Virtual School Meanderings

September 30, 2020

School and Society in the Age of Trump

An item from the National Education Policy Center.

School and Society in the Age of Trump

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

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School and Society in the Age of Trump

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With the presidential election still a few weeks away, it remains to be seen whether the age of Trump is a four-year anomaly or longer era that will extend through 2024. But already National Education Policy Center Fellow John Rogers of UCLA has taken stock of how schools have been impacted by broad social issues that have risen to prominence during this administration’s reign.

In School and Society in the Age of Trump, Rogers and his co-authors Michael Ishimoto, Alexander Kwako, Anthony Berryman, and Claudia Diera draw upon the results of a nationally representative survey of 500 high school principals to explore how schools have been impacted by a set of five broad, societal issues that have become more prominent during the presidency of Donald Trump. Because the survey plus 40 follow-up interviews were conducted in 2018, those issues do not include the coronavirus pandemic. However, the issues that were examined remain relevant to this day. They include: political division and hostility; disputes over truth, facts, and the reliability of sources; opioid addiction; the threat of immigration enforcement; and threats of gun violence on school campuses. Combined, they present a major challenge to educators trying to shape the futures of the young people and our society. The following statistics and information are drawn from the study.

  • 89 percent: The share of principals who report that incivility and contentiousness in the broader political environment has considerably affected their school community. Impacts have included contentious behavior in classrooms, hostile exchanges outside of class, and disagreements among community and staff that negatively impact the school. The environment takes a toll. Principals report that they spend an average of 90 minutes a week addressing these issues. For example, a principal at a large, racially diverse high school in North Carolina described an incident in which a group of white male students chanted “Trump, Trump, Trump” as they descended a school staircase, getting louder and louder in response to a challenge from an African American classmate with an anti-Trump message handwritten on his t-shirt. The encounter was heading toward a disruptive confrontation that had to be headed off by multiple members of the school’s staff.
  • 92 percent: The share of principals who say cyberbullying is occurring at their schools. “Social media is destroying school safety and climate,” an Ohio principal said.
  • 74 percent of principals have talked with individual students regarding those students’ concerns about their well-being or the well-being of their families due to opioid addiction of family members. In interviews, principals described keeping the overdose treatment drug Naloxone on hand, using their own money to pay the utility bill of a student with an opioid-addicted parent, hiring a support staff employee to treat addicted students, and responding to the weekend overdose death of a student. Many lacked the knowledge or resources for a comprehensive response—the most common approach described was a whole-school assembly with guest speakers and a motivational and scared-straight narrative.
  • 68 percent of principals say federal immigration enforcement policies and the political rhetoric around the issue have harmed student well being and learning and have undermined the work of their schools in general. Study authors note that the impact of this enforcement may be even more widespread, particularly in politically conservative communities, since students and families may hide the fact that they are undocumented. Principals who are aware of undocumented families in their communities report taking the following types of actions: finding temporary housing so a student whose parents were being deported could finish out the school year, connecting an undocumented parent with medical professionals who could help treat her cancer, knocking on doors to reassure parents that Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents are not permitted on campus, and writing letters to the court on behalf of parents facing deportation. “We have a very high population [of undocumented students],” a Nevada principal said. “We [always] understood they were here and they were our students. But . . . the country wasn’t seeing them that way, and it was really affecting the way kids and families felt in our own community” until more recently.
  • 72 percent of principals report that students have experienced difficulty focusing on class lessons or missed school due to stress created by the threat of gun violence. Anxieties about gun violence increased throughout the nation after the February 2018 shootings at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. “My school did not experience any incidents of gun violence … [but] we were all very much affected by gun violence,” a Kentucky principal said. While focus has temporarily shifted away from the issue as the news is consumed with the pandemic and many students are learning at home, the anxieties are almost certain to return the next time a school shooting occurs.

The study’s authors conclude with a set of four recommendations for states and others to consider, all designed to address the challenges related to the five issues they explore:

  1. Establish and communicate school climate standards emphasizing care, connectedness, and civility, and then create practices that enable educational systems to document and report on conditions associated with these standards.
  2. Build professional capacity within educational systems to address the holistic needs of students and communities. Extend this capacity by supporting connections between school-based educators and other governmental agencies and community-based organizations serving young people and their families.
  3. Develop integrated systems of health, mental health, and social welfare support for students and their families.
  4. Create and support networks of educators committed to fostering care, connectedness, and strong civility in their public education systems.

This newsletter is made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: http://www.greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu

Copyright 2020 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

September 24, 2020

The Importance of Keeping Digital Instruction Consistent with School Goals

These are important briefs that need to be read and understood in this age of mass remote and hybrid learning.

New series of three briefs identifies key issues for school leaders to consider before adopting a digital platform or learning program that will impact curriculum and teaching, student assessment, and privacy/data security.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Publication Announcement

The Importance of Keeping Digital Instruction Consistent with School Goals

KEY TAKEAWAY:

New series of three briefs identifies key issues for school leaders to consider before adopting a digital platform or learning program that will impact curriculum and teaching, student assessment, and privacy/data security.

CONTACT:

William J. Mathis:

(802) 383-0058

wmathis@sover.net

Faith Boninger:

(480) 390-6736

fboninger@gmail.com

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BOULDER, CO (September 24, 2020) – The COVID-19 pandemic has given the entire country a crash course in virtual education and digital education platforms. As school buildings closed in the spring of 2020, school leaders scrambled to implement virtual education programs. This was both a necessary response to the current crisis and, for virtual education advocates, an opportunity to permanently transform public education with digital technology.

Unfortunately, school leaders have had little more than marketing messages to inform their considerations of digital offerings. To provide some additional information, insights and recommendations, NEPC released a three-brief collection today. Issues to Consider Before Adopting a Digital Platform or Learning Program was authored by Faith Boninger and Alex Molnar of the University of Colorado Boulder, with contributions by Michael Barbour of Touro University California. The briefs detail how digital platforms and learning programs can distort curriculum, teaching, and assessments, threaten student privacy, and undermine data security. They identify key issues for school leaders to consider before adopting digital programs.

Each brief includes recommendations unique to its specific focus as well as recommendations common across the collection. The framing principle underlying all three briefs is that school leaders should ensure that any digital technology they adopt reflects, rather than undermines or distorts, their school’s stated values and goals. In the context of the pandemic, the best many school leaders can do is minimize any potential harm that may result from the need to hastily adopt digital technologies. With this in mind, the authors offer the following principles to guide decision-making.

Digital learning programs and platforms are less likely to harm students to the extent that they:

  • Retain curriculum and teaching practices consistent with school goals and values;
  • Have been reviewed for bias by independent experts;
  • Maintain teachers’ control of educational decisions rather than transfer those decisions to algorithms programmed into applications;
  • Collect a minimal amount of student data; and
  • Prevent the transfer of student data to vendors and other unknown parties.

These principles, in conjunction with the considerations detailed in each brief, can be used to help determine which digital products to choose, how to best use them in the current crisis, and how to decide which should be abandoned when the crisis has passed.

Find Issues to Consider Before Adopting a Digital Platform or Learning Program, by Faith Boninger and Alex Molnar, at:

http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/virtual-learning

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu

Copyright 2020 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

September 23, 2020

Want to Reduce Racism in Schools? Listen to These Students

An item from the National Education Policy Center.

Want to Reduce Racism in Schools? Listen to These Students.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Newsletter

Want to Reduce Racism in Schools? Listen to These Students.

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The Californians for Justice campaign is called #DearRacismInSchool. The testimonies are powerful.

#DearRacismInSchool,” writes Draquari from Fresno. “I notice when you speak through my teachers, causing them to have nonchalant attitudes toward my being. You make me feel like a monster because I hate you so much.”

Tajah from Long Beach writes, “I notice that when you’re in action you make me feel like I’m not gonna succeed in school because I am a young black girl from a lower economic class. Everyday you make me feel like I’m not as good as my white counterparts.”

The campaign’s message is defiant, not defeatist.

“I want you to know that you’re not going to be a barrier for me or other students of color anymore!” writes Tajah.

“#Racism, you must cease, and here I am to terminate you,” says Draquari.

In this report, Californians for Justice, an NEPC partner, gets more specific. Based on youth-led action research, they developed a Relationship-Centered Schools campaign designed to encourage equity-based reforms. Their research included surveying 2,000 students and interviewing 65 education leaders as well as summarizing existing studies. As defined by Californians for Justice, relationship-centered schools combine social-emotional learning with academics, help all students reach their full potential, offer the capacity and working conditions necessary for staff to develop meaningful relationships with students, address trauma, build resilience, confront bias, and distribute leadership among students, parents, and staff.

Californians for Justice focuses on organizing marginalized communities, including students of color, immigrant students, students from low-income families, and LGBTQ youth. These students put forward three concrete steps that schools can take to become more equitable:

  • Value student voice: Students should play a meaningful role in making important decisions about topics such as budgeting and hiring. Their lived experience is a valuable source of training and mentoring on topics such as implicit bias.
  • Invest in staff: Provide staff with release time to support relationship-building reforms such as restorative justice and training on topics such as implicit bias and social-emotional learning. Hire and retain teachers of color.
  • Create space for relationship building: Schedule relationship building into the school day via practices such as advisories, restorative practices, and orientation weeks. Infuse relationship building into the curriculum.

Find the full Californians for Justice report, Why Race and Relationships Matter in California Schoolshere.

This newsletter is made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: http://www.greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu

Copyright 2020 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

September 21, 2020

Students with Disabilities Facing Remote Learning During COVID-19 Need Help, But the Recommendations in a Recent Brief Fall Short

An important item from the National Education Policy Center.

Brief lacks the policy guidance necessary to address inequality and complex issues of curriculum and instruction for students with disabilities.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Publication Announcement

Students with Disabilities Facing Remote Learning During COVID-19 Need Help, But the Recommendations in a Recent Brief Fall Short

KEY TAKEAWAY:

Brief lacks the policy guidance necessary to address inequality and complex issues of curriculum and instruction for students with disabilities.

CONTACT:

William J. Mathis:

(802) 383-0058

wmathis@sover.net

Elizabeth B. Kozleski:

(303) 884-8482

kozleski@stanford.edu

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BOULDER, CO (September 17, 2020) – A brief published earlier this summer by ExcelinEd provides recommendations to education policy leaders for the delivery of special education services during the COVID-19 school closures.

Professor Elizabeth Kozleski of the Stanford University reviewed Special Education and Distance Learning: Supporting Students Through the Pandemic. She concludes that it offers only minimal support for policymakers in funding the research and development work that lies ahead as remove education continues for students with disabilities.

The brief notes Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ statement that the core features of implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Act must remain in place and that no waivers for the delivery of special education services are allowable. It also notes that families and advocates are deeply worried about learning progress and loss of learning because of the national pandemic. In response, the brief provides four sets of what it labels “best practices” for school and district leadership.

Professor Kozleski explains that these recommendations come up short, in part because they assume that current knowledge among school professionals is sufficient to make the desired special education and technological leaps. In fact, the necessary knowledge and capacity are barely emerging. Further, the recommendations do little to address the unequal distribution of resources in schools, which include access to well-prepared teachers and related services personnel qualified to teach students with disabilities, particularly using distance learning approaches.

Given these concerns, coupled with the lack of research anchoring its recommendations, the brief offers little to policymakers or practitioners currently struggling to make distance learning work during the pandemic.

Find the review, by Elizabeth B. Kozleski, at:

https://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/special-education-pandemic

Find Special Education and Distance Learning: Supporting Students Through the Pandemic, written by Patricia Levesque and published by ExcelinEd, at:

https://www.excelined.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/ExcelinEd.COVID19.SpecialEducation

DistanceLearning.June2020.pdf

NEPC Reviews (http://thinktankreview.org) provide the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC Reviews are made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: http://www.greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu

Copyright 2020 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

September 17, 2020

Subscribe to the New NEPC Talks Education Monthly Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Stitcher

Another item from the National Education Policy Center.

NEPC Talks Education offers insightful programming on a variety of significant education policy and practice topics for educators, community members, policymakers, and anyone interested in education.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Publication Announcement

Subscribe to the New NEPC Talks Education Monthly Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or Stitcher

KEY TAKEAWAY:

NEPC Talks Education offers insightful programming on a variety of significant education policy and practice topics for educators, community members, policymakers, and anyone interested in education.

CONTACT:

William J. Mathis:

(802) 383-0058

wmathis@sover.net

Christopher Saldaña:

(303) 492-2566

christopher.saldana@colorado.edu

TwitterEmail Address

BOULDER, CO (September 16, 2020) – Loyal NEPC Education Interview of the Month listeners, as well as people discovering NEPC Talks Education for the first time, will find it easier than ever to plug into the smart, engaging conversations about education policy hosted each month from September through May by NEPC Researcher Christopher Saldaña.

Subscribe to the NEPC Talks Education podcast on Apple PodcastsSpotify, or Stitcher. You can also find episodes on our website, or search for “NEPC Talks Education” on any of the platform homepages.

In the first NEPC Talks Education podcast of 2020-2021, Saldaña explores with University of California Berkeley professor Janelle Scott the equity concerns raised by the emergence of learning pods. Future podcasts will take up topics such as the push for digital technologies in distance and in-person learning, the demoralization of K-12 teachers, and how school funding might be transformed in the near future.

Stay tuned in to NEPC for smart, engaging conversations about education policy. Don’t worry if you miss a month. Starting in 2020-2021 all NEPC Talks Education podcasts will be archived on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Stitcher, as well as on the NEPC website.

All of our previous Education Interview of the Month episodes can also be found on the NEPC website.

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: http://nepc.colorado.edu

Copyright 2020 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

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