Monday Reading List: Secretive Policymaking & Growing Up in the Trump Era

Monica Disare, writing in Chalkbeat, looks at how New York makes education policy decisions:

Monday’s vote is an extreme example of the way New York’s education decision-makers often craft potentially controversial policies behind the scenes, then reveal them to the public shortly before they’re approved — leaving little time for debate. In this case, as I would later learn, officials intentionally withheld the policy document until the last minute so they could manage how the public made sense of it ... The day’s other proposals had been published online the previous Friday —  giving the public at least three days notice before they were discussed, as required by state law. Now, we would have to dig through the 11-page document as the Regents were discussing it. Before I’d figured out what it all meant, they voted unanimously to approve it.

Later in the article, Disare interviews an expert who confirms that the Regents, in failing to disclose the policy in a timely manner, broke the law. Here's the thing about education law, though: it's mostly optional.

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States, districts, schools, and officials violate education laws all the time. The policy change in the article above is one example of how - lacking a significant enforcement infrastructure - education officials can avoid accountability. Advocacy and activism can change this, but unless the federal government decides to step on New York State's toes, nothing will change.

In other New York news, Conor Williams of The 74 talked to his former students about the Trump era:

...  I reached out to the mother of one of my former students, and within weeks, I was chatting with him and four of his teammates from Achievement First Brooklyn High School’s highly successful speech and debate team. None could vote in 2016. But as champion debaters, with a crowded shelf of trophies to prove it, they keep a close eye on the fraught national arguments over American ideals — and competing visions for the country’s future. They will likely live with the consequences of the country’s decision in November for much longer than most 2016 voters (two-thirds of whom were at least 40 years old on Election Day). They are all children of immigrants, but that may be their only common identity ... There’s no sugarcoating it: the students’ view of the president — and the country — is bleak.

Williams has done a brilliant job of unpacking the ranging concerns of young people - particularly those from immigrant families - living through this particularly turbulent period of American life and politics. It's nice to see these young people as the subjects - rather than the objects - of examination.

Isabel Fattal of The Atlantic curated a photo essay of children's backpacks from around the world:

Until the 1980s, backpacks were used mostly for hiking and outdoor activities. Students used entirely different (and much less convenient) modes of transportation for their school supplies: Until the 1930s, many students used leather straps to hold together the books they carried. Later, students used mini briefcases or one-strap bags. In 1969, the company JanSport created a daypack for skiing and hiking; they happened to be selling them at a store connected to the University of Washington bookstore, and students started using these bags to keep their books dry in rainy Seattle. Today, backpacks have become a staple of student life.

The pictures are beautiful, so be sure to click through!

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Finally today, Lillian Lowery and Evan Stone are in Education Post, talking about ending the "school to prison pipeline":

This isn’t a new epidemic. It is one that is finally getting the broad and needed attention and action it warrants, thanks to youth- and advocate-led coalitions like Dignity in Schools Campaign, the California-based Alliance for Boys and Men of Color and the Denver-based Padres & Jóvenes Unidos; forward-thinking educators; and the Obama administration’s Office of Civil Rights. Teachers are at the forefront of these efforts. They have begun sitting down with administrators to examine their school’s discipline data and rethink policies. They are reflecting on their own implicit biases and critically examining their own practices. And they are engaging in the hard work of implementing alternatives to punitive and exclusionary discipline.

The challenge here is that that Trump administration - SHOCKINGLY (sarcasm) - is backing away from Obama-era initiatives that would curb the over-suspension and -expulsion of young people. Lowery and Stone share some constructive suggestions for advancing the conversation, even in this toxic political environment.

Have a great day!