Good morning!

We start off today with the latest installments of our “Weaving a Stronger Society — Starting in our Schools” series, produced in partnership with The Aspen Institute. This morning, we're introducing a New York City Teacher of the Year who dedicates his life to shaping connections for immigrant teens and families, and a former journalist in Portland, Oregon, who is helping her community heal from trauma through art and empathy.

Plus, a look at former Education Secretary John King's quest for the Maryland governorship, and what the numbers really say about the safety of America's schools, today at The 74.


Immigrant Teacher of the Year Helps Newcomers Forge NYC Community

Alhassan Susso, a social studies teacher at International Community High School in the South Bronx, came to the U.S. from Gambia at 16 with just $20 in his pocket. But he brought something else from home: years of watching his grandmother help others in their community. The secret was knowing everyone’s story, and often their families’, going back generations. Susso, who commutes four hours a day, uses similar skills to propel his newcomer students — whose stories are so like his own — to college and to lift up the larger community, one of the country’s most impoverished. “He knows that we need him,” his principal told The 74’s Jo Napolitano. “He is committed to our population.”


Ex-Journalist Reignites Intergenerational Haven for Youth

Before she turned 21, S. Renee Mitchell had survived losing her father, bullying, sexual violence and suicidal thoughts. In her search for healing, the then-journalist wrote plays and poetry, finding the power in words to process her trauma. Today, she brings Portlanders together for movie nights, quilting, open mics and art galleries — all in hopes that young people can use art to process an uptick in gun violence, mental health strains and pandemic isolation. And she’s using a space critical to Black Portland to do it — stewarding the Albina Arts Center, where in the 1960s and ‘70s young and old took dance, Swahili and photography classes, as the revamped Soul Restoration Center. The 74’s Marianna McMurdock traveled to Oregon to see this community leader in action and to learn about the center's future mission. 

Go Deeper:

  • See the Full Series: Celebrate Educators Who Use Community to Help Students Succeed in Class … and in Life


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John King's Uphill Battle to Become Maryland Governor

This year's Maryland gubernatorial primary is notable for featuring one of the biggest names in education policy: former Secretary of Education John King. But even as the state implements K-12 reforms known as the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, King’s candidacy has yet to catch fire. Some politics watchers blame his status as a first-time candidate with few ties to the local political class. Or could the Blueprint actually be blunting the Obama-era cabinet member’s edge on this key issue? Kevin Mahnken reports.

Read more:

  • From Teacher to Governor?: Drawing on Themes of Opportunity and Inequality, Former Obama Ed Secretary John King Announces Run
  • EDlection Showdown in Maryland: Could a ‘Blue Wave’ Unseat America’s Second-Most Popular Governor — and Reshape the State’s Education Priorities?
  • 74 Interview: John King on His Year as Ed Secretary, the Trump Administration, His New Role at Ed Trust


School Shootings Are Too Common, but Schools Are Still Relatively Safe

The horrific school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, reinforces concerns that such events are increasingly common. As researchers who study school safety, contributors Aaron Kupchik, Benjamin W. Fisher, Samantha Viano and F. Chris Curran agree in part. But they worry about how misunderstanding the problem might harm students. While not incorrect, recent reports of increases in school shootings may lead to fears that do not correspond to the real threat children face. School shootings are far too common and do appear to happen more frequently than in prior years — but schools are still relatively safe places. Here, the authors break down the numbers.




How Texas's IDEA Public Schools Rose to the Top

On a key ranking of America’s top high schools this year, No. 1 is an IDEA Public School, as are four of the top 10 and eight of the top 20. How did the charter school network, serving mostly students from low-income backgrounds, do it? Contributor Thomas Torkelson, IDEA's co-founder and former CEO, explains and sets out a road map for other schools to follow.

Read More: 

  • Closing In on 20 Years: IDEA Public Schools, Texas’s Homegrown Charter Network, Is Big, Bold and Sticking to the Basics

  • From the 2016 Archive: IDEA Public Schools Wins 2016 Broad Prize, as Charter Conference Braces for Life After Obama

Curriculum Case Study

Literacy Growth In Weeks, Not Months

Lebanon Special School District adopted a “sounds first” literacy curriculum alongside the Tennessee Foundational Skills Curriculum Supplement at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year across grades K-2 and was designated a “Reading 360 Model District'' in September 2021. In this piece, K-5 English as a Second Language teacher Candace Reed shares what just one year of high-quality foundational skills instruction has meant for her English learners and her school. This is the final piece in a series of three articles from a Knowledge Matters Campaign tour of school districts in Tennessee spotlighting the impact of the state’s investments in training all teachers in the science of reading.

Read the Full Series:

Curriculum Case Studies: Find out more about educators embracing a new vision of teaching and learning through implementation of high-quality instructional materials

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