Noteworthy headlines from the education wire
  • Trump Budget Proposal Would Merge Federal Education Programs Into Single Block Grant, Cut Billions in School Spending

    By Mark Keierleber | February 10, 2020

    The Trump administration announced a proposal Monday to cut billions of dollars in education aid, in part by merging dozens of federal education initiatives, from charter school expansions to educating homeless children, into a single grant program.

    The move, which is practically assured not to win House approval, is part of the fiscal 2021 budget proposal the White House released Monday. The proposal aims to cut 7.8 percent in spending on federal Education Department programs, from $72. 8 billion to $66.6 billion.

    Under the plan, 29 formula and competitive grant programs — the largest being Title I — would be merged into a single block grant to states. The merger “would empower States and districts to decide how to best use Federal funds to meet the needs of their students,” according to the White House. In total, the “Elementary and Secondary Education for the Disadvantaged Block Grant” would receive nearly $19.4 billion in 2021.

    To allocate funds under the proposed grant program, the Education Department said it would use the same formula it currently uses to distribute Title I grants.

    “Instead of Washington politicians and bureaucrats forcing local schools to spend limited resources on D.C.’s priorities, this budget proposes putting state and local leaders, teachers, parents and students themselves in control of education,” Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said in a media release. “We know states will spend their money differently, and that’s okay. In fact, that’s what we hope they do. They know best how to serve their students.”

    The proposal announced Monday falls in line with Trump administration efforts to reduce the federal footprint in America’s schools. The proposal slashes a total $4.7 billion from the federal programs the block grant seeks to replace, but it is less severe than what the administration offered last year, when Trump proposed 10 percent in education funding cuts. Over time, the changes would reduce the Education Department’s staffing and administrative costs, according to a fact sheet by the Office of Management and Budget.

    Though the budget proposals signal the president’s priorities heading into an election year, they’re unlikely to become law. Last year, Congress approved a $1.3 billion bump in federal education spending.

    In total, Trump’s $4.8 trillion budget proposal calls for cuts to programs like Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program while increasing spending on the military, infrastructure and a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.


    Trump Uses State of the Union Address to Push for Tax-Credit Scholarships, Declaring No Child Should Be Forced to Attend ‘a Failing Government School’

    Meanwhile, Trump’s proposed budget seeks to spend billions in federal money — roughly equivalent to the totality of proposed cuts under the block grant — to help subsidize private school tuition. During his State of the Union address last week, he touted school choice as a pathway for students stuck in “failing government schools” and promoted a plan to create “Education Freedom Scholarships.” The proposal, a key legislative goal for DeVos, would offer federal tax-credit incentives to individuals and organizations that donate to state tax-credit scholarship programs for a host of educational offerings, including private school. Under the budget, the scholarship program would receive $1 billion in 2021 and $5 billion in subsequent years.

    Nina Rees, president and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, called the proposed budget “chilling,” arguing that it would result in fewer options for families. Last year, the federal government invested $440 million in charter schools. Merging that funding into a single block grant, Rees said in a statement, could hinder local efforts to create new charter schools because “it would put too much power in the hands of anti-charter politicians at the state level.” The federal charter school program helps fund new campuses in 45 states that allow them. The administration’s federal tax-credit plan to encourage donations for private school choice, however, “has little chance of passing” into law, Rees said.

    “As a result, there’s no guarantee that this tax-credit plan would ever help a student in need of access a better school,” she said.

    Beyond charter schools, federal initiatives touted for consolidation are far-reaching, with the the biggest line item being Title I grants, currently funded at $16.3 billion. Other programs folded into the proposed consolidated grant would be initiatives on school safety, rural education, teacher development and homeless education. New federal data, released in January, found that the number of students experiencing homelessness has surged in recent years.


    During State of the Union, Trump Announced Philadelphia Fourth-Grader Would Receive ‘Opportunity Scholarship’ for Private School Tuition. But That’s Not Quite True

    Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, accused the Trump administration of scheming to “funnel taxpayer money out of public schools and into private schools.” The proposal to merge federal education programs into a single block grant, she said, “is simply code for less funding to the schools and communities that need it most.”

    While critics focused on the proposed consolidation, the budget request also aims to provide a $900 million funding boost for career and technical education, which also got a call-out in Trump’s address to Congress last week, and a $100 million increase for state grants under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

    Among those who lauded the proposed budget is Elsie Arntzen, Montana’s superintendent of public instruction. The proposal, Arntzen said in an Education Department press release, is a victory for “local control.”

    “Consolidated federal grants will allow school leaders and the Office of Public Instruction to spend more time serving students and less time on burdensome federal reporting,” she said.


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  • EduClips: A Civics Test for Every Florida Student, a Board Election That Could Reshape Texas Education Policy & More School News You Missed This Week at America’s Top Districts

    By Laura Fay | February 6, 2020

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

    FLORIDA — Florida to Pilot High School Civics Test This Year: Most high school seniors in Florida will be expected to take a 100-question civics test, which is similar to the one immigrants must pass to become citizens, reports Jeffrey Solochek for the Tampa Bay Times. Gov. Ron DeSantis, a “huge proponent of increased civics education,” in December called for the testing, and state education officials said the test will be ready for all schools to pilot this spring. Scores will not count toward students’ graduation eligibility or school accountability measures during the pilot period. (Read at Tampa Bay Times)

    • Civics Ed: Can Civics Education Allow Schools to Rediscover Their Democratic Purpose — and Help Rescue America From Decline? (Read at The 74)

    TEXAS — Texas Primaries Set Up High-Stakes Test for GOP Hold on Education Board: Texas’s state Board of Education could see a “seismic political shakeup” this year, as two-thirds of its 15-member board are either leaving the board or facing opponents in either the primary election in March or the general in November. The board, currently dominated by Republicans, this year is expected to take up contentious issues including how schools should teach sex education, evolution and race, and the new members will have to choose textbooks that comply in 2021, Julie Chang reports for the Austin-American Statesman. The board makes decisions about curriculum, textbooks, charter applications and some education spending. (Read at the Austin-American Statesman)

    GEORGIA — Kemp Backs Bill to Reduce Testing, Especially in High School: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced this week he will support a bill that would decrease the total number of required standardized tests from 24 to 19. Four of the five dropped tests would be from the high school requirements. State Superintendent Richard Woods and lawmakers from both parties joined Kemp for the announcement. Some educator advocacy groups helped write the bill, but not all teachers support it, reported Ty Tagami for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. (Read at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

    CALIFORNIACalifornia May Pause Student Fitness Tests Due to Bullying: California Gov. Gavin Newsom wants his state to drop the fitness test portion of physical education classes in an effort to “protect children from body shaming, bullying and gender identity discrimination,” Mackenzie Mays reported in Politico this week. The test, which is required for fifth-, seventh- and ninth-graders, includes a body mass index screening that offers only male or female options, as well as tasks to measure upper body strength, aerobic capacity and other physical traits. Under Newsom’s proposal, the test would be suspended for three years while the state education department consults experts about its purpose and administration. (Read at Politico)

    ILLINOIS — To Address a Shortage of Bilingual Teachers, Illinois Legislators Propose Scholarship Bills: A state representative and a congressman from Chicago are pushing for legislation to encourage bilingual students to become educators. “State Rep. Aaron Ortiz and Illinois Congressman Jesús ‘Chuy’ García, both Democrats from Chicago, are backing bills that would expand financial aid for bilingual high school students who intend to go into teaching. Ortiz’s bill would establish a scholarship program in Illinois, while García’s bill would expand funding for federal scholarships,” reports Marie Fazio for Chalkbeat Chicago. (Read at Chalkbeat Chicago)

    NATIONAL — Here’s What U.S. Schools Are Doing in Response to the Coronavirus: Several U.S. schools are taking steps to reduce the risk of the new coronavirus, including by canceling Chinese exchange programs because of the ongoing outbreak, Sunny Kim reports for CNBC. Other districts are tightening their policies around illness; the Chula Vista district in San Diego, for example, sent parents a letter asking them to keep children home for 24 hours after they recover from a fever of 100.4 degrees or more. A private boarding school in Tacoma, Washington, asked four students who recently visited China to live off campus for one week over concern about the illness. There have been at least 12 cases of the virus reported in the U.S. so far. (Read at CNBC)

    NEW YORK — Birth Month Matters: NYC Students Born in November and December Are Classified with Learning Disabilities at Higher Rates: “A new analysis conducted by the Independent Budget Office … uncovered a strong correlation between being born later in the year and being classified as having a learning disability by New York City schools,” Chalkbeat’s Amy Zimmer reported this week. Part of the reason for the disparity could be that the city’s cutoff for kindergarten is Dec. 31, one of the latest in the nation. That means “roughly a third of public school students are expected to start kindergarten at age 4 — an early start that could have lasting impacts on students born late in the calendar year,” and experts said New York City’s rigorous curriculum could also be difficult for the youngest children. (Read at Chalkbeat New York)

    • More from New York City: NYC School System Failed to Consistently Conduct Lead Paint Inspections for Years, Records Reveal (Read at Gothamist)

    NEVADA — Teacher Union’s Proposed Sales Tax Increase Would Raise Nearly $1 Billion Per Year, Legislative Analysts Say: The Clark County Education Association last month unveiled a proposal for “raising a portion of the state’s Local School Support Tax by 1.5 percentage points” to boost state and local revenue and increase funding for education. If the proposal gains enough signatures, the state legislature could consider it in 2021. The proposal is one of two offered by the union; the other is a “a gaming tax increase projected to bring in $652 million over a two-year budget cycle,” reported Riley Snyder and Michelle Rindels for The Nevada Independent. (Read at The Nevada Independent)

    Noteworthy Opinion & Analysis

    2020 ELECTION: How Bernie Sanders Became Teachers’ Favorite Candidate (Read at Huff Post)

    TEACHER VOICE: The Problem With Education’s Latest Trend, Design Thinking (Read at Education Week)

    BLACK HISTORY: Code Switch — Black Parents Take Control, Teachers Strike Back (Listen at NPR)

    HIGHER ED: Is It Fair to Award Scholarships Based on the SAT? (Read at The Wall Street Journal)

    RESEARCH: When Teachers Are Tough Graders, Students Learn More, Study Says (Read at Education Week)

    What Else We’re Reading

    POLITICS: Trump Uses State of the Union Address to Push for Tax-Credit Scholarships, Declaring No Child Should Be Forced to Attend ‘a Failing Government School’ (Read at The 74)

    HEALTH: Teens Find a Big Loophole in the New Flavored Vaping Ban (Read at The New York Times)

    RURAL ED: When the Bus Is the Schoolhouse (Read at The Hechinger Report)

    SOLUTIONS: Colleges Enlist Anti-Dropout Agents: Mom and Dad (Read at EdSource)

    KICKER: California Teacher Faces His Worst Fears to Inspire Students to Do the Same (Read at ABC7)

    Quotes of the Week

    “The next step forward in building an inclusive society is making sure that every young American gets a great education and the opportunity to achieve the American Dream. Pass the Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act — because no parent should be forced to send their child to a failing government school.” —President Donald Trump, during the 2020 State of the Union address (Read at The 74)

    “The frivolous use of this dress code to prevent students from graduating is about exerting authority over and controlling black people. Black people should not, cannot change themselves to fit white norms.” —Andre Perry, on DeAndre Arnold, who is being barred from his high school graduation because of his dreadlocks (Read at The Hechinger Report)

    “[A student] wrote that she had planned to end her life, but a story I told in class had changed her mind. The story was about how I find purpose in my students. I had no idea it would be such a purpose.” —David Upegui, a Rhode Island high school teacher, in a Tiny Teaching Story (Read at Education Week)


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  • During State of the Union, Trump Announced Philadelphia Fourth-Grader Would Receive ‘Opportunity Scholarship’ for Private School Tuition. But That’s Not Quite True

    By Mark Keierleber | February 5, 2020

    Updated February 10

    During his State of the Union message Tuesday night, President Donald Trump addressed a Philadelphia fourth-grader in the audience stuck in “failing government schools” and told her she would get a life-changing opportunity to attend the school of her choice.

    By Wednesday, however, it became clear that there was more than meets the eye to the former Apprentice star’s prime-time gambit: Though it was described by the president as an “opportunity scholarship,” the U.S. Department of Education acknowledged that Secretary Betsy DeVos would personally bankroll the child’s schooling out of her own salary.

    During the Washington address, Trump said that Janiyah Davis would be awarded the scholarship to cover private school tuition, and he blamed Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf for trapping the child and thousands of others on a waiting list.

    This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is GettyImages-1204095881-615x410.jpg

    Stephanie Davis and her daughter Janiyah attend President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday in Washington. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

    “Your long wait is over,” Trump said to Janiyah, who attended the address with her mother, Stephanie. “I can proudly announce tonight that an opportunity scholarship has become available, it’s going to you, and you will soon be headed to the school of your choice.”

    Last June, Wolf vetoed legislation to nearly double the state scholarship program, which gives tax credits to businesses that donate money to help students pay for private school tuition. Although school choice options in Pennsylvania played a central role in Trump’s speech, the remarks were part of an effort to build support for a controversial federal school choice proposal championed by DeVos and Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. The federal Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act — which would provide federal tax credits to people who donate to state scholarship programs — is unlikely to pass and has faced opposition from advocates across the political spectrum.

    But the source of the scholarship Trump announced Davis will receive — and how it’ll be used — was a mystery, with a search for answers leading down a rabbit hole of bureaucracy. In a phone call Wednesday morning, a spokeswoman with the Pennsylvania Department of Education said that they, too, were looking for answers.

    In an email to The 74, an Education Department spokeswoman directed questions to the White House, noting that Trump invited the Davis family. A White House spokesman directed questions to the Education Department. Later, however, Education Department spokeswoman Liz Hill said that in “her personal capacity,” DeVos donates her federal salary every year. “In this instance, she will be directly providing the scholarship for Janiyah,” Hill said. Hill didn’t provide additional information, such as how Davis was selected for the opportunity, where she plans to attend school or how much money she would receive.

    Stephanie, the student’s mother, offered a different narrative in an interview with reporters from the Philadelphia Inquirer. Janiyah attends Math, Science and Technology Community Charter School III, one of Philadelphia’s most sought-after public charter schools. Janiyah previously attended Only Christian School, where she received a scholarship but the private school tuition remained steep. She enrolled in the charter school after receiving a coveted seat last summer. 

    Though she said she was honored to be recognized in Trump’s speech, she was surprised her daughter got the scholarship. Now, Stephanie is weighing whether to keep Janiyah in the charter school or to send her elsewhere. Stephanie doesn’t view the charter “as a school you want to get out of at all,” she told the Inquirer. “I view it as a great opportunity.” 

    Both Trump and DeVos have donated their government salaries to education initiatives in the past. Last year, DeVos donated a portion of her government salary to a group of historically black colleges and universities.

    Betsy DeVos speaks about a donation from President Trump to the Department of Education during the daily press briefing on July 26, 2017. (Getty Images)

    DeVos’s action, first revealed in a tweet from the New York Times’ Erica Green, generated a host of harsh reactions on social media. “We the people are supposed to be thankful when the oligarchs bestow gifts to lucky ones among us,” one Twitter user commented. Another user responded: “Rather than consistent public policy, the wealthy get to decide who among us is the ‘deserving poor.’”

    Casey Smith, communications director at the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, said in an email that the state wasn’t given any information beforehand about Trump’s announcement and called several claims in the president’s speech misleading. The Pennsylvania Department of Education designates eligible schools under the program, while the Community and Economic Development department approves eligible businesses.

    After Gov. Wolf vetoed a bill to expand Pennsylvania’s education tax-credit program, he signed off on a budget that included a more modest, $25 million increase for the program, “which the White House did not mention,” Smith said. Though Trump said “tens of thousands of students remain on a waiting list” because Pennsylvania’s school choice efforts are so popular, the state “does not collect data related to how many students are on the waiting list” for the tax-credit program, which Wolf believes lacks adequate accountability, Smith said.

    “Little is known about the educational outcomes of students participating in the program due to a reporting loophole in the current law,” Smith said. “Even less is known about the scholarship organizations that retain up to 20 percent of each dollar that is supposed to pass through them and are subsidized heavily by taxpayers.”

    Despite the uncertainty, the news generated a slew of differing opinions from education pundits and policymakers.

    Ironically, some of the harshest critics of the proposal come from the political right; they view it as federal overreach. Among them is Neal McCluskey, director of the Center for Educational Freedom at the libertarian Cato Institute, who said he worries that greater federal involvement in school choice could become “one-stop shopping to regulate private schools.”

    Though there’s nothing wrong with DeVos donating her salary to the student, McCluskey said, it’s unclear whether she’s giving money to the Davis family directly or going through the state’s tax-credit program. The way Trump presented the news, he said, could confuse people who don’t fully understand how education tax-credit scholarships work.

    “The way it was presented at the State of the Union was, at the very least, unclear,” McCluskey said. “The politics of how it was presented — making it sound like an opportunity scholarship — that’s got potentially problematic aspects to it depending on how much credit you think the president should get for this student getting a scholarship.”

    But from a political perspective, focusing on the plight of a single student was smart messaging, said Jeanne Allen, founder and CEO of the Center for Education Reform. She noted that “when you want someone to make a point, it’s not difficult to find someone who’s got a compelling story.” As for DeVos, Allen said the donation shows that the education secretary has “got a big heart.”

    “People think she’s insane for doing this job because she’s been put through such hell,” Allen said. But “this is her issue; this is what she lives for.”

    Max Eden, a senior fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute, said it was inaccurate to characterize the DeVos donation as an “opportunity scholarship” but didn’t believe that Trump’s statements were “substantively misleading.” Although it’s highly unlikely that the federal tax-credit proposal will advance in Congress, he said the speech could bolster Trump’s electoral prospects.

    “It’s not a coincidence that Janiyah comes from a battleground state that many consider to be a ‘must-win’ for the president,” Eden said in an email. “And I imagine that the sight of Congressional Democrats refusing to stand for Janiyah will help him in that regard.”

    Michael Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a right-leaning education think tank, viewed the situation differently. Though he applauded DeVos’s donation, he predicted that the Trump speech will have little effect on the school choice debate in Pennsylvania or nationally.

    “What school choice needs right [now] is greater bipartisanship,” Petrilli said in an email. “That’s not going to be aided by our most polarizing president in American history.”


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  • Q&A — Three Minutes With CZI’s Brooke Stafford-Brizard: What the Schools Best at Supporting the Whole Child Have in Common

    By Greg Richmond | February 3, 2020

    This is one in an ongoing series of brief conversations with education innovators led by Greg Richmond, founder and former CEO of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers. His “Three Questions For” series also appears on Medium. Today’s edition: three minutes with Brooke Stafford-Brizard of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

    Richmond: Recently, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative released a set of profiles of schools bringing a whole-child approach to the classroom. What are the characteristics of those schools that make it more likely for them to successfully implement a whole-child approach? 

    Stafford-Brizard: One theme we have seen across those 10 schools that have really dedicated to this rigorous and integrated whole-child approach is really intentional model design. Whether they built the school design from the start or revisited the design of their model, it has to be embedded at that level to think about how a broader definition of student success is integrated into models that might have been more academic-centric alone. None of these schools walked away from rigorous academic development. Instead, many of these schools are really doing a phenomenal job with their academic measures, and their leaders attribute that to their whole-child approach.

    Also, there is huge attention to the adult community in these schools. It’s in two parts. One is the access that teachers have to support and resources grounded in the latest research on child and adolescent development. We generally don’t train teachers in pre-service education through a human development lens. There is so much opportunity to support our educators with innovative resources grounded in child and adolescent development — for example, leveraging brain science and how that informs how we support positive discipline models in schools. 

    There’s the support educators need and are longing for, and then there is also attention to their own whole development. That’s supporting and tapping into the sense of purpose that educators feel, their own identities and what they bring to school in their classroom, as well as addressing levels of stress they might be experiencing. For example, in environments that are doing a really good job addressing trauma, we see significant secondary trauma in our teachers. A huge focus of the schools we highlighted is the attention to the teachers and their whole development.

    I would also add a connection to families and community. A lot of these schools are really intentional about embracing and embedding the values and strengths and assets that students are bringing from their cultures and their communities into the classroom, and not putting barriers between the classroom and community.

    These schools are also really desperate for formative measures and formative assessments, both to help track where they are and how they can get better. Some of these partners have built their own surveys and their own tools in the absence of fieldwide supports.

    Finally, the whole-child work in these schools is implemented with deep rigor. Just like the effort that goes behind a strong approach to mathematics or literacy, the same thing is necessary with their approach on these whole-child constructs, like sense of purpose or executive function skills. 

    How could public education policies around the country be improved to make it more likely for schools to implement a whole-child approach?

    In the policy space, we’re seeing really strong traction and response for demand for mental health supports in schools. We should ensure that those policies that are put in place and the funding routed toward those supports are looking to evidence-based practice and an asset-based lens on students and communities. At the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, we include the assets and skills connected to mental health and well-being in an expanded definition of student success and have invested in supports for educators to integrate a focus on mental health into their school practice. 

    I would point to two main policy areas that are most available for opportunity. This first involves discipline policies and codes of conduct that should be grounded in the science of child and adolescent development and focused on strengths and social-emotional skill development. This includes the most relevant and effective strategies for de-escalating children and adolescents and addressing behaviors that might not be appropriate for the classroom — we know that isolation and immediate punishment is actually not aligned to the science of learning and development. Policies need to represent this science and provide the right implementation support for teachers and leaders.

    A second opportunity involves adult development policies, both pre-service and in-service, and what we name as the critical components of educator preparation. The learning and developmental sciences have a lot to teach us about how to best support children, adolescents and adults. The implications are powerful both for teachers and our school leaders. 

    What has inspired you to make a career supporting and advancing a whole-child approach to education?

    I started my career as a middle school teacher in the Bronx. I was a Teach for America corps member. I wasn’t an education major. I went back to graduate school after I taught middle school, and the program I focused on was cognitive sciences in education, a doctoral program in human development that was part of Teachers College at Columbia, and I learned the science of learning and development. There was so much that I wish I had known as a teacher. My work and my career have been about infusing the science of human development into the way we work with educators and support educators.

    Greg Richmond is the founder of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers and a senior fellow at the Future Ed think tank at Georgetown University. 

    Disclosure: The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative provides financial support to The 74.


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  • EduClips: Florida Scraps Common Core, Puerto Rico Struggles to Open Schools After Quakes, NYC Now Spending $28,000 Per Student & More Education News You Missed From America’s Top Districts

    By Laura Fay | January 30, 2020

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

    FLORIDA — Governor Scraps Common Core, Announces New Florida School Standards: Gov. Ron DeSantis promised to unveil new academic standards for Florida students soon. Known as the BEST Standards — for Benchmarks for Excellent Student Thinking — the new guidelines are meant to “go back to the basics” of math instruction and will include American history and civics content at every grade level, report Emily L. Mahoney and Jeffrey S. Solochek for the Tampa Bay Times. “It goes beyond Common Core to embrace common sense,” DeSantis said. (Read at the Tampa Bay Times)

    PUERTO RICOPuerto Rico Opens Only 1 in 5 of Schools Three Weeks After Strong Earthquake: “Puerto Rico opened only 20 percent of its public schools on Tuesday following a strong earthquake that delayed the start of classes by nearly three weeks as fears linger over the safety of students,” the Associated Press reported this week. Just 177 schools have been able to reopen since the Jan. 7 quake. Engineers found at least 50 that were too unsafe to reopen, leaving about 240,000 students out of school. Another 51 schools are slated to reopen Feb. 3. “Experts say that some 500 public schools in Puerto Rico were built before 1987 and don’t meet new construction codes,” and the fixes are estimated to cost up to $2.5 billion, the AP reports. (Read at Time)

    ILLINOIS — Can Chicago Design a Better School Ratings System? Principals, Parents and Teachers Think So: Money, school environment and pressure around test scores were a few of the things that parents, educators and community members discussed at a recent meeting about Chicago’s school ratings system. The district implemented changes to the system in 2019 and now appears to be seeking community input to improve the system further. Critics including Chicago’s teachers union say the current system relies too heavily on test scores and attendance. “Exactly what the school board plans to do with what it learns from its meeting isn’t quite clear — the district is also trying to drum up participation in a citywide survey on the topic and said there would be future public discussions — but members said they would weigh what they heard,” reports Cassie Walker Burke for Chalkbeat. (Read at Chalkbeat)

    NEW YORK — NYC Spends a Record $28K Per Student, but the State Is Footing a Smaller Portion of That Bill: Gov. Andrew Cuomo has touted New York’s “record-high spending on education during his administration,” but the state has been paying a smaller portion of the bill for New York City schools, reports Reema Amin for Chalkbeat. A new report shows that New York City has been paying a higher share of school funding while the share paid by the state has fallen by more than 11 percentage points in the past 30 years, according to a new report by the city’s Independent Budget Office. (Read at Chalkbeat)

    TEXAS New Standards for Charter Schools Likely to Be Adopted by State Education Agency: The Texas Education Agency is expected to approve new standards for charter schools this spring. The new scoring system would have three tiers and evaluate schools on academics, finances and compliance with state rules and regulations. Under the new system, it will be easier for networks in the top tier to open new schools, reports Phil Prazan for Austin station KXAN. Opponents say encouraging charter school expansion comes at the expense of traditional district schools, which could see enrollment decline as a result. (Read at KXAN)

    CALIFORNIA — Children’s Mental Health a Cause for Concern in Report on California Youth Policies: A new report issued by the Oakland-based nonprofit Children Now gives California a grade of C- for its care of children and young people. The state received a failing grade for youth mental health because of its high ratios of students to counselors, psychologists, social workers and nurses at schools and high rates of depression and mental health hospitalizations among students, reports Carolyn Jones for EdSource. Children Now also pointed out some bright spots, including growth in the share of children who have health insurance and declining suspension rates at the state’s schools. (Read at EdSource)

    Noteworthy Opinion & Analysis

    STUDENT VOICE — I’m a Student-Activist. Stop Turning Us Into Props (Read at Education Week)

    FUNDING — Blue States Are Burying Damning Data About School Funds. Red States Are, Too (Read at The New York Times)

    STUDENT HEALTH — Why are school nurses disappearing? (Read at Good Housekeeping)

    STANDARDS — People Keep on Saying They’re Killing the Common Core. How Dead Is It? (Read at Education Week)

    RESEARCH — High School GPAs Are Stronger Predictors of College Graduation than ACT Scores (Read at Inside Higher Ed, AERA)

    What Else We’re Reading

    IMMIGRATION — The Cheer Team Caught Between Two Worlds (Read at The Marshall Project)

    IOWA — Teen Voters Could Swing the Outcome of the Iowa Caucuses (Read at Teen Vogue, Education Week)

    MIDDLE SCHOOL — The Outsize Influence of Your Middle-School Friends (Read at The Atlantic)

    HIGH SCHOOL — High School Starts at 3 p.m. for These Michigan Students (Read at NPR)

    HIGHER ED — Look Who’s Talking About Canceling Debt: How a Fringe Idea Went Mainstream (Read at The Chronicle of Higher Education)


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  • Do Parents Actually Want Their Kids in Integrated Schools? New Harvard Survey Reveals Mixed Messages

    By Mark Keierleber | January 29, 2020

    Correction appended February 4

    As schools across the country remain starkly segregated by both race and income, parents expressed widespread support — in theory — for integrating America’s public schools, according to a new report. For many, however, that support appears to stop at their own doorstep.

    Across America’s increasingly partisan political divide, parents say they support racial and economic integration in schools and would prefer to send their kids to diverse campuses, according to a Harvard University report released on Wednesday. But when parents actually weigh school choices for their own children, that support often takes a back seat to other issues. School quality and safety are often more important for parents than integration, researchers found.

    Parents “care about integration, but they don’t care about it very much,” said report co-author Richard Weissbourd, a senior lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Other factors and their own biases, he said, deter many parents from choosing integrated schools. Weissbourd said parents should walk the walk on integration when selecting schools, noting a body of research that points to positive academic effects.


    12 Things to Know About **School Segregation** — and How Integration Helps Students

    Integration “is likely to be good for your own children and other people’s children and the country as a whole,” he said. “Parents and schools really need to step up here because it’s unlikely it’s going to happen through the legal system.”

    In a computer-based survey of 2,644 American parents from across the country, 85 percent of women and 77 percent of men said they support racially integrated schools. At least half of respondents from all racial groups said they supported integration, though black parents were most in favor, at 68 percent. Support also cut across political parties; 85 percent of Democrats and 76 percent of Republicans affirmed support for racially integrated schools.

    But there’s also an interesting election tie-in: Researchers conducted parent surveys before and after President Donald Trump was elected in 2016, and support for racial integration spiked among Democrats after his inauguration, with respondents saying the political climate strengthened their support. Racial overtones in the election likely contributed to the change, Weissbourd said. As leading Democratic candidates promise to address school segregation in their 2020 education platforms, Weissbourd said they should remind parents that combating segregation is a collective responsibility.

    The study found that parent support for economic integration was also high, though less profound than it was for racial diversity. Efforts to promote integration also found support, with roughly two-thirds of respondents in favor of district initiatives to achieve racial and socioeconomic diversity — efforts a majority of parents said would benefit both white students and children of color. On average, parents gave the most support to schools that are equally distributed racially and economically.

    Despite that overwhelming support, however, school segregation persists. For example, about 40 percent of black and Latino children attend schools where students of color comprise between 90 and 100 percent of the student population. More than 65 years after the Supreme Court found school segregation unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education, multiple decisions from the High Court have minimized district obligations to combat segregation.

    In the survey, and in telephone interviews and focus groups with parents, researchers found multiple factors that could explain the dichotomy between parents’ stated views and actions. When selecting a school, 81 percent of parents said academic quality is a leading factor, and 70 percent said the same about school safety. Just 10 percent of parents picked racial and economic diversity as a top consideration when actually choosing a school in which to enroll their children.

    Their concerns may be warranted, the report notes, since schools with large shares of students of color and those from low-income households tend to have fewer resources and less-experienced teachers. But parents’ information on schools is frequently inadequate, according to the report. Parents often rely on school report cards in both school and residential decisions, though they offer an incomplete picture of school quality, Weissbourd said. Parents also tend to mimic the decisions of those in their social circles, he said, and white advantaged parents often wind up clustered together. Meanwhile, a single episode of violence or bullying at a school can create long-term negative perceptions.

    The report urges parents to do more research when picking schools, including campus visits, and to put a greater emphasis on racially and socioeconomically integrated campuses. Those decisions, the report argues, come with stark consequences for communities.

    “It might seem that schools are unaffected by individual enrollment decisions,” according to the report, but “the collective impact of those decisions has been a large factor in barricading millions of Americans into marginalization and poverty and deepening the country’s cultural, racial and economic fractures.”

    Correction: Based on subsequent information provided by researchers, this story has been updated to reflect that after Donald Trump’s inauguration in 2016, support for racial integration in schools spiked among Democrats. 


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  • Listen Up, Candidates: Most Teachers Feel Their Voices Aren’t Being Heard, New Survey Reveals

    By Mark Keierleber | January 22, 2020

    As the Democratic presidential hopefuls release campaign promises to woo America’s K-12 educators — a key voting bloc — teachers feel left in the dark on major policy conversations, a new survey revealed.

    Just a third of educators said their perspectives are considered a “great deal” in teachers union policy decisions, and the numbers fall sharply from there. Only 15 percent of teachers said their voices are sufficiently heard by state policymakers, and 12 percent said the same at the federal level, according to a nationally representative survey released Wednesday by the nonprofit Educators for Excellence.

    Similarly, just 48 percent of teachers said school administrators seek their input at least monthly, while fewer than a quarter said the same about state and federal education leaders. Yet nearly all teachers — 95 percent — said they want more opportunities to influence education policy.

    The results follow a wave of teacher activism nationally over issues including pay, education funding and school choice. In many cases, teacher walkouts led to tangible policy changes, including increased school funding. The survey touched on a range of high-profile topics that have dominated both teacher activism and the presidential candidates’ talking points.

    The upcoming election provides an opportunity for policymakers “to address what is preventing our students from reaching their full potential and us, as teachers, from thriving in our careers,” according to the survey. “We don’t need tweaks; we need meaningful change.”

    Teachers likely feel underrepresented in policy conversations because they’re isolated in classrooms as policies evolve around them, Evan Stone, an Educators for Excellence co-founder and co-CEO, said on a call with reporters.

    “It’s a challenge that doesn’t have an easy solution but is one the teachers are clearly feeling,” Stone said. But he did point to one potential solution on the local level: Officials could do a better job of including teachers’ perspectives when selecting a curriculum. Currently, just 27 percent of educators say they have a say in curriculum decisions, according to the survey.

    Courtesy Educators for Excellence

    To Charles Beavers, an instructional support leader at Chicago Public Schools, inequities in America’s education system have reached a “national inflection point,” he told The 74. In cities across the U.S., teachers have hit the streets to demand equitable opportunities for students, he said, but “this is not a local issue anymore. This is a national issue.” Beavers, an Educators for Excellence member who helped craft the teacher questionnaire, participated in Chicago’s 11-day teacher walkout in October.

    But teachers don’t feel particularly optimistic. Nearly three-quarters reported they do not feel valued, and only about half said they are “very likely” to spend their entire careers in the classroom.

    The online survey, administered by Gotham Research Group, was conducted in November and included a nationally representative sample of 1,000 full-time public school teachers. Researchers conducted a supplementary survey in December with an additional 500 educators.

    In order to bring educators’ voices to the forefront of policy conversations, there needs to be “a concerted, organized effort” on the local and national levels, Beavers said.

    “It’s not going to happen just by hoping and wishing,” he said. “Folks have to hit the streets, which we’ve seen people doing over the last four years. We’ve seen folks in the streets, we’ve seen folks advocating for their kids and themselves and for professional respect and fair compensation.”

    Issues on teachers’ minds

    On the campaign trail, Democratic candidates have elevated teacher salaries as a leading education issue. They’re on the right track, according to the survey. When asked what would keep teachers in their job for the rest of their careers, the answer was simple: better pay.

    In fact, more than two-thirds of teachers reported they’ve worked a second job to pay their bills. In order to score bigger paychecks, teachers expressed a willingness to make sacrifices. Two-thirds said they’re willing to trade in tenure for better pay or more benefits.

    The survey also revealed that teachers are open to merit-based pay, an incentive that’s controversial in policy circles. About two-thirds of teachers said they would consider trading guaranteed small raises for the opportunity to earn significantly more based on their classroom performance. An even larger share — more than three-quarters — support financial incentives for educators who work in high-needs schools, take on leadership roles or teach hard-to-staff subjects like special education.

    Courtesy Educators for Excellence

    Teachers’ bottom line is far from the only issue on their minds, however. The survey also touched on several high-profile policy debates, including student safety and school choice.

    As school shootings drive heated debates over gun policies and school security, more than a third of educators said they fear for their own physical safety at school at least sometimes. But fights among students — not mass school shootings — were the biggest safety concern among respondents.

    School choice, including charter schools and private school vouchers, has become a thorny topic among Democrats, with the leading presidential contenders taking a hard turn away from these options. Teachers are similarly skeptical, the survey revealed. Only about one-third support charter schools or vouchers for students from low-income households. However, there are gradations: 65 percent said they’re open to school choice if it doesn’t shift funding away from public schools, and 55 percent said the same if it improves academic achievement among low-income kids. Just 4 percent of teachers said they oppose all forms of school choice.

    For Beavers, teacher recruitment and retention is top of mind. Others seem to agree, according to the survey, with just 12 percent reporting that educator preparation programs train prospective teachers “very well” for the realities of the classroom and 21 percent reporting that the professional development at their school was “very effective” at improving their skills.

    “The data show that we need to rethink how we’re recruiting teachers and what we’re doing to make sure that those folks who are qualified and are making a difference day in and day out stay in the classroom,” Beavers said.

    Beyond their own well-being, teachers overwhelmingly said resources are a problem in their schools, which are often unable to meet the needs of many students. Nearly 70 percent reported that school funding is inequitable, while classroom supplies and resources are insufficient in schools that serve high-needs students. Unsurprisingly, early-career teachers and educators of color — who are more likely to work on campuses with scores of low-income children — were more likely to report resource inequities.

    Courtesy Educators for Excellence

    While 48 percent of educators said their schools “often” meet the needs of pupils performing at grade level, just 29 percent said the same about children performing below grade level. In one of the bleakest findings, just 24 percent said their schools often meet the needs of students who have experienced trauma. Similarly, only 41 percent of teachers said their schools “often” provide welcoming and inclusive environments for LGBTQ students.

    Though the survey revealed that teachers often feel ignored in policy conversations, presidential candidates should focus the bulk of their energy on improving conditions for students, Beavers said. Efforts to create a more equitable education funding model should take center stage.

    “The disparities are so huge,” he said. “Even going from schools within one mile from one another, it’s night and day. We’ve really got to put this focus on equity and making sure that all kids get what they need.”


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  • Haves and Have-Nots: The Borders Between School Districts Often Mark Extreme Economic Segregation. A New Report Outlines America’s 50 Worst Cases

    By Mark Keierleber | January 22, 2020

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

    The Rust Belt city of Rochester in western New York has the most economically segregating school district border in the country, walling off the high-poverty education system from its affluent neighbors next door, a new report has found.

    About half the children in Rochester live in poverty, and many of them struggle to get adequate food, health care and housing, according to the report, released Wednesday by the nonprofit EdBuild. In Penfield, a Rochester suburb, the student poverty rate hovers in the single digits, and children fare much better.

    “It is a steep challenge for the Rochester schools to serve such a large proportion of these high-needs students,” according to the report. “But Penfield, just next door, has a student poverty rate that mirrors the tony ski town of Aspen, Colorado.”

    The report highlights America’s 50 most segregating school district borders, which researchers say divide communities into haves and have-nots. In the EdBuild analysis, the nation’s most segregated school district borders cluster in the Deep South and along the Rust Belt in the North. On average, poverty rates among school-age children are 30 percentage points higher in school districts on the wrong side of the border. Meanwhile, the average annual household income between impoverished districts and their more affluent next-door neighbors differs by $43,000.

    The concentration of poverty in Rocheseter is “a systemic crisis,” said Rev. Lynette Sparks, the acting head of staff at the Third Presbyterian Church in Rochester. Sparks is a founding member of Great Schools for All, a local nonprofit that promotes voluntary integration between Rochester and its suburban school districts. In Rochester, she said, “It’s as if you’ve got 100-foot brick walls between every single district that these kids can’t leap over.”

    In communities across the country, school district funding is largely dependent on local property taxes, incentivizing communities to maintain narrow school district borders that uphold economic segregation. In fact, the issue is generally worse in states where school district lines are drawn around individual towns, said Zahava Stadler, EdBuild’s policy director. As a result, a school system can find itself in a tough spot if the community’s local economy falters. Theoretically, the district borders “could be redrawn in ways that diminish segregation if somebody were to take up that mantle,” Stadler said.

    Nearly half of students in Rochester, New York, live in poverty, compared with just 5 percent of children in neighboring Penfield. (Courtesy EdBuild)

    Though the report focuses on economic segregation, it also observed racial disparities in many districts. On average, white student enrollment is 55 percentage points higher in the affluent school systems. Just 10 percent of students in Rochester are white, compared with 84 percent in Penfield.

    EdBuild previously released a similar report based on student poverty data from 2014, as communities across the country were still feeling the lingering effects of the recent recession. Although much of the country has rebounded and the national student poverty rate has declined a few percentage points, many communities remain strapped by downturns in their local economies. The earlier report found that the school district border separating Detroit from Grosse Pointe in Michigan was the nation’s most segregating, but districts at the top of EdBuild’s lists both years generally fell within a few percentage points of one another.

    The new report measures economic segregation along school district borders by comparing child poverty rates in 2017 between neighboring cities. Communities that struggled prior to the recession remain in trouble today, researchers found.


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

    Such a situation continues to play out in Rochester, where efforts to promote education equity between the city and its suburban neighbors have floundered. In fact, Rochester is “a poster child for isolation,” Stadler said, sharing borders with five school districts that EdBuild ranks in the nation’s top 50 most economically segregating.

    “Rochester is surrounded by better-off districts,” Stadler said. “Every single one of its neighbors has a lower poverty rate than it does. To say, ‘There’s nothing that can be done,’ is patently false. There are resources in the area that could be tapped for Rochester’s schools if we just thought differently about how those school districts should be organized.”

    ‘Poster child’

    In Rochester, residents have been grappling with segregated school district lines for about a century. In 1929, officials proposed a countywide school district in the area, but suburban residents rejected the proposal, and school district lines that match city limits remain intact today.

    As black residents flocked to Rochester in the 1950s and ’60s for jobs at industrial giants like Kodak and Xerox, officials in neighboring Penfield took steps to shelter its affluence. White residents fled to the suburbs and Penfield adopted “exclusionary zoning” rules to limit development to single-family homes and opposed more affordable housing options, according to the report.


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

    In Warth v. Seldin, a case that came before the Supreme Court in 1975, low-income Rochester residents lost their battle against Penfield’s exclusionary zoning practices. The court ruled that the Rochester residents lacked standing to sue, even if Penfield’s housing policies effectively gated it off from low-income residents.

    “Our school finance system, with its heavy reliance on local property taxes, gives every wealthy community an incentive to do what Penfield did,” according to the report. “First, turn down proposals for a wider, more inclusive school district and then, keep the walls up, property values high, local dollars in, and needy kids out.”

    Similar to many cities in the Rust Belt, industrial jobs in Rochester dried up and economic hardship ensued.


    Persistently Struggling: Lovely Warren’s Audacious Plan to Save the Distressed Schools of Rochester, NY

    Despite the division between Rochester’s schools and those in the suburbs, there are efforts underway to close the gap. Under an urban-suburban student transfer program, students of color from Rochester can voluntarily transfer to participating suburban districts. But an initiative to attract suburban students to Rochester schools, funded through a $1.2 million state grant, was deemed by many to be a failure. Under the program, just 10 suburban preschoolers attended class at a Rochester campus.

    For decades, officials in the community have scoffed at the idea of combining the Rochester school district with its suburban neighbors. There’s a perception among some parents that their children will underperform if they attend the city’s struggling schools, Sparks said. But because of concentrated poverty, the city can’t address the issue on its own. That’s why a broader community effort, which encompasses the city and its suburbs, is vital, she said. But “when push comes to shove,” she added, parents tend to focus narrowly on their own children rather than on community improvement.

    “They’ve never treated it like a community problem,” she said, but “the truth is, we all bear responsibility.”

    While 60 percent of Rochester residents support a countywide school district, just 49 percent of suburban residents agree, according to a 2018 survey by the Democrat and Chronicle newspaper.

    “People are, in a sense, trapped in a mindset that however their school district is drawn is the way that school districts work,” Stadler said. But with political courage, she said, state lawmakers could redraw school district borders in a way that promotes economic and racial integration.

    The fault lines

    Beyond Rochester, EdBuild researchers found that the problem is largely concentrated in a few states. New York, for example, is home to nine of the country’s 50 most economically segregating school district borders.

    But the worst state offender, according to EdBuild, is Ohio, home to 17 of the country’s most egregious borders. Communities in that state share similarities with Rochester: As the economies in metropolitan areas faltered, school district borders “served to quarantine their misfortune” and allowed neighboring suburban districts to escape the economic fallout.

    Youngstown, once a prominent steel town, shares the nation’s second- and third-most segregating borders with neighboring communities Canfield and Poland. While 47 percent of Youngstown children live in poverty, just 6 percent of those in Canfield and 7 percent in Poland have similar economic realities.

    “There are a few states that might take a hint from the fact that their districts appear repeatedly,” Stadler said. “Ohio always lights up like a Christmas tree when you look at the problems created by school district borders.”

    Outside the Rust Belt, EdBuild found a cluster of segregated borders along the Deep South’s “black belt,” a region originally named for the rural area’s dark, fertile farmland. A district line separating the Claiborne County School District in Mississippi from those in Hinds County is the south’s most segregating, researchers found.


    When Communities Secede From School Districts, Inequity & Segregation Follow. But 30 States Let It Happen Anyway

    To politicians interested in improving conditions, EdBuild researchers point to several anecdotal successes. In Vermont, for example, schools are funded through a state property tax and, as such, local property values don’t define the level of funding school districts receive. And in North Carolina, school districts are drawn at the county level. School districts that are geographically larger, EdBuild found, are generally less segregated. Such decisions are in the hands of state lawmakers who draw school district borders.

    “The educational outlook for the children trapped behind arbitrary borders — just a few feet away from much better opportunity — is not dependent on local economies,” according to the report. “Rather, their future is dependent on political bravery.”


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  • Take Two: Julia Keleher, Former Puerto Rico Education Secretary, Indicted in Second Round of Corruption Charges

    By Mark Keierleber | January 15, 2020

    Julia Keleher, Puerto Rico’s former education secretary, has been indicted on federal charges alleging that she offered up public school land in exchange for help buying a luxury apartment, officials announced Wednesday. It’s the second time in six months that federal law enforcement officials have accused Keleher of public corruption.

    Keleher, who became Puerto Rico’s top public schools official with goals of reforming the island’s lackluster education system, faces as many as 30 years in prison in connection with the alleged bribery and fraud scheme, according to the federal indictment.

    Keleher is accused of giving 1,034 square feet of space at the public school Padre Rufo to a real estate company that owns the ritzy Ciudadela apartment complex, located a block away in San Juan. In return, Keleher was allowed to rent an apartment in Ciudadela from June to December 2018 for just $1, though an agreement valued the monthly rent at $1,500, the indictment said. Under the alleged scheme, Keleher ultimately bought a two-bedroom at Ciudadela for $295,000 and received a $12,000 incentive bonus. Also indicted was Ariel Gutiérrez-Rodríguez, a consultant who federal officials say helped facilitate the lease agreement with Keleher.

    New charges against Keleher include bribery, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit honest services fraud. Keleher faces up to 10 years in prison for conspiracy and federal program bribery and 20 years for wire fraud.

    “Public corruption continues to erode the trust between government officials and our citizens,” W. Stephen Muldrow, U.S. attorney for the district of Puerto Rico, said in a media release. “Government officials are entrusted with performing their duties honestly and ethically. When they fail to do so, they will be held to account.”

    Neither Keleher nor her attorney responded to telephone calls requesting comment on the new charges.


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

    Keleher was Puerto Rico’s education secretary from January 2017 until her resignation last April. Less than a year into the job, Puerto Rico’s schools were devastated by Hurricane Maria, a tragedy Keleher seized upon to close hundreds of schools and usher in new education reforms, including charter schools and private school vouchers. As secretary, Keleher received an unusually high salary of $250,000 a year. Prior to the indictments, Keleher consistently portrayed herself as a crusader against widespread corruption within Puerto Rico’s education department.

    Coincidentally, the latest federal charges against Keleher come amid a new crisis: Puerto Rico’s public schools are currently closed after a series of earthquakes shook the island.


    Exclusive: Ex-Puerto Rico Schools Chief Julia Keleher, Indicted in Corruption Probe, Previously Denied She Was Federal Target

    In July 2019, Keleher was indicted on federal allegations that she participated in a conspiracy to steer more than $15 million in government contracts to unqualified, politically connected businesses. Five others were also indicted in that alleged corruption, including the former director of the island’s health insurance administration and an executive at a major accounting firm that worked on some of Keleher’s more ambitious reform efforts.

    The previous charges were announced shortly before Keleher’s former boss, former governor Ricardo Rosselló, resigned amid his own public scandal. Unlike the new charges, Keleher’s previous indictment didn’t accuse her of benefiting personally.

    Court documents filed by Keleher’s attorneys in that case depict her as a uniquely polarizing figure. In a motion last month, Keleher asked a judge to move her trial to a courtroom off the island. Widespread media coverage and public awareness of her indictment, Keleher argued, prevents her from receiving an impartial jury. “The volume of negative publicity coupled with the charged political atmosphere has created considerable widespread bias against” Keleher, the motion said.

    In a separate filing, Keleher asked the judge to lift a gag order that barred Keleher, her attorneys and others from discussing the case with reporters.

    After living in an upscale Washington, D.C., neighborhood following her resignation in Puerto Rico, court documents from August indicate, she moved in with her parents in Pennsylvania. Last month, communications specialist Andy Plattner sent out an email requesting that people chip in to pay for Keleher’s defense.

    “She’s had to sell her home, move in with her parents and work in a retail store while her lawyers prepare her case for trial,” Plattner wrote in the email. “She’s put the proceeds from her home, her life savings and her retirement account into her legal fees and that will not be near enough.”


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  • QuotED in 2019: The 19 Quotes About Schools and American Education That Made Us Laugh, Cry and Ponder This Year

    By Andrew Brownstein | December 22, 2019

    Updated Dec. 23

    Nationally, the news of 2019 was dominated by the seemingly endless presidential campaign and the highly partisan debate over whether to impeach President Trump. Education often struggled to find a voice. But outside the Beltway, school news dominated the headlines. Chicago reckoned with a school sexual misconduct scandal that spanned more than a decade. The Palm Beach, Florida, school district fired a principal who denied the reality of the Holocaust. And all over the U.S., from a state takeover of schools in Providence, Rhode Island, to a district secession battle in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, schools wrestled with the legacy of generations of inequity.

    These historic moments (and, yes, a gaffe or two) are captured regularly in QuotED, a roundup of the most notable quotes behind America’s top education headlines — all taken from our regular EduClips series, which regularly spotlights important headlines you may have missed from America’s 15 largest school districts.

    Here are a few of our favorite education quotes from 2019:

    Getty Images

    “Lunch should be lunch, which should not be somewhere between breakfast and lunch.” —New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, on a Daily News analysis showing that many city schools offer “lunch” long before 11 a.m. (Read at the New York Daily News)

    “Rich kids go to therapy, poor kids go to jail.” —Melivia Mujica, a student activist in San Antonio. (Read at

    “Let’s just say my phone has rung a lot.” —American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, on interest from the field of 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls in courting the union vote. (Read at U.S. News and World Report)

    “[The superintendent] came to me in a panic because he had been accosted by prominent, wealthy alumni of the school who were Mr. Trump’s friends. … He said, ‘You need to go grab that record and deliver it to me because I need to deliver it to them.’” —Evan Jones, former headmaster of the New York Military Academy, on attempts to conceal the high school academic records of President Donald Trump. (Read at The Washington Post)

    Heather Martin

    “Well, you know, I’m going to die in here and I’m a virgin and I will have never met Bruce Springsteen.” —Heather Martin, recalling what she told a friend over 20 years ago as two gunmen terrorized Columbine High School. Today, she teaches high school English in nearby Aurora, Colorado. (Read at

    “Adult misconduct is surely not acceptable, but, holy crap, we have a lot of work to do in terms of student behavior against other students.” —Chicago teachers union president Jesse Sharkey, on 900 sexual misconduct cases being logged in the district over the course of four months, mostly students reporting on other students. (Read at Chalkbeat)

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

    “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

    Five student journalists interview Ziauddin Yousafzai at Scholastic headquarters in Manhattan on June 11, 2019. (Kate Stringer)

    “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)

    “I work 55 hours a week, have 12 years’ experience and make $43K. I worry and stress daily about my classroom prep work and kids. I am a fool to do this job.” —A teacher in an online focus group, quoted in this year’s PDK survey of American teachers. More than half said they had seriously considered quitting in recent years. (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)

    “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)

    Getty Images

    “Poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids.” —Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. (Read at Politics K-12)

    “It just becomes like a ghost town.” —Jack Thompson, superintendent of the Perry, Ohio, school district, on what would happen if a nuclear plant there closes. Experts warn that half of the nation’s 59 nuclear plants could close by 2030. (Read at

    Getty Images

    “I can’t say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event.” —William Latson, former principal of Spanish River High School in Florida. This year’s revelation of his 2018 comments in a local newspaper sparked international outrage and ultimately led the Palm Beach County Schools to fire him. (Read at The Palm Beach Post)

    “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)

    Long Farm Village and nearby affluent neighborhoods are looking to secede from East Baton Rouge and its district, leaving behind impoverished areas not yet recovered from catastrophic flooding and lacking needed resources for their schools. (Beth Hawkins)

    “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, a new member of the school board in East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, which is facing a secession attempt from a mostly white and affluent enclave. (Read at

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

    Getty Images

    “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


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  • When Classrooms Deck the Halls: See the Colorful, Creative and Adorably Silly School Holiday Decorations Quietly Flooding Social Media

    By Meghan Gallagher | December 18, 2019

    In between planning lectures, grading papers and overseeing year-end celebrations, teachers across the country are still somehow finding time to transcend the holiday wreath, converting their classrooms, doors and hallways into sprawling, colorful and creative winter wonderlands.

    And on social media, followers have taken notice. With the construction paper and glitter being hung with great care, parents and supporters have rushed to their Facebook forums to like and to share.

    A few of our 2019 favorites:

    Coast to coast, everyone seems to love a good pun. From these silly students in California:

    To these Texans:

    This NYC cityscape — complete with a Santa flyby — caught our eye:

    Library or Macy’s? Classroom or candy land? Who knew doors had so much potential?

    Nostalgia is always a reliable go-to; here’s one door that was inspired by the classics:

    The eco-friendly door:

    And, of course, a meme or two…

    Some schools made things interesting with a little competition.

    But however you judge it, we’re giving all these designs a ribbon — for bringing a little cozy and creative cheer to these classroom communities.


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  • As Education Department Prepares to Release Highly Anticipated Title IX Rules, Dem Bill Offers Last-Ditch Effort to Shut Them Down

    By Mark Keierleber | December 16, 2019

    Democratic lawmakers have mobilized a last-ditch effort to stop the release of controversial federal rules that govern how schools across the country must respond to sexual misconduct complaints.

    The legislation from four Democratic congresswomen aims to halt the release of highly anticipated regulations expected soon from the Education Department that would bolster the due process rights of students accused of sexual misconduct.

    Draft regulations released last year would make several controversial changes to the way schools must respond to misconduct complaints under Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in education. Released last week, the Democratic bill would prohibit Education Secretary Betsy DeVos from implementing rules “that weaken the enforcement” of Title IX. The bill would likely face steep opposition from the Republican-controlled Senate.

    “It’s as if fraternities around the country drafted this rule,” Rep. Jackie Speier, a Democrat from California and co-author of the bill, said in a media release. “The bar for proving sexual violence will be so high that survivors will be discouraged from coming forward and schools will once again be able to sweep allegations under the rug.”

    The Education Department’s draft regulations, which narrow the definition of harassment and allow schools to adopt a higher standard of proof, offer a significant policy shift from Obama administration guidance. Once released, the final regulations will likely face lawsuits. Conversations over campus sexual harassment generally center on colleges, but the rules also apply to K-12 schools — which have faced their own challenges in combating abuse.

    For Rep. Elissa Slotkin, a Democrat from Michigan, concern over the proposed regulations centers on Michigan State University, located in her congressional district. The proposed changes, Slotkin said in the news release, would negatively affect survivors abused by convicted sex offender Larry Nassar, a former doctor for the American women’s gymnastics team and Michigan State University associate professor. In September, the Education Department fined the university a record $4.5 million for its failure to address sexual abuse claims against Nassar.


    Ed Dept’s New Title IX Rules Would Set Higher Bar for Proving Sex Harassment in K-12 vs. Higher Ed; Women’s Groups Vow Opposition as 60-Day Comment Period Begins

    The Education Department recently confirmed that it aims to release the final regulations by the end of the fall semester. However, the White House Office of Management and Budget, which reviews proposed regulations before they’re finalized, has scheduled meetings on the issue until early February 2020. Among groups scheduled to meet with the office are the National Center for Youth Law, a vocal critic of the proposed rules, and National Coalition for Men Carolinas, which supports the changes. The office is also scheduled to meet with leaders at multiple universities and the Los Angeles Unified School District.

    Proponents of the proposed regulations say they’re a victory for student due process rights. Among changes in the draft regulations, schools would be able to choose a standard of proof — either “clear and convincing” or “preponderance of the evidence” — to adjudicate misconduct cases. Under Obama-era rules, schools were required to use the lower “preponderance of the evidence” standard. Under the proposed regulations, schools can use that standard only if it is applied to all student misconduct. Critics say that change, among others, could discourage victims from reporting abuse.

    Elizabeth Tang, the counsel for education and workplace justice at the National Women’s Law Center, said the legislation sends “a clear message” that the proposed regulations “are harmful and illegal.”

    “The Department of Education’s dangerous goals are not a secret, as it has explicitly stated that its goal is to reduce the number of sexual harassment investigations conducted by schools,” Tang, whose law center helped Slotkin’s office draft the legislation, told The 74 in an email. “We cannot allow Secretary DeVos to sweep sexual harassment under the rug and to make it harder instead of easier for student survivors to come forward.”

    In the Nassar case, victims often reported abuse to athletic personnel, staff and others they trusted. If the proposed rules had been in place at the time of the Nassar case, Michigan State wouldn’t have been required to respond to several key incidents, according to Slotkin’s office. Current department policy requires schools to address harassment if a student reports an allegation to a “reasonable employee.” The proposed regulations require students to report allegations to a Title IX coordinator or a school official with “authority to institute corrective measures.”

    Critics of the proposed regulations made a similar argument after an Education Department investigation found that Chicago Public Schools failed for years to address sexual misconduct. Under the proposed regulations, for example, the Chicago district wouldn’t have been required to intervene when a teacher assaulted a student in his car, according to the critics.


    DeVos vs. DeVos: The Education Department’s Response to Chicago’s Sexual-Misconduct Scandal Contradicts Its Proposed Direction for Title IX, Experts Say

    It remains unclear, however, how the final regulations will differ from the proposed rules. Citing anonymous sources in a story last month, The Washington Post reported that the final rules will retain many of the most controversial proposals. Among them is a provision that would allow college students accused of misconduct to cross-examine their accusers. An Education Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the final rules or legislation.

    However, the Post noted that the Education Department is expected to step away from a proposed rule that would hold institutions responsible only for incidents that occur on campus or during school activities. That proposed rule, Slotkin’s office noted, would have required the university to ignore Nassar’s off-campus misconduct.

    Still, Tang said the proposed regulations could be particularly harmful for students in K-12 schools. While it’s difficult to report abuse at any age, it’s particularly difficult for younger children, she said.

    “If the rules go into effect, schools will be legally allowed to ignore all sexual harassment that is not reported to a small set of high-ranking school employees,” Tang said. “That means a K-12 student will not be entitled to any help if they tell a guidance counselor they were raped by a classmate, or if they tell a teacher that they are being sexually abused by another teacher.”


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  • New Numbers Show More Colleges Using High School Grades, Not Just Standardized Tests, to Determine If Students Require Remedial Coursework

    By Mikhail Zinshteyn | December 15, 2019

    For advocates, change hardly happens fast enough. But over a five-year period, a key barrier to the success of many college students has eroded considerably, opening up the door for thousands of new students to progress through college at higher rates.

    The share of community colleges and four-year public universities that have started to use alternatives to standardized tests to determine whether students are ready for college-level math courses more than doubled between 2011 and 2016, to 57 percent for community colleges and 63 percent for four-year public institutions — up from 27 percent. The November findings are from a representative survey of postsecondary institutions’ approaches to placing students in remedial courses, the first since 2011.

    In English, those figures increased to 51 and 54 percent in 2016 for two- and four-year public institutions, respectively, from 19 and 15 percent in 2011.

    The survey was in part funded by a federal grant and conducted by the Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness, a collaboration of MDRC and the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College.

    The findings signal a national shift away from relying solely on standardized tests, which a growing chorus of researchers faults for placing more students in remedial courses than is necessary. Other measures, such as high school performance, have shown to be better predictors of whether students will pass a college-level course. As many as 70 percent of college students are told to take remedial courses when they first enter college, which few complete, resulting in dropouts and sunken ambitions.

    “You’re seeing that change is happening,” said Elizabeth Zachry Rutschow, the lead author of the report. “If you consider that five years before this survey, almost no one was using anything other than standardized tests, I think that’s a pretty big growth in five years.”

    Despite the increased embrace of multiple measures, the survey found that nearly 40 percent of public colleges use only one placement strategy, and 90 percent of those use just standardized tests.

    Still, review of high school performance was the second-most popular way of assessing student skills after standardized tests, the report said, “indicating that many colleges may be heeding recent research suggesting that students’ high school grades are a more accurate predictor of their college success.” While more than 90 percent of public institutions used standardized assessments, more than 40 percent relied on high school records.

    Placement policy that relies just on placement test results can lead to surprising degrees of misplacement for students in community college. A December research brief published by UC Davis in California showed that students from a large urban school district who enrolled in a nearby community college district between 2009 and 2014 were often placed in remedial math even though they took advanced high school classes. The brief showed that 84 percent of the students who took pre-calculus in high school wound up in remedial math anyway. Of those, nearly a third were placed in pre-algebra or below. Among students who took calculus in high school, just about half were placed in remedial math.

    The survey also offers a national snapshot of the strategies colleges are using to teach students determined to need remedial coursework.

    Most community colleges and a large share of public universities assigned students to multiple levels of developmental education in 2016, but by then reforms to that model were already noticeable. Those include allowing students to take compressed remedial courses that package several semesters of coursework into one remedial course. Another reform places students deemed in need of remedial support into college-level courses that come with extra tutoring or instruction to catch them up on more basic elements, known as the corequisite model.

    The report noted that though “experimentation is widespread, colleges are generally not offering these approaches at scale, with most interventions making up less than half of their overall developmental course offerings.” The report also indicated that more four-year universities had been using developmental education courses in 2016 than in 2000.

    The remedial reform landscape has taken off considerably since 2016, however. California State University, the nation’s largest university system, with around 480,000 students, removed remedial courses in time for fall 2018, replacing them with other models, such as the corequisite approach. And a California law implemented this year will shift the community college system from one in which most students were assigned to remedial courses to one in which most aren’t.

    A December 2018 analysis of state remedial instruction policies indicated that more than a dozen states had statutes permitting similar reforms to how these courses are taught.

    But even when states or college systems recommend or mandate the use of these instructional models, not all institutions may comply, the report showed. In Georgia, “only 64 percent of two-year colleges surveyed use this approach for developmental math instruction and 60 percent for developmental reading and writing,” the report said. By contrast, all universities in Georgia reported using corequisite models. The difference might be in how the two systems were told to embrace the corequisite model — the universities were mandated to do so, while the colleges had more leeway and could adopt methods other than corequisites.

    “Clearly colleges are still doing their own thing,” Rutschow said.


    Sometimes the Outcome Is the Equity: Why It’s Critical to Prepare Students of Color to Do Well on Standardized Tests — Even If You’re Not a Fan


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  • Challenging Conventional Wisdom, Report Finds Promising Academic Performance in Chicago’s Growing English Learner Population

    By Mark Keierleber | December 8, 2019

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

    For years, the academic performance of English learners in Chicago has looked grim, with research showing they lag far behind students who entered school as native English speakers. But a new report calls into question that conventional wisdom.

    By eighth grade, most Chicago students who began their first year of school unable to speak English fluently had academic achievement similar to — or even better than — their native-English classmates, according to the new report by the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research. More than three-quarters of the children in the study were proficient in English by eighth grade. These students, researchers found, had better attendance, math scores and overall course grades than their native-English peers. Meanwhile, the two groups had similar test scores in reading.

    A bilingual education program at Chicago Public Schools may have played a role in the promising results. But another factor could be at work: Researchers used what they say is a more accurate way to assess student performance.

    Research and school accountability data often focus on “active English learners” who have not yet reached proficiency in the language. When students become proficient, they leave the English learner category and their progress is measured only as part of the general student population. That strategy therefore provides a “biased picture” of English learners’ academic performance, according to the report.

    “That was actually a little bit troubling to us because it doesn’t really paint the whole picture of what our schools are doing” to improve the performance of English learners, said report co-author Marisa de la Torre, senior research associate and managing director at the consortium.

    The University of Chicago Consortium on School Research

    Consortium researchers tracked 18,000 Chicago students and analyzed the long-term trajectories of children who began kindergarten as English learners through eighth grade. Their performance was then compared to Chicago students who were never classified as English learners. The positive findings suggest the instruction given to Chicago’s English learners is academically appropriate.

    The report comes as the number of English learners in Chicago and elsewhere has grown exponentially. In schools across the country, the proportion of students who are English learners grew by 26 percent between 2000 and 2015, according to federal education data. During the 2018-19 school year, about a quarter of Chicago’s public school kindergartners were not fluent in English. Districtwide, about one-third of Chicago students are classified as English learners at some point in their academic careers.

    With that population growing, the report demonstrates that the district’s strategies are working, said LaTanya McDade, the district’s chief education officer. The district, America’s third-largest, has more than doubled the number of campuses with dual language programs since 2016. These programs offer students course instruction in both English and their native language. Meanwhile, the district has hired an additional 1,000 bilingual educators since 2015, according to district data.

    The district’s focus on biliteracy, McDade said, gives students a competitive edge. “We see biliteracy as their superpower,” she said, so “we want to make sure that we are, yes, immersing students in English, but also in their native language.”

    A potential notch in the district’s favor is that while some states prioritize English-only education, schools in Illinois are required to offer transitional bilingual or dual language programs. It’s possible that the district’s emphasis on dual language programs builds “on the strength of students’ home language and culture, rather than seeing them as impediments,” according to the report.

    While much of the research on English learners centers on children in California, the report’s focus on Chicago students is notable because Illinois law requiring bilingual education and funding for such programs has been consistent over time, said Rebecca Vonderlack-Navarro, manager of education policy and research at the Latino Policy Forum.

    “California has been all over the place when it comes to bilingual education; they were English-only for a while,” Vonderlack-Navarro said during a press conference in Chicago last week. “We need to maintain investment in [English learner] programming because it works.”

    De la Torre called the report’s findings on student attendance especially notable. For low-income students, factors such as unreliable transportation or inadequate health care can prevent them from showing up to school. But the research found that Chicago’s English learners “were actually coming to school much more often” than their native-English peers, even though they’re more likely to be economically disadvantaged, she said. It remains unclear to what extent district policies contributed to English learners’ academic performance, de la Torre said. But she’d like to see similar analyses in other districts to understand how the achievement of English learners elsewhere resembles the results in Chicago.

    Despite overall promising results, however, the report did find a significant share of English learners in Chicago who struggled to learn English.

    More than half of the students in the study were English proficient by third grade, as were three-quarters by the end of fifth grade. But students who didn’t reach proficiency by that point — typically male and identified for special education — were unlikely to do so by high school, researchers found.

    The University of Chicago Consortium on School Research

    The 1 in 5 students who didn’t reach English proficiency by the end of eighth grade also struggled in school more broadly, according to the report, and had lower attendance, grades and test scores than those who learned the language earlier on. But there is a silver lining: Scores on the first-grade English proficiency test showed a clear gap between students who eventually became proficient in the language by high school and those who did not. That finding suggests that educators may be able to identify these students early in their schooling and target them with more intensive services. McDade said the district is currently exploring ways to implement early intervention services for students who struggle to demonstrate English proficiency.

    Meanwhile, in Chicago and beyond, it’s important for policymakers to track the performance of English learners over the long term, Vonderlack-Navarro said.

    “For too long under No Child Left Behind, we looked at how a child did at one point in time on an exam and made so many assumptions,” she said. “Now we’re learning it’s not the kids that were the problem. It was the adults and how we were looking at the data.”


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

    By Mark Keierleber | December 3, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

    By Mark Keierleber | December 3, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

    By Andrew Brownstein | November 25, 2019

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

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

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

    Getty Images

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

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

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


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

    By Laura Fay | November 21, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Noteworthy Opinion & Analysis

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

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

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

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

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

    What Else We’re Reading

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

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

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

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

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

    Quotes of the Week

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

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

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

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

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

    — With contributions from Andrew Brownstein 


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

    By Meghan Gallagher | November 18, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

    By Kevin Mahnken | November 18, 2019

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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