October 2017
  • 61% of Teachers Stressed Out, 58% Say Mental Health Is Not Good in New National Survey

    By Kevin Mahnken | October 31, 2017

    A majority of American teachers feel stressed at work, according to a new survey from the American Federation of Teachers — and the number citing poor mental health has jumped alarmingly over the past two years. Experts say resultant costs in human resources and health care spending could amount to billions of dollars.

    The figures come from the union’s 2017 Educator Quality of Work Life Survey, a poll administered to almost 5,000 teachers and school staff across the country. Results suggest a sizable increase in the number of stressed educators since the poll was last conducted in 2015. In particular, 58 percent of respondents described their mental health as “not good” for at least seven of the previous 30 days. Just two years ago, that number was 34 percent.

    Sixty-one percent of the teachers said their work was always or often stressful. Over half agreed that they didn’t feel the same enthusiasm as when they started teaching. They reported experiencing poor health and being bullied at work — by superiors, colleagues, students, or parents — at rates far higher than are reported for other professions. And the vast majority said they are sleep-deprived.

    (Photo: American Federation of Teachers and Badass Teachers Association)

    AFT President Randi Weingarten said large majorities of teachers don’t feel respected by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and have grown demoralized over the past two years by the harsh tenor of the national political discourse.

    “This notion that being coarse and tough and enabling hate is OK is highly, highly, highly disruptive and problematic in schools and goes completely against what parents and teachers know is absolutely important for kids, which is a safe and welcoming environment,” she said in an interview with USA Today.

    One researcher disagreed, saying the sources of teacher stress have taken shape over decades.

    “There are clearly issues with the current administration, but I believe these issues on teacher stress are longer-term issues,” Mark Greenberg, professor of human development and psychology at Pennsylvania State University, told The 74. “They’ve been with us for a number of years, across administrations.”

    “We have a problem of social capital investment. We invest a lot in the hiring of teachers, and the fact that so many of them are leaving is a sign the system is damaged. It’s not working well.”

    Greenberg, who has written about the causes and impact of teacher stress for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, identified three major factors putting pressure on instructors: increased focus on standardized testing and accountability, unstable leadership at the school level, and inadequate resources for dealing with behavioral problems in the classroom.

    The common thread, he said, is that many teachers feel they have no input into decisions affecting their schools.

    Indeed, many respondents to AFT’s survey said they had no influence, or minor influence, on academic standards, professional development, or curriculum. Outright majorities said the same about school spending and disciplinary policies.

    (Photo: American Federation of Teachers and Badass Teachers Association)

    School discipline has emerged as a particular flashpoint over the past few years as districts have moved to lower student suspension rates by implementing peer mediation and restorative justice. Teachers in Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago, and elsewhere have complained they cannot control their classrooms under the new guidelines.

    The effects of this perceived helplessness are diverse and pernicious, experts say. The teaching profession is famously plagued with turnover problems, with roughly 13 percent of educators either changing schools or quitting each year. With school employees feeling increasingly tired, bullied, and powerless, researchers have pointed to a sense of professional dissatisfaction that negatively impacts student performance in both math and English.

    But the toll extends well past academic outcomes, imperiling public finance as well.

    “We tend to think about the cost in terms of student outcomes, but there are a number of important costs that are related to teacher stress that are expensive for school districts,” said Greenberg. “The first is absenteeism and payment of substitutes. The second is health care costs, which have not been examined directly in this field. We know teachers under stress are using more medication, they’re going to the doctor more often, they’re missing work.”

    And the continual churn of departing teachers, whose replacements must be recruited and trained at great expense, carries the highest price of all. According to Richard Ingersoll, who studies teacher retention at the University of Pennsylvania, teacher turnover costs states a total of as much as $2.2 billion each year.

    “These are real costs, and schools have fixed budgets,” Greenberg said. “To the extent that they’re spending a lot more on teacher turnover costs, health care costs, substitute costs, they don’t have money to spend on other things, like curriculum and instruction.”

  • Kasich, Reportedly on Path to 2020 Bid, Says ‘We Need to Completely Redo Education’

    By Carolyn Phenicie | October 30, 2017


    John Kasich is likely to run for president again in 2020, according to a New York magazine profile of the Ohio governor.

    A moderate in an increasingly right-leaning Republican Party, Kasich says the country needs to be “pro-environment” and “pro-immigrant.”

    And, he told the magazine, “I think we need to completely redo education. Every piece of education now is behind the times and a hundred years old.”

    Unlike President Donald Trump, whose education positions during the campaign were limited to opposition to the Common Core and a light-on-details school choice proposal, Kasich, particularly given his time as governor, had more edu-policy chops.

    He backed the Common Core (though he pulled out of the PARCC testing consortium) and has supported charters and other choice measures. He’s also helped try to clean up the scandal-plagued Ohio charter school sector, particularly its online operators, and backed mayoral takeover of some failing districts.


    Ohio Fixed Its Scandal-Plagued Charter Schools, Right? Not So Fast

    Education might not be the best campaign issue for Kasich, though: During his time as governor, Ohio has dropped from No. 5 in 2010 to No. 22 in 2016 on Education Week’s annual national rankings, according to New York magazine. (Ohio advocates point to changes in Ed Week’s rankings and improvements in other states for Ohio’s large relative drop in the rankings, even as its final grade during that time changed just from a B- to a C.)

    Kasich, the last of Trump’s 2016 primary competitors to drop out of the race, could launch a primary challenge or run as an independent in the general election, according to the article. He has not yet officially said he’s running, but he hasn’t been shy about speaking out against Trump, whom he never endorsed in the general election.

    Kasich appeared at The 74’s New Hampshire Education Summit in 2015. He touted Ohio’s success with an early-intervention reading program, and said he favors local control of schools, higher teacher pay, and more vocational instruction and internships.

    And Kasich, who was raised Catholic but is now Anglican, tied improving education to serving God’s will.

    “You don’t have to think the way I do, but I believe the Lord watches what we do with our children. And the more we dedicate ourselves to having those children rise and to use their great brains to help heal this world and bring justice, the happier He is,” Kasich said.

  • The ‘A’ Word: John King — Why Equity Matters So Much to Me

    By John King | October 30, 2017

    Below is an excerpt from an interview with John King, president and CEO of The Education Trust, and previously secretary of education for President Barack Obama.

    The conversation is part of The ‘A’ Word series, produced in partnership with the Bush Institute to examine how “accountability” became a “dirty word,” and what can and should be done going forward to ensure accountability withstands the test of a bad reputation. The interviews were conducted over the telephone, transcribed, and edited for clarity and length. The same questions, or types of questions, were put to each participant to see what they thought independently and collectively about accountability. Their answers will take the reader into the inner workings of schools, the intricacies of the politics of education, and the ways in which campuses can better serve students. Click through the grid below to read other ‘A’ Word conversations.

    John King: Education equity means three things. One is that it means we are doing everything we can to ensure that education in America helps reduce inequality of opportunity. That means low-income students, students of color, and English learners have to be getting high-quality educational opportunities. They have to have the same ability to compete as their more affluent peers.

    Second, we need to consider that kids who have significant challenges in their life outside of school will need more support, more access to after-school and summer programs, and more assistance in navigating the transition between high school and college. They may be the first generation in their family to go to college. So equity means more than just getting the same. It means getting what they need to be able to take advantage of opportunity.

    The third piece for me, maybe the most personal, is that schools literally saved my life. I grew up in New York City and went to New York City public schools. In October of my fourth-grade year I was at PS 276 in Canarsie, and my mom passed away. I lived with my dad for the next four years. He was struggling with undiagnosed Alzheimer’s, so home was this place that was scary, and unpredictable, and unstable. I didn’t know what my dad would be like from one night to the next, and I didn’t know why.

    As he got more and more sick, I took on more and more responsibility at home to get food, pay the bills, and keep the household going. My father passed when I was 12, and my life could’ve gone in a lot of different directions. I could’ve very easily been dead, or I could be in prison today. The thing that made the difference was that I had great New York City public school teachers. They made school a place that was interesting, challenging, engaging, compelling, safe, and supportive.

    For me, the work on educational equity is about trying to make sure that every kid has the opportunity that I got to go to a great public school that will help them be the best they could be. Even after my dad passed, I moved around between family members and schools. It was always teachers who created an environment where I was able to make progress, even though lots of people would’ve looked at me and said, “African American, Latino, male student, family in crisis. What chance does he have?” I’m blessed that I had these teachers who just kept believing in me and seeing the hope and the possibilities.

  • New Mexico Backs Off Changes on Evolution, Climate Change in New State Science Standards

    By Laura Fay | October 26, 2017

    Photo National Center for Science Education

    Bowing to pressure from educators, scientists, and members of the public, New Mexico is adopting widely used state science standards — without changing how evolution and global warming are taught.

    Education Secretary-Designate Christopher Ruszkowski said Wednesday night that the state will use the Next Generation Science Standards, with the addition of six standards addressing New Mexico–specific accomplishments and history in science and technology. The New Mexico STEM-Ready Science Standards will take effect in July, and students will be tested on them starting in 2020, according to the Associated Press.

    The announcement came after more than 60 scientists from New Mexico’s Los Alamos National Laboratory publicly protested the proposed standards, which substituted the words “temperature fluctuations” for “global warming,” deleted the age of planet Earth, and removed “some of the discussion of evolution” from the Next Generation Science Standards, which are used by 18 states and Washington, D.C. Educators, scientists, and others also spoke out against the changes at a public hearing Oct. 16.


    61 Scientists Protest Changes to New Mexico Science Standards on Climate Change, Evolution

    At a legislative hearing Thursday, lawmakers and citizens giving testimony called the state-specific additions unnecessary, accused Ruszkowski and the department of developing the standards secretly, and criticized him for not appearing at either hearing.

    “New Mexicans and New Mexico is ready to move forward,” Ruszkowski told KOB. “Every day we spend talking about input is one less day we spend that we’re spending getting ready for implementation and talking about student outcomes. And we need to be focused on student outcomes, and in order for us to be laser-focused on student outcomes, moving forward, we need higher and better standards. This gets us there.”

  • Brandeis Center Leader and Bush-Era Alum Nominated as Ed Dept Civil Rights Head

    By Carolyn Phenicie | October 26, 2017

    Kenneth L. Marcus, a veteran of federal civil rights efforts, will be nominated as assistant secretary of civil rights for the Education Department, the White House announced Thursday morning.

    The move will be something of a return to the office for Marcus, who was “delegated the authority” of assistant secretary for civil rights in 2003 and 2004, meaning he served in the post but wasn’t formally nominated for Senate confirmation.

    Marcus currently leads the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, a group he founded in 2011 “to combat the resurgence of anti-Semitism in American higher education,” according to the group’s website.

    While free speech issues on campus have become increasingly contentious, Title IX, particularly as it applies to how schools investigate allegations of sexual assault, has been perhaps the foremost civil rights issue at the Education Department since the start of the Trump administration.

    Education Secretary Betsy DeVos rescinded Obama-era regulations that lowered the evidentiary standard required to prove allegations of sexual assault, which she said were unfair to the accused. Schools may select their own evidentiary standard while the department writes new rules.

    During his helm at the Office for Civil Rights, Marcus issued a letter reminding schools that, among other requirements, they must have a Title IX coordinator. Feminist groups had urged the move.

    Sen. Patty Murray, the ranking Democrat on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that will consider Marcus’s nomination, said she was glad DeVos didn’t nominate Candice Jackson, currently the acting assistant secretary for civil rights. Jackson became a lightning rod for criticism after she seemed to dismiss most complaints of sexual assault on college campuses.

    “I look forward to hearing more from Mr. Marcus and determining whether he will commit to protecting the civil rights and safety of all students and maintaining the mission of the Office for Civil Rights to ‘ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation through vigorous enforcement of civil rights,’ ” Murray said in a release.

    Marcus also previously served as staff director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and as assistant secretary of Housing and Urban Development for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.

    After a slow start in nominating top officials to the Education Department that left the agency with the highest vacancy rate among Cabinet-level departments, Marcus is the fourth department nominee announced in the past month.

  • End of an Era: After 17 Years on Front Lines of School Choice Battles, BAEO Calls It Quits

    By Laura Fay | October 25, 2017

    The Black Alliance for Educational Options, a nonprofit that advocates for school choice for African-American students and families, announced that it will cease operations at the end of this year.

    Founded in 2000 by Howard Fuller, a civil rights activist, longtime education reformer, and Marquette University professor, and other black community leaders, the organization has pushed for school choice legislation and access to high-quality schools for African-American students.


    Bradford, Fuller & Stewart: Liberating Black Kids From Broken Schools — By Any Means Necessary

    In recent years, the Black Alliance for Educational Options has struggled to stay relevant and made efforts to reinvent itself, Chalkbeat reported. The organization has spun off many of its chapters into independent entities or into other existing organizations.

    “It seems like the right time” to end the organization, Director of Communications Troy Prestwood told The 74 Wednesday. The education reform landscape has changed since the organization began, with more groups now speaking out for parental choice and more people of color in leadership positions in the education reform movement. Black Alliance for Educational Options played a role in that shift, he said.

    “It’s not where we want it to be 100 percent, we know there’s still much more work to do,” Prestwood said. “But did we have a role in helping to start the conversation, and to help ensure that more black people were being noticed, and more people of color were being noticed, by some of the larger organizations or some of the newer organizations that are fighting for the same parents and children that we are? Yes.”

    Some education activists praised the alliance for its work and lamented its end on Twitter.

    Some noted that “the current political climate” made it a particularly difficult moment for the black-led alliance to bow out of the school reform movement. The director of digital media at the Collaborative for Student Success called the timing “crappy.”

    President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos have been staunch supporters of school choice, but other aspects of their political agenda have alienated liberals and progressives, such as Democrats for Education Reform. Meanwhile, the NAACP has become more aggressive in its opposition to charter schools, a school choice option strongly backed by many African-American parents.

  • Children From Low-Income, Less Educated Families Spend Nearly Twice as Much Time on Screens

    By Kevin Mahnken | October 24, 2017

    Children from lower-income families spend an average of three and a half hours each day on screen media, according to a nationwide survey conducted by the nonprofit Common Sense Media. That amount is 40 percent longer than middle-income children (two hours and 25 minutes) and almost double the screen time spent by affluent children (one hour and 50 minutes).

    And children whose parents are less educated spend far more time on screens (two hours and 50 minutes) than children whose parents who have graduated from college (one and 37 minutes).

    The poll, which surveyed 1,400 parents of children ages 8 or younger, is the third administered by the group over the first decade of mobile technology. Taken with its first two iterations, published in 2011 and 2013, it paints a picture of increasing penetration of smartphones and tablets into American life, along with hardening anxieties about the effects of screen media consumption by young children. Strong majorities of parents from all demographic groups expressed concerns about their kids spending too much time in front of screens and the violence, sexual content, and advertising they might encounter.

    Perhaps the study’s most critical finding is the sheer number of kids exposed to mobile technology in their early years. Just six years ago, 41 percent of children under the age of 8 lived in a house with a mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet; today, that figure is 98 percent. While 8 percent of households owned a tablet in 2011, 78 percent do so now. In fact, 42 percent of young children possess their very own tablets. Less than 1 percent could say that in the poll’s first year.

    (Graphic credit: Common Sense Media)

    Much of this change can be explained as a product of America’s rapidly closing digital divide. While there has been little growth since 2013 in the proportions of higher-income families — defined as those earning more than $75,000 annually — that own a computer (from 90 percent to 97 percent) or a mobile device (from 91 percent to 99 percent), families making less than $30,000 have surged in both categories. Although the percentage of lower-income families with access to high-speed internet still lags significantly behind their more affluent counterparts, it has increased by almost half over the past four years alone.

    (Graphic credit: Common Sense Media)

    But although those devices have proliferated widely over the past few years, most parents are still in the dark about experts’ recommendations on how to use them. The American Academy of Pediatrics has long issued guidelines on responsible media consumption for kids, but just 1 in 5 parents say they know about them. High-income parents and those with college degrees are about 50 percent more likely to be aware of the AAP advice than lower-income and less educated parents.

    That may be why almost half of all children 8 or under watch TV or play video games just before bed, in spite of the fact that the AAP expressly suggests that they refrain from doing so.

    Overall, even though the average American child spends nearly two hours and 20 minutes each day interacting with screen media, just 20 percent of parents say that they’ve had a discussion with their pediatrician on media usage.

    The survey is a snapshot of a moment when parents have increasingly begun to fret over screen time. Researchers have pointed to the number of hours teenagers particularly spend on their phones and laptops as a likely factor in the skyrocketing number of adolescents complaining of overwhelming stress and anxiety. Even as those worries build, many school districts have rushed to equip under-resourced students with the laptops and mobile devices that will allow them to complete homework assignments online.


    Sprint Expands Program Giving Low-Income Kids Phones, Tablets to Close Homework Gap

    “I think many parents are worried about their teens driving, and going out with their friends and drinking,” psychologist Jean Twenge said in a recent interview with NPR. “Yet parents are often not worrying about their teen who stays at home but is on their phone all the time. But they should be worried about that.”

  • Share Your School Choice Story in $15,000 Video Contest

    By Laura Fay | October 24, 2017

    Families are being invited to share their experiences with school choice — and win cash prizes — in a nationwide video contest launching this week.

    Sponsored by the Foundation for Excellence in Education and other national nonprofits, the competition is seeking two-minute videos featuring students, parents, or other family members talking about how educational choices are making a difference in their lives.

    The goal of the Choices in Education contest is to amplify the voices of students and families, who are “the real experts on choice,” said ExcelinEd CEO Patricia Levesque. “People just really don’t know … what kind of choice is out there in education,” she said, adding that the videos will be a tool for educating the public about how choice helps individual children and families.

    Videos may be submitted from Oct. 25 through Dec. 1. After an initial vetting, ExcelinEd will share the videos online so viewers can vote for their favorite. Judges from participating organizations will also help choose the winners. ExcelinEd will promote the videos on social media and work with some contestants to share their stories with their communities.

    Topics for submissions are “How educational choice made a difference in my life” and “Why I need access to educational choice options.” Videos can be about any kind of school choice, including open-enrollment district schools, charter schools, magnet programs, virtual/blended programs, private schools, and homeschooling.

    Three grand prize winners will earn $15,000, three runners-up will receive $5,000, and two people’s choice winners will get $5,000 each. The awards will be announced during National School Choice Week in January.

    Participating organizations include AFC, Agudath Israel, Classical Conversations, DFER, CER, EdChoice, Blended and Online Learning, National Alliance for Public Charters, School Choice Week, and State Policy Network. The project is supported with funding from the Walton Family Foundation.

    Disclosure: The Walton Family Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, Triad Foundation, Doris & Donald Fisher Fund, William E. Simon Foundation, and Bloomberg Philanthropies have provided funding to both the Excellence in Education Foundation and The 74.

  • Teen Birth Rate Plummets to Record Low as Trump Cuts Funding for Pregnancy Prevention

    By Kevin Mahnken | October 23, 2017

    The birth rate for American teenagers dropped to 20.3 births per 1,000 girls ages 15–19 in 2016, according to the latest fertility data released by the National Center for Health Statistics. That number represents a 9 percent decline from 2015 and a 67 percent decline from the modern peak in 1991. All told, it is the lowest teen birth rate since 1940.

    The welcome news comes as the Trump administration has cut $213.6 million in federal grants to teen pregnancy prevention programs. The five-year grants, instituted during the Obama administration and renewed two years ago, fund 81 organizations around the country. Although the second round of awards was scheduled to run through 2020, a letter from the Department of Health and Human Services this summer notified the organizations that federal revenue would instead be cut off in June 2018.

    It’s difficult to determine whether the drop in teen parenthood has been spearheaded by federally funded programs, or if it’s simply riding a 25-year downward trend. Many have credited the wider use of contraceptives — especially highly effective measures such as birth control pills and intrauterine devices — with much of the decline. A reduction in childhood lead exposure, which can lead to impairment of of judgment and impulse control, has also been posited as a major factor.

    But public health experts also argue that public support for sex education and pregnancy prevention among teens, particularly the Obama-era Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, has played a key role as well.

    “These programs provide critical, life-changing education to teens about sexual health and avoiding unplanned pregnancies,” Dr. Lisa Hollier, president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said in an interview with Medscape.

    Created in 2010, the TPPP estimates that its programs reached 1.2 million adolescents in 39 states by fiscal year 2014, 74 percent of them age 14 or younger. Organizations were selected for funding based on the comprehensiveness of their methods, including education on contraceptive use to prevent pregnancy and the transmission of STDs. Some programs are abstinence-based, though most advocate for safe-sex measures like condoms.

    Although HHS commissioned an efficacy review of the programs from Mathematica Policy Research, that research was still underway when funding was eliminated. Preliminary evaluations conducted by the department in the first five years of the initiative indicated that some TPPP-financed curricula were correlated with positive impacts on awareness of pregnancy and risk of sexually transmitted diseases, as well as attitudes toward safe sex.

    Pregnancy poses an enormous impediment to student mothers continuing their education. According to the National Council of State Legislatures, 30 percent of teenage girls who drop out of high school blame pregnancy and the demands of parenthood. Just 40 percent of teen mothers graduate high school, and less than 2 percent graduate college by the age of 30. In fact, if the last generation’s plummeting teen birth rates were plotted on a graph, they would intersect ever-ascending high school graduation rates, which have recently climbed to unprecedented highs.

    The fate of the organizations funded by the TPPP is still up in the air. Some have always planned on securing local and state support to continue operations. But at least one, Denver-based Colorado Youth Matter, has announced its 2018 closure after losing 75 percent of its total funding.

    “We talk about [sex and pregnancy] in a very medically accurate way, but it’s also relationship-based,” the group’s director told CBS Denver. “We talk about consent, asking for consent, giving consent, those kind of things to create a healthy relationship. We also talk to teachers about how to answer difficult questions. Whether it’s something a student has read on the internet or something that is very values-based, like when is it the right time to have sex.”

  • Fate of Dreamers Shouldn’t Become ‘Political Football’: Advocates Urge DACA Protections Without Strings

    By Carolyn Phenicie | October 23, 2017

    Congress should quickly pass a law to protect DACA recipients, leaders from across the education advocacy spectrum said on a press call Monday.

    “People like President Trump and others … are making [DACA recipients] into a political football for a political cause that seems to have nothing more than just exploiting fear and scapegoating people. It’s just dead wrong,” Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said on the call.

    The Trump administration, which in September ended the Obama-era protections for some 800,000 young people brought to the country illegally as children, laid out a series of “principles” lawmakers should follow in crafting a legislative fix. They included a crackdown on unaccompanied minors coming to the U.S.

    The bill Congress passes should be “clean” — that is, not include funding for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border or other immigration restrictions — said Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association. She and others on the call urged Congress to pass the Dream Act of 2017, a bipartisan bill that would make lawful recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program permanent residents of the U.S.

    “Every time they try and throw something in there, you lose support on one side or the other… Anything that people start lobbing in at this point is only going to hurt the chances,” she said.

    Current DACA recipients can apply to extend their protections through early March. Garcia urged Congress to act quickly ahead of what she called an “artificial deadline.”

    Maria Rocha, a third-grade teacher at KIPP San Antonio and a DACA recipient, started crying when telling her story.

    She came to Texas with her parents when she was 3. Because she’s undocumented, she and her family had to pay out of pocket for her college degree, which took her seven years to complete.

    “Our lives are being played with,” she said.

    Rocha is one of an estimated 20,000 DACA recipients who are K-12 teachers. The current uncertainty, she said, is also affecting their students. It shouldn’t be the norm for students to “believe that teachers just leave,” she said.


    At Risk Under Decision to Repeal DACA: 20,000 K-12 Teachers — and the Schools Where They Are Teaching

    The issue has united education groups who have previously been at odds over other issues, and education secretaries of both parties have urged Congress to step in and protect the Dreamers.

    The Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, organized the call, which also included former Obama education secretary John King and Tony Evers, Wisconsin superintendent of public instruction, who is running for governor against Republican incumbent Scott Walker.

    Sen. Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, compared a DACA fix to the Every Student Succeeds Act, widely hailed as a bipartisan success.

    “That is how things should work in Congress. When we see something broken, we work together to fix it. Unfortunately for the hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who came here as children, this Republican Congress is falling very short,” she said.

  • As Tech Talent Moves West in High-Tech Brain Drain, One Michigan City Works to Keep Its Best and Brightest Close to Home

    By Laura Fay | October 23, 2017


    Publisher Horace Greeley’s old advice — “Go West” — is being taken to heart by many of America’s best and brightest, causing a brain drain that is devastating the country’s older, industrial cities, Bloomberg reports.

    Two of the most attractive destinations for this young, highly educated workforce are Boulder and Fort Collins, Colorado, “old cow and mining towns morph[ed] into technology hubs” to draw advanced degree holders and foster business development, according to Bloomberg.

    But the city hardest hit by shuttered businesses and an exodus of top STEM talent — Muskegon, Michigan — is fighting back with incentives of its own to get them to stay.


    Located on the Lake Michigan shore, the city provides two years of free tuition at Muskegon Community College or Baker College of Muskegon to students at 16 public, private, and charter high schools who have grade-point averages of 3.5 or higher. The initiative is loosely based on Kalamazoo Promise, which provides graduates of city schools with tuition at public colleges and universities in the state through anonymous donations. The program has been credited with increasing public school enrollment and stabilizing neighborhoods.

    Muskegon Area Promise, begun in 2015, combines state funds with private contributions from local companies and donors. Currently, 218 students are using the scholarships, which include an annual stipend for books and other expenses, said Megan Byard-Karaba, college access specialist at Muskegon Area Intermediate School District.

    The number of students attending the local colleges has “increased dramatically” with the scholarships, she said, and the program has strengthened the culture of achievement in the eligible high schools.

    In the younger grades, teachers start talking to students as early as kindergarten about keeping their grades up and going to college. “[Students] see two free years of college as a carrot,” Byard-Karaba said.

    Ultimately, the aim of the program is to make the city more attractive for families and to educate residents about the jobs that are already available there — including highly skilled positions in the aerospace manufacturing industry that many people don’t know exist.

    Encouraging students to stay in the area to continue their education, said Cindy Larsen, president of the Muskegon Lakeshore Chamber of Commerce, can expose them to new opportunities and demonstrate the value of remaining in their hometown.

    “The longer we keep them here, the deeper their roots” in Muskegon, Larsen added.

  • Want to Run for Your Local School Board? New Database Makes It Easy

    By Laura Fay | October 23, 2017

    Learning how to run for a seat on your local school board just got simpler.

    A complete database of the more than 80,000 elective school board positions across 13,090 districts in all 50 states is now accessible online at, so anyone can search by state or address to find out when school board seats will be up for election, who is eligible to run, and where and when to file paperwork to launch a campaign.

    The project is sponsored by NationBuilder, a company that offers software and website development to candidates running for office, as well as free files containing voter information. NationBuilder also funds Run for Office, a “free service that provides all the tools you need to launch a successful campaign whether you are a seasoned veteran or first-time campaigner,” according to its website.

    Run for Office began compiling information about elective offices a few years ago, and the staff decided in March to prioritize school boards after noticing that many visitors to the site wanted information about those positions and other city-level offices, said Vice President Emily Schwartz. In addition, school boards in particular have “enormous impact on people’s lives,” she said.

    The project’s goal — and the goal of NationBuilder — is to “lower the barrier to leadership” by making election information accessible to anyone, Schwartz said.

    “It’s just really exciting, and I think the more we open up these kind of opaque institutions, the more we’re going to see exciting new leadership step up and really change the community for the better,” she said.

    Run for Office also presents a business opportunity for NationBuilder, as the website contains links encouraging visitors to use the company’s software for their campaigns.

    To collect this information and make it available, NationBuilder partnered with volunteers around the country and had help from BallotReady, a nonprofit that produces an online guide to elections and candidates. Volunteers interested in helping Run for Office update its school board data as changes occur and add information for other offices to the database can sign up online.

    The ultimate goal is a searchable database of all elective offices in the United States.

    The school board database is also available on the XQ Institute website; XQ is a project of the Emerson Collective that advocates for reimagining America’s high schools. XQ, which uses NationBuilder’s software, encouraged viewers to consider running for their local school boards during a national telethon in September.

  • When Teachers Can’t Afford to Live in Their District: New Analysis Shows Skyrocketing Housing Costs Clashing With Stagnant Salaries

    By Laura Fay | October 20, 2017

    Photo National Council on Teacher Quality

    Updated: Oct. 23

    Teachers across the country are being priced out of local housing markets by low pay, according to a new analysis of 124 of America’s largest districts by the National Council on Teacher Quality.

    Three key findings:

    • In 80 percent of the districts analyzed, a teacher with a master’s degree and five years of experience cannot comfortably afford a mortgage.

    Even in districts where down payments are affordable, most teachers would have to devote more than 30 percent of their income to mortgage payments. In some places, monthly payments may be as high as 50 percent or more of teachers’ incomes, even after the increases from an advanced degree and five years of experience.

    • More than a quarter of new teachers cannot afford to rent one-bedroom apartments where they work.

    For 28 percent of first-year teachers, the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment in their district is more than 30 percent of their salary. In the 10 most expensive districts, teachers in their third year would still have to pay more than 30 percent of their income in rent for a one-bedroom.

    In seven districts, a teacher with five years of experience and a master’s degree cannot comfortably afford a one-bedroom apartment. Five of those districts are in the Northeast and West: New York City; Washington, D.C.; Oakland, California; Portland, Oregon; and San Francisco. The other two are Hawaii and Nashville.

    • Teachers must save for an average of 10 years to make a reasonable down payment on a house, though the time varies wildly from district to district.

    Teachers in Detroit can save for a home the fastest, in 2.4 years. In 11 districts, teachers can make a 20 percent down payment within five years if they save 10 percent of their salary annually. Almost all the districts studied in the Midwest and the South pay teachers enough to save for a down payment within 10 years.

    The West and Northeast are least affordable for buying a home on a teacher’s salary. The worst is San Francisco, where it would take a single teacher nearly 30 years to save for a down payment. Even teacher couples have a hard time there: Two teachers with five years’ experience and master’s degrees “cannot comfortably afford” a mortgage and monthly homeowner costs in San Francisco, according to the analysis.

    Photo: National Council on Teacher Quality

    Some districts have begun working to make housing affordable for educators. In San Francisco, city and school officials have committed land and $44 million for teacher housing complexes, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Indianapolis has similar plans, according to Chalkbeat. Generally, district leaders and other officials hope stable, reasonably priced housing options will attract talented teachers and reduce turnover.

    The analysis used teacher pay from the National Center for Teacher Quality’s Teacher Contract Database, median rent prices from Zillow, and median home prices from the American Community Survey.


    Eleven Things You Might Not Know About Teacher Retention and Turnover — but Should

  • Gates Foundation Shifts Education Focus to Network Schools, Innovation, and Special Education Charters

    By Kate Stringer | October 19, 2017

    Of the $1.7 billion that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged to public education over the next five years, the majority will go toward supporting innovations within schools that have joined together in collaborative networks.

    Philanthropist Bill Gates made the announcement in Cleveland Thursday afternoon during his keynote speech at the Council of the Great City Schools’ 61st annual conference.

    Gates hopes that the flexibility network schools have to drive “durable” and “impactful” change will make them incubators for best practices other schools can eventually adopt.

    When it comes to education, “I don’t think any of us are satisfied,” Gates said to the audience. “Our role is to be a catalyst of good ideas.”

    This latest investment marks a slight shift in the foundation’s direction. In the past, it has invested in small high schools, teacher evaluations tied to student test scores, and support for the Common Core standards, but those investments weren’t driving the scale of change hoped for, Gates said.

    In addition to cultivating data-driven, evidence-based innovations in network schools, the foundation will support curriculum development, professional development, and charter schools, especially in their work serving special education students.

    Gates listed many examples from across the U.S. of the types of innovation the foundation will seek to identify and support: Fresno’s work boosting the number of students applying for college by using data to create college-option packages for high schoolers who meet college requirements; Summit Public Schools’ work to identify best teaching practices among its staff to boost achievement for English language learners; LIFT Tennessee’s collaboration of superintendents to share innovation across the state; and Chicago’s Network for College Success, which looks to boost college-attendance rates with a specific focus on ninth-grade students.

    “Big bets” in innovation will receive 25 percent of funding, Gates said. He cited education research as one of the most underfunded of any subject area. Advancements like artificial intelligence should be expanded throughout a school day to make learning fun, Gates said. Math will also be an area of focus, Gates added, as the foundation searches for evidence-based solutions for teaching and boosting student achievement.

    Fifteen percent of the foundation’s funding will go toward expanding charter schools nationwide and specifically in Washington state, where 10 charter schools operate amid a years-long lawsuit threatening their constitutionality. The foundation also wants to support how charter schools serve special needs students.

    As co-founder of Microsoft, Gates is worth an estimated $89.8 billion, a fortune he and his wife, Melinda Gates, have used to spur change around the globe in health care and education. Created in 2000, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation headquarters is in Washington state.

    The full video of Gates’s remarks to the Council of Great City Schools, a group of 68 of the country’s largest urban school districts, will eventually be available for viewing on the 90.3 WCPN ideastream Facebook page.

    Disclosure: The 74 receives funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

  • Florida Releases New Numbers Showing 58,000 Puerto Ricans Have Already Arrived Since Hurricane Maria, 2,000 of Them Students

    By Mark Keierleber | October 19, 2017

    Photo Getty Images

    Updated: Oct. 23

    More than 58,000 Puerto Ricans have fled to Florida since Hurricane Maria devastated the island last month, according to new figures released by Gov. Rick Scott’s office, which tallied the influx of people through the airports in Miami and Orlando and the Port Everglades seaport in Broward County. Florida schools have also enrolled more than 2,000 new students from storm-struck Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

    Scott declared a state of emergency in Florida on Oct. 2 in response to the hurricane’s impact on the U.S. territories, and disaster relief centers were opened at the Orlando International Airport, Miami International Airport, and the Port of Miami to provide assistance to evacuees fleeing to the state. Those centers have provided assistance to more than 10,000 people, according to state figures.

    As The 74 reported earlier this month, Orange County Public Schools, the district located in Orlando, is among local agencies offering services in the airport to new arrivals. School officials are on site to help displaced families enroll their children in school, and to recruit displaced educators.

    Earlier this week, The 74 published new figures revealing that nearly 700 displaced students have already enrolled in Orlando schools in the four weeks since Maria slammed Puerto Rico:

    Last week the House of Representatives approved a $36.5 billion emergency relief package to fund disaster recovery efforts in Puerto Rico and on the U.S. mainland. Though that package does not include money for schools, Florida education leaders and lawmakers say districts will need additional state and federal money to best serve displaced children.

    “We want to make sure that we are able to accommodate the new students without impacting the education of the existing students,” Rep. Stephanie Murphy, a Democrat who represents part of Orlando in Congress, told The 74. In a letter to leadership on the House Appropriations Committee, Murphy’s office called for emergency funds to school districts accepting displaced students: “I think this federal funding will help the local school systems and universities accommodate for these American citizens who are going to be new to the mainland.”

    The influx of Puerto Rican families is unlikely to slow anytime soon; the island still lacks basic utilities like electricity and running water, and Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said he hopes to restore power to 95 percent of the energy grid by mid-December.

    Puerto Rico Education Secretary Julia Keleher had set an “ambitious target” to reopen a majority of the island’s 1,113 schools by Monday, but as I reported yesterday, that goal has been pushed back to Oct. 30 at the earliest.

    Nearly 200 schools on the island are currently being used as community centers, and an additional 99 buildings are being used as shelters for displaced families.

  • Sprint Expands Program Giving Low-Income Kids Phones, Tablets to Close Homework Gap

    By Kevin Mahnken | October 18, 2017

    Telecommunications goliath Sprint has begun a national expansion of its 1Million Project, a campaign to provide internet access and electronic devices to disadvantaged high schoolers. Through its philanthropic arm, the Sprint Foundation, the company hopes to reach a million students by 2021.

    Announced last year, the project initially developed as a pilot in 10 major cities and high schools across the country, including Providence, Rhode Island, and Paterson, New Jersey. Thousands of low-income students have already been given hotspots to provide broadband access at home, as well as a smartphone or tablet. Each device comes equipped with 3 gigabytes of data, as well as unlimited 2G connectivity.

    To coincide with the beginning of the 2017–18 school year, the initiative is now being rolled out in 118 school districts across the country. Some 300 pupils at New Jersey’s New Brunswick High School were connected in September, along with around 500 in Richmond County, Georgia, earlier this month.

    The 1Million Project aims to close the so-called homework gap, the huge number of American families with school-age children that lack high-speed internet at home. According to the Pew Research Center, the number of unconnected households could number as many as 5 million out of 29 million nationwide. Those families are disproportionately under-resourced, representing about one-third of all families with incomes under $50,000 and children between the ages of 6 and 17.

    By contrast, home internet use is almost universal among the more affluent. Of Americans with six-figure incomes, at least 94 percent use a smartphone, a laptop, or home broadband, and 74 percent use a tablet. Some 66 percent have access to all those digital assets, while just 17 percent of Americans with incomes under $30,000 can say the same.

    According to a 2015 report from the Council of Economic Advisers, home internet use is much sparser among older Americans of all incomes. But a 90-year-old from the highest income bracket is much more likely to use the internet than a 15-year-old from the lowest.

    That’s particularly troubling when academic work is increasingly being assigned and completed on the internet. A 2009 report from the Federal Communications Commission’s Broadband Task Force revealed that over two-thirds of teachers give homework that requires internet access to complete. Libraries and after-school programs can step into the breach, but the vast majority of students do homework … well, at home. Many students are left asking to borrow a classmate’s computer or device just to keep up.

    “It’s stressful and embarrassing to keep asking my friend,” one student told The New York Times. “I don’t want to keep bothering her. But I also don’t want my teachers to think I’m making excuses.”

  • WATCH LIVE: Bill Gates to Discuss Education Equity During Council of the Great City Schools Conference

    By Kate Stringer | October 18, 2017

    On Thursday, philanthropist Bill Gates will be in Cleveland to give the keynote speech at the Council of the Great City Schools’ 61st annual conference.

    The livestream can be viewed at the Council’s website at 12:50 p.m. Eastern Time.

    The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced that Gates will discuss “how our K-12 education work continues to ensure that all students have the knowledge, skills, and agency to succeed in college and beyond.”

    CNN commentator Van Jones and actress Rosario Dawson will also speak at the conference, which will be attended by 1,000 superintendents, school board members, and education administrators.

    The Council is made up of 68 of the largest urban school districts, with the goal of advocating for inner-city students.

    The conference will also include a national town hall meeting Friday, where school leaders, parents, and students will discuss equity in education.

    The conversation can be followed on Twitter with the hashtag #cgcs17.

    Disclosure: The 74 receives funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

  • A Month After Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico Misses ‘Ambitious Target’ for Reopening Schools

    By Mark Keierleber | October 18, 2017

    A month after Hurricane Maria devastated much of Puerto Rico, public schools on the island are slowly beginning to reopen — though classes haven’t resumed. Instead, the facilities are being used as community centers and shelters.

    Puerto Rico’s education department had initially set a goal of having a majority of schools up and running by Monday, but that plan has now been scrapped.

    In a column published Tuesday in The Hill, Puerto Rico’s education secretary, Julia Keleher, called a Monday reopening an “ambitious target,” noting that 167 schools had reopened so far. But many of the island’s 1,113 schools, which served roughly 350,000 students before the storm hit, were damaged beyond repair. Flocks of Puerto Rican children and educators have fled in recent weeks to the U.S. mainland.

    “Despite scarce water and electricity, Puerto Rican students have been eager to get back to learning,” Keleher wrote.

    By Wednesday, however, she acknowledged that her ambitious target was not attainable, the Associated Press reported, and the official start date for Puerto Rico’s schools was pushed back to Oct. 30 at the earliest.

    On Wednesday, the number of schools opened as community centers was bumped up to 190, and an additional 99 buildings were being used as shelters for families displaced by the storm. For school buildings to reopen, they must be deemed structurally sound and have running water. Working electricity isn’t required.

    After more than a month of missed school days following Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the academic calendar has been extended from May 31 to July 15, and additional changes, including a lengthened school day, are under consideration.

    “We must seize this opportunity to re-envision the future for Puerto Rico’s youth,” Keleher wrote in The Hill. “I am determined to see how we can not only get Puerto Rican children back on track, but also open up new opportunities for them along the way. I am committed to see how our educational system can build back better so that we make smart investments in the next generation.”

  • Alexander and Murray, Education Dealmakers, Reach Health Care Compromise, Report Says

    By Carolyn Phenicie | October 17, 2017

    The leaders of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee have once again, in the parlance of the chairman, “gotten a result.”

    Sen. Lamar Alexander, the HELP Committee chairman, and ranking Democrat, Sen. Patty Murray, reached a deal to continue paying subsidies that offset costs for low-income people who obtain insurance through exchanges, while providing for more flexibility for states, The Washington Post and other news outlets reported.

    President Trump last week said he’d end the payments, declared Obamacare “finished,” “gone” earlier this week, then seemed to support the Alexander-Murray compromise, followed by the “White House almost immediately … pushing back against the idea Trump had endorsed the deal,” according to NBC News.

    Education watchers will know this isn’t the first big Alexander-Murray deal: The two managed to balance seemingly competing claims of state autonomy and civil rights protections to craft what became the Every Student Succeeds Act.


    Alexander & Murray to the Rescue: Will Obama’s Bipartisan Dream Team on Education Save Health Care for Trump?

    Their relationship seemed to fray earlier this year on education in particular, as they battled over implementation of ESSA and revocation of Obama-era accountability rules and the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as education secretary.

    Senate Republican leadership, which has tried and failed several times this year to repeal and replace Obamacare, didn’t immediately embrace the health care deal, the Post reported.

  • Race, Gender & Teaching: The Same Indiana Recruitment Program That Failed to Attract Minority Teachers Also Skewed 85% Female

    By Kevin Mahnken | October 17, 2017

    Photo Consortium for Policy Research in Education

    An Indiana program designed to recruit talented students to become teachers has failed to attract male and minority candidates in its first round, according to the state’s Commission for Higher Education. Observers fear that the $10 million grant scheme will do little to curb the profession’s largely white and female bent.

    In its inaugural year, the Next Generation Hoosier Educator Scholarships dispensed $1.5 million in grants for high-performing students to attend public universities in exchange for agreeing to teach in Indiana public schools for five years after graduation. The four-year, $30,000-per-student awards almost cover the cost of in-state tuition at Indiana’s public universities.

    Although the program directed outreach toward men and people of color, those demographics made up just 15.5 percent (31 of 200 total) and 5.5 percent (11 of 200) of recipients. Those numbers even trail the nationwide averages for male and nonwhite teachers.

    Recent reports have shown that America’s teachers are disproportionately white compared to their students, particularly in urban areas where many minority communities are clustered. Additionally, research suggests that minority students perform better academically and are suspended at lower rates when exposed to at least one educator of their own ethnicity. The proportion of Hispanic students, growing at startling rates, is roughly three times as large as the share of Hispanic teachers.


    Where Are the Hispanic Teachers? While Hiring’s Exploded in Past 25 Years, There Are Still 3 Times as Many Hispanic Students as Instructors

    But experts say that male instructors are also exceptionally underrepresented in classrooms. Women occupy 73 percent of education, library, and training jobs overall, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’s Current Population Survey. They hold 78.5 percent of elementary teaching jobs and an astonishing 97.5 percent of preschool and kindergarten positions. Only in high school do men begin to approach parity, accounting for 39.5 percent of all teaching jobs at that level.

    That disparity has grown more extreme in recent decades, according to education researcher Richard Ingersoll. In a 2014 study for the Consortium for Policy Research in Education that measured changes to the teaching workforce over a 30-year span, he found that teachers became 15 percent more female between 1980 and 2012. While women made up two-thirds of all teachers at the dawn of the Reagan era, they accounted for more than three-quarters of the profession three decades later.

    (Photo: Consortium for Policy Research in Education)

    “Given the importance of teachers as role models, and even as surrogate parents for some students, certainly some will see this trend as a problem and a policy concern,” Ingersoll wrote.

    The increasing predominance of women in the field, including a growing share of principal positions, contributes to a negative cycle in which men are dissuaded from earning teaching degrees because of a “pink collar” professional stigma. In turn, since female-saturated professions often offer lower wages, the absence of men may well lead to a devaluing of educators and their work.

    “Women went into it without other options, and it was a low-status profession that was associated with women, and the fact that it’s now dominated by women inhibits the status from increasing,” Columbia Teachers College President Susan Fuhrman told The New York Times in 2014.

    With recognition of the problem spreading, initiatives have been created to address the dearth of male teachers — and particularly male teachers of color, who are especially underrepresented. Though the Next Generation Hoosier Educator Scholarships program fell short in its initial bid to diversify the state’s teaching ranks, it could take an example from the state’s more established William A. Crawford Minority Teaching Scholarship. The Call Me MISTER program, launched as a collaboration between three historically black colleges in South Carolina, has demonstrated success persuading black male high school students to consider careers as teachers. And individual districts are thinking more seriously about devising mentorships and other strategies to attract and retain male instructors.

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