May 2019
  • Report: Most Students With Learning Disabilities Learn in General Ed Classrooms, but Few Teachers Feel Confident in Their Ability to Teach Them

    By Mark Keierleber | May 30, 2019


    Even as the majority of students with learning disabilities spend most of their school time in traditional classrooms, just 17 percent of general education teachers feel “very well prepared” to teach children with issues like ADHD and dyslexia, a new study finds.

    More than two-thirds of children with learning disabilities spend the bulk of their day included in general education classrooms, according to the report, which was released this week by the National Center for Learning Disabilities and Understood, which provides free resources to families and educators of kids with learning disabilities.

    In the survey of 1,350 general education teachers, just 30 percent said they “feel strongly” that they’re able to successfully educate students with learning disabilities. For the report, researchers also conducted 13 educator focus groups and compiled a literature review of 150 academic articles on how to best educate students with special needs.

    Nationally, about 1 in 5 public school students struggle with learning and attention issues, according to the report, though not all of them receive special education services at school. A majority of these children perform below grade level, which the report equated to “millions of students across the nation whose strengths and potential are going untapped.” Just half of the surveyed teachers said they “feel strongly” that students with learning disabilities can perform at grade level.

    The survey results, however, did find room for optimism. More than 60 percent of educators surveyed said they’re “somewhat prepared” to teach children with mild to moderate learning disabilities. But when educators feel more confident about their own teaching abilities, researchers found, they’re more likely to provide instruction that enables students with disabilities to perform well. In focus groups, educators said they wanted to be well prepared, said Lindsay Kruse, vice president of the educators program at Understood.

    “What they said was the preparation they have been given wasn’t effective once they got into the classroom,” Kruse said. “A lot of what they have learned has been on-the-job learning and a little bit of trial and error.”

    Part of the problem, the report notes, comes down to teacher preparation. While a growing number of students with disabilities are included in general education classrooms, “virtually all states set a low bar for preparing general educators to teach students with disabilities,” according to the report. Only seven states require general education teachers to receive coursework on how to teach students with disabilities. Meanwhile, a third of teachers reported that they have not received professional development on serving children with special needs.

    As such, researchers found that a significant share of educators held several common misconceptions about people with disabilities. A third of respondents blamed students’ learning or attention issues on laziness, a quarter believe such issues can be outgrown, and another quarter pin ADD and ADHD on bad parenting.

    Meghan Whittaker, director of policy at the National Center for Learning Disabilities, said she hopes the report will help combat the stigma and low expectations that students with special needs often confront. Among needed corrective actions, she said, are for additional states to pass laws requiring teacher preparation programs to include instruction in special education. But a more holistic approach is needed, she said.

    “We need the people in school buildings, the people making decisions about students, the people writing our laws about students — we need them to understand what students are capable of and really believe that they can achieve at high standards,” Whittaker said. “Without that belief, all of the laws in the world aren’t going to make a difference in practice.”

    Disclosure: The report was funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which also provides financial support to The 74.


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  • Is School Choice the Black Choice: Photos, Video and Reactions from Philadelphia Education Town Hall

    By Laura Fay | May 29, 2019


    Journalist Roland S. Martin led a group of African-American education leaders in a wide-ranging conversation about school choice Wednesday at Mastery Charter School–Shoemaker Campus in Philadelphia. The discussion included the politics of school choice, Philadelphia’s black-white achievement gap, parent empowerment and more.


    Is School Choice the Black Choice: A Lack of Student Performance Data and the Need for More Black-Run Charters Focus of Philadelphia Town Hall

    At the event titled “Is School Choice the Black Choice?” Martin was joined onstage by Jessica Cunningham Akoto, CEO of KIPP Philadelphia; Bryan Carter, CEO and president of Gesu School; Sharif El-Mekki, a prominent education blogger and principal at Mastery Charter School–Shoemaker Campus; Toya Algarin, a member of the board of trustees for KIPP Philadelphia; David Hardy, executive director of Excellent Schools PA; Lenny McAllister, director of Western Pennsylvania Commonwealth Foundation; and Christina Grant, chief of charter schools and innovation at the School District of Philadelphia.

    Lasting more than two hours, the event marked the third education town hall in a national series meant to engage black families on issues of student achievement, parent involvement and classroom equity.

    During the second part of the event, Martin interviewed Steve Perry, education advocate and founder of Capital Preparatory Schools in New York City and Bridgeport, Connecticut.

    The town hall was part of a national tour 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. The series kicked off in December with a town hall in Indianapolis and went to Atlanta in February.


    ‘Is School Choice the Black Choice?’: Roland Martin’s Education Town Hall in Atlanta Spotlights the Need for a Black Student Agenda and Unity

    The event started with a partner networking fair that included education groups from around the city, including the Commonwealth Foundation, the American Federation for Children, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference, Great Philly Schools, Gesu School, the Association of Christian Schools International, Charter Choices, the Institute for Justice, EnrichED Schools, It Works, and Go Forward Education Foundation.

    Watch the full conversation:

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

    The Commonwealth Foundation, Excellent Schools PA, Gesu School, Mastery Schools, the Pennsylvania Coalition of Public Charter Schools and Philly’s 7th Ward were local partners for the event.

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


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  • How We Segregate Schools Now: A 2019 Reality Check in Four Charts

    By Kevin Mahnken | May 28, 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.

    With the 65th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education at hand, it’s a good time to reflect on the racial dynamics at work in American schools.

    Here’s what we know: The United States is now more racially diverse than it has ever been, almost entirely because of a decades-long surge in the number of Hispanic students across the country. Yet according to many experts, our schools don’t reflect that diversity. Indeed, by some measures, black and white students are now as segregated from one another as they have been at any time since the 1960s. (I wrote about these startling numbers in greater depth prior to the anniversary: “Will Schools EVER Be Integrated?”)

    So what’s really going on here?

    To find the answer, we need to check out some charts:

    1 American neighborhoods are getting more diverse.

    Happily, research shows that levels of racial segregation in neighborhoods have declined steadily over the past half-century. That welcome development can be traced to a few different trends.

    Most notably, the nation’s Hispanic population has simply exploded since the time of Brown v. Board, with Hispanics supplanting blacks as the nation’s largest minority group (the numbers of Asian Americans have also risen quickly). At the same time, the formerly adamantine barriers between black urban centers and white suburbs have loosened dramatically, as educated and affluent whites have poured into cities at the same time black families have migrated out of them.

    In recent decades, demographer William Frey has found, segregation has declined in 93 out of America’s 100 largest metropolitan areas. While black and white populations are still ultra-isolated in a few Northern and Midwestern cities (New York, Milwaukee, Detroit and Cleveland principal among them), they have melded to a substantial degree in Sun Belt communities like Las Vegas, Phoenix and San Antonio.

    2 Whites are shrinking as a percentage of the student population.

    The population’s gradual tilt away from whiteness is most pronounced among young people. By some estimates, the K-12 student population is already minority-majority; that completes a long slide in the number of white students as a percentage of America’s entire student body.

    Between 1970 and 2013, as immigration from Latin America and Asia took off, whites declined from nearly 80 percent of all public school students to just 50 percent. The percentage of black students has stayed almost identical over that time, while Hispanics have come to account for one-quarter of the student population as a whole.


    3 Black and white students see less of one another.

    After Brown (well, really after 1970 or so; resistance to integration was so strong that very little progress was made until 15 years after the decision was issued), it became much more common for black students to encounter white classmates at their schools. Between 1970 and 1990, the rate of black-white exposure — i.e., the rate at which the average black student saw white students at his school — roughly doubled.

    But the trend began to reverse itself over the past few decades. Now, according to some experts, Brown’s initial successes in bringing black and white students together have been largely forfeited. On the bright side, white-Hispanic and black-Hispanic exposure have both ticked steadily upward over the same period.

    4 Districts aren’t looking over their shoulders anymore.

    According to some social scientists, there’s a clear link between the shifting racial composition of American students and the precipitous drop in exposure between black and white students. A smaller portion of white students overall means fewer will encounter black students at their schools. Their places have been taken by Hispanic and Asian students through largely race-neutral processes, it is argued.

    But other forces have been at work at the same time. Beginning in 1991, after the Supreme Court’s landmark Dowell v. Oklahoma City ruling, school districts began to be released from court-ordered desegregation plans. Hundreds of major city districts have now voided the orders, which were mandated in the wake of Brown to force them to integrate public schools. That’s led to a wide-scale resegregation ever since, according to Gary Orfield, head of UCLA’s Civil Rights Project.

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


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  • In ‘Enormous Victory for Transgender Students,’ Supreme Court Declines to Hear Appeal in Doe v. Boyertown; Prior Ruling That Kids Can Use Facilities Matching Gender Identity Stands

    By Carolyn Phenicie | May 28, 2019

    The Supreme Court announced Tuesday it will not hear Doe v. Boyertown School District, a case in which a non-transgender student argued that accommodations for transgender students in his suburban Philadelphia district violated his right to “bodily privacy.”

    The high court’s pass means that a lower court ruling, which upheld the school district policy allowing transgender students to use locker rooms and restrooms matching their gender identity, stands.

    Ria Tabacco Mar, an attorney with the ACLU, in a statement called the news “an enormous victory for transgender students across the country” and said the decision allows schools to move forward with policies that support transgender students.

    The Alliance Defending Freedom, a religious liberty law group that brought the student’s case, decried school districts that are “adopting radical changes” and “ignoring the privacy rights of all students.”

    As we covered previously at The 74, the Doe v. Boyertown legal arguments marked a new turn in the escalating fight over transgender students’ rights: Up to this point, most lawsuits in this area have been brought by transgender students seeking to use bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity rather than their biological sex. The newer lawsuits flip those arguments on their head, alleging that accommodations for transgender students violate the “bodily privacy” of non-transgender students.

    Prior to May 28, justices had delayed the decision to take up Doe v. Boyertown School District several times. Another case, Parents for Privacy v. Dallas School District, came from Oregon and is currently awaiting a July 11 hearing in the Ninth Circuit. Lower courts in both cases sided with the school districts that adopted policies accommodating transgender students.

    That’s not to say that the first wave of lawsuits, brought by transgender students seeking accommodations, has died down.

    The 11th Circuit in Atlanta could soon hear the case of Drew Adams, a transgender boy who was required to use gender-neutral facilities.

    “Trans people are still being discriminated against, so when that happens, cases are going to be brought. I think that in terms of activism and litigation from more conservative corners, that has picked up. They’re no longer just playing defense,” said Scott Skinner-Thompson, an associate law professor at the University of Colorado Boulder.

    The Boyertown lawsuit was brought by a former student at a public school in suburban Philadelphia referred to as Joel Doe, who said he was was marked down in gym class for failing to change clothes in a locker room with a transgender student and “eventually felt forced to leave the school entirely,” according to his lawsuit.

    Attorneys with the Alliance Defending Freedom, a nonprofit law firm that works to protect religious rights, wrote that Boyertown’s policy violated Doe’s “constitutional right to bodily privacy,” deprived him of equal access to an education guaranteed by Title IX, and violated Pennsylvania privacy laws.

    Justices “can and should say that it is not reasonable for a student’s privacy rights to change based on what someone else believes about their own gender,” the attorneys wrote in their petition asking the Supreme Court to take the case.

    Arguments that expansion of civil rights protections for one group infringes on another “have not been terribly successful to date,” both in other areas of civil rights generally and in this case specifically, Skinner-Thompson said.

    The Third Circuit, which sided with the school district, cited in its decision the availability of single-user facilities for students who chose to use them, and said that the minimal privacy concerns that remain are outweighed by the need to protect transgender students.

    Advocates for transgender students argued that the case’s primary argument — that expanding protections for transgender students necessarily comes at the expense of cisgender students, as non-transgender students are called — is both inaccurate based on schools’ experiences and harmful to transgender people broadly.

    Read more about the Boyerstown case, and the case law surrounding these issues, right here.


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  • Kicked. Punched. Whipped. As Schools Struggle to Support Students With Special Needs, Educators Report Abuse on the Job

    By Mark Keierleber | May 28, 2019

    At a ceremony in 2014 to honor Brett Bigham with Oregon’s Teacher of the Year award, he slouched over in his chair — hoping blood wouldn’t seep through his shirt.

    Just days earlier, Bigham wrote in a 2018 op-ed, he had endured a brutal beating in his classroom, one that sent him to the hospital. On this occasion, he wrote, a student bit him and whipped him with a television cable. It was far from the first time he endured physical violence or death threats on the job. It wasn’t the first time a classroom injury sent him to the hospital, either.

    He’s been bitten, punched and kicked. He was hit over the head with a chair so hard he quit teaching for seven years.

    Special education teacher Brett Bigham accepts Oregon’s 2014 Teacher of the Year award. (Courtesy Brett Bigham)

    Bigham’s story is likely an extreme example of the challenges special education teachers face as schools struggle to adequately support children with special needs, like those living with significant trauma or other conditions that affect their ability to regulate behavior. But special education teachers from across the country responded to Bigham’s op-ed, saying they too had experienced violence on the job.

    During the 2015-16 school year, 10 percent of teachers reported that students had threatened them with injury and 6 percent said they had been physically attacked, according to an April report by the National Center for Education Statistics.

    The federal report didn’t include specific data on special education teachers. However, previous research has found that employees in special education classrooms are about three times as likely to be the victim of physical assault as those in general education classrooms. One report, published in 2014 in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, found that educators who had faced attacks reported lower levels of job satisfaction and were more likely to consider leaving the teaching profession. As a contentious debate over school discipline plays out in Washington, the federal data show that schools have actually become safer in recent years. But exclusionary discipline, like suspensions, isn’t the answer to solve the situations Bigham faced in the classroom, he said. It’s greater support for special education teachers.

    Bigham is currently not teaching full time. He is a self-proclaimed “troublemaker,” and he’s no stranger to conflicts with school administrators. Although his last full-time teaching job ended following an unrelated legal battle, he no longer wants to work in high schools. Bigger kids, he said, hit harder.

    Before leaving the teaching profession last year, Dante Fuoco faced similar challenges. For six years, he taught special education in Louisiana, specializing in teaching children with behavioral and emotional instability — though he had no previous experience working with that population.

    “They actually saw on my résumé that I was a swimmer and they thought, ‘Well that’s good, that probably means he’s physically strong,’ and they told me that afterwards,” Fuoco told The 74. “Just like, ‘Oh, this is somebody who could actually restrain kids.’”

    Fuoco said he was kicked, punched and spit on “hundreds of times.” On one occasion, a student whipped him with a belt and he began to bleed. A school nurse offered Fuoco ice but said there was little more she could do.

    “It stuck with me as a metaphor for what it’s like to be a special ed teacher working with kids who have trauma, working with kids who have challenging behavior,” Fuoco said. “Teachers aren’t afforded the space to grieve or to be upset or to get hurt. And I didn’t afford myself that space in part because it’s just part of the culture.”

    For Fuoco, a punch to the throat was the final blow. Burned out by the job’s emotional toll, he quit to pursue a career in acting.

    ‘The second hit to my head’

    Sandra Lewandowski, superintendent of Minnesota’s Intermediate District 287, is well aware of the challenges special education teachers confront on the job. Education leaders in the district, which serves roughly 1,000 children in suburban Minneapolis, have been transparent about the safety concerns educators confront — and have called on state lawmakers to help.

    “I don’t want my school district to be known as a dangerous district — that doesn’t help us or it doesn’t help the students,” Lewandowski said. But “what we do need to talk about is students with very intense mental health needs.”

    Intermediate District 287 serves some of the highest-needs students in the region, a majority of whom experience trauma stemming from factors like community violence. As a result, special education teachers in the district are frequently confronted by aggressive student outbursts. Last year, more than 300 educators sustained injuries on the job, according to district data.

    Oftentimes, Lewandowski said, staff injuries occur when an educator needs to restrain a child who is experiencing emotional dysregulation. Part of the problem, she said, stems from a lack of high-quality mental health services available to students, both in and outside of schools.

    “Most of us have dedicated our entire careers to this population of students, and they’re terribly misunderstood. They don’t get the help they need,” she said. “For our kids of color, they often get in the trajectory in the pipeline to prison very quickly. We see that happening, and it’s a tragedy in real time for us.”

    After a teacher is injured on the job, Lewandowski said, administrators meet with staff involved because “they don’t want to feel like they’re alone in this work,” and provide time off for recovery if necessary. If educators feel unsafe, they can be reassigned.

    Bigham, who has spent the bulk of his career teaching at a district in the Portland suburbs, said he often lacked support from administrators when confronted by a student’s violent outbursts. After an incident in the early 2000s, he took a seven-year hiatus from teaching.

    Each day, he said, a student would hit teachers and classroom assistants. After complaining to school leaders and advocating for more help, Bigham was told he could pin the boy to the ground if the child swung at him more than 300 times. Under those conditions, he warned, someone could get seriously injured.

    Bigham was working with another student when the boy hit him in the back and the head with a chair. As Bigham fell to the ground, the boy took a second swing. Bigham said he sprung into action when he realized the other student was about to get hit.

    “Instead, I wrapped my arms around that kid and I took the second hit to my head,” he said.

    After the seven-year break, he found himself back in the special education classroom, and he was soon recognized as Oregon’s Teacher of the Year — the first special education teacher in the state to receive the honor — before his career quickly hit a snag. Bigham was one of the first openly gay educators to receive the recognition nationally and, after he used the platform to confront bullying against LGBT students, the district reportedly retaliated against him and he was fired. In 2015, Bigham settled with the district for $140,000.

    Although he’s currently working as a substitute teacher, he hopes to return to the special education classroom full time — this time at an elementary school.

    Finding a solution

    A few years ago, school leaders at Intermediate District 287 realized they needed to do more to support their highest-needs kids. They created a “mobile response team” of psychologists, therapists and behavioral specialists who address critical incidents at schools and coach staff on how to de-escalate violent situations. The district also removed school-based police officers from their campuses “because we don’t want to criminalize mental health,” Lewandowski said.

    Violent incidents with students happen “every single day, it’s not a once-a-year kind of experience,” Lewandowski said. “That’s what is so challenging.”

    The district is also experimenting with a “therapeutic teaching model” that blends mental health services in some elementary classrooms. Under that model, which was funded through a one-time state grant for nearly $2 million, a full-time therapist works alongside educators with children and another therapist works with students’ families. The district has lobbied the state legislature to make funding for the program permanent.

    For Bigham, a bulk of the problem comes down to inadequate staffing — not just with special education teachers, but also among counselors, psychologists and paraprofessionals. For example, the American School Counselor Association recommends a student-to-counselor ratio of 250:1, yet few states meet that goal, with a national ratio of 482:1 — a tally that’s remained relatively stable over the past decade.

    Indeed, schools have long faced a special education teacher shortage, according to a 2017 report by the Brookings Institution. The challenges schools face in hiring special education teachers has become more acute in recent years. But there are several strategies districts could use to attract educators to their schools. Among them: cash incentives.

    “I get paid the same as all the other teachers, and they’re not getting beat up,” Bigham said. “We are about to have a huge crisis in staffing schools in this country, in special education especially, and this is one of the reasons.”

    Such a straightforward solution isn’t so easy, however, because of collective bargaining agreements between districts and teachers unions, said Thomas Dee, an education professor at Stanford University who co-wrote the Brookings report. The failure to compensate special education teachers more, particularly given their violent encounters in the classroom, offers a disincentive for quality teachers to continue educating children with special needs, he said.

    “You end up with this cycling of teachers that accelerate,” Dee said. “If teachers are leaving those special education classrooms — as they’re honing their craft and becoming more experienced — just so they can find better working conditions, the kinds of teachers you’ll have with the most needy students are relative novices who haven’t yet mastered their craft.”

    Over the past decade, however, the number of special education teachers has dropped 17 percent while the share of students with disabilities has stayed relatively constant, according to a recent analysis by the Education Week Research Center. On average, there was one special education teacher per 17 students with disabilities during the 2015-16 school year. That year, 6.7 million children, or 13 percent of all public school students, received special education services.

    Overall, the teacher workforce has increased slightly over that time period, with a student-to-educator ratio of 16 to 1.

    Educators serving students with disabilities have long highlighted challenges they face on the job. Special education teachers have cited an overwhelming burden from paperwork, a heavy workload and a lack of support from school management. Bigham said he’s observed each of these challenges over the course of his career.


    When Higher Functioning Follows Form: Special-Needs Students Flourish in Sensory-Designed Schools

    For Bigham, it’s a simple equation: Pay to adequately support students with disabilities now, he said, or shell out the money on prison sentences later. Fuoco agreed.

    “The population I was working with,” Fuoco said, “is exactly the population that will get incarcerated, or is set to get incarcerated, if things don’t profoundly change.”


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  • U.S. News Shakes Up Its National High School Rankings — 5 Things to Know About What’s Changed

    By Noble Ingram | May 28, 2019

    U.S. News and World Report released its annual national rankings of public high schools, and the well-known — and often-contentious — list got a serious remodel. As it has in the past, the site worked with the North Carolina-based nonprofit research institute RTI International, and drew from school-reported public data. But this year, the magazine cast a wider net in an effort to make the rankings more inclusive and less volatile.

    Here are five takeaways from the results of that new calculation:

    1  Many more factors affect the rankings.

    In past years, U.S. News has focused closely on Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate exams, looking both at how many each school offers and how well students perform on them. Those figures still influence the rankings, but new factors also impact where schools fall on the list, including how well students performed on state math and reading tests, state test performance (specifically for black, Latino and low-income students) and graduation rates.

    That shift better aligns with recommendations from national organizations representing high schools, including the National Association of Secondary School Principals. On its website, the association urges rankings to include “multiple indicators of school progress.” It goes on, however, to suggest factors U.S. News still hasn’t incorporated, including teacher salaries and class-size ratios.

    The rankings have drawn criticism in the past for not acknowledging the systemic challenges some schools face. Kevin Welner, professor at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education and founder of the National Education Policy Center, has been a vocal critic. He appreciates how changes to the process recognize different school contexts, but he’s still concerned that national rankings ignore underlying inequities.

    “Societal ills like poverty and racism lead to unequal opportunities to learn inside and outside of our schools … Rankings like this just feed into that cycle, with no serious attempt to confront self-deceptive beliefs that students compete within a fair meritocracy,” he wrote in an emailed statement.

    2 The list is much (much) longer.

    For those who want to check out every ranked school, be prepared to scroll. This year’s list, released on April 30, is about seven times as long as last year’s. For the first time, U.S. News included every public high school in the country with a senior class of at least 15. That adds up to just under 17,000 schools, compared with about 2,700 last year. The top three quarters of the list are ranked individually, but the bottom quarter are all listed as one group.

    The additions were meant to give more readers information about their local schools, according to Eric Brooks, a data analyst who worked with U.S. News. And with such a bigger pool to sort through, Brooks says, some schools saw their rank shift dramatically.

    “More than half of schools ranked in 2018 dropped in their ranking in 2019 because the rankings expanded,” he wrote in an emailed statement.

    Schools whose rank jumped aren’t necessarily any higher-performing than in the past; they’re just getting more recognition for strengths outside of AP and IB test scores alone. Schools at the very top of last year’s list, however, didn’t budge much. The top 20 from last year all found a spot in the top 70 this year.

    3 The top of the charts still aren’t very diverse.

    The highest-performing schools continue to have disproportionately low black and Latino representation, even with the list’s greater focus on underrepresented students. For schools that report high minority enrollment, the disconnect can sometimes still be striking. Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria, Virginia, ranked third in magnet schools and fourth overall. It reported a 77 percent minority enrollment, largely bolstered by a high proportion of Asian students. But enrollment levels for black and Latino students at the school measured at just 4.3 percent, according to the State Department of Education’s School Quality Profiles.

    Nationally that dynamic persists. Black and Latino enrollment at the top 50 ranked high schools averaged about 23 percent, according to 2015 data from the Office for Civil Rights — the most recent available. That’s significantly lower than the 41 percent national black and Latino enrollment in high school, measured in 2015 by the U.S. Department of Education. Enrollment for black and Latino students at the top 10 ranked schools averaged only about 12 percent.

    4 BASIS schools in Arizona slip out of the top positions.

    The BASIS chain of charter schools — schools that are privately run but publicly funded — no longer occupy most of the top spots. BASIS is a corporation that owns and operates both public charter and private schools, and its schools consistently place at the highest end of the high school rankings. Last year, BASIS charter high schools, none of which had more than 100 seniors, took the first through sixth positions on the list. This year, they are more dispersed throughout the top 100.


    BASIS: Inside the Acclaimed School Network That’s Blended Together the World’s Best Education Practices

    How much of this change comes from the new methodology isn’t clear, but the schools’ low diversity — coupled with the list’s emphasis on underrepresented students — could be one contributor. Most of the top BASIS schools report small minorities of black or Latino students. At BASIS Peoria in Arizona, the chain’s top-ranked school this year, just seven out of 67 students identified racially as something other than “white” or “Asian.”

    5 The new rankings are designed for more accurate year-to-year comparisons

    Because older versions of the list used fewer data points and included fewer schools, they were more sensitive to minute changes, according to the U.S. News site. If a school saw a dip in AP testing scores, even if most other factors remained steady, it could fall out of the ranking altogether.

    The wider web of factors influencing the list, and the higher number of ranked schools, mean small changes in a school’s data are now less likely to lead to huge swings. And even if they do shift significantly, readers should be able to trace their position over time, at least moving forward. The site won’t release older versions of the rankings, saying they’re no longer comparable with the current list.

    Overall, U.S. News is confident that the new standards will help the rankings better inform families as they decide where to send their children, Brooks says. But for critics, including Welner, the revisions are only the first step toward rethinking how to evaluate public schools.

    “They’re doing the wrong thing, but they’re doing it better,” he wrote.


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  • New Study Highlights How Divisive Political Rhetoric Can Seep Into America’s Schools, Prompting Heightened Bullying

    By Mark Keierleber | May 13, 2019

    Heated political debates that center on marginalized communities can lead to negative consequences for students, according to a study published Monday that found an uptick in anti-LGBTQ bullying at California schools during a statewide push to ban same-sex marriage.

    The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, suggests that high-profile debates involving marginalized groups can lead bullies to target young people who are central to those conversations.

    The 2008 California voter referendum, Proposition 8, restricted same-sex marriage in the state. The referendum was later struck down, and in 2015 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage nationwide. However, researchers argue that the findings offer cause for concern when lawmakers and the public engage in divisive policy debates — such as those surrounding efforts to heighten immigration enforcement — that target marginalized populations.

    “Racism and homophobia is real, and deploying it for political gain … is damaging for people who are marginalized,” said Stephen Russell, a professor in child development at the University of Texas at Austin and co-author of the report. “That’s the biggest advice: Don’t do it. Please don’t be homophobic or discriminatory.”

    For the study, researchers analyzed middle and high school student surveys from more than 5,000 California campuses between 2001 and 2015. The California Healthy Kids Survey asked students whether they were bullied or harassed at school because they are gay or lesbian, or because someone perceived them to be. While student surveys indicated an uptick in anti-LGBTQ bullying in the years leading up to the voter referendum, harassment rates began to decline in the years after Proposition 8 was approved. Public discourse about same-sex marriage faded after the referendum was approved, Russell said, which likely contributed to the decline in anti-LGBTQ bullying in subsequent years.

    During the 2001-02 school year, roughly 8 percent of students reported homophobic bullying. But the 2008-09 school year “served as a turning point in homophobic bullying,” according to the report. That year, when voters approved Proposition 8, the rate of such bullying jumped to nearly 11 percent. This spike occurred against the backdrop of declines in other types of bullying, including discrimination based on race or religion.

    During its peak, the number of students who reported homophobic bullying exceeded the estimated population of LGBTQ youth in California schools, suggesting straight students were also targeted with abuse.

    Though troubled by the trends, Russell said he wasn’t surprised. He pointed to an advertising campaign on television before the Proposition 8 vote that alleged schools were indoctrinating students to promote an LGBTQ agenda.

    Though less comprehensive, another recent study documented a connection between divisive political rhetoric and student bullying. The study, published in January in the journal Educational Researcher, found a spike in school bullying incidents in Virginia counties that voted for President Donald Trump during the 2016 election. School bullying was stagnant in counties, however, where Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton won.


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

    Despite the chief findings, the study on California bullying offered up at least one promising sign. California schools with Gay-Straight Alliance clubs, designed to foster supportive school climates for LGBTQ students, didn’t experience a similar increase in anti-LGBTQ bullying. Though previous research suggests that the presence of Gay-Straight Alliances at schools leads to positive student outcomes, Russell said his report adds to the literature in favor of the clubs.

    However, he said schools should do more to support LGBTQ youth. Anti-bullying initiatives in schools, he said, could do more to address prejudice and discrimination directly.

    “Most teachers were not trained to think about anti-oppression education and how to do it and what it means in schools,” he said. “There’s a lot of work to do to think about how — through education policy — we can promote non-bias and anti-discrimination in schools.”


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  • For Democrats, Race Plays a Key Role in Support of Charter Schools, New Polling Shows

    By Noble Ingram | May 12, 2019

    A poll released Friday by the advocacy organization Democrats for Education Reform casts new light on how race aligns with support for charter schools inside the party.

    More than half of both black and Latino Democratic primary voters view charter schools favorably, according to the poll, which was conducted by the Benenson Strategy Group. But only 26 percent of white Democratic primary voters agree. On average, just over one-third of Democratic voters support charter schooling, and about half do not.

    Those racial gaps also exist among millennials, according to a GenForward poll DFER included in its report. Findings suggest that millennial voters as a whole support charter schools, but they also report that over 75 percent think boosting teacher pay would do more to improve public education than creating more charters.


    Millennials Are More Likely to Support School Choice — a SXSWedu Panel Reveals Why

    To Charles Barone, chief policy officer for DFER, those results aren’t surprising. “Both things are important. We have 6 percent of students [nationwide] enrolled in charters … In some ways, raising salaries for teachers naturally is more impactful,” he says.

    Majority support for charter schools among black and Latino Democrats has remained relatively consistent, Barone said, but opposition from white Democrats has ticked up slightly in recent years. The polling research doesn’t explain what is contributing to the racial divide, but data in the past have shown that black and brown children are more likely to attend low-performing schools and their families are less likely to be satisfied with traditional public schools.

    The results come at a time of heightened attention on Democratic candidates and their position on charter schools in the lead-up to the 2020 presidential campaign. As the report notes, among those who voted for president in 2016, supporters of public charter schools outnumbered opposers by 22 percentage points. So far, few Democratic primary contenders have expressed detailed policy positions on charter schooling.

    Democrats for Education Reform

    The most notable exception is Sen. Cory Booker, who pushed to invest in charter schools and school choice in Newark, New Jersey, during his tenure as mayor. He continues to support that work today.


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

    Former congressman Beto O’Rourke has also praised charter schools — and his wife founded one — but unlike Booker, he has been noticeably quieter on the subject since declaring his candidacy. Like most Democrats, O’Rourke is courting support from teachers unions, which have generally been critical of charter schools. These privately run public schools typically aren’t unionized.

    Historically, charters schools have had stronger bipartisan support, says Sarah Reckhow, associate professor of political science at Michigan State University, noting steadily rising favorability through the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations. But political orientation on a more liberal-conservative spectrum may be starting to exert a stronger influence on public opinion.

    “What seems to be happening with charter schools is the beginning of that process of polarization,” she says.

    The Benenson poll DFER commissioned surveyed 1,004 Democratic primary voters nationally over the phone between May 31 and June 7, 2018. The GenForward survey included 1,910 adults ages 18-34 between July 26 and Aug. 13, 2018. The margin of error for both samples is plus or minus 3.8 percent at a 95 percent level of confidence. The polls are tied to DFER’s second edition of its Democratic Guide to Public Charter Schools, which comes out next week.

    Overall, the findings offer one path candidates may follow in their effort to appeal to voters of color. It also presents a potential counter-narrative to the idea that support for charter schools is absent from the Democratic party.

    “Our polling indicates it depends on who you’re talking about,” says Barone.


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  • Students Around the World Practice Mindfulness Together as Part of ClassDojo and Yale ‘Mindful Moment’ Initiative

    By Kate Stringer | May 10, 2019

    Children around the world will be paying particular attention to their breath on Friday in what may be the largest joint practice of mindfulness in schools.

    Called a “Mindful Moment,” students will participate in a meditative exercise at 11 a.m. in their time zone. It will be led by a video lesson from ClassDojo, an education app, that created the lesson in collaboration with the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, and partnered with the U.K. charity Beyond Shame Beyond Stigma to promote the global mindfulness day.

    Friday also marks the release of ClassDojo’s new series of videos and exercises created with Yale to promote mindfulness in schools, an effort they first started in 2017. The activities, which are aimed at K-8 students, will be rolled out through next week and are free for teachers to access. The mindfulness exercises cover topics like gratitude, focusing on the breath, relaxing the body and helping students manage anxiety.

    “It’s really about creating a large movement to get everybody across the world … to just pause and recognize the power of mindfulness,” said Marc Brackett, director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. “We are well trained at being inattentive.”

    The practice of mindfulness has been growing in schools, and while research shows a promising start in helping students pay attention and be more empathetic, there is still more to learn on the lasting benefits. Mindfulness practices can be short and therefore easy for teachers to fit into the school day.

    Research on students’ mental health shows that many are stressed and anxious. A recent national survey found that three-quarters of teens reported feeling stressed, while only half said their schools did a good job of teaching them ways to cope with these feelings.


    ClassDojo released its own survey of parents and teachers that use its app, which found that about two-thirds said students are better able to handle emotions after practicing mindfulness.

    Lynn Bamrick O’Meara, a kindergarten teacher at Beacon Elementary School, outside Detroit, will be leading her students in the Mindful Moment on May 10. O’Meara first started incorporating mindfulness into her kindergartners’ school day 14 years ago, having learned it from her own yoga practice. She uses the mantra “smell the roses and blow out the birthday candles” to help her young students breathe deeply.

    “We have many kids with challenges, and mindfulness really works,” O’Meara said. “We’re really trying to get them to own what they can have control over because there’s so much they don’t have control over, but how they choose to react is something they can control.”


    There’s Lots of Social-Emotional Support for Students, but Not for Teachers. Here Are Some Programs Looking to Change That

    Mindfulness is part of the larger umbrella of social-emotional learning that is also gaining traction in schools. Many educators are realizing that helping students practice skills like self-regulation, compassion and getting along with others is helpful to learning academic material. Social-emotional learning is supported by a growing field of research that indicates that teaching these skills can improve graduation rates, academic performance and mental health into adulthood.

    The Beyond Shame Beyond Stigma charity, which is helping promote the Mindful Moment, is headed by Jonny Benjamin, who is advocating for better mental health support for children in the U.K. Children in U.K. schools can participate in raising money for the charity as part of the Mindful Moment.

    Benjamin himself was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, and he credits a stranger for saving his life when he was considering jumping from London’s Waterloo Bridge 11 years ago. Since then, he’s launched mental health programs for schools, spoken on suicide prevention and written a book about his experience, with a foreword by Prince William.

    “I can honestly say that mindfulness has been life-changing for me, and I only wish I had been taught it when I was young,” Benjamin said in an email to The 74. “I really believe it would have made all the difference to my mental well-being.”

    ClassDojo doesn’t know how many schools will participate, but it hopes the Mindful Moment will reach thousands of children in the 180 countries that use its platform. The organization said that 15 million children have watched its mindfulness videos from 2017.


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  • Parents Select Schools Based on Way More Than Test Scores, Study Finds

    By Kevin Mahnken | May 8, 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.

    With the nationwide expansion of both charter schools and voucher-style tuition subsidy programs, growing numbers of families are selecting from an array of places to enroll their children in school. The question is, how do they make up their minds?

    Many in the education reform movement no doubt wish that those choices were entirely based on academics — particularly how well schools performed in lifting student scores on standardized tests. But recent studies have indicated that many parents care more about whether a given school is close to their house, offers extracurriculars like football or marching band, or features an extended school day.

    Now, recently published research provides further evidence that parents often look past test scores when choosing schools for their kids. Co-authored by Northwestern University professor C. Kirabo Jackson and international economist Diether Beuermann, the study finds that parents of different kinds of children favor schools that excel in different areas. And that might be wise, given the authors’ other finding: Schools that improve test scores may not be doing much to improve other life outcomes, such as teen pregnancy or employment.

    The study employs school information from the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago, where children enroll in secondary education (grades 6-10) after completing the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) and submitting four ranked choices for possible schools. Following the British model of secondary schooling, pupils take an additional low-stakes test in eighth grade, as well as a high-stakes exam that determines completion of the 10th grade. Higher-performing students take another high-stakes test around age 18, which qualifies participants for enrollment in college.

    Jackson and Beuermann examine data from more than 320,000 students between 1995 and 2012, collecting test scores as well as families’ initial ranked preferences for schools. They also track data for teen pregnancy, arrests, high school dropouts, and employment (via mandatory contributions to the country’s social security system). In doing so, they aim to discover how extensively test performance in Trinidad’s 152 public secondary schools is associated with those important life outcomes.

    The answer, they found, was not much. A school’s success in lifting student scores on high-stakes examinations is only very lightly correlated with reductions in incidence of teen pregnancy. They found no correlation between testing improvements and encounters with the criminal justice system, and a small negative correlation between testing improvements and employment.

    “Generally, the patterns suggests that school output is multidimensional such that … schools that improve academic skills are not necessarily those that improve broader adult well-being,” the authors write.

    That’s not to say that exam performance is meaningless, either to families or Trinidadian society at large. Passing those tests is a prerequisite for a range of benefits, including employment within the public sector and eligibility for university scholarship programs. And judging from the rankings they submit when applying for secondary schools, many families generally exhibit “strong preferences” for schools that raise scores: The average parent is willing to drive twice as far to drop their child off at a school in the 85th percentile of testing improvement rather than a school in the 15th percentile, the applications show.

    But those averages hide significant variation among different groups. Perhaps paradoxically, among the parents of kids who placed in the bottom half of SEA scores, there was no pattern of favoring schools that lifted scores on subsequent exams. It’s high-performing students who are ushered into those schools, Jackson and Beuermann find.

    “In contrast, parents of high-achieving children value school effectiveness a lot,” they write. “For those in the top decile of incoming test scores, parents … would be willing to travel more than four times as far to attend a secondary school.” In this case, four times the median school distance would be roughly half the width of Trinidad.

    And academic concerns are far from the only ones helping parents make these decisions. When choosing between two schools of similar academic performance, the average parent is willing to drive 35 percent farther to take her child to a school that meaningfully reduces student arrests; she is willing to drive 30 percent farther to a school that excels in preventing teen pregnancy.


    The greater the specificity of families being studied, the more the data reveal about their tendencies. Parents of high-achieving girls — who would obviously stand to lose the most if their schooling were sidetracked — show a willingness to triple their commute time to enroll their daughters in schools where teen pregnancy is comparatively rare. Parents of top-scoring boys are happy to select schools that increase their daily travel time by a staggering 1,000 percent.

    Parents, and especially parents of top students, are therefore capable of discerning between school benefits that extend well beyond test scores. That shows the potential of school choice to improve students’ lives, the authors conclude.

    “These results suggest that parents may be using reasonable measures of school quality when making investment decisions for their children — which is a key requirement for the potential benefits of school choice. The fact that parents do not only prefer schools that improve academics but also those that improve non-academic and longer-run outcomes suggests that the benefits to school choice may extend to a wide range of outcomes.”


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  • KIPP Weighs In on Higher Education Act Rewrite, Calls on Congress to Make College More Accessible to Low-Income Kids

    By Kevin Mahnken | May 8, 2019

    In a report released today, the KIPP Foundation called on Congress to make college more affordable and help students begin a path to finding good careers. By using federal money to pay for more high school guidance counselors and expand already-successful college completion programs, the organization said, lawmakers could open the door to millions more low-income and minority students earning their degrees.

    The report was released as both the House and Senate consider whether to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, a federal law governing most aspects of postsecondary education. The act was last updated in 2008, and many fear that it has fallen behind the times with respect to college access and affordability. Given the looming retirement of Sen. Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, some believe that a rare bipartisan effort to revisit the law could be in play ahead of the 2020 election season.


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

    While reauthorizing the act is a long-held goal of Alexander’s, it’s unknown whether the KIPP Foundation’s concerns are likely to be addressed. Much of the college debate has been dominated by the need to address the student loan debt burden and simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

    Richard Barth is CEO of the foundation, a nonprofit affiliated with the nationwide charter school network that educates more than 100,000 students in 224 schools.

    “For some people that might say, ‘You’re a K-12 system, this is not your swim lane,’ our commitment to our kids is that we’re setting them up to live a choice-filled life,” Barth told The 74. “We feel deeply responsible for taking our learning and sharing it with policymakers.”

    Barth said that he felt it necessary to share the sometimes dispiriting perspectives of the more than 28,000 KIPP alumni, most of whom have matriculated at colleges.

    The report details the challenges that many KIPP students — overwhelmingly from low-income and minority families — have encountered in college. The network, which has earned plaudits for its concerted efforts to track graduates through their college years and support them as they complete their degrees, surveys its alumni annually on campuses around the country.


    New Numbers Show Low-Income Students at Most of America’s Largest Charter School Networks Graduating College at Two to Four Times the National Average

    Among its discoveries: Seventy-two percent of respondents — roughly 3,500 KIPP alums — said they hadn’t pursued summer jobs or internships related to their desired career; 58 percent said they felt negatively judged because of their race; 57 percent said they worried about running out of food; and 42 percent said they’d missed meals to meet education-related expenses.

    Those findings were bolstered by a much larger survey of 86,000 college students in 123 colleges and universities across the country that was just released April 30. It found that more than half of college and university students faced housing insecurity in the past year and 45 percent of students were food insecure. Such challenges help explain why, according to the Pell Institute, just 11 percent of low-income students graduate from college after six years.

    The foundation’s findings, Barth said, made it clear that the network needed to be heard from on debates around higher education.

    “It makes you sick. It also makes you feel like, if we don’t do something about this, we’re not doing our jobs. We’re telling them, ‘[College] really is a great thing to do,’ and then almost half of them are making a choice of whether they eat or buy school materials.”

    The report lists five recommendations to include in a revised Higher Education Act, all designed to make college more accessible and affordable to students like those enrolled at KIPP charters:

    1. Direct federal funding to send more college counselors to high-need schools, where they are in short supply;

    2. Incentivize more spending on public university systems through a federal-state partnership focusing on need-based student aid;

    3. Launch and replicate pilot programs designed to lift college completion rates among low-income, minority, and first-generation college students;

    4. Invest directly in schools that already serve outsize numbers of disadvantaged students, such as historically black colleges and universities; and

    5. Expand the federal work-study program to assist students in securing internships and summer jobs that bring meaningful workplace experience.


    With High School Counselors Badly Outnumbered, Innovative Nonprofit Steps In to Offer Smart College Advising to Low-Income Students Across the Country

    The recommendations partially echo those issued in March by a group of financial aid administrators. They dovetail less with a proposal released by the White House, which focused more on workforce training and instituting student lending caps.

    KIPP has recently shown a willingness to weigh in on matters of public policy. Last year, it lobbied Congress to reach a permanent solution for students protected under DACA; the foundation also send an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in March, arguing against the administration’s proposed use of a citizenship question in the 2020 census.

    Barth said that the organization wouldn’t shrink from a role as public advocate with the stakes for its students set so high.

    “We’ve got a lot of lived experience, and there’s also a research base,” he said. “We feel like it is our obligation to bring that voice to bear.”


    A Challenge to Elite Colleges: Set Aside More Seats for Low-Income Achievers

    Disclosure: The 74’s CEO, Stephen Cockrell, served as director of external impact for the KIPP Foundation from 2015 to 2019. He played no part in the reporting or editing of this story.


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  • New ‘Holistic’ Center on School Safety at Johns Hopkins Aims to Arm a Nation Anxious Over Shootings With Evidence, Best Practices

    By Mark Keierleber | May 6, 2019

    As the toll of mass school shootings confounds the nation, the response has focused largely on heightened school security, from metal detectors to armed teachers. But a more comprehensive approach is crucial, Johns Hopkins University officials argued as the institution announced on Monday the creation of a new center focused on student safety and health.

    The Center for Safe and Healthy Schools brings together researchers from across disciplines at the Baltimore-based institution to tackle student well-being with a holistic approach — reaching far beyond high-profile but low-probability mass school shootings. Through research and education, the center aims to incorporate a range of issues — like youth suicide, trauma and bullying — into a broader conversation about how to foster safe and healthy school climates.

    Though the new center is housed within the School of Education, it includes faculty from public health, engineering and medicine. The comprehensive approach is crucial, School of Education Dean Christopher Morphew said, because a hyper-focus on school shootings and campus security is inadequate. Through the collaboration, university officials will explore issues including students’ physical and mental health, their relationships with school staff and neighborhood safety.

    “It’s certainly not clear that our response to these mass tragedies has done anything to make schools comprehensively safer places,” Morphew said. Part of the center’s work will explore the efficacy of school security technology and its effects on students. “We need to better understand what things like active-shooter training, for example, [are] doing to our kids’ psyches about schools and school environments.”


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

    Despite the heightened attention on the topic following the 2018 mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, federal education data suggest schools have become markedly safer in recent years. In fact, Johns Hopkins researchers are approaching the new center with that reality in mind.

    Sheldon Greenberg, professor of management in the School of Education, said he’s witnessed parent fear of school shootings firsthand. During a recent conference on youth violence, a mother said her 6-year-old daughter came home from school after practicing an active-shooter drill and said, “Mommy, if I die, I want you to know that I still love you.” It’s this perception, he said, that the center needs to work to overcome.

    “We’re telling them that their schools are dangerous places,” he said. “It’s not just implied, we’re saying it directly, when in fact schools are very safe places. About the safest place you can be on any given day in this country is in a school.”

    Greenberg and other Johns Hopkins researchers have already done significant work exploring the school security industry. In a 2016 report, researchers explored the wide range of school security products on the market and found a dearth of research on their ability to prevent student misbehavior or violence. Without an “honest broker” to test the efficacy of specific products, the report noted, school leaders may rely on vendor-sponsored research or word of mouth. Fear of violence, the Johns Hopkins report noted, plays a key role when districts implement new security measures.

    Beyond research, the new center will recommend best practices to school leaders, said Greenberg, a former police officer who has spent decades researching school safety. In one recent paper, Greenberg challenged efforts to arm teachers. Given that trained police officers shoot firearms with less than 30 percent accuracy, he wrote, it’s unlikely educators would perform better.

    “Research is great, but if it’s not getting to the hands of practitioners and making a difference in the classrooms and in the areas around schools, it’s problematic,” he said. Under the current security push, he said, educators are stripping from students the sense of schools as sanctuaries. “We’re imposing on young children fear of being in school, and we don’t know what the effect is going to be as they grow up. We can’t wait five or 10 years to address these things.”


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

    Between 1993 and 2016, fewer than 3 percent of youth homicides, and fewer than 1 percent of youth suicides, occurred in schools, according to a recent National Center for Education Statistics report. The perception of student safety post-Parkland, however, tells a different story. After the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, one poll found that about a third of parents feared for their child’s physical safety at school, a significant jump from the 12 percent who said the same in 2013. Another recent survey found that about three-quarters of parents with school-age children believe schools are less safe today than they were two decades ago.

    Beyond safety within a school’s walls, the center’s work will also track the role that the communities and neighborhoods surrounding schools play in keeping campuses safe. Morphew pointed to a Johns Hopkins study published in February, which found that students who commute to class through high-crime Baltimore neighborhoods are more likely to miss school. And previous research has found that exposure to violent crime hinders students’ test scores and graduation rates.

    These out-of-school stressors that children bring into classrooms should also be considered when exploring students’ perceptions of safety, said Amy Shelton, associate dean for research in the School of Education. Rather than focusing exclusively on efforts to prevent threats from entering school campuses, she said, the center will focus on factors within “an environment that fosters that kind of student.”

    “We can externally say a school looks safe, but if a child is not perceiving it as safe, or a parent is not perceiving it as safe, that’s almost the same from a learning perspective as it not being safe,” Shelton said. With a background in cognitive psychology and neuroscience, Shelton has focused her research on the academic potential of children from high-poverty communities. “Ultimately, what we want is learning success in these spaces, and the safe school itself is kind of the first step in bringing you there.”

    In the current environment, Morphew said, school leaders must make a range of safety decisions without the evidence to adequately understand sound strategies. That’s why a push to better train educators and school leaders will be a key component of the new center’s work, he said. Under the initiative, core courses in the School of Education will focus on strategies to create safer schools.

    “When I talk to principals, they tell me that they’re being asked to make decisions about the best security devices or how to spend money or make decisions about staffing or how to evaluate and use” school-based police, Morphew said, yet schools of education haven’t trained future school leaders about how to confront such challenges. “We want to solve that problem.”


    How Columbine Went Viral


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  • EduClips: From Helping Hawaii’s Teachers Find Housing to Philadelphia’s Blighted Former School Buildings, Headlines You Missed Last Week From America’s 15 Biggest School Districts

    By The 74 | May 4, 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 County — As Florida Pushes to Arm Teachers, Several Districts Opt Out: The Republican-controlled Florida Legislature recently passed a bill that would allow teachers to carry guns in the classroom, a move to make schools more secure after the 2018 shooting of 17 students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. But the Broward County School District, Parkland’s home district, won’t be participating. Nor will South Florida’s other two school districts: Palm Beach County and Miami Dade County. Despite opposition from top law enforcement officials and several school districts and teachers unions, Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is widely expected to sign the bill into law, according to Miami New Times. (Read at Miami New Times)

    Hawaii — Firm Offers Housing Assistance to Teachers Facing Island’s High Cost of Living: Hawaii school officials are hopeful that a San Francisco-based company that offers down payment assistance to public school teachers may help stem the tide of teachers who have departed due to the extremely high cost of living on the island. Landed Inc. has formed similar partnerships with school districts in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Seattle, Denver and San Diego. According to Honolulu Civil Beat, its model helps teachers stay in the high-cost areas they service by helping with a down payment in exchange for a future share in home appreciation. Average teacher salary is $57,000 in Hawaii — 18th in the nation, but dead last when adjusted for cost of living. The island lost 1,300 teachers last year, 500 of them leaving for the mainland due to Hawaii’s high cost of living in Hawaii. (Read at Honolulu Civil Beat)

    Los Angeles — Elite Parents Anxiously Await Second Wave of Prosecutions in College Admissions Scandal: An expected second wave of prosecutions in the college admissions fraud scandal has put scores of elite Los Angeles-area parents on edge about “which well-heeled executive or celebrity might be the next to be charged,” according to The New York Times. While the exact number of parents the prosecutors have met with is unclear, the lead prosecutor in the case met with at least two during a trip to Los Angeles in April. The college consultant at the heart of the case, William Singer, was based in Newport Beach, and many of his clients were from Los Angeles. As the Times reported, “Some of those clients are now grappling with a secret, nerve-racking waiting game, while fellow parents openly gloat about cheaters getting their due or whisper about which high school senior might have benefited from some shady help.” A second wave of prosecutions has been expected since prosecutors first announced they were charging 50 people in an elaborate scheme that included paying for spots at elite schools and cheating on college entrance exams. (Read at The New York Times)

    Puerto Rico — Odds Stacked Against Island Youth Who Want to Go to College: In Puerto Rico, only 694 high school graduates, or roughly 2 percent, go on to college in the U.S. mainland or abroad. Of this number, many are children from high-income families who, according to The Hechinger Report, “can afford to pay for private schools or to hire college consultants.” For the island, the report said, “it means an unremitting cycle in which too few people have the skills to work in knowledge-economy jobs — or create new opportunities and industries that can encourage other Puerto Ricans to go on to college.” (Read at The Hechinger Report)

    Philadelphia — Six Years After Sale, 7 Former Schools Remain Vacant, Blighted: When Philadelphia’s School Reform Commission bucked neighborhood pressure and closed 21 schools in 2013, officials promised that the buildings would be sold and blight avoided. But according to WHYY, seven of the properties remain vacant with no plans for reuse. Here is a stark description of one of the former campuses: “Broken glass, withered pieces of cardboard and used diapers lay at the front door of former Fairhill Elementary School. Graffiti pierces through a careless paint job. Windows are pried open.” The story indicated that all of the vacant buildings are in high-poverty neighborhoods where “residents are used to property owners abandoning their claim.” (Read at WHYY)

    Noteworthy Essays & Reflections

    COMMON CORE — Nearly a decade later, did the Common Core work? New research offers clues (Read at Chalkbeat)

    SCHOOL SHOOTINGS — Rash: Hear Me Screaming, North Carolina — Fear of Gun Violence Has No Place in Our Schools, at Our Colleges and Universities (Read at

    TEACHER PAY — My teacher salary was so low I slept in my car. Today, educators still barely get by. (Read at USA Today)

    SCHOOL DISCIPLINE — The Solution to School Discipline: Undercover School Leaders (Read at U.S. News and World Report)

    SCHOOL REFORM —Education Reform as We Know It Is Over. What Have We Learned? (Read at Education Week)

    Quotes of the Week

    “It’s become a homeless and vacant spot for people to sleep in. Sometimes they put the cars in front of it, and they burn them.” —Marilyn Rodriguez, who lives around the corner from the former Fairhill Elementary School in Philadelphia, and who once taught in its classrooms. Fairhill is one of seven schools that remain unused and blighted after the district’s School Reform Commission closed them in 2013. (Read at WHYY)

    “He’s a pretty chill dude.” —Dunbar High School senior Ciata Lattisaw, on new DC Schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee. (Read at

    “It was constant hate and control and manipulation. I felt like we were his slaves.” —Sharif Hassan, a former student at Atlah High School, one of two schools run by the Atlah World Missionary Church in Harlem led by Pastor James Manning. The church has been labeled an anti-LGBT hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. (Read at HuffPost)

    “Respectfully, in Miami-Dade, we believe that safety and security shall be provided by law enforcement, the only entities allowed to carry firearms into schools, not teachers.” —Alberto Carvalho, Miami-Dade superintendent, on the district’s decision to not follow the state’s lead in allowing teachers to be armed. (Read at Miami New Times)

    “Our No. 1 job as adults in this system has got to be that every child who shows up to school can learn feeling safe, being safe, in an environment that’s orderly. If we can’t meet that, we’ve got a real problem on our hands. We’ve got to keep those kids front and center as well.” —Mike Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. (Read at


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