UC Tuition Hike Proposal Upsets Students, Pits UC President Against Governor

The University of California Board of Regents is set to vote Wednesday on a plan to raise tuition by as much as 5 percent every year for the next five years. The proposal is angering students, and has put UC President Janet Napolitano at odds with Gov. Jerry Brown, who is resisting the increase and urging the UC to reduce spending instead.

The Immigration Landscape 20 Years After Prop. 187

Twenty years ago California voters approved Proposition 187, which was intended to withhold public education and health services from those in the U.S. illegally. A federal court struck down the measure as unconstitutional, but the proposition is credited with galvanizing a generation of Latino voters. We'll discuss the lasting impact of Proposition 187 on California politics and the nation's immigration debate.

PBS NewsHour

How teachers can talk to students about Ferguson

Protesters run from a cloud of tear gas in Ferguson, Missouri. Photo Jim Young / REUTERS

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JUDY WOODRUFF: As we saw earlier in today’s protests around the country, the fallout from the Ferguson decision continues to reverberate.  The shooting, the grand jury’s decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson and the subsequent protests have all led to difficult discussions in many homes and communities, including among teachers and students in schools.

Jeffrey Brown talked to two people with advice for how to handle these talks.

JEFFREY BROWN: Back in August, Marcia Chatelain, a history professor at Georgetown University, started a conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #FergusonSyllabus.  It quickly grew into a way for teachers around the country to share thoughts, resources and strategies to address events in Ferguson in their classrooms.

In the last few days, that conversation has again taken off, with several thousand contributors.

Marcia Chatelain joins me now.  And also with us is Liz Collins, one of the teachers who joined in the conversation.  She teaches English at the Washington Latin Public Charter School here in Washington, D.C.

And welcome to both of you.

So, Marcia Chatelain, how did this come about? What did you see happening?

MARCIA CHATELAIN, Georgetown University: Well, I was — like a lot of Americans, I was watching television every day and looking at the unrest in Ferguson unfold.

And all I could think about were all the kids who weren’t going to be at school on the first day because of what had happened.  And so, initially, I started a conversation on Twitter to get other college professors to dedicate the first day of classes to talking about Ferguson.

And as I started to communicate with them on Twitter, people all across the country at all grade levels really wanted in on this conversation.

JEFFREY BROWN: There was a hunger for it.

MARCIA CHATELAIN: There — absolutely.


And what — and what kind of conversation among teachers did it lead to?

MARCIA CHATELAIN: Well, initially, the conversation was, what do I teach?

And then it grew into, what do I say? How do I talk to students about issues that are contentious? How do I make sure that we reduce conflict in the classroom and really focus on what’s important? And so what #FergusonSyllabus has provided is an opportunity for teachers to not feel isolated or alone in this process.

JEFFREY BROWN: Tell us, Liz Collins, about — before we get into your classroom — about the conversation among teachers who you know how to deal with this.

LIZ COLLINS, Washington Latin Public Charter School: I was really lucky, in that that was organized at my school.  We actually had faculty meetings set up to discuss it, where groups of us talked bout how we felt and about how we were going to teach it.

Different disciplines had different approaches.  And I started using this #FergusonSyllabus Twitter account to get ideas about what to do in my classroom.  So, I was lucky that, as a faculty, we all shared ideas about what to do and how to approach this.

JEFFREY BROWN: So, first was, how do we feel?


JEFFREY BROWN: And then, how do we teach it?


JEFFREY BROWN: And then using the resources, what kind of — what — what unfolded in the classroom? What kinds of things were you able to do?

LIZ COLLINS: Well, one thing that really interested me from that Twitter account was learning about the Missouri Compromise.  How did that affect what was going on? How did history change the context of what we’re looking at?

And that was one thing I talked about the American history teacher with.  He gave me some perspective about how to use that in my classroom.  I teach English, so I was focusing primarily on text, on media, on facts and interpretation and how can we discuss these things and determine what the truth is, whatever the truth — if that’s possible to determine, and the different perspectives.  How do the protesters feel? How do the police feel? Just looking at different views in the classroom.

JEFFREY BROWN: So, is that — what other kind of things? That’s history.  That’s contemporary media.  What other kinds of things that were being passed around?

MARCIA CHATELAIN: Well, I think what was most exciting was that teachers in all disciplines wanted in on this conversation.

And so some science teachers talked about tear gas and the health impacts of using tear gas on citizens.  I heard from a professor of fashion design who wanted to talk about the way that protest styles have influenced the shape of American fashion.


MARCIA CHATELAIN: Yes.  I heard from music teachers who said, we’re going to spend time looking at the elements of protest music and protest songs for different movements.

And so I think what was most inspiring about #FergusonSyllabus is that it wasn’t the usual cast of characters who were having a conversation about race and about conflict and about policing, but people across all fields really wanted to engage their students thoughtfully.

JEFFREY BROWN: You know, Liz Collins, you just said something a minute ago about determining the truth.

When information is coming at us so quickly, especially in social media, there’s misinformation, right? How do you — how have you dealt with that?

LIZ COLLINS: That’s so tricky and something that teenagers deal with all the time, because they love Twitter, and Facebook, and Instagram, and the information moves faster than the fact-checking.

So, I think that’s an important lesson for them to learn across the board.  Just because you’re getting this information, who’s the source? How trustworthy is it? What’s that person or organization’s bias? What do they want you to think and why?

And I think teaching them to challenge that and think about that goes beyond this issue, but also gives them a lens with which to approach this issue as more and more facts come out.  And every day, we’re learning more and more about what happened and having to sift through all those facts.  And I think teaching that skill is valuable in any subject and easily transferable.

JEFFREY BROWN: What about, Marcia Chatelain, differences in ages? You have to deal with — teachers obviously have to deal with that, right?


JEFFREY BROWN: So, how do you deal with age-specific type of lessons?

MARCIA CHATELAIN: So, one of the things that was really important for me to do in this conversation is to say that some information is age-appropriate and also climate-appropriate.

Every school isn’t the same.  Every school doesn’t want to delve into this issue in the same way.  And so for younger kids, I think we really needed to focus on feelings, what is it like when people are anxious or afraid or scared, and a lot of resources on children’s books that talk about emotions during times that are overwhelming.

For slightly older kids, I think that the paradigm of fairness, what happens when people feel like something is unfair, what happens when people feel like their rights aren’t being respected, you can engage in that conversation.  And for older kids, I think that this is an amazing civic lesson about the various responsibilities people have in a community and what happens when that trust is broken.

JEFFREY BROWN: I suppose, in every school, there’s the question of how much do the children already know, how much do we want to bring it into the — it sounds like, in your school, there was no question.  It was brought in as a conversation because it was there.

LIZ COLLINS: There was no question at our school.

And I know some schools have been nervous about talking about it, but we have a really strong foundation in talking about justice.  That’s really important at our school.  And we go from five to 12.  So there’s a whole range of different levels.  What do kids know? What can they handle?

In my own classroom, we started with the KWL chart.  And so every teachers knows.  What do you want to know? What did you know? And then what do you want to learn when we’re done? So, we start with, what do you know? And how do you feel about it? How are you feeling right now?

And you get a lot of misinformation out there, but you also get their feelings out.  Kids correct each other.  No, I heard that wasn’t true.  No, I don’t know.  And then when you read articles or learn more, they can correct the facts they initially had.

JEFFREY BROWN: Have parents become part of this as well? What — what do you — what do you see as the role of parents in this, or what do you tell them?

MARCIA CHATELAIN: Well, I would tell parents, talk to your child, but especially listen to your child.  Listen more than talk.

How do they feel? What do they think is going on? Listen to them as much as you can and get a sense of what they’re seeing and feeling.  In D.C., in our school population, we have a mix of different races.  And some students are taking this more personally than others and feel frightened or upset.

And I think they need to be heard.  They need a place to express those feelings.  And that should happen at school.  It should also happen at home.  Their parents should give them that audience to talk about any feelings they have about this situation.

JEFFREY BROWN: Just finally, Marcia Chatelain, what — what — what do you — to the extent it’s a teaching moment, to use the cliche, and literally it’s a teaching moment here, what do you want to bring out? What do you hope comes out?

MARCIA CHATELAIN: I hope what comes out is that nothing bad happens when we’re honest and when we talk to each other.

Nothing terrible has happened because we have had an open conversation about race and about communities and policing.  And I also want to understand that we keep teaching because Ferguson is continually in the struggle and that, by bringing attention to what’s happening — happening in Ferguson, we give more power to our own communities to make the change that we want to see.

JEFFREY BROWN: Marcia Chatelain, Liz Collins, thank you both very much.

LIZ COLLINS: Thank you.



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Lessons from Los Angeles’ school records disaster

RECORD LOSS monitor la unified schools

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JUDY WOODRUFF: This has been a very rough year for the Los Angeles Unified School District. Its new system for storing important student records like attendance, grades and test scores has not been working at all in many cases. It’s led to a chaotic fall for many of the 650,000-plus students.

Kindergartners were actually — were accidentally enrolled at, yes, high schools. Hundreds of students spent weeks without class schedules. The school board has replaced the district superintendent.

While the problem is particularly bad in L.A., it’s a cautionary tale for other school systems that struggle with coordinating large populations too.

I spoke about this recently with Howard Blume. He’s an education reporter at The Los Angeles Times.

Welcome, Howard Blume.

First of all, why did the L.A. school system need or want a new computer system and what was it supposed to do?

HOWARD BLUME, The Los Angeles Times: Well, they did need a new computer system, both — for a number of reasons.

One, it all began over a lawsuit over services to disabled students. They were essentially losing disabled students in the system and not keeping track of what their disabilities were and what special help they needed.

So, that was one issue. But then they realized as they got into this they needed a better tracking system and record system for all students, and they decided to try to do that. And it makes sense if you think about when the different departments switched from paper to computer, every department had its own system, they didn’t talk to each other. The systems are now old.

And we want to systems to do more than they used to do. So, like, for example, you want to find out if a student’s missing homework will turn into truancies, will turn into a dropout, so you can do all sorts of things with technology if you have the right technology working in the right way.

So it’s definitely a direction everyone wants to go in. It just didn’t work.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, as you say, technology is supposed to be able to figure all this out, but it malfunctioned. What exactly went wrong?

HOWARD BLUME: What went wrong was lots of things.

Inadequate staffing, inadequate funding, inadequate planning, inadequate oversight — the system was just not ready. It was not able to bring all the information into it. It was taking information that was right and corrupting it. So students were getting wrong GPAs. They were getting classes they’d already taken. They were not getting the classes they needed to graduate or go to college.

The attendance accounting was wrong. There really wasn’t much that actually was working right. And something like this, you have to do a lot of things right and you have to move a little slowly if you need to and you have to test it, and you have to have some sort of independent voice to say, stop, if you need to say stop and slow down.

JUDY WOODRUFF: It does sound like a nightmare.

Were students’ educations actually disrupted by this, or is this just a matter of delays and inconvenience?

HOWARD BLUME: Well, they were disrupted because, when you think about it, if you have a student getting their schedule right two-and-a-half months into the school year, that’s just a delay. That’s a disruption to their education.

And if they were taking — if they were supposed to be in a calculus class and they get in there two-and-a-half months after the start of the year, they are now behind and probably in trouble. If they needed a class to apply for college, if they needed a class to graduate, those are serious issues.

It got — those are the serious issues. They’re also comical issues, like in the elementary schools, they were bringing stacks of paper to school so that they could record this information by hand on paper, because they couldn’t do it on a computer anymore. But in some ways, it approached farce.

But there were definitely serious implications for students. And the district itself, its funding is based on accurate attendance accounting. So, if you can’t keep track of who’s in class, then the district itself won’t get the money it needs to continue operations.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, as we reported, the former superintendent was asked to resign. He is gone. But what else is being done to fix this? How are they trying to get things back on track now?

HOWARD BLUME: Well, they have brought in experts from Microsoft, because the original software for the system goes back to Microsoft, and they’re working out a contract there. They have brought in retired administrators and counselors and sent them out to schools to try to get students’ records straight, and they’re focusing first on high school seniors who are most at risk of not being able to apply to college or not being able to graduate on time.

So they’re sending out an army of retired people, and they’re just — all hands on deck are trying to figure this problem. It is going to take, they estimate, more than a year to fix it and probably a lot of money.

JUDY WOODRUFF: What is the lesson here though for other school systems around the country that, as you told us, may also be looking to update their data systems, their computer systems?


Everybody really has to do this. And once the system, if they ever get it working right, it will do some really great things. You will be able to track all the elements of a school child’s life and, of course, because of that, you also need privacy protections.

But the goal is that you can get students on the right program with the right help. But the key thing here is to make sure that you don’t unplug your backup system or your old system before you turn on the new system and figure out what’s going wrong. That’s one thing. You want to start off small and work out the bugs.

You need a little bit of distance and have some independent oversight, and make sure you’re fully staffed, that people are trained in how to use the system and that they get the help they need. Those are some of the lessons learned. And these things are expensive. If you do this — if you try to do this on the cheap or if you try to do it too fast, you are likely going to run into problems.

JUDY WOODRUFF: I have a feeling that people running school systems all over the country are watching this very closely.

Howard Blume with The Los Angeles Times, we thank you.

HOWARD BLUME: Happy to do it.

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Obama administration releases plan to grade teacher prep programs

Fifth grade science and math teacher Stephen Pham helps a student at Rocketship SI Se Puede, a charter, public elementary
         school, on February 18, 2014 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor

Proposed regulations from the Department of Education look to improve teacher preparation and interaction with students. Photo by Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor

Too many new teachers are under-prepared for the classroom and left figuring out how to reach students on their own. That’s the problem proposed regulations from the Department of Education mean to solve, Education Secretary Arne Duncan told reports during a conference call.

Under the proposed rules, states would develop systems to rate teacher training programs that rely on tracking factors, such as: how many teacher prep graduates go into the teaching profession and stay at least three years; how effective new teachers and their principals believe their training was; how much academic progress a teacher’s students make; and whether programs are accredited by an agency that specializes in evaluating teaching programs.

By the 2020-21 school year, students in programs that states label as ineffective would lose eligibility for federal TEACH grants, which go to new teachers working in high-poverty, high-needs schools. The plan is the Obama administration’s effort to increase the rigor and perception of teacher preparation programs, which organizations like the National Council on Teacher Quality argue often have lower entry requirements and easier grading standards than other programs on the same campuses.

The federal announcement pointed to states that have already begun efforts to improve teacher preparation and raise the bar for candidates applying to credentialing programs.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam told reporters his state’s efforts to publish data on how well training programs’ graduates perform was key to Tennessee’s distinction as the state that saw the greatest improvement in students’ scores on national tests or reading and math.

But skeptics argue the regulations would make placing teachers in high-needs schools even harder.

“Due to the focus on K-12 test scores, the very programs preparing diverse teachers for our increasingly diverse classrooms will be penalized,” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, wrote in a statement about the proposal. “This will cause programs to reconsider placing their graduates in schools that serve our most vulnerable students. And aspiring teachers who come from disadvantaged backgrounds will find their opportunities closed down as accountability pressures rise without increased support.”

The department’s plan would reward programs whose graduates teach and stay in low-income, high-needs schools, Duncan said.

Deborah Koolbeck, director of government relations for the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, considers telling states to develop rating systems at all an unfunded mandate from the federal government.

With requirements like “surveying graduate and principals on the effectiveness of their training, the cost to track students across country school by school is the challenge,” Koolbeck said.

Critics and supporters of the proposal have the next 60 days to comment. The final rules are slated for release by mid-2015.

PBS NewsHour coverage of higher education is supported by the Lumina Foundation and American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen, a public media initiative made possible by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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How to support students on the brink of deportation

Axa Gutierrez Ramos, 5, holds her Certificate of Honor she received from the Board of Supervisors as she stands for a
         photograph after attending a San Francisco Board of Supervisors meeting in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Sept.
         16, 2014. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to to draw $2.1 million from a city reserve over the next
         two years to provide lawyers for undocumented youth and parents with children who are now residing in San Francisco as they
         await expedited immigration proceedings. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

A child holds her Certificate of Honor after attending a San Francisco Board of Supervisors meeting in San Francisco on Sept. 16. For the thousands of students who face the possibility of deportation, schoolwork is often the furthest thing from their minds. Photo by David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Editor’s Note: While President Barack Obama’s executive action last night will bring deportation relief to millions of undocumented immigrants, deportation remains a concern for thousands of children who entered the U.S. illegally. Lauren Markham addresses the question of how to best educate students undergoing the legal process.

“I didn’t want to come here, but I had no other choice,” Ricardo told me earlier this fall.

teacherslounge Ricardo, a tenth grade student at Oakland International High School, left his home country of Guatemala last spring, making his way up through Mexico and crossing into the Arizona desert. His father left when he was a baby in Guatemala and a few years later, his mother passed away. He had lived with his grandparents for several years, but in 2013, they died too.

Gang violence had increased in his hometown and because he was an orphan, he was an easy target for gang recruitment. So he left. There was nothing to go back to, he thought as he walked through the desert in Arizona. But after he got separated from his group, he spotted a border patrol car and turned himself in.

After four months and three different detention shelters in Arizona and Texas, Ricardo arrived in Oakland to temporarily live with a sponsor — a friend of a friend of the family — while he waited for his day in court. Meanwhile, he enrolled at Oakland International High School, a public school for recently-arrived immigrants, where I coordinate non-academic services and partnerships for our students and families.

Naturally, students like Ricardo and the 94 other unaccompanied minors in my school have a hard time concentrating in class. There are the effects of the trauma they’ve almost all experienced impacting their ability to focus, remember and synthesize information.

There’s also the very real preoccupation with their legal case. Unaccompanied minors all have upcoming immigration court dates; if they cannot prove that they have legal grounds to stay, they will be sent home. It’s nearly impossible to apply for any kind of immigration status without a lawyer, but lawyers are expensive and hard to come by. For students like Ricardo who face the possibility of deportation back to serious danger, it’s hard to focus on algebra or biology — on anything, really, besides their upcoming court date.

But school is critical to their future. School provides a safe, structured and supportive environment for these youth who have experienced so much instability, and they need to learn English to survive and thrive here should they be granted permission to stay. Moreover, judges tend to look favorably on children who are attending school, and are often more likely to grant asylum or special immigrant juvenile status to youth who show a commitment to becoming positive, educated, engaged residents of the United States.

So how can we keep unaccompanied youth in school?

I think we need to focus on supporting their non-academic needs. At Oakland International High School, this has meant building partnerships with legal organizations and private attorneys to setup legal clinics and intakes for our students. Local legal agencies Legal Services for Children, Centro Legal de la Raza and East Bay Sanctuary Covenant have teamed up to provide mass screening and intake days at our school. During the school day, teams of attorneys flock to our school to meet individually with students and see for what kind of relief they might qualify. More than 45 students have received lawyers this fall alone, and thus have a shot at winning their case to stay.

But legal needs are just the tip of the iceberg for students like Ricardo. We connected him with counseling services at our school so he has a trusted adult in which to confide, and our social work intern checks in with him each week to make sure his basic needs — food, clothing, shelter — are being taken care of. He joined our school’s soccer team, run by Soccer Without Borders, and now has a family of friends and positive activities in which to engage during the weekend.

But OIHS is just one of many schools nationwide grappling with how to best support the high needs of unaccompanied minors. If we really want students like Ricardo to succeed in life and in school, we need to ensure that they are connected to the services they need and deserve.

Lauren Markham is the community school manager at Oakland International High School in Oakland, California.

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