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  • Strikes And Power: Reflections On The "Black Lives Matter" Strike Of NBA Players

    by Leo Casey on September 11, 2020

    The NBA players "Black Lives Matter" strike has been criticized by some on the left, suggesting that the "radical action" of the players was co-opted by the "neo-liberal" Barack Obama, much of it riffing off the discussions described in this article. This criticism makes me wonder about the depth of understanding of how strikes and collective action operate. And behind that lack of understanding are some naïve conceptions of power—what it is, of how it is built, and how it can be used.

    Strikes are one form of collective action, an organized withdrawal of labor. The strike is designed to generate leverage that can compel action on the part of other actors—almost always, an employer. (Strikes can also be against the government, but most often they are against the government as employer—think of the Teacher Spring Strikes or safety strikes against government compelling teachers to provide in-person education in unsafe conditions.) Consequently, strikes almost always come with specific demands, and the leverage they generate is used to achieve as much of those demands as is feasible.

    Strikes can have a symbolic component, an assertion of dignity by the strikers. Think, for example, of the 1968 sanitation workers strike in Memphis, with the famous picket sign "I Am A Man." (Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968 while supporting that strike.) The most powerful strikes have this component. But the symbolic component of a strike does not exist on its own: it rests on the foundation of the actual demands. In the case of the Memphis sanitation strike, the demands about the terms and conditions of work gave meaning and content to the assertion of dignity. Once this symbolic statement has been made, a decision to remain on strike should be based on what can be done to create maximum leverage and win as much of the demands as possible.

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  • Research And Evidence Can Help Guide Teachers During The Pandemic

    by Sara Kerr & Nate Schwartz on September 2, 2020

    This post is part of our series entitled Teaching and Learning During a Pandemic, in which we invite guest authors to reflect on the challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic for teaching and learning. Our guests today are Sara Kerr, Vice President of Education Policy Implementation at Results for America, and Nate Schwartz, Professor of Practice at Brown Universitys Annenberg Institute for School Reform. Other posts in the series are compiled here.

    Teachers are used to playing many different roles, but this year they are facing the most complex challenges of their careers. They are being asked to be public health experts. Tech support specialists. Social workers to families reeling from the effects of layoffs and illness. Masters of distance learning and trauma-responsive educational practices. And they are being asked to take on these new responsibilities against a backdrop of rising COVID-19 cases in many parts of the country, looming budget cuts for many school districts, and a hyper-polarized political debate over the return to school.

    To make any of this possible, educators need to be armed with the best available science, data, and evidence, not only about the operational challenges of reopening that have dominated the news cycle but also about how to to meet the increasingly complex social-emotional and academic needs of students and their families. They dont have time to sift through decades of academic papers for answers. Fortunately, the nations education researchers are eager and ready to help.

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  • A Black Policeman's Sister On Police Reform And Police Unions

    by Burnie Bond on August 27, 2020

    My late brother was a police officer and, before his retirement, our late grandfather was the Acting Commissioner of Public Safety in the U.S. Virgin Islands. So it’s fair to say that I come from a police friendly family. Before coming to work for the Shanker Institute and before that, the AFT, I worked for the AFL-CIO alongside trade unionists from all trades and professions. So it makes it all the more painful to see the asinine responses that police unions have had to charges of police bias and brutality toward African Americans, especially since these charges can so easily be proven to be valid (see hereherehere and here). And, as the mother of a Black male teen, I am terrified to send him out into the world where his very existence may be seen as a threat (see herehere and here).

    One of ironies here is that recent calls to “defund the police” and “reform the police,” if executed with rational foresight, would actually go a long way to making the job easier for rank and file police officers. I remember my brother telling me that the call he hated the very most was responding to a person who was having a psychiatric episode. He thought that breaking up a fight or a robbery or even a murder would be preferable, because he had been trained how to respond in those situations. With mental instability, he had no clue: Should he try to talk them down? If they were violent, what was the proper use of force? How should he defend himself and others? Or should he just wait for medical personnel to arrive? In every case, he had to play it by ear. The call to “defund the police” is not actually a call to abolish police departments, as some on the Right have claimed. Instead, it’s a proposal to move some police funding to other municipal agencies that have more expertise in addressing the social ills that are now dumped on police departments as a last resort—such as mental disability, homelessness, alcohol and drug abuse, etc. The proposal, then, is to strengthen local social services to the point that they can relieve police forces of some of the functions that they are disastrously ill equipped to handle.

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  • We Choose To Reimagine Education: Centering On Love And Emotionally Responsive Teaching And Learning

    by Tia C. Madkins & Alexis Patterson Williams on August 14, 2020

    This post is part of our series entitled Teaching and Learning During a Pandemic, in which we invite guest authors to reflect on the challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic for teaching and learning. Our guest authors today are Tia C. Madkins, assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Texas at Austin, and Alexis Patterson Williams, assistant professor in science education at the University of California Davis. Other posts in the series are compiled here.

    Receiving new and conflicting information about COVID-19 is sending familieseducators, and communities into a tailspin. Schools remain closed, students and their families are frustrated with remote schooling (RS), and school reopening plans are being revealed slowly—if at all. Many conversations about the upcoming school year have been rooted in fear of what could go wrong. We argue that it is critical to start our conversation from a place of hope and reimagine what could go well in PK-12 education. This requires reimagining PK-12 education through the lens of love. If we don’t use this moment to reimagine education, we are missing an incredible opportunity, which will leave our children wondering why we didn’t work harder to leverage the moment to make their lives and schools better.

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  • State Budget Cuts And School Districts With Pre-Existing Conditions

    by Matthew Di Carlo on July 16, 2020

    The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has published projections of state budget shortfalls due to the pandemic. The total estimated shortfall for fiscal years 2020-2022 is $555 billion. This includes $290 billion in FY2021 alone, a deficit over 25 percent larger than that in the worst year of the Great Recession (2009). 

    Compared with the sickness and death caused by Covid-19, state budget shortfalls are just collateral damage (though remember that states spend a lot on healthcare). But it could be a lot of damage. Unlike the federal government, virtually all states are required to balance their budgets every year. They cannot spend more than they raise in revenue, which means any deficits must be balanced out by cuts. Suppose we take these CBPP projections at face value, and subtract from them existing federal aid forthcoming and total state budget reserves. That, according to CBPP, still leaves states about $400 billion short for this past fiscal year and the next two (and there could easily be shortfalls in subsequent years).

    Virtually all public school districts will feel this pain, but it will not be felt equally. Higher poverty districts are more dependent on state revenue, since more affluent districts generate more revenue from local sources (mostly property taxes). But the situation is even worse: higher poverty districts are already spending far less than they need to be. In a sense, the pandemic is going to be particularly harsh on districts with pre-existing conditions.

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  • Remote Learning: What Helped A Network Of Progressive Schools

    by Ann Cook on July 9, 2020

    This post is part of our series entitled Teaching and Learning During a Pandemic, in which we invite guest authors to reflect on the challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic for teaching and learning. Our guest today is Ann Cook, executive director and co-founder of the New York Performance Standards Consortium and formerly the co-founder and co-director of the Urban Academy Laboratory High School, a New York City public school. Other posts in the series are compiled here.

    On Sunday, March 15, 2020, New York State and City officials announced the closure of all schools. By the end of that week, most NYC city public schools had moved to educate their students remotely. By the end of May, in city council hearings called to assess the effect of remote learning on the 1.1 million New York City school children, Education chair, Mark Treyger, was expressing concern.  

    Across the nation there were dire reports of the impact of ‘missed time,’ of a widening achievement gap, the inequities of the digital divide, concerns about privacy and the emotional fallout of screen time. Students weighed in. In a letter to the Times, one NYC student commented:

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  • For Students, The "Good Ole Days" Are Not Good Enough

    by John Jackson on July 7, 2020

    This post is part of our series entitled Teaching and Learning During a Pandemic, in which we invite guest authors to reflect on the challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic for teaching and learning. Our guest today is Dr. John H. Jackson, President and CEO of the Schott Foundation for Public Education. Other posts in the series are compiled here.

    Across the country, everyone is asking one question, “When will we get back to normal?” A cry similar to that of previous generations who often beckon back to the “good ole’ days.” If we are honest, the desire to get back to a place called “normal” is not because the past was better, but simply because it was familiar. The very fact that our past “normal” included a system where, in most school districts, you could identify by race and ethnicity which students were more likely to be suspended, expelled, or less likely to graduate says it all. Our past “normal” was actually abnormal (unless, for some reason which defies all science, you believe that intellect is distributed by race and ethnicity). 

    In America, the “good ole’ days,” meant prevalent systemic racism, a widening achievement gap, and scarce resources for our students and teachers. Rather than longing for “back to normal,” our public school system has the opportunity to once again move us forward towards creating a more equitable and just “new normal” for students, parents, and families. There are three common sense places where, post-COVID, we can give birth to a transformative “new normal”:

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  • Post Pandemic Ethics

    by Peter Consenstein on June 30, 2020

    This post is part of our series entitled Teaching and Learning During a Pandemic, in which we invite guest authors to reflect on the challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic for teaching and learning. Our guest today is Peter Consenstein, a French professor in the department of Modern Languages at the Borough of Manhattan Community College and in the Ph.D. Program in French at CUNY Graduate Center. He is a translator and publishes critiques of contemporary and experimental French literature and poetry. Other posts in the series are compiled here.

    Although intellectuals, educators, teachers and professors may be viewed as essential and/or frontline responders to the ongoing pandemic, we must admit that we intellectuals are not on the real front lines, ours are virtual. The difference between real and virtual spaces distinguishes life from death and sickness from health, a social situation at the heart of what it means to teach and learn through a pandemic. The students I taught were often real first responders. On real front lines, they faced sickness and death. They worked in grocery stores, they delivered food and medicine, they cleaned surfaces, they continued to take public transportation. They delivered services directly and indirectly to people like me. They kept me safe and fed. 

    On March 19, 2020, all of the campuses of the City University of New York (CUNY) closed and we moved to online or remote learning. Normal life routines ceased for 275,000 students on twenty-five campuses spread far and wide throughout the five boroughs of New York City, for 12,000 adjuncts and more than 7,500 full time faculty members, for the HEO’s (Higher Education Officers), the Professional Staff Congress (our faculty and staff union, representing 30,000 people), for most members of buildings and grounds crews, for all food service workers and for most members of the campuses’ security staff.' This was of course true for almost the entire City of New York and unless you were here, you cannot understand the isolation, desolation and strangeness we felt to see our entire city turn into a ghost town.

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  • Can It Happen Here? Donald Trump And The Fracturing Of America's Constitutional Order

    by Eric Chenoweth on June 29, 2020

    Our guest author today is Eric Chenoweth, co-director of the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe and principal author of the Albert Shanker Institute’s Democracy Web, an extra-curricular resource for teachers. 

    “The main thing is, they’re talking about us.”
    Joseph Goebbels, The Goebbels Diaries, 1932-34

    Comparing Trump’s presidency with past fascist regimes, and particularly that of Hitler’s Germany, is generally seen as partisan hyperbole. Past warnings of a Nazi-like leader taking hold in America — like Sinclair Lewis’s ironically titled It Can’t Happen Here — were belied by history. America’s constitutional system can withstand even Trump. Can’t it?

    The Trump presidency is certainly not the emergent Third Reich. Adolf Hitler, once handed power, acted swiftly to supplant the existing constitution by emergency decree, directed widespread repression against political opponents, purged Jews from state institutions, and held elections and referenda under conditions of mass intimidation to cement Nazi rule. By contrast, America saw three years of generally unhindered political opposition, media criticism, and free (if flawed) elections in which an opposition party made serious gains. 

    Yet events keep giving resonance to the warnings about Donald Trump’s rise to power. In response to national protests and unrest over brutal police violence against African Americans, Trump had peaceful demonstrators in front of the White House attacked and ordered the military to “expand the battlespace” to U.S. soil. What is happening here?

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  • Marie Kondo The Curriculum

    by Jal Mehta & Shanna Peeples on June 25, 2020

    This post is part of our series entitled Teaching and Learning During a Pandemic, in which we invite guest authors to reflect on the challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic for teaching and learning. Our guests today are Jal Mehta and Shanna Peeples. Mehta is Professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and the author, most recently, with Sarah Fine, of In Search of Deeper Learning: The Quest to Remake the American High School. Peeples is the 2015 National Teacher of the Year and the author of Think Like Socrates: Using Questions to Invite Wonder & Empathy Into the Classroom. Other posts in the series are compiled here.

    As we turn our eye towards next year, there is increasing concern about “catching students up,” particularly those students who are presumed to have done the least learning during quarantine. This might mean summer school, double blocks of reading and math, and high doses of remediation.

    We have a different suggestion. Marie Kondo the curriculum.

    As everyone now knows, Marie Kondo is the Japanese cleaning expert who showed you how to declutter your home by keeping only the items that bring joy.

    The curriculum is as overstuffed as most American houses. Curriculums are often decided by committees, who have different views of what is important, and they compromise by giving every faction some of what they want. The result is a curriculum with too many topics and too little depth. When Jal and Sarah Fine wrote their book on deeper learning, teachers said that district pacing guides are one of the top three factors that limited their ability to engage in deep learning (teacher evaluations and state tests are the others). Conversely, students said that almost every memorable or powerful learning experience came when they had the time and space to go deeper. Thus there are sound educational reasons to thin the curriculum, and some leading jurisdictions around the world, like British Columbia, are already moving in that direction.

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