Take CARE! Productions presents

Here and Now in the Education World

children playing in a schoolyard

Taking on the latest in the controversy about the best for public school students from the viewpoints in a family of teachers and trainers.

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What’s Up with Charters Now?

August 23rd, 2018
Post by CJN

Did you know that even in San Francisco in 1850, just after California had submitted documents to Congress to become a state – a free state, the Afro-American journalist J. Holland Townsend wrote about the efforts of San Francisco’s small black community to fight against pro-slavery officials who wanted to exclude one of its top students from the city high school because of her race? In his argument he said, “a common school system educates all sons and daughters alike.” See The African American Press.

And that’s the argument still today in 2018 – should not any school – public neighborhood, charter, private, parochial, magnet, inter-district choice, intra-district choice, conventional voucher, tax-credit voucher, educational savings account voucher, home schooling – be a high-quality choice for any son or daughter?

Think about New Orleans, Louisiana, where all schools are charter since Hurricane Katrina. From the Netroots Nation Conference, August 2-4, 2018, at a session titled “Hurricane Lessons: What We’ve Learned From Post-Katrina Disaster Capitalism in NOLA Schools,” parents feel they have little voice; the schools neglect the most disadvantaged student; teachers are treated as dispensable and part-time; and families are not guaranteed access to neighborhood public schools. Instead, the administrators used an investment strategy, closing schools or handing them to charter school management groups.

Found in twelve major cities, an organization called Journey for Justice Alliance, with concerns about education opportunities for all students, drives each community to tackle district school closures and privatization – especially where minority students like Afro-Americans and Latinos are most affected.

Similarly, Joe Mathews, in Zócalo/Public Square, an on-line journal, addresses the problem for California schools in “California Sticks Its Schoolkids’ Futures in a Vice.” Although California is in no way like the complete breakdown in New Orleans after the 2005 hurricane, money is a major reason that California is not credibly pursuing strategies to make all schools high-quality schools from which to choose.

Teacher retirement benefit costs and obligations are escalating. The California birth rate is going down which means fewer students even though funding is available at a higher level. Pressure builds to use money measures to address social problems like a shortage of college graduates, the inequality in schools and districts that leave poorer students lagging academically, and issues of equity and discipline. Dysfunction remains with the longtime complex tax system from Prop 13 and education funding formula from Prop 98. Until the legislature takes on revision of those two measures, students will be stuck in a mess.

On the plus side, a proposal from Unite LA and UCLA/IDEA titled “We Choose ALL: Building a System of Excellent Public Education” looks at the education fiscal problems in the state and supports the idea that there is “no real choice unless each child has a high-quality neighborhood public school among the choices available.” Dr. Sylvia Rousseau, USC. She advocates the community school as the best chance to reach all the stakeholders, labor, and philanthropists affected by educational opportunity.

Of the eleven educators contributing to the proposal, none are for or against charter schools, but concerned about the long-term changes from the original idea of a charter to introduce a place where the student not successful in his/her other school may find success in the innovative plan of a particular charter.

To overcome the problems stated above in New Orleans charter schools, the the proposal advocates a sense of public purpose – that any school must develop student citizens that learn to collaborate, not compete only.

In addition, any school that a parent chooses for their child must support the child’s welfare, early childhood education, equitable funding for high-quality teaching, well-prepared and supported teachers, and a school organized for in-depth student and teacher learning.

As a philanthropist, basketball player LeBron James is establishing I Promise School in his hometown Akron, Ohio. A community-based school design, it opens right now, Fall 2018. Unfortunately, each school doesn’t have a philanthropist like Mr. James, but the Unite LA/UCLA IDEA proposal has been taken up by the California State Department of Education.

The hope is that the entire state can benefit, fiscally, academically, and civilly by changes in the way to make the parent’s and student’s choice of school, one of many, all high-quality.

The Future: Teachers and Unions

July 21st, 2018
Post by CJN
West Virginia Teacher's Strike

West Virginia Teacher’s Strike

This past Educator’s Spring 2018, after strikes in West Virginia, Arizona, Oklahoma, and Kentucky with weak unions, hampered by ‘right to work’ legislation, the slogan “enough is enough” won the day. Colorado walked out also, but the stronger unions in their state can collect ‘fair share’ fees.

Turns out a mid-April NPR/Ipsos poll found that three-quarters of Americans believe educators have the right to strike and only one in four feel teachers are paid fairly. Those numbers overruled the political establishment pushback from governors, legislators, and U. S. Superintendent Betsy DeVos which named the usual suspects: not enough money in the state budget, unions want everything, teachers disregard what’s best for students, to name the most often said.

Interesting that the states where teachers went on strike are bastions of conservative values and of teachers who do not usually rock the boat. But when you read stories about having to work second jobs, using ancient text books, scrambling to find sources for leftover crayons, and turning dried out markers into watercolor paints, teachers who have reaped the benefits from states where unions can negotiate with school districts root for the teachers in the states that don’t have that right.

However, if you’re oppressed long enough, the ‘people’ will rebel and stand up against legislators that finally do something when they realize they need those teachers’ votes in November if they wish to stay in power.

So, the union song “Which side are you on, boys?” is a good question for state legislators and governors as well as for the people striking. And “I’m sticking to the union” was the right choice for the teachers in those states.

On 6/27/2018 after the strikes were over and settled, the U. S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decided Janus v AFSCME. A worker who is employed by the school district, or hospital, or government facility can ‘opt out’ of paying ‘fair share’ fees to a union that represents and negotiates terms for every employee (whether the person joined the union or not). In other words, SCOTUS sided with calling ‘pay or not pay’ a free speech decision. It doesn’t matter whether a person pays ‘fair share’ fees to the union – that person can still benefit from the negotiations that a union makes with their employers.

Whether unions in the states named above will be able to maintain their wage and benefit settlements depends on how strong their teachers’ unions can stand behind them. The SCOTUS decision can mean fewer union members, but every teacher should hope they stick together.

Now that Janus v AFSCME has been decided, what other school-related issues are showing up this summer that teachers’ unions support or oppose?

In Washington D.C. the controversy continues about federally funded voucher programs that allow students to attend private schools with public money. Unions quote studies by the Institute for Educational Science’s National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance that continue to show lower gains in math (10%) and reading scores (3.8%) in schools receiving vouchers compared to public schools.

Think about the effects on the children that someday will be taught in U.S. public schools, when the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee in the FY2019 appropriations bill has endorsed long-term detention with their families. It undoes the Flores v Reno ruling that defines the amount of time children can be held in custody.

The Koch Brothers and DeVos Family has spent the summer funding the campaign to advertise the ‘opt out’ provision of SCOTUS’ Janus v AFSCME decision in the effort to limit union membership and influence.

However, last week, youth groups – the Center for Popular Democracy, Make the Road-New York, and Urban Youth Collective – gathered at the U. S. Department of Education for a “People’s Listening Session” to debate actions on Superintendent DeVos’ School Safety Commission. They called on the Education Secretary to maintain Obama-era guidelines aimed at addressing racial bias in school discipline policies and protested her decision to ignore any discussion of gun safety.

At the recent annual conventions of the National Education Association (June 30-July 5) and the American Federation of Teachers (July 13-15), teachers connected their workplace grievances and union organizing, including fights for economic equality, racial and gender equity, and sensible gun control.

Public schools are one of the few remaining institutions that are truly public. Teachers interface with the community, are entrusted to teach the values of democracy, to be catalysts for dissent and engines for economic equality. (The Alliance to Reclaim our Schools, July 17, 2018.)

“Which side are you on, boys? Which side are you on?”

 

 

 

Education Issues for the Summer Solstice

June 22nd, 2018
Post by CJN
Author of original GEEA

Author of original GEEA

On the longest day of the year 2018, the president manages to throw another shadow on education policy in the United States.

On Thursday, June 21, 2018, President Trump announced his desire to combine the Education and Labor Departments to form the Department of Education and the Workforce.

The Office of Management and Budget said the proposal would “allow the Federal government to address the educational and skill needs of American students and workers in a coordinated way, eliminating duplication of effort.” Tucker Higgins, CNBC, 6/21/18

To teachers, this consolidation would further undermine the work of Title IX as well as loosen enforcement in the education department’s Office of Civil Rights.

As recounted in TakeCare post 10/27/17, Title IX has opened doors for girls and women from classrooms to the playing fields. But despite the 46 years of tremendous progress since enactment, challenges to equity in education still exist. So, keep your eye on Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA) who recently reintroduced the Patsy T. Mink and Louise M. Slaughter Gender Equity in Education Act (GEEA) of 2018 to ensure schools and educational institutions comply with this landmark civil rights law.

At a time when the U.S. Department of Education has taken action to roll back Title IX protections for students, GEEA would help address sex discrimination and ensure compliance with Title IX in all areas of education. Mission & Action, AAUW newsletter, 6/21/18

In the meantime, the Federal Commission on School Safety, chaired by U.S. Department of Education Superintendent Betsy DeVos, is not examining the reasons for gun violence in schools, but has made its goal to repeal guidance by the Obama administration on school discipline, ratings for video games, and media coverage of school shootings. In disbelief about the proposal, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) said, “So you’re studying gun violence but not considering the role of guns? An interesting concept.” NEA Insider, 6/10/18.

Furthermore, there continues to be re-segregation in all our public schools by location and denial of equal opportunities. Congress has spent its time this past spring arguing over tax changes that leave school districts and states in constant turmoil over funding. But, Congress has not been working on projects that would increase wages and stabilize low-income communities. The consolidation of the Education and Labor Departments is likely to cause more disruption to Title I monies which are designed to support students in low-income neighborhoods to succeed and improve their education opportunities.

In fact, the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP), another program important for children in low-income families, is being considered for a shift from the Agriculture Department to a vaguely defined ‘mega-agency’. This shift will also cause disruption in the progress of impoverished children. Fortunately, the budget delivered to Congress by Betsy DeVos was rejected which would have slashed education funding further and used what was left for vouchers to private/parochial and charter schools.

Speaking of charter schools,, researchers find that those in urban areas serve mostly black students, and charter schools in outlying suburban areas serve a super majority of white students. Again, re-segregation by location, although the clear evidence from research shows that integrated school students tend to score higher on standardized tests – still the model for judging school success – and are more likely to go to college and move to integrated settings later in life. Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, 6/19/18

Now, as final worry – what is going to happen to all the children sitting in detention camps waiting to be re-united with their families? In the president’s executive order on Wednesday, June 20, 2018, those children aren’t the first priority. Children that cross the border illegally or for asylum won’t be separated, but those already here are not part of the order. Neither of the two immigration laws in front of the House of Representatives as of Thursday, June 21, – the Goodlatte bill didn’t pass – will remove the trauma for these children and you can be sure no money will be set aside for future trauma treatment.

And what about the DREAMERS – will those students ever emerge from the shadows to spend a summer solstice day living in health and peace?

 

 

 

64 Years After Brown v Board of Education

May 18th, 2018
Post by CJN
Linda Brown Thompson 1945-2018

Linda Brown Thompson 1945-2018

May 17, 2018, is the 64th year since the Supreme Court of the United States decided in Brown v Board of Education in Topeka on May 17, 1954, that separate schools based on race are inherently and fundamentally unequal in the education opportunities and resources they provide. Laws legislated since the Civil War were found unconstitutional.

After years of turmoil including the nine high school students who entered Central High in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1957, the Boston desegregation by busing fights from 1974-88, and similar desegregation struggles in Los Angeles, San Jose, California, and many other cities, what is the status of integration in public schools in 2018?

There is no longer de jure segregation from explicit discriminatory law, but instead de facto segregation which refers to patterns of racial separation in major cities in the United States. What has happened?

In 2018 research finds more segregation than in 1968. Seventy-five percent of black students attend poorly funded schools; with poorly maintained facilities; and punitive discipline, leading to high rates of suspension and expulsion.

In addition, it is well-documented that black and other minority students are residentially segregated. They attend schools in high-poverty areas that are given fewer resources and less per pupil spending. The teachers are less well-trained and paid less. Fewer high level academic courses are offered. An example is Manual HS in Denver and Cherry Creek HS in the Denver area.

The massive resistance by state and district school boards in the past has changed to seemingly inoffensive offers of ‘school choice’ – U. S. Superintendent of Education Betsy DeVos’ favorite phrase. In reality that means private school vouchers, also called education savings accounts and tuition tax credits, that take money away from already underserved public schools in an effort to give students a supposed chance at academic success. Another tool is the increased number of charter schools, almost 3 million students in 2018, many in highly segregated communities. Charter schools can succeed, but often are discriminatory and do not provide the achievement advertised.

Take Care Schools has offered information about programs that help low-income students in high-poverty areas succeed, but mainly they are programs for boys. It’s time to pass on statistics about black girls – after all, Oliver Brown of Brown v Board of Education wanted better education opportunities for his daughter, Linda Brown Thompson, who died on March 25, 2018, at 75.

According to research compiled by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) black students are five times more likely to attend high-poverty schools and three times more likely to live in high-poverty neighborhoods. Besides the multitude of problems with the facilities and academics at these schools, black girl students are up to six times more likely to be disciplined by suspension or expulsion than boy or girl students of any other race or ethnicity. Furthermore, since these schools lack the necessary resources for a full range of math and science classes, black girls are underrepresented in AP STEM – only 5% are in math and science, while 78% are enrolled in basic math and science.

Although women who attend college do well in science and math courses, only ¼ of black women go on to obtain a college degree and those are more likely to need student loans and have difficulty paying them back.

This is a question for the current U. S. Superintendent of Education who, despite the numbers, is issuing decrees to make it harder to complete school without debt.

Watch the progress on overcoming poverty in Congress with the National Defense Authorization Act, which seems innocuous, but is a voucher system for military families. It is opposed by the National Military Family Association and the Military Officers Association of America. (Education Insider-NEA May 13, 2018.) We should hope the bill goes down.

On the other hand, the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, May 15, 2018, reminds us that inequalities exist in schools when students are tracked according to what are seen as their abilities. Garfield High School in Seattle, Washington has a curriculum called Honors for All to overcome that bias.

The Krause Center for Innovation’s program for teachers, a hands-on technology infused model for mathematics instruction, called FAME (Faculty Academy for Mathematics Excellence) has developed a revised model for grade 4 and 5 teachers who after the summer session take back the instructional model to their students – the idea is to improve math knowledge for all students, not just the gifted.

Even today with a vast number of concerns for this country’s stability, integration in public schools remains one of the most important obligations of our time. Innovation or diversified funding won’t make public school equal, although there’s always a ray of hope: Georgia State in a suburb of Atlanta has shown innovation to increase graduation of black students. However, where communities are integrated the health of black students is better, the poverty rate is lower, and incarceration declines. Moreover, living in diverse neighborhoods reduces the prejudice of white students and the community.

 

Climb Up from the Underrepresented with STEM

April 23rd, 2018
Post by CJN

The goal is to prepare every high school student in the United States to be college and career ready. I read Beyond the Messy Truth by Van Jones and discovered a way forward. He wrote about high school students who were capable of downloading every app that came up on their cell phones, but the rare student had any idea how to build those precious apps for every student on the block.

And he asked who is making the money? or creating something new? He wanted to intrigue students with the idea that almost anyone can join the technology field – if your school, even in a low-income community, is equipped to guide you in that direction.

So, how to get past the anxiety and anger about the achievement gap? Where the school funding issue comes in as we’ve seen in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arizona – but really all over the country. Of course, we want students to be good readers and writers, but mathematics and science are also going to lead to careers. It might be writing about the latest marine biology study or the newest statistical study about plastics in the oceans. If the students can’t code or know computing tech skills, needed in any field, even art and music, they will have trouble in both college and career.

A Department of Labor report says that by 2020 1.4 million computer-science jobs will be in the tech sector. Only 400 thousand students will graduate from a 4-year college or university with a STEM degree.

Look – projects to which schools can direct students or include as part of the STEM curriculum to close the gap for underrepresented people in STEM fields:

  • #YesWeCode is organized to attract disadvantaged, urban and rural, or nontraditional background youth. It runs the biggest scholarship fund in the U.S. to help students gain access to computer-science education.
  • Qeyno Group and Hidden Genius Project, both based in Oakland, California are geared to black male youth who with support can become knowledgeable tech experts and enter college with the skills needed to succeed.
  • The Ford STEAM Lab based in Michigan has the same purpose – to provide programs for low-income youth to succeed during school and after class.
  • Black Girls Code and Girls Who Code are specifically classes for summer or after-school programs to learn tech skills including building apps.
  • Code.org partners with schools to bring tech curriculum into the classroom.

Say you’re the teacher in a school that has seen the light at the end of the tunnel and has established a wide variety of high tech programs, but you’re more interested in teaching students about the physical world, not the man-made technologies that do good and evil to Mother Earth. Computer science plays a part in everything we do in the 21st century, but Clean Technology is the way that won’t destroy the planet.

Where are the students who need to learn about the ways to protect the world? Low-income communities live in the worst areas for green problems like air pollution and water contamination. 68% of African Americans live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant, and 80% of Latino communities live in areas that don’t meet EPA standards of air quality.

Remember how in April 2016 three Lakota Sioux teenagers set up a prayer camp at the north end of Standing Rock Sioux reservation to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline route to move half a million gallons of oil a day under the Missouri River – the source of the reservation’s drinking water?

Protest, but also teach about ecology and the climate changes that affect the air, water, and earth. So students will take the college/career path to be the engineer who knows the risks and plans for them. Or the biologist who watches for the leaks that affect the plants and animals. Or the tech who designs a better model that accounts for environmental factors. Or the mathematician who calculates the risks. And the environmental writer who keeps us informed.

Government jobs in the EPA, the Coalition for Clean Air, the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, the Natural Resources Defense Council are just some organizations that need green energy solutions and the high school graduates from all over the country who finish college with the tech skills ready to pursue Clean Technology career fields.

For instance, since 2016 renewable energy jobs are created twelve times faster than in the rest of the economy. Three million jobs were in wind and solar energy alone.

One program oriented specifically for middle and high school students and available all over the country is the Alliance for Climate Education set up in 2010. The facilitators help the school organize Student Action teams that have started Kickstart Recycling projects and Solarize Homes projects. Do One Thing  (DOT) programs motivate students to take one action like turning off extra lights or take one-minute showers.

Take Care Schools’ suggestion is to Do One Thing: make sure your school’s underrepresented students get the high tech and clean tech teaching they need to achieve.

 

 

 

Contributors

Ongoing posts by CJN, Claire Noonan, M.A., elementary teacher in large urban schools with fifteen years in the classroom and twenty years supervising and coaching the reading/language arts curriculum.

Occasional posts by PEN, Paula Noonan, Ph.D., thirty years in training and consulting services to companies across the nation and content expert/teacher of M.Ed. programs for Jones International University.

Periodic posts by SEN, Sarah Noonan, the teacher starting her career in a suburban elementary school hit with all the budget and achievement dilemmas in beautiful California.