January 2019
  • Despite Prevalent Trauma, From School Shootings to the Opioid Epidemic, Few States Have Policies to Fully Address Student Needs, Study Finds

    By Mark Keierleber | January 31, 2019

    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.

    Despite the pervasive effect of stressful experiences — from mass school shootings to the opioid epidemic — on student performance, only 11 states encourage or require staff training on the effects of trauma. Half of states have policies on suicide prevention. And just one state, Vermont, requires a school nurse to be available daily at every school campus.

    Those are among the key findings of a report released Thursday by the nonprofit Child Trends, which found that most states have failed to adopt a comprehensive set of policies to address student well-being.

    Nearly half of America’s students have traumatic experiences, including divorce, substance abuse, and domestic violence, according to the Child Trends report, leading an increasing number of states to enact laws that aim to better equip schools to educate youth who experience trauma. But Child Trends researchers argue that a more comprehensive, “whole child” approach is key. Such an approach, which focuses on a range of factors from student health to school safety, is necessary because disparate school policies affect student welfare, said Kristen Harper, Child Trends’s director for policy development. Even as districts implement strategies to help students with adverse experiences, the report argues that other school policies, such as frequent suspensions, could further traumatize youth.

    “You could take a child that may need mental health services, for example, and get them those services,” Harper said in an interview with The 74. “But if the child’s behavior in the classroom still means that they’re getting suspended or they’re the target of corporal punishment or seclusion and restraint, that’s still a scenario where we’re taking a child that’s experienced trauma and adding trauma on top of it.”

    The report focuses on state policies addressing a wide range of factors that contribute to healthy school environments. Researchers utilized a framework created in 2013 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which identifies 10 key components. Among them are health education, nutrition services, counseling, schools’ physical environments, employee wellness, and family engagement. Laws in 10 states offered “deep coverage” of the framework, Child Trends found, with comprehensive policies on at least six of the policy areas. The bulk of states had less comprehensive policies on the range of issues, but two states in particular — South Dakota and North Dakota — had “weak” coverage of the policy areas.

    Though most states lack laws focused on student trauma, Child Trends found such policies to be an emerging trend. Last year, at least seven states passed legislation to address students with traumatic stress. Meanwhile, other factors have received less attention from policymakers, including those that focus on stress or substance abuse among employees.

    Policies in only two states, Mississippi and Rhode Island, touch on employee wellness “in more than just an artificial way,” said Deborah Temkin, Child Trends’s senior program area director for education. Temkin theorized that states infrequently address employee wellness because education policy generally centers on improving student academic outcomes “and not that broader community.”

    Temkin said that while each of the factors contributes to positive school environments in different ways, they’re all interrelated. But policymakers, however, tend to address them in silos, often in response to a crisis. For example, states rushed to adopt new bullying laws several years ago after a series of youth suicides were blamed on harassment. She said this approach often fails to address the way in which multiple issues — like policies around school discipline and social and emotional learning — interact. A recent example of how policies intersect emerged after multiple mass school shootings last year. In order to ensure campuses are safe, some advocates argued, schools need to better address students’ mental health needs.

    “That is really driving toward this idea that, in order for these policies to really be effective, they need to be better integrated,” Temkin said.

    Unsurprisingly, state policy tends to be geographically specific. For example, Mississippi policies addressing physical education are among the nation’s most comprehensive. Mississippi also has the country’s highest childhood obesity rate.

    As the Child Trends reports encourage policymakers to analyze a wide range of policies to address the needs of students, researchers caution that merely having regulations on the books doesn’t necessarily mean they are being implemented effectively. That’s an issue researchers aim to tackle in a forthcoming report.

    “We don’t necessarily have the evidence to say that putting a policy in place at the state level necessarily benefits outcomes,” Temkin said. “It’s something that a lot of people theorize and expect to happen, but it’s still very much an empirical question at this point: What level of policymaking is really necessary to make these changes happen?”


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  • House Democrats Unveil $100B School Facility Upgrade Bill, Urge Inclusion in Long-Sought Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal

    By Carolyn Phenicie | January 30, 2019


    On a day when a dangerous deep freeze settled across wide swaths of America, echoing memories of last year’s cold snap that left children shivering in their classrooms, congressional Democrats introduced a bill to spend $100 billion on improving school infrastructure.

    Spending on improvements to schools, congressional Democrats said, should be part of any large-scale infrastructure bill, like the one President Donald Trump has proposed.

    “Every day across districts in America, students and educators attend schools that are either unsafe or lack basic resources, or both, and this is simply unacceptable,” Rep. Bobby Scott, the Democratic chairman of the Education and Labor Committee, said at a press conference in Washington.

    The bill, dubbed the Rebuild America’s Schools Act, would put $70 billion in grants and $30 billion in bonds toward improving schools, with a priority given to the schools in worst condition and those serving high numbers of low-income students. Funds could also be used for technology upgrades.

    President Donald Trump has several times proposed a bipartisan investment in infrastructure to the tune of $1 trillion. He didn’t mention school improvements in his 2018 State of the Union, which advocates considered a missed opportunity; it’s unknown if he’ll address it in next week’s address.


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

    Public schools should be included in any large-scale infrastructure package, Scott said.

    “I think it’s very likely if we have an infrastructure bill that this could easily be part of it,” he said.

    Members of Congress have introduced more than a dozen school infrastructure upgrade bills in the past 20 years, according to a search of congressional records. Scott introduced a similar $100 billion infrastructure investment bill in 2017.

    None of those bills advanced through the legislative process, and past federal infrastructure investments, including the 2009 stimulus, didn’t include schools.

    But future projects should, said Sen. Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island, a cosponsor of the bill.

    “Public schools are public infrastructure, and we need to invest in them, just as we invest in roads and bridges and other public infrastructure,” Reed said.

    Indeed, crumbling school infrastructure has attracted national headlines, from those shivering children last year to a pattern of neglect that left dangerous levels of lead and asbestos in Philadelphia schools.

    State lawmakers and the public are taking note, too: Voters in Rhode Island approved a $250 million bond to improve school facilities, and those in New Jersey approved a large-scale bond that includes $100 million to improve school water infrastructure.


    Facing a ‘Really Big Issue,’ Senators Push for First Federal Survey of the Condition of U.S. Schools Since 1995

    A 2017 study by the American Society of Civil Engineers found that more than half of American schools needed repairs, renovations or modernizations to be considered in “fair condition,” and a 2014 Education Department study estimated that total costs would run $197 million.

    The bill also would create a national database on the condition of America’s schools. The last government survey of the condition of schools was in 1996; an amendment added to an earlier version of the Education Department’s 2019 spending bill that would have required a new Government Accountability Office study of the issue wasn’t included in the final version of the law.


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  • Monthly QuotED: 8 Notable Quotes That Made Education Headlines in January, From Graduation Gaming to Teacher Pay — and More School Board Shenanigans

    By Andrew Brownstein | January 29, 2019

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

    “The high school graduation rate numbers have been going up and up and up, which I do think is a good outcome. But it also calls into question whether all of those diplomas mean the same thing, whether they are as meaningful a credential as it once was.” —Anne Hyslop, a former Department of Education official now at the Alliance for Excellent Education. (Read at Chalkbeat)

    Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

    “We don’t do knee-jerk reactions to things. We don’t want to just have 100 percent of our focus on what the last shooter did. These things need to be thought out.” —Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie, on attempts to secure schools after last February’s mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. (Read at the Miami Herald)

    “Sure, we can wait on HISD to fix them. But I am convinced that without a gun to their head, it won’t happen.” —Houston-area state Rep. Harold Dutton Jr., on the need to turn around the district’s long-struggling schools. Houston has until Feb. 3 to avoid setting in motion either a state takeover or state closure of several schools. (Read at

    “Adult misconduct is surely not acceptable, but, holy crap, we have a lot of work to do in terms of student behavior against other students.” —Chicago teachers union president Jesse Sharkey, on the 900 sexual misconduct cases logged in the district over the past four months, mostly students reporting on other students. (Read at Chalkbeat)

    Teachers march in downtown Los Angeles from City Hall to L.A. Unified headquarters on Jan. 14, 2019, the first day of the Los Angeles school teachers’ strike. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

    “[L.A. Unified] could be radical and innovative: they could break up schools, they could try to create new schools, they could close schools; but fundamentally, if they don’t change the way they hire, retain, reward, or pay educators, there’s not going to be a lot of change. The district could do that, but they’re not going to. … There’s too many moving pieces. Too many vested interests.” —Center for Education Reform CEO Jeanne Allen, on Los Angeles, which faces a teacher strike scheduled for Monday. (Read at LA School Report)

    “One year, I counted up all the hours I spent working. If you total up all those hours, guess what I made? $2.68 an hour.” —Kevin Rooker, 60, a history teacher in Saginaw, Michigan. (Read at USA Today)

    “If we make this a right to an education or a right to a certain level of funding … then this really is a lawyer full employment act.” —Ilya Shapiro of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, on the debate over establishing a federal right to education. (Read at

    “I keep saying I’m making a list and checking it twice, and I’m writing that [expletive] on the wall.” —Debra Robinson, the longest-serving member of the Palm Beach County School Board, on her vow to punish a Haitian-American radio station that had grilled her. Her actions violated board ethics policies, according to investigators. (Read at The Palm Beach Post)

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


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  • Seen and Heard: Thousands of Pro-Charter School Parents Turn Out to Rally Ahead of Controversial Moratorium Vote at L.A. Board Meeting

    By Laura Fay | January 29, 2019


    Thousands of parents and supporters turned out to show their support for charter schools ahead of Tuesday’s Los Angeles Unified School board meeting Tuesday. Hours before the meeting was set to begin, parents arrived to rally, urging board members to vote against a resolution calling for a moratorium on new charter schools and asking the state to study their impact on L.A. district schools.


    As many as 4,000 parents cheered and chanted at the district headquarters, according to an estimate from the California Charter Schools Association, which organized the demonstration. They held signs declaring “Kids Not Politics” and “School Choice Now.” L.A. Unified School District police estimated the crowd at 3,500 people, according to an officer at the boardroom entrance.

    As The 74 reported, the resolution was a part of L.A. Unified and United Teachers Los Angeles’s agreement to end the six-day teacher strike in district schools last week but was not included in the contract. If passed, it would direct the superintendent to pursue a moratorium on new charter schools in the district, and it also would require the school board to call on state officials to study the financial impact of charters on the district to inform revisions to the state’s charter law. Four of the six board members — the majority of whom were elected with charter organization backing — would have to approve it for it to go into effect.


    As the L.A. School Board Votes on a Resolution That Would Call for a Freeze on New Charter Schools, Inside the Debate — and Backlash — That’s Roiling America’s Second Biggest District

    The rally included a series of speakers, including teachers, students, and parents who talked about their personal experience with charter schools in the district.

    Throughout the rally, supporters chanted “My child, my choice” and “Let us learn.”

    Board members Mónica García and Nick Melvoin spoke to the crowd before going in to the meeting, with García saying she wanted to see and hear the parents who “in the past 15 to 20 years … have shown up to help L.A. Unified serve all students well.” Melvoin told the crowd he was with them and that the resolution “only continues the cynicism of the politics of the past. It does nothing to help out kids.”


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  • Markets Down, Student Scores Up: Study Finds That Teachers Hired During Recessions Are More Effective

    By Kevin Mahnken | January 27, 2019

    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.

    Between whipsaw stock market closings and grim tidings from the ongoing trade war with China, whispers have spread over the past few months of a possible recession in 2019. This month’s reports of strong hiring and wage growth have quieted Wall Street for now, but some experts warn that America’s epic expansion may be enjoying its last months.

    But while no one (including education journalists) welcomes the prospect of shrinking markets, there might be a silver lining for schools: According to a recent study, teachers who begin their careers during recessions are more effective than those hired during sunnier economic times.

    The study, conducted by Harvard education professor Martin West and German economists Markus Nagler and Marc Piopiunik, has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Labor Economics, with a manuscript circulated online. Though it isn’t scheduled to be published until 2020, the article will offer guidance to education policymakers looking to navigate future downturns that may come sooner than that.

    The authors tracked the performance of more than 30,000 fourth- and fifth-grade teachers in Florida between the 2000-01 and 2008-09 school years. Using data from the Florida Department of Education, they matched student math and reading scores on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test — the state’s “high-stakes” accountability test at the time — with those students’ teachers, discarding instructors who accounted for less than 80 percent of a given student’s classroom time.

    Across the 40 most recent cohorts of newly hired teachers, the team found that those who began their careers during years that saw recessions were more effective at lifting test scores. The effect was found to be statistically significant, and much larger in the case of math than English scores.

    Source: Unpublished study by Martin West, Markus Nagler, and Marc Piopiunik

    That’s because, as the authors write, “existing research indicates that earnings returns are twice as large for numeracy than for literacy skills in the U.S. labor market.” In other words, the high demand for math skills in lucrative fields like engineering or computer science disproportionately draws away job candidates who would have otherwise made exceptional math teachers. In the instance of a recession, when alternative job prospects dry up, the labor market flattens out, and more are attracted to stable careers in teaching.

    Teacher dissatisfaction helped generate a wave of political activism last year, as educators in several states walked off the job to protest low pay. As the American economy continues its prolonged recovery from the Great Recession, public school employees are leaving their jobs at historic rates to find more rewarding work in a tight labor market. This month, unionized teachers in Los Angeles waged their first work stoppage in 30 years, demanding bigger salaries and smaller class sizes from a district that says it’s in serious fiscal straits.

    In an email to The 74, West said that the number of excellent teachers is “strongly influenced by how attractive teaching is relative to other jobs.” When recessions wreak havoc on the private sector, the profession becomes a safe harbor for talented professionals — but as the economic picture brightens, promising candidates look elsewhere, and incumbent educators begin organizing for a better deal.

    “I’d certainly say that the long economic boom has made it harder for states like California to recruit strong teachers, particularly as private-sector wages have started to improve,” he wrote. “I also suspect that frustration with relative pay as the economy has improved played a role in the teacher walkouts early in 2018 and is a factor in what’s happening now in L.A.”

    In general, recessions are thought to be terrible news for everyone, including schools. Research suggests that the Great Recession of 2007-09, which put millions out of work and cratered tax receipts for several years, had an especially pernicious effect on K-12 academic achievement. Some experts point to the diminished funding for schools in the wake of the crisis, which still hasn’t caught up to pre-2008 levels in many states.


    29 States Spending Less on Schools Than Before Recession, Report Finds

    But the authors find that such catastrophes could also serve as a “window of opportunity” for state and local governments to poach great talent that would otherwise shy away from teaching jobs due to lack of pay or prestige. While startups and blue-chip firms are shrinking payrolls, they suggest, schools should be opening their books.

    “Hiring more teachers during downturns would increase the effectiveness of the teacher labor force,” they write. “As teachers are a critical input in the education production function affecting students’ lives way beyond schooling, hiring more teachers in economic downturns would appear an attractive strategy to improve American education.”

    Even during bull markets, the study concludes, schools and districts should aim to narrow the gap between teaching and other careers by lifting teacher salaries. Citing the work of Harvard economist Raj Chetty, the authors find that educators hired during recessions could be enhancing the lifetime earnings of each class of students they teach by as much as $13,000 per year. That kind of premium could justify a salary bump, they argue.

    The question is, who should receive it? While teachers beginning their careers during recessions are more effective on average than those hired during expansions, researchers found, the effect is especially pronounced for the teachers at the very top of the performance scale. That is, the very best teachers hired during economic slumps are much more effective — the authors estimate as much as .2 standard deviations, a highly significant effect size — than the very best teachers hired when the job market is providing more openings in other fields.

    West cautioned that the findings weren’t necessarily an endorsement of higher teacher salaries writ large, but he said that narrower interventions — offering sizable bonuses to high-flying graduate students in STEM fields, for instance — were difficult to implement.

    “Our results should not be interpreted as saying that an across-the-board pay increase would be the most cost-effective way to improve teacher quality. Aligning teachers’ pay with their effectiveness in a more targeted way would be far more efficient, but … is challenging for both political and practice reasons.”


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  • EduClips: School News You Missed This Week From America’s 15 Biggest Districts, Including a Reversal on Teacher Evaluations in New York

    By Andrew Brownstein | January 24, 2019

    EduClips is a roundup of the week’s top education headlines from America’s 15 largest school districts, where more than 4 million students across eight states attend class every day. Read previous EduClips installments here.

    New York City — State Legislature Reverses Measure Linking Teacher Evaluations to Student Performance: State teachers will no longer be evaluated according to student performance on certain state tests after the legislature easily passed a bill reversing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2015 evaluation plan. Backlash over the earlier bill led many families to opt out of state tests, but even lawmakers who supported the union-led rollback raised concerns about potential loopholes that could subject students to more high-stakes testing. The legislation passed this week allows local districts and their teachers unions to decide what kind of assessments should be used to evaluate teachers and requires State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia to decide on a “menu” of alternative assessments for local districts.The bill is unlikely to have a drastic effect on New York City schools, which already choose from a menu of local measures to evaluate teachers. (Read at Chalkbeat)

    Fairfax County — Second Lady Karen Pence Teaching at School That Bans Gay Students, Teachers: Karen Pence, wife of Vice President Mike Pence, has taken a job at a private Christian school in Fairfax County that bans LGBT employees, gay students, and the children of gay parents. She is teaching art at Immanuel Christian School, where, under an employment agreement posted on the school’s website, applicants must agree that God intends marriage to be between a man and a woman. It also states that unmarried couples should not live together or have any sexual activity outside of marriage and that employees should not change their gender identity. (Read at USA Today)

    Gwinnett County — School Board Members Vote to Name Two Schools After Themselves: At their final meeting, two former Gwinnett County school board members voted to name new schools — after themselves. The board voted unanimously to name two new high schools after outgoing members Dr. Robert McClure and Dan Seckinger. Many wondered why the decision was made without community input and asked if other names had been considered. A school district spokeswoman said the board adhered to state law by voting on the names in open session. “Both Dr. McClure and Mr. Seckinger are long-time public servants and the Board felt it appropriate to recognize their 24 years of service to the school district and the Gwinnett community,” she said in a statement. But others questioned whether Seckinger, who was arrested in 2010 for failure to pay child support, was the best candidate. (Read at The Atlanta Journal Constitution)

    Orange County — Orlando-Area Schools Feeling Sting of Statewide Teacher Shortage: The statewide teachers union is sounding the alarm about a looming educator shortage, estimating that schools need to hire 2,217 teachers to fill open jobs in classrooms across the state, including 35 in Orlando and elsewhere in Orange County. State schools had 700 more teacher vacancies this month than at the same time last year, with openings in nearly all subjects, according to the Florida Education Association. Florida schools have been wrestling with a shortage for several years, particularly in elementary schools. Florida’s universities used to graduate all the new elementary school instructors they needed, but enrollment in education colleges has dropped. (Read at the Orlando Sentinel)

    Chicago — Chicago Schools Log 900 Sexual Misconduct Cases in Four Months: In just over four months, Chicago students have reported more than 900 cases of alleged sexual misconduct, the vast majority involving complaints against other students. The reporting is a response to a massive campaign to improve school district handling of complaints after the Chicago Tribune exposed widespread flaws in how the district handled sexual abuse allegations dating back to 2000. The district has removed 33 adults from schools this school year as a result of new investigations, but the numbers shared with the Chicago school board quantify another problem: student-on-student complaints, ranging from inappropriate touching, sexting, and harassment to more violent physical encounters. Of the 932 cases reported since the start of school, 82 percent involved student complaints against other students. (Read at Chalkbeat)

    Los Angeles — District, Union Agree to End 6-Day Strike: L.A. Unified and its teachers reached a contract deal to end the six-day teacher strike, heralding “a new chapter” in public education that district officials say will protect the district’s fiscal solvency. The agreement focuses largely on lowering class sizes and adding support staff. UTLA members would get a 6 percent raise, and the district would invest $403 million in class size reductions and new staffing over the next three years. The county has to sign off on the proposed contract, and then the L.A. Unified school board has to. In a summary of the contract agreement, UTLA also announced that L.A. Unified’s school board will vote at its next meeting on a resolution calling on the state legislature to cap the growth of charter schools in the district while the state studies policy changes. However, the actual contract document does not address any such resolution. (Read at

    Puerto Rico — Officials Put Hurricane Maria Repair Price Tag at $11 Billion: The total cost of repairing the island’s 856 public schools after Hurricane Maria, and bringing them up to school building standards that until recently didn’t exist, is $11 billion — more than one-seventh of the U.S. Department of Education’s total operating budget for this fiscal year. That’s according to the island’s education secretary, Julia Keleher. She estimates that the work — including repairs, painting, and mold remediation — will take between three and seven years to complete. The issue of funding for Puerto Rico’s ongoing recovery found its way back into the headlines recently when President Donald Trump said he could decide to use U.S. Army Corps of Engineers funding intended for (among other things) projects to aid storm recovery in Puerto Rico to build hundreds of miles of a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border instead. (Read at Education Week)

    Broward County — Post-Parkland, Fort Lauderdale–Area Schools Invest in ‘Safe Spaces’ and Controlled Entry Points: Broward County, site of last February’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, has installed 60 pilot “safe spaces” — areas where students can take cover from an active shooter — inside the school where the mass shooting occurred. Additionally, 82 percent of all county schools have revamped their campuses to have only one point of entry so that access can be better controlled. Superintendent Robert Runcie rolled out the plan in response to the release of a brutally critical report from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission. (Read at the Miami Herald)

    Noteworthy Essays & Reflections

    ACCOUNTABILITY John White: ‘Exaggerated Accountability Response in Combination With Exaggerated Chaos Will Produce Distrust’ — The ‘A’ Word (Read at

    RELIGION — Bible classes in public schools? Why Christian lawmakers are pushing a wave of new bills (Read at USA Today)

    TEACHERS How to get teachers to believe in a new school program? Ask them to help design it. (Read at Chalkbeat)

    EQUITY Hillary Clinton Hates It. Betsy DeVos Hates It. But Is Education by Zip Code Unfixable? (Read at Politics K-12)

    STRIKES — More strikes ahead? Teachers say they love their jobs but can’t pay their bills, poll shows (Read at USA Today)

    Quotes of the Week

    “We don’t do knee-jerk reactions to things. We don’t want to just have 100 percent of our focus on what the last shooter did. These things need to be thought out.” —Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie, on attempts to secure schools after last February’s mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. (Read at the Miami Herald)

    “He is a third-grade student that’s never attended a full day of school. I just think that’s completely inappropriate.” —Jennifer Schell, on her son Aidin, who has autism. Experiences like Aidin’s form the centerpiece of a federal class-action lawsuit against the state of Oregon and its education department, alleging public schools in the state unnecessarily shorten school days for children with disabilities who experience behavioral challenges. (Read at

    “One year, I counted up all the hours I spent working. If you total up all those hours, guess what I made? $2.68 an hour.” —Kevin Rooker, 60, a history teacher in Saginaw, Michigan. (Read at USA Today)

    “Adult misconduct is surely not acceptable, but, holy crap, we have a lot of work to do in terms of student behavior against other students.” —Chicago teachers union president Jesse Sharkey, on the 900 sexual misconduct cases logged in the district over the past four months, mostly students reporting on other students. (Read at Chalkbeat)

    “This issue has dragged on for so long, it’s just so unacceptable and inhumane to have people live their lives by months at a time or by decision to decision. They definitely deserve something more permanent.” —Viridiana Carrizales, co-founder and CEO of ImmSchools, a nonprofit that partners with school districts to ensure they adequately support undocumented students and parents, on the legal limbo for the students in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. (Read at


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  • Not All Student Growth Is Created Equal — How 48 States Are Using It Differently in Their Report Cards

    By Kate Stringer | January 23, 2019

    If performance data says how well students achieved in the past, growth data can indicate a lot more: how performance has changed over time, which schools are making a difference in low-income neighborhoods and where student achievement might be headed in the future.

    That’s why growth data is so powerful, said Paige Kowalski, executive vice president of the Data Quality Campaign. After the Every Student Succeeds Act encouraged states to track growth, 48 states and Washington, D.C., are now sharing this data on their public report cards. Now, a new report from the Data Quality Campaign shows the different ways they’ve done so, and what stories those data points can tell the public.

    There are five ways most states are measuring growth — and some are using a combination of methods. These are: value added, student growth percentile, value table, gain score and growth to standard. Kowalski said the report doesn’t recommend one measure of growth over another, but rather, shows how different ways of measuring growth can imply different things.

    “Every data point has its limitations. Every data point can answer some questions better than others,” she said. “No data point is perfect.”

    Looking at growth rather than just performance data can shine a light on schools that have been helping students improve but may not receive recognition for doing so because overall proficiency rates are low, Kowalski said. It can also indicate to state leaders and other schools that there could be methods nearby worth learning from.

    “If a school has low proficiency and high growth, there’s something magical worth looking at,” Kowalski said.


    Barnum: The Growth vs. Proficiency Debate and Why Al Franken Raised a Boring but Critical Issue

    Here are the five main measures of growth that states are using, and the different stories they can tell.

    1 Value added 

    Eight states are using this measure, which indicates how schools helped impact student achievement. The measure takes into account past performance and factors such as economic background or whether a student is an English learner, so it can predict how well a student with these circumstances should perform and compare that with how well the student actually performed. This method is able to show how specific schools helped students grow. However, it doesn’t say how well students performed compared with grade level standards, and it can be a challenging data point to communicate to the public, the report said.

    2 Student growth percentile 

    This is the most popular growth measure, with 24 states using it. To calculate growth, each student is grouped with other students who have similar past academic performance. Then, based on their current test scores, students are given a percentile rank to show how well they performed compared with these peers. This method shows how students who started at the same place academically grew, but it does not say how well students grew compared with grade level standards and doesn’t factor in measures besides testing data.

    3 Value table 

    Twelve states use a value table, which compares a student’s performance with where he or she stood last year, to see if the student moved up or down. This method is a lot easier for the public to understand because it uses simpler terms — for example, it can say that a student moved from below basic last year to basic this year, based on test scores. However, understanding how well a student is doing depends on how rigorous a state’s performance measures are. This method also cannot indicate how well an individual school is helping a student progress.

    4 Gain score 

    Used by three states, this method compares how well a student performs on comparable tests from year to year. To do this, states translate test scores into “scale scores” for comparison. A state can then say whether a student performed so many points higher or lower than last year. But this method cannot say how well a specific school contributed to student growth.

    5 Growth to standard

    Ten states are using this method, which looks at whether a student is growing in relationship to grade-level goals. This assumes the rate at which a student grows will continue each year and doesn’t take into account a student’s individual characteristics. Determining how well a student is doing relies on how rigorous the state’s benchmarks are.

    Disclosure: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative provide financial support to Data Quality Campaign and The 74.


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  • No Supreme Court Action on DACA Leaves in Place Protections for ‘Dreamers,’ Complicates Negotiations to End Shutdown

    By Mark Keierleber | January 22, 2019

    With the Supreme Court declining on Tuesday to consider the fate of a program that shields about 700,000 undocumented immigrants from deportation, the Obama-era initiative will likely continue for another year despite President Donald Trump’s efforts efforts to end it.

    The high court’s inaction on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program leaves in place lower court rulings that have kept the program alive temporarily and allowed recipients — including thousands of K-12 students and educators — to renew their protections. Amid a partial government shutdown, the longest in U.S. history, President Trump has recently used the program as a bargaining chip to negotiate more than $5 billion in federal funds for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

    While immigrant-rights advocates said Tuesday’s news buys DACA recipients more time, the issue is far from resolved. Although it’s possible the Supreme Court could still take up the DACA dispute, that’s unlikely to occur during the current term, which ends in June. The court’s next term begins in October.

    “This issue has dragged on for so long, it’s just so unacceptable and inhumane to have people live their lives by months at a time or by decision to decision,” said Viridiana Carrizales, co-founder and CEO of ImmSchools, a nonprofit that partners with school districts to ensure they adequately support undocumented students and parents. “They definitely deserve something more permanent.”

    Created by then-President Barack Obama in 2012 through an executive order, DACA provides deportation relief and work permits to undocumented immigrants brought to the country as young children. In fall 2017, the Trump administration announced it would wind down the program, arguing that Obama had leveraged an unconstitutional use of executive power to create it.

    Since then, however, several federal courts have derailed Trump’s plans to shut DACA down. After the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal weighed whether the Trump administration could end the program, in November it opted to uphold a nationwide injunction on the Trump administration’s efforts to end the protections. A lower federal court put that injunction in place early last year until lawsuits against the Trump administration work their way through the courts. Even before the 9th Circuit upheld the injunction, the Trump administration asked the Supreme Court to weigh in.

    Judges in New York, Texas, and Washington, D.C., have also issued setbacks in Trump’s decision to end DACA.

    The Supreme Court’s silence holds implications for Trump’s negotiation efforts to end the partial government shutdown, which sought $5.7 billion in funding for a “steel barrier system” and a three-year reprieve for DACA recipients and hundreds of thousands of other people with Temporary Protected Status. The second program provides relief to people who fled their native countries following wars and natural disasters. As with DACA, Trump administration efforts to end Temporary Protected Status for some with the deportation relief is currently held up in court. Trump’s proposal also includes millions of dollars to address the “security and humanitarian crisis at our southern border,” including medical support, new temporary housing, and additional border agents.

    Democratic lawmakers, however, have shot down that proposal — as did several conservative pundits, including Ann Coulter, who blasted the deal as amnesty for undocumented immigrants. “We voted for Trump and got Jeb!” Coulter tweeted on Saturday. “So if we grant citizenship to a BILLION foreigners, maybe we can finally get a full border wall.”

    Carrizales of ImmSchools also criticized Trump’s proposal, noting the huge price tag for the wall while immigrant-rights advocates are “getting the crumbs.”

    “The wall itself is not enough for what people will get in return,” she said.

    Also Tuesday, the Senate offered some hope of an end to the shutdown, scheduling procedural votes for Thursday on Trump’s proposal and a competing bill to fund the government through Feb. 8.

    Randy Capps, the director of research for U.S. programs at the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute, said it’s probable the Supreme Court will ultimately weigh DACA’s fate, but that is unlikely to happen until the end of the year or early 2020 — amid heated presidential campaigns. Therefore, he said Trump’s proposal to extend DACA for three years in exchange for border-wall funding may be a non-starter since “the courts have already extended it for at least one year.”

    “You’re really only talking about a short-term extension of something the courts have already extended and may extend further,” Capps said. He said that will likely complicate Trump’s efforts to reopen the government unless another compromise is presented. Meanwhile in Congress, Capps was pessimistic about a compromise between Republicans and Democrats. Republicans appear “dead set against” a permanent extension of DACA, he said, while Democrats are unlikely to settle with pro-enforcement legislation.

    And the Supreme Court seems like the next, eventual step, Capps said, but how the justices ultimately rule also remains a big unknown.


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  • These Oregon Students With Disabilities Say They Often Spent Just 20 Minutes at School a Day. Now They’re Suing the State

    By Mark Keierleber | January 22, 2019

    In a lot of ways, Aidin Schell is a typical 8-year-old. He loves Legos, The Avengers, and Jackson, the family’s Yorkshire terrier.

    But sometimes, he has uncontrollable outbursts.

    In first grade, Aidin was diagnosed with autism and placed in special education. Often unable to control his behavior due to his disability, school officials in his rural Oregon district placed him on a shortened school day. Some days, he’d stay in school for a few hours. But other times, no sooner would his mother drop Aidin off than school leaders would call her to pick him up and take him home.

    Experiences like Aidin’s form the centerpiece of a federal class-action lawsuit filed Tuesday against the State of Oregon and its education department, alleging public schools in the state unnecessarily shorten school days for children with disabilities who experience behavioral challenges. Though no school districts are named as defendants, the suit argues the state violated federal law by failing to ensure students with disabilities receive the education services they’re entitled to under federal law.

    “There were many, many days when Aidin would have been on school property for no more than 20 minutes,” mother Jennifer Schell said. Even after Aidin received outside treatment and his behavior began to improve, his mother said school officials declined to provide him with a full day of school. Fed up, Aiden’s parents enrolled him in an online school.

    The lawsuit argues that educators frequently shorten the students’ school hours without providing services to address their behaviors and allow them to complete a full school day. The problem is most acute in the state’s rural districts, said Joel Greenberg, a staff attorney at Disability Rights Oregon, which filed the suit with organizations including the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates and the National Center for Youth Law. Those rural schools, Greenberg said, often lack adequate financial resources or experts such as behavior specialists.

    While not a plaintiff in the suit, Aidin is one of at least hundreds of children with disabilities across Oregon who are subjected to shortened school days, attorneys say. The plaintiffs include four children with disabilities between the ages of 6 and 14, all of whom were placed on shortened school days due to disability-related behavioral issues. Schedules featuring shortened school days often last months, even years, the lawsuit alleges.

    Oregon Department of Education spokesman Marc Siegel said in a statement that the agency is ”committed to equity and excellence for every learner,” but he declined to comment further on the pending litigation.

    While schools occasionally shorten a child’s school day for “bad motives,” Greenberg said, that’s not the norm. Often, he said, schools want to help children with disabilities but lack the resources to adequately address challenging behavior.

    “The staff is frustrated, the child is unhappy, the parents are unhappy, and they have no real way to fix it,” Greenberg said. “The state can’t simply say, ‘It’s a district responsibility. Too bad for the parent or child if the district can’t figure out how and what to do.’”

    Attorneys see a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling as a boon to their arguments. In 2017, the court set a more rigorous standard for special education services that requires districts to offer education programs that are “appropriately ambitious” and allow every child “the chance to meet challenging objectives.” The Oregon lawsuit argues that children have little opportunity to meet any objectives if they’re excluded from school.

    “It’s hard for me to conceive of a situation in which a child can receive” a free appropriate public education, as required by federal law, “by going to school one or two hours a day for six months or a year,” Greenberg said. “That just defies common sense, reason, and logic.”

    Selene Almazan, legal director at the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, said the issue of shortened school days isn’t unique to Oregon, but it tends to be more prevalent in states with large rural populations. Almazan noted that the lawsuit doesn’t focus on children who need shorter school days for acute health conditions, such as those who require chemotherapy for cancer treatment. “We’re talking about kids who challenge a typical school building” because of their behaviors, she said.

    Oregon officials have been aware of the issue for years, but lawmakers have not taken sufficient steps to remedy the problem, according to the suit. In 2016, the state issued an executive memorandum that generally discouraged shortened school days for children with disability-related behavioral challenges. In 2017, lawmakers passed a law that aimed to scale back the use of abbreviated school days.

    But those efforts, Greenberg said, didn’t do enough, and in recent years, his group has observed an uptick in complaints from rural parents. The first step to solving the challenge, he said, is data. He said state officials should collect data on the frequency with which schools place children with disabilities on shortened school days. State leaders also need to provide adequate support to school districts that lack the resources or expertise to address children with behavioral needs, he said.

    Schell said her son Aidin, now in third grade, has improved behaviorally since he left his public school and enrolled in classes online. But Aidin’s public education experience could have been different, she said, had he received one-on-one support from an expert who could recognize his triggers before a meltdown. But before she would re-enroll her son in public school, she’d need assurances that Aidin could attend a full day.

    “He is a third-grade student that’s never attended a full day of school,” Schell said. “I just think that’s completely inappropriate.”


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  • Letter From Our Co-founder: Announcing a New Leadership Team at The 74, Where Education Is Always Front-Page News

    By Romy Drucker | January 22, 2019

    Earlier today, 74 CEO and Co-Founder Romy Drucker announced she would be stepping down from her daily role at the education news outlet for a new appointment at the Walton Family Foundation as the deputy director of the philanthropy’s K-12 education program. She will remain on The 74’s board of directors, where she will serve as chair. Drucker also announced several leadership changes at The 74, to guide the news network into the future; her full statement is below:

    Nearly five years ago, I set out on a mission with Campbell Brown, my friend and 74 co-founder, to make education issues front-page news every day; to wake up mainstream readers as to what is at stake for our children (and our nation) in improving America’s school system.

    Now, almost four years after The 74 went live, I take enormous pride in knowing that our newsroom is doing exactly that — and much more than even we anticipated.

    Since our debut in 2015, The 74 has been on the front lines of covering every key education issue impacting students across the country, setting the tone in the daily conversation about what’s important for tens of millions of kids in our country’s classrooms.

    On camera, on social media, on our liveblogs, we are on top of the news. We have covered heartbreaking school shootings, two #EDlection cycles, the implementation of an important federal education law, pivotal Supreme Court cases, the critical struggle to improve America’s largest school districts, and more.

    We wrote consequential features about equity that put student and parent voices front and center. We published powerful commentaries from top education influencers and poignant testimonials from students with big barriers to overcome and big dreams of overcoming them.

    We have published books, won awards, interviewed newsmakers, broken exclusive investigations, produced documentaries, hosted a presidential primary conversation, engaged our audience at live events, and partnered with news outlets across the country to amplify our efforts and draw even more readers into the most important conversation of the moment.

    This incredible archive of achievements has only been possible because we have some of the most talented reporters, editors, video journalists, and producers working today in journalism, based in bureaus that now span New York, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and Washington, D.C.

    I am making this transition at a time when The 74 has never been stronger — and its future has never seemed brighter.

    Our bureaus are led by Steve Snyder, who after an impressive stretch overseeing newsrooms at such national outlets as TIME, PEOPLE, and NBC helped launch The 74 as editorial director. In the years since, he has built an incredible team of reporters and editors and set an ambitious vision for our coverage. His steadfast leadership and impeccable news judgment has helped The 74 become the disruptive force it is today. And that’s why I am proud to announce that Steve will become the site’s new editor in chief, the position Campbell previously held, where he will continue to drive our expanding news operations. Steve’s full bio can be found here.

    I’m also thrilled to announce a new addition to The 74’s executive team: Stephen Cockrell will succeed me as the organization’s CEO, where he will engage with our board, external partners, supporters, and readership in inventive and interactive new ways. Stephen is an education visionary who has spent his career giving voice to education issues as an attorney and leader in public education. His career has spanned geographies (New York City; Los Angeles; Birmingham, Alabama) and organizations, but he has always had a singular focus on empowering students. The entire 74 team will benefit greatly from Stephen’s deeply personal and expert understanding of policy and practice, and the esprit de corps he brings to every team and project he works on. Stephen’s full bio can be found here.

    As The 74 enters this new chapter, its mission is clearer — and more urgent — than ever before: to spotlight innovations, scrutinize inequities, and assist families in better understanding the policies, politics, and stakes underlying our children’s education.

    And to our readers, thank you for making education a daily priority. Every click on our site, every share from our newsletter, is validation of that.

    I am grateful to have played a small role in shaping the future of nonprofit news and ensuring that subject-specific, watchdog outlets like ours have a permanent place in the changing media landscape. I look forward to continuing to read, watch, and be part of the story of education innovation. We all have a role to play.

    With deep appreciation,


  • From Redesigned Professional Learning to Teacher Leadership, 6 Strategies to Support Teachers of Competency-Based Education

    By Kate Stringer | January 22, 2019

    As more schools attempt to make learning more student-centered and personalized, a new report has suggestions for helping teachers keep pace.

    The report comes from iNACOL, a nonprofit that supports competency-based education. Titled Moving Toward Mastery: Growing, Developing and Sustaining Educators for Competency-Based Education, it outlines ways teachers can ensure their work in competency-based education is “learner centered, equity oriented and lifelong.”

    Competency-based classrooms — usually defined as environments where students receive personalized support and progress through material at their own pace — can be both rewarding and challenging for teachers, as they balance increasing variety in how they instruct students, the report said.

    “When we talk about competency-based education and personalized learning, we’re not only talking about technical changes or policy changes or technology, we’re talking first and foremost about changes for people,” said report author Katherine Casey in a recent webinar. “What we know is that competency-based education asks teachers and students to think in new ways and work in new ways, and so moving toward mastery starts with this recognition.”

    The report shares 15 strategies to help the teaching profession in this field. Here are a few highlights:


    Apprenticeships? Competency-Based Programs? GOP-Led Overhaul of Higher Ed Looks to Push These Concepts Into Mainstream

    1 Diversify pathways into the profession

    People who want to be teachers should have multiple ways to receive their credentials, the report recommends. States should encourage partnerships with local leaders to make sure these solutions reflect the needs of the communities, are rigorous, and are equitable. Teacher training programs should reflect research-based practices and have clear standards. As new teachers transition into the field, a variety of support options should be available to them, such as mentoring or reduced class sizes for their first few years teaching.

    2 Redesign accountability for reciprocity and improvement

    No one group involved in education — from the teacher to the district to the federal government — should have a disproportionate amount of responsibility in an accountability system, the report said. Accountability systems must provide support for the people being held accountable, so that they have the tools to succeed. For example, if educators have to change their teaching style as they transition to a competency-based setting, they should be provided with the resources to help them do so.

    3 Develop cultures of inclusion and learning

    Both teachers and students should feel they belong in their school, regardless of their background. This requires that educators model respect, schools hire teachers of diverse backgrounds, and districts provide the time for staff to connect with families and students. Building these relationships will help teachers understand their students’ learning goals and develop ways to connect with parents.

    4 Increase flexibility for learner-centered practice

    Decisions in schools should not rest only with those who have the most authority but also with students, teachers, and families, the report said. This requires flexibility, such as in how educators design lessons, use assessments, and pick projects. However, flexibility should not undermine quality, and school leaders should make sure educators utilize good teaching practices and adhere to the school’s learning goals.

    5 Establish structures for distributed leadership and collaboration

    Leadership in a competency-based environment cannot follow the top-down pattern of a traditional school system, where teachers receive direction from principals who receive direction from district leaders. Instead, teachers must have leadership roles, whether that’s through committees or teams that help support and share best instructional practices. Collaboration is an important part of this, the report said, so teachers have time to design lessons, share them with colleagues, and receive feedback.

    6 Facilitate professional learning that improves practice

    Professional learning should connect to a school’s curriculum, standards, and tests, as well as what teachers want to learn. The science of learning should also be an important part of professional learning opportunities. The report recommends that these opportunities be incorporated into on-the-job training so teachers can practice what they learn.

    Disclosure: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provides financial support to iNACOL and The 74.


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  • States With Newer Charter Laws Outpace Some Veterans on Annual Rankings

    By Carolyn Phenicie | January 22, 2019

    States with newer charter laws and smaller sectors are outpacing those with more long-standing movements, according to annual rankings from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

    Washington, Alabama, Mississippi, and Maine, all of which passed charter school laws in the past decade and have fewer than 10 charter schools apiece, ranked in the top 10 on the Alliance’s report, surpassing states with more mature charter sectors, such as Arizona and Louisiana. New York, which has had a law since 1998 and now has 241 charters, saw the biggest drop in rankings, from 14 to 17.

    The Alliance rated 44 states’ charter school laws on 21 criteria, including caps on the number of schools or students served, variety of authorizers, and requirements for virtual schools.

    That doesn’t mean that states with older laws have gotten weaker, just that “more and more states have better and better laws across the country, a good place to be if you believe that all states should have high-quality charter school laws,” the report says.

    And it’s not to say the top 10 was entirely populated by newcomers: Indiana, for instance, maintained the top spot for the fourth year in a row, and Colorado, Minnesota, and Washington, D.C., were also in the top 10.


    Top of the Charts: Indiana Leads Rankings of State Charter School Laws for 3rd Consecutive Year

    In the past, the report has provided an impetus for some states to revamp their laws, said Todd Ziebarth, senior vice president of state advocacy and support and the report’s author.

    “It can be, and it has in the past, served as a wake-up call to some states,” but only where lawmakers are supportive of charters, he told The 74.

    Indiana, for instance, was ranked in the mid- to high 20s before lawmakers made changes over several legislative sessions that pushed it to the top spot, Ziebarth said.

    This year, Georgia had the biggest jump of any state, from 27 to 16, which authors attributed to changes in state law regarding funding, special education, and virtual schools.

    Maryland’s charter law continued to rank at the bottom due to its limited authorizers, little autonomy for charters, and inequitable funding, according to the report. Other states in the bottom five were Iowa, Wyoming, Alaska, and Kansas.

    The report’s authors did not rank Kentucky, which passed a charter school law in 2017 but has not provided funding for it.

    As state legislatures begin new sessions in the coming weeks, advocates have their eyes on changes to virtual schools in several states, Ziebarth said. No state got top marks from the Alliance on virtual schools regulations.

    Elsewhere, there “may be some appetite” to overhaul Iowa’s low-rated law, and for West Virginia to pass its first charter school law, he added.

    Disclosure: The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Doris & Donald Fisher Foundation, Walton Family Foundation, and William E. Simon Foundation provide financial support to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and The 74.


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  • With 20 New (and 16 Re-elected) Governors Laying Out Education Plans, Here Are the Four States Where School Choice Seems Like a Priority

    By Carolyn Phenicie | January 21, 2019

    Elections this fall swept 20 new governors into office and saw another 16 re-elected, giving leaders fresh mandates to begin the hard work of K-12 policymaking.

    The 74 reviewed beginning-of-the-year speeches — inaugural addresses, “state of the state” remarks, and and a few budget proposals — from the governors of 43 states that had given them as of Jan. 18. Many of the speeches, particularly the inaugural addresses, were heavy on platitudes and other generic remarks, like praise for local industry or favorite sons.

    For School Choice Week, we examined them all to get an early read on the directions states might take on issues like charter schools. While all discussed education at least briefly, few offered specific policy ideas; several pledged more details when formal budget proposals are released in coming weeks.

    The most common K-12 topics were teacher pay, school funding, and workforce training, including apprenticeships and career and technical education. A few discussed school safety, early learning, and teacher shortages.

    But only four governors — all Republicans, two just elected and two who won re-election last year — discussed school choice in depth. Some of that was expected; in states like Wisconsin, for example, Democrats beat more choice-friendly candidates. And in others, more choice discussion could yet be coming. Tennessee’s new governor, Bill Lee, backs vouchers, and in Kentucky, Gov. Matt Bevin, a charter supporter, could address funding for charter schools, but neither has made his speech yet.

    Here are some key excerpts, along with background on the school choice situations in their states:

    Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis: “In a large and diverse state, our education system needs to empower parents to choose the best possible school for their children. One size does not fit all. No family should be denied the opportunity for their child to succeed due to insufficient income or to living in the wrong zip code. And this opportunity must extend to every Floridian regardless of race, color, or creed.”

    Florida has one of the most robust private school choice environments in the country, encompassing education savings accounts, vouchers for students with disabilities, and tax-credit scholarships. Charter schools served 10 percent of students in 2015, according to federal statistics.

    Sunshine State ed watchers expect a strong choice agenda this year, after the election of DeSantis and appointment of reform supporters to the heads of education committees in both the state House and Senate.


    Vouchers, Virtual Schools & Armed Volunteers: What Florida’s New Education Reform Trifecta Could Mean for School Choice in the Sunshine State

    Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey: “Arizona has been the leader in school choice. It’s good for parents, and most of all, it’s good for kids. Healthy choice and competition brings about innovation, and that’s been the case in Arizona public education.

    But we also know improvements can be made. More transparency, more accountability, and granting more financial review and oversight over taxpayer dollars — all with the purpose of making sure every public school is improving and providing Arizona kids with the best-possible education.”

    Arizona has a robust charter school environment, serving 16 percent of students as of 2015, the highest of any jurisdiction except Washington, D.C. It also has several tax-credit scholarships and an education savings account program for particular groups of historically underserved students.

    The ESA program has been dinged for poor oversight that allowed parents to misspend public funds; voters this past November blocked a law that would have made it universal.

    New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu: “I fully expect this legislature will have a rigorous and thorough discussion regarding funding for education. And I will be there with you in that important conversation. But it would be shortsighted to think that funding is the only discussion needed regarding education. We have big opportunities to expand a student’s access to educational choices. We must provide additional pathways for students to harness their ability to learn.”

    New Hampshire has charter schools, which served about 2 percent of students as of 2015. It has a tax-credit scholarship and “tuitioning programs,” which allow towns without a school at a particular grade level to pay for those students to attend other public or private, non-religious schools.

    The legislature last year voted down Sununu’s proposal for an education savings account program.

    South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem: “We need to do more to empower families. Every child has different needs and talents, and we all know that family involvement gets better results …

    Empowering families also means supporting each family’s decisions for education. I am a proud product of public school and so are my kids, but South Dakota also has excellent private schools and many dedicated homeschool families. This year, I will be bringing legislation to remove an unnecessary testing requirement that state law currently imposes on homeschool families. I will also be supporting legislation to make homeschool students eligible, on an equal basis, for the South Dakota Opportunity Scholarship [a college scholarship program for high-performing high school graduates].”

    South Dakota has a tax-credit scholarship program but does not have any other publicly funded private choice programs or a charter school law.


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  • Education Department Initiative to Combat ‘Inappropriate’ Restraint, Seclusion of Students With Disabilities

    By Mark Keierleber | January 17, 2019

    Several months after a Kentucky sheriff’s office reached a court settlement with two students with disabilities who had been handcuffed above the elbows at school, the U.S. Department of Education announced on Thursday an initiative to address the “possible inappropriate use” of restraint and seclusion in schools.

    That initiative will include compliance reviews by the department’s Office for Civil Rights to explore whether district seclusion and restraint practices violate federal law. Those reviews, according to a department media release, will focus on whether the use of seclusion and restraint affects schools’ obligation to provide special-needs students with a “free appropriate public education” as required by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The Office for Civil Rights will work with districts found to be out of compliance to address the issues, the department said.

    “The only way to ensure the success of all children with disabilities is to meet the needs of each child with a disability,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said in the release. “This initiative furthers that important mission.”

    Seclusion refers to the practice of confining a student alone in a room that he or she is not allowed to leave. Restraint refers to the practice of restricting a student from moving parts of the body, such as with handcuffs.

    Beyond compliance reviews, the initiative seeks to provide technical assistance to school districts on federal disability rights laws and their relationship to seclusion and restraint. The department will also work with districts to ensure they’re reporting accurate data on their use of such practices. The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services will provide districts with resources on how to implement student interventions that reduce the “reliance on less effective and potentially dangerous practices.”

    During the 2015-16 school year, students with disabilities represented about 12 percent of the total student population but accounted for 71 percent of children subjected to restraint and 66 percent of those who were secluded, according to the most recent federal data. That school year, nearly 86,000 children were restrained and more than 36,000 were secluded.

    Black students are disproportionately affected by the practices. Though black children account for 15 percent of America’s K-12 student population, they represented 23 percent of students secluded and 27 percent of those restrained during the 2015-16 school year.

    However, disability-rights advocates have long contended that schools chronically underreport seclusion and restraint incidents.

    Education Department spokeswoman Liz Hill said the department decided to focus on seclusion and restraint in schools because Office for Civil Rights data show that the number of instances “continues to increase.”

    “We know that the inappropriate use of restraint and seclusion can significantly affect children with disabilities,” Hill said in an email, adding that the department aims to ensure the practices don’t impinge on the academic success of children with disabilities. “This initiative gives us the opportunity to highlight this important issue and support schools, districts, and states as they work to meet the needs of each student.”

    The Kentucky lawsuit, which followed the release of a video of one incident that went viral online, is perhaps the highest-profile challenge to the use of restraint in schools in recent years. The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit on behalf of two disabled students — an 8-year-old boy and a 9-year-old girl — who were handcuffed around their biceps in 2014 by a sheriff’s deputy. In 2017, a federal district court ruled the punishment was an “unconstitutional seizure and excessive force.” In November, the sheriff’s office reached a $337,000 settlement with the plaintiffs.

    While Democratic lawmakers proposed federal legislation in November that aims to curtail the use of seclusion and restraint in schools, similar rules currently exist in about two-thirds of states. During the Obama administration, the Education Department released a guidance document that said districts should use seclusion and restraint only if children pose imminent danger to themselves or others.

    Denise Marshall, executive director of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, called the Education Department’s focus on the issue a “positive step forward” in protecting the rights of students with disabilities.

    “Restraint and seclusion are not education strategies; they are the failure of providing a meaningful education,” she said.


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  • Vouchers, Virtual Schools & Armed Volunteers: What Florida’s New Education Reform Trifecta Could Mean for School Choice in the Sunshine State

    By Beth Hawkins | January 17, 2019

    Never mind that the Florida Legislature won’t gavel its lightning-speed 2019 session open for several weeks — dozens of education-related bills are already being heard in committee meetings. And once the House and Senate convene March 6, the agenda is expected to be heavy with state Sen. Manny Diaz Jr.’s education priorities.

    #EdPolicy watchers are going to want to keep an eye on Florida over the next six months,” Travis Pillow, a Sunshine State ex-pat and senior fellow at the Center on Reinventing Public Education, tweeted upon hearing that Diaz had been chosen as the new chair of the Senate Education Committee. “You don’t put @SenMannyDiazJr in charge of ed policy if you plan on standing still.”

    Diaz’s appointment means an education reform trifecta in Florida, with reform champions in charge of education policy in both legislative chambers, as well as in the governor’s mansion. Observers expect an aggressive push for expanded school choice, both public and private.

    Diaz, a Hialeah Republican, advocates an increase in virtual and magnet schools, tax credit scholarships, and career and technical education. Both his counterpart in the House, Republican Jennifer Sullivan, and Gov. Ron DeSantis, a former state rep himself, also favor expanding Florida’s private-school scholarships.

    Elected to the Senate following three terms in the House, Diaz also is the chief operating officer of Doral College, a private institution that provides dual-enrollment classes to students who attend charter schools owned by the for-profit company Academica, which also is affiliated with the college.


    18 Key Education Stories to Watch This Year (According to the Experts): Congress, Courts, Choice, Classroom Innovations & More

    Compared to past leaders, the K-12 policy triumvirate is expected to face few headwinds. The three will, however, need to navigate what may be the nation’s highest-profile debate over a series of school safety proposals that include funding for “hardening” schools against mass shootings and other assaults, resources to put police officers in all schools, and whether — and under what circumstances — to allow educators and other unlicensed school “guardians,” as they’re referred to in legislation, to patrol hallways and classrooms.

    “We do foresee there’s going to be the need for some legislation to tweak the current law,” Diaz told lawmakers at a Jan. 8 committee hearing. Most controversially, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission called for arming volunteer teachers.

    Opposition among educators and law enforcement has been vocal. Parents, students, and teachers wearing red T-shirts attended an early committee hearing. Diaz has promised to take up the topic again in coming days.

    Yet to be seen is how much negotiation the ideologically aligned leaders will need to do with more traditional education advocates such as the Florida School Boards Association, which has both a platform of its own and a lengthy list of “issues of continuing concern” that includes ensuring charter schools are subject to school district governance, increasing district funding, and curtailing policies that allow state officials to do end-runs around local school boards.


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  • Stanford’s CREDO Releases First Academic Study of Indianapolis’s Innovation Schools, Finds Strong Growth

    By Beth Hawkins | January 17, 2019

    Leaders of charter and autonomous schools in Indianapolis got good news Thursday when Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) released a report showing that their students outperformed their peers in traditional district schools — in some instances, significantly.

    It’s the first academic study of the performance of Indianapolis’s unique Innovation Network Schools, which can be either charter or district schools but have complete, charter-like autonomy over all aspects of academics and operations. The first in a series examining school performance in 10 cities, the report found significant differences in academic growth among charter schools, traditional district-run schools, and Innovation schools.

    Overall, growth in reading and math among Indianapolis students was weaker than state averages in 2015-16 and 2016-17, the most recent years examined. In 2016-17, Indianapolis students performed below state averages by 24 days in reading and 60 days in math. Within those averages, however, there was wide variation.

    In the 2016-17 school year, Indianapolis charter school students achieved the equivalent of 77 days more growth in reading and 100 more days in math than students in Indianapolis Public Schools’ traditional district-run schools, who were 48 days behind state averages in reading and 96 days behind in math.

    Compared with traditional schools, Innovation schools showed the equivalent of 53 additional days of learning in reading and 89 days in math, posting results similar to state averages.

    The report’s authors describe growth as the equivalent of the number of days of learning gained or lost compared with state averages in order to put their findings, expressed as effect size, in more easily understandable context. Both charter and Innovation schools performed near state averages on most data points.

    The difference in performance was especially pronounced for black students in charter schools, who gained the equivalent of 65 days of learning in reading and 83 in math compared with peers in traditional district schools. Hispanic charter school students gained 100 days of learning in reading and 94 in math compared with Latinos in traditional IPS schools.

    English learners, who had lagged significantly in the 2013-14 data, grew the equivalent of 130 days in reading and 106 in math over traditional school students in 2016-17. Low-income charter school students were 71 days ahead in reading and 94 days in math. Students with disabilities did not show significant gains.

    The study tracked growth in Indianapolis schools from the 2013-14 school year to 2016-17 (with the exception of Innovation schools, for which only two years of data are available) and compared results by school type and student demographics. It also calculated growth in charter schools according to the type of management: by an independent board, an organization that operates three or more schools and holds their charters, or a network of three or more schools that does not hold the charters, the legal documents enabling the schools to exist.


    Commentary: 10 Lessons From Indianapolis in Reforming Education in Our Nation’s Cities

    In 2016-17, students in the city’s Innovation Network Schools saw overall growth equivalent to the state average in reading. By comparison, Indianapolis charter schools saw growth equivalent to 30 additional days of learning, while traditional IPS schools lost the equivalent of 48 days. The gap in math was even larger.

    Researchers called the difference for charter schools statistically significant, but not for Innovation schools.

    A number of the network schools had been chronically underperforming IPS programs that were restarted with the support of an outside partner. Others are new schools, charter schools eager to partner with the district or conversion schools — existing programs seeking the autonomy-for-accountability framework Innovation schools are granted.

    “We were curious to see the outcomes,” said Chunping Han, a CREDO senior research analyst who worked on the study. “For future research by other researchers, there is still a lot to dig into, such as the mechanisms [at work] in the Innovation schools.”

    Researchers might want to compare performance among different types of schools in the network, she added.

    Growth in the previously chronically underperforming Innovation schools was particularly welcome to The Mind Trust, an Indianapolis-based education nonprofit that helped to incubate some of the schools and to recruit and groom their leaders. School turnarounds are notoriously difficult, and past strategies for rebooting troubled schools have seen mixed results.

    “To see these effects early on is just really heartening,” said Mind Trust CEO Brandon Brown. “It should give us clear evidence that the strategy should continue.”

    The organization has supported 18 of the 20 schools in the network. Currently, it’s incubating 13 schools slated to open during the next two years.

    Disclosure: The Mind Trust receives funding from the Walton Family Foundation and Bloomberg Philanthropies.


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  • Bored in Class: A National Survey Finds Nearly 1 in 3 Teens Are Bored ‘Most or All of the Time’ in School, and a Majority Report High Levels of Stress

    By Kate Stringer | January 16, 2019

    SIGN UP: Get more news, insights and analysis of America’s education system; sign up for The 74 Newsletter

    The difference between Hannah Williams’s old and new high schools was night and day.

    The Nevada teen had dropped out of her first school — twice. She was suffering from anxiety, dealing with a chaotic family life that shifted her in and out of homes, and feeling disengaged amid overcrowded classrooms and teachers who had little time for her.

    But in her second school, where Williams is now a senior and on track to graduate in the spring, she thrived. Her classes are smaller, she gets to pick internship-type projects that match her interests — and earn her academic credit — and she has developed relationships with her teachers. “I don’t find myself bored here,” Williams said. “We get to choose content — we have freedom to discover what we want to learn and jump into it.”

    Williams got a second chance, but she is one of the lucky ones. Nearly three-quarters of high school students are stressed and bored at school, just like Williams was, a new national survey finds.

    “Stress is so overwhelming and really detrimental to your mental state,” she told The 74. “They don’t teach that stuff in school — how to handle your stress, how to identify what it is, where it’s coming from.”

    Nationally, students agree. Only half of current high school students surveyed said their school did a good or great job of teaching them how to cope with stress. Hispanic students and students from low-income backgrounds were more likely to say they felt stressed-out by school.

    In fact, teens are even more stressed than adults, according to a 2014 poll by the American Psychological Association. Diagnoses of anxiety have also been on the rise in teenagers, with blame attributed to everything from smartphones to tests to gun violence.

    “The environment we’re living in has high levels of anxiety and depression,” said John Bridgeland, founder and CEO of Civic, the company that produced the new report for the nonprofit Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). “These students are really longing for a better narrative of school culture and climate that engages and inspires them, connects them to learning things that tie to their interests.”


    Social-Emotional Learning Boosts Students’ Scores, Graduation Rates, Even Earnings, New Study Finds

    That lack of inspiration shows up not only as anxiety but also as boredom. About 7 in 10 current high schoolers reported feeling bored in schools at least some of the time, with about 30 percent saying they felt bored all or most of the time. Students with poorer grades and from low-income households were more likely to report feeling this way.

    Disengagement, or boredom, is a problem cited in other research as well. A 2016 Gallup poll found that as students progressed through the education system, they were more likely to feel bored. Only 32 percent of 11th-graders said they felt engaged in school, compared with 74 percent of fifth-graders.

    The new survey, conducted online during the spring, asked 1,300 current and recent high school graduates how well their schools taught them skills like collaboration, self-confidence, understanding of others’ feelings, and conflict management. These are social-emotional learning skills that schools are encouraged to teach as solutions to problems such as bullying, stress, and disengagement. Social-emotional learning has been proven to boost graduation rates and improve academics, regardless of student demographics.

    Despite their feelings of boredom and stress, the majority of students surveyed said they think their schools are doing a good job of teaching other social-emotional skills. About 6 in 10 said their schools did a good or great job preparing them to work well with others, and nearly the same number said they were taught to have confidence and see things from others’ points of view.

    Nearly 8 in 10 students said their schools were doing a good job of making their learning environments positive, and the same proportion said their teachers were supportive.

    “I was impressed by how positive kids are about their schools,” said Tim Shriver, CASEL board chair. “It’s not a perfect picture; certainly there’s a lot of kids who are lonely or stressed and bored … but overall, kids give their schools quite high marks and give their teachers quite high marks.”

    GO DEEPER: Get more news, insights and analysis of America’s education system; sign up for The 74 Newsletter


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    Disclosure: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provides financial support to the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning and The 74.

  • Study on Post-Election Student Bullying Adds Teeth to Concerns Over ‘Trump Effect’

    By Mark Keierleber | January 16, 2019

    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.

    Following a heated presidential election in 2016, educators and advocacy groups observed a troubling phenomenon that became known as the “Trump effect.” On the campaign trail and beyond, President Donald Trump employed divisive rhetoric to appeal to his base — behavior, educators noted, that students mimicked to bully their peers.

    Now a new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Educational Researcher has grounded the issue in hard numbers. In Virginia, researchers found, school bullying incidents spiked after the election in counties where Trump was victorious while they remained stagnant in areas that Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton won.

    After the election, bullying rates among seventh- and eighth-grade students were 18 percent higher in localities that favored Trump, researchers found. Such students were also 9 percent more likely to report that their peers were teased because of their race or ethnicity. There wasn’t a meaningful difference in bullying rates between left- and right-leaning areas prior to 2016, according to the report, conducted by Dewey Cornell, an education professor at the University of Virginia, and Francis Huang, an associate professor of statistics, measurement, and evaluation in education at the University of Missouri.

    So is Trump to blame?

    That’s a question the report does not answer conclusively. Although the bullying spike in right-leaning corners of Virginia correlates with the presidential election, Cornell said, it’s more difficult to pinpoint whether the presidential election caused the change — though anecdotally, several reports have highlighted instances in which kids used Trump’s statements to target their peers. Nonetheless, Cornell called the findings troubling.

    “We had some trepidation because it’s a politically sensitive topic and neither of us wants to get involved in political debates with all the acrimony that that involves. But because of our interest in studying bullying, we felt that we needed to pursue this,” Cornell said. “We found, to our shock, that bullying increased specifically in the districts that supported President Trump and little changed in the districts that supported Clinton.”

    To conduct the study, researchers examined statewide student surveys conducted in 2013, 2015, and 2017. The surveys asked students whether they had experienced bullying at school and whether their peers were teased for factors such as race or sexual orientation. Survey data were then compared against local election results, which varied widely in purple Virginia. Though 82 percent of residents voted for Trump in Virginia’s most Republican county, Hillary Clinton ultimately won in the commonwealth.

    While reported incidents of teasing based on race and ethnicity declined in Virginia districts that voted for Clinton, they spiked in areas where Trump prevailed. Teasing based on sexual orientation was higher in right-leaning areas in 2017, but it had also been more prevalent in those regions prior to the campaign.

    Although there’s little research exploring how national events like a presidential election affect student bullying, the report notes, there is evidence of a “trickle down” effect, suggesting it’s more likely the behavior of adults — such as parents — that is affecting children. Students could also be reacting to information from social media, Cornell said.

    “We know that kids emulate adults [and] we know that middle-school kids aren’t so deeply interested in the presidential elections,” Cornell said. Although it’s possible that some students acted inappropriately after exposure to one of Trump’s more divisive speeches, he said it’s more plausible that kids were influenced by the adults in their lives. It’s possible, he said, that students heard their elders using antagonizing rhetoric or that adults in certain areas could have become more lenient with children who engage in bullying behavior.


    School Bullying, Civic Engagement and the First Amendment in Donald Trump’s America

    “I think the message is that this affects our kids too, that our middle school kids are not so sheltered from presidential politics,” Cornell said. “Maybe there are a lot of intermediate steps between the president’s tweets or speeches and what kids say on the playground, but there is a correlation … and it’s having an impact that we should be concerned about.”

    Bullying comes with important implications for educators, the researchers note, because victims often experience a decline in school achievement, social-emotional difficulties, and a heightened risk of long-term mental health problems. Nationally, about one-fifth of students report experiencing bullying at school.

    Despite the spike in bullying incidents in right-leaning Virginia counties, the prevalence in bullying among high school students nationally didn’t change between 2015 and 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While that suggests that the overall national bullying rate wasn’t affected by the election, researchers noted, certain types of bullying could have increased while other forms decreased.

    Meanwhile, recent Federal Bureau of Investigation data show that reported hate crimes at K-12 schools and colleges surged by 25 percent in 2017. It was the second year in a row in which such incidents jumped up by roughly a quarter, though better reporting by law enforcement agencies likely contributed to the increase.


    Trump’s Education Legacy: A Rise in School Bullying? New Teacher Survey Shows Election’s Dark Impact

    As the state collects student survey results this spring, Cornell said he’ll be curious to see whether the trend continues. But for now, he urges educators to take the study findings seriously.

    “Racially disparaging remarks, remarks that disparage people about their sexual orientation, are serious matters, and they have an impact on kids’ social-emotional adjustment, their academic functioning, and it’s not the kind of behavior we want to encourage,” Cornell said. “I think they should be alert to this problem.”


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  • ‘Like Minority Report but in Real Life’: Post-Parkland, Schools Turn to Controversial Artificial Intelligence Surveillance to Thwart Potential Shootings

    By Mark Keierleber | January 14, 2019

    Updated on Jan. 14
    In the future, authorities arrest people for crimes before they commit them. Shopping mall advertisements call out consumers by name. Retinal scanners allow the government to track citizens’ every move.

    The scenes come from the 2002 movie Minority Report, a science-fiction thriller that predicts a dystopian future of mass surveillance. Although the world envisioned by the movie is still 35 years away, companies are currently using it to promote their products to America’s schools.

    “Artificial intelligence to help law enforcement stop crime before it starts or escalates, like Minority Report but in real life, is becoming a reality,” a communications specialist for Athena Security said in a recent email. The company was promoting its new surveillance cameras, which use artificial intelligence to identify guns before a shot is fired. Once a weapon is spotted, law enforcement is notified and an intercom system tells the gunman that police are on the way. Archbishop Wood High School, a private Catholic institution in Pennsylvania, was the first campus to implement the company’s technology.

    “Our first feature is gun detection,” said Lisa Falzone, Athena’s co-founder and CEO. Down the road, she said, the technology will be able to detect other activity, including fights. “We just did guns because people were dying and we wanted to do something about it.”

    After two mass school shootings unfolded on American campuses last year, school officials and lawmakers have expended significant energy — and money — on physical security measures in an effort to protect children from violence. Athena is just one in a crowd of companies looking to tap into the $2.7 billion school security market. As schools like Archbishop Wood buy into surveillance through artificial intelligence, they’ve come under scrutiny from civil rights advocates who are concerned about pervasive government surveillance, potential bias, and the effects false positives could have on children who face accusations.

    The issue re-emerged most recently when Florida’s Broward County Public Schools, which suffered a mass school shooting in Parkland last February, announced earlier this month that it would install artificial-intelligence surveillance on some of its campuses.

    The use of the technology, like facial recognition, has become increasingly commonplace in law enforcement, in workplaces, and on smartphones. A recent government study found that the software is “rapidly advancing,” but there’s a dearth of research on the effects of AI-powered surveillance in schools and its ability to keep children safe. A national student survey in 2018 found that while school-based police and outdoor cameras made students feel safer, cameras inside the building made them feel vulnerable.

    “As schools are investing in these types of resources, they may be neglecting or taking funds away from some of the things that we know actually do work to increase school safety,” said Deborah Temkin, director of education research at the nonpartisan Child Trends. “Things like building student and teacher relationships, promoting engagement in schools, and really focusing on school climate.”


    Inside the $3 Billion School Security Industry: Companies Market Sophisticated Technology to ‘Harden’ Campuses, but Will It Make Us Safe?

    In Broward, where a gunman opened fire and killed 17 people last February, the district is moving forward with a plan to purchase 145 analytic cameras from the security company Avigilon. The equipment, which has a $621,000 price tag paid primarily through a federal grant, represents a fraction of about 10,000 surveillance cameras currently deployed across the district. The high-tech Avigilon cameras, a district spokeswoman said, will be installed along the perimeter of “high schools with the highest security incidents.” The cameras, the spokeswoman said, are capable of recognizing movement and characteristics of people and vehicles, relaying unusual behaviors to officials.

    The devices employ “appearance search” technology, which, according to Avigilon, allows officials to scan video footage based on someone’s identifiable features, such as clothing. Another aspect of the technology, the district spokeswoman said, will notify officials if someone crosses into an area where they aren’t supposed to be, such as when someone hops over a fence.

    Littleton Public Schools in Colorado, which has spent millions of dollars on physical security since it suffered a high school shooting in 2013, uses Avigilon’s cameras. Guy Grace, the district’s director of security and emergency preparedness, called Avigilon the “Mercedes-Benz” of video surveillance. The district currently uses the cameras to monitor unusual behaviors, such as someone speeding into a school parking lot.

    In the coming months, Grace said, he aims to implement facial recognition technology in the district, which could notify the security team when someone who isn’t supposed to be on campus enters the building.

    “Let’s say there’s a kid on a threat assessment or something like that, a kid that’s not supposed to be there, blending in,” Grace said. “That could happen, and that is a fear of mine.” For him, cost “doesn’t matter. If it’s a couple thousand dollars, we’re going to do it.”

    To boast product success, Avigilon points to a middle school in Billings, Montana. After school officials there implemented AI-enabled cameras, officials observed fewer incidents of vandalism and bullying, according to a company handout.

    A spokeswoman in Broward County told the South Florida Sun Sentinel the devices in the Florida schools won’t include facial recognition, an area of artificial-intelligence surveillance that’s stirred up considerable pushback from privacy advocates. Under Florida law, schools are prohibited from collecting students’ biometric information through means such as fingerprints and facial geometry scans.


    A Toy Gun, a Snapchat Post, and an Arrest

    No less a technology champion than Microsoft President Brad Smith has called for government regulation of facial recognition technology, noting that it raises questions about “fundamental human rights protections like privacy and freedom of expression.”

    In one test by the American Civil Liberties Union, Amazon’s facial recognition technology software falsely identified 28 members of Congress as having a criminal history. The false positives disproportionately identified members of the Black Congressional Caucus.

    The ACLU findings join a list of reports that have found that facial recognition technology often struggles to accurately identify young people, women, and people of color. About half of American adults are included in a law enforcement face recognition network, and during a House oversight committee hearing in 2017, the Federal Bureau of Investigation acknowledged that its software misidentifies people 15 percent of the time. A recent report by the National Institute of Standards and Technology found that the capabilities of facial recognition technology have improved rapidly in recent years, but quality varies widely.

    The concerns have not stopped security companies from increasingly marketing the technology to educators. One company, RealNetworks, even announced last year an initiative to give school districts facial recognition software for free.

    Stefanie Coyle, education counsel at the New York Civil Liberties Union, said she’s worried that inaccurate facial recognition technology could prompt negative outcomes for students. The affiliate called on New York lawmakers to ban the use of facial recognition in schools after the district in Lockport spent more than $1 million in state money on the technology. Noting potential bias, she said she’s concerned that the technology could disproportionately affect at-risk students and that it could negatively affect students’ perceptions of school.

    “Kids are supposed to come to school every day and be welcomed and feel supported,” Coyle said. Their faces “should not end up in some sort of database just for coming to school. They should feel comfortable. It really treats every kid as a potential suspect.”

    But Falzone, whose company doesn’t currently offer facial recognition, said public concern over the proliferation of facial recognition technology could be misguided. Although “there are a couple of instances where you can use it for bad,” she said, the technology offers benefits such as the ability to recognize people who aren’t supposed to be on campus. Grace of Littleton offered a similar take. “You’re always going to have false positives in everything,” he said, but those negatives don’t outweigh the positives.

    “You’ve just got to learn to work through the processes and understanding that you’re going to have” false positives, he said. “Technology and people are not perfect, but if we can reduce the risk, that’s what security technology is doing.”

    In one high-profile use of artificial intelligence, Maryland police used a state facial recognition tool to identify the suspected gunman in the mass shooting at the Capital Gazette newspaper. That same tool was criticized by civil rights groups, however, after documents revealed that officers used it to monitor protesters following the 2015 death of Freddie Gray while in Baltimore police custody.


    Lessons From Our Year Tracking School Shootings: Students More Likely to Be Hit by Lightning Than Shot in Class, Yet Fear of Mass Violence Is Driving Policy

    Despite the heightened concern around school shootings in the past year, such tragedies are statistically rare and, according to federal data, schools have become safer in recent years. But Falzone said that parents are afraid and that security technology calms anxieties.

    “As a school, you’d better be putting the latest and greatest security in to get parents to send their kids to school there,” she said. “It’s pretty big as far as marketing your school to parents.”

    But using security to calm fears, Temkin of Child Trends said, could make the problem worse.

    “It reinforces fear in a lot of ways,” she said. “Schools engaging in this for the sake of parents are actually doing them a disservice by not reinforcing the fact that this is a very rare event, and most likely they have nothing to worry about.”


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  • This Week in Education Politics: With Shutdown in Background, Congress Focuses on Disaster Aid for Districts, Higher Ed Regulations, School Choice & More

    By Carolyn Phenicie | January 12, 2019

    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: SHUTDOWN WEEK 4 — As the partial federal government shutdown, now the longest ever, enters its fourth week, both sides remain entrenched. A deal floated by some Senate Republicans to fund the border wall in exchange for passage of a law protecting DACA recipients is off the table. The ongoing stalemate has taken the wind out of the sails of most other congressional activity.

    Though the Education Department has a full year of funding and is up and running as usual, there have been impacts to students, particularly those living in the D.C. area, where federal employees account for about 11.5 percent of the workforce and about 145,000 people have been furloughed.

    In Northern Virginia, Fairfax Public Schools officials held an event to hire out-of-work feds as substitute teachers; one event held last week quickly reached capacity and officials planned another session this week, according to NBC Washington.

    School districts throughout the D.C. region are expediting free and reduced-price lunch applications for children of furloughed federal workers, and some urged affected families to requests breaks on afterschool program fees, The Washington Post reported.

    A spokesperson for the School Nutrition Association, which represents cafeteria workers, said the group has not heard of similar needs for the school lunch program outside of Washington.

    The program is run under the auspices of the shuttered Agriculture Department. Officials had originally said the program could keep running on surplus funds “into February,” but in a memo to program providers, they said it would continue “well into March.”

    ON THE HORIZON: TITLE IX COMMENTS — Congressional Democrats urged the Education Department to extend the comment period for proposed changes to Title IX rules governing how schools handle allegations of sexual assault. The current deadline is Jan. 28.

    The rules changes are complex, and many students were taking final exams and on winter break during the comment period, Sen. Patty Murray, ranking Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, chair of the Appropriations subcommittee with oversight of the Education Department, said in a letter to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. They asked for an additional 30 days.

    The Education Department did not respond to a request for comment from The 74. More than 50,000 public comments had been submitted as of Jan. 10.

    THIS WEEK: DISASTER AID — The House Rules Committee will consider a large-scale disaster aid bill that includes $165 million for schools affected by a variety of disasters last year, including Hurricanes Florence and Michael, the wildfires in California, and typhoons and earthquakes. The bill could come to the House floor later in the week.

    MONDAY: HIGHER ED REGS — The Education Department starts a week of negotiated rulemaking sessions to hash out regulations on a variety of higher ed issues, including accreditation and online learning. The proposed regs would let recipients of federal TEACH grants, which help prospective teachers pay for college in exchange for teaching at low-income schools, to teach in private schools serving low-income students, Inside Higher Ed reported.

    TUESDAY: SCHOOL CHOICE WEEK — Sen. Tim Scott and Rep. Paul Mitchell, co-chairs of the congressional School Choice Caucus, hold a press conference. Members of Congress, students, parents, and teachers “will discuss the importance of innovation and opportunity in education,” organizers say. The event is held annually (see our coverage from 2017 and 2018) as part of National School Choice Week.

    TUESDAY: ATTORNEY GENERAL NOMINEE — The Senate Judiciary Committee begins two days of hearings on the nomination of William Barr to be the next attorney general. The Justice Department during the Trump Administration has been involved in a variety of education-related issues, including the repeals of student discipline guidance and protections for transgender students, the end of the DACA program, and school safety.

    WEDNESDAY: EARLY CHILDHOOD — The Bipartisan Policy Center hosts a panel discussion on Early Head Start–Child Care Partnerships. The federal program, authorized in 2014, allows Early Head Start, a spinoff of the federal preschool program for low-income children under age 3, to integrate into existing childcare centers and family care providers.

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