EduClips: From Merit Pay in Dallas to Cracking Down on Early School ‘Lunch’ in NYC, School News You Missed This Week From America’s 15 Biggest Districts

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.

Dallas — TX House Budget Models Merit Pay Proposal on Dallas System: A $9 billion school funding plan recently unveiled in the Texas House incentivizes merit pay using a model partially based on one currently used in the Dallas school district. Dallas ISD was repeatedly mentioned in the debate because part of the legislation was modeled after a district program that pays the highest-performing teachers the most money and then offers them more to work in the most challenging schools. Dallas Superintendent Michael Hinojosa applauded the merit pay provisions and noted that the district’s experience has led to 300 teachers earning more than $70,000. He said new funding the House bill would provide — in addition to the money from last year’s voter-approved property tax increase — means “a whole lot more teachers will be able to earn more than $70,000.” But Giana Ortiz, representing the Dallas chapter of the National Education Association, noted that 80 percent of Dallas teachers earn less than $56,000. (Read at Dallas News)

Fairfax County — District Failed to Report on Students Who Were Restrained or Left Isolated, WAMU Finds: For years, Fairfax County Public Schools reported to the federal government that not a single student was physically restrained or trapped in an isolating space. But documents obtained by WAMU reveal hundreds of cases in which children, some as young as 6, were restrained or put in seclusion multiple times. In some cases, a single child was confined to a room almost 100 times in a school year. The U.S. Department of Education requires public school districts to report the data to ensure no specific demographic group is unfairly targeted. But the civil rights office relies on districts to self-report. When asked why Fairfax school officials reported zero cases in 2009, 2013, and 2015, despite documentation showing otherwise, a spokesperson replied that there was no requirement for the district to report the data to the state. Fairfax County Public Schools also said there was “internal miscommunication about data reported to [the Office for Civil Rights] which has been corrected” and “data that was being reported had not been properly reviewed,” in a statement after repeated inquiries from WAMU. (Read at WAMU)

New York City — Daily News: Many Schools Serve Early “Lunch” — Some Before 9 A.M.: An analysis of New York City Education Department records by the Daily News found that 908 city schools start serving lunch before 11 a.m. — thanks to a shortage of cafeteria space and questionable decision-making by principals. The analysis showed that roughly 55 percent of 1,638 public schools served lunch before 11 to at least some students. Research shows that kids have trouble learning on an empty stomach — and students and educators in city schools said the issue impacts their classrooms as well. Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed to take action, saying the system, in which some students eat the midday meal before 9 a.m., is untenable. “That has to change. It’s unacceptable. I’m a parent and I can say parents don’t want to see that for their kids,” de Blasio told reporters. (Read at the New York Daily News)

Orange County — Orlando-Area Schools Opt Against Arming Teachers: The Orange County School Board voted unanimously against Florida leaders’ plans to allow teachers to carry guns in Orlando area schools, saying arming teachers could create a safety risk and overburden teachers. Board members said they want trained police officers to be the only ones carrying guns on school campuses. “I’m a gun owner,” explained Orange County board member Melissa Byrd. “But there’s a big difference between home and school.” Last year, after the massacre at a Parkland high school, the state Legislature created a program that allows some employees — but not classroom teachers — to receive weapons training and then carry guns on school property. Twenty-five of 67 Florida school districts are taking part in the program. This year, at the recommendation of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, lawmakers are considering modifying the program to include classroom teachers. Gov. Ron DeSantis has backed the change. (Read at The Orlando Sentinel)

Houston — Principal Has Tall Order: Turning Around School Listed by State as Failing for 9 Years: For nine years straight, Kashmere High School in northeast Houston has been on the state’s list of failing schools. That’s the longest for any school in Texas. Reginald Bush, in his first year as principal of the historically black school, has a huge task: to save it from the threat of being closed by the state. Bush is laser-focused on that goal. “Consistency, consistency is the big piece,” he said. “I think if we remain consistent, with the momentum that we have, there’s no doubt in our mind that Kashmere will receive distinctions this year.” That would mean Kashmere High wouldn’t just pass the state’s accountability system, which is largely based on state test scores, but do so with high marks. The stakes are huge: Kashmere High is one of four struggling schools in the Houston Independent School District that could trigger a state takeover. (Read at Houston Public Media)

Noteworthy Essays & Reflections

ADMISSIONS SCANDAL — OPINION: Shocked by the college admissions scandal? School counselors aren’t (Read at The Hechinger Report)

SCHOOL FUNDING — The Trump Administration Really Wants to Cut Education Funding. Congress Doesn’t. (Read at The Atlantic)

TEXTBOOKS — Textbooks Alone Don’t Boost Test Scores, Study Says (Read at Education Week)

READING — Schmidt: The Evidence Behind Effective Reading Instruction Is Clear. Now, Classroom Practices Need to Follow (Read at The74Million.org)

TEACHER UNIONS — Teacher unions say they’re fighting for students and schools — what they really want is more members (Read at The Conversation)

Quotes of the Week

“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)

“Every student deserves to be considered on their individual merits when applying to college, and it’s disgraceful to see anyone breaking the law to give their children an advantage over others.” —U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, on a college admissions scandal in which 50 people — including coaches, parents, a private college consultant, and a private school test preparation director — have been charged in connection with an alleged scheme to get wealthy, well-connected children into elite schools. (Read at The Washington Post)

“Is that unfair? That the privileged can pay? Yes. But that’s how the world works.” —Brian Taylor, managing director of Ivy Coach, which offers parents a five-year, full-service package of college admissions consulting for prices of up to $1.5 million. (Read at The New York Times)

“Remarkably, the deep blue hue of Gates and Walton education grantees … rivals the leftward lean we see in Democratic precincts such as Hollywood and public-employee unions.” Jay P. Greene and Frederick M. Hess, authors of Education Reform’s Deep Blue Hue: Are School Reformers Right-Wingers or Centrists — or Neither? (Read at Politics K-12)

“My students mean more to me than my hair.” —Shannon Grimm, a teacher at Meador Elementary School in Willis, Texas, on her decision to cut her hair in solidarity with one of her students who had been bullied for having short hair. (Read at The74Million.org)

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