus on a single resolution for the entire academic year, which requires them to learn about one policy area in depth.

Afrofuturism in the Classroom

Rochelle Spencer, Black Perspectives

The groundbreaking Approaches to Teaching the Works of Octavia Butler (2019), edited by Tarshia Stanley, features a powerful essay by my colleague Ximena Gallardo. Gallardo describes how her students engaged with new technologies (writing code and creating web pages) and gained fluency in multiple research methodologies in order to develop the “necessary background to become authorities on different aspects of Butler’s work.” This essay–an examination of the historical and contemporary research skills necessary to teach award-winning science fiction writer Octavia Butler’s writing–suggests Afrofuturism as a field that can liberate minds. Three recent texts–from B. Sharise Moore, Tricia Hersey, and Alexis Pauline Gumbs–make powerful arguments that Afrofuturist-inspired teaching can repair psyches that have been battered or painfully truncated by society’s supremacies and hierarchies. Their work offers an invitation to rethink art and education, and it’s true–we need new visions of both.  Many Afrofuturists reveal, through their art, an interest in dismantling old systems. They write fiction that manifests, that purposefully puts forth a vision into the world.

Recent Immigrant Children: A Profile of New Arrivals to U.S. Schools [Fact Sheet]

Julie Sugarman, Migration Policy Institute

A variety of migration trends over the last decade have raised the profile of recently arrived immigrant children as a distinct population in U.S. schools, one with unique characteristics and educational needs. This includes the sharp increase in the number of unaccompanied Central American minors arriving in the United States since the mid-2010s. At the same time, recent immigrant students are a highly diverse population and also include, for example, children of high-skilled workers and resettled refugees. Data on recently arrived immigrant children and youth are relatively difficult to access, in part because school systems tend to focus on immigrant-background students through the lens of their English proficiency level. Yet the dearth of information on immigrant students as a distinct group can hinder educators’ and policymakers’ efforts to improve instruction and services for new arrivals.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

New Research Finds a Crucial Factor in Reducing Chronic Absenteeism

Caitlynn Peetz, Education Week

Schools fighting a surge in chronically absent students may find success if they focus on strengthening the bonds they have with parents. And schools that had the strongest ties with families before the recent rise in chronic absenteeism are less likely to be experiencing those high absence levels today. Those are some of the findings from a new study conducted by the organizations Learning Heroes and TNTP, in partnership with scholars Karen Mapp and Todd Rogers from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education and Kennedy School of Government, respectively. While schools across the country have seen an increase in chronic absenteeism following extended school closures in 2020, the researchers found that schools that had high levels of family engagement before pandemic shutdowns have seen significantly lower rates of chronic absenteeism.

This education non-profit empowers parents to fight for public schools. Here’s how

Amanda Geduld, Miami Herald

One early morning, years ago, then-6th grader Mina Hosseini was hanging out with friends in her school’s auditorium, when the group was reprimanded by a teacher. She still remembers the moment he told them to settle down and show some gratitude for the education they were receiving in the United States. In Iran, he added, children merely go to school to become terrorists. Hosseini still isn’t sure if that teacher knew she was Iranian. “I just sunk into my chair,” she said in a recent interview with the Herald. “I remember melting and just feeling shame and confusion.”

Building Community with Circles

Leah Raphael, ASCD

As education leaders, we understand, in the very fabric of our being, that relationships are a crucially important dimension of learning and schools. We’ve seen what happens in the absence of trust, respect, and caring in learning environments. In contrast, we may have been part of communities that value strong relationships, vulnerability, and opportunities for transformational growth—and this can feel like magic. Observing such communities in action is like witnessing a humming classroom environment that appears effortlessly harmonious, but where the teacher has been working for months on end building shared procedures, ­routines, and community.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

Billions in federal child care relief just expired. Costs are already skyrocketing.

Alia Wong, USA Today

BriAnne Moline has been “seriously considering” shutting down the early-childhood education program she runs out of her home near Missoula, Montana. The 38-year-old single mom of four has sacrificed a lot to get where she is today – from moonlighting at McDonald’s and Michael’s to owning a business in a profession she loves. Housing policies forced Moline to move her business and family twice over six months in 2019, while she was pregnant with her fourth child, before she finally found her current rental. Then came COVID-19, which brought more instability. The resulting stress caused Moline to lose significant weight and develop chronic migraines.

Assessing Transitional Kindergarten’s Impact on Elementary School Trajectories

Julien Lafortune and Laura Hill, PPIC

As part of its overall effort to provide high-quality early childhood education to all three- and four-year-olds, California is expanding transitional kindergarten (TK). Research on the first California TK cohorts showed positive initial effects (Manship et al. 2017)—even relative to existing public universal pre-K programs—but little is known about the persistence of benefits in later grades and whether academic trajectories improve specifically for dual-language learners (a term often used for English Learners in early grades) and students with disabilities, who might benefit from earlier identification of their educational needs. Taking stock of such a sizeable—and promising—investment before, during, and after expansion can help ensure its success. The share of four-year-olds eligible to attend TK held steady at 25 percent for many years, but all four-year-olds will be eligible as of the 2025–26 school year.

Is debt-free college for all Californians a pipe dream?

Lynn La, Cal Matters

The question of whether the state can make college debt-free for all Californians — or just some — is a particularly fraught one. Take for instance, California’s Middle Class Scholarship program, which launched in 2022. In the last academic year, about 300,000 students received an average of $1,970 more toward their college education through the program, according to a CalMatters’ analysis. But advocacy groups like The Institute for College Access and Success argue California should spend more money on students who are ineligible for existing aid but are still low income.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

New SAT Data Highlights the Deep Inequality at the Heart of American Education [Data]

New York Times

A 1300 on the SAT (or 29 on the ACT) is a high score, one that can open a path to America’s top public and private colleges. But new data, on students who graduated in the 2010s, shows just a sliver of the country’s poorest students reached that level. Test takers whose families were in the top 20 percent of earners were seven times as likely as those in the bottom 20 to score at least 1300.  But the gap was even larger for the children of the richest 1 percent. They were 13 times as likely to score this high.

We need targeted funding for racial equity in our public schools. California may have some lessons for all of us

Julio Antel Alicea, Hechinger Report

House Republicans recently returned to one of their favorite targets for spending cuts: the country’s most vulnerable youth and the schools that serve them. Their plan would represent a major setback to efforts to achieve racial equity in our nation’s public schools. During the latest battle over preventing a government shutdown, Republicans called for cutting Title 1 education grants earmarked for low-income students by 80 percent, which would mean a loss of nearly $15 billion in funding for schools with sizeable populations of these students, disproportionately affecting schools that serve more children of color. We already see this racial logic playing out in the efforts of red states to use school funding as a political football.

Hunger worsened among U.S. households in 2022, report finds

Laura Reily, Washington Post

More than 44.2 million Americans lived in households that struggled with hunger in 2022, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report released Wednesday — an increase of 10.3 million over the previous year.

The new figures, from the agency’s Economic Research Service, show an end to a nearly decade-long decrease in the number of families reporting food insecurity, at a time when food prices remain elevated because of inflation.

Democracy and the Public Interest

Yes, Prager U Wants to Indoctrinate Your Kids. But That’s Not Really the Point.

Jack Schneider and Jennifer Berkshire, The Nation

When New Hampshire education officials recently approved the use of material from the conservative website PragerU, the decision was met with a predictable outcry. For liberals, here was proof that the same Republican officials who have been railing against propaganda and brainwashing in the schools are actually just fine with indoctrination—as long as it comes from the right. PragerU’s materials are indeed riddled with distortions and misrepresentations. Yet what’s far more alarming about such stridently partisan curricular options is that they are designed to alienate people from the idea of common schooling, threatening the foundations of our public education system.

Scholastic backtracks, saying it will stop separating diverse books for fairs in 2024

Rachel Treisman, NPR

Scholastic is reversing course, saying it will no longer separate diverse stories for school book fairs after weeks of mounting backlash from educators and authors. The educational company, which both publishes and distributes books, waded into hot water last month after it confirmed that it was changing its policy for its middle school book fair offerings.

Churches step in after Florida restricts how Black history can be taught [AUDIO]

Danielle Prieur, NPR

Black churches in Florida are now offering classes in African American history, as state leaders have limited how the subject can be taught in schools.

Other News of Note

Prison as censorship: Exhibition curated by Mariame Kaba serves as an abolitionist call to action

Jess Zhang, Prism Reports

In recent years, Americans have witnessed escalating censorship in schools and libraries. Since 2021, lawmakers in all but four states have introduced nearly 400 pieces of legislation limiting what is taught in our public education system. “Return to Sender: Prison as Censorship,” an exhibition on display in New York City’s EFA Project Space through Oct. 28, connects these policies to our country’s mass incarceration crisis, framing prison as the “frontline war in a society that seeks to censor and control people and ideas.” The curator behind the exhibition is community organizer, educator, and prison-industrial complex (PIC) abolitionist Mariame Kaba. Kaba is the founder and director of Project NIA, a grassroots organization aiming to end youth incarceration, and co-founder of Survived & Punished, a group fighting the criminalization of domestic and sexual violence survivors. “We Do This ’Til We Free Us: Abolitionist Organizing and Transforming Justice,” her best-selling book, has been described as an “entry point into the world of abolitionist politics.”