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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post
In 2008, Time magazine published a cover showing Michelle Rhee, then the District’s schools chancellor, standing in a classroom holding a broom. The headline was, “How To Fix America’s Schools,” and the blurb for the piece said: “Michelle Rhee is the head of Washington, D.C., schools. Her battle against bad teachers has earned her admirers and enemies — and could transform public education.” As it turned out, the standardized-test reform movement that Rhee helped lead has been anything but the success that its leaders had promised, and she left the job in a bit of a huff when her mentor, then-Mayor Adrian Fenty (D), was defeated in a primary election in 2010. But her attack on teachers — many of whom she fired, and who she insisted should be evaluated by student standardized test scores, despite the advice of assessment experts — had legs for years. The Obama administration and state legislatures jumped on the bandwagon, even when only English and math were tested. Sometimes, educators wound up being evaluated based on test results from students they didn’t have or subjects they didn’t teach.
David Washburn, EdSource
Gov. Jerry Brown dealt a blow Sunday to school discipline reform efforts in California with his veto of a bill that would have expanded the state’s ban on suspensions for “disruption and defiance” to include grades K-8. Since 2015, it has been illegal in California for schools to suspend children in grades K-3 for behavior that is unruly but not dangerous. Eliminating these suspensions has long been a priority for youth and civil rights advocates because they are disproportionately meted out to students of color and those with disabilities. SB 607, authored by state Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, originally called for expanding the ban to include all grades, K-12. But she agreed to take the high school grades out in order to gain the support of the Association of California School Administrators and the California School Boards Association. That, however, was not enough for Brown, who had vetoed a similar bill in 2012 before signing the K-3 ban in 2014. Like before, he cited his belief in local control as his primary reason for rejecting the bill. “Teachers and principals are on the front lines of educating our children and are in the best position to make decisions about order and discipline in the classrooms,” Brown said in the veto message he issued on Sunday.
Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post; Sam Wineburg, Stanford University
As a social scientist, you dream that your research will lead to changes in the world. Recently, I got to live that dream: California passed a bill to provide resources for teaching media literacy in that state’s schools, and the bill cited a study by my research team for support. I should be ecstatic, right? I’m not. I’m worried. The bill’s authors are certainly correct that kids need help. Our 2016 survey of 7,804 students in 12 states showed that today’s “digital natives” are digitally naive. They mistake ads for news stories. They equate placement in a Google search with trustworthiness. They’re blinded by charts brimming with data, rarely asking where the data come from. I share legislators’ view that we need to do something. What worries me is that the solutions they propose are more likely to exacerbate the problem than solve it.
Language, Culture, and Power
Thomas S. Dee and Mark Murphy, Center for Education Policy Analysis
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is the federal law-enforcement agency with primary responsibility for enforcing immigration laws within the U.S. However, for over a decade, ICE has formed partnerships that also allow local police to enforce immigration law (i.e., identifying and arresting undocumented residents). Prior studies, using survey data with self reported immigrant and citizenship status, provide mixed evidence on the demographic impact of these controversial partnerships. This study presents new evidence based on the public-school enrollment of Hispanic students. We find that local ICE partnerships reduce the number of Hispanic students by nearly 10 percent within 2 years. We estimate that the local ICE partnerships enacted before 2012 displaced over 300,000 Hispanic students. These effects appear to be concentrated among elementary-school students. We find no corresponding effects on the enrollment of non-Hispanic students. We also find no evidence that ICE partnerships reduced pupil-teacher ratios or the percent of students eligible for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).
‘You do have a voice, and your voice matters’ — Latino parents and students in Los Angeles are encouraged to participate in upcoming elections
Esmeralda Fabián Romero, LA School Report
With critical elections in November for leaders in California who will affect children’s education, Latino parents need to know that their voice matters and that they can make a difference — even if they can’t vote. That was the message from school and community organizers at a weekend workshop for dozens of Latino parents from South Los Angeles who have stepped up to become “parent ambassadors” for their children’s education. They heard that their immigration status or the language they speak at home should not be barriers to participating in the Nov. 6 elections. “There are three key positions that you should know will be up for election, and they will make major decisions affecting your child’s education,” Genesie Muñoz, a community representative for UnidosUS, a Latino advocacy group, said in Spanish at Saturday’s “Parent Ambassadors Induction” workshop organized by Synergy Academies charter schools. Muñoz said the election of a new California governor matters to Latino parents because “he decides on the budget, the money that goes to our schools.” The state superintendent “decides on the instruction, what our kids learn in the classroom, and other major decisions for all public schools in the state.” Along with the lieutenant governor, “These three people who are elected will make decisions that will impact your kids’ education for the next four years or even longer, so you better vote for the ones you think best represent your interests,” she said.
Tara García Mathewson, The Hechinger Report
Story time is a classic part of the school day for the nation’s youngest learners. Before they can read, preschoolers and early elementary school students sit with teachers and watch and listen as stories are narrated to them. Besides learning new vocabulary words and starting to connect written and spoken language, they learn to love stories and build a foundation for reading that can serve them for the rest of their lives. Melissa Malzkuhn has developed a new way for deaf children to get the same benefits of story time through an app. Malzkuhn is the founder and creative director of the Motion Light Lab in the Science of Learning Center on Visual Language and Visual Learning (VL2) at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. The VL2 Storybook Apps, available as individual books in the Apple app store, bring together English and American Sign Language so young children can connect the two languages. Children (or those reading with them) can choose to take in the story in one of two modes – watch or read. “Watch” mode features the narrator telling the story in American Sign Language. The goal, Malzkuhn said, is strictly to give deaf children the chance to understand a story and enjoy it in their native language. “Read” mode looks like any other children’s book, with English words on a page. Children can swipe to go from one page to another, but, uniquely, vocabulary words are bolded on each page so if children don’t understand them, they can tap them to open a video in which a narrator will offer the ASL sign for the word as well as the finger-spelled version (letter by letter).
Whole Children and Strong Communities
Value the creative and social-emotional upsides of social media suggests new survey from Common Sense Media
Mimi Ito, Connected Learning Alliance
Earlier this month, Common Sense Media released its report, Social Media, Social Life: Teens Reveal Their Experiences. The report describes research conducted by veteran digital youth researcher Victoria Rideout and Common Sense Media’s Senior Director of Research, Michael Robb. “This survey is the organization’s second report tracking social media use among American teenagers — the original report of the same name was published in 2012 — and offers a revealing look at teens’ social media use over the last six years and how much it has come to dominate their lives.” Here are a few highlights for the Connected Learning Alliance.
YouthTruth Student Survey
Bullying in the United States is changing, and not in the way we’d hope. To help educators, parents, education funders, and students grapple with the shifting landscape, we went straight to the source for more insight. We asked over 160,000 students across 27 states about their experiences with bullying during the 2015-16, 2016-17, and 2017-18 school years.
Anya Kamenetz, NPR
When the Access Hollywood tape of Donald Trump, along with sexual assault stories involving Brock Turner and Bill Cosby, hit the news back in 2016, a middle school student in Maryland named Maeve Sanford-Kelly was listening. “I was frankly really distraught,” she recalls. “I felt powerless. I assumed that this was what happened, that sexual harassment and sexual assault was a thing in our society and it wasn’t going to change because it was part of the power structure.” Her mother had an idea that might help. Ariana Kelly, a Democrat, is a delegate in the Maryland state legislature, and she introduced a bill that would require the state to include consent in sex ed classes. Maeve and her friends, as well as student groups across the state, campaigned and testified for the bill. It defines consent as “the unambiguous and voluntary agreement between all participants in each physical act within the course of interpersonal relationships.” Before they turn 18, about 8 percent of girls and 0.7 percent of boys experience rape or attempted rape, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the majority of these reported cases, the CDC says, the perpetrator is a peer: either an acquaintance or a current or former intimate partner. And yet few schools across the country are required to teach about consent or healthy relationships in sex ed classes.
Access, Assessment, and Advancement
John Fensterwald, EdSource
Two separate panels of experienced California teachers and administrators were given background information and three days together to help answer a longer version of this question: How much would it cost to provide all California students the academic knowledge, skills and opportunities they’ll need to successfully pursue their plans after high school and participate in civic life? After the educators determined the necessary staffing and resources and researchers crunched the numbers, the answer — the price of adequately funding California’s schools — was $91.8 billion per year, $22.1 billion more than districts spent in 2016-17. The 32 percent increase would include providing preschool to all 4-year-olds and hiring more counselors, nurses, specialized teachers and administrators to reduce one of the nation’s highest ratios of students to school staff. (The panelists first learned the final spending total when the study was published.) “What Does It Cost to Educate California’s Students? A Professional Judgment Approach” details how the panels determined the amount of the funding increase and the reasoning behind it. The 78-page study and 224-page technical appendix will be one of the more closely scrutinized studies in Getting Down to Facts II, a compilation of 36 reports that was released Sept. 17. Stanford University and the university-affiliated nonprofit Policy Analysis for California Education, or PACE, coordinated the project.
Howard Blume and Sonali Kohli, Los Angeles Times
California students’ standardized test scores inched up this year, though gains among younger students were nearly canceled out by a drop at the high school level. More than 3 million students in third through eighth grade and 11th grade took the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress in the spring. The pace of improvement was a little better than last year, but the results were hardly cause for celebration. Just under half the students met standards in English and fewer than 4 in 10 in math. Still, officials accentuated the positive. The strongest gains were in reading scores in third grade (up 4.3 percentage points) and fourth grade (up 3.6 percentage points). The youngest students tested also made the biggest strides in math, although those gains were not as large. Los Angeles Unified, California’s largest school system, improved at a faster rate than the state overall, though its scores still fell below state averages. About 42% of L.A. Unified students met or exceeded state standards in reading, while about 32% did so in math.
Sabia Prescott, Jenny Muniz, and Kristina Ishmael, Pacific Standard
Classrooms today look much different than they did even just a couple decades ago. The number of students of color enrolled in public schools, for instance, has increased, and they’re expected to be the majority of high school graduates by 2025. Likewise, the number of students with disabilities, English learners, and LGBTQ students in pre K-12 has increased steadily over the past 10 years. For all these different types of students, there are just as many different learning styles and needs. Consider students with disabilities. They may need learning materials with adaptable text or professional development guidelines for teachers. English learners, meanwhile, may require materials with more visuals to scaffold English acquisition. Different still, it’s important for queer students to see people like them recognized—and normalized—in the curriculum. But here’s the rub: We know that meeting these needs is critical to success—students learn better when they see themselves reflected in the curriculum, when they feel safe in school, and when they feel respected by their teachers and peers. And yet, many schools aren’t equipped to meet students where they are—and a big part of that problem centers on schools’ and students’ limited access to high-quality materials. More and more, though, that’s beginning to change.
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
Emily Badger and Quoctrung Bui, The New York Times
Some places lift children out of poverty. Others trap them there. Now cities are trying to do something about the difference.
The children of 8B: One classroom, 31 journeys, and the reason it’s so hard to fix Detroit’s schools
Erin Einhorn and Chastity Pratt Dawsey, Chalkbeat
By the time she’d reached the eighth grade, Shantaya Davis had attended so many schools — at least five — that she couldn’t name them all. “I don’t even know what grade it was,” she said of one school, the one her mother decided wasn’t safe after she was threatened by a man in a car after class one day. “I just know I went there and it was like half a year … I went to a lot of schools. That’s why I keep forgetting.” Her classmate, Shawntia Reeves, attended four schools on the way to eighth grade. Or maybe five. Her parents weren’t exactly sure of the details, beyond the fact that she’d started kindergarten at the small neighborhood school her family had attended for generations. When the district shut the school down to cut costs, she bounced around, forced to repeatedly make new friends, then lose them again. “It makes you feel like you ain’t got no one to talk to,” she said. Both girls were members of the same eighth grade class at Bethune Elementary-Middle School in northwest Detroit last year. They posed with their classmates for a photo in June — a portrait of middle-school grads who looked like they’d known each other for years. But the 31 eighth-graders in Bethune’s “8B” homeroom had collectively attended a total of 128 schools — an average of more than four schools each.
Matt Krupnick, The Hechinger Report
Robert Palmer knows how uncomfortable it can feel to be a black professor at a predominantly white college. He recalls speaking with a white student he was advising at public Binghamton University in upstate New York, where just 4 percent of tenure-track instructors in 2016 were black, according to federal figures. “He comes out of nowhere and says he used to be a bouncer and would keep his friends from saying … he actually said the word,” said Palmer, still taken aback by the memory. “He didn’t say ‘the N-word.’ He actually said the word. The awkwardness of that encounter and others like it helped push Palmer to Howard University, an historically black institution in Washington, D.C., where he’s now an associate professor of education and on a faculty that is 58 percent black. There he joined the disproportionate number of black, tenure-track college and university instructors — one out of every five — who are clustered at 72 historically black four-year institutions that report the race of their employees. This despite the fact that those schools account for just 1.7 percent of all faculty nationwide. Meanwhile, many predominantly white four-year public and nonprofit colleges and universities that have been promising for years to improve the diversity of their teaching ranks have made almost no progress in doing so.
Public Schools and Private $
Peter Greene, Forbes
Because the term “charter schools” often comes with the word “public” attached, parents can be surprised by some of the ways in which charters do not operate like actual public schools. Here are just a few factors that emptors should caveat when considering a charter school.
Marta W. Aldrich, Chalkbeat
A Texas pastor who has fought private school vouchers in his home state is bringing his call of support for traditional public education to Tennessee. “Vouchers are corrupt. It’s a failed idea,” said the Rev. Charles Foster Johnson of government programs that allow parents to use taxpayer money to pay for tuition at private or religious schools. The Baptist minister from Fort Worth is founder of Pastors for Texas Children, and on Tuesday launched a four-day, five-stop statewide speaking tour in Chattanooga. Since its founding in 2013, his nonprofit group has mobilized more than 2,000 Texas pastors and faith leaders to help stall voucher bills in that state’s legislature. He hopes to do the same in Tennessee. Johnson’s mission is starkly different from church leaders who want public funding available for religious and private schools. He is a fierce advocate of separation of church and state, as well as local control of schools and education funding. “We want full funding of our public schools, and we are against privatization that diverts God’s common good money to underwrite private schools,” he said. “The public should stay public, and the private should stay private.”
This lawmaker stands to earn at least $11M on his own charter schools. His votes helped lay the groundwork.
Craig Harris, Arizona Republic
Near the end of the 2018 legislative session, lawmakers were poised to pass a budget that would give educators large raises and require greater financial accountability for both district and charter schools. House Speaker J.D. Mesnard and Rep. Eddie Farnsworth had other plans. Well after midnight, Mesnard, with Farnsworth as point man during a testy floor debate with Democrats, added an amendment to the budget. It exempted charter schools from procurement and conflict-of-interest laws and from a requirement to disclose their entire annual spending plans on school websites. Only district schools would be required to abide by those requirements. Farnsworth wasn’t just a lawmaker interested in the details of the legislation. He also runs a four-campus East Valley charter chain that — because of the amendment — would remain free of state oversight of its spending. Farnsworth’s involvement in the last-minute maneuver highlights how the Gilbert Republican’s roles as a state lawmaker and charter-school operator have for years mingled at the Arizona Capitol, almost always to the benefit of Farnsworth and the state’s other charter school operators.
Other News of Note
Amy Goodman, Democracy Now!
As Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh objects to being held accountable for his behavior in high school, we look at the criminalization of black and brown students that has led to what is known as the school-to-prison pipeline. We speak with a roundtable of community activists engaged in the fight to save schools and push for alternatives to punishment and privatization. Their voices are highlighted in a new book titled “Lift Us Up, Don’t Push Us Out! Voices from the Front Lines of the Educational Justice Movement.” In Chicago, we speak with Jitu Brown, the national director of the Journey for Justice. In Washington, D.C., we speak with Zakiya Sankara-Jabar, the co-founder of Racial Justice NOW! and field organizer for the Dignity in Schools Campaign. And in New York City, we speak with high school teacher and restorative justice coordinator E.M. Eisen-Markowitz and Mark Warren, co-author of “Lift Us Up, Don’t Push Us Out!”