Just News from Center X – September 25, 2020

Just News

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Learning Lessons: U.S. Public High Schools and the COVID-19 Pandemic in Spring 2020

John Rogers and Michael Ishimoto, UCLA IDEA

The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in early March 2020 prompted the closure of public schools across the United States. Principals and teachers had almost no warning and hence little opportunity for advanced planning. They received minimal guidance from federal and state officials or professional organizations about how to manage such a transition. Nonetheless, educators moved quickly from in-person to remote learning. Working outside their school campuses, they offered students daily instruction and provided a host of other critical services—meals, counseling, extracurricular activities, and more. Public school educators not only leaned into this monumental task, but they did so amidst health threats and economic dislocation affecting many staff, community members, and students.

As School Year Begins, New Report Examines How Schools Survived Spring (AUDIO)

Tanzina Vega, The Takeaway

On Thursday, the Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access at the University of California, Los Angeles, published a report outlining how high school across the country responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. Chief among the report’s findings was a sharp disparity in preparedness for the technological hurdles of remote learning, divided along income lines: Low-poverty schools had a much easier time adapting to the challenges of COVID-19 than did high-poverty schools.

Government Watchdog Finds Fault With Trump’s School Reopening Push

Evie Blad, Education Week

President Donald Trump and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos talked out of both sides of their mouths on school reopening, a new government watchdog report finds. On the one hand, DeVos stressed that plans on how to reopen school buildings during the COVID-19 pandemic were “state and local decisions.” On the other hand, Trump and DeVos suggested schools’ federal funding may be at risk if they don’t allow students to return for in-person learning. In addition, guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about how schools should minimize the spread of the virus has been unclear and, at times, contradictory, concluded the Government Accountability Office, an independent investigative agency that reports to Congress. And when the U.S. Department of Education summarized that guidance on its website, it left out details about wearing masks and social distancing, the report says.

What Ruth Bader Ginsburg Meant to Education

Mark Walsh, Education Week

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a pioneer in the women’s rights movement and the second woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, died Friday at age 87 due to complications of pancreatic cancer. On education issues arising during her 27 years on the court, Ginsburg was a stalwart vote for sex equity in schools, expansive desegregation remedies, strict separation of church and state, and, in a memorable dissent, against broader drug testing of students. “A prime part of the history of our Constitution … is the story of the extension of constitutional rights and protections to people once ignored or excluded,” Ginsburg wrote for the court in United States v. Virginia, the 1996 case that struck down the state’s exclusion of women from the Virginia Military Institute, perhaps her most important opinion in an education case and a sentiment that also reflected her votes in cases involving students of color, LGBTQ Americans, and students in special education.

Language, Culture, and Power

California schools chief’s ‘end hate initiative’ prompts contrast with President Trump

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced an “Education to End Hate” initiative Monday that he and others presented as an alternative to President Donald Trump’s call for “patriotic education” and as an antidote to acts of hate and hate speech that have risen during his presidency. A $1 million foundation donation kick started the effort. It will include resources and training grants for teachers to teach tolerance for differences in race and religion, virtual classroom sessions that will be broadcast next month on how to end discrimination, and a roundtable with political and social justice leaders on how to create safe learning environments. Thurmond, in a press conference, said “unspeakable acts of racism have played out on our television screens.” While the spike in incidents of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, bulling of LGBTQ students and prejudices against Latino students since 2016 have been “heartbreaking,” he said, “in those moments I am reminded that education continues to be one of the most powerful tools in countering hate and for promoting understanding and tolerance.”

Want to Reduce Racism in Schools? Listen to These Students


The Californians for Justice campaign is called #DearRacismInSchool. The testimonies are powerful. “#DearRacismInSchool,” writes Draquari from Fresno. “I notice when you speak through my teachers, causing them to have nonchalant attitudes toward my being. You make me feel like a monster because I hate you so much.”Tajah from Long Beach writes, “I notice that when you’re in action you make me feel like I’m not gonna succeed in school because I am a young black girl from a lower economic class. Everyday you make me feel like I’m not as good as my white counterparts.”The campaign’s message is defiant, not defeatist. “I want you to know that you’re not going to be a barrier for me or other students of color anymore!” writes Tajah.

For parents and students with limited English, virtual learning presents numerous hurdles

Fiza Pirani, Colorlines

Thirty minutes into the first day of virtual school in Newburgh, New York, the district’s internet server shut down. Parents of students in Eileen Carter-Compos’ third-grade class—the bulk of whom speak limited English—fell into a panic, scrambling to get in touch with her. Within minutes, Carter-Compos’ email and phone inbox was inundated with requests for help in various languages and Spanish dialects she couldn’t sufficiently decipher even with her own bilingual Puerto Rican background. Trying to get that single issue resolved required a personal secretary, she half-joked. “The education system is forcing parents and students to move quicker than they really can without taking into consideration that there might be a language barrier at home.”

Whole Children and Strong Communities

The hurdles facing California kids, explained

Elizabeth Aguilera, CalMatters

California is home to more than 9 million children, many of them hungry, poor and struggling to access health care and quality education. Child advocates were hoping for change with Gov. Gavin Newsom and his attention to early childhood development and education, plans for universal preschool and desire to give extra funding for children’s programs. But that was before the COVID-19 pandemic raised the stakes for children, eliminating many of their parents’ jobs and moving school online. That was before extreme heat and record-breaking wildfires ravaged the state and drove many families from their homes. Now Newsom’s plans are on hold indefinitely as the state faces deep financial woes. The state ranks 35th in overall child well-being, which includes education, economic security and health, according to a review in 2019 by the Casey Foundation.

A love letter to Black parents

Tonikiaa Orange and Tunette Powell, Successful Black Parenting

As we write this, we want to acknowledge that we are overwhelmed. For Tunette, married and mother of three young sons, it’s just too much testosterone. For Tonikiaa, married and mother of two teenage daughters, it’s just too much estrogen. The kids are arguing. The house refuses to clean itself. The question of what’s for dinner has become fighting words. And as schools are back in session and as we continue to parent in a pandemic and the racial pandemic within the pandemic, it feels like the walls are closing in; like the demands of us, as Black parents, are greater than ever before. We have to manage the everyday stresses and challenges of parenting in a pandemic. But we also have to prepare our children to move and take their place in a world that never wanted them to survive in the first place.

Leading by example: how school principals can support LGBTQ students

Ashton Mota, Youth Ambassador, Human Rights Campaign

When I started high school, I was nervous because I didn’t know what to expect. Knowing that I was transgender, my school administrator proactively sought me out during the first week of school to casually check in with me and see how I was adjusting to school life. The administrator told me that my only job and goal at school was to be a student, and that I didn’t have to take on the weight of educating faculty and staff about trans inclusion, or being a poster child, unless I absolutely wanted to do so. Needless to say, his response made me feel safe and comfortable and I was really excited to see many of my teachers asking students to share their pronouns after introducing themselves if they were comfortable with it. It was such a subtle change, but it helped me feel safer and more connected to my school, which has helped me to thrive.

‘It Gets Better’: How a viral video fueled a movement for LGBTQ youth [VIDEO]

Julie Compton, NBC News

In 2010, a rash of LGBTQ teen suicides across the U.S. — including Seth Walsh, 13, and Billy Lucas, 15 — inspired the gay advice columnist Dan Savage and his now-husband, Terry Miller, to do something. Together, the pair uploaded a video to YouTube with a simple but profound message: “It gets better.” “If there are 14 and 15 and 16 year olds — 13 year olds, 12 year olds — out there watching this video, what I’d love you to take away from it is, it really is that it gets better,” Savage said into the camera. During the eight-and-a-half-minute video, published to YouTube on Sept. 21, 2010, Savage and Miller talked about the bullying and rejection they experienced as gay teens, and how life got better for them in the years after high school

Access, Assessment, Advancement

Why schools — now more than ever — should let young kids learn through play (not worksheets)

Valerie Strauss, Washington Post

Nancy Carlsson-Paige is an early-childhood development expert who has been at the forefront of the debate on how best to educate very young students. She is a professor emerita of education at Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass., where she taught teachers for more than 30 years and was a founder of the university’s Center for Peaceable Schools. She is also a founding member of a nonprofit organization called Defending the Early Years, which commissions research about early-childhood education and advocates for sane policies for young children. Carlsson-Paige is author of “Taking Back Childhood.” The mother of two artist sons, Matt and Kyle Damon, she is also the recipient of numerous awards, including the Legacy Award from the Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps for work over several decades on behalf of children and families.

Michigan offers free college education to essential workers [AUDIO]        

All Things Considered, NPR

Michigan is offering two years of free community college to essential workers who have worked during the pandemic. The definition is loose, and more than 600,000 residents could qualify.

New report addresses mental health of students of color

Greta Anderson, Inside Higher Ed

The Steve Fund, a national advocacy organization focused on the mental health of young people of color, recently published a report with recommendations for college leaders to better support those students who are currently facing unprecedented mental health challenges. The recommendations were formed by the organization’s Crisis Response Task Force, a group of students, mental health experts, colleges, nonprofits and corporate executives, created to address the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and economic fallout on the mental health of young people of color. The report also addresses the nation’s “racial reckoning” and how the death of George Floyd and wide acknowledgment of systemic racism can put additional emotional stress on those students.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

From the fields to the classroom: Inside the lives of U.S. agriculture’s youngest workers [Video]

Didi Martinez, Gabe Gutierrez, Christine Romo and Nicole Suarez, NBC News

It’s nearly 4 a.m. in this border town, where a group of day laborers waits under the fluorescent lights of a Chase bank parking lot to board several white school buses. Leslie Aguilar, 15, looks on as Jimena, 17, her sister, boards one of the buses heading to a farm several miles away. This is the first time the sisters aren’t traveling together, and Leslie is concerned. “I don’t know where she is going,” she says. “I don’t know who the people are, where they’re taking her and all that. “I don’t like to go like this, because we usually go together.” The Aguilar sisters have been in the parking lot since 10 the night before, going from bus to bus looking for field work, which proves challenging this September morning.

Remote Learning Presents Additional Challenge For Students Experiencing Homelessness [Audio]

Cory Turner, NPR

Today we learn about what remote learning is like for some of the most vulnerable children – those who are homeless. All this school year, we’ve been hearing from students, families and educators about the pandemic’s effect on education. It’s part of our series Learning Curve. NPR education correspondent Cory Turner joins us now. What do we know about the many school-age children who are homeless in the United States right now?

U.S. Politics is Failing Children

Rajan Menon, Boston Review

There are several ways to appraise the justness of any given society, but most people would likely agree that one relevant criterion ought to be the status of its most defenseless members. While there will be multiple candidates for this unenviable designation, children would make any short list that gains wide currency, with the poorest of them deemed particularly vulnerable. But a demonstration of just how precarious the lives of poor children can be should not be confused with a strategy for making their circumstances better. To be sure, raising awareness about injustice and eliciting compassion can help develop solutions aimed at reducing inequity. There is, however, no substitute for the hard, messy work of mobilizing political support and translating it into the political efficacy needed to reshape existing laws and develop effective policies. Republicans have done little to better the lives of poor children. Yet Democrats, too, have failed to chalk up large victories on this front, despite the magnitude of this particular form of inequity and the various ways in which it degrades the lives of American children. Child poverty, and our failure to address it, is the subject of Jeff Madrick’s new book Invisible Americans: The Tragic Cost of Child Poverty (2020).

Private Schools and Private Dollars

DeVos Vows to Withhold Desegregation Aid to Schools Over Transgender Athletes

Luke Broadwater and Erica L. Green, New York Times

The Education Department is preparing to withhold millions of dollars from Connecticut schools over their refusal to withdraw from an athletic conference that allows transgender students to compete on teams that correspond with their gender identity. The move to withhold about $18 million intended to help schools desegregate could have national implications for both transgender athletes and students of color. The department’s Office for Civil Rights has warned officials at three Connecticut school districts that it will not release desegregation grants as planned on Oct. 1, unless the districts cut ties with the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference over its transgender policies. Negotiations among the parties continued Thursday evening.

Special counsel investigating DeVos for potential Hatch Act violation: report

Brooke Seipel, The Hill

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is under investigation for possible Hatch Act violations after she criticized Democratic candidate Joe Biden in a Fox News interview, Politico reports. According to Politico, the Office of the Special Counsel (OSC) has started the investigation after DeVos hit Biden on Fox News and shared the video to the Education Department’s YouTube page in early September. In the clip, DeVos said Biden “turned his back on” kids by saying he opposes her school choice policies, and called it “shameful.” DeVos would add to a number of top Trump administration officials who have been accused of violating the Hatch Act, which bars federal employees in the executive branch from using their position for political activity.

Proposed LGBTQ charter school scored high marks. Alabama rejected it anyway

Kyle, Whitmore, AL.com

You might expect the Alabama Public Charter School Commission to understand something about grades. But something hinky is happening on the five-year-old board charged with approving new charter applications in Alabama. On the surface, the commission can’t seem to tell which number is greater — 131 or 181. Last week, the commission approved a charter for a new school in Prattville, the Ivy Classical Academy. That school scored 131 points of a possible 211 on an independent assessment required as part of the charter approval process.

Other News of Note

To beat Trump, Democrats must mobilize young people

Veronica Terriquez, The Hill

As we look ahead to the presidential debates and what’s sure to be a heated battle for hearts and minds in the next 40-plus days, here’s some advice for the Biden-Harris ticket. Stop taking young people of color for granted — because you might lose if you do. If the Democrats think young people aren’t worth the trouble, they should think again. Polling data from across the country show that young people, especially Black and young people of color, are ready to be activated. They are already engaged and are ready to act — and potentially vote — on issues that could push the Democrats to victory in November, from Black Lives Matter, climate justice and immigrant rights to police violence and education equity. It is not about whether they care about issues — it is about whether the party cares enough about them to invest in the strategies proven to mobilize them.

Australian teenager to address UN about Covid hardship among young women

Melissa Davey, The Guardian

A 16-year-old Australian student, Mayela Dayeh, will address the United Nations general assembly on Wednesday night to present the findings of a survey that shows young women and girls are shouldering a greater economic, domestic and emotional load and working harder during the Covid-19 pandemic. The study, released by humanitarian organisation Plan International as part of a report called “Halting Lives – The impact of Covid019 on girls and young women”, surveyed more than 7,000 15-to-24 year-olds across 14 countries. “I think Covid has exacerbated issues we already knew were there, which we had either become complacent about or comfortable with, especially in terms of the gender divide,” Dayeh, a secondary school student, said.