June 2020
  • 2 New Surveys Find Teachers Stressed by Shutdown, Unable to Contact Students and Feeling Their Confidence Drop

    By Beth Hawkins | June 29, 2020

    Two new surveys of teachers and school administrators confirm some of the worst fears about the switch to distance learning since the pandemic struck: The vast majority of teachers could not teach all the material they were supposed to, teacher confidence plummeted in schools without supportive working conditions, and fewer than half of teachers in high schools, high-poverty schools and schools serving a majority of children of color were able to contact their students.

    In the latest survey of its American Educator Panels, the RAND Corp. found that just 12 percent of teachers said they ended the last school year having covered all or nearly all of the planned curriculum. The panels are nationally representative sets of teachers and school administrators canvassed regularly about a variety of topics. For this report, researchers relied on some 2,000 completed surveys, slightly more than half from teachers and the rest from administrators. Teachers in city or suburban schools were twice as likely to report having covered a full year’s material as those in towns or rural areas.

    Teachers in schools where 75 percent or more of students are economically disadvantaged were much more likely to say they concentrated on reviewing past material than their counterparts at low-poverty or majority-white schools. Twenty-six percent of teachers surveyed at high-poverty schools reported teaching “all or almost all review,” while 28 percent said they “mostly” focused on reviewing past lessons. At low-poverty schools, by contrast, 19 percent reported teaching virtually all new material and 24 percent mostly new lessons.

    (RAND Corp.)

    One-fourth of principals surveyed said students’ lack of internet access was a major problem, while 62 percent said it was a minor obstacle. One-fifth of principals said they lacked access to high-quality materials, and 30 percent said they needed training on how to support teachers during distance learning.

    (RAND Corp.)

    Fifty-nine percent of teachers and 77 percent of principals said they were able to contact all or nearly all of their students and families during school closures, though this number varied considerably depending on school demographics. In elementary schools, 71 percent of teachers said they were able to contact all or nearly all of their students, versus 47.5 percent of secondary teachers. Educators were more likely to report being able to communicate with students and families in low-poverty and majority-white schools.

    By far the largest need cited by teachers was strategies to keep students engaged and motivated during distance learning. Forty-five percent said it was a major need, and 39 percent called it a minor or moderate one. Nearly one-third said they did not receive adequate guidance to support students with mild to moderate disabilities.


    New Poll Reveals Parents Want One-on-One Distance Learning Support From Teachers — but Aren’t Getting Much of It

    A second survey, by Upbeat, a consulting firm that collects and analyzes data with an eye toward teacher retention, looked at educators’ experiences of teaching at home. Upbeat surveyed 7,200 teachers in nine states and found both high levels of stress and positive feelings about schools’ support for educators during the pandemic-related closures.

    Overall, researchers found that the percentage of teachers who feel successful dropped from 96 percent to 73 percent during distance learning, but with wide variations depending on how supportive they perceived their schools to be. In schools seen as supportive, the percentage of teachers who felt successful after the shift to remote learning dropped from 99 percent to 93 percent. In unsupportive schools, it plummeted from 90 percent to 48 percent.


    Mid-career teachers, who are most likely to have young children and aging parents, reported the most stress over balancing work with other responsibilities, with 51 percent saying that caretaking obligations made teaching difficult. Veteran teachers were three times as likely as early-career educators to report being uncomfortable with distance-learning technology.

    Teachers surveyed by Upbeat estimated that 60 percent of their students regularly engaged in remote learning, with wide gaps depending on racial and socioeconomic status. In schools where fewer than 10 percent of students are Black, teachers reported that 72 percent of students regularly engaged in remote learning, versus 45 percent in schools where 50 percent or more are Black.


    The report’s authors suggested that this range is likely the result of systemic inequities — including historically under-resourced schools — that have a disproportionate negative impact on communities of color and that have been compounded by COVID-19. Black and brown families have experienced worse health outcomes, much greater job loss and other factors during the pandemic that make remote learning far more difficult.

    Disclosure: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provides financial support to the RAND Corp.’s American Educator Panels and to The 74.


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  • Monthly QuotED: 7 Notable Quotes That Made Education Headlines in June, From ‘Red Flag’ Laws to Reopening Schools — and a Supreme Court Reprieve for ‘Dreamers’

    By Andrew Brownstein | June 26, 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.

    “Remote learning may be able to crack into students’ minds, but I think the pain of this reality is knowing that remotely reaching students’ hearts is not the same.” —Allison Tingwall, principal of Curie Metropolitan High School in Chicago. (Read at Chalkbeat)

    Karen Reyes, a special education teacher in Austin, Texas, at the Supreme Court for oral arguments in the DACA case in November 2019. (Karen Reyes)

    “I was able to drive, live, work without fear. Without the constant fear that I’m going to get deported at any minute.” —Karen Reyes, an Austin, Texas, bilingual special education teacher, after the Supreme Court handed down its decision blocking the Trump administration’s effort to end DACA, the program that has allowed some 650,000 immigrants who were brought into the U.S. as children — as Reyes was — to live and work without the threat of deportation. (Read at

    “There are 78 million parents with at least one child in their household under 18. That’s almost a third of the adult population. A parent’s ability to find and keep a job is inseparable from child care and schooling.” —Labor economist Ernie Tedeschi. (Read at NBC News)

    Getty Images

    “I’m doing 300 percent of the planning I usually do.” —Kaitlin Karpinski, leader of Rooted School in New Orleans, on planning for schools reopening in the fall. (Read at

    “This is my great worry. In a moment when we should be investing, we are going to be seeing cuts because Congress apparently feels no urgency … as schools are trying to get ready for what is arguably the most important beginning of a school year that will happen in a lifetime.” —Minnesota Sen. Tina Smith, a Democrat. (Read at Education Week)

    “I mean, it’s like it’s a lose-lose situation. You have parents that are demanding the schools to open. And then you have parents that are saying, we’re not going to send our kids to school. You have teachers that are saying, we’re not going to go back to work. Districts that are saying, with these budget cuts, we’re going to have to lay off teachers. … It’s just, this is unbelievable.” —Dan Domenech, executive director of the AASA, the school superintendents association. (Read at Politico)

    “You can’t be doing this anymore, son.” —Judge Stephen Braslow of Suffolk County, New York, to a 17-year-old at Babylon Junior-Senior High School who allegedly made a homicidal threat on Snapchat. Under the state’s “red flag” law, the district’s superintendent was able to get a court order to search the boy’s home, where police confiscated two pellet guns. (Read at The 74


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  • In New Rule, DeVos Offers Tricky Balancing Act on Private School Coronavirus Relief

    By Kevin Mahnken | June 25, 2020

    The Department of Education has made tweaks to its disputed campaign to compel states and districts to share emergency funding with private schools. A new rule issued on Thursday morning will allow districts more options in how they allocate federal relief funds, but it is still being contested by school groups who say that it hurts public school students.

    Going forward, districts have one of two choices: They can distribute funds from the $2 trillion CARES Act to both public and private schools, depending on what percentage of a district’s students they enroll. Alternatively, they can share the one-off relief funding exclusively with low-income private school students, as many educators have requested — with the caveat that they can only use it to support low-income public schools as well.

    The rule, which went into effect immediately even as the public has 30 days to pass comment and recommend changes, is the latest chapter in a controversy dating back to May. That month, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos put forth broader guidance recommending that local authorities disburse part of their federal relief moneys to provide “equitable services” to all students attending private schools within their district borders.

    The move was received poorly by state and local officials, who said it deliberately deprived them of necessary aid in order to support private schools that enroll fewer disadvantaged students. Several state superintendents suggested they would ignore the guidance, and Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander disputed the secretary’s interpretation of the CARES Act.

    DeVos responded by saying that the department would soon release a rule on the matter with the force of law, arguing that the COVID-19 pandemic and related shutdowns had already led many private schools to shut their doors. At present, 74 schools educating more than 9,500 students have closed permanently due to the crisis.


    COVID Poses an ‘Existential Threat’ to Many Private Schools, but Congress Might Block DeVos’s Push for Relief

    In a press release, DeVos reiterated her position that Congress intended for CARES Act funding to benefit “all American students, teachers, and families impacted by coronavirus,” adding that the law’s appropriation for colleges and universities flowed to public and private institutions alike.

    “There is nothing in the law Congress passed that would allow districts to discriminate against children and teachers based on private school attendance and employment,” she wrote. “In this new rule, we recognized that CARES Act programs are not Title I programs. If a district chooses to limit the use of this funding to serve only low-income students, they must do so equitably for students in both public and private schools.”

    The policy represents a wise balancing of interests, according to Neal McCluskey, director of the Center for Educational Freedom at the libertarian Cato Institute.

    “This rule may be the best compromise possible, finding the midpoint between what seemed to be the clear wording of the statute — money should be allocated according to poverty levels — with the clear intention of the statute: to provide broad education relief,” he wrote. “It probably won’t fully satisfy anyone, but that would be a sign it got things right.”

    Others aren’t so certain. The rule has been touted as a victory for public school districts, in that they may now set aside aid for private schools based solely on what percentage of low-income students they enroll — rather than on the percentage of total students they enroll, as DeVos originally intended. But Scott Sargrad, vice president of K-12 education policy at the liberal Center for American Progress, said he was “not so sure it is actually a big win for states and districts, or that much of a concession.” If they limit CARES Act funding to low-income private school students, the rule states they must limit them to low-income public school students as well.

    “It’s only if they restrict their uses of funds to Title I schools and students that they can then do what they have been asking for — and what is typical under Title I — which is to calculate equitable services based on low-income students in private schools,” he said.

    Complicating matters is the fact that the decree has been advanced as an “interim final rule” — a seeming oxymoron that allows a public comment period to pass on new federal regulations even as they exist with the force of law.

    Sargrad, who previously served in the Obama administration as a deputy assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, characterized the move as a notably “aggressive” approach to the federal rulemaking process. The new policy was likely to be contested, he added, whether in Congress or the courts.

    “There will probably be some challenges here. It is an interpretation of the law that could be challenged, it’s not obviously the sole interpretation, and it does disadvantage students in public schools.”


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  • Coronavirus Must-Reads for Parents & Schools: 94% of Superintendents Uncertain on Fall Classes, Health Concerns May Keep Teachers Away, Safety at Reopened Playgrounds & More

    By Andrew Brownstein | June 19, 2020

    This is a special edition of EduClips, our recurring roundup of top education headlines from America’s 15 largest school districts, where more than 4 million students across 10 states typically attend class every day. See our full EduClips archive right here.

    If you look up “First Day of School” on Wikipedia, you’ll be greeted with the following bit of conventional wisdom: “This is usually in August or September in the Northern Hemisphere.” That factoid is only one part of what has become a daunting equation for schools, districts and states as they stare down the enormous question of when (and whether) to reopen schools in the fall. A recent survey by the AASA, the national school superintendents association, reveals the second part. In the June 16 survey, the association said that 94 percent of superintendents said they weren’t ready to announce whether they’ll reopen or resume in-person instruction. Even with the necessary caveats — the poll was conducted between May and June, when reopening for the 2019-20 school year was still a possibility — the math is straightforward: Officials have mere weeks to make what will undoubtedly be the most important decision of their careers.

    The stakes? “You don’t want to be the superintendent to open too quickly and somebody dies,” Kristi Wilson, superintendent of the Phoenix-area Buckeye Elementary School District, where schools reopen Aug. 5, bluntly told Politico. “Live with that! It’s just way too much to take on.” But the penalties for remaining closed are also severe. Experts recently announced that the economy entered a recession in February. No recovery can happen unless parents return to work, and that can’t happen if kids don’t return to school.

    The bits and pieces of reopening plans that have already come to light only underscore the uncertainty. New York City, the nation’s largest school system, indicated that 20 percent of its teachers might have to work from home due to health concerns. As Chalkbeat noted, those 15,000 teachers represent more teachers than Houston’s entire public school system. And elsewhere, there has been considerable pushback. In Massachusetts, the governor’s plan to make children come to school with their own masks has come under fire for punishing low-income students and minorities. And in New Jersey, several district chiefs called the state’s guidelines for in-person summer programs “inappropriate.”

    A large part of the problem is that districts have to foot the hefty price tag for new health and safety protocols at a time when they are already hemorrhaging from the recession. The AASA estimates that it will cost an average school district with 3,700 students $1.8 million to meet reopening guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including $448,000 for additional custodial staff. “I mean, it’s like it’s a lose-lose situation,” said Dan Domenech, who runs the AASA. “You have parents that are demanding the schools to open. And then you have parents that are saying, we’re not going to send our kids to school. You have teachers that are saying, we’re not going to go back to work. Districts that are saying, with these budget cuts, we’re going to have to lay off teachers. … It’s just, this is unbelievable.”

    Top Stories

    Equity — Pandemic High: How One of Chicago’s Largest Schools Rebuilt Itself for Cyberspace (Read at Chalkbeat)

    Reopening Schools — The Socially Distanced School Day (Read at Education Week)

    Black Lives Matter — High School Students and Alumni Are Using Social Media to Expose Racism (Read at The New York Times)

    Immigration — A Border School for Asylum Seekers Goes Virtual (Read at

    Teachers — As Teacher Layoffs Loom, Should Schools Seek Private Donations? (Read at WGBH)


    As COVID-19 Threatens Millions of Child Care ‘Slots,’ Families Face Deep Disruptions to Their Children’s Early Learning and Social Development and to Their Own Jobs (Read at

    ‘Our Kids Had Been Forgotten’: Parents of Special Education Kids Hope for Summer School (Read at USA Today)

    As Playgrounds Start to Reopen, Here’s How to Keep Kids Safe (Read at The New York Times)

    Hundreds of Southern California Schools Vulnerable to Outbreaks Because of Vaccine Reluctance, Data Suggests (Read at The Mercury News)


    20% of NYC Teachers Might Work From Home Because of Health Concerns, According to Education Department Estimates (Read at Chalkbeat New York)

    A Teacher Ponders Risk of Returning to Work While Being Paid Less Than Unemployment (Read at NPR)

    Teachers Need Opportunities to Heal Before the School Year Begins (Read at EdSource)

    Pandemic Fallout

    Could the Online, For-Profit College Industry be “A Winner in This Crisis”? (Read at The Hechinger Report)

    Analysis: Just 1 in 3 Districts Required Teachers to Deliver Instruction This Spring. They Mustn’t Be Left on Their Own Again in the Fall (Read at

    Colleges Are Ditching Required Admission Tests Over COVID-19. Will They Ever Go Back? (Read at The Washington Post)

    Charter Schools, Some With Billionaire Benefactors, Tap Coronavirus Relief (Read at The New York Times)

    5 Radical Schooling Ideas for an Uncertain Fall, and Beyond (Read at NPR)

    Meanwhile, Beyond the Pandemic…

    DACA Teachers Across the Country Embrace SCOTUS Ruling Allowing Them to ‘Live, Work Without Fear’ (Read at

    The End of Police in Schools (Read at U.S. New & World Report)

    A Black Teacher Questioned Eva Moskowitz’s Response to George Floyd’s Death. Now, Success Academy Is Facing Bigger Questions About Race (Read at Chalkbeat NY)

    ‘The Students Were the Danger’: In Racially Diverse Schools, Police Were More Likely to View Students as Threats, Study Shows (Read at

    Essays and Reflections

    Bradford: Black Lives Matter and Black Education Matters Because Freedom Matters. Only When Black Folks Are Safe to Both Learn and Live Will America Be Free (Read at

    Analysis: For Foster Children in Texas, a State of Despair (Read at The Texas Tribune)

    How the New York City School System Failed the Test of COVID-19 (Read at The Nation)

    Fuck the Bread. The Bread Is Over. (Read at The Paris Review)

    In the Face of American ‘Truth Decay,’ Polls Shed Light on How Much Families Are Hurting During COVID-19 (Read at


    “I was able to drive, live, work without fear. Without the constant fear that I’m going to get deported at any minute.” —Karen Reyes, an Austin, Texas, bilingual special education teacher, after the Supreme Court handed down its decision blocking the Trump administration’s effort to end DACA, the program that’s allowed some 650,000 immigrants who were brought into the U.S. as children — as Reyes was — to live and work without the threat of deportation. (Read at

    “You don’t want to be the superintendent to open too quickly and somebody dies. Live with that! It’s just way too much to take on.” —Kristi Wilson, superintendent of the Phoenix-area Buckeye Elementary School District, where schools reopen Aug. 5. (Read at Politico)

    “At a time when our kids and our communities need us most, we are having to make massive cuts. We must double down for those who have been most impacted by the COVID crisis if we are to deliver on the promise of education to create a more equitable society.” —Susana Cordova, the superintendent of Denver Public Schools. (Read at The New York Times)

    “This is my great worry. In a moment when we should be investing, we are going to be seeing cuts because Congress apparently feels no urgency … as schools are trying to get ready for what is arguably the most important beginning of a school year that will happen in a lifetime.” —Minnesota Sen. Tina Smith, a Democrat. (Read at Education Week)

    “The concerns that the [school police] had by and large were about the students themselves. It wasn’t about protecting these innocent [youth] from dangers that could come from the outside — the students were the danger.” —Ben Fisher, an assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of Louisville, on research showing enormous gaps in how school police viewed threats at racially diverse and predominantly white schools. (Read at

    “Remote learning may be able to crack into students’ minds, but I think the pain of this reality is knowing that remotely reaching students’ hearts is not the same.” —Allison Tingwall, principal of Curie Metropolitan High School in Chicago. (Read at Chalkbeat)


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  • Education Groups Rejoice as Supreme Court Blocks Trump Efforts to End DACA Program — but Warn Decision Is Merely ‘First Step’

    By Mark Keierleber | June 18, 2020

    Education groups cheered a Supreme Court opinion Thursday that blocked the Trump administration’s efforts to end a program that provides work authorization and deportation relief to some 650,000 undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children.

    The administration’s move to terminate the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program — in flux since 2017 — was “arbitrary and capricious,” the court’s majority ruled.

    For Viridiana Carrizales, co-founder and CEO of the nonprofit ImmSchools, the news was a major shock. Her organization, which helps schools create safe classrooms for undocumented students and their families, had prepared for the worst.

    “My heart is coming out of my chest right now,” she said in an interview, adding that her group never considered a victory in the nation’s top court, where conservative justices hold a majority. “Our community has always been on the defensive, always preparing for the attack, always defending ourselves. Honestly, this moment of victory is what our community needs right at this moment.”

    Writing for the 5-4 majority, Chief Justice John Roberts said the court did not decide whether DACA or the decision to terminate it “are sound policies,” but whether the Department of Homeland Security under President Trump provided “a reasoned explanation” for its decision to end the program, as required by the Administrative Procedure Act. The department failed to follow administrative procedures and to adequately consider how ending DACA could affect its beneficiaries, often called “Dreamers,” the court ruled.

    “That dual failure raises doubts about whether the agency appreciated the scope of its discretion or exercised that discretion in a reasonable manner,” Roberts wrote.

    Though the ruling doesn’t prevent Trump from trying again to end the program, experts said it’s unclear how the administration will proceed during an election year with a program that enjoys bipartisan support. Nearly three-quarters of Americans — including 54 percent of Republicans — support granting permanent legal status to undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted earlier this month.

    DACA’s future became uncertain in 2017, when the Trump administration announced a plan to phase out the program, which then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions called an “open-ended circumvention of immigration laws.” Then-President Barack Obama created DACA in 2012 through an executive order after Congress failed to pass similar legislation — a move Sessions called “an unconstitutional exercise of authority.”


    DACA Teachers Across the Country Embrace SCOTUS Ruling Allowing Them to ‘Live, Work Without Fear’

    The administration’s decision to terminate the program, which requires recipients to renew their applications every two years and does not provide a path to citizenship, ignited bitter debates on Capitol Hill. But lawmakers failed to pass legislation to save it as President Donald Trump demanded that any compromise include billions of dollars in federal money for a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

    Several federal judges ruled against the Trump administration, leaving much of the program intact as the issue weaved its way through the legal system. Decisions from lower courts allowed those enrolled in the program to renew their two-year permits but barred first-time applications.

    University of California President Janet Napolitano, whose lawsuit against the Trump administration propelled the issue to the high court, proclaimed on Thursday that “justice and the rule of law won the day.” As homeland security secretary during the Obama administration, Napolitano helped create DACA. The court’s opinion “is a victory for hundreds of thousands of young people who are making vital contributions to their families, schools, employers and the nation,” she said in a statement.


    The 74 Interview: University of California President and Former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on DACA, Title IX and the Value of College

    The court ruled on narrow procedural grounds, but a separate opinion from Justice Sonia Sotomayor offered a blistering critique of Trump, arguing that the president’s inflammatory comments about immigrants “create the strong perception” that his administration’s efforts to end DACA were “contaminated by impermissible discriminatory animus.” Last year, the court rejected Trump’s stated reason for adding a question about citizenship to the census, with Roberts writing for the majority that the administration’s justification “appears to have been contrived.”

    The court’s DACA decision — released amid the coronavirus pandemic and nationwide protests over policing — comes just months before voters decide whether to re-elect Trump. Over the course of his presidency, Trump has been inconsistent in his views of DACA recipients. In a 2017 tweet, Trump questioned whether anybody wanted to “throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs,” including those who serve in the military. But he struck a different tone when the court heard oral arguments in November, tweeting that recipients are “far from ‘angels,’” calling some “tough, hardened criminals.”

    Reacting to Thursday’s news, Trump tweeted his frustration with the decision, asking, “Do you get the impression that the Supreme Court doesn’t like me?” In a landmark decision Monday, the court ruled that federal civil rights law protects gay and transgender employees from workplace discrimination.

    “These horrible & politically charged decisions coming out of the Supreme Court are shotgun blasts into the face of people that are proud to call themselves Republicans or Conservatives,” he tweeted.


    For Undocumented Students, Coronavirus Pandemic Brings Learning Disruptions — and Economic Panic — With Few Avenues for Help

    Now, the court has left Trump in a bind, said Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington-based think tank. Though the ruling allows the administration to end DACA if it follows proper procedures, it has “always had that option,” she said. DACA recipients are “politically sympathetic,” she said, but Trump could come under intense pressure from his base to act. While acknowledging that “it’s very hard to predict what this administration will do,” she said it’s likely that it will wait until after the election to try again, if Trump is re-elected.

    “I expect to see them drag their feet on the issue and probably try to distract from it over the next few months,” Pierce said.

    Former vice president Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for president, said in a statement that the ruling was “made possible by the courage and resilience” of DACA recipients. If elected, he said, “I will immediately work to make it permanent by sending a bill to Congress on day one of my administration.”

    ‘A great first step’

    Among education leaders who cheered the ruling was John King, who served as education security under Obama and is now president and CEO of The Education Trust. Efforts to end DACA were “cruel, destructive and threatened to sow further seeds of division during a time when our nation needs unity and hope,” he said in a statement. But the court’s opinion “strengthens our education system, our economy and the promise of the American Dream.”

    But Roberto Gonzales, a Harvard University education professor, said the decision leaves thousands of high school students who have lacked protections over the past several years with uncertain futures. Since 2017, DACA recipients have been able to renew their status but newly eligible students were unable to apply. An estimated 98,000 undocumented students graduate from high school each year, according to the Migration Policy Institute. While the court has sent the issue back to the Trump administration, it didn’t say whether the government must reopen the application process to new applicants. Concern for undocumented students who have been unable to apply for DACA in the past few years could motivate Congress to act, Gonzales said.


    As DACA Fate Remains in Limbo, Nearly 100K Undocumented Kids Graduate From High School Each Year, New Data Show

    Writing in a dissent for the court’s four most conservative justices, Clarence Thomas said the majority opinion simply prolongs the legal fight over DACA’s fate and provides a “green light for future political battles to be fought in this Court rather than where they rightfully belong — the political branches.”

    “Today’s decision must be recognized for what it is: An effort to avoid a politically controversial but legally correct decision,” Thomas wrote. The court, he wrote, missed an opportunity to make clear that protections for Dreamers “must come from the legislative branch.”

    For Carrizales of ImmSchools, the decision offered fuel to keep fighting for comprehensive immigration reform.

    “This is definitely a great first step, but this is not a war that has been won,” she said. “We’re going to celebrate this victory, but we’ll continue to prepare and continue to advocate and organize to make sure that all of us are free.”


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  • ‘The Students Were the Danger’: In Racially Diverse Schools, Police Were More Likely to View Students as Threats, Study Shows

    By Mark Keierleber | June 16, 2020

    As school districts cut ties with police departments amid weeks of nationwide protests, new research finds an unsettling racial gap in the way campus officers perceive threats.

    In a predominantly white and affluent suburban community, school resource officers worried most about intruders. Yet in an urban district made up predominantly of students of color and those who were low-income, police perceived students as the primary threat. 

    Juvenile arrest rates were similar in both communities, suggesting the results weren’t motivated by the prevalence of crime. Instead, researchers suggest, implicit racial bias among school-based police could be at play. But the divide suggests a problem that transcends a few “bad apples,” one that could be “baked into the system,” said Ben Fisher, an assistant professor of criminal justice at the University of Louisville. 

    “It’s not necessarily individual officers, but it’s sort of the way that people, and especially law enforcement, make sense of what counts as criminal,” he said. While police tend to view places with large concentrations of people of color “as more dangerous and scary,” the opposite is true in areas that are predominantly white, where they view people as “pure and deserving of protection,” he said.

    Fisher is lead author of the forthcoming, peer-reviewed report, which has been accepted for publication in the academic journal Social Problems.

    The findings are particularly timely given the nationwide protests for criminal justice reform following George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police. That movement has since expanded to the schoolhouse: Earlier this month, the Minneapolis school district cut ties with the city’s police department, ending a long-standing agreement that stationed officers on campuses. Education officials in Portland, Oregon; Denver; and Charlottesville, Virginia, have since announced similar plans. In Madison, Wisconsin, the teachers union urged the district to remove campus police from the city’s high schools and replace them with counselors and psychologists. 

    The union, Madison Teachers, Inc., previously backed school police in the high schools “to create safe places for our students and staff,” it said in a statement. “However, it has become apparent from conversations with our children and community that the benefits of having police officers stationed inside our schools is outweighed by the racialized trauma experienced by some of our community members of color.”

    Racial stereotypes likely shape how school-based officers perceive threats on campus, according to the first-of-its-kind study, funded through a grant from the Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice. Researchers relied on interviews with 73 officers — most of whom were white — from two unidentified communities that formed the basis of a pair of separate studies of campus police. The urban district was located in the Midwest and the suburban schools were in the South.

    Though the officers didn’t comment directly on their schools’ racial demographics, they frequently relied on what the researchers called “racialized tropes” to describe the students in their schools. While some officers claimed to not “see color,” police in the urban district blamed childrens’ upbringing and family dynamics — “a common racialized trope” — for creating schools where they felt educators “were at risk of losing control of the students at any given moment,” according to the report. 

    Just a few decades ago, a small fraction of public schools in the U.S. had police officers on campuses full time, but their ranks have grown exponentially in recent years in the wake of high-profile, but statistically rare, school shootings. Despite that growth, research has largely failed to articulate benefits of school-based police, while a growing body of work points to a range of negative implications, including disproportionate arrest rates among black children — including for minor offenses. 

    In the suburban community the study cited, the 2012 mass school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, motivated officials’ decision to station police at every campus, including elementary schools. In fact, officers were ordered to prioritize preventing school shootings and, in turn, frequently compared their community to places like Newtown. 

    “They saw their school district was white and wealthy like those students at Sandy Hook, like those students at Columbine,” Fisher said. In the urban district, however, officials’ desire to station officers at schools wasn’t clearly articulated, and mass shootings weren’t as big a priority. “The concerns that the [school police] had by and large were about the students themselves. It wasn’t about protecting these innocent [youth] from dangers that could come from the outside — the students were the danger. Their work seemed to be much more about the policing and the behavior management of the students rather than protecting them.” 

    In both communities, officers said student aggression, including fights, posed a potential risk, but officials at the suburban schools were most concerned about cyberbullying. At the same time, the officers suggested student misbehavior wasn’t a major problem “because they were from upper- and middle-class families.” In contrast, officers in the urban community described student threats “as a certainty, not a possibility.” As such, officers’ perceptions could “expose students of color to more frequent and intense police interactions,” according to the report. 

    These differing perceptions of youth, in turn, could contribute to the way students perceive police. According to a new Tulane University survey of students in New Orleans, black students are far less likely to report that police officers make them feel safer. While 69 percent of white students reported feeling safer in the presence of cops, just 40 percent of black students agreed. The gap remained consistent in schools. More than half of students reported feeling safer in the presence of “school security guards,” who may or may not be sworn police officers, including 77 percent of white students and 54 percent of black students. 

    Speaking to the growing body of research on the negative implications of school policing, Fisher concludes that activists demanding officer-free campuses — rather than simply reforming the current system — are on the right path. 

    “If we’re relying on a strategy where everything has to be lined up just perfectly for it to work,” he said, “I fear that it’s a system that’s flawed at its core.”


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  • Editor’s Notebook: Mourning George Floyd, Confronting Entrenched Racism and Leading an Honest Conversation About the Inequalities Holding Our Schools Back

    By Steve Snyder | June 12, 2020

    In cities around the world, a growing coalition of demonstrators have taken to the streets for a second straight week, marching to protest bigotry, police brutality and the senseless deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner and so many others — and to demand greater police accountability, an end to institutional racism and the empowerment of local communities.

    As our newsroom has reported on this movement through the lens of education — from student activism to school policing, allyship, teen perspectives and essays that give voice to the pain being felt today by both school leaders and their communities — we are also aware that we have a broader obligation both to open our platform to those who want to speak out urgently about the harsh truths being exposed and to explore the issues that matter most to families who want the best for their children in all aspects of life.

    Our news organization’s founding mission has been to focus on the deep-rooted inequality of the status quo and how that harms children both in and out of the classroom. To that end, during the week we laid George Floyd to rest, it is imperative for us to say in solidarity that Black Lives Matter and that they are central to the stories we want to tell about our communities, children and schools.

    Recent statistics have shown that, in the United States, roughly 1 in 1,000 Black men and boys will be killed by police, and that an average Black American is three times as likely to be killed by police as a white American is. A now-undeniable library of research shows that violent encounters with the police, the quality of one’s school, one’s access to higher education and the supports provided to first-generation college-goers have profound direct and indirect effects on the health, educational trajectories and career prospects of those living in segregated communities of color. Entrenched racism in both our education and justice systems are intertwined and have denied opportunities and derailed Black lives for generations.

    Since The 74’s inception, one of the core tenets of our mission has been to expose the inequalities holding back too many students of color. Today we are sharpening that mission statement to also include the consequences of ingrained racism in our school system.

    With this broader editorial mission in mind, we must start by improving our own efforts as an organization to build a more diverse and inclusive newsroom and leadership structure. We are also committing today to rapidly expanding our network of contributors and essayists who can offer testimonials and speak directly to the persistent racism existing in schools across America. Our goal: to more forcefully use our position to shine a light on the inequalities facing families today, and to elevate the efforts of those actively working to reverse these painful legacies for communities of color. Across our op-ed page, our “Student Voice” series, our Keeping It 100 vertical, where we give families and educators of color a platform to voice the change they want to see in the world, as well as our Brown v. Board microsite, where we address both the history of school segregation and the inequities that have persisted since that Supreme Court verdict, we are committed to being a national forum for students, educators, advocates and policymakers to speak their truths and advocate for meaningful change. We will double the number of contributors of color across these sections by the end of 2021.

    These are just the initial steps we can take internally, to broaden our perspectives and become more proactive allies to those fighting for equality in schools and beyond. As a white journalist and newsroom leader, I know that talk is cheap, that only actions matter, and that now is the time for all of us with an inherent, unearned privilege to do more listening than talking in striving to better understand what people of color have faced — and what must change if this country and its education system are going to move forward. I hope you’ll help hold me accountable for making these changes, for expanding our universe of voices and for continuing to elevate news coverage that cuts to the core of these issues.

    We also want to hear more directly from our readers. I welcome any feedback and insights you have about this pivotal time, our ongoing coverage and analysis of inequality here at The 74, and the changes you want to see in your schools. You can reach me directly at; we will regularly publish correspondence we receive to highlight your perspectives across our platforms.

    “A time comes when silence is betrayal,” Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. told a crowd of New Yorkers in April 1966. Decades later, we see those same words being raised by protesters in that city and others around the country. It’s an edict that demands action. It demands change. Now is the time to speak up and assert values, and I believe that news organizations like The 74 can simultaneously pursue truth and objectivity in our reporting while stating plainly our understanding that systemic racism is here, is wrong and must end.

    Steve Snyder



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  • A New Study Ties Anti-Bullying Laws to a Reduction in Suicide — but Boys Were Mostly Unaffected

    By Kevin Mahnken | June 10, 2020

    Worrying reports of increased depression and anxiety among K-12 students, coupled with rising rates of teen suicide, have manifested the fears of American parents over the past decade. As the media draws greater attention to tragic cases of young people driven to despair at school, both doctors and teachers point to the perennial scourge of bullying as a culprit.

    But new research finds some grounds for hope. According to a working paper circulated by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the nationwide spread of anti-bullying laws is associated with reduced bullying, depression and suicidal ideation among children between the ages of 14 and 18. The laws, perhaps the most prominent tool used by states to curb abusive behavior in school, also significantly decreased suicide in teen girls, the study finds.

    Meaningful improvements in adolescent mental health will be greeted as a cause for celebration by lawmakers, who have enacted the statutes in every state and the District of Columbia over the past 20 years. But the study also finds that their beneficial effects are concentrated predominantly among young women, with male students seeing no decreased risk of suicide.

    The study, conducted by economics professors Daniel Rees of the University of Colorado Denver and Joseph Sabia of San Diego State University, calculates the impact of anti-bullying laws on incidences of bullying, student welfare and suicide rates. To determine the effects, the authors relied on data from two sources: mortality information, collected by the National Vital Statistics System, and Youth Risk Behavior Surveys, coordinated by the Centers for Disease Control and administered by state and local health agencies.

    The administrative data show that rates of suicide and suicidal ideation have fluctuated significantly in recent decades. A lengthy decrease was observed between the early 1990s, when 29 percent of high schoolers said they thought seriously about killing themselves in the previous year, and 2009, when just 14 percent did. Over the past decade, however, that measure has again crept up to 17 percent. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has also reported an uptick in the portion of children suffering major depressive episodes.

    At the same time, the incidence of suicides increased by 56 percent among those between the ages of 10 and 24, surpassing homicide to become the second-leading cause of death within that age range. Importantly, suicidal behavior seems to differ based on sex: While studies have shown that girls are more likely to experience depression and make suicide attempts, teen boys are nearly three times as likely to kill themselves as their female classmates are. (This is, in part, a reflection of the long-documented “gender paradox” in suicide: Males of all ages end their lives at higher rates than women, though they report lower rates of depression.)

    The triggers for these ghastly trends are still unclear, though psychologists have postulated a range of possible causes, from puberty-related hormone shifts to the rise of social media. One common response from states has been to adopt statutes compelling school districts to document and counteract bullying. Since 2001, every state has done so, but early returns have been mixed. One study indicated that kids enrolled in schools with anti-bullying initiatives are actually more likely to be victimized, while some have wondered whether discouraging abuse and harassment on school grounds would only push it elsewhere — perhaps to social networks online, which encompass more and more of teens’ social lives, and where adults have little power to shape behavior.

    Rees and Sabia’s study offers compelling evidence that those worries are unfounded, and that students — particularly those from historically marginalized groups — see clear mental health benefits after their states implement anti-bullying legislation.

    “We find that [anti-bullying laws] are associated with reductions in bullying victimization, depression and suicidal behaviors among high school students, especially among female high school students,” they write. “These effects appear to be largest — and extend to the most serious suicidal behaviors, including planning how to commit suicide and attempting suicide — for members of historically marginalized groups such as non-white female students and those who identify as LGBQ [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and/or Questioning].”

    To unravel the effects of these policies, the authors studied state-by-state mortality information and student behavioral surveys from before and after the laws’ implementation, controlling for such educational factors as student-to-teacher ratios, median teacher salaries, socioeconomic characteristics and local unemployment rates.

    Girls, clearly, derive the greatest advantages. The adoption of an anti-bullying law is associated with a 5 percent drop in depression, as well as a 9 percent drop in suicidal ideation, for female students; male students saw smaller reductions in these phenomena that were not statistically significant. Those figures were even more pronounced for groups of students who are particularly likely to be bullied: Female LGBQ students were 21 percent less likely to be bullied at school given the presence of an anti-bullying law, and 18 percent less likely to plan to commit suicide.

    Best of all, the worst and rarest form of self-harm — suicides — decreased by 15 percent for girls between the ages of 14 and 18. Unfortunately, no evidence was found of a concurrent reduction for boys.

    Rees and Sabia offer no concrete explanation for the divergence in effects, though evidence suggests that adolescent girls are more likely to be bullied than boys. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, girls ages 12 to 18 are more likely to complain of being the subject of rumors, being insulted or being excluded. Earlier studies have shown that bullied girls are more likely to report anxiety and other health problems than bullied boys.

    “One explanation may be that bullying generates more psychological trauma for female students and, as a consequence, the bullying being deterred by ABLs [anti-bullying laws] generates larger mental health benefits. Another potential explanation is that ABLs create safe environments in which students are more comfortable seeking social support and expressing their emotions, activities that may deter suicides and that are disproportionately engaged in by women,” the authors conclude.


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  • Despite May’s Slight Economic Rebound, Working Students Continue to Face Shattering Unemployment Numbers

    By Emmeline Zhao | June 5, 2020

    Updated June 6 | 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.

    Working students are facing unrelenting record-high unemployment, even as the economy showed some recovery last month, the Labor Department said Friday. Those without at least a high school degree continue to suffer most from the worst joblessness since the Great Depression, and state education employees saw further job losses.

    “While the overall numbers are encouraging, they also include critical warnings about the crisis facing state and local governments, including public education,” Rep. Bobby Scott, chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor, said in a statement Friday. “Local governments shed 310,000 education jobs over the last month. At a time when schools are facing higher costs and difficult challenges, we are at risk of experiencing a wave of teacher layoffs in school districts across the country.”

    The U.S. shattered economists’ expectations by adding 2.5 million jobs in May, dropping the unemployment rate to 13.3 percent from 14.7 percent in April as Americans started to go back to work two months after the coronavirus outbreak shuttered much of the economy. While much of the movement back to the workplace is attributed to the return of employees temporarily laid off due to stay-at-home orders, the number of people who lost their jobs permanently continued to rise in May, increasing by 295,000 to 2.3 million, according to the Department.

    Even as overall unemployment retreated, the share of working students out of jobs continued to hover around 30 percent, yielding little relief to students who may be in the workforce to support their families, cover costs of education or otherwise. Around 70 percent of all college students and 25 percent of high school students work.


    Working while in school can be a double-edged sword. Students who work can have lower grades or may be more prone to dropping out, but they also tend to earn higher wages after graduation, according to research out of Rutgers University. That, coupled with recent school shutdowns that threaten students’ ability to graduate, could lay the groundwork for an entire generation of young people to earn lower pay than those before them — for years into their careers.

    “Undergraduates who both work during college and complete a degree gain the most in terms of a post-college earnings advantage,” write Rutgers researchers Daniel Douglas and Paul Attewell. “While that is the optimal outcome, college students who accumulate credits short of a degree while establishing a work history also benefit from higher pay after entering the labor market.”


    Analysis: What Lasting Academic (and Economic) Effects Could Coronavirus Shutdowns Have on This Generation of Students? Some Alarming Data Points From Research on Previous Disasters

    Despite last month’s easing, the unemployment situation is still worse than it was at the bottom of the Great Recession. Government employment also fell last month, the Labor Department said, particularly in state education, which lost 63,000 more jobs in May while schools remain closed and localities grapple with stabilizing their economies. The month prior, declines in education employment already outsized those of the entire Great Recession. Meanwhile, employment in private education rose by 33,000 over the month.


    Friday’s jobs report also followed recession trends that show that workers with the lowest levels of education get hit the hardest when the economy takes a nosedive, although even those with advanced degrees are not immune to layoffs. Around 20 percent of Americans without a high school diploma were without a job in May, compared with about 6 percent just three months ago, before the coronavirus outbreak. The unemployment rate for those with a bachelor’s degree or more, however, rose to 7.4 percent from 1.9 percent over the same period.


    For those with advanced degrees like master’s degrees or doctorates, in particular, jobs are still tougher to come by than they were before the pandemic. And, unlike the last recession, going back to school to ride out the storm is a more challenging prospect amid school closures.


    Still, when broken down by race, a higher level of education protected Asian workers from job losses of epic proportions. After achieving record low unemployment last June, Asian Americans fell out of work at staggering rates as COVID-19 warped public perception of Asians and their businesses. In the second week of April, New York state saw a 10,210 percent increase in unemployment filings among Asians from the year prior.

    In May, the unemployment rate for Asians without a high school diploma skyrocketed to 33.8 percent, more than 10 percentage points higher than for other racial groups. The Asian jobless rate, however, fell to be below or on par with other groups among those with bachelor’s degrees or higher.


    The FBI in March forecasted a rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans, noting in a report that the warning was made “based on the assumption that a portion of the U.S. public will associate COVID-19 with China and Asian American populations.”

    Clarification: The unemployment rate is calculated based on the percentage of Americans who are without work and actively searching. The Labor Department noted that those categorized as “temporarily unemployed” during the shutdown were instead classified as employed but “absent” from work for “other reasons.” Department noted that the overall unemployment rate would have been about 3 percentage points higher than reported,” placing the May unemployment rate at 16.3 percent.

  • Monthly QuotED: 9 Notable Quotes That Made Education Headlines in May, From Urban Riots to the Digital Divide — and Caring for School Pets During the Pandemic

    By Andrew Brownstein | June 1, 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.

    “Thankfully a flute had her number.” —Alejandro Jaime Salazar, band director at Highland High School in San Antonio, on how he found the last of the missing members of his Mighty Owl Band. Educators had been searching for 4,000 students missing during the pandemic. (Read at

    The Highland High School Mighty Owl Band hoists band director Alejandro Jaime Salazar to celebrate a competition win in December 2019. (Alejandro Jaime Salazar)

    “We ride that seesaw every day — is it a good idea? We’re not taking this lightly. We don’t want people to think we’re being irresponsible by making this choice. We’re trying to do what we feel is in the best interest of the students.” —Bonnie Lower, district superintendent in Willow Creek, Montana, where a small school opened in May to students and staff. (Read at USA Today)

    Getty Images

    “For many schools that serve predominantly black and brown low-income communities, moments like now are why we teach.” —Leslie-Bernard Joseph, chief executive officer at Coney Island Preparatory charter schools in Brooklyn, on teaching students about race and violence in the wake of the riots sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. (Read at Chalkbeat)

    “They need to do whatever it takes to make sure that they can get learning into the homes of these kids. We haven’t been thinking creatively. If the Department of Health can set up tents in Central Park with hospital beds and air systems and drive-up testing sites, and we can’t find ways to promote internet access for our kids to get online for school, then we’ve failed.” —Nicol Turner-Lee, a fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Center for Technology Innovation. (Read at The

    “This is presenting very much like a common childhood illness, which it is not. This is a novel diagnosis that doesn’t exactly have a name, doesn’t exactly have a timeline, doesn’t exactly have a protocol. We didn’t learn about this in medical school.” —Dr. Katie Schafer, a general pediatrician who has a private practice in Birmingham, Michigan, on a new coronavirus-like strain that largely affects children. (Read at The New York Times)

    Professor Jeffrey Shaman (Columbia University)

    “Schools are a mixing cauldron for disease. Kids interacting in close proximity is a really good environment for the transmission of respiratory viruses. Opening them early is not the strategy I would recommend.” —Jeffrey Shaman, one of the nation’s leading epidemiologists, who teaches at Columbia University. (Read at

    “When I am missing two-thirds of my kids each day, there is a ceiling to how well it can go. But I am proud of what we have done and how the school is responding. We’re making the most of a bad situation.” —Jonathan Faber, who teaches English and social studies to recent immigrants at Coolidge High in Washington, D.C. (Read at The Washington Post)

    “Normally, we hear mostly from families who are struggling and who are in some level of dispute. But we have heard from a number of families saying, ‘This has really been a blessing for us.’” —Denise Stile Marshall, CEO of the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, Inc., on the surprising number of special needs students who have thrived educationally during the pandemic. (Read at

    “I worry about the two frogs the most. They have the most care involved.” —Mary Pfeifer, New York City teacher, in an email to parents, asking who would be willing to invite classroom pets into their homes during the pandemic. (Read at NPR)


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