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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
Closing the opportunity gap: How positive outlier districts in California are pursuing equitable access to deeper learning [REPORT]
Dion Burns, Linda Darling-Hammond, Caitlin Scott, Taylor Allbright, Desiree Carver-Thomas, Eupha Jeanne Daramola, Jane L. David, Laura E. Hernández, Kate E. Kennedy, Julie A. Marsh, Crystal A. Moore, Anne Podolsky, Patrick M. Shields & Joan Talbert, Learning Policy Institute
In California’s Positive Outliers: Districts Beating the Odds LPI researchers identified more than a hundred California school districts in which students across racial/ethnic groups are outperforming similar students in other districts on new math and reading assessments that measure higher order thinking and performance skills. Many of these districts also are closing the gap on a range of other outcomes, including graduation rates.
John Fensterwald, EdSource
After intensive down-to-the-wire negotiations, legislative leaders and staff from the governor’s office have agreed on legislation to place a $15 billion preschool, K-12 and higher education construction bond before voters in March 2020. The $9 billion that will go to K-12 will be slightly less than Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach, had proposed with Assembly Bill 48, but the distribution of the money will be significantly different.
Sylvia Allegretto, The Atlantic
As kids and parents settle into another school year, principals and superintendents in districts across the country are still scrambling to fill vacant teaching positions. The severity of the shortages varies from state to state; across urban, suburban, and rural districts; and from one subject area to another. The number of unfilled positions is greatest in high-needs schools, such as those with high poverty rates or a disproportionate number of students with learning disabilities or English-language deficiencies.
Language, Culture, and Power
‘I’ll make sure that they’re heard’: LAUSD’s new student board member outlines her priorities as the voice of 600,000
Taylor Swaak, LA School Report
High school senior Frances Suavillo has always believed education is a right and not a privilege. She’s seen firsthand when it’s not. Born and raised in the Philippines until she was 9 years old, Suavillo saw deep-seated educational inequity in the Southeast Asian island country — how “money dictated who went to school and who didn’t,” she said. And in the years since she moved to the U.S. in 2010, that reality has only strengthened her resolve to lift and empower all students. Suavillo, who attends Carson High School in Los Angeles, was sworn in Sept. 3 as L.A. Unified’s fifth student school board member since the board voted to revive student participation in 2014. Thirty-nine Associated Student Body representatives from 22 high schools across the district elected Suavillo to the seat in April, over six other finalists. She is replacing Class of 2019 graduate Tyler Okeke to represent more than 600,000 students: roughly 486,000 from traditional schools and more than 138,000 attending charters.
Topeka Sam of the National Council of Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women & Girls discusses how families are impacted when mothers are incarcerated, and discusses alternative methods of rehabilitation that could better serve their children. Aswad Thomas, John Legend and Robin Steinberg join the conversation at Justice For All, an MSNBC Town Hall event with Lester Holt on criminal justice reform at Sing Sing Correctional Facility in New York.
Eliza Shapiro. The New York Times
They have locked themselves inside school buildings for days on end to protest discrimination. They have called into Mayor Bill de Blasio’s weekly radio show to demand action on integrating schools, and have even followed him to Iowa to confront him about arrests and suspensions for students of color. Education politics in New York City is often controlled by well-connected lobbyists, wealthy benefactors and crisis communications professionals. But recently, the most prominent — and sometimes most effective — movements for change in the nation’s largest school system have been created and fueled by those with the most at stake: students.
Whole Children and Strong Communities
Danielle Allen, The Washington Post
It’s back-to-school time. Hoorah! Or perhaps not . . . It’s a tough few days. As one of my friends says, it’s like playing Time Tetris. Parents are asked to think about all kinds of things: What’s the transportation plan — bus, carpool, walk? What’s the after-school plan? Where will the kids be when, and with which adults? Have you given all relevant medical and allergen information to the school nurse? How are you handling lunches — make at home in the morning rush or buy at school? Have you signed all the forms about technology use and anti-bullying? At the risk of piling on, here’s one more question parents should think about: Will your child have civics this year?
Daniel Willingham, Education: Future Frontiers
Individuals vary in their views of what students should be taught. How should teachers discuss misdeeds of a nation’s founders? What is the minimum accomplishment expected of each student in mathematics? But there is no disagreement on the importance of critical thinking skills. In free societies, the ability to think critically is viewed as a cornerstone of individual civic engagement and economic success. We may disagree about which content students should learn, but we at least agree that, whatever they end up learning, students ought to think critically about it. Despite this consensus it’s not clear we know what we mean by “critical thinking.” I will offer a commonsensical view (Willingham, 2007). You are thinking critically if (1) your thinking is novel—that is, you aren’t simply drawing a conclusion from a memory of a previous situation and (2) your thinking is self-directed—that is, you are not merely executing instructions given by someone else and (3) your thinking is effective—that is, you respect certain conventions that make thinking more likely to yield useful conclusions. These would be conventions like “consider both sides of an issue,” and “offer evidence for claims made,” and “don’t let emotion interfere with reason.” This last characteristic will be our main concern, and as we’ll see, what constitutes effective thinking varies from domain to domain.
Linda Jacobson, Education Dive
Educators often say frequent absences are a symptom of another issue in a student’s life. Those issues involve students’ health and safety, a sense of belonging, academic engagement, and students’ and adults’ social and emotional skills, according to a new report from Attendance Works and the American Institutes for Research (AIR). These “conditions for learning” — whether positive or negative — are intertwined with students’ attendance patterns, and they especially matter for children in poverty, students of color and those with disabilities, the authors said.
Access, Assessment, and Advancement
The Learning Network
Have you ever attended a school or program where students were grouped by ability levels? If yes, was this beneficial to your learning and education? Last month, an educational task force created by Mayor Bill de Blasio to find ways to desegregate New York City’s school system released a proposal calling for the elimination of the city’s gifted and talented programs. Should gifted and talented programs be abolished to promote equity and fairness, and to help desegregate public schools? Or is that unfair to students labeled gifted?
Felicia Mello, VC Star
The demise of a high-profile proposal to let homeless students sleep overnight in community college parking lots illustrates just how much California has struggled to solve the student housing crisis. When Assemblyman Marc Berman introduced the bill in the Legislature earlier this year, it was met with equal parts applause and ridicule. Homeless students said they desperately needed safe places to park the cars that double as their bedrooms. Community colleges worried about security. And everyday Californians wondered, “How did things get this bad?” Now Berman, a Democrat from Palo Alto, has decided not to move the bill forward after the Senate Appropriations Committee added amendments that delayed it until 2021, made it easier for colleges to opt out, and exempted colleges within 250 feet of an elementary school.
Vikash Reddy, The Los Angeles Times
The California State University is considering a requirement that high school seniors applying to the Cal State system complete an additional math or quantitative reasoning course on top of the academic courses that are currently required by both the Cal State and the University of California for admission. The Cal State board of trustees is set to hear a formal proposal of this change at its meeting later this month, with a vote on the measure planned in November. Moving forward with this plan would create new and harmful barriers to accessing the CSU system, with a disproportionate impact on minority students and students from low-income families. This approach would do little or nothing to ensure better college graduation rates, and it would create a confusing situation where students would find themselves eligible to apply for admission to the UC system, but not to Cal State.
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
Gloria Browne-Marshall, Time
Busing, the transporting of public school children to end racial segregation, was thrust back into national conversations when Senator Kamala Harris criticized Vice President Joe Biden, over his record on it at the first Democratic presidential debate. But while her words sparked a renewed conversation about the subject, busing itself has been dead for 20 years this month. Busing is a complex issue. I know this from both my personal and professional experience. I also know that the re-segregation of public schools means separate but unequal opportunities for African-American children. Like Kamala Harris, I was bused. Like Harris, I went to law school. In 1999, as a young civil rights attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, my caseload included the landmark busing case Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education in North Carolina, in which white parents challenged busing and won.
Anthony Abraham Jack, The New York Times
Night came early in the chill of March. It was my freshman year at Amherst College, a small school of some 1,600 undergraduates in the hills of western Massachusetts, and I was a kid on scholarship from Miami. I had just survived my first winter, but spring seemed just as frigid. Amherst felt a little colder — or perhaps just lonelier — without the money to return home for spring break like so many of my peers.
Tara Golshan, Vox
A new federal report puts the stakes of rising income and wealth inequality in terms of life and death: Poorer Americans are dying younger than richer Americans. While average life expectancy has overall risen in the United States, people with lower incomes tend to have shorter lives than those with higher incomes, a study from the Government Accountability Office, commissioned by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in 2016, found. About 74 percent of Americans in the top fifth percentile of mid-career wealth lived into their 70s and 80s, whereas only 52 percent of adults in the bottom fifth lived that long. The study found that disparities in income and wealth among older households have become greater over the past three decades. “If we do not urgently act to solve the economic distress of millions of Americans, a whole generation will be condemned to early death,” Sanders said in a statement.
Public Schools and Private $
John Fensterwald, EdSource
Charter schools in California will face an uncertain future under legislation that the Legislature approved on Tuesday and sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom for his expected signature. The bill introduces questions that school districts have been barred for three decades from asking. How should a district measure a charter school’s fiscal impact? Or weigh its effect on a district’s academic programs? What does it mean that a new charter school should be “consistent with the interests of the community”?
Kyle Stokes, LAist
California school boards will soon have enhanced powers to block new charter schools from opening in their districts — if Gov. Gavin Newsom signs a sweeping piece of charter school legislation now on his desk. But “high-performing” charter schools could also soon have an easier time securing the permissions they need to remain open. Add these two elements together, and you’ve got a basic outline of Assembly Bill 1505, which cleared the state Senate on Monday and won final approval in the Assembly on Tuesday. The bill — the result of a bargain struck between the state’s teachers unions and some charter school advocates — represents the most consequential re-write to California’s charter school laws since they were first passed 27 years ago.
Rann Miller, The Progressive
In New Jersey, where I live and work as an educator, there are eighty-eight charter schools. Seventy-three of these charter schools are located in municipalities with poverty rates above the national rate. Of the 23,795 black students enrolled in New Jersey charter schools, 93 percent attend charter schools in municipalities whose poverty rate is above the national average—compared to only 52 percent of white students. Unfortunately, charter schools have exacerbated segregation like this in many other states, too. A new study in Education Sciences by Julian Vasquez-Heilig—the newly named dean of University of Kentucky’s College of Education and, like me, a Public School Shakedown fellow with The Progressive—found that the rate of double segregation by race and class is
Other News of Note
Joseph Kahne, John Rogers, and Erica Hodgin, National Education Policy Center
In 2014, the voting rates for young adults plunged to their lowest point in close to 40 years, with less than 20 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds turning out at the polls. Just four years later, an entirely different picture emerged as young adult voting rates jumped to 36 percent – a whopping 80 percent increase. What happened? Why did these voting rates increase so much? Conversely, why have they historically been so low? To what extent does the young adult vote (also called the “youth vote”) matter and to whom? Who are today’s young voters, and how can we encourage more of them to participate in the electoral process? In the Q&A below, National Education Policy Center Fellow John Rogers of UCLA and his collaborators, Joe Kahne and Erica Hodgin of the Civic Engagement Research Group (CERG) at the University of California, Riverside, address these and other questions about young people and voting. They conclude with practical ways that educators and policymakers can encourage more young people to vote.