Tuesday Reading List: Issue Intersections

It's an abbreviated reading list today, fam, but a good one nonetheless! Since the AP ruined everyone's fun and declared Clinton the democratic presidential nominee last night, let's take a look at one leg of her education platform:

Facing a hostile Republican Congress, Obama has made little headway on implementing his goal of making government-subsidized preschool available to all low- and moderate-income 4-year-olds ... Clinton’s plans are more ambitious than Obama’s; they are also more detailed than those she has put forward for K-12 education. Making preschool available to all 4-year-olds within 10 years is a cornerstone of her plan, but she hasn’t provided specifics as to how it would get paid for ... she has also said she would work to boost pay for childcare workers and preschool teachers, and limit childcare costs to 10 percent of a family’s annual income. In addition, Clinton has proposed doubling enrollment in the Early Head Start program for children age 3 and under – currently there are 115,000 children in the program – and expanding programs for home visits to mothers during and after pregnancy, which have been found to improve children’s health and readiness to learn once they start school. “We’re really looking at the intersection between access to quality and access to affordability,” said Ann O’Leary, Clinton’s senior policy advisor for early childhood and education.

I basically trust whatever Sara Mead ends up saying about early childhood, so keep your eyes open for commentary from her. At the risk of being too glib, the contours of this plan open up the old debates about whether early childhood education is rigorous schooling, enriched daycare, or somewhere in between. Whatever the rigor, building a real foundation in literacy is crucial for young children, and Edutopia has a list of reading strategies that we should all stop using, including homogenized spelling tests:

Generally, all students in a class receive a single list of words on Monday and are expected to study the words for a test on Friday. Distribution of the words, in-class study time, and the test itself use class time. What’s the problem? You've all seen it -- students who got the words right on Friday misspell those same words in their writing the following Monday! Research suggests that the whole-class weekly spelling test is much less effective than an approach in which different students have different sets of words depending on their stage of spelling development, and emphasis is placed on analyzing and using the words rather than taking a test on them.

The New York Times looks at a school where nearly half of the children are homeless. The needs of the students in that school stretch the limits of what we imagine a school to be:

Nearly 60 percent of students who live in shelters are chronically absent, according to the Education Department, as are more than a third of all students in temporary housing. That means they miss at least 20 days of school during the year. At P.S. 188, a team of staff members pushes to reduce absences as much as possible. Students who are frequently absent are assigned to staff members who are responsible for checking in with them, and for calling home when they do not show up. Mirta Rosales, the parent coordinator, makes daily calls as well. And to combat an end-of-year drop-off in attendance, which usually starts after testing ends, the school is offering weekly events this month, like a movie night and a barbecue, for the families of students who come to school regularly.

It's important to get past the "heart strings" element of this story to understand the real challenges that face our students and educators. Homelessness is a significant challenge, and so many homeless students' needs are invisible to educators unless we truly seek to understand.

Kevin Kosar says that ESSA is not a Civil Rights statute, and Erika Sanzi says, "Of course it is!" I agree with Erika, not to mention US Education Secretary John King, who looks to put the law in the historical context of the other tentpoles of the Johnson Administration's antipoverty programs. I'm not a historian, so I won't say much more ... except to say that there was a time, not so long ago, when folks of all political stripes fell over themselves to claim that education was the "Civil Rights issue of our time." Now, the folks on the right at least, seem to be distancing themselves from that rhetoric. What's up with that?

Last but not least, Peter Cunningham keeps the conversation about diversity, racial justice and education reform moving, and doesn't punt on the big questions:

The increased diversity comes at a time when the entire country is confronting issues of racial justice—most notably in policing—but also in other sectors of society, including education. By every single measure—funding, access to quality learning opportunities, outcomes—people of color face continuing inequities in education. We need to own up to it ... What exactly are conservatives afraid of? Is it that solving these problems could put them at odds with their political base? Local control zealots on the right don’t want anyone telling them how to run their schools—especially people of color.

Happy Tuesday!