Just News from Center X is a free weekly news blast about equitable public education. Please share and encourage colleagues and friends to subscribe.
Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
LA County Registrar
Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times
All Los Angeles public school children 12 and older would have to be fully vaccinated by January to enter campus — sooner for students involved in many extracurricular activities — under a proposal to be voted on Thursday by the Board of Education. If approved as expected, the requirement would catapult the L.A. Unified School District into the forefront of school systems nationwide with the most sweeping and aggressive safety measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The nation’s second-largest school system has moved faster and more comprehensively than most others, testing all students and employees for infection every week, requiring masks indoors and outdoors and ordering employees to get vaccinated.
Gabrielle Birkner, Chalkbeat
It was the beginning of the school day at the beginning of the school year at the beginning of the millennium. Millions of American children were in classrooms on the morning of September 11, 2001, when hijackers flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Then-President George W. Bush was in the classroom, too — reading with young Florida students until his chief of staff whispered in his ear: “America is under attack.”Across the country that morning, there were hushed conversations among teachers and attempts to explain to students what was happening — or shield them from it. Students remember pained looks on their teachers’ faces.
Language, Culture, and Power
Ileana Najarro, Education Week
A new Black history-focused literacy program has launched in Iowa and will make its curriculum available nationwide as a free, open-source online tool in 2022. Led by Nikole Hannah-Jones, lead author of the 1619 Project and a staff writer at The New York Times Magazine, the 1619 Freedom School is a free, five-day-a-week, after-school literacy program for students in need of additional support to achieve academically. Program content focuses on Black history in a state where a new law places limits on how educators can talk about race. There will be a soft launch of the program in October with students from the Dr. Walter Cunningham School for Excellence, in Waterloo, Iowa, followed by a full launch for students from across the Waterloo Community School District in January.
John Fensterwald, EdSource
Research released Monday found that the benefits for San Francisco Unified students who took an ethnic studies course in ninth grade lasted throughout high school, resulting in higher attendance, higher graduation rates and increased enrollment in college, compared with similarly matched students who didn’t take the course. The update of an often-cited 2017 study provides the first quantitative evidence of the longer-run academic impact of ethnic studies. Not only did the strikingly large benefits from the course not fade after ninth grade, but the course produced “compelling and causally credible evidence” of the power to “change learning trajectories” of the students targeted for the study — those with below-average grades in eighth grade, said Thomas Dee, a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Education and co-author of the research.
Emily Rich, In These Times
Police abolition has become a national conversation since the George Floyd uprisings. Many university police chiefs are encouraging the misconception, however, that campus police are somehow different from other police forces — despite their long history of racist violence. To take just one example, a campus police officer at the University of California, Los Angeles shot and wounded a Black man he assumed was unhoused in 2003; in 2009, that same officer repeatedly used a Taser on an Iranian American student studying in the library. But police violence is not confined to these dramatic incidents. It appears in the routine, everyday functions of policing. UCLA police logs reveal, for example, that campus police stop and arrest Black and Latino people at higher rates than their white counterparts.
Whole Children and Strong Communities
Kelsey Ko, The Atlantic
Last December, I stood bundled up outside my car on a side street in West Baltimore, holding a “Thinking of you” card. I was also carrying the feelings of triumph and relief teachers typically have around the holiday season: elated at making it through the grind-it-out months of the fall, and ready for a much-needed break. Yet heavy on my mind was one student. She’d been so quiet in virtual class, and when I’d reached out, I’d learned she was grieving the loss of a family member, the third of her relatives to die in the past month. Some of my colleagues at my high school had pooled together money to help this student’s family out, but we all knew that she wasn’t the only kid struggling. So many of our students have lost so much during the coronavirus pandemic, and not just time spent learning in school, but the foundation that makes children feel loved and supported—family members and loved ones.
Mari Altshuler, The Conversation
On Aug. 30, 2021, my kid joined millions of children in walking through school doors as he began first grade. Despite the ongoing pandemic, school buildings are almost universally open. While there are many voices expressing health and safety concerns, policymakers have decided that the best choice for children’s well-being is for them to be in school, in person in all but the most extreme cases of medical need. But what if we asked the children? What would they say? News articles have quoted teenagers reflecting on Zoom fatigue and loneliness, but much less has been reported about what our youngest students think. Children have now experienced nearly a year and a half of schooling during a pandemic, and this presents an opportunity to pause, reflect on and learn from their experiences. As a Ph.D. student in learning sciences and a math education researcher who believes that young children are perceptive, reflective and brilliant, I embarked on a project to collect children’s stories of schooling during the pandemic.
Laura Antunez, Hechinger Report
When Florida Rep. Anna Eskamani was 13, her mother died before she could ask her about the changes her body would soon be going through. She was introduced to sex education during a required course in high school. To discourage premarital sex, the instructor offered a student a stick of gum. Then she chewed it, and asked whether the student still wanted it. At the end of the lesson, the instructor offered students a mint to symbolize a “commit-mint” that they would not have sex before marriage. Eskamani did not take a mint. Instead, at 18, she volunteered for Planned Parenthood. She was eventually hired and became the senior director of public affairs and communications across 22 counties in Florida.
Access, Assessment, Advancement
Betty Márquez Rosales and Tammy Tyler, EdSource
With Covid cases surging again, tens of thousands of students across California have chosen independent study rather than in-person classes. But school districts are struggling to provide independent study for all students who want it, with some students waiting weeks to get assigned to a teacher. Host Zaidee Stavely talks with reporter Betty Márquez Rosales about the frustrations shared by parents and district officials. A parent from Mojave Unified School District in Kern County shares the heartbreak she feels after her sons’ struggles with distance learning seem destined to repeat in independent study.
Kara Arundel, K-12 Dive
Several education and civil rights organizations are urging the U.S. Department of Education to collect comprehensive state and district spending data for COVID-19 relief funds to ensure the money is reaching students who have been historically underserved or who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Among the groups’ recommendations for the proposed data collection is for states to include information on how interventions met the intended purpose for the funding set aside for each student subgroup. That information will help stakeholders better assess how students were served by the relief funding, the organizations said.
Sabyn Javeri, EdSurge
Decolonize my syllabus, decolonize my curriculum, decolonize my classroom—for some time now, the term “decolonization” has been the buzzword around campus, as students and certain faculty demand inclusion and diversity in education. However, it seems that the pandemic has unleashed a natural decolonization process by directly challenging the exclusionary nature of the global university. After three semesters of remote instruction, and as many of us prepare to return to in-person teaching, I can’t help but think of the Buddhist saying: Buddha sat under a tree but they put him in a temple.
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
Emily Bazelon, New York Times
A year and a half into the pandemic, the crucial and irreplaceable role that school plays in students’ lives has never been clearer. In contrast to last fall, when school buildings in some parts of the country closed for long periods (mostly in blue cities and towns), a consensus has emerged this year in favor of bringing as many students as possible back to the classroom. But the country remains divided about which measures are required to do this safely. Infections are already forcing mass quarantines, and fear and high prevalence rates may further threaten in-person schooling once again — despite the indisputable evidence of the severe cost to kids. How should schools adapt to the wide-ranging effects of the pandemic? How can they address the devastating inequality in American education that the pandemic both revealed and magnified? How do we help kids recover and thrive? We brought together six experts to explore these questions.
Becky Sullivan, NPR
Authorities in Haiti have postponed the start of school across the country after last month’s 7.2 magnitude earthquake destroyed schools and homes across Haiti’s southern peninsula. It is the latest unwanted disruption to education in Haiti, where instruction has been interrupted repeatedly over the last two years due both to COVID-19 and the gang violence and kidnappings that have terrorized much of the country. In the areas affected by the earthquake, school will begin Oct. 4. In other parts of the country, the opening will be delayed by two weeks. The school year was originally scheduled to start Sept. 6.
David Sirota, Jacobin
The above graph comes from the Economic Policy Institute. It shows the relationship between union density and the percentage of national income going to the richest 10 percent of Americans. As you can see, the larger the share of the American workforce that’s unionized, the lower the share of national income that goes to the superrich — and vice versa.
Democracy and the Public Interest
Majorities of Americans say unions have a positive effect on U.S. and that decline in union membership is bad
John Gramlich, Pew Research
As Labor Day approaches, a narrow majority of Americans continue to say labor unions have a positive effect on the way things are going in the United States. Most Americans also say the long-term decrease in the percentage of workers represented by unions is bad for working people in the U.S., and for the country as a whole, according to recent Pew Research Center surveys. As of July, 55% of U.S. adults say labor unions have a positive effect on the way things are going in the country, unchanged from August 2019, the last time the Center asked this question. While the overall figure has remained the same, Democrats have become more likely – and Republicans less likely – to say unions have a positive effect.
Henry M. Levin, NEPC
School choice has always had some appeal in the United States. We are a society based on freedom of belief and expression, and schools are an extension of that freedom to choose options for our o!spring. To the degree that families want to mold their children to their own values and goals, the concept of school choice overlaps with family rights to child rearing. School choice enables families to use schools to achieve their private purposes. Of course, if school choice improves general schooling outcomes through matching educational needs or the e!ects of school competition, broad social bene”ts might also be achieved through better academic results for society. However, such a “nding is not common in the research on charter schools and choice (Epple, Romano, & Zimmer, 2015; Urquiola, 2016), although some studies for particular localities have shown advantages in student achievement for certain types of charter schools
Just Parmenter, The Progressive
In August, North Carolina’s Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt, and temporary Senate President Phil Berger stood shoulder to shoulder on the floor of the state senate to announce the much-anticipated release of Robinson’s report on indoctrination in the state’s public schools. The report came after Robinson’s FACTS task force spent five months collecting complaints about teaching practices—via an online portal—and poring over social media feeds of educators and organizations connected with education in North Carolina. Its release was timed to support legislation being advanced in the General Assembly that would place strict limits on conversations related to race and sex in the state’s public schools.
Other News of Note
Farah Jasmine Griffin, Boston Review
It was at a summer cookout that I recall first seeing the scars, dark brown, raised, and thick, that poured down Uncle Pitt’s back. He sat on a folding chair, laughing. He laughed a lot, and occasionally danced, grabbing my mother’s hand and twirling with her in what seemed to me an old-fashioned partner dance. Having been raised as a proper Black child, I neither stared nor pointed, but I was transfixed by the scars and kept the image at the forefront of my mind until I could ask my mother about them. “Mommy, what is that on Uncle Pitt’s back? Is he hurt?” She responded, “No, he is fine. See how happy he is?” Later she told me that sometimes when people were imprisoned, scientists and doctors conducted experiments on them in exchange for things like cigarettes. Uncle Pitt had been “experimented on.” She said this as a matter of fact, if with a tinge of sadness. She said it in that same tone she used whenever she had to reveal something harsh. It was as if the tone would soften the blow of the knowledge she revealed.