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California education news: What’s the latest?

Thursday, October 21, 2021, 2:06 pm

Link copied.U.S. Department of Education selects two California principals for annual award

Two California principals are among the eight recipients of this year’s Terrel H. Bell Award, awarded to school leaders nationwide whose vision and collaborative leadership style have transformed their schools. They are Christy Flores, principal of Maude B. Davis Elementary School in Newport-Mesa Unified, and Sonia Anna Flores, principal of Dr. TJ Owens Gilroy Early College Academy in Gilroy Unified.

“Over the last 18 months, in the face of unprecedented circumstances, these school leaders have found creative ways to protect, nurture, and engage children, families, and school staff,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, in announcing the awards Thursday. “Bell awardees have worked tirelessly, investing every ounce of their energy and expertise in their schools and students.”

The award is named after Terrel Bell, the nation’s second secretary of education. Principals are nominated by their school communities during the final stages of the application process for National Blue Ribbon Schools, which recognize public and private elementary, middle and high schools based on their overall academic excellence or their progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.

Sonia Flores has led the TJ Owens Gilroy Early College Academy for eight years. Located on the grounds of Gavilan Community College, the school enables students from diverse backgrounds to graduate with both a high school diploma and an associate degree or two years of college credit. As part of building a school community, all ninth through 11th graders during first period take academic prep, which provides peer tutoring, restorative justice led by an honors tribunal, and associated student body-led activities and assemblies.

Since 2013, Christy Flores has been principal of the Davis Magnet School, where she stresses building well-being, a growth mindset, relationships, empathy, and resilience, according to a U.S. Department of Education news release. Through the Davis Magnet Foundation, which she started, the school has been able to underwrite after-school robotics, a ceramics kiln, teacher assistants, grade level supports and a community garden.

John Fensterwald

Thursday, October 21, 2021, 10:56 am

Link copied.Some early childhood elements in Biden’s infrastructure bill get trimmed

After months of contentious talks between progressives and moderates, Democrats are getting closer to an agreement on what policies to include in President Joe Biden’s sweeping social safety net package. Some of his ambitious early childhood education agenda will likely be pared down to fit a reduced budget of $2 trillion over 10 years, rather than the original $3.5 trillion budget plan, as PBS reports.

Negotiations over the package are fluid, but PBS notes that the plan will likely include universal preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds, a paid family leave benefit (likely trimmed from 12 weeks to four weeks), and another extension of the child tax credit that was expanded earlier this year. The Biden administration had been aspiring to make the credit, which has been pivotal in lifting children out of poverty, permanent.

PBS also reports that child care subsidies for poor and middle-income Americans are likely to make the cut. Biden’s plan calls for parents earning up to 150% of the state’s median income (about $115,000 nationally) to pay no more than 7% of their income on child care, with the poorest families getting free child care. 

Karen D'Souza

Thursday, October 21, 2021, 10:43 am

Link copied.Newspaper’s analysis shows LAUSD students suffered severe impacts from pandemic school closures

Los Angeles Unified School District students have suffered “deep drops in assessment scores or below grade-level standing in key areas of learning” because of the pandemic and school closures, a data analysis by the Los Angeles Times found.

Black, Latino and other vulnerable students were particularly hard hit, the newspaper reported Thursday

Elementary school reading scores are down 7%, and more than 200,000 students are not meeting grade-level math and reading goals, according to the report.

The achievement gap between Black and Latino students and white and Asian students widened to 21% during the pandemic, according to the report.

“We have to fix it,” the Times quoted LAUSD board member Tanya Ortiz Franklin as saying. “The opportunities available to students that have been most historically marginalized by systems of power are exactly what we have to be focused on.”

Thomas Peele

Thursday, October 21, 2021, 9:25 am

Link copied.Free community college dead in Biden spending bill

President Joe Biden’s proposal to make community colleges tuition-free is dead, a victim of cuts to his massive spending plan on social services, NPR is reporting.

The New York Times is also reporting the tuition plan has been cut.

Other higher education measures, including increased Pell Grants for low-income students and funding for vocational programs and college completion “are still on the table,” according to NPR.

Biden had proposed $3.5 trillion in spending on social programs that is now likely to be pared down to $1.75 to 1.9 trillion, after Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-AZ., sank a plan to increase taxes on corporations and the wealthiest Americans.

Bloomberg reported that Rep. Jimmy Gomez, a Democrat who represents a section of Los Angeles, remained hopeful that free community college tuition would remain in the legislation. “I’m a product of community colleges, and I want to make sure that stays in,” he said. Gomez attended Riverside Community College and went on to receive a master’s from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

Speaking in his hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania, on Wednesday, Biden called for increasing Pell Grants to help students pay college costs but did not mention community colleges, the New York Times reported.

In meetings with lawmakers later in the day, the Times reported, the president conceded that his free-tuition plan would have to be among the cuts.

EdSource staff

Wednesday, October 20, 2021, 3:49 pm

Link copied.Free film available for schools to help students overcome anxiety

All middle and high schools in California will have access to a free, 43-minute documentary film, discussion guide, classroom exercises, tip sheet and teacher resources to help students who are experiencing anxiety.

The film, “Angst: Building Resilience,” covers the causes of anxiety, firsthand accounts from students and advice on how to overcome it. The film is available in English and Spanish, and families can watch it at home.

Anxiety among young people was high before the pandemic, due to the rise of social media, economic pressures on families, school shootings and other factors. Covid-19 and distance learning exacerbated anxiety for many students, leaving many feeling overwhelmed and unable to focus on school.

The film is part of a widespread effort among school districts and the state and federal governments to address students’ mental health challenges as they return to in-person school. More counseling and social-emotional learning practices are also offered at many schools.

The movie and accompanying materials are co-sponsored by the California Department of Education; the IndieFlix Foundation, which supports films with social benefits; CalHOPE, the state’s free online resource for people experiencing Covid-related mental health challenges; and Blue Shield of California.

Carolyn Jones

Wednesday, October 20, 2021, 2:59 pm

Link copied.Tuition-free community college reportedly out of White House spending bill

President Biden’s proposal to make community college tuition-free nationwide is being dropped from the spending package that the White House is currently negotiating over with Congress, according to reports.

Biden informed House Democrats on Tuesday that the final bill would not include tuition-free community college, CNN reported, noting that the plan has been a top priority for the White House. However, other higher education proposals are still on the table and could make the final package, such as an expansion of the Pell Grant, according to NPR.

Biden suggested last week that the free community college proposal would need to be dropped from the final bill.

“I don’t know of any major change in American public policy that’s occurred by a single piece of legislation,” Biden said, according to NPR. “I doubt whether we’ll get the entire funding for community colleges, but I’m not going to give up on community colleges as long as I’m president.”

Michael Burke

Wednesday, October 20, 2021, 11:05 am

Link copied.Los Angeles Unified: Almost all staff have had at least one Covid vaccine dose

Los Angeles Unified reports that almost all of its employees, including 99% of its teachers, have submitted proof they have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccination.

The district — the state’s largest — reports that 97% of all their employees, including 99% of their administrators and 97% of classified administrators, have received the vaccine.

The district had been struggling to get employees to turn in proof of vaccination, reporting in late September that only 1 in 5 employees had turned in proof of vaccination. It moved the deadline for all staff to be fully vaccinated from Oct. 15 to Nov. 15. Staff members were required to have had the first dose by Oct. 15.

The district encouraged vaccinations by hosting vaccine clinics on campuses, hosting informational meetings and allowing staff up to three hours of paid time off to be vaccinated.

Employees who do not have their first dose will continue to be paid through Oct. 31, after which they will be terminated.

“We care deeply about all of our employees,” said district officials in a statement. “We appreciate everyone’s commitment to maintaining the safest possible learning environment for the students and families we serve.”

Diana Lambert

Wednesday, October 20, 2021, 10:15 am

Link copied.Equity proves elusive in gifted programs, research shows

A lack of equity persists in gifted education, research shows, and as the Hechinger Report notes. In New York City, the difference between gifted and general education is especially stark.

White and Asian parents who have the time, resources and motivation to engage in rigorous test preparation for their 4-year-olds tend to see their children excel on standardized tests and therefore dominate more than three-quarters of the coveted seats, although these two groups account for less than a third of all students. Meanwhile, Black and Hispanic students make up more than 65% of the public school system but win only 16% of the gifted seats. 

Nationally, more than 13% of all Asian students are enrolled in gifted programs compared with just 4% of Black students, according to the most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics. Among whites, 8% get tapped for gifted classrooms. Among Hispanic students, it’s 5%. That reflects long-standing achievement differences on standardized tests, but researchers have also found that gifted Black students are often overlooked, especially by white teachers.

Bias may play a role. A 2021 study in Ohio found that high-achieving students who score among the top 20% on third grade tests were much less likely to be identified as gifted if they are Black or low-income students. As they grew up, these Black and low-income high achievers were less likely to go to college.  

“If we want to improve the racial or socioeconomic diversity of our colleges and beyond, these are the kids who have the best shot at doing so, and yet our schools are letting them down,” said Michael Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an education think tank, which published the Ohio study, as Hechinger reported.

Karen D'Souza

Wednesday, October 20, 2021, 10:11 am

Link copied.1 in 3 families struggle to find child care, poll says

More than a third of families with young children struggle to find child care when adults need to work, according to a new poll conducted by National Public Radio, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The poll also found that in the past few months, 44% of households with children under age 18 have been facing serious financial problems. As NPR reported, that number jumps to 63% for Black families and 59% for Latino households.

Even as Congress debates a spending package that would aim to expand child care and the child tax credit and provide universal pre-kindergarten, American families can’t afford the child care they need to be able to work outside the home. And that’s only if they are lucky enough to be able to find a slot in one of the country’s many child care “deserts,” where children vastly outnumber available slots.

While families have long grappled with the child care crisis, only recently has it emerged in the national economic discourse.  

“The free market works well in many different sectors, but child care is not one of them,” said Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in her remarks about a recent report on the grim state of child care. “Those who provide child care aren’t paid well, and many who need it can’t afford it.”

Karen D'Souza

Tuesday, October 19, 2021, 7:38 pm

Link copied.CSU Monterey Bay president to retire

California State University, Monterey Bay President Eduardo Ochoa plans to retire on June 30, 2022, ending a decadelong career in the position and nearly 40 years of working in the CSU system.

“CSUMB has come a long way in the last 10 years,” he said, in a statement Monday to the campus community. “While I am honored to have the opportunity to be its president during that time, none of that progress would have occurred if not for the dedication, commitment, and excellence of our faculty, staff and administrators.”

In his time as president, Ochoa said the graduation rate for incoming, first-year students increased from 30% to 60%.

“During his time leading CSUMB, the campus has experienced unprecedented gains in four-year graduation rates for first-year students and two-year completion rates for transfer students,” CSU Chancellor Joseph I. Castro said. ” Those graduates go on to make an indelible impact on Monterey County and throughout California. As a champion for higher education and a policymaker at the national level President Ochoa brought a unique perspective that he shared with his fellow CSU presidents and me. Tens of thousands of students at CSUMB, and indeed millions of students throughout the CSU have benefitted from his broad experience and wise guidance.”


Ashley A. Smith

Tuesday, October 19, 2021, 1:59 pm

Link copied.U.S. Department of Education issues handbook to help schools address students’ mental health needs

Calling the student mental health crisis “critical,” the U.S. Department of Education released a detailed guidebook Tuesday to help schools improve students’ social and emotional well-being.

The 100-page guide identifies challenges — including funding shortfages and perceived stigmas associated with mental illness — and recommendations. It also offers advice on how schools can use their federal Covid money to hire more counselors, social workers, nurses and psychologists and take other steps to improve students’ mental health.

“Our efforts as educators must go beyond literacy, math, history, science, and other core subjects to include helping students to build the social, emotional, and behavioral skills they will need to fully access and participate in learning and make the most of their potential and future opportunities,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said.

Carolyn Jones

Tuesday, October 19, 2021, 10:07 am

Link copied.Jill Biden calls on state legislators, governors to pay teachers more

First lady Jill Biden, in an interview aired Tuesday on CBS’s “Mornings,” called on state legislators and governors to increase teachers’ pay to reduce a nationwide teacher shortage.

“They have to give more money to teachers; it’s just the bottom line,” said Biden, a former public school teacher.

Biden was interviewed alongside the recipients of the 2020 and 2021 National Teacher of the Year awards. The awardees were honored by the president and first lady on Monday at the White House.

“The emotional labor, the physical labor, the amount of extra work and things we had to learn have not been fairly compensated,” said Tabatha Rosproy, a Kansas preschool teacher who was named 2020 National Teacher of the Year.

Ali Tadayon

Tuesday, October 19, 2021, 9:43 am

Link copied.Recall election to be held in February for three San Francisco Unified school board members

Three of San Francisco Unified’s seven school board members will be up for recall in a special election to be held Feb. 15, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

City officials announced Monday that the campaign to recall President Gabriela Lopez, Vice President Faauuga Molida and Commissioner Alison Collins had gathered enough valid signatures to put the decision to voters. The Chronicle noted this will be the first local San Francisco recall election since 1983, when then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein beat a recall effort.

The recall effort was launched by San Francisco Unified parents frustrated that schools remained closed last school year despite private schools reopening, according to the Chronicle. City and county officials also called on Collins to resign over what they said were anti-Asian tweets from 2016.

Ali Tadayon

Monday, October 18, 2021, 10:27 am

Link copied.Parents’ group protests Covid vaccine mandate in Sacramento

A grassroots parents’ group opposed to California’s vaccine mandate for children is planning a protest outside the state Capitol in Sacramento today.

The group, called Our Kids, Our Choice, is fighting Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Oct. 1 order that all students in California schools — public, private and charter — be vaccinated against Covid-19 when a vaccine is approved for children. The Covid vaccine would join 10 other vaccines, such as mumps, polio and tetanus, that the state requires children to receive before starting school.

The protest is slated for 10 a.m. to noon. Scheduled speakers include Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, R-Granite Bay, who was among the Republicans competing to unseat Newsom in last month’s unsuccessful recall election.

“We believe it is in our best interest as a society to maintain freedom of choice for what we put into our children’s bodies and our own,” organizers state on the group’s website. “We oppose efforts to take away our parental freedom to protect our children and make decisions in our children’s best interest.”

Carolyn Jones

Monday, October 18, 2021, 10:25 am

Link copied.For a Covid shot, you get a chance for a free ride to San Francisco State

Here’s an offer that only the most fervent anti-vaxxer may resist. Ten San Franciscans from ages 12 to 17 who get a Covid vaccination will be eligible for a full four-year tuition to San Francisco State University.

San Francisco State President Lynn Mahoney conceived of the lottery both to encourage students to enroll and to support public health. “First and foremost, young San Franciscans should be thinking about college,” Mahoney told the San Francisco Chronicle. “I thought, wouldn’t it be great if we could incentivize college-going?”

The free ride is worth $30,000 at the current price of $7,444 in tuition. That’s worth nearly $30,000 at current prices, or $7,444 a year, for students who would otherwise pay out of pocket. Applicants who qualify for federal Pell Grants and state Cal Grants won’t have to pay the difference if they win. Winners whose tuition and fees are fully covered by grants will get an additional $2,000 a year.

Already eligible are the 90% of the city’s 12- to 17-year-olds who are vaccinated. They can enter the sweepstakes on six dates at certain vaccination sites the city is operating in schools and community centers. Winners will be randomly chosen. More information can be found here.

The lottery is a joint effort of the university, the city of San Francisco and San Francisco Unified.

John Fensterwald

Friday, October 15, 2021, 2:56 pm

Link copied.National teen test scores fall for the first time in 50 years, study shows

The nation’s 13-year-olds are less proficient in math and reading than they were almost a decade ago, according to newly released data collected just before the start of the pandemic.

It’s the first time these scores — collected as part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress’ long-term trend study — have dropped in either subject in the 50-year history of the test, as Politico reported. To make matters worse, the report also revealed that the students, ages 9 and 13, who struggle the most with the exam, often referred to as the nation’s report card, have fallen even further behind. Some experts say this suggests that the learning loss triggered by the pandemic may well be dire. 

The bottom line is that math scores fell furthest among students whose performance ranked in the 10th and 25th percentiles, meaning that test takers with the lowest math scores in 2020 did worse than the students who struggled the most when the test was last administered in 2012. The data also reveals that the achievement gap between white and Black test-takers widened.

“It’s really a matter for national concern, this high percentage of students who are not reaching even what I think we’d consider the lowest levels of proficiency,” said George Bohrnstedt, a senior vice president and institute fellow at the American Institutes for Research, as the LA School Report noted. 

In another grim takeaway, a lower percentage of 13-year-olds reported regularly reading for fun almost every day than the share of students who said they did so a decade ago. Students who said they read, researchers noted, generally got higher scores.

Pedro Noguera, dean of the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California, said the results reflect the opportunity gap between low-income Black and Latino students and their more privileged peers. The disadvantaged students’ districts are still too often focused on standardized test prep, he suggested, which can actually lead to poorer performance.

“We need to make learning more compelling and more interesting to kids. We need to get them more deeply engaged,” Noguera said, as Politico reported. “That’s how we create self-motivated learners. That’s how we lift these scores.”

Karen D'Souza

Friday, October 15, 2021, 2:53 pm

Link copied.Supporters of Sacramento teacher who discussed Antifa with his class want him reinstated

Supporters of a Sacramento teacher, who Natomas Unified leaders say will be fired for discussing Antifa with his class, are asking him to be reinstated, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Antifa is an anti-racist and anti-racist political movement.

The conservative group, Project Veritas, filmed the Inderkum High School teacher, Gabriel Gipe, talking to his students about becoming revolutionaries. Gipe also had political signs in the classroom and was stamping his students’ work with images of Joseph Stalin, Fidel Castro and Kim Jung Un, according to the Sacramento Bee article.

A statement from the district said that Gipe had violated the Education Code and was teaching pro-communism ideology in class.

Civil rights attorney Mark Mervin said the district made this decision without due process.

EdSource staff

Friday, October 15, 2021, 11:02 am

Link copied.California Teachers of the Year named

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond has named the 2022 California Teachers of the Year.

Alondra Diaz will represent the state in the National Teacher of the Year competition in the spring. Diaz is a third-grade teacher at Ralph A. Gates Elementary School, a dual immersion school in the Saddleback Valley Unified District.

The other four Teachers of the Year are Nichi Avina, a middle school science teacher at Cielo Vista Charter School in the Palm Springs Unified School District in Riverside County; Sovantevy Long-Latteri, a special education teacher at La Sierra High School in the Fullerton Joint Union High School District in Orange County; Tiffany Jokerst, a high school math and engineering teacher at West Hills High School in the Grossmont Union High School District in San Diego County; and Virginia Vasquez, an AP language and composition teacher at San Gabriel High School in the Alhambra Unified School District in Los Angeles County.

“In what may be the toughest ever time for California families, students and educators, these five innovative and caring teachers have made profound differences in the lives of their students and communities,” Thurmond said in a statement. “I’m proud that these educators are receiving this prestigious honor for their continued effort to connect with students even during unimaginable circumstances, to address their needs, and support them in any way they can.”

The five teachers were selected by Thurmond after a California Department of Education selection committee reviewed applications, interviewed teachers and evaluated their teaching abilities. The teachers were nominated by their county offices of education.

The program began in 1972 to honor outstanding teachers and encourage and inspire new teachers to enter the profession, according to the Department of Education.

Diana Lambert

Thursday, October 14, 2021, 2:24 pm

Link copied.Sacramento City Unified joins districts requiring vaccinations for students, staff

Sacramento City Unified became the latest California school district to mandate Covid-19 vaccinations for its staff and students Tuesday night.

The district of nearly 48,000 students joins Culver City Unified, West Contra Costa Unified, Oakland Unified, Piedmont Unified, San Diego Unified and Los Angeles Unified in requiring vaccines for eligible students and staff ahead of the state mandate that begins next summer.

The district will require all students age 12 and older to receive the vaccination as a condition of being on campus. Those who aren’t willing to be vaccinated will have to enroll in the district’s independent study program.

Currently, only the Pfizer vaccine is fully approved for those 16 and older. The Pfizer vaccine also has emergency authorization for use in children between the ages of 12 and 16.

“A vaccine requirement is the path forward to keeping our schools open and increasing immunity,” said Superintendent Jorge Aguilar. “As superintendent of Sac City Unified, I wake up every morning feeling the anxieties caused by this unprecedented pandemic and its threat to meeting the academic, social, emotional, nutritional and other needs of our students. For so many of our students, schools are their safe haven, and I thank the board for their approval of this resolution based on our commitment to meeting those student needs.”

The school board voted to require all eligible students and staff to show proof of vaccination, either first or second dose, by Nov. 30.

Diana Lambert

Thursday, October 14, 2021, 12:21 pm

Link copied.Educators, researchers to lead state task force to improve Black student achievement

California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced the co-chairs who will lead a new task force to improve Black student achievement.

The task force, which will eventually include parents and community groups, will produce a report that is expected to be used to shape legislation to fund professional development for teachers and resources for Black students.

The task force will look at issues like diversifying the teacher workforce, reducing chronic absenteeism, addressing segregation in school districts and reducing suspensions and expulsions, Thurmond said.

The co-chairs of the task force include Pedro Noguera, dean of the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California; Tyrone Howard, director of the UCLA Center for Transformation of Schools; Desiree Carver-Thomas, a researcher at the Learning Policy Institute; Kelly Lytle Hernandez, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles; and Joseph Johnson, executive director of the National Center for Urban School Transformation at the San Diego State University Research Foundation.

The state has millions of dollars available for diversifying the teacher workforce, community schools and anti-racism grants, Thurmond said.

“Now is the moment for us to do this work to close learning gaps for Black students,” he said.

Diana Lambert

Thursday, October 14, 2021, 9:39 am

Link copied.African American Policy Forum calls for educator ‘Day of Action’ for George Floyd’s birthday

To commemorate George Floyd on what would have been his birthday Thursday, the African American Policy Forum is holding a national “Day of Action” for educators to teach about structural racism and oppression.

The national social justice think tank issued a toolkit with suggestions for educators, as well as parents, students and organizers for the day of action. The group suggests educators choose lessons from the Black Lives Matter at School curriculum guide, the Zinn’s Education Project’s #TeachTruth Syllabus, or the National Education Association’s Racial Justice Resources. Educators can also plan a “virtual field trip” to the Legacy Museum, the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, or other sites.

Educators are also invited to publicly declare their intent to teach antiracist lessons and wear a Black Lives Matter at School shirt or all-black shirt.

Students are encouraged to speak to their local school board to express support for antiracist lessons on history and current events, work with their teachers to prepare a lesson that “decolonizes the curriculum,” post a video on TikTok or Instagram saying what learning “authentic history” means to them and wear a Black Lives Matter at School shirt or all-black shirt.

Ali Tadayon

Wednesday, October 13, 2021, 11:15 am

Link copied.Anti-mask group sues San Diego Unified

A group that has lobbied against mask mandates is now suing the San Diego Unified School District over its requirement that all students 16 and older be vaccinated against Covid-19 by Dec. 20.

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, the lawsuit was filed by Let Them Choose, a project of the anti-mask group Let Them Breathe.

“Keeping healthy children out of the classroom is contrary to California law, is not necessary to reduce cases of Covid-19 in schools, and is not in the best interest of students, parents, or school districts,” the lawsuit says.

For the time being, the district is only requiring students 16 and older to be vaccinated. Younger students will be required to get vaccinated after the vaccine is fully approved by the Food and Drug Administration for their age groups, as also required now by a state mandate.

Zaidee Stavely

Wednesday, October 13, 2021, 11:14 am

Link copied.SAT and ACT no longer required at many colleges in California

About 130 colleges and universities in California no longer require SAT or ACT tests for admission in fall 2022, according to the Los Angeles Times.

After the University of California removed the requirement for test scores for admission in 2020, many other colleges and universities followed.

Some of the universities made this decision temporarily, in part because of the pandemic. However, some groups are hoping that some institutions will stop requiring the tests permanently, arguing that the admissions process is fairer without them.

The number of colleges and universities that do not require standardized test scores has grown in recent years. In 2005, just eight institutions nationwide did not require students to release their standardized test scores. In 2021, there are about 1,780.

Zaidee Stavely

Tuesday, October 12, 2021, 12:40 pm

Link copied.Los Angeles Unified extends vaccination deadline for teachers and staff

With thousands of teachers and other staff still unvaccinated, the Los Angeles Unified School District has extended its deadline for all workers to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 by one month.

The district, by far the largest in the state, changed the deadline from Oct. 15 to Nov. 15, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“We don’t want people to be out of jobs,” Megan Reilly, the district’s interim superintendent, told the Times. “Our employees are one of the strongest assets that we have.”

Reilly added, though, that the district is “absolutely adamant about keeping our schools the safest possible environment — and vaccinations are clearly the pathway to keeping them safe.”

Michael Burke

Tuesday, October 12, 2021, 12:39 pm

Link copied.Enrollment at San Francisco schools declines by 3,500 students

Enrollment at San Francisco Unified has declined by 3,500 in the past two years, which could translate to a $35 million decline in state funding, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

In a report to the school board that will be presented Tuesday, district officials wrote that “enrollment declines have been a widespread phenomenon, and demographic trends in SF do not point to a large, near-term increase in children. We need to establish program capacities based on current reality by looking holistically. Capacities determine staffing needs and student seats, and should reflect our new normal of enrollment levels.”

The Chronicle noted that trends in San Francisco don’t suggest that the enrollment trends will reverse. During the pandemic, the city saw a 17% drop in the number of babies born compared with the previous year, the newspaper reported.

Michael Burke

Monday, October 11, 2021, 2:25 pm

Link copied.Ed100 program for student leaders goes year-round, invites new members and adult allies

Ed100, the nonprofit organization that educates California parents and students on state education policies, is turning a successful annual summer institute into a year-round program for high school students. And it’s inviting adult allies to help recruit students from every high school in California to participate in the program and become advocates for students.

For the past two summers, Ed100 has held a week-long leadership institute for hundreds of student leaders on issues that are on their minds, with presentations by some of the state’s top education leaders, including sessions from peers on how to effect change and make a difference. Next year’s conference will be June 20-22. Aspiring school leaders can network and pick up leadership skills. EdSource is one of the sponsors.

The free, year-long Ed100 Leadership Academy will include monthly online discussions on topics of interest, and participation in an Ed100 Academy platform on Discord, a student-moderated platform that helps students share views and exchange information about opportunities and projects.

Students can learn more and apply here. Students 13 and over from private, charter and district schools are eligible. Students who participate will receive a certificate that shows proof of civic involvement, which may be required for a civics couse.

Adults are needed to encourage students – at least one from every high school grade – to apply to the Leadership Academy. Adult allies of the academy can be anyone who works with high school students or high school communities — an administrator, teacher, counselor or school volunteer. Those nominated by a student member will be invited to attend the summer institute. Adults can learn more and sign up here.

John Fensterwald

Friday, October 8, 2021, 1:13 pm

Link copied.Two parents convicted in Varsity Blues college admissions scandal trial

Two parents were convicted Friday on bribery and fraud charges in connection with a scheme in which they paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to have their children fraudulently admitted as athletic recruits to U.S. universities.

A federal jury in Boston found former casino executive Gamal Aziz and private equity firm founder John Wilson guilty, according to The New York Times. Abdelaziz was accused of paying $300,000 to get his daughter admitted to the University of Southern California in 2018 as a basketball recruit and Wilson was accused of paying $220,000 for his to be admitted to the same university as a water polo recruit in 2014.

The two men were the first to stand trial in the scandal, which extended to dozens of other parents, coaches and administrators who worked to get students admitted to a number of universities. Rather than going to trial, many of those other parents have pleaded guilty.

Michael Burke

Friday, October 8, 2021, 12:41 pm

Link copied.San Jose State president to resign in wake of sex misconduct scandal

San Jose State President Mary Papazian announced Thursday that she would resign at the end of the fall term on Dec. 21. Her resignation comes days after the university reached a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice over a sexual harassment case involving an athletic trainer, Scott Shaw. Student-athletes said Shaw abused them for years.

“The best interest of the campus continues to be at the forefront of every decision I make,” Papazian said, in a statement. “After thoughtful consideration, I have made the decision to step away as president. I truly love this university and believe this choice will allow the focus to be positively and solely on our talented, diverse, and outstanding campus. It has been my great honor and privilege to work with the exceptional SJSU students, faculty, staff, alumni and community partners.”

The DOJ report found that the university failed to investigate Shaw’s actions and retaliated against employees that tried to protect students.

Papazian, in her statement, said that the health and safety of the campus remains a priority and that she would continue to cooperate with the ongoing federal investigation surrounding Shaw.

“This transition does not impact our intention and obligation to understand what occurred and how the university responded at the time,” Papazian said. “I made a promise to our community and to the affected student-athletes and their families, and I plan to honor it. My heart, apologies and prayers continue to be with those student-athletes who suffered a breach of trust during their time at the university.”

Ashley A. Smith

Thursday, October 7, 2021, 11:52 am

Link copied.Pfizer wants U.S. to approve Covid vaccine for 5- to 11-year olds

Pfizer and BioNTech have officially requested that the U.S. Government allow children ages 5 to 11 to be given its Covid-19 vaccine, Pizer announced in a Tweet this morning.

If the Federal Drug Administration approves its application children could begin getting immunized within the month, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Pfizer reported last month that company data showed its Covid-19 vaccine to be safe and effective in children ages 5 to 11. The FDA will convene a panel of experts to debate the evidence on Oct. 26.

Younger children given two doses — each a third the strength of adult doses — develop the same virus-fighting antibody levels as older people who were given full doses of the vaccine, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Although children are at lower risk of severe illness or death than adults, children’s cases have risen sharply since the return to school this fall amid the more contagious delta variant.

Diana Lambert

Thursday, October 7, 2021, 11:40 am

Link copied.Governor’s council to focus on teaching California students about Holocaust

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has launched the Governor’s Council on Holocaust and Genocide Education.

The council will host seminars, develop a speakers bureau and identify resources to teach California students about the Holocaust and other acts of genocide, as wells as how to respond to anti-Semitism and bigotry, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

The governor made the announcement during a visit to the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.

“We find ourselves in a moment of history where hate pervades the public discourse,” Newsom said. “National surveys have indicated a shocking decline in awareness among young people about the Holocaust and other acts of genocide. But in California, we are offering an antidote to the cynicism that this is how things are, and responding to that hate the best way we know how — with education and empathy.”

The council, led by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, Attorney General Rob Bonta and Sen. Henry Stern, is made up of state officials and legislators. Academics, advocates and community organizations are expected to be added to the council in the future.

Diana Lambert

Thursday, October 7, 2021, 9:58 am

Link copied.Anti-vaccine protesters step on to Pinole Valley High School campus, harass students

In a scenario that has occurred increasingly throughout the country, anti-vaccine protesters harassed students Wednesday at Pinole Valley High School in Pinole before security asked them to leave, according to school officials.

The high school was holding its first all-day student vaccine drive on the campus Wednesday, while a group of fewer than a dozen protesters rallied across the street, said principal Kibby Kleiman. They were shouting at students to not get vaccinated. At around 10:30 a.m., one or two of the protesters went onto the campus. Security quickly told them to leave and the protesters complied, Kleiman said.

Last Tuesday, West Contra Costa Unified approved a vaccine mandate for eligible students, requiring them to get vaccinated by November 15 or else enroll in independent study in order to stay in the district. Around a dozen parents objected to the decision, mostly citing reasons that Contra Costa County Health Officer Dr. Chris Farnitano debunked. The next day, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced all eligible California students and staff will be required to get vaccinated against Covid-19 as early as January 2022.

Kleiman said the incident Wednesday was minor and didn’t slow down the vaccine drive.

“If they want to stand out there and yell and we can get more people vaccinated I would do it every day,” Kleiman said.

At a school board meeting later that day, board president Mister Phillips issued a stern warning to the protesters:

“If you come on to campuses and harass our children, you will go to jail.”


Ali Tadayon

Wednesday, October 6, 2021, 3:40 pm

Link copied.As students with disabilities return to classrooms, Education Department updates guidance

Schools must continue providing high-quality services to students with disabilities, regardless of whether those students are learning at school, at home or a combination of both, according to new guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Education.

The detailed, 41-page guidance covers everything from mask requirements to parent meetings for individualized education programs, which set academic and developmental goals for students enrolled in special education.

“No matter what primary instructional delivery approach is used, (districts) remain responsible for ensuring that a free, appropriate public education is available to all children with disabilities,” according to the guidance. “Therefore, before, during, and after the COVID-19 pandemic, the (district) must ensure that each child with a disability has access to educational opportunities, including all special education and related services.”

The guidance also covers services provided during school breaks, technology that helps students learn, mental health and other topics.

Carolyn Jones

Wednesday, October 6, 2021, 1:36 pm

Link copied.Biden administration overhauls Public Service Loan Forgiveness program

The U.S. Department of Education announced Wednesday that it would overhaul the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program to include more eligible workers. The changes over the next year would put more than 550,000 public service workers closer to loan forgiveness.

“Borrowers who devote a decade of their lives to public service should be able to rely on the promise of Public Service Loan Forgiveness,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said, in a news release. “Teachers, nurses, first responders, servicemembers, and so many public service workers have had our back especially amid the challenges of the pandemic. Today, the Biden Administration is showing that we have their backs, too.”

The department will temporarily allow all payments borrowers made on federal student loans to count toward Public Service Loan Forgiveness, regardless of the loan program or payment.

To qualify, borrowers must make 120 on-time monthly payments for 10 years to have the remaining balance canceled. They must also work for the government or qualifying nonprofit organizations, and be enrolled in specific repayment plans.

Although the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program has been around since 2007, it has been criticized for allowing too few borrowers to receive forgiveness. And too many do not receive credit for years of payments they made because of complicated eligibility rules.

Ashley A. Smith

Wednesday, October 6, 2021, 10:27 am

Link copied.State senator considering bill to remove personal exemptions for Covid-19 vaccine

California’s new mandate for all eligible students to be vaccinated against Covid-19 once the FDA gives full approval has a big loophole — it allows students to be exempted based on “personal belief.”

Sen. Richard Pan of Sacramento, a Democrat and pediatrician who chairs the Senate Health Committee, is considering legislation to remove that exemption, according to CalMatters.

Pan has championed legislation in the past that removed personal belief exemptions from all other required vaccines for school.

“The problem with the personal belief exemption is that if there are too many people who use it, we’ll have schools that are unsafe,” Pan said. “We need to be sure kids can stay in school and learn and not have to be sent home for two weeks.”

Zaidee Stavely

Wednesday, October 6, 2021, 10:22 am

Link copied.U.S. attorney general looks into threats against school boards, teachers

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland is directing the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s offices to meet with local law enforcement agencies to discuss strategies to address an increase in violence and harassment of school officials, teachers and staff, according to NPR.

The National School Boards Association wrote a six-page letter to President Biden last week, showing an increase in threats and acts of violence at school board meetings in several states, including California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Texas and Virginia. Most of the violence was related to school mask mandates.

Garland is also calling for a task force to determine how federal law enforcement can prosecute such crimes, and training and guidance for school boards and administrators on how to identify threats and report to law enforcement.

Zaidee Stavely

Tuesday, October 5, 2021, 1:38 pm

Link copied.New law will identify preschoolers’ home languages

A new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom Tuesday requires all state-subsidized preschool programs to identify the languages children speak at home and the language spoken by program staff.

The bill, AB 1363, authored by Assemblymember Luz Rivas, D-North Hollywood, requires preschool programs that receive state funds to serve low-income children to identify the language spoken at home of every child enrolled, as well as the languages used in the classroom and spoken by the preschool teachers.

In addition, the bill requires programs to show they support children in developing both their home language and English in order to be considered a “quality” program by the state.

“Over 60 percent of California’s students come from a home where English is not the primary language, and today we are taking decisive action to strengthen our bilingual students’ early learning opportunities,” Rivas said. “With the governor’s signing of AB 1363, California leads the nation in education policy once more by becoming the first state to create a standardized process that identifies and supports K-12 dual language learners at an early age.”

The identification of preschoolers’ home languages and how well their preschool programs are meeting their language needs was one of the priorities set forth in California’s Master Plan for Early Learning and Care.

Zaidee Stavely

Tuesday, October 5, 2021, 1:15 pm

Link copied.Gov. Newsom signs bill improving access to child care for migrant workers

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation today improving access to child care for migrant farmworkers at a press conference held at an elementary school in Fresno.

Long a champion of early childhood education, Newsom also touted the transformative nature of the state’s new universal transitional kindergarten program, which will be fully rolled out by 2025, the state’s plan to seed college savings accounts of up to $1,500 for low-income students, English learners and foster and homeless youth and plans to reach out to dual language learners.

“In California, we are committed to transforming our public schools to promote equity, inclusivity and opportunity for every student,” Newsom said. “Building upon this year’s historic budget investments in universal pre-K and college savings accounts, these bills will improve access to a good education for children across California so that every child can thrive, regardless of their race, language spoken at home or zip code.”

SB 393, introduced by Sen. Melissa Hurtado, D-Sanger, aligns the Migrant Child Care Alternative Payment program with other voucher programs, a move which will streamline access to child care subsidies for migrant farmworkers. 

“Governor Newsom’s historic policies advancing early learning for our youngest Californians are a game changer,” said Patricia Lozano, executive director of Early Edge California. “They bring California closer than ever to providing equity for all in education.” 

Most of these programs represent an attempt to remedy the state’s ever-widening achievement gap, which has only grown during the pandemic as existing economic disparities deepen. 

“This is a determination to address not the achievement gap, but the real gap that persists, that’s the readiness gap,” Newsom said. “People are not left behind. They start behind.” 

Karen D'Souza

Tuesday, October 5, 2021, 12:06 pm

Link copied.State intervening to help San Francisco school district address financial woes

California’s state superintendent is intervening in San Francisco Unified to help the district address a budget shortfall, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The state plans to bring in a fiscal consultant to help the district cut 13% of its annual budget, and the district will have to submit labor agreements to Tony Thurmond, the state’s superintendent of public instruction, according to the Chronicle.

The state will also require San Francisco Unified to withhold pay from Superintendent Vince Matthews and school board members over a “failure to provide requested financial information,” the newspaper reported.

“We acknowledge that the district is working to identify strategic solutions for resolving the projected budget shortfalls,” Thurmond wrote in a Sept. 15 letter to Matthews. “However, reductions have yet to be identified after a year of discussion.”

Michael Burke

Tuesday, October 5, 2021, 12:05 pm

Link copied.Nearly all students at Sacramento State in compliance with vaccination policy

Nearly all students at Sacramento State University are following California State University’s Covid-19 vaccination policy, the campus announced, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Of the roughly 31,000 students enrolled, all but 80 have either been vaccinated, received an exemption or chosen not to return to campus at all, the Bee reported. According to the Bee, 85% of students have been vaccinated, 3.6% received an exemption and 11% did not physically return to campus.

The vaccination policy, which applies to CSU’s 23 campuses, requires students and staff who are on campus to be vaccinated, unless they have a religious or medical exemption.

Michael Burke

Monday, October 4, 2021, 11:56 am

Link copied.Thurmond names Literacy Task Force co-chairs

Linda Darling-Hammond, president of the California Board of Education, and E. Toby Boyd, president of the California Teachers Association, are among the newly named co-chairs of the state’s Literacy Task Force, announced State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond last week.

Other co-chairs include Barbara Nemko, superintendent of the Napa County Office of Education; Francisco Escobedo, executive director of the National Center for Urban School Transformation; Barbara Flores, president of the California Association of Bilingual Education; Camille Maben, executive director of First 5 California; and Dianna MacDonald, past president of the California State PTA.

Members of the task force will meet with experts and community partners to design a strategy to help student reach literacy by the third grade, an important benchmark in predicting student success, Thurmond said.

“We also know that when students don’t learn to read by third grade, they are at greater risk to drop out of school, and they are at greater risk to end up in the criminal justice system — and we have to give them the resources to put them on a path for lifelong learning as opposed to a path that increases the likelihood that they will drop out of school or end up in the criminal justice system,” Thurmond said.

Diana Lambert

Monday, October 4, 2021, 8:23 am

Link copied.Dirk Tillotson, education activist, shot to death in Oakland

A well-known education blogger, attorney and activist, Dirk Tillotson, died in a home invasion robbery Friday night in his Oakland home.

Tillston was cofounder of Great School Voices, a nonprofit that advocates for educational equity for Black, Latino and low-income students. His death was confirmed by friends and on the Great School Voices website, although the Alameda County Coroner has not yet confirmed his death.

Dirk Tillotson 

“He was brilliant. He scrutinized data, but it wasn’t just about numbers. It was, how do we solve this problem?” said Tillotson’s friend and colleague, former Oakland school board member Jumoke Hinton. “He was driven by what people need and what they want, and he fought for them.”

Tillotson worked for schools and on education issues in New York, India, Qatar, New Orleans and Oakland. Although he had been involved in the charter school movement since the mid-1990s, he noted in his blog that he’s not exclusively a charter advocate.
“Am I pro-charter? Kind of, kind of not,” he wrote. “I am pro-good school, good meaning quality programs and equity.”

Tillotson helped found one of Oakland’s first charter schools, West Oakland Community School, in the 1990s, and with Hinton cofounded an organization called the State of Black Education in Oakland, which pushes for policies that benefit Black students and recognize their accomplishments. But he also fought for education issues beyond California, including a push in 2020 for free Internet access for all families while school campuses were closed. Based partly on his efforts, Comcast agreed to offer free Internet service to low-income families who needed it.

“For over thirty years, Dirk has been an educator, movement builder, and voice for making our school systems better, especially for Black students and other students of color,” Iris Crawford, a colleague of Tillotson’s, wrote. “He believed and fought for our kids because academically, high-quality education is an inherent right, not a luxury.”

Tillotson, 52, was killed during a robbery at his East Oakland home late Friday night, the East Bay Times reported. His wife was also wounded. Oakland Police have not made any arrests, and the investigation is ongoing.

Colleagues have set up an online fundraiser for Tillotson’s family.

Carolyn Jones

Friday, October 1, 2021, 6:20 am

Link copied.UC Regents approve housing project at People’s Park in Berkeley

The University of California’s Board of Regents approved a plan Thursday to build new student housing at People’s Park in Berkeley.

The project will include about 1,100 additional beds for students and another 125 beds for unhoused and low-income people in the Berkeley community. The approval of the project comes after about 5,000 students who applied for housing at UC Berkeley this fall could not be accommodated.

Not everyone was happy with the plan to build housing in the historic park.

“While student housing in Berkeley is a critical need, UC Berkeley has other sites that do not destroy the cultural and historical legacy of the city,” said two groups that are suing UC over the project, People’s Park Historic District Advocacy and Make UC a Good Neighbor, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

In a statement, UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ called the project a “win-win-win benefitting our students, unhoused people in our community, and our neighbors across the city.”

But she added, “While I am appreciative of the support we have gained, I know we have work to do to build awareness, understanding and support among those who remain skeptical. I look forward to continued, meaningful engagement with every part of our community, supporters and opponents alike.”

Michael Burke

Thursday, September 30, 2021, 11:25 pm

Link copied.West Contra Costa Unified approves vaccine mandate for eligible students, staff and consultants

West Contra Costa Unified, on Thursday, became the latest California district to require eligible students to get vaccinated against Covid-19 in order to attend school in-person, following in the footsteps of Los Angeles Unified, Oakland Unified, and Culver City Unified.

The district’s school board voted 4-1 at a special school board meeting Thursday to approve the mandate, following a contentious round of comments from the public. School board member Jamela Smith-Folds cast the only dissenting vote, saying she had too many unanswered questions and instead proposing that students who refuse to get vaccinated get tested weekly while remaining in in-person classes. That motion failed. 

“When history judges this board, history will say that we were right and history will say that we had the courage to stand,” Board president Mister Phillips said at the meeting. “…I’m not doing or voting for anything I wouldn’t have my own children do or that I would not do myself. Not afraid.”

Under the mandate, students will have until Nov. 15 to get their first shot and Dec. 15 to get their second shot. Students who turn 12 during the school year must receive their first shot no later than 30 days after their birthday and their second shot no later than 60 days after their birthday. The timeline is sooner than that the state’s student vaccine mandate, which Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday.  It goes into effect in the first semester, either Jan. 1 or July 1, following the Federal Drug Administration’s full approval of the Covid vaccine for each age group. Currently, the Pfizer vaccine is fully approved for people 16 and older, and the other vaccines have emergency approval for people 12 and over.

Families in West Contra Costa county who refuse to comply will have to enroll their children in independent study in order to remain in the district. 

The district also approved separate mandates requiring all volunteers, staff members, vendors and contractors to get vaccinated in order to be on campuses.

As more students get vaccinated at West Contra Costa Unified, the district will begin to “reduce” its prevention measures “in some capacity,” said safety consultant Michael Booker. He did not say which measures would be reduced.

More than a dozen speakers at Thursday’s school board meeting urged the district not to pass the mandate, citing false information that Contra Costa County Health Officer Dr. Chris Farnitano debunked. Some had urged the school board to postpone the decision until the vaccine garnered full approval by the Food and Drug Administration for children ages 12-15 — it currently has full approval for people ages 16 and older and emergency use authorization for ages 12-15. School board members, however, said bold action needed to be taken now in order to reduce the spread of Covid in the community. 

“Postponing these resolutions equals giving into anti-science misinformation,” said Joseph Glatzer, who teaches history at Hercules Middle School. “Trust the science, listen to the public health experts, not the minority from anti-vaccine pressure groups.”

Though West Contra Costa Unified’s meeting went uninterrupted Thursday, anti-vaccine and anti-mask groups have disrupted school board meetings in other parts of the state. The California School Board Association director Vernon Billy wrote a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom this week calling for local police to uphold public health and safety orders, and help maintain order at local school board meetings when requested.


Ali Tadayon

Thursday, September 30, 2021, 1:58 pm

Link copied.School board members want governor to require police to protect them from protesters

California school board meetings are being disrupted, trustees threatened and safety measures ignored, and law enforcement officers often decline to help when called, said Vernon M. Billy, executive director of the California School Boards Association, in a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom sent Wednesday.

Billy asked the governor and Attorney General Rob Bonta to tell law enforcement agencies to enforce safety measures and restore order at school board meetings when requested.

“The hostile climate at local board meetings and the reluctance of select law enforcement agencies to fulfill their duties have placed school trustees in unprecedented danger,” Billy stated.

The public has more access to school board trustees than any other elected public officials and are accustomed to criticism and controversy, he said.

“Yet nothing in recent memory could have prepared trustees for the onslaught they face today as citizens lash out on a variety of topics, most notably opposition to state mandates and local COVID mitigation measures,” wrote Billy. “I’ve watched in horror as school board members have been accosted, verbally abused, physically assaulted, and subjected to death threats against themselves and their family members.”

Billy said that in the last month several school boards had to prematurely adjourn meetings because of disruptive audience members. A Sacramento-area school board had to leave the boardroom through a back door because the actions of protestors made the meeting unsafe. In San Diego, protestors forced their way into the board room and would not leave. The meeting was ended but the protestors stayed long enough to post a statement on social media saying they had elected themselves as the new school board.

Diana Lambert

Thursday, September 30, 2021, 12:22 pm

Link copied.Community activists want Elk Grove district to work on lowering Black suspension rates

Community activists are demanding change at Elk Grove Unified, which had the highest suspension rates of Black students in California in 2019, according to a survey released by the Black Minds Matter Coalition.

Loreen Pryor, CEO of the Black Youth Leadership Project, has three binders full of complaints from families who say their children have been unfairly disciplined, according to the Sacramento Bee. Many of the families are from Elk Grove.

The school district has addressed the high rate of suspensions of Black students by making changes to the dress code, the district’s zero-tolerance policy and evaluating the role of police on campuses, said Xanthi Soriano, district spokeswoman in the article.

In a recent case a Black girl and three female students, who are not Black, were in a physical altercation. The black student was the only one who faced expulsion, according to the Sacramento Bee. In the end, the district decided there wasn’t enough evidence to warrant her expulsion and suspended the girl for five days. The other girls were suspended for two days.

Diana Lambert

Thursday, September 30, 2021, 11:09 am

Link copied.Gov. Newsom writes children’s book based on his childhood dyslexia diagnosis

Gov. Gavin Newsom hasn’t shied away from talking about his childhood dyslexia diagnosis and how it impacted his education. Now he has written a children’s book based on his experience.

Ben and Emma’s Big Hit, set to be released Dec. 7, centers around a boy who loves baseball and struggles with reading. When he starts thinking of reading and baseball in the same way, he realizes he can overcome any obstacle if he keeps trying, according to the Amazon summary.

Newsom’s dyslexia diagnosis came up several times during the 2022 fiscal year budget process. His administration bolstered special education funding by $1.5 billion between 2019 and 2021, including extra money for direct services as well as recruiting and training teachers.

Ali Tadayon

Thursday, September 30, 2021, 8:46 am

Link copied.West Contra Costa school board to vote on vaccine mandate

West Contra Costa Unified’s school board is holding a special meeting Thursday night to vote on a vaccine mandate for eligible students.

The district’s administration is proposing that the mandate go into effect Jan. 3 and apply to all students older than 12, employees and volunteers. Students who don’t comply can enroll in independent study.

The district was slated to consider the recommendation earlier in the month but called off the meeting. Meanwhile, nearby Oakland Unified approved a vaccine mandate for eligible students.


Ali Tadayon

Wednesday, September 29, 2021, 4:44 pm

Link copied.Fourth graders and their families can attend 19 state parks with free pass

California State Parks officials and First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom on Wednesday announced a new yearlong program allowing fourth graders and their families to attend 19 state parks for free.

Families can apply for a California State Park Adventure Pass online at Families can also apply for a pass at a State Parks Pass Sales Office or by calling 800-444-7275.

The program focuses on families of fourth graders because research indicates that children ages 9-11 are at a stage in learning where they are more receptive to engaging with nature and the environment, said Siebel Newsom’s spokeswoman Daisy Vieyra. The federal Every Kid Outdoors program offers free access to federal parks for fourth graders and their families for the same reason.

The 19 parks covered by the pass include beaches, hiking trails and museums such as Morro Bay State Park Museum of Natural History, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Calaveras Big Trees State Park and Hollister Hills State Vehicular Recreation Area. A complete list can be found here.

The pass program is part of Siebel Newsom’s California for All Kids initiative to support children’s physical, mental and social-emotional well-being, according to a Parks and Recreation Department news release.


Ali Tadayon

Wednesday, September 29, 2021, 3:54 pm

Link copied.California still lags in computer science classes at high schools

Despite recent gains, California still lags behind 34 other states in the percentage of high schools that offer computer science classes, according to a new report released this week.

The California Computer Science Access Report,” by the Kapor Center and Computer Science for California, examined the computer science landscape in the state’s public high schools. It found that 42% of California high schools offer computer science classes, a 3 percentage point gain from 2016. Only 13% offered an advanced placement computer science class.

Schools that serve low-income and rural communities, and those with a high percentage of Black, Latino, Pacific Islander or Native American students were less likely to offer computer science classes.

“Findings indicate that, while some progress has been made in expanding access to computer science education, much work remains to increase equity in access and enrollment,” the authors wrote.

The report suggests that the state offer incentives to recruit more computer science teachers, especially those who are Black or Latino; make computer science a bigger priority in K-12 learning; and integrate computer skills into other subjects, so students learn the basics of computing regardless of whether they’re enrolled in a computer science class.

Carolyn Jones

Wednesday, September 29, 2021, 3:52 pm

Link copied.A district in Fresno County will not require Covid-19 testing of teachers

Sierra Unified School District, in Fresno County, decided not to discipline employees who choose not to take a Covid-19 test, despite a policy requiring testing or vaccination.

According to the Fresno Bee, the district faced major opposition to its policy to require everyone on school campuses to wear masks and teachers to either show proof of a vaccine by Oct. 15 or take a weekly Covid-19 test. In the end, the school board voted 4-3 to follow these health directives, but also voted to suspend disciplinary action for those who choose not to test, “until a ‘non-invasive’ method is available to the district, such as saliva testing.”

Some employees said the test was painful, and others said they thought the questions on the form to sign up, which included asking if the employee identifies as male, female, or non-binary gender, were suspicious.

Zaidee Stavely