Monday Reading List: Hidden Figures, Hidden Fees, and Hidden Politics

Melinda D. Anderson, writing in The Atlantic, looks at how teacher education programs prepare their graduates to discuss race in the classroom:

With a profession that’s characteristically white, female, and middle class—and with students of color and children in poverty rapidly making up the majority of the public-school population—teachers equipped and willing to talk about race and racism has become a necessity. The mere mention of these topics can be awkward and difficult, yet various research findings point to the need to confront the discomfort to improve student learning. Increasingly, that duty has fallen to urban-education programs—a special category of teacher preparation that is reimagining how teaching candidates are prepared and disrupting the race and class stereotypes surrounding urban students and communities.

Anderson contrasts these urban programs with generalized approaches, which rarely account for the unique assets and features of heterogenous communities. Part of the challenge is helping teachers to understand the life circumstances of their students., and subsequently giving those educators the communications tools necessary to forge legitimate relationships with a wide range of students.

Andre Perry, writing at The Root, thinks that educators should use those communications tools to listen to the career aspirations of their students:

Today, about 24 percent of black women over the age of 25 have earned at least a bachelor’s degree, compared with 20 percent of black men in 2014. For the 2012-2013 academic year, 65 percent of bachelor’s degrees earned by black students were awarded to black women. However, just 2 percent of black women worked as scientists or engineers in 2010, according to the National Science Foundation. When NASA, or the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (formerly known as the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics), appealed to black female mathematicians during the Jim Crow segregation era, it showed how desperate the country was to strengthen its military and win the space race. It also confirmed that black women do math as well as any other group.

Perry hits on an important point here, namely that our failure to attract more Black women into science fields reflects a lack of urgency and creativity in our country. If our country was more concerned with solving the world's most vexing problems, we wouldn't be wasting our most precious resources: people and their talents. As New York Times Magazine writer Nikole Hannah-Jones said on twitter, after seeing the film Hidden Figures:

Speaking of higher education, Jon Marcus at The Hechinger Report looks at the escalating fees that mask the true cost of a college education:

One new study calculates that student fees at four-year public universities averaged $1,719 in the 2012-2013 school year, the most recent for which the figure is available, adding another 27 percent to student charges on top of the typical cost of tuition. Fees have also been increasing far faster than tuition, nearly doubling at four-year public universities and more than doubling at community colleges since 1999-2000, according to that study, by a Seton Hall University assistant professor of education, Robert Kelchen ... Students at public universities in Connecticut, New Jersey, South Dakota and Virginia were charged $2,500 or more in fees, per year, and in Massachusetts $8,280, Kelchen reported — nearly five times the cost of tuition in that state.

Ok, that's crazy. Marcus makes the point that it's not just the magnitude of the fees that's problematic, but also the lack of transparency involved in disclosing them. Whereas college and universities have to publish tuition figures, these fees are a little shadier. In some cases, students are receiving over 20 separate bills for fees throughout the course of a four year undergraduate education.

Finally, Melanie Asmar, writing at Chalkbeat, looks at a potential challenge to the head of the Denver teachers' union:

A group of Denver teachers, many of them young and social justice-minded, has formed a caucus within the city’s teachers union with the goal of pushing the union to be more progressive — and more aggressive. One of them — 31-year-old middle school special education teacher Tommie Shimrock — has announced his intention to run for the organization’s top job ... several Denver caucus organizers were involved in a union-supported campaign last year to improve conditions for both DPS teachers and students. Called The Schools Denver Students Deserve, it made several demands. Among them: less testing, smaller class sizes and a full-time nurse, full-time social worker and restorative justice program in every school.

Coverage like this is important, because labor unions are complex organizations with their own internal politics. If you have a city paper that covers education closely, you should ask the local reporters whether they're spending enough time understanding labor politics. Have a great week!