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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice
Rosanna Xia, Los Angeles Times
California State University’s board of trustees unanimously passed a resolution Wednesday encouraging leaders of the nation’s largest public university system and each of its 23 campuses to support and advocate for the continued protection of their 8,300 “Dreamer” students and hundreds more faculty and staff members. Chancellor Timothy P. White urged the trustees to take a public stand at their meeting in Long Beach. “This resolution … is a rare occurrence, but these are rare and unique circumstances,” he told them. “It’s something that we don’t normally do. But because of its importance, we decided to stand up.” Educational leaders nationwide have been pushing back since President Trump’s decision to phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which has offered protection from deportation and the ability to work to young people who came into the country illegally as children, often called Dreamers.
Madeline Will, Education Week
Lately, it seems like a powerful man—from Hollywood to Capitol Hill and beyond—is being accused of sexual assault or harassment almost daily. (The New York Times has counted at least 20 high-profile men who have been accused of sexual misconduct since Oct. 5.) And millions of women, including celebrities and politicians, have joined the conversation by saying or posting #MeToo—meaning they have been affected by sexual harrassment or violence. How has this news trickled down into classrooms? Jason Jaffe, the social studies department chairman at Glenbard East High School in Illinois, teaches a current events class. The sexual assault allegations have come up multiple times during discussions about what’s in the news, he said. In an email, Jaffe said that he strongly believes teachers should engage with students on controversial topics. “Overall, I’ve been proud of the dignity and gravitas with which my students have conversed about the topics,” he said. “Some students expressed the idea that some women (and men) might be making accusations ‘for the sake of a paycheck.’ To that end, questions arose like, ‘Why didn’t they come forward sooner? Why (in the Louis C.K. news, specifically) didn’t the women just leave?’ Such questions have given us great opportunity to talk about explicit and implicit power dynamics in relationships, the cost of social stigma, and the value of strength in numbers in coming forward.”
Carolyn Jones, EdSource
The fires may be out in the Wine Country, but they’re still a daily topic in many California classrooms. At Design Tech High, a charter school in Burlingame that’s affiliated with Oracle, students are analyzing the science behind the Tubbs Fire that raged through Sonoma County in October and creating blueprints for how the destroyed neighborhoods can rebuild in a way that could minimize impacts from the next fire. The crash course in sustainability is an example of how, amidst the devastation and human suffering, teachers are using wildfires, hurricanes and other natural disasters to further students’ understanding of science, history and social studies. “Drought, famine, fire, war — students get it. They see the connection between what’s on the news and these larger environmental issues,” said Andra Yeghoian, environmental education coordinator for the San Mateo County Office of Education, who teaches environmental science and trains teachers at Design Tech and other public schools in San Mateo County. “Youth today can be traumatized by what they see happening in the world,” she said. “It’s our job as educators to equip them with the knowledge that they can not only survive, but bring forward a sustainable future. It’s not all doom and gloom.”
Language, Culture, and Power
Theresa Harrington, EdSource
As the State Board of Education prepares to adopt recommendations for new history social science textbooks on Thursday, it is being flooded with written comments – including many expressing concerns about negative portrayals of Hindus. A coalition led by the Hindu American Foundation and other community groups that includes elected officials, nearly 40 academics and about 74 interfaith organizations is urging the board to “only adopt textbooks that are culturally competent, historically accurate and equitable in their representations of Hinduism, Jainism and Indian culture,” said Samir Kalra, foundation senior director. By Tuesday, more than a dozen people carrying signs that said, “Don’t erase history, don’t erase caste” were assembling outside the California Department of Education building in Sacramento, said Janet Weeks, board spokeswoman. The board has set aside all day Thursday for comments, board discussion and vote. Weeks said each publisher will be given two minutes to address the board during Thursday’s hearing and that individuals can also sign up for one minute each. The Hindu activists join other groups expected to turn out in Sacramento on Thursday when the state board, for the first time, will consider recommending history social science textbooks that include“fair, accurate, inclusive and respectful representations” of people with disabilities and people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times
After years of rapid growth, enrollment of first-time international students in U.S. colleges and universities dipped last year amid concerns about political uncertainty, tuition increases, visa delays and reductions in scholarship money, an annual survey found. California remained the nation’s most popular destination for foreign students, with 157,000 coming to the state in 2016-17. They made up nearly 16% of more than 1 million international students in the United States that year, according to the survey of more than 2,000 institutions released Monday by the Institute of International Education. Alyson L. Grunder, a deputy assistant secretary of State, said the U.S. ability to attract the world’s largest number of international students was “testament to the unmatched quality of American higher education.” But the roughly 3% decline in new foreign students in California and nationally was the first drop the institute has recorded in the 12 years it has collected such data, and the decline appears to be deepening. The institute’s separate tally of data from about 500 colleges and universities found a 7% drop in enrollment of first-time students this fall — mostly at less-selective campuses. Institute officials were diplomatic, and repeatedly declined to pinpoint President Trump’s hard-edged attitudes toward immigration and foreign visitors from countries he considers sponsors of terrorism.
Jacoba Urist, The Atlantic
These days, public sculptures often seem intertwined with historical regret. There’s the bronze Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, Virginia; the Roger Taney effigy outside the Maryland State House; the Confederate soldier in front of North Carolina’s Durham County Courthouse. This historical regret has inspired a rush to topple sculptures. But the feelings of remorse and shame have also stirred impassioned debate about the ways in which art ought to reflect America’s complex legacy: Who should embody the values of today? What distinguishes art from political propaganda? And which artists will fill the empty plinths? Princeton University has one answer to these questions with a new public-art project that confronts the school’s participation in the nation’s early sins. On Monday, the university unveiled Impressions of Liberty, by the African American artist Titus Kaphar. The sculpture is the conceptual core of a campus-wide initiative that begins this fall and aims to reconcile the university’s ties to slavery. The Princeton and Slavery Project’s website has released hundreds of articles and primary documents about slavery and racism at Princeton, which was once jokingly described as the “northernmost outpost of Southern culture.” There is perhaps no better-suited artist than Kaphar to help the school grapple with past inequities and consider the stains of its founders. His art concentrates on the way history is remembered, highlighting the figures and inconveniences, as one 2009 Art in America review described it, who are “habitually … written out of grand historical narratives.”
Whole Children and Strong Communities
Lee Romney, EdSource
After successfully reducing expulsions in its K-12 schools, California is now moving to restrict the practice with even younger children — at the preschool level. To that end, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation last month that bars state-subsidized preschool programs from expelling kids unless an exhaustive process aimed at supporting the child and family is followed first. Children can be expelled from preschool as a result of any number of aggressive behaviors that could jeopardize the safety of other students, such as biting, kicking and shoving, or even for verbal classroom disruptions such as screaming. But the new law, Assembly Bill 752, authored by Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio (D-Baldwin Park), requires preschools to undertake a series of interventions and referrals before expelling a child. The law only applies to state-subsidized preschools.
Evie Blad, Education Week
When Abbe Large’s daughter was a toddler, she was diagnosed with a peanut allergy so severe that the skin on her cheek reacted to a kiss from her father hours after he’d eaten peanuts. With two daughters with multiple food allergies, Large worked with an allergy consultant to figure out how to eat, how to store food, and how to control her children’s exposure to the allergens that could send them into anaphylaxis. Large was anxious when it was time to send them to their Connecticut elementary school. Peanut protein is difficult to clean from skin and surfaces, which would leave her younger daughter, now 10, vulnerable to a reaction even if peanut-eating classmates didn’t have the nuts at school. “I would put her to bed at night and really fear for her life,” Large said. School-based health providers and education leaders say they’ve seen a major uptick in allergies to peanuts and other foods, sometimes creating logistical challenges for teachers, food service workers, and school nurses.
Adolfo Guzman-Lopez, KPCC
The students who signed up for “Chemistry for Non Science Majors” this semester at California State University, Long Beach could not have guessed the impact of their studies. “Especially with concerns like Flint, [Michigan], with water quality issues such as that… I wanted my students to see a real-life application of what they’re learning in the classroom,” said their instructor, Elaine Bernal. Last month, 16 of her students tested water in a drinking fountain in the McIntosh Building, one of the campus’ oldest buildings. Their results came back positive for lead. But their testing method didn’t clearly show whether the amount of lead exceeded safe levels set by state and federal agencies. The class gave its findings to the university. The campus did its own test of drinking fountain water in the building and found, indeed, some of the water exceeded government levels for safe amounts of lead. “We have about 300 to 400 fountains on campus, have been turned off until we can actually implement a testing program,” said Cal State Long Beach spokeswoman Terri Carbaugh.
Access, Assessment, and Advancement
Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times
The Los Angeles Unified School District is making plans to smarten up and move into the smartphone age. On Tuesday, the Board of Education unanimously gave the go-ahead to create an L.A. Unified phone app. It would fill a serious need because many of the district’s low-income families don’t have computers and internet service at home. For information, they rely on their cellphones. Right now, that’s a problem when they go to Lausd.net, which isn’t optimized for — or easy to view on — a small screen.
California at bottom in nationwide ranking of accountability systems; state board president disagrees
John Fensterwald, EdSource
Another prominent education research and advocacy organization that disapproves of California’s approach to school accountability has ranked California’s new system at the bottom nationwide in a report released Tuesday. The low score by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute reflects a core disagreement over how best to identify and work with schools needing help. California education leaders are unapologetic about the route they’ve chosen, and they say the Fordham analysis contains a key error. Like Bellwether Education Partners, which harshly criticized the state’s approach in an August analysis, Washington, D.C.- and Ohio-based Fordham gives high grades to states that will rank schools with an A-F letter grade or a similar method that’s understandable at a glance. States will use rankings to select the lowest-performing schools, as required by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. California’s color-coded school dashboard does not give a summary school ranking. Each measure of performance, whether test scores, graduation rates or student suspension rates, gets a separate color rating. Gov. Jerry Brown and the State Board of Education say that this approach focuses attention on specific areas that need work. While this is more complex — and, some critics say, confusing — advocates say it is more helpful in diagnosing problems.
Adolfo Guzman-Lopez, KPCC
A proposal that advocates hope will use online courses to help the job prospects of about 2 million working class Californians got its first hearing in Sacramento on Monday. The California Community College’s Board of Governors heard three proposals aimed at helping a population of Californians who have some college under their belt, may not have earned their high school diploma, and don’t feel community college’s current offerings address their needs. “Our work is to figure out how to help stranded workers begin to transition for themselves and their families into the next economies as things change around us,” Van Ton-Quinlivan, a vice chancellor in the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, told the board. One proposal would create a brand new California community college just to offer online classes for this working-class population. Another plan would house the effort at an existing college, and a third would create a consortium of campuses to create the new classes. The point, Ton-Quinlivan said, is to help these non-traditional students overcome obstacles that keep them from community classes that could help them.
Inequality, Poverty, Segregation
Christina A. Samuels, Education Week
A new analysis that looks at how much time educators spend teaching in classrooms with students with disabilities adds a new twist to the debate over inclusion. Data from a survey of educators in more than three dozen countries and regions, including the United States, shows that time spent teaching goes down as the number of students with disabilities in a classroom goes up. But inclusion of special education students by itself doesn’t appear to be the main driver. Instead, the survey offers a complex picture of how countries all over the world handle classes with high numbers of students with disabilities. Among the other contributing factors putting a damper on teaching time, the analysis says classrooms with high numbers of students with disabilities also tend to have teachers who have less training and less experience. Such classrooms also tend to have high percentages of students with other needs, such as language minorities, low academic achievement, and low socioeconomic status. And while having a high percentage of students with behavior problems also cuts into teaching time, it’s not only students with disabilities who are causing the misbehavior. In fact, when teachers reported having few or no misbehaving students in their classrooms, the time spent teaching evened out—no matter how many students with disabilities they had.
Carolyn Jones, EdSource
Latino youth in California make up a majority of the student population but face daunting obstacles in schools, including less access to quality preschools, honors classes and college counseling than their white peers, according to a report by Education Trust-West released this week. The study, “The Majority Report: Supporting the Success of Latino Students in California,” found that in every California county, a majority of Latino students were not proficient in math or English language arts, based on Smarter Balanced test scores. By comparison, a majority of white students scored proficient in English language arts in more than 40 counties, and in math in more than 20 counties. “Given the historical discrimination faced by Latinos and the sheer number of Latinos in California, we have a moral and economic imperative to close these opportunity gaps,” said Ryan Smith, executive director of the Education Trust-West, a nonprofit that studies equity issues in education.
High school student says he was barred from dance meet because he is male — and asks DeVos to intervene
Valerie Strauss, The Washington Post
A male member of the varsity competitive dance team at a Wisconsin high school has filed a Title IX complaint with the U.S. Education Department, alleging that his legal rights were violated because he was forbidden from participating in a dance meet in Minnesota with his female teammates because of his gender. Kaiden Johnson, a sophomore at Superior High School, could not attend the dance meet in Duluth in 2016 because, the complaint says (see it in full below), dance is a “girls only” sport in the Minnesota State High School League. Title IX is a federal law that prohibits sex discrimination at federally funded schools. The U.S. Education Department did not immediately respond to a query about the complaint. Neither did the Minnesota State High School League. On the league’s website, the rules and regulations for dance is titled, “Official Bylaws for Girls’ Dance Team.” Johnson, with the help of the nonprofit Pacific Legal Foundation, is asking the Office for Civil Rights in the Education Department to intervene to make sure that no state can bar any student from a competitive dance event because of their gender.
Public Schools and Private $
Alyson Klein, Education Week
Senate education committee Democrats used the confirmation hearing of two top U.S. Department of Education nominees to make their case against the Trump administration’s favorite K-12 policy: School choice. Both contenders have long records in pushing for charters, vouchers, tax-credit scholarships, and other types of school choice programs. Mick Zais, who has been tapped for deputy secretary of education, the No. 2 post at the agency, helped create a tax-credit scholarship for students in special education when he was the state chief in South Carolina. And Jim Blew, who has been tapped as assistant secretary for planning, evaluation, and policy analysis, spent nearly a decade as the Walton Family Foundation’s director of K-12 reform, advising the foundation on how to broaden schooling options for low-income communities. Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the top Democrat on the panel, kicked off the hearing by saying that she finds it “troubling” that Zais shares Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ views on “privatization.” And she told Blew that his “record of promoting school vouchers gives me pause that you will not stand up for students and public schools.” Senator after senator on the Democratic side of the dais echoed those concerns.
Andrew Ujifusa, Education Week
Two amendments introduced by senators to the GOP tax bill in the Senate could increase access to private school choice. One amendment states that a “charitable deduction would be allowed for certain qualified tuition and related expenses relating to qualified religious instruction. It’s been introduced by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which will consider the GOP-backed tax overhaul legislation. If adopted, the amendment would require an “appropriate offset” in terms of federal revenue, but doesn’t specify what that offset might be. The other “would add a K-12 education tax credit for corporate and individual contributions to state non-profit organizations who provide scholarships for children in low-income to middle class families.” It’s been introduced by Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C. If adopted, the amendment would go into effect 60 days of the bill becoming law. It does not provide income limits or ranges for those making contributions.
Kyle Stokes, KPCC
Cynthia Walker was in a panic. A letter had just arrived from the private school where she’d enrolled her son for ninth grade: his admission had been rescinded. “I suddenly had to find a place for my son to go to school,” she said. It was late July 2016. School was starting soon. But Walker had a backup plan. A really good backup plan: Granada Hills Charter High School, one of the most sought-after public high schools in Los Angeles — and normally one of the hardest to get into. Yet plug the Walkers’ Porter Ranch address into a Los Angeles Unified School District website, and it confirms their assigned neighborhood public school is, in fact, Granada. “If your fallback is Granada Hills Charter High School,” she said, “well, that seemed like a pretty good fallback to me — I felt pretty lucky.” With less than a month before school started, Walker went to Granada to fill out the actual enrollment paperwork. She recalled handing the paperwork to a clerk. “And she then said to me, ‘Well, we’re full, so he’ll be attending iGranada.’ “And I was shocked. I didn’t know what that means. I said, ‘What’s iGranada?'” The clerk explained iGranada was a program within Granada Hills Charter High — essentially a school-within-a-school. Students come to campus every day, but many of their courses, textbooks and even their teachers of record are online. The model, gaining repute nationally, is called “blended learning.” Walker didn’t skip a beat. “I said to the clerk, ‘That is going to be a recipe for disaster.'”
Other News of Note
Tyler Bonin, The Atlantic
The first time that I taught the Middle East to my high-school students, I expected questions on terrorism and the war in Iraq. My students knew that I was a Marine and a veteran of the war, and even though the history class concentrated on the advent of Islam and its expansion from the Arabian peninsula into Africa, Europe, and Asia, I prepared to use that context to form a discussion around the modern-day conflict. Considering today’s political landscape—and the fact that ISIS was at this point a focus in media discussions and presidential debates—I anticipated my students would be particularly curious about the relevance of the region’s history to their lives. I knew they wouldn’t easily grasp the Middle East’s complexities over a month’s period of lessons, that drastic changes to their worldview wouldn’t occur. Some would simply be indifferent. Some would be hesitant to enter the discussion. Still, lessons on its history meant teaching them that its harsh political realities today—including terrorism—are more closely linked to European imperialism, modern strongmen, and foreign intervention than anything we were discussing concerning the early days of Islam. This class unit was, in my mind, the best opportunity for engaging students with those complexities.