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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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.

 

 

 

What’s Up, What’s Down in Education

March 30th, 2018
Post by CJN
West Virginia teachers' strike

West Virginia teachers’ strike

We begin with the words about our controversial Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos. After her stumbling interview on 60 Minutes, Sunday, March 18, 2018, she was, among the least unpleasant thoughts, called “incompetent and dangerous” by The Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (post 3/23/18).

Be that as it may, neither DeVos nor Trump got what they expected when Congress passed the FY 2018 Omnibus Spending Bill, March 25, 2018, to allocate money to nearly everything in the country. DeVos’ pet project to cut Title II funds which provide federal money for professional development and smaller class sizes was increased. In fact, most commentators say that Congress did what it wanted, not what the current administration wanted.

For education, Title I, IDEA, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, Career and Technology Education (CTE), Impact Aid, Pell grants, and Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) received more money than was scheduled in the 2018 budget. Even the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) Act, which sunset years ago, was re-authorized.

And who would believe it, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention was given funds to study gun violence prevention. In addition, federal funds earmarked for school safety programs are prohibited from using the money to buy firearms and/or train teachers to use them in schools. We say that students calling out have made some change happen.

Heads up! The 19th Anniversary of the shooting bedlam at Columbine High School comes up April 20, 2018, and the marches and calling out will be for legislation to order universal background checks, ban assault weapons and hefty bullet magazines, and universal Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) actions by which family members may ask for an order to remove guns from a dangerous situation or person. For more see Every Town for Gun Safety’s paper on ERPO.

DACA, however, was not legislated, but the bill’s authors say there is time to get it passed. Judges in New York City and San Francisco have stopped by injunction the president’s September 2017 roll back of the Obama policy to protect young undocumented immigrants from deportation. We hope this holds true because this blog and the news media will keep it up front when election season arrives.

What else is happening this month or coming soon? Strikes of course. Beginning February 22, West Virginia’s teacher union led to a 5% better salary nine days later – March 2. The Peoria People’s Project with aid from Peoria Federation of Teachers called back on February 23, 2018, for the same access to excellent public schools as other richer areas of the city.

Will Oklahoma teachers go on strike? Negotiators have until Monday, April 2, 2018, to raise salary and benefits. Arizona teachers threaten to walk out over salary raises, restoration of cuts to school funding, and stopping tax cuts until per-pupil spending reaches the national average. Chicago teachers and parents are unhappy about the difficult problem of public school closings they call “privatization and gentrification.”

Moreover, Janus v. AFSCME comes up before the United States Supreme Court over the same issue that was fought over in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. To recall, the issue was should teachers pay their fair share of dues, not to PACs or to support candidates, but to support negotiations for every teacher in the school district whether a union member or not. The difference in the Janus case is that corporations are trying to bust unions by making “right to work” the policy. In other words, an employee does not have to pay a yearly fee to the union, but still get the benefits.

Let’s end this post with good news about the Schott Foundation’s “Loving Cities Index.” The report describes twenty-four community and school-based supports that provide children with equal opportunities to thrive and succeed. Under CARE the report looks for cities with good food sources, clean air, health insurance, for example. Under STABILITY the report looks for consistent Early Childhood Education programs, alternatives to expulsion, and anti-bullying programs among others in the community. Under COMMITMENT to support the student the report searches for public transportation, affordable housing, banking services and more. Last, CAPACITY in the city is measured, for example, by number of experienced teachers, well-resourced schools, and strong high school curriculums.

Find out more about the “Loving Cities Index” that will make your community safe, schools well-provided for, and healthy to live in.

 

 

 

Turn Up the Noise

February 20th, 2018
Post by CJN

 

Emma Gonzalez after Florida high school shooting

Emma Gonzalez after Florida high school shooting

Since the Take Care Schools’ post, January 30, 2018, Congress has passed a two-year Budget Control Act that rolls back the indefensible caps of 2011 and which increases the funding for domestic programs like education by $131 billion over the two years. So, programs like Title I, II, and IDEA (Individual Disability Education Act) will actually increase and target students most in need.

With decent news, there is always unfortunate news. The most troubling is Congress’ inability to agree on good legislation to continue Differed Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). The four proposals recently rejected mean that the reform will expire on March 5, 2018, unless the federal court decisions will force the Supreme Court’s conservative members to think twice before adding to the immigration problem. If a solution isn’t found, one-quarter of DACA recipients – parents with children – will all be in a bind, and 9 thousand DACA teachers will leave their jobs. How many additional students will be affected? Does at least 225 thousand ring a bell?

Congress has only moved the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act (S 1917) out of the Senate Judiciary Committee in February. The bill has two components facing juvenile offenders. For teen-age inmates, who while serving get their education in jail, it asks for no solitary confinement, and that mandatory incarceration sentences not be imposed on offenders with little or no criminal history. If you want every student to succeed, wouldn’t that legislation help? Next would be decent rehabilitation in every state.

The most recent concern to raise its head once again is the issue of gun safety, the legislation that propels Congress to hide their heads in the ever-shifting sand. Another high school is attacked by a mentally unhealthy teen-ager with a Smith and Wesson M&P AR-15, a semi-automatic style weapon of combat. He may have thought he was in a war, but a deranged person should never have had a gun. It’s not only a matter of improving mental health help; it’s a matter of gun safety. Many bills have been on the Congressional floor, all to be rejected. One would think that after the near murder of a member of the House of Representatives, more Congress persons’ brains would start thinking. Not so far. As AROS (Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools) states, embedding more security measures and law enforcement surveillance isn’t enough. Each community must rethink the resources that assure safety and support. And above all, address the root causes, that is, the quantity and ease of gun purchase. Pass gun safety measures.

Let us end with some happier news about the youngest students’ future in school. In California, Early Childhood Education is supported by organizations like Kids in Common’s Children’s Summit, Grail Family Services, and Silicon Valley Children’s Network that are planning spring family engagement professional development and an Early Childhood Leadership Program, each of which promotes the idea of health and family support for the youngest children who must succeed in their small communities that soon become large, diverse school communities.

Whether in California or any state in the country, relish the bit of good news, but turn up the noise for the rights of all school children.

 

Black History Month

January 31st, 2018
Post by CJN

img7458270 (1)At the end of the sixth month of the 2017-2018 fiscal year Congress is still spending its energy on stop gap, short term measures to fund the government which, among other needs, means the government prevents adequate investment in public education.

Who is most affected by these quick fix solutions? The disability, special education, English Language Learners, and especially programs, like Title I, for low-income students.

And now February is Black History Month which has been a time to learn about famous black Americans in history. This year in Seattle, a project called Black Lives Matter in Schools is making three demands of the school system:

  • substitute the ‘restorative justice’ discipline model for ‘zero tolerance’
  • hire more black teachers
  • develop a sufficient black history and ethnic studies program K-12

Let’s look at discipline. An example can be seen in District U46 south of Chicago. Of 6% black students in a 39,000-pupil district, 26% of those black students got out-of-school suspensions in 2016-2017. Fifty-one percent (2500 black students) received discipline referrals. That seems biased when only twenty-four percent of the Latino students, another minority group and the largest part of the district school population, received discipline referrals. Besides having professional development in cultural awareness, training about racial bias, and a goal to support all demographic groups, the district would benefit by trying a different model of disciplinary treatment, like ‘restorative justice.’

As for a goal of hiring more black teachers, studies show that even one black teacher in grades 3-5 for low-income black boys reduces the likelihood of dropping out and increases the rate of high school graduation and expectation to attend college. Right now, the percent of black teachers in the country is declining sharply.

School districts where I taught spent resources on Black History Month books about famous names for their libraries. Some even developed curriculum for each grade. But considering the current problems that seem to focus on civil rights and racial bias in the news, at least in middle and high school, a more detailed study about the history of slavery and civil rights after the Civil War to present day is the curriculum that matters.

Will this actually happen?

In the past year under Superintendent Betsy DeVos of the United States Department of Education (DOE), $19.2 million has been cut from federal education programs, including college-study programs. At the same time, $250 million of the DOE budget was given over for private school vouchers. In addition, $22 million has been eliminated for teacher training, among other programs.

Right now, Kenneth Marcus has been nominated for Assistant Secretary of the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) in the Department of Education and has met with the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Senate committee for confirmation. Although he founded the Louis D. Brandeis Center, a civil rights group, his focus was on opposing any anti-Semitism on campuses. OK, but what about other groups who are being discriminated against? In his previous role as Acting Assistant Secretary at OCR from 2002 to 2004, he helped develop regulations governing single-sex education that relied on sex stereotypes. In his Senate hearing he agreed with DeVos’ revisions of student sexual harassment protections under Title IX regulations and other civil rights laws for students – a continuing problem in the DOE.

Think about the broad Congressional support for Every Student Succeeds Act which has only reached one year since it became law and look at the numbers reported above. The issue to ensure every student succeeds is to budget adequate funds for all public education students in states and local districts. Furthermore, Congress must raise the caps on domestic funding, especially to support education, not just defense funding.

How else to deliver sustainable community schools for black or any student in need?

 

 

 

High and Low

December 27th, 2017
Post by CJN
a desert high school with undocumented students

a desert high school with undocumented students

Since the last Take Care Schools post, the new tax legislation, signed into law by the president on December 23, 2017, is on the highest shelf of the “to-worry-about” list for every teacher, administrator, and parent with a child or children in public school – from pre-school to college.

Above all, lowering state, sales, and local tax deductions to $10,000 remained in the legislation. Since tax money is what state and local communities deploy to fund schools, this change in revenue in high or low tax states will lead to unfortunate choices for education, transportation, and public safety. In other words, according to the GOP, lower taxes per worker means more money in his/her paycheck, but if state and local budget choices must be made because of lower tax revenue, some of those jobs may disappear. Will that work? Let’s see.

Those well-to-do enough, and who prefer private school education, can deduct up to $10,000 from taxes to 529 college savings plans, which now can be used for K-12 private and parochial fees, and they can deduct donations made to school voucher projects organized by the state. All these loopholes help wealthy taxpayers, but not the public schools.

Also, separate legislation to change aspects of the latest Every Students Succeeds Act, sends $253 million in grants to expand charter schools with the Expanding Opportunities Through Quality Charter School Program. While it’s true that some charter schools have excellent models that support children who need a different approach to learning, only $52 million (just one-fifth!) of the funds are to reach 17 non-profit charter management organizations for replication and expansion of high quality programs. For example, Environmental Charter, Fortune School of Education, and Voices College-bound Language Academics in California, plus others across the country.

In addition, the Republicans on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce are rewriting the law that protected higher education students from for-profit predatory colleges’ loan repayments for useless degrees. Two Obama law regulations called assurance of “gainful employment” and “borrower defense” will be repealed and blocked from re-adoption. Other benefits for colleges and obstacles to for-profit colleges are being revised also. See “Education Bill Sweeps Away Obama Rules” by Erica L. Green, New York Times, December 13, 2017.

Consider the 365,000 high school students and the 241,000 college students of the 1.2 million eligible Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy (DACA)  who came into this country with their undocumented parents. The president has left it up to Congress to consider a bill by March 5, 2018, or up to 800,000 will be subject to deportation, including twenty thousand teachers. According to the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, to replace the teachers will cost at a minimum $350 million to school districts and local taxpayers.

Recall that the Supreme Court of the United States, 35 years ago in Plyler v Doe said the State can’t deny free public education to any student residing in the country, citizen or undocumented. The DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act) of 2017, establishing the right to residency for children, by Durbin and Lindsey Graham – SB 1615/HR3440 – is supported by 86% of Americans, including ¾ of the most conservative GOP in a survey by ABC News/Washington Post on November 17, 2017.

Last and not least, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) has been given funds until mid-January, but it must be re-authorized to support the children at the lowest level of learning – early childhood education.

What can you do? Call and email your members of Congress – it’s helped before, so don’t let them get away with inaction. Reach for the high shelf and stoop to the lowest shelf to make DACA and CHIP happen. For the future ….

 

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.