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Noteworthy headlines from the education wire
  • 1 Student Injured in Accidental Shooting at Alabama Elementary School; At Least 44 Killed and 83 Injured by Guns at Schools So Far This Year

    By Mark Keierleber | September 18, 2018

    The 74 will be tracking gun-related injuries and deaths at schools throughout 2018. Bookmark this page for the latest reports, or sign up to receive updates straight to your inbox via The 74 Newsletter.

    A second-grade student from Alabama was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries Monday after allegedly shooting himself in the hand in a school restroom. Authorities say the incident was accidental.

    The incident occurred Monday morning at Blossomwood Elementary School in Huntsville during a physical education class, according to Al.com. Authorities say the student brought a pistol to school from home and the weapon discharged as he showed it off to a classmate.

    The student’s father, 41-year-old Letroy Cole, was arrested Tuesday and charged with receiving stolen property and illegal possession of a firearm since he is a felon.

    In 2018, at least 44 people have been killed and 83 have been injured due to shootings on school property. Learn more about each incident with our interactive map:

    This map includes school shootings that took place on campus where a person was injured or killed. Incidents resulting in injury are labeled blue, while incidents resulting in death are labeled red. The most recent incident is indicated with a larger icon. Click on the icons to see details about each incident.

    Behind the numbers:

    Nationally, nearly 1,300 children (17 years old and younger) die from gunshot wounds each year and 5,790 are treated for injuries, according to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. While unintentional firearm deaths and homicides of children have decreased in recent years, suicides have spiked.

    Among child gun deaths between 2012 and 2014, 53 percent were homicides, 38 percent were suicides, and 6 percent were unintentional.

    Less than 3 percent of youth homicides and less than 1 percent of youth suicides occur at school, according to a recent report by the National Center for Education Statistics.

    If we’ve missed a school incident you think should be included in our coverage, please send an email to info@the74million.org, and bookmark this page for the latest reports of incidents involving the discharging of a firearm on school property that results in a wound or fatality.



  • EduClips: Chicago Schools’ Fingerprinting Requirements Scaring Away Undocumented Parents; Study: CA Children Enter School Unprepared and Never Catch Up — and More Must-Reads From America’s 15 Biggest School Districts

    By Andrew Brownstein | September 18, 2018

    EduClips is a roundup of the day’s top education headlines from America’s largest school districts, where more than 4 million students across eight states attend class every day. Read previous EduClips installments here. Get the day’s top school and policy news delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for the TopSheet Education Newsletter.

    Top Story

    NYC INVESTIGATION — Seventy-five tenured teachers found guilty of abuse or incompetence — many of them male, veteran educators assigned to struggling New York City schools — were fired over 16 months in 2015 and 2016, an analysis of disciplinary records obtained by The 74 has found.

    Educators were terminated for choking students, publicly taunting children who couldn’t read, and, in the case of one Brooklyn technology teacher in 2011, threatening to “shoot up everyone” at a school. But the majority were found by their schools to be inadequate as instructors.

    Department of Education lawyers prosecuted 154 schoolteachers in all during this period — a tiny fraction of the city’s 58,000 school staff with tenure. For critics, the total suggests that many who are unfit have been allowed to remain in classrooms. Others believe relatively few teachers merit termination. (Read at The74Million.org)

    National News

    ESSA — Betsy DeVos Reopens Application Process for ESSA’s Innovative Assessment Pilot (Read at Politics K-12)

    SCHOOL SECURITY — Light, Stylish … and Bulletproof: A Look at the Post-Parkland Marketing of Security-Conscious School Supplies (Read at The74Million.org)

    DEVOS — DeVos’s Strong Words on Suppression of Speech, State of Civics Education (Read at Politics K-12)

    District and State News

    ILLINOIS — How Chicago schools’ fingerprinting requirements are scaring away undocumented parents (Read at Chalkbeat)

    CALIFORNIA — California children enter school unprepared and never catch up, landmark research finds (Read at the Los Angeles Times)

    FLORIDA — You asked: Should charter schools be allowed to hire teachers who are not certified? (Read at the Miami Herald)

    PUERTO RICO — Puerto Rican students still without power at school one year after Hurricane Maria (Read at ClickOrlando.com)

    NEW YORK — Regents support a new way of evaluating charter schools and soften penalties for schools with high opt-out rates (Read at Chalkbeat)

    FLORIDA — Watchdog group slams state leaders for using public funds for charter schools (Read at News 13)

    CALIFORNIA — Spending on California schools chief race expected to set records again (Read at EdSource)

    NEVADA — Parents may have say in future of Clark County’s failing schools (Read at the Las Vegas Review-Journal)

    NEW YORK — Rise & Shine: No ABCs but the education is “more than adequate”: What New York city parents have to say about one yeshiva (Read at Chalkbeat)

    HAWAII — Hawaii high school students tapped to fill medical assistant shortage (Read at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser)

    Think Pieces

    SCHOOL CALENDAR — Think year-round school calendars increase achievement? Think again. (Read at USA Today)

    VOUCHERS — The voucher program we really need is not for school — it’s for after (Read at The Hechinger Report)

    HOMESCHOOLING — Nunes: The Pros and Cons of Homeschooling a Child With Special Needs — and Some Resources That Can Help (Read at The74Million.org)

    DIVERSITY — OPINION: Making campus diversity real — starting in kindergarten (Read at The Hechinger Report)

    Quote of the Day

    “You get really egregious behavior because the steps to be taken for dismissal are just so lengthy, so expensive, and so rarely successful that most principals are reluctant to even initiate the process. The challenge and problem is that before they had tenure and due process, teachers were treated badly in terms of hiring, firing, sexism, racism — you name it.” —Patrick McGuinn, a professor of political science and education at Drew University, on the difficulty of firing teachers in the New York City schools. (Read at The74Million.org)

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  • Light, Stylish … and Bulletproof: A Look at the Post-Parkland Marketing of Security-Conscious School Supplies

    By Mark Keierleber | September 18, 2018

    In an Amazon listing for a backpack, one shopper noted the product had multiple pockets and a color scheme that was “not too ‘girly.’” Another called the backpack “very stylish and not very heavy.” But perhaps most important, for consumers purchasing this $170 bag, is its promises to sustain “multiple caliber shots at close range.”

    With a colorful camouflage design, the backpack by Guard Dog Security is one of dozens of bulletproof school supplies currently available on the market. After February’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida, brought the fervor over school violence to the top of the national conversation, companies that typically sell products for soldiers and police officers increasingly are seeing new sales opportunities in America’s classrooms.

    Manufacturers and distributors of bulletproof school supplies — like whiteboards, backpacks, and “emergency response shields” — say business is booming since the Valentine’s Day massacre, with some boasting increased sales of as much as 1,000 percent. Like much of the current school security debate, the claims about the products’ sales — as well as their utility — are a mix of substance and marketing. A security company commissioned a parent survey that found near unanimous support for ballistic equipment in schools, and that 1 in 5 parents had already purchased bulletproof supplies like backpacks for their children.

    But some school safety experts are skeptical of claims about the popularity of such items, and few companies were willing to share sales figures with The 74.

    “I’m sure some people are buying them, but I’m a parent, I’m talking with parents, [and] it’s not the buzz in the parking lot at dismissal or at the parent meeting or open house,” said Kenneth Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services. “It would be interesting to see some real numbers on this.”

    Among companies noting an uptick in post-Parkland sales is Hardwire, a Maryland-based armor manufacturer that’s been supplying equipment to the military for about two decades. The company expanded into school security after the 2007 mass shooting at Virginia Tech, said founder and CEO George Tunis. Now, Hardwire offers bulletproof whiteboards, an “emergency response shield” designed to look like a fire extinguisher, and backpack inserts that he boasted are lighter than a copy of People magazine.

    George Tunis, CEO of Hardwire, demonstrates the use of his bulletproof whiteboard at his factory in Pocomoke City, Maryland, on March 1, 2018. Tunis developed a bulletproof whiteboard for classrooms after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

    By purchasing products like bulletproof backpack inserts and whiteboards, he said, school officials and parents can get ahead of a problem that “is not going away.”

    Although the company declined to provide sales figures, Tunis said his company has experienced a steady increase in sales since the Parkland shooting, but he added that student-centered products remain the smallest segment of Hardwire’s business.

    The owners of multiple manufacturers and retailers, including Guard Dog Security and TuffyPacks, said they observed a post-Parkland sales surge but declined to provide specific sales figures. Across manufactures, most bulletproof backpacks cost a few hundred dollars, while backpack inserts — shields people can install themselves — are typically more affordable.

    Mark Sontag owns the ballistic bag company Diamondback Armor and the retail site Kincorner. Though it’s only been selling the items since August 2017, Kincorner bills itself as the “industry leader,” and Sontag said in an email that his site has “consistently been the #1 dealer for Guard Dog Security and Diamondback Armor.” Since August 2017, he said, he has sold about 1,200 backpacks, with about 900 coming after the Parkland shooting. Sales also spiked after the school shooting in May in Santa Fe, Texas, he said.

    Another retailer, Bulletproof Zone, jumped into the business at the end of last year. In 2018, the company sold 500 bulletproof backpacks and 1,700 backpack inserts, with a majority of sales coming in mid-February, after the shooting in Parkland, and as students geared up for the new school year, owner and co-founder Kevin Lim said.

    One industry-funded parent survey implies that millions of students are walking around schools with bulletproof school supplies. One in five parents said they have purchased “bulletproof gear or items” for their children, such as a backpack or clipboard, according to the survey, commissioned by Hardwire. Conducted by the market research firm Wakefield Research and administered online to 1,000 parents of K-12 children, the survey found 95 percent of respondents saying they’d support their school in purchasing bulletproof classroom equipment. Additionally, about three-quarters of survey respondents are concerned about the possibility of a shooting happening at their child’s school this year. That finding seem to far outpace results in a recent PDK International poll, which found that 1 in 3 parents fear for their child’s safety at school.

    Related

    American Schools Are Safer Than Ever, but Annual Education Poll Reveals 1 in 3 Parents Now Fear That Their Children Are in Danger on Daily Basis

    Beyond skepticism around the popularity of bulletproof backpacks, Trump, the school safety consultant, questioned their effectiveness. “If a kid needs a bulletproof backpack, wouldn’t they need a bulletproof front pack, a bulletproof helmet, and a Captain America shield to go along with it?” asked Trump, who has no relation to the president.

    Although companies across the security industry — from purveyors of bulletproof backpacks to those selling surveillance cameras — have doubled down on marketing efforts post-Parkland, school shootings are statistically rare and campuses have actually become safer in recent years, according to recent National Center for Education Statistics data. And there is little academic research to show whether the bevy of school security technology is effective at preventing attacks.

    Related

    Inside the $3 Billion School Security Industry: Companies Market Sophisticated Technology to ‘Harden’ Campuses, but Will It Make Us Safe?

    Parents who turn to products like bulletproof backpacks after a mass tragedy, Trump said, could be buying into a false sense of security. “How much of an emotional security blanket does that provide you versus a truly physical security blanket?” he said. “Are we fooling ourselves?”

    Tunis of Hardwire defended his products from critics who’ve characterized bulletproof school supplies as impractical, noting that ballistic protection is just one piece of the school safety equation.

    “There are a couple of guys out there that say there is no answer but to lay down and curl up in a ball, and that’s not my America. That is not how I’m training my children,” he said. “In a room full of bees, a bee suit is a pretty good idea. In a hurricane, a few pieces of plywood will go a long way.”

    Some school leaders see value in bulletproof materials as an added layer of security. In March, Hardwire donated several dozen emergency response shields to Worcester County Public Schools in Maryland, and education officials there say they were glad to install the products. The bulk of the shields were placed inside Pocomoke High School, closely mimicking what codes require for fire extinguishers, said Annette Wallace, the district’s chief operating officer. Wallace, who previously served as the high school’s principal, said the shields provided a sense of security.

    The “emergency response shield,” designed by Maryland-based company Hardwire, is marketed as a last defense for students and school officials should an active shooter appear on campus. The shield was designed to resemble a fire extinguisher. (Hardwire)

    Wallace couldn’t say, however, whether the district would have jumped to purchase the shields had it not received them as a donation. “A school system’s ability to come up with money to provide defenses against these kinds of evil that we’re talking about — we don’t have extra money in the school system, just to be absolutely honest with you,” she said.

    Although a majority of those purchasing Hardwire’s school safety equipment are parents, Tunis said he hopes districts — and even states — implement the emergency response shields like they do fire extinguishers. Since 2013, Hardwire and other donors have gifted several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of the ballistic shields to schools across the country, including in Worcester County, where the company is located.

    The ballistic devices haven’t been used to save any lives, and Tunis said he hopes it never comes to that.

    “I want to make the problem so difficult for an active shooter that he just goes away [and seeks] mental health counseling,” he said. “Their little plan is going to go to shit when they walk into a school full of shields.”

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  • Downgraded but Still Destructive, Florence Keeps Schools Closed Amid Extensive Flood Damage

    By Laura Fay | September 17, 2018

    Hurricane Florence weakened to a tropical storm when it made landfall Friday in the Carolinas, but the downgrade didn’t stop the monster storm from dumping record-breaking rain, causing widespread floods and damaging countless buildings in its path.

    Schools were no exception. White Oak High School in Jacksonville, North Carolina, for example, sustained severe flooding and damage in at least a dozen classrooms and other parts of the school, according to a video created by the school’s principal, Christopher Barnes.

    The school, which serves 1,057 students, will remain closed all week.

    There was some good news, however: According to a tweet Barnes posted, the school’s chickens survived the wind and rain.

    The storm, which has killed at least 23 people so far, cut off Wilmington, North Carolina, a city of about 117,000 people that sits between the Atlantic Ocean and the Cape Fear River. Three school districts in the region — Pender County, New Hanover County, and Brunswick County — have announced they will remain closed all week.

    For some school leaders, deciding whether to reopen schools was a challenge. Schools scattered throughout North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia were closed Monday, while others reopened.

    Public schools in Durham, North Carolina, reopened, but the superintendent later apologized for the choice. Parents there criticized the move, citing safety concerns and continuing flooding on the roads. Nonetheless, all but one school in the district stayed open for the full school day Monday.

    A school bus in Durham got stuck in a ditch after struggling to get through flooded roads.

    Another North Carolina district opened, then released students early because of potential flooding, apologizing for any safety issues the initial decision created.

    South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster gave the OK for most of the schools in his state to reopen Monday, leaving the decision about when to local officials. Some districts opened Monday; others remained closed or had a delayed opening, according to local news reports.

    Now a tropical depression, Florence is expected to continue to bring heavy rain as far as Boston as it moves northeast along the Atlantic coast.

    Throughout the storm, schools and school buses have proved essential for helping evacuate those in the storm’s path and providing a safe place to stay.

    Related

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  • EduClips: TX Board Votes to Drop Hillary Clinton, Helen Keller From History Textbooks; Will Chicago’s Universal Pre-K Program Outlive Rahm Emanuel’s Departure? — and More Must-Reads From America’s 15 Biggest School Districts

    By Andrew Brownstein | September 17, 2018

    EduClips is a roundup of the day’s top education headlines from America’s largest school districts, where more than 4 million students across eight states attend class every day. Read previous EduClips installments here. Get the day’s top school and policy news delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for the TopSheet Education Newsletter.

    Top Story

    FUNDING — We finally have an idea of how much Congress wants to spend on education.

    After months of wrangling, top lawmakers for the education budget struck a deal to fund the U.S. Department of Education for the upcoming fiscal year. It’s not a done deal, because it still needs to pass the House and Senate, and President Donald Trump then has to sign it. But through this agreement, members of Congress who oversee spending are sending the Trump administration a pretty clear signal about what they want to pay for and how much they want to pay. (Read at Politics K-12)

    National News

    EDLECTION2018 — How the 2018 State Elections Could Shape the K-12 Market (Read at EdWeek)

    DEVOS — Betsy DeVos Wants to Make It Easier for Religious Schools to Avoid Title IX (Read at Buzzfeed)

    District and State News

    TEXAS — Texas board votes to drop Hillary Clinton, Helen Keller from history curriculum (Read at USA Today)

    ILLINOIS — Emanuel Confident That Chicago’s Universal Pre-K Program Will Live On After His Exit, but Will Next Mayor Balk at the Price Tag? (Read at The74Million.org)

    TEXAS — Texas education officials OK Mexican-American studies course (Read at Chron)

    FLORIDA — Florida Board of Education explores flexibility for school guardian funding (Read at the Tampa Bay Times)

    ILLINOIS — Why Illinois Data on Chronic School Absences Could Be ‘Meaningless’ (Read at Illinois Newsroom)

    CALIFORNIA — Ten years on, California is making progress but must do more for preK-12 education (Read at EdSource)

    NEW YORK — New York City schools with greatest share of low-income students lag in funding, analysis finds (Read at Chalkbeat)

    NEVADA — School district reaches agreement on teacher pay (Read at KTNV)

    NEW YORK — Schools chancellor calls for more black, Latino students in city’s specialized high schools (Read at the New York Daily News)

    NEVADA — Performance gaps clip star ratings of Clark County schools (Read at the Las Vegas Review-Journal)

    GEORGIA — As student numbers continue to rise, Gwinnett schools are finding ways to cope, thrive (Read at the Gwinnett Daily Post)

    CALIFORNIA — Opinion: Tony Thurmond, California schools chief candidate, has poor record as trustee (Read at the San Francisco Chronicle)

    Think Pieces

    SPECIAL-NEEDS STUDENTS — How Can Parents Tell Whether a School Can Really Serve Their Special-Needs Child? These 7 Principles Can Help (Read at The74Million.org)

    DUAL-LANGUAGE — Dual-Language Learning: 6 Key Insights for Schools (Read at Education Week)

    BULLYING — Early evidence of a ‘Trump effect’ on bullying in schools (Read at The Hechinger Report)

    BOOKER — Waters: Cory Booker Could Have Run Away From School Reform. Instead, He’s Doubling Down on Newark’s Education Revival. That’s a Smart Move (Read at The74Million.org)

    STUDENT ACTIVISM — STUDENT VOICE: It shouldn’t take a tragedy to spark youth activism (Read at The Hechinger Report)

    Quote of the Day

    “I believe, mark my words, that every [candidate] will get the question, ‘Are you going to fulfill the next three years of universal, full-day pre-K?’ And I guarantee you that all of them are going to say ‘Yes.’ Because that’s what the public wants. … It’s what our kids need.” —Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, on the chances of his sprawling pre-K initiative surviving his departure. (Read at The74Million.org)

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  • FBI Memo: Ed Tech Data Collection Poses Risk to Student Privacy, Safety

    By Mark Keierleber | September 17, 2018

    Vast student data collection by education technology companies and school districts could put children at risk, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said Thursday in a public service announcement. Following several high-profile cyber attacks, the memo offered steps families can take to protect their children’s online information.

    “Malicious use of this sensitive data could result in social engineering, bullying, tracking, identity theft, or other means for targeting children,” the FBI memo said.

    Student privacy groups cheered the FBI’s release but added that Congress should take steps to update federal student privacy laws they described as antiquated.

    The memo highlighted a 2017 cyber attack that targeted school districts across the country and used education data to send students death threats. Hackers also sent ransom letters to school districts, demanding money in exchange for not releasing student information. In separate episodes, the FBI memo noted that two large education technology companies faced cybersecurity issues in 2017. One company exposed student data by storing it on a public-facing server, and another faced a data breach in which student information was later “posted for sale on the dark web.”

    Although the FBI memo didn’t specify the education technology companies by name, it likely referred to Edmodo and Schoolzilla. Last year, hackers stole 77 million user accounts from Edmodo and sold the data to a “dark web” marketplace. Meanwhile, a security researcher found that Schoolzilla stored student information on a publicly accessible server, exposing data on an estimated 1.3 million children.

    Related

    77 Million Edmodo Users Are Hacked as Widespread Cyberattacks Hit the Ed Tech World

    A range of school technology, from laptops to surveillance cameras, could expose students to cybersecurity threats. To address the risk, the law enforcement agency said parents should conduct credit and identity theft checks to ensure student data aren’t being used fraudulently. Parents should also perform regular web searches of student information to ensure it hasn’t been exposed online. Student data at risk of exposure include personally identifiable information, disciplinary records, medical records, web browsing history, and classroom activities, among other information, the FBI said.

    The Future of Privacy Forum, a Washington-based think tank, applauded the FBI memo in a blog post Thursday but said school districts often lack financial resources to adequately address such concerns. The group said policymakers need to invest more in security programs that protect student data. To address student privacy, 40 states have passed more than 120 laws since 2013 to better protect information, according to a Future of Privacy Forum tally.

    Rachael Stickland, co-founder and co-chair of the Parent Coalition for Student Privacy, said in an interview with The 74 that the FBI memo highlights a need for Congress to update federal student privacy laws. She said the memo offers crucial visibility to the issue as schools increasingly are adopting services offered by education technology companies at a time when “antiquated laws” don’t outline what student information districts can share with third-party vendors. A patchwork of state laws is inadequate, she said. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, the main federal law safeguarding student data privacy, should be updated, she said, to address how districts can share data with education technology companies.

    “What we need is a comprehensive approach at the federal level to address these outdated federal laws,” she said. “We really need these modernized to address not only the cybersecurity threats but also the potential misuse of this data.”

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  • In Making Safer Schools, Don’t Overlook Everyday Gun Violence That Harms Children of Color, Panelists Say

    By Carolyn Phenicie | September 13, 2018

    Even as the country grapples with how to combat a recent spate of mass school shootings, it also must address the much more common gun violence that plagues young people of color, lawmakers and advocates said at a panel discussion Thursday.

    “While devastating tragedies, mass shootings, do require action, we know that every day in our communities, our children are suffering from gun violence,” said Becky Pringle, vice president of the National Education Association. She and others spoke at an NEA-sponsored event on gun violence at the Congressional Black Caucus’s annual legislative conference in Washington, D.C.

    Related

    Teen Killed in Shooting Outside North Las Vegas High School; At Least 44 Killed and 82 Injured by Guns at Schools So Far This Year

    Just as the governors of North and South Carolina, Virginia and elsewhere were in front of TV cameras this week declaring states of emergency ahead of the incoming Hurricane Florence, so too should they decree one with gun violence, said Rep. Dwight Evans, Democrat of Pennsylvania.

    “From a public health perspective, in my view, and in my mind, that’s where we are,” he said.

    Related

    African-American Charter Champions Honored at Inaugural #BringTheFunk Charter Leadership Awards Ceremony

    Panelists discussed a variety of interventions to combat gun violence, from formal mentoring programs to wraparound services to more teachers of color.

    One thing officials shouldn’t do, Pringle said, is try to make schools safer by increasing police presence without considering impacts on students of color and the school-to-prison pipeline.

    “We also know that if we are not careful and if we are not thoughtful, there will be folks who will rush to make our schools safer by eviscerating the civil rights protections for our students of color and those with disabilities. We cannot, we cannot worsen the racial inequities that already plague our system and result in students of color disproportionately falling victim to zero-tolerance discipline policies that throw them into the school-to-prison pipeline,” she said.

    The event comes as lawmakers finalized a compromise Thursday on next year’s federal funding bill that Appropriations Committee leaders said does not include a ban on using federal funds to purchase guns or train teachers. The NEA, the National PTA, and others had called on Congress to include language blocking the funding from being used in that way, as it has with other school safety grants.

    The New York Times first reported last month that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was considering allowing states to use a catchall $1 billion grant program under the Every Student Succeeds Act, usually known as Title IV, to arm teachers. DeVos has since said, in response to letters from members of Congress, that she wouldn’t issue rules either explicitly allowing or disallowing the funding to be used for guns, permitting states and school districts to make that call themselves.

    Texas was one of the states that asked the Education Department about whether the money could be used for that purpose, although officials in districts there that do arm teachers said this week they wouldn’t put federal funds toward firearm purchases because of the liability and paperwork involved.

    Related

    Democrats Move to Block Reported DeVos Proposal to Spend Federal Dollars on Guns for Schools, Education Department Calls It a ‘Hypothetical Scenario’

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  • EduClips: What’s Holding Up Florida’s ESSA Plan?; Las Vegas Schools See 7 Gun Incidents Since Start of Academic Year — and More Must-Reads From America’s 15 Biggest School Districts

    By Andrew Brownstein | September 13, 2018

    EduClips is a roundup of the day’s top education headlines from America’s largest school districts, where more than 4 million students across eight states attend class every day. Read previous EduClips installments here. Get the day’s top school and policy news delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for the TopSheet Education Newsletter.

    Top Story

    GIFTED EDUCATION — It was a searing summer day before the start of the school year, but Julianni and Giselle Wyche, 10-year-old twins, were in a classroom, engineering mini rockets, writing in journals and learning words like “fluctuate” and “cognizant.”

    The sisters were among 1,000 children chosen for an enrichment course intended in part to prepare them for accelerated and gifted programs in Montgomery County, Maryland. All of the students were from schools that serve large numbers of low-income families.

    The program is one element in a suite of sweeping changes meant to address a decades-old problem in these Washington suburbs, and one that is troubling educators across the nation: the underrepresentation of black, Hispanic, and low-income children in selective academic settings.

    Amid deepening debate over the issue, sometimes referred to as “the excellence gap,” school officials across the country and at all educational levels are wrestling with possible remedies. Montgomery County is one of several districts that is successfully diversifying its gifted programs, in part by overhauling the admissions process and rethinking the fundamental mission of such programs. This 160,000-student school system, one of the nation’s highest-performing and most diverse, has provided a potential model — but not without creating anxiety and skepticism among some parents who feel their children have been hurt by the changes. (Read at The New York Times)

    National News

    HURRICANE — Nearly 1 Million Students in 3 States to Miss Class as Hurricane Florence Bears Down on the Carolina Coast (Read at The74Million.org)

    #EDLECTION2018 — Education Is a Top Issue in the Midterms (Read at TIME)

    NAACP — The War That Wasn’t: A Year After Its Much-Hyped Launch, the NAACP’s Push for a Charter School Moratorium Has Run Out of Steam (Read at The74Million.org)

    SCHOOL SECURITY — School safety commission poised to oppose new age limits on gun buys (Read at The Washington Post)

    GATES FOUNDATION — In latest move, Gates Foundation looks to help — and learn from — charters serving students with disabilities (Read at Chalkbeat)*

    District and State News

    FLORIDA — What’s the holdup with Florida’s federal ESSA accountability plan? (Read at the Tampa Bay Times)

    NEVADA — Metal detectors considered after rash of school gun incidents (Read at the Las Vegas Sun)

    CALIFORNIA — It gets worse for LAUSD: This week both the county and the state showed up to say, ‘Get your fiscal house in order or else we’re taking over’ (Read at LA School Report)

    NEW YORK — How the winner of the Cuomo vs. Nixon race for New York governor could shape education policy (Read at Chalkbeat)

    VIRGINIA — Some students at a Fairfax school want gender-neutral homecoming court (Read at WUSA9)

    NEW YORK — Eighty percent of NYC schools aren’t fully accessible to students with physical disabilities. Activists say $850 million could make a dent. (Read at Chalkbeat)

    TEXAS — State Board of Education votes to keep “heroic” in description of Alamo defenders (Read at the Texas Tribune)

    CALIFORNIA — Teachers getting help to buy homes in California’s hot housing market (Read at EdSource)

    ILLINOIS — Southern Illinois disproportionately affected by teacher shortage (Read at WPSD)

    TEXAS — Texas projects state funding for schools to drop as local revenue grows (Read at the Texas Tribune)

    ILLINOIS — Duckworth bill would mandate seat belts for new school buses (Read at the Chicago Tribune)

    NEVADA — EDITORIAL: Reject proposed teacher contract (Read at the Las Vegas Review-Journal)

    Think Pieces

    HOME SCHOOLING — When home is school: One teenager’s story (Read at The Washington Post)

    GRADUATION — Cohen: More States Are Offering Multiple Paths to Graduation. Which One Students Take Can Have Devastating Consequences for Their Future (Read at The74Million.org)

    READING — This Mississippi district says these four strategies are helping their struggling readers (Read at The Hechinger Report)

    Quote of the Day

    “Gifted education does have a bad racial history in this country.” —Michelle Gluck, president of the Gifted and Talented Association of Montgomery County, Maryland. (Read at The New York Times)

    *Disclosure: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provides financial support to The 74.

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  • Nearly 1 Million Students in 3 States to Miss Class as Hurricane Florence Bears Down on the Carolina Coast

    By Laura Fay | September 13, 2018

    Dozens of schools across three states have announced closures in anticipation of Hurricane Florence, a monster Category 3 hurricane expected to make landfall Thursday evening, canceling class for nearly a million students.

    Schools in at least 41 districts or counties in Virginia and the Carolinas have canceled class for hundreds of thousands of students because of evacuations, the need to allow schools to be used as shelters for those fleeing the storm, and to free up roads and buses for evacuees to use.

    Some schools closed Tuesday or Wednesday through the end of the week, while others are waiting until Thursday or Friday to lock their doors.

    The impending “Harvey of the East Coast” could dump up to 40 inches of rain on some parts of South Carolina and is also expected to cause prolonged rain and flooding in other coastal parts of North and South Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland. Forecasters expect the storm to veer southward and affect Georgia as well.

    In this satellite image provided by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Hurricane Florence churns through the Atlantic Ocean toward the U.S. East Coast on Wednesday. (NOAA via Getty Images)

    Several high school sporting events scheduled for the weekend in affected states were moved up to earlier in the week or postponed because of the storm.

    Schools have been preparing students by teaching them the science of hurricanes and making sure they have something to do over the unplanned days off.

    Florence is currently a Category 3 hurricane and is expected to bring a “life-threatening storm surge” at the coast, intense flooding, and damaging winds, starting Thursday night, according to the National Hurricane Center.

    Like Virginia and the Carolinas, Georgia, Maryland and Washington, D.C., are also under states of emergency because of the impending storm.

    Earlier this week, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster announced mandatory closures for schools in 26 counties for the rest of the week along with mandatory evacuations in coastal areas. In an unusual move, he later scaled back the evacuations and closures — some of which had been to allow schools to be used as shelters — and schools in four counties reopened on Wednesday.

    Some schools in Hawaii were closed Tuesday and Wednesday in anticipation of Tropical Storm Olivia, expected to make landfall this week as well, according to local media reports. By Wednesday, the storm had weakened, but it was still expected to bring heavy rain and winds to parts of the state.

    President Donald Trump has urged residents of affected areas to prepare for the storm and said first responders and the Federal Emergency Management Agency are ready to deal with its consequences.

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  • Zooming In on Chronic Absenteeism: New Interactive Tool Offers One-Stop Shop to Analyze State, Local, and School Attendance Trends

    By Taylor Swaak | September 13, 2018

    Aided by a growing arsenal of data on student chronic absenteeism, education experts released a new digital tool last week in the hopes of facilitating more in-depth conversations on attendance trends.

    For the first time, an interactive map by the Brookings Institution’s Hamilton Project provides a one-stop shop for users to drill down on chronic absenteeism at the state, district, and school levels. Drawing from 2015-16 federal data, it defines chronic absenteeism as missing 15 or more days of school each year.

    The timing isn’t incidental: Recent attendance trends constitute a “crisis,” according to the federal government, with nearly 8 million students reported chronically absent nationwide in 2015-16. Tracking the problem is also now part of many states’ accountability systems under federal education law, and research links excessive student absences to poor academic performance and delayed graduation.

    “We need to know who is chronically absent” to properly tackle the issue, Lauren Bauer, a Brookings economic studies fellow, told reporters. “The interactive map lets everyone — from parents to policymakers — see where, and for which students, chronic absence is a challenge.”

    The tool accompanies a report produced in collaboration with Attendance Works and the Everyone Graduates Center. (The report cites 10 national findings from the data, including that the percentage of schools with a chronic absenteeism rate of 20 percent or higher has increased, and that about half of chronically absent students are concentrated in schools with “high or extreme levels” of chronic absence.)

    Related

    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?

    The new tool begins with a map of the U.S., revealing any given state’s chronic absenteeism rate if a user hovers over it. Maryland and Washington, D.C., reported the highest rates, at 29.1 percent and 28.7 percent, respectively, while North Dakota saw the lowest (9.6 percent). The national average is 15.5 percent, according to the latest Brookings analysis.

    Here’s a brief walk-through on how to use some of the tool’s key components.

    The main map page.

    From the main map (The 74 opted to use California, which boasts the largest K-12 student enrollment in the country), users can:

    1 Click on (or select) a specific state. 

    The map will then transform into a heat map of that particular state’s school districts.

    Example: California and its school districts. Los Angeles United School District, or LAUSD, is highlighted. It is the state’s largest school district, and the second largest in the country.

     

    2 Click on (or select) a specific district.

    The map will zoom in on that district, displaying a colored dot for each elementary and secondary school and data about their respective chronic absenteeism rates.

    Example: A zoomed-in look at LAUSD. One of its schools, Theodore Roosevelt Senior High School, is highlighted.

     

    3 See the breakdown in chronic absenteeism rates by level and subgroup.

    No matter whether the map is set on state, district, or school-level data, a toggle bar directly below allows the user to further dissect the data.

    One option is “By Level,” which presents a comparison between the U.S. average and a selected state, district, or school.

    ​Example: LAUSD’s 12.7 percent is compared with the state average of 12.2 percent and the U.S. average of 15.5 percent.

    Users can also explore rates by student group under the “By Group” bar. The tool will automatically display “student characteristics,” but users can pivot to “school characteristics” to view chronic absence rates based on school type (elementary, middle, or high school) and locale (city, suburban area, or rural area).

    Example: LAUSD’s student characteristics. Asian students have the lowest chronic absenteeism rates in the district, while American Indian, Alaska Native, and black students have some of the highest, according to the data.

    Example: LAUSD’s school characteristics. High school students, as well as those living in rural areas, have some of the highest chronic absenteeism rates, according to the data.

    The remaining toggle bar option, called “Pick 2,” lets the user select a particular state, district, or school and compare its chronic absenteeism rate with that of any other state, district, or school in the country.

    The comparison does not have to be lateral — one state’s chronic absenteeism rate can be compared with a district or school’s rate in a different state, for example.

    The map will serve “as a baseline against which newer chronic absence data can be compared in the coming years,” according to Brookings.

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  • Teen Killed in Shooting Outside North Las Vegas High School; At Least 44 Killed and 82 Injured by Guns at Schools So Far This Year

    By Mark Keierleber | September 12, 2018

    The 74 will be tracking gun-related injuries and deaths at schools throughout 2018. Bookmark this page for the latest reports, or sign up to receive updates straight to your inbox via The 74 Newsletter.

    An 18-year-old man was killed in a shooting Tuesday afternoon on the campus of a North Las Vegas high school in what police said appeared to be a targeted attack. Officials didn’t say whether the victim was a student at the school.

    The shooting unfolded at about 2:40 p.m. Tuesday on the edge of the baseball field outside Canyon Springs High School. The victim died at a local hospital. Police recovered a weapon at the scene, but a suspect has not been identified. School had already been dismissed for the day, but about 400 students and staff were still on campus and many were participating in athletics and other activities.

    In 2018, at least 44 people have been killed and 82 have been injured due to shootings on school property. Learn more about each incident with our interactive map:

    This map includes school shootings that took place on campus where a person was injured or killed. Incidents resulting in injury are labeled blue, while incidents resulting in death are labeled red. The most recent incident is indicated with a larger icon. Click on the icons to see details about each incident.

    Behind the numbers:

    Nationally, nearly 1,300 children (17 years old and younger) die from gunshot wounds each year and 5,790 are treated for injuries, according to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report. While unintentional firearm deaths and homicides of children have decreased in recent years, suicides have spiked.

    Among child gun deaths between 2012 and 2014, 53 percent were homicides, 38 percent were suicides, and 6 percent were unintentional.

    Less than 3 percent of youth homicides and less than 1 percent of youth suicides occur at school, according to a recent report by the National Center for Education Statistics.

    If we’ve missed a school incident you think should be included in our coverage, please send an email to info@the74million.org, and bookmark this page for the latest reports of incidents involving the discharging of a firearm on school property that results in a wound or fatality.



  • Post-Parkland Memo: As Broward Schools and Other Districts Limit Building Access to a ‘Single Point of Entry,’ Experts Warn the Move Isn’t a Quick Fix

    By Mark Keierleber | September 11, 2018

    When students in Florida’s Broward County returned to classes in August, they arrived to heightened security designed to keep children safe from the kind of attack that left 17 dead at a district school last February: thousands of new surveillance cameras, more school-based police, and a promise of increased safety drills.

    But arguably the most visible security measure is a push to retrofit each campus with a single point of entry. In Broward County schools, a series of gates and checkpoints funnel visitors to a single entryway leading to a “welcome center.” All other entrances to school buildings remain locked for a bulk of the school day.

    It’s a strategy that the Broward County school district has been rolling out for years, but the Valentine’s Day slaying at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School gave the project fresh urgency. This school year, 135 of the district’s 230 campuses resumed classes with single points of entry in place, with the remaining buildings scheduled to implement the strategy by next year.

    While districts across the country have implemented single points of entry on their campuses in recent years, the strategy received renewed attention following a spate of high-profile school shootings in 2018.

    The strategy, largely embraced by security officials, demonstrates how even the simplest security techniques can draw controversy amid the contentious national debate over how best to keep students safe. By limiting access points into a school, proponents say, school officials can effectively screen visitors and identify potential threats. But critics say the technique is cumbersome for students and parents, can cost districts millions of dollars to implement, and is simply impractical for some districts.

    In order to be effective, experts say, the effects of reducing entry points must be part of a larger security strategy.

    “It is too easy a fix to say, ‘Let’s just have students enter a single point of entry into a school and then we’ll all be safe,’” said JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals. “There is just no way to guarantee that hardened exteriors of schools is the way to keep out those that are unwanted.”

    In Broward, Superintendent Robert Runcie showed off newly installed entry features at the school during a July media event at Miramar High School, part of a $26 million project to install single entryways at all campuses, paid for through a 2014 bond initiative. Installed over the summer, the school’s new entry process includes a series of fences and gates that remain locked for the bulk of the school day, and exterior school doors that automatically lock from the outside. In order to facilitate the smooth arrival and dismissal of students, the gates are left unlocked for a brief period in the morning and afternoon.

    To enter a campus with a single entrypoint — which the district anticipates will be installed in all schools by early 2019 — visitors must present photo identification to security staff at the front gate to the campus. Then, they’re directed to the school office, where they undergo another ID check. Throughout the day, students and visitors are required to wear identification badges. While some in the community have called the new procedures daunting, others say district efforts have lagged since the February shooting, prompting criticism when plans to install metal detectors at Stoneman Douglas were delayed.

    During the July press event, Runcie acknowledged that the single-point-of-entry system is cumbersome, but he said the district wants to “meet and exceed our community’s expectations of what security should look like on our campuses.”

    “There’s no way that we’re going to implement security measures that this community expects from us and not inconvenience students, not inconvenience visitors and folks in the community,” Runcie said. “It’s going to happen. It’s going to be the new normal, and folks are going to have to adjust to it.”

    At Stoneman Douglas, the district invested $6.5 million in enhancements this year, including more than a dozen safety monitors, new locks on classroom doors, upgraded video surveillance, and new gates and fences.

    But the Parkland campus already had a single point of entry during the Valentine’s Day shooting, and it appears the shooter exploited the process. Similar to the protocol in place this year, campus gates were unlocked near the end of the school day to allow a smooth dismissal — reportedly affording the gunman a window to act. But district officials say additional school security staff and student identification badges will help ensure security during arrival and dismissal times, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

    Broward County school officials didn’t respond to requests for comment.

    Karina Ruiz, principal at Oregon-based BRIC Architecture, has been designing school buildings for more than two decades and supports districts that choose to implement single entry points. The system adds a layer of security to campus buildings, but she cautioned that this strategy alone won’t keep students safe from all threats. Installing equipment to “harden” campuses, she said, is akin to treating the symptoms of a disease rather than treating the root cause of the illness.

    In a recent op-ed, Ruiz said school leaders are asking architects to equip their buildings with a range of security features, such as bullet-resistant glass, security entry vestibules, and surveillance cameras. But school security should also focus on reducing social isolation, depression, and discrimination, wrote Ruiz, incoming chair of the American Institute of Architects’ committee on architecture for education.

    School architects, she wrote, have a responsibility “to serve as a counterpoint to some of these hardening tactics. We cannot let fear dictate design or advocate for designing our schools to resemble prisons.”

    Kenneth Trump, president of National School Safety and Security Services, offered a similar take. Trump said he recommends that schools install single entry points, which help with visitor management. But he said the system isn’t foolproof and can be more difficult to implement in southern states like Florida, where schools often occupy sprawling campuses with multiple buildings. To bypass the system, he said, intruders could prop open other doors or toss a weapon over a perimeter fence. Additionally, he said districts should factor in how a hardened campus perimeter might affect other security features, such as the need for emergency responders to have easy access to campus.

    “A fence is certainly a deterrent to those who can be deterred and a delay to those who can’t,” said Trump, who has no relation to the president. “It shouldn’t be looked at as a guarantee or a panacea, but it’s an extra tool.”

    While the effort to harden campus perimeters is the least controversial option among school security practices, Bartoletti, of the secondary school principals association, said it is cost-prohibitive for some districts and is, on its own, insufficient.

    A former high school principal in New Jersey, Bartoletti said the school she oversaw had 23 separate entrances. Rather than trying to create a single point of entry, she said, schools should put greater emphasis on training so leaders know how to identify people who don’t belong.

    “What I find so interesting about the people who suggest these kinds of solutions for schools is their failure to understand the population of the school, and somewhat the culture of the school,” she said, adding that as principal “there was not a given day that I walked around that school that I didn’t find numerous doors propped open or a twig or a stone or something put in the door so that kids could get in and out of the school.”

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  • EduClips: State of Special Ed in Houston ‘Grave,’ Panel Says; Many Obstacles in the Way of Teacher Raise Agreement in L.A. — and More Must-Reads From America’s 15 Biggest School Districts

    By Andrew Brownstein | September 11, 2018

    EduClips is a roundup of the day’s top education headlines from America’s largest school districts, where more than 4 million students across eight states attend class every day. Read previous EduClips installments here. Get the day’s top school and policy news delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for the TopSheet Education Newsletter.

    Top Story

    CIVIL RIGHTS —A new report from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights indicates that education is the top ongoing civil rights priority for many of those on the group’s state advisory commissions.

    A survey that heard from just over a quarter of the state commission members found that education is “the topic of highest importance” and should be prioritized in the next year, among continuing issues such as housing, criminal justice, and health care. And emerging civil rights topics in education that respondents highlighted include equity, racial disparities in school discipline, and teacher shortages.

    Civil rights in education has been a major area of recent political conflict. The Obama administration’s initiatives involving transgender students and school discipline have come under fire since President Donald Trump took office; Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has rescinded the former and is considering revoking the latter. DeVos has also changed how the U.S. Department of Education conducts civil rights probes. If Democrats take control of the House next year, DeVos’s handling of civil rights will be a top area for oversight in education. (Read at Politics K-12)

    National News

    SCHOOL SECURITY — Can Federal ‘School Safety’ Funds Be Used for Surveillance Tech? Congress Is Looking Into It. (Read at EdSurge)

    DEVOS — Do you miss the drama of Betsy DeVos’s confirmation hearing? You can catch it on stage. (Read at The Washington Post)

    District and State News

    TEXAS — Panel: State of special education still ‘grave’ in Houston ISD (Read at Chron)

    CALIFORNIA — At LAUSD, making a deal on teacher raises is easier said than done (Read at the Los Angeles Daily News)

    ILLINOIS — Illinois officials zero in on shortages of special education, bilingual teachers (Read at Illinois News Network)

    NEW YORK — Mayor Bill de Blasio Wants to Diversify New York City Schools, Chancellor Richard Carranza Wants to Desegregate. Is That a Problem? (Read at The74Million.org)

    FLORIDA — Students Hospitalized After Being Brutally Beaten at Biscayne Bay School (Read at NBC Miami)

    NEW YORK — ‘I’m proud that I’m fighting for other kids’: New York City students sue for equal access to sports (Read at Chalkbeat)

    CALIFORNIA — California board candidate quits race after trans comments (Read at Education Week)

    NEVADA — Clark County school support staff may get long-delayed pay bumps (Read at the Las Vegas Review-Journal)

    GEORGIA — Students take action after classmate flashes gun at Gwinnett high school (Read at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

    TEXAS — Texas considering cutting high school cosmetology courses (Read at the Texas Tribune)

    Think Pieces

    DIVERSITY — Does Teacher Diversity Matter in Student Learning? (Read at The New York Times)

    SCHOOL FUNDING — Study Shows Boosting Funds to Poor School Districts Lifts Student Achievement but Fails to Narrow Racial & Socioeconomic Achievement Gaps (Read at The74Million.org)

    READING — Scientists Use DNA Testing to Seek Answers for Reading Problems (Read at Education Week)

    PARENTS — One Mom’s Fear: Is My Child Already Behind on Day One of School? Probably Not, but It’s the First Thing to Talk About With His Teacher on Back-to-School Night (Read at The74Million.org)

    Quote of the Day

    “We often hear of politics referred to as theater. Why not use the platform of theater … to get to know the issues on the table and how government works?” —Broadway producer Fran Kirmser, on plans to turn the confirmation hearings of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos into a theatrical performance. (Read at The Washington Post)

    Want the day’s top school and policy news delivered straight to your inbox — for free? Sign up for the TopSheet Daybreak Education Newsletter.



  • How States Try (and Sometimes Fail) to Combat Attendance Gaming and Errors as ESSA Ratchets Up the Stakes

    By Taylor Swaak | September 10, 2018

    What gets measured, gets done, as the popular education maxim goes. But what gets measured can also get gamed.

    Tackling chronic absenteeism is now part of education plans under the Every Student Succeeds Act for 36 states and Washington, D.C., making student attendance a factor in determining school success under federal education law. The resulting requirements are also new, with many states crafting uniform definitions for chronic absence for the first time and reporting attendance data that distinguishes whether each student absence is excused, unexcused, or linked to disciplinary action.

    The heightened accountability stakes for student attendance, paired with new types of attendance reporting, have some education experts worried that the data could be vulnerable to error or manipulation.

    “Anything that has numbers can be gamed, and anything that has weight and influence can be gamed,” Phyllis Jordan, editorial director at FutureEd, told The 74. “But that doesn’t mean you don’t measure it.”

    Such qualms aren’t completely unfounded. An audit of the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) released in January found that educators had manipulated attendance records for class of 2017 graduates. The most egregious was Dunbar High School, where records were tampered with more than 4,000 times.

    In 2016-17, nearly 250 California schools reported perfect attendance, which education department officials have largely chalked up to data input errors.

    Even in Connecticut, which was monitoring chronic absenteeism prior to ESSA, officials say they are facing surprising new obstacles as their system develops. They’ve become increasingly aware of schools dis-enrolling and re-enrolling students with extended leaves of absence, for example.

    A crackdown on these kinds of errors is occurring as the accuracy of attendance data becomes increasingly integral to understanding chronic absenteeism and its negative effects on student success. Chronic absenteeism is linked to poor academic performance, delayed graduation, and higher dropout rates.

    As states find their footing on the issue, they’re taking steps to ensure the most accurate data possible, education department officials in California, Connecticut, and D.C. told The 74. It’s a combination of vetting, embracing transparency, and developing detailed, easy-to-follow guidance.

    “As you ratchet up the stakes, more and more people are paying attention,” Ajit Gopalakrishnan, the Connecticut department of education’s chief performance officer, said. “And ultimately, I think that’s a good thing. We want the data to be the best that it can be.”

    Vetting the data

    Officials from all three departments say they have data systems in place that help discourage manipulation and safeguard against errors.

    In California, for example, schools and districts can’t submit their attendance data to the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS) — which the education department utilizes to monitor and aggregate student-level data for the public — without addressing all computer-generated red flags.

    If a student’s absences and days attended don’t add up to the total number of days enrolled, an automatic error message pops up. If a pupil’s name is linked to more than one student attendance record, that’s another error. Any data point that’s left blank — error message. The list goes on.

    Whenever there’s a new data collection, “you try to anticipate where you think there could be issues, and you put in [computer checks] to prevent that from happening,” Paula Mishima, the system’s education administrator, told The 74.

    Following last year’s scandals, DCPS’s reporting system, Aspen, altered its attendance data submission windows to prevent changes after the 15th of every month. This could impede manipulations like the ones at Dunbar High School, where upwards of 1,000 attendance record changes transpired more than 15 days — sometimes more than three months — after the original attendance was submitted.

    (District of Columbia Public Schools Audit and Investigation)

    Related

    In Emergency Move, DC Council Passes a Possible Reprieve for Chronically Absent Seniors — the Latest Response to the District’s Graduation Scandal

    Connecticut’s data system, the Public School Information System (PSIS), is also designed to flag problematic submissions. The system generates an alert when a school’s year-to-year chronic absenteeism rate fluctuates by 5 percent or more. There are also flags for districts that report perfect attendance for individual students — the most common attendance anomaly the department observes, Gopalakrishnan said. He added that such warnings prompt a district to submit an explanation to PSIS about how it resolved the anomaly or confirmed the data.

    About 5 percent of Connecticut students’ data this past year generated a warning because of perfect attendance, according to the department.

    Another set of eyes

    Sometimes, though, catching data anomalies comes down to a good set of eyes and diligent reviews of the data, according to state officials.

    Connecticut staff who monitor PSIS, which also tracks where students are enrolled, have become increasingly aware of schools dis-enrolling and re-enrolling students who miss multiple weeks of school. In these cases, the department reaches out to districts directly — oftentimes finding that these districts, in the absence of concrete guidance, are unaware of when removing students is warranted.

    There can be particularly ambiguous situations “where a parent says, ‘I’m taking my child and we’re going to Guatemala … and we’re going to be there for two months,'” Gopalakrishnan said. But “is that really a [justified] dis-enrollment from school” — where the child is receiving instruction elsewhere — “or is that an absence where that kid just isn’t getting any other education?”

    The department now actively looks for these types of exits and re-entries, he added. When applicable, it explains to districts why their dis-enrollments are “inappropriate” and should be altered in the system.

    “It’s not just an accountability game,” he said. “We want [districts] to [properly report] so ultimately kids have better educational outcomes.”

    In California, data reviewers spotted the dubious anomaly of perfect attendance at hundreds of schools while sifting through reports from 2016-17 — the first time California collected attendance data under ESSA’s new requirements.

    Many of the 246 schools that reported perfect attendance to CALPADS had transferred information from their student databases incorrectly, Mishima said. “We sent them letters and told them to tell us either that their data was wrong or that their data was right; and if it was wrong, what they were going to do to ensure it was of quality this coming year.”

    Mishima couldn’t confirm how many of those schools had made an error, or whether such errors were found for the 2017-18 school year.

    DCPS, meanwhile, is expanding its oversight via a monthly review of attendance data beginning this month, Amy Maisterra, interim deputy chancellor of innovation and systems improvement, told The 74. The district also released at least three public attendance data updates this spring — a show of transparency and accountability that Maisterra said should continue in some form during the 2018-19 school year.

    “I know that the chancellor is very much in favor of the ongoing transparency that we put a big emphasis on this spring,” Maisterra said.

    School officials and members of the public now can view attendance data at the district and school levels for every state and D.C., thanks to an interactive tool by the Brookings Institution’s Hamilton Project.

    Staying on the same page

    Analysis of 2015-16 federal chronic absenteeism data released earlier this year revealed an increase of about 800,000 students reported as chronically absent across the U.S since 2013-14. Experts partially attributed this increase not only to beefed-up data reporting systems, but also to growing educator and administrator awareness of their state’s attendance procedures.

    Related

    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?

    Following last year’s scandal, DCPS released a new attendance policy guidance in June that details the district’s approach to defining and handling chronic absenteeism. It includes at least 18 examples of what can constitute an “excused absence,” steps for intervention, and “prohibited” school actions, such as prematurely dis-enrolling absent students.

    The district also mandated “intensive” trainings related to attendance with all school leaders at its Annual Summer Leadership Institute in July.

    “We found that a core piece of the work needs to be making sure people are clear with expectations, and that they have support,” Maisterra said.

    California and Connecticut’s education departments also help coordinate trainings and provide detailed guidance for educators and administrators. In Connecticut’s case, the need for guidance prompted the creation of a workgroup, which includes Attendance Works, nine Connecticut districts, principals in Baltimore City Public Schools and Arkansas, and the Arkansas Campaign for Grade-Level Reading.

    The goal of the group is to establish “culturally [sensitive] messaging to families” on the topic of extended absences, Charlene Russell-Tucker, the department’s chief operating officer, told The 74.

    “We’re in the midst of doing that now with our districts … and also some districts in other parts of the country that have had some success around this,” she said.

    Gopalakrishnan emphasized that these kinds of developments to improve attendance reporting are a “never-ending” process.

    “Every time you feel like you’ve resolved a situation or given guidance, something new comes up,” he said.

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  • Study Shows Boosting Funds to Poor School Districts Lifts Student Achievement but Fails to Narrow Racial & Socioeconomic Achievement Gaps

    By Kevin Mahnken | September 10, 2018

    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.

    More funding to low-income school districts lifts student achievement over time, according to an article published earlier this year in the American Economic Journal. Its authors find that districts provided with increased revenues by school finance reforms see improvements in standardized test scores, though the extra money hasn’t helped close persistent gaps between various racial and socioeconomic groups.

    First circulated as a working paper in 2016, the article is part of a new and somewhat contentious literature on education finance that points toward a distinct thesis: When it comes to promoting learning, money — and the enhanced resources it brings — truly matters.

    In the 1990s and 2000s, respected economists made the case that spending more on schools was an ineffective method of improving outcomes for disadvantaged and minority students. This study, conducted by Jesse Rothstein and Julien LaFortune of the University of California, Berkeley, and Diane Schanzenbach of Northwestern, argues the opposite. In an interview with The 74, Rothstein said that access to new data over the past few decades has allowed researchers to more precisely observe the effect of funding on school performance.

    “Until relatively recently, we really didn’t have much data either way,” he said. Skeptics had drawn “strong conclusions” from the lack of clear links between money and achievement, he added, “but the new data has made it possible to generate evidence — and evidence beats no evidence.”

    Examining 64 school finance reforms (SFRs) in 26 states between 1990 and 2012, the study finds that state-led action to combat funding disparities between school districts results in sharp increases in per-pupil revenues. These infusions of money are, in turn, associated with noticeable improvements to students’ math and reading scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Those effects are roughly twice the size, per dollar, as those of Tennessee’s Project STAR, a successful, federally funded class-size-reduction experiment that is often used as a comparison for education initiatives.

    The trio of researchers confronted significant difficulties in interpreting results. Connecting NAEP scores to other databases, such as the school census conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics, required a painstaking process of sifting that Rothstein likened to samizdat.

    “It was a huge challenge,” he said. “It turned out that there was a key [data table] that we needed that the Institute of Education Sciences had lost. But we found somebody who was able to locate a 15-year-old email thread in his inbox, and that had it as an attachment, which he forwarded to us. So it’s fair to say the NAEP data are difficult to use, not just for school finance, but for program evaluations more generally.”

    Once Rothstein and his colleagues assembled the puzzle pieces, a clear picture emerged. The dozens of reforms, adopted by state legislatures in all regions of the country, constitute “arguably the most substantial national policy effort aimed at promoting equality of educational opportunity since the turn away from school desegregation in the 1980s,” they write.

    Beginning in 1990 with the passage of the Kentucky Education Reform Act, state authorities began passing measures to reduce the huge gaps in local education funding between rich and poor districts. In most instances, the new laws were passed in response to court orders pressing lawmakers to meet requirements in their state constitutions to provide every student an “adequate” education. The authors refer to the three decades that followed, when billions of dollars were redirected to low-income districts, as the “adequacy era” of school finance.

    Related

    School Equity Lawsuits Face Setbacks: Have Judges Closed the Courthouse Door to Students?

    Low-income districts received about $1,200 extra per pupil, per year (or about $700 relative to more affluent areas, since the reforms also sent more money their way). Crucially, the new state funding didn’t “crowd out” local education dollars raised by property taxes, which were kept at the same level. Recipients spent their windfall on instruction, by hiring more teachers and reducing class size, but also on capital improvements like building renovations, which were often sorely needed after decades of neglect.

    The impact on test scores was unambiguous: A decade after the SFRs were put in place, student achievement on NAEP in the targeted districts improved meaningfully. “Courts and legislatures can evidently force improvements in school quality for students in low-income districts,” the authors write.

    Not everyone is convinced of the study’s findings, however. Eric Hanushek, an education economist and fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution, is one of the most influential researchers on the subject of school funding and perhaps the figure most prominently associated with the argument that school performance is largely unrelated to funding levels. He said that the study — along with other new research purporting to show the efficacy of greater education spending — didn’t pay enough attention to other education reforms taking place in states at the same time.

    Court-ordered finance reforms “aren’t really surprises,” Hanushek told The 74. “Most of them have been going on for five or 10 years before the court finally rules. And states, legislatures, are doing a variety of things that they hope can improve the performance of their kids.”

    “The difficult analytical issue is how you separate out spending from all kinds of other things, like changing the requirements for teacher certification, or changing the accountability rules, or the variety of things that state legislatures do over time.”

    Beneath the study’s headline finding, there’s an additional wrinkle: While poorer districts mobilized the extra cash and saw higher scores, the study doesn’t detect a meaningful narrowing of achievement gaps between white and nonwhite, or poor and non-poor, students. The authors say that’s because some low-income school districts are nevertheless home to many high- or middle-income students, and vice versa. So even while low-income districts raised their NAEP performance in comparison to high-income districts, low- and high-income students within those districts were subject to the same inequalities as ever.

    “That’s the explanation for why we don’t find significant closure of, say, the overall black-white gap at the state level,” said Rothstein. “There’s a lot of variation within districts, and the amount of between-district redistribution you need to make a dent in the overall gap would be enormous.”

    That explanation doesn’t satisfy Hanushek. If extra funding improves the performance of low-income districts relative to higher-income ones, why wouldn’t it do the same for low-income students?

    “They say [additional funding] closes gaps between districts, but not between kids — which is an odd finding, given that there is, in fact, a fair amount of segregation by both race and income across districts,” he said. “That doesn’t quite make any sense, does it? It says that you give districts money and the low-income districts do good things with it. But they’re not good things that help low-income kids.”

    In response, Rothstein said that the study’s findings “are entirely consistent with the hypothesis (which I think should be the default absent evidence to the contrary) that the extra money in low-income districts helps low- and high-income kids in those districts equally.”

    The study may hold increased relevance in light of this year’s release of America’s 2017 NAEP scores, commonly referred to as the Nation’s Report Card. After a period of widespread achievement growth in the late 1990s and early 2000s, most of the country has seen little or no growth on fourth- and eighth-grade math or reading since just before the Great Recession, when many states dramatically cut spending on K-12 schools. Per-pupil funding has still yet to return to 2008 levels in several states.

    Related

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

    To compensate, public schools and their advocates have continued to press state governments for more money — through both legal action and street activism. In both Pennsylvania and Kansas, lawsuits to augment and redistribute education dollars are currently under consideration before state courts. And in a series of mass walkouts that have drawn national attention, teachers in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Arizona have forced reluctant legislators to the table to pass funding increases.

    Rothstein says the evidence makes a clear, if nuanced, case for money as a tool to improve school performance. But he also acknowledges that there are limits to the strategy, adding that additional reforms are necessary to offer an equal education to poor kids.

    “This isn’t something you can just keep doing more and more and more of,” he said. “At some point you’ve probably gotten to a place where funding redistribution is not the primary lever — even if you think it works. These reforms are kind of a binary thing where, once you’ve done them, you’ve done them.”

    Go Deeper: This is the latest article in The 74’s ongoing ‘Big Picture’ series, bringing American education into sharper focus through new numbers, research, and reporting. Get the latest stats, charts, and analysis delivered straight your inbox by signing up for The 74 Newsletter.



  • This Week In Education Politics: Government Funding Countdown, Think Tanks and Advocates Consider Bullying, School Police

    By Carolyn Phenicie | September 8, 2018

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

    INBOX: APPROPRIATIONS CLOCK — Lurking beneath the political drama of a bombshell anonymous op-ed and a full-on Supreme Court nomination battle is a much more routine political crisis in the making: funding the federal government.

    The Senate last month, for the first time in a decade, debated and passed a $71.4 billion bill funding the Education Department. The education bill, which is always bundled with funding for the Labor and Health and Human Services departments, was packaged with the defense spending bill to ease its passage through the Senate.

    The House passed its own bill through committee earlier in the summer but has not considered it on the floor. Both chambers voted last week to go to conference on the bill and begin ironing out differences.

    Related

    House Committee Advances Education Spending Bill With $41 Million Increase, Ends Long-standing Ban on Federal Integration Efforts

    House members are scheduled for just seven more days before the Sept. 30 funding deadline. Members are likely to want to wrap up work before that so they can go back home and campaign for re-election. Speaker Paul Ryan said he has a “very good understanding” with the president about the need to continue government funding before the deadline, despite President Donald Trump’s comments that a shutdown, largely over money to build a border wall with Mexico, could happen.

    ICYMI: KAVANAUGH HEARING — Much of Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s two-day-long testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee focused on political hot-button topics like abortion and presidential pardon power. A few K-12 education-adjacent topics, though, did come up in questioning late Thursday.

    Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono, a Democrat, asked about the Janus decision, the Supreme Court’s June ruling exempting dissenting public-sector employees from paying required union dues. An earlier Supreme Court case from the 1970s held that non-union public employees still had to pay fees to cover the costs of collective bargaining and other shared benefits. With Janus, the current court found that being compelled to support those activities violated the dissenting members’ First Amendment rights.

    Hirono charged that Kavanaugh’s nomination is part of a larger campaign by conservative donors to take away workers’ rights, and she questioned how and when justices can overturn long-standing precedent.

    “That’s a precedent of the court, that, of course, because it’s one of the recent cases, I can’t comment on whether I agree or disagree with it. But it’s a precedent that is now part of the body of the Supreme Court case law,” Kavanaugh said of Janus.

    Sen. Kamala Harris, Democrat of California, questioned Kavanaugh over 1999 comments he made that the government, within 10 to 20 years, wouldn’t need to recognize differences in races. And, she asked, if that point ever arrives, whether that would mean the federal government should stop funding historically black colleges and universities.

    Kavanaugh said the effort for racial equality is not finished and discrimination “is still a reality we see on an all-too-frequent basis.”

    On the question of funding for HBCUs, Kavanaugh said it’s “hard to foresee what that would mean,” but he recognizes the history and “importance” of the institutions.

    Related

    ‘There Is an Open Question’: Four Religious School Choice Cases That Could Face SCOTUS and Kavanaugh

    MONDAY: SCHOOL SAFETY — The conservative Heritage Foundation hosts a panel discussion on ensuring student safety through the use of “child safety” school choice accounts. Florida earlier this year passed a program to offer vouchers to bullying victims.

    WEDNESDAY: CONGRESSIONAL BLACK CAUCUS — The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation holds its annual legislative conference, including sessions focused on “removing the stigma of career and technical education,” “combating the administration’s assault on education,” and “protecting our students from gun violence.”

    THURSDAY: SCHOOL POLICE — The Advancement Project and Alliance for Educational Justice releases a new report on school policing, calling for an end to law enforcement in school, highlighting “how school policing uniquely harms youth of color,” and analyzing national and city-specific policing and school discipline data.

    The Advancement Project this spring brought together student organizers to call for less law enforcement and more counselors in school ahead of the March student walkouts to call for more gun control and memorialize the Parkland victims.

    FRIDAY: EDU-PINIONS — The journal EdNext hosts a discussion of this year’s results of its annual poll on school choice, accountability, school spending, and other issues. This year’s poll looked at teacher salaries, charter schools, Common Core, and immigration, among other issues.

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  • EduClips: Fate of 50 NYC Turnaround Schools to Be Decided This Year, Mayor Says; TX Won’t Pay to Educate Migrant Kids in Shelters — and More Must-Reads From America’s 15 Biggest School Districts

    By Andrew Brownstein | September 6, 2018

    EduClips is a roundup of the day’s top education headlines from America’s largest school districts, where more than 4 million students across eight states attend class every day. Read previous EduClips installments here. Get the day’s top school and policy news delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for the TopSheet Education Newsletter.

    Top Story

    KAVANAUGH — Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who is in the midst of a heated confirmation hearing, has been clear that he backs school choice, predicting that the Supreme Court would uphold vouchers and working in 2000 to defend a publicly funded state scholarship program that allowed Florida students to attend private and parochial schools.

    Should he be confirmed and join the court, there’s a very good chance he could consider another case concerning school choice and the appropriate role of government funding for religious schools.

    The Supreme Court ruled 7-2 last year, in a case known as Trinity Lutheran, that a religiously affiliated preschool couldn’t be excluded from a state grant program that provided upgraded safety materials for playgrounds simply because it was run by a church. (Read at The74Million.org)

    National News

    TEACHERS — The Second Shift: What Teachers Are Doing To Pay Their Bills (Read at The New York Times)

    STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT — State Grades on K-12 Achievement: Map and Rankings (Read at Education Week)

    GREEN SCHOOLS — What Are Schools Doing to Go Green? (Read at The New York Times)

    District and State News

    NEW YORK — Mayor de Blasio says fate of 50 turnaround schools will be decided this year (Read at Chalkbeat)

    TEXAS — Texas won’t pay to educate migrant kids in shelters. Now two charter schools are scrambling. (Read at the Texas Tribune)

    PENNSYLVANIA —Teachers leave Philly schools at especially high rates, new study says (Read at the Philadelphia Inquirer)

    NEW YORK — 74 Interview: NYC Schools Chief Richard Carranza Talks Integration, Smart Parents, Renewal Schools, and Quality Assurance Across 1,800 Schools (Read at The74Million.org)

    CALIFORNIA — Start of school met with teacher unrest in the West Coast (Read at Politico)

    PUERTO RICO — Bienvenidos! JCPS battles teacher shortage by recruiting from Puerto Rico (Read at Insider Louisville)

    TEXAS — Texas expects thousands more special education students. But where are the teachers? (Read at the Houston Chronicle)

    CALIFORNIA — It’s too early to move all California middle and high schools to a later start (Read at the Los Angeles Times)

    HAWAII — Hawaii DOE Looks to Strengthen Its Student Discipline Code (Read at Honolulu Civil Beat)

    NEVADA — Discipline policy change will surrender classrooms to problems (Read at the Las Vegas Review-Journal)

    Think Pieces

    TEACHING — Raising Student Performance the Right Way: Can Good Teaching Be Taught? (Read at The New York Times)

    PARENTS — Rich parents are paying millions to be able to walk their kids to school (Read at Business Insider)

    CHARTERS — Shuls: Do Charter Schools Take Districts’ Money? Only If You Think Children, and the Funding That Comes With Them, Are District Property (Read at The74Million.org)

    NEW BOOK — From Poverty to Rocket Scientist to CEO, a Girl Scout’s Inspiring Story (Read at NPR)

    PERSONALIZED LEARNING — A “handmade forerunner” of personalized learning, forged by teachers (Read at The Hechinger Report)

    Quote of the Day

    “I do believe one of these cases will ultimately have to be decided by the Supreme Court. There is the open question left after Trinity Lutheran … as to whether or not states may rely on their Blaine Amendments to exclude religious options from school choice programs.” —Tim Keller, senior attorney with the Institute for Justice, which brought several of the cases. (Read at The74Million.org)

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  • ‘There Is an Open Question’: Four Religious School Choice Cases That Could Face SCOTUS and Kavanaugh

    By Carolyn Phenicie | September 5, 2018

    Judge Brett Kavanaugh, who is in the midst of a heated confirmation hearing, has been clear that he backs school choice, predicting that the Supreme Court would uphold vouchers and working in 2000 to defend a publicly funded state scholarship program that allowed Florida students to attend private and parochial schools.

    Related

    Brett Kavanaugh, Son of D.C. Teacher, Nominated for Supreme Court; Has Praised Efforts to Allow Religious Schools’ Participation in Publicly Funded Programs

    Should he be confirmed and join the court, there’s a very good chance he could consider another case concerning school choice and the appropriate role of government funding for religious schools.

    The Supreme Court ruled 7-2 last year, in a case known as Trinity Lutheran, that a religiously affiliated preschool couldn’t be excluded from a state grant program that provided upgraded safety materials for playgrounds simply because it was run by a church.

    Related

    Supreme Court Sides With Preschool in Church/State Funding Dispute, Limits Decision to Playground

    Missouri officials had excluded it because a provision in its state constitution prohibits state funding of religious schools. Similar Blaine Amendments are included in many state constitutions. Named after U.S. Rep. James Blaine, who unsuccessfully tried to include one in the U.S. Constitution in the 1870s, they were fueled by animosity toward a growing Catholic immigrant population.

    Though justices in their majority opinion included a footnote clarifying they “do not address religious uses of funding or other forms of discrimination,” several other cases concerning school choice and public funding of religious institutions are percolating in state courts.

    Advocates for religious liberty say the Blaine Amendments inappropriately discriminate against religion in violation of the First Amendment. Others who advocate for the separation of church and state say the provisions protect taxpayers from funding causes they disagree with, from religion generally to rules at some churches banning, for example, LGBT teachers or students.

    Experts are divided over whether, or how soon, the Supreme Court could consider any of these cases after the Trinity Lutheran ruling.

    “I do believe one of these cases will ultimately have to be decided by the Supreme Court. There is the open question left after Trinity Lutheran … as to whether or not states may rely on their Blaine Amendments to exclude religious options from school choice programs,” Tim Keller, senior attorney with the Institute for Justice, which brought several of the cases, told The 74.

    Alex Luchenitser, associate legal director at Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said Kavanaugh’s expected addition to the court means the justices are likely to take up one of the cases.

    “He’s made pretty clear that he thinks that it’s OK to use public funds for religious activities if the funds are neutrally available to both religious and non-religious institutions. I think it’s probably fair to say that if he’s confirmed, that probably would increase the odds that the Supreme Court would take one of these cases,” he said.

    That doesn’t mean, however, that it would come immediately, as the Supreme Court generally likes to wait a few years between cases on the same issue, he said.

    Although Kavanaugh has spoken out for allowing state support of religious schools, it’s not clear how the rest of the justices would decide, even those who usually side with the conservative bloc on decisions and ruled in favor of the church-affiliated preschool in Trinity Lutheran, Luchenitser said.

    Here are four First Amendment school choice cases moving through the lower courts, in order of how close they may be to consideration by the Supreme Court:

    Montana: Lawmakers in 2015 passed a tax-credit scholarship, and the state Department of Revenue, citing the state’s Blaine Amendment, wrote administrative rules banning participation by religious schools.

    The Montana Supreme Court heard the case in April. Because the case was brought under state law, rather than federal, any decision can be appealed directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

    New Mexico: The New Mexico case is perhaps not the best test case for the bigger question of state funding of religious schools, because the state’s Blaine Amendment bans public funding to all private schools, not just religious ones, experts said. The program at issue funds textbooks at schools throughout the state; private schools have been barred from participating since it was challenged in 2015.

    Attorneys argued that though the Blaine Amendment has broader prohibitions, it was still motivated by unconstitutional anti-Catholic animus, and judges were receptive to that argument, said Eric Baxter, vice president and senior counsel at the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which is working to overturn the law.

    The case has been appealed to the Supreme Court once, but it was sent back to state court for a rehearing after the Trinity Lutheran decision.

    Related

    SCOTUS Sends Church-State Cases Back to Colo., New Mexico in Light of Trinity Lutheran Pre-K Ruling

    The New Mexico judges heard arguments in May, and attorneys anticipate a ruling in the next month or so, Baxter said.

    Maine: The state has for many years had a law allowing towns too small to merit their own schools to either send students to an assigned school in another district or pay for students to attend another school of their choice. Since the 1980s, state regulations have banned those “tuitioning” agreements from going to religiously affiliated schools.

    The Institute for Justice filed a case challenging the religion ban in federal court; the group has tried and lost twice before but re-filed in light of the Trinity ruling.

    The Supreme Court has already ruled that school choice programs, so long as they are available to all types of religious institutions and controlled by parents, pass muster under the U.S. Constitution, the Institute’s Keller said, citing the 2002 case Zelman v. Simmons-Harris.

    “The school choice situation is a much easier case than Trinity Lutheran because you’re not talking about any sort of direct aid to an institution. You’re talking about aid to individuals, who make an independent choice as to where to use their government benefits,” he said.

    Luchenitser said he doesn’t think Trinity Lutheran is applicable because that concerned public funding at a religious institution of an explicitly non-religious program.

    Here, though, public dollars would fund tuition, “which is a quintessentially religious activity. We don’t think that Trinity Lutheran changes anything,” he said.

    Washington: The Institute for Justice last month filed a case challenging Washington state’s ban on using a college work-study program at religious institutions. The state pays a portion of the student’s salary. The organization represents Summit Christian Academy, a K-12 school in Spokane that wanted to hire a college student as a math tutor, and members of a student group at Whitworth University, also in Spokane, who couldn’t use the work-study program at their Presbyterian college.

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  • EduClips: After Near-Miss in Seattle, LAUSD Teachers May Be Next to Strike; Carranza Set to Approve Integration Plan for Brooklyn Schools — and More Must-Reads From America’s 15 Biggest School Districts

    By Andrew Brownstein | September 5, 2018

    EduClips is a roundup of the day’s top education headlines from America’s largest school districts, where more than 4 million students across eight states attend class every day. Read previous EduClips installments here. Get the day’s top school and policy news delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for the TopSheet Education Newsletter.

    Top Story

    DEVOS — Education Secretary Betsy DeVos came to Washington to promote the cause of her life — school choice. Republicans controlled both the House and Senate. President Trump had promised a $20 billion program.

    But more than a year and a half later, the federal push is all but dead.

    That’s partly because DeVos herself emerged badly damaged from a brutal confirmation process, with few people — even in her own party — interested in taking up her pet cause.

    She’s also been stymied by division among Republicans over the idea of federal incentives for school choice. And Democrats are united against her. (Read at The Washington Post)

    National News

    BOOKER — EXCLUSIVE: Senator Cory Booker Speaks Out About Newark School Reform, Equity, and Mark Zuckerberg’s Millions Ahead of a Possible Run for the Presidency (Read at The74Million.org)

    SCHOOL SECURITY — Will States Allow Districts to Arm Educators Using Federal Funds? (Read at Politics K-12)

    U.S. EDUCATION DEPARTMENT — Senior executives at Education Department may be pushed into new jobs (Read at The Washington Post)

    KAVANAUGH — A Parkland Victim’s Dad Tried to Meet Brett Kavanaugh but Made Waves Instead (Read at Politics K-12)

    SCHOOL SECURITY — Teaching in the Age of School Shootings (Read at The New York Times)

    ED TECH — 5 Big Tech Trends Worth Watching This School Year (Read at Education Week)

    ARIZONA — Arizona Lawmakers Cut Education Budgets. Then Teachers Got Angry. (Read at The New York Times)

    DUNCAN — Arne Duncan: Betsy DeVos Turns a Blind Eye to Injustice (Read at Education Week)

    District and State News

    CALIFORNIA — Teachers’ Strike Narrowly Avoided in Seattle, but Los Angeles Might Be Next (Read at Education Week)

    NEW YORK — Carranza is ready to approve an integration plan for Brooklyn middle schools. Here’s a guide to the potential changes. (Read at Chalkbeat)

    TEXAS — Texas schools agency botched award of huge no-bid contract on special ed student data, audit finds (Read at Dallas News)

    NEW YORK — The Test That Changed Their Lives (Read at The New York Times)

    FLORIDA — Florida, schools getting $95.8 million for Puerto Rico students (Read at Florida Politics)

    CALIFORNIA — Expanded suspension ban gets approval from California Legislature (Read at EdSource)

    TEXAS — With rising property taxes, TEA asks lawmakers for less school money (Read at KXAN)

    NEVADA — Test results show Nevada students improving in English, math (Read at the Las Vegas Review-Journal)

    FLORIDA — If we close the academic achievement gap, kids and community will reap the rewards (Read at the Miami Herald)

    ILLINOIS — Illinois libraries receive grants for after-school programs (Read at Associated Press)

    Think Pieces

    TEACHER PAY — The salary slide: as other professionals see growth, teachers’ pay stagnates, new report finds (Read at Chalkbeat)

    PRIVATE SCHOOLS — Private School Advantages Overhyped, Study Says, Offering Fodder to Vouchers’ Critics (Read at The74Million.org)

    INDIANA — Commentary: 5 Lessons From an Indiana District That Worked With an Outside Partner to Turn Around Its Troubled Schools (Read at The74Million.org)

    RACE — OPINION: Confessions of a white teacher in an urban school (Read at The Hechinger Report)

    Quote of the Day

    “I would rather that my neighbors go to a great school and hate me, than love me and continue to go to a bad school.” —Sen. Cory Booker, who as mayor of Newark, New Jersey, oversaw the city’s contentious school reform efforts. (Read at The74Million.org)

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  • Private School Advantages Overhyped, Study Says, Offering Fodder to Vouchers’ Critics

    By Kevin Mahnken | September 4, 2018

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

    Popular depictions of private schools vary in tone, but audiences tend to get a uniform picture of glamorous institutions that kids would be lucky to attend. From the supernatural instruction of the Harry Potter books to the wan posing of Dead Poets Society, there’s always something attractive about the hijinks that unfold on a private school campus.

    But the advantages of attending private school are overhyped, according to new research. Once family and socioeconomic circumstances are accounted for, the authors found that private school students realize virtually no special benefits in comparison with those enrolled in traditional public schools.

    Published in the journal Educational Researcher, the study was co-authored by Robert Pianta, dean of the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education, along with research associate Arya Ansari. Pianta has previously written in favor of public education’s benefits in comparison with private alternatives, arguing that the Trump administration’s “fixation on vouchers” represents an abandonment of the ideal of egalitarian schools.

    Related

    Dean Robert Pianta: Why Trump’s Policies Are a Threat to Role of Public Education in America

    The findings add another data point to the long-running discussion among researchers about the effectiveness of vouchers. Studies of the rare — and still mostly new — private school choice programs in a handful of cities and states around the country have shown that students receiving vouchers actually performed worse in standardized tests than they might have otherwise, though parents of those students are more likely to report satisfaction in their new schools. Other research suggests that, after initial losses, voucher students in Louisiana typically made up ground in later years.

    Related

    New Research: Louisiana Voucher Results Swing Upward

    Pianta and Ansari employed a large federal data set, the Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, to identify more than 1,000 K-12 students born in 1991. Participating families from nine states — Arkansas, California, Kansas, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin — were recruited shortly after childbirth and tracked, through both interviews and observations in home and at school, until children completed ninth grade.

    About one-third of all children completed at least one year of private school; among those students, the average duration of private school attendance was 5.73 years, or about half of all their K-9 schooling.

    In a simple, apples-to-apples comparison of children in each sector, private school students demonstrated a remarkable edge in a range of outcomes including math and English performance, working memory, grade point average, and social skills. They were also more likely to say they intended to attend and finish college, and less likely to say they had taken part in risky behaviors like drinking, smoking, or having sex.

    But while those initial results would seem to validate conventional wisdom around the superiority of private academies, the authors find that they are almost entirely the product of environmental influences having nothing to do with the quality of education children received. That is, the types of families who are likely to send their kids to private school are more likely to earn higher incomes, include two parents, and reside in more affluent neighborhoods.

    Specifically, Pianta and Ansari controlled for a panoply of variables specific to the individual child (gender, race, birth weight, birth order, temperament observed at 36 months of age), family (a mother’s age and educational attainment at childbirth, her psychological adjustment six months after childbirth, whether she was employed), and neighborhood (number of households in poverty and receiving government assistance, number of single-parent households, and number of households in which parents had less than a high school diploma or were unemployed). In general, these factors were found to be much more predictive of later outcomes than private school attendance.

    “The apparent ‘advantages’ of private school education … were almost entirely due to the socioeconomic advantages that selected families into these types of schools and were not attributed to private school education itself,” they write.

    While voucher programs are sometimes touted as a solution for disadvantaged kids in inner-city or rural environments, where school systems can struggle to provide high-quality educational options, the authors find no intrinsic benefit to either low-income, urban, or rural students from attending private school.

    That makes the study relevant to the growing research literature on vouchers, which has stoked public debate. In another recent release, researchers from Notre Dame and the University of Kentucky found that students in Indiana’s voucher program, the largest in the country, saw significant declines in math performance that they have yet to recover from.

    Pianta and Ansari note in their study that the lack of clear-cut advantages associated with private education could be evidence of the wide-ranging variety in terms of school design and quality; though many envision private schools as elite institutions situated on bucolic campuses, the sector includes programs both urban and suburban, religious and secular, with differing requirements around staffing and curricula.

    “I think one of the things people miss is the stunning heterogeneity of private education,” Pianta said in a recent interview with a Boston public radio station. “We all have this idea of what private education looks like: It’s like a prep school. But private education on average is very, very heterogeneous.”

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