Noteworthy headlines from the education wire
  • This Week’s ESSA News: States Struggling With How to Report School Spending Data, Education Department Puts Focus on Equitable Services for Private Schools & More

    By Erika Ross | 1 day ago

    This update on the Every Student Succeeds Act and the education plans now being implemented by states and school districts is produced in partnership with ESSA Essentials, an ongoing series from the Collaborative for Student Success. It’s an offshoot of their ESSA Advance newsletter, which you can sign up for here! (See our recent ESSA updates from previous weeks right here.)

    School spending by states is the latest issue to engender criticism from the U.S. Department of Education, as Andrew Ujifusa reports for Education Week. School spending data is mandated by ESSA and, so far, 17 states have reported it, with a lot more data to come. 

    Jim Blew, the Assistant Secretary for Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development stated at a recent event that only one or two states have done a good job of reporting school spending information, and that most states are trying to “hide” their information “so nobody ever finds it, because if they look at it, they’re just going to be confused.”

    It was not clear which states the DOE believes have done a good job, but the official did indicate that the department is planning to “put out information about how states are handling this,” including the possibility of “shaming some of the really bad examples.”

    The Council of Chief State School Officers’ Carissa Moffat Miller responded in a statement “that in addition to numerous states already reporting this data, states remain committed to ‘continue efforts to improve the reporting so all stakeholders can make informed decisions…State education leaders are committed to transparency of school-level spending data and have dedicated a tremendous amount of effort to publish this first set of reports.’”

    CCSSO also “highlighted states such as Delaware and Georgia that have produced good work on this front.” 

    Here are the week’s top headlines for how states are implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act:

    Education Department Releases Updates on Equitable Services for Private Schools 

    “U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos released updates…to clarify existing statutory obligations of local education agencies (LEAs) to provide equitable educational services to eligible private school students, their teachers, and their families” under changes made to Title I by ESSA. 

    These updates are meant to “emphasize collaboration and consultation between public and private school officials” in an effort to ensure eligible students have access to needed services.

    The updates also permit religious organizations to serve as third-party contractors to provide needed equitable services.

    What Could ESSA’s New Data-Reporting Mandate Mean For You?

    This piece from Education Week provides a user-friendly guide to “what ESSA’s new data-reporting mandate means for different players in the education community.”

    As opposed to focusing on “per-pupil spending,” ESSA “requires states for the first time to break out how much districts spend on each school,” which advocates hope will change public perception and understanding of K-12 funding and “drive academic- and fiscal-policy shifts at the state, federal, and local levels.” However, there are (of course) a number of factors to consider and researchers and school finance experts recommend being cautious when drawing conclusions from bottom-line, school-by-school spending figures alone.

    How Can Schools, Cities, States Maximize Their School Funds? 

    As part of the same series of panels, education experts talked about how America’s education system could improve results by getting “more bang for the buck through the use of technology, or in special education, or in districts with declining enrollment.” 

    The final panel included the aforementioned Jim Blew, who “discussed how choice should also be a discussion point in getting more value for the educational dollar.”

    Another presentation of interest was one from Marguerite Roza, a Georgetown University professor who used the “Would you rather?” test to “pair two equally costly education program options” and ask participants to choose their favorite. These questions will be especially important as ESSA-mandated school data spending is released in the months ahead.

    Want to stay up to date? Click here to sign up for the ESSA Advance newsletter to receive all the information in your inbox every Tuesday.  


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  • EduClips: From Florida’s Governor Pushing to ‘Eliminate Common Core’ to New EPA Rules Mandating School Water Testing, the Education News You Missed This Week at America’s Top Districts

    By Laura Fay | 5 days ago

    EduClips is a roundup of the week’s top education headlines from America’s 15 largest school districts, where more than 4 million students across 10 states attend class every day. Read previous EduClips installments here.

    NATIONAL — Environmental Protection Agency Proposes New Rules to Require More Testing of School Water for Lead: The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed new rules that would require that “all water utilities conduct lead-level tests at 20 percent of K-12 schools and child care facilities within their service areas annually” and provide the results to the schools and local or state health departments. While this change would help protect children from lead, a known toxin that is particularly dangerous for children, the proposal “would also weaken rules for replacing service lines after they have been identified as lead-contaminated,” the Las Vegas Sun reported. That means water utilities could take up to 33 years to replace contaminated pipes, compared with 13 years now. The new rules are in a public comment period; it’s uncertain how soon they could be enacted. (Read at the Las Vegas Sun)

    FLORIDA — Florida Is Set to Change Its School Standards for the Fifth Time in 24 Years: Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order “to eliminate Common Core from Florida’s schools, and to revise the academic standards.” Some educators have expressed concern that the proposed replacement standards are weaker and vaguer than the Common Core. (Read at the Tampa Bay Times)

    CALIFORNIA — California Plans to End ‘Lunch Shaming’ With a New Bill That Guarantees Meals for All Students: Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a requirement that all public school students get a school meal regardless of unpaid fees in an effort to end lunch shaming in his state. (Read at USA Today)

    NEW YORK — Few Selective New York City Schools Post Precise Admissions Criteria: A new analysis found that just 20 of New York City’s 157 selective high schools publicly share the rubrics they use to screen and admit students. The news comes as the city’s specialized schools are under fire from critics who say they exacerbate segregation and widen achievement gaps in the nation’s largest school district. (Read at The Wall Street Journal)

    TEXAS — Money Keeps Flowing Into Houston Independent School District Trustee Elections Despite Takeover Threat: Under the shadow of a looming state takeover that would push the trustees out, the 13 candidates for four open seats on the board of trustees have taken in $210,000 altogether. If a takeover happens, some of the winners could return to their seats before their four-year terms end, giving donors reason to contribute. (Read at the Houston Chronicle)

    NEVADA — Clark County OKs $12M Plan to Fight Chronic Absenteeism and Truancy: Clark County officials approved a plan to spend $12 million on a range of student supports in an effort to improve attendance. An already approved sales tax will pay for the program. (Read at the Las Vegas Review-Journal)


    Millions of Students Are Chronically Absent Each Year. Improve School Conditions and More Kids Will Show Up, Report Argues

    Noteworthy Opinion & Analysis

    DISCIPLINE — Nashville Schools Spent 5 Years Trying to Close the Racial gap in Suspensions. It Only Got Worse (Read at The Tennessean)

    CHICAGO STRIKE — Chicago Teachers May Test Unions’ ‘Social Justice’ Strategy (Read at Associated Press via ABC News)

     Go deeper — Union Report: The Looming Chicago Teacher Strike May Be As Much About Membership As It Is About Money (Read at

    BIG DATA — Student Tracking, Secret Scores: How College Admissions Offices Rank Prospects Before They Apply (Read at The Washington Post)

    TECH — Why Boredom Often Beats Screen Time (Read at Edutopia)

    SAFETY — Former Sex Workers See Value in Trafficking Education (Read at the Herald Tribune)

    What Else We’re Reading

    CULTURE — Here’s How Boy Band BTS Inspired a School in South L.A. to Teach Korean Culture (Read at The Orange County Register)

    INSPIRING — Dedicated Teacher Keeps Classes Going in Bahamas After Dorian (Read at The Tribune)

    TEACHING — Tiny Teaching Stories: ‘For Good Instead of Mischief’ (Read at Education Week)

    Quotes of the Week 

    “To read they had a plan after Sandy Hook and didn’t do a thing with it was just mind-boggling to me.” —Stephen Feuerman, a parent of students who survived the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, on the school district’s 2013 decision not to levy $55 million in tax dollars for school safety. (Read at The Sun-Sentinel)

    “Obviously we appreciate the state legislators taking action … This is just a side effect that not everybody probably realized might take place.” —Ernie Okley, a junior high math and science teacher and co-vice president of the union at Bond County Community No. 2, a district in Greenville, Illinois. The state’s decision to raise minimum teacher salaries has led to some unforeseen consequences, including the likelihood that pay will rise more slowly in his district. (Read at

    “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)

    “My concern was, ‘Oh my gosh, how am I going to do this?’” —Kenneth Wagner, chief of the Clay County Schools Police Department, who was tasked with creating district police department in five months in response to a post-Parkland Florida mandate. (Read at

    “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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  • With a Wealthy, Mostly White Suburb’s Vote to Withdraw, East Baton Rouge Schools a Step Closer to Fourth School Secession

    By Beth Hawkins | October 14, 2019

    A wealthy, largely white suburb of East Baton Rouge has taken a step closer to seceding from the city’s school district after residents voted to incorporate as a new municipality, St. George. If leaders of the new city succeed in pressing the Louisiana Legislature to create a new school system — the impetus for the years-long breakaway campaign — it will leave East Baton Rouge Parish Public Schools with a hyperconcentration of impoverished, mostly black students.

    It would be the fourth time in 16 years that a Baton Rouge suburb has carved out its own district, taking over schools previously belonging to the parish, Louisiana’s equivalent of a county. Since the first three secessions, the district has shrunk to 42,000 students, 90 percent of them children of color and 84 percent impoverished.

    The new city would be more than 70 percent white and less than 15 percent black. Up to 6,000 children could be forced to change schools.

    “You can just look at the boundaries of what the community looks like, and it’s clear it’s rooted in racism,” said Tramelle Howard, vice president of the parish system school board. “It’s divisive.”

    A slim majority — 54 percent — of the area’s 86,000 residents voted Oct. 12 voted to form St. George. Only those living within the city’s proposed boundaries were allowed to vote. The move, which would create the fifth-largest city in Louisiana, could still face a legal challenge. Assuming the new municipality is formed, it must petition lawmakers to create a new school district.

    Estimates vary wildly, but a new St. George school district could take an estimated $85 million in state and local tax revenue and 12 percent of the current district’s student body. One civic group put the cost to the old district at $765 for every pupil left behind.


    Left Behind: Can East Baton Rouge Schools Survive the Breakaway of a Wealthy — Majority White — Community?

    Add to that the potential financial impact of decisions that would need to be negotiated by parish and St. George officials, including which entity assumes responsibility for teacher pensions, retiree medical benefits and new or updated school buildings in a community where many facilities are crumbling.

    “There are taxpayer investments that are already made,” said Howard.

    According to the think tank EdBuild, 30 states allow school district secessions, which typically fuel financial and educational inequities. Since 2000, at least 128 U.S. communities have sought to leave their school districts, and 73 have succeeded.

    “Our overreliance on property taxes to fund schools creates an incentive for the wealthiest communities to secede and keep their tax dollars for their children,” said Sara Hodges, EdBuild’s director of data and visualizations. “But the state of Louisiana has a safeguard to ensure that the needs of all communities are considered — it requires two-thirds of the legislature to vote yes for a new school district. The final decision will be in the hands of the legislature.”

    The newspaper The Advocate reports that Gov. John Bel Edwards must now appoint an interim St. George mayor and city council so the new municipality can begin negotiations with East Baton Rouge, which has a merged city-parish government. The mayor-president of that entity, Sharon Weston Broome, had yet to say whether East Baton Rouge would challenge the breakaway in court.

    The U.S. Department of Justice took Baton Rouge to court in 1956, two years after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Brown vs. Board of Education, and the city’s first court-ordered school integration began in 1963. This was followed by white flight and increased private school enrollment. In 2003, the desegregation case was closed. Within three years, three communities had seceded from East Baton Rouge Parish Public Schools to create their own districts.

    In 2013, residents of the fastest-growing unincorporated section of the parish launched a campaign to get the legislature to put a constitutional amendment creating a new St. George school district on the ballot. After the measure failed, lawmakers told residents they would have a better chance at garnering a legislative majority if they first incorporated as a municipality.

    In the intervening years, St. George’s backers broadened their arguments in favor of creating a new city to include the possibility of a leaner and more responsive local government. Detractors have presented counterarguments — not least that East Baton Rouge went to a unified system of government because it presented opportunities to reduce costs.

    Earlier this year, Howard and other East Baton Rouge Parish Public Schools officials told The 74 that whether the breakaway ultimately takes place or not, the district is at a crossroads. A new superintendent will be hired in the coming months, and several board members said his or her top agenda items should be eliminating an inequitable divide between selective-enrollment magnet schools and poorly performing traditional campuses.

    That needs to happen no matter what, Howard said in a new interview. But the formation of a new St. George district would make it harder.

    “It’s unfortunate that a sector of the community believes that the only way to see progression is through division,” he said. “We just have to do the best for kids in our district.”


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  • EduClips: From Virginia Lawsuits Over Secluding Kids to New SCOTUS Briefs Advocating for DACA Students and Teachers, News You Might Have Missed This Week From America’s Top Districts

    By Laura Fay | October 10, 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.

    NATIONAL — NEA, National PTA File Brief Supporting DACA Students and Teachers in Supreme Court Case: The nation’s largest teachers union, the National Education Association, and the National Parent-Teacher Association have filed an amicus brief to the Supreme Court in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, the Obama-era program that allows undocumented people who were brought to the United States as children to get work permits and stay in the country without fear of deportation. According to data from 2016, “228,000 children age 15 and younger were unauthorized immigrants potentially eligible for the DACA program provided they stayed in school,” Education Dive reports. Moreover, about 9,000 DACA recipients are teachers, making education one of the most common professions for those who benefit from the program. The brief includes testimony from some teachers. Ending DACA “will be disastrous for students and public education,” NEA President Lily Eskelsen García said in a statement. The Supreme Court is expected to hear the case Nov. 12. (Read at Education Dive)

    NEVADA — Parents of Special Needs Kids Raise Concerns About Treatment From CCSD Staff: Five parents from Clark County School District said in a press conference Monday that special education students have been “routinely abused” in the district’s care. Parents said their children had been bullied and hit by educators and that the district has prohibited monitoring devices that would record what happens to their children during the school day. “You have denied information, erased videos, blamed families and [done] anything else you possibly can to cover up because you do not want to take responsibility for what went wrong under your care,” one parent said, addressing the district. (Read at the Las Vegas Review-Journal)

    CALIFORNIA — New State Law Creates Pot of Emergency Funds for California Community Colleges: California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law last week that allows the state’s community colleges to use money from an existing funding stream to cover “emergency financial aid” for students in good standing. The change is meant to allow schools to help students cover “unforeseen financial challenges” including housing and food costs, textbook purchases and transportation. (Read at Inside Higher Ed)

    VIRGINIA — Parents Sue Fairfax Schools, Allege Improper Seclusion and Restraint of Students With Disabilities: Three parents filed a lawsuit Tuesday alleging that the Fairfax School District used excessive and improper seclusion to “silence, detain, segregate, and punish students with disabilities.” One child was secluded “on at least 745 occasions and excluded from class several hundred more times over seven years, according to court papers.” (Read at The Washington Post)

    FLORIDA — DeSantis Wants to Boost Minimum Pay for Florida’s Teachers: Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to raise the minimum salary of teachers in Florida to $47,500, a proposal that would cost hundreds of millions of dollars and is expected to become a key issue for the state legislature next year. DeSantis said his proposal will raise pay for 60 percent of teachers in Florida, which at $37,636 ranks 27th in the country for starting teacher pay. (Read at the Daily Commercial)

    ILLINOIS — Could Chicago Actually Shorten Its School Day? The Latest Twist in the City’s Labor Battle, Explained: The Chicago Teachers Union, which is threatening to strike Oct. 17 if it does not reach a contract by then, is demanding a shorter school day as part of the negotiation. The union wants elementary teachers to have an additional 30 minutes of morning prep time. The current school day for elementary students is seven hours, and it’s unclear where those 30 minutes would come from. (Read at Chalkbeat Chicago)

    ● Related: Class size has also emerged as a key issue in the negotiation (Read at Chalkbeat Chicago)

    Noteworthy Opinion and Analysis 

    NATIONAL — How the Ed. Department Threw a Wrench in Student-Privacy Laws (Read at Education Week)

    STRIKES — Chicago Is the Latest Front for ‘Common Good’ Bargaining (Read at Chalkbeat)

    PARENTING — Is Your Child Struggling in School? Talk to Your Pediatrician (Read at The New York Times)

    TEACHING — Four Ways Educators Can Help Young Black Students Thrive (Read at The Hechinger Report)

    GIFTED ED — The Contradiction at the Heart of Public Education (Read at The Atlantic)

    What Else We’re Reading

    TEACHER VOICE — Arkansas Teacher of the Year Criticizes Little Rock Proposal to Break Up District (Read at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

    INSPIRING — A Bandless Football Team and a Teamless Band Team Up (Read or listen at NPR)

    SOLUTIONS — Florida Students Lobby for Bill to Help English Learners (Read at the Tampa Bay Times)


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  • As Chicago Teachers Threaten to Walk Out, New Report Suggests a ‘Hidden Driver’ Behind Rash of Strikes: Skyrocketing Pension and Health Costs

    By Kevin Mahnken | October 8, 2019

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

    If Chicago teachers make good on their plans to strike later this month, it will be the latest in a series of headline-making walkouts launched by educators since 2018.

    In the spring of that year, teachers swarmed state capitals in West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Arizona and North Carolina in protest of their salaries and working conditions. Indeed, teacher pay in several of those states languished in the bottom of national rankings, and per-pupil funding had stagnated or declined in the wake of the Great Recession.

    After seeing #RedForEd mobilization win a round of highly publicized battles with Republican legislators, teachers in deep-blue enclaves struck next, demanding higher pay as well as concessions on class sizes and charter schools in cities like Los Angeles, Oakland and Denver.


    A #RedForEd Spread: On Heels of Los Angeles Strike, Denver, Virginia, Oakland and Sacramento Are Poised for Next Wave of Teacher Activism

    Chicago is, in some respects, the antecedent to the current activist wave. Though teacher strikes have been uncommon in recent decades, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) led both a lengthy work stoppage in 2012 and a one-day walkout four years later. The actions were taken in defiance of then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel, whose brusque approach to school reform made him an easy foil for labor leaders. Newly elected Mayor Lori Lightfoot campaigned loudly against her predecessor’s legacy but still finds herself at odds with the CTU, which has announced that it will strike on Oct. 17 if its demands for a new contract are not met. The two sides disagree on how quickly to phase in a salary increase, and other disputes loom around class sizes and staffing.

    According to a new report from academic Dan DiSalvo, labor leaders and lawmakers are both missing the most critical factor putting pressure on school district finances: retirement benefits. DiSalvo, a professor of political science at the City College of New York, argues that the mounting burden of pensions and benefits for current and future retirees crowds out other spending. Instead of paying for library books or teacher bonuses, he writes, cities and states devote more resources to pay the health care costs of teachers who have long since retired.

    In the report, released this morning by the conservative Manhattan Institute, DiSalvo points to defined benefit retirement plans as “hidden drivers” of both education and teacher strikes. For decades, office holders in states and cities underfunded the plans, confident that the money would be found somewhere down the line. That leaves politicians today to hold the bag as a generation of instructors approach the end of their careers.

    It’s a recipe that other experts have pointed to as well. The 74 contributor Chad Aldeman, who studies pension and finance issues for the education consultancy Bellwether Education Partners, has estimated that every active teacher in the United States would see a 7 percent bump in their paychecks if school districts had held their payments to pension plans at 2001 rates. Instead, those payments have gone up, and teacher salaries in many states have stalled as a result.


    Aldeman: How Have Pension Costs Hurt Teacher Pay? If Contributions Were Still at 2001 Levels, Every Teacher Would Get a 7% Raise Today

    In an interview with The 74, DiSalvo said that one feature of the problem is the diverging interests of teachers at the beginning and end of their careers. Younger educators — most of whom, Aldeman has written, will not collect their full pensions, thanks to extremely long vesting periods and byzantine eligibility rules — would benefit now from higher salaries, while those closer to retirement are counting on the generous benefits packages they bargained for.

    “If you’re a teacher that’s got 20 years in, you’re vested — you’re starting to think about retirement,” he said. “Greater salary might be nice at that point, but you’re probably thinking, ‘I’m dedicated to staying in this state, and I’m going to get my pension and my retiree health plan. That’s my retirement plan.’ It’s very hard to see how you’d get them to change.”

    In the meantime, he writes, state spending on teacher pensions and health benefits leaped upwards between 2001 and 2016: From 16 to 23 percent of total instruction compensation in North Carolina; from 15 to 21 percent in Oklahoma; and from 17 to 26 percent in Kentucky. All three states saw teacher strikes in 2018, as school employees grew outraged at their stagnant wages.

    Manhattan Institute

    At the same time, other outlays have come to encroach on district budgets. One frequently cited expense, not mentioned in DiSalvo’s paper, is special education costs, which have ballooned as states and cities have allocated greater and greater sums to accommodate students with expensive learning needs. In Wisconsin, school districts now spend roughly $1 billion annually to cover special education costs that are not reimbursed by the state. In California, that total was over $10 billion in the 2015-16 school year.

    That means that districts like Chicago — which has struggled to get a grip on escalating costs, even as its enrollment has dipped in recent years — have even less money to divide between teacher raises and pension contributions. The negotiations now, he warned, seem to suggest that neither side understands the scope of the problem.

    “What’s striking to me is that, just two years ago, there was regular discussion of how CPS needed to declare bankruptcy,” he said. “But now they’re saying, ‘No, we can actually offer a big package of 16 percent raises over five years.’ It just seems wildly optimistic.”


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  • EduClips: From NYC’s Plan to Develop New Schools With XQ to a Possible Teacher Strike in Chicago, the Education News You Missed This Week From America’s 15 Top Districts

    By Laura Fay | October 4, 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.

    ILLINOIS — District Teachers and Support Staff Set October Strike Date: The Chicago Teachers Union, school support staff and park employees will go on strike Oct. 17 if they do not reach contract deals with the city by then, the Chicago Tribune reports. During previous teacher strikes, some parents have sent their children to the parks, which is why the three organizations are working together, a union official said. The joint strike date “is about taking away that avenue and forcing [employers] to negotiate in good faith. … They want to pit workers against each other,” said Jeffrey Howard, a vice president for the union that represents school custodians, special education aides and other support staff in addition to many park employees. Ninety-four percent of teachers in the union voted in favor of the strike authorization last week. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and schools chief Janice Jackson said schools will remain open for the city’s 360,000 students if the strike happens, staffed by principals and nonunion employees. “It’s clear the two sides remain far apart, with both accusing the other of stalled responses to demands and offers,” according to the paper. A strike would mean about 35,000 public employees walking off the job. Both sides have said they will continue negotiating. (Read at the Chicago Tribune)

    NEW YORK — Mayor Bill de Blasio to Partner with XQ America, Robin Hood to Open New Schools and Restructure Others: New York City will use money from XQ America, an education organization founded by Laurene Powell Jobs, and Robin Hood Foundation, an anti-poverty philanthropy organization based in New York City, to open or restructure 40 schools, The New York Times reports. Teams of students and educators will propose ideas for their schools and for new schools, and winners will receive grant funding to bring their ideas to life. Though de Blasio has previously criticized the presence of private money in education, the mayor “is now borrowing from the playbook of his predecessor, Michael R. Bloomberg, whose overhaul of the education system relied in part on donations from major private institutions and prominent benefactors,” according to the Times. XQ will contribute $10 million to the project, with Robin Hood adding $5 million to open new schools in low-income neighborhoods and $1 million for teacher training. The city will match those gifts with an additional $16 million to open or restructure 10 other schools. (Read at The New York Times)

    NATIONAL — ‘Shooting People Is De-escalation’: Three Days With Teachers Training to Use Guns in Schools: Meet Angie, a fifth-grade teacher in Ohio who had never used a gun before this summer, as she visits a shooting range and trains to carry on campus. She learns how to shoot the gun and does target practice, but she’s also gathering tips unique to her profession, such as how to hug students without them noticing the weapon. “Cause we’re huggers,” she said. “You have to get them from this side … You have to retrain a lot of things that you do.” The number of districts allowing staff to carry guns has nearly doubled since the Parkland, Florida, high school shooting in 2018, according to data from Vice News. The training required varies by state and even by district, with some places requiring no training at all. Angie receives training from FASTER Saves Lives, “a course developed by an Ohio-based firearms association after the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School,” WHYY reports. (Read at WHYY)

    NEVADA — No Bad Principals in Clark County, Evaluators Say: None of the more than 300 principals in Clark County School District, which includes Las Vegas, has been rated “ineffective” in the past four years. Only one has been rated in the second-lowest category, “developing,” in that time. “Meanwhile, the district has consistently had more than 100 one- and two-star schools, the lowest tiers in the state’s academic performance standards,” reports the Las Vegas Review Journal. At the same time, “an unknown number” of principals have quietly taken leave, been demoted or retired while under scrutiny, leaving parents and communities with little information. The district is taking steps to improve professional development and evaluation, officials said. Additionally, the teachers union has created a new internal system that “seeks to bring attention to principals who have persistent issues with school staff and climate.” (Read at the Las Vegas Review Journal)

    HAWAII — Teachers Say Low Pay Makes It Tough to Stay in the Classroom: Hawaii is so desperate for educators that one Maui high school recently said it will accept applications from high school graduates for substitute teaching positions — no other qualifications needed. One of the reasons for the dearth of educators is the low pay for teachers in the nation’s most expensive state. “While Hawaii’s average teacher pay of $60,000 is higher than the national average, it is considered the lowest in the country when adjusted for cost of living,” the Honolulu Civil Beat reported. The state department of education recently conducted a listening tour to learn how pay contributes to teacher attrition in the state. “There’s a disconnect here with the political system, a complete, utter discontent,” said one Maui teacher. “I just don’t see this ever being solved, with the history, with the lack of empathy from legislators, from governors, with just the pure utter disconnect in our communities.” The Civil Beat also recently reported that a Hawaii program offering free tuition to prospective teachers is struggling to fill its openings this year. (Read at the Honolulu Civil Beat)

    FLORIDA — Enrollment Keeps Falling at Many Florida Public Schools: Enrollment is flat or declining at three of Florida’s biggest school districts, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. (Those districts are respectively the fifth-, seventh- and 11th-largest districts in the U.S.) The South Florida Sun-Sentinel offers two reasons for the decreasing number of students: an increase in the number of families turning to charter schools and an influx of empty nesters in South Florida. Parents with children in charter schools said they worried that nearby public schools were overcrowded or overwhelming. “I felt my son would get lost. At the charter school, everybody knows everybody. The principal knew him by name in the first week,” said one parent in Broward County. (Read at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

    CALIFORNIA — Can Charter and Public Schools Share Space Without Fights? LAUSD’s $5.5 Million Solution: District and charter schools that share space in Los Angeles will soon receive new money to help repair and improve their campuses, thanks to a new plan unanimously passed by the Los Angeles Board of Education. Fifty-five district schools that share space with one or more charters will get $100,000 each to deal with facilities challenges such as installing a new sound system for a common auditorium or repairing a gate, the Los Angeles Times reports. The funding will come from “voter-approved school construction bonds set aside for charters,” a district official told the Times. Two influential board members, charter supporter Nick Melvoin and charter critic Jackie Goldberg, collaborated on the plan, which they say will ease cooperation between charter and district schools. “We can help the day-to-day operations run a little smoother, and maybe even promote a new spirit of collaboration,” Melvoin said. (Read at the Los Angeles Times)

    Noteworthy Opinion & Analysis

    PARENT VOICE — My Son Didn’t Get Into Any of the Schools He Wanted. My Disappointment Made Me Realize I’d Been Hoarding Opportunity (Read at Chalkbeat)

    TECH — Is the Era of the $100+ Graphing Calculator Coming to an End? (Read at The Hustle)

    STUDENT VOICE — Kid Chess Champions Share Their Secrets (Watch at The Atlantic)

    POLITICS — How a Kids’-News Outlet Is Explaining Impeachment (Read at The Atlantic)

    ASSESSMENT — It’s Time to End Timed Tests (Read at Education Week)

    CRIMINAL JUSTICE — More Than 30,000 Children Under Age 10 Have Been Arrested in the U.S. Since 2013, FBI Reports (Read at ABC News)

    Quotes of the Week

    “It feels like a superficial way of getting to the root of the problem.” —Philadelphia public school teacher Kathryn Sundeen, on Democratic proposals to raise teacher pay. (Read at Huffington Post)

    “Where we’re talking about a cost to a school of maybe $2,500 to $5,000 [for services], school districts in Texas will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to basically appeal these cases so that not only are attorneys not willing to take them, it chills other parents who would like for these services to be provided to their child. The goal becomes, how do we run the family out of money, or make the appeal process so long and arduous that parents just give up and leave the system.” —Texas attorney Catherine Michael, on the state’s lax response to a federal mandate on special education services. (Read at

    “A lot of these kids suffer horrible trauma on the journey to the United States. Some were sexually abused. Others were almost murdered by a gang or left in the desert.” —Perla Banegas, who until recently taught newcomers at Minnesota’s Worthington High School, part of a district that has received more unaccompanied minors per capita than almost anywhere in the country. (Read at The Washington Post)

    “We know the legal question of affirmative action is one that has been roiled up consistently over the past 30 years. It’s worth remembering that every time we make it to the United States Supreme Court, affirmative action survives.” —Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (Read at

    “We understand there will be consequences and we’re prepared to take responsibility for them. We know that it will take time to heal, and we hope and pray that the boys, their families, the school and the broader community will be able to forgive us in time.” —a statement from the grandparents and guardians of a sixth-grade girl at the Immanuel Christian School in Springfield, Virginia, who now says she falsely accused three white male students of forcibly cutting her hair on a school playground. (Read at The Washington Post)


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  • Monthly QuotED: 6 Notable Quotes That Made Education Headlines in September, From Affirmative Action to Teacher Pay — and President Trump on Vaping

    By Andrew Brownstein | October 3, 2019

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

    “We can’t allow people to get sick and we can’t allow our youth to be so affected.” —President Donald Trump, announcing plans by the Food and Drug Administration to rein in sales of flavored e-cigarette products. (Read at Education Week)

    Getty Images

    “We know the legal question of affirmative action is one that has been roiled up consistently over the past 30 years. It’s worth remembering that every time we make it to the United States Supreme Court, affirmative action survives.” —Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (Read at

    “A lot of these kids suffer horrible trauma on the journey to the United States. Some were sexually abused. Others were almost murdered by a gang or left in the desert.” —Perla Banegas, who until recently taught newcomers at Minnesota’s Worthington High School, part of a district that has received more unaccompanied minors per capita than almost anywhere in the country. (Read at The Washington Post)

    “Where we’re talking about a cost to a school of maybe $2,500 to $5,000 [for services], school districts in Texas will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to basically appeal these cases so that not only are attorneys not willing to take them, it chills other parents who would like for these services to be provided to their child. The goal becomes, how do we run the family out of money, or make the appeal process so long and arduous that parents just give up and leave the system.” —Texas attorney Catherine Michael, on the state’s lax response to a federal mandate on special education services. (Read at

    Courtesy Nick Salehi and Heather Beliveaux

    “I was teaching sophomores about my experience as a sophomore, and I would go home after that lesson and just break down. I was having a hard time detaching. [Teachers] want to form a connection, but we also need to stay professional as historians and have that little bit of detachment. It’s definitely not easy to do.” —Teacher Lauren Hetrick, herself a student on Sept. 11, 2001, on educating students about the terrorist attacks. (Read at Time)

    “It feels like a superficial way of getting to the root of the problem.” —Philadelphia public school teacher Kathryn Sundeen, on Democratic proposals to raise teacher pay. (Read at Huffington Post)


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  • What the Harvard Affirmative Action Victory Means for Students Who Face ‘Endemic Inequalities’ in K-12 Schools

    By Mark Keierleber | October 2, 2019

    After a federal judge ruled Tuesday that Harvard University’s admissions policies do not discriminate against Asian-American applicants, Madison Trice was jubilant. The use of race in admissions decisions, she said, is crucial to college access for students like her.

    Any other outcome, she said, could have been detrimental for black students like her with college ambitions.

    “I can’t imagine the impact it would have had on applicants like me — applicants whose experiences were significantly shaped by racism and who need to discuss those experiences and their racial identities to communicate who they are in their applications,” Trice told reporters on Tuesday evening. A Harvard student, she testified at the trial last year in U.S. District Court in Boston.

    Earlier Tuesday, District Judge Allison Burroughs upheld Harvard’s admissions process, which considers students’ race as one of multiple factors. In doing so, Burroughs rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the process discriminated against Asian-American applicants. Students for Fair Admissions, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of anonymous college applicants, alleged that Harvard’s admissions process relied on a racial quota that held Asian-American students to a higher standard than applicants of other races.

    The ruling in the high-profile legal fight comes with national implications as colleges and universities seek to foster racially diverse student bodies. But it also affects high school students gauging their admissions chances at any number of schools, including the elites like Harvard.

    During the trial last year, Trice discussed the essay she wrote in her application to Harvard, which highlighted her experiences being bullied as a high school student in Washington, D.C., and accepting herself for who she is. Being mistreated in school, she testified, was inextricably linked to her race.

    On Tuesday, Trice — a government major who plans to graduate in 2021 — outlined several anecdotes from her childhood. While in elementary school, for example, she wasn’t admitted into gifted and talented classes until her parents put up a fight, she said, “to allow me to be educated at the level that I was performing.”

    Such experiences, she said, highlight the “detrimental effects of discrimination in our education system” before students even reach college. Trice isn’t alone: Students of color are generally less likely to be identified for gifted and talented programs, and in New York City, the disparities became central to a heated debate this summer over admissions to the city’s selective public schools.


    Race-Blind or Discriminatory? NYC’s Plan to Diversify Elite High Schools Becomes Latest Fodder for Advocates Seeking Supreme Court Rollback on Affirmative Action

    “Those instances would have made it difficult for me to shine the way that I did in my college application without being able to articulate the way that discrimination affected me,” she said.

    In the 130-page ruling, Burroughs recognized the value of race-conscious admissions policies that comply with Supreme Court precedent, noting that such efforts help ensure that colleges “offer a diverse atmosphere that fosters learning, improves scholarship and encourages mutual respect and understanding.” Yet she acknowledged that Harvard’s process is “not perfect,” and she recommended that the university maintain clear guidelines on the use of race and provide implicit bias training to admissions officers.

    “That being said, the Court will not dismantle a very fine admissions program that passes constitutional muster,” Burroughs wrote, “solely because it could do better.”

    In reflecting on the decision, Michaele Turnage Young, senior counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said that race-conscious college admissions are necessary to combat inequities that exist within America’s public K-12 school system. Students of color, she noted, are more likely to attend high-poverty schools where teachers are on average less experienced. Such schools typically have fewer resources and, as such, often offer fewer academic and extracurricular activities.

    “The fact that we have endemic inequalities in K-12 education in this country more than supports the fact that colleges and universities must continue to be able to consider race as one of many factors in admissions,” she said. Though not a direct party in the lawsuit, LDF represented 25 Harvard groups that filed a brief arguing in favor of the current policy. The groups included the Association of Black Harvard Women, the Harvard Asian American Alumni Alliance and the Harvard Latino Alumni Alliance.

    Adan Acevedo, a 2013 Harvard graduate and co-president of the Harvard Latino Alumni Alliance, said Harvard’s holistic admissions process was critical to his college acceptance. Acevedo is from an immigrant family, he said, “who struggled in this country to get a better shot at what we call the American Dream.”

    “Different parts of my life, whether it was cross-country practice or having to go home in a dangerous neighborhood,” he said, “made me the person I am today. Without considering those things, Harvard does a disservice to any applicant.”

    In a letter, Harvard President Larry Bacow said the ruling was a victory for diversity on campus.

    “The consideration of race, alongside many other factors, helps us achieve our goal of creating a diverse student body that enriches the education of every student,” Bacow wrote. “We reaffirm the importance of diversity — and everything it represents to the world.”

    Groups that represent Asian-American students offered varied responses to the news on Tuesday. The Asian American Coalition for Education, which backed the federal complaint against Harvard, called the decision “retrogressive” and argued that overwhelming evidence documents “egregious anti-Asian discrimination” in Harvard’s admissions process. The group alleged the decision demonstrates that the court holds a “biased alliance with the defendant on [the] basis of political correctness and elitist arrogance.”

    But John Yang, president and executive director of the civil rights group Asian Americans Advancing Justice, applauded the judge’s decision, arguing that Asian Americans benefit from affirmative-action policies that protect them from discrimination.

    “It is through these race-conscious policies that allow all applicants, especially and including Asian-American applicants, to tell their whole story and to tell of the different hardships and the different upbringings that they’ve had,” he said.

    Jeannie Park, a Harvard graduate and president of the Harvard Asian American Alumni Alliance, offered a similar sentiment.

    “For so many of us, race is an integral part of our identities and our life experiences, and there would be no way to present ourselves fully in the admissions process without it,” she said.

    Despite the latest decision, it’s unlikely that Harvard is in the clear entirely: The case has been widely viewed as the next opportunity for the Supreme Court to weigh the legality of affirmative action. Students for Fair Admissions President Edward Blum, a prominent affirmative-action opponent who filed the suit against Harvard, said in a statement that his group plans to appeal Tuesday’s ruling.

    “Students for Fair Admissions is disappointed that the court has upheld Harvard’s discriminatory admissions policies,” Blum said in the statement. “We believe that the documents, emails, data analysis and depositions [Students for Fair Admissions] presented at trial compellingly revealed Harvard’s systematic discrimination against Asian-American applicants.”

    But Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said the facts in the Harvard case “cannot be overcome or easily shaken, even on appeal.”

    The Supreme Court’s most recent ruling on affirmative action in college admissions, in 2016, upheld a University of Texas admissions policy that takes race into consideration when selecting applicants.

    “We know the legal question of affirmative action is one that has been roiled up consistently over the past 30 years,” Ifill told reporters on Tuesday evening. “It’s worth remembering that every time we make it to the United States Supreme Court, affirmative action survives.”

    But this time, affirmative action could face steeper opposition at the Supreme Court. Just months after the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, the court ruled 4-3 in favor of the University of Texas at Austin with Justice Elena Kagan recusing herself. The Supreme Court currently has a conservative majority.


    With New Supreme Court Challenge in Sight, Trump Rescinds Guidance on Affirmative Action in College Admissions


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  • New Profit Committing More Than $2 Million to Entrepreneurs Working on Education Access and Social Mobility for Underserved Students

    By Laura Fay | October 2, 2019

    Education entrepreneurs could soon get a boost from the venture philanthropy firm New Profit, which today announced it is committing more than $2.1 million to people working on education access and social mobility benefiting young people.

    Starting Wednesday, entrepreneurs in three categories can apply for unrestricted grants of $100,000 each: people creating flexible, workforce-connected postsecondary education opportunities; people building pathways that help students navigate traditional higher education institutions; and organizations that develop innovators in the first two categories.

    The money will help fund 21 projects that support 16-to-30-year-olds from traditionally underserved backgrounds, including students of color and those from rural and low-income backgrounds. In addition to the cash, New Profit will host a series of events for the grantees and provide additional support.

    Bill Jackson, entrepreneur-in-residence at New Profit, is leading the effort. He compared the projects he has in mind to two organizations that connect learners with flexible degree programs and additional support while they continue their education: Duet, a Boston-based group that works with Southern New Hampshire University to help students accelerate their degrees, and Concourse, which focuses on working adults in California’s Bay Area looking to earn a low-cost bachelor’s degree in as little as two years.

    “We want to help young people develop vision … because having a vision of an attractive pathway — a pathway you want to be on — and having a vision that is practical for you, is huge when it comes both to reducing high school dropout rates [and to] … reducing the leakiness of the pipeline” from school to good jobs, Jackson told The 74.

    New Profit

    While a majority of “good jobs” — those paying $35,000 or more for younger workers — require some kind of postsecondary credential, there’s a big disparity among who gets those credentials, according to data from Civic Enterprises and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University. Just 35 percent of young people from low-income backgrounds earn postsecondary credentials, compared with 72 percent of their higher-income peers.

    New Profit is looking to fund efforts to close that credential gap and prepare workers for better jobs. Entrepreneurs linking students to bachelor’s degrees as well as to associate’s degrees and other postsecondary credentials will be considered for the grants.

    New Profit

    Jackson said the grants could go to new entrepreneurs or people innovating within existing systems and organizations. While the program is open to everyone, the team will be on the lookout for “proximate” entrepreneurs — those whose experience is similar to that of the students they are trying to help, Jackson said.


    For 36 Million Workers, a College Degree Was the Path to a Good Job. But That’s Not the Only Way to Get One

    The new grant program is called the Postsecondary Innovation for Equity Initiative and is part of New Profit’s Learn to Earn Fund, which supports career-readiness efforts for low-income and underrepresented students.

    Based in Boston, New Profit is a venture philanthropy organization that backs social entrepreneurs focused on equity in pre-K-12 education and workforce development. Since its founding in 1998, New Profit has invested more than $250 million in more than 130 organizations.

    The latest application will be open for three weeks, with winners being announced in December. Next year, New Profit will launch phase two of the initiative, which will award $1 million each to a smaller group of entrepreneurs with the same mission whose projects are ready to scale, Jackson said. New Profit expects that some of those entrepreneurs will be pulled from this round of winners.

    Disclosure: The Walton Family Foundation provides financial support to the Postsecondary Innovation for Equity Initiative and The 74.


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  • Sanders Pulls Out of Campaign Doldrums With a Huge Fundraising Quarter — and Lots of Support From Teachers

    By Kevin Mahnken | October 1, 2019

    September wasn’t a great month for Bernie Sanders’s presidential prospects. As students and teachers headed back to school, chatter around the progressive icon’s Democratic primary campaign warned of stagnation: He began to fall behind rival Elizabeth Warren in both national and state polls, leading some Sanders loyalists to begin training their Twitter guns on the Massachusetts senator. Staff shake-ups followed in some early primary states.

    But the arrival of October has brought encouraging news for the Vermont senator: In a release of third-quarter fundraising numbers, Sanders’s campaign revealed that it had raised $25 million since the beginning of July. That figure represents nearly a 40 percent bump over his second-quarter haul — and according to the campaign, the most commonly cited occupation among the more than 1 million donors was “teacher.”

    The windfall makes clear that, whatever the near-term polling situation, Sanders will have the means to prolong his run well into 2020. It also demonstrates his early strength among educators, one of the groups whose support will be indispensable if he secures the Democratic nomination.

    Since coming up short behind Hillary Clinton three years ago, Sanders has made a concerted effort to attract the support of teachers unions for a possible second presidential run. By this stage in the 2016 primary, Clinton had already won the endorsement of the American Federation of Teachers. While that nod was a milestone in her White House bid, it was disappointing to some activists, many of whom favored Sanders’s candidacy.


    Dissent in the Ranks: AFT Rushes to Endorse Hillary Clinton — Then Endures Online Backlash

    The backlash rippled even further after President Donald Trump — who was favored by 20 percent of AFT members — took office. At last year’s union convention, delegates unanimously adopted a proposal demanding that any presidential candidate endorsed by the union support a slate of specific policy recommendations — among them, free child care, subsidized tuition at state colleges and universities, and full funding of the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act.

    Sanders checks those boxes. He has also called for starting salaries for all teachers to be fixed at $60,000. (Since teacher pay is set at the state and local levels, it’s unclear how a President Sanders would achieve this.)

    And as organized teachers have grown more militant in the past year, including the Red for Ed strikes, he hasn’t been shy about wading in. Sanders — a longtime advocate for organized labor — recently made an appearance at the headquarters of the Chicago Teachers Union as its members weighed the possibility of a walkout. His campaign also promoted an ad last month extolling the 2018 strikes and calling for better working conditions for teachers.


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  • New Study of Boston Charter Schools Shows Huge Learning Gains for City’s Special Education Students & English Language Learners

    By Kevin Mahnken | September 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.

    Charter schools in Boston significantly boost the academic performance of English language learners and special needs students compared with traditional district schools, a new study finds. Pupils in both categories see test score gains in core subjects when enrolled in charters, and postsecondary outcomes like college enrollment are also improved.

    The study, authored by Tufts University economist Elizabeth Setren, was circulated by Brown University’s Annenberg Institute in July. Released as a working paper, it has not yet undergone peer review.

    Its release may complicate popular narratives around charters both in Boston and elsewhere. A common critique leveled against the publicly funded, privately operated schools is that they enroll smaller numbers of students facing learning challenges. Recent research has confirmed that traditional district schools across the country are more likely than charters to educate disabled students, though the disparity seems to be shrinking.


    Traditional Schools Enroll Higher Proportions of Disabled Students Than Charters, Though the Gap Is Shrinking, Study Finds

    The study is also the latest pointing to strong results from charter schools in Boston. Years of research have indicated that the city’s schools of choice successfully attack learning gaps that put low-income and minority students at a disadvantage. Another study published this spring (and also featuring Setren as a co-author) found that charter schools massively expanded between 2010 and 2015 without seeing any diminishment in their academic results.

    In an interview with The 74, Setren said that she was “very surprised” to discover that special education and ELL students were well represented among charter school applicants. Because charters often remove classifications from those pupils, instead moving them into general education settings where they are less likely to receive specialized services, it can be deceptive to contrast overall numbers of special needs and ELL students between the two sectors, she noted.


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

    “Enrolling in a charter school actually changes the likelihood that you keep your special education or English language learner status,” Setren said. “So comparing average outcomes of special education and ELL students in charter schools with those in Boston public schools is going to miss the nuance; they’re not comparing the same students. The proper way to do that would be to look at who had special education or ELL status when they applied to a charter school.”

    She set out to do just that, gathering admissions lottery data for 30 charter elementary, middle and high schools between the 2003-04 and 2014-15 school years. That information allowed her to track English learners by their degree of language proficiency at the time they entered a charter school lottery and special education students according to the severity of their learning challenges.

    By following ELL and special education figures over time, Setren found that enrolling in a charter school increases the chances that students from both groups will lose their respective designations. Those with a special education status at the time of their charter school lottery are 11.8 percentage points more likely to have that status removed at the time of enrollment than those in a traditional school; English language learners in charters are 31.8 percentage points more likely to have that status removed.

    The academic effects of attending charter schools, as measured by scores on standardized tests, are immense. A year of charter school attendance reduces achievement gaps with typical, native-language students for both special education students (by 30 percent in math and 20 percent in English) and especially English language learners (by 84 percent in math and 39 percent in English).

    Notably, Setren writes, the scale of those improvements is comparable to that achieved by other charter students who were never designated as having special needs or being English language learners. In other words, Boston charter schools improved the academic achievement of those categories of students roughly as much as their non-special-needs, non-ELL students — even while moving them into inclusive classrooms at higher rates than traditional public schools.

    Elizabeth Setren

    That finding suggests that other schools can boost academic outcomes for students facing learning challenges while providing fewer traditional specialized services, Setren argues. Instead, “increased focus on general school quality investments can improve special education and ELL student outcomes.”

    “Those practices that really stand out as being highly correlated with successful charters in Boston are high-intensity tutoring, data-driven instruction, more instructional time,” she said. “In a lot of cases, tutoring and individualized attention [are] serving all students, including those who may be struggling or have special needs … We consistently see that these charter practices that are common in Boston are the same set of practices that are highly related to the charters that serve special education students and English language learners well.”

    The improvements aren’t limited to test scores. Special education students at charter schools are 11.3 percentage points more likely to be eligible for the state’s John and Abigail Adams Scholarship, which pays full tuition to Massachusetts public universities; ELLs are 28.7 percentage points more likely to receive the scholarship.

    Improved college outcomes are the result. By Setren’s estimation, attending a charter school roughly doubles the chance that an ELL will enroll in a four-year college, and roughly quadruples the chance that a special education student will graduate from a two-year college.


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  • Challenging Charter Critics, New Study Finds that as Sector Enrollment Grows, So Do Test Scores for Black and Hispanic Students

    By Kevin Mahnken | September 26, 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.

    What happens to traditional school districts when charter schools come to town? Do they offer families new, high-quality educational options and help spread better teaching techniques? Or do they represent unwanted competition, swiping students and funding from districts until academic performance begins to suffer?

    It’s a debate that divides much of the education community and is increasingly encroaching into politics and advocacy. School choice advocates point to signs that district schools see improvement in student test scores and attendance when charters open nearby. Critics cite research suggesting that the presence of charters leads districts to hemorrhage money. While politicians seem increasingly reluctant to touch the issue, educators have energetically defended both positions.


    ‘Why School Choice Is the Black Choice’: In Washington, Black Educators Have the Debate Democratic Presidential Candidates Didn’t Want

    Now a new study finds striking evidence that the presence of charter schools in urban areas unmistakably boosts the average achievement of all black and Hispanic students while not detracting from the achievement of white students. The phenomenon is particularly apparent in larger cities, though minority pupils are shown to selectively benefit from the presence of charters in rural school districts as well.

    The study, released today by the reform-oriented Thomas B. Fordham Institute, is among the first to examine the question of how charter schools impact all students within a geographic area. While much research — in particular, a series of influential publications by Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes — exists directly comparing the academic impact of charters versus traditional public schools, this one looks at how the performance of all students, in both district and charter schools, is affected as charter school enrollment grows.

    Thomas B. Fordham Institute

    Although the study does not provide evidence for what is causing these effects — whether they originate entirely from what students are learning within charters, or additionally from how those schools are changing education throughout the school district — it does indicate that the spread of charters does not harm student performance in areas where they become more common.

    That’s a standout conclusion given the state of the national conversation around school choice, which enjoyed a healthy measure of bipartisan support until recently. Now, both at the national level and in state capitals, some Democrats have campaigned to slow the rapid pace of charter school growth. A common argument to limit charter expansion holds that the publicly financed, privately managed schools hurt traditional public schools and the students they serve.


    Inside the Perfect Political Storm: From California to New Jersey, Why More Democrats are Calling to End Charter School Growth

    Fordham’s study relies on huge data sets from the Stanford Education Data Archive, a relatively new research tool that includes schooling information for more than 13,000 geographic districts, including performance data for students in both charter and traditional schools. The archive uses federal National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) data to facilitate direct comparisons between different state standardized tests.

    “This is, in many ways, a triumph of big data,” Fordham researcher and study author David Griffith told The 74. “The Stanford data source … allowed us to compare across district lines when before, that was impossible. They’ve done all this groundwork to essentially put seven years of standardized tests on a common scale so that researchers can do this sort of thing.”

    Griffith found that as the percentage of black students enrolled in charter schools increased within an urban area, average English and math scores for all black students within that area — not just those enrolled in charters — increased substantially.

    The effect was especially pronounced in the cities with the largest minority student populations. In the 21 urban districts that enrolled the most black students, moving from a 0 percent charter market share (i.e., charter schools enroll no black students) to a 50 percent share (i.e., charter schools enroll half of all black students in the area) led to sizable gains: 0.7 grade levels in math and 0.8 grade levels in English across the district.

    In the 27 urban districts that enrolled the most Hispanic students, moving from a zero percent charter market share to a 35 percent charter market share (the threshold was set lower for this group because Hispanic students are less likely than black students to enroll in charters) was associated with a jump of 0.7 grade levels for all Hispanic students in both math and English.

    Griffith underlined the particularly significant improvement in very large cities, a phenomenon that has been previously documented in other research around charters. Those urban areas, which boast large surpluses of human capital and are often marked by underperforming traditional public schools, maximized the promise of charter expansion, he argued.

    “The bigger the city was, the more potential gains there were to be realized by increasing charter market share,” he said. “Places like New York and Chicago and Los Angeles, where there are a lot of really smart people who would potentially get into the education game under the right circumstances, are places where charters can potentially yield really dramatic, life-changing gains for minority students.”

    At the same time, increased charter presence was not associated with academic gains for white students in urban, suburban or rural areas. In fact, white students saw slightly negative impacts from growing charter market share in both cities and suburbs. That finding echoes earlier research from CREDO, which noted sizable learning losses for white students in a 2015 report on charter schools in 41 urban areas.

    Disclosure: The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Doris & Donald Fisher Fund, the William E. Simon Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation provide financial support to the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and The 74. The Walton Foundation was a primary funder of the charter study.

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


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  • Americans View Principals Positively, According to Pew Study Comparing School Leaders to Lawmakers, Journalists, Tech Execs

    By Mark Keierleber | September 19, 2019

    A majority of Americans hold a positive view of K-12 public school principals, who are typically seen as caring and trustworthy. How about tech executives, journalists and members of Congress? Not so much.

    A Pew Research Center survey released Thursday found that Americans hold mixed views about the job performance of people in positions of power, while opinions improve when people feel officials behave ethically and are held accountable for their mistakes. Of the groups studied by Pew — members of Congress, local elected officials, leaders of technology companies, journalists, religious leaders, police officers, military leaders and principals at public K-12 schools — education leaders consistently ranked at the top.

    When comparing against other groups, poll respondents were less likely to say principals act unethically. A larger share of respondents also felt principals face “serious consequences” for unethical behavior and that they are more likely to take responsibility for mistakes. Though principals performed better than the other groups in the study, the results weren’t entirely positive. Just 5 percent of respondents said principals act unethically “none of the time,” and 19 percent said the school leaders face “serious consequences” for their behavior “all or most of the time.” Members of Congress were viewed as the least ethical — and the least likely to be held accountable for their actions.

    These factors can color the public’s perception of their job performance, said report co-author Lee Rainie, director of internet and technology research at Pew Research.

    “If you think unethical behavior is a relatively common thing in that group, then you don’t think other aspects of its work are nearly as likely to be well performed,” he said.

    Pew Research Center

    Intuitively, respondents were more likely to say principals care about others or “people like me,” followed by police officers and military leaders. Principals are also most likely to provide fair and accurate information to the public, respondents believed, and are most likely to handle resources responsibly. Pew conducted the survey — the first of its kind — between Nov. 27 and Dec. 10, 2018, through its American Trends Panel, a nationally representative group of 10,618 adults selected to complete online questionnaires. The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 1.5 percentage points.


    National Survey: Americans Say Education Should Be Higher 2019 Priority for Congress Than Terrorism, Immigration, or Jobs

    More broadly, 90 percent of respondents believe military leaders do a good job preparing personnel to protect the country, and 84 percent said police officers do a good job protecting people from crime — a finding with wide racial disparities. While 89 percent of white respondents said police officers do a good job protecting people from crime, 80 percent of Hispanics and 65 percent of black adults agreed.

    Of the studied groups, respondents viewed the overall job performance of principals near the middle: 72 percent said principals do a good job ensuring students develop critical thinking skills. Again, members of Congress performed the worst, with 47 percent believing they do a good job promoting laws that serve the public.

    As for journalists, survey respondents held mixed views. While 68 percent said journalists do a good job reporting on news in the public interest at least some of the time, just 55 percent said journalists cover all sides of an issue fairly at least some of the time. Public views on journalists were highly partisan, with 84 percent of Democrats saying journalists regularly provide fair and accurate information to the public and just 45 percent of Republicans saying they do.

    Pew Research Center

    Beyond the ethics argument, Rainie said another — perhaps simpler — factor could explain principals’ high marks. Part of public school principals’ better reputation over the other groups likely comes down to their closer relationships with the general population. National actors like members of the House or Senate may seem more abstract, Rainie said, while respondents likely thought about principals they’ve known in their own lives when answering questions about school leaders.

    “There’s a long-standing set of findings that essentially say ‘I and my environment are OK, everybody else isn’t,’” he said. “So people usually say they like their local congressperson, but they don’t necessarily like Congress. They like their doctor, but they don’t like the health care system. They like their teachers, but they don’t like the education system.”


    As Schools Diversify, Principals Remain Mostly White — and 5 Other Things We Learned This Summer About America’s School Leaders

    Despite the overall optimism for principals, Pew did find demographic variations. Across all the questions Pew presented in the survey, women and those with college degrees gave higher scores to principals than men and those with lower educational attainment. Black respondents were more likely than white ones to say principals do a good job in ensuring students are developing critical thinking skills and take responsibility for mistakes.

    And, given the polarizing nature of American public policy, researchers also observed a partisan divide in opinions on principals. But that gap was less profound than for other groups, such as police officers, military leaders and religious leaders. For example, 76 percent of Democrats said they believe principals do a good job ensuring that students develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills, versus 68 percent of Republicans.

    “Particularly when the issue is public schools and their performance, Democrats are somewhat more interested and somewhat more focused on those institutions than Republicans are and render somewhat better judgments about the performance of those groups,” Rainie said. “There’s a pretty long-standing history of Democrats thinking somewhat better than Republicans about what’s going on in public education.”


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  • As Rate of Children Without Health Insurance Rises in 2018, Researchers Ask: Is Trump’s Immigration Crackdown to Blame?

    By Mark Keierleber | September 18, 2019

    The number of American children covered by health insurance took a tumble last year, a change analysts theorized could have been motivated — at least in part — by the Trump administration’s aggressive immigration crackdown.

    Census data released last week revealed that nearly half a million fewer children had health insurance last year than in 2017, a change that was driven primarily by a decline in those covered through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Hispanic children, who historically have lower health insurance rates, saw the largest reduction in coverage, declining 1 percentage point from 7.7 percent uninsured in 2017 to 8.7 percent in 2018.

    Children living in the South were less likely to be insured than those in other regions. Among children in the South, the uninsured rate increased 1.2 percentage points between 2017 and 2018 to 7.7 percent. The uninsured rate change for children in other regions wasn’t statistically significant.

    Randy Capps, director of research for U.S. programs at the Migration Policy Institute, said it’s likely that children in immigrant families who are U.S. citizens drove a large share of the drop in public health coverage among Hispanics. In fact, health care providers in states like Texas have reported an increase in undocumented parents opting their citizen children out of government programs over deportation concerns. Such situations could arise, Capps said, if undocumented parents worry that enrolling their children in programs like Medicaid “might either reveal themselves to the immigration authorities or make it harder for them to get green cards.”

    U.S. Census Bureau

    The share of American children without health coverage is relatively small. About 4.3 million children — or 5.5 percent of Americans under the age of 19 — were uninsured in 2018. The child health insurance rate also declined in 2017, a change that surprised researchers after years of continuous growth.

    Students’ access to health coverage comes with significant ramifications for schools. Children with health insurance are less likely to miss school than those without coverage and are more likely to finish high school and attend college.

    “The effects are much broader than just the health of a child, but they link right up with education overall,” said Kelly Whitener, an associate professor at the Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families. She also pointed to recent federal education policy changes as a reason to improve health care coverage among students. Under the Every Student Succeeds Act, 36 states and the District of Columbia chose to use chronic absenteeism as a school accountability metric.


    Millions of Students Are Chronically Absent Each Year. Improve School Conditions and More Kids Will Show Up, Report Argues

    For the past several years, health researchers at Georgetown University have been sounding the alarm on potential ties between the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown and access to health insurance among children. But other factors are likely at play as well. In 2017, federal spending on CHIP expired and Congress didn’t approve new funding for the program until early 2018. And efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act likely played a role, Whitener said, because “that certainly wasn’t a welcome mat for people to come and sign up for coverage.”

    Among non-Hispanic white children, 4.2 percent were uninsured last year, a 0.5 percentage point increase from 2017. The change in uninsured rates for non-Hispanic white children and Hispanic children between 2017 and 2018 was not statistically significant, according to the census report.

    Though deportation concerns could have dampened health care access for U.S.-born children with undocumented parents, the census data don’t point to a similar effect among nonresidents of all ages, Capps said. The insurance rate for nonresidents declined last year, but most of that drop was observed in private insurance, such as employer-sponsored health coverage. Undocumented immigrants are typically ineligible for public benefits, though they’re able to purchase private insurance.

    Capps cautioned that the labor market could also explain the drop in private coverage among noncitizens. It’s possible that immigrant parents “either lost jobs that had health insurance coverage or they entered the labor market and got new jobs that didn’t have coverage, or shifted from jobs that had coverage to jobs that didn’t have coverage,” he said.

    Looking forward, however, it’s possible that a major immigration policy shift could make the situation worse for nonresidents seeking green cards, researchers said. As the Trump administration plans to move forward next month with a policy to withhold green cards from legal immigrants who rely on public benefits, researchers offered advice to parents: Don’t end your child’s health coverage out of fear.

    Initial drafts of the administration’s “public charge” rule would have made it more difficult for immigrants to obtain green cards if their children, including those born in the U.S., received public benefits through programs like Medicaid or CHIP. But the final rules, set to begin in mid-October, don’t refer to the use of public benefits by children, although analysts worry the damage might already have been done.

    Confusion stemming from earlier drafts of the public charge rule could create a “chilling effect” that could prevent legal immigrants from enrolling their children in public benefits, researchers said. In fact, that chilling effect may already be underway. In a recent survey by the Urban Institute, about 14 percent of adults in immigrant families said they or a family member did not participate in a government benefit program such as Medicaid last year because they feared it could put future green cards at risk. Hispanic adults in immigrant families were twice as likely as those in other demographic groups to report a chilling effect. So were adults living with children.

    It’s unclear whether anxieties over the public charge rule affected the uninsured rate in 2018, said Stephen Zuckerman, a senior fellow and vice president for health policy at the Urban Institute. But the census data are “certainly consistent with the findings that a chilling is leading some people to either not participate in programs for themselves or for members of their family,” he said.

    Whitener said it will be important to track whether the public charge rule comes with negative effects for the children of legal immigrants. Public health officials in some states are already telling immigrants not to avoid public benefits out of fear or misinformation over the public charge rule.

    “Those children are likely to end up losing coverage out of fear and confusion around the rules,” Whitener said. “You can’t really put the genie back in the bottle.”


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  • Today Show Hosts Take Over as Teachers at Newark’s North Star Academy and Can’t Quite Believe What They See

    By Kathy Moore | September 15, 2019

    When the Today show hosts decided to be teachers for a day for this year’s Back to School feature, they swept into the classrooms — and the playground and cafeteria — of a school that has seen a remarkable academic turnaround.

    “A few years ago, it was one of the schools that was faltering. Many of the kids there were struggling to read, struggling to write,” co-host Craig Melvin says, opening the Sept. 12 segment.

    “That’s right, but in 2014, it was taken over by the charter school network Uncommon Schools,” Al Roker chimes in, “and today, North Star is one of the highest-performing schools in the entire state.”

    The school they visited — where Roker took over a science class, Melvin oversaw a gym class, Savannah Guthrie coached the debate team, Carson Daly led an orchestra and Hoda Kotb became the happiest lunch lady in America — was Newark’s Alexander Street Elementary School.

    The Today show stars and their crew and producers spent two and a half days in the school filming. Principal Na’Jee Carter said the kids didn’t quite get the magnitude of the star power in their midst — although they were excited to have them as teachers — but the adults definitely knew Al Roker was in the hallway. What was most exciting, though, he said, was seeing Guthrie and the rest bring “so much great energy — they brought love and joy, and that’s what our teachers bring every day.”

    “These famous TV hosts … got to see what we do every day and why we love it so much,” Carter told The 74. “There was a moment when Savannah made a reference to “our kids,” and that’s how we feel. They’re all our kids and we love them all.”

    The 74’s Richard Whitmire has also spent some time in Alexander Street, first reporting on the school’s transformation in 2016 and then returning in 2017 to delve deeper after Carter became principal.


    Whitmire: Finding Brave New World of District/Charter Collaboration in Rebirth of Newark Elementary School

    Whitmire noted that Alexander Street had gone from having 28 percent of its students score proficient in math and 22 percent in English in 2014 to 80 percent scoring proficient in math and 77 percent in English in 2017 — way ahead of the statewide average and even better than New Jersey’s affluent districts. By that point, Alexander Street was sharing its reading curriculum with district schools in Newark, and Uncommon Schools had decided to try its turnaround strategy at a failing school in nearby Camden.

    Uncommon’s North Star Academy encompasses 14 elementary, middle and high schools in Newark that are known for their high performance, strict behavior expectations and college-going culture. The Today show hosts came away a little amazed.

    “I couldn’t believe how they could take, like, a raucous room full of kids in the cafeteria and literally the principal walked in there and went like this — clap, clap — and you could have heard a pin drop,” Kotb said. “I’d never seen anything like that before.”

    “I’ve got kids in school — and no knock on their schools — but I don’t think I’ve ever been more impressed by walking into a school,” Daly said.

    Hearing those accolades on national TV reverberated throughout the school, Carter said.

    “It was so rewarding for our teachers and our staff and everyone in our building — from the janitor to the nurse to the front office. They were all filled with so much pride and joy to hear them speak so highly of the work they do every single day,” he said. “That moment was really special.”

    So was the moment when all the students and staff gathered in the cafeteria at lunchtime Thursday to watch the segment — they were in class when it aired. Carter said he wasn’t prepared for how ecstatic the kids would be, screaming at the first mention of North Star, leaping out of their seats at the opening shot of the building and pretty much losing their minds at seeing themselves on the screen.

    In closing the segment, Melvin touched on another aspect of Alexander Street and the Uncommon network.

    “We should also point out that, by the way, that school has one of the highest college graduation rates of any school out there,” he said. “They pride themselves on getting kids — largely low-income — to college.”

    Julie Jackson became president of the Uncommon network, which runs 54 schools in three states, in July after overseeing their K-8 schools for four years.

    “We loved seeing the Today hosts celebrating what they saw at our school, and especially calling out our students’ college graduation success,” Jackson said in an email. “The college graduation rate for students in the lowest income quartile is only 13 percent, compared to 54 percent for Uncommon’s alums. It’s great to have a national television program honor that. Students from low-income neighborhoods can and deserve to succeed in college. It is vital to our nation’s future.”

    In his book published earlier this year, The B.A. Breakthrough: How Ending Diplomas Disparities Can Change the Face of America, Whitmire reports extensively on Uncommon’s success in getting its low-income students of color to and through college.

    “At Uncommon Schools, the software program that tracks the progress of their alumni through college predicts that within six years, 70 percent of Uncommon graduates will likely earn a bachelor’s degree,” Whitmire writes. “That exceeds by several points the national college graduation rate for well-off students.”


    When It Comes to Predicting Which College Students Will Actually Go On to Attain a Bachelor’s Degree, High School GPA Is King


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  • RAW TEXT: Read the Education Department’s Findings of How Chicago Public Schools Mishandled Allegations of Student Abuse and Assault

    By The 74 | September 12, 2019

    Thursday morning, the U.S. Department of Education both released a summary of findings from its Office for Civil Rights and announced a legally binding agreement with Chicago Public Schools to reform its handling of student assault and abuse cases. We’ve embedded the full 40-page summary below.

    Among the most notable and alarming sections (warning here, graphic language below):

    Assault Oversight in a ‘State of Disarray’: “For years, the District’s management, handling, and oversight of complaints of student on student and adult on student sexual harassment have been in a state of disarray, to the great detriment of the students the District is responsible for educating. The District’s investigations were poorly managed and were often conducted by staff who were not properly trained in effective investigative techniques or the specific requirements that Title IX imposes on recipients in addressing instances of sexual harassment. Investigations were conducted by a patchwork of both school-level personnel and District personnel without any District-wide coordination of efforts and results. This patchwork structure compromised the ability of students to learn in a safe educational environment. Finally, the District’s lack of organizational strategies to ensure adequate and reliable investigations and coordinated efforts to address and prevent sexual harassment was exacerbated by poor record-keeping. Documentation concerning complaint investigations was very often incomplete, and much of it was maintained in schools, rather than in a centralized location where it could be easily reviewed by high-level administrators.”

    Assaults in Buses, on Playgrounds, in Hallways: “Many complaints alleged on-going physical sexual harassment of District students, including that students were repeatedly groped, grabbed, or fondled by their peers, who were often repeat offenders with a history of sexually harassing other students. These complaints documented reports of unwelcome touching over and under clothing, on the breasts, buttocks, and groin throughout the school day and at all locations in school buildings, including in school bathrooms, on the staircase and in hallways, while lining up at the water fountain, during recess on the playground in front of their peers, in the school parking lot, on school buses while traveling for school-sponsored field trips, to extra-curricular activities, and to/from their homes to school.

    OCR observed that many of the complaints described students exposing their genitals at school to and in front of peers — in the classroom, on the playground, in the school bathroom — and during field trips and extracurricular activities. Schools reported a significant number of complaints of verbal threats and harassment, with students disclosing that their classmates and peers made comments such as ‘I’m going to rape you in the bathroom’; ordered them to ‘suck my d—k’; spoke extensively about graphic sex acts they would perform at school on their peers; and claimed, ‘It isn’t rape if you enjoy it.’ Some students threatened more violence if their peers reported the conduct. Finally, the complaints included numerous reports of widespread social media distribution of sexually explicit images and videos that were shared with classmates and peers both during the school day and after school…”

    More Than a Decade of Complaints About the Same Teacher: “In one particularly egregious sexual harassment case, XXX school XXX instructor at a XX school was accused of sexually harassing students over the course of a twenty-year career. The teacher was reported to DCFS, temporarily reassigned to a Network Officer during the pendency of one investigation and ordered to undergo mandatory sexual harassment training. However, the teacher’s behavior continued, and over the years, students reported that he made them extremely uncomfortable.

    The teacher’s documented history of sexual harassment at the District began during his first year as a District employee when a student complained about his inappropriate classroom behavior, including that he touched her on the thigh, stomach and shoulder. This report resulted in an oral reprimand following a hearing in XXX. At the end of that school year, the teacher transferred to the District selective enrollment high school where he remained employed for 20 years and continued to work as of XXX, when the District provided information about him to OCR. In XXX, the selective enrollment high school’s then-principal documented a meeting he had with the teacher in which he counseled the teacher that he was ‘possibly dancing with appropriate boundaries in terms of physical contact with selected female students,’ and suggesting that the teacher ‘remove the blinds from his office window and ensure that he not close the door fully when meeting with students.’ In XXX, a female student reported anonymously that the teacher grabbed her thigh to take hold of a temporary student ID that she had taped to her pants, stating: ‘You girls wear your I.D.’s down there so that us old men get in trouble for looking.’ The incident was reported to DCFS and the District temporarily reassigned the teacher to a network office during the DCFS investigation. The teacher was returned to the classroom several weeks later; however, as a result of that investigation, the Principal directed the teacher ‘to attend an in-depth workshop on sexual harassment issues.’

    Over the course of the next decade, multiple students complained about the teacher’s inappropriate conduct, although few of the complaints were entered into the Verify system and none resulted in formal discipline of the teacher. During the spring semester of the 2017-18 school year, a group of students with one parent complained to the school principal that the teacher was checking students out in class and staring at their breasts, caressing their legs and thighs, and stomachs, touching their buttocks and stroking them inappropriately ‘starting from the top of their backs to the small of their backs.’ Students reported the teacher regularly commented on student attire (allegedly discussing girls who wear thongs) and compared students’ bodies to those of teachers and staff at the school, suggesting that female musicians would get higher ratings from judges during competitions based on their physical appearance. The students also alleged that the teacher frequently told sexual jokes and made sexual innuendos in class, including, on one occasion, telling a male and female student who sat in the back of his classroom that he hoped their hands ‘were not sticky,’ insinuating they had engaged in sexual activity during class. The students reported that the teacher’s conduct and comments were ‘creepy’ and unprofessional. They reported that he made them extremely uncomfortable. Some students disclosed that they were afraid to go to school, while others asked to drop orchestra despite wishing to continue to play a musical instrument, because of the teacher. Several students complained that their reports, which they felt went unheeded by school administrators in the past, caused the teacher to retaliate against them in the classroom by singling them out for criticism, chiding them for telling on him to their parents or making comments like ‘I’m always getting into trouble with faculty because of you kids,’ and giving them cold stares when he encountered them at school.”

    In Key Case, School Staff Laughed at Student’s Concerns: “In XXX, Student B’s attorney requested that for Student B’s safety she be permitted to transfer to the District’s XXX, which the District granted. Student B attended the school for approximately XXX during which she missed more than XXX days of school because she was afraid of taking public transportation to school alone. In XXX, Student B’s family moved to a different neighborhood within the District and requested a transfer to the District’s XXX School. After meeting with Student B, her mother, and their lawyer, XXX staff developed a safety plan for Student B effective XXX. Although the safety plan included an assigned staff escort for Student B between classes, Student B and her mother reported, which the District denied, that the person who was assigned to escort Student B between classes failed to show up at times or picked Student B up late and the School did not have a back-up escort. On XXX, Student B informed a clerk in the attendance office that her escort failed to pick her up and the clerk allegedly laughed at Student B, told her that she was not going to walk her to class, and stated, “I hope you don’t have an anxiety attack.” On XXX, Student B’s lawyer wrote a letter to the Assistant General Counsel complaining about the Philips staff conduct and stated that Student B needed XXX from XXX. Student B’s lawyer requested that the District provide Student B homebound educational services, but informed OCR that the District did not provide the requested services.”

    Read all the findings from the U.S. Department of Education:

    Chicago Document (Text)

  • EduClips: From Florida Schools Welcoming Displaced Bahamian Students to a Federal Push to Ban Flavored E-Cigarettes, Education News You Missed This Week From America’s 15 Top Districts

    By Laura Fay | September 12, 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.

    NATIONAL: FDA to Ban Flavored E-Cigarettes to Combat Youth Vaping — President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that his administration plans to ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes because of the dangers they pose, especially to young people who are drawn to the flavors. “We intend to clear the market of flavored e-cigarettes to reverse the deeply concerning epidemic of youth e-cigarette use that is impacting children, families, schools and communities,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement. “We will not stand idly by as these products become an on-ramp to combustible cigarettes or nicotine addiction for a generation of youth.” E-cigarettes are thought to be a cause of a mysterious lung illness that’s caused six deaths and hundreds of hospitalizations this year. Vaping, which e-cigarette companies bill as a safer alternative to traditional cigarettes, has surged among middle and high school students in recent years. (Read at NPR)

    PALM BEACH: Florida Schools Welcome Bahamian Students Following Hurricane Dorian — Florida’s Palm Beach schools are welcoming Bahamian students displaced by Hurricane Dorian. The district has partnered with a local nonprofit to make sure students have the supplies they need for school. So far at least six students have enrolled, and officials aren’t sure how many to expect. “They need to get back to something safe, they need to be around kids their age, a teacher,” Keith Oswald, the deputy superintendent of Palm Beach County Schools, told CBS 12. At least one private school is preparing for students from the Bahamas as well and offering them free tuition, Florida Today reported. (Read at CBS 12)

    CHICAGO: District Agrees to Federal Oversight of Sexual Violence Protections for Students — The federal Office for Civil Rights will hold Chicago Public Schools accountable for reforming how it handles abuse and assault cases in what officials called a “historic enforcement action,” the Chicago Tribune reports. Announced Thursday, the legally binding agreement outlines changes CPS must make to protect students from sexual assault and abuse. Federal officials will monitor the district for three years, and CPS could lose some federal funding if it does not comply with the reforms. “This is an extraordinary and appalling case,” Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Kenneth Marcus said. “It is one of the worst that we have seen in the elementary, secondary school context.” The agreement follows an investigation into the city’s schools that started in 2015 and intensified after a 2018 Chicago Tribune series detailing several cases of abuse in the city’s schools. “The failures of Chicago Public Schools were widespread, glaring and heartbreaking,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said in a statement to the Tribune Thursday. (Read at the Chicago Tribune)

    ● Related: As Chicago Faces Surge in Student Sexual Misconduct Reports, Advocates Warn the Problem Isn’t Unique to America’s Third-Largest School System

    CALIFORNIA: Teachers Could Get Paid Maternity Leave If Governor Agrees — A bill awaiting Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature would provide teachers and select other school employees six weeks of fully paid maternity leave. “Currently, teachers can take unpaid maternity leave, but most use vacation and sick leave in order to get paid. After their sick leave is used up they can earn differential pay — the remainder of their salary after the district pays for a substitute for their class — for up to five months while on maternity leave,” EdSource reported. Supporters of the bill say the lack of maternity leave is one reason districts have trouble attracting teachers. Critics point out that the policy, which would apply to district and charter schools as well as community colleges, would be expensive, and many school systems already have tight budgets. (Read at EdSource)

    FLORIDA: State Lawmakers Decided to Let Teachers Carry Guns, but Most Won’t — A month after the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, the state passed a law allowing non-teaching school staff members to carry guns if they get background checks and training; this year that law was expanded to include teachers as well, if county boards vote in favor. But few districts have signed on to the program, a new analysis from The Wall Street Journal shows. Just seven of the state’s 67 county districts have adopted policies allowing armed staff. None of the state’s 25 largest districts will allow teachers to be armed. Most of the districts participating in the program are in rural areas. Broward County, where the shooting occurred, will not allow armed staff. The program was created at the recommendation of the state safety commission created after the shooting. (Read at The Wall Street Journal)

    Noteworthy Essays & Reflections

    EDLECTION 2020 — Analysis: 10 K-12 Education Policy Questions Every Presidential Candidate Should Answer (Read at Center for American Progress)

    TEACHER VOICE — I’ve Seen My Students Win a Star Scholarship — and Lose Their Way. Chicago Should Rethink the Program. (Read at Chalkbeat Chicago)

    RESEARCH — Teaching Critical Thinking Might Be a Waste of Time (Read at The Hechinger Report)

    STUDENT HEALTH — Ban Flavored E-Cigarettes to Protect Our Children (Read at The New York Times)

    PARENTING — We Interviewed 100 Teachers About What It Takes to Raise Happy, Successful Kids. Here Are the Highlights (Read at Philadelphia Magazine)

    Quotes of the Week

    “We can’t allow people to get sick and we can’t allow our youth to be so affected.” —President Donald Trump, announcing plans by the Food and Drug Administration to rein in sales of flavored e-cigarette products. (Read at Education Week)

    “They’re a player. When they’re making decisions, normal politicians or bureaucrats are usually thinking, ‘What’s my community going to say? What are the teachers unions going to say? What are the politicians going to say?’ And if you think about a relatively small group of students, that would not normally be a big part of that discussion.” —Boston Globe reporter Dan McGowan, on the success of the Providence Student Union. (Read at

    “I was teaching sophomores about my experience as a sophomore, and I would go home after that lesson and just break down. I was having a hard time detaching. [Teachers] want to form a connection, but we also need to stay professional as historians and have that little bit of detachment. It’s definitely not easy to do.” —Teacher Lauren Hetrick, herself a student on September 11, 2001, on educating students about the terrorist attacks. (Read at Time)

    “The idea of more preschool for more kids is noble, and it’s the right thing, but somewhere between the concept and the rollout, something has gone wrong.” —Mario Perez, the executive director of El Hogar Del Nino, a Chicago child care center, on plans to redistribute $200 million in early learning funds. (Read at Chalkbeat)

    “The conversation in this city should be about how do we educate all of our kids in the most effective manner and that the ultimate measure of fairness is that every child is getting just as good an education regardless of where they live.” —New York City Mayor (and Democratic presidential candidate) Bill de Blasio. (Read at


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  • LISTEN: Can Puerto Rico’s Schools Be Saved? New EWA Podcast Interviews 74’s Mark Keierleber About Island’s Education System, Crippled by Storms and Scandals

    By The 74 | September 11, 2019

    When Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in 2017, The 74’s Mark Keierleber began reporting on how the storm affected the island’s ravaged school system. Two years and a major government corruption scandal later, Keierleber discusses his reporting on EWA Radio, a podcast produced by the Education Writers Association.

    The hurricane brought widespread devastation to Puerto Rico and ultimately sparked major education reforms. This summer, the island’s school system came under scrutiny when federal officials indicted Julia Keleher, the former education secretary, in an alleged corruption scheme.

    Listen to the podcast to hear Keierleber discuss how storms and scandals have shaped the educational experiences of students in Puerto Rico.

    Read more of Mark Keierleber’s coverage of Puerto Rico’s schools:

    Complicated Crusader to Accused Federal Conspirator: Ex-Puerto Rico Education Secretary Julia Keleher’s ‘Surreal’ Journey

    Julia Keleher Offered Big Plans to Reform Puerto Rico’s Storm-Battered Schools. She Left Her Post Playing Defense

    Lawmakers in Puerto Rico Approve Sweeping School Choice Bill Six Months After Maria, Creating New Voucher Program & Charter Schools

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

    Puerto Rico Teachers Fleeing Hurricane Maria Arrived at Orlando’s Airport With Nothing. They Left With Jobs


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  • Millions of Students Are Chronically Absent Each Year. Improve School Conditions and More Kids Will Show Up, Report Argues

    By Mark Keierleber | September 10, 2019

    An obvious educational rule of thumb is that in order for students to learn at school, they first have to show up.

    But with millions of children counted “chronically absent” each year, a new report argues that educators can improve attendance by first making their schools more welcoming places to attend.

    The report, released Tuesday by the American Institutes for Research and Attendance Works, argues that schools can improve student attendance if children feel safe and included at school. A comprehensive strategy to improve students’ health and safety, sense of belonging, emotional well-being and academic engagement are all key to combating chronic absences, according to the report.

    Those elements work together to “pull people in or push them out,” said David Osher, vice president at the American Institutes for Research and a co-author of the report.

    “You want school to be a place people want to be,” he said. “For too many students, particularly too many students who face economic disadvantage and often are culturally marginalized, what they experience in school tends to not be highly engaging.”

    As examples of the benefits to improving school climate, researchers pointed to reforms in Cleveland, Ohio, that followed a 2007 school shooting. In that incident, a suspended student showed up to his high school campus and opened fire, injuring two teachers and two students before taking his own life.

    In response, the district launched an initiative to improve the social and emotional skills of both educators and students, including a preK-5 curriculum that helps children understand and manage their emotions as well as reforms to in-school suspensions.

    The district also launched a new approach to truancy that centers on family engagement and early student interventions rather than referring students to court. An ongoing campaign offers incentives for good attendance and a phone bank that allows officials to call the parents of students who frequently miss school. Data collected during those calls have helped identify challenging patterns, including incidents in which students didn’t go to school because they lacked clean clothes, said Hedy Chang, executive director of Attendance Works. In a partnership with the Cleveland Browns Foundation, the district responded with an initiative that provides school uniforms to students. Since the attendance campaign launched during the 2015-16 school year, chronic absence has declined from 44 percent to 30 percent.

    Other districts should adopt a data-driven approach to absenteeism, researchers argue, while a flood of new student attendance data can help school leaders and policymakers identify other school climate challenges. Student attendance has received heightened attention in recent years after 36 states and the District of Columbia opted to use chronic absenteeism as a school accountability metric under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. Nearly 8 million students missed at least three weeks of school during the 2015-16 school year, according to the most recent federal education data.


    With Nearly 8 Million Students Chronically Absent From School Each Year, 36 States Set Out to Tackle the Problem in New Federal Education Plans. Will It Make a Difference?

    Children living in poverty, students of color and those with disabilities are more likely to be chronically absent, a term that encompasses excused and unexcused absences as well as out-of-school suspensions. Chronic absences can stem from a variety of challenges, from health problems to housing instability. Because of the steep challenges some children face, improving learning environments won’t guarantee perfect attendance, according to the report. But a poor school environment can exacerbate the problem.

    Rather than addressing chronic absenteeism on its own, the report argues that it should be part of a wider school improvement effort that centers on issues such as curtailing bullying, providing engaging coursework and fostering cultural responsiveness.

    “Educators and staff should offer students the care and support they need to handle challenges and adversities that can undermine academic success,” according to the report. “Students more often ask for help, persist and achieve when they are taught by and receive support from adults who demonstrate they care about them.”

    Parents and students can face punitive discipline for unexcused absences, known as truancy, including fines or jail time for parents whose children frequently fail to show up to class. But that approach comes with dangers, Chang said.

    “People too often thought that addressing poor attendance is a matter for the courts when that’s only the very last resort,” Chang said. “What really has to happen is an investment by schools and communities in prevention and early intervention. If we do that well, very few kids should ever have to see that intensive system.”

    In-school efforts to punish students for poor attendance can also have negative ramifications, Osher said. When absent, students can be barred from making up missed assignments, excluded from extracurricular activities or even suspended. Such approaches, he said, can interfere with school efforts to engage students.

    “The policy of punishing somebody for missing a class or more by telling them that they’re then going to miss another day or two of classes or more doesn’t make any sense,” he said. “It’ll make it more likely that you’ll repeat a grade. It’ll make it more likely that you’ll drop out of school.”

    With districts nationwide able to access more data on chronic absenteeism, the report also highlights a new interactive map by the Brookings Institution, which highlights school-by-school absence rates across the country alongside community factors that could affect learning, such as student discipline rates.

    Though it can be a daunting task to address chronic absenteeism, Chang said data on the problem can guide reforms.

    “Using the data to unpack what’s going on, using the data to target where you can bring in other community partners so you can share the burden, that’s what helps this not feel so overwhelming,” she said.


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  • As Schools Diversify, Principals Remain Mostly White — and 5 Other Things We Learned This Summer About America’s School Leaders

    By Laura Fay | September 9, 2019

    Updated September 10

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

    While kids were running through sprinklers and eating popsicles this summer, a handful of education researchers crunched the numbers about their principals.

    Reports released this summer offer new insight into America’s school principals, from their racial diversity to how turnover affects student achievement.

    The new papers add to a growing body of research about principals but also raise new questions, said Brendan Bartanen, an assistant professor at Texas A&M University and co-author of recent reports on principal diversity and principal turnover.

    “We know that principals matter,” Bartanen told The 74. “We still don’t have a great understanding of the specifics of that — how do they matter, what are the specific things that they do, what are the ways that we could train them better and provide them better development?”

    Amid growing concern about teacher diversity — America’s teachers are about 80 percent white — Bartanen’s research shows that black principals are more likely to hire black teachers to work in their schools. Having just one black teacher in elementary school can improve a number of outcomes for black students. But federal data show that principals are overwhelmingly white.

    Here are six things we learned about America’s principals this summer.

    1 Principals are overwhelmingly white, despite increasingly diverse students.

    Although more than half of U.S. students are racial minorities, about 78 percent of public school principals are white, according to 2017-18 survey data collected by the National Center for Education Statistics and released in August. That mirrors the makeup of the American teaching corps, which is about 80 percent white.

    The remaining principals were about 8.9 percent Hispanic, 10.5 percent black and 2.9 percent other races. Urban districts were more likely to have principals of color than their rural, town and suburban counterparts.

    Most nonwhite principals were in high-poverty schools. At schools where 75 percent or more of students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches, almost 60 percent of teachers were white while 16.5 percent were Hispanic and 21 percent were black, the NCES data show. (NCES did not break down responses in the “other” category, which includes American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, and two or more races.)

    2 Charter school leadership was slightly more diverse than principals in traditional public schools.

    In charter schools, 66.5 percent of principals were white, while 12.3 percent were Hispanic and 16.3 percent were black, according to the NCES numbers.

    A recent study by the Fordham Institute found that charters also tend to employ more black teachers than district schools do.

    3 Black principals are more likely to hire and retain black teachers.

    When a school gains a black principal, black teachers are more likely to be hired and retained, according to a working paper written by Bartanen and Jason A. Grissom of Vanderbilt University and released in May by the Annenberg Institute at Brown University.

    Schools that changed from a white to a black principal saw an average increase in black teachers of about 3 percentage points because black teachers were more likely to be hired and to stay in their positions.

    Bartanen and Grissom used teacher data from Missouri and Tennessee, where there was not enough information to gauge the effects of switching from white to Latino principals. The working paper has not been peer-reviewed and is subject to change.


    Why Diversity Matters: Five Things We Know About How Black Students Benefit From Having Black Teachers

    4 Most principals say their training left them well prepared.

    A report released by RAND used survey data to look at teachers’ attitudes about their preparation programs.

    Overall, principals reported that their training prepared them well to lead a school, with more than 80 percent responding that they could see a connection between their coursework and practice as school leaders.

    Additionally, the RAND researchers found a positive relationship between the amount of field experience educators had and how they rated their training programs. Both teachers and principals who had more field experience reported feeling more prepared for their work in schools.

    Credit: RAND

    5 But 39 percent of white principals say they were not well prepared to support black, Latino and low-income students. 

    When asked whether their preservice training prepared them to support black, Latino and low-income students, 62 percent of white principals agreed, compared with 76 percent of nonwhite principals, according to the RAND report. The leaves about 2 in 5 white principals who said they were “mostly” or “completely” unprepared to work with poor and minority students.

    There was a similar gap among teachers.

    Credit: RAND

    6 Principal turnover tends to hurt student achievement — but not always.

    The average rate of principal turnover is around 18 percent, according to NCES data. The schools principals left typically saw declines in math and reading scores, but the reason for the leadership change affected the outcomes, according to a new report published in June in Education Evaluation and Policy Analysis. For example, in cases in which the principal was demoted, student achievement stayed the same or improved. Meanwhile, students whose principals moved to other schools or to district-level positions saw a decrease in their math and reading scores.

    The takeaway is that districts should be strategic about retaining strong principals but not afraid to remove low-performing ones, said Bartanen, who wrote the paper with Grissom and Laura K. Rogers.

    Disclosure: The Carnegie Corporation of New York, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Walton Family Foundation and Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation support both RAND and The 74.


    The State of America’s Student-Teacher Racial Gap: Our Public School System Has Been Majority-Minority for Years, but 80 Percent of Teachers Are Still White


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