Education Briefly Stated

Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed (Aug. 19, 2019)

By Mark Walsh — August 18, 2019 6 min read
U.S. immigration agents take a worker into custody at a Koch Foods Inc. plant in Morton, Miss. Hundreds of ICE agents rounded up about 600 workers Aug. 7 during early-morning raids of several food processing plants. The responsibility of helping affected students often falls to their schools.

Educators, Get Ready, An Immigration Raid May Be in Your Future

With the White House clamping down on undocumented immigrants, schools again might find themselves in the forefront of helping their students pick up the pieces. That’s exactly what occurred earlier this month in the wake of the largest U.S. immigration raid in a decade, when Mississippi educators were left to console and support children whose parents were detained.

School administrators and other educators across the country now face the prospect that workplace raids could happen in their districts. They must address the fear and uncertainty that is likely gripping millions of their students.

Millions is no exaggeration. Experts peg the number of children with at least one undocumented parent at 5 million.

The Intercultural Development Research Association has produced a guide to help schools and educators support children affected by the Immigration and Custom Enforcement raids—past and future. Among the suggestions:

• Make counselors, social workers, and other professionals available to help students and families who may be experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder.

• Identify bilingual liaisons who can provide support and translation for students and families.

• Designate safe spaces, such as school gyms, where students and families can wait for help if a parent is detained.

• Provide the support and legal protections afforded by the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act if students have no place to live, meaning the children must be able to receive services and they can’t be yanked out of a school unless a formal procedure is followed.

• Ensure that law-enforcement officers are not on school grounds, unless needed, because their presence could retraumatize students and discourage families from seeking support.

The association also urges schools to prepare for an emergency. Otherwise, they could be left scrambling.

An ‘Historic High’ of Youths Awaken to Cast Their Votes In Midterm Elections

Who says the youths of today are apathetic toward politics?

What was true not so long ago looks to be changing. Voter-turnout rates for 18- and 19-year-olds boomed in the last midterm elections to 22 percent, a “historic high.” Those high schoolers and new college-goers represent first-time voters.

That comes from the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University.

Educators, pay heed. These voters were the direct-age peers of the core Parkland, Fla., activists, who in 2018 prompted a massive wave of youth activism following the deadly shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. They focused their advocacy not only on gun violence, but more specifically on the importance of voting. Only four months after the Valentine’s Day tragedy, the Parkland students launched the Road to Change Tour, with the goal of making 75 stops across the country—plus more in Florida—to whip up voter participation by young people.

It appears to have worked.

Here’s the major question that remains: How do schools and states sustain these patterns?

One idea is to have states expand preregistration for voters, which allows those younger than 18 to register for state and federal elections.

The data also suggest a major role for schools: They can prepare students to exercise, for the first time, their right to the franchise.

Civics education experts cite making civics classes more relevant and providing more concrete actions, like educating students about the steps it takes to vote and giving them registration forms.

“You can’t have one assembly and expect it to be done,” said Larry Sabato, the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

Door Opens for Patient Transgender Youth

Gavin Grimm is nothing if not persistent. The 20-yearold college student, whose name is forever bound to a federal court case, has been on the judicial roller coaster since his family first filed suit against a Virginia school district in 2015.

In the intervening years, one court ruled against him, then another in his favor, then back to rejection and again in his corner, and so on. Not even the U.S. Supreme Court offered a solution to this case that carried huge stakes well beyond Virginia. And all this coincides with one White House standing firmly behind him while its successor ran in the other direction.

Grimm was born female but identifies as male. When he was a high school sophomore, Grimm and his mother notified officials at Gloucester High School of his gender identity to help him “socially transition in all aspects of his life,” as his ACLU representatives say. He got permission to use the boys’ restroom—until some parents complained. That’s when the Gloucester County district blocked that restroom door.

Citing Title IX, the young man tried to get a U.S. district court to reopen that door with an injunction. But the judge ruled in favor of the district, saying its policy did not violate Title IX, the law that bars education institutions from discriminating on the basis of gender. An appeals court found otherwise.

In the absolute latest court decision—handed down this month—Grimm proved victorious. A federal district judge ruled that the Gloucester County school board’s policy violated his rights under both Title IX and the equal-protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Said Grimm about the latest—and his supporters hope last—court decision: “It is such a relief to achieve this closure and vindication from the court after four years of fighting not just for myself but for trans youth across America.”

Phonics Rises to Top in Reading Group’s New Stance

You thought the “reading wars” were long over? Have another think. The International Literacy Association has issued a new brief that’s got people talking.

The brief, released in July, calls for the teaching of “systematic and explicit” phonics in all early-reading instruction.

It’s a strong statement from an influential, big-tent organization whose members, which include teachers, researchers, and parents, have traditionally held a wide range of views on reading approaches.

Almost all reading researchers agree that factors like motivation, access to a print-rich environment, and good books matter in a reading program. The reading wars are really a debate on a small—but critical—piece: the relative importance of phonics, or decoding.

The pro-phonics folks tend to view phonics as a bridge to meaning, reasoning that they’re a necessary step toward being able to read any word. Proponents of whole language or its successor, “balanced literacy,” generally emphasize meaning first, mixing small-group reading of literature with student choice of reading materials. Those approaches tend to subordinate phonics.

Some of the ILA’s most well-known members, including past presidents, have tended to fall more into the whole-language camp. But a number of research syntheses link explicit phonics instruction to improvements in early outcomes.

After Education Week posted a blog item on the brief, a number of readers noted their agreement with ILA’s position. Wrote one: “The limited focus and often haphazard focus on phonics in many balanced-literacy programs isn’t sufficient to meet the needs of our early readers.”

Briefly Stated Contributors: Corey Mitchell, Stephen Sawchuk, Sarah Schwartz, and Mark Walsh. Edited by Karen Diegmueller.
A version of this article appeared in the August 21, 2019 edition of Education Week

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