LAEP NewsBlast Week of 5/28/14

May 28, 2014 – In This Issue:
Racism’s compound interest
Falling short on our egalitarian system
The problem with ‘grit’
Mississippi: rural bellwether
Looking not at behavior, but what triggers it
What prompts students to leave
Kids in foster care are a distinct subgroup
Tightening rules around vaccinations
BRIEFLY NOTED CALIFORNIA
BRIEFLY NOTED
GRANTS AND FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES

Racism’s compound interest

The legacy of slavery and segregation in this country has benefitted many for years on a principle similar to compound interest, writes Ezra Klein for Vox. White America has, for centuries, used force, racist laws, biased courts, and housing segregation to build wealth, stealing the work of African Americans and then, when that became illegal, plundering their work and assets. And then it let compound interest work its magic. Today, white America is one of the richest and most powerful populations the world has ever known. Klein speaks of compound interest literally, accrued via stolen income, but also figuratively, in terms of education, families, neighborhoods, and self-respect. Consider the break-up of African-American families through slavery. “If you believe in the power of strong families to help their members do better in life — and almost all the research says you should, and almost every American politician says he does,” Klein writes, then think about the negative value of a shattered family, compounding through generations. The same goes for houses stolen, educations wanted but not obtained, and loss of a basic belief in U.S. law and institutions that whites take for granted. So, “the people who benefitted most from American racism weren’t the white men who stole the penny. It’s the people who held onto the penny while it doubled and doubled and doubled and doubled,” Klein feels. More

Falling short on our egalitarian system

In the national mythology, few ideas are more revered than education’s power to overcome entrenched inequality, writes Eduardo Porter in The New York Times. While often falling short of the ideal, the United States at one time aimed to provide universal, comprehensive education, an egalitarian system to put elite European systems to shame — but no longer. Not only do American standards trail those of other industrial countries, but we have a persistent gulf in results between rich and poor. Only one in 20 children from the most disadvantaged quarter of the population manages to excel at school. Americans may protest this reflects the United States’ more heterogeneous population and greater income inequality, but the truth, noted by the O.E.C.D., is that “socioeconomic disadvantage translates more directly into poor educational performance in the United States than in many other countries.” The way schools are funded — mainly through local real estate taxes — creates a built-in advantage for schools in rich communities, where they hire the best teachers, build the best labs, and buy the best computers, and where the wealthy surround their children with the children of other wealthy people. Closing disparities in education requires addressing school funding, teacher quality, and teacher salaries, and truly implementing common standards. As long as the performance gap remains so wide, education cannot level the playing field of opportunity. More

The problem with ‘grit’
The “new character education” has thousands of administrators, teachers, and parents convinced that qualities such as perseverance, discipline, and self-control trump IQ in determining academic success, writes Jeffrey Aaron Snyder for The New Republic. Yet Snyder finds major problems with this premise. First, we don’t know how to teach character. We have an increasingly cogent “science of character,” but no “science of teaching character.” Many so-called desirable traits may be largely inherited and resistant to educational intervention. We already know, for instance, that grit is strongly correlated with “conscientiousness,” which psychologists view as stable and hereditary. The second problem is that the new character education unwittingly promotes an amoral and careerist “looking out for number one” point-of-view, completely untethered from values and ethics. It takes grit and self-control to be a successful heart surgeon, but the same could be said of a suicide bomber. Bernie Madoff was, by most accounts, extremely hard-working, charming, and wildly optimistic. The third and final problem is that the new character education limits the purpose of education to preparation for college and career. This is admirable given that for too long, black and Hispanic students, especially those living in poverty, have not been perceived as “college material.” But is it is wise? More

Mississippi: rural bellwether
A new national report finds that rural schools in Mississippi are expanding, serving more low-income and minority students, writes Jackie Mader in The Hechinger Report. Fifty-six percent of public school students in the state attend rural schools, a 12 percent increase since 2002-03 and higher percentage than in all but two states. Since 2008-09, Mississippi’s rural students who qualify for free or reduced lunch have increased from 63 to 65 percent, far higher than the national average. While overall minority students in Mississippi’s rural schools have increased by half a percent since 2008-09, rural Hispanic students in the state increased by 530 percent between 1999 and 2009. Nationwide, Hispanic students account for 93 percent of new rural students. Rural students in Mississippi posted the worst eighth-grade math scores and the third worst eighth-grade reading scores on a 2011 national standardized exam. Its rural teachers are paid the seventh lowest salary of all states, and it ranks in the bottom five in rural per-pupil funding. Nationwide, rural enrollment is growing faster than in non-rural areas, with a third of all public schools rural; more than 20 percent of the nation’s children are enrolled in rural schools. Percentages vary greatly by state, with Vermont serving 57 percent of students in rural schools, while Massachusetts serves 4 percent. More

Looking not at behavior, but what triggers it
An artfully devised curriculum means little to a student whose mind is fixed on last night’s shooting outside or violent fight between parents, writes Laura Pappano in The Harvard Education Letter. Years of research reveal the prevalence of “adverse childhood experiences” (ACEs) in the United States — more than 68 percent of children have experienced a traumatic event by age 16 — with higher ACE scores correlating to health, education, and social problems. Federal data show 686,000 children were victims of abuse or neglect in 2012, the most recent information. A growing interest in “trauma-sensitive” schools has educators checking raised voices, discarding detention slips, and looking not at bad behavior but what triggered it, Pappano reports. In trauma-sensitive schools, staff let traumatized students exit class mid-­lesson if they feel overwhelmed, or change “automatic thoughts” when confronting a student acting out. A number of available resources urge weaving trauma-sensitive thinking into school culture and staff training, tapping mental health experts, teaching in ways that make students feel safe, and building nonacademic relationships and rules that reflect the role of trauma in misbehavior. In an era of high-pressure performance, sensitivity and leeway feels counterintuitive, but giving students flexibility lets them stay engaged. More

What prompts students to leave 

A new report from America’s Promise Alliance details experiences that lead youth away from school before graduating. It expressly avoids the term “dropout,” since participants said it doesn’t describe their experience of leaving school, and because most kids surveyed eventually completed their education. Researchers found respondents across 16 cities frequently mentioned 25 factors that influenced decisions about school, including support and guidance from adults, incarceration, family deaths, family heath challenges, gangs, homelessness, school safety, school policies, peer influences, and parenthood. They also indicated common toxicities: violence at home, in school, or in their neighborhoods; personal or family health trauma; and unsafe, unsupportive, or disrespectful school climates and policies. Youth also were often caregivers or wage-earners for ill parents. The presence or absence of connections with parents, family members, school professionals, peers, and participants’ own children drove many choices. The authors argue that students who leave school are stronger than popular opinion and current research describe. These strengths could, with the right supports, allow them to stay in school, and these abilities do help many to re-engage. Young people who leave high school need fewer easy exits and more easy on-ramps back into education. Everyone in a young person’s life and community can do something to help. More

Kids in foster care are a distinct subgroup
A new report from the California Child Welfare Indicators Project describes important associations between foster-care placement types and disability diagnosis, school changes, standardized-test performance, and dropout and graduation rates. The second part of a larger study, it linked child welfare and state education data and found that students in every type of foster care lagged significantly behind their low-SES (socioeconomic status) peers. School mobility was tied to recent entry into foster care and the restrictiveness of the foster care placement setting. Students in foster care were more likely than the general population of students to be enrolled in the lowest-performing schools and to be enrolled in nontraditional schools. They had the lowest participation rate in California’s statewide testing program, and participation was tied to placement instability. Educational disadvantage was greatest in upper grade levels, among students in group homes, and for students who experienced three or more placements. Among all high school students, those in foster care had the highest dropout and lowest graduation rates; students in more stable placements showed better performance for both of these education outcomes. Altogether, the report’s findings suggest that despite recent state legislative efforts, additional and specific supports are needed for this subgroup of students. More

Tightening rules around vaccinations

As outbreaks of preventable diseases have spread around the country in recent years, some states have been re-evaluating how and why they allow parents to opt their children out of vaccines, reports Evie Blad for Education Week. Requiring vaccines before school admission has been a key component of a decades-long campaign that nearly rid the United States of many severe illnesses, from the measles to whooping cough. Public health experts find the most fault with personal exemptions, also known as philosophical exemptions, in place in 19 states and typically allowing parents to opt out by signing a one-time form and without disclosing a reason. The number of such exemptions has grown over the last decade, with high concentrations in states that have especially permissive policies. The movement to opt out has spiked in part because of scientifically unproven claims that vaccines are linked to autism and because of misinformation spread online. And as vaccines have largely wiped out the diseases they’re designed to prevent, the public has grown less concerned. Since 2011, Washington, Oregon, California, and Vermont have revised their personal exemption processes toward greater stringency, and Colorado has advanced a bill to require schools to collect information about their vaccination rates and provide it to parents upon request. More

BRIEFLY NOTED CALIFORNIA

Adequate?

The U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division is looking into whether California is adequately overseeing the education of 1.4 million students in the state who are still learning English. More

Artful

A new federal program called Turnaround Arts that uses the arts to improve academic performance will now include 10 of California’s lowest-performing schools, including Warren Lane Elementary in Inglewood and Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary in Compton. More

A living wage

Hundreds of education workers rallied in Lafayette Park, calling on the LAUSD to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour and improve school services for students. More

Money well spent

Los Angeles Unified is poised to expand its efforts to make access to health care easier for schoolchildren, with an allocation of $50 million for wellness centers on campuses. More

Neck and neck

The top contenders to be California’s public schools chief are neck-and-neck in campaign funds leading into the June primary, according to finance reports. More

BRIEFLY NOTED 

Penny wise, pound foolish

The Missouri Legislature sent a bill for delayed and limited state funding for public preschool programs to the governor on the final day of the session. More

Not so fast, pardner

A North Carolina Superior Court judge has ruled that a 2013 law dismantling the state’s system of “career status” — tenure — for teachers is unconstitutional. More

Sounds good

Utah’s push to see two-thirds of adults holding a degree or certificate by 2020 will add $14.4 billion to the state’s economy over 30 years through increased wages, and generate $1.4 billion in new tax revenue, according to Gov. Gary Herbert. More

Cui bono?

Seventy-five percent of eligible students who applied for taxpayer-funded subsidies to attend private and religious schools this fall in the Wisconsin voucher program already attend private schools, according to data. More

Chilly reception

The Oklahoma Board of Education has blasted the passage of legislation that gives parents and teachers a say in the decision about whether to hold back struggling readers, calling it a “true setback” that will restore social promotion in public schools. More

Fueling demand

New York City is spending $600,000 on a print, radio, web, and outdoor ad campaign meant to boost enrollment in prekindergarten programs at community-based organizations around the city. More

GRANTS AND FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES

LLCF: Grants for Libraries

The Lois Lenski Covey Foundation, Inc. annually awards grants to libraries and other institutions that operate a library for purchasing books published for young people preschool through grade 8. Maximum award: $3,000. Eligibility: school libraries, non-traditional libraries operated by charitable [501(c)(3)] and other non-taxable agencies, and bookmobile programs. Deadline: June 16, 2014.

ASIS&T/ Thomson Reuters: Outstanding Information Science Teacher Award

The Thomson Reuters Outstanding Information Science Teacher Award recognizes the unique teaching contribution of an individual as a teacher of information science. Maximum award: $1,000; $500 towards travel or other expenses to the grant recipient, contingent upon the recipient’s attending the ASIS&T annual meeting. Eligibility: individuals directly engaged in teaching some aspect of information science on a continuing basis, in an academic or a non-academic setting; nominees need not be associated with an educational institution; however, teaching information science must represent a significant work responsibility although it need not occur within the traditional classroom. Deadline: August 1, 2014.

The Awesome Foundation: Grants for Projects

The Awesome Foundation funds projects that challenge and expand our understanding of our individual and communal potentials, bringing communities together, casting aside social inhibitions and boundaries for a moment. Maximum award: $1,000. Eligibility: all people and organizations; there are no prerequisites. Deadline: rolling.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

“Mister Rogers is now a twinkle-eyed YouTube ghost, still broadcasting his love into the dark, empty cosmos. But, in a way, that’s all he ever was. And that’s another reason he’s such a pivotal figure in today’s education debate. Though he was passionate about creating quality media for children, Rogers would probably be the first to warn against the dangers of relying on technology to do what only humans — namely parents and teachers — can do.” — Anya Kamenetz on NPR, about the currency of Fred Rogers’s work.