February 2020
  • Monthly QuotED: 6 Notable Quotes That Made Education Headlines in February, From Literacy to the Coronavirus — and the Value of Teachers Who Grade Tough

    By Andrew Brownstein | February 28, 2020

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

    “A vast unplanned experiment in mass home-schooling.” —Kevin Carey, vice president for education policy at New America, a think tank, on plans to teach students remotely via the internet in the event the coronavirus leads to school closures. (Read at The New York Times)

    President Donald Trump at a White House conference with members of the coronavirus task force on Wednesday (Getty Images)

    “All of these years later, now we know that in communities of color those cops are not there to protect and serve, but they are there for law and order purposes. White kids get protect and serve. Black and brown kids get law and order.” —Judith Browne Dianis, executive director of the Advancement Project, a nonprofit that focuses on racial justice issues, on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s longtime support of school-based police. (Read at

    “I wouldn’t be surprised if other suits in other states follow, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some states and jurisdictions take this as a cautionary tale.” —Nell Duke, a University of Michigan education professor, on a settlement in a California lawsuit that directs the state to spend $53 million on better reading instruction at the state’s lowest-performing schools. (Read at the Los Angeles Times)

    “In the short run, that makes people’s lives easier. In the long run, that really hurts students. It gives them a false sense of security; it sets them up for failure or at least lower performance down the road.” —Seth Gershenson, an associate professor at American University, on the dangers of grade inflation. His new study shows that students perform better on standardized tests when their teachers are tough graders. (Read at Education Week)

    “Basically, if you’re poor, you’ve got second-class remedies available to you.” —Jennifer Valverde, a law professor at Rutgers University who specializes in special education, on the federal guarantee of “private placement” if a public school can’t meet the needs of children with disabilities. (Read at USA Today)

    Louisiana Department of Education

    “There’s a lot of forces working to make sure the world doesn’t know how difficult educating kids is and how often people fail.” —Outgoing Louisiana Superintendent John White. (Read at


    Sign up for The 74’s newsletter

  • EduClips: How Schools Are Bracing for Coronavirus, Florida to Expand Voucher Program, a Big Drop in NYC School Arrests & More News You Missed This Week From America’s 15 Top Districts

    By Laura Fay and Meghan Gallagher | February 27, 2020

    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 10 states attend class every day. Read previous EduClips installments here.

    NATIONAL — CDC Warning Schools to Plan for Coronavirus, Possible Closures: Federal officials are now warning schools to prepare for “a nationwide surge” in cases of the coronavirus, Mark Lieberman reports for Education Week. Nancy Messonnier, a director at the Centers for Disease Control, suggests that parents ask about schools’ plans for dismissals, closures and teleschool, saying her agency is confident that an outbreak will occur in the United States. In response to the growing threat, with more than 80,000 confirmed cases worldwide, several school trips to China and Chinese exchange programs have already been canceled, and K-12 schools are sending letters home encouraging frequent handwashing and keeping sick children home until they’re fever-free. The AASA — the School Superintendents Association — is prepared to help the CDC share information with school districts if an outbreak occurs. (Read at Education Week)

    FLORIDA — State School Voucher Program Headed Toward Expansion: Florida lawmakers appear poised to expand a school voucher program this spring. Committees in the state House and Senate this week advanced bills that would more than double the number of students eligible for the Family Empowerment Scholarship program, which provides vouchers for students to attend private school. The vouchers are worth 95 percent of what the state would pay school districts per student. The bills differ slightly, but both increase the number of scholarships by 28,902 vouchers. Current legislation caps the program at 18,000 students and calls for slower growth. But the Florida House and Senate are now both under Republican control; the state party has historically supported vouchers. (Read at WJCT)

    TEXAS — Houston Teachers Union Claims Racial Discrimination in State Education Agency School Board Takeover Plan: “A Houston teachers union, making claims of racial discrimination, asked a federal judge Tuesday to block the Texas Education Agency from replacing their school district’s elected board of trustees with a handpicked board of managers,” reports Cameron Langford for the Courthouse News Service. The lawsuit is a response to Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath’s announcement last year that the state will take over the Houston Independent School District because of repeated poor performance at one district high school and improper actions by board members. According to the complaint, the agency has shown a pattern of targeting school districts in which most of the students are minorities. A state judge has already temporarily blocked the takeover. (Read at Courthouse News Service)

    Houston Primer: 7 Things to Know About the State Takeover of Houston Schools

    NEW YORK — Dramatic Drop in NYC School Arrests Amid New Reform: In the wake of recent reforms that discouraged arrests for more minor offenses, new data show that NYPD officers “made fewer than 150 arrests in city schools between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, 2019 — about half the number of arrests made during the same months the previous year,” Michael Elsen-Rooney reports for The Daily News. “Major crimes,” a category that includes seven serious offenses, also dropped 19 percent compared with last year, but the decrease coincided with a 35 percent increase in “juvenile reports” — a procedure in which no charges are filed but an internal file is kept at a police precinct. (Read at New York Daily News)

    ILLINOIS — After Violence Targeting Youth Spikes, Chicago to Expand Program Offering Therapy and Mentorship: Chicago Public Schools is expanding a program that offers “therapy, field trips and mentorship to young people deemed at high risk of experiencing gun violence and trauma,” reports Yana Kunichoff for Chalkbeat. Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced the initiative after Chicago saw 11 children shot in one weekend. The program will focus on the city’s alternative high schools, whose students are disproportionately likely to be involved in crimes either as perpetrators or victims, as well as students already involved in the justice system and those who are not projected to graduate on time. A study of the pilot version of the program found that it was effective: Students who participated had 32 percent fewer “misconduct incidents” in school than the control group. (Read at Chalkbeat)

    Related: Not Many Afterschool Programs Teach Social-Emotional Learning. Wings for Kids Does, and New Gold Standard Study Finds It’s Working for Low-Income Students

    HAWAII — Interest in Hawaiian Language Immersion Schools Surges, but Challenges Remain: Enrollment in Hawaiian language immersion programs has increased 40 percent in the past five years, and teachers are mostly writing their own curriculum in a language that not long ago “seemed in danger of disappearing,” reports Suevon Lee for Honolulu Civil Beat. The first immersion programs on the islands began in 1987, but the statewide district hasn’t done much to capture materials and lessons teachers have been creating. “There’s never been a systematic way to gather up the treasure trove of intellectual property and share it on their terms,” one official said. In Hana, a remote town in East Maui, the change has already had an impact, leading more in the community to use the native language, Lee found. “We’re strong in culture,” one school leader said. “But what really lacked for many, many years was our language. And that’s what we’re revitalizing now.” Lee’s coverage is part of an ongoing series called Fault Lines that aims to bridge gaps among Hawaiians. (Read at Honolulu Civil Beat: Part 1 and Part 2)

    CALIFORNIA — Anti-Semitism Alleged in L.A. School Board Race as Charter Schools and Teachers Union Face Off: Charter school supporters from L.A.’s West San Fernando Valley have initiated a million-dollar attack campaign against a sitting school board member who is up for re-election Tuesday. They pulled one mailer that was slammed as anti-Semitic for portraying Scott Schmerelson as “greedy, corrupt and determined to score fast cash” and containing misinformation about the former principal, reports Howard Blume in the Los Angeles Times. “Behind the surge of negative mailers in this West San Fernando Valley board district is an intense effort by charter school supporters to defeat Schmerelson and elect Marilyn Koziatek, a district parent who works at a local charter school managing community outreach efforts,” Blume reports. Koziatek distanced herself from the flyer, calling it “another example of the sad reflection of the polarized climate of LAUSD politics that is not good for our kids.” Four of the board’s seven seats are up for grabs Tuesday. (Read at the Los Angeles Times)

    Also happening in California: A look at Proposition 13, the $15-billion school bond on the March 3 ballot (Read at Los Angeles Times)

    Noteworthy Essays and Analysis

    CIVIL RIGHTS: Katherine Johnson Should Also Be Remembered for Desegregating Higher Education (Read at The Washington Post)

    HIGHER ED: The ‘Missing Middle’ at Ivy-Plus Colleges (Read at Inside Higher Ed)

    TEACHERS: 3 Misconceptions About Educator Self-Care (Read at Education Week)

    PARENTING: The Chart That Reveals Your Kid’s Adult Height (Read at The Atlantic)

    What else we’re reading 

    DEBATE FACT-CHECK: Did 23 NYC Schools Top State Rankings When Bloomberg Left Office? Close. It was 22, and That List Deserves a Closer Look (Read at The 74)

    LEAD CRISIS: ‘It Was Everywhere’: How Lead Is Poisoning America’s Poorest Children (Read at The Guardian)

    MIDDLE SCHOOL: A Middle School Requires Kids to Dance with Anyone Who Asks. One Mom Is Fighting for Her Daughter’s Right to Say ‘No’ (Read at The Washington Post)

    INTERVIEW: Children’s Author Mo Willems on the Lost Art of Being Silly (Read at Edutopia)

    IMMIGRATION: Speaking Mam in MAGA Country: Immigration, Education and the Teenage Boy in the Middle (Read at WHYY)


    Sign up for The 74’s newsletter

  • Democratic Debate Fact-Check: Did 23 NYC Schools Top State Rankings When Bloomberg Left Office? Close. It Was 22, and That List Deserves a Closer Look

    By Andrew Brownstein | February 26, 2020

    For someone who has dropped $7 million a day of his own money to become president of the United States, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has often appeared awkward and unprepared on the Democratic debate stage. He’s stumbled over easy-to-anticipate attacks regarding “stop and frisk” policing and allegations of sexual harassment. And the less we say about his “Naked Cowboy” quip, the better.

    So among edu-watchers, particularly the long-suffering charter sector, ears perked up Tuesday evening when moderator Bill Whitaker of CBS asked Bloomberg about his support of school choice as mayor: “A key element of your response to failing schools in New York City was a dramatic increase in public charter schools. As president, would you pursue that same strategy and seek to expand charter schools nationwide?”

    Bloomberg’s response was neither the full-throated defense some might have hoped for nor a Booker-esque walk-back.

    “I’m not sure they’re appropriate everyplace,” he said. “I can only tell you in New York, they provided parents with an alternative.”

    Bloomberg chose to position his charter record as part of a broader effort to overhaul schools during his tenure. He said that based on math and reading test scores, 23 of the top 25 top schools in the state were from New York City when he left the mayor’s office in 2013, compared with zero when he started 12 years prior.

    Nitpicky fact-check: The actual number was 22.

    But the list of top schools is worthy of examination, and it raises issues that go beyond the typically binary stances that characterize the 2020 Democratic scrum.

    Two of those schools were charters, both part of the much-lauded, oft-criticized Success Academy network. At least seven were selective gifted-and-talented schools, and three were specialized arts academies.

    At the time Bloomberg took a “victory lap” of the 22 schools in 2013, The New York Times noted that many “were in well-to-do neighborhoods or were highly selective in their admissions,” including the Anderson School (tops in the state) and the Brooklyn School of Inquiry (No. 18).

    Research on Bloomberg’s tenure in New York tends to give him high marks for his willingness to close failing schools but indicates that endemic segregation persisted through, and outlasted, his time in power. Current mayor Bill de Blasio has made that last point a centerpiece of his administration, proposing — but not yet implementing — a plan to overhaul the criteria for admitting students to elite schools, which traditionally have left out many black and Latino students.

    The issue is national in scope. The Economist recently declared that “a battle over gifted education is brewing in America,” where whites are 80 percent more likely than blacks to be enrolled in accelerated programs. But thus far, the issues have largely proved to be too in the weeds, or perhaps too incendiary, for the Democratic field — even when de Blasio was briefly a part of it.

    Back to Bloomberg’s 2013 victory lap: Seven of the schools that made it to the top-in-state list opened during his tenure, including three that, in the words of the Times, “hew to the administration’s goal of giving poor students more choice”: two Success Academy charter schools in the Bronx and Active Learning Elementary School in Queens.

    The former mayor referred obliquely to that legacy during Tuesday’s debate.

    “The only way to eradicate the poverty problem is to give people a good education,” he said. “Rather than just talk about it, in New York we actually did it.”

    Disclosure: Bloomberg Philanthropies provides financial support to The 74. Co-founder and former CEO Romy Drucker, who sits on The 74’s Board of Directors, worked at the New York City Department of Education from 2007 to 2012 under then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg. She played no role in the reporting or editing of this article.


    Sign up for The 74’s newsletter

  • Q&A — 3 Minutes With Charter School Founder Diana Shulla-Cose: An SEL Curriculum for a Lifetime, & Her School’s Most Famous Alum, Lakers Star Anthony Davis

    By Greg Richmond | February 14, 2020

    This is one in an ongoing series of brief conversations with education innovators led by Greg Richmond, founder and former CEO of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers. His “Three Questions For” series also appears on Medium. Today’s edition: three minutes with Diana Shulla-Cose, co-founder and president of SEL-based Perspectives Charter School in Chicago. 

    Richmond: Twenty-three years ago, when you started Perspectives Charter School, many other schools were focusing on raising test scores. You went against the grain by proposing a school based on something called “A Disciplined Life.” What is “A Disciplined Life”?

    Shulla-Cose: “A Disciplined Life” is our school culture, and it is created with deep intention. We have a set of 26 principles. We have a set of social, emotional and ethical core practices, and they sit under three buckets: self-perception, relationships and productivity.

    We study these principles the way we study algorithms or revolutions and grapple with principles like: “Demonstrate honesty and integrity.” “Demonstrate a hard work ethic.” “Be reliable.” “Love who you are.” “Seek wisdom.” “Be open-minded.” “Respect the differences in others.” “Challenge each other intellectually.”

    These are not just on our wall. They are studied by the adults in the building, by our teachers and support staff, our administration, our board members. We take it seriously as adults so we can strive to model and mirror our principles, and study our principles with our kids.

    Over the past 20-plus years, we have built out a menu of interesting practices that help us develop social, emotional and ethical learning in our students. These practices are actions that we are trained to implement on a daily basis that build out this culture of trust and curiosity and high quality.

    We spend 180 minutes in a class called “A Disciplined Life” every week. It’s very intentional that our kids leave at 18 years old, and our goal is not just to foster young leaders, but ethical leaders.

    You can ask one of our 35-year-old graduates, Harold Watson, who is an educator today married with a kid and a dog, and he stands up at an event and says, “‘A Disciplined Life’ is my blueprint for life. Without these principles, I wouldn’t be the person I am.” Our kids leave at 18 carrying values and tools in their pocket to be persistent and to be able to problem-solve and manage challenging situations and make good decisions around the people they are with.

    How has Perspectives’s focus on “A Disciplined Life” increased performance on traditional measures?

    I think it has helped. When we look at a child holistically, we are truly working to teach that whole child. It’s about the EQ [emotional quotient] and the IQ. Our goal is for students to be intensive thinkers and increase their sense of agency. People who stay at Perspectives from sixth through 12th grade, their GPA is higher and they enroll in college at a higher rate.

    It’s about building that trust and building that relationship. I think trust and relationship building are critical for kids to feel safe to be learners. That’s when the magic happens. Kids and teachers have to have that personal connection in the classroom so that remarkable learning and growth can take place. That spills into data looking better.

    The other part of “A Disciplined Life” is productivity — get really strategic about how we go about making those scores go up. The idea of being productive is woven in: making sure you are reliable, and that you challenge each other intellectually, and that you are inquisitive. A school that is organized and has a level of respect and love for kids and for the craft of being a teacher really matters. I don’t think that just focusing on test scores gets you that side of the schooling equation.

    Your most famous graduate is Anthony Davis. He was the college basketball Player of the Year in 2012. He won an Olympic gold medal. First pick in the NBA draft by the New Orleans Pelicans and now with the Los Angeles Lakers. Seven-time NBA All-Star. All that, yet Perspectives does not even have a gymnasium. How did that happen? How did Perspectives influence his career?

    Anthony Davis came from a family where there is love and high expectations. And when that family realized they were raising the best basketball player in the country, they still would not pull him from Perspectives even though recruiters may not be showing up at his school.

    Diana Shulla-Cose (left) with two Perspectives students (Perspectives Charter School)

    He’s just a good guy. Because you come from that family and have all that support at home and you have a school that supports the same kind of values, it was great. Then he could go be a ballplayer. School came naturally for him. He’s smart. He was a real capable student. He is a thoughtful guy who was always humble. Really well-liked. Solid. Easy-going. Lovely young man who has shown that on and off the court.

    When he went down to New Orleans, they did a whole piece on him and “A Disciplined Life.” In the NBA 2K video game, there is a scene of Anthony playing on a basketball court, and it is the “Anthony Davis ‘A Disciplined Life’ Basketball Court.” It is the playground right on our campus. Anthony had given us that court. Remember, this guy graduated from Perspectives and it was a school with no gym. So, he is a cool guy. We love him.

    He was with us for seven years, from sixth grade through 12th, and his parents knew Perspectives was going to help him grow, not only as an intellectual but also as a human being. It was going to mirror the values in their home.

    Greg Richmond is the founder of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers and a senior fellow at the Future Ed think tank at Georgetown University. 


    Sign up for The 74’s newsletter

  • Foundation Report Looks Back at 3 Years of Helping Charter School Operators Build, Find and Renovate Classroom Space for Their Students

    By Laura McKenna | February 11, 2020

    Before charter school teachers can begin day one of a math or social studies class, the leaders of those schools have to create modern classrooms for them and their students. Finding appropriate buildings, securing funding and working with contractors to renovate those spaces can be serious obstacles because only 1 in 3 states provides the necessary funding for charter schools facilities, according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Though states are increasingly passing legislation to support charter school construction, those challenges remain, and traditional lenders unfamiliar with charter schools are often reluctant to provide low-interest loans to cover the costs.

    “It is just too difficult for an entrepreneur out there who wants to start a school,” said Marc Sternberg, director of K-12 education for the Walton Family Foundation.

    To make it easier and cheaper for charter school leaders to find, purchase and renovate school facilities, the foundation created the Building Equity Initiative in 2016. It provides lower-interest short- and long-term loans, partnerships with technical advisers and planning grants to help expedite the charter school building process.

    In a report released last month, the foundation took a look back at the past three years. Here are some key numbers:

    1 $185 million

    One hundred and one high-performing public charter schools serving 28,694 students in 20 high-needs cities, including Nashville, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Washington, D.C., have shared in $185 million in support from the initiative. This has saved the schools nearly $29 million as they renovated or purchased 12 million square feet of real estate. The foundation hopes to expand this program to serve an additional 250,000 students in low-income urban areas by 2027.

    2 $200 million

    The foundation expects to distribute $200 million in new low-interest, long-term loans to charter schools by mid-2020 through its Equitable Facilities Fund. Funding for these loans come from seed money from the foundation and a first-of-its-kind public bond issuance that has attracted new private investors. One recipient, KIPP Nashville College Prep, will save $1.9 million under the terms of the loan, which it will invest in teacher salaries, special education, ELL and curriculum development.

    3 $58 million

    The foundation has provided $58 million in five-year, low-cost, fixed-rate loans to schools through the initiative’s Facilities Investment Fund and private capital. One recipient, Ascend Learning in Brooklyn, used the loan to acquire and renovate two new buildings for its 675 students, saving an estimated $600,000 over five years. Another recipient, Resurgence Hall in Atlanta, is now educating its 505 K-8 students in a renovated 55,000-square-foot school building, saving an estimated $260,000 over five years with its loan.

    4 13 

    The initiative connected charter leaders with a nationwide network of 13 organizations of experts who provided advice on a variety of real estate, financial and construction challenges, such as landscape surveys and project management.

    5 $2 million

    To support charter school leaders with early planning stages of school construction in low-income areas, the foundation established the $2 million Spark Opportunity Grants in the fall of 2019. Of 140 applications in its first year, 26 recipients received grants in round 1, ranging from $1,500 to $50,000.

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


    Sign up for The 74’s newsletter

  • Trump Budget Proposal Would Merge Federal Education Programs Into Single Block Grant, Cut Billions in School Spending

    By Mark Keierleber | February 10, 2020

    The Trump administration announced a proposal Monday to cut billions of dollars in education aid, in part by merging dozens of federal education initiatives, from charter school expansions to educating homeless children, into a single grant program.

    The move, which is practically assured not to win House approval, is part of the fiscal 2021 budget proposal the White House released Monday. The proposal aims to cut 7.8 percent in spending on federal Education Department programs, from $72. 8 billion to $66.6 billion.

    Under the plan, 29 formula and competitive grant programs — the largest being Title I — would be merged into a single block grant to states. The merger “would empower States and districts to decide how to best use Federal funds to meet the needs of their students,” according to the White House. In total, the “Elementary and Secondary Education for the Disadvantaged Block Grant” would receive nearly $19.4 billion in 2021.

    To allocate funds under the proposed grant program, the Education Department said it would use the same formula it currently uses to distribute Title I grants.

    “Instead of Washington politicians and bureaucrats forcing local schools to spend limited resources on D.C.’s priorities, this budget proposes putting state and local leaders, teachers, parents and students themselves in control of education,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said in a media release. “We know states will spend their money differently, and that’s okay. In fact, that’s what we hope they do. They know best how to serve their students.”

    The proposal announced Monday falls in line with Trump administration efforts to reduce the federal footprint in America’s schools. The proposal slashes a total $4.7 billion from the federal programs the block grant seeks to replace, but it is less severe than what the administration offered last year, when Trump proposed 10 percent in education funding cuts. Over time, the changes would reduce the Education Department’s staffing and administrative costs, according to a fact sheet by the Office of Management and Budget.

    Though the budget proposals signal the president’s priorities heading into an election year, they’re unlikely to become law. Last year, Congress approved a $1.3 billion bump in federal education spending.

    In total, Trump’s $4.8 trillion budget proposal calls for cuts to programs like Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program while increasing spending on the military, infrastructure and a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.


    Trump Uses State of the Union Address to Push for Tax-Credit Scholarships, Declaring No Child Should Be Forced to Attend ‘a Failing Government School’

    Meanwhile, Trump’s proposed budget seeks to spend billions in federal money — roughly equivalent to the totality of proposed cuts under the block grant — to help subsidize private school tuition. During his State of the Union address last week, he touted school choice as a pathway for students stuck in “failing government schools” and promoted a plan to create “Education Freedom Scholarships.” The proposal, a key legislative goal for DeVos, would offer federal tax-credit incentives to individuals and organizations that donate to state tax-credit scholarship programs for a host of educational offerings, including private school. Under the budget, the scholarship program would receive $1 billion in 2021 and $5 billion in subsequent years.

    Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, called the proposed budget “chilling,” arguing that it would result in fewer options for families. Last year, the federal government invested $440 million in charter schools. Merging that funding into a single block grant, Rees said in a statement, could hinder local efforts to create new charter schools because “it would put too much power in the hands of anti-charter politicians at the state level.” The federal charter school program helps fund new campuses in 45 states that allow them. The administration’s federal tax-credit plan to encourage donations for private school choice, however, “has little chance of passing” into law, Rees said.

    “As a result, there’s no guarantee that this tax-credit plan would ever help a student in need of access a better school,” she said.

    Beyond charter schools, federal initiatives touted for consolidation are far-reaching, with the the biggest line item being Title I grants, currently funded at $16.3 billion. Other programs folded into the proposed consolidated grant would be initiatives on school safety, rural education, teacher development and homeless education. New federal data, released in January, found that the number of students experiencing homelessness has surged in recent years.


    During State of the Union, Trump Announced Philadelphia Fourth-Grader Would Receive ‘Opportunity Scholarship’ for Private School Tuition. But That’s Not Quite True

    Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, accused the Trump administration of scheming to “funnel taxpayer money out of public schools and into private schools.” The proposal to merge federal education programs into a single block grant, she said, “is simply code for less funding to the schools and communities that need it most.”

    While critics focused on the proposed consolidation, the budget request also aims to provide a $900 million funding boost for career and technical education, which also got a call-out in Trump’s address to Congress last week, and a $100 million increase for state grants under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

    Among those who lauded the proposed budget is Elsie Arntzen, Montana’s superintendent of public instruction. The proposal, Arntzen said in an Education Department press release, is a victory for “local control.”

    “Consolidated federal grants will allow school leaders and the Office of Public Instruction to spend more time serving students and less time on burdensome federal reporting,” she said.


    Sign up for The 74’s newsletter

  • EduClips: A Civics Test for Every Florida Student, a Board Election That Could Reshape Texas Education Policy & More School News You Missed This Week at America’s Top Districts

    By Laura Fay | February 6, 2020

    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 10 states attend class every day. Read previous EduClips installments here.

    FLORIDA — Florida to Pilot High School Civics Test This Year: Most high school seniors in Florida will be expected to take a 100-question civics test, which is similar to the one immigrants must pass to become citizens, reports Jeffrey Solochek for the Tampa Bay Times. Gov. Ron DeSantis, a “huge proponent of increased civics education,” in December called for the testing, and state education officials said the test will be ready for all schools to pilot this spring. Scores will not count toward students’ graduation eligibility or school accountability measures during the pilot period. (Read at Tampa Bay Times)

    • Civics Ed: Can Civics Education Allow Schools to Rediscover Their Democratic Purpose — and Help Rescue America From Decline? (Read at The 74)

    TEXAS — Texas Primaries Set Up High-Stakes Test for GOP Hold on Education Board: Texas’s state Board of Education could see a “seismic political shakeup” this year, as two-thirds of its 15-member board are either leaving the board or facing opponents in either the primary election in March or the general in November. The board, currently dominated by Republicans, this year is expected to take up contentious issues including how schools should teach sex education, evolution and race, and the new members will have to choose textbooks that comply in 2021, Julie Chang reports for the Austin-American Statesman. The board makes decisions about curriculum, textbooks, charter applications and some education spending. (Read at the Austin-American Statesman)

    GEORGIA — Kemp Backs Bill to Reduce Testing, Especially in High School: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced this week he will support a bill that would decrease the total number of required standardized tests from 24 to 19. Four of the five dropped tests would be from the high school requirements. State Superintendent Richard Woods and lawmakers from both parties joined Kemp for the announcement. Some educator advocacy groups helped write the bill, but not all teachers support it, reported Ty Tagami for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (Read at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

    CALIFORNIACalifornia May Pause Student Fitness Tests Due to Bullying: California Gov. Gavin Newsom wants his state to drop the fitness test portion of physical education classes in an effort to “protect children from body shaming, bullying and gender identity discrimination,” Mackenzie Mays reported in Politico this week. The test, which is required for fifth-, seventh- and ninth-graders, includes a body mass index screening that offers only male or female options, as well as tasks to measure upper body strength, aerobic capacity and other physical traits. Under Newsom’s proposal, the test would be suspended for three years while the state education department consults experts about its purpose and administration. (Read at Politico)

    ILLINOIS — To Address a Shortage of Bilingual Teachers, Illinois Legislators Propose Scholarship Bills: A state representative and a congressman from Chicago are pushing for legislation to encourage bilingual students to become educators. “State Rep. Aaron Ortiz and Illinois Congressman Jesús ‘Chuy’ García, both Democrats from Chicago, are backing bills that would expand financial aid for bilingual high school students who intend to go into teaching. Ortiz’s bill would establish a scholarship program in Illinois, while García’s bill would expand funding for federal scholarships,” reports Marie Fazio for Chalkbeat Chicago. (Read at Chalkbeat Chicago)

    NATIONAL — Here’s What U.S. Schools Are Doing in Response to the Coronavirus: Several U.S. schools are taking steps to reduce the risk of the new coronavirus, including by canceling Chinese exchange programs because of the ongoing outbreak, Sunny Kim reports for CNBC. Other districts are tightening their policies around illness; the Chula Vista district in San Diego, for example, sent parents a letter asking them to keep children home for 24 hours after they recover from a fever of 100.4 degrees or more. A private boarding school in Tacoma, Washington, asked four students who recently visited China to live off campus for one week over concern about the illness. There have been at least 12 cases of the virus reported in the U.S. so far. (Read at CNBC)

    NEW YORK — Birth Month Matters: NYC Students Born in November and December Are Classified with Learning Disabilities at Higher Rates: “A new analysis conducted by the Independent Budget Office … uncovered a strong correlation between being born later in the year and being classified as having a learning disability by New York City schools,” Chalkbeat’s Amy Zimmer reported this week. Part of the reason for the disparity could be that the city’s cutoff for kindergarten is Dec. 31, one of the latest in the nation. That means “roughly a third of public school students are expected to start kindergarten at age 4 — an early start that could have lasting impacts on students born late in the calendar year,” and experts said New York City’s rigorous curriculum could also be difficult for the youngest children. (Read at Chalkbeat New York)

    • More from New York City: NYC School System Failed to Consistently Conduct Lead Paint Inspections for Years, Records Reveal (Read at Gothamist)

    NEVADA — Teacher Union’s Proposed Sales Tax Increase Would Raise Nearly $1 Billion Per Year, Legislative Analysts Say: The Clark County Education Association last month unveiled a proposal for “raising a portion of the state’s Local School Support Tax by 1.5 percentage points” to boost state and local revenue and increase funding for education. If the proposal gains enough signatures, the state legislature could consider it in 2021. The proposal is one of two offered by the union; the other is a “a gaming tax increase projected to bring in $652 million over a two-year budget cycle,” reported Riley Snyder and Michelle Rindels for The Nevada Independent. (Read at The Nevada Independent)

    Noteworthy Opinion & Analysis

    2020 ELECTION: How Bernie Sanders Became Teachers’ Favorite Candidate (Read at Huff Post)

    TEACHER VOICE: The Problem With Education’s Latest Trend, Design Thinking (Read at Education Week)

    BLACK HISTORY: Code Switch — Black Parents Take Control, Teachers Strike Back (Listen at NPR)

    HIGHER ED: Is It Fair to Award Scholarships Based on the SAT? (Read at The Wall Street Journal)

    RESEARCH: When Teachers Are Tough Graders, Students Learn More, Study Says (Read at Education Week)

    What Else We’re Reading

    POLITICS: Trump Uses State of the Union Address to Push for Tax-Credit Scholarships, Declaring No Child Should Be Forced to Attend ‘a Failing Government School’ (Read at The 74)

    HEALTH: Teens Find a Big Loophole in the New Flavored Vaping Ban (Read at The New York Times)

    RURAL ED: When the Bus Is the Schoolhouse (Read at The Hechinger Report)

    SOLUTIONS: Colleges Enlist Anti-Dropout Agents: Mom and Dad (Read at EdSource)

    KICKER: California Teacher Faces His Worst Fears to Inspire Students to Do the Same (Read at ABC7)

    Quotes of the Week

    “The next step forward in building an inclusive society is making sure that every young American gets a great education and the opportunity to achieve the American Dream. Pass the Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act — because no parent should be forced to send their child to a failing government school.” —President Donald Trump, during the 2020 State of the Union address (Read at The 74)

    “The frivolous use of this dress code to prevent students from graduating is about exerting authority over and controlling black people. Black people should not, cannot change themselves to fit white norms.” —Andre Perry, on DeAndre Arnold, who is being barred from his high school graduation because of his dreadlocks (Read at The Hechinger Report)

    “[A student] wrote that she had planned to end her life, but a story I told in class had changed her mind. The story was about how I find purpose in my students. I had no idea it would be such a purpose.” —David Upegui, a Rhode Island high school teacher, in a Tiny Teaching Story (Read at Education Week)


    Sign up for The 74’s newsletter

  • During State of the Union, Trump Announced Philadelphia Fourth-Grader Would Receive ‘Opportunity Scholarship’ for Private School Tuition. But That’s Not Quite True

    By Mark Keierleber | February 5, 2020

    Updated February 10

    During his State of the Union message Tuesday night, President Donald Trump addressed a Philadelphia fourth-grader in the audience stuck in “failing government schools” and told her she would get a life-changing opportunity to attend the school of her choice.

    By Wednesday, however, it became clear that there was more than meets the eye to the former Apprentice star’s prime-time gambit: Though it was described by the president as an “opportunity scholarship,” the U.S. Department of Education acknowledged that Secretary Betsy DeVos would personally bankroll the child’s schooling out of her own salary.

    During the Washington address, Trump said that Janiyah Davis would be awarded the scholarship to cover private school tuition, and he blamed Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf for trapping the child and thousands of others on a waiting list.

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is GettyImages-1204095881-615x410.jpg

    Stephanie Davis and her daughter Janiyah attend President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday in Washington. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

    “Your long wait is over,” Trump said to Janiyah, who attended the address with her mother, Stephanie. “I can proudly announce tonight that an opportunity scholarship has become available, it’s going to you, and you will soon be headed to the school of your choice.”

    Last June, Wolf vetoed legislation to nearly double the state scholarship program, which gives tax credits to businesses that donate money to help students pay for private school tuition. Although school choice options in Pennsylvania played a central role in Trump’s speech, the remarks were part of an effort to build support for a controversial federal school choice proposal championed by DeVos and Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. The federal Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act — which would provide federal tax credits to people who donate to state scholarship programs — is unlikely to pass and has faced opposition from advocates across the political spectrum.

    But the source of the scholarship Trump announced Davis will receive — and how it’ll be used — was a mystery, with a search for answers leading down a rabbit hole of bureaucracy. In a phone call Wednesday morning, a spokeswoman with the Pennsylvania Department of Education said that they, too, were looking for answers.

    In an email to The 74, an Education Department spokeswoman directed questions to the White House, noting that Trump invited the Davis family. A White House spokesman directed questions to the Education Department. Later, however, Education Department spokeswoman Liz Hill said that in “her personal capacity,” DeVos donates her federal salary every year. “In this instance, she will be directly providing the scholarship for Janiyah,” Hill said. Hill didn’t provide additional information, such as how Davis was selected for the opportunity, where she plans to attend school or how much money she would receive.

    Stephanie, the student’s mother, offered a different narrative in an interview with reporters from the Philadelphia Inquirer. Janiyah attends Math, Science and Technology Community Charter School III, one of Philadelphia’s most sought-after public charter schools. Janiyah previously attended Only Christian School, where she received a scholarship but the private school tuition remained steep. She enrolled in the charter school after receiving a coveted seat last summer. 

    Though she said she was honored to be recognized in Trump’s speech, she was surprised her daughter got the scholarship. Now, Stephanie is weighing whether to keep Janiyah in the charter school or to send her elsewhere. Stephanie doesn’t view the charter “as a school you want to get out of at all,” she told the Inquirer. “I view it as a great opportunity.” 

    Both Trump and DeVos have donated their government salaries to education initiatives in the past. Last year, DeVos donated a portion of her government salary to a group of historically black colleges and universities.

    Betsy DeVos speaks about a donation from President Trump to the Department of Education during the daily press briefing on July 26, 2017. (Getty Images)

    DeVos’s action, first revealed in a tweet from the New York Times’ Erica Green, generated a host of harsh reactions on social media. “We the people are supposed to be thankful when the oligarchs bestow gifts to lucky ones among us,” one Twitter user commented. Another user responded: “Rather than consistent public policy, the wealthy get to decide who among us is the ‘deserving poor.’”

    Casey Smith, communications director at the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, said in an email that the state wasn’t given any information beforehand about Trump’s announcement and called several claims in the president’s speech misleading. The Pennsylvania Department of Education designates eligible schools under the program, while the Community and Economic Development department approves eligible businesses.

    After Gov. Wolf vetoed a bill to expand Pennsylvania’s education tax-credit program, he signed off on a budget that included a more modest, $25 million increase for the program, “which the White House did not mention,” Smith said. Though Trump said “tens of thousands of students remain on a waiting list” because Pennsylvania’s school choice efforts are so popular, the state “does not collect data related to how many students are on the waiting list” for the tax-credit program, which Wolf believes lacks adequate accountability, Smith said.

    “Little is known about the educational outcomes of students participating in the program due to a reporting loophole in the current law,” Smith said. “Even less is known about the scholarship organizations that retain up to 20 percent of each dollar that is supposed to pass through them and are subsidized heavily by taxpayers.”

    Despite the uncertainty, the news generated a slew of differing opinions from education pundits and policymakers.

    Ironically, some of the harshest critics of the proposal come from the political right; they view it as federal overreach. Among them is Neal McCluskey, director of the Center for Educational Freedom at the libertarian Cato Institute, who said he worries that greater federal involvement in school choice could become “one-stop shopping to regulate private schools.”

    Though there’s nothing wrong with DeVos donating her salary to the student, McCluskey said, it’s unclear whether she’s giving money to the Davis family directly or going through the state’s tax-credit program. The way Trump presented the news, he said, could confuse people who don’t fully understand how education tax-credit scholarships work.

    “The way it was presented at the State of the Union was, at the very least, unclear,” McCluskey said. “The politics of how it was presented — making it sound like an opportunity scholarship — that’s got potentially problematic aspects to it depending on how much credit you think the president should get for this student getting a scholarship.”

    But from a political perspective, focusing on the plight of a single student was smart messaging, said Jeanne Allen, founder and CEO of the Center for Education Reform. She noted that “when you want someone to make a point, it’s not difficult to find someone who’s got a compelling story.” As for DeVos, Allen said the donation shows that the education secretary has “got a big heart.”

    “People think she’s insane for doing this job because she’s been put through such hell,” Allen said. But “this is her issue; this is what she lives for.”

    Max Eden, a senior fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute, said it was inaccurate to characterize the DeVos donation as an “opportunity scholarship” but didn’t believe that Trump’s statements were “substantively misleading.” Although it’s highly unlikely that the federal tax-credit proposal will advance in Congress, he said the speech could bolster Trump’s electoral prospects.

    “It’s not a coincidence that Janiyah comes from a battleground state that many consider to be a ‘must-win’ for the president,” Eden said in an email. “And I imagine that the sight of Congressional Democrats refusing to stand for Janiyah will help him in that regard.”

    Michael Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a right-leaning education think tank, viewed the situation differently. Though he applauded DeVos’s donation, he predicted that the Trump speech will have little effect on the school choice debate in Pennsylvania or nationally.

    “What school choice needs right [now] is greater bipartisanship,” Petrilli said in an email. “That’s not going to be aided by our most polarizing president in American history.”


    Sign up for The 74’s newsletter

  • Q&A — Three Minutes With CZI’s Brooke Stafford-Brizard: What the Schools Best at Supporting the Whole Child Have in Common

    By Greg Richmond | February 3, 2020

    This is one in an ongoing series of brief conversations with education innovators led by Greg Richmond, founder and former CEO of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers. His “Three Questions For” series also appears on Medium. Today’s edition: three minutes with Brooke Stafford-Brizard of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

    Richmond: Recently, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative released a set of profiles of schools bringing a whole-child approach to the classroom. What are the characteristics of those schools that make it more likely for them to successfully implement a whole-child approach? 

    Stafford-Brizard: One theme we have seen across those 10 schools that have really dedicated to this rigorous and integrated whole-child approach is really intentional model design. Whether they built the school design from the start or revisited the design of their model, it has to be embedded at that level to think about how a broader definition of student success is integrated into models that might have been more academic-centric alone. None of these schools walked away from rigorous academic development. Instead, many of these schools are really doing a phenomenal job with their academic measures, and their leaders attribute that to their whole-child approach.

    Also, there is huge attention to the adult community in these schools. It’s in two parts. One is the access that teachers have to support and resources grounded in the latest research on child and adolescent development. We generally don’t train teachers in pre-service education through a human development lens. There is so much opportunity to support our educators with innovative resources grounded in child and adolescent development — for example, leveraging brain science and how that informs how we support positive discipline models in schools. 

    There’s the support educators need and are longing for, and then there is also attention to their own whole development. That’s supporting and tapping into the sense of purpose that educators feel, their own identities and what they bring to school in their classroom, as well as addressing levels of stress they might be experiencing. For example, in environments that are doing a really good job addressing trauma, we see significant secondary trauma in our teachers. A huge focus of the schools we highlighted is the attention to the teachers and their whole development.

    I would also add a connection to families and community. A lot of these schools are really intentional about embracing and embedding the values and strengths and assets that students are bringing from their cultures and their communities into the classroom, and not putting barriers between the classroom and community.

    These schools are also really desperate for formative measures and formative assessments, both to help track where they are and how they can get better. Some of these partners have built their own surveys and their own tools in the absence of fieldwide supports.

    Finally, the whole-child work in these schools is implemented with deep rigor. Just like the effort that goes behind a strong approach to mathematics or literacy, the same thing is necessary with their approach on these whole-child constructs, like sense of purpose or executive function skills. 

    How could public education policies around the country be improved to make it more likely for schools to implement a whole-child approach?

    In the policy space, we’re seeing really strong traction and response for demand for mental health supports in schools. We should ensure that those policies that are put in place and the funding routed toward those supports are looking to evidence-based practice and an asset-based lens on students and communities. At the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, we include the assets and skills connected to mental health and well-being in an expanded definition of student success and have invested in supports for educators to integrate a focus on mental health into their school practice. 

    I would point to two main policy areas that are most available for opportunity. This first involves discipline policies and codes of conduct that should be grounded in the science of child and adolescent development and focused on strengths and social-emotional skill development. This includes the most relevant and effective strategies for de-escalating children and adolescents and addressing behaviors that might not be appropriate for the classroom — we know that isolation and immediate punishment is actually not aligned to the science of learning and development. Policies need to represent this science and provide the right implementation support for teachers and leaders.

    A second opportunity involves adult development policies, both pre-service and in-service, and what we name as the critical components of educator preparation. The learning and developmental sciences have a lot to teach us about how to best support children, adolescents and adults. The implications are powerful both for teachers and our school leaders. 

    What has inspired you to make a career supporting and advancing a whole-child approach to education?

    I started my career as a middle school teacher in the Bronx. I was a Teach for America corps member. I wasn’t an education major. I went back to graduate school after I taught middle school, and the program I focused on was cognitive sciences in education, a doctoral program in human development that was part of Teachers College at Columbia, and I learned the science of learning and development. There was so much that I wish I had known as a teacher. My work and my career have been about infusing the science of human development into the way we work with educators and support educators.

    Greg Richmond is the founder of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers and a senior fellow at the Future Ed think tank at Georgetown University. 

    Disclosure: The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative provides financial support to The 74.


    Sign up for The 74’s newsletter