Noteworthy headlines from the education wire
  • For State Leaders Who Want Personalized Learning in Schools, New Report Shares 5 Ways to Support Teachers Through Policy

    By Kate Stringer | July 29, 2019

    If state leaders want more student-driven learning in classrooms, creating policies that support teachers is critical.

    That’s according to a new report from iNACOL, a nonprofit that supports competency-based education. The report outlines five recommendations for state policy leaders on how to help develop teachers so they’re prepared for competency-based instruction.

    “We can talk about transforming the education system … but if we’re not addressing the capacity and buy-in of the people who themselves will be on the front lines of this work, then we will not succeed,” said Maria Worthen, vice president for federal and state policy at iNACOL.

    The concept of allowing students to work at their own pace and progress once they’ve mastered a concept has gained popularity across the country from districts, states and philanthropists. Rhode Island, for example, created a statewide push for personalized learning, setting up innovation schools where educators can experiment with ideas like project-based learning.

    However, these efforts aren’t without their challenges. In Maine, proficiency-based education efforts stalled partly because teachers were unsure how to grade students and parents were frustrated with a lack of clarity around grading. Additionally, there’s little research on the effectiveness of this kind of instruction.


    The Mastery Transcript Consortium Has Been Developing a Gradeless Transcript for College Admissions. This Fall It Gets Its First Test

    For Worthen, the challenges and successes of competency-based efforts lie in how they are implemented. She said it’s important for all stakeholders to understand what they’re embarking on and why.

    For state policy leaders, that means rethinking teacher credentialing, supporting diversity in the workforce and collaborating with a broad group of stakeholders. Here are iNACOL’s five recommendations to support this work.

    1 Convene a state task force to craft a unifying vision and road map 

    This task force should include a diverse group of stakeholders who can collaborate on what they think good teaching looks like, the report recommends. This kind of instruction should match how the state hopes to prepare its high school graduates. It may be helpful for the group to create profiles of what their graduates will be able to do and in what ways their educators should be able to provide instruction.

    The report points to Virginia as an example of this work. Virginia didn’t set out to create a competency-based model, but rather, to reimagine how it wanted to prepare its graduates. After many meetings, state leaders realized that they also wanted to better prepare their teachers for this work, so they crafted a profile of a Virginia teacher who could best support their ideal graduates. Doing this helped align things like higher education programs, teaching standards and licensing.

    2 Increase the diversity of the educator workforce

    State leaders can identify barriers that stand in the way of a diverse teaching workforce, such as high tuition bills and loan repayments. The report authors recommend tackling college affordability in both undergraduate and graduate school. Policymakers can interview leaders of teacher prep programs to find out what other barriers exist for would-be student teachers. Lawmakers can also use their bully pulpit to advocate for diversity in the teaching workforce as well as asking for data on teacher turnover for educators of color.


    Grillo & Marchitello: To Promote Teacher Diversity, Ed Schools Must Look Beyond GPA & SAT Scores. Here’s How Howard University Does It

    3 Prepare teachers for learner-centered, competency-based, equity-oriented education

    Leaders can see if teacher prep programs and professional development are aligned with competency-based instruction. One way to do this is by funding innovation pilots for experimentation in learner-centered instruction. Policymakers can also support micro-credentialing for teachers, so that they can build knowledge and skills in personalized learning over time.

    4 Redesign teacher licensure and credentialing

    State leaders can rethink what skills are necessary for teacher licenses and credentials in order to teach personalized learning. These skills may include different ways of assessing students, designing lessons and working with students who are progressing at their own pace. Teacher credentials can be multi-tiered to demonstrate how educators are advancing in their skills.

    5 Build balanced systems of assessments that enable learner-centered, competency based, equity-oriented teaching

    Assessments can be a challenging part of competency-based learning, especially when schools allow for project-based or experiential learning where knowledge isn’t easily demonstrated by a multiple-choice test. The report recommends designing assessments that balance measuring growth and proficiency and that show whether a student is at or below grade level. Allowing for portfolios in addition to traditional exams will also demonstrate a broader range of skills that a student learned.


    The 74 Interview: Do Standards and Project-Based Learning Go Hand in Hand? Prof. Nell Duke Says Yes, & Looks at the Best & Worst of PBL

    Disclosure: Carnegie Corporation of New York provides financial support to iNACOL and The 74.


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  • Next Door but Worlds Apart: School District Borders Segregate Millions of Kids Based on Race and Revenue, Report Finds

    By Mark Keierleber | July 25, 2019

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

    An invisible line separates the school system in Waterbury, Connecticut, from neighboring districts, but in many respects, they’re oceans apart. A significant share of students at the district, which is located in one of America’s wealthiest states, is nonwhite and poor. Drive a few miles in any direction from Waterbury, however, and you’ll find the exact opposite.

    In fact, Waterbury is America’s most “isolated” school system, according to a report released Thursday by the nonprofit EdBuild. In Waterbury, where 82 percent of students are nonwhite, the district brings in about $16,000 in per-pupil school funding. But in each of the eight districts that share its borders, schools get significantly more money per student. Their student bodies are whiter. In the neighboring Thomaston School District, for example, just 8 percent of students are nonwhite and the education system brings in more than $20,000 per pupil.

    Though Waterbury tops the list, EdBuild found nearly 1,000 school district borders where students are sharply divided in a way that creates a system of winners and losers, according to the report. On the losing side of the borders are nearly 9 million students in districts that get $4,207 less per pupil than affluent districts next door. Across the country, EdBuild found a total of 969 instances of school district borders where revenue gaps exceeded 10 percent and differences in racial makeup exceeding 25 percentage points.

    While America’s long history of housing segregation plays a role, the report argues that a 45-year-old Supreme Court ruling stands in the way of school integration across district lines. The case, Milliken v. Bradley, found that the government cannot mandate racial integration across school district borders. Because of that ruling, the report argues, wealthy communities are using district borders to effectively hoard resources.

    The bulk of the problem, the report said, is that local property taxes generate the bulk of school funding. Though states try to make up funding gaps by providing low-income districts with additional money, they’ve failed to meet demand, said Rebecca Sibilia, EdBuild’s founder and CEO.

    “States are running to try to catch up and, because they’re not willing and not brave enough” to address inequities created by school district borders, she said, “they’ve put themselves in an impossible position to ever create the kind of equity that we need because our wealth divide is growing.”

    The latest EdBuild report is part of a series examining how district borders can create inequities in America’s public schools. In another recent report, researchers found that school districts serving predominantly nonwhite students get $23 billion less in state and local funding each year than those where students are predominantly white — even though they educate roughly the same number of children.


    America’s $23 Billion School Funding Gap: Despite Court Rulings on Equity, New Report Finds Startling Racial Imbalance

    Despite the Milliken ruling, states have several options to address racial segregation and funding disparities created by district borders. Lawmakers could revise education funding systems so that they rely less on local property taxes, for example, or they could redraw school district borders in a way that more equitably distributes education resources. But Sibilia argues that state-level lawsuits may be the best bet.

    “Our work has created a pretty compelling case for parents and local advocates to really get loud on this and bring this issue to the courts,” she said. “We’ve got a huge treasure trove of data out there that clearly demonstrates that there’s a disparate impact in our funding system.”

    The report found that some of the most problematic school district borders exist in New York, New Jersey and California. New Jersey, for example, has more than 600 public school districts. On average, the state’s advantaged districts get 35 percent more in per-pupil funding than their lower-income neighbors.

    But a desire for local control of schools, Sibilia argues, often leaves many students behind.

    “This idea that we can withhold and keep our property tax wealth for just our schools is wholly unique to education,” she said. “The cure for cancer may be sitting in the head of a student who goes to New York City Public Schools. Would you honestly say that you wouldn’t chip in to make sure that student gets a quality education and can access the kind of knowledge that would be required in order for them to actually develop that cure?”

    EdBuild’s years-long focus on funding gaps and racial segregation between America’s school districts will soon come to an end. Sibilia said the nonprofit plans to close shop next year. Though EdBuild still has a few more reports in the pipeline, she said the group achieved its goal of highlighting America’s school funding inequities.

    “Its incumbent upon us to leave the space so that other voices can emerge on this and new ideas can come forward,” Sibilia said.


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  • Research Shows That New Orleans Schools Have Improved Since Katrina. So Why Don’t Black Residents Agree?

    By Kevin Mahnken | July 22, 2019

    Correction appended July 23

    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.

    Ample evidence shows that New Orleans public schools are performing much better now than in 2005, when the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina led to a large-scale takeover of most public schools and the introduction of ambitious education reforms. Experts have found that students there are now more likely to finish high school, and learning gaps between black and white children have noticeably closed over the past decade.

    But not everyone puts faith in those successes. According to a new paper looking at public opinion data during the period when the reforms were being implemented, New Orleans’s black majority has been more likely to perceive post-Katrina schools negatively compared with the status quo before the storm.

    The paper’s authors believe those negative views are attributable to the nature of the takeover, which converted most city schools into charters and dramatically shrank the power of the local school board. Control over school governance, and access to jobs in education, passed in large part from black to white control, they write.

    Co-author Domingo Morel, a political scientist at Rutgers University, has previously studied state takeovers of troubled urban school districts. His 2018 book on the subject found that heavy-handed takeovers arrogate political power from local communities and lead to less representation for minority groups in government.

    In an interview with The 74, Morel said that while many believed that the educational picture had brightened in New Orleans since Katrina, black residents — the largest ethnic group in the city — were much more ambivalent.

    “When you look at the general results of public opinion surveys, there seems to be a lot of support for these efforts,” he said. “But if you start looking at it a bit closer, it’s puzzling. The majority of the community is feeling very differently than this narrative that has been framed around the New Orleans reforms. The people who are mostly being affected by these policies have a certain view that isn’t really being captured in the general conversation.”

    That view may soon speak with greater force, as authority over schools reverted back to the elected school board a year ago. While defenders of the post-Katrina policies can point to meaningful progress in student achievement, they will have to persuade families who feel alienated by the way that progress was realized. Further improvements could founder without their approval.

    ‘Young, white and shiny’

    State-initiated takeovers of underperforming school districts have been an arrow in the education reform quiver for years. A string of such maneuvers took place a generation ago, when state governments (led by prominent Republicans) seized control over public education in large cities with significant black populations: Newark in 1995, Detroit in 1999 and Philadelphia in 2001.

    The situation in New Orleans resembled its predecessors in some respects: Dozens of schools serving tens of thousands of students produced poor academic results in the years before Hurricane Katrina. Widespread corruption on the Orleans Parish School Board led to FBI investigations that yielded several prosecutions, including one of a former board president who pleaded guilty to accepting bribes.

    But the catastrophic storm led to changes that were, in some ways, sui generis: In less than a decade, virtually every K-12 school in New Orleans converted to a charter school. White charter founders and teachers — many flown in by Teach for America — replaced veteran black educators who had long formed the backbone of the city’s middle class. And in 2010, voters even elected Mitch Landrieu, the city’s first white mayor since 1978.

    The metamorphosis is now widely credited with a measurable improvement in student performance. Findings from the Education Research Alliance show increases in rates of high school graduation, immediate college entry, college persistence and college completion since the aftermath of Katrina. Additional data on later-life outcomes will become available as more students make their way through the city’s public schools, but the early returns have been hailed by experts as evidence of a citywide turnaround.


    In the Aftermath of Katrina-Inspired School Reforms, Report Shows New Orleans Students Are Now More Likely to Attend — and Graduate From — College

    Public perceptions of the new school system have generally been seen as warm: According to regular polling conducted by the Cowen Institute — a research group formed in 2007 to monitor progress in local schools during the city’s recovery — most New Orleanians rate their schools as average or better, and majorities believe that the spread of charter schools has had a positive impact.

    But in the paper, Morel and co-author Sally Nuamah, a professor at Northwestern University, point to significant differences in the way the post-Katrina reforms have been received by whites and blacks. Examining Cowen Institute polls from 2011 and 2013, he finds that black respondents were vastly more likely than whites to say that New Orleans schools were better in the period before Katrina; a majority said that they had either gotten worse or stayed the same in recent years. At the same time, a majority of white New Orleanians said they believed the schools had improved.

    Black respondents were also much more likely to say they supported an end to the Recovery School District — the state-created entity that administered most schools after the storm — and a return of the schools to local control.

    The divergent attitudes are the result of the black community’s loss of control over schools, Morel argues: Whereas previously the public school system (the population of which is estimated to be 80 percent black) was governed by a majority-black school board and staffed by mostly black teachers, the education regime following Katrina was quite different: Louisiana state officials, authorities at the RSD and charter school boards, who were all disproportionately white. By one estimate, the number of black teachers as a percentage of the whole decreased from 75 percent to 50 percent.

    “The potential political power that Black citizens have as the majority in the city is negated,” the authors write, “as governance authority has shifted to the state level and to the charter boards, where Blacks do not constitute the majority. In other words, the traditional mechanisms of political power … have been circumvented by state-led governance as well as charter board governance.”

    The departure of notable black figures from the local education scene has been the object of furor over the past decade. In the wake of the hurricane, more than 4,000 teachers were laid off from the school district — many of them black, and familiar to local families. Studies conducted since have shown that most never returned to teach in New Orleans.

    Ashana Bigard, a prominent parent activist who has been sharply critical of the reforms implemented by the RSD, disagreed with the idea that top-level political changes had fueled black parents’ dissatisfaction, arguing that they were instead skeptical of shifts in school practice. She said she was more appalled by cuts to school music programs and the institution of “no-excuses” practices, like silent lunches, than by the local school board being sidelined.

    “Black parents are upset because their children are getting horrible-quality schools, not because black people aren’t in charge,” she said. “Let’s be crystal clear: If you treat my child right, and my child gets a quality education, I don’t care if you’re purple.”

    Still, she said, the mass layoffs “affected [families’] relationships with teachers.” She described feeling outraged after walking into a post-Katrina school to discover no teachers who were black or native to New Orleans.

    “Everybody in the school was from someplace else — they were all young, white and shiny. What message does that send to children? I walk into school and you tell me I can go to college and be successful, but there’s no one who looks or sounds like me in this school? Obviously, that’s a lie; it’s not your values. If your values are black people in a black community, why wouldn’t you hire black people from that community?”

    The cost of mistrust

    The question of whether race has colored the perception of power in major cities like New Orleans is not a new one. Political scientists have long studied the ways that personal traits change how government is perceived.

    Jeffrey W. Koch, a professor of political science at SUNY Geneseo, has found that members of various ethnic groups are all about as likely to say they trust the government in the abstract. But introducing race as an identity marker changes the equation: Blacks are significantly less likely to place their faith in government officials who are white.

    “[People] tend to make that inference: ‘If we share an important characteristic — geography or partisanship or race — we probably have the same interests and preferences; if we don’t, it’s probably different,’” he said. “That’s consistent with what we find in all kinds of research. For ethinic minorities, they’re generally seeing people not of their race in positions of authority, so they could make the assumption that they’re not going to act in a way that’s consistent with their interests and preferences. But that’s true not only of ethnic minorities but also of whites.”

    Changing racial power structures would therefore go a long way toward explaining the views of black New Orleanians toward a school system that became, seemingly overnight, vastly more white-led in both classrooms and boardrooms.

    Still, Koch noted, school takeovers are never likely to be warmly received. Local control is a core value of education in the United States, and residents of a tight-knit community like New Orleans might simply resent having an important social service usurped from them for over a decade, regardless of any perceived shift in racial influence.

    “Generally, outsiders coming in and taking over is not really popular, he said. “There’s going to be some pushback against the loss of local control anywhere, particularly in education. The United States has had local control in education for a long time. And because many people have kids in a local school, or know someone who does, it’s going to be a particularly salient issue for them.”

    And there are limits to the extent of political distrust that can be attributed to race.

    As a case in point: Perhaps no figure is as emblematic of the new New Orleans as Landrieu, the two-term mayor who was elected in 2010 and served as the city’s first white leader in 32 years. Landrieu presided over an era of massive change, including a sweeping return of private capital that many feared would bring about gentrification, as well as a wholesale reassessment of racial discrimination in the city’s law enforcement. But while opinions on Landrieu’s tenure were polarized by race, it wasn’t in the direction a political scientist might predict: Polling showed that the Democratic mayor was vastly more popular with black residents than white ones, perhaps as a result of his high-profile stance in favor of removing monuments to prominent Confederates.

    Then-New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu addresses media at a press conference commemorating the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina in 2015. (Erika Goldring/Getty Images)

    Morel said the full impact of the post-Katrina education reforms has yet to be determined and that he hoped to examine changing opinions throughout the city on a variety of social services as time passed. But he added that the top-down method by which the reforms were achieved would impose a cost.

    “We still have a lot of learning to do about how these reforms have affected outcomes in New Orleans,” he said. “But the thing that is not ambiguous is the political cost of this for the black community in New Orleans. If we’re interested in improving schools, in developing not only better test scores but citizenship, is this what we need to have? Do we need to essentially disempower an entire community to be able to say, ‘Graduation rates have increased by three or four percentage points?’ I think we need to dig into that.”

    Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly attributed a quote from a Wall Street Journal headline to Louisiana Superintendent John White.


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  • EduClips: From Miami’s A Grade to Abuse Allegations in Las Vegas, School News You Missed This Week From America’s 15 Biggest Districts

    By The 74 | July 18, 2019

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

    Miami-Dade County — For Second Straight Year, Miami Schools Get an A: Standing near two giant cardboard cutouts of the letter A, Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho recently celebrated good news from the Florida Department of Education: For the second year in a row, it was named an A-rated district. In what is likely an even greater accomplishment, for the third year, no schools in the district, traditional or charter, received a failing grade. Only one traditional school and five charter schools received D grades. The Miami Herald reported, “Coupled with a graduation rate of almost 90% for traditional high schools, Carvalho called Thursday’s announcement of grades his proudest moment.” (Read at the Miami Herald)

    New York City — Officials Deny Rumors that Embattled Chief Carranza is Leaving: With Chancellor Richard Carranza facing criticism for his performance and for some of his racial integration policies, district officials offered an unusual public denial that the schools chief’s resignation was imminent. As reported by Chalkbeat, at a monthly meeting of parent leaders, Chancellor’s Parent Advisory Council member Sheree Gibson asked Deputy Chancellor Hydra Mendoza if Carranza was leaving. The deputy chancellor was “surprised and emphatically stated that’s not true,” according to Gibson, who added that Carranza “is a fighter.” The flurry of concern about Carranza’s fate came amid pointed criticism of his performance by city leaders, who said he should be fired if he “continues to divide this city” with “contentious rhetoric about race,” Chalkbeat reported. (Read at Chalkbeat)

    Clark County — Las Vegas Schools Have Paid Half a Million Dollars to Fight Abuse Cases Against Former Teacher: The Clark County School District has spent $500,000 defending two cases against a former special education teacher who is accused of abusing autistic students and depriving them of food and drink. The teacher, Kasey Glass, once taught at Las Vegas’s Kirk Adams Elementary School but now teaches in Nye County, Nevada, according to The Las Vegas Review-Journal. One suit claims that Glass repeated pushed a child’s head down with his foot, and another says a child repeatedly returned home with injuries that he told his mother had been caused by Glass. Both suits claim the district failed to report and take action on the allegations. A lawyer for Glass declined to comment on the suits. (Read at the Las Vegas Review-Journal)

    Los Angeles — Complaint Alleges Failure to Adequately Address High-Needs Students: L.A. Unified’s plans for high-needs students “undermine basic notions of transparency and equity” and are failing to adequately ensure that more than $1 billion annually in state funds goes to this group, according to a complaint filed on behalf of two district parents. The complaint is brought by two law firms that won a similar case in 2017 alleging that the district misallocated $450 million annually in funds for high-needs students. L.A. Unified receives about $1.1 billion each year set aside for boosting services for low-income students, English learners and foster youth. The complaint claims that the district’s required annual plans for these students are “opaque” and “rife with fundamental errors.” (Read at The

    Orange County — Florida Teachers Offered Bonuses to Work in Struggling Schools, Orlando Sentinel Reports: Teachers with “proven records of success” under the state’s merit pay law will be eligible for one-time bonuses of up to $15,000 if they work in the state’s neediest schools. The state Department of Education announced that teachers who work in schools that received Ds or Fs under the state’s grading system — 172 schools this year — would receive the bonuses from a $16 million federal grant designed to help improve long-struggling schools, according to the Orlando Sentinel. To receive the bonuses, teachers would have to be rated “highly effective” or “effective” for three years under the state’s value-added model, which evaluates teachers’ impact on student performance. Eighteen percent of state teachers were rated “highly effective” and 54 percent were deemed “effective” under the system at the end of the 2017-18 school year. (Read at the Orlando Sentinel)

    National — Online Teachers Bear Witness to Child Abuse: It began in 2018, when a teacher logged on to her account with a Beijing-based company that connected children in China with native English-speaking teachers for live, online video lessons. As reported by EdSurge, the teacher witnessed a mother repeatedly hitting a 4-year-old boy during one English lesson. After the lesson, the teacher logged on again and saw the woman continuing to repeatedly strike her son with a plastic coat hanger. As far as the teacher knew, the company had no systems in place to address what had happened. After reporting the incident to the company, she drafted a post in a private Facebook forum. She soon learned that her experience was not unique. According to EdSurge, “In the Facebook group she posted in, and others like it, new reports of parental abuse surface nearly every week.” (Read at EdSurge)

    Noteworthy Essays & Reflections

    EDLECTION 2020 — Stewart: Hey, Bill de Blasio, I Was Once a Charter School Parent — and I Don’t Deserve Your ‘Hate’ (Read at

    RESEARCH — EdBuild, nonprofit that highlighted funding disparities, plans to close next year (Read at Chalkbeat)

    DEVOS — Trump Picked His Perfect Education Secretary in Betsy DeVos (Read at Bloomberg)

    SCHOOL LUNCH — Does lunch have to be 45 minutes? Rethinking school schedules to support innovation (Read at The Hechinger Report)

    TENNESSEE — Tennessee school turnaround models either haven’t worked or are stalling out, new research finds (Read at Chalkbeat)

    Quotes of the Week

    “Imagine if we published student grades and even … student work. How about nurse reports and private health information? What would the parents have to say about this? What sort of lawsuits would they begin?” ­—letter sent to the Columbia Falls School District in Montana that signaled a massive ransomware attack. Such events are becoming increasingly common in schools. (Read at

    “I DONT [sic] NEGOTIATE WITH TERRORISTS!” —a text message from Christian Sobrino, former chief financial officer of Puerto Rico, referring to the island’s teachers union. The release of the messages, in addition to corruption charges against former education secretary Julia Keleher, are threatening to unravel the administration of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló. (Read at Politics K-12)

    “Anyone who does what we do knows it’s happened not by chance but by deliberate choice by those who embrace and embark on this work.” —Alberto Carvalho, Miami-Dade superintendent, on the district getting an A grade from the state education department two years in a row. (Read at the Miami Herald)

    “The blood-curdling sobbing, the screaming. I have him in my ears. It was bad. Honestly, it was traumatic.” —Jordan, an online English instructor, describing a mother in China beating her 4-year-old son during a video lesson. Online teachers report that parental abuse is far from uncommon on some platforms that cater to international students. (Read at EdSurge)

    “Schools in north Baton Rouge for 100 years have been getting less. I firmly believe the St. George movement is rooted in racism. Look at the boundaries. You go down Florida Boulevard and it’s like the Mason-Dixon line. South of Florida, it’s white; north, it’s black.” —Tramelle Howard, new member of the school board in East Baton Rouge Parish, which is facing a secession attempt from a mostly white and affluent enclave. (Read at


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  • Ransomware Attacks Shut Down City Services in Atlanta and Baltimore, Now Spreading to School Districts. How Can Schools Protect Themselves?

    By Noble Ingram | July 17, 2019

    Columbia Falls School District was in trouble. What started as a strange text message on the superintendent’s phone one day in mid-September 2017 had quickly become an email and then a chain of emails sent to school officials and parents threatening graphic violence in the district south of Montana’s Glacier National Park.

    And then, finally, there was the letter.

    “We know who you are, Columbia Falls. We know everything about your operation. We know everything about your schools and the children in them,” it read, addressed to the district’s Board of Trustees.

    “If you receive a message from us, it means you have been completely and thoroughly attacked and breached by an organised entity of creatures who are motivated only by their love for internet money.“

    Superintendent Steve Bradshaw and his colleagues now recognize that these messages were the first signs of a districtwide cyberattack. This was ransomware, the technology that made headlines this spring for bringing civic operations in Baltimore to a halt. The malware takes hold of victims’ data and the hackers then threaten to publish or delete the information if the ransom isn’t paid.

    Hackers have used ransomware to extort individuals for years, but their focus on larger businesses and public entities is becoming more common now, says Josephine Wolff, assistant professor of public policy at Rochester Institute of Technology. School districts, data-rich and often lacking ironclad cybersecurity, have emerged as an increasingly vulnerable target.

    “Nefarious actors have determined that schools are large repositories of information and also potential targets, given that they can be varied in the technical expertise and the funding that they get to protect the data that they have,” said Amy McLaughlin, cybersecurity and network consultant for the Consortium for School Networking, based in Washington, D.C.

    Just this year, schools districts in Idaho, Connecticut and New Mexico were all hit with ransomware attacks. Just this month, it was Syracuse city schools, one of New York’s so-called Big 5 districts. In mid-May, Oklahoma City Public Schools, a district with about 45,000 students, temporarily shut down its network after a ransomware attack. The recovery services it solicited were estimated to cost between $43,175 and $103,840.

    In 2018, Public K-12 schools reported 122 cybersecurity incidents, according to the K-12 Cybersecurity Resource Center, based in Arlington, Virginia. Of those, 11 were connected to ransomware.

    Hacking into networks and stealing data isn’t a new phenomenon. But ransomware is unique in that it monetizes data that wouldn’t typically be lucrative. There isn’t an easy way to sell a third-grade class’s reading scores or a seventh-grader’s disciplinary records. But schools need this information to operate — and many families don’t want it made public.

    “On the surface, that is not information that is worth money to anyone, but hackers know … that it has value to the individuals whose data it is and also to the school district as a whole,” says Amelia Vance, director of the Education Privacy Project at the Future of Privacy Forum, also based in D.C. “It is valuable because we find it valuable.”

    Before the letter arrived, Bradshaw didn’t know that the violent threats sent to people in his district were at all related to a cyberattack. He brought security in to patrol campuses, closed school between Thursday and Tuesday that week and canceled a weekend homecoming game. Even private schools and a community college temporarily shuttered their doors.

    Columbia Falls school officials canceled homecoming after a September 2017 ransomware attack. (Facebook)

    Once the letter arrived, though, he was forced to change course quickly. The hackers, who had found his and others’ contact information through the school’s network, were demanding a monumental ransom. They had entered the network through a vulnerable server left running over the summer, and now they proposed three payment plans, with one option that would total $150,000. If not, the district’s valuable data, including student names and addresses, would be published.

    “Imagine if we published student grades and even … student work. How about nurse reports and private health information? What would the parents have to say about this? What sort of lawsuits would they begin?” the letter threatened.

    Data is now as much a part of most public schools as books or whiteboards. School administrations track where students live, the medications they take and a host of other figures. The Every Student Succeeds Act requires detailed records on student performance. Many teachers use interactive apps and online programs, some of which record student internet activity — even though this violates federal law.

    The attack against Columbia Falls didn’t shut school officials off from their data. But many more recent ransomware strikes do. Losing access to this information can be devastating.

    “A ransomware attack … would take away access to a student’s transcript that they need to apply for a job. It would take away access to who is in attendance,” says Vance. “It really does shut down the abilities of schools to do almost everything in this day and age.”

    And once those operations are cut off, schools face the agonizing decision of whether or not to pay the ransom. Hackers typically request payment in Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency notoriously difficult to track. Unlike most corporations, schools districts deal with public scrutiny on ransom negotiations. Wolff says public entities are generally more reluctant to pay for that very reason.


    Chain of Schools: The Bitcoin, Blockchain Revolution Comes to Campus — but Are Colleges Ready?

    If public entities, including schools, “are going to make ransom payments, that’s going to be on the public record somewhere … I think that probably puts a little more pressure on them,” she says.

    The FBI recommends against paying ransom in any circumstance. That decision can be difficult, though, since ransom payments are sometimes less expensive than paying to recover lost data and continue operating. The city of Baltimore opted not to pay a ransom of approximately $70,000 when it was first hit this spring. Its recovery is now estimated to cost $18 million.

    What’s more, an investigation by ProPublica this spring showed that many companies that purport to help ransomware victims recover their lost data ultimately just pay the ransom anyway.

    One major step schools can take to protect their data before they get hacked and held for ransom is simple, cybersecurity professionals agree: Collect less of it.

    “One of the top privacy principles is data minimization, the idea that you should minimize data by not collecting it in the first place unless you need it, deleting it as soon as you can and only creating copies when you need to,” says Vance.

    This is easier said than done, especially because public schools are subject to state data retention laws, which vary. In New Jersey, for example, state law requires public schools to keep student data, including medical records, standardized test scores and parent names, for 100 years.

    “In the old days, you would get rid of information because you didn’t have the space to keep it,” said Bradshaw. “Well, when you keep it electronically, which we do … you don’t notice mistakes, so it’s even more critical from my perspective to get rid of that data in accordance with state law.”

    For the data that can’t be deleted, districts should establish secure backups and keep clear records of where the information is stored. But districts also need to make a stronger effort to engage teachers and administrators throughout the year on how to be more critical about the messages they receive in their inbox and files on which they’re shared. Unlike the Columbia Falls attack, many recent ransomware attacks infect networks through phishing — in which a single person in the school clicks on a link, often one that had been emailed to them by an unknown contact.

    “Things like your backup, remediation and filtering, those kinds of things only help you to a certain extent in recovery, as opposed to a really solid understanding by employees of their role, their responsibilities and what they should be looking for and learning to be suspicious of,” says McLaughlin.

    Ultimately, Bradshaw’s district did not pay the ransom. They contacted the FBI and worked extensively with law enforcement. In the following weeks and months, he would discover that the ransomware was part of a campaign of attacks by the international hacker network Dark Overlord, which was responsible for scores of breaches across the U.S. and even leaked episodes of the television show Orange Is the New Black after Netflix refused to pay. Several other school districts were hit by the hackers that year.

    Not paying the ransom didn’t immediately lead to Columbia Falls student data being strewn across the internet, as far as Bradshaw knows. But it did require an active information campaign: sending out about 1,200 letters to district families and holding two public meetings to discuss the potential consequences of the cyberattack.

    “It’s interesting … because there are more guns than there are people in the state of Montana,” he said. “They were ready to come protect the school and the kids, and I said that’s not going to work.”


    Defiance on ‘Net Neutrality’: Montana Governor Goes to Helena High School to Declare State’s Break With FCC Mandate

    In Bradshaw’s view, cybersecurity hinges on funding. He argued that the biggest change needed to help protect schools from what his went through is to invest more in public education. Cybersecurity professionals aren’t incentivized to work for schools when they can earn much higher salaries in the private sector, he said.

    “It comes down to what you can afford to put in,” he said.

    Right now, swaying public opinion toward higher funding for cybersecurity remains a challenge. Wolff says the issue is growing in awareness, but she doubts it will emerge as central to any big local elections anytime soon.

    Personal experience with a ransomware attack, however, might be a powerful motivator. Bradshaw’s community is mostly conservative and wasn’t always keen on raising taxes to boost cybersecurity funding in the district. But after its 2017 ordeal, he said, that started to change.

    “A year later, we passed a $500,000 technology levy, which in this conservative community that’s economically hurting … for them to say, ‘We’ll pony up to pay an extra $5 a month toward that $500,000 for the school,’ was a big thing,” he said.


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  • Cast Your Vote! Which Education Issue Do You Most Want to See Discussed and Debated by Democrats in Detroit?

    By Lauren Costantino | July 16, 2019

    This is part of an ongoing series about the 2020 presidential election. See more at

    All it took was one round of debates for the 2020 presidential campaign to eclipse 2016 in regards to education policy. 

    Not that that’s saying much. 

    Last month’s Democratic showdown touched (briefly) on such key K-12 issues as school spending, integration, safety and social-emotional learning. There were also the timely higher ed issues of college affordability, student debt and free tuition. 

    Now with the next two-night debate-a-thon set to begin July 30 in Detroit, The 74 wants to hear from you: What other education issues deserve a moment in the campaign spotlight? Which issue deserves a deeper and more informed discussion? What do you care most about, when it comes to America’s education system?

    We hope you’ll vote in the poll below, or write in your own top topic, and then circulate with other people in your community. (Here’s a Facebook post and tweet that you can share.) We’ll be back to share some of the top results ahead of the Detroit debates.




    This article is part of our ongoing coverage of the 2020 presidential election. Here are some of the latest headlines:

    ● Biden-Harris Exchange Makes Busing a Surprise Focus of 2020 Campaign. How Will It Affect the Debate Over Integration?

    ● EDlection 2020: Comparing K-12 Plans on Teacher Pay, Pre-K and More From Democratic Front-runners Biden & Sanders

    Two Days of Democratic Debate Showcased Wide Canvas of Education Issues, From Busing to Social-Emotional Learning

    ● Williams: The 2019 Democratic Debates, Where No One Argues for Fixing America With Better Schools


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  • Failing Schools: Home to Underachieving Students, Disillusioned Teachers and — According to a New Study — Higher Rates of Crime

    By Kevin Mahnken | July 14, 2019

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

    The bogeyman haunting education reformers’ dreams has always been the “failure factory.”

    You’re probably familiar with the term: a traditional public school that has performed dismally for years. Teachers are exhausted and disillusioned, and students’ academic promise is squandered amid crumbling infrastructure. Decades into its existence, the education reform movement is still focused almost overwhelmingly on improving or closing urban schools with poor academic results.

    Now research shows that serially underperforming schools might not just be holding back students’ achievement; they seem to be driving higher rates of crime as well.

    According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, the closure of more than two dozen low-performing schools in Philadelphia led to a significant reduction in crime — particularly violent crime — both in the surrounding areas and throughout the city. The greater the number of students who left a given school, the greater the decline in crime rates, the authors found.

    The study examines the two-year period between 2011 and 2013 when local authorities shuttered 29 public schools throughout Philadelphia, roughly 10 percent of all schools in the city. The decision was made by the School Reform Commission, a state-run panel created in 2001 to lead the school district out of its academic and financial challenges. The move was meant to address Philadelphia’s plummeting public school enrollment, and like many reforms undertaken before the district returned to local control last year, the closures proved controversial.


    Philadelphia School Reform Commission Votes to Abolish Itself After 16 Years

    A study published this spring by education professor Matthew Steinberg and criminologist John MacDonald, both of UPenn, found that the academic effects of the closures were mixed — students displaced by closures typically saw learning gains if they were relocated to a high-performing school, while they also missed more days of school than they otherwise would have.

    But the results of another study conducted by the duo, published this month in the journal Regional Science and Urban Economics and focused on the impact of closures on crime, were less ambiguous.

    Using data from the Philadelphia Police Department, Steinberg and MacDonald found that in census blocks (the Census Bureau’s smallest geographic unit, often assembled together in block groups of roughly 1,500 people) where a school had been closed in the 2011-13 period, crime declined by 15 percent (roughly 1.4 incidences per month). Violent crime — defined as assaults, robberies, rapes or murders — declined by 30 percent (roughly 0.6 incidences per month).

    The finding confirms what many would suspect. Research in criminology has long shown that rates of both criminal offending and victimization peak in the late teen years, when brain development hasn’t yet concluded and people are more prone to rash behavior. Previous research has shown that grouping together large numbers of young people, particularly those from low-income families, increases both the occurrence of crime and the likelihood that kids will get arrested together.

    As prominent way stations for young people, K-12 schools satisfy several conditions for misconduct to flourish: They bring together hundreds of potential offenders and victims, both on campus and during the commute to and from school. Some existing studies have looked at the public safety impact of closing neighborhood Catholic schools or opening new charter schools, but in neither case did researchers examine the poorest and most at-risk children.

    “What’s unique about this study is that we’re trying to understand the effect of the [targeted closure] policy,” Steinberg said in an interview. “The schools in Philadelphia that were targeted for closure, like schools in Chicago and other major districts that are doing these targeted school closings … were the most under-enrolled, which typically serve the lowest-achieving kids or the highest-poverty kids.”

    Examining data from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, the authors found that the closed schools served predominantly black students and those eligible for free- or reduced-price lunch, a leading indicator of poverty. The same figures showed that the schools were characterized by relatively high numbers of arrests, suspensions and truancy, as well as poor academic performance in both math and reading.

    The downtick in criminality was observed during a time when Philadelphia was seeing across-the-board declines in violent crime, including a 25 percent drop in homicides. Steinberg pointed to signs that the school closures played a clear role in making city streets safer: The decrease in offenses was observed during school hours, when kids would otherwise have been there, but not during weekends; further, the census blocks from which the greatest number of students were displaced saw the largest reductions in crime.

    Regional Science and Urban Economics

    Measured against census blocks where schools did not close, or where schools were not located in the first place, the sharp reduction in misconduct is evident; the effects also stand out amid multiple separate time periods (2006-13, 2008-13, 2009-14, and 2010-14), Steinberg noted, meaning that the study wasn’t simply drawing on one or two years in which lower crime was observed.

    “I think it’s very safe, frankly, to say that closing schools caused a reduction in crime in these neighborhoods,” he said. The cause, he said, was the dilution of disadvantaged populations “by removing, shifting a population of kids who were much lower-achieving and much lower-income than the typical kids in Philadelphia.”

    The effects on crime were especially pronounced in areas where underperforming high schools were closed. Census blocks that experienced a district-mandated high school closure saw an impressive 40 percent reduction in violent crime, while elementary or middle school closures were associated with an 18 percent reduction.

    Perhaps most promisingly, the data collected by Steinberg and MacDonald don’t seem to indicate that criminal behavior simply migrated elsewhere after the closures took effect; census blocks neighboring those where schools were shuttered experienced no resultant spike in violence, and in fact benefited from a 10 percent decline in property crime. Across the entire city of Philadelphia, the authors estimate that the 2011-13 school closures led to a 2.3 percent drop in violent crime and a 5.3 percent drop in property crime.


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  • EduClips: From Chicago’s Trashed Books to Holocaust Denial in Palm Beach County, School News You Missed This Week From America’s 15 Biggest Districts

    By The 74 | July 12, 2019

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

    New York City — Advocates Underwhelmed by District’s Response to Systemic Special Education Problems: City officials have pledged to hire hundreds of new staff, including lawyers and psychologists, in response to a blistering review that found widespread problems in the district’s special education system. Officials blamed many of the systemic failures outlined in a May state review on lack of staff, describing shortages of special education teachers and psychologists who have caseloads exceeding 100 students. District officials also noted that the closure of special education preschools has left many young students without placement. But some advocates criticized the city’s response, including efforts to address issues at its impartial hearing offices, which allow parents to lodge complaints if they believe their child is not getting proper services or placement. Reports found several issues with the system, including too few hearing rooms and payment problems for hearing officers. “The state [report] addresses a number of those issues, and unfortunately the DOE punted on most of them without giving a solution and in some instances saying there was no solution to be had,” said Rebecca Shore, the litigation director at Advocates for Children of New York. (Read at Chalkbeat)

    Philadelphia — Board of Ed’s Two Student Reps Offer Valedictory Report on How to Change City Schools: They want a teacher feedback system similar to those in place at colleges and universities where students can anonymously tell teachers how they might improve learning. They want clear policies on admission to selective courses like Advanced Placement. And they want clear guidelines on career preparedness in a district where some students are unsure how to find jobs or use basic word processing programs. These are some of the recommendations from a year-end report drafted by the Philadelphia School District’s two student representatives, Julia Frank and Alfredo Praticò. The two high school graduates finished their time on the Board of Education recently after crisscrossing the city and talking to students. (Read at The Philadelphia Inquirer)

    Los Angeles — After District Scrapped Controversial Wanding and Search Policy, Some School Officials Are Asking, “Now What?”: In 1993, after two students were killed in shootings at Los Angeles high schools, the district began wanding students with metal detectors and allowing random searches. The district’s stance on random searches made it unique among the nation’s 15 largest school districts. Now, 23 years after its enactment, the city has ended the policy, bowing to criticism that it was punitive and disproportionately targeted minorities. But many officials are unsure what will replace it and if the district is prepared to keep students safe. “Wanding might not be the answer, but then what is the answer?” asked Cynthia Gonzalez, principal of the Communication and Technology School at Diego Rivera Learning Complex. “How is the district going to be proactive about making sure the schools have resources to address the problems that come up?” (Read at the Los Angeles Times)

    Chicago — Viral Image of Trashed Books Sparks Debate: The image went viral: a dumpster full of classic books, like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and John Hersey’s Hiroshima, outside Chicago’s Senn High School. It generated impassioned commentary on Facebook and more than 1,000 replies on a Reddit topic thread. While some criticized the school for casting aside classic works, many teachers and librarians said they needed to cull old, outdated and worn books to make space for new materials. A spokesman for the district told Chalkbeat that officials are in the process of “conducting an evaluation of the situation with the dumpster.” (Read at Chalkbeat)

    Palm Beach County — District Removes Prinicipal Who Cast Doubt on Holocaust: Palm Beach County Schools removed a high school principal who sparked an international uproar for telling a parent that it was unclear that the Holocaust was a historical fact. The move came three days after the Palm Beach Post reported that William Latson, a principal at Spanish River High School, told a parent last year that “not everyone believes the Holocaust happened” and that he “can’t say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event.” The district initially said that Watson’s remarks did not merit disciplinary action or a formal reprimand. But the district reversed itself after publication of the Post story, saying it is “in the best interest of students and the larger school community to reassign Mr. Latson to a District position.” (Read at The Palm Beach Post)

    Noteworthy Essays & Reflections

    ELEMENTARY EDUCATION — Elementary Education Has Gone Terribly Wrong (Read at The Atlantic)

    PROVIDENCE SCHOOLS — An Education Horror Show (Read at The Wall Street Journal)

    CHARTERS —When Success Is Not Enough: Charter Schools Delivering Better Outcomes for Low-Income Students Still Target of Progressive Ire (Read at

    U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ED — Should a Teacher Be the Secretary of Education? (Read at Forbes)

    ACADEMIC GROWTH — Can ‘growth’ data push parents to more integrated schools? A new study says maybe (Read at Chalkbeat)

    Quotes of the Week

    “I can’t say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event.” —William Latson, former principal of Spanish River High School in Florida. Palm Beach County Schools removed and reassigned him after the remarks sparked international outrage. (Read at The Palm Beach Post)

    “If they want to think more creatively about ways to integrate our schools, then more power to them, and it’s really important for the leaders to be doing something like that. Because it’s rarely a winning issue politically to talk about ways that white parents in the public school system might send their kids to school with racial minorities.” —Jason Sokol, historian at the University of New Hampshire, on criticisms Sen. Kamala Harris made of former vice president Joe Biden’s busing record during a recent Democratic presidential debate. (Read at

    “This process has gotten much more complicated and I have had a greater role in planning how to keep the students blind to the testing than I expected. Because of this, I worry that the College Board would question some of what we’ve done and I would be complicit because of my role in some of it.” —AP Seminar teacher Jason Kester, in an internal email on a scheme at Daytona Beach’s Mainland High School to give hundreds of freshman a “placebo” AP test, rather than an official one. (Read at the Daytona Beach News-Journal)

    “The charged offenses are reprehensible, more so in light of Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis.” —Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, on the arrest of former Puerto Rico education chief Julia Keleher and five others on corruption charges. (Read at

    “That’s me with a little boy by the name of Jimmy Kane, and I had a crush on him. Oh my goodness, look at the boy’s pictures I have. They took all the money, huh?” —Betty June Sissom, 89, upon examining the contents of a wallet she’d lost at a high school in Centralia, Illinois, 75 years ago. The stolen wallet was among 15 recovered recently from a vent in the girls’ bathroom. (Read at Fox 8)


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  • A Database of Florida Student Records Is Supposed to Protect Kids — but Could Harm Them Instead, Advocates Tell Governor

    By Mark Keierleber | July 9, 2019

    Updated July 10

    An expansive database of student records designed to deter future mass shootings, under development in Florida, is unlikely to improve school safety and may actually put children at risk, a coalition of advocacy groups told the state’s governor Tuesday.

    The planned “data repository,” which aims to compile social media posts and a broad range of government records on students, was part of the state’s response to the 2018 mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida. The effort is part of a larger national push to track student behaviors in an effort to deter future violence, despite a dearth of research on the tactic’s effectiveness.

    In a letter to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, nearly three dozen local and national advocacy groups — including the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Center for Learning Disabilities, the Future of Privacy Forum and the Autism Society of Florida — urged state officials to “immediately halt” development of the database. Instead, they urged, the state should create a commission of parents, students, education experts and other stakeholders to identify efforts that have been “demonstrated to effectively identify and mitigate school safety threats.”

    The letter cites a recent investigation by Education Week, which found that Florida officials have weighed collecting millions of records about students, from those placed in foster care to victims of bullying based on sexual orientation or race. But the plan to implement the database has faced numerous roadblocks, the investigation found, including concerns over the amount of information officials can legally compile.

    “This database represents a significant safety risk because it collects highly sensitive information without a clear, evidence-based rationale for inclusion [and] could be used to stigmatize and blame children who have been victims of bullying,” the groups wrote. For example, the database could discourage students from reporting bullying because they don’t want to be identified as a potential threat.


    As Schools Comb Social Media for Potential Threats, Has Mass Shooting Anxiety Turned Administrators Into the ‘Internet Police’?

    After the mass school shooting in Parkland, state law mandated that education officials create a centralized “data repository and data analytics resources” that collects records from social media, the department of children and families, the department of law enforcement, the department of juvenile justice and local law enforcement agencies.

    In a statement released Tuesday evening, the Florida Governor’s Office said the letter contained “inaccurate information regarding the database and how the information is used.” The database, according to the office, “is a tool for threat assessment teams to evaluate the seriousness of individual cases and is not being used to label students as potential threats.” The information will allow officials to respond more quickly to potential threats and to “provide appropriate services to students who may be in need,” the statement continued.

    Cheryl Etters, an education department spokeswoman, said Tuesday that at the time the Education Week article was published, officials hadn’t yet settled on specific data points to be included in the repository.

    The database was supposed to be in place by last December, but state education officials missed the deadline — which, in a February executive order, DeSantis called “unacceptable.” The order directs education officials to “take any and all steps necessary to implement” the data repository by Aug. 1. The governor’s office didn’t respond to requests for comment on Tuesday’s letter.

    Still, the advocates likened the database to “mass surveillance” that will do little to improve school safety but will “significantly erode” students’ civil rights. In a recent study on the pre-attack behaviors of active shooters, the Federal Bureau of Investigation found that perpetrators don’t share demographic traits, though they often display concerning behaviors including telling others about their violent plans. Despite the national attention paid to school shootings following the tragedies in Parkland and Santa Fe, Texas, last year, such incidents remain statistically rare. Schools have actually become safer in recent years, according to federal education data.

    Amelia Vance, director of education privacy at the Future of Privacy Forum, said she’s most concerned about discussions to include records on victims of bullying and those in foster care, and she had questions about how long the state plans to retain such information. Students hoping to learn what information about them appears in the database would face the burden of having to contact the agencies individually, she said.

    While Florida is the first state to develop a statewide database of student records with the goal of preventing violence, schools across the country have monitored social media activity for years despite fierce pushback from civil rights groups. However, Vance said, efforts at most districts are less expansive than Florida’s and don’t combine social media data with other student records.

    “I always hate the idea of schools adopting something that they think will work, that they’re paying for,” she said, but which is more likely to “bombard administrators with false flags” or “discriminates against students who are different.”


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

    Chad Marlow, senior advocacy and policy counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, said Florida’s effort to compile student records “goes much further than anything we’ve seen.”

    But with attention focused on Florida’s response to the Parkland shooting, Marlow said, the state database could have national ramifications.

    “There is a frightening possibility that other states, other jurisdictions, will look to what Florida is doing and try to copy it without really spending all that much time considering whether what Florida is doing is helpful or harmful,” Marlow said.


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  • SEL in the House: Democrats Approve Millions in Landmark Federal Funding for Social-Emotional Learning in Bill That Now Faces Test in Senate

    By Kate Stringer | July 9, 2019

    In what’s been described as a landmark investment from the federal government in social-emotional learning, the House of Representatives approved a spending bill last month that included $260 million in funding for what it calls “whole child” initiatives within the Department of Education.

    The funding is divided into four areas:

    1. $170 million through the Education Innovation and Research program to provide grants for evidence-based innovations that support students’ social, emotional and cognitive well-being;

    2. $25 million to support teacher professional development, which comes through the Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) grant program;

    3. $40 million for the Full-Service Community Schools Program to support students’ and families’ holistic needs; and

    4. $25 million for School Safety National Activities to add more school counselors, mental health professionals and social workers who are qualified to work in schools.

    “Research shows that building the capacity of students to develop social and emotional skills, and take responsibility for their community, can reduce bullying, violence, and aggressive behaviors, making schools safer,” the House appropriations committee wrote.


    What Is **Social-Emotional Learning** and How Does It Affect Kids?

    The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) applauded the funding.

    “I think we definitely see this as a political landmark in thinking about how to support children in their social-emotional and academic growth and developing skill sets students will need to be successful,” said Nick Yoder, director of policy and practice at CASEL.

    CASEL credited Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), chair of the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, for championing the funding. DeLauro, in turn, said the initiative was inspired by the work of James Comer, a professor of child psychiatry at Yale University who helped transform schools by focusing on child development in addition to academic learning.

    “I am proud to have provided funding for a landmark federal investment of $260 million for social-emotional learning in this year’s Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education funding bill,” DeLauro said in a statement to The 74. “Congress must invest in proven strategies that will help our kids, and I will not give up in the fight to make that a reality.”

    Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) has been a longtime advocate for social-emotional learning, pushing several bills during his time in the House and helping to support its inclusion in the reauthorization of the Every Student Succeeds Act. From Ryan’s perspective, this moment shows that social-emotional learning is gaining acceptance and that people are starting to understand its importance. But, he added, there’s still progress to be made.

    “It really is a turning point,” Ryan said. “But we’ve got a long way to go — we’ve got to get this bill through the Senate and there’s a lot of people around the country who have not been exposed to [social-emotional learning].”

    Amid disagreements about raising spending caps with both House Democrats and the White House, the Senate has yet to pass its own spending bills. Time is running short, with just a month to go before the August recess and three months to go before the end of the fiscal year and another possible government shutdown, Roll Call reported.

    How a Democratic-backed spending increase for a not-well-understood educational approach will fare among pressing issues like defense spending and raising the debt ceiling is a big question. But the concept of social-emotional learning is becoming more mainstream. Ryan has made it integral to his 2020 presidential campaign, and, in another first, he addressed the topic at the June 26 Democratic debate, demanding social-emotional learning and trauma-based care in every school.

    “[Social-emotional learning] tells kids how to handle stressful situations, how to handle conflict better, how to have empathy, how to work on a team, how to best resolve conflict with their friends, their peers — these are all qualities we want kids to have,” Ryan told The 74. “By addressing the social-emotional needs of kids, you see an increase in test scores because they’re able to access parts of the brain that they need for learning.”


    Social-Emotional Learning Boosts Students’ Scores, Graduation Rates, Even Earnings, New Study Finds

    Social-emotional learning has drawn attention from policymakers, teachers and funders across the country over the past decade, as research has found that teaching students skills such as self-regulation, compassion and collaboration can improve not just test scores but also graduation rates as well as lead to better mental and physical health as an adult. Recently, an Aspen Institute convening of 200 researchers, educators, students and parents released recommendations for how schools can better support the whole child.

    Yoder, who travels the country talking with state educators and policymakers about social-emotional learning, said he’s also seen a growing interest in the topic from the business community, which is concerned with hiring employees who are good at collaborating and communicating.

    However, some people caution that educators should not prioritize social-emotional learning above academics, especially in schools that are performing poorly. They also recommend that SEL be implemented with rigor.

    “SEL will be counted as a dismal failure if it encourages educators to settle for pillowy paeans to ‘happiness,’ ‘self-esteem,’ and ‘inclusivity’ at the expense of harder things such as character, ethics, virtue, and civility,” Chester E. Finn Jr. and Frederick M. Hess wrote in a publication for the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.

    Funding for social-emotional learning was just one of many items included in a large package of appropriations bills for fiscal year 2020. House Democrats passed the bills 226 to 203, voting along party lines, with seven Democrats joining all the Republicans in voting no.


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  • Controversial Bill That Would Make Local Districts Sole Authorizers of Charter Schools Moves to a Public Hearing in the California Senate

    By Noble Ingram | July 8, 2019

    A controversial charter school regulation moving through the California legislature will take its next step Wednesday when the state Senate Education Committee holds a public hearing that’s expected to draw crowds of supporters and opponents of the state’s large charter school sector.

    Assembly Bill 1505 would grant local districts sole authority to approve or deny petitions for charter schools, which are publicly funded but independently operated and are often seen as competition by local school districts. Under the current system, both the county and state boards of education can approve petitions denied by districts on appeal. The state Assembly narrowly passed AB 1505 last month, although with a stipulation that a final version of the bill will retain some kind of appeals process extending beyond districts.


    Charter School Showdown in California: Assembly Moves Forward with Package of Powerful Regulations as Proponents and Teachers Unions Clash

    The legislation began this spring as part of a package of bills rewriting state charter policy. The state Assembly ultimately passed only two of them. The other item, Assembly Bill 1507, closed a loophole some districts were using to boost their budgets by approving charter schools outside of their boundaries. The Senate Education Committee is considering both bills, but Wednesday’s hearing will cover only AB 1505.

    “I’m proud to co-author AB 1505, which will finally allow our local school boards to factor the financial, academic, and facilities impacts that charter schools will have on their districts,” state Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, said last week. “Our locally elected boards are in the best position to determine whether a proposed charter school would negatively impact their district.”


    Lawmakers Are Trying to End a Weird Quirk of California’s Charter School Sector. Here’s Why the State Is So Unusual

    In April, the state Assembly held its own public hearing on the bill amid a throng of advocates at the capital. Three witnesses for each side gave extended statements.

    The speakers in favor of AB 1505 comprised leaders from both the Oakland and San Diego Unified school districts, as well as a traditional public school advocate from the San Bernardino County District. All described their frustration when charter petitions their districts had denied were approved by the county or state on appeal. In these cases, enrollment at traditional public schools fell as students moved to charters.

    “The financial oversight and management challenges are complex and need to be supported by state law in order to be better addressed and best addressed locally,” said Oakland Unified board president Aimee Eng. At 27 percent, Oakland has the highest ratio of charter school students of any district in the state. Since the 2006-07 school year, nine charter schools in Eng’s district have opened after appealing for approval from the county.


    Oakland’s New Opportunity Ticket Gives Students in Failing Schools a Shot at Attending Its Most Sought-After Ones

    The witnesses in opposition to the bill featured the CEO of a charter school network, a representative for the Sacramento County Board of Education, and Lety Gomez, a founding parent of a charter school in her East San Jose neighborhood. She voiced the concern among many critics of AB 1505 that the legislation would make it too easy for districts to close high-performing charter schools.

    “This bill is trying to take away [from] communities of color the right to school choice and equal opportunity. I cannot afford private school for my daughter. And with the current cost of living, I cannot afford to move in order to find the school that best supports her,” she said.

    That tension has come to a head across the state. In addition to restricting the appeals process for denied charter school applicants, AB 1505 also allows districts to consider the financial impact of charter schools on their budgets when making the decision. District school officials argue that charter schools siphon away badly needed funding, while charter proponents say their schools are being scapegoated for the fiscal mismanagement of district schools.

    In a statement from February, when AB 1505 and its companion bills were first introduced, California Teachers Association President Eric Heins called for “significant changes in the decades-old laws governing charter schools that have allowed corporate charter schools to divert millions away from our neighborhood public schools.”

    Pro-charter forces are worried the bill would essentially cut off charter school growth in the state. California has just over 1,300 charter schools, more than any other state in the country. Myrna Castrejón, president of the California Charter Schools Association, said in May that the bill would lead to “closing down the charter schools that are helping [vulnerable communities] learn and thrive.”

    Should the Senate pass AB 1505, the measure would go to Gov. Gavin Newsom for approval. In June, representatives from two prominent civil rights groups, the National Action Network and the National Urban League, met with members of Newsom’s staff. Both oppose AB 1505 and argue it would harm California’s students of color, who tend to be among the lowest-performing in the state.

    Newsom has so far been reticent to take a strong position on charter regulations, but during his campaign he received the support of California teachers unions. Charter schools are typically not unionized, and curbing their growth was at the heart of teacher strikes this year in Los Angeles and Oakland.

    Adding to the complexity is a report released last month from the California Charter Task Force. Newsom assembled the group and charged it with studying the impact of charter schools on state education funding. The unanimous recommendations the task force published countered the goals of AB 1505 by stating that “no changes were recommended to the [charter schools] appeals process.” But the report also included several measures that did not reach unanimous support advocating big changes to the charter appeals process directly in line with the bill.


    With New Report From California Task Force, Pressure Mounts on Gov. Newsom to Break Silence on State Legislation That Would Restrict Charter Schools

    At the state Assembly hearing in April, AB 1505’s author, Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell, said that the results of the task force would likely be reflected in the bill. But in advance of the Senate vote, it isn’t yet clear to what extent that will be true. The Senate Education Committee will decide whether to advance the bill to the full voting body on the same day as the hearing. The current legislative session ends in September.


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  • Are the Title IX Regulations Proposed by DeVos a Step in the Right Direction? Experts Debate Consequences at AEI Event

    By Mark Keierleber | July 1, 2019

    Washington, D.C.

    The Education Department’s proposed rules outlining how schools should handle sexual misconduct allegations bolster the rights of accused students, narrow the definition of harassment and allow schools to adopt a higher standard of proof. The proposed changes — which come amid a national reckoning on sexual misconduct — have received significant attention, including pushback within the education community.

    But are they a step in the right direction? That’s the question experts debated last week at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank.

    The proposed regulations, released by the Education Department in November, center on schools’ obligations under Title IX, the 1972 law that prohibits sex discrimination at schools that receive federal funding, and offer a significant policy shift from guidance under the Obama administration. At the AEI event, there was little common ground between the proponents and critics of the proposed changes.

    While proponents viewed them as a victory for the rule of law and due process, critics said the proposal offers a major setback for victims and could discourage reporting. Much of the debate centered on whether sexual misconduct cases should resemble criminal trials; under the proposed regulations, the process would differ between K-12 schools and college campuses.

    Under Obama-era guidance, the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights allowed a single person to serve as “the police, the judge and the jury in sexual harassment cases,” argued Shep Melnick, a political science professor at Boston College. But in a win for due process rights, he said, investigations would include live hearings and cross-examination. Such hearings would be required at the college level but optional in K-12 settings.

    Before proposing the regulations, the Betsy DeVos-led Education Department rescinded Obama-era guidance on Title IX that called on schools to better investigate misconduct complaints and required them to use a “preponderance of the evidence” standard when adjudicating complaints. Under that standard, those accused of misconduct are held responsible if evidence shows that a violation is more likely to have occurred than not. Some critics have held that that standard stripped the accused of their due process rights. Under the proposed guidance, institutions would be able to choose whether to use the “preponderance of the evidence” standard or the “clear and convincing evidence standard,” which sets a higher burden of proof.

    The Supreme Court has called cross-examination “the greatest legal engine ever invented in the discovery of truth,” noted Tamara Rice Lave, a law professor at the University of Miami, who supports the proposed regulations. She maintains that the single-investigator model could lead to confirmation bias.

    “This bias doesn’t just impact the accused,” she said. “A Title IX investigator may believe that a victim is lying, and once they come to that belief, they simply cannot see the evidence that shows she’s telling the truth.” She added that it’s “demonstrably more difficult for a witness to consistently answer spontaneous questions under a live cross-examination if he is being insincere.”

    Critics of the proposed regulations focused on the chilling effect the changes could have on victims. Seth Galanter, senior director at the National Center for Youth Law, who worked for the Office for Civil Rights during the Obama administration, argued that victims would be subjected to lengthy investigations with little opportunity to appeal.

    “As you look back and you ask yourself, ‘Was it worth filing this complaint in the first place, or should I have just been silent?’ The Trump-DeVos regulations encourage silence,” Galanter said.

    He also questioned the value of cross-examinations following campus sexual misconduct allegations.

    “When an adult cross-examines someone younger, that does not yield more accurate results,” he said. “Cross-examination can lead to falsehoods, and, more generally, many times cross-examination leads to [believing] someone is lying when they’re not.”

    Similarly, structuring Title IX to resemble criminal procedures undermines the original intent of the law, argued Nancy Chi Cantalupo, a law professor at Barry University.

    While previous administrations have viewed sexual harassment as a civil rights violation, she said, the proposed Trump administration regulations would treat misconduct only as a crime. And if it doesn’t meet the criminal standard, “that’s something to be ignored and tolerated.”

    “Criminal law is not structured to provide remedies to the victims so they can retain their equal educational opportunities after being victimized,” she said. “If we allow the DeVos proposals to turn Title IX into a criminal or even quasi-criminal law, we will eliminate Title IX’s ability to provide such remedies and to fulfill its purpose of fighting inequality.”

    Under AEI’s debate structure, the winner is determined based on which side changed the minds of the most audience members. In this case, about a third of the audience was undecided before the debate began. And while a majority of attendees voted — before and after the event — that the proposed regulations were a step in the wrong direction, proponents were more effective in swaying opinions.


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  • Monthly QuotED: 8 Notable Quotes That Made Education Headlines in June, From Kid Reporters to Godzilla — and Obama on Ed Reform

    By Andrew Brownstein | July 1, 2019

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

    “For the past two days, I have felt like I have been kicked in the sternum by Godzilla wearing steel-toed boots.” —Providence Teachers Union President Maribeth Calabro, on a scathing report from Johns Hopkins University that lambasted the district for poor academic performance, unsafe schools and lackluster morale. (Read at

    Getty Images

    “We’re taught to live in the present. Right now, my children are healthy.” —Melissa (last name withheld), who said her Buddhist views prevented her from vaccinating her children unless they became very sick, and one of several parents who successfully sued Rockland County, New York, to overturn a measure that barred unvaccinated children from attending schools. (Read at The New York Times)

    “My fear is that other police departments will see this and they will start training in a more militaristic fashion in order to prepare for the very rare [school shootings.] … Look, 99.99 percent of school resource officers are going to get through their entire career and this isn’t going to be the thing they ever have to think about. But when you prime them to think about that, you get military models of policing.” —Nadine Connell, associate professor of criminology at the University of Texas at Dallas, after former Broward County Sheriff’s deputy Scot Peterson was charged with criminal negligence in connection with the 2018 massacre at a Florida high school. (Read at

    Getty Images

    “Education reform isn’t a cure-all. As a supporter of education reform, I agree that fixing educational inequality requires doing more to address the broader, systemic sources of economic inequality.” —Former president Barack Obama. (Read on Twitter)

    “Part of what the far right is doing in every domain is trying to push that line of what’s acceptable. The N-word has become one of the skirmishes in this larger war. Harvard is pushing back and saying, ‘Nope, that’s not acceptable behavior.’” —Jessie Daniels, a sociology professor at Hunter College, on Harvard University’s decision to rescind its acceptance to Parkland shooting survivor Kyle Kashuv for what it described as racist exchanges on Twitter. (Read at NPR)

    “Education clearly has not been at the top of his list of priorities to address directly. But he has been very supportive of all the work that we have done.” —Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, on President Trump’s policy priorities. (Read at Politics K-12)

    “You can’t hold a phone and hold a drill at the same time.” —Marjorie Schulman, executive director of Brooklyn Boatworks, which is working with middle school students to build handmade, full-size wooden boats. (Read at The New York Times)

    Kate Stringer

    “Even though you might be scared, you never turn down a story, and it taught me you never know what’s going to happen.” —Amelia Poor, 13, one of 45 students who form the Scholastic News Kids Press Corps that writes for Scholastic’s classroom magazine. Despite her fear of canines, she successfully covered a recent Westminster Dog Show. (Read at


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  • Supreme Court, Weighing In on Trump Plan to End Relief to Undocumented Immigrants, Agrees to Hear DACA Case

    By Mark Keierleber | June 28, 2019

    The Supreme Court announced on Friday it will consider the fate of young undocumented immigrants protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. The program has been in limbo since 2017, when the Trump administration announced an end to the Obama-era initiative, which grants work permits and deportation relief to undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.

    The court will hear arguments in the case in its next term, which begins in October. Several federal judges have ordered the government to maintain protections for DACA recipients as lawsuits against the Trump administration work their way through the courts. Headed to the Supreme Court is a lawsuit filed by the University of California and its president, former homeland security secretary Janet Napolitano, who wrote DACA.

    In a recent interview, Napolitano highlighted the need for Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform and attacked the Trump administration’s “anti-immigrant animus.” DACA recipients who attend the University of California, she said, are “excellent students.”

    “Why would we throw the resources of the federal government against them and deport them?” she asked. “It makes absolutely no sense. This is a fixable issue, and Congress ought to fix it.”

    As we previously covered in The 74 earlier this year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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  • EduClips: From NYC’s Teacher Retention Woes to New Fallout From Parkland Shooting, School News You Missed This Week From America’s 15 Biggest Districts

    By The 74 | June 27, 2019

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

    New York City — Teachers Leaving City Pose “Crisis” for District: Declaring “a teacher retention crisis in New York City,” Comptroller Scott Stringer noted that 41 percent of city teachers hired in the 2012-13 school year had left the job. In order to preserve continuity, Stringer called for a new residency program focused on training. The proposed program would offer rookie educators a $30,000 stipend to work in a city school during their final year of graduate school. “We provide just weeks of in class training to aspiring teachers and no mentorship whatsoever,” he said. We can’t keep accepting a status quo where we lose half of our teachers in the workforce every five years.” (Read at the New York Post)

    Broward County — Two More Deputies Fired in Connection to Parkland Shooting: Two sheriff’s deputies were fired this week after an investigation found that neither tried to locate and confront the gunman during last year’s mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen students and faculty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were killed during the massacre on Feb. 14, 2018. According to an Internal Affairs report, deputies Josh Stambaugh and Edward Eason moved away from the source of the gunshots, prompting Sheriff Gregory Tony to describe their actions as “a neglect of duty.” Two other deputies, Scot Peterson and Sgt. Brian Miller, were previously fired in connection to their response to the shooting. Earlier this year, Peterson was charged with 11 criminal counts, including negligence and perjury. (Read at NPR)

    Los Angeles — Amid Fiscal Turmoil, Board Passes $7.8 Billion Budget: Despite declaring the documents to be “unintelligible,” L.A. Unified board members passed a $7.8 billion budget and accountability plan for 2019-20 last week. The move came after a highly touted parcel tax proposal failed and just a week after parents complained that the budget documents lacked transparency. The three-year, annually updated accountability document is a blueprint for the district’s goals and plans to improve student performance. The board’s move comes amid a year of fiscal struggle, including threats of a county takeover to shore up the district’s wayward finances. (Read at

    Hillsborough County — Incoming Freshman Dies During Summer Football Drills: Schools in the Tampa area halted all summer workouts and athletic activities after a 14-year-old collapsed while participating in football drills. Hours after the death of incoming freshman Hezekiah Walters, the district ordered coaches to complete a review of safety procedures at every school. “Our family is heartbroken with the loss of Hezekiah,” the Walters family said in a statement sent to the Tampa Bay Times. “We are still in shock and asking God to provide us peace.” The Hillsborough County Medical Examiner’s Office is investigating the cause of his death. (Read at the Tampa Bay Times)

    Fairfax County — Drama Teacher Arrested in Connection With Filming of Students: A Fairfax County high school drama teacher was arrested in connection with the filming of what police described as “dozens and dozens” of female students in a dressing area and other locations. Police said Raphael Schklowsky will face multiple charges for the videos, taken via cell phone and remote camera between May 2017 and June 2018. Schklowsky’s lawyer, Edward Ungvarsky, declined to comment. The teacher, who was previously charged with unlawfully filming his au pair and possessing child pornography, has been suspended without pay. (Read at The Washington Post)

    Noteworthy Essays & Reflections

    STUDENT DEBT — Canceling Student Debt Doesn’t Make Problems Disappear (Read at The New York Times)

    SCHOOL CHOICE —Walsh: School Choice Is Not a Zero-Sum Game — How a Texas Superintendent Created District-Charter Partnerships to Help All Kids Succeed (Read at

    PERSONALIZED LEARNING — What New Research Can Teach Schools Looking to Put Personalized Learning Into Practice (Read at Education Week)

    PARENTS — How parents can help dismantle transphobic and homophobic school climates (Read at The Washington Post)

    HEALTH — Study: Stay in School to Skip Heart Disease (Read at U.S. News and World Report)

    Quotes of the Week

    “For the past two days, I have felt like I have been kicked in the sternum by Godzilla wearing steel-toed boots.” —Providence Teachers Union President Maribeth Calabro, on a scathing report from Johns Hopkins University that lambasted the district for poor academic performance, unsafe schools and lackluster morale. (Read at

    “Education reform isn’t a cure-all. As a supporter of education reform, I agree that fixing educational inequality requires doing more to address the broader, systemic sources of economic inequality.” —former president Barack Obama. (Read on Twitter)

    “Let’s not mince words here. There’s a teacher retention crisis in New York City.” —New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, on reports that 41 percent of city teachers hired during the 2012-13 school year left during their first five years on the job. (Read at the New York Post)

    “Without support, no one can do this job.” —mentor and fifth-grade teacher Ambar Quinones. (Read at

    “Education clearly has not been at the top of his list of priorities to address directly. But he has been very supportive of all the work that we have done.” —Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, on President Trump’s policy priorities. (Read at Politics K-12)


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  • Video Replay: Are We on the Verge of a Breakthrough in Reversing America’s ‘Diploma Disparity’? Special Aspen Ideas Festival Conversation Looks to Improve Equity on College Campuses

    By Steve Snyder | June 26, 2019


    Students from low-income families have just a 13 percent chance of graduating from college within six years. That stark fact has driven a good deal of our education coverage over the past year. It’s also the urgent education crisis that motivated us to join forces with journalist Richard Whitmire in publishing his newest book, The B.A. Breakthrough: How Ending Diploma Disparities Can Change the Face of America. (You can see the special B.A. Breakthrough microsite, order the book and read the most popular chapters at

    On June 28, this broader issue of America’s “diploma disparity” took center stage at the 2019 Aspen Ideas Festival, as University of California President Janet Napolitano was joined in conversation by Aspen Institute CEO Dan Porterfield, Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson and the New York Times’ David Brooks for the panel “Ending Diploma Disparities Can Change the Face of America.” Whitmire introduced the event, offering up lessons and reflections from his time reporting out the book.

    Here’s a full video replay from Colorado:

    Leading up to June’s event, we published an array of interviews, essays, news and analysis tied to these panelists and the bigger issues of equity, mobility and college completion:

    Janet Napolitano: 74 Interview — University of California president and former Homeland Security secretary Janet Napolitano on DACA, Title IX and the value of college (Read the full interview)

    Janice Jackson: Pulling all the levers — Chicago Public Schools CEO Janice Jackson on getting more students to and through college (Read the full interview)

    Dan Porterfield: From Georgetown to Franklin & Marshall to Aspen, how Dan Porterfield is leading a revolution to get first-generation students through college with a degree (Read the full profile)

    Richard Whitmire: As school districts collaborate with top charters and foundations, we’re on the cusp of a breakthrough in guiding low-income and minority students to a college diploma (Read the full story)

    Research: New Pell Institute study finds “critical” gap in college success between low- and high-income students. Here are 3 reasons for hope (Read the full story)

    Analysis: New numbers show that low-income students at most of America’s largest charter school networks are graduating from college at two to four times the national average (Read the full story)

    College Statistics: Alarming stats tell the story behind America’s college completion crisis: Nearly a third of all college students still don’t have a degree six years later (Read the full story)

    High School Analysis: When it comes to predicting which college students will actually go on to attain a bachelor’s degree, high school GPA is king (Read the full story)

    Community College: Expanding the community college-to-university pipeline — Why more elite schools are embracing transfers and the 15,000 annual community graduates with 3.7 GPAs (Read the full story)

    Go Deeper: Read excerpts, analyze the numbers and download Richard Whitmire’s new book, The B.A. Breakthrough: How Ending Diploma Disparities Can Change the Face of America at


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    Disclosure: The Walton Family Foundation is a sponsor of the Aspen Ideas Festival and provides financial support to The 74.

  • Education Leaders in Heated Debate About International Survey Finding Most Teachers Don’t Feel Valued on the Job

    By Mark Keierleber | June 20, 2019

    Top officials across the political spectrum debated strategies to professionalize teaching Thursday, a day after an international survey found that educators in the U.S. — and globally — overwhelmingly like their jobs but feel undervalued by the public.

    The panel, which convened at the Georgetown University law school in Washington, got testy at times, particularly when discussing the value of recent teacher protests over school funding and pay. The Teaching and Learning International Survey, which was coordinated by the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), quizzed U.S. principals and teachers involved in grades 7 to 9 on a host of issues, including their backgrounds, professional development and attitudes toward the profession, and compared their responses with educators in other industrialized countries.

    In the U.S., the survey found, 90 percent of teachers reported satisfaction with their jobs, yet only 36 percent believe that society values their work. Additionally, the survey found that teachers in the U.S. reported working longer hours than those in most other countries.

    The panel Thursday, hosted by FutureEd at Georgetown, touched on a range of hot-button topics, from the value of teacher preparation to teacher evaluations.

    Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, said the survey results support the case for the recent surge in educator activism. The effects of the protests on the profession has been “riveting,” she said, because they’ve empowered educators to recognize a pathway to secure the “resources and the latitude that they need to help their kids learn.” She said teachers tried more traditional strategies — like advocating for policy before state legislatures — but didn’t find success.

    “They’ve tried and they’ve tried and they’ve gotten the door shut in their face and they’ve been disparaged,” she said. But through protests, they’ve secured a “path by which they’ve gotten some power to change the conditions.”

    Assistant Education Secretary Jim Blew offered a swift rebuttal, calling Weingarten’s statements an “unfortunate narrative” if teachers are being told the only way to gain power is to walk off the job. Strikes, he said, aren’t necessary to secure better funding for schools.

    Though Weingarten and National Council on Teacher Quality President Kate Walsh sparred on several occasions during the panel, on this point the two agreed. It’s unclear how teachers are supposed to grab legislators’ attention without striking, Walsh said.

    Again, Blew fired back.

    “There’s a union that represents the teachers that’s really very effective at their lobbying operation,” he said. “So their voice is heard — their voice dominates — education policy discussions at every state level.”

    In several states, such as Oklahoma, where teachers protested over education funding, their activism resulted in school funding increases, according to a recent report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.


    Report: Teacher Protests Fueled School Funding Surge in States Hit Hard by Recession

    Globally, reducing class sizes by recruiting more staff was the most important spending priority for educators, followed by a goal of improving teacher salaries. In the United States, better teacher salaries was the top spending priority, with nearly 70 percent of American educators rating higher teacher pay as being of “high importance.”

    “No surprise, the United States teacher salaries are not particularly competitive when you compare this across OECD countries, so you can see why teachers put this as a priority,” said Andreas Schleicher, the organization’s director for education and skills.

    For Weingarten, raising pay is a key ingredient to bolstering teaching as a profession.

    “They want to make sure they have enough salary so that they can actually pay their student loans, deal with health care, have a vacation every once in a while for their families, raise a family in the community in which they teach,” she said, noting that educators often earn less than workers in other professions with similar skill requirements. “Pay is an issue not only in terms of dignity and respect, but in terms of being able to live a middle-class life.”

    Meanwhile, panel participants highlighted the need to bolster teacher preparation and professional development. Although the quality of professional development for educators is a subject of hot debate, American teachers who participated in the survey were less likely to report a “high need” for professional development on a range of subjects such as school management and administration and educating students with special needs.

    But in the U.S., Blew said, “a third of children are simply not getting well-educated,” and “radical changes” are necessary. Among them is a Trump administration proposal to use $200 million in federal Title II grant funds to create a voucher program that would allow educators to select their own areas of professional development.

    “We’d love to see what teachers would do with the money themselves rather than how it’s being imposed on them,” he said.

    Walsh said the need to bolster teacher preparation is critical, but she expressed reservations about the voucher proposal and questioned whether the strategy would garner better results.

    “There have been a lot of efforts to let teachers decide what kind of professional development they want or need,” but they haven’t experienced great success rates, Walsh said. A better use of Title II funds, she said, is to pay teachers to work in high-needs schools that are disproportionately staffed by inexperienced educators. “Not one single state is using the money to do that,” Walsh noted.


    More Than Half of Aspiring Elementary Teachers Fail America’s Most Used Licensure Exam, New NCTQ Report Finds

    As for bolstering the reputation of teaching as a profession, Walsh said the answers are simple. Yes, salary plays a critical role, she said, but so does teacher preparation — educators’ first introduction to the profession. She said student teaching opportunities, in particular, are “done really badly.”

    “The first experience that we have as teachers is not a very good one, and that carries over into a culture that mimics that rather mediocre attempt at treating you like a professional,” Walsh said. “I don’t understand why we have turned our back on student teaching as our first obligation — not just our first opportunity, but our first obligation — to set up a culture where teachers learn to be experts.”

    Again turning testy, Weingarten said more factors are still at play: Teachers, she said, need to have a voice in decision-making. But the sense on the ground, Walsh said, is that they “haven’t earned it.”

    “They’ve gone to an ed school where everybody makes an A, in fact we’re busy getting rid of the few bars there are to get into the profession,” Walsh said, adding that some state lawmakers are working to scrap teacher licensure exams. “We’re doing everything the opposite of everything we need to do to make sure that teachers who have graduated from a teacher preparation program are respected and given that autonomy, because they deserve it and earn it.”


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  • EduClips: From an End to Student Searches in L.A. to a New Law Helping Illinois Kids Avoid Gang Territory, School News You Missed This Week From America’s 15 Biggest Districts

    By The 74 | June 20, 2019

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

    Hawaii — ACLU Says Hawaii Schools Are Suspending Too Many Students: Since the most recent federal school discipline data were released, Hawaiian educators have expressed concerns about a sizable racial disparity among school suspensions, showing that Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are more likely to be removed from class. But, as Honolulu Civil Beat reports, “the sheer number of instructional days missed in Hawaii as the result of school suspensions and arrests [is] drawing the attention of a national civil liberties group in the wake of the federal data.” (Read at Honolulu Civil Beat)

    California — L.A. Unified Board Votes to End Random Student Searches: This week’s meeting of the L.A. Unified School District board was overrun with activists, many of them students, who attended to speak out against the city’s policy of student searches. As the Los Angeles Times reports, “School leaders voted Tuesday to end a policy of randomly searching students with metal detectors during the school day, a decades-old practice that a coalition of students and advocates has been trying to eliminate for years.” (Read at the Los Angeles Times)

    New York — Some Students Get Extra Time for New York’s Elite High School Entrance Exam. 42 Percent Are White: The stakes are high when New York City’s middle school students sit down to take an exam that will determine who is admitted into the top public high schools. As The New York Times reports: “Those students have three hours, a race against the clock to answer questions on subjects like trigonometry and to analyze reading passages. But a few hundred students have double the time to take the exam, and there appears to be a racial disparity in who is receiving this special accommodation, which is covered under a federal designation known as a 504 … White students in New York City are 10 times as likely as Asian students to have a 504 designation that allows extra time on the specialized high school entrance exams. White students are also twice as likely as their black and Hispanic peers to have the designation. Students in poverty are much less likely to have a 504 for extra time.” (Read at The New York Times)

    Illinois — New Illinois Law Allows Schools to Offer Kids Bus Rides Around Gang Territory: The state of Illinois is beginning to implement a 2018 law giving districts new authority to help students avoid dangerous commutes. “Schools across the state of Illinois will now have the option to put kids on the school bus so they don’t have to walk through gang territory,” reports The Center Square. “Under the plan, schools will work with parents and local police departments to map blocks where school kids shouldn’t walk. Then the district would figure out how to get those kids on a school bus.” (Read at The Center Square)

    Florida — Florida Lottery Concerned Gambling Warning Labels Could Impact Education Funds: Gov. Ron DeSantis is considering new legislation that would add labels to the front of lottery tickets, warning purchasers about gambling addiction, the Pensacola News Journal reports. “An initial projection about the bill’s impact on education funding was made in March. But, appearing Wednesday before state economists, Florida Lottery Director of Product Shelly Gerteisen said officials have subsequently learned that the warning labels could affect the state’s participation in multi-state games such as Powerball and Mega Millions and end scratch-off games that feature the TV shows The Price Is Right and Wheel of Fortune and board games Monopoly and Scrabble.” (Read at the Pensacola News Journal)

    Kansas — State Supreme Court Lets Legislature Off the Hook on K-12 Funding … For Now: Kansas has been engaged in a legal showdown over education spending for more than 30 years. Now Education Week’s Daarel Burnette II reports that the state’s top court has offered a temporary reprieve: “Kansas’ supreme court said Friday that the state was on track to provide an adequate education for its public school students under a long-running school finance lawsuit. But while the court said that the $90 million extra the state set aside for its schools during this year’s legislative session was a step in the right direction, it did not permanently close the case known as Gannon v. Kansas. That leaves the possibility of future battles between the state’s high court and the legislature over how Kansas should fund its schools.” (Read more at Education Week)

    Philadelphia — Parents Fuming After Their Kindergartners Are Booted From South Philly Elementary to Make Room for Kids From Wealthier School: “Some South Philadelphia schools are bursting at the seams, increasingly filled with middle-class families choosing to stay in Philadelphia and invest in its public school system,” reports The Philadelphia Inquirer. “But a Philadelphia School District move to give away kindergarten seats at George W. Nebinger School, a diverse and largely low-income elementary school, to overflow children from its neighboring William M. Meredith School, a whiter and wealthier elementary school, has sparked controversy since the affected families received notice this week.” (Read at The Philadelphia Inquirer)

    National — Watchdog Warns Education Department Should Remedy Underreporting of Seclusion and Restraint Data: The department should take immediate action to remedy underreporting of seclusion and restraint in federal civil rights data, a government watchdog said in a report released Tuesday. Carolyn Phenicie reports that 70 percent of districts reported no incidences of seclusion and restraint in the 2015-16 Civil Rights Data Collection, but an analysis indicates that it likely didn’t capture all data. (Read more at

    Noteworthy Essays & Reflections

    INEQUALITY — Better Schools Won’t Fix America (Read at The Atlantic)

    SCHOOL DISCIPLINE — If You Won’t Do Restorative Justice Right, Don’t Do It (Read at Education Week)

    FACT CHECK — Where Have You Gone, Cory Booker? (Read at

    POLITICS — The Precarious Position of the Charter School Sector (Read at U.S. News & World Report)

    ACTIVISM — Strikes, pay raises & charter protests: America’s teachers’ exhausting, exhilarating year (Read at USA Today)

    Quotes of the Week

    “I think that the message out of OCR, since the Trump administration took office, is we’re a law-and-order division on those issues we care about, and everything else can go to hell.”—Brett Sokolow, president of the Association of Title IX Administrators, on efforts to scale back Title IX enforcement. (Read at

    “You can’t hold a phone and hold a drill at the same time.” —Marjorie Schulman, executive director of Brooklyn Boatworks, which is working with middle school students to build handmade, full-size wooden boats. (Read at The New York Times)

    “One size doesn’t fit all — support West Virginia schools. Keep up the great work @WVGovernor Big Jim Justice — I am with you.” —President Donald J. Trump, stepping into the middle of a skirmish between Justice and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. (Read on Twitter)

    “The party elites are polarized, and the voters who are going to be choosing the Democratic candidate are not moderates. This isn’t 1992, and the Democratic primary nominees aren’t looking for a ‘Sister Souljah moment.’ There’s nothing to be gained by showing that you’ll take a stand against your party’s conventional position.” —Michael Hartney, a professor of political science at Boston College. (Read at

    “Part of what the far right is doing in every domain is trying to push that line of what’s acceptable. The N-word has become one of the skirmishes in this larger war. Harvard is pushing back and saying, ‘Nope, that’s not acceptable behavior.’” —Jessie Daniels, a sociology professor at Hunter College, on Harvard University’s decision to rescind its acceptance to Parkland shooting survivor Kyle Kashuv for what it described as racist exchanges on Twitter. (Read at NPR)


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  • Key Takeaway From International Educator Survey: At a Time of Growing Protests, U.S. Teachers Say They Feel Satisfied but Undervalued

    By Mark Keierleber | June 19, 2019

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

    Teachers in the United States work long hours and feel undervalued by the public — but like their jobs anyway.

    Those findings, from an international education survey released Wednesday, offer fodder for all sides of a debate about teacher pay and working conditions that is mobilizing teachers to protest across the country.

    The Teaching and Learning International Survey, coordinated by the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, surveyed teachers and their principals in 49 industrialized countries, including U.S. teachers and principals involved in grades 7-9. Educators were quizzed on a host of issues, including their backgrounds, professional development and attitudes toward the profession.

    Here are five key findings from the report:

    1 American Teachers: Satisfied but Undervalued

    Despite the recent surge in teacher unrest, 90 percent of U.S. teachers who participated in the survey reported that they’re satisfied with their jobs. But another finding offers important shading: Despite the high personal job satisfaction, the survey found that only 36 percent of U.S. teachers believe that society values their work.

    That yawning gap is not unique to the U.S. Across countries that participated in the survey, job satisfaction was generally high. Teachers in Mexico reported the highest level of job satisfaction, with 98 percent of educators saying they felt positive about their careers. The lowest rate of job satisfaction was in England, with 77 percent.

    U.S. educators also hewed close to the international average on the question of whether they believe society valued their profession. But the results varied widely between the countries: 92 percent of teachers in Vietnam reported feeling valued, compared with 5 percent in the Slovak Republic.

    Results from the survey don’t speak directly to the recent rise in teacher activism, said Peggy Carr, associate commissioner of assessment at the National Center for Education Statistics, which administered the survey in the U.S. But she said the findings do provide some insight.

    “Teachers love their jobs all across the globe,” she said, but they also feel undervalued. “There’s a message there, I think, that we need to think about.”

    Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

    While the surge of recent teacher protests centered largely on education funding and salaries, the international survey didn’t touch on those issues directly. But another finding, Carr said, could play a role in educator unrest:

    2 American Teachers Work Longer Hours

    Educators in the U.S. reported spending more time teaching than those in other countries. U.S. teachers spend an average of 28 hours per week teaching and 46 hours each week at work. Educators across the surveyed countries reported working an average of 38 hours each week, with 20 hours spent teaching.

    Educators in Chile also reported teaching an average of 28 hours per week, while those in Kazakhstan reported teaching only an average 15 hours a week. But classroom instruction is only one part of teachers’ jobs. When factoring in other duties, like grading and planning, teachers in Japan boasted the longest workweeks, lasting 56 hours on average.

    3 U.S. Educators Are Better Educated but Less Experienced

    Among U.S. teachers in the survey, 98 percent reported they have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with an average of 93 percent across the surveyed countries. But teachers in the U.S. are also slightly less experienced. Teachers in the U.S. had 15 years of teaching experience on average, compared with an average of 17 years internationally.

    The same held true for principals. In the U.S., 99 percent of participating principals reported they hold a master’s degree or higher, significantly greater than the international average of 61 percent. While principals in the U.S. and across the surveyed countries have nine years of leadership experience on average, American principals tend to have less of a background in teaching: 12 years, versus 20 years among their global counterparts.

    4 A Global Gender Divide Between Teachers and Principals

    In the U.S. and elsewhere, women make up the majority of the teaching workforce. The opposite is true for principals.

    Among surveyed teachers in the U.S., 66 percent are female, compared with 69 percent across participating countries. Meanwhile, men comprise just over half of principals in the U.S. and internationally.

    5 Teachers in the U.S. Report Little Need for Professional Development

    The survey asked teachers whether they needed professional development in 14 separate areas, such as teaching students with special needs, communicating with people from different cultures or countries, and school management and administration. Regardless of the category, however, few American teachers reported a “high level of need” for professional development. The value of professional development in the U.S. remains a major point of controversy. A  2015 study by the nonprofit TNTP found that despite significant spending on professional development, the efforts often fail to help teachers improve in the classroom.

    Outside the U.S., educators were more likely to report a high need for professional development on each of the 14 areas. For example, 9 percent of U.S. teachers reported a need for professional development on teaching students with special needs, compared with the international average of 24 percent.


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  • No Exceptions: New York, Washington, Maine Abolish Religious Exemptions for Measles Vaccine, California Looks to Limit Medical Exemptions

    By Laura Fay | June 17, 2019

    Update, June 18: California Sen. Richard Pan updated the proposed legislation there to expand the list of medical conditions for vaccine exemptions and loosen the role of government oversight in granting exemptions. The state Assembly Health Committee is expected to vote on the measure Thursday, according to The Los Angeles Times.

    The measles outbreaks that have spread through different parts of the country this year are causing lawmakers and advocates in several states to rethink their policies about vaccinations, despite ongoing skepticism and sometimes-fierce political pushback from anti-vaxxers.

    New York, Maine and Washington state have all taken steps to restrict vaccine exemptions based on religious beliefs this year, and California is considering a measure to tighten up its existing policy governing medical exemptions.

    Since Jan. 1, 1,044 cases of measles have been reported in the United States. The disease was declared eliminated from the U.S. in 2000, but the Centers for Disease Control warned in May that if the outbreaks continue through the summer and fall, the United States could lose its status as a country that has eradicated measles.

    The most recent measles death in the U.S. occurred in 2015, but before the vaccine was common, the disease killed hundreds of children each year, according to the CDC.

    New York lawmakers voted last week to end religious exemptions for all required vaccines. The state does not allow for personal or philosophical exemptions, so now all children must receive the mandatory vaccinations to attend school unless they have a medical reason they cannot receive them. The law went into effect immediately but gives students 30 days to catch up on immunizations after they enroll in school.

    New York has seen the worst of the current measles outbreak, with New York City alone reporting 588 cases since September.

    Assemblyman Nader Sayegh, a Democrat from Yonkers, voted in favor of the bill to allow it to advance out of the health committee but voted against the measure when the Assembly voted. The law ultimately passed with a narrow margin in the Assembly amid protests.

    Sayegh, who previously worked as a principal and school board member, told The 74 he is not against vaccinations — all of his children are immunized, he said — but he was concerned about taking away parental freedom and children potentially missing class because of their immunization record.

    “Having my educator hat on, having kids out of school really is upsetting for me,” he said.

    Still, Sayegh said he thought the full Assembly should be able to debate the measure and take a vote.

    Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the bill ending religious exemptions as soon as it reached his desk. The New York outbreak has largely been concentrated in ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn and Rockland County, where misinformation has spread rapidly and some see vaccine refusal as a religious freedom issue.

    “The science is crystal clear: Vaccines are safe, effective and the best way to keep our children safe,” Cuomo said in a statement. “This administration has taken aggressive action to contain the measles outbreak, but given its scale, additional steps are needed to end this public health crisis.”

    All 50 states and Washington, D.C., have vaccine requirements for children to attend school, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The Supreme Court ruled in the 1905 case Jacobson v. Massachusetts that states have the authority to make vaccines mandatory. That ruling was reaffirmed in a 1922 case that allowed the San Antonio, Texas, school district to exclude unvaccinated children from school.

    All states allow medical exemptions, such as for children with allergies or autoimmune disorders who cannot receive immunizations, and most allow exemptions for philosophical or religious reasons as well.

    In Maine, where the vaccine opt-out rate is above the national average, lawmakers voted earlier this month to end all nonmedical exemptions.

    A Massachusetts lawmaker has also introduced a bill to end religious exemptions there.

    On the West Coast, actress Jessica Biel raised eyebrows this week when she lobbied against an effort by some California lawmakers to tighten the state’s policies regarding medical exemptions. After a 2014 measles outbreak originated at Disneyland, California enacted some of the country’s strictest vaccine policies, requiring students to have a doctor’s form citing a medical reason if they are not vaccinated.

    Biel said that she is in favor of vaccines generally but thinks the proposal goes too far.

    “I support children getting vaccinations and I also support families having the right to make educated medical decisions for their children alongside their physicians,” she wrote on Instagram.

    The bill in question would take away doctors’ ability to grant medical exemptions and instead require parents to request exemptions from the California Department of Public Health, submitting documentation from a doctor with the application. California has reported 52 cases of measles in 2019.

    California Gov. Gavin Newsom has also expressed some concern about putting the power in the hands of government officials instead of medical professionals. “I’m a parent, I don’t want someone that the governor of California appointed to make a decision for my family,” the Democrat said.

    Vaccinate California, the California Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, California, are co-sponsoring the bill.

    Research published last year in Pediatrics indicated that some doctors in California were granting medical exemptions for children who did not need them, sometimes charging parents a fee in exchange for the exemption form.

    Lawmakers in Washington state have also reacted to the measles outbreak. They were not able to get enough support to fully end nonmedical exemptions, but they did pass a law that ends the personal and philosophical exemptions from the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) shot. Washington was an early epicenter of the measles outbreak, prompting Gov. Jay Inslee to declare a state of emergency in January.

    “We would have preferred removing the personal exemption for all vaccines, but we weren’t able to — there was so much political pushback,” said Washington state Rep. Monica Stonier, a Democrat. “We just wanted to get something done.”

    Correction: There have been 52 reported cases of measles in California in 2019. An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported the year-to-date total. 


    7 Surprising Lessons From the 2019 Measles Outbreak: Teens Defying Parents on Vaccines, Affected Children Left More Susceptible to Other Illnesses & More


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