Noteworthy headlines from the education wire
  • What’s in a Report Card? Depends on Who You Ask. New Report Shows That Parents and Teachers Have Very Different Understandings of Grades & Tests

    By Kate Stringer | December 11, 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.

    If a child earns a B– in math on his report card, is that a good grade, or does it mean he’s the worst in the class?

    Ask a parent and a teacher, and you’ll likely hear very different answers. But that disconnect is just the beginning when it comes to how these two groups understand the education system and all the grades, jargon, and communication within it, according to a new report from the nonprofit Learning Heroes.

    “We’re not helping parents in ways that we should be to make sure they have that complete, accurate picture of how their child is achieving,” said Bibb Hubbard, founder and president of Learning Heroes. “The system puts all these barriers in the way.”

    One of those barriers, Hubbard said, is the report card. It’s the No. 1 way parents say they know how well their children are doing academically. But report cards usually fail to say whether students are performing at grade level. The survey found that most parents — 6 in 10 — said their children earn As and Bs, which they think means their kids are performing at the level they should be for their grade.

    But teachers said report cards are only the third-most important tool for understanding student achievement. For teachers, a report card is a combination of grades, effort, and progress. About one-third of teachers said they feel pressure from administrators or parents to avoid giving too many low grades, and more than half said they are expected to let students redo work for additional credit.

    “I think grades have been inflated for years — 100 percent,” an elementary school teacher from New Hampshire told Learning Heroes. “I think most teachers would be lying if they didn’t say a B–, C+, C are the lowest kids.”

    This disconnect was surprising, Hubbard said.

    “To hear teachers qualitatively say, ‘Oh yeah, report cards do not measure achievement alone and do not equate to grade level,’ and then to hear the juxtaposition of parents who … say, ‘That’s what I have to go on — that’s all I have to know if my child is achieving,’ was just really powerful,” Hubbard said.

    Learning Heroes

    Parents usually receive their child’s state test scores from the previous school year in the summer or fall. While these scores show whether or not students were on grade level, they can sometimes be difficult to decipher, Hubbard said, and parents often see them as old news.

    “Parents say, ‘My child is wearing a different shoe size, they’ve grown 3 inches since they took that last test, of course they’re not in the same place that they were last year,’ so when the results come in, if they come in such a delayed time frame, they feel less relevant for parents,” Hubbard said.

    There’s a big gap between how well parents think their children are doing and how well students across the nation actually perform. While about 90 percent of parents surveyed in 2017 said their child was achieving at or above grade level, only 30 to 40 percent actually were, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which looked at fourth- and eighth-graders’ performance in math and reading.


    90% of Parents Think Their Kids Are on Track in Math & Reading. The Real Number? Just 1 in 3, Survey Shows

    The Learning Heroes survey found that teachers feel untrained and unsupported in how to have difficult conversations with parents. Teachers said that when they tell parents about their child’s poor grades, some parents blame the teachers and some don’t believe them. A little more than half of teachers said they have no training on how to talk to parents about their child’s academic challenges.

    Another area of disconnect is which worries parents and teachers have about their students. Parents are most concerned about the happiness and emotional well-being of their children, while teachers are most worried about challenges students might face at home, like poverty and food insecurity. Teachers are more worried about a student being on track academically than parents are, with about one-third of educators citing this as a worry, compared with one-fourth of parents.

    Learning Heroes

    There’s also a gap between how much parents think they’re involved in school versus how much teachers say they are. While two-thirds of parents said they rank their involvement in school between 8 and 10 on a 10-point scale, only 28 percent of teachers said they consider it that high.

    “Parents definitely believe that they are doing a good job being involved, without a doubt,” said Adam Burns, chief operations officer of Edge Research, which conducted the study. “What’s really fascinating is that teachers see it very differently.”

    Learning Heroes

    To get parents and teachers on the same page, Learning Heroes recommends that schools provide more information about whether students are performing on grade level, like using a worksheet its team developed that provides this information and advice for how parents can help students at home. To improve communication with parents, Hubbard recommends using established programs like home visits or “Academic Parent Teacher Teams,” a model that allows more time for teachers to meet and collaborate with parents.

    The report includes both qualitative and quantitative data collected by Edge Research in 2018. The study consisted of two nationally representative online surveys of both parents and teachers, as well as focus groups of parents, teachers, and students.

    Disclosure: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, and the Carnegie Corporation of New York provide funding to Learning Heroes and The 74.


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  • After School Shooting, This Indiana District Sees Mental Health as Strategy to Curb Suicide, Violence

    By Mark Keierleber | December 9, 2018

    Located northeast of Indianapolis, the suburb of Fishers is known for its affluence and low crime. Citing its “entrepreneurial spirit,” Money magazine recently named the city America’s best place to live.

    During a ride-along with a police officer a few years back, however, Mayor Scott Fadness learned of a darker side to the city. Fadness asked the officer which emergency calls bothered him the most, expecting to hear about domestic violence or high-speed pursuits.

    He was wrong.

    “Immediate detentions” were the top concern, the officer responded. Once per shift in the city of roughly 90,000 residents, officers detain people — including students — because they present a threat to themselves or others.

    Even in this wealthy enclave, Fadness realized, residents’ mental health had fallen off the radar.

    “I asked our public-safety individuals initially, ‘What are we doing around the issue of mental health?’ And, to be frank with you, the answer was ‘Nothing, really,’” Fadness told The 74. “No one really felt it was part of their core mission to address this issue.”

    In response, Fadness launched a citywide effort to build up mental health supports, including a large focus on the city’s schools. The schools got new therapists, emergency response officials received new training, and public officials — from school employees to police — began working more collaboratively.

    And though suicide prevention motivated the push, tragedy in May opened the mayor’s eyes to another potential benefit. In Noblesville, a neighboring Indianapolis suburb, a gunman opened fire in a middle school, injuring a teacher and a student.

    Like a lot of school districts across the country this year, particularly after the mass school shootings in Parkland, Florida, and Santa Fe, Texas, officials in Fishers began examining its school safety procedures. While many have turned to enhancing school security, Fishers took a different approach.

    Although some parents urged Fadness to “harden the target” with metal detectors and other security, he resisted. Instead, he said, the best approach is to identify at-risk students and provide them with supports.

    “That’s what happens time and time again in these violent situations: These kids get further and further isolated from society,” Fadness said. “If we can re-enter them and assimilate them back into the culture by wrapping around services, that would be the appropriate course.”

    Addressing student needs

    Fadness laid out a scenario he said is common in America: A police officer pulls over a teen with a loaded gun who is “quoting Bible verses” and planning violence. In most situations, he said, officers detain young people and drop them off at a mental health facility.

    Following an evaluation, he said, the individual is often released the following morning and school officials aren’t informed about the student’s bad night. Things are different in Fishers. Through a memorandum of understanding with the police department and a local mental health care provider, school officials are looped in from the beginning.

    When a child leaves the hospital, a district crisis liaison then visits the student and helps them transition back into school, said Brooke Lawson, the mental health and school counseling coordinator at Hamilton Southeastern Schools. For example, the liaison discusses with students how they can explain to classmates where they’ve been, or how to adjust class schedules to make the school day less stressful.

    When Fishers began its mental health push three years ago, it increased the number of therapists in schools and created new student clubs that aim to curb stigma. Since then, the number of students receiving care has soared.

    Before the initiative launched, the district had two mental health therapists who provided supports to about 50 of the district’s 22,000 students. Now, there are 14 therapists and a crisis liaison serving the district’s 22 campuses. Last year, 859 students were referred for mental health supports and 600 of them received therapy at school.

    Lawson said the two-week window after a student is discharged from the hospital is the most critical time to provide interventions. That’s why schools are a natural place to offer the services.

    A lot of students in this wealthy enclave experience pressure to perform well in school, Lawson said. The top mental health diagnoses among young people in the community, she said, are anxiety and stress-related disorders. According to a student survey, fear of failure was a large concern.

    By lowering the stigma so people seek help, and by approaching them when they exhibit troubling behaviors, Fadness argues the district has reduced disciplinary incidents and improved student performance.

    Whether the strategy could reduce the threat of an active shooter, however, remains the source of an ongoing national debate.

    Earlier this year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation released a report studying the pre-attack behaviors of gunmen who carried out mass shootings between 2000 and 2013. The report found that the shooters didn’t share common traits that could allow officials to identify potential shooters based on demographics alone. Of active shooters in the study, for example, 25 percent had been diagnosed with a mental illness. But a Secret Service report, which focused on mass shootings in 2017, found that nearly two-thirds of gunmen experienced mental health symptoms prior to the attacks, including paranoia and suicidal thoughts.

    The connection to mental illness is even more tenuous when the scope is broadened beyond mass shooters. A study released in 2016 by the American Psychiatric Association found that people with serious mental illness represent just 1 percent of firearm homicides each year.

    In fact, people with mental illness are more likely to be victims of violence than perpetrators, said Katherine Cowan, spokeswoman for the National Association of School Psychologists. Still, she said, adequate mental health supports are crucial to maintaining safe schools, in part because school safety extends far beyond statistically rare shootings. Psychologists also provide help to students who don’t have a diagnosable mental illness, she said. Students could be struggling with trauma or grief if, for example, they recently lost a loved one.

    That’s exactly what is happening in Fishers.

    “If Jimmy has a kill list written down,” he may not suffer from a specific mental illness, Fadness said, adding that the student is “crying out for some kind of help.” Officials could help the student learn how to interact with other children at school or how to handle problems at home. “But the fact of the matter is, you still have to put the resources in place to help that child assimilate or be a part of society.”


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  • Chris Cerf: Tossing Aside the ‘Reform’ Label in Education Reform Must Not Mean Anything Goes

    By Chris Cerf | December 5, 2018

    As Robin Lake recently observed, it is time to move past the phrase “education reformer.” In a curious linguistic twist, over the past decade, opponents of transformational change have co-opted the word “reform” and essentially converted it into a malediction.

    I say “curious” because it is difficult to imagine the logic of turning “reformer” into an insult when African-American, Latino, and impoverished students are succeeding in school at devastatingly lower rates than their white and affluent counterparts; when student achievement has flatlined over the past few years after making real strides in the previous 15 years, and when inevitable changes in the U.S. economy guarantee that undereducated children are going to have an even lower chance of finding economic security in a job market that is being rapidly transformed by automation and internationalization. One would think that seeking to “reform” a system that yields these outcomes would be considered a good thing.

    But given that the term “reform” itself has become freighted, I have no problem tossing it aside. What does matter is that the urgency of bravely pushing for positive change remains front and center; that we resist the temptation to return to the “anything goes” mentality that preceded the standards movement and No Child Left Behind; that we improve on, rather than abandon, proven ideas (like standards, accountability, empowering parents with more options, and acknowledging differences in teacher efficacy); and that we not fall prey to politically safe slogans like “personalized learning,” “student agency,” or “community schools” to the extent they operate as a substitute for making sure that every child, regardless of birth circumstances, is launched into adulthood prepared to succeed in life.

    Lest I invite the wrath of those who are appropriately invested in developing such initiatives, I support them all — just not as ends in themselves, but only insofar as they actually advance the moral imperative of at long last achieving educational equity in this country.

    Chris Cerf is a former New Jersey commissioner of education, deputy chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, and, most recently, superintendent of Newark Public Schools.


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  • National Poll on Education Attitudes Finds Majority of Teachers Down on Profession, Lack Trust in Parents

    By Kevin Mahnken | December 5, 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.

    American teachers are less enthused about their jobs than are local politicians or active-duty military personnel, according to the 2018 EdChoice Schooling in America Survey. After a year that saw educators revolt over low pay and teachers unions seriously weakened by a landmark Supreme Court decision, the survey also found the profession disillusioned with parents and school boards.

    This is the sixth edition of the annual poll, which measures public attitudes on schooling options, school quality, and state and federal education policy. EdChoice, an Indianapolis-based research and advocacy group, tends to favor school choice options such as private school vouchers or education savings accounts.

    The poll’s 2018 iteration is the first to include the voices of teachers. Survey administrators conducted online interviews with 777 traditional public school teachers (i.e., active instructors working exclusively in district schools, not charters) about their feelings toward the job, this year’s wave of mass walkouts, and their level of trust in key figures in public schooling.

    The results were bracing. Overall, teachers were unlikely to recommend teaching as a profession.

    To rate job satisfaction, EdChoice relied on a metric called Net Promoter Score, a calculation designed to measure how likely a customer would be to continue to buy a given product and urge others to do so. On a 10-point scale, respondents who rate themselves a nine or a 10 are considered “promoters,” who will loyally stump for a product or service; those who rate a seven or eight are so-called “passives,” who could be lured away by a competitor; and anyone rated six or below are “detractors,” unhappy consumers who pose an active threat to the brand through bad word-of-mouth.

    When asked by EdChoice whether they would recommend teaching in a public school to a friend, a full 74 percent of respondents were measured as either passives or detractors. The median score for teachers was just a 6.49 — much lower than comparable ratings for state legislators (8.19) or military service members (8.41). The survey authors wrote that they were “shocked” by the level of dissatisfaction.

    Additionally, few teachers said they placed much trust in education stakeholders outside their building. While a majority of teachers said they had “complete” or “a lot of” trust in their principal (57 percent) or their students (52 percent), less than half said the same of their union leadership (46 percent) or their district superintendent (41 percent). Parents won a great deal of trust from only 36 percent of teachers, while state and federal education authorities were both mired beneath the 30 percent mark.

    Other noteworthy findings from the survey:

    ● Fifty-five percent of the general public — a selection of 1,002 respondents independent from the teacher sample — said that public education in the United States was headed on the “wrong track,” the same percentage as in last year’s survey. Thirty-five percent said the opposite, an eight-point increase since 2007.

    ● Many parents report making considerable sacrifices for the sake of their children’s education. Some 40 percent reported taking on an additional job to support their kids’ schooling needs, nearly twice as many as when EdChoice asked the same question in 2016. Thirty percent said they had changed their jobs, while 29 percent said they had moved closer to their kids’ school.

    ● Even as many expressed pessimism with America’s education system overall, most parents said they were satisfied with their own children’s schools. Eighty-six percent of homeschool parents, 79 percent of private school parents, 78 percent of charter parents, and 66 percent of district school parents said they were satisfied with their schools.


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  • Nation’s First Charter School Teacher Strike Shutters Class for 7,000 Students in Chicago

    By Laura Fay | December 4, 2018

    In the first strike of charter school teachers in the nation’s history, 500 staff members walked off the job from Chicago’s Acero Schools charter network Tuesday morning after negotiations broke down overnight.

    The strike forced the network to cancel class for more than 7,000 students in its 15 schools across the city. The teachers’ demands include higher pay, more teacher diversity, more special education staff, smaller class sizes, and a shorter school year.

    They also want all 15 schools to be declared “sanctuary schools,” which would prevent the network from sharing students’ information with federal authorities and would bar federal agents from entering the schools without a warrant. More than 90 percent of Acero’s students are Latino.

    Critics have said teachers should be wary of aligning themselves with a union that has consistently fought against charter schools. Andrew Broy, president of the Illinois Network of Charter Schools, called the union’s push for a strike a “bait and switch” and said charter teachers joining unions could lead to “the same restrictive contracts that prevent progress in public school generally.” Research shows that Chicago’s charter schools outperform the city’s traditional district schools on several measures.

    Although no classes were held Tuesday, the schools were open for students who needed somewhere to go during the day, and breakfast and lunch were served, according to the network’s website.

    “The sad fact is that interests from outside our community are using our students and our schools as a means to advance their national anti-charter school platform. They don’t want our schools to succeed because it doesn’t serve their agenda,” Acero Schools CEO Richard Rodriguez said in a statement posted online.

    Nationally, the vast majority of charter school educators do not belong to unions, but Acero teachers unionized in 2013, joining the Chicago Teachers Union, an American Federation of Teachers affiliate. AFT president Randi Weingarten joined the teachers on the picket line Tuesday.

    The strike caps a year marked by statewide teacher walkouts in several states where, in many cases, teachers were demanding higher pay, more classroom resources and support staff, and more state funding for education overall.

    “This activism is contagious,” Weingarten said.

    The Chicago Teachers Union president, Jesse Sharkey, said Tuesday morning the strike will continue until an agreement is reached.

    Here’s what the demonstrations looked like.


    Broy: Chicago’s Teachers Union Is Claiming the Role of Advocate for Charter School Educators. It’s Really Just a Bait-and-Switch

  • ‘I’m Down With Any School That’s Successfully Educating Children’: Here’s How Social Media Reacted to Roland Martin’s Indianapolis Town Hall on Education & Equity

    By Laura Fay | December 2, 2018

    At a packed event Sunday evening at the Indianapolis Public Library, journalist Roland Martin asked tough questions of local school leaders about education, equity, and America’s persistent achievement gap between students of different races.

    The event, “School Choice Is the Black Choice: Indianapolis,” marked the first education town hall in what will be a national series of such events, engaging black families on issues of student achievement, parent involvement, and classroom equity. The tour is being organized in conjunction with The 74’s newest website, Keeping It 100, which prioritizes stories, profiles, and essays about how schools across the country are serving students and families of color.


    ‘School Choice Is the Black Choice’: Roland Martin Kicks Off Education Tour With Indianapolis Town Hall, Tough Questions About School Innovation & the Achievement Gap

    Hundreds turned out for the Sunday town hall in Indiana, where Martin pressed local education leaders to reflect on teacher diversity, school discipline, and parent engagement.

    Here were some of the remarks, reactions, and questions that followed the event on social media:

    Throughout the night, Martin stressed the need for education advocates to work together to create change through school choice.

    Panelists included education consultant George Parker; Derrell Bradford, executive vice president of 50CAN; Candace Pate, director of admissions and community partnerships at Providence Cristo Rey High School in Indianapolis; Aleesia Johnson, Indianapolis Public Schools deputy superintendent for academics; and Kelli Marshall, CEO of Tindley Accelerated Schools.

    Panelists also weighed in on union politics, equity, and school discipline.

    After hearing about Indianapolis’s system of traditional district schools, innovation network schools, and charter schools, Martin pressed the panelists to think about how they can change a “convoluted” system.

    The event brought together more than 300 local educators, parents, and advocates.

    You can learn more about the national tour right here; register to get the latest “School Choice Is the Black Choice” coverage delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for The 74 Newsletter.

  • Segregated Classrooms in Segregated Neighborhoods: New Report Argues That Efforts to Integrate Schools Must Also Address Our Divided Cities

    By Mark Keierleber | November 30, 2018

    Springfield, Illinois, is like a lot of places in America: Its neighborhoods are highly segregated by race, with minority residents predominantly clustered downtown and most whites residing along the city’s outskirts.

    Something interesting is happening, however, in Springfield’s schools.

    While schools in most cities are slightly more segregated than their neighborhoods on average, the opposite is true in Springfield. The difference comes down to the way the city drew its school attendance boundaries, according to a new report by the Urban Institute, a left-leaning think tank. Rather than follow the city’s segregated housing patterns, Springfield purposely set out to create more diverse schools.

    In some cities, like Springfield, policies chip away at racial segregation inside schools — while those in other cities exacerbate it. Since most children attend campuses close to home, the prevalence of segregation in schools correlates highly with the racial composition of nearby neighborhoods. In fact, Urban estimates that 76 percent of the variation in school segregation between schools can be attributed to housing.

    And although district policies that encourage integration are helpful, something more radical must be done to eliminate school segregation outright, argues Tomas Monarrez, an Urban research associate and author of the report.

    “If you really want to destroy segregation — get rid of it and completely fix this problem — the only way to do that is to completely fix the problem of residential segregation,” he told The 74.

    America has a long and fraught history when it comes to both residential and school segregation. More than 60 years after the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which found intentional school segregation unconstitutional, America’s schools remain sharply divided along racial lines. Another recent report, in the Peabody Journal of Education, found that America’s largest cities have become more integrated in recent years even as schools have become more segregated.

    Meanwhile, a growing body of research has pointed to integration as an effective strategy to improve the educational outcomes among children of color.

    In the Urban report, Monarrez compares federal school enrollment data from 2015-16 against the demographics of America’s 316 metropolitan statistical areas as defined by the Census Bureau. (Click here for the interactive chart)

    This chart shows the relationship between residential and school segregation across American cities. (Click here to see an interactive version and to find your own hometown)

    Cities’ school segregation tracks closely to the racial composition of their neighborhoods. Beyond housing, other factors contributing to school segregation include school assignment policies and the choices parents make about their kids.

    In the 1970s, Springfield faced a federal school segregation lawsuit that resulted in a mandated desegregation order. Under that plan, Springfield began redrawing school boundaries every several years as neighborhood demographics changed.

    In another report published earlier this year, Monarrez found that while districts can draw school assignment zones to create more racially integrated school systems, few choose to do so.

    The link between neighborhood and school segregation “is always going to be there” since people don’t want to endure long commutes to school, he said. “However, these local governments have a little bit of leeway in how they tip the scale” toward integration.

    Most students are assigned to schools based on where they live. However, that strategy has been disrupted by the emergence of school choice. School choice has alleviated segregation in some cities, according to the Urban report, and exacerbated it in others. Monarrez is currently working on a study that focuses specifically on charter schools, one form of school choice, and their effects on segregation.

    One example is Newark, New Jersey. While the city’s neighborhoods are among the nation’s most segregated, its schools are even worse. But the introduction of charter schools and universal school choice may be mitigating segregation, according to the report. In San Francisco, however, it appears school choice made segregation worse. Since the district got rid of a school assignment process that considered students’ socioeconomics and academic achievement in favor of a system that prioritizes parental choice and school attendance boundaries, school segregation has increased.

    Adjusting school assignment zones and other education reforms could be promising strategies to increase integration, but Monarrez said the best approach — albeit a controversial one — could be found in America’s neighborhoods.

    “If we really want to end school segregation — which we probably do want to do — we’re going to have to address the problem of neighborhood segregation, and that’s going to get us into these hairier topics about gentrification and housing costs and the willingness of people to interact with each other when there are fundamental differences between them,” Monarrez said.

    Disclosure: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation provide financial support to the Urban Institute and The 74.


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  • Raw Video: Alaskan Students Take to Social Media to Share Real-Time Footage of Friday’s Terrifying 7.0 Earthquake

    By Laura Fay | November 30, 2018

    As a 7.0 earthquake rolled across Alaska on Friday, students cowered under desks and took to social media to share their experiences in real time.

    Alyson Petrie of Colony High School posted a video to Twitter while she and her classmates took cover under tables in an art classroom. At least eight aftershocks followed the initial quake, one as strong as 5.7, CNN reported. The quake hit around 8:30 a.m. local time near Anchorage.

    Some students surfaced fears about whether a tsunami could be coming. A tsunami warning was briefly in effect but was later canceled.

    Petrie’s school posted a message on its website alerting parents that they could pick up students “whenever possible” but that students were “otherwise warm and safe.”

    Here’s what it looked like inside some schools during the quake.

    Another student who appeared to be standing outside his school during the earthquake posted an image of the damage, saying the quake “straight cracked my school in half.”

    Teachers and parents also shared updates as the morning unfolded.

    The Anchorage school district instructed parents to pick up their children when they felt it was safe to do so. Some students were evacuated to other schools to wait for their parents.

    Dramatic images also showed roads torn apart as well as homes and workplaces thrown into chaos.

    No injuries or deaths have been reported, but the earthquake did damage many buildings and other infrastructure, according to local media reports. Alaska governor Bill Walker has declared a state of emergency.

    Almost exactly 24 hours earlier, another earthquake struck the Pacific rim of the U.S., this time at the furthest point south. Thursday’s 3.9-magnitude quake near San Diego was felt as far as Mexicali, Mexico, but no injuries or damage were reported.


    Ghost Trees & ‘The Big One’: How to Teach Students About Major 9.0 Earthquake Due Right in Their Own Backyard

  • Goldberg: Schools Need to Embrace a Civic Education That Values Patriotism Over Victimhood

    By Kevin Mahnken | November 28, 2018

    Schools need to be giving kids a stiffer dose of civic education, informed by a sense of patriotism and gratitude for the American way of life — that’s the message conservative author Jonah Goldberg delivered to an education-focused audience at Washington, D.C.’s Hoover Institution on Wednesday. The talk touched on politics and national identity in Trump’s America.

    A senior editor at the National Review and holder of the Asness Chair of Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute, Goldberg spoke at the invitation of the right-leaning Fordham Institute as part of its Education 20/20 lecture series. Fordham President Michael Petrilli introduced him and later moderated a question-and-answer session.

    The talk echoed some of the themes of Goldberg’s recent best seller, The Suicide of the West. In the book, he argues that Americans’ love of their national values and institutions has been undermined by a focus in media and academia on historical crimes like slavery. Stripped of its potency, the American myth has given way to a racial populism that led to the rise of President Trump, he writes.

    In the Hoover Institution speech, he reiterated the assertion.

    “A civilization is really nothing more than the story we tell ourselves about ourselves,” he said. “It’s a narrative. And when you don’t tell the story the right way, or you don’t tell the story at all, or you rewrite the story, you get consequences from that.”

    While Goldberg was quick to acknowledge the importance of teaching America’s past mistakes — what he referred to as “Zinnian history,” referring to leftist historian Howard Zinn — he added that they ought to be delivered in a context that foregrounds American values like freedom and equality.

    As an example, Goldberg cited the foundational promises of the Declaration of Independence, which he called a “time bomb in the story of America.” Though Thomas Jefferson’s invocation of universal equality was incomplete at the time of the nation’s founding, he said, it later formed the basis of the emancipation of slaves and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address — though he drew some laughs by stumbling on an exact recitation of the speech’s famous opening passage.

    “‘Four score and seven years ago, our forefathers came forth on this nation to give birth to a new idea that we are all endowed,’” he misremembered, before running out of steam. “I can’t quote the Gettysburg Address off the top of my head.”

    While he said he was sympathetic to the principle of school choice, Goldberg lamented that greater options were no panacea for the lack of patriotic education. In fact, he said, pricey private schools in the Washington, D.C., suburbs where he lives are among the worst offenders when it comes to emphasizing victimization in America’s past.

    “I have school choice,” he said. “And any elite school in the Washington, D.C., area would largely subscribe to these kinds of [unflattering] ideas about America. Some are better than others, but none have remotely a truly patriotic understanding of American history.”

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


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  • Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Pledges $1 Million to Train Teachers About Neuroscience

    By Kevin Mahnken | November 28, 2018

    The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI), one of the biggest players in education philanthropy, has announced a major new financial commitment to the study of how students learn.

    The organization, led by billionaire Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, will spend $1 million to aid the expansion of Neuroteach Global, a professional development tool for teachers. The online platform dispenses 3-to-5-minute lessons on classroom strategies backed by the latest research on neuroscience and psychology. The grant will fund the adoption of Neuroteach by teachers in Iowa, Colorado, and Maryland.

    Neuroteach was developed by the Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning, a research group based at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Potomac, Maryland. The exclusive academy, where high school tuition runs nearly $42,000 per year, is unique in more than just its cost. It is the only school in America hosting an on-site scientific body to study how its pupils learn and reason. Its most famous charge is none other than First Kid Barron Trump.


    At Barron Trump’s New School, an Emphasis on Brain Science and a Push to Share Its Breakthroughs

    In an interview with The 74’s Carolyn Phenicie earlier this year, Center director Glenn Whitman said that studying the human brain’s acquisition of knowledge would benefit teachers and students everywhere.

    “If we were just serving private schools, it wouldn’t be worth our time,” he said. “Yes, our students are excellently served and our faculty is really enriched and challenged, but we feel strongly … that we have to have a strong public purpose to serve teachers in all sectors.”

    In just a few years of existence, CZI says it has donated more than $300 million to schools and education programs around the country. That includes $7 million each given to the Learning Policy Institute and Turnaround for Children, which are both active in spreading awareness about brain science and its implications for education policy and practice.

    Many experts believe that schools base their instruction on the latest scientific research into brain functions such as memory and metacognition. While psychologists are fluent in such concepts, teachers seldom receive any formal training relating to neuroscience. To the contrary, research shows that many laymen tend to put stock in spurious or outmoded ideas of how children learn, which can give rise to questionable classroom practices.


    The 74 Interview: Ulrich Boser on Understanding the Science of Learning

    Noted University of Virginia academic Dan Willingham recently called for wholesale reforms to teacher training programs to integrate more lessons from child psychology, while Center for American Progress education fellow Ulrich Boser has lamented the disconnect between the fields.

    “I think at a very high level, education does a great job of siloing,” Boser said in an interview with The 74 last year. “So we see this in schools, where the finance department tends not to speak to the academic departments, and I think we see this a lot in education schools.”


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  • Monthly QuotED: 9 Notable Quotes That Made Education Headlines in November, From Bullying to School Choice — and a Small Victory for History in Texas

    By Andrew Brownstein | November 28, 2018

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

    “How can you fight hate?” —prompt that social studies teacher Amy Rose put on the “graffiti board” in her classroom at Paint Branch High School in Maryland, days after a gunman killed 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue. (Read at The Washington Post)

    Justin Merriman/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

    “You’re also reaching a point in policing where you can’t ignore these things anymore, or in education where you can’t ignore these things anymore.” —Nadine Connell, director of the Center for Crime and Justice Studies at the University of Texas at Dallas, on new Federal Bureau of Investigation data showing that reported hate crimes at K-12 schools and colleges surged by 25 percent last year. (Read at

    “No matter how hostile some of the cities get to charters, the charters have endured.” —Jeanne Allen, chief executive of the Center for Education Reform, on New York state elections that could signal a retreat on a commitment to charter schools. (Read at The New York Times)

    “Our ultimate goal is that when teachers and administrators are making a decision that impacts students, they should be asking students. Students are the experts. They have been in school most of their lives, they have a lot to say, and we need to listen.” —Cristina Salgado, the student voice specialist for Chicago Public Schools’ Department of Social Science and Civic Engagement, on Chicago’s student voice committees. (Read at

    Students from last year’s Student Voice Committee at Mather High School pose for a photo, including (standing from left) Anna Morys, Minaz Khatoon, Rohit Khanal, and their adviser, Ryan Solan. (Chicago Public Schools)

    “No matter what the state does and what people do, you’re always going to have a bottom 5 percent that will be lowest-performing.” —Anthony McConnell, school superintendent in Deerfield, Illinois, on the state’s new rating system for schools. (Read at the Chicago Tribune)

    “Now what we have is a whole bunch of folks who made promises [to support schools]. Some of them were real promises, and some were big fat liars. What we’re going to do is keep score.” —Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association. (Read at The New York Times)

    “We take a great risk by putting the kind of emphasis we do on college as the goal. I know people will say we want ‘career and college readiness’ and not just ‘college,’ but I don’t think it translates that way to a student in high school.” —Harry Brighouse, a philosopher of education at the University of Wisconsin. (Read at

    “This sends a vital message home to school districts. It’s clear under state law now: This is not OK.” —Lizzy Wingfield, a lawyer with the Philadelphia-based Education Law Center, on a ruling from Philadelphia Common Pleas Court that ordered the Philadelphia School District to pay $500,000 in damages to a student who said she was persistently bullied for over a decade. This marks the first time a court has held a Pennsylvania school district liable for student-on-student harassment under the state’s Human Relations Act. (Read at The Philadelphia Inquirer)

    President Lincoln meets with soldiers and military officers of the Union Army on the battlefield of Antietam, Maryland, in October 1862. (Corbis via Getty Images)

    “The lies they’re telling are a little smaller than the lies they used to tell.” —Ron Francis, a Dallas middle school teacher, on the Texas Board of Education’s decision to highlight the “expansion of slavery” as having played “the central role” in sparking the Civil War. Previously, state education standards listed the factor among others, including sectionalism and “states’ rights.” (Read at Huffington Post)

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


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  • ‘Gritty’ Kids Vote More: What the Research Shows About How Schools Build Citizens

    By Kevin Mahnken | November 25, 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.

    “Gritty” students have the makings of great citizens, according to new research published in the British Journal of Political Science. In a survey of North Carolina middle and high schoolers, kids who showed signs of tenacity and self-belief also described themselves as being more involved in their schools and communities, and they were more likely to say they intended to vote.

    Following a midterm election cycle in which less than half of all eligible voters cast a ballot — a paltry number that nevertheless represents a 50-year high — the results suggest that schools have the power to shift more students toward energetic democratic participation.

    Published in October, the study was originally conducted in 2015 and 2016 by Christina Gibson-Davis and D. Sunshine Hillygus, professors of public policy at Duke, and Brigham Young University political scientist John Holbein. The researchers partnered with the Wake County Public School System, the largest school district in North Carolina, to administer a wide-ranging survey to tens of thousands students in grades five, eight, and nine.

    The survey asked students to rate themselves on measures of “grit” — the vaunted non-cognitive trait that helps people work toward long-term goals in the face of obstacles. Popularized by social scientist Angela Duckworth in a best-selling book of the same name, grit is often described as a mix of skills and attitudes that often predict individual success. These include self-efficacy (the belief that you have the ability to meet your goals), systematic thinking (the ability to plan around setbacks), and effortfulness (the willingness to work hard over long periods).


    At ASU-GSV, Angela Duckworth Talks Grit and the Challenges of Building a Movement: ‘Education Is So Hard That It Tests Even My Own Grit’

    The concept has proved influential, and Duckworth, who was awarded a prestigious MacArthur Fellowship in 2013, now leads her own organization to research and promote the importance of character building inside and outside the classroom. But other academics have attacked the grit craze, claiming its emphasis on diligence and toil unfairly assumes that underperforming students (often poor and minority children facing a host of learning challenges) simply aren’t trying hard enough.

    To assess their respective levels of grit, the Wake County students were asked to agree or disagree with a set of statements relating to their attention and work ethic (“I am a hard worker”; “I finish whatever I begin”; “Setbacks don’t discourage me”).

    Next, they were asked whether they participated in volunteer work and whether they intended to vote when they were old enough. The survey also quizzed respondents on attitudes about school and their involvement in school activities — whether they enjoyed talking with teachers and fellow students, whether they worked to meet their teachers’ expectations, and whether they believed that classroom learning was important to their future goals.

    In virtually all measures of school and civic engagement, kids who thought of themselves as gritty rated higher. According to administrative data, they were less likely to accrue unexcused absences and tardinesses. They were also more likely to say that they volunteered in their community, more likely to express belief in their political efficacy, and more likely to say that they intended to vote when they grow older. In short, gritty students generally saw themselves as more determined and effective future citizens.

    Survey responses like these are a far cry from the kind of experimental data that social scientists typically use to infer connections between psychological makeup and behavioral tendencies. But in an interview with The 74, co-author John Holbein said that the beliefs expressed in this survey offer a promising window into student behavior and self-conceptions.

    “We know that not everyone who says that they intend to vote will turn out to vote,” he acknowledged. “But there is a strong correlation between individual intention to vote and whether they vote later on. That’s the best we can do right now, and it’s pointing us in the direction of there being long-term effects.”

    Holbein said that studies of political socialization (i.e., how people develop political ideas and attitudes) have ignored childhood and adolescence in favor of a focus on older civic actors. Political scientists have mostly concentrated on adulthood, when people begin voting, buying homes, and having kids of their own, he said. By contrast, psychologists and education researchers have searched for the roots of most adult behaviors, from pregnancies to workforce participation, in the early developmental phases.

    Holbein argues that democratic tendencies are seeded during the K-12 years, when students begin to learn about their relationships to fellow citizens and democratic institutions through the proxies of teachers and classmates. Research has shown that involvement in sports teams, student clubs, and volunteer efforts — even those with no ideological alignment — is predictive of political involvement in the years after high school.

    “This is sort of like a practice run for kids. They’re not joining unions or political parties at this stage of their lives, but they’re getting the dry-run version of that. Maybe they’re joining the Beta Club, or student government, or some other social association that … is helping socialize them to habits and norms and skills they’ll need to engage later on in life. These are like baby forms of civic engagement that mirror later forms.”

    And to the degree that civic engagement is wrapped up in grit, which experts believe can be taught to students from a young age, these studies introduce the tantalizing possibility that schools can begin preparing kids for the responsibilities of citizenship from kindergarten onward.

    American Political Science Review

    In a study Holbein published last year, he traced the voting records of disadvantaged students who were exposed to a program known as Fast Track, which specifically cultivated non-cognitive skills like grit, problem-solving, and emotional regulation. By their 20s, those students were between 7 and 9 percentage points more likely to vote. Fast Track didn’t yield particularly impressive achievement gains, but in a way, that made the civic results more noteworthy: Children became more active citizens even without seeing major academic benefits.

    Holbein and his co-authors intend to track the Wake County survey data to determine whether the grittiest kids develop into the most involved citizens. In the meantime, he says, researchers should look to childhood to chart the origins of democratic thought and action.

    “What my research is suggesting is that a lot of the general skills and attributes that one develops earlier in life might not [immediately] manifest themselves — teenagers don’t generally have the opportunity to vote — but these things do become active when people come of age and have a chance to have their voices heard in politics.”


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  • Victory for Disability Rights Activists as Ed Department Reverses Course on Civil Rights Investigation Rules

    By Mark Keierleber | November 20, 2018

    The Education Department announced Tuesday it has reversed course on controversial changes to its handling of civil rights complaints, including a rule from earlier this year that allowed the agency to dismiss cases it deemed an “unreasonable burden” on resources.

    The changes were made to the agency’s case processing manual, which governs how the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights investigates complaints. The changes announced Tuesday remove March revisions that allowed the division to dismiss allegations it deemed a “continuation of a pattern of complaints” that placed an “unreasonable burden” on resources. The March revisions also eliminated the opportunity to appeal rulings in which investigators found insufficient evidence to determine whether a violation occurred.

    Those changes prompted an outcry from disability rights advocates, including Michigan-based advocate Marcie Lipsitt, who, over the past several years, has filed more than 2,000 civil rights complaints in a crusade to make school and university websites accessible for people with disabilities. About 1,000 of those resulted in resolution agreements, in which institutions committed to make their websites more accessible. Citing the March revisions, the Education Department closed more than 550 pending investigations that stemmed from Lipsitt’s complaints and another 100 complaints that hadn’t yet been accepted.

    The changes also prompted a federal lawsuit by the NAACP and other civil rights organizations, which argued the changes were “arbitrary and capricious” and lacked a legal basis to exclude repeat filers without considering the validity of their complaints.


    A Civil Rights Activist Filed Thousands of Disability Complaints. Now the Education Department Is Trying to Shut Her Down

    “Our top priority in the Office for Civil Rights is ensuring all students have equal access to education free from discrimination,” Kenneth Marcus, the department’s assistant secretary for civil rights, said in a media release. Marcus said the department will continue to “improve the timeliness” of civil rights case processing and that it “determined that additional revisions will help improve our work and allow us to be more responsive to students, stakeholders and our staff.”

    Although the revisions announced Tuesday restore the appeals process and eliminate the rule against repeat filers, the Education Department retained rules that say officials should investigate schools for systemic issues, such as racial disparities in school discipline, “only where it is appropriate to do so in light of the allegations.”

    Among the organizations that sued the Education Department over the March changes is the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, a disability rights group. In a statement, the group said Tuesday’s announcement from the Education Department indicates that “recent legal action taken against them is working.”


    In Seeking to Decrease ‘Burden’ of Complaints, Education Department is Closing ‘Meritorious’ Civil Rights Cases, Federal Lawsuit Says

    In a court filing Monday, the Education Department noted that it dismissed 682 civil rights complaints filed by five people — including Lipsitt — as a result of the March revisions. Now that those changes have been reversed, the department argued, the lawsuit is moot.

    Eve Hill, a disability rights attorney who represents the plaintiffs, disagreed, even though the department said cases closed under the previous rules will be reopened.

    “You can’t moot something out just by promising,” Hill said. “You actually have to do it or agree to it in a consent decree or a settlement agreement or have the court order you to do it.”

    Lipsitt said she’s “cautiously optimistic” about the new changes but noted that they don’t go far enough. In particular, she said the Education Department revised hundreds of agreements after it changed the rules last spring. Those modified agreements, she said, offer schools “too much wiggle room” on school accessibility. In response to Lipsitt’s complaints, the Education Department held several webinars explaining website accessibility requirements. While those webinars were helpful, Lipsitt said, they don’t hold schools accountable when they fail to make their websites accessible.

    Ahead of Tuesday’s reversal, Lipsitt said she heard the changes were coming and resubmitted four complaints that had been previously dismissed, as well as four new complaints. Two of the dismissed complaints have since been reopened, she said, and none of the complaints have been dismissed. Lipsitt said she believes the administration will reopen investigations that were closed under the previous rules.

    In other words, Lipsitt is back in business.

    “I will continue to file until America recognizes the need to create accessible websites for individuals” with disabilities, she said. “I will continue to do this until children and adults with disabilities are no longer treated like third-class citizens.”


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  • It’s Not Just the Flames, It’s the Air Quality: As a Million Students Are Forced out of Class Due to California Wildfires and Smoke, State Schools Chief OKs Emergency Relief

    By Laura Fay | November 19, 2018

    Hazardous air quality caused by the wildfires still burning in Northern and Southern California have forced schools and universities to close throughout the state, and education officials are stepping in to provide a range of supports as nearly two dozen counties have been affected.

    Dozens of schools across San Francisco and the surrounding areas closed Friday because of unhealthy air caused by the Camp Fire, California’s deadliest fire ever. Others canceled outdoor activities. Many of the schools already planned to close this week for the Thanksgiving holiday, reported, but at least one school district, Albany Unified, reopened Monday.

    The fires have canceled class for as many as 1.1 million K-12 students, according to an analysis by CALmatters, a nonprofit California news website. The state reports that schools have had to close in 22 counties. Colleges and universities have also canceled classes because of air quality concerns.

    At least three school districts in Southern California canceled class last week because of the Woolsey Fire, which is still burning in Ventura County but is expected to be fully contained by Thursday. The half-million students of Los Angeles Unified are on break all Thanksgiving week. Malibu schools will remain closed through Thanksgiving, as the area is still under evacuation orders.

    The Bay Area had some of the world’s most polluted air last week, according to an international ranking of air quality. San Francisco was second on the list Friday morning, behind Dhaka, Bangladesh, with a score of 259, which is considered “very unhealthy.”

    A doctor in the Bay Area told ABC7 News he’s seen twice as many children having trouble breathing, likely caused by smoke blowing into the region from the Camp Fire.

    “When they are running, or laughing, if that’s triggering a cough, I’m immediately worried about their lungs,” pediatrician Kellen Glinder told the station.

    Children are especially vulnerable to harm from wildfire smoke because their airways are still developing and they breathe more air relative to their body weight than adults do, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    To guard against the harmful air, the CDC recommend N95 or P100 masks, keeping doors and windows closed, rinsing out the nose and mouth with water, and staying inside buildings with purified air. (KQED has more recommendations for staying safe.)

    However, Sacramento fire departments have stopped handing out the masks, with officials saying they can cause trouble breathing and are only necessary for those who need to work outside for a sustained amount of time. They urged everyone else to stay indoors as much as possible.

    California education officials moved to help schools connect with the resources they need and to protect them from the funding they lose for every day a student is not in school.

    “The state Department of Education has been activated at the State Operations Center of the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services and is working closely with school leaders in the impacted counties to provide a range of supports,” state Superintendent Tom Torlakson said in a statement Thursday.

    “I want to thank school districts for acting to protect educators and students, and to let them know that the California Department of Education will assist them in any way that we can. Safety must come first for students, teachers, and staff,” Torlakson said in a follow-up statement released Friday.

    Schools closed because of the fires can also apply for waivers so that they do not lose state funding based on the lost instructional time or decreased attendance. Torlakson encouraged districts where the air is toxic to continue keeping students indoors when they can.

    The smoke’s origin, the Camp Fire, destroyed more than 10,360 homes in and around Paradise in Butte County. The blaze also ravaged the school district there, leaving just one of Paradise Unified’s nine schools unharmed, EdSource reported.

    Yet while Paradise High School still stands, its future is uncertain, as many of its students and staff are now homeless, scattered wherever they could find housing. Students from the class of 2019 aren’t sure if they’ll be able to graduate. More than 4,200 of the district’s students are now homeless, as are many of their teachers and school board members, according to EdSource.

    Butte County Superintendent Tim Taylor, who oversees Paradise schools, has set up a relief fund that will provide some students in the district with laptops they can use to connect with their teachers and complete assignments. A law known as the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act requires public schools to accept students who are homeless even if they don’t have their school or immunization records or proof of residency.

    Other Butte County districts are expected to reopen Dec. 3.


    In an Era When Hurricanes and Wildfires Are Common, Homelessness Is an ‘Ongoing Disaster’ for Students Across the U.S.

    So far the Camp Fire has killed 77 people, and 933 people are missing, NPR reported Monday. Rain is in the Bay Area forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday, which is expected to clear the air and could help suppress the fire.

    Officials are working to get students in Butte County, where the fire is still burning, back to class. Taylor, the county superintendent, said portable classrooms are a possible solution to replace the damaged schools.

    “We’re not asking for Taj Mahal,” Taylor told the Chico Enterprise-Record. “We’re just asking for a place for kids to have a school.”


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  • After Avalanche of Mail-In and Provisional Ballots Swings Close Race, State Assemblyman Tony Thurmond to Become California’s Next State Superintendent

    By Laura Greanias | November 19, 2018

    Eleven days after the election, Tony Thurmond accepted a concession call from Marshall Tuck and will become California’s state superintendent of public instruction.

    A spokesman for Tuck’s campaign confirmed Sunday that the race was over and that Tuck had conceded Saturday morning in a phone call to Thurmond.

    Thurmond tweeted out his thanks to voters on Saturday and said in a statement, “I intend to be a champion of public schools and a Superintendent for all California students. I ran for Superintendent of Public Instruction to deliver to all Californians the promise that public education delivered to me — that all students, no matter their background and no matter their challenges, can succeed with a great public education.”

    Thurmond, 50, is a state assemblyman and a former social worker and school board member in the San Francisco Bay area. He had the backing of the powerful teachers union and other organized labor groups throughout the state. Every state superintendent in the past 24 years has won with teacher union support.

    Tuck, 45, had an 86,000-vote lead after Election Day, but as provisional and mail-in ballots were counted, that margin evaporated, and Thurmond’s lead is now nearly three times what Tuck’s was. Results will not be official until all votes are counted — about 2 million remain — and are certified in December.

    The 325,000-member California Teachers Association “phone-banked, texted, canvassed and volunteered for candidates like Tony who want quality public schools,” CTA president Eric C. Heins wrote in a news release. “It’s clear that educators played a pivotal role in this election.”

    The state superintendent job lacks partisan affiliation, carries little statutory power, and has not historically set its occupants on a path to higher office. But the record $60 million spent on the race proved it was a sought-after bully pulpit. A win for Tuck would have given education reformers a public counterweight against Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom, the new state board of education that he will appoint, and the Democratic majority in the state legislature — all of which were elected with union backing.


    California’s Campaign for State Superintendent Costs More Than Most Senate Races. Here’s Why

    The race centered on California’s debate over school choice, pitting Thurmond against Tuck, who was supported by the California Charter Schools Association Advocates and wealthy reformers. Both are Democrats, oppose for-profit charters, and called for more transparency measures. But Thurmond suggested that a “pause” on new charter schools might be necessary until new revenues are found to offset the dollars that districts lose when their students move to charters. Tuck argued that school districts should not be allowed to reject new charter petitions because of the financial hardship that might result.

    Both candidates also agreed on adding more recognized subgroups of students who are underachieving — such as African Americans — to the state’s Local Control Funding Formula, which provides additional funding for English-learning, low-income, homeless, and foster students. They also agreed on free preschool for all children across the state and additional mental health support for students.

    But Tuck had vowed to fight for changes in how school districts are allowed to spend the extra funding. The current superintendent has said the money can be used for across-the-board raises for teachers. Tuck vowed to end that. Thurmond declined to say if he would continue it, CALmatters reported.

    Bill Lucia, president and CEO of EdVoice, said by email Monday, “We wish Mr. Thurmond nothing but success in delivering on campaign promises made to parents with children being failed by the current system. The first test will be whether he follows through or reneges on the explicit promise to reverse Superintendent Torlakson’s ill-advised decision to redirect funds for across-the-board pay raises from extra help intended for English learners and kids in poverty. Fixing broken California public schools will require tough and unpopular decisions that will likely upset the special interests that funded his campaign. Hopefully, he can find the courage to stand tall and do it.”

    EdVoice is a California education advocacy organization that supported Tuck’s campaign.

    The heated contest featured disputes over negative advertising and became the most expensive race in the nation for a state superintendent — for the second time. Tuck narrowly lost in 2014 to Tom Torlakson, who served two four-year terms and is now termed out. That race cost $30 million. This time, the candidates raked in twice that — more than any House race this cycle and all but a handful of the most expensive Senate races. Tuck took in the lion’s share, outspending Thurmond roughly 2-1.

    Tuck was president of Green Dot Public Schools, a nonprofit charter management organization started in 1999 in Los Angeles, as well as the founding CEO of the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools, a network created a decade ago by former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa after his failed attempt to take over the Los Angeles Unified School District.

    Tuck wrote to his supporters Saturday, “I just spoke with Assemblymember Thurmond and congratulated him on his victory. I offered to help him be successful and wished him the best in his new role. Given it has become clear that we are not going to win this campaign, I felt it was in the best interest of California’s children for me to concede now so that Assemblymember Thurmond has as much time as possible to plan to take over as State Superintendent (all votes will still be counted but conceding allows candidates to move forward).”

    He added, “I recognize that change is very hard and politics, particularly when you lose, can be disheartening. I remind myself that winning the election isn’t the end goal. The end goal is that all children in this state and country, regardless of background, get access to quality public schools. Reaching that goal is going to take a lot of work and absolutely requires us to get over this loss quickly. We must continue to be extremely determined to do our part to help our children.”


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  • EduClips: From Fiscal Anxiety in L.A. to Mysterious Gym Grades in Chicago, Stories You Missed This Month at America’s 15 Biggest School Districts

    By Andrew Brownstein | November 19, 2018

    Before you sit down for turkey and stuffing, take a look at our roundup of the top education news from November. EduClips is a roundup of the week’s top education headlines from America’s 15 largest school districts, where more than 4 million students across eight states attend class every day. Read previous EduClips installments here. Get the week’s school and policy highlights delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for the TopSheet Education Newsletter.

    New York City — November Elections Could Signal Retreat on Charter Commitment: After a decade when the charter school movement gained a significant foothold in New York, the midterm elections could spell a retreat. Democrats at the forefront of the party’s successful effort to take over the state Senate have repeatedly expressed hostility to the movement. John Liu, a newly elected state senator from Queens, has said New York City should “get rid of” large charter school networks. Robert Jackson, who will represent a Manhattan district, promised during his campaign to support charter schools only if they have unionized teachers. While New York City, the nation’s largest school system, has many excellent charter schools, it seems highly likely that a state legislature entirely under Democratic control will restrict the number of new charter schools that can open and tighten regulations on existing ones. (Read at The New York Times)

    Hillsborough County — More Tampa-Area Students Are Ready for Kindergarten, Test Scores Show: Half of students in the Tampa area were deemed prepared for kindergarten, up from 46 percent last year, after being given the I-Ready kindergarten assessment. “That’s a good jump, because we’ve been flatlining or even dropping a little bit over the last three years,” said Hillsborough County Superintendent Jeff Eakins. The increase does not factor in the effects of moves taken by the school system this year to expand early childhood education. About 350 additional preschoolers are in schools that have extra space. Kindergarten readiness is considered an important step in the district’s efforts to improve reading proficiency, an area where it has lagged. (Read at the Tampa Bay Times)

    Los Angeles — County Tells District to Fix “Fiscal Distress” or Face Takeover: The Los Angeles County Office of Education gave the L.A. Unified School District until Dec. 17 to outline how it will reverse its march toward insolvency by cutting costs or finding new revenues. In approving the district’s budget, the county indicated that if it is not satisfied with the plan, it could send in a financial expert to work with the district or install a fiscal adviser — someone who would essentially take over all financial decisions. “LAUSD continues to show signs of fiscal distress,” states a letter from the county to the district. Reserves in the district, the country’s second-largest, are being depleted so quickly that they are projected to drop 90 percent in two years — from $778 million this year to $76.5 million in 2020-21, according to the county. (Read at

    Gwinnett County — In Historic First, Georgia’s Gwinnett County Elects Black School Board Member: Everton “E.J.” Blair Jr., a 26-year-old graduate of Shiloh High School, made history during the November elections, becoming the youngest and the first black member of the school board in Gwinnett County, Georgia. “I’m excited people received my candidacy in a positive way,” he said, as chants of “E.J., E.J.” echoed around him the night of the election. Before his January swearing-in ceremony, Blair said, he will meet with students and teachers throughout the county. “I’m 10 years removed from high school, five years out of college and a few years from teaching,” he said. “As the most current and contemporary member of the school board, I want to share input from my constituents and basically do a lot of listening.” (Read at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

    Chicago — New Study Highlights Mysterious Failure Rate of Students in Gym: In Chicago, nearly everyone passes gym in eighth grade. But surprising new research shows that 1 out of 10 Chicago high school freshmen fail physical education. Why does P.E. suddenly become so challenging in ninth grade? For one thing, according to the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research’s Hidden Risk report, the course changes significantly. Many middle schoolers have gym class only one day a week and aren’t required to change clothes; in high school, by contrast, freshmen have gym every day, must bring and change into exercise clothing, and are required to take a health and reproduction class. (Read at Chalkbeat)

    Orange County — State’s High Court Hears Suit Brought by Orlando Parents That Takes Aim at Reforms: The Florida Supreme Court has heard arguments in a nine-year-old case that takes aim at many of the education reforms ushered in by former governor Jeb Bush, including two popular school voucher programs. The suit maintains the state is failing to provide a “high-quality” public education to all students, as demanded in Florida’s constitution. The case, Citizens for Strong Schools v. Florida State Board of Education, includes several Orlando-area parents as plaintiffs. During oral arguments, Jodi Siegel, who represents the parents and advocacy groups that sued, told the justices that the lower courts erred in their rulings and that the state has shirked its constitutional duties when “there are substantial amounts of children in our state who are failing.” An attorney for the Institute of Justice, which has litigated school choice cases nationwide, told the justices that there is nothing unconstitutional about the state’s voucher programs. (Read at the Orlando Sentinel)

    Houston — Police Decry Visits of Rapper OMB Bloodbath to Area Schools: Houston police have criticized the visit of a rapper known as OMB Bloodbath, whose lyrics mix graphic descriptions of sex and violence with tales of growing up in Houston’s inner city, to two Houston ISD campuses. Two video clips posted to the Instagram account @ombbloodbath show dozens of children cheering along at Attucks Middle School and Worthing High School as the rapper performs. Houston Police Union President Joe Gamaldi criticized district officials for allowing OMB Bloodbath on school premises, citing the content of her lyrics. “This runs contrary to everything we try to teach young people about staying away from gangs and staying away from gang violence,” he said. “This is terrible.” District officials said the rapper performed at pep rallies and that they did not authorize her appearances. (Read at the Houston Chronicle)

    Hawaii — Teachers Come to Hawaii, but Many Do Not Stay: In 2013, Hawaii schools hired 907 teachers. Five years later, just 467 of them remained in the state’s public school classrooms. That 51 percent retention rate — down from 54 percent the previous year — underscores the challenges the state Education Department is facing in not just attracting teachers but keeping them. The state teachers union has noted that when the high cost of living is taken into account, Hawaii’s teacher salaries are the lowest in the nation. (Read at Hawaii News Now)

    Fairfax County — In EEOC Complaint, Former Teacher Alleges Pregnancy Discrimination by District: A former Fairfax County teacher claims that administrators at the esteemed Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology discriminated against her after she became pregnant, according to a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The teacher, Amanda Hurowitz, said she was on maternity leave in April when she learned from the school’s principal and an assistant principal that her contract as a part-time teacher would not be renewed for the 2018-19 academic year. Hurowitz, who began teaching at Thomas Jefferson in 2006 and moved to part-time status after having a child in 2016, said she later learned that two other expectant or young mothers who taught humanities were also not rehired. “That began to look like pregnancy discrimination,” she said. (Read at The Washington Post)

    Philadelphia — With Outward Bound, Philly Organizes Outdoor Adventures for Freshmen: Buoyed by a partnership with Outward Bound, the Philadelphia School District is spending up to $340,000 annually so students can climb tall trees, take nature walks, and complete physical challenges in one- and multi-day expeditions. In the name of social and emotional learning, district leaders believe the activities will have ripple effects, ultimately boosting academics, especially among high school freshmen, whom it has targeted for Outward Bound exposure since last school year. This school year, 1,400 district ninth-graders will participate in Philadelphia Outward Bound School programs, with hundreds more in other grades also accessing programs. (Read at The Philadelphia Inquirer)

    Noteworthy Essays & Reflections

    EDLECTION2018 — “We’re Bringing Education Back”: Takeaways From the Election (Read at NPR)

    TESTING — Standardized Tests Really Do Reflect What a Student Knows (Read at

    SEGREGATION — Segregated schools are still the norm. Howard Fuller is fine with that (Read at The Hechinger Report)

    EDUCATION LEADERS — 30 Under 30 Education 2019: The Masterminds Shaping the Future of Learning, Access and Opportunity (Read at Forbes)

    TESTING — In a shift, more education reformers say they’re worried about schools’ focus on testing (Read at Chalkbeat)

    SEXUAL VIOLENCE — How Schools Can Reduce Sexual Violence (Read at NPR)

    PARENTS — Watch out: Schools don’t like the prying eyes of parents in the classroom (Read at The Washington Post)

    SCHOOL DISCIPLINE — Fits and starts: Inside KIPP’s school-by-school discipline transformation (Read at Chalkbeat)

    Quotes of the Week

    “Our ultimate goal is that when teachers and administrators are making a decision that impacts students, they should be asking students. Students are the experts. They have been in school most of their lives, they have a lot to say, and we need to listen.” —Cristina Salgado, the student voice specialist for Chicago Public Schools’ Department of Social Science and Civic Engagement, on Chicago’s student voice committees. (Read at

    “No matter how hostile some of the cities get to charters, the charters have endured.” —Jeanne Allen, chief executive of the Center for Education Reform, on New York state elections that could signal a retreat on a commitment to charter schools. (Read at The New York Times)

    “It’s not that security measures are never helpful, but there’s often no data to substantiate them. How do you know when you’ve deterred a school shooting? It didn’t happen.” —Jeremy Finn, a professor of education at the University of Buffalo. (Read at Education Week)

    “You’re also reaching a point in policing where you can’t ignore these things anymore, or in education where you can’t ignore these things anymore.” —Nadine Connell, director of the Center for Crime and Justice Studies at the University of Texas at Dallas, on new Federal Bureau of Investigation data showing that reported hate crimes at K-12 schools and colleges surged by 25 percent last year. (Read at

    “Now what we have is a whole bunch of folks who made promises [to support schools]. Some of them were real promises, and some were big fat liars. What we’re going to do is keep score.” —Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association. (Read at The New York Times)

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  • Ed Dept. Releases Parent Guide to Coming ESSA State, District Report Cards

    By Carolyn Phenicie | November 15, 2018

    Report cards are coming — for states and districts, that is.

    As required by the Every Student Succeeds Act, every state must release new report cards to share key school accountability information, including test scores, graduation rates, and teacher qualifications, with parents and the public by the end of the year.

    The Education Department last week released a guide for parents to the report cards, including information on what components must be included and how they might look.

    “[Parents] should not have to parse through a 500-page legal document to understand how a law or policy affects their children’s education … Informed parents become empowered and engaged parents who are able to better advocate on behalf of their children,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said in a press release.

    The department’s parent guide is useful, said Brennan McMahon Parton, director of policy and advocacy at the Data Quality Campaign, because it simplifies the reams of school data coming but gives parents a jumping-off point for more research.

    The resource is a helpful one for parents as they work to improve their children’s schools, said Jackie Ball, director of government affairs at the National PTA.

    “We’re looking at this in three kind of big buckets. [First], making sure parents know that all this education data is out there, particularly the report cards, so they have access to it. Secondly, that they have the ability to understand and interpret it, and then thirdly, use that data to advocate for improvements,” she said.

    The department’s guide cites per-pupil spending (a new requirement under ESSA), test scores, and graduation rates among the information that may be particularly important to parents as they make educational choices for their children.


    The Next Educational Equity Battleground: Little-Noticed ESSA Provision to Allow Parents to See Whether Districts Fund Schools Fairly

    The Education Department also held a two-day design challenge to help figure out how to display the more than 2,000 data points states and districts must report in a more usable format.

    Both McMahon Parton and Ball cited Virginia, Louisiana, and New Mexico as having exemplary report cards; the Education Department in its guide praised Virginia and Ohio.

    Some states are falling short, McMahon Parton said, citing failures to translate information into languages besides English and to include information on all student subgroups.

    “Every state has more to do,” she said.


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  • New FBI Data: School-Based Hate Crimes Jumped 25 Percent Last Year — for the Second Year in a Row

    By Mark Keierleber | November 14, 2018

    Reported hate crimes at K-12 schools and colleges surged by 25 percent last year, according to new Federal Bureau of Investigation data — the second year in a row in which such incidents spiked by roughly a quarter.

    It’s also the third consecutive year that reported hate crimes increased more broadly, according to the FBI. Across all locations, reported hate crimes rose by 17 percent in 2017. Hate crimes most frequently occurred in or near homes, accounting for 28 percent of incidents. Hate crimes were more frequently reported in schools than in commercial offices, government buildings, and churches.

    While the number of hate crimes increased last year, so did the number of local law enforcement agencies reporting data to the federal government. An additional 1,000 law enforcement agencies contributed information on hate crimes last year compared with 2016, according to the FBI. The FBI’s civil rights program has made hate crimes its highest investigative priority, the agency said, and it’s working with local police to promote better reporting.

    Better reporting is likely a factor in the increase, but advocacy groups say they have also observed an uptick in incidents since the 2016 presidential election campaigns began. In the days after President Donald Trump was elected, the Southern Poverty Law Center conducted a survey of education leaders, who reported an uptick in verbal harassment as well as incidents involving swastikas and Nazi salutes. In the first month of school this fall, the group identified 43 incidents of hate in schools, a majority of which centered on anti-black racism.

    “In recent months, the news media has been filled with reports of hateful incidents in schools, including swastikas etched into bathroom tile, racist videos made by students and teachers donning anti-immigrant Halloween costumes,” Maureen Costello, director of the law center’s Teaching Tolerance project, said in a statement. She said she’s not surprised by the increase in reported hate crimes at schools but noted that hate “doesn’t take a detour at the schoolhouse door.”

    “The children in our schools are simply reflecting the divisions we’re seeing throughout America,” Costello said. “The danger is that children may learn that hate and extremism are normal, and that bullying and violence are acceptable.”

    But Nadine Connell, director of the Center for Crime and Justice Studies at the University of Texas at Dallas, took a more glass-half-full perspective. While divisive campaign rhetoric may have emboldened some people to act on hateful impulses, it could have also prompted greater reporting among both victims and police. Because hate crimes are historically underreported, she said the FBI data may not represent the full extent of such incidents in America.

    More reported hate crimes “could be very positive because it means these things are coming to light, they’re becoming part of the conversation, and they give us more opportunity to make change,” she told The 74. “You’re also reaching a point in policing where you can’t ignore these things anymore, or in education where you can’t ignore these things anymore.”

    Of the 7,175 hate crimes law enforcement agencies reported to the FBI last year, 10.5 percent occurred at schools and colleges. The data also include demographic information on hate crime offenders and victims: 17 percent of perpetrators were minors, as were 12 percent of hate crime victims.

    Although the FBI doesn’t clearly disaggregate data between universities and K-12 schools, Connell suspects hate crimes are more prevalent at the college level.

    The report, released weeks after a gunman killed 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue, also outlined a 17 percent increase in anti-Semitic attacks. More than half of anti-religious hate crime victims were targeted because they are Jewish, according to the FBI data.

    Meanwhile, anti-Semitic incidents at schools and colleges spiked sharply last year, according to the Anti-Defamation League. On college campuses, anti-Semitic incidents doubled, the group reported. This week, police launched an investigation after a photograph went viral online of Wisconsin high school students posing with what appeared to be Nazi salutes.

    Hate crimes based on race or ethnicity accounted for more than half of incidents reported at K-12 schools and colleges in 2017, according to the new FBI data. Religion-based incidents accounted for another quarter. In Massachusetts, school officials launched an investigation after an elementary school girl, who is Muslim, received notes at school last week that called her a terrorist and threatened to kill her.

    Connell said hate crimes based on race or ethnicity are likely more prevalent because physical differences are easier to identify and are therefore more easily targeted. Religious institutions, like synagogues, are also easy for perpetrators to identify, she said.

    While 2017 saw a spike in reported hate crimes, overall violent crime was down slightly after increasing in 2015 and 2016. Violent crime has also been on the decline in schools in recent years, according to National Center for Education Statistics data.


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  • Following Victory in Appeals Court for DACA Recipients, Will SCOTUS Consider Fate of Dreamers?

    By Mark Keierleber | November 13, 2018

    When a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel last week rebuked the Trump administration’s efforts to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, it highlighted the life of Dulce Garcia, who it said “embodies the American dream.”

    As with a lot of Dreamers, as DACA recipients are often called, Garcia’s American story began when she was just 4 years old. As an undocumented immigrant child in California, Garcia faced abject poverty and homelessness. Still, she thrived in school, and, after putting herself through college, she became an attorney. Now, Garcia represents DACA recipients — including a middle school teacher — in a lawsuit against the Trump administration to keep the program alive.

    “Though the United States of America is the only home she has ever known, Dulce Garcia is an undocumented immigrant,” Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw wrote in the court opinion. The government created DACA, she noted, because it recognized “the cruelty and wastefulness of deporting productive young people to countries with which they have no ties.”

    Last Thursday, the Ninth Circuit cited Garcia’s story in its opinion to uphold a nationwide injunction on the Trump administration’s decision to end the DACA program, which provides deportation relief and work authorization to roughly 700,000 people — including thousands of teachers and K-12 students — who were brought to the U.S. illegally as young children.


    Teacher v. Trump: How an Educator’s Lawsuit (Temporarily) Halted the President’s DACA Repeal

    The Trump administration announced in fall 2017 it would wind down the DACA program, created by then-President Barack Obama in 2012 through an executive order after Congress failed to pass immigration reform. In announcing the change, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions called DACA an “open-ended circumvention of immigration laws” created by an unconstitutional executive order.

    Even though the latest court opinion was an incremental victory for Dreamers like Garcia, their fate continues to hang in the balance. The ruling is the latest in a string of court opinions siding with Dreamers, but the Justice Department has already turned to the Supreme Court, and its newly fortified conservative majority, for help. Even before the Ninth Circuit released its opinion, the Trump administration had asked the nation’s highest court to weigh in on three pending lawsuits. In February, the Supreme Court rejected another request by the Trump administration to leapfrog lower federal courts.

    The injunction, which allows current DACA recipients to submit renewal applications, was put in place in January by a lower federal court until lawsuits against the Trump administration work their way through the courts. Along with the plaintiffs represented by Garcia, the Trump administration faces lawsuits from the State of California and the University of California system whose president, Janet Napolitano, signed off on DACA as Obama’s Homeland Security secretary. In its opinion on Thursday, the Ninth Circuit panel noted the plaintiffs have some “likelihood of success” in their argument that the Trump administration’s decision to end DACA violates the Constitution’s equal protection clause.

    Beyond California, U.S. district courts in New York and the District of Columbia have placed similar injunctions on the move to end DACA. And in a surprising move, a federal judge in Texas sided with Dreamers in August after a coalition of seven conservative states sued to end DACA.

    Last week’s Ninth Circuit opinion brings the issue closer to the Supreme Court, however, since it’s the first time a federal appeals court has weighed in on the issue. As Dara Lind notes in Vox, the Supreme Court could move to settle the DACA debate by June.


    Broad Coalition of Education Leaders Calls on Teachers to Resist Trump on DACA

  • Online Outrage Over What Appears to Be Prom Photo Featuring Dozens of Wisconsin High Schoolers Giving Nazi Salute

    By Steve Snyder | November 12, 2018

    Two hours northwest of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is the close-knit community of Baraboo, home to roughly 12,000 residents and a school district serving 4,000 kids across five elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school.

    It’s an outlier town perhaps best known for the Circus World Museum, which draws tourists and families from across the country every summer.

    But over the past 12 hours, city officials and school district leaders have been racing to respond to an online controversy now surrounding the Baraboo School District, its current senior class, and what appears to be a photo of more than 60 boys giving a Nazi salute last spring, around the time of the junior prom.

    It was a 1 a.m. tweet from journalist Jules Suzdaltsev, a frequent contributor to Vice, that went viral over the late-night hours, earning tens of thousands of shares on social media and morning headlines across Wisconsin’s top news outlets.

    Suzdaltsev tweeted that he was quickly flooded with reactions, comments, and anecdotes from other alleged Baraboo students and alumni who said they wanted to share their own experiences with district bullying and hate speech and what they encountered when they attempted to report these incidents to school authorities.

    City officials are now weighing in, and the district says that although the photo did not occur on school property or during a school function, administrators are investigating the image and considering what actions to pursue:

    The Auschwitz Memorial tweeted that the photo is why the organization works hard “to explain what is the danger of hateful ideology rising.”

    School officials told the Baraboo News Republic that the high school was “placed in a ‘soft hold’ Monday due to the photo,” which “prevents students from leaving school premises — such as for off-campus lunch — unless they have permission from a parent and approval through the office.”

    Some online commenters have pointed to past controversies at the district as evidence of a toxic school culture. As the News Republic reported back in 2012, many residents were outraged by the use of Confederate battle flags in a student-led memorial for a friend who had died in a car crash.

    Go Deeper: 14 things to know about confronting bullying in schools … get the latest bullying news and research delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for The 74 Newsletter.

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