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Noteworthy headlines from the education wire
  • Preschool-Age Kids Don’t Fully Grasp Federal Immigration Policy — but for Some It’s Causing Toxic Stress, Report Argues

    By Mark Keierleber | 3 days ago

    Amid heightened fears over immigration enforcement, a startling trend has emerged: Should they get deported, parents are asking preschool teachers to care for their children.

    Meanwhile, that anxiety has filtered down to young children in immigrant families, according to a new report published by child welfare organizations Early Edge California and The Children’s Partnership. Even though America’s youngest children don’t fully grasp the minutiae of federal immigration policy, the Trump administration’s tough rhetoric and enforcement has spurred stress among young children, according to the report.

    The report comes as Gov. Gavin Newsom and other California lawmakers are pushing the importance of early learning opportunities for young children. In the 2019-20 budget, lawmakers invested $2.3 billion to improve access to early childhood education, including money to expand access to subsidized preschool. The report argues that policymakers must pay specific attention to the state’s growing population of children in immigrant households for those efforts to be effective.

    Researchers recommend that the state prioritize training to help the early childhood workforce identify and respond to migration-related trauma. Under a recent California law, K-12 schools are prohibited from collecting information on students’ immigration status and must adopt procedures to guide staff members about what to do if immigration agents show up on campus. However, the law doesn’t cover preschools. The report urges preschools and childcare programs to adopt policies of their own clarifying that their facilities are “safe spaces” from immigration enforcement.

    “These visits are disruptive, and having a plan in place — and communicating that plan to staff and parents — will help prepare staff and protect families,” according to the report. Creating a plan would signal to immigrant parents and students that “their safety and security is taken seriously.”

    Though almost all California children 5 and younger are U.S. citizens, about half — or 1.3 million — have at least one immigrant parent. In recent surveys, early childhood providers reported that some students in immigrant families have exhibited heightened anxiety when they’re dropped off at school in the morning, while other students have become more aggressive or less engaged. The anecdotes are troubling because children 5 and younger are in their “most important developmental stage,” said Aracely Navarro, associate director of government and community relations at The Children’s Partnership. “Continuous stress becomes toxic,” she said, and it could hamper students’ mental and physical health.

    For fear of running into federal immigration officials, some parents have become wary of taking their children to public places, such as childcare centers, and of enrolling in public benefits. As a result, some childcare facilities have reported a decline in attendance, according to the report. Early childhood providers reported that behavioral challenges have become particularly pronounced among children with deported family members.

    But childcare providers are in a unique position to educate families about community services available to them, the report argues. To do so, they should form partnerships with providers of legal services and health care.

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  • U.S. Students’ Scores Stagnant on International Exam, With Widening Achievement Gaps in Math and Reading

    By Mark Keierleber | 3 days ago

    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.

    American teenagers’ overall reading, mathematics and science literacy scores were stagnant on an international test last year, showing no improvement from three years ago. Meanwhile, the achievement gap between low- and high-performing students widened in mathematics and reading but narrowed in science.

    Last year, U.S. 15-year-olds scored above average in reading and science and below average in math among countries that participated in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), according to results released Tuesday. The assessment, developed and coordinated by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), is administered every three years and provides a global view of American students’ academic performance compared with teens in nearly 80 participating countries or education systems.

    Compared with scores in other regions, U.S. teens ranked ninth in reading, 31st in math and 12th in science. Nations with comparable student scores included Australia, Germany and the United Kingdom.

    Between 2015 and 2018, the U.S. improved its global ranking in each of the tested subjects — but not for the right reasons, Peggy Carr, associate commissioner of the assessment division at the National Center for Education Statistics, said on a call with reporters.

    “At first glance, that might sound like a cause for celebration, but it’s not,” Carr said. While U.S. scores remained steady, student performance in multiple participating countries declined. “It’s not exactly the way you want to improve your ranking, but nonetheless that ranking has improved.”

    Although average scores in reading and math showed no long-term change, the average score in science was higher in 2018 than it was in 2006. However, the U.S. science score has been flat since 2009.

    U.S. PISA results were less grim than the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores released in October. On that test, math scores were stagnant while reading scores went down. Similar to NAEP, PISA highlighted a widening gap between high- and low-performing students in math and reading. As is the case in most countries that participated in PISA, socioeconomically disadvantaged students performed poorer than their more affluent peers.

    On reading, for example, 27 percent of advantaged students and just 4 percent of disadvantaged students were top performers on the test. Across OECD countries, 17 percent of advantaged students and 3 percent of disadvantaged students were top performers in reading. In math and science, socioeconomics were a strong predictor of performance across participating countries. In the U.S., socioeconomics accounted for 16 percent of the variation in PISA math scores and 12 percent of performance differences in science.

    In some countries, such as Lebanon and Bulgaria, PISA results show wide performance gulfs between schools, said Andreas Schleicher, OECD’s director for education and skills. But that’s not the case in the U.S., where the bulk of the variation occurred within schools rather than between them. In the U.S., he said, “it’s not so easy to pinpoint a few schools and say, ‘That’s where all of the problems come from.”

    But the growing gap between high- and low-performing students is alarming because “students who do not make the grade face pretty grim prospects,” he said.

    Math scores in the U.S. on PISA are most worrying because they’re below the OECD average, said Anthony Mackay, CEO and president of the National Center on Education and the Economy. But across subjects, he said, the PISA results should serve as a wake-up call for policymakers, whom he urged to look at higher-performing nations as models for improvement. Across subjects, students from China and Singapore outperformed teens in other countries. The Philippines and the Dominican Republic consistently scored at the bottom.

    “Generally, we need obviously to be investing more in the early years, and that’s a message that’s come from so many of these higher-performing countries,” he said. “Secondly, they are very clear about investing in the quality of teaching all the way from how they recruit and how they retain teachers [to] how they continue to ensure that there is deep professional learning going on.”

    An emphasis on educational equity is also key, he said. The highest-performing countries, he said, are “constantly supporting those who need the support to catch up.”

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  • Monthly QuotED: 5 Notable Quotes That Made Education Headlines in November, From DACA to Homeless Students — and the Role of Real Estate Agents in School Segregation

    By Andrew Brownstein | November 25, 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.

    “What more would you have the government say?” —Justice Neil Gorsuch, questioning whether the Trump administration needed to offer more reasons for its decision to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects some 700,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as young children. Gorsuch and other members of the court’s conservative majority appeared during oral arguments to side with Trump in his desire to end the program. (Read at The 74)

    “We have to acknowledge that our goals for federal education funding will continue to face serious political opposition. Supporting well-regulated public charters, in the meantime, is a meaningful complementary solution. The promise of better schools some day down the road doesn’t do much for children who have to go to schools that fail them today.” —Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker (Read at The New York Times)

    Getty Images

    “No kid should have to grow up in a shelter.” —Sherine, who lives with her children in one of New York City’s homeless shelters. Her son, Darnell, 8, is one of 114,085 homeless students in the city. (Read at The New York Times)

    “I will never forget the look they gave us. Like you belonged in somebody’s zoo.” —Antoinette Harrell, on the harrowing early days of integration in Louisiana’s Tangipahoa Parish. Both parties in a 54-year-old desegregation suit against the parish school system hope to settle the case. (Read at The 74)

    “Since when did real estate agents become experts on schools?” —Fred Freiberg, executive director of the Fair Housing Justice Center, who served as a consultant on Newsday’s three-year investigation that uncovered widespread evidence of unequal treatment by real estate agents on Long Island. (Read at Newsday)

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  • EduClips: From NYC’s Breakthrough in Integrating Middle Schools to Florida’s New Plan to Offer Teachers Bonuses, the Education News You Missed This Week at America’s 15 Top Districts

    By Laura Fay | November 21, 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 10 states attend class every day. Read previous EduClips installments here.

    NEW YORK CITY — Brooklyn Desegregation Plan Is Making Schools More Diverse, Data Show: This year’s enrollment numbers indicate that a plan to make district middle schools more racially integrated in one part of Brooklyn is working. Middle schools in District 15 this year used a lottery-based enrollment system and eliminated admissions screens in an effort to create schools that reflect the diversity of the area. “City leaders hope that District 15’s efforts can be a model for the city’s other school districts — all of which must now develop integration plans of their own,” Christina Veiga and Amy Zimmer report. (Read at Chalkbeat)

    ● Related: Amid Fierce Debate About Integrating New York City Schools, a Diverse-by-Design Brooklyn Charter Offers a Model

    FLORIDA — Governor Rolls Out New Teacher Bonus Proposal: Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis announced last week a new bonus plan for Florida teachers, saying it is one of his priorities for the upcoming legislative session. The $300 million program would benefit those who meet a certain growth threshold on the state’s rating system, with more money going to teachers in Title I schools, he said. Earlier this year DeSantis said he also wants to set minimum teacher pay at $47,500. Jeffrey S. Solochek explains the proposal. (Read at the Tampa Bay Times)

    HAWAII — What’s Behind Hawaii’s Rising Test Scores for English Learners? Hawaii’s 2019 NAEP scores showed little change in performance over the 2017 results except for one group: fourth-grade English language learners, who had double-digit gains in both math and reading. Officials said a recent change that made the criteria more rigorous for reclassifying students as proficient in English may have been responsible. The change means students learning English are getting more support for a longer time, even though the state department of education admits that the services should be even stronger. Suevon Lee explains. (Read at Honolulu Civil Beat)

    CALIFORNIA — Schools Keep Hiring Counselors, but Students’ Stress Levels Are Only Growing: California has in recent years increased the number of school counselors, but mental health professionals say they still have overwhelming workloads. In addition to college and career guidance, counselors help students deal with trauma from fires, shootings and social media, Carolyn Jones reports. “The reality is, school counselors and psychologists are saving thousands of troubled kids every day,” one expert said in the wake of last week’s school shooting in Santa Clarita. “But the demand is increasing exponentially and it’s harder and harder to keep up.” (Read at EdSource)

    TEXAS — Texas Education Board Likely to Approve African-American Studies Course in 2020: After years of contentious back and forth over ethnic studies classes in Texas, the state board of education “appears poised to approve its first African American studies course next year,” Aliyya Swaby reports. Some Republicans on the board previously opposed ethnic studies classes out of concerns they would cause racial division, but the board approved a Mexican American studies curriculum last year. The board will take a final vote in April, after creating standards for the possible course based on an existing class in Dallas, but board members appeared supportive of the idea at a public hearing Wednesday. (Read at The Texas Tribune)

    Noteworthy Opinion & Analysis

    HOUSING: Long Island Real Estate Agents Sell Schools as Much as Houses, Investigation Finds (Read at Newsday)

    STUDENT VOICE: ‘It Was Paralyzing’: I Graduated From Detroit’s Most Prestigious High School. I Still Struggled When I Got to College (Read at Chalkbeat)

    ELECTION 2020: Education Week Annotated Bernie Sanders’s and Elizabeth Warren’s Platforms on Charter Schools (Read at Education Week)

    HIGHER ED: HBCUs Are Leading Centers of Education — Why Are They Treated as Second-Class Citizens? (Read at The Hechinger Report)

    VOCABULARY LESSON: What’s the Difference Between a College and a University? (Read at The Atlantic)

    What Else We’re Reading

    NEW YORK CITY: 114,000 Students in N.Y.C. Are Homeless. These Two Let Us Into Their Lives (Read at The New York Times)

    INVESTIGATION: The Quiet Rooms: Children Are Being Locked Away, Alone and Terrified, in Illinois Schools. Often It’s Against the Law (Read at ProPublica Illinois)

    GUN VIOLENCE: Since Parkland: Student Journalists Tell the Stories of Kids Killed by Guns Since Feb. 14, 2018 (Read at The Trace)

    SOLUTIONS: What Happens When College Students Discuss Lab Work in Spanish, Philosophy in Chinese or Opera in Italian? (Read at The Hechinger Report)

    KICKER: Teens Are Getting Historical on TikTok and It’s Both Fun and Educational (Read at Buzzfeed News)

    Quotes of the Week

    “No kid should have to grow up in a shelter.” —Sherine, who lives with her children in one of New York City’s homeless shelters. Her son, Darnell, 8, is one of 114,085 homeless students in the city. (Read at The New York Times)

    “I will never forget the look they gave us. Like you belonged in somebody’s zoo.” —Antoinette Harrell, on the harrowing early days of integration in Louisiana’s Tangipahoa Parish. Both parties in a 54-year-old desegregation suit against the parish school system worked to settle the case this week. (Read at The 74)

    “We have to acknowledge that our goals for federal education funding will continue to face serious political opposition. Supporting well-regulated public charters, in the meantime, is a meaningful complementary solution. The promise of better schools some day down the road doesn’t do much for children who have to go to schools that fail them today.” —Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker (Read at The New York Times)

    “There’s nothing automatically good about being a charter school. The school opens and then the work starts. A few years down the road, a decision has to be made whether the school is good enough to stay open.” —Greg Richmond, who recently stepped down after 15 years as president and CEO of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers. (Read at The 74)

    “Since when did real estate agents become experts on schools?” —Fred Freiberg, executive director of the Fair Housing Justice Center, who served as a consultant on Newsday’s three-year investigation that uncovered widespread evidence of unequal treatment by real estate agents on Long Island. (Read at Newsday)

    — With contributions from Andrew Brownstein 

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  • The View Inside NYC’s Latest School Segregation Protest: Why Students Walked Out Monday for 1,800 Seconds — and Say They’ll Do It Again Every Week Until De Blasio Acts

    By Meghan Gallagher | November 18, 2019

    Monday morning, Teens Takes Charge led dozens of students from New York’s Chelsea Career and Technical Education High School and NYC iSchool in a walkout touted as a “strike for integration.”

    Organizers said the action marked the launch of a new and ongoing campaign that would be orchestrated under the banner “Education Unscreened,” voicing demands for an end to school segregation in America’s largest school district.

    The growing coalition of high school students also announced that “Education Unscreened” will bring a new strike to a different school campus every Monday until their demands are met.

    The timing of Monday’s walkout was noteworthy; just last week, new data showed that a campaign to integrate Brooklyn middle schools through altering enrollment processes was generating promising results.

    Monday’s strike was organized for 1,800 seconds — a nod to the total number of New York City public schools. Monday’s marchers come from two different schools that share the same building, but organizers say the two groups of students have vastly different classroom experiences, from racial makeup to resources to curriculum.

    While the strike’s broader goal is to spark a citywide dialogue about school integration, organizers said a side benefit was to offer these two student bodies, who attend class just a few feet apart yet rarely interact, with the chance to bond and share their unique perspectives.

    According to Teens Take Charge, NYC iSchool uses competitive admissions screening and is 41 percent white and 40 percent low-income, while Chelsea CTE doesn’t use screening and is 4 percent white and 80 percent low-income.

    Related

    Amid Fierce Debate About Integrating New York City Schools, a Diverse-by-Design Brooklyn Charter Offers a Model

    Chelsea CTE student Jocelyn Reyes (pictured above, bottom left) said that while the issue of school segregation hasn’t been formally discussed in classroom lectures, some teachers have indeed addressed the disparities before class.

    NYC iSchool senior Sadie Krichmar, who didn’t want to be photographed, said she’s found the protests eye-opening: “I knew loosely about [the inequities] and I knew about underfunded schools, but I didn’t really know the extreme of it, until September, when I joined Teens Take Charge. I had never talked to anyone from Chelsea until then, because our schools are so segregated, like everything in our schedule seems designed to not overlap. None of our classes change at the same time, and Chelsea starts earlier and gets out earlier than we do. The only thing we really share are sports and prom.”

    Among the chants heard in Spring Street Park Monday: “How much longer will it take?” “We’re the biggest in the nation; we must fight for integration” and “If you’re black or if you’re white, education is a right.”

    Students were encouraged by strike leaders to link arms with those next to them to express unity between the two schools.

    Charles Footman, a senior at Chelsea Career and Technical School, feels as though he is at a disadvantage compared to students at NYC iSchool when it comes to getting into college: “I feel like I’ve had to work harder in this school than I would in another school with better resources. I’ve worked hard to get 90s in math all year, but I can’t get my SAT scores to what college admissions are looking for.”

    Alexander Ruiz (pictured above), a senior at Chelsea CTE and a student leader at Teens Take Charge, said he was pleased with the turnout and excited to see both schools uniting over this issue. Strike leaders led chants, shared their reasons for striking and listed the demands they have for the New York City Department of Education.

    Related

    In Response to a Surge in Youth Activism, NYC Schools Hires Its First Student Voice Manager Who Says She’ll Bring Kids Closer to the Decision Making

    One observation from Monday’s presenters: New York City is often cited as one of the most progressive cities in the world, yet it still has one of the most segregated school systems.

    Strike leaders thanked their peers for their activism and participation. Students from both schools then returned to class through the same doors at the same time, something that almost never happens due to the staggered start times.

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  • EDlection2019: Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards Keeps the Democrats Rolling in the South

    By Kevin Mahnken | November 18, 2019

    On Saturday, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards beat Republican challenger Eddie Rispone to became the state’s first Democratic governor since 1975 to be elected to a second consecutive term. The race, decided by just 40,000 votes out of more than 1.5 million cast, allows the party to retain control of its only governorship in the Deep South — and will be seen as a major disappointment to President Donald Trump, who campaigned vigorously to lift Rispone’s chances.

    Edwards will continue to govern in cooperation with significant Republican majorities in the Louisiana state legislature. The same electorate that narrowly favored him in the gubernatorial race also empowered a Republican supermajority in the state Senate (i.e., enough to override the governor’s veto) and nearly did the same in the House of Representatives.

    The opposition of those conservative lawmakers — as well as a reform-friendly Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, elected last month — will effectively constrain Edwards in driving his second-term education agenda. A staunch ally of state teachers’ unions, Edwards has led several efforts to slow the growth of charter schools and make changes to the Louisiana teacher evaluation system; all died lonely deaths in Baton Rouge.

    Related

    Louisiana’s Governor Race Is Tight but Will Likely Not Affect the Fate of Education Reform in the State

    The weekend results burnished an already-strong off-year election season for Democrats, who captured Kentucky’s governorship and both houses of the Virginia legislature earlier this month in races that touched frequently on K-12 schooling.

    Elsewhere, Republicans elected a new governor of Mississippi, though they put up the party’s weakest statewide margins in over a decade. And in one of the most closely watched local elections in the country, a slate of union-backed candidates flipped Denver’s school board, long a stronghold of education reform consensus.

    In Kentucky, Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear declared victory after besting incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin by 0.4 percent in a test of voters’ partisan attachments. In spite of the state’s right-leaning political orientation — and President Trump’s personal appeal to local voters on Monday night — Bevin wasn’t able to overcome his own unpopularity. After contesting Beshear’s tiny margin of victory for over a week, Bevin at last conceded the race last Friday.

    Related

    Democrats Look to Win Elections and Big Education Victories — in the South. No, Seriously

    Beshear’s strongest allies in the race were educators, who donated over $1 million to his campaign and canvassed energetically to get out the vote. Capitalizing on widespread ire toward the incumbent — Bevin had proposed to “break the backs” of teachers unions that twice led walkouts in recent years — Beshear promised a significant pay raise and called for an end to the state’s “war on public education.” Political observers noted that keeping the focus on local issues allowed the Democrat to overcome a huge partisan disadvantage.

    At the local level, unions made their presence felt in the Denver school board race, backing the winners in at least two of three contested seats on the seven-member board and leading in a third as this article was published. The results will give union-supported members a majority on the board, which has been dominated by education reformers more or less continually over the past 15 years.

    That period of control coincided with the district’s pursuit of a “portfolio model” of education in which schools gained greater autonomy over operational decisions and charters proliferated broadly. While many families in the city’s traditionally underserved precincts appreciated new education options, a spate of school closures also rankled the community. The disaffection bred a movement to “flip the board”; on Tuesday night, candidates like 21-year-old Tay Anderson, a recent graduate of Denver Public Schools, did just that.

    Related

    Is Denver’s Era of Education Reform Coming to an End? Outsider School Board Candidates Aim to ‘Flip the Board’ This November

    Democrats in Virginia also ended a long period in the wilderness, winning majorities in both houses of the General Assembly to take unified control over state government for the first time since 1993. By wresting away two seats in the State Senate and six more in the House of Delegates, the party — which also holds control of the governorship — will be able to work its will in the capital.

    Although gun control, rather than education, was the main issue powering those victories, K-12 schools will still feel a major impact from Tuesday’s results. The state Board of Education has recently released new spending guidelines that could result in hundreds of millions of dollars in extra funding being directed to high-need school districts — all of which will require legislative approval that Democrats are now in a position to provide. The party is also rumored to be considering an end to Virginia’s 72-year-old “right to work” law, which unions say unfairly restricts labor organizing.

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  • Cory Booker and Charter Schools: Before the New York Times Essay, What the Senator Has Said — and What Research Has Shown — About His Education Track Record in Newark

    By Steve Snyder | November 18, 2019

    Senator Cory Booker surprised education and political pundits alike Monday morning with an essay in The New York Times that addressed both public charter schools and a divide within the Democratic Party over education policy, drawing a clear distinction between him and several of his top rivals vying for the 2020 presidential nomination.

    “The treatment by many Democratic politicians of high-performing public charter schools as boogeymen,” he wrote Monday in the Times, “has undermined the fact that many of these schools are serving low-income urban children across the country in ways that are inclusive, equitable, publicly accountable and locally driven.”

    He went on to note: “As a coalition, we have to acknowledge that our goals for federal education funding will continue to face serious political opposition. Supporting well-regulated public charters, in the meantime, is a meaningful complementary solution.”

    Over the past two years, The 74 has published an array of interviews, articles and research summaries on the state of Newark’s schools and how Booker’s reforms went on to shape student outcomes. For those now just catching up on his record after the Times essay, a handful of links that offer some added context:

    A First Study on Newark Reforms: In the fall of 2017, David Cantor reported on the first quantitative review of Newark’s reforms. Among the preliminary findings, students in both traditional and charter schools made larger gains in English in 2016 than in 2011; math gains were flat. Nearly two-thirds of the gains derived from more students moving to better schools — “enrollment shares following school effectiveness,” as Harvard’s Tom Kane put it — largely because their low-performing schools closed or they enrolled in a charter. (Twelve of 14 schools that closed ranked below the state’s average, driving students to more effective schools, while the charter population rose from 14 percent to 28 percent of the district.) You can read the full analysis of the 2017 findings right here.

    Cory Booker — ‘I Don’t Care If That’s a Charter School or a Traditional District School’: Last fall, The 74 published an extensive interview with Booker on Newark’s school system. Contributor Laura McKenna broke out notable highlights in a popular September feature. Among Booker’s reflections: “Let’s get out of this idea that charters are bad or good or traditional district schools are bad or good. I’m a big believer in great schools, and every kid should have public access to them … I believe that any child born in any zip code in America should have a high-quality school, and I don’t care if that’s a charter school or a traditional district school. If it’s a bad school, I’m going to fight against it just like I supported charter school closures in Newark that weren’t serving the genius of my kids.” See other top highlights from the conversation.

    The Full Transcript — ‘I’ve Never Seen Such a Disconnect Between a Popular Understanding and the Data’: The 74 also published the full transcript of McKenna’s interview last year, during which the senator touched on everything from Mark Zuckerberg’s famous donation to the city to how Booker came to identify schools as a top priority and the latest research surrounding Newark’s education gains: “I’ve never seen such a disconnect between a popular understanding and the data … If I went back in time and sat down with people and said, OK, we’re about to endeavor into something that’s going to raise graduation rates 20 percent, something that’s going to raise matriculation rates dramatically, that we’re about to go through a process where a black kid in our schools — which are, a majority of our population is African-American, and on top of that, the black kids tend to be in the lowest-performing schools — that an African-American kid’s chances of going to a high-performing school that beats the suburbs will go up 300 percent, if I was to tell you that we would get these awards, that … the University of Washington would rank us as a No. 1 school system in America, to have beaten the odds with schools that are high-poverty, high-performance, that we would distinguish ourselves as the second-best-performing charter city in all of America, that we would have PARCC scores that beat every single state in the nation … if I said that all those things will be possible, I promise you that if I told people we would accomplish that in eight years, everybody would have said that’s impossible to achieve. I can find no other urban district with high poverty — with high numbers of kids who qualify for free school lunches — that has shown this kind of dramatic shift in a 10-year period.” Read the full 2018 transcript with Booker.

    2019 Research on Student Gains During Booker Era: A study released earlier this year showed that academic performance in New Jersey’s biggest city saw huge improvements beginning in 2006, when now-Senator Booker was elected mayor and initiated a slate of ambitious reforms. As Kevin Mahnken reported, “Both traditional public schools and charter schools — the expansion of which was a major component of Booker’s agenda — saw significant growth over a 12-year period.” The analysis drew on math and reading test scores for students between grades 3 and 8, including both New Jersey’s NJ ASK assessment and PARCC, which the state adopted in 2015. Over the 13 years under examination, researchers found steady improvement among Newark schools compared with New Jersey schools as a whole, and much more substantial growth compared with other low-income areas in the state. Read our full report on the study.

    A New Culture of District-Charter Collaboration: Years after Booker stepped away to federal office, contributor Richard Whitmire profiled the ongoing collaboration between Newark Public Schools and Uncommon Schools, which operates the standout North Star Academy Alexander Street school. Following reports of impressive student scores at Alexander Street, the city’s superintendent reached out for help in developing a catch-up literacy program aimed at struggling rising second-graders at other schools in the city. Implementing that program in other classrooms results in reading score gains. Read Whitmire’s full profile of the program.

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  • EduClips: From a Deadly California Shooting to NYC Educators Prioritizing Anti-Hate Classes to Combat Spike in Anti-Semitism, School News You Missed This Week at America’s 15 Top Districts

    By Laura Fay | November 15, 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 10 states attend class every day. Read previous EduClips installments here.

    CALIFORNIA — 16-Second Spasm of Violence Leaves 2 Dead at a Southern California High School: Two students were killed and three injured during a shooting at Santa Clarita’s Saugus High School Thursday morning. One of the injured students has already been released from the hospital, and the others were held overnight Thursday. The suspected shooter is also hospitalized in grave condition after a self-inflicted gunshot wound. All of the schools in the William S. Hart Union High School District, which includes Saugus, were closed Friday. Officials said Thursday the motive was unclear and they did not know if there was a connection between the shooter and the victims. “I’m bewildered and looking for answers — the question as to why all this would happen,” one student who knew the shooter said. “So many questions no one has the answers to.” (Read at the Los Angeles Times and LAist)

    NEW YORK Anti-Semitic Crime Spike Brings No-Hate Class to More Brooklyn Schools: A “dramatic” rise in anti-Semitic crimes in Brooklyn has spurred local advocates and officials to double the number of schools teaching anti-bias classes in the borough. The Anti-Defamation League and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams announced this week a $250,000 effort to double the footprint of the “No Place for Hate” program, allowing the classes to reach as many as 10,000 students across 40 schools, Anna Quinn reports. (Read at Patch)

    NATIONALSupreme Court’s Conservative Majority Appears to Back Trump Plan to End DACA, Potentially Putting Thousands of Students and Teachers at Risk of Deportation: During oral arguments this week, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority seemed to side with President Trump over DACA, which protects some 700,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as young children. Liberal Justice Stephen Breyer emphasized the human toll of ending the program, while Trump-appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch questioned the argument that the president needed stronger policy reasons for ending the program. Mark Keierleber was inside the courtroom. (Read at The 74)

    CHICAGO Here’s How Much Chicago’s Tentative Deals With the Teachers Union Will Cost Taxpayers: After an 11-day strike rocked the city, both the mayor and the union notched some wins in the contract, which the union voted on Thursday and Friday and which still requires a vote from the Chicago Board of Education. This year, the district will cover the cost — around $137 million — with the money it saved by not paying teachers during the strike and some surplus tax funds it received from the city. That means the 2019-20 budget is balanced, but it’s unclear how the district will meet its financial obligations going forward. The contract is expected to cost an extra $1.5 billion over the next five years. Cassie Walker Burke breaks down the numbers. (Read at Chalkbeat)

    TEXAS — Students Still Fighting for Special Education Services: Years after the federal government found that Texas was illegally denying students special education services, thousands of children are still not getting the support they need. Shelby Webb looks at how students and families are coping and why the state is still failing to meet its obligations. (Read at the Houston Chronicle)

    ● Related: 250,000 Kids. $277 Million in Fines. It’s Been 3 Years Since Feds Ordered a Special Ed Reboot in Texas — Why Are Students Still Being Denied? (Read at The 74)

    FLORIDA — How Did a Dad with a Criminal Past Get to Volunteer in a Tampa Middle School? At first, Tony Lorenzo Hart was an outstanding volunteer at Adams Middle School in Hillsborough County, supporting educators and getting more dads involved on campus. Then, in October, he failed a background check because of his criminal history. (He’s served two stints in prison, for crimes that did not involve children.) Now the district is grappling with why he was allowed to volunteer at all and how to better navigate such delicate situations, Marlene Sokol reports. (Read at the Tampa Bay Times)

    TEXAS — Dallas Trustees Considering Cameras in Every Special Education Classroom: One Dallas schools trustee has proposed recording every special education classroom in the district. State law already requires special education classrooms to be recorded if a parent, trustee or staff member requests it. Some are concerned about the cost of additional cameras and worry that they might make teacher retention more difficult. Eva-Marie Ayala explains the debate. (Read at The Dallas Morning News)

    ● More from Texas: As Texas Moves to Replace Houston’s School Board, Here Are 7 Things to Know About the Takeover (Read at The 74)

    Noteworthy Opinion & Analysis

    SCHOOL SCHEDULE: Kamala Harris Wants to Align the School Day to Parents’ Work Schedule. Does It Do More Harm or Good? (Read at The Philadelphia Inquirer)

    E-SPORTS: Why Colleges Are Betting Big on Video Games (Read at The Atlantic)

    HEALTH: Banning E-Cigarettes Could Do More Harm Than Good (Read at The New York Times)

    DEVOS: Betsy DeVos Might Outlast Them All (Read at HuffPost)

    What Else We’re Reading

    RESEARCH: Secret Service Report Says ‘Prevention Is Key’ in Addressing School Violence (Read a recap at Education Dive; read the full report)

    PODCAST: The American Dream and Social Mobility for the Children of Immigrants (Listen at NPR’s The Indicator)

    Q&A: How the Muppets Became Revolutionaries: An Interview With Sesame Street’s VP of Curriculum and Content (Read at Edutopia)

    TV: ‘Blue’s Clues’ Returns, and Silence Is Still the Star (Read at The New York Times)

    SOLUTIONS: Motor City Students to Benefit From a Different Kind of Horsepower Through New Partnership (Read at Chalkbeat)

    Quotes of the Week

    “The data just do not support that. With a high school diploma alone, it’s very hard to earn the kinds of wages one would need to support a family.” —Thomas Brock, a research professor and director of the Community College Research Center at Columbia University, on a recent poll showing that many young Americans believe that a high school diploma alone is enough for success. (Read at USA Today)

    “I was afraid I was going to go in, and not come back out. What is your plan to end gun violence so that way students can feel safe going to school?” —Nora, 12, to Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris during an October town hall in Ankeny, Iowa. (Read at The 74)

    “Everyone thinks we’re fine, but we’re not fine. Our kids aren’t fine and they’re never gonna be. Please tell people we’re not fine.” —Nakiya Wakes, mother of two schoolchildren in Flint, Michigan, where high levels of lead in the water are feared to have sparked emotional and behavioral problems at school. (Read at The New York Times)

    “What more would you have the government say?” —Justice Neil Gorsuch, questioning whether the Trump administration needed to offer more reasons for its decision to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which protects some 700,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as young children. Gorsuch and other members of the court’s conservative majority appeared during oral arguments to side with Trump in his desire to end the program. (Read at The 74)

    “Choose civility.” —Motto of Howard County, Maryland, found on the bumpers of many cars. A redistricting plan to balance the number of low-income children enrolled in schools has led to protests, racist emails and a death threat against the superintendent. (Read at The New York Times)

    — With contributions from Andrew Brownstein 

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  • Exclusive: Pedro Martinez, Who Led San Antonio District Schools From an F to a B, Named Chiefs for Change Board Chair

    By Beth Hawkins | November 14, 2019

    Updated

    Chiefs for Change announced this morning that Pedro Martinez, superintendent of the San Antonio Independent School District, has been selected as the new chair of the nonprofit’s board of directors.

    Martinez succeeds Louisiana state Superintendent John White, who will remain on the organization’s board.

    For Martinez, who was born in Aguascalientes, Mexico, and grew up in Chicago, the timing could not be more auspicious. As the news breaks, members of the organization and some of their colleagues will be touring Fox Tech High School, which houses a cutting-edge program and is one of a number of schools Martinez has rebooted since becoming San Antonio superintendent in 2015. They will also visit a district preschool.

    The five-year-old bipartisan group provides a forum where top education leaders can exchange ideas, as well as an incubator for so-called Future Chiefs — administrators contemplating the next step. School systems led by members of the organization, who come from states and communities with politically diverse leadership, posted the highest scores on the recently released National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP.

    Since Martinez took the reins of the San Antonio district, overall academic performance has risen from the equivalent of an F on state report cards to a B. According to the Texas Education Agency, it is both the third-most impoverished of the state’s large school systems and the fastest-improving.

    Together with the district’s chief innovation officer, Mohammed Choudhury, now a Future Chief, Martinez turned around a host of flagging schools with initiatives like the P-TECH career-preparation program at Fox and then used a novel series of weighted lotteries for enrolling students of diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. The mix of strategies has drawn attention from education leaders in other parts of the country.

    More than 90 percent of district students qualify for free or reduced-price meals, the measurement school systems traditionally use to quantify poverty. The median family income in the district is $30,000 a year.

    Because many of the district’s 50,000 students come from neighborhoods where census data put household incomes as low as half the median, Martinez and Choudhury have reserved seats at the new — and very popular — schools for children from the lowest economic strata.

    The chief financial officer in Chicago Public Schools during former secretary of education Arne Duncan’s tenure, Martinez is the oldest of 10 siblings. Neither of his parents made it past second grade. The family moved to the United States when Martinez was 5.

    “My father never made more than $7 an hour,” he said earlier this week, in response to his selection as Chiefs board chair. “I watched him work two jobs his whole life. He died at a young age and never got to know my children. When I think about my own life experience, I relate it to my students.”

    Last year, the 74 published an in-depth look at Martinez’s background, San Antonio’s unprecedented integration system and the innovations being tested in a number of the district’s new and restarted schools.

    Related

    78207: America’s Most Radical School Integration Experiment

    A-rated Fox Tech houses several health- and law-related career preparation tracks — including one in which students will be able to earn a nursing license along with their diploma. It enrolls students from throughout surrounding Bexar County, which is home to 17 traditional school districts and a booming public charter school sector. A school has existed on the Fox Tech site since the late 1800s.

    “Pedro has done as much as anyone to develop new and creative partnerships designed to address longstanding challenges in San Antonio’s schools,” White said in a release announcing Martinez’s selection. “He is building on the best of the traditional school system with novel approaches that are focused on what matters most for kids.”

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  • SCOTUS Clears Way for Sandy Hook Families’ Lawsuit Against Gun Manufacturer

    By Carolyn Phenicie | November 12, 2019

    A novel case attempting to hold a gun manufacturer liable for the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary shooting can proceed, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

    The high court’s decision, released without discussion, not to hear Remington’s appeal of a Connecticut Supreme Court ruling allows the lawsuit to proceed in state court. At issue is not the Second Amendment but the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which protects gun manufacturers from legal liability when their weapons are used to commit crimes.

    The Sandy Hook families, however, argue that Remington’s marketing of the Bushmaster rifle used in the 2012 shooting violated Connecticut consumer protection laws by using hypermasculine and militaristic marketing that appealed to disturbed young men like the Sandy Hook killer. A knowing violation of state or federal laws is one of a half-dozen exemptions to the liability shield law.

    Related

    Hockley: As a Sandy Hook Promise Parent, I Know That Prevention — Not More Guns — Is the Solution to Our Epidemic of School Shootings

    The Connecticut Supreme Court in March ruled 4-3 that the case could proceed under the consumer protection law exemption, but it ruled that the shield law did preclude the families’ claim that Remington was negligent in selling a military-style weapon to civilians. The case now moves toward the discovery phase of the trial that could force Remington to share information about its marketing practices as the court decides whether those practices violate Connecticut’s consumer protection law.

    Remington, in a brief filed in the case, said justices should overturn the Connecticut court to maintain the liability law’s preventions and “prevent widespread costly litigation that harms First and Second Amendment rights.”

    The National Rifle Association, in its own brief, noted that many states besides Connecticut have similar consumer protection laws, “any one of which can now be used to circumvent national policy” if the Supreme Court doesn’t overturn the Connecticut court’s decision.

    A push for stricter gun control, long a hot-button political issue, has been inextricably tied to children and schools since the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting in which 26 students and educators were killed. That link was only strengthened in the wake of activism by students from Parkland, Florida, where a shooter killed 17 people in 2018. The spate of shootings in recent years has also led to a change in school safety procedures, including new technology and an increased police presence.

    Gun safety advocates and Democrats praised the Supreme Court’s decision.

    Fred Guttenberg, father of one of the students killed in Parkland, wrote on Twitter that “gun manufacturers cannot hide behind bad marketing decisions that are leading to the death of our children.”

    And former vice president Joe Biden, among the top contenders for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, pledged to work to overturn the liability shield law and praised the work of gun control activists.

    “There’s a straight line from those brave Newtown parents, to the activism of the Parkland students, to the millions of others who’ve said ‘enough’ in the long years between and since those tragedies. They’re using every tool of democracy: in the streets, at the polls, and today, in the courts,” he said in a release.

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  • As Texas Moves to Replace Houston’s School Board, Here Are 7 Things to Know About the Takeover

    By Beth Hawkins | November 11, 2019

    An hour into last week’s school board meeting, the Houston Independent School District’s governance coach clicked open a presentation and announced that she would be teaching board members to understand monitoring reports, the documents used to track school improvement efforts.

    “Student outcomes improve when adult behaviors change,” she began, before segueing on to what teachers would call the lesson’s exit ticket.

    “At the end of the presentation, the expectation is that you will be able to say what a monitoring report is,” she said. “Hopefully after we’re finished we will come back to this chart and you can tell me what you’ve learned.”

    It might have been a Saturday Night Live cold open, except no one was laughing. Less than 24 hours earlier, Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath had formally notified Houston ISD that the state was stripping the elected board of its authority and appointing a board of managers in its place. Morath explained the long-telegraphed move in a blistering letter, citing an investigator’s finding of numerous instances of improper actions by board members and failure to address ongoing, chronic problems at one of the district’s high schools.



    Houston ISD 11 6 19 Letter (Text)

    “Given the inability of the board of trustees to govern the district, these sanctions are necessary to protect the best interests of the district’s current and future students,” he wrote. “The board members should have focused on implementing effective change to improve the performance of students in the district’s low-performing campuses.”

    The presence of the coach and her basics-of-the-job slide deck was one result of two-plus years of back and forth between the Texas Education Agency, thought to be reluctant to take on a wholesale reboot of the state’s largest school system, and the board, which was vocal about its disagreement with the laws the agency is charged with upholding.

    The coach’s awkward presence notwithstanding, no mention of the state takeover was made at the Thursday board meeting. The four trustees who showed up (a fifth joined by phone) did not constitute a quorum and did not include two of the board members who were the subject of some of the most intense criticism from the state. Both lost re-election bids Nov. 5.

    Houston ISD has until Nov. 20 to appeal the takeover with the TEA. And on Dec. 5 a judge will consider a request from the district to stop the state intervention because of a lawsuit the district filed against the agency. Neither action is expected to succeed.

    In the meantime, here are seven things to know about the situation.

    1Frustration with Houston’s history of inaction gave rise to the takeover law

    In 2015, Rep. Harold Dutton Jr., a Houston-area African-American Democrat, succeeded in passing a law compelling the TEA to take one of two actions when a school fails to meet state standards for more than four consecutive years: close the school or take over the district’s board.

    “Sure, we can wait on HISD to fix them,” he said, referring to long-neglected campuses disproportionately clustered in his blue-collar district, including Kashmere, then in its 10th year of failing to meet standards. “But I am convinced that without a gun to their head, it won’t happen.”

    Dutton was convinced that the way to force board members who represent wealthy swaths of the city to take equity concerns seriously was to strip the entire elected board of its authority, longtime Texas policy analyst Seth Rau reminded Twitter last week: “Rep. Dutton insisted on that point during the debate because he wanted people in more affluent parts of Houston to be impacted by the Wheatleys and Kashmeres of the district.”

    Two years ago, when the first chronically underperforming schools crossed the five-year trigger point for state sanctions, Morath granted Houston ISD a one-year reprieve because of damage from Hurricane Harvey. He did keep in place a TEA conservator appointed to oversee turnaround efforts at Kashmere, which this year came off the list of lowest performers.

    However, Wheatley High School earned its seventh failing grade since 2011 (ratings were not issued in 2012 and 2018), well past the legal threshold. The school’s chronic underperformance was one of three justifications for the takeover Morath cited in his letter.

    The commissioner outlined two other findings that support the state’s decision to replace the Houston school board: a state investigator’s conclusion that board members met in secret, exceeded the scope of their authority and violated contract procurement rules; and a rule that says the state can intervene when it has had a conservator in place for two or more years.

    2 Houston’s school board had options but declined to exercise them

    In 2017, when the potential consequences of the 2015 school closure law became clear, lawmakers created an alternative. Any district with schools under threat of closure could forestall sanctions for two years by turning the campuses over to a nonprofit partner for a reboot. Because the eligible nonprofits included public charter school networks, and because the partners, which could also include universities and community groups, would control staffing, the district teachers union protested.

    The union’s opposition was not nearly as disruptive — or profane — as the conflict among board members. In April 2017, the board was scheduled to consider whether to notify the state that Houston ISD would explore the partnership alternative. The topic proved so contentious that the meeting was gaveled to a halt with no vote.

    “Board attempts to address low-performing campuses have resulted in disorderly and disorganized board meetings,” Morath wrote last week. “During the April 24, 2018, board workshop, interactions amongst the Board of Trustees and the public escalated to unmanageable outbursts, constant disruptions and disrespectful comments. Upon going over the allotted time, former President Rhonda Skillern-Jones asked law enforcement to remove the last public speaker from the podium, sparking further outbursts from the audience.

    “Former President Skillern-Jones then requested law enforcement assistance in clearing the boardroom. The audience reacted in outrage shouting expletives, while Trustee Wanda Adams could be heard saying, ‘I’m sick of this shit, clear the room.’ Law enforcement had to remove audience members out of the board room and arrested two community members.”

    Six months later, when the deadline for considering 2019 partnerships loomed, board members were more blunt: In their dislike of the law, they would not act. “If we don’t take a stand, there’s no pressure on the legislature to fix the underlying problems,” said trustee Elizabeth Santos. “As a board, it is irresponsible to give away our students, especially when we haven’t exhausted all our options, including suing the Texas Education Agency.”

    3 A ‘walking quorum’ board meeting and a failed barracks coup

    In March 2018, Superintendent Richard Carranza left Houston to take over New York City’s schools. He would later tell the TEA conservator that board members’ penchant for exceeding their authority and inability to grapple with ongoing academic crises hobbled Houston ISD.

    The board delayed hiring a replacement for Carranza, instead giving a temporary appointment to Chief Academic Officer Grenita Lathan. As it became clear that the school closure threat was not going away, trustees began to fight over whether to make her superintendency permanent. Three black trustees backed Lathan, while four Latinos did not.

    In October 2018, five board members met in a local restaurant with a former Houston superintendent, Abelardo Saavedra, who was retiring from a San Antonio-area district, to discuss hiring him to replace Lathan. One board member brought a copy of Carranza’s contract to give to Saavedra, who later told investigators that the trustees present told him they felt disrespected by Lathan.

    A surprise attempt at a public board meeting held a few days later to fire Lathan and hire Saavedra drew the state’s attention. After interviewing a number of participants, investigators concluded that the gathering constituted a “walking quorum” — a violation of open meetings laws. They went to pains to point out that not all board members gave the same account of the illegal gathering, with one seemingly forgetting he wasn’t the only board member present.

    “Moreover,” state investigators reported in August, “TEA Conservator Dolores Delaney reported conflicts between trustees have created an environment that impedes the board from focusing on student outcomes.”



    TEA Preliminary Report 1565367523082 22164885 ver1 0 (Text)

    4 ‘Historical problems with contract awarding and contract procurement’

    Having scratched the surface, investigators found a long trail of instances in which board members attempted to steer contracts to particular vendors and of meddling in work underway in schools. In 14 cases, they found, large contracts were divided up to keep them under the $500,000 threshold for public review.

    In 2009, board members voted 8-1 to create a $121.5 million fund, using bond revenue, that trustees could use for projects in their nine districts. The money is “now depleted,” according to the report.

    Board President Diana Dávila — one of the incumbents who lost re-election last week — appears repeatedly in the specific allegations in the report. In one of the odder entries, the principal of the brand-new High School of Law and Justice complained that she only learned Dávila was touring her under-construction campus last year when she saw photos on Twitter.

    According to investigators, Dávila told the construction crew to remove a wall that had been built in the school’s mock courtroom. “I became a little upset,” the principal told investigators. “They took that wall down. I went to the HISD senior administrator and I told him, ‘She can’t do that,’ and he says that ‘I’m very aware that she cannot do that. If you want the wall back, we will put the wall back up.’”

    Another district administrator complained that Dávila ordered him to remove a contract for construction of Austin High School from the board agenda in December 2016. “Trustee Dávila and her husband told the administrator that they wanted a firm out of Dallas, wanted him to make it happen and threatened him with his job if he did not do it,” the report says. When the administrator refused to change the agenda, investigators added, Dávila did it herself.

    Another trustee held a campaign event on district property without reimbursing Houston ISD. Two others inserted themselves into hiring matters.

    A separate, 325-page report from Texas’s Legislative Budget Board issued last week recommended the wholesale restructuring of the district.

    Related

    Jochim & Hill: State Takeovers Remain a Powerful Tool for Improving Schools. States Should Not Walk Away From Them

    5 Houston differs from other large districts taken over by their states

    State takeovers often involve districts where very few schools are delivering acceptable academics or where financial mismanagement has forced regulators’ hands — or both. Newark, Detroit and New Orleans are examples of communities where chronically underperforming schools were the norm. They underwent whole-system reboots.

    Houston is home to any number of high-performing schools and, even though the budget board report identified $42 million in likely annual savings that could be achieved through better processes, is not insolvent. This year, the district as a whole received a B on state report cards.

    District critics have attributed many of its problems to racial and socioeconomic divides that have translated into the persistent neglect of its poorest schools. In support of his 2015 school closure bill, Dutton noted that his research indicated that Kashmere had never had a certified math teacher, for instance.

    “Under the conservator’s direction, Kashmere High School has earned an acceptable rating,” Morath pointed out in his Nov. 6 letter to Houston ISD brass. “If the board of trustees had been more responsive to current intervention, the board should have made similar efforts to improve its other low-performing campuses.”

    6 Morath has school board experience and a vision

    Starting in 2011, Morath was twice elected to the Dallas Independent School District board, where he championed a number of reforms, with varying degrees of success. He became state education commissioner in 2016.

    Morath is championing the same set of policies that Houston ISD’s board refused to respond to, incentivizing districts to hand operations of struggling campuses over to nonprofit organizations that get charter-school-like freedoms in exchange for agreeing to performance targets. Part of the idea is to promote locally generated strategies that capitalize on local expertise.

    Under his leadership, the TEA has been particularly keen on a model known as Accelerating Campus Excellence, or ACE, a combination of five schoolwide strategies that are costly but have been very effective in a number of schools.

    At a recent Fort Worth convening on the Texas Partnership Opportunity, Morath asserted that traditional school systems stymie turnaround efforts. “Is there something about the system itself that keeps us from sustaining performance over time?” he asked, going on to answer his own question. “It requires chopping these big systems up into manageable, bite-sized pieces.”

    7 Begin with the end in mind

    Experts suggest that Morath should go in with an exit strategy. State takeovers can be very effective, researchers at the Center on Reinventing Public Education pointed out recently as interventions in Houston and Rhode Island loomed. But they are politically unpopular and are not designed to go on forever. Leaders need to craft solutions that will garner enough buy-in — and possibly legal protection — to endure once the receiver withdraws.

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  • EduClips: From Texas’s Dramatic Takeover of Houston Schools to the Learning Problems That Followed Flint’s Lead Poisoning, Education News You Missed This Week at America’s Top Districts

    By Laura Fay | November 8, 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 10 states attend class every day. Read previous EduClips installments here.

    TEXAS — State to Take Over Houston ISD by Replacing School Board and Superintendent: Texas’s state education agency announced Wednesday that it will take over Houston Independent School District — one of the largest school districts in the country — because of the school board’s “failure of governance” and persistent academic failure at the district’s Wheatley High School. State education commissioner Mike Morath will appoint both a board of governance and a superintendent as part of the takeover, which did not come as a surprise, reports Aliyya Swaby. (Read at The Texas Tribune)

    VIRGINIA — Democratic-Backed Candidates Take Full Control of Fairfax County School Board: Democratic-backed candidates this week swept the school board elections in Fairfax County, Virginia, one of the nation’s largest school districts, with nearly 190,000 students and a $3 billion annual budget. Though the elections are nonpartisan in name, the campaigns were fiercely contested along party lines, with much of the fight centered on a proposal that would require district officials to consider students’ race and socioeconomic status when redrawing school boundaries. Over the summer, the district hired an outside consultant to deal with that particular proposal, but Republican-backed candidates made it a “focal point of their campaigns,” Debbie Truong reports. Of the 12 board members who will start four-year terms in January, eight are new to the board. (Read at The Washington Post)

    NATIONAL — Flint’s Children Suffer in Class After Years of Drinking the Lead-Poisoned Water: The lead crisis in Flint, Michigan, “has migrated from its homes to its schools, where neurological and behavioral problems — real or feared — among students are threatening to overwhelm the education system,” reports Erica L. Green. The schools are now in a “downward spiral” of declining enrollment, tight budgets and overwhelming student need. And Flint is not alone in these challenges. (Read at The New York Times)

    ILLINOIS — What Happens Next With the Chicago Teachers Contract: After an 11-day teacher strike, the city’s longest since 1987, students and teachers returned to the classroom last week, but the contract is not yet finalized. Chalkbeat reporter Yana Kunichoff explains what the mayor, the union and their attorneys still have to do to make it official. (Read at Chalkbeat)

    HAWAII — Nearly Half the Kids in Hawaii Can’t Swim. Meet the Organization Trying to Change That: A new report shows that drowning was the third-highest cause of death for Hawaii kids between 2014 and 2018, but swimming lessons can be prohibitively expensive for many families on the islands. Now, individual schools are partnering with the Hawaii Aquatics Foundation to make swimming and water safety more accessible to Hawaii’s kids, reports Suevon Lee. (Read at Honolulu Civil Beat)

    FLORIDA — ‘Astoundingly Slow’ Progress on School Renovations in South Florida District, Despite $800 Million Bond: Five years after Broward County schools got an $800 million bond from taxpayers to renovate 233 schools, renovations are complete at just eight schools, according to an analysis by reporter Scott Travis. Most of the schools, which have problems such as leaky roofs, mold and poor air quality, aren’t under construction yet. (Read at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

    ● Related from The 74: Schools Have Lost $16B in Capital Funds Since the Great Recession. Those Buildings Are in Trouble — and That Means Problems for Students

    Noteworthy Opinion & Analysis

    TEACHER PAY: Can Early-Childhood-Education Programs Deliver If Lead Teachers Are Paid Less Than Dog Walkers? (Read at Education Week)

    KID ECONOMICS: How Many Tootsie Rolls Is a Snickers Worth? Kids Know. (Read at The Atlantic)

    DISCIPLINE: Procedure isn’t enough: What I’ve learned advocating for students at NYC suspension hearings (Read at Chalkbeat)

    BOOK REVIEW: How one Navajo Nation high school is trying to help students see a future that includes college (Read at The Hechinger Report)

    What Else We’re Reading

    ELECTIONS: Democrats Enjoy Big Wins in Kentucky and Virginia, and Reform Foes ‘Flip the Board’ in Denver (Read at The 74)

    RURAL SCHOOLS: Many Rural Districts Face Education ‘Emergency’ (Read at Education Dive)

    STUDENT-ATHLETES: Hunger Games: High School Student Athletes Deal With Food Insecurity (Read at The Philadelphia Inquirer)

    GOOD NEWS: Ohio Mom Mobilizes Her Son’s Football Team to Help Hungry Players From a Nearby Team (Read at Good Morning America)

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  • EDlection2019: Democrats Enjoy Big Wins in Kentucky and Virginia, and Reform Foes ‘Flip the Board’ in Denver

    By Kevin Mahnken | November 6, 2019

    Democrats enjoyed a night of strong election results Tuesday, capturing Kentucky’s governorship and both houses of the Virginia legislature in races that touched frequently on K-12 schooling. In the final election cycle before 2020’s impending presidential onslaught, Team Blue found much to celebrate.

    Elsewhere, Republicans elected a new governor of Mississippi, though they put up the party’s weakest statewide margins in over a decade. And in one of the most closely watched local elections in the country, a slate of union-backed candidates flipped Denver’s school board, long a stronghold of education reform consensus.

    In Kentucky, Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear declared victory after besting incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin by 0.4 percent in a test of voters’ partisan attachments. In spite of the state’s right-leaning political orientation — and President Trump’s personal appeal to local voters on Monday night — Bevin wasn’t able to overcome his own unpopularity. As of Wednesday afternoon, he was still contesting the election, citing Beshear’s tiny margin of victory.

    Related

    Democrats Look to Win Elections and Big Education Victories — in the South. No, Seriously

    Beshear’s strongest allies in the race were educators, who donated over $1 million to his campaign and canvassed energetically to get out the vote. Capitalizing on widespread ire toward the incumbent — Bevin had proposed to “break the backs” of teachers unions that twice led walkouts in recent years — Beshear promised a significant pay raise and called for an end to the state’s “war on public education.” Political observers noted that keeping the focus on local issues allowed the Democrat to overcome a huge partisan disadvantage.

    At the local level, unions made their presence felt in the Denver school board race, backing the winners in at least two of three contested seats on the seven-member board and leading in a third as this article was published. The results will give union-supported members a majority on the board, which has been dominated by education reformers more or less continually over the past 15 years.

    That period of control coincided with the district’s pursuit of a “portfolio model” of education in which schools gained greater autonomy over operational decisions and charters proliferated broadly. While many families in the city’s traditionally underserved precincts appreciated new education options, a spate of school closures also rankled the community. The disaffection bred a movement to “flip the board”; on Tuesday night, candidates like 21-year-old Tay Anderson, a recent graduate of Denver Public Schools, did just that.

    Related

    Is Denver’s Era of Education Reform Coming to an End? Outsider School Board Candidates Aim to ‘Flip the Board’ This November

    Democrats in Virginia also ended a long period in the wilderness, winning majorities in both houses of the General Assembly to take unified control over state government for the first time since 1993. By wresting away two seats in the State Senate and six more in the House of Delegates, the party — which also holds control of the governorship — will be able to work its will in the capital.

    While gun control, rather than education, was the main issue powering those victories, K-12 schools will still feel a major impact from Tuesday’s results. The state Board of Education has recently released new spending guidelines that could result in hundreds of millions of dollars in extra funding being directed to high-need school districts — all of which will require legislative approval that Democrats are now in a position to provide. The party is also rumored to be considering an end to Virginia’s 72-year-old “right-to-work” law, which unions say unfairly restricts labor organizing.

    The night’s results set the stage for the final race in what has been an unusually competitive off-year election cycle: the Louisiana governor’s race, which pits Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards against Republican businessman Eddie Rispone on Nov. 16. The two men differ substantially on education issues such as charters and private school vouchers, and given the state’s deep-red hue, the incumbent is likely in for a tight race.

    Related

    Louisiana’s Governor Race Is Tight but Will Likely Not Affect the Fate of Education Reform in the State

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  • Report: Few Black and Latino Children Are Served by High-Quality State Preschool Programs

    By Mark Keierleber | November 6, 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.

    Just 1 percent of Latino children and 4 percent of black children are enrolled in high-quality state preschool programs, according to a report released on Wednesday that details the barriers students of color face when accessing early education.

    That finding, in a report by The Education Trust, centers on 3- and 4-year olds in state-funded preschool programs across 25 states and Washington, D.C. Of the states analyzed, none provided black and Latino children with sufficient access to high-quality programs, according to the Washington-based think tank, which focuses on education equity.

    Researchers compared 2017-18 enrollment data for state-funded programs against 10 quality benchmarks set by the National Institute for Early Education Research, including hiring teachers with at least a bachelor’s degree, offering professional development and maintaining a staff-teacher ratio of 1-to-10. Researchers gave programs high marks if they met 9 or 10 of the benchmarks.

    In 11 of the 25 states and Washington, D.C., Latino children were underrepresented in programs relative to their overall population numbers, and black children in three states were similarly underrepresented.

    Although the report doesn’t compare their access to children from other races and ethnicities, it argues that the focus on black and Latino children is important because they face additional barriers to education.

    “Systemic racism causes opportunity gaps for black and Latino children that begin early — even prenatally, which makes it crucial for these families to have access to high-quality [early childhood education] opportunities as a pathway to success into their K-12 education,” according to the report. “Without these opportunities, black and Latino families are left to do even more work to overcome the barriers they face” in K-12 schools.

    State preschools are just one of many early childhood options for young children, in addition to private schools and federal Head Start programs that are not substantially supplemented or administered by states. Researchers centered the report on state programs because half the states in the country provided adequate racial demographic data. Also, “policymakers actually have the power and authority to make changes” in state programs, said report author Carrie Gillispie, a senior analyst on The Education Trust’s P-12 policy team.

    The Education Trust

    The Education Trust

    The quality of preschool programs, and access to them, varied significantly across the 25 states and Washington, D.C. In fact, researchers discovered a sort of seesaw pattern to the data: As access for black and Latino children improved, quality diminished, but as program quality improved, fewer black and Latino children were represented. Though Mississippi’s state preschool program met nine of the national institute’s quality benchmarks, for example, it served just 4 percent of black children and 1 percent of Latino children. The opposite is true in Washington, D.C., where a program that met just three of the benchmarks served a majority of the region’s black and Latino children.

    Gillispie said the problem could be straightforward: States lack adequate funding to improve program quality while promoting access. That dynamic “makes sense logistically but is not acceptable in terms of equity,” she said. “While it’s great that D.C. has really high access, particularly for black 3- and 4-year-olds, it’s just not acceptable that its quality is so low.”

    In some states, such as Michigan and Rhode Island, access to preschool is limited to 4-year-olds. Nationally, about a third of 4-year-olds and just 6 percent of 3-year-olds are enrolled in state preschool programs. States should enroll 3-year-olds, the report argues, because both years are “highly sensitive periods of brain development and learning that build on one another toward a strong start in kindergarten and beyond.”

    To improve both access and quality, the report offered nearly a dozen recommendations. Policymakers should meet the national institute benchmarks, the report said, and should make enrollment easier — for instance, by providing materials in multiple languages. Because black and Latino parents are more likely to have jobs with inflexible and unpredictable work schedules, preschool hours and locations should better align with their needs, the report argues.

    “First and foremost, policymakers have to invite conversations with black and Latino communities [and] listen to their needs,” Gillispie said. “Invite them to the table before policies are changed or before policies are made so that black and Latino communities are really informing policies.”

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  • One Under-the-Radar Factor That School Systems Showing Progress on NAEP Have in Common: Leaders From Chiefs for Change

    By Beth Hawkins | November 4, 2019

    With the biennial exercise that is deconstructing the results of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in full swing, there’s one observation to add. While overall results of the exams this year are disappointing, many of the state and local school systems that bucked the trend by posting gains are helmed by members of the nonprofit education leadership organization Chiefs for Change.

    The only states posting gains in eighth-grade math and reading and in fourth-grade reading have a state education commissioner or superintendent who is a network member. Of the eight states (including the District of Columbia, which has both a local chancellor and a state superintendent) that saw increases in fourth-grade math, four are under the direction of Chiefs for Change members.

    Four urban districts headed by network members that participated in a subset of the exams — the Trial Urban District Assessment, or TUDA — also showed gains.

    “One of the things they have in common is sustained, consistent leadership employing evidence-based strategies over time,” said Mike Magee, CEO of the four-year-old organization. “That aspect of education is undersold.”

    Known colloquially as the Nation’s Report Card because it allows for state-by-state comparisons, the NAEP saw 2019 scores nationwide decline by one point since 2017 in fourth-grade reading, one point in eighth-grade math and three points in eighth-grade reading. Fourth-grade math scores rose by one point.

    While on the whole, scores are up over the past 30 years, the 2019 results showed a widening gap between the lowest-scoring students, whose scores declined this year, and the highest-performing.

    Mississippi, the District of Columbia, Louisiana, Nevada and Tennessee all saw strong gains in at least one subject and grade level and are all led by chiefs network members. Mississippi and Washington, D.C., in particular have garnered laudatory headlines in recent days for nation-leading gains.

    Among other positive results, Mississippi was the only state to post an increase in fourth-grade reading, something state Superintendent and Chiefs board member Carey Wright credits to a decade of efforts to improve research-based early literacy strategies. Before her appointment as state superintendent in 2013, Wright served in a number of high-performing school systems, including D.C’s.

     

    Along with Mississippi, D.C. is one of two state systems to post gains on three of the four tests administered, and considered one of the nation’s fastest-improving large districts on several measures. State Superintendent Hanseul Kang and Chancellor Lewis Ferebee are both Chiefs network members.

    D.C. is also one of the large districts posting strong gains on the NAEP’s trial local assessment. Participating districts with strong scores and Chiefs network leaders include Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Denver Public Schools and Guilford County Schools in North Carolina.

    The Chiefs for Change network provides support for existing top schools leaders to work on common challenges and exchange promising strategies, and mentorship to aspiring district and state leaders. It’s not surprising to Magee, then, that similar philosophies and tactics show up in several places where students did well on NAEP.

    Related

    Talent Show: Education Leadership Incubator Chiefs for Change Announces a Diverse New Cohort of 9 ‘Future Chiefs’

    Unheralded, in his opinion, is the level of attention paid to teacher needs in the more successful school systems. “In the districts where we saw improvement, there’s an underappreciated level of teacher support,” said Magee. “Initially, by setting a clear and ambitious set of standards, and then by making sure every teacher across the system has access to high-quality instructional materials and that professional development is aligned to that.”

    Another element he singled out was a commitment to transparency about what results schools are obtaining and the tactics that are driving improvement, and to making sure that families are able to understand data and its implications. “It actually puts schools in the right position to ask the right questions,” he said. “What is this school that’s doing well doing, and how can we use that to support the school that’s struggling?”

    While acknowledging the disappointing NAEP results overall, Magee said the bright points tell him that pushing performance higher is an attainable goal. “We are already seeing very meaningful improvement in what students are able to achieve,” he said. “That work has just begun.”

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  • 2019 Election Preview: 5 Big ‘Off-Year’ Races to Watch With Major Implications for Schools, Students and Education Policy

    By The 74 | November 4, 2019

    Cable news might still be fixated on the 2020 primaries, but a good number of ballots are about to be cast across the country this week in an “off-year election” with major implications for classrooms and education policy.

    Over the past couple weeks, Kevin Mahnken has been previewing the most notable 2019 races that education observers should monitor on election night. We’ll be updating poll numbers throughout the week (and Nov. 16 in Louisiana) at our official “EDlection” homepage at The74Million.org/Election.

    Five key races to watch this election day:

     

    1 Denver School Board

    Is Denver’s era of education reform coming to an end?

    Over the past 15 years, the city has become a model for urban school reform. Parents are given wide latitude to choose where to enroll their children. Charter schools have spread swiftly, authorized by a school board largely friendly to the sector. And all schools, whether traditional or charter, are subject to an aggressive rating system that measures quality. But persistent disquiet over Denver’s reform regime, and questions about whom it has served, have grown louder in recent months. Momentum from a successful teachers’ strike earlier this year has spread to a wider movement for change across the district, and next month’s local elections will prove a crucial test of the community’s attitudes.

    Two reform-minded incumbents on the elected school board are term-limited, and another is not running for re-election. That means there will be three open seats on the seven-member body — enough to swing the membership away from its long-running consensus and potentially bring an end to one of the nation’s bolder experiments in charter expansion and test-driven accountability. The situation is reminiscent of the 2017 board cycle, when candidates opposed to further reforms were able to pry away two board seats. (Read our full preview)

     

    2 Virginia Legislature

    Can Democrats sweep Virginia?

    There is no gubernatorial race in Virginia this year; Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, elected in 2017, will remain in office no matter what. But the remainder of his term will be defined by the outcome of Tuesday’s legislative elections. Republicans, who once held commanding majorities in both houses of the Virginia General Assembly, are now clinging to just a one-vote majority in the state Senate and a three-vote lead in the House of Delegates. And while the Democrats’ push to flip control has mostly centered on their stalled attempts to pass gun control laws, the stakes for K-12 schools are high as well. (Read the full preview)

     

    3 Kentucky’s Governor

    Is this RedforEd redux?

    The central question in what has become a nasty re-election fight for Republican Gov. Matt Bevin is this: Can partisan loyalties overcome personality deficits? Bevin has been the least popular governor in the country for much of his time in office (he was superseded in that dubious honor only recently, by Rhode Island’s Gina Raimondo). That’s largely a product of his rather pugilistic approach to politics.

    He has often aimed his broadsides at Kentucky’s teachers. When legions of school employees walked off the job last spring as part of a wave of #RedforEd protests for higher salaries and education funding increases, he “guaranteed” that some children had been sexually assaulted while left unsupervised during the demonstrations. Similarly, he blamed the shooting of a 7-year-old in April on teachers who had launched a wave of unsanctioned “sick-outs” to close schools again. His opponent, Democratic Attorney General Steve Beshear, has energetically courted the support of alienated teachers and their allies by proposing a $2,000 pay raise and attacking Bevin for cutting education spending. (Read the full preview)

     

    4 Mississippi Governor

    Can the Democrats’ ideal candidate win?

    Mississippi is among the most comfortable places in the country for Republicans to get elected. Though the party has only held unified control over state government since 2012 — a vestige of the old-school Southern Democratic hold over the area — residents haven’t favored a Democratic presidential candidate since Jimmy Carter, and virtually all prominent politicians in the state ride with the GOP. Well, Democrats have nominated the exception to the rule: four-term Attorney General Jim Hood, who is running against Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves this year. The latest polling puts Hood just three points behind Reeves, who had to spend millions to vanquish primary opponent Bill Waller, the long-time chief justice of the state supreme court.

    Despite running in one of the reddest states in the country, Hood has made huge increases in school spending — including a $3,000 teacher pay raise and universal pre-K for Mississippi children — one of the hallmarks of his campaign. In fact, both have called for a pay bump, a testament to the state’s persistently low salaries for teachers and classroom aides. (Read the full preview)

     

    5 Louisiana Governor (Nov. 16)

    Can a popular incumbent hold on?

    Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards is in some ways the inverse of Matt Bevin: A well-liked Democratic office holder who has defied political gravity for years by tacking to the center. His survival, like Bevin’s, is a test of whether constituents will vote against their typical partisan preferences.

    The early signs suggest he’s in for a fight. Edwards had hoped to win 50 percent of the state’s “jungle primary” in October, which would have given him a second term automatically; instead, he garnered just 46 percent, with his two closest Republican rivals splitting another 52 percent between them. The incumbent will face businessman Eddie Rispone in a second round of voting on November 16, the outcome of which is now seen as a tossup.

    Political experts painted the disappointment as a reflection of national trends. Edwards triumphed over expectations to win his first term four years ago — not because of polling miscues, as Bevin had, but because Democrats have gradually been purged from statewide offices in recent years as local voters have become less willing to split their tickets. Edwards’s 2015 victory was largely credited to his Blue Dog profile — he campaigned as a foe of surging budget deficits and has disappointed liberals by signing restrictions on abortion — and a significantly compromised opponent. If Republican turnout in the runoff mirrors Louisianans’ enthusiastic support for President Trump, the thinking goes, Edwards can start packing his bags now.

    If he can refocus the spotlight on his record locally, including on schools, his prospects might be considerably stronger. Edwards has fought against a heavy current of reform during his time in office, unsuccessfully attempting to curb the growth of charter schools and private school vouchers. But his administration has earned plaudits more recently by securing a teacher pay raise, and he has worked with Republicans in the state legislature to win new funding for public schools more broadly. (Read the full review)

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  • Adorable: At Schools Across America, a New Halloween Tradition — Students Choosing Teachers’ Costumes

    By Meghan Gallagher | October 30, 2019

    A holiday trend we didn’t see coming: Halloween-themed curriculum that enlists the creativity of students in helping their teachers stand out in a world full of derivative costumes. Across social media, educators are sharing their favorite submissions, often brought to life with colorful instructions and rationale. For the record, we’ve never seen a more convincing case made for a narwhal costume.

    Some of our favorite postings:

    Taco or Flower? Ms. Middleton’s students decide:

    You are what you eat, according to elementary school teacher Victoria Carter’s students in Arkansas:

    Ms. Cioffi’s second-grade class from Hiawatha Elementary School participated in finding the perfect costume. One option: Lady Gaga. Why? “You can go like ‘La la la.’”

    We vote Narwhal. “Narwhal is awesome!”

    Miss Puckett’s second-grade class from Middletown, Ohio, didn’t disappoint:

    This creation went beyond the box of crayons:

    This one wins for wordplay:

    https://iwanttobeasuperteacher.com/blog

    Ms. DeWitt from Lynchburg, Virginia, was pleased with this year’s suggestions:

    Something sweet:

    And lastly – something spooky:

    CVES 5th Grade

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  • A ‘Disturbing’ Assessment: Sagging Reading Scores, Particularly for Eighth-Graders, Headline 2019’s Disappointing NAEP Results

    By Kevin Mahnken | October 30, 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.

    Scores released today from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) held bad news for American schools, with trends that are essentially flat in mathematics and down in reading. Most states saw little or no improvement in either subject, with their lowest-performing students showing the most significant declines in scores. Whether the cause lies in hangover effects from the Great Recession, missteps in federal education policy, or some combination of these and other factors, there has been little progress to be assessed for over a decade.

    Overall results for eighth-grade reading — the lone, if modest, highlight in 2017’s scores, with a gain of a single point that year — provided the greatest cause for discouragement this time around, sinking by three percentage points. The percentage of fourth-graders testing “proficient” in the subject (a higher bar, by NAEP’s definition, than simply reading on grade level) dropped from 37 percent in 2017 to 35 percent today; the percentage of proficient eighth-graders sagged from 36 percent to 34 percent over the same period.

    National Center for Education Statistics

    “It’s really sad,” said Joanne Weiss, an education consultant who ran the Race to the Top Program under Obama-era Education Secretary Arne Duncan. “It’s heartbreaking, especially the reading results and the results for the lowest-performing kids.”

    NAEP was first administered in 1969 as a measure of fourth- and eighth-graders’ achievement in the core areas of reading and math. The biannual release of test results by the National Center for Education Statistics, in a package of national- and state-level data commonly referred to as the Nation’s Report Card, has offered a regular checkup on how students of different racial, ethnic and geographic backgrounds are learning.

    Related

    A ‘Lost Decade’ for Academic Progress? NAEP Scores Remain Flat Amid Signs of a Widening Gap Between Highest and Lowest Performers

    Since late in the presidency of George W. Bush, the trend has been one of stasis. Scores have barely moved for any subject-grade combination in over 10 years, as NCES Associate Commissioner Peggy Carr told reporters on a media call ahead of the release. For some students, she added, the inertia extends back over a quarter-century.

    “Since … 1992, there has been no growth for the lowest-performing students in either fourth-grade or eighth-grade reading,” she said. “That is, our students who are struggling the most at reading are where they were nearly 30 years ago.”

    Weiss blamed the lack of upward movement in the subject on an ignorance of prevailing literacy research. Experts have complained for decades that many young children are inadequately exposed to phonics-based instruction, leading them to miss important reading milestones early in their school careers.

    “We have an education system that’s largely ignoring, or doesn’t understand, the research on teaching skills to read — the foundational skills, the decoding skills,” she said. “We just don’t really pay attention to the research about how to get every child reading by third grade, even though it’s pretty well documented how to do that.”

    While students at all performance levels scored worse in both fourth-grade and eighth-grade reading, those downticks were larger for struggling students (those who scored at the 10th and 25th percentiles, respectively). This grim development somewhat echoes a trend noted in 2017, when a widening gap became evident between the highest- and lowest-scoring students. This year, the top performers saw either stagnation or meager decreases, while the lowest-scoring test takers slid substantially, particularly in reading.

    National Center for Education Statistics

    Few exceptions to stagnation

    With each NAEP release, education observers home in on which states and cities defied trends by performing better than their peers.

    This year, there are few shining stars. Forty states maintained roughly the same performance in fourth-grade math, and 43 did the same in eighth-grade math. For reading, disappointment was widespread: Students in an incredible 31 states performed worse in eighth-grade reading than they did in 2017.

    Only two jurisdictions saw statistically significant improvements over their 2017 performance in three out of four subject-grade combinations: Mississippi and Washington, D.C. On the media call, Carr observed that both jurisdictions achieved the highest score gains in the history of their participation on NAEP.

    Washington — a mecca for education reform that has implemented an exacting school-quality framework and encouraged a wide proliferation of charter schools — was also something of a success story in 2017, when both the charter and traditional public school sectors showed notable improvement over the previous decade.

    Related

    Analysis: NAEP Scores Show D.C. Is a Leader in Educational Improvement — With Powerful Lessons for Other Cities

    Thomas Dee, a professor of education at Stanford University who has won awards for his research on Washington’s teacher performance system, said that the District’s continual upward trend could be attributable to its long-term emphasis on accountability.

    While cautioning that NAEP scores “are not the most convincing evidence of [policy successes], or even close,” Dee said the city stood out for its teacher evaluation system, even as high-profile experiments in other areas have faced massive implementation challenges. Notably, local authorities are now weighing whether to overhaul the system by opening it up to collective bargaining, a step that some have warned could put recent achievement gains at risk.

    “One of the ‘tells’ for success is whether cities were able to have variation in teacher ratings” — in other words, whether they consistently distinguished between effective and ineffective teachers — “and to use them consequentially for personnel decisions,” he noted. “D.C. is one of the few places that actually seemed to get that right. They have a high-fidelity implementation of teacher evaluation that actually generated meaningful variations in measures of teacher effectiveness.”

    Mississippi has also made steady gains in both subjects over the past few years, winning specific praise from some reformers for the strides it made during the last round of NAEP testing. Since the state initiated a decade-long campaign to improve instructional rigor — including the adoption of more stringent academic standards and aligning its own state test with NAEP’s format and content — student performance has shot up in all subjects, including a 13-point boost in fourth-grade math and a nine-point increase in eighth-grade math since 2009.

    Weiss said she thought other states could benefit from the example of those that have climbed rapidly.

    “There’s lessons we can take from those places that have had serious and intentional strategies for academic improvement,” she said. “In Mississippi … they have had a significant focus at the state level on high-quality instructional materials, with professional learning wrapped around it. It’s important to study those places and pay attention to what they’re doing.”

    Apart from the limited good news at the state level, Dee called the lack of national progress “disturbing.” While NAEP scores offer limited insight into the success of American schools and students, we ignore the continued poor performance at our own peril, he said.

    “Test scores are picking up measures of cognitive skills that matter not only for our children’s economic future, but that redound to multiple other dimensions of human welfare: their health outcomes, their likelihood of going to prison, the character of their civic engagement, which are all related to what they learn in school. This is why so many of us care about education. And we’re seeing our system challenged here in terms of realizing our children’s potential.”

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  • Monthly QuotED: 7 Notable Quotes That Made Education Headlines in October, From School Security to Teacher Strikes — and the Value of a Detroit High School Diploma

    By Andrew Brownstein | October 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.

    “I hope the strike ends sooner, and they do what they need to do. It’s not benefiting the kids or parents. School is their safe place, and it’s where they get a meal, too.” —Fantasia Martin, a mother of two young girls, as the Chicago teachers’ strike entered its second week. (Read at The Washington Post)

    Getty Images

    “When the average age of a building is 44 years, things start to fail.” —Mary Filardo, executive director of the 21st Century School Fund, on the need to invest in school infrastructure. (Read at The74Million.org)

    “When it was us, the district didn’t feel like they needed to have any immediacy. We don’t have the resources that SLA has, and their parents jumped on it right away. Where there’s money and influence, there’s more privilege.” —Keith Pretlow, a culinary-arts teacher at Ben Franklin High School in Philadelphia. When Science Leadership Academy, a magnet school, relocated to share the site with Ben Franklin, a long-delayed asbestos cleanup moved into high gear. (Read at The Philadelphia Inquirer)

    “Is this really school? Is this really education? Is this how it is supposed to be? How am I going to go to college and write a five-page essay … when I’ve been watching movies or going down to the gym?” —Jamarria Hall, 19, who graduated at the top of his class at Detroit’s Osborn High School, a time he now considers four lost years. (Read at the Detroit News)

    “I don’t think you can ethically sell an endorsement.” —S. Daniel Carter, president of Safety Advisors for Educational Campuses, on school security companies that pay $18,000 a year for the right to call themselves “School Solutions” partners with AASA, The School Superintendents Association. (Read at The74Million.org)

    “The bias is present. It’s written. It’s stated. It’s plain.” —Kristen Harper, director for policy development at Child Trends, on threat assessments such as those used by schools in Albuquerque, New Mexico, that disproportionately target minority students and those with disabilities. (Read at Searchlight New Mexico)

    “What if our farts are supposed to help us fly?!” —a student of Christina Torres, an eighth-grade English teacher in Honolulu, collected as part of Education Week’s “Tiny Teaching Stories.” (Read at Education Week)

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  • New Data Illustrate the Depth of America’s College Completion Crisis

    By Kevin Mahnken | October 29, 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.

    American higher education is experiencing what some experts have called a “completion crisis.”

    The proportion of high school graduates who immediately matriculate to college has risen substantially in recent decades, even as the high school graduation rate has itself climbed. But a dark trend has emerged alongside these cheery developments: Just 40 percent of the freshmen enrolled in four-year colleges each year graduate with a degree on time. Roughly one-third of all college students in both two- or four-year programs never earn a degree at all.

    That adds up to almost 4 million college dropouts stuck with billions of dollars of debt for their troubles. And each year, the cycle perpetuates itself: from triumphant high school commencement speeches to tragic choices, sometimes just months apart, to financial burdens that haunt former students for years to come.

    In searching for solutions, much of the scrutiny has fallen on colleges and universities. And indeed, institutions of higher education vary widely in the support they offer to low-income and minority students, who are the likeliest to encounter obstacles on the path to graduation. For every Bethel University or SUNY Alfred, where disadvantaged undergraduates attain degrees in numbers that defy the odds, there is a University of Nevada at Las Vegas, where students seem to struggle inexplicably.

    Related

    Alarming Statistics Tell the Story Behind America’s College Completion Crisis: Nearly a Third of All College Students Still Don’t Have a Degree Six Years Later

    But the numbers are no less stunning on the K-12 side. Simply put, the differences in college outcomes between relatively advantaged and disadvantaged high schools can be shocking. While colleges may not succeed at placing all of their students on the pathway to upward mobility, that’s partially because they are being asked to remedy social divisions that have been on the scene much longer than they have.

    That’s the inescapable takeaway from a recent release of data by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. The group’s seventh annual report on national college benchmarks — essentially tracking how many K-12 students enroll in, persist through and graduate from college — offers a bracing perspective on the inequalities that cleave American education.

    Circulated in early October, the report compiles data from about 6 million students who have graduated from public or private high schools since 2012. Roughly 40 percent of all U.S. high school graduates are represented in each year tracked, the authors write, providing “the most relevant benchmarks that secondary education practitioners can use to evaluate and monitor progress in assisting students to make the transition from high school to college.”

    The data yield a swath of noteworthy findings, but two major conclusions stand out.

    Most students aren’t graduating on time

    It won’t surprise many to learn that graduates from relatively advantaged high schools are more likely to enroll in college than those from relatively disadvantaged ones. NSC’s report demonstrates those disparities clearly: More than three-quarters of all graduates from low-poverty schools (defined as those where 25 percent of students or less are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch) immediately enroll, whereas just over half of those from high-poverty high schools (where 75 percent of students or more are eligible) do the same.

    Student Clearinghouse Research Center

    A similar distinction exists between schools on racial lines. Fully 69 percent of graduates from “low-minority” high schools (defined by the authors as those where 40 percent of students or fewer are black or Hispanic) enroll immediately in college, compared with just 58 percent from “high-minority” schools (those where over 40 percent of students are black or Hispanic). (Importantly, these figures increase across all school types when researchers include students who enroll during the spring or summer semesters.)

    Those gaps are troubling enough. But they actually grow when the standard changes from immediate enrollment to eventual completion. Over half of all college students who matriculated from low-poverty schools graduate within six years of their enrollment, compared with just 21 percent of those who graduated from high-poverty schools. Forty-nine percent of graduates from low-minority schools complete a degree within six years, compared with 30 percent of graduates from high-minority schools.

    Student Clearinghouse Research Center

    The figures seem to offer a granular picture of how later-life educational inequities divide American adults. If students at predominantly non-white, nonaffluent schools are less likely to enroll in college — and less likely still to eventually graduate — it’s no wonder that just 11 percent of Hispanic adults possess bachelor’s degrees while 24 percent of whites do. Statistically, students from those demographics are also much more likely to default on college loans, often in spite of the fact that they qualify for federal aid like Pell Grants.

    But as disturbing as the disparities are, so is the overall picture: Millions of American high school graduates, even those from relatively more advantaged backgrounds, are simply unable to graduate from college; even those who graduate often struggle to do so within a reasonable span of time. Delays of this kind lead to more debt and more dropouts.

    Income may matter more than race

    The second conclusion is even more striking. Among graduates from low-income high schools, the authors find, the proportion of students who enroll immediately in college is the same: 55 percent, whether those schools enroll relatively higher or lower percentages of minority students.

    Student Clearinghouse Research Center

    Among higher-income schools, graduates from those with smaller minority student populations are more likely to enroll in college right away, but not by a huge amount: 71 percent, compared with 64 percent from those schools designated “higher-income, high-minority.”

    That would suggest that a student’s approximate chance of enrolling in college after high school is tied more closely to the socioeconomic composition of their high school than the racial makeup.

    “The outcome differences between higher and low-income levels, within each minority level, were substantially larger than the outcome differences between high and low minority levels, within income,” the authors write.

    Student Clearinghouse Research Center

    As one would expect, college completion rates are dramatically lower for all categories of schools than their enrollment rates. No population drops further in this respect than graduates from those high-income, high-minority schools: While nearly two-thirds of them enroll immediately in college after graduation, just over one-third finish college within six years. Less than 30 percent of graduates from low-income high schools — regardless of whether they enroll higher or lower percentages of minority students — finish college in six years.

    Just one set of graduates has a better-than-even shot of attaining a college degree within six years of finishing high school: those from higher-income, low-minority high schools.

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