Newsfeed

February 2019
  • Education Secretary DeVos, Congressional Republicans to Propose $5 Billion Federal Tax Credit Scholarship Program to Support School Choice

    By Carolyn Phenicie | February 28, 2019

    The Education Department and congressional Republicans are proposing a new program that would provide up to $5 billion every year in federal tax credits for contributions to groups that give scholarships for children to attend other, typically private, schools.

    Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, with Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rep. Bradley Byrne of Alabama, will unveil the program at a press conference Thursday morning at the department’s offices in Washington. Cruz and Byrne, both Republicans, will introduce necessary legislation in the coming days, according to a senior Education Department official.

    Tax-credit scholarship programs exist in 18 states. Some states have more than one program, and each has its own rules, but they are commonly set up for the benefit of low-income children or students with disabilities.

    Taxpayers can, in some instances, claim part of those donations as charitable contributions on their federal taxes. The difference under this proposal is that the federal tax benefit would be a credit — a dollar-for-dollar reduction of an overall tax bill — versus a deduction that lowers the taxpayer’s overall taxable income.

    While the bill wouldn’t mandate the type of scholarships covered, in early conversations, staff have discussed scholarships for apprenticeships, advanced or remedial courses, and concurrent and dual enrollment programs, the official said.

    “This is an opportunity for states to take advantage of scholarship money that would be made available to them for programs that they design,” the senior Education Department said in a background call with reporters Wednesday evening.

    Related

    74 Explains: School Tax Credit Scholarships

    A federal tax-credit scholarship program was discussed, at least in think tanks, but not included during the 2017 tax reform debate when Republicans controlled Congress. Chances of passage for a new private school choice program through the House, now under Democratic control, are next to zero.

    The Education Department official, when asked about chances for passage, said only, “I am absolutely confident this is a well-designed program, and it’s designed to be politically appealing.”

    Some of the most conservative advocacy groups have also expressed concerns about a hypothetical federal tax-credit scholarship program as overstepping the Constitution, which they say allows for limited or no role in K-12 education, and an opening for more federal regulations of private schools in future presidential administrations.

    Under the bill, the specifics of each state’s program — including the amount of each scholarship, which students may apply, and whether participating students would have to take the same standardized tests required of public school students — would be up to each state.

    “We are in favor of school choice, and so we’re not even going to tell states how they provide those choices,” the Education Department official told reporters.

    Individuals would be eligible for a tax credit of up to 10 percent of their adjusted gross income, and businesses of up to 5 percent of their net taxable income. Taxpayers could donate to tax-credit scholarship programs anywhere in the country. They wouldn’t receive both a federal tax credit and a state tax credit for the same dollar. So a taxpayer who gives $1,000 in a state with a 70 percent credit could take $700 off their state taxes and $300 off their federal taxes, subject to the other limitations.

    The $5 billion national cap would be divided up among the states based on their current Title II grant allocation, which funds teacher and principal training. Those grants are based 80 percent on each state’s percentage of students living in poverty and 20 percent on its overall student population.



  • National Survey: Americans Say Education Should Be Higher 2019 Priority for Congress Than Terrorism, Immigration, or Jobs

    By Laura Fay | February 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.

    Americans cited education as the No. 3 priority for President Trump and Congress going into 2019, outranking terrorism, immigration, or jobs, according to a new Pew Research survey.

    The survey, conducted in January, reveals that 68 percent of Americans think improving the nation’s educational system should be a top priority for lawmakers and the president, ahead of terrorism (67 percent), immigration (51 percent), or jobs (50 percent).

    Improving education ranked third in overall importance, behind strengthening the economy and reducing health care costs. Defending against terrorism and making the Social Security and Medicare systems more sound rounded out the top five concerns.

    The survey asked 1,505 American adults whether 18 policy issues should be “a top priority,” “important but lower priority,” “not too important,” or “should not be done.”

    Pew Research Center

    Domestic issues such as education and health care have become more important to the public as “economic and security concerns have become less prominent,” the Pew authors write. Still, strengthening the economy has remained one of the top priorities for years on the annual survey.

    Congress is expected to consider reauthorizing the Higher Education Act this year, and the House education committee on Tuesday advanced a plan to provide about $100 billion to improve crumbling school infrastructure. Other than that, however, there aren’t many education items on federal lawmakers’ 2019 agenda. Trump briefly mentioned school choice in his State of the Union address last month but offered no details.

    Related

    With 2 Years Left in Congress, Senator Lamar Alexander Lays Out His Road Map for Reauthorizing America’s Higher Education Act

    This year’s results show a sharp partisan divide over policy priorities that emerged relatively recently, Pew reports. In 1999, education topped the list of priorities for both parties, and as recently as 2014, Republicans and Democrats mostly agreed about what the top five priorities were. This year, there was no shared consensus on the top five concerns between GOP and Democratic respondents, with Democrats listing education as their second most important priority and Republicans leaving education out of their top five altogether, ranking it eighth. More survey respondents in 2019 identified as Democrats (31 percent) than Republicans (25 percent) and more of the independent respondents said they leaned Democratic (18) than Republican (16).

    Pew Research Center

    “While many issues are considered high priorities by majorities in both parties today, there is virtually no common ground in the priorities that rise to the top of the lists for Democrats and Republicans,” writes Pew research associate Bradley Jones.

    The share of Americans calling education a top priority has mostly hovered between 65 and 75 percent over the past two decades. It dropped to 61 percent of respondents in January 2009, coinciding with the recession and large majorities saying strengthening the economy (85 percent) and improving the dire job situation (82 percent) were more urgent issues.

    Concern for education spiked in 2001 when Congress was considering the former K-12 education law known as No Child Left Behind, with 78 percent of respondents calling it a top priority that January, second only to the economy. However, education did not see a similar boost in 2015 when the law was replaced by the Every Student Succeeds Act.

    Related

    Exclusive Map: Experts Review the States That Have (and Haven’t) Developed New School Turnaround Plans Under the Every Student Succeeds Act

    Pew conducted the survey of 1,505 adults Jan. 9-14 by phone, overwhelmingly reaching respondents on their cell phones. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points for results based on the full sample.

    Go Deeper: This is the latest article in The 74’s ongoing ‘Big Picture’ series, bringing American education into sharper focus through coverage of the latest data and research. Get new additions delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for The 74 Newsletter.



  • More Than Half of Aspiring Elementary Teachers Fail America’s Most Used Licensure Exam, New NCTQ Report Finds

    By Mark Keierleber | February 27, 2019

    More than half of prospective elementary school teachers fail a licensure exam used in 23 states for those applying to join the profession, with black and Hispanic applicants far less likely to pass.

    The nation’s most-used licensure test, the Praxis Elementary Education: Multiple Subjects, has a first-time pass rate of 46 percent, according to new data released Wednesday in a report by the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ), a think tank that advocates for higher teacher preparation standards. More than a quarter of applicants fail the test after multiple attempts. Aspiring teachers of color are disproportionately less likely to pass the exam, researchers found, though they’re also less likely to pay to take the test more than once. While 75 percent of white applicants score a passing grade, just 57 percent of Hispanic and 38 percent of black applicants are successful.

    Failure on the licensure exam, NCTQ argues, contributes to a racial imbalance within the teaching profession. While children of color make up the majority of public K-12 students, about 80 percent of teachers are white. Researchers note several other factors that likely contribute to the racial imbalance in licensure pass rates, such as inequity in K-12 schools.

    The report comes amid a national effort to diversify the teaching profession, including calls to eliminate licensure tests outright. Meanwhile, a growing body of research suggests that students of color benefit from teachers who share their race or ethnicity. NCTQ, however, argues that most education preparation programs leave prospective teachers unprepared to take the tests and work in elementary school classrooms.

    The new report builds off NCTQ’s previous work. Relying on undergraduate course requirements at 817 institutions, NCTQ found that just 3 percent of programs required courses that ensure that candidates have foundational knowledge in science. Meanwhile, 27 percent of programs required sufficient coursework in elementary mathematics and 59 percent of programs had aligned courses in history, according to the report.

    “It’s kind of shocking that institutions do not feel the necessity of getting these candidates to succeed on the licensing tests,” NCTQ President Kate Walsh said in an interview with The 74. “They take their money and they take their time — their college careers — and say, ‘You know, it’s a crapshoot whether you’re going to make it or not.’ Well, you just don’t see that in other professions.”

    Notably, however, the NCTQ report said researchers “cannot prove the correlation between coursework and pass rates,” though they’re “confident that requiring meaningful exposure to relevant content is of value.”

    “It seems sort of obvious. That’s why we take courses … to learn something about the subject,” Walsh said. “The foundation on which we predicate all educational endeavors is that, ‘If you need to know some chemistry, well gosh, I’m going to give you a course in chemistry.’”

    Walsh said NCTQ has been trying to get its hands on licensure exam pass rates from companies that produce the tests for more than a decade. The Educational Testing Service (ETS) administers the Praxis Elementary Education: Multiple Subjects exam, which requires candidates to pass subtests in reading/language arts, mathematics, science, and social studies.

    In the past, NCTQ has been criticized for the methodology it uses to review teacher preparation programs. By relying on course documents like syllabi, some scholars argue, NCTQ’s findings fail to capture the quality of instruction prospective teachers receive or evidence on learning outcomes. While NCTQ says it bases its criteria on scientific research and best practices, other critics have noted there’s no consensus among researchers on the most effective way to structure a teacher-training program.

    A body of research has found that teacher quality influences student achievement, as well as a modest link between licensure exam scores and an educator’s effectiveness.

    Disclosure: The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Doris & Donald Fisher Fund, the William E. Simon Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation provide financial support to the National Council on Teacher Quality and The 74.

    Related

    Sign up for The 74’s newsletter



  • Monthly QuotED: 8 Notable Quotes That Made Education Headlines in February, From School Security to the 2020 Election — and Ed Goes M.I.A. at SOTU

    By Andrew Brownstein | February 26, 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.

    “To help support working parents, the time has come to pass school choice for America’s children.” —President Donald Trump, offering the one line devoted to K-12 education in his State of the Union address (Read at EdSource)

    Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

    “I often feel like there’s 1,000 eyes on me while I’m taking a test. It creates a lot of stress and anxiety. Honestly, sometimes I feel I’m invisible, but at the same time, everyone’s watching me to see if I fail.” —Will Barrett, an 11th-grader in the Rochester, New York, suburb of Fairport. Barrett, who is black, said racism is pervasive in school. (Read at USA Today)

    “I think Mr. Runcie is trying to control the conversation, keeping media out and keeping other school board members out.” —Broward County school board member Lori Alhadeff, whose daughter Alyssa was murdered during the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, on Superintendent Robert Runcie’s decision to cancel a public meeting on safety (Read at the South Florida Sun Sentinel)

    “Those numbers are ridiculous, scary. We know injury is a leading cause of death in children, but the sheer scale of intentional violent injuries children are sustaining is stunning.” —Katelyn Jetelina, assistant professor of epidemiology at the UTHealth School of Public Health and author of a paper showing that more than 1 in 4 Houston 10th-graders had been the victim of violence (Read at The Houston Chronicle)

    “This is a new and shameful strategy. They are literally going after the reputations and the livelihoods of people who are just trying to do their jobs.” —Greg Richmond, executive director of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers. An investigation by The 74 found that officials in South Carolina, Georgia, and Nevada faced accusations of receiving payoffs and undue perks as they attempted to enforce rules that could shut down for-profit online-only charter schools that posted abysmal academic outcomes. (Read at The74Million.org)

    “There are no quick fixes in institutions of this size. The Catholic Church isn’t fixed overnight, the military isn’t fixed overnight, CPS will not be fixed overnight.” —Sean Black, assistant director of the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, on the sexual misconduct crisis at Chicago Public Schools (Read at The74Million.org)

    “I’ve seen people thrown through doors, like it was a movie.” —James Johnson, former Glen Mills Schools student and counselor, on a pattern of staff violence against students at the school for delinquent boys located on the outskirts of Philadelphia (Read at the Philadelphia Inquirer)

    AFT President Randi Weingarten (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

    “Let’s just say my phone has rung a lot.” —American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, on interest from the expanding field of 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls in courting the union vote (Read at U.S. News and World Report)

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

    Related

    Sign up for The 74’s newsletter



  • America’s $23 Billion School Funding Gap: Despite Court Rulings on Equity, New Report Finds Startling Racial Imbalance

    By Mark Keierleber | February 26, 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.

    It was nearly three decades ago when the New Jersey Supreme Court found the state’s school funding formula shortchanged its poorest students, and lawmakers directed more money to districts serving large shares of low-income children.

    Now, a new report released on Tuesday suggests the state didn’t go far enough. Despite the landmark decision, the state has one of the nation’s largest funding gaps between districts predominantly serving students of color and those where most children are white. When researchers focused on schools serving large shares of low-income children, they found the funding gap between predominantly white and nonwhite schools was starker.

    In fact, despite pivotal finance rulings, school funding in New Jersey, California, and New York remains among the most inequitable in the nation according to the new report by EdBuild, a nonprofit think tank that focuses on education spending. Nationally, EdBuild researchers found that school districts that mostly serve nonwhite students get $23 billion less in state and local spending each year than those with predominantly white student populations — even though they educate roughly the same number of children.

    That breaks down to about $2,200 per student, affecting roughly 10 million kids. Predominantly nonwhite districts received less funding than majority white districts in 21 states and they received more in 14 states.

    EdBuild

    Racial disparities in funding persisted even when poverty was considered. Nationally, poor white districts received nearly $1,500 more per student than districts serving poor nonwhite kids. Poor nonwhite districts got less money than low-income white districts in 17 states and they got more in 12 states.

    Related

    Segregated Classrooms in Segregated Neighborhoods: New Report Argues That Efforts to Integrate Schools Must Also Address Our Divided Cities

    In New Jersey, majority nonwhite districts receive 18 percent less in school funding than predominantly white systems, meaning they get about $3,400 less per student. Meanwhile, predominantly poor white school districts got more than $7,300 more per student than poor districts where most of the students were not white.

    From housing policies to local tax structures to revenue generated by businesses to arbitrary school district boundaries that exacerbate inequity, the community where a family resides has a major effect on the quality of schools their children will attend, said Rebecca Sibilia, EdBuild’s founder and CEO. Much of the funding disparities, she said, can be traced back to policies like racial segregation in housing. Exacerbating the problem, according to EdBuild, are “gerrymandered” school district borders that ensure billions of dollars more in education funding are directed to white children.

    “School funding is housing policy,” she said. “It is just the new iteration of the vestiges of the mistakes we’ve made in the past.”

    Related

    When Communities Secede From School Districts, Inequity & Segregation Follow. But 30 States Let It Happen Anyway

    For the study, researchers compared districts where more than 75 percent of students were white to those where a similar share of students were nonwhite — statistics that encompass more than half of America’s schoolchildren. Districts were considered low-income if more than 20 percent of their students were in poverty.

    Just 34 states are included in the report since some states, like Idaho, lack districts with large shares of nonwhite students, while others, like Connecticut, lack districts where students are predominantly white and low-income.

    The EdBuild report, which relies on data from the U.S. Census and Education Department, uses a different methodology than previous studies that analyzed education funding equity, and therefore reaches a slightly different conclusion.

    For instance, a report released last year by The Education Trust found that New Jersey offers one of the nation’s most equitable funding structures and provides substantially more money to low-income districts. On a national level, The Education Trust found that districts serving the largest share of nonwhite students received about 13 percent less per child than those serving predominantly white students.

    EdBuild’s conclusions rest on some complex statistics. About 20 percent of American children enroll in school districts with a high-poverty, largely nonwhite student body, EdBuild found. Meanwhile, just 5 percent of students enroll in districts where students are predominantly poor and white. Despite these numbers, there are more than six times as many school districts serving predominantly white student populations as those serving mainly black children. Therefore, EdBuild argues, predominantly nonwhite districts don’t have as much political capital to advocate for better conditions.

    Advocacy power “is amplified or muted by the sheer size of districts at each end of the size spectrum,” according to the report. “When there are six times more members of a special interest, that special interest is likely to be more effective in the state capitol.”

    Policies driving the disparities differ across states and include multiple factors such as local tax structures. But across the board, Sibilia said, geographically large districts tend to have greater funding equity. She said it’s possible that states like New Jersey, which has nearly 600 school districts, could consolidate systems to encourage funding equity.

    Related

    New Report: Most States Lack Power to Merge Struggling Districts With Wealthy Neighbors, Leaving Poor Districts Stranded

    “A lot of southern states are structured around counties and so they have much bigger and more equitable tax systems,” Sibilia said. “You can smooth out the differences of where people are living versus where they’re shopping, and ultimately both of those equations end up benefiting their kids’ schools.”

    Go Deeper: This is the latest article in The 74’s ongoing ‘Big Picture’ series, bringing American education into sharper focus through coverage of the latest data and research. Get new additions delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for The 74 Newsletter.


    Disclosure: The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, The Carnegie Corporation of New York, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation provide financial support to EdBuild and The 74.



  • ‘I Will Never Say No to a Kid’: Bronx Music Teacher Is Only U.S. Finalist for Global Teacher Prize

    By Laura Fay | February 25, 2019

    A New York City teacher is officially one of the best educators in the world.

    Melissa Salguero, a music teacher from P.S. 48 Joseph R. Drake Elementary School in the Bronx, is the only American among 10 finalists for the Global Teacher Prize. She was selected from more than 10,000 teachers in 39 countries.

    Salguero’s students learned their teacher was on the short list Monday during a school assembly. They exploded into cheers when they heard she is one step closer to winning the prestigious award from the Varkey Foundation that comes with a $1 million prize.

    Music teacher Melissa Salguero celebrates the announcement with her students. (Joseph R. Drake Elementary School)

    Salguero started a band program that has improved student attendance and increased student confidence at a school where a majority of students live in poverty. She has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for instruments to keep the program going.

    “I will never say no to a kid, I don’t care if the concert’s tomorrow,” she said in her video entry for the contest. “I will have that kid participate in some way.”

    Salguero says she is motivated by her own experience in school, when music helped her overcome low self-esteem caused by dyslexia.

    This is not Salguero’s first time being recognized for her hard work. She received the Grammy Music Educator Award in 2018. She was also featured on Ellen in 2014, when Ellen DeGeneres gave her a set of instruments and a $50,000 donation to replace several that had been stolen from her school or vandalized.

    The Global Teacher Prize has been awarded and funded annually since 2015 by the Varkey Foundation, an organization that aims to improve education around the world. The foundation is also working with a number of countries to create national teacher prizes as part of its mission to elevate the teaching profession. Last year, Andria Zafirakou, an art teacher from the United Kingdom, won the prize for her work with low-income students outside London.

    The 2019 winner will be announced March 24 at a ceremony in Dubai.

    Actor Hugh Jackman announced the finalists in a video last week.

    “The real superheroes are teachers,” he said. “They’re the ones that change the world.”

    Related

    A Chat With the ‘World’s Best Teacher’: Andria Zafirakou Advocates for Arts in Schools, Creates Nonprofit to Connect Students With Artists

    Related

    Sign up for The 74’s newsletter



  • ‘It’s About the Kids’: Photos, Video, and Reader Reactions from Atlanta’s ‘Is School Choice the Black Choice?’ Education Town Hall

    By Laura Fay | February 23, 2019

    Atlanta, Georgia

    Journalist Roland S. Martin led a group of African-American education leaders in a wide-ranging conversation about school choice Friday at Morehouse College. The robust discussion touched on school funding, charter school accountability, parent empowerment, and other topics, lasting more than two hours. 

    At the event titled “Is School Choice the Black Choice?” Martin was joined onstage by Atlanta Thrive parent organizer Aretta Baldon, Curtis Valentine, deputy director of the Progressive Policy Institute’s Reinventing America’s Schools project; EdConnect CEO Danielle LeSure, Gavin Samms, founder of Genesis Innovation Academy charter schools; Democratic Georgia state Rep. Valencia Stovall, and educator and blogger Jason Allen. Read our full recap of the highlights (and you can watch a complete video replay below)

    The event marked the second education town hall in a national series that will continue beyond 2019, organized to engage black families on issues of student achievement, parent involvement, and classroom equity. (See our complete recap from December’s town hall in Indianapolis

    The tour is being organized in conjunction with The 74’s newest online platform, Keeping It 100, which prioritizes stories, profiles, and essays about how schools across the country are serving students and families of color. 

    Throughout the program Friday in Atlanta, Martin pushed the panelists and community members to think about what they can do to improve education in Atlanta, even when it includes controversial measures like school closures.

    “We are in love with buildings and history without saying whether are the kids learning,” he said.  “Damn the building; it’s about the kids.”

    The event started and ended with a partner networking fair that included education groups from Atlanta, including Better Outcomes for Our Kids, EdConnect, Genesis Innovation Academy, GeorgiaCAN, Georgia Charter School Association, Ivy Preparatory Academy, State Charter Schools Commission of Georgia, UNCF, American Federation for Children, Teach for America Metro Atlanta, Urban League of Greater Atlanta, Resurgence Hall Charter School, and Engineering for Kids of Metro Atlanta.

    A child attends the partner fair ahead of “Is School Choice the Black Choice?,” an education town hall hosted by broadcast journalist Roland Martin on the campus of Morehouse College on Friday, Feb. 22, 2019, in Atlanta. (Todd Kirkland/AP Images for Roland Martin/The 74)

    Here were some of the other observations and reactions from the town hall on social media:

    Children stand onstage following “Is School Choice the Black Choice?,” an education town hall led by broadcast journalist Roland Martin on the campus of Morehouse College on Friday, Feb. 22, 2019, in Atlanta. (Todd Kirkland/AP Images for Roland Martin/The 74)

    You can replay the full conversation below:

    National partners for the event include the American Federation for Children, EdChoice, ExcelinEd, J. Hood & Associates, the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, Progressive Policy Institute, the UNCF, and the Walton Family Foundation.

    Disclosure: The Walton Family Foundation provides financial support to The 74.



  • The Week Ahead in Education Politics: Gun Control Bills, Return of the ‘Bern,’ Sesame Street’s 50th Anniversary & More

    By Carolyn Phenicie | February 23, 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: GUN CONTROL — A year after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida kicked off a wave of student activism on gun control, the House will vote on two gun control bills.

    One bill would expand background checks to cover gun shows and online sales. Student advocates with March for Our Lives support the bill and were at the Capitol in January when the bill was introduced and earlier this month during consideration in the Judiciary Committee.

    The other would expand the time period in which background checks can be completed. Prospects for passage of either bill in the Republican-controlled Senate or approval by President Donald Trump are slim.

    2020 WATCH: Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders became the latest candidate to throw his hat in the ring for the Democratic nomination for president last week. A longtime member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, Sanders has called for universal pre-K and free four-year college for nearly everyone.

    MONDAY: SESAME STREET — America’s Public Television Stations hold a three-day summit including an event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Sesame Street and visits to lawmakers.

    TUESDAY: HIGHER ED ACCESS — The National College Access Network brings its members to Capitol Hill for a daylong event, including a panel discussion to examine steps Congress can take to make higher education more affordable. Four student panelists will discuss obstacles they faced when applying for financial aid and at other points in the college application process.

    TUESDAY: VOTING & COLLEGES — The House Administration Committee considers HR 1, a broad voting, campaign finance, and ethics bill. Under the bill, all U.S. citizens would be automatically registered to vote, unless they explicitly decline to do so, during interactions with government agencies. All colleges and universities that receive federal funding would become voter registration agencies for students who vote in that state.

    WEDNESDAY: SECLUSION & RESTRAINT — A House Education and Labor subcommittee holds a hearing called “Classrooms in Crisis: Examining the Use of Inappropriate Seclusion and Restraint Practices.” Democrats in November introduced legislation to curtail the practices, which disproportionately affect students with disabilities and black students. The Department of Education last month launched an initiative to combat “inappropriate” uses of the practice.

    WEDNESDAY: FAMILY SEPARATION — A House Appropriations subcommittee looks into the Trump Administration’s family separation and unaccompanied minor policies. The subcommittee covers the Department of Health and Human Services, whose reportedly substandard care of children separated from their parents at the southern border triggered a still-pending inspector general report on conditions. A separate report released in January found that many more children were separated from their parents than earlier believed.

    WEDNESDAY: BORDER WALL & MILITARY SCHOOLS — Part of President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency on immigration includes moving $3.6 billion in military construction funds to pay for a wall on the southern border. Now, a House Appropriations subcommittee is looking into that declaration and its “effect on military construction and readiness.” Which specific military construction projects will be cut hasn’t yet been decided, but construction at several Defense Department-run schools could be scuttled, several news outlets have reported.

    THURSDAY: INTEGRATION — Fifteen education advocates and policymakers gather to discuss school integration designs and “where we stand today with regard to realizing educational equity,” according to the Learning Policy Institute, the think tank organizing the event. House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott and former U.S. education secretary John King are among the panelists.

    THURSDAY: HIGHER ED REAUTHORIZATION — Sen. Patty Murray, the ranking Democrat on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, gives a speech about her vision for reauthorizing the Higher Education Act. The speech, at the Center for American Progress, will be followed by a panel discussion.

    Murray’s remarks come three and a half weeks after her Republican counterpart, Chairman Lamar Alexander, gave a speech describing his priorities at the American Enterprise Institute. House Education and Labor Committee leaders last week announced a series of five bipartisan hearings as they too begin work on a reauthorization.

    Related

    Sign up for The 74’s newsletter



  • EduClips: From Violence Against Philadelphia Students to Hawaii’s Plan for Teacher Housing Vouchers, News You Might Have Missed This Week’s From America’s 15 Biggest Districts

    By Andrew Brownstein | February 22, 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.

    Orange County — Florida Virtual School to ‘Scrub’ Policies after Investigation of Attorney, Orlando Sentinel Reports: The new leader of the Florida Virtual School is updating its policies to make school rules clear to all employees and to provide more oversight of senior managers after a damning investigation of the school’s former attorney, Frank Kruppenbacher. “To address some of the changes that have come up of late,” the school needs a “complete scrub of our policies and our procedures and our bylaws,” said Bob Porter, the new CEO. An investigation by an outside firm found that Kruppenbacher likely made “boorish” comments about female employees, paid his daughter’s boyfriend to investigate a school executive, used school employees for “excessive” work on his other businesses and pressured school employees to hire a certain technology company without going out for bid, among other problems. Kruppenbacher, who resigned from his post as the virtual school’s general counsel in August, has denied the charges and called the investigative report a “smear campaign.” The virtual school is Florida’s only public online school, serving more than 200,000 students with about 2,200 employees. It is funded with $170 million in Florida taxpayer money. (Read at the Orlando Sentinel)

    Philadelphia — Violence Against Students an ‘Open Secret’ at School for Delinquent Boys: A recent investigation by the Philadelphia Inquirer found that serious violence is “both an everyday occurrence and an open secret” at the Glen Mills Schools, a school for delinquent boys located on the outskirts of Philadelphia. The investigation showed that top leaders turn a blind eye to staff beatings of students and insulate themselves from reports while failing to properly vet or train the school’s counselors. When students and their families try to report these attacks, the Inquirer found, staffers say Glen Mills is as good as it gets, and that if students complain, they’ll be shipped off to a state-run facility crowded with boys who are mentally ill or have committed sex offenses. To keep teens quiet, counselors and supervisors threaten the boys with longer sentences. Other Glen Mills staffers have hidden students until their bruises disappear. (Read at the Philadelphia Inquirer)

    Los Angeles — Confidential Contracts Outline Consultant Work on Beutner Reform Plan: Outside consultants were asked to develop a performance-based rating system for schools and to shift hiring and purchasing of services from the central district office to local school networks as part of a reform plan by new L.A. schools Superintendent Austin Beutner. Those details were culled from confidential contracts long sought after — and finally released to —Board of Education member Scott Schmerelson. The contracts became a sticking point in the January teacher strike when union leaders raised questions about the direction in which Beutner would take the nation’s second-largest school system. The largest of the contracts, which total $3 million so far, went to Ernst & Young, which specializes in business services and consulting, and the Kitamba Group, whose focus is education. Kitamba’s contract said the company would help the district develop a way for officials to discuss giving letter grades to schools, ranking them on a 100-point scale or assigning them a color to denote their status. Kitamba was also to have developed measures that could be taken when a school fell short of standards. (Read at Los Angeles Times)

    Chicago — Charter School Teachers End Nine-Day Strike: Teachers and paraprofessionals at four Chicago charter schools ended a nine-day strike this week, with many of them winning an 8 percent pay raise and a tentative agreement setting a goal of limiting classroom size to 28 students per teacher. The agreement also ensures full-time teaching assistants in all kindergarten, first- and second-grade classes, and includes a 7 percent pension contribution from the network. The strike started with picketing in front of schools and escalated when dozens of teachers blocked the lobby where the board president of Chicago International Charter Schools, the network that operates the four schools, works. The strike, which included 175 educators serving a combined 2,200 students, was the country’s third charter school teacher strike and the second in Chicago since December. (Read at Chalkbeat)

    Houston — Despite Takeover Threat, District Continues Superintendent Search: Houston school district trustees narrowly voted to continue the search for a permanent replacement for former Superintendent Richard Carranza, rejecting a bid to suspend the search amid the threat of a looming state takeover and a recently launched state investigation into potential violations of open meetings laws. The 5-3 vote continues the search for Carranza’s successor, which began in September 2018. The takeover threat increased in January, when the Texas Education Agency launched its investigation into potential Open Meetings Act violations by five trustees. Supporters of suspending the search argued the potential for severe sanctions tied to the investigation would limit the pool of candidates willing to come to Houston. If state officials order the district board replaced, new trustees could immediately fire a freshly hired superintendent. (Read at the Houston Chronicle)

    Broward County — On Parkland Anniversary, Fort Lauderdale Schools Enact Security Overhaul: A year after the Parkland shooting, the Broward County School Board enacted policies designed to avoid in Fort Lauderdale schools the types of failures that contributed to the deaths of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The board adopted policies that identify when school staff must call for a Code Red lockdown, as well as requiring classrooms to be equipped with places for students to hide from an active shooter. The board’s action was its first meeting since Gov. Ron DeSantis announced plans Feb. 13 to seek a grand jury to review how well Broward schools have handled security matters. (Read at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

    Hawaii — Bills Take Aim at Teacher Shortage With Housing Vouchers: Two bills working their way through the state legislature aim to curb Hawaii’s perennial teacher shortage by creating a housing voucher program for full-time teachers willing to work in “hard-to-fill” schools. The vouchers, which are not to exceed $500 per month, would be provided on a first-come, first-served basis and could be used for rent, mortgage payments for the teacher’s primary residence or a down payment on a residential property. “Personally, I felt that we need to do as much as we can to make sure our teachers live in our community and teach at our schools,” said state Sen. Dru Kanuha, a co-sponsor of both bills. (Read at the Hawaii Tribune-Herald)

    Noteworthy Essays & Reflections

    TEACHERS — The U.S. Teaching Population Is Getting Bigger, and More Female (Read at the Atlantic)

    SCHOOL DISCIPLINE — Public Education’s Dirty Secret (Read at Quillette)

    SCHOOL SECURITY — New studies point to a big downside for schools bringing in more police (Read at Chalkbeat)

    ONLINE EDUCATION — Teacher shortages force districts to use online education programs (Read at Hechinger Report)

    SCHOOL GOVERNANCE — Analysis — The Future of School Governance: How Will Innovative Education Systems Balance a Need for Experimentation With a Parent’s Right to Make Informed Choices? (Read at The74Million.org)

    Quotes of the Week

    “I’ve seen people thrown through doors, like it was a movie.” — James Johnson, former Glen Mills Schools student and counselor, on a pattern of staff violence against students at the school for delinquent boys located on the outskirts of Philadelphia. (Read at the Philadelphia Inquirer)

    “This is a new and shameful strategy. They are literally going after the reputations and the livelihoods of people who are just trying to do their jobs.” — Greg Richmond, executive director of National Association of Charter School Authorizers. An investigation by The 74 found that officials in South Carolina, Georgia and Nevada faced accusations of receiving payoffs and undue perks as they attempted to enforce rules that could shut down for-profit online-only charter schools that posted abysmal academic outcomes. (Read at The74Million.org)

    “Let’s just say my phone has rung a lot.” —American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten on interest from the expanding field of 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls in courting the union vote. (Read at U.S. News and World Report)

    “I cannot imagine that a highly qualified candidate who is rational and sane would come here in the face of uncertainty when they may not have a job soon,” Houston school district trustee Rhonda Skillern-Jones, on the search for a new superintendent while the district is under threat of a state takeover. (Read at the Houston Chronicle)

    “It’s unfortunate, I think, that it took a federal mandate to get states to shine a light on these students, but the good news is that now it is required.” — Brennan McMahon Parton, director of policy and advocacy at the Data Quality Campaign, on the Every Student Succeeds Act requirement that all states must report how well students in foster care are performing on state tests and how many are graduating from high school. (Read at The74Million.org)



  • 1.3 Million Homeless Students: New Federal Data Show a 70 Percent Jump in K-12 Homelessness Over Past Decade, With Big Implications for Academic Performance

    By Mark Keierleber | February 19, 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: Get our newest numbers and our latest coverage of America’s 74 million children delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for The 74 Newsletter

    Student homelessness has hit an all-time high following a significant spike over the past three years, with 20 states experiencing a surge of 10 percent or more, new federal data released last week indicate. The data also found that students who experience homelessness are significantly less likely to graduate from high school.

    More than 1.3 million public school students experienced homelessness during the 2016-17 school year, a 7 percent increase over three years ago and the largest number ever recorded. Over the past decade, the population of students experiencing homelessness has spiked by a startling 70 percent.

    Several factors might have contributed to the growth in student homelessness. Among them are lingering effects of the recession, local economic issues, natural disasters, and the opioid epidemic, said Barbara Duffield, executive director of the nonprofit SchoolHouse Connection, which works to address homelessness through education.

    “Homelessness is complex is the bottom line. Lots of different things go into it, and so there are both economic issues and issues around addiction and mental health challenges and domestic violence,” she said.

    But the larger numbers, she cautioned, could be due in part to better identification. An increase from better tracking could be positive, Duffield said, “because we have to know who they are in order to help.”

    “These children don’t announce themselves,” she said. “They don’t come up and say ‘Hi, I’m homeless, help me.’”

    Under the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, children are considered homeless if they lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence. That includes children who reside in shelters, cars, or campgrounds because they lack alternatives. It also includes families who double up with others due to economic hardship or loss of housing. Doubling up accounted for 76 percent of student homelessness in 2016-17.

    Meanwhile, 14 percent of homeless youth resided in shelters, 6 percent lived in hotels or motels, and 4 percent were identified as unsheltered. The unsheltered category saw the most growth, increasing by 27 percent over the three-year period.

    Homelessness has significant academic ramifications. Utilizing data from 44 states, the report shows that students who experienced homelessness during the 2016-17 school year had a graduation rate of 64 percent — compared with a 77.6 percent graduation rate among other low-income students, and a national average of 84.1 percent.

    Among students who experienced homelessness in 2016-17, about 30 percent were proficient in reading and 25 percent were proficient in mathematics.

    When the Education Department releases data on the 2017-18 school year, it will include graduation data from all states, as required by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. That new data, Duffield said, will provide “a better understanding that students who experience homelessness have challenges over and above simply being poor.”

    “There’s this misperception that homelessness is just a poor child without a house temporarily,” she said. “But there’s a lot more that goes with it.”

    If they’re interested in improving graduation rates for all students, schools need to hone in on the performance of homeless students, Duffield said.

    Coinciding with the new federal data, a separate report offering a snapshot of student homelessness across the 50 states was released by the Education Leads Home campaign, a partnership between SchoolHouse Connection, Civic, America’s Promise Alliance, and the Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness. The report includes state-level data on student homelessness, showing that New York has the highest rate of student homelessness nationally.

    The campaign, which aims to improve the graduation rates of homeless students, notes that children without stable living conditions are 87 percent more likely to drop out of school and, without a diploma, more than four times as likely to become homeless as young adults.

    Duffield said she’s worried that the growth in student homelessness “reflects communities not understanding the needs of families and youth, and not really stepping up when it comes to providing shelter and services.”

    Go Deeper: This is the latest article in The 74’s ongoing ‘Big Picture’ series, bringing American education into sharper focus through coverage of the latest data and research. Get new additions delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for The 74 Newsletter; here are a few notable recent dispatches:

    Related

    Sign up for The 74’s newsletter



  • 7 Surprising Lessons From the 2019 Measles Outbreak: Teens Defying Parents on Vaccines, Affected Children Left More Susceptible to Other Illnesses & More

    By Laura Fay | February 18, 2019

    The World Health Organization declared “vaccine hesitancy” one of the top 10 threats to global health in 2019. Already this year that threat is evident across the United States, where regions with high rates of vaccine exemptions have been hit particularly hard by measles outbreaks since New Year’s.

    Doctors say the infection has reappeared in part because of persistent misinformation about vaccines that thrives in parent groups on Facebook. But as the illness has spread, some parents and young people are reconsidering their decisions about immunizations, while state lawmakers are looking for ways to prevent future outbreaks.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention declared measles eliminated from the United States in 2000, but five outbreaks have been reported so far in 2019, infecting dozens of people. The CDC defines an outbreak as three or more cases of the illness in a given region.

    No measles deaths have been reported in the United States since Jan. 1, but the virus can be deadly, especially for children. Seventy people, mostly children, have died of the illness in the Philippines this year, where there has been widespread fear about vaccines in recent years. Pediatricians recommend that children receive the doses of the MMR vaccine — which protects against measles, mumps, and rubella — at 12 months and between the ages of 4 and 6, or earlier if they will be traveling internationally.

    Here are 7 things to know about the ongoing measles outbreaks.

    1 Measles broke out in places with high rates of parents who opt their children out of vaccines.

    Numerous cases of the illness have been reported in communities that have high rates of parents who have refused to vaccinate their children. Parts of New York, Washington, and Texas have been especially hard hit.

    In Washington and Oregon, between 7 percent and 8 percent of children are not vaccinated, and Washington is experiencing a state of emergency because of the outbreak. In Clark County, Washington, for example, nearly a quarter of kindergartners had not received all their recommended vaccines before starting school in 2017-18, according to USA Today. At some schools, the rate of unvaccinated students was as high as 40 percent. Clark County has had more than 50 confirmed cases of measles since Jan. 4.

    2 Since the outbreak started, some of those places are experiencing high demand for vaccines.

    Demand for the vaccine has surged in Clark County, where one clinic told NBC News the number of vaccines administered jumped 450 percent year over year, from 263 in January 2018 to 1,444 in January 2019.

    No shortages of the vaccine have been reported.

    3 Young people are getting themselves vaccinated, even if they have to defy their parents to do it.

    An Ohio teen used Reddit to get information about vaccines and ultimately decided to get the immunizations at age 18 even though his mother opposes vaccines and never had him vaccinated as a child.

    “My parents think vaccines are some kind of government scheme. … I’ve never been vaccinated for anything, God knows how I’m still alive,” Ethan Lindenberger posted on the online forum. “Where do I go to get vaccinated? Can I get vaccinated at my age?”

    A Georgia teen shared a similar story, telling NBC News she was able to get her vaccines only when she moved out of her mother’s home and started living with her father.

    4 Those who have not been vaccinated, especially those who have underlying health problems, are most in danger from a measles outbreak.

    During a measles outbreak, those who have not been vaccinated are at the highest risk of contracting the infection.

    Because the vaccine is 97 percent to 98 percent effective, it is “very, very unusual” for a person who has received the immunization to come down with the illness, said William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Schaffner said he believes that all people who can receive the vaccine have a responsibility to do so in order to protect those who cannot.

    “If you don’t get vaccinated, you not only put your child at risk, but other children in the community, particularly those who have an underlying illness or require a treatment that does not permit them to get vaccinated themselves,” he told The 74. “And the way we protect those children is by having all the other children vaccinated so the measles virus can’t find them. We call that putting a cocoon of protection around those frail children.”

    Schaffner stressed that the vaccine is safe and has not been linked to autism, which is one reason parents refuse the vaccine.

    Newborn babies receive some immunity from their mothers, if they’ve been vaccinated, but until infants receive their own vaccinations, they should only be around people who have received the immunization or older people who have already had measles, Schaffner said.

    Measles is extremely contagious, but unvaccinated people who have been exposed to the virus can prevent the infection if they receive the vaccine immediately after the exposure. The vaccine begins to protect from measles within days but takes up to two weeks to be fully effective, Schaffner said.

    5 Children who get measles may be more likely to contract other childhood illnesses.

    The measles vaccine may protect against more than just measles, early research shows. When the vaccine became common in the 1960s, children stopped getting measles — and childhood deaths from other infections also plummeted. Researchers think that’s because the measles infection weakens the immune system, leaving children susceptible to death from other illnesses for a few years after they recover from measles, according to a study published in Science in 2015.

    “We found measles predisposes children to all other infectious diseases for up to a few years,” one of the researchers, Michael Mina, told NPR in 2015.

    6 Some state lawmakers are taking steps to tighten up vaccine policies.

    Lawmakers in the states of New York, Oregon, and Washington are mulling bills that would eliminate the philosophical exemption to vaccines for children to attend school. Anti-vaccine activists protested outside a hearing for the bill at the Washington state capitol on Feb. 8.

    California banned nonmedical exemptions in 2015 after a severe measles outbreak originated at Disneyland and spread to six states and parts of Canada and Mexico.

    Schaffner pointed to high vaccination rates in West Virginia and Mississippi as evidence that strong immunization policies work.

    7 Here’s how to tell if your child has measles.

    Measles is a serious infection that can cause severe discomfort for as long as two weeks and can produce complications including encephalitis, inner ear infections, and pneumonia, Schaffner said.

    Initial measles symptoms include cough, runny nose, high fever, and red, watery eyes. A few days later, white spots will appear in the mouth, followed by a rash on the skin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    If you suspect you or your child has measles, you should alert the doctor’s office before arriving so they can prevent the disease from spreading to other patients. (Get more information about measles from the CDC.)

    Related

    Sign up for The 74’s newsletter



  • Lessons From Parkland: 6 Big Things We’ve Learned About Student Safety, School Security, and Resilience Since the Tragic 2018 Massacre

    By Mark Keierleber | February 13, 2019

    Valentine’s Day is typically a celebration of love, but the holiday in 2018 will go down in history as a moment of hate, national mourning — and resilience.

    That afternoon in Parkland, Florida, a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school, killing 14 students and three adults. Like other mass school shootings — from Columbine to Sandy Hook — the tragedy had immediate ramifications. Locally, leaders came under fierce criticism for a slow police response and the school’s inability to keep the suspected gunman off campus. Nationally, politicians and school leaders faced mounting pressure to quickly adopt laws designed to thwart the next tragedy.

    On the one-year anniversary of the Parkland shooting, here are six big lessons we’ve learned about student safety, school security, and resilience:

    1 For better or for worse, mass shootings drove school safety policy

    From Washington roundtables to small-town school board meetings, policymakers responded to Parkland with urgency. Officials at all levels of government, from school superintendents to President Donald Trump, turned their attention to student safety.

    Receiving perhaps the most attention were efforts to arm educators and “harden” campuses in the form of school-based police officers, additional perimeter fencing, and surveillance cameras. Though efforts to fortify campuses have been underway for decades, largely following the 1999 school shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, Parkland intensified those efforts.

    School security is now a nearly $3 billion industry, producing wares largely absent research that would show whether or not they’re effective. Among the next-generation surveillance technology companies marketed to school districts in 2018 are surveillance cameras with artificial intelligence. Schools also doubled down on initiatives to monitor students’ social media activity, extending youth surveillance beyond the schoolhouse door.

    Related

    A Toy Gun, a Snapchat Post, and an Arrest

    In August, The 74’s Carolyn Phenicie found that legislatures in at least 26 states poured about a billion dollars into school safety efforts in the wake of Parkland. Though the bulk of that money funded enhanced physical security and school-based police, states also opened their wallets to fund mental health initiatives, emergency planning, and anonymous tip lines.

    Federal lawmakers also injected new money into school safety efforts. Officials passed the STOP School Violence Act, which authorizes more than $1 billion in grant funding over the next decade for school violence prevention, including anonymous reporting systems and threat assessments.

    Trump formed the Federal Commission on School Safety, which in December released a comprehensive report offering wide-ranging recommendations on strategies to keep kids safe, including a revision of Obama-era guidance encouraging school districts to reduce their reliance on suspensions and expulsions. The document emphasized defensive measures such as arming school staff, increasing school-based police, and beefing up physical security. In a nod to conservatives, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said the bulk of efforts to address student safety should occur on the local level.

    2 Lawmakers passed new gun laws, but the issue remains as politically divisive as ever

    As Parkland student survivors pushed federal lawmakers on gun control, officials at the state level responded with a flurry of new firearm restrictions. State legislatures have approved some 70 new gun laws since last February — a response that exceeds action following the 2012 mass school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. That’s according to a gun control group, which identified new firearm regulations across 26 states.

    In seven states, legislators passed laws expanding background checks for firearm purchases, and 11 states approved laws prohibiting gun ownership among people convicted of domestic violence. Lawmakers in eight states and the District of Columbia passed “red flag” laws that allow officials to temporarily remove firearms from people deemed unsafe to themselves or others. In four states, laws approved in 2018 added new gun purchase restrictions for young people.

    On the federal level, the Justice Department announced a formal ban on “bump stocks,” which allow semiautomatic weapons to be fired more rapidly and came under scrutiny after the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas.

    Meanwhile, lawmakers in several states handed victories to gun rights activists. In Florida, a new law allows K-12 school personnel to carry guns on campus, and in South Dakota, a new law allows firearms in private schools and churches. In Idaho and Wyoming, lawmakers enacted “stand your ground” provisions, which codify the right to use deadly force for self-defense.

    3 Parents grew more fearful about their children’s safety, but…

    In 2018, more parents said they feared for the safety of their children at school. In fact, the number of fearful parents has nearly tripled over the past five years, according to a 2018 poll by PDK International.

    The poll found that about a third of parents said they feared for their child’s physical safety at school, a significant jump from 12 percent who said the same in 2013. In efforts to keep kids safe on campus, about three-quarters of parents in 2018 said they supported armed guards, mental health screenings, and metal detectors.

    That parent fear could contribute to support for strict gun control policies. A majority of Americans say gun laws should be stricter, according to an October poll by the Pew Research Center. Though opinions differ significantly across party lines, 57 percent of American adults say firearm restrictions should be tightened, while 11 percent say gun laws should be less strict. Pew did find some common ground between Democrats and Republicans. Regardless of party, Americans overwhelmingly support laws that restrict firearm access for people with mental illnesses and those on no-fly or watch lists.

    More than two-thirds of Republicans told Pew they favor rules allowing K-12 school staff to carry guns on campus. Republicans won a victory on this issue in 2018, when the White House released its school safety report. The Federal Commission on School Safety encouraged school districts to arm “specially selected and trained school personnel.”

    The majority of Americans have supported additional gun control for several years, and while a Reuters/Ipsos poll found a bump in support following the Parkland tragedy, the numbers returned to pre-Parkland levels after just a few months.

    4 … School shootings remain statistically rare

    School shootings, especially those with multiple casualties, draw significant attention. Despite their impact, they’re also statistically rare.

    Throughout 2018, The 74 set out to track all firearm incidents on school campuses that resulted in injury or death. We found that at least 50 people were killed and 88 were injured in firearm incidents at K-12 schools and colleges.

    But other fatal tragedies, like being struck by lightning, are statistically more likely. Fear of school shootings can cloud objective decision-making, argues David Ropeik, a former Harvard University professor and a consultant on risk perception. In his own analysis, he puts the odds that a K-12 student will be shot and killed at a public school at roughly 1 in 614 million.

    Over the 12-month period since the Parkland shooting, nearly 1,200 young Americans were killed in firearm incidents, according to an analysis by McClatchy and The Trace, a nonprofit news website. The carnage extends far beyond school shootings and includes murder-suicides, drive-by shootings, and accidents.

    For years, school tragedies have accounted for a single-digit percentage of youth homicide and suicide deaths. Over the past two decades, fewer than 3 percent of youth homicides and fewer than 1 percent of youth suicides occurred at school, according to a recent National Center for Education Statistics report.

    In fact, federal data indicate public schools have actually become safer in recent years.

    5 Youth rocked the vote but failed to shake the NRA

    After becoming household names for their advocacy, Parkland student survivors like Emma González and David Hogg set out on a national campaign to mobilize young voters — and to knock National Rifle Association-backed politicians out of power.

    Their success rate, however, was mixed.

    About 31 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 voted in the midterm elections in November, an impressive 10 percentage-point jump from the previous midterms, in 2014. In fact, youth voter turnout was higher in 2018 than in any midterm election over the past two decades. The turnout was pivotal for Democratic House candidates, according to a post-election analysis by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University.

    Youth efforts to snub the NRA, however, were less fruitful. According to the “NRA Money Bot,” a Twitter account created by The Trace to track campaign spending, 107 candidates backed by the NRA won their races during the midterm election while 46 NRA-backed candidates lost. In Florida, the Parkland activists faced resounding defeat, with pro-gun candidates for governor and the U.S. Senate emerging victorious.

    Related

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

    6 Survivors shared inspiring stories of resilience

    After the shooting, student survivors launched a national movement to bolster youth civic engagement and combat gun violence. From school walkouts to a national bus tour, the students rallied around a common cause. The 74 conducted interviews with multiple students, parents, and educators who demonstrated inspiring resilience in the face of significant trauma.

    Among them are Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School teachers Ivy Schamis and Melody Herzfeld.

    Schamis teaches a Holocaust history class and was comparing current events to Nazi Germany when the gunman opened fire on her classroom. Two of her students were killed. Now, the course comes with new meaning for Schamis. She told The 74 last year that she’s confident her students will use the tragedy to move forward in a positive light.

    “I really don’t think most of them will be bystanders. I think they will speak out for what’s right,” she said. “How many people see things that are wrong and just look the other way? I don’t see these students doing that.”

    Meanwhile, drama students and their teacher, Melody Herzfeld, viewed art as a way to heal. The drama class was rehearsing for an upcoming children’s musical when the shots rang out, and took shelter in a nearby storage closet.

    Herzfeld and her students could have canceled the performance just two months after the shooting, but they decided “the show must go on.” Their resilience, and their decision to perform in the face of adversity, is featured in a new HBO documentary, Song of Parkland.

    “They were so happy that there was hope,” Herzfeld said. “Not everything is gone. It was the one thing they had to focus on that could keep them in their happy moment and say, ‘I’m beneficial here. I’m good in this moment.’”

    Related

    Sign up for The 74’s newsletter



  • Teacher of the Year Mandy Manning Leading El Paso ‘Teach-In’ This Weekend, Protesting Trump Administration’s Child Detention Policies

    By Mark Keierleber | February 13, 2019

    When educator Mandy Manning visited the White House last year, President Donald Trump presented her a small trophy recognizing her as the national teacher of the year. But Manning also came with something for the president: a stack of letters from her immigrant students, who wrote to Trump about their experiences coming to America.

    This weekend, Manning will once again use her platform to defend immigrant children and call out Trump directly for one of his most controversial policies: child detention. On Sunday, Manning and educators from across the country — many of them state teachers of the year — plan to stage a “teach-in” in El Paso, Texas, to push the government to end the lengthy detention of children in shelters.

    The shelters became a flashpoint last year when a “zero tolerance” policy led to the separation of undocumented children from their parents. Although a court ordered the Trump administration to reunite children with their families, the issue is far from over. The number of children in the shelters had reached historic levels by the end of 2018.

    “Educators are mandatory reporters of suspected child abuse, and what’s happening to these children is child abuse,” Manning told The 74. For the past six years, she’s taught new immigrant and refugee students at a high school in Spokane, Washington — students who often come with limited English proficiency and significant trauma. “These are children that we’re talking about, children with endless potential.”

    At the teach-in, scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. MST with a livestream on social media, teachers plan to discuss the circumstances driving young refugees to flee their home countries and the challenges of being separated from their families and detained. The event, which will include educators from Mexico, will center on a list of demands, including: The government should never separate children from their parents; children should be held in community-based shelters with no more than 50 children for no longer than 20 days; and the children should receive at least six hours of classroom instruction per day.

    The event has garnered support from several prominent immigrant rights groups, along with the nation’s largest two teachers unions and several local affiliates.

    Though Manning said she doesn’t inquire about her students’ immigration status, some have discussed their experiences crossing the border as unaccompanied minors and being detained in shelters for up to a month.

    But now, children are staying in shelters for longer durations. During fiscal year 2018, children stayed in federal custody for 60 days on average, Commander Jonathan White, who led the government’s efforts to reunite children with their parents, testified in a House subcommittee hearing earlier this month. In 2019, average detention stays have spiked to 89 days, though White said the government expects that to decline over the year.

    “The trauma has to be just absolutely astronomical,” Manning said. “Even just having the experience of going through that process for a very short time causes a lot of anxiety and depression and physical ailments like stomach illnesses and major headaches, exhaustion.”

    While the government must ensure unaccompanied youth are placed with safe and appropriate sponsors, officials should try to release children as quickly as is safely possible, said Mark Greenberg, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute who served as a senior official at the Department of Health and Human Services during the Obama administration. Lengthy youth detentions, he said, raise “significant concerns about impacts on child well-being.”

    There’s also evidence child separation is still occurring, though at a slower rate, Greenberg said. He pointed to a January report from his former department’s Office of Inspector General, which found that more than 2,700 children had been separated from their parents under the “zero tolerance” policy. However, the report acknowledged that the tally doesn’t capture the full extent of family separation and may not account for “thousands of children,” including at least 118 the agency received between the June 2018 federal court order requiring family reunification and November. But the Department of Homeland Security has provided “limited information about the reasons for these separations,” according to the report, which may limit the government’s ability to “determine appropriate placements.”

    The number of children housed in the facilities has also spiked to historic highs. In May 2017, some 2,400 migrant youth were housed in the facilities. By December 2018, that number had jumped to 14,700 children in about 100 shelters across 17 states.

    Though several factors are at play, Greenberg said the rapid growth in sheltered students can be attributed in part to a June policy that required everyone in a potential sponsor’s household to submit fingerprints for background checks. Meanwhile, the Department of Health and Human Services agreed to share information about potential sponsors with immigration enforcement officials.

    “It creates a situation where a parent has to be fearful that coming forward could result in being arrested,” Greenberg said.

    The administration changed course in December and began to require only potential sponsors — not everybody in their household — to undergo fingerprinting. Since then, the number of children in shelters has dwindled. The shelters housed about 11,400 children on Feb. 10, a Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson said in an email.

    Tornillo

    For Manning, the idea to protest child detention began on a Teacher of the Year trip to Texas. While there, she realized she was close to the “tent city” in Tornillo, a temporary “influx” shelter that at one point housed some 2,800 children. Flustered because she was unable to visit the camp during her trip, she hit upon the idea to rally teachers to hold a vigil outside the facility.

    Amid fierce scrutiny from critics who opposed Trump’s immigration policies, Tornillo closed in January. That caused Manning and her fellow teachers to change course, and they’ll now hold the event at San Jacinto Plaza in El Paso.

    Manning sees the closure as a reason to keep fighting.

    “I believe that Tornillo closing suggests that we have the ability as a nation to make the decision to close these facilities,” she said. “We’ve done it, we’ve proven that it can be done, and so therefore what is standing in our way? We should be closing all of them.”

    Ivonne Orozco, who teaches high school Spanish in Albuquerque, offered a similar sentiment. Orozco, last year’s New Mexico teacher of the year, is among the educators who plan to attend the protest. With Tornillo closing, Orozco said, children in federal custody are simply being relocated to other locations such as a second tent city in Homestead, Florida. About 1,500 children are currently being detained at Homestead, the Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson said.

    The issue is deeply personal for Orozco, who was born in Mexico and immigrated to the U.S. when she was 12. Though she now has a green card, until recently she had a work permit and received deportation relief through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. As a child, she arrived to the U.S. unable to speak English and faced significant trauma, but she said she benefited from public education.

    “I am so grateful that I had that opportunity because that’s essentially what we are robbing these over 10,000 children who are being detained in immigration centers,” she said. “In these prison camps, we are taking away the opportunity for them to experience what I did.”

    Related

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

    Although children in federal custody are entitled to an education, the services weren’t designed to serve children for long periods of time. Under the 1997 federal Flores Agreement, shelters are required to provide “education services appropriate to a minor’s level of development and communication skills in a structured classroom setting” for six hours a day, but they aren’t held to the same accountability standards as traditional public schools. In “influx” shelters like Tornillo, however, federal policy says education services are simply “encouraged.” At Tornillo, there was no school and children were given worksheets but were not required to complete them. At Homestead, “classes are part of the daily structure,” the HHS spokesperson said, with instruction focused on Spanish, English, and mathematics.

    By protesting youth detention, Orozco said, she hopes to send the message that educators want the children to be released from shelters to sponsors so they can enroll in school. She rebuked Trump, who, during his State of the Union speech, said illegal immigrants overburden schools.

    “Teachers care for all children, and all children have endless potential, all children deserve to be free,” she said. “We are really saying, ‘We welcome all students.’”

    Related

    Sign up for The 74’s newsletter



  • The Week Ahead in Education Politics: Congress Eyes Crumbling Buildings, New Insights on STEM Education, Striking Teachers & More

    By Carolyn Phenicie | February 9, 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: SCHOOL FUNDING — The marquee K-12 event this week is the House Education and Labor Committee hearing on school funding, called “Unpaid Teachers and Crumbling Schools: How Underfunding Public Education Shortchanges America’s Students.”

    The hearing, the first the new Democratic majority in the House will hold on K-12 issues, comes on the heels of increasing focus on school infrastructure, as well as mounting labor unrest among teachers across the country.

    The Labor Department Friday said 2018 had the highest number of strikes and lockouts (20) since 2007, and the largest number of employees affected (485,000) since 1986. Teachers made up the majority of those stoppages, with more than 375,000 employees in “educational services” out of work at some point last year. The two largest strikes of the year were attributed to teachers in Arizona and Oklahoma.

    Related

    A #RedForEd Spread: On Heels of Los Angeles Strike, Denver, Virginia, Oakland and Sacramento Are Poised for Next Wave of Teacher Activism

    Educators in Denver and West Virginia could strike this week.

    Total spending on public schools in the U.S. was about $678 billion in the 2015-16 school year, according to federal statistics. The numbers vary by state, but overall, it was the third year in a row that spending increased after a dip following the great recession. Funding mostly came from state (47 percent) and local (45 percent) revenues with the remaining 8 percent from the federal government.

    2020 WATCH: Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar will make an announcement Sunday, widely believed to be about a presidential run. Klobuchar cited her mother’s career as a schoolteacher and her daughter’s experience with disability as a young child in a 2017 speech opposing Betsy DeVos’s nomination as education secretary.

    TUESDAY: FAMILY SEPARATION — The House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees hold simultaneous hearings on the Trump administration’s moves this summer that led to the separation of children and parents at the southern border.

    The Judiciary Committee will conduct general oversight and hear from leaders in Customs and Border Protection, the Justice Department, and the Health and Human Services Department that oversaw care of the separated children. The Oversight Committee will look at agencies’ failure to produce documents about the policy.

    TUESDAY: CIVICS — The Thomas B. Fordham Institute holds the next installment in its Education 20/20 series, this one focused on civics. Eliot Cohen, of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, will argue that civics promotes “patriotic history,” while Yuval Levin, editor of National Affairs, will “make the case for reasserting the role of education in character formation.”

    TUESDAY: MILITARY ACADEMIES & SEXUAL ASSAULT — Two subcommittees hear testimony on the nation’s military academies. In the morning, an Appropriations subcommittee on Defense hears a general overview from the leaders of the Military Academy, Naval Academy, and Air Force Academy.

    In the afternoon, an Armed Services subcommittee hears testimony on the academies’ plans to address a new report that found that the number of sexual assaults at the schools jumped 50 percent in two years. Military academies are exempt from Title IX, the federal law governing how schools handle allegations of sexual misconduct.

    TUESDAY: STEM EDUCATION — The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine hold a day-long conference to discuss two recent reports on STEM education, one on English learners in STEM, and the other on science and engineering for grades 6-12.

    TUESDAY: HIGHER ED — Three panels of experts meet at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, to “scrutinize many of the most popular suspects for higher ed’s decline and … debate potential policy changes to which their conclusions point.”

    WEDNESDAY: THE BENEFITS OF READING ALOUDAuthor Meghan Cox Gurdon discusses “the latest neuroscience and behavioral research linking reading aloud to cognitive and social-emotional benefits for young children” at the American Enterprise Institute.

    Related

    Sign up for The 74’s newsletter



  • ‘The Right Way to Spank a Child’? WSJ Op-Ed Sparks Debate Over Corporal Punishment

    By Mark Keierleber | February 8, 2019

    One to three swats with a wooden spoon.

    That’s the recommendation for acceptable discipline given by a pediatrician in a controversial Wall Street Journal op-ed this week, which challenges a new policy paper that says the use of corporal punishment to punish children is ineffective and can harm development.

    In the op-ed titled “The Right Way to Spank a Child,” pediatrician Robert Hamilton accused the American Academy of Pediatrics of conflating discipline with child abuse when it released a policy position in November that says corporal punishment can lead to more misbehavior and increase aggression at school. The practice is also associated with an increased risk of mental health disorders and cognition problems, according to the academy.

    “In my practice, I advise parents not to use corporal punishment until children are old enough to understand why they are being punished,” Hamilton, a practicing pediatrician in Santa Monica, California, wrote. “Spanking should be a last resort after other disciplining methods and verbal warnings are exhausted, and only to punish clearly and willfully disobedient acts.”

    In an interview with The 74, the co-author of the policy position defended the academy’s stance and called Hamilton’s position on corporal punishment an outlier within the medical community. The position paper underwent a years-long comment and review process and ultimately represents the academy’s roughly 65,000 members, said Robert Sege, co-author of the paper and a pediatrician at the Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center.

    “In the past generation, we have come to understand that violence within the home is dangerous and unnecessary and it should be avoided,” Sege said. “I think that young parents have grown up understanding that violence has no place in intimate relationships and have similarly come to the conclusion that it has no place in relationships between parents and children.”

    The use of corporal punishment in schools has also come under scrutiny in recent years. Laws in 18 states explicitly permit the practice in schools and another four states don’t address the issue, according to the National Association of State Boards of Education. A previous academy policy statement called for the abolition of corporal punishment in schools.

    In the column, Hamilton notes that while child abuse is understandably a crime, he argues that existing literature on the efficacy of corporal punishment doesn’t adequately distinguish between violence and the “proper and loving way to spank a child.” He said child-development specialists could be susceptible to bias, noting that their personal opinions on spanking may cloud their conclusions on the practice. Data from existing studies, Hamilton wrote, do not distinguish between a “drunken father who beats his child” and a ”sober mother who swats her child’s bottom with a wooden spoon.” Hamilton declined to comment for this article.

    As evidence of corporal punishment’s benefits, Hamilton wrote that he knows many people who were spanked as children who grew up to become loving and nonviolent adults. He expressed concern that the academy’s position could persuade policymakers to “intrude into intimate family affairs” and ban spanking.

    Recent parent surveys suggest that a majority of Americans see value in corporal punishment, though support is declining. In a 2016 survey, 76 percent of men and 66 percent of women ages 18 to 65 said children should sometimes be spanked. That’s down from 1986, when 84 percent of men and 82 percent of women said the same. People with a college degree are less likely to support the practice.

    “We were prepared, everything short of Kevlar vests, for a big pushback, and there really hasn’t been,” Sege said. There are a lot of people who spank their kids and there are a lot of grown-up pediatricians who were spanked as children.”

    But there’s a lot to unpack in Hamilton’s argument, Sege said. He questioned what evidence Hamilton had to back his claim that three swats with a wooden spoon is acceptable. While existing research shows a correlation between corporal punishment and negative outcomes, Sege said the same goes for evidence on smoking cigarettes. Epidemiologic methods have found that smoking is associated with lung cancer, he said, “and our feeling is similar. There’s a risk for problems.”

    “Everybody has a relative who is like 83 years old, smoked a pack a day since they were born, began smoking while they were still inside their mommy’s belly, and is doing fine,” he said. “That doesn’t mean cigarettes are safe.”

    Sege dismissed Hamilton’s claims that there’s a difference between a “loving way to spank a child” and outright abuse because the harms of corporal punishment they’re focused on are psychological.

    “The person who you’re supposed to trust and love is hurting you and causing fear,” he said. “That’s where the problem comes in; the problem doesn’t come in because a person is hitting you too hard.”

    So what’s a parent to do?

    Young people are most receptive to positive reinforcement, Sege said. When children misbehave, he said, parents should respond with age-appropriate discipline, like instituting time-outs or suspending privileges.

    Related

    Sign up for The 74’s newsletter



  • Learning From Disaster: Education Leaders From Puerto Rico, Louisiana Describe How They Turned Crisis Into Opportunity Following Hurricanes

    By Mark Keierleber | February 7, 2019

    In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Maria, the similarity between Puerto Rico’s education system and that of post-Katrina New Orleans was clear. School systems in both locations faced years of lagging student outcomes before the hurricanes exacerbated their challenges. And in both places, policymakers seized the moment to embrace far-reaching policy shifts.

    In a webinar Thursday, education leaders from Puerto Rico and Louisiana outlined their responses to Hurricanes Maria and Katrina and offered a few words of advice for education leaders confronted with disaster. The discussion featured Julia Keleher, Puerto Rico’s education secretary, and Paul Pastorek, the former superintendent for the Louisiana Department of Education who currently advises Puerto Rico on its education recovery efforts.

    In both places, storm recovery efforts led to an embrace of school choice — charter schools, in particular. After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, policymakers in Louisiana overhauled the city’s education system, putting in its place one run almost entirely by charter schools. A new education law in Puerto Rico, approved last year, opened the island to its first charter school and, eventually, a private school voucher program. Those are part of a broader effort to reform the education system in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated the island in September 2017.

    And while these efforts have courted significant controversy, research has pointed to improved academic performance among students in New Orleans. But whether other storm-ravaged school systems, including Puerto Rico’s, can replicate that experience remains to be seen, researchers warn.

    Related

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

    Though it took time, Pastorek said it was important to secure buy-in from the community. Despite New Orleans’s lagging school performance before the storm, he said parents worried that reform efforts would leave them with nothing.

    “It’s very challenging to work with a community to try to assure them that the pathway we’re trying to go down now will bring them a higher level of quality,” Pastorek said during the webinar, hosted by The Line, a publication of the Frontline Research and Learning Institute. “It’s hard because those people have been disappointed many, many times in the past and they have plenty of reasons to believe that government is not going to give them the best.”

    An effective strategy to build trust, he said, is to partner with community leaders who can facilitate conversations with the broader public. Keleher also recommended that officials offer the community smaller victories since large-scale reforms often don’t produce noticeable short-term effects.

    “It is critical to have some kind of small win, some kind of observable improvement in the conditions of individuals’ lives and realities,” she said.

    Pastorek acknowledged there is no single recipe to successfully transform school districts that face disaster. With that in mind, leaders need to be flexible and willing to modify their recovery game plan. Meanwhile, Keleher said it’s important for leaders to remind themselves of the reasons they chose to work in education reform.

    “That will make it easier to assume the sense of the enormous responsibility that you have and continue despite the obstacles, despite the resistance that you’re going to face to say ‘I believe in what I’m doing, this is the right thing to do, and I’m not going to stop until we achieve it,’” Keleher said.

    Disclosure: Andrew Rotherham serves on The Line’s Editorial Advisory Board on Civil Discourse and The 74’s Board of Directors. Mimi Gurbst serves on The Line’s Editorial Advisory Board on Civil Discourse and The 74’s Journalism Advisory Board.

    Related

    Sign up for The 74’s newsletter



  • EduClips: Two-Thirds of Philadelphia Elementary Schools Lack Playgrounds, and Other News You Missed This Week From America’s 15 Biggest Districts

    By Andrew Brownstein | February 7, 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.

    Miami-Dade — Miami Charter School Teachers Want In on Districtwide Salary Hike: Miami-Dade County’s 1,830 charter school teachers weren’t included in a November property tax deal that has already led to disbursement of about $211 million in significant pay supplements for the rest of the district’s 19,200-member teacher corps. And they’re not happy about it. Now, letter-writing and social media campaigns have surfaced to encourage school board members to reconsider. Charter school angst for being left out of referendum measures is growing across Florida. In Palm Beach, two charter schools are suing after the county’s referendum language explicitly excluded them from the funds. And state Sen. Manny Díaz, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, voiced his own displeasure about his home county not sharing referendum dollars with “all of their public school teachers” when he held a recent town hall. (Read at the Miami Herald)

    Philadelphia — Two out of Three Philly Elementary Schools Lack Playgrounds: Two-thirds of Philadelphia School District elementary schools don’t have playgrounds, according to an investigation by WHYY. At these public schools, students run around on cracked pavement, among parked cars, and between Dumpsters. Playgrounds are more common in Center City and neighborhoods closer to downtown, and gentrifying neighborhoods and those with a strong history of community-based activism and development are more likely to have them. The monkey bars and jungle gyms commonplace at suburban schools tend to be missing in neighborhoods with high rates of concentrated poverty, and areas with the fewest playgrounds tend to be areas predominantly home to communities of color. (Read at WHYY)

    Los Angeles — California Releases Federally Mandated List of Low-Performing Schools, Including Those in L.A., for First Time in Six Years: Under federal law, California is required to release the names of its lowest-performing schools. It did so this week for the first time in six years. The state identified 1,640 schools that need comprehensive or targeted assistance because they are struggling to adequately serve students, including 110 in Los Angeles. The federal Every Student Succeeds Act requires that states identify the bottom 5 percent of schools and additionally identify schools with one or more groups of students whose performance meets the criteria for “lowest-performing.” (Read at LA School Report)

    Houston — Texas Ed Agency to Investigate Racially Charged Houston School Board Dispute: The Texas Education Agency is examining whether some Houston school board members violated the Texas Open Meetings Act and other statutes during a raucous October meeting that dissolved into shouting and racially charged accusations. The meeting turned controversial when school board member Diana Dávila made a surprise motion to fire the district’s interim leader, Grenita Lathan, and hire a new one, Abe Saavedra, who served as the superintendent in the early 2000s. The board voted 5-4 along racial lines to fire Lathan and hire Saavedra. They reversed course a few days later at a press conference where they apologized for their dysfunctional behavior during the year. The new state investigation comes just weeks after Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted that the Houston school board is a disaster and should be taken over. (Read at Houston Public Media)

    New York City — Nearing District Cap, Charters Race to Fill Remaining Slots: With seven slots remaining until the New York City schools hits its charter school cap, a race to fill them is on among 19 applicants. The competition for the slots kicked off at a time when the future of the sector looks especially bleak in New York City. The New York state Senate, once more friendly to charter schools, is now led by progressive Democrats who oppose charter expansion. That makes the chances slim that the state’s cap, which limits the number of new charter schools that can open in New York City, will be increased. As Chalkbeat reports, the seven slots up for grabs may very well go to those applicants who get the first OK from one of the bodies that can authorize New York charter schools — the New York State Board of Regents, which oversees the state Department of Education, and the State University of New York. (Read at Chalkbeat)

    Chicago: Charter School Teachers Strike — Again: Unionized charter school teachers in Chicago went on strike this week, marking the district’s second work stoppage at independently operated campuses. The 175 teachers and paraprofessionals at four Chicago International Charter School campuses, represented by the Chicago Teachers Union, rejected a recent proposal that union leaders described as inadequate. The strike hit its third day Thursday, halting regular classes for about 2,200 students who attend the four affected campuses. The walkout came after four months of contract negotiations between teachers and Civitas Education Partners, which manages the schools. (Read at the Chicago Tribune)

    Broward County — Board Feuds on Safety, Secrecy in Fort Lauderdale Schools: A Broward School Board discussion on safety, including the need for metal detectors at area schools, unraveled into a bitter feud between factions who support and oppose Superintendent Robert Runcie. New school board member Lori Alhadeff, whose daughter Alyssa was murdered during the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, blasted Runcie’s decision to cancel a public meeting on safety and replace it with private meetings with parents. “I think Mr. Runcie is trying to control the conversation, keeping media out and keeping other school board members out,” Alhadeff said. The South Florida Sun Sentinel sued the district, charging that the meetings violated the state’s Sunshine Law. (Read at the South Florida Sun Sentinel)

    Noteworthy Essays & Reflections

    SCHOOL CLOSURES — Five things we’ve learned from a decade of research on school closures (Read at Chalkbeat)

    RACISM — A Mom’s View: Blackface or No, Virginia Gov. Northam Has a History of Racist Views on Education. Unions and Democrats Supported Him Anyway (Read at The74Million.org)

    CLASS SIZE — What a difference a small class size made one day in one elementary school (Read at USA Today)

    TECHNOLOGY — How Technology Can Become More Productively Integrated in Education (Read at Forbes)

    RACISM — Fewer AP classes, suspended more often: black students still face racism in suburbs (Read at USA Today)

    Quotes of the Week

    “I often feel like there’s 1,000 eyes on me while I’m taking a test. It creates a lot of stress and anxiety. Honestly, sometimes I feel I’m invisible, but at the same time, everyone’s watching me to see if I fail.” —Will Barrett, an 11th-grader in the Rochester, New York, suburb of Fairport. Barrett, who is black, said racism is pervasive in school (Read at USA Today)

    “To help support working parents, the time has come to pass school choice for America’s children.” —President Donald Trump, offering the one line devoted to K-12 education in his State of the Union address (Read at EdSource)

    “The state was really quiet in releasing this list of schools, and there are no clear guidelines of how parents are supposed to be engaged in the process of improving those schools. For parents who have children in one of those schools, I’d like to know when they will be notified, will they be invited to share ideas about how to improve the school, how to get the school to a better place? Those things are unclear at this point.” —Carrie Hahnel, co-executive director of the state advocacy organization EdTrust-West, on California’s decision to release the names of its lowest-performing schools for the first time in six years (Read at LA School Report)

    “There are no quick fixes in institutions of this size. The Catholic Church isn’t fixed overnight, the military isn’t fixed overnight, CPS will not be fixed overnight.” —Sean Black, assistant director of the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault, on the sexual misconduct crisis at Chicago Public Schools (Read at The74Million.org)

    “I think Mr. Runcie is trying to control the conversation, keeping media out and keeping other school board members out.” —Broward County school board member Lori Alhadeff, whose daughter Alyssa was murdered during the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, on Superintendent Robert Runcie’s decision to cancel a public meeting on safety (Read at the South Florida Sun Sentinel)

    Related

    Sign up for The 74’s newsletter



  • Power Is Knowledge: New Study Finds That Wealthy, Educated Families Are Using School Ratings to Self-Segregate

    By Kevin Mahnken | February 5, 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.

    If there’s one thing parents, real estate agents, and educators all understand implicitly, it’s this: High property values are built on top-notch school districts.

    Excellent schools are considered so precious, parents will risk huge fines and even jail sentences by enrolling their children under false pretenses. Buyers, even those without children, are willing to pay hefty premiums to live in good districts, since their prices are resilient to downturns in the housing market. And real estate databases like Zillow, Trulia, and Redfin all include copious information on the proximity and quality of local education options.

    In fact, a new study finds, the increasing ubiquity of school quality ratings may be changing the complexions of whole neighborhoods and cities, deepening the divide between rich and poor areas. The reason? As information on school performance becomes more widely available, the wealthy and well-educated flock to the areas with the highest-rated schools. Meanwhile, families and schools with fewer resources are left in their wake.

    The study, conducted by Duke University professor Sharique Hasan and Anuj Kumar of the University of Florida’s Warrington College of Business, was circulated as a working paper late last year and is now undergoing peer review. It focuses on economic and demographic shifts following the emergence of GreatSchools, a nonprofit organization launched in 1998 that offers school quality information to parents.

    While states are required under federal law to collect and disseminate data on school performance, GreatSchools is undoubtedly the most visible private entity providing K-12 school ratings. The organization rates schools on a 1-10 scale based on a range of metrics including test scores (and progress on testing over time), high school graduation rates, student performance on college entrance exams, and disciplinary records.

    The aim of publishing these grades is to help parents — especially low-income parents, who may lack the time and social connections to consider all the schooling options available to them — make informed decisions on where to enroll their children. But the authors find that the information has had the unintended effect of making highly rated schools an exclusive destination for comparatively advantaged families.

    “Across a range of specifications, we find that access to school performance ratings appeared to accelerate, rather than reduce, economic divergence across ZIP codes in the U.S.,” they write.

    To assess the impact of school ratings on home values and demographic composition, Hasan and Kumar used home value assessments from Zillow both one year before and three years after GreatSchools first published grades within a given ZIP code. They also relied on IRS data on family incomes and census information on racial and ethnic makeup, forming a picture of the organization’s gradual rollout across 9,400 ZIP codes in 19 states.

    Home values rose fairly quickly once the surrounding schools were graded highly by GreatSchools, indicating increased demand for housing there.

    Among ZIP codes with schools of roughly equivalent performance (as measured by scores on state math exams), those rated by GreatSchools saw an increase in value of 3.49 percent over those that hadn’t yet been rated. Among ZIP codes whose student performance lay, respectively, one standard deviation above or below the average, home values diverged by $3,500 one year after GreatSchools ratings became available. After four years of GreatSchools availability, the disparity grew to $9,000.

    “Digitization and Divergence: Online School Ratings and Segregation in America”

    The home values in those areas were moving in different directions because of the different profile of the people residing in them. Hasan and Kumar say their findings indicate “a widening gap in the proportion of high-income households in ZIP codes with low-performing schools and those with high-performing schools,” growing to as much as 1.6 percent four years after school ratings were made public.

    White and Asian families were 2.6 percent more likely to live in neighborhoods with high-performing than low-performing schools after the same amount of time, they found, and college-educated families migrated to ZIP codes with high-performing schools at roughly the same rate.

    In an email to The 74, Hasan and Kumar said that affluent and well-educated families are simply in a better position to act on the ratings provided by organizations like GreatSchools.

    “Parents who have more resources will likely: a) have better access to [school quality] information and b) are better able to use it to move to better school districts (with more costly homes),” they wrote.

    One complaint sometimes lodged at GreatSchools is that the metrics they use to assess schools — especially proficiency on standardized tests — can essentially act as a proxy for students’ income and family status. Critics worry that if advantaged children are more apt to excel on tests, and their test scores are likely to attract more advantaged families to their schools, such ratings may inevitably lead to increased concentration of wealth and status in a shrinking number of privileged communities.

    Carrie Goux, vice president of public affairs for GreatSchools, wrote in an email to The 74 that the organization has recently overhauled its ratings system to account for that problem; measures of equity and student progress are now included in their calculations, which could draw more attention to schools that do right by low-income and minority students.

    Related

    GreatSchools: Why We’re Giving Parents More School Quality Info — and How States Can Step Up to Help

    Goux added that GreatSchools was taking steps to make its ratings more accessible to all.

    “It’s … very important to note that the data must get into the hands of those who need it most, and who may not seek it out on their own. We believe it is critical to partner with advocacy organizations working with underserved families and empower them with GreatSchools’ clear, understandable school quality information and data,” she wrote.

    Hasan and Kumar call the changes to GreatSchools’s ratings system a positive development but warn that authorities should take greater care in wielding education data.

    “Our findings suggest that both states and private organizations will need to think harder about what dimensions they rate schools on, but also how this information will be used and by whom. A step in the right direction would be for the states to collect more comprehensive and inclusive measures of school quality. In doing so, they should seek the input of diverse stakeholders (education scholars, non-profits, and parents). Moving forward, the mass collection and dissemination of information is inevitable. Whether it advances the interests of all families or just advantaged families is an open question.”

    Disclosure: The Walton Family Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provide support to GreatSchools and The 74.

    Related

    Sign up for The 74’s newsletter



  • Michelle King, L.A.’s 1st Black Female Superintendent and a Champion of Unity, Dies of Cancer at Age 57

    By Laura Greanias | February 4, 2019

    Michelle King, who, as the first female African-American superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, championed unity and collaboration among all public schools, has died of cancer at age 57.

    King was “a collaborative and innovative leader who broke down barriers to create more equitable opportunities for every student,” the district stated Saturday in announcing her death.

    Just weeks after her January 2016 appointment, King told a crowd of about 700 parents, teachers, and principals at a town hall meeting that from the moment she was named, she wanted to find ways to share best practices among educators in traditional district schools, independent charter schools, and the district’s innovative magnet and pilot schools.

    “We are all L.A. Unified school students,” she said. “It is unfortunate we have labels, saying that this one is better than that one. It’s not us versus them.”

    She announced she was meeting with charter school leaders to plan a forum to share strategies. “I can’t do it alone. We need your help. We need all of us breaking down walls and barriers on behalf of kids and be working together. It doesn’t help to have battles over property.”

    Four months later, her “Promising Practices” forum was sold out in advance and brought praise for King from charter leaders.

    “I’m so excited about what Michelle King is doing, because for the first time since I was on the board, we have a superintendent who is saying, ‘Hey, we can learn from each other,’” Caprice Young, then-CEO of Magnolia Public Schools and a former L.A. Unified school board member, said at the forum at Sonia Sotomayor Learning Academies in Cypress Park.

    Young tweeted Saturday, “So very sorry she is gone. Not enough time to make the difference we all knew she could.”

    King announced a year ago that she was being treated for cancer and would retire at the end of the 2017-18 school year. She went on medical leave in September 2017 after feeling weak during a long school board meeting.

    In a fall 2016 interview, King described herself as a district “lifer.” She spent her entire career in the district and attended its schools, even working as a teacher’s aide while a student at Pacific Palisades High School.

    When she was promoted to superintendent, she said, “I want to be a role model for students who look like me.”

    King was L.A. Unified’s first female superintendent in 80 years. But she said she didn’t always aspire to that role. “It’s something that just kind of evolved,” she said.

    King grew up in a largely middle-class and African-American neighborhood of South Los Angeles.

    After graduating from UCLA, majoring in biology, she taught science and math at Porter Middle School in Granada Hills.

    She was promoted to a coordinator for the math, science, and aerospace magnet at Wright Middle School in Westchester and then served as assistant principal and principal at Hamilton High School in Cheviot Hills.

    She then joined the ranks of L.A. Unified administrators as head of the division of student health and human services, interim chief instructional officer for secondary education, and superintendent of a western and southwestern region of the district.

    She was chosen by Superintendent Ramon Cortines to be his chief of staff. She served as deputy superintendent under John Deasy and was named chief deputy by Cortines in October 2014, when Cortines came back to the district to replace Deasy when he resigned under pressure.

    As she moved up the ladder, she said, people began asking her if she had thought about becoming superintendent. Once her daughters graduated from school, she gave it more serious thought, though she imagined she might have to leave L.A. Unified to do so.

    “I was as shocked as everyone,” she said of being the board’s pick.

    In her first year as superintendent, King visited about 100 schools on a “listen and learn” tour to hear from students, teachers, and parents.

    On school visits, she was treated like a rock star, as students and staff asked to take selfies with her.

    Steve Zimmer, who was then president of the school board, told King eight months into her tenure that teachers had more confidence in her than in any other superintendent he had worked with in his 17 years in the district.

    “You inspire trust amongst our ranks,” Zimmer said.

    King’s commitment to collaboration was seen in her joint announcement in September 2016 with Myrna Castrejón, who was executive director of Great Public Schools Now, of up to $3.75 million that would be available in grants for high-performing district-run schools. After the teachers union objected to some programs receiving the funds, $1.5 million was spent to expand the programs of two South Los Angeles schools — Diego Rivera Learning Complex Public Service Community School and King/Drew Magnet High School of Medicine and Science. Both have had long waiting lists.

    The schools’ programs were replicated at two other sites. When they opened last fall, University Pathways Public Service Academy and University Pathways Medical Magnet Academy collectively enrolled nearly 200 students.

    Castrejón said when the grants were announced that replicating high-performing schools had not been attempted in Los Angeles before or anywhere in the nation at the same scale. She said the grants were possible after she and Great Schools staff worked with King in a collaborative and open process.

    “I am excited about the opportunities to increase the number of high-quality choices for our L.A. Unified families,” King said then. “We have schools in every corner of the district where students are excelling. Investing in these campuses will allow more of our students to attain the knowledge and skills to be successful in college, careers, and in life.”

    Castrejón, who is now president and CEO of the California Charter Schools Association, said in a statement Saturday, “I loved working with Michelle King.” She called King “a visionary leader who supported the replication of innovative schools and was focused on finding new ways to best meet the needs of each student. I respected her thoughtfulness and commitment to collaboration as a critical pathway to opening up opportunities for all kids.”

    Related

    Saving L.A.’s Kids From Failing Schools: Behind the Scenes with Michelle King and Myrna Castrejon

    In a 2016 interview, King said she learned that people have to be brought together “to have dialogue and to be in each other’s face to work together to really start to break down some of these walls and barriers.”

    “Sometimes in life, we don’t think that certain positions are available to us, particularly if you’re a youth, a minority, that job or that position or that role might not be for you because you don’t see many role models, you don’t see many folks in those positions,” King said. “I feel that the appointment has said to particularly young women that anything is possible.”

    At the end of her first community meeting, in March 2016, King said, “I think some of you see the ‘I love LAUSD’ buttons we have on, and that’s what it’s about for me — it’s about being united.”

    Interviews and reporting for this article were conducted by Sarah Favot and Mike Szymanski.

    Related

    Sign up for The 74’s newsletter



  • This Week in Education Politics: A Road Map to Rewrite the Higher Ed Act, New Ed Department Nominees, Predicting the House’s ‘Ed Labor’ Priorities & More

    By Carolyn Phenicie | February 2, 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: STATE OF THE UNION — The annual address became the D.C. equivalent of a feuding tween’s birthday party, with invitations given and rescinded as a prize in a larger fight. But it’s really happening Tuesday, and President Trump said the theme will be — wait for it — “unity.”

    Alongside topics such as immigration, trade, health care, and foreign policy, Trump will ask Congress to “produce an infrastructure package that delivers substantial investments in vital national infrastructure projects,” a senior administration official said on a call with reporters Friday.

    The White House official didn’t elaborate on the infrastructure package, including how much Trump would seek to spend. Though Trump hasn’t included upgrading America’s school buildings in past infrastructure plans, look for Democrats, at least those on the Education and Labor Committee, to push hard to include them in any big package.

    Rep. Bobby Scott, the committee’s chairman, and other Democratic lawmakers last week released a bill to fund $100 billion in school infrastructure improvements and said schools could “easily be a part” of any bigger infrastructure deal.

    Trump’s 2017 address (not officially a State of the Union because it was his first year in office) focused heavily on school choice. Last year, K-12 talk was almost nonexistent besides discussion of DACA and Dreamers, the young people brought to the country illegally as children who were temporarily given some legal protections.

    ICYMI: WELCOME ED LABOR — The House Education and Labor Committee (renamed from Education and the Workforce, as it had been known under GOP control) formally organized last week.

    On the committee’s oversight agenda for the next two years: ESSA implementation; the federal school safety commission’s report and “interest in arming teachers”; rebuilding schools in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and elsewhere affected by natural disasters; the Education Department’s “disproportionality” rule for special education; child nutrition programs; and general implementation of civil rights laws.

    2020 WATCH — Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey announced Friday he’s running for president. The former mayor of Newark has a long history in education policy, including a continued embrace of charter schools, even as they’ve become more contentious in the Democratic Party.

    Related

    74 Interview: Sen. Cory Booker on Teacher Quality, Celebrity Star Power, and Why His Newark School Reforms Were Actually a Success

    He joins several other familiar faces who have already joined the race:

    ● Julián Castro, former secretary of Housing and Urban Development and former mayor of San Antonio, who started a pre-K program in his city.

    ● Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, best known in the education world for her work on Title IX and sexual assaults on college campuses.

    ● Sen. Kamala Harris of California, who kicked off her campaign calling for universal pre-K and debt-free college.

    ● Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who has been one of the most vocal voices on ESSA implementation and civil rights protections in the Senate.

    MONDAY: HIGHER ED  Sen. Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, discusses his committee’s agenda for rewriting the Higher Education Act at the American Enterprise Institute. A panel discussion will follow. Alexander, a former college president and U.S. education secretary, has for several years focused on rewriting the law, with an emphasis on deregulation. He’s on something of a ticking clock: he announced last year he will leave the Senate at the end of his current term in 2020.

    TUESDAY: SKILLS  The National Skills Coalition kicks off a three-day conference. Reps. Glenn Thompson and Raja Krishnamoorthi, the co-sponsors of a 2018 update to federal career and technical education law, on Wednesday discuss “how bipartisanship can change the course of skills policy.”

    WEDNESDAY: ED NOMINEES — The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee holds a vote on several nominations, including Robert L. King to be assistant secretary for postsecondary education. King, currently the president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, will play a key role as Congress again considers a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

    WEDNESDAY: EARLY CHILDHOOD Representatives of Public Prep, a charter network in New York City, discuss their innovative partnership program that provides a home visiting program, focused on school readiness, to the young siblings of their students. A panel at AEI will also discuss the potential for partnerships between K-12 and early childhood, and implications for including young children in federal education law.

    THURSDAY: COLLEGE LEADERS  Harvard President Larry Bacow comes to AEI to discuss universities’ need to adapt to evolution in technology, state budgets, and student needs. He then joins a panel of experts to discuss the future of higher education in America.

    Related

    Sign up for The 74’s newsletter



Load More