Just News from Center X – October 30, 2020

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Dear Teachers, You’re Our Country’s Greatest Hope Right Now

Louie F. Rodriguez, Education Week

While many of us are well into what is clearly an unprecedented academic year, I just want to say thank you to you—our nation’s teachers, especially those who are giving 110 percent every day. Not only is your work and dedication vital to our children, schools, and communities, but it is also central to the progress of our society, especially during these particularly challenging times. You have always been at the forefront of shaping the next generation and you have always been there when we—the country—have needed you the most.

L.A. Unified schools face crucial election amid Covid-19 pandemic

Michael Burke, Ed Source

Two Los Angeles Unified school board seats are on the ballot next week in an election that could shape the direction of California’s largest school district amid the Covid-19 pandemic. With two of the board’s seven seats up for grabs, the election was already considered critical before the pandemic hit. Now, the stakes are higher. Covid-19 has forced students to learn from home since the end of last school year, exacerbating already-existing inequities for students with disabilities, Black and Latino students and other groups of students. The next school board, which will take office in December, will be tasked with guiding the district through the pandemic and will ultimately decide when and how to reopen campuses. Other issues are also at play in the election, including the implementation of a new law that imposes greater restrictions on charter schools.

Elementary School Principals’ Professional Learning

Stephanie Levin, Melanie Leung, Adam K. Edgerton, and Caitlin Scott, Learning Policy Institute

School principals are essential for ensuring that students have access to strong educational opportunities. They shape a vision of academic success for all students; create a climate hospitable to education; cultivate leadership in others so that teachers and other adults feel empowered to realize their schools’ visions; guide instructional decisions that improve teaching and learning; and manage people, data, and processes to foster school improvement. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and its revelation of stark inequities in educational opportunity, the role of the principal has become even more critical in meeting students’ needs. Principals’ many responsibilities are consequential, affecting teacher retention, school culture and climate, students’ social and emotional learning, and, ultimately, student achievement.

Language, Culture, and Power

Race, Place & Education [Audio]

Jaleel Howard, Office Hours with Allen, Noguera, Howard, and Harper

In this episode, our team discusses the president’s recent band on critical race theory and the 1619 project as well as several other pertinent issues in education today.

Raising ‘the Bar’ for ELL Instruction

Larry Ferlazzo, Education Week

First, a caveat. As we approached this question, we paused to discuss the phrase “common mistakes.” “Common mistakes” is so often used in reference to English-language learners’ (ELLs) efforts to grapple with a new language. Rather than focus on the common mistakes teachers make, we want to celebrate their creativity and collaboration, particularly in these challenging times. In many schools and districts where we work, 50 percent of students are classified as ELLs. In these districts, teachers are grounding new best practices for today’s remote and hybrid learning environments in trusted research, recognizing that whether instruction is delivered through the internet, telephone, or door to door, it must lift student voices in their home languages and in English.

The Silver Lining of Virtual School for Some Autistic Students

Meryl Alper, Slate

“10:36?! I’m going to be late!” 10-year-old Caleb screamed over Skype. (All of the names in this piece are pseudonyms.) On a Saturday morning this past April, in the thick of the pandemic’s initial wave, I wondered why he was in such a hurry. His mom, Audrey, leaned back into the frame of the laptop screen, through which I had been conducting a remote interview, and explained that he had “an appointment” at 11 a.m. “I’m going to talk with my friends and play Roblox,” Caleb said. It was a social activity that he had never engaged in prior to the COVID-19 outbreak and the subsequent move to online classes. Since 2013, I’ve been documenting the role of media and technology in the everyday lives of racially, ethnically, and socioeconomically diverse kids on the autism spectrum. Since mid-March, though, the “everyday” has become extraordinary, especially for children like Caleb, a Black autistic boy with ADHD whom I first interviewed in person in June 2019.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Chicago High Schoolers Educate Voters on Civic Duty [AUDIO]

Public News Service

While they can’t legally cast a ballot themselves yet, dozens of Illinois high school students are working to ensure that people of voting age understand the importance of their civic duty. As part of the WOKE Project, roughly 130 young people from three Chicago-area high schools are working the phones and pounding pavement to offer nonpartisan election information to eligible voters. Jasmine Roach, 17, a junior at Prosser Career Academy, said the work they’re doing is very important to her, personally. “I get to vote next year, so I learn a lot through this program,” she said. “It helped me learn about the politics, what’s going on with the election, what can we do to get our voices heard, especially in the Black and Brown community.”

California student activists push to lower voting age to advocate for change

Theresa Harrington, Ed Source

California student activists are mobilizing to try to lower the voting age in some elections so their views can be heard more forcefully from the polling booth. They say they want a stronger voice in a host of elections whether it’s for school boards, city and county offices or primary votes to determine who will run for president. And the issues they care about are wide-ranging — school budgets, Black Lives Matter, defunding the police, prison reform, immigrants’ rights, climate change and more. A host of city and statewide measures this year and next seek to empower 16- and 17-year-olds in local, even national elections.

Classrooms without walls, and hopefully COVID

Amelia Nierenberg, New York Times

First graders sit crisscross applesauce on tree stumps, hands sky-high to ask a question. Third graders peer closely at the plants growing in class gardens, or spread themselves out in a sunflower-filled space to read. When the sun beats down, students take shelter under shades made from boat sails. That’s what a school day is like this year in one community on Cape Cod, where every student now spends at least part of the day learning outdoors — at least when the rain holds off. Seeking ways to teach safely during the pandemic, schools across the United States have embraced the idea of classes in the open air, as Americans did during disease outbreaks a century ago.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

Arizona congressman details his road to Harvard as a 1st-gen college student to make a statement

Katie Kindelan, Good Morning America

An Arizona congressman who was the first in his family to attend college is sharing how he managed to graduate from Harvard University, despite the odds. Rep. Ruben Gallego, a Democrat, took to Twitter Monday to share his experience in response to comments made by presidential adviser Jared Kushner, who graduated from Harvard in 2003, one year prior to Gallego. Kushner drew criticism for saying on “Fox & Friends” that President Donald Trump wants to help Black people in America, but they have to “want to be successful” for his policies to work. “President Trump’s policies are the policies that can help people break out of the problems that they’re complaining about, but he can’t want them to be successful more than they want to be successful,” said Kushner, who is married to Trump’s daughter, fellow presidential adviser, Ivanka Trump. Gallego wrote in response to Kushner’s comments, “This how the 1% look at minorities. I was a classmate of Kushner let me tell you what I did to get into Harvard compared to what he did.”

Cleveland Students Organize to ‘Ban the Box’ on College Applications

Eleanor J. Bader, The Progressive

When Kevin Ballou was released from prison in 2017, he knew exactly what he wanted to do. As an inmate in the Marion Correctional Facility in Ohio, he’d earned nearly sixty academic credits and understood that completing an undergraduate degree on the outside was essential. Ballou’s story has a happy ending: He is now in his senior year at Cleveland State University (CSU), majoring in nonprofit administration, and expects to complete his degree in spring 2021. The first obstacle, Ballou says, was the application itself. “Have you ever pled guilty or been convicted of a criminal offense, or have charges pending against you?” it asked.

International Students Don’t Want to Study in the US Anymore

Jimin Kang, The Nation

In July, close to a million international students in the United States learned how much can change in eight days. When the Trump administration released its short-lived immigration directive on July 6, proposing unprecedented legal restrictions on academic visa holders in the country, international students—both in the country and outside of it— were forced into action.
Fearing deportation, those in the country waited for updates from their schools and reconsidered travel plans. Those overseas followed the news from a spectrum of time zones, trying to make sense of their educational plans. Many, like Princeton University senior Joanna Zhang, saw the future of their homes being thrown into uncertainty, leaving them, as Zhang described, “distraught and freaked out.”

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

No segregation of people with disabilities in schools

Carlos Ríos Espinosa and Maria Laura Canineu, Human Rights Watch

All people should have the right to education from childhood and as a lifelong process. No one should be subjected to discrimination based on biases about whether they can benefit from receiving education or not. In the last years, Brazil’s law for inclusion of people with disabilities has required that all schools provide inclusive education for people with disabilities, ending the previous ghettoization of students with disabilities in a parallel system of special schools. But on October 1, 2020, the government adopted a decree that is a direct attack on inclusive education, establishing a national policy encouraging states and municipalities to build special segregated schools and programs for people with disabilities.

Initiatives to close the digital divide must last beyond the COVID-19 pandemic to work

D. Antonio Cantù, The Conversation

As COVID-19 continues to force many schools to operate remotely, cities throughout the nation are stepping up to provide free internet service to public school students from families of lesser means. Washington, D.C., plans to provide free internet access to K-12 students in 25,000 low-income households for the 2020-2021 school year. In Philadelphia, any family with a public school student lacking internet service can get it free through June of 2022. In Chicago, a similar effort will provide free high-speed internet service to 100,000 public school students over the next four years. Since research consistently shows that students with internet access tend to do better academically than those without, the initiatives in Washington, Philadelphia and Chicago represent a welcome step toward closing the digital divide. However, if the free internet service lasts only as long as the COVID-19 pandemic, the digital divide may open back up before it even really begins to close.

“Some of My Kids Are Slipping Through the Cracks”

Jamilah Lemieux, Slate

In July, Slate sat down with four teachers for a candid conversation about their hopes and fears for the coming school year. “I’m scared,” one said. “The opportunity gap is just going to widen,” said another. And they all agreed: “When a kid or a teacher dies, everything is going to change.”
We’re now halfway through the fall semester—time for a midterm check-in. Our panel of teachers reconvened to talk about how remote learning is going, what it’s like to be back in the classroom, and the ups and downs of what may (hopefully) be the strangest academic year of their careers.

Public Schools and Private Dollars

Rethinking “Innovation Schools”: Strengths and Limitations of Autonomy-Based School Improvement Plans in Contexts of Widening Racial Inequality

Terrenda White and Anna Noble, National Education Policy Center

School districts around the country have launched new reform strategies that are designed to expand autonomy for public schools, often called “Innovation Schools.” Pursuant to these state- and local-level plans to create more autonomous schools, school leaders are granted greater amounts of authority over school operations such as curriculum, budgeting, and hiring, while districts continue to manage services related to teacher payroll and benefits. The authors explore what supports districts should provide to empower educators in improving education quality, and what role districts should play in the reforms. The brief provides recommendations to further autonomy and democratic participation while ensuring that the responsibility for addressing equity is shared at the district and the school levels.

Trump, Biden and NYC’s Public Schools: More Than Money?

Jarrett Murphy, City Limits

When schools have come up in the 2020 presidential campaign, it’s largely been about their front door, not their classrooms, students or kids. President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden mentioned schools several times during their two debates—but only as they argued over whether schools should be opened or closed during the pandemic. And that might be the most meaningful way the next presidential administration will affect public schools in New York City: by deciding or declining to help local governments and schools survive the fiscal aftershock of COVID-19.

Education Department Scrapped Tool for Defrauded Students to Recoup Money and Lied About it: Documents

Ramsey Touchberry, Newsweek

Newly obtained documents released Tuesday by congressional panels showed that the Department of Education ditched an online system—reportedly because it was too easy to use—earlier this year for student borrowers who were defrauded by their colleges or universities to recover their lost funds via loan forgiveness. The documents, which consisted of emails between a website builder and the Education Department’s Federal Student Aid office that were released by the House Oversight and Education Committees, also revealed that a department spokesperson lied at least twice about its handling of the web tool.

Other News of Note

Student protests in Thailand [Audio]

Will Brehm, FreshEd

Pro-democracy protests erupted in Thailand in February 2020. Students were in the vanguard. Such protests are extremely dangerous in Thailand: With me to talk about the protests is Kanokrat Lertchoosakul, an assistant professor at the Faculty of political science at Chulalongkorn University in Thailand. She has followed student activist movements for many years and has interviewed hundreds of student protesters. She specializes in student movements, left-wing activism and democratization in Thailand.

Across the U.S., Virtual Student Protests Erupt in Classrooms

PR Newswire

Over the past week students and allies of the Raise Your Hand movement for educational justice have staged virtual protests in online classes across the country to raise awareness of the gross inequities in America’s school systems that disproportionately impact low-income and BIPOC communities. Youth and adults alike have replaced their profile photos and virtual backgrounds with demands for drastic education reform. These online protests hope to drive public accountability for educational justice during a crowded election newscycle.

How Can We Rebuild Working-Class Politics? Let’s Go to “Strike School.”

Eric Blanc, Jacobin

Through­out Sep­tem­ber and Octo­ber, thou­sands of activists and union­ists from sev­en­ty coun­tries par­tic­i­pat­ed in the inter­na­tion­al ​“Strike School” orga­niz­ing train­ing led by Jane McAlevey and spon­sored by the Rosa Lux­em­burg Stiftung. Jacobin​’s Eric Blanc spoke with McAlevey about the key lessons of the course, the rea­sons why this tra­di­tion has been mar­gin­al­ized with­in orga­nized labor, and the ways smart orga­niz­ing meth­ods can help rebuild work­ing-class pol­i­tics and trans­form unions today.