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June 2019
  • Supreme Court, Weighing In on Trump Plan to End Relief to Undocumented Immigrants, Agrees to Hear DACA Case

    By Mark Keierleber | June 28, 2019

    The Supreme Court announced on Friday it will consider the fate of young undocumented immigrants protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. The program has been in limbo since 2017, when the Trump administration announced an end to the Obama-era initiative, which grants work permits and deportation relief to undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.

    The court will hear arguments in the case in its next term, which begins in October. Several federal judges have ordered the government to maintain protections for DACA recipients as lawsuits against the Trump administration work their way through the courts. Headed to the Supreme Court is a lawsuit filed by the University of California and its president, former homeland security secretary Janet Napolitano, who wrote DACA.

    In a recent interview, Napolitano highlighted the need for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform and attacked the Trump administration’s “anti-immigrant animus.” DACA recipients who attend the University of California, she said, are “excellent students.”

    “Why would we throw the resources of the federal government against them and deport them?” she asked. “It makes absolutely no sense. This is a fixable issue, and Congress ought to fix it.”

    As we previously covered in The 74 earlier this year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • EduClips: From NYC’s Teacher Retention Woes to New Fallout From Parkland Shooting, School News You Missed This Week From America’s 15 Biggest Districts

    By The 74 | June 27, 2019

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

    New York City — Teachers Leaving City Pose “Crisis” for District: Declaring “a teacher retention crisis in New York City,” Comptroller Scott Stringer noted that 41 percent of city teachers hired in the 2012-13 school year had left the job. In order to preserve continuity, Stringer called for a new residency program focused on training. The proposed program would offer rookie educators a $30,000 stipend to work in a city school during their final year of graduate school. “We provide just weeks of in class training to aspiring teachers and no mentorship whatsoever,” he said. We can’t keep accepting a status quo where we lose half of our teachers in the workforce every five years.” (Read at the New York Post)

    Broward County — Two More Deputies Fired in Connection to Parkland Shooting: Two sheriff’s deputies were fired this week after an investigation found that neither tried to locate and confront the gunman during last year’s mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen students and faculty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were killed during the massacre on Feb. 14, 2018. According to an Internal Affairs report, deputies Josh Stambaugh and Edward Eason moved away from the source of the gunshots, prompting Sheriff Gregory Tony to describe their actions as “a neglect of duty.” Two other deputies, Scot Peterson and Sgt. Brian Miller, were previously fired in connection to their response to the shooting. Earlier this year, Peterson was charged with 11 criminal counts, including negligence and perjury. (Read at NPR)

    Los Angeles — Amid Fiscal Turmoil, Board Passes $7.8 Billion Budget: Despite declaring the documents to be “unintelligible,” L.A. Unified board members passed a $7.8 billion budget and accountability plan for 2019-20 last week. The move came after a highly touted parcel tax proposal failed and just a week after parents complained that the budget documents lacked transparency. The three-year, annually updated accountability document is a blueprint for the district’s goals and plans to improve student performance. The board’s move comes amid a year of fiscal struggle, including threats of a county takeover to shore up the district’s wayward finances. (Read at The74Million.org)

    Hillsborough County — Incoming Freshman Dies During Summer Football Drills: Schools in the Tampa area halted all summer workouts and athletic activities after a 14-year-old collapsed while participating in football drills. Hours after the death of incoming freshman Hezekiah Walters, the district ordered coaches to complete a review of safety procedures at every school. “Our family is heartbroken with the loss of Hezekiah,” the Walters family said in a statement sent to the Tampa Bay Times. “We are still in shock and asking God to provide us peace.” The Hillsborough County Medical Examiner’s Office is investigating the cause of his death. (Read at the Tampa Bay Times)

    Fairfax County — Drama Teacher Arrested in Connection With Filming of Students: A Fairfax County high school drama teacher was arrested in connection with the filming of what police described as “dozens and dozens” of female students in a dressing area and other locations. Police said Raphael Schklowsky will face multiple charges for the videos, taken via cell phone and remote camera between May 2017 and June 2018. Schklowsky’s lawyer, Edward Ungvarsky, declined to comment. The teacher, who was previously charged with unlawfully filming his au pair and possessing child pornography, has been suspended without pay. (Read at The Washington Post)

    Noteworthy Essays & Reflections

    STUDENT DEBT — Canceling Student Debt Doesn’t Make Problems Disappear (Read at The New York Times)

    SCHOOL CHOICE —Walsh: School Choice Is Not a Zero-Sum Game — How a Texas Superintendent Created District-Charter Partnerships to Help All Kids Succeed (Read at The74Million.org)

    PERSONALIZED LEARNING — What New Research Can Teach Schools Looking to Put Personalized Learning Into Practice (Read at Education Week)

    PARENTS — How parents can help dismantle transphobic and homophobic school climates (Read at The Washington Post)

    HEALTH — Study: Stay in School to Skip Heart Disease (Read at U.S. News and World Report)

    Quotes of the Week

    “For the past two days, I have felt like I have been kicked in the sternum by Godzilla wearing steel-toed boots.” —Providence Teachers Union President Maribeth Calabro, on a scathing report from Johns Hopkins University that lambasted the district for poor academic performance, unsafe schools and lackluster morale. (Read at The74Million.org)

    “Education reform isn’t a cure-all. As a supporter of education reform, I agree that fixing educational inequality requires doing more to address the broader, systemic sources of economic inequality.” —former president Barack Obama. (Read on Twitter)

    “Let’s not mince words here. There’s a teacher retention crisis in New York City.” —New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, on reports that 41 percent of city teachers hired during the 2012-13 school year left during their first five years on the job. (Read at the New York Post)

    “Without support, no one can do this job.” —mentor and fifth-grade teacher Ambar Quinones. (Read at The74Million.org)

    “Education clearly has not been at the top of his list of priorities to address directly. But he has been very supportive of all the work that we have done.” —Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, on President Trump’s policy priorities. (Read at Politics K-12)

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  • Video Replay: Are We on the Verge of a Breakthrough in Reversing America’s ‘Diploma Disparity’? Special Aspen Ideas Festival Conversation Looks to Improve Equity on College Campuses

    By Steve Snyder | June 26, 2019

    Updated 

    Students from low-income families have just a 13 percent chance of graduating from college within six years. That stark fact has driven a good deal of our education coverage over the past year. It’s also the urgent education crisis that motivated us to join forces with journalist Richard Whitmire in publishing his newest book, The B.A. Breakthrough: How Ending Diploma Disparities Can Change the Face of America. (You can see the special B.A. Breakthrough microsite, order the book and read the most popular chapters at The74Million.org/Breakthrough)

    On June 28, this broader issue of America’s “diploma disparity” took center stage at the 2019 Aspen Ideas Festival, as University of California President Janet Napolitano was joined in conversation by Aspen Institute CEO Dan Porterfield, Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson and the New York Times’ David Brooks for the panel “Ending Diploma Disparities Can Change the Face of America.” Whitmire introduced the event, offering up lessons and reflections from his time reporting out the book.

    Here’s a full video replay from Colorado:

    Leading up to June’s event, we published an array of interviews, essays, news and analysis tied to these panelists and the bigger issues of equity, mobility and college completion:

    Janet Napolitano: 74 Interview — University of California president and former Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano on DACA, Title IX and the value of college (Read the full interview)

    Janice Jackson: Pulling all the levers — Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson on getting more students to and through college (Read the full interview)

    Dan Porterfield: From Georgetown to Franklin & Marshall to Aspen, how Dan Porterfield is leading a revolution to get first-generation students through college with a degree (Read the full profile)

    Richard Whitmire: As school districts collaborate with top charters and foundations, we’re on the cusp of a breakthrough in guiding low-income and minority students to a college diploma (Read the full story)

    Research: New Pell Institute study finds “critical” gap in college success between low- and high-income students. Here are 3 reasons for hope (Read the full story)

    Analysis: New numbers show that low-income students at most of America’s largest charter school networks are graduating from college at two to four times the national average (Read the full story)

    College Statistics: Alarming stats tell the story behind America’s college completion crisis: Nearly a third of all college students still don’t have a degree six years later (Read the full story)

    High School Analysis: When it comes to predicting which college students will actually go on to attain a bachelor’s degree, high school GPA is king (Read the full story)

    Community College: Expanding the community college-to-university pipeline — Why more elite schools are embracing transfers and the 15,000 annual community graduates with 3.7 GPAs (Read the full story)

    Go Deeper: Read excerpts, analyze the numbers and download Richard Whitmire’s new book, The B.A. Breakthrough: How Ending Diploma Disparities Can Change the Face of America at The74Million.org/Breakthrough

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    Disclosure: The Walton Family Foundation is a sponsor of the Aspen Ideas Festival and provides financial support to The 74.



  • Education Leaders in Heated Debate About International Survey Finding Most Teachers Don’t Feel Valued on the Job

    By Mark Keierleber | June 20, 2019

    Top officials across the political spectrum debated strategies to professionalize teaching Thursday, a day after an international survey found that educators in the U.S. — and globally — overwhelmingly like their jobs but feel undervalued by the public.

    The panel, which convened at the Georgetown University law school in Washington, got testy at times, particularly when discussing the value of recent teacher protests over school funding and pay. The Teaching and Learning International Survey, which was coordinated by the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), quizzed U.S. principals and teachers involved in grades 7 to 9 on a host of issues, including their backgrounds, professional development and attitudes toward the profession, and compared their responses with educators in other industrialized countries.

    In the U.S., the survey found, 90 percent of teachers reported satisfaction with their jobs, yet only 36 percent believe that society values their work. Additionally, the survey found that teachers in the U.S. reported working longer hours than those in most other countries.

    The panel Thursday, hosted by FutureEd at Georgetown, touched on a range of hot-button topics, from the value of teacher preparation to teacher evaluations.

    Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said the survey results support the case for the recent surge in educator activism. The effects of the protests on the profession has been “riveting,” she said, because they’ve empowered educators to recognize a pathway to secure the “resources and the latitude that they need to help their kids learn.” She said teachers tried more traditional strategies — like advocating for policy before state legislatures — but didn’t find success.

    “They’ve tried and they’ve tried and they’ve gotten the door shut in their face and they’ve been disparaged,” she said. But through protests, they’ve secured a “path by which they’ve gotten some power to change the conditions.”

    Assistant Education Secretary Jim Blew offered a swift rebuttal, calling Weingarten’s statements an “unfortunate narrative” if teachers are being told the only way to gain power is to walk off the job. Strikes, he said, aren’t necessary to secure better funding for schools.

    Though Weingarten and National Council on Teacher Quality President Kate Walsh sparred on several occasions during the panel, on this point the two agreed. It’s unclear how teachers are supposed to grab legislators’ attention without striking, Walsh said.

    Again, Blew fired back.

    “There’s a union that represents the teachers that’s really very effective at their lobbying operation,” he said. “So their voice is heard — their voice dominates — education policy discussions at every state level.”

    In several states, such as Oklahoma, where teachers protested over education funding, their activism resulted in school funding increases, according to a recent report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

    Related

    Report: Teacher Protests Fueled School Funding Surge in States Hit Hard by Recession

    Globally, reducing class sizes by recruiting more staff was the most important spending priority for educators, followed by a goal of improving teacher salaries. In the United States, better teacher salaries was the top spending priority, with nearly 70 percent of American educators rating higher teacher pay as being of “high importance.”

    “No surprise, the United States teacher salaries are not particularly competitive when you compare this across OECD countries, so you can see why teachers put this as a priority,” said Andreas Schleicher, the organization’s director for education and skills.

    For Weingarten, raising pay is a key ingredient to bolstering teaching as a profession.

    “They want to make sure they have enough salary so that they can actually pay their student loans, deal with health care, have a vacation every once in a while for their families, raise a family in the community in which they teach,” she said, noting that educators often earn less than workers in other professions with similar skill requirements. “Pay is an issue not only in terms of dignity and respect, but in terms of being able to live a middle-class life.”

    Meanwhile, panel participants highlighted the need to bolster teacher preparation and professional development. Although the quality of professional development for educators is a subject of hot debate, American teachers who participated in the survey were less likely to report a “high need” for professional development on a range of subjects such as school management and administration and educating students with special needs.

    But in the U.S., Blew said, “a third of children are simply not getting well-educated,” and “radical changes” are necessary. Among them is a Trump administration proposal to use $200 million in federal Title II grant funds to create a voucher program that would allow educators to select their own areas of professional development.

    “We’d love to see what teachers would do with the money themselves rather than how it’s being imposed on them,” he said.

    Walsh said the need to bolster teacher preparation is critical, but she expressed reservations about the voucher proposal and questioned whether the strategy would garner better results.

    “There have been a lot of efforts to let teachers decide what kind of professional development they want or need,” but they haven’t experienced great success rates, Walsh said. A better use of Title II funds, she said, is to pay teachers to work in high-needs schools that are disproportionately staffed by inexperienced educators. “Not one single state is using the money to do that,” Walsh noted.

    Related

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

    As for bolstering the reputation of teaching as a profession, Walsh said the answers are simple. Yes, salary plays a critical role, she said, but so does teacher preparation — educators’ first introduction to the profession. She said student teaching opportunities, in particular, are “done really badly.”

    “The first experience that we have as teachers is not a very good one, and that carries over into a culture that mimics that rather mediocre attempt at treating you like a professional,” Walsh said. “I don’t understand why we have turned our back on student teaching as our first obligation — not just our first opportunity, but our first obligation — to set up a culture where teachers learn to be experts.”

    Again turning testy, Weingarten said more factors are still at play: Teachers, she said, need to have a voice in decision-making. But the sense on the ground, Walsh said, is that they “haven’t earned it.”

    “They’ve gone to an ed school where everybody makes an A, in fact we’re busy getting rid of the few bars there are to get into the profession,” Walsh said, adding that some state lawmakers are working to scrap teacher licensure exams. “We’re doing everything the opposite of everything we need to do to make sure that teachers who have graduated from a teacher preparation program are respected and given that autonomy, because they deserve it and earn it.”

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  • EduClips: From an End to Student Searches in L.A. to a New Law Helping Illinois Kids Avoid Gang Territory, School News You Missed This Week From America’s 15 Biggest Districts

    By The 74 | June 20, 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.

    Hawaii — ACLU Says Hawaii Schools Are Suspending Too Many Students: Since the most recent federal school discipline data were released, Hawaiian educators have expressed concerns about a sizable racial disparity among school suspensions, showing that Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are more likely to be removed from class. But, as Honolulu Civil Beat reports, “the sheer number of instructional days missed in Hawaii as the result of school suspensions and arrests [is] drawing the attention of a national civil liberties group in the wake of the federal data.” (Read at Honolulu Civil Beat)

    California — L.A. Unified Board Votes to End Random Student Searches: This week’s meeting of the L.A. Unified School District board was overrun with activists, many of them students, who attended to speak out against the city’s policy of student searches. As the Los Angeles Times reports, “School leaders voted Tuesday to end a policy of randomly searching students with metal detectors during the school day, a decades-old practice that a coalition of students and advocates has been trying to eliminate for years.” (Read at the Los Angeles Times)

    New York — Some Students Get Extra Time for New York’s Elite High School Entrance Exam. 42 Percent Are White: The stakes are high when New York City’s middle school students sit down to take an exam that will determine who is admitted into the top public high schools. As The New York Times reports: “Those students have three hours, a race against the clock to answer questions on subjects like trigonometry and to analyze reading passages. But a few hundred students have double the time to take the exam, and there appears to be a racial disparity in who is receiving this special accommodation, which is covered under a federal designation known as a 504 … White students in New York City are 10 times as likely as Asian students to have a 504 designation that allows extra time on the specialized high school entrance exams. White students are also twice as likely as their black and Hispanic peers to have the designation. Students in poverty are much less likely to have a 504 for extra time.” (Read at The New York Times)

    Illinois — New Illinois Law Allows Schools to Offer Kids Bus Rides Around Gang Territory: The state of Illinois is beginning to implement a 2018 law giving districts new authority to help students avoid dangerous commutes. “Schools across the state of Illinois will now have the option to put kids on the school bus so they don’t have to walk through gang territory,” reports The Center Square. “Under the plan, schools will work with parents and local police departments to map blocks where school kids shouldn’t walk. Then the district would figure out how to get those kids on a school bus.” (Read at The Center Square)

    Florida — Florida Lottery Concerned Gambling Warning Labels Could Impact Education Funds: Gov. Ron DeSantis is considering new legislation that would add labels to the front of lottery tickets, warning purchasers about gambling addiction, the Pensacola News Journal reports. “An initial projection about the bill’s impact on education funding was made in March. But, appearing Wednesday before state economists, Florida Lottery Director of Product Shelly Gerteisen said officials have subsequently learned that the warning labels could affect the state’s participation in multi-state games such as Powerball and Mega Millions and end scratch-off games that feature the TV shows The Price Is Right and Wheel of Fortune and board games Monopoly and Scrabble.” (Read at the Pensacola News Journal)

    Kansas — State Supreme Court Lets Legislature Off the Hook on K-12 Funding … For Now: Kansas has been engaged in a legal showdown over education spending for more than 30 years. Now Education Week’s Daarel Burnette II reports that the state’s top court has offered a temporary reprieve: “Kansas’ supreme court said Friday that the state was on track to provide an adequate education for its public school students under a long-running school finance lawsuit. But while the court said that the $90 million extra the state set aside for its schools during this year’s legislative session was a step in the right direction, it did not permanently close the case known as Gannon v. Kansas. That leaves the possibility of future battles between the state’s high court and the legislature over how Kansas should fund its schools.” (Read more at Education Week)

    Philadelphia — Parents Fuming After Their Kindergartners Are Booted From South Philly Elementary to Make Room for Kids From Wealthier School: “Some South Philadelphia schools are bursting at the seams, increasingly filled with middle-class families choosing to stay in Philadelphia and invest in its public school system,” reports The Philadelphia Inquirer. “But a Philadelphia School District move to give away kindergarten seats at George W. Nebinger School, a diverse and largely low-income elementary school, to overflow children from its neighboring William M. Meredith School, a whiter and wealthier elementary school, has sparked controversy since the affected families received notice this week.” (Read at The Philadelphia Inquirer)

    National — Watchdog Warns Education Department Should Remedy Underreporting of Seclusion and Restraint Data: The department should take immediate action to remedy underreporting of seclusion and restraint in federal civil rights data, a government watchdog said in a report released Tuesday. Carolyn Phenicie reports that 70 percent of districts reported no incidences of seclusion and restraint in the 2015-16 Civil Rights Data Collection, but an analysis indicates that it likely didn’t capture all data. (Read more at The74Million.org)

    Noteworthy Essays & Reflections

    INEQUALITY — Better Schools Won’t Fix America (Read at The Atlantic)

    SCHOOL DISCIPLINE — If You Won’t Do Restorative Justice Right, Don’t Do It (Read at Education Week)

    FACT CHECK — Where Have You Gone, Cory Booker? (Read at The74Million.org)

    POLITICS — The Precarious Position of the Charter School Sector (Read at U.S. News & World Report)

    ACTIVISM — Strikes, pay raises & charter protests: America’s teachers’ exhausting, exhilarating year (Read at USA Today)

    Quotes of the Week

    “I think that the message out of OCR, since the Trump administration took office, is we’re a law-and-order division on those issues we care about, and everything else can go to hell.”—Brett Sokolow, president of the Association of Title IX Administrators, on efforts to scale back Title IX enforcement. (Read at The74Million.org)

    “You can’t hold a phone and hold a drill at the same time.” —Marjorie Schulman, executive director of Brooklyn Boatworks, which is working with middle school students to build handmade, full-size wooden boats. (Read at The New York Times)

    “One size doesn’t fit all — support West Virginia schools. Keep up the great work @WVGovernor Big Jim Justice — I am with you.” —President Donald J. Trump, stepping into the middle of a skirmish between Justice and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. (Read on Twitter)

    “The party elites are polarized, and the voters who are going to be choosing the Democratic candidate are not moderates. This isn’t 1992, and the Democratic primary nominees aren’t looking for a ‘Sister Souljah moment.’ There’s nothing to be gained by showing that you’ll take a stand against your party’s conventional position.” —Michael Hartney, a professor of political science at Boston College. (Read at The74Million.org)

    “Part of what the far right is doing in every domain is trying to push that line of what’s acceptable. The N-word has become one of the skirmishes in this larger war. Harvard is pushing back and saying, ‘Nope, that’s not acceptable behavior.’” —Jessie Daniels, a sociology professor at Hunter College, on Harvard University’s decision to rescind its acceptance to Parkland shooting survivor Kyle Kashuv for what it described as racist exchanges on Twitter. (Read at NPR)

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  • Key Takeaway From International Educator Survey: At a Time of Growing Protests, U.S. Teachers Say They Feel Satisfied but Undervalued

    By Mark Keierleber | June 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: See our full series.

    Teachers in the United States work long hours and feel undervalued by the public — but like their jobs anyway.

    Those findings, from an international education survey released Wednesday, offer fodder for all sides of a debate about teacher pay and working conditions that is mobilizing teachers to protest across the country.

    The Teaching and Learning International Survey, coordinated by the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, surveyed teachers and their principals in 49 industrialized countries, including U.S. teachers and principals involved in grades 7-9. Educators were quizzed on a host of issues, including their backgrounds, professional development and attitudes toward the profession.

    Here are five key findings from the report:

    1 American Teachers: Satisfied but Undervalued

    Despite the recent surge in teacher unrest, 90 percent of U.S. teachers who participated in the survey reported that they’re satisfied with their jobs. But another finding offers important shading: Despite the high personal job satisfaction, the survey found that only 36 percent of U.S. teachers believe that society values their work.

    That yawning gap is not unique to the U.S. Across countries that participated in the survey, job satisfaction was generally high. Teachers in Mexico reported the highest level of job satisfaction, with 98 percent of educators saying they felt positive about their careers. The lowest rate of job satisfaction was in England, with 77 percent.

    U.S. educators also hewed close to the international average on the question of whether they believe society valued their profession. But the results varied widely between the countries: 92 percent of teachers in Vietnam reported feeling valued, compared with 5 percent in the Slovak Republic.

    Results from the survey don’t speak directly to the recent rise in teacher activism, said Peggy Carr, associate commissioner of assessment at the National Center for Education Statistics, which administered the survey in the U.S. But she said the findings do provide some insight.

    “Teachers love their jobs all across the globe,” she said, but they also feel undervalued. “There’s a message there, I think, that we need to think about.”

    Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

    While the surge of recent teacher protests centered largely on education funding and salaries, the international survey didn’t touch on those issues directly. But another finding, Carr said, could play a role in educator unrest:

    2 American Teachers Work Longer Hours

    Educators in the U.S. reported spending more time teaching than those in other countries. U.S. teachers spend an average of 28 hours per week teaching and 46 hours each week at work. Educators across the surveyed countries reported working an average of 38 hours each week, with 20 hours spent teaching.

    Educators in Chile also reported teaching an average of 28 hours per week, while those in Kazakhstan reported teaching only an average 15 hours a week. But classroom instruction is only one part of teachers’ jobs. When factoring in other duties, like grading and planning, teachers in Japan boasted the longest workweeks, lasting 56 hours on average.

    3 U.S. Educators Are Better Educated but Less Experienced

    Among U.S. teachers in the survey, 98 percent reported they have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with an average of 93 percent across the surveyed countries. But teachers in the U.S. are also slightly less experienced. Teachers in the U.S. had 15 years of teaching experience on average, compared with an average of 17 years internationally.

    The same held true for principals. In the U.S., 99 percent of participating principals reported they hold a master’s degree or higher, significantly greater than the international average of 61 percent. While principals in the U.S. and across the surveyed countries have nine years of leadership experience on average, American principals tend to have less of a background in teaching: 12 years, versus 20 years among their global counterparts.

    4 A Global Gender Divide Between Teachers and Principals

    In the U.S. and elsewhere, women make up the majority of the teaching workforce. The opposite is true for principals.

    Among surveyed teachers in the U.S., 66 percent are female, compared with 69 percent across participating countries. Meanwhile, men comprise just over half of principals in the U.S. and internationally.

    5 Teachers in the U.S. Report Little Need for Professional Development

    The survey asked teachers whether they needed professional development in 14 separate areas, such as teaching students with special needs, communicating with people from different cultures or countries, and school management and administration. Regardless of the category, however, few American teachers reported a “high level of need” for professional development. The value of professional development in the U.S. remains a major point of controversy. A  2015 study by the nonprofit TNTP found that despite significant spending on professional development, the efforts often fail to help teachers improve in the classroom.

    Outside the U.S., educators were more likely to report a high need for professional development on each of the 14 areas. For example, 9 percent of U.S. teachers reported a need for professional development on teaching students with special needs, compared with the international average of 24 percent.

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  • No Exceptions: New York, Washington, Maine Abolish Religious Exemptions for Measles Vaccine, California Looks to Limit Medical Exemptions

    By Laura Fay | June 17, 2019

    Update, June 18: California Sen. Richard Pan updated the proposed legislation there to expand the list of medical conditions for vaccine exemptions and loosen the role of government oversight in granting exemptions. The state Assembly Health Committee is expected to vote on the measure Thursday, according to The Los Angeles Times.

    The measles outbreaks that have spread through different parts of the country this year are causing lawmakers and advocates in several states to rethink their policies about vaccinations, despite ongoing skepticism and sometimes-fierce political pushback from anti-vaxxers.

    New York, Maine and Washington state have all taken steps to restrict vaccine exemptions based on religious beliefs this year, and California is considering a measure to tighten up its existing policy governing medical exemptions.

    Since Jan. 1, 1,044 cases of measles have been reported in the United States. The disease was declared eliminated from the U.S. in 2000, but the Centers for Disease Control warned in May that if the outbreaks continue through the summer and fall, the United States could lose its status as a country that has eradicated measles.

    The most recent measles death in the U.S. occurred in 2015, but before the vaccine was common, the disease killed hundreds of children each year, according to the CDC.

    New York lawmakers voted last week to end religious exemptions for all required vaccines. The state does not allow for personal or philosophical exemptions, so now all children must receive the mandatory vaccinations to attend school unless they have a medical reason they cannot receive them. The law went into effect immediately but gives students 30 days to catch up on immunizations after they enroll in school.

    New York has seen the worst of the current measles outbreak, with New York City alone reporting 588 cases since September.

    Assemblyman Nader Sayegh, a Democrat from Yonkers, voted in favor of the bill to allow it to advance out of the health committee but voted against the measure when the Assembly voted. The law ultimately passed with a narrow margin in the Assembly amid protests.

    Sayegh, who previously worked as a principal and school board member, told The 74 he is not against vaccinations — all of his children are immunized, he said — but he was concerned about taking away parental freedom and children potentially missing class because of their immunization record.

    “Having my educator hat on, having kids out of school really is upsetting for me,” he said.

    Still, Sayegh said he thought the full Assembly should be able to debate the measure and take a vote.

    Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the bill ending religious exemptions as soon as it reached his desk. The New York outbreak has largely been concentrated in ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn and Rockland County, where misinformation has spread rapidly and some see vaccine refusal as a religious freedom issue.

    “The science is crystal clear: Vaccines are safe, effective and the best way to keep our children safe,” Cuomo said in a statement. “This administration has taken aggressive action to contain the measles outbreak, but given its scale, additional steps are needed to end this public health crisis.”

    All 50 states and Washington, D.C., have vaccine requirements for children to attend school, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The Supreme Court ruled in the 1905 case Jacobson v. Massachusetts that states have the authority to make vaccines mandatory. That ruling was reaffirmed in a 1922 case that allowed the San Antonio, Texas, school district to exclude unvaccinated children from school.

    All states allow medical exemptions, such as for children with allergies or autoimmune disorders who cannot receive immunizations, and most allow exemptions for philosophical or religious reasons as well.

    In Maine, where the vaccine opt-out rate is above the national average, lawmakers voted earlier this month to end all nonmedical exemptions.

    A Massachusetts lawmaker has also introduced a bill to end religious exemptions there.

    On the West Coast, actress Jessica Biel raised eyebrows this week when she lobbied against an effort by some California lawmakers to tighten the state’s policies regarding medical exemptions. After a 2014 measles outbreak originated at Disneyland, California enacted some of the country’s strictest vaccine policies, requiring students to have a doctor’s form citing a medical reason if they are not vaccinated.

    Biel said that she is in favor of vaccines generally but thinks the proposal goes too far.

    “I support children getting vaccinations and I also support families having the right to make educated medical decisions for their children alongside their physicians,” she wrote on Instagram.

    The bill in question would take away doctors’ ability to grant medical exemptions and instead require parents to request exemptions from the California Department of Public Health, submitting documentation from a doctor with the application. California has reported 52 cases of measles in 2019.

    California Gov. Gavin Newsom has also expressed some concern about putting the power in the hands of government officials instead of medical professionals. “I’m a parent, I don’t want someone that the governor of California appointed to make a decision for my family,” the Democrat said.

    Vaccinate California, the California Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, California, are co-sponsoring the bill.

    Research published last year in Pediatrics indicated that some doctors in California were granting medical exemptions for children who did not need them, sometimes charging parents a fee in exchange for the exemption form.

    Lawmakers in Washington state have also reacted to the measles outbreak. They were not able to get enough support to fully end nonmedical exemptions, but they did pass a law that ends the personal and philosophical exemptions from the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) shot. Washington was an early epicenter of the measles outbreak, prompting Gov. Jay Inslee to declare a state of emergency in January.

    “We would have preferred removing the personal exemption for all vaccines, but we weren’t able to — there was so much political pushback,” said Washington state Rep. Monica Stonier, a Democrat. “We just wanted to get something done.”

    Correction: There have been 52 reported cases of measles in California in 2019. An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the year-to-date total. 

    Related

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

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  • EduClips: From a No-Confidence Vote Against Las Vegas’s Superintendent to the New York City Mayor’s Teenage Education Critic, School News You Missed This Week From America’s 15 Biggest Districts

    By Andrew Brownstein | June 13, 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.

    Broward County — Arrest of Parkland Deputy Poses Thorny Legal Questions for Florida’s Armed Teachers: Following the arrest of a Broward County Sheriff’s deputy who hid outside during the 2018 Parkland school massacre, the sponsor of a Florida bill that allows classroom teachers to carry guns said it’s possible armed teachers could face similar legal ramifications if they fail to keep kids safe during a shooting. “Whether it’s involving a firearm or not, if there’s an employee who did not do everything in their power to protect students in that situation, they would be open up to facing those kinds of charges,” Sen. Manny Diaz, a Republican representing Hialeah, said. Representatives of the Florida Education Association, the state teachers union, said the arrest of Scot Peterson has the potential to make the law even more dangerous by shifting legal responsibility to teachers. (Read at the Tampa Bay Times)

    Philadelphia — Is Race a Factor in Closure of Minority-Owned Charter Schools?: The CEO of Eastern University Academy Charter School in Philadelphia said that his school is facing closure partly due to race. The school has repeatedly underperformed on standardized tests, and one year, none of its seventh- or eighth-graders tested proficient in math. But CEO Omar Barlow notes that nearly 75 percent of its students went to college in the fall after graduating last year, compared with just half of the district’s. “What else could they be targeting, when a number of traditional public schools that our young people would attend if we closed are failing miserably?” he asked. The Philadelphia Inquirer suggests the closure may be part of a pattern: “Over the last five years, nine of 14 Philadelphia charter schools that have closed or agreed to close if they didn’t meet conditions were minority-run, according to district officials. Four of five pending nonrenewals earlier this year were minority-run.” (Read at the Philadelphia Inquirer)

    New York City — Meet Tiffani Torres, Mayor de Blasio’s 16-Year-Old Gadfly: In a very short time, a 16-year-old junior at Pace High School in Manhattan has become a gadfly for New York City mayor and presidential aspirant Bill de Blasio. Tiffani Torres, an activist with Teens Take Charge, which advocates for integrating the city’s schools, has pressed the mayor on issues of integration and segregation. Though she has appeared twice on the “Ask the Mayor” call-in segment of WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show, the mayor has refused to see her. He told her that she “isn’t hearing what we’re saying to you.” In a wide-ranging interview with Chalkbeat, Torres said the mayor has it backwards. “He’s kind of just disappeared even though we’ve been there supporting him every step of the way,” she said. “And for him to say that we aren’t hearing him, I could definitely say the same thing, except me saying that is accurate and him saying that is just deflecting.” (Read at Chalkbeat)

    Los Angeles — CA Charter Task Force Delivers Report Calling for Greater Oversight, Funding Assistance: In a much-anticipated report, a California charter school task force outlined four unanimously approved measures, including one that would maintain funding for district schools one year after a student transfers to a charter school. Other recommendations would create a statewide entity to oversee charters and train their authorizers, and allow greater discretion for schools to examine academic outcomes and enrollment saturation when considering new charter petitions. The report’s release may put pressure on Gov. Gavin Newsom to stake out a position on the simmering debate. “There’s been the cover to say, ‘Well let’s not act yet because we want to wait and see what this task force says,’” said Julie Marsh, professor of education policy at the University of Southern California. “Once that is out, you can no longer stall in acting on these issues.” (Read at The74Million.org)

    Clark County — Las Vegas-Area Principals Deliver No-Confidence Vote Against Superintendent: Seventy-two Las Vegas-area middle and high school principals unanimously passed a no confidence vote against Superintendent Jesus Jara this week. The move came two days after Jara announced in a video that he would eliminate all 170 secondary school dean positions. The district chief said the cuts would help the district recover $17 million to close its deficit, but critics said the move would jeopardize school safety, an area the deans had previously overseen. School leaders bristled at not being consulted beforehand about the eliminations and because the affected deans learned of their dismissal through a video posted online. (Read at the Las Vegas Review-Journal)

    Noteworthy Essays & Reflections

    EDLECTION 2020 — You’re a Democrat Who Opposes Vouchers. But You Benefited From Private Schools. Are You a Hypocrite? (Read at Education Week)

    SCHOOL DISCIPLINE — Eden: Studies and Teachers Nationwide Say School Discipline Reform Is Harming Students’ Academic Achievement and Safety (Read at The74Million.org)

    CHARTER SCHOOLS Do the current Democratic politics spell doom for charter schools? (Read at the Brookings Institution)

    CLIMATE CHANGE The silence of school leaders on climate change (Read at The Hechinger Report)

    SCHOOL DISCIPLINE — The Harsh Discipline of No-Excuses Charter Schools: Is It Worth the Promise? (Read at Education Week)

    Quotes of the Week

    “We’re taught to live in the present. Right now, my children are healthy.” —Melissa (last name withheld), who said her Buddhist views prevented her from vaccinating her children unless they became very sick, and one of several parents who successfully sued Rockland County, New York, to overturn a measure that barred unvaccinated children from schools. (Read at The New York Times)

    “My fear is that other police departments will see this and they will start training in a more militaristic fashion in order to prepare for the very rare [school shootings.] …Look, 99.99 percent of school resource officers are going to get through their entire career and this isn’t going to be the thing they ever have to think about. But when you prime them to think about that, you get military models of policing.” —Nadine Connell, associate professor of criminology at the University of Texas at Dallas, after former Broward County Sheriff’s deputy Scot Peterson was charged with criminal negligence in connection with the 2018 massacre at a Florida high school. (Read at The74Million.org)

    “We’re at a very, very difficult impasse.” —Gov. Jim Justice (R) of West Virginia, who said he would sign a measure that recently passed the state senate that would make teacher strikes illegal. (Read at ThinkProgress)

    “I made a judgment call — obviously there’s a lot of hurt feelings that I have to repair with the deans.” —Clark County Superintendent Jesus Jara, after his call to eliminate all 170 deans from the district’s middle and high schools triggered a unanimous vote of no-confidence from the schools’ principals. (Read at the Las Vegas Review-Journal)

    “Even though you might be scared, you never turn down a story, and it taught me you never know what’s going to happen.” —Amelia Poor, 13, one of 45 students who form the Scholastic News Kids Press Corps that writes for Scholastic’s classroom magazine. Despite her fear of canines, she successfully covered a recent Westminster Dog Show. (Read at The74Million.org)

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  • Exclusive: During Booker Era, Study Shows Newark Schools Took Huge Steps Forward — and It’s Not Just Charters That Improved

    By Kevin Mahnken | June 13, 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.

    In a study with broad implications for education and perhaps presidential politics, new data indicate that schools in Newark are performing at a much higher level than a decade ago.

    According to the report, released by MarGrady Research and funded by the nonprofit group New Jersey Children’s Foundation, academic performance in New Jersey’s biggest city saw huge improvements beginning in 2006, when now-Sen. Cory Booker was elected mayor and initiated a slate of ambitious reforms. Both traditional public schools and charter schools — the expansion of which was a major component of Booker’s agenda — saw significant growth over a 12-year period.

    The reforms unleashed political turbulence while they were being implemented, and Booker’s commitment to education reform has followed him on trips to woo Democratic voters in New Hampshire and Iowa, many of whom have soured on charter schools in recent years.

    Related

    EXCLUSIVE: Senator Cory Booker Speaks Out About Newark School Reform, Equity, and Mark Zuckerberg’s Millions Ahead of a Possible Run for the Presidency

    Addressing the controversy over Newark’s disruptive transformation, NJCF Executive Director Kyle Rosenkrans said he hoped the study would showcase the city as a model of change for others to follow.

    “One of our key goals is to promote a fact-based conversation about education as it relates to Newark,” he said. “The history of Newark provides empirical proof that you can grow the nation’s highest-performing charter schools alongside a district itself in improvement mode, and there can be a net improvement in outcomes for children. The report speaks to this.”

    The study represents the latest data point in the ongoing analysis of whether the reforms — pursued under both Booker and current mayor Ras Baraka, and financed with hundreds of millions of dollars in philanthropic funding — actually succeeded in lifting achievement. It builds on previous research released by MarGrady and Harvard University professor Tom Kane, which found initial evidence of improvements in reading.

    To date, the assessment of the reforms’ impacts has been processed through bitter disputes around their origins and implementation. In particular, Booker’s administration has been criticized — by Baraka, among others — for its use of a $100 million donation from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. The massive gift, and the controversy around it, was chronicled in the 2015 book The Prize, in which journalist Dale Russakoff painted a picture of unaccountable technocrats acting without transparency.

    Today’s release lengthens the time horizon of previous studies, combing through standardized test scores between 2006 and 2018. It also takes advantage of Newark’s use of the PARCC exam, which allows for comparisons with student performance not just throughout the rest of New Jersey but also in several other states.

    In the study, lead author and MarGrady founder Jesse Margolis noted that while the upward trajectory in student scores occurred during a time of dramatic policy shifts, he couldn’t credit the academic improvements to any individual cause.

    “We do not argue that any single reform or set of reforms caused the gains documented here,” he wrote, noting the city’s important milestones over the past 12 years, including Booker’s election and New Jersey’s adoption of the Common Core state academic standards. “We simply argue that the gains happened, they are real, and they are meaningful.”

    The findings

    Margolis drew on math and reading test scores for students between grades 3 and 8, including both New Jersey’s NJ ASK assessment and PARCC, which the state adopted in 2015. Over the 13 years under examination, he found steady improvement among Newark schools compared with New Jersey schools as a whole, and much more substantial growth compared with other low-income areas in the state.

    For background: Cities and towns in New Jersey are categorized into eight District Factor Groups — essentially swaths of localities that share broad socioeconomic characteristics, such as family income, poverty rate and educational attainment. Newark falls under District Factor Group A, which encompasses the highest-need communities in the state, including Trenton, Camden, Paterson and Atlantic City.

    MarGrady Research

    In 2006, Newark students posted average state test scores in the 39th percentile among its peers in Group A; as of 2018, they had risen to the 78th percentile. In order of performance, they had improved from 23rd out of 37 to eighth out of 37.

    When measured against the combined cities and towns grouped in District Factor Groups A and B (the roughly 100 most disadvantaged areas in New Jersey), Newark improved substantially in both reading (from the 18th percentile to the 47th percentile) and math (from the 18th percentile to the 51st percentile). And in comparison with New Jersey schools as a whole, Newark improved from the 4th percentile to the 14th percentile in both subjects.

    That means that, even after a decade of consistent improvement, Newark still ranks among the lowest tiers of educational performance across the state. In an interview, Margolis said his findings showed that there remained “a lot of room for continued growth” in the city’s schools.

    A good deal of the upward movement measured in the study is powered by improvements in the charter school sector, which now enrolls roughly one out of every three Newark students. In 2006, Newark charter students scored in the 14th percentile of New Jersey students in reading and the 11th percentile in math; they now score in the 49th and 48th percentiles, respectively, for students statewide.

    In other words, charter students in Newark, a city so beset by educational challenges that its school district was taken over by the state for 23 years, attend schools that fall roughly in the middle of New Jersey’s test scores.

    Black students, who have historically attended some of the city’s worst schools, were among the biggest beneficiaries of the citywide improvement. In 2006, just 7 percent of black students in Newark attended a school that beat the New Jersey proficiency average; today, 31 percent do.

    MarGrady Research

    “I feel like those gains we look at in the past have come from both the charter sector and the district sector, but some of the charter gains have been particularly impressive,” Margolis said. “The charter sector was strong before; it’s now, if anything, stronger, yet it’s grown to enroll a third of the students in [Newark].”

    The context

    The organization that funded this research is not divorced from the debate around education reform. The New Jersey Children’s Foundation is partnered with the City Fund, a group that formed last year to raise millions of dollars for reform-aligned organizations throughout the United States. Rosenkrans, NJCF’s executive director, has been tied with charter schools as both a director of strategic initiatives at KIPP and the CEO of the Northeast Charter Schools Network. He also headed a political action committee that donated heavily to a slate of school board candidates backed by both Mayor Baraka and charter supporters.

    The study comes at a time when the author of Newark’s tumultuous period of change, Booker, is facing a reassessment of his educational legacy and his relationship with the education reform movement. Margolis notes that, given the senator’s presidential run, “there is … significant national interest in understanding what progress, if any, has been made in Newark’s schools.”

    With charter advocates on the defensive among Democrats after decades of general party support, Booker is the presidential candidate most closely tied with school choice — thanks almost exclusively to his time in Newark. In an interview with The 74 last year, Booker defended his tenure as mayor, though he has also stated his misgivings about charter schools in some states, which he has accused of “raiding” from public schools.

    The Booker campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

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    EXCLUSIVE: Senator Cory Booker Speaks Out About Newark School Reform, Equity, and Mark Zuckerberg’s Millions Ahead of a Possible Run for the Presidency

    The legacy of Newark’s reform period is still up for grabs in Newark itself, where Booker’s successor, Baraka, has called on the state to halt further charter school expansion, arguing that it draws resources away from the school district. The city only recently emerged from statewide control over its school system, and many of the changes instituted over the past decade — which included school closures and the replacement of many principals — left scars.

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  • These Kid Reporters at Scholastic Interview National and Global Leaders. Answering Their Questions This Week: Education Activist Ziauddin Yousafzai, Father of Malala

    By Kate Stringer | June 12, 2019

    New York City

    On a Tuesday afternoon after school, most students might be headed to soccer or band practice. But five New York City-area kids donned bright red polo shirts and press badges and headed off to interview Ziauddin Yousafzai, an education activist and the father of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai.

    Sitting under bright lights and cameras at Scholastic’s headquarters in Manhattan, these 12-, 13-, and 14-year-olds clutched their notebooks and nervously twisted their pens as they waited for Yousafzai to arrive. These five were members of Scholastic News Kids Press Corps, a group of 45 students across the U.S. and the globe who follow presidents on the campaign trail; interview authors, athletes and actors; and write stories that appear online and in Scholastic’s classroom magazine.

    The students were nervous but prepared. When Yousafzai entered the room, they jumped up from the couch and shook his hand. Over the weekend, they’d read Yousafzai’s book, Let Her Fly, his memoir about growing up in a tiny village in Pakistan where he transformed from a privileged son among five sisters into an activist for gender equality, girls’ education and human rights.

    Sitting up straight, the students took turns carefully reading their questions for Yousafzai from their notebooks:

    “What would you tell young boys and girls to encourage them to respect women?” Marley Alburez, 13, asked.

    “What made you question mistreatment of Pakistani women even though you grew up in a patriarchal society?” said Josh Stiefel, 13.

    “What role does education play in helping to achieve gender equality?” questioned Sunaya DasGupta Mueller, 14.

    Yousafzai answered each student’s question, smiling and leaning forward in his chair, occasionally apologizing for how long he spoke.

    “Quality education is the most powerful equalizer,” he said. “I think that education, if it does not teach us equality, there must be something wrong with its quality. It makes our inner beings fair, just and beautiful.”

    Yousafzai and his daughter, Malala, have been activists for gender equality, speaking out when the Taliban took over their home in the Swat Valley and forbade girls from attending school. That activism made Malala a target for the Taliban. In 2012, a masked gunman boarded her school bus, asked, “Who is Malala?” and shot her in the left side of the head.

    (AUSTRALIA OUT) Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani activist for female education and the youngest Nobel laureate. She is in Sydney for a speaking engagement, December 13, 2018. (Photo by Louise Kennerley/Fairfax Media via Getty Images)

    Malala Yousafzai (Louise Kennerley/Fairfax Media via Getty Images)

    After her recovery in England, her family was empowered to continue their work: they started the Malala Fund, which advocates for girls around the world to receive a quality education, especially in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Brazil, India, Nigeria and the Syria region. In 2014, at the age of 17, Malala became the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

    As Malala and her father often say, she used to be an advocate for 50,000 girls in the Swat Valley. Now, she’s the voice of 130 million who don’t have access to school.

    “What is your advice for parents who want to empower their children?” Amelia Poor, 13, asked.

    Yousafzai’s new book details what it’s like to be a father and endure the Taliban’s attack on his child. Many people ask him what he did to raise a daughter like Malala.

    “I will say, they should believe in their children,” Yousafzai responded. “Because if parents don’t believe in their children, who will believe in them?”

    The students thanked him for his time. One of them, Alburez, leaned over and told Yousafzai that she had met Malala, when she got to interview her for another story.

    “I think the question-and-answer we had in one hour, she would have answered in 15 minutes,” he joked.

    Becoming a kid reporter

    In 2000, the kids press corps at Scholastic was created to follow the presidential campaign. Presidential elections were teachable moments for students, but the editors at Scholastic thought kids would be more engaged if they read about them from a peer’s perspective rather than an adult’s.

    Applications open every year for new reporters to join this press corps, which includes students ages 10 to 14. The students are selected based on writing and interviewing skills as well as attention to detail. Editor Suzanne McCabe helps train the students, holding practice phone interviews, giving tips on asking short, pointed questions and editing their stories. Some students write nearly a dozen stories a year, pitching their own ideas and being assigned to cover others. All of the stories appear online, and some make it into Scholastic’s classroom magazines, which reach 25 million students.

    “The world is their classroom,” McCabe said. “They go from shy, not very self-confident kids sometimes or kids who think adults are in a different realm … and they realize their voice carries a lot of power and they’re representing their generation.”

    The students said they love working with McCabe and that even though it can be hard to take criticism, they feel as if they’re growing as writers and speakers. When they first started, they might have exchanged multiple emails with McCabe for edits, but now they only have to send a few.

    “Working with an editor is like you’re climbing a mountain but you have a safety belt on your harness,” Alburez explained.

    Reporters Marley Alburez and Josh Stiefel talk with Ziauddin Yousafzai, an education activist and the father of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai. (Kate Stringer)

    Poor wants to be a political journalist or politician, and she often pitches stories based on the news she sees on TV. She’s interviewed Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams, the first black woman to be nominated by a major party to run for governor, and Jahana Hayes, the 2016 Teacher of the Year from Connecticut who went on to to win a seat in Congress. But Poor has also grown in areas she’s not as comfortable. Like, dogs.

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    When McCabe suggested that Poor cover the Westminster Dog Show, Poor didn’t want to tell McCabe that she was afraid of dogs. But when she attended, she found herself enjoying it, walking around Madison Square Garden with her microphone and interviewing the handlers and their competitive canines, even striking up the courage to pet a few.

    “Even though you might be scared, you never turn down a story, and it taught me you never know what’s going to happen,” Poor said. But she’s still scared of dogs.

    ‘News for kids, by kids’

    Even though they are still at the age where their parents need to drive them to interviews, the student reporters said the adults they talk to are welcoming and eager to answer their questions.

    They can also go places other kids can’t go. Stiefel got to attend the New York Toy Fair in February, an event that was open to retailers and press but not children. While he was there to interview people about the new toys, he found himself being sought out by many of the adults in the room.

    “Everyone at the toy fair wanted to talk to me to see what I thought about their toys because I was really the only person in the room who was qualified to talk about it,” he said.

    Related

    Not Your Average Student Council: How Chicago’s Student Voice Committees Are Giving Kids a Real Say in Their Schools

    As members of the youngest generation, the students said, they can bring a unique perspective to their news coverage. Liset Zacker, 12, recalled how her dad often marvels at how different her and her peers’ thinking is from adults’.

    “My dad said one time, ‘Adults always kind of see the entire picture, and kids skip all the tiny details and go straight to the point,’” Zacker said.

    Showing their peers that kids can write stories about important events is also empowering, whether it’s an article about a political rally or a sporting event.

    “Kids are the future, and I feel like that’s why it’s important for me and for us to share stories of people around the world who are doing really great things,” said DasGupta Mueller. “That is hopefully going to inspire kids.”

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  • The State of LGBTQ Curriculum: Tide Is Turning as Some States Opt for Inclusion, Others Lift Outright Restrictions

    By Noble Ingram | June 11, 2019

    Update, June 13: Erik Adamian’s title changed from “education and outreach manager” at the ONE Archives Foundation to “associate director of education” before the original publish date of this story. 

    Bayard Rustin was a lead organizer of the March on Washington in 1963, a close confidante of Martin Luther King Jr. and a fiery voice for desegregation. In most U.S. history classes, that might be all students are asked to learn about him. But Rustin was also openly gay, and he became a prominent gay rights advocate. That fact in particular might now receive new attention in public school classrooms in Colorado and New Jersey.

    Those two states are the first to follow in California’s footsteps by mandating recognition of the contributions of LGBTQ people in history and social studies curricula earlier this spring. The legislation — combined with similar measures under consideration in New York and Illinois and votes to lift curricular restrictions on LGBTQ content in Alabama and Arizona — marks a flurry of state policy changes on the subject this year.

    Nationally, most states don’t have explicit rules around if and how teachers discuss gender and sexuality in the classroom. But the impact of LGBTQ-inclusive course content can be powerful, advocates say. The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, a national LGBTQ education organization, has found that schools with inclusive curricula were more likely to report feelings of acceptance toward LGBTQ students and have lower rates of student absenteeism linked to feeling unsafe.

    So far, however, LGBTQ representation in curriculum has been slow to take hold. Although only eight states have some kind of legislation restricting LGBTQ content in the classroom, including Texas and Florida, a 2015 GLSEN study found that only about a quarter of teachers incorporate LGBTQ topics into their lessons.

    In states without clear guidelines, teachers often report feeling unsure about how to make their curriculum more representative, says Mara Sapon-Shevin, professor of inclusive curriculum at Syracuse University. They’re also concerned about pushback from parents.

    “Most teachers want to do it right and want to do it well but feel underprepared and not well resourced,” she says.

    A growing number of national organizations have been working to help equip teachers with the tools to tackle potentially controversial topics, including LGBTQ history. ONE Archives Foundation is the oldest active LGBTQ organization in the country and has long worked to build public awareness of queer history. Recognizing the growing demand for LGBTQ content, the organization has begun collaborating with the University of California, Los Angeles, and the Los Angeles LGBT Center to produce tailored history lessons on feminist writer Audre Lorde, slain San Francisco official Harvey Milk and other LGBTQ figures and groups.

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    The other obstacle teachers can face is fear over parental objection — especially in states that haven’t passed inclusivity statutes.

    “I talk to teachers a lot about these issues, and they’ve very engaged … but also scared about getting in trouble,” Sapon-Shevin says.

    ONE Archives is based in Los Angeles, and it focuses mostly on California, which passed the FAIR Education Act, ensuring LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum, in 2011. But the organization has begun to work with teachers across the country and recognizes how complicated introducing LGBTQ content can be in a state without protections for it, says Erik Adamian, associate director of education for the ONE Archives Foundation.

    “The only reason why backlash can’t and does not go any further than a bunch of protests [here] … is because we have the FAIR Education Act,” says Adamian.

    “Sometimes the best thing we can say [to teachers] is ‘Hang in there.’ If there is an effort like the law in California, then we will be there,” he says.

    For states with restrictions on LGBTQ content, the policies apply specifically to sex education and how teachers can describe safe practices to their students. The details of these measures run the gamut, according to Clifford Rosky, a law professor at the University of Utah.

    In South Carolina, for example, state legislation prohibits health education teachers from engaging in any “discussion of alternate sexual lifestyles from heterosexual relationships.” But in North Carolina, teachers are told simply to explain “the benefits of heterosexual relationships.”

    Although these policies only specifically cover sex education lessons, many teachers run into confusion over whether mentioning a historical figure’s gender identity or sexuality counts as sex education content, Rosky said.

    “The design of the laws was to make broad ambiguous prohibitions so that the topic would be ignored altogether,” he said.

    Since 2017, Utah, Arizona and Alabama have lifted LGBTQ curricular restrictions — a move Rosky says generally garners more bipartisan support than instituting inclusivity mandates. Legislation that bans discussions of LGBTQ people increasingly lacks broad support, even among conservative groups. The repeal votes in the Utah House and Senate were both nearly unanimous. The reasons more states haven’t removed these policies, says Rosky, have more to do with the cost, time and potential for outing LGBTQ children in lawsuits than ideological opposition.

    On the other hand, conservative groups have strongly challenged mandates, arguing that references to gender and sexuality shouldn’t be forced in schools and are best reserved for family discussions. The Alliance Defending Freedom, a prominent conservative Christian organization, has fought against incorporating LGBTQ content into public school curriculum.

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    The ADF did not respond to multiple requests for comment, but a section of its website discussing “parents’ rights” reads, “Today, sexually explicit or homosexual materials are frequently mandated for children as young as kindergarten, many times against their parents’ will, and often in the name of ‘tolerance’ or ‘safe school lessons.’”

    Republican officials have also expressed skepticism about mandating LGBTQ history lessons. After the Illinois House of Representatives approved an inclusivity mandate, state Rep. Tom Morrison told NPR, “Here’s what parents in my district said: ‘How or why is a historical figure’s sexuality or gender self-identification even relevant? Especially when we’re talking about kindergarten and elementary school history.’”

    Ultimately, however, the call is rising for students of color, students with disabilities, immigrant students and those from other marginalized groups to learn with materials that reflect their experiences, says Sapon-Shevin. LGBTQ curriculum is just one part of that shift.

    Rosky agrees, noting that throughout history anti-LGBTQ discrimination was justified by a desire to protect children.

    “What we saw in the last several decades is an increasing recognition that actually discrimination against LGBT people doesn’t protect any children — what it does is harm children,” he says. “It harms LGBT children and the children of LGBT people.”

    Noting the prominent anti-gay activist Anita Bryant’s 1970s “Save Our Children” campaign, Rosky said, “In some sense, the LGBT movement is saying, ‘No, no, no, save our children.’”

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  • A Former School-Based Police Officer Was Charged With Negligence in Connection With the Parkland Massacre. Experts Call the Move Extremely Rare. But What Are the Broader Implications for School Safety?

    By Mark Keierleber | June 5, 2019

    As shots rang out at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, last year, Scot Peterson, a school resource officer assigned to the campus, chose not to engage the gunman — a decision that prompted a fierce national outcry and led to the filing of criminal charges against him Tuesday. Despite the episode’s unique local context, some school safety experts and civil rights advocates fear that the former officer’s arrest could have broader ramifications as anxious administrators and parents continue to grapple with school shootings.

    Some critics said the arrest could cause some officers to adopt a more “militaristic” approach to combating school-based violence, or to avoid the job outright if the consequences of inaction could land them in jail.

    “My fear is that other police departments will see this and they will start training in a more militaristic fashion in order to prepare for the very rare” school shootings, said Nadine Connell, an associate professor of criminology at the University of Texas at Dallas. “Look, 99.99 percent of school resource officers are going to get through their entire career and this isn’t going to be the thing they ever have to think about. But when you prime them to think about that, you get military models of policing.”

    Given the severity of the accusations against the Parkland officer, however, some school officials expressed doubts that the arrest would set a dangerous precedent. Bob Farrace, spokesman for the National Association of Secondary School Principals, said he reached out to multiple administrators and school resource officers about the implications of Peterson’s arrest but heard no serious concerns.

    “Just about all of the SROs who have shared their perspectives” on Peterson’s response recognize that the alleged behavior was “a clear departure from protocol,” Farrace said in an email. “Once upon a time, the protocol was to wait until SWAT arrived, but that has long since changed to the SRO’s engaging right away. Perhaps if there was more of a gray area, the criminal charges might have broader national implications for criminalizing professional judgement.”

    In many parts of Florida, there was a sense that justice was finally being offered. Following former Broward County Sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson’s arrest Tuesday, parents who lost children in the shooting cheered the decision. Among those who lauded the arrest was Andrew Pollack, whose 18-year-old daughter Meadow was killed in the shooting.

    “It’s been a long time coming,” he told the Sun Sentinel. “Accountability is all I wanted, and now it looks like it’s happening.”

    The charges against Peterson follow an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which concluded that he failed to investigate the source of gunshots, retreated during the shooting and told other officers to remain 500 feet from the building during an episode that left 17 students and staff dead.

    Peterson “did absolutely nothing to mitigate” the Parkland shooting, FLD Commissioner Rick Swearingen said in a statement on Tuesday. “There can be no excuse for his complete inaction and no question that his inaction cost lives.”

    Peterson’s criminal defense attorney, Joseph DiRuzzo of Fort Lauderdale, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from The 74. But he told the South Florida Sun Sentinel that the state’s actions “appear to be nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt at politically motivated retribution” against Peterson. He said officials “have taken the easy way out” by blaming Peterson “when there has only ever been one person to blame,” referring to the gunman.

    Peterson made his first court appearance Wednesday at the Broward County Main Jail, and his bail was set at $102,000.

    It’s too early to know how the specific charges against Peterson — which include seven counts of child neglect, six of which are felonies, three counts of misdemeanor culpable negligence and one count of misdemeanor perjury — will pan out, but some legal experts have argued that prosecutors face an uphill battle in a case that may be without precedent.

    Multiple school-safety experts said they’re unaware of another case in which a school-based officer was arrested for failure to protect. Meanwhile, multiple legal experts told reporters that officials used a legally dubious interpretation of the law to charge Peterson.

    “Although as a father, legislator and human being, I believe that there is no societal defense to cowardice, the law has consistently and recently held that there is no constitutional duty for police to protect us from harm,” Michael Grieco, a Florida-based defense attorney, told the Associated Press. “The decision to criminally charge Mr. Peterson, although popular in the court of public opinion, will likely not hold water once formally challenged.”

    In the year since the Parkland shooting, officials across the country have engaged in an often controversial push to increase police presence on school campuses. Proponents say school-based police are necessary to keep children safe. But critics, including civil rights advocates, argue that placing officers in schools leads to the criminalization of student misbehavior that has historically been addressed by school administrators. They have also highlighted federal data showing that students of color face disproportionate arrests at school.

    Perhaps most crucially, there’s little research to suggest that school-based officers make campuses safer. Meanwhile, school shootings like the one in Parkland, while high-profile, are statistically rare. When such tragedies unfold, however, Connell said they set a dangerous “precedent for martyrdom,” as evidenced by several recent school shootings in which students hurled themselves at the gunmen to avert greater carnage.

    “If we expect that from our school resource officers, the type of people who are going to be attracted to that job are not the type of people that we want to be in charge of the safety of our students,” she said. “You need somebody who can interact in a compassionate way, and you need somebody who is willing to understand childhood development.”

    Harold Jordan, senior policy advocate at the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and an outspoken critic of school-based police, offered similar concerns. Jordan said Peterson’s arrest raises an important question for school leaders: What kind of officer do they want patrolling their hallways? Because active shooters often use firearms with high-capacity magazines and conclude their attacks in a matter of minutes, he said, an officer with SWAT experience may be best equipped to intervene. But school policing tends to center on the softer skills of developing relationships between students and officers.

    “Those are very different types of police officers, both by training and temperament, in my experience,” Jordan said. “There’s a real contradiction in the rationale given for officers being placed in schools and for what these officers are expected to do.”

    Though Jordan is skeptical of police in schools generally, he said officers with a SWAT-like mentality could contribute to a negative school climate for students.

    “It’s one thing to say that ‘You’re in school because you want to keep somebody from coming in the door who is heavily armed to try to harm kids,’” he said. “It’s another thing when you have to look at each kid who is in the school as a potential suspect and a potential shooter.”

    Peterson’s arrest could also hurt recruitment, said Curtis Lavarello, executive director of the Florida-based School Safety Advocacy Council. Lavarello previously worked as a school resource officer in Broward County, where Parkland is located, in the 1980s before founding and serving as executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers.

    “I think it’s going to have a dramatic impact on school resource officers statewide,” he said. “If I’m an SRO, I’m watching this one really carefully.”

    But school security consultant Kenneth Trump, president of the Ohio-based National School Safety and Security Services, said he’s skeptical that Peterson’s arrest will send a “shock wave across the country” absent a mass school shooting that mirrors the precise circumstances found in Parkland. He encouraged school and law enforcement officials to examine their own policing practices. He recommends a model developed by the National Association of School Resource Officers, which urges school-based police to act as educators and mentors in addition to law enforcement officers.

    But Jordan predicted that Peterson’s arrest will have ripple effects throughout the education ecosystem. Police departments may reconsider whether to send officers to schools, he said, while school-based police could reconsider their jobs. It could also prompt confusion among school district leaders about their own liabilities.

    “When you take one officer and make a national example out of that person,” Jordan said, “there’s no good outcome here.”

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  • Expert: Charges Against Former Broward Deputy in Connection to Parkland Massacre Pose Thorny Questions for School-Based Police

    By Mark Keierleber | June 4, 2019

    A former sheriff’s deputy, who faced intense scorn over his response to the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, last year, was arrested Tuesday and charged with neglect and perjury, according to local law enforcement officials. But the arrest could alter the way school resource officers across the state respond to emergencies, one school safety expert told The 74.

    “I think it’s going to have a dramatic impact on school resource officers statewide,” said Curtis Lavarello, executive director of the School Safety Advocacy Council. “If I’m an SRO, I’m watching this one really carefully.” He argued that the decision could dissuade people from working as school-based police officers, or cause them to enter dangerous situations unnecessarily.

    Lavarello has a unique perspective, having worked as a school resource officer in Broward County, where Parkland is located, in the 1980s before founding and serving as executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers. His skepticism is not shared by several parents who lost children in the shooting. Among them was Lori Alhadeff, whose 14-year-old daughter Alyssa was killed in the massacre. Alhadeff, since elected to the Broward County School Board, founded a nonprofit after the shooting that advocates for enhanced school security measures.

    “He needs to go to jail and he needs to serve a lifetime in prison for not going in that day and taking down the threat that led to the death of our loved ones,” Alhadeff told the Sun Sentinel. “It was his duty to go into that building and to engage the threat, and he froze and he did nothing.”

    The former deputy, Scot Peterson, was accused of inaction following the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in which 17 people were killed and 17 others were injured. Peterson was employed by the county sheriff’s office but served as a school resource officer at the high school when the shooting unfolded.

    Peterson’s arrest follows a 15-month investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which found that Peterson failed to investigate the source of gunshots, retreated during the shooting and told other officers to remain 500 feet from the building. Peterson was charged on Tuesday with seven counts of neglect of a child, three counts of culpable negligence and one count of perjury. He was arrested at the Broward Sheriff’s Office headquarters and booked into the Broward County Main Jail.

    The investigation found that Peterson “did absolutely nothing to mitigate” the Parkland shooting, FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen said in a statement. “There can be no excuse for his complete inaction and no question that his inaction cost lives.” Neither Peterson nor his attorney had commented to news sources as of Tuesday evening.

    Lavarello said he is “rather disgraced” by Peterson’s response to the Parkland shooting. However, he expressed concern that the charges against Peterson could have ripple effects. Although school-based police are occasionally criticized for overzealous use of force when confronting children, Lavarello said he’s unaware of another scenario in which a school-based officer faced criminal charges for failure to act.

    Lavarello called Peterson’s arrest “quite alarming” and said it could affect the way school-based police respond to emergencies. At the time of the shooting, Broward County Sheriff’s Office policy said officers “may” enter the scene of an active shooting, though the wording has since changed to require that they “shall” enter in such scenarios. Lavarello argued that the previous policy afforded Peterson a chance to make a judgment call.

    “Is it now going to cause officers to walk into a situation where they know absolutely they may be killed instantly?” he asked.

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  • Boston Massively Expanded Its Charter Sector — Without Sacrificing School Quality. New Research Sheds Light on How Education Reforms Can Remain Effective While Applied at Scale

    By Kevin Mahnken | June 4, 2019

    How do you bring success to scale?

    It’s a question that has tormented education experts — and, really, anyone designing public policy — for years. Smart, successful investments in teacher coaching, whole-school reforms and new curricula have attracted rapturous headlines and public interest, then faltered after being brought to more classrooms. When education reforms are implemented in new contexts, by teachers and school leaders who played no role in creating them, their effects fade all too often.

    But new research offers evidence that ambitious new policies can remain effective while applied at scale. The working paper, released earlier this month by the National Bureau of Economic Research, finds that charter schools in Boston kept hitting high marks even after replicating their model several times over. The city’s charter sector, ranked among the best for systems across the country, saw no decline in its results.

    First circulated by MIT’s School Effectiveness and Inequality Initiative, the study examined a period of rapid charter expansion in Boston between 2010 and 2015, when the sector roughly doubled in size. Co-author Christopher Walters, an economics professor at University of California, Berkeley, said he wouldn’t have predicted that the expansion would be so successful.

    “The effect sizes that we see in these lottery comparisons are some of the larger effects you see anywhere in education policy research,” Walters said. “I expected that the schools would probably produce gains as they expanded, but the fact that they remained just as effective was certainly a surprise to me.”

    Those effects were indeed substantial. By the researchers’ calculations, attending a charter school in Boston substantially improved students’ scores in both English and math.

    The study covered the years following 2010, when Massachusetts lawmakers lifted a statewide limit on the percentage of education funding that could go to charters. The law was directed specifically at lowest-performing school districts like Boston. As a result, funding for charter schools grew to 18 percent from 9 percent of district funding in those areas, and operators filed dozens of applications for new charter schools.

    Of note, the state limited the charter expansion to “proven providers”: existing charter schools whose students had already shown progress. Those schools — identified on the basis of both academic metrics (test scores, high school graduation rates and suspensions) and student data (high-need student populations, as well as student attrition over time) — accounted for four out of Boston’s seven charter middle schools. They would be allowed to expand their existing schools and establish new campuses.

    Expansion moved swiftly. Between 2010 and 2015, the percentage of Boston kindergartners enrolled in a charter school rose to 9 percent from 5 percent; sixth-graders enrolled in a Boston charter more than doubled in proportion — growing to 31 percent from 15 percent; and ninth-graders enrolled in a charter climbed to 15 percent from a previous 9 percent.

    More importantly, academic data show that those students performed better than they would have elsewhere. The authors found that the charter schools selected for expansion produced larger learning gains over those five years than other charter schools. New and expanded charters posted similar academic results as their original campuses. And the proven providers saw no decline in quality, even as they directed existing staff and resources toward expanding operations.

    Co-author Sarah Cohodes, a professor of education and economics at Columbia University’s Teachers College, suggested that part of the expansion’s success lay in the fact that Massachusetts had simply chosen the right charter schools to scale. While education leaders always try to pick good candidates for growth, the proven-provider strategy offered a “very promising path forward,” she said.

    “Of course, all states and authorizing entities do have processes through which they decide who to authorize — they’re not just willy-nilly saying anyone can do it,” Cohodes said. “But they’re not necessarily focused on operators who have demonstrated success in other schools.”

    Some charter advocates disagree. By requiring evidence of prior success, the conservative Pioneer Institute has argued, Massachusetts is deliberately slowing the growth of a resoundingly successful charter school sector. Others lament that if regulators favor charter models that have already succeeded, students will miss out on promising but unproven new practices.

    At present, it’s difficult to picture any Massachusetts charters being asked to expand, whether due to their successes or public demand. A 2016 effort to further lift the statewide cap on charters was decisively defeated at the ballot box, and polls indicate that public support for the schools has waned significantly among Democrats, who make up the majority of Massachusetts voters.

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  • Charters Employ More Diverse Teachers Than Traditional Public Schools. Is It Giving Them a Leg Up With Minority Students?

    By Kevin Mahnken | June 4, 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.

    Over the past few years, education researchers have coalesced around a striking, if somewhat unpalatable, observation: Kids learn more from teachers of their own race.

    A decade of studies from Tennessee, Florida and North Carolina has shown that K-12 students perform better academically if they’ve been assigned to a same-race teacher. Though the effects have been observed in white students, they are especially pronounced in their black classmates, who are less likely to drop out of school and more likely to complete a college entrance exam if they are exposed to even one black instructor in elementary school. Black educators also issue fewer suspensions to black students, and more referrals to gifted education classes, than white educators.

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    A study released today from the conservative Fordham Institute adds a notable new facet to the existing research, finding that black students are much more likely to encounter a same-race teacher in a charter school than a traditional public school. And the study’s author, American University professor Seth Gershenson, says that the greater likelihood of racial matching might help explain charters’ success with minority students.

    The study examined all North Carolina public school students between grades 3 and 5, in both district and charter schools, between the 2006-07 and 2012-13 school years. In total, it gathered 1.8 million observations of students, including their race and student year, their teacher’s race, and their score on end-of-year assessments in both math and English.

    Those data indicate that, while charter schools enroll a similar percentage of black students as traditional public schools, they employ more black teachers — about 14 percent of their teaching workforce, as opposed to roughly 10 percent of those in district schools. Partly as a result of the greater abundance of black faculty, black students are 50 percent more likely to be assigned to a black teacher in a charter than they are at a traditional public school.

    Fordham Institute

    As in previous studies, students in both charters and district schools received a measurable academic benefit from being assigned to a same-race teacher; on average, the effect size was about the equivalent of eliminating 10 teacher absences over the course of one school year. But the boost in test scores for racially matched students was about twice as large for charter students as for traditional public school students.

    Though the race-matching impact was nearly doubled for charter students, the difference was not deemed statistically significant, in part because the number of charter students featured in the study was relatively low (just 30,000 observations were made over seven academic years, versus more than 1 million such observations for district schools). But in an interview with The 74, Gershenson said that he believed the distinction would have been preserved over a larger sample size.

    “Twice as big of an effect is still twice as big of an effect, and that’s a big deal,” he said. “If we had as many charter schools as we did traditional public schools, I suspect that we would have more precisely estimated that difference.”

    National research has indicated that teacher demographics at charter schools tend to be more heterogeneous than those in traditional public schools. A longitudinal report released earlier this year by the National Center for Education Statistics found that 29 percent of charter teachers were black, Hispanic or Asian, compared with 19 percent of those in district schools.

    Gershenson said that the higher rates of teacher diversity are a largely unremarked-on feature of charter schools, and one that might go a long way to explaining their relative success with students of color. Though practices differ by jurisdiction, charters are generally allowed to hire employees without conventional teacher certifications; the requirement to attain a teaching degree, which can come at substantial cost, has been cited as a hurdle to achieving a more representative teacher workforce.

    “This is an important finding in its own,” he said. “And I don’t think the research world or the charter policy world pay enough attention to this point, precisely because we don’t have a great idea of what makes effective charters effective. You can view racial representation among teachers as a measure of teacher quality, and that’s a dimension of teacher quality that charters have an advantage in.”

    Disclosure: Kevin Mahnken was an editorial associate at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute from 2014 to 2016.

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  • Research Shows That Charters Do Best for California’s Low-Income and Minority Students. Now Lawmakers There Want to Slow Their Expansion

    By Kevin Mahnken | June 2, 2019

    Updated June 10

    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.

    California’s years-long debate over school choice has taken a decisive turn over the first few months of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s tenure — and the shift has come at the expense of charter schools.

    In February, Newsom convened a panel of experts to investigate whether charters siphon funding from school districts. The next month, he signed a law — repeatedly vetoed by the previous governor — establishing greater transparency requirements for the schools and their leaders. All the while, attention-grabbing teacher strikes in Los Angeles and Oakland put the issue of charter growth at the top of the state’s education agenda, alongside teacher pay and school funding.

    Now a series of bills is moving through the legislature that could dramatically curtail the charter sector’s growth. The most contentious of the package, Assembly Bill 1505, which would grant local districts greater leeway to reject petitions for new charter schools, has passed the state Assembly and now faces consideration in the state Senate. Others, including a measure to cap the total number of charters in the state, have lost momentum.

    In the most recent development, the task force convened by Newsom released a report Friday unanimously recommending that districts be given leeway to factor in “saturation” and demand when considering new charter schools. Newsom and the legislature will now decide whether to implement the panel’s report, which includes majority recommendations to reimburse districts for one year of state tuition loss when a student transfers to a charter school and to strip prospective charters of the right to a second appeal to the state board of education.

    In a statement, Myrna Castrejón, president and CEO of the California Charter Schools Association, said the report contained “elements that are deeply concerning and require more work ahead.”

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    Taken together, education observers have seen the past five months as signs that California’s long period of virtually unchecked charter expansion may be ending. Foes of the privately operated public schools, most notably the state’s teachers unions, would relish the possibility.

    But for the students who gain the most from charters, a slowdown or reversal of the sector’s recent growth might not be cause for celebration. Those students, studies show, are disproportionately black, Latino and low-income children from the state’s biggest cities; ironically, they’re also represented by some of the sector’s most prominent critics — including Newsom himself, formerly the mayor of San Francisco.

    The lay of the land

    To understand how controversial charters are in California, you have to get a sense of just how prominent a feature they are in the state’s education landscape.

    According to state data, more than 650,000 kids attend charter schools in California, or roughly 10.5 percent of all pupils in the state. Those numbers are huge in both absolute and relative terms: It is, by far, the largest statewide charter enrollment in the country, larger than the total populations of Wyoming or Vermont; it’s also proportionately larger than the average statewide charter enrollment across the U.S., which is about 6 percent.

    The sector has also reached that impressive scope rather quickly, gaining more than 100,000 new students in just the past five years. That head-snapping pace of expansion came even as California’s total K-12 enrollment saw persistent declines.

    In other words: A shrinking pool of enrollees, and the state funding that goes along with them, has put downward pressure on school district budgets at the same time that charters emerged as new competition. In an added wrinkle, California law actually prevents school districts (which authorize the vast majority of charter schools in the state) from rejecting new charter petitions on the basis that they pose a threat to local finances (AB 1505 would revoke that prohibition).

    The growing clash for kids and dollars explains why the political battle around the sector has gotten so hot — and expensive.

    The past few election cycles have seen record spending from both teachers unions, which adamantly oppose further charter expansion, and the deep-pocketed philanthropists who tend to support it. The money wars erupted again in the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial primary, which pitted charter-friendly former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa against then-Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who won the endorsement of the California Teachers Association. Newsom ultimately raised an unheard-of $58 million on his way to earning his party’s nomination, including $1.2 million in donations from the CTA; once that race was decided, the education-related spending migrated to the race for state superintendent — a largely ceremonial job with little statutory power over charter schools.

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    In that election as well, the union-backed candidate, Tony Thurmond, prevailed over his more reform-oriented opponent. Thurmond, who said during the campaign that he wanted a “pause” on new charter openings, now chairs the commission that released Friday’s report on the impact of charter competition on traditional public schools.

    So how good are they?

    The increasing focus on charters’ financial effects inevitably leads to the question of their academic effects. But, much the same as with charter schools throughout the country, California’s sector has yielded mixed results.

    “The charter sector in California looks like a microcosm of the charter sector nationally,” said Martin West, an education professor at Harvard. “That’s not too surprising, since California charter schools make up a nontrivial segment of the national charter data.”

    Indeed, a comprehensive 2014 study from Stanford’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) found that students who attended California charters performed a bit better in reading, and a bit worse in math, than their peers attending traditional public schools. That nuanced picture dovetails with charter performance nationally, which is roughly as good, on average, as the public schools run by local school districts.

    But tucked beneath the topline results, the data show that charters perform better for the state’s least advantaged citizens. Specifically, CREDO found that poor black students at charters gained an average of 36 extra days of learning in literacy, and 43 extra days of learning in math, compared with those in traditional public schools; poor Latino students gained 22 extra days of literacy and 29 extra days of math. In general, charter schools in urban areas, where many of those students are clustered, were measured as much stronger than those in suburban and rural areas.

    Center for Research on Education Outcomes

    Those findings were echoed in CREDO’s 2014 study of Los Angeles charters, released the same year, which found even stronger results for minority students than were measured statewide. In yet another paper, this one released the next year and directed at 41 different urban areas, the research group found that a majority of charter schools in the Bay Area (encompassing the large districts of Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose) outperformed traditional public schools in both reading and math.

    In a 2018 research brief intended as an update on previous research, CREDO Director Macke Raymond cast the charter results for traditionally underperforming student groups as evidence that academic improvement can be achieved in every educational setting. In an interview with The 74, she did observe that enough time has passed since the original studies that “[she couldn’t] really tell whether the trends are holding fast or whether they’re changing.”

    Still, the existing research base strongly suggests that the primary beneficiaries of charter schools in California are historically disadvantaged populations in big cities like Los Angeles and Oakland. But nowhere have the calls for curbing charter growth been louder than in those very cities, where striking teachers demanded official support for a statewide charter moratorium as a condition of returning to work.

    Preston Green, a professor of education at the University of Connecticut, has warned that the lack of tighter regulations has complicated the financial state of small districts, potentially leading to a bifurcated school system resembling that of the Jim Crow South. While he told The 74 that he understands the appeal of charters as an option for black and Latino families, he also said that he supported a temporary moratorium on new charters.

    “We really need to think systematically about how to permit charter schools to exist in a way that won’t deleteriously impact school districts,” he said. “So understand that when I’m calling for a moratorium, I’m not calling for a backdoor closure but, rather, really thinking deliberately about how they can exist and be situated in a way that their inefficiencies are lessened.”

    Harvard’s West, who examined California’s charter authorizing practices in a paper last year, found that local districts often struggle to act as truly capable authorizers for charter schools — a deficiency made worse by the meager funding provided by the state to act in that role. But although greater resources and oversight might improve the sector’s performance, he told The 74 that such proposals have been absent from the debate raging in Sacramento.

    “That’s a different set of issues … animating the debate in California at the moment. It seems to me that in California, you’re seeing a much more concerted attempt to prevent charter expansion, at least in districts that don’t welcome it, by empowering districts to deny new charter petitions. More than anything else, that’s what’s going on here.”

    CREDO’s Raymond, while lamenting that the data on California’s charter sector isn’t more current, called for more reliance on data during the policy-making progress.

    “I’ve spent 25 years studying what happens when monopolies face competition — and I’m on the record here — I’ve never seen any other industry that allows the monopolist to determine the fate of the new entrant.”

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  • Monthly QuotED: 7 Notable Quotes That Made Education Headlines in May, From Charter Schools to Online Credit Recovery — and the Legacy of Brown v. Board

    By Andrew Brownstein | June 2, 2019

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

    “Our school system can no longer put up fences for black and brown children. On this 65th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, we are going to tear down those barriers and create an education system that works for all people, not just the wealthy and powerful.” —Sen. Bernie Sanders, Democratic presidential candidate, unveiling an education plan that would place a federal ban on for-profit charter schools and impose a moratorium on using taxpayer funds to expand charter schools. (Read in USA Today)

    (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

    “There are very good public schools and very bad public schools. There are very good charter schools and very bad charter schools. The goal should be to make more schools high-quality and effective — not denounce an entire category.” —Founder of Venture for America and Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang. (Read on Twitter)

    “This discussion … has been going on since black people were brought here. And it will go on forever.” —Activist and educator Howard Fuller, on the enduring legacy of racism and segregation in America’s schools 65 years after the Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Board of Education. (Read at The74Million.org)

    “We’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly. There are kids who come in and they are really motivated to get done, we do believe, and we’ve heard from teachers that some kids wouldn’t be in school if they didn’t have this option.” —Carolyn J. Heinrich, a professor of public policy, education and economics at Vanderbilt University and co-author of a recent paper on online credit recovery. (Read in Education Week)

    “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 The74Million.org)

    “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)

    District of Columbia Public Schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee speaks with a student at John Hayden Johnson Middle School. Ferebee conducted a public engagement blitz during his first days leading DCPS. (Courtesy DCPS)

    “He’s a pretty chill dude.” —Dunbar High School senior Ciata Lattisaw, on new DC Schools chancellor Lewis Ferebee. (Read at The74Million.org)

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