Just News from Center X – September 17, 2021

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Gov. Gavin Newsom resoundingly beats back recall election

John Fensterwald and Thomas Peele, Ed Source

Benefiting from a dominant turnout from early-voting Democrats, Gov. Gavin Newsom has roundly defeated an effort to recall him from office with 15 months left in his term as governor.

The vote against the recall triumphed over the vote for it by about a 2-to-1 margin, 64% to 36%, with all precincts reporting partial results.  Newsom declared victory in a short speech to supporters an hour after the polls closed. “I want to focus on what we said yes to as a state. We said yes to science. We said yes to vaccines,” he said. “We said yes to ending this pandemic.” Voters, he added, rejected “so much of the negativity of what’s defined our politics in this country over the course of so many years.”

‘These are the facts’: Black educators silenced from teaching America’s racist past

Melinda D. Anderson, The Guardian

History teacher Valanna White filed into the auditorium the first week of August for the customary back-to-school all-staff meeting at Walker Valley high school in Cleveland, Tennessee. What she heard shifted her outlook for the coming school year. On 1 July, a new law took effect banning the teaching of critical race theory in Tennessee public schools. White listened intently as a school district official gave a vague overview informing the group that critical race theory was prohibited, though without fully explaining what critical race theory entails. Instead, teachers were told a list of actions – such as discussing racial discrimination – that were forbidden. White left the meeting confused and frustrated.

Racist threats against their sons fueled two mothers’ push for an anti-racism policy in Clark County schools

Jackie Valley, The Nevada Independent

Before the emcee finished his plea for civil and respectful discourse, a line had formed along a wall inside a Clark County library meeting room. It was early afternoon on a Saturday — two weeks into the new academic year — and several dozen people had gathered to discuss an anti-racism policy, now in the drafting stage, that will be under consideration by Clark County school officials. Now, it was their turn to speak. A Clark County School District graduate shared how she spent years straightening her hair after a classmate criticized her cornrows, saying she looked “too Black.” A former teacher and school administrator explained how she was retaliated against for refusing to practice exclusionary discipline policies that too often affected students of color. A Las Vegas High School student, who also serves as student body president, expressed dismay that her academic success has invited what she sees as disproportionate praise because of her skin color and the fact that her father is an immigrant.

Language, Culture, and Power

Schools systems continue to weigh roles of police on campus

Kara Arundel, K12 Dive

In a new report, the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates calls for the end of police presence in schools, saying despite decades of funding and support for school policing, there is little evidence police cultivated positive relationships in schools or helped prevent school shootings. COPAA and other organizations have suggested instead of police in schools, schools should ensure staff are better trained in addressing challenging student behaviors; use evidence-based reading instruction and supports; use alternatives to suspensions and expulsions; increase the hiring of school counselors and psychologists; and fulfill obligations to provide behavioral supports to students with disabilities.

Abolitionist Candidates Are Running for Office Across the Country

Genette Cordova, Teen Vogue

In 2020, as protests over violent policing erupted nationwide, defunding and abolishing the police became part of the mainstream discourse for the first time.  Amid these demonstrations, abolitionist representative Cori Bush won a historic upset, defeating a 10-term incumbent in a primary before going on to win her seat in November. Bush, who’d previously experienced homelessness, has since become a forceful representative for progressive values in Congress, most recently sleeping on the Capitol building steps in a successful effort to stop the expiration of the federal government’s pandemic-eviction moratorium.

The Classroom in Crisis

Victoria Baena, Boston Reivew

On today’s university campuses, the language of “student-centered” learning and “horizontal” pedagogy is all the rage. Unfortunately, what began as a powerful tradition of critical practice—in the work of Paulo Freire, bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Gloria Anzaldúa, and others—often gets diluted into the hegemony of teaching evaluations and administrative overreach of our current academic landscape. Such language ignores that there are power asymmetries within classrooms and around them: merely asserting that school is an equitable space does not make it so. Nor does it help us understand what does make for a good teacher, or what role the classroom has played in shaping broader institutional histories. At this moment of ferocious contestation over the meaning of the classroom, we might a closer look at what actually goes on there.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

A New Purpose for Education

Pamela Cantor, American Educator

Education has long been central to the promise of the United States of America. But our current education system has never been designed to promote the equitable opportunities or outcomes that our children and families deserve and that our democracy, society, and economy now need. The people who built the education system in the 19th and 20th centuries believed that talent and skills were scarce. They trusted averages as measures of individuals. And many of their educational beliefs were grounded in racist stereotypes that deemed only some children worthy of opportunity. These beliefs influenced the learning and development ecosystem beyond school as well, such that access to high-quality enrichment opportunities were more often a reflection of wealth and zip code than need or interest.

Trevor Project: Make Sports More Welcoming to LGBTQ+ Youth

Trudy Ring, Advocate

Participation in sports can often be a positive experience for young people, helping them build skills, learn teamwork, and make friends. But many LGBTQ+ youth avoid sports because they fear discrimination — and sometimes that fear is well-founded, according to an issue brief released today by the Trevor Project. The brief, using data from the Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, notes that 32 percent of respondents reported participating in a school or community league or club, compared with half of the general youth population.

Edward James Olmos helps take filmmaking to California classrooms to build lifelong learners [VIDEO]

Anabel Muñoz, ABC News

In the late 90s, actor, filmmaker and activist Edward James Olmos co-founded the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival. “I’ve been very fortunate, being able to work in schools, libraries, community centers, hospitals, juvenile halls,” said Olmos, who has a deep, longstanding commitment to reach young learners. The film festival is now under the Latino Film Institute, which is also home to the Youth Cinema Project (YCP). YCP is now a program at dozens of school districts across the state of California. “The way that the Youth Cinema Project was created is that we realized that the cavalry wasn’t coming.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

Measuring and forecasting progress in education: what about early childhood?

Linda Richter et al., Nature

A recent Nature article modelled within-country inequalities in primary, secondary, and tertiary education and forecast progress towards Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets related to education (SDG 4). However, their paper entirely overlooks inequalities in achieving Target 4.2, which aims to achieve universal access to quality early childhood development, care and preschool education by 2030. This is an important omission because of the substantial brain, cognitive and socioemotional developments that occur in early life and because of increasing evidence of early-life learning’s large impacts on subsequent education and lifetime wellbeing. We provide an overview of this evidence and use new analyses to illustrate medium- and long-term implications of early learning, first by presenting associations between pre-primary programme participation and adolescent mathematics and science test scores in 73 countries and secondly, by estimating the costs of inaction (not making pre-primary programmes universal) in terms of forgone lifetime earnings in 134 countries. We find considerable losses, comparable to or greater than current governmental expenditures on all education (as percentages of GDP), particularly in low- and lower-middle-income countries. In addition to improving primary, secondary and tertiary schooling, we conclude that to attain SDG 4 and reduce inequalities in a post-COVID era, it is essential to prioritize quality early childhood care and education, including adopting policies that support families to promote early learning and their children’s education.

Jury hears of ‘sprawling’ U.S. college admissions fraud scheme as first trial underway

Nate Raymond, Reuters

Two businessmen sought to use their wealth to fraudulently secure spots for their children at elite U.S. universities, a federal prosecutor said on Monday at the start of the first trial in the “Operation Varsity Blues” college admissions scandal. Former casino executive Gamal Aziz and private equity firm founder John Wilson paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to secure spots for their children at the University of Southern California (USC) as “phony” athletic recruits, Assistant U.S. Attorney Leslie Wright told a federal jury in Boston. She said they did so with the help of William “Rick” Singer, a California college admissions consultant who masterminded a vast scheme to help wealthy clients get their children into top schools through fraud and bribery.

How Mama Brown sent her neighborhood to college [AUDIO]

Carolyn Jones, Ed Source

California is set to launch the nation’s largest college savings program, CalKids, later this year, opening college accounts for all newborns in the state and low-income students in first through 12th grade. Long before California’s college savings account program, an Oakland woman “adopted” her own class of first graders and promised to pay for their college educations if they graduated from high school. What did she learn? And what can California learn from her?

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

How are Children Progressing through School?: An Education Pathway Analysis

Peggy Kelly and Yixin Wang, UNICEF

The goal of achieving universal primary education is within reach for many countries throughout the world, as based on an Education Pathway Analysis from 103 countries and territories, 92 per cent of children have ever entered primary school. However, a closer look at children’s school attendance and progression through the educational system reveals challenges beyond initial

access to education: over 40 per cent of these students do not make it to upper secondary school by the age they are expected to reach this level of schooling. And the situation has likely worsened given the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With Schools Closed, Covid-19 Deepens a Philippine Education Crisis

Jason Gutierrez and Dan Bilefsky, New York Times

As jubilant students across the globe trade in online learning for classrooms, millions of children in the Philippines are staying home for the second year in a row because of the pandemic, fanning concerns about a worsening education crisis in a country where access to the internet is uneven. President Rodrigo Duterte has justified keeping elementary schools and high schools closed by arguing that students and their families need to be protected from the coronavirus. The Philippines has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Asia, with just 16 percent of its population fully inoculated, and Delta variant infections have surged in recent months. That makes the Philippines, with its roughly 27 million students, one of only a handful of countries that has kept schools fully closed throughout the pandemic, joining Venezuela, according to UNICEF, the United Nations Agency for Children.

School boundaries often reflect 1930s-era housing discrimination

Russell Contreras, Axios

Today’s school boundaries in many cities are still linked to a history of housing segregation that goes back to the 1930s, a new study has found. Why it matters: These boundaries largely determine which schools students will attend, and in many parts of the country they’re reinforcing segregation and inequality, despite years of strides. Details: The Urban Institute examined over 65,000 school attendance boundaries. More than 2,000 pairs of adjacent public school boundaries had vastly different racial compositions on either side, according to the report. Many of today’s school attendance boundaries closely track old maps of redlining — a practice explicitly designed to keep Black Americans out of certain neighborhoods, the study found.

Democracy and the Public Interest

Americans’ Civics Knowledge Increases During a Stress-Filled Year

Annenberg Public Policy Center

A growing number of Americans can name the branches of government and the freedoms under the First Amendment though many still misunderstand basic facts about how government works, according to the 2021 Annenberg Constitution Day Civics Survey. The Annenberg Public Policy Center’s annual survey follows increased media coverage of the powers, functions, and prerogatives of the three branches in a year marked by an impeachment proceeding, a pandemic, a disputed election and unsuccessful efforts to overturn the results in the courts, an attempt to disrupt congressional certification of the electoral vote, protests over racial injustice and Covid-19 restrictions, and Supreme Court rulings on hotly debated issues like the Affordable Care Act.

Charter schools are publicly funded — but there’s big money in selling them

Valerie Strauss, Washington Post

Back in March, I wrote about a report by a public education advocacy group, the Network for Public Education, that explained how many for-profit management companies evade state laws banning for-profit charters. They do this by setting up nonprofit charters — which are publicly funded but privately operated — and then directing the schools’ business operations to related corporations. The issue is particularly relevant at the moment with House Democrats pushing to end federal funding for for-profit charter schools, a promise Joe Biden made on the campaign trail. The 2020 Democratic platform said Democrats do not believe public education should “be saddled with a private profit motive.”

How Republicans Turned “School Choice” Into a Losing Issue

Jennifer Berkshire, The Nation

Former secretary of state Mike Pompeo was back in New Hampshire, his day filled with the sorts of activities befitting a wannabe president in the home of the first-in-the-nation primary. He’d hobnobbed with state GOP members and toured a local defense contractor in the state’s booming southern suburbs. Here at the state capital, Pompeo is tag-teaming with another former Trump secretary, Betsy DeVos, at an event to promote a signature issue for the GOP: school choice. The packed house at a downtown theater awaited Pompeo’s arrival with Alice Cooper’s anthem “School’s Out”–School’s out forever, School’s been blown to pieces–playing in the background.

Other News of Note

The Man Behind Critical Race Theory

Jelani Cobb, The New Yorker

The town of Harmony, Mississippi, which owes its origins to a small number of formerly enslaved Black people who bought land from former slaveholders after the Civil War, is nestled in Leake County, a perfectly square allotment in the center of the state. According to local lore, Harmony, which was previously called Galilee, was renamed in the early nineteen-twenties, after a Black resident who had contributed money to help build the town’s school said, upon its completion, “Now let us live and work in harmony.” This story perhaps explains why, nearly four decades later, when a white school board closed the school, it was interpreted as an attack on the heart of the Black community. The school was one of five thousand public schools for Black children in the South that the philanthropist Julius Rosenwald funded, beginning in 1912. Rosenwald’s foundation provided the seed money, and community members constructed the building themselves by hand. By the sixties, many of the structures were decrepit, a reflection of the South’s ongoing disregard for Black education. Nonetheless, the Harmony school provided its students a good education and was a point of pride in the community, which wanted it to remain open. In 1961, the battle sparked the founding of the local chapter of the N.A.A.C.P.