The Oakland Ed Week in Review 2/9/24-2/16/24 

It’s time for the Oakland Ed Week in Review!  

We’re back with an of our roundup of education news from around The Town, the Bay Area, state, and nation for your weekend reading. This is a Dirk favorite and one of the last blogs he published for Great School Voices. 

Here’s what’s been going on: 

In Oakland, ongoing budget deficits prompt discussions on balancing the books for the upcoming school year, while the issue of students transferring from OUSD to PUSD amid fears of antisemitism raises concerns about enrollment and safety. The East Bay Times Editorial Board endorses incumbents Angela Normand, Janevette Cole, and Eileen McDonald for the Alameda County Board of Education election, highlighting their experience and understanding compared to ill-prepared challengers.

In the Bay Area, the East San Jose school district seeks a partner to save a former youth center, while a Silicon Valley charter school disputes discrimination claims, and Peralta Colleges’ free tuition initiative sees a surge in student enrollment. Additionally, a beloved San Jose teacher’s sneaker collection will be auctioned to raise money for a scholarship, and the East Bay Times Editorial Board advocates for the reelection of three Alameda County education board incumbents.

In California, the education landscape is undergoing significant changes as new teaching standards prioritize family engagement and social-emotional learning. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Unified School District faces controversy over a policy preventing charter schools from co-locating with certain district schools. In other news, Governor Gavin Newsom’s chief education advisor shares his personal mental health struggles while spearheading ambitious education plans. Additionally, challenges persist, with schools grappling to support homeless students amidst the end of federal funding. These issues highlight the complex dynamics within California’s education system, impacting students, families, and policymakers alike.

Across the Nation, The American Federation of Teachers called for a ceasefire in Gaza, citing conditions such as the release of Israeli hostages and increased humanitarian aid. A RAND study found that nearly two-thirds of teachers avoid controversial topics due to curriculum restrictions, with 18 states implementing policies restricting teachers’ instruction as of January 2023. Other Highlights include how HBCUs play a crucial role in nurturing Black educators, with 50% of all Black educators coming from these institutions, according to a UNCF report.

What did we miss?  Hit us up in the comments below: 


Black College Expo returns to downtown Oakland for its 21st year

Featuring historically Black colleges and universities, participating schools will offer scholarships, on-the-spot admissions, and workshops about financial aid. 

Oaklandside’s Ashley McBride takes into the program for high school juniors & seniors as well as college students looking to transfer. See her piece here.

Oakland Unified has a $24M deficit to overcome. The Oakland Unified School District board is aiming to make $51 million in reductions for the upcoming school year and will consider options that include cuts to schools and a restructuring of the district’s central office. The school board will discuss the budget cuts at its Wednesday Feb. 14 meeting before taking a final vote on Feb. 28.  

Ashley also writes more in Oaklandside here.

Facing $23 million budget deficit, OUSD tries figuring out how to balance books for next school year

Oakland Unified School District is facing a budget deficit of at least $23 million for the upcoming 2024-2025 school year.  Given the expected shortfall, OUSD leaders are now working to take steps to try to cut costs and balance the budget. The OUSD school board discussed the monetary issues at its meeting Wednesday. At that meeting, the district’s superintendent spoke about OUSD’s commitment to balancing its budget. 

ABCs Tim Johns provides additional coverage of the issue here.  

OUSD Students Transfer to PUSD Amid Fears of Antisemitism

PUSD has opened their doors to a recent surge in interdistrict transfers. Since November 2023, ten students have transferred from Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) to PUSD, said Sylvia Eggert, executive assistant to PUSD Superintendent Jennifer Hawn. Hawn said this increase in transfers is in line with PUSD’s goal to expand enrollment across the district in light of declining numbers. “We’ve been really focused on making sure we tell the story of our great schools. And I think that has gotten out to Oakland families,” Hawn said. “I’ve been willing to talk to anyone and share what we’re doing to create a safe space.” 

For more see Editor-in-chief – Sage Gilbert – of the Piedmont Highlander here.  

Leader-to-leader collaboration: Real talk, real results  Equity in Education, Innovation and the Future of Learning

In this CRPE piece, Oakland Reach CEO Lakisha Young gives an account of the the power of collaboration where for two days, leaders from Rochester, Birmingham, New Orleans, Greenville, Jacksonville, Providence, Boston, and San Francisco, Richmond, and Oakland, CA, gathered together for their first-ever REACH Way Institute (RWI). The Oakland REACH’s second RWI will take place in spring 2024

Sign up for their newsletter if you’d like to receive updates.

Meet the candidates running to represent Berkeley and Oakland in the state Senate

The contentious and expensive race to represent Berkeley and Oakland in the state Senate is one of the most closely watched local contests on the March primary ballot. State Sen. Nancy Skinner has represented the East Bay’s diverse District 7 — which covers Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond and communities along Interstate 80 as far north as the Carquinez Bridge — since 2016, meaning she is barred from re-election because of the Legislature’s term limits. Five Democrats are vying to replace her.  

Nico Savidge and Eli Wolfe of Oaklandside look into where the candidates stand on public safety, housing and other key local issues in their article here.

EVENT:  Virtual Diverse Voices Conference will return March 9 at Oakland University

Oakland University’s 21st annual Diverse Voices Conference will take place virtually via Zoom at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 9. The goal of the conference is to provide a supportive forum for OU students, faculty, staff and community members to learn about and speak out in support of valuing all aspects of human diversity and the need for a socially just society. The theme of this year’s conference is “Defining Human Diversity Beyond Representation.” 

For the announcement, check out the  Oakland University News here.

EVENT: The Black Teacher Project’s Hiring & Sustaining Black Teachers Workshop on March 6

The Black Teacher Project is inviting hiring managers, administrators, superintendents, and school leaders to join us on Wednesday, March 6, at our interactive Hiring & Sustaining Black Teachers Workshop. Come explore how to create the conditions that invite Black educators into your school community and learn about strategies to retain a diverse teaching force and support their thriving. 

To reserve your spot, hit the link here.

The Bay Area

East San Jose school district seeks partner to save former youth center

A blighted East San Jose youth center has received a brief reprieve from the wrecking ball as community leaders work to save it. The Alum Rock Union School District board of trustees last week voted unanimously to postpone the demolition of the former Mexican American Community Services Agency (MACSA) building for six months. This is a dramatic reversal from the December meeting where only one trustee, Board Vice President Andres Quintero, voted to save it. This will allow time for the district to search for a community partner in an effort to renovate and repurpose the building. The board agreed to consider reallocating the $1 million demolition cost toward the renovation if a funding partner comes forward and requires financial support, Superintendent Hilaria Bauer told San José Spotlight. The building will be razed if a financial partner can’t be found by Aug. 15. Angel Rios, Jr., San Jose deputy city manager, said the MACSA youth center was an urban sanctuary for young people and if its walls could talk, they would tell countless stories of lives that were changed and transformed. 

Lorraine Gabbert gives us more insight in her San Jose Spotlight article here.

Lorraine also offers up some more tea in her story Silicon Valley charter school disputes education board’s discrimination claims, where a public charter school targeted by the Santa Clara County Office of Education is fighting to retain its charter. Bullis Charter School in the Los Altos School District is facing accusations of discrimination by the county Board of Education that it’s under-enrolling Hispanic English-language learners, students with disabilities and socio-economically disadvantaged students. Maureen Israel, superintendent and principal of Bullis Charter School, said these claims are baseless and the county office of education is ignoring its recent data. Students are chosen through a lottery. 

For more information see her article here.

Free tuition at Peralta Colleges sees students returning to school in big numbers

For the past two years, all four campuses in the Peralta Community College District — Berkeley City College, Laney College, Merritt College and the College of Alameda — have waived tuition and fees for students who fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, which has enabled thousands of students to take classes and earn degrees for free. It’s also led to an increase in student diversity, with more students of color and older students enrolling in courses.  “In high school, I told myself community college was the best decision for me because I wanted to stay close to home and I needed the time to decide what I wanted to study and what kind of career path would make me the happiest,” said Vasquez, who graduated from Oakland Charter High School in 2021.  It’s uncertain if classes will remain free much longer without additional federal or state funding, district officials said. But the program has been a big boost to the community college. 

For more info check out Ashley McBride’s Berkeleyside article here.

Auction set for beloved San Jose teacher’s sneaker collection to raise money for scholarship

Virginia Wright, aka SP Gina, was known for her devotion to her students and her love of sneakers. When she died suddenly last year, her family knew they wanted to honor her memory.  Now in partnership with retailer Shoe Palace, they are having an auction of her incredible shoe collection. They hope to raise money for a scholarship in her name. “These shoes that she’s got are really special. They’re all retros, they’re all limited edition products,” says John Mersho, president of Shoe Palace. 

For more details see Ann Rubin’s article for KTVU here.

Editorial: Reelect three Alameda County education board incumbents who face ill-prepared challengers

The East Bay Times Editorial Board makes cases for the reelection of Angela Normand, Janevette Cole, and Eileen McDonald for the Alameda County Board of Education, highlighting their experience and deep understanding of the board’s responsibilities. They highlight that Normand, Cole, and McDonald possess robust educational backgrounds and a firm grasp of the duties associated with their roles, contrasting sharply with their challengers who demonstrate a lack of relevant experience and comprehension, rendering them unsuitable for the positions they aspire to hold. 

For a more introspective look at the case being made see the EBT editorial here. 

The State of California

As if we need more evidence to Dump The D

Most California high school seniors shut out of even applying to the state’s universities

While the vast majority of students in California — 86% of seniors in 2023 — graduate from high school, most — 56% in 2023 — do not complete their A-G requirements, according to an EdSource analysis of data from the California Department of Education. EdSource’s analysis found that Black and Latino students are the hardest hit. In 2023, 68% of Black students and 64% of Latino students did not meet A-G requirements, compared with 26% of Asian students and 48% of white students, according to EdSource’s analysis.  PACE released a series of briefs and reports on the A-G completion rates in summer 2023, noting that access to rigorous coursework — whether dual enrollment, Advanced Placement or other college preparatory courses — can profoundly change the trajectory of a student’s life. These courses not only set students up for admission to college, but make it more likely that a student will pursue college in the first place.

KTVU’s Emma Gallegos and Daniel J. Willis dig deep and lay it out here.

New California teaching standards increase focus on family engagement, social-emotional learning

California’s Commission on Teacher Credentialing approved long-awaited revised Standards for the Teaching Profession on Thursday that emphasize culturally responsive teaching, social-emotional learning and family engagement. The standards, which guide teachers’ professional development and evaluation statewide, broadly describe the knowledge, skills and abilities expected of effective experienced teachers. State law requires that they are updated regularly.  “The revised CSTP aims to rehumanize our system by focusing on the whole student, their identities and what’s meaningful in this world to them, not us,” said Leigh Dela Victoria, an instructional coach in the Fontana Unified School District in San Bernardino County. 

For more information see Diana Lambert’s EdSource article here.

Backlash mounts as LAUSD approves policy preventing charters on vulnerable campuses

The Los Angeles Unified School District school board voted 4-3 Tuesday to adopt a policy that would prevent charter schools from sharing a campus with the district’s Black Student Achievement Plan (BSAP) schools, community schools and priority schools. This decision means that when making co-location offers, the board will try to avoid offers that “compromise district schools’ capacity to serve neighborhood children” and that “result in grade span arrangements that negatively impact student safety and build charter school pipelines that actively deter students from attending district schools.” “This policy, in the eyes of some, does not go far enough; and, in the eyes of others, it goes too far,” Carvalho said at Tuesday’s meeting.  “And somehow, experience tells me that any time you’re in that position, you probably achieved some degree of balance.” 

For more information see Mallika Seshadri’s article in EdSource here.

Newsom’s top education advisor bares his mental health struggle: ‘You’re not alone’ – Los Angeles Times

The boy hated himself. Six months into his first year in high school, he dropped out. For more than a year, he isolated himself in his Huntington Beach bedroom where he became addicted to video games and anonymously vented his anger online with racist and misogynistic screeds, haunted by suicidal thoughts and fantasies about hurting others. His health deteriorated as he binged on pepperoni pizza, grew obese and developed terrible rashes. Today, Chida, 38, is Gov. Gavin Newsom’s chief deputy Cabinet secretary, a key member of the team building an ambitious plan to reshape public education through a $50-billion continuum of services to create a healthy foundation for children and a path to meaningful jobs at the end. Chida was the chief architect of five-year compacts with the University of California and California State University, pledging financial stability in exchange for gains in graduation rates, access and affordability. He guided a statewide data system, set to debut this year, to follow students through the educational pipeline into careers to assess what works and doesn’t. He is driving Newsom’s Master Plan for Career Education, set for release this fall, that would help high school students explore potential careers, build job skills while earning academic certification and access greater state financial and counseling support. et Chida still struggles with his mental health. 

Check out the heartfelt story by Teresa Wantanabe in the LA Times here.

Schools struggle to combat increasing homelessness as federal funding ends

Los Angeles Unified schools are facing an increasing number of homeless students at the same time the district is losing more than $5 billion in federal COVID-19 funding. Of the $5 billion, $7.4 million is allocated for programs aimed at homeless students. According to the California Department of Education and U.S Department of Education, the funds must be spent by September, 2024, and are unlikely to be allocated again.  In the 2022-23 school, LAUSD reported 9,140 homeless students, a nine percent increase from the previous academic year.  “Moratoriums started ending for eviction protections…now they’re completely gone away,” said LA County state homeless education project director Jennifer Kottke. 

See Katie VanArnam’s article in LA School Report.

These fed-up parents fought California’s pandemic schooling and won. Now what?

At the height of the pandemic, in spring 2020, Maria O. her husband and four children were quarantined in their one-bedroom apartment in South Los Angeles, each vying for privacy, quiet and adequate technology to work and attend school remotely.  There weren’t enough tablets or laptops, and Wi-Fi was glitchy. Her children ended up logging into online classes using their parents’ phones. While the children once loved school, they started falling behind academically. Everyone grew frustrated. “People on the outside don’t know the impact that remote learning had on families like us,” said Maria O. “It was hard and it was stressful. We stayed afloat, but it wasn’t easy.” Maria O.’s family is among a dozen Californians who joined a lawsuit against the state, claiming that in many schools, remote learning was so inconsistent and ineffective that thousands of students — especially low-income, Black and Latino students — were denied their right to an education. 

CalMatters’ Carolyn Jones digs deep in her comprehensive article here. 

STUDY: Latinos achieve academic, financial success in California community college baccalaureate program 

California community college baccalaureate degree programs are prompting academic success, fewer student loans and better-paying jobs among Latino graduates, allowing them to overcome historic inequities in educational attainment and financial stability, according to a new UCLA study. Despite the promising findings, however, the study’s co-author said educators, researchers and policymakers must do more to understand and address barriers affecting Latino enrollment. “When students get into the program they do really well,” said Davis Vo, a doctorate student in UCLA’s School of Education and Information Studies. “But the issue is getting them into the program.” 

Check out Scott Schwebke of the Orange County Register’s article here.

California’s Push for Ethnic Studies Runs Into the Israel-Hamas War 

California has grand ambitions for ethnic studies. By 2025, the state’s public high schools — about 1,600 of them — must teach the subject. By 2030, students won’t be able to graduate high school without it. The state’s high school students will be required to take the subject, but some object to how the discipline addresses the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

NY Times’s Dana Goldstein looks into it here.

RESEARCH: Immigration enforcement hinders schoolwork; schools offer support 

Immigrant students’ schoolwork and experience in the classroom often suffer in the presence of immigration enforcement — with 60% percent of teachers and school staff reporting poorer academic performance, and nearly half noting increased rates of bullying against these students, UCLA-based researchers found. “Instead of focusing on their education, these students struggle with this uncertainty and, as a result, are often absent from school or inattentive. Their teachers also struggle to motivate them and sometimes to protect them,” reads a recent policy brief by UCLA’s Center for the Transformation of Schools, Latino Policy and Politics Institute, and Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles. “The broken immigration system hurts schools and creates victims across the spectrum of race and ethnicity in the United States, but it is especially acute for these students.” 

For more details and context see Mallika Seshadri story in EdSource.

Thousands of Californians got a shot at better careers through this program. Is it working?

At 47, Ibrahim Mohamed doesn’t fit the typical image of a college intern. When he arrived in the U.S. from Sudan in 2016, he went online to look for a steady job and decided he wanted to be an electrician at a water treatment facility. A few years later, he started his internship, which is part of a state program known as a “High Road Training Partnership.” The focus is on training workers for “high road” jobs, defined as those that pay a living wage, provide opportunities for promotion, guarantee safe working conditions, and may offer other benefits, such as a union. Since 2014, California has put roughly $370 million toward High Road job training, said Erin Hickey, a spokesperson for the California Workforce Development Board, in an email. The board, which administers the program, refused multiple requests for an interview. 

For more see Adam Echelman’s story in CalMatters here.

OPINION: In another opinion piece by Dan Walters for CalMatters entitled California should stop tolerating so many K-12 kids struggling to read, the author underscores the critical importance of reading skills in education, highlighting California’s dismal performance in literacy based on recent academic tests and national assessments. Despite the recognition of phonics-based instruction as effective, California has lagged in its implementation, prompting calls for stronger state policies to ensure all students receive adequate reading instruction, especially those historically underserved.

Parents sue California for “misleading” title on transgender ballot initiative

A parents’ rights group is suing California’s attorney general over what they claim is a politically-charged labeling of their ballot initiative. Parent activist group Protect Kids California filed a lawsuit against California Attorney General Rob Bonta for his title and description of the group’s ballot initiative requiring schools to notify parents if children request to be treated as a different gender, blocking transgender females from participating in female sports, and mandating that students participate in activities and use school facilities consistent with their birth genders. “Regardless of the perspective or content of a ballot initiative, Californians are owed a neutral title and summary of that initiative as part of their core political speech,” said Emily Rae, senior counsel at the Liberty Justice Center, which co-filed the lawsuit against Bonta. “Ultimately, Rob Bonta owes it to Californians to uphold his duty as Attorney General—without injecting bias or prejudice into the matter.”

See Kenneth Shrupp’s story in Chalkboard News.

Across The Nation

Teachers’ Unions are Calling for Ceasefire in Gaza. What Does it Tell Us About November?

When the American Federation of Teachers, America’s second-largest teachers’ union, officially called for a cessation of hostilities in Gaza on January 30, its language was clear, but careful. The resolution listed the conditions necessary for a bilateral ceasefire, including the release of Israeli hostages and the provision of more humanitarian aid. It excoriated Hamas, both for its Oct. 7 terrorist assault and the brutal repression suffered by Gazans under its control, as well as the Netanyahu government for obstructing the possibility of a two-state solution. Further criticism was reserved for antisemitism, Islamophobia and the attempted censorship of dissenting views. The document was notable for its timing as well as its substance. By the end of January, a growing number of union affiliates and leaders had already made similar pronouncements, though often voiced in much harsher terms. 

For info see Kevin Mahnken’s story in The 74.

Nearly two-thirds of teachers steer clear of charged topics

RAND study finds curriculum restrictions are having an effect even on educators in states without limits on instruction. As of January 2023, 18 states had passed policies restricting teachers’ instruction, according to RAND’s findings from the 2023 State of the American Teacher Survey. In the year since, another 2 states have passed such policies, said Ashley Woo, assistant policy researcher at RAND. When the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” and anti-Critical Race Theory policies initially gained traction toward the tail end of former President Donald Trump’s administration, policy and curriculum experts warned they would chill conversation in the classroom. Since then, many lawsuits have in fact been filed asserting such outcomes. 

For more details see Naaz Modan’s piece here in K12 Dive.

How HBCUs are building a stronger Black teacher pipeline 

As HBCUs produce 50% of all Black educators nationwide, a UNCF report illustrates best practices for recruitment efforts.  While HBCUs make up only 3% of colleges and universities, 50% of all Black educators come from these institutions, the UNCF report said. UNCF looked at four HBCUs: Alabama A&M University, Albany State University in Georgia, Fayetteville State University in North Carolina and Huston-Tillotson University in Texas.  The HBCUs’ best practices for getting Black students in the teacher pipeline offer takeaways for other teacher prep programs as well. For instance, UNCF recommends higher education institutions take advantage of their faculty and staff’s personal and professional networks to recruit students. Partnerships with school districts are another suggested approach. 

For more, see Anna Merod’s story in K12 Dive

Education Department moving to speed up college financial aid awards after bumpy FAFSA rollout

The Department of Education on Tuesday announced new ways it is supporting colleges to ensure they can easily process its delayed Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) forms. It is the second wave of support the department has announced after it said colleges will not receive this year’s student FAFSA information until March, significantly reducing the time schools have to process the forms and students have to choose an institution. The department announced three new ways it will be helping colleges with FAFSA forms: reducing verification requirements, temporarily stopping program reviews and giving flexibility on recertification. 

For more details see Lexi Lonas’s story in The Sacramento Bee here.

The new FAFSA rollout has faced several obstacles and delays | what students and families can do

Since its rollout at the end of December, the 2024-25 Free Application for Federal Student Aid has run into a number of speed bumps. The soft launch of the application at the beginning of January was met with technological glitches that made it difficult for many students and their families to even access the FAFSA. And once those were mostly resolved, the Department of Education addressed an error that had the new financial aid calculation not accounting for inflation. All of which has culminated in delayed financial aid packages for current and incoming college students. To help alleviate some of the issues, ED announced this week it will deploy a “FAFSA College Support Strategy.” 

CNBC’s Kamaron McNair takes a look at the plan here.

Students panic after new financial aid application blocks them: ‘I don’t know who to call’

A technical glitch is blocking students who are U.S. citizens — but whose parents aren’t — from completing their federal financial aid applications, and the problem is causing panic in California. For many of these college applicants, it’s a crisis not only preventing them from applying for federal grants and loans, but also from applying for free tuition at the University of California and California State University or partial tuition waivers at private colleges in the state. The deadline for that state aid is April 2 for new students, a date set by California law that only the Legislature and Gov. Gavin Newsom can change.  “It makes me feel worried,” said Ashley Estrada, a high school senior at Diego Rivera Learning Complex in south Los Angeles. Estrada is a citizen while both her parents are undocumented.  She has a high GPA and aspires to attend UC Berkeley, UCLA, Dartmouth or another elite campus. 

CalMatter’s Mikhail Zinshteyn shines a light on this issue.

NYC sues TikTok, Instagram, and other social media companies over youth mental health crisis

The city contends that social media platforms are designed to be addictive, harming young people’s mental health, and serving as venues for bullying. The lawsuit is calling on the companies to change their practices and pay for youth mental health education prevention and treatment services. Officials said the city spends about $100 million a year on youth mental health programs. The city’s Education Department and the public hospital system are also part of the suit filed in California state court against the companies operating TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and YouTube. “The feature that keeps young people clicking in these dark corners of social media have fueled an alarming rise in online bullying, depression, eating disorders, and suicidal ideation,” Adams said during a briefing on Wednesday. “There is, of course, a great deal of education and positive content out there too. But there is also a 24/7 digital dystopia that even very young children can easily access without parents or caregivers ever being aware of.”   

Alex Zimmerman and Amy Zimmer dig in for Chalkbeat here.

State school board member who appeared to question high school girl’s gender on social media is censured

Utah’s State Legislature has voted to censure a state board of education member whose social media post last week appeared to raise questions about a high school girl’s gender. Natalie Cline, a member of the Utah State Board of Education since 2020, posted a photo of the high school basketball player and falsely implied the student is transgender, writing: “Girls’ basketball…” The teenage girl in Utah faced threats after Cline’s posts, which drew condemnation from Gov. Spencer Cox and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson – who both urged state education officials to hold her accountable. “The Board voted to request Member Cline’s resignation from the Board by February 19, 2024,” the board said in the release. “Additionally, she will be removed from all committee assignments, not be allowed to place items on upcoming Board agendas, and prohibited from attending any Board advisory committee meetings.” 

See CNN’s Raja Razek’s story here, along with a related article here by CNN’s Emma Tucker.

Suit alleges Montgomery Co. schools violated teachers’ 1st Amendment rights | Three teachers allege they were placed on leave for their support of Palestinians

The Council on American-Islamic Relations filed a lawsuit alleging that Maryland’s largest school system violated three teachers’ First Amendment rights by placing them on administrative leave “because they support Palestine and criticize Israel.”  The teachers — Anike Robinson, Angela Wolf and Hajur El-Haggan — were placed on administrative leave by Montgomery County Public Schools last year pending an investigation into alleged violations of school system guidelines. 

For more see Nicole Asbury’s Washington Post article here.

Florida law blasted after permission slip sent to hear Black author’s book

A controversial “parental rights” law in Florida is facing renewed scrutiny after a rule about parental permission slips sparked confusion at a Miami elementary school when it asked parents to sign a slip allowing their children to hear a guest speaker read a book “written by an African-American.” Charles Walter, a parent of two at Coral Way K-8 Center in Miami, shared a Miami-Dade Public Schools permission slip on social media Monday that described an in-school library event for his daughter’s first-grade class. The students would “participate & listen to a book written by an African-American,” while guests for the activity were described as “fireman/doctor/artist.”  “I had to give permission for this or else my child would not participate???” Walter wrote on X. He told The Washington Post in an interview this was the first parental permission slip he received since the policy took effect last fall but has since received others. 

Kim Bellware gives us more insight in her piece for the Washington Post.

REPORT: Kids’ Mental Health Tops Reasons Why Parents Consider Changing Schools | Among parents ‘open minded’ about school choice, academic performance came in second as a motivating factor, consulting firm Tyton Partners found.

Districts that have faced historic enrollment losses could lose even more families if they don’t respond to student needs, according to the report, released Thursday and provided exclusively to The 74 by Tyton Partners, a consulting firm that has tracked the shifting education landscape since the pandemic. 

For better context see Linda Jacobson’s article here in The74.

OPINION: Black Student Success | Academic rigor versus cultural relevance is a false choice

In this Opinion piece by Chris Carr of Aspire Public School, he states that In the current education climate marked by debates over curriculum, maintaining academic rigor alongside culturally sensitive, relationship-focused support for students is crucial as schools address pandemic-related learning loss and ongoing social-emotional needs. Balancing these approaches is essential, reframing them as mutually reinforcing rather than conflicting, to ensure all students receive the necessary support for success, combining culturally relevant teaching with rigorous instruction grounded in equity and data-driven practices. Examples from Aspire Public Schools in Los Angeles demonstrate the effectiveness of this approach, from addressing absenteeism through strategic interventions to fostering inclusive environments and partnerships to incorporate Afrocentric and LGBTQ+ curriculum, highlighting the potential for significant transformation in education when both academic rigor and cultural relevance are prioritized. 

For more from Chris Carr, check out his piece in Edsource.

This NYC teen wants therapy. Her mom isn’t so sure.

Derry Oliver was in fifth grade when she first talked to her mom about seeing a therapist. She was living in Georgia with her uncle and grandparents while her mom was in New York scoping out jobs and apartments ahead of moving the family. It was a rough year apart. Oliver, now 17 and a senior at Cobble Hill School for American Studies in Brooklyn, was feeling depressed. A school staffer raised the idea of a therapist.  Oliver’s mom, also named Derry Oliver, questioned the school’s assessment and didn’t give consent for therapy. “You’re so young,” the mom recalled thinking. “There’s nothing wrong with you. These are growing pains.” 

See Michael Elsen-Rooney’s piece here in Chalkbeat

Employee protests shutter NC schools after promised pay raises aren’t delivered

Durham, North Carolina’s public school system is closed for the second day, citing a lack of support personnel for the district’s transportation department after the district announced it would not be able to deliver promised pay increases. Durham Public Schools says on its website that it will be closed on Monday “due to absences within our transportation department that will prevent us from operating buses.” The district has faced employee criticism and protests after it walked back $10 million in promised pay increases, citing a faulty compensation study. 

For more, check out Brendan Clarey’s story in Chalkboard News.

4-day school week has neutral impact in Missouri

The state’s students with four-day weeks were more likely to be White, live in rural areas and participate in free-and-reduced priced lunch, researchers found. The Missouri report said the number of school districts in the state switching to a four-day school week increased from just 1 in 2011 to 123 in 2022 —  making up roughly 22% of the state’s districts. 

For more insight see Kara Arundel’s article here in K12 Dive.

Florida Students Seize on ‘Parental Rights’ to Stop Educators From Hitting Kids | An 18-year-old honors student says a spanking at her school went disturbingly beyond discipline. Now, she’s joined a student effort to fight back.

Inside a Florida high school principal’s office, Brooklynn Daniels found herself alone with two men and a wooden paddle “that was thick like a chapter book.”  In about a third of Florida school districts, and concentrated in rural panhandle enclaves like Daniels’s Liberty County, corporal punishment as a form of student discipline remains deeply ingrained in the culture. It’s why on this morning in early December, school leaders instructed the 18-year-old to bend over a desk.  What came next — a paddling that left deep purple bruises and welts for a minor school offense that Daniels said stemmed from a misunderstanding about Christmas decorations on a campus door — was far beyond routine student discipline, the Liberty County High School senior told The 74.  It was, she alleges, sexual assault.  

Mark Keierleber of The 74 gives an in-depth account in his article here

SXSW EDU Cheat Sheet: 18 Key Artificial Intelligence Workshops & Conversations to See in Austin Next Month

Greg Toppo compiles a rundown of the key panels, workshops and sessions to check out at SXSW EDU 2024, set to run March 4-7. South by Southwest Edu returns to Austin, Texas, running March 3-7. As always, the event offers a wealth of panels, discussions, film screenings and workshops exploring emerging trends in education and innovation. Keynote speakers this year include Geoffrey Canada of Harlem Children’s Zone, Carol Dweck of Stanford University, who popularized the idea of “growth mindset,” and actor Christopher Jackson, who starred on Broadway as George Washington in Hamilton. Jackson, who has a child on the autism spectrum, will discuss how doctors, parents and advocates are working together to change the ways neurodivergent kids communicate and learn. But one issue that looms larger than most in the imaginations of educators is artificial intelligence.

For the skinny, check out Greg’s article in The 74.

What do you think?

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