An online newsletter produced by EdSource
with support from The California Endowment 


June 23, 2015

Issue 34

Student Wellbeing
In the wake of the Charleston massacre, teachers prepare for classroom discussions 
#CharlestonSyllabus How does hatred fester to the point where it erupts in the kind of violence that occurred in Charleston last week? 


That is a question that the nation is grappling with to a greater extent than it has perhaps in decades. 

Following the killing of nine African American church goers at a Charleston, S.C., Bible study group on June 17, teachers are gathering books, articles and videos to engage students' critical thinking skills in discussions of the killings. Dylann Roof, a white man of 21, has been charged with the killings and is alleged to have espoused white supremacist views.

Even though most schools are out across the U.S., teachers are using the Twitter hashtag #CharlestonSyllabus to compile a list of resources they could use to help students understand the context of racial violence in the U.S. The syllabus is posted online by the African American Intellectual History Society.    

The collective syllabus idea and the hashtag were launched by Chad Williams, chair of the Department of African and Afro-American Studies at Brandeis University. "The Charleston massacre, albeit in the worst imaginable way, opened a blood stained door to this country's racial history," Williams wrote in a blog post.

Teaching Mocking Bird Facing HistoryA resource that predates the Charleston killings but also is intended to prompt deep thinking about the root causes of hatred has been developed by the national nonprofit organization Facing History and Ourselves. The group is introducing new professional development materials for teachers called Teaching Mockingbird: A Facing History and Ourselves Study Guide. The curriculum is a Common Core State Standards-aligned guide to teaching the novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, a staple of high school English classes.

The story is told through the eyes of a six-year-old white girl, Scout Finch, whose father Atticus is defending an African American man falsely accused of raping a white woman in 1930s Alabama.

The Facing History curriculum promotes classroom conversations about the small steps that lead to the "dehumanization" of one group of individuals by another group, said Elaine Guarnieri-Nunn, director of San Francisco Bay Area operations for the organization. Dehumanization happens when a group of people are seen as entirely different, dangerous and in some way subhuman and therefore not subject to justice and empathy.


Equally important, she said, is to talk about choices individuals like Atticus Finch make to be "upstanders," those who take action against injustice. 


Whether it's the injustices of the 1930s depicted in Mockingbird or last week's killings in Charleston, it's important to look at how disparate events like these echo similar themes, Guarneri-Nunn said.  "When these events happen we don't look at them in isolation," she said, referring to Facing History's approach. "We take an historical perspective."


Teachers will have an opportunity to participate in a no-cost, three-day Teaching Mockingbird seminar beginning July 14 in Los Angeles -- coincidentally the same day Harper Lee's newly discovered second novel, Go Set a Watchman, is scheduled for publication. 
Physical Education

High school freshman Jenna Culotta, 14, has a cowboy hat, a bay mare named Scarlett and a talent for rodeo barrel racing, which means she rides Scarlett like a race car driver around a three-barrel loop. What Jenna would like, please - rodeo riders must strive to be well-mannered, according to the National High School Rodeo Association rule book - is a physical education exemption for the hours of practice that have made her a barrel race contender.

Read more at EdSource Today.

Legislative Update
It's not exactly the summer All-Star break, but the June deadline for bills to move successfully from one house in the state Legislature to the other - or be declared dead - reveals what remains possible in this legislative season.

Among the education bills still standing are a proposal to eliminate the personal belief exemption that allows parents to opt out of childhood vaccinations required for school enrollment, as well as the Democrats' overhaul of teacher evaluations that school lobbies representing administrators and school districts oppose. The California School Boards Association's top priority - rescinding the cap on districts' budget reserves - is in trouble; the California Teachers Association is fighting it.

Read more at EdSource Today.
Special education and foster youth services make gains in California budget deal

New funds for special education and foster youth are part of the budget deal between Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature.

But the budget deal doesn't include something special education advocates have long asked for: the money to rectify an imbalance in per-pupil special education funding that results in some regional special education agencies receiving twice as much in per-pupil funding as others.

The funding disparity exists because calculations are based on data collected decades ago from the Special Education Local Plan Areas, according to the March report from the Statewide Special Education Task Force, which had recommended that the inequity be addressed.

Here are the numbers:
  • $60 million in new funding to expand interventions for special-needs children ages birth to 2, an additional 2,500 part-day preschool slots and an expansion of schoolwide behavioral supports - all recommended by the Statewide Special Education Task Force, which issued its report in March. Read more at EdSource Today about funding for early childhood programs.
  • A $10 million increase in Foster Youth Services, which now receives $15 million from the state. The increase plus a change in the law will allow foster youth who live with relatives to receive counseling and tutoring. Read more at EdSource Today about the record K-12 spending in the budget deal.
School Climate
'Saying something that's nice to a student each day':
Principals talk about improving schools through relationships

Gloria Ervin, principal of New San Juan High School in Citrus Heights

In case you missed it -- Check out this 33-minute documentary "Leading with Heart: An AES Documentary about Principals Whose Schools Succeed" about how two principals and their staffs turned around two underperforming Sacramento schools, beginning with the crucial step of strengthening relationships across the entire school community.

The documentary was created by the Sacramento-based nonprofit organization Alliance for Education Solutions.

Alliance for Education Solutions chronicled the work of Gloria Ervin, principal of New San Juan High School in Citrus Heights, and Roxanne Mitchell, who was principal of Foothill Ranch Middle School in Sacramento at the time of the filming and is now principal of Starr King K-8 school in Carmichael.

Their strategies included:
  • Asking students what they think are barriers to their success
  • Allowing students to create rules for behavior
  • Creating student-led Restorative Justice circles that allow students to make amends for behavior problems
  • Track attendance and disciplinary referrals and using the data to evaluate strategies

"What we show everyone is that once we changed our school culture, then our academics also fell in line, because now students are focused on learning," said Ervin of New San Juan High School.  

Upcoming Webinar

June 25: When Safe Routes to School meets violence prevention

Walking to school is great, but what can communities and schools do to make those routes safer? The Safe Routes to School National Partnership is presenting a webinar about strategies and collaborations.

What: "When Safe Routes to School meets violence prevention"

  • Carmen Burks, Safe Routes to School Program Director, Cincinnati Public School
  • Sara Zimmerman, Technical Assistance Director, Safe Routes to School National Partnership
  • Jamecca Marshall, Program Manager, Prevention Institute
When: Thursday, June 25, 10 a.m. PT

Register here.

Recent Editions of the EdHealth Newsletter

EdHealth Newsletter Issue 33: Facebook photos tied to binge drinking?
EdHealth Newsletter Issue 32: Judge rules medically accurate sex ed is 'an important right'
EdHealth Newsletter Issue 31: State vaccination bill to get 3rd hearing this week
EdHealth Newsletter Issue 30: How healthy is your county?
EdHealth Newsletter Issue 29: Measles cases continue to rise in California

Want to receive a free online subscription to EdHealth? Click on the button below.   
to EdHealth
Stay Connected