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

By The 74 | July 12, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

Noteworthy Essays & Reflections

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

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

CHARTERS —When Success Is Not Enough: Charter Schools Delivering Better Outcomes for Low-Income Students Still Target of Progressive Ire (Read at The74Million.org)

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

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

Quotes of the Week

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

“If they want to think more creatively about ways to integrate our schools, then more power to them, and it’s really important for the leaders to be doing something like that. Because it’s rarely a winning issue politically to talk about ways that white parents in the public school system might send their kids to school with racial minorities.” —Jason Sokol, historian at the University of New Hampshire, on criticisms Sen. Kamala Harris made of former vice president Joe Biden’s busing record during a recent Democratic presidential debate. (Read at The74Million.org)

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

“The charged offenses are reprehensible, more so in light of Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis.” —Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, on the arrest of former Puerto Rico education chief Julia Keleher and five others on corruption charges. (Read at The74Million.org)

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

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