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

    By Mark Keierleber | 4 days ago

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    4 … School shootings remain statistically rare

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

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

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

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

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

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

    5 Youth rocked the vote but failed to shake the NRA

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

    Their success rate, however, was mixed.

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

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

    Related

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

    6 Survivors shared inspiring stories of resilience

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    By Mark Keierleber | 4 days ago

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Tornillo

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

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

    Manning sees the closure as a reason to keep fighting.

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

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

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

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

    Related

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

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

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

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

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

    By Carolyn Phenicie | February 9, 2019

    THIS WEEK IN EDUCATION POLITICS publishes most Saturdays. (See previous editions here.) You can get the preview delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for The 74 Newsletter; for rolling updates on federal education policy, follow Carolyn Phenicie on Twitter @cphenicie.

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

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

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

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    Educators in Denver and West Virginia could strike this week.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    By Mark Keierleber | February 8, 2019

    One to three swats with a wooden spoon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    So what’s a parent to do?

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

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

    By Mark Keierleber | February 7, 2019

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

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

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

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

    Related

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    By Andrew Brownstein | February 7, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Noteworthy Essays & Reflections

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

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

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

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

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

    Quotes of the Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

    By Kevin Mahnken | February 5, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Related

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    By Laura Greanias | February 4, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Related

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

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

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

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

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

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

    By Carolyn Phenicie | February 2, 2019

    THIS WEEK IN EDUCATION POLITICS publishes most Saturdays. (See previous editions here.) You can get the preview delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for The 74 Newsletter; for rolling updates on federal education policy, follow Carolyn Phenicie on Twitter @cphenicie.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Related

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • EduClips: From Philadelphia’s Crumbling Schools to Violence Against Children in Houston, Stories You Might Have Missed This Week From America’s 15 Top School Districts

    By Andrew Brownstein | February 1, 2019

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

    Houston — 1 in 4 10th-Graders Is a Victim of Violence, Study Finds: More than 25 percent of Houston 10th-graders have been shot, stabbed, or assaulted violently enough to require medical attention, according to a new study. The study, by the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, found that the rate of violent injury among Houston schoolchildren increased as they aged — from 13 percent in fifth grade to 24 percent in seventh. None of the injuries involved mass shootings. According to experts, one of the study’s biggest surprises was that it isn’t bullying victims, but bullies themselves, who are most likely to get seriously hurt: Bullies were 41 percent more likely to be violently injured than other children, the study found. The researchers also found that black students were 30 percent more likely to suffer violent injury than other races or ethnic groups, and that boys were 22 percent more likely to sustain injuries than girls. (Read at The Houston Chronicle)

    Miami-Dade — What Do Florida’s A-List Schools, Including Those in Miami, Have in Common?: More veteran teachers. Fewer chronically absent students. Those are the two most consistent elements of schools that earned an A in the state’s tough rating system, according to an examination of data by the Daytona Beach News-Journal. Of Florida’s 22 large school districts, meaning those that serve 40,000 students or more, seven received A’s, including Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties. Those districts have a few things in common that are believed to have factored into their high marks, which are based largely on standardized test scores. The average teacher in each of the big A districts has more than the state average of 11.3 years’ experience. Students in these districts attend school more often, and every large A district falls below the 10.2 percent statewide average for students who are chronically absent. Beyond those two shared factors, there is wide variation, from the wealth of families of children attending school to average teacher salaries. Miami-Dade was the only district of the seven to have more schools that receive Title I funding than the state average. (Read at The St. Augustine Record)

    Los Angeles — Following Strike, L.A. Opts for Charter School Moratorium: The Los Angeles Unified school board approved a resolution calling for a moratorium on new charter schools, a move set in motion by January’s deal between the district and the teachers union to settle a six-day strike. The vote directs the state, which has the power to change the law, to conduct an eight-to-10-month study of potential changes while instituting a temporary moratorium. Board member Nick Melvoin, who cast the sole “no” vote, expressed “consistent frustration” with the heated political battle over charters in Los Angeles. “We’re blaming others for our financial problems without getting our house in order.” To loud applause, he added, “I’d like to see a moratorium on low-performing schools.” (Read at The74Million.org)

    New York City — Graduation Rate Continues Its Steady Climb: New York City’s graduation rate continued its steady improvement, with the percentage of students who received diplomas climbing to almost 76 percent in 2018, according to state data. City officials touted the results as evidence that mayoral control was working and gave credit to former chancellor Carmen Fariña’s plan to reach an 80 percent graduation rate. However, the rising rate continues to be affected by changes in state graduation requirements made before last year, meaning the trend may not entirely reflect gains in student learning. The city’s gains reflect a 1.6 percent increase in the number of seniors who graduated last year compared with 2017. Graduation rates at charter schools fell 2.5 percent across the state but increased in the city by .7 percentage points, to 76.3 percent, according to city officials. (Read at Chalkbeat)

    Philadelphia — Charter Operator Makes Bid to Repair District’s Crumbling School Buildings: String Theory Schools, which took out $55 million in bonds in 2013 to buy a Center City office tower and now runs the largest single charter school in the city, is eyeing a bigger expansion: It wants to build schools to replace the district’s in some neighborhoods, a takeover it says would spare the district from having to make costly repairs to some aging buildings. Pennsylvania law tasks districts with authorizing new charter schools, which are publicly funded but independently run. In Philadelphia, charters enroll one-third of public school students, and how the newly appointed school board will address further charter school growth has been an open question. “I’m not ideological about charter schools,” said Jason Corosanite, String Theory’s chief innovation officer. “But I do think as an instrument, or a vehicle to address the facilities problems we have right now in the city of Philadelphia, I think it’s a viable solution.” (Read at The Philadelphia Inquirer)

    Noteworthy Essays & Reflections

    GRADUATION — Across U.S., graduation rates are rising, with little connection to test scores (Read at Chalkbeat)

    L.A. STRIKE — Aldeman: The L.A. District May Owe $13.6 Billion for Health Care & Pensions — and the Strike Made Things Worse. Obamacare Is a Way Out (Read at The74Million.org)

    EDUCATION REPORTING — In 13 Years of Education Reporting, So Much Has Changed (Read at The New York Times)

    DEVOS — Betsy DeVos Is Fabricating History to Sell a Bad Education Policy (Read at The New Republic)

    MEASUREMENT — Now That Schools Are Promoting Broader Definitions of Success, How Do We Measure Progress? (Read at Forbes)

    Quotes of the Week

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

    “I hear you, I’m with you. No matter what happens here today, don’t give up your power as parents to choose the best education for your children.” —Los Angeles Unified school board president Mónica García to charter school supporters, before voting on a resolution to enact a moratorium on new charter schools in the district. (Read at The74Million.org)

    “The high school graduation rate numbers have been going up and up and up, which I do think is a good outcome. But it also calls into question whether all of those diplomas mean the same thing, whether they are as meaningful a credential as it once was.” —Anne Hyslop, a former Department of Education official now at the Alliance for Excellent Education. (Read at Chalkbeat)

    “If we make this a right to an education or a right to a certain level of funding … then this really is a lawyer full employment act.” —Ilya Shapiro of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, on the debate over establishing a federal right to education. (Read at The74Million.org)

    “I’m here to say, when you complained about Common Core, I hear you, I told you I’d do something about it, and today we are acting to bring those promises into a reality.” —Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, on his pledge to revamp education standards and eliminate “vestiges” of the politically unpopular Common Core. (Read at the Daily Commercial)

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  • Despite Prevalent Trauma, From School Shootings to the Opioid Epidemic, Few States Have Policies to Fully Address Student Needs, Study Finds

    By Mark Keierleber | January 31, 2019

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

    Despite the pervasive effect of stressful experiences — from mass school shootings to the opioid epidemic — on student performance, only 11 states encourage or require staff training on the effects of trauma. Half of states have policies on suicide prevention. And just one state, Vermont, requires a school nurse to be available daily at every school campus.

    Those are among the key findings of a report released Thursday by the nonprofit Child Trends, which found that most states have failed to adopt a comprehensive set of policies to address student well-being.

    Nearly half of America’s students have traumatic experiences, including divorce, substance abuse, and domestic violence, according to the Child Trends report, leading an increasing number of states to enact laws that aim to better equip schools to educate youth who experience trauma. But Child Trends researchers argue that a more comprehensive, “whole child” approach is key. Such an approach, which focuses on a range of factors from student health to school safety, is necessary because disparate school policies affect student welfare, said Kristen Harper, Child Trends’s director for policy development. Even as districts implement strategies to help students with adverse experiences, the report argues that other school policies, such as frequent suspensions, could further traumatize youth.

    “You could take a child that may need mental health services, for example, and get them those services,” Harper said in an interview with The 74. “But if the child’s behavior in the classroom still means that they’re getting suspended or they’re the target of corporal punishment or seclusion and restraint, that’s still a scenario where we’re taking a child that’s experienced trauma and adding trauma on top of it.”

    The report focuses on state policies addressing a wide range of factors that contribute to healthy school environments. Researchers utilized a framework created in 2013 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which identifies 10 key components. Among them are health education, nutrition services, counseling, schools’ physical environments, employee wellness, and family engagement. Laws in 10 states offered “deep coverage” of the framework, Child Trends found, with comprehensive policies on at least six of the policy areas. The bulk of states had less comprehensive policies on the range of issues, but two states in particular — South Dakota and North Dakota — had “weak” coverage of the policy areas.

    Though most states lack laws focused on student trauma, Child Trends found such policies to be an emerging trend. Last year, at least seven states passed legislation to address students with traumatic stress. Meanwhile, other factors have received less attention from policymakers, including those that focus on stress or substance abuse among employees.

    Policies in only two states, Mississippi and Rhode Island, touch on employee wellness “in more than just an artificial way,” said Deborah Temkin, Child Trends’s senior program area director for education. Temkin theorized that states infrequently address employee wellness because education policy generally centers on improving student academic outcomes “and not that broader community.”

    Temkin said that while each of the factors contributes to positive school environments in different ways, they’re all interrelated. But policymakers, however, tend to address them in silos, often in response to a crisis. For example, states rushed to adopt new bullying laws several years ago after a series of youth suicides were blamed on harassment. She said this approach often fails to address the way in which multiple issues — like policies around school discipline and social and emotional learning — interact. A recent example of how policies intersect emerged after multiple mass school shootings last year. In order to ensure campuses are safe, some advocates argued, schools need to better address students’ mental health needs.

    “That is really driving toward this idea that, in order for these policies to really be effective, they need to be better integrated,” Temkin said.

    Unsurprisingly, state policy tends to be geographically specific. For example, Mississippi policies addressing physical education are among the nation’s most comprehensive. Mississippi also has the country’s highest childhood obesity rate.

    As the Child Trends reports encourage policymakers to analyze a wide range of policies to address the needs of students, researchers caution that merely having regulations on the books doesn’t necessarily mean they are being implemented effectively. That’s an issue researchers aim to tackle in a forthcoming report.

    “We don’t necessarily have the evidence to say that putting a policy in place at the state level necessarily benefits outcomes,” Temkin said. “It’s something that a lot of people theorize and expect to happen, but it’s still very much an empirical question at this point: What level of policymaking is really necessary to make these changes happen?”

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  • House Democrats Unveil $100B School Facility Upgrade Bill, Urge Inclusion in Long-Sought Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal

    By Carolyn Phenicie | January 30, 2019

    Updated

    On a day when a dangerous deep freeze settled across wide swaths of America, echoing memories of last year’s cold snap that left children shivering in their classrooms, congressional Democrats introduced a bill to spend $100 billion on improving school infrastructure.

    Spending on improvements to schools, congressional Democrats said, should be part of any large-scale infrastructure bill, like the one President Donald Trump has proposed.

    “Every day across districts in America, students and educators attend schools that are either unsafe or lack basic resources, or both, and this is simply unacceptable,” Rep. Bobby Scott, the Democratic chairman of the Education and Labor Committee, said at a press conference in Washington.

    The bill, dubbed the Rebuild America’s Schools Act, would put $70 billion in grants and $30 billion in bonds toward improving schools, with a priority given to the schools in worst condition and those serving high numbers of low-income students. Funds could also be used for technology upgrades.

    President Donald Trump has several times proposed a bipartisan investment in infrastructure to the tune of $1 trillion. He didn’t mention school improvements in his 2018 State of the Union, which advocates considered a missed opportunity; it’s unknown if he’ll address it in next week’s address.

    Related

    America’s Aging Schools: Was School Infrastructure a Missed Opportunity for President’s State of the Union Speech?

    Public schools should be included in any large-scale infrastructure package, Scott said.

    “I think it’s very likely if we have an infrastructure bill that this could easily be part of it,” he said.

    Members of Congress have introduced more than a dozen school infrastructure upgrade bills in the past 20 years, according to a search of congressional records. Scott introduced a similar $100 billion infrastructure investment bill in 2017.

    None of those bills advanced through the legislative process, and past federal infrastructure investments, including the 2009 stimulus, didn’t include schools.

    But future projects should, said Sen. Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island, a cosponsor of the bill.

    “Public schools are public infrastructure, and we need to invest in them, just as we invest in roads and bridges and other public infrastructure,” Reed said.

    Indeed, crumbling school infrastructure has attracted national headlines, from those shivering children last year to a pattern of neglect that left dangerous levels of lead and asbestos in Philadelphia schools.

    State lawmakers and the public are taking note, too: Voters in Rhode Island approved a $250 million bond to improve school facilities, and those in New Jersey approved a large-scale bond that includes $100 million to improve school water infrastructure.

    Related

    Facing a ‘Really Big Issue,’ Senators Push for First Federal Survey of the Condition of U.S. Schools Since 1995

    A 2017 study by the American Society of Civil Engineers found that more than half of American schools needed repairs, renovations or modernizations to be considered in “fair condition,” and a 2014 Education Department study estimated that total costs would run $197 million.

    The bill also would create a national database on the condition of America’s schools. The last government survey of the condition of schools was in 1996; an amendment added to an earlier version of the Education Department’s 2019 spending bill that would have required a new Government Accountability Office study of the issue wasn’t included in the final version of the law.

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  • Monthly QuotED: 8 Notable Quotes That Made Education Headlines in January, From Graduation Gaming to Teacher Pay — and More School Board Shenanigans

    By Andrew Brownstein | January 29, 2019

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

    “The high school graduation rate numbers have been going up and up and up, which I do think is a good outcome. But it also calls into question whether all of those diplomas mean the same thing, whether they are as meaningful a credential as it once was.” —Anne Hyslop, a former Department of Education official now at the Alliance for Excellent Education. (Read at Chalkbeat)

    Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images

    “We don’t do knee-jerk reactions to things. We don’t want to just have 100 percent of our focus on what the last shooter did. These things need to be thought out.” —Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie, on attempts to secure schools after last February’s mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. (Read at the Miami Herald)

    “Sure, we can wait on HISD to fix them. But I am convinced that without a gun to their head, it won’t happen.” —Houston-area state Rep. Harold Dutton Jr., on the need to turn around the district’s long-struggling schools. Houston has until Feb. 3 to avoid setting in motion either a state takeover or state closure of several schools. (Read at The74Million.org)

    “Adult misconduct is surely not acceptable, but, holy crap, we have a lot of work to do in terms of student behavior against other students.” —Chicago teachers union president Jesse Sharkey, on the 900 sexual misconduct cases logged in the district over the past four months, mostly students reporting on other students. (Read at Chalkbeat)

    Teachers march in downtown Los Angeles from City Hall to L.A. Unified headquarters on Jan. 14, 2019, the first day of the Los Angeles school teachers’ strike. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

    “[L.A. Unified] could be radical and innovative: they could break up schools, they could try to create new schools, they could close schools; but fundamentally, if they don’t change the way they hire, retain, reward, or pay educators, there’s not going to be a lot of change. The district could do that, but they’re not going to. … There’s too many moving pieces. Too many vested interests.” —Center for Education Reform CEO Jeanne Allen, on Los Angeles, which faces a teacher strike scheduled for Monday. (Read at LA School Report)

    “One year, I counted up all the hours I spent working. If you total up all those hours, guess what I made? $2.68 an hour.” —Kevin Rooker, 60, a history teacher in Saginaw, Michigan. (Read at USA Today)

    “If we make this a right to an education or a right to a certain level of funding … then this really is a lawyer full employment act.” —Ilya Shapiro of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, on the debate over establishing a federal right to education. (Read at The74Million.org)

    “I keep saying I’m making a list and checking it twice, and I’m writing that [expletive] on the wall.” —Debra Robinson, the longest-serving member of the Palm Beach County School Board, on her vow to punish a Haitian-American radio station that had grilled her. Her actions violated board ethics policies, according to investigators. (Read at The Palm Beach Post)

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

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  • Seen and Heard: Thousands of Pro-Charter School Parents Turn Out to Rally Ahead of Controversial Moratorium Vote at L.A. Board Meeting

    By Laura Fay | January 29, 2019

    Updated

    Thousands of parents and supporters turned out to show their support for charter schools ahead of Tuesday’s Los Angeles Unified School board meeting Tuesday. Hours before the meeting was set to begin, parents arrived to rally, urging board members to vote against a resolution calling for a moratorium on new charter schools and asking the state to study their impact on L.A. district schools.

     

    As many as 4,000 parents cheered and chanted at the district headquarters, according to an estimate from the California Charter Schools Association, which organized the demonstration. They held signs declaring “Kids Not Politics” and “School Choice Now.” L.A. Unified School District police estimated the crowd at 3,500 people, according to an officer at the boardroom entrance.

    As The 74 reported, the resolution was a part of L.A. Unified and United Teachers Los Angeles’s agreement to end the six-day teacher strike in district schools last week but was not included in the contract. If passed, it would direct the superintendent to pursue a moratorium on new charter schools in the district, and it also would require the school board to call on state officials to study the financial impact of charters on the district to inform revisions to the state’s charter law. Four of the six board members — the majority of whom were elected with charter organization backing — would have to approve it for it to go into effect.

    Related

    As the L.A. School Board Votes on a Resolution That Would Call for a Freeze on New Charter Schools, Inside the Debate — and Backlash — That’s Roiling America’s Second Biggest District

    The rally included a series of speakers, including teachers, students, and parents who talked about their personal experience with charter schools in the district.

    Throughout the rally, supporters chanted “My child, my choice” and “Let us learn.”

    Board members Mónica García and Nick Melvoin spoke to the crowd before going in to the meeting, with García saying she wanted to see and hear the parents who “in the past 15 to 20 years … have shown up to help L.A. Unified serve all students well.” Melvoin told the crowd he was with them and that the resolution “only continues the cynicism of the politics of the past. It does nothing to help out kids.”

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  • Markets Down, Student Scores Up: Study Finds That Teachers Hired During Recessions Are More Effective

    By Kevin Mahnken | January 27, 2019

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

    Between whipsaw stock market closings and grim tidings from the ongoing trade war with China, whispers have spread over the past few months of a possible recession in 2019. This month’s reports of strong hiring and wage growth have quieted Wall Street for now, but some experts warn that America’s epic expansion may be enjoying its last months.

    But while no one (including education journalists) welcomes the prospect of shrinking markets, there might be a silver lining for schools: According to a recent study, teachers who begin their careers during recessions are more effective than those hired during sunnier economic times.

    The study, conducted by Harvard education professor Martin West and German economists Markus Nagler and Marc Piopiunik, has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Labor Economics, with a manuscript circulated online. Though it isn’t scheduled to be published until 2020, the article will offer guidance to education policymakers looking to navigate future downturns that may come sooner than that.

    The authors tracked the performance of more than 30,000 fourth- and fifth-grade teachers in Florida between the 2000-01 and 2008-09 school years. Using data from the Florida Department of Education, they matched student math and reading scores on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test — the state’s “high-stakes” accountability test at the time — with those students’ teachers, discarding instructors who accounted for less than 80 percent of a given student’s classroom time.

    Across the 40 most recent cohorts of newly hired teachers, the team found that those who began their careers during years that saw recessions were more effective at lifting test scores. The effect was found to be statistically significant, and much larger in the case of math than English scores.

    Source: Unpublished study by Martin West, Markus Nagler, and Marc Piopiunik

    That’s because, as the authors write, “existing research indicates that earnings returns are twice as large for numeracy than for literacy skills in the U.S. labor market.” In other words, the high demand for math skills in lucrative fields like engineering or computer science disproportionately draws away job candidates who would have otherwise made exceptional math teachers. In the instance of a recession, when alternative job prospects dry up, the labor market flattens out, and more are attracted to stable careers in teaching.

    Teacher dissatisfaction helped generate a wave of political activism last year, as educators in several states walked off the job to protest low pay. As the American economy continues its prolonged recovery from the Great Recession, public school employees are leaving their jobs at historic rates to find more rewarding work in a tight labor market. This month, unionized teachers in Los Angeles waged their first work stoppage in 30 years, demanding bigger salaries and smaller class sizes from a district that says it’s in serious fiscal straits.

    In an email to The 74, West said that the number of excellent teachers is “strongly influenced by how attractive teaching is relative to other jobs.” When recessions wreak havoc on the private sector, the profession becomes a safe harbor for talented professionals — but as the economic picture brightens, promising candidates look elsewhere, and incumbent educators begin organizing for a better deal.

    “I’d certainly say that the long economic boom has made it harder for states like California to recruit strong teachers, particularly as private-sector wages have started to improve,” he wrote. “I also suspect that frustration with relative pay as the economy has improved played a role in the teacher walkouts early in 2018 and is a factor in what’s happening now in L.A.”

    In general, recessions are thought to be terrible news for everyone, including schools. Research suggests that the Great Recession of 2007-09, which put millions out of work and cratered tax receipts for several years, had an especially pernicious effect on K-12 academic achievement. Some experts point to the diminished funding for schools in the wake of the crisis, which still hasn’t caught up to pre-2008 levels in many states.

    Related

    29 States Spending Less on Schools Than Before Recession, Report Finds

    But the authors find that such catastrophes could also serve as a “window of opportunity” for state and local governments to poach great talent that would otherwise shy away from teaching jobs due to lack of pay or prestige. While startups and blue-chip firms are shrinking payrolls, they suggest, schools should be opening their books.

    “Hiring more teachers during downturns would increase the effectiveness of the teacher labor force,” they write. “As teachers are a critical input in the education production function affecting students’ lives way beyond schooling, hiring more teachers in economic downturns would appear an attractive strategy to improve American education.”

    Even during bull markets, the study concludes, schools and districts should aim to narrow the gap between teaching and other careers by lifting teacher salaries. Citing the work of Harvard economist Raj Chetty, the authors find that educators hired during recessions could be enhancing the lifetime earnings of each class of students they teach by as much as $13,000 per year. That kind of premium could justify a salary bump, they argue.

    The question is, who should receive it? While teachers beginning their careers during recessions are more effective on average than those hired during expansions, researchers found, the effect is especially pronounced for the teachers at the very top of the performance scale. That is, the very best teachers hired during economic slumps are much more effective — the authors estimate as much as .2 standard deviations, a highly significant effect size — than the very best teachers hired when the job market is providing more openings in other fields.

    West cautioned that the findings weren’t necessarily an endorsement of higher teacher salaries writ large, but he said that narrower interventions — offering sizable bonuses to high-flying graduate students in STEM fields, for instance — were difficult to implement.

    “Our results should not be interpreted as saying that an across-the-board pay increase would be the most cost-effective way to improve teacher quality. Aligning teachers’ pay with their effectiveness in a more targeted way would be far more efficient, but … is challenging for both political and practice reasons.”

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  • EduClips: School News You Missed This Week From America’s 15 Biggest Districts, Including a Reversal on Teacher Evaluations in New York

    By Andrew Brownstein | January 24, 2019

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

    New York City — State Legislature Reverses Measure Linking Teacher Evaluations to Student Performance: State teachers will no longer be evaluated according to student performance on certain state tests after the legislature easily passed a bill reversing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2015 evaluation plan. Backlash over the earlier bill led many families to opt out of state tests, but even lawmakers who supported the union-led rollback raised concerns about potential loopholes that could subject students to more high-stakes testing. The legislation passed this week allows local districts and their teachers unions to decide what kind of assessments should be used to evaluate teachers and requires State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia to decide on a “menu” of alternative assessments for local districts.The bill is unlikely to have a drastic effect on New York City schools, which already choose from a menu of local measures to evaluate teachers. (Read at Chalkbeat)

    Fairfax County — Second Lady Karen Pence Teaching at School That Bans Gay Students, Teachers: Karen Pence, wife of Vice President Mike Pence, has taken a job at a private Christian school in Fairfax County that bans LGBT employees, gay students, and the children of gay parents. She is teaching art at Immanuel Christian School, where, under an employment agreement posted on the school’s website, applicants must agree that God intends marriage to be between a man and a woman. It also states that unmarried couples should not live together or have any sexual activity outside of marriage and that employees should not change their gender identity. (Read at USA Today)

    Gwinnett County — School Board Members Vote to Name Two Schools After Themselves: At their final meeting, two former Gwinnett County school board members voted to name new schools — after themselves. The board voted unanimously to name two new high schools after outgoing members Dr. Robert McClure and Dan Seckinger. Many wondered why the decision was made without community input and asked if other names had been considered. A school district spokeswoman said the board adhered to state law by voting on the names in open session. “Both Dr. McClure and Mr. Seckinger are long-time public servants and the Board felt it appropriate to recognize their 24 years of service to the school district and the Gwinnett community,” she said in a statement. But others questioned whether Seckinger, who was arrested in 2010 for failure to pay child support, was the best candidate. (Read at The Atlanta Journal Constitution)

    Orange County — Orlando-Area Schools Feeling Sting of Statewide Teacher Shortage: The statewide teachers union is sounding the alarm about a looming educator shortage, estimating that schools need to hire 2,217 teachers to fill open jobs in classrooms across the state, including 35 in Orlando and elsewhere in Orange County. State schools had 700 more teacher vacancies this month than at the same time last year, with openings in nearly all subjects, according to the Florida Education Association. Florida schools have been wrestling with a shortage for several years, particularly in elementary schools. Florida’s universities used to graduate all the new elementary school instructors they needed, but enrollment in education colleges has dropped. (Read at the Orlando Sentinel)

    Chicago — Chicago Schools Log 900 Sexual Misconduct Cases in Four Months: In just over four months, Chicago students have reported more than 900 cases of alleged sexual misconduct, the vast majority involving complaints against other students. The reporting is a response to a massive campaign to improve school district handling of complaints after the Chicago Tribune exposed widespread flaws in how the district handled sexual abuse allegations dating back to 2000. The district has removed 33 adults from schools this school year as a result of new investigations, but the numbers shared with the Chicago school board quantify another problem: student-on-student complaints, ranging from inappropriate touching, sexting, and harassment to more violent physical encounters. Of the 932 cases reported since the start of school, 82 percent involved student complaints against other students. (Read at Chalkbeat)

    Los Angeles — District, Union Agree to End 6-Day Strike: L.A. Unified and its teachers reached a contract deal to end the six-day teacher strike, heralding “a new chapter” in public education that district officials say will protect the district’s fiscal solvency. The agreement focuses largely on lowering class sizes and adding support staff. UTLA members would get a 6 percent raise, and the district would invest $403 million in class size reductions and new staffing over the next three years. The county has to sign off on the proposed contract, and then the L.A. Unified school board has to. In a summary of the contract agreement, UTLA also announced that L.A. Unified’s school board will vote at its next meeting on a resolution calling on the state legislature to cap the growth of charter schools in the district while the state studies policy changes. However, the actual contract document does not address any such resolution. (Read at The74Million.org)

    Puerto Rico — Officials Put Hurricane Maria Repair Price Tag at $11 Billion: The total cost of repairing the island’s 856 public schools after Hurricane Maria, and bringing them up to school building standards that until recently didn’t exist, is $11 billion — more than one-seventh of the U.S. Department of Education’s total operating budget for this fiscal year. That’s according to the island’s education secretary, Julia Keleher. She estimates that the work — including repairs, painting, and mold remediation — will take between three and seven years to complete. The issue of funding for Puerto Rico’s ongoing recovery found its way back into the headlines recently when President Donald Trump said he could decide to use U.S. Army Corps of Engineers funding intended for (among other things) projects to aid storm recovery in Puerto Rico to build hundreds of miles of a border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border instead. (Read at Education Week)

    Broward County — Post-Parkland, Fort Lauderdale–Area Schools Invest in ‘Safe Spaces’ and Controlled Entry Points: Broward County, site of last February’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, has installed 60 pilot “safe spaces” — areas where students can take cover from an active shooter — inside the school where the mass shooting occurred. Additionally, 82 percent of all county schools have revamped their campuses to have only one point of entry so that access can be better controlled. Superintendent Robert Runcie rolled out the plan in response to the release of a brutally critical report from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission. (Read at the Miami Herald)

    Noteworthy Essays & Reflections

    ACCOUNTABILITY John White: ‘Exaggerated Accountability Response in Combination With Exaggerated Chaos Will Produce Distrust’ — The ‘A’ Word (Read at The74Million.org)

    RELIGION — Bible classes in public schools? Why Christian lawmakers are pushing a wave of new bills (Read at USA Today)

    TEACHERS How to get teachers to believe in a new school program? Ask them to help design it. (Read at Chalkbeat)

    EQUITY Hillary Clinton Hates It. Betsy DeVos Hates It. But Is Education by Zip Code Unfixable? (Read at Politics K-12)

    STRIKES — More strikes ahead? Teachers say they love their jobs but can’t pay their bills, poll shows (Read at USA Today)

    Quotes of the Week

    “We don’t do knee-jerk reactions to things. We don’t want to just have 100 percent of our focus on what the last shooter did. These things need to be thought out.” —Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie, on attempts to secure schools after last February’s mass shooting in Parkland, Florida. (Read at the Miami Herald)

    “He is a third-grade student that’s never attended a full day of school. I just think that’s completely inappropriate.” —Jennifer Schell, on her son Aidin, who has autism. Experiences like Aidin’s form the centerpiece of a federal class-action lawsuit against the state of Oregon and its education department, alleging public schools in the state unnecessarily shorten school days for children with disabilities who experience behavioral challenges. (Read at the74Million.org)

    “One year, I counted up all the hours I spent working. If you total up all those hours, guess what I made? $2.68 an hour.” —Kevin Rooker, 60, a history teacher in Saginaw, Michigan. (Read at USA Today)

    “Adult misconduct is surely not acceptable, but, holy crap, we have a lot of work to do in terms of student behavior against other students.” —Chicago teachers union president Jesse Sharkey, on the 900 sexual misconduct cases logged in the district over the past four months, mostly students reporting on other students. (Read at Chalkbeat)

    “This issue has dragged on for so long, it’s just so unacceptable and inhumane to have people live their lives by months at a time or by decision to decision. They definitely deserve something more permanent.” —Viridiana Carrizales, co-founder and CEO of ImmSchools, a nonprofit that partners with school districts to ensure they adequately support undocumented students and parents, on the legal limbo for the students in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. (Read at The74Million.org)

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  • Not All Student Growth Is Created Equal — How 48 States Are Using It Differently in Their Report Cards

    By Kate Stringer | January 23, 2019

    If performance data says how well students achieved in the past, growth data can indicate a lot more: how performance has changed over time, which schools are making a difference in low-income neighborhoods and where student achievement might be headed in the future.

    That’s why growth data is so powerful, said Paige Kowalski, executive vice president of the Data Quality Campaign. After the Every Student Succeeds Act encouraged states to track growth, 48 states and Washington, D.C., are now sharing this data on their public report cards. Now, a new report from the Data Quality Campaign shows the different ways they’ve done so, and what stories those data points can tell the public.

    There are five ways most states are measuring growth — and some are using a combination of methods. These are: value added, student growth percentile, value table, gain score and growth to standard. Kowalski said the report doesn’t recommend one measure of growth over another, but rather, shows how different ways of measuring growth can imply different things.

    “Every data point has its limitations. Every data point can answer some questions better than others,” she said. “No data point is perfect.”

    Looking at growth rather than just performance data can shine a light on schools that have been helping students improve but may not receive recognition for doing so because overall proficiency rates are low, Kowalski said. It can also indicate to state leaders and other schools that there could be methods nearby worth learning from.

    “If a school has low proficiency and high growth, there’s something magical worth looking at,” Kowalski said.

    Related

    Barnum: The Growth vs. Proficiency Debate and Why Al Franken Raised a Boring but Critical Issue

    Here are the five main measures of growth that states are using, and the different stories they can tell.

    1 Value added 

    Eight states are using this measure, which indicates how schools helped impact student achievement. The measure takes into account past performance and factors such as economic background or whether a student is an English learner, so it can predict how well a student with these circumstances should perform and compare that with how well the student actually performed. This method is able to show how specific schools helped students grow. However, it doesn’t say how well students performed compared with grade level standards, and it can be a challenging data point to communicate to the public, the report said.

    2 Student growth percentile 

    This is the most popular growth measure, with 24 states using it. To calculate growth, each student is grouped with other students who have similar past academic performance. Then, based on their current test scores, students are given a percentile rank to show how well they performed compared with these peers. This method shows how students who started at the same place academically grew, but it does not say how well students grew compared with grade level standards and doesn’t factor in measures besides testing data.

    3 Value table 

    Twelve states use a value table, which compares a student’s performance with where he or she stood last year, to see if the student moved up or down. This method is a lot easier for the public to understand because it uses simpler terms — for example, it can say that a student moved from below basic last year to basic this year, based on test scores. However, understanding how well a student is doing depends on how rigorous a state’s performance measures are. This method also cannot indicate how well an individual school is helping a student progress.

    4 Gain score 

    Used by three states, this method compares how well a student performs on comparable tests from year to year. To do this, states translate test scores into “scale scores” for comparison. A state can then say whether a student performed so many points higher or lower than last year. But this method cannot say how well a specific school contributed to student growth.

    5 Growth to standard

    Ten states are using this method, which looks at whether a student is growing in relationship to grade-level goals. This assumes the rate at which a student grows will continue each year and doesn’t take into account a student’s individual characteristics. Determining how well a student is doing relies on how rigorous the state’s benchmarks are.

    Disclosure: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative provide financial support to Data Quality Campaign and The 74.

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  • No Supreme Court Action on DACA Leaves in Place Protections for ‘Dreamers,’ Complicates Negotiations to End Shutdown

    By Mark Keierleber | January 22, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • These Oregon Students With Disabilities Say They Often Spent Just 20 Minutes at School a Day. Now They’re Suing the State

    By Mark Keierleber | January 22, 2019

    In a lot of ways, Aidin Schell is a typical 8-year-old. He loves Legos, The Avengers, and Jackson, the family’s Yorkshire terrier.

    But sometimes, he has uncontrollable outbursts.

    In first grade, Aidin was diagnosed with autism and placed in special education. Often unable to control his behavior due to his disability, school officials in his rural Oregon district placed him on a shortened school day. Some days, he’d stay in school for a few hours. But other times, no sooner would his mother drop Aidin off than school leaders would call her to pick him up and take him home.

    Experiences like Aidin’s form the centerpiece of a federal class-action lawsuit filed Tuesday against the State of Oregon and its education department, alleging public schools in the state unnecessarily shorten school days for children with disabilities who experience behavioral challenges. Though no school districts are named as defendants, the suit argues the state violated federal law by failing to ensure students with disabilities receive the education services they’re entitled to under federal law.

    “There were many, many days when Aidin would have been on school property for no more than 20 minutes,” mother Jennifer Schell said. Even after Aidin received outside treatment and his behavior began to improve, his mother said school officials declined to provide him with a full day of school. Fed up, Aiden’s parents enrolled him in an online school.

    The lawsuit argues that educators frequently shorten the students’ school hours without providing services to address their behaviors and allow them to complete a full school day. The problem is most acute in the state’s rural districts, said Joel Greenberg, a staff attorney at Disability Rights Oregon, which filed the suit with organizations including the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates and the National Center for Youth Law. Those rural schools, Greenberg said, often lack adequate financial resources or experts such as behavior specialists.

    While not a plaintiff in the suit, Aidin is one of at least hundreds of children with disabilities across Oregon who are subjected to shortened school days, attorneys say. The plaintiffs include four children with disabilities between the ages of 6 and 14, all of whom were placed on shortened school days due to disability-related behavioral issues. Schedules featuring shortened school days often last months, even years, the lawsuit alleges.

    Oregon Department of Education spokesman Marc Siegel said in a statement that the agency is ”committed to equity and excellence for every learner,” but he declined to comment further on the pending litigation.

    While schools occasionally shorten a child’s school day for “bad motives,” Greenberg said, that’s not the norm. Often, he said, schools want to help children with disabilities but lack the resources to adequately address challenging behavior.

    “The staff is frustrated, the child is unhappy, the parents are unhappy, and they have no real way to fix it,” Greenberg said. “The state can’t simply say, ‘It’s a district responsibility. Too bad for the parent or child if the district can’t figure out how and what to do.’”

    Attorneys see a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling as a boon to their arguments. In 2017, the court set a more rigorous standard for special education services that requires districts to offer education programs that are “appropriately ambitious” and allow every child “the chance to meet challenging objectives.” The Oregon lawsuit argues that children have little opportunity to meet any objectives if they’re excluded from school.

    “It’s hard for me to conceive of a situation in which a child can receive” a free appropriate public education, as required by federal law, “by going to school one or two hours a day for six months or a year,” Greenberg said. “That just defies common sense, reason, and logic.”

    Selene Almazan, legal director at the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, said the issue of shortened school days isn’t unique to Oregon, but it tends to be more prevalent in states with large rural populations. Almazan noted that the lawsuit doesn’t focus on children who need shorter school days for acute health conditions, such as those who require chemotherapy for cancer treatment. “We’re talking about kids who challenge a typical school building” because of their behaviors, she said.

    Oregon officials have been aware of the issue for years, but lawmakers have not taken sufficient steps to remedy the problem, according to the suit. In 2016, the state issued an executive memorandum that generally discouraged shortened school days for children with disability-related behavioral challenges. In 2017, lawmakers passed a law that aimed to scale back the use of abbreviated school days.

    But those efforts, Greenberg said, didn’t do enough, and in recent years, his group has observed an uptick in complaints from rural parents. The first step to solving the challenge, he said, is data. He said state officials should collect data on the frequency with which schools place children with disabilities on shortened school days. State leaders also need to provide adequate support to school districts that lack the resources or expertise to address children with behavioral needs, he said.

    Schell said her son Aidin, now in third grade, has improved behaviorally since he left his public school and enrolled in classes online. But Aidin’s public education experience could have been different, she said, had he received one-on-one support from an expert who could recognize his triggers before a meltdown. But before she would re-enroll her son in public school, she’d need assurances that Aidin could attend a full day.

    “He is a third-grade student that’s never attended a full day of school,” Schell said. “I just think that’s completely inappropriate.”

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  • Letter From Our Co-founder: Announcing a New Leadership Team at The 74, Where Education Is Always Front-Page News

    By Romy Drucker | January 22, 2019

    Earlier today, 74 CEO and Co-Founder Romy Drucker announced she would be stepping down from her daily role at the education news outlet for a new appointment at the Walton Family Foundation as the deputy director of the philanthropy’s K-12 education program. She will remain on The 74’s board of directors, where she will serve as chair. Drucker also announced several leadership changes at The 74, to guide the news network into the future; her full statement is below:

    Nearly five years ago, I set out on a mission with Campbell Brown, my friend and 74 co-founder, to make education issues front-page news every day; to wake up mainstream readers as to what is at stake for our children (and our nation) in improving America’s school system.

    Now, almost four years after The 74 went live, I take enormous pride in knowing that our newsroom is doing exactly that — and much more than even we anticipated.

    Since our debut in 2015, The 74 has been on the front lines of covering every key education issue impacting students across the country, setting the tone in the daily conversation about what’s important for tens of millions of kids in our country’s classrooms.

    On camera, on social media, on our liveblogs, we are on top of the news. We have covered heartbreaking school shootings, two #EDlection cycles, the implementation of an important federal education law, pivotal Supreme Court cases, the critical struggle to improve America’s largest school districts, and more.

    We wrote consequential features about equity that put student and parent voices front and center. We published powerful commentaries from top education influencers and poignant testimonials from students with big barriers to overcome and big dreams of overcoming them.

    We have published books, won awards, interviewed newsmakers, broken exclusive investigations, produced documentaries, hosted a presidential primary conversation, engaged our audience at live events, and partnered with news outlets across the country to amplify our efforts and draw even more readers into the most important conversation of the moment.

    This incredible archive of achievements has only been possible because we have some of the most talented reporters, editors, video journalists, and producers working today in journalism, based in bureaus that now span New York, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and Washington, D.C.

    I am making this transition at a time when The 74 has never been stronger — and its future has never seemed brighter.

    Our bureaus are led by Steve Snyder, who after an impressive stretch overseeing newsrooms at such national outlets as TIME, PEOPLE, and NBC helped launch The 74 as editorial director. In the years since, he has built an incredible team of reporters and editors and set an ambitious vision for our coverage. His steadfast leadership and impeccable news judgment has helped The 74 become the disruptive force it is today. And that’s why I am proud to announce that Steve will become the site’s new editor in chief, the position Campbell previously held, where he will continue to drive our expanding news operations. Steve’s full bio can be found here.

    I’m also thrilled to announce a new addition to The 74’s executive team: Stephen Cockrell will succeed me as the organization’s CEO, where he will engage with our board, external partners, supporters, and readership in inventive and interactive new ways. Stephen is an education visionary who has spent his career giving voice to education issues as an attorney and leader in public education. His career has spanned geographies (New York City; Los Angeles; Birmingham, Alabama) and organizations, but he has always had a singular focus on empowering students. The entire 74 team will benefit greatly from Stephen’s deeply personal and expert understanding of policy and practice, and the esprit de corps he brings to every team and project he works on. Stephen’s full bio can be found here.

    As The 74 enters this new chapter, its mission is clearer — and more urgent — than ever before: to spotlight innovations, scrutinize inequities, and assist families in better understanding the policies, politics, and stakes underlying our children’s education.

    And to our readers, thank you for making education a daily priority. Every click on our site, every share from our newsletter, is validation of that.

    I am grateful to have played a small role in shaping the future of nonprofit news and ensuring that subject-specific, watchdog outlets like ours have a permanent place in the changing media landscape. I look forward to continuing to read, watch, and be part of the story of education innovation. We all have a role to play.

    With deep appreciation,

    Romy



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