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Partnerships with Immigrant Families in Politically Polarized Times Close to a quarter of all public school students in the United States come from immigrant households; yet, K–12 schools struggle to effectively serve this population. This is especially true in a political climate that is outwardly hostile to immigrants (Gándara, 2018) and in the midst of a pandemic that has taken a disproportionate toll on immigrant communities. Our work on immigrant serving schools has highlighted the importance of social justice leadership (Villavicencio, 2020), buffering schools from harmful policy (Jaffe-Walter & Villavicencio, 2021), and teacher practice focused on culturally relevant, linguistically responsive classrooms (Villavicencio, Jaffe-Walter, & Klevan, 2020). Another critical—and typically overlooked—dimension of effectively serving immigrant students and children of immigrants is building and maintaining authentic partnerships with families.
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Testing What Isn’t Taught and the Potential Consequences on Identity Formation Emergent bilingual learners are accustomed to involuntarily taking many high-stakes tests in English, but a new policy asks them to voluntarily take a proficiency test of their home language, regardless of whether they received any instruction in school in this language. The Seal of Biliteracy (SoBL) is a policy adopted in forty-three states that originated in California in opposition to English-only legislation and from a desire to change deficit-based views of bilingualism. The program recognizes students who graduate high school bilingual and biliterate and was designed to serve as a clear symbol to colleges, universities, and employers that an individual is proficient in two or more languages. Each year, more and more institutions of higher education award credit for SoBL attainment, paving pathways to higher education for students who may not have previously had the opportunity to enter college with any credit and decreasing the cost of a degree.
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Investing in Black Academic Leaders In 2017, the Philadelphia Inquirer highlighted the fact that the city’s three most prominent universities each had an African American serving in the top academic post. Why was it so newsworthy? Up until that time, only 4 percent of all provosts at four-year institutions in the United States were Black. This statistic caught our eye. Given the historic views on the capacity for intellectualism in the Black community and the low numbers of Black faculty, we knew Black academics at Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs) had an uphill climb.
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We Can’t Go Back to Normal: Restorative Classrooms During COVID-19 In March of 2020, the world quickly came to a standstill as the reality of COVID-19 started to sink in. Some of the most popular social gatherings were suspended, postponed, or moved to virtual platforms: Broadway plays, professional and college sports, the Kentucky Derby, weddings, Juneteenth, Fourth of July, and the Olympics. These events as well as disruptions to employment, housing, healthcare, and travel impacted everyone’s daily routine.
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Counting Joy in School-Based Racial Equity Work If there has ever been a time where I’ve witnessed the widespread erosion of joyfulness among children and school-aged youth, it has been throughout the past two years. In March 2020, joy gave way to confusion, fear, and uncertainty as the world came to terms with the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic. Abrupt school closings upended the routine of schooling that was a familiar constant for ten months each year. Enter remote learning. Soon after, in May 2020, joy gave way to anger, fear, and resentment. Why do police officers and white vigilantes keep killing Black people? Enough was enough.
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Democracy, Intellectual Virtues, and Education For a democracy to function well, its citizens must, at a minimum, have reliable access to credible information and be able to distinguish it from information that is inaccurate or misleading. Alas, in the contemporary information landscape, misinformation is pervasive. And with the advent of user-friendly design programs and “deep fake” technologies, distinguishing political fact from fiction can be exceedingly difficult.
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Curriculum is the Answer to Questions about CRT Some governing bodies are working vigorously to ensure that every student has space in their classrooms to discuss race. Several states are working towards ethnic studies (and similar programs) as mandated curricular offerings. Others are moving forward legislation that will dramatically change whether (and how) teachers are able to discuss race in their classrooms at all. There is a well-coordinated, national political campaign, the aim of which seems to be turning Critical Race Theory (CRT) first into a red herring, a powerful wedge issue second. How strange that our national culture wars would metastasize on the curriculum.
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Can Educators Really Be Anti-Racist Without Racial Literacy? Since the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement last summer, there has been an increased focus to promote anti-racist pedagogy, curriculum, and professional development for K–12 teachers. In retaliation to this growing analysis of racism in schools, there has also been an active countermovement to suppress discourse about race and racism, including the recent attacks on Critical Race Theory (CRT) across the US and UK. Despite the investment and growth in how to be anti-racist, however, many teachers and school administrators have still felt thoroughly unprepared to confront this racially charged backlash. But why?
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Black Parents’ Impossible “Choices” The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on P–20 education cannot be overstated, yet Black parents’ quest to find a “good” school is a perennial dilemma. Black parents constantly challenge anti-Black practices in public, private, and charter schools, and are increasingly considering the utility of choice programs or the affordances of homeschooling. In fact, amidst rampant concerns about how virtual or hybrid learning affects Black children, many Black families are reconsidering schooling altogether, transitioning to private schools, or trying out homeschooling. As before, Black parents do not have any ideal options: some want their children physically in schools and others see the racialized benefits of keeping their children at home. While parents across the country are now tasked with balancing their jobs and educating their children at home, Black parents have long felt the burden of having to be hypervigilant about what their children learn and experience in school and/or reeducating their children. Why must Black parents always make impossible choices regarding their children’s well-being and their education?
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The Need to Understand Teacher Choices About News Media News sources matter. If there is ever a time that illustrates this, it is now. With the flip of a channel or the flick of a finger, people can access news media that represent various relationships to truth, ideologies, journalistic integrity, and utter conspiracy. Democracy requires an informed electorate, but recent studies have found most folks are not particularly good at figuring out whether they are being misinformed (McGrew et al., 2018). When misinformation combines with political and social animosity, as illustrated recently by the mob of white supremacists storming the US capitol to overturn a free and fair election, the consequences can be dire. Although we hesitate to place responsibility for mitigating these systemic issues at the feet of already overworked teachers, it is critical to acknowledge that the education system has a role to play in promoting more thoughtful consumption of news.
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