MAGAZINE OF THE UCLA SCHOOL OF EDUCATION AND INFORMATION STUDIES
HOW DIGITAL MEDIA SHAPES OUR SOCIETY FEATURED ON PAGE 4
VOICES FROM THE FIELD: The Impact of COVID-19 on Early Career Scholars and Doctoral Students
If there was one theme in common, it was how so many lives were suddenly thrown into utter confusion or suspension. PA G E 2 6
ASSIMILATION, INTEGRATION, OR RESISTANCE? PA G E 3 6
[A film] reminds us that the themes of love and violence intersect across space and time in complicated, circular routes. There is no clear linear path set forth from a couple’s love to a fully functioning, racially just society.
Ed&IS MAGAZINE OF THE UCLA SCHOOL OF EDUCATION AND INFORMATION STUDIES
Embodying the principles of individual responsibility and social justice, an ethic of caring, and commitment to the communities we serve. 2 Message from the Dean 4 What’s Next? How Digital Media Shapes Our Society A summary of Professor Leah A. Lievrouw's most recent book, which explores the rapidly changing role communication plays at the center of human experience and endeavor.
10 Unseen and Unsupported Students in Charter Schools A study finds that LA County’s charter schools are underreporting and providing less than adequate resources to assist its student homeless population.
16 One Year Ago, One Year Later: Teachers Talk About Challenges, Progress and Commitment Amid the Pandemic How four LA teachers came up with strategies to keep their students engaged and supported while their own lives were upended.
26 Voices from the Field: The Impact of COVID-19 on Early Career Scholars and Doctoral Students A new study examines how the pandemic affected scholarly research and early education careers of those who were suddenly at a precipice of funding shortages or program cuts.
32 The Strategies of Resistance An excerpt from Daniel G. Solórzano and Lindsay Pérez Huber’s book Racial Microaggressions: Using Critical Race Theory to Respond to Everyday Racism that analyzes how microaffirmations within Communities of Color reclaim the dignity and humanity that everyday racism takes away.
36 Community Archives: Assimilation, Integration, or Resistance? An excerpt from Information Studies Professor Michelle Caswell's new book Urgent Archives: Enacting Liberatory Memory Work that looks at how the accidental discovery of a home movie of an interracial South Asian American family provided a window into the society in which it was created.
40 The Effects of Absenteeism on Academic and Social-Emotional Outcomes: Lessons for COVID-19 A study that adds to the growing evidence on the potentially negative impact the pandemic has had on student development across many different subgroups.
M E S SAG E F R O M U C L A WAS S E R M A N D E A N T I N A C H R I ST I E
Ed&IS MAGAZINE OF THE UCLA SCHOOL OF EDUCATION AND INFORMATION STUDIES
Christina Christie, Ph.D. UCLA Wasserman Dean & Professor of Education, UCLA School of Education and Information Studies Laura Lindberg Executive Director External Relations, UCLA School of Education and Information Studies EDITOR
Leigh Leveen Senior Director of Marketing and Communications UCLA School of Education and Information Studies email@example.com CONTRIBUTING WRITERS
Joanie Harmon Director of Communications UCLA School of Education and Information Studies firstname.lastname@example.org John McDonald Director, Sudikoff Family Institute email@example.com Alex Polner
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s this summer issue of our magazine is published, we mark the one-year anniversary of the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department, and the 100-year anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, in which a racist White mob staged a violent attack that decimated a thriving Oklahoma community (the center of which is often referred to as “Black Wall Street”) and where as many as 300 Black Americans were killed. Though these horrific events took place nearly a century apart, the parallels between them go beyond the obvious themes of racism and violence. The events remind us that the power to reconstruct, record and share our stories impacts our role in determining what counts as “history.” The video documentation of Floyd’s brutal murder last year by 17-year-old Darnella Frazier and the collection of survivor accounts by community witnesses in Tulsa in 1921 and after have made possible the pursuit of justice and
reparations. They are also invaluable historical documents that force us, as a nation, to face the consequences of ignorance, prejudice and hate. It bears noting that two of the most crucial documentarians of the Tulsa Race Massacre, Mary E. Jones Parrish and Eddie Faye Gates, were educators. Mary E. Jones Parrish’s Events of the Tulsa Disaster (1923) was a collection of first-person recollections of the massacre, and the first published account of the event. She was one of the earliest users of the phrase “Negro’s Wall Street” to describe the vibrant Greenwood community in Tulsa destroyed by White mob violence. Among the businesses lost were Tulsa’s two Black-owned newspapers, the Tulsa Star and the Oklahoma Sun. Without local Black press to report the facts of the event, it’s little wonder that Parrish’s book became important source material for the writings on it that followed. In Events of the Tulsa Disaster, Parrish contextualized what happened to Greenwood in relation to recent attacks on Black communities in other cities, challenged false narratives of the event, and even offered policy solutions to avert future tragedies of this nature. In the late 1990s, retired Oklahoma history teacher Eddie Faye Gates was appointed to a state-sanctioned task force investigating the Tulsa Race Massacre. In her work with the Tulsa Race Riot Commission, she interviewed over 100 massacre survivors living across the country. Her video interviews are now available to view online and her research materials have been donated to the Gilcrease Museum in North Tulsa. Teachers across the United States have quickly responded to the murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement by engaging students in discussions of structural racism and social justice. Some school districts have implemented anti-bias training for educators and now require the teaching of history specific to marginalized peoples. Even before Floyd’s murder in 2020, some districts had mandated for curriculum use the 1619 Project, a critically acclaimed longform story project by the
New York Times Magazine which, “aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.” For decades after the Tulsa Race Massacre, the students in Oklahoma schools were not required to learn about that devastating part of their history. In 2019, the Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission helped expand academic standards on the massacre and Oklahoma history classes were, for the first time, required to teach about the destruction of the Greenwood neighborhood and its significance as a center of Black wealth. Many teachers who are now educating their students about the Tulsa Race Massacre had never learned about it when they were themselves students in the Oklahoma public school system. In reaction to these and other gains, conservative leaders in at least half a dozen states have recently introduced legislation to block the teaching of Critical Race Theory, with bills in Arkansas, Iowa, and Mississippi specifically citing the 1619 Project as “racially divisive” and an attempt to deny the “fundamental principles upon which the United States was founded.” Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed House Bill 1775, a state law prohibiting public school teachers from discussing Critical Race Theory or using lessons that could cause an individual to “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex.” While the law doesn’t prohibit teaching about the Tulsa Race Massacre, it’s clearly designed to restrict fact-based discussions about the history of racism in America. Our ability to teach and learn about systemic racism is under constant attack. Despite progress made in the name of equity in education on the federal level under the new administration, some states—arguably those most in need of more equitable teaching practices and curricula—are in real danger. These setbacks come at a time when students and teachers are already struggling with challenges brought about by
Photo: Don Liebig
the pandemic, challenges that include teaching critically about incredibly painful and complex topics outside of the classroom space, and without the humanizing effect of in-person learning. These vulnerabilities and challenges make the scholarship of our own academic community around issues of racism, equity and inclusion all the more crucial and relevant, as you’ll see reflected in the contents of this issue. Our cover story highlights the work of Information Studies Professor Leah Lievrouw, who served as co-editor of a new book, the Routledge Handbook of Digital Media and Communication. As concerns grow about the influence and impact of social media, this critical new work draws together the work of scholars from across the globe to examine the forces that shape our digital social lives and further our understanding of the sociocultural impact of digital media. In a year where the issue of racism has been front and center, we highlight a new book by UCLA Professor Daniel G. Solórzano and CSU Long Beach Associate Professor Lindsay Pérez Huber, Racial Microaggressions: Using Critical Race Theory to Respond to Everyday Racism. The book offers insight into the everyday racism often experienced by people of color, as well as suggestions for responding to racial microaggressions. As school campuses closed down over 14 months ago, educators struggled to find and connect with students. In some schools and classrooms, absenteeism among students greatly increased. Research by UCLA Education Professor Lucrecia Santibañez and her colleague Cassandra Guarino of UC Riverside, published by Policy Analysis for California Education, examined data from the CORE Districts in California to approximate the impact of the pandemic by analyzing how absenteeism has affected students in the recent past. The findings highlight the implications of increased absenteeism for academic and social emotional outcomes amid the pandemic. UCLA Education Professor and Associate Dean for Equity, Diversity
and Inclusion Cecilia Rios-Aguilar examined the impact of the pandemic on Early Career Scholars and doctoral students in the brief Voices from the Field. She was joined by a team of colleagues in the American Education Research Association to conduct this work. One of the greatest challenges of the pandemic has been the closure of K–12 school campuses across Los Angeles and beyond. In the article School Campuses Closed Due to COVID-19: Teachers Talk About Challenges, Progress and Commitment Amid Pandemic, teachers in UCLA affiliated K–12 schools share their experiences and reflections of a year of remote teaching. Campuses may be closed, but students are learning. New research by Earl Edwards and his colleagues at the UCLA Black Male Institute, Unseen and Unsupported Students in Charter Schools, looks into the experience of homeless students attending charter schools in Los Angeles County over the past year. Among their findings: high rates of chronic absence, and lower graduation rates for homeless students attending charter schools compared to non-charter public schools. UCLA Information Studies Professor Michelle Caswell has published a new book, Urgent Archives: Enacting Liberatory Memory. The book argues that “archivists can and should do more to disrupt white supremacy and heteropatriarchy beyond standard liberal archival solutions.” In this issue we highlight excerpts from the first chapter, “Community Archives: Assimilation, Integration, or Resistance?” Despite obstacles presented by the pandemic, our scholars have continued to engage in research and action that shed light on the challenges we have faced during the past months and that will confront us as we move forward. This work informs and reflects the spirit of our time and is deeply relevant to current national conversations around equity and justice, and we are proud to share it with you in this issue of our awardwinning magazine. In unity, —Tina
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UCLA Information Studies Professor Leah A. Lievrouw Co-edits Routledge Handbook of Digital Media and Communication as Concerns Grow about Influence and Impact of Digital World.
What’s Next? BY JOHN MCDONALD
How Digital Media Shapes Our Society UCLA INFORMATION STUDIES PROFESSOR LEAH A. LIEVROUW’S
LINK TO BOOK
Leah A. Lievrouw
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first academic job was at Rutgers University in the late 1980s. One day, a colleague, a media effects researcher, was talking with her in her office and said, “Well, you know this new media stuff, it’s kind of interesting, but really it’s just a fad, isn’t it?” That “new media stuff” has been the centerpiece of Lievrouw’s research ever since and today is central to many of the economic, social, political and policy challenges that confront the globe. “My interest is in new technologies, communication information technologies and social change, and how change happens for good and ill. It’s really a sociological take. I’m more interested in what’s going on at the whole society or whole community level,” Lievrouw said. Professor Lievrouw joined the UCLA Department of Information Studies in 1995 and in 2005 co-edited “The Handbook of New Media” (Sage Publications), with Sonia Livingston of the London School of Economics. The book became a central resource for study of the field and is still used in classrooms and cited in research. “It was really a big comprehensive survey with leading people in the field who were working on this research, right across various sub-fields and different topics,” Lievrouw said. “For a long time and in some circles still it is kind of the definitive capture of what the field was like and what the issues were at the moment.” With changes in technology and communication rapidly occurring with ever larger impact, Lievrouw and her colleagues began talking about not just an update, but a whole new book. Lievrouw decided to move forward and eventually linked up with Brian Loader, a professor at the University of York in the United Kingdom and editor-in-chief of the journal Information, Communication and Society, to serve as co-editor. The book draws together the work of scholars from across the globe to examine the forces that shape our digital social lives and further our understanding of the sociocultural impact of digital media.
Routledge Handbook of Digital Media and Communication
As of this writing, as the world undergoes breakdowns in social, institutional, and technological systems across every domain of human affairs in the wake of a biological and public health crisis of unprecedented scale and scope, such a framework for understanding communicative action, technology, and social forms has never been so apt or so urgently needed. ROUTLEDGE PUBLISHING
Mirroring the approach of the earlier “Handbook of Social Media,” the book is organized into a three-part framework exploring the artifacts or devices, the practices and institutional arrangements that are central to digital media, and draws the connections across the three elements. The book explores topics such as the power of algorithms, digital currency, gaming culture, surveillance, social networking, and connective mobilization. As described in the introduction by Routledge, the “Handbook delivers a comprehensive, authoritative overview of the state of new media scholarship and its most important future directions that will shape and animate current debates.” “I really like that again this seems to be a pretty definitive state-of-the-art kind of look at what is going on with these technologies,” Lievrouw said. “This has perhaps a more critical edge than we had 20 years ago, because we have begun to see the downsides of digital media as well as all the upsides that everyone had such hopes about. What makes me really happy is that this volume kind of pulls back a bit and takes a bigger stock of the issues and challenges. We have a few chapters that I think are just really definitive, written by some of the very best people on the planet. We were very lucky to recruit such a terrific lineup of people.” Professor Lievrouw refers to a series of essays on critical topics in the book by leading experts such as Paul Dourish exploring Ubiquity or the everywhereness of digital media; Veronica Barrasi, writing about youth, algorithms, and political data; and Julie Cohen, writing about the nature of property in a world driven by social media and more. “In her chapter, Cohen asks, what’s the nature of property? Every aspect of our behavior or of our beliefs is constantly kind of being pulled away from us, appropriated and owned by outfits like Google and like Facebook. They now consider this their proprietary information, and we’ve not had that before in the world really, certainly not on this scale. I think that’s worth exploring,” Lievrouw said.
Timing is everything, and the new book is emerging at a time of particular relevance and questioning about digital media. “The book has happened to come out at a moment when there’s so much skepticism, and so much worry,” Professor Lievrouw said. “What’s interesting is that the worry is in the scholarly community too and has been for a little while. “We’re in that moment where we are having to look, not only at the most egregious and outrageous behaviors, opinions, and disinformation, and all the kinds of things that have come out from under the rocks. And the system itself is rather mature at this point, so the question becomes, ‘Where is it going to go? What do we do next? Is it just more incursion, more data, more surveillance, more circulation of stuff?’ And we are doing it without editing, without gatekeepers. And we should never forget about the impact of places like Facebook, Google, Amazon. “It has changed social structure. It has changed cultural practices. It has changed our perception of the world fundamentally. And I think it’s not just the technology that did this, it’s the way we built it. “I think we are entering a period of reckoning about these technologies, the whole complex of people involved in the building and operation of platforms and different kinds of applications, especially data gathering. Data has come to the center of the economics of this thing in a way that it hasn’t before. This is a good moment to reassess what works, what has been emancipatory, what has been enabling for people, how the diffusion of these technologies, and the adaptation of their use, is impacting different places and different cultures all over the world. “Every thoughtful researcher in this area I know is turning this over in their head, saying, ‘How did we get to this point? What happened here?’ I think what this book can help us understand not only where we are right now, but also to think about what could be next, and what can we do to repair this. Right now, I don’t think anybody has a solid answer for that. If they do, it’s an answer they don’t like.” UCLA Ed&IS SUMMER 2021 5
EXCERPT FROM INTRODUCTION
o longer new, digital media and communication technologies—and their associated infrastructures, practices, and cultural forms—have become woven into the very social fabric of contemporary human life. Despite the cautiously optimistic accounts of the potential of the Internet to foster stronger democratic governance, enable connective forms of mobilization, stimulate social capital (community, social, or crisis informatics), restructure education and learning, support remote health care, or facilitate networked flexible organization, the actual development of digital media and communication has been far more problematic. Indeed, recent commentary has been more pessimistic about the disruptive impact of digital media and communication upon our everyday lives. The promise of personal emancipation and free access to unlimited digital resources has, some argue, led us to sleepwalk into a world of unremitting surveillance, gross disparities in wealth, precarious employment opportunities, a deepening crisis in democracy, and an opaque global network of financial channels and transnational corporations with unaccountable monopoly power. A critical appraisal of the current state of play of the digital world is thus timely, indeed overdue, and required if we are to examine these assertions and concerns clearly. There is no preordained technological pathway that digital media must follow or are following. A measure of these changes is the inadequacy of many familiar concepts— such as commons, public sphere, social capital, class, and others—to capture contemporary power relations or to explain transitions from “mass society” to
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networked sociality—or from mass to personalized consumption. Even the strategies of resistance to these transitions draw upon traditional appeals to unionization, democratic accountability, mass mobilization, state regulation, and the like, all part of the legacy of earlier capitalist and political forms. How then to examine the current digitalscape? Internet-based and datadriven systems, applications, platforms, and affordances now play a pivotal role in every domain of social life. Under the rubric of new media research, computer-mediated communication, social media or Internet studies, media sociology, or media anthropology, research and scholarship in the area have moved from the fringe to the theoretical and empirical center of many disciplines, spawning a whole generation of new journals and publishers’ lists. Within communication research and scholarship itself, digital technologies and their consequences have become central topics in every area of the discipline—indeed, they have helped blur some of the most enduring boundaries dividing many of the field’s traditional specializations. Meanwhile,
the ubiquity, adaptability, responsiveness, and networked structure of online communication, the advantages of which—participation, convenience, engagement, connectedness, community—were often celebrated in earlier studies, have also introduced troubling new risks, including pervasive surveillance, monopolization, vigilantism, cyberwar, worker displacement, intolerance, disinformation, and social separatism. Technology infrastructure has several defining features that make it a distinctive object of study. Infrastructures are embedded; transparent (support tasks invisibly); have reach or scope beyond a single context; learned as part of membership in a social or cultural group; are linked to existing practices and routines; embody standards; are built on an existing, installed base; and, perhaps most critically, ordinarily become “visible” or apparent to users only when they break down: when “the server is down, the bridge washes out, there is a power blackout.” As of this writing, as the world undergoes breakdowns in social, institutional, and technological systems across every domain of human affairs
Digital media and communication today have fostered what some writers have called datafication —capturing and rendering all aspects of communicative action, expression, and meaning into quantified data that are often traded in markets and used to make countless decisions about, and to intercede in, people’s experiences.
in the wake of a biological and public health crisis of unprecedented scale and scope, such a framework for understanding communicative action, technology, and social forms has never been so apt or so urgently needed. Two cross-cutting themes had come to characterize the quality and processes of mediated communication over the prior two decades. The first is a broad shift from the mass and toward the network as the defining structure and dominant logic of communication technologies, systems, relations, and practices; the second is the growing enclosure of those technologies, relations, and practices by private ownership and state security interests. These two features of digital media and communication have joined to create socio-technical conditions for communication today that would have been unrecognizable even to early new media scholars of the 1970s and 1980s, to say nothing of the communication researchers before them specializing in classical media effects research, political economy of media, interpersonal and group process, political communication, global/comparative communication research, or organizational communication, for example. This collection of essays reveals an extraordinarily faceted, nuanced picture of communication and communication studies, today. For example, the opening part, “Artifacts,” richly portrays the infrastructural qualities of digital media tools and systems. Stephen C. Slota, Aubrey Slaughter, and Geoffrey C. Bowker’s piece on “occult” infrastructures of communication expands and elaborates on the infrastructure studies perspective. Paul Dourish provides an incisive discussion on the nature and meaning of ubiquity for designers and users of
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digital systems. Essays on big data and algorithms (Taina Bucher), mobile devices and communicative gestures (Lee Humphreys and Larissa Hjorth), digital embodiment and financial infrastructures (Kaitlyn Wauthier and Radhika Gajjala), interfaces and affordances (Matt Ratto, Curtis McCord, Dawn Walker, and Gabby Resch), hacking (Finn Brunton), and digital records and memory (David Beer) demonstrate how computation and data generation/capture have transfigured both the material features and the human experience of engagement with media technologies and systems. The second part, “Practices,” shifts focus from devices, tools, and systems to the communicative practices of the people who use them. Digital media and communication today have fostered what some writers have called datafication—capturing and rendering all aspects of communicative action, expression, and meaning into quantified data that are often traded in markets and used to make countless decisions about, and to intercede in, people’s experiences. Systems that allow people to make and share meaning are also configured by private-sector firms and state security actors to capture and enclose human communication and information. This dynamic is played out in routine monitoring and surveillance (an essay by Mark Andrejevic), in the construction and practice of personal identity (Mary Chayko), in family routines and relationships (Nancy Jennings), in political participation (Brian Loader and Veronica
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Barassi), in our closest relationships and sociality (Irina Shklovski), in education and new literacies (Antero Garcia), in the increasing precarity of “information work” (Leah Lievrouw and Brittany Paris), and in what Walter Lippmann famously called the “picture of reality” portrayed in the news (Stuart Allan, Chris Peters, and Holly Steel). Many suggest that the erosion of boundaries between public and private, true and false, and ourselves and others is increasingly taken for granted, with mediated communication as likely to create a destabilizing, chronic sense of disruption and displacement as it is to promote deliberation, cohesion, or solidarities. The broader social, organizational, and institutional arrangements that shape and regulate the tools and the practices of digital communication and information, and which themselves are continuously reformed, are explored in the third part. Nick Couldry starts with an overview of mediatization, the growing centrality of media in what he calls the “institutionalization of the social” and the establishment of social order, at every level from microscale interaction to the jockeying among nation-states. There are essays that present evidence of the instability, uncertainty, and delegitimation associated with digital media; reflections on globalization; a survey of governance and regulation; a revisitation of political economy; and the trenchant reconsideration of the notion of property. Elena Pavan and Donatella della Porta examine the role of digital
Digital media platforms and systems have diffused across the globe into cultural, political, and economic contexts and among diverse populations that often challenge the assumptions and expectations that were built into the early networks.
media in social movements while Keith Hampton and Barry Wellman argue that digital technologies may, in fact, help reinforce people’s senses of community and belonging both online and offline. Shiv Ganesh and Cynthia Stohl show that while much past research was focused on the “fluidity” or formlessness of organization afforded by “digital ubiquity,” in fact contemporary organizing is a more subtle process comprising “opposing tendencies and human activities, of both form and formlessness.” Taken together, the contributions present a complex, interwoven technical, social/cultural, and institutional fabric of society, which nonetheless seems to be showing signs of wear, or perhaps even breakdown in response to systemic environmental and institutional crises. As digital media and communication technologies have become routine, even banal—convenience, immediacy, connectedness—they are increasingly accompanied by a growing recognition of their negative externalities—monopoly and suppressed competition, ethical and leadership failures, and technological lock-in instead of genuine, pathbreaking innovation. The promise and possibility of new media and digitally mediated communication are increasingly tempered with sober assessments of risk, conflict, and exploitation. This scenario may seem pessimistic, but perhaps one way to view the current state of digital media and communication studies is that it has
matured, or reached a moment of consolidation, in which the visionary enthusiasms and forecasts of earlier decades have grown into a more developed or skeptical perspective. Digital media platforms and systems have diffused across the globe into cultural, political, and economic contexts and among diverse populations that often challenge the assumptions and expectations that were built into the early networks. The systems themselves, and their ownership and operations, have stabilized and become routinized, much as utilities and earlier media systems have done before, so they are more likely to resist root-and-branch change. They are as likely to reinforce and sustain patterns of knowledge and power as they are to “disrupt” them. In another decade we might expect to find that the devices, practices, and institutional arrangements will have become even more integrated into common activities, places, and experiences, and culture will be unremarkable, embedded, woven into cultural practices, standardized, and invisible or transparent, just as satellite transmissions and undersea cables, or content streaming and social media platforms, are to us today. These socio-technical qualities will pose new kinds of challenges for communication researchers and scholars, but they also herald possibilities for a fuller, deeper understanding of the role communication plays at the center of human experience and endeavor.
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UNSEEN AND UNSUPPORTED STUDENTS IN CHARTER SCHOOLS
harter Schools in Los Angeles County serve a significantly lower proportion of homeless students than non-charter schools. Yet those students are more likely to be chronically absent and graduate at substantially lower rates than their
EARL J. EDWARDS, M.A.ED., ELIANNY C. EDWARDS, M.A.ED., TYRONE HOWARD, PH.D., AND THE UCLA BLACK MALE INSTITUTE LAB
peers who attend public schools according to a published report by the UCLA Black Male Institute at the School of Education and Information Studies. Their research analyzing data from the 2018–19 school year found that there were, amongst other key findings, significant racial disparities especially among “Black students who have the highest absentee rates and the lowest graduation rate of any other racial group of students in the charter schools,” according to Elianny Edwards. They also show that charter schools drastically undercount the number of homeless attending their schools, partially due to a lack of well-trained homeless liaisons. Homeless experts agree that 10 percent of economically disadvantaged students experience homelessness. The Federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act mandates that a homeless liaison be on staff to handle this vulnerable population, yet too often the role is left to charter network leadership and school administrators, many too busy or ill-trained to handle the maze of details of working with these students and their families that are in crisis.
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he Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is home to 600,000 K–12 students and its charter school enrollment is around 252,000. The homeless population for the entire system has averaged approximately 5 percent of the total enrollment. There are more than 4,000 homeless students attending Los Angeles County charter schools, a figure that represents nearly 7 percent of the total LA County K–12 (charter and non-charter public) enrollment that has been identified as homeless. The UCLA Black Male Institute analyzed data between 2016 and 2019 and found that charter schools in Los Angeles County were reporting serving a lower percentage of homeless students than non-charter public schools, yet those students had a higher absentee rate and lower graduation rates, especially amongst Black students. Forty percent of high school students experiencing homelessness in the charter schools had missed more than 18 instructional days as of 2018–19. In the same period analyzed, the charter school homeless population was reported to be approximately 2 percent of its student population. The five-year cohort graduation rates showed that charter school students experiencing homelessness were graduating at a rate of 45 percent, which was 35 percent less than a similar population in non-charter public schools. Black homeless students were a particularly vulnerable, underserved population: 50 percent of these students were chronically absent, resulting in missing more than 10 percent of the school year, a differential between the other racial and ethnic groups of 80 percent.
Black students have the highest absentee rates and the lowest graduation rate of any other racial group of students in the charter schools.
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LA County Charter School Five-Year Cohort Graduation Rate for Students Experiencing Homelessness Compared to Non-charter Schools 2018–19 ACADEMIC YEAR Graduation Rate for NON-CHARTER SCHOOL STUDENTS Experiencing Homelessness
30 20 10 0
Graduation Rates for CHARTER SCHOOL STUDENTS Experiencing Homelessness
The Federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act requires local school districts to provide support in the form of a district liaison that would provide assistance in the schools identifying students that are in crisis due to homelessness and provide the necessary support. The Act defines homelessness as anyone who is living in shelters, vehicles, motels or who share housing with others due to economic hardship, or residing in accommodations not initially intended as living or sleeping quarters. It requires that all public schools provide these students with basic needs such as transportation to and from school, school supplies and food service. An audit released in 2019 by the State of California on Local Educational Agencies (LEAs)—school districts, charter schools and county offices of education—found that, amongst other deficiencies, LEAs “are not providing adequate services, that could better ensure the success of these youth.” (CA State Audit 2019). Yet, data has shown that when LEAs provide the requisite means, including 12 UCLA Ed&IS SUMMER 2021
a homeless liaison and support necessary for a student to graduate with a high school diploma, it reduced the chance that as an adult they would become homeless. McKinney-Vento does not specifically require that a school homeless liaison be full time but stipulates only that “appointed personnel have the capacity to fulfill all of the time-intensive responsibilities the position requires.” The report looked at the breakdown of personnel handling these student/family services in 235 charter schools in LA County. Homeless liaisons were more likely to be principals or district executive leaders who would then often assign the role to operations staff that have little student or family interaction training. The top two job titles doing the work of a homeless liaison were principals (33 percent) and business managers (20 percent). Parent and community engagement staff accounted for 20 percent and social workers only 10 percent. A further breakdown of these schools, analyzed for the 2019–20 school year, revealed that principals and
vice principals, operations managers and chief operation officers—even office managers—were identified as homeless liaisons at least 136 times, a frequency of nearly 60 percent. Staff that had the appropriate training in working with these vulnerable students, including parent engagement specialists, counselors and directors of students and family services were engaged just 31 times or 13 percent. According to Earl Edwards, “a third of the schools we analyzed designated this position to their school leader—an already busy and demanding position. If the homelessness liaison cannot fulfill their responsibilities, students experiencing homelessness are likely to be unidentified and underserved.” The research also cites a huge discrepancy in the reported homeless students in LAUSD charter schools in 2018– 19 which could also be indicators of the lack of well-trained staff that are able to identify students who fall into this category. An audit of 180 of 269 operational charter schools shows that the student homeless population may have been undercounted by over 6,400 students, when using the 10 percent benchmark as defined by McKinney-Vento. Hence, of the county’s economically disadvantaged students (in this instance, 87,083), LA County charter schools’ actual count would have increased from 2,245 reported to a projected 8,708. The research collected on these 180 LAUSD charter schools maintains that over 80 percent of the student body is economically disadvantaged. Yet, charters reported that in 105 of the 180, less than 1 percent of their students experienced homelessness. As the charter school system has grown in LA County there has been a consolidation of administrative services within the larger network of charter schools. The logic behind this shared centralized service was to provide consistent messaging and operations to better streamline common support to all schools within their networks and maintain a unified set of procedures (these are referred to as Charter School Networks). One type of shared service would include student/parent handbooks and website templates as a one-stop source for all information on each school’s offerings. Yet when the institute reviewed 15 of the largest charter school networks
in LA County they found that only two schools listed the educational rights of students experiencing homelessness on their school websites. It also found that five of the fifteen network schools mentioned the education rights of families experiencing homelessness in their family/student handbooks. A little more than half referenced M cKinney-Vento. They also found at least four charter school networks that did not provide reference to any resources and that several homeless liaisons were not even listed. This lack of access to distributed materials both as online resources or in school policy handbooks created barriers for “self-advocacy to disclosing their homeless status.” Birmingham Community Charter was specifically cited in the State Auditor’s report as being negligent in not including this information. Since then, Birmingham has revised its responsibilities on its website for any and all homeless youth and their families (Birmingham Community Charter High School), in both English and Spanish.
Of the charter schools analyzed for the 2019–20 school year, principals and vice principals, operations managers— even office managers— were identified as homeless liaisons.
Top 15 Job Titles of School Personnel Serving as Homeless Liaisons in LA Charter Schools in 2019–20 A TOTAL OF 235 CHARTER SCHOOLS WERE ANALYZED IN LA COUNTY
Principal 43 Community School Manager
District Leader/Executive Director
Counselor 13 Chief Operation Officer
VP of Operations
Regional Manager of Student Services
VP of Students and Families Services
Director of Special Education
Community Relations Coordinator
Parent Engagement Specialist
Director Students and Families Services
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MOVING FORWARD There are many recommendations that the report has c oncluded would greatly improve the effectiveness in supporting vulnerable student populations in the charter schools and charter school networks.
The success of public schools is often measured in part by graduation and attendance rates, even among those students experiencing the very real challenges of homelessness. The same measures should be applied to the evaluation of charter schools. They need to do more and better in serving students experiencing homelessness.
ff Accountability, starting with the installation of a highly trained homeless liaison would best be able to engender trust in building relationships with families in order to advise and advocate on their behalf. ff Audits of a school’s homeless population should be done twice a year to better provide a benchmark to offset the possible issue of miscounting. If the homeless population falls below the benchmark, the homeless liaisons would then be required to provide data to rationalize their numbers being so low. The authors believe that the audit process “ensures that all kids experiencing homelessness at the school are being identified and served.” The California State Auditor’s Office made a similar recommendation in their report. ff All charter schools should be required to “explicitly state the educational rights of students experiencing homelessness.” Schools or their networks should be identified and held accountable if they do not provide this critical information. ff Finally, a support team, led by the homeless liaison and including teachers, counselors, parents, county departments, community partners and other school personnel should be created to analyze and advise on the necessary resources to meet the specific needs of families and students experiencing homelessness at each respective school in order to ensure that these students can be supported for success.
Photo by Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for EDUimages
Los Angeles County Charter School Cumulative Enrollment Compared to Projected Homeless Count 2018–19 ACADEMIC YEAR
6,463 STUDENTS are estimated
to have been unidentified by their charter school as students experiencing homelessness, an increase from 2,245 reported. 14 UCLA Ed&IS SUMMER 2021
The Los Angeles Times reported in March 2019 that the LAUSD, the nation’s second-largest school district, has an entire division that oversees the charters, both new and existing, and has been lauded as being one of the state’s most “robust monitors.” Still at the local level those responsible for oversight include very small school districts with minimal staff and underfunded resources, that are unable to be effective monitors on behalf of all students, let alone homeless ones (Los Angeles Times). According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, more people in California experience homelessness than in any other state in the nation. At the same time, according to available data, California LEAs are not doing enough to identify youth experiencing homelessness (CA State Audit 2019). With the overall number of charter schools in California growing (at least 1,300 as of 2019), the core mission of all schools cannot be more critical for educating students. Tyrone Howard, UCLA Education professor and co-author of the institute’s report, says, “The success of public schools is often measured in part by graduation and attendance rates, even among those students experiencing the very real challenges of homelessness. The same measures should be applied to the evaluation of charter schools. They need to do more and better in serving students experiencing homelessness.”
A homeless liaison is the most important role in supporting students experiencing homelessness.
KEY FINDINGS: 1. In LA County charter schools, the five-year cohort graduation rate for charter school students experiencing homelessness is 45 percent, approximately 35 percentage points lower than the graduation rate for students experiencing homelessness in non-charter, public schools. 2. Forty percent of high school students experiencing homelessness in LA county charter schools were chronically absent and missed 18 or more instructional days in the 2018–19 school year. Moreover, one out of every two Black high school students experiencing homelessness were chronically absent. 3. The homeless liaison is the most important role in supporting students experiencing homelessness as defined by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. In LA County charter schools, this role is often designated to network leadership and school administrators. 4. Homelessness experts assert that typically 10 percent of economically disadvantaged students experience homelessness. Employing a 10 percent benchmark in LA county charter schools suggests that in 2018–19 potentially 6,463 students experiencing homelessness were not identified or served. 5. To ensure that students experiencing homelessness are identified and supported in charter schools, it is critical that schools implement student audits twice a year using a 10 percent benchmark to identify potential undercounting. Further, schools must designate a homeless liaison capable of fully executing the federal mandates of the position and serving as head of a larger student support team.
LINK TO FULL REPORT:
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ONE YEAR AGO SCHOOL CAMPUSES CLOSED DUE TO COVID-19
ONE YEAR LATER TEACHERS TALK ABOUT CHALLENGES, PROGRESS AND COMMITMENT AMID PANDEMIC BY JOHN MCDONALD
N MARCH 13, 2020, school campuses across Los Angeles shut down to protect the health of students and their families, as well as educators and the larger community in the beginning of what was then a little-understood but rapidly escalating coronavirus pandemic. Teachers and students had little notice, with some only getting word that morning that students would be sent home and that campuses would close at the end of the day. Campuses may have been closed, but school was still in session. Teaching and learning continued, albeit remotely. Teachers and schools struggled at times to find and engage students; providing access to technology devices and internet service was a difficult challenge for many students and their families, especially in the first weeks after campuses shuttered. Teachers had to make changes in how they teach and to quickly learn new skills.
To better understand the impact the pandemic has had on schools in Los Angeles, several teachers affiliated with UCLA shared their experiences in a series of interviews with the UCLA School of Education and Information Studies. We learned about the chaotic first days when buildings closed. They talked about the fears of their students and navigating through their own roller coaster of emotions. There were struggles to reconnect with students on screens and the difficulties that their students and sometimes, they, as teachers, had in accessing technology and the internet service needed to engage in instruction. There are stories of not being able to find students, of students who could not access the internet, and those who refused to turn on their cameras. They talked about their own lack of confidence and the mounting stress and impact of the virus on their students and families. These teachers talked about their own isolation—of teaching all day in a bedroom or dining room or kitchen, and then having to make dinner, with little separation between home and work. But things are not all grim. They also shared, enthusiastically, their successes, the progress they have made over the course of the school year, and their commitment to teaching and their students, despite the pandemic. And they make it clear, that even in a global crisis, children are learning.
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“The Kids Are Still Learning” JACQUELINE BELLOSO, UCLA COMMUNITY SCHOOL
We had parent conferences. I called and introduced myself to the parents the week before school started and then scheduled one-on-one conferences with all families. I met with them and talked with them, saying ‘Here I am. Who are you? Tell me about your child. What do you have at home to be successful? What don’t you have?
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f there is one thing Jacqueline Belloso wants people to understand about education during the pandemic, it is that school is still happening. “[Our] schools did not close, buildings closed,” she says. “But teaching and learning is happening. It may be happening in a way we are not used to, but kids are learning.” Belloso teaches fourth and fifth grade students together in what she calls a “den” at the UCLA Community School at the Robert F. Kennedy campus in the Koreatown neighborhood of Los Angeles. She admits that it has not been easy. The vast majority of her students are Latinx and come from families with low incomes. Many have been exposed to trauma. But they are not defined by those things. They bring a rich culture of backgrounds from Mexico and Central America, and range of traditions, knowledge and assets. “Our students come with a lot of curiosity. There is something very special about our school and the population we serve,” Belloso said. Belloso has always built strong relationships with her students, a product of being their primary instructor for two years, for fourth and fifth grades. The community school model also focuses on engaging families, and Belloso had just had parent conferences when the campuses were closed, so she felt connected with her students. Still the first two weeks were a bit of a blur learning how to teach online, with most of her focus on just getting students the technology they needed and supporting their emotional needs. The move to online instruction was “a huge shift,” says Belloso. “In our school, we do a lot of differentiation. I teach fourth grade, but if you come to my class and exhibit sixthgrade reading skills, I’m going to support you where you are. Or you might come into my classroom with second-grade
reading skills. Well, I’m going to support you and do small group instruction with you at that level. Early last spring, that rug got swept right out from under me. That was hard, it affected my heart and mind to not be able to do that.” She found herself pivoting, finding them busy work to keep them occupied. “That’s not something I normally do in my classroom. So morally and conscientiously, I was impacted and I’m sure it had an impact on the students because it was a different way of instruction.” The campuses were still closed when the school year drew to an end. Belloso met over the summer with her grade-level team to prepare for how they were going to teach when school resumed in the fall. They met every week for six weeks and developed a unit of study based on identity. It also included digital citizenship so that the continuity of respect for peers and instructors was maintained in an online setting. They made specific plans for how they were going to teach and what they were going to cover. They also made plans to meet with parents to explain their methodology. “We had a really clear set of the lessons that told us this is exactly what we are going to do, so, when the school year started, we had a roadmap of what we were going to teach and what we were going to cover as we got to know the students. That was really helpful.” The resumption of school in late August brought new challenges, not the least of which was teaching students online that she and her colleagues had never met in person. Belloso says that she had 14 new students. “I was very concerned about how we could build community. How do we connect with students? How do we connect their families?” Her school took a multi-tiered approach to address this issue. “We had parent conferences. I called and
It’s been a real roller coaster. There are some highs and some lows. When it’s high, the kids are present and they’re participating. When it’s low, I’ve seen students refuse to turn the camera on, even after it’s been requested. introduced myself to the parents the week before school started and then scheduled one-on-one conferences with all families. I met with them and talked with them, saying ‘Here I am. Who are you? Tell me about your child. What do you have at home to be successful? What don’t you have?” By Spring and with the 2020–21 school year still online, Belloso makes clear that she believes her students are learning. “I really want to challenge that narrative that children are not learning. They may be learning in a different way, but it is happening.” She emphasizes the need to address the social emotional needs of the students and be aware of increased stress as the year has gone by. “It’s been a real roller coaster. There are some highs and some lows. When it’s high, the kids are present and they’re participating. When it’s low, I’ve seen students refuse to turn the camera on, even after it’s been requested.” She’s also seen how some students, who normally are engaged, have suddenly become disengaged. Some parents have shared that their children experienced loneliness. “I see it
sometimes with those that do keep the camera on,” Belloso says. “I’ve had to bring in our psychiatric social worker just to do circles or talk with them.” Belloso and other teachers at the school have also had to respond to students and families who have lost jobs or been economically impacted by the virus, as well as those who have become ill or lost family members. The stress has been very real for teachers and a key to getting through the year for Belloso has been the support of her colleagues. Her team has continued to meet weekly throughout the year to talk and plan and offer support. “Just to be able to connect with other people during the pandemic, I mean, that alone has been super helpful. It’s also helped spiritually, too, to deal and share and talk about the good, bad, and the ugly that this has been and not be judged. “This [pandemic] has been really emotionally draining, and that camaraderie has been a way to keep us sane and keep us laughing and keeping us moving forward and making sure that we’re not burning out. “To me, it’s been a lifesaver.”
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“I’ve Learned So Much Because of This” MARIA ORTEGA, FLORENCE GRIFFITH JOYNER ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
aria Ortega is a graduate of the UCLA Teacher Education Program. She began her teaching career five years ago at Florence Griffith Joyner Elementary School in South Los Angeles. When COVID forced her school to close she vividly remembers how she could not even hug her students goodbye, out of fears of spreading the virus. “It was just ‘knuckles’ or ‘elbows,’ and, ‘I’ll see you in two weeks.’ I was emotionally overwhelmed,” she said, choking back tears. Schools closed on a Friday, and by the next week, Ortega was already on Zoom with some of her kids. The school, with assistance from her principal and in collaboration with Partnership for LA Schools, provided her students the necessary equipment—Chromebooks, hot spots and iPads—to help them to access the internet and the classroom. Despite those early efforts Ortega and other teachers struggled to connect with their kids. “I had 24 students and I think I was able to regularly communicate with 16 of them. There were some that we weren’t even able to get through to by phone. We were still doing home visits at the time. There was a lot happening for lots of families. We had a lot of families that just left.” For the first few months Ortega said she was focused on trying to build a sense of normalcy for the kids. She would meet with them online every day, reading and doing a little math together. When the school year ended, Ortega took part in professional development, much of it focused on using technology in the classroom. “I always thought I was kind of tech savvy, but when this happened I realized how little technology I was using in my instruction. It’s kind of given me a push. I’ve learned so much because of this.”
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I’m checking in all the time to make sure if there’s anything I can do, that I’m there to support them. With homework, academics, even resources. Our school has tons of resources.
Ortega learned how to use apps like Schoology more effectively. She also learned to create and develop content and to take content from the curriculum and insert it into a slide deck where the kids could use it. “I teach first grade and my kids can now go into the [Zoom] chat and click on a link that takes them to a website. And I can see the apps they’re in live. I’ve created everything in digital form and I can see now where they are. Those are things I never knew how to do. Professional development in the last couple of months has definitely helped me get there,” she explains. “With Zoom, I’m trying to monitor 24 small screens at the same time. And I’m trying to see, who’s raising their hands, who are the ones that love to participate, who are the ones that I need to maybe work a little closer with? It took me a lot longer than it would have if I was in the classroom. “It’s helped me grow as an educator, which I didn’t think was possible over Zoom,” Ortega said. She also regularly and intentionally monitors her students’ social and emotional needs, using something she calls the “mood meter” on their sessions, using red, yellow, green and blue colors to indicate how they are feeling. Her students take a poll, and tell her where they are on the meter. Ortega also looks in on their families. “I’m checking in all the time to make sure if there’s anything I can do, that I’m there to support them. With homework, academics, even resources. Our school has tons of resources.” The neighborhood around her school has been hit hard by COVID and Ortega and others at Joyner have had to respond. “We’ve had a lot of families in the community that have lost jobs. We’ve had a lot at school that have actually gotten COVID and I’ve had a few families in my classroom that have COVID,” Ortega
said. “We have also had some deaths. Our community though is very resilient. Even though some have lost jobs or had family members become ill, they make sure that their kids are online. They are not giving up.” Ortega and other educators at the school have also had to be resilient. Ortega taught from her classroom last fall, but then moved back into her dining room to teach as rates of COVID increased. “I’ve had to create a new routine in order to provide myself that time because I have never worked so many hours in a day since I started teaching. “The attention span of a six-year-old is about six to ten minutes. Everything I do has to quickly move [and be] quickly paced. My slide shows are in my slide decks and everything I’m doing takes a lot of time. So I am exhausted. I think I was more emotionally exhausted at the beginning, last March and April. Now, I’m more mentally and physically tired from the number of hours that I’m having to put into preparing for my day, preparing for the week.” But Ortega says, she is doing fine. She believes she is doing her job effectively. And she would say that no matter what has been happening, her students are learning, they are engaging with their peers, they’re able to just be kids for a moment and laugh with each other; laugh with her. She also knows that soon enough they will return to their in-person classrooms. “I just need to know that we’re going to be safe and OK coming back, and that my kids have everything they need and they’re making progress. At the end of the day, that’s my job as an educator. To make sure that my students are learning, that they’re productive citizens of their community. That’s all I need.”
I have never worked so many hours in a day since I started teaching.
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“We Need Armies of Individuals to Help Kids” MARCUS VAN, MANN UCLA COMMUNITY SCHOOL
arcus Van has been teaching for seventeen years, the last two at the Mann UCLA Community School in South Los Angeles. He believes greatly in education and his dedication to it. The pandemic has only reinforced that. Van teaches seventh-grade English and English Language Development classes for grades 9–11, as well as eighthgrade journalism. When the schools shut down he recounts how they were quickly assembling packets of materials, photocopying, making sure all of his kids had what they needed for a break in their routine, all while calming the unsettled nerves. “We had hand sanitizer everywhere,” Van said. “No one knew what was going to happen. We didn’t know about this new coronavirus. It was a lot for the kids, but we all thought we would be back within a month or so.”
22 UCLA Ed&IS SUMMER 2021
The time away from school stretched on; days turned into weeks; weeks into months, adding stress and challenge to a community already steeped in it. “At the beginning everyone was still kind of like, ‘OK, this is new.’ Then it was, ‘this is bad, but we have to do it for a couple months, but we’re coming back after the summer, right?’ And then when it turns into ‘no, we’re not coming back after the summer.’ OK, first semester, all right, all right; then it was, ‘OK, we’re coming back for spring.’ But it continued to draw out and we literally have no idea whether we are coming back or not this year,” Van said. Van says that at first the hardest thing was getting kids online. Some students did not have devices or the ones they did have were broken. Many students did not have reliable internet access. His school took action. “Mann UCLA leadership and administration did
an incredible job getting resources to the kids. Like many schools, we had to make sure we had enough devices for students on such short notice. We collaborated with the district to get more Chromebooks and mobile hotspots for internet access. We worked hard to meet the needs of all students in the midst of uncertainty.” Van also experienced a lot of resistance. Students became despondent, some did not want to participate, let alone turn on their cameras. But like other educators, he persisted, reaching out to his students by text, email, contacting parents and making sure they had the necessary means to participate. Over time, Van’s concerns shifted. “I was concerned about the kids; I wasn’t so much concerned about ‘assignments.’ I was concerned about engagement; about kids showing up.” As an English teacher, he uses games in his teaching methods and figured out a way to continue that in online instruction. He also tried to make assignments bite-size and accessible. He says he originally had high expectations for his students but realized this was not the time to pressure them to complete assignments. He wanted to provide quality instruction and engagement instead of overloading his students with work. “What this whole pandemic has made me do is try to dial back a bit. I can’t give two assignments a week like I wanted to. Sometimes I can’t even give one. I don’t give homework. I exclusively make all my work classwork.” One thing that has helped, Van says, is the support of “teaching interns,” undergrad students from UCLA, who have worked with his students individually or in small groups online. “These interns have been a great resource. It’s people power. In my mind that’s what we need. We need armies of individuals to help kids. It shouldn’t be one teacher and 40 kids.”
As students return, Van thinks schools will also need to be ready to expand mental health services and counseling and restorative practices. “The kids are going to be coming back raw. Their relationships are going to be very intense in the first few months [when we return]. I think eventually they will adjust, but we are going to need counselors and restorative practices.” Van is also very aware of the stress the pandemic has placed on teachers, including himself, and has made taking care of his own health during the pandemic a priority. “I’m doing more physical activity. I basically get into the mountains. Because once you’ve climbed three miles up, you’re not really feeling that angry or stressed. You just give in to the mountain. And then by the end, you’re coming down and you’re like, look at the trees and the sky.” And he is determined not to get COVID. “You know the show the ‘Walking Dead’? I think they are in season 10 or 12 or something. I’m going to be on season 20, OK? I will be surviving the zombie apocalypse.”
The kids are going to be coming back raw. Their relationships are going to be very intense in the first few months [when we return]. I think eventually they will adjust, but we are going to need counselors and restorative practices.
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“We’re All Trying the Best We Can” NHUNG HA, CHARNOCK ROAD ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
I wanted to make this the safest, most loving and calming environment for my students. We did a lot of community building and writing assignments and a lot of games too. It opened them up to a lot more.
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he UCLA Teacher Education Program does a lot to prepare students to work as teachers in urban schools, but raising money for the funeral of a student’s grandmother who died of COVID probably wasn’t part of the curriculum. But that is the situation Nhung Ha found herself in last year during the pandemic. A second-year student in UCLA TEP, Ha was just beginning her career in education, working as a fifth-grade teacher at Charnock Road Elementary School in Culver City. Charnock is a Title I school where the students are almost all Latinx or Southeast Asian, and more than 80 percent qualify for free and reduced lunch. When the pandemic forced schools to close, amidst making academic/instructional preparations, Ha was particularly concerned about some of her students who were homeless. “I had two who were houseless— they lived in a van at a nearby park. My biggest concern was how they were going to get food, because they usually grabbed lunch and we gave them extras as well. I also had one student who didn’t have the greatest home situation; there were some concerns about physical abuse. She was really scared and came to me crying as well. There was a lot of chaos in terms of a small handful of students who were nervous about their home situations.” That March, Ha’s students were in the middle of a major inquiry project for fifth grade. She did not know how they would continue to work on the projects away from school. She also was not sure how she would be able to communicate with them.
The UCLA Teacher Education Program does a lot to prepare students to work as teachers in urban schools, but raising money for the funeral of a student’s grandmother who died of COVID probably wasn’t part of the curriculum.
“It was just very stressful. I didn’t know how to process it and what to do,” she explains. “I just sat and kind of reflected, ‘What will work?’ And then the next day I called every single student’s home and I talked to them just to see how they’re doing and then their parents as well.” Over the next weeks Ha was able to reach most of her students by phone, but many were not able to access the internet and were not able to participate in Zoom and other activities. The school was still working to provide hotspots and devices to students and families. Ha’s own situation for teaching from home was also challenging. “I was working in my bedroom and it was very cramped. I live with roommates, so it was not quiet. And my internet access was not the greatest.” By mid-April, she’d figured out Zoom and had been able to reach most of her students, many of whom who were using their parents’ phones to participate. Each morning they would do a math block, English language arts block and work on writing. “It was kind of like school again. They really looked forward to that after not having school,” Ha said. She adapted fairly quickly to teaching online. “I think I’m lucky because I’m OK with technology. It wasn’t too bad because the kids already knew how to use Google Classroom. The difficult part was to teach them how to use Google Slides, Docs and all of that, because we didn’t really need that in the classroom. I was just teaching students how to navigate this new reality that we were in.” Ha said it also helped that they already had a strong community in the classroom.
When they were on Zoom, the kids were not shy. The webcams were on and the kids were able to communicate and knew how to work alongside each other. As the school year drew to a close, as if the pandemic was not enough, the nation was also rocked by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of police, and civic protest against police violence fomenting racial tensions. Over the summer, Ha and colleagues took part in Restorative Justice workshops and made plans for the coming year to incorporate its teachings in their classrooms. Now a graduate of the UCLA TEP program, Ha explained that “I wanted to make this the safest, most loving and calming environment for my students. We did a lot of community building and writing assignments and a lot of games too. It opened them up to a lot more.” As the school year has continued, Ha has found that her students are very interested in working together and taking part in “hands-on” projects. Her students were interested in the Mars landing, and they built Mars Rovers using household objects and Legos. She has also had parents serve as guest speakers, including one student’s dad, a software engineer, who worked on the Helicopter that was tested this spring with the Mars Rover and another whose Grandpa was part of the Black Panthers in the 1960s. But teaching has not been without its emotional challenges. Ha has had two students in her classroom with family members who died from COVID. One student lost three members of her family between November and January: her grandmother, her
aunt and her cousin. “One day she just messaged me privately, ‘Can we talk in the breakout room?’ It was her and her mom crying, telling me that her grandma just passed away from COVID and they would not be in school for the next day. I asked if they needed anything and was able to put together a Go Fund Me page with the teachers at our school, raising $1,050 for the funeral.” Ha could not have imagined starting her teaching career in a pandemic but is grateful for the preparation UCLA Teacher Education Program provided that helped her to develop strong pedagogies and a keen sense of social justice. “It’s taught me my values as a teacher, and made me the teacher who I am,” she said. “I think the biggest thing to remember is that we’re all trying our best. Not just us as teachers, but, oh my goodness, [all] students are trying their best. And that’s enough.” She is looking forward to being with her students in person again. “I’m hopeful for kids just to be kids again; to get to see them; to interact. It’s the little moments, when I catch them hanging out with one another during recess, the teasing back and forth, the relationships. I’m hopeful for that.”
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The past year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a seismic shift in how the future of scholarly research in education has been affected. UCLA’s Cecilia Rios-Aguilar, together with colleagues from AERA and the Spencer Foundation, wanted to identify specifically the challenges being experienced. “We knew that the pandemic could have a disproportionate impact on some groups, including early career faculty and researchers, women, scholars of color, and doctoral students. We wanted to lend our expertise in the moment and thought it would be an important contribution to listen to and gather information about the experiences of scholars and doctoral students at this critical time.”
VOICES FROM THE FIELD THE IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON EARLY CAREER SCHOLARS AND DOCTORAL STUDENTS
s the COVID-19 health crisis created global disruption of unimaginable scale nearly every sector—business, government, schools, and universities—closed or were forced to take their day-to-day operations online or cease to operate. Higher education, specifically, was also deeply affected. Like most in the non-academic world, universities and schools had to manage the transition of classes and instruction moving solely online, reduce staff and services due to stalled revenue streams and complete disruption of what would count as normal on a college or university campus. Also adversely affected were those doctoral and early career scholars who suddenly had their work drastically change. Research projects were slowed or suspended due to the health and well-being of family members who were now working from home sites, caring for their children who were also in online instruction or home schooled, yet still facing their own professional responsibilities. In order to understand the impact that the pandemic was having on education researchers, the scholars of this study set out to gather information on AERA and the Spencer Foundation—two organizations to which most of the participants belonged—to understand how researchers coming into the field were being affected by abrupt changes in the wake of the pandemic. The goal of the study was to take a small group and understand the impact early on, assess, and then make recommendations for continuing research and support. While the results from the focus groups were informative, they were not necessarily generic to all career researchers given the limited scope and number of participants. Yet what we can say is that it provides important lessons for higher education leaders to consider for the future.
“WE’RE OVERWHELMED” If there was one theme common to all focus groups, it was how so many lives were suddenly thrown into utter confusion or suspension. Some felt calm, relieved, while others had higher than usual stress, anger, and uncertainty. One key concern was how their research projects and trajectories were being affected by the pandemic. Some emphasized derailments or delays; others noted changes they had made or were contemplating making. Less than three months after the onset of the pandemic, participants were reporting that their research lives and their studies had changed because education across levels and contexts was also rapidly changing. Their own research would undergo, or need to undergo, a complete overhaul that
THE KEY TOPICS OF DISCUSSION FOR EACH GROUP WERE: Research impact and productivity The impact on teaching and mentoring Sense of professional loss or gain Employment status, career trajectories and financial issues Home-family-work balance Feelings and emotions Institutional response and responsiveness Inequity/inequality in access, opportunity, and institutionalized exclusion
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THE IMPACT ON TEACHING
was still in development or that relied on in-person fieldwork. For a good many the impact would be most acutely felt with the connections established in low-income communities, primarily with students of color. Many researchers reported they had to shift to higher privileged populations who had the means of connecting online when their institutions’ financial research funding became scarce. Whether education researchers were in tenure-track, contingent faculty, or postdoctoral positions, working for research organizations or still in doctoral programs, many were left wondering if their planned research projects would be seriously delayed or happen at all.
SUPPORT A major concern shared amongst participants was defining and understanding how their respective institutions were fostering support both broadly and specifically within a program. A few early career scholars were suddenly shifted by their departments into other fields and away from their research. They also reported the absence of outreach from institutional or scholarly leadership to help them navigate the expectations given the challenges posed by the pandemic. For example, some were called upon to support local school districts in planning for remote learning; others were asked to pick up and prepare to teach extra courses at the last minute; and still others needed to place their attention on their home and family. Participants recognized that their institutions were managing multiple parallel crises but the lack of access to receiving more funds or the ability to provide more senior-level guidance became highly problematic. For those who were working outside of academia, (i.e., employed by schools or school systems or research organizations), there were also many questions raised as to whether their research could continue or if it would all be suspended until classes resumed in person. Yet, there were some who believed it presented an opportunity to reexamine curriculums. One participant said, “[W]e’re feeling like this would also be a great opportunity to really start investigating and looking because school is not going to be like what it was before [the pandemic].”
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[W]e’re feeling like this would also be a great opportunity to really start investigating and looking because school is not going to be like what it was before [the pandemic].
Many colleges and universities over the past decade have switched to online instruction. For participants in the study, transitioning to Zoom or other types of virtual platforms was not as great a challenge as their counterparts felt at the primary and secondary levels of education. College students in many of these classes had found new ways of learning together using various applications that made the enormous amount of time invested in planning and moving to online instruction worthwhile. Yet technology inequity (reliable internet, functioning devices, etc.) to fully participate in online instruction, particularly for students of color, was still an issue. The pedagogical challenges to support student learning were for some as daunting as experiences by lower-grade-level educators. One participant said, “Many of my students did not have internet or had to drive to campus to sit in the parking lot in order to attend class. If you have kids, that means you’re in a car with [them] having to try to participate in a class… They’re very resilient, but their learning environments and situations definitely impacted them academically and emotionally throughout.” Others worried about whether faculty and other instructors were well situated to teach or to learn from home sites, with complexities including household demands, the adequacy of private space, and sufficient equipment and internet speed. Some faculty mentioned that they had no equipment beyond their own personal computer or had to share with their kids who were being taught remotely. Others had to split time with partners or spouses who also needed access to those resources at home. Many of the focus group participants were women who shared stories about inequities and gender bias due to increased caregiving responsibilities which could have short- and long-term consequences. The balancing act of parenting and their own academic responsibilities had become hardships. Participants with children, especially young children, talked about the ways that being home with them affected multiple aspects of their working lives. They reported having limited time or energy left for work after attending to
[Participants] shared that scholars of color had been asked to do even more professional work that included supporting students of color in a department where the participant was the only Black faculty member, teaching courses about race, or being the ‘go-to’ person when racism and police brutality became more visible.
their children’s needs, including taking on teaching roles, leaving them little capacity to focus on their own professional work. One faculty member said, “…When I write, I get into a groove. Like, I sit down, it starts coming, and I just have to get it out. But I can’t do that right now because every two seconds, I’m hearing from the other room, ‘Mommy, come here. Mommy, come help me.’ Everything is disrupted.”
CONFRONTING RACISM COVID-19 revealed the disproportionate impact on communities of color. The second pandemic—the murder of George Floyd in May of 2020; other shootings of persons of color before and after and subsequent Black Lives Matter protests nationwide—brought this into a much clearer focus and heightened existing concerns about systemic racism, anti-Blackness and institutionalized inequities in society amongst the participants. Some reported being stressed and stretched thin by multiple demands. They observed that higher education institutions and research fields were not impervious to being sites of racism, systemic bias and microaggressions. They shared that scholars of color had been asked to do even more professional work that included supporting students
of color in a department where the participant was the only Black faculty member, teaching courses about race, or being the “go-to” person when racism and police brutality became more visible. “My chair sent out an email,” one faculty participant recounted, “that said, ‘I care about people of color in the communities of color,’ which was a change, because it is a very White homogenous department. But, at the same time, there has been an increased request for training, or ‘Now what do we do?’ and ‘Can you share your resources?’ and then ‘can potentially we make that into a certificate program?’ And it’s just a whole bunch of stuff that has made me just feel really overwhelmed…” Faculty of color were also handling increased emotional distress experienced by their White colleagues who were trying to make meaning of the protests and of what their own roles and responsibilities were. While some were deeply troubled by recent institutional responses, others saw indicators of change that they had not observed before. There were concerns that other faculty and administrators did not understand or recognize the strengths, wealth, and assets that they brought to their institutions. They sensed that key institutional actors failed to acknowledge
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and value the “labor of love” that was required to support equity in their institutions and mentor students of color. The question became how do they ensure genuine change in academia and other research settings going forward? As one participant commented, “We cannot start this conversation without an acknowledgment of why you’ve hired us…and what you need to do in order to facilitate that others engage in this work. And it’s not just you. It’s not the leadership. It has to be across the board.”
I am in a position, [where] my salary is dependent on the grants that we have. And anytime that those grants stopped, I am also stopped.
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With budget cuts and funding shortages for research, one of the many concerns expressed was employment security, both immediately and in the future. Those who were not yet tenured might not be tempted to pursue that direction, while others were concerned that dwindling student enrollments could adversely affect their work status and funding support. Some doctoral students considered deferring graduation until the job market improved. One participant was informed that while she would not be terminated, her contracts would be renewed for a one-year extension only. The unstable financial guarantees affected the future ability for individuals and families to afford rent, mortgage, health insurance and other basic needs. One researcher said, “I am in a position, [where] my salary is dependent on the grants that we have. And anytime that those grants stopped, I am also stopped.” Many appreciated the efforts their respective institutions were taking to support the challenges posed by the pandemic restrictions and how it was impacting their high levels of research and scholarship. But they also expressed that when a clear need for leadership in crisis was required, it was generally “technical and bureaucratic.” At times, those messages seemed misaligned with the emotional and human demands of the moment; institutional communications were meant to perpetuate a sense of normalcy, yet the circumstances were anything but normal. Overall, those who spoke to the issue felt that institutional leaders had missed the opportunity to model the importance of relationships
during times of crisis. Some scholars found attention to relational issues to be imperative for their own teaching and learning activity and would have appreciated more of such expressions in the leadership of their administrations.
LOST CONNECTIONS Finally, so much that is key to high level research is peer to peer. The pandemic affected an ability to share research and scholarly challenges through normal connection with colleagues and other scholars. For some, there was still a great need to create spaces for these connections to happen (e.g., writing groups, informal gatherings) despite the pandemic. Many discussed the impact of reduced university resources on their opportunities for professional development and on paying for memberships to professional associations, for research support, and for attending conferences. Those working in settings outside of academia similarly expressed concern that they did not have the bandwidth or resources to remain as professionally engaged. Others had created virtual networking opportunities—virtual happy hours, coffee breaks, and writing groups. Yet general networking events, such as with departmental colleagues, were less frequent and unfulfilling.
CONCLUSION This past year presented an unprecedented opportunity to redress longstanding inequities in all sectors of life. Whether acting interpersonally, organizationally, or systemically, higher education leaders and senior scholars can work together to effect change in support of the next generation of education researchers. The study is continuing with a major national survey of early career scholars and doctoral students in education research. This will add to a further understanding of the impact of COVID-19 on the wide and diverse population that constitutes this field. There is also collaboration with investigators leading similar studies in other fields of science and scholarship so that together we can construct a fuller picture of institutional practices, challenges, and changes prior to, during, and as a consequence of this pandemic.
It is our great hope that institutions, and our field more broadly, might embrace this moment in ways that create important and needed changes.
RECOMMENDATIONS While this study was limited to 58 participants and 18 hours of discussion, the experiences of our focus group participants have implications for the kinds of actions that higher education institutions, scientific scholarly associations, funders, and other leaders might consider. It is a moment to embrace and to consider needed changes in practices and policies that contribute to equitable and enriching places for early career scholars and doctoral students to work and thrive. ff Provide funding that includes more material support to emerging scholars. “Soft” support in the form of childcare stipends, health and mental care benefits, housing, etc. ff Refocus and invest in teaching and pedagogies. These would be built upon reconstructing learning environments and innovations in human and material resources. ff Build community and connect scholars. Professional societies and other higher education leadership organizations have an important role to play in creating strategies and solutions to conditions created by COVID-19. ff Involve faculty and early career researchers in the decisions that will impact their career trajectories. Faculty voices need to be engaged in developing explicit statements and processes around tenure review and/or contract extensions ff Support scholars with caregiving responsibilities— particularly while attempting to promote the research that institutions reward. ff Acknowledge racism and inequities in academia and other research settings and take anti-racist action. To be most powerful and relevant, policy development should avoid colorblind and gender-neutral approaches and solutions that may not target resources effectively.
The report is a joint publication of the American Educational Research Association and the Spencer Foundation. Study Authors: Megan Bang, senior vice president of the Spencer Foundation and a professor of learning sciences and psychology at Northwestern University. Nathan E. Bell, director of governance and special projects at AERA. Ryan Evely Gildersleeve, associate dean and professor at Morgridge College of Education, University of Denver. Matthew A. Holsapple, managing director of organizational learning and impact at iMentor. Felice J. Levine, executive director of the American Educational Research Association. Na’ilah Suad Nasir, president of the Spencer Foundation. Cecilia Rios-Aguilar, professor of education and associate dean of equity, diversity, and inclusion at the UCLA School of Education and Information Studies, faculty co-director of Policy Analysis for California Education and board member of the Spencer Foundation. Katherine J. Rosich, senior policy analyst at AERA. She has participated in the development of the World Education Research Association and the Americas Education Research Network.
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THE STRATEGIES OF RESISTANCE
How Microaffirmation Empowers Communities of Color Authors Daniel G. Solórzano and Lindsay Pérez Huber have theorized that racial microaffirmations have always been practiced as a response to racism and suppression. In their book Racial Microaggressions: Using Critical Race Theory to Respond to Everyday Racism, they assert that these affirmations of race have been conveyed in many forms—through art, performance, music, writing, spoken word, physical touch or simple facial expressions, all to counter daily inequities in a white-dominated society. Whether in public or private, there is mutual understanding through shared experience that creates an alliance and recognition in a way the authors write is an “everyday strategy of resistance.”
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veryday forms of affirmation and validation that People of Color engage in, the nods, smiles, embraces, use of language, and other actions that express acknowledgment, respect, and self-worth—are what we call racial microaffirmations. Sociologist Michael Eric Dyson explains the historical significance of racial codes utilized by African Americans dating back to slavery. “In slavery, our forebears had to devise a means of communication that slipped the notice of the majority culture, since what they had to say sometimes challenged the status quo … After slavery, the need for codes persisted because African Americans could not freely express themselves in “a hostile white world.” The nod became one of these codes. For Dyson, the nod is also a gendered code. He describes the act of acknowledgment and the recognition of humanity that we theorized in our understanding of a racial microaffirmation. In Dyson’s explanation, the nod is also a gendered act, specifically affirming Black men. Other Black scholars, however, discuss the nod in more general terms, as a culturally significant gesture practiced by Black communities, regardless of gender. For example, sociologist Elijah Anderson explains what he calls “the racial nod”: “Being generally outnumbered by white people, black people feel a peculiar vulnerability, and they assume that other black people understand the challenges of this space in ways that white people cannot. Since the white space can turn hostile at any moment, the implicit promise of support black people sense from other black people serves as a defense, and it is part of the reason that black people acknowledge one another in this space, with the racial nod— an informal greeting serving as a trigger that activates black solidarity.” Like Anderson, Black journalist Musa Okwonga reiterates the meaning of the nod to take on an element
of unspoken community solidarity amid hostility. Okwonga states: “The Nod is also so much more than that: It’s a swift yet intimate statement of ethnic solidarity—the closest thing to a secret handshake. Sometimes, though, it’s bittersweet, reflecting how far black people yet have to go to feel at home in their surroundings.” Finally, African American Studies Professor James Jones examined how race is structured into the organization of the U.S. Congressional workplace. Among his findings was that Black staffers (men and women) utilized the nod as an adaptive strategy to feel seen in a white-male-dominated environment where they are often rendered unseen. In Jones’s study, the nod transcended professional rank, class, and age as a practice engaged by all levels of African Americans in Congress, from service employees to Congress members. It was used to facilitate introductions between Black people on Capitol Hill, to acknowledge “a shared experience” among them, and to gauge shared viewpoints and value systems. Our research on the meaning of the nod practiced in African American communities solidified our initial cultural intuition that this gesture—found to be marked by a desire to build solidarity and empowerment within white space— prompted us to consider what kinds of racial microaffirmations we may encounter in our own Latina/o communities. When thinking about racial microaffirmations, Lindsay Pérez Huber thinks about the moments spent with her daughters each year at their annual baile folklórico performances. “This traditional Mexican dance performance has its roots in regional community dance forms in Mexico that were eventually adapted for stage performance. Each dance in the performance highlights the regional dance and music styles of the Mexican state from which it comes. This dance is always accompanied by music (and is
The Nod is also so much more than that: It’s a swift yet intimate statement of ethnic solidarity— the closest thing to a secret handshake. Sometimes, though, it’s bittersweet, reflecting how far black people yet have to go to feel at home in their surroundings.
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Racial microaffirmation is an everyday strategy of resistance. However, it is also something more. It is a particular form of resistance marked by the desire to affirm the dignity and humanity of People of Color— those qualities significant to all human beings— but often denied by institutional racism and white supremacy.
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even better with live music), and there are certain mariachi-genre songs that are very likely to be played at these performances. ‘Son de la Negra’ and ‘La Madrugada’ are almost always included in Mexican baile folklórico performances in the U.S. Southwest. Although I did not necessarily listen to these songs growing up in my household, hearing them—particularly as they are accompanied by Latina/o dancers, and especially children—has an effect on me. When I see them dressed in their bright, colorful dresses, dancing to music that celebrates Latina/o culture, it is a sight of beauty inspired by cultural pride. Each time (they have performed for many years) I get goosebumps. Music in our communities (and in others) can be a powerful form of racial microaffirmation. It can remind us of the beauty of the countries we are from, or the countries from where our elders/ancestors have come, of home. This has meaning particularly when you live in a place where your people are often demonized as criminals and economic burdens, and treated as second-class citizens. “When I see and hear their dancing, I am reminded of the privilege I have to be able to engage in the (re)claiming of our culture and language with my daughters. From family stories passed down from my elders who lived in the U.S. Southwest for generations (Texas and California), I knew they constantly encountered racist nativist messages, particularly in schools—that Spanish was a ‘bad’ language, not allowed to be spoken, that being Mexican meant being less than, and that it was necessary to make strategic moves toward whiteness to avoid some of the harshest discrimination. My mother, aunt, and uncle all changed their names as elementary students at their predominately white Catholic school, when nuns couldn’t pronounce them, and their peers teased
them. My grandparents did not speak Spanish to them, or to my sisters and me, as we later grew up with them. Today, I understand my family history and the choices they made to be mediated by racism and racist nativism. I also understand the consequences of this legacy of racist nativism. It has led to difficult moments in developing racial and cultural identities and an understanding and confidence in who I am and where I belong, and it has led to the linguistic terrorism I have experienced. However, as a parent, I could play a role in taking back some of what was taken from us. There have been many choices and efforts made to do this; dancing folklorico was one of them. Their dancing is a type of racial microaffirmation that is a response to the generations of racism experienced by my family in the U.S. Southwest.” Daniel Solórzano explains how he first came to racial microaffirmations. “I’m reminded of my experiences growing up in neighborhoods to the east of downtown Los Angeles. My father, Manuel Solórzano Sr., inculcated in me a love of our communities. Not just the Latina/o communities of the eastside, but the African American communities of the southside, and the Asian-American communities of Little Tokyo and Chinatown near downtown Los Angeles. Riding with my father through these neighborhoods delivering Mexican bread to small markets infused a knowledge of these communities, a respect for these communities, a love of these communities. It was my first introduction to the cultural wealth that existed all through these communities. These journeys affirmed for me their beauty, their history, and my place within them. My later coming to ethnic studies generally, and Chicana/o and African American studies in particular, was further affirmation of my history and others’ histories—the stories
A high school student once shared that learning about racial microaggressions gave her a way to ‘name’ her pain.
of People of Color. And now, as faculty, every year I attend Chicana/o Studies departmental graduations and Raza graduations. These culminating events are further affirmations for students, their families, their communities, and for us, their faculty.” Racial microaffirmation is an everyday strategy of resistance. However, it is also something more. It is a particular form of resistance marked by the desire to affirm the dignity and humanity of People of Color—those qualities significant to all human beings—but often denied by institutional racism and white supremacy. Racial microaffirmations, then, are a (re)claiming of the dignity and humanity that everyday racism attempts to take from Communities of Color. They can be seen all around us, in everyday environments, if we pay attention. For example, spaces created by and for People of Color can be a racial microaffirmation, such as the Raza. Racial microaffirmations can emerge in texts, be experienced through music and performance. The participants in our focus groups described other examples in art and pedagogy. A high school student once shared that learning about racial microaggressions gave her a way to “name” her pain. Microaffirmations can provide a language for People of Color to name their humanity. It is a concept that reminds us that our dignity is already within us, and that we affirm it every day with our families, in our communities, with colleagues, and with those whom we may not know, but with whom we share a “cultural intimacy” that binds us in our collective humanity. While this empirical research on racial microaffirmations has just begun, our research thus far has found that racial microaffirmations are already practiced in schools, communities, workplaces, homes, and many other spaces occupied by Communities of Color. If we were
Daniel G. Solórzano, Ph.D., is the director of UC/ACCORD and a professor of social science and comparative education in the UCLA School of Education and Information Studies. He has written extensively on issues related to educational access and equity for underrepresented student populations in the United States, critical race theory, and racial microaggressions.
Daniel G. Solórzano
to look, we are sure racial microaffirmations could be found throughout history, in the struggles of People of Color for dignity and humanity in the face of racism. Put simply, racial microaffirmations are those everyday reminders that we matter—and we believe Communities of Color have been telling each other this, in their own ways, since the beginning.
Dr. Lindsay Pérez Huber is associate professor in the Social and Cultural Analysis of Education (SCAE) master’s program in the College of Education at California State University, Long Beach. Her research uses interdisciplinary perspectives to analyze racial inequities in education, the structural causes of those inequities, and how they mediate educational trajectories and outcomes of students of color. She is also a Visiting Scholar at the UCLA Center for Critical Race Studies (CCRS).
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CO M M U NI T Y AR C HI VES:
Assimilation, Integration, or Resistance? In her latest book, Urgent Archives: Enacting Liberatory Memory Work, (Routledge Press, 2021) Michelle Caswell, an associate professor in archival studies at UCLA, explores how archivists can inform and disrupt the “white supremacy and hetero-patriarchy” narrative that typically characterizes and compartmentalizes minoritized communities in standard liberal archival solutions. In an excerpt, she recounts the accidental discovery of a set of home movies that begins in 1959, depicting the marriage of a mixed-race South Asian American couple. It chronicles a compelling glimpse over many years, into the lives of this American family and how it has provided a better understanding and context of cultural appropriation and conformity all while trying to preserve personal heritage in an America during a time of deep, profound societal change.
he footage is so achingly beautiful you could cry. In full vivid color, a handsome young Indian man smiles at his bride, a young white woman in a gold and red sari that matches his turban. They steal glances while a judge performs the wedding ceremony, they flirtatiously feed each other cake, they laugh while opening gifts. Not only are they beautiful, they are clearly hopelessly in love. The home movie is silent, but if we listen closely, we can almost hear their laughter. This film’s beauty belies the racist context of the society in which it was created. Filmed in Norman, Oklahoma, in 1959, the wedding of Sharanjit Singh Dhillonn and Dorothy Dhillonn would be illegal for another eight years, when the 1967 Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court decision legalized consensual interracial marriage in the U.S.
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Twelve years of the couple’s daily lives together unfold over three reels.
Twelve years of the couple’s daily lives together unfold over three reels: first one baby, then a second; the man, now clean-shaven and devoid of turban, having fun with his children: celebrating birthdays, learning to walk, taking baths, sharing an ice cream cone, dressing up like cowboys. We see what we previously thought was impossible on screen—everyday footage of a South Asian American family in middle America in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Historians have long known that there was a small but thriving Indian community in the U.S. in the early 1900s. But in 1923, a U.S. Supreme Court decision denaturalized Indian immigrants based on racial grounds, barring them from citizenship and causing many in the once-burgeoning community to return to India. Many scholars used to think of the time between 1946, when the LuceCellar Act imposed a restrictive 100-person a year quota on Indian immigration, and 1965, when the U.S. Immigration Act was passed, repealing the quota, as being a kind of dead space for the community, with little cultural and political activity. This film is evidence of a largely unknown continuity of South Asian American stories. The footage came to me, through a combination of random luck and years of outreach. I am the co-founder of the South Asian American Digital Archive (SAADA), an online community-based archives that documents and shares the histories of immigrants from South Asia to the U.S. and their descendants. I am also a professor of archival studies at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). In Spring 2016, one of my students in UCLA’s media archives program was working on digitizing some home movie reels for a class project that she thought might be of interest
to SAADA. When she sent me a link to the digitized footage, my eyes widened, my jaw dropped and I started jumping up and down. I immediately sent the footage to SAADA’s Executive Director and co-founder, Samip Mallick. who said “It felt like I was glimpsing a piece of history that I never thought I would see, home movies from the South Asian community from that period in time…” For Mallick, the film resonated on both a personal and social level. “There is something so relatable in the mundane experiences recorded, yet, these images are incredibly important, to the South Asian American community and its history, our awareness and knowledge of the diversity of the American experience as well,” he said. We both knew instantly, and viscerally, we wanted to acquire this record for SAADA. With the help of my students, we soon tracked down its owner, Bibi Dhillonn, who is an administrator at UCLA. Her father, Sharanjit Singh Dhillonn, came to the U.S. from India to pursue masters’ degrees in chemical engineering and mathematics at the University of Oklahoma. In 1958, Sharanjit met Dorothy, who was also studying at the University of Oklahoma. After their 1959 wedding, the couple had four children, then moved from Oklahoma to rural California, where Sharanjit got a job as a chemical engineer at Borax. After a racist attack at a gas station, Sharanjit cut his hair and beard and stopped wearing the customary Sikh turban. He was an avid fan of film and photography and an amateur filmmaker. Bibi had been looking for a way to digitize the three movie reels her father had left behind in order to share them with her siblings, and reached out to UCLA’s IS Department. The student assigned to the project also knew about SAADA’s mission and scope, as I am constantly talking about the organization in the courses I teach. UCLA Ed&IS SUMMER 2021 37
As Alam described, both the original footage and its reinterpretation in ‘Lavaan’ enable us ‘to see ourselves in a new light, despite differences of time and space.’
Soon after the acquisition of the digitized versions, SAADA launched the “Where We Belong: Artists in the Archive” project with a grant from the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage. The funding enabled the organization to launch a discovery process whereby we selected five South Asian American artists working across a range of media and genres to create new works of art inspired by records in SAADA. One of the explicit goals of the project was to create new artistic representations of South Asian Americans that combat historical erasure and re-contextualize the community’s century-old history considering contemporary racism and xenophobia. In October 2016, at the initial meeting of the cohort of artists participating in the project, Mallick and I met the musician Zain Alam, an artist who composes under the recording project Humeysha. Alam was at that time a graduate student at Harvard and had previously worked as an oral historian at the 1947 Partition Archive, an organization that documents the dividing of the Indian subcontinent between India and Pakistan. Alam spoke eloquently about the impact of everyday stories on larger historical narratives and the importance of robust
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and accurate representations of South Asian American Muslims, particularly in light of post-9/11 Islamophobia. When Alam mentioned he might be interested in composing a score to accompany the Dhillonn film, Mallick and I instantly thought he would be a perfect match. When Alam saw the footage, he too had a visceral reaction. “It put a lot of things into perspective for me. I grew up in Kennesaw, Georgia, post-9/11. Seeing the videos made me realize not only are we not the first, but there were other people even deeper in the heartland of America who were having the experience of being American for the first time and asking, ‘Do we assimilate, do we integrate, do we resist?’ There’s such a long arc of history there, both personal and on a much larger scale.” Alam began composing a score for the Dhillonn footage and ultimately decided to remix excerpts of the home movies with contemporary news footage covering white supremacist violence against Sikhs and South Asian Americans. The resulting nine-minute multimedia piece, “Lavaan,” juxtaposes a moving homage to Sharanjit and Dorothy Dhillonn’s marriage and everyday family life in the 1950s and 1960s with the current rise in hate crimes and xenophobia, suggesting an almost wistful longing to return to an imagined time of intimacy and security. Yet, even the seeming domestic bliss of the Dhillonn footage is haunted by the unspoken violence that triggered Sharanjit’s assimilation, his transformation from someone whose turban instantly marked him as “other” in 1959 to a clean-shaven man dressed in western clothes in later footage. Violence that is merely hinted at in the home movie footage rages out of control in CNN headlines running across the bottom of the screen. We move from romance, to sorrow, to outrage, all the while questioning narratives of racial progress. The piece not only “sets back [our] mental clock” (to use Alam’s phrase) in terms of when we date South Asian immigration to the U.S., but also reminds us that the themes of love and violence intersect across space and time in complicated,
circular routes. There is no clear linear path set forth here from a couple’s love to a fully functioning, racially just society. The personal becomes a metaphor for the political in “Lavaan.” We see the Dhillonn children take their first unsure steps, fall down, and get back up again. “To me,” Alam explained, “the greater narrative of learning to walk, getting up and falling back down again connected heavily with present moments where the Sikh community has been targeted since 9/11…. It’s easy for us to say we’ve progressed so much since the 1950s, but often it feels like we’re taking two to three steps forward and then six steps back. Maybe, in some places like Norman, Oklahoma, there were aspects that were better [for] immigrants, before people got caught up to this degree of national xenophobia that can now catch fire so quickly on social media and spread.” We also see footage of a family trip back to India for vacation, and then back in the U.S. These small personal acts mimic the larger repetition of history unfolding later in Alam’s piece, the seemingly never-ending stream of headlines announcing new waves of violence against South Asian Americans, the emboldened waves of racist attacks again after Trump’s election in 2016. What we see is not a progress narrative where society gets less racist over time but a cyclical repetition of oppression in which a minoritized community is doomed to suffer the repeated consequences of white supremacist violence. When Alam presented the film at an April 2017 SAADA event in Philadelphia, PA, its impact was palpable. A room full of more than 100 people, mostly second generation South Asian Americans, stared raptly at the screen, some visibly moved to tears. The room erupted into applause when the piece was over, and what followed was a lively discussion that was not only personal, but deeply political. Some expressed the surprise and joy of seeing South Asian Americans represented in that time period, a shock of self-recognition where they did not expect it. Others moved beyond the joy
of representation towards expressions of anger, stories of their own experiences with racism, and questions about how best to mobilize against such repeated violence. As Alam described, both the original footage and its reinterpretation in “Lavaan” enable us “to see ourselves in a new light, despite differences of time and space.” At their best, that is what archives empower people to do—see themselves in a new light across space and time, and catalyze this new self-reflection into action, motivating users into activism beyond their personal contexts. They get activated and reactivated, contextualized and recontextualized, creating a new record with each viewing, catalyzing limitless visceral and political responses. Most importantly, the film moves us. First, there is the initial shock of representation in the face of the erasure of South Asian Americans from archives. In previous work, I’ve used the terms “symbolic annihilation” to describe the affective impact of being ignored, misrepresented, or underrepresented in archives and “representational belonging” to describe the feeling of complex and nuanced representation after such erasure. Community archives counter symbolic annihilation by marshaling representational belonging in minoritized communities. But the Dhillonn home movies and Alam’s reuse and remixing of them move us beyond the affective impact of representational belonging, towards a deeper understanding of our current political moment. That understanding gets us one step closer to action. The questions Alam raises—“Do we assimilate, do we integrate, do we resist?”—are central to the work of community archives like SAADA. If community archives are to fulfill their liberatory potential, they must be activated for resistance rather than assimilation or integration into the mainstream. As such, community-based memory workers must go beyond the recuperation of minoritized histories, however important, to set in motion those histories for liberation.
Michelle Caswell is an associate professor of archival studies in the Department of Information Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she is also the co-founder of the South Asian American Digital Archive. Her book, Archiving the Unspeakable: Silence, Memory, and the Photographic Record in Cambodia, was published by the University of Wisconsin Press as part of their Critical Human Rights series in 2014 and won the 2015 Waldo Gifford Leland Award for Best Publication from the Society of American Archivists.
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The Effects of Absenteeism on Academic and Social-Emotional Outcomes: Lessons for COVID-19 BY LUCRECIA SANTIBAÑEZ AND CASSANDRA GUARINO
A POLICY ANALYSIS FOR CALIFORNIA EDUCATION REPORT Many school systems were already dealing with the deep inequalities already present in their ranks when schools were forced to close in March 2020. The lack of in-person learning and now a new teaching model adversely affected an even larger group of students who were unable to fully engage in learning opportunities. As such, there has been a significant increase of absenteeism across all grades K–12. Using data from the CORE Districts in California, Professors Lucrecia Santibañez and Cassandra Guarino have researched the impact of increased absenteeism during the pandemic by analyzing how it has affected student outcomes in the recent past. Their study reveals that just a few weeks of missing school can result in lower test scores, particularly in math, have greater negative effects on middle school students, and can have detrimental effects on social- emotional development, which affects future student success. 40 UCLA Ed&IS SUMMER 2021
n March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools around the nation to close physical campuses and shift to distance learning, existing inequalities were made starkly evident: low-poverty schools and students were able to engage in online participation quickly, while students of color in high-poverty schools and English learners (ELs) lagged behind. A report by the Los Angeles Unified School District that tracked the online engagement of secondary school students between March 16 and May 22, 2020, found that participation increased over time but never reached 100 percent. It was lower for students in particular subgroups such as low-income students, ELs, students with disabilities (SWDs), and homeless and foster youth (HL/FST). Given the considerable disruption and the deep inequalities already present in our nation’s school systems, districts are asking how much learning and social-emotional development has been lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic? In order to understand the impact of absenteeism on different student subgroups we analyzed data on K–12 students in the CORE Districts—a nonprofit collaborative of California school districts focused on data-driven school improvement—in California from school years 2014–15 to 2017–18 to understand (a) average patterns of absenteeism for all students and by subgroup as well as (b) the impact of being away from school on test scores and social-emotional learning (SEL). Results from this analysis suggest what the effects of COVID-19 could be on student outcomes.
ABSENTEEISM RATES DURING THE SCHOOL YEAR ARE GENERALLY LOW In a typical school year, the average number of absences for students in K–12 is 7.4 days. Absences vary by grade: elementary and middle school students spend about 7 days away from school in a regular school year, middle school and high school students are absent 6 and 9 days on average respectively. Absences are highest for Grades 10 through 12, with twelfth graders missing an average of 10.8 days. In a typical year, approximately 14 percent of students are absent 0 days, 65 percent are absent 1 to 10 days, 13 percent are absent 11 to 18 days, and 8 percent are absent 18 days or more—the level at which absenteeism is considered chronic. Persistent absence is more prevalent in grades 9–12 than in the earlier grades. About 7 percent of students are absent from school 30 days or more in any given year, indicating that most chronically absent students are not in school for periods much longer than 18 days. Furthermore, when viewed in terms of race and ethnicity, Black students have the most absences of any group. (Latinx students report high average absence rates in high school, but are one of the groups with the lowest average absenteeism rate in elementary and middle school. Asian American and Pacific Islander American students report the lowest number of absences of all racial and ethnic groups, across all grades.
OF STUDENTS ARE ABSENT FROM SCHOOL
OR MORE IN ANY GIVEN YEAR INDICATING THAT THE MOST CHRONICALLY ABSENT STUDENTS ARE NOT IN SCHOOL FOR PERIODS MUCH LONGER THAN
Given the considerable disruption and the deep inequalities already present in our nation’s school systems, districts are asking how much learning and social-emotional development has been lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
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Photo by Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for EDUimages
ABSENCES NEGATIVELY IMPACT TEST SCORES One of the key findings in analyzing the data has been the impact of absenteeism on test scores. While there are some unobserved factors that can affect both absenteeism and student outcomes, we account for these that are specific to students and are persistent over time, by using a student fixed effect model that essentially isolates the effect of absences on outcomes for each individual student. The findings (our analyses are using Smarter Balanced Assessments, from Grades 3–8 and exclude Grade 11 because of data limitations) suggest absences have a clear negative effect on test scores. As absences increase, test scores decrease, and they do so more rapidly for mathematics than for ELA. Absences also affect test scores differently depending on the school level. In middle school, the data has shown that the grade lines have a steeper downward trend indicating that academic loss due to extended absences is felt more heavily by these students. In both elementary and middle school, the decline in test scores due to prolonged absenteeism is steeper in mathematics than ELA.
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ABSENCES AFFECT TEST SCORES OF SOME STUDENT SUBGROUPS MORE THAN OTHERS When it comes to vulnerable students, absences have hurt their academic achievement more than they do other students. Predicted effects for students classified as FRPL (free or reduced-price lunch), EL, SWD, and HL/FST show that the negative effects of absenteeism are substantial for all students. Yet they are the most pronounced for students classified as FRPL, SWD, and HL/FST. For comparison, we include a category of “non-vulnerable” students (NONVUL)— that is, students who are not in one of those groups. These findings are concerning, given that in our data sample, 77 percent of the student population is classified as FRPL, 13 percent as SWD, and 4 percent as HL/FST. ELs (18 percent of sample students) are an exception, as they are less affected even than non-vulnerable students (19 percent). It should be noted that this group includes students who are considered long-term ELs, newcomer ELs, and ELs at various stages of English language development. More research is needed on variation within this subgroup to better understand these effects.
Their study reveals that just a few weeks of missing school can result in lower test scores, particularly in math, have greater negative effects on middle school students, and can have detrimental effects on social-emotional development, which affects future student success.
ABSENCES HURT SOCIALEMOTIONAL OUTCOMES When SEL outcomes improve, so do test scores and behavioral outcomes. Our study shows the effects of absenteeism on SEL outcomes using similar methods, but instead of ELA and mathematics test scores as outcome measures, we use SEL scale scores, standardized by year, for four different constructs: growth mindset (GM), social awareness (SA), self-efficacy (SE), and self-management (SM). SEL scores are based on self-reported surveys of students in Grades 4 through 12, and all of those grades are included in the analysis. Predicted effects on SEL constructs of absence at various levels show that as absences grow the expected (predicted) SEL outcomes decrease. Absences, then, harm all four SEL constructs, with slight variations across them. After an initial slide, most constructs flatten out after 40 days. However, for SA the decline is more or less linear, indicating a steeper rate of loss as absenteeism accumulates. Absences hurt SEL development for all student subgroups and harm SA and SE more or less equally across subgroups. They also harm non-vulnerable students more than others in SM, and non-vulnerable students and SWDs slightly more than others in GM. There are also differences in the impact of absences on SEL by grade level. While all constructs are negatively affected by absenteeism, middle school is the level at which extended absence from school has the strongest negative impact on social-emotional development, with SE and SA having the steepest slopes. At the elementary level, the most affected constructs are SE and SM. At the high school level, the most affected construct is SA. Generally speaking, elementary and middle school are the levels during which extended absence from school has the strongest negative impact on social-emotional development. This is important because recent work using Project CORE data suggests that when social-emotional learning outcomes improve, so do test scores and behavioral outcomes—this is true across student subgroups and regardless of the baseline level of socialemotional learning.
IN CALIFORNIA, where average absenteeism is around 7 days during the regular school year, if students missed more than a few weeks of cumulative instruction during the pandemic, their test scores and SEL outcomes are likely to be badly affected. With school closures and remote-only instruction continuing through the 2020–21 school year it is not yet clear whether adaptations to online learning as a result of the experience of last spring will yield significantly greater engagement with instruction. These negative impacts are likely to hit students particularly hard in middle school and in mathematics. For SEL, the negative impact on elementary and middle schoolers of extended absences is significant. Indeed, students in certain subgroups, such as low-income students and SWDs, are likely to be the most affected. This study adds to the growing evidence on the potentially negative impact of COVID-19 on student development and the pandemic’s possible differential impacts by student subgroups and grade-level. Although COVID-19 presents unique circumstances, the evidence based on past experience suggests that many students will need intense academic and social-emotional support to make up for lost time.
Photo by Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for EDUimages
Lucrecia Santibañez is an associate professor at UCLA’s School of Education and Information Studies who focuses on policies to improve teaching and learning for low-income students, English learners, and other vulnerable populations. Her research has been funded by the Institute of Education Sciences, the National Science Foundation, and the William T. Grant Foundation. Cassandra Guarino is a professor at UC Riverside’s Graduate School of Education. Her research focuses on teacher and school effectiveness, mobility effects, gender and education, and special needs students. Her research has been funded by the Institute of Education Sciences, the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and numerous state agencies and foundations.
Although COVID19 presents unique circumstances, the evidence based on past experience suggests that many students will need intense academic and social-emotional support to make up for lost time.