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June 2018
  • A Holiday Look at the Top Education News Stories in America’s Largest Districts: School Safety, Hurricane Recovery & More

    By Andrew Brownstein | June 29, 2018

    Every day at The 74, EduClips offers a rapid roundup of the day’s top education headlines from America’s largest school districts, where more than 4 million students across 11 states attend class every day. You can read previous installments right here— and be sure to sign up for the TopSheet Education Newsletter if you’d like to get more school and policy news delivered straight to your inbox.

    As we approach the July 4 holiday, we offer a quick recap on where the top 15 districts stand, and spotlight some of the key issues, debates, and storylines that affect these school systems.

    Reminder: After a brief vacation, EduClips will resume Monday morning, July 16.

    PROPOSED SHAKEUP FOR NEW YORK CITY’S ELITE HIGH SCHOOLS — Mayor Bill de Blasio’s deeply controversial proposal to diversify New York City’s elite high schools awaits approval from the state legislature. The proposal would eliminate an exam known as the SHSAT, replacing it with a system in which the top 7 percent of students from every middle school would be admitted, based on class rank and state test scores. By evenly redistributing acceptances across the system, the change would drastically slash the number of middle schools that feed into the program. The New York Times estimated that out of almost 600 middle schools citywide, just 10 of them account for one-quarter of the 5,000 students admitted to the specialized schools this year. (Read at The New York Times)

    LOWEST-PERFORMING SCHOOLS IN LOS ANGELES LACK TEACHER EVALUATIONS, STUDY FINDS — Most of the teachers in Los Angeles’s lowest-performing public schools are not regularly evaluated, and nearly all who are receive good ratings, according to an analysis by Parent Revolution. Last year, the nonprofit found, more than two-thirds of teachers were not formally evaluated, and nearly all of those who were — 96 percent —met or exceeded performance standards. The results come at a time in which just 27 percent of students met or exceeded the state’s standards in English Language Arts and 20 percent in math. (Read at the Los Angeles Times)

    CHICAGO SCHOOLS REEL FROM SEX ABUSE SCANDAL — The Chicago Public Schools removed one principal and reassigned another, the latest move in a sexual abuse scandal that has shaken the district. Simeon Career Academy Principal Dr. Sheldon House was removed following an audit that found that volunteers coached athletics without undergoing proper background checks. The district also announced it reassigned Sarah Goode STEM Academy principal Armando Rodriguez pending the outcome of an investigation of a student’s allegation of possible sexual abuse at the hands of a teacher. The district’s failure to protect student victims was reported first by the Chicago Tribune in early June. The district has also recently opened a new office to deal with sexual abuse complaints. (Read at Chalkbeat)

    PUERTO RICO GRAPPLES WITH SCHOOL CLOSURES — Puerto Rico is scrambling to implement its decision to close 263 schools before the 2018-19 school year. Hurricane Maria significantly affected the island’s public education system, but Puerto Rico has been struggling with declining enrollment and fiscal problems for years. A recent study showed that about 650 schools were at less than 70 percent of capacity in terms of student enrollment. While a little more than 260,000 students on the island have re-enrolled in public school, roughly 50,000 students have yet to decide where they will attend schools next year. (Read at Education Week)

    CARVALHO SEIZES ON TOP GRADES TO SEEK PAY BOOST FOR MIAMI TEACHERS — This year, the Miami-Dade school district earned an A- rating from the state, one of only two of Florida’s six largest districts do to so. And for the second year in a row, no traditional school in the district earned an F. That news gave Superintendent Alberto Carvalho an opening to lobby for a referendum to increase taxes in order to offer teachers a long-neglected raise. “The news could not have come at a better time,” Carvalho said. “When I say the performance justifies it, Miami-Dade Public Schools has justified their return on investment.” (Read at the Miami Herald)

    NEW SUPERINTENDENT TALKS ABOUT TRUST … IN LAS VEGAS — New Clark County School District Superintendent Jesus Jara faces a major challenge: building trust. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, trust in the district among “officials, legislators, parents and trustees often seems nonexistent and divisions threaten to undermine modest progress in academic achievement.” Jara said he believes in operating transparently and having open dialogues, and is unafraid of healthy debate. “The passion I can work with,” he said. “What we need to do is just channel it together to … work as one and collaborate together so we can then have a real clear focus on being the No. 1 district for kids.” (Read at the Las Vegas Review-Journal)

    IN FORT LAUDERDALE, PARENT OF SLAIN PARKLAND TEEN OFFERS SECURITY PLAN — Andrew Pollack lost his daughter, Meadow, when she was murdered in the Feb. 14 massacre that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Now, he is promoting an eight-point plan — dubbed the Pollack plan — that calls for hardening schools, rather than the kinds of gun control reforms pushed by the school’s student activists. “I like these kids,” he said. “I don’t blame them. They are treated like rock stars, but let’s work on Broward.” His plan calls for schools to establish single points of entry with metal detectors, recruit safety volunteers, increase mental health resources, and arm staff or other safety specialists. (Read at The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel)

    HOUSTON PASSES BUDGET DESPITE GAPING DEFICIT — Despite over $80 million in cuts, the recent 2018-19 school budget passed unanimously by the Houston school board leaves a gaping deficit — one that several trustees say they want to avoid in the future. “We have to do better moving forward,” said trustee Elizabeth Santos. District budget manager Glenn Reed told reporters that he expects to cover that deficit with savings from other departments — not reserves. (Read at Houston Public Media)

    POOR GRADES LEAD TO TAMPA PRINCIPAL SHUFFLE — In January, after several Tampa schools earned poor state ratings, the State Board of Education ordered Superintendent Jeff Eakins to move principals out of four schools. So when school grades came out again in late June and Eakins identified schools with repeated D or F grades, he tried to be proactive: He appointed 18 principals, so many and with so little notice for some that two members of the school board tried to delay their approval. In a long list of school-to-school principal transfers, D-rated schools were given principals from A and B schools. Some principals were moved a dozen or more miles from their past posts. As word spread, teachers and parents called school board members to complain. (Read at the Tampa Tribune)

    FREE SUMMER LUNCH PROGRAM UNDERUSED BY HAWAII YOUTH — Only 1 in 10 eligible schoolchildren from low-income households take advantage of a program that delivers summer lunches to 69 island public schools, according to a new report by the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC). Nicole Woo of the Hawaii Appleseed Center for Law and Economic Justice said Hawaii is near the bottom of FRAC’s national ranking, coming in 41st among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. “A lot of these kids rely on free or reduced-price school lunch during the school year. During the summer we don’t know where they’re getting their meals if they’re not taking advantage of the summer food program,” she said. (Read at Hawaii News Now)

    ORLANDO SENTINEL INVESTIGATION: PRIVATE SCHOOLS OFFER SPECIOUS LESSONS — Some private schools in Florida that rely on public funding teach students that “dinosaurs and humans lived together, that God’s intervention prevented Catholics from dominating North America, and that slaves who ‘knew Christ’ were better off than free men who did not,” according to an investigation by the Orlando Sentinel. The Sentinel surveyed the 151 private schools newly approved by the state Education Department to take scholarships for the 2017-18 school year. The lessons taught at these schools come from three Christian publishing companies whose textbooks are popular on many of about 2,000 campuses that often depend on nearly $1 billion in state scholarships, or vouchers. (Read at the Orlando Sentinel)

    PALM BEACH SCHOOLS SCRAMBLE TO FILL POST-PARKLAND POLICE MANDATE — Like schools in every other district in the state, Palm Beach County schools are scrambling to find police officers to comply with a new law requiring an officer in every school. The mandate followed the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead. The school district needs to add 108 officers to its 152-officer force to meet the state’s mandate of at least one officer in each elementary school and two or three in middle and high schools. (Read at the Sun-Sentinel)

    FAIRFAX APPROVES CONTROVERSIAL PRO-TRANSGENDER LANGUAGE — Fairfax County schools will replace “biological sex” with “sex assigned at birth” in the district’s family life education curriculum, which includes lessons on sexual health and sexuality. The school board voted to convey that a person’s anatomy may not coincide with gender identity, holding that “biological sex” is coded language used to denigrate transgender people. With the vote, Fairfax became the latest battleground over recognition of transgender and nonbinary students in the nation’s schools. (Read at The Washington Post)

    PHILADELPHIA’S NEW SCHOOL BOARD MEETS FOR FIRST TIME — In late June, members of Philadelphia’s School Reform Commission gathered for the last time. A new nine-member Board of Education, appointed by the mayor, will hold its first public meeting July 9. The nine Philadelphians, several of them city natives who attended local public schools, include two former members of the outgoing commission. Six of the nine members are women. One of the men, Lee Huang, has three adopted children, all of whom attend Philadelphia public schools. Members of the former state-sanctioned commission — a controversial five-member panel that governed the city’s public schools for 16 years — moved to abolish that body last year. Members of the new board will face several challenges, including declining public school enrollment and significant structural deficits. (Read at The Philadelphia Inquirer)

    HISTORIC SCHOOL BOARD ELECTION IN GEORGIA’S GWINNETT COUNTY — November’s election for school board could herald a dramatic change: If Everton Blair, a Democrat running in District 4, wins, he will be the first nonwhite school board member in the history of the county, which now is over 60 percent minority. “As a graduate of the Gwinnett County school system and a teacher, I witnessed the demographic shift and was a part of it,” he said. “One thing that’s missing currently is those voices.” In May, Blair defeated Mark Williams with 53.5 percent of the votes in the Democratic primary. (Read at the Gwinnett Daily Post)

    DALLAS PROHIBITS BULLYING BASED ON IMMIGRATION STATUS — The Dallas Independent School District is prohibiting bullying based on a student’s immigration status. At a June 21 board meeting, the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees unanimously approved the addition of “immigration status” to the district’s Student Welfare Freedom From Bullying policy. Rafael McDonnell, with the Dallas Resource Center, urged the board to consider the specific changes. “When we adopted this policy back in 2010, immigration status wasn’t on anybody’s radar and given the world that we live in today, it certainly is,” McDonnell said. (Read at Fox News 4)

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  • Newspaper Investigations of Toxic Asbestos, Lead in Philadelphia Classrooms Underscore Infrastructure Problems in Nation’s Schools, Experts Say

    By Laura Fay | June 29, 2018

    When first-grader Dean Pagan started having trouble with simple math problems and began earning “red” instead of “green” on his teacher’s behavior chart, his parents started to worry. The chart indicated he hadn’t been following directions. His parents took him to a psychiatrist and a therapist, and he was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. But after his teacher spotted him putting a paint chip in his mouth during class, they had him tested for lead poisoning.

    The results were devastating — the lead level in Dean’s blood was nine times as high as that known to cause permanent brain damage.

    Dean’s own classroom had poisoned him.

    He had been eating paint chips that fell onto his desk because he wanted to keep his workspace neat and because he wasn’t allowed to get out of his seat without permission during class.

    In Dean’s school in Philadelphia — and in schools around the country — toxins like lead, asbestos, and mold are common. When buildings are left to age without good cleaning and prompt repairs, such toxins can be released into the spaces where children play, learn, and eat.

    Any school built before the 1970s has “legacy toxics” like mold, asbestos, and lead, said Mary Filardo, executive director of the 21st Century School Fund, which advocates for school infrastructure improvements and modernization. But, she added, good cleaning and prompt repairs can keep kids safe. Asbestos isn’t a problem until floors, walls, and other parts of buildings are allowed to deteriorate, releasing poisonous asbestos fibers into the air. One way that can happen is if schools have problems with their heating and cooling systems, making the air too humid.

    Without modernization and maintenance, the classrooms are “a much more hazardous place to be,” she told The 74.

    The average school building in the United States is more than 40 years old, according to 2012-13 data, the most recent available, and experts say the federal government should be doing more to help states keep up with maintenance and repairs.

    U.S. schools earned a grade of D+ on the American Society of Civil Engineers’ most recent “Infrastructure Report Card,” which noted that “the nation continues to underinvest in school facilities, leaving an estimated $38 billion annual gap” between actual spending and need.

    Related

    America’s Aging Schools: Was School Infrastructure a Missed Opportunity for President’s State of the Union Speech?

    Dean’s story came to light after a series of investigations by two Philadelphia newspapers revealed students were being exposed to dangerous levels of lead, asbestos, and other toxins. The investigations conducted by The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News, with the help of school staff, found a pattern of neglect and ignored warnings on the part of the city’s schools.

    Their investigations also revealed that lead paint was not the only infrastructure problem in schools, which according to a district spokesperson average more than 70 years old. Students at one elementary school, Lewis C. Cassidy Academics Plus, reported chilly classrooms without heat, burst pipes spilling water onto their backpacks, mice and rats in the bathrooms, and a cockroach crawling out of a milk carton, according to the Inquirer. After a maintenance crew was called to fix peeling paint and mold at A.S. Jenks Elementary, students were exposed to asbestos fibers from broken floor tiles and dust containing lead from disintegrating paint. At both schools, test results showed alarming levels of asbestos exposure, which can cause a range of health problems.

    Lee Whack, the district’s spokesman, disputed some of the Inquirer’s findings, noting “faulty” methodology and the fact that staff members, not trained scientists, collected asbestos samples from the classrooms.

    “We know that our students and staff deserve better school buildings,” Whack told The 74. “We understand that there are issues in our buildings, and we are actively working to address them.”

    Related

    Baltimore Students Wear Blankets, Coats to Class in High School With No Heat for 2 Weeks

    A system in crisis

    In response to the investigations, the three congressmen who represent Philadelphia urged the House in May to allocate money to help the city repair its schools. The representatives — Democrats Bob Brady, Brendan Boyle, and Dwight Evans — asked House leaders to consider including money for Philadelphia schools in any infrastructure plan that comes before Congress.

    But can districts like Philadelphia move forward without federal help?

    The district assessed the condition of its school buildings last year and reported that the buildings need roughly $4.5 billion in repairs. But the news comes at a time of deeper fiscal woes for the district. Philadelphia’s City Council recently passed a budget that is projected to allocate an extra $617 million to schools over the next five years to help stabilize the system’s finances and stave off debt.

    David Masur, executive director of PennEnvironment and an organizer of the Philly Healthy Schools Initiative, is focused on driving change locally. Currently, he and other members are pressing the Philadelphia City Council to pass legislation that would codify for schools best practices for lead paint removal and stabilization. He’s also focused on increasing accountability and transparency in the district’s communications with families and other stakeholders.

    Masur said people are “lined up to help” the school system deal with the problems it’s facing, but some of the offers have been ignored by district leadership.

    Whack, the district’s communications director, said the district is engaged in some partnerships already, including with the initiative, and is open to working with anyone who wants to help. Additionally, the district has recently adopted new cleaning standards for school buildings and is planning to do some lead removal this summer.

    Filardo, the advocate for school facilities, said the federal government needs to allocate money to states to repair and rebuild schools. Repairing and modernizing the schools will also require a new level of cooperation in the city, bringing together the business community, the school district, and civic leaders, she said. That the city’s schools are still being used a century after they were built is a “tribute to their quality.”

    “Where they are in Philly is not unfamiliar,” Filardo said. But to fix the problems, “It’s going to take a level of cooperation and planning that they have not seen yet in Philadelphia.”

    In an opinion article for the Inquirer, Philadelphia schools superintendent William Hite said much the same thing: “We are facing a challenge that could seem too big to solve. It isn’t. But it will require an all-hands-on-deck effort from every neighborhood in this city.”

    PennEnvironment’s Masur says there are more aggressive steps the school district can take right away — without community input or increased funding — such as communicating better with parents and using proven best practices to clean up lead, mold, and asbestos. The school district “exploits” the idea that it cannot do anything until it gets more funding because that is easy for people to understand, he said. His message, that the district can act now, is more difficult to explain.

    “It’s harder to go, Look, what we’re saying here is a little nuanced: They do need more money, but there’s shit they could do today. Without money.”

    Asbestos and other toxins remain in schools

    These issues are not new. A 1983 New York Times headline lamented that the “huge cost of removing asbestos daunts schools.” More than 30 years later, the work of removing asbestos from some schools remains undone.

    Nearly 70 percent of school districts reported schools with asbestos in a 2015 survey conducted through the offices of Sens. Edward J. Markey and Barbara Boxer, with 20 states responding. The senators’ report also notes that “States do not appear to be systematically monitoring, investigating or addressing asbestos hazards in schools,” despite a 1986 law requiring them to do so.

    The New York Times Archives

    A Politico/Harvard poll conducted in February revealed that a majority of Americans from both parties think improving school buildings is an “extremely or very important priority.” Filardo said she expects to see Congress tackle school infrastructure next year because voters are becoming aware of these issues and advocating for their schools. Earlier this year, advocates urged President Donald Trump to allocate funding for schools in an infrastructure package, but a tentative plan released by the White House did not mention schools.

    “We actually think that in the 2019 Congress … [Lawmakers] will listen to voters on what’s important back in local communities,” she said.

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  • 25 International Teachers Caught in Immigration Bureaucracy Forced to Leave Country Just Before Independence Day

    By Mario Koran | June 28, 2018

    Just days before the July 4th holiday, 25 international teachers whom Baltimore City Public Schools recruited to fill hard-to-staff positions will be forced to leave the country after the federal government refused to extend their work visas before they expired.

    Months ago, the school district applied to extend the international teachers’ H-1B visas — a program that allows employers to hire international workers with skills they can’t find in American candidates — but learned in May the applications were held up for an unusual audit.

    The review will take an additional six to eight months — long enough for the educators’ visas to expire, forcing them out of a country some of them have have called home for more than a decade.

    “It’s terribly unfortunate,” said the district’s chief human capital officer, Jeremy Grant-Skinner. “These are high-need teachers who are part of the community. We did everything we could, and the teachers did everything they could to be in compliance, so to be in the situation we are today is not good for our students or the teachers themselves.”

    Related

    Anxiety Looms for Thousands of Migrant Teachers as Trump Administration Pushes ‘Zero Tolerance’ Enforcement of Visa Program

    Earlier this week, The 74 reported on the problems faced by this small but growing segment of the teaching population. Many are arriving in this country and working at a moment of profound uncertainty over the future of the H-1B visa program, partly in response to President Donald Trump’s call to reassess the program and change requirements to encourage employers to “hire American.” Experts and district officials say that enforcement appears to be tightening as part of what one immigration attorney described as “a zero tolerance approach going on for everything.”

    Grant-Skinner said the Department of Labor has not told the district why it is holding the applications for an audit. He said it’s the first time the district has faced a forced departure of its educators in over a decade of dealing with visa applications for Filipino teachers, and that district officials can only speculate as to why it’s happening now.

    “We can only guess. But given our experience in the past, it does seem that something has happened at the federal level to cause this to take longer than usual,” Grant-Skinner said.

    In a June 21 letter obtained by The 74, Baltimore school district CEO Sonja Brookins Santelises informed her colleagues of the teachers’ fate.

    “Needless to say, everyone at City Schools is deeply saddened by the loss, for any length of time, of these talented, dedicated educators, and by the knowledge that they will be forced to leave what many consider to be their homes after all of this time,” Santelises wrote.

    In recognition of their contributions, the letter indicates the district will offer the teachers unpaid leave for one year and pay for expedited processing of future applications, and will rehire any of the teachers who get permission to return to work in the United States.

    The district has been fighting in vain for five years to extend the teachers’ visas and offer them permanent employment. Problems began in April 2013, when the district first applied to offer the educators positions that would allow them to remain permanently in the U.S.

    After the government denied those requests in 2014, the district asked to extend the visas, which are typically good for three years. That request was denied as well. And when the district filed again recently to allow the teachers to remain permanently, the government flagged the applications for an audit.

    Earlier this month, five Democratic members of Maryland’s congressional delegation asked U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta to take action before the teachers had to leave the country, The Baltimore Sun reported.

    “It would be a loss for the Baltimore community and undercut the ability of City Schools to provide a high-quality education in important academic areas that prepare students, including those with special needs, for in-demand jobs,” they wrote.

    The efforts appear to have fallen short. Several of the teachers have already left Baltimore, and the rest must do so before July 1, Grant-Skinner said.

    The Baltimore school district currently has 250 international teachers, many recruited from the Philippines. A documentarian, whose film The Learning premiered in 2011, chronicled the trek of several teachers from the Philippines, where an English-speaking school system modeled after America’s makes the country an ideal source of educators.

    Baltimore isn’t the only district that’s looked abroad to help fill hard-to-staff positions.

    Los Angeles has 25 teachers with H-1B visas. Denver Public Schools currently sponsors 130 teachers under the program. And Dallas Independent School District employs 250 such educators. The districts’ spokespeople said most were recruited to help meet the demands of bilingual education programs.

    Employers who want to sponsor foreign workers on H-1B visas must show they’ve tried and failed to find qualified American teachers to fill the roles.

    In 2012, the Sun reported that the Baltimore district had conducted a so-called “market test” that showed hundreds of American teachers had applied for the positions occupied by foreign teachers — a rationale Trump has used to call for a crackdown on the visa program.

    But Grant-Skinner says the district has not been able to find American candidates with the same skills.

    “We have historically had vacancies in high-need areas in the district, so to suggest that we have plenty of high-quality applicants and that we don’t need to recruit from all available sources is just not true,” he said.



  • Monthly QuotED: Of Janus, Immigration, and AP History — 9 Notable Quotes That Made Education Headlines in June

    By Andrew Brownstein | June 28, 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.

    “Compelling individuals to mouth support for views they find objectionable violates that cardinal constitutional command, and in most contexts, any such effort would be universally condemned.” —U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, ruling for the 5-4 majority in Janus v. AFSCME that dissenting employees cannot be forced to pay public sector union dues. (Read at The74Million.org)

    U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito Jr. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

    “We have reached the breaking point.” —Christine Marsh, a high school English teacher and 2016 Arizona Teacher of the Year, one of many educators running for election this year. (Read at The Washington Post)

    “Working two jobs and trying to maintain a balance with teaching, it does take a toll, especially when you have a family.” —Joe Reid, until recently a middle school language arts teacher in Hebron, Indiana. A new federal analysis shows that 1 in 5 teachers have a second job. (Read at Education Week)

    “I wish I had known that, even though we’re doing big things for kids, that people would dislike us because we have the name ‘charter’ attached to us. That was shocking to me.” —Nicole Assisi, founder and CEO of Thrive Public Schools (Read at The74Million.org)

    Emmeline Zhao

    “I’m being compelled to encourage students in what I believe is something that’s a dangerous lifestyle. I’m fine to teach students with other beliefs, but the fact that teachers are being compelled to speak a certain way is the scary thing.” —John Kluge, an orchestra teacher at Brownsburg High School, outside Indianapolis, who said he was coerced to resign after he refused to call transgender students by their preferred names. (Read at The Washington Post)

    “It seems like there’s a bit of a zero-tolerance approach going on for everything. Even if they’ve followed the rules and done everything the right way, immigration officials are still scrutinizing applications even more closely than before.” —San Diego-based attorney Vaani Chawla, on a federal crackdown on the enforcement of H-1B visas, which affects thousands of migrant teachers. (Read at The74Million.org)

    “The current AP World History course and exam cover 10,000 years of history across all seven continents. No other AP course requires such an expanse of content to be covered over a single school year. AP World History teachers have told us over the years that the scope of content is simply too broad, and that they often need to sacrifice depth to cover it all.” —The College Board, in an explanation on its website, about its decision to eliminate content on pre-colonial Africa, Asia, the Americas, and the Middle East from AP World History. (Read at Education Week)

    “Board members may talk about future calamity, but they just approved a raise for 30,000 bus drivers, cafeteria workers, and classroom aides. And as Los Angeles teachers watch their peers across the state win pay hikes, they feel increasingly sure that they’ll get one too.” —CALmatters.org writer Jessica Calefati on LAUD’s spending practices. (Read at the Sacramento Bee)

    Karla Burgos Santana and her family at her graduation from Cypress Creek High School in Orlando, Florida. (Courtesy)

    “We don’t close the door on anyone. You have to respond.” —Leslie Torres-Rodriguez, superintendent at Hartford Public Schools, which enrolled 450 Puerto Rican students in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. (Read at The74Million.org)

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

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  • EduClips: Oakland Needs to Close Schools and Reform Fiscal Practices to Stay Solvent, Grand Jury Says; Chicago Opens Office to Handle Sexual Abuse Cases — and More Must-Reads From America’s 15 Biggest School Districts

    By Andrew Brownstein | June 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.

    Note: EduClips will be taking a vacation, returning on the morning of Monday, July 16. Watch for a special edition of EduClips to appear Monday, July 2, outlining some of the major recent stories affecting America’s 15 largest school districts.

    Top Story

    TEACHERS UNIONS — The Supreme Court in a sweeping decision Wednesday upended the way public-sector unions do business, ruling that dissenting employees cannot be compelled to pay any dues, and that union members must affirmatively opt into membership — rather than requiring dissenters to opt out.

    Forcing dissenting employees to pay dues violates First Amendment protections against compelling speech, Justice Samuel A. Alito wrote for the majority in the 5-4 decision that was both highly anticipated and widely expected.

    “Compelling individuals to mouth support for views they find objectionable violates that cardinal constitutional command, and in most contexts, any such effort would be universally condemned,” Alito wrote. (Read at The74Million.org)

    National News

    TEACHERS UNIONS — ‘Preparing for the worst’: Unions brace for loss of members and fees in wake of Supreme Court ruling (Read at The Washington Post)

    SCOTUS Justice Kennedy Retiring From High Court, Had Deep Imprint in Education Arena (Read at Education Week)

    VOCATIONAL PROGRAMS Vocational Programs Get Boost From Congress (Read at The Wall Street Journal)

    District and State News

    CALIFORNIA Oakland Unified needs to close schools and reform fiscal practices to stay solvent, county civil grand jury concludes (Read at EdSource)

    ILLINOIS — Chicago Public Schools to Start Office to Handle Abuse Cases (Read at U.S. News and World Report)

    TEXAS — Texas schools armed 33 staff members through School Marshal program (Read at Chron)

    ILLINOIS — State Board of Education appoints monitor to improve CPS special education services (Read at the Chicago Tribune)

    NEW YORK — How is Carranza’s big shake-up going over? So far, educators are optimistic. (Read at Chalkbeat)

    FLORIDA — Miami-Dade is an A-rated school district. Will voters decide to pay teachers more? (Read at the Miami Herald)

    TEXAS — Texas education board calls Mexican-American studies by its name (Read at the Houston Chronicle)

    CALIFORNIA — After Supreme Court loss, school-employees unions gird for fight to keep their members (Read at the Los Angeles Times)

    PENNSYLVANIA — Kindergarten coders: When is too early to put kids in front of screens? (Read at The Philadelphia Inquirer)

    NEW YORK Want flies with that? City Council pols say give school cafeterias letter grades (Read at the New York Daily News)

    NEVADA — Fast track programs helps get teachers in the classroom (Read at Las Vegas Now)

    Think pieces

    JANUS ROUNDUP:

    • Weisberg: By Forcing Unions to Confront Some Deep-Seated Problems, Janus Loss Could Prove a Win for Them and Their Members (Read at The74Million.org)
    • Is This Supreme Court Decision The End Of Teachers Unions? (Read at NPR)
    • The Supreme Court’s Decision on Union Dues Will Have Profound Consequences (Read at Education Week)
    • Walsh: The ‘Veil of Destitution,’ Increased Activism, and Proving Their Relevance — Union Strategies for Retaining Members Post-Janus (Read at The74Million.org)
    • OPINION: What the Supreme Court’s union decision really means for teachers (Read at The Hechinger Report)

    Quote of the Day

    “Compelling individuals to mouth support for views they find objectionable violates that cardinal constitutional command, and in most contexts, any such effort would be universally condemned.” —U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, ruling for the 5-4 majority in Janus v. AFSCME that dissenting employees cannot be forced to pay public sector union dues. (Read at The74Million.org)

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  • How Big a Bite Could the Supreme Court’s Janus Ruling Take out of Teachers Unions? The NEA Is Expecting to Lose $50 Million — and Possibly 300,000 Members

    By The 74 | June 27, 2018

    In the Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME ruling Wednesday, five of the justices sided with a plaintiff who argued that being forced to pay union dues violated his First Amendment rights to free speech, and rejected the claim from unions that mandatory fees are necessary to prevent “free riders” from benefiting from union contracts.

    Turning to the education world, one key question now becomes: Given that required agency fees have been struck down, how many members, and how much revenue, are teachers unions set to lose?

    As reported exclusively by The 74’s Mike Antonucci late last month, internal documents at the National Education Association paint a bleak picture:

    “When delegates to the National Education Association meet in Minneapolis in July, union leaders will introduce a two-year budget that cuts expenditures by $50 million, an estimated 13 percent reduction from this year.

    “NEA’s budget committee forecasts a two-year loss of 307,000 members if, as expected later in the spring, the Supreme Court eliminates agency fees — mandatory costs to workers who don’t become union members but are covered by union agreements. Those near-term losses will almost entirely occur in the 22 states where fees are still charged, erasing post-recession membership gains in places like California, New Jersey, and New York.” (Read more)

    Indeed, earlier this week Antonucci published new numbers showing that the only membership gains for the NEA were in those agency-fee regions, which are now set to be hit hardest following Janus:

    “The stakes are high for the nation’s largest union, and NEA’s membership numbers for 2017 illustrate why. The union will immediately lose revenue from the estimated 100,000 fee-payers it represents. It will also lose dues money from those who are currently members, but won’t be once they realize they no longer need to pay anything to the union.

    “NEA had 2,612,027 active members working in the public school system in 2017 — an increase of 0.7 percent from the year before — plus an additional 370,000 retired and student members. The modest overall growth disguises the differences between trends in the agency fee states and the right-to-work states.

    “In states where NEA represents fee-payers, the union had 29,317 more members. In right-to-work states, it had 12,268 fewer members.” (Read more)

    In addition to membership projections, the union has also begun cutting its own internal staff, eliminating 41 staff positions through buyouts, early retirements, and attrition. (NEA employs more than 500 people at its Washington, D.C., headquarters; the average salary is $123,613 plus benefits.)

    Read more of the fine print from today’s Supreme Court decision, as well as 14 ways the Janus verdict could reshape the membership and politics of America’s teachers unions.

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  • On Social Media, School Choice Advocates Celebrate Janus Ruling, While Critics Blame ‘Stolen’ Supreme Court Seat

    By Laura Fay | June 27, 2018

    Advocates, union leaders, and politicians on all sides of the Janus v. AFSCME debate wasted no time jumping in after the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday morning that teachers and other public-sector employees who disagree with their unions no longer have to pay fees that support those policies.

    President Donald Trump tweeted that the court “rules in favor of non-union workers who are now, as an example, able to support a candidate of his or her choice” and called the ruling a loss for Democrats. While the question of public-sector unions using agency fees to endorse specific candidates was not at stake in the Janus case, the arguments did raise the question of whether all issues that unions negotiate are inherently political.

    Many charter school and school choice advocates joined conservatives in celebrating the ruling, which they say could open the door to more school reforms. (See the full text of the decision.)

    One of the first to respond to the announcement, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, posted a video featuring teachers union leaders Lily Eskelsen García and Randi Weingarten that argued that “corporate interests have been rigging the system against workers.”

    Former education secretary John King tweeted an article written by Weingarten, the American Federation of Teachers president, that said teachers want their voices heard.

    Weingarten tweeted that the union will remain strong despite the ruling.

    Erika Sanzi, a parent advocate and visiting fellow at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative think tank, responded, noting that polls indicate that a majority of Americans believe union members should not have to pay mandatory dues.

    Many Democrats took the opportunity to express their support for unions overall.

    Other critics charged that the case was bankrolled by wealthy conservative donors and the result of a “stolen” Supreme Court seat, a reference to Senate Republicans’ refusal to confirm President Barack Obama’s nominee in 2016, holding the slot open for a conservative justice.

    Then, to cap off the final day of the court’s current session, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who sided with the majority in the Janus ruling, announced that he will retire effective July 31.

    Related

    Divided Supreme Court Ends Mandatory Dues and — in Further Blow to Unions — Rules Members Must Opt In



  • Reform-Aligned Jared Polis Wins Democratic Primary for Colorado Governor, Beating Union-Backed Candidate in Race That Focused on Education

    By Carolyn Phenicie | June 27, 2018

    Rep. Jared Polis easily won the Democratic primary for Colorado governor Tuesday, besting the teachers-union-backed Cary Kennedy, a former state treasurer.

    Polis, who won with 45 percent of the vote in a four-way race, will face Republican Walker Stapleton, the current state treasurer, in the general election in November. Stapleton got 48 percent of the GOP vote against three opponents. Independent handicappers have rated the race as “lean Democratic.”

    Colorado in recent years has been a model of progressive education reform, encouraging high-quality charter schools and launching teacher evaluations based in part on student test scores. Much of the Democratic primary had centered on that record, both as substantive issues and because education became the focus of negative campaigning in a contest where candidates had pledged to avoid it.

    Related

    ‘We Just Haven’t Seen a Race Like This’: How Education — and Differing Visions of School Reform — Has Become a Key Issue for Democrats in Colorado’s Governor Primary

    Kennedy, who got about 25 percent of the vote, and former state Sen. Mike Johnston, who had big financial backing from education reformers, endorsed Polis and urged the party to back him. Johnston took 23 percent of the vote, and Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne got 7 percent.

    Though unions spent $2 million against Polis, they’ll likely rally behind him, both because they tend to back Democrats and because Stapleton put forward a pension overhaul system unfavorable to teachers and suggested the compromise measure that did pass needs to be revisited, Chalkbeat Colorado reported.

    There was little substantive space between the Democrats’ positions on education, but Polis and Stapleton have vastly different priorities, with Stapleton pushing for expanded choice options and Polis for increased funding and more early education.

    Polis and Stapleton Tuesday night quickly took aim at each other, already highlighting issues that will be central to the remainder of the campaign.

    Polis accused Stapleton of coming out “on the wrong side” of issues like immigration and honesty. Stapleton embraced President Donald Trump’s hard-line immigration policies, though his Republican rivals accused him of doing so only for political expediency, and the issue could hinder him in the general election, The Denver Post reported.

    Stapleton, for his part, said Polis will “raise every tax and fee” he can find. Polis ran on platforms of full-day preschool and kindergarten for every child and single-payer, Medicare-for-all health care, both proposals that Colorado voters have rejected on ballot initiatives, the Post reported.

    Unaffiliated voters, a plurality in Colorado, could cast ballots in primaries for the first time this year; as of Wednesday morning, with about 94 percent of counties reporting, there were about 15,000 more Democratic ballots cast than Republican.

    Polis, the first gay parent to serve in Congress, would become the first openly gay person elected governor. A tech industry multimillionaire, Polis spent roughly $11 million of his own money to win the primary.

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  • EduClips: LGBTQ History Gets Boost in CA Schools; Trump Administration Pushes ‘Zero Tolerance’ Enforcement for Migrant Teachers — and More Must-Reads From America’s 15 Biggest School Districts

    By Andrew Brownstein | June 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

    TEACHERS UNIONS — Early Wednesday morning, the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to strike down mandatory agency fees for public unions, handing a major blow to influential teachers unions in the United States. Justice Samuel Alito wrote the majority opinion, with the major dissenting opinion from Justice Elena Kagan. (Read more news, analysis and copies of the major opinions today at The74Million.org)

    National News

    CAREER & TECHNICAL EDUCATION —  Bipartisan Career and Technical Education Bill Approved by Key Senate Committee (Read at Politics K-12)

    IMMIGRATION — Anxiety Looms for Thousands of Migrant Teachers as Trump Administration Pushes ‘Zero Tolerance’ Enforcement of Visa Program (Read at The74Million.org)

    SCHOOL SAFETYPlenty on Security, Little on Guns at Federal School-Safety Session in Kentucky (Read at Politics K-12)

    DEVOS — ‘Brain Performance’ Firm DeVos Invested in Is Hit for Misleading Claims (Read at The New York Times)

    SPENDING BILL — Senate Spending Bill Keeps Teacher Grant, Ignores DeVos Choice Proposal (Read at Politics K-12)

    District and State News

    CALIFORNIA — With California in the lead, LGBTQ history gets boost in school curriculum (Read at EdSource)

    NEW YORK — This Brooklyn principal has some advice for teaching children who were separated at the border (Read at Chalkbeat)

    CALIFORNIA — LA charter school’s summer program fees are illegal, state says (Read at the Los Angeles Daily News)

    TEXAS — Texans think state leaders are falling short on public education, UT/TT Poll finds (Read at the Texas Tribune)

    FLORIDA — Florida teachers union asks candidates to pledge support for higher pay (Read at the Tampa Bay Times)

    ILLINOIS — School board member: ‘We have an equity issue in Illinois in our schools’ (Read at Fox Illinois)

    NEW YORK — Principal to parents: I’m only passing students because summer school too expensive (Read at the New York Post)

    ILLINOIS — Teacher Shortage Downstate Looks Different From Chicago Shortage (Read at Chicago Tonight)

    FLORIDA — Schools ready to offer more foreign language classes (Read at the Sun-Sentinel)

    Think Pieces

    CIVICS — Study: Gaps in Civics Performance Between Black and White Students Deepened in NCLB Era (Read at The74Million.org)

    CURIOSITY — Piqued: The case for curiosity (Read at The Hechinger Report)

    Quote of the Day

    “It seems like there’s a bit of a zero-tolerance approach going on for everything. Even if they’ve followed the rules and done everything the right way, immigration officials are still scrutinizing applications even more closely than before.” —San Diego-based attorney Vaani Chawla, on a federal crackdown on the enforcement of H-1B visas, which affect thousands of migrant teachers. (Read at The74Million.org)

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



  • Breaking: Supreme Court Rules 5-4 Against Unions; Read Full Decision Here

    By The 74 | June 27, 2018


    Related

    Understanding Janus: 14 Ways the Pivotal Supreme Court Case Could Change the Finances, Membership & Politics of Teachers Unions



  • Study: Gaps in Civics Performance Between Black and White Students Deepened in NCLB Era

    By Kevin Mahnken | June 27, 2018

    This is the latest article in The 74’s ongoing ‘Big Picture’ series, bringing American education into sharper focus through new research and data. Go Deeper: See our full series.

    Student performance in civics has improved over the past two decades, even as the gap in civic knowledge has grown along class and racial lines during that period.

    That’s the conclusion of a new study released today by the Brookings Institution’s Brown Center on Education Policy. Its Report on American Education, an annual publication exploring trends in the nation’s schools, focuses this year on social studies and civics education. That choice reflects the degree to which schools have become a staging ground for political action — from activism around gun safety led by survivors of the Parkland massacre to the mass walkouts waged by teachers over low pay — authors explain in the paper’s introduction.

    The turbulent 2016 presidential election, during which American voters were often deceived about candidates or current affairs by online purveyors of “fake news,” made the state of civics education a particularly fertile ground for inquiry, they argue.

    Related

    How Schools & Philanthropists Are Joining Forces to Fight Back Against Fake News: Inside the Renewed Push for Social Studies, Media Literacy, Civic Engagement

    The study’s most striking findings relate to American students’ achievement on civics as measured on standardized tests like the National Assessment of Educational Progress, often referred to as “the nation’s report card.” The biennial release of NAEP scores for fourth- and eighth-graders allows education observers a window into the progress of classroom learning in the foundational subjects of math and science, but civics results have also been evaluated and released four times since 1998.

    During that time, the study finds, pupils have seen slight upticks in their civic knowledge, roughly of the same magnitude as improvements in reading over the same time period. While NAEP scores in reading and especially math leaped upward during the late 1990s and early 2000s — the early years of what is generally considered the “accountability era,” when education reforms initiated by the Clinton and Bush administrations linked federal funding to performance on standardized tests — progress over the past decade has been essentially flat.

    Related

    A ‘Lost Decade’ for Academic Progress? NAEP Scores Remain Flat Amid Signs of a Widening Gap Between Highest and Lowest Performers

    At the same time, curriculum experts have warned that NCLB’s particular emphasis on reading and math encouraged schools to devote extra class time to the teaching of those subjects, at the expense of disciplines like science, art, and civics. The study notes the evidence of this phenomenon, especially in low-performing schools enrolling higher percentages of disadvantaged students.

    In an analysis of previously conducted school surveys, “we do see a reduction in instructional time devoted to social studies,” Elizabeth Levesque, a Brookings fellow and an author of the report, told The 74 in an interview. “There’s some evidence that suggests that crowding-out may have been happening as focus shifted to reading and math.”

    Even worse were the comparative results. Since 1998, the disparities in NAEP civics scores between white or affluent students and their black or poor classmates have grown. This, despite a nationwide push to close achievement gaps, which has helped to bring minority students’ test performance somewhat closer to that of their more advantaged peers in other subjects.

    Brookings Institution

    The study goes on to examine the comprehensiveness of civics and social studies instruction by state, measuring the prevalence of high school civics requirements, extracurricular activities, media literacy, and opportunities for service learning. Civics experts increasingly make the case that study of government, history, and democratic processes is inadequate to ensure that students are being prepared for the demands of citizenship, and that teaching must be paired with participatory elements such as community service.

    “The really important question to focus on is not just classroom instruction,” Levesque said. “Looking at coursework as a foundation is really important. But one of the things we’re trying to do is expand the conversation a little bit broader so that we’re also talking about more action-based civic engagement … for students to develop not just their knowledge, but also their skills and the dispositions they need to effectively participate” in civic affairs.

    Brookings Institution

    Analysis of student surveys shows that a disturbing number of students, among all racial and income groups, report “never” participating in civics activities like writing a letter to a local newspaper, participating in classroom activities like mock trials, or going on field trips.

    Even where the study finds that states have implemented robust civics instruction — by including the completion of a social studies or government class as a high school graduation requirement, for example, or devoting some portion of class time to the discussion of current events — there is cause for concern. Although 40 states require high schoolers to take at least one course related to civics, a February report from the Center for American Progress found that only nine (along with Washington, D.C.) mandate a full year of coursework. That report also observed that the national average score on the Advanced Placement U.S. government exam is the fourth-lowest among 45 AP subject tests.

    The replacement of No Child Left Behind with the Every Student Succeeds Act, passed in 2015, allows states greater freedom to adopt new educational practices and focus on academic areas separate from reading and math. The study’s authors write that school authorities in every state may find latitude in the new law’s provisions to emphasize social-emotional learning and school climate — two measures they consider supportive of civic engagement.

    Related

    WATCH: 3 Ways the Every Student Succeeds Act Supports Social Emotional Learning for Students and Teachers

    “A common refrain right now is, ‘With this flexibility under ESSA, maybe now is a time for states to do X, Y, and Z,’ and I don’t necessarily want to get on that bandwagon,” said Levesque. “At the same time, [the transition period] could be a turning point if it leads to a large shift in accountability frameworks. It seems possible that these new approaches could get traction.”

    Perhaps the report’s most surprising finding comes in its final chapter, which examines the state of the social studies workforce. At the time of their hiring, social studies teachers are more prepared (in terms of previous courses taught) and better compensated (their average salary is higher than that of English or science teachers, though slightly lower than math teachers) than most of their colleagues. They are also strikingly more likely to be male.

    While just 20 percent of English teachers are male, along with 38 percent of math teachers and 41 percent of science teachers, a whopping 57 percent of social studies teachers are. Thirty-five percent also report working simultaneously as coaches of sports at their schools, a much larger proportion than teachers of other subjects.

    Go Deeper: This is the latest article in The 74’s ongoing ‘Big Picture’ series, bringing American education into sharper focus through new research and data. See our full series.

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  • 2 Teens Injured in Shooting Outside Montana High School; At Least 41 Killed and 76 Injured at Schools in 2018

    By Mark Keierleber | June 26, 2018

    The 74 will be tracking gun-related injuries and deaths at schools throughout 2018. Bookmark this page for the latest reports, or sign up to receive updates straight to your inbox via The 74 Newsletter.

    Two teens suffered non-life-threatening injuries after being shot outside a Montana high school Sunday evening. The teens did not attend the school, school officials said, and the suspect has not been identified.

    The shooting incident at Sentinel High School in Missoula unfolded at about 6:30 p.m. on Sunday behind the gymnasium between the main school building and several outbuildings, principal Ted Fuller wrote in a letter to the school community. Students were playing basketball inside the gym at the time of the shooting. The students were escorted out of the gym through an alternate entrance and released to their parents.

    There is no evidence indicating students or staff at the school were targets, Fuller said in the letter. Police recovered the firearm on campus and the suspect was identified as male.

    In 2018, at least 41 people have been killed and 76 have been injured due to school shootings. Learn more about each incident with our interactive map:


    This map includes school shootings that took place on campus where a person was injured or killed. Incidents resulting in injury are labeled blue, while incidents resulting in death are labeled red. The most recent incident is indicated with a larger icon. Click on the icons to see details about each incident.

    Behind the numbers:

    Nationally, nearly 1,300 children (17 years old and younger) die from gunshot wounds each year and 5,790 are treated for injuries, according to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. While unintentional firearm deaths and homicides of children have decreased in recent years, suicides have spiked.

    Among child gun deaths between 2012 and 2014, 53 percent were homicides, 38 percent were suicides, and 6 percent were unintentional.

    Less than 3 percent of youth homicides and less than 1 percent of youth suicides occur at school, according to a recent report by the National Center for Education Statistics.

    If we’ve missed a school incident you think should be included in our coverage, please send an email to info@the74million.org, and bookmark this page for the latest reports of incidents involving the discharging of a firearm on school property that results in a wound or fatality.

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  • EduClips: Teachers at Los Angeles’s Lowest-Performing Schools Often Don’t Get Evaluated — and When They Do, Most Do Well, Group Finds; 2 Chicago Teachers Removed in Sex Abuse Probe — and More Must-Reads From America’s 15 Biggest School Districts

    By Andrew Brownstein | June 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

    SCHOOL SAFETY — It was less than one month into 2018 when a spate of firearm incidents in schools — including a January shooting in Kentucky that killed two people and injured 18 others — prompted news stories highlighting the prevalence of gun violence on American campuses. Since then, mass school shootings in Florida and Texas have revived a heated debate about gun laws and strategies to keep students safe.

    In order to help contextualize the prevalence of gun violence in schools, The 74 built a map to track firearm incidents at K-12 schools and universities that result in injury or death. Six months into 2018, the map offers a window into the prevalence of firearm incidents in education institutions, which have resulted in at least 41 deaths and 74 injuries. Beyond mass shootings, that tally includes a shooting after a fight broke out at a university party, a teacher who accidentally fired a gun during a public safety class, and four student suicides.

    But across incidents of varying scale and motive, they share several similarities. In all fatal incidents, the identified suspect is male. That includes suspects in mass school shootings, a trend that corresponds with mass shooters outside an educational setting. And in 9 of 13 campus firearm incidents resulting in a fatality at this point in 2018, the suspected shooter was identified as a student at the institution where the violence unfolded. (Read at The74Million.org)

    National News

    CAREER & TECHNICAL EDUCATION — Senate Jump-Starts Process for New Career-Education Law (Read at Inside Higher Education)

    EXCELLENCE GAP — Educators Turn to Programs for Top Students to Narrow the ‘Excellence Gap’ (Read at The New York Times)

    EDUCATION DEPARTMENT Senate Approves Jeb Bush’s Former Lt. Gov. for Top K-12 Job at Education Department (Read at Politics K-12)

    District and State News

    CALIFORNIA — Group finds teachers at L.A.’s lowest-performing schools don’t often get evaluated — and when they do, almost all do well (Read at the Los Angeles Times)

    ILLINOIS — 2 Chicago High School Principals Removed in Sex Abuse Probe (Read at U.S. News and World Report)

    NEW YORK — School Accessibility Gets $150 Million Boost in N.Y.C. Budget (Read at Education Week)

    CALIFORNIA — High opt-out rates on state exam continue to frustrate school district (Read at Palo Alto Online)

    NEW YORK — Suit Says NYC Schools Shortchange Some Black, Latino Athletes (Read at City Limits)

    PENNSYLVANIA — The new Philly school board convenes next month. What do people want members to know? (Read at The Philadelphia Inquirer)

    NEVADA — Nevada allows online charter school to continue operating for now (Read at the Las Vegas Review-Journal)

    TEXAS — Dallas prep school wins legal battle over student’s expulsion (Read at Fox 4 News)

    ILLINOIS — Will Illinois raise the minimum salary for teachers? Bill awaits Rauner’s action (Read at the Herald & Review)

    FLORIDA — Education on 6 Special Report: Superintendents on School Safety (Read at NBC Miami)

    TEXAS — Local Superintendents Come Together to Address School Safety (Read at NBC DFW)

    Think Pieces

    CIVICS — How Schools & Philanthropists Are Joining Forces to Fight Back Against Fake News: Inside the Renewed Push for Social Studies, Media Literacy, Civic Engagement (Read at The74Million.org)

    EDUCATION DEPARTMENT — Why We Should Spare the Education Department — for Now (Read at The Chronicle of Higher Education)

    SCHOOL CHOICE — Early school choice deadlines mean affluent parents often get first shot at coveted schools, new study shows (Read at Chalkbeat)

    EDUCATION DEPARTMENT — Rotherham: 3 Things to Consider About Trump’s Risky, but Not Necessarily Bad, Idea to Merge the Education & Labor Departments (Read at The74Million.org)

    Quote of the Day

    “The question for us as a society is whether schools will recognize that the way we learn about the world has fundamentally changed in an incredibly short amount of time. As a nation, if we don’t undertake that challenge, it will contribute to our undoing.”Sam Wineburg, a professor of history at Stanford. (Read at The74Million.org)

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



  • Attorney General Sessions Announces $25 Million in Additional School Safety Funds, Saying Grants ‘Will Serve Both Safety and Peace of Mind’

    By Taylor Swaak | June 25, 2018

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions formally announced on Monday that the Department of Justice will funnel millions of dollars in additional funding to school safety initiatives designed to curtail gun violence in the nation’s schools.

    Speaking at the annual National Association of School Resource Officers conference in Reno, Nevada, Sessions promised $25 million in additional funding for “better training, and for technology to improve emergency reporting” under the Students, Teachers, and Officers Preventing (STOP) School Violence Act. This funding adds to the annual $50 million appropriated under the act — which President Donald Trump signed in March — for the development and operation of reporting systems, school threat assessments, and technology such as metal detectors.

    “We think that [this funding] can be very helpful. These grants will serve both safety and peace of mind,” said Sessions, one of four cabinet secretaries on the federal School Safety Commission. It was unclear if the $25 million is an annual or one-time appropriation.

    Supporters of the act maintain that it will provide resources to thwart school gun tragedies, while opponents say it avoids the central issue of gun control. There is scant evidence that investment in bolstered technology effectively prevents such attacks.

    Sessions also took the opportunity to tout the heroic role of school resource officers in stopping, or at least lessening the severity of, several recent school-based gun incidents. There was Deputy Blaine Gaskill of St. Mary’s County, Maryland, who in March “stopped a school shooter within seconds of him opening fire,” Sessions said. There was Deputy James Long of Marion County, Florida, who in April “heard a gunshot at his school, and within three minutes, he had the suspect in custody.” And just a month ago, Officer Mark Dallas of Dixon, Illinois, “confronted a shooter who was about to enter a school gymnasium where hundreds of students were practicing for graduation.” They exchanged fire, and Dallas injured and subdued the gunman. Each of the eligible Dixon High School students graduated the following Sunday.

    “Each one of you have gone above and beyond the call of duty, and each one of you has an inspiring story to share,” Sessions said.

    Other school resource officers not mentioned in Monday’s address have also received recognition: Officer John Barnes, for example, sustained a nonfatal gunshot wound to the arm after confronting and engaging the shooter who killed 10 people in May’s attack at Sante Fe High School in Texas. There are between 14,000 and 20,000 school resource officers in about 30 percent of the country’s schools, according to NASRO’s most recent estimations.

    Related

    Guns at School: After 41 Deaths & 74 Injuries in 2018, What We’ve Learned From Tracking Six Months of School Shootings

    The last 15 minutes of Sessions’s about 25 minute-long speech, however, diverted away from school safety to the heated topic of illegal immigration. Sessions emphasized that the administration’s recent crackdown is on immigrants who enter the country illegally, and he reiterated the administration’s long-contested assertion that swarms of criminals, gangs, and drug dealers are crossing the border without proper prosecution.

    The focus on immigration comes as Sessions and the administration have faced earnest pushback across the political spectrum for their “zero tolerance” approach to immigration policy, which separated about 2,000 children from their families between April and May alone. Sessions controversially cited a Bible verse earlier this month to justify the policy.

    Although the administration announced last Wednesday that it would stop separating families, Trump took to twitter Sunday to call for immediate deportation of illegal immigrants “with no Judges or Court Cases.”

    As tensions continue, hundreds of protesters lined up outside of the Peppermill Resort in Reno prior to Monday’s address, with some attempting to block Sessions’s entrance. Signs included “ABOLISH ICE” and “Lock Sessions & Trump Up.”

    “It’s terribly important to show solidarity with the immigrant community,” one protester told KRNV News 4. “…We care about [these] people.”

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  • Guns at School: After 41 Deaths & 74 Injuries in 2018, What We’ve Learned From Tracking Six Months of School Shootings

    By Mark Keierleber | June 25, 2018

    The 74 is tracking gun-related injuries and deaths at schools throughout 2018. Bookmark this page for the latest reports, and see below for an interactive map of incidents involving the discharging of a firearm that causes a wound or fatality on school property.

    It was less than one month into 2018 when a spate of firearm incidents in schools — including a January shooting in Kentucky that killed two people and injured 18 others — prompted news stories highlighting the prevalence of gun violence on American campuses. Since then, mass school shootings in Florida and Texas have revived a heated debate about gun laws and strategies to keep students safe.

    In order to help contextualize the prevalence of gun violence in schools, The 74 built a map to track firearm incidents at K-12 schools and universities that result in injury or death. Six months into 2018, the map offers a window into the prevalence of firearm incidents in education institutions, which have resulted in at least 41 deaths and 74 injuries. Beyond mass shootings, that tally includes a shooting after a fight broke out at a university party, a teacher who accidentally fired a gun during a public safety class, and four student suicides.

    But across incidents of varying scale and motive, they share several similarities. In all fatal incidents, the identified suspect is male. That includes suspects in mass school shootings, a trend that corresponds with mass shooters outside an educational setting.

    And in 9 of 13 campus firearm incidents resulting in a fatality at this point in 2018, the suspected shooter was identified as a student at the institution where the violence unfolded. Often, gunmen who aren’t students have close connections to the campuses. In Parkland, Florida, the suspected shooter had been expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School before attacking the campus. After a Winston-Salem State University football player was killed after a shooting that reportedly unfolded during a party on the Wake Forest University campus, the suspect was identified as a former Winston-Salem State University student.

    This map includes school shootings that took place on campus where a person was injured or killed. Incidents resulting in injury are labeled blue, while incidents resulting in death are labeled red. The most recent incident is indicated with a larger icon. Click on the icons to see details about each incident.

    Nadine Connell, an associate professor of criminology and director of the Center for Crime and Justice Studies at the University of Texas at Dallas, said the fact that students often carry out campus shootings isn’t surprising.

    “Schools are not very often attacked by strangers, just like very few places are attacked by strangers,” she said in an email. “The same could be said for domestic violence — people don’t attack strangers’ families — they attack their own.”

    Recognizing a shooting suspect’s relationship to a school is important context, said Connell, who is currently building a database of all school shootings in the U.S. since 1990. That database, she hopes, will help law enforcement and school leaders better understand the causes of school violence and how to prevent future attacks.

    While news reports highlight the threat of an outsider barging into a school to commit violence, she noted that such scenarios are less common. The suspect in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, is a clear exception. Although he previously attended the school, he wasn’t supposed to be there.

    “The rhetoric seems to be, ‘Someone can burst into our schools at any time and gun everyone down,’ ” Connell said. “It’s not the right rhetoric, because it makes as much sense as someone storming into your house — the risk is so incredibly low.”

    The incident in Parkland, which claimed the lives of 17 people and injured 17 others, is likely to perpetuate the notion that outsiders represent a disproportionate threat, she said. In a recent interview with the South Florida Sun Sentinel, a retired Secret Service agent said he warned administrators — two months before the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School — about vulnerability to an outside threat.

    Despite concern around the prevalence of on-campus shootings, Connell was quick to point out that they’re statistically infrequent. “School is still the safest place for children,” she said. During the 2014-15 school year, the U.S. experienced 1,168 homicides of youth aged 5 to 18, of which 20 occurred at school, according to a recent National Center for Education Statistics report on school crime and safety. Over the past two decades, the report noted, fewer than 3 percent of youth homicides, and fewer than 1 percent of youth suicides, occurred at school.

    The Education Department’s most recent Civil Rights Data Collection, which the department released in April and presents information from the 2015-16 school year, required for the first time that schools report details about “violent and serious crimes.” That year, schools reported nearly 1.1 million incidents of serious offenses, 94 percent of which were physical attacks or fights, or threats of physical attacks, without a weapon. Meanwhile, 235 schools reported a shooting on campus, including incidents where nobody was hurt. That’s about one-fifth of 1 percent of schools.

    Among public K-12 schools that have experienced gunfire resulting in injury or death this year, one campus — Lincoln High School in Philadelphia — reported a firearm-related incident in the 2015-16 school year.

    Mass school shootings — which are typically at the forefront of heated policy debates — are even rarer. Two incidents — at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida and Santa Fe High School in Texas — accounted for more than half of firearm deaths on campuses in 2018. No other incident in 2018 has resulted in three or more fatalities, though the January shooting at Marshall County High School in Kentucky claimed the lives of two people and injured 18 others.

    Go Deeper: The 74 is tracking gun-related injuries and deaths at schools throughout 2018. See every reported incident so far this year. If we’ve missed a school incident you think should be included in our coverage, please send an email to info@the74million.org, and bookmark this page for the latest reports of incidents involving the discharging of a firearm that causes a wound or fatality on school property.

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  • EduClips: CA Legislators Offer Teachers Unions More Protections as Supreme Court Ruling Looms; Charter School Founded by Southwest Key Wants to Educate Immigrant Kids at Nonprofit’s Shelters — and More Must-Reads From America’s 15 Biggest School Districts

    By Andrew Brownstein | June 25, 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 DEPARTMENT — Last week, President Donald Trump proposed combining the U.S. Department of Education and the Labor Department into a single new agency — to be called the Department of Education and the Workforce — aimed at preparing children and workers for a rapidly changing economy. More on the nuts and bolts of how this would work here.

    So do educators and their advocates think this is a good idea or a bad idea? Do they think it would it actually impact what goes on in districts and classrooms? Or would it just be a bureaucratic reshuffle inside the Beltway to them?

    We asked for their feedback, and here’s what they told us. (Spoiler alert: Educators, by and large, don’t seem to be fans of this idea.) (Read at Politics K-12)

    National News

    TEACHERS UNIONS — Understanding Janus: 14 Ways the Pivotal Supreme Court Case Could Change the Finances, Membership & Politics of Teachers Unions (Read at The74Million.org)

    CAREER & TECHNICAL EDUCATION — Senate Bill to Revamp Career-Tech Education Law Gives States More Power Over Goals (Read at Politics K-12)

    District and State News

    CALIFORNIA — Lawmakers give California unions new protections as Supreme Court ruling looms (Read at EdSource)

    TEXAS — Charter school founded by Southwest Key wants to educate immigrant kids housed at the nonprofit’s shelters (Read at Dallas News)

    NEW YORK — Editorial: It’s Time to Integrate New York’s Best Schools (Read at The New York Times)

    CALIFORNIA — High pay, low test scores: Is California’s largest school district too big to fail? (Read at the Sacramento Bee)

    TEXAS — How many Dallas ISD schools failed to meet state accountability? DISD leader reveals an amazing number (Read at Dallas News)

    NEVADA — New Clark County schools chief halts central office hiring (Read at the Las Vegas Review-Journal)

    ILLINOIS — Editorial: Another whack at Illinois pension spiking. Good. (Read at the Chicago Tribune)

    NEW YORK — New York City schools Chancellor Richard Carranza on segregation, national politics, and being Mexican-American (Read at Chalkbeat)

    ILLINOIS — Will Illinois raise the minimum salary for teachers? (Read at the State Journal-Register)

    VIRGINIA — In Fairfax, a lesson on why words matter, especially in sexual health class (Read at The Washington Post)

    FLORIDA — No challengers, so these two Miami School Board members are automatically re-elected (Read at the Miami Herald)

    NEVADA — Groups pursue increase to education funding in Nevada (Read at the Las Vegas Review-Journal)

    Think Pieces

    EDUCATION DEPARTMENT ­— Barone: Trump’s Bid to Merge Education & Labor Departments Is a Bad, Old Idea With Little Chance of Happening. But It’s the Perfect Shiny Thing to Distract the Media (Read at The74Million.org)

    SCHOOL SAFETY ­— Making Schools Safer: Harsh Consequences, Or Second Chances? (Read at NPR)

    IMMIGRATION — The importance of difficult conversations in U.S. classrooms: Teaching about the migrant crisis (Read at The Hechinger Report)

    RACE — Teaching more black or Hispanic students can hurt observation scores, study finds (Read at Chalkbeat)

    AP EXAM — A.P. World History Tries to Trim Thousands of Years, and Educators Revolt (Read at The New York Times)

    EDUCATION DEPARTMENT — Donald Trump’s plan to (sort of) eliminate the Department of Education, briefly explained (Read at Vox)

    PARENTS — OPINION: When wealthy parents hold sway in public schools (Read at The Hechinger Report)

    Quote of the Day

    “Board members may talk about future calamity, but they just approved a raise for 30,000 bus drivers, cafeteria workers and classroom aides. And as Los Angeles teachers watch their peers across the state win pay hikes, they feel increasingly sure that they’ll get one too.” —CALmatters.org writer Jessica Calefati on LAUD’s spending practices. (Read at the Sacramento Bee)

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  • The Week Ahead in Education Politics: Teachers Unions Await SCOTUS Janus Ruling, Senate Rewrites Career & Technical Ed Law, House Talks Ed-Labor Merger & More

    By Carolyn Phenicie | June 23, 2018

    Update, June 25: The House Appropriations Committee markup of the Education Department spending bill, originally scheduled for Tuesday, has been postponed. A new date was not announced; Congress is on recess the week of July 2.

    THIS WEEK IN EDUCATION POLITICS publishes most Saturdays. (See previous editions here.) You can get the preview delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for The 74 Newsletter; for rolling updates on federal education policy, follow Carolyn Phenicie on Twitter @cphenicie.

    INBOX: 2019 SPENDING —All three branches of the federal government are slated to have a busy week ahead of the July 4 holiday: members of the executive branch are working on school safety; Congress is taking up Education Department appropriations and immigration, among a host of other issues; and the Supreme Court, of course, has yet to decide the Janus case.

    Related

    Understanding Janus: 14 Ways the Pivotal Supreme Court Case Could Change the Finances, Membership & Politics of Teachers Unions

    In the House, the full Appropriations Committee Tuesday will consider a measure that would provide $71 billion for the Education Department for fiscal 2019. The measure avoids many of the hot-button issues that surrounded last year’s proposal, including eliminating funding for Title II teacher training grants and cutting money for afterschool programs.

    Democrats on the House subcommittee earlier this month said that given an overall higher spending cap for next year, this bill should’ve gotten a bigger increase, particularly for school safety.

    On education issues, Democrats could, as they have in past years, offer amendments to address their ongoing concerns with the Education Department, like changing standards for Title IX sexual assault investigations.

    The bill also funds the Department of Health and Human Services, which cares for unaccompanied minors crossing the border as well as the children more recently separated from their parents by the Trump administration.

    Related

    Child Immigrants in Federal Custody Are Entitled to an Education. Here’s How it Works

    In the Senate, education advocates are urging members to follow the House’s lead and remove language that prohibits federal funding from being used for busing for school integration efforts. The provisions are outdated and limit state authority granted under the Every Student Succeeds Act, advocates say.

    A subcommittee will consider the bill Tuesday, and the full committee on Thursday.

    Meanwhile, all eyes will also be on the Supreme Court, as justices wrap up the last week of their 2017 term. A decision in the Janus case, which could end mandatory agency fees for public employees, including teachers, is among those yet to be announced and could come Monday.

    We will be tweeting and covering the news as it breaks, follow me at @cphenicie.

    IMMIGRATION?: A plan to consider what’s been called a compromise immigration bill, including a solution for DACA recipients, was pulled from the House floor late last week after passage was in doubt. Another, more conservative bill, also failed. Even if House Republican leaders could find a compromise that would pass muster with their split caucus, any immigration measure is unlikely to pass the sharply divided Senate.

    President Trump Friday morning also said on Twitter that the House should give up on immigration until after the midterms in the hope of electing a larger Republican majority, what he termed “the Red Wave.”

    SCHOOL SAFETY: Members of the Trump administration will hold two events on school safety outside Washington this week.

    The School Safety Commission will hold a public listening session at the Council of State Governments Tuesday in Lexington, Kentucky. Two panels will have roundtable discussions between state and local government officials and members of the commission, and a third will be for “members of the general public to express their views on how to improve school safety.” The event will be livestreamed.

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions addresses the National Association of School Resource Officers annual conference in Reno, Nevada. The number of schools with security staff has spiked in recent years, and the presence of law enforcement in schools has been at the center of both school safety debates and concerns about discipline and the school-to-prison pipeline.

    The commission last week held a session focused on the effects of violent entertainment on school shootings.

    MONDAY: FREE COLLEGE? — Think tank FutureEd holds a panel discussion on making the first two years of college free, and whether it expands opportunity or increases government costs without targeting aid to students who need it most.

    TUESDAY: CAREER ED — The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will amend and vote on a bill reauthorizing the federal career and technical education law. The House passed its own reuathorization last year. Members will also vote on the nomination of Scott Stump to be assistant secretary for career, technical and adult education. The meeting was rescheduled from last week.

    TUESDAY: APPRENTICESHIPS — Centrist Democratic think tank Third Way holds a discussion about how to expand and modernize apprenticeship programs for the current era. Sen. Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware, and Rep. Seth Moulton, Democrat of Massachusetts, will give opening remarks.

    TUESDAY: INTELLECTUAL FREEDOM — A House Judiciary subcommittee holds a hearing on the “state of intellectual freedom” in the country. Several professors are witnesses.

    WEDNESDAY: GOVERNMENT REORGANIZATION — The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee holds a hearing on the Trump Administration’s government reorganization plan, the most noteworthy portion of which calls for combining the Education and Labor departments.

    Administration officials last week touted the move as a way to streamline two departments with similar goals of workforce training, while Democrats and others said the longshot plan could bury important Education Department functions, like early education and civil rights work, in a behemoth agency.

    THURSDAY: HIGHER ED — The Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, holds a panel discussion on accrediting agencies, the organizations that decide whether universities meet quality standards and are therefore eligible for federal financial aid. The Education Department has expressed a willingness to experiment on accreditation, for example by allowing more innovative degrees, Inside Higher Ed reported.

    FRIDAY: ED POLICY — The Education Commission of the States, a national group that helps translate education research and policy, holds its annual policy summit Wednesday through Friday. State leaders and education advocates will speak at a series of sessions throughout the three-day summit, and Deputy Education Secretary Mick Zais “will provide an overview on the federal perspective on school safety” during the summit’s closing session on Friday.

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  • Federal School Safety Commission Examines the Link Between Violent Video Games, News and School Violence

    By Mark Keierleber | June 21, 2018

    From violent video games to Twitter to the news, federal officials on Thursday heard conflicting testimony on the effects entertainment could play in the prevalence of school violence — a conversation that was spawned by several mass school shootings this year.

    The conversation took place in Washington during a meeting of the Federal Commission on School Safety, a group chaired by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to explore the causes of, and potential solutions to, school violence. The White House created the commission after the deadly mass school shooting in February at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Conversation topics Thursday were wide-ranging, including the rise of cyberbullying and the “24-hour news cycle.” But the most heated debate centered on the always controversial question of the role violent video games play in promoting real violence — a conversation that frequently follows school shootings.

    Related

    DeVos Focuses School Safety Field Hearing on Positive Behavioral Interventions — an Obama-Backed Reform She’s Considering Scrapping

    After noting the difficulty of identifying the root causes of violence and predicting future attacks, L. Rowell Huesmann, a professor of psychology and communication studies at the University of Michigan, said people’s behaviors can be influenced by observational learning. From infancy on, he said, humans imitate what they see.

    “The more youth is exposed to violence, in the family, in the neighborhood, among peers, on television, in movies, or in video games, the more violent scripts they will encode in their brains, and the more their normative beliefs will become accepting of violence,” he said. “The more youth observes weapons being used to solve social problems, in any of these venues, the more likely youth will be to encode scripts for using weapons to solve social problems.”

    Repeatedly observing violence in the family or on television, he said, increases the risk of violent behavior among young people. When combined with other emotions like anger, he said, “disastrous violence may follow.”

    Related

    Game Over: Trump Says Video Games Could Cause Real Deaths. But Research Finds Scant Links Between Digital Mayhem and Violent Behavior

    But Christopher Ferguson, an associate professor of psychology at Stetson University, offered an alternative narrative. Although researchers studied for years the effects of violent media on a person’s likelihood to act violently, the results are mixed. And in studies finding a positive correlation, the effects are “trivial.” In countries where residents view violent media at higher rates, people aren’t necessarily more likely to engage in real-world violence, he said, and as violent media consumption in the U.S. has grown in recent decades, youth homicides have plummeted.

    It is common after mass shootings, Ferguson said, for confirmation bias to point toward the existence of a correlation.

    “When a shooter is a young male, as happened in Parkland or Santa Fe very recently, people start talking about movies and video games,” he said. “But when a shooter is an older male, like the 64-year-old male who attacked a concert in Las Vegas last year, people don’t usually mention video games or media.”

    Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who serves on the commission, asked whether a young person with a predisposition to act violently can be triggered by a violent video game or movie, and again, Huesmann and Ferguson disagreed. While Huesmann said yes, Ferguson pushed back, pointing to a study that found that vulnerable populations are no more influenced by violent media than other children.

    Related

    DeVos’s School Safety Commission Will Be Just Cabinet Secretaries, Will Begin Work ‘Within the Next Few Weeks,’ She Tells Congress

    The commission hearing also focused on the role the news media could play in the frequency of, and concern about, school shootings. Jennifer Johnston, an assistant professor of psychology at Western New Mexico University, highlighted the prevalence of “media contagion,” in which heightened coverage of mass shootings could lead to more violence.

    Although school shootings remain statistically rare, Johnston noted the frequency of mass shootings increased after 2000 “when 24-hour news coverage really came into its own, as well as the rise of social media.”

    In her research, she found that mass school shooters typically share several tendencies: They lack a previous history of violence, they are depressed to the point of becoming suicidal, they are socially isolated, and they are narcissistic and fame-seeking. Given these factors, she said, news outlets should commit to withholding the names and other details of suspected shooters.

    “We’re fairly certain that this is a major motivator for this type of person,” she said. “For some reason I think they see fame as a remedy to the suffering and their suicidal state of mind. So there’s a place where we can make a difference.”

    Related

    74 Interview: Criminologist Nadine Connell on Why She’s Building a 30-Year Database of School Shootings — and What Hidden Lessons May Be Found in the Stats



  • Child Immigrants in Federal Custody Are Entitled to an Education. Here’s How it Works

    By Mark Keierleber | June 21, 2018

    Updated July 2

    In a letter to Trump Administration officials, Democrats on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce are demanding answers about the education services provided to unaccompanied minors housed in shelters. That includes about 2,000 migrant children who were separated from their parents at the border and remain in federal custody. 

    In the Thursday letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and other cabinet secretaries, the lawmakers note a federal court settlement requires the government to provide education assessments to each unaccompanied minor within 72 hours and to provide education services based on their “individual academic development, literacy level, and linguistic ability.” Given those requirements, the lawmakers asked the administration to provide details about how it holds shelters accountable in providing these services along with details about educator qualifications. 

    “In the event of indefinite family detention in [Department of Homeland Security] custody, what are the processes in place to ensure timely assessment and delivery of educational services for each unaccompanied minor?” the 17 lawmakers asked in the letter. 

    At a repurposed Walmart just north of the U.S.-Mexico border, the freezer aisles, toy department, and everyday low prices are nowhere in sight. Instead, the former shopping center that now dons a “Casa Padre” sign houses dorm-style bedrooms, a cafeteria — and classrooms.

    The facility in Brownsville, Texas, which houses more than 1,400 immigrant boys, was ground zero for the political furor over a recent Trump administration policy that separated immigrant children from their parents — a practice President Donald Trump moved to end Wednesday after signing an executive order that aims to detain families together. Meanwhile, on Thursday a senior government official told The Washington Post that U.S. Border Patrol agents were told to stop referring immigrant parents with children to courthouses for criminal charges.

    While the president’s executive order to detain families together may face its own legal obstacles, it doesn’t offer a solution for the more than 2,300 children nationwide who have already been separated from their parents and remain in federal custody.

    Federal policies require shelters for immigrant youth — of which there are about 100 across 17 states — to assess the educational abilities of newcomers and to provide them with instruction. As the shelters typically house unaccompanied minors who stay in them for a short period, education programs in them are vastly different from a typical American school. As for children currently separated from their parents, however, it remains unclear how long they’ll be housed in the shelters and whether they’ll be reunited with their families.

    Under the executive order Trump signed, the government seeks to detain immigrant families “together throughout the pendency of criminal proceedings” and will request that a federal court modify a 1997 settlement agreement that prohibits immigration authorities from housing children in detention for more than 20 days. That same agreement outlines the educational rights of immigrant children in federal care, and if children are ultimately detained alongside their parents, they’ll still be entitled to classroom instruction, said Julie Sugarman, a senior policy analyst for education policy at the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank.

    Inside America’s largest shelter of its kind, reporters allowed to visit the Casa Padre facility observed workers serve the children chicken and vegetables. In an auditorium, children watched the animated movie Moana. And inside the small classrooms, the immigrant youth received an education — offered in two six-hour shifts, Monday through Friday.

    Casa Padre is operated by Southwest Key, a nonprofit that runs the shelter under a government contract and, as of last week, is responsible for the care of more than 5,100 immigrating children in facilities across three states. But its services don’t stop at shelters for immigrant youth. East Austin College Prep, a charter school in the Texas city where the nonprofit is headquartered, also operates under the Southwest Key umbrella.

    Although Casa Padre and shelters like it across the country are required to provide educational services to the youth housed there, those programs weren’t set up to serve children for an extended period, Sugarman said. For years, the shelters have housed unaccompanied minors who arrived to the U.S. border without their parents and, during their stay, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement seeks to unite the children with sponsors, like parents, close family friends, and in some cases foster care. Although the time span has ticked upward in recent years, the government says immigrant youth reside in the shelters for an average of 57 days.

    “These shelters were not intended to be providing extended education because the idea of the shelters was for kids to be there until they were released to the community,” Sugarman said. The shelters, she said, will face a “really new situation” if children separated from their parents aren’t released at a similar rate. “The idea of doing more classes and grades and tracking them through their development is really just not what the system is set up to do.”

    Education required

    Under federal law, immigration enforcement authorities are required to hand over unaccompanied minors to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which funds the youth shelters. Those shelters must provide the children with educational, health, and case management services.

    At the shelters, educational services should begin within another 72 hours, Sugarman said, when the staff provides children with an educational assessment. Those assessments vary between shelters, she said, and are less formal than those found in typical public schools. After the assessment, children in shelters typically receive an education in several groups based on age or academic competency.

    “I know that shelters do ask for materials and assessments from surrounding districts so they can kind of mirror what’s going on, but … that really reflected a time when kids were likely to be released into the community,” Sugarman said.

    The 1997 Flores settlement, which began as a class-action lawsuit, lays out specific standards shelters must follow. That includes providing “education services appropriate to the minor’s level of development and communication skills in a structured classroom setting.” Instruction must center primarily on developing “basic academic competencies and secondarily on English language training.” Subjects include science, social studies, math, reading, writing, and physical education.

    While children receive education services in the shelters, they are not enrolled in local schools, according to a Department of Education fact sheet. It’s the responsibility of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, Sugarman said, to hold shelter operators accountable for the services they provide. Shelters aren’t held to the same academic standards as public schools, she said, because they were never intended to provide long-term care.

    “The shelters are there to make sure [children] are reading and learning what they can, but you really just can’t hold them to the same level as you would a school,” Sugarman said. “Some school districts I’ve heard say, ‘You know, we get kids from shelters and it’s kind of a black box. We don’t really know what they were doing there,’ but I think it’s meant to be temporary. It’s meant to be the best possible solution for a situation that is not optimal.”

    Mounting concerns

    Southwest Key’s Casa Padre shelter first drew national attention when officials declined to let Sen. Jeff Merkley, Democrat of Oregon, tour the facility. In response, officials there facilitated the media tour to calm concerns about their level of services.

    Southwest Key spokeswoman Cindy Casares didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment, but she wrote in an email to Politico that children in their facilities are receiving classroom instruction from licensed teachers and officials have not struggled to meet the requirement since the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy went into effect.

    Last week, Southwest Key founder and CEO Juan Sanchez told The Washington Post that youth separated from their parents made up about 5 percent of residents at Casa Padre, which houses youth between the ages of 10 and 17, and about 10 percent of residents across the nonprofit’s 26 shelters.

    Although United Nations human rights officials called on the Trump administration to cease the practice of separating migrant children from their parents, a UN Human Rights Council working group wrote positively in 2017 about a Southwest Key facility in San Diego. While noting that some shelters across the country had failed to provide unaccompanied children suitable conditions, the San Diego facility provided “safe and humane conditions and culturally appropriate education and recreation facilities.”

    Before Trump signed the executive order, several prominent education groups scorned the Trump administration for separating immigrant children from their parents. Alberto Carvalho, superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, who is himself an immigrant, has also taken a stand. In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Carvalho noted that the Florida constitution says all children in the state, regardless of immigration status, are entitled to an education.

    “It is troubling that so many children are being held apart from any contact with their parents or family members and without access to those daily comforts of home,” Carvalho wrote. “We should at least provide these children with the dignity of some connection with caring adults and access to educational services.”

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  • EduClips: South Florida Schools Scrambling to Hire Police Officers; IL Lawmakers Lash Out at Chicago Schools Over Sexual Abuse of Students — and More Must-Reads From America’s 15 Biggest School Districts

    By Andrew Brownstein | June 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

    EDUCATION DEPARTMENT — The White House on Thursday will propose merging the Education and Labor departments into one federal agency, the centerpiece of a plan to remake a bureaucracy that President Trump and his supporters consider too big and bloated, according to an administration official familiar with the plan.

    The long-awaited proposal to reorganize federal agencies would shrink some and augment the missions of others. It is the result of a directive that Mick Mulvaney, head of the Office of Management and Budget, issued to federal leaders 14 months ago. He urged them to find ways to merge overlapping, duplicative offices and programs and eliminate those the administration views as unnecessary.

    The plan also is expected to include major changes to the way the government provides benefits for low-income Americans, an area that conservatives have long targeted as excessive, by consolidating safety-net programs that are administered through multiple agencies. (Read at The Washington Post)

    National News

    IMMIGRATION — Educating Migrant Children in Shelters: 6 Things to Know (Read at Education Week)

    SCHOOL DISCIPLINE — Betsy DeVos’s Deputy Privately Admitted Trump Administration’s Idea Could Hurt Kids (Read at HuffPost)

    OBAMA — See Which Obama Education Initiatives Trump’s Shut Down, and Which Survive (Read at Politics K-12)

    TEACHER PAY — How bad is teacher pay? Nearly 1 in 5 teachers works a second job, report says (Read at The Washington Post)

    HEALTH — Senate Rejects Trump’s Bid to Claw Back Funds From Children’s Health Insurance Program (Read at Politics K-12)

    District and State News

    FLORIDA — South Florida school districts scrambling to hire police officers (Read at the Sun-Sentinel)

    ILLINOIS — Illinois state lawmakers lash out at CPS over sexual abuse of students (Read at the Chicago Tribune)

    FLORIDA — Miami schools chief: Why didn’t feds tell us about immigrant children in Homestead? (Read at the Miami Herald)

    NEW YORK — For First Time, New York City Teachers Will Get Paid Parental Leave (Read at The New York Times)

    NEVADA — Clark County School District cuts $68 million, 500 positions (Read at the Las Vegas Sun)

    CALIFORNIA — L.A. school district says more are graduating, but rate may not show it (Read at the Los Angeles Times)

    PENNSYLVANIA —After hazards were exposed, Philadelphia school district launches massive summer cleanup (Read at The Philadelphia Inquirer)

    CALIFORNIA — California budget deal includes extra funding for students with lowest test scores (Read at EdSource)

    NEW YORK — New York City Sees a Model on the Upper West Side for School Integration (Read at The Wall Street Journal)

    ILLINOIS — Why Illinois will start testing ninth, 10th graders with PSAT (Read at the Chicago Daily Herald)

    TEXAS — ‘STEM jobs are good jobs’: Industry leaders say retooled education key to filling about 2.4M expected vacancies (Read at Dallas News)

    Think Pieces

    TEACHER EFFECTIVENESS — Study: Multi-Year Gates Experiment to Improve Teacher Effectiveness Spent $575 Million, Didn’t Make an Impact (Read at The74Million.org)*

    STATE TAKEOVERS — After five years, the Tennessee-run district isn’t performing any better than low-performing schools receiving no intervention, research says (Read at Chalkbeat)

    PERSONALIZED LEARNING —  New Research: Despite Great Enthusiasm for Personalized Learning, Teachers Say Attempts to Innovate Are Often Stymied by School District Bureaucracy (Read at The74Million.org)*

    Quote of the Day

    “The thing to understand about all of this is that we have to learn not to think of it as another flavor or version of reform. This is a fundamental rethinking and reimagining of everything about what schools focus on.” —Andrew Calkins, director of Next Generation Learning Challenges, on a new study that highlighted challenges in the implementation of personalized learning. (Read at The74Million.org)*

    *Disclosure: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provides financial support to the Center on Reinventing Public Education, the personalized learning efforts analyzed in CRPE’s recent research, and The 74.

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