Just News from Center X – September 11, 2020

Just News

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

Coronavirus and our schools: educators speak out

Heather Chen, Zanovia Clark, Angelina Cruz, Don Dumas, Martha A. Escudero, Sarah Giddings, Holly Hardin, Arathi Jayaram, Julie Jee, Dennis Kosuth, Merrie Najimy, and Tanya Reyes, Rethinking Schools

We asked a group of teachers and students to write about their experience of school during the pandemic. We left it open-ended, but suggested they write about a particular experience that stood out, or if there were moments of solidarity they witnessed, or how they have seen students, parents, and other teachers being affected. We also asked what kinds of inequalities they’ve seen, and what their hopes and fears are for public education in a post-pandemic world. Here’s how they responded.

Teacher deaths raise alarms as new school year begins

Jim Salter and Leah Willingham, Associated Press

O’FALLON, Mo. (AP) — Teachers in at least three states have died after bouts with the coronavirus since the dawn of the new school year, and a teachers’ union leader worries that the return to in-person classes will have a deadly impact across the U.S. if proper precautions aren’t taken. AshLee DeMarinis was just 34 when she died Sunday after three weeks in the hospital. She taught social skills and special education at John Evans Middle School in Potosi, Missouri, about 70 miles (115 kilometers) southwest of St. Louis.A third-grade teacher died Monday in South Carolina, and two other educators died recently in Mississippi.

Metro principals launch ‘Good Trouble’ coalition to fight for educational justice

Estefan Saucedo, KARE11

Over 150 school principals announced Tuesday they were joining forces to launch a coalition aimed at “dismantling racist policies and practices that exist within the state’s educational system.” The “Good Trouble” coalition aims to “decenter whiteness” in school structures. “We believe righting wrongs of generational educational injustice for children of color does not mean lowering standards for children of color. But holding to a high standard our children of color. And more importantly, holding ourselves to an even higher standard; a standard that says the educational successes and failures of children of color are the successes and failures of ourselves,” said Mauri Friestleben, principal of North Community High School in Minneapolis.

Language, Culture, and Power

Students deserve a voice in our pandemic response. Here’s how to give it to them [VIDEO]

Robyn Lingo, Education Week

As the country began to shut down because of COVID-19 this spring, our staff at Mikva Challenge, which seeks to close the civic-opportunity gap for students from underresourced schools and communities, knew that this was the moment to expand, not retract, our work. Young people were abruptly facing a sudden and drastic reduction in their social connections and crucial services, including school meals, school-based mental-health counseling, after-school jobs, and an important safety net for identifying child abuse. With that in mind, Mikva Challenge formed its first-ever National Youth Response Movement to elevate and promote youth voices and solutions during this national crisis. This group of 22 high school students from 15 cities across the country met twice a week with dedicated adult facilitators from early April to August.

How to talk to kids about racism and police: schools do students a disservice when they fail to teach them about difficult issues

Dani McClain, The Atlantic

On a Friday afternoon in early June, educators from a community-education project called Abundant Beginnings held an online workshop for kids between the ages of 3 and 5 and their families. My own preschool-age child was 30 minutes away, at her grandmother’s house, but I tuned into the San Francisco Bay Area group’s Zoom call. This was a week after protests against police violence had spread from Minneapolis across the nation, and I needed help. I’d shown my daughter photos of protesters, but I struggled to answer the questions that came next about why the police had killed George Floyd. For that, I needed the guidance of skilled educators.

Yucatec Maya Language Planning and Bilingual Education in the Yucatan

Anne Marie Guerrettaz, Eric J. Johnson, Gisela Ernst-Slavit, Education Policy Analysis Archives

The rapid decline of indigenous languages represents one of the most troubling topics within applied linguistics. Teachers’ implementation of indigenous language planning through their pedagogical practices is a significant but under-researched issue. This ethnographic study examines a Maya language program (i.e., professional development) for 1,600 teachers in the Yucatan’s Intercultural Bilingual Education (EIB) system, and K-12 schools in Maya-speaking communities where they worked. Using longitudinal data (2010-2016), analysis centered on the creation and promulgation of the Norms of Writing for the Maya Language (2014) and related language policy. Findings illustrate: 1) the importance of increasing the quantity of Maya-speaking teachers, and 2) a clash between widespread orthographic variation in Maya and teachers’ standard language-culture. The new standard has not been implemented in EIB, which still does not in practice require Maya proficiency of teachers. This research discusses possible benefits and risks of a standard Maya for EIB.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Triaging for Trauma During COVID-19

Sarah Sparks, Education Week

To say educators should expect rough emotional weather this fall is an understatement. Regardless of whether they return online or in-person, students will start school this fall amid a perfect storm of ongoing trauma: a nationwide pandemic, economic instability, and racial unrest over police killings, as well as months of anxiety and isolation caused by school and community shutdowns. Before the pandemic, federal data suggested nearly half of all U.S. children had been exposed to at least one traumatic event, and more than 20 percent had been exposed to several.

The Healing Power of Garden Class

Danielle Dreilinger, The Atlantic

Even a couch potato notices nature with the New Orleans teacher Rahn Broady. Walking in the Arthur Ashe Charter School garden in May, he plucked a blue feather off the ground. “There was a fight here,” he said. Maybe an owl ate a blue jay? He walked another few steps and, sure enough, found an owl pellet and a tiny bird hip bone. He beamed. “I try to influence the kids to be explorers, and I turn into a kid myself,” he said. At 47, Broady radiates enthusiasm. He won a school award for being fun. He’s stylish even when working in the garden, wearing his hat cocked at an angle and a belt buckled with turquoise. On the side, he churns decadent ice cream flavored with local plants. But a sense of seriousness is always close to the surface. “We forgot about the environment, so the environment has to bite back,” he told his students when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit. “We’re wearing masks because we’ve done this to ourselves.”

What I learned as a parent of a transgender child

Paria Hassouri, M.D., New York Times

As a pediatrician and mother, I thought I knew a lot about parenting. But I was blindsided by my daughter’s coming out as trans, and that first year was riddled with mistakes. Sweat trickled down my neck as I stood in the heat alongside my daughter and husband, waiting for our turn to march in the Los Angeles Pride Parade in 2018. While I had been a spectator at Pride before, I never guessed that one day I would be marching beside my teenager, dark maroon lipstick painting her lips, a barrette pinning back her now almost shoulder-length hair, a “she” pin fastened to her “love wins” shirt. She was beaming and radiant.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

Researchers warn nearly half of U.S. child care centers could be lost to pandemic [AUDIO]

Kavitha Cardoza, NPR

Angelique Speight-Marshall has come up with an ingenious idea to help the toddlers she looks after practice social distancing: She gave each of them a walkie-talkie. The kids squeal with delight as they run as far away from each other as possible, to talk. “You have to think outside the box,” Speight-Marshall says, “because the pandemic is changing the way health and safety practices have been used over the years.” She constantly reminds the children at Mrs. P’s Daycare: no hugs or holding hands, no sharing toys or art supplies. The strange thing about it is, it’s the opposite of everything she’s taught for 23 years.

Scholars on Strike

Colleen Flaherty, Inside Higher Ed

Thousands of professors and students suspended business as usual — as usual as can be during a pandemic — to promote racial justice Tuesday, the first day of Scholar Strike. The two-day action, which continues today, was conceived of just two weeks ago, following the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, Wis., and a related wildcat strike by professional basketball players. Yet by Tuesday morning, the strike had dozens of contributed lectures and discussions uploaded onto its own YouTube channel, along with live panels and constant social media activity under the hashtag #ScholarStrike.

The Wrong Lesson

Nathan Schneider, The Nation

The call to action my generation received, during our first moment of inflection, was to get back to business. I was in my last year of high school on September 11, 2001, when an airliner slammed into the Pentagon a few miles away. Later that month, while visiting O’Hare International Airport, President George W. Bush implored the American people to “do your business around the country. Fly and enjoy America’s great destination spots. Get down to Disney World in Florida.” Don’t soul-search or undertake shared sacrifice. Don’t learn Arabic or better understand the wider world. Take a picture with Mickey Mouse, where Jeb Bush was governor. To someone young and looking to find a calling and a purpose, such leadership was crushing. It was an invitation to waste the best energy of youth.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

How a pandemic exposed – and may help fix – inequalities in education

Stephanie Hanes, Christian Science Monitor

In the early 2010s, Jon Valant, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Brown Center on Education Policy, began researching Americans’ perception of the “achievement gap,” mainstream lingo for the difference in educational outcomes between historically advantaged and disadvantaged students. What he found surprised him. As a scholar of education, he thought it was clear that systemic racism had long impacted the country’s school system. From the days of slavery, when it was illegal to teach Black children, to today, when researchers have found that school districts filled primarily with students of color receive billions less in funding than predominantly white school districts, students of color have faced undue difficulties.

The children in the shadows: New York City’s homeless students

Samantha M. Shapiro, New York Times Magazine

More than 100,000 city public school students lack permanent housing, caught in bureaucratic limbo that often seems like a trap. This is what their lives are like. When schools in New York City abruptly closed in March because of the coronavirus pandemic, Prince, a bright, chatty 9-year-old bursting with kinetic energy, found himself at home plodding through the Google Classroom app on his mother’s phone. The limbo that came with the shutdown was not a new experience for him. He and his mother, Fifi, who is 29, had been homeless for nearly his entire academic career. (To protect their privacy, their personal nicknames are being used to refer to Fifi and Prince.) He had attended five different elementary schools and missed many weeks of classes by the time the city’s schools went online-only.

Fact of the Day: The Black-White Education Gap

Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

This is Part 2 of America’s biggest disgraces. It shows the NAEP reading and math scores for students from 4th grade to 12th grade. In every grade, all the way up to high school graduation, Black students lag far behind their white counterparts. The folks who run the NAEP are infamously shy about explaining their test scores in a way that makes sense to people. They are just numbers floating in air. However, it’s possible to apply some arithmetic to these scores and convert them into something a little more understandable.¹ In a nutshell, on average, Black students are roughly 2-3 years behind in 12th grade; 1-2 years behind in 8th grade, and about 1 year behind in 4th grade.

Public Schools and Private Dollars

Some LA private schools operating as day camps to bypass health orders, resume in-person instruction [VIDEO]

CBSLA Staff, CBS Channel 2

After six months away, kids were back on campus at Sierra Canyon in Chatsworth on Tuesday. The private school welcomed its elementary students back for a half-day academic camp.“We were hoping this would be the outcome, and we’re so happy to be here,” said one parent after dropping their student off. Students got their temperatures taken as the exited their cars, and everyone was wearing a mask.“They did a successful camp over the summer, so I’m very comfortable with this move,” another parent said. Los Angeles County schools — public and private — are still prohibited from in-person learning. However, some private schools have found a way to welcome students back, despite the current health orders.

Midwest Dispatch: The Gospel of School Choice

Sarah Lahm, The Progressive

Nikki Haley, former ambassador to the United Nations and current defender of President Donald Trump, says the future of America can be found in school choice. She made this claim during her speech at the Republican National Convention, in which she also said that it is “now fashionable” among a majority of Democrats to proclaim that the United States is a racist country. Using her own history as an Indian American woman who has achieved notable success, Haley flatly denied that this country is riddled with racism. She asserted that “of course every Black life matters,” including those of Black cops shot in the line of duty and Black kids “gunned down on the playground.”

How Betsy DeVos keeps making millions of dollars as education secretary

Melissa Nann Burke and Craig Mauger, The Detroit News

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has reported at least $170 million in outside income during her first three years in Washington, benefiting from her family’s business empire that includes stakes in sports teams, movies and a son-in-law’s company that contracts with the federal government. DeVos’ annual disclosure reports reviewed by The Detroit News provide a rare glimpse of the complicated web of real estate holdings, private equity and hedge fund investments of the DeVos family, which Forbes has estimated to be worth $5 billion.

Other News of Note

“I Don’t Like China or Chinese People Because They Started This Quarantine”: The History of Anti-Chinese Racism and Disease in the United States  

Wayne Au, Rethinking Schools

On April 20, 2020, blogger LittleGrayThread made a Facebook post of a note her daughter had written. She reported that in a Zoom class meeting, one of her daughter’s 2nd-grade classmates said, “I don’t like China or Chinese people because they started this quarantine.” The racist statement rightfully upset the blogger’s Chinese American daughter, who wrote a response, which read: