Just News from Center X – September 4, 2020

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Across the Globe, Students Head Back to School

New York Times

From Wuhan to London to Tel Aviv and many places in between, students are returning to classrooms this week after months of staying home in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Opening schools is a step toward normalcy, in a changed world where the virus has killed more than 850,000 people and infected 25.4 million. Many countries see the return as imperative to jump-starting economies devastated by the pandemic. Some are taking the risk despite rising cases, and schools are requiring precautions like wearing masks, washing hands, checking temperatures and keeping children in social bubbles.

As a new academic year begins, UNESCO warns that only one third of students will return to school


This year, 900 million (of the world’s 1.5 billion) pre-primary to secondary students were set to return to school between August and October. According to UNESCO figures, however, only half of them – 433 million in 155 countries – will return to classrooms at this stage. Taking into account the 128 million students in the middle of their academic year, a total of 561 million students, one in three, will attend classes during this period. One billion students, two-thirds of the global student population, face either school closures or uncertainty. The most vulnerable populations, particularly girls, are especially at risk. UNESCO has underlined that for over half of the 900 million students starting the new academic year, schooling is expected to be entirely remote, or for some, a mix of distance or classroom learning. However, the majority of these learners and their families are still awaiting clear guidance about what to expect when the 2020-21 academic year begins, even though scheduled start dates are just weeks away.

Teacher morale and student enrollment declining under COVID-19, survey shows

Holly Kurtz, Education Week

As the academic year begins, COVID-19 is causing declines in student enrollment and teacher morale, an increased likelihood of teacher resignations, and growing concerns about a slowdown in student academic progress. With 60 percent of the nation’s educators reporting that the 2020-21 academic year is underway and the remainder to follow suit early this month, the EdWeek Research Center fielded a nationally-representative online survey Aug. 26-28 to see what educators are thinking. Following are nine key findings from the survey of 826 K-12 educators, which included 415 teachers, 149 principals, and 262 district-level administrators.

Language Culture Power

Why Black teachers matter to Black and White kids

Valerie Strauss, Washington Post

Fifteen years ago, Hurricane Katrina swept into Louisiana from the Gulf of Mexico and decimated parts of New Orleans, including its long-troubled school system. What rose in its place was a collection of charter schools that operated very differently from the district that preceded it. School reformers who supported charter schools — which are publicly funded but privately operated — hailed the changes and pointed to a rise in standardized test scores as evidence of success. But, as Andre M. Perry writes in his new book, “Know Your Price: Valuing Black Lives and Property in America’s Black Cities,” the story wasn’t as rosy as reformers said it was.

Race and class can color teachers’ digital expectations for their students – with white students getting more encouragement

Matt Rafalow, The Conversation

Schools that rely on remote learning during the pandemic are trying to ensure that all kids have the devices and internet bandwidth they need. While important, it takes more than everyone having comparable equipment and working WiFi for all children to get an equal shot. In my new book based on the sociological research I conducted at three middle schools before the COVID-19 pandemic, I explain how even if all students could get the same hardware and software, it would fail to even the academic playing field. I saw many technologies used in unequal ways. And I observed teachers responding differently to students’ digital skills depending on the race or ethnicity and economic status of most of their students.

California to require ethnic studies to graduate high school under bill headed to Gov. Newsom

John Fensterwald, EdSource

California would become the first state to require that all high school students pass a one-semester ethnic studies course to graduate if Gov. Gavin Newsom signs a bill that the Legislature passed on Monday, the last day of the legislative session. But in order to get Assembly Bill 331 out of a Senate committee and on to a final vote, the primary author, Assemblyman Jose Medina, D-Riverside, proposed one amendment and accepted several others. One amendment would push back the start date to the graduating class of 2029-30; districts would have to begin offering a course in the 2025-26 school year. Medina said the new schedule would give schools and districts “plenty of time to prepare for a smooth implementation” and give the state time to provide funding for the new courses, which would be considered a state mandate.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

Fulfilling the Democratic Aims of Education

Erica Hodgin, Joseph Kahne, John Rogers, School Administrator

A school board member asks the superintendent how the school district is working to deepen students’ literacy skills. Suppose the superintendent responds this way: “Well, that’s a good question. Literacy is important. I don’t want to mandate attention to literacy because teachers are asked to do so much. But it is great that some of our teachers include reading and writing opportunities in their courses.” Then he adds: “I think one thing we need to have is more extracurricular activities for students who are interested in reading and writing. Of course, not every student will want to join these clubs, but for those that do, they will provide valuable opportunities.” No superintendent would actually say this. However, suppose one substitutes “learning to read and write” with “learning how to participate in a democracy.” Now the superintendent’s response — “I don’t want to mandate [it] … but it’s great that some teachers include opportunities for civic engagement in their classes” — doesn’t seem so odd.

Teaching Black Teens to Write the Books They Read

Melinda Anderson, The Atlantic

Laquisha Hall has spent 17 years educating young Black minds in Baltimore—the past five years at Carver Vocational-Technical High School—and as a teacher she always did whatever she could to foster a love of reading, writing, and books. Frustrated by the district’s English curriculum, she raised $500 to $600 a year to stock her in-class library with young-adult literature tackling race, culture, and identity. Spurning reading logs, she invited published YA authors into her class to show students that the books they read are books they can write. And she always encouraged them to choose their own books and generate their own questions. In July, she transitioned to a new role as an instructional coach for the Baltimore City Public Schools—but she intends to keep advocating for Baltimore kids.

On the Cusp of a Sex Ed Revolution

Lizzie Tribone, In These Times

“Dur­ing gym class, they sep­a­rat­ed the boys from the girls and the coach talked to us about puber­ty, and that was it,” Jose Pablo Rojas says, recall­ing the sum of his school­based sex edu­ca­tion. As some­one who iden­ti­fies as part of the LGBTQ+ com­mu­ni­ty, Rojas, who attend­ed high school in Brownsville, relied on the inter­net to learn about sex and health. The overwhelming majority of Texans, including 68% of Republicans, support sex ed that goes beyond abstinence-only education, known as “abstinence-plus.” Texas has the sev­enth-high­est teen preg­nan­cy rate in the Unit­ed States. High rates of sex­u­al­ly trans­mit­ted infec­tions, sex­u­al vio­lence and mater­nal mor­tal­i­ty — espe­cial­ly among Black women—also paint a trou­bling picture.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

University of California must stop all use of SAT and ACT in admissions, judge orders

Michael Burke, EdSource

University of California must suspend all use of SAT and ACT scores in admissions, a judge ruled, siding with attorneys representing students with disabilities who argued that those students have not been able to access the tests during the coronavirus pandemic. The ruling affects six of UC’s nine undergraduate campuses that have gone test-optional, giving students the choice of whether to submit their test scores when they apply. “There’s never been such a thing as a level playing field to admissions for our most underrepresented students, but this ruling at least evened that field a significant bit,” said Mark Rosenbaum, a director of the public interest law firm Public Counsel, which is one of the firms representing plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

Using Multiple Measures of Teaching Quality to Strengthen Teacher Preparation

Jarod Kawasaki, Karen Hunter Quartz, Jose Felipe Martinez, Education Policy Analysis Archives

We argue that teacher preparation programs considering approaches to assess teaching quality should choose measures that appropriately represent the complexity of teaching, have formative value in supporting teacher candidates develop as highly qualified teachers and consider the context, mission, and people that the program desires to serve. The authors are part of a research team working with an urban teacher residency program housed in a university’s teacher education program. The increased focus on clinical experience and mandated accountability that accompany federal grants created a fertile space to experiment with different types of measures and data collection approaches, well beyond what is typical in traditional teacher education programs. In this essay, we discuss the philosophy and considerations that informed the selection of these measures in the program, and the processes that were followed to use this data in ways that consider the complexity of teaching and honor the value of data as a tool for program improvement.

We already have a tool that lowers crime, saves money and shrinks the prison population: It’s time for Congress to rescind the ban on Pell Grants for the incarcerated.

Emily Mooney, Politico

Dyjuan Tatro grew up in a poor neighborhood in Albany, N.Y., where gunshots were common and education inaccessible. Around 10th grade, Dyjuan dropped out and was selling drugs. A few years later, when he was 20, he was involved in a shooting and sentenced to prison for assault. Thankfully, that was just the first chapter of Dyjuan’s story. While incarcerated, Dyjuan was able to access the education he had missed as a teenager. He was accepted to the Bard Prison Initiative’s postsecondary education program, where he joined BPI’s debate team — which drew national attention after defeating Harvard University. By the time Dyjuan got out of prison, he had finished a mathematics major and earned a bachelor’s degree from Bard College. Today, he works as a government affairs and advancement officer for BPI.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Unsafe school facilities reinforce educational inequities among marginalized students

Alejandro Vazquez-Martinez, Michael Hansen, and Diana Quintero, Brookings

With the new school year now upon us, questions of how to reopen safely are paramount. The nationwide spike in COVID-19 cases over the summer has forced many school districts to reverse their opening plans, either by delaying the start of the academic year or by switching to remote-only instruction for the initial part of the school year. Given the struggles to keep students engaged with learning when schools shut down in the spring, eventually opening for live instruction is seen as a necessary step to prevent further learning losses. The most vulnerable students—those in poverty or from communities of color—were the hardest to reach during shutdowns and will be further set back if they cannot safely access their classrooms in the new school year. To lower the risk of subsequent outbreaks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends schools implement several practices, from requiring educators to wear masks to ensuring social distancing, and frequently sanitizing bathrooms and high-touch surfaces in the classroom.

Getting back to school isn’t easy for anyone — but it’s a lot harder for some [AUDIO]

Consider This, NPR

It’s September and millions of kids are going back to school this month. Millions more already have. And while some students are beginning the new year in physical classrooms, many are still learning in online classrooms that schools transitioned to when the pandemic began in March. Remote learning isn’t easy for anyone, but it’s especially challenging for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and other learning disabilities. NPR’s Jon Hamilton reports on the challenges facing these students and their parents, who are often required to become educators to make it work.

How Decades of Racist Housing Policy Left Neighborhoods Sweltering

Brad Plumer and Nadja Popovich, New York Times

On a hot summer’s day, the neighborhood of Gilpin quickly becomes one of the most sweltering parts of Richmond. There are few trees along the sidewalks to shield people from the sun’s relentless glare. More than 2,000 residents, mostly Black, live in low-income public housing that lacks central air conditioning. Many front yards are paved with concrete, which absorbs and traps heat. The ZIP code has among the highest rates of heat-related ambulance calls in the city. There are places like Gilpin all across the United States.

Private Dollars and Public Schools

Betsy DeVos actually says the pandemic has been a ‘good thing’ for American schools

Lisa Newcomb, AlterNet

On the heels of two federal judges halting a controversial rule that allows private schools to get more Covid-19 relief funding than Congress intended, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said Friday that she believes the viral pandemic has been a “good thing” for the nation’s education system, a comment that quickly drew criticism from Democrats and public education advocates. “Betsy DeVos calling Covid-19 a ‘good thing’ for our schools just goes to show you how divorced this administration is from reality,” the Michigan State Democratic Party—of Devos’ home state—tweeted. “Let’s not forget: Millions of kids are forced to stay home from school because Trump failed to handle the virus.”

Report: Six of top eight voucher schools in NC discriminate against LGBTQ families

Rob Schofield, the Progressive Pulse

There’s a “must read” news story in the Fayetteville Observer reminding us of a dark fact that we’ve known for a long time here in North Carolina — namely that our state’s school voucher programs funnels large amounts of public dollars each year to private schools that discriminate against LGBTQ families and children. After telling the story of a family excluded from sending their child to a voucher school because of it’s discriminatory policy, the story (“NC religious schools with anti-LGBTQ policies receive top opportunity scholarship dollars”) explains:

Public Schools Will Struggle Even More as Parents Move Kids to Private Ones During the Pandemic

Katie Reilly, Time

By the time the school year ended this spring, Clara Obermeier knew remote learning was not a good option for her two children. Her 13-year-old daughter had grown withdrawn after going months without seeing her friends. Her 11-year-old son had struggled academically, and due to a Zoom glitch, was frequently blocked from the virtual breakout rooms where the rest of his classmates were assigned to work in small groups. And neither Obermeier, an engineer, nor her husband, an active-duty officer in the U.S. Coast Guard, have jobs that will allow them to work from home full-time this fall.

Other News of Note

What This Country Needs Is a Working Parents Administration

Elizabeth Gregory, The Nation

As schools go online nationally amid a recession, the speeding high-unemployment and home-school trains are on a collision course, with working mothers, their families, and the economy set to be mowed down at the crossroads. Unless we switch tracks, quickly.
This fall, many parents must homeschool their children while continuing to work at full-time employment. Those who can’t manage both—many of them women—will have to quit their jobs or reduce their hours, adding to the already huge ranks of the unemployed. In some cases, their spots may be filled by currently unemployed workers without child care responsibilities—creating a major setback to the gender balance of the workforce and leaving many families struggling on reduced incomes.