Virtual School Meanderings

April 6, 2020

When A School Is More Than Just A School: How Schools Of Opportunity Are Handling Coronavirus Closures

An item from the National Education Policy Center.

When a School is More Than Just a School: How Schools of Opportunity are Handling Coronavirus Closures

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Newsletter

When a School is More Than Just a School: How Schools of Opportunity are Handling Coronavirus Closures

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Across the U.S., schools have been finding innovative ways to serve their students, even after their doors were closed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Most obviously, teachers have been providing lessons and instruction through various forms of distance education. Districts are also offering free “grab-and-go” meals and even emergency child care centers built around the idea of social distancing. Groups like the Learning Policy Institute, the Network for Public Education, and Local Progress are documenting these and other ways that governmental entities like school districts are responding to need.

Because NEPC has been recognizing extraordinary Schools of Opportunity for the past five years, we’re starting to investigate how those schools have been responding to the crisis. The recognition program honors high schools that engage in research-based practices that focus on closing opportunity gaps.

Not surprisingly, the recognized schools are indeed working to provide free meals. 2015 honoree Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School, located in the Bronx, is typical of this trend. The New York school is offering students grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches that they can pick up on campus. The school’s coronavirus webpage also lists names and addresses for nearby food pantries, as well as resources where families can get free diapers.

At Rochester International Academy, which NEPC recognized as a School of Opportunity in 2016, principal Mary Andrecolich-Diaz canceled all afternoon classes when the shutdown seemed imminent, in order to allow the school’s interpreters to work with teachers and their many non-English-speaking refugee students. The school has been using Google Classroom and Chromebooks to continue instruction, using district-provided home Wi-Fi.

For Andrecolich-Diaz, the first goal was simply to guarantee the students could access schoolwork. But she also wanted to make sure that the school’s students could pass along health information to their families regarding the Coronavirus crisis. Many of those families are refugees who may be illiterate even in their own languages, adding to their vulnerable status. In the case of refugees from countries such as Burma, Nepal, and Somalia, some families were also unable to understand broadcast news media accounts that, if not in English, are typically only offered in one other language: Spanish.

Like the Rochester school, most Schools of Opportunity serve large numbers of students living in poverty – students for whom school is not just a learning experience, but a lifeline. Accordingly, these schools typically provide services like food pantries and health care that extend well beyond the classroom, a practice that is critical to closing opportunity gaps. They also serve large numbers of English learners and students with disabilities, as well as students who are, or whose family members are, without documentation. So the closures have the potential to hit their students especially hard.

Yet, like so many of their peers around the country, Schools of Opportunity educators have found ways to continue to help their students access needed assistance. As another example, Leland & Gray Union Middle & High School, also a 2016 honoree, is making mental health counselors available via email, Google Hangouts, and telephone.

“While we won’t be in our offices for you to drop by whenever you need, we are available,” they wrote in a heartfelt message on the Townshend, Vermont school’s website:

Just as when we are in school, you can come to us with anything: If you are struggling with academics (either the content or the format of learning), please let us know. If you are having a tough day and want to talk about it or take a break from the stress, let us know. If you are having a tough time with family or friends, let us know. If you are lonely, let us know (we probably are too!). If you just want to say hi, please do!

At 2018-2019 honoree Casco Bay High School in Portland, Maine, teachers are trying to maintain a sense of togetherness and community by moving daily “crew” meetings online. The purpose of these small groups – who remain together throughout a student’s four years at the school – is to develop a sense of community by connecting faculty members with students and students with one another, helping students plan for the future, and engaging in civil dialogue about important current events.

In addition to translating documents into their students’ home languages, Schools of Opportunity also “translate” curricula and other material into culturally relevant messages. This is evident in the schools’ messaging in this very stressful and uncertain time. For instance, on a letter on the school website, the leadership team of the Native American Community Academy in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which was honored in 2018-19, draws upon values shared by its many Native American students: “Remember that we come from a legacy of resiliency and strength both from our land and ancestors. During these three weeks, we ask that we come together as a community to support each other.”

We encourage each of you to repeat our exercise. Visit the websites for your local schools and school districts, and read about the remarkable steps they’re taking to serve their students and communities. These are bright lights in dark times, and we can all use the inspiration.

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.

April 1, 2020

Little Research, But Lots Of Advocacy In New Report About Child Safety Accounts

A National Education Policy Center review of a think tank report.

In its push for a new voucher-like program, report offers little guidance for policymakers.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Publication Announcement

Little Research, but Lots of Advocacy in New Report About Child Safety Accounts

KEY TAKEAWAY:

In its push for a new voucher-like program, report offers little guidance for policymakers.

CONTACT:

William J. Mathis:

(802) 383-0058

wmathis@sover.net

 

Oscar Jimenez-Castellanos:

(760) 405-3983

ojimenez@trinity.edu

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BOULDER, CO (March 31, 2020) – A recent Heartland Institute report argues for Child Safety Account (CSA) programs that would enable parents to access taxpayer dollars by asserting that their child feels unsafe in school. The CSA money could be used by the parents to transfer the child to another school, be it public, private, magnet, charter, or homeschool.

Oscar Jimenez-Castellanos and Gabriella Garriga of Trinity University reviewed Child Safety Accounts: Protecting Our Children through Parental Freedom, and found it to be lacking in research to substantiate its policy recommendations.

The proposed CSA program is a version of the education savings account programs that began in Arizona in 2011. The report begins with the well-supported finding that students encounter various forms of abuse throughout their school trajectory, including violent assaults, bullying, and sexual abuse. But it then offers a conclusion that is not well supported: that CSAs are a sound way to alleviate students’ suffering from these various forms of abuse in school.

The report does not explain how the new policy will be funded, nor does it provide criteria that must be met to access the CSA. Because eligibility appears to rest on a mere claim of safety concerns, the proposed policy could immensely change the landscape of school funding and complicate school politics by removing students from public schools.

While the report’s discussion about school bullying and other forms of abuse is timely, it fails to provide a clear set of steps to bring about change, opting instead to simply advocate for this form of taxpayer-funded vouchers. It also does not engage with the large body of research about evidence-based ways to address assaults, bullying and other safety issues. Accordingly, it is of little use to policymakers concerned about either school safety or school choice.

Find the review, by Oscar Jimenez-Castellanos and Gabriella Garriga, at:

https://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/child-safety-accounts

Find Child Safety Accounts: Protecting Our Children through Parental Freedom, written by Vicki Alger and Timothy Benson and published by the Heartland Institute, at:

https://www.heartland.org/_template-assets/documents/publications/CSAccountsPB.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.

March 30, 2020

NEPC’s March Education Interview Of The Month Features A Discussion About The Educational History Of Harlem

An item from the National Education Policy Center.

NEPC Education Interview of the Month is a great teaching resource; engaging drive-time listening; and 30 minutes of high-quality policy information for educators, community members, policymakers, and anyone interested in education.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Publication Announcement

NEPC’s March Education Interview of the Month Features a Discussion About the Educational History of Harlem

KEY TAKEAWAY:

NEPC Education Interview of the Month is a great teaching resource; engaging drive-time listening; and 30 minutes of high-quality policy information 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 (March 26, 2020) – In this month’s NEPC Education Interview of the Month, NEPC Researcher Christopher Saldaña interviews Ansley T. Erickson, an associate professor of history and education policy at Teachers College, Columbia University, and Ernest Morrell, the Coyle Professor in Literacy Education and director of the Center for Literacy Education at the University of Notre Dame. They are co-editors of Educating Harlem: A Century of Schooling and Resistance in a Black Community.

In Educating Harlem, a multidisciplinary group of contributors explore the educational history of Harlem from the diverse ideological and political perspectives woven into Harlem’s community. The book reveals that, despite the diversity in perspectives within Harlem, there is a persistent and enduring commitment to providing educational opportunity.

Educating Harlem showcases analyses that draw upon the histories of parents, youth, teachers, and community members. It provides a richly detailed account of how these contributors offered hope and opportunity by drawing upon and helping strengthen Harlem’s many assets. Erickson and Morrell explain how at times ideological and political diversity led to tensions and community conflicts, such as those between labor organizations and community members, but out of these conflicts sprung new ideas, programs, and organizations, such as the Harlem Youth Unlimited Opportunities youth program, the paraprofessional program, the small schools movement, and the Harlem Children’s Zone.

Erickson and Morrell explain that Educating Harlem, along with projects such as the Harlem Educational History Project, is part of a broader effort to include community and youth voices in critical histories of communities. Drs. Erickson and Morrell argue that history can be a powerful tool for communities, both to remember what has been accomplished and to imagine what is possible.

A new NEPC Education Interview of the Month, hosted by NEPC Researcher Christopher Saldaña, will be released each month from September through May.

Don’t worry if you miss a month. All NEPC Education Interview of the Month podcasts are archived on the NEPC website and can be found here.

Coming Next Month

In April, Chris will be speaking with Dr. Frank Adamson, an assistant professor of education at the California State University of Sacramento. Dr. Adamson is an expert in the privatization of public education in international contexts. He has more recently begun to examine the emergence and growth of these privatization policies in public education in the United States.

Stay tuned in to NEPC for smart, engaging conversations about education policy.

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.

March 25, 2020

Partnerships Between Researchers And Communities Can Advance Equity And Systemic Change

An item from the National Education Policy Center.

Community Research Collaboratives are a growing yet under-supported approach to research with great potential, as described in a new policy memo.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Publication Announcement

Partnerships Between Researchers and Communities Can Advance Equity and Systemic Change

KEY TAKEAWAY:

Community Research Collaboratives are a growing yet under-supported approach to research with great potential, as described in a new policy memo.

CONTACT:

William J. Mathis:

(802) 383-0058

wmathis@sover.net

Adam York:

(505) 659-8383

adam.j.york@colorado.edu

TwitterEmail Address

BOULDER, CO (March 24, 2020) – Community Research Collaboratives are partnerships among community members and researchers, sometimes joined by educational institutions. These partners work together to advance equity and justice by jointly creating new knowledge, policies, and practices that promote change in educational systems and society.

Community Research Collaboratives, a policy memo released today by the National Education Policy Center, describes this approach to research and engagement. The report explains that these Collaboratives are an existing field of work, but the field is currently under-recognized by academic researchers, philanthropists, and educational policymakers and practitioners.

The authors delineate the Collaborative approach with help from interviews with leaders in two funding organizations and two networks supporting research partnerships. Using the resulting criteria, they identified seven existing collaboratives to learn from as subjects of this research. Subsequent interviews with 12 participants across these collaboratives yielded the following four core features of Community Research Collaboratives:

  1. their commitment to systemic transformation,
  2. their challenge to current knowledge structures as they prioritize community goals,
  3. their understanding of research as a developmental process, and
  4. their attention to effective collaboration.

The new policy memo fleshes out these ideas and provides detailed snapshots of some of the representative Collaboratives to illustrate how the core features are manifested in practice. The analysis is intended to highlight the unique attributes of Community Research Collaboratives, to boost their visibility in education, and to encourage funding support for this growing field.

Find Community Research Collaboratives, by Adam York, Siomara Valladares, Michelle Renée Valladares, Jon Snyder, and Matthew Garcia, at: http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/crc

This policy memo is made possible in part by funding from the Education Justice Network, Spencer Foundation, and the William T. Grant Foundation.

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.

March 20, 2020

Joint Statement Regarding “Science of Reading” Advocacy

An item from the National Education Policy Center.

It’s time for the media and political distortions to end, and for the literacy community and policymakers to fully support the literacy needs of all children.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Publication Announcement

Joint Statement Regarding

“Science of Reading” Advocacy

KEY TAKEAWAY:

It’s time for the media and political distortions to end, and for the literacy community and policymakers to fully support the literacy needs of all children.

CONTACT:

William J. Mathis:

(802) 383-0058

wmathis@sover.net

Kevin Kumashiro:

(202) 468-9489

kevin@kevinkumashiro.com

TwitterEmail Address

BOULDER, CO (March 19, 2020) – The National Education Policy Center and the Education Deans for Justice and Equity (EDJE) today jointly released a Policy Statement on the “Science of Reading.” 

For the past few years, a wave of media has reignited the unproductive Reading Wars, which frame early-literacy teaching as a battle between opposing camps. This coverage speaks of an established “science of reading” as the appropriate focus of teacher education programs and as the necessary approach for early-reading instruction. Unfortunately, this media coverage has distorted the research evidence on the teaching of reading, with the result that policymakers are now promoting and implementing policy based on misinformation.

The truth is that there is no settled science of reading. The research on reading and teaching reading is abundant, but it is diverse and always in a state of change. Accordingly, the joint statement highlights the importance of “professionally prepared teachers with expertise in supporting all students with the most beneficial reading instruction, balancing systematic skills instruction with authentic texts and activities.”

This key idea of a “balanced literacy” approach stresses the importance of phonics, authentic reading, and teachers who can teach reading using a full toolbox of instructional approaches and understandings. It is strongly supported in the scholarly community and is grounded in a large research base.

The statement includes guiding principles for what any federal or state legislation should and should not do. At the very least, federal and state legislation should not continue to do the same things over and over while expecting different outcomes. The disheartening era of NCLB provides an important lesson and overarching guiding principle: Education legislation should address guiding concepts while avoiding prescriptions that will tie the hands of professional educators.

All students deserve equitable access to high-quality literacy and reading instruction and opportunities in their schools. This will only be accomplished when policymakers pay heed to an overall body of high-quality research evidence and then make available the resources as well as the teaching/learning conditions necessary for schools to provide our children with the needed supports and opportunities to learn.

The Policy Statement on the “Science of Reading” can be found on the NEPC website at:

http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/fyi-reading-wars

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 2018 National Education Policy Center. All rights reserved.

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