Just News from Center X is a free weekly news blast about equitable and inclusive public education.
Please share and encourage colleagues and friends to subscribe.
Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
Tera W. Hunter, New York Times
Most Americans are shocked by the increasingly frequent scenes of wailing mothers and babies being torn apart by government officers at the Mexican border. The Trump administration has ratcheted up the separation of children from parents as a way to deter migrants from Central America. Some critics denounce this practice as “un-American.” It is certainly immoral and violates human rights. But it’s not unprecedented. Indeed, for long stretches of American history, it was commonplace for children to be snatched from their families.
John Fensterwald, EdSource
The U.S. Department of Education has raised additional questions about California’s plan for complying with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, further delaying the federal government’s approval of the plan. In a June 11 letter, federal officials raised a half-dozen issues that they say need further clarification before they will approve the plan. The plan must be approved before California can receive billions of dollars in federal education aid. “The California Department of Education is surprised and disappointed that the U.S. Department of Education did not approve California’s ESSA plan, but we will work to resolve the new issues they have identified,” said Bill Ainsworth, director of communications for the department. The department worked with the State Board of Education on drafting the plan.
Mary Adelaide Brakenridge, National Geographic
Kimberly Waite, this week’s Educator of the Week, guided her students through a design challenge inspired by a collaboration with National Geographic Explorer Erina Molina. Students gained background knowledge of the dugong, an endangered marine mammal, through interdisciplinary learning projects. Then, they designed a prototype of a net and boat with the goal of preventing dugongs from being caught as bycatch.
Language, Culture, and Power
Timothy Pratt, The Hechinger Report
On the day after Donald Trump was elected president, Jacob Maldonado sat in a Chipotle restaurant with his best friend, Maria Campos, and wondered aloud. “Is it worth it?” asked Maldonado, who had been working days and studying nights to get through Trevecca Nazarene University, where both were juniors. They knew the political winds were shifting; they might not make it to graduation before the new administration ended Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, the status that protected them from deportation and gave them access to driver’s licenses and work permits that, in turn, helped make it possible for them to pay for college. “I just don’t know,” answered Campos. And they cried together. Eighteen months later, Maldonado, now 22, walked across the stage at Boone Convocation Center, where the small, private college’s graduation had been moved from the outdoors due to a steady drizzle over Nashville. That same day, the hashtag #undocugrad began trending on Twitter all over the country as DACA students in dozens of states, and in robes and mortarboards, shared photos of tearful joy and hugs.
Shannon Van Sant, NPR
Seventeen-year-old Lulabel Seitz was a model student, and the first in her family to graduate from high school. With an above 4.0 GPA, she was class valedictorian at Petaluma High School in northern California, which meant she would give the commencement speech at her graduation. Seitz’ June 2 speech began as many do, with expressions of gratitude for the experiences and memories she and her classmates had. About four minutes into her speech, Seitz began to talk about sexual assault allegations at the school. Officials then disconnected her microphone. “The class of 2018 has demonstrated time and time again that we may be a new generation, but we are not too young to speak up, to dream and to create change, which is why, even when some people on this campus, those same people —” Seitz said before the mic went off. Her speech, then barely audible, continued, “… in which some people defend perpetrators of sexual assault and silence their victims.” People in the audience began yell, “Let her speak!” School officials did not turn her microphone back on.
Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic
In a more equal world, Danielle Allen would be a lousy public speaker to offset her almost comically impressive resume. As an undergraduate at Princeton, she won a Marshall Scholarship to Cambridge. Then she completed a doctoral degree in classics and accepted a job at the University of Chicago. In her first four years there, while turning her dissertation on democratic Athens into a book and winning tenure, she also earned a second doctoral degree, “this time at Harvard, this time in government, this time with a dissertation focused on the contemporary United States, on potential civic implications of Brown v. Board of Education.” I’m quoting the person who introduced her as a speaker at the Pomona College commencement ceremony last month. He went on to say that she was soon given a joint appointment at the University of Chicago, earned a promotion to full professor, and was appointed dean of the humanities division when she was just 33 years old. She went on to win a MacArthur Fellowship and now leads an ethics center at Harvard, where she has earned the highest faculty honors. Had she flubbed her speech, we could all feel better about ourselves. But talent being unequal, her remarks were among the best I’ve encountered at this year’s graduations. Allen insisted that young Americans ought to hold democracy and their civic duties within it in higher regard. And she did so with a challenging, deeply accessible analysis of the Declaration of Independence that was, I think, equally likely to engage and discomfit ambitious careerists, woke progressives, and Claremont-Institute-style conservatives.
Whole Children and Strong Communities
Anna Maier, Julia Daniel, Jeannie Oakes, and Livia Lam, American Educator
Increasing economic inequality and residential segregation have triggered a resurgence of interest in community schools—a century-old approach to making schools places where children can learn and thrive, even in underresourced and underserved neighborhoods. Community schools represent a place-based strategy in which schools partner with community agencies and allocate resources to integrate a focus on academics, health and social services, and youth and community development, and also foster community engagement. Many operate on all-day and year-round schedules, and serve both children and adults. Although this strategy is appropriate for students of all backgrounds, many community schools arise in neighborhoods where structural forces linked to racism and poverty shape the experiences of young people and erect barriers to learning and school success. These are communities where families have few resources to supplement what typical schools provide.
Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post
Suicide has been in the news this week — with designer Kate Spade and chef Anthony Bourdain taking their own lives, and new data showing that suicide rates in 49 states rose between 1999 and 2016. Adding to the horror: More than half of the suicides in 27 states were committed by people with no diagnosed mental health condition. Suicide is the 10th-leading cause of death in the United States and the second-leading cause among people ages 15 to 34. There were twice as many suicides in this country in 2016 — nearly 45,000 — as homicides. Schools can and should play a big role in fostering discussion with young people about the subject, experts say, and should train personnel in suicide prevention as well as how to handle a crisis after a student’s suicide. To help with that, a group of organizations published a “Model School District Policy on Suicide Prevention: Model Language, Commentary, and Resources” (which you can see in full below). The program was created by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention with the American School Counselor Association, the National Association of School Psychologists and the Trevor Project, which provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth. And a resource titled “After a Suicide: A Toolkit for Schools,” which was issued this year by the foundation and the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, provides guidance to school personnel on how to help students deal with the tragedy, work with the community and the media, and memorialize the student who died without contributing to emotional trauma or suicide risk among other students. (You can see it in full below.)
David Hernandez, The San Diego Union-Tribune
The signs were obvious to National City police officers: the man lying unresponsive in his home was overdosing on heroin. Within a matter of minutes, the officers administered naloxone, a nasal drug hailed as an antidote to opioid overdoses. The dose worked; the 68-year-old man regained consciousness and was taken by paramedics to a hospital for an evaluation, police said. Thursday morning’s near-fatal overdose marked the first time National City police used naloxone, also known by its brand name Narcan. “It saved someone’s life,” police Lt. Graham Young said. “That’s a good feeling.” The National City Police Department is not alone in its efforts to prevent opioid overdose deaths. Almost all police departments in the county intend to supply their officers with naloxone, including the police forces for some universities and colleges. In Carlsbad, where police already have naloxone, the drug is available to school resource officers. Police and health officials said putting naloxone in the hands of officers is an important measure to prevent deaths as the county — and the nation — tries to confront an ongoing opioid crisis.
Access, Assessment, and Advancement
Ashley Hopkinson, EdSource
Teachers of children in preschool through 3rd grade said a more unified education system, for children younger than 8 years old, would help to establish a common foundation in early childhood education that would align teaching and student learning, according to a national survey. This was the sentiment of 76 percent of current and former K-3 teachers nationwide who responded to a nationally representative survey by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, a professional membership organization for early childhood teachers that advocates for high quality teaching, practice and research for children under 8 years old. The data was collected through interviews and surveys of 537 participants, the majority with 10 to 20 years experience as teachers. A unified system refers to creating a more fluid transition from the preschool system to the elementary system. In an ideal setting this means teacher qualifications, compensation and classroom practice are better aligned. It can also mean teachers share the same vision for how to educate young students and have access to similar professional development opportunities and funding streams for programs, said Lauren Hogan, senior director for public policy and advocacy for the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
Sonali Kohli, Los Angeles Times
Last month, Los Angeles’ school board president proposed a spate of highly ambitious mandates aimed at ensuring that every district graduate be eligible to apply to one of the state’s public four-year universities by 2023. By the time the L.A. Unified school board unanimously approved the resolution Tuesday, the original language had been watered down. The goal is no longer that in five years 100% of students meet the long list of benchmarks, which include not just college eligibility for graduates but first-grade reading proficiency and English fluency by sixth grade for all students who enter the district in kindergarten or first grade speaking another language. The original college-readiness goal, for example, called for “100% of all high school students” to be eligible to apply to one of the state’s four-year universities. Now the goal seems to offer more wiggle room: “Prepare all high school graduates to be eligible to apply to a California four-year university.”
Anya Kamenetz, NPR
Alexandra Lange’s interest in school design started in her childhood, when she read Little House on the Prairie, with its indelible depiction of Laura’s one-room schoolhouse in Wisconsin. Today, she’s an architecture and design critic. Her new book, The Design of Childhood, considers the physical spaces where our children learn and grow: from the living room rug crowded with toys, to the streets, welcoming or dangerous, to classrooms, bright and new or dilapidated. “I felt like a lot of the contemporary discussion about education was really focused on content,” she tells NPR. “In that really tight space in front of the kid’s face. And as someone interested in design I’m always interested in, what kind of room are you in? How much natural light does it get? What kind of materials is it made of? What kind of a chair are you sitting in?” One of the most contentious issues in education today is how much our schools have, or haven’t, kept up with the times. The physical plants of schools represent the biggest capital investment in the provision of education, so they tend to stay in use as long as possible. And, Lange’s book shows how everything from the dimensions of a room to the height and placement of windows can make certain kinds of learning easier or harder.
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
Carolyn Jones, EdSource
Crystal Willoughby, her five kids and two grandchildren have bounced around the hamlets and hillsides of Lake County for four years, always close to — but never quite — landing a permanent home. They’ve lived in motels, campgrounds, a minivan, shelters, trailer parks and, on some nights, the bathroom at a city park. “It hasn’t been easy, but I try to make the best of it. When we’re sleeping outside, I say we’re on a camping trip and we roast marshmallows and stuff like that. I try to make it fun,” said Willoughby, who became homeless after a wildfire in 2014. “I try to help my kids with homework and projects, but it’s been hard on them. They’ve changed schools a lot and sometimes they’ve been bullied.” Willoughby’s children and grandchildren, who range in age from 9 months to 20 years, are among a growing cohort in California: Rural homeless youth. While the number of homeless young people jumped 20 percent statewide from 2014 to 2016, the number of homeless young people in many rural counties areas rose even more significantly — in some cases more than doubling, according to information collected by the California Department of Education and analyzed by EdSource.
When states take over school districts, they say it’s about academics. This political scientist says it’s about race and power.
Matt Barnum, Chalkbeat
Debates about states taking over school districts are often deeply fraught. “The right to vote to select your own representation is a right of what we call freedom,” said Dwight Gardner, a pastor in Gary, Indiana, where the state recently removed all sway from elected school board and gave even more power to the state-appointed emergency manager. Race and racism is usually not far from these disputes. “Legislation adopted for ‘these people’ in ‘that place’ is how Jim Crow became law of the land,” Gardner said last month, pointing out that in some respects Gary, a predominantly black city, was being treated differently than Muncie, a majority-white district also being taken over. In a new book, “Takeover,” Rutgers political scientist Domingo Morel concludes that the prevailing logic for takeovers is indeed tainted with racism. That’s based on an examination of data from every school district taken over by a state over a 30-plus year period, and case studies of the takeovers of Newark, New Jersey and Central Falls, Rhode Island.
The Hechinger Report
Katherine Sanchez, a Hispanic student from the Bronx is a rising senior at Stuyvesant High School, one of New York City’ most elite public schools. To get there Katherine spent three hours a day, five days a week in a test prep class the summer before eighth grade to excel at the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT). Before she got her letter of acceptance, one of her teachers told her no one from her school had been accepted to Stuyvesant in two decades. “I’m a Hispanic woman from the Bronx, I’m trying to get into Stuy. It’s unrealistic,” Katherine remembers being told. Each spring when the New York City high school admissions results are released, there is a fresh wave of outrage by policymakers and politicians over the lack of diversity in the city’s eight specialized high schools. Yet each year, the enrollment numbers for black and Hispanic students remain consistently abysmal. About 18,000 students attend the city’s specialized high schools, and white and Asian students account for the majority of students enrolled, even though they make up just 31 percent of enrollment across grade levels. At some of these specialized high schools, black students account for less than 1 percent of student enrollment, even though they make up 26 percent of students in New York City schools overall.
Public Schools and Private $
Andrew Ujifusa, Education Week
Charter school supporters, along with one critic of how they’ve served his children, discussed charters’ academic performance, whether they contribute to segregation in education, and whether they’ve been held properly accountable at a House education committee hearing on Wednesday. While witnesses testifying in favor of charter schools cited their ability to drive learning gains for needy students while still being held responsible through oversight and closures, one parent advocate told lawmakers that in his experience charter schools in Detroit had gotten away with breaking promises about what they would offer to his children, and worried that U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is trying to expand that troubled model to the nation. DeVos, a long-time school choice advocate before taking over as secretary, has consistently promoted charter schools and has sought to increase federal grants for charters by 50 percent, up to $500 million—Congress agreed to a smaller increase for the Federal Charter School Program for the current budget year, appropriating $400 million for the grants. Charter school politics have also grown more complicated for some advocates and policymakers during the Trump administration, especially for Democrats who have supported them recently.
Republican John Cox wants to expand access to charter schools and push public universities to cut their costs
Nico Savidge, EdSource
“It wasn’t President Trump that gave us one of the most expensive and failing school systems in the country. This is absolutely criminal to deprive our children of the education they deserve …the extra tax money they passed in Prop 30. It’s not going in to the classroom, it’s going to administrators and pensions,” GOP businessman John Cox told supporters on Tuesday night after coming in second behind Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom in the primary for California governor. “We need to get that money into the classroom. We need to give our children and our parents the education they deserve. And that includes building more charters, and giving parents choice, and encouraging home schooling.” His remarks pointed out how Cox’s views on education are intertwined with those of the Trump administration, and could become an issue in the months leading to the general election in November.
Sally Ho, AP News
Charter school supporters are deciding where to direct their considerable resources after pouring money into the California governor primary to support a longtime ally who failed to move on to November’s election. The fallout may signal future uncertainty for the school choice movement in a state with some of the most robust charter school laws in the United States. The front-runner for governor, Democrat Gavin Newsom, could hamper or threaten the progress of charters — privately run schools that use public money and have divided parents and politicians. He has mostly emphasized his support of traditional public schools and called for more charter school accountability. Newsom’s campaign said it would seek to temporarily halt charter school openings to consider transparency issues but that “successful” charters would thrive under his leadership. In the June 5 race, he beat out former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a key ally of the California Charter Schools Association Advocates. The powerful organization and its big-name donors, including Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Walmart heir Alice Walton, gave nearly $23 million to support Villaraigosa, who finished behind Newsom and Republican businessman John Cox.
Other News of Note
Woke 101: If Starbucks struggled to teach about race, can universities’ diversity curriculums do better?
Angie Chuang, The Washington Post
I thought I was woke, the white female student had written as the opening to her final reflection paper. But I realized I wasn’t. Now I have so many more questions than answers. At first, I was struck by the informality, which I encourage for some assignments in my new journalism course on race, gender, sexuality and class at University of Colorado Boulder. Then, the gnawing questions followed, the same ones that are always there for me as a teacher of race issues. Is this success? Or is this failure?