Just News from Center X – October 6, 2023

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Carl Hiaasen, banned book week, and censorship in schools [Audio]

Chris Remington, 1A from NPR

Since she was little, Iris Mogul has always loved reading. When The 16-year-old junior at the Academy Academy for Advanced Academics in South Florida learned that her English teacher was considering not teaching a Toni Morrison book because of the state’s political environment, she decided to start a banned book club. There were 300 books removed from Florida schools last year, according to a list released by the Florida Department of Education.

Biden touts efforts to ease student debt, including $9B more in loan forgiveness

Kyla Guilfoil, NBC News

President Joe Biden on Wednesday touted his administration’s efforts to address student debt, including an additional $9 billion in relief that the White House announced. The additional relief, set to help about 125,000 Americans, brings the Biden administration’s total approved debt cancellation to $127 billion for nearly 3.6 million Americans, Biden said in remarks at the White House. “This kind of relief is life-changing for individuals and their families, but it’s good for our economy as a whole as well. By free millions of Americans from the crushing burden of student debt, it means they can go and get their lives in order,” Biden said.

Generations of students remember 1968 massacre in march through Mexico City

Daniel Shailer, The Associated Press

Chanting in unison, students marched through downtown Mexico City on Monday evening, marking 55 years since the military massacred hundreds of students in Tlatelolco plaza. Enrique Treviño Taudres survived the massacre and now marches every year with the Pro Democratic Freedoms 68 Committee. “People know a lot and forget easily,” he said, adding that the memory of Tlatelolco holds important lessons for modern Mexico. As many as 300 people were massacred at a student protest in Tlatelolco plaza on Oct. 2, 1968, in what the Mexican government initially reported as the lawful suppression of a violent riot just 10 days before the Summer Olympics’ Opening Ceremony in Mexico City.

Language, Culture, and Power

Dual-language programs in Arizona [Video]

Arizona PBS

Dual-language programs have been the subject of a conflict between Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Horne, and Attorney General Kris Mayes. For students who are not proficient in English, dual-language programs teach them half of the time in English and half of the time in their native language. Superintendent Tom Horne, a foe of bilingual education, wants to defund those programs. Attorney General Kris Mayes said he does not have that authority. We discussed dual-language programs with Marisol Garcia, president of the Arizona Education Association. Arizona is the only state in the country with a law preventing students from being taught in other languages.

Support for Houston ISD’s Spanish speakers has dwindled under state-appointed leader, parents say

Brian Lopez, The Texas Tribune

For Celina Manzano, Pugh Elementary School in East Houston is no longer the welcoming place it used to be. Manzano’s family mostly speaks Spanish, so her son Maycol’s teachers used to provide them with translations of his homework and make time for her to ask questions. But under the leadership of the state’s recently appointed superintendent, most of those teachers left after they were required to reapply for their jobs. Accommodations for Spanish speakers are practically gone, Manzano said. Maycol, who started second grade this year, has told her he doesn’t want to go to school anymore. It’s been over a month since the Houston Independent School District started its first school year after the state ousted its democratically elected school board and replaced the district’s previous leader with Superintendent Mike Miles. Since then, complaints have been piling up among Spanish-speaking families, who say they are not getting the support they need.

In our schools, many families speak Mixteco. So we decided to translate children’s books into the Indigenous language.

Karling Aguilera-Fort, Chalkbeat

For the past four years, I served as superintendent of Oxnard School District, located 30 miles up the California coast from Malibu. But unlike Malibu, most of our school district’s 14,000 students come from low-income, Spanish-speaking families. Yet, not all of our Latino families consider Spanish their first or second language. Nearly 500 families reported speaking Mixteco, an Indigenous language of Southern Mexico, which has scores of variants.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

‘They just tried to scare us’: How anti-abortion centers teach sex ed inside public schools

Sarah Butrymowicz and Caroline Preston, Hechinger Report

When Sarah Anderson travels to Texas middle schools to teach sex education, she brings props: a toy baby to represent unplanned pregnancy, a snake for bacterial infections, a pregnancy test for infertility, a skeleton for AIDS and cancer. The students are told that if they have sex before marriage, emotional risks include depression, guilt and anxiety. They’re taught that condoms — while often labeled as a method for “safe sex” — do not keep them safe from pregnancy or sometimes-incurable sexually transmitted infections. Her curriculum for high schoolers, meanwhile, says that people who “go from sex partner to sex partner are causing their brains to mold and gel so that it eventually begins accepting that sexual pattern as normal.” This, the curriculum says, could “interfere with the development of the neurological circuits” needed for a long-term relationship.

The Case for Child Welfare Abolition

Roxanna Asgarian, In These Times

Early last December, CBS Sunday Morning ran a 12-minute segment about the harms of the child welfare system. The report led with the story of Vanessa Peoples, a Colorado nursing student and mother of three who became the subject of an abuse investigation after her two-year-old briefly wandered away from a family picnic. A stranger saw the child and called the police, despite the fact that Peoples, who is Black, caught up with her son shortly afterward. The call initiated an investigation from child protective services (CPS). A month later, a social worker made an unannounced visit to Peoples’ home; when Peoples didn’t immediately answer (because she was doing laundry in the basement), the social worker called the police, who ended up violently hogtying Peoples and charging her with reckless endangerment of a child. Peoples won a settlement against the city of Aurora for using excessive force, but she was still traumatized — and left with a criminal conviction that makes it difficult for her to find employment.

Meet the turtle pond whistler: How nature benefits student mental health [Audio]

Education Beat Podcast

When Natale Canepa was stuck at home to take college classes online in 2020, he was miserable. He couldn’t get outside as much to see nature, and he couldn’t whistle, his favorite pastime. So when in-person classes returned to San Diego State, Natale celebrated by whistling at his favorite pocket of nature on campus — the turtle pond. Now known as the Turtle Pond Whistler, Natale spreads joy and has attracted more students to the turtle pond.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

Beyond crayons and circle time: What California transitional kindergarten needs to succeed

Carolyn Jones, Cal Matters

Thanks to TikTok videos, billboards and other creative marketing techniques, enrollment in  transitional kindergarten in California appears to be climbing. But advocates are keeping an eye on how those 4-year-olds are spending their class time — which they say will be a key factor in whether the $2.7 billion program is a success. “Quality is top of mind for us. Some districts are treating it like a second year of kindergarten, which we know doesn’t work,” said Benjamin Cottingham, with Policy Analysis for California Education, an independent, nonpartisan research center. “To be effective, TK needs to be a play-based, developmentally appropriate course of study.”

The War on Black Educators and Wokeism

David A. Love, LA Progressive

Kathleen McElroy, a Black woman, a preeminent professor and journalist – was hired to revive the journalism program at Texas A&M University. Then came the backlash from white conservatives within the system who took issue with her work at the New York Times and her focus on diversity and inclusion in newsrooms. Texas A&M then backtracked and watered down its offer, which McElroy rejected. This is but the latest example of Black educators under attack — scrutinized, marginalized and scapegoated by white supremacists who would remove Black people from education. On Thursday, Texas A&M reached a $1 million settlement with McElroy.

After 30 years in California prison, he starts new life at UC Irvine [Video]

Betty Márquez Rosales, EdSource

Patrick Acuña is starting his final year as a social ecology major at one of California’s most prestigious universities. It’s in sharp contrast to his nearly 30 years inside state prisons on a life without parole sentence. In the year since his release, Acuña transitioned between two historically dichotomous institutions: the prison he believed he would die in and University of California, Irvine brimming with opportunities for a man who completed high school while in juvenile hall decades ago.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Localism, Pretext, and the Color of School Dollars

Derek W. Black, Minnesota Law Review

Public schools are as racially isolated now as they were in the 1970s when school desegregation began in earnest. Likewise, even after decades of reform efforts, school districts serving predominantly poor and minority students still operate on thousands of dollars less per pupil than their peers. Most states have made matters worse over the last decade by substantially reducing their overall financial commitment to education. Those cuts exacerbate widespread funding inequity for districts that cannot make up the difference. These racial and economic trends only widen existing achievement gaps for disadvantaged students.

School Funding Effectiveness:  Evidence From California’s Local Control Funding Formula

Rucker C. Johnson, Learning Policy Institute

In 2013, California implemented an ambitious school funding reform, the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), which allocates state funding by the proportion of unduplicated “high-need” students in the district (students from low-income families, English learners, and youth in foster care). The goal of LCFF was to reduce academic achievement gaps between socioeconomically disadvantaged children and their more advantaged counterparts by committing $18 billion in increased state support, allocated based on pupil needs, to be incrementally distributed over 8 years. This reform was distinctive in two ways. First, its multiyear design pre-committed funds, so districts were assured this would not be a temporary, reversible change. This commitment enabled districts to plan long-term, transformative initiatives rather than one-off expenditures. Second, the funding came with minimal restrictions on how schools could use it, giving fiscal sovereignty to districts. This study investigates the impacts of LCFF-induced increases in per-pupil spending on student achievement and behavioral and attainment outcomes.

New research sheds light on how informal segregation is produced on public playgrounds

Stacey Coleen Lubag, PsyPost

A new study uncovered how informal segregation persists in public playgrounds in multiethnic neighborhoods in Helsinki, Finland. The research, made public in the Social Psychology Quarterly journal, highlights that daily norms and parenting practices can limit interaction between ethnic groups, reinforcing societal divisions. Previous studies have often focused on controlled settings to examine how ethnic or racial groups interact, overlooking real-world complexities. In particular, these studies have centered on individual attitudes — while largely ignoring the impact of daily routines and national norms. Playgrounds are a national norm in their importance as a public space for families. In Helsinki, Finland — playgrounds offer a unique setting to study ethnic and racial interactions, as they tend to come equipped with instructors providing early childhood education, making them a significant part of Finnish family life.

Democracy and the Public Interest

Students Suspended in School May Vote Less as Adults

Sarah Sparks, Ed Week

Suspending students from school for misbehavior can make it more likely that they disengage, not just from school but perhaps also from civic life as adults.

A new study presented here at the Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness meeting finds that students suspended once or twice in high school were more than 16 percent less likely to vote regularly as adults than those who did not experience exclusionary discipline; those suspended more often were more than 25 percent less likely to vote regularly. “Schools shape students’ attitudes about civic engagement, students’ concern for the common good, their understanding of whether civic institutions are fair and just, and their belief in whether it is possible to change systems for the better,” said Karishma Furtado, an equity scholar at the Urban Institute and co-author of the study, who spoke at SREE on Saturday.

Learning at Temecula Valley Unified suffers as censorship fears rise

Mallika Seshadri, EdSource

May 12 began as a typical school day for Temecula Valley High School drama teacher Greg Bailey. But when he opened his mailbox, he found a printed copy of an email, sent on May 7, complaining that he taught the Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Angels in America” by Tony Kushner, which deals with the AIDS epidemic in New York during the 1980s. Allegations mounted that Bailey was grooming students and that he forced them to perform a short, explicit scene involving a gay man who makes questionable choices while dealing with the pain of his partner who was dying of AIDS.

California Gov. Newsom signs LGBTQ-inclusive measures

Naaz Modan, K-12 Dive

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law four separate LGBTQ+-inclusive measures on Monday impacting schools across the state, widening a gap between conservative and liberal-leaning states in how they serve and include LGBTQ+ students. Together, the laws will require the state Department of Education to create a LGBTQ+ task force, require schools to provide LGBTQ+ training for staff serving grades 7-12 as well as equitable access to all-gender restrooms, and prohibit school districts from banning books or instructional materials based on their inclusive and diverse perspectives.

Other News of Note

Fighting for LGBTQ+ Youth and Families: An Interview with Melissa Bollow

Jody Sokolower, Rethinking Schools

On July 12, 2023, 1st-grade teacher Melissa Bollow Tempel was fired in a unanimous vote by the Waukesha, Wisconsin, school board. Her offense: a tweet in which she criticized the district’s decision to bar her students from singing the Dolly Parton and Miley Cyrus song “Rainbowland” in a school concert. Censorship of “Rainbowland” followed two years of escalating repression, from disbanding the district’s equity team to ripping rainbow flags and anti-racist signs off classroom walls, banning rainbow lanyards, and pulling LGBTQ+ books off library shelves. The district even removed displays of its own Nondiscrimination and Access to Equal Educational Opportunity Policy as well as signs that read “This school welcomes you.”  On Sept. 5, 2023 — which would have been Tempel’s first day of school with her students in Waukesha — Tempel filed suit in Federal District Court against the school district and Superintendent James Sebert.

Dolores Sanchez, trailblazing L.A. community newspaper publisher, dies at 87

Robert J. Lopez & Thomas Curwen, LA Times

Dolores Sanchez, a longtime community leader who was the publisher of a chain of bilingual newspapers that provided a critical voice for residents in the predominantly Latino communities on Los Angeles’ Eastside and neighboring cities, has died. She was 87. Sanchez had been ill in recent months and died Thursday, daughter Gloria Alvarez said. Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa described Sanchez as a towering figure whose contributions extended beyond journalism into political and social activism.