March 2018
  • Despite Focus on School Shootings, Classroom Violence is on the Decline — and 5 Other Key Facts from a New Federal Report on School Safety

    By Mark Keierleber | March 29, 2018

    Amid a revived, heated debate over gun violence in America’s K-12 schools — and a day after Education Secretary Betsy DeVos convened a school safety commission for the first time — a new federal report released Thursday shows classrooms are actually becoming safer.

    The new school crime and safety report, released annually by the National Center for Education Statistics and the Bureau of Justice Statistics, comes six weeks after a gunman killed 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Florida. As student homicides and suicides at schools have remained consistently low over the last two decades, the new data shows a decline in school weapons possessions and crimes reported on campus. And while districts have dramatically scaled up security measures — including a 400 percent increase in campus surveillance cameras — the latest report indicates students feel safer at school.

    The report relies on the most recent school violence and safety data, which is from 2015, and does not necessarily reflect trends over the last three years. School crime and violence comes with a range of negative outcomes for student victims, including increased truancy and poor academic performance. School crime victims also more likely to drop out of school.

    “While there are positive trends in the annual report on crime and school safety, we know — and have tragically been reminded in recent weeks — that there is much more we must do to keep our nation’s students and teachers safe at school,” DeVos said in a statement. “That is why the Federal Commission on School Safety is committed to working quickly to find common-sense solutions that can be implemented right away to improve school safety and ensure all of our nation’s children can learn in a safe and nurturing environment.”

    From a rise in school security staff and an improved perception of student safety, here are 6 key takeaways from the new federal report:

    Schools are becoming safer

    During the 2015-16 school year, just 3 percent of students ages 12-18 reported being the nonfatal victim of a crime at school in the last six months. That’s a sizable decrease from 10 percent of students in 1995.

    Source: National Center for Education Statistics

    Meanwhile, fewer high school students were reportedly in physical fights, both on and off campus. In 1993, 16 percent of students reported being in a physical fight over the course of a year. By 2015, that percentage dropped to 8 percent.

    During the 2015-16 school year, 79 percent of public schools recorded at least one campus crime, including violence and theft — a rate of 28 crimes per 1,000 students, lower than all previous survey years since the 1999-2000 school year.

    In 2015, 4 percent of high school students reported carrying a weapon on school property during the last 30 days. That’s a sizable decrease from 1993, when 12 percent of students reported bringing a weapon to school.

    Given those statistics, it’s probably not surprising that students also report feeling safer at school. In 2015, 3 percent of students said they were afraid of being attacked or harmed at school, compared to 12 percent of students who said the same in 1995.

    School-related homicides and suicides remain small

    Despite heightened attention on mass shootings at schools, teen deaths at school are actually quite rare. Over the last two decades, less than 3 percent of youth homicides, and less than 1 percent of youth suicides, occurred at school.

    Source: National Center for Education Statistics

    More teachers reportedly attacked by students

    In a contrast to student victims, the latest data indicate an uptick in student attacks on educators. During the 2015-16 school year, 6 percent of public school teachers said they were attacked by a student from their school, and 10 percent said a student had threatened them with injury. In all other survey years except 2011-12, about 4 percent of teachers reported being physically attacked.

    Source: National Center for Education Statistics

    Additionally, nearly half of teachers say student misbehavior negatively affects the classroom environment. In 2015-16, 43 percent of educators reported that student misbehavior interfered with their ability to teach, and 38 percent said the same about student tardiness.The share of educators saying that student misbehavior interferes with their work has increased in recent years. This point was quickly highlighted by pundits who argue efforts to reduce student suspensions — a goal embraced by the Obama administration and by district leaders across the country — could prompt more chaos in classrooms.

    Schools are more secure today than they were a decade ago

    In response to the mass school shooting in Florida, President Donald Trump argued the government should take steps to “harden” schools through a variety of methods, including arming teachers. But school shootings over the last few decades have already spurred district leaders to heighten security.

    The percentage of public schools reporting the use of security cameras increased from 19 percent in 1999-2000 to 81 percent in 2015-16. During that same period, the percentage of public schools reporting that they control access to school buildings increased from 75 percent to 94 percent.

    Schools today are also more prepared for a school shooting. In 2015-16, 92 percent of public schools had a school shooting plan, compared to 79 percent of schools in 2003-04.

    Source: National Center for Education Statistics

    The presence of school security staff, including armed school resource officers, has also spiked over the last decade. During the 2005-06 school year, 42 percent of public schools reported the presence of security staff at least one day a week, compared to 57 percent in 2015-16. Over the same period, the presence of sworn law enforcement officers jumped from 36 percent to 48 percent.

    Among secondary schools with any sworn law enforcement officer present at least once a week, a lower percentage of schools in cities reported having an officer who carried a firearm compared with schools in suburban and rural areas.

    Source: National Center for Education Statistics

    The presence of gangs in schools has decreased

    As the Trump administration takes a hard line on gang violence, with a particular focus on the presence of MS-13 in schools, the new data indicate the presence of gangs in schools is on the decline.

    Between 2001 and 2015, the percentage of students ages 12-18 who reported that gangs were present at their school decreased from 20 to 11 percent.

    Students from urban areas were more likely to report a gang presence in their schools than students from suburban and rural communities.

    Source: National Center for Education Statistics

    School bullying continues a downward slide

    Combating bullying at schools has been a huge focus in recent years among policymakers and advocates. It’s possible that those efforts are paying off.

    In 2005, 28 percent of students reported being bullied at school. By 2015, that percentage decreased to 21 percent. About a third of students who reported being bullied said they were tormented at least once or twice a month.

    Source: National Center for Education Statistics

  • Monthly QuotED: Student Marches, Teacher Strikes and Betsy DeVos — 8 Notable Quotes that Made Education News in March

    By Andrew Brownstein | March 29, 2018

    QuotED is a roundup of the most notable quotes behind America’s top education headlines — taken from our daily EduClips, which spotlights morning headlines from America’s 15 largest school districts. Read previous EduClips installments here.

    “Six minutes and about 20 seconds. In a little over six minutes, 17 of our friends were taken from us.” — Emma Gonzalez, survivor of February’s mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, speaking at the March 24 “March for our Lives” before remaining silent for nearly 6 minutes to memorialize the 17 people killed in the massacre. (Read at

    Photo credit: Paul Morigi/Getty Images for March For Our Lives

    “Historically, public-sector strikes have tended to come in waves. Teacher strikes have tended to breed more teacher strikes.” — Georgetown University historian Joseph McCartin, on the recently ended teachers strike in West Virginia and the threat of one in Oklahoma. (Read at Bloomberg)

    “Even the best plan is short on the meaningful solutions that the law encourages. Even the best plan doesn’t take full advantage of the law’s built-in flexibility, and launching a PR push to defend these plans doesn’t change that.” — U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, accusing states of submitting underwhelming accountability plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). (Read at

    Mary Beth Tinker and her brother, John, display two black armbands, the objects of the U.S. Supreme Court’s agreement March 4th to hear arguments on how far public schools may go in limiting the wearing of political symbols. The children, both students at North High School, were suspended from classes along with three other students for wearing the bands to mourn the Vietnam war dead. (Photo credit: Getty Images)

    “When young people are criticized just for the fact of their age, that just shows that people have a pretty weak critique of what’s going on.” — Mary Beth Tinker, whose Vietnam-era student protest sparked the landmark Supreme Court decision that upheld students’ First Amendment rights. (Read at

    “To separate them from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race, generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely to ever be undone.” — The U.S. Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education. Linda Brown, whose father objected when she was not allowed to attend an all-white school in her neighborhood, died Sunday. (Read at New York Times)

    Photo courtesy 60 Minutes

    STAHL: Have you seen the really bad schools? Maybe try to figure out what they’re doing?

    DEVOS: I have not, I have not, I have not intentionally visited schools that are underperforming.

    STAHL: Maybe you should.

    DEVOS: Maybe I should. Yes.

    — Exchange between 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Michigan’s low-performing schools. (Read at CBS News)

    “March Madness is indeed a great escape, but social mobility is the great escape.” — Jorge Klor de Alva, president of the Nexus Research and Policy Center, and Mark Schneider, vice president and Institute Fellow at the American Institutes for Research and the president of College Measures, who created an NCAA bracket for income mobility. (Read at

    “Boo Guns! YES FLOWRS AND HEARTS.” — protest sign thought up by Lucia Snook-Dengat, a kindergartner who participated in the National Student Walkout with her mom in New Jersey. (Read at

    Children and parents stand outside Dr. Michael Conti School in Jersey City, NJ, during a walkout Wednesday morning. (Photo credit: Kate Stringer)

    For a roundup of the day’s top education headlines from America’s 15 largest school districts, go to EduClips.

  • Largest-Ever Gift of Digital Currency, Worth $29 Million, Funds All 35,000 Teacher Projects on DonorsChoose

    By Laura Fay | March 29, 2018

    The jury is still out on whether blockchain is going to change the world, but this week it did change quite a few classrooms across the country and make some teachers very happy.

    With a digital gift worth $29 million, Ripple, a company that uses cryptocurrency to facilitate international payments, fulfilled all 35,647 classroom project requests on, a site used by public school teachers seeking funds for classroom resources and supplies. The money will go to 28,210 teachers who together teach more than a million students across the U.S.


    Chain of Schools: The Bitcoin, Blockchain Revolution Comes to Campus — but Are Colleges Ready?

    The gift is the largest reported donation of digital currency to a single charity and the biggest donation in the 18-year history of, according to a release from Ripple.

    Ripple created an international blockchain system for banks to exchange the digital currency XRP, of which it owns the largest share in the world, worth about $80 billion, Bloomberg reported.

    Teachers used the hashtag #bestschoolday to share their reactions to the news, saying their students would have access to new technology, field trips, supplies and more. founder Charles Best, who started the site while working as a high school teacher, sparked the donation by emailing Ripple’s co-founder Chris Larsen, who had supported the nonprofit before, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

    “I kind of dared myself to send an email pitching an idea 10 times bigger than I’ve ever pitched before,” Best said. “I was almost anxious that they would be offended by the ridiculousness of my ask.”


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  • EduClips: OK Raises Pay, But Teachers May Still Strike Monday; Efforts to Overturn NY Teacher Tenure Law Win Appellate Victory — and More Must-Reads From America’s 15 Biggest School Districts

    By Andrew Brownstein | March 29, 2018

    EduClips is a roundup of the day’s top education headlines from America’s largest school districts, where more than 4 million students across eight states attend class every day. Read previous EduClips installments here. Get the day’s top school and policy news delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for the TopSheet Education Newsletter.

    Top Story

    OK TEACHER PAY — Oklahoma legislators approved a $6,100 pay raise for teachers on Wednesday, but the state teacher’s union says that the bill is not enough and plans to walk out Monday.

    House Bill 1010XX, which was described as “the largest teacher pay raise in the history of the state” passed both the state House and Senate this week. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said she would sign the bill. The state ranks 49th in the nation in teacher salaries, according to the National Education Association, in a list that includes Washington, D.C. Mississippi and South Dakota rank lower. (Read at CNN)

    National News

    INTEGRATION — A Look At The State Of School Integration 64 Years After Brown v. Board Of Education (Read at NPR)

    DEVOS — Workers accuse Trump administration, DeVos of union-busting (Read at Washington Post)

    SCHOOL SAFETY — As DeVos School Safety Panel Meets, Educators Blast Exclusion of School Voices (Read at Politics K-12)

    TEEN PREGNANCY — Congress Directs Millions to Teen Pregnancy Prevention, the Latest Salvo over Program Trump Administration Plans to Scrap (Read at

    CENSUS — Here’s How Changes to the U.S. Census Could Impact Education Funding (Read at Politics K-12)

    TEACHER GRANTS — ‘This situation . . . made my first four years of teaching so much harder’: How a grant became a loan (Read at Washington Post)

    District and State News

    NEW YORK — Effort to Overturn New York’s Teacher Tenure Laws Wins Unanimous Appeals Court Victory (Read at

    TEXAS — Number of Hispanic superintendents in Texas lags student population growth (Read at Houston Chronicle)

    CALIFORNIA — After Teacher Complaints, California School District To Require Sexual Harassment Training For Students (Read at CBS Sacramento)

    NEVADA — CCSD’s balancing act: Preventing school violence while protecting student equality (Read at Las Vegas Sun)

    ILLINOIS — Suburban districts applaud appellate decision on charter school funds (Read at Chicago Daily Herald)

    TEXAS — New School Grading System in Texas Could Affect more than Education (Read at NBC DFW)

    NEW YORK — New York City students can now pass Spanish exam on path to graduation (Read at Chalkbeat)

    PENNSYVLANIA — Police: Ammunition, combat vest found at home of teen who allegedly threatened Delco high school (Read at the Philadelphia Inquirer)

    CALIFORNIA — LAUSD moves to streamline how schools are rated, making it easier for parents to compare and evaluate them (Read at LA School Report)

    NEVADA — Search for next Clark County schools superintendent heats up (Read at Las Vegas Review-Journal)

    HAWAII — Hearing today on bill that would limit standardized tests (Read at Hawaii Tribune-Herald)

    Think Pieces

    CHARTER SCHOOLS — Can top charters truly ‘replicate’? In Boston, yes — elsewhere, it’s not so clear (Read at Chalkbeat)

    SCHOOL DISCIPLINE — Reducing suspensions for black students is an Obama-era misstep. Betsy DeVos can end it. (Read at USA Today)

    SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — OPINION: Teaching social and emotional skills is easy when students already have them — what about those who don’t? (Read at Hechinger Report)

    Quote of the Day

    “I’m really concerned when you take noneducators and they sit to craft policy and to craft guidelines for school leaders without having a school leader at the table. If you don’t have the practitioner [perspective], what a mess.” — Joe Erardi, former superintendent of the Newtown, Conn., school district, on the lack of school representation on a federal school safety commission. The district is home to Sandy Hook Elementary School, the site of another fatal mass shooting in late 2012. (Read at Politics K-12)

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  • Congress Directs Millions to Teen Pregnancy Prevention, the Latest Salvo over Program Trump Administration Plans to Scrap

    By Mark Keierleber | March 28, 2018

    President Donald Trump signed the federal omnibus spending bill last week, which includes nearly $108 million that Congress earmarked for an Obama-era program designed to help reduce teen pregnancies. Some public health officials say the program has contributed to America’s record-low teen pregnancy rate, while conservatives who favor abstinence-only education maintain the initiative is ineffective.

    Under normal circumstances, the president’s signature would signal the program’s fate is secure. But last year, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) notified the program’s 81 grant recipients, including research universities and health services agencies, that the program would be axed at the end of June 2018 — cutting short the five-year initiative by two years. Officials said the surprise move was highly unusual and prevented researchers from reaching definitive conclusions about the program’s effectiveness.

    But the unusual decision to terminate the program, even as Congress continues to appropriate funds for its work, may have been politically motivated, according a trove of internal emails and memos obtained by Democracy Forward, a left-leaning nonprofit legal group.

    Obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, the records show that three Trump appointees sparred with HHS career employees who said they were cut out of the decision-making process and instructed to “get in line” with plans to terminate the program. Among the appointees who led the charge were a prominent abstinence education advocate and an anti-abortion lobbyist.

    In its decision to terminate the program, the agency is “prioritizing politics and ideology above science and the wellbeing of women, girls, and families throughout the country,” said Skye Perryman, senior counsel at Democracy Forward.

    The group alleges the agency’s abrupt decision to terminate the program violates the federal Administrative Procedure Act, which prevents government agencies from making arbitrary decisions. The decision was also made outside the normal budget process against the will of Congress. The fact that lawmakers continue to allocate money for the initiative bolsters the argument that HHS officials have acted unlawfully, Perryman said. Among those who applauded the continued funds is Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington who, in a statement to PBS NewsHour, said Congress would continue to hold the Trump administration “accountable for everything it is doing to undermine these important investments and interfere with women’s access to care.”

    “Congress has made it clear that money is to go to evidence-based teen pregnancy programs” but the Trump administration cut the teen pregnancy grants “hastily and without explanation,” Perryman said. Executive agencies are “not allowed to act arbitrarily, capriciously, or contrary to their own regulations,” and must provide a reasoned explanation for their actions, she said. But “no such explanation was given to any of the grantees” indicating the rationale behind the program’s termination.

    The move comes as the American teen birth rate hits its lowest point since 1940. In 2016, the teen birth rate dropped to 20.3 per 1,000 young women ages 15 to 19 — a 67 percent drop since 1991, according to the latest National Center for Health Statistics data. The drop in teen pregnancies has been attributed to several factors, including wider contraceptive use, a decline in sexual behavior among teens, and even a decline in lead exposure.

    Reducing teen pregnancies is a boon for American education, since only 38 percent of teenage mothers earn a high school diploma. Meanwhile, children born to teenage mothers experience poorer educational achievement, life satisfaction, and personal income.

    The decision to eliminate the grant program has spawned several federal lawsuits, including one by the city of Baltimore. The Baltimore health department had received an $8.6 million grant to provide teen pregnancy education to the city’s middle and high school students. As a result, Baltimore youth will no longer have access to an evidence-based curricula, “creating a vacuum of critical health education for vulnerable youth,” Leana Wen, the Baltimore City health commissioner, wrote in The Hill.

    Responding to the lawsuit, the Department of Health and Human Services has agreed to set aside funds for the city of Baltimore and other plaintiffs through August, NBC News reported. Although funding to the grant recipients will be cut at the end of June, the government said it will wait to redistribute the funds to unrelated government initiatives while litigation is pending.


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

    Last August, a coalition of public health officials from America’s 20 largest cities called on then-HHS Secretary Tom Price to reconsider the cuts. The move, they wrote in a letter, “will not only reverse historic gains made in the U.S. in reducing teen pregnancy rates, but also make it difficult to truly understand what practices are most effective in communities across the nation.”

    Mathematica Policy Research was commissioned to study program effectiveness, but the funding was slashed before those reviews were completed, though preliminary evaluations found some programming improved teens’ awareness of sexually transmitted diseases and their attitudes toward safe sex.

    An HHS spokesperson didn’t respond to a request for comment. In a factsheet released last August, the department said the grant program was a waste of taxpayer money, and that 73 percent of evaluated projects “had no impact or had a negative impact on teen behavior, with some teens more likely to begin having sex, to engage in unprotected sex, or to become pregnant.”

    Should Congress continue to fund the program, the agency said in the August news release, “decisions by the Department will be guided by science and a firm commitment to giving all youth the information and skills they need to improve their prospects for optimal health outcomes.”


    Most Pregnant and Parenting Students Don’t Graduate. Here’s How One Rhode Island High School Is Helping Its Teens Beat the Odds

  • EduClips: TX District Requires Kindergartners to Wear Clear Backpacks to Ensure They Don’t Bring Guns To School; CA Charter Schools Association Endorses Villaraigosa for Governor— and More Must-Reads From America’s 15 Biggest School Districts

    By Andrew Brownstein | March 28, 2018

    EduClips is a roundup of the day’s top education headlines from America’s largest school districts, where more than 4 million students across eight states attend class every day. Read previous EduClips installments here. Get the day’s top school and policy news delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for the TopSheet Education Newsletter.

    Top Story

    ARMING TEACHERS — The leading Republican on education in the U.S. Senate isn’t keen on arming teachers to make schools safer.

    Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the chairman of the Senate education committee, told the Associated Press he is “not a big fan” of giving teachers firearms to protect their schools, saying that teachers already have enough to deal with. His comments put him at odds with President Donald Trump, who has said he supports trained and experienced educators carrying guns on school grounds. Other Republicans, including U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, have also voiced support for the idea—DeVos has said arming teachers shouldn’t be mandatory but should be an option where local officials deem it appropriate. (Read at Politics K-12)

    National News

    SCHOOL SAFETY — DeVos Team Tries to Reassure Advocates: You’ll Get Your Say on School Safety (Read at Politics K-12)

    TEACHER GRANTS — Dept. Of Education Fail: Teachers Lose Grants, Forced To Repay Thousands In Loans (Read at NPR)

    CONGRESS — What Should Progressives Do on Education if They Gain Power This Fall? (Read at Politics K-12)

    APPLE — Apple Aims to Regain Ground in US Classrooms (Read at USA Today)

    District and State News

    TEXAS — Kindergartners in this school district will have to use clear backpacks to ensure they don’t bring guns (Read at Dallas News)

    CALIFORNIA — While criticizing Newsom, California Charter Schools Association endorses Villaraigosa for governor (Read at EdSource)

    NEW YORK — With the New York state budget deadline nearing, here are the education issues we’re watching (Read at Chalkbeat)

    FLORIDA — Opinion: Teachers living at schools – let’s try it (Read at Miami Herald)

    ILLINOIS — Opinion: Another time bomb for Chicago taxpayers (Read at Chicago Tribune)

    TEXAS — Public school suspension rates in Texas continue to raise questions (Read at Chron)

    CALIFORNIA — The California Teachers Association — the union other unions want to be (Read at LA School Report)

    ILLINOIS — Ahead of state report, special ed advocate says Chicago Public Schools sought ‘ways to reduce the level of service’ (Read at Chicago Tribune)

    NEW YORK — More gifted programs join New York City’s school diversity efforts (Read at Chalkbeat)

    NEVADA — Nevada’s marijuana-initiative money already goes to education (Read at Las Vegas Review-Journal)

    FLORIDA — Teacher shortages rife in state and throughout Miami-Dade (Read at Miami Today)

    NEVADA — Clark County Schools upgrading security (Read at WGEM)

    Think Pieces

    TEACHER COACHING — Study: Teacher Coaching Can Boost Instruction and Student Achievement. But Can It Be Scaled Up? (Read at

    FOOD STAMPS — Food for thought: Students’ test scores rise a few weeks after families get food stamps (Read at Chalkbeat)

    PUERTO RICO — Puerto Rico Is Trying to Overhaul Its Public Schools and Teachers Are Furious (Read at Mother Jones)

    ED TECH — Laptops, Chromebooks or tablets? Deciding what’s best for the nation’s schools (Read at Hechinger Report)

    WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH — Women’s History Month: These Female Trailblazers Changed American Education For You and Your Kids. Do You Know Their Names? (Read at

    SCIENCE — Are science fairs unfair? (Read at Hechinger Report)

    Quote of the Day

    “Unfortunately, heightened security is not a convenience. Look at our airports and large events we attend. Security takes time, and we ask for your patience.” — John Chapman III, superintendent of the Ennis Independent School District near Dallas, TX, on a new policy that will require kindergartners to carry clear backpacks to ensure they don’t bring guns to school. (Read at Dallas News)

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  • From a Rural Village to the University of Alaska: How the First Female Native Engineering Professor Stresses Value of ‘Belonging’ for Young STEM Enthusiasts

    By Laura Fay | March 27, 2018

    For as long as she can remember, people have been telling Michele Yatchmeneff that she wouldn’t succeed.

    When she wanted to take high-level math and science courses in high school, some people advised her against it. The discrimination — because she was a girl and an Alaska Native — would continue long beyond high school. Even years later, while earning her doctorate at Purdue University, some people still treated her like a “minority quota.”

    “I had a student ask me where I was from, and you could tell he didn’t think I was at his level because I hadn’t gone to a fancy school before going to Purdue,” she said. She remembers having the sense that the other student walked away from the conversation thinking that she received a fellowship and a place at the school because “you’re female and …because you’re Native, so you’re meeting a quota that they have here at the university.”

    Yatchmeneff went on to become the University of Alaska’s first female Native engineering professor in 2015. She is dedicating her research to giving back to her community, offering encouragement to young Native STEM enthusiasts and a sense of “belonging” she was often denied. She was recently awarded a $500,000 research grant from the National Science Foundation to identify the characteristics Alaska Native high school students associate with belonging and how those characteristics influence their decisions to pursue higher-level math and science classes. She defines belonging as a classroom atmosphere in which students feel “whole” and confident being themselves. Her goal is to share that information with teachers through professional development in order to help them guide Alaska Native students to success in STEM education and careers.

    Yatchmeneff and one of her colleagues were the first Alaska Native faculty to join the engineering department at the University of Alaska Anchorage. In addition to being a researcher and professor, Yatchmeneff helps with residential science camps that introduce Alaska Native students to STEM and the University of Alaska Anchorage campus.


    Inspiring #GirlsInSTEM: New Video Series Profiles Top Women in STEM Looking to Motivate the Next Generation

    Humble Beginnings

    The journey to teaching engineering at the Anchorage campus began when she was young girl living with her family in subsistence villages on Alaska’s Aleutian chain, where they hunted, fished and gathered berries to survive.

    She attended school in Anchorage, which offered good math and science classes, she remembers. But she didn’t always find encouragement from her teachers.

    “You could just tell they didn’t think I was going to be successful, so they were kind of discouraging me,” she said. Even then, her reaction was to just keep going: “You have to just kind of not listen to that and just persist.”

    Some teachers did recognize her abilities. Yatchmeneff first encountered engineering when her high school chemistry teacher encouraged her to attend an introduction to engineering camp in Denver.

    “He actually handed me the application and said, ‘You should probably go to this,’” Yatchmeneff remembers. She had already been taking difficult math and science classes, but at the camp, she learned engineering was more than just “the guy on the train blowing the whistle.”

    “Then I was hooked,” she said, and she started applying to engineering schools when she got home.

    But it was often a tough road. When she talks about responding to doubters throughout her life, such as the man at Purdue, Yatchmeneff is matter-of-fact: “I just ignored it.” she said. “I got all A’s in all of my courses, and I made it through in three years where most people take four and five years to make it through. … Once they realized I meant business, and … I was there to get through this and get back to Alaska, they realized, ‘OK, she belongs here.’”

    It was at Purdue that Yatchmeneff started researching what motivates Alaska Native students to persist in STEM education and careers. She found that having a sense of belonging was crucial. Now, as an engineer, professor, and mentor, she’s working to make sure no student feels the way she did.

    Photo credit: Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program

    Breaking barriers

    Although she has won three National Science Foundation grants, earned advanced degrees in engineering, and broken numerous barriers for Alaska Native women in science, Yatchmeneff gives credit to the support she’s received from the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program (ANSEP), which she first encountered as an undergraduate. The organization works to improve education and employment opportunities for Alaska Native students and professionals.

    Today, the organization offers programs for students from middle school to the doctorate level, providing education, mentoring, networking opportunities, and scholarships.

    “I definitely would not be where I am today without the support of ANSEP,” she said. It was always a comfort, she added, knowing there was someone there, “regardless that I was female, regardless that I was Alaska Native,” who “had the confidence that I was going to be successful and gave me the tools to do that.”

    Asked how she mentors younger students who look up to her, Yatchmeneff said she encourages them to persevere in their science classes, shares her story with them and helps them find internships. She also reminds them that at ANSEP, they will always belong.

    “ANSEP is a really big family, and we have all these people here that are going to back you up,” she said.


    Photo Diary: A Week in Rural Alaska Where Climate Change Is Threatening a Village, Its School and Way of Life

  • Study: Teacher Coaching Can Boost Instruction and Student Achievement. But Can It Be Scaled Up?

    By Kevin Mahnken | March 27, 2018

    One-on-one teacher coaching generates meaningful improvements to both classroom instruction and student achievement, according to a newly published meta-analysis of existing research.

    But there’s a tricky caveat: Efforts to expand coaching programs on a wider scale might only dilute their value, the authors find.

    The review offers some hopeful evidence in the ongoing debate around the efficacy of teacher professional development. Recent studies have suggested that school districts realize sparse returns from the billions of dollars and dozens of school days they invest each year on skills workshops, planning sessions, and summer seminars for teachers.


    A Form of Professional Development That Research Shows Might Actually Help Teachers: Coaching

    Written by Brown University’s Matthew Kraft and the University of Maryland’s David Blazar, the paper compiles the results of 60 studies conducted since 2006 that examine the impact of teacher coaching on either instruction (as measured by scoring rubrics like the Classroom Assessment Scoring System or the Early Language and Literacy Classroom Observation) or student academic performance (as measured by standardized tests).

    Coaching typically involves teachers being observed in the classroom and later receiving feedback from peers, administrators, or master teachers. Kraft and Blazar focused their analysis on studies of one-on-one programs that were conducted regularly (at least once every few weeks) over an extended period of time and geared toward the cultivation of specific skills.

    On balance, they found that coaching programs tend to enhance both the quality of teaching and student achievement, though the former much more than the latter. In a conversation with The 74, Kraft said that improvements to instruction are filtered through a long set of conditions before they can change student performance in measurable ways. Some coaching programs, for example, are geared toward developing non-academic student outcomes, such as classroom engagement or social and emotional learning.

    In coaching, “you first need to develop teachers’ understanding of pedagogical content knowledge,” he said. “Then you need to get them to implement that new knowledge in a way that’s effective in class, and those changes have to be large and consistent enough to increase student understanding and learning. And those students then have to demonstrate that increase in learning in a format that’s captured by state standardized tests. And that increased learning has to be on content that’s covered by state standardized tests.”

    “So there’s multiple points at which you could see slippage along that causal chain,” he said.

    Still, the impact on student achievement of implementing an effective coaching regime compares favorably with other reforms, such as student academic incentives, merit-based pay, and extended learning time, the authors write. The benefits to instruction are described as larger than the difference in quality between a novice teacher and a more experienced colleague.

    High-quality programs tend to combine group training sessions with individual consultations between teachers and coaches. In terms of student achievement, content-specific programs seem to work better than generalized coaching. “General coaching programs are often focused less on helping teachers improve students’ test scores and more on developing teachers’ abilities to support students’ social and emotional development,” the authors write.

    Somewhat surprisingly, quantity matters less than quality. The studies show that more hours of coaching aren’t correlated with greater effects.

    Source: Review of Educational Research

    But the most important variable is clearly size. Expanding a coaching intervention is consistently shown to limit its effectiveness. Kraft and Blazar separated the programs into smaller examples (less than 100 participants) and larger ones (more than 100). The smaller programs’ impact on instruction was nearly double that of larger programs. For student achievement, smaller programs were nearly three times as effective.

    Scalability, the hobgoblin of education reform efforts, is at work again. It’s difficult to recruit and train large numbers of teacher coaches, the authors explain. Standardizing the programs across large schools, districts, and even entire states (one study measured a literacy initiative that deployed 2,300 coaches across Florida; results were almost nonexistent) can iron out the flexibility necessary to improve performance among teachers of different skills and specializations.

    And coaching works best in school environments that make a lot of room for experimentation and critique. If teachers feel they’re being unduly attacked, or that required coaching is actually a pretext to document their faults and initiate termination, even the best advice will fall on deaf ears.

    “The potential challenge is those teachers who are experienced, who have been told by those classic, old-style evaluation systems that they are satisfactory, proficient, or even better at their jobs,” Kraft said. “And then someone comes along and says, ‘We want you to participate in this coaching process that’s going to shine a light on things that someone else thinks you’re not that good at, but you think you are.’ That’s probably one of the hardest conversations to have as a coach.”


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  • America Remembers Linda Brown, 75, the Third-Grader Who Became The Face of ‘Brown v. Board of Education’ And Overturned School Segregation

    By Laura Fay and Mark Keierleber and Kate Stringer | March 27, 2018

    It was a short walk home, but Linda Brown remembered the tension as her father gripped her hand after a meeting with the principal of an all-white grade school in Topeka, Kansas. The principal wouldn’t let Oliver Brown enroll his daughter, Linda, in the school, even though it was closer to her home. Instead, she had to take a lengthy route every day along train tracks and across a busy road to attend a black school.

    That tense walk home was the beginning of the historic 1954 Brown v. Board of Education U.S. Supreme Court case that unanimously overturned the “separate but equal” doctrine of Plessy v. Ferguson. Oliver Brown became one of a dozen plaintiffs in several states to challenge school segregation.

    Linda Brown died in her hometown of Topeka on Sunday, at age 75. An education consultant and public speaker, she was one of many plaintiffs to reopen the original Brown case in 1979 to argue that Topeka’s schools were still not fully integrated. “The Brown case ‘might have been a little flame,” Linda Brown once said, according to Education Week. “‘But it served to set off a mighty flame.’”

    As a teenager, she wondered if she’d see her court case in a history textbook. In fact, her name has been “etched in history,” as EdWeek wrote, heralding Brown’s permanent impact on school inclusion, the civil rights movement, and what it really means to be a U.S. citizen. Here are some reactions from civil rights leaders, journalists, and education commentators.

    The New York Times

    “The decision upended decades’ worth of educational practice, in the South and elsewhere, and its ramifications are still being felt,” The Times wrote, adding that Linda Brown “came to symbolize one of the most transformative court proceedings in American history.”

    Education Week

    Linda Brown’s “name is etched in history,” Education Week wrote in a piece quoting her reflections on the case. “The Brown case ‘might have been a little flame,’ (Linda Brown) said. ‘But it served to set off a mighty flame.’”

    USA Today

    “The case went before the U.S. District Court in Kansas, which agreed that public school segregation had a ‘detrimental effect upon the colored children’ and contributed to ‘a sense of inferiority,’ but still upheld the separate but equal doctrine.”


    “While her name will forever be a part of American civil rights history, her contributions to the community after the case are part of her legacy, too, longtime friend Carolyn Campbell said.”

    Washington Post

    “Ms. Brown, a third-grader who simply wanted to avoid a long walk and bus ride and join her white friends in class, went on to become the symbolic center of Brown v. Board of Education, the transformational 1954 Supreme Court decision that bore her father’s name and helped dismantle racial segregation in the United States.”

    Associated Press

    “Brown v. Board was a historic marker in the Civil Rights movement, likely the most high-profile case brought by Thurgood Marshall and the lawyers of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund in their decade-plus campaign to chip away at the doctrine of ‘separate but equal.’”


    “When asked about her role in the historic case, she told NPR it was her father who deserved the credit but added, ‘I am very proud that this happened to me and my family and I think it has helped minorities everywhere.’”

    New York magazine

    “Linda Brown is now being honored both by those who recognize the legacy of Brown v. Board of Education as incomplete, and those who very much want to limit it to its original scope of de jure (as opposed to de facto) segregation. That’s inevitable, and arguably even a good thing, though you have to figure she would have wanted present and future parents and children to be so secure in their rights they’d no longer have to keep fighting the same battle she began.”

    The Topeka Capital-Journal

    “Topeka Mayor Michelle De La Isla, who is also the diversity and inclusion representative at Westar Energy, called Linda Brown a role model for empowerment who made the city ‘a landmark of freedom.’… ‘This is a huge loss to our community,’ De La Isla said. ‘We will continue to champion civil rights. When you look at the diversity of our community, I think we’re already honoring her legacy.’”


    “Her walk to the all-black Monroe School in the early 1950s sparked a lawsuit the changed history… ‘If not for Brown there wouldn’t be the talks that we have about gender equality, there wouldn’t be the talks about being ADA accessible,’ said chief of interpretation, education and cultural resources at the Brown v. Board of Education Historic Site, Enimini Ekong… ‘When you see how inclusive we’re becoming as a society, all of that was really the snowball effect that occurred in 1954 and went forth.’”


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  • EduClips: Report Finds That TX Schools Suspended Tens of Thousands of Students in Second Grade or Younger; Teachers Who Can’t Afford Miami Rent May Get to Live at School — and More Must-Reads From America’s 15 Biggest School Districts

    By Andrew Brownstein | March 27, 2018

    EduClips is a roundup of the day’s top education headlines from America’s largest school districts, where more than 4 million students across eight states attend class every day. Read previous EduClips installments here. Get the day’s top school and policy news delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for the TopSheet Education Newsletter.

    Top Story

    BROWN — Linda Brown, whose father objected when she was not allowed to attend an all-white school in her neighborhood and who thus came to symbolize one of the most transformative court proceedings in American history, the school desegregation case Brown v. Board of Education, died on Sunday in Topeka, Kan. She was 75.

    It is Ms. Brown’s father, Oliver, whose name is attached to the famous case, although the suit that ended up in the United States Supreme Court actually represented a number of families in several states. In 1954, in a unanimous decision, the court ruled that segregated schools were inherently unequal. The decision upended decades’ worth of educational practice, in the South and elsewhere, and its ramifications are still being felt. (Read at New York Times)

    National News

    SCHOOL SAFETY — Next Goal for Student Gun-Control Activists: Win at the Polls (Read at Education Week)

    TECHNICAL EDUCATION — Technical education struggles to gain funding traction (Read at The Hill)

    APPLE — Apple Tries to Win Back Students and Teachers With Low-Cost iPad (Read at Bloomberg)

    District and State News

    TEXAS — Texas schools suspended tens of thousands of students in second grade or younger, report says (Read at Texas Tribune)

    FLORIDA — Teachers can’t afford Miami rents. The county has a plan: Let them live at school. (Read at Miami Herald)

    ILLINOIS — Chicago Public Schools’ huge pension debt just got $1 billion deeper, new estimates show (Read at Chicago Tribune)

    NEW YORK — Education officials began closing a small New York City school. Now parents are suing to keep it open. (Read at Chalkbeat)

    CALIFORNIA — Lots of Talk but Little Action to Help the Lowest-performing Schools in Los Angeles and California (Read at

    NEVADA — Nevada releases ‘weighted funding’ list for Clark County schools (Read at Las Vegas Review-Journal)

    CALIFORNIA — Education reform, teacher tenure, free tuition: Where California governor’s race candidates stand (Read at San Diego Tribune)

    ILLINOIS — Opinion: Illinois’ next governor will have to deliver the goods on education funding (Read at Chicago Sun Times)

    TEXAS — Feds approve Texas’ revised Every Student Succeeds Act plan (Read at Houston Chronicle)

    NEW YORK — Read the 10-page résumé incoming schools chancellor Richard Carranza sent to Mayor Bill de Blasio (Read at Chalkbeat)

    Think Pieces

    CHARTER SCHOOLS — Exclusive Analysis: New Harvard Study Shows Public Support for Charter Schools Has Jumped 10 Points In Last Year (Read at

    SKILLS GAP — More Companies Teach Workers What Colleges Don’t (Read at The Wall Street Journal)

    RACE — Who benefits from research on racial disparities? (Read at Hechinger Report)

    DEVOS — Education Secretary Betsy DeVos probably won’t be fired but she needs to resign (Read at USA Today)

    STEM — Government Has No Idea Whether The Billions It Spends On STEM Education Is Working (Read at NextGov)

    DEVOS — In defense of Betsy DeVos (Read at The Washington Times)

    SCHOLARSHIPS — A college scholarship meant to help low-income, black students now serves mostly white, middle-class kids (Read at Hechinger Report)

    Quote of the Day

    “To separate them from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race, generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely to ever be undone.” — The U.S. Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education. Linda Brown, whose father objected when she was not allowed to attend an all-white school in her neighborhood, died Sunday. (Read at New York Times)

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  • The Students We Met at the March For Our Lives: Video, Photos, Testimonials From Kids Who Marched In (and Beyond) Washington, D.C.

    By The 74 | March 26, 2018

    In one of the largest demonstrations since the Vietnam era, an estimated 800,000 people rallied in the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C., on Saturday. That number doesn’t include the million students who participated in hundreds of other marches across the country.

    Chief among the activists in the nation’s capital: students, parents, and educators. The 74 spoke with dozens of these students, many of whom traveled hours to get to Washington. We also took note of the most memorable social media posts from students in other cities, taking to the streets for their cause.

    Here’s how our team covered the march:

    Inside the Hashtag — 51 Memorable Tweets

    Beyond the millions marching Saturday, millions more were watching the action unfold on their phones via livestream and hashtag. Laura Fay has scanned through some of the most memorable and unforgettable images from Saturday’s gatherings; here’s her roundup of what made the day so special on social media.

    What It Felt Like to March Alongside 800,000 Students

    In one of the largest demonstrations since Vietnam, protesters led by survivors of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting flooded Washington, D.C., to demand action to end gun violence. With tears, signs, and resolve, the students issued a call to action echoed in more than 800 sister demonstrations around the globe. The 74’s Emmeline Zhao joined the march and came back with this report about the scope of the spectacle, and the students she met along the way.

    WATCH — The Students We Met Marching for Their Lives

    We took our video camera to Saturday’s march in Washington and asked an array of students and parents why they thought it was so important to travel hours to join their fellow citizens in the nation’s capital. As produced by Lucinda Shen and Emmeline Zhao, and edited by James Fields, the compilation offers a revealing glimpse into the thoughts, passions, and priorities that are guiding so many of the students who marched over the weekend — and who may march again during walkouts planned for April 20.

    Protest Portraits: A Photo Tour Through the D.C. March

    We spent the day in Washington, D.C., on Saturday. Here are two dozen of the more notable images from the protests that overtook the city.

    Video — One-on-One With 14 Students Who Traveled to D.C.

    From California to Kentucky, students traveled for many miles this weekend to join their peers in protesting gun violence. We took a moment to chat one-on-one with 14 of the demonstrators about why they traveled so far to march for this cause in the nation’s capital. Here are our conversations along the protest route.

    Old Enough to March, Old Enough to Vote?

    Millions marched over the weekend, and at the head of the movement are teenagers — school shooting survivors, activists, and budding media personalities. But if these students can face off against U.S. senators and the National Rifle Association, why can’t they vote?

    It’s a question that has gained the attention of both voting rights activists and media commentators, and the push to lower the voting age to 16 (or even lower) is gaining wider acceptance as part of a broader voting rights agenda. As Kevin Mahnken reports, proponents say that extending suffrage to younger teenagers could make them lifelong voters and improve civic engagement, while skeptics argue that 16- and 17-year olds simply aren’t mature enough for the ballot. But is there really a meaningful distinction between voting and other forms of democratic involvement, all of which young people are encouraged to participate in?

    Student Protests — From Tinker v. Des Moines to BLM to #Enough

    Just days after a gunman killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, student survivor Emma Gonzalez offered a promise — someday, their story would appear in textbooks. With the power of their voices, student activists — thousands of whom march out of class earlier this month and led March for Our Lives protests Saturday — could help change America’s gun laws.

    And while some have dismissed the voices of outspoken students following the deadly shooting, Mark Keierleber writes that outspoken youth have long helped drive debates about social issues in America. Mary Beth Tinker, whose own protest led the Supreme Court to define students’ free-speech rights, told The 74 the latest round of nonviolent student protests has the feeling of a “turning point” in the gun debate. “I was telling some kids, ‘When the kids marched in Birmingham in 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. called it a turning point in the civil rights movement,’ and I think this is another turning point now,” she said.


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  • EduClips: Audit Slams NYC Schools on Grade Fixing; More Than 1 Million People Worldwide Join ‘March for Our Lives’ to Push for Gun Control — and More Must-Reads From America’s 15 Biggest School Districts

    By Andrew Brownstein | March 26, 2018

    EduClips is a roundup of the day’s top education headlines from America’s largest school districts, where more than 4 million students across eight states attend class every day. Read previous EduClips installments here. Get the day’s top school and policy news delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for the TopSheet Education Newsletter.

    Top Story

    MARCH FOR OUR LIVES — An estimated 800,000 protesters packed a three-quarter-mile section between Capitol Hill and the White House in Washington, D.C., Saturday, making the March for Our Lives, a colossal effort led by Stoneman Douglas students to advocate for gun-control legislation, one of the biggest youth protests in the U.S. since the Vietnam War era — and the largest single-day demonstration in Washington history. Over 800 sister rallies were held across the country and around the world. From Paris to Tokyo, millions of global citizens showed up Saturday to support the cause.

    Rates of gun violence are higher in the United States than in any other developed country. More than 187,000 students in at least 193 K-12 schools have experienced a campus shooting since the Columbine massacre in 1999, according to a Washington Post analysis. The report found an average of 10 school shootings a year in that same time. There have been 11 school shootings in the first three months of 2018 alone, putting this year on track to be one of the worst in history. (Read at

    National News

    SCHOOL SAFETY — DeVos’ School Safety Commission Meets March 28, Amid Skepticism About Its Membership (Read at Politics K-12)

    MARCH — On this day, teachers offered students lessons in support (Read at Washington Post)

    DEVOS — Tension Between DeVos and a GOP Congress Reflects a Beltway Tradition (Read at Politics K-12)

    MARCH — #MarchForOurLives: 51 Memorable Images That Made Saturday’s March Against Gun Violence a Trending Social Media Spectacle (Read at

    District and State News

    NEW YORK Audit slams city over ‘troubling’ grade-fixing fallout (Read at New York Post)

    FLORIDA Two firms apply to become Florida’s first ‘Schools of Hope’ providers (Read at Tampa Bay Times)

    CALIFORNIA Tens of thousands gather in downtown Los Angeles for March for Our Lives rally (Read at Los Angeles Times)

    FLORIDA Gov. Rick Scott hears from shaken and angry Floridians after Parkland (Read at Miami Herald)

    TEXAS Texas high school students bring together Ted Cruz, Joaquin Castro for “Day of Unity” event (Read at Texas Tribune)

    NEW YORK Inside the ‘passion project’ Carmen Fariña can’t quit: helping New York City schools share space better (Read at Chalkbeat)

    NEVADA Struggling Northern Nevada charter school to close (Read at Las Vegas Review-Journal)

    CALIFORNIA Opinion: California’s doomed plan to solve looming crisis in education (Read at Mercury News)

    TEXAS Opinion: Paxton’s rotten apple for Texas teachers [Editorial] (Read at Houston Chronicle)

    Think Pieces

    RACE — Race, not just poverty, shapes who graduates in America — and other education lessons from a big new study (Read at Chalkbeat)

    COST OF EDUCATION — How much would it cost to get all students up to average? (Read at Hechinger Report)

    STRIKING TEACHERS — When Professionals Rise Up, More Than Money Is at Stake (Read at the New York Times)

    TEACHER TURNOVER — Opinion: Teacher Turnover Is a Symptom of a Nationwide Shortage of Educators. What 2 Arizona Teachers Are Doing About It in Their State (Read at

    APPLE — What Apple has to do to get back to the head of the class (Read at USA Today)

    ED TECH — “Tired of fighting that fight”: School districts’ uphill battle to get good deals on ed tech (Read at Hechinger Report)

    MATH — Here’s an approach to math phobia that could add up: Tackle the fear head on (Read at Washington Post)

    Quote of the Day

    “Six minutes and about 20 seconds. In a little over six minutes, 17 of our friends were taken from us.” — Emma Gonzalez, survivor of February’s mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, speaking at Saturday’s “March for our Lives” before remaining silent for nearly 6 minutes to memorialize the 17 people killed in the massacre. (Read at

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  • #MarchForOurLives: 51 Memorable Images That Made Saturday’s March Against Gun Violence a Trending Social Media Spectacle

    By Laura Fay | March 25, 2018

    See our complete coverage of Saturday’s March For Our Lives: 

    —The inside view from Saturday’s march in Washington, D.C. 

    —Video exclusive: The students we met marching for their lives 

    —Portraits of protest: Photos from the streets of the nation’s capital 

    —One-on-One: 14 students talk about why they’re marching

    —Analysis: Old enough to march, old enough to vote?

    —A student’s voice: Why I’m marching this weekend


    From cable news to social media to the streets of our busiest cities, all eyes were fixated Saturday on the more than 1 million marchers who turned out across the country in support of the March For Our Lives. Their message was clear — they’ve lost too many classmates, friends, and loved ones to gun violence, and they intend to be the generation that demands more serious gun controls when it comes to background checks and military-style assault rifles.

    You can read our report from the day’s largest event, in Washington, D.C.: “The view from inside Saturday’s March for Our Lives: Students demand a revolution in gun control — and lead a deafening moment of silence — in Washington, D.C.

    For weeks leading up to the protest, social media proved crucial in organizing and energizing students, educators, and supporters for the march, which survivors initially planned in the days following the Feb. 14 massacre at a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. For most participants, Twitter became the preferred avenue to share their favorite signs, amplify student speakers, and document crowd sizes.

    The event had support from several prominent adults and many teachers and parents, but it was the students taking center stage at the key events:

    Some protesters weren’t even old enough to be students yet.

    One clear theme that emerged was taking the fight to the ballot box to “vote out” officials who are not willing to move fast enough on stricter gun policies.

    The rally in D.C. featured speakers from Stoneman Douglas High and members of youth organizations from a wide array of cities who traveled east for the day of action, including Chicago, Los Angeles, and Newtown, Connecticut.

  • EduClips: PR Passes Bill Allowing for Charters, Vouchers; Congress Passes Ed Spending Bill — and More Must-Reads From America’s 15 Biggest School Districts

    By Andrew Brownstein | March 22, 2018

    EduClips is a roundup of the day’s top education headlines from America’s largest school districts, where more than 4 million students across eight states attend class every day. Read previous EduClips installments here. Get the day’s top school and policy news delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for the TopSheet Education Newsletter.

    Top Story

    EDUCATION SPENDING Congress dealt a blow to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s school choice agenda in a tentative spending bill released late Wednesday, rejecting her attempt to spend more than $1 billion promoting choice-friendly policies and private school vouchers.

    DeVos had sought to cut Education Department funding by $3.6 billion — about 5 percent. Among other cuts, she wanted to eliminate funding for after-school programs for needy youth and ax a grant program that helps low-income students go to college, in favor of spending more than $1 billion to promote charter schools, magnet schools, and private school vouchers. Her proposal also outlined cuts to the Office for Civil Rights because the office had grown more efficient, she said, a move that outraged Democrats and civil rights groups. Her budget also eliminated grant programs that supported student mental-health services — a move that received scrutiny in the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. DeVos said her budget reflected her policy priorities and her attempts to roll back the role the federal government plays in schools.

    Instead, Congress is on track to increase department funding by $3.9 billion, with no funding for the school choice program DeVos envisioned. The spending bill, which must be passed by Friday to avoid another government shutdown, boosts investments in student mental health, including increasing funding by $700 million for a wide-ranging grant program that schools can use for counselors. The bill calls for an additional $22 million for a program to reduce school violence and $25 million for a Department of Health and Human Services program that supports mental-health services in schools. (Read at The Washington Post)

    National News

    SCHOOL SHOOTINGS ‘You Have to Redefine Normal’: Leading Schools in the Aftermath of a Shooting (Read at Education Week)

    NATIONAL MARCH Buoyed by National School Walkout, Organizers Now Expect Student-Led ‘March for Our Lives’ to Bring a Half-Million Protesters to Nation’s Capital (Read at

    DEVOS What Does Trump’s Volatile Relationship With His Cabinet Mean for Betsy DeVos? (Read at Politics K-12)

    District and State News

    PUERTO RICO Puerto Rico’s Lawmakers Pass Bill to Expand Choice and Revamp Public Schools (Read at Politics K-12)

    FLORIDA Proposal to allow a state charter school authorizer advances in Florida Constitution Revision Commission (Read at the Tampa Bay Times)

    TEXAS This Texas school began arming teachers with guns in 2007. More than 100 other districts have followed. (Read at The Texas Tribune)

    NEW YORK Science teacher behind disastrous experiment that burned students gets job teaching educators with big raise (Read at the New York Daily News)

    FLORIDA School Board member term limits moves forward in Florida Constitution Revision Commission (Read at the Tampa Bay Times)

    CALIFORNIA Anti-walkout teacher and school officials bring in facilitators to resolve controversy (Read at The Mercury News)

    ILLINOIS CPS approves additional borrowing that district says will provide more resources for classrooms (Read at the Chicago Tribune)

    NEVADA Superintendent says goodbye in final State of the Schools address (Read at the Las Vegas Sun)

    NEW YORK Five graphs that show the challenges facing New York City’s ‘disconnected’ young adults (Read at Chalkbeat)

    CALIFORNIA California tops in suspension reform, but still not properly targeting disparities, report says (Read at EdSource)

    NEVADA Twist in feud between Nevada teachers union, Clark County local (Read at the Las Vegas Review-Journal)

    TEXAS Opinion: Fixing school finance isn’t rocket surgery (Read at the Houston Chronicle)

    Think Pieces

    YOUTH VOTE After Parkland, Young People Led the Way in Protesting Gun Violence. Now Some Are Saying We Should Let 16-Year-Olds Vote, Too (Read at

    MENTAL ILLNESS Opinion: We must stop the criminalization of mental illness in schools (Read at The Hechinger Report)

    ELEMENTARY SCHOOL Elementary school teachers sometimes follow a class of students from year to year. New research suggests that’s a good idea (Read at Chalkbeat)

    Quote of the Day

    “It sharpens and hones the purpose of our mission: serving students by meeting their needs. President Trump is committed to reducing the federal footprint in education, and that is reflected in this budget.” —U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, on the administration’s proposed education budget. (Read at The Washington Post)

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  • Buoyed by National School Walkout, Organizers Now Expect Student-Led ‘March for Our Lives’ to Bring a Half-Million Protesters to Nation’s Capital

    By Laura Fay | March 21, 2018

    After the turnout at last week’s student walkouts, in which tens of thousands of students participated from more than 3,000 schools, organizers for this Saturday’s “March for Our Lives” are expecting more than half a million protesters to take to the streets in Washington, D.C., to demonstrate against gun violence.

    “We already expected the march on March 24 to be a big one,” Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Sarah Chadwick told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow last week. “But I think after [the walkouts], it’s going to be massive. We’re expecting a lot more people to show up now. People are realizing that this isn’t just a one-time thing.”

    Led by students from Stoneman Douglas, Saturday’s march will begin at noon and proceed down Pennsylvania Avenue, ending with a rally featuring student speakers and music near the Capitol building.

    More than 800 sibling marches are planned in cities and towns across the country and around the world.

    The marches are part of a movement that sprang up in the hours after the February 14 shooting in Parkland, when student survivors started speaking out on social media and soon appeared on national news programs urging people to take action to prevent gun violence. Since then, they have inspired students around the country to become activists and organizers using the motto — and hashtag — “Never Again.” On March 14, hundreds of thousands of students walked out of school in demonstrations that observers say are the largest since the Vietnam War.

    During a forum at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government Tuesday, some of the student leaders said they are inspired by the legacy of the civil rights movement and its leaders, especially Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, whom some recently met on a trip to Washington, D.C. Lewis has expressed support for their movement.

    “What’s going to solve this is the same thing that helped promote the civil rights movement,” student David Hogg said at the forum. “It’s love and compassion for both sides, and seeing each other not as Democrats or Republicans but as Americans, for God’s sake.”

    The march has garnered high-profile support, with celebrities including Demi Lovato, Miley Cyrus, and Common slated to perform at the D.C. rally. The March for Our Lives organization has also received financial support from a number of celebrities, including Broadway stars Lin-Manuel Miranda and Ben Platt, who are donating proceeds from a new song, “Found/Tonight,” to the cause.

    D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, a Democrat, expressed her support for the march in a video with Justin Timberlake, and she said the city is putting extra safety and security precautions in place for the event. Additionally, the march has received financial support from the nonprofit group Everytown for Gun Safety.

    Marches are planned in every state and in several countries around the world. In Wisconsin, students have planned an extension event called 50 Miles More in which a group of students will march 50 miles from the state capital, Madison, to Janesville, Wisconsin, Rep. Paul Ryan’s hometown, over three days starting Sunday.

    The reason for the march is to sustain national attention and inspire longer student marches in other states, said Katie Eder, a high school senior and one of the organizers.

    “We’re directing it at Paul Ryan to say, ‘You can’t ignore us anymore, and we want our message to be heard.’ But we’re really sending that same message to the entire country, to say we’re not going anywhere, and we’re going to continue to take action until change is made,” Eder said.

    Another school walkout is planned for April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting. Lane Murdock, a 15-year-old student from Ridgefield, Connecticut, started that event because she wanted to create a way for students to be heard.

    “We don’t have much power because we can’t vote, so I started … to think about the power we did have, and that is, I think, our attendance in school,” Murdock told The 74. “I knew that … walking out of school was a really great way to show that we meant business, and this is not something that we are thinking of on a whim.”


    Inside the National School Walkout: What We Saw at 7 Very Different Marches Against Gun Violence

  • Lawmakers in Puerto Rico Approve Sweeping School Choice Bill Six Months After Maria, Creating New Voucher Program & Charter Schools

    By Mark Keierleber | March 21, 2018

    Six months after Hurricane Maria devastated the island, Puerto Rican lawmakers have approved a sweeping bill to reshape its education system through school choice options like private school vouchers and charters.

    Announced by Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló last month, the legislation was approved by the territory’s Senate on Monday, and the House gave it a nod on Tuesday. To address a crippling financial crisis, the island’s education secretary, Julia Keleher, has been working to reform the island’s school system since before the hurricane-ravaged public school system was shuttered last September. When all public schools were closed due to the storm and thousands of students fled to the U.S. mainland, education reform — and a desire to boost chronically poor academic performance — became more urgent, she said.

    Among the proposals is a private school voucher program, capped at 3 percent of total student enrollment by a Senate amendment, and charter schools, capped at 10 percent of public schools. The government is also working to break its unitary education department into seven regions to increase local autonomy, and to establish a per-pupil spending formula.

    In January, Rosselló released a fiscal plan that would close 300 public schools and reduce education spending by $300 million. Last year, officials shuttered nearly 200 public schools amid a financial crisis that’s left the island’s bankrupt government with $123 billion in debt and pension obligations.


    Post-Maria, Puerto Rico Looks to Charter Schools, Vouchers as Part of New Education Reform Strategy

    As the island looks to inject school choice into its education system, Puerto Rican officials have sought advice from school choice advocacy groups on the U.S. mainland, including voucher proponents EdChoice, Chalkbeat reports. Keleher has also been in contact with Paul Pastorek, a former Louisiana superintendent of education who led state efforts to reform the school system in New Orleans, now run mostly by charters, after Hurricane Katrina struck the city in 2005.

    Although Keleher has made comparisons between Puerto Rico and New Orleans, she’s maintained in interviews with The 74 that her reform goals are more modest. Still, the government’s reform efforts have faced fierce opposition, including from teachers union leaders both locally and on the U.S. mainland. As lawmakers considered the legislation this week, teachers staged a strike and protested outside the capitol in San Juan.


    As Puerto Rico’s Governor Embraces Major School Reform Agenda, New Orleans Offers Inspiration, Caution

  • WATCH: Parkland Students Speak at Harvard University About How They’re Changing America’s Conversation About Guns

    By Laura Fay | March 21, 2018

    Survivors of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who are organizing a movement around gun control stopped to reflect on violence, activism, and this Saturday’s national march at an event at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government Tuesday.

    One of the students, Cameron Kasky, explained that he decided he and his classmates needed to speak out while listening to the radio in the car on the way home from school on the day of the February 14 shooting that left 17 dead.

    “I was looking at my phone, and seeing what was going on, and I started to realize, I’ve seen this before,” he said. “I’ve seen this happen countless times, and what happens is we get two weeks in the news, we get a bundle of thoughts and prayers, everybody sends flowers, and then it’s over. I said, ‘What’s different this time? What can we do differently this time?’ ”

    “We know that we can fix this, but we have to jump now. We have to start now,” he said.

    In addition to Kasky, the conversation included Ryan Deitsch, Matt Deitsch, Emma González, David Hogg, and Alex Wind, who are leading the “Never Again” movement and organizing Saturday’s March for Our Lives.

    The forum happened the same day a school shooting in Maryland left two students injured and a student gunman dead.

    At the Harvard event, one of the Parkland students, Ryan Deitsch, noted that the very forum in which they were participating was named for a man killed by a gun, President John F. Kennedy.

    “The bullet doesn’t discriminate,” he said.


    The Revolution Will Be Hashtagged. Social-Media-Savvy, Irreverent, and Maybe a Bit Entitled, Parkland Students Succeed Where Others Have Failed to Launch a National Movement Around Guns


    Gun Control Group Pledges $2.5 Million to Sponsor March for Our Lives Protests

  • EduClips: Harvey-Damaged Schools Get Reassurance From TX Lawmakers; Candidates for CA Schools Chief Stress Funding Transparency — and More Must-Reads From America’s 15 Biggest School Districts

    By Andrew Brownstein | March 21, 2018

    EduClips is a roundup of the day’s top education headlines from America’s largest school districts, where more than 4 million students across eight states attend class every day. Read previous EduClips installments here. Get the day’s top school and policy news delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for the TopSheet Education Newsletter.

    Top Story

    DEVOS Four cabinet secretaries — but no teachers or other interested school parties — will be part of President Donald Trump’s new federal school safety commission that will begin hearings sometime soon, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said Tuesday, as she called for more federal funding for school safety.

    DeVos was testifying Tuesday morning to a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee just as news emerged of yet another school shooting, this one reportedly having injured two students at Great Mills High School in southern Maryland. The shooter was killed after a school resource officer fired at him, though as of Tuesday evening it wasn’t clear whether the officer killed him or he was struck by his own bullet. After calls for action — much of it coming from the student survivors of the February 14 Parkland, Florida, school massacre — the White House announced earlier this month that DeVos will chair a school safety commission. The group will study several issues, including raising the minimum age to buy guns, a ratings system for violent video games, and best practices for campus safety. (Read at

    National News

    DEVOS Betsy DeVos Still Challenged in Delivering Policy Message (Read at Education Week)

    SHOOTING Gunman Injures 2 Classmates at Maryland HS, Dies During Shootout With Deputy; At Least 30 Killed, 53 Hurt in School Shootings in 2018 (Read at

    DEVOS Democrats Tell DeVos Her ‘Head Is in the Sand’ on Racial Bias (Read at The New York Times)

    District and State News

    TEXAS Harvey-hit schools get new assurances from Legislature (Read at the Houston Chronicle)

    CALIFORNIA Candidates for California’s top schools chief post call for more transparency in spending of state funds (Read at EdSource)

    FLORIDACharter schools firm asks districts to provide resource officers to all its campuses by April 1 (Read at Tampa Bay Online)

    PENNSYLVANIA The Sugar Fix: Philadelphia Pre-Schoolers Get Free Education Through Sugar Tax (Read at Stuff)

    NEW YORK Opinion: De Blasio’s discrimination against charter school kids (Read at the New York Post)

    CALIFORNIA How Trump repeal of Obama-era school discipline guidelines could affect California (Read at EdSource)

    NEVADA Lawyer: Trustee Child to sue if Clark County School Board OKs settlement (Read at the Las Vegas Review-Journal)

    HAWAII Teachers to lawmakers: Hawaii kids are taking too many standardized tests (Read at Hawaii News Now)

    Think Pieces

    MARCH FOR OUR LIVES Student Activists and Celebrity Donors: Who’s Behind the ‘March for Our Lives’ (Read at Education Week)

    DEVOS Education Secretary Betsy DeVos probably won’t be fired but she needs to resign (Read at USA Today)

    RACE Forget Wealth and Neighborhood. The Racial Income Gap Persists (Read at NPR)

    TESTING Waters: New Jersey’s New Governor Says He Wants to Scrap PARCC Tests but Doesn’t Know How. Here’s What It Would Take — and It’s Not Easy (Read at

    GIRLS IN SCIENCE Want More Girls in Science Fields? Check the Images on Your Classroom Walls (Read at Inside School Research)

    EDUCATION TECHNOLOGY Bids to bring fiber internet to schools are denied funding seven times more often than other projects (Read at The Hechinger Report)

    Quote of the Day

    “It’s hard to believe that people who have been on the job for this long don’t have staff that understand how the system works. It is important to connect with the people who pay the bills.” ­—Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, Republican of New Jersey and the chairman of the appropriations committee, to U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, on a ‘disconnect’ between the department and his office. (Read at The New York Times)

    Want the day’s top school and policy news delivered straight to your inbox — for free? Sign up for the TopSheet Daybreak Education Newsletter.

  • Parkland Shooting Revives Calls to Roll Back Obama-Era Guidance on School Discipline, but the FBI Tells Lawmakers There’s ‘No Indication’ Issues Are Related

    By Mark Keierleber | March 20, 2018

    Correction appended March 21

    The FBI’s deputy director acknowledged Tuesday that the agency failed to act on several tips it received about Nikolas Cruz, who is charged with shooting and killing 17 people last month at a high school in Parkland, Florida. But he said an Obama-era guidance document on school discipline, designed to reduce racial disparities and the reliance on police for nonviolent offenses, played no role in its efforts to prevent such attacks.

    “I don’t recall that guidance,” said David Bowdich during a House subcommittee hearing on law enforcement agencies’ response to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, including tips the FBI and other law enforcement agencies received about Cruz before he opened fire on February 14. “We have no indication” investigators considered the guidance document when responding to tips about Cruz’s violent behavior, he said.

    The congressional hearing follows claims by Republican lawmakers and pundits that the Obama-era guidance, issued in 2014 by the Departments of Education and Justice, has pushed local school districts to reduce student punishments or else face the wrath of federal investigators, effectively making schools less safe. Proponents, meanwhile, maintain the guidance is an important backstop to ensure that schools don’t discriminate when doling out punishments.


    Is DeVos Near Ending School Discipline Reform After Talks on Race, Safety?

    A heated debate over the guidance ensued long before the Parkland shooting, leading Education Department officials to meet last year with proponents and critics of that directive.

    But the shooting has emboldened the document’s staunchest critics, who have called on Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to slash the guidance. Among lawmakers who have attacked the guidance since Parkland is Sen. Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, who, in a letter to DeVos and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, said the directive “arguably made it easier for schools to not report students to law enforcement than deal with the potential consequences.” Last week, President Donald Trump said DeVos would head a school safety commission that would examine, among other items, a “repeal of the Obama Administration’s ‘Rethink School Discipline’ policies.”


    Teachers Urge DeVos Not to Scrap School Discipline Rules, as Civil Rights Commission Holds Hearing on Bias Against Disabled Students of Color

    Max Eden, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank, is among the 2014 document’s staunchest critics. During the Capitol Hill hearing on Tuesday, Eden argued that Cruz, who had a history of acting violently, should have been unable to pass a background check to purchase a firearm. The Broward County school district implemented a discipline policy in 2013 that aimed to reduce its reliance on suspensions. That local policy ultimately helped inform federal guidance, Eden said.

    While acknowledging that the guidance doesn’t prevent officials from responding to violent offenses, Eden argued that the policy could have kept Broward County educators from flagging Cruz’s behavior over the course of several years.

    “This policy of explicitly trying to push these numbers down can inhibit the good and fair judgment of school resource officers to issue arrests where they may be warranted,” Eden said, adding that arrests “feed into the system in a way that could have been constructive” in the Parkland incident.

    But Kristen Harper, director for policy at the nonprofit Child Trends research center, noted that efforts to reduce racial disparities don’t contradict efforts to stop school violence. Racial disparities in school discipline are widespread among minor offenses, she said, but students across racial groups receive similar punishments for violent acts. Further, she said, the discipline guidance does not restrict schools or law enforcement from punishing students who are violent.

    “In fact, there is explicit language in the guidance that says we should train school personnel to be able to distinguish between violent and nonviolent behaviors, and to determine when law enforcement needs to be brought in,” she said.

    Rescinding the guidance, she said, could confuse school officials about their obligations under federal civil rights law, and would not result in improved student safety.

    “The research does not support the conclusion that additional law enforcement presence [in] schools makes them safer,” she added. “We do know that increased law enforcement presence in schools increases criminalization of student behaviors.”


    Civil Rights Leaders: Post-Parkland School Violence Bills Could Do More Harm Than Good

    The discipline guidance also came up during a separate congressional hearing in Washington on Tuesday. Rep. Katherine Clark, Democrat of Massachusetts, asked DeVos about racial disparities in school discipline and the potential consequences arming teachers or increasing law enforcement presence in schools could have on students of color.

    “I’m concerned about all students, students of color and all students,” DeVos replied. DeVos noted that the 2014 discipline guidance is under review, part of a Trump executive order to review all regulations within the Education Department.

    “The stated goal of the guidance is one that we all embrace, to ensure that no child is discriminated against,” DeVos said. “We are committed to reviewing and considering this guidance and taking appropriate steps, if any are warranted.”

    Carolyn Phenicie contributed reporting from Washington, D.C.

    Correction: A Broward County judge on March 14 entered a not guilty plea on behalf of Nikolas Cruz, 19, who is accused of killing 17 people in the Feb. 14 Parkland, Florida school shooting. Court documents show that Cruz confessed to the killings but did not enter a plea after prosecutors said they would seek the death penalty, Information about his plea was incorrect in an earlier version of the story.


    17 Minutes of History: Wednesday’s Walkout Part of Long Tradition of Students Speaking Out, From Tinker v. Des Moines to Black Lives Matter


  • New Study Warns the Push for More Math & Science Classes in High School Isn’t Yielding More College Students Pursuing STEM Careers

    By Kevin Mahnken | March 20, 2018

    Expanding access to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) courses in high school doesn’t increase the number of students who attain college degrees in those subjects, a new study finds. Neither will adding more STEM classes at the high school level push black, Hispanic, and female students to become STEM majors at the same rate as the white and Asian men who currently predominate in those college disciplines. In fact, the authors add, it may only worsen existing gender and race disparities.

    Their conclusions throw cold water on recent campaigns to broaden the STEM talent pipeline in American schools. Persistently low rankings on international math assessments and chronic shortages of qualified instructors have fueled warnings of a STEM education crisis. Policymakers often perceive economic growth as dependent on breakthroughs in science and technology, and the Obama White House prioritized the expansion and diversification of the future science and technology workforce through its “STEM for All” campaign.

    The administration made both financial and symbolic gestures to emphasize the campaign’s importance; while securing $1 billion in new private funding for STEM education, the president also created the White House Science Fair. In his 2011 State of the Union address, the president set a goal of training 100,000 new elementary and secondary math and science teachers within a decade.

    The study, conducted by the University of Kentucky’s Rajeev Darolia and the University of Missouri’s Cory Koedel, compared academic records for 140,000 students in Missouri public colleges between 1996 and 2009 with data on course offerings in the roughly 500 Missouri public high schools they graduated from.

    Since students who declare a STEM major or graduate with a STEM degree generally enrolled in more STEM courses as teenagers, some have suggested that offering more of those courses in high schools could attract more students and prepare them to succeed in the subjects at the post-secondary level. In schools with high percentages of low-income or minority students, it is hoped that expanding STEM course access could yield pathways for underrepresented students to lucrative careers.

    The results from Missouri’s schools don’t support that theory. While the number of STEM majors at Missouri’s 14 public colleges and universities increased modestly over the period Darolia and Koedel studied, the number of STEM courses offered in high schools was about flat — and the number of science courses actually declined.

    Overall, students who attended high schools with broader STEM offerings were hardly more likely to major (or attain a college degree) in a STEM subject than those whose high schools offered fewer such courses. The authors estimate that offering one more STEM course per 100 students would increase college STEM enrollment and degree attainment by between .03 and .04 percentage points.

    What’s more, increasing access to STEM classes for female and minority students in high school doesn’t help them catch up to white and Asian men later on. It could even make those groups fall further behind.

    “The estimates suggest that post-secondary STEM outcomes for female and underrepresented minority students are less affected by access to STEM courses in high school than white male students,” they write. “The implication is that broad, untargeted efforts to expand STEM access in high school may modestly exacerbate current race- and gender-based imbalances in STEM fields.”

    Darolia and Koedel conclude by suggesting that improving the pool of STEM teachers, instructional methods, or curricular materials might be better paths to improvement than simply expanding access to existing resources. But it’s also possible that the academic inclination toward math, science, and technology is simply activated earlier in children’s schooling.

    In a highly publicized study from late 2017, renowned economist Raj Chetty demonstrated that children who later go on to become inventors were typically already performing well on third-grade math tests. They were also much more likely to come from high-income families, especially when one of their parents was also a patent holder.

    If childhood exposure to technological innovation is the most important factor in later-life technical success, offering more STEM classes to high schoolers simply might not make much difference.

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