This Week in Education Organizing - December 15, 2017

#WeChoose Campaign Hosts National Town Hall

The #WeChoose Campaign hosted a national town hall in Washington this week, and it was a rousing and inspirational affair!  Moderated by Melissa Harris-Perry (left), the event included a panel discussion with NAACP national president Derrick Johnson, Advancement Project director Judith Browne-Dianis, and Journey for Justice Alliance director Jitu Brown. Front and center in the discussion was the historic disinvestment in Black students and their public schools and a call for a moratorium on privatization.  “We’re not confused,” said Harris-Perry, “about what a good education is.  We see it in White schools all over the country.”  Johnson agreed.  “It’s not about the children, it’s about money. It’s about who gets the money,” he argued.

The event also featured spokespeople who talked about each of the #WeChoose Campaign’s platform planks, including privatization, the decline in numbers of Black teachers, the damage caused by “no-excuses” school cultures and more. 

A second national town hall is scheduled for February 13th in Detroit.

 Teachers Target K12 Shareholder Meeting

The American Federation of Teachers rallied on December 14th outside the shareholders meeting of K12 Inc., the nation’s largest virtual schools corporation.

The union is calling for greater oversight over the company’s network of charter schools.  K12 operates virtual charters in 33 states, making it the largest for-profit charter operator in the country.  About 85 percent of the company’s revenue comes from public dollars. A report released by the AFT, cites from a series of studies that have shown the company’s cyber charters profit by maintaining high student-to-teacher ratios, and of course not having the costs associated with brick-and-mortar schools.  The cyber schools show astronomical drop-out rates and poor academic results. But at the same time K12 pays corporate executives seven-figure salaries. The report also notes that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is a big fan of K12, having invested in the company before being appointed to the Trump cabinet.

 Indianapolis AROS Hosts a Showing of Backpack Full of Cash

The IPS Community Coalition, an AROS table organizing to protect Indianapolis Public Schools, hosted a screening of the documentary Backpack Full of Cash on December 9th.  The event brought out 125 parents, educators, students and community members on a snowy Saturday morning to eat breakfast, watch the film, participate in a Q&A with Diane Ravitch via Skype, and then discuss with one another how we can fight back against the Betsy DeVos agenda in Indianapolis.

 Schott Foundation Releases Be Her Resource: A Toolkit About School Resource Offices and Girls of Color

There are an estimated 30,000 school-based police officers (SROs) in schools across the country, up from roughly 100 in the 1970s.  Although these officers are tasked with maintaining a sense of safety in their schools, the real result has been a growth in arrest rates and referrals of students for minor disruptive behaviors. And the treatment of girls of color is especially harsh.

According to 2013-2014 data from the U.S. Department of Education, Black girls are 2.6 times as likely to be referred to law enforcement on school grounds as white girls, and black girls are almost 4 times as likely to get arrested at school. Disparities affecting Latinas are especially severe in elementary school where they are 2.7 times more likely to be arrested than young white girls.

Now, the Schott Foundation has released a new Toolkit about the issue, in partnership with the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality. Be Her Resource: A Toolkit about School Resource Officers and Girls of Color. The report finds that fewer than half of all states require SROs to receive youth-specific training, and, in particular, that SROs receive little, if any, training focused on girls of color, nor supports in the form of relevant community resources.

Find the report here:

 Pittsburgh Looking to Cincinnati for Community Schools Model

Pittsburgh Public Schools is working slowly towards replicating a community schools model like that for Cincinnati’s Community Learning Centers.

Cincinnati Public Schools have helped pioneer the community schools model with a 2000 district-wide reorganization that led to health and social services being placed at every city school, along with school-based coordinators to work with educators and local communities to determine what menu of services is needed in each school.

In Pittsburgh, a city-wide coordinator has been hired, five schools have been designated as community schools, and work is underway to evaluate the needs of schools, neighborhood-by-neighborhood.  At the same time the district’s school board is working to nail down sustainable funding for the project. Read more about Cincinnati’s Community Learning Centers here, and about the Pittsburgh efforts here.

 ...More on Community Schools

Speaking of Community schools, the Learning Policy Institute, in collaboration with the National Education Policy Center, has just released Community Schools as an Effective School Improvement Strategy: A Review of the Evidence, a report on the impact of community schools on students and student outcomes. The report finds that, while community schools vary in the programs they offer and the ways they operate, four features—or pillars—appear in most community schools: Integrated student supports, expanded learning time and opportunities, family and community engagement, and collaborative leadership and practice. The report examines each pillar and provides examples of programs and schools where these pillars are well-implemented. The report also finds that the use of community schools to improve student outcomes is strongly supported by research evidence, as required by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

The holidays are coming up!  The folks at AROS would like to wish you and yours a very happy holiday season.  We're going to take a break from the NewsBlast.  We'll be back on January 5th.

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